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Taking sides for peace – Olena Zakharova & Frans Geraedts

According to Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) ‘War is an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will.“ Like Machiavelli, Clausewitz saw peace as ‘breathing time’ to prepare for the next military plans. This view of peace is – if it ever was – no longer convincing today. Since the beginnings of modern war with the Revolutionary Wars at the end of the eighteenth century, the costs and injustices of war are such that a just war is hardly imaginable anymore. On the contrary: war has become the epitome of evil and injustice. The human costs of war are huge: 9 out of 10 victims of war are civilians. The war in Ukraine confirms this brute fact of suffering and premature death.

That makes it urgent, even in the midst of gruelties and cruelties in Ukraine, to consider the outlines of a peace-to-come. In this we have to navigate between the geopolitical conception of peace as a settlement of spheres of interests and influence, and the de-escalation idea of peace as mutual reduction of violence. Common in these views is that peace is a faire outcome of negotiations of two or more equal, belligerent nations. However just peace requires something different. First it should take sides with Ukraine as the nation whose integrity and sovereignty is violated and whose citizens are killed and raped in an unprovoked war by an autocratic and aggressive regime. Just peace probably can’t avoid the question of retaliation. A just peace should further not only put an end to hostilities, but also create the political, institutional and psychological conditions which make it unlikely that wars like these can happen again.

This makes just peace a highly complex and intergenerational challenge. We discuss this question with Olena Zakharova and Frans Geraedts. Olena Zakharova is co-founder and executive director of the Centre of Public Initiatives “Ideas for Change”. She managed the implementation of the transnational project “Women’s Initiatives for Peace in Donbas(s)”. She is former Director of the Foreign Policy Department of the International Centre for Policy Studies and was First Secretary of the Embassy of Ukraine in Canada. Frans Geraedts is philosopher and member of the board of the Foundation for Justice, Integrity and Anti-Corruption and partner in Governance & Integrity International. For fifteen years he is working on anti-corruption and integrity of government in Ukraine, most of the time in Lviv. During these years, especially since Maidan, he became involved in supporting democratic developments in Ukraine. He works, among others, with the Dutch government, NGO’s, police and armed forces on moral and integrity issues.

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