Sunday, February 27, 2022


What interesting times we live in. I would rather not live in interesting times.

I need to write something about Russia and Ukraine. I don't know if I have anything special to contribute, but it feels like I should be on record. The situation has the advantage of being pretty morally unambiguous: one of the word's worst actors, Vladimir Putin, invaded Ukraine for nakedly imperialist purposes, and Ukraine has more than risen to the occasion. They continue to hold out; president Zelensky has been positively heroic, leading from the front, and the country has been united and strong behind him; the rest of the world has responded with almost universal condemnation of Russia, and with quick and powerful sanctions against them, and support for Ukraine. The Ukrainians have been winning the propaganda war, for certain, not so much by demonizing the Russians as by holding out, and demonstrating up and down the line, how united and brave and sometimes downright cool Ukrainians can be. Sunflower seeds in your pockets for sure!

That said - it is early days in the war, and Russia is a very big country and can bring its might to bear. And they have nukes and Putin seems almost desperate enough to use them. It is, frankly, still a terrifying situation, even if things now look they could work out. 

I don't have much wisdom to offer. I think, so far, Ukraine itself has been completely admirable in its resistance, in its courage, in its ability to remind the rest of the world that they are a more or less democratic country that deserves to be supported. I think the response of the rest of the world has been admirable: no one is talking about actually getting involved in the war on the ground, but they are supplying Ukraine, they are looking for ways to punish Russia, and the sanctions put on might actually work. There is a fine line here - you want to convince the Russians that this is going to ruin them, without convincing them they have to escalate to survive. That's the scary part. But so far, the world seems to be threading the needle as well as you could hope. And almost everyone is saying the right things.

Almost. The American right did not rise to the occasion. Dear old disgraced former president Donald Trump chimed in first by proclaiming Putin a genius for this - reminding everyone that he was impeached the first time by trying to blackmail Zerensky, and that he has always been Putin's lapdog. Well. And the lesser demons of the right, from Tucker Carlson and Steve Bannon down to Candace Owens and random office seekers have come out to praise Russia and Putin and try to wedge some reference to the culture wars they love to wage into the issue. Most of this has aged poorly, and they have tried to walk it back - but it's out there. Lots of noise about pronouns, lots of references to woke millennials and the like, all of which serves, mainly, to remind us how much the American right admires Putin and his repression, authoritarianism, and two-bit tough guy act. They like Putin - they want to be like him. They might have to pretend otherwise for a week or so, but they can't really hide it. 

But truthfully, they don't matter all that much. They have been left behind. Most of Europe, the US, the rest of the world, has rallied around Ukraine, seeing this invasion for what it is. They've done it without, so far, really attacking the Russians as such - though Russia is a country that, throughout its history, has had as big a gap between how Russians as people are perceived and how their leaders are perceived as you will find. The people of Russia have been as badly served and used as a people anywhere - they deserve, someday, someone worthy of them. In the meanwhile, Putin deserves a particularly corner of hell, as long as he doesn't turn the whole world into hell.