A war that failed to happen

pic by TMR FILE

MALAYSIA is a lucky nation — that’s what I think every time when I get more news from Ukraine. Ukraine used to be a very important part of the Russian world, but now it’s on the constant brink of selfdestruction due to own attempts to be in confrontation with Russia. It’s a strange kind of confrontation.

During the previous presidency in Kiev, the official line is that the two nations are in a state of war. While in Russia, were jokes of how our country failed to show up for the war.

And here we have fresh figures about the Russians and Ukrainians’ feelings towards each other.

The survey was conducted by the Levada Centre in Moscow and the Kiev International Institute of Sociology.

Fifty-six percent of Russians have “positive” views towards Ukraine as a nation, while 54% of Ukrainians have the same feelings towards Russia.

As a reminder, Ukraine was — and still is — in a state of civil war since early 2014, after a violent change of government in Kiev. The new leaders were from the nation’s West, speaking mostly Ukrainian and historically at odds with the East, speaking mostly Russian.

The nation’s East had rebelled, at that time, against the change of the regime, and the new government had sent troops to rebellious territories.

That was the war that had caused the tragic incident with the Malaysian MH17 flight. Russia hated that war.

Getting back to our opinion survey, one thing is obvious: The two nations are almost back in the year 2014, far as their attitudes towards each other are concerned.

The charts in both cases show two big red humps of mutual anger between 2014 and 2019. But today, the humps are disappearing and we are getting back to the state of things before 2014.

You could have expected something different after several years of Ukrainian official statements about “the Russian aggression in the East” and Moscow’s accepting of Crimea peninsula back to Russia.

Not to mention the fact that the Russian public have certainly resented Kiev’s atrocities in the East, where the population is indistinguishable from the one in the neighbouring Russian areas.

How the two states should deal with each other ideally, asked the survey. And again we have almost the same prevailing opinion along both sides of the border: There should be no border at all, no visas for travel and no customs for trade.

That’s the opinion of 49% of Ukrainians and 54% or Russians. You may add to that around 10% of those elderly optimists who wish the countries be reunited again.

What we have here is a sobering case in an age when some people have thought that the Internet and social networks were giving some unprecedented possibilities to propaganda, be it a state or private one.

The abovementioned red humps of mutual anger were caused by fierce Ukrainian propaganda against Russia, that included constant claims about the “Russian troops” in its East (these troops have never been seen or documented).

I have to admit that the Moscow TV talk shows where I participate are boiling with anger and derision towards Ukraine authorities and vice versa their hatred towards anything Russian. And still, the result is as mentioned above — we go back to the pre-2014 state of things.

We know that hate groups are all around the Internet, but still, hatred is failing in the case of Ukraine and Russia. So, you may want to compare it all with India and Pakistan, and wonder what the people there really feel towards each other after so many decades after the cruel Partition of 1947.

Or you may think about something closer to home, namely the Confrontation of 1963-1966. People hardly remember it now (as I said, Malaysia is a lucky nation).

It’s very hard to predict the future of Ukraine and Russia that used to be one. The current regime of the new President Vladimir Zelensky in Kiev seems to be less ardent than the previous one in anti-Russian propaganda, but still there is no sign of an overall settlement.

In the meantime we see other figures, showing what the people think about a “failed war” between the two nations. About one million of Ukrainians have visited Crimea this year for recreational purposes which, theoretically, they were not supposed to do, if you listen to propaganda about Crimea being an “occupied territory”.

Based on the figures, 50,000 Ukrainians decided to move to Crimea permanently, applying for Russian citizenship, while only 7,000 people who were from Crimea who moved to Ukraine.

There are also 170,000 people from the still-rebellious Eastern Ukraine, who had obtained their Russian citizenship. They stayed where they were and were not willing to migrate anywhere. All in all, that’s a nice case of a war defeated by popular wisdom.

Dmitry Kosyrev is an author of 8 novels and a book of short stories, as well as a columnist for 2 Moscow publications. Orientalist by education (Moscow University), he has a special love for Malaysia. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.