To Russia, the West is not ‘an’ enemy but ‘the’ enemy

To Russia, the West is not ‘an’ enemy but ‘the’ enemy

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is not only a campaign to destroy the Ukrainian nation and dismantle their state, but also a war against Western civilization and the rules-based international order that underwrites our security and prosperity. 

Whether we acknowledge it or not, Russia views the West not as “an” enemy but as “the” enemy.

Western leaders and media outlets have, unfortunately, failed to adequately explain this reality to the public. This failure has amplified Russia’s disinformation warfare, and fomented mixed sentiments regarding support for Ukraine in the West. To call it morally reprehensible and strategically unacceptable is an understatement.

The best way to understand how the West and the invasion of Ukraine are portrayed in Russia is by consuming Russian media. World-class Western journalists like Francis Scarr and Julia Davis watch Russian television and translate it into English for a living.

Russia-1 is the most popular television network in the Russian Federation. Appeals to bomb Germany, invade Finland and flatten Poland are common on the channel. Threatening to strike London with tactical nuclear weapons is a regular occurrence. Calling for the Russian Army to march through Ukraine all the way to Lisbon is not out of the ordinary.

Rest assured, the content on Russia’s Channel One, NTV, RT and Sputnik TV is not any less radical and ridiculous than that on Russia-1.

Critics of the war don’t advocate for ending Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine and reversing its illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory. They complain that Ukraine is still standing and express their disappointment that Russia has killed too few Ukrainians — who are usually referred to using ethnic slurs — instead.

Moscow’s campaign to destroy the Ukrainian nation and dismantle its state has been framed as a war against the West since 2014. In Moscow’s imagination, Ukrainians are often depicted as confused “little Russians.” Meanwhile, Ukraine is portrayed as a Western puppet that is incapable of exercising agency and making its own decisions.

To Russia, the Revolution of Dignity was not a grassroots movement driven by the legitimate aspirations of the Ukrainian people. Namely, to pursue a prosperous future, free from Russia, as members of the Euro-Atlantic community. No. It was a Western-sponsored coup against former Russian-backed President Victor Yanukovych.

To Russia, thousands of Russian soldiers are not dying because Putin sent them to seize, occupy and annex Ukrainian territory that Moscow recognized as belonging to Ukraine in multiple agreements since the collapse of the Soviet Union. No. Their estimated 350,000 casualties are the result of Russia’s supposed war against NATO.

The lies are endless.

Obsessed with defining itself in relation to the U.S., Russia always took pride in having the world’s “second most powerful military.” Yet Moscow’s mission to capture Kyiv in a few days and decapitate the democratically elected Ukrainian government has turned into a 22-month-long debacle.

Ukraine, a country without an actual navy, sank the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet in 2022. The fleet withdrew from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk this past fall, after coming within the range of British Storm Shadow missiles.

Despite possessing limited air power, Kyiv also denied Russia from obtaining aerial supremacy in the skies of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Armed Forces destroyed at least eight Russian fighter jets in December alone.

Ukrainians do not want the West to fight the war on their behalf. Nor do they need us to. Ukraine is only asking that the West provide it with the weaponry required to restore the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state. Full stop.

Most of the military aid sent to Ukraine is spent at home. Assistance packages support local economies by bolstering the West’s defense industrial bases and creating well-paying manufacturing jobs. In the case of America, old (and sometimes expired) stocks sent to Ukraine are even replaced with new and improved weapons for the U.S. military.

The deadly combination of the emergence of artificial intelligence and the alarming lack of quality control on social media has enabled our enemies to flood Western societies with disinformation. Worse still, rather than speaking with Ukrainians to understand their struggle and obtain their perspectives on the war, even legacy media often publishes stories that fit into Russia’s agenda.

For example, the New York Times published a piece entitled, “Putin quietly signals he is open to a ceasefire in Ukraine” on Dec. 23. The week after, Russia launched one of the biggest barrages of Iranian suicide drones and ballistic missiles at Ukrainian cities since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022.

Even if his intentions were genuine, a ceasefire with Russia only rewards Putin for bad behavior. It helps Moscow consolidate its control over temporarily occupied Ukrainian Crimea — illegally annexed in 2014 — and Ukraine’s Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts — illegally annexed in 2022. It also enables Russia to rest and reload until it’s ready to restart the war and resume dismantling the Ukrainian state.

Don’t take any of this from me. Speak to Ukrainian people. Read Ukrainian media. Amplify Ukrainian voices. Brave Ukrainian soldiers defend Europe against Russia in the muddy trenches of Donbas. Respect the risks Ukrainians take. Honor the sacrifices Ukrainians make. All to be independent from Russian imperialism and members of the free and prosperous West.

The time for naïveté and wishful thinking is over. Stabilizing relations between the West and Moscow is impossible while Putin remains in power or pulls the strings behind the scenes.  

The West is Russia’s greatest enemy and its true target in the Ukrainian War. The Western world could reciprocate by committing to Ukraine’s victory or continue rolling the dice, deferring the inevitable and avoiding reality to our own detriment.

George Monastiriakos is an adjunct professor of law at the University of Ottawa. Read his works at www.Monastiriakos.com. Follow him on Twitter @monastiriakos.

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