C2SI was founded by US military veterans who have all visited Ukraine, in various capacities, since the February 2022 Russian invasion. We were struck by how the entire society mobilized and united to defend itself – from entrepreneurs taking up arms to grandmothers sewing uniforms to volunteers evacuating animals and people from harm’s way. We were also struck by how international networks – from famous chefs delivering food to civilians to NATO veterans volunteering to train troops – mobilized to aid the country. The example of the way a grassroots movement rose to defend Ukraine carries valuable lessons for other countries, including ours (the United States of America). Drawing on these lessons to assist the citizens of Ukraine and other democracies against authoritarian aggression, and identifying how they can strengthen our societies, inspired us to form C2SI.
Citizens to Soldiers International (C2SI, for short) is a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit with the mission of defending global democracy by helping people around the world secure their freedom, with the vision of bringing about a free, peaceful, and democratic world. We will do this in a variety of ways, primarily training and network-building to support defenders of democratic countries.
Our name represents a core conviction visible in the example of Ukraine: that free societies must have equally strong commitments to democratic values and military preparedness at all levels of society, and that a citizenry that is ready and able to serve both in the public square and the drill square is essential to that preparedness. The military readiness of the US and its allies is not just about procuring end-items and maintaining troop levels, but about the spread of basic military knowledge, capacity, and commitment to the common defense among citizens both in and out of uniform.
A worldwide perspective shift is needed: While (inter)national security is primarily the province of elected leaders, civilian government officials, and military professionals, all citizens have a responsibility to contribute to the common defense beyond simply paying their taxes. Furthermore, in our globalized world, armed aggression against democracy anywhere must be treated as an attack on democracy everywhere, one to which all free people have an individual duty to respond. A global, grassroots movement of people ideologically committed to liberal democracy and prepared to contribute to its defense through networks of mutual aid must be formed, and ways identified in which the efforts of democratic governments, their armed forces, and private “concerned citizens of the world” can be united to achieve effects to this end.
Photo credit (U.S. Army photo by Sarah Tate, JMTC PAO, http://www.eur.army.mil/jmtc/CombinedResolveIII.html)