The West is not listening still. Perhaps it never will

Fifty years ago, an American genius called Don McClean wrote the song Starry, starry night in which he converses with another genius called Vincent van Gogh.

There seems to be more communication between Don McClean and the then deceased Vincent van Gogh, who died in 1890 at thirty-seven years of age, in the brilliant lyrics of this beautiful song, written in 1971. Part of the refrain reads:

They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

I agree with the first line, I unfortunately have to disagree with the second. They will never listen because not only do they not know how, they have no intention of doing so. Right at the end of his song, McClean concludes:

They would not listen, they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will

And here, finally, he hits the nail on the head. They would not listen, they are not listening and they never will listen. Maybe this is a good place to start finding solutions, instead of looking at one another through the sights of a gun.

The puerile EU Parliament

Yesterday I saw a jaw-dropping scene in the European Parliament and watched in disbelief as a large part of the chamber stood up and walked out when Russia’s Minister of External Relations, Sergei Lavrov, addressed the Parliament. It reminded me of the moment when I stopped believing in Brazil as a world power and as a country with any significance, when the Congress impeached President Dilma Rousseff in 2016. For what? For clamping down on corruption. Yesterday I had the same feeling, namely that I was watching a bunch of petulant, spoilt brats, led by Ursula von der Leyen, acting like....well... petulant, spoilt brats, a puerile act of collective insolence and total irresponsibility. Instead of doing their job, listening to all sides and trying to find solutions, which would be the adult and mature approach, they showed that they are totally unfit for purpose. I always wondered what the EU Parliament was for, now I know.

Russia’s point

Just before the military operation in Ukraine began, some western media outlets were admitting that “Russia does have a point”, referring to the expansion of NATO eastwards when NATO promised it would not encroach one inch. As we have seen, NATO’s word is as valued and respectable as the scrawlings on the walls of a public latrine in a soccer stadium, in excrement.

And Russia did have a point. And does. The second point that Russia has is that for eight years nobody was forcing Ukraine to respect the Minsk Agreements, which it signed in 2015 and which guaranteed the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the positioning of the People’s Republics of Lugansk and Donetsk (Donbass) inside Ukraine but enjoying their customs, culture, language and religion. The bottom line is, does a country have the right to slaughter its own population?

The context to the Donbass question and the Crimea question was the Putsch in 2014 in which the democratically elected President was ousted, then there were demonstrations of hatred by youths on the streets of Kiev shouting “Death to Russians and Jews”, followed by Fascist massacres of Russian-speaking Ukrainians (Google up Azov Battalion). Then the Biden family moved in to the Ukrainian energy sector (Google up Biden + energy + Ukraine). You might also like to Google up the USA’s relationship with the Azov Battalion, which was first classified as a terrorist force then accepted by Washington after the Pentagon (NATO) told DC to change its tune.

All these things are true and are traceable, this is not propaganda, these are facts. Let us face them. Inventing lies is respecting nobody.

The mature attitude

At 63 years of age, my own stance on crisis management has become somewhat more mature and less impetuous. The mature attitude, I would say, means that you do not take sides if you are not Russian or Ukrainian. Did anyone take sides when the USA and UK invaded Iraq outside the auspices of the UNO? I warned them both at the time, many times, telling them that this was a huge mistake and that it would destroy credibility in their foreign policies for decades to come. At the time, I thought...

They would not listen, they did not know how
Perhaps they'll listen now

But now after Afghanistan (a problem started by the USA in the 1970s), after Kosovo, after Iraq, after Libya, after Syria, I realise, as McClean did

They would not listen, they're not listening still
Perhaps they never will

And so we see the reaction of the EU Parliament is far from mature, and as for the rest of the western world, it is clear that they hate Russia and they always have done, since 1917 when Moscow showed the world that there is an alternative model. There is never one piece of positivity in the western media about Russia or Russians.


I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but there is a military operation going on in Ukraine and people are getting killed, families are losing loved ones, children are screaming in panic, or being killed, residential areas are being hit (because the forces defending them are placing weaponry in schools, kindergartens etc. to force civilian casualties to rise, an old CIA tactic, although nobody here is telling the Ukrainian forces how to manage the conflict).

Not listening to both sides is paramount to disrespecting the causes of the conflict and again, for every Ukrainian casualty in this current conflict, I could present to you twenty or more among the Russian-speaking population of Donbass over the last eight years. That does not negate the pain and the suffering but I cannot differentiate between the tears of a Russian mother and a Ukrainian mother, sorry. It’s just the way I am.

Hate crimes by the media

Those of us outside this conflict should not be fanning the flames or engaging in hate crimes, goading on one side and gloating over deaths and destruction. My take is that I did not see this coming and that the sooner it is over, the better. It gives me no pleasure to see a Russian boy being tortured by Ukrainians, it gives me no pleasure to see a Ukrainian family ruined because someone has been shot. I would point out that the Russian side treats its prisoners better than the Ukrainian side, the Russian side does understand that Ukrainian soldiers are simply doing their job and the Russian side is trying at all costs to avoid civilian casualties, that is why its progress has been painstaking. This is not propaganda, these are facts.

On the other hand, and looking at both sides, obviously nobody likes being invaded or shot at and many of the residents in Kiev and Kharkiv have nothing to do with the attacks on the people of Donbass, neither are they Fascists or have any links with Azov Battalion. And obviously, tears taste of salt, among Ukrainian families, among Russian families and among mixed families – how many Russians have a Ukrainian aunt or godmother or grandfather and vice versa?

So sitting at a computer keyboard three thousand kilometers away goading on one side, gloating about deaths on the other and saying negative things about Russia and Russians while ignoring the context is paramount to a hate crime.

As journalists, we should be reporting the truth and we should not be taking sides. We should be reporting the context, showing respect, and at the same time, trying to find solutions.

Solution 1: Ceasefire and peace talks which should guarantee the security of all parties

Solution 2: Ceasefire and peace talks solving the issue of Donbass, respecting the view of its residents (many of whom by now have decided that they do not want to be part of Ukraine, and who would be surprised?) Maybe a Federal State or hey! How about a Friendship Union in that region in which the DPR and LPR belong to nobody but themselves in a special economic zone? Like a friendly point of contact, but please, without NATO.

Solution 3: Ceasefire and peace talks in which after the Russia/Ukraine issue is settled, NATO sits down and mans up for once about its real intentions. Does it intend to attack Russia? Then why has it encroached to Russia’s borders and why does it refuse to take a position on Ukraine’s membership? The answers seem obvious. It appears that wherever NATO is involved, there is trouble. Maybe someone in NATO could consider putting a woman in charge. With less testosterone in the room, many things could be solved more easily. But not Liz Truss, please, try finding one with a brain.

Solution 4: Ceasefire and peace talks concluded, a process of peace and reconciliation in which people come to terms with the losses in Donbass for eight years and also in today’s military operation, while the rest of us (journalists) try to come up with solutions for future generations to get through this. Nobody wants generations of children brought up on hatred. That’s what adults do. There have been similar initiatives between Israeli and Palestinian children, in which games and organised for them to play together, sometimes between mixed teams to avoid the “us and them” angle of soccer matches, for instance; children should be painting together, making models together, playing handball together, playing soccer together, playing volleyball together, playing basketball together, watching movies together, cooking together, laughing together, smiling together, embracing one another.

Solution 5: After the ceasefire and peace and reconciliation process, devoid of hate crimes, let NATO read this story from the beginning and realise that while a storm was brewing they were not listening to Russia’s preoccupations. Nothing good ever came from the West for Russia. You have to understand people, you have to visit the country, engage with people, feel the psyche. This is not for everyone and not everyone is for this but look what happens when you don’t listen. Children are screaming in panic. They should be laughing.

For God’s sake, wake up people. Yes, Russia has a point, more than one. Sure, people do not like getting invaded. So instead of petulance and puerile acts of insolence, perhaps those who are supposed to be responsible, to listen and to find solutions might consider listening and finding solutions. People are dying. Families are crying. Tears taste of salt.

We hope they will listen now

or at least, they will some day

We hope they’ll find a way

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey can be contacted at [email protected]

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey