Monday, February 27, 2023

Europe's latest war is one year old

"Russia will not become a democracy until it falls apart. That's because Russia is not really a nation-state but the same premodern multiethnic empire living on geographic expansion and resource looting as 300 years ago -- and is thus doomed to reproduce, again and again, under whatever ideological cover, the same prison-ward-like political structure that alone keeps it together." -- Oksana Zabuzhko, The Problem With Russia Is Russia in the New York Times.

Why has so little changed in Russia since the days of Ivan the Terrible? A Ukrainian poet and novelist, Ms Zabuzhko has the answer. Last spring, as I read about the behavior of "Russian" troops (who are often not Russian at all, but from an ethnic minority), it was like being thrown back to my research for Poland's Daughter and learning how in 1939-1940 Stalin's troops stole the very brooms from Polish closets, tore up the floorboards, and put everything on trucks to send back to the worker's paradise then ruled from Moscow. "Russia" today is still an empire made up of captive nations, even if some of them have since escaped.

Here is more good reading about Russia's return to its colonial past, when empires regularly pitched Europe into total war:

One year later: How Russia came to fail in Ukraine, battle after battle in the Kyiv Independent -- usually the first thing I read every morning. I took it for free during the first few months of the war but then began to pay a token $5 a month.

Timothy Snyder, Putin and the Presidents on YouTube, a PBS Frontline interview. Mr Snyder is the most compelling professor I have ever encountered in my seventy-odd years of trying to learn about the world. He's a bit obsessed by one of our recent presidents, but about Ukraine and Russia he has no peer, as you will discover if you audit History 247 at Yale, also on YouTube. Sally and I watched some of the lectures two and even three times.

David Remick, Putin, Ukraine, and the Preservation of Power in The New Yorker. Another good one, eerily published the day before the Russian army made its triumphant dash for Kyiv in what we all thought would be a three-day war. Clausewitz said it first, but Mike Tyson said it best: "Everybody's got a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

General David Petraeus, How the war in Ukraine will end -- transcript of a CNN interview with a man who knows more about war than most Americans in positions of authority today.

Blue skies! -- Daniel Ford. You can send humanitarian aid through Razom for Ukraine (a tax-exempt US-based charity). Or donate to the military directly through the National Bank of Ukraine.


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