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World War III: Nazis vs. Nazis in The War to End All Nazis
As if the last two years weren’t sufficiently taxing, as if we all hadn’t had quite enough mental and social destabilization, the sinister and sadistic forces that pull the universe’s strings have decided to toss a new World War into the mix. Oh, great! I’m not sure we have enough collective sanity left to endure a battering of this magnitude. Exactly how bad is this going to get? Will this be the Worst War Yet?
Unless I’ve completely misunderstood my high-school education and pop-culture indoctrination, I was under the impression that the last World War, the one that ended nearly 80 years ago, handed a decisive loss to the Nazis. One of the most lasting effects of losing a war is having the very idea of your existence hard-welded to the notion of irredeemable evil. There’s a good reason why the bad guys always wind up losing the war, and only a fool or a liar would deny that the Nazis have been on the receiving end of some absolutely atrocious public-relations scandals since 1945.
Then again, perhaps the anti-fascists are right, because the Nazis are apparently still so powerful that the primary combatants in this potential new global conflagration are accusing one another of acting like Nazis, meaning that if this blows up into a global war, it will be Nazis fighting Nazis to rid the world once and for all of Nazis, which suggests very strongly that there are some questions that the Second World War left unsettled, some balances of power left severely tilted.
By invading Ukraine last week, hyper-macho man of steel and martial-arts enthusiast Vladimir Putin did something ballsier than anything Donald Trump ever did as President.
As much as the endless battalions of political know-it-alls strain to depict the struggle between Russia and Ukraine as a spiritual battle between traditionalist Christian theocrats and decadent globohomo dupes . . . or some abstract clash between vague cultural postulates such as East and West . . . this may be at base an ethnic war — a blood battle — and much less easy to remedy. As of 2001, Ukraine was composed of roughly four-fifths ethnic Ukrainians and one-fifth ethnic Russians, the latter concentrated in the country’s eastern regions, where Russian is predominantly spoken.
During an address on Monday when he recognized the pro-Russian eastern Ukrainian rebel states of Donetsk and Luhansk, Putin referred to “ancient Russian lands.” He has also referred to Ukraine as Russia’s “Slavic brother” and depicts it as part of the classical Russian Empire where Kiev is a foundational city in the historic Russian nation.
As to whether it’s a legitimate nation representing a unique people, Ukraine often gets the “Palestine treatment”; Steve Bannon recently snorted, “Ukraine’s not even a country. It’s kind of a concept. It’s just a corrupt area that the Clintons turned into a colony where they can steal money out of.” Alexander Dugin has said that “Ukraine as a state has no geopolitical meaning. It has no cultural import or universal significance, no geographic uniqueness, no ethnic exclusiveness.” Even the most popular etymological explanation for the term “Ukraine” connotes “borderland” — i.e., no real land at all.
Ukrainian nationalists, whose people have suffered some of the hardest knocks of the past century, would beg to differ. If Ukrainians didn’t have a distinct identity 100 years ago, then the Holodomor, the Nazi occupation, and the Chernobyl disaster helped forged one of those uniquely ferocious collective identities that can only come from shared suffering.
If the Soviets didn’t think there was anything unique about Ukrainians, they wouldn’t have engineered a famine that completely knocked the spirit out of the country over the course of 18 months, killing anywhere from three to ten million people. They wouldn’t have destroyed the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and transferred its properties to the Russian Orthodox Church. They wouldn’t have discouraged the Ukrainian language and customs in favor of all things Russian.
So it’s only natural that a nation that was officially born only three decades ago, whose leaders have had a tendency to wind up poisoned or in prison, a place whose people survived the most extreme famine and nuclear disaster of the twentieth century, who endured the worst that both Stalin and Hitler could throw at them, and who experienced the most heinous drug epidemic the modern world has to offer, would tend to breed tough people. With a population of only 44 million, Ukraine is the birthplace of the current heavyweight boxing champion as well as a pair of brothers who recently ruled the heavyweight division for about a dozen years — one of whom is currently the 6’7” Mayor of Kiev and has vowed to take up arms to defend his country. This is all too weird for it not to be real. It’s as if Sylvester Stallone had written a script for World War III, and it is finally being made into a movie.
Although, tragically, there were no Nazi boxing villains in the original Rocky movies, the plot twist in this new sequel is that each side is accusing the other side of being Nazis – indeed, they are accusing the hell out of one another of being Nazis. It’s almost as if they know that if they get the Nazi label to stick, they’ve already won the war.
When Putin announced his full-scale attack on Ukraine last Thursday, he said he had “decided to conduct a special military operation” for the “demilitarization and de-Nazification of Ukraine.” He also referred to Ukraine’s leadership as “a gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis.”
During a United Nations Security Council debate last week, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia blamed the United States for sponsoring the 2014 Maidan Revolution, which led to the ouster of a pro-Russian president in Kiev, saying it enabled the rise of “nationalists, radicals, Russophobes, and pure Nazis” which culminated in the current conflict.
I’m not sure what sort of blood test they administer to determine if someone is a “pure” Nazi, but it’s a historical fact that the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian militia that features the Wolfsangel in its logo and whose founder declared in 2010 that Ukraine is destined to “lead the white races of the world in a final crusade . . . against Semite-led Untermenschen,” were formally incorporated into the Ukrainian National Guard in 2014.
Although a 2020 estimate pegs the total number of Jews in Ukraine at around 43,000 — or one in every thousand citizens –, Ukrainian’s current President, Volodymyr Zelensky, is, as Stallone’s screenplay would demand it, a Jew. He gained fame on a Ukrainian sitcom called “Servant of the People,” where he played the bumbling president of an Eastern European country. He was born in a Russian-speaking section of Eastern Ukraine and claims that multiple family members died in the Holocaust while serving under the Red Army. He said this is why he can’t possibly be a Nazi:
You are told that we are Nazis. But could a people who lost more than 8 million lives in the battle against Nazism support Nazism? How can I be a Nazi? Explain it to my grandfather, who went through the entire war in the infantry of the Soviet army and died a colonel in an independent Ukraine.
On Thursday, after Putin’s tanks rolled into Ukraine and bombs started falling over Kyiv, Zelensky wrote, “Russia treacherously attacked our state in the morning, as Nazi Germany did in [the Second World War] years. As of today, our countries are on different sides of world history.”
Ukraine’s official Twitter account showed a cartoon of Hitler patting a smaller Putin on the cheek like a good boy (see above).
The veins in Nancy Pelosi’s neck stretched like frayed rubber bands when she compared Putin to Hitler and said,
[t]his is a very evil move on the part of Vladimir Putin. He’s a KGB guy who happens to be probably the richest man in the world because of his exploitation of his own people that he doesn’t want them to know about.
For his part, Senator Lindsey Graham lisped:
This is the 1930s all over again. What Putin did yesterday was tear up an agreement made 25 years ago. That’s exactly what Hitler did in the thirties. And the response to Hitler was one appeasement after another to the point that it got so far out of hand, that we had to act and that’s what created World War 2.
I’m pretty sure what created both world wars was the irreconcilability of nationalism and globalism, and if we’re ramping up for a third go-round, it’s the same unresolved problem.
Why everything always comes down to Nazis, though, I haven’t a clue. They’re clearly living rent-free in someone’s head.
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