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Making Sense of the Ukraine Situation

With events on the ground overtaking efforts to make sense of Ukraine, here’s a few sources I reach for to try and make sense of it. — Skip Kaltenheuser

Ukraine is a now a tilt-a-whirl that’s come loose. To understand it, I’m trying for inputs beyond the mainstream that’s had a dubious track record in the past, from WMD’s in Iraq to Russiagate. One shouldn’t ignore the mainstream, but one needs a wider angle lens.

Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Joe Biden. Artwork by Nancy Ohanian.

Here are a few suggestions for circumventing journalism’s herd instinct. Start the day with the 7 am EST Links section at Naked Capitalism, which assembles a broad array varying viewpoints, often introducing new sources worth making a note of. Democracy Now! presents interviews worth a look, particularly good ones on Ukraine are in the Feb. 24th show: “Truly Appalling”: Russia Attacks Ukraine as Putin Ignores Diplomatic Pleas and Launches Invasion

Photograph courtesy of Skip Kaltenheuser.

Panic, Fear, Disbelief: Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Could Prompt Humanitarian, Refugee Crisis and Yanis Varoufakis: Europe Must Stand with Ukraine, Condemn Putin & Roll Back NATO to Restore Peace.

We can doff our hats to Bill Clinton for yet another long-term impact he gifted us with, this one by his decision to expand NATO, eventually providing the pretense to Vladimir V. Putin for his attack, as described here. The Clinton-era blunder that set the stage for today’s Ukrainian crisis. Statecraft is a source worth monitoring for its analyses of how we land in such predicaments. Another is Consortium News, which pulls in solid expertise and avoids getting stuck on prior narratives. The Intercept often has interesting insights, such as How Putin’s Designs on Ukraine Reflect the “Dangerous Nostalgia” of a Lost Empire.

Any perspective by Col. Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Colin Powell, is worth grabbing, wherever you can find it. Same with Daniel Ellsberg, who probably knows more about government disinformation and near-fatal nuclear brinkmanship than anyone I know. Katrina Vanden Heuvel knows the territory, here’s her latest, Putin’s Invasion. One might also benefit from the offerings and analyses of the Committee of the Republic. Some of that group’s past offerings, zoomed during the pandemic, scrutinize the military/industrial/congressional complex, (Ike’s original draft included “congressional”). They are accessible on YouTube.

Of course every effort to divine what’s happening becomes more difficult given the speed of events. Today’s certainties are apt to collapse tomorrow. Best luck.

Part of the game we all play now is deciphering what goes on in Putin’s head, particularly as pressures build. He’s not a nice man – a poisoner, a killer of journalists, a kleptocrat without peer, a fantasist yearning for Russia’s old empire. I have always assumed our intelligence “services” must be fully aware of how much Putin and his cronies have looted from Russia, and where and how the fortunes are stashed. Finding ways to disseminate this information to the Russian people always seemed to me a proper way to undermine Putin’s leadership, once the need for that became as obvious, as it appears to be now.

Photograph courtesy of Skip Kaltenheuser.

It occurs to me that there might be some in the Kremlin who’d like to see Putin go away and would welcome his graft being fully outed. I also wonder if Putin’s hold on power was wobbling a bit behind the scenes. He wouldn’t be the first to try and shore up support at home with a war. Perhaps Putin is now cornered by his runaway train rhetoric. Who knows? I don’t. In any case, his reckless gambit in Ukraine might fizzle as Russia becomes a pariah state. Russian memories of the disasters wrought by Afghanistan may surface.

Photograph courtesy of Skip Kaltenheuser.

This item from a favorite site, Wall Street on Parade with Putin Thought of Everything – Except a Crash of 45 Percent on the Moscow Stock Exchange and Big Russian Companies Losing Half their Market Value) shows how fast things are already going south for Russia, A continuing pile-on of sanctions will likely keep Russia’s economy in free-fall. 

Suffering all around, Ukrainians, Russians and all those impacted, including by the looming refugee crisis. To think the world has to cope with this and sideline everything else that ought to be on the front burner, from the pandemic to nuclear disarmament to climate change, is a lousy state of affairs. According to The Daily Poster, the American Petroleum Institute is already offering its solution, drilling everywhere, and not sanctioning Russian oil and gas production. This amid predictions of a severe global fire season. Keep an eye open for all the grifters lining up to capitalize on our latest precarity, especially those who don’t think we squander enough of our treasure on our military. We slipped out of the Forever Wars, but continue to set spending records.

From a slightly simpler time, here’s a reprise of observations done after a couple weeks spent in Kyiv on a writing assignment. I was there back when Viktor Yanukovych, a Putin ally, ran Ukraine. It includes an imbedded slideshow for a sense of Kyiv. I didn’t mind when Ukraine finally gave the wildly corrupt Viktor the bum’s rush in 2014, I just wish there’d been the patience to wait to do it via an election, which would have left no doubt as to the popular will to dump him. And given the corruption that continued after his departure, I wish I’d ended with The Who lyric, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

For more on the topic:

Kyiv Kaleidoscope: Viktor Yanukovych, We Hardly Knew Ye! But We Knew Enough, Good Riddance

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One Comment

  1. Raoul

    March 3, 2022 at 10:37 am

    Thanks for your lead on alternative news sources. I think you left out a few other sources which are more on the center right. Too bad the bias comes before the objective information when it comes to modern-day journalism. This negative sensationalism trend polarizes and it is destroys the relationship of people from different sides who think only they actually love their country.

    Maybe there should be a news rating board where stats on which news channel had the most errors, most accurate, etc. — but even as I say this, the question arises on who will be doing the judging because even that process is prone to biases.

    Maybe there should be a law stating that at least 30% of opposing views should be in every single news agency from the top down. Let the journalists square it out with each other before they broadcast to the public. Another suggestion is to have news channels color coded so we can expect the bias: Red is conservative leaning, blue if liberal leaning, green is libertarian leaning, yellow is communist leaning, etc. Well, you get the idea.

    Again, thanks for this piece.

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