Bob Schwartz

Ukraine Sanctions: Who Is Poking Which Bear

The most interesting message about this morning’s U.S. sanctions to protest Russian actions came from one of those sanctioned. The travel bans and freezing of U.S. assets are aimed at a handful of Putin advisers and others complicit in the Crimean takeover, but not at the highest level (including Putin) or at any businesspeople.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is being sanctioned, tweeted this:

“Comrade Obama, and what will you do with those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or didn’t you think of that?”

On this day when a prominent Russian television journalist, with an atomic mushroom cloud as background, pointed out—correctly—that Russia is the only country that can reduce the U.S. to “radioactive ash,” the tweet from Comrade Rogozin is most telling.

The U.S., even more than our allies, is being poked. Taunted. “Is that the best you’ve got? You can do better than that!” The U.S. and Europe can of course do better (meaning: more severe) than that, from big business sanctions to military intervention, all of which threaten global instability.

This is the point in every fight when power has to be harnessed in the service of strategy. Russia wants nothing more than any excuse to throw away the rulebook they don’t believe in anyway. They aren’t so much bringing guns to a knife fight as brandishing guns to bring out the other guns and look like the victim. The aggressor victim.

Let’s hope or pray for our leaders to be strong, wise, unselfish, non-partisan, and honest (with us and with themselves), who can interpret the language of pokes, and can act appropriately.

Beyond Anger: How to Hold On to Your Heart and Your Humanity in the Midst of Injustice

Beyond Anger
The crisis in Ukraine is deepening, and with that lots of thought, opinion, and calls for action. It may seem like the wrong time for self-awareness and contemplation. Enough talk. This is a Nike world, so let’s just do it.

Whether it is about the Russian invasion of Ukraine or about unfairness in our own nation, our desire for justice and aversion to injustice is a good thing. But it can be so powerful and overwhelming that we easily get lost. It isn’t that we shouldn’t act decisively; it’s that in our zeal, we can be confused or overly certain about what the right decision is.

Last summer, in the face of terrible killings in India that had profound implications for Buddhist communities, Shambhala Publications published a free book you can get, Beyond Anger: How to Hold On to Your Heart and Your Humanity in the Midst of Injustice.

The publisher explains:

In July 2013, multiple bombs exploded in Bodh Gaya, India, in and around the holiest Buddhist pilgrimage site, the Mahabodhi temple that marks the spot where the Buddha attained enlightenment. In response, Shambhala Publications offers this free eBook consisting of excerpts from some of our books from a variety of Buddhist traditions that encapsulate values of love and nonviolence, which we can all practice ourselves.

You may not be a Buddhist, or care about Buddhist philosophy. You may or may not be angry about what is going on around the world, or about what some people say about how to solve the problems. You may believe that you have a better way, and you may be right. It’s just that no matter what, a different perspective can always be helpful.

In a section of the book called Conflict Resolution: Anger Is the Problem, The Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje talks about Global Conflicts, Global Solutions:

When bigger and more powerful nations step in to offer guidance to other nations, many of the same principles apply as when individuals intervene to resolve interpersonal conflicts. A sincere motivation is absolutely key, and on top of that, the intervention must be done with sensitivity and skill.

In this small world we live in, nations coexist interdependently. The actions of one country affect others deeply. Countries with more power have the potential to influence others more. I believe that with this power comes a great deal of responsibility, and that includes the responsibility not to exercise one’s power over others in pursuit of the private interests of one’s own nation….

Before you approve the actions proposed, you should be confident that they are in the best interest not only of your country, but of the world as a whole. To be a responsible, conscious citizen, it is important that you think for yourself, and take universal peace, stability, and well-being into account. Use your discernment and take a stand that serves the whole world, not just one corner of it.

Even when we are sure that the motivation to contribute positively to the well-being of the world is sincere, we also have to scrutinize the means used to pursue that aim. For example, in the name of bringing freedom to other countries, weapons are produced and wars are waged. As powerful countries themselves expand their arsenals and wage more war, the peace and stability of their own country and of the world are both placed at risk.

Again, a pure motivation needs to be applied with wisdom. I feel very strongly that war and fighting are not an effective means to bring about peace or prosperity, stability or freedom. I am certain that history will demonstrate war to be ineffective and counterproductive in the long run.

I have met many people from powerful countries who are deeply unhappy with how their leaders wield their power internationally. This seems especially common when people have failed in their efforts to urge the decision makers to pursue a more compassionate and skillful course. Some of these people become angry at their own governments. In other cases, people direct their anger at the governments of other countries.

If you find yourself angry at any government, please recollect how harmful anger is to yourself and others, and steady yourself with a firm resolve. Make an unwavering commitment to yourself that you will not allow your mind to become perturbed. Be immovable—unshakable from a peaceful state of mind.