On Ukrainian Conflict

What is striking to me in the current Russian conflict over Ukraine is disparity in approaches, the asymmetric warfare. Russia talks about security and force and the west talks about economy and sanctions. It’s like ksatriyas againt vaisyas. In case it’s not obvious – vaisyas can’t win.

That is not to say that the West has no ksatriya element, rather that the West is able to talk sanctions BECAUSE their ksatriyas provided security for their vaisyas in the first place.

While political leaders bravely read the same script about sanctions ksatriyas in the back have accepted the reality – Ukraine is under Russian control and their influence and protection does not extend beyond NATO borders. These borders are backed by force, with actual troops and tanks and other hardware, and the West was able to move these borders closer to Russia in the past thirty years and turn the insides into a fortress.

But ksatriyas are not the ultimate force in the universe – brahmanas are more powerful. Not in a sense of forcing ksatriyas but in a sense of providing them the reason to fight for. Take away the reason and the army dissolves into ordinary civilian population. In the current conflict it’s visible in Ukrainian border patrol and many military units simply not turning up for work on the invasion day because they didn’t want to fight for their government agenda.

In a bigger picture the brahmanas in the West propose freedom and democracy as values to die for and it worked for a while but the internal rot has set in a long time ago, too. At first Russia jumped on the same train but realized that “freedoms” are for public consumption only when they watched NATO bomb Yugoslavia into submission, and then the war in Iraq sealed the perception that it’s all a lie and so Russia checked itself out of “world community”.

In the West itself Trump’s rise to presidency exposed fundamental rifts in the society about what “freedoms” and “democracy” actually mean. They are not going to die for the same thing and they’d rather turn on each other than go fight for some Ukrainian democracy.

Covid pandemic further divided the populations and right now it’s possible that Canadian sanctions on Russia are dwarfed by Canadian sanctions on their own population for participating in their Freedom Convoy.

Shifts on the brahminical level take a long time to propagate while shifts on vaisya level are the fastest, with ksatriya level coming in between. Sudra level shifts are, of course, the fastest, like they change the rules of what you can and cannot say almost every day, but it’s of no big concern here.

Does Russia offer some kind of new brahminical paradigm to the world to unite over in the wake of demise of “freedom and democracy”? Not at all. Their state is lacking ideology, they have been trying to find it but without success so far. Do they actually need one? That’s probably a better question.

The war in Ukraine is about Russian survival, not ideology – Russians have their place and they are trying to make a living in it, and they feel very insecure with the West potentially absorbing Ukraine into NATO and putting missiles there. What is there to be afraid of? Well, they look at the examples of France and Germany and they see that in the US sphere of influence countries do not have freedoms but have to abide by the will of their master. French have been strongarmed by Americans too many times to count, the latest one was when they took over Australian submarine contracts, and Germany’s example is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline the fate of which is decided in Washington, not in Berlin.

Russians historically don’t like to be dictated what to do against their will, they don’t want to be vassals, they want to be masters of their own land and people. So for them it’s about self-identification and security, not ideology.

This explains why no one in the West wants to take Russian side in this conflict – there is nothing in it for them, at best they can imagine themselves in Russian shoes and empathize a little. In this sense westerners are behind Russia by three decades – collapse of a unifying ideology with a feeling of emptiness and a desire to fill the gaping hole left by communism in the case of Russia and democratic freedoms in the case of the West. AND by collapsing of book distribution in ISKCON. We have been in the same exact place, too – when in the mid-nineties book scores started going down and sankirtana as the sole means of our sustenance was out, together with temple based communities, brahmacari pathos, asceticism etc.

Somehow there always comes a point where grand revolution hopes fade away and we have to find our own place in the world and our own mission in life. We thought we’d be always moving bigger and bigger mountains but suddenly we have to scale down and look inside ourselves. Russians still can’t find it after thirty years of searching. ISKCON still can’t find it and current sankirtana resurrection does not yet transform foundations of our movement. The West won’t find a replacement for freedom and democracy in the foreseeable future either.

It seems now is the time for self-realization, in the literal meaning of this word, not for grand projections of ourselves into the world, enjoying our marvelous power. I mean it’s easy to be a devotee when you always top the charts and always build huge temples. Try remaining a devotee when nothing is happening instead – it’s one of the necessary tests, I’d argue.

Russia has been talking about multi-polar world for a while, which means that there would be different types of brahminical cultures all around the world instead of one type dominating all the others. Maybe time for consolidation will come again (surely it will come) but it’s not the phase we are all in now and so we should stop pretending to be elsewhere, it won’t do us any good.

Once again I want to draw your attention that these developments are universal, echoing through different levels of society and vibrating in different countries. I’m saying this not to make Hare Krishna movement sound mundane but to demonstrate that Lord Caitanya’s mission is universal and it is guiding people through the necessary steps towards self-realization everywhere. It’s a process and there is no skipping – as long as we want the material universe to enter into Golden Age. Or we want our minds to become pure and peaceful so that we can chant the Holy Name 24/7 if we talk on the personal level. Material elements have to follow material laws, whether it’s countries or minds. If you have to transform matter to behave in a certain way then there are steps to follow. At the same time nothing stops you from going to Krishna after leaving your body. But if you want the body to become a “perfect devotee” then there are rules.

One last thing I want to mention – Ukrainians declared 130+ casualties on the first day of war. It’s comparable to numbers of dying from Covid. It seems Russian method of warfare is close to the Vedic one – they show up, you pledge allegiance, and they move on, and they don’t even plant their flags on the “occupied territories”. I suspect that’s what they want from the government in Kiev, too – just declare that it won’t make any troubles for Russia and they’d leave Ukraine alone to figure out what it wants for itself. This is a very different approach from “building democracy”, and it’s the same approach used by China, too – they don’t really care how countries run themselves, just don’t make troubles for China. I believe this ideology, which on the surface looks like no ideology at all, will win in the end, in the next few decades at least, and the current conflict is just one step towards this new equilibrium.

As a picture I add a photo from 2014. It’s Zaporozhye, Ukraine, just after Maidan revolution in Kiev. People in the middle are “Russian sympathizers” who were demanded to renounce their allegiance, take off their identifying ribbons, literally stand on their knees, and recite pro-Maidan slogans. The standoff lasted for six hours, there were also eggs thrown at them, there were beatings, stabbings, and blood in the process. But they didn’t give up. Then the police arrested them, and some of the police vans were put on fire by the crowd. For eight years they have been waiting for Russia to do something about this and now Russians came for them. That’s how people feel in the separatist republics, too – finally! Zaporozhye, however, was deep in the Ukrainian territory, at the time these people had no hope whatsoever but still they didn’t give up their identity.

“300” in Zaporozhye, April 12, 2014

Well, recent events show that Russia doesn’t completely abandon its dependents, unlike some other country I don’t need to mention. Even Ukrainian president yesterday spoke about facing Russian aggression alone, which was a big change from “building anti-Putin” coalition just a day before the sh*t got real. This is another reason why Russians are on the right side of history at the moment – ksatriyas offer real protection and always win against vaisyas, it’s nature’s law.

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