Now that the costs of this war are starting to stand out from all the dust and smoke, we are hearing a lot of semantic exercising. I quote N.Y. Times today: “Mr. Scholz, who has been criticized for not supplying more arms, faster, to Ukraine, says that Russia must not win — but has never said that Ukraine must achieve victory.” A growing number of people are belatedly finding it opportune to remind us of Neville Chamberlain’s adage: “In war, whichever side may call itself the victor, there are no winners, but all are losers.”
Russia will most certainly have lost the battle against Ukrainian fascism. Opposing fascism with fascism rarely ends fascism. (War is, after all, fascism, seen from the perspective of the attacked party.) Russia will have won the eternal hatred of most Ukrainians, the fierce loathing of an enormous swathe of Europe’s previously neutral population – if you consider such an achievement a victory – and the addition of two countries into the enemy alliance NATO.
Most analysts finally agree, however, that the greatest loser will be Ukraine, both in terms of casualties and material damage and in terms of trauma. It will take years to rebuild the country economically and to heal emotional wounds. Fascism and Neo-Nazism will be alive and thriving, there will be political discord, and entry into the EU will be totally unrealistic for years to come.
Russia will probably have won some territory. It will not have been weakened economically. It will have consolidated its nationalism and Putin’s grip. It will have seen demonstrated even further how economically and politically feeble the US is, and it will have strengthened the case for geopolitical multi-polarity.
Ever since Navalnyj started looming too large for his personal comfort, Putin has become very much more of a hard-liner, more willing to brazenly demonstrate his fear of losing personal power. Nevertheless, having virtually lifted Russia out of the rubble when he took over, he still enjoys the unequivocal support of his compatriots. Moreover, the West has completely failed to understand Russians’ historic ties to Ukraine, and has disclosed appalling hubris, if you ask me. Russians won’t readily pardon western hubris.
Yet, much as Russians are used to keeping their mouths shut in public – they are not willing to shut down their brains. Disaffection about Putin’s refusal to accept opposition will probably grow, but only in the long term. After all, we’re increasingly seeing insidious restrictions of and even outright attacks on free speech/press also in the Western world. The Russians recognize hypocrites a mile off. (They’ve been breast-fed by their own 19th century novelists, for whom hypocrisy was a primary topic.)
The sad part is that those who clamoured loudest for military support to Ukraine have for once been not so much neocons as those who normally vociferously oppose neocons. In the name of “justice”, “fairness”, and all things good, they have been bamboozled. This is the case not least in my own country. Very sad. And here we are: Bear Market in the US, severe inflation everywhere, growing shortages of food, energy and spare parts … all inevitably to be followed by rising despair among mortgage holders and low-income households everywhere. (Despair, remember, equals havoc.)
My point being, once again: Yes, we must strive for “justice for all”, for fairness; we must oppose injustice, fascism, apartheid, BUT we must also bring our heads down from the clouds. Putin is arguably a dictator, but he is far, far from the worst of the lot. The Arabian prince, for instance, a long-term buddy of the US, is infinitely much worse.
As for winners and bamboozlers, I mean losers, Neville Chamberlain was not entirely right: Not all are losers. There will always be some people who know how to make astronomic profits from war.