During a recent debate among the Republican party candidate and pretenders for Congresswoman Liz Cheney’s seat in the state of Wyoming, Ms. Cheney shone as a beacon of hope for the rehabilitation of her party.
The pretenders could not have been more primitive. One said the war in Ukraine was provoked by Ukraine. Another said that President Joe Biden’s aid to Ukraine for the war effort was the Democrats’ form of money laundering.
Well, it was Wyoming after all, but I am not making this up.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not been successful in his “military exercise” but, apparently, he has been more than a little influential in disinformation and propaganda, at least among groups of Republicans.
Yet, this malign influence is not strictly Republican. In 2019, first term Congressman Ro Khanna from the Bay Area in California initiated an ill-informed action item among colleagues. This resulted in a missive signed by almost forty 40 members of Congress regarding “right wing white supremacists” in the autonomous military battalions of Ukraine fighting in the Donbas region, specifically naming the pre-eminent Azov Battalion.
I would like to preface my opprobrium against Congressman Khanna by suggesting, at the very least, that the Congressman himself never conducted any serious research into this topic, never travelled to Ukraine to inquire, much less spoke with the leadership of Azov.
In any event the letter, I suspect, drafted by his office and signed on to by a bipartisan group of his colleagues, resulted in the Azov Battalion being singled out in the Ukraine appropriations bill precluding receipt of military aid. Not surprisingly, “the nation” and the now late Stephen Cohen of Princeton, perhaps the quintessence of useful idiots at the very least, applauded Congressmen Khanna’s effort.
How misinformed were Khanna inspired members of Congress?
https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.520.0_en.html#goog_563608034Since the recent hostilities began on Feb. 24, the Azov Battalion has been at the forefront of Ukraine’s defense, particularly in the crucial most affected area, Mariupol – the only Ukrainian access to the Sea of Azov and ultimately the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance at Azovstal.
“The New Yorker”, a highly respected and liberal-like-Mr.-Khanna publication, recently carried an article which included a section on both the Azov Battalion and the Right Wing sector which are now integral parts of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The writer of the article, unlike Mr. Khanna, actually went into Ukraine and met the key actors. As to the Azov Battalion and Ukrainian nationalism the article read:
“The invocation of ‘nationalist” as a derogatory term with fascistic connotations baffled many Ukrainians, who argued that their nation’s history had been denied by the Russian denial of its right to exist…of foremost concern was resisting an external and vastly more powerful aggressor…Much of the Azov Battalion…was currently defending Mariupol against a Russian onslaught that threatened to annihilate it…There is no question that leaders of the Azov Battalion and Right Sector championed a chauvinistic, illiberal ethos…Over all, such views were more marginal in Ukraine than in Russia or, for that matter, in the U.S….In 2019, Right Sector and veterans of the Azov Battalion allied with other far-right groups to field parliamentary candidates and failed to win a single seat.”
That spoke much about the Ukrainian electorate. Further, the writer pointed out that perhaps only 20 per cent of the Azov and Right Sector people could be classified as extreme. The overwhelming bulk are simply patriots or nationalists in the unadulterated meaning of the term.
Let’s consider the far-right and far-left contingents in the U.S. Congress and, perhaps, let’s not forget the unqualified and criminal commander-in-chief in the White House prior to Joe Biden, elected nonetheless by the American people in 2016.
In any event, those fighting for the right of their nation to exist are sometimes considered extremists, particularly by the enemy. They also rely very much on internal discipline. Consider the Irgun fighting for Israel’s right to exist, including later prime minister Menachem Begin. Consider Marine Le Pen in France and many such extremists in democratic countries not faced with outside existential aggression. By comparison, Ukrainian society including Azov and the Right Sector are very benign.
In July of this year, Congressman Khanna met with the Ukrainian Consul General in San Francisco to voice his support for military aid to Ukraine. In the words of that great cinematic philosopher, Forrest Gump, “stupid is as stupid does”, which I hope is the only problem. There is a Fifth column but that is another topic.
The denigration of the Azov Battalion and the Right Sector in Ukraine is tantamount to Putin’s Nazification of Ukraine. It aims at the naivete and susceptibility of the uninformed. Propaganda and disinformation by the enemy not only of Ukraine but the U.S. as well, has to be recognized at the very least by our elected representatives. Otherwise, it feeds the Fifth Column.
Republican Governor Mitt Romney as a presidential candidate in 2012 stressed that Russia is the greatest threat to global security. He was soundly ridiculed by Democratic candidate and then-President Barack Obama who was not capable of recognizing the enemy.
In fact, he made an off the record hushed overture to the enemy after initiating a “restart”. In a recent interview, former NATO Commander General Breedlove insisted that Russia does not belong to any international institution including the United Nations Security Council. That may be counterproductive for the moment and unmanageable in the future, but at the very least the General should be heeded on the great Russian threat.
We live, we learn. Hopefully, it’s not too late. In any event, there needs to be independent research and analysis instead of acting upon disinformation and propaganda.
Askold Lozynskyj is an attorney based in New York City. He is a former president of the Ukrainian World Congress.