The Malta Independent 30 November 2022, Wednesday
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Conversations with a friend … an analysis of the Russian war on Ukraine

Giuseppe Attard Sunday, 2 October 2022, 11:30 Last update: about 3 months ago

Seven months and nine days later, the quick operation Putin had in mind to take over Ukraine has failed miserably … we can all agree on that. It failed not because of losses the Russians are incurring but rather because of the slow progress at which they are advancing.

As the summer days fade and the BBQ season comes to an end, it was a foregone conclusion that as the meat sizzled while being cooked over an open flame, the conversation of two journalists, who spent a combined three months in Ukraine, obviously turned about the war.

Neil Camilleri just returned from Ukraine after two months travelling to Mykolaiv and Kharkiv helping volunteers and documenting life at the front line.

Earlier this year, Neil and I experienced the atrocities of war and we documented them thoroughly during our first two trips to the country. We also saw and experienced life at the front line, we slept near soldiers, ate with them, got shot at with them and also laughed with them.

Obviously, we did not analyse this war with them, they are Ukrainian soldiers who are biased in favour of their country, and rightly so.

The conversation between Neil and I started when I tried to analyse the way the West is treating Russia now against how the West treated Germany back in 1919 during the treaty of Versailles.

The treaty of Versailles was a humiliation effort by the allies after World War I to shun Germany. The treaty put all the blame on Germany, imposing reparation payments, hence creating increasingly unstable smaller nations since the treaty forced Germany to forfeit territory in various countries.

More importantly the treaty ultimately failed to address the underlying issues which had started the war in 1914. Instead, it paved the way for a massive global conflict 20 years later.

Caption: Giuseppe Attard (left) and Neil Camilleri in Ukraine

I continued to argue that with a treaty or not, the West is going to great efforts to seclude Russia from the rest of the world, humiliate their president Vladimir Putin and most dangerously poke the sleeping bear that is Russia.

In no way shape or form am I saying that Europe should do nothing about the ongoing war, but the efforts in 1919 pushed for a rise in nationalism in Germany and everyone knows the story of the rise of Adolf Hitler and what came after.

Let’s analyse the similarities. Germany’s chancellor before Hitler was Paul Von Hindenburg who was blamed by the fascists for the humiliation of the post-World War I effect. Currently in Russia Putin is president but when he will no longer occupy the role, the state of Russia will remain and that is what we have to be careful of.

Camilleri said that the removal of Putin as president will not solve the issues related to Russia. In every staunch Russian there still is the dream of the USSR and any other leader chosen to be president for the next God knows how many years will still harbour those values.

Something we both agreed on is that the Russian culture is very different to what we are used to in the West and it will be very hard to change it. Neil and I have both seen what Russian soldiers do when they occupy a village in Ukraine. They steal women’s clothing for their wives, they steal washing machines for their homes, they steal WiFi routers because they believe that they can just plug them in their outlets at home and magically have WiFi and so on. We saw these things together when we went to Bucha and Irpin, no one can convince us otherwise.

Camilleri continued to argue that Russia needs a generation or two before the mentality changes, that of communism and general lack of ambition to improve certain aspects of their lives.

The Russian people have spent years in conflict and they just developed a mentality of nobody cares. During the past 100 years alone, the Russian people survived through World War I, World War II, a number of revolutions, the Soviet Union, the Cold War and now this war.

History has made the country realise that no matter what it does, the world will keep throwing disasters and wars their way. That is why a change in mentality throughout a number of generations is needed.

During his last trip to Ukraine, Camilleri told stories of injured Russian soldiers shot dead because they were too much of a liability. Stories like this are endlessly witnessed in Ukraine today but nothing is done in this regard.

If we once again compare to a post-World War II Germany, where fascism was the most dangerous idea one can have instilled in their ideology, the West started a process of denazification across the country.

This means that in every facet of government and public life, the allies had infiltrated the positions and spent a good number of years there in order to literally clean society from that ideology.

Why are we not doing the same with Russia? I asked.

The dangers of fascism back then are equally dangerous to the dictatorship Russia functions on. Russia is considered as one of the world’s leading military powers and the shambles of a democracy they claim to have is in no way shape or form a safeguard to the world peace.

Putin wanted to attack Ukraine to unify the lands the USSR once occupied, what’s stopping him from ending his attacks with the capture of the Ukrainian territories? What if he wakes up one day and decides to attack Poland and then Europe? I asked.

The West boasts about their coalition of forces called Nato but in my opinion they are failing to address the key issue which led to this war, Putin and the Russian corrupt government.

Nato claims that they are only there for peace-keeping, well I have some news for them … what peace is there in the regions of Mikolaiv, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk? What peace was kept in the mass graves of Bucha and Irpin? What peace was kept when humanitarian vehicles were targeted by Russian artillery? What peace was kept when Russian tanks bulldozed civilian cars with children still strapped in their seats?

Just as the world needed an ideological shift from fascism in the 1950s, the world now needs a military superpower who will not hold it hostage because its dictator deemed so. In order for this to happen the West has a bigger job to do rather than impose sanctions and exclude Russia from the world.

Putin will eventually retire or die but Russia will outlive all of us … including the humiliation done by the West.

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