The sound of an iron curtain falling?

Jeremy Gordin |

23 February 2022

Jeremy Gordin writes on Vladimir Putin and Russia’s decision to invade the Ukraine

“History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,” said Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

“History is a nightmare during which I’m trying to get a good night’s rest,” said Von Humboldt Fleisher in Humboldt’s Gift by Saul Bellow.

“History is a nightmare which grabbed me this morning, as I was getting out of bed,” said Jeremy Gordin.

This is to say: as I woke, I heard that the Russian Federation/Vladimir Putin had invaded Ukraine in the early hours of this morning, after Putin announced to the Russian people that a “special military operation” would strive for “the demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine – which has by the way (well, for now), a Jewish president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

This “denazification” is but one of the many seemingly inexplicable elements of the whole business (I’ll get back to it); and all these inexplicable elements made me think of just how difficult it is, especially from Parkview rather than Kyiv, to figure out just what the hell is going on. (Though I don’t suppose it’d be much better in Kyiv).

There is just so much … not exactly misinformation (though there’s no doubt tons of it too) … there are just so many conflicting “narratives”.


But I calmed down and remembered the famous question put by Pontius Pilate to Jesus (who, according to some, was also messing with the local imperial power). “Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?” (KJV John 18:38).

As you might know, Pilate’s precise intention has been debated endlessly by intemellectuals. Was Pilate’s question some kind of bad joke (“jesting Pilate”), suggesting inter alia that Jesus’ “trial” was a mockery? Or was Pilate actually trying to reflect or discuss the philosophical “position” that truth is well-nigh impossible to ascertain [i] ? No firm conclusion has yet been reached [ii].

All I’m trying to say that it’s difficult to grasp why Putin and his generals would take the giant step of “invading” Ukraine proper [iii]. What’s the point? Why go through all this mess and palaver, not to mention the death and destruction that look as though they might already be happening?

Broadly speaking, the one main narrative is simply that Putin’s a nasty and malevolent autocrat who – not having got his way over halting Ukraine from possibly joining Nato at some point – has flouted international law, obliterated the best negotiating track (the Minsk agreement), and thereby in one fell swoop destroyed world “democracy,” international law, and is taking Europe perilously close to World War Three. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___