Ukraine update: ‘They’re a little bit busy defending freedom and democracy’

Ukraine update: ‘They’re a little bit busy defending freedom and democracy’

Yesterday, Henry Kissinger said that Ukraine should trade land for peace, that everyone should be nicer to Russia, and that attempting to actually force Russia to surrender the territory it occupies within Ukraine would be “not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself.” Even though none of that war would actually be in Russia.

Just the fact that I can start an article in May of 2022 with, “Yesterday, Henry Kissinger said…” should be enough to make anyone seriously question their religious beliefs. Listening to Kissinger talk about the need to not “embarrass” Russia in service of returning to what he describes as “stability for Europe”—the kind of stability where one party is allowed to inflict immeasurable damage on another and be rewarded for atrocities—might be enough cause everyone to question our collective grip on reality. Or at least Kissinger’s.

Of course, “Henry the K” isn’t alone in prescribing surrender as the best solution to this whole problem. Last week The New York Times ran an editorial in which it fretted that Putin’s illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine was “complicated,” that Ukraine emerging with a decisive military victory over Russia was “not a realistic goal,” and that the U.S. should make it clear to Ukraine that we may just have to cut them off and force them to make “hard decisions” about how much of their country Putin gets to keep for his new summer home.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak responded to Kissinger by saying that conceding any land to Russia wasn’t a recipe for peace. It was just a way to guarantee another war within a few years. “It’s good that Ukrainians in the trenches do not have time for listening,“ said Podolyak. “They’re a little bit busy defending Freedom and Democracy.”

It’s safe to say that at this moment, Podolyak is much closer to the sentiment throughout Ukraine than is Kissinger or the NYT. A new poll shows that 82% of Ukrainians believe that no territory should be surrendered, even if it means facing a long war. Only 10% believe that any territory should be exchanged as part of a peace agreement.

These are the people who are putting their lives at risk. The people seeing their homes destroyed. The people whose families and friends are dying around them. They are definitely the ones who get to make any decision over what is, and is not acceptable when it comes to finding an end to this invasion.

When it comes to what the U.S. should do, the answer is simple: Support Ukraine. If Ukraine ultimately decides that something less than complete victory is acceptable, they should be supported, not faulted, for that decision. But if Ukraine decides that they will keep fighting, the U.S. needs to do everything it can to support them in that fight.

It’s impossible for Russia to “win” this war in the sense of obtaining territory or materials that are more valuable than the cost it will pay in sanctions and international isolation. Just the cost Russia is facing in terms of the declining evaluation of its military prowess is something that will alter Russia’s position in the world for the indefinite future.

But if Russia wins, in the sense that it goes home with official claim to some territory, any territory, in exchange for halting its artillery, everyone loses. Not just Ukraine. Not just the United States. Not just NATO. Everyone.

Yes, it was possible to assemble enough of the world behind a united position to punish Russia for this invasion and to deliver economic sanctions that will generate a lasting impact, even though all those participating knew that they would also pay an economic cost to one degree or another. Every politician, in every democratic nation, has opened themselves up to campaigns where citizens are going to be asked to weigh the cost of halting Russian aggression in Ukraine against the rising cost of food and energy. In most cases, as in the United States, opponents will just be screaming about how president X or prime minister Y “drove up the price of gas.” Ukraine or Russia won’t be mentioned.

It will be much, much harder to assemble such a united front a second time. Or a third.

If Russia walks away from this fight with anything that Putin can even pass off as a victory, it will go a long way to re-legitimizing the kind of war for territory that was supposed to have been untenable for the last seven decades. It won’t just threaten the stability of Europe, it will threaten the concept of sovereign nations in a fundamental way that undercuts progress born out of unimaginable effort.

Oh, and Henry Kissinger can put that realpolitik shit where the sun don’t shine. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022 · 9:02:00 PM +00:00 · Mark Sumner

And now it’s time for Russian Stuff Blowing Up theater.

#Ukraine: The Ukrainian 92nd Mechanized Brigade destroyed a Russian tank in the East with artillery fire.

— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) May 24, 2022

Footage released by Ukrainian special forces of a Switchblade loitering munition strike on a Russian T-72B3. Note the fact that it was used in conjunction with a DJI drone serving as a spotter.

— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) May 24, 2022

Marinka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukrainian 54th Mechanized Brigade forces destroy a Russian tank with a Stugna-P

— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) May 24, 2022

Tuesday, May 24, 2022 · 9:14:24 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

I honestly don’t know what to say about this. The last T-62 rolled off the assembly line in 1975. The lower plate and side armor on a T-62 isn’t quite tinfoil, but it’s not anything like a more modern tank. During the war in Afghanistan, the Soviets lost over 300 of these tanks to basic RPG attacks.

All that said, Russia is supposed to have 7,000 T-72 tanks in storage. Surely they would check to see that there were a few of those still operational before they opened whatever hermetically sealed container this came out of.

Russia is running out of tanks. That’s the inescapable conclusion from reports that it’s transporting some of its reported 2,500 stored T-62s to support its war in Ukraine. What does this mean logistically and operationally? A 🧵 with some observations and deductions. /1

— ChrisO (@ChrisO_wiki) May 24, 2022

Tuesday, May 24, 2022 · 10:19:49 PM +00:00

Mark Sumner

@LivFaustDieJung How it started vs. how it’s going. Absolutely seething.

— Nicolas Merz (@nicolas_merz) May 24, 2022

Wednesday, May 25, 2022 · 2:25:59 AM +00:00

Mark Sumner

⚡️Zelensky: ‘Russia will also have to leave Crimea.’ President Zelensky said during his daily address that Russia will also have to leave Kherson, Melitopol, Enerhodar, Mariupol, and “all other cities and communities where they are still pretending to be the owners.”

— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) May 24, 2022

Wednesday, May 25, 2022 · 3:48:07 AM +00:00

Mark Sumner

Ukraine military donors conference: 🇺🇸 helicopters, artillery, missiles, trucks, ammo 🇬🇧 artillery, missiles, ammo 🇩🇰 anti-ship missiles 🇨🇿 helicopters, artillery, tanks 🇬🇷 artillery, ammo 🇮🇹 artillery, ammo, trucks 🇳🇴 artillery 🇵🇱 tanks, artillery, ammo 🇩🇪 baby formula

— Thomas C. Theiner (@noclador) May 23, 2022

Well, there is a shortage. 

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