Nothing Can Justify the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
One of the ways to insert influence, which is hard to notice ad become increasingly aggressive since the beginning of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, is to compare, equate and justify the war
Author: prof. Mirjana Najcevska, PhD, an expert on the rule of law and human rights
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine opened up new space and created a new need for greater Russian influence in North Macedonia.
In conditions when the government in North Macedonia gives undoubted and very open support to Ukraine, condemns the invasion and offers material assistance to the citizens of Ukraine, the wave of Russian influence on social networks and certain portals/media is intensifying.
This impact is no longer so direct, immediate and open, but it is no less dangerous.
Texts and positions can still be seen on social media that directly support Putin and the invasion of Ukraine, but the media and official portals do not allow such an open approach and begin to use more subtle tools of disinformation.
Putin’s direct support is often placed in the context of the alleged threat to North Macedonia posed by Western European countries, accompanied by videos and photos showing the alleged success of the Russian military in the fighting in Ukraine, i.e. articles alluding to the power of the Russian army, and its humanity.
However, one of the ways to insert influence, which is hard to notice ad become increasingly aggressive since the beginning of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, is to compare, equate and justify the war.
THE FIRST LEVEL is a comparison of the current invasion of Ukraine. It is usually done by comparing Putin’s invasion of Ukraine with military intervention, military presence and/or military support given by the United States in the civil wars/conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen, or the recognition of Kosovo.
This is a quasi-comparison, which usually begins with the expressions: double standards; Russia did not destroy the international order, NATO and America did this; the US regime creates crises; why no one complained about the war in Syria; if there were such sanctions for every US aggression, the world would not know what the American anthem sounds like, nor would any of their athletes know; Remember when the US received EU sanctions for attacks on Yugoslavia, Libya, Iraq, Syria, etc.? No. We do not remember either….
The most common way to quasi-compare Putin’s invasion of Ukraine with US military activity is by posting charts, graphs, lists, and brief statements listing U.S. military bases or countries where the U.S. have been or are in any manner military present or where they have “participated” in inciting the overthrow of regimes.
Without entering into a debate on whether a possible violation of the law at another time, other conditions, elsewhere, in a completely different conflict is automatically sufficient justification for the same or similar violation of the law now, in these conditions, in a particular country – Ukraine.
In fact, no one starts or engages in such a debate.
Tables and figures are easily reproduced. Lists, charts, tables, short statements…
The spread of such charts, graphs and texts on social networks is aimed at promoting the idea of a huge quantitative imbalance in US military action around the world, which necessarily leads to a conclusion about the justification and, above all, the “defensive” character of Putin’s military invasion of Ukraine.
With this, the EU and European countries in general, are again removed (or put on the sidelines) from the image of the conflict between Putin and the democratic world, the conflict is presented as a conflict between Russia and the United States and all comparisons are reduced to Russia and the United States. In this way, a complete defocus from the real situation is made and the global picture in which the Putin regime (not Russia) undertakes an invasion, which is condemned by the majority of countries in the world, is no longer seen, but the perception of equal action of two great powers is imputed implying that the public does not condemn the actions of one, but condemns the actions of the other.
The simplified form of these articles (especially charts and graphs) allows them to be easily disseminated and a clear perception is built, which presents the “identified adversary” – the United States – in the worst possible light and incites negative feelings as a “proven” conqueror and aggressor, as opposed to Russia for which a perception as someone who is persistently defending themselves is offered.
This is achieved by the fact that none of these texts is backed by or refers to analyzes, research, broader data, which would include a real comparison (the role of the former USSR and today’s Russia in those or similar conflicts), nor does it offer an explanation of the content of the mentioned activities, background, involvement/role of the mentioned country.
PUT IN THE SAME BASKET
At the same time, the perception is reinforced by the fact that completely different situations and activities are placed in the same basket (which can never be placed under the same denominator). Just as an example we mention Poland (1980-81), Kuwait (1991), and Vietnam (1961-73), which together appear on one of the most widespread lists.
Namely, when Poland is in question, we are talking about an original internal movement, which has been developing for years and which culminates in the activities of “Solidarity”, and is aimed at liberation from the presence of Russia and democratization of its own society (which has nothing to do with the United States) and is disavowing the long struggle of the Polish people for liberation from the influence of the USSR and democratization of their own society.
Kuwait was opposing an invasion by Iraq involving 32 countries (at that time the largest coalition of states since World War II) and there was even a common position of the United States and the then USSR regarding the invasion and UN resolution supporting action to oust Saddam Hussein (Iraq) from Kuwait.
The Vietnam War is part of the conflicts that arise and are part of the Cold War. The war itself has a very complex background (involving both the US and the USSR), and the US role in it is one of the most controversial, with the least support from other countries, and is openly condemned as immoral by the American academia and many citizens of the United States.
This leads to the SECOND LEVEL – a kind of equalization, erasure of differences, identification (systems, procedures, activities, mode of action), which dilutes the condemnation and disperses any disagreement with Putin’s concrete aggression on Ukraine.
The equation begins with denying the difference in reporting on Putin’s aggression on Ukraine between the Russian regime-controlled media and the media of the “Western” countries and creating the impression that it is a simple struggle between the lies of two propaganda machines. The closure of media space in Russia and the absence of external information is equated with the current restriction of cable broadcasting to Russia’s two state-controlled media (done, above all, as a symbolic act, which expresses an attitude rather than a real limitation, given the openness of the media space in Western democracies).
The equation continues with the claim that all politicians are the same and that the international community should react in the same way when it comes to the very similar violations of international law to be rounded up in statements that these are equal democratic systems with human rights violations (and even much greater respect for them by Putin than by Western democracies). However, these are not qualitatively different, i.e.:
From a political and strategic point of view, as we have seen, the intervention in Ukraine is only an operationalization of the diplomatically expressed ambitions for a new world order. In practice, this is articulated through the fear of NATO, the threat posed by NATO and the immanent danger that, according to Russia, gives it legitimacy to use force. This, in itself, suggests that in legal terms, perhaps Putin is referring to another zealous precedent in the use of force, and that is the premature use of force, which was very relevant during the global war on terror.
This is an interesting way of ensuring the persistence of a positive attitude towards the Putin regime by minimizing wrongdoing, placing it in a broader context without offering more compelling explanations, or deriving a common denominator.
In this regard, there are articles that seem to be a general condemnation of the war, but in which behind the generalization the absence of a concrete condemnation is hidden, putting it in the same basket and identification. The bottom line is that Ukraine is not a victim of Putin, but of a global war that is constantly being waged on all sides, in which one culprit cannot be identified because everyone is equally guilty and/or responsible.
“I’m against all wars” is the best way to avoid saying whether you are against this concrete war. Probably the best example of this is the text of Professor Biljana Vankovska written for the newspaper “Nova Makedonija”.
I signed the petition, although it is a pathetic attempt to “do something”, to calm the conscience and to demonstrate the standing on the “right side” (after a decade of silence about other military campaigns, some of which are still active today). The so-called “fact-checkers” ask someone like me with decades of experience in the anti-war movement and a book of anti-war essays to swear again and again that I am against this war (as well as many others). Three times a day, and with a mandatory flag on the FB profile. The implicit imperative is to take sides, as if we are in a crisis with the Inform Bureau: whether you are for Tito or Stalin has now been replaced by whether you are for NATO/Ukraine or Putin. That false dilemma in the binary mind (this or that) is embedded in the foundations of the moral collapse of mankind. They cannot understand that one must be equally against the two warring parties. Especially when we are on the verge of a nuclear holocaust and the EU is acting like an arsonist, not a Nobel Peace Prize winner. By supplying weapons, Ukraine is becoming a de facto battleground between NATO and Russia, let us not be fooled. According to Jan Oberg, the West is on an autopilot of boundless hatred of Russia and everything Russian (from Tchaikovsky to the Bolshoi Theater), its military operations, as well as the right to veto in the UN Security Council (just as the United States has blocked any condemnation of Israel for decades and manipulated various resolutions to find a “hole in the law” for operations in which entire states were disbanded and left millions of innocent civilian victims).
Condemnation of concrete aggression against a particular state is called a “false dilemma”, the opposition to Putin’s aggression is called “boundless hatred of Russia and everything Russian”, and the equalization is clearly propagated by the message that it should be “equal against the two warring parties”.
SUBTLE EQUALIZATION AND SHIFTING OF BLAME
Another subtle way of influencing identification is to problematize and/or deny the democratic character of European states, which publicly oppose Putin’s aggression on Ukraine. This is even more dangerous when it comes from a member of the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts – MANU.
Just as an example, on her FB status (which was later published in several media and shared on social networks), academician Katica Kjulafkova claims that:
But today, March 2022, after several days of special Russian military intervention in Ukraine, the entire “progressive” European and American world, and even the Macedonian, promoted the brutal policy of boycotting art and culture that has a Russian symbol. Almost hysterically are banned all performances, promotions, classes, distribution and communication of top and popular works of art and masterpieces, bestsellers, theater performances, films, concerts, authors, composers, painters, opera singers, sporting events, just because they have Russian sign.
With what unprecedented moral and intellectual ease are Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Russian ballet, Russian romance banned…? This is a total decadence of the Enlightenment spirit of Europe.
Why and how is such a post dangerous and an example of spreading Russian influence in Macedonia?
The seemingly legitimate call for the protection of human cultural, artistic and intellectual heritage carries a hidden content, which unilaterally and without arguments condemns the actions of Western European democracies, denies their democratization and equates their action with that of Putin.
How is the act of subtle equalization, shifting of blame and unilateral condemnation (in favor of Putin and his aggression) carried out?
First, before this text, Academician Kjulafkova has not published on her FB profile any other text condemning Putin’s military aggression against Ukraine. This means that the public starts from the assumption that Academician Kjulafkova does not find anything wrong with this aggression.
Second, she calls Putin’s war against Ukraine a “special military operation” in line with the demands of the Putin administration, which denies war in Ukraine.
Third, it quotes the word “progressiveness,” which problematizes and denies the progressiveness of Western democracies.
Fourth, she speaks of the “brutal policy” of a boycott of Russian arts and culture, accusing it of hysterical bans on:
Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tchaikovsky, Russian ballet, Russian romance…? This is a total decadence of the Enlightenment spirit of Europe.
It does not provide any link or specific case of these prohibitions (placed in the context of each of the given cases).
Thus, it is not mentioned that the attempt to ban Dostoevsky’s study met with a very sharp and quick reaction from the academic community and was thwarted. She did not mention that conductor Valery Georgiev, who was forced to resign as honorary president of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, had shown solidarity with Putin and had not distanced himself from Putin’s aggression on Ukraine. She did not mention that there will be no Russian pavilion at the Venice Biennale because Russian artists withdrew, explaining that:
There is no place for art when civilians die under rocket fire, when Ukrainian citizens hide in shelters, when Russian protesters are silenced.
Most importantly, Academician Kjulafkova finds no place in her post to express concern about Ukrainian artists, the endangered artistic heritage in Ukraine, and the already destroyed works of art as a result of Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.
Academician Kjulafkova ends her FB status with the question:
Quo vadis, Europe? Are you facing a mutated transnational Nazism?
In this way, she clearly implies Nazi characteristics for European countries and leads to the “logical conclusion” of all these activities, which is to justify Putin’s military aggression against Ukraine.
What you will read now is what Putin said two months ago and was reported by the British Guardian on December 21, 2021. After these statements, it will become clear to you that the West is actually pushing Russia into a corner, and Putin simply had no choice, because Russia was threatened in its own backyard. If the adversary simply does not want to talk and make compromises, then war is the only solution. After all, let us recall the Cuban Missile Crisis. United States couldn’t allow missiles into its own backyard.
THIRD LEVEL, justification for Putin’s aggression on Ukraine is packed with alleged Russophobia.
It is often presented as a struggle against fascism in Europe and European countries.
It is further developed into the claim that this is a defensive war.
“A third world war is planned against Russia” – a shocking statement by the former Prime Minister of Ukraine
We come to the very clear support given by the president of the party “United Macedonia”, Janko Bacev (found in the renowned weekly “Fokus”):
For me, the Russian intervention is justified because they were put in a position to have nothing more to lose if NATO came to their border. I ask how NATO and the United States would react in a presumed situation, if Canada or Mexico enters into a military alliance with Russia and, consequently, the Russian side piles up Russian weapons on the border with the United States. How would Americans react in that case?
None of these theses is supported by relevant data, arguments, analyzes, facts… However, with their growing number, they try to create the impression that there is some “hidden” truth, a big conspiracy, a situation completely different from the one that people can see unfolding before their eyes.
And just in case, here is another message from another intellectual that what is happening in Ukraine is very tragic and sad, but has nothing to do with Macedonia and our lives:
My heart aches when I see that the Macedonian people are divided on the question of who is for Russia or Ukraine. I prefer everyone to be for Macedonia. Unfortunately, only a few hundred, from time to time several thousand, were the idealists who took to the streets, in front of the Assembly and the Government, fighting for Macedonia. The majority stayed at home and kept silent!
I’m sorry you do not see the big picture, – while you are all arguing, throwing punches, swearing, someone else is making money. Do not enter other people’s agendas. Love yourself, take care of your families and loved ones, and do not forget, Macedonia above all!
According to this message, because they are all the same and there is no difference in the value systems they offer, we are talking only about games in which there is no place for us and it is best not to take sides because the only side that should interest us is ours.
In this way, not only are Western democracies and Putin’s regime in Russia are equated, but the propaganda of favouritism and inclination towards the winner, whoever they are, is spread.