Two weeks ago a young Russian woman stood at the memorial of Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka in Moscow. She placed a bunch of flowers at the pedestal. She was protesting against the Kremlin. It has become a place where Muscovites express their opposition to a Russian missile strike on civilians in Dnipro.
Some days later I saw a distraught Ukrainian woman kiss her 20-year old dead son in his coffin before the priest said the prayers of final commendation.
This young man had been killed by Russian artillery fire. He was not a soldier. Since the war began it had been his job to collect body parts so that they could be repatriated with their families for some sort of dignified burial.Her son is gone. She will spend the rest of her life without him.
During those same days there was the discussion as to whether or not the Germans would send their Leopard 2 battle tanks to Ukraine and if they would give permission to other countries who have Leopards to send their tanks to the war.
Eventually the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave the green light. There are approximately 2,000 of the tanks scattered around Europe and as soon as possible some of them will be in Ukraine.
The Leopard is made by the German company Rheinmetall, which was founded in 1889. It started off making steel products and armaments. After World War I, during the period of German disarmament, it moved away from armaments but by 1933 it was back making weapons.
Today the company makes tanks and armoured vehicles for Nato countries. Business is brisk. Since the Ukrainian war began the Financial Times reported that on one day’s trading on the Frankfurt stock exchange Rheinmetall shares rose more than 30 per cent. And it seems it’s good days for anyone who makes tools of war.
But if there were no western weapons’ manufacturers what then?
In recent days I have heard some whisperings about the numbers of Ukrainians we are welcoming to Ireland. There’s a suggestion we can’t take any more. Is that the real question we should be asking?
Should we not be asking instead why the stock market is singing the praises of the manufactures of tanks and weapons? And no doubt it is a similar story in Russia. At least in a quasi-open democracy we seem to know a little more than what happens in Mother Russia.
Another question: are we simply robots or pawns, who are being pulled hither and tither by those who control the markets, the quiet, silent people, the moneyed people, who decide the way of the world? Do we really ever think for ourselves?
I’m back thinking of the bereaved mother and the young woman placing the flowers in Moscow but right now I’m also thinking of those who control the money that makes the tanks, Russian and Western weapons.