It’s a good thing that Russians have not won, it’s a good thing they are not doing very well. The public sphere is full of texts reflecting on the mistakes of Vladimir Putin and his henchmen in their strategic planning, on the tactical illiteracy of the military. All of this is fun to read, however if all of this managed to turn heads and create the illusion that everything is already won, let us stop… The disappointment may come soon enough.
We have to be self-critical too. There will be a victory, but it is not yet here, not yet with us. I have counted seven sins that we have committed and continue to commit. But the coincidence with Scripture here is a pure coincidence.
The first sin. A false theory
It’s fun to make fun of Vladimir Putin. Everybody knows his speeches and texts about how the Ukrainians are not a nation and will not defend the blue-yellow flag at all. These are street-level geopolitical musings, but when they become the policy of the state, we should not be laughed at. After all, war is based on them.
By the way, the West, also… According to its convictions, the West believed that Ukraine was not a country that people could defend with passion and dedication – democracy was weak, corruption was entrenched, the economy was weak, there was little consolidation of society, and human rights were deeply flawed. Even the President, after all, was elected “unseriously”, on a populist platform, without a clear programme of values. It is as if he was taking part in the mass stage of a popular TV series. In theory, this is not a country with really strong European values, so there is no reason to believe that there will be much will on the part of intelligent citizens to defend it. Western “experts” did not think (and some still do not) that it was worth fighting on the side of Ukraine. After all, the world without Ukraine is much easier to imagine than the world without Russia.
So, both sides thought basically the same thing – Ukraine will not defend itself because it is not motivated enough. The fact that Ukraine is defending itself and defending itself quite unanimously shows that both theoretical assumptions – Putinist and Western – were wrong. Political theorists here have to give thought to what are the real values that actually raise people up to sacrifice for their country.
The second sin. Fearful studies of Vladimir Putin’s life.
It is not surprising that so many “experts” are wondering and discussing what the state of Vladimir Putin’s mind is and how far he “promises” to go. Many revelations and ‘debunkings’ – that is his true colours. Actually, there is nothing to unmask here. Under Vladimir Putin’s mask is nobody else, just Vladimir Putin himself. And everybody knows, after all, not for the first year, that under the mask of the bully is not a gentleman, but the same bully. The bully is openly violent, threatening more violence, and what about us? In solidarity, we are afraid that the button will be pushed. It is not a question of being afraid, but of making sure that it is not pressed. Or to make pressing of the button meaningless.
Almost four decades ago, US President Ronald Reagan formally announced a new strategic initiative – a missile defence system that would destroy Soviet ballistic missiles before they could take off. This was popularly known as Star Wars. This did not just mean that the USSR would no longer be able to launch a nuclear war. It meant that the USSR had lost the arms race and lost the global confrontation with the USA. It took a few more years to recognise that the country had ‘lost breath’ in the race, and finally the Cold War, the ‘Yalta curse’ and other things that hindered the restoration of our freedom as well were over.
Why is it different today? Why, instead of preventing Vladimir Putin from starting a nuclear war, are we so afraid that he will start one? We have the technical and financial capacity for all kinds of Star Wars. We also have all sorts of elaborate ‘strategic compasses’. We have a lot of (maybe) wise and “wise” thinkers, planners, calculators, consultants, and debaters. The only thing missing is Ronald Reagan who is simply not afraid to say: Volodya, get out of Ukraine and Georgia, preferably get out altogether…
The third sin. If we are already at war, let us not pretend that we are playing war.
Nowadays, the war is not only fought on the battlefield, but in all kinds of cultural, sporting, and artistic spaces. I will say that it is happening there with relative success. The old chant that sport or art is not politics no longer works, so Russia has been kicked out of all sorts of Eurovision contest or chess games, very unexpectedly for Russia itself.
However, not everything is perfect here either. Deterrence through sanctions has not worked, at least in the sense that war has started. The sanctions are painful, yes, but so far, they have not forced Russia to change its position – the war still continues. The Russian motive for conquering Ukraine is certainly not economic. On the other hand, Russia has so far managed to dissuade the West from actively providing the military aid to Ukraine. It is clear, without much social or political study, that the weak points in our camp are fear, the belief that the public only wants to live in a hedonistic way, that the economic social factor is the most important ‘ingredient’ of patriotism, and the disbelief that Ukraine can so successfully oppose big Russia with all Vladimir Putin’s ‘buttons’.
The fourth sin. Human Rights
When the barbarians bombed a hospital for mothers and children, a Ukrainian I knew from the TV screen asked, “So what are you doing there – in all sorts of alliances and unions – can you do anything to protect the babies at least? I think you guessed what the answer was: ‘Yes, we see, we see that it is very bad, but we have no legal basis to ‘close the sky’ or protect you with a weapon…’. This was followed by the explanation that the ‘most successful defence organisation in the world’ had no mandate to defend Ukraine, while another organisation was only too happy to ‘revenge’ the Russians for the babies by banning a Russian official from sailing a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea.
The most painful thing is that this legal basis does not exist in a part of the planet that boasts every day that human rights in that part of the world are already at an exemplary height. It is ready to promote those human rights throughout the world. I am sorry, but what rights are you going to promote here if you do not have a legal basis to protect even babies and their mothers. The same Ukrainian said – throw your rights as far away as possible, after that notorious ship, if all the legal basis is to find a reason to do nothing. It is hard to argue with that, and you know what it feels like to see that, when the battle for European values against the barbaric logic of force is being waged in Europe, the major organisations of ‘European values’ have simply fled the battlefield. They have fled with all their embassies and their NGOs in droves. They are leaving Russia so reluctantly that it is not even worth watching. So, whose side is this right on? Look, they will also sign a peace treaty with someone whose crimes are beyond doubt.
The fifth sin. We don’t know what we want….
When I start talking about how the whole Eastern Europe will have to be sorted out when the war is over, I hear the remarks I have heard many times before that I am just a political fantasist, because nobody knows how the war will end… Then we will think…
Then it will be too late. For two reasons.
First, what the great military theoretician Carl von Clausewitz taught. He said that when you go to war, you have to be clear about what you will do after the war. If you don’t know, you don’t really know what you are fighting for, and if you don’t know what you are fighting for, you don’t know whether you have won or not. So do we – NATO, the EU, all the Macrons, Scholzes and the Bidens – know how we are going to order the world when we win? A sad hunch tells us that we don’t know at all, because instead of knowing what kind of happy world we need, we are playing spiritism, trying to read the mind of the Kremlin psychopath. If the achievement is to read it, then we really do not know what we are fighting for. If the win is a world without madmen, then there is a hope.
Second, what we call post-war is not something that happens after the war, but in the midst of it. Few people today think that the United Nations, for example, did not come into being after the war at all. The first declaration with the idea of the United Nations was signed by the anti-Hitler coalition as early as June 1941 (when the USSR was still Adolf Hitler’s ally), and a few months later the so-called Atlantic Charter, etc. A lot of things have changed (the same USSR changed sides), but the idea will have matured. Today, I really want to ask who the designers of the future security architecture are. I suspect that they are thinking more about how to rebuild what has been destroyed than how to build a new one… And they should. So today we have weirdos who believe in victory. We need such Reagans, De Gaulles and Churchills. It was the beauty of their fantasies that saved the world.
The sixth sin. A chair at the table
Just a couple of months ago, European leaders were “fuming” that the American president was talking to that Muscovite about European security and not inviting those leaders. “We want a chair at the table too! We also want to be responsible for European security!” that was the demand.
Life has turned in such a way that there are more opportunities than ever to contribute to the security of Europe. Take as many chairs as you like, take as much responsibility as you like, Ukraine is just waiting for it… Better still, take the gun instead of the chair, because the one you wanted to talk to is still not talking.
The seventh sin… Lessons of history
We were missing classes. In 2008 and 2014, we knew exactly who Vladimir Putin was and how to “deal with him”. We could have dealt with it quicker and cheaper, but we pretended we didn’t know and skimped on spending a few bucks. Now we pay more… But things might get even more expensive if we keep pretending, we don’t know…
By the way, it’s Lent. It is high time for confession and repentance.