I have a couple of thoughts on Ukraine, like everyone else this morning. The news is rather numbing. In 1991, I was in Europe as the tension turned to celebration when the Berlin Wall fell. After 31 years, the Russian leader has betrayed his own country, peace, prosperity (except his own), and assumed a mantle of evil.
One fear I had is that Ukraine would fold; that they’d simply go home and give up their arms, and submit to Putin’s rule. That has not happened.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has not fled the country. He has not capitulated to Putin. He has called up the entire national reserve and ordered a General Military Mobilization. This means every able-bodied person must take up arms and fight—resist. They are doing that, and more.
Here’s a few encouraging examples. One random woman on the street told a Russian soldier to put some sunflower seeds in his pocket, so when he dies in Ukraine, the flowers would grow. Sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine.
The transcript of the conversation is more direct, and definitely NSFW.
When a Russian warship showed up to claim Snake Island—a tiny dot of land in the Black Sea that establishes Ukraine’s sovereignty, the Ukrainian soldier responded with venom. Then they killed him.
The Russians are coming across to the entire world as evil invaders, not liberators, or cultural heroes. Some Russian units decided to surrender to Ukrainian soldiers rather than kill them, according to Oksana Markarova, the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
At a press briefing, Markarova said, “Just before I came here, we got information from our chief commander that one of the platoons of the 74th motorized brigade from Kemerovo Oblast surrendered.”
“They didn’t know that they were brought to Ukraine to kill Ukrainians. They thought they were doing something else there,” she added.
This is an interesting line of thought, when lined up with the conversation between the woman and the Russian soldier above. The Russians might have been told by their commanders that this is just another exercise. When they realize it’s war, and they are expected to kill without mercy, how many of them will choose to walk away?
One former Kosovo guerrilla fighter, who writes prolifically in the sharing site Quora, said the best way to end this war is if the “European Union declares that all Russian soldiers who abandon their military duties will be given full citizenship rights in an EU country of their own choice. The same goes for their close family members. Problem solved. No war.”
Given the anti-war sentiment rising in Russia, that might work.
At worst, it would expose Putin for the tyrant he is, perhaps put a bit of a wedge between China and Russia, and give the world a choice: Fight for freedom, or submit to tyranny. There’s no way Putin would allow a mass exodus to the EU, and there’s no way he wouldn’t start murdering his own troops and their families if they began leaving. That’s the KGB way, and Putin is a KGB man.
The world does have a choice, and America’s job is to provide moral clarity. We must help the brave Ukrainians who are fighting for their freedom, because they have decided to resist. This is what real resistance looks like. It’s time for people like Tucker Carlson and others who have focused on “who cares about Ukraine” and puffed up Putin as a rational player to repent or shut up.
Many people (including me) were wrong about Putin’s actual intentions here. Matt Taibbi, who previously blasted Western media and the White House for being Chicken Little, apologized to his readers.
Part of news and even commentary is admitting mistakes, and though I always made sure when discussing the subject to note Vladimir Putin could still invade Ukraine, I have to admit, I didn’t see this happening. Some old colleagues I trust, including some Putin-critical Russians, didn’t see it, either, but in many cases they just didn’t want to believe it, for reasons that are more understandable from their perspective. My mistake was more like reverse chauvinism, being so fixated on Western misbehavior that I didn’t bother to take this possibility seriously enough. To readers who trust me not to make those misjudgments, I’m sorry. Obviously, Putin’s invasion will have horrific consequences for years to come and massively destabilize the world.
That being said, I want to offer my own apology. I was wrong about President Joe Biden’s approach. He handled this very well, because he exposed the Russians ruses and false flags before they could be used. In the end, Putin was left with nothing but lies and naked aggression, and everyone sees it; it can’t be covered up.
The moral and political fruit of Biden’s approach cannot be overestimated. Truth, hope, bravery, and freedom are powerful in war. The Russian people see how their leader has destroyed Russia’s place in the civilized world, sabotaged its economy, and rolled it back under the Iron Curtain. Perhaps they won’t put up with it.
I’ve read random reports that many Russians are furious with Putin. Sure, he can disappear them all, but there may be more than he can deal with, while fighting a war. At some point, he might realize he’s beaten. Our best course would be to provide all the aid, comfort, and military assistance the Ukrainians need.
To hell with Putin’s threats. Yes, so we’ll have Cybergeddon (I’m thinking a lot about what that would look like). Even Putin isn’t crazy enough to break out the nukes, because Russia would be destroyed by just our SSBN fleet, never mind our land-based ICBMs. We should move not 7,000, but 70,000 troops to Poland, and stick them forward on the border with Ukraine. At worst, it ties down a large number of Russian troops. But I’m not the guy doing military strategy. Someone in the Pentagon should be giving Biden some real options about now.
The credit for all of our options, and the reaction of the world, should go largely to President Biden. Now comes the task of removing the Russians from Ukraine. The Ukrainians will fight to the death. Will we help?
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.
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