Category Archives: Ukraine

Risky Business: Hackers for Ukraine vs Putin’s Techies

‘It’s the right thing to do’: the 300,000 volunteer hackers coming together to fight Russia

The Guardian: Ukraine appealed for a global army of IT experts to help in the battle against Putin – and many answered the call. [The Guardian spoke] to people on the digital frontline.

Kali learned how to use technology by playing with his grandfather’s phone. Now, the Swiss teenager is trying to paralyse the digital presence of the Russian government and the Belarussian railway.

Kali – and many others who contributed to this article – declined to share his real name because some of the action he is taking is illegal and because he fears Russian retaliation. He is one of about 300,000 people who have signed up to a group on the chat app Telegram called “IT Army of Ukraine”, through which participants are assigned tasks designed to take the fight to Vladimir Putin. In so doing, they are trying to level the playing field between one of the world’s superpowers and Ukraine as it faces bombardment and invasion.

The sprawling hacker army has been successful in disrupting Russian web services, according to NetBlocks, a company that monitors global internet connectivity. It says the availability of the websites of the Kremlin and the Duma – Russia’s lower house of parliament – has been “intermittent” since the invasion started. The sites for state-owned media services, several banks and the energy giant Gazprom have also been targeted.

“The crowdsourced attacks have been successful in disrupting Russian government and state-backed media websites,” says Alp Toker, the director of NetBlocks. He adds that Russia has attempted to mitigate the attacks and deter hackers by filtering access to certain websites, which has caused further disruption.

Like many of his peers, Kali was directed to the Telegram group, which has Ukrainian- and English-language versions, by Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister for digital transformation. Fedorov, 31, has been using his vastly expanded Twitter profile to plead with executives at the world’s biggest tech firms to cut ties with Russia. . . .

While his home country has long maintained a policy of military neutrality, Kali was spurred to action when he saw Fedorov’s tweet. “I wanted to help and use my attacking skills to help Ukraine,” he says via Telegram. “I’m from Switzerland, but I’m a strong hacker and I’m so sorry for every Ukrainian. I do it because I stand with Ukraine and I want to help somehow. I think if we hack Russia’s infrastructure they will stop, maybe, because nothing will work any more.”

Kali says his parents aren’t especially keen on what he is doing, although he tries not to tell them much about it. And he is not the only one.

Caroline, a twentysomething from the New York metropolitan area, told her parents she had enlisted into the IT army just hours before we speak on the phone. “They’re starting to get concerned,” she says.

. . . Caroline felt compelled to act when she saw Fedorov’s tweet. She had seen how destructive the spread of disinformation had been during Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. . . ,

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister for digital transformation.
Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s vice prime minister and minister for digital transformation. Photograph: Ukrinform/Rex/Shutterstock

There was just one problem: she didn’t know what Telegram was. Unlike Kali, the former preschool teacher isn’t much of a hacker. At first, she was concerned that the app – which was founded by the exiled Russian billionaires Pavel and Nikolai Durov – was a trap. But, after some research, she downloaded it and joined the group.

She felt out of her depth when the group’s administrators asked for hackers to bombard Russian state websites with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, by which websites are bombarded with traffic to make them unreachable. This is how many Russian government websites have been disabled since the invasion began.

But Caroline realised things were getting lost in the torrent of information. . . . She spends hours every day sharing information in the Telegram chat to help the masses of subscribers. “I can’t explain it,” she says. “It’s just something that’s so innately human that has been inspiring me, the more involved I get. I recognise I’m not special by any means, so all I’m doing is gathering all this information to try to dismantle these campaigns of disinformation that are going on.”***
Enrique is a Lithuanian IT expert in his mid-30s. He felt that joining the Telegram group was “the right thing to do”. “Growing up with your parents telling you stories about how they were exiled to Siberia lives with you your whole life,” he says. “We are scared that we will be next.”

. . . He is less focused on wrecking the Russian internet and more on co-opting ordinary Russians to rise up against their dictator.

“I hope the world can put pressure on Russian people so much that they would be willing to re-evaluate their upbringing, understand that people are asking them to help, look at what is really happening and perhaps they will rise up that way,” he says.

Enrique has been inspired by the bravery of the Ukrainian people. That includes those who have taken to the streets to defend their country – and those who have taken to their keyboards. Ukraine has 290,000 people who work in IT and is the world’s outsourcing tech desk. While many of them have given up their day jobs to fight for the army, others have signed up to the IT army.

That includes Sam, who works for a global advertising-technology company. He has been using his expertise to send what he calls “counter-propaganda” to Russians through advertising platforms. “We’ve been in a hybrid war and a direct war with Russia since 2014,” he says. “It was the same, but on a smaller scale. We understand how Russia acts: they do propaganda here, then inside their country, then try to share their vision to the global community.”

The Ukrainian advertising industry has sent what Sam calls “aggressive” videos that show captured Russian soldiers pleading with their mothers and trying to convince them about the reality of war in Ukraine. Others highlight the impact of sanctions on Russia and the strength of the Ukrainian army. “They will move everyone to act,” says Sam.

About 100 advertising specialists from 50 agencies are designing and disseminating adverts to try to raise awareness within Russia and Belarus of what Russia is doing, ducking and diving around advertising bans and platform closures.

Enrique has been impressed by the teamwork of the volunteer IT army. “I have never seen so many people wanting to do something in my whole life,” he says. “You ask for participants to crash something [break it] or run something and you have it.” . . .

Alex, a Ukrainian software engineer, says the Telegram group is mostly used for DDoS attacks. “I wish there were more things to do in terms of helping the IT part [of the war].” He doesn’t want to cut off Russia from the internet, but rather find a way of showing Russians images of the war.

This is what Anonymous, a hacking collective, claimed to have done with Russian TV channels this month. “My ideal way would be to do something that will demonstrate the truth for [Russians],” says Alex. However, suggestions for DDoS attacks are eagerly carried out. When links for target websites go up in the Telegram group, he says, “all of them are down” within half an hour.

Some cybersecurity experts are worried, though. “There are some risks in having this volunteer army,” says Alan Woodward, a professor of cybersecurity at the University of Surrey. He is concerned about the lack of accountability regarding who is directing the battle plan and the overarching strategy.

“At best, what they’re doing is running interference,” he says. “It may be a nuisance to the Russians, but the attacks we’ve seen so far haven’t really affected the Russian fighting capability to any decisive effect.”

Woodward says an army of 300,000 hackers will invariably include some bad seeds. “These volunteers might start attacking targets that are not really what the Ukrainian government wants,” he says. “This could be accidental. How often has ransomware spilled over and affected, say, a hospital? I don’t think anyone wants that.”

There is also a risk that such an open call could easily be co-opted by the Russians to generate negative headlines. “You never quite know who is in a volunteer group,” he says. “Not only could they do something unwanted in the name of Ukraine, but they could also do something that plays directly into the Russians’ rhetoric.”

The fear of infiltration is something that also concerns Agnes Venema, a national security and intelligence academic at the University of Malta. “How useful they are depends on how well you can vet them, how well you can coordinate them and how skilled they are,” she says. “Renaming Putin’s yacht is cute, but does the hacking of Russian television stations to play the Ukrainian anthem help the Ukrainians achieve their strategic goals?”

Despite her misgivings, Venema finds the corralling of volunteer forces remarkable. “I’m not one for throwing superlatives around, but I would say this level of civic engagement is unprecedented,” she says. Nonetheless, she says, it could quickly backfire. As soon as hackers start taking orders from the Ukrainian army, they drop their status as civilians and could be considered combatants, she says. “That means that these people are legitimate military targets,” she says.

Whether those defending Ukraine’s right to exist know or worry about that is another question. “I don’t care about it,” says Kali, who as we spoke was trying to DDoS a Russian news website that the Ukrainian IT army administrators had flagged as a source of disinformation. “I’ve never worried about it.”



Snapshots for a Grim New Week

March 14 War Notes Updates:

About Time– Pope Francis Speaks Out:
AP: VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has decried the “barbarianism” of the killing of children and other defenseless civilians in Ukraine and pleaded for a stop to the attacks “before cities are reduced to cemeteries.”

In some of his strongest denunciations yet of the war in Ukraine, and in apparent reference to Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the pontiff said that “there are no strategic reasons that hold up” in the face of such armed aggression. Continue reading Snapshots for a Grim New Week

Big News: Top Money-Launderer Deutsche Bank Ditches Russian Biz; More Oligarch Superyachts Seized

March 11, 2022
Reuters: Deutsche Bank to wind down in Russia, reversing course after backlash
By Tom Sims, John O’Donnell and Frank Siebelt

Deutsche CEO had said exit “would go against our values”

Investors criticised Deutsche’s Russia presence
CEO’s 2021 pay up 20%
FRANKFURT, March 11 (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.DE), which faced stinging criticism from some investors and politicians for its ongoing ties to Russia, said on Friday in a surprise move that it would wind down its business in the country.

Deutsche joins the ranks of Goldman Sachs (GS.N) and JPMorgan Chase (JPM.N), which were the first major U.S. banks to exit after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Those moves put pressure on rivals to follow.

Deutsche had resisted pressure to sever ties, arguing that it needed to support multinational firms doing business in Russia.

But on Friday evening in Frankfurt, the bank suddenly reversed course.

“We are in the process of winding down our remaining business in Russia while we help our non-Russian multinational clients in reducing their operations,” the bank said.

“There won’t be any new business in Russia,” Deutsche said.

A day earlier, Deutsche Bank’s Chief Executive Christian Sewing explained to staff why the bank was not withdrawing.

“The answer is that this would go against our values,” he wrote. “We have clients who cannot exit Russia overnight.”

Bill Browder, an investor who has spent years campaigning to expose corruption in Russia, said that Deutsche Bank staying was “completely at odds with the international business community and will create backlash, lost reputation and business in the West.”

“I would be surprised if they are able to maintain this position as the situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate,” Browder told Reuters earlier on Friday.

The criticism came as Russian forces bearing down on Kyiv were regrouping northwest of the Ukrainian capital and Britain said that Moscow could now be planning an assault on the city within days. Continue reading Big News: Top Money-Launderer Deutsche Bank Ditches Russian Biz; More Oligarch Superyachts Seized

Time to End the Shameful Vatican Silence About the Ukraine Invasion

Excerpted From the National Catholic Reporter

Editorial: “Time for Pope Francis to speak up about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the first war in Europe of the 21st century. As such, it poses unique challenges to the world. And the pope, the most universally recognized voice of moral authority in the world, must find his voice and calibrate it to meet those challenges.

The first fact that commands attention is that the aggressor is also a nuclear power. Any steps that escalate the war must be weighed against the possibility that such escalation might entice Russian President Vladimir Putin to order the use of nuclear weapons. That line has not been crossed since 1945 and it must not be crossed ever again.

Russia analyst Fiona Hill has warned that Russia’s hypersonic nuclear missiles are a real threat. The pope needs to speak, and speak clearly, to stigmatize any recourse to even tactical nuclear weapons.

The rise of ethno-nationalism has challenged the vision of a peaceful, unified Europe for which the Vatican has so long labored. . . .
Continue reading Time to End the Shameful Vatican Silence About the Ukraine Invasion

Hat Trick

Well, I declare & knock me over with a feather: the Determined Retiree Himself, Garrison Keillor, has been jolted into joining the Ukraine Resistance. (At least, a column’s worth, which is a start.)

Garrison Keillor: Reality is a good antidote, America. Take a long hard look.

The Column: 03.09.22

“God created war so that Americans would learn geography,” said Mr. Twain, so now you sit in a New York apartment and try to reassemble your memory of Europe, where Germany and Poland are, and text with friends in Prague whose frightened little girls ask, “What is happening?”

We don’t know. In one week, we’ve been transported back to 1940, and our Europe of chic vacations and intellectual ferment is now the cauldron of wars that our grandparents fled.

My grandpa fled Glasgow, having five children and no wish to see the Great War up close, and my friend Bud Trillin’s people fled Ukraine for the reason Jews have been migrating for centuries. Chic had nothing to do with it, they were quite pleased to become Missourians.

Reality is a shock but it does make things more real. American military strategy goes out the window: how do you strategize against a schizoid dictator with an enormous nuclear arsenal and a compliant elite?

Rationalism is only an observation. The stone-faced Putin has invaded an independent nation, firing rockets at a nuclear reactor, women and children in Kyiv weeping as they board a train for Poland, looking at husbands and fathers they may never see again, thanks to the small man at the end of the forty-foot table who says he is conducting an anti-Nazi mission, a naked lie as naked as the belief that COVID is a hoax or Trump won the election.

The hero of the moment is Volodymyr Zelensky, the Jewish comic who is now the guerilla president of Ukraine, and as long as he keeps dancing and making video speeches to his people, Ukraine survives, and when a Russian kill squad finds him, Ukraine becomes a Soviet republic again.

Our country has no Zelensky, alas. Our clown was Trump, who now is exposed as a Putin stooge who tried to kill off NATO to fulfill Putin’s great wish and enable him to reassemble Stalin’s empire. I know a nice man who asks, “Why do you hate Trump?” and who blames it all on Obama and now Biden.

There are a hundred million nice people like him. Trump sold a bill of goods to the heartland and I pity that convoy of a thousand truckers in Baltimore, furious at the government about vaccine requirements even as the plague recedes, a protest without a purpose, just pure anger on eighteen wheels.

Putin sits in his palace, holding the power to destroy European civilization, and what did civilization ever do for him? Nothing, obviously. His man Trump recedes into his gilded cave, waiting for the next reel. He has a lot riding on the November election and it may not be helpful for Republicans to be seen supporting Putin while tanks roll through Ukrainian cities and rockets destroy apartment buildings and tiny children in ICUs are wrapped in blankets and moved to safety.

This war is in our computers and phones and on TV, if we have eyes and care to look, and it is a reality that makes the Florida Orange and Chinless Mitch and Caribbean Ted Cruz disappear.

I pray for my fellow Democrats to put a damper on their righteous narcissism and rediscover some seriousness about freedom and love of country. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez said she liked the part of Biden’s speech about Ukraine but I wish she’d come right out and confess that she loves this country. What’s so hard about that?

Some dreadful political hacks go around with flag pins on their lapels but that’s no excuse for cynicism. It was abysmally stupid of her to pose for fashion pictures in Vanity Fair but I’ve forgiven her. Time for her to shape up now.

My generation was badly affected by the antiwar movement of the Sixties and the purity of the counterculture of dulcimers and organic granola and we got too good for our own good and lost touch with our people.

I am just an old evangelical unable to say obscene words with authority, but I do believe Ukraine can beat the Russian Army. Trump and Putin are from another solar system. One is a madman in Moscow and the other is rearranging his hair. God preserve the heroic comedian. A great deal is riding on this. Joe and I are old men. Who will be our Zelensky?


Cursing the Rainbow: Russian Orthodox Head Patriarch Names Gays as Cause of Ukraine War

Excerpts from “How the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, a Putin enabler, spins the war.”
by CATHY YOUNG, at the Bulwark, MARCH 9, 2022
Blaming the Ukraine Invasion on … the Gays?

In the past ten days, plenty of rational-izations have been offered for Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine—everything from “Russia needs a buffer state to keep NATO at a distance” (just about every Kremlin apologist) to “Russia is trying to ‘denazify’ Ukraine” (just about no one except Putin and his minions).

But in a Sunday sermon, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, offered a startling new explanation that is sure to resonate with the Sohrab Ahmari wing of the modern American right: It was to save Eastern Ukraine from the gays.

The patriarch—who, it should be noted, began his clerical career in the Soviet era when the church was a loyal handmaiden to the atheistic state and who was reportedly a KGB agent, like the rest of church hierarchy—summed up the situation as follows:

For eight years, there have been efforts to destroy what exists in the Donbas [a region of Ukraine where armed conflict has been ongoing between Russian occupation forces and Ukrainian defenders since 2014.] What exists in the [Russian-occupied parts of] Donbas is a rejection, a principled rejection of the so-called [pro-gay] values that are now being offered by those who lay claim to global domination. Today, there is a certain test for loyalty to that power, a certain pass into that “happy” world, the world of excessive consumption, the world of illusory freedom.

Patriarch Kirill-Moscow

Do you know what that test is? It’s very simple but also horrific: it’s a gay parade. The demand to hold a gay parade is in fact a test for loyalty to that powerful world, and we know that if people or countries resist this demand, they are excluded from that world and treated as alien.”

Alternatively, one could say that “what exists in the Donbas” is an enclave ruled by armed gangs of separatists controlled by shadowy people with likely ties to the FSB, the Russian state security service. Freedom is nonexistent even by the standards of Putin’s Russia (Freedom House gives Eastern Donbas a “freedom rating” of 4 out of 100, ahead of only North Korea, Syria, Tibet, Turkmenistan, and South Sudan.

Human Rights Watch has reported that the Moscow-backed “armed groups” that rule the region frequently detain people on bogus charges of espionage or treason and that detainees, including pregnant women, have been “held incommunicado, in appalling conditions,” denied medical care, and in some cases tortured. Surely even religious believers who frown on gay pride parades should agree that kidnapping and torturing people is worse.

During his fifteen-minute sermon on the Eastern Orthodox holiday known as Forgiveness Sunday (the last day before Lent), the patriarch did not say a word about fellow Christians under fire in Ukraine outside Eastern Donbas. He did, however, returnmore than once to the evil of gay parades:

[Quote from Kirill’s sermon, by digital translation]:

There is a rejection in [Russian-occupied] Donbass, a fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power. Today there is such a test of loyalty to this power, a kind of pass to that “happy” world, the world of excessive consumption, the world of visible “freedom”.

Do you know what this test is? The test is very simple and at the same time terrible — it’s a gay pride parade. The requirements for many to hold a gay pride parade are a test of loyalty to that
to the most powerful world; and we know that if people or countries reject these demands, they do not enter that world, they become strangers to it.”

The Patriarch recalled that homosexuality is condemned by the teachings of the Orthodox Church, thus it turns out that the special military operation that the Russian Federation has been conducting in Ukraine for the tenth day meets the interests of the ROC [Russian Orthodox Church]. “If humanity recognizes that sin is not a violation according to God’s law, if humanity agrees that sin is [merely] one of the variants of human behavior, then human civilization will end there. And gay pride parades . . . are called to demonstrate that [this gay] sin is [merely] one of the variations of human behavior. That’s why in order to enter the club of those countries, it is necessary to hold a gay parade.

Not to make a political statement “we are with you”, not to sign any agreements, but to hold a gay pride parade. And we know how [when] people resist these demands and how this resistance [is] suppressed by force. It means that we are talking about forcibly imposing a sin condemned by God’s law, which means forcibly imposing on people the denial of God and His truth” – that is, those with weapons in the hands of the opposing forces of the Russian Federation . . . .”

Young: [this sermon] made me think, too, of fairly common claims by pro-Kremlin conservatives in the United States that the real reason the libs hate Putin and Putin’s Russia is the [regime’s] homophobia. . . .

Were some Western progressives more incensed by Russia’s “gay propaganda” law than by the brutal suppression of peaceful protests, the crushing of the independent media, the election-rigging, and the rest of the Putin regime’s systematic assault on civil liberties? No doubt. But the Putin-loving “trads,” in Russia or in America—be it Patriarch Kirill, Pat Buchanan, Steve Bannon (who recently praised Putin on his podcast for not being “woke” and pointed out that “they don’t have the Pride flags” in Russia), . . . are at least as obsessed with the idea of the Putin regime as [their favored]  nemesis of LGBT rights.

The real irony, perhaps, is that [recent] Ukraine was not exactly San Francisco. The country still bans same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, and only about one in five people (similar to the numbers in Russia) believe that homosexuality should be accepted by society.

However, for all its problems, Ukraine is sufficiently hospitable to free expression that thousands of people have been able to march under rainbow flags year to year—in contrast to Russia, where attempts to hold such events have ended in violence from both police and anti-gay vigilantes.

One can debate whether the American liberals and progressives who have decisively won the culture war on gay rights are too intolerant toward people who still subscribe to traditional sexual morality, such as Christian bakers and florists who refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings. But the willingness of quite a few traditionalists to see brutal anti-gay repression as the silver lining of an authoritarian regime rather dramatically illustrates the ugliness at the heart of the “trad” mindset.

And Patriarch Kirill’s obscene wartime sermon shows us one place where this path leads: the place where the dreaded “gay parade” is a greater evil than a war of aggression.

Moby Dick Redux: The Great Oligarch Yacht Hunt; and searching for a Ukraine End-Game Without Nukes

Two weighty reads for midweek
#1 – Fleeing sanctions, oligarchs seek safe ports for superyachts


WASHINGTON (AP) — The massive superyacht Dilbar stretches one-and-a-half football fields in length, about as long as a World War I dreadnought. It boasts two helipads, berths for more than 130 people and a 25-meter swimming pool long enough to accommodate another whole superyacht.

Dilbar was launched in 2016 at a reported cost of more than $648 million. Five years on, its purported owner, the Kremlin-aligned Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, was already dissatisfied and sent the vessel to a German shipyard last fall for a retrofit reportedly costing another couple hundred million dollars.

That’s where she lay in drydock on Thursday when the United States and European Union announced economic sanctions against Usmanov — a metals magnate and early investor in Facebook — over his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine.

“We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets,” President Joe Biden said during his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, addressing the oligarchs. “We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.” Continue reading Moby Dick Redux: The Great Oligarch Yacht Hunt; and searching for a Ukraine End-Game Without Nukes

War Notes: Thousands of Protesters Arrested in Russia; and More . . .

Reuters- More than 4,500 antiwar protesters arrested in one day in Russia, group says


On March 6, antiwar protesters were beaten with batons as they were arrested by Russian police in Yekaterinburg, Russia. (Reuters)

By Brittany Shammas and Reis Thebault
 — March 6 2022

More than 4,500 protesters were arrested Sunday at antiwar demonstrations across Russia, according to the independent human rights organization OVD-Info, as people risked jail time to denounce the nation’s war with Ukraine.

The scenes joined other displays of defiance in a country that has continued to clamp down on opposition to the invasion. Crowds chanted “No to war!” while streaming through Moscow and St. Petersburg in a pair of videos posted to Twitter. In another, a demonstrator being hauled away by law enforcement sang Ukraine’s anthem.

A woman was recorded telling a police officer she had survived the Nazi siege of Leningrad, the former name of St. Petersburg, and lost both her parents. Another woman added, “We have relatives, we have friends in Ukraine.”

“You came to support fascists?” the officer responded, a reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s justification for the war.

“What fascists?” the crowd asked.

The officer then gave an order: “Arrest everyone.”

Authorities on Sunday arrested at least 4,640 people across 56 cities in Russia, reported OVD-Info, which was declared a foreign agent by Russian authorities last year during Putin’s sweeping suppression of activists, rights groups and opposition figures. The group reported multiple instances of excessive force against protesters, including beatings and use of stun guns.

Among those detained were 13 journalists and 113 juveniles.
Russia’s interior ministry said earlier Sunday that police had arrested more than 3,500 people “for taking part in unauthorized rallies” in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere. The agency warned protesters that authorities would continue to target demonstrations and their organizers.

Love & War

John Stephens, who Zoomed with Kyiv Friends from Virginia

Quaker Bulletin, From Our Far-Flung Correspondents: John Stephens, northern Virginia USA:
I attended morning worship with the Friends in Kyiv at 2:15am our time last night.

Over 120 Friends from around the globe were connected on Zoom. Many of those were from Australia and New Zealand, but there were folks from Europe, and even a couple others from the U.S.

What was most striking to me was how “same” it was to any other unprogrammed Quaker gathering. They really were the same as us, all over-at least it seemed .. . .

Looking around the Zoom room, especially when someone spoke, it was almost like: “Hey, we have that guy in our Yearly Meeting, only with a different

From: “I’m a Cold War Historian. We’re in a Frightening New Era.”
By Mary Elise Sarotte, professor of historical studies at Johns Hopkins University

New York Times: The longevity of the [First] Cold War also gave both sides time and incentive to negotiate arms control agreements. Washington and its allies concluded a host of detailed treaties with Moscow that, while flawed, at least provided predictability and monitoring — all while serving to build a long-term relationship in managing nuclear danger.

In recent years, however, both sides rashly shed many of these accords, seeing them as outdated and inconveniently constraining. The New START Treaty is now the only restraint on the number and types of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons — and it expires in 2026, with little hope of renewal.

Already gone are the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which George W. Bush abrogated in 2002, and the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, from which Mr. Putin “suspended” Russian participation in 2007. And, most relevant to today’s crisis, in 2019 President Donald Trump abrogated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty over U.S. claims of Russian violations and Chinese arms buildup (though China was not a party to the treaty).

Signed by President Ronald Reagan and the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty eliminated that class of weapons entirely. Now that it is no more, Mr. Putin claims to fear that the alliance could deploy such weapons on Ukrainian territory against Russian targets. He has cited that possibility, along with denying that Ukraine is a separate country, among his motivations for invading Ukraine.

Even if Moscow can be brought back to the negotiating table, which seems highly unlikely for the foreseeable future, it would take years of painstaking talks to resurrect these treaties. Their disappearance is especially grievous in light of other losses — of military-to-military communication, expelled embassy and consulate staff members — and the development of new forms of weapons, such as hypersonic missiles and cyberwarfare. Two of the world’s largest military powers are now functioning in near-total isolation from each other, which is a danger to everyone.

Another problem is cultural. The threat of thermonuclear conflict was omnipresent for those who came of age during the Cold War. Yet after decades of peace between the West and Russia, that collective cultural awareness has largely dissipated — even though the threat of nuclear conflict remains, and has, in the past week, ramped back up to levels unseen since the Cold War.

The Russian president has now definitively put an end to the post-Cold War era, which rested on an assumption that major European land wars were gone for good. . . .

Becoming a historian requires the ability to develop a sense of periodization. I sense a period ending. I am now deeply afraid that Mr. Putin’s recklessness may cause the years between the Cold War and the Covid-19 pandemic to seem a halcyon period to future historians, compared with what came after. I fear we may find ourselves missing the old Cold War.


Whittier: “In War Time”

John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).


“In War Time”

Anniversary Poem

Somewhat revised

               Read before the Alumni of the Friends’ Yearly Meeting School, at the Annual Meeting at Newport, R. I., 15th 6th mo., 1863. [Written during another war, it resonates with a current one, and is edited here to highlight those echoes.]


ONCE more, dear friends, you meet beneath
A clouded sky:       

Not yet the sword has found its sheath,
And on the sweet spring airs the breath
Of war floats by.

 Yet trouble springs not from the ground,     Nor pain from chance;      

The Eternal order circles round,
And wave and storm find mete and bound
In Providence.

 Full long our feet the flowery ways
Of peace have trod,           

Content with creed and garb and phrase:
A harder path in earlier days
Led up to God. Continue reading Whittier: “In War Time”

Two Chilling Blasts From the (not so distant) Past

I’m reading a memoir/autobiography, Writing Straight With Crooked Lines, by Jim Forest. Jim died recently, after a long life spent in peace work, including much collaboration with Quakers.

After the attack on a huge Ukrainian nuclear power plant, two passages in it leapt out at me this morning. The first was merely a blip — but an unnerving one— from almost 40 years ago. The second, however, tells of a passing encounter in that same era which could be repeated today.
Tell it, Jim: Continue reading Two Chilling Blasts From the (not so distant) Past