I am writing this essay at a moment of powerful historical rift. When it is unclear when and in what volume there will be American assistance to Ukraine, when the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valeriy Fedorovich Zaluzhny in his column for The Economist magazine admitted that the war has reached a positional deadlock, and, at the same time, approximately half of the inhabitants of Ukraine believe in an early exit to the borders 1991 of the year.
This may seem unexpected in today's practical world, but I do not see a single problem regarding the war in Ukraine that is not based on a low level of ethics.
I am talking about the level of ethics of modern leaders, the collective level of ethics of modern societies and the level of ethics of individuals.
By the level of ethics I understand the ability of a person or group of people to distinguish between good and evil, to act in accordance with the idea of good and evil, to adjust their intentions and actions, and to understand the consequences of their actions on other people and communities of other people.
I invite you to consider the issue at three levels – at the level of the United States and the collective West, at the level of Ukraine’s relations with allies in the collective West and adversaries in all directions, and at the level of public relations within Ukraine.
The starting point for the decline in the level of ethics in the West, from my point of view, was the First World War. Here I refer to the brilliant Andrei Baumeister, who in his lecture on elites noted that at some point one of the three components of the elite - money, power and responsibility (service) - began to be separated from the other two. I'm talking about responsibility. Responsibility has ceased to be a defining quality of the elite. All that was left was power and money. The elites prevailed in the view that society can be deceived, rather than brought to reality.
Then there was the Second World War. Its end marked the transition to the Yalta-Potsdam security system and the Cold War. And around 1989, the first and second ended. Only everyone noticed the end of the Cold War, but the collapse of the world security system did not.
Having observed politics and public life for more than 30 years, I came to the conclusion that the West, its elites and society, having won the Cold War, were imbued with contempt for the vanquished. They developed a sense of superiority based on technical and economic development. But they have no ethical superiority. Moreover, in some aspects, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, the level of ethics in the USSR was higher.
As the Wehrmacht general said in the film “17 Moments of Spring”:
“They will begin to increase their technical power and will drown in it. She will decompose them like rust. They will decide that they can do anything..." ©
And this contempt lay on the fertile soil of our inferiority complex, which was formed from the trauma of the collapse of perestroika. I remember how in 1992 the first preachers from the USA arrived. They almost looked into their mouths...
- Quietly, these are Americans!
Despite the fact that they treated both Russia and us with approximately the same contempt. Only Russia began to sell them oil and gas, and we sold our Soviet heritage in order to also join the beautiful life. We saw that they despised us (the Budapest Memorandum, the obviously impossible promises of joining NATO and the EU), but we still wanted a beautiful life.
The problem of the West's attitude towards both Ukraine and Russia lies in the area of ethics. More precisely, the technological and economic development of the West is ahead of ethical development.
There is such a modern American series Yellowstone.
In the fifth season, the main character, the owner of a large ranch, John Dutton, in order to protect the ranch from strangers, becomes the governor of Montana. When the President of the United States is coming to Helena (a city in Montana), the previous governor and friend of John Dutton asks him:
– John, will you be in Helena tomorrow?
- No, I have nothing to say to this idiot.
And assistance to Ukraine depends on these people. You can be offended by them, or you can work with them. They will vote for help and supplies of weapons to us only if they understand how this will affect them personally. Either in a negative way or in a positive way. If I were in front of Governor Dutton, I would tell him:
“You definitely need to go to Helena tomorrow, Mr. Dutton!” Even if you are disdainful of dating “this idiot.” Because if the United States does not play globally, then you or your children will lose the ranch with almost no options. Because America will weaken and the Chinese will come to Montana. Lots of Chinese. And the way of life that you are now desperately trying to preserve will collapse. It will collapse forever. Your colleagues have already thought of what to say to him. These are twelve questions from the Republican Party to his administration and to Ukraine. Make him work for the good of the United States. Go to Helena tomorrow, Mr. Dutton! Otherwise, soon you or your children will be in the position of the Indians, from whom your great-grandfather squeezed out the land 150 years ago.
I think that those leaders who bring ethics back into international and public relations will be able to begin negotiations on a new security system. What prevents today's people from doing this is precisely the lack of ethics - no one trusts anyone.
I am sure that the issue of weakening our assistance is still very much related to ethics. Last year we surprised them; they decided to help us also because we showed high ethical standards. But then we sank to the low scenario and they realized that we were ethical impostors who were mired in corruption. And they have nothing to learn from us. And disappointment from this is one of the reasons for the decline in aid.
I completely agree that relations with the West need to be built on the basis of interests and with the help of a calculator. But it’s easier to do this if you have a higher level of ethics than everyone else around you. This is, in principle, one of the important indicators of society as a system. There is a rule in business that the rate of change, organization and efficiency within the system must outpace the rate of change, organization and efficiency outside. I would add to this the level of ethics.
In the meantime, because we really wanted a beautiful life, wanted to be like the “white master” and did not correspond to our own ideas about ourselves, we picked up a lot from the West that lowered our level of ethics.
The fact that President Yushchenko sits during an interview and asks the question in all seriousness speaks eloquently about our elites:
– During my time there were the highest rates of development, what else were you missing?
He does not remember that under his leadership we sold off the largest military group in Europe. And at the beginning I said that ethics also means being aware of the consequences of your actions.
The current president can still change everything. But we need to stop communicating with people through the Western press. And stop playing president. And go out to the people and tell it like it is:
“We can’t do it the way we wanted.” And there are difficulties. And we made mistakes. I made mistakes. There was a desire and intention to quickly resolve the issue and end the war. But our mistakes and the setups of our allies did not allow us to do this. Not allowed yet. And here is our new plan...
What would happen if all parties acted ethically?
The United States and allies would help Ukraine defend itself on time and in full.
And then they would come to Russia and say: “Guys, you are wrong. And you need to clean up after yourself - apologies, compensation, reparations... And then decide how to live on.”
And then they would come to Ukraine and say: “Friends! We helped you. And now you are with us. But in order to continue to be with us, you need to answer for theft, for corruption, for tiles, for stadiums. And you need to decide how to live on and not repeat the mistakes that led you to this war.”
If there had been a high level of ethics in Ukraine, then in the first months of the war, the will of the political leadership would have put an end to the system of power that led us to the war. There were every chance and an opportune moment. And perhaps now the war would have a different character.
Would Russia be a society with a high level of ethics? This was the most difficult task. I believe that Russia really had a chance in the 90s. They could create such an attractive project for the country and seduce their neighbors with it that no war would be possible in principle. I once read a book about Evgeny Chichvarkin. I can’t vouch for the accuracy, but the author, Maxim Kotin, asked him:
– Evgeniy, what kind of business would you create to show Russia attractive and make you fall in love with it?
– I would create a tourist village like Mandrogi, only cooler.
Russia exchanged Mandrogi for Courchevel. She wanted to become the West more than to become herself. And this is a tragedy and one of the reasons for our war.