The Motherland Monument in Kiev, Ukraine. Photo Credit: AlexanderVovck, Wikipedia Commons
By Matthew Parish*
The term “genocide” was coined in 1944 by an American lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who used the term to describe what had happened to the Jews in Europe during German Nazism and European fascism more broadly since the 1930’s. Europe has always been a patchwork of ethnic identities overlaying the gradual emergence of the nation state as a concept since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 ending the Hundred Years’ War, a period of mindless carnage as different groups of people with various ethnic or other political identities slew one-another in the name of political purity.
Because Europe’s manifold senses of self-identity have always in part been associated with ethnicity, but the grid of contemporary nation-states created by the Westphalian peace could never overlap precisely with Europe’s different senses of identity, there would always be a risk that extremist politicians might try to force a reconciliation of the two by murdering or moving members of ethnic groups in political units not formally associated with them. These acts of murder or forcible expulsion of people from territory would henceforth have a legal classification: genocide, one of the most serious of internationally recognised war crimes.
The Jews in Europe were the biggest casualties of the acts of genocide perpetrated by the Nazis and their allies in Europe in the 1930’s and during World War Two. Nevertheless acts of genocide had a long history before Lemkin coined the term. Europeans have been trying to redraw their borders by forcible expulsion and murder of ethnic groups over several centuries. Inevitably they took place most frequently in buffer territories between opposing states representing different ethnic identities. Indeed the country that has most frequently suffered from acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide, in all Europe, is Ukraine. Throughout the historical tussles between neighbouring powers over Ukraine, her people have been abused, transported and slaughtered en masse as politicians have sought to exercise hegemony over her territory by transforming the composition of her mixed and delicate ethnic mixture of people.
The Poles and the Russians both did it, as far back as the 14th century, and then sought to repopulate Ukrainian territory with their own peoples (another conspicuous feature of the historical phenomenon of genocide). The Mongols did the same thing in Crimea and southern Ukraine in the fifteenth century. In the seventeenth century the War of Ruin between Poland, Russia, and the Mongols resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who were stuck in the middle. In the eigthteenth century, the Tartars exported some two million slaves from Ukraine. In the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire transported hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Siberia and Central Asia.
During the Bolshevik Revolution, the Russians slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians perceived to have pro-Austrian sentiments and the rights of ethnic Ukrainiains were vociferously repressed. In the 1930’s under Stalinist rule of the Soviet Union Ukraine was a centre of the collectivisation of agriculture, causing a widespread famine in which millions of Ukrainians starved to death at Russian hands in the Holodmor famine. During the second World War, some of the worst fighting was in Ukraine; six million Ukrainians were killed (one-quarter of the entire population) including some 1.5 million jews and some 40 percent or more of all Soviet war losses included Ukrainians.
Now we see the beginnings of another exercise in ethnic cleansing in Ukraine.
On Friday 18 February 2022 all the women, children and men not of fighting age in the Russian-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, parts of the Donbas region in southeastern Ukraine, were deported by Russian-backed forces to Russia. All men of fighting age were ordered to into conscription to fight against the Ukrainian Armed Forces – their own people. These were arranged by Russian FSB (state security service) infiltrations into Ukrainian regional government structures across Ukraine, triggered by false flag operations in which Russian security service agents had arranged for explosions in civilian areas of Donetsk that were used as a pretext to remove the populations en masse.
Today Tuesday 22 February 2022 the Russian Armed Forces invaded eastern Ukraine on the pretext of peacekeeping, in a conflict that does not exist save for Russian fabrications. Western intelligence reports have indicated that FSB infiltration units intend to arrange for further false flag operations across Ukrainian oblasts pretending that there are local uprisings against the Ukrainian central government. This we may assume will lead to further mass-removals of Ukrainian citizens; the Ukrainian military is a paltry affair and has no hope alone of resisting the much bigger Russian military forces that have amassed in the amount of some 200,000 soldiers to invade and presumably depopulate the country.
The West has initiated a series of sanctions. But this will not do. Sanctions cannot prevent the Russian military; the Kremlin will already have incorporated the costs of sanctions into its calculations in the invasions now starting to take place. Now the West must fight the Russian forces to prevent the latest round of ethnic cleansing of Ukraine by the Russian government, and all the horrendous consequences for the Ukrainian people that this may entail. This is the twenty-first century. We cannot suffer the first genocide of the century by the Russian military, while we the west, NATO forces, vastly superior to the Russian army, stand by and do nothing.
Russians act in stages in their foreign and military policy. They make manoueuvres, then pause, wait for the reaction, and then make the next steps. The way to stop them is to act robustly, early, in response to their sequential escalations. The Russian invasion of today is just one of a series of steps that the Russians are making and then they we are waiting to see how to react. The reason why western foreign policy is so often conflictual with Russian foreign policy is that complex democratic bureaucracies with constantly bargaining conpeting interests (e.g. Nordstream versus support for Poland, two perspectives within Germany) sit on their hands and become hamstrung in the face of steadily progressive Russian military escalations. Only when we reach a crisis do western democracies respond, typically with an all-or-nothing reaction.
Now is the time for such a reaction. We are seeing the beginnings of another Russian genocide against the Ukrainians. It must be stopped. This is the twenty-first century.
Genocidal tactics of the kind we have seen in Donetsk and Luhansk must not be allowed to spread. We have got it wrong so far. We must face down Russian armour with superior western armour. The United States has by far the largest armed forces in the world capable of acting at a distance. She has eleven nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, each with a deck capacity of some eighty aircraft, that fitted with low-flying medium range accurate cruise missiles can destroy concentrations of Russian armour using high-explosive munitions and tacticul nuclear warheads. The United States also has some 3,700 intercontinental ballistic missiles that can be fitted can be fitted with similar munitions, as can her submarine-launched ballistic missiles. This massive distribution of force, the instruments for which are surely already arranged pending the US President’s authority to proceed, can bring the Russian invasion, the beginnings of which we can see have involved an ethnic cleansing operation, to an abrupt halt. The NATO allies should not attempt to fight a ground war against 200,000 Russian troops. Instead they should establish overwhelming air supremacy over Ukrainian territory and use air power to annihilate Russian armour units.
The much-hyped Russian modern weaponry exists in insufficient numbers and is untested against western equipment. There is only one Russian MIG-31 armed with Russia’s “dagger” hypersonic missiles based in Kaliningrad, and there is no value in them save to attack an aircraft carrier and bypass its sentry guns (automatic guns designed to neutralise incoming missiles directed towards a ship). But the Russians will never attack a US aircraft carrier, or the Americans will flatten Moscow with the flick of a switch. Hypersonic missiles are one massive bluff. The S-400’s, Russia’s much vaunted surface-to-air missiles, are more impressive but the are untested against contemporary US Tomahawk cruise missiles, that fly as low as 30m, tracking the terrain, moving out of the way of obstacles and with proven accuracy, in the NATO bombing of Serbia back in 1999 showing themselves able to enter a single targeted window in the centre of Belgrade, a large city. S-400’s have a range of some 40km, and there is only a limited number of them whereas the NATO allies have tens of thousands of tomahawk cruise missiles; the United States has turned Poland into a massive missile silo precisely to deter an attack of the kind that Russia started today. You must be prepared to use a deterrent once you have used it. We need to start an immediate military response against Russian aggression, to make her stop and think. Otherwise Russia will keep going, trying ever further steps until we in NATO act to stop her. That is how Russian foreign policy has always been; and that is how it will be now. The sooner we act, the more territory we prevent Russia from seizing using force and ethnically cleansing. We must act straight away.
There will be a new arms race as a result, and a new Cold War. But the new Cold War has already begun, with the massive array of sanctions imposed upon Russia in immediate response to the Russian attack of this morning. The arms race has already been going on quietly and unnoticed by all but military analysts. Who has the best drones, SAM’s, sentry guns, hypersonic missiles, and aircraft carriers? Now it is brought into the open, as Russia threatens European peace with its supposedly superior technological accomplishments. There will be another Cuban Missile crisis moment, as we must face down Russian military aggression albeit far later than would have been ideal. We must not allow another genocide in Europe.
Once genocide in Ukraine has been averted, we can and will win the new Arms Race, because our economies are so superior to and more efficient than the Russian kleptocratic model of corporate capitalism.
British poet Wilfred Own wrote of the slaughter of innocent men in the trenches of World War One, the following harrowing words:
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns. Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle Can patter out their hasty orisons. No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all? Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes. The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall; Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
The civilised nations of NATO came to a common security agreement to ensure that the massive slaughters of European peoples by rivalled armed camps in the First and Second World Wars would not happen again. NATO now needs to use its collective strength to defend Europe once more and to prevent Ukraine from being reduced to another slaughterhouse. Russian ground forces must be prevented from progressing further into Ukraine and causing carnage against the civilian populations. The final word lies with the President of the United States, the most powerful military authority in the world. The reason to hold at one’s fingertips such overwhelming military force is to use the minimum force necessary to prevent the recurrence of the twentieth century’s abhorrent horrors. Let us pray that she acts sooner rather than later in the Greater Good, so that the people of Ukraine do not suffer the fate echoed in Owen’s unforgettable words.
*Matthew Parish is the Managing Partner of The Paladins, www.the-paladins.com, a private firm of legal, security and intelligence consultants. He is the author of three books and over four hundred articles on international law, international relations and geopolitics. www.matthew-parish.com. Follow the author on Twitter @parish_matthew.
TransConflict was established in response to the challenges facing intra- and inter-ethnic relations in the Western Balkans. It is TransConflict’s assertion that the successful transformation of conflict requires a multi-dimensional approach that engages with and aims at transforming the very interests, relationships, discourses and structures that underpin and fuel outbreaks of low- and high-intensity violence.