Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, must be shaking in his boots: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and they agreed to condemn in the strongest terms what they call Russia’s illegal and illegitimate move to recognise the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s republics as independent states.
Thus a readout from Canadian Prime Minister’s office.
As if anyone’s asking Justin Trudeau what he thinks about the latest developments in relations between Russia and Ukraine.
Whether the two regions have any right to declare themselves whatever, including independence, never crossed these two dilettantes’ minds.
That Canada is not, has never been and has not much hope to become a true member of the European Union seems to have escaped both, too. But why not give them the benefit of the doubt: let’s say they talked as two concerned citizens of the world.
But if they are that, they should have taken a brief correspondence course on the history of Russia and Ukraine. Vladimir Putin obviously did.
Words from the Kremlin
Putin announced his decision in a 55-minute+ address broadcast from what we were told was his office in the Kremlin in Moscow. There were no written scraps of paper, or pages, even, visible. Whether he used a teleprompter is tough to say. It didn’t look like it, but looks can be deceiving.
In any case, he was much more fluent in his speech than Trudeau has ever been when debating issues that are foreign to him.
The gist of Putin’s speech was simple: Ukraine has been, throughout most of her history, an integral part of Russia. After all, the original name for Russia herself used to be Kiev Rus. Ukraine can be translated roughly as the edge, the outskirts, the periphery, even.
It was Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, who gave Ukraine her statehood, Putin said, listing the convolutions this designation had gone through during the seven-decade long history of the Soviet Union.
Undiplomatically, Putin did not mention that there exist important differences between the two languages, Russian and Ukrainian, and that it would not be beyond the possible to call Russians and Ukrainians two different nations.
What does that mean? Nothing more, really, than that Ukraine has an undisputable right to be and remain independent, all that nonsense of Bolshevik-induced changing statehood notwithstanding.
Taken to the extremes, that also means that regions within Ukraine, Donbass and Luhansk, are perfectly within their rights to feel they are different from Ukraine proper and want to be recognised as such.
As an aside, such anti-Bolshevik swipes, coming from a former high-ranking KGB officer, are somewhat ironic: it used to be Putin’s job to chase and punish anyone who dared even think foul of Bolshevism.
That Ukrainian authorities’ approach to such sensitive question like use of official language has been heavy-handed to the extreme can hardly be doubted. This happens to be a double-edged sword, however: Russians who have been living in Ukraine for decades had more than ample time to learn the indigenous language.
Still, Putin was more than happy to squeeze all he could from this example.
His vocabulary resembled that of Konrad Henlein, the Nazi leader of the so-called Sudeten Germans. These were people of German origin living on the margin of then-Czechoslovakia. They claimed the Czechoslovak government, consisting mostly of Czechs, abused them beyond acceptable levels. They wanted to return to their (Adolf Hitler’s, that is) Empire, under the slogan Heim in Reich.
They would get their wish, be chased out of Czechoslovakia following the Second World War, and the issue simmers still in the Czech – German relations.
Putin also accused Ukrainian authorities of unending corruption reaching the highest levels in their government.
This is known as a pot calling the kettle black.
If there was one undisputable point in Putin’s address to the nation, it was that there had been some kind of understanding, when the former communist countries began falling like domino pieces, NATO would not be moving too close to Russia.
Ukraine (and Georgia) have been quite publicly pushing for acceptance into NATO, with NATO saying let’s have a decco at it, instead of saying, ooops, can’t happen, we promised.
Unfortunately, in this super-power game of chess, nobody seems to have noticed that independent nations (such as Ukraine and Georgia) have a right to join whomever they see fit to join. Even if NATO promised what Putin says they did about non-expansion, they would have been making decisions about those countries behind their backs.
Are the Russians too paranoid about it?
Depends: look at what the U.S. did when the then-Soviet Union positioned their missiles in Cuba, a few miles from American coast, in 1962: the one-month-four-day long crisis put the world on the brink of a nuclear war.
Imagine the risk today, with the way weapons on both sides have developed during the six decades since then.
So, is Canadian Prime Minister concerned with any justification?
Come to think of it, all of us 7.8 billion+ earthlings should be concerned.
There are several issues with Justin Trudeau’s readout. It’s filled with threats against Russia that must have made Putin laugh himself blue.
A history buff that he is, Putin must have remembered the current Canadian PM’s father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s perfectly idiotic rhetoric in the early 1980s, when Poland’s workers, led by an electrician from Lenin Shipyards in Gdansk, Lech Wałęsa, started a new, independent, trade union named Solidarity (Solidarność).
General Wojciech Jaruzelski took over the reins of government, declaring martial law in the process.
Trudeau Sr., asked about his views, said that this was perfectly all right with him. The Poles knew not how to govern themselves, he opined, and Jaruzelski prevented a Soviet invasion, to boot.
This shows how out of the loop he was: a young-and-coming communist party secretary for all things agriculture, Mikhail Gorbachev, did indeed suggest that the Poles deserved to be taught a lesson in table manners, but Yuri Andropov, then the boss of the Soviet secret police and espionage agency, KGB, told him to shut up. Unlike Gorbachev, Andropov was aware of a curt note then-American President Ronald Reagan sent to the Kremlin: any attack on Poland, it said, would be viewed as an attack on the United States.
Reagan meant it, and Andropov knew it.
Trudeau Jr. and Mme. von der Leyen are both out of the loop, too.