What’s hard-won is easily lost

Vladimir Putin
AP Photo -
Vladimir Putin AP Photo -

ON SUNDAY most of the world will commemorate the victory of allied forces in World War II, but it will do so under the shadow of war.

It was the victory in Europe of May 8, 1945, that established the conditions for the creation of the United Nations. It was the belief that a brutal lesson had been learned, that war should be avoided hereafter at all costs, that paved the way for economic blocs like the European Union. It was the memory of untold horrors that engendered a wilful desire and belief in the impossibility of such evils ever recurring.

If Russia is not defeated soon, the conflict in Europe will present the world with two possibilities: the defeat of Ukraine, or the escalation of a limited conflict into a third world war. Both signal the resounding end of a dream of a stable global order.

Here in the Caribbean, younger generations may have once viewed the world wars as remote things, seen in searing period pieces in the cinema.

But as recent films such as Hero, about local WWII veteran Justice Ulric Cross, have reminded us, the reality of our interconnection with global events has always been palpable, from the fact of members of our diaspora participating directly in military actions to the economic and social burdens shouldered at home whenever the world is in turmoil.

The establishment of major US military facilities in Trinidad during the colonial era still has reverberations to this day.

This year, many will expect to vote in local government elections, exercising their democratic right to do so. As much as our society has a long way to go, the freedoms we enjoy here today are not enjoyed in many places around the world. Such freedoms cannot be taken for granted.

Like the assumption of a world at peace, our values also cannot merely be assumed going forward. They must be vigilantly guarded and bolstered.

There is a sick irony in the fact that Vladimir Putin has co-opted the narrative around Russia’s Victory Day, marked on May 9, to meet his own propaganda needs. For him, the ongoing conflict is a battle against Nazism and a link back to the Soviet Union’s crucial role and the enormous cost it paid in defeating Germany and its allies.

For Mr Putin, it is as though nothing has happened in the world since 1945, not in relation to democratic values and the global political order meant to protect them, not in relation to human rights, not in relation to economics. It is a revision of history identical in spirit to what transpired under the Third Reich.

Unlike past VE Day commemorations, members of the Caribbean diaspora from this year face a future when war is no longer a matter for the history textbooks. It is a live and looming threat.


"What’s hard-won is easily lost"

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