The incredible depravity of the Russian Armed Forces knows no bounds. Last year I was sickened when I read that a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor was killed during the shelling of Kharkiv in March. I was angered when I read about the Bucha massacre in April. But I became truly incensed when I read about the death of Serhii, a 2-day-old who was killed by a Russian cruise missile strike on a hospital in Vilnyansk last November.
Murdering newborns and babies has been an unthinkable crime since the Massacre of the Innocents two millennia ago. While most historians now consider the Massacre of the Innocents to be a myth, the Russian Armed Forces are doing this structurally and deliberately in Ukraine. Serhii wasn’t the first and most likely won’t be the last.
What makes this special for me is the story on Serhii’s death in the Washington Post (linked here above). I tend to get used to the shorter news stories on Ukrainian casualties, but the details in this story make it personal and deeply hit me emotionally. Unlike the adults who were massacred in Bucha, Serhii wasn’t even able to grow up and enjoy life. He never got the opportunity to play with his friends or enjoy a holiday with his family. All of it was deliberately denied to him by the Russian military.
What kind of twisted mind does it take to deliberately target hospitals with cruise missiles, knowing full well that newborns may die? At the top of the Russian chain of command is Vladimir Putin, a man who has two daughters himself. Lower in the chain of command we have the ‘remote control killers’, the military engineers who plan the flight paths of the Russian cruise missiles aimed at Ukraine. Bellingcat investigated them and published a report which included some social media photos of these people. If we look closely we can see two of these military engineers look like ordinary family men, who have little children as well. Putin may be a psychopath according to some psychologists, but I find it difficult to comprehend why those military engineers have no qualms about destroying hospitals.
It all comes down to the age old question of why people are evil. After looking for answers, I thought the explanation given by the famous social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister was the most interesting. He dismisses the existence of pure evil because he thinks evil deeds are caused by many complex factors.
If I apply Baumeister’s explanation to these cases, Putin probably doesn’t even consider his action to be evil. In his eyes the West is ganging up on him, expanding NATO and infringing upon the Russian sphere of influence. He constantly argues that Russia is the victim of Western hostility and has to defend itself. His egotism took a blow when the Soviet Union was dissolved, so he feels justified in his mission to ‘restore the empire of Peter the Great’. The military engineers probably don’t share this ideological motivation, but have more ordinary reasons. They just want to collect their paycheck and don’t want to loose their jobs. They can hide behind the ‘just following orders’ defense and work at great distance from the carnage of the battlefield in Ukraine. They can deceive themselves with the fact that they are small cogs in the Russian war machine and that someone else presses the button to actually launch the cruise missile. Due to all the state propaganda in Russia they might not even take notice of the suffering they cause.
But make no mistake, despite my attempt to understand the evil of the Russian military, I have no compassion for them. There is no excuse for killing newborns, other war crimes and starting wars of conquest. Putin, his accomplishes and the Russian military do the devil’s work. They are vermin which needs to be eradicated from Ukrainian soil.
It’s hopeful to see that this eradication effort is still going strong since I wrote about the Russo-Ukrainian War the last time. Ukrainian counteroffensives were successful while the Russians kept making mistakes and turned out to be poor students of history. The campaign to break Ukrainian morale by destroying civilian and energy infrastructure failed, just like the Blitz during the Second World War failed. Russia incurs huge casualties in its slow conquest of strategically insignificant Bakhmut, which is reminiscent of the German obsession with Stalingrad during the Second World War.
If Russia persists in this unsuccessful war for them, its current dictatorial regime might find itself overthrown like the Russian Provisional Government during the February Revolution of 1917. Russia’s setbacks during the First World War were an important cause of that revolution. History has taught us that even small events can have great effects. Even when dictators consider their hold on power secure, they can still be surprisingly deposed and executed like Ceaușescu during the Romanian Revolution. One plot or one mistake by the Russian regime might be all it takes for another Russian Revolution.
At the same time, I feel ashamed and privileged to live in peace in the Netherlands while Ukrainians from my age are fighting the Russians on the front. If I did not have obligations to my family and work over here, I might have been tempted to join the Ukrainian military myself. In my circumstances I decided to simply donate to the Ukrainian Armed Forces through the National Bank of Ukraine last year. I hope my readers can do so as well. Understand that even the smallest donation helps. I intend to make a second donation this year.
While the support from Western states for Ukraine is encouraging, I still feel a lot more could be done. The current deliveries of Leopard 2 tanks seem to be pitiful compared to to the number of active tanks in European armies. It’s not like the Europeans need these tanks themselves, so it’s disappointing to see weak excuses being made for not sending them to Ukraine. Greece for example possesses the largest number of Leopards in Europe, hundreds of them, but refused to send any of them to Ukraine. The excuse is that it needs those tanks for its own defense, while stating at the same time that it’s not worried about possible conflict with Turkey. As if conflict between these two NATO-members was even remotely likely, regardless of their strained relations. I hope the war ends soon after a Ukrainian victory, but this reluctance of its allies to fully commit is frustrating and costs Ukrainian lives.
Finally, there is one more thing I must discuss. Let’s ostracize Russia as thoroughly as possible from the international community. That includes Russian athletes. A compromise which allows them to participate under a neutral flag may be better than their own flag, but it’s still a sham. You can’t expect Ukrainian athletes to compete with Russians while the Russian military is ravaging their country. If Russian athletes still want to compete, they should demonstrate their disapproval of Russia’s war by migrating. The ATP and WTP international tennis organizations don’t understand this. The same goes for the International Olympic Comitttee, with its deluded chairman Thomas Bach. Bach thinks the Olympic Games promote peace and complains that the Olympic Games are being politicized by efforts to ban Russians. He completely forgot the politicization of the 1936 Summer Olympics and how ineffective it was in promoting peace. You can’t separate politics and sports, as a more recent example like the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar shows. Let’s see how the plan of the mayor of Paris to ban Russians from the 2024 Summer Olympics in that city holds up. If it doesn’t hold up, we should go as far as to boycott the 2024 Summer Olympics, as should have been done in 1936.