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Putin’s war. Ultimately, the loss of truth

One year later, inestimable, ramified loss. Pain. Instability. Danger. Still — hope.

Trying not to think about it.

Let it just go away.

Putin’s war.

What a rude awakening for a post-Hitler world that thought it would never again see in Europe absolutely naked aggression, absolutely naked lust for power, absolutely naked indifference to human life.

Also utterly shocking: the absolutely heroic defense of Ukraine by its people; outgunned, outnumbered, outsized. But, unlike the victims of the other naked power grabs in Europe, not abandoned.

If only Europe’s Jews in the 1930s and 1940s had had safe havens in adjoining countries, humanitarian aid they could accept, not to mention a nation of their own to which the gift of armaments could be directed.

Alongside the relentless photographs of devastated condominiums, bridges, hospitals and highways emanating mercilessly from Ukraine, the world now gazes at something that the Jews of the Holocaust could not: national resistance.

Make no mistake. Putin seeks a Holocaust in Ukraine if this is the only way he can seek complete defeat of Ukraine. Hitler threw tens of thousands of Germans to certain death at the end of WW II even though he knew he had lost the war, and Putin throws and will continue to throw to certain death his own people, if this is what he thinks it will take to win the war. The possibility of peace talks seems beyond remote. The necessity of continued fighting seems unavoidable.

Unavoidable, for if Putin were to win in Ukraine, a slew of other nations bordering Russia would be next.

The world order as we know it would end; that is, there would be no order. Only threats and more threats and war and more war from Putin.

The only other possibility is for Putin to run out of weapons and of soldiers, but if that were actually to happen a leader as mad as he might well turn to nuclear weapons.

Three utterly unwise moves led to all this, aside from the sheer power lust of Putin.

One, Ukraine’s renunciation of its nuclear weapons in the mid-1990s on the basis of paper promises, including, no less, from Russia itself. Ukraine need not ever worry, for if someone would seeks its destruction, Russia (among others) would come to its defense!

Two, the effort of the West, led by the US, to move the borders of NATOin the 2000s ever closer to Russia.

Without evident military need for doing so, this only verified Putin’s fears. As Henry Kissinger once observed in a wry warning, even paranoids have enemies.

Three, Biden’s unnecessary, precipitous, ill executed exit from Afghanistan, a country that, finally, after some 20 years of war and terror, had come under Western control at minimum price.

None of these three mistakes justify in the slightest Putin’s resort to war and his evil execution of it, but the record should be straight.

All of which leaves us, ultimately, with questions of why the innocent suffer and why our prayers for a halt to the suffering and devastation remain unanswered.

Ukrainian innocents? Yes. Ukranians collaborated with the Nazis and were responsible for countless murders of Jewish innocents. But those Ukrainians are dead now. Some Ukrainians now alive honor those collaborators, though for their anti-Soviet struggle, not for their Nazism. To to be sure, that distinction is morally untenable and indeed execrable. This being said, the Ukrainians today who honor the Nazi collaborators are a small minority. It is a different Ukraine today. It elected a Jewish president!

Perhaps in this turnaround, a kernel of hope resides in the war we try not to think about. Essentially, an entire country changed. Ukraine of 2023 is not the Ukraine of 1939-1945. If one country can change, perhaps another can, too. True enough, after the fall of communism, many thought that Russia had changed. To an extent it had. The best evidence is the great quantity of Western brands and enterprises that left Russia after it launched its war one year ago. Russia changed, but obviously not enough. Even so, perhaps there is hope that someday a post-Putin and a post-dictatorship, post-authoritarian Russia will emerge.

Meantime — war. Loss of lives. Loss of infrastructure. Loss of a large country’s entire economy.

And much collateral loss around the world. Loss of energy, loss of food supplies, loss of basic humane conditions for millions of refugees and consequent loss of economic and political stability in many regions beyond Ukraine and Russia.

Finally, loss of truth. The communist corruption of language and obfuscation of facts and news have descended on Russia once again. Even if the war were to end tomorrow, it will take untold efforts to unravel the web of lies that Putin and his henchmen have woven into the Russia’s fabric. We can only hope that somewhere in the Russian power structure someone can see straight. Someone who sees the destruction of Russia itself that Putin wreaks, someone with the courage and the power to act against him.

Meantime — the Jews of Russia face impossible choices, as they did under communism. To stand with the Putin regime? Morally impossible. To stand against the regime? Tactically impossible. If ever evidence were needed that Jewish survival is a miracle, Exhibit A is Jewish survival in Russia today.

Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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