A View of the Ukraine War through Russian Eyes
According to Russian scholar and Princeton and New York University professor, Stephen F. Cohen, since 2008 and becoming more intense since 2014, the U.S. political-media establishment has engaged in an ongoing demonization campaign against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Cohen has warned:
“The personal vilification of Russia’s president is propelling the new Cold War toward hot war, poisoning American politics, and degrading US media.”
Just two days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, conservative Hoover Institute Scholar and frequent Fox News commentator, Victor Davis Hanson, warned President Biden to stop demonizing Putin. Demonization of adversaries severely limits diplomatic alternatives for future peace. It is thoughtless, arrogant, and stupid, and causes unnecessary loss of life.
Nevertheless, this week, at least two of the more popular Fox commentators, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, have engaged in outrageous demonizing language against Putin. This is not going to save Ukraine and could result in more Ukrainian deaths and suffering. I agree with both these gentlemen on many things, but their dangerous and unsubstantiated demonization of Putin does not befit their predominant merit and calling. They need to do their homework and resist careless exaggeration. Fox’s Tucker Carlson and Tulsi Gabbard took a more factual, reasonable, and helpful view.
Let us consider demonizing our enemies in the light of Sun Tzu’s frequently consulted wisdom on conducting war.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”—Sun Tzu, The Art of War. Sun Tzu (Master Sun) is thought to have been a Chinese general writing about 450 BC.
Demonizing our enemies promotes self-deception about their thinking. This ignorance of an enemy’s mindset opens the door to military and diplomatic blunders. Demonizing our enemy also leads to viral arrogance that leads to serious misjudgments of our own capabilities and even more serious blunders. Creating and supporting lies savages our own reasoning.
Putin’s speech was well received in Russia. According to Statista Research, Putin’s approval polls were already at 82 percent in January. The speech was over an hour, but most of it concerned domestic economic, education, infra-structure, and national social unity. But I thought several paragraphs most relevant to the origin and nature of the war would be especially interesting to American and British readers.
February 21, 2023, Moscow.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin:
“Good afternoon! Members of the Federation Assembly – senators, State Duma deputies, Citizens of Russia,”
“This Presidential Address comes, as we all know, at a difficult, watershed period for our country. This is a time of radical, irreversible change in the entire world, of crucial historical events that will determine the future of our country and our people, a time when every one of us bears a colossal responsibility.”
“One year ago, to protect the people in our historical lands, to ensure the security of our country and to eliminate the threat coming from the neo-Nazi regime that had taken hold in Ukraine after the 2014 coup, it was decided to begin the special military operation. Step by step, carefully and consistently we will deal with the tasks we have at hand.”
“Since 2014, Donbass has been fighting for the right to live in their land and to speak their native tongue. It fought and never gave up amid the blockade, constant shelling and the Kiev regime’s overt hatred. It hoped and waited that Russia would come to help.”
The paragraphs below refer to the Minsk II Betrayal by the Germans, French, U.S., and UK confessed recently by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Behind our backs, a very different plan was being hatched. As we can see now, the promises of Western leaders, their assurances that they were striving for peace in Donbass turned out to be a sham and outright lies. They were simply marking time, engaged in political chicanery, turning a blind eye to the Kiev regime’s political assassinations and reprisals against undesirable people, their mistreatment of believers. They increasingly incited the Ukrainian neo-Nazis to stage terrorist attacks in Donbass. The officers of nationalist battalions trained at Western academies and schools. Weapons were also supplied.”
“I would like to emphasize that, prior to the special military operation, Kiev held negotiations with the West about the delivery of air-defense systems, warplanes and other heavy equipment to Ukraine. We also recall the Kiev regime’s vain attempts to obtain nuclear weapons; they discussed this issue publicly.”
“The United States and NATO quickly deployed their army bases and secret biological laboratories near Russian borders. They mastered the future theatre of war during war games, and they prepared the Kiev regime which they controlled and Ukraine which they had enslaved for a large-scale war.”
“Now they admit this publicly and openly, and they feel no shame about it. They seem to be proud and even to be reveling in their own perfidy, while calling the Minsk Agreements and the Normandy Format a diplomatic show and a bluff. It turns out that all this time, while Donbass was ablaze, while blood was being spilled, and while Russia sincerely made every effort to achieve a peaceful solution (I want to emphasize the word “sincerely”), they gambled on people’s lives, and in effect, were playing with marked cards, as they say in certain circles.”
“This appalling method of deception has been tried and tested many times before. They behaved just as shamelessly and duplicitously when destroying Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. They will never be able to wash off this shame. The concepts of honor, trust, and decency are not for them.”
Later Putin elaborated on NATO’s mindset and motivations for war against Russia.
“The West is using Ukraine as a battering ram against Russia and as a testing range. I am not going to discuss in detail the West's attempts to turn the war around, or their plans to ramp up military supplies, since everyone is well aware of that. However, there is one circumstance that everyone should be clear about: the longer the range of the Western systems that will be supplied to Ukraine, the further we will have to move the threat away from our borders. This is obvious.”
“The Western elite make no secret of their goal, which is, I quote, “Russia’s strategic defeat.” What does this mean to us? This means they plan to finish us once and for all. In other words, they plan to grow a local conflict into a global confrontation. This is how we understand it and we will respond accordingly, because this represents an existential threat to our country.”
“However, they too realize it is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield and are conducting increasingly aggressive information attacks against us targeting primarily the younger generation. They never stop lying and distorting historical facts as they attack our culture, the Russian Orthodox Church, and other traditional religious organizations in our country.”
“Look what they are doing to their own people. It is all about the destruction of the family, of cultural and national identity, perversion and abuse of children, including pedophilia, all of which are declared normal in their life. They are forcing the priests to bless same-sex marriages. Bless their hearts, let them do as they please. Here is what I would like to say in this regard. Adult people can do as they please. We in Russia have always seen it that way and always will: no one is going to intrude into other people’s private lives, and we are not going to do it, either.”
“But here is what I would like to tell them: look at the holy scripture and the main books of other world religions. They say it all, including that family is the union of a man and a woman, but these sacred texts are now being questioned. Reportedly, the Anglican Church [better identification: UK Church of England. Many Anglican churches in the U.S. and elsewhere are conservative.] is planning, just planning, to explore the idea of a gender-neutral god. What is there to say? Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
“Millions of people in the West realize that they are being led to a spiritual disaster. Frankly, the elite appear to have gone crazy, and it looks like there is no cure for that. But like I said, these are their problems, while we must protect our children, which we will do. We will protect our children from degradation and degeneration.”
Western demonization of Putin has led to the Western demonization of the Russian people, although its disciples know little of Russian culture, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. This is sometimes referred to by Putin and other Russian leaders as “Western Russophobia.”
Russian Christianity suffered tremendous persecution under Stalin, but since 1991, the percent of Russian adults identifying as Christian has risen dramatically. According to a 2017 Pew Survey, Russian Christian identity had reached 73 percent. Seventy-one percent identify specifically with the Russian Orthodox Church, which has thrived under Putin. Meanwhile a 2021 Pew survey of U.S. Christian identity had fallen to 63 percent, down from 75 percent in 2011. However, conservative American and conservative Russian Christians have many family and moral concerns in common.
Americans need to be alert to the possibility of real evil, but they also need to develop some discernment distinguishing true from false and hearsay from fact. They should do their homework before gulping down the manipulative poison of demonization.
The strongest argument against demonization is that it violates the specific Divine Law of an all-sovereign, all-powerful, and just God, whose wrath Divine wisdom implores us to avoid. The Ninth Commandment, Genesis 20:16 ESV: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Demonization is a tool of unscrupulous manipulators seeking to promote strife and war. It could slide us right into World War III and unspeakable destruction and human suffering.