No, he didn’t pilfer those exact lyrics from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, but action speaks louder than words.
Vladimir Putin, channeling Britain’s disastrous King George III in “Hamilton,” is determined to convince the people of Ukraine that they belong to him, and he’s quite willing to kill as many Ukrainian men women, and children as necessary, to demonstrate that they are all simply recalcitrant Russians. Problem is, they’re not, and they don’t want to be, and they are willing to fight and die for their freedom rather than to become Vladimir’s vassals.
Ukraine has its own history, its own people, and its own language. It is both a sad history and a history rich in a determined quest for freedom. The fact that its history has, over the last thousand years, intersected with Russia’s history, as well as the history of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and with that of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire does not mean that Ukraine is not entitled to pursue its own destiny. The map of Europe has gone through a continuing transformation ever since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 which introduced the sovereignty of European nation-states. A little more than a century-and-a-half later, in 1815, the Treaty of Vienna further altered the map of Europe as did the Versailles Treaty following World War I in 1919, and to a lesser extent so did the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 which formally ended the Great War. And between 1920 and 2020 the map changed even more.
The nations of which Ukraine was once a constituent part, the Russian Empire and, in most of the 20th century, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, simply do not exist anymore. All fifteen of the former republics that once comprised the former Soviet Union are independent nations now. Most of them, including Ukraine, are zealously free and want little, or nothing, to do with Putin’s Russia. In fact, most of the old Warsaw Pact nations are now members of NATO, which simply attests to their identification with the West and their determination not to ever be subjugated to Russia again.
Of all the nations in the world, only Putin’s Russia and a couple of crony Russian allies declare that Ukraine has no right to exist as an independent nation. Indeed, Russia recognized Ukrainian independence when the Soviet Union collapsed and, in 1994, Russia formally agreed to recognize and respect Ukraine as an independent nation. In fact, Ukraine relinquished its considerable nuclear arsenal in return for Russia, as well as the United States and Great Britain, recognizing its independence. This is no small matter.
The so-called Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances was negotiated and executed to provide assurances to Ukraine that none of the signatories would use military or economic coercion against Ukraine. In return, Ukraine relinquished its nuclear arsenal. That 1994 protocol raises serious questions about the value of an agreement with Russia, and sadly, somewhat about the value of the word of the United States and Great Britain as well. Russia, with the help of the United States and Great Britain, finessed away Ukraine’s defensive trump card, and now, less than three decades later, Ukraine is fighting for its life.
Putin showed his hand last July when he published an outrageous revanchist manifesto with the self-serving title, “The Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” It is a declaration of war, disguised as a historical treatise; a thinly disguised excuse to attack a neighboring country that, like many other Slavic countries today, was once part of the large peasant, serf-enslaved population comprising the old Russian Empire and, after 1917, the Soviet Union.
Ukrainians graduated from serfdom to impoverished peasantry in 1861, about the same time as slaves were emancipated in the United States. Ukrainians long for freedom, which is why Russian rulers constantly tried to outlaw the use of the Ukrainian language. Contrary to what Putin would have the world believe, the people of Ukraine suffered greatly in the Russian Empire and monstrously under the Soviet Union. In fact, Joseph Stalin, whose cruelty Vladimir Putin enthusiastically emulates, did engage in a calculated genocide against Ukraine when, in the early 1930s, the Soviets engaged in what today would truly and correctly be recognized as genocide. Stalin deliberately starved millions of Ukrainians to death through the confiscation of the Ukrainian peasants’ grain and nearly all of their livestock. It is estimated that approximately 7 million Ukrainians died during Stalin’s deliberate and deadly assault on Ukrainian men women and children. The Ukrainians haven’t forgotten this dark period of the Russian savaging of their people. They even have a name for it, “the Holodomor,” roughly translated to “extermination by hunger.” So much for Putin’s insulting fiction of the “Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.”
One wonders whether there is anyone in the Russian professional military class who isn’t disgusted by what their leader is ordering them to do to innocent and helpless civilians to demonstrate the fiction of his “Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” Russia has acquitted itself very poorly in combat against the vastly outnumbered and out-equipped Ukrainian defenders. So they have trained their guns and missiles and cluster bombs and thermobaric weapons, (which the Russian military gleefully refers to as “heavy flamethrowers”) on the women and children, and the elderly men of Ukraine.
You’ll be back like before
I will fight the fight and win the war
For your love, for your praise
And I’ll love you ’til my dying days
When you’re gone, I’ll go mad
So don’t throw away this thing we had
‘Cause when push comes to shove
I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.
Da-da-da, dat-da, dat, da-da-da, da-ya-da
Da-da, dat, dat, da-ya-da
Da-da-da, dat-da, dat, da-da-da, da-ya-da