Lately, political leaders in the West have developed a shared speech defect. Fewer and fewer seem able to articulate straightforward sentences without interjecting adjectives and reinforcement words. The defect is believed to be a mild form of coprolalia* (Tourette syndrome) and related to obsessive-compulsory behaviour.
Of all the illustrious leaders of the West, no-one seems to suffer more from this handicap than NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Almost always, the linguistically rather simple phrase "the Russian invasion of Ukraine" comes out of his mouth as "Russia's illegal, unprovoked, brutal full-scale aggression and invasion of Ukraine".
There may still be hope, though.
On 7 September 2023, in an address to Members of the European Parliament, Stoltenberg confirmed the factual incorrectness of his troubled speech-patterns, injecting words which, logically, do not belong in the sentence.
The background was that President Putin declared in the autumn of 2021—and actually sent a draft treaty that they wanted NATO to sign—to promise no more NATO enlargement. That was what he sent us. And that was a precondition for not invade [sic] Ukraine. Of course we didn't sign that.
The opposite happened.
He wanted us to sign that promise never to enlarge NATO. He wanted us to remove our military infrastructure in all Allies that have joined NATO since 1997, meaning half of NATO, all the Central and Eastern Europe, we should remove NATO from that part of our Alliance, introducing some kind of A and B, or second-class membership.
We rejected that.
So he went to war to prevent NATO, more NATO, close to his borders. He has got the exact opposite. He has got more NATO presence in eastern part of the Alliance and he has also seen that Finland has already joined the Alliance, and Sweden will soon be a full member.
In short, Mr Stoltenberg thereby admitted, in his own way, that the qualifying adjective unprovoked does not belong in the phrase denoting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Since the legality of the Russian intervention has not yet been determined in a court of law, neither does the adjective illegal apply—at least, not if the Western idea of the presumption of innocence until the contrary is found by a court of law is supposed to mean anything.
The Russian Government has repeatedly stated that the intervention was an act of pre-emptive self-defence, since Kiev, thereto incited by Washington, was planning a large-scale military attack against the republics of Luhansk and Donetsk in the spring of 2022.
Regarding the notion of Russia perpetrating aggression (a crime by some standards of international law), the reality on the ground is that Moscow has been fighting a defensive war for the last year or so, holding on to a line which was established last year.
So, the moment Kiev stops firing its weapons and charging this line with kamikaze units, the dying will stop and the battlefield will fall silent.
The inset below, part of a larger map published by the BBC, confirms the defensive posture of Russia's armed forces since late 2022.
Admittedly, being on the receiving end of the apparently very effective defensive measures put up by Moscow may be a rather brutal experience for the individual soldier. However, they do not have to be there, and could (if they survive the risk of death for desertion) walk away, at least in theory; a process which the Russian Federation has endeavoured to facilitate.
The pictures below are from walls in the region of Zaporozhye, giving a callsign and a VHF radio frequency that Ukrainian troops who have had enough of the war can dial into in order to ask for assistance when surrendering. According to Sputnik International, the “VOLGA 149.200” surrender lifeline is a success, and has so far saved the lives of tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers.