This was my opening statement in a debate on the topic “Nationalists in the West should support Ukraine against Russia in the current war.” I argued the affirmative and Dr. E. Michael Jones argued the negative. I wish to thank Fróði Midjord of Guide to Kulchur for hosting this debate.
Nationalists in the West should support Ukraine against Russia in the current war. We need to distinguish two kinds of support: moral support and material support.
The case for moral support is simple.
As a nationalist, I support a world order of sovereign nations. Sovereign nations don’t answer to other nations. That’s what it means to be sovereign. Ideally, sovereign nations answer only to their own people. Sovereign nations have the right to differ with their neighbors. Sovereign nations have the right to choose their own friends and their own enemies. Russia wishes to deny Ukraine the right to align itself with Europe and America by launching a war. For nationalists, that crosses a moral line. From a simple nationalist point of view, Ukraine was operating within her rights as a sovereign nation, and Russia is violating those rights. Thus, nationalists of all nations should support Ukraine over Russia in the current war.
I am not just a nationalist; I am an ethnonationalist. Ethnonationalists think the best nation-states are ethnically homogeneous, because when multiple peoples live in the same country, under the same state, conflicts are bound to ensue. This is true even of peoples that are genetically and culturally very similar, like Ukrainians and Russians. For instance, some Russians under Ukrainian rule claim that they are being oppressed and that they can’t be themselves. Well, if it is bad for Russians to live under Ukrainian rule, it must be equally bad for Ukrainians to live under Russian rule. If Ukrainians are better off ruling themselves in their own homeland, then the Russian invasion of Ukraine is obviously a bad thing. Thus, ethnonationalists should support Ukraine over Russia in the current war.
Like most modern states, present-day Ukraine is not ethnically homogeneous. Although the population is overwhelmingly ethnically Ukrainian, it is divided between Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians. There are also Russians in the east, Hungarians in the west, Poles in the north, Bulgarians and Greeks in the south, and other minority groups.
The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, and Ukrainians require members of linguistic minority groups to learn Ukrainian in school so they can communicate with their fellow citizens and participate in civic life. Ukraine does not prohibit them from speaking their native tongues. Indeed, such policies are repulsive to Ukrainians, because under the Tsars and Bolsheviks both, the Ukrainian language was repressed by the state, which is why so many Ukrainians now speak Russian as their first language.
Even though Russians are not the only minority in Ukraine, only Russians have demanded that their language have official parity with Ukrainian. To the average Ukrainian, this is outrageous. White Americans would be similarly outraged if entitled minorities were to demand that Spanish or Ebonics have official parity with English in the United States.
It is not unreasonable for citizens of Ukraine to learn the Ukrainian language. It is not oppression to require it. If ethnic Russians feel oppressed, it is only because they have a misplaced sense of entitlement. They resent the fact that their kind doesn’t run Ukraine anymore. The government no longer caters to foreign minorities. (Or at least not the Russian minority. As in Russia and the rest of the white world, Jews are a foreign minority that enjoys immense privileges. They aren’t arrogant enough, however, to demand that Hebrew have parity with Ukrainian.)
Not catering to the Russian sense of entitlement falls far short of any reasonable standard of oppression. And if minorities in Ukraine really feel oppressed, most of them have homelands they can move to where their language is predominant: Russia for the Russians, Hungary for the Hungarians, etc. Most Russians in Ukraine stay because they don’t feel oppressed, because they are attached to where they were born, and because they don’t wish to be ruled by Moscow.
However, unlike Ukraine’s Russian minority, Ukrainians don’t have another homeland they can move to. Ukraine is their only homeland, and now it is under assault by Russia. Thus, as a Western nationalist, I give unqualified moral support to Ukraine in the current war.
There is, however, a danger in declaring moral support for Ukraine. We must mind the difference between moral support and moral hysteria. We cannot let moral support spiral into self-righteous Western virtue-signaling, with a concomitant demonization of Russia and Putin.
This war has to end someday, the sooner the better. The best way to end it is a negotiated settlement. But it is hard to negotiate if one has to climb off one’s moral high horse to make a deal with someone you have painted as the devil. You may think that Putin is evil, stupid, and dishonorable to start this war. But we have to hope that he is also good, intelligent, and honorable enough to sign a peace treaty.
What about material support? Nationalists in the West should give material support to Ukraine in this conflict, but with some serious qualifications.
First, it is appropriate for Western individuals, organizations, and governments to give money and other forms of support to Ukrainian refugees. This duty falls heaviest on the nations bordering Ukraine: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova. This is required by simple moral reciprocity. Misfortune can befall any nation, and someday the citizens of those countries might be forced to take refuge in Ukraine.
Second, it is appropriate for Western individuals, organizations, and governments to economically boycott and sanction Russia and Russian individuals with strong ties to the Russian regime. Nobody is morally obligated to trade with Russia. Boycotts and sanctions weaken and internally divide the Russian regime, impeding its ability to wage war.
But there are significant qualifications here. It is stupid to boycott Russian artists like Anna Netrebko or Valery Gergiev, or to extort political statements out of them. It is even stupider to “cancel” Tchaikovsky or Dostoevsky. Short of an actual war, it is both criminal and stupid to seize Russian state and individual assets, and such actions actually risk escalating into a war. Similarly, there is an immense moral and practical difference between a boycott and a blockade. For one, a blockade is an act of war.
Third, if Ukraine is to remain a sovereign homeland for the Ukrainian people, it must put up a respectable resistance to the Russian invasion. Thus it is appropriate for the West to give Ukraine military aid: arms, training, and intelligence.
But let’s be careful here. The United States followed the path of economic sanctions and military aid into two world wars. We can’t afford a Third World War, because Russia is a nuclear power, which means it would be the Last World War. Thus, it is appropriate to offer material support for Ukraine, as long as it does not lead to a wider war involving NATO and the United States.
Russia’s rationale for this invasion is fourfold.
First and foremost, Putin does not want Ukraine to join NATO. But since sovereign nations have the right to choose their own friends and enemies, Putin’s invasion to abrogate that right is simply wrong. Now, cynics and “realists” like to say that bullying small countries is just what Great Powers do, and it isn’t prudent to try to stop them, because they are powerful, and we might get hurt. But surely political realism also recognizes that small nations seek allies to protect themselves from big nations, which is why Ukraine wanted to join NATO. If realism counsels tolerance of great powers bullying small countries, then surely it counsels tolerance of small countries seeking allies against great powers. If you recommend we tolerate Russian aggression but not Ukrainian attempts to enter NATO, you’re not a realist. You’re just a shill for Russia.
Russia’s invasion is not an argument against joining NATO. It is only an argument against failing to join NATO, since it would not have been prudent for Putin to attack a NATO country, because he might get hurt. If Putin thought this war would reduce the number of NATO countries on Russia’s borders, he was sorely mistaken. For one, if Russia conquers Ukraine, she will thereby border on four NATO countries: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. Second, because of this war, NATO is much more popular in Europe, and even formerly neutral nations like Sweden and Finland are talking about joining.
Russia also offers three more or less throwaway arguments for this war: that Ukraine is oppressing Russians in the East, that Ukraine is a fake nation, and that Ukraine is full of “Nazis.”
Requiring Russians to learn Ukrainian in school is hardly oppression, nor is saying “no” to the demand for Russian linguistic parity. Since 2014, Ukraine has been fighting against two Russian-backed separatist “people’s republics” in the East: Donetsk and Luhansk. This is hardly oppression either, because the Russians started these conflicts and could switch them off at will. Russia demands that Ukraine recognize its breakaway client states. I think that Ukraine would be better off simply ceding these territories, along with Crimea, which Russia seized in 2014. It might help end the war, and it would leave Ukraine smaller but more ethnically homogeneous.
Ukrainians reject this idea. First, they don’t think giving up territory would bring lasting peace. They believe the Russians would simply invent new pretexts for further incursions into Ukraine. Second, they regard Donetsk and Luhansk as fake Russian ops that do not represent the actual interests or popular will of the Russian minority. Many ethnic Russians are fighting against Russian-backed separatists and Russian invaders alike. Not all ethnic Russians want to be ruled by Moscow. Nevertheless, I think Ukraine may be forced to cede these territories. If it brings even a temporary end to hostilities, it would be worth it.
The charges that Ukraine is a fake nation and that it is full of “Nazis” are far more ominous.
The relationship of Russia to Ukraine is analogous to the relationship between the United States and England. They are distinct nations with many similarities and long stretches of shared history. Just as America is an offshoot of England, Russia is an offshoot of Ukraine. If one studies American history long enough, eventually it becomes English history. One cannot understand Jamestown and Plymouth without looking at English history. One cannot understand religion in America without studying the Reformation in England. One cannot understand American law and government without looking at English law and government. The same is true of Russia and Ukraine. For instance, one can’t understand the origins of Russian Orthodoxy without reading about Grand Duke Vladimir of Kyiv. But both America and Russia evolved into distinct nations over time.
Thus, if Americans were to suddenly declare that “England is a fake country,” that its apparent cultural differences are merely a form of false consciousness, that the English drive on the wrong side of the road merely to spite Americans, and that England should be ruled from Washington, DC, it would sound quite insane.
It sounds equally insane when Russians say Ukraine is a fake country. But that did not stop Vladimir Putin from saying it. Nor does it stop millions of Russians from believing it. A good thing about national sovereignty is that it protects us from being ruled by foreigners with crazy ideas. But now Ukrainian sovereignty is under Russian assault.
If Ukrainians are a fake people, then their language, culture, and national self-consciousness — anything that differentiates them from the Russians, really — are simply what Marxists call “false consciousness,” that can be dislodged by “reeducation,” which is a Marxist euphemism for brainwashing and terror. If Ukrainians are a fake people who are “really no different” from Russians, they have no right to a sovereign homeland. Once the Ukrainians are stripped of their homeland by war and their national self-consciousness through reeducation, those who survive will be assimilated into Russia. Ukraine and Ukrainians will simply disappear from the pages of history. This is genocide by any reasonable definition, and genocide is wrong.
When Putin vows to “de-Nazify” Ukraine, he’s not just talking about the Azov Battalion. He’s not just spreading boob bait for Russian octogenarians who think the Second World War is still on. He’s not just trolling the Western media. Under Communism, Russians had a long history of declaring their enemies — indeed, entire peoples — as reactionary, fascist, or Nazi. Putin is using “Nazi” in exactly the same way that Jews use it in the West: as a slur against the nationalism and patriotism of other nations. It is a slur against what Putin calls “cave-man nationalism,” i.e., ethnic nationalism. De-Nazifying Ukraine thus means destroying the national self-consciousness of the Ukrainians, which stands in the way of their conquest and assimilation by Russia. Thus “de-Nazifying” Ukraine is just another euphemism for cultural genocide.
But surely Putin’s Russia is not the same as the Communist Soviet Union. Some things, obviously, have changed. But Putin is a product of the USSR. He was an agent of the KGB. He mourns the downfall of the USSR, defends and conceals Communism’s crimes, treats Communist propaganda as fact, and employs Communist techniques of propaganda and subversion, many of them directed at the nationalist and populist Right in the West. Ukrainians who remember how Moscow brought them oppression, famine, and terror have every right to fear and prepare for the worst.
In sum, nationalists in the West should offer unqualified moral support for Ukraine as a victim of military aggression and a target of cultural genocide. We should offer qualified material support — economic boycotts and sanctions, and humanitarian and military aid — that stops short of widening the war. Finally, Western nationalists should support a negotiated peace as soon as Russia is convinced that it cannot impose its will through military conquest.
Note: In a separate article, I will present my rebuttal of Dr. Jones’ case for the Russian side, and similar arguments heard on the nationalist Right.
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