In December 1991, in my capacity as Consul General, I recognized Ukraine as an independent country on behalf of Canada. Before and since I have followed Ukrainian events closely. Here are some thoughts on the present situation which I initially wanted to name “War Rations and Other Nonsense.”
I despair at the lack of understanding in the leadership of democratic countries as to what they are dealing with in Russia. I suspect President Zelensky also thinks that but cannot say it. I can.
Seventeen months ago, Western countries hardly knew a Ukraine existed and were oblivious to centuries of Russian efforts to strangle Ukrainian identity and culture. Did they know that many Ukrainians commonly refer to Russia as Muscovy? Or that they refer to the inhabitants of Moscow as "Moskali”, a northeast city from which "a cold wind has always blown over Ukraine."
Russia has broken international law, flagrantly ignored the United Nations charter, committed war crimes, pursued anti-democratic methods via the Internet, and supported criminal hacking groups to disturb the life of democratic countries. Despite this, Russia is treated as a somewhat normal but misguided state.
Russian society is in the grip of two major malignant forces. The first is age-old, comprised of self-professed exceptionalism, a historic paranoia cultivated by isolation, a culture of brutality inherited from the Mongol hordes, and, finally, a religion so distorted that it can hardly be called that. The second malignant force concerns Russia's government which is riddled with kleptocracy and gangsterism.
Make no mistake, Putin hates Ukrainians and has made it clear more than once that he would prefer to see them wiped off the face of the earth. The operations of his military machine show unmistakable signs of genocidal undertones. Ukrainian culture, language, music libraries, schools, books, and educational institutions have been targeted for destruction in the occupied territories. Major cities and towns have been razed to extinction by the Russian military. Can there be any doubt about Putin's intentions?
Ukrainians intensely desire to enjoy their language and culture on their territory. That depth of feeling underlies its population's surprising, ingenious, and thoroughly glorious resistance to the barbarians from the northeast. Ukrainians refer creatively to those invaders as Orcs. We know from the writings of Tolkien that the "Orcs were cruel, sadistic, black-hearted, vicious, and hateful of most things, particularly of those who were orderly and prosperous."
Western ignorance, sadly, has led to a piecemeal delivery of its military support. In effect, this has been a form of rationing. A "just-in-almost- time" practice does not work well in wartime. The fate of a culture, people and nation is at stake. Rationing has led to prolonged suffering for ordinary Ukrainians and unnecessary death for its military.
Despite this dilatory approach, Ukrainians have demonstrated an astonishing ability to incorporate the donated Western military weaponry into their operations quickly. Ukraine still needs fighter aircraft and long-range precision artillery shells.
If the NATO countries, led by the United States, do not accept Ukraine's determination to expel Russia from its territory, then, by all means, continue rationing. But then answer how long the Ukrainian population can sustain a war against an opponent hell-bent on its destruction. Imagine the deadly consequences of Ukraine's collapse and defeat. The security of Eastern Europe would be immediately endangered. NATO countries would need to look to their defenses immediately because the Ukrainian buffer would have disappeared. Politically and economically, that would be unsettling and expensive.
Currently, NATO is defending itself and its values by employing a bargain-basement solution where its Ukrainian proxy fights with NATO weaponry. Such a long-term solution is untenable.
What must be done? A simple and direct answer stares us in the face. The war can only end with Ukraine regaining its borders on 1 January 2014. There can be no compromise on that. Otherwise, international law is declared meaningless. Afterwards, admit Ukraine to NATO membership immediately.
Ukraine is already a member of NATO in one sense. Its Western supporters recognize its striving for democratic and civilized values, unlike its neighbor. That recognition has allowed weaponry and ammunition to flow from NATO countries to Ukraine's fighting forces. Indeed, it is evident that the principles of NATO are on the Ukrainian battlefield.
The argument that Ukraine cannot be considered for NATO membership because it is in "conflict" needs re-examination. Before Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 Feb. 2022, there was NO conflict. Between the two countries, there was only a difference in cultural values and democratic aspirations- just two countries with different cultural and value systems. Those differences have led one country to relentless aggression.
It is difficult to understand how Ukrainian self-defense gets a black mark because it is in conflict! The parsing of that interpretation must bring joy to lawyers and diplomats. Let us be clear. Russia violated international law and international treaties through its aggression. In response, unlike Russia, NATO countries recognized Ukraine as being like them.
NATO membership for Ukraine would end Russia's centuries-long bloated impression of its exceptionalism. Once and for all, Russia would be forced to live in a different reality, something it has never done. In czarist times, Russia's aristocracy and the general population were, in terms of political development, "frozen." Each lived a separate existence between themselves and in respect of the civilized world.
The Soviet system (really a Russian one) did nothing but repeat the past creating a Soviet nomenklatura aristocracy which exploited its masses. Putin's Russia has followed the same historical past – isolated and unable to move towards a democratic culture. Under Putin's leadership, Russia has carved out a strange, dangerous reality unconnected to the modern world, constantly threatening democratic values.
In closing, I shall indulge in a bit of whimsy. Peter the Great appropriated part of the title of Kyivan Rus in changing the name of his country from Muscovy to Russia. But what's good for the goose is good for the gander. It’s time for Ukraine to take her Rus back from Rus-sia as a point of historical justification. From this time forward, I recommend Ukrainians and the world refer to Russia as Muscovy in the interests of historical accuracy.
The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
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