“Nobody can defeat us. We are Ukrainians.” The narrative of appeasement.

UKRAINE WORLD, 19 May 2022 Podcast

This is one of the best podcasts for people interested in Ukraine.  The discussion is among Ukrainians speaking English.  I started listening to this podcast before the Russian invasion.  Almost all of the conversations are thought-provoking analysis instead of the usual (corporate news) personal interest stories.

On Thursday of last week, the Ukraine World podcast episode was largely about what was considered a new trend in the public narrative about the war in Ukraine.  That trend involves various public actors calling for Ukraine and the West not to “humiliate” Putin, to give Putin an “off-ramp.”  Many in Ukraine were understandably upset about this narrative.

A day after the podcast was released, on Friday 20 May, the New York Times Editorial Board felt it necessary to come out with an article which shocked some and angered many others.  In this badly written piece, the editorial board excoriated the Biden administration for not having clear goals in Ukraine. 

The hosts of the podcast, Volodymyr Yermolenko, a Ukrainian philosopher and journalist and chief editor at Ukraine World and Tetyana Ogarkova, a Ukrainian scholar and journalist, head of international outreach at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center discussed what they both felt was “quite a dangerous trend,” that of planning strategy so as not to humiliate Putin and Russia.

The hosts pointed out that Macron had already suggested that Ukraine make concessions to Putin.  It was, they argued, almost like a slogan coming from outside Ukraine: “Don’t humiliate Putin.”  Everyone outside of Ukraine seemed worried about how to keep Putin from feeling like the cornered rat in his own story. 

As the journalists pointed out, the people presenting the “don’t humiliate Russia” line were presenting it as a pragmatic measure.  They were also concerned to point out that their position didn’t represent appeasement. 

The hosts argued that pacifying Putin was simply a way to ensure that there would be further wars and conflicts.  For example, concessions made to Russia in 2014, when Putin annexed Crimea, only resulted in the larger disaster we are witnessing now.  The lesson of history, noted one journalist, is that appeasement only results in war. 

Russian society, the hosts argued, is in need of deep changes and these changes will not come about if Russia is allowed to annex more and more of Ukraine without paying a price for their imperialism and their destruction.

Had the West not looked the other way over Crimea, the devastation of Mariupol would never have happened.  Had Russia not been allowed to maintain its Black Sea fleet the occupation of Crimea would never have happened.  The occupation of every bit of territory provides a base for further expansion.  Every bit of land conceded will be used to further expand into Odesa, Transnistria, Moldova and then the NATO countries. 

Those who are arguing concessions to Russia, especially if Russia is allowed to cut Ukraine off from the Black and Azov Seas, are facilitating a disaster, an economic and food disaster.  (Note: Even though there have been attempts to export Ukrainian grain over land, there is simply not the infrastructure to completely replace the port export.)

“A ceasefire is a disaster,” one journalist noted.  “For Ukrainians it will mean we lost the war.”

Russia must not be allowed to seize parts of Ukraine and they most be made to pay reparations for the damage they have inflicted.  One Ukrainian journalist commented that if Russia is allowed to occupy this southern corridor, they will have to pay to reconstruct it.  If they are forced out, Europe and the United States

will be obliged to economically support the restoration.  That may be another reason for supporting concessions.)

Another reason noted for the push towards concessions is the fear of the unknown.  Nobody knows what will happen if Russia is conclusively defeated.  The political class has grown up on the post-war stalemate with Russia.  They are more comfortable confronting the enemy they know rather than an enemy they don’t know.  They simply cannot imagine what will happen if Russia is conclusively beaten.  They are afraid of the disorder, the poverty, the immigration.  There is no religious or ethnic homogeneity to hold Russia together.  Nothing can hold that enormous heterogeneous territory together but a Czar. 

War Against Reality

This war is not only a war against the West, one journalist argued.  It is a war against reality.  (Note: This is an important point when one considers the war on reality being conducted by the Republican Party in the US.  This is a tactic used by transnational crime syndicates posing as governments.)

The transnational crime syndicate has a “disgust for facts, for empirical reality, for something you can verify.”  (Note: This is one of the reasons why fundamentalist religion is such an important part of this coalition of crime and authoritarianism.  Religion teaches, in fact rewards and glorifies the rejection of fact-based reasoning and action based on belief.)

Inside Russia, Putin sits at the top of an information bubble of controlled and manipulated information.  (Note: The “denazification” narrative that characterized the first part of the war is an example.  Russians were convinced without evidence that the entire of Ukraine had been taken over by Nazis that the Russians were called upon by God to eliminate.  The “good” Ukrainians were to be protected from the “bad” Ukrainians.)  (Note: When the fighters from Avostal were removed, there were reports that the Russians divided the “nazi influenced” fighters from the others and sent them to special camps.)

Russia is trying to present the devastation of Ukraine as being the fault of Ukrainians themselves.  Russians do not accept guilt or fault for anything.  It is predictable that the average Russian citizen (who cannot leave) would prefer to think of themselves as liberators rather than oppressors.

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