Timothy Snyder: Russia's war against Ukraine is not a war over territory, but over ideas and people

10 September 2022

Russia’s war against Ukraine is not simply about gaining territory, it is a fight about ideas and people, and Russia has already lost the war over ideas. Timothy Snyder, Professor of History at Yale University, said at the 17th Yalta European Strategy (YES) Annual Meeting «Ukraine: Defending All Our Freedom», organised by YES in partnership with the Victor Pinchuk Foundation.

“In fact, Russia has lost the war over ideas. When Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, he said that his country was a democracy, not your country, and we struggled to explain why his country is not a democracy. That’s because we have forgotten what history is. This is because we have forgotten that humans, values and ethics shape history, large forces, e.g. capitalism, do not, they are a product of history.” he said.

He compared President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Pericles, the father of Greek democracy, and Ukrainians with the ancient Greeks, because they are fighting for values, ethics and the human condition. 

"When I think of this war, I think of Pericles. Reflecting on people’s willingness to die for democracy, he concludes that freedom is happiness. People yearning for freedom are willing to risk their lives for it, unlike those supporting tyranny. This war reminds us of this, for example as we think about President Zelenskyi's famous words: ‘I don't need a taxi, I need weapons’, or even better, the statement he made two or three days after the war began when he stood on the pavement and told us, ‘The President is here’.” he said.

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Tacan Ildem
Tacan Ildem
Ambassador, Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy, NATO, 14th YES Annual Meeting, 2017
«A stable, sovereign and independent Ukraine is a key to Euro-Atlantic security.»