New York Times: Ukraine Is Weakened by Corruption, So How Is It Stymying the Russians?
Oct. 10, 2022
By Peter Coy, Opinion Writer
Corruption undermines society as surely as termites undermine houses. Ukraine suffers from corruption. So how has Ukrainian society nonetheless managed to stymie a Russian invasion, and even turn the tables on its invaders?
I asked experts inside and outside Ukraine for their answers to this pivotal question and heard several interesting theories. The most intriguing is that it’s possible in certain situations to be simultaneously corrupt and patriotic.
Here are some of the explanations:
Ukraine is corrupt, but the enemy is even more corrupt. On Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Ukraine was 122nd of 180 countries last year (higher numbers are worse). Pretty bad, but Russia was ranked even worse, at 136th. [NOTE: This Index is useful, but hardly perfect. The USA was rated as #27, which in my view is much too favorable, as it neglects entire categories of vast corruption, in domestic U. S. politics and foreign/military operations, which are technically “legal” but as rotten as can be.]
In May the U.S. State Department said, “While it may be too early to draw definitive conclusions, we have seen open-source reporting about expired rations, lack of fuel and outdated and poorly maintained equipment that point to the waste, misuse and abuse of ‘public’ resources designated for Russia’s military.” Continue reading Ukraine & Corruption: A Major, Mostly Unmentioned Issue→
[NOTE: This opinion piece is an artifact of a senior Establishment pundit, who has jetted off to Poland to hang with his people and schmooze various bigwigs at a high-level international conference. Such junkets are a perk of his gig and class. I find it interesting and worth sharing because, to my continuing surprise, his outlook here largely jibes with mine. Until last February, that was mostly not the case; and such shifts, at the exalted level, are his main subject here.
Of course, I’m seeing it from my post as a stay-at-home non-expert, reading sheafs of news and analysis, then listening to the jet setters hold forth on podcasts. This goes on between my occasional trips to the market, where pondering a Polish sausage is as close as I’ll get to Warsaw.
But I too am trying to make some sense of events far away which could, with a few presses of buttons in Moscow and Washington, bring down fire on me and mine as well. That doesn’t put me in contention for Ignatius’s next go at a Pulitzer, but it does qualify as having skin in the game. And it qualifies you, too, Friend.]
WARSAW — For Europe, Ukraine is the good war — a moment when brave Ukrainian patriots have partially rolled back a brutal Russian invasion and, in the process, reignited belief in the values of democracy and common defense.
As Ukrainian troops surged forward on the ground this week, European leaders who gathered at a conference here were heady with what many described as an impending Ukrainian triumph over Russian President Vladimir Putin and the lawless, autocratic system he represents.
The victory celebration is stirring but wildly premature. Many months of bloody fighting probably lie ahead, with the danger growing that Russia might use tactical nuclear weapons in an effort to stave off defeat. But politicians from across Europe seemed so galvanized by Ukraine’s recent battlefield success that many dismissed the dangers of Russian escalation and what could be a cold winter for an energy-short Europe.
We’ve been analyzing the war in Ukraine in military terms, but it also marks an extraordinary cultural shift for Europe. It was nearly two decades ago, amid bitter disagreements over the Iraq War, that Robert Kagan wrote that the differences over use of force had become so acute Americans seemed to be from Mars and Europeans from Venus. Continue reading Ukraine, a “New Europe,” and Strange Bedfellows Like Us→
LONDON — President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of the annexation of four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine signals the onset of a new and highly dangerous phase in the seven-month war, one that Western officials and analysts fear could escalate to the use of nuclear weapons for the first time in 77 years.
Putin has previously threatened to resort to nuclear weapons if Russia’s goals in Ukraine continue to be thwarted. The annexation brings the use of a nuclear weapon a step closer by giving Putin a potential justification on the grounds that “the territorial integrity of our country is threatened,” as he put it in his speech last week.
He renewed the threat on Friday with an ominous comment that the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki created a “precedent” for the use of nuclear weapons, echoing references he has made in the past to the U.S. invasion of Iraq as setting a precedent for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. and Western officials say they still think it unlikely that Putin will carry out his threats. Most probably, they say, he is hoping to deter the West from providing ever more sophisticated military assistance to Ukraine while the mobilization of an additional 300,000 troops allows Russia to reverse or at least halt its military setbacks on the battlefield. Continue reading Ukraine War: Edging Toward The Nuclear Precipice→
[NOTE: the article below opens the doors of memory. The draft resistance exodus from Russia is the third such episode I’ve witnessed.
The first two I played a bit part in: during the 1960s Vietnam War, many U. S. Quakers “aided and abetted” (technically a federal crime) many young men who left the country to avoid being swept up in the military draft: I encouraged a few myself.
Others, such as Friend Ken Maher, helped many more, and Ken recounts his adventures on the new underground railroad of those years in this post, Then 35 years later, as the U. S. Invasion of Iraq wreaked its vast destruction, I worked with dissident soldiers who left the country to refuse participation in an illegal, immoral war. The story, “Money for College,” here, grew out of that work.
This time, I’m but a spectator and cheerleader, from a seemingly safe distance. But while Putin’s cronies jeer at them, and his minions arrest as many as they can catch, I know their refusal is important. Many may languish in prison, others have to start over in exile, and there will be no parades or medals for either. But widespread draft resistance has an impact: it helps blunt the drive for war, saps the public compliance needed even in a Putin-style tyranny. To paraphrase, “They also serve, who refuse to serve at all.”]
‘I will cross the border tonight’: Russians flee after news of draft
Border guards cite ‘exceptional’ number of people leaving the country after ‘partial mobilisation’ announcement
Hours after Vladimir Putin shocked Russia by announcing the first mobilisation since the second world war, Oleg received his draft papers in the mailbox, ordering him to make his way to the local recruitment centre in Kazan, the capital of the Tatarstan republic.
As a 29-year-old sergeant in the Russian reserves, Oleg said he always knew that he would be the first in line if a mobilisation was declared, but held out hope that he would not be forced to fight in the war in Ukraine.
“My heart sank when I got the call-up,” he said. “But I knew I had no time to despair.”
He quickly packed all his belongings and booked a one-way ticket to Orenburg, a southern Russian city close to the border with Kazakhstan.
“I will be driving across the border tonight,” he said in a telephone interview on Thursday from the airport in Orenburg. “I have no idea when I’ll step foot in Russia again,” he added, referring to the jail sentence Russian men face for avoiding the draft.
Oleg said he will leave behind his wife, who is due to give birth next week. “I will miss the most important day of my life. But I am simply not letting Putin turn me into a killer in a war that I want no part in.”
The Kremlin’s decision to announce a partial mobilisation has led to a rush among men of military age to leave the country, likely sparking a new, possibly unprecedented brain drain in the coming days and weeks.
The Guardian spoke to over a dozen men and women who had left Russia since Putin announced the so-called partial mobilisation, or who are planning to do so in the next few days.
Options to flee are limited, they say. Earlier this week, four of the five EU countries bordering Russia announced they would no longer allow Russians to enter on tourist visas.
And so many, like Oleg, were forced to get creative and drive to some of the few land borders still open to Russians.
Border guards in Finland, the last EU country that still allows entry to Russians with tourist visas, said that they have noticed an “exceptional number” of Russian nationals seeking to cross the border overnight, while eyewitnesses also said the Russian-Georgian and Russian-Mongolian borders were “collapsing” with overwhelming traffic.
“We are seeing an even bigger exodus than when the war started,” said Ira Lobanovskaya, who started the “Guide to the free World”NGO, which helps Russians against the war leave the country.
She said her website had received over one and half million visits since Putin’s speech on Wednesday. According to Lobanovkaya’s estimates, over 70,000 Russians that used the group’s services have already left or made concrete plans to leave.
“These are people who are buying one-way tickets. They won’t be coming back as long as mobilisation is ongoing,” she said.
Many of those who are still in Russia will feel that time is running out. At least three regions have already announced they will close their borders to men eligible for the draft.
Border agents at Russian airports have also reportedly started interrogating departing male passengers about their military service status and checking return tickets.
After thousands of Russians rallied against the war and mobilisation on Wednesday, some took to social media to criticise protesters for not speaking out earlier, when their country’s troops were committing human rights abuses in Bucha, Irpin and countless of other towns across Ukraine.
“I understand people’s frustration,” said Igor, a 26-year-old IT professional from St Petersburg, who is planning to fly to Vladikavkaz and drive to Georgia, another popular fleeing route used by Russians, next week. “I attended the anti-war protest when Putin launched his invasion, but the authorities just jail everyone.”
Some of the protesters detained in Moscow have subsequently been given draft notices while locked up, according to the monitoring group OVD, further underlying the dangers average Russians face when taking to the streets.
“I think the only way I can personally help Ukraine right now is by not fighting there,” Igor said.
There have also been calls for the EU to support Russians who are looking for a way out of the draft.
The EU Commission spokesperson on home affairs, Anitta Hipper, said that the bloc would meet to discuss the issuance of humanitarian visas to Russians fleeing mobilisation. The three Baltic states said on Thursday, however, that they are not prepared to automatically offer asylum to Russians fleeing the draft.
Even those without any military experience – men who Putin vowed not to call up – are packing their bags.
They point to the ambiguity of Putin’s mobilisation law and point to previous broken promises that he would not call for one.
“Putin lied that there will be no mobilisation,” said 23-year-old Anton, a student in Moscow, referring to the president’s International Women’s Day address on 8 March, when he insisted that no reservists would be called up to fight in Ukraine. “Why would he not lie again about this partial mobilisation?”
Fears have grown after independent website Novaya Gazeta Europe reported, based on its government sources, that the mobilistation decrees allow the Ministry of Defence to call up 1,000,000 people, instead of the 300,000 announced by the country’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, on Wednesday.
For now, Lobanovskaya said, the majority of Russians leaving are men.
The Guardian also spoke to a number of women, mostly medics, who similarly decided to leave the country after reports started to trickle out that Russia was calling up health professionals to the front.
“I know medics are supposed to treat people, that is our duty,” said Tatayana, a doctor from Irkutsk, who bought a plane ticket to Baku for next week. “But I believe the sooner this horrible war stops, the fewer people will die.”
The mobilisation also appears to have spooked some of the very people on whom the regime relies to sustain its war efforts.
“For me, mobilisation is the red line,” said Ilya, 29, a mid-level official working for the Moscow government. “Tomorrow I will be in Kazakhstan.”
One man, the son of a west-sanctioned oligarch due to come back to Russia after his studies abroad to work for his family business, said he no longer planned to do so.
“Well, one thing is clear,” he said, in a brief interview by text message. “I won’t be coming back to Russia anytime soon.”
On this day [Sept. 22] in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, a document that put the Confederacy on notice of his intention to free their slaves. They had until January 1, he said, to lay down their arms; after that, any slave within a rebelling state would be “then, thenceforward, and forever free.”
Although he didn’t make a point of it, his proclamation — both this preliminary one, and the official one he made at the first of the new year, when the deadline arrived — did not free all slaves; those living in border states, for example, would remain enslaved. Nor did Lincoln have, of course, any way to actually enforce a liberated slave’s freedom; other than promising to no longer aid in the capture of fleeing slaves, his promised emancipation relied entirely on the Union eventually winning the war.