Connect with us
Advertisement

Our chance to change the country will come

NDABA GAOLATHE

I am happy to be in the midst of young people today. I am privileged to be among a generation that holds the key to a new Botswana, a generation of hope, a generation that understands its responsibility to shape our nation. I am happy that I can say I lived among you, I lived with you and I walked with you in this great journey to a new Botswana.

I know some of you used their very last bank reserves to be here today; there are friends in the audience who are nursing ill relatives but they still found a way to be here tonight; How fortunate we all should feel that men and women of the cloth left their congregations to be in our midst on this fine night. We thought this was going to be night for young people, but I see so much grey hair, it’s a blessing we can’t say no to. And to the owners of the night, the owners of this occasion, the young people of Botswana, I say thank you for honouring our date with you.

You made this effort to attend this occasion, I am certain, not because I am likeable, but because you share the concern of so many citizens about our nation’s unfolding political narrative. You worry if our system of governance, regardless of your political affiliation, has the capacity to offer you a set of choices on election day, not just choices but, pristine choices on whom you can elect or which party you can elect to lead this country in accordance with your vision, our vision or in accordance with our hopes.


A democratic system that works is one that is not only able to sustain regular free and fair elections, but also a system that guarantees that the pool from which voters will elect parties or leaders into Government is worthwhile or quality pool. It is not enough as a nation to say we have in our midst, capable men and women of integrity if our system suffocates them, and does not allow them to come forward and be available for a vote into Government. Such a system or country that starves ordinary people or voters of credible leaders/parties from which they can choose is no different from a tyrannical system of Government. It means only the rogues will always be the ones running Government, and the people’s vision will burn into ashes.

We need a system that brings out the best and brightest from hiding, a system that allows them to step forward and be available for elections so ordinary people can enjoy their right to choose capable leaders into office. Such a system needs much more than nurturing by one institution, it needs the active participation in the political process of young people.

It needs you to step forward, it needs you share your ideas, it needs you to attend meetings with others, it needs you to learn from others and teach others, it needs you to contribute money and talent to gatherings like this one, it needs you to suggest, groom and nominate potential leaders. It needs you to offer yourself for roles. In so doing, you become the eyes and ears of our nation; you begin to see what many may not see at that moment; and regardless which party you belong to if any, this nation benefits because it will be people like you that guarantee that the ordinary voters can choose from the best people on election day.

Many of our citizens are alarmed that a political party, the BMD of the UDC, that holds such immense promise, is tearing itself apart, and returned from an elective Congress in Bobonong, last month, with two parallel sets of leadership committees. Many of you know that this is not workable and are embarrassed by it. Some of you have listened to radios and read from the press how our great movement has become the skunk of our nation. Our actions and conduct have represented everything that can go wrong in the democratic experiment. Analysts and pundits have dug in the annuls of history and have tried to interpret what the unfolding narrative means or signifies not only about the BMD or the UDC but what it means about the future of Botswana. The perceptions and circumstances at the BMD have generated confusion, disillusionment, mistrust and doubt about whether our nation can achieve the change that we all so desire.

More important than the perceptions, the actual unfolding of events, tactics and behavior within the BMD has revealed that we have and have had in our midst men and women who at best do not believe in the change that we all say this country needs, men and women whose lack of belief causes them to work against every effort to present this country with the type of pristine choice of leaders from which citizens can choose/elect on national election day. This alone is a travesty, it is a tragedy for this is part of the vision that we share we so many citizens, that our movement will be one of the minting pots that will offer this nation a spoil of choice from which to elect leaders that will assist precipitate change.

The painful reality is that the current configuration of and climate within our movement is not requisite to precipitating, currently, the type of change that this country needs. We cannot have the moral authority and force to change and tidy up the Government should we be in Government if we ourselves still have to deal with an endemic and systematic cancer that is fast eroding our commitment to clean governance. The current impasse at BMD is not a traditional difference of opinion or a contest of ideas or ideology; it is not a traditional competition among leaders for leadership roles.

The current situation at the BMD is much deeper than meets the naked eye of a bystander. There is no need to go into these depths, for we have a conviction that the truth has a way of surfacing, the truth has a way of permeating through tiny walls, at the right time. The BMD situation is about justice, and I have chosen the side of justice, we have chosen justice. Call me what you wish as some do – a faction leader, a warlord or by whatever name – I am not moving from the side of justice. We choose justice because this is our conviction. We choose justice because there will be no change in this country without a commitment to justice.

We choose justice because without it this country will never be able to offer its best and brightest for political office, we need to advance our best people forward to citizens can be spoilt for choice, so they can choose from among men and women of substance who can bring about change. From the side of justice I am unmoving, I am unbending, I am unshaking, I am unwavering, I am unflinching, I am unchanging.

So we need to make decisions, we need to do that fairly, we need to do that wisely, we need to do that soberly, all on the side of justice, so our system can reach a higher level of offering its best people, so our democratic process can function well. This is why we can never impose ourselves – all we can do is to ensure we do our best to give Botswana and make available the best among us. There is a saying the enemy does not care about who you are, the enemy worries more about what you will become. And today I have come to say to you, we need to protect what we will become, for we are going to become a Government of great vision and delivery.

I am not here to give answers to all these questions, I am also here to apologize to the families whose children were injured at our congress, and to the teachers, students of Matshekge for contaminating their reputation. I am here to apologise to Kgosi Dimakatso of Bobonong village for our conduct, and its not about who is to blame and who is not, the buck always stops with the leader, the reason for which I take full responsibility not just for the events leading to, at and after our BMD congress. I travelled this past weekend to Bobonong, to see Kgosi, the school and tender my apology. I also visited the police to thank them, but we are not done with that as we still have to see so many other people and the community.

To the people of Botswana, I understand just how much aching it brings to your hearts to see before you a dream for a new Botswana melt and how let down you must feel. And for this I hope you will forgive me. Yet despite these austere and seemly bleak circumstances, the hope in me has risen more than it has ever before, that a new Botswana is possible, that a new Botswana is within reach. So I am here not only to apologise but also to tell you that I have an immense sense that something special is happening in and to this nation. There is something stirring..

Just to take you back, over five decades ago, the best among our grandfathers gathered to consider a constitution of what would be the new Botswana. They dreamt of and hoped for a nation independent of political control from abroad. They aspired to plough seeds on the soils of the crop of freedom, justice, and the opportunity to prosper materially and in the spirit. And although the money vaults were too barren to finance the running of even the smallest Government machinery they still believed in their future; even though there was no army to protect our vast ploughing fields, our beautiful wild animals, our deltas and our salt pans – even though we did not share in the fortune of mineral discoveries that so many countries around us swam in – even though many of our people wallowed in poverty, their children with no prospects of a good education or a good livelihood – Our grandparents still believed they were onto a new country, and despite the insurmountable obstacles they were driven, and filled with the belief of a prosperous Botswana

And in some ways they achieved some of what was their dream. And in some ways they surpassed what some may have imagined. But that doesn’t mean that what constituted their vision and hopes is what forms our own vision and hopes. Our hopes are our own. They are inspired by our own unique life experience, and by the basic life principle that every generation must do better than the generation before it. Every generation has the obligation to mend the lapses of the past, and every generation should see further and better than the one before it, because they stand on the shoulders of their fathers. This is why we believe our nation can do better, much better; we can do much better as people and as a nation.

We gather here today, to affirm that we stand on the cusp of change; Like eagles, we are being thrust onto the path ahead, pushed by a wind of change. We believe we are due for a new style of governance, a government that listens attentively to the people, a government led by competent men and women of principle. A government that is quick to act on decisions, a Government that is effective, clean and accountable. This is a Government we yearn for, because without such a Government, our dreams will remain unrealized.

Why do we need such a Government. We need such a Government because such a Government is a necessary spice to true change and prosperity. We need such a Government because our people are tired of a Government that buys fighter jets, grippens, at the expense of financing projects that could transform the lives of our people. We need a new Government because the current one cannot account for major expenditures, they say for security reasons.

We need a new Government because the current one is not able to manage large national, potentially transformational projects. We need a new Government because the current BDP-led Government alienates talented citizens, chocking their creativity, including their own. We need a new Government because the current Government is suspicious of genuine investors, it’s a Government that denigrates workers, a Government that conceals truths about injustices, A Government with secret service that runs the Government behind the scenes by fear and intimidation.

We need a new Government that is fair in all its affairs, a Government that cultivates the idea and belief in everyone that they can become anything they aspire to be under the sun. We are that Government in waiting. We can and we will become that Government of change. We know we are on the cusp of new beginning, so close, because we offer you capable young and old leaders, but these leaders are being hidden behind the smoke of current impasse. We will clear that smoke and ensure that they come forward without any man-made hindrances.

This is much more than about the BMD of the UDC. It is about our consciousness as a people, a dream, a vision, a way of thinking, a way of doing things. Moono. It transcends political parties, it is bigger than political parties. This is a consciousness that was inspired by activists and citizens from all walks of life and from within other political formations. If this consciousness sits with discomfort within the current configuration, we need to be decisive about how best to transfigure ourselves so that this consciousness for change thrives best and helps inspire the kind of Botswana we aspire.

We will never be defeated. “They say nothing real can be threatened. True Love breathes salvation. With every tear comes redemption. And your torturer becomes your remedy” The say we are warmongers. We need to fight for sure, and this war we must fight. But our fight should not be a fight of stones, or of bullets. Neither is it a fight of insults or of accusations. That kind of fight is not ours, we do not belong in it.

I know that some in our midst say, ahh your fight is about a high place in the echelons of your party, it is about dominance in your party, and it is even about a high place in the Government of 2019, should you win elections. No, this is not our fight. This is not our war. We fight for a new Botswana. We fight for our vision, the same vision of the Great Gomolemo Motswaledi, the vision of all fair-minded citizens. We fight to ensure we reach the shores of the great ocean that is the vast wealth of the minds of our people, the ocean whose depths hide minerals and treasures kept for our people, the ocean whose waters quench the thirst for social justice, the ocean whose salts nourish the collective creative talent and great leadership of all our people. We will fight for this new Botswana.

We fight to ensure that the voice of ordinary people that are not part of the main economic stream are heard, We fight for the pursuit of ideas and plans that will generate jobs of the vast swarms of people living without a job. We will never be defeated because we are on the side of justice, We stand with and for the truth.

If at any point there is confusion or doubts about what this is about, we may as well pack our bags and go home. If at any point we forget this vision, or we abandon our first and true love for our responsibility and mission to be conscience of this nation, then we just as well go home. But we cannot go home when so much work remains to be done. We cannot abandon our convictions because the weather is bad. If we do so we would not only have abandoned our movement. Worse, we would have abandoned our people. This we must not and cannot do.

Warmongers, no, we are not warmongers. We are warriors of justice. We are gallant foot-soldiers towards a new Botswana. We are warriors of our collective vision and dream. Better we fight for something, even if we are wrong, at least we stood for something. We may be wrong in what we believe, and we must never think we have the monopoly of the truth. Joshua fought in silence, with silence and faith. He focused, rounded a city, quietly, and on the seven days he and his people shouted. Silence for right passages of time is significant, it is a sign that there is ongoing work, it may not be visible to the eye. It means you understand that everyone will have his or her turn to speak and act.

In the same way, we must also do our work, our part, patiently, and at the right time take action, make decisions, decisively, collectively, no matter how painful. Every-time we meet, every time we come together like this, the skeptics are not happy, our detractors are not happy, those who refuse to allow change are not happy. They are not happy because they are afraid of your power when you come together. They are not happy because they realize what we can become, and what we can become and will become is what we must protect.

We need to learn to do things together, it doesn’t have to be a political rally, we need to learn to act together for the things we believe in. and today, you have once more shown why our faith is in you the young people of Botswana
Back to the BMD impasse, we need to wait for UDC. We need to respect the UDC process and hope that when those charged with the responsibility meet, they will offer guidance. We believe first prize is a rerun of the elective Congress, to elect a leadership in a free and fair election. We cannot demand a free and fair elections from our system at the national level, and then fail as a political formation of the BMD to guarantee it at our level.

Our members are not convinced that the court option is viable. The time and material cost entailed will take away whatever energy we need to offer Botswana the best and brightest from among us, men and women that our nation can enjoy the right to choose from at the national elections, men and women that we are certain will assist transform this country. This is an opportunity we as people should not and must not miss.

I know there is talk of a new formation, a new party, and I must admit pressure is being mounted from different directions to embark on this option. Proponents of a new party advance many reasons to embark on such a journey, among them the need for a fresh home as dwelling place for this consciousness of change, a home unblemished and uninhibited by manmade obstacles, but this cannot and should not be our first option. We need to be patient, and give the UDC the opportunity to intervene before we can consider this or that options.

Some of these and our decisions whatever they are, will hurt. Our hearts will bleed, and we need to prepare for that. Whatever decision we make, we must make it because it is the right thing to do, it is on the side of justice and it will bring a new Botswana. We need to commit to meet as often as we can, in a meaningful way, at the appropriate fora, to partake in the decisions that will shape our future as a movement and as a people.

We need to tame our tongues, no matter how deeply we differ with those who do not agree with us. We need to understand that what we say and our behavior, if it is not appropriate, will repulse the very citizens for whom we say we are seeking a new Botswana. None of us should insult others no matter how violated we may feel. A lingering question will always be, how and why did we allow things to reach this stage at the BMD. Our country is on the verge of an extraordinary moment of change in history, and so our institutions, not only political institutions, not just the BMD, will face extraordinary circumstances, one way or the other. Many of this circumstances will be man-made, and forcefully so, by an invisible hand. This will happen more and more, the nearer we get to that extraordinary moment of change.

I know you will find what I am about to say difficult to swallow: things could have been worse, and one day that truth will become more self-evident. There is so much to be grateful for, and to be proud of: Our nation is now within reach of a wonderful change, precipitated by yourselves and by people like the late Gomolemo Motswaledi and the late Kealeboga Ramogobjua. Our country now knows change is possible, our people now have hope, even though it is momentarily dampened. Our country now knows we have capable young people who can lead given the chance. The Government of day now knows they have to think a little more before they embark on anything irresponsible. Let no one take away these, your achievements.

Things could have been worse. If you think about it, yes someone may succeed in stealing the paperwork of our movement, but no one will ever be able to take away our beliefs, your convictions, your vision. Some invisible hand may work to create smoke and the impression that you are terribly divided into two camps, when in fact there is so much unity of purpose, unity in consciousness and oneness in our vision. Some invisible hand may work to contaminate how we may appear or look like today and in the now, but they will never steal from us what we will become.

It’s a shame of course, because we had hoped to build the BMD of the UDC to become like a great university of the ages, a place that prepares talent for leadership and offers it to the citizens so they may make a choice at the national elections for subsequent Governments. Some of the great universities and political institutions are a hundred of more years old. So we are not too late, in fact we are still on time towards realizing this goal one way or the other.

Rumours abound of a plan, apparently my plan, to decamp to the ruling party. I am a servant of the people, I serve at the pleasure of the people as long as they think they need me to assist in their journey. What I cannot do is to walk away from the people, or step away from the side of justice.

Should the people say to me, you have done your part and we need a new set of people to advance our vision, then yes I would be happy to bow out but I am not yet sure if I would want to be a football coach or a rugby coach. I am in the company of great men and women – thank you to the Vice President Mmolotsi, Chairman Mokgware and Secretary General Butale and his deputy Moalosi. Thank you to the Women’s President Mothudi, President of the Youth Kelebeng, thank you to my parents in the movement, my branch chairman Segopolo , thank you to my political Secretary Mma Sibisibi, to the men that offer themselves to travel vast distances with me. Thank you for fighting for the vision of the people of Botswana.

Thank you to BOFEPUSO for understanding what standing on the side of justice means, thank you to you President Tshukudu, SG Rari and your deputy Motshegwe. Thank you to the MPs, the councilors, the branch and regional chairs. Thank you to the media that keeps us accountable, and that communicate our message whether we agree with them or not. Thank you to our lawyers Rantao and Chilisa, thank you to the passionate activists and loyalists of our movement and thank you to the men and women out there who are patient with us and encourage us to reach that new Botswana.

We will never be defeated. “They say nothing real can be threatened. True Love breathes salvation. With every tear comes redemption. And your torturer becomes your remedy” I end with a prayer adapted from a prayer by Martin Luther King: Lord, we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives is the history of an eternal revolt against you. But thou, O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know your will.

Give us the courage to do your will. Give us the devotion to love your will.. God remove all bitterness from our hearts and give us the strength and courage to face any disaster that comes our way. God grant that we wage the struggle with dignity and discipline. May all who suffer oppression in this world reject the self-defeating method of retaliatory violence and choose the method that seeks to redeem. O God, make us willing to do your will, come what may. Increase the number of persons of good will and moral sensitivity. Give us renewed confidence in nonviolence, patience, wisdom, oneness and the way of love as taught by you.

BMD President, Ndaba Gaolathe delivered this speech at a meeting of young people at Maitisong Hall in Gaborone on Thursday.

Continue Reading

Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

Continue Reading

Opinions

Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022
Craig-Cloud

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

Continue Reading
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!