The price of racism. How the white man’s burden is hampering the peace process in Ukraine

The visit of African peacekeepers to Ukraine has caused bewilderment in the domestic media, turning into outright cringe. We have been so long accustomed to the phrase “the entire civilized world is with us” that initiatives from countries outside the Euro-Atlantic system are seen here as ridiculous, useless and often simply hostile. All the more so because in exchange for joining this supposedly civilized club (the old colonial world) we gave up civil compromise, a steadily growing economy, and all the other benefits that non-aligned status, i.e. non-joining various clubs, provided us with. 

«We should be the ones doing the peacekeeping in their wild Africa, not them telling us what to do,» the average Kyivan says indignantly, forgetting that peacekeeping is not a status or a mythical «white man’s burden» but the responsibility of institutions such as the United Nations, of which the EU, as well as African, Asian and South American countries are members. And they have exactly the same right to vote, even though there is such a body as the UN Security Council, to which Ukraine has no recourse at all since both Russia and China are there, and they have power of veto. And if Ukraine wants decisions in its favor at world government level, it should turn to the General Assembly. That is, not to the conditionally civilized world, but to African countries in particular. And listen to their suggestions, even if we don’t like them, and certainly not to call them agents of Putin for it. The latter, by the way, is not seen in Africa as a bloodthirsty imperialist — Russia, unlike the West, has written off all debts to African countries.

And also, let me remind you, there is constant tribal strife in Africa. They also tend to see the Russian-Ukrainian conflict not in the logic of European imperialism and its confrontation of colonial monsters, but in the logic of the conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis. Not because the opinion of African leaders is so in tune with that of the Kremlin, because the President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, is a Putin minion and namesake of the Russian patriarch. No, it is just that African borders have been redrawn so many times because of devastating wars that Africans have developed a much greater respect for the right to self-determination than for the right to defend territorial integrity. Ukraine’s European friends in Africa are also regarded with a considerable degree of scepticism, especially the British. Is this how you think they should look at the role of the UK? No pretty words about supposedly “new times” are to be believed there. For why should the President of South Africa believe this beautifully spiritual nonsense when most recently, in 2004, a certain Mark Thatcher (son of the notorious «Iron Lady») was arrested in Cape Town for trying to stage a coup d’état in neighboring Equatorial Guinea.

So it turns out that the West’s all-out support for Ukraine may give Leopards, Abramses and other magical wunderwaffles, but it will not be able to induce the UN General Assembly to make favorable decisions without the support of Africans, Chinese, Indians, Latin Americans — all those two thirds of the world community who did not support Ukraine. 

That is, Ukraine needs to build relations, not mock their delegations, not call them “Putin’s agents”, or, as Mykhailo Podolyak does, not call the countries of the old colonial world “the more civilized”. This is the road to nowhere. To be more precise, a permanent African-style war, with an African outcome — that is, one state is replaced by three, and then they begin to fight and fragment.

Also, Africans know and understand war well. And if the UN leadership has sent their leaders to deal with the situation in Ukraine, it is because African leaders cannot be fooled. Chancellor Scholz could be given a salute by air defense missiles and told that it was Putin making an attempt on a Western guest. But the visitor from Africa is good at distinguishing the sound of different missile systems, and also knows that the S-300 air defense missile cannot be converted to hit ground targets. South African President Ramaphosa has therefore claimed that he did not hear the shelling on the day of his visit. He did not say this to cave in to his Russian counterpart.

However, it would be an exaggeration to say that Ukraine has not made any attempts to convince the conditional third world that it is right. Attempts have been made, albeit in a very rickety manner. In particular, blogger Anatoliy Ulyanov from the US tried to appeal to the international leftist agenda — Russia’s imperialist aggression should be condemned and the Russians’ goal is genocide of the Ukrainian people. This view has been picked up by a number of Ukrainian left-wing publics and left-wing activists, including long-time Poroshenko-era exiles living in the West. 

But there is no point in hoping for any success in such campaigns, at least as long as the internal Ukrainian debate around the visit of peacekeepers from Africa is openly boorish and racist and the Ukrainian debate operates with such notions as “the civilized world” and supports its neo-colonial expansion. Most countries on the globe have no interest in supporting the big imperialist’s evil doggie, even if a smaller imperialist decided to kick him as he bravely clawed at his pant leg.

And while our media are selflessly engaging in an exercise in sarcasm about the inferiority of African presidents, their dependence on Putin and the futility of trying to establish peace in Ukraine (needed primarily by Ukrainians, and only then by other countries and peoples, including Russia), the African delegation has gone to Moscow. Racism flourishes there too, but it is certainly not allowed in the official media on days like this — it’s not protests against police brutality in the US as an infomercial. And they will get guarantees in Moscow on grain exports from Ukraine. And as for the African students who are regularly abused on the streets of Russian cities — it’s not for nothing that the Kremlin has already laid a whole bunch of convicted skinheads beneath the sod somewhere near Bakhmut. And they will also sign agreements with the Chinese, which they concluded at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum. And they will go home, having made their position on Ukraine known. In the light of at least the media background that accompanied the visit of the African peacekeepers, it will fluctuate between neutral with a minus sign, to sharply negative. At the same time, due to the stupidity and racism of domestic discourse, Kiev will not even understand the significance of this diplomatic failure.

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