By Diane Francis. Published Feb. 25
The significance of Russia’s missile attacks and invasion of Ukraine on February 24 cannot be overstated: The world order has been completely upended and another genocide unfolds. February 24, 2022, will go down in history as a dark day, as was February 24, 1920, when the German Nazi Party was founded.
And the context matters: Putin’s invasion is where his hero, Josef Stalin, starved to death at least 3.5 million Ukrainians in 1932 and 1933 for the crime of refusing to give up their farms to move into his communist collectives.
Soldiers murdered farmers, village leaders, and priests then confiscated all harvests and livestock. This is known as “The Holodomor”, or mass extermination by starvation, and was declared by dozens of nations, the Vatican, and the European Union as “genocide”, or the destruction of a group or a nation.
Putin’s unprovoked attack against a peaceful country, and denial of its right to exist, is not war. This is another Russian despot bent on destroying the Ukrainian people and eventually others.
The Holodomor map: percentage who starved to death starved during Stalin’s murderous famine in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933
Ukraine left the Soviet Union in 1991 but in 2014 Putin recaptured Crimea and some portions of Luhansk and Donetsk in the eastern part of the country.
He said as attacks began that he doesn’t want to occupy the entire place, only to “demilitarize” and “de-Nazify” it — statements based on two delusions: that the country is predatory and is “fascist, antisemitic, and intolerant toward its Russian-speaking citizens”. But one need only look at 2019 when Ukrainians voted overwhelmingly for their current President, Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, was born in Eastern Ukraine and was raised by Russian-speaking parents.
On the night of his election, Zelensky, an entertainer known throughout the Russian-speaking world, said: “To all the peoples of the former Soviet Union. See what we’ve done here tonight. Anything is possible.”
To Putin, this was a declaration of war, especially coming from a celebrity. So was Ukraine’s refusal to accept the capture of Crimea and Donbas.
Everything began to shift and another famous observer, Garry Kasparov, chess master and former presidential candidate in Russia, recently noted. “Don’t believe anything the government says but take Putin’s words seriously … he’s sick. This is the end of the post-war WW2 order. We need to reconsider the idea of international security infrastructure against Putin, not involving him.”
Ukrainians flee Kyiv on morning of Feb. 24 following overnight missile attacks
Praying outside a bomb shelter in Kharkiv
This is an outrage against another one of history’s most victimized groups. Putin questions Ukraine’s legitimacy but Ukrainians have been there for centuries even after The Holodomor killed millions. In 1939, they were once again decimated after Stalin joined forces with Adolph Hitler – in the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact – to partition Poland. Shortly after they started their murderous spree, Hitler double-crossed Stalin and invaded Ukraine to conquer Moscow.
The result was that millions more Ukrainians died – 1.4 million soldiers; 7 million civilians; and 500,000 Ukrainian Jews. Putin likes to tell the world that Russia lost the most people in World War II, but the brunt was borne by its colonies. Belarus lost 25 percent of its population; Ukraine roughly 17 percent of its population, and Latvia and Lithuania lost 14 or 15 percent respectively.
Now Belarus has been recaptured by Russia and an assault is under way in Ukraine, and possibly beyond. Bombing raids last night began the onslaught, designed to knock out military infrastructure across the country and demoralize the populace in order to bring about a speedy surrender.
There is panic already and estimates are that full engagement with Ukraine’s force of 250,000 combat troops could result in horrendous casualties. Putin has a “hit list” of leaders, journalists, and activists who will be assassinated or sent to gulags after occupation. The country’s economy — and Russia’s — are cratering. Sanctions and diplomacy are now pointless.
The world will now watch, in real-time, the destruction of an innocent, democratic nation, abandoned by the West as a result of 30 years of appeasement and collaboration with Russia by Europeans.
And once Ukraine’s government caves, Putin will hold Europe hostage by stopping natural gas supplies, that now flow through Ukraine’s pipeline system. He will demand that his Nord Stream 2 pipeline be put into operation; that NATO withdraws from Eastern Europe and that the West drop all sanctions against Russia and its elite.
Slow-motion carnage will unfold on television if there is no quick surrender. Bombs will rain down on beautiful cities, apartment blocks, schools, hospitals, churches, and squares.
Footage will once more show European families fleeing, children orphaned, defenseless elderly people, and a culture torn asunder. Casualties could be catastrophic and it’s more likely that 10 million, not 5 million, Ukrainians will flee to Europe, creating a humanitarian disaster lasting years.
There is no justification for the invasion, and no excuse for the United States and the United Kingdom to have reneged on defending Ukraine from the Kremlin as promised.
I happened to be in Kyiv in 1993 when Ukrainians, under pressure from the Clinton Administration, were debating whether to give up their nukes or not. At the time, its military leaders argued that this would make the country a sitting duck again.
So a deal was struck: The Russians promised to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and the Americans and British promised funds and protection. None kept their word.
The world has permanently changed. Markets crash. The United Nations, with Russia as a member with a veto, is no longer functional, that’s if it ever was.
The European Union without an army and cohesion cannot last, nor can NATO. An America without strong alliances is unsustainable and a nuclear Russia run by Putin — hellbent to destroy ethnic groups and nations and the international order — represents the greatest threat in the history of the world.
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