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But what would the neighbours say? (Ukraine edition)

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

The more we try to be unselfish, the more selfish we are—and the less effective. Hence Putin has attempted to justify his war in the Ukraine on the grounds that Russia has acted to “deNazify” the country—a highly ambiguous project, analogous to NATO’s failed attempt to reconstruct Afghan society. Secondarily, Putin identifies NATO’s expansion into the Ukraine as a threat to Russia—and this is true, per Mackinder and the “world island” thesis, and yet it cannot be used to legitimatise the conflict. For the ordinary soldier, “geopolitics” is too much of an abstract reason to fight for—that is for intellectuals who hold seminars in hotel conference centres and have coffee from aluminium urns and little pastries afterwards (I like the little strudel ones with the jam in the middle best).

Yet to say Russia is in the Ukraine to “deNazify” it also poses problems. If you asked the average Russian soldier, “Why are you here?”, he is likely to reply—leaving aside usual barrack room humour: “Because we’re here”, “Because your mom”, “Because my uh-huh”—that he is there to “deNazify” the country and to prevent “Nazis” from murdering and torturing Russo-Ukrainians. However, if you ask him what it means to “deNazify” the Ukraine, you will probably get blank looks and mumbled excuses. This is because it is too abstract a task for an army—just as any NATO soldier in Afghanistan would have struggled to explain in three words what they were there to do.

The justification is a poor one—and this is a problem because morale depends on a clear objective; the man who knows what he fights for and why is motivated, the man who is filled with doubts is hesitant and weak. Of course, the Russians have justified their invasion as a move to “deNazify” the Ukraine because it sounds nice—it sounds respectable to “the neighbours”, the International Community. After all, our public morality—both East and West—gravitates around the idea that we are not Nazis; for the medievals, Satan was the worst thing imaginable—for us it is Hitler. Ergo, to fight against “modern Hitlerism” constitutes the ultimate just war—and, indeed, NATO apologists used to speak of “Islamofascism” for just this reason.

However, it is far too abstract, far too dishonest, to really build support for the war. It sounds sinister and Orwellian—as if I snatched up a baseball bat and made my way out the door and in response to an enquiry as to where I was going said, “I’m going to teach the kids spelling.” It sounds like a euphemism for a punishment beating; and, similarly, if someone says “we deNazified that village” it carries a certain euphemistic menace—personally, I imagine burnt out houses and all military-aged men shot in the head and buried in a shallow grave (hands zip tied behind them, babushkas fleeing with grandchildren and pet cats under their arms—wives raped). Why is this so? It’s because you don’t teach kids to spell with a baseball bat, and you don’t use an army (function, to kill) to restructure a society—even a purportedly “Nazi” one. Hence to say you will use an army to change a society—the role of missionaries and merchants, not soldiers—sounds darkly comic.

The Ukrainians, by contrast, have a clear and simple goal—Russia out. Ask any Ukrainian soldier what he wants to achieve and he can tell you, “Russia out.” Two words—no complicated back story about a fundamental change in beliefs (“deNazify”). The objective is completed when Russian military units are removed from a Ukrainian settlement (aka “liberation”—nothing sinister about that phrase, since it is isomorphic with what an army does). This means Ukrainian soldiers have a clear objective, a righteous objective, and, consequently, high morale—essential in war. The difference is between masculinity and femininity, the Russians have a feminine ideology whereas the Ukrainians have a practical masculine objective. Reality > ideas.

Ironically, I think the Russians have a just cause in the Ukraine. I know little about the region and was otherwise indisposed when the Euromaidan affair kicked off in the early 2010s—and had only a vague memory of the first “colour revolution” from the early 2000s. However, I read the Ukraine’s history on Wikipedia today and that was enough for me: the Ukraine is Russia’s seedbed; and, as Russian nationalists say, the Ukraine is Russia’s heartland. More than that, I read that the Bolsheviks encouraged Ukrainian nationalism—cultural and political—early in the revolution; and so there is no need to get into involved arguments about languages or genes—if the Bolsheviks favoured it in their most revolutionary phase, it is a bad thing. Selah.

So the Russian cause is just, not only do they seek to reclaim their heartland but the threat from NATO expansion is critical. However, they have failed to be self-interested enough. What should the justification have been for the operation? “Reclaim the heartland”. In other words, we are the liberators—and our actions are not contorted with dishonest ideology that leads to sinister euphemisms. To express the war in this way would put the Ukrainians on the defensive. “It’s the heartland” “Um…actually, if you refer to the Battle of Vovorzdia in 1249…” but by the time they get round to their little historical speech everyone has moved on, in the same way everyone has moved on when a Ukrainian today says “Slava Ukraine!”.

Why did Russia do it? Because she was being too nice—and, consequently, too feminine and ideological. Putin stuck to “boomer multiculturalism” (mosques, yes; trannies, no) and, just like the Western conservatives who futilely say “antifa are the real fascists”, he found himself owned—his formulation was too convoluted; and his action, an invasion, was masculine yet justified in feminine ideological terms—connected, essentially, to the idea that the Russians in the Ukraine are the victims of Ukrainian nationalists, just as the Jews were the victims of the Hitlerites. Yet to “play victim” when you are the invader just adds to the incongruity. As a result, the Russians have poor morale and are unable to state in simple terms what their objective is. The Ukrainians, by contrast, know exactly what they want and why.

This is important because, as it turns out, in life most people have no idea what they want and are instead lost in the stratosphere of interpretations and justifications. The man who knows what he wants and why in simple terms is rare. So we find that Russia is still too ideological, too leftist for her own good. Yet “reclaim the heartland” would have made sense to the average Russian soldier, constituted a concrete objective, and would have ensured a unified approach. It perhaps reveals that Putin’s Russia, while relatively to the right, still remains mesmerised by an egalitarian ideology that conceals reality.

All this might also be connected to the use of the “Z” as the campaign symbol—although this was an attempt to be iconic, it never really worked. The aesthetic is contrived, although perhaps there is a connection to a certain yogic rune proposed by the esotericist Miguel Serrano (then again, perhaps not). I think it was meant to mean “Z” is the alphabetical end for Zelensky—yet it has become the case that “Z” is “the end” for Russians in the Ukraine (be careful with the symbols you adopt, you become your mask). The way the “Z” symbol is contrived, whereas “Slava Ukraine!” seems genuine, relates to the ideological “corniness” that has been used to justify the invasion (similar corniness can be found in the UK’s “We <<heart symbol>> the NHS” during COVID-19).

This is a shame, since Russia’s cause is just—and the Ukrainians, though with a clear objective for now, are puppets for the American empire. Ultimately, if they achieve their longed-for entry to the EU they will lose their independence and be flooded with migrants from Africa and the Middle East.


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