It’s likely to go down as one of the most fatuous comments of the calendar year. The reference is to the tweet sent last Saturday by Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes which declared: “ ‘Make renewables not war’. Beautiful, simple, clear turn of phrase.”
The following day, as revealed by Christine Lacy’s Margin Call column in The Australian on Thursday, Cannon-Brookes and fellow Atlassian founder Scott Farquhar sent a memo to their employees about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This was regarded by at least some recipients as too soft with respect to Russian president Vladimir Putin. On Thursday, Atlassian backed down somewhat and announced that it had paused all new sales to Russia.
Then on Tuesday, former independent MP Tony Windsor sent out a similarly naive tweet: “What would happen if the nations of the world represented by 10 citizens each gathered in Kiev unarmed and walked towards the Russians? What would happen if the leaders of the world did the same?”
Clearly the likes of Cannon-Brookes, Farquhar and Windsor have scant understanding of Putin and the gang who currently run Russia. For starters, Putin is not interested in making renewables but he has made war.
Most recently in Crimea, in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, and now against the democratically elected Ukrainian government based in Kyiv and led by the courageous and inspiring Volodymyr Zelensky.
Russia is a leading exporter of gas, coal and wheat. Its leaders show no intention of switching to renewables anytime soon. As to Windsor’s suggestion, he seems unaware that Putin’s government has sanctioned the murder of his opponents on domestic and foreign soil. Others are incarcerated in the Russian prison system.
Windsor is apparently of the belief that Putin would desist from his intention to conquer Ukraine if some unnamed 1900 citizens and their leaders from some 190 nations gathered in Kyiv and walked unarmed towards the Russians. He overlooked that China’s President Xi Jinping would not be part of this group. Nor would North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Russia, China and North Korea all possess nuclear weapons.
Sure Cannon-Brookes is a billionaire businessman. And Windsor is a superannuated politician. However, they both are involved in Australian national politics as supporters of the various well-heeled “Voices of” candidates, running as Independents, who are seeking to defeat Coalition – but not Labor or Greens – candidates in the forthcoming federal election. Consequently their views should be taken seriously.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Putin’s implied threat to use tactical nuclear weapons against his enemies, completely discredits the make-love-not-war set which has been active in Western nations for more than half a century.
Essentially, this group demanded that Western nations – the US, Britain and France – abandon their nuclear weapons.
The most prominent movement to advocate unilateral disarmament was the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which emerged in Britain in 1955 and reached its peak a few years later. The story of the movement is well told in Frank Parkin’s 1968 book Middle Class Radicalism. He wrote that “identification with CND could be taken to be a capsule statement of a distinctive moral and political outlook”.
In short, it was intellectually fashionable at the time to be opposed to war, even defensive war. The ranks of the CND were replete with humanities academics, their students and other middle class radicals who believed that their morality was of a higher standard than those who disagreed with them, especially conservatives and what was then termed the working class.
What the likes of Cannon-Brookes and Windsor fail to understand is that Putin is not a self-identifying morally superior Western hand-holder.
Putin is an admirer of the communist totalitarian dictator Josef Stalin – who imposed a forced famine on Ukraine in 1932-33 (the Holodomor) which led to the deaths of some four million Ukrainians. It was under Stalin’s rule that the Soviet Union entered into the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939 whereby Stalin and Adolf Hitler divided East Europe between themselves. Stalin remained an ally of Hitler until Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. With a background like this, it’s fanciful to think that Putin will abandon war for renewables or back down when confronted with some unarmed citizens, or even leaders, of the world.
Just imagine a situation today if the CND had prevailed half a century ago. The West would have stood militarily naked before such nuclear armed nations as Russia and China. Likewise, Ukraine’s dire position today would be dramatically better if it had not agreed to hand over its nuclear weapons in January 1994 to Russia under the US-Russia-Ukraine Trilateral Statement which was signed by the presidents of the US (Bill Clinton), Russia (Boris Yeltsin) and Leonid Kravchuk (Ukraine).
Soon after, the US, Russia and Britain agreed to protect Ukraine’s security. This has been forgotten by those who somehow blame NATO (including the US and Britain) and Ukraine for provoking Putin to go to war. Putin is Yeltsin’s successor, after all.
In an interview with The New Yorker in 2014, former German chancellor Angela Merkel said that she had told then US president Barack Obama that Putin had lost his grasp with reality and was living “in another world”.
Right now, the Jewish Zelensky stands virtually alone against Putin – albeit with the support of many nations, including Australia. Putin has more military force – but Zelensky is providing moral leadership to the world.
On Wednesday, Zelensky condemned the fact that Russian forces had bombed the site of Babi Yar, north of Kyiv. He described Babi Yar as “a place of remembrance for the hundred thousand people killed by the Nazis” in the area. Zelensky commented that “such a missile strike shows that for many people in Russia, Kyiv is completely foreign” and they want “to erase our history”.
Zelensky understands Putin. But he is fighting for his life and that of his nation. Unlike Cannon-Brookes and Windsor, he does not believe that aggression can be stopped by embracing renewables and unarmed appeals for peace.