11/7/2022: A Rebuttal to ‘Complications of the Ukraine War’ by Christopher Caldwell – Imprimis of Hillsdale College

ADMIN: Pastor in L’viv and MTW missionary, Heero Hacquebord wrote an excellent article posted on VOU 11/5/2022 called, Fighting for Survival. A reader commented on Heero’s article asking him to comment on an article put out by Imprimis of Hillsdale College, an article that seemed pro-Russian. This is Heero’s response to the Imprimis article, Complications of the Ukraine War which was adapted from a talk delivered at Hillsdale College on October 4, 2022, during a Center for Constructive Alternatives conference on the topic of Russia.

From Heero Hacquebord: My thoughts on Caldwell’s article are various. Unfortunately I do not have the time or scholarly prowess to give it the full reply it deserves. But I do have something that most scholars do not – the experience of being on the ground in different parts of Ukraine over the past 25 years. It is a very dynamic country that has undergone momentous changes since independence in 1991. Most people do not appreciate the extent to which this country – and its civil society – have developed. Ukrainians are very adaptable and quick to learn. And with two recent pro-democratic, anti-Russian revolutions (one of which involved more than 100 deaths), a limited invasion in 2014, an armed conflict for 8 years and now a full-scale invasion and war, this young democracy continues to be forged into tungsten by the fires of adversity and struggle.

Caldwell’s article is full of generalizations about Ukraine that are very friendly to the Russian perspective on its smaller neighbor. I won’t take the time to address each of those generalizations. What follows are just some main thoughts.

Caldwell speaks more of what Russia wants than of what Ukrainians desire. It is this kind of condescending attitude that has caused the current war in the first place. This dismissive point of view towards Ukraine is very typical of many commentators who bow to Russia’s overpowering size and energy-based influence. It is to their own peril, though, that they – essentially – ignore what Ukraine wants. After Russia, Ukraine is the largest country in Europe with a population that is about a third of Russia’s. It is a much more united country today than it was in 1991, 2004 or even in 2014. Caldwell describes Ukraine in 2014 as “a failed state defended by a ramshackle collection of oligarch-sponsored militias.” That phrase sounds like it was penned in Moscow. Ukraine is not a failed democracy. In many ways it is more democratic and politically active today than many old democracies in the West. In fact, Ukraine may just be the European democracy of the future. You underestimate Ukraine at your own peril – as Putin’s Russia continuously fails to learn.

An “unprovoked invasion” means you did not attack or threaten the existence of the state that invaded you. Ukraine’s desire to be a democratic, western-aligned nation that is independent of Russia’s corrupting influence is its own choice. The fact that Russia does not like this about its independent neighbor does not mean that Ukraine “provoked” Russia. If Russian centuries-old imperialistic chauvinism means Russia feels threatened by Ukraine’s developing into a true democracy that wants to be a part of NATO then that is Russia’s choice and Russia’s fault. Commentators’ views to the contrary reveal an opinion that Ukraine is not truly an independent state. Or is the future of smaller countries always to be decided by the “great powers” of the world?

Caldwell writes: “If you had to give a one-word answer to what this Ukraine War is about, you would probably say Crimea.” I disagree: If you had to give a one-word answer to what this Ukraine War is about, you should say the deep-rooted, core culture of Russian chauvinism, which includes viewing Ukraine – the heartland of Rus’ – as “Little Russia.” Why would Russia attempt to take Kyiv (and with it, all of Ukraine) if the war is really just about Crimea (which it already annexed in 2014)?

Caldwell writes: “In Russia, Putin—whatever else you may think of him—was at least able to rebuff those oligarchs who sought direct political control.” Important correction: Putin is the biggest oligarch of them all. He just removed his competition.

Caldwell makes it sounds as if the 2004 “Orange Revolution” and the 2014 “Revolution of Dignity” were the result of U.S. sponsorship and coordination. That is what pro-Russian Yanukovich and Putin kept saying at the time. It is a deep misunderstanding of the development of Ukrainian civil society. It was a movement of the people by the people such as few countries in Europe have seen in recent memory. I happened to be on the streets in Kyiv in 2004 and I was in Ukraine in 2014, when up to 25% of the population took place in enormous demonstrations. Indeed, in December of 2013, during the “Revolution of Dignity,” there developed two separate centers of demonstrations in Kyiv – the one of the people, the other (smaller) organized by politicians. Even after the people hesitantly allowed the politicians to join them on “Maidan,” they frequently booed the politicians during their speeches. The revolution was not led by politicians or any foreign country. U.S. support was ancillary at best. (I imagine that the regime in Iran right now may be saying that the U.S. is organizing the demonstrations there. Putin, similarly, has never been able to conceive of Ukrainians standing up en masse by themselves. This is one of his great, consistent misjudgments of Ukrainians that also blinded him to think that he could take Ukraine in three days.)

Caldwell is right in pointing out the startling fact that Ukraine “has been, over the past 150 years, the single most violent corner of the planet.” During that time (and in previous centuries), Ukrainians were robbed, attacked, starved, starved, starved, raped, deported, murdered by different nations. It is time for this violence to stop. But it will not end until Ukrainians can today – with the help of willing partners – teach their attackers the futility of violating their sovereignty. It is time for the world to finally respect Ukrainians, their independence, their sovereignty. Ukrainians have a voice. Listen to what they have to say, not to what others want to say about them!

4 responses to “11/7/2022: A Rebuttal to ‘Complications of the Ukraine War’ by Christopher Caldwell – Imprimis of Hillsdale College”

  1. Dear Heero and Dal,
    Thank you! Amen!
    It is so disheartening to hear conservatives falling for the Russian propaganda!
    We sure appreciate the clarification,

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for taking the time to make a response to the article, and sharing of your perspective, especially as your IN the midst of this war, plus have lived there for 25 + years.

    I think of the Proverb 18:17, need to hear both sides befor making a judgement.

    Also 1 Timothy 2:1-2

    I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

    Yes, we just want to live in peace, have the freedom to florish, bring life, not death.


  3. Thank you very much for your well written response. I was very surprised by the tone of the article in question and also very disappointed. It was very clear that the author takes the position of a Russian apologist as if there can be any justification of the invasion of one sovereign nation by another sovereign nation.


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