OPINION | Czechia foreign minister Jan Lipavský: Reject Orwellian analogies that war is 'liberation'

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In this handout image supplied by Host photo agency / RIA Novosti, S-300 long range surface-to-air missile systems during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War in the Hero City of Minsk during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War in the Hero City of Minsk, May 9, 2015 in Minsk, Russia. The Victory Day parade commemorates the end of World War II in Europe. (Photo by Host photo agency / RIA Novosti via Getty Images)
In this handout image supplied by Host photo agency / RIA Novosti, S-300 long range surface-to-air missile systems during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War in the Hero City of Minsk during the celebration of the 70th anniversary of Victory in the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War in the Hero City of Minsk, May 9, 2015 in Minsk, Russia. The Victory Day parade commemorates the end of World War II in Europe. (Photo by Host photo agency / RIA Novosti via Getty Images)

The unprovoked, illegal Russian aggression against Ukraine should remind us how memories can be violated for the sake of neo-imperial policies, writes Jan Lipavský, the foreign minister of Czechia.


This year, the celebrations of the victory in the Second World War were overshadowed by blood and suffering on the territory of Ukraine and the destruction of Ukrainian cities.

Ghosts of a new aggressive, neo-colonial war of the empire, hungry for more territory, cast their dark shadows over these days, usually connected to the celebration of peace.

The unprovoked, illegal Russian aggression against its smaller democratic neighbour should remind us how memories can be violated for the sake of neo-imperial policies.

The traditional Red Square event in Moscow has gradually changed its original purpose. It was supposed to be the humble expression of gratitude and remembrance of Soviet heroes of many nations, including Russians and Ukrainians, but has evolved into a State organised propagandist showdown and demonstration of power.

False liberation

In the past, threats usually accompanied the speeches, but this year threats materialised into a war. The heroism of victims in the Second World War was used to make a case for the strong hand of a ruthless authoritarian regime and its expansive dreams of colonial revival.

The Czechoslovak World War Two experience with a powerful neighbour (Totalitarian Nazi Germany) who invaded a smaller neighbour under the pretext of "liberating" the German-speaking population was a preface of much greater war – as this "liberation" was not stopped and did develop further. This lessons learnt should not be forgotten.

Czechoslovakia saw another false "liberation" in 1968, when an invasion army of almost half a million soldiers fulfilled the order from Moscow and killed hopes and promises of freedom of the Prague spring. The following Soviet occupation turned a proud and independent country into a broken Soviet colony which was kidnapped from Europe – as Milan Kundera famously reminded the world.

In other parts of the world, the 60's were kinder and brought great de-colonisation movements, where Empires shook, and many nations of different continents were allowed to taste freedom. The former Soviet satellites like Czechoslovakia, together with countries that formed part of the Russian and later the Soviet empire had to wait another thirty years for the same delight. However, at the end of the Cold War, they also celebrated their moment of joy. This was what true liberation looked like.

The victory in World War Two, together with the de-colonisation process and the end of the Cold War, were the greatest leaps of humanity towards freedom in the 21st Century. Its beginning brought hope that "Munich moments", when a smaller state fell victim to a bigger neighbour and "Brezhnev doctrines of limited sovereignty" would not be repeated.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's war of choice is to steal peace and lives from millions of Ukrainians but will come to haunt us all. Russian society will be severely hurt as well. The dead bodies of soldiers returning to their mothers and wives in bags, forms part of another tragic chapter of the complicated Russian history. The Russian economy will shrink to the levels of the 90s, and all the economic growth and prosperity of the last 30 years will be erased. Russia will become a poor and isolated country. Putin's war is not in Russia's interest.

Economies are being hurt 

Weaponised gas and oil is hurting many economies in Europe and elsewhere. The Russian army's targeting of infrastructure that stocks grain and the Russian blockade of ports and other export routes could result in provoking hunger of millions of citizens in Africas and the Middle East countries. Traditional donors from the EU and US will have economies weakened and will become less capable of providing robust development assistance to poorer/developing countries. They will have to undertake massive reconstruction efforts in Ukraine, resulting in these resources not going elsewhere.

No one in the world needed this war, but evil cannot prevail. We all should refuse the phantoms of colonial ages, and ghosts of neo-imperialism. We cannot allow the rules-based international order to be destroyed and replaced by the power-based division of the political map to the spheres of influence.

Illegal aggression cannot be tolerated, and all peace-loving people should unite in sending the anti-war signal.

Let us reject the Orwellian analogies where truth is a lie and war is called "liberation".

Let us support Ukraine and hope that next year, the celebrations of the end of the Second World War will return to what it should be – the remembrance of victims and fallen heroes and the promise for peace.

Jan Lipavský, Foreign Minister of Czechia.

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