Vladimir Putin has been preparing for this moment ever since the Berlin Wall, like Humpty Dumpty, came tumbling down. The eight oil pipe lines that run across Ukraine from Russia to Europe traverse sacred ground, for it was Ukraine that bore the brunt of Josef Stalin’s man made famine in 1932-33.
Germany – which, unlike Ukraine, is a part of NATO – may have forgotten its Berlin Wall. It’s been twenty seven years since former President Ronald Reagan visited Germany and shouted to free Western Germans within sight of the Brandenburg Gate, “Mr. Gorbechev, tear down this wall.”
To be sure, Mr. Reagan had some help in dismantling the Soviet Union from Pope John Paul II, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the author of "The Gulag Archipelago," Mr. Gorbachev, and the bloody history of the “evil empire,” which included Stalin’s man made famine in Ukraine, the Holodomor, in the course of which some five to eight million Ukrainians starved to death, losing both their lives and their country, the forcible incorporation into the Soviet Union of free states, including what Winston Churchill later would call in his “Iron Curtain Speech” the great cities of Europe: Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Bucharest and Sofia.
Mr. Reagan also had some help from Saudi Arabia, which agreed to drop the price of its oil, resulting in less demand for oil from Soviet Russia. Fewer petrodollars, powerful voices in the West raised in unison against oppression, along with a military buildup and the prospect of a defense shield, upended the Soviet Union. Like planets seeking their natural orbits following a reduction in gravitational pull from totalitarian Russia, former satellites of the Soviet Union reached accommodations with the West and Europe. After a century of partitioning, Poland was free. Indeed, there were some in the West who thought Poland was free the moment the Pope’s foot touched the soil of his native country. Ukraine, Yugoslavia and Hungary were free. The great cities of Eastern Europe were free at last.
In March, 1957, the great apostle of liberty in France, Albert Camus, grieving over the loss of so many lives following the brutal crushing of the Hungarian Revolution, wrote his essay, “Kadar Had His Day Of Fear.” Kadar was the Soviet’s man in Hungary. No suppression of the patriotic longing for liberty and solidarity is possible without the enthusiastic co-operation of the Kadars of the world.
This is what Camus wrote as the Hungarian Revolution was being suppressed by Soviet troops:
“I am not one of those who long for the Hungarian people to take up arms again in an uprising doomed to be crushed under the eyes of an international society that will spare neither applause nor virtuous tears before returning to their slippers like football enthusiasts on Saturday evening after a big game. There are already too many dead in the stadium, and we can be generous only with our own blood. Hungarian blood has proved to be so valuable to Europe and to freedom that we must try to spare every drop of it.
“But I am not one to think there can be even a resigned or provisional compromise with a reign of terror that has as much right to be called socialist as the executioners of the Inquisition had to be called Christians. And, on this anniversary of liberty, I hope with all my strength that the mute resistance of the Hungarian people will continue, grow stronger, and, echoed by all the voices we can give it, get unanimous international opinion to boycott its oppressors. And if that opinion is too flabby or selfish to do justice to a martyred people, if our voices also are too weak, I hope that the Hungarian resistance will continue until the counter-revolutionary state collapses everywhere in the East under the weight of its lies and its contradictions.”
After oceans of blood were shed, after Stalin had starved into submission the people of Ukraine, after Winston Churchill had warned in a speech given in the United States that slowly but inexorably an Iron Curtain of oppression was descending over the great cities of Europe, after Solzhenitsyn began to draw back the covers on the Soviet’s vast Gulag, after the Pope’s foot had touched down in Poland, reifying the resistance in Eastern Europe, after Reagan’s challenge to Gorbachev, what Camus called “the counter-revolutionary state” did collapse everywhere in the East "under the weight of its lies and contradictions.”
And so today, as Soviet ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin threatens Europe with a stoppage of a flow of oil, as he labels “neo-Nazis” the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the small farmers his idol Stalin had shipped off to the Gulag, as he begins to turn against the West the stratagems used effectively by Reagan to hasten the collapse of the counter-revolutionary state, the West looks about in vain for a Churchill or a Solzhenitsyn or a Camus or a Reagan.