The Brandenburg Gate in German capital Berlin is perhaps the most famous landmark epitomizing the former Cold War between West and East. This week the iconic Cold War symbol earned its reputation again – albeit in an unofficial capacity.
Berlin authorities sparked protests from ordinary German citizens and many others around the world when they declined to light up the Brandenburg Gate in a show of solidarity with those killed in the bomb attack in Russia’s St Petersburg.
In recent months, the Germany capital has paid tribute to other victims of terror around the world by illuminating the famous colonnade at night in national colors of the countries affected.
Thus in a show of solidarity the historic Brandenburg portico has been bathed in the colors of France, Belgium and Britain – most recently following the Westminster terror attacks on March 22 where five people were killed.
Official German explanations that these countries were commemorated because they are fellow European Union members sound hollow, because the same light-show was performed for Turkey and Israel following terror incidents there in recent months.
Also, the rainbow colors of gay right activists were shone on the Brandenburg Gate after the mass-shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, last year. That attack was said to be terror-motivated, although arguably it could have been a random homicide.
In any case, understandably this week, there was an outpouring of condemnation from German citizens and others when the Berlin authorities did not display Russia’s national colors following the St Petersburg train bombing on Monday – which killed 14 people and injured 49 others. An investigation into that massacre in Russia’s second city is underway, but it seems likely to have indeed involved a terror motive.
Berlin’s official lack of response was not just an isolated case. In Paris, the French’s capital’s iconic Eiffel Tower did not illuminate Russia’s national colors on the Monday night, nor were its lights darkened. Like the Brandenburg Gate some form of light display has been the customary response by the French authorities following acts of terrorism in other parts of the world. But not this week in regard to Russia’s St Petersburg.
However, as in Berlin, there was surge in public protests over the apparent lack of solidarity towards Russia in the French capital. Later, Paris mayor Anna Hildago appeared to acquiesce in the face of public pressure. The Eiffel Tower was reportedly dimmed the following night, Tuesday, out of respect for the St Petersburg victims.
Admittedly, some Western leaders quickly issued statements of condemnation over the terror attack in Russia this week. US President Donald Trump and Britain’s premier Theresa May reportedly offered their condolences.
Nevertheless, the reluctance to commiserate over Russian terror victims as seen this week from the action of authorities in European and other Western cities is reflective of a profoundly toxic mindset of Russophobia.
Certainly, since the Ukraine crisis of early 2014, Western governments, politicians, pundits, think-tanks, NATO military chiefs and corporate news media have been unrelenting in demonizing Russia. In an upside-down view of reality, Russia and its President Vladimir Putin are blamed for everything, from aggression against Europe, to shooting down a civilian airliner over Ukraine, to doping in Olympic sports, to committing war crimes in Syria, to influencing Western elections.
In Syria, the day after the St Petersburg bombing, reports emerged of a chemical weapon attack on civilians in the northern Syrian province of Idlib in which over 70 were reportedly killed. Without any independent verification, Western media and governments immediately cited partisan militant sources to blame the Syrian army of President Bashar al-Assad. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also accused Russia of «moral responsibility» because it is an ally of Syria.
An alternative version of that incident is entirely plausible. Namely, that Syrian warplanes hit a warehouse used by the Nusra terror group for preparing chemical weapons, thereby accidentally releasing toxic materials.
The point here is the unseemly rush to judgement by Western governments and media to accuse the Syrian authorities of a massacre based on a compromised sources like the Nusra-affiliated so-called rescue group White Helmets. And by extension, the finger of blame is pointed at Russia because of its military support for the Syrian government.
This harks to the Syrian-Russian military campaign to liberate Syria’s second city of Aleppo at the end of last year. Again, relying on dubious media sources like the White Helmets, the West embarked on an hysterical political-diplomatic campaign of vilifying Russia for «war crimes». Yet now since that city has been restored to peace following its liberation, none of the Western accusers in governments, media and at the United Nations have followed up with any evidence to support their erstwhile shrill condemnations of Russia.
Bitterly ironic is that the Western-led military coalition is inflicting huge civilian deaths in the so-called liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS terrorists. But an entirely different brazen set of double standards is applied in this case.
The absurdity is ineffable. The United States and its European NATO allies, principally Britain and France, along with Turkish, Arab and Israeli partners, have incited terrorism in Syria and across the entire Middle East from years of illegal wars and regime-change operations.
Russia, along with Iran, has taken a noble stand to defend the sovereign state of Syria from a Western-led proxy terror war. Russia’s military intervention, fully legal under international law, has helped to largely quell the terror cauldron in Syria. That Western-led terror war to overthrow the Syrian government, as in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya before, has produced all kinds of violent blowback in Europe and beyond, including inside the territory of Russia.
And yet when Russia is hit by a terror attack – as it seems to have been this week in St Petersburg – the Western response is mealy-mouthed and churlish. There is a disgraceful implication that somehow Russian victims of terrorism are not worthy of Western sympathy. Or that somehow the atrocity can be «rationalized» as «revenge» for Russia’s intervention in Syria.
This is contemptible, warped thinking in the West, as deplored this week by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Nevertheless, should we be surprised by such vile Western warped perception? Regrettably, it stands to reason that if Western governments and media have spent months and years demonizing Russia for all manner of alleged misdeeds, then evidently that mentality of inculcated Russophobia stifles what should be otherwise a normal human response of solidarity and compassion.
The lack of solidarity emanating from Western capitals this week over the St Petersburg atrocity is not merely an appalling lack of sensitivity. The void in solidarity illuminates something even more grotesque – the true colors of how Western officialdom and its mindset view Russia as somehow a sub-human country undeserving of compassion.
That base level of thinking in the West has surely come about from the massive, relentless Western propaganda which has been demonizing Russia over many months. Disturbingly, this is the kind of desensitized, dehumanized mentality that goes hand in hand with war.
And it was grimly appropriate that the Cold War relic of the Brandenburg Gate – with its Nazi overtures of Untermenschen ideology – should feature as the lead display this week.