Every recruit could be a conscientious objector - Every soldier could be a deserter

Russia, Belarus and Ukraine

For more than half a year war is waged in Ukraine. With this campaign we would like to draw attention to all those who have decided, sometimes at great risk to themselves, not to participate in this war - on whatever side.

Newspapers are full of the latest accounts of the war, knowing full well that they depend on the reports of the warring parties and are far from being able to report truly independently.

It is clear to us that the Russian government is waging a war of aggression in Ukraine. Russian troops invaded eastern and northern Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Some of the troops used Belarusian territory for this purpose. Soldiers of the Russian army, who thought they were on a troop exercise, unexpectedly found themselves in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government decided to resist militarily and is supported in this by NATO and EU countries with logistics, reconnaissance and weapons.

In a military logic, this actually makes everything clear. On one side stands the aggressor, on the other the defender. But is it really that simple? And are there not strategies for opposing the war that are not confined to a militaristic logic?

We observe tens of thousands of people on all sides of the conflict who are actively evading participation in the war. They rarely state this in public. The shame and fear connected with being considered a traitor and thus being subject to repression or risking criminal proceedings is certainly great. But from the reports that are available we can take hints as to what reasons there may be for refusing to support the war effort.

There are people who have family and friends on the other side of the front or who may even be married to a citizen of the other country. For these persons it is clear that neither side can be the right side. They look for ways to escape the unconditionality of war and of recruitment.

There are people who reject the war policy of their own government and do not want to risk their lives for these goals.

There are people who see Ukraine and Russia as brother states. Why does there have to be war, they ask. Why can’t the governments settle their conflicts at the negotiating table? They don’t want to go to war for that.

There are people who don’t want to take up arms, conscientious objectors to military service. It is particularly important in a war that their human right is respected. But in fact, conscientious objectors are branded as traitors and prosecuted.

There are people who experience what it means to be part of an army at war. We hear reports about devastation of cities, civilian casualties and violence. These are things that are part of a war and therefore part of the action of all the military personnel involved in the war. What does that mean to a person who – against his will – is experiencing such violence, is part of such an apparatus dominated by violence? We can hardly gauge that.

And yet, soldiers in war zones discover ways in which they can be part of a resistance to war, even while serving in the military. There are various reports of sabotage and insubordination.

Overall, desertion, conscientious objection and refusal to obey orders is a significant part of the resistance to war. Conscientious objectors and deserters can be sand in the gears of the military. Such actions are expressions of self-determination and humanity. They are signs to others as well that there are alternatives to serving in war, even when there is a threat of prosecution. The support of the conscientious objectors and deserters is therefore a means of actively opposing the war.

In past times there were only a few wars where so many men had evaded the fighting that the war ground to a halt. One such example occurred in the 1990s between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Usually, however, this is not the case; the military continues to fight. Nevertheless, when many refuse to serve, it has great significance for the societies from which they come. Conscientious objectors and deserters give an example of possibilities for action outside the logic of war, which sees only allies and enemies, only military confrontation, only violent fight.

For us it is clear that we want to support all those who, on whatever side, evade the horror of war, who refuse, who desert.

For them must apply the human right of conscientious objection, which since 2011 has been declared by the highest level of the European Court of Human Rights as a human right, especially in times of war. Everyone has the right to refuse military service at any time.

On the other hand, those who evade the crime of war need support. And where could this be clearer than in the case of a war of aggression such as the one Russia is waging? That is why we see the need for deserters and draft evaders from Russia and also from Belarus to be given safety and protection. So far, this has not yet been guaranteed.

Connection e.V.: Every recruit could be a conscientious objector - Every soldier could be a deserter. September 21, 2022

Keywords:    ⇒ Belarus   ⇒ CO and Asylum   ⇒ Conscientious Objection   ⇒ Desertion   ⇒ Draft Evasion   ⇒ Russia   ⇒ Ukraine