What a funny sight: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov did fly to the G20 meeting, held some talks with country representatives that are less critical of Russia (in order to promote their own self-interest), and departed before being able to meet and listen to any of the critics. This, again, demonstrates that Russia has no interest in negotiations till it has finished its genocidal destruction of Ukraine. Russia today is a fascist state, and if it is not stopped, it will continue to cause nothing but death and destruction.
This is not strength, it is weakness.
Ukraine never posed a military threat to Russia, but a political challenge – by a country whose population, culture and history has been deeply intertwined (for better or worse) with Russia, on a self-determined course towards democracy, association with the European Union and NATO, with a President that was elected on a reform platform (which he presented in his brilliant television series “Servant of the People” – in itself a stinging criticism of the cronyism of Ukrainian oligarchs). This challenge was not a threat, but an invitation for Russia and Belarus to seek a similar path for a betterment of their own people. But Russia under Putin has been too weak for reforms, and they chose destruction instead. For those thinking this would end with Ukraine: such a threat exists, in principle, also for all post-Soviet countries even within NATO and the EU (or associated with them). Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Finland as well as Moldova and Georgia know this for certain.
Russia’s weakness is also demonstrated by the seemingly incessant whining by Russian officials about Western sanctions and aid to Ukraine – sanctions which, by the way, were ridiculed in advance by Putin and his cronies. If they don’t work, then what is the problem? Certainly, the have not been able to stop the war quickly – that was never the expectation – their aim is mid- to long-term, especially in combination with threatening China and India to sanction them as well when undermining the sanctions regime.
Yet the weapons deliveries to Ukraine are sanctioned and endorsed by international law, and the sanctions are completely legitimate, and should even be increased, as the only civilized weapon against the Russia’s aggression. Now, Russia is saber-rattling and claiming that they “had not even started” to fight in Ukraine. Certainly. All the genocidal destruction waged by Russia already was probably nothing. Dozens if not hundreds of villages and towns destroyed, thousands of people killed, many more deported or turned into refugees, Ukrainian culture and industry looted and destroyed, Ukrainian grain deliveries to the rest of the world prevented from leaving the country (thus contributing to global famine), all that certainly amounts to “nothing.”
Russia certainly has a proud cultural and literary history. But all of that is in the past. At what point can you still lay claim to that culture if today you promote nothing but barbarism?
The Russian regime and its cronies cannot even defend their actions in any positive sense: All of their argument is either reactionary (against “liberalism” – which means, against human rights, women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, freedom of speech, freedom of movement, anti-imperialism etc.) or some warped critique of the hypocrisy of the “West.” Certainly, the “West” can be hypocritical, but wouldn’t even a flawed implementation of “Western” values be better than what Putin is proposing?
The quest for a “multi-polar” world, as so frequently called for by Russian and Chinese leaders is nothing else but a defense of the indefensible, namely of autocracy, anti-human rights, anti-liberalism, anti-social justice, raw imperialism, denial of rule of law, might makes right, etc. Certainly, “Western” countries have had their share of faults – but all that means is that we should double down on enforcing the standards which we have been claiming to uphold.
There simply is no legitimacy for Putin and Lavrov’s position, and they know it. Like petulant toddlers, they scream that they have been mistreated. They have been invading Ukraine since 2014 and are acting as if the reaction to their actions was the cause, rather than the other way around. Countries seek NATO membership precisely because of what Russia (as Russian Empire, Soviet Union, or Russian Federation) has been doing for the last centuries (with a small interruption in the 1990s). NATO has been expanding because of the persistence of the imperial threat posed by Russia. Every country that had the displeasure of being under Soviet or Russian rule in the past knows very well that apart from a few authors and composers in the past (many but not all of them dissidents), Russia currently has nothing to offer except its own delusional grandiosity.
This is the real cause for the current situation: Other than pointlessly enlarging their territory, Putin’s Russia has no positive vision for its future. The country is ready for democracy, as so many Russian people have proven in the past, but its leadership is not ready to give up power.
A reinvigorated, democratic and peaceful Russia could be an economic and cultural powerhouse, a great multicultural ally to likeminded nations all over the world. This would be true strength. Now is the time to realize this, to demonstrate that the true enemies of Russia are sitting not in Ukraine, not in the “West,” but in the Kremlin, in Chechnya, and the crony impostor states in the Donbas.
We need to keep the pressure up, increase the sanctions, ensure a Ukrainian victory – as much as possible – also in order to provide Russia with a chance to finally seek true strength and vision and discard whatever reactionary fascism Putin and Lavrov are clinging to in their exasperation, weakness and desperation.
Ceterum censeo Ucrainam esse defendam. Слава Україні!