📓 War on Ukraine

There is so much being written about Ukraine. Here is my attempt to keep a list of some of the interesting pieces.

In The Month That Changed a Century, Michael Hirsh discusses the way in which Putin has unsettled the political status-quo:

In little more than a month, Russian President Vladimir Putin has changed the course of this young and already troubled century. He has resurrected the threat of territorial conquest and nuclear war. He has jolted Western Europe awake from its long postwar torpor, raising the prospect of rapid German rearmament. He has put the capstone on two decades of U.S. misdirection by defying American power and influence.

Above all, with his invasion of Ukraine, Putin is trying to complete work on a vast project of destruction implicitly supported by several other world leaders, especially Chinese President Xi Jinping. Together, these leaders want to break what they see as U.S. hegemony over the international system and undermine the notion that the world is bound by a common set of values embodied in international law and upheld by institutions such as the United Nations.

Rutger Bregman explains why Europe needs Ukraine as a reminder of the hope that the EU actually offers.

Ukraine, in short, chose Europe. And Putin found that intolerable. Now it is up to us to choose Ukraine. Yes, normally the road to EU membership is long and complicated, and with good reason. But these are not normal times. Millions of brave Ukrainians have reinvigorated the European ideal—of freedom, democracy, and cooperation—and many have paid with their lives.

Timothy Snyder explains how The War In Ukraine Is a Colonial War.

Ukrainians assert their nation’s existence through simple acts of solidarity. They are not resisting Russia because of some absence or some difference, because they are not Russians or opposed to Russians. What is to be resisted is elemental: the threat of national extinction represented by Russian colonialism, a war of destruction expressly designed to resolve “the Ukrainian question.” Ukrainians know that there is not a question to be answered, only a life to be lived and, if need be, to be risked. They resist because they know who they are.

Liked How the West Got Russia’s Military So, So Wrong by Phillips Payson O’Brien (theatlantic.com)

Though analysts and historians will spend years arguing about exactly why prewar assessments of the Russian military proved so flawed, two reasons are immediately apparent. First, Western analysts misunderstood the Russian military’s ability to undertake the most complex operations and the robustness of its logistical capabilities. And second, prognosticators paid too little attention to the basic motivations and morale of the soldiers who would be asked to use the Russian military’s allegedly excellent doctrine and equipment.

Liked Doing Less, to Help Ukraine – Douglas Rushkoff – Medium by Douglas Rushkoff (Medium)

In short, it’s okay to sit and stay with the horror that is the war in Ukraine. You don’t have to have an opinion beyond whatever you are feeling right now. The temptation to say more than the obvious is being driven by a media system that profits off this compulsion, and only makes things worse in the process.

Don’t add fuel to that fire.

Bookmarked Nine Books to Read to Understand the War in Ukraine by Marci Shore (theatlantic.com)

In history, any starting point bears the vulnerability of arbitrariness. That said, what follows are nine books from the past century in different genres, by authors from different countries, that can help us grasp the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

When the current makes no sense, it can be useful to delve into the past. Marci Shore shares nine books to help make sense of the current situation. I am particularly interested in the memoir about Prague:

Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941–1968, by Heda Margolius Kovály

A Czech Jew born in 1919, Margolius Kovály survived the Łódź Ghetto and Auschwitz before escaping from a death march and making her way back to Prague. In her memoir, she recalls how her friends were too afraid to shelter her. After the Red Army liberated Prague from German occupation, she and her husband, Rudolf Margolius, also a survivor of the Nazi camps, joined the Communist Party.

Bookmarked Monday 14 March, 2022 | Memex 1.1 (memex.naughtons.org)

There’s clearly no Russian Plan B for Ukraine. If that is indeed the case, then we know what’s likely to happen.

When Chechnya was being obliterated in 1999, most of us paid little attention. After all, it wasn’t a European country. But Ukraine is.

Our complacent post-1946 holiday has really come to an end.

John Naughton wonders if the situation in Ukraine is history repeating and whether our post-1946 holiday is over.
Bookmarked Why the West May Have to Offer Putin a Way Out by Tom McTague (theatlantic.com)

The question for world leaders is how to ensure the Russian president is defeated while nevertheless providing him a route out of the crisis.

Tom McTague discusses the challenges associated with resolving the situation in Ukraine. This includes giving Putin a means of getting out with a win.

Unlike Khrushchev, Putin has not simply walked up to a line, but crossed it, unleashing a terror for which he should be held accountable. The horrible reality, though, is that the best option for the West might involve finding a way for him to not be held as accountable as he should be—but then to never forget what he has done.

This is also something Ezra Klein and Fiona Hill discuss on The Daily podcast.

Alternatively, Stan Grant touches on the wider political implications in regards to China and Taiwan.

Xi Jinping is the puzzle. He says he is a champion of globalisation and multilateralism. But he sounds and acts increasingly despotic.

Who is the true Xi? If it is the authoritarian who believes his time has come — if he will not talk Putin down — then we face the prospect of an even more deadly conflict in the near future.

In that case, we must accept that Vladimir Putin has not only invaded Ukraine, he has invaded Taiwan as well.

Bookmarked How to avoid sharing bad information about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by Abby Ohlheiser (MIT Technology Review)

Even well-meaning attempts to participate in the news can play into bad actors’ campaigns.

In light of the Invasion of Ukraine, Abby Ohlheiser shares strategies for how to avoid sharing bad information. This includes Mike Caulfield’s SIFT method, as well as the suggestion that unless you actually know the language be mindful of sharing a particular hot-take.

Before you share, ask yourself: Can you personally translate the language being spoken? Are you equipped to research and analyze videos and photos from sources you’ve never encountered before? Although citizen journalism is often deeply valuable, it requires real skill and training to do well. Be realistic about what you’re able to do, and why.

In addition to this, Ohlheiser talks about the importance of being willing to clean up after yourself.

Both Mitchell and Caulfield outlined similar best practices here: If you share bad information on Twitter, screenshot your mistake, post a correction by replying to or quote-tweeting the incorrect information, and then delete the tweet that contains the misinformation. 

It has been interesting to see the prevalence of information, such as the ability to follow the Russian convoy. However, it is the ease of sharing which I imagine can also have detrimental effects.

Bookmarked How the Crisis in Ukraine May End by Derek Thompson (theatlantic.com)

There is a useful analogy with Pearl Harbor. In the late 1930s, Japan had invaded Manchuria and was engaged in a war with China. And the U.S., which was supporting China at the time, imposed an oil embargo on Japan. We squeezed the Japanese government until they realized they only had about a year and a half of resources left. They were desperate to stop the oil embargo. So they took the gamble of Pearl Harbor and paid for it with a costly war in the Pacific. I think we have to consider a question: If we apply similar economic pressure to Russia, could Putin make a similar decision to what Japan did in 1941?

Derek Thompson speaks with Paul Poast about ways in which the current crisis in Ukraine may play out:

There are now five ways that the aggression in Ukraine can end, according to Paul Poast, a professor of foreign policy and war at the University of Chicago. They are: a disastrous quagmire or retreat for Russia; violent regime change in Kyiv; the full conquest of Ukraine; the beginning of a new Russian empire; or a chaotic stumble into something like World War III.

Bryan Alexander also provides his own collection of simulations and scenarios.