• Demythologizing Recovering and Reconstructing Ukraine

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    The recent meeting in Berlin on the reconstruction of Ukraine raises issues about what Ukraine will look like when and after the war ends. The Berlin conference, a follow-up to a July Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano, was organized by German presidency of the G7 and by the European Commission. Why consider Ukrainian recovery or reconstruction while Russia bombs key infrastructure sites is an obvious question. “It is never too early to start,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “We know from our own history that reconstruction is always possible,” he added. 

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  • Dunant, Galtung or the Generals: Give Peace a Chance

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    In a major square in downtown Geneva are two dominant symbols of today’s representation. In the middle of Geneva’s cultural center, La Place de Neuve, stands an imposing statue of a soldier on horseback, the General Guillaume-Henry Dufour, a leader of the Swiss army in the 19th century. At the north-east side of the square is a small bust of Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross. Each time I pass the square I ask: Why is General Dufour given the prominent place in the square while the humanitarian has a small recognition as if an afterthought? (Although Dufour had several distinctions - engineer, noted topographer and a member of the Red Cross founding committee - it is the General Dufour on horseback who dominates the square.)

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  • Images, Tragedy and Bearing Witness

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    A recent visit to the Museum of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva raised questions about the relation between images, tragedy and bearing witness. Television and social media continue to show images of Russian bombings in Ukraine. Front-line reporters interview victims who have lost relatives and live precariously in fear of new explosions. Hurricane Ian’s devastation is also brought into our homes with the inevitable question to those who have seen their material goods pulverized by winds and water: “How are you coping?” But how are we coping? How are we reacting to the images flashing across our screens? While we are not direct witnesses to the tragedies, we are indirect witnesses through the images via the media. 

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  • The Legality of the Use of Nuclear Weapons

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    What do Vladimir Putin and Henry Kissinger have in common? Late last month, the Russian President threatened the use of nuclear weapons in the war over Ukraine, stating: "To those who allow themselves to make such statements about Russia, I would like to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and for some components more modern than those of the NATO countries.” In the same vein in 1957, Kissinger wrote: “The tactics for limited nuclear war should be based on small, highly mobile, self-contained units, relying heavily on air transport even within the combat zone.” Putin spoke as his country is being stymied in its efforts to incorporate Ukraine into the Russian Federation. Kissinger was writing at the height of the Cold War as the Rapporteur for a study by the Council of Foreign Relations which later appeared in the book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy.

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  • Are the Fleeing Russians Merely Draft Dodgers?

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    Tens of thousands of Russian men are fleeing the country to avoid President Putin’s mobilization. Miles after miles of cars are jamming the roads to Finland. Flights to Georgia and other countries are fully booked. For someone who was faced with the draft during the Vietnam War and pondered various possibilities, including leaving the United States, I raise three immediate questions: 1) Are they fleeing this particular war or military service in general? 2) If they are opposed to this particular war, wouldn’t it be more productive for them to protest within the country? 3) How have other countries reacted to their demands to be given special status as political refugees? Georgia has granted one year asylum with no questions asked. 

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