The 2001 film Conspiracy reconstructs the infamous January 20, 1942, Wannsee conference, during which the following exchange supposedly took place between Rudolf Lange, a Nazi extermination unit commander who liquidated Latvia’s Jewish population of 250,000 in six months, and Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger of the Reich chancellery:
Lange: I studied law as well.
Kritzinger: And how do you apply that education to what you do?
Lange: It has made me distrustful of language. A gun means what it says.
Over the last several months anyone who has watched the invasion, occupation and continued military offensives prosecuted against Ukraine by Russia’s Vladimir Putin (who was also trained as a lawyer) could not fail to be distrustful of the language from Moscow—specifically the denials of any involvement. The guns carried by the hybrid legions of Ukrainian mercenaries and Russian special forces dispatched by the former KGB Lt. Col. in the Kremlin mean what they say. He wants to take as much of Ukraine as he can.
Not surprisingly, Ukraine was the number one issue on most of the panels during Saturday’s proceedings at the Munich Security Conference. There was unanimity among the Americans and Europeans that the crisis in Ukraine now threatens the security of all of Europe. But where Washington and Berlin part company, and where several EU and NATO nations find themselves disagreeing with their member partners, is on what constitutes the proper course of action.
Konstantine Kosachev, Radek Sikorski, Lindsey Graham
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been tireless in trying to remain the channel of communication between Putin and the West. She also remains steadfast in refusing to provide weaponry to the Ukrainian military. “There is no military solution to the Ukrainian conflict” is the German government’s mantra, meaning no weapons should be supplied to Ukraine’s beleaguered and out-gunned military.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who ironically in private discussions among the pro-Ukrainian foreign policy community is increasingly referred to pejoratively as “Dr. Goebbels” thus felt emboldened to present his predictable version of events: Everything that has happened in Ukraine is the fault of western nations. “At every stage in the crisis in Ukraine the US and EU took measures to escalate that crisis” and “our western partners were not guided by a visions of common European security but by illusions.”
That the “world is against and seeks to destroy Russia” is the rather tired and shopworn line that Lavrov and other of Putin’s surrogates keep peddling when they discuss the situation in their neighbouring, one-time vassal state. But the lack of credibility in this narrative shows in several ways, not the least of which was the body language of Lavrov. During his presentation here in Munich he was caught looking at his high-priced luxury watch (one of the obligatory accoutrements of any Russian state official or billionaire oligarch) in an “oh please let this be over soon” moment.
Other indicators came in a panel in which Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the upper house of the Russian state parliament debated with North Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Polish Foreign Minister, Radek Sikorski. It was clear from Kosachev’s presentation that Moscow is grasping at the most ridiculous of straws to try to justify its unjustifiable aggression.
As “proof” that implacable Ukrainian state-sponsored hostility threatens the very lives of Russian-speakers in Ukraine’s eastern regions, which Moscow must therefore “rescue,” Kosachev claimed that the public school administration in Ukraine has become a tyranny that surpasses that of the worst days of Stalinist repression in his own country. Ukrainians who regard themselves as Russian-speaking are in imminent danger, he claimed, because the 500 public schools in Kiev that were split 50-50—250 teaching classes in Russian and 250 in Ukrainian—at the end of the Soviet era are today almost all teaching in Ukrainian, with only 8 schools offering instruction in Russian.