Common survival and common security

Ukraine War in Common Security Perspective – Seemingly impossible Routes of Liberation.

Anna Karin Hammar at World Forum on Theology and Liberation 2022-06-06

There was a time when Sweden chose to stand in between East and West. A time when Sweden identified with the Non-aligned movement, the so named group of 77 within the UN system.

During the last decades we have seen a different development take place, leaning more towards the United States of America. The final blow to the non-aligned movement from Swedish participation came a couple of weeks ago when Sweden decided to apply for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO.

What has happened? Sweden has become extremely dependent upon neoliberal economics. And the war in Ukraine, after the invasion and aggression by Russia on a sovereign country, made all the difference. Instead of a peaceful environment Sweden suddenly saw an aggressor at its doorsteps, not to mention Finland who share a 1340 km long frontier with Russia, being also the Northeastern frontier of the European Union.

While not diminishing what is happening in Russia, negatively and positively, with its religiously motivated nationalism called Russkij mir and its courageous priests and University professors who name the war by its correct name and critique the invasion of Ukraine, thereby risking fines and even imprisonment, I will concentrate on a Swedish/Nordic perspective.

The Olof Palme commission during the cold war named Common security for all countries a priority. I believe we are in the same situation today. We need to recognize that rather than having our security in mutual deterrence we have to look again for common security. This is underligned by another famous swede, the young leader Greta Thunberg, who with Fridays for Future protests the inaction regarding Climate Planetary Emergency. Our former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström, joined Greta Thunberg the other day and said we now need a work on Common survival rather than mutual deterrence.

How can these voices be heard again in the Western context and in Sweden? In this Planetary Emergency in which we live, and where the poor and pauperized people in the South and the Indigenous people who are most affected by the climate and the environmental catastrophe, without having contributed very much to its existence, how do we move from war in Ukraine and other places on Earth, to war on the fossileenergybased capitalism, and peace built on Common survival and common security?

Where do we see the signs of hope? And with we I mean the small peacemovement in Sweden, some of the church people and small pockets of Green and socialist party members. There are a few dissenting voices, but not many, in Sweden today.

There is an overwhelming majority within Sweden giving its support including weapons to the courageously fighting Ukraine. Many in Sweden see Putin as a new aggressor with resemblances of Adolf Hitler who led the invasion in other countries for a nationalistic idea giving privilege to the Germans and totally unfriending the Jewish people, making them the OTHER and the scapegoat for the developments since the first world war. We know the result: the Holocaust, with consequences indirectly also for the Palestinian people. While many Swedes see Putin as an aggressor as dangerous as Hitler, they willingly embrace the idea that such an aggressor can only be stopped by military might. Hence NATO becomes the saviour of the day.

Is it possible to look upon the Ukraine war differently without whitewashing the behaviour of Russia and Putin?

Let me try to test an analysis by adopting an analytical tool by the Norwegian peace researcher Johan Galtung. He always identified violence as a spiral of violence dependent upon three different parameters. That is, direct violence, structural violence and cultural violence. If you can imagine an iceberg with its tip above the sea, what is seen of the iceberg is the direct violence. This can be stopped with counterviolence of a direct sort, if you have more sophisticated weapons. But the direct violence is only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface you find the big part of the iceberg, the structural violence. What can be seen as a structural violence in the case of the Ukraine war? I am sure the military-industrial complex is included here. NATO has a responsibility for furthering its structures without taking into account the military threats as seen by Russia. Russia demanded that NATO should halt its move towards the East, but the result was the opposite. The invasion of Russia in Ukraine united many more countries in favour of NATO than before.  NATO has a big responsibility to further peace and common security. Maybe this is an idealistic wish, but NATO do have a a responsibility for the structural violence and for the invisibility of nonviolent and creative resistance.

Ukraine has the right to selfdefence, as I see it, according to international law. It can be compared with Palestine, and the occupation is very similar by Russia and by Israel. But the West is almost silent on Israel while Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions have been embraced against Russia. What is the reason for this difference? I am sad to say, but I think the reason has to do with what Galtung names as cultural violence. Here the violence against other peoples through racism becomes an important expression of cultural violence.The cultural violence in the image of the iceberg can be seen as the see and the air itself, the environment of the iceberg, sea and air, is the cultural climate in which the direct and the structural violence are held in place.

As Christians in Sweden we do not have much power re weapons and direct violence, and the structural violence might also be difficult to counter. But against the cultural violence, making Other people and other species THE Other of the West, we can contribute. We can continue to defend the inherent value of all people and of all species on Earth, in our actions and our message.

We can boycott fossile fuel capitalism and we can vote for those who do so. We can learn and practice nonviolent resistance.

And, of course, we can pray, as we do in our local church Monday through Friday each day at noon for peace with justice on Earth and in Ukraine, thereby refreshing our relationship to the source of all Life and our own calling.