You probably didn’t know that the Soviet Union was the first country to land on the moon. Or that Soviet soldiers put the final bullet into Adolph Hitler in that bunker. Or even that the Soviet Air Force dropped the bombs on Japan that brought the end to World War II.
That might sound crazy to you. You might believe that Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the moon, Hitler took his own life in disgrace, and on August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay, B-29 bomber from the U.S. Air Force dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. But you should know there are tens millions of people who believe if you belief that – you’re the crazy one.
Those tens of millions of people all live in Russia. And yes, they really do believe Mother Russia was the hero in each of those stories.
The reasons millions of Russians believe those things is because that’s what the government says, that’s what the newspapers, TV and radio reported, and that’s what the textbooks they read in school taught them. And these are not dim-witted, crazed conspiracy theorists. They’re bankers, scientists, policemen, schoolteachers, taxi drivers, and (of course) politicians. Before you judge or ridicule them, or wonder how they can be so naïve, you should know if you were raised in Russia, in the era they were – you would believe exactly the same thing.
If you’re wondering how that is possible, then you simply don’t understand the extraordinary power of a free press. Because when there is no free press, a repressive government like the former Soviet Union can brainwash literally millions of people to believe anything. And that’s exactly what they did.
I tell you all this for a very important reason. I want you to know when you see the Russian army overrunning their neighbors in Ukraine, it isn’t because Russian people are evil, heartless, or cruel. It’s because they were born in a country controlled by a murderous sociopath who is evil, heartless, and cruel.
As I wrote in my newsletter yesterday, there is a gaping hole in my heart, as I witness the death and destruction happening in Ukraine right now, at the hands of their brothers and sisters from Russia. For the last 20+ years, I’ve probably been to both places more times than you’ve been to the dentist. You should know, in both places, the winters are miserable, the food is terrible, the corruption is endemic, the bureaucracy is suffocating, and the history is breathtakingly cruel. But the people – the people are beautiful, loving, and kind. They hope and pray for peace as fervently as you do.
While politicians debate geopolitical bullshit, the people of these lands do their best to laugh and love, pay their bills and dine with friends, grumble about the weather and root on their favorite soccer team. A mother in Saint Petersburg or a father in Mariupol aren’t really any different than their counterparts is San Diego or Madrid – with a desire to make a life for their children better than the ones they have had. I spent time in the brutal environment in Siberia, only to discover Novosibirsk, an enchanted city that could rival Austin, Texas, Ann Arbor Michigan, or Madison, Wisconsin as the coolest college town you ever visited.
Today Russia is run by a corrupt gangster and his armies are invading Ukraine. Innocent, peace-loving people on both sides are dying because of the power of memes, fear, and ideology.
About a week ago, I asked one of my clients in Russia if Putin was going to invade Ukraine. His answer was chilling. He asked me if I understood childhood bullies and how they must be responded to. When I said I did, he told me that was the situation now. That if Ukraine actually attacked Crimea, Donetsk, or Luhansk – Russia would defend itself. Of course, the three areas he described are actually sovereign Ukrainian territory, invaded and occupied by Russia. That is the level of the State controlled narrative there. Two countries, one people, are killing each other because of the machinations, manipulations, and mind control of Vladimir Putin.
Make no mistake: This is an unprovoked, unjustified invasion by a powerful military power into a peaceful neighboring country that posed no threat to them. It is a crime against humanity.
It’s taken much heartbreak, deep reflection, and Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan – but I finally understand the United States cannot be the world’s policeman. But what I simply will never understand – is why can’t the world be the world’s policeman?
Someday Hollywood is going to make a movie of this invasion and 13 of the biggest actors of the day will play the heroic Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island and someone like Matt Damon or Robert Pattison will get to utter the line, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself!” Those 13 soldiers (and the memes they have spun off) will live on in legend forever. But the sad, sick truth is that those brave young men are now prisoners of war or possibly dead.
The Internet is running over with memes, videos, and stories of the valiant resistance of the Ukrainian people. I caught an interview between Wolf Blitzer and a member of the Ukrainian parliament. She was proudly brandishing her newly acquired rifle she is prepared to use defending against the Russian invaders. Millions or people around the globe are rooting for all the brave people like her to prevail against the invaders. But rifles don’t stop tanks. Stingers don’t stop high altitude bombers. Burning tires cannot stop an advancing army for long. Sanctions, U.N. proclamations, and supportive hashtags won’t save these brave people, and won’t stop a massacre of peaceful, innocent civilians. If the world doesn’t unite in support of Ukraine immediately, it will be too late. None of us can be truly prosperous until all of us are prosperous.
Volodymyr Zelensky has to be the most courageous, inspirational political leader I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. He will be the standard all future heroes and superheroes will be judged. The Associated Press is reporting that American leaders beseeched Zelensky to leave Kyiv. According to an American Intelligence official with knowledge of the conversation, his response was, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”
Right now Zelensky is not just the hero for Ukraine - he is the hero for the entire world. But I fear he will be dead within 48 hours. And if he is – the world will not have deserved him.
Previous post: The Questions that Matter