Monday, February 28, 2022

"The United States must punish Russia, but it also must remember the limits of power" by Stephen Wertheim


“At the direction of President Vladimir Putin, Russia has committed staggering acts of aggression against Ukraine. Its invasion is brazened in substance and style. Russia is threatening to overthrow the government in Kyiv. It seems to flaunt the flimsiness of its pretexts. Though always thuggish, Putin once seemed averse to risk. Now he has taken a world-shaking gamble whose ultimate implications neither he nor anyone else can foresee.

“For Americans, this is a dangerous moment, and a disorienting one. The United States has spent much of the past three decades dealing with powers much weaker than itself. Even so, it has learned painful lessons about the limits of its own power and its capacity to do harm as well as good. These lessons may be difficult to recall in the face of Russia’s deplorable and ongoing attack. But they have become only more important now, as the United States confronts a great power and nuclear peer capable of inflicting damage well beyond Ukraine.

“Months ago, US President Joe Biden took the use of force in Ukraine off the table. Still, a nonmilitary confrontation between the United States and Russia likely poses greater risks to the safety and well-being of the American public than did even the recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, in which the United States was a direct military participant.

“Over the last two days, the United States, its European allies, the UK, and Australia, announced severe sanctions against the Russian government, banks, and individuals, with more punishments to come. These measures, stronger than many expected, amount to warfare by economic means, and they will effectively be permanent.

“In recent decades, the United States has imposed crippling sanctions on relatively small states like Cuba, Iran, and North Korea, incurring little cost to the US economy. Russia, by contrast, is a great power and may retaliate in kind, sending oil, gas, and food prices higher.

“It could mount cyber-attacks that spur cycles of retaliation. In the worst case, conflict could escalate into a hot war. What is particularly challenging is that no number of sanctions would likely stop Russian aggression in Ukraine, and there is no obvious threshold by which American and European leaders can feel satisfied that they have done enough. The demand to “do more” will persist no matter how much policymakers in fact do.

“So, the desire to punish Russia, however justified, will need to be tempered by two considerations: What are the costs and risks of retaliation? And how likely are additional sanctions to change Russian behaviour for the better, given the alternative possibilities that they may strengthen Putin’s grip on the Russian economy, make him more desperate and reckless, or drive Russia and China closer together?

“An exclusively punitive outlook could also inhibit America’s handling of the conflict in Ukraine itself. Even before Russia launched its attack, influential figures proposed that the United States should arm a prospective Ukrainian insurgency, imagining that Ukraine could become ‘Russia’s Afghanistan.’ Military aid should be considered, but not before it becomes clearer what kind of operation Russia is mounting, who would receive US support, and what battlefield objective could be pursued.

“In Syria, the United States trained and equipped rebel forces, only to lengthen the war without dislodging dictator and President Bashar al-Assad from power. America’s experience in Afghanistan makes for a curious model to emulate. In the 1980s, the United States aided the forces from which al-Qaeda would emerge. For the past two decades, it created a client state dependent on US support and continual violence. If Putin has launched a reckless, poorly calculated military adventure, the United States should hardly follow suit.

“For too long, the United States has ranked the impulse to stop evil above the imperative to help those in need. Let this time be different. The United States, despite having limited military options at its disposal, has every ability to assist Ukrainians who flee for their lives. The Biden administration should welcome those who seek to resettle in the United States.

“It should press European allies to do the same and mobilise US agencies to help them. “We must have courage and self-confidence to cling to our own methods and conceptions of human society”, diplomat George Kennan cabled from Moscow in 1946. Kennan was writing at the start of the Cold War. It is advice to heed at what may be the start of another.”

Stephen Wertheim is a senior fellow in the American Statecraft Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the author of Tomorrow, the World: The Birth of U.S. Global Supremacy. An earlier version of this article was published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

From ABC Politics & Religion


Putin's Crumbling Pyramid of Power by Vladimir Sorokin


“…One thing has become clear: with this war, Putin has crossed a line – a red line. The mask is off, the armor of the ‘enlightened autocrat’ has cracked. Now, all westerners who sympathize with the ‘strong Russian tsar’ have to shut up and realize that a full-scale war is being unleashed in 21st-century Europe. The aggressor is Putin’s Russia. It will bring nothing but death and destruction to Europe.

“This war was unleashed by a man corrupted by absolute power, who, in his madness, has decided to redraw the map of our world. If you listen to Putin’s speech announcing a ‘special operation,’ America and NATO are mentioned more than Ukraine. Let us also recall his recent ‘ultimatum’ to NATO. As such, his goal isn’t Ukraine, but western civilization, the hatred for which he lapped up in the black milk he drank from the KGB’s teat.

“Who’s to blame? Us. Russians. And we’ll now have to bear this guilt until Putin’s regime collapses. For it surely will collapse and the attack on a free Ukraine is the beginning of the end.

“Putinism is doomed because it’s an enemy of freedom and an enemy of democracy. People have finally understood this today. He attacked a free and democratic country precisely because it is a free and democratic country.

“But he’s the one who’s doomed because the world of freedom and democracy is far bigger than his dark and gloomy lair. Doomed because what he wants is a new Middle Ages, corruption, lies, and trampling on human freedoms. Because he is the past. And we must do everything in our power to make this monster remain there – in the past – for all time, together with his Pyramid of Power” (Vladimir Sorokin, The Guardian).

Vladimir Putin sits atop a crumbling pyramid of power | Vladimir Sorokin | The Guardian


Sunday, February 27, 2022

A Ukrainian Woman's Courage

Multiple media organizations are reporting that Ukraine and Russia will hold peace talks on the border of Ukraine and Belarus


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed to Sky News that the two sides would hold the talks on the border of Ukraine and Belarus, where some of the Russian troops invading his country had been held.

Zelenskyy had refused to agree to an earlier request for talks in Belarus, arguing it was not neutral territory. 

Sunday was the fourth day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been slowed by fierce resistance from Ukrainian troops and private citizens. 

Several cities including the capitol of Kyiv have been bombarded by Russia, and there has additionally been fighting in the streets.

Sky News, referring to a statement from Zelenskyy's office, said the two delegations will meet "without preconditions" near the Pripyat River.

Earlier in the day, Zelenskyy had spoken with Belarus strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Alexander Lukashenko has taken responsibility for ensuring that all planes, helicopters and missiles stationed on Belarusian territory remain on the ground during the Ukrainian delegation's travel, talks and return," the statement said, according to Sky News. 

The Hill

Three Treasonous Fools


On Tuesday, in an interview with conservative radio hosts Clay Travis and Buck Sexton, Trump repeatedly praised Putin for his strategy on Ukraine.

"I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, 'This is genius.' Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent," Trump said. "Oh, that's wonderful."

Later in that same interview, Trump said this: "Putin is now saying, 'It's independent,' a large section of Ukraine. I said, 'How smart is that?' And he's gonna go in and be a peacekeeper."

Then on Wednesday night, Trump sounded a very similar note while speaking during a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago.

"They say, 'Trump said Putin's smart.' I mean, he's taking over a country for two dollars' worth of sanctions. I'd say that's pretty smart. He's taking over a country — really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in," Trump told the crowd, according to a recording of the event.

"The problem is not that Putin is smart, which, of course, he's smart," Trump said. "The problem is that our leaders are dumb... and so far, allowed him to get away with this travesty and assault on humanity."

"Putin is playing [President Joe] Biden like a drum and it's not a pretty thing to watch," he continued.


Mike Pompeo has lauded the Russian strongman over the past month as a “talented,” “savvy,” “capable statesman,” offering his praise during a slew of interviews after his political action committee spent $30,000 on improving his performance in media appearances. “He is a very talented statesman. He has lots of gifts.” Pompeo told Fox News in January. “He was a KGB agent, for goodness sakes. He knows how to use power. We should respect that!” Putin is “very shrewd. Very capable,” Pompeo said in another recent interview with the Center for the National Interest. “I have enormous respect for him. I've been criticized for saying that.”

Tucker Carlson, who played into Kremlin talking points by declaring that Ukraine was “not a democracy”, launched an apparent attempt to humanize Putin.

“Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia?” Carlson said as he then recited a rightwing tip sheet of pet causes.

“Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity?”

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Why the US won’t send troops to Ukraine (Vox)


Nuclear weapons are containing the Ukraine war. They also helped cause it.

In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait in a naked war of territorial aggression. The next year, the US and an allied coalition intervened under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council, repulsing the Iraqi invasion. Today, as Russia is engaged in a similar aggressive war against Ukraine, there is no similar American effort in the offing — even as Ukrainian leaders have pleaded for Western assistance.

There are many dissimilarities between the situations in 1991 and 2022, but the biggest one is this: Saddam Hussein, rather famously, did not have nuclear weapons. Vladimir Putin has approximately 6,000 of them. And that makes all the difference.

Both before the invasion and afterward, the Biden administration has consistently ruled out the deployment of US troops. “Let me say it again: Our forces are not — and will not — be engaged in the conflict with Russia in Ukraine,” the president said in a Thursday address. Despite the warnings of American involvement from commentators on the Trumpist right and “anti-imperialist” left, there are no signs of this policy changing. Nuclear weapons are the chief reason why.

The logic of mutually assured destruction that defined the Cold War still works to some degree: Russia’s arsenal makes any direct intervention in Ukraine riskier than any rational American leader could tolerate. In a sense, then, Russia’s nuclear weapons make it less likely that the conflict will kick off World War III. But in another sense, Russia’s nuclear arsenal also helped create the conditions where Putin’s invasion could happen in the first place.

Political scientists call this the “stability-instability paradox,” the notion that nuclear deterrence has had the paradoxical effect of making certain kinds of conventional warfare more likely. Russia can be relatively confident that the United States and its allies won’t come to Ukraine’s defense directly, because such a clash carries the threat of nuclear war. This could make Putin more confident that his invasion could succeed.

Putin himself has suggested as much. In his speech declaring war on Wednesday night, he warned that “anyone who would consider interfering from the outside” will “face consequences greater than any you have faced in history” — a thinly veiled threat to nuke the United States or its NATO allies if they dare intervene.

“This is about the clearest evidence I have ever seen for the stability-instability paradox,” Caitlin Talmadge, a professor at Georgetown University who studies nuclear weapons, writes of Putin’s speech. “Putin’s behavior suggests that revisionist actors [can] use their strategic nuclear forces as a shield behind which they can pursue conventional aggression, knowing their nuclear threats may deter outside intervention.” The nuclear balance between the United States and Russia, one of the Cold War’s defining features, is coming back to the forefront of international politics. We can only hope that things don’t get scarier from here.

How nuclear weapons make US involvement in Ukraine unthinkable

Nuclear weapons are the only weapons humanity has yet devised that, deployed at scale, could swiftly wipe out our entire species. The risks of conflict between two nuclear-armed powers are so great that virtually any rational leader should, in theory, seek to avoid one.

This is especially true of the United States and Russia, who together control an estimated 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads. The issue is not merely the size of their arsenals but also their structure — both countries have robust “second strike” capabilities, meaning each can sustain a devastating nuclear first strike from the other side and still retaliate. The US and Russia maintain second strike capabilities in part through the so-called “nuclear triad”: bombers armed with nuclear bombs, submarines equipped with nuclear missiles, and land-based missile launchers.

The result is that neither the US nor Russia can hope to “win” a nuclear war. Even if one nation struck first, decimating major military bases and population centers, the other would still be able to launch a devastating nuclear counterattack on their enemy’s homeland from (for example) submarines out to sea. The only way to win is not to play. This appears to be the reason the Biden administration has been so adamant on avoiding any kind of involvement in Ukraine; the risks of any direct intervention are far too high.

Conventional warfare between nuclear powers does not necessarily escalate to nuclear conflict: see the 1999 Kargill conflict between India and Pakistan, the 2018 battle between US special forces and Russian mercenaries in Syria, or the recent border clashes between India and China. But the risk of such a conflict escalating to nuclear use is always there, especially if one side believes that vital national interests or its very survival is at stake.

For Putin, the Ukraine war seems to fit the bill. A significant US or NATO intervention in the conflict would, by sheer fact of geography, pose a threat to the territorial integrity of the Russian homeland. Were it to turn the tide of the war in Ukraine’s favor, Russia could very conceivably use its nuclear arsenal against its NATO enemies.

“Their nuclear strategy envisions possible first use if they are losing a conventional conflict or facing an existential threat,” Nick Miller, an expert on nuclear weapons at Dartmouth University, explains. We have no guarantee that deploying US troops to Ukraine would, in fact, lead to nuclear warfare. But the risks would be high, very likely exceeding the most dangerous moments of the Cold War, like the Cuban missile crisis. There are scenarios where you could imagine an American leader launching a conflict with a nuclear power — if it was necessary to protect the US homeland, for example — but defending Ukraine, which isn’t even a formal US ally, simply isn’t one of them.

How nuclear weapons helped make the Ukraine war possible — and could make it much worse

Some leading scholars look at the logic of deterrence and conclude that nuclear weapons are actually a good thing for the world. This “nuclear revolution” theory, most commonly associated with the late political scientist Kenneth Waltz, holds that the spread of nuclear weapons will spread peace by expanding deterrence. The more countries can make aggression unthinkably risky; the less likely war will become.

The evidence for this theory is spotty. While nuclear deterrence does seem to have played a role in preventing the Cold War from turning hot, examining other cases — including smaller nuclear armed states like India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea — leads to a much more complicated picture.

The stability-instability paradox is one of these complications. In its most classic form, the paradox argues that two countries with nuclear weapons can be more likely to engage in small-scale conflict. Because each side knows that the other doesn’t want to risk a wider war given nuclear risks, they can feel more confident engaging in smaller provocations and assaults. What looks like nuclear stability actually breeds conventional instability.

Ukraine is not a nuclear state, but the NATO alliance has three of them (the US, Britain, and France). Because NATO states don’t want a wider war with Russia, one that carries a risk of a nuclear exchange, they’re less likely to intervene in a conflict they might otherwise join. Putin knows this; his public threat to use nukes against any intervening country suggests he’s counting on it.

So, what we’re seeing is a kind of twist on the classic paradox: Putin is relying on nuclear fear to allow him to get away with invading a country (Ukraine) that a nuclear-armed third party (NATO) might otherwise want to defend. This dynamic is familiar from the Cold War; it’s in part why the Soviets could send troops to Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 to suppress popular anti-communist uprisings without real fear of Western intervention.

To be clear, the stability-instability paradox is not an ironclad law of international relations; scholars disagree about exactly how frequently it actually causes conflict. But neither is nuclear deterrence: There are several near-miss examples where a nuclear exchange was just barely avoided.

In 1983, for example, Soviet Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov was alerted by an early warning system that a US nuclear strike was likely incoming. Had Petrov informed his superiors of that message, it’s very likely they would have launched missiles in response. Yet Petrov and his staff correctly concluded this was a false alarm and chose to say nothing — potentially saving hundreds of millions, if not billions, of lives.

Nuclear deterrence depends on both sides having good information and making rational decisions. But in a conflict like the one we’re seeing in Ukraine, taking place near the borders of NATO members, the risks of accidents, misperceptions, and miscalculations inches incrementally higher. For example, says Miller, “you can imagine a Russian jet straying into NATO airspace accidentally” and sparking a wider conflict.

Without a NATO presence inside Ukraine, the risks of such a disaster remain extremely low; Miller cautions that “both sides have a strong incentive to avoid direct conflict and avoid minor incidents escalating.” But the fact that we’re even talking about it illustrates how nuclear weapons, by their very nature, make the world a riskier place. While they likely are playing a major role in keeping the US out of the Ukraine conflict directly, they helped create the conditions where Russia could launch the war in the first place — and, in the very worst case, could escalate to complete disaster.

Why the US won’t send troops to Ukraine - Vox 


"...Today's Russia remains one of the most powerful nuclear states. Moreover, it has a certain advantage in several cutting-edge weapons. In this context, there should be no doubt for anyone that any potential aggressor will face defeat and ominous consequences never seen in history" - Vladimir Putin.

Recently, Putin stated this implied threat of a nuclear war if NATO, especially America, becomes involved militarily in his invasion of Ukraine. Those of us who lived through the Cold War remember the fear of megaton nuclear bombs.  Nuclear deterrence depends upon a leader's rational perceptions and decisions that the use of nuclear weapons would ensure mutual destruction of our planet, and that both America and Russia have not only first strike capabilities but also second-strike capabilities for massive nuclear retaliation posthumously. Putin's irrational invasion of Ukraine and his threat to NATO not only exacerbate our continuing ideological and political differences, but they also present us with Putin's state of mind after two years of isolation: an erratic and dangerous paranoia, extremism and resentment. 

-Glen Brown


And Let Us Also Not Forget:

"This is the greatest thing in history"-Harry Truman, after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.

"We used the Japanese as an experiment for two atomic bombs"-Brigadier General Carter Clarke; "It always appeared to us that, atomic bomb or no atomic bomb, the Japanese were already on the verge of collapse"-General Henry Arnold; "The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment"-Admiral William "Bull" Halsey. Generals MacArthur, Eisenhower and Arnold and Admirals Leahy, King and Nimitz also rejected the idea that the atomic bombs were needed to end the war.

What do we also know about Truman's decision to drop the bomb: Besides testing the bomb on thousands of innocent civilians, Truman and a few others wanted to deny the Soviet Union their "promised territorial and economic concessions" and "subdue the Russians."

A study conducted by the US War Department in January 1946 came to the conclusion that it was a certainty the Japanese would have capitulated once the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan. Japan was blockaded and most of its cities were already incinerated. Invading Japan wasn't necessary. The Japanese were ready to surrender, but Truman's peace conditions threatened the removal of the Emperor of Japan. Truman could have guaranteed the emperor would not be threaten or removed, but he didn't. Truman was a bigot, and he wanted to use the atomic bomb.

"Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, told a gathering at the Washington Monument shortly after the war, 'The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace before the atomic age was announced to the world with the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and before the Russian entry into the war.'" (Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, 331). Testifying before Congress in 1949, Halsey said, "I believe that bombing--especially atomic bombing--of civilians, is morally indefensible" (Alperovitz... 720, note 52.).

No doubt, history is filled with inexplicable horror. I suppose up to 1945, the war atrocities of the Japanese prison camps, German concentration camps, Nazi and American incendiary obliteration bombings, and the dropping of “a uranium bomb that yielded an estimated 16 kilotons of TNT (reaching temperatures of 5,400 degrees) on a civilian population in Hiroshima and the dropping of an implosive plutonium bomb on Nagasaki” by America were nonpareil historical terrorism.

"I will have such revenges on you both, / That all the world shall--I will do such things, -- / What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be/ The terrors of the earth" 
King Lear (II.iv.274-77).

Stone, Oliver and Peter Kuznick. The Untold History of the United States. New York: Gallery Books, 2012. 160-178.

"Damn you, masters of war..." -Dylan

Humanitarian Response to Ukraine

Highly rated charities involved in humanitarian relief, recovery, and peace-building efforts from Charity Navigator:

Years of a diplomatic impasse between Russia and Ukraine escalated when airstrikes by the Russian Federation were launched against the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, as well as other cities on the morning of Thursday, February 24, 2022. The sharp change of events has threatened to leave millions of Ukrainians displaced, fleeing the country, triggering a potential large-scale humanitarian crisis. 

Charity Navigator presents this list of highly rated nonprofits engaged in relief and recovery efforts in Ukraine and the surrounding region. To the extent that we can also highlight nonprofits addressing peace-building efforts to encourage diplomacy and prevent further military action, they will be included. We encourage you to revisit this page as the situation unfolds. 

The 4-Star rated charities included in this list have earned their ratings by being financially efficient and transparent in their operations. These nonprofits are larger and national in scope. Please click on the names of the high-performing charities included in our list. 

Click on the following charities:


MAP International

Save the Children

To also learn more about their mission, programs, and services and to make a donation, click on the Giving Basket.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Russian Invasion

 Ukraine, February 24, 2022

Russian Protests

Protest in New York City