A trial balloon or a bold demonstration? Somewhat knowing one of the politicians in the viper’s tangle of “life-loving oppositionists” who raised the twisted NewsOne channel, I’m pretty certain that announcing a telebridge with Moscow willy-nilly was someone’s creative outburst. Knowing others, I can assume that this is part of a long game, where a hybrid response has been prepared for every reaction from Kyiv. If we get away with it, let’s up the ante. If we don’t, we scream about freedom of speech all over Europe and, most importantly, in eastern Ukraine. If the public gets involved, we say fascists are on the rise. There’s even a third option: orders from the Kremlin – but I’m not prepared to reconstruct their logic. In any case, the initiative was not on our side – but then we’re used to that.
This latest bit of “informational sabotage” forces us to think about what ideological format the next attacks are likely to take. First of all, “dialog” – moreover over the head of the government, directly between two peoples who have been forced by conflict. In fact, every word here can be placed in quotes. Secondly, “peace at any price.” Well, peace is not just a daydream, but an object of manipulation whose history goes back well over 100 years.
I grew up with this. Crying “Peace to the world!” “No war!,” “Strengthen the world through labor”... Over the radio we heard “May the sun always shine!” “Do Russians want war?” Then, when we bought a television, terrible reports on the cursed Americans, who were bombing peaceful Vietnam, and always a bit about Israel’s military. When I was not yet 10 and hadn’t learned to listen to the anecdotes of the adults around me, I was certain that I lived in the most just country in the world, surrounded by warlike aggressors. And we were in the right. We were for peace!
Christianity, the late Antiquities, Islam, the Enlightenment, pacifism – humanity has moved steadily towards an understanding that problems are not resolved through war, and that peace is an absolute value. This was the ideological nugget that the communists took up as a reliable weapon on the path to world dominion. The first law of the bolshevik government was a Decree on Peace. The mass of exhausted frontline soldiers took this as permission to empty the front and rush home to rob the rich. The consequences everyone knows: the Red Terror, a bloody civil war, the annexation of independent Ukraine and the restored states of the Southern Caucasus, an attempt to invade Poland, rapid militarization, and the unfolding of World War II... Nor did this get in the way of reviving a hybrid expansion with the help of the entirely USSR-controlled movement for peace and disarmament after the war. Moscow found willing helpers, God forbid, and useful idiots such as the French communist Frédéric Joliot-Curie, holder of both the Nobel Prize for chemistry and Stalin’s prize “For strengthening peace among nations.”
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Until the very beginning of the 1990s, while the Kremlin was, with one hand, busy churning out nuclear weapons and deploying them wherever it could all over the world and, with the other, financing demonstrations against American imperialism, the slogan “fighting for peace” had a toxic flavor. In soviet kitchens everywhere, badly dressed engineers who built guidance systems for ICBMs during the daytime for 190 rubles a month plus a bonus repeated anecdotes like, “There won’t be any war, but there will be such a fight for peace that not a single stone will remain standing.”
In time, the USSR found natural allies: the leftist youth of the Paris barricades and Woodstock generation. Cute, shaggy-haired young men wrote “Make love, not war” on banners with the peace symbol... and stopped the war in Vietnam. No, even more, thanks to the mellowness of the “flower children,” the Vietnam campaign went down in history as a symbol of disgrace, the unjust and violent intervention of capitalist state #1 in a just people’s liberation struggle.
In truth, the American way of making war, with carpet-bombing, using Agent Orange and napalm, did not gain it any friends. What was forgotten, however, was that there were two Vietnams: the communist North and the free, dynamic and civilized, if admittedly a bit corrupt, South. From the north, across the mountains along the famed Ho Chi Minh trail an unceasing line of units of Vietcong guerillas began pouring into the South, sabotaging, terrorizing, destroying local administrations, attacking army units, and carving up entire villages for cooperating with the official government. The Vietcong never felt any shortage of resources, either, because communist China and the Soviet Union were generously helping them. It was the saboteurs that the Americans fought as they could. Had they been able to hold the line of defense, South Vietnam might have become, like South Korea, yet another Asian tiger. Only now, nearly half a century later, is the country slowly recovering from the management of the heirs to Lenin-Stalin-Mao. And the victims of the Red Terror that counted in the millions have largely been forgotten. It’s sad to admit that the idols of my youth – the rock musicians, the writers, the filmmakers – were also useful idiots...
What I’m trying to say is that peace in and of itself is neither a goal nor something unambiguous. I remember what a wave of just anger was raised over a comment by Gen. Alexander Haig, Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration: “There are things that are more important than peace.” He was right! Everybody understands that you can have peace as a result of capitulation, peace by tolerating evil, peace through indifference, and peace by condoning an aggressor. I don’t want to say that St. Augustine, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, Bertrand Russell, and Albert Schweitzer were all wrong and I’m the only wise man here. But calling for peace in Ukraine today is a betrayal, a stupid betrayal without any hashtag, a betrayal of the stolen lands and, most importantly, of the people who have been abandoned to their fate, whether they are aware of this or not.
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The difference is also that the soviet “fight for peace” was very effective in that many people, both within the USSR and beyond the Iron Curtain, genuinely believed in it. Naive pensioners, our grandmothers, gave their kopiykas from the bottom of their hearts to the Peace Fund – which was just another sub-unit of the International Department of the Central Committee – while leftist activists, similarly from the bottom of their hearts, blocked American bases in Germany. Today, no one believes in a bright future any more. The ordinary European simply wants not to be disturbed by bad news, plus low taxes and cheap gasoline. The ordinary Ukrainian whom the war has really not affected basically wants the same. Because enemy propaganda all these five years has bombarded them unhindered about how those in power are responsible for the war, that they are enriching themselves on it, our typical... I won’t even say vatnyk [birdbrain] but rather bolotnyk [cottonheaded ninnymuggins] is under the illusion that it all can be brought to an end with the wave of a magic wand.
I suspect many Europeans don’t understand that peace with the Russian monster at this stage would be a betrayal of them, as well. Somebody explained things badly. But our folks can and must be constantly and tirelessly reminded, no matter what it takes. The hybrid war goes on.
Translated by Lidia Wolanskyj