This article appeared in the March 02, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Russia as pariah: Has world ever been this united against one nation?

Kristoffer Jonsson/Reuters
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod walks with other ambassadors and diplomats while a pre-recorded video message from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (on screen) is played at the 49th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on March 1, 2022.

What do the punk rock band Green Day, Delta Air Lines, Shell, Mercedes-Benz, Eurovision, FIFA, the Metropolitan Opera, and Disney have in common? They – and many others – are cutting ties with Russia.

Like a BTS song, standing up to Moscow is going viral. 

Beyond the official government sanctions, the speed at which private companies, sports organizations, athletes, and artists have expressed their moral outrage over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is unprecedented. 

The closest historical parallel is South Africa. The divestment campaigns and protests against apartheid spawned in 1959 took decades to develop global support. “We’re watching this shift [against Russia] unfold in days,” says historian Zeb Larson. The pace of change, he says, is “striking.” More recent grassroots sanctions movements, such as the pro-Palestinian “boycott, divestment, sanctions” and fossil fuel divestment campaigns, have also been years in the making.

We saw a similar moment of worldwide umbrage and empathy after the 9/11 attacks. “We are all Americans,” the French newspaper Le Monde wrote in a Sept. 12, 2001, headline. History shows us, Dr. Larson says, “conspicuous violence drives moral outrage more than anything.”

To some, Russia’s invasion also smacks of a bullying, colonial mentality. In a widely shared speech, Kenya’s ambassador to the United Nations, Martin Kimani, described Russia’s violation of territorial integrity as “dangerous nostalgia” for empire building.

Will this international shunning be effective or endure? It’s unclear. But it’s unlikely that Russia’s risk assessment included this scale of moral clarity and solidarity. 

Also likely unforeseen: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s open defiance. “It is breathtaking to witness actual courage. It’s even more breathtaking when that courage is both moral and physical,” writes conservative columnist David French. “[Mr. Zelenskyy’s] not just speaking against evil, he’s quite literally standing against evil.”

Apparently, many around the world have found that courage inspiring, and are taking steps to support it. 

This article appeared in the March 02, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 03/02 edition
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