Day and night, images that are unwatchable yet unforgettable pour out of the great news funnels all around the planet.
The images bring a flood of anguish into the lives of people who cannot bear looking at the horrific slaughter and inhumane cruelty that a superpower is inflicting upon its much smaller neighbor.
But these same people also cannot bear looking away. So they watch the blatant and undeniable war crimes that Russia’s military is inflicting upon Ukrainian innocents. They witness the Nazi-like cruelty of Vladimir Putin’s forces as they targeted and destroyed apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, fleeing families in train stations and fearful families in shelters that are now rubble.
And as they watch, viewers everywhere are thinking just what you are thinking: Why can’t our leaders do more to make them stop?
But very few around our planet (and probably not even you!) are thinking about the one organization that was created 76 years ago to mobilize a world of leaders to try to resolve, or at least reduce, this kind of crisis.
Were you really thinking about the United Nations? (Or do you think of the U.N. as an outmoded relic?) Were you really about to ask if the leader of the United Nations can do something to maybe give peace a chance in shattered Ukraine?
Probably not. You probably can’t remember the name of the United Nations’ secretary general. Not your fault; he’s not been in the news much. At the start of this 21st century, you’d have known well the name of the U.N.’s activist Secretary General Kofi Annan. In the Eisenhower era, you’d have known all about Dag Hammarskjold.
But there is something innovative the United Nations can and should be doing to inject a jolt of innovative geo-persuasion into our era of stagnant old-school diplomacy. The U.N. can spotlight how Putin has used his own Big Lie to con fellow Russians into accepting his Hitlerian compulsion to crush Ukraine. Starting with his whopper that Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government is a bunch of neo-Nazis.
Putin’s state media won’t show Russians the abhorrent reality of images all the world has been watching since he said he wouldn’t invade Ukraine and then invaded Ukraine. Putin’s polls are soaring. Moscow’s Levada Center, an independent public opinion organization, shows Putin’s approval rating climbed from 67% last October to 83% on March 20.
But wait — polls in a dictatorship may not provide a paint-by-the-numbers picture of what people really think.
Levada’s methodology, according to its website, was to interview 1,626 Russians in person, in their homes. Hmmm. Imagine you are an ordinary Russian in Putin’s dictatorship, where journalists can be jailed for calling Putin’s Ukraine war a war. A stranger at the door is asking if you approve of Putin’s policies and writing down your answers. Your responses may merely reflect your desire to remain free.
This is where we now need the help of an activist U.N. secretary general. He is in a perfect position to mobilize a virtual video initiative featuring a cross-section of world leaders, appearing in person or virtually, in a special General Assembly session, reading a few sentences to narrate a diplomatically unique video.
“A WORLD OF TRUTH: Global Leaders Reach Out to Russia’s Families” can spotlight for ordinary Russians the images of the war crime horrors all the world has been watching for the past 50 days of Putin’s invasion and shattering of Ukraine. Those images have become the world’s window into the shame that is Putin’s Russia today.
The video can end with the world’s leaders telling Russians that the world needs Russia to return to the moral values we all always shared, as allies when we defeated the actual Nazis.
Finally, the U.N. secretary general needs to mount a massive media effort to give Russians every chance to see this event somewhere, in which the world is speaking to them. Keep the video streaming, via YouTube, social media and all other resources of the global internet.
And if our innovative persuasion project is accomplished, you will never forget the name of our next Nobel Peace Prize laureate, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, of Portugal.
Martin Schram is a syndicated columnist.