Russia Ukraine conflict should not be framed as good vs evil

Russia Ukraine good evil

Russia Ukraine conflict should not be framed as good vs evil

As the Russia invasion of Ukraine enters its fourth week, we routinely hear words like “evil,” “unhinged” and “unstable” being used to describe Vladimir Putin. Such labelling is not uncommon in realpolitik. It is a tactic in the ever-present rivalries of international politics – to demonise, caricature and demoralise political opponents, while simultaneously reassuring those on your own ideological flank. After all, who wants to be on the side of a lunatic?


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Whether it’s describing Saddam Hussein as a “madman,” Gaddafi as “insane,” or Putin as a “megalomaniac,” such caricatures serve broader political objectives by simplifying any conflict, including this one between Russia and Ukraine, into a clear binary of good versus evil.

The Israeli state often indulges in such framing to delegitimise Palestinians – even questioning their intelligence, by repeating ad nauseum the trope that they “never lose an opportunity to lose an opportunity”. Likewise, apologists for the occupation, militarisation and colonisation of Kashmir in India designate Kashmiris demanding fulfilment of UN Security Council resolutions as “terrorists,” “secessionists” or “anti-nationals.”

Such framing is now being tactfully employed to explain away the Russian invasion of Ukraine – a manipulative discourse construction that facilitates a fog of war.

Of course, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a monstrosity. As morally repugnant as the war crimes in Syria, brutal dispossession of Palestinians or militarised occupation of Kashmir. Yet, simplistic framings that deem Putin a “madman” without a purpose inhibit our ability to see the bigger picture and do something to prevent further violence.

In other words, now that the Russia Ukraine war is here, we should ignore all attempts to frame it merely as a showdown between good and evil, and focus instead on figuring out what steps may be taken not only to end it, but also to prevent it from causing flare-ups in other hotspots across the globe – and possibly triggering another world war.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – regardless of its rationality or purpose – will inevitably have an impact on three contentious issues: the war in Syria, the Iran nuclear deal and the US-China rivalry.

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First and foremost, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have consequences for Syria. The impact of sanctions on its economy may cause Russia to pull money and military forces from Syria. An embattled and isolated Putin may also decide to double down on his efforts to turn Syria into a satellite state akin to Belarus. In either scenario, the US may respond by starting to funnel resources to the Syrian resistance.

This is not the time to brand Vladimir Putin an ‘evil madman’  Al Jazeera English

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Dean Nestor

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