Week 14: May 25 – June 1, 2022


Inna Rogatchi (C). Conversation. 2020.

Since the beginning of the Mean War in February 2022, a day after another, people who were trying to apply existing norms and regulations of the international law in order to rebuke the aggressor, were repeatedly bumping their heads into the wall. The existing norms did not work in the situation when the state-permanent member of the UN Security Council should be challenged as an aggressor. The norms did not work when the head of the aggressor state, who is the Highest Commander of the country’s military, is above a law in international practice does not matter how hideous crime his army commits.  The norms did not work when any international court cannot proceed against a country-aggressor because that country simply does not recognise any court’s jurisdiction. 

Since the first week of the war when international lawyers and experts started to work on a vast number of acute issues prompted by the Mean War, after thorough analysing of the existing international law norms, regulations and stipulations, a dead-lock reality prevailed. Within the framework of the existing international system and the legal basis of its functioning, to challenge Russia effectively has become a real-life mission impossible. 

We can organise as many investigative groups as possible, and they definitely collect evidence of the aggressor’s crime in Ukraine during the Mean War, but what will be the outcome of this vast material? It is a completely open question even when one tries to keep optimistic and determined. 

Unlikely during the Balkan war in the 1990s, the UN and especially its Security Council is completely paralysed now, during the Mean War in Ukraine 30 years later. Although due to the collapse of the USSR, Russia was a weak link at the time of the Balkan war, and that sole factor allowed the West to act then, P-administration always felt the pain of that temporary weakness, and still feels it, actually. Their inability to counter West to prevent action in the Balkans in the 1990s still haunts the Kremlin and under-Kremlin a lot still today. They do not like to be or to look weak. We know that. So, with the current situation, there is a zero chance for any decisive move within or from the UN Security Council due to the simple fact of Russia being a permanent member of it. And there is no way to change it within the legal framework of the main political body in the world. Period. 

We all know that the UN in the form in which it exists was established following the results of the Second World War, a terrible, devastating cataclysm which left the world bleeding. Since that time, 77 years have passed, three quarters of a century. And we found ourselves inside a vicious circle – as with regard to the UN, as with regard to all international courts, as with regard to essential international bodies, from NATO to UNESCO. In that vicious circle, the need for reforming the structure and legal principles of the functioning of those bodies is crystal clear – against the fact that with some of the members who are more members than a member, following George Orwell’s logic, reform, change and adjustment to dramatically changed realities is impossible. 

In this dead-lock reality, North Korea is leading the UN Conference on Disarmament for a month of June 2022 – and this absolute shocking and sheer absurd-like fact is avoided by all international media in a collective real-politic practice at its worst, because once it is reported, the public would scream – yes, we will – and that is something that is regarded by  both mainstream media and the governing bodies as ‘unnecessary’ at the time of the Mean War. But this fact, which is beyond Orwell’s wildest dreams, is true. It is happening in Geneva today. This is how the UN looks today. Looks only. Because with North Korea chairing the Conference of Disarmament, it is impossible to use adjective ‘ functions’.  It is just hilarious paralysis of will. And it is a straightforward insult to common sense. Or what’s left of it.  

This dead-lock is spread widely in the reality in which we currently are not lucky to have any Churchill or Havel among the world leaders who would be either robust and inventive as Sir Churchill was, or deeply and uncompromisingly moral as Vaclav Havel was. Instead, we are enjoying clerc-leader like Mess Macron is, or a marginal bully like Orban – who did manage to hold hostage the entire European Union, Ukraine or not.  The shortage of brilliant, unorthodox, strong-willed, responsible, and consciousness-blessed leadership in the world today, especially in the key-players countries,  is no less a problem than the current impossibility to reform the UN. 

And then, the voting. When a veto right was introduced,  not only at the UN Security Council, but also in the NATO and then in the EU, the main reasoning of that bizarre way of handling world’s politics was promoted and insisted to be ‘an efficient way versus ‘dark behind-the-scenes manipulations for obtaining a dodged majority in the cases of an open voting’. Well, in any case and any practice, veto case never had and has nothing to do with democracy, shadow or open one.  Sometimes it is handy when the US helps this way to its less powerful allies. But perhaps the US and allies working hard could collect the direct majority for the good and important causes. 

And now, we are witnessing a daily absurdity, but not on a stage, in a Bekket or alike play, but in real life. How can one moody NATO member as Turkey dictate their will to the rest of the 27 member-states, and to jeopardise the entire European security on the matter of acceptance into the alliance Finland and Sweden? How can one cunning and greedy member as Hungary repeatedly undermine the will to resist the Russian aggression in the centre of Europe against the understanding and intentions of the rest 27 member-states of the EU? Who can explain the logic and common sense of those arrogant manipulations to an average person? To the people? Not to mention the luxury of fairness. 

So, 77 years after establishing the UN, and 73 years after establishing NATO, has anyone thought that those two global institutions should be updated, to make them adequate for the new reality? And as  for 65 years after the establishment of the EU, has anyone thought of adjusting its rule to correspond to real needs, and of preventing hundreds of millions from becoming a hostage of few? 

As nothing of this is happening despite daily horrors of the Mean War in Ukraine, there is no surprise in a dramatic and qualified change of mood of two leaders, the one who leads the attacked country, and the other who has decided that he rules the world. This week, the 14th week of the Mean War, did show us that new look in the president Volodymyr Zelensky’s eyes. The look of the strong person who realised, recently enough, that he will not be helped sufficiently does not matter how right is his cause. The President of Ukraine now faces his high top visitors with this look on his face, and this look is unmistakable. He realised that he and his country will not be helped to the degree they did hope for. It is a big-scale drama unfolding in front of us. 

At the same time, there is first-hand knowledge from inside the Kremlin telling that ‘for the first time during all this time from the beginning of the war, the president P not only pretends to be content, but he is content’. No wonder, he has all reasons to be, not pretend, to be content: the latest military maps by the independent sources are showing us that Russia today controls 20 % of the Ukrainian territory, this is against 7% before the Mean War started, which territory-size wise is comparable with almost entire Italy, or a half of Britain. P’s loyal ally Orban successfully prevents all efforts to sanction Russia in the way the sanctions will really work. P’s another cunning partner from Turkey has effectively blocked Finland and Sweden from joining NATO with an incredible ease. It also became evident on the week 14th, or rather it  became publicly known existed previously, yet before the Mean War, understanding regarding the disposition of all major EU member-states not to accept Ukraine as the EU member on a fast-track. 

To translate: there is not much that we, the West, can really do for Ukraine military-wise, there is practically very little and indecisive of what can be done for Ukraine politically. All this with regard to the country which has been extremely brutally attacked and destroyed. 

Such a bleak situation leaves us, the people, with the only way to help to Ukrainians: to support them with all kinds of reliefs, to support them at all levels, and this is what many of us do. But the reality is that because the demand is truly high and the time of this multiplied demand is prolonged so seriously, beyond three months non-stop, the enthusiasm and resources that many people had are dwindling. This is an inevitable situation, and anyone who is long enough in philanthropy would know about this sad effect. But at least on this very important path which is also the path of our all’ empathy, and where we are independent in what we do, many of us are good enough to continue to help those in need. And Ukraine and its people are in utter and actually growing need as long as the Mean War is still on. 

This week  has also demonstrated one quite telling feature. I am talking about readers’ preferences in Russia. This huge country where people were traditionally book-lovers ( I am not sure about it any longer, actually), and where a  book was our only real treasure for millions ( this I know for sure is a relic), suddenly have changed their reading preferences. The fresh data came from the Russian nation-wide statistics of book-sellers. When the Mean War broke out, the readers’ mood was melancholic and the most popular author was Remarque, not surprisingly. His novels were always popular in Russia, and it was a known niche for the depressed intelligenzia who love Remarque in general, and twice so when it rains around. But, remarkably,  a couple of months into the Mean War, the absolute champion among the books bought in Russia, nation-wide is Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. 

To me, it is a very telling fact of book-selling news. In my opinion, Frankl is perhaps most important literally voice on the Holocaust, and being a great psychologist, he speaks about the most innermost things for a human being at the time of mocking inhumanity. The recent book-selling survey in Russia also was probing the reasons for the readers’ preferences. Why did people buy the books on the top of the sales list? – was a question. In the case of buying Frankl’s book which has become the new Number One bestseller all-over Russia, the answer was: ‘To learn how to survive in the extreme circumstances ( of a concentration camp)’. 

I found it incredible. When I was reading and re-reading Frankl, although like Aharon Appelfeld and Elie Wiesel’s books, Victor Frankl’s book does not need a re-read, because it is so graphic in the best and deepest meaning of the word that it gets into one’s soul, engraves and stays there for good, my main thought and incredible, driven be a genetically memory motivation was to understand, to see what had happened, what had been done, what had been committed against human beings, a human being. Not how to survive Hell. Because one does not. The same as all those three giants of man were driven by their accumulated, heroic, quiet, very quiet empathy towards the other human beings who has become the objects of unspeakable crimes, not focusing that much on the course of surviving in a Nazi jungle. As Frankl in an incredible, smashing, heart-stopping quiet honesty writes in his great, unique book: “the best ones died first”.  

Victor Frankl’s book is not about ‘surviving in extreme conditions’, as one reads in semi-bewilderment in the current Russian book-sellers survey. It is about the meaning of life and the core of humanity. Or absence of it.  This self-centering even of the good part of the Russian reading public has got me off-guard, I must confess. 

And then, another question popped into my head and is still there, swirling from inside: why not did they read Victor Frankl before? If they would, perhaps, their society would be different. Just perhaps.

To counterweight it, the artwork for this chapter of the Week 14th of the Mean War, was recently selected for the forthcoming international exhibition in Europe. One of our close friends in Moscow was electrified when he saw it. He wrote me immediately: “But Inna, this work, with this hand, is so very tragic’. The work was not created as a tragic manifest. It was created as a metaphor of time and human emotions unaffected by it. But today, some people in Russia are perceiving this kind of work with their own nerves and conscience, I hope, nude. So there are people who are getting the things right there. I am so glad they are.