Monday Reads: Me thinks Putin bit off more than he could chewPosted: February 28, 2022
Well, it’s Monday Sky Dancers!
It’s hard not to be drawn into the war porn blasting endlessly on the normal cable news channels just like the last few wars that were broadcast live. This one feels different. It also looks different. There are aspects to this war that bring it home to white Europeans and Americans more than images from places like Somalia or Afghanistan. This is something we should deconstruct.
Most Ukrainians are middle class, urban, and as the Russians who are fighting them mention: “they look like us”. Maybe it’s tribal and racist, maybe it’s because most of us grew up seeing pictures and videos of both the World Wars in Europe and all the bombings of cities great and small, but this one is hitting home and it’s getting results, unlike many recent wars. My guess is that it’s a mix of all that and it damn-well could start World War 3 with possible use of Nukes at its worse. All these countries have or have had Nukes.
I did feel awful watching the result of Orange Caligula abandoning our Kurdish allies and also the results of him carelessly leaving a mess to Biden when troops left Afghanistan. But this one, this naked aggression in the birthplace of many wars is just on another level altogether. Then there’s the border and kids in cages. I really felt that I had numbed up to the absolute cruelty of men in power. The other thing that is different is that I have friends all over the region and I speak to them daily as we play games online. I can actually ask my friend in Hungary about the refugees pouring into the region or my friend in Ukraine who is in a small city with no fighting who is worried about his small daughter and elderly mother. The internet has brought me cyber neighbors in the region.
And, yes, we’re having a bonus show of Cats and Dogs at War because I can’t handle all the pictures of families scattering yet again and children of war clinging to their pets, their stuffed animals, and each other. I do have one thought though. Putin should have thought this over and looked back to history. Ukraine is the historical home of the Cossacks and when part of Russia brought the Russian army its fiercest fighters. Ukraine also has the highest number of women in its military of any country. ” Why Are Cossacks Key to Understanding the Ukrainian Nation?”
The Ukrainian Cossack has come to symbolize Ukraine’s ethnic image, much like the medieval knight of Western Europe or the Samurai of Japan. In fact, only a minority of Ukrainians belonged to this famed social group – but their influence on history, culture, and the psychology of the country was deeply profound. If you know the history of the Cossacks, you won’t be surprised to find that Ukrainians, who seem quiet and humble at first sight, can go to protest on Maidan and become courageous warriors.
You may read about this history at the link as well as watch a BBC documentary. It’s fascinating.
Whatever the reason, the majority of the world is behind the Ukrainian people are like siding with David over Goliath. Their young President has risen to the event and has managed to get countries to send all kinds of things to his peoples and armies. The Washington Post reports “The war in Ukraine isn’t working out the way Russia intended. Tactical blunders and fierce resistance from the Ukrainians risk ensnaring the Russians in a protracted conflict, military experts as.”
The war in Ukraine isn’t going Russia’s way.
Videos posted on social media show whole columns of tanks and armored vehicles have been wiped out. Others have been stopped in their tracks by ordinary Ukrainians standing on the street to block their advance.
Lightly armed units propelled deep into the country without support have been surrounded and their soldiers captured or killed. Warplanes have been shot out of the skies and helicopters have been downed, according to Ukrainian and U.S. military officials.
Logistics supply chains have failed, leaving troops stranded on roadsides to be captured because their vehicles ran out of fuel.
Most critically, Russia has proved unable to secure air superiority over the tiny Ukrainian air force — despite having the second-largest air force in the world, Pentagon officials say. Its troops have yet to take control of any significant city or meaningful chunk of territory, a senior U.S. defense official said Sunday.
On Sunday, a Russian attempt to seize control of the city of Kharkiv, less than 30 miles from the Russian border, was repelled. A fresh push toward the capital, Kyiv, came to a smoking end in the suburb of Irpin, where videos posted on social media showed the charred remains of Russian tanks and armored vehicles strewn around the streets while Ukrainian soldiers removed weapons from the bodies of dead Russians.
There are weapons and fighters on their way from the EU. Finland is discussing if they should join NATO. Russian access to international financial markets is declining rapidly as new sanctions are added daily. Values of Russian financial asset markets and their currency have fallen off a cliff. There have been two specific actions that have left me speechless. First, BP Oil dumped an incredibly profitable project as reported by WaPo: “BP to ‘exit’ its $14 billion stake in Russian oil giant in stark sign that Western business is breaking ties over Ukraine invasion
BP’s role in the oil company had been one of the most significant Western investments in Russia ever.” They basically walked away from billions of dollars.
British oil giant BP said Sunday that it is “exiting” its $14 billion stake in Russian oil giant Rosneft over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in one of the biggest signs yet that the Western business world is cutting ties over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
BP, which reportedly came under pressure from the British government to sever the Rosneft relationship, also said its current and former chief executives — Bernard Looney and Bob Dudley — have resigned from the Russian company’s board “with immediate effect.”
The abrupt divorce is another sign of the uncertainty Russia’s invasion has created in the energy industry, which experienced wild swings in oil and gas prices last week as the attack began. BP’s 19.75 percent stake in Rosneft accounted for a third of the British company’s oil and gas production and more than half of its reserves.
“Russia’s attack on Ukraine is an act of aggression which is having tragic consequences across the region. BP has operated in Russia for over 30 years, working with brilliant Russian colleagues. However, this military action represents a fundamental change. It has led the BP board to conclude, after a thorough process, that our involvement with Rosneft, a state-owned enterprise, simply cannot continue,” BP chair Helge Lund said in a statement Sunday.
The announcement marks the end of one of the Western world’s largest investments in Russia, seen as so politically important that Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair personally attended a signing ceremony for a key part of the deal in 2003. At that meeting, Putin called the BP-Russia deal “a reflection of the positive trends in Russia’s investment climate.”
The single most breath-taking act by a country that this financial economist with an undergraduate degree in European History was taken by the Swiss today. This is written by Nick Cumming-Bruce for the New York Times: “Switzerland says it will freeze Russian assets, setting aside a tradition of neutrality. ”
Switzerland, a favorite destination for Russian oligarchs and their money, announced on Monday that it would freeze Russian financial assets in the country, setting aside a deeply rooted tradition of neutrality to join the European Union and a growing number of nations seeking to penalize Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.
After a meeting with the Swiss Federal Council, Switzerland’s president, Ignazio Cassis, said that the country would immediately freeze the assets of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail V. Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, as well as all 367 individuals sanctioned last week by the European Union.
Switzerland said it was departing from its usual policy of neutrality because of “the unprecedented military attack by Russia on a sovereign European state,” but expressed a willingness to help mediate in the conflict. It also joined European neighbors in closing its airspace to Russian aircraft, except for humanitarian or diplomatic purposes. But said it would evaluate whether to join in subsequent E.U. sanctions on a case-by-case basis.
Mr. Lavrov, who was scheduled to be in Geneva on Tuesday to address the United Nations Human Rights Council, will no longer make the trip because of the flight ban, Russia’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva said on Twitter.
Obviously, lessons learned about 1938, Neville Chamberlin, and events like Kristallnacht have not been forgotten anywhere on the continent. Germany gave up access to a natural gas pipeline. Belgium is cutting access to Russia to its Financial Messaging network Swift. New sanctions fall into these areas.
Details: The commitments agreed to by the U.S., EU, France, Germany, Italy, U.K. and Canada on Saturday fall into five main categories, according to a joint statement.
Disconnect select Russian banks from SWIFT, a move that a senior Biden administration official referred to as the “Iran model.”
Undermine the Russian Central Bank’s ability to defend the ruble.
Limit the sale of so-called “golden passports” that allow wealthy Russians to become citizens of Western countries and exploit their financial systems.
Launch a trans-Atlantic task force to hunt down the assets of sanctioned Russians in order to ensure the penalties are enforced.
Step up coordination of against Russian disinformation and other forms of hybrid warfare.
We’ll try to keep up with the headlines this week including Biden’s SOTU speech Tuesday Night. I think I can safely say we’re all pulling for the people, animals, and democracy of Ukraine.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?