›› Ukraine: A Political Comment ‹‹

by Gay Celluloid editor-in-chief: David Hall.

As the free world mourns the passing of former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, it is only right to remember the achievements of a man who more than just helped end the Cold War. Indeed, just where do you start in detailing the momentous events of his political career; from having successfully negotiated with then US President Ronald Reagan for the abolition of a whole class of weapons, including nuclear, to finally ending Russia's bloody and frankly humiliating occupation of Afghanistan.

Yet whilst many will equally remember Gorbachev as the man who sought to bring openness / glasnost to Russia, by far his greatest achievement, at least in the view of the free world, was to allow; albeit with initial military opposition, the break-up of the USSR, with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia's independence starting a roller-coaster that culminated in the fall of the Berlin wall when on the 9th November, 1989 the citizens of East Germany and after a series of mass demonstrations, were finally allowed to cross freely into West Berlin. Putin's reaction would have been to send in the tanks and target innocent men, women and children; whereas Gorbachev did not oppose the reunification of Germany, announcing it instead as "an internal German affair".

That Gorbachev was a man of peace is all but clear, having been awarded in 1990 the Nobel Peace Prize for his "leading role in the radical changes in East-West relations". Only the communist old guard had never gone away and therein lay Gorbachev's downfall, by way of a military coup the year after.

Looking back at Gorbachev's presidency, it's almost impossible to visualize the Russia of his day and that of its political freedoms, with the brutal regime of today. That he remained a strong critic of Vladimir Putin is of no surprise, citing that "politics is increasingly turning into imitation democracy, with all the power in the hands of the executive branch". Or one individual, for that matter. Yet notably in 2014, Gorbachev defended the referendum that led to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

Only and whilst greatly respected in the West, many in Russia do not view him as "one of the most outstanding Statesmen of modern times" ironically the words of Putin himself spoken on Gorbachev's 90th birthday, having never forgiven him for the collapse of the Soviet Union, an opinion that the Putin news network is keen to exploit, having downplayed his many achievements, opting instead to focus on the break-up of the USSR so as to depict Putin as the man determined to bring counties such as Ukraine, back under Russian rule.

That Putin has played his own part in "radical changes in East-West relations" goes without saying: but not in a good way, with East-West relations now at an all time low and Russia all but a pariah state: the very definition of authoritarianism. And therein lies a telling juxtaposition of the Russia of Mikhail Gorbachev's presidency and the Russia of Putin's tyranny, making many wonder if the Russian people have now forgotten the social and political freedoms they used to have, not that long ago?

›› update: Tuesday, 30th August, 2022.

As Ukraine marked the 31st anniversary of its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union; albeit in an understandably subdued manner, the world stood back to reflect on six months of Putin's brutal war against the people of Ukraine and their very right for sovereignty; that of an on-going conflict that has seen the lives of ordinary Ukrainian men, women and children, forever changed.

Yet and in spite of all of Putin's bravado, this was not how his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine was meant to have played out. For what was to be a short-lived conflict, having been cited to be over by the 8th March, has since turned into a full-scale war that's clearly going to continue for months ahead, with all too many deaths on both sides of the military divide.

For outgunned and outnumbered, the valiant Ukrainian army continues to fight back, even if some question if foreign training and equipment (of the 'too few and too late' variety) will help secure the victory they so long for and frankly, deserve. For despite tens of thousands of its citizens having sought sanctuary across Europe, Ukraine has never been more reunited, even if some say the resolve of a number of Western leaders is beginning to wane as the cost of living crisis hits home.

This war however was never going to be over within months and the consequences of it, having showed the world the sheer savagery of Putin's ever increasing catalogue of horrific war crimes, has resulted much to Putin's wrath with the hitherto neutral countries of Finland and Sweden not surprisingly apply for and being granted swift accession to NATO. And whilst many of the financial sanctions imposed initially by the West on Russia have since weakened, there's no doubt that the certainty of a longer war raises the political stakes for Putin now knowing that a full-scale occupation of Ukraine is clearly not tenable, nor for that matter Putin's forces having the ability to permanently secure both the Donetsk region and Crimea, as Ukraine increasingly goes on the offensive.

That the West is now making plans to be free of its reliance on Russian gas and oil supplies, is akin to shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Yet at some point Russia will find the demand for its gas and oil significantly reduced and with it the billion dollars a day funding for its war machine. That perhaps distant, point cannot come too soon. But in the meantime, Ukraine not only needs but deserves our continued support in its courageous fight for freedom against a cold-blooded despot directly responsible for:
  • the invasion of an Independent Country,
  • resulting in Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II,
  • the relentless bombing of hospitals, maternity wards, schools and any place of refuge,
  • the 'pro-Russia re-education' of abducted Ukrainian teenagers and children,
  • the savage rape of Ukrainian women and girls,
  • the inhumane torture of captured Ukrainian soldiers,
  • the mass murder of innocent Ukrainian men,
  • the complete destruction of the former vibrant city of Mariupol and other such cities and villages,
  • the mockery of justice that is Russia's show trails of Ukrainian prisoners of war,
  • playing with atomic fire by using Zaporizhzhia, Europe's largest nuclear power plant, as a war hostage,
  • the deliberate withholding of food, water and medical aid from Ukrainian civilians until they accept Russian passports,
  • the use of gas, oil and even grain supplies as political leverage.
This is the Russia of today: the sickening reality of Putin's unforgivable actions. That Ukraine will never be the same again, goes without saying. But neither will the world view of Russia; that of a regime synonymous with acts of barbarity, misinformation and the very denial of the abhorrent war crimes carried out by Putin's dogs of war in Bucha and other cities that rightly shocked the international community. Yet in all of this one thing is clear and in spite of all of Russia's military might and intensified State propaganda, Ukraine will never be conquered and will fight to the bitter end to remain a sovereign and independent state. Their resolve will never weaken; our support for them must not either, even in the face of the escalating cost of living energy crisis.

›› update: Wednesday, 24th August, 2022.

As if the war in Ukraine could not get any worse; sadly it has, as news reaches the West that Putin, desperate for victory at any cost, has appointed General Alexander Dvornikov; aka the Butcher of Syria to take command of his military campaign of slaughter. Notorious for having been responsible for more than 350,000 people killed in the Syrian conflict, there is little doubt that Dvornikov will employ the same horrific methods in Ukraine, in the continuation of Putin's scorched earth policy. Or as Rich Lowry of the New York Post so succinctly said: "where the Russian military goes, war crimes are sure to follow" in their utter disregard for humanity.

As the list of Putin's documented war crimes grows ever longer, including rape as a weapon of war, the West responses with their custom variant on the line: "those responsible will be held accountable for their actions." Yet just as a break in hostilities from Russia to allow civilians to flee the war turned out by large and not surprisingly, to be an empty promise, so too as these empty words. For those committing such acts of cruelty; from those giving the orders, to those carrying out war crimes on their masters' behest, will never face prosecution. For whilst the free world can unanimously agree that Putin and his Generals of War must be brought in front of the International Criminal Court so that justice can prevail for the victims of Bucha, Mariupol and Ukraine as a country, at the same time and whilst Ukraine has filed a case against Russia at the International Court of Justice, should that court rule against Russia, the body responsible for enforcing any punishment is the United Nations Security Council, over which Russia currently holds the power of veto.

That thousands more will be maimed and killed in this war, is all but apparent. Just as it is clear that the West says one thing, whilst acting to the contrary; rightly condemning the appalling atrocities being committed on a daily basis, whilst still buying Putin's gas and oil to the value of a billion dollars a day. That this is now blood oil and gas, is not in doubt. The question is however; just how long will the West continue to buy it and by doing so, literally fund Russia's war machine?

›› update: Tuesday, 12th April, 2022.

Seldom do I comment on the politics of the day; albeit from ever campaigning for gay rights in countries still devoid of the sexual freedoms and legal rights that we take for granted in the West. But at times things need to be said and the appalling situation in Ukraine, is one of them.

As Putin's bloody war in Ukraine rages on, the free world has been left to watch in horror how the lives of ordinary men, women and children, many Russian speaking, have been forever changed, caught in Putin's barbaric attack on Ukraine; a policy that is clearly now one of apocalyptic destruction, alongside mass starvation, if not a campaign of genocide itself. Seen throughout the free world on live news feeds and social media are the harrowing personal testimonies of those fleeing a war zone in absolute terror; testament to a man intent on leaving a living hell in his wake.

Yet whilst Putin, seemingly secure in the Kremlin is highly unlikely to ever face charges of war crimes in The Hague, such charges should equally be made against the generals and military commanders who deliberately fire missiles on the innocent; being only too happy to bomb hospitals, maternity wards, schools and any place of refuge from this barbaric war. As too, Sergey Lavrov; Minister for Lies, Misinformation and the Denial of War Crimes, must equally face his day in court as a willing collaborator to the atrocities that have already taken place and all too sadly, those that will continue to be committed by Russia in ever despicable acts of inhumanity.

In all of this however, Putin has badly miscalculated the resilience and sheer courage of the Ukrainian people to fight for their country and the dire consequences of his actions. In one move, he has committed financial suicide, as the West all too belatedly rush to negotiate deals with other countries to cut their dependence on Russian gas and oil supplies; namely one of its most lucrative exports. Already Germany has halted, perhaps even terminated should common sense prevail, their controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline in light of Russia's incursion into Ukraine, with Mother Merkel having foolishly put too many of her eggs in Putin's energy basket, in what is now seen as an ill-advised and downright foolhardy policy. Sadly all too many European countries have sold their energy soul to the Russian bear, making a coordinated response to the war, one that would have made the Kremlin think twice, all but near impossible, as Putin is only too well aware.

The United Kingdom, whilst not to the same degree, has equally failed to capitalize on its natural resources, given and in a country surrounded by sea and intercut with a labyrinth of rivers, politicians from all sides have repeatedly failed to maximize the use of hydroelectric power; all of which cannot help but make you wonder just who's running the country; those elected to office, or the corporate heads whose interests would not be served by limitless low cost green energy?

Such however is a debate for another day. What we are left with is the bloody reality of Putin's unforgivable actions, having resulted in Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War II. Yet amongst all the bloodshed, lies the love and heartfelt compassion of others. From the thousands of people donating the essentials of life to be delivered to those in need, to those of all religious denominations who have given money in person, if not via the dec.org.uk website to the Ukraine appeal, to that of those who and in particular in countries that border Ukraine, notably Poland, have taken in thousands of refugees fleeing the inhumane violence of Putin's war.

As for the United Nations' role in all of this, namely the intergovernmental organization whose purpose is to maintain international peace and security; well and as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pointedly said is his video-link address to the UN on the 5th April: "we are dealing with a state that turns the right of veto in the UN Security Council, into a right to kill." Indeed at this point, I'm reminded of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262, when on the 27th March, 2014 and in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea, the General Assembly affirmed its commitment, albeit nonbinding, to "the territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders" or to put this another way: "the principle under international law that prohibits states from the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of another state." No surprise then that in light of this, many view the United Nations as an organization that has seemingly done little since its inception, but to use the word VETO. Indeed and as Zelenskyy bluntly questioned - where is the peace that the United Nations was created to guarantee?

In religion, you're meant to see the good in everyone. Yet I cannot see any good in Vladimir Putin; a cold-blooded mass murderer whose subsequent imprisonment for war crimes, should he ever face trial, would be too lenient a punishment.

That the outcome of the horrific war in Ukraine remains uncertain, is to state the obvious, even if some say that the partition of Ukraine to Russia's strategic advantage is / was Putin's objective from day one. Yet what is already clear is that Putin did not foresee Nato going out of its way to not only strengthen its forces along the Ukraine border, but to increase the militarization of Nato in Europe itself. That the free world will never be the same again, goes without saying. Nor for that matter, will the West ever trust Russia again; that is, should its leaders have been foolish to do so in the first place. For we now see Vladimir Putin in his true loathsome colours; that of a war criminal directly responsible for the massacre of thousands of innocent men, women and children; even pregnant women and babies killed, maimed and left mentally scarred for life. Such is not only to Putin's shame, but to the disgrace of Russia itself.

Sadly the heinous reality of the war in Ukraine, is largely unknown by the majority (?) of the Russian people fed on the state controlled Putin news network. In believing what is morally wrong, is right, they have in effect given Putin complete freedom to act as he so wishes, with anyone of opposing views quickly and often violently removed from sight. That the backing for Putin's abhorrent actions by the Russian people would dramatically weaken, if the war was seen by them in all of its uncut blood and gore, is all but evident. As too, is the fact that will never happen, given and as Jim Morrison of The Doors famously said: "whoever controls the media, controls the mind." And that in a nutshell is what Putin and for that matter, all autocrats fear the most: not NATO, not America, but free speech and the right of a nation to legally elect its representatives in a non-fraudulent election and conversely, and by way of a simple X on a ballot paper get rid of them. In short; that of democracy itself.

That Russia remains a nuclear power, with Europe's largest conventional military, is a fact that cannot be ignored and whilst the West hopes that the ongoing negotiations for peace are tentative steps that eventually result in a settlement that will save so many lives, such all but depends on the willingness of both parties to come to some form of compromise. Yet with Putin having openly stated that Ukraine is "a country that should not exist," how much hope can there be for a ceasefire, when he's clearly making it his mission to turn those words into a sickening reality. Yet at some point, Putin will want to emerge victorious; whatever the actuality be. As too, is the certitude that the free world will demand justice for the war atrocities that continue to be carried out by Russia's relentless bombing of Ukraine, the loss and outright displacement of the Ukrainian people and the mutilated bodies of those who came face to face with Putin's soldiers of barbarity who knowingly violate the Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflicts; i.e. The Geneva Conventions.

In two years, Paris is set to host the 2024 Summer Olympics; God willing, raising the question of whether or not Russia will be allowed to compete at such a prodigious event. The very thought of Russia holding its head up high, as if the war in Ukraine had not taken place, is frankly as repulsive a thought, as the savagery of the war itself. Only the cold, hard reality is that Western leaders come and go, with their longevity in office largely dependent on domestic policy; rather than foreign. Putin knows this, being equally aware that come the bitter dawn of winter, all too many European leaders will still be heavily reliant, at least at this stage, on Russian gas and oil supplies. Yet they must know that in doing so, they are, in effect, in Putin's pocket. That the West must now re-evaluate their energy needs, is seemingly the sole means by which to diminish the rubles that finance Putin's deplorable wars of attrition and his very power base.

Until then, the free world must unite in letting Russia know the true cost of Putin's actions and how Russia's standing on the world stage is now forever soiled with the blood of Ukraine, the war dead, the mental anguish and suffering of countless children, those who have been tortured, raped or used as human shields, and the millions left to flee their homeland for their very life itself. Put simply; we owe them that. And a lot more.

›› posted: Thursday, 7th April, 2022.

Ukraine: A Political Comment by Gay Celluloid editor-in-chief: David Hall.

›› copyright © 2022 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com ‹‹
›› archive reference #Ukraine ‹‹