Unpunished evil will return: Why defeat in the war will not curb Russia

7 December 2022, 02:54 PM

"There is no guarantee that the Kremlin, upon the return of the occupied territories by Ukraine, will recognize our victory and, accordingly, its defeat."

Thus explained Oleh Katkov, editor-in-chief of Defense Express. One could take that point and go further, recognizing the right of an individual in a free country to express any opinions, even if they are infinitely debatable. Debatable, by the way, as the idea which is popular among some opinion leaders of the inevitable collapse of the Russian Federation after our victory – it is good that at least this is beyond doubt.

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However, Mr. Katkov’s opinion, in a strange and revealing way, is consistent with the statement of a pair of highly authoritative people in military affairs: Valery Zaluzhny and Mikhail Zabrodsky. This tandem of military men created and published a rather insightful analytical text about the prospects of the Russian-Ukrainian war since the beginning of its hot phase. It so happened that both the professional soldiers and the professional journalist, following different paths, came to the same conclusion: Russia will not settle down. Zaluzhny and Zabrodsky note that the de-occupation of Crimea will not prevent the Russians from moving to Novorossiysk and bombing our territory at any time and as much as they like from there. Katkov is convinced from his position that no one and nothing prevents Russia from bombing any territory of Ukraine from any point with any kind of missiles.

You can find and quote a few more such opinions, but it is much more difficult to find an explanation for the Russians’ strange, suicidal persistence. It is reminiscent of national masochism: every now and then getting hit in the face and not drawing conclusions, not learning anything, stubbornly sticking your fingers into the power outlet even after your predecessor had just been electrocuted right before your eyes.

Ukrainians have another unfortunate trait of their national character - stepping on the same rake for years, not missing a chance to miss a chance, having three hetmans where there are two Ukrainians. But you must admit that these are internal problems from the formation of a nation that either did not have statehood, or had it and lost it after a short time.

If the Russian national masochism described above were just an internal problem of an annoying neighbor, they would bother us and the civilized world in general no more than Britain's periodic problems with the Scots and Irish. Or the problems of Spain, with the self-determination of Catalonia. That is, these long-standing squabbles within the state do not threaten the integrity of recognized borders. There are no threats of nuclear war. Neighboring countries are not destroyed by missiles. Because of these inconsistencies, no one crosses another state’s border to kill children, rape women, seize a nuclear power plant, or steal toilet bowls.

Thus, Russia is a problem that is difficult to solve.

An almost impossible one, according to the professionals. Throughout its history, this state, under various names - Muscovy, the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union - lost 11 big wars between 1238 (the Mongol invasion) and 1989 (Afghanistan). And this is offhand, because in fact there have been many more defeats. The Kremlin is proud of its victory in World War II. However, without allies, and without bringing in legions from from among their enslaved peoples - Ukrainians, Belarusians, Moldovans, the indigenous population of Siberia, the Far East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia – into the Red Army, it would not have been possible to overwhelm the German army with the corpses of their soldiers and thus gain the advantage for the USSR.

In his book, Hitler and Stalin: The Tyrants and the Second World War,  Lawrence Rees identified among Soviet troops the same traits that define the Russians today - archaic methods, outdated weapons, lack of initiative from commanders, humiliation and violence as the main means of control and communication. This weakens the army, demoralizes it - but for some reason the formula "Russia respects strength" does not work well. Even such a devalued, humiliated, thoroughly weakened army still stubbornly continues shoving a cactus into its mouth, through its own tears.

You involuntarily begin to believe one of your favorite, even iconic Russian slogans: “Russians don't give up.But for some reason, when it comes to someone else's declared invincibility, this garners respect. But only the Russians, in their unbridled desire to attack, even when defeated, cause not so much disgust as bewilderment. It makes one wonder what on Earth they think they’re trying to even do. You have been shown strength, you have been shown your place, so sit quietly and live with your demons, boil in your own cauldron of the Russian world and do not touch anyone, or you will get it again. Indeed, all European countries came to this understanding of parity through a sort of evolution, having understood both their own forces and their own losses in different wars. Norman Davies’s Europe: A History is, in fact, the history of armed conflicts. They ceased on the continent only in the second half of the 20th century, if we leave out the situation in the Balkans. However, even Serbia is not still bombarding Croatia, nor vice versa.

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Zaluzhny and Zabrodsky suggested an answer to this problem, and a way to understand why Russia is so indefatigable and cannot be disciplined by either weapons or sanctions. The two soldiers note that the source of Russia’s confidence is precisely in its impunity. We are talking, first of all, about the psychology of a criminal, which has been implanted in a fourth generation of Russians by the Soviet authorities. Who were its leaders, the Bolsheviks? Criminals, bank robbers, provocateurs, and terrorists. They themselves sprouted from the regicides of the Narodnaya Volya, whose bullets and explosives became an integral part of the life of the empire from the 1870s, who were exalted by the vanquishers of tsarism to a cult status, whose terror which depended upon the taking of hostages became the state policy of the communists since 1918 – a policy which is still in effect to this day.

That is, the cult of terror is added to the widespread opinion about the absence of Nuremberg for the communists and the crimes of the USSR in general. An insidious shot or a bomb thrown around a corner glorified by Soviet propagandists. And the names of terrorists - for example, Stepan Kalyaev and Vera Zasulich - adorn streets in Russia. It is in fact the same thing that leads Russia to bombing Ukraine from its territory without the prospect of stopping this murderous practice.

Add to this the fact that the Russians, though they breed war and declare that they never surrender, know very little about wars on their territory. The historical memory of Napoleon's campaign against Moscow has been transformed into the glory of Russian arms that won near Borodino - in fact a senseless massacre that failed to stop the French. But the military victories of the Poles on Russian lands are forgotten.

As for the Second World War, Russian territories were under German occupation for a relatively short time, and the Germans occupied relatively small territories. Ukraine and Belarus, on the other hand, were completely occupied. And the expulsion of the Germans was replaced by a repeated Soviet - read: Russian - occupation.

The conclusion is that Russia has never in its entire history been hurt by losses or ashamed of what it has done. It was neither conquered by force of arms causing a change of power in the Kremlin, nor convicted for her war crimes with subsequent appropriate punishment. A little more than a hundred years ago, Japan defeated Tsarist Russia in a war unleashed by Russia itself - and Petersburg, which lost, refused to pay reparations to Japan. And the mouthpieces of the then-authorities trumpeted from every platform: we will return, be afraid of us, we can repeat this.

How to make Russia really hurt, so that it calms down, takes care of its internal problems and does not threaten another repetition - so far no one knows either in Ukraine, or in Europe, or anywhere else on the planet. It's not a matter of nuclear weapons. Unpunished Russia, as we see, behaved this way even when no one even dreamed such weapons could exist. The problem is a lack of punishment, which means impunity. So those who warn us are right: they will fire at us from around the corner for a very long time.

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