Summary of Ukraine: The Latest Podcast

TUESDAY 24 MAY 2022

It is day 90 in the war against Ukraine

UKRAINE: THE LATEST, The Telegraph

  • Contributors: David Knowles, Dom Nichols, Verity Bowman, Julia Osmoiska
  • Intense fighting in the central Donbas region.  Putin has said that at the very minimum he wants the Donbas which includes the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.
  • The slowdown of the grain exports is increasingly a problem.  It’s going to have a global impact.  Biden wants to keep this on the global agenda.
  • Verity Bowman:  Strike with 87 people killed last Thursday.  Hit reserve forces at a training center.  Large scale starvation is likely for some.  Putin’s forces are blocking exports.  Most of the Ukrainian exports go to developing countries.  Army is deliberately destroying agricultural machinery.  Somolia is one of the countries suffering.
  • Bowman: Lavrov (Minister of Foreign Affairs) says Russia must be more independent of dependence on Western sources.  He urges closer ties with China.  Russia will rely only on itself, says Lavrov. 
  • Bowman: Russia has managed to cut Ukraine completely of from the Sea of Azov. 
  • Osmoiska: Kissinger urging west to stop trying to press a decisive defeat on Russia.  We need to define what is meant by “complete defeat of Russian forces.”  Some have said that Ukraine is owed self defense even onto Russian territory.  Kissinger’s statement is another illustration of a “psychological phenomenon” we have observed.  In the first of the war, we saw fear of a Russian win.  Now, they seem to have a fear of a Ukrainian win.  These are “doves.”  Foreign statesmen and diplomats telling Ukraine what to do.  It is up to Ukraine.  “They are being a bit naïve.”  The point is when to start these negotiations.
  • Dom Nichols:  what is the mood inside Zelensky’s headquarters?
  • Osmoiska: Ukraine still has this lead in the war.  We haven’t seen a lot of success on the Russian side.  Many support getting back to the 1991 borders.
  • What would it mean if the Donbas was taken over by Russia?
  • Osmoiska: This doesn’t mean a defeat of Ukraine. 
  • Osmoiska:  If the Russians take Donbas will they stop?  It’s difficult to say.  A lot of experts are saying that this is a political campaign.  Russian TV shows are beginning to say that the Russian military is not doing well.  It looks like he will get the Donbas.
  • Knowles: How realistic is the notion that you can go back to the 1991 borders.
  • Osmoiska: Nobody believed that the Ukrainians would hold out this long.  Victory would go back to 1991 borders.  Russians still think they can win this war.  We were outraged at Putin’s attempt to put his own government into Ukraine and teach us how to govern.  It is up to Ukraine to decide when to enter negotiations. 
  • Knowles:  The outcome of this war should not humiliate Putin according to Macron. 
  • Osmoiska: It’s not a deliberate strategy to humiliate Putin, it’s just the result of what he is doing in Ukraine right now.  We see some signs of falling support for Putin.  It was not surprising to hear this from Kissinger.  He is an advocate of this tri-polar world.  Ukrainians were short-sighted about the Black Sea. 
  • Knowles: Keep an eye on the Donbas.  If it falls, there will be questions about what Russia does next. 
  • Osmoiska: Partners should not press Ukraine to negotiate when it’s too early.  Don’t be misled that Russia will be content with the Donbas.  Look at the former wars in Chechyna. 

“Nobody can defeat us. We are Ukrainians.” The narrative of appeasement.

UKRAINE WORLD, 19 May 2022 Podcast

This is one of the best podcasts for people interested in Ukraine.  The discussion is among Ukrainians speaking English.  I started listening to this podcast before the Russian invasion.  Almost all of the conversations are thought-provoking analysis instead of the usual (corporate news) personal interest stories.

On Thursday of last week, the Ukraine World podcast episode was largely about what was considered a new trend in the public narrative about the war in Ukraine.  That trend involves various public actors calling for Ukraine and the West not to “humiliate” Putin, to give Putin an “off-ramp.”  Many in Ukraine were understandably upset about this narrative.

A day after the podcast was released, on Friday 20 May, the New York Times Editorial Board felt it necessary to come out with an article which shocked some and angered many others.  In this badly written piece, the editorial board excoriated the Biden administration for not having clear goals in Ukraine. 

The hosts of the podcast, Volodymyr Yermolenko, a Ukrainian philosopher and journalist and chief editor at Ukraine World and Tetyana Ogarkova, a Ukrainian scholar and journalist, head of international outreach at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center discussed what they both felt was “quite a dangerous trend,” that of planning strategy so as not to humiliate Putin and Russia.

The hosts pointed out that Macron had already suggested that Ukraine make concessions to Putin.  It was, they argued, almost like a slogan coming from outside Ukraine: “Don’t humiliate Putin.”  Everyone outside of Ukraine seemed worried about how to keep Putin from feeling like the cornered rat in his own story. 

As the journalists pointed out, the people presenting the “don’t humiliate Russia” line were presenting it as a pragmatic measure.  They were also concerned to point out that their position didn’t represent appeasement. 

The hosts argued that pacifying Putin was simply a way to ensure that there would be further wars and conflicts.  For example, concessions made to Russia in 2014, when Putin annexed Crimea, only resulted in the larger disaster we are witnessing now.  The lesson of history, noted one journalist, is that appeasement only results in war. 

Russian society, the hosts argued, is in need of deep changes and these changes will not come about if Russia is allowed to annex more and more of Ukraine without paying a price for their imperialism and their destruction.

Had the West not looked the other way over Crimea, the devastation of Mariupol would never have happened.  Had Russia not been allowed to maintain its Black Sea fleet the occupation of Crimea would never have happened.  The occupation of every bit of territory provides a base for further expansion.  Every bit of land conceded will be used to further expand into Odesa, Transnistria, Moldova and then the NATO countries. 

Those who are arguing concessions to Russia, especially if Russia is allowed to cut Ukraine off from the Black and Azov Seas, are facilitating a disaster, an economic and food disaster.  (Note: Even though there have been attempts to export Ukrainian grain over land, there is simply not the infrastructure to completely replace the port export.)

“A ceasefire is a disaster,” one journalist noted.  “For Ukrainians it will mean we lost the war.”

Russia must not be allowed to seize parts of Ukraine and they most be made to pay reparations for the damage they have inflicted.  One Ukrainian journalist commented that if Russia is allowed to occupy this southern corridor, they will have to pay to reconstruct it.  If they are forced out, Europe and the United States

will be obliged to economically support the restoration.  That may be another reason for supporting concessions.)

Another reason noted for the push towards concessions is the fear of the unknown.  Nobody knows what will happen if Russia is conclusively defeated.  The political class has grown up on the post-war stalemate with Russia.  They are more comfortable confronting the enemy they know rather than an enemy they don’t know.  They simply cannot imagine what will happen if Russia is conclusively beaten.  They are afraid of the disorder, the poverty, the immigration.  There is no religious or ethnic homogeneity to hold Russia together.  Nothing can hold that enormous heterogeneous territory together but a Czar. 

War Against Reality

This war is not only a war against the West, one journalist argued.  It is a war against reality.  (Note: This is an important point when one considers the war on reality being conducted by the Republican Party in the US.  This is a tactic used by transnational crime syndicates posing as governments.)

The transnational crime syndicate has a “disgust for facts, for empirical reality, for something you can verify.”  (Note: This is one of the reasons why fundamentalist religion is such an important part of this coalition of crime and authoritarianism.  Religion teaches, in fact rewards and glorifies the rejection of fact-based reasoning and action based on belief.)

Inside Russia, Putin sits at the top of an information bubble of controlled and manipulated information.  (Note: The “denazification” narrative that characterized the first part of the war is an example.  Russians were convinced without evidence that the entire of Ukraine had been taken over by Nazis that the Russians were called upon by God to eliminate.  The “good” Ukrainians were to be protected from the “bad” Ukrainians.)  (Note: When the fighters from Avostal were removed, there were reports that the Russians divided the “nazi influenced” fighters from the others and sent them to special camps.)

Russia is trying to present the devastation of Ukraine as being the fault of Ukrainians themselves.  Russians do not accept guilt or fault for anything.  It is predictable that the average Russian citizen (who cannot leave) would prefer to think of themselves as liberators rather than oppressors.

This Is No Time to Go Wobbly on Russia – WSJ

Perhaps Mr. Obama and Ms. Merkel could tour Kyiv together to see the damage they helped cause and to apologize to the Ukrainian people.
— Read on www.wsj.com/articles/this-is-no-time-to-go-wobbly-on-russia-putin-invasion-ukraine-weapons-support-aid-isolation-war-dictator-11652731939

UKRAINE UPDATE: Loathsome New York Times Editorial

SATURDAY 21 MAY 2022

THE KYIV INDEPENDENT

  • A New York Times article entitled “The War in Ukraine is Getting complicated, and America Isn’t Ready,” published on May 19, caused a stir in Ukraine and beyond.
  • In the badly written, juvenile, article, the editorial board stated: “A decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia, in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal.”
  • The editorial board exhorted the government of Ukraine to give up “unreasonable expectations” and “make the painful territorial decisions that any compromise (with Russia) will demand.”
  • Ukraine is called on to negotiate but then the article describes Putin as a “volatile despot who has shown little inclination toward a negotiated settlement.”
  • Ukraine and the Biden administration are warned not to “chase after an illusory ‘win.’”
  • The Biden administration is warned to “shake off the euphoria” “stop the taunting and focus on defining and completing the mission.” 
  • The Kyiv Independent interviewed the director of the Kyiv-based Center for Defense Strategies, Andriy Zagorodnyuk, who commented:
  • “The key wrong assumption is that Ukraine can’t win, therefore, it has to make a deal.:
  • “…we see no chance for a negotiation process.”
  • “…they keep waging war and going on the offensive.  There’s no point talking about any sort of compromise and negotiations.”’
  • “When some foreign journalists or observers try to tell us we have to talk anyway, it means they don’t understand the situation.”
  • “…if in the editorial we change ‘Putin’ for ‘Hitler’ what would it sound like?  What would their suggestions for reaching compromises and making agreements sound like?  How do they suggest that we make agreements with fascism?”
  • “…many foreign observers, journalists, and politicians say all the time that there needs to be a ceasefire.  An armistice doesn’t stop the war at all.  All it will do it give Putin a chance to exhale and re-launch a military campaign with a fresh start.”
  • “…our ultimate goal is to reinstate control of all territories as of 1991, hold those responsible for war crimes accountable, and get reparations.”
  • You can put out a fire with a bucket or with lots of glasses of water.  “We need to avoid a situation where we get assistance in small sips. It’s a crucial challenge to us now – a lot of money has been allocated, and over 40 nations have joined.  Now, it’s important that we, as a coalition, are not afraid of winning.”
  • (Note: If the NYT editorial board has its way, Ukraine will get small sips.  They are not afraid of winning; they are afraid of risking anything to win.)
  • “Even when WWII was in full swing, there were journalists, observers, and politicians, in Britain, America, in Europe saying that there had to be a compromise and de-escalation…half-heartedness is a deathly matter.  It’s a disaster.”

UKRAINE UPDATE: AZOVSTAL FIGHTERS

WEDNESDAY 18 MAY 2022

Day 84 of the war against Ukraine.

THE TELEGRAPH

  • There are negotiations about prisoner exchange for the fighters at Azovstal steel plant. 
  • The trial starts today of the 21-year-old who is accused of killing a Ukrainian man over 60.   Vadim Shishirarin is accused of shooting and killing Oleksandr Shelipov.
  • There is some bellicose language in Russia in the media about executing the fighters from the steel plant.
  • Russia had claimed victory in Mariupol weeks ago. 
  • Russia will put pressure on these fighters to get information out of them.  But, these men have been holed up under the ground and probably don’t have much information.  The fighters will be wondering whether they fought hard enough, have doubts, and the Russians will encourage those doubts. 

EUROMAIDAN PRESS

  • Belarus is banning Orwell’s 1984.
  • Ukrainian guerilla fighters blow up Russian armored train in occupied Melitopol.
  • Kalashnikov sells weapons to US bypassing sanctions.
  • Russian bomb attacks on Mariupol’s Azovstal might have killed the flora and fauna of the Sea of Azov.
  • Russian troops are focused on setting conditions for the Battle of Sievierodonetsk (Just north of Lisichansk)

KYIV INDEPENDENT

  • Russia expels diplomats from France, Spain and Italy.
  • US unlikely to extend Russia’s debt-payment license, increasing risk of default.

Exclusive: Former top Republican lawmaker in Colorado received leak of voting data | Reuters

A former Republican minority leader of the Colorado legislature is among the recipients of a trove of sensitive voting data leaked by a county official working with activists seeking to prove President Donald Trump’s false stolen-election claims, according to court records reviewed by Reuters.
— Read on www.reuters.com/world/us/exclusive-former-top-republican-lawmaker-colorado-received-leak-voting-data-2022-05-16/

UKRAINE UPDATE: MARIUPOL STEEL PLANT

TUESDAY 17 MAY 2022

Podast: The Telegraph, Ukraine The Latest

  • Ukraine has had success in the north pushing Russians back to the border.
  • Surrender of those left in the Mariupol steel plant.  It is said that they are in separatist held areas in the Donbas.
  • The port cities on the Sea of Azov have been badly degraded.
  • An explosion in Lviv last night.  It is thought that these strikes were from the Black Sea and are punitive strikes without strategic benefit.  Russians are able to fire missiles across the whole of Ukraine.  Their air force is not venturing out of Donbass. 
  • Indiscriminate use of artillery by the Russians.  They cannot achieve much on the ground so the indiscriminate firing. 
  • There are warnings of global rises in food prices.  Central Banks are warning that they will not be able to do anything about this. 
  • The pulling out of McDonalds from Russia is symbolic as well as an economic issue.  It’s a sizeable presence in Russia.  Over 800 stores.
  • Companies are also selling out because this is the optimal time to do it.  Who knows what the situation will be in a year.
  • Putin and Gerasimov have been “meddling” in the military operation at a level way below what is normal.  Putin’s job is to keep the population on board and any alliances together, not directing military operations. 
  • There are about five different wars going on.  The North, the east and the South, then the air force doing its own thing and the Black Sea Fleet threatening an amphibious landing and lobbing missiles.  None of this seems to be coordinated.
  • There is a complete lack of trust that runs through the entire system.  This slows down the entire process.  There is a lack of willingness to delegate decision making.    

NOTES

  • Ukrainians are fighting and dying to keep authoritarianism from taking over their country.  Americans are gleefully voting authoritarians into office.  It makes me ashamed.  We now have the conversation: “Where are we going to move?” every day.
  • On the corporate news programs, they are talking about the horse race, i.e., “the republicans could win if they said this or that.”  The Republicans stand for an authoritarian take over of the country, I don’t give a f..k about what somebody thinks they ought to do as better strategy.  The amazing thing is that everybody thinks this is a relevant discussion.

UKRAINE WORLD

  • Russians are saying that Kherson will take a decent place in the “Russian family.”
  • Over 1500 educational institutions have been attacked in Ukraine.
  • The total number of Russian troops currently used against Ukraine is about 167,000, said the Ukrainian defense minister.
  • Russians organize forced mobilization in Luhansk.  They threaten to kill men who refuse to fight.
  • Russians shell a plant which is one of the largest producers of building materials in Ukraine.
  • Russia’s state Duma “aims to pass legislation banning (defenders of Mariupol from the steel plant) them from being swapped for Russian prisoners.
  • Russian State-owned TV anchor is talking about “millions of armed Ukrainians” as a real possibility. 

THE KYIV INDEPENDENT

  • Zelensky signs decree establishing a commission to assess the damages of the Russian invasion so that Russia can be held accountable.  (Note: Unlike the U.S. where those who tried to overthrow the government are allowed to continue to plot and run for office.)
  • Germany’s national railway company plans to help get Ukrainian grain to ports.
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