An open forum to support and give hope to the Ukrainian people

Last Thursday, March 3, the Icaza space hosted the II Bilbao Meeting Point, organized by the Fundación Instituto Europa de los Pueblos and with the collaboration of NegoBide and Nergroup. People from countries such as Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Moldova, Poland and Romania, as well as the United States, France and the Basque Country gathered in the same forum to discuss, with respect and rigor, the recently initiated war conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

In a relaxed and non-confrontational format, various questions were raised with the aim of “treating with respect, rigor and hope” this delicate and unjust situation, which affects millions of Ukrainian citizens. There were half a dozen questions ranging from socio-economic issues – How can we continue to sign economic agreements with Russia in this situation, or the economic consequences of the sanctions imposed on Russian citizens to others of a more social and human nature, the role of the media in this conflict, as well as whether it is possible to change these warlike attitudes in our societies, among other issues.

In the first part of the debate, the question was raised as to whether the worldwide suppression of nuclear weapons should be considered, especially after the attitude shown by Putin, “threatening the rest of the West with the use of its nuclear arsenal.”  In this line, the veto imposed at the UN by the five most powerful and nuclear-armed countries in the world (Russia, China, France, United Kingdom and USA) to not abandon this practice in situations of armed conflict was put on the table, a situation which, according to those present, “perpetuates this situation and makes it impossible to implement new methods of diplomacy and modern geopolitics”. What was clear was the will of the participants to advocate world nuclear disarmament “but with all countries at the same level and at the same time,” they pointed out.

After this first debate, socio-economic factors derived from the conflict were addressed, from the point of view of the signing of trade agreements with Russia and the economic consequences that Russian citizens may suffer due to the sanctions of the EU and the U.S. Regarding the first issue, they spoke about the “contradiction that we live in our consumer society and how, on many occasions, we do not hesitate to purchase products from companies such as Amazon, which clearly systematically violate the rights of workers. Similarly, and from the macroeconomic perspective, it was pointed out that, despite military aggressions, European countries continue “signing gas supplies with Putin’s administration, because they are economically dependent on Russia”, in the same way that happens with Saudi Arabia, Algeria where human rights are also violated.

Regarding the economic implications that Russian citizens will suffer, all agreed that those who will suffer the most will be the working and middle classes of the country. One of the participants pointed out that there are already cases in which it is not possible to make bank transfers or sell real estate at the purchase price, among other difficulties. After this issue, the role of the media in the current war conflict was put on the table and it became clear that the truth is “the first victim of this military confrontation”, as one of the participants pointed out. In this line, he focused on the responsibility of Putin’s cabinet in the “control of the media, as well as the use of schools as a means to spread the “official truth that hides a military attack and tries to spread that it is an operation without civilian consequences or victims.”

To conclude the discussion, a final question was posed on whether, after all that has been experienced during the last few days and taking into account the history of military conflicts, it is possible to change the people who lead them and whether human beings can modify their way of behaving or whether history repeats itself endlessly. On the one hand, the existence of “individuals like Hitler, Stalin or Putin capable of convincing thousands of people to lead their countries to conquer other free nations” was highlighted. In the face of this reflection, the existence of initiatives promoted by civil society to help people damaged by this conflict was also raised. In this sense, it was informed at the end of the talk about the sending of 4 vans chartered by the organizers of the event to Slovakia, whose purpose is to collect Ukrainian refugees to transfer them to Euskadi and offer them shelter in apartments or private homes, as well as the possibility of a job in one of the companies belonging to NegoBide and Nergroup.