Who Are We Arming and Supporting in Ukraine?

Do We Know?

On December 16, 2021, the United States and Ukraine voted against a UN General Assembly draft resolution “Combating the glorification of the Nazi movement, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling contemporary forms of racism….” The Assembly expressed deep concern with current trends in Eastern Europe that serve to whitewash the Nazi period, including the Holocaust, by exalting former non-German members of the Waffen SS organization – including Ukrainians.

The current trends the Assembly was referring to include “erecting monuments and memorials, holding public demonstrations in the name of the glorification of the Nazi past, the Nazi movement and neo-Nazism” and specifically, the modern practice in some Eastern European countries of declaring those in their country who collaborated with the World War II Nazis to the extent of joining them in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, as “participants in national liberation movements,”  aka freedom fighters.

For those not immersed in the history of that part of the world it takes a little parsing to make sense of this but, in essence, here’s what it means, focusing on Ukraine:

Ukrainian nationalists of the 1930’s and ‘40’s wanted independence from the Soviet Union, and they organized opposition groups to press the issue; i.e., they were participants in national liberation movements, or freedom fighters. When the Germans invaded the USSR in 1941, some of these freedom fighters welcomed them – on the familiar if doubtful theory that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Some of them did much more than welcome the Germans and their enthusiasm went beyond yearning for national liberation; some collaborated by facilitating and enabling the German reign of terror against civilians while others volunteered for the Wehrmacht, took the oath, put on the uniform and joined the war effort on the side of the Nazis.

It is the “glorification” of these collaborators and fighters for the Nazi cause of WWII with demonstrations, memorials and monuments in the 21st century that has inspired Russia to introduce the draft resolutions condemning the practices every year since 2005. We, the United States of America, through four presidential administrations — two republican, two democrat — have opposed those resolutions every single time they have been introduced. (Although, in 2018, a bipartisan group of 50 US Senators did write a letter condemning Ukrainian legislation that they said, “glorifies Nazi collaborators.”

Please think this through slowly for a moment: the United States of America, which put sixteen million American citizens in military uniform between 1941 and 1945, in order to join the Soviet Union and Great Britain to stop the sadistic murders of millions of European civilians by the Nazis (mostly in Eastern Europe), is today willing to go along with a “glorification” of that period by the heirs and admirers of local collaborators – Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian.  Please remember, too, that over 400,000 Americans died in that war, most of them in Europe, fighting Nazis. (You might also remember that 7,000,000 Soviet service men and women died fighting Nazis while 20,000,000 Soviet civilians died at the hands of the Nazis.)

The UN event was not much reported on by the Western press.  Craig Murray wrote an excellent and searing piece that appeared in Consortium News but a quick Google search showed no major media covering it.  Maybe we’ve been through it so many times now it’s just not worth mentioning anymore?

But why are we refusing to support this resolution in the first place?

The United States’ UN representatives say it is among other things, an issue of free speech. Ever since the ACLU defended the American Nazis’ right to parade publicly down the streets of Skokie, Illinois, almost a half century ago, we have, as a nation, stood strong and proud for the right to speak freely.  It was a shock for many at that earlier time to come face-to-face with the hard reality of just what freedom of speech meant – particularly for the veterans who had been fighting the whole idea of Nazism only a few decades earlier, and for much of the following generation who grew up on large doses of World War II history, and particularly for American Jews. Hearing and seeing live demonstrations of a hated ideology on the main street of a US city was tough; having to accept it in the name of one of our most cherished freedoms was tougher. But we accepted it, for the most part, and we managed to agree to extending a treasured national value to protect something we, most of us, hate.

Now we are asked to extend it even further to cover not only parades and vile speech, but to memorials, monuments, historical re-writes and other forms of veneration of Ukraine’s homegrown Nazis, both the originals of the 1940’s and today’s direct descendants, the members of the para-military groups such as Azov Battalion and Right Sector, C-14 and National Corps.  Witness the sadistic treatment of peaceful Ukrainian protestors in Odessa in 2014, who were chased into a union hall by fellow citizens, the building set on fire and the protestors suffocated or burned alive – a mirror image of a not uncommon Nazi practice in the earlier era when Jews or Communists or anyone they happened to despise were chased by the Germans into churches or schools or barns throughout occupied Europe, the doors barred, the buildings set afire and the victims burned alive or shot as they tried to escape.

No one would condone this activity as free speech. Would they? What about turning a blind eye to it as the West has done in its hurry to clutch Ukraine to its bosom? The perpetrators of the 2014 atrocity in Odessa have not been prosecuted. They haven’t been arrested. Are these Ukrainian Nazi-worshipping para-military types aberrations or mainstream? If they are aberrations, why has the Ukrainian government done nothing to stop and prevent this sort of activity? (Could it be because the Ukrainian government is corrupt and dysfunctional and is either afraid of the Nazis or needs them to stay in power?) And if they are mainstream, what is the United States of America doing by supporting Ukraine? And what in the name of God does a senior officer mean to imply by stitching the uniform patch of a Ukrainian Nazi brigade onto a United States Army uniform, as Colonel Brittany Stewart, military attaché to the US Embassy in Kiev, did last fall?

Was this her free speech moment? Does cozying up to modern Nazis-types by a senior military officer constitute Nazi “glorification” or merely profound and inexcusable ignorance?  It is pathetic to have to hope that Colonel Stewart is just a dimwit, but the alternative is worse; that Col. Stewart knew exactly what she was doing.  Whatever she thought she was doing, she is an insult to the memory of Americans who fought to eliminate the hatred, bigotry, violence and genocidal madness such symbols stand for.

The other reason the US representatives at the UN give for the “No” vote on the resolution is that the document is full of “misinformation:”

a document most notable for its thinly veiled attempts to legitimize Russian disinformation campaigns denigrating neighboring nations and promoting the distorted Soviet narrative of much of contemporary European history, using the cynical guise of halting Nazi glorification

As Murray points out in his article, “There is no historical doubt whatsoever of Ukrainian nationalist forces’ active support of Nazism and participation in genocide, not just of Jews and Roma but of Poles and religious minorities. There is no doubt whatsoever of the modern glorification in Ukraine of these evil people…. The truth of course is that NATO intends to use the descendants of Eastern European racists against Russia much as Hitler did….”

The Ukrainian Nazis of today insist that they are following in the footsteps of their venerated, freedom-fighter ancestors and most Western governments and media are willing to accept the claim at face value. In the ‘40’s the ancestors fought for their independence from the Soviet Union and when the Germans invaded, they were welcomed as allies in that cause.  But how does that ostensibly noble impulse explain the historically verifiable fact that some of those same “freedom fighters” immediately joined their new partners in the round-up of other Ukrainian citizens for slaughter? The mass murder of over 100,000 Ukrainian citizens — communists, Jews, Poles and other minorities — at the ravine called Babi Yar in Kiev over a two-week period in September/October 1941, was, according to both German and Ukrainian witnesses, only possible on the scale it achieved due to the enthusiastic participation of Ukrainian collaborators.

And let us not forget that the Ukrainians who joined the Wehrmacht, picked up their weapons and stood with their German comrades were fighting American GIs, too. Glorifying their participation in that war in any way today should be unacceptable to every living US citizen.

It is a convoluted path that connects Ukraine’s Nazi past to today and it is especially difficult for Americans to navigate because we tend to ignore history. A faction of Ukrainians joined forces with the invading Germans because they wanted to live in a country free from Soviet rule, but the fact remains that Ukraine has had a fervent Nazi element for 80 years and it is no “distorted Soviet narrative” that exposes it but rather ordinary, hardworking, contemporary historians and journalists and people living there today. There is no doubt the country suffered the worst afflictions the 20th century had to offer, multiple times, including war, civil war, occupation, famine, invasion, more occupation and more war with millions left dead and the survivors left with the aftereffects of massive, multiple traumas.  But enabling them to re-imagine their history by rebranding their Nazi factions – old and new – as “freedom fighters” is not right or healthy or helpful in any way if there is ever to be any reconciliation in that region today.

It is not healthy for us, either. We have our own dark demons of the past to tackle and our own modern, raving, torch-waving bigots to confront. But there is a point, for all of us, where we must draw a line at what is acceptable and defensible as “free speech.”  Re-writing history to ennoble evil is beyond that line.

The Germans have a word that should be translated and absorbed into every language on earth:  “vergangenheitsbewältigung.” It describes the “attempt to analyze, digest and learn to live with the past.”  It refers especially to the Holocaust, for the Germans, and means facing up to ugly historical truths, accepting that they are real, and learning not just how to live with them but most importantly, how to prevent their ever recurring. It requires serious discipline and humility to put that meaning into practice.

In the meantime, we are sending hundreds of millions of dollars, tons of armaments, and thousands of military trainers and intelligence officials to Ukraine in order to prop them up and prepare them for a possible war with Russia.  But who, exactly, are we arming and training? Do we know? According to Americans who have lived in Ukraine for decades, the extreme right-wing Nazi supporters in that country are heavily represented in the country’s military, particularly the National Guard and according to American journalists those factions, while a small portion of the overall population, have been growing in numbers, strength, influence and in their willingness to commit violence against anyone who disagrees with them, since 2014.

Are these the people we have now armed and trained?

If this is another example of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” we should be looking long and hard at ourselves and asking this: do we have any idea who our friends are?

P.A. Day, American attorney, may be reached at cardinalrule5@protonmail.com. Read other articles by P.A..