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.
Phillips Payson O’Brien makes the case that the current campaign serves as the end of heavy and expensive military power.
The future shape of militaries is open to debate. What is clear, though, is that investing in large World War II–era materiel such as the heavy tank, enormous aircraft carrier, and super-expensive fixed-wing aircraft has never been riskier. As far less expensive but still lethal systems continue to improve, the investment that will be required to protect larger, more expensive weapons systems will be financially crippling, even for the American military. Instead, political and military leaders will need to start conceiving of an entirely different battlefield, full of lighter, smaller, more mobile, and in many cases autonomous or remotely operated weapons. In essence, they will need to prepare for the first wars of the 21st century.
Ilya Kaminsky collects together testimonies associated with life in Ukraine during wartime. The them that comes up again and again is ‘time’:
In occupied cities, time doesn’t exist, it is gone. War is not about time; time was completely destroyed in Gostomel, where the morning begins by chopping wood and lighting a fire to cook food. In the occupied city, we focus on those few hours when the generator is working. We are waiting for only two things—victory to be announced or the opportunity to escape.
For me, time has become a carousel: everything flashes, and you realize with a little effort that it is a certain hour, day of the week, and day of the month, and that it all belongs to Anno Domini 2022. During war, time is the location of the sun and stars and the season, rather than the numbers on the phone or the angle between the hands on the clock. On the one hand, wartime is timelessness, and on the other, it is filled with nervous attempts to look ahead.
Susan J. Wolfson makes the comparison between Volodymyr Zelensky and Lord Byron.
And so Volodymyr Zelensky—like Byron, a skilled public speaker, a satirist, an entertainer—fulfills one Byronic dream. If Byron was first a poet, then a celebrity, then a political activist in Italy, then a political force in a war of independence in the same time zone as Ukraine, Zelensky brings it all together as the genuine Byronic hero of our times. Here is a celebrity entertainer who played a fictional president on television, then was himself elected president, then in a national crisis used a comedian’s knack for concision and punch to become a leader of consequence, and an international hero.
Keith Gessen reflects upon war-termination theory and Russia’s not so ‘secret’ weapon and how it still serves as the great unknown.
In this situation, the secret weapon is nuclear. And its use carries with it the risk, again, of even greater involvement in the war by the U.S. But it could also, at least temporarily, halt the advance of the Ukrainian Army. If used effectively, it could even bring about a victory. “People get very excited about the front collapsing,” Goemans said. “But for me it’s, like, ‘Ah-h-h!’ ” At that point, Putin would really be trapped.
Responding to Putin’s call for mobilisation, Thomas Snyder posits that this puts more pressure on Russian politics than it does on the people of Ukraine:
There is a cleft both in elite and public opinion in Russia, and it is now becoming visible on television. Some people think that the war is a holy cause and can be won if heads roll, leadership behaves honorably, and more men and materiel are sent to the front. Among them are the military bloggers who are actually at the front, and whose voices are becoming more mainstream. This is a trap for Putin, since he is already sending everything that he can. Those voices make him look weak. Other people think that the war was a mistake. These voices will make him look foolish. This is just the most basic of a number of contradictory positions that Putin now faces, from an exposed and weakened position.