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Violence must never supplant resolve for peace

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Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky

The global trauma of World War I sowed the seeds for the League of Nations. It was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace, and it was founded on January 10, 1920, at the Paris Peace Conference. However, the deluded hope that ‘the war to end all wars’ had put such horrors behind us was vaporised by World War II.

The world had another go at building a diplomatic superstructure capable of transcending international differences and guaranteeing stability when the United Nations came into being in 1945. Once again, there was nothing wrong with the intention, but the will to see it through has once more been thwarted by selective powerful interests. There have been too many wars since to list here but as yet we have managed to avoid a global inferno like the world wars of the last century. However, this can no longer be taken for granted. Addressing world leaders in Davos yesterday, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky urged our political and business elites to set “new precedents”.

They are necessary as punishments for Russia, otherwise, he added, Moscow will have the final decision on “whether brute force will rule the world”.

His challenge to the opening session of the World Economic Forum could not have been more direct. Do we allow those with superior firepower to decide our destinies, or do we act as a community to counter the threat? The famous Swiss ski resort has hosted many gatherings of the world’s leaders, even when at loggerheads.

Yet it has never been addressed by a leader whose country is being simultaneously bombed by a superpower. Mr Zelensky said Ukraine is losing 50-100 lives a day in the Donbas region.

He appealed to business leaders to carry out a “complete withdrawal of foreign businesses” in Russia and relocate them to Ukraine.

His core point, which should resonate in capitals across the world where democracy and humane values are still cherished, was whenever the war ends, we have to create the security and political conditions that will dissuade Moscow from invading again. Earlier in the day, his deputy prime minister Yulia Svyrydenko captured the attention of the conference. “Armies win battles but the economy wins wars,” she said. “Now is not the time for a cost-benefit analysis. We have to cut Russia off from the global economy completely.”

When the sovereignty of one country is violated the stability of all is threatened, so the aggressor must be made face the full costs of their actions. Yet as people are slaughtered in Ukraine, EU countries are still arguing over a plan to ban Russian oil. There is as yet no legal means to confiscate the €300bn assets of the Russian Central Bank frozen by the US and Europe.

Yet the longer the mayhem continues, the more the moral case to do so becomes irresistible.

The strongest possible signal must go out that violence will never supplant our collective resolve to maintain peace.

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