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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #335



Yesterday was a cruel day in more ways than one. I stepped haggardly off my train from Kyiv with almost hardly any sleep from the night before, and I drifted like a ghost round central Lviv trying undertake my daily chores. An electricity outage on my street had closed my local supermarket, where all the kids hang around for some reason; therefore I had to go to the one round the corner full of somber Stalinist statues of staff who barely grunt when you ask them for a portion of cheese. I had a stack of tedious paperwork to complete for the High Court in London - whose bureaucracy is routinely impenetrable - but I think I made a bit of progress. Nevertheless studying court forms and rules from Ukraine with a sense of enduring fatigue from long-distance Ukrainian train travel is never much fun. Then I went into work in my military kitchen, to put in my few hours daily, and I grunted and moaned even while performing tasks as straightforward as peeling potatoes, just because I was so exhausted. I’d pushed myself down into one of those moods when I was asking myself what it’s all for? Why am I here and why do I care about Ukraine? And when you get stuck in ruts like that it takes some climbing to get back out of them.


There’s a sense of helplessness in war, as though all the decisions are being made by people far away, politicians and bureaucrats in some foreign capitals, and some people get very angry and ask why those politicians and bureaucrats aren’t doing anything. Sadly those politicians and bureaucrats often feel exactly the same; they are the ones who feel powerless, hamstrung by complex regulations and power relations which mean that they can’t take the decisions they want to take in order to help. I know of no politician in the United Kingdom or the United States who doesn’t want to help win the war in Ukraine - everyone has the same objective. Unfortunately politics being what it is, the issue of mobilising resources to win the war involves balancing a series of factors against many others including things like winning elections, and this creates inertia. So the politicians and civil servants in far-flung foreign capitals look on at people like on the ground with envy, as someone who can actually do something constructive on a daily basis to change things and save lives, even by so simple an act as peeling vegetables, while they in their pompous buildings and smart pressed suits turn out not to be able to do anything at all except write yet more briefing memos that everyone agrees with but nobody can act upon because there’s a US General Election.


Even Donald Trump, I believe, cares very much about Ukraine and understands the dangers presented by Russian imperialism. I was reminded yesterday of an interview given by none other than Richard Nixon in 1994, and I want to transcribe it here because it’s so extraordinarily prescient. He said this:


Russia at the present time is at a crossroads. It is often said that the Cold War is over and the West has won and that’s only half true; because what has happened is that the communists have been defeated; but the ideas of freedom now are on trial, if they don’t work there will be a reversion to not communism which has failed, but what I call a new despotism which would pose a mortal danger to the rest of the world because you have been infected with the virus of Russian imperialism which of course has been a characteristic of Russian foreign policy for centuries, …


Therefore the West has, the United States has, all those who want peace and freedom in the world, a great stake in freedom succeeding in Russia. If it succeeds, it will be an example for others to follow. It will be an example for China, for example to follow, or the other communist states …if it fails, it means that the hardliners in China will get a new life, they will say it failed there, there’s no reason for us to resort to democracy.


Nixon was arguably the most conservative Republican President before Donald Trump, and he understood the dangers Russia posed to the rest of the world and so, I believe, does Donald Trump. Whatever else one thinks about Mr Trump, I am not convinced that Trump would abandon Ukraine because he understands the Russia is a country with whom one can never have a negotiated peace because she is in a permanent state of war. Russia is now in the period of new despotism that Nixon predicted, and the mortal danger must be faced down. We just have to get past November 2024 in order that NATO member states can act in concert to face Russia down, irrespective of the political colour of the incumbent of the White House.


After all these dark and gloomy thoughts, I decided to go and drown my sorrows in Mano’s Bar, only to discover that it was a party evening to be celebrated with a group of girls all running around in fetish outfits in the style of Baron Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, arguably Lviv’s most famous resident. Naturally this cheered me up no end. By this point I was really quite exhausted, virtually falling asleep over my beer, and I was ready to for bed. But then my friend delighted me with his new theory of how to attract women. You ask them what star sign they are; and irrespective of they reply, you say “oh, that explains a lot”. Apparently the word “oh” is very important in this. They will then then ask you why it explains a lot, and you don’t give them a reply. This makes them interested in you. I tried this with a few of my female friends. One replied (quite rightly), “I don’t believe that the position of celestial objects makes any difference to my personality”. She is my favourite person. Another one replied with a list of 15 businessmen in Odessa. She is my second favourite. But all the others fell for this line hook line and sinker. My friend isn’t a sociopath; he’s just captured the Zeitgeist in a fairly suspicious Slavic culture.


By the way, what star sign are you? Oh. That explains a lot.

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