What little difference a year makes to Volodymyr Zelensky, because he still wears the same new clothes. He still looks like the boss of a sporting goods store, or a mob boss busting out the sporting goods section of a superstore. He still acts like a Don who grants requests, though he has nothing to offer or say. He still wields the gold trident against his own people, dishonoring the spirit of Ukraine. And now he comes bearing the same old words in A Message from Ukraine: Speeches, 2019-2022.
The message is an attack on realism in foreign policy and a rejection of reality itself, or a suicide note in the form of an open letter. To sign the letter is to agree to Zelensky’s terms and conditions, such that the arms we send come with men to fire them—until we lose this awful game of chance, or refuse to play Russian roulette with Kyiv and Moscow.
Our best bet is to refuse to worsen and prolong a war we mustn’t fight and can’t win. Not unless we define victory by the madness of mutually assured destruction, where Ukraine is one vast Chernobyl above ground and no ground is habitable for 1000 years.
Our best hope is to remain the last best hope of earth, nobly saving our country without sacrificing our fellow countrymen in the process, for we have no right to speed up that day when the days are near and every vision will be fulfilled. Nor do we have the right to end time by fiddling with the Doomsday Clock, setting the whole world on fire.
No doubt Zelensky disagrees.
No doubt he wants us to believe he has no doubt about the progress or outcome of the war.
But just as politics is the exercise of power, and war the ultimate expression of power politics, we have it in our power to choose restraint.
We have no other choice, as we have no power to build mountains and put them in eastern Ukraine.
We can no more free Ukraine from the tyranny of geography than we can end tyranny in Russia, and we best not try, because the fate of Europe—the freedom of Europe—doesn’t hinge on whether Zelensky retains power.
About the action of Russia, there’s no riddle to answer or mystery to solve.
About Russia’s war in Ukraine, there’s no enigma to uncover.
Russian national interest trumps our interest in Ukraine.
If this assessment provokes an unpleasant chill, bringing with it the windchill factor of winter in Ukraine, know that the cold is indeed awful.
The cold does not, however, mean we are or must be coldhearted.
Vigilance is our only guard against the feeling that precedes the loss of feeling, that tingling and potentially lethal numbing of the soul.
Just as we don’t sanction the action of Russia, we must not impose more sanctions on Russia.
Sanctions punish the innocent, sanctions starve innocents; sanctions are the continuation of war by other means.
Sanctions are the real-life extension of Zelensky’s rhetorical excess, of his understandable but nonetheless absurd attempt to include Ukraine among the battles for the survival of Christian civilization.
Missing from the pages of his speeches of revisionist history are the victims of what Winston Churchill called a crime without a name, and of the name of the people themselves.
Where Churchill spoke of the massacre of uncounted thousands of helpless Armenian men, women, and children, and then spoke of scores of thousands of executions perpetrated by German police troops, where he spoke of the most grievous crimes of the Great War, and then spoke of the most grievous ordeal of the Second World War, Zelensky counts a specific people—his own people—last.
For all his talk about Nazis, Zelensky says almost nothing about the mass murder of the Jews in Ukraine.
If we don’t applaud Zelensky’s words, it’s because he speaks contrary to the doctrine of war and the commandments of common sense.
Zelensky speaks for himself.