Ditching imperious ambitions to dodge military conscription – a message from the masses
By David E. Kaplan
“It’s a war about nothing,” said the Russian father supporting his young son on his shoulders to CNN on the Georgian side of the border with Russia. He was one among the throng of refugees escaping their “Mother Russia” to avoid conscription. As one gleans in interviews with one fleeing eligible Russian soldier after another, they “hate” this war but feel powerless to stop it.
Evgeny, a 28-year-old photographer from Moscow, who walked the last 20 kilometres to the Georgia-Russia border crossing at Verkhny Lars to avoid the huge traffic jam of vehicles trying to cross, told CBC News that:
“People are fleeing under very dire circumstances; many are saving their lives. They do not want to fight in this imperialistic, pointless war.”
For George Vatsadze, who crossed with his brother and his dog carrying only a bag with a few clothes, it was personal. It does not get more personal than family. With a Ukrainian grandmother and cousins living in Ukraine, this marketing professional had “no choice,” he said. “I can’t go there to fight.”
Aware he was placing himself at risk by speaking to CNN, he nevertheless continued:
“I think maybe about half of our population think the war is wrong, but they can’t stand up against it because it’s dangerous.”
As the CNN camara left George crossing into Georgia focusing on his disappearing back – the ever-diminishing image left the viewer of a man leaving his home for good – never to return!
These tragic unfolding human dramas playing out at Russia’s border crossings with Georgia, Finland and other areas, bear testimony to the hundreds of thousands of men desperately trying to bolt before being dragged into fighting Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
This reminded me of the story of my grandfather Menachem Mendel Kaplan from Shadova (Šeduva ) in Lithuania then part of Tzarist Russia who was conscripted into the Russian army in 1904 and sent off on a troop train across Siberia to Vladivostok to fight in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). As a Jew from a small shtetl, Menachem Mendel – later to be known as Max – was hardly interested in risking his life to further Russia’s rival ambitions with the Empire of Japan over Manchuria. So, before the train stopped at Vladivostok, he waited for it to slow, jumped off, ditched his rifle and uniform, walked to the port of Vladivostok and stowed away on an English steamer bound for Southampton. Had he been caught he would have been shot for desertion. For freedom, he was prepared to take the risk. He never reached England. Disembarking instead in Cape Town where he knew he had family, with his first steps in a land foreign in culture and language, began half the story of my family’s journey in South Africa and later in Israel.
The Barb was right about ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. If ‘something’ is not done to stop Putin’s war of “nothing”, how many more men will ditch imperious ambitions to dodge conscription?
“MOTHER RUSSIA” TO SMOTHER RUSSIA
For the young father with the child on his shoulder, his thinking – not unlike my grandfather 120 years earlier “This is not my war”. It was Putin’s “pointless war”. With a total area of 17,098,242 Km² (6,601,665 mi²) and a land mass of 16,376,870 Km² (6,323,142 mi²), equivalent to 11% of the total world’s landmass of 148,940,000 Km² (57,510,000 square miles), Russia is the largest country in the world. It does not need Ukraine; rather Putin wants Ukraine, and is prepared that people die en mass in pursuit of his imperial obsession.
Interestingly, one of Russia’s closest friends today is Iran as evidenced by Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Tehran. It was the Russian leader’s first trip outside the former area of the former Soviet Union since his military invaded Ukraine. The Russian president’s first-choice visit reflects the importance he places on improving ties with the Islamic Republic, that itself today is facing civil unrest.
As Russians protest and flee so too, are there protests taking place across Iran that while triggered by a young woman’s death in custody amid anger over religious rules, reflects as much a rejection of a state’s fossilized leadership that is dragging the country down.
It is little wonder that my former country South Africa supports Iran unequivocally as well as Putin’s aggression against Ukraine. South Africa too is going through its “Dark Ages”– quite literally as it even struggles to provide daily electricity to its people.
What Russia, Iran and South Africa now overwhelmingly share in common is the increasing dissatisfaction of its people. Their leaderships are foremost a menace to their own people.
It’s time for regime change in all three failing states.
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