NOTE: On a day off from the January 6 Committee hearings, it’s a suitable time to ponder the Ukraine war, and how it has scrambled long-held beliefs & positions for many people. Here are two perspectives: first, that of an internationally-noted public scholar, and the other from a writer who interviewed & wrote about many combat veterans who strongly opposed the U. S. War in Iraq, but now feel supportive of Ukraine’s resistance to Putin’s invasion. Like the Ukraine war, these mostly inward struggles seem likely to continue.
The least we owe Ukraine is full support, and to do this we need a stronger Nato
For me, John Lennon’s mega-hit Imagine was always a song popular for the wrong reasons. Imagine that “the world will live as one” is the best way to end in hell.
Those who cling to pacifism in the face of the Russian attack on Ukraine remain caught in their own version of “imagine”. Imagine a world in which tensions are no longer resolved through armed conflicts … Europe persisted in this world of “imagine”, ignoring the brutal reality outside its borders. Now it’s the time to awaken.
The dream of a quick Ukrainian victory, the repetition of the initial dream of a quick Russian victory, is over. In what looks more and more as a protracted stalemate, Russia is slowly progressing, and its ultimate goal is clearly stated. There is no longer any need to read between the lines when Putin compares himself with Peter the Great: “On the face of it, he was at war with Sweden taking something away from it … He was not taking away anything, he was returning … He was returning and reinforcing, that is what he was doing … Clearly, it fell to our lot to return and reinforce as well.”
More than focus on particular issues (is Russia really just “returning”, and to what?) we should read carefully Putin’s general justification of his claim: “In order to claim some kind of leadership – I am not even talking about global leadership, I mean leadership in any area – any country, any people, any ethnic group should ensure their sovereignty. Because there is no in-between, no intermediate state: either a country is sovereign, or it is a colony, no matter what the colonies are called.” Continue reading Think Pieces: Peaceniks Still Struggle With Ukraine War Support→
Gwynne Dyer is a UK-based Canadian journalist and long-time commentator on international affairs.
OPINION: How would we know if the United States is deliberately starving Ukraine of weapons in order to force it into a compromise peace settlement that leaves some Ukrainian territory – maybe even a lot – in Russian hands?
You can imagine the White House having such a strategy, though it would never admit it. After all, if Ukraine managed to drive the Russian army out of the whole country, Moscow might panic and escalate to nuclear weapons.
President Biden’s prime duty is to keep the United States safe, not to put the Ukrainian border back where it used to be.
For Ukraine, the war is literally existential. Russian leader Vladimir Putin wants not only to conquer Ukraine but to erase its very identity, so President Volodymyr Zelensky would risk anything, including nuclear war, to prevent it. Continue reading Ukraine: Now to the “Drip-Drip” War?→
[NOTE: It pains me to be hoping this opinion column is correct. I’m new to the business of promoting wars. But here I am, still rooting for Ukraine to avoid the destruction and erasure planned for it and its people by Putin, and knowing no other way. No surprise that I’m also thinking today of Walt Whitman, and the closing stanzas of his long poem, Song of Myself:
Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
[Tho in my case, that last line should be, “I am large, my doctor keeps saying, get smaller.”]
In Ukraine, is the balance tipping in Moscow’s favor? Not yet.
Russian military advances in eastern Ukraine this month have raised growing concern in the West that the balance of the war is tipping in Moscow’s favor. But Biden administration officials think these fears are overblown, and that Ukrainian defenses remain solid in this ugly war of attrition.
“We share the concerns, but for now we believe the Ukrainians are well-positioned and equipped to hold off the advances, while the Russians have their own sustainment challenges,” a senior administration official told me Tuesday.
Ukrainian officials have argued that they need more heavy weapons, fast, to hold the line against the Russian offensive in Luhansk and Donetsk provinces in the east. To take just one example, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior Ukrainian official, tweeted this week that his country needs 300 multiple-launch rocket systems, or MLRS — nearly 30 times what’s on the way.
The example illustrates a weapons-supply problem that worries many American experts. Just four MLRS rocket launchers have actually been delivered, officials say, with eight more arriving soon. “Twelve is not enough. Not even close,” counters retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who commanded U.S. Army troops in Europe. “It seems like we keep pulling our punches, and all that does is prolong the war.” Continue reading Ukraine: Not Losing, But Not Winning→
AP News: In Wake of Ukraine Invasion, global food crisis looms
June 8, 2022
The consequences of the war are being felt far beyond Eastern Europe because shipments of Ukrainian grain are bottled up inside the country, driving up the price of food.
Ukraine, long known as the “bread basket of Europe,” is one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but much of that flow has been halted by the war and a Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast. An estimated 22 million tons of grain remains in Ukraine. The failure to ship it out is endangering the food supply in many developing countries, especially in Africa.
Russia expressed support Wednesday for a U.N. plan to create a safe corridor at sea that would allow Ukraine to resume grain shipments. The plan, among other things, calls for Ukraine to remove mines from the waters near the Black Sea port of Odesa.
[NOTE: This review does not mention that amid the spreading devastation of the English Civil War, which in 1649 led to the execution of the defeated Charles I, a new radical religious group, derisively called Quakers, was coming into being. The earliest Friends were at least in sympathy with Cromwell’s anti-monarchical “Commonwealth,” and not a few had fought for it. When the Commonwealth collapsed a decade later, the monarchy was restored and the beheaded Charles’s refugee son became king Charles II.
Behind the new king was the Anglican church, and many others turned loose in his realm — losers turned winners, with lots of scores to settle.
Quakers were among those targeted, persecuted for the next thirty years. That’s another story, except to note that they survived.
I mention Quakers because as one of the spiritual descendants, this writer is living in times when forecasts of a new civil war are frequently heard. And this review indirectly but forcefully raises two questions: would Quakers survive another such ordeal? How could they/we prepare?]
From The Guardian:The Siege of Loyalty House by Jessie Childs review – the English civil war in all its fog and mess
The story of the clergymen, soldiers, architects, actors and apothecaries forced to rub shoulders during desperate times
Kathryn Hughes — 04 June 2022
In the centuries following the burning down of Basing House by Oliver Cromwell in 1645, all sorts of odd things kept turning up in the ruins. There was fine glass from Venice, an ivory cup from west Africa, apothecary jars from Delft and fragments of a Chinese bowl.
Random though these remnants were, they were nothing compared with the assorted jumble of house guests who had left them behind. For three years at the height of England’s civil war, 500 or so mostly strangers had been obliged to cram hugger-mugger into the Tudor castle, which lay two miles east of Basingstoke.
Sheltered within the massive earthwork fortifications were Roman Catholics and Anglicans, soldiers and architects, actors and apothecaries, people who burned with righteous anger at what was happening to their beloved country, and those who couldn’t wait for the whole thing to be over. The one thing they all had in common was that they were nominally king’s men, on the side of Charles I in his bloody and seemingly endless struggle against his own parliament. Continue reading Quakerism was born in a terrible civil war. Could it survive another one?→
[NOTE: Repression of dissent is a communicable disease. How many variants are loose in our own atmosphere? And are we preparing to resist their spread?]
New York Times Thousands Swept Up as Kremlin Clamps Down on War Criticism
The arrests are a stark gauge of how the Kremlin has intensified repression of critics. At least 50 people now face years-long prison sentences.
By Neil MacFarquhar and Alina Lobzina
June 3, 2022
Vladimir Efimov, a local politician on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s Far East, was charged with “discrediting the army” and ordered to pay a $500 fine three times in recent months over antiwar images that he displayed on social media.
When he continued, reposting battlefield pictures like the wholesale destruction of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol under Russian bombardment, prosecutors ratcheted up the charges and accused him of a felony — punishable by up to five years in prison or stiffer fines.
“They thought that I would be afraid,” Mr. Efimov said, that the fines “would give me cold feet and make me hide away.”
Three months ago, President Vladimir V. Putin signed into law draconian measures designed to silence war critics, putting even use of the word “war” off-limits. They prompted some Russians appalled by the invasion to flee the country, forced independent news outlets to shut down, and created a climate of suspicion in which neighbor turned on neighbor.
A bird sits on a cross amid newly made graves at a cemetery near Mariupol, Ukraine, May 15. (CNS/Reuters/Alexander Ermochenko)
So much energy is being expended to urge Pope Francis to justify violent resistance. The latest episode of this is the war in Ukraine. Journalists, scholars, politicians and some religious continue to press the pope to join the chorus of people perpetuating the violent dynamic.
My sense is that the pope is trying to shift our gaze. It is a shift that he senses Jesus models. A shift toward pastoral accompaniment and a focus on how we might break the violent dynamic. It is not about condemning or judging people in very difficult situations, like some Ukrainians who choose to take up arms in violent defense of their country. It affirms and admires their willingness to take a high-risk stand against injustice rather than to be passive. At that same time, it is also not about justifying methods of war and enabling the violent dynamic to perpetuate and spread.
Francis speaks of accompaniment as the way of God, as in his March 20 Angelus address: “God trusts us and accompanies us with patience. He does not get discouraged, but always instills hope in us. … He does not keep track of your shortcomings but encourages your potential. … In this way God accompanies us: with closeness, mercy, and tenderness.”
Such accompaniment is being done in a variety of creative, courageous, nonviolent ways by Francis as well as by Ukrainians and others. It also includes humanitarian resource provision, identifying credible messengers and persistent needs-based diplomacy, coalition building, consistent public statements, impacting Russian leaders’ sources of power, prayer and shared physical risk.
Ukrainians have fraternized with Russian soldiers to lower their morale and stimulate defections. Ukrainians have courageously evacuated many people from dangerous areas. The Ukrainian League of Mediators is helping address increasing polarization within Ukrainian families and communities, in order to minimize the violence.
Russians have participated in numerous anti-war protests, and around 15,000 people have been arrested. Journalists have interrupted and resigned from state TV. Nearly 100,000 Russians from a variety of sectors have signed petitions to end the war. Russians from all parts of society have spoken out against the war — from members of the military and connected to the foreign ministry to members of the Russian oil industry and billionaires, as well as nearly 300 Russian Orthodox clerics. Meanwhile, hundreds of soldiers have refused to take part.
There are additional ways we can support peacebuilders and nonviolent activists in Ukraine by creating coordination hubs with diplomatic, legal and material assistance; amplifying their stories; supporting unarmed civilian protection units already on the ground; sending waves of peacebuilder or religious leader delegations to Kyiv and perhaps other cities in Ukraine; and encouraging a focus on diplomatic solutions.
For Francis, accompaniment is about not perpetuating the violent dynamic as much as possible.
“There was a time, even in our churches, when people spoke of a holy war or a just war,” the pope told Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in their March 16 video meeting. “Today we cannot speak in this manner. A Christian awareness of the importance of peace has developed. Wars are always unjust, since it is the people of God who pay. Our hearts cannot but weep before the children and women killed, along with all the victims of war. War is never the way.”
At the same time, the pope is not calling us to passivity or surrender in the face of aggression, as he made clear in his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace. As he told an Italian women’s group in March: “The real answer is not more weapons, more sanctions, or more political-military alliances,” but rather a different approach, “a different way of governing the world.” What is the way about? Francis points to the school of Jesus, of Gandhi and particularly of “women who have cultivated and cherished life.”
Francis invites us into recognizing conflict as a process with a long-term view, both forward and backward.
During a press conference in April as he flew back from Malta, Francis said: “They fought for the strategy of peace. … Not by chance, at the beginning of the Bible, there is this problem: the ‘Cainian’ spirit to kill instead of the spirit of peace.”
These schools and models illuminate how there may be other ways of defense or resistance to aggression that are more nonviolent, and also perhaps more effective at saving more lives.
In their 2011 volume, Why Civil Resistance Works, researchers Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan analyzed more than 300 contemporary cases and showed that nonviolent resistance is twice as effective as violent resistance and at least 10 times more likely to lead to durable democracy, including against authoritarians. Additional research has corroborated these patterns. This is notable in light of many claims that violent resistance is necessary to defend democracy. Francis invites us into recognizing conflict as a process with a long-term view, both forward and backward.
Such research shows why war not only makes it at minimum harder for a durable democracy but also is “the suicide of humanity” and a defeat for humanity, as Francis exclaims. War, therefore, is not consistent with a ‘humanitarian’ initiative or activity in accord with human dignity. Pope Francis explains that war is a “stinging defeat before the forces of evil,” rather than a necessity to confront evil.
Local residents gather outside an apartment building damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, May 15. (CNS/Reuters/Alexander Ermochenko)
Yes, Russian leaders invaded Ukraine and bear principal responsibility for the war. Kirill is also enabling this violence and the traumatization of the Ukrainian people. All leaders involved in diplomatic negotiations will need to make significant alterations to end the war, save lives, and create space to build a new future. Francis is trying to influence these and other key stakeholders in the conflict, yet he will need our support, collaboration and, especially, shared focus.
In turn, it seems Francis invites our focus to center on accompaniment and breaking, interrupting the logic or dynamic of violence, rather than justifications for war. This is what will more likely prevent and limit war, as well as help us to prioritize abolishing war rather than regularly trying, futilely, to ‘humanize’ war.
As Francis explained in his March 27 Angelus address: “Before the danger of self-destruction, may humanity understand that the moment has come to abolish war, to erase it from human history before it erases human history!”
Pointing to statistics that show half of all Ukrainian children are now displaced, the pope said this is what it means to destroy the future, “causing dramatic trauma in the lives of the smallest and most innocent among us.”
Eli McCarthy is a professor at Georgetown University in justice and peace studies, a steering committee member of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International, and the director of the DC Peace Team.
“NOTE: The shift can be felt even here, thousands of miles away: Russia’s nonstop shelling and bombing is wearing down Ukrainian forces in its eastern regions. They are retreating, taking many casualties. The “wise men” of Davos, and some national leaders of allied nations were talking of concessions to Moscow to get the war over with. the almost giddy optimism of six weeks, two months ago has been crumbling like so many Ukrainian buildings. President Zelensky is defiant; but what now?
‘They’re just raining down metal on us,’ said a soldier fresh from the front line where Russia is advancing
By Siobhán O’Grady, Paul Sonne, Max Bearak and Anastacia Galouchka
May 29, 2022 — ET DONETSK OBLAST, Ukraine — The ambulances hurtled into the parking lot one after the other, each carrying wounded troops directly from the nearby front line. . . . . About 10 wounded soldiers arrived at this hospital in eastern Ukraine in less than an hour Sunday morning — the latest military casualties as Ukrainian forces, outgunned by Russia in the country’s east, continue to lose territory at a critical moment in the war.
Soldiers also helped one civilian woman with leg wounds out of a military ambulance.
The Washington Post is withholding the name and precise location of the hospital out of concerns from staff members that it could be targeted by Russian forces.
“Seventy people from my battalion were injured in the last week,” said a soldier and ambulance driver just outside the hospital gates who identified himself only as Vlad, 29.
“I lost too many friends; it’s hard for me. I don’t know how many. … It’s getting worse every day.”
The night before, he said, the shelling was so loud he hardly got any sleep. “It’s all artillery bombing down,” he said. “All the wounded are coming from shrapnel. Most guys in the trenches haven’t even seen the enemy face-to-face.”
They were gearing up to provide additional support for the soldiers battling the Russians head-on, preparing for a worst-case scenario in which Russian forces continue or accelerate their current advance. That would be a potential turning point on the battlefield.
It would come at a particularly desperate moment for the Ukrainians. Kyiv is already enraged that some Western voices are floating the idea of ceding territory to Moscow. And the Biden administration is taking weeks to decide whether to provide heavier weaponry that could aid Ukrainian troops at this critical juncture in the war.
“Everyone’s tired,” said Bohdan, a 30-year-old soldier and officer in the battalion who spoke on the condition that only his first name be used and his precise position not be given. “But we are ready to stand and protect until the last man.”
In recent days, Russian troops have captured the towns of Svitlodarsk and Lyman and have closed in on Severodonetsk, a large regional hub, where Russian forces have entered a hotel on the city limits. If Russian troops manage to encircle and take the city, Moscow would occupy nearly all of Ukraine’s easternmost Luhansk region, which makes up roughly half of Donbas.
“I mainly hope the boys don’t get encircled in Severodonetsk,” Bohdan said of his fellow troops. “They need more guns, they need more weapons.”
If he could send one message to Washington, he said, it would be this: “Help us with weapons. The most important is antiaircraft. Close the sky — it’s the civilians who are suffering the most.”
The situation in the country’s east marks a shift from an earlier stage of the war, when staunch Ukrainian defenses forced a broad Russian retreat in Kyiv and other areas, increasing confidence among Ukrainians and their Western backers about the prospects of all-out victory over a poorly organized and equipped Russian force.
Having now regrouped, Russian troops are making incremental but steady progress in their campaign in the east and are regularly employing heavy flamethrowers and long-range artillery that Ukrainian forces lack, leaving Kyiv on the back foot. Though Ukrainian resistance has made the fight a slog for Russian forces,
Moscow is inching closer to encircling Ukraine’s biggest strongholds in the Donbas region, while fighting on territory contiguous to Russia with easier supply lines.
In a video address early Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the situation on the battlefield in Donbas was “very difficult,” with Russian forces attacking Ukrainian positions with “maximum artillery and maximum reserves.”
“We are defending our land insofar as the defense resources we have today will allow. We’re doing everything we can to strengthen them — and we will strengthen them,” Zelensky said. “If the occupiers think Severodonetsk or Lyman will be theirs, they are mistaken. Donbas will be Ukrainian.”
For weeks, Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials have been asking the United States to provide multiple launch rocket systems, or MLRS, which would give Kyiv the ability to strike targets from much farther away and a better chance of resisting the assault in the east.
U.S. officials and congressional staffers told The Post on Friday that the administration is preparing to send the weaponry and could announce the move as early as this week, but the White House must still make a final decision on the transfer.
Some White House officials had expressed concern that providing MLRS weaponry with a range of more than 180 miles would allow Ukrainian forces to hit targets far into Russian territory, potentially prompting an escalatory response from Moscow, but the White House is now comfortable managing that risk by withholding the longest-range ammunition for the system, a senior U.S. official told The Post.
Whether the weaponry will get to Ukrainian forces in time to stave off a significant defeat in the east is now unclear, as Russian forces unleash a wave of attacks with gruesome weaponry on Ukrainian positions, forcing an exodus of people from the country’s embattled easternmost regions.
In an Instagram post on Friday, Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian presidential administration, said Ukrainian forces needed the weaponry “yesterday,” as well as other systems that have been requested, such as air defense systems and tanks. . . .
Outside the hospital Sunday, men who were recently wounded in Severodonetsk lamented the difficult conditions on the ground. “We need more Javelins,” said Lapa, 26, who spoke on the condition that he be identified only by his call sign.
On Saturday, he said, many dead soldiers slain in fighting nearby were carried out. Now, he said, “Ukrainian soldiers are pulling back.” He was at the hospital to be treated for a fracture in his leg and a wounded arm. Another soldier in his unit, who identified himself as Adik, 41, had broken ribs. A bloody bandage covered the side of his head where he had been hit with shrapnel.
“They’re just raining down metal on us,” Lapa said. Nearby, a 25-year-old with his head wrapped in a bandage puffed on a cigarette. He goes by Koleh and had recently hit a mine, he said, although he didn’t know how exactly he ended up wounded. Severodonetsk, he added, “is the worst.”
Ukrainians waiting for help away from the front lines are suffering too.
On Saturday, at the train station in the eastern city of Pokrovsk, a hub where civilians have arrived to evacuate from cities across Donbas, four elderly women lay crammed side-by-side in the back of a van, a mix of dirty blankets and pillows covering their frail legs. Underneath, they wore nothing but diapers.
Hours earlier, volunteers had evacuated them from a nursing home in Chasov Yar, a small town less than 50 miles from Severodonetsk. Now, one by one, they moaned and wailed in pain as they were lifted onto pieces of tarp and carried from the van into an evacuation train heading west — a trip their caretakers hoped might save their lives.
“They’re shooting a lot, they’re bombing a lot,” said a woman named Halya, who was 73 and missing the lower half of her right leg. “Now the war has gotten to us and it’s gotten a bit scary.”
Many elderly evacuees — all with red bracelets strapped around their wrists — said they did not know exactly where they were going. One said her family was trapped nearby in occupied territory. Another couldn’t speak at all, tears streaming down her face as she grasped the hands of two reporters.
On a main road heading east from the city of Dnipro on Saturday, even a gas station attendant urgently appealed to a Washington Post reporter for more support from the United States — begging for antiaircraft weapons to help protect her two sons serving on the front line near Donetsk. At a nearby checkpoint, a Virgin Mary statue draped in a Ukrainian flag sat propped up high, another plea posted beneath her: “Pray for Ukraine.”
As Ukrainian forces seek to hold the line, officials in Kyiv have been disheartened to see suggestions from the West that Ukraine should give up part of its territory to satisfy Russian President Vladimir Putin and end the war.
For days, top Ukrainian officials have been fending off suggestions from European leaders, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and the New York Times editorial board that Kyiv should enter talks with Russia and make concessions. [Kissinger says Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to end war]
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have been pushing peace talks, and top Italian officials submitted a peace plan to the United Nations that would freeze the current front lines, leading to a significant loss of territory for Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials believe that any concessions to satisfy Putin now will only lead to Russia regrouping and launching a far more vicious war against Ukraine in the future.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, told The Post that the Ukrainian government refuses any plan other than a military loss for Russia on the battlefield.
“If Russia doesn’t lose, they won’t have any internal transformation,” Podolyak said. “A Russia that doesn’t lose will, on the contrary, be more chauvinist and have an even more revanchist outlook, because they will hate us for humiliating them in front of the rest of the world … and, accordingly, in two years they will come back and kill us even more brutally.”
Zelensky, who said Kissinger was living in 1938 — a reference to attempts to appease Adolf Hitler before World War II — chided “great geopoliticians” trying to give away parts of Ukraine in a post on Instagram on Saturday, saying they were unwilling to see the people who live in those territories as real people. “Ordinary Ukrainians. Millions of those who actually live in the territory they propose to exchange for the illusion of peace,” Zelensky said. “You must always see people. And remember that values are not just a word.”
Commentary: Old men at Davos
By Gwynne Dyer – May 29, 2022
‘What happens in Davos stays in Davos’, they say – or at least it should stay there, because some foolish things are said at the ‘World Economic Forum’, the annual conclave of the rich and famous. Well, the rich, the famous, and this time also the very old, because both George Soros and Henry Kissinger graced the Swiss ski resort with their presence.
Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger, 98 years old, was playing his favourite role of wise and world-weary adviser preaching ‘realpolitik’ (political realism) to the young and naive. (Everything is relative, and the ‘young’ at Davos are somewhat older than they are elsewhere.)
Kissinger warned the United States and the West not to seek an embarrassing defeat for Russia in Ukraine, predicting that it could worsen Europe’s long-term stability. He therefore wanted the West to force Ukraine into negotiations with Russia based on the pre-invasion borders that Russia conquered in its 2014 attacks.
A recent poll found that 82 per cent of Ukrainians think their country should not sign any of its territory away in return for peace with Russia. Researchers at the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found that only 10 per cent of respondents found it acceptable for Ukraine to concede territory to achieve peace.
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, tweeted: “As easily as Mr Kissinger proposes to give Russia part of Ukraine to stop the war, he would allow (Moscow) to take Poland or Lithuania away. It’s good that Ukrainians in the trenches do not have time for listening to ‘Davos panickers’.”
The Ukrainians are still high on their victories against Russia around Kyiv and Kharkiv in the north. However, the war in the east is more like a scaled-down version of the trench battles of the First World War: brutal artillery wars of attrition that Zelensky recently estimated are killing a hundred Ukrainian soldiers a day. It could be more.
Zelensky also revealed that “tens of thousands of Ukrainian men and women” have been killed already, and the economy is a wreck. Fifteen per cent of the population has taken refuge abroad, and the $40 billion in military and financial aid just voted by the US Congress will last Ukraine six months at best.
So Ukraine may end up deciding for itself to accept a peace deal that restores the pre-February border and lets Russia keep its earlier conquests. However, Russia is not even making that offer yet, and it is not Kissinger’s place to suggest forcing Kyiv to make such concessions. As for ‘not embarrassing Russia’, it damn well should be embarrassed.
At the other extreme, we have George Soros, a sprightly 91, who warned the assembled masters of the universe (Earth chapter) that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to be the “beginning of the third world war” and could spell “the end of civilisation.”
Soros threw a lot of other things into the pot as well – the climate emergency, the spread of autocratic regimes, the Covid pandemic – so by the end it wasn’t clear whether he thought the Ukraine war alone could bring down civilisation. But it was a doom-laden speech, to say the least.
It must seem to Soros that his whole life’s work is collapsing, because he has spent the past three decades and most of his fortune trying to encourage open and democratic societies, especially in Eastern Europe. But it didn’t work in Hungary (where he was born), it hasn’t worked in Russia, and now Ukraine’s freedom and democracy are under attack.
I met Soros in late August of 1989 in Budapest, when everything seemed bright and new and full of promise. Communist-ruled Hungary had just opened its borders to the west, and I interviewed a radical anti-communist student leader called Viktor Orban who took me to meet his new patron, George Soros.
Soros questioned me eagerly about the Soviet Union, where I had spent most of the summer, and I told him change was on the way very soon. And it all arrived on schedule: the fall of the Berlin Wall, democracy in the ‘satellite’ countries of Eastern Europe, the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was delighted, as was I and hundreds of millions of others.
Now it’s not glad, confident morning anymore. Orban is a populist ‘soft’ dictator in Hungary, Russia has turned into a hard dictatorship, Xi will probably get his third term and become China’s permanent ruler this autumn, and Donald Trump may be back as US president in 2024.
But even a full Russian conquest of Ukraine (which is very unlikely) would not cause a ‘Third World War’. The ‘end of civilisation’ is not nigh. It’s never as good as it looks to young, hopeful men, and it’s rarely as dark as it feels to disappointed old men.
Are Russia’s gains in eastern Ukraine turning the tide of its war? Not all victories are created equal
PETER WEBER — MAY 27, 2022
Russia appears to have significantly scaled back its immediate ambitions in Ukraine, throwing the bulk of its remaining military might at a handful of cities in the eastern Donbas region. And the Russians are making inroads.
Russia’s forces are on the outskirts of Lyman, “conducting an intense offensive” to take control of the important rail hub in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said. If they take Lyman, nearby Sloviansk is within shelling range, and the last Ukrainian strongholds in Luhansk Oblast — Lysychansk and Severodonetsk — are a big step closer to being encircled. The situation in Severodonetsk “is serious,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Wednesday. “Our guys are holding on,” but “the city is constantly being shelled with every possible weapon in the enemy’s possession.”
Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, “on almost every front, Russia has underachieved, while Ukraine has overachieved,” NPR reports. But are Russia’s scorched-earth advances in the Donbas a sign that the tide of war has shifted in its favor?
UKRAINE MAY BE IN TROUBLE
Russia’s recent gains in the Donbas “offer a sobering check on expectations for the near term,” writes Michael Kofman, a Russia expert at the Center for a New American Security. The breakthrough at Popsana and nascent encirclement of Lyman threat to cut off Sevorodonetsk and Lysychansk from reinforcements and supply lines, and the fact that Russia is making these advances, “despite a relatively weak military advantage, suggest that Ukrainian forces have suffered significant attrition.” Continue reading Ukraine: The War In Doubt; And Ukraine, Seen from Davos→