We Ukrainians love Russia. We love it for its consistency. For Tsar Alexis, who brutally violated the Pereyaslavska Agreement of 1654, for Peter I, who started the demolition of Ukrainian statehood, for Catherine II, who finished it and stole our history and turned Ukrainian farmers into slaves; for Alexander II, who prohibited the usage of the Ukrainian language; for Russian communists, who starved 6 to 8 million Ukrainians to death; for Russian warlords, who used millions of Ukrainians as cannon fodder during World War II; for Soviet tsars, who physically and mentally killed Ukrainian intellectuals during the whole of the 20th century and other “great” deeds for the people of Ukraine over three and a half centuries of “happy co-existence”. It’s a pity that only we know about it.
Now we will love Russia even more thanks to Putin. Although this time it seems, we may for the first time in modern history, love him together with many others. Why?
Because now he has proven not only to Ukrainians, but to the whole world that:
- Russia has always been and will always be an imperial state. This is the way it acted starting from the 18th century and the way it acts now.
- Agreements signed or responsibilities taken within a framework of multilateral international agreements are valid only if Russia still perceives that it benefits from them. Hitler and Stalin acted the same way in the 20th century;
- Russia’s leadership insolently lies to the world community distorting real facts and figures, while showing no shame in doing it;
- Russia opposes itself to the civilized world and uses all available means to fight against it.
- This last point is fundamental.
The biggest problem for the West is that it does not know and seems not to strive for an understanding of Russia’s history or the mentality of its elite. Experts glide over the surface, analysing the current situation, but do not get to the core of the problem. Hence we have many completely incorrect assessments of the motivations and actions of the Russian leadership.
Russia, as Putin has said, is building a “civilization-country” What does this mean? That we all belong to another alien civilization compared to Russia?
In order to secure what it sees as its own civilization, the Russian leadership is building walls – political, military, and ideological. To ignore this fact is to neglect the truth and expose the West to threats.
I am deeply convinced Russia today is a real threat and the greatest challenge to an entire system of international relations which has protected us for almost 70 years from another world war.
The question is not only about Crimea. It’s not even about Ukraine. It is about Russian attempts to prevent the spread of democratic values and its refusal to conduct relations according to civilized rules. Today Ukraine becomes the battlefield of this struggle.
That is why the West, if it is indeed guided by values rather than mercantile interests, must decide: Real help for Ukraine or another submission of positions to neo-imperial Russia?
If the West chooses to defend Ukraine it will be defending itself. Let us again re-collect the events of Munich 1938 and everything that followed thereafter. With the only difference being that today there will be a number of peace-keepers claiming the laurels of Chamberlain, and the consequences will be even more disastrous. Do today’s Chamberlains understand that?
I hope that it won’t get to this and Ukrainians will be able to love Russia again, as soon as it gets rid of its imperial paranoia. How to achieve this in the quickest possible way?
You don’t need much: Help Ukraine immediately and effectively. The means are well known. There has to be political will. It is as simple as that.
Otherwise, we won’t have any other option than to assume that Ukraine committed a serious mistake by giving up its nuclear weapons. Since the security assurances we received will have turned out not to be worth the paper they were written on. More, we would need to conclude that we have to act accordingly, which we can. But this would of course not be the best scenario, not least for the non-proliferation regime. Would Ukrainians be the ones to blame for such an outcome?
The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security challenges of our time.