Imagine the following: the American Ambassador to France goes on French television and declares, “Americans and Canadians are one nation. It’s like the Bretons and the Normans in France. You can’t separate them.” The ambassador would be summoned to Washington and, from that moment forward, Americans would be reminded of the foolish incident every time they set foot in France. After all, diplomats don’t usually go around claiming that neighboring nations don’t exist.
Yet that is exactly what the Russian Ambassador to France, Alexander Orlov, did a few days ago. Pressed on the political turmoil in Ukraine by leading French television journalist Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, Orlov declared: “Russians and Ukrainians are one nation. It’s like the Bretons and the Normans in France. You can’t separate them.”
It is hard to know how to evaluate a claim so oddly distant from normal diplomatic protocol. Since this statement was made in French, perhaps we could apply a couple of French tests.
|Photo : Warwik Saint|
Let us imagine that I tell you, “Juliette Binoche and I are soulmates. It’s like the closest love affair of all time. You can’t separate us.” Now, is this true? The only way to know would be to ask Juliette Binoche. Because if we shared a single soul and all the rest, she would know about it.
Ambassador Orlov’s claim fails the Juliette Binoche test. He may think that Russia and Ukraine are one nation. But Ukrainians do not.
The New York Review of Books, 13.12.13