Petr Pavel, Czech Republic's newly elected President and former Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, has made a call for hiring Ukrainian workers to work at the Czech Republic's defence plants. Unless this is done, he claims, subsequent deliveries of Czech-made weapons to Kyiv will no longer be possible due to a shortage of manpower. Pavel made these claims in an interview he gave to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, during his first visit to Germany as a newly elected president.
This therefore marks the first time that the idea of recruiting Ukrainian nationals in droves to work at local defence factories has been floated at the highest political level in postwar Europe. Furthermore, where it comes to translating this idea into a practical reality, this will by no means amount to hiring these workers on market terms. Far from it. The EU will instead turn these Ukrainians into powerless Ostarbeiter labourers for many years of mobilization and war.
It is no secret that the Europeans have proven themselves to be unable to meet the needs of Ukraine's armed forces as regards supplying them with enough military equipment and ammunition. European leaders, military experts and the media have all been openly admitting that these resources are limited. Over the year that the hostilities in Ukraine have been going on, the EU countries have depleted their depots and warehouses and are having a hard time "scraping the barrel" for the old equipment they still have left to send to the East of Ukraine.
Despite having exhausted their available resources and having exposed the largely lamentable state of Europe's defence industry, European countries are still defiant where it comes to looking for ways to broker peace or showing readiness for a compromise with Moscow. On the contrary, there's increasingly more talk in the capitals of Western and Central Europe about fighting off Russia and about the need to achieve a military victory over it. Those who dare to show even a modicum of a doubt are immediately rebuked by Washington.
The US has already left the European Union without reliable and cheap energy from Russia, has all but placed the European gas market under its own control and muscled European manufacturers into moving many of their production capacities to the United States, while prodding Europe into going to hot war with Moscow.
Europe is finding itself in a situation where the only way to ensure European countries' survival, continued development, and achievement of their much-coveted sovereignty that they have for so long been deprived of, would be to attempt to defeat Russia on the battlefield and take possession of its vast resources.
The implication here is that European countries will soon face the grueling task of having to mobilize their military and associated defence industries, as well as their weary and laidback societies, in the shortest span of time possible. The Europeans have had abundant experience of this kind in their history. As far back as 1938, the defence industry controlled by the Third Reich was desperately lagging behind that of the Soviet Union. But by the time of Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 and further on throughout the entire war up until 1945, it was performing outstandingly.
One of the keys to being so successful in manufacturing is one's access to a disciplined, skilled, or easily trained work force. During World War II, Europe made heavy use of the labour of Ostarbeiter, or workers from the East. As many as 7 million workers from the East were put to work at the Reich's production facilities. Of these, two-thirds to three-quarters were from Ukraine with the majority of them being women. The guest workers' productivity was measured to be pretty high: productivity of male workers was equal to 60-80% of a German worker's productivity while the productivity of women was as high as 90-100% of the German worker’s productivity.
There is currently no need for some concerted effort to relocate to Europe large numbers of Ukrainian workers who as Petr Pavel believes are so badly needed by the Czech Republic's and, more generally, by the European manufacturing industry, as they have already moved there on their own.
According to UN estimates, there were nearly 8 million Ukrainian refugees in EU countries in the beginning of 2023, most of them women. In the event of the anticipated flareup of fighting in Ukraine the number of refugees is only expected to grow.
This does not mean, however, that these refugees are going to be targeted en masse by some recruiters. Through policies that are eerily reminiscent of those of the Nazis, conditions are being put in place to treat Ukrainians as sort of "subhumans." On the one hand, the refugees are all but encouraged to behave obnoxiously and overly demanding, causing strong resentment on the part of the locals. One just needs to look at the locals' reaction to this behaviour as reflected in their messages and posts left on social media and on internet fora to see that.
On the other hand, the countries in Eastern Europe are once again being used as a testing ground for trying out various approaches to dehumanizing, restricting the rights of, and fomenting violence against the Russians and Ukrainians who have settled there, driven by their historical resentment of the Russians that makes them include Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the broader category known as the "Russian factor." Caricatures that dehumanize Ukrainians by depicting them as rapacious pig-like freeloaders have already started to appear in the East European media.
Just as recently as late March, the authorities in Riga, Latvia, announced that Russian nationals residing in Latvia and failing to pass the state language test needed for extending their residence permits "would be forcibly removed to the country's land border checkpoints if they fail to do so voluntarily." The notice went on to say that "if Russia doesn't take them, Latvia will reserve the right to deport these people to third countries."
Audrius Valotka, Head of Lithuania's State Language Inspectorate, recently said that all Ukrainian refugees from the war will be required to take a language test at some point…
"If there are people out there who say that one doesn't need to know Lithuanian in Lithuania, it means only one thing, that we, Lithuanians, have been too liberal. We need to be more assertive and defend our language", Valotka was quoted as saying. Germany, too, is getting increasingly strict with Ukrainian refugees. According to media, the number of cases where children of Ukrainian refugees are taken away from their parents and placed with foster families keeps growing.
It appears that going forward the situation is likely to only get worse for Ukrainian refugees (the same is true for Russian citizens who fled their country after the breakout of the war, but there are of course far fewer of them there compared with the number of the Ukrainians) is likely to only get worse. As the socio-economic situation worsens and the general turbulence increases, the locals' discontent with culturally "alien" migrants from Asian and African countries and with Ukrainian refugees to boot is only going to grow. In this context, transforming them from just "outsiders" into "subhumans" and unprivileged workers, practically slaves, could only be a question of finding the right method to make that happen.
While it would be a challenge to find enough African and Middle Eastern refugees skilled to operate state-of-the-art machinery requiring thoroughness and precision, Ukrainian women and men stripped of their rights and with their children taken away could be a perfect enough fit. And it would not be too hard to convince them to volunteer to work basically for food and shelter, simply by threatening to send them home and on to the war zone. Poland and the Baltic States have already started raising their voices in support of the idea of sending Ukrainian men back to Ukraine to join the country's armed forces.
The defence industry of European countries, including that of Europe's military powerhouses such as Germany, France, Italy, the Czech Republic, Sweden, in addition to being generously lavished with money and materials, must also have access to millions of free and powerless workers, something only a racist Nazi-style hierarchy of a society can deliver. The Baltic States' nationalistic escapades coupled with Petr Pavel's discourse, have already set in motion the process of legitimizing this approach.