How Not to Lose a World War between Authoritarianism and Democracy, Two

My last thread on how not to lose a World War between authoritarianism and democracy got really long and I’m overdue for an update. Same rules, new developments.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has provided masterful leadership since Russia invaded. This morning, Ukraine let it be known that when the US offered him safe passage out of the country, he responded, “I need ammunition, I don’t need a ride.”

Not only will this bolster Ukrainians fighting for their country, but it will make it clear that Zelenskyy is not a mere pawn of the US.


Last night, a joint US-Albanian motion to condemn Russia’s invasion failed in the UN Security Council with a Russian veto. Russia holds the presidency right now, so Ukraine’s ambassador and others criticized Russia’s involvement in presiding over the vote.

Importantly, however, China abstained. While China is still protected Russia in its invasion, the abstention vote suggests Russia hasn’t been able to persuade China that it had created enough legitimacy for its invasion.

Ukraine’s ambassador suggested that one day the Russian people might be liberated too.


Over the course of the last day, Europe led the US in imposing sanctions in Putin and Sergei Lavrov personally.

Most major oligarchs still escape sanctions (in part because they’ve obtained residency in Western countries). But minutes ago, Roman Abramovich announced he’s stepping back from management of Chelsea football.


Over the course of the day, the last remaining hold outs on limiting Russia’s access to SWIFT have come on board. So in a few days, Russia will be further removed from the world economy.

Symbolically, Germany just announced they’re sending arms to Ukraine, regarding the invasion of Ukraine as a threat to the post-war order.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement. “It threatens our entire post-war order. In this situation, it is our duty to do our utmost to support Ukraine in defending itself against Vladimir Putin’s invading army. Germany stands closely by Ukraine’s side.”

Update: Ursula von der Leyen has just made the SWIFT removal official.

First, we commit to ensuring that a certain number of Russian banks are removed from SWIFT. It will stop them from operating worldwide and effectively block Russian exports and imports.

Also, the EU has collectively closed their airspace to Russian planes.


Largely thanks to Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s leadership and courage, the support of western public around the world have joined in supporting Ukraine.


The biggest developments in the last day, however, come in increased volatility for Russia. Prominent Russians continue to condemn the war. Russia has had nowhere near the success in Ukraine they expected and the delay has given time for a resistance to form. European nations have committed to send more weapons to Ukraine. Ukraine just rolled out a website where Russian mothers can check to see if their sons have been killed or captured in Ukraine.

In addition to protests in Russia and all over the world, a particularly big protest in Georgia must seriously concern Putin. Kazakhstan also reportedly refused to send troops to Ukraine.

Russia has been really ratcheting up the propaganda and censoring both formal media outlets and social media, in an attempt to prevent Russians from learning how things are really going in Ukraine. But Ukraine has had some successes in hacking through these media defenses.

183 replies
  1. TooLoose LeTruck says:

    I gotta say, I have nothing but respect for Volodymyr Zelenskyy at this point.

    He’s gonna be a Ukrainian folk hero for centuries to come, and rightfully so.

    I just read that Germany is going to send weapons to Ukraine.

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        “I need ammunition, I don’t need a ride.”

        There rarely comes a time when one person makes one statement and you instantly know that he and his words will be remembered for years and years to come, for the right reasons.

        This is one of those moments.

        Talk about courage in the face of overwhelming odds.

        • Old Antarctic Explorer says:

          He has a law degree and was a producer of film and TV shows and acted in the very popular show where he played the President of Ukraine. He was also a comedian! When I saw that line “I need ammunition, not a ride”, I thought he probably couldn’t resist given his comedy background.

    • Charles Wolf says:

      “I have nothing but respect for Volodymyr Zelenskyy at this point.”

      Who should play him in the Movie?
      Tom Cruise perhaps – or is he too old.

      • Rayne says:

        Cruise is far too old. Probably looking at actors who are in their 40s right now. My money would be on Luke Evans, James McAvoy, Topher Grace, maybe Hugh Dancy on the outside. McAvoy has the ability to swing from humor to seriousness and he’s got more box office name cred.

      • Eureka says:

        Uh, he’s too sigh-ent-ology. No thanks. No need to help another (taxpayer-subsidized) cult recruit with all the rest we’re trying to disband.

      • Solo says:

        “Who should play him (Zelensky) in the movie?” Since a couple moderators rode along with you it must be a serious question.

        This is an invasion. Mothers are dead. Children are dying. Fathers are wounded or shell-shocked. Homes are gone and roads are streaked with blood. People are cold and people are hungry. This is happening right now, and the attitude to wear is mourning.

        A MESSAGE TO PO CHU-I – from W.S. Merwin

        In that tenth winter of your exile
        the cold never letting go of you
        and your hunger aching inside you
        day and night while you heard the voices
        out of the starving mouths around you
        old ones and infants and animals
        those curtains of bones swaying on stilts
        and you heard the faint cries of the birds
        searching in the frozen mud for something
        to swallow and you watched the migrants
        trapped in the cold the great geese growing
        weaker by the day until their wings
        could barely lift them above the ground
        so that a gang of boys could catch one
        in a net and drag him to market
        to be cooked and it was then that you
        saw him in his own exile and you
        paid for him and kept him until he
        could fly again and you let him go
        but then where could he go in the world
        of your time with its wars everywhere
        and the soldiers hungry the fires lit
        the knives out twelve hundred years ago
        I have been wanting to let you know
        the goose is well he is here with me
        you would recognize the old migrant
        he has been with me for a long time
        and is in no hurry to leave here
        the wars are bigger now than ever
        greed has reached numbers that you would not
        believe and I will not tell you what
        is done to geese before they kill them
        now we are melting the very poles
        of the earth but I have never known
        where he would go after he leaves me

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah, I do not know about other contributors, but I just objected to Tom Cruise, and thought this was a stupid joke.

      • Solo says:

        We don’t need saviors and movie stars. We need all of us to ingest some of the the urban legend of the Danes, when asked by the Nazis how they dared allow King Christian ride alone through the streets.

        “But who protects him? Where are his guards?

        “We all do. We all of us are his guards.”

        In Zelensky’s own words, from 2019 inaugural address to lawmakers:

        “I do not want my picture in your offices: the President is not an icon, an idol or a portrait. Hang your kids’ photos instead, and look at them each time you are making a decision.”

    • Kelly says:

      Agreed. Nothing but respect for the man. He’s doing a superb job and you’re right, he will be honored for centuries.

      [Welcome to emptywheel. Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named ” Kelly” or “Kelley.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

  2. tc says:

    Thats all fine and good. I have no major complaints about the admins handling of the international aspects domestically its more depressing than ever. No pushback against the MurdochMercer plutocrat 5th column. Just their usual passive “when they go low, we go high” appeals to the NPR set. That aint going to cut it in November when Putins poodles take back congress and statehouses across the country. What are the odds Nancy P has rethought her intense desire to have a strong republican party to work with again?

    • bmaz says:

      And what exactly is the administration supposed to do to “pushback”? Abrogate the First Amendment? The executive branch leaning on the press, even the Murdoch/Mercer/Fox types, would be a hideous violation of norms and the Constitution.

      • Wajim says:

        Sincerely agree with your point, bmaz. Then it would seem economic sanctions (non-governmental of whatever kind) are the only sort of “remedy” to the poison these corporations profitably release into our national “discourse.” Advertiser boycotts will hardly phase the Murdochs and Mercers, at least not for some long while. Is there an effective way, or do we let “freedom” and the 1st amendment slowly choke us from our own constitutional petard?

        • bmaz says:

          Oh, yes people boycotting stuff is fine. I also think any country that assists Russia should be ostracized and sanctioned. Obviously Belarus is a start, India getting close. Maybe CPAC (joking).

    • xy xy says:

      At 82, Nancy P doesn’t give a crap, she’s no different than them.
      She said she won’t run again and lo-and-behold to keep working with them she will.
      Showing off and discussing her freezers and her ice cream during a pandemic, like an 80 year old, on national tv is more important to her than the people, except her donors, she won’t serve of the US.
      She must have been thrilled for Cruz that he ran to Mexico to escape the cold. She would have done the same in that situation, and lugged her freezers and ice cream with her.

      • John Paul Jones says:

        If you can’t add to the actual discussion (Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine), probably best not to comment at all. Also, “she won’t serve of the US” is not grammatical; think before you type.

      • bmaz says:

        That is wrong. Pelosi said she would likely serve only one more term as Speaker not that she would not run for Congress again. I have some issues with Pelosi, but she is the best vote whipper and counter the House Dems have ever had.

        • Wajim says:

          Were she the president we would not see much of a difference, though I’d like to see it just for Tucker and Sean’s heads exploding . . . sigh

      • ducktree says:

        Henceforth, your posts are dead to me… considering the seriousness of the present circumstances. You’ve revealed yourself to be a fool without the belled staff.

    • KM Williams says:

      “Pushback” to FOXnews and HateRadio needs to be done by the legitimate press, and of course, the American people.

    • Rayne says:

      LOL Yet another commenter who doesn’t seem to grasp that this is a democracy in which free speech is protected and the press in particular has protections. Come up with a way in which the business model can be regulated rather than the speech and then contact your Congressional representatives, the FTC and FCC, and the Department of Commerce about a rational approach to regulating media with business models which are a threat to [you need to spell this out without threatening First Amendment rights].

      As for your attack on Pelosi: spell out why you think she wants Republicans to hold a majority? Because strong Republicans as a minority are not a problem, are they? And exactly what the fuck do you mean by ‘strong’ Republicans anyhow — Marj Three-Toes and her steroid-enhanced workouts? or Liz Cheney going after the insurrectionists putting country above party?

      Come on. Do better. We need and expect better here.

      That goes for you, too, xy xy, who seems to think our employees in Congress aren’t allowed to be real persons with personal interests and foibles. What are you going to do next, attack AOC for her Instant Pot?

        • Rayne says:

          Definitely, and that’s what we should be demanding. If media outlets are acting as mouthpieces for foreign governments without disclosing their relationship, they should be punished for doing so just as persons lobbying for foreign governments must register under FARA. That goes to business model.

          • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

            From the link:

            …the FCC review covers more than just media entities regulated by the FCC’s broadcast licensing program, the person said. It also covers a vast array of telecommunications and infrastructure companies, including wireless providers, submarine cable operators, and foreign telecom services that connect US-international phone calls, the person said.

            Very, very promising news.

        • Raven Eye says:

          I’m hoping that CFIUS is awake and alert. Not sure what can be done with applications already granted, but certainly anything pending.

      • Leoghann says:

        Our First Amendment rights are precious, and we should always be aware of the importance of protecting all statements of opinion, however popular or unpopular. But Cucker Tarlson is almost a hero in Russia, and his show is rebroadcast nightly on Russian state television. Where does free speech stop and required registration as a foreign agent start?

        • Rayne says:

          Goes to business model. We can and have regulated media businesses requiring them not to receive funding from foreign governments. If he personally or Fox is compensated in any way by Russia or by intermediates of Russia, they should be registered under FARA and their content should be required to display banners indicating it’s foreign government content.

          Otherwise it’s the marketplace which must have a say because the First Amendment is rather absolute about Congress not regulating speech. It’s messy as fuck but this is the nature of democracy.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    I had noted (in Part 1) another possible reason for China to let Putin get bogged down in Ukraine, because that would lead to an opportunity for the PRC to move into Siberia (there were wars in the past between the PRC and USSR). If Putin doesn’t win, look for Xi to test that theory because Siberia is something of a mineral Disneyland if also very cold right now.

    I had seen the report about the Kazakhs not wanting to join Vlad. Even his asking for help like this is a sign to me that the planning was up to the usual Soviet standard of throwing troops at the enemy until the enemy runs out of ammunition, but the Russians are running out of troops available for this campaign first (some are apparently being held back, perhaps for another adventure). Let’s also remember that mud is coming shortly to slow things down further.

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      Wasn’t it the mud in Russia that helped do in both Napoleon and the Germans?

      I can imagine China’s sitting back, just watching how this goes for Vlad, for the time being…

      • Peterr says:

        China is also watching how the world reactions to Putin. Like Putin and Ukraine, there’s this little island that China has had its eye on owning/re-owning for decades . . .

        If Putin manages to take and hold Ukraine, China will no doubt want to replicate his success with Taiwan. If Putin doesn’t manage this, China will be taking close notes and trying to learn from Putin’s mistakes, so as not to have the same happen to them, if/when they make a play for Taiwan.

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:

          Yup… exactly what I was getting at, w/ less words…

          What’s that old saying, ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’?

          Well, these days whatever happens in Ukraine immediately turns up on TikTok and is seen all over the world ASAP.

          I can’t imagine China isn’t watching and waiting to see how this works out for Putin.

        • notjonathon says:

          The US has made public commitment to protect Taiwan with military force, which makes that situation far more delicate for the Chinese government to invade. The results could be catastrophic for China, US and Taiwan.

          Ukraine, on the other hand, has no formal allies, which certainly emboldened Putin, since he had already lopped off the Crimean Peninsula with no major blowback.

        • madwand says:

          Yep force the west to deploy and bring forth their bag of tricks (sanctions) and then one can learn and counter it. The Chinese are paying attention.

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:

          And the black line’s the retreat?

          If so, then ouch…

          I read once that the German 6th Army had something 300,000 soldiers in it when it marched into Russia in 1942 and by the end of the war, maybe 6,000 P.O.W.s came back…

          • P J Evans says:

            Yeah, the black line is the retreat. It wasn’t just the cold taking them out – they were getting hit with diseases, too. (I’ve heard that war there has to deal with General Winter and General Mud.)

        • justlp says:

          Thanks for posting that. I took a seminar on visual representation of data from Edward Tufte at Stanford several years ago. One of the best seminars I’ve ever taken.

      • christopher rocco says:

        No, not mud. It was the cold. Check out Napoleon’s Buttons: How Seventeen Molecules Changed the World. As the story goes, it was so cold that the tin buttons on the coats shattered, exposing the French troops to the unbearable cold, contributing to their defeat. Same scenario with the siege of Leningrad by the Nazis. The cold did them in. In this case, once the thaw hits, unless Russian armor sticks to the roads, they aren’t going anywhere.

        • KathyS says:

          No, “March” comes from the Latin “Mars”, the god of war, I am Bulgarian and both Russians and Ukrainians speak Old Church Bulgarian. Once upon a time the land were I live and where the Bulgarian language was formed, was a part of the Roman Empire, we have many Roman villas, Roman roads, remains from Roman towns and military fortresses. Russians and Ukrainians adopted the language with the Christian literature and liturgies, written with the Cyrillic alphabet, they voluntarily adopted Christianity from the Bulgarian church, not from Konstantinopol, our tzar sent Bulgarian priests and scholars from Preslav to Kievska Rus of the Rurik dynasty, varangians, vikings. There’s no such thing as Slavs, or Slavic language, such word is not found in any literature of the time before the 17th century. Slavs, Slavic language is a common “invention” of the Russian Empire and Czech scholars, both pursuing their own interests, Czech people wanted to liberate themselves from the dominance of Austria and Hungary using Russia and the Russian interests on the Balkans. At that time my people was in the Ottoman Empire. Regarding the weather conditions, Ukraine is quite south, it’s not so cold as it is in Petersburg, so mud can be expected, but severe temperatures below zero as -20 Celsius – no.

        • Leoghann says:

          According to Google and a couple of translation sites, the main Polish word for “mud” is “bloto.”

    • Geoguy says:

      I remembered that you noted the possibility that Putin didn’t mention his invasion plans to Xi Jinping at the Olympics. Their meeting was reported by Eye on the Arctic with a couple of excerpts below. The Power of Siberia gas pipeline is now operational and is planned to provide more gas to China over time. If so, the Chinese might be reconsidering their relationship with Russia.

      “Russia and China to deepen cooperation in the Arctic”
      by Mathiew Leiser, Eye on the Arctic
      Posted: Friday, February 4, 2022 at 13:07

      “Through the EAEU, China and Russia say they want to pursue the building of “the Greater Eurasian Partnership in parallel and in coordination with the Belt and Road construction”. The Greater Eurasian Partnership envisions mutual influence of China and Russia spanning a region from East Asia to the borders of the European Union.

      The agreement is the most detailed and assertive statement of Russian and Chinese determination to work together – and against the United States – to build a new international order based on their own interpretations of human rights and democracy, writes Reuters.”

      • timbo says:

        Pretty sure that the Chinese were well aware of the plans and Putin went to Beijing to make it clear that he was to wait until after the Olympics were over before causing any problems for Chinese prestige.

        • Geoguy says:

          I am now sure that you are right about advance notice to the Chinese. I have to think that part of Putin’s plans include selling Ukraine’s wheat to the China.

    • Scott Johnson says:

      The Kazakh government a) still is not entirely secure in its own power, which might explain a reluctance to send security forces abroad, and b) might not entirely trust Putin not to send their troops in first, leaving them more exposed.

      If Kazakhstan starts getting chummier with China, which which it shares a long border, that also could make things interesting.

      • Rayne says:

        Kazakhstan *will* be chummier with China because of China’s Belt and Road Intiative (BRI) which relies on existing infrastructure there as well as expansion.

        What’s interesting looking at the BRI map as of a year ago is that Ukraine was completely bypassed by way of Russia and the ‘stans, Iran, and Turkey. Wonder if there was some negotiation with Russia about that.

  4. harpie says:

    “We will prepare dances in the area of Maidan or Khreshchatyk.” What was reported to the person with the voice of Kadyrov on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 2/26/22 [4 hours ago > around noon ET]

    The BBC obtained voice messages exchanged on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine by a man with the voice of the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and a man with the voice of the deputy of the Chechen National Guard, Daniil Martynov. They discuss how the fighters will enter the buildings in Ukraine and what was the reaction of the commanders when they learned the real purpose of the operation. […]
    9:35 AM · Feb 26, 2022

    Reuters: Kadyrov confirms deployment of Chechen forces to Ukraine.
    Kadyrov’s forces are infamous for serial human rights abuses in Chechnya.

  5. Peterr says:

    Dietrich Brauer is a Lutheran Archbishop, whose territory encompasses Russia, Ukraine, and various other states that were part of the old USSR. On Jan 27th, as troops were being massed in Russia prior to the invasion, he posted a poem he had written to a Russian poetry forum, that is getting circulated around Lutheran church circles:


    Peace, as his precious covenant,
    The Lord bequeathed to us to keep.
    He, the Reconciler of the whole universe,
    Promised the victory of life.

    But how many times have we again
    Trampled in the dirt his sacred gift,
    And unfoundedly declared,
    There will never be a war.

    Lord, have mercy on us sinners
    And pour out your grace.
    May hell not swallow up
    Your senseless children.

    Grant enlightenment to the blind leaders,
    Put your love into their hearts.
    Send the arrogant admonition,
    Do not let the blood of the innocent be shed.

    After all, no one will gain his paradise
    by strength, power and wealth.
    Peoples, countries, the human family
    Lives by you alone, Lord.

    (Google translation, slightly edited)

    Brauer is a young man for an archbishop (a post he has held for less than a year), and he is straddling a fine line here. This is not quite standing in front of the Kremlin with a protest sign, but it is definitely not the kind of thing that goes down well with Putin and his minions.

  6. Doctor My Eyes says:

    For me, what was doom scrolling has become inspiration. What effect will it have on domestic politics if Russian money and influence is taken out of the equation? A fellow can hope.

    As regards authoritarianism vs democracy, something occurs to me that may not actually hold water because I know nothing about what social media life is like in Russia. My assumption is that, even though I assume it is active, nevertheless a long-running fear of an oppressive regime has created a habit of being careful not to wade into any current reality which can be interpreted as political or too offensive to authorities. I have seen evidence that current Russians have dealt with Putin and the criminals who run the country by just not talking about it. I compare this to the deeply held habit in (more or less) open societies in which people send out whatever the fuck they feel like, often enough to our harm. So, Ukrainians are in the habit of posting unrestrained photos and videos of what is going on around them in their lives, in this case an invasion by Russia. We are seeing first hand accounts of war crimes by Russia and of inspiring wins by the Ukrainians. It’s great, almost perfect, propaganda and it is fundamentally democratic in nature: this is what is happening among the people and how we the people feel about it. It is one area in which democracy has an advantage over authoritarianism. It depends on a free flow of information.

    I do believe there is something to this notion, but I’m not sure I’ve hit the nail on the head.

    • earthworm says:

      i have long noticed parallels between USSR/Russia and our society. same forces, different faces & script. E.g, collective farms vs Cargill/Monsanto = disastrous agricultural policies.
      With total surveillance à la 1984 becoming increasingly the context, it looks as if we must all warily return to the samidzhat (sp?) era.

    • subtropolis says:

      That concept you’re trying to pin down is “police state”. Lots of people in Russia use social media, just like anywhere else. Many of them even make use of it to push back against tyranny. Those ones continue to be arrested, unfortunately. But it goes on. Absence of evidence of it in your google feed or facebook whatever is not a good indicator.

      As for those documenting the current invasion, keep in mind that this same population did precisely the same thing when they chased their own dictator out a few years ago. People in Belarus risked imprisonment or worse to post video evidence during their own recent uprising. To suggest that such activity is limited to democracies is absurd.

  7. Badger Robert says:

    If Germany promised to send more anti-armor and ground to air weapons, is that an indication that they expect the Ukrainians to hold out for several more days?
    The US seems also to have found some money for more weapons deliveries for Ukraine.

  8. Molly Pitcher says:

    Nina Khrushcheva, grand daughter of Nikita Khrushchev and Professor of International Affairs at The New School, New York, was just interviewed by Katie Tur on MSNBC. She said that if things continue to go wrong for Putin, he could find himself in the same situation as Mikhail Gorbachev when the Russians left Afghanistan. That preceded the collapse of the Soviet Union, which she doesn’t see for Russia, but it was the end of Gorbachev.

  9. WilliamOckham says:

    Anybody taking bets on who lasts longer as a head of state, Putin or Zelenskyy? I’d take Zelenskyy + 5 months. The Russians might be able to kill Zelenskyy. I don’t think Putin could last much after that…
    Seriously, I think Putin’s doomed. He miscalculated and left himself with no off-ramp.

    • Doug Fir says:

      Zelensky alive is a hero to Ukraine. Dead, he’s a martyr. Russia will choke on him either way.

      I look forward, hopefully, to a day when he gets to retire from the Presidency of a peaceful, prosperous Ukraine.

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      Putin got it wrong, that’s for sure.
      Both of my wife’s parents were from Ukraine. When we went to Istanbul, she said that she didn’t realize how close it was to Ukraine and she’d love to visit Ukraine someday. I didn’t really care that much, but now I feel that when Ukraine is a peaceful nation again, I want to spend my vacation dollars in a country that has suffered horrifically already and will no doubt have more hardships ahead.

      For right now, I’m donating to Ukrainian relief organizations and I’ve ordered a Ukrainian flag that should arrive in about a week, allowing us to express solidarity with my in-laws homeland.

        • Leoghann says:

          In 2019, a good friend in the valley spent a month or more visiting the Central and Eastern European capitals. He said Kiev, Warsaw, and Prague were spectacular. (I got a really nice book about the architecture of Prague out of that.)

    • timbo says:

      Thanks for posting this link, Harpy!

      In effect, this statement points to a failure of Putin’s attempts to undermine NATO over the past two decades. Maybe the creeping erosion of post-WWII institutions in the West could finally be turning around. A commitment to this level of sanctions means that the EU and the US are willing to take on more bottom-line economic hits to possibly curtail continuing Russian adventurism.

      And, now that I reread the statement again, it doesn’t appear to list specifically what Russia and Russians should do to get these sanctions lifted. In effect, it simply states what’s happening and that there are more serious consequences in the pipeline. This is indeed a considerable hardening of position on the part of NATO nations with regard to Russian attempts to upset the world order.

  10. fubar jack says:

    I’ve been wondering about the morale of the Russian forces involved in this operation. The Ukrainians are very akin to Russian people and how sustainable is this if the conflict goes on and gets bloodier ? Not sure how sound Putins arguments are to his rank and file…

    • John Paul Jones says:

      I was wondering about the morale/quality of the troops as well. Some of the videos and photos the Russians are releasing have shots of individual soldiers, and to be honest, quite a few of them don’t look either particularly healthy or committed – which may be why we are also being treated to endless shots of tanks whizzing around flat proving grounds. Interestingly, Wikipedia lists 8,500 T-90 tanks built (presumably since 1992), but also lists 5,200 in storage. I wonder what proportion of the remaining 3,300 units are actually deployable, and what the mean time between servicing is. Campaigning wears out equipment much faster than peacetime deployments.

      • Ravenclaw says:

        Up to 50% of the ground force consists of conscripts serving 12-month stints; their morale is likely to be very low & their training limited. One suspects that these were the forces held back during the first day or so of the invasion, intended for cleanup operations and garrison duty after the “inevitable” collapse of the underfunded and outgunned Ukrainian Army. The attack will have been spearheaded by more elite career soldiers and of course armored divisions backed up by a truly fearsome artillery.

        I confess to being thrilled by the Ukrainian resistance to the invasion, even as I come close to tears over the fate of so many in this needless war. Had it ever come to this for the USA, I hope I would have had the courage to do as so many Ukrainian civilians are doing now.

      • Alan Charbonneau says:

        Putin thinks like Trump-simplistically.
        He may have more intelligence than Trump (as does a rock), but he doesn’t want messy reality. In your post, you’ve probably spent more time analyzing the difficulties tanks might be facing in Ukraine than Putin did.

        He’s convinced himself that he is the leader of a strong country and he use the military to get what he wants. He saw how limited the use of military power is via the U.S. in Iraq and both the U.S. and Soviet Union in Afghanistan, “but this time will be different!”

  11. L. Eslinger says:

    Xi Jinping and his inner circle are likely evaluating Putin’s actions and the international response to calibrate their One China roadmap.

    • timbo says:

      That’s why the joint statement released to today by the big allied powers is so important. (See harpy’s link above for link to joint statement at the White House website.)

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    [Comment disappeared after notice popped up saying, “You can no longer edit this comment,” with a minute twenty left on the clock. Second time in a week. The filters must be working overtime.]

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Went poof shortly after that notice popped up. Happened a week or so ago, too.

        I was commenting about the knock-on effects of any cut in Russian subsidies to the global right wing, owing to restrictions on access to the banking system. As VG remembers, the last line was about Boris Johnson having to make do with Prosecco instead of champers.

    • Valley girl says:

      I actually saw the comment, briefly. I was posting around that time. I went back to look and it was gone.

      Something about Champers.

  13. Phaedruses says:

    THREAD 1/7 Intel from a Ukrainian officer about a meeting in Putin’s lair in Urals. Oligarchs convened there so no one would flee. Putin is furious, he thought that the whole war would be easy and everything would be done in 1-4 days. @EPPGroup @general_ben @edwardlucas @politico Image
    2/7 Russians didn’t have a tactical plan. The war costs about $20 bln/day. There are rockets for 3-4 days at most, they use them sparingly. They lack weapons, the Tula and 2 Rotenberg plants can’t physically fulfil the orders for weapons. Rifles and ammo are the most they can do.
    3/7 The next Russian weapons can be produced in 3-4 months – if even that. They have no raw materials. What was previously supplied mainly from Slovenia, Finland and Germany is now cut off.
    4/7 If Ukraine manages to hold the Russians off for 10 days, then the Russians will have to enter negotiations. Because they have no money, weapons, or resources. Nevertheless, they are indifferent about the sanctions.
    5/7 Alpha Spec Ops have been near Kyiv since the 18th February. The goal was to take Kyiv and instal a puppet regime. They are preparing provocations against innocent civilians – women and children – to sow panic. This is their trump card.
    6/7 Russia’s whole plan relies on panic – that the civilians and armed forces surrender and Zelensky flees. They expect Kharkiv to surrender first so the other cities would follow suit to avoid bloodshed. The Russians are in shock of the fierce resistance they have encountered.
    7/7 The Ukrainians must avoid panic! The missile strikes are for intimidation, the Russians fire them at random to “accidentally” hit residential buildings to make the attack look larger than it really is. Ukraine must stay strong and we must provide assistance! #StandWithUkraine
    8/7 Spread this information so the world would realise how important it is to assist Ukraine right now and without hesitation! It is difficult for Russia, but it is difficult for Ukraine as well if the West does not provide meaningul support! @EPPGroup @MFAestonia @MoD_Estonia

    • BobCon says:

      GW Bush should have called him and warned him about Friedman Units and the dangers of listening to Cheneys.

      • Doctor My Eyes says:

        I read that corrected somewhere. Sorry for the vagueness of my memory, but the 20 billion wasn’t in dollars–forgot which currency. The commenter calculated it to be something like $300 mullion a day if I remember correctly, In any case, some hundreds of millions rather than billions.

    • timbo says:

      What is more likely is that the military plans for invasion was altered significantly once it became clear to Russian military commanders that the US intelligence possibly had their original battle plans for Go-Zero Hour well in advance. A more tentative advance than originally planned for might be the obvious result, including the holding in reserve of units a bit longer to see how things turn out, etc. Cautious Russian invading forces would give Ukraine more chance to organize resistance in areas where there already was some significant Ukrainian military presence and more time to organize resistance where Ukrainian forces were initially lacking. That would not necessarily be unexpected, given the beginning circumstances. I think what is really unexpected from the Russian side is the intelligence reports of general popular support for the current Ukrainian government in the field.

      And more to your point #6: It certainly must be very dismaying to the Russian military that Ukraine has (possibly) handed out tens of thousands of assault weapons to the general populace of cities like Kharkiv and Kyiv; yeah, the morale of Russian troops faced with fighting partisans in pitched battles in an urban environment, or dealing with partisans in the countryside for an indefinite period of time is not all that appealing generally. And now hardening of the NATO countries support for Ukraine includes the openly committing to ship of arms to sustain the defenders—again, dismaying for Russian field operations and personnel.

  14. madwand says:

    This article pretty well details Germany’s contribution to sending weapons to Ukraine.

    1000 antitank Javelins and 500 updated Stinger Missiles, used so successfully against the Soviets during their Afghan conflict. The Netherlands will also send 400 anti tank missiles. According to reports on TV the Swedish British anti tank weapon NLaw (Picture in the article) has been used to great effect in slowing the Russian advance from the North. A number of military analysts have remarked on the fighting spirit (Esprit de Corps) of the Ukrainians but Napoleons maxim the morale is to the defense as three is to one is more applicable and you can up that three number when fighting in urban areas.

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        Russia being kicked out of SWIFT, and US sending $350MM in aid…

        This appears to NOT be working out the way Putin might have imagined and hoped it would…

        • Alex Coventry says:

          I think the devil is in the details, with regard to the SWIFT sanctions. If they’re anything like the sanctions Biden already imposed, they might not have that much effect on Russia’s revenues.

          • timbo says:

            The point is that NATO and its allies are willing to take the economic hit for imposing SWIFT on a perceived likely adversary with lots of financial ties withing NATO and allied countries. This is not just a warning for Russia but a demonstration of solidarity within NATO for all to see. The commitment here is to curtail the Russian economic and political influences controlled by sanctioned actors in all aspects of the NATO countries, starting from today forward.

            Also note that the joint statement issued from the White House today does not mention how any of these sanctions might be lifted. That is new—there is no more “you must withdraw from Ukraine to avoid these sanctions!” hopeful rhetoric—this is hardball. This is a serious and united list of consequence prior to a significant Russian victory in the field, open ended consequence with possible further consequences to come in the coming days. After today, the Russian elites will have to wonder what are the next consequences, when are they coming, and is there now a way out of this that doesn’t lead to a broader war soon. (And it’s that last door that may seem more and more appealing is the hope.)

            • Alex Coventry says:

              My point was that it’s not clear how severe the hit will be to Russian oligarchs, because energy purchases will be exempted from the sanctions. (According to Reuters, this applies to the new SWIFT sanctions, too.)

              MT linked an article about the likely impact of the carve-out for energy purchases, in an earlier post. (Search for “See Adam Tooze on the exceptions to the sanctions that largely undercut them.”)

              From that Reuters article:

              “So it feels like maximum pain for the next two to three days while people work out what pathways are open,” he added.

  15. Jenny says:

    Bit off topic; however this man sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

    Referring to Putin and the invasion, Senator Tuberville (R – AL) said, “He can’t feed his people. It’s a communist country, so he can’t feed his people, so they need more farmland.”

    • P J Evans says:

      He said that a couple of days ago, and I hope he got a lot of blowback on it. The guy who started last big war used that as an excuse for invading neighbors. He ended up very dead, after several years.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Actually, my Modern European History prof made a convincing case that Hitler viewed the Slavs as ‘slaves’, and believed that the Germans were being ‘encircled’ and needed to claim the good agricultural land to their east.

        Hitler was a big fan of cowboy movies.
        Putin is said to be a fan of James Bond movies.

        IMVHO, Putin crossed a line when he put his nuclear group on high alert. Even the Swiss are now discussing cutting off Russian money.

        Uncharted territory.
        Financial news ought to be jaw-dropping.

        • P J Evans says:

          A lot of Germans have Slavic ancestry. You’d have to be isolated for centuries to have anything like “pure” blood…and the lethal recessives will have killed a lot of people.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      Russia needs more farmland like Kim Kardashian needs more publicity. It is the largest country on the European continent. There are thousands and thousands of untouched miles.

      But then, consider the source. He was a crappy football coach, too.

      • Marinela says:

        Russia has a lot of farm land that is not farmed due to demographics, years of communist policies promoted to destroy ownership, missing infrastructure.
        What young person wants to move in an area without infrastructure, low standard of living, and hard work, no mechanization?

        But, if Russia does run out of farm land to feed it’s people, invading another country is so dumb. More people are going to be hungry now that the war is happening. Wars never make things better, it is costly even for the victors.

          • Marinela says:

            Maybe, but the suffering on the other side doesn’t make it right. We are one humanity.

            Everybody that gets killed on either side, it means they never get to reach their full potential, which they would otherwise without a war. This is damage to humanity that is greater than some material advantage that is gained after the war.

        • Rayne says:

          Shit. It just occurred to me this invasion as a wag-the-dog could be redirection from a possible massive crop failure.

          What if COVID was so bad this winter in Russia that the wheat crop will not be planted or harvested at anticipated levels?

          I’ll be so pissed if that fucking moron Tuberville was right but not about acreage but the wheat crop itself.

          • Raven Eye says:

            I think you’re safe. Sounds like Tuberville was having one of his “…them Commies…” moments.

            But the wheat angle is very interesting. You don’t become the world’s leading wheat exporter (US$ 7.9 billion in 2020) without reliably meeting the customers’ needs in terms of both quantity and quality. Wheat is sold and shipped to specific specifications, often blended at the export port.

            This is one area of sanctions that might not have received the attention it deserves, especially in light of SWIFT.

            • Rayne says:

              I need to look at wheat contracts. I don’t know if this has been figured in, haven’t heard or seen anything about commodities prices, only mumbling about global supply chain disruptions because of COVID. …

              Yikes. Hard to tell if this is just geopolitical instability reflected or if there has been some reporting related to intent to plant influencing this chart.
              Screenshot, graph of Wheat futures prices over 1-month time frame - May 2022 contracts (via Barchart(.)com)

              • Eureka says:

                Thanks for putting an indicator to go to your twitter because this image isn’t showing for me (if you did embed it).

                And Raven Eye/anyone — what’s up with the wheat re sanctions, I missed it. I just saw they were excluding oil/gas from the SWIFT measures.

                • Raven Eye says:

                  Commodities-related stories have been out there, but I think they lack the “surface” drama that oil/petroleum has.

                  My first guess is that the impact on commodities would be secondary, resulting from financial sanctions. Also, on Russian shipping companies, shipping from other companies trading with Russia, etc. Look at how the French diverted a ship from the English Channel to a French port.

                  I know that in Pacific Northwest, domestic grain (from eastern Washington and Oregon) transportation (barges and rail cars) to export seaports is pretty well locked in well in advance of loading, as are the actual ship bottoms. Some goes east and some goes west (one of the reasons that Portland is a net exporting seaport).

                  You fiddle with the financial transfer and exchange mechanisms and there is a cascading effect that reaches down to the growers (and all of their suppliers).

                  • Eureka says:

                    Oh yeah that’s gonna be an epic disaster, I wasn’t even thinking of the advance issues.

                    I suppose it depends on how much of that to-be debt (off-priced wheat) China will take on, but like you say the supply-chain links are already set (unless, of course, Putin planned ahead for this aspect, too — they did have time).


                    Adding: Begets fun asides: how much is China willing to advance via overpayments, and will Putin get so greedy eyeballing the inflated market prices he’s induced that he’ll blow it with Xi.

              • Molly Pitcher says:

                This would be an odd announcement if Russia was anticipating trouble with it’s wheat harvest.


                China lifts restrictions on Russian wheat imports

                Hong Kong (CNN Business)China has relaxed restrictions on imports of Russian wheat, a move that could address food security concerns in the world’s second largest economy and ease the impact of Western sanctions on Russia.

                The decision to allow imports of wheat from all regions of Russia was made during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Beijing earlier this month, but the details were only announced by China’s customs administration this week.
                Russia is the world’s top producer of wheat. Previously, China had restricted wheat imports from Russia due to concerns about the presence of dwarf bunt fungus — a disease that can cause severe loss of yield for wheat and other crops — in some parts of the country.

                  • Eureka says:

                    Can they wheat launder such that it never touches their territory, like slap a CH label on it and send the befungused wheat on to some other countries?

                    • Rayne says:

                      Transshipment? Possibly, but it’s far more difficult to launder by transshipment a bulk commodity typically handled in 40-foot hopper bottom trucks and entire vessels versus a pallet of equipment or a crate of devices. I mean, it could mean hiding entire trucks, carloads, ships — and when grain is transferred from one to another mode of transport, the grain can send chaff/dust with fungus flying into the air. I’m sure there’s laundering when it comes to oil but the risks are different.

                      ADDER: I’m a little rusty at this but I used to work in exports both in non-listed grains and in manufacturing equipment. The latter would have been so much easier to launder by transshipment.

                      ADDER-2: Look at the dust in the air over this wheat. Yeesh.

                    • Eureka says:

                      Yeah that’s kind of what I was envisioning — without looking at a map, could RU do all land-based transport in their country, get it to a port and then waterways thereafter (or something). Also wondered (pure speculation) if it could way to a third country and CH claim it/’label’ it. I was trying to account for dust (but not the hopper-bottoms — didn’t think of that, just anonymous-looking box containers).

                      So it sounds like it might be easier to game the system in other ways. I have no doubt shenanigans will ensue somewhere in this transaction — which third party(ies) will get screwed instead of them?

                      (Whether they actually take the wheat or not, I’m assuming the whole deal includes some understanding of a “loan” from CH to RU, where RU would be less in the red if they actually sold the wheat to anyone.)

                    • Raven Eye says:

                      One complication with any changes in the handling of export grain is that (IIRC in the U.S.) the price is based on the type of grain, with the correct specifications*, loaded onto a ship, in a specific port. Change any of that and the pricing changes too. (Some specifications can be met at the port just before the grain is loaded.)

                      Sanctions can ripple, and I wonder how many autocrats consider that. Sanctions bring uncertainty, and increases in uncertainty are increases in risk.

                      *Google “wheat specifications”.

          • gmoke says:

            UN FAO reported that global food price inflation was something over 20% from 2020 to 2021. We are all going to be feeling the effects of such probably continuing inflation in food prices and reductions in harvests due to weather and climate instabilities.

            Or as the Republicanists say, “Thanks, Biden.” /snark

            • Rayne says:

              I’m fully aware we’re gong to see inflation for a host of reasons though some of them have been long overdue (decades of artificially suppressed wages) and most are manufactured — just Google “record profits.” Oh hell, I’ll just point it out because inflation is mostly bullshit so far.

              Covid Can’t Stop Corporate Profits From Climbing to Record Highs
              Tax cuts were a big help in the third quarter, along with government assistance to businesses.
              By Justin Fox / December 6, 2021, 6:00 AM EST / Bloomberg Businessweek

              U.S. corporations pulled in more profits in the three months ended in September than ever before. Not just in dollar terms—something that happens frequently—but as a share of the economy. According to initial estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, third-quarter after-tax corporate profits from current production amounted to 11% of gross domestic product. The previous record of 10.7% was set in the second quarter of this year; before that the all-time high was 10.6%, in the first quarter of 2012.

              Thanks, Biden, indeed.

              What that wheat futures contract chart shows has dick-all to do with what UN FAO was discussing. It’s pointing to *recent* volatility and the question is what is it causing the spike? Since it began almost coincident with the invasion of the 5th largest wheat producer by the largest wheat producer, let me speculate this specific commodity’s price inflation is related to geopolitical upheaval and not climate or COVID-caused transportation and handling issues. Especially since contracts on wheat produced in the southern hemisphere by Argentina and Australia are already locked in since it’s autumn there.

    • Geoguy says:

      Yup, Tuberville is as dumb as a rock. Never mind the “communist country” remark, Russia is the worlds largest exporter of wheat, shipping roughly half of the total crop (in fair and good seasons.)

  16. Tom says:

    In the last week I haven’t seen much evidence of that “shrewd” and “savvy” “genius”, Vladimir Pustule, that Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson, and Mike Pompeo are so hot and bothered about. For example, if you want to inculcate loyalty in your subordinates you don’t humiliate them in front of the whole world as Putin did with his security chief last Tuesday. That’s not how you get the best out of people. Anyone in Putin’s position should operate on the principle that if there’s something going down they want to hear about it right away, and that you won’t get your head chewed off for being the bearer of bad news. That’s just a basic management skill.

    Somehow, though, I don’t think that’s Putin’s style of leadership, otherwise he wouldn’t have himself filmed like a James Bond villain sitting on one side of an enormous gym-sized meeting room with his underlings cowering waaaaaay over on the other side. It doesn’t quite send the message that “We’re all in this together”. But then I remember the time Mike Pompeo pulled that stupid “Find Ukraine on a map with no countries labeled” trick on Mary Louise Kelly of NPR and I can understand why Mike the Night-Gaunt might find Vlad so sympatico.

    President Zelensky, on the other hand, knows how to be an inspiring leader. He films himself out in the streets of Kyiv standing shoulder to shoulder with his ministers, identifying them by name and sharing the stage and the spotlight with them—“We few, we happy few, we Band of Brothers”. He speaks openly and sincerely and with obvious heartfelt conviction, accepts the responsibility of his post, and doesn’t criticize or blame his followers for Ukraine’s crisis. And I’m pretty sure his daily schedule doesn’t include making impromptu inspections of underground bunkers when the going gets tough.

    • dude says:

      “–filmed like a James Bond villain sitting on one side of an enormous gym-sized meeting room with his underlings cowering waaaaaay over on the other side.”

      Yeah, that’s where I saw it. I knew it felt familiar!

      • timbo says:

        “As I sat uncomfortably in my chair at the other end of the audience hall, listening in a cold sweat to Our Dear Leader repetitive pontificating on the obvious degeneracy of his foes real or imagined, my hope for a peaceful resolution between Him and I was swallowed up in the vast juxtaposition of our distant, disparate orbits.” —Just A Thought

    • gmoke says:

      The second I heard that Putin said, “Ukraine is not a real country,” I knew he’d made a basic strategic mistake. By saying that, he told every Ukrainian around the world that the coming struggle was not only existential but also probably genocidal as well.

      It was a stupid, unforced foundational blunder and made me think, along with the way Putin now looks, that old Vladimir is not the man he used to be.

    • Leoghann says:

      Of the several statements I’ve read from various European leaders and ambassadors, saying that ol’ Vlad isn’t what, or even who, he used to be, one item they all commented on in common was that he’s become obsessed with contagion and contamination. He’s become even more germaphobic than Trump.

        • Raven Eye says:

          When you rely on others carrying out those kinds of attack (and also cyber attacks) you create a cadre of those who you end up fearing the most.

  17. Marinela says:

    Seen discussions about the possibility that Putin can be charged as a war criminal.

    The unprovoked invasion on Ukraine and the fact that everybody, except Russia tried to resolve the crisis by diplomacy and that he did blew thru few Geneva conventions…
    The two separatist regions, are not even close to Kyiv where Russian troupes are heading now.

    Maybe this is why Russian army, so far, is not directly firing on non-military assets. Worried about being charged with civilian massacre and destruction of property?

    • Rayne says:

      Except for that kindergarten which was bombed killing at least one student, an occupied car deliberately run over by a tank, and an ambulance blown up. Oh, and a Russian platoon caught on video changing into civilian clothing. I’m sure I could come up with few more war crimes if I could stomach looking for them in my Ukraine feed. The war crimes have only just begun if the Chechens were tasked with infiltrating Ukraine ahead of the invasion.

      • Marinela says:

        So terrifying…

        Putin called the Ukrainians that are defending their country drug addicts, thugs. Speaking of projection. He was in fact referring to the Chechens wearing civilian clothes.

        • Rayne says:

          I hadn’t seen that, I can’t go and look again. I can’t handle it, too traumatizing. I’m going to have nightmares as it is after seeing the ambulance. Gods help Ukraine.

      • Marinela says:

        Slobodan Milošević was tried for war crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal (ICTY) in The Hague. Are you saying it has to be an organization inside of Russia to do it?

    • gmoke says:

      Neither Russia nor Ukraine, like USAmerica, appear to be members of the International Criminal Court but “The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor has put combatants and their commanders on notice that he is monitoring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and has jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

      • bmaz says:

        Lol, not so sure about that. If ICC had jurisdiction against non-members, there would hav e been some Americans there.

      • skua says:

        Article 12 of the Rome Statute: … the Court may exercise its jurisdiction if one or more of the following States are Parties to this Statute or have accepted the jurisdiction of the Court in accordance with paragraph 3:
        (a) The State on the territory of which the conduct in question occurred or, ….

        Ukraine made such a declaration in 2015.

        I’m understanding them to have conditional jurisdiction. Which is what so upset Trump and caused him to threaten (or impose?) sanctions against ICC staff.

        • bmaz says:

          Um, there is a difference between “having jurisdiction” and being able to actually attach the subject of your purported jurisdiction. Pay attention to the latter.

          • skua says:

            Would any legally literate user be kind enough to expand on “attach the subject of your purported jurisdiction”?

            Google is useless on this matter. I’m guessing with low confidence it means the ICC would probably be unable to compel any accused Russians to participate.

  18. Molly Pitcher says:

    MSNBC’s man in Moscow, Rafael Sanchez, just said that he was called down to the front desk of the hotel he is staying in, and asked to settle his bill today because they don’t think they will be able to take credit cards as early as tomorrow.

  19. Doctor My Eyes says:

    A memorable line from a light-hearted flick about the mob: “Don’t worry, it’s only a cop.” That would be the usual attitude of the Russian thugs toward official sanctions of any kind: there are always people ready to sell out laws and their country for a little green or out of fear. When Biden says let’s wait a month and see, that in part is a statement that the will to enforce these sanctions will last long enough to hurt the Russians and that there will not be adequate ways to sidestep them. The war is the thrilling news of the moment, but the world’s attention will move on (US attention span has been shown to have decreased to that of a goldfish.) What happens when the people of Germany, for example, start feeling the effects of the sanctions themselves?

    There is one encouraging fact from game theory studies. In games in which people all do well enough when they cooperate but one individual who acts selfishly can profit at the expense of everyone else, participants will choose to lose money in order to punish a person who repeatedly fails to cooperate (assuming the set-up is such the non-cooperator can be identified by the other players). Here’s hoping that this is not one of those storms that passes, becomes corrupted by false narratives, and goes the way of the “We are the World” video. In short, there will be a test of long-term resolve, especially if Ukraine eventually falls, Zelensky is disappeared, and there is no clear battle line in Ukraine to make things seem simple. Can the world care about democracy enough, and long enough, to continue to fight this battle?

  20. Leoghann says:

    To comment quickly on the original topic–Zelenskyy is an inspiration to the world, not just Ukrainians. I read a wonderful opinion piece by a Ukrainian journalist this morning in WaPo.

    It’s been reported late tonight that Belarus is sending troops to support the Russians (big surprise), as soon as Monday morning. Also, Putin has announced that “peace negotiations” will begin Monday morning, with him hosting. I’m wondering if that’s a coincidence, or if Vlad thinks the shock and awe of Belarusian troops will cow Ukraine into suing for peace.

    And the removal of Russia from the SWIFT network seems to be a done deal.

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