London, UK

Our hearts break for the people of Ukraine. It's a country I've visited numerous times over 20 years, working alongside some of the most committed and far-sighted community leaders one could hope to meet. 

Personal or collective empathy, of course, doesn't make reaching decisions on how to respond to Mr Putin's aggression any easier for our political leaders. 

Greece Athens pro Ukraine rally

A protester raises a placard during a rally against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, at central Syntagma square, in Athens, on Sunday, 27th February, 2022. PICTURE: AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis.

The question of NATO membership is not the only issue they must consider when it comes to when and how to defend - or at least stand firmly alongside - countries that border Russia.

Russia is, of course, a nuclear power. Any battle with it involves significant risks to a much larger body of people globally. Economic and travel sanctions, particularly weak ones, won't stop Putin, who sees returning Ukraine to the status of a vassal state as a kind of vocation. It is something on which he feels he must act before he is too old to do so. 

"We must not let what is happening in Ukraine become yesterday's news. It must remain a part of our cultural conversation. It must also continually act as a call to action. Its story must not induce in us paranoia or conspiracy theories, The key idea here is the pursuit of freedom with vigilance."

Sanctions may, of course, slow him down, especially as he almost inevitably looks to subjugate other former members of the USSR machine. They might also increase dissent among his cronies and even, in time, force some of them to cross their president.

All this does not mean that the West can do nothing for Ukraine. Far from it. We must at the very least focus on the following measures:

1. Step up efforts to arm and train military forces in countries that neighbour Russia;

2. Increase and maintain sanctions, despite their potential cost to us or our lifestyles. In our dealings with Mr Putin, avoiding economic pain now will only mean we face much greater pain later. 

3. Resource and encourage public and political opposition, including acts of civil disobedience, within Russia. Despite Putin's claims to have significant public support for the invasion, thousands of Russians have voiced their discontent in peaceful demonstrations in their cities. They've risked arrest and detention to do so, acting as they are, illegally. 

We must ensure that our media, press and social media continue to highlight this unrest. If only to demonstrate to those Russians who have access to international internet sites that Westerners care about and respect their actions in defiance of their government.

We must also maintain and boost demands for the release of Russian opposition leaders, including Alexei Navalny. The recent launch of a new trial, which could see an extension of his prison sentence on allegedly baseless grounds now seems to have been a part of Putin's war strategy. We can only imagine how much larger demonstrations against the government would be if he were to return as an iconic and catalytic figure.

4. Celebrate and endorse the innovative engagement of multi-national banks and businesses that deliver essential services to the Ukrainian people. 

I've written elsewhere about the dangers presented by the unbridled growth of big tech. In the past few days, we've seen a great example of a "technoking", a major big tech leader, doing the right thing for the right reasons. Elon Musk says that his Starlink satellite broadband service is available in Ukraine and that his company, SpaceX is sending more terminals to the country, where internet coverage has been disrupted by the invasion.  

5. Strengthen our own cybersecurity measures, in government, corporate and personal spheres. This is a key area of engagement for Putin's forces. It's a fact that we've seen demonstrated many times in interfering with elections and the like. Domestic governments must ensure the strongest possible defence of our digitally-controlled infrastructures, such as gas supplies and internet services. 

At the same time, we must recognise that we cannot live our entire lives online. That kind of reliance only increases our vulnerability to cyberattacks!

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6.  Wake up to the fact that our pursuit of ultra-liberalism, emphasises personal freedom at the expense of social responsibility. The woke movement is partly a reaction to this, at least among young people, who demand that we take greater responsibility for each other - even if wokeness itself creates more divisions than it heals. 

Naive ultra-liberalism, linked to narcissistic individualism, induces in us a Pollyannaish view of the world and unreadiness to face the reality of darkness in it. 

7. Continue to strengthen, not weaken our own military capacity, without losing perspective. For all our supposedly advanced 21st century thinking, there are still tyrants who dream of war, some of whom might arise quickly, at the most unexpected times.

8. Pay very close attention to ongoing research, in some quarters, into sophisticated AI-driven autonomous weapons of war, such as completely pilotless drones and robotic tanks and warriors.

We must not let what is happening in Ukraine become yesterday's news. It must remain a part of our cultural conversation. It must also continually act as a call to action. Its story must not induce in us paranoia or conspiracy theories, The key idea here is the pursuit of freedom with vigilance.

Let us pray and act for the peace of Ukraine.

mal fletcher

Mal Fletcher is a social futurist, social commentator and speaker and the chairman of 2030Plus, a London-based thinktank. He has researched global social trends for more than 25 years and speaks to civic leaders worldwide about issues relating to socio-cultural ethics & values, PESTLE Analysis, civic leadership, emerging and future technologies, social media, generational change and innovation. First published at Copyright Mal Fletcher, 2022. 

Mal Fletcher is a member of the Sight Advisory Board.