April 22, 2022

Putin to Ukraine: “I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.”

by Hal Gershowitz

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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
Da-da, dat.

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20 responses to “Putin to Ukraine: “I will kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.””

  1. Aviva snow says:

    This is an excellent , albeit , sad analysis of the current situation. Europe’s borders have changed so much over the years that if everyone thought like Putin does, the countries would all have to go back to their original borders. Freedom, anyone?

  2. Jamie Kabler says:

    Hal I always get a much needed history lesson…Today’s column is rich in perspective and history . It just makes me cry .

  3. Ted Goldman says:

    The failure by the U.S. and others to honor the 1994 treaty with Ukraine in exchange for surrendering its nuclear arms will not be forgotten by other nations.

    As a result of this treacherous abdication of responsibility, other nations will assuredly acquire nuclear arms to defend themselves.

    The responsibility for this rests squarely on the shoulders of the Biden administration.

    • Hal Gershowitz says:

      Reply to Ted Goldman: To say the responsibility for what is happening in Ukraine “rests squarely on the shoulders of the Biden Administration” is quite a stretch. It rests squarely on the shoulders of the Putin Administration in Moscow and, in the United States, quite a bit on the shoulders of the Clinton Administration. Under Clinton, the United States and Russia (as well as Britain) provided “security assurances.” The Clinton Administration fought against the word “guarantees.” The so-called Budapest memorandum committed Washington, Moscow, and London, among other things, to “respect the independence and sovereignty and existing borders of Ukraine” and to “refrain from the threat or use of force” against that country. Well, the United States has respected the borders of Ukraine.
      It is Russia that hasn’t. However, the Clinton Administration did put tremendous pressure on Ukraine to sign the accords. Short of going to war, the Biden Administration has actually acquitted itself quite well in rallying NATO nations to support Ukraine, sanctioning Russia, and by rushing arms to Ukraine. The value of the arms and assistance Biden is providing to Ukraine is historic, rivaling Roosevelt’s Arsenal of Democracy in 1940.

      • Barbara says:

        Well said!

      • Thank you so much for, Hal, for advising that gentleman that this is not on President Biden. He has done his utmost to help Ukraine and still walk a thin line so as not to start World War III.
        However, I believe that it is way past time for all of the NATO countries to provide Ukraine with warplanes and bombs. They must have these to protect Donbas and regain the towns they have lost and especially, to liberate Mariupol.

        Ukraine should have been admitted to NATO long ago. It should be done as soon as they have won the war. What country is as brave as Ukraine in fighting for their democratic way of life? They would be a staunch ally.

        • Maria Lynn says:

          In response to Virginia Arthur, I agree that it is way past time to provide Ukraine with fighter jets to protect itself against the senseless annihilation of civilians & civilian targets. Have been saying this since the start of the war. Putin has no qualms about bombing Ukraine into dust

      • Thank you. Well said. It is unfortunate that Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons. Putin would not have done this if they had nuclear weapons, too.

  4. Perry says:

    The CIA under the shallow eye of Biden Administration knew six months in advance of the
    Russian plan. I understand it was documented so Ted Goldman has a valid point. Had the
    USA lived up to it’s promise of 1994 instead of watching and hoping of just Russian maneuvers
    on the border the outcome would indeed be a serious defeat for the Vaunted Russian war
    machine. As it is one must admire the determination of the Ukrainians to fight for liberty and
    freedom. A good lesson for Americans not to wait for disaster but to prepare and act.

  5. Sherry Schor says:

    I thought your essay today was brilliant. It brings so many things into perspective and how we are living in such scary times.

  6. Ted Goldman says:

    Memories are short.

    Biden initially only offered to transport Ukrainian leaders until President Zelensky shamed him by forcefully stating that the “Ukrainians wanted weapons, not a ride”, and would bravely fight for their freedom.

    Biden has transferred limited and minimally effective weapons, and failed to provide air support.

    Biden is apparently willing to see the destruction of Ukraine, otherwise he would supply effective weapons requested by Zelensky.

    After Biden’s Afghanistan disaster, is Taiwan next?

    • Vikki says:

      This is directed to Ted Goldman. If you feel the equipment being sent to Ukraine is insufficient and Pres. Biden is to blame for not doing more, please tell us what you would do if you were in his position. It is a delicate situation to say the least, and Ukraine is not a NATO member so how many countries do you think will help the U.S.? People don’t want another 18 year war or most importantly a nuclear war. We all want to help Ukraine the best we can but please enlighten the unenlightened and tell us what you have in mind that you won’t be ridiculed for as you are ridiculing the President. Getting out of Afghanistan wasn’t pretty but neither was getting out of other wars, some of which we should not have even been involved in.

  7. Stuart Goldfine says:

    Affirming comments by Perry and Ted Goldman. “Nero fiddles while Rome is burning” reminds me of Biden. Those people in the Ukraine are brave and need weapons, food, clothing, etc. to fight back. So far, they have received little support from us.
    Hitler moved into Poland in 1939 and Roosevelt did nothing until Pearl Harbor, two years later, in1941, and that forced his hand. The UN is a worthless body now too.

    • Mark Thompto says:

      Replying to Stuart Goldfine, Perry, and Ted Goldman: Gentlemen, you appear to be unaware of the massive damage done to NATO by the former guy. Joe has done a masterful job of patching up the most successful alliance in the history of the world! He has released top secret information in a brilliant move to blunt the effect of POO-TON’s lie campaign making the ill-informed dictator’s efforts ineffective! The Ukraine administration was warned in real time of the dangers.
      Joe has done everything POSSIBLE for a US president to do!

      • Well said. However, there is more we must do if we want Russia “to be weakened to the point that they will never again have the ability to attack one of its neighbors. “

  8. Margot Halperin says:

    Very interesting and informative essay, Hal
    “Who will write his story ? “

  9. Mike says:

    Hal, just as I have been vocal about challenging you on columns that were, in my opinion myopic, let me commend you on this column. The historical perspective was illuminating and very interesting. Well done! Also, while I have been vocal about the failings of the Biden Administration, I think he deserves credit for keeping American troops out of this conflict and also understanding what is at stake if this crisis escalates

  10. Shirley N. says:

    Excellent commentary, Hal. You always paint a vivid picture of history. I learn so much from your essays.

  11. Mark Smith says:

    Interesting essay, but… Not a word about the 2014 US-engineered coup against Yanukovych (who made the mistake of preferring to keep Ukraine out of NATO and the EU). Not a word about the influence and power of the Bandera nazis that have a dominant role in the Ukrainian military. Not a word about Zelensky being the drug-addled clown-puppet of the Ukro-oligarch gangster Kolomoisky – equally in thrall of Igor K and his US/NATO keepers, and in fear of the nazis who control the Ukraine military. Not a word about the 8-year terror-bombing onslaught by Ukraine against its own citizens of Donetsk and Luhansk (who voted by referendum NOT for independence, but to remain in Ukraine with autonomous status). Who in the West mourns those 15,000 souls killed by their own government? Not a word about the so-called Azov battalion’s daily atrocities against the Russian-speaking population of Mariupol and their use of civilians as human shields and civilian buildings as artillery firing posts. Not a word about the corruption of Ukraine’s oligarch-dominated government and the influence purchased in the West by companies such as Burisma (and such questionable – at best – tactics as installing H. Biden on its board at ridiculous remuneration that can be difficult to explain as anything but bribery). Not a word about the presence in Ukraine of US-funded biolabs, which in addition to being a clear provocation against Russia constitute a health threat to the people of Ukraine and beyond. Not a word about the multi-decade, ever-eastward encroachment of NATO, despite assurances to the contrary (reminiscent of the wonderful line in Animal House, “Hey, you fXXXed up. You trusted us.”).

    Follow some of the on-the-ground reporting by actual brave journalists who are not beholden to the Western corporate media narratives – you’ll find many of them on Telegram and other non-moderated media platforms.

    And as to the use of cluster munitions, that would be Ukraine using its Tochka-U short-range missles against the Donbass civilian population, as in the March 14 strike in downtown Donetsk city, killing dozens of civilians and maiming dozens of others – an obvious terror bombing of a non-military target.

    Now that the US has revealed its real goal of weakening Russia at all costs, it’s pretty safe to say the US government doesn’t care how many Ukrainians die in this crisis – kind of like when Albright said the deaths of half a million Iraqi children were “worth it.” Unless the US wants to start WWIII (and not even I think our government is THAT depraved), Russia will win this conflict, southern and eastern Ukraine will be partitioned as independent states (or one state of Novorossiya), and Ukraine will remain as a land-locked, inconsequential – but sovereign! – nation. And the world will deal with the unintended (if predictable) consequences of new monetary, economic and geopolitical realities; for example, a dominant Eurasian block led by China, Russia and India, impoverishment of western Europe due to its suicidal decision to stop buying Russian commodities (energy, food, other natural resources), a gold-backed ruble (already trading at a stronger exchange rate to the dollar than it was before Feb 24), and the loss of reserve currency status for the USD, the real coup-de-grace of all consequences. And it was all so avoidable, but for western hubris and insane russophobia.

  12. Danna says:

    Your writing in compelling, clear, and eloquent. You are do a great service to explain to us the background and facts making it much more understandable for all of us. I believe Ukraine is fighting not only for their freedom but for freedom for all of us. People have been surrendering their freedom in fear of annihilation for centuries. Zelensky is an iconic and authentic hero in our times. I believe Navalny is of the same character–fearless in the face of a brutal and despicable despot! Thank you!

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