As separatists in eastern Ukraine stage demonstrations and occupy government buildings, calling for Russian annexation, there is renewed anxiety about the 40,000 Russian troops massed along the border. The prospect of Russian incursion raises the question of how Ukrainians — outnumbered, outgunned, and more than likely unsupported by Western militaries — might be able to resist. Though there have been murmurs of Moscow’s troops being met with a guerilla campaign, Ukrainians best hope for challenging Russian aggression might be to follow the same method used to oust Kiev’s venally corrupt regime: civil resistance.
When Russian forces swarmed into Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula for what became a military occupation and then an annexation, some opponents responded in ways that might seem unusual. In cities across Ukraine, flash mobs mimicked “dead bodies” on supermarket floors. Compatriots next to them held signs exhorting shoppers not to buy Russian products so as not to finance occupation and war. In Odessa, a flash-mob orchestra played “Ode to Joy,” the European anthem, to the surprised onlookers at the city market in a melodic message supporting an alliance with the European Union rather than Russia. The videos went viral.
It may seem counterintuitive that such nonviolent resistance could successfully repel a militarily superior opponent, or that this would be Ukraine’s most promising defense against having its east carved up by Russia.