Five Hard Truths About Ukraine
Never Again is about to become... Again
“We will not give up, and we will not lose. We will fight to the end in the sea, in the air. We will fight for our land, whatever the costs. We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.” —Volodymyr Zelensky, March 8, 2022
The president of Ukraine struck a Churchillian note in his address to Britain’s Parliament yesterday, as the world watched his countrymen heroically resisting the Russian invasion.
Meanwhile, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Pepsi, and Coca-Cola announced the suspension of their operations in Russia; Joe Biden cut off U.S. oil purchases (while much of Europe promised to gradually wean itself), and NATO seemed caught in a loop of dithering over whether to give the Ukrainians MiG-29s.
So perhaps this is a good time to acknowledge five hard truths about what is happening:
1. Putin is losing this war in the long run, but he is likely to win this battle.
He has grossly miscalculated, turned his country into a pariah nation, and has no reasonable endgame.
Top U.S. intelligence officials said on Tuesday that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had been surprised and unsettled by the problems that have hampered his military in Ukraine, issues that will make it more difficult for Russian forces to control the country.
The same officials told Congress that “Putin is determined to succeed in Ukraine, and will try to double down and use ever more brutal tactics…”
If you look at the maps, you can see that despite innumerable setbacks, Putin’s forces are close to (if they are not already) surrounding Kyiv.
From the beginning, the Ukrainian forces have been badly outgunned and despite the encouraging pictures of tractors pulling captured tanks, that balance of forces hasn’t changed. Putin is prepared to grind out a slow, brutal, conquest. This will be a long, demoralizing slog.
David Rothkopf writes in the Daily Beast:
The likelihood that the conflict may go on for much longer is based on the fact that neither side is in a position to win a quick victory.
For all their courage and the damage they are inflicting on the Russians, it is hard to imagine Ukraine’s armed forces will drive out Moscow’s troops any time soon. More likely is that Russia continues to make slow gains. They are not well set up for urban fighting and we could see stand-offs in major cities.
The hard truth is that greatest and most powerful nations in the world will watch as Putin pummels and destroys Ukraine.
2. Never Again will become… Again.
We are about to see the murder of entire cities.
3. There is a stark difference between performative and tangible support.
The light shows and flags are wonderful. So are the hashtags, TikTok videos, and protests. Depriving Muscovites of access to pumpkin-spiced lattes is not nothing.
But they do not stop tanks or cruise missiles.
To be fair, the West has given thousands of lethal weapons to the Ukrainians. there are now reports the United States will also send Patriot missile systems. The sanctions are far more severe that anyone — including Putin — ever imagined. But we seem to be fighting the last war, not this one.
Peter Pomerantsev is a Soviet-born British journalist. The West, he says, “is doing an AMAZING job... of responding to 2014. That's when we needed sanctions and arming Ukrainians. We're 'winning' the last war. Not sure we've quite caught up with this new one yet.”
This explains Zelensky’s increasingly desperate pleas for help. Where is the Lend-Lease of “medium- and long-range air defense systems, antitank weapons (beyond the Javelins that have already been provided), advanced extended-range antiarmor capabilities, coastal defense systems, high mobility artillery, and critically important UCAVs”?
And where is the humanitarian aid?
And where are the jets? Via AP:
The Pentagon on Tuesday rejected Poland’s surprise announcement that it would give the United States its MiG-29 fighter jets for use by Ukraine, a rare display of disharmony by NATO allies seeking to boost Ukrainian fighters while avoiding getting caught up in a wider war with Russia.
4. There will be bitter recriminations.
Most of the coverage has focused on President Zelensky’s words of inspiration. But his rhetoric about the failures of the West has been harsh.
After NATO turned down his request for a “no fly zone” (but before the United States apparently nixed proposals to give him fighter jets instead) Zelensky denounced what he called the “self-hypnosis of those who are weak, under-confident inside."
"Unfortunately, today there is a complete impression that it is time to give a funeral repast for something else: security guarantees and promises, determination of alliances, values that seem to be dead for someone."
You will not be able to buy us off with liters of fuel for liters of our blood, shed for our common Europe, for our common freedom, for our common future," he added, referring to supplies NATO has delivered to Ukraine.
5. Americans have limited attention spans… and there is little evidence of a willingness to sacrifice.
Biden did absolutely the right thing by cutting off the purchase of Russian oil. And yes polls show large, bipartisan majorities of Americans saying they are willing to pay for gas.
But, I’m sorry, have you met your fellow countrymen lately?
For the moment, Americans seem united. But that unity will inevitably come up against ingrained habits, incentives, and bad-faith hackery. Republicans will not hesitate for a moment to blame Biden for higher gas prices and the poll numbers will follow.
And, as Charlie Warzel notes, our attention is fickle.
Universally accepted narratives can be fleeting, though, especially when media scrutiny fades. The world is tuning in to the hourly news from Ukraine right now, says Mike Caulfield, a researcher at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, but attention is always fickle. “I do worry, when the attention isn’t so intense, there could be more attempts to muddle the narrative,” he told me. Caulfield pointed to the events of January 6, and argued that the constant airing of footage initially led to a widespread condemnation of the insurgency, but that, with some distance from that intense coverage, many participants and Republicans tried to rewrite the story.
If history is any guide, we’ll move on. The various bans and boycotts will eventually be dropped; Western businesses will return; and Big Macs will again be served in the shadow of the Kremlin.
And we have not yet really confronted this question: If we are unwilling to fight for Ukraine, are we willing to risk WWIII for Moldova? Or Estonia? Or Lithuania?
Welcome to 1939.
Join us tomorrow night!
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin.
Nope. As in nopety nope. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the former president is once again either lying or delusional.
PSA: This. Is. Fake.
I got this email last night:
Fake fake fake fake.
It’s a phishing scam, which you can read about here:
The link itself is obfuscated with text and leads to a couple of redirects if clicked. The first redirect goes to a site hosted on a dynamic DNS service, while the second redirect takes the user to a recently registered anonymous domain masquerading as the Twitter landing page. Both the domain and landing page contain the Twitter brand name. Of course, if the recipient takes the bait, their Twitter credentials fall into the hands of the attackers who will use them to compromise the person’s account.
This type of attack is designed to succeed on a few levels. First, the security notification tries to convince the recipient that there’s been malicious activity on their Twitter account. The attackers are gambling on a sense of fear to prompt the user into taking quick action. Second, the link is concealed with text, so the recipient is more likely to click on it without realizing that it takes them to a phony login page.
Third, the email contains a section called “How do I know an email is from Twitter?” to lend even greater legitimacy to itself. Fourth, both the email and fake landing page look like they would come from Twitter with the familiar brand name and logo. Finally, the attack is highly targeted. Abnormal Security discovered it deployed against a specific person, thereby avoiding a mass or bulk phishing campaign that might otherwise be blocked by a security gateway.
1. Thank God Trump Isn’t President Right Now
Mona Charen, in today’s Bulwark:
Joe Biden is not a very good president. His communication skills are subpar, e.g. when he found himself praising the “Iranian” instead of the Ukrainian people in his State of the Union speech. His political judgments are sometimes poor, e.g. devoting most of his first year to assuaging the demands of the progressive wing of his party. His stubbornness can be destructive, e.g. his decision to withdraw precipitously from Afghanistan. And his priorities are often wrong, e.g. focusing on voting rights legislation that addressed small problems like the number of days of early voting and dropboxes at the expense of the urgent need to reform the Electoral Count Act.
And yet, I thank God every day that Biden is president. The Russian offensive against Ukraine is the first crisis of his presidency (other than COVID, which was ongoing when he assumed office) and in this emergency he has redeemed the hopes of those who voted for competence.
2. Blaming the Ukraine Invasion on … the Gays?
Cathy Young on how the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, a Putin enabler, spins the war.
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, return more than once to the evil of gay parades and to his claim that holding such parades was a requirement for membership in the “club” of powerful countries. The patriarch also asserted that resistance to such demands is “suppressed by force,” which amounts to “forcible imposition of a sin condemned by divine law” and which means that the war for Ukraine is “not a physical but a metaphysical struggle.” (Ironically, the patriarch used the forbidden word “war” rather than the prescribed “special operation”; but, unlike media outlets critical of the government, he is not in danger of getting canceled by Roskomnadzor, Russia’s media oversight agency.)
3. What the Ukrainians Are Fighting For
David Kramer in this morning’s Bulwark:
If we will not help the people of Ukraine for their own sake, because it is our duty as Americans and as human beings, then we should help them for our sake. They are fighting one of the great enemies of human rights and dignity in modern history. Their fight is our fight, too.
Charlie, why do you call him a “serial lying twat”?
You're wrong. We're going to stick with this. Russia has never been weaker - at the top is a class of corrupt, lazy drunks who vastly overestimate their ability/talent and could barely manage to host a winter olympic games at an exorbitant cost. This grueling war against an outmatched opponent has really exposed Russia for what it is.
Maybe you don't feel like it's enough, but you can't un-ring the bell of what the West is doing in response to this aggression. Europe in particular is going to find a new normal that excludes Russia from their economies as much as possible. For the U.S., losing Russia as a trading partner is pretty insignificant in the scheme of things. And, most importantly, Biden I'm sure realizes that this is a proxy war against Trump, Xi, and the other wannabe tyrants of the world. We're not going to back down and hand a victory to Putin here - it just doesn't make any sense. There will be an independent Ukraine after this, period.
In Ms Charen’s “Thank God Trump Isn’t President Right Now” she says
“ Failing to enforce his red line in Syria and inviting Russia to assert dominance there”
Obama didn’t fail to enforce the line, Congress made it clear that they wouldn’t approve of his doing so. He should’ve consulted with Congress first and either gotten their assent, or known that he wouldn’t and therefore could not draw the red line.