The war in Ukraine has plumbed new depths of depravity and destruction when it comes to what the Russians are inflicting on the Ukrainian population. The term “war” is a misnomer for what is happening. War, in the classic historical sense, is a conflict between two competing militaries. Although there is some element of that in the Ukraine war, it has mostly deteriorated into an orgy of rape, killing, plunder and above all, wanton destruction by the Russians against the civilian Ukrainian population and its infrastructure. By far, most of the fatalities and victims on the Ukrainian side are not armed forces personnel, but innocent civilians. The Russians appear determined to “liberate” Ukrainians by killing them all and destroying their country.
It is clear that Russians place little value on human life, either that of their victims or even their own soldiers. Whereas Ukrainians place great importance on honouring their military dead, Russians seem oblivious to their own. The Ukrainians are facing a huge problem with what to do with the mounting large number of Russian corpses. The Russians are refusing to repatriate their dead. Many are covertly buried in mass graves or cremated by special mobile crematoria. Those that fall into Ukrainian hands are being stored in morgues and refrigerated rail cars, but these are quickly running short of capacity.
But it is not only the dead that the Russians don’t value – they have no compunction about initiating mass frontal attacks that usually result in mass casualties to their own forces. They view their own soldiers’ lives as a disposable commodity. Russian soldiers are viewed by most Russian commanders as mere “cannon fodder”.
This has been a pattern for centuries. Russian rulers have always looked upon the lives of those they govern as merely something to be used to build their own power and empires. Russian industry, infrastructure, roads, railways, resource exploitation – all have been built over the centuries on the bodies and bones of the Russian peasantry and the captives of countries they have conquered and enslaved.
Stalin may have been the master of killing untold millions to build his Soviet empire, but he was neither the first nor the last. Ivan the Terrible, Russia’s first Tsar, was notorious for his massacres and oppression. Peter I built the splendours of St. Petersburg on the bones of tens of thousands of Russian peasants and Ukrainian prisoners of war. The conquest of Siberia and the Far East was paid for by millions of lives. The building of the Trans Siberian Railway cost hundreds of thousands of lives, mostly that of convicts and political prisoners. During the Soviet era, Siberian resources were exploited through the vast Gulag complex of labour and death camps that killed millions of prisoners.
For the past four or five centuries, Russians have come to accept the reality that their individual lives are worthless. Their historical legacy is one of passively accepting oppression, exploitation and death at the hands of their rulers. The only outlet for their frustration, has been to inflict pain, death and destruction on those that the Russian state makes war on. Russian rulers have always given their militaries the license to kill, loot and rape the lands that they conquer. This latest war on Ukrainian has proven to be no exception. To the rest of the world, this kind of behaviour is defined as war crimes. To the Russians, it is merely an acceptable tradition and form of payment for their own political acquiescence.
Ukrainians have a much different historical legacy and mindset. Despite being conquered and oppressed by a number of different powerful enemies for the past seven centuries, Ukrainians never gave up their innate desire to be free and independent. Ukrainians have always cherished life and the value of the individual. They have consistently and ferociously resisted any kind of tyrannical rule. Decade after decade, century after century, they refuse to be subjugated or accept the fact that life is cheap or worthless. Behaviorally, they are as different from Russians as can be. This is abundantly clear to anyone that has studied the history of these two neighbouring peoples.
It is this difference that will ultimately cause Ukraine to win this war, and for the Russian empire to finally crumble, hopefully to never rise again to the position where it can inflict more pain and suffering on the rest of the world. For the Ukrainians, this war is about freedom, principles and human rights. For the Russians this war is about greed, lack of principle and a psychopathic hatred. For the sake of the future of human civilizations, they cannot be allowed to prevail.