Ukraine strikes back, etc. | National exam

Ukrainians in traditional costumes sing Christmas carols as they gather to celebrate Orthodox Christmas at the National Museum of Architecture in Kyiv on January 7, 2022. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

One of the most moving videos I’ve seen in days – or ever – is this. A German translates a message from Ukrainian President Zelensky to her country. In the middle, the translator breaks down in tears. When she can recover a little, she says: “Entschuldigung” – “Excuse me.”

• Imagine this: at the end of a religious service in New York, an organist, on a large instrument, intones “La Grande Porte de Kiev”, or Kyiv. He follows it with a soft, prayerful “Abide with Me” (“Abide with me, fast falls the eventide”).

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a more moving musical experience.

• A friend wrote to me saying, “What is ‘Kiev’ instead of ‘Kiev’? Is this politically correct? I covered this topic in 2019: “A Name of One’s Own: Ukraine Journal, Part I.” I quote a bit:

I always wrote “Kiev”. But it is a fighting word – a fighting spelling – for Ukrainians. They say “Kiev”. It’s not a question of fuss. It is in fact a question of importance.

For an excellent article on this subject, try Peter Dickinson, here.

Briefly, “Kiev” is a transliteration of the capital’s Russian name; “Kiev” comes from Ukrainian.

However, I will persist in writing “the hen of Kiev” and “the great gate of Kiev” (the part that ends Mussorgsky’s text). Pictures at an exhibition).

• Casey Michel is an investigative journalist with particular knowledge of the “post-Soviet space”. He is an expert on global financial corruption – the dark world of oligarchs and their maneuvers. Putin’s regime floats on oceans of silver. However, this money is usually not found in Russia. Much of it is here in the United States of America. I podcasted with Casey Michel last week. Interesting stuff — here.

• I’m not entirely comfortable calling Putin’s assault on Ukraine a “war”. I appreciated what Mitt Romney said, “This is not a war. This is not a battle between two armies. This is a brutal invasion of a free democratic people by an authoritarian thug, and there is no justification for it.

• I also liked this, from Romney:

I join the world in awe of the real heroes: brave President Zelensky, brave Ukrainian soldiers, citizen armies, mothers cradling their frightened children, and journalists risking their lives to bring us the truth. God bless them and God bless us to never forget.

Romney voted to convict President Trump in Trump’s first impeachment trial – the trial over Trump’s dealings with Zelensky. At the time, Romney was the only person in US history to vote against a president from his own party in an impeachment trial.

Romney is despised by both left and right, but not by some of us.

“Traitor! Traitor!” chanted Trump rallyers on a plane, directing their chant at Romney. He and they were traveling from Salt Lake City to Washington on January 5, 2021. The next day, addressing his rally, Trump mocked Romney: “I wonder if he enjoyed his flight last night.”

• “Ukrainian teacher and volunteer Julia cried while waiting to be deployed to fight Russian troops around Kiev on Saturday.” I quote the New York Times, here. This woman, Julia, said, “I just want to live in our country, and that’s it.

His words go straight to the point, don’t they? “I just want to live in our country, and that’s it.”

• Putin’s forces are committing war crimes — many of them — in Ukraine. The Hague will have a lot of work to do. I have no illusions that anyone will be brought to justice. I hope, however, that war crimes will be documented – beyond obfuscation by propagandists and liars.

• In cities across Russia, people are risking their lives to protest Putin’s war on Ukraine. What brave people they are. I imagine that right now a lot of Russians are feeling shame: shame at what the government that governs them is doing to their neighbor. This shame, this revulsion could leave Putin’s dictatorship even more shaken than it is.

• In Belarus too, people are protest. The risks that these people take, in a police state. The bravery they show. Incredible.

• Every day, every hour — with every blow he strikes — Putin strengthens Ukrainian identity and Ukrainian resolve. May his crimes turn against him in many ways, including his ousting in Moscow.

• The Ukrainians make the Kremlin propaganda lie – propaganda you hear echoed in the West, including the United States: Ukraine is not a real country. You can’t really detach it from Russia. The people of western Ukraine are arrogant: they want to join the European Union and NATO; people from the East feel Russian and want to join Russia. Any push for democracy is just a CIA project. All this exercise.

• Sweden sends 5,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. “So what?” you say. For Sweden, this is a very important step. The Swedes, along with the Finns and others, are well aware of the threat from Putin’s Russia. In 2017, I submitted a report from Stockholm: “Sweden, abruptly awakened: the defense posture of a ‘nation of peace’”.

• The President of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, tweeted photos of Taiwanese cities, illuminated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. “Our country and our people #StandWithUkraine against Russian aggression,” she wrote. I doubt anyone in the world – except perhaps the Balts – feels a stronger sense of solidarity with the Ukrainian people than the Taiwanese right now.

• All over Europe, Putin has his fanboys and his fangirls, his defenders and his apologists. They tend to be scrambling right now – because the war is not going well for Putin, at least in terms of propaganda. At least in terms of image. A title of Politics says, “Putin’s European cronies have to swallow their words.” the articlecaption: “The Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine is a great embarrassment for European politicians who got too close to Putin.”

Take Matteo Salvini. He’s the guy who wore a Putin T-shirt in Red Square. His party has created a “Friends of Putin” group in the Italian parliament. They signed a “friendship and cooperation” agreement with Putin. (“A historic deal,” Salvini said.) Salvini is a darling of the “national conservative” crowd, which gathered in Rome two years ago.

Well, Salvini was just filmed delivering a bouquet of flowers to the Ukrainian embassy. Isn’t that sweet? If the war went well for his son Putin, Salvini would convey his congratulations to the Russian embassy.

• Even Viktor Orbán in Hungary says he won’t block EU sanctions against Putin. When Putin visited Budapest in 2017, Orbán said: “We all feel – it’s in the air – that the world is in the process of a profound realignment”. For his part, Putin hailed Hungary as an “important and reliable partner of Russia in Europe”.

The relationship may be on the rocks — for now.

• In the 1970s, we had an expression in American culture: “scared straight”. Young people – budding criminals – met ex-prisoners, who recounted the horror of their lives. As a result, young people would be “directly frightened”.

For many years, many Americans and others have played kisses with the authoritarians, semi-authoritarians, and would-be authoritarians of Europe. (Latin America too.) Maybe the assault on Ukraine will scare them. Perhaps autocracy will lose some of its luster. Maybe the old maligned liberal democracy isn’t so bad after all.

Right here is a report: “I will stand with Russia”: pro-Putin sentiment is spreading online. Candace Owens reportedly said, “Ukrainians are dying because of the Biden family’s criminal ties and insistence on stoking conflict in the region. She has millions of followers, and many like her too. They have a serious influence on the global American understanding. I mean, how could they not?

• You may be familiar with Snake Island. Right here is a report: “On the island of snakes in Ukraine, a provocative last stand against Russian forces.” The article begins,

As the Russian military pounded targets across Ukraine with an array of bombs and missiles, a small team of Ukrainian border guards on a rocky, desolate island received an ominous message: Give up or be attacked.

“I am a Russian warship,” said a voice from the invaders, according to a communications recording. “I ask you to lay down your arms and surrender to avoid unnecessary bloodshed and death. Otherwise, you will be bombarded.

The Ukrainians responded boldly.

“Russian warship”, was the reply, “fuck you”.

The Russians opened fire, eventually killing 13 border guards.

• For years Vladimir Putin talked about what he wanted to do to Ukraine. A lot of these guys are very blunt – the Iranian mullahs, the ruling Kim family in North Korea, etc.

I think of the story of the Holocaust survivor who, shortly after the war, was asked, “What is the greatest lesson you have learned?” He replied, “When someone says they want to kill you, believe them.”

• A few years ago, Robert Kagan, this eminent foreign affairs historian and analyst, wrote a book with the striking title: The jungle grows back. It does. To eternal vigilance there is no alternative – no good alternative. Eternal vigilance is tiresome, God knows. And expensive. But letting our guard down – militarily, civilizationally? More expensive.

Stop an expansionist dictator as soon as you can. Because this guy won’t stop. He can only to be stopped.

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