Ukraine’s “Territorial Integrity” is Not Worth a Single Human Life – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Ukraine’s “Territorial Integrity” is Not Worth a Single Human Life – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
May 12, 2014
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Who likes it when a nation shoots at its own people? We weren’t against being part of Ukraine, but after the latest events, we’ve changed our minds.” ~ Natalia Vasilieva, Retiree in Donetsk, Quoted by the Wall Street Journal

On May 11, 2014, residents of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions voted in favor of independence from Ukraine. Irrespective of questions regarding the legality of this referendum (which can similarly be raised regarding the legality of Ukraine’s current completely unelected interim government) and the possibly biased sample of voters who turned out as compared to the general population of the regions, two facts are undeniable: (1) the turnout was massive, as any glimpse at the many images and videos of the referendum would show, and (2) the voters were overwhelmingly peaceful civilians, merely seeking to express their points of view. A third fact must also confront any reasonable observer of these events in the West: while the voters behaved peacefully, the interim government of President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk sent troops who fired on crowds of civilians.

NBC News – no propaganda outlet of the Putin regime – reported that soldiers from the Ukrainian “national guard” fired on crowds of peaceful voters in Krasnoarmeisk, Ukraine, and at least two people were observed killed. Irrespective of whether or not a referendum has legitimacy, the act of voting is the act of marking a piece of paper with one’s choice. Casting a ballot, in a valid election or not, is purely an act of free speech. How could casting a vote even remotely be equated to aggression? How could it justify the taking of a human life in any sane, rational person’s mind? How is it that Western politicians fail to denounce the Turchynov/Yatseniuk government’s brazen use of force in reaction to a peaceful, civil action? Has the concept of free speech lost all sanctity for Western leaders as well?

Moreover, how is the attack on crowds of civilians by the Ukrainian “national guard” morally different from the Viktor Yanukovych regime’s attacks on peaceful protesters during its last days? The crowds in Krasnoarmeisk consisted entirely of unarmed civilians trying to cast their ballots. Irrespective of whether or not some of the separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk region are agents of Vladimir Putin’s regime – as has been alleged – can gatherings of thousands of civilians be said to consist entirely or even largely of Russian special agents or their peons? Or is it likelier that Natalia Vasilieva is right and these crowds are made up of ordinary civilians who originally were not averse to remaining aligned with Ukraine – until the Ukrainian government sent troops, including recruited “civil activists” from known fascist and neo-Nazi groups such as Right Sector (some of whose high-ranking members are also officials in this interim government, as I have written earlier), to kill them and raze their homes? Indeed, as reported by the New York Times, it was a unit staffed by Right Sector “activists”, the Dnepr Brigade (or Dnieper Brigade or Dnieper Battalion), that opened fire on voters in Krasnoarmeisk.

It was also Right Sector “activists” who trapped tens of initially peaceful pro-Russian protesters in the House of Trade Unions in Odessa on May 2, 2014, and threw grenades and Molotov cocktails inside to set it on fire, burning 40 protesters alive – not the same protesters who initially attacked a Ukrainian unity march that day. The Turchynov/Yatseniuk government’s shameful subsequent report on the event blamed the victims, alleging that one of the building’s occupants had dropped a Molotov cocktail onto the roof, thereby setting off the blaze. Even if this happened, how does it remotely excuse the murderous intentions and behaviors of the Right Sector thugs who were caught on video, throwing fiery projectiles at the building? If an armed assailant repeatedly fires at and injures his intended victim, but fails to kill him because the victim dies of a slip and fall in the meantime, does this excuse the assailant from the charge of murder?

Turchynov and Yatseniuk are resorting to forming military units consisting of Right Sector thugs, because sane, reasonable people refuse to fight for them. This is also why the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime undid Viktor Yanukovych’s sole good action and reinstituted military conscription for young men aged 18 to 25. As I wrote earlier, any government that treats its people as disposable cannon fodder against their will is an evil government that is not worth fighting for. Conscription is murder by lottery, and civilized people can only hope that Ukraine’s young men will engage in mass civil disobedience and dodge this draft in the hopes of preserving their lives and moral innocence. Those Ukrainians who do join the military would do well to follow the example of earlier armored columns that were sent to the Eastern regions and were stopped in their tracks by outraged civilians telling them to lay down their arms and go home. Many of these initial waves of soldiers – the ones sent before the Right Sector units were deployed – saw the folly of fighting their own people and relented.

To all Ukrainians who respect peace and civilization, I say: withdraw from all military operations, refuse to obey your criminal government, and pursue peaceful commerce and amicable daily interactions with your fellow humans – no matter what their language, ethnicity, or spoken political beliefs! No “territorial integrity” is worth the sacrifice of moral integrity, and certainly not the life of a single actual living human being. If a “united Ukraine” can only be preserved through conflagrations and rivers of blood, then it is not worth preserving! What is a set of boundaries drawn on a map ordained by the United Nations (which in many cases does not correspond to de facto political control in any event), compared to a conscious, reasoning being with a rich and irreplaceable internal universe? Borders have been drawn and redrawn time and again throughout history, but a life, once lost, can never be regained.

In the West, all too many leaders and pundits – even some libertarians! – would cast Vladimir Putin’s regime as the antagonist and the culprit for the entirety of the violence that is transpiring in Ukraine. While I have few kind words for Putin, and there is much to condemn about Putin’s own violations of the rights of Russian citizens, it does not appear that the blame placed on him for this crisis corresponds to his actual offenses. As Ron Paul points out, “The US demanded that Russian President Putin stop eastern Ukraine from voting on autonomy, and last week the Russian president did just that: he said that the vote should not be held as scheduled. The eastern Ukrainians ignored him and said they would hold the vote anyway. So much for the US claims that Russia controls the opposition in Ukraine.” And yet Western leaders continue to threaten Russia with escalating economic sanctions over the outcome of the referendum, even though Putin expressly urged delaying it! Even from a sheer pragmatic standpoint, this is an exceedingly unwise tactic; Putin might come to recognize that even his attempts at defusing the situation or disentangling Russia from it would not affect the West’s response, and he would see no reason not to escalate the crisis, if de-escalation does not alleviate any of the punishments that Western governments have in store for him.

Without the resounding endorsements and material support – economic bailouts and shipments of physical resources, paid for by Western taxpayers’ dollars – from the governments of the United States and the countries of the European Union, the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime would not be able to sustain its crackdowns on its own people. Why do the United States and the European Union support this criminally negligent, civilian-killing government? While I was sympathetic to the deserved overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych, I am deeply ashamed of the US government for aiding the thugs who unfortunately replaced him. Turchynov and Yatseniuk are doing to the population of Eastern Ukraine exactly what Yanukovych did to the Euromaidan protesters who disagreed with his decision to abandon a proposed trade agreement with the European Union. This time, however, the Western governments have taken the side of the oppressors, just because they are perceived to be on “our” side rather than “their” side – “they” being the Russians in the eyes of all those who have not realized that the Cold War is long over and that Cold War thinking must be resolutely abandoned if we are to avoid a hot war that could engulf all of humankind and spoil our chances at achieving radical abundance and unparalleled health and prosperity through technological progress during the next several decades.

To ensure that the progress of human civilization continues without catastrophic setbacks, the crisis in Ukraine must remain localized. Only continued intervention by Western powers would allow it to spread beyond Ukraine’s current borders. It is true that, without American and EU support, the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime will probably fall – but this will largely be achieved by Ukrainians themselves. Putin might sweep in later and occupy Eastern Ukraine – either annexing it as he did with Crimea (even though he has denied any intent to do so), or treating it much like the autonomous regions of South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria, which broke away from Georgia and Moldova and are currently occupied by Russian troops. If the aftermath of the Crimean annexation is an indicator, this might actually result in fewer civilian deaths than a continuation of the status quo. Also, it need not affect life in the West, or continued efforts by civilians in the West to innovate technologically and raise human standards of living, by one iota. Why does anyone need to lose sleep over the existence of quasi-independent republics named Donetsk, Luhansk, or even Novorossiya? Are they any more threatening to Americans – of whom five-sixths cannot point Ukraine out on a map anyway – than South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Transdniestria are today? What is threatening to Americans is their own government’s foreign policy, intervening in Ukraine apparently just to oppose any potential expansion of Putin’s power and Russia’s sphere of influence, without any compelling argument for American “national security” to be made under any remotely credible interpretation of that nebulous concept.

A month ago, I wrote that the worst scenario in Ukraine would be an escalation of military conflict, which was unfortunately beginning to occur at the time as the “anti-terrorist” operation was being launched by the Turchynov/Yatseniuk government. At present we clearly see the bloody results of this ongoing operation, as more civilians perish by the day. Of course, unleashing the Ukrainian military and ultra-nationalists within the Donetsk and Luhansk region could not be confined to dislodging armed separatists, and it has turned into a war against the civilians of Eastern Ukraine. Perhaps Turchynov and Yatseniuk did not want this, but they are now desperate, just like Yanukovych was in February 2014, and they see no other way to remain in power. They know that, if they lose, their fates will be at least as unpleasant as that of Yanukovych, and so they are willing to sacrifice the entire country to protect their hold on power. The Western governments need to cut off the lifeline they have given to this criminal regime. While the result would not be optimal from the standpoint of any cosmic justice, any local “solution” to this crisis would certainly be no worse than any “solution” that could be achieved through Western intervention. Furthermore, the effect of complete non-intervention at confining the Ukrainian crisis to a local one would be incalculably beneficial in avoiding the risk of a broader war. Let us look upward to technology and human ingenuity as the path to solving humankind’s problems, and avoid getting bogged down in the sordid muck of Ukraine’s crisis. A bright future requires and demands peace today.

5 thoughts on “Ukraine’s “Territorial Integrity” is Not Worth a Single Human Life – Article by G. Stolyarov II

  1. At the very least, this recent Ukraine vs. Russia business is very odd! My thanks to Gennady Stolyarov for educating me on much of this. But I do have one question: In general, were the Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine mistreated and abused over these past 23 years or so? That would give them the ‘right’ to secede.

    And I think Crimea does rightfully belong to Russia. The local people seem to solidly want it. I think the right of free association applies here.

    I heard a pretty great and informative discussion of this issue a few days ago on the cutting-edge John Batchelor Show on radio. His guest, Prof. Stephen Cohen of Harvard, massively agreed with Mr. Stolyarov.

    It’s immensely sad that no-one in the West seems to be doing the right thing and demanding liberty and individual rights for all — never mind what state they happen to be living in. The Russian speakers of Ukraine may or may not need, or be better off, with autonomy. But they definitely need political freedom! Why don’t Pres. Obama or PM Cameron or Chancellor Merkel say so?

  2. Thank you very much, Mr. Zantonavitch, for referring me to John Batchelor’s excellent show and his discussion with Prof. Stephen Cohen; both Mr. Batchelor and Prof. Cohen provided detailed, factual, insightful analyses of the current crisis in Ukraine.

    With regard to your question, Ukraine has, for most of its independent history since the collapse of the Soviet Union, existed in a precarious state when it came to tolerance for speakers of Russian. On the one hand, the vast majority of Ukrainians know how to speak Russian, as it was the lingua franca of the USSR and even enjoyed an official language status alongside Ukrainian for some time. On the other hand, there is a minority of ultra-nationalists who seek to resurrect (and portray in a positive light) the legacy of Nazi collaborators, such as Stepan Bandera, who, during World War II, would launch campaigns of genocide against ethnic Russians, Jews, Belarusians, Poles, Hungarians – anyone who did not fit the ultra-nationalists’ misguided and brutally collectivistic vision of an “ethnically pure” Ukraine. The pro-Bandera nationalists are analogous to the KKK and Neo-Nazi movements in the United States today. In the absence of immense domestic turmoil, such movements are widely and rightly seen as laughingstocks and have no chance of gaining significant political power. However, the crisis in Ukraine has enabled some of the worst groups on all sides to rise to the top due to their opportunistic use of violence to achieve their ends.

    Most Ukrainians have no problem with Russian-speakers, and there are extensive family and cultural ties among Russians and Ukrainians. For some time prior to the assumption of power by the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime, there were substantial legal protections from persecution for people who chose to speak Russian. The ultra-nationalist movements (Right Sector and Svoboda) are attempting to undo these protections and to make Ukrainian the exclusive language for government functions, while harassing and threatening Russian-speakers with violence (and sometimes acting on these threats – as has been painfully illustrated by the events in Odessa earlier this month). Were it not for the role of the ultra-nationalists in the well-deserved overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych, they would have probably remained a fringe segment of Ukraine’s population, unable to affect political decisions. At present, however, they have an immense amount of power. They continue to occupy the Maidan in Kiev and threaten politicians and ordinary citizens who disagree with them. They were able to persuade the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime to remove any official language status from Russian. Now Yatseniuk appears to be rethinking the issue; perhaps he will still come to his senses on this issue and realize that restoring official status to the Russian language could be an easy concession that could result in considerably less violence and fewer deaths, going forward.

    I completely agree with your comments about the primacy of liberty and individual rights as the desired outcomes here. Neither the Turchynov/Yatseniuk regime, nor most of the separatists in Eastern Ukraine, nor the Western powers appear to have a shred of respect for these principles today – and that is quite a shame.

  3. Many thanks for educating me yet again, Mr. Stolyarov! You pretty much need to be on the PBS Newshour.

    But what a complex and tedious situation all this is, too! No wonder even the New York Times is incompetent and negligent in its reporting here (which is rare).

    Very briefly: In my view, American and Western foreign policy since the Cold War ended in 1991 (more or less) has been remarkably poor — even childlike. At the least, the Western liberal Good Guys should have been involved in: (1) separating Ukraine and Kazakhstan from historically-authoritarian Russia; (2) backing liberal India over jihadi Pakistan; (3) promoting the liberal secularists in Turkey; (4) liberating the appallingly-suffering people of North Korea; promoting freedom generally in Islamdom and black Africa; (5) and generally working to undermine tyranny, and promote individual rights and capitalist free-trade, in China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Instead…nothing!

    Well, essentially nothing rational or pro-freedom. What a strange, sad, irrational, illiberal world this is! I guess there’s nothing for people to do but — read The Rational Argumentator and buy my new book! 🙂

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