Letter From Paris

29 March 2014, 20:45

Many French people are currently living on Kyiv time. In November, there were only a handful of us, but now, there are many, who together with Ukrainians in Paris, are participating in demonstrations and sit before the television, waiting for news from Kyiv, Crimea and the Donbas. In the difficult and unheralded times that Ukraine is now experiencing, suffering the blows of the Russian hammer, our surge of sympathy is not of great significance. But even so, let it influence American and European governments, who are at a loss in the face of both the insidious and irrational brutality of Vladimir Putin. He is insidious, because he knows how to play on the weaknesses of the West, shamelessly lying and forcing himself into Crimea in the name of “brotherly help”, as his predecessors once did in Budapest and Prague. At the same time, he continues to constantly expound on “diplomacy”; he succeeded in enlisting Ankara’s silence, in spite of the long-lasting burning issue for Russia and Turkey of control of the Black Sea and the Black Sea channels, regardless of the threat experienced by the Crimean Tatars which has so far not given rise to protests from their Turkish “brothers” and other Muslim countries in the region. But Putin is also irrational, because the goal that he seeks is to reinstate the Russian Empire, the supremacy of Eurasian ideology in the largest possible part of Europe – madness, inspired by the prompting of his advisers-clairvoyants. The combination of brutal arbitrariness, inherited from the KGB, and the red-brown ideology of “Holy Russia”, the “saviour” of Christian civilisation is not “in touch with reality”, as Angela Merkel told Barack Obama, when talking about Putin. But the unreality of the project does not prevent it from bringing ruin. Is the Russian invasion of Crimea a risky course, or the first phase of a kind of blitzkrieg? (I’m thinking about the game that German generals resorted to rather than a real blitzkrieg: they finished a chess game in less than five minutes, to perfect their strategic skills). We cannot forget about the power ratio and the insolence ratio, which gives Russia the advantage over Europe. However, nothing will wipe from our memory the firmness and exceptional intelligence of the people on the Maidan over the course of the last five months. It is this nation that obligates Western countries to change the balance of power and convince Moscow to recognise the freedom of Kyiv, and at the same time, gives the West persuasive grounds to help Ukraine.

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I cannot foresee the future and propose strategies. But I would like to portray and explain this surge of sympathy for the Ukrainian revolution in my country and, indisputably, in other countries of the world – a surge that will remain a “lifelong acquisition” (Thucydides). First of all, from now on, my compatriots will no longer be able to ignore the fact that Ukraine – is Europe, and Ukrainians – are Europeans, not purely from the geographic and geopolitical point of view, but also in its heart, in the essence of its civilisation; that this is a real modern nation, not an ethnic group. Just as we have Bretons and Alsatians among us, who have been French for thousands of years, and those who have Italian, Polish and Maghrebi surnames – all of them are French, just the same. The whole world saw that then first three victims of repression were three Ukrainians: one – of Armenian origin, the second – of Belarusian origin and the third – of Ukrainian origin. No one should forget that the first martyr for Ukrainian democracy, murdered in 2000, was Georgiy Gongadze, a man of Georgian origin. The open letter to Vladimir Putin, written by Ukrainian Jews on March 4, was published in our country and astounded us. It discredited the shrewd propaganda about the supposed anti-Semitism of “Ukrainian extremists”. The history of Jews in Ukraine reflects some terrible times, but we know that anti-Semitism is now rampant in Russia, not in Ukraine. Pro-Russian propaganda is always very active in our country and we should look out for it. But this propaganda has now lost all plausibility. Secondly, a lot of French people and Europeans as a whole have now come to understand that their fate is being decided in Kyiv. Since Ukraine is the border of Europe, everyone who wants the latter to be energetic, independent and a presence in the world, rather than a creation outside the framework of history that is subservient to any external domination, are turning their eyes towards Kyiv, as in their time, European intellectuals lived on Paris time back in 1789, understanding that the revolution of freedom in France was capable of changing the world. We know that the events of that time were more complex and chaotic, but the ideas of 1789 – liberty, equality and fraternity – made an indelible impression on the memories of nations and many democratic constitutions to this very day. The same fate also awaits the ideas of the EuroMaidan: liberty, dignity and truth.

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