Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is at it again in a feeble attempt to justify Russia’s unwarranted and unacceptable invasion of Ukraine.
Several days ago, he compared Western support of Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia to Nazi Germany’s plan to exterminate Jews in Europe.
Lavrov’s appalling comparison reminded observers of an outrageous remark he made last May when he justified Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, an independent and sovereign nation whose existence Moscow no longer recognizes.
Asked to explain Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Russia’s objective was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine when its president, Volodymr Zelensky, is himself Jewish, Lavrov replied, “I could be wrong, but Hitler also had Jewish blood. Wise Jewish people say that the most ardent antisemites are usually Jews.”
Israel strenuously objected to Lavrov’s inane and insulting comment, prompting Putin to issue a personal apology to Naftali Bennett, the then Israeli prime minister.
Eight months on, Lavrov still has not learned anything from his stunningly inappropriate blunder.
Speaking of the current fighting in Ukraine, he accused the Western powers of waging a proxy war against Russia.
As he put it, “The United States formed a coalition with almost all Europeans that are part of NATO, and also members of the European Union, and through Ukraine as a proxy, lead the war against our country, with the same exact goal: the final solution to the Russian question.
“Just as Hitler wanted a ‘final solution’ to the Jewish question, now, if you read Western politicians, not only from the Baltics or Poland, but also those who are much more sane, they unequivocally say Russia must suffer a strategic defeat.”
Lavrov’s suspicion that the United States is bent on inflicting a defeat of strategic proportions on Russia is undeniably true. The U.S. secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin, admitted as much last year in an unguarded moment.
But Lavrov conveniently forgets that Russia is the aggressor in this unnecessary war of choice. Russia attacked Ukraine last February after months of massing hundreds of thousand troops and an armada of armor on its border with Ukraine.
Lest it be forgotten, Russia’s invasion occurred seven years after it reoccupied Crimea — which had been part of Ukraine since the mid-1950s — and took control of areas in eastern Ukraine heavily populated by ethnic Russians.
Putin, so we’re told, feared that Russia would be encircled after Ukraine joined NATO, the Western military alliance. But as Russia knows, Ukraine’s membership application was put on permanent hold, and neither Ukraine nor its allies in the West have aggressive designs against Russia, whose existence and sovereignty have never been questioned.
Nevertheless, the United States erred egregiously when it offered Ukraine a place in NATO. Ukraine should be a neutral power, a friendly buffer state between East and West.
Lavrov, in his eagerness to whitewash Russia’s imperialist land grab in Ukraine, went over the edge by grotesquely likening it to Nazi Germany’s genocidal Final Solution.
How could be possibly compare Hitler’s attempt to murder Jews with the West’s geopolitical rivalry with Russia?
Lavrov’s comment was an unconscionable distortion of the historical truth and a desecration of the memory of the victims and survivors of Nazi oppression.
As Josep Borrell, the foreign policy director of the European Union said, “Latest comments by … Lavrov accusing ‘The West’ of seeking a ‘final solution’ for Russia are entirely misplaced, disrespectful and trample on the memory of the six million Jewish people, and other victims, who were systematically murdered in the Holocaust.”
Lavrov, the glib mouthpiece of an authoritarian regime that tolerates no real dissent, can say what he wishes about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has needlessly cost both sides so much in blood and treasure.
But he should stay completely clear of drawing ahistorical comparisons between the tragedy in Ukraine and the Holocaust. Lavrov only besmirches Russia’s image, such as it is, when he wades into these murky and unfathomable waters.