Yes, condemn Putin’s evil, but remember Russia wants freedom

Many of us in America feel a need now to somehow confront the Russian government and its strongman leader Vladimir Putin over the unjust and illegal invasion of Ukraine.

And we are gratified to see measures at every level of government do so, from serious economic sanctions leveled by the Biden administration to city-led resolutions to condemn the invasion.


We also applaud American companies that have withdrawn their business from Russia and sports organizations that have canceled games where athletes represent Russia.

It is absolutely crucial that Americans and the West stand united against this threat to human freedom and democracy.

We know, at the same time, that it can be hard to recognize where the line of condemnation ends.

Just as we did throughout the Cold War, it is important to condemn the evil that Putin has visited upon Ukraine even as we remind Russians that they too deserve to be a free people.

Where to end the condemnation and open the embrace is sometimes hard to determine. The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, for example, recently announced that it will remain open to Russian pianists.

The feelings right now over what is happening in Ukraine are so raw that many might conclude this was the wrong decision.

But we also understand the desire to welcome artists who likely have nothing whatsoever to do with their power-mad leader and who have worked their entire lives to bring beauty into the world through their instruments.

And it’s worth remembering that Van Cliburn himself was a symbol of the victory of individual artistry over the power of the Soviet state.

We pray for victory by Ukraine, even as we realize that hope is dimmer with each passing day.

We are likely to awaken to a world divided once again between the West and a Russian power.

As we enter that time, we will need to negotiate these very questions many times over — how we both reject Russian aggression and open ourselves to the Russian people.

Our country’s founders understood that freedom is inherent in the human soul, and we believe that the Russian people want freedom from the increasingly tyrannical government they live under.

Sending them the message that we support the full realization of their freedom will be just as important as condemning the darkness that is now spreading in Europe.

— Dallas Morning News Editorial

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