You are a soldier in your country’s army. You have been sent to the front lines after invading a neighboring country. You are told to fire on anything that moves, even civilians. What do you do?
Try to imagine what it would feel like being forced to go and fight in a war you knew was wrong. I can’t. I don’t know if it is even possible to imagine for someone who has never worn the uniform. I can barely imagine putting on a uniform, never mind fighting in a just war.
— UkraineStream 🇺🇦 (@ukrainestream) March 2, 2022
I tried to join the Canadian military once. Before you become impressed I should tell you that I tried to join as a poet. It was 2007 and the military was looking for their first War Poet, and I ventured to a Toronto military facility to see if I could become one. They informed me that even as a poet I had to go to boot camp, and then informed me that my horrible eyesight meant I would not be permitted. I said thank you and went on my way.
Sometimes I wonder – what if I was permitted to join? Worse, what if I was sent to fight in a war that was unjust, perpetrated by my own country who was led by a tyrant?
These questions are undoubtedly being asked by some Russian soldiers right now as they participate in the illegal invasion of Ukraine, and we are just beginning to see evidence that many Russians are openly questioning the antics of Vladimir Putin’s imperialistic goals. The internet is being flooded with various examples of Russian soldiers abandoning their posts, and in some cases their tanks, in order to surrender to Ukrainian officials inside Ukraine.
Russian soldier tells his mom he’s a POW and Putin lied to them. Mom had no idea he was in Ukraine and no idea Russia attacked Ukraine. Tells her to tell everyone. Bananas. pic.twitter.com/rJtxBX8XcV
— Dean Blundell (@ItsDeanBlundell) March 2, 2022
The humanity shown by Ukrainians as Russian soldiers surrender has been astonishing. One soldier was filmed speaking to his mother, explaining to her that he was a prisoner inside Ukraine. His mother had no idea Russia had even invaded Ukraine.
Another soldier was filmed receiving food and tea, likely thankful that he was faring far better than a Ukrainian soldier would be if captured by the Russian military.
DEMORALISED RUSSIAN SOLDIERS EXPOSE PSYCHO PUTIN'S POINTLESS MURDEROUS CAMPAIGN, SABOTAGE THEIR OWN VEHICLES
Plagued by poor morale and fuel and food shortages, some Russian troops in Ukraine have surrendered en masse or sabotaged their own vehicles to avoid fighting. pic.twitter.com/3RasPwhSlj
— Andy (@FightTheBigots) March 2, 2022
All of these examples have left me thinking about the paradoxical situation many soldiers must find themselves in when fighting a war they know to be unjust. When America invaded Iraq, several American soldiers were outspoken about their contempt for their government sending them in harm’s way for a war that was found to be based on lies, and most were met with vitriol from their own government, and often American citizens as well.
Putin is still sending uniformed Russians into a battle many of them know is a crime against humanity. And while we know that the propaganda war is just as important as the military battles, watching frightened and sometimes angry Russian soldiers communicate their depleted morale as prisoners has been eye-opening, both for its different sort of bravery, and because technically these soldiers are betraying their country.
But what the world sees are brave Russians attempting to right the wrong of having the leader of their country betray their homeland, and the men and women sent to fight on behalf of that betrayal.
Trying to imagine being in uniform, getting ready to slaughter countless innocents under the guise of ‘just following orders” is less difficult than imagining the fortitude it would take to defy those orders, and for that we should all take a moment to recognize.