Yesterday the Brookings Institution hosted a webinar on Ukraine’s economy. The webinar is archived and available to watch by clicking the link. The first part focuses on Ukraine’s economic situation- its fiscal policy, energy, inflation, and trade, as well as current and future needs. A recurring theme in the discussion was the gap between money that has been pledged to Ukraine and money that is actually making it to the country. There was also a thoughtful discussion on reconstruction, with projected numbers, discussion of where the money might come from, and the need to start the process now. The second part focused on historic examples, first with a history of the Marshall plan, then examples of recent reconstruction projects in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan.

Two recent articles discuss the need for clear, pragmatic, and cautious goals in Ukraine. From the Diplomatic Courier, “Lack of Clear Strategic Goals in Ukraine Risks Escalation” by Ethan Brown, the author suggests that now is the time to consider an “off ramp from conflict escalation.”  He asks “what is the grand strategy?” and references the lack of such in Afghanistan and that unforgivable outcome.  He in no way suggests capitulation, or even negotiation on Putin’s terms, but notes that the Russian dictator is unlikely to back down any time in the foreseeable future, thus suggesting that Ukraine and the world are in this for the long term. 

From Foreign Affairs in the article “Go Slow on Crimea“, the authors Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage suggest caution on the retaking of the peninsula, albeit clearly part of sovereign Ukrainian territory. But they note that not taking it will in fact create unending problems for Ukrainian security, for its relationships with and accession into both the EU and NATO, and again for the rest of eastern Europe, Crimea being a testing ground and staging area for further conquest. 

My take on the situation has never changed- Russia is a terrorist state that perpetuates conflict in order to conquer and rule, and Ukraine is just a stepping stone to the rest of eastern Europe and Putin’s imperial goals. The answer to the problem in short: if you back down from a bully, as soon as you turn your head he will hit you again. Therefor we must:

  • Incentivise Russian withdrawal from Ukraine by maintaining and strengthening sanctions and policies against Russia until they squeeze the very blood from the aggressors; this includes freezing (and eventually seizing for reconstruction funding) ALL Russian assets available to countries supporting Ukraine.
  • Clearly define that stance that all Ukrainian territory must be returned, including and especially Crimea.
  • Continue supplying aid, weapons, and training to Ukrainian forces, and the forces of surrounding countries, and bolstering NATO throughout Europe. 

History teaches us that the Soviet Union, failed experiment in sociological control that it was, finally fell due to economic stagnation and collapse, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and the people of Russia and all Warsaw Pact and Soviet Bloc nations getting a taste of western freedoms, democracy, and culture at the end of the 1980’s. History is repeating itself. 

  • Russia may be setting conditions to conduct a new offensive against Ukraine—possibly against Kyiv—in winter 2023. Such an attack is extraordinarily unlikely to succeed.  A Russian attack from Belarus is not imminent at this time.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objectives in Ukraine have not changed.
  • Putin is using two simultaneous military efforts to pursue his objective of conquering Ukraine and securing major concessions.
  • Putin is likely setting conditions for a renewed offensive before the spring of 2023 to coerce Ukraine into offering concessions.
  • Russian forces may be setting conditions to attack from Belarusian territory, although ISW continues to assess that the Belarusian military will not join the fighting in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian forces reportedly continued counteroffensive operations in the direction of Kreminna and Svatove.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka areas.
  • Russian forces continued defensive operations south of the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine.
  • The Russian officer corps continues to suffer heavy losses in Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian partisans conducted a sabotage attack on a power transformer substation in Berdyansk, Zaporizhia Oblast.

And finally, Russian combat losses/ citizens sent to their death by their murdering dictator, as of today:

Russian combat losses as of 16 December, 2022

Russian combat losses as of 16 December, 2022

Atrocity of the Day

8 April 2022

Crimes of aggression, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or genocide? It’s just a matter of degrees, and of course intent. For today, take your pick.

Reposted from Telegram channel Ищи своих.

Here is a translation of the accompanying text in the post:

Attack on the railway station in Kramatorsk, Donetsk region. More than 30 dead and more than a hundred injured

The blow to the Kramatorsk railway station was inflicted by the Russian occupiers “Tochka-U”. On the rocket is the inscription “For children” – a favorite phrase of Russian propagandists. Also, the public authorities began to report that they allegedly hit the “concentration of forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine”.

Women, children, old people… They were waiting for the evacuation train…

 

At this point my blogs seem to have exhausted themselves… how much more information do any of us need regarding death, destruction, war crimes, and a very uncertain future for all of us? What a world we live in. So for now, some commentary, and more of the day’s news later.

I have asked myself, what is it that holds the world together?  My answer- it is the international, rules-based order that we have tried to create and maintain since World War II. But rule of law, justice, democracy, and liberty are all very fragile, forever balanced on a thin line which, should they cross it, may mean their disappearance for a long time. This is nothing new; mankind has always lived on the edge of a precipice, from our hunter-gatherer days to… today.  The critical difference today is in the level of suffering and destruction that one person can exact from the world by crossing that line.

How do we fight against such a threat? Simple- by doing exactly what we are doing- decisive action, continued pressure, and the unprecedented response of a fairly united world.  But, the world needs to do more- there needs to be more action, more pressure, with more unprecedented responses with every day that dawns.

Psychology will tell us that the use of terror is the most effective way to control a person, a group of people, a country… and a world (this final item, at least in theory.) Terror is being used against us- against Ukraine, and all the people of the world who choose freedom and democracy over tyranny and authoritarianism. Our world has far too many madmen as “leaders”, foremost among them, at present, is of course Russia’s Putin. The level of terror he is responsible for inflicting has truly not been seen since the 1940’s. Our response- the response of the world, has to be commensurate at least, and in truth much stronger and greater to insure order is maintained and to facilitate Putin’s downfall.

But we- the “west,” need help. As I have said in the past, the people of Russia are being held hostage. It is imperative that they stand up to Putin and his followers, do their part in this fight, and become a part of the free world. This will not be easy, there will be suffering and death. But if they do not, all indications are that they will be subject to Stalin, revisited; to a new reign of terror, which means suffering and death. The choice it theirs- stand and fight, or cower and remain oppressed.

In the meantime, as governments continue to pressure Russia, we as individuals must continue to focus on Ukraine, on sending food aid through such organisations as the World Central Kitchen and medical aid through the Ukrainian Red Cross Society to name just two of many options. We must continue pushing corporations and government representatives around the world to keep the pressure on.  We also need to make sure we do not forget about other countries that are in precarious positions, such as Moldova, Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, Georgia, and Hungary. These are countries where Russian influence must be checked. These are countries that need our support, countries that are helping Ukrainian refugees and have a desire to become part of the EU and NATO. The rest of Europe, the west, the free and democratic nations of the world must help facilitate these desires if the free world, the precarious world we live in, is to prevail.

 

The following are reposted from the Telegraph channel Інтернет Війська України.  Today’s headlines in Europe.