The Russian propaganda poster says: "Tank tours over Europe. Diesel fuel is ours, the impressions are yours! Battalions depart in the order of forming" (Image: narod.ru)
Many people, horrified by the actions of pro-Moscow forces in Crimea and the Donbas or unwilling to continue to resist Russian aggression, have concluded that the rest of Ukraine would be better off without those two regions and could move forward by sacrificing them to Vladimir Putin.
“If only everything were so simple,” Aleksandr Skobov writes in a commentary for Kasparov.ru. But it isn’t and it is time for the world to recognize that the dividing line between the “two worlds” is more complicated and that sacrificing these territories to Moscow would only lead to more Russian aggression.
One of those horrified by what is going on in Russian-occupied areas is Karina Orlova, who in a recent blog post suggested that it would be better to give Crimea and the Donbas as well to Putin given its many pro-Stalin people. “The normal part of the world would only benefit from this,” she suggests.
She is hardly alone in feeling that way, the Russian commentator says, given that pro-Moscow forces in the Donbas have called for destroying all memorials to those who suffered political repression in Soviet times and to the victims of the Soviet dictator’s terror famine.
If only this problem could be resolved so easily by yielding territories and building walls, Skobov says, and even if one made provision for those living on each side of this line who preferred to live on the other to move. But the problem isn’t that simple, and this “solution” is no solution.
Not only would such a handover sacrifice the rights of the Crimean Tatars and others to self-determination, he continues; what is “the most important thing is that [those to whom the territories would be given] would never be satisfied.” They would simply take what was offered and demand or try to seize more.
The pro-Moscow forces who are glorifying Stalin now have “forgotten everything and learned nothing. But what is most important, they do not want to learn anything. They do not want to understand anything.”
“It is possible to argue about which of the two totalitarian regime-twins – the Stalinist or the Hitlerite – brought the greater evil. It is possible to argue about which of them is worse. But those who glorify Stalin today,” Skobov argues, “are worse than Nazis.” That is because “to justify Stalinist terror is the same as justifying the Holocaust.”
The Nazis “didn’t promise all peoples freedom, equality and brotherhood. They didn’t present themselves as humanists,” he says. “The Stalinists on the other hand always lied, to others and to themselves. And if during the life of the regime, some of them were themselves deceived by these lies, present-day idolizers of Stalin lack that ‘mitigating circumstance.’”
“Today, no one can say that he didn’t know about the victims of Stalin’s regime,” Skobov argues, and those who want to restore his regime and to tear down the monuments to his victims are thus “worse than Nazis.”
Skobov points out that “this is not a question of ethnic, linguistic, cultural or civilizational membership. In any nation or civilization there are brothers of those who protested in Tienanmen Square and also brothers of those who suppressed those who took part in those demonstrations with tanks.”
“These are two worlds, the struggle between which has a universal character, and reconciliation is impossible. And those who rise under the song ‘Bring Back Stalin’ and wipe out the memory about his victims are not my brothers,” Skobov says. “They are my enemies” and the enemies of all those who care about human rights, freedom and dignity.
“Today,” he continues, “such people are being cynically used as cannon fodder” by the Kremlin kleptocracy “which is seeking with their help to rearrange the contemporary world according to [their] criminal understandings.” In brief, “contemporary neo-Stalinism” is a criminal agenda that would be marginal if it did not enjoy the support of the Kremlin.
Consequently, he argues, “Ukraine is not fighting for parts of its territory seized by an aggressor. Simply it is on the line of the front between two parts of the world: the normal one in which human life is valued and the abnormal one” in which the executioners seek to impose their will.
Sacrificing territory won’t end this fight, he says, and “the normal part of the world will not be able to sleep peacefully even if its opponent will be thrown back beyond the Urals.” It will only be able to do so when regimes of executioners “from Minsk to Pyongyang” will be defeated and replaced by regimes who don’t celebrate killers.
Because Skobov is right, one can only agree with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s call today for “the peoples of the free world to stand up against Russian aggression in Ukraine.” What is at stake is far more than just two plots of land: the international order and human rights are at risk if the West does not.