Encore- The Fall of Romanov

There’s still plenty of time before my flight, and wouldn’t you know it- I saw something that I just had to address. I guess there’s a shortage of op-ed writers submitting to The Moscow Times as of late, because they’ve been running a lot of columns by Russian comedian Pyotr Romanov. If you’re not familiar with Romanov’s work, I tackled several of his pieces in the past. Here’s one, here’s another, and here’s a satirical piece I did based on his work. Turns out just like fellow comedian Louis C.K., Romanov has new material all the time.

Surprise, surprise, the piece is about “the new Cold War!”  That term certainly hasn’t been used to death. First I will summarize- Guess what! There’s a new Cold War! Romanov says it’s really bad, and the West needs to deal with it. And as always, dealing with it means basically letting Putin do whatever he wants.

The thing I find so hilarious about Romanov is that he keeps invoking this Cold War meme, totally forgetting that his side lost the Cold War, and that was a conflict where the Soviet Union had a far stronger foundation economically, demographically, and ideologically. The fact that this is coming from a guy named Romanov is pretty hilarious as well. Remember what happened the last time a Romanov went to war with some Western powers just to prove how great Russia was? It didn’t end well.

“The Russian people will endure ANY hardship! They have pickles from their gardens! PICKLES!”

For readers with heart conditions or who are pregnant, I present you with some of Romanov’s highlights of hilarity.

“And, blindly ignoring the harm that Russian counter-sanctions have already wrought on the economies of Italy and many other European countries, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni spoke in the subjunctive mood to suggest that a new Cold War would be “an absolute disaster.

This might be a good time to point out that the economy of Italy is actually slightly stronger than that of Russia. That’s without vast reserves of oil, gas, and other natural riches. Living standards are much higher as well. Italy’s main problem is unemployment, which isn’t really related to the hilarious “counter-sanctions,” and when you look at Russia’s minimum and average wages you can clearly see why Russia’s high employment rate isn’t the wonder they’d like you to think it is.

The funny thing about Romanov is how he constantly insists that Western sanctions, aimed at major pillars of the Russian economy and banking system, are useless, while sanctions on foodstuffs from countries which are no longer primarily agricultural are supposed to be devastating. Sure, farmers grumble. That’s what businessmen do. The richest people in America scream about things like food stamps and minimum wage- but does that mean these expenditures are ruining the economy? No, silly libertarians- they aren’t.

An expression in both English and Russian says that if something looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. All the signs of a new Cold War have long been present and a simple glance out the window at the nasty political weather should convince anyone of that fact.

Well there are a few major factors that are missing. For example, during the Cold War, the US and the USSR were both major military and economic superpowers that maintained a rough parity in many cases. Russia is not such a power and has no hope of attaining that parity with the US, not to mention the enlarged NATO alliance. Russia’s CSTO and “Eurasian Economic Union” are not actual alternatives or equivalents with their Western counterparts, NATO and the EU.

Are you starting to see why it’s so hilarious that people like Romanov relish this idea of a new Cold War, as much as they claim they don’t? They’re likening this to a “war” they lost, when they had a position many times more advantageous than they do now. Imagine it- You train till you’re at your peak condition. You go into the ring with an evenly matched fighter who is as conditioned as you are, who in fact has a light advantage. You lose. So then what do you do? You spend the next year and a half sitting on your sofa eating cookie dough straight out of the tube while smoking three packs a day. Now when you’re considered morbidly obese and just a few pounds away from the point where you’d need an electric scooter to get around- you demand a rematch. Imagine Ivan Drago doing that after he lost in Rocky IV.

The point is that Russia, at the behest of Putin, is deliberately marching into this new Cold War they apparently want (based on polls), because as we know anything less is bending over for the West, and there is absolutely no sign whatsoever to suggest that they have any chance at winning.

You can argue all you like about how much time the regime has left and how rapidly the economy is deteriorating, but it’s going down one way or another. Those things that were supposed to bring hope proved to be fleeting, and in some ways the Russian economy has performed even worse than the predictions earlier this year. This is why some of the most desperate Team Russia expats have had to resort to the saddest sort of mental gymnastics and wishful thinking, such as hoping for “black swan events.”

The real sad part here is that Russia’s only option is to draw down, and yet there’s virtually no way to do that without losing face now. This is what happens when the only way you can prop up your corrupt dictatorship is by running around with your chest all puffed out and practically demanding that NATO responds to your antics. The Russian government could have avoided all this easily if they’d just worked harder to establish rule of law and root out corruption. Hell, they could have just given Medvedev one more term and that might have changed outcomes radically. Medvedev serving a second term as president would, at the very least, help prop up the illusion that Russia isn’t a dictatorship. If Putin wanted to return after that so he could be president for life, he still would have bought himself four years of plausible deniability.

Enough of that though, there’s more fun ahead!

Russia and the West are locked in a war of information and propaganda. Mutual sanctions are in place. Both sides have dramatically increased the number of military exercises. In a return to the past, Russia demonstrates its latest military hardware during Victory Day celebrations and the West strengthens its eastern borders with heavy military equipment.

Again Romanov implies parity where it doesn’t exist. Russia is the one that started this information war crap. The “West’s” media is largely privately owned, and even where it isn’t, it operates on different principles. Do I have to compare Dan Rather’s firing with the “Crucified Boy of Slovyansk” again? Increasing the military exercises is also correct, but NATO’s exercises came months after Russia’s invasion and annexation of the Crimea, their pseudo-insurgency in the Donbas, and their constant snap drills and exercises in the Baltic and other regions.

As for Russia’s latest military hardware on display for Victory Day…well…

And…

Also, note how Romanov points out NATO’s strengthening of the eastern borders while totally ignoring the question as to why those heavy NATO forces weren’t stationed there before. We’re constantly told how everything Putin does anywhere is justified by hostile “NATO encirclement,” and yet the hard facts show this just wasn’t the case until Putin decided to play tough guy. Even then, the US army is still cutting its force by 40,000 personnel in the next two years, and they continue to close bases in Europe.

Hell, just look what those “war mongering neo-cons” told their “junta” allies to do when faced with the Russian invasion of the Crimea. Russophobes, the lot of ’em!

The two sides will likely use nuclear blackmail in the current Cold War, although it is almost certain tensions will not escalate to the point of an actual nuclear exchange. However, that “almost” carries considerable danger. As history shows, the risk of human and technical error increases whenever the situation markedly deteriorates. It is therefore unwise to bury our heads in the sand and deny the obvious fact that the current state of affairs is both very serious and dangerous. It is better to confront that truth than to indulge in illusions.

Oh shit! Nukes! Russia’s “n-word!”

I’ve already talked about the question of which side keeps talking about using nuclear weapon. Romanov is using a Russian concern troll tactic that some have called “dismay.”  Here they act like some impartial third party that is observing both sides, and they imply that failing to please Russia’s leadership could lead to nuclear war.

Those who are unwilling to admit the existence of a renewed Cold War argue that the two sides have no irreconcilable ideological differences as the West and the socialist camp did in the past. That is true. However, the free market and democracy are at different stages of development in Russia and the West, and that alone creates a great deal of tension. The primary danger now is rooted in the distant past.

You know this argument about not being at the same stage of development in terms of capitalism and democracy might have had merit as little as three years ago, but it doesn’t now. Readers know I’m not a fan of the free market dogma that dominates the world these days, but the fact is that Russia had plenty of time and plenty of resources to develop in both these spheres. In fact they could have had something much better- a robust welfare state where the vast natural wealth of the country went to the people and not a handful of oligarchs and their friends. Putin and his pals didn’t want that though.

In spite of all this, looking at Western investment and the role it played in creating the stronger Russia of the past decade or so, it’s clear that this disparity in development wasn’t as much of an obstacle as Romanov would have us believe.

Of course, ideological, political, economic and many other factors are important because they either propel the country forward or else hinder its development. But from the standpoint of world history over the centuries, the most important consideration is the place that Peter the Great staked out for Russia during his reign.

Of course he has to invoke Peter the Great. But seriously, pay attention here.

It is that position that primarily defines Russia’s potential even today — and not the tsarist autocracy, the Soviet State Plan or the free market under President Vladimir Putin. And because the “Russian bear” has not changed its stomping grounds over the past decade, shrunk to the size of a gopher or agreed to become the lapdog of the West as happened under former President Boris Yeltsin — and even went so far as to criticize the West beginning with Putin’s famous speech in Munich in 2007 — distrust toward Russia has only grown.

Okay there’s only one way to deal with this idiotic paragraph:

Russia did change its stomping grounds (very appropriate term when it comes to Russia these days), in case Romanov hadn’t noticed. 

Nobody in the West wants Russia to shrink to the size of a gopher. This and everything that would go along with this would be devastating from an economic point of view, and demographic as well, if the current refugee crisis in Europe tells us anything. 

Nobody wanted Russia to become a “lapdog.” Romanov characterizes Russia under Yeltsin in this manner because like all vatniks, he is unable to fathom a relationship that isn’t one of dominant vs. dominated. If Russia isn’t in conflict with the West, it must be a lapdog. It’s worth noting that Russia’s footholds in the Crimea, Transnistria, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia were all secured under Yeltsin’s “lapdog” regime.

Lastly, Putin’s criticism in 2007 is rather laughable when you consider how much money the West was pouring into his country, raising its living standards. Oh wait! I forgot! That was all just Putin, waving his magic wand! In any case, Putin and his pals were more than happy to store their wealth, and even their children, in the decadent, Russophobic West.

Okay, we made it through that abomination of an argument. Let’s move on; we’re almost done.

Of course, some might argue that Western politicians’ fears are greatly exaggerated because Russia is already burdened with many of its own problems: negative demographics, pervasive corruption and “sovereign democracy” that only slows its development. However, history provides some basis for the West’s “uneasy suspicions.”

After all, Russia has frequently upset the expectations of the West. For example, back in the time of the Peter the Great, who could have imagined that backward Muscovy would become a great world power in a single generation? And who in the West believed that the Soviet experiment could take uneducated masses armed only with wooden shovels and achieve wide-scale industrialization in such a short time?

I’m sorry but this is starting to get embarrassing. Much like the aforementioned “black swan event” arguments, Romanov is forced to resort to the idea that Russia might pull some surprise out of its ass at the last moment, all because some things like that supposedly happened in the past, and therefore they could happen again. Do I really need to point out what’s wrong with this, from a historical perspective? Yes. Yes I do.

In the case of Peter the Great, he benefited from several factors in the late 17th century. You’ve got the exhaustion of Sweden, the aftermath of the Thirty Years War prior to that. The peak and beginning of decline for the Ottoman Empire after Vienna in 1683. You’ve got everything that happened in the steppe during the Cossack rebellion, including Poland suffering some key defeats.

Probably the biggest factor was the fact that in those days, Europe was full of warring states, empires, and principalities like those that made up what is now Germany. Constant wars and their effects created exhaustion which could be taken advantage of. This is not the case in Europe today. Most of Europe is united in a military and economic alliance. What part isn’t- would easily side with that if it came down to NATO vs. Russia.

As for the Soviet success in industrialization, Romanov of course attributes it all to Russia and Moscow, ignoring the role played by non-Russian Soviet republics. More importantly, the USSR was granted a bit of breathing space by the general weakness of Europe and especially Eastern Europe at the time. Even then, the wars or constant threat of wars had a heavy influence on the USSR, stoking paranoia and spurring a policy of rapid industrialization at all costs, with lethal results. Of course all of this is irrelevant because the USSR collapsed.

Where is the guarantee that post-Soviet Russia will not similarly surprise the West? After all, Russians have not only refused to buckle under the weight of Western sanctions, but have rallied around their leader even more enthusiastically.

How does the fact that millions of people, whose only source of information in many cases is state-run media, claim to support their president compare to the USSR industrializing in such a short period? Large segments of the American population think that Obama is a Kenyan socialist Muslim. Is anything terribly surprising about the presence of horribly misinformed people in large numbers? In any case, what would it matter if the majority didn’t express approval towards Putin? They can’t elect someone else and the media would just call them filthy liberal fifth columnists anyway.

Of course the far large issue here is that Romanov apparently forgot that the sanctions were never aimed at getting the Russian people to rise up against their leaders. This was the mistaken idea behind past sanctions regimes, ones like that in Iraq which led to the death of as many as 1.5 million people, mostly elderly and children. By contrast, these are targeted sanctions aimed largely at men who attained great wealth and superior status at the expense of their own people, and the various banks and corporations they head. One major thing they do is prevent access to the West’s markets whether its hiding stolen wealth in banks or obtaining credit.

Think about that for a second. According to people like Romanov, the West needs to wake up and let Russia’s corrupt businessmen continue doing business in the West, continue storing their money their, and continue borrowing from their banks. If not, then they are being aggressive, counter-productive, and attempting to break the Russian people. As if men like Yakunin, Timchenko, or the Rotenberg brothers have anything in common with “the Russian people.”

Nah I get it, Pyotr. You’ve been over this before. Major financial sanctions on Russia’s most important banks and industry are useless, but the food embargo is devastating for countries with far higher living standards than Russia.

Getting back to Romanov’s warning of a surprise, he’s half-right. There’s no guarantee, per se. What there is, however, is a constant, consistent disadvantage on Russia’s side compared to NATO and the US. Economic, military, ideologically- all across the board. There’s basically no indicator whatsoever that we can look at and say, “Well, if Russia sinks all its efforts into this, they might have a chance.” Hell, even if by some miracle the US is knocked out by a meteor, this would also be devastating for Russia, which has invested heavily in US Treasury bonds. Even if they “win,” they lose.

“But BRICS!” the poor Team Russia pundits cry. No, no sweetheart. China’s not your buddy. They’re not running a charity to give Putin a do-over after 15 years of robbing his country and pissing away all its potential.

Get back to me when the ruble is around 45 to the dollar again.

I could end this here, but his finale shouldn’t be missed.

Is it true, as former U.S. President Ronald Reagan once conjectured before the United Nations, that only an alien invasion could speed up a rapprochement between the U.S. and Russia?

Or could we somehow manage it ourselves without any meddling by Martians?

First of all, we know Romanov’s solution to all this. Give up the sanctions (which are totally harmless! Even helpful!), recognize the Crimean annexation, and tacitly let Russia exercise influence in various sovereign countries that used to be part of the USSR. Apart from that, the West is to avoid any criticism over human rights in Russia, and look the other way while its leadership robs its people blind as it has done pretty much since 1991. At the same time, the West must also open its banks, universities, borders, and real estate markets to Russia’s wealthy elite, while Western businessmen aren’t assured the same kind of property protection in Russia. Again, this is the only relationship vatniks can imagine. Someone has to take it- dominant and dominated.

But what about that alien invasion? Oh never mind you that! If that were to happen while the current Kremlin regime is in power, you can be sure that the Russian state media will blame the alien invasion on the US, run documentaries about how the invasion is a false-flag and the aliens are actually mutants created in American GMO laboratories for the sole purpose of destroying Russia. Of course the aliens might not take a liking to the Russian propaganda against them, and the space pundits they brought with them will most likely respond with the mantra:

“Koorrr’aaaax fhlagle hogarrrragh blix toxiu n’gah mareepa kaween’aaa habaquinoto sagreepa ‘nyaghan’ha?!”  

Which in their language means:

“Who are you humans to judge us? What about global climate change, destruction of habitats, World Wars, religious persecution, and millions of starving children?!”

Whataboutism: A Prequel

I was doing some casual research and found an interesting article on whataboutism…from 2008. Yeah, 2008. A funny thing about that era is that in those days, Russia sometimes had a leg to stand on when it came to certain issues. At that time, for example, the US was still 2 years away from pulling out of Iraq, one of the most embarrassing debacles in recent American history. Even on the domestic front, Russia was far less authoritarian. Truly, time has a big influence on the validity or invalidity of arguments. What was an apt analogy several years or several decades ago might be a whataboutist red herring today.

Of course that’s not the only reason I found the article interesting. Sadly I could find no byline for the author, a staff writer for The Economist, because I found the piece to be extremely nuanced, logical, and in general something that should have been dusted off in late 2013 when Putin’s regime decided to kick the propaganda into high gear.

The first notable difference between this and some other pieces on whataboutism is the way the author actually acknowledges that these criticisms can sometimes be valid. There are some folks, often advocates for governments if not government officials themselves, who think that any criticism of their side is invalid and can be dismissed out of hand. This of course is nonsense. I’ve been saying something like this for a long time. Whether something is a good argument or a whataboutist fallacy depends on who made the argument, why, when, etc. The bottom line I think can be reduced to two points:  First, is the situation really analogous? Second, the person raising the original criticism a supporter or representative of the country that is supposedly doing “the same thing” or which is being “hypocritical?”

The latter is crucial because those of you who read the comments know how many times it’s implied that my criticism of Russian government policy is rooted in the fact that I’m American. In Russia, and perhaps much of the world, the idea of having some kind of underlying set of principles or an ideology which can supersede national origin, religion, etc. is largely unheard of. The fact is that if the US had pulled the kind of stunt Russia did in the Crimea and Donbas, you’d better believe I’d be all over it. Hell, it would be a lot easier for a leftist. Perhaps, then, it is good that it didn’t work out that way, because what actually happened has led to a sort of trial by fire for the left, where we shall see once and for all whether principles and critical theory shall triumph over, or be defeated by, outdated dogma and cynical opportunism. Incidentally I fear the latter is winning that struggle, but that’s another article.

The second reason why this piece is so important is that the author actually suggested some very good advice on countering whataboutism, and oddly enough I haven’t seen the same tactics being pushed by those who insist the West needs to get into a propaganda war against the Kremlin.

One suggestion is using the quotes of Russian leaders or known pro-regime people, In this piece, the author uses an example of a quote from Medvedev. To be honest, even Medvedev isn’t the best source to use these days, as he too has become to some extent an “authorized” target, at whom citizens are allowed to vent their rage. This also extends to people seen as allies of Medvedev, such as Kudrin. But if one digs deep enough, you can find choice quotes from those you’re not allowed to oppose, such as Putin himself.

Lastly and perhaps best of all, the author actually encourages more criticism of Western policy. This is one of the best weapons out there, and it works particularly well on Western audiences. There’s no denying the fact that private media has biases and corporate media outlets have become increasingly dependent on official sources, often from their own country. But to claim that there’s some kind of hive-mind collective “Western media” is simply ludicrous, and criticism is rampant. On that note, it’s also worth pointing out that much of the bias in the so-called “Western media” can be traced to large corporate outlets, which are doing increasingly worse in terms of quality and relevance. In the West and other developed countries, far fewer people get their news from TV, turning instead to the internet.

I don’t have a pithy conclusion for the readers today, only that I highly recommend reading that article and pondering how relevant it is to today, in 2015. I’m going to be away for a bit handling some business, but on 30 August check out my debut on Cracked.com.

So until September…

9 Year Anniversary Extravaganza

9 YEARS IN RUSSIA!

How this country has changed in just a couple years.

How this country has changed in just a couple years.

In honor of the 9-year anniversary of my move to Russia, I present my readers with…This long political rant:

Oblivious

These days there’s this idea that Russians miss the Soviet Union, as though they are Communists, as though this is what they actually wanted. Obviously when given the chance, the Russian people, like people in the other union republics, utterly failed to put up any fight to preserve either the union itself, just as they failed to do anything about the system which had long since ceased to be anything remotely resembling socialism in a Marxist sense. In reality the rising Soviet nostalgia, nurtured by the state media and state-connected organizations, is totally disconnected with socialist politics or even the actual Soviet Union itself. Instead, the Soviet Union has been reimagined as another Russian empire, and the message of the state is that Russian imperialism is just and right. This has great appeal for a population living nearly a quarter of a century under humiliation, especially when post-Soviet Russia shows little capacity for achievement in recent years.

Yet while we must not nurture modern Russian fantasies about how the collapse of the Soviet Union wasn’t their fault, or that they were wholly unaccountable for what happened next, we also need to stop doing things like what former US Ambassador Michael McFaul did in this tweet today:

Now I don’t mean to sound like Mark Ames here, but the fact is that while Russia and other Soviet republics were already suffering in the throes of Perestroika, the 90’s, especially the early 90’s, were no picnic for Russia and other former Soviet republics, to say the least. In fact, when Ames talks about the crime, violence, corruption, and prostitution of the 90’s, he’s not wrong nor lying. The only problem is that he used all that to build a career for himself, and then shits on anyone who wants to deal with Russia’s problems now, many of which are rooted in the 90’s.

I apologize for the digression but the point here is that McFaul’s comment is akin to the sentiments of many a clueless Westerner, who expect Russians to celebrate the destruction and humiliation of their country. I am not speaking of the break-up of the Soviet Union here; I’m talking about the literal destruction of the Russian Federation, what can best be described as Russia’s “rightful territory” (though that’s debatable).  Obviously some of these Westerners visited or lived in Russia at the time, and some of them might have been here even earlier, during Perestroika. These types might tell you that “it wasn’t so bad,” well that might have been the case- for them, and perhaps the well-to-do Russians they knew. The fact is that for millions of ordinary people, it was total chaos. All the while the economic advice from the West was neo-liberal to the core. Privatize everything as quickly as possible. Suffering be damned! Let the market decide everything, even if most of your majority population has little to no knowledge about markets and capitalism. No time to teach them!

Then you also have Western politicians and many journalists turning a blind eye to the violence of Yeltsin’s regime. I’m not just talking about the organized crime ties of his backers, but literal violence against his own people. For before he initiated a campaign of butchery in Chechnya which would later catapult Vladimir Putin to prominence, he used tanks and snipers against his own people in his own capital, all for the sake of defending his violation of the constitution. By comparison, the police response to the 2011-2012 protests don’t even register; they were even more reserved than Berkut during Euromaidan.

I could go on with more examples but I think the point is clear. This kind of behavior is precisely one of the reasons why you hear Russians say things like “The West only likes us when we’re weak! Better for them to fear us!” It’s not a paranoid Russian fantasy that foreign media coverage of Russia seemed to immediately change in tone once Putin was in charge. Putin was trying to project the image of a strong Russia, and the Western media was happy to oblige him, telling us how we should fear what he was doing.

The same phenomenon explains the renewed interest in the Soviet Union and Stalin, who has been stripped of his Marxist credentials and made into a Russian Orthodox nationalist. The thing about Russian liberals, almost from the beginning, is that they seemed to love talking about the horrors of “Stalinism” more than anything else. When people were suffering, not knowing where their next meal would come from, when their daughters were disappearing abroad into sexual slavery- the liberals and their foreign backers want to talk about the purges of 1937. It’s not hard to see where this leads in a country dominated by the politics of opposites. “If these same people constantly talk about Stalin, then Stalin must be the anti-liberal! He represents everything they hate, and they represent everything we hate! Glory to the Great Orthodox Russian Nationalist hero, YAROSLAV (Just you wait.) STALIN!”

This is how rudimentary politics is in these parts; it’s not just Ukraine. You attribute certain things to your opponents and then you automatically take on the opposite of everything you perceive to be on “their” side. There’s no middle ground, there’s no underlying principle or ideology guiding your decisions or choices. Take the outrage at the toppling of Lenin statues in Ukraine. Most Russians don’t know jack shit about Lenin, and even less about his ideology or what “Leninism” is (HINT: It’s largely related to organizational methods for Communist parties). Many Russians actually curse Lenin as a German agent, even an American agent, who destroyed their wonderful empire. Lenin is blamed not only for things such as the execution of the royal family, but I’ve even heard Russians claim that he “invented” Ukrainians, and gave them some of the best “Russian” territory. Incidentally, that territory was called “Novorossiya,” and if they were going by ethnic maps of the era Ukraine could have been a lot bigger today, including such cities as Voronezh, Belgorod, Kursk, and possibly the Kuban. Incidentally Lenin’s nationalities policy that is so-hated by Russian neo-imperialists and vatniks alike today was inspired by the work and arguments of none other than…Josef Stalin, but I’m digressing again. The bottom line is that you have this surreal situation where most Russians think nothing of cursing Lenin for the destruction of their empire, church, etc., but a Lenin monument gets smashed in Ukraine and suddenly their butts emit more thrust than the N1 moon rocket.

With Stalin it’s a bit different, largely due to the WWII cult, but the fact is that Russian love of Stalin is highly exaggerated. For one thing, the rabidly anti-Communist, anti-Stalin books of Viktor Suvorov (real name: Vladimir Rezun) are easily found in virtually any Russian bookstore, something I’ve noticed since I first moved here. Other works commonly found in bookstores big and small are the memoirs of various German generals and officers from the Second World War. These books seem to have gained quite a following in Russia, largely because to their audience here they seem like new, forbidden knowledge. I’ve even found works of the Holocaust denier Joachim Hoffman prominently displayed in some of Moscow’s biggest bookstores, including his book honoring Vlassov’s Russian Liberation Army.

What can explain these bizarre disparities, whereby Russians curse Ukrainians for toppling statues of the man who supposedly created Ukrainians? Simple- Ukrainian nationalists are Banderites, and they hate Lenin and the Soviet Union. Ergo statues of Lenin and Stalin are the polar opposite. Maybe more importantly, they enrage Ukrainian nationalists, who are the only Ukrainians worth considering at all, from a Russian point of view. In fact, you could almost say that this is really just trolling politics. Many Ukrainians only tolerate or wave UPA symbols because they know the reaction it will get from vatniks in Russia. They know nothing of the real history of that organization. By the same token, vatniks know that Stalin and Lenin are tools with which to troll their Ukrainian opponents. Thus the memes go back and forth on the internet, interspersed with numerous pornographic images (I’m not even kidding here).

Lastly, one needs to understand that a lot of the darker aspects of Russian politics stem from the kind of ideological garbage that poured into the country from the outside during the 90’s. Russian nationalist groups trying to create a synthesis between ethnic nationalism and the Soviet Union as a Russian empire actually pre-date the fall of the USSR, but after that fall, pretty much every reactionary, right-wing ideology or conspiracy theory flooded into the country. Again Westerners didn’t help. “Throw off all the vestiges of Communism! Bring back the old Tsarist flag! Yes! More religion! Build more churches! The Communists suppressed the poor persecuted church!” and so on. I’ve always found it odd how Western writers seem so perplexed about the prominence of far right ideas in Russia and Eastern Europe. Excuse me, but for roughly 40 years we bombarded them with propaganda that portrayed every Nazi-collaborating fascist as a tragic “freedom fighter” who really fought “against Stalin and Hitler,” sometimes in the ranks of the Waffen SS, no less! The rush to portray anything and everything associate with Communism and socialism as the ultimate evil also led to people questioning the original ideals of Communism, such as anti-racism, internationalism, secularism, science, and women’s rights. If you were led to believe those things were associated with Communism, and Communism is the worst evil imaginable, why would you have any regard for those values under liberal capitalism? Every fascist the world over, from the very beginning, sees such values as creeping Communism.

Monument to Nazi collaborator Andrei Vlassov in...New York. Note the symbols associated with the ROA. Keep that in mind when someone tells you that the Ukrainian flag or trident(It's a BIRD, goddammit!) are

Monument to Nazi collaborator Andrei Vlassov in…New York. Note the symbols associated with the ROA. Keep that in mind when someone tells you that the Ukrainian flag or trident(It’s a BIRD, goddammit!) are “associated with fascism.”
To their credit, Vlassov’s army did actually turn on the Germans to help the Czech resistance liberate Prague. Very different from Bandera, whose forces collaborated with the Germans after he had been arrested and imprisoned by them.

If Westerners want to actually help the situation, there are a few things we can do in discussions with Russians on these topics:

1.      Do not do what McFaul did. Acknowledge that Russia, like many other countries, suffered greatly due to the collapse of the Soviet system. This is not a defense of the system, which was already moribund at that point. It’s not about questioning the independence of any former Soviet republic either. The question of the economic and political system is separate from the question of independence of union republics.

2.   Don’t let Russians off the hook, letting them blame all their problems of the 90’s on a handful of “traitors” and the West, but also acknowledge that the West did play a role in the horrors of the 90’s. A lot of it was neglect- lack of concern or criticism over Yeltsin’s actions, giving him a blank check to do as he pleased. This didn’t just hurt Russians. It actually hurt a lot of foreign investors who wanted to do business in Russia.

3.   Again, it must be understood that celebrating the humiliation of Russia doesn’t mean you can’t say it’s good that the USSR broke apart. The humiliation in this case was not exclusive to Russia. Sure, today the vatniks long to be feared and to push smaller countries around, but that’s because the original humiliation was never solved, in the right way. That could have been solved if Russia had transformed into a proper democratic state, with separation of powers, rule of law, and most of all- a strong welfare state funded by its vast natural resources. The potential of this state would have been immense, and if it existed today I doubt any Russian would give a shit about Ukraine signing an association agreement with the EU or the fact that it had the Crimea, something Russia only gave a shit about in 2014. Countries that do well, whose governments provide their citizens with a high standard of living, generally don’t harbor dreams about recovering lost territories.

Fight the myth that “The West only likes Russia when it was weak!” First of all, Russia is weak today. Yes, yes it is. It’s economy is smaller than that of Italy and falling fast. It has no plan for what to do after Putin, lynch-pin of the system, is gone. Its attempts at sabre-rattling have only led to catastrophic air crashes and billions of wasted rubles. At best it can intimidate its much weaker members, and that’s about it. To the rest of the world it’s essentially a laughing stock as it babbles on about WWII, “historical justice,” and the so-called BRICS alternative while investing even more in US treasury bonds.

Second, it’s not that people in the West, particularly America, liked or hated Russia during the Yeltsin period- they didn’t care. Nobody cared. So much historical revisionism has taken place in modern Russia that they’ve deluded themselves into thinking there is some 150 year history of animosity between the United States and Russia. This is sheer idiocy that ignores tons of historical evidence to the contrary. Real hostility towards the Soviet Union, apart from Wilson’s intervention and a lack of recognition until 1932, didn’t begin until after 1945. During the interwar period the USSR was not seen as a threat. How so? Well the two main concerns for the US military during that period were Japan and…”The Red Empire,” a military designation for the United Kingdom. Yes, Great Britain. Perfidious Albion. Old Blighty. And I might add that part of the increased hostility during the Cold War stemmed from the fact that unlike the interwar period, the USSR actually gained the ability to strike the USA, and vice versa.

Most of all, Russians seem to have totally forgotten that this was an ideological conflict. Sure, plenty of Cold Warriors would sometimes use “The Russians” or “The Russkies” as shorthand for the USSR, but their real animosity was towards Communism. This is why they spent so much time attacking domestic dissidents and opponents as Communists. The House Un-American Activities Committee wasn’t trying to determine if people had hidden Russian ancestry, but rather if they were Communists or associated with Communists.

Lastly, it was not the US that weakened or humiliated Russia. It was people like Yeltsin and people who benefited from his system. Many Russians were complicit in this. Nowadays its Putin and his elite.

4.  Support and spread the truth, that a strong Russia doesn’t mean an empire that bullies other countries. Japan and Germany are both “strong” today. So are Norway, Sweden, Finland, or Austria. Strength can be measured in what the country produces, how the government treats its citizens, its living standards, etc.  It’s hard to say whether we’ve hit a point of no return here, but Russia still has a potential edge in two fields- IT and space exploration. Imagine where it would be were it not for boondoggle projects like Skolkovo and someone stealing $127 million from the space program.

5.  Stop insisting that Russia adopt the new European-contrived (for lack of a more concrete term) version of history. For one thing, it’s not accurate and rewriting history is bad no matter who does it. Worse still, it sends a message to Russians that it is perfectly fine to rewrite history to legitimize political goals. To this end, stop looking the other way when countries like Ukraine engage in this practice. Just because someone is the underdog in a fight doesn’t mean we should rewrite human history for their benefit. And might I add on that point- if you criticize people like me who prefer Ukrainians to take a particular position on Bandera and the OUN, who are you to insist that Russians adopt every point of your historical narrative? After all, do they not need to build a narrative for the sake of cultural cohesion? In truth the Russian identity isn’t that much more solidified than that of Ukraine. Technically there is no “Russia,” if you think about it. So is anyone ready to apply Anne Applebaum’s logic, that this is fine if it builds national unity, to Russia? I sincerely hope not.

Readers and other writers often talk about how shocked they are to see educated, seemingly worldly Russians mouthing the Kremlin’s line as of 2014. This is due to numerous factors, but one factor is the complete failure at setting up a real dialog in all these years. From my observation there as been a lot of reluctance to accept any Russian argument (not necessarily pro-government arguments either) on any subject, particularly when it comes to history. This is often contrasted with a willingness to pick up and disseminate some of the most egregious examples of historical revisionism when they come from other countries. The lack of inconsistency and the refusal to actually listen leads to a sense of exasperation: “They oppose everything we say! They must really hate us!” That, in turn, has led many of these people, who are quite valuable, to side with the Kremlin. If it isn’t that alone, it’s certainly a contributing factor.

In short, anyone who’s actually interested in supporting democracy and generally improving Russia needs to learn to stop being oblivious to this reality. We cannot get sucked into the politics of opposites, where we choose a camp and any criticism within that camp is taken as treason. Russians, even quite liberal ones, have always complained about being lectured to. And let’s be honest, there are some who have certainly been doing a lot of lecturing. So much lecturing, in fact, that they forgot to really explain what the democratic position truly is. This has left many prey to a system that is adept at the tactics of populism.

George W. Bush vs. Vladimir Putin

One thing I can’t understand about Putin is how so many conservative people, inside and outside of Russia, can’t stop talking about how manly he supposedly is. During St. Petersburg’s infamous international neo-fascist conference earlier this year, an anti-abortion, anti-LGBT speaker from Scotland displayed a slideshow of Putin’s various photo ops, commenting on what a “real man” the Russian dictator president is. It’s funny how people can look at obviously staged photo ops of a man apparently trying to nurture an image of toughness and actually fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Even people who aren’t Putin supporters, typically Western media types, buy into the myth.

In fact, I can think of another president who liked to project a certain macho image- George W. Bush. The difference is, however, that if we compare Bush to Putin, Bush actually comes out as more “manly,” by conventional standards. Given Bush’s economic background, that’s pretty pathetic to be out-manned by him. Let us see how they stack up.

First let’s start with the obvious- height. Who is bigger? George W. Bush is 1.82 meters, a full 12 cm taller than Vladimir Putin at 1.70 meters. Incidentally, Obama is taller than both of them.

“Why are you so short?”

Next let’s talk about horse riding. Everyone knows that photo of Putin riding a horse shirtless. Bush, on the other hand, has a ranch, where I’m sure he has several horses of his own. I also doubt he rides shirtless, because this is a desperate cry for attention from a man who lacks self confidence, possibly because he is very short.

What about voices? Bush doesn’t have a really deep voice, but he obviously spent time cultivating that Texan accent. It’s stupid as hell, but it is very masculine in a conventional sense. Putin on the other hand has a very soft voice, which is even worse when he speaks English. This does not sound good when you go on a rant about a bear frolicking in the forest eating berries and honey.

Remember how people said they’d rather have a beer with George W. Bush than Al Gore? I think they were imagining sitting at the bar with “Dubya,” in some Honky Tonk joint, discussing how one professional sports team scored more points than their opponents during their most recent match. Nobody wants to have a beer with Putin, ever. Nobody except Germany’s Gerhard Schroder, and even then they didn’t visit a bar. According to Putin himself, they were in a banya, i.e. a place where you’d only be wearing a towel and a stupid looking hat, with nothing else. And speaking of “Dubya,” Bush at least has a nickname. Putin’s nickname is “dickhead,” and it was invented in Ukraine, not Russia.

Not even Putin’s own family likes him. While George W. Bush is still married and probably sees his daughters often, Putin’s wife left him after years of estrangement, and at least one of his daughters lives abroad in what the Kremlin’s own media calls “Gayropa.” In fact, she lives in the Netherlands, the gayest of Gayropean countries. She prefers that to Russia. Putin has no real friends and if he’s smart he suspects the group of corrupt yes-men around him.

Now let’s talk about manly careers. Nobody can shut up about Putin being an ex-KGB agent. The problem is that in reality he had a desk job in East Germany. It’s not like he was some kind of trained assassin hunting down Mujehadeen leaders in Afghanistan.

Bush on the other hand, was often maligned for his curious military record during the Vietnam War. Compared a highly decorated Vietnam vet like John Kerry, Bush’s time in the Texas Air National Guard seems laughable. Compared to Putin, however…Well that’s a different story. George W. Bush flew fighter jets. This is something which can still be dangerous today, let alone in the 1960’s. What is more, George W. Bush famously landed on an aircraft carrier in 2003.

George_W._Bush_walks_with_Ryan_Phillips_to_Navy_One

People got mad at Bush for wearing the flight suit, but think about it for a minute. George W. Bush actually earned a military uniform. By contrast, Putin loves to appear in military uniforms in spite of never serving in the military.

“BUT WHAT ABOUT IRAQ, NEOCON SCUM?!”  Yes, yes, I was just getting to that. See when Bush invaded Afghanistan, he said he’d do it, then he did it. He did the same with Iraq. Soldiers killed in both conflicts were and still are acknowledged for their service. When a few were captured, the government did what they could to recover them. Those who were killed were granted military funerals. Obviously veteran care in the US is seriously lacking, but it far eclipses that of Russia, which brings us to Putin’s conflict in Ukraine.

Like Bush, Putin used false pretenses to launch an opportunistic war on a far weaker country. Unlike Bush, however, Putin is too afraid to come out and admit it. While he whines about the horrors Ukraine is allegedly visiting upon poor, persecuted Russian speakers in the Donbas (excepting those who are now left on the government side, who are now “khlokhy” and “ukropi”), Putin and his government simultaneously insist that they have absolutely no involvement in this conflict in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Soldiers are buried anonymously, captured soldiers are disowned. Why does his media make claims about genocide against Russians, while he swears in public that he’s doing nothing to prevent it? Sanctions, of course. He and his rich friends are afraid of sanctions. Think about that for a second- If you believe all Putin’s rhetoric about Ukraine is true, you cannot avoid the fact that he’s letting Ukraine commit “genocide.”

Now some people might point out that unlike George W. Bush, Putin is an accomplished black belt in Judo. Indeed, but if you sounded and looked like Putin, you’d have to be. He’s even admitted that when he was a kid, people were constantly trying to kick his ass. Now he’s got to hope that if Ramzan Kadyrov ever gets mad at him, he can counter his boxing skills with a harai goshi.  Not an easy thing if nearly all your life you trained in straight Judo without dealing with strikes. This might also be a good time to point out that not only did Kadyrov actually serve in combat, but he did so in a guerrilla war against a far more powerful opponent. He also has a Hero of Russia award, unlike Putin. But this is about Putin vs. George W. Bush.

George W. Bush became president under suspicious circumstances, but at least he had the integrity to respect the rules and leave after 8 years. Not so for Putin. I couldn’t stand Bush as a president, but at least he’s gone. Imagine fifteen years of Bush. We’d be bogged down in a guerrilla war in Brazil or India by now. On the other hand, Putin has got his country bogged down in a war he can’t even admit to fighting, while he crushes cheese and fruit on his own borders in a hilarious attempt to wage economic war on countries with far more powerful economies than Russia’s.

Putin’s Western bootlickers often talk about how he’s the most attacked leader in the world. Please. Bush was under attack from day zero. The very legitimacy of his presidency was questioned (with good reason). Hell, he was ruthlessly attacked on his campaign, more for his speaking gaffes than things like, I don’t know, lying about the nature of the estate tax. Just like Putin, Bush was attacked as a tyrant post 9/11. Massive rallies took place across the country virtually every year. Entire media outlets sprouted up to challenge his propaganda. By contrast, Putin is afraid of independent media and especially protests. Bush had to weather a constant storm of criticism in a country whose media he didn’t control, with strong free speech laws that he couldn’t suppress the way Putin can do and has done. “Most attacked leader” my ass.

Bush is so secure in his manhood, he saw no problem holding hands with a Saudi prince. He was probably thinking: “So he wants to hold hands? Fine. I don’t give a shit. I don’t feel threatened.” 

"Hey, no big deal. Different strokes, am I right?"

“Hey, no big deal. Different strokes, am I right?”

Putin on the other hand, did this:

"Take a seat, Mr. President. Take a seat, right over there."

“Take a seat, Mr. President. Take a seat, right over there.”

Draw your own conclusions.

So if you’ve been keeping score, I think the facts are obvious at this point. If conventional masculinity is your thing, George W. Bush beats Putin in almost every category. If you look up to Putin as a manly role model, it’s your own conventional masculinity that is in question. And if you literally look up to Putin, you’re probably Dmitry Medvedev.*

*No disrespect intended toward Dmitry Medvedev, easily one of Russia’s top three presidents who presided over what seems like a Golden Age compared to the present. Also unlike Putin, Medvedev left the presidency, and he can also dance:

BS highlights

Last week has produced too much BS for me to handle with my current projects, so I’m giving you another highlights reel. Yeah, I know, it’s the clip show of blog posts, but it is practical and I have to devote most of my time to pursuits which earn money.

NATOphobia

As we all know, the go-to excuse for why Russia needs a corrupt dictatorship is always: “NATO encirclement!”  For some reason, countries like Finland and Sweden don’t seem to be too concerned about NATO encirclement, in spite of their small military forces and lack of nuclear weapons. But of course if you listen to vatniks tell it- that’s because Finland and Sweden are just whorish slaves of the US, unlike independent Russia, whose living standards are laughably poor compared to those states and most other “American colonies” in Europe.

But how real was the threat of NATO encirclement, particularly considering the fact that at no time has the alliance considered invading Russia, nor did it ever raise territorial claims against the country? Turns out that as usual, Putin and his crew were bullshitting. See for yourself.

The truth is that the increase in NATO activity was deliberately provoked by Putin, and he was probably counting on it. He needs it because he could see storm clouds on the horizon possibly before Maidan. And yet in spite of all Putin’s pathetic sabre-rattling which only leads to more plane crashes, the US is still downsizing its military and closing bases in Europe. The US army alone still plans to cut 40,000 personnel in the next two years. This doesn’t bode well for Operation: Barbarossa II.

Russia’s elite loves the West

One of the most infuriating thing about the foodstuffs import ban, is that submissive vatniks love to make posts, videos, etc. attacking their fellow citizens, laughing at them and saying: “You’ll just have to do without your jamon, Camembert, and Parmesan!” The implication is that the only people who buy these things are liberals and “creative class types” who have a better life than the salt-of-the-earth, working class Russian. Russia was actually importing something like 40% of its food when these idiotic “counter-sanctions” were announced, meaning that a lot of the banned imports were more or less ordinary goods, not expensive cheese, jamon, etc.

The other thing that makes this so infuriating, however, is that these submissive dipshits are attacking their own fellow citizens while the masters they support do not abide by their asceticism. Rest assured, Russia’s elite has plenty of access to the products they so gleefully order to be destroyed at the border. If they don’t have their channels to import it, they simply go there.

What better recent example than the honeymoon of Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov? After receiving a watch worth over half a million dollars, Peskov rented an incredibly expensive yacht to travel along the coast of “degenerate gayropa.” Not the Crimea, which needs tourism, not Sochi, which is practically abandoned, no- Europe.

And that’s what this all comes down to really. Whenever you hear a Russian politician or their cowardly, submissive supporters babbling on about “sovereignty,” understand that it doesn’t mean the same thing that it does for the rest of the world. Sovereignty in Russian parlance means that the elite should have a blank check to continually and constantly rob their own people, siphoning off money from vast natural resources, so that they can go ahead and turn it over to the West which they love so much.

Yes, the Russian elite loves the West.  They love it so much they’d steal from their nation, leaving millions impoverished and deprived of basic civil rights just to make sure that they and only they are allowed to taste the finest the West has to offer. If you are an ordinary Russian, you should shut up and be happy with austerity, import bans, censorship, and churches, lots of churches. But for the elite? Never!

You see, when they send their children to live abroad in those degenerate countries, and when they spend Russian taxpayer money on Western luxury, it’s to protect the masses from the dangers of consumerism. These brave  souls are essentially sacrificing for the sake of others! They are the patriots!

Volodymyr Viatrovych – Bullshit artist

Jared McBride exposes Viatrovych, a pseudo-historian and Holocaust denier behind Ukraine’s anti-free speech laws. And yes, I said Holocaust denier and meant it. This is the appropriate term for someone who dismisses and ignores scores of Jewish eyewitness testimonies and attributes all contrary evidence to a massive KGB conspiracy. If you want a good example, look at this excerpt, showing how Viatrovych ducks the question of collaborator atrocities in Poland and Belarus.

When confronted with the fact that the head of UPA, Roman Shukhevych, served the Nazis until 1943 as commander of a mobile police battalion that murdered thousands of civilians in Belarus, Viatrovych responded: “Is it possible to consider Poles or Belarusians a peaceful population, if, during the day, they work as ordinary villagers, only to arm themselves in the evening and attack the village?” In other words, civilians are fair targets, especially for “heroes” of Ukraine in the service of Nazis.

Viatrovych’s answer here is basically word-for-word the kind of thing you’ll hear from Holocaust deniers when it comes to Nazi atrocities on the Eastern Front. Believe me- I know. And yet for some reason nobody will explain, this kind of excuse making is tolerated right now when it concerns Ukrainian collaborators, but not for regular German forces or other pro-Axis organizations such as the Croatian Ustashe. If there’s a good reason for endorsing Holocaust denial in certain situations, I’d really love to hear it.

Viatrovych, try as he might, is essentially a vatnik mentally. In essence, there is no difference between him and a Russian “patriot” like Dugin or pseudo-historian Yuri Mukhin. If he were a real historian, he would not push so hard to get the state to enforce his historical narrative on the country, thus making it far easier for him to defend his revisionist claims. Just like in Putin’s Russia, Ukraine has people like Viatrovych whose claims cannot stand scrutiny and open debate, and thus they must be forced on people. This is why, again just like Russia, these people have a double approach to defending their claims. Outside their own borders, where they cannot control debate and use the state to suppress dissent, they resort to hysterical whataboutery and conspiracy theories. Inside their borders, they simply use the state to censor and crush dissent, effectively ending the debate before it begins. A vatnik and a vishivatnik are the same- only the packaging differs.

In short, fuck this guy. If he wants to be such a patriot, someone hand him a Kalashnikov and send his ass to the front. If he’s anything like his OUN/UPA predecessors, he’ll most likely desert to the separatists’ side.

What’s next

I’m fairly busy this week making various arrangements, but I’ll try to release some more original content before heading back to Ukraine for roughly two weeks. Stay tuned.

One more thing

I didn’t want to follow up the last post on Shaun Walker and Ukraine, but as it turns out, none other than Shaun Walker wrote a good article about Ukraine and the Holocaust and I think it deserves to be highlighted.

My favorite part by far was this:

Yuri Shukhevych, the son of one of the main Ukrainian nationalist leaders, spent three decades in Soviet camps due to his family’s political affiliations. Now, aged 82, he is an MP and the author of the new history laws. Asked whether he was comfortable with the Holocaust monument erected in Rava Ruska which blamed locals as well as Germans, Shukhevych deflected the question.

Yeah I bet he deflected it. Just a little history lesson- Yuri’s father Roman served in German uniform loyally until 1943. The OUN, of which he was a member, organized the militias in Western Ukraine which were responsible for numerous pogroms that killed thousands of Jews, in addition to rounding up Jews for extermination. Roman later became commander of the UPA in 1943, which is incidentally the same year the insurgent army was “legalized” by the Germans and the same year it proceeded to slaughter thousands of Poles in Volyn. This is the guy responsible for the law that makes it illegal to publicly criticize his Nazi collaborator father.

But his response really takes the cake:

“Of course it was a cruel battle and there were a lot of bad things that happened on all sides. Let’s objectively investigate them. But people like to say that our nationalists did things but the Polish didn’t. And what about the Jewish police, the Judenrat, which selected and sorted the Jews? I saw it with my own eyes. But the Jews don’t like to talk about that.”

Hmmm…. This sounds familiar. All it needs is a few “what abouts” here and there and- PRESTO! Almost indistinguishable from a Russian vatnik.  I’m sure Shukhevych would feel the same way about the mass killing of prisoners in L’viv by retreating Soviet forces as well, right? I mean it was a war, after all.

My experience with vishivatniks has taught me much in so many years, so I’ve developed this handy phrasebook for dealing with them:

But they were fighting for independence! 

Many groups fought, in various ways, for Ukrainian independence, and with varying degrees of success. We cannot rule out, for example, that a self-proclaimed warrior for Ukrainian independence “fought” for his cause via his own strategy of raping pigs on Soviet collective farms. Yet if history should discover the bold independence fighter Taras the Pig-fucker, I don’t believe his reputation should be protected by law, nor would I support putting him on banknotes or erecting monuments in his name.

Apart from Poles, the largest group of people killed by the OUN and the later OUN-B controlled UPA were other Ukrainians, including Western Ukrainians- not Soviet soldiers, NKVD agents, and certainly not German soldiers, as the Germans were always seen as a “secondary enemy” by the UPA leadership during that time in which they were outlawed.

Neither the OUN nor UPA secured independence for Ukraine, and the only independence they believed in was one dominated by their ideology. While the organization adopted a seemingly democratic program in 1943, supposedly in hopes of winning recognition from the Western allies, we have no good reason to assume this would have been implemented, and thus we must judge the OUN based on its actions and the ideology it professed from its inception up to that point.

You’re saying Ukrainians were Nazi collaborators and killers of Jews! 

Nope, I’m saying that about the OUN factions and the UPA, which incidentally never garnered the support of more than a tiny fraction of the Ukrainian populace. Even in the areas where they were strongest, their numbers were not impressive. Regardless of its ideology or actions, the idea that such a small political party should be entitled to represent a nation it did not create nor found is simply absurd. Please, go to Canada, preferably somewhere far north, and form Banderia. I don’t give a fuck.

But whatabout…

WHAT ABOUT IRAQ, LIBYA, TUNISIA, EGYPT,VIETNAM, HIROSHIMA, NAGASAKI, DRESDEN, THE NATIVE AMERICAN GENOCIDE, SLAVERY, THE CRUSADES, AFGHANISTAN, ODESSA?! HAVE YOU SEEN AMERICA’S STATE DEBT?! NAKATIM BLEYAT!

Not all UPA members murdered Poles or Jews! 

Indeed, not all UPA members even wanted to be in the UPA- they used conscription. But many of the UPA’s personnel were former militiamen or Schutzsmannschaft auxiliary police veterans and thus had blood on their hands.

Oh yeah? What about the Soviet Union’s crimes? Aren’t they the same? 

Apparently, the United States and the United Kingdom didn’t agree at the time. Sorry. I think the world is much better off that the side your nationalist political party attached itself to lost.

You’re a Ukrainophobe! 

Boy that sounds familiar too. Just change the prefix and voila! You’re a Putin-loving vatnik! Seriously though, no. I’m not a “Ukrainophobe” and that word itself is as stupid and misused as Russophobe. I hate the OUN, which does not represent Ukraine, nor did it ever. In this I am no different than the majority of Ukrainians during WWII, and I’m no different than the majority of Ukrainians now, who aren’t fans of radical nationalists and at most, maintain an ambivalent attitude toward these things as they have bigger problems.

Why should we talk about this right now when Russia is engaging in aggression in Ukraine?! 

This question is actually based on a tweet by a particularly annoying Western advocate playing Avatar with Ukraine, but I could see this coming from a vishivatnik. Let me answer that with another question: What would you have said about George Orwell criticizing the Soviet Union while Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were still fighting, killing hundreds if not thousands of fighting men on a daily basis?

You know what, scratch that. I’ll not be accused of whataboutery. Let me put it this way- rigid orthodoxy and censorship will not win against Russia. I really don’t understand why this is difficult to understand. You have two men, one very large and strong, the other very small and skinny. Neither have training and they get in a fight. Based on sheer strength, the larger man is going to win, hands down. Thus far we’ve been watching Ukraine trying to do exactly that- fight a far more powerful country on its terms, in a ridiculously conventional way.

Victory in this war requires conscious moral superiority, not simply being the victim of aggression. Everyone must understand that the Ukraine that emerges from this conflict will be infinitely better than the one that went into it, and more importantly, it must be everything that Russia today is not. This, contrary to the belief of vishivatniks, does not mean replacing Soviet memorials with their polar opposite- UPA monuments. The core must change, not simply the skin. And idolizing Nazi collaborators who had their own fascist ideology is not how you affect that change.

You’re an FSB agent! 

Shhhh! I can’t let my State Department masters find out I’m a double agent!

You’ve been brainwashed by Communist propaganda! 

Yes, we Americans were awash in Communist propaganda in the late 80’s and 90’s, especially those of us raised in highly religious, Reagan-supporting conservative families.

Only Ukrainians should be allowed to write Ukrainian history! (Yes, this has been said before.)

No. I’m terribly sorry but from a historian’s point of view, that is a terrible idea. In fact, that’s probably one of the worst ideas one could put forth in the field of history.

Nobody should tell Ukraine who its heroes should be! 

Who says you should decide who all Ukrainians should see as heroes? Look I’m really sorry, but we’re not going to rewrite human history for the sake of Ukraine. We don’t rewrite it for the British Empire, we don’t rewrite it for America. Sure, people do, but these people tend to get a reputation as hacks, whereas in Ukraine they get put in charge of a state security archive. By all means, have your heroes, but don’t be shocked at the reaction you get, and don’t blame us when Russia’s propagandists take something you did and beat you over the head with it.

Are we going to rethink our view of the Croatian Ustashe? The Slovakian Revolutionary Party? The Hungarian Arrow Cross? The Italian Fascist Party(PNF)? The Croix de Feu? No? Those are still collaborators and associated with fascism and atrocities? Okay, then why? Why are we to make an exception for this one historical movement that garnered far less representation in its own nation than those other movements? Either we do it for all, or we do it for none. We do not pick and choose.

Oh we’re supposed to pretend Ukraine is special in this respect because it’s under attack by Russia? Holy shit- I sure hope nobody ever attacks Germany or Austria! Think who will have to rehabilitate then.

Conclusion

Honestly I hate fighting against vishivatniks. It’s like fire from the rear, like UPA partisans shooting isolated Red Army soldiers, quite often Ukrainians themselves, in the back. It never feels good to criticize a victim and as much as I hate the victimhood mentality in Ukraine, the country is a victim of clear aggression and the West has done a piss poor job of helping. At Maidan European and American politicians were happy to profess their solidarity, but when that big juicy market Russia, the Frankenstein monster created by two decades of neo-liberal capitalism, started to throw its weight around, that solidarity turned out to be little more than words. But if Ukraine wants to win, it will have to make hard choices and a radical transformation. Being no better than Russia doesn’t cut it. Being Russia but with contested democratic elections also won’t cut it.

I realize that my previous post on the Ukrainian diaspora was too hard. I had let the most obnoxious, loudest voices drown out the rational ones. Truly the problem isn’t whether one is originally from Canada or the US or from Ukraine, but rather whether one is a vishivatnik or a rational person. Ukraine cannot win its fight with vishivatniks, they are far outnumbered by Russia’s vatniks.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to prepare for another week of insane news coming out of Russia.

Diaspora Ukrainians: Ukraine’s Cancer

So The Guardian’s Shaun Walker, a founder of the Facebook group DILLWATCH, finally came out with a public statement on his personal crusade against dill. I have personally witnessed his struggle against the weed and render honor to him for his heroism.

Now for people who aren’t morons, this was obviously a lighthearted, humorous article attempting to deal with a non-political aspect of Russia. I actually miss this- there was a time when you could write articles about life in Russia and it wasn’t inherently political. Of course that time is long gone, because you’re going to get flak from Team Russia or Team…uh…West if you write about absolutely anything that happens or exists in Russia. Think I’m exaggerating? Look at the response Walker’s article got:

Of course they’d do that, Shaun. Of course they would. If you’re ever dealing with the vatniest of vatniks and wonder if anything could possibly rival them, look no further than a diaspora “Ukrainian,” more accurately known as a Canadian or American whose great grandfather was born in Ukraine(or Poland, or Russia). And when you look at Ukraine and see radical nationalists and asshole revisionists like V’yatrovych and his ilk, just remember that this whole movement owes its existence to the diaspora. They brought their poison into Ukraine. But give them credit for one thing- at least those diaspora Ukrainians actually went to Ukraine and speak Ukrainian.

One might ask if it’s fair to tar all diaspora Ukrainians with that brush. My answer is no, probably not, but the truth is that having Ukrainian heritage and being a diaspora Ukrainian isn’t necessarily the same thing. A diaspora Ukrainian is a believer in myths and fairy tales, which must be imposed on all Ukrainians lest they cease to be Ukrainian. They turn Ukrainian heritage into a political ideology or even a religion. We’re all supposed to bow down to “heroes” whose movements never garnered more than a tiny fraction of Ukrainians, while we are to ignore their atrocities against Jews, Poles, and other Ukrainians.

My Slavic heritage is either Ukrainian or Polish, or even both. I know this can never be proved 100%, so I claim both and say I’m Ukrainian by choice, something which ought to be a bit admirable. On the other hand, I’m American, which is why I was never raised in any religion native to Ukraine, and I follow no religion at all. It’s why as a young man I was able to get interested in Russian culture as opposed to automatically taking a side in a historic but unproductive rivalry. People say America has no national identity, but when you learn enough about history and see more of the world you understand why this is actually an advantage. It’s only Americans that obsess and lament over this because they don’t know how much being raised under a national identity or strict religious system sucks. In short, my heritage is mixed and varied, but I’m glad my worldview doesn’t have to be bound to any of it. This is especially true considering that I definitely have both English and Irish heritage on the other side.

Regardless of my true heritage, I would venture to say that linguistically, culturally, and practically, I’m far more Ukrainian in a concrete sense than hundreds if not thousands of diaspora “Ukrainians.” The fact that I’ve actually set foot in Ukraine (five times, soon to be six) already knocks plenty of them out of the running. That I can communicate in Ukrainian or Russian, which is commonly used by much of Ukraine and understood by nearly all its population, is another point in my favor.

I’m not gloating over those poor diaspora Ukrainians who live Ukraine vicariously. I’m pleading with them to be Canadian or American. Take a more objective view of Ukraine and a more realistic view toward your own heritage. When you seriously claim that the OUN didn’t kill Poles or have anything to do with mass killing and torture of Jews, you sound like a vatnik claiming that not a single German woman was raped during the push towards Berlin, or that everybody who was ever arrested or shot in the 30’s totally had it coming.

When you attack journalists for being balanced and criticizing the Ukrainian government or doubting some of the wilder claims of the SBU or Ukrainian press, don’t accuse them of being Kremlin agents. You don’t sound any different from a vatnik shouting “GOSDEP! FIFTH COLUMNIST!” You’re an embarrassment to Ukraine.

Also, acknowledge the fact that dill is the Hitler of herbs.