I live on a farm and know more about towing than the average Joe. My cardinal rule of towing is don’t do anything stupid. It is really easy to get hurt while towing if you do not have the right equipment or a bad plan. On April 14th the Russian cruiser, Moskva, caught on fire. The cruiser started to sink after the fire ignited some rocket fuel or munitions. Later in the morning, the ship sent out a distress signal and everyone abandoned the ship. There are an unknown number of casualties. A ship responding to the distress signal would rescue as many Russian sailors as possible and then quickly move to a safe distance. A couple of hours later the Russian authorities announced that the ship had sunk while being towed to a nearby port. Under normal circumstances towing the largest Russian warship in the Black Sea would be a challenge. You need an ocean-going tug boat. These tug boats are rare and expensive but rescuing those cruise missiles may be worth it. Making this an even greater challenge is that the ship is on fire with unexploded munitions on board. The ship’s structural damage is unknown. A tow line would put you dangerously close to the warship if it blows up or sinks. Who did the Russians get to connect a tow line to this sinking ship? This looks dangerous and stupid.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia says Ukraine’s government is “openly neo-Nazi” and “pro-Nazi,” controlled by “little Nazis,” a few of us were confused. We thought President Putin was talking to Westerners. Actually, he was talking to the Russian people, not the West. Over sixty years after World War II, the word Nazi has a personal meaning to Russians. This invective is reserved for those people who are in direct opposition to Russia and the Communist Party. For westerners, we would describe Ukraine as fervently anti-Russian. For Russians, it is a little more personal.
Recently my wife and I watched the documentary, Ukraine On Fire. Despite it reflecting a pro-Kremlin viewpoint both my wife and I thought it was informative.
The film associates the Ukrainian 2004 Orange Revolution and 2014 Revolution of Dignity with Ukrainian radical right and antisemitic political organizations, such as the Right Sector, and with WWII-era western Ukrainian far-right paramilitary organizations.
The film might be correct about the participation of far-right paramilitary organizations in the demonstrations but it did not result in legislators in Parliament. When I watched the demonstrations I saw far more blue and yellow flags than the red and black flags of right-wing organizations. The documentary made a point of saying that symbols are important to revolutions. In this case, the demonstrators wanted an independent Ukraine.
My biggest complaint about the documentary was the omission of the Great Famine between 1932 and 1933. During this time period between 3.5 million to 10 million Ukrainians died. Although the far-right organization activism was significant in the demonstrations, I think the current deep-seated dislike for Russian meddling in Ukrainian affairs goes back to the famine. It is the famine that unites the right, center, and left political parties in Ukraine for independence from Putin’s vision of a reconstituted Soviet Union. Wikipedia says it best,
Some scholars conclude that the famine was planned by Joseph Stalin to eliminate a Ukrainian independence movement. Others suggest that the famine was a concomitant of rapid Soviet industrialisation and collectivization of agriculture. Nevertheless, the famine’s widespread impact on Ukraine persists to this day.Holodomor
Over 3.5 million dead Ukrainians are saying never again. For Ukrainians, it is personal.
The questions about anti-semitism and government corruption are more nuanced. Historically there was antisemitism in Ukraine but the situation has changed in recent years. As the current president of Ukraine, President Zelenskyy, reminded President Putin, he is a Jew. To complicate the matter further there are Jewish members of the ultra-right Azov Battalion. Once again I think Ukrainians have united around a common enemy, Russia.
A similar situation exists around government corruption. Ukraine unsuccessfully tried to develop trade agreements with both the European Union and Russia. Russia threatened to turn off the gas pipeline going through Ukraine if Ukraine did not comply with Russian demands. The United States threatened to turn off the United States and IMF funding if Ukraine did not comply with US demands. Compromise is not in the air.
The first four days of the Ukrainian war was a war on the Ukrainian people. Every day thereafter was a war on the heart and soul of the Russian people. So much pain and so little to show for it. Stupid wars are stupid.
When I look at the stalled Russian Army convoy it makes me think they have a logistics problem. The rumors floating around are that the convoy is running low on fuel and food. It makes me wonder where the soldiers are getting water, going to the bathroom, and sleeping. I suspect that there are no Porta-Potties and the gas stations along the road are out of fuel. I assumed the convoy was en route to a temporary base where they would regroup. Every day they are stuck on the road, the operational readiness of this group drops down a notch. This is no way to run a war!
Historically the importance of logistics is well understood by logisticians and generals.
“My logisticians are a humorless lot … they know if my campaign fails, they are the first ones I will slay.”Alexander The Great
A great quote from my Quora feed reminding us why old men are best suited to negotiate an uncomfortable peace.
There’s nothing further here for a warrior. We drive bargains. Old men’s work. Young men make wars, and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men. Courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace. And the vices of peace are the vices of old men. Mistrust and caution. It must be so.
When President Obama said that terrorism was not an existential threat it had me confused. Then someone remarked that World War II was an example of an existential threat and I immediately thought of Neville Chamberlain’s famous remark in his speech concerning the Munich Agreement, ”Peace for our time”. Mr. Chamberlain probably thought he had successfully minimized Hitler’s “existential threat” for the relatively small political price of conceding the German-populated Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Germany. In less than a year after the agreement, Europe was plunged into World War II and less than eight months later Chamberlain had resigned. It is obvious that both Churchill and Roosevelt thought Hitler represented a clear and present danger to their countries but I doubt they thought of him as existential threat. How could they imagine the terror the Germans would bring by indiscriminately bombing London or the Japanese would bring by launching a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. It was an incremental war that got ratcheted up with each act of aggression. Roosevelt correctly foresaw the risk Hitler posed and bent over backwards to support Britain in their fight with Germany well before we had a formal Declaration of War. The Lend-Lease policy supported England but it also was an act that threatened the plans of both Germany and their ally, Japan. Germany who was not an existential threat to Chamberlain in 1938 quickly became an existential threat to Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor. The die was cast. So who does President Obama’s remarks remind you of, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, or Franklin Roosevelt? Where are we on the existential threat timeline? Was the bungled Iraq withdrawal the President’s Sudetenland moment?