Zelensky Looks to the Future

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He is in his bunker in Kyiv, standing before a large map, going over details of troop movements in the Kherson area, northwest of Crimea.
What can Ukraine become? How much can it influence the present power arrangements in Eurasia?
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, all will be affected by what happens in Ukraine. The question is how much?
He is aware of the enormous responsibility that has come to rest on Ukrainians and him, in particular.
Seven months into Russia’s invasion and there they are pushing Russia back. No one had imagined this outcome was possible. And now the expectations of him and his people are rising.
Putin is on the defensive and discontent in Russia is growing. If only it would lead to public protests. And he imagines Belarussian resistance coming out of the shadows and surging, agitating against their leader Lukashenko, a close Putin ally.
But none of that is likely to happen when he needs it the most.
So it’s up to Ukrainians, with the backing of the West, to keep up the fight. Day and night.
Like his soldiers on the front lines, he’s in it all the way. Victory or death.
No room for escaping to the West should war’s fortunes change.
That is his choice. He will send his wife and family out of the country but he will not leave his land. He will not surrender. Victory or death.
The struggle he chose has transformed him as a man. Pulled out of him all the courage he has. Even courage that he didn’t think he had. Just like with his valiant soldiers.
Still standing before the map on the wall, he leans on it touching it with his hands and forehead.
And he says to himself softly, ‘my dear land… I am yours. I never imagined I’d die for anyone but I’ll die for you.’

He steps back and returns to his seat at his desk. It’s early in the morning and he still hasn’t had breakfast. These days his nights are short. Too much on his mind.

Speaking to himself, ‘I know that we will win… and then rebuilding will start… and that will take as much from me as the war… to make sure we do it well… that there is no corruption… no waste… for the eyes of the world will be upon us. And I’m conscious of my responsibility to help build a model nation… become an inspiration to others… and then a time will come when I will have to step back, let others govern, because we will be a democracy… but that won’t stop my struggle, for all of us have to remain vigilant that the forces of darkness won’t rise again.
The blood we’ve spilt has made us an example for the world… and we will not step back from the responsibility but embrace it with all we have. Oh, dearest land of mine, dearest people of Ukraine… how our struggle ennobles us all.’

The phone rings. It is his secretary. His cabinet has arrived for their daily meeting. It is 5 am.

Oscarvaldes.medium.com

Imagining Ways to Arm Ukraine

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The Russo-Ukrainian war signals a turning point in the establishing of a new world order.
In the face of atrocities, sacrifices must be made and people and nations need to take sides.
Fence sitting won’t do.
Not only are foreign volunteers stepping in to join Ukraine’s forces, but people from Belarus, Ukraine’s neighbor to the north, are now contributing to the effort. They have suffered the Russian oppression, as when their puppet president rigged the 2020 elections in his favor and then asked Putin to help him squash the protests that followed.
Even invading Russian soldiers who have defected are now part of the Ukrainian resistance.
The West is solidifying in its support of sanctions being imposed.
Today the American senate unanimously approved removing from Russia and Belarus their most favored nation trade designation which then allows us to raise tariffs against their imports. The senate also backed the oil ban.

Now how can we get more arms to the Ukrainians?
Russian forces are shifting emphasis to the eastern region to consolidate gains and regroup. But their intent is to take over all of Ukraine.
Standing in their way is the fierce resistance of the Ukrainian army and the heroic support of their people.
They need arms.
We also understand the importance of limits to what we can do.
As Putin is pushed back he is more likely to resort to both strategic and tactical nuclear weapons to use against the Ukrainian people.
We cannot give him a reason to do so and draw us into nuclear confrontation which may lead to devastating consequences.
But we can find ways to smuggle in arms that could be assembled in Ukraine. Say, take a large weapon, break it down into sections, smuggle it in through the western border, then let Ukrainians assemble it and put it to work.
Maybe this could be done with those MIG jets that Poland was willing to donate. The advantage being that Ukrainians pilots are familiar with them.
Having additional planes at their disposal could be a game changer.
Meanwhile, China stands on the sidelines, unable to call an atrocity an atrocity, and certainly willing to help Putin escape the brunt of the economic sanctions.
India’s leadership, too, has decided to do the fence sitting, never mind all the assistance they have got from the west.
The world is dividing.
Ukraine has veered West.
They need all our help. Right now.

Oscar Valdes oscarvaldes.net medium.com, anchor.fm, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.

Lukashenko, the Belarusian Dictator, Talks to Roman Protasevich

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Aleksandr Lukashenko leads Protasevich to a private room, just the two of them, so he can have a face to face talk with the activist. They sit across each other, the moment tense. 

‘I forced your plane down… to have you make the confessions that you started mass unrest here in Minsk. I could do it and I did… but that doesn’t mean that I don’t admire you.’

Protasevich is surprised by the statement.

‘Yes, admire you,’ says Lukashenko. 

‘I admire… that when you were only 17 you started being an activist against my regime. At that young age, you had a strong belief that Belarus should be a free nation… not under the influence of Putin.’

Protasevich is surprised by Lukashenko’s candor. He lowers his head, not sure what to say. He now looks up at Lukashenko. ‘Do you want to stay under Putin’s influence?’

Lukashenko looks off, uncertain. 

‘I’ve not felt free as a leader… not felt like I could do what was right for Belarus.’

‘Why not?’ presses Protasevich. ‘What is stopping you?’

‘I’ve made mistakes… have not had advisers with independent minds… but that’s my fault.’

Sensing an opening, Protasevich leans forward, and as he eyes Lukashenko says, ‘You feel trapped?’

Lukashenko stares back at him.

‘I don’t even know why I’m having this conversation with you. I don’t have to. Do you understand?’

Lukashenko’s cold stare sends a wave of fear through Protasevich, but the activist holds his gaze. 

‘Maybe I do feel trapped…’ continues Lukashenko, ‘no way out for me… maybe life in a dacha near Moscow while Putin is alive. After that, who knows what.’

‘You could…’ begins Protasevich, tentatively… ‘decide to change course…’

Lukashenko frowns.

‘I mean…’ continues Protasevich, making bold, ‘you could ask to meet with the opposition’s representatives… and begin talks for a transition to democracy.’

Lukashenko pauses, reflecting, then leans forward with a hint of interest. ‘I’ve thought about it.’

Protasevich pushes on, ‘You worried about what Putin might say… or do?’

‘I suppose…’ answers Lukashenko.

‘What if… we guaranteed your safety.’

Lukashenko laughs as he sits back. ‘You can’t do that. Putin has long tentacles.’

The men stare at each other for a moment.

‘No… there is another way…’ restarts Lukashenko. ‘What I’d like to do is send word to the resistance… that I will begin to be more lenient… little by little… and maybe… in two years… we can have another election… but this next time… whatever happens, happens… I will not interfere… and if I lose, I’ll step down… but I’d like to have assurances that I won’t be sent to prison.’

Protasevich sits back.

‘What will Putin say?’

‘I’ll have to deal with him. There are risks, of course. But let that be my contribution to the process.’

Protasevich clasps his hands in front of him, conscious that he is witnessing a special moment.

‘I would like to speak only to you… only you will be my contact with the opposition,’ says Lukashenko.

Protasevich nods, intrigued by why he’s been chosen.

Lukashenko reads him accurately and says, ‘Why you? Because you have shown uncommon courage… and you love Belarus.’

Protasevich looks down at the ground, then, ‘Why now?’

Lukashenko stares at his strong hands as he pauses. ‘I don’t want to go down in history as Putin’s puppet.’

Then he extends his hand to Protasevich. ‘Do you accept?’

‘I do.’

The two men shake hands.

‘A security force will drive you and your girlfriend to the border with Lithuania tomorrow morning. We’ll be in touch. This conversation is to be kept secret, to be shared only with your top people. Or I will deny it.’

‘I understand,’ replies Protasevich.

Lukashenko rises and exits.

It could happen, couldn’t? Maybe it has. Maybe it will. We can only hope.

Oscar valdes     oscarvaldes.net

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Are We Letting Putin Get Away With It, Again?

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Earlier today, Sunday, a jet fighter from Belarus forced a Ryanair commercial plane flying over the country to redirect to Minsk, the Belarus capital. The commercial flight had departed from Athens, Greece and was en route to Vilnius in Lithuania. 

The Belarus regime, surely with the consent of Vladimir Putin, set up the ruse that a bomb was aboard the commercial flight and so needed to land immediately at the closest airport. 

But the whole thing was nothing more than a plot to capture 26 y/o Roman Protasevich, a Belarusian activist who had helped set up a Telegram channel with 1.5 million subscribers in his country, so that people could continue protesting the fraudulent reelection of Alexander Lukashenko in 2020.

It is a profound failure of European Union intelligence to not have protected Mr Protasevich, to not have warned him of the possibilities of flying over Belarus.

Officials in the EU have raised their voices in protest and so has Antony Blinken, America’s Secretary of State, who demanded the immediate release of Mr Protasevich, but watch how Putin, emboldened by the manner in which he has handled Alexei Navalny’s poisoning and imprisonment, will dance around the issue claiming no knowledge of the affair and state that Lukashenko acted independently in an effort to protect the passengers from the alleged bomb.

And the strong likelihood is that he will get away with it.

Immediate and strong punitive measures are in order, both against Lukashenko and Putin.

The European Union has to step up and see this blatant attack on civil liberties as what it is and not find ways to delay action.

Something about the efficacy of the West’s response against Putin’s transgressions has been fractured since Mr Trump’s election in America.

The cracks continue to widen. 

I can hear Putin in his palace saying, ‘here’s to you, Donald. If you could launch an attack on the US Capitol, surely I can snatch a dissident from the skies. Good luck in the midterms. And count on me for the next election.’

Will the European Union muster the courage to stand up to Putin?

Oscar Valdes. Oscarvaldes.net