On Wednesday evening, Israeli journalist Ron Ben-Yishai reported from Kyiv that the memorial site at Babi Yar is unharmed. For a full news cycle Tuesday, Ukraine’s leadership from President Volodymyr Zelensky down a report of an alleged Russian bombing of the site where Ukrainian and Nazi forces massacred 33,000 Jews in two days in September 1941 as a means to demonize Russia. They also used the alleged Russian bombing to whitewash Ukraine’s record of massive collaboration with the Nazis in the genocide of Ukrainian Jewry during the Holocaust.
Ukraine’s obscene and cynical exploitation of Babi Yar and the Russian bombing that didn’t happen, must serve as a lesson to Israel that there’s much more gray than black or white in the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Since the Western and Israeli media have given saturation coverage the blackness of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it makes sense to consider the dubiousness of Ukraine’s claim to the mantel of liberal democracy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his aides have made over the top statements accusing Ukraine of being a Nazi state. But just because the accusations are wild exaggerations doesn’t mean they are unfounded. There are a lot of Nazis in Ukraine.
To be sure, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish. But as Germany’s Die Welt reported in 2020, Zelenskyy owes his election to the support he received from Ukraine’s then-Minister of the Interior Arsten Avakov. Avakov, who served under Zelenskyy until last July, has been the most powerful patron of Ukrainian Nazis since the Maidan Revolution in 2014.
The Maidan Revolution, which brought down Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, is widely viewed as having been a liberal revolution. But the truth is more complicated. The Maidan Revolution would not have succeeded without the support of the Azov Battalion neo-Nazi militia.
Avakov, who began his seven-and-a-half-year tenure as Interior Minister in 2014, integrated the Azov Battalion into the Ukrainian National Guard. Avakov made Vadym Troyan, one of the heads of the Azov Battalion, his deputy.
Although Avakov’s successor Denys Monastryrsky is a member of Zelenskyy’s party, he is widely considered to be Avakov’s man. At a minimum, Monastryrsky has made no move to purge Azov Nazis from Ukraine’s National Guard. Media reports over the past week have shown them taking significant roles in the fighting in Mariupol and Kharkiv.
Ukraine isn’t the only supposed good guy suffering from moral impairment. There are also its Western supporters. And the West’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should worry Israel specifically far more than either the Ukrainian Nazis or Russian invasion forces.
The first aspect of the West’s behavior that deserves scrutiny is its role in fomenting the Russian invasion. While Putin is obviously the person most responsible for Russia’s invasion, US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Sholz, and Sholz’s predecessor Angela Merkel are also culpable for Putin’s decision to pull the trigger and invade.
A month and a half ago, Biden effectively gave Putin a green light to invade Ukraine when at a press conference he said NATO wouldn’t know how to respond if Russia carried out a “minor incursion” in Ukraine.
As for Germany, under both Scholz and Merkel, Germany has been Russia’s most steadfast apologist. Germany adopted a hypocritical, ecologically insane energy policy that made Germany and much of Europe dependent on Russia for their gas and oil, and all but ended domestic German production of clean nuclear energy.
To be sure, in the weeks leading up to the Russian invasion, Biden and his advisors ratcheted up their rhetoric against Russia. But their statements were so hysterical it was hard to take them seriously. The shrillness of their warnings that a Russian invasion was imminent compelled Zelenskyy to tell them to calm down repeatedly. Their threats of sanctions were vague and seemed barely vetted. And indeed, the initial sanctions Biden announced after Russia invaded were fundamentally unserious.
But suddenly, over the last week, the situation was utterly transformed.
In the annals of modern warfare, there is no precedent to the financial campaign Western nations have initiated against Russia. The sanctions that the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and the states of Europe are instituting are so harsh that despite the fact that Russia has developed a largely self-sustaining, highly diverse economy and has built up a massive reserve of foreign currency, all Russians are feeling their bite. The ruble lost 30% of its value in days. The decision of technology giants Google and Apple to block use of their payment systems in Russia, the expulsion of Russia’s largest banks from the SWIFT system, and other moves have plunged all Russian citizens into significant financial distress.
What accounts for the whiplash-inducing shift in the West’s position? How did it come to pass that one day the Germans and Americans were giving at best a yellow light to a Russian invasion, and the next day they adopted financial measures aimed at bringing the Russian people to their knees and forcing Putin from power?
It isn’t morality that is pushing their buttons. If Biden and his partners were most concerned about morality they wouldn’t be keeping the gas lines and oil shipments coming from Russia, and so financing Putin’s war. So too, they wouldn’t be impoverishing the Russian people to bring down Putin in the service of morally compromised Ukraine while letting Russia dictate the terms of the nuclear negotiations with Iran in Vienna.
And indeed, it is in the West’s continued collusion with Russia in Vienna, that the claim the sanctions the US and its allies are imposing on Russia are morality-based fall apart.
Wednesday, former State Department official and Iran sanctions expert Gabriel Noronha published a long post on Twitter where he reported the details of the nuclear deal that the US is poised to conclude next week in Vienna with Iran. Noronha sourced his report to career officials at the National Security Council, the State Department and the European Union who divulged the contents of the all-but-completed agreement to him in the hopes of getting Congress to block Biden from moving forward before it is too late.
Noronha’s sources described a total collapse of all the U. positions, replete with a willingness to abrogate all sanctions against Iranian terror masters. Biden’s envoy Robert Malley reportedly has agreed to remove Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps from the State Department’s list of foreign terror groups. He has also agreed to remove weapons of mass destruction proliferators, and the Iranian institutions that fund and conduct terror, WMD proliferation, repression, mass murder, torture and other crimes.
The sanctions relief that Biden is conceding will provide Iran with a cash injection of more than $90 billion immediately after the deal is concluded and an additional $50 billion annually through oil and gas revenues. The deal of course will also provide the Iranians with US and UN legitimacy as they cross the nuclear finish line and begin producing nuclear warheads within two and a half years.
A sanctions regime against Iran that induced but a fraction of the pain the West’s financial war against Russia is unleashing would bring down the regime and free the long-suffering Iranian people in short order. It would remove the greatest and most dangerous force of instability, terror, war and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Instead of doing so, Biden has been obsessed with reaching a nuclear deal with the mullahs, regardless of its provisions since the moment he was sworn in. The Europeans, for their part, have waged a 20-year campaign to protect Iran and its nuclear program from Israel and the US.
Morality is not the only thing lacking from the West’s unprecedented efforts to break the Russian economy. Strategic rationale is also hard to discern.
Strategy begins with geography. Ukraine is located between Russia and the EU/NATO. From a strategic perspective, there are only two possible fates for a nation located smack in the middle of two competing powers. It can either be neutral in the contest between them or it can become a satellite state of one camp. Neutrality will induce stability. Unless both powers agree that the border state can join one of the camps, attaching a border state to one of the competing powers will generate instability and increase the probability of war.
Russia was willing to accept the possibility of Ukraine as a neutral state, but over the past 15 years, Putin has said repeatedly that he viewed the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO or the EU as a casus belli. The Minsk Protocol from 2014, which Ukraine accepted and the West sponsored, paved the way for Ukraine to become a neutral state. If the US and its allies were acting strategically, they would have urged Zelenskyy to implement the Minsk Protocol, which provided autonomy for the pro-Russian provinces in eastern Ukraine. Instead, as Putin deployed tens of thousands of Russian forces to the Ukrainian border, Biden reportedly gave Zelenskyy the impression that Ukrainian membership in NATO would happen at any time. And now the EU is applauding Zelenskyy’s request for EU membership, thus reducing to near zero the prospect that the conflict will be peacefully resolved.
Watching the virtue signaling statements by Western leaders since Russia invaded Ukraine, the unmistakable impression is that what we are seeing is not morality-based or strategic policymaking. We are witnessing how a herd makes policy. Herd policymaking involves all parties embracing the same policy because everyone is embracing the same policy. In the current context, everyone agrees Ukraine is a paragon of liberal democracy because everyone agrees that Ukraine is a paragon of liberal democracy. Everyone agrees that Putin is evil and crazy and must be ousted from power because everyone agrees that Putin is evil, crazy and must be ousted from power.
The West’s embrace of herd policymaking against Russia is a strategic menace to Israel.
To be sure, Israel is not Russia. And the Palestinians and Iran are not Ukraine. Whereas there is a strong case to be made against Russia and for Ukraine, there is no strategic rationale nor moral justification for the hostility that the EU and the progressive left in the US demonstrate towards Israel. There is no strategic rationale nor moral justification for their support for the Palestinians or for the Iranian regime, who both pledge Israel’s destruction.
There is an antisemitic explanation for the West’s positions. And there is a policy-by-herd explanation for their positions.
If the West’s financial total war against Russia is successful, it is a foregone conclusion that it will rapidly be adopted as a standard operating procedure. There are many leaders in the Western herd who love to try it out on Israel. As a consequence, Israel must be concerned that the next time its enemies start a war against it, those voices in the herd will raise to call to turn their new weapon against the Jewish state.
Originally published in Israeli Hayom.
Caroline Glick, 3-3-2022
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