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A letter to Vova (Vladimir Putin)

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Dear Vova,

I take the liberty of writing you an informal, somewhat stream-of-consciousness letter to let you know just what I think of you, and to suggest to you that your ugly war against Ukraine is not going too well, to put it mildly. But I suspect you already know that.

I am an American of Ukrainian heritage and, of course, Americans and Ukrainians are the two peoples you despise more than any other. For 35 years, I worked for a U.S. government agency – the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, better known as the Helsinki Commission.  Yes, yes, the same Commission that has been a thorn in Moscow’s side going back to Soviet times.  In May, your Foreign Affairs Ministry included some current and many former commissioners and staff on a list of 963 Americans permanently banned from Russia, including myself. You really let us have it!  But that’s OK, Vova. Somehow we’ll manage to get by.

On a more serious note, Moscow has never much cared for the Helsinki Commission. Ever since its creation following the signing of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, the Commission has attempted to hold the Kremlin accountable for its repeated violations of its Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) human rights and security commitments. With the war on Ukraine, Russia’s already poor record of compliance has only further deteriorated, as Moscow shamelessly and grossly flouts all 10 founding principles enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act – every single one! – not to mention the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Convention and numerous other international agreements.

Vova, I would not wish to be in your shoes right now.  Everybody is fed up with you.  I hate to tell you this (well, not really) but you are in a bind and your situation is precarious. You have nobody to blame except your narcissistic, arrogant self.

The Ukrainians (or whatever you might call them as they don’t really exist in your twisted mind) not only have not succumbed to your perverse desires, but they have also been winning on the battlefield. Big time! And despite your ineffectual propaganda, which few people believe anymore because it has gone beyond the limits of the absurd (calling Ukrainians Nazis – really?!?), the brave and resourceful Ukrainians have won the hearts and minds of people around the world.  Notably, as you have come to see much to your chagrin, this includes the U.S. government, Congress and the American public.

It also includes – perhaps even more to your displeasure as you did not expect this – Europe and other democratic allies and partners around the world. They are working with America to provide unprecedented military, economic and humanitarian aid to the nation that you wish to erase.  We and our international partners are punishing you with massive sanctions.  And you can bet that the free world will continue to support the Ukrainian people.

Let’s face it, Vova, you have no friends.  Your so-so buddies, the Chinese and the neutral Indians, are increasingly unhappy with you and are pushing you to end the war. Other non-aligned countries are less than pleased as well.  The recent U.N. General Assembly annual session showed just how isolated you are.  Even Belarus was half-hearted in its support, and I think you well realize that your lapdog Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka prefers not to be involved, in part fearing his own people, with whom he is already unpopular and who do not want any part of your, ahem, “special military operation.”

The bottom line, Vovochka, is that the world realizes yours is a needless war of choice, completely unprovoked and unjustified. There is a wonderful saying, attributed to our great American President Abraham Lincoln (a man whom, I’m afraid, was the polar opposite of you; to whom you cannot even begin to hold a candle): “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”  Yes, there are a few shortsighted or willfully blind individuals who still believe that your invasion was due to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion, but most people know the score.

The real reason for your brutal aggression, and I am quite surprised by how open you have been in asserting this, including in your infamous 2021 pseudo-essay, is your desire to wipe out Ukraine as a state and Ukrainians as a people.  But your genocidal campaign – the war crimes, the atrocities, the killings, the torture, the sexual violence, the forced deportations, the filtration camps, the separation of parents and children, the destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure – is ultimately an exercise in futility. Why? I repeat, to try to get it through your thick skull, because of the incredible courage and resilience of the Ukrainian people defending their homeland. Also, because of the support they enjoy from the democratic West in particular, and the broader civilized world that respects the rules-based international order. Yes, Vova, the international order that you have violated with impunity.

It’s become increasingly obvious over the two-plus decades of your misrule that you are the face of evil (You may take that as a compliment, but hey, that’s your prerogative). You showed that early on in your rule when your FSB (security service) bombed apartment buildings killing hundreds as a pretext for the second Chechen War. It’s only gone from bad to worse. You have become even more despicable since February 24. You have caused so much death, destruction and suffering. I know empathy and humanity are not your strong suites, but I didn’t realize that you could be as cruel, callous and depraved as you have shown yourself to be. You think that you are strong? The only thing you are showing is your weakness.

However, I must confess that I never considered you to be stupid. I thought that you were basically a rational actor – evil, but not stupid.  Boy was I wrong, as your actions are not those of a sane human being (And please don’t tell me that it was due to the bad information from your sycophantic advisors – that doesn’t cut it).  Polite people call your full-fledged attack on Ukraine a “strategic miscalculation.” 
I call it a senseless blunder of epic proportions.

Your actions, Vova, are those of a corrupt tyrant with imperial delusions and a pathological obsession with a country you deem essential to the restoration of your perverse vision of some sort of a “great Russia.” You fancy yourself a Peter the Great. Instead, you will be remembered and cursed for all eternity by your own people for having weakened and possibly even destroyed Russia. You will have achieved the exact opposite of what you wanted. What can I say, Vova, you are a buffoon, a moron, a fool for the ages, and an evil one at that!

You should not be in the least surprised, Vovochka, that you are the most resented, hated man in the entire world. You are even blowing it with your own population, which has been relatively passively supportive until very recently. You were able to fool many with your relentless disinformation campaigns and appeal to the unhealthy, imperialistic, chauvinistic instincts of all too many – though by no means all – Russians. But those days appear to be over.  With your “partial mobilization,” your subjects are running for the hills – with planes and cars full of men getting the hell out of Dodge, as we would say here in the States. Your national minorities are over-represented in the military and becoming increasingly disaffected. Your troops fighting against the infinitely more competent and determined Ukrainian armed forces are already severely demoralized. The new “recruits” are not eager to become cannon fodder. Your own elites are becoming even more frustrated and disgusted with you – notably the security forces and the military. It does not help that you are trying to play strategic military genius and personally direct them on the battlefield.

And then there are the referendums in the occupied territories – a vote at gunpoint.  Everyone knows they are a sham, a farce, a fraud – yet another among countless Russian violations of democratic norms and principles. Oh, and by the way, nobody is going to recognize annexed Ukrainian lands, nor buy your claims that you are now defending Russian territory.  That would be laughable if it weren’t so warped.

So, what is to be done (chto delat’), to use Lenin’s famous phrase?  The other famous phrase is who is to blame (kto vinovat) and you should be able to figure that out, just look into the mirror. Well, first, when it comes to your nuclear saber-rattling, which poses an even greater threat to global peace and stability than the considerable damage that you have already done, heed the warnings you have been receiving privately from U.S. officials, and the words of President Joe Biden: “don’t, don’t, don’t!”

The other thing you can do is to get the hell out of Ukraine. Just leave. End the war. Period. Full stop. Granted, the chances of that are just about nil, so I am not holding my breath. But it is an option, perhaps the least bad option for you. Think about it.

One way or another, sooner or later, you will be defeated. Either you will leave, or the Ukrainians will kick you out. After all, they are defending their land and that gives them the kind of motivation that your occupying forces will never have. They realize that as long as Russia rules even a meter of Ukrainian land, there will never be any respect for life, dignity, human rights and freedoms for any subjugated Ukrainian.

Because of your evil, your stupidity and your lunacy, Russia has become a global pariah. You stand on the wrong side of history and may very well become the destroyer, not the savior, of Russia.

Nobody knows what fate awaits you – I personally would love to see you face justice at the International Criminal Court in the Hague – but it could be even worse than that. What happened to Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in 1945 or Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in December of 1989 comes to mind.  Sweet dreams, Vova.


Orest S. Deychakiwsky

P.S. I was tempted to write a letter akin to what the Zaporizhian Kozaks wrote to the Turkish Sultan, but I am not that creative, and, besides, this is a family newspaper.

The Ukrainian Weekly