Egle Markeviciute (Lithuania)
Alexandra Ivanov (Sweden)
Irena Schneider (USA/Russia)
Ron Paul is said to be one of the key figures in the American pro-liberty movement. Many libertarians in the US credit his presidential campaign in 2008 as the reason they became interested in the ideas of liberty. His influence has undoubtedly been profound.
Students For Liberty (SFL) is a big-tent organization that focuses on inclusion rather than division. Combining a passion for ideas, a strong work ethic and an inspiring vision for a freer world, SFL has become the leading pro-liberty movement both in and outside the United States. We are proud to have served this organization in various capacities over the last years.
Yet the organization‘s decision to invite Ron Paul as a keynote speaker to the annual International Students For Liberty Conference (ISFLC) is upsetting for some of SFL’s counterparts in Europe.
As classical liberals, we cherish a human being’s fundamental right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Since the early 2000s, the Russian regime has been methodically destroying the rights of Russian people, a process which has quickened to a devastating pace in the last year. Russian repression of its people is well documented.
We have marched for liberty in Moscow and St. Petersburg and watched police thugs beat and take away our Russian friends in police buses. Russian citizens cannot exercise their constitutional right to peaceful assembly, nor freely choose what to say, whom to love, or how to live their life. Independent non-profit organizations are called “foreign agents,” and those who protest Russia’s world class kleptocracy are called extremists. Putin has orchestrated this nightmare in the name of freedom.
Last winter, following former Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s failure to sign a European Association Agreement, 800,000 people in Ukraine protested in sub-zero temperatures against a regime mired in corruption. Armed police squads shot at protesters who hid behind makeshift barricades and retaliated with home-made weapons. 110 civilians died on Yanukovych’s orders. Observers from our Swedish conservative and classical liberal organization ‘Fria Moderata Studenten Forbundet’ stood side-by-side with the Ukrainian students. The Lithuanian liberal youth were the first people in Lithuania to organize protests against Yanukovych’s government in December of 2013.
Russian tanks subsequently invaded and occupied the Crimean peninsula, where they remain to this day. For Putin, Ukraine is not a nation. This December Putin deemed Sevastopol Russia’s Jerusalem, a holy land which has always rightly belonged to Russia. This is part of Putin’s massive propaganda machine, which has convinced Russian citizens that Ukrainians have crucified a Russian boy and that the United States was behind Ukraine’s Maidan revolution. Putin has allocated $300 million of stolen money to bring this vile misinformation to the rest of the world’s TV sets in the form of Russia Today. The Russian state-funded ‘Sputnik’ propaganda group is currently opening offices in Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius and Warsaw.
Meanwhile, Ron Paul and his eponymous Institute for Peace and Prosperity have been unconscionably regurgitating this propaganda, feeding Putin’s narrative that Ukraine’s revolution was a fascist coupchoreographed by the US. In March of last year, Ron Paul stated that the occupation and referendum of Crimea was approved and in accordance with the will of the people. As of December 2014, Ron Paul’s institute continues to deny that there is evidence of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, falsely peddling the story that regime change was the result of U.S intervention, rather than the will of courageous men and women who took bullets at Maidan to demand a life of peace and liberty.
Russia’s renewed military aggression is one of the biggest challenges the youth movement of Europe has faced in decades. We, as classical liberals, are in many ways walking the front lines of that movement. Our responses to these events may vary. Compelling arguments can be made for both advocates of globalist and non-interventionist foreign policy positions. We are confident that a big-tent organization like SFL welcomes both perspectives into a healthy discourse.
Despite his previous achievements, Ron Paul has been irrevocably destroying this discourse. He and his institute have crossed the line from a position of US non-intervention in international affairs to the outright promotion of tyrants and the lies they weave. By pursuing a campaign of misinformation in the name of liberty, peace and prosperity, Ron Paul is flying in the face of everything SFL stands for, undermining a movement of students fighting against brutal regimes at the risk of life and freedom. In doing so, Ron Paul is morally abetting the ratcheting repression of civilians and psychological warfare waged ruthlessly by Vladimir Putin.
The ISFLC is the most important event of the year for the international student movement for liberty, a day to celebrate the efforts of students to make our world freer and more humane. Students from all corners of the globe will be present. We strongly oppose SFL’s decision to host an advocate of Russian aggression at an event with this noble purpose. It compromises not only SFL’s mission, but the endeavours of millions of people in the world to live in freedom.