Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 08.07.2018
Putin is not subtle. Understanding Russia’s war against the West today requires nothing of the “Kremlinology” that was an academic and a think tank fad before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Far from being inscrutable, reading Putin is as straightforward as watching what he does and ignoring the lies that he tells. What Putin is doing is invading Ukraine, holding Ukrainians in Crimea and in part of Donbas in subjection, torturing Ukrainians who are hostages of his regime, and running sabotage and disruption operations against every free, democratic, Western country.
What Putin has done recently is a clear signal of the audacious scope of his plans for aggression against Russia’s neighbours in Europe. On June 30, Putin signed a decree to give “honorific names” to some regiments and divisions of the Russian army. The names he assigned are cities and regions which were the site of victories of the army of the Soviet Union in the Second World War. But the places he chose as names for military units also fell under Bolshevik Russian occupation, and suffered the tyranny of that criminal regime for 45 years after World War II. With this provocative naming, Putin is mapping out the aggression he contemplates for the future in his war against the West.
Putin started war against Ukraine in 2014, so it is no surprise he named future targets of Russian aggression in Ukraine. The Russian army’s 163rd tank regiment was named the “Nizhyn Guards,” the 68th tank regiment was named the “Zhytomyr-Berlin Guards,” and the 6th tank regiment was named the “Lviv Guards.” Putin clearly has in mind a repetition of Stalin’s march across Europe in 1944-45: from the Dnipro River to Zhytomyr to Lviv and then on to Berlin. The Russian dictator chose tank regiments for his provocative names, and he used the Russian names of Ukrainian cities to hammer the point home. Russia is invading Europe.
Other Russian army regiments were named after past and planned future conquests of Putin. Three Belarusian cities were named: the 90th tank division was called the “Vitebsk-Novgorod Guards,” the 856th self-propelled artillery regiment was called the “Kobrin Guards,” and the 102nd motorized rifle regiment was called the “Slonim-Pomerania Guards.” The 933rd anti-aircraft missile regiment was named the “Upper Dnipro Guards.” War targets farther west were named: the 400th self-propelled artillery regime was called the “Transylvania Guards,” the 381st artillery regiment was called the “Warsaw Guards,” and the 150th motorized rifle division was named the “Idritsa-Berlin Guards.”
Russian propaganda has been all about how the Soviet Union liberated the cities and places given as names for Russian army units. But Putin knows full well that a short battle of liberation from the Nazi German criminal regime was followed by many years of occupation from the Bolshevik Russian criminal regime.
Turn about is fair play. Ukraine is defending itself from unprovoked Russian invasion and partial occupation. The Armed Forces of Ukraine should give “honorific names” to some of its military units to reflect past and perhaps future Ukrainian cities and places. The names “Kuban” and “Rostov” and “Voronezh” and “Bilhorod” would suit nicely. The fact that the region of Kuban and those three cities are currently under the control of Muscovy is beside the point that these places were all once solidly Ukrainian.
Putin has named Russian army units after places in Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Romania, and Germany. He has laid out a map for his dream, which is to repeat Stalin’s march of conquest across Europe. But Putin’s dream of restoring the Soviet Union is a nightmare for the civilized West. Giving provocative names is an explicit warning and it should be heeded: Russia is at war with the West, and Putin will not stop until he is stopped.