Russia, Ukraine, and Us
Here It Is Lent Again

Ukraine etc. again

I've been occupied with various immediate matters (nothing bad, just normal things) for the past few days and have not been able to get to writing about several books that I've read recently. Also pulling me away from those are the events of the past few days. And now I'm about to be away from my computer for a couple of days. So I'll just offer a couple of remarks on the Ukraine war (I guess it has to be called that now.)

I have read several things suggesting that Putin is finding that his intended conquest of Ukraine is not proceeding as quickly and smoothly as he expected. Also that the negative reaction by the rest of Europe and the U.S. has been greater than he expected. I expected Germany, France, and others to make only token objections, but what I've read--and I emphasize that it isn't all that much--suggests that they are seriously alarmed and are taking more-than-token steps. Some also speculate/hope that Putin may be willing to settle for less than the total conquest he wanted. I hope that's true.

Now I read that Putin is rattling the nuclear saber, and I think "he's not that crazy." But maybe he is. Or maybe he is resorting to the tactic of making his enemies think that he's crazy and they'd better not upset him too much. I have no idea, of course. But I hope he's not that crazy.

Also, I'm not hearing the chorus of demands that we go to war, George W. Bush style, on behalf of Freedom that I half-expected to hear from the neo-conservative/neo-liberal/whatever voices that were urging us to invade Iraq twenty years ago (not to mention various other interventions). Whether I'm just not in the way of their conversations or they're not blowing the trumpets (for others to follow), I don't know. Maybe they learned their lesson.

Anyway, you don't need me to summarize the news, but here are a couple of things you might find interesting:

This podcast, which is an interview with an emigre from the Soviet Union who worked for some time in our Defense Intelligence Agency. She thinks that our government still doesn't have the ability to understand what makes Putin and others like him do what they do.

And this Rod Dreher post, which includes an interview with a Scottish journalist, Neil Oliver, who makes a point I made in comments on the earlier post--that the most immediate threat to those of us who are not Russia's neighbors is the breakdown of our own internal liberal order. The video itself is more than an hour long, but when I clicked on it it began with Oliver's monologue. If that doesn't happen for you, skip forward to about the 5:30 mark. 


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Speaking of David Frum:

Someone must understand, you would think. That Fiona Hill lady for instance is one of the experts on all of this. It is all quite distressing, can only imagine what people closer to the action must think. We have a Ukrainian professor here whose family is trying to get out. If they have the means to do so I believe there is still a limitation on any males between 18 and 60 - meaning that they are required to stay and fight, not leave.

I think we've had for many years a class of experts who really aren't: who have a lot of theoretical and book knowledge but no understanding of people.

Someone call Henry Kissinger, he's only 98, I'm sure he would be glad to help out.

Except for the likelihood that he's no longer capable, I wouldn't be surprised if he were.

A big part of the message of that podcast that I linked to, btw, is that our foreign policy establishment is full of people who can't grasp that rulers of other countries, for instance Russia, don't think like they do, want what they want, and so forth. Kind of funny if true because that's supposedly what was wrong with us in the Bad Old Days before 1990 or so, and which is supposedly no longer the case now.

There was a line from one of the Vietnam war movies: "Inside every Chink is an American trying to get out," or something like that.

It's hard for me to grasp that so many people can look at this mess and not see our hubris manifested there -- as if NATO expansion is something unquestionably willed by the gods, for instance (which is not to take away anything from Putin being an extremely bad actor, obviously).

Yes, both things can be true: that Putin is a very bad man and that we helped to create this situation. Unfortunately knowing that does nothing to fix it. I guess it's good that most of the rest of the world is reacting so strongly, though the nuclear weapons factor makes that pretty scary.

It was "gook" not chink, Rob. Full Metal Jacket! :-)

Reading what Henry Kissinger wrote back in 2014, during Putin's invasion of Crimea and about a week before Russia annexed Crimea, makes me think he'd be in line with what Europe and the US are doing right now. In a piece in the Washington Post, he offered the following ideas for "an outcome compatible with the values and security interests of all sides":

1. Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe.

2. Ukraine should not join NATO, a position I took seven years ago, when it last came up.

3. Ukraine should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people. Wise Ukrainian leaders would then opt for a policy of reconciliation between the various parts of their country. Internationally, they should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland. That nation leaves no doubt about its fierce independence and cooperates with the West in most fields but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia.

4. It is incompatible with the rules of the existing world order for Russia to annex Crimea. But it should be possible to put Crimea’s relationship to Ukraine on a less fraught basis. To that end, Russia would recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea. Ukraine should reinforce Crimea’s autonomy in elections held in the presence of international observers. The process would include removing any ambiguities about the status of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.

As far as I know I don't disagree with what we and Europe are doing now. I do wonder how much responsibility we bear for creating the situation. #2, for instance: Ukraine did not join NATO, but my understanding is that it was still very much a possibility. Emphasize "my understanding"--I'm not that well-informed.

Have we heard a peep from Condaleeza Rice?

I saw her name mentioned as part of some kind of discussion or lecture, but I didn't investigate.

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