Three Things: Part 3 — Putin’s Particular Peculiarities

[NB: check the byline as usual, thanks. /~Rayne]

In spite of Anna Colin Lebedev’s persuasive tweet thread encouraging us to focus on the internal rationality of Putin’s goals and how Putin may achieve those aims, it’s difficult not to ask what’s going on with Putin.

The images we’ve seen of him recently show him at more than 10-12 feet away from others though he is uniformly unmasked.

The big long meeting table with France’s President Emmanuel Macron:

The February 21 meeting with his security council:

Another big long meeting table with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov:

His statements to media are staged as always; it’s hard to tell how far he is from the production team behind the camera.

There’s some logic to this; media have been told it’s because of COVID, and in the case of Macron as well as Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz it was because they refused Russian PCR tests for security reasons.

He doesn’t look well, either. A few years ago he had been using Botox for which he was and still is frequently mocked; he appears to have stopped using it.

But now his skin looks unhealthy; his face appears puffy, as if he’s been using steroids. Was he sick with COVID recently? If so is he dealing with neurological challenges?

Some have said he’s had a back problem for which he’s taking steroids; long-term of steroids can cause cognitive dysfunction along with psychiatric symptoms like increased aggression.

We’ve heard he’s paranoid and pandemic isolation may have made this isolation worse. Could this explain his decision-making?

Or as Colin Lebedev said, it doesn’t matter what’s going with Putin; we must assume the most radical, worst case scenario no matter Putin’s condition.

This is not just about Ukraine to his immediate west. It’s about the entire west and the U.S.

And he’s already proven he can reach out and touch us, even occupying the White House with a useful idiot.

~ ~ ~

In Part 1, I looked at the role of cognitive dissonance in our laggy response to Russia’s invasion and the warning that Putin will do worse than our denialism has accepted.

In Part 2, I looked at the problems visible in Russia’s first echelon campaign this first week of the invasion, and the possible causes.

In this Part 3, I looked at what visual cues tell us about Putin himself, suggesting we’re dealing with an unhealthy individual.

We need to continue to shed our cognitive dissonance. We can’t accept the failures of the Russian army’s first echelon as an example of how this war will continue, because multiple sources assure us he is likely to do far worse than we’ve imagined until now. And if he is truly unwell, more paranoid and aggressive because of COVID, and/or pandemic isolation, and/or long-term steroid use, and/or excess cortisol, we should prepare ourselves for the truly awful ahead.

What are the next options available to us to aid Ukraine should Putin do far worse?

117 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    IMO, he’s moving to a model he’s already familiar and comfortable with — carpet bombing cities as he did in Aleppo, Syria.

    WSJ: Activists Allege Russian Cluster Bombing in Syria (Oct 13, 2015)

  2. P J Evans says:

    Level all the cities, kill or exile as many people as possible, move in loyalists to take over and rebuild. Not good for anyone.

    • timbo says:

      This is not likely what the plan is. The plan is more likely to try to save as much infrastructure and machinery, etc, as possible. Keeping industrial base is important for Russia if it’s going to go it alone. And the Russians are well aware of the need to do so based on their experience in WWII.

  3. BobCon says:

    The 1917 Revolution coincided with mutinies as Russian troops and sailors became furious with bungling leaders facing off miserably against the Germans and Hapsburgs. That has to be present in Putin’s mind, as a guy immersed in Soviet lore.

    But I have no idea how that plays off against reports that his expeditionary force bogs down and loses faith. Wagners and Chechens only go so far.

  4. harpie says:

    Does anyone want to book an AirBNB in Ukraine?
    12:46 PM · Mar 3, 2022

    Yesterday I shared an idea to support Ukraine by booking rooms for rent on AirBNB. 24 hours later, 100’s of people are booking AirBnBs in Ukraine as a way to send immediate monetary assistance to people in hard-hit areas. The messages in response from the hosts are so moving [screenshots]

  5. WilliamOckham says:

    I don’t think he’s stopped the BOTOX® or some other cosmetic treatment. Here’s the tell (as explained to me by my ex who is a physician who’s administered a lot of the stuff). Look at the face parentheses (nasolabial creases). They always get more pronounced as we age. In Putin’s recent pictures, his still look less pronounced than they were before he started treatments.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      His face does not look fifty, let alone seventy. I assume that takes a lot of work.

    • Rayne says:

      He’s had fillers applied to his cheeks, wouldn’t be surprised if he’s had filler applied to his nasolabial creases as well.

      Some of this work isn’t just to reduce the appearance of age but to suppress obvious emotion displays — the filler in nasolabial creases may hide displays of disgust, for example.

      • dimmsdale says:

        Bet you a nickel he’s had a chest-lift too. That bare-chested shot of him on the horse? Naaaahhhhhh, he’s had work done.

        • Rayne says:

          Meh. More likely he’s been waxed but he probably has worked out. The bare-chested shots have been a while ago already.

          More likely he’s had testosterone supplements along with growth hormone — the former can also increase aggression.

          • Ginevra diBenci says:

            I have a history of acromegaly secondary to a pituitary tumor; this disease results in an excess of growth hormone, causing swelling in the skull, hands, feet and soft tissue. When I learned people deliberately take HGH as a supplement, it astonished me because the effects I suffered were terrifying in their unpredictability–only starting with headaches.

            Looking at Putin now I’ve been thinking steroids. Cushing’s (excess cortisol, the stress hormone that makes your adrenaline soar) is also a possibility, but it is treatable and surely he has endocrinologists on call. Botox (which I’ve taken for migraines) might explain the unlined forehead, but I don’t think it can inflate your cheeks. He looks like a demonic chipmunk lately.

  6. Philip Jones says:

    “What are the next options available to us to aid Ukraine should Putin do far worse?”
    The question you ask is quite simply the most important of all at the moment.
    I can think of only two realistic and effective possible options.
    Firstly, direct military support for Ukraine by NATO with the risk of a pan-continental European war which could become nuclear. This is option is unimaginable.
    Secondly, total econ

    • Philip Jones says:

      Secondly, indirectly by TOTAL economic warfare resulting in absolute immediate economic meltdown – and importantly the threat if it.
      Is this feasible? Would this work? Have governments considered it realistically Would it produce an effect that would force him to withdraw from Ukraine? Would it bring pressure from the “elites”?
      I can only see these options and I’m sorry that I’ve answered your question with more questions. Perhaps others can do much better.
      Ukraine’s postion is dire and needs immediate further assistance.
      Apologies for the split post – fat fingers

      • Peterr says:

        I don’t know how much good pressure from the elites would bring, but pressure from ordinary Russians is definitely a powerful force. These ordinary people are bringing that pressure on the streets of many cities large and small within Russia, in the form of protests in a nation that has damn near no protection for those doing the protesting. The protests have gotten so bad that the Duma is going to take up a motion to drastically increase the penalties for protesting, including conscription into the military. As the Guardian notes, it is not clear whether this is a proposal that has a chance of passing or not. (God knows legislators around the world love to introduce crazy bills to display how angry they are about something, rather than to fix something.)

        From a military perspective, these are the LAST folks you want to bring into your ranks, especially if you are already dealing with morale problems. But Putin isn’t looking at what these folks will do to the military — he sees them (and likely most low-ranking soldiers) as mere cannon fodder.

        When a well-known ordinary woman who fought and survived the WWII siege of Leningrad is one of those folks arrested for protesting, you know things are bad for the folks inside the Kremlin.

        Also, the picture I’ve gotten from western reporters inside Russia is that while the economic sanctions *are* having effects on the ordinary Russians, they do not seem to be angry at at the West for putting them in place. No chants against the US, no screams against Germany, no protesting the Brits . . .

        And the bodies of the Russians killed in the fighting have yet to come back to their home villages, towns, and cities to be buried. The betting right now is that this will only increase anger at Putin from inside Russia, rather than inflame people against the Ukranians. When Russia finally pulled out of Afghanistan, the pressure from families who lost loved ones was a big reason why they called it quits.

        • Quake says:

          In WWII the Soviets sent convicted offenders to ‘penal battalions’ as, effectively, a death sentence. They were given rifles just before a attack. If they didn’t charge the enemy the KGB would machine gun them from behind. If they did attack the Germans would kill them but they might help the attack by elite Soviet forces. The proposal is presumably to revive this system.

      • PJB says:

        To your point, i recommend a recent podcast on this topic. Ezra Klein interviewed the economic historian Adam Tooze. Kind of long (mostly because they taped the first part the Friday before the heaviest sanctions were imposed such as freeze of Russia’s foreign reserves) and then resumed on the Monday. But, really illuminating and cuts through the misconceptions about various sanctions regimes.

    • Philip Jones says:

      Total economic warfare would result in economic damage equivalent to the physical damage inflicted on the Axis Powers in WW11. It would cause great suffering. Would it be ethical? It would also require sacrifices by those countries inflicting it. Would this be acceptable to them?

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        Would nuclear war be ethical ? Tell me what other options there are?

        The Western world is dangling Ukraine as the piñata for Putin, the sacrificial lamb, so that the rest of us don’t have to pay too much more than $5 a gallon for gas.

        We will just have to watch him annihilate an innocent country.

        • madwand says:

          War itself is not ethical, it’s destructive and has the capacity in nuclear war to destroy all life on earth. A successful first strike is not possible without inviting an equally successful counter strike and resulting in MAD mutual assured destruction. So can you aggress with tactical nuclear weapons in the one to three kiloton range or at a level which would not involve a massive counter strike. A direct engagement would be Putin using tac nukes on NATO or US forces or vice versus. An indirect use would be Putin using Tac nukes to destroy Kyiv. Sad but US and NATO are not going to blow up the world over Ukraine and Putin understands this very well. The use of tactical nuclear weapons remains theoretical and countries who possess them have so far declined to use them.

          So a cold blooded aggressor can aggress at a level (conventional weapons and strategies) which would not be fatal to himself. Putin understands this also and is aggressing at a level which will not involve counter strikes fatal to himself.

          Our options are limited if we wish to avoid direct combat with Russian forces. Sanctions, resupplying Uks with javelins and stingers and other ammunition and supplies, taking care of the refugees, fueling a possible insurgency etc.

          Of course one can gamble and hope the other side blinks, and use tac nukes but the response could very well be problematic for the initiator of such an action and it’s definitely a crap shoot.

        • madwand says:

          Unfortunately you are right, Ukraine is being sacrificed, the alternative being war with Russia and then all options, including nuclear, are on the table. US and NATO are doing all they can, taking care of refugees, supplying Ukrainians with stingers javelins munitions and other supplies, providing realtime intel, satellite etc to Ukrainians, and preparing strategies to fight an insurgency after Russia takes control.

          As to Rayne’s part three from

  7. punaise says:

    WaPo via SF Gate:

    After call with Putin, Macron convinced that ‘the worst is yet to come’ and Russia wants to take all of Ukraine

  8. Tom R. says:

    [Second attempt to post. Previous one mysteriously vanished. System says “you already posted that” but it’s nowhere to be seen.]

    Let me suggest a better framework for the analysis:

    Systematic scenario planning is widely used in research, in business, in the military, and so on. That is, rather than “assuming” the worst-case scenario, we should instead consider all the plausible scenarios. That includes figuring out how to respond in each case. None of the following are mutually exclusive:

    * The worst case is easy to describe: Putin decides that the sanctions are a hostile act, and starts waging war against NATO. This gets very bad very fast. There is precedent for this: In 1940 and the first half of 1941, the US sent aid to China, imposed progressively stricter embargoes on Japan, and seized Japanese assets. The Japanese were not amused.

    * There could be a protracted insurgency in the heart of Europe.

    * There could come a point where Putin wants to take an off-ramp. We should be prepared to give him one. It’s not clear exactly what that would look like, so that’s something we need to figure out. There is precedent for this: US forces withdrew from Vietnam in 1975. Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. Iraqi forces withdrew from Kuwait in 1991, looting and burning as they went.

    *** Lots of other scenarios.

    On the basis of such an analysis, we can act to make the preferred outcomes more likely.

    Bottom line: Action item: Figure out what the off-ramp looks like, and get Putin to take it.

    • P J Evans says:

      The software seems to be glitchy this week. Others have had comments disappear like that.

        • Eureka says:

          The problems are pretty much eliminated if you clear your cache then refresh the page before commenting. That’s what I started doing weeks (months?) ago when the ‘you already posted this’ message started flying.

          LOL and as this landed in the pokey, I _almost_ also noted that this is independent, obviously, of anything being sent to moderation.

          Also, if you’re having problems w/comment edits: clearing cache before editing even after posting a comment can help

          [Sorry for the lag freeing this one, I was dozing off. It’s after midnight now here, so anything stuck might be in the holding bin for a while. :-) /~Rayne ]

    • Legonaut says:

      Stephen Colbert had a bit a couple of nights ago where, in addition to various governing bodies of sport excommunicating the Russians (or Putin personally, in the case of judo), the Global Consortium of Volcano-Based Supervillains was booting Putin and repossessing their hairless cat:

      Somewhere, Mike Meyers is laughing through the tears.

  9. SAO says:

    I think it’s a waste of time to speculate on Putin being mentally ill. It’s much more likely he made a few miscalculations and can’t back down and no one in his inner circle can tell him the truth. I think it took 5 days before Gorbachev learned that the issue in Chernobyl was not the loss of power from a reactor that needed to be offline for a few repairs after a minor accident. In those 5 days, fallout meant gamma rays were radiating from the sidewalks of Kiev and the citizens were neither told nor evacuated, although all of the party officials sent their families away on “vacation”. And Gorbachev was far from Stalin.

    An observer noted that it was clear that the party officials were far more concerned about the political fallout than the radioactive fallout. However, within 5 years, the USSR ended.

    The problem is that Ukraine doesn’t have 5 years.

    • Rayne says:

      Colin Lebedev said it didn’t matter; she’s right and yet it does. If Putin suffers from “‘roid rage,” whatever we’ve assumed is the worst he could do isn’t the worst he will do. We’re off the mental map.

      We need to discuss what happens if Putin is neurologically challenged and suffering from various cognitive deficits because it will shape what is to come and how we should respond.

      • JulyDogs says:

        This information would only be of use if we were within arms reach ot him. Because that’s what it’s going to take. He’s not going to come to his senses (whatever they are).

  10. Marinela says:

    Some people in Russia, who knows if not the majority of them, are buying into the state propaganda.
    When the financial sanctions are going to hit them, they will blame the west, US, not Putin.

    I think Putin is going to use the sanctions to detract from his governing failures.
    He has a perfect explanation on why Russians are suffering.

    Now that Russia is getting behind the iron curtain, it is going to be harder to reach the regular people.
    Putin is really good in stoking nationalistic sentiment, so some Russians are probably willing to suffer economically if he gives them something to be proud of.

    The thing is, none of the news we see every day about the Russian solders without food, gas, or support are going to reach these people, let alone the suffering of the Ukrainians.

    • Peterr says:

      They may not get the pictures we see, but the news *is* reaching them.

      Increasing numbers of “regular people” are becoming protesters, including one of the last survivors of the Siege of Leningrad in WWII. They are out in the streets and getting arrested in ever larger numbers every day. They are getting the news about Ukraine.

      The ApplePay app no longer work in the Moscow Metro, and the millions of commuters know exactly why. Businesses are laying off workers and closing up shop, some of them permanently. They are getting the news about Ukraine.

      Flights are no longer leaving for Europe and the West, and none are landing from Europe and the West. The Russian Stock Market has not been open since last Friday, leading one trader to raise a glass and say “Rest in peace, dear comrade” as the market is collapsing. They are getting the news about Ukraine.

      And most tellingly, word of the deaths of Russian soldiers is getting back to their families, their friends, and their loved ones, even if the bodies have yet to come back for burial. They are getting the news about Ukraine.

      With all this news, one can’t help but notice that the Russia people are not protesting against the US and the West for the economic disruptions. That lack of protest against the West ought to be more worrying to Putin than the cries of those who are protesting against him.

      • Marinela says:

        I want you to be right about this.

        Personally, I am more skeptical. After four years of Trump, should realize the power of propaganda, even in US, and not minimize it. Look at the havoc it caused in US. I am just talking about the propaganda lies that Trump was spewing every day with no shame. Think about a country like Russia where they had propaganda feed all their life.
        Maybe something will change in Russia. If it does, it will be because they are taking inspiration from Ukrainians.

        Just recently, in 2020, Putin changed the constitution to allow him to stay in power for two more terms, 6 years each, and I think it starts in 2024.

      • klynn says:

        Teen child suggested copying the choco pie balloon activists who sent balloons over to North Korea:

        He suggested to just send a thousands of balloons with cards attached explaining there is a war being waged against Ukraine by Putin and the global community is shutting down commerce to Russia because of him. He figured that just a few balloons being found could be just enough to get more people in the streets.
        Kids these days.

      • Eureka says:

        A journalist the other day reported that Ukrainians were having trouble getting their Russian (-located) relatives to believe them, that there was actually a war going on (replies of trenchant denial as they communicated from bomb shelters, no less).

        In replies to the thread, residents from many countries related to the propaganda divide, if not from the midst of hot war.

        • Marinela says:

          Years ago, Romania was closed, propaganda was similar to Russia, single state TV, Ceausescu was on 24/7.

          We were listening to BBC, maybe Voice of America sometimes I cannot remember, bad reception, at night, it was broadcasted in Romanian. The hosts were Romanian people that left the country, which was not easy at that time. They were known, popular figures in Romania. So we were always interested to hear their reporting on events that we knew we were lied to during the day.

          I think Voice of America was broadcasting from Europe for eastern countries.

          Trump gutted Voa, as he tried to destroy everything in just few years.

          I don’t know if BBC or Voa are doing any broadcasts now in Russia. It has to be some beloved Russian cultural figures that are safely outside of Russia and can speak out.

          Masha Gessen is good but I don’t know how popular she is in Russia.

        • Rayne says:

          A word of caution: I generally trust WilliamOckham on IT matters, but each person should do a threat assessment before installing any apps facilitating communication. Each of us have different risk profiles.

          I personally won’t use it, will not expose a device which I use on this site to another app even if it is by Tor Project.

  11. klynn says:

    Long conference table meeting thoughts:

    1. His experimental nasal vaccine is causing him to still shed active virus

    2. The intel leaks from the US have given him some hesitation with close advisors. He may not trust anyone.

    • Legonaut says:

      As someone experienced with Novichok and its ilk, and willing to order its use on dissidents in foreign lands, his paranoia may be well-founded. Does he have a food taster yet? Has he spent years developing a resistance to iocain powder?

          • Rugger9 says:

            For now… The PRC is taking notice after giving Putin a green light at the Olympics. I still think the PLA invades before the end of the year if not before the end of summer.

          • Rugger9 says:

            For now… The PRC is taking notice of Russian army performance after giving Putin a green light at the Olympics. I still think the PLA invades before the end of the year if not before the end of summer.

  12. Valley girl says:

    Andrey Tuz, spokesman for the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, has said shelling has stopped for the time being, but the situation is extremely uncertain.

    Speaking to the BBC Russian Service, he said:

    They bombed everything they could, including blocks and everything else. Now the information is being clarified, it’s hard to say everything. [To the station] a white car, representatives of the Russian military, has left. It’s flashing with its headlights. Now it’s being determined whether they will be approached for negotiations, or how to proceed further.”

    • Peterr says:

      The better picture of this is that a commander was given orders to take the plant and called in artillery to help that happen, not realizing that blowing a hole in a nuclear reactor is . . . bad.

      The worse picture of this is that the commander was given orders to take the plant, and when the folks inside refused to leave, he said “Fine. We’ll blow it to hell, and you’ll be blamed for the ‘accident’ that poisoned millions.”

      Stupid vs Evil.

      Right now, I’m not sure which way I’d bet. I *want* to say “stupid” but I also recognize that may just be the optimist in me speaking.

      • klynn says:

        I was at the UN in Geneva in 1986 and watched lie after lie after lie spill out of USSR UN Amb. Yuri Dubinin’s mouth. Some lies were stupid. Some lies were evil.

        So I’ll vote both Peterr.

  13. Savage Librarian says:

    The only way Putin will stop is if someone or something intervenes to make him stop. If it’s an overload of cortisol that has altered his appearance, it is entirely possible he could have a heart attack or stroke.Especially with the ever increasing levels of stress he is encountering.

    IMO, Putin has become an embarrassment to Russia. There must be some powerful, influential, relatively rational Russian people who want to maintain the Motherland’s dignity and future. Those people must find a safe way for Putin to exit the scene. It must be consistent with the cultural expectations of the Russian people. I don’t know what that would be, although I can imagine a few scenarios.

  14. klynn says:

    President Biden, if you have eyes on Emptywheel, now would be a great time to release intel on RU. In full support of this idea:

    “This war potentially gives Biden the opportunity to declassify all sorts of things Russia did to us recently, in the interest of demonstrating their ill intent.

    This could certainly include more details related to their efforts in interfering with our election.”

  15. observiter says:

    I wonder if Putin is dying (but hasn’t told this to others). For example, I wonder if he has the fatal brain tumor glioblastoma multiforme. Alot of people (more than I ever imagined) seem to get it. I’ve had two close friends die of it. Steroids are prescribed for it. Early on, before the tumor was found in one of my friends, my friend went around saying angry things (accusing life-long friends falsely of doing mean things to him) and acting strange.

    The tumor is very aggressive, fast growing, and is fatal. Drugs try to reduce the impact (and pain) on the skull as the tumor quickly expands. But nothing can stop it.

    Maybe Putin is dying, is angry, and feels like taking it out on the Ukraine and the rest of the world.

    • Legonaut says:

      If so, then he’s had it since his adventures in Georgia (in 2009?). Not sure of the odds of surviving this long with an aggressive tumor like that in his head, but it’s probably more likely he’s just a megalomaniacal asshole.

  16. greengiant says:

    Some bad outcomes for context of how to help Ukraine.
    War of attrition so which ever side loses most of their cohesive fighting forces loses.
    At some point can Ukraine take back and hold land?
    The population of Syria was 21 million. Ukraine was 44 million so 8 to 20 million refugees.
    Then Russia cuts off Ukraine border.
    Europe refuses to negotiate with Putin because Putin wants it all.
    World wide destruction of hardware and data in the internet of things.
    A GOP victory in November will be a victory for Putin.

  17. Eureka says:

    Emma Beals (from experience, as she notes, with the same perpetrators as in Syria) wrote a thread the other day about the real difficulty in getting in humanitarian aid, the protracted suffering to ensue.

    It’s all I can think about as Putin blows up more places, displaces more people.

    As another (who flew airdrops in Bosnia) noted, you can’t count on airdrops here without a No-Fly, because to establish air superiority in this instance would end up with Putin going nuclear.

  18. Z. says:

    I am Ukrainian-American, just left Kyiv two days ago, now in Poland, catching up on my blog reading and had to comment on this tripe. My mother is from Donbass. Her nephew (my cousin) was among the 14,000 civilians murdered by Washington-backed ethnonationalist (basically neonazis) in eastern Ukraine–just becsuse they want to speak Russian and have no interest in living in a Ukraine that basically is becoming Polish-ized. So it’s interesting to read the armchair psycho-analysis by all the resident Freuds at the empty wheel of the near-70 year old face of the Russian ruling elite– as if the 5 waves of Nato-ization, multiple regime change wars waged by that “defensive coalition,” threats of nuclearizing Ukraine, US-special ops training the right-wing Azov thugs, NATO armaments shipped to Ukraine in violation of Minsk, draconian anti-Russian language laws, burning alive 39 ethnic Russians in Odessa, and the ethnic cleansing of Russian speakers had zero to do with the decision to strike at Ukraine’s NATO-backed military capability and radical anti-Russian ethnonationalists in power in the government and military.

    Anyway all of this cheap tabloid psychoanalysis isnt even worthy of TMZ and a distraction from what is really needed to bring peace to my country.

    In Ukraine, the basic outlines of a settlement are well-known on all sides–the optimal outcome for security of Ukraine (and the world) is the kind of Austrian/Nordic neutrality that prevailed through the Cold War years, offering the opportunity to be part of Western Europe to whatever extent they chose, in every respect apart from providing the U.S. with military bases, which would have been a threat to them as well as to Russia. For internal Ukrainian conflicts, Minsk II provides a general framework. And Russia tried to get both parties (Kyiv/LDPR) to abide by it. Washington sabotaged that over and over. So Russia finally acted.

    • Rayne says:

      Community members: I let this comment from first-time commenter “Z.” through as a possible example of the disinformation campaign at work — the big red flag is the last graf.

      Background on Minsk-2:

      Ukraine is an autonomous, sovereign democracy; NATO isn’t engaged in defense of Ukraine because it isn’t a member though Ukraine has now requested this week membership in the European Union. There’s little the US could do in 2014 to defend Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions apart from annual military aid deals (which Putin’s useful idiot tried to obstruct while in the White House).

      Amazing how anybody can claim to be anywhere in the world if they use a VPN, say one with a server in Warsaw.

      • Chirrut Imwe says:

        I can’t imagine the crap that the EW facilitators have to wade through, and do so willingly and by choice. Thanks for giving us a peek behind the curtain.

        Additionally, I will take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the EW community as a whole. The range of insights is truly astounding. EW has been especially valuable to me over the past week, and will undoubtedly continue to be.

        Thank you, thank you, thank you all. Keep doing what you do.

      • osmill says:

        Note that most of that final paragraph is lifted verbatim from a 2/16 interview with Noam Chomsky.

        • Rayne says:

          Huh. Very interesting. Changes context somewhat but not the purpose of the commenter’s presence. Thanks.

    • skua says:

      “… just becsuse they want to speak Russian and have no interest in living in a Ukraine that basically is becoming Polish-ized …”
      Parallels Trump’s base who want to hear only English spoken, no Spanish, and have no interest in living in a America that is becoming more diverse, less racist, less misogynistic, less Prosperity-Gospelled and less White Supremacist.
      Also ” the basic outlines of a settlement [to the poisonous levels of political divisiveness within America] are well-known on all sides”; total capitulation to the demands of Trump’s base.

      • P J Evans says:

        As opposed to being in the Ukraine that speaks Ukrainian, mostly, and is independent of Russia and Putin’s wanted empire.

    • Franktoo says:

      Z misleadingly writes: “In Ukraine, the basic outlines of a settlement are well-known on all sides–the optimal outcome for security of Ukraine (and the world) is the kind of Austrian/Nordic neutrality that prevailed through the Cold War years, offering the opportunity to be part of Western Europe to whatever extent they chose”

      Austria and Finland were on the losing side in WWII. Finland accepted Soviet domination in return for peace. Austria accepted neutralization in 1955 in order to end Soviet occupation of their country. As an independent country and democracy, the people of Ukraine deserve to be free to decide what kind of relationship they wish to have with their neighbors in Russia, the EU and NATO.

      Furthermore, Z is naive if he thinks Putin will be satisfied with the neutrality of a non-country Putin believes is an integral part of Russia. (Germany and other European countries have already promised to veto Ukrainian membership in NATO.) Like Hitler, Putin has made it clear that he wants to restore national greatness after a major defeat by re-uniting all Russian [German] speaking people under his protection.

    • franktoo says:

      Far-right militias and parties were an important element in the Revolution of Dignity and were widely appreciated during the initial phase of the insurgency in Eastern Ukraine. Today, however, as Z should know unless he works for the IRA, support for “ethnonationalists” has fallen so far that the far-Right alliance received only 2% of the vote (and no seats in the Rada) in the 2019 election. Today, the fascist Azov Brigade represents only 1% of the rebuilt Ukrainian military. Support for pro-Russia parties has fallen from nearly half under Yanukowych to around 10% today. Contrary to Putin’s propaganda, not everyone who fails to vote for a pro-Russian party is a Neo-Nazi ethnonationalist.

    • Franktoo says:

      In the 2001 Ukraine census, 78% of the population self-identified as Ukrainian (vs 17% Russian); 67% self-identified as native Ukrainian speakers (vs 30% as native Russian speakers). The loss of Crimea and possible loss of Eastern Ukraine has reduced the number of Russian speakers. Although the Constitution had designated Ukrainian as the official language of the country (with some protection for minority languages), until recently a law permitted localities to vote to use a “minority language” (almost always Russian) for official business. Since Russian was the language of the former Soviet elite and many big cities, while Ukrainian was the language of the countryside and less affluent, Russian remained dominant in many areas. Most of Ukraine’s leaders (Poroshenko, Tymoshenko, Yanukowych and Zelenskyy, including as a TV star) were native Russian speakers. In 2018, the Constitutional Court (with EU advice) found the use of Russian for official business unconstitutional. Facing Putin’s assertion that Ukraine is an integral part of Russia, his theft of Crimea and his sponsorship of insurrection, a tough new law passed in 2019 made Ukrainian the only official language for government business, including education above primary school, and demanded that Ukrainian become at least an equal language culturally (in book stores, TV, the internet, performances, movies, etc.)

        • Franktoo says:

          Rayne, you are probably right. The fascist troll may even work at the Internet Research Agency. Nevertheless, there are Neo-Nazi parties in Ukraine and a fascist brigade in the Ukrainian army. Ukrainian language and culture is being promoted (for good reasons) and Russian language and culture are being suppressed. Neutralization or another Munich might have avoided the current conflict in Ukraine, but the rest of Czechoslovakia was absorbed into Germany six month later and war involving the major powers broke out a year later under far less favorable circumstances when Germany attack a Poland newly allied with France and Britain.

          Far too many conservative (and religious) nationalists in the US and Europe are infatuated with Putin (and Trump) for me to ignore Z’s comments, but feel free to delete my comments if you prefer

          • bmaz says:

            No. How bout you just honor our request instead. Don’t just blithely say you must pollute our threads and it is up to us to delete them. Don’t be a jerk.

    • Rayne says:

      Kamil Galeev had a fascinating Twitter thread about Russian paratroopers, beginning with Suhovetsky’s death.

      • Eureka says:

        Yep, that was a great thread on how RU paratroopers (VDV) are mythologized psyops thugs (hence only contextually effectual, but in even more limited ways than paratroopers usually are in e.g. war).

  19. Tom says:

    Anytime you see/hear President Zelensky speak, guys like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and the rest of that filthy rich lot just seem so insignificant.

    • Rayne says:

      He said something yesterday which blew me away, made me cry:

      Can any of the 1% really say they are needed? Or did they simply become wealthy because they had ample capital at the right place at the right time?

      How many of us can say we are needed, that we’ve served others in such a way that they don’t merely want us but find us essential? Just so damned humbling.

      • Hug h says:

        Thanks for sharing. Indeed a powerful and humbling statement of human decency. Reminded me of this quote-
        “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. It may even be assumed that just as the unconscious affects us, so the increase in our consciousness affects the unconscious.”
        -Carl Jung

  20. Franktoo says:

    FWIW, during interviews Bob Gates and Condolessa Rice both assert that the Putin of today is not the careful strategist of one and two decades ago. However, his isolation due to COVID is only one factor; but referred to an EVOLUTION as Putin has aged (lees time to accomplish goals) and Russia has gained economic and military strength.

    The best comment I have heard is that Russia’s war with Ukraine started with the seizure of Crimea in 2014 and never ended.

  21. Solo says:

    One thing we can do – right now – is to be accurate with language. This is not “war.” Not the Ukraine “war”. This is the Ukraine invasion and genocide.

    To call it “war” already gives ground to the terrorists, puts victims and abusers on opposing sides of the same line. They are not on opposing sides of a disagreement. This is an invasion, terrorism, and genocide.

    An invasion by terrorists whose goal is genocide – like Sand Creek or The Fort Robinson Breakout for the Northern Cheyenne. El Mozote for Salvadorans. Same old wine in a much bigger bottle.

    The sooner we start seeing this crime for what it is, calling it by it’s correct name, the sooner the community, or an individual, will bring it to a halt.

    This is not “war”.

      • Solo says:

        No, I am not the police-of-anything of this blog.

        I will say, though, your propensity for shaming with sarcasm is frequent, startling and unwelcome. That kind of shit used to make me boil, now I just walk down the street to another bar.

    • Rayne says:

      No. This is war by Russia on Ukraine. If this were merely the deployment of Wagner Group or the Chechen national guard unit, it might be terrorism. But this is the deployment of more than 190,000 troops on at least three fronts with a corresponding amount of military equipment, amounting to a considerable portion of Russia’s defense (about 20%).

      It is definitely not merely terrorism because the point is decapitation of Ukraine’s democracy and destruction of its national and regional governments, relying on supplemental support by neighboring countries like Belarus.

      The limitation in terms of definition is who is at war. It is not (yet) war on or by NATO.

      It also serves Putin’s interests for others to call it terrorism as part of a special operation, in which Ukraine is marginalized as lesser than Russia because nothing more than terrorism or a special operation is required to return Ukraine back to its place as part of Russia.

      No, it’s Russia’s war on Ukraine.

      • e.a.f. says:

        We might all have different words to describe the actions in Ukraine but one thing is certain, its killing a lot of people and that is never a good thing.

        I’d agree with Rayne though, this is a war caused by Russia. What is going on in Ukraine isn’t a terrorist attack. Its a prolonged violent action with the aim of taking over Ukraine and depopulating Ukraine. With millions fleeing into the rest of Europe, which in turn cause confusion, extra work and resources to settle the new population. It serves two purposes. Gets him Ukraine and destablizes Europe.

        Putin invaded parts of Ukraine and the world stood by and watched. The same is happening again. Yes, there are sanctions and military supplies, but there aren’t any jets being “loaned” to Ukraine and that is what is needed. Some world leaders don’t want to “get into the war” for fear of Putin using nuclear weapons. Eventually he is going to use them anyhow, if he runs into too much opposition. If the economy in Russia fails and can’t be revived, he’ll send out a few nukes. He places no value on other people’s lives. Its all about Putin and what he wants.

        It will be interesting if oligarchs start leaving Russia, then we will know worse is to come. Even if they don’t leave, worse is to come. Putin, isn’t going to be happy until he has all of Europe and can declare himself Emperor or some such thing.

        If the protests in Russia get too large expect the crowds to be fired on by police and military. In the past the USSR rolled into other countries to support communist rulers. In those cases the world didn’t do much of anything. Putin knows that and will keep going. It will be some surprise when Russia is at Germany or France’s door step and has control of the Baltic and Scand countries.

        The Allies should never have “given” the USSR as many countries as they did. They ought to have sent the Russians back to Russia. This has really been going on since 1956 when they invaded Hungary. Its just been one long war with breaks.

        Doesn’t matter what is causing Putin to do what he’s doing. Its happening and needs to stop. How that is accomplished will not be pretty or without cost to us/NATO/etc. Putin is like most abusers. They don’t stop until they are arrested and put in jail or you hit them back so hard they never forget it.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Tell that to Ukrainians living with the countrywide devastation from an invading Russian army, a work still in progress. Sheesh.

  22. Marinela says:

    One thing that is bothering me in the noise machine lately, everybody is an expert on how Obama was weak that Putin took Crimea under his watch, how he didn’t do anything.

    The major difference between now and then is that the Ukrainian army was not strong or trained at the time. Not that Obama was weak to do anything about it. He imposed sanctions, but he could not enter in a war with Russia to protect Crimea, which is also why we are not entering the war now. Same difference. We are helping Ukrainians in their fight now.

    • Rayne says:

      Yup. They forgot what happened from November 2013-February 2014 with the Euromaidan — Ukraine only then proved through months of demonstrations it badly wanted a democratic future with closer ties to the EU.

      They forgot Ukrainians had to chase out a pro-Russian anti-democratic/anti-EU president before they could organize themselves.

      But many of those who say “Obama was weak” are those who also lack the critical thinking necessary to recognize how they are being used by the same forces which undermined the re-fledging Ukraine in its Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014. Oh, and racism, it’s always there, readily forgetting Obama was also facing pushback from the GOP simply on the principle he was a Black Democratic president.

  23. Savage Librarian says:

    Abject Despot

    Putin in his magic land
    waves a stick with his magic hand,
    Beacons disappear. With band-
    width gone life’s not so grand.

    Puffed up pride and puffy face,
    With his mind lost in deep space,
    Can he tie his own shoelace?
    And are his arms still in the race?

    Magic power and magic blood,
    Photo ops don’t project a stud,
    Aeroflot bombs with a dud,
    It’s not just Putin stuck in mud.

    Counting sheep or what’s to lose,
    Now is not the time to snooze,
    If you’re looking for the clues,
    They’re not in Putin’s brand of news.

    Magic myth and magic money,
    He pushes them & when he’s done he
    smirks but now it’s not so funny:
    No more credit & the story’s runny.

    He calls his warring a success but
    has to do it with the press shut
    out. Is it time to say, “Guess what,
    another failing, abject despot?

  24. Rugger9 says:

    I keep seeing that Zelenskyy wants a NATO no-fly zone, but as I’ve mentioned before that will have minimal effect relative to the net benefit of more Stingers, Javelins, drones and the MIG-29s that Poland wants to hand over. A large proportion (if not most) of the damage is being done by artillery and rockets sent from across the border from outside the Ukraine and a no-fly zone will have zero effect on those munitions.

    Also note that Putin has declared a NATO-authorized no-fly zone as an act of war which means we will become swirled in. I would propose a different mechanism, where the UN in the General Assembly does the authorization. Russia as a permanent Security Council member will doubtless veto it but if we’re lucky they’ll storm out like they did for the Korean War authorization. At the least we will see what world opinion is (and what China, India, etc. in the ‘tepid alliance’ will do). In the mean time, backfill the fighters for the Polish Air Force to release the MIGs.

    • Rugger9 says:

      As a side issue, the politics of a NATO-imposed no-fly zone favors Putin and gives him an excuse to sell through his propaganda machine, whereas a UN-imposed one limits the noise machine’s effectiveness. Kind of hard to say it’s just NATO when the rest of the world joins them.

Comments are closed.