Staunton, September 5 – From the very first moments of Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, “optimists” in Russia and the West have deceived themselves and others and helped set the stage for Putin to go further, a pattern that shows no signs of abating anytime soon, according to Vitaly Portnikov.
On the Grani.ru portal today, the Moscow commentator recalls that “when the first ‘little green men’ had just appeared in Crimea, the optimists assured everyone that Vladimir Putin would limit himself to the territory of the peninsula beloved but seldom visited by Russians (grani.ru/opinion/portnikov/m.232696.html).
“When after this, the first diversionary forces went into the Donbas, the optimists assured everyone that everything would end with the Donbas because only in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts could Yanukovich and company finance separatism and the population support it,” he writes.
“Now, when Russian forces stand several kilometers from Meriupol, a place which clearly wasn’t awaiting them, the optimists recall that this too is Donetsk oblast which needs a way out to the sea … [and] when after Mariupol, Vladimir Putin will advance further, the optimists will say that this is completely explainable since he needs a land corridor to Crimea.”
When the Kremlin leader goes even further, the Moscow commentator continues, “the optimists will say that this is completely logical” as well. When he invades the center of Ukraine, “the optimists will say that this territory was always part of the Russian Empire and the Russian president simply wants its integration into the Customs Union.”
“When Putin bombs Kyiv,” Portnikov says, “the optimists will recall that the city featured horrific Stalinist architecture, and now there is a chance to build a new Sofia Cathedral and a new Lavr in place of those lost” from the bombing, and they will say as well that “Kyiv is a Russian speaking city” so the Ukrainians should have no voice in its future anyway.
“When he goes to Kamenets-Podolsk, the optimists will say that [Putin] simply wants to restore the borders of 1939,” and “when he crosses these borders, the optimists will come up with the idea that he simply wants to restore the borders of the Soviet Union which is completely logical if you take the interests of Russia into account.”
“When the first bombs fall on Helsinki, the optimists will recall that Finland like Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire and Putin simply must end the complex arising from defeat in ‘the winter war.’ When the Baltic Fleet by mistake shells Gdansk, the optimists will point out that substantive negotiations about the return to Russia and Lodz, formerly important cities of the empire of the Romanovs, would help the polls keep Cracow and Poznan.”
“And while the Poles are thinking about that, Russian forces from Kaliningrad oblast and Belarus will go into Lithuania, which also in general is completely logical and optimistic since the complex of the flight of Lithuania from the Soviet Union also must be overcome. And in general in war already have died not only hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, Finns, Poles and Lithuanians, but millions of Russians as well, so that there is the hope that a mass peace movement of those remaining will stop Putin.”
“And,” Portnikov continues, “in reality the relatives of those who have not died will conduct marches for the assistance of the compatriots in northern Kazakhstan who are oppressed” by a regime that is supposed to be Moscow’s ally. “But [even] in this, there will be an optimistic reading: the war in Kazakhstan may detract Putin from a war in Europe and give several months of peaceful life to the Slovaks and Hungarians.”
This too, the Moscow commentator points out, will be for the optimists “completely logical” since Solzhenitsyn said Kazakhstan should be part of Russia and Putin simply is “returning to Russia his territories which have long belonged to her.” And they will be certain that the Kremlin leader will finally stop in Chimkent!
In short, Portnikov applies to Putin’s foreign policies what Pastor Niemoller 70 years applied to Hitler’s domestic ones: Each evil action against someone else is justified until the situation is reached when the only ones left to face the dictators are the ones who have been justifying him.