This war, in which a large powerful nation invades a smaller neighbor, has already killed thousands of innocent people, including many children. A large number of cities throughout the country are being leveled by long-range Russian missiles while others are under siege as people are running low on food, water and much-needed medical supplies. In the first week of the war alone, more than a million refugees crossed borders into neighboring countries. Some estimates now put the number of refugees at more than 3 million while many more have been displaced from their homes within Ukraine.
This has been a humanitarian disaster for the people of Ukraine, but it is much more than that. The Russian invasion threatens global energy and food supplies, is contributing to greater economic instability and the rising prices we see everywhere. And oh, by the way, this is all happening at a time when the world is already struggling with a global pandemic that has killed millions and the devastating impacts of climate change which threaten the very existence of the planet.
That is the bad news. And it cannot be sugar-coated. It is very bad.
But, in the midst of all this horror, there is some reason for optimism.
All across the world, people are waking up to the fact that there is a global struggle taking place between autocracy and democracy, between oligarchy and an economy that works for all, between authoritarianism and the right of people to freely express their views. There is also the beginnings of a new progressive global order that recognizes every person on this planet shares a common humanity and that all of us, no matter where we live or the language we speak, want our children to grow up healthy, have a good education, and live in peace.
We not only see this vision from people in the allied countries who are defending Ukraine and are speaking out against Putin's war, but from people within Russia as well.
It is extraordinary that in the autocracy that is Russia today, many thousands of incredibly courageous people have been out on the streets demanding an end to the war and speaking out against Vladimir Putin, knowing that it’s illegal to do so and that they will likely be arrested and punished. Putin recently referred to them as "traitors," a frightening term coming from a dictator.
Here in America, rising gas prices are waking people up to something we have long known, and that is that moving quickly to renewable energy is not just an environmental issue. It is a matter of national security.
Yes. Our reliance on fossil fuels will continue to mean more drought, more crop failures, scarcer drinking water, rising seas, extreme weather events, climate refugees, and more disease. In fact, climate change threatens the very wellbeing of the entire planet. But equally important, we must break our dependence on fossil fuel not only to save the planet, but to end the hold that billionaire dictators like Putin and the autocrats in the Middle East have over the entire global economy. This is a profound national security issue.
Sisters and brothers, we have long said that we are in the midst of a global struggle with nothing less than the future of the planet at stake.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made that more clear than ever.
It is a global struggle between those who believe in democracy and the rule of law versus those who believe government exists to rob the people they purport to serve in order to make the billionaire rulers even richer.
It is a struggle between those who believe information should be open and accessible to all versus those who believe the flow of information should be controlled by the government and a small number of oligarchs.
It is a struggle between those who believe we should choose peace and international cooperation versus those who support xenophobia and massive amounts of military spending.
It is a struggle between a progressive movement that mobilizes behind a shared vision of prosperity, security and dignity for all people, against one that defends massive global income and wealth inequality.
And, in the midst of these difficult times, our job going forward is to build upon this global awakening and do everything we can to oppose all of the forces, whether unaccountable government power or unaccountable corporate power, who try to divide us up and set us against each other in order to advance their own power and financial gain.
We know that those forces have long worked together across borders.
We must do the same.