For a change this article is not about Israel, or at least Israel is not a central actor in it. It is about events which appear far from our borders. This said, what is far can quickly become local news and the leader of Ukraine, Zelensky, is of Jewish descent. The waves of what is happening in the far North can quickly move toward the center.
President Joe Biden of America has asked congress to allow an additional 33 billion dollars of largely military spending to Ukraine as Russia’s own goals in the conflict are becoming clear. Kherson is increasingly becoming a Russian province as parts of Donbass become a smoking ruin. This all happens as the West is beating the war drums louder and louder. Germany is selling offensive arms for the first time since the Nazis. Canada’s few artillery pieces will soon be Ukrainian, and the British have become the propagandists of choice to give Russia a black eye anywhere they see fit. It seems that after a pause of thirty years except for an interlude fighting radical Islamists, the West has finally found an adversary to rally against.
It is truly surprising to see Russia’s mediocre performance on the battlefield. However increasingly this is not just a Ukrainian-Russian conflict, but is spiraling toward something that we did not even see during the Cold War: a hot conflict between Russia and the West. Russian President Vladmir Putin has mentioned several times alongside his foreign minister that the risk of nuclear war is significant and the conflict may spiral. To this, we see brinkmanship in the West, as if we see two nuclear armed powers in the playground egging each other on to see who will throw the first nuclear weapon used since Nagasaki.
This article does not excuse anything the Russians are doing and especially the crimes against humanity including murder and rape of civilians. On a day as we here in Israel remembered the Nazi crimes of 70 years ago, we cannot condone the images that are coming out of this conflict regardless of where they are coming from. Especially troubling are the allegations of mass rape and murder recalling that in 1945 as the Russians advanced, 2 million German girls were raped by the Red Army as spoils of war. We must never condone this horror.
Back to geopolitics, we have a Western approach to treat Russia as a puppy dog that can be humbled at will. This is a grave misrepresentation of history. Both Hitler and Napoleon believed they could humble the big bear, major superpowers of their day, all to be rebuffed. The areas Russia is invading, once called “NovoRussiya” can be compared to Israel’s ties to Judea and Samaria: historical regions where the country has significant past ties. Our ties to Hebron and Jericho can be compared to Russia’s ties to Odessa and Kherson, with the exception that Russia’s ties relates to that of the Russian Empire before 1917 while ours are from 2000 years ago. One cannot simply ignore Russia.
Ukraine on the other side with Zelensky at its helm is fighting for its existence as a sovereign state, but one from 1991. It wants to create a new identity, based largely from historical Western and Central Ukraine but with some elements of the East. Regardless of this newly created national identity, it is part of a historical Eastern European sphere. It cannot simply build a wall and fence itself away from its Russian neighbor. Like Jews and Arabs here in Israel, only through an understanding of the others’ identity and where the other is coming from will true peace stand a chance. At the moment Zelensky is not doing that, and neither is Putin.
However, Ukraine aside, this is a war between Russia on the one hand and the West on the other. What is largely an issue between two neighboring countries should not become such a passionate issue for Biden who lives on another continent. European countries are facing a major energy crisis as they put Ukraine and loyalty to the USA above their own economies and interests.
This conflict is only going to get worse. Israel is best to remain neutral. For a change we are not a central actor in the news. However, things have a tendency to spiral and my outlook for the near future has never been more gloomy.