WORLD AFFAIRS.  August is when most of Europe closes down, as people dash to their country homes or head for resorts. Beaches overflow; fun becomes mandatory. A perfect tan is all that matters.

What a wonderful time to forget that the war in eastern Ukraine will continue to rage, perhaps even intensify.

Vladimir Putin’s terrorists, commandoes, mercenaries, and troops will keep on violating the Minsk 2 accords by shelling Ukrainian territory and killing Ukrainian citizens and soldiers. Yesterday, four soldiers lost their lives. The day before it was, I think, one. The day before that—none. The day before that: was it two? I forget.

Who’s counting anymore? We’ve all become jaded by the steady trickle of single digits. Remember the shock everyone felt during the Maidan Revolution, when the first demonstrators were killed? No more. Putin has achieved nothing with his aggression except one thing: to inure us to death.

And just why are they dying? Ah, yes: for that lovely bit of Ukraine called the Donbas.

Germany’s “iron chancellor,” Otto von Bismarck, famously quipped that the “Balkans aren’t worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.” Since Prussians regarded Pomeranians as a backward folk, his remark was doubly derogatory.

Just how many Ukrainian grenadiers is Luhansk worth? Or Donetsk?

Most Europeans willingly suspend their commitment to European values when the lives of non-EU members are at stake. Aren’t the Ukrainians defending Europe and everything it supposedly stands for? Sure, whatever; pass the sunblock, please, and let’s have another beer.

How many Ukrainians would be willing to become Pomeranian grenadiers? Or let their sons or husbands join that distinguished category? There’ll be lots of time to answer those questions. The war shows no signs of ending, even as the pointlessness of the shelling and killing becomes more obvious with every day.

Putin thinks he can wear Ukraine down. He’s wrong.

Time is on Ukraine’s side, not Russia’s. With every day, Ukraine’s economy strengthens, its state apparatus becomes a tad less dysfunctional, its army a bit more battle-ready, its institutions a little more consolidated. And with every day, Putin Russia moves, steadily but inexorably, in the opposite direction. Russia still has an advantage, for another six months or so. After that, Ukraine’s existence should be pretty much assured.

All that Putin is sure of achieving is more death, more destruction, and Russia’s collapse. Naturally, Putin doesn’t quite see things this way. What’s not to like about more death, especially of those pesky Little Russians? As to Russia, it’s as eternal as he is.

Like all autocrats, Putin has become so predictable. His hubris blinds him to the obvious: he’s doomed to join the lost list of dictators who went down down in flames and dragged their countries along with them.

Poor Russia: the time of troubles that awaits it may make the Donbas war look like a cakewalk.

Poor Europe: if it forgets that the only thing that makes it worth having is European values and that Ukraine is defending those values more assiduously than the Europeans, the EU won’t survive. After all, how many Pomeranian grenadiers is the euro worth?


Poor Ukraine: it’ll have to lose many more lives before it realizes that the Russian-occupied Donbas enclave isn’t worth the toe of a single Ukrainian grenadier. 

Alexander J. Motyl's blog

Ukrayinska Dumka


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