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THE PASTOR WHO WAS A MUSLIM

Today I want to sail the choppy seas. I'm fully aware that were I in another country, this article would earn me death threats. Or worse. But, at least for now, I think I'm pretty safe. Few of my readership might know that I used to be a Muslim. Yes, right now I'm an all out, take no prisoners, cotton spittin', fire and brimstone preachin', Bible totin' preacher! The complete opposite of the Muslim I once was. In another country, under strict Islamic law, a turncoat like me would be sent to meet his Maker. But what exactly happened? Are we not worshipping the same God?


While some similarities exist between Islam and Christianity (they are both monotheistic religions, for example), their differences are clear-cut, significant, and irreconcilable. For this article, we will survey four key areas: the founders of the two religions, the contrasting views of God, the sacred literature, and the means of salvation. We will see that Islam differs from Christianity in each of those four areas. I should know. I've lived both world views. I've not just read but followed both, with equal passion. I was not a nominal Muslim.


Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, God offers—and true disciples of Jesus have received—that which everyone in the world, including every Muslim, needs and many long for: forgiveness for their sins, a loving heavenly Father with whom they can communicate personally, and assurance that eternal happiness awaits them beyond this life. The key to witnessing to a Muslim is getting him to understand that Islam does not offer these things and that Christianity most certainly does. In fact, Christianity is the only religion that does. â€¨â€¨Muslims use much of the same terminology that appears in the Bible: sin, salvation, heaven, hell, one God, law, and punishment. What is missing from their lexicon is the word “savior.”

The Muslim does not believe that he needs a savior because he believes he alone must atone for his sin by his works. Islam teaches that man is born sinless and, therefore, does not have a sin nature from which he needs to be saved. His sinlessness was corrupted by external influences and can, therefore, be ‘cleaned up’ by works and efforts that please Allah. The Qur’an tells the Muslim that his good deeds can cancel out his bad deeds (Sura 11:114), but no one knows how many good deeds are enough. Muslims believe they can ask Allah for forgiveness from sins, but Allah may or may not forgive them. There is, therefore (and this is the key), no assurance of salvation for Muslims. 



Muslims believe one must be sorry for sin and repent of it, but the idea that payment for sin is required by a holy God is not part of Islam. It’s important to begin with the idea that being sorry for sin will not help the Muslim when he stands before a holy God on Judgment Day. Ask the Muslim if a murderer will be allowed to go free if he says he’s sorry in court. Most Muslims would agree that if the judge is a good man, he must make sure justice is done. Being sorry won’t keep the murderer out of prison. Then ask the Muslim if he believes he will go to heaven.

Muslims believe in the Law of Moses, so ask if he has kept each one of the commandments perfectly. Once he admits he has lied at some time in his life or lusted after a woman in his heart, ask him, if an earthly judge can’t pardon a murderer just because he is sorry, how can Allah forgive him when he has just admitted to being a liar and/or an adulterer in his heart. If he’s at all honest, he will admit this is impossible. At this point, you can say that God made it possible for him to go to heaven even though he can’t get there on his own. Preach Jesus Christ as our substitute for sin, our Savior from sins we cannot atone for ourselves, but do not say that He was the Son of God or allude to the Trinity as these ideas are anathema to Muslims. â€¨â€¨

Again, the key to witnessing to Muslims is their lack of assurance. Islam teaches that Allah was the source of both the Bible and the Qur’an, so they are willing to listen to passages from the Bible. Passages that speak to the wickedness of man’s heart ( Psalm 14:1-3; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:9-18), the holiness of God ( Exodus 15:11; 1 Samuel 2:2; Joshua 24:19; Psalm 93:5) and His hatred for sin ( Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 6:16-19) will drive home the need for a Savior.

As long as the Muslim believes he can atone for sin himself, the message of the gospel will be foolishness to him. If he comes to understand that “no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law” ( Romans 3:20), the door is open for the light of the gospel to shine in his heart. â€¨â€¨Of course, no one comes to the knowledge of the truth solely by good apologetics.

The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit because they are spiritually discerned ( 1 Corinthians 2:14), and the Holy Spirit is the only one who can open the eyes of the spiritually blind. Therefore, any witnessing efforts should be bathed in prayer that hearts and minds will be opened so that when we speak the truth in love to a Muslim, it may please the Lord to grant him or her salvation through Jesus Christ.

Islam and Christianity: Founders of the Religions

Islam was founded by an Arab merchant named Muhammed about AD 622. Muhammed claimed to have received a revelation from an angel of God, and, although he initially feared his revelation had come from Satan, Muhammed later claimed to be the last and greatest of all of God’s prophets. Muhammed had fifteen wives (although he limited other men to four wives apiece) and sanctioned the beating of wives (Sura 4:34).

Muhammed was well known for spreading his new religion by force. He commanded, “Fight and slay the Pagans wherever you find them” (Sura 9:5), and he specified the proper way to execute an unbeliever was to cut his throat (Sura 47:4). Muhammed led raids against caravans to plunder their goods, broke oaths, ordered the murder of those who mocked him, and wiped out the last Jewish tribe in Medina—he killed all the men and enslaved the women and children. Interestingly, Muhammed acknowledged his own need to seek God’s forgiveness on occasion (Sura 40:55).



In stark contrast to the moral depravity of Muhammed, Jesus Christ was above reproach in every way ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus never married, He defended and honored women ( John 8:1–11), and His law was “love one another” ( John 13:34). Accordingly, Jesus never assassinated anyone, never beat a woman, never enslaved a child, never broke a promise, and never plundered a caravan. On the cross, when Jesus was mocked by those nearby, His response was, “Father, forgive them” ( Luke 23:34).



Islam and Christianity: Views of God

Islam teaches that Allah, or God, is the sovereign Creator and Ruler of all that is. Muslims emphasize God’s absolute unity, which will admit of no division, and God’s will. In fact, the will of God is more basic to who He is than His love or mercy. God could choose not to be merciful, and He can choose not to love; thus, Allah’s mercy and love are not intrinsic to His nature but are choices He makes. More important than loving God—or even knowing Him—is submitting to His will.

The word Islam means “submission.” According to Islam, God cannot be considered a “father” and He has no son. Allah does not love sinners (Surah 3:140).

Similar to Islam, Christianity teaches that God is the sovereign Creator and Ruler of all that is—but that is about where the similarity ends. Christians believe in one God who exists in three eternal, co-equal Persons (Father, Son, and Spirit) who share the same indivisible essence.

According to Christianity, God loves because His very nature is love ( 1 John 4:8)—not just because He happens to choose to love. God’s essence includes the attribute of mercy, so divine displays of mercy are more than choices God makes; they are extensions of His character. God is knowable and desires a relationship with us based on love ( Mark 12:30). Obeying God is important, but obedience without a relationship based on love is worthless (1 Corinthians 13:3).

According to Christianity, God the Father has an eternal relationship with God the Son. God does love sinners ( Romans 5:8).

Islam and Christianity: Sacred Literature

Islam holds that the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament), the Psalms, and the Gospels were given by God—with this caveat: Jews and Christians have corrupted God’s Word and therefore Bibles cannot be fully trusted. Muslims believe that God’s final Word, the Qur’an, was miraculously given to Muhammed over a period of twenty-three years. The Qur’an, which is perfect and holy, is divided into 114 chapters called suras. In addition to the Qur’an, the Muslims have the Hadith, a collection of Muhammed’s sayings, opinions, and actions as reported by those close to him.



Biblical Christianity holds that the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are God’s inspired Word and the only authoritative rule of faith and practice. The Bible warns against adding to God’s Word ( Revelation 22:18); Christians reject the Qur’an as an attempted addition to God’s Word and as a document that contradicts the Bible in many ways.

Islam and Christianity: Means of Salvation

Islam teaches a works-based salvation and in this way is similar to other man-made religions.

A Muslim must keep the five pillars of Islam: he must confess the shahadah (“there is no God but Allah, and Muhammed is his prophet”); he must kneel in prayer toward Mecca five times a day; he must fast during the daylight hours one month of the year (Ramadan); he must give money to the poor; and he must make a pilgrimage to Mecca sometime in his lifetime. Islam teaches that the day of judgment will involve a person’s good and bad deeds being weighed in a balance—so the standard for judgment is one’s own actions (Surah 7:8-9; 21:47). The Qur’an forbids anyone from bearing another’s burden of sin (Surah 17:15; 35:18) and pointedly denies the death of Jesus (or Isa) on the cross (Surah 3:55; 4:157–158). If you will be saved, you must save yourself.


A Muslim may love Allah and wish to please Allah, but the question in his mind will invariably be “is it enough? Are my works enough to merit salvation?” Christians believe that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to provide an answer to the question “is my work enough?” The answer is, no, our work is not enough ( Matthew 5:48). This is shocking to anyone who has been trying on his own to appease God.

But this was the point of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount ( Matthew 5:1–48). The Jews that Jesus spoke to, just like the Muslims who follow Allah, were trapped by the knowledge that nothing they did would ever meet God’s perfect standard. But Christ’s perfect life, atoning death, and resurrection did meet God’s standard ( Hebrews 10:10; Romans 8:1–8). Jesus’ message to the Jews and His message now, to Muslims and everyone else, is “repent and believe” ( Mark 1:15).

This does not mean “stop sinning” and “believe that God exists.” It means “turn from sin and stop trying to please God by your own ability” and “believe that Christ has accomplished everything for you.” The promise to those who trust Christ is that they will become the children of God ( John 1:12).

Allah offers no such promise. Muslims believe Allah will be merciful to them based on his evaluation of their performance. But salvation is never sure; it is never a promise. When the Western world looks with horror on things like jihad and acts of Islamic terrorism, they get a glimpse of the powerful fear that Allah instills in his many of his followers.

Faithful Muslims are faced with a terrible choice: obey the violent commands of an omnipotent deity whose mercy is given only to the most passionate and devoted followers (and perhaps not even then), or give themselves up as hopelessly lost and headed for punishment.

Christians should not regard Muslims with hatred, but instead with compassion. Their god, Allah, is a false god, and their eyes are blinded to the truth (see 2 Corinthians 4:4).

We should be praying for Muslims and asking God to show them the truth, revealing His promise of mercy and freedom in Christ ( 2 Timothy 2:24–26).

Christianity teaches a grace-based salvation. A person is saved by the grace (the undeserved blessing) of God, through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ ( Ephesians 2:8–9; Romans 10:9–10). The standard for judgment is absolute perfection—the righteousness of Christ.

No one can measure up to perfection ( Romans 3:23), but God in His grace and mercy has given His Son as the substitute for our sin: “When you were dead in your sins . . . God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross”  Colossians 1:13–14). We cannot save ourselves, so we turn to Christ, our sinless Savior and the author and finisher of our faith Hebrews 12:2).


The Muslim and Christian views of God have some similarities. Christians believe in one eternal God Who created the universe, and Muslims apply these attributes to Allah. Both view God as all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present. â€¨â€¨A vital difference between the Islamic and Christian views of God is the biblical concept of the Trinity.

In the Bible, God has revealed Himself as one God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. While each Person of the Trinity is fully God, God is not three gods but three in one. â€¨â€¨God’s Son came in the form of man, a truth called the incarnation ( Luke 1:30-35; John 1:14; Colossians 2:9; 1 John 4:1-3).

The Lord Jesus Christ conquered the penalty and power of sin by dying on the cross Romans 6:23). After rising from the dead, Jesus went back to heaven to be with His Father and sent the Holy Spirit to believers Acts 1:8-11). One day, Christ will return to judge and rule Acts 10:42,43). Those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus will live with Him, but those who refuse to follow Him must be separated in hell from the holy God. 



“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” John 3:35-36). Either Jesus bears the wrath of God for your sin on the cross or you bear the wrath of God for your sin in hell 1 Peter 2:24).

The Trinity is essential to the Christian faith. Without the Trinity, there would be no incarnation of God’s Son in the Person of Jesus Christ. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no salvation from sin. Without salvation, sin would condemn all to an eternal hell.



So, do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? A better question is, “Do Christians and Muslims both have a correct understanding of who God is?” To this question, the answer is definitely no. Because of crucial differences between the Christian and Muslim concepts of God, the two faiths cannot both be true. The biblical God alone addresses and solves the problem of sin by giving His Son. Allah does no such thing; fundamentally because he doesn't have a son to give. â€¨â€¨“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”  John 3:16-18).

Islam and Christianity, having different beliefs on essential doctrines such as God, Jesus, Scripture, and salvation, are irreconcilable. Both religions cannot be true. We believe that Jesus Christ, as presented in the Bible, is the true Son of God and Savior of mankind. “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” John 1:17).

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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.

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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

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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.

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