9th May in Russia

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

Victory Day parade in Red Square. Pic – Financial Times

Noam Chomsky, the famous American academic once observed that fighting wars had been a favourite pastime in western countries for centuries. Non-European countries were stunned by the ferocity Europeans displayed in fighting. He added that they even gave beautiful names to wars. Well, they came back to their senses after World War II and opted for a more civilized way to resolve issues. For a change, beautiful names were given by western media to other countries’ uprisings and conflicts: ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine, ‘Carnation’ in Georgia and ‘Jasmine’ in Tunisia, for instance. Names of flowers to qualify wars may sound weird to other countries and reminiscent of England’s ‘War of Roses’. As things stand presently, the west sets the narrative and writes history which the rest of the world takes for granted until a few contemporary historians stand up and deliver their version of historical events in Africa and Asia, namely Dipesh Chakrabarty in his book ‘Provincializing Europe’.

Why the two wars that were ignited in European territories are defined as world wars is questionable. Africa, North Africa, and Asia were alien to the root causes of the wars, and only participated as subjugated people recruited to serve in the armies for the interests of former colonial powers. The reason why hardly any gratitude is expressed towards all these men who were forced to leave their countries to fight other people’s wars during official commemorations in Europe is probably because, as citizens of protectorates and colonies, they were considered as subalterns.

The atrocities committed by Hitler’s fascist regime shattered all conceptions on civilization, progress, culture, and intellectual development in the very heart of the most advanced continent in the world. Slogans like ‘The war to end all wars’ in 1918, and ‘The End of History’ – book by an American academic in 1997 – prove to be erroneous and hollow because they are the intellectual products of navel-gazing self-centred westerners who have not fully grasped the rationale underlying the causes that lead to wars. Second, it would seem that some countries never draw lessons from history. In 1997, Zbigniew Brzezinski, of Polish origin and key advisor of Democrats in the US, published a book – ‘The Grand Chessboard’ – which laid out the policy to be implemented from 2005 to 2015 on how to bring Ukraine, a buffer zone between Russia and Europe, into the European orbit in the interests of the US and isolate Russia. 

A legitimate question that arises is: was Mr Brzezinski settling scores with Russia for historical reasons? Very likely. At the request of formidable Cossack warriors in Ukraine, Russia in 1654 drove away the Polish-Lithuanian dynasty that had been ruling the country for three centuries. Poland disappeared from the map for three centuries until the Allies brought it back on the world map at the end of WWI in 1918.

Mr Brzezinski’s outlook set the basis for US policy in that part of the world and went unquestioned by American and European media. Why? Certainly, because the US status as the world’s sole superpower and global cop is taken for granted in the west, and it arrogates to itself the right to blow hot and cold, interfere in other countries’ affairs, flout international law and dismiss UN disapproval at will. The US is fully convinced of its own righteousness in foreign policies and expects the rest of the world to align with its position by peddling a narrative around the defence of human rights, democracy and so on.

What did WWII cost Russia? Twenty million Russian soldiers died in Ukraine and Russia to weaken the Nazi army before the Allies, led by the Americans, ventured to disembark in Normandy. Russians were acclaimed as heroes when they barged into concentration camps to liberate the starving prisoners, much before American boots marched in there.

The point is that after such terrible costs against the Nazis in WWII with huge losses of lives and the complicity of a regiment of Ukrainians with the Germans, celebrating victory over the Nazis on May 9th means a lot to the Russians. Do England and France ever thank Russia for its major contribution to defeat Germany? You never get to hear any hint of gratitude towards Russia during official ceremonies. If western countries viewed Russia solely through the spread of Communism after 1945, what about post-1990 era? Russia warmed up to western ideals of democracy and freedom to some extent. Leave alone thanking Russia for WWII, there was no Western-sponsored policy geared towards the reconstruction of Russia as compared to the Marshall plan that was undertaken in Germany and in Europe generally after 1945. The west missed the opportunity to build a meaningful relationship with Russia.

Any observer of geopolitics in the region is aware of how Mr Brzezinski’s plan for Ukraine materialized from 2005 to 2015, and how Russia retaliated. The Azov battalion, a neo-Nazi unit of the National Guard of Ukraine based in Mariupol in the coastal region of the Sea of Azov, from where it derives its name, was recommended by the US authorities to head Ukrainian army. A former American ambassador to Ukraine came back and was given Ukrainian nationality and the post of minister. She was instrumental in the re-writing of history and wiping out Russian presence and language and imposing Ukrainian language on the whole territory and forbidding eastern Russophones to speak Russian. A documentary made by a French journalist, Anne-Laure Bonnel on the atrocities committed by the Azov regiment in Donbas is forbidden in France. She talks about 14,000 people killed, 50 burnt alive, hospitals and schools bombed.

President Putin wrote that the US devised such a plan for Ukraine which ensures that whatever government is in power, it will be anti-Russia. The other point is that once again Russia is confronted with Nazi elements after combating them in WWII. Do you expect Russia to go soft on the Ukrainian army? Western media mockingly comments on Putin’s wish to achieve a significant victory in the eastern region for 9th May celebration. Can Russia proclaim victory on that day? If anything, it is no laughing matter to Russians because 9th May means a lot to them.

Montesquieu wrote: ‘Those who are responsible for wars are not the ones who trigger them, but the ones who made them inevitable.’

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 6 May 2022

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