Fiddling on Ukraine's Roof
דו קענסט נישט אויסשפייען דיין נשמה.
Ending Russia’s war against Ukraine is complicated by the inadequacy of formal equality and traditional approaches to justice when addressing crimes committed using state power, including lots of indiscriminate killing. That’s according to Vladimir Pastukhov, the London-based political expert and lecturer at University College of London.
“In the words of a Ukrainian author of non-Ukrainian descent, ‘You can’t spit out your soul,’” [46:20] Pastukhov said on December 16, 2021, commenting on the Russia-Ukraine mess for Echo Moscow.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict is very painful topic. Like it or not, our audience is both in Russia and in Ukraine. In Ukraine, every word is understood completely differently than in Russia for one simple social reason: there is never and will never be equality between the rapist and the victim. I want to emphasize this, because my position is often perceived as absolutely cynical. It's not cynical. It's realistic. I just understand that life goes on. You have to live and take decisions ...
As the Ukrainian author of non-Ukrainian origin Sholom Aleichem once said: "You cannot spit out your soul." That's why I think sometimes it is very difficult for Ukraine to accept our surgical assessments, because they are living through the ordeal…
…I don't see what any compromise could look like. In order to reach a compromise with Russia, you need someone to force Ukraine to comply with the Minsk agreements. Formally there exists a certain enslaving legal document that Ukraine was forced to sign at a time when the Ukrainian army practically did not exist, when Ukraine was not ready for any war at all, when the international community was confused. Ukraine signed an agreement that was absolutely unacceptable, from the standpoint of public opinion and the country’s ruling elites. And now it’s turned out that it's unacceptable to execute the agreement.
And from that moment on, since 2014, for six years, the game has developed according to one scenario: Ukraine at any cost tries to get out of fulfilling obligations under the enslaving Minsk agreements, but Russia will not let Ukraine off the hook. At the same time, everyone understands that Russia is assessed outside of Russia itself as the aggressor country, but those who view Russia as the aggressor country recognize the Minsk agreements. This is absolutely acceptable to the aggressor, because the agreements elaborate the obligations of Ukraine, which are impossible for Ukraine to fulfill.
Russia will not back down on its own accord. I cannot imagine that the Kremlin, which is riding high a wave of high oil prices, will give up its trophy. Let's call a spade a spade: The Minsk Protocol is a trophy, a kind of reparation (such as in the Treaty of Versailles or the Brest Truce, but in reverse). …I just don't think Russia, being in this advantageous position, will agree to annul the Minsk agreements. I just don't believe it. ... It is obvious that Ukraine is not currently ready to fulfill its obligations under the Minsk agreements.
I can imagine Biden talking with Putin and then calling Zelensky and telling him, "Look, Volodya, you have to fulfill your obligations under the [Minsk] agreements." I can imagine everything up to this point. But I don't know what happens next. Miracles are possible, but I think finding any solution will be like chasing a balloon bouncing off the walls. Meanwhile, there are [Russian] soldiers on [Ukraine's] border. It's like taking a gun on to the stage. Sooner or later, it will go off.
“You can’t spit out your soul” (“Душу не выплюнешь”) is conspicuously missing from Echo Moscow’s official transcript. The line indeed belongs to Solomon Rabinovich (pseudonym Sholem Aleichem, a Yiddish variant of the Hebrew expression shalom aleichem, meaning "peace be with you"), taken from his last book, titled Motl, Peysi the Cantor's Son, subtitled The Writings of an Orphan Boy (מאָטל פּייסי דעם חזנס; כתבֿים פֿון אַ ייִנגל אַ יתום — motl peysi dem khazns; ksovim fun a yingl a yosem).
Aleichem is most famous for Fiddler on the Roof, his tale about a village milkman who goes nuts when his three strong-willed daughters fall in love. He grew up in Pereislav in the 1870s and eventually made his way to Queens, New York City, where in 1916 he died a horrible death. His funeral was one of the biggest ever.
‘You can’t spit out your soul’ means ‘You can’t be Russian without being imperialistic.’
That’s the crux of the matter, according to Pastukhov, who has spent a lot time thinking and lecturing about this subject after Russia invaded Ukraine and turned into a neo-totalitarian state.
“The choice the Kremlin is offering the West today is a choice between military annihilation or capitulation. In response, the West proposes to tickle the Kremlin with sanctions. Moscow is not afraid of tickling, so there are only two practically possible ways for the situation to develop: either Putin does not achieve his goal in direct negotiations with Biden and takes everything he needs by force, or he seeks what he needs, albeit in limited scope, by diplomatic means, and the war is postponed, turning into a long political Mittelspiel,” is what Pastukhov said about the Russia-Ukraine mess last week.
In other news, sensitive puppy-dog man with the gruff exterior was quoted in a 1,300-word article saying that he was astonished that the owner of the Kyiv Post wanted to turn the newspaper into a vomit bag for positive coverage of Ukraine’s moron president.
Whatever. The worst blimp crash ever remains an unspeakable tragedy. Looking on the positive side, appeals to pity have been answered. Ukraine's goat with teeth, meanwhile, has been transformed into a laff riot of boo and petopia. Give Luc a raise!