More whataboutist Putin useful idiocy. Dunn provides us with insight into how the minds of Russia's (and previously the Soviets') useful idiots have worked ever since the days of the western communists' party line of "don't fight the imperialist war" from September 17, 1939 to June 22, 1941, from which they did a 180 degree u-turn after Germany's invasion of the USSR.
The equations behind this fraudulent moral equivalence kind of Putinist useful idiocy are:
1. Ukraine is corrupt, which = not worth defending.
2. Pacifist lefty purity tests = reality-based policy.
3. #2 + #1 = a whataboutist argument for passivity and apathy about who wins the war, which is exactly what Russia's disinformation warfare wants to achieve. High gas prices matter more than Ukraine's sovereignty and defending Europe from Putin's neocolonial war. Putin is counting on western exhaustion to enable this argument's victory in the long term. This is why Dunn is a Putinist useful idiot like the western useful idiots who blessed the Stalin regime in the early 1930s ("I have seen the future, and it works."--Lincoln Steffens). History doesn't repeat exactly, but Dunn makes it rhyme quite well.
4. Ukraine is a corrupt human rights abuser = no difference between the combatants and no difference between the West and the rest. It is, of course, complete fantasy to suppose that there's a third way in a binary conflict between two combatants; that standing by does not equal choosing between them. Not choosing is a pro-Russian pro-aggression choice.
This geopolitical illiteracy should be funny given how easy it is to dismantle. The tragedy is that this kind of Putinist useful idiocy is slowing delivery of German and French military aid to Ukraine due to its infecting Chancellor Scholz's SPD and the populist right and left in France. Slow-walking aid kills thousands more Ukrainians than if these two countries had delivered their aid as fast as little Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Here's why the foregoing equations are Putinist usesful idiocy that rhyme with their Communist precedessors two generations ago:
Ukraine is not more corrupt than the Italy I lived in for 16 years, the Latvia I've lived in since 2005 and the Bulgaria where I own a ski area apartment. Some countries have a mafia. In Bulgaria the mafia has its own country. EU and Nato membership is the only reason Bulgaria scores higher than Ukraine with Transparency International and Freedom House. Ditto for Romania vs Moldova. EU candidate status for Ukraine will, of course, drive successful anti-corruption efforts.
Now add Sicily, Calabria, Naples and Puglia to Dunn's list of corruption-based candidates for indifference to invasion. The difference between Latvia and Italy: in Latvia the corruption is more shameless and less professional. Presumably a Mexican invasion of Guatemala would meet with Dunn's indifference based on Guatemala's low corruption fighting capacity index (https://www.as-coa.org/sites/default/files/inline-files/CCC_Report_2022_2.pdf). BTW, Mexico scores lower than Ukraine on corruption and human rights.
2. I recall no prior scepticism expressed about the USA's alliance with the British empire and the Jeffersonian Uncle Joe Stalin of 1941-45 to defeat Nazi Germany and Bushido Japan. We can then safely assume that the human rights critique of Ukraine is highly selective. Since EuroMaidan Press published this about Zelensky's offshore companies and financing by the Ukrainian media mogul oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, we can assume that Freedom House's ranking of Ukraine as "partly free (61/100 score), is reasonable: https://euromaidanpress.com/2021/10/06/what-the-pandora-papers-tell-about-zelenskyy-his-offshore-companies-and-his-favorite-oligarch/
If Ukraine's media were as unfree as Dunn claims, the following could not be published by the Kyiv Independent:
"What Ukrainian media looks like
Compared to many other post-Soviet countries, speech and the press are both relatively free in Ukraine. However, free does not mean independent.
While Ukraine’s media landscape is competitive and a significant number of independent outlets exists, many publications and especially TV channels are owned by oligarchs. These media tend to push the narratives of their owners. Most Ukrainians get their news from TV.
The past few years have seen a “profession-alization” of Ukraine’s journalist corps and media business models, said Andrii Ianitsky, an economic journalist who teaches his craft at the Kyiv School of Economics.
Besides oligarch owners, the media is also pressured by politicians and powerful figures. “For now it’s not systematic and for now, it’s more the exception than the rule,” Ianitsky said."
Much of the clampdown on press freedom that Dunn points to was aimed at Russian disinformation propaganda. Lincoln did the same in the American Civil War, also suspending habeas corpus. That this was published shows how free Ukrainian media are for a country at war for the last 8 years:
"Lights out on pro-Kremlin media
The year 2021 started off with a bang for Ukraine’s media landscape.
In February, the National Security and Defense Council at Zelensky’s initiative yanked three pro-Kremlin TV channels off the air: NewsOne, Channel 112 and ZIK, which belonged to pro-Kremlin lawmaker Taras Kozak, widely believed to be a proxy for opposition party leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ally, Viktor Medvedchuk.
The sanctions were applied according to a 2014 law that allows Ukrainian citizens to be sanctioned if they threaten Ukraine’s national interests.
The channels aired Kremlin propaganda even as Russia and its proxies occupied the Donbas and Crimea, having killed close to 14,000 people since 2014. Many Ukrainians were in favor of the channels’ summary shutdown, believing that their content caused explicit harm and getting rid of them in the standard way, through Ukraine’s corrupt courts, would be too long and difficult a process."
Dunn would presumbly have condemned FDR for ordering a shutdown of pro-Germany, Italy and Japan media in the USA in 1942 and Lincoln for doing the same to pro-Confederate newspapers in 1861.
Freedom House scored Ukraine 1 point above Mexico. Orban's Hungary, an EU member and Nato Article 5 beneficiary, scored 69/100, while Nato member Turkiye scored 32/100. Russia ranked 19/100. Presumably, our author's purity test would cancel Turkiye's access to Article 5 based on its far lower human rights score from Freedom House. Backsliding democracy USA scored 83/100 vs 100/100 for all the Nordic countries and 88/100 Latvia. Glass houses and stones are located and thrown in multiple directions once this game becomes a policy-driver.
Zelensky and Friends’ Company
Lastly, offshore company doesn't necessarily equal criminal and tax evading. Hedge funds are all in the Caymans because they always have non-US investors who don't want to file US tax returns. Digital nomads get Estonian e-residence to form Estonian companies without ever setting foot in Estonia because their income comes from clients in many different countries. Zelensky's Servant of the People series is on Netflix and generates revenue in over 100 countries. Generating global revenue does not equal "taking money out of the country". There's a reason American multinationals locate their EU subsidiaries in Ireland or Luxembourg, just as there's a reason why overseas subsidiaries of Asian companies domicile in Singapore. Capital goes where it's treated well and where there's a well-functioning legal system with minimal bureaucracy and fair dispute resolution.
As an angel investor who reads deal documents what I see in Zelensky's Pandora Papers is an actor and producer who got deservedly rich through talent:
“Kvartal 95 is a comedy club named in the honor of a square in Kryvyi Rih city in Ukraine, where Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his friends come from. Zelenskyy, a comedy actor before becoming president of Ukraine, was the leader of the team. The show initially participated in the Club of the Funny and Clever, a competition spanning many post-Soviet countries where teams vied for the title of the funniest and cleverest by performing Russian-language skits and stand-up humour. But as the show did not allow the actors to earn in other programs, the team left the Club and set up the entertainment company Studio Kvartal 95. Zelenskyy and brothers, Serhii Shefir and Borys Shefir, were the first to contribute to the business. The team moved from Kryvyi Rih to Kyiv and began to develop rapidly….Soon after its launch, Kvartal 95 was bought by 1+1 TV channel owned by Ihor Kolomoiskyi which gave the company good terms of cooperation and higher prices. Kolomoiskyi started to support Zelenskyy and Kvartal as comedians and now keeps backing them as politicians.”
In 2012 Zelensky and his partners clearly did what any smart startup founders do when offered a liquidity event by a corporate buyer looking to buy innovation unavailable in-house: they partially cashed out while keeping part of the future upside. Like most actors, they were sloppy and didn’t ask where the buyers’ money came from. They unthinkingly following lawyers' and accountants' instructions without really participating in the deal structure process. Did they know they were laundering Privatbank money through his offshore companies? Maybe, maybe not. Zelensky more likely thought he was just taking care of friends and family through his newfound wealth, just as any financially semi-literate Hollywood celebrity or professional athlete would.
Avowed imperialist Winston Churchill famously said he'd ally with the devil himself to defeat Hitler. Stalin was that devil. Zelensky is certainly not the schoolteacher Goloborodko shown on Netflix, despite the cinematic character's transformation from naive pedagogue to Machiavellian political operator. But he's a lot less diabolical than Stalin. Any argument against supporting Ukraine is also an argument against Churchill's Faustian bargain to defeat Nazism.
Like 80 years ago, history's menu offers only bad vs worse, with the bad ally far more correctable than then. Purity tests telling you not to take this deal are a useful idiot's Faustian bargain with genocidal Putinism--intentionally or not (Have any doubts about how genocidal, read this from Ria Novosti: https://www.memri.org/reports/russian-columnist-sergeytsev-ukranian-nazism-greater-threat-world-german-nazism).
Against this I'll take any bargain offered with the American-British-Swedish-German-French military-industrial complex. War is binary. None of the above isn't on offer.
Sorry, in the history restaurant there's no ordering off-menu dishes, no matter how distasteful you find the menu.