Imperialism and the Ukraine Invasion: Why This Matters for Your DEI Initiatives


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With the horrifying news of Russia invading Ukraine, we’d like to highlight the impact on Ukrainian citizens as well as how this scale of violence reminds us of imperial agendas everywhere. First let’s define imperialism: a state’s policy of extending power and influence through military force and/or territorial acquisition. Though the violence inflicted by the Russian government is abhorrent, we can actually look to other examples of global imperialism to help us understand how they are all connected. Ali Abunimah’s tweet, as well as many other public outcries, recall how familiar this violence is. When Russia is positioned as uniquely “evil”, this fails to account for the extreme violence of Western imperialism. We can look to Afghanistan too, to witness the impact on civilians of constant cycles of military violence, and the too-often forgotten cruelty of U.S. invasion. This will be crucial to understand and connect to Ukrainian civilians, many of whom have already been killed or are forced to flee- what does this extended violence and unsettlement do to a people?  We can sadly already see who within these environments will remain safe due to their class and connections, and which people will be deprioritised and left to violence. A horrifying ‘Ukrainians first’ policy is preventing Black people from taking trains and buses that would allow them to cross the border and seek safety. 

While there is so much more to unpack here, for now, let us consider 1) the standards and stereotypes we apply to different countries and 2) what will be required of us to be in solidarity with Ukrainians suffering right now. How can you materially and socially support anti-war protesters in Russia who are being arrested? How might you call for your own country to admit and support asylum seekers, as higher waves of refugees are anticipated? And then how do we apply these measures to all the other countries suffering from decades of imperialism and military violence that are too often ignored?

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