To the Soldiers of the Russian Federation:
I am a private citizen of the United States of America. In my country there are few higher honors than answering the call of service for the defense of our nation and our freedom. I sincerely wish the same recognition for the soldiers of all peace and freedom-loving countries in these difficult times.
Over the course of two decades, relations between our two nations have seriously deteriorated. Many difficult obstacles and challenges have plagued our fraught relationship since then. The current state of affairs was intended at all costs to be avoided and has been forced upon Ukraine and her allies. I am confident that the allied governments of Europe and North America feel this way as do all of our peoples.
The relationship between America and Russia is not the topic of this letter. Instead, it is the self-described “special operation” that has been taking place against the government of Ukraine on its own soil by the Russian military. Your people, those who you have sworn an oath to defend as citizens and soldiers, are being told that this is an operation to get rid of “Nazis” in government and to “de-militarize” Ukraine.
To those currently serving in Ukraine: Have you seen any Nazis? Have you seen swastikas adorned on armored vehicles? Have you seen goose-stepping soldiers marching through the streets? Have you seen death camps like those liberated by the Red Army in Poland during the Second World War? Have the people greeted you as liberators instead of driving out in droves to oppose you, both peacefully and forcefully?
And to all servicemen and women of the Russian Federation: it is no secret that hundreds, if not thousands of your compatriots have paid the ultimate sacrifice. I’m asking you, simply, for what? Did a Ukrainian ever threaten the safety of your family, your loved ones? Did a Ukrainian shell and bomb your villages and cities? Did a Ukrainian ever mean to do you harm in any way possible?
Of course not. It is no secret that Ukrainians and Russians are close, comparable to Canada and America, Czechia and Slovakia, Australia and New Zealand among others. It was for this reason that the vast majority in Ukraine previously thought this conflict unthinkable. I must ask, are they not also your brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles? Are they not dear to you like your own kin?
Because of this conflict, many hundreds of thousands have fled their homes fearing for their lives, leaving behind a country that they love and call home. Many are now traumatized by this and by the knowledge that they may never return to their old lives. Scores of Ukrainian men, women, and children are now dead and hundreds more wounded, all for the basic reason that no sustained, conventional conflict such as this has ever occurred absent such horrific casualties. This toll on lives will only increase as this conflict persists.
I ask again: why? Is this toll worth liquidating the Ukrainian state and making the country utterly defenseless?
You may now feel that something must be done. To those of you who do, I am asking one thing. Disobey your superiors and their orders. If you are caught and arrested by military police, do not resist forcefully. If you are threatened with execution, seek to flee and defect if possible. I can’t possibly ask you in good faith to turn your weapons on your comrades, especially because Ukrainians do so now only out of self-preservation. I would not be recommending this if I were not aware of the consequences. Your lives are meaningful. So is the well-being of your families, your mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and your children. I can’t say what might become of you or them should you choose to do this as I know very little of Russian military laws. But I can say that the weight of the world is on your shoulders, and that is watching.
History remembers acts of courage and sacrifice as much as it does acts of brutality. There is a verse from a poem dating back to our Civil War and the abolition of slavery in our country. It recites “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.”
Soldiers of the Russian Federation, I implore you. Choose the path of peace. Choose to make men free.
Glory to Ukraine. Glory to those who resist and choose the noble path of peace.