As you all know, this morning Russian’s dictator Vladimir Putin announced a total war on Ukraine. All of the country is currently under attack from all sides, Ukrainian citizens are dying, Russian tanks are rolling to take Kyiv as I write this. This Russian war on Ukraine started already in 2014, with occupation of Crimea and Donbass, but until today hardly anyone wanted to believe Ukrainians that Russia wanted their destruction, and even if: we almost convinced ourselves that Ukrainians deserve this fate, being all criminals Nazis, as Russian propaganda kept reiterating.
I myself am Ukrainian. I was born in 1977 in Zhytomir and lived in Kyiv until 1993 when my family emigrated to Germany, as Jewish “contingent-refugees”. My first name, Leonid, is a typical Ukrainian name, I never liked it, but these days I am proud of it. I am a German citizen for many years now, but due to a quirk of my immigration aged 15, I still nominally retain Ukrainian citizenship. My native language is Russian, but this doesn’t mean than I am part of the odious “Russki Mir” or that my loyalty must be with Russia or with that bloodthirsty mafia thug, that Stalin-worshipping paranoid psychopath with a Ukraine as Lebensraum fetish he borrowed from Hitler.
There are many lessons to be drawn as the great Russian Army is murdering and terrorizing Ukrainians. I offer some, feel free to add yours.
Lesson one: Fossil fuels
This war was made possible only because of our global economy’s total addiction to fossil fuels. The wars in the Middle East in the second half of the 20th century obviously didn’t teach us a lesson. The climate change disaster, already catastrophically happening, didn’t teach us a lesson yet. Think about it: our modern high-tech economy is still entirely run on the stone-age technology of burning wood (well, fossil wood, that is the only technological advance). And why should we change anything and switch to renewable energies like sun and wind, those environmentalists and their silly climate change complaints are all anti-economy! Instead, we the voters kept electing politicians on the payroll of the fossil fuel industry. We even convinced ourself that the oil crises of 1970ies won’t happen again, because we have such reliable friends supplying us with fossil energy: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, and so on, one dictatorship worse than another.
But hey, Russian gas and oil were cheap, all of western Europe voluntarily decided to depend on them one way or another. It is the billions of Euros which allowed Russia to invest excessively into its military, allowed it even to protect itself from the impact of the modest sanctions imposed in 2014, allowed Putin to feel that he has the West in his pocket, like a ruthless mafia boss which he really is. All these Russian cannons, planes, tanks, helicopters, even their paid mercenaries of Wagner battalion presently murdering Ukrainians: they all are all paid by our gas and oil money. The EU even just now certified Russian gas as a “green” energy! Maybe they should change the colour code to red, because it’s blood gas.
Lesson two: Appeasement
In 1938, Europe tried to appease Adolf Hitler and gave him Czechoslovakia. History showed that appeasement of tyrants doesn’t work. But we keep trying it anyway! When Russia attacked Georgia in 2008, we decided that it was all Georgia’s fault and Russian oil and gas were important. When Russia started to bomb Syrian civilians to support the murderous Assad regime, we decided that it was the Arabs’ fault, who are used to violence and are probably mostly Islamist terrorists anyway, why bother. When Russia attacked Ukraine in 2014, annexed Crimea and occupied Donetsk and Luhansk, we decided that it was all Ukrainians’ fault, that Crimea was always Russian anyway, and that we can’t prove Russian army is behind the Donbass separatists. When Russian invaders shot down the MH17 plane from Amsterdam and all 298 people on board died, we really tried everything to convince ourselves it was probably the Ukrainians on one side or the other who did it.
Up until Russia began the full scale invasion of Ukraine, our media denied the reality, feeding us the usual “both sides” narrative. Both sides are accusing each other of shelling villages and towns on the Ukrainian side of the conflict zone, this is what I read myself just last week in German news. The former German chancellor and Gazprom board member, Gerhard Schröder, openly demanded that Ukraine stops threatening Russia. Which proves again that our political elites are on the payroll of the fossil fuel industry.
We appeased Putin not only because of oil and gas though, but because doing business with Russia was so important for our high-tech industries. So we discreetly looked away as the Russian regime was not only attacking other countries, but also terrorized its own citizens, imprisoning and murdering them, and not just for political reasons. In Russian jails and penal colonies, inmates are being tortured in most horrible ways for no reason at all except the boredom of their guards, because the Russian people are trained for many decades to be cruel and without compassion for anyone weaker than them.
Other former Soviet republic chose the path of human rights and democracy. Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are free and surprisingly prosperous nations of the EU, I encourage you to visit them and see for yourself. Belarus people tried in 2020 to fight for their human rights and to overthrow their eternal Agro-Führer Alexander Lukashenko, and they almost succeeded. The dictator was about to flee the country, but then Russian military and special police arrived to his help. In this young century, Ukraine had already two revolutions, in 2004 and 2014, both were about Ukrainian people fighting for their freedom, human rights and democracy, and their desire to join the European Union. Russia had nothing of the kind: the occasional protests in Russia by its intelligentsia were swiftly suppressed, increasingly violently so.
But we kept appeasing Putin, assuring ourselves: surely he can’t be that mad? Well, he is even madder. Now we got the biggest war in Europe since 1945 and it can easily grow into World War 3. We woke up to a shocking discovery that Putin is not our friend after all!
Appeasing a bully makes things worse in the long term, it emboldens the bully to increase the bullying while strengthening their own position. This is true on the small scale in your own place of work, or on the national scale, with Russia or China today. A bully must be opposed before he gets too strong.
Lesson 3: Doing Business
Thing is, it was ridiculously easy to stop Putin in 2008. It was even easy to end his rule even in 2014. Of course not by military means, that would be a disaster even and especially now. But we had the possibility to crush the Russian economy with trade boycotts and drastic sanctions on Russian industry, politicians and businessmen. We could have forced the oligarch billionaires who robbed the country together with Putin to fear for their immense wealth and to turn against their mafia don (and world’s richest man). But we decided to instead do business with Russia as if nothing happened. We begged Russia not to sanction us back as we meekly protested against its war on Ukraine! Our industrial elites lobbied our politicians and crawled before Putin’s feet pleading to allow them to supply him with all the advanced technologies he now uses for war.
We decided against harsh sanctions on Russia, afraid they would hurt our own economies. Well, how would a World War 3 impact on our economies, let’s discuss that? Even if we manage to avoid a world war, what happens now in Ukraine is not really a boost to European or global economy. Plus, Ukraine is a nation of almost 45 million, many of whom will flee to western Europe.
We all are guilty. As voters, we failed. We elected politicians who called Putin a friend, who invited the Russian state and its oligarchs to buy in, anything, no question asked, our house is your house, take whatever you want. Heck, we even held a UEFA football championship in Russia in 2018 to prove that we forgave the attack on Ukraine.
Even the scientists are guilty. Or did you ever boycott Russian research institutions? Did you refuse to travel to a scholarly conference in Moscow or St Petersburg, while lone protesters were grabbed off the street just as you were sightseeing?
Now the western world might impose crippling sanctions. But Putin is sure long past caring, and maybe the Russian state and society already reached the stage of 1939 Germany where nobody is bothered by the consequences of a total war. They are literally out for blood and they don’t care about Western sanctions anymore.
Especially since China is firmly on Russian side, and it is a win-win for this other dictatorship. China will either way get gas and oil from Russia dirt-cheap or even free, and why not taking back Taiwan, now is a good opportunity?
I hope the new sanctions will be so total and stifling that the Russian elites will finally turn on Putin. Maybe even the Russian people will finally wake up from their sadomasochistic wet dream of imperial greatness. Now that Russian propaganda mentions it, yes, there are indeed parallels to World War 2. But it’s you, Russia, who are the fascists and murderous invaders.
I hope Ukraine survives as a state and joins the EU soon. Its people deserve it.
Слава Україні! Героям слава!
If you want to support Ukraine and its people with donations, the historian Timothy Snyder lists some charities, quote:
- NGO that arranges life-saving equipment for Ukrainian soldiers: https://savelife.in.ua/en/donate
- Hospitallers working at the frontline: https://www.facebook.com/hospitallers/posts/2953630548255167
- Ukrainian Women’s Veteran Movement: https://www.uwvm.org.ua/?page_id=3437&lang=en
- NGO that assists internal refugees: https://unitedhelpukraine.org/
- NGO that assistants internal refugees, especially from Crimea: https://www.peaceinsight.org/en/organisations/crimea-sos/?location=ukraine&theme
- NGO that aids traumatised children: https://voices.org.ua/en/
- Foundation that assists healthcare and education in eastern Ukraine: https://razomforukraine.org/projects/zhadan/
Prof Snyder added more:
- Libereco Partnership for Human Rights, evacuation and medical assistance https://www.lphr.org/en/humanitaere-soforthilfe-fuer-die-ukraine/
- Caritas, humanitarian assistance https://www.caritas.org/ukraine-appeal-22/
- Malteser International, evacuation assistance. (Make sure you have selected “Ukraine”) https://www.malteser-international.org/en/donation.html?amount=100&interval=0&fb_item_id=24633
- […] crowdsourcing of the Ukrainian army […] Army SOS https://armysos.com.ua/en/help-the-army
- To fund protective and other defensive gear for the Ukrainian army, go to Save Life https://savelife.in.ua/en/donate/