While the world leaders have forgotten that fundamental truth a long time ago, it is crucial to remind them that the vocation of a politician is to serve the people. This entails more than just discussing urgent matters and expressing concern while sitting in safe conference rooms in the company of luxuriously catered meals.
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On August 12, 2008, Russian military forces offered their "brotherly support" to the separatist republic of Ossetia and began their march towards the Georgian capital of Tbilisi. In turn, then-Polish president Lech Kaczyński gathered the heads of states of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine and organized a diplomatic mission in Tbilisi to show their solidarity with President Mikhail Saakashvili. Meanwhile, and in coordination with the Eastern European leaders, French President Nicholas Sarkozy went to Moscow to meet with President Putin. Together with a wider international campaign of public pressure, the joint intervention of the European heads of states prevented further bloodshed and a humanitarian tragedy.  

Our editor-in-chief Adam Michnik had this to say about the mission launched by the late Lech Kaczyński: "I hold his visit in Tbilisi in highest regard. I am proud of my country’s President and his devotion to the ethos of freedom, honor, historical tradition and dignified political judgment that he put on display in Georgia."

We can do more to help Ukraine

Michnik emphasized that "President Kaczyński did everything that was possible under the circumstances. It was an extraordinarily difficult situation; major Georgian cities were being bombed. It was a moment that called for extraordinary solutions. President Kaczyński was up to that task."

Fourteen years later, Russian bombs and missiles are shellacking Kyiv and other major Ukrainian urban centers. In a dramatic and bitter speech, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that his country fights on its own. 

He is right. No troops are coming to Ukraine’s rescue. This much is understandable. Any deployment of NATO military forces on the ground right now would mark the beginning of World War III.

It is not only allied troops, however, that Ukraine is lacking. Zelenskyy and his brave administration are alone in Kyiv, facing an enemy that aims to destroy the Ukrainian state and its representatives. No one is joining them in their effort to put the brutal and ruthless Russian aggression on hold.

For now, none of the world leaders proved courageous enough to come to the capital of Ukraine and stand side by side with the democratically elected Ukrainian authorities. 

We can do more to help Ukraine. 

Not only through sanctions. Let us bear in mind that Putin publicly announced his decision to invade Ukraine at the same time that the special UN Security Council session convened to address the mounting military escalation was taking place. The session was chaired by - yes, you remember it right - the Russian Federation itself, currently holding the rotating presidency of the UNSC. Putin viciously assaulted Ukraine at the very moment when the UN was calling for peaceful talks. One cannot think of a more brazen display of disregard towards the international diplomatic order.

The moral bankruptcy of our world reaches new lows

How did the United Nations react? Why does Antonio Guterres, UN’s Secretary General, continue to issue pointless pledges to Putin instead of headying to Kyiv in a clear and unequivocal sign of his solidarity with the Ukrainian people and their government? 

Yes, he needs Russian permission to take a UN peacekeeping mission with him, which renders that option impossible. But nothing precludes him from organizing a diplomatic mission with heads of states who oppose Russia’s brutal invasion.

What about the European Union? What would happen if the European Council organized its special summit not in Brussels, but in the besieged capital of Ukraine instead? Not even Putin would not dare to continue shelling Kyiv with bombs and missiles. 

Let us stop here for a second and entertain the alternative scenario, no matter how unrealistic it sounds. What if the missiles kept on flying?

This still should not stop European leaders from showing their resolve and support on the ground. While the world leaders have forgotten that fundamental truth a long time ago, it is crucial to remind them that the vocation of a politician is to serve the people, even at a considerable personal risk. This entails more than just discussing urgent matters and expressing concern while sitting in safe conference rooms in the company of luxuriously catered meals. 

Every day, the moral bankruptcy of our world reaches new lows. Our political leaders either fail to understand it or pretend not to see it. Instead, they settle for comfortable lies about how nothing more can be done. 

It is for that reason that Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people are left on their own. Just as will be the case for the next victims of the Russian madman. 

***

Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.

We decided to make our service available to everyone free of charge in order to provide access to high quality journalism for expats and English speakers interested in Polish affairs. 

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