Russophobia has never been a duty of the Westerner
On Friday, dozens of pro-Russian citizens of Ukraine were burned alive in the building of the trade unions in Odessa – a previously peaceful, highly cultural city in Southwestern Ukraine founded by Catherine the Great in 1794 – where they had to hide from aggressive pro-Maidan soccer rowdies whom they previously confronted on the street. The rowdies did everything they could to burn and kill as many people as possible.
Off-topic: this is how the Maidan regime plans to negotiate with the ethnic Russians who are citizens of Ukraine, in this case with the city of Slavjansk. I am sort of terrified even though it is 1,758 km away from my home.
It's a very sad event, especially because the current de facto government of Ukraine has done virtually nothing to save these lives and it is not doing much to investigate the events. Even the EU decided to call for an independent investigation of the deaths; even the acting Ukrainian PM Yatsenyuk agreed that their police failed miserably. Similar actions of governments against their citizens have been used as excuses for assorted U.S/NATO/U.N. interventions into numerous countries in recent years but these crimes are being deliberately covered or justified by those who have decided to support the Maidan regime whatever it costs. These people are so immoral.
But I want to spend some time with a new op-ed in The New York Times,
At various points, he would say that the people who more or less share the Russian government's opinions about the crisis would belong to the extreme fringes of the political spectrum a few years ago and they're not true Westerners, and so on. These are insulting and self-evident lies.
For example, two former social democratic (SPD) chancellors, Helmut Schmidt (1974-1982) and Gerhard Schröder (1998-2005), have endorsed Putin's approach to the crisis. They're as mainstream guys as you can get.
Helmut Schmidt – who previously said very sensible things about the global warming insanity – is over 95 years old but his brain is working very well. Check the TV program with him. He looks 75, smokes his cigarettes very elegantly, and speaks very fluently and clearly. ;-) If you speak no German, check a summary of his thoughts about the Ukrainian crisis.
Gerhard Schröder – who is also famous for his Tax Song LOL – is a personal friend of Vladimir Putin. Schröder has labeled Putin a "flawless democrat" a few years ago – I wouldn't go this far but I wouldn't be too far from that statement, either – and he said many of the same things as your humble correspondent. For example, the EU has no clue about the internal cultural divisions in Ukraine, and so on. Check The Telegraph for a summary of his views on the crisis. Incidentally, Schröder got a 70th birthday gift from the German government. No, they didn't prepare a party for him. Instead, they attacked him for having had a party with his friend Putin.
It's not just the former politicians who understand the Russian attitude towards the crisis that was partly created by some unwise Western interests. The main engines of the German economy have made it clear that they oppose any "genuine" sanctions against Russia as these would hurt them – and the whole German economy (and the linked economies). The companies that agree that a trade war with Russia would be an insanity include the chemical giant BASF, electro-engineering concern Siemens, carmaker Volkswagen, Adidas, and Deutsche Bank. They're pretty much representative of the whole business world.
Angela Merkel's own party CDU has misgivings on Russia sanctions, too.
Do assorted Obamas really want to force Germany to sacrifice several percent of its GDP with the only purpose of endorsing Obamas' complete misunderstanding of the geography, culture, history, and reality of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Western Europe? Obama didn't hesitate to bully the CEOs of major U.S. companies and force them to cancel some cooperation with Russia. If Obama sometimes contributes 0.001% of what BASF or Siemens or Volkswagen of Adidas or Deutsche Bank has contributed to the mankind, he may return and I may think again whether he is something more than a counterproductive would-be dictator.
But let me return to Wergin's essay. Why does one-half of the German public including Herren Schröder and Schmidt agree that the real aggressors were the NATO interests that have expanded to Russia's legitimate sphere of interest?
There is a blatant hypocrisy here. At times the same people who had relied on international law to attack the American invasion of Iraq are now, as newborn realists, excusing Russia’s need to infringe on the sovereignty of other nations.He just makes these things up. There is no evidence that there is any sensible, significant, or useful correlation between the people's opinions about the Iraq crisis and the Ukraine crisis. For example, I was mildly – very un-enthusiastically – supporting the U.S. operation against Saddam a decade ago.
In point of fact, despite its trumped-up charges against Iraq, the Bush administration had at least 16 United Nations Security Council resolutions to support its case. Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s president, had zero. The only common denominator of both positions seems to be an underlying anti-Americanism.There is no general anti-Americanism among the people who back the Russian approach to the Ukraine crisis. I have always belonged among the 5% of the most pro-American people in all the environments where I have lived – both in Czechia as well as in the U.S. (!). In fact, Putin himself sort of likes America, too. Many of the EU officials are much more anti-American than Putin. Much of the "unified EU" identity is actually being built on anti-Americanism, on a European project to become a counterweight to America. I have personally always opposed these efforts because the people who oppose America as a matter of principle do so because of political values that I find totally unacceptable. So of course that I would have preferred if Czechia have been going to become the 51st state of the U.S. instead of an EU member! ;-)
And the U.N. resolutions is something that I don't really take seriously and I never have. The U.N. has generated hundreds of anti-Semitic resolutions over the decades, attacking the existential interests of the state of Israel, among other things. Some people agreed with these resolutions, some people didn't. But what's more important is that the U.N. represents neither a representative opinion of the "good people in the world" – because much of its power boils down to the power of various dictators in bad countries as well as unelected bureaucrats in prosperous, free countries – nor a representative opinion of the "powerful interests in the world" because many militarily weak ones are heavily overrepresented. So a vote in the U.N. may be treated as an interesting poll from various corners of the world but it isn't an important one. I have been saying the very same thing for many decades, even when the U.S. or Israel or others would be beaten by the U.N. votes.
Of course that Russia has a smaller support from other countries because it's really primarily defending the interests of itself and the ethnic Russians in Crimea (and the whole Ukraine) and pretty much no one else seems to care about the Russians. Forty burned-alive Russians in a building in Odessa is just fine with everyone. So there won't be any U.N. resolutions like that. It's much more likely that a U.N. resolution will encourage PM Yatsenyuk to send the remaining ethnic Russians to gas chambers.
Some of this pro-Moscow sentiment is the work of Russia-sponsored propaganda: A recent investigative report by the newspaper Welt am Sonntag revealed how a shady network of Russia supporters has shaped public discourse in Germany. Even dialogue forums with Russia, co-sponsored by the German government, are full of friends of Mr. Putin, even on the German side.Why is the network of Russia supporters "shady"? Isn't the network of the opponents of Putin or the network of supporters of the global warming cause or any other cause at least equally "shady"? Doesn't the author of these sentences realize that this adjective is just a particular proof of his efforts to demonize a part of the population without having any actual justification for such a demonization? A demagogic trick whose purpose is to manipulate the stupider part of the readers?
There is absolutely nothing wrong about the support for Russia and many people do so very openly because it's boiling down to some principal values that they hold dear or to economic or other interests that are understandably important for them. Many Germans – much like many Europeans and many members of other nations – are friends with many Russians. Or they do lots of business with Russians. And they want to expand this business. And so on. They just can't possibly support a fascist-like witch hunt against everything that is Russian because they realize it is either unjustifiable or harmless for ourselves or both.
But there is also a disturbing undercurrent among ordinary Germans that harks back to old and unfortunate German traditions. We have come to think of Germany as a Western European country, but that is largely a product of Cold War alliances. Before then it occupied a precarious middle between east and west.This is just complete bullshit. One might redefine all the words, including the word "West", but as long as one keeps the definitions that have been used by the sane people in the whole world for many centuries, Germany is a member of the Western civilization – a defining nation, in fact. Germany has been a driver of the West in the religious, cultural, and political affairs in Europe of the recent 10 centuries. Nazism and the era of the DDR in a small part of Germany may be called "deviations from the West" but because of the key role of Germany for the shape of the Western civilization, they should better be understood as important chapters in the history of the West. And nowadays, it's people in nations such as Germany and not self-appointed apparatchiks in Brussels who define the Western European civilization space.
You just can't "redefine" Germany away from the Western civilization, especially if it has done nothing recently to separate itself from the values that have defined the West for 1,000 years or so.
If there is some border between the West and the East, it's somewhere in Czechia or Slovakia or Western Ukraine but not further. Countries and regions that are strictly West of those "candidate borderland places" are clearly Western Europe while those that are further to the East are parts of the East (Eastern Europe plus Asian cultures). The details may differ depending on the criteria, focus (religion vs economics vs something else) but redefining Germany as the "boundary between the West and the East" is just ludicrous.
It's very clear why Mr Wergin is doing such a thing. He wants to suggest that the people who disagree with him on the Ukraine crisis don't belong to our part of the world at all. Perhaps, they should be burned alive. Or sent to concentration camps. Or to gulags. Or to Siberia. Sorry, that won't work. If something doesn't belong to the Western civilization, it's the efforts similar to Mr Wergin's to only allow one possible opinion, one choice of the universal friends and universal enemies.
This anti-Westernism is coming from both sides of the political spectrum. There is the part of the left that is instinctively anti-American and takes the side of whatever international actor happens to challenge the status quo and the leading Western power.Well, I obviously belong to the category tendentiously described in the second paragraph. The only "detail" that Mr Wergin gets completely incorrectly is that there is anything extreme about this group of people. They have defined the "mainstream Europe" for centuries. It's really the gay, un-Christian, multilateral, group-think and global-warming worshiping, multi-culti Euronaivists (and, in this case, knee-jerk Russophobes) that are the neoplasm in the West. While we realize that they represent attitudes that disagree with the values on which the Western civilization is based upon, we are generally not trying to ostracize people like Mr Wergin. We are used to the life in a society with diverse opinions. That's a part of our being the cornerstone of the Western civilization.
Then there is Europe’s populist right, which agrees with Russia’s propaganda that Europe has become too gay, too tolerant, too permissive in its morals and too un-Christian, and which welcomes an authoritarian leader challenging Europe’s fuzzy multilateralism.
In Germany, you can find this current best represented by the new anti-euro Alternative für Deutschland Party. They take up a conservative strain of German thinking dating back to the 19th century, which harbors a resentment toward Western civilization and romanticizes a Russia seemingly uncorrupted by Western values and free-market capitalism.AfD is being targeted because it could become successful in the European Parliament elections in 2 weeks and Mr Wergin feels uncomfortable with that. But the very words he says support my point, namely that AfD and similar political factions are highly representative of some opinions that have shaped the traditions of Germany – and other Western nations – for centuries. The comments about the anti-free-market-capitalism attitudes of AfD are misleading but it would be a topic for a separate blog post.
Incidentally, AfD is not even anti-EU. It's just anti-euro-the-currency. And it is no populist party.
Both versions of anti-Westernism have been around for decades; until now, though, they have been confined to the political fringes.They have never been confined into any fringes. On the contrary, both our – right-wing – and the previously mentioned left-wing attitudes represent the standard political paradigms of the Western civilization that have been competing for several centuries. On the contrary, it's the global-warming homosexual-worshiping global-warming-frightened new group think that is new and that was visible at the EU level. Of course that if one focuses his sight on some unelected Maoist EU apparatchiks and wet rags, he may think that they're the new normal. But they have never been normal and the idea that these individuals will start a new era of an apolitical, post-democratic Europe where the political contest is no longer necessary because everyone holds the same "centrist" (i.e. new extremist totalitarian) opinions is hopefully turning into a fantasy. The European countries will hopefully return to the conditions in which the opinions that Mr Wergin tries to demonize are the "normal alternatives" that compete with each other.
Mr Wergin also says something about the "points shared by the left-wing and right-wing fringes":
What unites the apologists on the left and right is a striking disregard for the fate of the people who inhabit the lands between Germany and Russia, and a truncated notion of German history.I happen to inhabit a land between Germany and Russia and I consider the interests of this homeland of mine, Czechia, to be much more important than the fate of Crimea, Ukraine, or even Russia, Germany, and the EU. Sorry for that, my overlords, former overlords, potential overlords, and irrelevant foreigners. ;-)
But this patriotism of mine doesn't prevent me from seeing that Czechia is probably unable to beat Germany in a war and it is unable to beat Russia in a war, too. Even in the finals of the Continental Ice-Hockey League (the Gagarin Cup), HC Lev Prague ultimately lost to Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the last possible, seventh match. Our guys lost a big deal even though they had been playing so well up to the moment. The Gagarin cup could have traveled outside Russia – to the first country that Gagarin visited after he returned from outer space, too. But it stayed in Russia this time because of one annoying match.
But let me return to the topic before ice-hockey. Our military just can't beat Russia. We can't beat Germany, either. NATO is telling us that our army is next to worthless and they're probably right. But even if we tried hard, we couldn't beat the larger powers. The same is true for the armies of Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, and other countries between Germany and Russia.
It follows that our planning has to take these facts into account. So as a "strategic territory", we either team up with Germany, or with Russia, or with some larger blocks involving these two powers. Or we try to carefully balance in between them. Or we avoid both and bet on the alliances with some more distant powers. But in all cases, we must simply take the larger powers into account in one way or another because they have mattered for the evolution of our homeland, they still matter, and they will always matter. We would do the latter – we would team up with an ally that isn't a neighbor – in the happy years of the First Republic of Czechoslovakia, 1918-1938. But the alliance with France – and the indirectly implied alliance with Great Britain – turned out to be worthless. They just didn't care about us. It's sort of natural. People don't care about unknown, abstract, faraway countries. We don't really care about Angola, either, so an alliance with Angola would probably be worthless for our African allies, too. It's completely normal – it's a law of physics – that people prefer to care about things and countries that are closer to them. It's why the self-government or the home rule is often a good idea.
What I want to say is that at the end, it is completely possible, likely, if not unavoidable that a sustainable security setup for a country that isn't a real power has to depend on the alliances with sufficiently close (geographically or otherwise) foreign powers. This is not a sign of my "disregard for the fate of Czechia and other countries". It's a sign that I realize that the fate – whatever it will be – will have to agree with the laws of physics. A small country just shouldn't pretend that it may always promote its opinions that a much stronger neighboring power severely dislikes – unless it has some other compensating power that backs it. Of course that when it comes to global strategic interests, the sovereignty of smaller countries is limited. I didn't write this proposition in order to downgrade anyone – such as my nation – to second-class citizens or worse human beings. I wrote it because it's self-evidently true. It's a law of physics. It's how politics works. Power matters, it has always mattered, and it will always matter. As long as people organize themselves into groups such as nations, larger or stronger groups are able to win over smaller or weaker ones. The idea that smaller/weaker and stronger/larger countries are "equal" in all respects isn't just a utopia; it is an utter stupidity. A world order built upon this stupidity is (or would be) unsustainable.
Some people in Eastern Europe may "deliberately" misunderstand these laws of physics. Energized by irrational, uncontrolled, and uncontrollable anti-Russian sentiments, they may be dreaming about the life in a world where Russia behaves just like if it didn't exist at all. They want to live in the vacuum, not appreciating that the air is pretty useful for breathing. But just because someone in the Eastern Europe wants "not to believe" self-evident laws of physics doesn't invalidate these laws. Instead, these opinions only stress the fact that many people (or nations, at least majorities in them) in Eastern Europe haven't reached their political maturity (yet?). But they're not the only ones; people in Germany like Mr Wergin haven't reached it, either.
Some apologists will explain their sympathy as a matter of debt to Russia for German atrocities during World War II. But it is important to remember that the war started with Germany invading Poland from the West — and a few days later the Soviet Union invading Poland from the East, after both sides had secretly agreed to split Eastern Europe between them.I surely don't think that even if the war is reduced to a conflict between Germany and Russia, they were equally guilty. It was really Hitler's war. And Mr Wergin's comment is actually a sign of his disregard for the fate of my country because the war was bound to start at least since March 1939 when the rest of the Czech lands were occupied. Not by Stalin or by Stalin and Hitler. Just by Hitler. He clearly doesn't care about this event, either, because he would be able to figure out that his claims about Hitler's and Stalin's "equal contributions" to the evils of the Second World War are indefensible.
Germans have much more reasons to feel guilty because of the Second World War. At the same moment, I do think that many of them exaggerate their guilt for the events they have nothing personally to do with. In some sense, I still appreciate it, but I also feel that they are gradually becoming more realist. For example, we in Czechia no longer feel any strong negative emotions because of the tough shared events during the war and the generation that remembers is dying away quickly. It doesn't mean that the younger generations have forgotten or should have forgotten all the lessons. It just means that we're no longer burdened by the emotional baggage that would prevent us from thinking and behaving constructively, fairly, and impartially. We have just no trouble with the thick line behind the history that has been drawn to the sand, and that's true for the bulk of the German nation, too (for most of them, Czechia is much less important than Germany is for most of us, for obvious reasons). It's very healthy and of course that business we do with each other is a part of this "miracle of reconciliation". It's a good thing. The free markets heal the scars.
And so when German public figures, parroting Russian propaganda, dismiss Ukraine as “not a real country anyway,” or treat countries at the fault line between the West and Russia as second-class nations with somewhat lesser sovereignty, they are evoking memories in Eastern Europe of the bad old days, when the Nazis and Soviets turned the region into the “Bloodlands” of their respective dictatorships.Countries are created, evolved, and dissolved. Some of them survive for longer times, some of them are short-lived. In most cases, we may estimate the lifetime by looking at certain things. Like Czechoslovakia, Ukraine was an artificial construct. Artificial constructs may still work. Many other (if not all) countries have been artificial constructs, too – like the United States of America, you know. But the survival of a country in the long run does require a certain degree of uniformity. The uniformity in Ukraine was far weaker than it was in Czechoslovakia. And unfortunately, in the recent two decades, it didn't enjoy enough time and peace to become more uniform. The internal divisions in Ukraine are much stronger than anything we would remember in (post-war) Czechoslovakia. Even though the Czechoslovak nation was nearly uniform, we still decided to part our ways. It seems obvious that Ukraine as a unitary country on the current territory just can't survive.
This is a realist appraisal that takes into account some facts – as well as the interests of the people, companies, and groups that prefer a separation of a sort (Mr Wergin doesn't care about these people's opinions or values or interests at all). His comments about "somewhat lesser sovereignty" are one-sided. There are people in Ukraine who prefer the sovereignty of the current Maidan regime over the whole territory and there are people who would prefer to divide the power and/or the country differently. Perhaps a federation. Perhaps annexation of a part of Ukraine by Russia. It's the people who finally matter. By his demagogic trick, he wants to suggest that the "whole Ukraine" wants a unity and the reign of the Maidan regime except that it isn't true. He ignores the existence of tens of millions of people whose opinions and interests are very different. Mr Wergin looks at people in a very non-Western way – he treats whole nations as monolithic blocks that are obliged to think the same. The genuine Western attitude looks at the individuals. It's the attitude that our pro-Russian side is taking which is why we're able to see both the ethnic Ukrainians as well as the ethnic Russians and their differing values and interests. We see the situation (more or less) in its full complexity. We are the true Westerners who care about the individual rights and opinions rather than self-appointed governments' will imposed on whole nations.
For decades Germany has tried to come to terms with its fascist past and to learn important lessons from it. And now, in another country, there comes an authoritarian leader who is trying to stabilize his regime by pursuing aggression abroad on the grounds of ethnic nationalism.These Putin-Hitler comparisons (and the decoration of Vladimir Putin by various "authoritarian" adjectives) are sleights-of-hand designed to impress the stupidest readers. What Putin is doing is the standard politics as Europe – and the world – has known it for millennia. He was hired to defend the interests of the Russian nation. His approval rate and re-election chances have always primarily depended on the Russian people's evaluations of how well he is performing this basic task. And yes, he's doing pretty well. That's exactly how it should be in a democracy. If someone in some Western countries isn't doing the analogous thing, it's a mistake and it shows that something has become pathological in the nation where he or she was appointed. Indeed, something is wrong e.g. with many Czech politicians who are climbing into various random foreigners' [buttocks] but I don't want to drown you in irrelevant details of the Czech politics.
(I just mention another related story. There have been about 20,000 Czechs in Volhynia, Russian Empire – now Ukraine – since 1868-1880. Their ancestors came there when the Russian Empire promised them free land and pleasant farming. Now they are afraid of the nationalist terror in Ukraine so they asked the Czech government to help them return to their ancestors' homeland. They were surprised to find out that it's more important for the current Czech government to lick the asses of the Maidan fascists – and their puppet masters somewhere in the West – than to protect the lives of ethnic Czechs. For some reason, I wasn't shocked anymore. As a politician and as a human, the current foreign minister Zaorálek is a piece of trash and he is not the only one.)
But that still means that nearly half of all Germans do not feel a deep connection with the West and its values — which is precisely what Mr. Putin wants.No, it just means that half of all Germans haven't been brainwashed by a new wave of mindless Russophobia, a new type of a totalitarian hateful nationalism designed to create some characteristically non-Western "unity" across the whole continent, and it is this mindless Russophobia that is the closest current counterpart of the Nazi ideology. The people who realize that Russians are also people – people who live in a mostly democratic country these days – are citizens of Germany (and other nations), members of the Western family of nations even if Mr Wergin would prefer to transfer them to Siberia. In fact, we are the "classic" Western citizens and it's people like Mr Wergin who are the neoplasm.