Everybody likes a hero. Volodymyr Zelensky has certainly played up to the actor’s role as president of Ukraine. The ‘Renaissance’ man-Actor, President. Charming and brave Ulysses, he gives Ukraine an endearing public image. However, there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. The western world tends to be dualistic in thinking; using the descriptive binaries of good and evil, right and wrong. The culture of the West, ever since Plato, placed reason and morality at the forefront of thinking. Then with the Enlightenment came the idea that humanity is essentially good. There is truth and falsity; one just needs to apply reason. It is what people “want” to believe. Unfortunately, the Russians were not reading from the same play book; in fact, they have been reading Machiavelli all along. The West always needs to pick a side, a hero and a villain, cowboys and Indians. It is how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were sold to the public. Just for good measure, former President Bush and Prime Minister Blair pasted on another dualism: liberalism’s predecessor – Christianity, so it became a crusade against Islam. However, it is not only the Russians who have been versed in Machiavelli. It now appears some sections of the Ukrainian elites and military, have also been reading from The Prince.
The stories coming out of the front line are shocking
My contact and friend1, an ex-US military veteran from Intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan, has spent a long-time implementing democracy and transparency programmes through a myriad of organizations, such as the World Bank and the UN. He regards the work to have been a colossal failure. To those of us who have lived and worked in the former Soviet bloc, this does not come as a huge surprise. He is close to the ear of colleagues who are fighting for the International Legion in Ukraine; to a man they are fighting for what they believe is a just cause. However, the stories coming out of the front line are shocking. Abuse of soldiers, verbal and physical, both men and women, is commonplace. It is also no wonder that many international fighters have been caught in Russian territory, since the leadership of the International Legion regularly sends people on ‘suicide missions’, deep into enemy territory with no desire to rescue or retrieve them.
One US veteran, a platoon commander, complained that ‘We came here to help the Ukrainian people. Instead, we are forced to loot Ukrainian shops and pack goods, electronics, furniture, food, weapons in army vehicles for the commander’s private business operations.’ So huge and demoralizing are the incidents that one unit of the International Legion has put together an 80-page dossier of incidents, sent to the Parliament. Yet the worst aspect is that despite complaints to the military hierarchy in Kyiv and then direct to Zelensky’s office, nothing has been done. One estimate I gained was that possibly up to 50 per cent of funding is being stolen and a huge stock of weaponry is being recirculated on the black market. So, there is the bizarre spectacle of western funding and weaponry ending up with mercenary, terrorist groups to prosecute wars further afield.
The US veteran also said the military leadership are threatening whistle blowers. The International Legion has two parts; one run by the standard Ukrainian military, another by the GUR (Defence Ministry’s Directorate of Intelligence). The Intelligence wing is headed by Kyrylo Budanov and Vadim Popyk. Beneath them is a trio of what my contact described as ‘standard Ukrainian and Polish mafia’. They have little interest in prosecuting the war, but a visceral interest in sending the likes of a colleague, Scott Sibley, to his death.
Another fighter, British soldier Andrew Hill was also part of this regiment, and was captured on a suicide mission near Mykolaiv. Once the missions start, the commanders then refuse to send backup or rescue them, even when the Russians have located positions and start incessant shelling. One of the commanders, Kuchynsky, is on the run from bird time for fraud offenses and possession of weapons and explosives in Poland. His real name is Piotr Kapuscinski, a Polish gangster, a previous member of the ‘Pruskow Gang’, the largest mafia group in Poland, responsible for the murder of Marek Papala, the Polish police chief, in 1998. However, he turned states witness and implicated his colleagues in kidnappings, murders etc., thereby getting a pardon for a while. Being persona non grata in Poland, with a price on his head, he decided to set up business in Ukraine. War throws up huge opportunities and Kapuscinski opened a shop in Ukraine as a commander, and western aid started flooding in. The looting of shopping centres near the front line of the Donbas in Lysychansk, for example, under the scowling watch of bemused locals, has become commonplace. Hence the large resignations of foreign fighters, appalled by the tolerance of criminality amidst a so-called ‘war of liberation’. The truth is that any morality which proclaims righteousness will fall prey to reality and the fact that, as Nietzsche noted2, there is no such thing as good and evil.
Together with choosing sides, the West, without a lot of strategic or historical thinking, has opted for a policy of proxy war in Ukraine
Remember Aun San Suu Kyi; she was for years the doyen of the liberal media worldwide; then after attaining power she supported the vicious anti-Rohingya murder and rape crimes under the auspices of the Burmese military. Saddam Hussein was, for a while, a good guy, a buffer to post-revolutionary Iran and its Islamic theocracy. But times change when the era of ‘resource wars’ takes over. Together with choosing sides, the West, without a lot of strategic or historical thinking, has opted for a policy of proxy war in Ukraine. That has entailed the handing over of huge sums of money for armaments and aid. The aid is well meaning and needed; however, what is now emerging is the colossal abuse taking place in Ukraine of funding and hardware. The scale of the stories out of Ukraine would make the money laundering of African despots appear like cooking the books at the local Bowling Club.
The recent assassination attempt on Alexander Dugin in Moscow, has shown up the Janus-faced hypocrisy of the West. Free speech is a tale of two speeches; the one of Salman Rushdie, the other of Alexander Dugin. The free speech outrage at the attack on Rushdie has not been echoed for that of Dugin. The assassin of Rushdie no doubt a ‘terrorist’ and that of Dugin ‘a freedom fighter’. Free speech, in the Occident, only applies to “right” speech, and one can invent the terminology to demonize anyone of a right leaning or different opinion. Dugin is a ‘fascist’ and we know how all-inclusive and useful this accusation is for the woke media. What about Ezra Pound? Was he a fascist poet? Nietzsche, who vilified this sense of misplaced morality, the sanctification of ‘good and evil’, the world of black and white, was also a ‘fascist’ despite his virulent hatred of anti-semitism. Can we not read these writers, or is there a list of accepted liberal ones devoid of controversy or substance? It is safe to assume that we can still read Plato, whose ethics concerned the description of ‘Good’ and Justice. And there’s the rub; for Plato was the patron of one of the most tyrannical regimes in history. He worked for the dictator king, Dionysus I of Syracuse, a butcher of people and poetry. In an interesting anecdote3, Plutarch tells the story of how the young poet Philoxenus had joked about the tyrant’s own poetry. Dionysus sent him to the stoneworks for hard labour. However, he was reprieved and sent back to the tyrant for a further reading, for a Stalinist second chance. Dionysus read his own poetry again to his courtesans and, at the end, amidst great applause, Philoxenus was asked for his opinion. ‘Take me back to the quarries’ was his reply.
The honesty of poets is sorely lacking for we live in an age of the trahison de clercs of government and media; where quick fixes and the universalist humanism of the West poisons serious analysis or the nuances of debate. We now stand at the cliff edge of the truth quarry, where mass media and technology have facilitated what Stalin always wanted: ‘engineers of human souls’.4
1 Undisclosed due to security reasons.
2 Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (Soesterberg: Aspekt Publishers, 2022).
3John Haberstroh, ‘Dionysus I of Syracuse: A Tyrant turned King’, https://www.academia.edu/8440827/Dionysius_I_of_Syracuse_A_Tyrant_Turned_King, accessed 6 Sept. 2022.
4 Said by Stalin at a meeting of fifty top Soviet writers at Maxim Gorky’s house in Moscow (26 October 1932). Published in А. Kemp-Welch, Stalin and the Literary Intelligentsia. (Basingstoke and London 1991),12–31.