Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the president of Brazil, recently suggested giving Crimea to Russia would stop the war. The Brazilian leader forgets that Russia already, illegally, took Crimea nine years ago, with little or no fighting; a few warning shots and the killing of one Ukrainian soldier was all it took. In those days, Ukraine didn’t really understand the extent of what was happening. Its soldiers hadn’t been conditioned to overcome the mental barrier needed to "cross the red line", pull the trigger and shoot to kill.

Background to the Russian occupation of Crimea

Just as before World War II the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, was persuaded that conceding the Sudetenland to Hitler would stop the war, I’ve met many who believed that Russia's aggression towards Ukraine would stop with the annexation Crimea. We now know it was, as with Hitler, just the first step of Putin’s determination to seize all Ukrainian territories.

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If the Ukrainian army hadn’t overcome its reluctance to pull the trigger against those they considered as cousins, if not brothers, in eastern Ukraine, the Russian 2022 march into Ukraine would have gone so differently. First, they would have taken Kyiv then advanced westwards, disarming the Ukrainian army unit by unit (as the Nazis did with the the French on their way to Paris) and then to Rava-Ruska, the city on Ukraine’s western border.

Who knows what ultimatum they would have given to NATO? Putin had already been demanding that the 14, mainly eastern European countries, that joined the Alliance after 1997 should rescind their membership. The West’s support to Ukraine is acknowledgement of the debt owed to the Ukrainian army and its people in foiling Putin’s plan.

Did Peace Between Russia and Ukraine Slip Through Their Fingers in April 2022?
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Did Peace Between Russia and Ukraine Slip Through Their Fingers in April 2022?

In June during a televised broadcast President Putin held up what he said was the 2022 “peace agreement” that Ukraine had “thrown aside.” Newly acquired documents give context to his claim.

Why does Brazil not understand the essence of the war in Europe?

It is easy to dismiss what some have characterized as childlike naïveté on the part of the Brazilian leader, or the fact that Brazil is so far away it cannot see the Russian war against Ukraine in all its detail, Brazil's partnership with Russia within the BRICS economic association. The key reason, I believe, is that, in Brazil and most other Latin American countries, the voice of Ukraine is pretty much absent while Russian propaganda prospers unchallenged.

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Russia's narrative - Moscow is at war with the USA and NATO

Russia initially developed the lie that it is in a war with NATO, for domestic consumption to explain away why the so-called 'world's second army' was suffering numerous defeats in Ukraine. Putin's regime feared the reaction of the Russian people once they realized that the Ukrainian army was defeating the Russians on the battlefield, with much fewer weapons and personnel.

This big lie has, so far, been swallowed by the Russian people and the Russian military is proud to be "holding the front" millimeter by millimeter, with the capture of each fence, intersection, basement and the destroyed buildings of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, as a sign of impending victory. After all, they are fighting "not just against Ukraine, but the whole NATO."

The Russian leadership has become perfectly aware that, what they previously thought was a modern, invincible army, was initially stopped by Ukrainians equipped with old T-64 tanks and Soviet MiG-29 fighters. It is little wonder, then, that Russia fears what will happen now Ukraine is receiving modern tanks, missiles, artillery and may, God forbid, one day get fourth generation fighter aircraft, such as the F-16.

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We mustn’t forget that during World War II, the Soviet Union received huge amounts of military aid from its western partners, which did not stop it from rewriting history and basically declaring itself the sole winner.

Russian inspired myths also work outside of Russia

The current falsehoods that Russia is opposed by "the entirety of NATO" in its war has spread beyond Russia. Putin’s propagandists portray an image that they are innocent victims fighting to protect the world against "a US-led world conspiracy" that has "attacked Russia."

This invention seems to work particularly well in those countries with a strong "anti-imperialist" and anti-American traditions, which includes many of the countries of Latin America. The Russians fuel this narrative, often to the point of absurdity. The image they create is that of Russia as the champion in the fight against colonialism and the "dictatorships" of the USA and the EU.

So, perhaps it is little wonder that the president of Brazil believes that not only is Putin and Russia responsible for this war, but that Ukraine, Zelensky, the USA, the EU and NATO are just as culpable. This narrative sits well, not only in Brazil, but with those south American countries with their socialist and anti-American ideology; the idealized spirit of comandante Che Guevara lives on in these countries even when it is known that this renowned Marxist has been accused of sadistic torture of prisoners and was himself executed in Bolivia.

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Russia as an outpost of modern colonialism

What seems to pass by Lula da Silva, and others like him, is that it is currently Russia that is the main colonizer in the 21st century. Russia draws lines on the map, defines the boundaries of its "strategic interests" and pushes these limits as far as it can, especially where it doesn't receive tangible resistance, just as it did in Ukrainian Crimea in 2014; the same Crimea that the president of Brazil offers to give to Russia in order to stop the war.

The problem with such "suggestions" is, that meeting the aggressor's demands only seems to fuel its appetite, reinforce its feelings of greatness and the need to spill the blood of other nations in the name of the Russian empire.

Conclusion

The nine-year-long war in Ukraine only confirms that there is no end to Russia’s desire to occupy foreign territories. Countries and leaders whose own ideas resonate with those of the Kremlin are easily swayed by Russian narratives.

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Ukraine needs to step up its diplomatic efforts, to make South America hear its voice, to hear its side of the story, to make sure the causes, realities and consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are heard and understood.

The president of Brazil has been to Ukraine, although long before the war the initial 2014 invasion. An interpreter accompanying, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during his visit, recalls the President's reaction as his motorcade drove along Khreschatyk. Seeing the architecture and the people around, the Brazilian president enthusiastically exclaimed: "The people who created this are worthy of respect."

It is time to remind the President about the respect Ukrainians deserve today as Russia tries to destroy them as a nation force them to live under Putin's regime, as it has done on the occupied Ukrainian territories. We should invite the president of Brazil to visit Ukraine again, this time while the war goes on – let’s see if his understanding and attitude remain the same as now.

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Comments (7)

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Benedict
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These Latam Russia lovers are all leftists, dictators who hate the West. End of story.

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I support
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Lula be useful save the rainforest stop the ecocide in your own backyard.

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Peter
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Sad to see how Russia is destroying Ukraine, bombing it and killing people. Yet there are some people, even leaders, around the world, who don't wish to help Ukraine win.

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Ademir
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O problema da América latina que engloba desde o Brasil até o México, todos esses países têm presidentes com perfil de ditador, sem exceção. Todos eles sonham com uma América Latina comunista. O presidente do Brasil é um ex presidiário que foi solto por colunio com a suprema corte do país, ou seja, América Latina não existe como democrácia

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Aroldo Ribeiro
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Lula is a criminal and that's why he supports Russia

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Ivan
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Ukraine and other countries around the world should "call out" Brazil's president for, in effect, taking russia's side and proposing that Ukraine give into russia's unprovoked aggression. Luiz da Silva has to look past the fact that America is providing much needed support to Ukraine to other countries, Canada, almost all of Europe, Japan and many others. This war of aggression by russia against Ukraine is a threat to the entire world, to peace and stability around the globe, even a threat to Brazil. Because if russia is allowed to get away with occupying parts of Ukraine, killing many Ukrainians, destroying entire peaceful Ukrainian cities and villages, then this sort of behavior may, some day, pay a visit to South America as well.
In addition to inviting President da Silva to visit Ukraine and see the truth for himself.

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Kris
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The problem we have in this world is half truth, you talk about Russia taking over Crimea, but you will never talk about the coup that happened in 2014, journalism may pretend to be blind, but the world have eyes and are seeing.

Dmytro Tuzov
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@Kris, a purely Russian narrative. Then you are talking about the fact that Russia is an international gendarme that has to introduce its troops into countries where there is a "coup"? Does this apply only to Ukraine? Did the NATO countries need to send troops into Russia when the legally elected parliament was shot down with tanks and the government was changed? Was it supposed to legitimize the introduction of the armies of NATO countries into Russia, since there was a coup there?

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Ivan
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@Kris, There was no "coup" in Ukraine in 2014. The fact is that then the pro-russian president Yanukovych abandoned his position and fled to russia. That is abdication, not a "coup."

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Oleh
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@Kris, President Yanukovych was a criminal in his youth, he was in prison. He deceived the Ukrainian people and therefore was overthrown and fled to russia.

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