That's not a threat, it's a promise
On video calls, the Cannes film festival, and the warning Russia needs to hear
The abrupt and nearly universal adoption of video calls, for everything from visits with Grandma to annual shareholder meetings, was one of many unexpected changes imposed on the world by the quarantine behaviors of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whatever inertia once obstructed those calls is now merely a distant memory.
■ Logistically, the appearance may not be surprising, but it was yet another clever deployment of public diplomacy by Ukraine's government. The last thing they can afford is for their supporters to let their sympathies succumb to war fatigue. And so Volodymyr Zelenskyy makes his bid to remain relevant: "Will cinema keep quiet, or will it speak up? If there is a dictator, if there is a war for freedom, once again, everything depends on our unity. Can cinema stay outside of this unity?"
■ Just prior to his address to the audience at Cannes, Zelenskyy offered a warning to the people of Russia -- one that may sound like propaganda, but which actually comes from a deeply humanistic place, worthy of the ovation he received at the film festival. He warned: "[A]ll this brutality of the occupiers, which Ukraine is experiencing every day, will only lead to the fact that Russian surviving soldiers will bring this evil back to Russia. They will bring it back because they will retreat."
■ A familiar phrase goes, "That's not a threat. It's a promise." In this case, it's not a forecast, it's a guarantee. The grotesque sociopathies on display by Russian forces in Ukraine -- including hideous war crimes against innocent children -- didn't emerge out of nowhere. And they absolutely will not disappear just because those fighters have been pushed out of the country they invaded. They will return home, and some of them will take their savagery with them.
■ For all of the diplomatic, legal, and humanitarian reasons that Russia's invasion of Ukraine was already unsound and indefensible, this one of which Zelenskyy warns is an indisputable reason that it is squarely contrary to Russia's long-term self interest. Just as a peaceful civil society should always be concerned about harboring large numbers of young people with nothing useful to do, a nation that has demonstrated itself demonstrated incapable of civil behavior on the global scale ought to be doubly concerned about large numbers of barbarians coming home -- with a taste for evil, and nothing productive to do.