Tuesday, April 05, 2022

Today's News: "galloping riderless across the landscape"

My title tonight comes from this interview between The Atlantic's Tom Nichols and Russia expert Thane Gustafson, talking about the unpredictability of Putin's war.  
And it seemed apt to use Alex Coleville's eerie painting "Horse and Train" to illustrate Gustafson's point about the uncertainty of how this war will end: 
 ...This is one of those moments when history suddenly goes into overdrive and outcomes become unpredictable, mainly because at such times they are driven by the actions of individuals. I rather like the metaphor once used by former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González, who said that history seems to be “galloping riderless across the landscape.” 
I remember one of the cautionary media articles I read prior to the US invasion of Iraq -- yes, there were a few such articles, not very many but a few -- and it said that nations should always try to avoid history at all costs, because nothing good ever comes from being in an historical moment. And yes, that article was prescient about why the US should never have invaded Iraq. 
But now, here we are in another historical moment in time, where the people involved thought they knew what would happen but they didn't. Gustafson continues:
... it’s not too hard to reconstruct at this point what was likely going through Putin’s mind as he gave the order to attack. 
First, he thought he could make a lightning strike at Kyiv and install a puppet. 
Second, he thought he could seize what he calls “Novorossiya” as far as Odesa and absorb Kharkiv, Dnipro, and Mariupol. 
Third, he thought that in those places, which are largely Russian-speaking, he would be welcomed.
Fourth, he knew that he could not conquer western Ukraine, and he never intended to try. 
...In sum, he counted on a quick, easy operation: strategic objectives achieved, equilibrium restored, done and dusted.
 ...on this reasoning, Putin was not nuts, not deranged, not isolated, etcetera. It was all a reasonable bet—by his strange lights—except that every one of the premises turned out to be wrong. 
When we consider the importance of a few key individuals on the course of this war, I think we can conclude that without Zelenskyy in Ukraine and Biden in the United States -- and without Trudeau and Freeland here in Canada, Johnson in Britain, and courageous European leaders -- then its very likely that Putin would have been successful in his calculations. Gustafson concludes:
...War is like an infection: A bacterial attack causes inflammation (damaging in itself), and the mounting immune responses can escalate out of control if the infection is not defeated. The flow of volunteers and weapons into Ukraine, the mounting frustration and fury in the Kremlin, the calls for no-fly zones - I don’t know how this ends. 
I think the world is now realizing it isn't going to end any time soon. 
The more the world learns about the horror of Bucha, the more likely we will realize that Ukraine is going to be in this for the long haul, and the rest of us must be as well. 
We're not going to get a quick ceasefire or peace agreement. Russia will feel it has to go all-in now, because Ukraine will not forget or forgive the Russian war crimes. And Ukraine would never agree to a ceasefire now anyway, not when they now know what Russia is doing to the Ukrainian villages and towns behind a ceasefire line. There are two fronts this war now - east and south - and Ukraine will be determined to push Russia completely out of its country. Then they will create a mile-wide border -- salted, barren and mined -- to stop any invasion from happening ever again. 
Or else they will die trying.
Here's an article from the Washington Post which says the war is going to be even uglier in the days and weeks to come: I found this statistic to be a little grim -- almost all of the millions who have left Ukraine want to return, but there has been so much destruction that I don't think there will be anything for many to return to, not for years. I think Canada and all the other nations accepting Ukrainian refugees are going to have to help them build new lives here. 
And finally, this is just sorta neat:

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