Discussion thread

March 3, 2022 • 10:30 am

As I’m occupied with my lecture duties, here’s a call for readers to discuss the situation in Ukraine. There are many questions, and I have no time to list the ones that bother me, but feel free to blow off steam.  I am concerned at the mass migration that’s now reached a million people, and also about the fate of those Ukrainians, like President Zelenskyy, who have shown the moxie to stay and fight. I worry that, in the end, they have no chance and many will be killed.

I have no confidence that Putin will try to let civilians live: after all, he’d count resisting civilians (most of them) as combatants. In the end, will he have driven most of the population out completely of the country completely, killed the rest, and left Ukraine in ruins?

Who would want to return to such a land? If they did, they’d have to rebuild, just as they did after WWII.  Read Bloodlands: Hitler Between Europe and Stalinto see the bloody history of Ukraine and Poland, exploited and scoured time after time. It’s a great book and will tell you a lot about the history of the region. (It’s written, too.) The description of How Stalin deliberately starved Ukraine before the war, killing millions, is bloodcurdling.  And then, like Poland, the Germans entered and finished the carnage.

And yet, they are still with us. This was posted yesterday on the official Ukraine Twitter account (yes, they have one):

100 thoughts on “Discussion thread

  1. I read that the international criminal court is already investigating Putin…

    “There are four offences that the ICC prosecutes: war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and the crime of aggression. The ICC’s chief prosecutor, Karim Khan, said there was a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed in Ukraine.”

    1. But how? Who can enter Russia and place Mr. Putin under arrest? Russians must overthrow him themselves, and if they do he will hanged on the spot rather than turned over to Western judgment.

  2. Wasn’t the previous aggression towards Ukraine especially timed to sway the U.S. midterm elections, and isn’t the timing of this aggression towards Ukraine the same?

  3. I mentioned in another thread lasy week that I recently watched a three- hour miniseries called 37 Days about the diplomatic run up to World War One. I recommend it as illustrating the opacity of motives on different sides. I’d also recommend Telford Taylor’s Munich: The Price of Peace, about the Munich conference.

    1. The War that Ended Peace by Margaret MacMillan (no relation) is also very good, beginning with the late-colonial clashes in Africa between traditional enemies Britain and France and culminating in their heretofore unimaginable alliance by 1914. But the larger story is the three great decaying land empires in Europe: Austria-Hungary, Imperial Russia, and the Ottoman Turks…..and the rise of unified Germany as the “black swan” event that no one foresaw.

      1. I’m a fan of Margaret MacMillan (I loved her book “Paris 1919” about the negotiations over the Treaty of Versailles) but I thought Christopher Clark’s “The Sleepwalkers” was a better book about the runup to WW1.

        1. Noted. Thanks.
          I found Paris 1919 became much more accessible once I got a better understanding of what the world was like before the war, and the world order that the war destroyed, at least in Europe. If Clark does a better job then I will definitely enjoy it.

          (As I’ve stated here before around Remembrance Day, I have found it impossible to read about the carnage and stupidity of the land battles of the war itself. I can’t give you the correct order (without checking) of the Somme, Verdun, and Passchendaele. So I’m relying on the befores and afters to put it all into context.)

  4. I’m a little surprised at the number of Americans who were unaware of the differences between Russians and Ukrainians. I have had a number of friends with Ukrainian/Carpatho-Rusyn heritage, most of whom have relatives back in Europe. Our landlords when we were first married were a Ukrainian couple who were refugees from Stalin and had nothing to say about Russians that wasn’t a dark muttering in a (to-me) incomprehensible language.

    1. “I’m a little surprised at the number of Americans who were unaware of the differences between Russians and Ukrainians.”

      On page 1 of the Sports section of today’s print edition of the 3/4/22
      Raleigh News and Observer is the article, “Russian native Svechnikov has support of Canes [Carolina Hurricanes hockey team] teammates.”

      The team coach said about Svechnikov, “It is what it is . . . We don’t watch news and stuff. I think just focusing on hockey is the best thing he can do.”

      A teammate said, “I’m not from Russia and don’t know what’s going on there, I’m not from Ukraine.”

      So much for American intellectual and geopolitical curiosity.

      The article also stated that “Svechnikov has not spoken publicly about the crisis.”

      One notes that Svechnikov is not an opera singer with the Metropolitan Opera, and that Opera manager Peter Gelb (re: Anna Netrebko) is not a sports team owner/manager. Is there a difference between the two situations? Or is one more of a financial asset than the other?

      (Also, can Gelb be sure that at least one of his stage hands does not secretly believe that NATO should not have extended eastward? Would he construe that as somehow being sympathic with Russia? As a matter of principle, ought he not require all his employees – and himself – to state in writing their positions regarding matters Russian/Ukrainian? Why not everyone residing in the U.S., citizen or not?)

      The N&O reported a couple of days ago the Governor ordered the removal of Russian vodka from government ABC stores. There were several paragraphs featuring chest-thumping virtue-signaling bloviation from politician in support of Ukraine. The last paragraph noted that no more than 1% of the vodka sold was of Russian origin. (I’ll be looking to see if the paper and the governor similarly go after Svechnikov.)

      The N&O is hard-pressed to mention Ukraine on page 1. But what is that war compared with the adventures of a Raleigh couple’s triumph in CBS’s “The Amazing Race”? The paper periodically polls readers on what they want to read about. Apparently readers have spoken.

  5. As much as I would dearly love to see Putin get his well deserved punishment – it would be going the part of restoring a bit of the moral balance of the universe! – I’m also worried about what he’s liable to do when completely pushed in to a corner. He’s clearly “all in” in terms of his plan to take over Ukraine. And the fact it’s such a pride-based motivation, a missionary zeal for restoring the fortunes and prestige of Russia, and hence, of Putin, it’s hard to imagine him backing down no matter what comes his way. And with all the economic pressure on Russia now, plus stronger alliances and even military spending by Nato countries ignited…then throw in that even if he pulls back “We are now going after you for war crimes when this is over”…he may think he has nothing to lose or “no other choice” but to widen the war and/or put that finger on the nuke buttons.

    1. It would be delightful if some Caligula-style palace guards did their thing around Putin. But I’m sure such an action would be extremely risky on any individual level.

        1. It is certainly a possibility but far from inevitable. The justifications for assassinating Stalin were at least as strong but he managed to remain firmly in power right up until his natural death. I’m sure that both men had/have a fear of such an end and maintain(ed) formidable defenses around themselves, including an aura of terror. It would take a very brave or reckless person to attempt to assassinate Putin.

        1. Perhaps the one, who keeps far enough away the ones, who keep those even farther away, those whose job is to keep everyone else completely away (puff! puff!) from him, will be the one to do the dirty (no!—the much desired) deed to the asshole of the 21st century.

          It would be rather satisfying to me to see Lavrov and Putin each arrive in a back room, each with a pistol to do in the other, and for both to succeed (and hopefully some half-decent military man takes over temporarily to finally set that country on the road to some kind of civilized and effective political system.

      1. A problem with the “let’s hope the Russian people finally turn on Putin” thing is that it’s possible the sanctions hurting Russian people will turn them against the West. Where if the only stakes were just invading Ukraine, perhaps it would be easier to protest that. But if a Russian is now hurting personally due to sanctions from the West and Putin just adopts that in to his rhetoric “see what they do to us? I’m fighting for every Russian!” then it doesn’t bode so well for some form of overthrowing of Putin.

        1. I doubt that many Russians are dim enough to not understand that Putin’s invasion is the source of their pain. They know that NATO didn’t send troops in Russia.

          1. Keep in mind that their only source of information is state controlled. This is why Putin remains popular in Russia.

            1. That’s just not so. If it was there would be nobody being arrested for demonstrations on the streets of St. Petersburg.

              1. Check again in a month. Nothing says “you’ve been lied to” like body bags coming back from the front.

          2. “I doubt that many Russians are dim enough…”

            And yet you have before you the evidence of what many Americans are prepared to believe in spite of having access to the same news channels and other sources of information as you and I. What people are prepared to believe is all too rarely based on a cool evaluation of all the available information.

            1. It isn’t a question of whether some people are prepared to believe that pigs live in trees. What matters is relative numbers. There have always been credulous fools. But the credulity of many of them has limits. As the USSR collapsed, so can the Putin regime. Nicolae Ceaușescu had iron control over his country’s media, too.

              1. I am not suggesting that all Russian people will swallow Putin’s propaganda. We already know that many do not from the reports of street protests and other expressions of dissent. But as you say it is a question of relative numbers. To go back to my example, enough Americans believe the most preposterous things for Trump to have gotten all the way to the White House, to have gathered far more votes in the last presidential election than his own performance as President merited (albeit not nearly as many as his faithful followers insist were stolen from him) and for him to still be seen as a likely Republican candidate for the next presidential election. I don’t imagine that Americans are uniquely susceptible to believing preposterous untruths and the Russian people have the added disadvantage that their government is doing its level best to deprive them of all of the information that would enable them to really see what is going on.

                I hope you are right that most Russians will see that Putin is the source of their problems but I don’t think we can take that for granted.

              2. Nicolae Ceaușescu had iron control over his country’s media, too.

                And I can assure you no one believed any of it. Practically everyone we knew listened to RFE/RL, Deutsche Welle, etc. but of course, no none would have admitted that publicly.

              3. “most Russians”

                Of course we don’t need most. We just need enough. It is a question of when, not if, IMO.

            1. I’m not saying that. I’m saying that a shit-ton of them will recognize the obvious at some point. Those who are analogs of the our Delorables will take longer. I don’t understand those who imagine Russians a of monolithic swallowers-of-propaganda.

              1. Sorry, I knew you didn’t mean that. Just trying, and probably failing, to be witty. Should have added a ‘/s’.

        1. I like the Rasputin 2.0 scenario. Weren’t the more-or-less equivalents of the Oligarchs the ones that poisoned him? They ought to be the sorts who would have the greatest access to Putin now, and who now have the most to lose as the sanctions increasingly tighten.

        1. Some of the anti-Hitler plotters were most definitely willing to die for the cause. Stauffenberg was not one of them, but there were multiple (obviously failed) attempts by officers willing to be suicide bombers.

          1. Stauffenberg was severely injured in the war. In addition, he seemed irreplaceable to the resistance because of his leading organisational role in a regime change. Therefore, his death during an assassination attempt was never up for debate

            On the other hand, Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist and Rudolf-Christoph von Gersdorff, for example, were two conspirators who accepted their possible death in an assassination attempt

        2. Small correction – there should be an S after attempt. Known are 22, and that’s counting as one when several happened on the same day(!). Astonishingly and sadly, none were successful, with 7/20/44 being the last, altho there was one contemplated around Feb ’44 – mustard gas down the ventilation stack in the bunker, which was thwarted by the overzealous action of a minor-rank soldier who took it on himself to build a chimney for the vent, making it impossible to reach.

  6. Once upon a time, there was a vein of sophisticated Leninism on the Left that was rather like sophisticated theology. In the pages of Monthly Review or The Nation, one could read lofty discussions admitting that the Communist world suffered certain difficulties in regard to individual rights, but adding that the key innovation, which would make all the difference, was the socialization (at gunpoint) of the means of production and distribution. This revolutionary change would affect social behavior so as to generate a new form of consciousness: “the New Soviet Man”, in the pop-version of this theology. It is worth noticing that Vladimir Putin, and his fellow veterans of the Soviet security apparatus who give all the orders in Russia today, are examples of “the New Soviet Man”. Strangely enough, this new specimen resembles, after all, the older version active in the days of Ivan the Terrible. Oops.

    1. Wasn’t the “New Soviet Man” a man in the 1920s and 30s, which Putin wasn’t of course, not even close?

  7. Putin has made the biggest mistake of his life. Instead of getting smarter as he gets older he has become stupid – Just like his puppet Trump. He cannot win in Ukraine and the people of Russia must know this and then act accordingly. If they do not, Russia will be lost as well. The bigger point for us here in the U.S. should be – this is a great education. Learn from it. Know how stupid it was to fall for the likes of Trump and see where that was headed. He would follow Putin to the hell he is in for. If the people of the U.S. do not figure this out, they will be doomed. It should have been so easy to see but many people are just ignorant. I really have no patience for any of it.

    1. He must have thought he had disrupted the West enough with his cyber attacks, bots and paid mechanical turks that support far leaning causes, financing of far right groups, etc. that there was no way everyone would pull it together to stand against him.

      1. But Putin did not even know where his own people stand or where the people of Ukraine stand. He lives in a bubble and only thinks about what upsets him. Oh the poor soviet empire we use to have. Surely I can get it back. I don’t even have to tell my military what they are doing. I just give orders and everyone obeys. They know I am the smartest, just look how I handled the big bad Americans for 4 years. When you live in a world of illusion, propaganda and lies, pretty soon the crap falls down around you.

    2. I’m not sure ‘stupid’ is the right term, he miscalculated, maybe enhanced by his isolation, sycophantic surroundings and obsession with restoring the ‘grandeur’ of the Russian (or Soviet) empire. A trap that many dictators are prone to, for obvious reasons.
      However, when they go awry this way, they can be very dangerous.

  8. It seems that Putin wants to incorporate Ukraine into, I guess you could say, Greater Russia. He probably hopes for an outcome like that in Chechnya. To have any chance of that, it would be in his interests to minimize civilian casualties. (Not so much as to slow the conquest dramatically, because for one thing that would fail to minimize civilian casualties.) The more carnage the Ukrainians suffer, the fiercer and longer will be the asymmetric-warfare resistance, even after Russian troops fly their flag over Kyiv (assuming they do).

    I think Putin is at least vaguely aware of this. Whether he can restrain himself accordingly, I don’t dare to predict.

    1. He was probably counting on meeting little resistance. Clearly he has had a failure of intelligence information because he thought he’d just overwhelm the Ukrainians immediately & that they wouldn’t fight so fiercely.

  9. In 1962 I was a young RAF Technician under “in service “ training and I remember well the tension and fear of the Cuban Missile crisis and this was real despite my youthful mistaken belief in personal invulnerability. It was and remains a frightening memory.
    The majority of my RAF Service (as a volunteer) was during the Cold War in Coastal Command and Bomber Command (Vulcan B2) I remember it all like it was yesterday and when the USSR collapsed we all thought that this was the end of the fear and both the covert and overt aggression.
    The current crisis, again including another Russian megalomaniac scares me in the same way as the October 1962 confrontation between Kennedy and Kruschev. I have no confidence that Putin will not do something terrible if pushed enough and yet we cannot allow this Ukranian aggression to go unchallenged.
    I never imagined that I would face this type of situation again in my lifetime.
    Thank goodness that Trump is NOT the President Of The United States of America.

    1. And it seemed to me that we had better communications between groups and a more favourable circumstance during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now it’s much more chaotic. There aren’t clear rules around this….do we still have that phone line to Moscow to talk?

      1. Diana, a well made point regarding the communication infrastructure. Certainly communication was nothing like the extensive and often inaccurate media that everyone now seems to have access to.
        We used to rely on the BBC, how strange is that!
        Like you I would like to think that the direct communication between JFK and NK was very direct and very personal and we should not forget that each had their own experiences of conflict particularly NK in WWII as a serving soldier/ commissar. I am not sure that this applies to Putin and the current US Administration.
        Does a “RED” telephone still exist, who knows? If it does exist does our PM, JT use it also?

        1. There was no direct or personal link of any kind between JFK and Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Indeed, says Wikipedia, It took so long to decrypt and translate NK’s initial settlement proposal that Khrushchev sent another, less accommodating demand while JFK’s team was composing the response to the first one.


          The Hot Line was set up in 1963, after the crisis. Wikipedia says previously it typically took 6 hours to encode, receive and decode secure diplomatic messages and there was no mechanism to send messages directly between the heads of government. The teletype machines for the Hot Line used one-time pad encryption (so the messages would be secure from outside interception). Each leader provided the other with the decryption keys so that each could read the other’s coded communication. Once decoded, each side then translated the messages into its own language for the leader to read. Now it goes by e-mail over satellite.

          Voice communication was never used, notwithstanding the prominent use (for devastating comedic and dramatic effect) of “red phones” in both Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe, and in the novels that inspired both movies.

          And, big news, the Pentagon and the Russian Defense Ministry have just opened a “hot line” (or “de-confliction line”) “for the purposes of preventing miscalculation, military incidents, and escalation” says Reuters and other outlets.

    2. ” . . . when the USSR collapsed we all thought that this was the end of the fear and both the covert and overt aggression.”

      Do you think that the above-referenced end would have been somewhat more likely had the U.S. declined to insist on extending NATO eastward?

      Is it OK (with the U.S.) if a Latin American country opts to form some sort of alliance with a country not in the Western Hemisphere? IIRC, non-U.S. countries in the Western Hemisphere were not consulted by James Monroe prior to his imposing his Doctrine on them.

      1. Monroe is, what, 200 years ago? You’re suggesting that the US should bomb Havana and invade Cuba? Give me a break.

  10. Predictions in general have a pretty lousy accuracy rate, which approaches 0 the more specific you try to get. Having said that . . .

    I think Russia does have the equipment and personnel to pretty thoroughly devastate Ukraine. I’m not sure about that because Russia’s showing so far, both in material and personnel, has been pathetic compared to what was expected based on the common perception of what their military capabilities were estimated to be. But it certainly seems to be the possibility to plan for.

    I’m less certain that Russia has the will to do what that would take. Even if Putin himself does, enough other powerful people in Russia might not. Add in the additional pressures of all the sanctions and Putin may end up being ‘retired’ if he isn’t careful.

    Even if Putin does largely devastate Ukraine, the Ukrainians can still make it a losing situation for him in the long run. It has been observed by many military experts and scholars since at least Vietnam (probably long before) that determined guerilla forces that are being supplied from others outside the area of conflict can continue to wreak havoc on even a nation-state’s military indefinitely, or at least as long as supplies from outside continue. At the moment both of the main criteria for this seem to already be in evidence. The Ukrainians are currently highly motivated, and additionally military veterans from numerous other countries are volunteering for service with the Ukrainian military. And of course, many countries around the world are streaming materials to Ukraine right now and there’s little doubt that this would continue as long as there are people in Ukraine willing to fight.

    I don’t think there is any way that Putin gets what he wanted out of this. Actually I think this is likely the beginning of the end for Putin. I think he’s made a fatal mistake. But he can sure cause a whole heck of a lot more damage to Ukraine than he has so far before he goes down.

    1. We learned the same lesson at the collapse of the USSR when it transpired upon close up examination that throughout the Cold War Russia/ USSR was not the actual threat in either materials or willpower that we all feared and this particularly with the expectation of a land based aggression through eastern Germany by armoured divisions.
      Countless years and enormous sums of money and effort . Isn’t retrospect wonderful?

      1. Yes, exactly. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the disparity is larger today than it was then.

        On the one hand you have the general perception of Russian military capabilities, and no doubt that Russia has spent a lot of effort over the years on maintaining that.

        On the other hand you have the money. As they say, “Money don’t lie.” Unless calculations of what Russia’s GDP has been are way off (very doubtful), it just hasn’t been remotely commensurate with a military that could rival NATO, or even just the US by itself.

        And there have been clues over the years that Russia’s military is not in good shape. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Russia’s military leaders have been lying to Putin for years while they embezzle military funds. Or like Diana said above, maybe he just became detached from reality and started believing his own BS.

    2. I was wrong about Putin invading (and I am not alone).
      But a significant reason for why Putin could well survive and remain in power is that he has eliminated any opposition, and is well isolated and protected. There is no apparatus to remove him thru anything like due process. I am not sure about an assassination attempt, but surely he must know that possibility and has taken considerable precautions.

      1. I’m certain he has taken very considerable precautions. The KGB elevated paranoia to an art form. But he has caused lots of other powerful people to lose their access to wealth and he is in danger of appearing weak. It’s not uncommon at all for leaders like him, in power structures like the one he’s at the head of, to be killed or imprisoned by their own people.

        1. I doubt that the wealthy and powerful in Russia have taken that much of a hit. They are, like the wealthy and powerful in the west, very good at hiding their money. It’s by no means in the interests of the wealthy and powerful to try too hard to track the oligarchs’ money down as it’s hidden in the same places they hide theirs. Ordinary Russians are the ones that will be hit by the sanctions and Putin is very well protected from them.

          1. Of course ordinary Russians will be hit by the sanctions. Reducing a country’s economic capability is what sanctions are intended for.

            Reportedly, in addition to sanctions, some European countries and the US are going after known Russian oligarchs personally, seeking to freeze their assets and properties. How successful they will be at finding their assets remains to be seen.

            I’m not as negative about that as you. It seems probable to me that these state actors have the capabilities to find much of these oligarchs assets. Especially when actors that traditionally have refused to divulge banking information, like Switzerland, have reportedly decided in this instance to do so. Time will tell.

  11. Speaking as a western European, I find the situation in the Ukraine very threatening. It is horrifying what is happening there, and it is nearby. Even worse, I see little reason for Putin’s ambitions to stop at the Ukrainian border. The Baltic states may very well be next. I was quite surprised and very heartened to see the stiff resistance the Ukrainians are pulling off though, and I would go as far to say that I am thankful to them because I believe that, in effect, they are defending more than themselves and their country. They are also defending Europe and its values. I am very glad that other European countries and in particular the EU are, for once, pulling on the same strings and helping the Ukraine as much as they can.

    1. Were and are you for the eastern expansion of NATO? Had NATO not expanded do you think the current situation would be as likely?

  12. I think people are realizing what NATO is for. After the display of the ignorant Trump lots of people thought maybe it was a useless organization. A relic of the cold war. What good could it possibly be now. Trump wanted to kill it, of course for his friend Putin. All you need to know now is it works. When all the nations of NATO comes down on you, what are you going to do. The smaller eastern European countries know very well what NATO is, better than anyone. If Russia steps one foot into Poland or Hungary today, they will have stepped into it.

    1. What was the purpose of NATO after the fall of the Soviet Union 12/1991? Whom/What was NATO opposing/defending against?

  13. Here is what might be (one hopes) a straw in the wind. It comes from a Reuters dispatch in the JP about comments from the Russian Foreign Minister (my italics added):
    “.The Russian foreign minister added that Russia would complete the demilitarization of Ukraine, even if peace agreements are reached, according to TASS. “Demilitarization in this sense, in the sense of destroying the weapons infrastructure that threatens us, it will be completed, even if we sign a peace agreement, it will definitely have to include such a clause.”
    This might (who knows, really?) mean that Putin & Co. are at least contemplating some kind of deal
    to withdraw Russian troops, after they have done sufficient damage, in return for Ukrainian concessions to “demilitarize” and not even think about NATO. Putin’s sycophants will congratulate him on the brilliance of this outcome (while Sweden and Finland will join NATO).

    1. The obvious extension of those comments from the minister is the annexation or independent status of a wide chunk of Eastern Ukraine, which is to varying degrees sympathetic to Russia.
      Putin has threatened military consequences if Sweden and Finland join NATO. Best do it now while Putin is busy.

  14. There’s a good This American Life episode on Putin this week, with one story about how he came to power after suspicious apartment building bombings that he blamed on Chechnya but for which he was probably responsible, and used as pretext for the second Chechnyan war, which brought Putin popularity.


  15. French President Emmanuel Macron had a phone call with Putin earlier today (which Vlad apparently instigated). Macron told him:

    You are lying to yourself. […] It will cost your country dearly, your country will end up isolated, weakened and under sanctions for a very long time.

  16. The best-case scenario, Putin trips and bangs his head on a piece of furniture, spits a little blood and dies… the second best is he suddenly realises he is not god but behaves like one and changes to an actual caring human being.
    Going by what I heard in this morning’s news Putis thinks the 2ndWW is still going on with Nazis everywhere. This is where he departs from his Orange mate who loves Nazis because their nice folk and he has a brain that knows… albeit they are alike as far as that brain goes, which is what WE all call a penis… and WE thought it was for sex. Instead of propagating life they use it by waving it around and in the case of Putis when it goes hard… death and destruction.

    Ukraine will be flattened just as they have done to Syria and by all accounts still doing. Putis cares little for innocents or suffering just his outmoded view of the world.
    History he will make and for Russia? the maker of yet another bat shit crazy tyrant.

  17. According to The Guardian:

    The Kremlin has said it is not planning to institute martial law in Russia as rumours have spread that the government is preparing for a clampdown tied to its invasion of Ukraine.

    Thousands of Russians have begun fleeing the country amid unsourced reports that the borders could close as soon as this weekend after an extraordinary session of the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, scheduled for Friday.


    So doubtless martial law will definitely be in place in Russia by this time tomorrow, then!

  18. Here for what it’s worth:
    The situation in Ukraine was a surprise to some and to me. I didn’t think Putin was that crazy; then the disputed areas came into focus, and oh, that’s what he is after. Now it seems he does seriously have delusions of grandeur. He is putting great importance on winning this conflict. If justice be rendered, Putin will be tried and found guilty of crimes against humanity. With his attacks on a peaceful country with intent to destroy it as a nation he is guilty.
    There is one hope and that is the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping. Xi Jinping is possibly the only person Putin might listen to. This is not just an ideology issue. It is not an internal problem. It is a moral issue, for humanity. Economics are always an issue, but Xi can see the dangers and the immorality of what Putin has done. For one madman to hold the people of earth hostage with an insane war must not be permitted. It is a human rights issue of national integrity. I hope Xi will put it to him diplomatically that no nation should be permitted invasion of a peaceful nation with intent to destroy it. This madman has decided to become the great Russian conqueror, reuniting the Empire of Putin the Greatest, with all praise to Puttibabe. It’s too much for me to figure out. It is mind boggling to see it unfold. I wonder, are we smart enough to survive? GROG

  19. AP just reported that Putin said the invasion is “going as planned.” Sure, just ask his paratroopers (as I learned from RPG upthread). He also said Russia was rooting out “neo-Nazis”, and he said civilian deaths were Ukrainian’s fault because they’re using human shields.

    This guy sees Nazis everywhere it seems, and who does he think believes him at this point?

    This whole mess is very surreal.

  20. What I’m wondering about is Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons first. As if “starting WWIII” isn’t a big enough deterrence to NATO countries getting involved militarily, his threat of nuclear first strike may make him untouchable. It seems to me that issuing such a threat, in itself, should be a war crime, with severe punishments not just for Putin but for all of his generals.

    1. Assuming sole authority to use nuclear weapons resides with Vladimir Putin, only he can be guilty of a war crime in making the threat. His generals cannot themselves make such a threat. They can only decide whether or not to obey an order.

      Threatening a somewhat analogous first use of nukes by our side, the Good Guys, may have kept the peace in Europe from 1949 to 1991.

      NATO never made such a threat explicitly or publicly but all through the Cold War it was common knowledge that NATO (and France independently, as France was not a NATO member in the early years) planned how to be the first to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to destroy a Warsaw-Pact invasion of West Germany. From what I’ve read, all the war-game simulations had the Warsaw Pact overwhelming the thin defensive lines of conventional forces before they could be reinforced by air from the United States. The targets would have been massed Polish and Soviet tank regiments in the salient and staging/marshalling areas in the rear, East Germany and Poland but not (it was hoped) the USSR itself. If you remember the neutron bombs, that’s what they were for.

      Whether this threat was ever credible either to the Allies (especially West Germany!) or to the Soviets is unknown but NATO countries certainly did deploy nuclear-armed short-range tactical artillery, rockets, and fighter-bombers in W Germany that would have been over-run and captured in an uncontrolled advance by the enemy if not used first. And they were publicly acknowledged to be the cheaper alternative to maintaining large conventional forces against Russian aggression, which would have raised the nuclear threshold if chosen. The democracies were hankering for pensions, welfare, and medicare, and then leftist energy, not soldiers and tanks. They still were up to last week.

      The certainty that the Soviets would retaliate unpredictably (in kind, against military forces only, or against Stuttgart? or Chicago?) was part of why the nuclear tripwire was always tip-toed around in Europe. It was also why the United States so resented laggard countries like Canada but also most European countries that were willing to spend so little on their own defence. The weaker their ability to turn the Soviet spear in the first days, the more likely the United States would have to go nuclear on their behalf and risk nuclear retaliation against itself.

      To my knowledge, NATO has never renounced a first-use policy, despite decades of demands from peace parties (fronts for the Kremlin during the Cold War) to do so. However, after the USSR dissolved in 1991, NATO removed theatre nuclear forces from Germany and U.S. Navy warships put ashore the tactical nuclear bombs for their strike aircraft and cruise missiles.

  21. Innovative!

    Members of the public are paying for Airbnb rentals in Ukraine to help get money to residents who are facing extreme financial hardship because of the Russian invasion. […]
    One couple who made a booking for 3-10 March in Kyiv, posted confirmation on Twitter and wrote: “Hello Maria, my wife and I have just booked your apartment for one week, but of course we will not be visiting. This is just so you can receive some money.”


  22. I read Bloodlands a few months ago. Man. What a sad read. If you thought that area was merely horrible during the 1920s – WW2 era, reading Bloodlands will make you feel like you’ve had rose colored glasses on. It is a long, well researched yet unrelenting litany of an utterly hideous time for anybody cursed enough to be there. It is amazing anybody survived at all, the death numbers are unbelievable.

    1. Get out of my hair. This is a distinction without a difference. I quote the editor:

      Yes, you are right, there is some misunderstanding circulating in some social media regarding the issue you asked me for information. In fact, the editors of the Journal of Molecular Structure did not decide to implement any sort of ban to articles submitted by Russian authors. This would be something I, or my colleagues, could never accept. Our Russian colleagues, as all our colleagues from all around the world, deserve us maximum respect.

      However, it was decided by the editors of the journal to not consider manuscripts authored by scientists working at Russian Institutions, in result of the humanitarian implications emerging from the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation. This position is temporary and shall apply until the refugees (whoever they are, Ukrainians, Russians, or of any other nationality) have conditions to return to their homes, their jobs, and join their families.

      . . . Let me insist, the decision is not directed to Russian scientists, who certainly deserve all our best esteem and respect, but to Russian institutions, which support (and are funded) the Russian Government. Besides, the Russian Academy of Science has not given any official message in support of the victims nor against the violation of the international law by the Russian government. Moreover, as I also said above, the decision it is a temporary action (hopefully for short time). We defend that human rights have to be respected and protected in any situation. Also, this is a matter of conscience of the editors, and, as mentioned above, not formatted by any political judgement of the situation but only by the humanitarian consequences of the political acts that decided such an unfortunate series of events.

      So yes, they have banned for the moment all papers by scientists working in Russia. And that is exactly what I quoted in my post about what the editors told the reviewer and forced that reviewer to write to the authors.

      “Thank you for reviewing this manuscript. I have to inform you that the editors of the Journal of Molecular Structure made a decision to ban the manuscripts submitted from Russian institutions. You must know that it is a ban on Russian institutions and not a judgment on scientists. Therefore I cannot accept the manuscript.

      So yes, I reported exactly what was true. Nor did I say the ban was permanent, as there was no information about this. It was a boycott of scientists working in Russian institutions.

      The editor’s overly long letter does not contradict a word of what I have reported, so I am not issuing a correction. But I will admonish you for wasting my time, and were this not a family-oriented website, I’d have a few more choice words to say to you.

  23. Putin, as many people before him, such as Napoleon, Hitler, and Stalin, reveals how one person out of billions can change the world, and not for the better. This is why world peace can only exist for a short time, and now that one person can destroy the world.

  24. This whole thing challenges perceptions of the Russians in many ways. They do not seem to have properly organized logistic chains, and are mostly using unencrypted communications.
    Throwing masses of conscripts at the enemy is not an effective modern strategy, especially when the parents of the conscripts are watching on liveleak via VPN.
    What possible advantage lies in shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant?

    The best resolution I can see is Putin being deposed internally by moderates within Russia. Even that is very dangerous.

    Ukraine has won a moral victory, at least. Putin is a bully, and his absurd claims to denazify one of the two European countries with Jewish leaders defies reason. Plus, he is dropping cluster munitions on schools.

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