Women soldiers in Ukraine don AK-47s to protect their homes. Meanwhile attacking Russian conscripts wonder why the hell Putin is waging this insane war.
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On 24 Feb 2022 (Day 1) Russia's President Vladimir Putin finally unleashed his horrific invasion of Ukraine. The buildup of 190,000 Russian soldiers along Ukraine's borders had been obvious for months. As expected, Putin unleashed the war immediately after the Beijing Winter Olympics (fulfilling his promise to China's President Xi Jinping.) Putin's 2014 conquest of Crimea also immediately followed his own 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.)
This ghastly war has been superbly covered by videos on YouTube. My purpose here is to show you part of this coverage as an annotated videography. I've been transfixed by this invasion for several reasons.
First and foremost, I have a multi-decade interest in existential threats to humanity of which the most likely is global thermonuclear war. As of March 2022 the Doomsday Clock stands at 100 seconds to midnight.
The Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
Second, this invasion is an atavistic throwback to centuries past when kings and emperors conquered countries at their whim. This totally arbitrary invasion of Ukraine by Putin is reminiscent of Hitler's 1939 invasion of Poland. As of 2022 Russia has 5,977 nuclear weapons while the United States has 5,428. Globally, there are a total of 13,080 nuclear warheads each capable of destroying a city. A standoff between Russia and NATO countries, eg Poland, on Ukraine's western border, might easily tip into nuclear catastrophe. The time is long past for this kind of naked aggression to cease.
Third, Putin has shown he doesn't care at all about civilian deaths. He helped Bashar al-Assad kill or displace millions in Syria. In 1995 he reduced the Chechen capital of Grozny to rubble. Putin runs Russia as a mafia boss kleptocracy where he has stolen hundreds of billions of dollars from his citizens. Using his gang of security thugs he maintains a reign of fear and repression. He lives in an echo chamber surrounded by a small circle of yes-men (the siloviki,), who dare not contradict him. In this he is similar to Kim Jong Un of North Korea, Bashar al-Assad of Syria, and (to a lesser extent) his "best friend" President-for-life Xi Jinping of China.
What can we in the West do about nuclear-armed autocrats like Putin? Basically, almost nothing — just turn up the heat and hope someone in his inner circle gets rid of him.
Chechnya's capital city Grozny after the Russians bombed it in 1995
As Russia's horrific invasion of Ukraine proceeds, I present here an annotated collection of some favorite YouTubes. A video qualifies if it includes outstanding reporting, courageous first-hand battlefield footage, discussion by top Russia analysts, foreign ministers or defense ministers, or revelations of crucial developments. I've also included outstanding videos on Ukraine's history and weaponry and the remarkable story of President Zelensky.
There are uplifting aspects to this war: first, the incredible courage shown by Ukraine's inspiring president, Volodymyr Zelensky and the millions of Ukrainian fighters; second, the unified response in the West by European and Asian democracies and the closing of ranks in the US between Democrats and Republicans who stand united on this issue; third, the apparent willingness of many in the West to endure some sacrifice to help the Ukrainian cause, as eg exemplified by Premier Olaf Scholz's discontinuation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and willingness to supply arms to Ukraine. On 8 March 2022 our President Joe Biden also announced that the US would no longer buy Russian oil. Furthermore, many US-based multi-nationals, eg all the Big Oil majors (BP, Shell, Total, ExxonMobil), Apple, Boeing, IBM, Microsoft, Visa, et al. have incurred massive losses in Russia by discontinuing operations there — even MacDonalds and Starbucks.
Ukraine's courageous President Volodymyr Zelensky
As I write this on 9 March 2022 it seems likely that Putin will escalate his bombardment of Ukrainian cites. Pundits even speculate that he may use poison gas and tactical (battlefield) nukes. Basically, there is nothing restraining him. Here in the US in mid-March, I'm relieved that Putin's skilled bands of hackers haven't yet laid waste to our banks, stock market, water or electricity.
This is the way the world ends. (Read about the Fermi Paradox; nuclear cataclysm has always been my most likely explanation for the apparent absence of extraterrestrials — they self-terminated.)
Comedian Stephen Colbert suggests McDostoevsky's as a replacement
for the newly closed McDonald's stores in Russia (now a "no-fry zone.")
How about a turnip/borscht Sadness Meal, comrade?
As this unfolds I'll compile a list of noteworthy YouTube videos. Note, I cannot possibly cover the firehose of news about the war. Instead, I've selected only a few topics, concepts, and controversies.
Click on any of the topics below to go that section.
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom (now free on YouTube)
The catalyst for my preparing this article was one brilliant video:
Once I started watching it — it's mandatory viewing — I couldn't turn it off. This is a riveting Netflix original documentary made in 2015. Netflix has now made it available free on YouTube where it had received 460k views in 4 days (as of 8 March 2022.)
The above video came to my attention when strongly recommended several times by Sean Penn in this 4 March 2022 interview by Anderson Cooper on CNN. This interview garnered three million views in 4 days. Penn had just returned from Kyiv where he interviewed Volodymyr Zelensky. Penn's philanthropic organization CORE is assisting Ukrainian families fleeing the violence. I repeat Penn's statement “President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people have risen as historic symbols of courage and principle. Ukraine is the tip of the spear for the democratic embrace of dreams. If we allow it to fight alone, our soul as America is lost."
For "ancient history" this 13 Jan 2022 video Will Russia Invade Ukraine? Start Here provides a concise background of Ukraine's history since 1991 when the Soviet Union broke up. (Not mentioned in her account is NATO's persuading Ukraine to return its nuclear weapons to Russia.)
5 March 2022: Wendover Productions released its video The Failed Logistics of Russia's Invasion of Ukraine, which has since garnered 3.4 million hits. It's main emphasis is on the Russian army's chronic failure to adequately supply its troops. To quote General Pershing of WW1: "soldiers win battles, logistics wins wars." Ukrainian fighters knocked out unprotected fuel trucks that contributed to the bizarre 40 mile long stalled line of tanks outside of Kyiv. Unfortunately, the Russians can simply stand off in Belarus, Crimea, and the Donbass and level cities with artillery and missiles.
America's shoulder-fired Javelin anti-tank missile (target needs to be within four km)
Not an Iraqi War vet? Infantryman Chris Cappy was ten years ago and here he explains why the FMG-148 Javelin is his favorite anti-tank weapon. With its infrared guidance it's a "fire and forget" system. But, even the latest models have a range of only 4 to 5 km. The US and its NATO partners have given thousands to Ukraine.
Do they work? You bet! Hundreds of Russian tanks, mobile artillery, and armored vehicles have been destroyed in the first weeks of March 2022. 280 Russian Tanks Destroyed by Ukraine Using US Javelin Missile.
The other highly effective American weapon system in widespread use in Ukraine is the stinger missile system (US Military Systems channel.) Unfortunately, neither the javelins nor stingers are of much use against high-flying bombers, jets, or distant artillery. Stingers are limited to an 8km range and 11,000 feet elevation.
Ukraine's first family
What a guy! YouTube is replete with great clips. Here are a few:
Ultra-concise bio from ABC News: President Zelensky (in two minutes.)
Another concise backgrounder (the key facts in eight minutes):
President Zelensky: from comedian to commander-in-chief | Start Here .
And, on 14 Mar 2022, the best bio: on MSNBC: Defying Putin: Zelensky Rallies the West: Rare Videos Charting his Rise. (18 mins of pure gold!)
8 March 2022 Ukraine's President addresses the House of Commons (British Parliament.) This outstanding address is remiscent of Churchill's address at the onset of Hitler's attack on Britain. Thunderous applause!
On a lighter note (in happier times and for my many dance friends) here is Volodymyr Z. competing on Dance with the Stars (in Ukraine in 2006).
Another must-watch video that was just posted on 16 March 2022 is from PBS | Putin's Road to War . I had previously watched the individual interviews with reporters and analysts that comprise the contents of this outstanding documentary including pieces with Susan Glasser, Julia Ioffe, and Eugene Robinson —all outstanding. See Commentariat below.
Another in this same superb PBS series is this: Putin's Road to War: Kori Schake (interview) | FRONTLINE, recorded 14 March 2022. In common with other interviewees for this broadcast Ms Schake has been alarmed by the extent of Putin's isolation from his advisors and his willingness to risk Russia's economy for the sake of his imperial ambitions. She reminds us what an incredible gift the Trump presidency was for the Kremlin, as Trump endangered American alliances and pulled out of crucial treaties. She concludes reminding us that Putin has raised Russia's nuclear threat level and is now like a cornered rat.
Another superb PBS documentary on Putin's rise to power is Putin's Way | Frontline. It's garnered > 5 million views in 2 weeks! It tells how Putin rose from being an obscure operative in the KGB in Soviet East Germany to being deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. Next is how, through party loyalty and crooked dealing, Putin was able to jump to Moscow, and finally to replace aging President Boris Yeltsin. From there, at the top of a hierarchy of corruption, he was able to amass hundreds of billions of dollars and ascend from Yeltsin-style apparatchik to mafia-style czar in two decades.
Putin: the latest czar in the history of imperial Russia
And finally, I recommend PBS's Putin's Revenge, a two part 2019 documentary detailing Putin's skillfully manipulation of social media in America, which contributed to Hilary Clinton's 2016 downfall and Trump's win — a surprise that was greeted with jubilation in the Kremlin. (This is reminding me to renew my PBS subscription.)
In regard to NATO two prominent controversies have emerged that have been chewing up the airwaves. First, should America and NATO create a no-fly zone over Ukraine? Second, might NATO be to blame for Putin's starting a war?
Creating a no-fly zone has been definitively addressed by the Pentagon via its spokesman John F. Kirby here on 9 March 2022 and daily since then eg here with Andrea Mitchell on 11 March 2012 (minute 4). This 11 March VOX video also succinctly explains no-fly zones.
The Pentagon's reasoning is simple. Enforcing a no-fly zone would require jet pilots (of American or NATO origin) to shoot down Russian jets and artillery possibly even over Russia or Belarus. This is obviously escalatory and the Pentagon's primary responsiblity is to keep America safe (by, eg, lessening the chance of a nuclear conflict.) This same reasoning applies, though somewhat less, to transferring NATO-based jets to the control of Ukrainian pilots or even to high altitude capable surface to air missiles or America's advanced UAVs. The Ukrainians have made superb use of Turkish supplied Bayraktar attack drones.
This fringe concept is a popular meme largely promulgated by foreign affairs professor John Mersheimer. The notion is that we in the West have forced Russia's hand by incorporating former Eastern bloc countries like Hungary, Poland, and the Baltics into NATO and thereby threatening Russia's security. The analogy is that we in the US wouldn't want Canada or Mexico eg to be vassal states of Russia or China.
Seemingly neglected from this concept is, of course, the repressive history of the Soviet Union in those countries. The Soviet police and KGB were doing the same head bashing and killing then that Russia is doing now. The people in those countries have never wanted to be ruled by autocrats in Moscow. The expansion of the European Union has been propelled by a groundswell of popular opinion. Of course, it's understandable that Russia would not want NATO to station battlefield nukes on its border. But, NATO has complied.
The 1961 Tsar Bomb had an explosive yield of 58 million tons of tnt —
Hydrogen bombs are a must for world-class tyrants
Putin's public statements prior to his invasion about his concerns about NATO were merely a smokescreen and an excuse for an old style war of conquest. If Mersheimer's concept ever held merit, it is nauseatingly abhorent now.
If you look at the comments under Mearsheimer's YouTubes (or similarly under pro-China YouTubes) you see a flood of anonymous congratulatory comments. These are from either Russian trolls or their internet bots. The FSB (the successor to the KGB) is skilled at propanganda and disinformation and permeates Western media. I have complained to engineers at YouTube — they remove a lot of spam but doing this at scale is beyond the discernment of current AI. (This also applies to Twitter and Facebook.)
Here is Princeton Professor Steve Kotkin telling it like it is to The New Yorker's David Remnick. What's annoying to Putin is having a free, thriving independent Ukraine on Russia's border. While millions of refugees are streaming out of Ukraine, there is also no reason for young people to stay in Russia. This interview of Prof. Kotkin at Stanford's Hoover Institution is also excellent as is Part 2 here: 5 More Questions for Stephen Kotkin (Hoover Inst. 3 Mar 2022). . Kotkin notes that Kyiv was a thriving metropolis a thousand years ago when Moscow didn't even exist!Invited by interviewer Peter Robinson to address "NATO's blame," Kotkin calls this concept self-flagellation — the concept has the causality backwards (start at minute 12.) What actually happens is that the Soviets (or Russia) first represses countries which then causes them to vehemently beseech NATO for membership (and Article 5 protection ("an attack (eg by Russia) on one is an attack on all."))
Finally on a lighter note here is Comedian Trevor Noah delightfully lampooning Putin's lame excuses for his invasion. Nyet, Vladimir!
2022 September update: Ignore my March 2022 comments below about gauging the status of Russia's economy based on roubles per dollar! Since then, the rouble has been heavily manipulated. My current go-to source (among others) on the status of Russia's economy is Joe Blogs, eg this: Russia heading for economic collapse.
(Ignore the following:) One way to know whether the financial sanctions on Russia are working is simply to google "roubles per dollar." How many roubles does it take to buy a dollar. On 11 March 2022 it took 135 roubles. The value of the rouble has fallen by around 40% in a few weeks. Furthermore, the Russian stock market has been closed for two weeks. Of course, things are even worse for the average citizen, since reported inflation is over 10% and store shelves are increasingly bare. The central bank just raised its interest rate to 20% in a desperate attempt to prop up the rouble. And citizens are only permitted to withdraw $10,000 from their accounts in dollars. Russian sovereign debt is C rated (like junk bonds.) Unfortunately, this is hard on ordinary citizens and in the short term won't deter Putin nor his cronies who've stolen hundreds of billions of dollars.
The late Senator John McCain used to describe Russia as a "gas station masquerading as a country" — or a gas station with nukes. As of 11 March 2022 (following unplugging many Russian banks from the SWIFT system on international payments), the US vowed to halt the purchase of oil from Russia thus hurting its principal source of revenue. European countries are expected to follow this year, although it will take them months (to years) to find alternatives. This is particularly a bitter pill to swallow for Germany with its massive dependence on Russian natural gas and oil. Germany, whose ruling coalition is supported by its vehement Green Party, is also reconsidering its previous hasty decision to close its nuclear power plants.
America's financial sanctions on Russia have been formulated by the US Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh who explains them here on 22 Feb 2022. (He objects to the appellation "Sanctions Czar.")
Here in mid-March as the war has gone unexpectedly slowly for Putin, and the Russian economy has been clobbered with sanctions, there are rumors that Putin will turn to his "best friend" Xi Jinping for military and political assistance. This will be the key topic on 15 March 2022 when our National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan meets with his Chinese counterpart Zhao Lijian in Rome.
It is telling that Putin apparently heeded a request of Xi Jinping to postpone the invasion until after the closing ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. (Bombing cities in Ukraine in the midst of the curling competition in Beijing would've been a bad look for the Communist duo.)
The CCP's thugs dismantling democracy in Hong Kong
I've written previously on China in these essays:
Russia's economy has been the eleventh largest (and is headed downward) on a par with that of Italy and exceeded by that of South Korea. Its revenue is largely due to exports of oil and natural gas, which will increasingly be curtailed by severe sanctions.
In contrast China's 14 trillion dollar GDP places it as second only to the US. The concern of policy analysts is that China might enable Russia to escape sanctions by buying its energy assets, if not with hard currency, then perhaps by bartering for Chinese goods. The most concerning would be the sale of Chinese military hardware to assist (or backfill) the Russian military.
While China joins with Russia in its dislike of Western dominance, the consensus among the commentariat seems to be that China knows that it benefits from a stable world order and would like to be at least perceived as being neutral to maintain its international markets (and to avoid secondary sanctions.)
So, as much as Xi would love to support his buddy Putin, the prospect of China's getting further hammered by Western sanctions is unappetizing. This is made clear (15 Mar 2022) by Eurasia Group's Neil Thomas in this Bloomberg interview. And this, (from the Wall Street Journal) is even clearer: China Could Help Russia Amid Ukraine Crisis — But There are Limits.
The Russo-Ukraine War is thought to be closely followed by military analysts in Beijing for whom its course might inform their prospects for an easy conquest of Taiwan.On this topic my go-to source is the brilliant Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia and renowned Mandarin-speaking scholar: China will only invade Taiwan if victory is guaranteed.
There are a dozen or so prominent experts on Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe who have been interviewed daily since the invasion began. Here are some who are widely followed.
I never miss Fareed Zakaria's Sunday morning show GPS (global public square) on CNN. He skillfully interviews the world's leaders and foreign ministers. Here on 20 Feb 2022 he inveighs against China's economic support for Russia. It is heartening that China merely abstained in the UN from condemning Russia's invasion — Xi might've endorsed his buddy Putin's "special military operation." Here on 4 March 2022 Zakaria is interviewed on India's NDTV as he describes the shambolic Russian invasion, which he predicts will turn increasingly brutal.
The "Supreme Commentariat:" Ian Bremmer, Fareed Zakaria, and Niall Ferguson
Like Fareed Zakaria, Ian Bremmer is another foreign policy analyst of the first rank. For example, here on 11 March 2022 on TED here he discusses What the War in Ukraine Means for the World Order.
Here is Ian Bremmer 1 March 2022 presenting the case that Putin's Ukraine invasion 'dramatically worsens Russia’s strategic position in Europe' .
Former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul is another of my favorite analysts. (He is also currently at Stanford's Hoover Institution (I'm usually at the Med Center (prepandemic,) so our paths don't cross.) Here he tells comedian Stephen Colbert how Putin is Turning Russia into North Korea. Putin lives in paranoid isolation surrounded by his 3,000 man security force. You risk contradicting him at your extreme peril.
Alexander Vindman is a retired US Army lieutenant colonel who was the Director of European Affairs for the US National Security Council (the NSC) under Donald Trump. He came to national attention when he testified before Congress during the Trump-Ukraine scandal leading to Trump's impeachment for abuse of power. (Republicans would do well to find a standard bearer other than Trump (an ardent admirer of Putin) to run in the US 2024 election.) This hatchet piece from the Lincoln Project on Trump's admiration of Putin is less subtle.
Here is Col. Vindman — he is ubiquitous on the airways — arguing against America's reluctance to provide jets or a no-fly zone to Ukraine: Vindman: Ukraine Fighter Jet Hang-up 'Pretty Absurd' . My guess is that the US and NATO may soften their resistance to air support, at least to enforce a humanitarian corridor, if Putin begins to give Kyiv the "Grozny 2" or Allepo treatment. NATO finally intervened to good effect in Bosnia in 1995 when the Serbian brutality had reached a fever pitch. Providing surface to air missiles (with higher reach than that of stingers) might become acceptable.
To me Julia Ioffe went from unknown to the top rank of Russia experts in one interview here: PBS | Frontline | Putin's Road to War. (1.4 million views in 4 days!!! She is that good — I had to listen to this twice. I've also included this interview in the daily addenda below.)
She has trenchant insights into Putin's worldview. He had an unbroken string of victories through his 2014 annexation of Crimea. Trump's unexpected election in 2016 was viewed as a further win by Moscow. (Trump at Helsinki in 2018: "I trust Putin more than my own intelligence services.") Finally, our (US) bitterly divided electorate and our slinking withdrawal from Afghanistan emboldened Putin. Furthermore, his extreme isolation from even his own military's perspective catalyzed the current gross miscalculation.
Also in the same PBS Series of interviews, I strongly recommend this one (15 Mar 2022) with Susan Glass | Putin's Road to War. Starting at minute 17 Glasser reminds us of Trump as a fanboy of Putin. Particularly striking was the moment at the 2018 Helsinki Conference with Putin during which Trump is asked if there was Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trumps answers "Well, Putin says there was no interference, and I believe him (more than I do our own Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats!") Trump's prevailing over Hilary Clinton in 2016 was a monumental victory for Russia. (My aside: Republicans, please pick someone else to run in 2024.)
Justin Bronk is a fellow at the (British) Royal United Services Institute and the best analyst I've heard on the air war over Ukraine. For example, this 15 March extemporaneous interview of Justin by Ward Carroll reveals a stunning level of detail on the assets of both sides, their training, the difficulties of close air support, and the reasons for the shambolic performance of the Russians during the first two weeks.
The above analysts are all I've had time to include. (You probably already follow Anthony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, David Petraeus, et al.) The coverage of the war has been superb in all the major outlets in the US and worldwide. I also listen to academic discussions and to the foreign press eg at DW (Deutsche Welle) and to the daily press briefings from the Pentagon (via John F Kirby) and the White House (via Jen Psaki.)
Putin is brutally suppressing and jailing his citizens who protest against the war, and journalists are being silenced, jailed or worse. The project CallRussia.org is a laudable effort requesting Russian speaking volunteers to contact 40 million Russians individually by phone to let them know the truth. (Google it and then hit "translate into English.")
I welcome substantive comments on all my articles. I will only print your comments, if you grant your permission. You can post here anonymously, but to do so you should have a verifiable identity, eg a website, Linked-in ID, or Facebook page, etc. Mail comments to bob AT bobblum DOT com (with the usual syntax.)
I also include here daily events, significant developments and videos since this article was first uploaded in mid-March 2022.
12 March 2022: CNN reports that 2 million refugees have fled Ukraine. Civilian bombardment has intensified. Ukraine forces have killed three Russian generals and knocked out 337 tanks.
13 Mar 2022: Praise for this article from Bill P, Robert L, Sean B, DBY, Jay S, Kim T, David W, Peggy P, and ...
13 Mar 2022: reader (and long-time friend) Sharron Helmholz writes:
Congratulations, Bob. I just finished your excellent article and will definitely be reading it at least once more. I have also been totally absorbed by the events in the Ukraine and am frustrated that I can only send money (World Kitchen and animal rescue groups) and write to our government officials. I am furious that the despicable behavior of T****, a.k.a. Super Callous Fragile Racist Sexiest Nazi POTUS (Stephen Colbert) and his fellow GOP deplorables weakened the standing of the newly elected Zelensky, contributing to the current situation. I was very impressed by his dancing skills and can only hope that he is as nimble and successful at dancing with the czars as he was with the stars. (Don’t remember where I heard that bon mot.) BTW, my fraternal grandmother was from Kiev and emigrated here to escape the pograms. Thanks again for sharing.
I (RLB) respond:
Dear Sharron, Thanks so much for your beautiful response! I got a kick out of your Colbert lines. Unfortunately, I'm bracing for bad news from Kyiv and for the Zelenskys. Bob
PS: I (RLB) am reading Red Notice by Bill Browder (it’s an OMG true story about Browder’s years running a hedge fund in Russia despite near lethal intimidation by Putin and his oligarch cronies — highly recommended!)
I recommend this 3 March 2022 video: The War in Ukraine: An Operational Assessment; Modern War Institute (US Military Academy at West Point). This virtual panel features Dr. Rob Person from West Point's Department of Social Sciences, retired Colonel Liam Collins, PhD, who helped reform Ukraine’s defense establishment from 2016 to 2018, and Mr. Michael Kofman of the Center for Naval Analyses.
Rob Person, a professor at West Point begins with a beautifully clear explanation of the broad economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the US and Europe. He especially emphasizes the importance of crippling Russia's Central Bank, tying up half of its reserves and impeding its ability to stabilize the rouble. Michael Kofman, a military tactics expert, explains the shambolic performance shown by the Russian military during week one — the Russian soldiers themselves were caught by surprise, the planning was for a rapid decapitation of the government in Kyiv (which didn't happen), the logistical and organizational ineptitude of the Russian military, and the preliminary lack of use by the Russians of their more lethal (to civilians) artillery and air power. (He contrasts Grozny 1 (a "light trim") with Grozny 2 (a "buzzcut") — bombing it to rubble.)
13 March 2022 (Day 18 of the Invasion): News Addenda:
CNN's war correspondent Clarissa Ward bravely reports from Kyiv here. Award-winning American journalist Brent Renaud age 50 was just killed by Russian forces in Irpin. Russian troops are also sending missile strikes into Lviv adjacent to the border with Poland.
13 March 2022: CNN interviews ex-KGB agent Jack Barsky on Putin — basically, the self-styled "chess master" Putin miscalculated and ignored his advisors.
13 March 2022: RobertL39 writes: Nice work, Bob.
I think Mershimer is right in one sense: anything that makes a paranoid more paranoid contributes to his paranoia! That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it and they were right to expand. You just have to realize that it's fuel for the paranoid fire. As usual, it's NOT BINARY!!! It's not "this did it" or "that did it"---most things contribute in greater or lesser degrees.
And I hesitate to put too much stock in Kotkin because he's associated with that Think Right Tank of Hoover. Yes, I know, "guilt by association" and I think he's got it right. It just makes me nervous when I agree with people from that monstrosity.
You mention your relatives having lived in Kyiv. Did you ever enjoy the 2 Philppe Sands books, "East West Street" and "The Ratline"? They're both amazingly well-done, superb documentation and very informative.I mention them because they're centered around Sands' family (most killed by the Nazis) in Lviv, which is where East-West street is.
Thanks again for your good work and summations. They're very helpful.
13 March 2022: I (RLB) respond: Thanks so much for your note!
In re: binary thinking. You're right, of course, and everything in the realm of sociology involves multiple factors with partial causality.
In re: Stanford's Hoover Institution. Yes, they're to the right of center, but they also house some of my left of center heroes, eg former Ambassador Michael McFaul, and (even more so) former US Sec. of Defense William Perry (still involved at age 94!)
13 Mar 2022: To me Julia Ioffe went from unknown to the top rank of Russia experts in one interview here: PBS | Frontline | Putin's Road to War. (1.4 million views in 4 days!!! She is that good — I had to listen to this twice (recorded on 9 March 2022.))
She has trenchant insights into Putin's worldview. He had an unbroken string of victories through his 2014 annexation of Crimea. Trump's unexpected election in 2016 was viewed as a further win by Moscow. (Trump at Helsinki in 2018: "I trust Putin more than my own intelligence services.") Finally, our (US) bitterly divided electorate and our slinking withdrawal from Afghanistan emboldened Putin. Furthermore, his extreme isolation from even his own military's perspective catalyzed the current gross miscalculation.
13 Mar 2022: Reasons for Failure? Russian Air Force in Ukraine | Military Aviation History channel on 3 March 2022 (1.7 million views!!) Detailed analysis of Russian jets, air defense assets, tactics (and lack of coordination of ground forces.) Justin Bronk (Royal United Services Institute) at min. 18 is particularly insightful.
14 Mar 2022 (Day 19): scores of excellent YouTube posts from the major networks with war correspondents in Kyiv (and reports of journalists killed there.) But, let me draw your attention to the following outstanding presentation.
Here Former MI6 Officer, Christopher Steele at the Oxford Union (11 Mar 2022). Mr. Steele tells us about his career in the British intelligence service (somewhat different than the portrayal of "M" or the "double 0s" in the James Bond films.) — 45 mins of pure gold. He conveys the difficulty of the job to students at Oxford who're considering jobs in government service.
As with most American voters I'd mainly heard of him in connection with the Steele dossier. Republican readers who may've considered Steele to be a political hack need to listen to him here. He's a brilliant and devoted public servant. (And, please revel at the incisiveness shown by the questions from his Oxfordian audience!)
14 Mar 2022: Wonderful bio on MSNBC: Defying Putin, Zelensky Rallies the West: Rare Videos Charting His Rise. (18 minutes: pure gold)
15 March 2022 (Day 20 of the Invasion): CNN reports that leaders from Poland, Slovenia, and Czechia are on a train to Kyiv!
15 Mar 2022: As much as Xi Jinping would love to support his buddy Putin, the prospect of China's getting further hammered by Western sanctions is unappetizing. This is made clear today by Eurasia Group's Neil Thomas in this Bloomberg interview.
Same topic: this (from the Wall Street Journal) is even clearer: China Could Help Russia Amid Ukraine Crisis — But There are Limits.
15 Mar 2022: A reader just alerted me to a new website UkraineTakeShelter that is intended to help Ukrainian refugees find temporary shelter. It was developed by two Harvard students and is in 12 languages. The service is free. One can list eg unused AirBnB rooms. As of today there are three million who've left Ukraine.
15 Mar 2022: See this superb interview today of Susan Glasser on Frontline | PBS | Putin's Road to War. Starting at minute 17 she reminds us of Trump as a fanboy of Putin. Particularly striking was the moment at the Helsinki Conference with Putin where Trump is asked if there was Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trumps answers "Well, Putin says there was no interference, and I believe him (more than I do our Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats!" Trump's prevailing over Hilary Clinton in 2016 was a monumental victory for Russia. (My aside: Republicans, please pick someone else to run in 2024.)
16 Mar 2022 (Day 21 of the Invasion): President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine gives a moving speech to Congress and receives standing ovations. He thanks the US for their previous support and again urges support for expanded weaponry to "clear their skies." He shows an extremely moving video (at minute 47 - don't miss this!) of the onging destruction being wrought by Russian bombs and artillery. He suggests support at least for a humanitarian corridor so that his citizens may safely flee. (Note: this speech carries an over-the-top "graphics images warnings" on YouTube. Also note, the massive presence of Russian trolls and bots in the YouTube comments: "why should we care about Ukraine?" , "why support the defense industry?" and other tripe.") It's heartening to hear support for Ukraine from some Republican leaders — the traditional anti-Communists — from the likes of Sen. Mitch McConnell. But, led by Trump and Fox's Tucker Carlson, there's an outrageously unforgivable pro-Putin faction.
16 Mar 2022: Following Zelensky's address to Congress, US President Biden pledges an additional 800 million dollars in military aid to Ukraine. This aid includes millions of rounds of ammo, more stingers and javelins, advanced radar capabilities and drones, and (high altitude) surface-to-air missile systems. For those worried about the US crossing a redline with Putin, I'd say we've already crossed it. We can help Ukrainians prevail or force a more just settlement by strengthening Ukraine's position (without involving US or NATO troops.)
17 Mar 2022: Day 22 of the Invasion: I highly recommend this new, outstanding video from PBS | Putin's Road to War freely available on YouTube. As you'll see in my previous posts, I've watched the detailed source material for this including interviews with analysts and reporters Susan Glasser, Julia Ioffe, and Eugene Robinson — all superb.
17 Mar 2022: I also recommend this brief CNN interview with Illinois Congressman (R) Adam Kinzinger. He goes into detail about anti-aircraft missiles with longer range than stingers (which top out at 11,000 feet.) He's asked if he'd consider running against Trump in 2024. Unfortunately, he says "no."
17 Mar 2022: Also highly recommended is today's interview with Bill Browder of Hermitage Capital. I also urge you to read Browder's justifiably famous book Red Notice, the gripping story of his time as a hedge fund investor in Russia and the subsequent attempts by Putin to steal his assets and have him killed, and the tragic story of the torture death of his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky. I just finished the book (check out the reviews) — I couldn't put it down. Bill Browder is intimately familiar with Putin's ruthlessness. In today's interview he advocates and provides the rationale for a no-fly zone and for declaring Putin a war criminal.
17 Mar 2022: I absolutely love this heartfelt message to the people of Russia from former California governor (and "Terminator") Arnold Schwarzenegger. He tells the story of his father in the Nazi army fighting the Russians — a boy just following orders who was broken in body and spirit by the experience.
18 Mar 2022: Bob Hink: a great friend from my youth (and one of the handsome scholars in my 5th and 6th grade pictures here,) writes:
"Bob: after all these years, I now find out about your mom’s family. My mom’s dad was born in Kiev. My mom’s mom was from Belarus. ... My Uncle Vic was a WWII glider pilot, and my Uncle Nick was in the first volunteer UDT unit ( Underwater Demolition Team, Frogmen, now Seals ). Despite what her son’s did, my grandmother was accused of being a Commie by Joe McCarthy ( she lived in Hollywood and was friends with members of the Hollywood Ten ). Had my dad not been a member of General Omar Bradley’s staff during the Battle of the Bulge and was thereby able to contact the right people regarding his mother-in-law, I still don’t like thinking about what might have happened to her."
18 Mar 2022: I (RLB) respond: How great to hear from you, Bob! (aside: as previously noted my mother's family immigrated from Kyiv.) My father's family was from Bucharest. My dad was a sergent in Europe from D-Day plus 5 (June 11th 1944) to VE Day when he returned to his bride in SF. His four years in the army made a lasting impression. I commemorate every June 6th by reading some of his love letters to my mother and by watching Saving Private Ryan.
18 Mar 2022 (Day 23 of the Invasion): MSNBC's Ari Melber describes Russia's death toll of 7,000 soldiers more than the US lost in 20 years in the Middle East. Russia is increasingly relying on indiscriminate bombing and artillery attacks on civilians.
18 Mar 2022: Here former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul decries the seemingly insane Pro-Putin Wing of the GOP | Echoes Kremlin Disinformation. See comments (at minute 5+) by J D Vance, by Rep. Madison Cawthorn, and by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. The GOP sorely needs to distance itself from these individuals. Their anti-Ukraine comments are fodder for prime time state-sponsored TV in Russia (as were the many infamous pro-Putin comments by Trump.) At least Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is willing to denounce Putin and support further arms to Ukraine. The GOP has traditionally been staunch in its anti-Communist position — remember Joe McCarthy? The current support of Putin by some GOP members is possibly a residual from Trump's fanboy adoration of the Russian strongman.
19 Mar 2022 (Day 24 of the Invasion): Two brief updates on the major events of the past 24 hours. First, an interview with ex-CIA director Leon Panetta by CNN's Wolf Blitzer. And, second, this update today from Sky News. To summarize, while Russian ground troops are making halting progress, the Russians have resorted to more missile strikes on civilians and infrastructure. Three million Ukrainians have fled the country and 6.5 million are internally displaced.
20 Mar 2022 (Day 25 of the Invasion): Today's interview of Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press is excellent. Sen. Murphy is on the Foreign Relations Committee and says "there is no redline (beyond which US involvment would be constrained.)" Rather, he favors a proportionate escalation of United States and NATO's involvement as Russia increases its already blatant war crimes. Murphy's clear thinking on this is matched by that of Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois), widely celebrated for his principled apolitical stands (uncommon among Republicans.)
20 Mar 2022: "Lanonymous" writes: "Thanks so much for sharing your essay! Really great reading and wonderful explanation of this horrible invasion of the Ukraine by Putin. Zelensky has proven to be such a great leader for the Ukranians.
20 Mar 2022: Here's a superb CNN update of the battlefield by Gen. David Petraeus with Jake Tapper. If Russian troops and equipment get within range, it gets knocked out. Five Russian generals have been killed. Unfortunately, the Russians are now resorting to indiscriminate missile attacks.Here MilitaryTechNews reports the first use of the dreaded thermobaric weapon system. Also reported today: a tally of Russia's incredible losses since 24 Feb 2022.
20 Mar 2022: I highly recommend any online commentary on the war provided by Justin Bronk, who is a fellow at the (British) Royal United Services Institute and the best analyst I've heard on the air war over Ukraine. For example, this 15 March extemporaneous interview of Justin by Ward Carroll reveals a stunning level of detail on the assets of both sides, their training, the difficulties of close air support, and the reasons for the shambolic performance of the Russians during the first two weeks.
21 Mar 2022 (Day 26 of the Invasion): a reader sends this image and this quotation:
“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.” (Immanuel Kant)
22 Mar 2022 (Day 27 of the Invasion): the same reader also alerts me to this insightful article by the Pulitzer Prize winning Russia expert, Anne Applebaum, as it appeared in The Atlantic, 12 Dec 2019: The False Romance of Russia. The subtitle is "American conservatives who find themselves identifying with Putin's regime refuse to see the country for what it really is."
This article provides an answer to the quandry I posed above; to put it bluntly, "what the hell is up with the Pro-Putin wing of the Republican Party?" (That includes, among others, Trump and his buddy Fox's Tucker Carlson.)
Here are a few crucial paragraphs:
But in the 21st century, we must also contend with a new phenomenon: right-wing intellectuals, now deeply critical of their own societies, who have begun paying court to right-wing dictators who dislike America. And their motives are curiously familiar. All around them, they see degeneracy, racial mixing, demographic change, “political correctness,” same-sex marriage, religious decline. The America that they actually inhabit no longer matches the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant America that they remember, or think they remember. And so they have begun to look abroad, seeking to find the spiritually unified, ethnically pure nations that, they imagine, are morally stronger than their own. Nations, for example, such as Russia.
The pioneer of this search was Patrick Buchanan, the godfather of the modern so-called alt-right, whose feelings about foreign authoritarians shifted right about the time he started writing books with titles such as The Death of the West and Suicide of a Superpower. His columns pour scorn on modern America, a place he once described, with disgust, as a “multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial, multilingual ‘universal nation’ whose avatar is Barack Obama.” Buchanan’s America is in demographic decline, has been swamped by beige and brown people, and has lost its virtue. The West, he has written, has succumbed to “a sexual revolution of easy divorce, rampant promiscuity, pornography, homosexuality, feminism, abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, assisted suicide—the displacement of Christian values by Hollywood values.”
This litany of horrors isn’t much different from what can be heard most nights on Fox News. Listen to Tucker Carlson. “The American dream is dying,” Carlson declared one recent evening, in a monologue that also referred to “the dark age that we are living through.” Carlson has also spent a lot of time on air reminiscing about how the United States “was a better country than it is now in a lot of ways,” back when it was “more cohesive.” And no wonder: Immigrants have “plundered” America, thanks to “decadent and narcissistic” politicians who refuse to “defend the nation.” You can read worse on the white-supremacist websites of the alt-right—do pick up a copy of Ann Coulter’s Adios America: The Left’s Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole—or hear more extreme sentiments in some evangelical churches. Franklin Graham has declared, for example, that America “is in deep trouble and on the verge of total moral and spiritual collapse.”
You get the idea. This article goes a long way to answer the apparent paradox of the traditionally anti-Communist GOP transforming itself (for a segment of the GOP — but not all) into Russian fanboys.
While we're on politics, the ideological basis of the primate wing of the Republican Party has been on full display during the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson (KBJ.) This is the usual "South Will Rise Again" racism that killed > 2% of the US population during our Civil War in the 1860s.
BTW, if you think I'm a dupe of the Left, think again. My politics are most aligned with public intellectual Sam Harris, Making Sense and comedian Bill Maher. I favor smaller government, slimmed down regulations, Big Tech (and capitalism, in general), control of our borders, higher education standards, and reduced helicopter cash from the Fed (but also a massive increase in the IRS's budget and less welfare for billionaires.) The woke movement is simply a great booster for Fox/ Tucker Carlson devotees (and is taking America away from what should be our ultimate goal — a society blind to race.) The best way to advance race relations is to be, for example, an outstanding jurist (KBJ) and then face down the Jim Crow senators at your Supreme Court hearing.
BTW, the best near-in method of addressing political extremism may be by going to open primaries and ranked choice voting, superbly explained here on CNBC. Currently, the loudest, most extreme wings on the left and the right control the narrative and the candidates. We need a system that favors the voices of reason in the middle. (Don't get me started about a senatorial system that grants two senators to Wyoming and two to California!)
22 Mar 2022: Stoic Finance is succinct here: China's Collapse Just Got Much Worse. Their problems include a massive reliance on debt finance, a collapse of the value of their real estate (basically the sole investment of most Chinese families,) a massive oversupply of high-rise buildings (many unfinished,) the insane crackdown of the Party on Big Tech, rising Covid cases, and international hostility and reduced foreign direct investment.
Of course, there is plenty that China gets right (see my essay on Chinese Innovation.) Included on the list are meritocratic rule (in theory,) emphasis on health and education, small families (now perhaps too small,) work ethic, entrepreneurialism (eg in Shenzhen,) and so on. Contrast that with this list documenting the Decline of the West from part-time political analyst Conan O'Brien.
22 Mar 2022 (Day 27 of the Invasion): I appreciated this story today from the BBC: Belarus rebels fight for Ukraine against Russia. This seems predictable but it's nice to see its extent. The leader of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, is another Putin-appointed strongman who doesn't mind jailing and killing his own people let alone Ukrainian rebels.
22 Mar 2022: I just watched this detailed analysis on Sandboxx of "Why Russia Can't Take the Skies over Ukraine." The bottom line: they're under-trained and under equipped to perform surgical strikes against Ukrainian air defenses.
22 Mar 2022: And even better is this: Not What You Think — Why Russia is INCAPABLE of Air Superiority in Ukraine — superb military aviation analysis (1.8 million views!!!) He also sets us straight on the minimal superiority of Russia's much vaunted new hypersonic missiles — basically a marketing ploy for Russian hardware sellers. (They'll need a better PR agency if they continue to struggle.),
23 Mar 2022 (Day 28 of the Invasion): Wendover's YouTube site is terrific. For example, this: The Sanction-Fueled Destruction of the Russian Aviation Industry. "In three weeks their aviation industry has been set back three decades." Russia has seized hundreds of airliners that they leased from Western firms. But, good luck flying them when they run out of spare parts. And where are you going to fly them? Superb reporting.
23 Mar 2022: This today from Wired: : A Mysterious Satellite Hack has Victims far beyond Ukraine. Russia has knocked out an important satellite mediated broadband network in Europe. I'm surprised (and relieved) that we in the US can still access our banks and still have internet access and power. One month into this war and still no losses in the US similar to the Colonial Pipeline attack?
23 Mar 2022: A Plot to Kill Putin. This has been widely reported and may just be wishful thinking.
23 Mar 2022: These daily briefings by MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell of General David Petraeus are good. However, I'm usually far more interested in the quality and quantity of armaments being supplied by the West to Ukraine as reported on by several superb websites: Sandboxx, Crux, Ward Carroll, any interview with Justin Bronk, Not What You Think, et al. I'm anxiously awaiting strikes on the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the Russian artillery emplacements, and cruise missile launch sites and airbases. (Whether or not Putin is a war criminal is so much blather.)
23 Mar 2022: If you only have time to listen to one policy analyst on China make it Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia and head of the Asia Society Policy Institute. He never disappoints. China is in some distress. It's economy is flagging; its Big Tech firms are being immolated by the doctrinaire Communists in Beijing; it's real estate industry (eg Evergrande) is going up in smoke; and hostility from the West has seldom been greater. Will that reduce Xi Jinping's chances of being reappointed for an unprecedented third term in November, 2022 at the National Party Congress? Yes (possibly reduced from 100% to 99%.) Beijing, normally strictly mercantilist, is navigating tricky waters in its relationship with Moscow. The possibiliy of sanctions on it are reducing enthusiasm for Xi's supporting his BFF Putin.
I've written previously on China in these essays:
23 Mar 2022: Superb coverage today (2 million views!!) of the war in this video from on DW (Deutsche Welle). Ukraine's soldiers are vastly outnumbered and out-equipped by Russia with it's sub launched cruise missiles and vast air power. The presentation by British military strategist Frank Ledwidge is superb. Russian command is totally top-down, whereas the Ukrainian force is dynamic and adaptable. Tactical nukes are a part of the Russian escalatory schema. However, if Russia were to cross that bridge, the direct involvement of NATO would be certain.
24 Mar 2022 (Day 29 of the Invasion): CNN just now reports that a Russian military ship has been destroyed in Berdyansk. I'm anxiously hoping for the Ukrainians to receive long distance precision guided missiles that can strike ships in the Black Sea and destroy missile launch sites in Russia and Belarus.
24 Mar 2022: Here is a brave BBC war correspondent at the frontline in Kharkiv: Ukraine War special report: soldiers in Kharkiv take on the Russian army - BBC News.
24 Mar 2022: From NPR: A Month into the Russian-Ukraine War: What Happened today (March 24)
24 Mar 2022: For China watchers there can't possibly be a current (today,) more authoritative presentation than this: The Dangers of a Catastrophic Conflict Between the U.S. and Xi Jinping’s China. Here is supreme master of all things PRC, Kevin Rudd (former Prime Minister of Australia and head of the Asia Society Policy Institute) being interrogated by foreign policy guru Ian Bremmer, head of the Eurasia Group. Kevin Rudd: war with China is not inevitable but we need guardrails to prevent escalation. Bremmer asks "what's your greatest current concern?" Rudd answers that (in common with Putin) Xi is so isolated and mainly informed by a circle of intimidated yes-men that he underestimates the strength and resolve of the West (in its ability to ratchet up sanctions on China.) Asked about decoupling of markets, Rudd answers: this would hasten the deceleration of China's economy (which is largely export driven.)
24 Mar 2022: Rick Stengel is good here in this MSNBC interview today: "NATO needs to get toughter. Every time NATO says "we will defend every inch of NATO territory" Putin hears "and the rest is for me!" I (RLB) thought the NATO meeting in Brussels that Biden attended today was largely a non-event. A photo-op of our unity might be marginally useful but won't deter Putin.
24 Mar 2022: Turkey shoot in Ukraine: BAYRAKTAR TB2: Turkish drone steals spotlight. In contrast to empty words from heads of state, Turkey's Bayraktar TB2s are making a real difference in the skies over Ukraine, destroying Russian tanks.
25 Mar 2022 (Day 30 of the Invasion): One month into the war this is a concise recap from Sky News: Is Russia Failing in Ukraine (24 Mar 2022.) Russia's effort has been hampered by five major failures: 1) they underestimated the force and resolve of the Ukrainian army and people; 2) the Russians were afflicted by poor (strictly hierarchical) organization and 3) logistical failures; 4) failure to achieve air superiority due to poor training and stinger attacks, 5) anti-tank javelins and other NATO weapons supplied to Ukraine, 6) unity in the West over sanctions and massive casualty rate among Russian soldiers (> 10,000 killed) and top officers (six generals). (But a war of attrition inflicted by bombing civilians is increasingly troubling.)
25 Mar 2022: Superb interview today by MSNBC's Chuck Todd of former US Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger: China’s Strategy To ‘Quietly’ Support Russia Is ‘Not Working’ . Matt Pottinger: China wants to appear to be neutral and to be a trusted mediator. The West is not buying this deception saying "forget it, you're going to get caught." Don't try to help Russia evade sanctions and forget about providing military hardware to Russia. (Otherwise, we in the West will hammer you with sanctions.) Pottinger was one of the architects of Trump's China sanctions — he's quite good here.
25 Mar 2022: I highly recommend this two part documentary from DW of Trump and Putin. It documents in detail the long-standing Trump/Putin bromance. There were cheers in the Kremlin when Trump unexpectedly — but with significant help from Russian hackers — took the White House in 2016. And, as Trump destroyed American respectability worldwide during the next four years, it was pure triumph for Moscow.
25 Mar 2022: Here on PBS | Amanpour & Company: Richard Clarke Warns of “First Major Cyber War Between Two Powers” . Clarke notes the massive asymmetry in America's reliance on cyber infrastructure versus that of Russia. That may mean that a major cyber attack on America might require a larger, more devastating attack by us on Russia. Clarke believes that the trojan horses and trapdoors are already in place on both sides.
25 Mar 2022: Here the YouTube channel: Military Aviation History reviews Air Defense in Ukraine. This is a comprehensive primer on air defense options both active (shoot 'em down) and passive (hide out.)
25 Mar 2022: In this video Not What You Think addresses the question: Are Tanks Obsolete? The Future of Warfare. While tanks have some uses, they are lumbering, expensive beasts. Here's the bottom line: a $30,000 anti-tank missile can destroy a $10 million tank.
26 Mar 2022 (Day 31 of the Invasion): Here CNN reports on President Joe Biden's European trip and visit to Warsaw. Note, that Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dymtro Kuleba and Defense Minister Oleksil Reznikov met face-to-face with Biden after an arduous journey despite the short distance from Kyiv. While they were meeting a Russian cruise missile hit a fuel dump in Lyiv. (I'm hoping that upgraded weapons shipments to the Ukrainians will enable them to kill artillery and missile batteries and ships in Russia's Black Sea fleet.)
26 Mar 2022: This piece in today's Guardian details pledges from Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on developing defense cooperation. It also reports (junior tyrant) former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's statement that Moscow could use nuclear weapons against an enemy that used only conventional weapons.
26 Mar 2022: This is another in PBS's superb series: Putin's Road to War: Kori Schake (interview) | FRONTLINE, recorded 14 March 2022. In common with other interviewees for this broadcast she has been alarmed by the extent of Putin's isolation from his advisors and his willingness to risk Russia's economy for the sake of his imperial ambitions. She reminds us what an incredible gift the Trump presidency was for the Kremlin, as Trump endangered American alliances and pulled out of crucial treaties. She concludes reminding us that Putin has raised Russia's nuclear threat level and is now like a cornered rat.
27 Mar 2022 (Day 32 of the Invasion): Highly recommended: The Russian War in Ukraine: A Conversation with Garry Kasparov. . Here one of my favorite public intellectuals Sam Harris interviews world chess champion Garry Kasparov. Having directly experienced the heavy hand of the KGB as chess prodigy Kasparov was ascending the ranks, he knows full well the kind of thinking that informs ex-KGB spy Putin and his siloviki gang of mafia thugs. They feed on weakness.
Putin won a long string of successes in the past decade as he saw the West dither and kowtow to him. Bomb Chechnya to rubble: no problem. Same with Allepo. Invade Georgia: easy. Turn Belarus into a puppet state: no problem. Facilitate Trump's ascendancy: a surprise win. And, most recently: watch America slink out of Afghanistan — further proof that the West is in decline.
I was challenged to a $20 bet in January. I bet that Russia would invade Ukraine by the end of March. The invasion and its approximate date seemed obvious to me (as it also was to US intelligence agencies — now, actually believed by the current US president (unlike as with the Mar-al-Lago golfer-in-chief.)) Sam Harris then asks Kasparov why the US and NATO didn't stock Ukraine with weapons then (in late 2021, as opposed to waiting until the invasion had begun.) Chess grand champion Kasparov answers that it was more US dithering: our seeking Russia's cooperation in persuading Iran to re-enter the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear treaty) and seeking Russia's help in climate change initiatives. Sometimes the fecklessness of our foreign policy establishment is maddening.
27 Mar 2022: Good recap of the day's major events from ABC News: Ukrainian Forces mount huge counteroffensive. (Sporadic bombing in Lviv on Ukraine's western border with Poland; an announced (by lying Russian media) shift of focus to the east; an inane media circus around President Biden's statement that Putin needs to be removed (a seemingly minor faux pas that will be amplified in Russia's primetime news.) I ignore all the blather. What really matters is the quantity and characteristics of NATO supplied weapons with increased range.
28 Mar 2022 (Day 33 of the Invasion): a reader sends this quotation:
"It is a disasterous myth to think that if you leave Satan alone, he will leave you alone. That is like believing that the bull will not charge, because you are a vegetarian." — Mario Murillo
28 Mar 2022: Sergei Shoigu missing in action: Kremlin Says Missing Defense Minister Is Just Busy With ‘Many Concerns’ ; more hilarious bullsh*t emanating from the Kremlin. (Speculation is that Defense Minister Shoigu is a casualty of the war: missing, jailed or murdered (or just given a "time out") by Putin, or perhaps he fled the country.)
28 Mar 2022: Video blogger Jake Broe is quite good here: Russian Soldiers are Turning on Their Commanders (with Tanks!) He's talking about Russian Col. Yury Medvedev who was intentionally run over by a tank driven by one of his own pissed-off troopers. And the good news doesn't stop there. He shows a Russian primetime TV journalist proudly video-taping armaments being unloaded from a ship docked at a Ukrainian Black Sea port. Using that location as a clue, Ukrainian commandos then blow up the ship!
28 Mar 2022: I cite this video — Chinese Ambassador Reveals China's Position in Russia Ukraine War by Cyrus Janssen — for only one reason. Take a good look at the comments below this YouTube. There is not one single real comment. Every single one is from the 50 Cent Army (also called the 50 Cent Party or wumao.) The Wikipedia article is a good description of this highly coordinated wing of China's propaganda apparatus.
But what the hell are they doing in Western social media — I mean, why aren't they being restricted by YouTube? Well, doing so is beyond the capability of YouTube's AI-based filters. Their fake accounts are slowly removed from Twitter and Facebook, but it takes arduous investigative work.
As for Face the Nation interview on which Janssen is commenting. Perhaps it's worth something that Qin Gang is at least willing to show up and diplomatically prevaricate about China's neutrality and wish to restore the peace in the Russo-Ukraine war. But it's just impossible for me to imagine Xi Jinping exerting himself to persuade his best buddy Vlad Putin to cool it in Ukraine. My guess is that as Beijing is weighing Communist purity versus continued success in world markets, the money will win out. BTW, Cyrus Janssen himself is a known apologist/ lackey of the PRC. If you want more truthful commentary about China, you're far better off with SerpentaZa (that is, Winston Sterzel) or his friend Laowhy86 (Matthew Tye). I also highly recommend the YouTube channel China Uncensored with its irrepressible host Chris Chappell — the "Colbert" of political commentary about the PRC.
28 Mar 2022: Speaking of China, I've now listened twice to this superb panel discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): China's Economic Rise - End of the Road. (Note that comments are wisely turned off thus avoiding the invariable attack by Chinese trolls and bots.) This is an extraordinary group of panelists as well as audience questioners.
The first subject is China's emphases on control versus growth. The traditional focus (eg in Mao's era) was on total control by the Communist state. This had disasterous results (100% control of a state with zero % growth.) Next was the capitalist reform introduced by Deng Xiaoping (say 51% control of 10 to 20% growth — much better.) But, the PRC is allergic to distributed control (witness the clampdown on Hong Kong in 2019/2020 — clearly the bosses in Beijing were anxious to regain control.) A similar dynamic occurred with the clampdown on Jack Ma personally and Alibaba/ Ant Group and other Big Tech firms.
The panelists address the issue of "common prosperity:" an official plank of the Party. But there are two pieces to it. First, prosperity; if the economy's not growing because of mismanagement, there is nothing to distribute. (Mismanagement is typical of command economies with their five year plans rolled out from the top by corrupt officials skimming the cream.) Second is the "common" part, ie distributing the weath to the hundreds of millions of peasants who've never spent a day in high school. Again, it's expensive and slow to improve the health, education and welfare of the masses. And that means less money for other priorities (eg amassing an army to invade Taiwan, running a giant surveillance state, funding a space program, etc.
28 Mar 2022: I also highly recommend the 24 March 2022 CFR panel entitled Russia's Economy in Freefall. I've also listened to this twice. This is moderated by former CNBC star reporter Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, whom I've followed for twenty years. The panelists are well versed in the intricacies of Central Bank finance and SWIFT sanctions. They discuss the all-important question of whether China will bailout Russia from its financial woes (possibly only de minimis.)
Russia's Central Bank had built up a war chest of 630 billion dollars in reserves. So, did the sanctions on Russia cause that to evaporate? No! (The money is still there.) Did the Central Bank sanctions prevent Russia from buying stuff? Again, no! (Russia can't use that money to buy items that are specifically sanctioned, eg computer chips and armaments.) The principal restriction is actually that the Central Bank cannot use its reserves to stabilize the rouble via FX (foreign exchange.) And even there, the Bank still has 90 billion dollars worth of Chinese reminbi and a 150 billion dollar swap line that it can use for that purpose. This stricture was not however, toothless; it did cause the rouble to plummet after the onset of the invasion.
Michelle C-C asks panelists to weigh in on the fate of stranded Western assets, eg all those oil fields, natural gas wells, airplanes, and MacDonald's restaurants. Putin has said he will try to nationalize (ie seize) much of that, as Russia did in 1917. However, this will, of course, be the kiss of death for future investments by the West — and our corporations may place reciprocal claims on Russian assets.
This global decoupling started in the last few years in China and accelerated during the Covid pandemic and has now has spread to Russia. A decoupled, bipolar world (free versus autocratic) will increase inflation by reducing the efficiencies resulting from global trade (although Russia's economy is insignificant except for commodities.) Interestingly, Russia + Ukraine provide about a quarter of the world's grain; so the decreased output resulting from the war will adversely affect poor nations that are already struggling.
Besides the Russian economy's being crushed, there has also been a huge brain drain. Perhaps 100,000 young professionals have fled for safer, greener pastures. Who's left: the pensioners, military conscripts, and FSB security police.
Continuing on the effects of our sanctions, here on CNBC on 29 March is our US Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo. We will place secondary sections on all parties who assist Russia in evading sanctions. We will also directly stop the flow of all supplies used to manufacture armaments. We will also clampdown on side channels used by oligarchs to evade sanctions, eg shell corporations and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. (Note: that cryptocurrencies are not as "crypto" as you might assume.)
28 Mar 2022: Today from Radio Free Europe: Ukrainians Seize Russian Tanks After Retaking Village. — 2 million views!
28 Mar 2022: This video from the Washington Post shows the high morale and skill of an all volunteer platoon of Ukrainian fighters.
28 Mar 2022: See Former Member of Russian Parliament Fights for Ukraine | PBS Christiane Amanpour. The parliamentarian Ilya Ponomarev makes a crucial point. Although he is fighting against Russia and for liberty in Ukraine, his ultimate goal is to restore liberty to the country he loves, Russia (by defeating Putin and his gang of mafia thugs.)
29 Mar 2022 (Day 34 of the Invasion): It turns out that Putin is concerned about having his views canceled (as if he was a climate denier on a college campus.) (I'd like to cancel his ass with a javelin missile, but where did he pick up the cancel culture "vocabulistics?")
Uber-pundit of the Left, Prof. Robert Reich provides insight in today's Guardian . The answer, of course, is from his buddies Trump, Tucker Carlson, and the Republican party. (The Kremlin was pivotal in getting Trump elected.)
On his Fox News program, Carlson asked, rhetorically: “Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?” But Carlson called Ukraine “an obedient puppet of the Biden state department” and suggests Putin’s invasion was nothing more than a “border dispute”.
Putin’s lies and the lies coming from America’s extreme right are mutually reenforcing. Carlson’s Fox News segments show up in Russian propaganda. And when the American site “Infowars” resurrected an unfounded Russian claim that the United States funded biological weapons labs in Ukraine, Putin repeated the Infowars story.
(Strongmen and their allies in both America and Russia) have mythologized a “superior” culture (replete with creation stories of blood ties, motherlands, and religion) supposedly endangered by decadent forces intent on attacking and overwhelming it.
The culture wars now being orchestrated by the Republican party against transgender people, gay people, poor women seeking abortions, and schools that teach about sex and America’s history of racism, emerge from the same narrative as Putin’s culture war against a “decadent” West filled with “sociocultural disturbances.” As does the right’s claim that “secularists” have, in the words of former Trump attorney general William Barr, mounted “an unremitting assault on religion and traditional values”.
On 22 March 2022 above I cited an academic piece, arguing similarly, written by Puliter Prize winner Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic, 12 Dec 2019: The False Romance of Russia. Highly recommended.
Hail the racially pure, supreme white fatherland, whether it's America, Russia, or Nazi Germany — this is primate tribalism, not suitable for global longevity in the nuclear age.
But note: neither Trump nor Putin actually believes in this purity crap — it's all a scam for both of them. (Is Trump really a church-going, true believer following in the path of Jesus? Or is he just a self-aggrandizing, tax-scheming, made-for-tv huckster, trying to grab power and make a fast buck. Ditto for Putin (and add in the torture chambers and secret police.))
29 Mar 2022: A reader sends this article about Putin's Patriarch and the Religious Dimensions of the War. Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, provides a spiritual/ religious cover story for Putin's Holy War. Kirill describes Putin's rule as "a miracle of God, and he is loathe to endanger his cozy relationship with Putin by condemning this spiritual war of purification against Ukraine, despite a letter of protest from thousands of his priests.
29 Mar 2022: The coziness of the Russian Orthodox Church with Putin (and even under Stalin) is detailed in this video from France 24 English: Putin's Greater Russia: What's driving the invasion? Russian Orthodox Churches in Paris (and also in Myanmar and in North Korea) are granted diplomatic immunity and serve as part of Russia's surveillance network! The point is the Church and State are a single unit in Russia.
This relationship between secular and relgious leaders has other historical echoes. My favorite example of humility and piety in the White House was Donald Trump, who enjoyed broad support from evangelicals.
29 Mar 2022: I regularly watch DW's YouTube channel. DW (Deutsche Welle) presentations are in the Queen's English and are intended for an international audience (it's free and supported by the German government; perhaps, similar to the BBC or PBS.) Consider today's excellent interview How large is the discontent among Russia's political and security elite? The interviewer is Tim Sebastian; the interviewee is Russian journalist (living in London) Andrei Soldatov. The bottom line: Soldatov is not optimistic about a palace coup. Putin's 3,000 man personal security and the FSB (the modern incarnation of the KGB well known to James Bond fans) is not going to let that happen. Sebastian presses Soldatov further: how about all the dead russian soldiers coming back? Their mothers care, of course, about their sons, but much less about the atrocities that they were sent to inflict. Furthermore, many of the dead were conscripts from the hinterlands (not from Moscow or St Petersburg (so, that lessens the PR impact.)
29 Mar 2022: The importance of the KGB in assuring constant loyalty to and gratitude for the blessings of Communism is told in this riveting tale of the Cold War: The Spy and the Traitor, by Ben Macintyre. I mainly read books at bedtime, but this is way too exciting. This true-life story is about as relaxing as the world's waking up to find that Putin has nuked Kyiv and Biden has responded by destroying all Russian warships and missile batteries. Your move, Vladimir Vladimirovich!
During the 1950s, my boy scout troop visited a site like this a few miles from home. These were intended to destroy Russian bombers. Duck under your desks, kids!
29 Mar 2022: This is a nice pep talk from Joe Scarborough of MSNBC. Here, Scarborough acknowledges what everybody in the free world knows: "Putin is a killer and he's got to go." Yeah, there are babushkas in Russian villages and apparatchiks in the Kremlin who might be upset, but who gives a sh*t!
29 Mar 2022: Artur Rehi is excellent here today on his website: Ukrainians Captured Russian SU-35 Fighter Pilot. Also on his channel 3 days ago: Ukrainians Destroyed a Russian Landing Ship with a Missile.
30 Mar 2022: I recommend Jake Broe's video channel, eg Russian Soldiers are Surrendering for $10,000 in Cash. Ukrainian hackers decipher the sim cards inside the soldiers phones and then text them an offer for cash + citizenship in exchange for their tank. The goodies on this video don't stop there. The Russians are now driving around in Mitsubishi pickup trucks (he shows a convoy of them) with guns welded on the back. Also, apparently 140,000 Ukrainians have come INTO the country from abroad to volunteer to fight, so many that the army has had to turn them away for lack of equipment. In contrast Russia is having to conscript young men for cannon fodder. (This was one reason my forebears got the hell out around 1900.) Another crowd-pleaser here is the description of the insides of Russia's surveillance drones. They're worthy of having been hacked together by 15 year old American high school kids — eg using components from Sony and Olympus point-and-shoot cameras.
31 Mar 2022 (Day 36 of the Invasion): A domestic political story that made headlines yesterday was Trump's request to his buddy Putin for him to release dirt on Hunter Biden. Trump's single-minded focus on himself and his prospects for re-election in the context of a war that could go nuclear is nauseatingly abhorent. (If you're a Democrat, this is just more of Trump's usual narcissism. If you're a Republican, this is mandatory viewing! (In requesting a favor from Putin to dig up dirt on his political enemies, Trump is placing his re-election above the atrocities of the war. He is totally unprincipled and cares only about himself. There are far better qualified candidates in the GOP who deserve your support.))
31 Mar 2022: This superb piece from 60 Minutes | Australia | The Trump Religion, Could his Return Spark a Civil War is directly relevant. It reinforces Trump's blatant willingness to disregard morality, the law, and the core principles of America for the sake of his own aggrandizement. The "stable genius" huckster is similar to the "strong" tyrants that he admires.
31 Mar 2022: US Daily News reports The Russians confirm damage to a Raptor-class battleship. Also reported: the sinking of seven other ships in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. (1.4M views)
31 Mar 2022: Russian troops are retreating from Chernobyl after having experienced radiation sickness. As their tanks have disturbed the soil, the unprotected troops have fallen prey to the radiation.
31 Mar 2022: The US today imposed additional sanctions on entities abetting Russia's war. Included among these entities were firms that supply microelectronics, navigation equipment and imaging software; also included was the Kremlin's agency that deploys malware for cyberattacks. Meanwhile the US government is holding classified briefings for American firms that are in imminent danger of cyberattack.
31 Mar 2022: This CSIS panel (Center for Strategic & Internation Studies) burnishes their reputation as the foremost think tank in this space. The panelists hit all the relevant issues. As a partial summary: 1) the PRC has come away with the lesson that you can't have too many nukes — they now have 400 ICBMs, and they plan to have a 1000 by 2030. (Russia's nukes kept NATO from direct involvement in Ukraine, so our nukes will keep the US away when we invade Taiwan.) 2) The direct financial effect of the war on Taiwan has been minimal. Taiwan only exports $ 6 billion worth of stuff to Russia and almost no chips. On the other hand, ⅓ of TSMC's chips head west (to the PRC) and ⅔ head east (to Europe and the US); therefore, the heavy sanctions that China would incur, if it were to backstop Russia would have a large effect on Taiwan. 3) The Taiwanese (unlike, say, Israel or the Baltics) don't have a military culture. But Ukraine is stiffening their resolve. They're talking about increased military service and expanded weaponry including what might be needed to sustain a Ukraine-style insurgency. 4) There is huge support in Japan for defending Taiwan including the possibility of rockets that would strike targets in the PRC. 5) The US policy of strategic ambiguity wrt Taiwan's defense is a good thing (although frustrating to US patriots). The PRC's notion of the historic necessity and inevitability of Taiwanese reunion into a loving embrace with the Communists need not be overtly challenged. (We can still go a long way to beefing up Taiwan's military capabilities while being vague about what happens in the event of war.)
1 April 2022 (Day 37 of the Invasion): Russians Have ‘Lost Their Political Purpose’ In Ukraine: an excellent MSNBC interview with The Atlantic's Tom Nichols and former CIA Director John Brennan. Summary: A primary emphasis of NATO's troop training is on coordination of land, sea, and air forces. This coordination is totally lacking in Russia's attacking force. Furthermore, the goals of the attack vary from day to day and place to place; seemingly at random, the goals include punishing the civilian population for resisting, shambolically trying to capture territory, or just holding on for dear life (the Russians.) Brennan doubts that Putin will resort to chemical weapons but believes NATO is planning a definitive contingent reprisal. Meanwhile, 130,000 green Russian conscripts will soon be fresh meat for the grinder.
1 April 2022: US hands over 100 kamikaze drones to Ukrainians. These loitering munitions have a range of 40 km. There are two types: the Switchblade 300 and the larger Switchblade 600 designed to destroy armored vehicles.
1 April 2022: 5.000 Elon Musk's satellites began to be used by Ukrainian Bayraktar TB-2: Elon's SpaceX has provided 5,000 Starlink transcievers have been received by the Ukrainians. They can be used for aerial surveillance and guidance of attack drones (like the Swithblades above.) Russians have knocked out 25% of Ukraine's internet connectivity. These Starlink satellite communication stations will help restore the lost connectivity.
1 April 2022: Russian Forces ‘Taking Significant Losses’ Around Kyiv.Here MSNBC's Richard Engel reports from Kharkiv. He mentions (my favorite) news of the day: the destruction presumably by Ukrainian helicopters of a massive fuel depot inside Russia territory. And, here's another report by CNN of the same event: Russia accuses Ukraine of helicopter strike in Russian territory.
1 April 2022: Here on PBS is Christiane Amanpour reporting from Kyiv(!) She interviews the superbly knowledgeable (on Russian history and politics) Anne Applebaum: Autocracies Don’t Believe In Rules or Norms | Amanpour and Company. Applebaum reports a new trend: global autocracies (Russia, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, North Korea, (and potentially) China) linking up to reinforce one another via military shipments, surveillance equipment, and sanctions busting. The autocracies totally disregard norms and rules governing human rights and the conduct of war — every despicable behavior is ok.
1 April 2022: Grant Gallacher of VisualPolitik makes a crucial point here: Europe should accept RUSSIAN IMMIGRANTS (as soon as possible)? 200,000 of them have fled Russia since Putin declared war. These are Russia's vaunted IT professionals, lawyers, and engineers seeking a freer, better life almost anywhere even including Turkey and Kazakhstan. Of course, they'd prefer to settle in Europe but the EU only allows them tourist visas. Gallacher makes the case that this policy is insane. What could be better than having highly skilled professionals (a la H1B Silicon Valley workers) bolster your aging country's brain power. He also advises Russians to get the hell out now before Putin slams the gate shut (a la Berlin Wall.)
3 April 2022 (Day 39 of the Invasion): Chris Hayes of MSNBC (4 Mar 22) discusses Why Putin Didn’t Invade Ukraine During Trump’s Presidency. This is a riveting reminder of the importance of the role that slimeball Paul Manafort played in allowing one of Putin's cronies to prevail in a Ukrainian presidential election, and then Manafort's pivotal role in Trump's electoral triumph in 2016. Putin was delighted by this unexpected surprise. Manafort was subsequently convicted and spent two years in prison before being pardoned by Trump.
3 April 2022: Jake Broe tells us 10 Reasons Why Russia Invaded Ukraine. I've assumed it was mainly to regain the glory of the Russian empire and to suppress a potential Western ideological competitor, but he presents several compelling, more tangible reasons. 1) Putin wants Ukraine's massive oil and gas reserves, which are largely undeveloped. 2) He wants to stop Ukraine's EU/ NATO membership (Putin says "to prevent an attack"; the reality is perhaps to prevent the Article Five defense guarantee that's at the heart of NATO membership.) 3) He wants a land bridge to Russia from Crimea, which he captured in 2014. 4) He wants to control the water supply to Crimea from the Dnieper River. 5) He wants complete control of the Sea of Azov. 6) He wants religious control (this is obscure and has to do with Ukraine's Eastern Orthodox Church having split off from the control of Putin's buddy the Patriarch Kirill.) 7) Putin wants Ukraine as his personal trophy to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the Soviet Union and to cement his place in the pantheon of Russia's Czars. 8) To test his newest weapons (eg their "hypersonic" missiles.) Weapons developers love to see their munitions actually used on the battlefield. 9) To impress China and other weapons buyers (Putin will need a major PR makeover after this disaster.) Broe breaks down Russia's armaments sales and buyers in detail. From 2016 to 2020 weapons sales brought in $28 billion with sales to 45 countries. 10) To enslave the Ukrainian population for work in the gulags and also to serve as hostages.
3 April 2022: The major news story of the past two days has been the retreat of Russian forces from north of Kyiv and the butchery and destruction they've left in their wake. This story is gruesome, well covered by all the major networks, and does not need to be linked here.
5 April 2022 (Day 41 of the Invasion): I listened today to this superb (31 March) France 24 debate: Can India stay out of it? While West sanctions Russia, Delhi maintains historic ties. This issue is surprisingly complex. First, why is there any semblance of alliance between democratic India and autocratic Russia? For decades India has tried to strike a neutral stance in order to buy weapons from Russia and also to buy oil. For that reason it voted merely to abstain in the UN General Assembly vote to condemn the Russian invasion. India has just purchased 12 million barrels of discounted oil from Russia and also needs to import spare parts from Russia for its aging military equipment. Interestingly, our (US) sanctions architect Daleep Singh was just in India to cajole the Indian government not to go to far in sanctions busting. The price of energy to consumers is a big deal in Indian politics just as it will be during the coming US midterms and imminently in France.
5 April 2022: This panel held today by Stanford's Hoover Institution is also superb. The panel, Soviet Reunion, is hosted by journalism prof. Bill Whalen and the panelists (the "Goodfellows") are former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, political historian Niall Ferguson, and US National Security Advisor and retired general H.R. McMaster. They hit many of the crucial issues of the war. The news of the day is the shift of the battlefield away from Kyiv and to eastern Ukraine where war has been raging for eight years. Putin wants to secure his "independent states" in the Donbas and secure a land bridge between Crimea and Russia. Battle in this region is quite different from the urban terrain in which Ukrainians have been so successful. This is wide open terrain (no place to hide) in which the war will resemble the classic tank battles of WW2. So, the Ukrainians desperately need tanks, jets, long range artillery, and the panelists agree that NATO must provide those weapons ASAP. If the Ukrainians falter they risk becoming encircled as happened to the Nazis at the Battle of Stalingrad. This would be a crippling blow. H. R. McMaster is particularly ticked off by the timid pace of the US and NATO at providing increased weaponry. This is costing Ukrainian lives and could lead to attrition and defeat. Putin must not win (lest he be further emboldened.) Amb. McFaul, who's dealt with Putin for decades, admonishes us not to expect Putin to be deposed. There is simply no one there to do it (and certainly not any of the rich oligarchs nor even the FSB/ Army siloviki, all of whom depend on Putin for their wealth and power. Ferguson cautions about the non-zero possibility of a desperate Putin exploding a tactical nuke. How would the West respond?
5 April 2022: There is simply nobody on the "airwaves" with more expertise on military aviation than Justin Bronk, a research fellow of the Royal United Services Institute. Here again he is interviewed by expert Ward Carroll. Simply by looking at propaganda broadcast footage of Russian jets he can infer their origin, their heading, their missions and capabilites simply by looking at their weapons loads and still frames of their instrument settings. For example, the jets carry electronic interference gear when that will be useful in theater. Similarly, their under wing munitions include radiation following missiles that home in on surface to air batteries that are tracking them. (As a Ukrainian gunner, once you've got a lock, you need to rapidly turn off your radar.)
6 April 2022 (Day 42 of the Invasion): Here Walter Isaacson interviews former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers: On Sanctions: The West has Cowered and Dithered. Summers is characteristically accurate and concise. Our sanctions need to be much tougher. Yes, it would hurt American consumers, but not as much as consumers in Mariupol have been hurt. So, we need to drive less and wear sweaters in winter: big deal! We need to stop the flow of Russian oil and gas. And, we need to drive the Russian economy into default. He notes the rouble has recoverd to its pre-war level and Russia is now making just as much money from energy sales as before (because of the huge increase in energy prices.) Note that Summers predicts with probability ⅔ a "hard landing" of the US economy within two years. It happens every time unemployment is < 4% and inflation is > 4%. In the past year the Fed has blown it by not raising interest rates.
7 April 2022 (Day 43 of the Invasion): Today the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted to suspend Russia from its Human Rights Council.
The U.S.-led push garnered 93 votes in favor, while 24 countries voted no and 58 countries abstained. A two-thirds majority of voting members in the 193-member General Assembly in New York - abstentions do not count - was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
Following the vote, the Russian UN ambassador said the vote was illegitimate and "we quit." After which, the Ukrainian UN ambassador said (and I paraphrase loosely): "you can't quit; we already fired your ass!"
7 April 2022: As the Russians shift their efforts to the east to expand and secure their hold on the Donbas, President Zelensky urges his citizens there to get out. Unfortunately, they are actively blocked from fleeing to safety. Russia wants them to continue to enjoy the blessings of Communism — enjoy it or die!
7 April 2022: I highly recommend the YouTube channel VisualPolitik EN: global politics clearly explained. Their latest is Why isn't China supporting Putin in Ukraine? While the CCP's (Chinese Communist Party's) propaganda machine has portrayed fellow Communist Vald Putin as Xi Jinping's best buddy, eg during the Beijing Winter Olympics, the rulers in Beijing are not idiots. They appreciate having a stable world order to enhance the sale of Chinese products; they don't want to succumb to the same sanctions that are being aimed at Russia; they value (selectively) the principle of national autonomy; supporting mass murders is a bad look; and Putin's poorly organized, unmotivated army is losing.
7 April 2022: Here CRUX provides an excellent summary of today's political developments. These include Russia's being kicked out of the UN's Human Rights Council (note the rogues' gallery of pariah states that take Russia's side) ; the transparent fibs of Russia's Lavrov and Peskov (some guys'll do anything for a rouble); the shift of the war to the plains of eastern Ukraine where it will resemble the tank battles of WW2; and the plea of Ukraine to NATO for heavy weapons to fight that battle.
8 April 2022 (Day 44 of the Invasion): Here from the Financial Post, Bill Browder: Ukraine is small taste of what's to come from Putin. In his previous book Red Notice.author and international investor Bill Browder told about his harrowing experiences in and out of Russia as an early investor in post-glasnost Russia. In his current book Freezing Order, soon to be released, he tells of his decade long fight to survive in the face of Putin's attempts to have him killed.
Putin jailed and tortured to death Browder's former attorney, Sergie Magnitsky; and Putin would love to do the same to him. Through Browder's concerted efforts the US and many of its allies passed "Magnitsky Acts" which have enabled the emplacement of financial sanctions on tyrants like Putin and their henchmen. However, Putin doesn't care about his countrymen being impoverished by sanctions as long as he retains his power and wealth.
And here Browder tells the New York Times, if a company stays in Russia it's like doing business in Nazi Germany.
9 April 2022 (Day 45 of the Invasion): The war headline today is UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's surprise visit to Kyiv and his pledge of 120 armored vehicles and anti-ship missiles to Ukraine. I am particularly jazzed by the promise of the Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Depending on the version or"block" the Harpoons have a range of 120 to 220 km and with a 500 pound warhead can sink a Russian ship. That should help keep the invaders away from Odessa.
Britain's PM Boris Johnson ascends a notch in my view by taking a firm stand with Ukraine's President Zelensky (and in Kyiv, no less.)
9 April 2022: I had never heard of author and political analyst Peter Zeihan but I enjoyed this 27 March interview: The World at War. (Ignore the underwhelming comments of the interviewer — particularly his shilling for crypto/ digital gold at the end.) Zeihan is impressive with his detailed analysis of the export flows from Russia and the ramifications of their imminent disruption. Here's a factoid: post-invasion, the price of natural gas is now seven fold higher in Europe than in the United States — and, because of this, the EU will not be manufacturing fertilizer. Or this: two billion people will be adversely affected by the curtailed export of wheat from Russia.
9 April 2022: A number of developing countries are about to go broke, having been pushed over the edge by the war. Here, a private equity expert details the problem: Joe "Blogs" : Pakistan needs urgent IMF bailout; currency crisis, Imran Khan Outsted. While you (rich Westerner) may not be overly concerned about the plight of Pakistan's 225 million people, it should be concerning that many other middle tier countries may also be driven to default. These countries all have negative trade balances — their exports are minimal but they import most of their oil and grain. The default of these economies will contribute to a global recession (as if Covid, excessive financial stimulus, pre-existing inflation, and soaring commodity prices were not problems enough.)
10 April 2022 (Day 46 of the Invasion): Here on CNN General David Petreaus provides a good summary of Putin's Next Moves in Ukraine. To summarize: the Russian attack will focus on the Donbas region in the east and will now be led by General Alexander Dvornikov, the notorious "butcher of Syria." Dvornikov hopes to bring his troops down from the north and up from Mariupol to encircle and trap the Ukrainians fighting in the Donbas. This will be a WW2 style tank battle in which Russia has a decided advantage. Putin would like to wrap it up by May 9th when he'll host a giant pageant called Victory Day that celebrates the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.
10 April 2022: This is a concise update of the US stance on weapons for Ukraine from US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan today on Meet the Press: Weapons Are Arriving Every Day. The bottom line: we are attempting to give the Ukrainians every weapon system they want either from our stocks or from those of NATO partners. (There are complications in transferring jets but everything else is in play.) Our government officials speak daily to Ukrainian officials and generals to facilitate arms transfer. The headline presence of Boris Johnson in Kyiv yesterday will not be matched by Joe Biden. But President Biden is talking daily with NATO leaders persuading them to transfer arms and also building support for further sanctions on Russia.
10 April 2022: A concise (London) Times Radio interview of Member of Parliament Tobias Ellwood: Did NATO give Putin the green light to commit war crimes? The title seems redolent of Mersheimer's disgusting thesis of NATO culpability for Russia's invasion. However, here MP Ellwood blames the timidity of the West as a partial cause of Putin's aggressive war crimes in Ukraine. This interview comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's admirable visit to Kyiv. But should we do even more? "Emphatically yes," states Ellwood: more artillery, air power, armaments, anti-ship missiles, and tanks. Russia must not prevail nor be allowed to win by attrition.
10 April 2022: Here CNN consultant, Gen. Mark Hertling discusses what Putin's new commander reveals about his strategy. Russia's new supreme commander in Ukraine is Alexander Dvornikov, known for his ruthlessness. He is well experienced from Grazny, from Crimea, and from Syria. This is a superb, concise backgrounder on him and his methods. His goal is to deliver success by May 9th (the big celebratory parade in Moscow.) Whether he can pull it off when 25% of Russia's battalian tactical groups have already been hammered is another question.
11 April 2022 (Day 47 of the Invasion): Here on CNN retired General James "Spider" Marks explains Russia advantages with their new general (Dvornikov) leading the war. We see the satellige images of an 8 mile long Russian Convoy in the Donbas. The US has deployed E/A-18G Growler jets that provide electronic warfare via radar jamming to suppress Russian air defenses. Note, while the US and NATO will not fly over Ukraine, they can fly in the international waters of the Black Sea.
11 April 2022: Here on MSNBC Andrea Mitchell interviews State Dept. Spokesperson Ned Price. She questions the timetable of delivery of critical weapons, eg the S-300 surface-to-air missle system. Soviet/ Russian systems like that are being transferred from NATO countries to Ukraine; then, the US will backfill those countries with US systems. (The stated rationale for this is speed of deployment and familiarity with use of the Soviet systems by Ukrainian forces.) Finally, they discuss China and India's reprehensible persistence in buying Russian oil. Biden's team is discussing this now with India's PM Modi and his counterparts.
12 April 2022 (Day 48 of the Invasion): Combine the headline weapon of the week (the Switchblade) with one of my favorite bloggers, Jon Y, and you get this: Asianometry: Air Support in a Backpack: The Switchblade. It turns out the manufacturer, AeroVironment, was founded by "Elon Musk entrepreneurial clone" Paul MacCready, the world famous inventor of bicycle powered aircraft and globe-spanning solar powered planes. He rocks! Back at Asianometry, Jon Y reviews the history and capabilities of loitering munitions. Soldiers love these! (One minor problem is that the Chinese firm DJI is the world's leader in commercial drones. DJI is well connected to the People's Liberation Army. (This will be a problem if and when the PRC invades Taiwan.)
12 April 2022: A reader informed me of this: Russia Airs Its Ultimate 'Revenge Plan' for America. Here Russia watcher Julia Davis reminds us of the Putin/ Trump bromance. Putin would love nothing better than for his BFF Trump to retake the White House in 2024. And, Trump, of course, would welcome all the financial support and scurrilous media manipulation he can get from the Kremlin. Meanwhile, Putin is acting now to influence America's November midterm election, making sure that his friends in the GOP triumph. (Note: there is some remnant morality in a tiny fraction of the GOP — three of their senators supported Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.)
12 April 2022: You won't hear a more authoritative analysis of world energy flows than in this interview by renowned author Walter Isaacson of S&P Global Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin.Europe's purchases of Russian energy give Putin 250 billion dollars annually for his war machine (and Europe amounts to half of Russia's oil sales.) Oil and gas sales are 40% of the total Russian budget. Europe's getting closer to an outright ban. But, asks Isaacson, isn't oil a fungible commodity, ie if one nation won't buy it, why not just sell it to someone else, eg India or China? Daniel Yergin answers: yes, India wants it but it'll be buying it in rupees at a steep discount, and shipping it is no easy matter. It's hard to get insurance for the tankers, eg. We (the US) have little influence on China's purchases but Pres. Biden is trying to persaude India's PM Modi to do the right thing. Meanwhile, energy prices have a big ripple effect on global politics. For example, Yergin cites the on-going French elections in which right-winger Marine Le Pen has been strengthened by popular unrest over inflation (and this is playing out worldwide.)
13 April 2022 (Day 49 of the Invasion): Nothing warms my heart like this: Russian warship Moskva explodes on Ukraine coast. Russia says "ship spontaneously caught on fire;" Ukraine says "we hit it with two Neptune missiles." The British harpoons and NATO's stock of S-300s can't come fast enough.
13 April 2022: Here's a good summary of today's action from the BBC: The fight for the east of Ukraine set to escalate.
13 April 2022: Joe Blogs is clear and concise today on this news: Europe announces ban on Russian coal. Energy prices across the board have skyrocketed in Europe but less so for coal than for natural gas. Private equity consultant Joe goes into detail on the economics and the difficulty of substituting Indonesian or Australian coal for Russian coal. (The Russian stuff comes via train staight to the electricity generators; non- Russian coal incurs shipping costs; it then must be unloaded and trucked to the plants. Europe's boycott will incur huge financial costs.
13 April 2022: Here's a great story as told by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC: Russians telling what's actually happening in Ukraine by sticking fake food labels on grocery shelves. Here's an example: a grocery item marked with the label 4300 roubles, and the label continues — "Stop the War! In the first three days, 4300 Russian soldiers died. Why is this not being talked about on TV?"
15 April 2022 (Day 51 of the Invasion): Here Nicolle Wallace of MSNBC interviews former US Russia ambassador Michael McFaul (now at Stanford): What is Putin's Red Line? McFaul begins by addressing the sinking of the Moskva (Russian says "it spontaneously caught fire":) (paraphrasing) why the hell would anybody believe anything war-related that comes from the Kremlin — it's all non-stop disinformation.
More importantly, McFaul addresses Putin's red line. NATO has no tactical nukes in theater in Europe. Russia has thousands and using them is part of its battlefield doctrine. (There is even speculation that some nukes may have sunk when the Moskva went down.) My comment: it appears to be a closely guarded secret how NATO would respond if Russia lobs a nuke into Kyiv. My hope is that NATO would then rapidly attempt to end the war, using conventional missiles, to eliminate Russian troops in the Donbas. Again, my hope is that this would be seen as being (sub)proportionate (and not requiring further escalation) by Putin, who would then desist.
15 April 2022: Here on CNN retired Brig. Genl. Mark Kimmitt discusses tactical nuclear weapons. Battlefield nuclear shells can be fired by 155 mm artillery and look identical to non-nuclear shells. They're no longer a part of our armaments, but they're a crucial part of the Russian stock and battle plan. (NATO has overwhelming conventional force; the Russians view their nukes as providing parity.)
15 April 2022: Here DW News reports on Ukrainian weapons with a list of the weapons that are on the way. Most of what Ukraine has already received are light arms (eg the redoubtable stingers and javelins). But what it needs in the current phase, which will be similar to the deadly WW2 Battle of Kursk, are tanks, artillery, long range missiles, and jets. Germany and other NATO members have been slow in providing these. Defense analyst Tim Ripley is quite good here: the Ukrainians need heavy metal to retake the Donbas.
15 April 2022: Here on Sky News: Captain of sunken Russian warship killed. The Moskva was a crucial part of the Russian navy's command and control in the Black Sea. With its sinking, the other Russian vessels will need to stand off. This is great news for the citizens of Odessa.
15 April 2022: Joe Blogs discusses Who's Buying Russian Oil. Joe is always detailed, clear, and concise. India is unapologetically buying a lot of Russian oil, because they've got a huge need and Russia is selling it at a big discount. Europe is attempting to wean itself off of Russian oil, but it's difficult. The Russian pipes go straight to its refineries. Joe's hope is that Russia's ability to sell will become saturated because of lack of tankers, increases in tanker insurance, and congestion at ports and storage facilities. But, all this will drive up the price of oil and of gas at the pump.
15 April 2022: Here Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the State of the World. He is always quite good (translation: I usually agree with his outlook. Also, I subscribe to CFR's Foreign Affairs magazine.) Basically, the world's in trouble (but you knew that.)
17 April 2022: In today's GPS show Fareed Zakaria leads with this: We must stop Putin's Plan B.
17 April 2022: I just discovered a YouTube channel called Perun. He's an anonymous Australian military analyst and is superb. I highly recommend: Who's Winning? Mythbusting the War. He discusses and shoots down several myths that are floating around the internet and encouraged by Russian propagandists. Here are some. Claim: Russia's initial attack on Kyiv was a feint. Answer: no; bullshit! The Russians took heavy losses, and it was an international embarrasment. Claim: Russia is intentionally holding back, taking it easy on Ukraine. Answer: No! Look at Mariupol — turned to rubble. But why isn't Russia doing that to other cities? Answer: (multiple) — to what end? Russia could totally destroy Ukraine's industrial base, but that's almost irrelevant: Ukraine's weapons are increasingly coming from NATO (Lockheed, Raytheon) not destroyable by Russian missiles. Perun addresses the question - who's winning the war in terms, eg, of tanks destroyed. He uses detailed, quantitative public databases to provide answers. Both sides exaggerate, but the Russian claims (like their claims of Putin's popularity) are wildly propagandistic.
17 April 2022: The show 60 Minutes presents a crucial story here: Londongrad: How the UK became a laundromat for Russian oligarch's dirty money. Obviously this must be stopped. But, another question that is not answered here is this. Once the dirty money, bank accounts, jets, mansions, and yachts are frozen, can they then be seized. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan recently addressed that. Seizure of these assets (eg to facilitate reparations to Ukraine) is being actively investigated. (But, the West is a land of laws; that's why the oligarchs park their money here and not in Russia or China.)
18 April 2022 (Day 54 of the Invasion): This New York Times video shows Ukraine's Southeast Under Attack. People trapped in bombed out villages; the elderly living on scraps in basement bomb shelters.
18 April 2022: In today's interview on CNN Garry Kasparov is quite clear about what has to happen for Putin's critics to turn on him. Basically, Putin is a mafia boss; if Russians are suffering and Putin is losing the war, his rivals, sensing weakness, may pounce. Grandmaster Kasparov dismisses the nuke-induced anxiety crippling the West. NATO must win this battle by arming Ukraine to the teeth.
19 April 2022 (Day 55 of the Invasion): I recommend this superb panel from the German foundation ZEIT Stiftung: Europe after Putin's War on Ukraine. Two speakers, Oxford Prof. Timothy Garton Ash and Ukrainian MP Galina Yanchenko, present impassioned pleas for Germany to do more, in particular to cut back further on purchases of Russian oil and gas. The other panelists, German Chancellor Wolfgang Schmidt in particular, argue the complexity of doing so.
19 April 2022: Here on BBC News: Russian Troops have begun the Battle for Donabas: a good summary of the day's events including courageous on-the-ground reporting in the East.
19 April 2022: Here Joy Reid of MSNBC presents the day's events and interviews American fighter Malcolm Nance volunteering in Ukraine. The war has attracted the services worldwide of tens of thousands of volunteer fighters.
20 April 2022: (Day 56 of the Invasion): Times Radio provides quite a good summary: Russia's new tactics and military aims | General Sir Richard Barrons. Russia's intensified focus on the Donbas is essential, as is having a unified command. Despite that (and despite Russia's superiority in numbers,) this is certainly not a guarantee of success. Russia's army is increasingly composed of non-Russian inexperienced conscripts (and have minimal motivation to win.)
20 April 2022: And this from MSNBC today: Putin will take the Blame When his War Fails. Putin has no friends nor allies backing him on this war; therefore a loss could really weaken him. Yale Prof. Timothy Snyder continues: the date of May 9th (Victory Day) is a crucial deadline for Putin. He need to claim at least some symbolic victory.
21 April 2022 (Day 57 of the Invasion): This interview is quite good on ABC News with CIA Russia analyst George Beebe. He emphasizes the difference between the battle in the East now beginning versus the earlier Battle for Kyiv. Unlike the latter urban warfare, the current battle will be more like a WW2 tank battle on the open plains. The US has just provided Ukraine with 57 howitzers (large mobile "cannon" that fire rockets) that have far longer range than the javelins that were so effective in the urban battle. Beebe opines that the Russians' temptation to resort to escalatory strikes will depend on their level of success. (Failures may motivate attempts to strike Ukrainian supply chains in the West with conventional bombs — or worse.) Our supplies, coming through Lyiv, must cross the Dnieper River and those bridges are tempting targets.
25 April 2022 (Day 61 of the Invasion): This CNN report from Christiane Amanpour announced a surprise visit to Kyiv by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. They brought welcome news of renewed commitments by the US and NATO in defense materiel.
27 April 2022 (Day 63 of the Invasion): This piece from the Wall Street Journal explains Russia's Shifting Military Strategy in the Donbas. As noted previously, this new phase of the war entails open terrain fighting more suitable to Russia's strength in tanks — perhaps similar to the great WW2 Battle of Kursk on the same plain.
27 April 2022: This from CNN Karma is a Cruel Thing recaps the explosions in regions of Russia bordering Ukraine — taking the battle to the enemy.
28 April 2022 (Day 64 of the Invasion): Here MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell interviews former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul: Putin has already Lost his War. As Putin loses battle after battle, his objective has changed to taking the Donbas and connecting it to Crimea. With a new infusion of cash and modern NATO weapons, Putin may even lose this limited objective.
29 April 2022 (Day 65 of the Invasion): Joe Blogs is quite clear here: Sanctions are Destroying the Russian Economy. Although Russia is well insulated by its billion dollars per day of revenue from the sale of oil and gas, its economy is faltering. Hundreds of corporations have closed shop or curtailed their businesses. Russia relies on hundreds of billions of dollars of imports from the West for which it will soon run low and be unable to substitute. The rouble has maintained its value only via forced buying and prohibited selling. The just announced cutoff of gas to Poland and Bulgaria will only hasten the end of dependency of Europe on Russian energy.
29 April 2022: Professor of Defense Studies Michael Clarke discusses Can NATO deter Putin from using tactical nukes? He first makes the obvious point that NATO and the US have plans for this contingency. Most likely, he opines, would be a response with conventional (non-nuclear) weapons perhaps employed to destroy the Russian bases from whence the attack was launched. I also surmise that all Black Sea ships would be sunk and all battalion task groups with their tanks and artillery would be taken out.
29 April 2022: Here on MSNBC the use of battlefield nukes is further discussed by Ambassador Michael McFaul and Ret. General Barry McCaffrey. Amb. McFaul states that this discussion is permeating the airwaves on Russian language state-sponsored tv. General McCaffrey talks about the likely ramifications of a battlefield nuke. It would precipitate the involvement of NATO and the US and lead to a massive destruction of Russian forces. This clip also mentions the new 33 billion dollar aid package to Ukraine including $20 billion in modern weapons systems.
30 April 2022 (Day 66 of the Invasion): American weapons are finally arriving in Ukraine as in M777 155mm Howitzers.These big guns are more modern, have longer range, and are more accurate than the existing Soviet-era howitzers in Ukraine.
30 April 2022: This is an excellent backgrounder: The Insane Engineering of the Javelin, on one of my favorite YouTube channels: Real Engineering. Anti-tank weapons, stingers, and drones have made a massive dent in the Russian army.
30 April 2022: Here Joy Reid of MSNBC interviews Lt Col Alexander Vindman on What Russia's 'Loose Talk Of Nuclear War' Really Means. Russia amps up this talk whenever they want to throw a scare into the West. They've done this for years. That doesn't mean it won't happen, but it would be suicide for Russia. And, we can't be deterred by their incessant saber-rattling. (This is a strong argument for deterring other tyrannical, nutball states from acquiring nuclear weapons.)
3 May 2022 (Day 69 of the Invasion): CRUX presents this: Putin’s Cancer Surgery Fact Or Fiction? Will Ex-FSB Chief Patrushev Be Given Charge Of Ukraine War? This fascinating video begins with Hitler's well-known Parkinson's diagnosis and uncontrollable shaking. Hitler was addicted to methamphetamine and dopamine depletion is a side effect. I'm guessing that Putin also takes a wide variety of stimulants that may contribute to his apparent tremors. In addition, it appears that he's undergoing surgical excision of a tumor, possibly thyroid cancer, although this is all speculation. The guy he's leaving temporarily in charge, ex-FSB Chief Nikolai Patrushev, is another brutal tyrant (so no upside there.)
3 May 2022: Here Sky News presents UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's inspiring and encouraging address to Ukraine. PM Johnson also enumerates the additional military aid that Britain will be sending.
5 May 2022 (Day 71 of the Invasion): Here's a concise description of Ukraine’s New Heavy Artillery (that) Will Cause Russia a World of Pain. NATO is now supplying Ukraine with state of the art artillery shells that are 155 mm caliber, precision guided munitions. A single shot can be GPS guided to knock out a tank several kilometers away. This is a huge advance over their existing stock of old Soviet-era 152 mm munitions.
5 May 2022: This is a superb conversation: Ukraine is Going to End Up Winning, largely an interview, of Ret. Lt. Genl. Ben Hodges by Hoover's Ret. Genl. HR McMaster (from May 3rd.) Among the important points: among the tens of thousands of funerals for Russian soldiers, not many will be for Moscovites. Most of the conscipts in the Russian Army are non-ethic Russians (eg unemployed, young men from Siberia or the -stan republics) — no tears shed by Putin.
5 May 2022: This is a good interview of former US Ambassador Bill Taylor by Chuck Todd on MSNBC. Taylor reminds us of the importance of May 9th (Victory Day) to Putin. But, Putin will NOT have much to celebrate. He may, nonetheless, redeclare this action as a full-scale war, as opposed to his (previously ridiculous label as a) "special military opeation." He will try to use the event to stir patriotic fervor in his countrymen and use that to spur new recruits and conscripts — more meat for the grinder.
6 May 2022 (Day 72 of the Invasion): YouTube channel Joe Blogs is one of my favorites (and I can't discover who Joe Blogs is. He's a rich, former private equity investor in the UK.) His brief videos are always crystal clear, important, and well documented. Many of his recent videos explain the ramifications of the war. For example, here's one on food insecurity: 1.7 BILLION People Face HUNGER due to FOOD SHORTAGES. In brief, Russia and Ukraine have a huge role in supplying the world with wheat, corn, and fertilizer. The war has basically cut off the production and export of Ukrainian wheat. Prices of wheat, corn, and fertilizer have hugely increased. While it may not be material to you or me, it's massively significant to the billions of people in Africa and Asia that live hand to mouth.
7 May 2022 (Day 73 of the Invasion): Here on CNN Ret. General Wesley Clark brings us up to date on circumstances in Ukraine. Russia is blowing up bridges trying to prevent reinforcements from reaching Ukrainian fighters in the East. He emphasizes the importance of sending additional modern armaments to the East, especially now, before the ground firms up, conferring a tactical advantage to Russian tanks. He further emphasizes "full speed ahead" despite Putin's nuclear saber-rattling.
9 May 2022 (Day 75 of the Invasion): Finally the light turned on for me when I connected VE Day (Victory Europe Day) long celebrated by the United States with Victory Day as celebrated in Russia. They both commemorate the defeat and surrender of the Nazis to the Allies (including the Soviet Union.)
If you have any interest in WW2, I highly recommend the superb Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege by Antony Beevor. I have no doubt that without the Nazi's insane fight on their Eastern front, they would've conquered Europe (only to finally lose to the US by having Berlin hit by an atomic bomb in 1945. Note: this is just my speculation.)
9 May 2022: That's an intro to these BBC News videos on Russia's Victory Day celebration today. Putin Blames the West in Victory Day Speech and this one: Troops, Tanks, and Missiles in Red Square. Most of consequence, Putin did not declare war nor call into action his 300,000 reservists. (He needs them to keep the population from revolting in Russia's hinterlands.)
9 May 2022: I can't resist this short but persuasive dig at Trump by his former Dept of Defense Secretary Mark Esper on 60 Minutes. Republicans: please select a different candidate in 2024!
9 May 2022: The deaths of these seven Russian Oligarchs and their families, reported by CRUX, allegedly "murder-suicides," are even more suspicious than the usual Kremlin hit jobs. As you may've read today, Elon Musk is also on their hit list for supplying Starlink receivers to Ukraine.
10 May 2022 (Day 76 of the Invasion): Jake Broe is quite good here: This Turkish Drone is Destroying the Russian Navy, as he describes the devasting effect of the Bayraktar TB2.
11 May 2022 (Day 77 of the Invasion): Here's a great story on CNN: Ukrainian soldier uses Russian tank against Russian forces. The Ukrainian army is largely compromised of civilians like this programmer who captured a tank, fixed it up, and now has used it to destroy Russian tanks. Motivation runs high in Ukraine (and rock bottom among the Russian attackers.)
11 May 2022: And, here, also on CNN, this story reinforces the point: Ret. US Army Major points out 'tremendous failure' of Russian forces. As advanced NATO weapons pour in, Ukrainians are retaking territory from the Russians.
12 May 2022 (Day 77 of the Invasion): This video records a dialogue in the US Senate between Senators Whitehouse and Graham, both supporting new legislation to enable the seizure of the assets of Russian oligarchs. If passed, this crucial legislation will enable the seizure of billions of dollars worth of ill-gotten gains (as yachts, art, and luxury villas). The intent is to use the money to support Ukraine in its battle against Putin's army.
12 May 2022: Here political analyst Peter Zeihan emphasizes the crucial role of new NATO artillery in targeted assasinations of Russian generals. Furthermore, he sees the use of precision-guided munitions playing a crucial role in other theaters of war (in a world in which the US wishes to abstain from direct involvement of our soldiers. Taiwan might be one such example.
12 May 2022: Here General Ben Hodges comments on the loss of an entire Russian battalion at the hands of Ukrainians with superior tactical skills.
12 May 2022: I highly recommend Joe Blogs daily podcasts on the financial costs of the war in Ukraine. Here he tallies up the massive cost to both Ukraine and to Russia and the rest of the world. So far the war has cost Ukraine $700 billion dollars. Hopefully, the legislation now being debated in the US Congress will enable some of that cost to be reimbursed from the assets stolen by Russian oligarchs. My hope is that eventually Russia itself will be held for reparations to rebuild Ukraine.
13 May 2022 (Day 79 of the Invasion): Among the lead stories today was the pending application of Finland for admission to NATO. Finland has a long (1300 km) border with Russia and fought a bloody war when the Soviet Union invaded and stole territory in 1939/1940 (the Winter War.) Here are two of today's reports: 1) from CNBC News: Russia threatens to retaliate as Finland moves to join NATO. And 2) from CBC News: Finland and Sweden rattled by war in Ukraine.
14 May 2022 (Day 80 of the Invasion): One of today's lead stories concerns Putin's health. This is well-discussed here by journalist Michael Weiss: Is Putin Sick? He focuses on the possibility that Putin may be on long-term steroids for a blood-borne cancer. This could cause the failure of judgment that is manifest in his invasion of Ukraine.
14 May 2022: This discussion from CRUX focuses on the possibility that Russia's Generals May Be Planning a Coup.Unfortunately, this seems to be highly speculative.
19 May 2022 (Day 85 of the Invasion): This is quite a good interview by Times Radio of General David Petraeus: Could Putin's regime collapse from losses in Ukraine? The general emphasizes the speculative nature of all predictions of outcomes both of the war as a whole and when and whether Putin's regime will collapse.
19 May 2022: News outlet CRUX provides useful daily summaries of the war, eg this: Ukraine Downs Russian SU-34 In Kharkiv.Other notable events include the historic applications for NATO membership by Finland and Sweden, and the reopening of the American consulate in Kyiv.
20 May 2022 (Day 86 of the Invasion): I watch CRUX's daily recaps of the war. Here's one for today: Russia’s UR-77 ‘Meteorite’ l Is Putin Using Mine-Clearing Vehicle To Decimate Cities In Ukraine? After this war ends, I'm hoping that Russia will be made to pay for reparations to Ukraine (before sanctions are lifted.)
20 May 2022: I also listen daily to any recaps of the action given by General David Petraeus on MSNBC: What Putin has really done to make NATO great again. Here, Petraeus is confident that Finland and Sweden will be admitted to NATO despite current objections from Turkey.
21 May 2022 (Day 87 of the Invasion): Here on Times Radio, General Jack Keane is interviewed: Are Ukraine's Weapons good enough to defeat Putin? The US Congress has just passed a 40 billion dollar aid package for Ukraine including advanced US weaponry (155 mm howitzers, etc.) Keane emphasizes the importance of this new weaponry in taking out Russian artillery. He also mentions the continuing inferiority of Russian battlefield strategy.
23 May 2022 (Day 89 of the Invasion): In remarkable news Boris Bondarev, a senior counselor in Russia's foreign ministry to the UN, has resigned in disgust at the war. This quote is telling: "the war was conceived by people who are willing to sacrifice as many Russian and Ukrainian lives to achieve one thing: “to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian Navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity.”
23 May 2022: This is a useful summary of today's top news on the war from The Guardian. Sadly, 100 Ukrainians are dying every day on the eastern front. But, Ukraine has no intention of making a "land for peace" deal with Russia.
23 May 2022: Here's another useful update on the war from NPR. ... more details on the letter of resignation by senior diplomat Boris Bondarev.
28 May 2022 (Day 94 of the Invasion): Quite a good report from CNN: US considers sending long-range rockets to Ukraine. Russia has been making steady gains in eastern Ukraine in the past couple of weeks. This CNN clip emphasizes the importance of long-rang rocket systems in defending this territory.
29 May 2022 (Day 95 of the Invasion): Intense fighting breaks out in Ukraine's Donbas region. This grim battle is described here on CBS News with the Russians attempting to encircle the Ukrainians.
30 May 2022 (Day 96 of the Invasion): This is superb reporting from the BBC: Merciless Assault on Severodonetsk. The Russians are throwing everything they've got in a war of oblivion - flattening cities to conquer them.
30 May 2022: Today from Sky News, videos from the frontline with Ukraine's 93rd Brigade. Courageous reporting right from the foxholes in the Donbas.
1 June 2022 (Day 98 of the Invasion): This is very welcome news, here reported by Sky News (Britain): New weapons the US will be supplying to Ukraine. The new weapons are MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems); this has been a bone of contention since the US wishes to avoid excessive provocation of Putin. (The Ukrainians have promised not to use these new weapons against Russia itself. These are not the long-range variety that might be particularly destabilizing.)
3 June 2022 (Day 100 of the Invasion): CRUX presents a good summary of the day's events: Putin's Forces Suffer Losses in Donbas.
4 June 2022 (Day 101 of the Invasion): Encouraging news from UATV: Guerrilla saboteurs in Russia.
6 June 2022 (Day 103 of the Invasion): Some good news here on DW News: Long-range missiles for Ukraine. Russia is running low on precision-guided munitions and also on infantry.
7 June 2022 (Day 104 of the Invasion): Here Ultimate American provides a useful summary of the Harpoom Missiles just supplied to Ukraine. With their 150 mile range they are keeping Russian warships in the Black Sea far from Odessa. Still, those warships can hit targets in Ukraine with their cruise missiles.
8 June 2022 (Day 105 of the Invasion): This is a superb documentary by RealLifeLore on Russia's Catastrophic Oil & Gas Problems. It relates the vast extent of Russia's fossil fuel reserves, their history and development, and methods of transport and sale.
26 July 2022 (Day 153 of the Invasion): Here Jake Broe emphasizes the disgusting news that Russia's UN Grain Export Deal Lasted Less Than 24 Hours. This deal, hammered out by Russia's foreign minister Lavrov and by Putin himself didn't even last one day before Russia bombed the very port of Odessa where the grain was to be shipped from. (It's no wonder that Trump (America's liar-in-chief) admires Putin so much. Our response should be to increase the range of rockets that we are sending to Ukraine so that they can sink Russia's Black Sea fleet and destroy its munitions even inside Russia's western border.
Here on CNN Ret. General Mark Hertling characterizes Putin's breach of his own truce to allow grain exports as criminal.
26 July 2022: There have been several recent reports of the outstanding success achieved by Ukraine's use of HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) supplied by the US. Here General David Petraeus on CNN comments on this development. And here on DW News, the HIMARS system is described in detail along with its successful deployment. And here on MSNBC is more reportage on these Game Changing US Weapon Systems and their use to retake Kherson.
5 Aug 2022 (Day 163 of the Invasion): Here is an excellent summary by Prof. Jeffrey Sonnenfeld (Yale Business) from DW News of the true impact of sanctions on Russia. The impact has been far more profound than is admitted to by the Kremlin. 1200 Western businesses have pulled out or curtailed their operations. Imports to Russia are down by 50% (reflecting sanctions and the depressed economy) and spare parts are difficult to obtain. Over 700,000 professional have left Russia, leaving the country to traditional Putin supporters (babushkas and security apparatchiks.)
Even energy exports, which make up 60% of Russia's economy, are down despite increased prices. Yes, China and India buy oil from Russia but they require a $35 per barrel discount. And, India's storage tanks are full. There is also no easy means of getting natural gas or oil to Asia. Oil may need to be shipped through the Suez canal. Even Germany is making heroic efforts to decrease their dependency on Russian gas. Germany is building six LNG stations to facilitate shifting to gas supplied from the West.
17 Aug 2022 (Day 176 of the Invasion): Here PBS describes two recent attacks on airbases and munitions dumps in Crimea: Explosions hit Russian-annexed Crimea. Also described is the dangerous standoff over the large nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia. Russian troops launch their attacks from there making it difficult to displace them.
19 Aug 2022 (Day 178 of the Invasion): Here from Sky News (Britain) an excellent update on the Ukraine War: Warfare at Europe's largest nuclear power plant. Russian troops have occupied the plant and use it as a shield while they fire into Ukraine.
11 Sept 2022 (Day 201 of the Invasion): Here, a brief, excellent interview of General Ben Hodges (retired) on Britain's Times Radio. Coming amidst great news for the Ukrainians, General Hodges explains the "feint" executed by the Ukrainian Army: publicizing the successful attack of their troops at Kherson, thus drawing Russian troops south away from Kharkiv, leaving it undefended. General Hodges even broaches the possibility of a breakup of the Soviet Union. Most of the "Russian" troops doing the fighting are not ethnic Russians, but rather are disenchanted, non-Russian conscripts (who don't really care about Putin's war.)
11 Sept 2022: Here on CNN Ukraine has claimed major victories in Kherson with Russian troops fleeing the onslaught as their supplies and reinforcements have been cut off.
15 Sept 2022 (Day 205 of the Invasion): I really enjoyed this video by William Spaniel: Ten Reasons Why Ukraine Hasn't Destroyed the Crimean Bridge. Here he addresses the multibillion dollar bridge that Russia built to connect Crimea to the mainland. His reasons are speculative but illustrate the depth of reasoning that should go into the selection of military targets.
The absence of such reasoning seems evident in Russia's selection of targets; its motivation is "just create pain for Ukrainian civilians;" hence alienating them and the rest of the civilized world (excluding Russia's fellow authoritarian states (the PRC, North Korea, and Iran.) It's frustrating to see the daily destruction of Ukraine's infrastructure without tit-for-tat destruction being wrought in Russia by American-supplied HIMARS. (I'd love to see a sound defeat of Russia, followed by regime change to a Gorbachev-type figure, followed by trillions of dollars of Russian energy profits being used to rebuild Ukraine.)
In contrast, observe the studied restraint evident in Ukraine's target selection. Criterion #1 is keeping Putin away from his nuclear red button. Crierion #2: winning hearts and minds in Russia; better to have Russia's soldiers surrender or not join up in the first place. Also, winning over Russian-speaking residents in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, who really prefer Western-style freedom to a Kremlin-style police state. I love the videos of President Zelensky strolling around at the frontlines embracing his troops while Putin cowers in his bunkers.
I assume (or rather hope) that America's Dept of Defense and CIA are helping Ukraine with its tactics 24 by 7 (I'm glad this is not front-page news.)
15 Sept 2022: Here CNN's Erin Burnett reports on a courageous St. Petersberg politician making a public statement condemning Putin and his insane war: Russian official to CNN: Putin should resign. Of course, Putin won't resign (but perhaps he might accidentally fall off a high balcony as did recent CEO's of Russia's Big Oil companies.)
15 Sept 2022: Here Sky News (Britain) reports on the massive and inspiring advances by Ukrainian troops at Kherson and in Kharkiv.
23 Sept 2022 (Day 213 of the Invasion): Here from The Infographics Show is a superb overview of the HIMARS: The US Weapon Beating the Russians in Ukraine. We in the US have given fourteen of these Lockheed-Martin-made shoot-and-scoot systems to Ukraine. And, coupled with US-supplied targeting information, they have turned the tide of the battle with their precision-guided rockets.
23 Sept 2022: More great news as Ukrainians are surrounding Lyman - as presented by Artur Rehi (Estonian69) who also updates us on Putin's latest attempts to mobilize 300,000 more reservists and conscripts. (It's doomed to failure; they'll get minimal training, equipment, and supervision - just more meat for the grinder.)
23 Sept 2022: And here an update from Andrea Mitchell and Admiral James Stavrides. Even Russian friends, India and China, are hesitating to support this war. Adm. Stavrides compares the Russian protests to the war to the Vietnam protests in the US in the sixties.
29 Sept 2022 (Day 219 of the Invasion): This is a superb interview of US General David Petraeus on (Germany's) DW channel: Putin is desperate and in an irreversible situation. Petraeus has first-hand experience with tank warfare and here he urges Germany to supply Ukraine with its Leopard-2 tanks. He clearly prefers those to the US's behemoth Abrams M1s which are impossibly heavy and difficult to transport and maintain.
He further comments on the prospects of a desperate Putin resorting to tactical nukes (or worse.) There is no doubt that the Pentagon has detailed plans for both nuclear and non-nuclear NATO responses. My guess is that the minimum NATO response would involve the sinking of Russia's entire Black Sea fleet and the elimination of all Russian troop concentations in Ukraine including Crimea. This could include all artillery positions within Russia that are shelling Ukrainian civilians and infrastructure.
1 October 2022 (Day 221 of the Invasion); I listen to a dozen or more YouTubes per day on the war. Here is my favorite from today (on CNN): Khrushchev's great-granddaughter discusses Putin's 'incredibly insane' speech. This is Nina Khrushcheva, a polysci professor at The New School (New York) commenting on Putin. She teaches theory of propaganda (and has it in her blood.) Putin's latest maneuver is mainly intended for a domestic audience: "look what we've won!" (despite a collapsing Russian economy and military.) She reads the faces of the elite in Putin's audience in the Kremlin's Great Hall (all of whom also grew up with Moscow's bullshit.)
2 Oct 2022 (Day 222 of the Invasion): Here is Jake Broe, one of my favorite bloggers about the war: Russia Keeps Losing Territory It Just Annexed. I particularly like Jake's list of consequences, if Russia uses nuclear weapons (at minute 16.) Note: these NATO actions are all non-nuclear, but would still reduce Russia's sea and land army fighting in Ukraine to cinders over a weekend. My guess is that for now Putin will refrain from pressing the button, instead relying on his newly recruited force of conscripts. (Good luck with that!)
20 Oct 2022: Here on the channel Military Aviation History, Justin Bronk discusses all the cruise missiles and drones in Russia's armamentarium. Dr. Bronk knows more about these weapons than anyone else I've heard (their ranges, payloads, and features.) The cruise missiles (which are expensive and of which Russia is running low) are now being replaced by cheap Iranian drones (a mere $20,000 each). They only fly at about 100 mph but because they're launched in salvos of five can be hard to shoot down. The Ukrainians have hit about 50%. The 40 kilogram payload is enough to knock out power substations and apartment buildings.
Russia's alliance with Iran goes back decades. Russia and the fundamentalist Iranian regime were instrumental to Bashar al Assad in destroying Syria and its people.
30 October 2022: Here is a must-watch video from Estonian blogger Artur Rehi on the Kamikaze boat attack against the Russian Black Sea fleet. This is allegedly actual video footage from on board the drones as they close in and hit Russian ships. The video data is transmitted back in real-time via satellite link.
31 October 2022: Just in time for Halloween we get this story: Ukraine Alleges Putin uses Body Doubles. Is Russian Leader Still Alive? Fascinating expert speculation from the chief of Ukrainian intelligence, Major General Kyrylo Budanov.
6 Nov 2022: From the UK's Sky News: Meet the Georgian Legion joining the fight against Russia's invasion. The Ukrainians have been joined by fighters from around the world in their struggle against Putin's gang of mafia thugs.
8 Nov 2022: Here is defense analyst Professor Michael Clarke being interviewed on Sky News about Nuclear Rhetoric flowing from Moscow. He also mentions the fate that awaits Russia's frontline soldiers who decide to retreat — they get shot. (Stalin used this method of encouragement to good effect at the Battle of Stalingrad.)
9 Nov 2022: From the BBC just now: Kherson: Russia to withdraw troops from key Ukrainian city . But, ever suspicious of the Kremlin, President Zelensky said in response: "The enemy does not give us gifts, does not make 'goodwill gestures', we win it all." The Ukrainians will advance cautiously. The Russians have left mines, booby-traps, and their soldiers wandering around in civilian clothes ready to kill.
14 Nov 2022: Here Perun adds a new word to my vocabulary: VRANYO: Russian style universal deception that is destroying its army. This certainly has the ring of truth: lying at every level from Sergeant Conscriptorovich at the bottom thru Colonel Kleptorovich in the middle to General Oligarkov and finally to Putin. BS reporting at every level leads to horribly bad decisions.
23 Nov 2022: Perun is a well informed military blogger on YouTube. Here he describes Russia's Allies - How will Iran, Syria & North Korea impact the war in Ukraine? Russia's buddies are the usual gang of corrupt, evil dictators. None of them are actually sending soldiers to fight in Ukraine, but they are providing (selling) a variety of low tech drones and artillery. The North Korean economy is endlessly fascinating, kept afloat with drug money, counterfeit currency, and cybercrime.
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