Speech outside the Russian Embassy, May 17, 2023
We know that leadership is crucial – as a leader, you always have a choice. The values and actions of leaders affect individuals and society. Russia’s full-scale, brutal, and flagrantly illegal war against Ukraine demonstrates this fact with terrible clarity. The war reveals the difference between destructive leadership and good leadership. Leadership makes a difference.
We are confronted with horrifying stories in the media about a deliberate and systematic attempt to dismantle a functioning society and instill fear in the population. We see images of demolished houses – empty, burned down. Where families once lived, homes filled with life and dreams of the future, now only charred furniture and heaps of debris remain. We witness appalling images of mass graves and the aftermath of looting. We hear stories of women being raped and children being abducted. Shattered dreams, broken families, lives wasted.
There are no winners in war, only losers.
The war is the result of a leadership based on distorted ideals and imperialist ambitions. A leadership that sees power solely as a means to gain personal advantages. A leadership that does not value the lives of others. A leadership that doesn't hesitate to lie and kill in order to protect its own privileges and benefits.
But such leadership cannot last. A regime may build its power on threats, violence, and oppression, but it becomes a fragile power. It rests on people’s fear, not on loyalty and trust.
And what is built with violence and oppression will ultimately crumble in its own grip. Tyrants eventually become victims of the hatred they themselves create. History has shown us this many times.
We know that the human desire for freedom is an indomitable and powerful force that never dies. This is where human greatness lies. Tyranny can never triumph in the long run.
But leadership is needed to gather the strength against tyranny. Leadership that upholds an open society, freedom, and peace. Leadership that bridges divisions and motivates people to strive in the same direction.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has demonstrated courageous, communicative, and present leadership. He didn’t flee the field. He stood firm in the midst of the battle. He has inspired thousands of local leaders in Ukraine to mobilize extraordinary resilience together with the citizens. He has stood side by side with his people. The political leadership has called for struggle, perseverance, and solidarity. He has demonstrated this not only in words but also in practical actions. Trust goes both ways.
And he has appealed for support from the international community. Our support! That is why we are here today, to manifest our support for Ukraine. So far, the EU and the US have been united in their support for Ukraine’s right to self-determination. It is a show of strength, and it is crucial that it continues. Let us hope that the clouds of concern we see across the Atlantic dissipate, and that the US also remains steadfast in its support.
The war reminds us of the importance of European cooperation. Since the Second World War, it has gradually developed and deepened to prevent European countries from being plunged into the horrors of war.
The threat we face now is a crucial issue for Europe and for the future of our children. It now and in the future requires leaders who safeguard democracy, who stand up for human freedom and rights, and who develop the European idea.
As representatives of Ledarna – the Swedish Association of Managers – I want to express a powerful condemnation of the war and our full support for Ukraine. Together with our European cooperation organization, CEC European Managers, we are fully in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, who are now fighting with strength and courage to defend their country, their freedom, and their democracy!
We stand with Ukraine!