What would you think of a crew in a bar shouting that they are going to destroy the place, beat up all the guests and staff, but only two get up to do it? Wouldn’t you look with disgust at that crew breaking plates and throwing food because the service is bad, while at the same time picking through their wallets because they know they will have to pay for everything, and keep quiet when the waiter comes with the bill?
You’ve got a picture of today’s Russian society. At the same time, they would raze Kyiv to the ground, but only one in four would respond to the mobilization. Everyone supports the invasion of Ukraine, but everyone fears the consequences of that invasion – human casualties (90%), economic problems (80%) and international isolation (70%). Almost half call for more missile attacks on Kyiv, but even more call for peace talks. And, of course, almost everyone thinks that the Ukrainian government is occupied by Nazis, that the Ukrainians are responsible for the destruction of their people, and that everything the Kremlin says is true.
We didn’t ask them what they thought. For five months now, a research team from Princeton University, one of the most respected in the world, has been conducting a survey, using cutting-edge techniques and methods of sociological research. How would you treat such people? Could you find them likable, or could you at least be sympathetic to the general confusion they find themselves in, mixed with murderous aggression and cowardice at the same time?
Missile strikes on the centre of Kyiv, boulevards and children’s playgrounds was Russian response to the attack on the Kerch Bridge, Vladimir Putin confirmed this. The missile revenge was celebrated in Moscow and throughout Russia, although it did not bring any military advantage. On state TV channels (others do not exist), analysts and politicians competed in showing enthusiasm, but also threatened with new revenge. Kremlin analyst Bogdan Bezpalko called for the strikes to continue without interruption for the next two to five weeks, to plunge Ukraine “into cold and darkness”. Deputy in the Duma Alexander Kazakov complained because the action stopped and interrupted national celebration because of the bombing of Ukrainian cities.
These people and their audience are the same ones from the research at the beginning of the text who would like to destroy, but also to stay at home, who would like to go to war, but also keep their refrigerators full and their families together. They look forward to revenge on the innocent, which is an end in itself, because it is the only way to forget the defeats they experienced in real, one-on-one, man’s fight, a fight that they themselves sought.
Last Saturday (Crimean bridge) Ukraine showed why it is winning its war against Russia. On Monday (missile revenge), Russia showed why it is losing – wrote Phillips Payson O’Brien, Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Indeed, the Ukrainian action had a strategic military significance – it cut the supply line of the Russian occupation troops, while the Russian retaliation was pointless. It was only intended to show Ukraine their anger and muscle to mollify nationalist hard-liners incensed over Russia’s recent defeats in Ukraine (Professor O’Brien).
The joy in Russia after the missile retaliation against Ukraine was reminiscent of the celebrations in Afghanistan and Pakistan after the attacks on the New York Twin Towers and the Pentagon in 2001. Then and now, the killing of innocent people, the destruction of cities and the destruction of their vital systems, on which the existence of the population depends was celebrated. By the way, all of the above are war crimes.
Both in 2001 and today, attacks on non-military targets were a consolation for heavy defeats in real war, compensation for defeats in a man’s fight. The short-lived joy of the depressed, whose dreams of power have been shattered. That is why many more missile attacks on civilians are demanded in Russia, because that is the only way to restore the illusion of superiority and divert thoughts from heavy defeats on the real front. Only revenge against civilians makes them forget thousands of dead Russian soldiers, fear of mobilization and poverty.
We might be able to understand this kind of escape from reality, even at the cost of celebrating innocent victims and destroying city centres, with the help of medical science. But even that could not help us understand the same behaviour of those in Serbia who celebrate Russian “achievements” during the two days of destruction of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. There are many of them, on social media, even on national television. These should be people who personally experienced everything that Ukrainians experienced at the beginning of the week in the centre of Kyiv, Lviv and Odessa, while going to work and taking their children to school.
For 23 years, they have been swearing at NATO and bombing of Serbia, and there should be understanding for them because those must have been the most difficult days in their lives. But how is it possible for them to change sides in just one morning and cheer enthusiastically for Putin and his missile rain on Ukrainian cities and civilians. Is there a name in medical science for this kind of syndrome, a disorder? Let the experts elsewhere judge it.
For Serbia and its people, Putin’s missile revenge is perhaps the final test not only of rational political thinking, but much more – a test of humanity and solidarity with the victim. Russian war leader has shown more clearly than ever the barbaric nature of his action in Ukraine, he did it out of anger and helplessness, at a time when his occupying army was suffering defeat after defeat, and the hawks in the Kremlin were circling over his head.
Do such a man and such barbarism still deserve the support of at least one person from Serbia, if for no other reason, then because of the memory of 1999, which made them stick to Putin’s side until today? Every new day of support for Putin’s Russia deprives Serbia and the people who support Russia of the right to talk about 1999 as a time in which they were victims. Today, only cowards and bullies support Putin, the greatest of them all.