Staring Ukraine in the Face | National Review

Staring Ukraine in the Face | National Review

A woman, Natasha, 83, on a shuttle bus after crossing the border from Ukraine to Poland, March 8, 2022 (Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters)

The reality in Ukraine is hard to look at. Think how much harder it must be to live.

Tetiana Perebyinis and her children, Alisa and Mykyta, are three Ukrainians. Were. They were killed while trying to flee. You can read about them in the San Jose Mercury News, here.

Here is a bulletin from CBS: “Injured mothers were evacuated on makeshift stretchers, while soldiers cared for children,” after Putin’s forces destroyed a children’s hospital and a maternity ward.

The Associated Press reports, “A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Mariupol. Corpses lie in the street as people break into stores in search of food and melt snow for water. Thousands huddle in basements, trembling at the sound of Russian shells pounding this strategic port city.”

From the Financial Times:

With the civilian death toll mounting, Mariupol’s local authorities have resorted to digging a mass grave, saying normal burials have become impossible.

“Sadly, there are just too many bodies,” said Vitaly Falkovsky, a local official. “It was a necessary measure because we can’t bury people in the normal way. The morgues are overflowing.”

(For the rest of that report, go here.)

Let me tell you something. I hope I’m wrong, but I believe these events will be quickly forgotten, if they are known at all. If you bring them up, people will accuse you of exaggerating. And of having a “Cold War mentality.” And of suffering from “Russophobia.”

It’ll happen, I bet.

The perpetrators and their allies will be welcomed back into international councils. Putin apologists will dot our media, doing what they have always done.

• Are people sticking with Putin, even now? They are back on their heels a bit. Maybe blushing. But once you are invested in something — you stay invested, as a rule. Moreover, many people admire Putin’s violence as “strength.”

Writes Illia Ponomarenko, “My fellow townsmen fleeing Volnovakha tell me lots of dead bodies are scattered in the streets. Russia simply swept the town of 25,000 off.”

Here is a picture of Kyiv, evacuating. Here is a village church, burning. A great defender of Christian civilization, is Vladimir Putin. His actions, in Ukraine, Russia, Syria, and elsewhere, are nothing if not Christ-like.

• Look at the face of a woman named Natasha. Eighty-three years old, she was a child in World War II. She has now fled from Ukraine into Poland. Some people won’t let other people alone. Dictators — murderous, expansionist dictators — won’t let other people alone.

There is no use reasoning why. You just have to stop them, if at all possible.

• The town of Mariupol, which Putin has destroyed, is (was?) almost 100 percent Russian-speaking. Asks Eli Lake, “Does anyone still believe Russia that this was a defensive war, that they were protecting Russian speakers, that it was Ukraine that was committing genocide?”

• Let no one fool you. Let no one fog you up. Guilt for this war — this assault, this nation-effacement — belongs to Vladimir Putin. Not President Biden, or the United States, or NATO, or the West. Not the “neocons” or the “mainstream media.” Putin — plus his allies and enablers, who are legion.

• Some Ukrainians are starving, even as Putin’s forces are bombing them. Ukraine cries out for some version of the Berlin Airlift. But by whom and how? To stand by and watch others being starved and murdered is a kind of agony itself.

• I commend a piece by Eliot A. Cohen (always commendable): “The Strategy That Can Defeat Putin.”

• “Russian protestors report being beaten and tortured in detention,” writes Julia Ioffe. “One captured her beating on tape. ‘Putin is on our side,’ says one cop over the sound of blows. ‘You are enemies of the people.’”

It’s always “enemies of the people” with these guys. Can’t they come up with something new, over the generations and centuries? “Enemies of the people,” “enemies of the people.” They are almost boring in their stupid authoritarian language.

• It is so good, and so important, to hear from Vladimir Kara-Murza, the Russian democracy leader (who has twice survived poison attacks by his government’s agents): “Why the West should help Russians learn the truth about Putin’s war in Ukraine.”

• Luke Harding, the veteran Russia reporter at the Guardian, quotes Mikhail Shishkin, the Russian novelist: “Putin is committing monstrous crimes in the name of my people, my country, and me. Putin is not Russia. Russia is hurt and ashamed. In the name of my Russia and my people, I beg the Ukrainians’ forgiveness.”

“Putin is not Russia,” says Shishkin. This is in stark contrast with the infamous statement by that Putin lackey in the Duma: “There is no Russia without Putin.”

• Ivana Stradner is a Jeane Kirkpatrick fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (That is a title that could have been designed in a laboratory to spook our nat-pops: “Jeane Kirkpatrick fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.”) She took note of a demonstration by Russians in Australia, in favor of Putin. That’s an old human story. Listen to what people say, yes. But, even more, watch what they do. Consider where they live. “People vote with their feet,” goes an old saying. Do they ever.

Those Putin-loving Russians in Oz? I’m sure Vlad would be glad to have them back. Wouldn’t he?

• Amir Taheri, the great expat journalist from Iran, tweeted about Éric Zemmour, one of the big nat-pops in France. Allow me to translate:

He pretends that Russia has never attacked a country first. I have a list of 113 invasions by Russia of 22 countries, including all its neighbors, between 1525 and 2022. If Zemmour is interested, I can send him the list.

I doubt Zemmour or his followers are interested.

• Of Matteo Salvini, I have written before. He is the big nat-pop in Italy, one of the biggest Putinists in Europe. He once wore a Putin T-shirt — Che-style — in Red Square. That kind of thing. Salvini has been to Putin what a bobby-soxer was to Frank Sinatra.

Lately, Salvini has been performing stunts. He had himself videoed bringing flowers to the Ukrainian embassy in Rome. And now? I will quote from a report in Politico:

Matteo Salvini’s admiration for Vladimir Putin came back to bite him during a visit to Poland on Tuesday when a local mayor reminded the Italian far-right leader of the appalling actions of “the person you call a friend.”

Salvini, head of Italy’s League party, was in Przemyśl on the border with Ukraine when the mayor, Wojciech Bakun, held up a T-shirt emblazoned with Putin’s face and the words “Army of Russia” during a press conference . . .

Salvini wore a similar shirt during a visit to Red Square in 2014, when he was a member of the European Parliament. He also wore a similar shirt a year later in the Parliament in Strasbourg . . .

Standing next to a visibly uncomfortable Salvini, Bakun said: “Look at what the person you call a friend did to the people who come across the border in numbers of 50,000 a day.”

Here is a video of the event. An Italian is heard yelling at Salvini, “Buffone! Pagliaccio! Vergogna! Vai a casa!” “Buffoon! Clown! Shame! Go home!” That word vergogna rang with special meaning: yes, shame, if Matteo Salvini and his like are at all capable of feeling it.

• With Putin supporters and defenders, American conservatives should have no truck. Let there be a clean break, at long last, between American conservatism and the illiberal, authoritarian-friendly Right. America ought to be exceptional, including in its conservatism.

• A headline from the Wall Street Journal: “Russia Recruiting Syrians for Urban Combat in Ukraine, U.S. Officials Say.” (Article here.) Gregg Nunziata tweeted,

I say, with love, to my nat con friends: the guy importing Islamist fighters into Europe to help him kill women and children is not the defender of Christendom you hoped he was.

Mr. Nunziata is a very nice man.

• I look forward to post-post-liberalism — or good ol’ freedom, democracy, and human rights, as embodied in the American founding, and realized in fits and starts. Look around the world. Does dictatorship look sexy to you? I know it doesn’t. Putin, big strong macho man? No, a little egomaniac, who gets his jollies flattening cities and killing people. Dictatorship is a siege of tears, a war on good.

• In a previous set of notes, I wrote, “It seems that Putin has at last awakened the West. But how soon will the West fall back asleep?” A reader tells me that I reminded him of the subtitle of Churchill’s book Triumph and Tragedy: “How the great democracies triumphed, and so were able to resume the follies which had so nearly cost them their life.”

• Reading an article by Jim Geraghty, “The Russia Hawks Were Right,” I thought of something. “Hawks” are often accused of warmongering and so forth. But I have always said: If it were up to me, there would be no militaries. No police departments. No locks on doors. But it’s not up to me, or you. And people should deal with the world as it is.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.