One of the most famous sentences in literature is “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, with which Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy starts Anna Karenina novel.
The antithesis of today, but also an analogy to this Tolstoy claim, is that all extremists look alike and liberals are special in their own way. Authoritarian ideologies, such as (Soviet) socialism, aspired to internationalism, believing that the strength and size of their goals deserved to be globally accepted. Liberals, on the other hand, do not have that international pressure from within, but again their ideas of democracy and the free market have become globally accepted, unlike the plans of left-wing extremists who ruled the Soviet Union and much of Europe.
In an even more perverted form, the extremist international committed to today’s Russia and its leader Putin celebrates around the world his aggression against Ukraine, justifies his war goals and supports him in the restoration of the autocratic empire, regardless of the sovereignty of other states and people. There is unanimity in that camp, whether it comes from Tucker Carlson from Fox TV, or from extremists from the Balkans, who wave Putin’s portraits and flags of Imperial Russia as they march in T-shirts with the letter “Z” in support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On the other hand, the leaders of the democratic world, naturally guided by their beliefs and policies, do not think the same about Russian aggression, neither among themselves, nor in relation to a large part of their own citizens and voters. Emmanuel Macron called on the West not to “humiliate Russia”, and persuaded Volodymyr Zelensky to make concessions to Russia over the territory. At the beginning of the mandate of its new Chancellor Scholz, Germany was hesitant in any joint Western initiative to impose sanctions on Russia, and its acceptance was often forced and under great pressure. What is there to say about “small” Western leaders, such as Croatian President Milanovic, who persistently expects Ukrainians to stop defending themselves, because, as he says, Russia is “violent, too strong, very dangerous and impossible to defeat”. Or about the Hungarian Prime Minister Orban and his constant obstruction of the EU decisions on sanctions against Moscow.
Of course, democracy tolerates such a diversity of views, without it it would not even exist. But the nature of that diversity today is not democratic, it is the result of calculation and conformism, and we will recognize it by one of the variations on the subject “we just want to protect the interests of our country and our people”. Gas through the Nord Stream has long been more important for Germany than solidarity with Ukraine, and even more than obligations towards the EU and NATO, just as the supply of oil through the Druzhba pipeline to Hungary is of higher priority than Europe’s united response to brutal aggression happening in its backyard. For Croatian President Milanovic, the election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a more important priority than the admission of Sweden and Finland to NATO, so he even tried to resort to that blackmail.
Excuses for reluctance to support Ukraine are hypocritical and calculating, any fear of two degrees colder apartments during the winter or higher gasoline prices are miserable responses of the most developed part of civilization to destruction and crimes that happen only an hour or two by plane.
European solidarity with Ukraine in the first days of aggression was stronger, and today we hear the sentence “what does Zelensky want, we help him so much, and we don’t have to, and he asks for more”. Analysts talk about exhaustion, about the routine of the Ukrainian war, about the decline in the interest of Western countries and their public in helping Kiev. They call for ignoring the combat policies of the Baltic states, Poland and Finland, because they are allegedly too afraid of Russia, which is otherwise true, but only because they had the misfortune to know the cruelty of Moscow best of all Europeans.
Every voice like this is just an echo of something that has already been said in Moscow or ordered from it. The owners of these voices only rented them to the Kremlin and its propaganda, they are doing a job they may have agreed on many years ago, but today the time has come to do the job for which they once received an advance. The relativization of the Ukrainian tragedy in the Western public, its reduction to routine, to side news, to the pattern, is a “commodity” that the Kremlin will pay for with pure gold, and there is every chance that it did so much earlier.
This kind of narrative has a very fertile ground. Europeans do not want to live worse because of the war in Ukraine, they often think that it is not their war, that Ukraine is far away. The problem is the rising price of a cubic meter of gas, not the sea of tears of Ukrainian children who were left without parents and without childhood. Or parents who buried their children. How many cubic meters of children’s and parents’ tears is that? We want peace immediately, they say, and for Ukraine to accept a compromise, because peace is only achievable in that way and the victims will stop piling up. Really noble, but what about the victims so far, aren’t they important just because their voice is no longer heard?
Every European city can take on the architecture of Mariupol, every European can experience the fate of the citizens of Bucha, but only if they allow Putin and his criminals to do so. They have shown that they can commit an unimaginable destruction, they are honest when they say that they have similar plans with Europe, and now they have the opportunity. Between those plans and Europe, only Ukraine and its heroic resistance stand as victims. Supporting that resistance today is the obligation of every European, because it is support for oneself and one’s peace.