I greatly appreciated David Pilling’s opinion piece (“This is no time for neutrality in Africa on Ukraine”, March 25), which distinguishes the ethical responsibilities of non-alignment from neutrality, while highlighting Russia’s growing military and economic footprint in Africa. Many African states that abstained in key UN votes, along with India and other Asian states, have compelling ethical reasons to oppose Russia. Vladimir Putin has unleashed a horrendous war in Ukraine.
Yet the legacy of European colonialism and continuing hypocrisies of western democracies, which Pilling highlights, make it hard simply to impugn the motives of states that are sitting on the fence. Ironically, his piece cites the Tony Blair Institute, established by a prime minister who evaded accountability for his role in what many agree was a war of aggression in Iraq, without UN sanction, costing hundreds of thousands of lives and displacing millions. Has any senior politician or soldier in the west been charged or legally held accountable? Accepting full responsibility, or losing political office through elections or term limits, cannot be substitutes.
The case for indicting Putin for war crimes mounts every day. But the persistent failure to hold western leaders and states to account for their own violations of international law since 1945 can only fuel cynicism in the postcolonial world. The political credibility of international law, and our efforts to enforce it, inevitably suffer. Ukraine should not have to pay the price for this hypocrisy.
Jarislowsky Democracy Chair, Ryerson University, Toronto, ON, Canada