The Anniversary of Russian Bullying


Today is the 1-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine…

Russia Ukraine

Feydzhet Shabanov/AdobeStock


It has been called an invasion. A war. “A Special Military Operation” per Putin. I used those terms, too, in earlier columns on the conflict.

But isn’t Russia’s action in Ukraine at its base really a mental health process? Just think of workplace, school, and playground bullying.

Now, on the 1-year anniversary, that definition suggests using successful strategies against bullies and bullying in order to end the stalemate.

What should we not do if this is a bully process? Do not be silent because a bully’s greatest source of power is the silence of victims and bystanders. That has not been the case as Ukraine’s President Zelensky has continued to speak out, as has its allies, including the United States.

Secondly, be careful about humiliating a bully if possible. The narcissistic injury of being humiliated often escalates a last-ditch effort to maintain power and intimidation. Perhaps that justifies the concerns over the Russian nuclear capability.

However, the current stalemate indicates that a more active strategy needs to be added on. These are practical psychological strategies that often work against bullies in other aspects of life.

1. Bolster courage. Victims have to go beyond personal or group presumed safety for the greater good. President Biden’s surprise and risky visit to Kyiv on Monday seems to qualify as being a courageous one.

2. Analyze your sense of risk. Often, the fear of a bully is much more than the reality.

3. Build alliances and coalitions. That has happened with Ukraine but is not guaranteed to continue.

4. Do not be afraid to escalate. Escalation means more effective weapons to aid Ukraine.

5. Give the bully an alternative to save face. It is unclear if it is too late for such a strategy but, if used, Russia needs a way to maintain some internal sense of accomplishment.

To be avoided is negotiation of a promise without monitoring and consequences. In 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from a meeting in Munich where Hitler signed a guarantee of “peace for our time.” A year later, Poland was invaded and readily conquered. Using and adapting strategies to contain bullies in everyday life may help prevent such disasters.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

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