Some companies that have left Russia have simply released their employees. Others continue paying them. Is this a moral issue and is there political benefit in not paying them? Similarly a discussion has ensued since Big Pharma has been largely carved out from the sanctions regime as they continue doing business in Russia. The moral argument is that people with various illnesses need drugs to survive. However, in both examples the allegedly moral argument fails to consider numerous other moral underpinnings. The issue then becomes moral equivalence.
Civilians and even children are being murdered indiscriminately in Ukraine. Numerous attempts at establishing previously agreed to human corridors have been violated by the Russians. This war has become a glaring showcase for war crimes. The West has been supportive short of becoming involved in preventing the carnage. Additionally, no one has come close to suggesting what has been termed an off ramp for Vladimir Putin.
The following is indisputable: Vladimir Putin is a war criminal (in addition to being simply a criminal in the past, and yet enjoying Western collegiality), a terrorist and the one person in control in Russia and responsible for everything. Russia is a rogue state by any standard. The Russian people are not simply misinformed victims or unwitting accomplices. Putin has ruled for more than twenty years. His rating accurate or not hovers in the 70%. We often hear that the Russian population is a victim as well. That is what the United States Department of State argued erroneously throughout the existence of the USSR, that the Russians were a captive nation. There are think tanks in the United States even today that argue in favor of the Russian people as victims.
Frankly, I would argue that the Russian mindset and culture are an acquired characteristic, one based on longing for empire. The Russian soul is that of Dostoevsky’s Roskolnikov with no remorse. Many Russian human rights activities such as the preeminent Solzhenitsyn were chauvinist. Apologists argue that he was a great writer, but so what. Sakharov was not a chauvinist, but there was a non-Russian ethnic element in Sakharov. Besides, there are exceptions. Sakharov and his wife were outliers. Many Russians in Ukraine today are on the side of Ukraine because they wish to live in a democracy.
Russians are not born oppressors but very often they are reared both at home and sociologically to become imperialists and chauvinists. It is simply a part of Russian history and culture. Mass murderers are revered as being great leaders.
The discussion today centers upon the war and the way to end it. Even the average American in Nebraska has to be concerned and not simply because of sympathy for Ukrainians. Europeans are genuinely scared. Germany is contributing to NATO at its peril. Still, I have yet to hear a pathway for peace from a Western analyst. Even a Putin victory over Ukraine would not mark an end to hostilities. Ukrainian resistance would continue. Putin perhaps emboldened by victory would look towards other parts of Europe.
Putin’s psychosis is predicated on a legacy, that of yet another great Russian czar. Most czars of Russia were evil. Putin does not have moral dilemmas. He also doesn’t care for human life.
There are two pathways. One is a victory for Ukraine. In all likelihood that would require more than the West is doing today. It certainly would require Ukrainian Migs, Patriots and other weapons so far missing. The other pathway is turmoil in Russia. With the current sanctions, mass unemployment, lack of western drugs even the Russian people may arise.
I recently spoke with Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld from Yale. He has and continues to compile a list of American companies who did or are continuing to do business in Russia. He concurs that companies leaving Russia should not continue paying their employees. He also feels that America’s Big Pharma should not be carved out from the sanctions’ list. He sees Russian popular revolt against the Putin regime as a very viable pathway to ending the suffering of Ukrainians.
The moral dilemma boils down to allowing the slaughter of innocent children by continuing to pay the salaries of Russians for no work and providing drugs to Russians who are ill, all of whom are willing to stand by and watch the indiscriminate carnage in Ukraine.
Anyone who believes that average Russians are not aware of what is happening in Ukraine and who is carrying out the war crimes is delusional. Russia has been banned from sporting events. Even that should raise an eyebrow or two with the Russian populace about Russian malfeasance. St. Petersburg has been removed as a venue for the European football club championship. Even sports fans know that Putin is pure evil.
There are Russian protests, and there are severe laws against them with heavy penalties, and so it appears that the opposition is deterred. Russian protest has to be raised to a level of a revolution against the criminality of Russia’s latest czar because popular life in Russia has to become unbearable. We need to spur on that revolution.
March 12, 2022 Askold S. Lozynskyj