Putin’s Many Ukraines
By attacking Ukraine, Putin has created many ‘Ukraines.’
Above: Anti-war street protestors in Moscow; similar demonstrations were reported in Minsk and St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy BBC
Tanks and little else may soon occupy Kyiv.
Will the world allow Ukrainian refugees to suffer the same ignominy as Syrian refugees? Serbian refugees? Afghan refugees? America’s ‘Dreamers?’
Core to Putin’s success in backing Syrian President Assad was demonizing refugees. There are parallels and patterns between the Syrian War and the current attack on Ukraine.
Not the least of which is the ‘refugee narrative.’
Recall that the Syrian War started with suppressing a non-violent street protest. Not an assassination of a dynastic head of state, not an air attack on a sleeping Pacific island.
No: a non-violent street protest.
What followed were unprovoked attacks on Syrian civilians, supported by Putin, Russia’s elites and watched by Western nations and America.
Why?, you ask.
Consider the consequences borne by neighboring residents: where will the refugees go? Exactly the strategy Putin employs to repress democracy and self-governance: devalue democracy by blowing up dissidents.
The point is that refugees are not ‘collateral damage,’ they are geo-political outcasts.
Above: Leaving Kyiv, March, 2022, photo courtesy of indepndent.co.uk
For the time during which compassion is tried and trampled, refugees occupy an alternate reality: streaming across borders, giving lie to nation-states, refugees are evidence of social disruption and terror. Rooted from home and homeland they are the soul challenge to democracy — citizens without status, non-residents, aliens.
Attending the ‘State of the Union’ address, Tuesday, March 1. Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe.
Following the President’s State of the Union address, Rachel Maddow ‘caught up’ with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in one of those semi-rehearsed video meetups that cable news peddles as ‘context.’ (MSNBC coverage of the State of the Union Address, March 1)
Ms. AOC didn’t disappoint. With rolling eyes and her signature tilting head, AOC pondered with the MSNBC audience whether America would ‘demonize’ Ukrainian refugees as America had its own, “dreamers,” caught in Congress’s and the nation’s denial. Challenging the convention of the State of the Union address — where we have come from ‘trumps’ envisioning where we are going — AOC is rightfully skeptical.
The Bronx Congresswoman ‘doubled down:’ she asked, how about the families of dreamers? 11 million Americans currently enjoy the status of the marginalized and demonized.
Add in their future families.
This is not democracy.
Consider that Putin is doing the West more favors than waking up NATO. Putin is showing how, by his turgid demagoguery — demonizing refugees as he did in Syria — he threatens democracy, displays democracy’s underbelly — not in my backyard.
Consider that Putin by false-referencing Ukraine’s anti-semitism, which he labels “naziism,” is demonizing refugees on one level, and dissidents in his backyard on another. For Putin they are one and the same. Hardly the work of a madman, a megalomaniac and despot for sure.
Consider that Putin is not just attacking Ukraine, he is also attacking the ‘other’ Ukraine — Russian dissidents.
The takeaway moment to all this belongs to Ukrainian President Volodoymyr Zelenskyy, not the State of the Union address. Hours before Biden delivered his first address, President Zelenskyy was delivering his first address to the European Union. His proposal for stopping the blocking of fleeing Ukrainians at the borders of Ukraine, Poland and Moldova, placing refugees in harm’s way, was simple and elegant: allow Ukraine temporary admission into the EU, consequently removing the ‘border.’
In other words: ‘let us in.’