A little over a year ago, on a pleasant late fall evening, I was sitting on my front porch with a friend best described as a Ukrainian freedom fighter. He was smoking a cigarette while we watched Southeast DC hipsters bustle by and talked about ‘the war’ — the big war, being waged by Russia against all of us, which from this porch felt very far away. I can’t remember what prompted it — some discussion of whether the government in Kyiv was doing something that would piss off the EU — but he took a long drag off his cigarette and said, offhand: “Russia. The EU. It’s all just more Molotov-Ribbentrop shit.”
His casual reference to the Hitler-Stalin pact dividing Eastern Europe before WWII was meant as a reminder that Ukraine must decide its future for itself, rather than let it be negotiated between great powers. But it haunted me, this idea that modern revolutionaries no longer felt some special affinity with the West. Was it the belief in collective defense that was weakening, or the underlying certitude that Western values would prevail?