Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 23.12.2017
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is finishing its fourth calendar year. In that time, Ukraine has evolved rapidly into a thoroughly European, Western, and democratic country – what it was was always meant to be from a millennium of history and culture and tradition. Also in that time, Russia has devolved rapidly into a regime of state terror and imperialist aggression, that rivals the totalitarianism of the Stalinist era. In the past, Russian aggression against Ukraine and occupation of its territory had suppressed the Ukrainian national spirit. But with Putin’s War of Aggression – and occupation of some of the territory of Ukraine – this time the Ukrainian people are united and strong, and are expressing Ukraine’s character in ways that have not been seen since the brief flowering of independence a century ago.
Two centennials were commemorated this past week, and they illustrate the radically different character of the Ukrainian and Russian nations after almost four years of Putin’s War. Ukraine celebrated one hundred years of its diplomatic service. Russia commemorated one hundred years of the secret police.
The Ukrainian National Republic was declared on 10 June 1917. When the Bolshevik coup took place in Russia, a similar uprising was attempted in Kyiv on 8 November 1917 but it was defeated by independence-minded Ukrainians. In December of 1917 the composition of the delegations to the peace talks in Brest-Litovsk were being determined. On 22 December 1917 Ukraine established a diplomatic service to represent the Ukrainian nation abroad. It is the centennial of this event which Ukraine celebrated on 22 December 2017.
Diplomacy is an art of wisdom. Ukrainian diplomacy has been effective in isolating Russia since Putin blundered badly by invading Crimea on 20 February 2014. As Russia continues its relentless attacks in Donbas, Ukrainian diplomats have not let the world forget the dead, the injured, and the internally displaced Europeans who are victims of Putin’s madness.
On December 20, Russians celebrated the centennial of the formation of the Cheka, the secret police force of the Bolsheviks. The Putin regime in Moscow made a point of commemorating the continuity of state terror for a century, from the Cheka of the Bolsheviks in 1917 to the Federal Security Service (the FSB) and the ‘siloviki’ in 2017. In between were the more widely known instruments of Russian state terror, the NKVD and the KGB. On the hundredth anniversary of the secret police, current head of the FSB, Alexander Bortnikov, defended Stalin and the purges of the 1930s. He denounced “traitors.”
Bortnikov spoke as the head of the secret police, sitting atop a structure of power in a secret police state: Russia. Since 2014, the FSB is committing acts of state terror in occupied Crimea and occupied Donbas that approach the atrocities of the Cheka and the NKVD and the KGB during the period of Russian occupation of Ukraine from 1920 to 1991. At the same time, Ukraine is celebrating its diplomatic service, which can reflect with pride on many accomplishments since the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-14. Ukraine has free trade agreements with the European Union and with Canada; Ukrainians enjoy visa-free travel to 30 European countries in the Schengen Zone and beyond; world-wide sanctions on Russia for invading Europe in Crimea and Donbas are holding; Ukraine sits on the United Nations Security Council and is a scourge to aggressor Russia.
Russia is invading Ukraine. Russia celebrates its murderous secret police. Ukraine celebrates its wise diplomatic corps. The centennials of the Cheka and of Ukrainian diplomacy illustrate the night-and-day differences between autocratic Russia and democratic Ukraine. Russians under Putin choose death. Ukrainians after the Revolution of Dignity choose life.