Or: what the Russo-Ukrainian War is Not About
So glad to read this piece from you today! Frankly, I've worried about you given the terrible continuing carnage and destruction in Ukraine. What a super analysis. You are absolutely correct as far as Putin is concerned and the propaganda machine. It has gone silent on NATO, nukes, and the Nazis. Putin counts on the west losing hope. Exactly right. And that is something we must not lose. I have begun going to the Office of the President of Ukraine each day, at least by evening, to catch up on what is happening and to hear the evening address of President Zelenskji. Putin's tool now is fossil fuel and grain. The approach of winter and the threat of famine. Everyone will have to stay the course until together the democratic world can force Russia to leave Ukraine. Russia cannot be seen to win anything from this aggression. That is what worries me the most - that the attacker will be able to say "we got this land". They'll not be satisfied with a "token". Because the goal is all of it for the purpose of erasing a people. A writer in the Guardian is wondering when NATO will finally step in to put a stop to what Russia is doing. I guess he's thinking of the Balkans. The difference is that Russia could not do anything then to counter such a move. That would not be the case today. But could Russia actually be on the back foot now? Wonder what you think of such a scenario? Perhaps you might let your readers know when you are giving a lecture. I was glad to catch up with one which was fairly recent from Yale for an art exhibit. Can't remember the exact name of it but was excellent.
A great start at debunking sone myths, but I’m afraid too many people in the West believe Russia is justified. To be sure, they are horrified at the invasion and Russia’s brutality, but they also think that’s there’s no smoke without fire. Typically, and I include many of my friends here, they are not pro-Russian nutcases. They are often quite liberal and pacifist. They may be hostile to The USA and NATO. When I talk to them they blame this war on two factors: NATO expansion and Ukrainian suppression of ethnic Russians. They cite NATO expansion as a threat to Russia and moves to downgrade Russian language and culture. Tim, please do more to help disabuse these people.
Thank you for once again making the complex (for too many) simple and clear. I hope this will help to encourage those who support Ukraine but have hesitated to give much needed aid to stop hesitating and fully provide what is needed to end this genocidal war and dethrone Putin.
Thank you for the context, professor. Focusing specifically on propaganda, it is not difficult to see why blaming NATO expansion resonates with Russian thinking. It is difficult to overestimate the impact of nearly 80 years of Russia's Cold War experience. With a solid foundation of Communist ideology, placing the blame for the world's problems on capitalist excesses (i.e. the West), the typical Russian is quite comfortable with this line of thinking. While the "fascism" narrative also pulls on Russian patriotic heart strings, this angle is a bit more difficult for many Russians to swallow, which may be the reason why Kremlin's war machine has essentially dropped this party line in recent months. Allusion to nukes invokes memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis, an episode in history of which many Russians are quite proud, as it was an example of Russians "standing up" to a super power (thereby, at least psychologically, elevating USSR's global status to that of the U.S.). There are, of course, other nonsense reasons for the war offered by the Kremlin to the Russian people, such as U.S. developing chemical weapons in Ukranian labs, U.S. efforts to impose "western" liberal culture on Russian people (which, in Russian terms, means promotion of homosexuality, pedophilia, etc.) and Ukrainian persecution of Russian speakers. History teaches that propaganda is a vital tool particularly for rulers of people without a history of basic freedom of speech. For this reason, despite the access that Russians now have to truthful information (a relatively recent phenomenon), people will continue to accept only that with which they are most familiar.
Thank you for your latest piece, I watch the news on Ukraine (in Ecuador) every day, mainly discussions and analyses because reports from the front line are unbearable for me. There is one aspect that keeps coming up and that is where the Russian troops are being recruited from. I don't mean the convicted criminals from prison, but those dying in higher numbers statistically from ethnic minorities or poorer regions, such as North Ossetia, Buryatia and Kostroma. I hope you don't mind me sharing the link to an article that explores the issue, but I would like to know what your take is on something that may have an effect on the outcomes of the war. https://ridl.io/who-is-dying-for-the-russian-world/
Thank you for being back! Clearly, 'Thinking about' has to take its time to come out with such well balanced and concentrated writing. I rarely share anything, but this one I will.
One more piece of information from Politico this morning. I don't often read their newsletter but this piece caught my eye. Who knew there was a Ukrainian American from Indiana in the Congress? Not I. But she's pushing something other than support for Ukraine apparently. Guess we need to know more about who she is and her positions.
A MILLEY-ON PROBLEMS — The nation’s top military officer met on Wednesday with Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.), the first and only Ukraine-born congresswoman, amid mounting concerns about her fervent criticisms of the Zelenskyy government. Andrew, Lara Seligman and Connor O’Brien scooped that the meeting took place in Spartz’s Longworth office, and just a few days after Spartz was briefed by intelligence officials who said her claims had no merit. That hasn’t deterred Spartz, though, from continuing to defend her accusations even as her fellow Republicans plead with her to cut it out.
Thank you so much for this update.
What more can we be doing to help ensure Ukrainian victory? Is the American Volunteer Group that created the Flying Tigers just before Pearl Harbor a potential model for enhanced US assistance?
Thanks Timothy for such a powerful read. You write that "We still have the institutions and, one likes to hope, the inclination to reflect, to reconsider." I don't wonder (as much) about the latter, but the former I'm concerned about. The world you generally describe is one in which our institutions and the leaders that lead them are not so much failing, but are insufficient to our (humanity's) needs. I believe mankind needs a Plan B to address this and all other pressing existential issues (fascism, income equity, climate action etc.). Please read and respond: https://www.boombigideas.com/p/do-you-think-the-world-needs-a-plan
As always, Timothy Snyder writes elegantly and cogently. In the initial stages of the war, people here in the US fell for two Ns: NATO and Nukes. Until people saw Putin's muted reaction to the admission of Sweden and Finland did it become obvious enough that it was a bogus issue all along. Nukes definitely evoked a cautious response early on in the conflict from the West. Even though everyone knows that nukes are too powerful to be useful, never before have Americans been directly challenged to take on Russia, a nuclear superpower. It's an uncharted territory and that forced perhaps too cautious a response, such as not giving Ukraine HIMARS and fighter planes. Now all of that is changing. With a more aggressive military assistance in the early phase of the war, the momentum of the victory of the Battle of Kyiv could have been sustained by victories, or at least thwarting the advance, of Russia in the east and the south of Ukraine.
What poorly researched propaganda gobbledigook. Here is Vladimir Putin's position on Ukraine http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/67828. To say he believes it shouldn't exist is the same type of neo-con lies like the claim of Iran saying they want Israel wiped off the face of the Earth. No Iranian leader has ever said this. It was a mis-repreperesntation of a quote by Ayatollah Khomeini about the Israeli regime. Ready Putin's speach and you will understand why Snyder is is just spouting propaganda. If you want to understand the situation in Ukraine and don't' want to be fed NATO press releases then I suggest you watch Professor John Mearsheimer of Chicago University's analysis https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrMiSQAGOS4. Henry Kissinger, of all people also gives a very good analysis. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/henry-kissinger-to-settle-the-ukraine-crisis-start-at-the-end/2014/03/05/46dad868-a496-11e3-8466-d34c451760b9_story.html Once question you should ask is who is paying Snyder, as his point of view is not a balanced one.
To quote T. Snyder, 'Ukrainians... have an existential interest in winning this war,... not only in the physical sense, but in the social sense of being permitted to be the kinds of people they wish to be.'
'..being permitted to be the kinds of people they wish to be'. What causes people to 'lose'
a sense of knowing what they wish to be? Deprivation, manipulation, propaganda affect people knowing who they are. Memories were erased. Have many Russians, Chinese, Indians, Americans et al., become the people their masters determined that they be? In totalitarian/autocratic regimes the rulers' manipulate the identities of populace. In many ways the people become who the leadership forced them to be.
Just a troll? Surely a Russian bot troll no? I guess you didn't bother to read any of the articles I posted? I guess not if the best response you have is, troll.
Last night (July 21) on PBS Newshour, there was an interview with Andrew S. Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. He has a new book out and I've put the link in this response. Maybe you can go to youtube to find the interview. Very interesting. Especially in light of the really terrible propagandistic piece that ran in the NYT for more than 2 days which sounded like the Russian line through and through. Here's the link. Put it in your browser. I believe the title is "The Accidental Czar".