Hey! Putin! Leave Ukraine Alone!
The way to achieve peace in Ukraine is for the Russian occupiers to GTFO.
Friday marks the first anniversary of Vladimir Putin’s ill-advised, illicit, and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine—one full year of heinous atrocities, of state-sponsored terror, of mass destruction, of war crimes piled atop war crimes. This is not just an isolated conflict between former members of the Soviet Union, as Matt Gaetz and other Republicans have intimated. Ukraine is nothing less than ground zero in the global war between democracy and fascism—between good and evil.
Whether or not we choose to acknowledge it, we are engaged in a global war. Fascism is on the rise. Democracy is under attack. This is happening on a global scale, with inchoate shifts of national alliances, but also within individual Western democracies: in the U.S., where the GOP has become a party of fascists, and rightwing chaos agents (some of them Nazis) use new media to expressly radicalize susceptible Americans; in Canada, where the liberal Trudeau government is threatened by far-right opposition leader Pierre Poilievre, obnoxious trucker convoys, and the UCP of Alberta; in Great Britain, where three consecutive Tory prime ministers (not to mention a hapless new king) have failed to mitigate the catastrophic damage caused by BREXIT; in France, where Marine Le Pen hasn’t gone away; in Hungary and Türkiye, two NATO countries that have been taken over by strongmen; and in Israel, where the corrupt autocrat Bibi Netanyahu, once again in charge of the government, has begun to ominously consolidate power.
The common denominator in all of those assaults on democracy is one Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Whether it’s Trump and his inner circle in the U.S., the Canadian trucker convoys, Boris Johnson and friends in London, or Viktor Orbán in Budapest, the Russian strongman is never far away. In the geopolitical game of Six Degrees of Fascist Separation, Putin is Kevin Bacon.
That’s a joke, but this is no laughing matter. As I wrote last year in advance of the invasion, Putin is working from Hitler’s playbook. He came to power the same way, consolidated power the same way, used the Olympics to trust-wash himself the same way, and began his conquests in the same way:
Germany annexes Austria. There is little outcry in the West.
Russia annexes Crimea. There is little outcry in the West.
Claiming that German-speaking citizens in the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia are being mistreated by Prague, Germany occupies the Sudetenland. The Allied powers, led by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, decide to appease Hitler, allowing him to keep the territory in exchange for a promise not to invade Poland. Hitler begins amassing troops on the Polish border.
Claiming that Russian-speaking citizens in the Donbas region of Ukraine are being mistreated by Kiev, Russia infiltrates the region, with the obvious objective of finding a pretext to invade. Putin begins amassing troops on the Ukrainian border.
We all know what happened next. Hitler invaded Poland; Putin invaded Ukraine. Crimes against humanity ensued. Russia wasn’t provoked, any more than Nazi Germany was. Both are wars of aggression, full stop, with explicit genocidal intent. Putin, like Hitler, is a monster. Some 200,000 Russians have died in Ukraine, all to satisfy Dear Leader’s colossal ego. That’s roughly the entire population of Salt Lake City, dead, and for what? And he shows no signs of slowing down. “It is impossible to defeat Russia on the battlefield,” Putin declared—preposterously given the failure of an invasion that was supposed to take less than a week—in today’s address to the Federal Assembly.
Happily, most of the powers that be, in government and the media both, know the deal. President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv yesterday, to show solidarity with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The takeaway: the U.S. president is brave enough to fly to a war zone halfway around the world; his craven Russian counterpart won’t leave his bunker. “When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. He thought he could outlast us,” Biden said. “But he was dead wrong.”
In a column published over the weekend, the Washington Post Editorial Board was unequivocal in its support for Ukraine:
Nearly a year after Vladimir Putin unleashed carnage in Ukraine — a war triggered by Kyiv’s aspiration to be fully democratic, pluralistic, European and forever free of Moscow’s yoke — the West’s overarching goal must be ensuring that the Russian tyrant gains nothing by his aggression. To allow an outcome that rewards the Kremlin in any way would be a moral travesty. It would also deal a potentially lethal blow to the principle on which Western stability and civilized international conduct rests: that sovereign states cannot be invaded, subjugated and subjected to mass slaughter with impunity.
And WaPo recognizes the stakes:
This is a pivotal moment in 21st-century history and a critical juncture for U.S. interests, leadership and prestige. The crucial objective should be fortifying Ukraine so that Russia’s unwarranted war is understood by dictators as a cautionary tale — and not as a template for remaking the world to their liking.
(It’s nice to see at least one of our major newspapers gets it. Back in May, the New York Times produced a Ukraine take so lousy, it may as well have been line-edited by the Kremlin.)
Eventually, Ukraine will prevail. All it requires is the weapons necessary to defend itself. The United States, our NATO allies, and other democratic nations have committed to supplying Zelenskyy. At this point, Putin’s only hope is that the war goes on for so long, and becomes so costly, that the West loses interest.
So far, public support remains behind the people of Ukraine. But Republican voters, in particular, are beginning to have second thoughts. Thirty billion dollars, after all, is a lot of money—although it is a fraction of the $757 billion we spent in Iraq, and a veritable rounding error next to the $2.3 trillion we spent in Afghanistan. Think of it this way: Is it worth $30 billion to remove Putin from power and neutralize the military capability of our decades-long enemy—the cause of so much worldwide woe—without having to send in troops of our own? The answer is: duh.
But the same party that gave Bush and Cheney a blank check for their misadventures in nation-building is now crying poverty. This week, GOP fascists, led by the execrable Matt Gaetz, signed a “Ukraine Fatigue” resolution, calling on the United States to halt additional military and financial aid to Ukraine. He was joined by the usual band of troglodytic traitors: Andy Biggs (AZ-05), Lauren Boebert (CO-03), Paul Gosar (AZ-09), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14), Anna Paulina Luna (FL-13), Thomas Massie (KY-04), Mary Miller (IL-15), Barry Moore (AL-02), Ralph Norman (SC-05), and Matt Rosendale (MT-02).
“America is in a state of managed decline, and it will exacerbate if we continue to hemorrhage taxpayer dollars toward a foreign war,” Gaetz said in a statement, vainly trying to spin the conflict as regional, distant, and somehow not directly related to his own party’s capture by Putin’s Russia (and also using big words to sound smart). “We must suspend all foreign aid for the War in Ukraine and demand that all combatants in this conflict reach a peace agreement immediately.”
The “peace agreement” argument sounds nice at first blush—who doesn’t want peace?—but it’s intellectually lazy. Not all wars are the same. Some are necessary for a nation’s very survival; this is one of them. The way to achieve peace in Ukraine is for the Russian occupiers to get the fuck out—of Luhansk, of Donetsk, of Kherson, and also of Crimea, which Russia seized illegally in 2014. (When we liberated France in 1944-5, we didn’t let the Nazis keep Alsace and Lorraine as a souvenir.) This is not something Kyiv has control over; only Moscow can make the decision to go home. All Ukraine can do is kill so many occupiers that the Russian people demand withdrawal. So any talk of “negotiations” does nothing but serve Putin’s purposes.
This did not stop the ragtag gaggle of wingnuts at this weekend’s so-called “Rage Against the War Machine” gathering in Washington. A better name would be “Horseshoe-palooza,” as chaos agents and grifters from both the extreme right and extreme left made appearances.
Among the speakers on the (presumed) left were erstwhile Democrat and current Tucker Carlson guest host Tulsi Gabbard, who did her usual nuclear war fearmongering; former Green Party presidential candidate and HRC vote siphoner Jill Stein, dinner companion of Putin and Mike Flynn at the infamous RT event in 2015; another former Democratic presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich, who cited the widely debunked Seymour Hersch article accusing the U.S. of sabotaging the Nord Stream pipeline; and the journalist Chris Hedges. On the right was a parade of obscure Putin-fluffing libertarians, headlined by Ron Paul himself. Biden accuser Tara Reade also dazzled the crowd of some 800 people with her scintillating geopolitical expertise. “We basically shifted from Afghanistan to Ukraine and it needs to be stopped. Too many people are dying,” she insisted, not bothering to explain that the individual responsible for the too many people dying was Vladimir Putin. The keynote speaker was former Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, who joined via satellite (he was not there “In the Flesh”). He has long been a “Free Assange” guy, and for the last year has been spewing Kremlin talking points about Ukraine, so his Moscow-friendly take on the war was no surprise:
That the guy who wrote The Wall, one of the great anti-fascist works of art, is unable to spot the second coming of Hitler boggles the mind. But then, boggling the mind is what combat propaganda is supposed to do.
“No ifs, no buts, no ands,” Waters said. “Not one more Ukrainian or Russian life is to be spent, not one. They are all precious in our eyes. So, the time has come to speak truth to power.”
Roger that, Roger. So here is the truth: all of the death and destruction in Ukraine is the fault of one man, Vladimir Putin. Until he orders Russia to retreat from Ukraine— until he halts his illegal invasion—Russians and Ukrainians both will continue to die needlessly. Any suggestion to the contrary is just another brick in Putin’s bullshit wall.
Democracy must defend itself from fascism. As I’ve said before, the surest litmus test to identify bad guys is their position on the war in Ukraine. This is a Manichean struggle, and anyone pushing Kremlin talking points—whether explicitly boosting Putin, spreading Russian disinformation regarding Zelenskyy, or else advocating for appeasement, even when cloaked in anodyne demands for peace—is not on our side.
“One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden said during his visit yesterday. “The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”
Not the entire world; just the free world—and the citizens of the world who want to be, or wish to remain, free.
Photo: White House. Biden and Zelenskyy in Kviy, February 20, 2023.
Victor Rud framed the question that way in his last podcast interview.
I hear the music in the title.
And again, so well done. So clearly a pivotal war for western democracy, Manichaean in every way..