Ukrainian President: Proposed Nord Stream 2 pipeline is war, “occupied territories” are worse than Chernobyl
“Only one thing to it: a strong stomach. The guts to gladhand a man you’re going to stab in the back; pledge allegiance to principles you stomp on every day; righteously denounce some despot in the press and sell him arms under the table. The talent to whip up the voters’ worst passions while you seem to call on their highest instincts, and the sense to stay wrapped in the flag. That’s politics: I’ll take the simple life.” – Beaumarchais, The Marriage of Figaro
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently granted a lengthy interview to the French newspaper Le Figaro, in which he lobbies for his country to be taken into NATO and the European Union, fulsomely fawns over French President Emmanuel Macron (they have a special affinity; they both like the theater – but apparently not Beaumarchais) and offers him commiseration and common cause with, in what appears to be a reference to last year’s strikes over pension changes and perhaps also to the Yellow Vest protest movement, the words “I do not know one hundred percent whether Russia was involved in these conflicts, strikes in France, or not.” The last comment was printed in one of France’s leading newspapers.
He dwelt, as would be expected, on the status of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Donbass and Crimea, which he referred to as occupied territories. (That is the translation of his words on his presidential website.)
Russia, of course, is the implied or explicit occupier in all three instances. He additionally compares the three to what for decades have been referred to as the frozen conflicts in the former Soviet Union: Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transdniester. (He neglected to add South Ossetia; mere oversight no doubt.)
Wars have been fought in and against those four republics, most recently the Turkish-supported attack by Azerbaijan against Nagorno-Karabakh last year. To suggest that he wouldn’t be averse to seeing Turkey reprise that role, he praised Turkish-Ukrainian cooperation which includes a joint approach to “the issue of Crimean Tatars or Crimeans who were deprived of their home and left after the occupation.” He also said, ” For me, Crimea and Donbas have never left, these are definitely our territories.” They, like Nagorno-Karabakh and Crimean Tatars, will have to be “liberated.” By force of arms.
By way of comparison with examples preceding the division in Ukraine he said that “in the territories where there is occupation” – he mentioned Abkhazia and Transniester – there are no skyscrapers (“like in Hong Kong”), no scientific breakthrough, no cool (his word) businesses and no happiness. No happiness. Transdniester has a population of 469,000 people and Abkhazia of 245,000. And they have no skyscrapers. No Disney Worlds. No Microsoft and Amazon and other cool businesses. No happiness. The fact that the U.S. and the EU don’t recognize their existence and cut them off from all connection with the outside world except for Russia in Zelensky’s mind would have nothing to do with why there are no Eiffel Towers or Trump Towers in Tiraspol and Sukhumi.
In referring to Abkhazia and Transdniester as occupied territories he again implies that Russia is the occupation force as it has a small contingent of peacekeepers in Transdniester and has reinforced troops in Abkhazia after the Georgia-Russia war of 2008. Transdniester is squeezed between Ukraine and Moldova; perhaps Zelensky intends to “liberate” it as he does Crimea with Turkish assistance.
He said that if the Donbass and Crimea share the fate of those others, they will be “dead” territory. “It will be worse than Chernobyl. Because there are tourists even in Chernobyl. And these will be just ‘dead’ regions, unfortunately.”
When asked about the proposed Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, he transformed that as he does most everything into a casus belli: “Nord Stream is another blow, an energy one. Modern wars are called that way. Hybrid wars. This is an information war, an energy war. The same with gas, the food war. We know how countries are blocked and they do not receive food. Similarly, there is a vaccine war, when there is no supply of vaccines to a country, and you are blackmailed. This is a hybrid war.
“So what’s the difference which troops are fighting against you? Remember, this (Nord Stream – ed.) is not a business issue. Business of Europe and Russia. No, it’s a matter of war.”
“I made clear that firms engaged in pipeline construction risk U.S. sanctions. The pipeline divides Europe, it exposes Ukraine and central Europe to Russian manipulation and coercion, it goes against Europe’s own stated energy goals.”
In Zelensky’s Le Figaro interview he connected the war for energy with the war over “occupied territories” with these stark words:
“If the Nord Stream 2 is completed, not only Ukraine will lose. This is a precedent, it means that it is allowed. And this is the same as with our occupied territories. If people recognize and get used to it, live with it, then it means this is allowed. Starting from Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, Transnistria, and now Crimea, Donbas…..Crimea and Donbas would not be the case if the world had said ‘it is not allowed’ back then.”
Western governments and the Western news media are providing an oversimplified if not entirely inaccurate narrative about what’s involved in Ukraine’s campaign to pit the West against Russia. The Western public may want to read Zelensky’s own words.