Saturday, February 25, 2023

Today's News: Ukraine Strong

A year ago, Russia launched its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. 
A year later, Ukraine still stands. 
There is lots of commentary today about how Ukraine did this -- Zelenskyy's brilliant leadership, the indominable spirt of Ukraine's people, the ineptitude and corruption of the Russian military, the unwavering and effective financial and military support from Biden, NATO, the EU, Poland, England, and Canada.
David Rothkoph has made a list of what has been learned from this war so far: 
...- While Ukraine has pleaded for fighter jets for a year, unmanned aircraft have stolen the show.... 
- “No Time for Sergeants” was once a TV hit in America. It has been a flop for the Russian army....
- Speaking of time, it’s time for traditional navies to realize their time will soon be up.... 
Poland is the new Germany. (And Estonia is the new France.)... 
- Vladimir Putin may be a madman, but at least he has the common sense not to want to be obliterated in a nuclear war with NATO.... 
- Speaking of Putin, stick a fork in him. He may not be quite done yet, but he will be soon… and besides if anyone deserves to have a fork stuck in him, it’s Putin.... 
- ...Ukraine’s masterful use of social media has played a major role in shaping global public opinion about the war... 
- Ukraine is already in the EU and NATO whether you (or Russia or Turkey) like it or not.... 
- With friends like Turkey, Israel, the global South and Elon Musk, who needs enemies?... 
- And the most important lesson of all is, as it will be for the remainder of this century, everything is always about China....
... the prospects of a Ukrainian winter offensive, once widely anticipated, are pretty much nil. There’s no reason to waste lives and material when heavy Western armor is on its way, while the U.S. drills Ukrainian commanders on combined arms operations in Germany’s training fields. 
Ukraine has gotten this far because it has always worked to undermine Russia’s logistics. It’s why they are screaming for longer-range rockets, to hit Russian ammo depots further behind enemy lines and force those supplies even further back. Ukraine’s success in shrinking the active front line is also its great challenge, as Russia squeezes more men into a smaller space. 
 But Ukraine won't win by killing 300,000 Russians. It will do so by cutting off their food and ammunition. Russia lost the war because of logistics, and Ukraine will win it for the same reason. 
Also at Daily Kos, check out Mark Sumner's useful month-by-month summary of the war's major events.
Another great summary here, showing Ukrainian flag raisings as territory is liberated:
The world is still in awe of Ukraine: Not only is Ukraine now a player on the world stage, but Russia's reputation as a world power is in ruins. 
Putin has also single-handedly destroyed the Russian economy that was built up over the last 30 years: This war has also shown the world who are the assholes are in America: Even the GOP leadership is now making it clear where they stand: As positive as I am about the likely victory of Ukraine in this war, I am still very concerned about the significant risk of a wider or world war. It appears that Russia thinks it can exhaust Ukraine to win this war -- but I think they will only find another example of some chicken, some neck: As Russia gets more desperate, China is licking its chops: Iran is trying to leverage the war too: Often I describe these times as "history galloping riderless across the landscape"  - we can't control it and we don't know how to stop it.  Alex Coleville's eerie painting "Horse and Train" illustrates this point.

I first talked about this in a post back on April 5, when I read an interview between The Atlantic's Tom Nichols and Russia expert Thane Gustafson, talking about the unpredictability of Putin's war. 
Gustafson described his uncertainty about 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.” 
Last February, Putin thought he could predict what would happen. But it 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 Putin might 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. 
The details of this war have changed since April -- no-fly zones are no longer an issue, for example -- but the uncertainty about this war and how it will end continues.
In spite of this, we will still stand firm behind Ukraine - perhaps even because of it. 
As Biden said this week in his important speech in Poland, we know what the stakes are. "The defense of freedom is not the work of a day. Its's always difficult. It's always important."
And I liked what Trudeau said tonight: "This is a night for Ukraine, not for you!"
On a side note, the bravery of the reporters and photojournalists who have travelled to Ukraine to cover this war is also outstanding - and the loyalty of the Ukraine journalists who are with them: I am ending this post with some of the photos from Ukraine that I will never forget - they are all from the posts I made last spring about the courageous Ukrainian experience of this war. 
The world should always be grateful for the examples of courage we have seen in the soldiers of Ukraine
This soldier was on a road outside Kyiv, pumping his fist in solidarity as Ukraine chased the Russians out in April (photo by Marcus Yam/ LA Times)

My heart goes out to the children of Ukraine:
And this little angel.

Finally, the pets of Ukraine are near to my thoughts. A stray dog helps a soldier near Irpin (photo taken by Daniek Berenhulak, NYT).

And the lonely determination on the face of this woman as she carries her cat to safety just haunts me:

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