One – Give Ukraine all it needs to push Russia back to behind its borders.
Time is critical. Zelensky has called for fighter jets. The sooner we provide them, the quicker the benefits. We don’t have to idealize Ukraine to acknowledge their tremendous courage, their commitment to defend their land and affirm their right to self determination. They have their flaws, like all of us do, but they have made their choice. Victory or death. And they have been brilliant. Can anyone recall any western nation making that choice since the end of WWII, as they fight a foe much more powerful militarily than them? No western nation has done that. Does Russia have the commitment Ukraine has? No. The majority of Russians have been living in a trance induced by Putin. They have swallowed whole the lies they have been fed. It will take some time for that nation to come to terms with the historical costs of such passivity. Eventually, other leaders will arise and the necessary self scrutiny will take place. Meanwhile, all consenting Russians are accomplices in the atrocities committed against Ukraine. A Russian not lifting a finger to dissent with Putin is an accomplice of his.
Two – Stop Russia from firing missiles into Ukraine from Russia itself.
This is unacceptable. It keeps happening because we’ve been afraid to confront Putin. Why are we allowing this advantage to the Russians? We should say to Putin, stop firing missiles from your territory or we will provide Ukrainians with the same capability. Since when are Ukrainian lives less dear than those of Russia? With their actions, Ukrainians have been loudly saying to the world, this war is winnable. They are right and in need of our full backing. Ukraine is standing today because of the effort made by the West to arm them. But we also have pressing problems of our own that need our resources and attention, the more reason to bring the war to an end as soon as possible. So let us gather our own courage to put limits on Putin.
Three – The moment that Russia is pushed back to behind its borders we should declare Ukraine to have all the protections of a NATO member. Given all the sacrifices Ukrainians have made and the atrocities committed by Putin and his fellow Russians, Ukrainians are deserving of such protection. I am sure this could be agreed upon. Turkiye’s president may object, as he has in blocking Sweden’s and Norway’s membership, but the man likes to play both sides and has yet to agree to the sanctions on Russia imposed by the West. So NATO should boot him out of the organization, let him cozy up to China instead and good luck with that.
This war should not go on and on. Ukrainians have limits. The nations forming part of the western alliance have limits, too. The sooner the war ends, the better for all. We should give Ukraine everything it needs now. Ukraine’s commitment to succeed can push back Russia to behind its borders, and with NATO’s protections have the security to start rebuilding what will be a remarkable nation, the envy of all Russians and all other nations living without human beings’ basic freedoms.
After long delays the approval for sending tanks to Ukraine was given. But it will take months before they arrive. A delay measured in lives lost. The delay was largely due to German obstructionism. Chancellor Scholz, for whatever reasons, putting up obstacles to assist Ukraine. This delay has given Putin an advantage. Not only can they keep firing missiles from their own territory but, with greater number of soldiers, now they can push more effectively against Ukraine’s resistance. Zelensky has called for fighter jets and longer range missiles to defend his nation. We should give them to him as soon as possible. Mr Scholz will likely put up other obstacles to not do what is needed, but if Germans themselves don’t bypass him, then we should. How? One option is to come to a consensus that, in the upcoming rebuilding of Ukraine, contracts to companies to do the work be awarded in proportion to how helpful their nations of origin were in assisting Ukraine. Scholz’s obstructionism should put German companies at the bottom of the list. Ukraine’s enormous effort, dying in defense of democracy, is being underestimated. So far, we have been intimidated every time that Putin talks of his nuclear weapons. We cannot allow him to brow beat us. His threats need to be met with resolve. And arming Ukraine with all it needs, short of nuclear weapons, is the answer At this time China is going all out to bypass the economic sanctions the West has imposed on Putin. They are afraid of a victory by Ukraine because such victory will empower the growing resistance in China against the dictatorial powers of their communist party. Ukrainians have made the commitment to push back Russia to behind its borders. Doing so will transform not only Ukraine but also Russia. By now we know the courage is there. What is needed is to arm it. For that, Western boldness is needed. There are nations in the alliance that will prefer to scream loudly against such a position but to delay assistance is the equivalent to siding with Putin. We cannot allow it. So it falls to you, Mr Biden, to be bolder in the interest of all nations. Imagine the power of a fully recovered Ukraine with all its borders reclaimed and rebuilt with the assistance of the West? Such light will shine so bright that it will move Russians to carefully examine why they have subjected themselves to the authority of Putin. They will realize they have consented to devaluing themselves by not fully exercising their political and economic freedoms. When that starts to happen, if Putin has lasted that long, he will be asked to leave. The same process is likely to happen in next door China and other nations farther away. Ukraine’s uniqueness deserves all the support it needs and the resulting benefits will be great. A nuclear war is a very distant possibility because China will act as a check on Putin. China does not want a nuclear war. They know that if one is triggered, they would be caught in it because we would have to fire on them also. You have done a great job, thus far, Mr Biden. Greater boldness is needed to finish the job. You can do it.
With the weapons reinforcements Ukrainians will now be receiving, they will be able to hold off Russia’s attacks and even push them back. As things stand, the Russians will be no match for properly armed Ukrainians. Soon, therefore, Putin will increase his threats to fire nuclear weapons on the West and at some point, as his losses mount, he will either accept defeat or draw the line and say to us, ‘if you do that, I’ll fire my nuclear missiles’. Ignoring the threat is an option. It may work and he won’t follow through. But it may not. Putin’s reliance on mercenary troops from the Wagner Group suggests there are serious rifts within his military, with career officers objecting to the political rise of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the group and his using prisoners as soldiers. Even if Putin were to give the order to fire the nuclear weapons, the military may not follow through. Why be Putin’s sacrificial lambs? However, there’s a strong ultranationalist faction in Russia pushing the war which may be present within the military which adds to the uncertainty. But what if Putin makes it very clear he will use his nuclear weapons, say gives us a deadline to retreat or something alike? Then the threat will have to be met. Head on. He would be leaving us no options.
Mr Biden, you once called Putin a killer, a statement of the facts. The outrage he’d stirred in you made you say those words. Nothing less would’ve conveyed the fulness of your feelings. Since then he’s become many times that killer. Putin is a failed statesman. He’s done nothing but thwart the potential of Russia. With all their human capabilities and natural resources they have not risen to be a leading nation. That is on Putin and he knows it. And it weighs on him. He compares himself with other leaders and realizes he’s not produced, which is the price of autocracy and corruption, of surrounding yourself with ‘Yes men and women’ who’re not able to provide effective feedback for fear of offending the great man or because they’re too busy enriching themselves. Putin is filled with anger at the world. Anger that comes from his envy which is enormous. His ideas about a Russian empire are born out of that resentment. He tried to fool us with his lies and threats, ‘Listen up, you heathen, come look at my magnificent robes and my crown filled with diamonds and pearls, I am the true master of this earth. We, Russians, are the true chosen people who will enlighten and inspire the rest of you.’ And to show us how resolute he was, he lifted his heavy boot and planted it on the soul of Ukraine wanting to squash it and tear it apart. Never mind how many died as a result. But Ukraine surprised everyone when they raged and said, ‘get your foot off me, you dunce!’ And they have given him a good shove back in a feat of heroism without precedent. Ukraine’s resolve is so daring and unique that it has generated envy even in the West. Nations complaining that Ukraine should be preparing to negotiate instead of fighting, nations who are reluctant to offer support, are also envious nations, envious of her courage and defiance. So, yes, envious Putin has company among nations in the West. Lamentably, there is the strong possibility that very soon a retreating Putin, so in love with himself that he sees no other options, will be saying to us, ‘You leave me no choice, I will have to fire my nuclear weapons.’ And we will have to step up to meet him eye to eye.
Mr Biden, from that same place deep inside of you from where the words that Putin is a killer flowed, your answer to the Russian will come. ‘You want to set the world on fire?’ you may say to him. And Putin may answer, ‘if you don’t stop aiding Ukraine, I will do it.’ ‘If you fire your weapons, we will fire back… do you really want to see your Moscow and St Petersburg in flames?’ ‘Ha! Watch your cities do the same…’ ‘What’s the point, Putin? There will be no winners… we would all lose… you and me… your children… my children… all of us would be losers… we would set back the progress of civilization by who knows how many years… just because you’re angry that you couldn’t lead your nation… angry that the world has not fallen in love with you… angry that you’ve failed in Ukraine… angry at your limitations as a leader. Why have so many people die … why?’ Putin will not have a coherent reply because there is none and he knows it. His dream of empire is just a fantasy, a distraction from his crumbling grandiosity. And yet, with raging fury, his shallowness as a human being exposed, he may insist, ‘I’ll do what I need to do,’ and hang up the phone. Mr Biden, as soon as the conversation is over, you would do well to call up Xi Jinping to inform him of the situation. ‘Xi… just got off the phone with Putin, your friend “without limits”. He’s told me he’s ready to use nuclear weapons.’
A pause may follow.
‘Just to be clear, Xi… if Putin does that… we will fire back. All of the West will. I do not know who will be left standing. Maybe it will be Putin, maybe it will be us. But Xi, you must know… that if Putin fires a nuclear weapon in our direction… nuclear weapons from us will also be flying back in your direction, too.’ ‘What?’ will answer Xi. ‘Why us? It’s not our war.’ ‘It’s everybody’s war. No one is spared. The world is at war.’ ‘You are trying to rule all of us…’ Xi may reply in outrage. ‘I’m giving you a warning… and I have a suggestion for you, too.’ ‘What?’ ‘We don’t have to all burn… and see who remains standing at the end… it doesn’t have to happen… so Xi… please listen carefully… you could… which I strongly advice… turn around the nuclear weapons you have now pointed at us and aim them instead at Moscow and St Petersburg… then call up your dear friend Vladimir to inform him.’
‘Please… and keep in touch.’
Biden hangs up.
Xi may then call Putin and say, “Vladimir… you can’t threaten the West with nuclear weapons without consulting with me…’ ‘How do you know?’ ‘Biden just called.’ ‘What?’ ‘If you do… America will nuke us, too.”’ To which Putin may reply, ‘Xi, this is our moment, let us both fire on America and the West… we will be rid of the monster… and the world will be ours to split.’ ‘You’re mad… and drunk with power… and I will not go along anymore.’ ‘Not go along?’ says Putin. ‘What does that mean?’ ‘Exactly that… I will not go along.’ An irate, exasperated Putin may press Xi, ‘You mean you will do nothing if the West fires back at me? Don’t you think I know they will fire at you, too?’ ‘You know that?’ Xi may say. ‘Of course, the West wants everything for themselves…’ ‘You say you know that, but you never brought it up with me, Vladimir… all the while you’ve been making threats…’ ‘It’s obvious…’ Putin may reply. And Xi will frown and say ‘That’s all I needed to hear.’
And he hangs up.
It could happen. Just as stated. And then it might not. So, Mr President, you have to be ready, don’t you? The whole world is already at war. Pretending it’s not, is a mistake.
As you tilt back in your chair at the Oval Office, you may reflect… ‘China is sitting prettier than Russia. They have no desire for a nuclear confrontation. Thus, Putin’s threats have limits. Let us not forget that as we push on with our military aid to Ukraine. And Xi may well pivot his nuclear weapons in Putin’s direction. So… fully arming Ukraine to push Russia back to behind its borders is doable… very doable… in fact… necessary.’
So here’s the Putin Paradox. If we stand up to him now, he’s much less likely to carry out his threat. But if we act as if we’re willing to sacrifice Ukraine, he will be further emboldened. And this may lead him to want even more territory which may push us into a corner, making the threat of nuclear war, a greater possibility.
On the night of 1/7/23, Tyre Nichols, 29, a FedEx employee, was stopped by the police in Hickory Hill, a mostly Black neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee, the reported motive being reckless driving. Mr Nichols was brutally beaten and died three days later at a hospital. Yesterday, the authorities released the video they put together, a composite from body cameras worn by officers and from another camera affixed to a nearby light pole. From the very start, the officer going up to Mr Nichols to pull him out of his vehicle shows a disregard for decency, his manner being overly aggressive. Mr Nichols is pushed to the ground and the beating starts. I heard Mr Nichols’ voice pleading, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong,’ to which there was no verbal reply from the officers – five in total – just more beatings instead. I tried to imagine myself in the victim’s place and thought I would’ve lain very still in the hope the beatings stopped. But it wasn’t me getting punched repeatedly. It wasn’t me in despair and fearing I’d be killed. Then Mr Nichols gets up and starts running off. The officers jump in their patrol cars and catch him a distance away. Then the beating intensifies. I thought he shouldn’t have run but stayed put. But it wasn’t me getting punched again and again. I wanted to scream STOP! PLEASE! TALK TO THE MAN! LISTEN! Turns out Mr Nichols had been running in the direction of his mother’s home who lives nearby. He wanted her help. At one point, as he lay on the ground, he calls out to her, ‘Mom?’. But that didn’t end the punching. What were they doing? Who were they hitting? Whose approval were they looking for? The senselessness of their brutality made me wonder, what demons possessed the officers that they needed to punch out the life of a defenseless man, a fellow Black man. Guilty of what? Running a light? Reckless driving? No thought was given to how disproportionate their response was. It was more important to beat the life out of a man that let him run away. There was no thought given to the effects of the harm they were doing. Were they angry at themselves? Who were they trying to impress? And the beatings went on. And then, at the end, as Mr Nichols lay still on the ground, his head propped up against the wheel of the patrol car, one of the officers steps front, facing a camera. He seemed satisfied with himself. As if saying, ‘we’ve done our job, we did what he had to do. We got him.’ The officer didn’t know yet that the 5 of them had succeeded in killing Mr Nichols. Over what? I don’t think he even knew by then. But Mr Nichols died 3 days later. The 5 officers have been dismissed from their jobs and charged with 2nd degree murder. But what about their superiors, what are they being charged with? Because the higher ups failed these officers. These are not just bad apples that we can just toss out. These men’s behavior are expression of a culture of abuse and disregard for human life, even of self hatred, because you don’t go on hitting and hitting another human being if you give a damn about yourself. If the officers were out on patrol then their superiors who allowed it didn’t bother to check if they were fit to be responsible police officers or just didn’t care. So the higher ups need to resign too, and charged accordingly. What’s happened to the spirit of George Floyd, is he now just a memory? Wasn’t his story going to reverberate through every police department in the nation to not let an absurdity like this senseless killing happen again? Sadly, the deaths keep mounting. Would adding members of the community to police patrols make a difference? Lay people who would act as a conscience for the officers? Who knows. But we have to try something. We’re bleeding here. And not just in Memphis. Mr Nichols’ mother has called for the community to not protest her son’s killing with violence, for that was not what her son stood for. Thank you for those word, dear lady. And my sympathy to you in your grief.
Yesterday, another violent video was released by the courts. On October 28th 2022, Paul Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s husband, was assaulted in his home in San Francisco by a man who had broken into it in the middle of the night. Mr Pelosi, in his 80s, is heard calling for help in a 911 call and then, as the police arrives, trying to keep the intruder from hitting him with a hammer. The video captures the scene when the intruder launches into his attack of Mr Pelosi who suffered a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm as a result. The intruder in now in custody. The man had forced his way into the residence looking for Nancy Pelosi, then speaker of the House of Representatives and a leading democrat, but she was not there. The attack on Mr Pelosi could’ve been deadly. Immediately after the assault was made public, leading politicians from the Right and Left, including Mitch McConnell, Minority leader in the Senate, denounced it. Mr Trump was interviewed a day or two afterwards but could not find the moral strength to add his voice to the outrage. Instead, as I remember, he said the assailant was likely invited into the home by Mr Pelosi. Since then, Mr Trump has announced his intention to run for president a third time. To date, in spite his behavior, including the inciting of the Capitol Hill riot on January 6th 2021, he still commands allegiance from both Senators and Representatives in the Republican party.
You go to the source of the action, You take the risk, The Ukrainian soldier tells you as much as he’s allowed And you sift through it all to capture the essence, Their humanity, their fears, their courage. At those moments, when you’re listening and carefully observing all that you’ve been allowed to immerse in, you become one of them. A Russian missile could be about to land where you are taking notes, yet you steel yourself to capture all that is noteworthy before your senses. Sights, smells, sounds, taste and touch, And then you send it all to us, To anyone who’s open to taking it in, You send it condensed into words that leap across nations and oceans to elicit thoughts and emotions that then carry us back to your side, at that soldier’s side, and a bridge is built.
By your actions you enlarge our minds, Sharpen our judgments, make possible the flowering of empathy, the deepening of solidarity, the evincing of conviction in the purpose.
For some of the soldiers you interview, that moment you shared with the rest of us may become the paper clipping his family will treasure, maybe even the only memento if the soldier is blown up the next day and doesn’t get to return from the front to embrace his wife and children. With your writing you reach out and capture life, You enrich, expand and lengthen it, You frame the heroism of those men Fighting against forces of darkness that seek to entomb them and us all. Your efforts help create a new consciousness that is critical to embolden the world’s fight for freedom.
Gifted men and women, warriors in defense of ideas and humanity, Press on! we are most grateful for your strength, your vision and commitment. Dare on! Without you the world would be darker and cripple our minds, Our thoughts and feelings wouldn’t take wing and instead crash on the rocks of ignorance.
From all those whose lives you’ve touched with your reporting, Thank you. The pursuit of liberty would not be possible without you.
One taboo just came down. There are at least two left. The taboo that came down was the one that said the West shouldn’t send tanks into Ukraine because it would upset the Russians. The tanks would be too much fire power and the big bear would growl louder. After much back and forth, finally Britain took the step and committed to sending in their Challenger tanks. This will boost Ukraine’s fighting capacity and make a difference. Now if only Chancellor Scholz in Germany would make up his mind and supply the Leopard tanks, then the punch Ukrainians can deliver will increase its power. For the second taboo. The West should not supply weapons powerful enough to reach into Russia’s territory. This is a good one. For a while, I bought into it, too. Russia can shoot their missiles into Ukraine from inside their borders, but Ukraine can’t shoot the missiles we give them into Russian territory. This is not a sustainable position. Keep this up and Russia will conquer Ukraine. We need to make up our minds, do we want Ukraine to win, or are we looking for a long war and then, after there are no Ukrainian men left to fight, Vladimir the Great will ride into Kyiv unopposed. With China and India buying his oil, even at reduced prices, there will always be cash to support the Russian economy, at least long enough to conquer Ukraine. So we must draw the line and say to Putin, stop firing missiles into Ukraine from Russia itself. Stop now. If not then we will give Ukraine the capacity to fire missiles into your territory. The assumption in the West has been that this will so upset Putin that he will want to fire his nuclear weapons at us. Hence, Escalation. The big E. The third taboo. But does Putin want Russia destroyed? No. He cannot get away with firing nuclear weapons without us firing back. We haven’t confronted Putin yet because he has intimidated us. We must admit this. The bully has to be confronted. There is no other way. Do we have what it takes to confront him? Yes. This war pits two very unevenly matched combatants. Russia has the advantage of territorial proximity and larger number of troops. That Ukraine has come this far against the odds is an amazing story. But without us setting new rules, Ukraine’s remarkable courage will be beaten down. There is so much they can take. To not confront Putin now is to say, ‘let’s wait until Ukraine is exhausted and then Zelensky himself will be ready to beg for a negotiated peace which His Highness Vladimir the Greatest, might just agree to in the interest of projecting a measure of benevolence. So long as half of Ukraine stays under his control. The other half to follow in 2-3 years. And Putin will be able to say, ‘it took my frightening them to get them to not set limits on me. That’s why I will one day own Europe. Because if the West can’t stand up to me now, they won’t do so later. My bravado will again win the day.’ In confronting Putin it would help if we can say to China, ‘You’re an accomplice in this war. You’ve supported Putin. If Putin dares use nuclear weapons, then you, too, will be a target for us. Think about it.’ Would that mobilize China to prevent a nuclear war? Absolutely. We are letting Putin frighten us. We cannot allow it.
The war needs to end. It is a major disruptor of the economy and great driving force for inflation. The Western alliance has supported Ukraine with America being the one carrying the heavier burden. Sanctions on Russia are working and energy experts say the consequent lack of access to western technology and knowhow is gradually shrinking Russia’s productive capacity. This is important because revenues from oil and gas are the dominant component of their federal budget. In 2021 they represented 45% of such budget. But even at discounted prices, Russia continues to sell its oil. And who are the major purchasers? China and India. Judging by the bar graph in a recent article in the WSJ (see link below), China and India appear to account for over 65% of such purchases. So why not put sanctions on those two countries? By their purchases they are helping prolong the war and so the killing of Ukrainians. They are fueling inflation and all its devastating consequences. Will India get upset with the West if sanctions are applied? Most likely. But what alternatives do they leave us? The cost of the war is too high and they have become war profiteers. The war in Ukraine affects everyone and India and Modi are not accepting their responsibility in bringing it to an end. Over the years they chose to purchase their weapons from Russia instead of the West, so they, too, got fooled by his Highness Vladimir. They may take some comfort in the fact that Germans also got snookered, with Angela Merkel believing Putin’s tricks. To be fair, in America, we have a long history of that same gullibility. For just one example, I’m sure George W Bush is still kicking himself for having invaded Iraq in 2003, resulting in all that destruction. The war in Ukraine is telling India that it is time to accelerate its pivot to the West. Stopping the purchases of Russian oil would be a great step in that direction. India’s talents would make a remarkable contribution, as we already see from the many heads of industry of Indian origin now in America, as well as in other fields of endeavor. Will sanctions on China upset Xi Jinping? Yes. But they, too, are a war profiteer. China became the powerhouse that it is now because of the enormous transfer of talent and technology from the West which they then used well by applying their own gifts. But their current system of rigid hierarchical structure with suppression of freedom of speech will not keep fueling their expansion but slow it instead China, too, by their support of Putin is contributing to the economic malaise the world is struggling with. By their purchases of oil from Putin they become his accomplice. Economic sanctions need to be levied and if they scream, so be it. The world needs respite from the war. And it needs it now
On 1/14/2023, two days after Lisa Marie Presley died, a WSJ columnist, Bob Greene, wrote a short piece in memoriam. Lisa Marie was 9 years old when Elvis Presley died at his home – Graceland – in Memphis in 1977 at the age of 42. Elvis was already divorced from Priscilla but that day, Lisa Marie was staying with him. The cause of death was reported to be cardiac arrest secondary to his addiction to prescription barbiturates and its side effects. Mr Greene’s piece was very touching and captured the sadness in Lisa Marie. He had written about Elvis already and wrote some more after his death. Once, when he went to Las Vegas as part of his writing, Mr Greene had been allowed to stay at the suite atop the Las Vegas Hilton, a suite built for Elvis since the hotel was his preferred venue for his performances in Las Vegas. In his piece, Mr Greene wrote that Elvis had chosen ‘a life of fanfare and notoriety’. That statement caught my eye. Do we really choose our lives or do our talents choose them for us? It’s hard to imagine a man like Elvis, with such oversize talent, to hear music and not jump with it, saying, ‘no, I’m not going to do that. It’s too much. It might take me places too elevated.’ It’s hard to imagine Elvis looking at a guitar and saying, ‘no, I’m not going to tinker with you because who knows what kinds of sounds I’ll make and I will be late for trade school where I’ll get to learn how to make a living.’ Hard to imagine Elvis walking away from the guitar he saw displayed at the pawn shop and not look back because the damn thing kept calling to him and screaming, ‘Damnit, you fool, this is it, don’t you hear it?’ No. Elvis knew, in his bones, that music had a hold on him and he’d better embrace it or it would be the end of him. It would have been the end of him, even if he had gone on living into his 80s or 90s, having settled down to a peaceful existence as a tradesman or some other occupation in Memphis, Tennessee. To have walked away from the guitar, to have numbed himself to the magic of music, would’ve deprived him and all of us of very special moments. That he died in the prime of his life is due to other reasons. Indulging our talents, working on them, perfecting them, is not all protective, though it takes us a long way in that direction. For all his gifts, Elvis, whose music has touched us deeply, could not fend off the demons that assailed him. I once saw a sign hanging from a psychiatrist’s door. It read, ‘If you need help, you’re a human being. If you don’t, you’re a god.’ The doc had a point. Elvis needed help but instead turned to opiates. No one around said to him, ‘that’s not it, man, I don’t care how much of a giant in music you are. You still need that connection with a person who hears you, listens to your pain and embraces you. The beauty of the music you have created does wonderful things, inspire, soothe, even enlighten, but the pain you’re having needs the touch of a person who sees you just as a man, a fellow human being asking to be accepted as you are, with all your flaws.’ Even if a person is born with various talents, it is the greatest of them, if you allow yourself to feel them, which will tell you which way to go. It is the greatest of our talents, that will rock you and us. We just have to listen. To the King of Rock, my posthumous thanks. I admit I don’t listen to you often enough, but when I hear passages of your music and the uniqueness of your voice, you always bring a smile to my face. To Lisa Marie, thank you, too. I never met you or saw you perform but know that something in you sought to extend to us part of the magic into which you were born.
Lisa Marie died at age 54 in Los Angeles. The immediate cause was reported as cardiac arrest.
There are no doubts about your talents, sir. Under your leadership, Germans have made strict adjustments in energy consumption. And Germany’s productive capacity has also shown in the speed with which the LNGs (liquified natural gas terminals) have been built. So thank you and Germans for that. But there is still the matter of the Leopard tanks. They are sorely needed. In one of your last statements you said you would send the tanks only if America sent their own Abrams tanks. But why put another roadblock? Hasn’t America done more than you have to help Ukraine? You saw recently how Putin bombed a residential building in a suburb of Kyiv, killing at least 40 people. How did you react to that? Is the West enabling Ukrainians to fire missiles on Moscow? No. But why not? Putin, with the consent of his sleep walking population, just shoots them at random. Did they land on a maternity hospital? Oh, well, we’re in a war, will be his reply. Precisely, chancellor. We’re in a war. The killing is indiscriminate, and you are saying to the Polish government’s request to you to send their own Leopard tanks (German built), ‘no, we have got to think about it’. Think about what, sir? By now, your timidity is such, that the Polish would probably get applause by telling you to go fry yourself in hell and send the Leopards to Ukraine without your permission. We’re at war and you are stalling. It’s not like you don’t have a precedent. Didn’t England just approve the sending of their own Challenger tanks to Ukraine? Did they insist on America sending their Abrams tanks also? No. Chancellor, Russia is rebuilding. I just read that Putin is going to enlarge his army to 1.5 million, up from 1.35 million. The West is not giving men to the war effort but equipment, knowhow, and munitions. We are not dying in the battlefield, it’s the Ukrainians doing the dying. Germans, are not dying in this war. Ukrainians now have a hard earned advantage. We should not let it slip away. Resolve is needed now. And tomorrow, too. And the day after. In 1948, when the Soviets had encircled Berlin, it was General Lucius D Clay, the American in charge of allied occupation forces who convinced all concerned that an airlift was essential to save Berlin. He did not hesitate. He spoke up. He convinced the doubters. And so the airlift was instituted and lasted almost a year. Berlin lived on. When squeezed those in charge need to answer the call. It is you turn, Chancellor. Now, it could be that this decision does not fall within your range of talents. If so, do us all a favor and resign. Germany can still use your talents when peace returns. Please act.
Do not be fooled by Xi Jinping like we have been by Vladimir Putin. To hold free elections is a great advancement in human beings’ political history. Power corrupts and no one is spared. No one, no matter how saintly, capable or honest they may appear. No one. We, Russians, failed in letting Putin remain in power and now are facing the consequences; the massacre of our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and the guilt we must live with. Though the number of dead is today a mere fraction of what happened to Jews in WWII, we Russians are starting to feel what the Germans must have felt when they finally recognized that they had stood silent and become Hitler’s accomplices. Deep in our hearts and minds, we no longer cheer when a missile hits a building where families live, killing a mother, a child, a father, ending their possibilities as human beings. Now we grieve and ask ourselves, what madness have we allowed to be unleashed in our name, in the name of Russians, a people who have contributed to this world and gone through much suffering at the hands of despots. Why, we ask ourselves, have we allowed it? Whatever invention Putin came up with it’s all a lie to keep himself and those he favors in power. We, Russians, are guilty of not speaking up, of not objecting, of not facing our fears. We are guilty as individuals and collectively. And we apologize to the world. We ask your forgiveness and vow to find a way to depose the brutal tyrant who governs us. We do not want to live behind the ‘Curtain of Putin’, the isolation he thinks is best for us. No. We want to join the world and be part of every convulsion it suffers, be part of every struggle it faces, every social ill it has to wrestle with, for that is what will help us evolve and develop our civic conscience. Dear Chinese brothers and sisters, you must do the same. Do not accept to live behind the ‘Curtain of Xi Jinping’ and his interpretation of the world. Do not be fooled. Anyone who’s willing to take away your freedom of speech is capable of the worst crimes against humanity. Anyone who is willing to intimidate you will try to walk over you if you let them. When the time comes, Xi Jinping will order the invasion of Taiwan, do not doubt that for one moment. It is all about his glory. And you, with your silence, will be his accomplices. Worse, he will ask you to squeeze the trigger, to push the button to drop the bomb and you will do it. And if the Taiwanese don’t surrender quickly when he orders the invasion, in your name, Xi will want total destruction. ‘It’s a small island,’ he will say, ‘we’ll repopulate it. There’s plenty of us.’ Dear Chinese brothers and sisters, if you make an effort to develop your own political ideas, you will not be cheering the bombing of the Taiwanese but will be protesting such cruelty. We, Russians, failed to develop our own political ideas and instead deferred to Putin. Look where he has taken us. And there are more dead to come. More destruction. Schools, hospitals, theatres, residences, energy plants. Putin will let nothing stand in his way. We, human beings, for the judicious exercise of power, must consent to limits. If we don’t then we abuse our powers. Look at what’s happening in Iran. In the name of god, the killing and maiming of protesters goes on and on. In the name of god, freedom of speech was suppressed and that’s how it all began. Apparently, it is only the clerics in power who hear the voice of god. Not the people who are driven to risk their lives in defense of their beliefs. Democracies are not perfect. They are tainted by all manner of folly and excess for to be human is to be flawed. We in Russia had a brief period under Mikhail Gorbachev during the 1990’s when we had a taste of freedom. But we didn’t appreciate it and let it slip away. Our mistakes overwhelmed us while no thinker stood up to cry out, ‘let us be patient, we have a history of living in oppression and kneeling before tyrants and czars and it has scarred our souls and minds. What we are going through is new to us, let us give it a chance.’ Had we learned to live with our mistakes and learned to correct them, there would have been no invasion of Ukraine. No killing of innocent people, men, women and children whom Putin, to further degrade them, now calls Nazis. Dear Chinese brothers and sisters, autocracies breed brutality which – to paraphrase the words of a man whose name I don’t recall – sooner or later comes for you, your partner, your son, your daughter, your friend, your neighbor.
A reader asked me the other day, ‘why do you speak in the name of Russians? You don’t know them’. So here’s my answer, ‘because I assume the best in them’.