Umpteenth opinion on ending the war. Keeping kids busy.
Important pundits are all over the lot about this war. The majority of them have to be wrong, if only because they so strongly contradict one another.
I am in the fortunate position of having nothing to lose if I am wrong. Moreover, I don't have any constituency that will be disappointed if I don't support the party line. Here goes.
I was wrong about Putin. I thought that his blather about reestablishing the Russian Empire, or the Soviet Union, or whatever was wrong. I thought that he knew that Alexander Dugin was a vacuous poseur. No! It appears that he took this idiot seriously.
You cannot go into a war without concocting excuses, a casus belli. Putin put together a list that included Ukraine's potential NATO membership, the continued shelling of Donbass, and a gratuitous latecomer entry, the biolabs. Most of us recognize that those were issues to be addressed, but nobody thought that they rose to the level of justifying a war of aggression.
His stated goal of "denazifying" Ukraine seemed ludicrous from the start. It was impossible to know exactly what he meant, and doing it with surgical precision equally nonsensical. Three days into the war we stopped hearing that claptrap. This is a war of aggression and subjugation.
Putin has held himself up to be a champion of Christianity and of the Russian people. A lot of us wanted to take him at face value, as a counterweight to the godless, globohomo west. Many in the Alt-Right still do.
The fact that the Russian Orthodox Church and its billionaire patriarch Kirill support this war makes religious claims kind of hollow. Putin's duplicitous private life, raising a second family with his mistress, also belies his claims of piety. But the most significant evidence to this effect is his absolute lack of concern for his soldiers. Putin has used Russia's modern peasantry the same way that the czars use theirs. As cannon fodder.
I noted a week ago how badly prepared the Russian army was for this assault. It had to be, because the whole scheme was built on a pyramid of lies. In organizing this invasion, Putin could not afford to let the left-hand know what the right hand was doing. In the realms of finance, trade, and communications Russia was unprepared for the negative global reaction. My conclusion remains that the Marquis of Custine had Putin's number two centuries ago.
Russia's claim that it is supporting Russian speakers is absolutely hollow. The cities it has most fully destroyed, Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernigov, Mariupol, Melitopol and Kherson, are all Russian-speaking. The inhabitants have fought against them with incredible ferocity, citizens shouting how unwelcome they are at them at every encounter. The language issue has been shown to be totally fallacious.
Pat Buchanan is typical of voices on the American right in suggesting that Ukraine be partitioned into several parts. That ignores the people's sentiment. The parts that Buchanan would so casually give away are the Russian-speaking areas that have put up the fiercest resistance. They do not want to be Russian. They have not shown any historical inclination to want to be separated from Ukraine. They chafed under Russian rule for the best part of three and a half centuries and do not want to do it again.
Russia has historically expanded by nibbling away at adjoining territory. They nibbled eastward clear to California in the time of the czars. In 2008 they nibbled South Ossetia and Abkhazia away from Georgia, and earlier largely nibbled Transniestria away from Moldova. They nibbled Crimea and the People's republics away from Ukraine in 2014. If this 2020 war ends in a partition of Ukraine such as Buchanan suggests, it will only invite more nibbling.
None of the smaller entities on Buchanan's map would be capable of standing up to Russia. They would be like the Baltic states, standing naked in front of the vorocious bear without the benefit of NATO. I have never heard voices within Ukraine suggesting anything whatsoever like what Buchanan proposes. If the Ukrainian people are to remain free of Russia, they must first remain united as Ukraine.
Buchanan misreads Putin's unwillingness to negotiate as strength. Putin is a palooka. He is out of touch with reality and the interests of the Russian people. His power in Russia is contingent on winning this battle. He is concerned with himself, not the good of his country.
While his intransigence might eventually lead to some sort of a military victory, the subjugated parts of Ukraine have never been, and would certainly never in the future be happy under Russian rule. That is precisely why they are fighting so doggedly at the moment.
The scam of holding referenda has also been fully exposed. The People's Republics and Crimea purportedly voted back in 2014 in support of their present status. It was the same trick that the Communists had used to supposedly secure popular support for the satellite nations of Eastern Europe.
Russia tried it this time in Kherson, with laughable results. The transparency of the sham is obvious to the entire world. Closely examining the process this time makes it obvious that the results of eight years ago were also bogus. The members of the American right who claim that these entities accepted Russia with open arms are simply full of hot air. These people accepted the Russians because they had a gun at their heads. And, as Stalin once said, it was not a matter of who voted, but who counted the votes.
Ukraine is militarily far the weaker power in the struggle. Their strength is in the morale of the Ukrainian people and the support that the country enjoys throughout most of the world. It is a classic David and Goliath story, standing up to a bully. However, as noted above, this bully is a palooka. He doesn't seem to get it. How can you bring it to his attention?
Russia has something on the order of 10,000 soldiers stranded on the west side of the Dnieper between Irpin and Chornobyl, and on the east side between Brovary and Chernigov. They have been there for a few weeks, largely unable to move and largely cut off from resupply in the form of food, fuel and ammunition.
If Ukraine had an adequate Air Force or artillery resources it could eliminate them quickly. As it stands, they are using foot soldiers armed with antitank weaponry for their counterattack. Though it is slow, they are making progress.
Though the numbers are uncertain, some Russian soldiers are deserting and surrendering. Ukraine may, if it is lucky, soon have a few thousand POWs. My proposal would be to move them to Western Ukraine and invite humanitarian aid from sympathetic countries to come tend to the POWs. I do not think that taking decent care of the POWs that Russia has dropped from the roles of its own army would be considered any sort of a war crime. If their numbers were large, their treatment conspicuously humanitarian, and the POWs were able to tell their story to the world and get it to Russia itself, it could sway Russian public opinion.
The morning of the 24th Ukraine sunk the Orsk, an alligator class troop transport in Berdyansk harbor. Though the details remain murky as to how it was done, and how many Russians were killed and how much equipment lost, satellite imagery confirms the story.
Sevastopol, in Crimea, has been Russia's only warm water port since czarist times. Through a 1997 lease, Russia retained the use of the port through 2017. President Yanukovych's 2010 extension of the lease through 2043 became moot when Russia took over Crimea in 2014. Maintaining this port is certainly Russia's most significant interest in Crimea itself. This photograph shows a magnificent natural harbor with warships moored at the many wharfs along its 6 mile length.
A blue water navy is an expensive proposition. Moreover, in this era of hypersonic missiles it can be a major liability. The Falklands war initiated 40 years ago by Argentina ended when a British missile sank the battleship Belgrano, killing 907 sailors.
We do not know what sank the Orsk, what progress Ukraine has made on its Neptune shore-to-ship cruise missile, or what NATO might provide Ukraine in terms of anti-ship weaponry. However, Russia having so many of its naval assets out in the open, closer even than Berdyansk, should make Putin a little bit nervous.
Although Ukraine would probably be hesitant about attacking the Russian Federation itself, it would have fewer qualms about attacking Ukrainian territory temporarily held by Russians. Just as the United States ended World War II by dropping a couple of atomic bombs and suggesting that it had more if need be, Ukraine might take out a couple of Russian capital ships and hint that it could certainly do more unless Russia got serious about bargaining.
Russia has been using cruise missiles with impunity against Ukraine. Turnabout would be fair play. The asymmetry would work in Ukraine's favor. Whereas Ukraine does not have many remaining high-value targets, which has reduced the Russians to blowing up apartment buildings and so on, Russian capital ships would certainly be well worth the expenditure of a few missiles.
Deciding Russia's future use, if any, of Sevastopol will be one of the major stumbling blocks in the negotiations. A demonstration that Russia's Navy, and hence its use of the port, is not as great an asset as it had seemed, might make the negotiations somewhat easier. That's the assessment from a guy who has nothing to lose from being wrong.
Meanwhile, after three mornings a relative calm we heard quite a few cruise missiles going off this morning. Most of the blasts seemed to come from the Irpin sector. Undaunted, Eddie, Zoriana and I spent two and a half hours shopping. It's like a treasure hunt. We scored six packages of sugar cubes, paying twice as much per pound as we would have for bags of sugar but happy to get them.
Zoriana got bored with jigsaw puzzles about two months ago. We must have 50 of them by now, all collecting dust. She is still interested in dominoes. We have been playing card games, old maid and go fish. There is not much strategy, but it is teaching her how to deal, how to hold cards, and something about manners and sportsmanship in playing games.
Zoriana continues to ask me to read to her, which I am glad to do. But we have added a new wrinkle. Instead of reading, I make up stories. And most delightfully, she makes up stories to tell me. Getting kids to be creative has always been to me, as a teacher, one of the most difficult undertakings there is. But Zoriana doesn't even suspect my motives. She is simply having fun. We are going to play this game a lot.
That's the news from Lake WeBeGone, where the good-looking woman finally got some guy to come and pump out our septic system, after which the strong man was able to unclog the sink so we can do dishes the normal way. We have been using a big plastic tub, which required me to make five or six trips a day to pour it out in the backyard.
The kids are getting pretty used to being around adults. Yesterday they got yet another new video, Wind in the Willows and Ichabod Crane. These Disney classics are narrated by Bing Crosby and Basil Rathbone. Those were the days! I explain them to Eddie as we continue to read Anita Loos from a century back. We are now on to "But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes." Egad, when she writes about the members of the Algonquin Round Table I know what she is talking about and even remember what they wrote.