to operate, or expresses understanding for Moscow’s preoccupation about the enlargement of NATO, the erosion of its sphere of influence, the actions of EU and NATO in its ‘near abroad,’ and so on.”
It is around this second theme that Orientalism is playing a role. Indeed, Belafatti suggests, “practically all those who defend Russia in this debate fell into this trap [with] many of the articles [accusing] the West of “causing” the Ukrainian chaos by “provoking” Russia in its strategic interests and wounding its pride of great power.”
Such an argument demonstrates, the Vilnius specialist says that “the authors write from a distorted, hierarchical and, ultimately, orientalist (if not outright racist) perspective on the small countries of Eastern Europe,” one that takes as a given that Russia has “inalienable” rights to run this region and that “Eastern Europe [is] nothing but a tool to compensate Russia’s unresolved inferiority complexes.”
“The idea that Russian actions are legitimate reactions to the interference of “outsiders” in a region seen as “Russian” is nothing but a 2.0 expression of the same imperialist mentality with which Europeans empires split the Middle East. This is all the more surprising as it often comes from people who embrace ostensibly anti-imperialist positions in any other context,” Belafatti observes.
And this perspective spawns other “appalling ideas” such as the one that “Russia is right in interfering in Ukraine because it already ‘had to give up’ the Baltic States in the past and ‘the West’ really shouldn’t ‘deprive’ it of other countries,” regardless of what the peoples of these countries have experienced in the past and what they want for the future.
“For far too many Western experts what really matters is the Russian feelings,” Belafatti says. “What Ukrainians, Poles, Moldovans, Balts, Georgians, Armenians may think, is much less significant, because it’s just the feeling of “others,” subaltern subjects, unworthy of the dignity of actors, at best reacting victims of an orientalist interpretation of history that Westerners apply far too often to their Eastern European neighbors.”
“Pro-Russian commentators’ orientalist thinking emerges in the way they portray Ukraine as a country incapable of action on its own initiative. They invariably see Eastern European countries as objects manipulated by the West. [And] Former communist countries are seen as victims of an inclusion in Western security structures carried out against their will.”
“This is of course nonsense: the integration of Eastern Europe in Euro-Atlantic security structures happened” because the East Europeans campaigned for it, often in ways Western actors have often found far too pressing.” To write otherwise is “not just post-Soviet nostalgic thinking: it is outright racism” because it’s actually Russia who should be held responsible for destabilizing the region with its opposition to the desires” of its neighbors.”
“It is therefore racist to think that nobody east of the EU may want an order of things in which Russia doesn’t dominate, as if we “Westerners” were the only ones worth of, or capable of fighting for, things like rule of law, human rights and so on.” The peoples of the region are actors and should be recognized as such.
The second article by Christopher Szabo, a Hungarian commentator, explicitly asks “Why are we so understanding toward the crimes of Communism?” (mercatornet.com/articles/view/why-are-we-so-understanding-towards-the-crimes-of-communism/16545
All too often, he says, “the liberal West and Putin’s regime are in agreement: all memory of communism’s crimes must be carefully edited out of all books, films and other media and quickly forgotten.” That needs to change because many of these crimes continue or at least continue to cast a shadow on the world.