Solidarity with Ukraine: more urgent than ever

This opinion article is written by Jochem Duinhof. He is a Political Advisor at Dorcas. With this opinion article, he argues for continued support for Ukraine. This article is published in Dutch newspaper Nederlands Dagblad (ND).

Solidarity with Ukraine is under pressure. Not only in the United States, but also in Europe and even in the Netherlands. On the one hand, there is the conflict in the Middle East, which understandably receives a lot of media attention, but pushes the conflict in Ukraine into the background. On the other hand, there seems to be an increasing Ukraine fatigue. In March 2022, only 11 per cent of Dutch people were not in favour of welcoming Ukrainian refugees. According to the most recent poll, this percentage currently stands at 23 per cent. In the week since the large-scale Russian invasion began two years ago, this is a painful conclusion. 

Especially among Dutch right-wing parties, support for Ukraine is under pressure. The PVV (Party for Freedom) wants to end all direct support to Ukraine, the BBB (Famer-Citizen Movement) wavers on how unconditional the support should be and FvD (Forum for Democracy) is openly pro-Russian. Also, this week, several right-wing politicians expressed negative views on support for Ukrainians. This time it concerned the reception of Ukrainian refugees in the Netherlands. The politicians painted the picture that Ukrainians favour coming to the Netherlands and come to our country en masse to benefit from our prosperity. With that, the cost of hosting Ukrainians would be higher for the Netherlands than elsewhere, the message is.

This is a false frame that is not based on the facts. The fact that Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland receive at least twice as many Ukrainian refugees in terms of population as the Netherlands is ignored. As is the fact that Belgium receives only a fraction fewer Ukrainians than the Netherlands (0.0063 vs 0.0079 Ukrainians per inhabitant). That this sentiment is being stirred up is nothing new. Yet the frame created is incorrect. In a democracy, opinions are of course allowed to differ, but they should be based on the facts.


Furthermore, the suggestion that supporting Ukraine only costs us something does not do justice to reality. It is naive to turn our heads away from the conflict in Ukraine. Ukraine is our first line of defence: if Ukraine holds out, it is in the direct interest of the Netherlands. However, if Russian forces conquer Ukraine, it is highly questionable whether this will end Russian expansionism. More importantly, Ukraine is fighting for something bigger: self-determination, democracy and human rights. These core values are of great importance to the Netherlands. We benefit from a world in which these core values are respected. So, supporting the Ukrainian people is about much more than our jobs, healthcare and housing: it is about protecting the global system that we have reaped the benefits of for decades. With the growing influence of autocracies such as China and Iran, this system is under pressure. It is therefore essential that we as Europe continue to stand for our democratic values. A Russian victory could therefore have disastrous consequences for our position on the world stage.


Above all, tampering with solidarity with the Ukrainian people tends towards hypocrisy. After all, we have been pleading for years for “reception of refugees in the region”. This time, we are the region for Ukrainians. Take for instance a country like Lebanon, which, with its five-and-a-half million inhabitants, receives one-and-a-half million Syrians. That is no less than thirty-five times the number of Ukrainians per Dutch citizen. And to think that Lebanon has been facing a severe political and economic crisis for years. So as far as the reception of Ukrainians is concerned, it is up to us to take our responsibility; after all, we have passionately pleaded for this system for years.


Concluding, this is not the time to abandon Ukrainians. Two years after the large-scale invasion, the struggle continues unabated. This year, the UN calculated, 40 per cent of Ukrainians left behind need humanitarian assistance. Our solidarity with the Ukrainian people is not free, but the costs are low compared to the horrors the people of Ukraine have been facing for two years now. Polarising between Ukrainians and the Dutch is not the solution. We need politicians that bravely face the challenges we face as a country: showing solidarity with the victims of this conflict and effectively addressing problems within our own borders. The two need not be played against each other; we can both show solidarity with Ukraine and address our domestic problems. However, this requires political courage, and the will to show constructive leadership in times of scarcity. With the formation still in full swing, the stakes are high in that respect. Let us therefore hope and pray that our people’s representatives do not abandon Ukraine, especially now.

23 February 2024

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