Zelensky, Trump and Biden

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It wasn’t that long ago that Trump, while president, was suspected of putting pressure on Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s leader, to provide information on Biden’s son Hunter, who had held a senior position in a Ukrainian energy company. Trump was suspected of dangling before Zelensky, the promise of arms shipments, so Ukraine could hold off the better armed Russian separatists in the Donbas area – a fight being waged since Putin’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014, when he annexed Crimea.
The matter led to the first impeachment of Trump.
Trump had feared, correctly, that Biden would end up being his adversary in the 2020 elections and he wanted something he could hold against him.
It wasn’t long ago either, that in a television show, Biden was asked by the host, ‘Do you think Putin is a killer?’ And Biden answered, ‘He’s a killer.’
Contrast that response with the one Trump gave to a reporter on July 16th 2018, in Helsinki, Finland, when asked about Russian interference in the US elections in 2016.
Reporter Jonathan Lemire asked, ‘Every US intelligence has concluded that Russia did (interfere). Who do you believe? Would you now, with the whole world watching, tell president Putin… would you denounce what happened in 2016, and would you warn him to never do it again.’
To which Trump answered, as Putin stood a few feet away behind another lectern,
‘My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and others, they said they think it’s Russia… I have president Putin… he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this… I don’t see any reason why it would be… I have confidence in both parties… I have great confidence in my intelligence people… but I will tell you that president Putin was extremely strong in his denial today.’
(Questions and answers as reported by the New York Times and The Washington Post)
Ah, yes, the beauty of previously recorded statements. You can’t hide from them.
So much has happened since then, and so much has made clear that Trump didn’t have a clue as to who Putin is.
Putin played him.
The majority of the American people saw the dysfunction, and in November 2020, chose Biden as president by a comfortable majority. It took Democrats and enlightened Republicans to put Biden in the White House.
But Trump still couldn’t believe it, so he egged on his faithful into the abhorrent assault on the Capitol on Jan 6th 2021, and on democracy itself, claiming the election had been stolen from him.
It led to a second impeachment, which also failed, given the slavish followers he still keeps in Congress.
In a short period of time, Volodymyr Zelensky has become an admired world figure while Trump’s image has tarnished and is fast eroding. And yet he still has Senators and Representatives begging for his endorsement.
But where would we be if Trump had been reelected?
Putin would have invaded Ukraine and taken it over completely. Putin might have had the audacity to invite Trump to his coronation in Kyiv.
There would have been no strong American leadership to unite the West in opposing Putin and
no arms shipments would have flowed to the Ukrainian resistance.
Fox News would have carried on about how far away those people are, and that Russia needs their sphere of influence, and what business is it of ours, anyway.
Brave Ukraine would still have resisted but they would have been slaughtered.
China would have nodded in approval and accelerated their plans to invade Taiwan, since it had become clear that America had lost its nerve.
And the world would not be what it is today.
Knowledge of character matters. Clear eyed leadership matters. Building alliances make a difference.
Because Biden and his team, saw through Putin, he was not fooled by the Russian.
His leadership of the West is now ushering in a new era.
Ukraine’s heroic resistance, with the support of the West, have exposed Russia’s military flaws.
The prospect of Russia’s defeat in this war is now more likely than ever.
Ukraine will be rebuilt, become a sterling example of democracy and a member of the EU and NATO.
Russians will have to reexamine why they supported a despot for as long as they did.
And yet, here at home, despite Biden’s extraordinary triumph in the world arena, the democratic party is expected to lose the mid term elections this November. Go figure.
Inflation and immigration are touted as the main reasons.
Republicans are rushing to blame inflation on Biden, saying that the covid assistance he provided was too large and arguing that inflation will not be tamed anytime soon.
I disagree. Inflation was inevitable, considering the dimensions of the pandemic. And I don’t think it will dampen growth significantly or for as long as others predict.
Meanwhile, our status in the world has jumped and with that comes an economic boost.
As to immigration, it has been a recurring issue in our nation. Its benefits are clear to most of us. Keeping ourselves open to the world is essential. The task ahead is to empower Americans who feel they’re being left behind. And the only way to do that is to motivate and assist them in becoming more productive and to earn more.
The war in Europe will likely be over by the end of the year if not before and I’m betting the West will win.
It will be a great triumph.
Biden and the democrats need to sell it to the voters because it is a remarkable accomplishment.
The fact that the majority in the Republican party continues to praise Donald Trump, is a sign of how destructive blind following is.
Holding on to the House and Senate in November is still possible.
And Biden and the democrats deserve a victory.

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

Mariupol. Alive in Their Tomb

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The video they posted is sad and alarming. Under a dim light, a group of children looked straight into the camera, and spoke of how they wanted to see the sunshine again. Their eyes wide open – their expression signaling quiet resignation – they pled for help without saying the word.
Some have been trapped under the steel plant of the port city for six weeks while Russian bombs keep falling on the structure. Their living space is likely to crumble any moment, burying them all.
Russian forces in control of the city have demanded their surrender but the trapped Ukrainians fear for their lives if they fall into their hands. Instead, they have asked the world to help create a human corridor to allow them to exit to a third party country.
A mother spoke of how they were running out of food, the despair evident in her voice, and one could feel the weight of her regret. Why had she sought shelter there, instead of elsewhere? Why had she led her family into what is becoming their tomb.
The UN’s general secretary has advocated for the human corridor but there they remain.
I suppose Putin may be waiting to extract some concession for sparing their lives.
And if he doesn’t, then those men, women and children, defiant till the end, will be buried alive, a testament to a man’s cruelty.
How was it that Russians gave so much power to a man?
Gradually. Day after day. Slowly.
You can read this but not that, came the instruction. You can see this but not that, said the next. And fear slipped in making it easier to praise than to criticize.

Soon enough, a government official comes knocking on the door. ‘We need your son and your daughter.’
‘Why?’ said their mother.
‘We have a special military operation to Ukraine. Fighting for the good of Russia.’
And the woman’s heart cringes. ‘For the good of Russia?’
‘What will they be doing?’
‘Building a greater Russia.’
‘Will they come back?’ asks the mother, the plaintive tone already in her voice.
‘Hard to say at this time. But the decadent West is supporting a Nazi government in Ukraine and we have to make sacrifices.’
‘Who says so?’
‘Could he be wrong?’
‘No. Putin is never wrong.’
‘I used to have friends in Ukraine…’ laments the woman.
‘Where?’ asks the government official.
‘In Mariupol, by the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. Lovely place.’
‘It is no more, madam… the city has been destroyed.’
‘It was filled with fascists, financed by the West, plotting to harm us.’
‘They had a big steel plant, right by the water…’
‘It is no more.’
‘Sorry to hear that,’ says the woman as she looks off.
‘Where are your son and daughter?’
‘They went out on an errand. They will be back later this afternoon.’
The official takes a card out of his pocket and hands it to the woman.
‘Tell them to call me as soon as they get back.’
‘I will.’
The official gives the woman a hard look. ‘I need to hear from them today.’
‘Of course.’
‘It’s a direct order from Putin.’
‘I understand.’
‘You will be punished if they don’t call me.’
‘I will make sure they call you. I’ll dial the phone myself.’
The official narrows his eyes, now suspicious of the woman.
‘Do not fail. This is your patriotic duty.’
The official steps back, turns to go out the door as he glances back over his shoulder.

Hours later, both son and daughter return. Their mother relates the details of the official’s visit.
The son and daughter, both eligible for serving in the armed forces, look at each other.
‘Mother,’ starts the daughter, ‘We have seen videos of what’s happening in Ukraine.’
Her mother looks back at her, suspecting the worst.
‘It’s horrible. We cannot go there. We should leave.’
‘Leave the country?’
‘Where will you go?’
‘You remember Olga?’
‘The dentist?’
‘Yes. She’s now living in St Petersburg. I called her. She told us she can take us near the border with Finland… and from there we can take our chances.’
‘It will be dangerous.’
‘We know, mother.’
‘You’re all I have.’
‘We’ll be fine.’
‘When will you be leaving?’
‘Right now.’
Mother lowers her head as her eyes grow misty. Then she looks up at them again.
‘I wonder… if I had spoken up earlier…’
They sit next to her, one on each side, and put their arms around her.
‘We shall return,’ says her son, reassuringly.
And both son and daughter smile at her.

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

Russia Threatens Nuclear War

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This threat has been made often since the start of the invasion, with Putin arguing that the West is using Ukraine as a proxy against him and his people.
But it is Putin and Russia, who in assaulting Ukraine, are assaulting the West.
If Ukraine had meekly said, ‘Oh yes, we really want to be like Russians, we love how you live, how you bow daily to your great leader, so go ahead Putin, we gladly surrender to you, too,’ then we wouldn’t be having this problem.
But they did not.
Instead, Ukrainians have sacrificed thousands of lives, endured immense destruction of what they have built, all for the sake of a future different than life under the Russian boot.
Russia, except for those who have had the courage of dissenting, has become a symbol of brutality to the world.
Whatever your contributions to the world, they now pale next to the pain and suffering you are willfully inflicting on others.
How can you erase that from the conscience of our civilization?
You cannot. And so it becomes your curse. Russia’s curse.
If Putin or his foreign minister or whatever other stooge, repeats the threat that they may be forced to use nuclear weapons if the West continues to arm Ukraine, then we will deal with it.
Because giving in to Russia in Ukraine is giving in to Russia anywhere.
So the threat to use nuclear weapons becomes worthless.
Knowing the intensity of Russia’s cruelty is good enough for us. We see it every day.
We know you are capable of anything and that you don’t give a damn.
We know you will fire those nuclear weapons and kill hundreds of thousands of people.
All of Russia, exception made of those who have had the courage to dissent, are now part of an assault on the West and the rest of the world.
Somehow, you, along with the Chinese, have come to believe that you are a gift to the rest of us.
You are not. We have no desire to be like you. You are an example to no one.
If you want the war to stop, you need to pull back into your territory. Rest assured that we will not go after you.
But if you don’t, we will keep arming Ukraine, and whoever else is willing to resist you.
And we will provide better weapons, even start sending planes, whatever it takes to defeat you.
Because we don’t think your brutality will ever stop. It appears to not be in you to do so.
The rest of the world will have to learn how to live without your oil and gas and other commodities. So we will invent. We will create.
By now we know that if we give up in Ukraine, we will give up in Poland, or in Rumania or in Finland or Sweden or wherever else.
So go ahead and make all the threats you want.
We are ready for them. For we will keep arming Ukraine until we win this war.

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

Ukraine Can Win!

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What seemed unthinkable at the start of this war, is now gathering strength. The distinct possibility that Ukraine can push back Russia and win the war.
While Russia keeps lying to their people about the war, in the West, nations are coming together in support of the heroic behavior of the Ukrainian people.
Volodymyr Zelensky, their president, has been untiring in his efforts to reach out to others soliciting support for the war effort.
Russia, meanwhile, has seen many of their people leave the country and has now summoned the help of Syrian mercenaries to help with their invasion.
The widespread killing of civilians at the hands of Russian soldiers is now a daily occurrence.
None of which appears to disturb the mind of Putin.
But let us not be fooled. Putin is afraid. Afraid that his forces are weaker than he thought, afraid that his troops lack the will to persevere in the conquest of Ukraine, afraid that fellow Russians will revolt against him, afraid that his flawed belief system and the lies he’s used to fool his people are now being exposed.
How long can he keep up the farce?
Not long.

Meanwhile, the West is coming together in realizing the enormous benefits of a Ukrainian victory, i.e, a profound shift in the political alignment of the world.
Every effort we now make will make a difference.
Putin has begun to retreat and will likely become dependent on China, a nation showing its true colors in its aversion for democracy and the suppression of free speech.
Ukraine is on the vanguard of the contest between East and West.
In their determination to not bow to Russian oppression they have become a shining symbol of what needs to be done to defend our liberties, and as such deserve our full cooperation.
Their valor calls for all of us to make sacrifices in the defense and affirmation of our values.
Circumstances have thrust them into the center of a battle that had been fought more quietly.
Now it is fully in the open.
China is an ally of Russia. It is an enemy of America and the West. It wants to use whatever the West can offer to gain further power and then turn around and use it against us.
We, in the West, do not need China.
We will not lose the hope that the Chinese people can one day rise, just as Ukrainians are now doing, and defeat their oppressive leadership and the lies they now tell.
The Chinese leadership are no strangers to inflicting mass cruelty on their people, such as was carried out during the Cultural revolution under Mao Zedong in the 60s and is presently the case in their suppression of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang province.
Ukraine is now the battleground for freedom in our world.
Let us support them with all we can.

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

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.

Putin:’God is with Me!’

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He is in his bunker somewhere near Moscow. Various video monitors mounted on the wall are showing footage of the damage done by the attack of two Ukrainian helicopters on Belgorod, Russian territory located just north of Kharkiv.
‘They attacked Russian soil! How dare they!’
The video shows several oil tanks in flames.
‘Attacking my land, my sacred grounds!’
Putin trembles in his rage.
‘What happened to our air defenses? How was this possible? If they did it once, they will do it again!’
He is standing in front of his desk, looking in disbelief at the video of the attack being replayed.
‘Zelensky will pay for this. Once I capture him, because I will do that, I will put him on trial. And he will pay. The world will be clamoring for me to be merciful but I will not.’
Putin slams his fist on the table.
‘What the hell happened to my army? I’ve spent years and years building it up and now they don’t deliver. Who is responsible? I’m having to call up more and more men for military service. I’m having to ask Syrian fighters to join in to kill Ukrainians. I’m having to call up the Wagner group too.’
He shakes his head slowly as he looks down at the table.
‘It doesn’t look good… me… Vladimir Putin… asking Assad for help.’
He rubs his face.

‘Will I even conquer all of Ukraine? How can I live with myself with less than total control over it?’
He sits down, the mood despondent.
‘I was wrong… instead of riding victorious into Kyiv… instead of people calling my name in adoration… throwing flowers at my armored limousine, I’m now looking at the possibility of having to negotiate a peace treaty. With a comedian! Me, a great political leader! Oh, the irony of it all. What a twist of fate!’
He leans forward in his chair, clasping his hands, the anger palpable and a growing sense of self reproach.
‘It’s the fault of the Americans. Yes… Biden. Him. And I made too much of Trump… thinking that he represented America… thinking that he was the epitome of their decline… that the January 6th assault on the capitol was a clear sign they were rotten to the core… weak… morally dissolute… reveling in vice.’

He stands abruptly and walks a few paces then stops for a moment. Something is deeply wrong. He returns to his desk, presses a button on a console and images of him addressing a crowd of adoring fans at a stadium in Moscow appear on the screens.
The sight eases his tension as if hope had returned.
‘No. I’m okay. I’m all right. They still love me. God has not abandoned me. God is with me. And I will redouble my efforts. I will conquer all of Ukraine. And I will force the West to take my rubles for our oil.’
He laughs loudly, feeling victorious.
‘That was a great strategy of mine. How I made Europe dependent on our oil and gas. How I made them kneel for it. Brilliant.’

But his expression now turns somber.
‘Can I recover…? In the eyes of the world… can I redeem myself? In the eyes of China, can I, once again, look strong?’
He shakes his head slowly… in disbelief… as if acknowledging the loss.
‘Is this the beginning of my end… with the whole world watching? No… it can’t be.’
He reaches for the console and switches back on images of his troops and tanks riding into Ukraine on February 24th, the first day of the invasion.
He smiles with relief.
‘There it is… my power… Russia’s power… it’s not gone… I see it… the fullness of my power… everybody sees it… I know it’s still there… it’s not gone away… it’s there… yes… it’s not over… it can’t be… I still have a hand to play… Putin is not gone…’
But he hesitates. Doubtful.
‘If it’s gone… really gone… then… I can still… yes…’
He turns around, away from the cameras, hands clenched into fists.
‘America will not defeat me. They will not. We will both go down in flames… and just who will stop me?’

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

Straight Talk: Biden and Putin

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A few days ago Mr Biden stated, at the end of a speech in Warsaw, that Putin ‘cannot remain in power.’ The statement set off a flurry of commentary, some of which held that he was calling for regime change in Russia. The White House promptly clarified that was not the case.
The Kremlin dismissed the statement.
Mr Biden has called Putin a war criminal. I believe he may have said, also, that the man was a murderer.
Mr Macron, France’s president, quickly put in that saying those things interfered with diplomacy.
But I don’t think so.

All those things Mr Biden has said are true. Putin has targeted residential buildings, schools, theaters, hospitals, people in the streets, women, children. If that doesn’t make him a war criminal, then what does?
He has unleashed his cruelty without provocation. In his defense, he’s told us that he and his beloved Russia are being threatened by Ukraine. Not threatened with weapons but by their desire to emancipate.
It doesn’t take much to threaten Putin. A country next door willing to exercise its right to sovereignty and lean to the West was too much of a provocation. For Putin to sleep well at night, Ukraine needed to continue to live under the shadow of Russia. Under his boot.
But Ukrainians had enough of it and they mounted a fierce resistance that has unified the West. From now on, in our hearts and minds, Ukraine is part of the West.

What troubles Putin is that the rebellious nation is so close to Moscow. And their show of defiance is likely contagious. Other territories under his boot, may want to go their own way.
And so he felt a need to be cruel. To set an example. To oppress. To squash other human beings into submission. The more blood the better.
Mr Biden had finished speaking with refugees from Ukraine when he made his speech in Warsaw. He was obviously moved by their pain, he told us himself. And so he responded, acknowledging their suffering.
Putin, on the other hand, carries on as if it was just another day.
But something is brewing under the surface. He knows his status in the world has been seriously diminished. Young Russians are leaving their land. Slowly, his authority is eroding, and it is doing so because of his inhumanity.

We’re all vulnerable to slide into acts of cruelty. More so if we choose to isolate ourselves. Which is what Putin has done. He’s a one man show in Russia. Everybody else must dance to his tune. Alexei Navalny, a prominent dissenter is now in jail for pointing out Putin’s flaws and just got his sentence extended. Opposition organizations are labelled terrorists and barred from civil discourse.
By contrast, Mr Biden is open to criticism. He may sometimes not like the criticism he gets but he knows he has to work with it. The laws of this country require that he do so. I believe he is open to feedback from his team, a team which quickly came to his aid when he said Putin ‘cannot remain in power.’ No, his team added, the President was not calling for regime change in Russia. And yet, we all knew, that in his heart, that’s exactly what he was doing.

We all understand that it is up to the Russians to depose Putin. But the rest of us, every single one of us, also have a right to join in with Mr Biden and say that he ‘cannot remain in power.’ We have such right because the images of the pain and suffering inflicted by Putin are clear to all of us.
And there may be more to come. In his desperation to push his boot onto the throats of Ukrainians, Putin may wish to use chemical or tactical nuclear weapons so he can finally overcome the courageous people fighting for their right to choose their own destiny.
Perhaps Mr Biden’s views of Putin will damage negotiations for an end to the war.
I don’t think so.
And if the two men were ever to meet again, I believe Mr Biden would sit across him and discuss whatever needed to be discussed. And if Putin were to ask, ‘do you think I’m a war criminal?’, Mr Biden would answer, ‘Yes, I do. You are a war criminal. A murderer. It is a matter of record. The whole world knows it. Now, let’s talk about what we have to talk.’

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

Mr Putin’s Fall Has Begun

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He thought it would be easy. Surround Ukraine with 200,000 soldiers, war planes, tanks and missiles, make threatening noises and gestures, and Ukrainians would look at each other and realize they had no chance. A nuclear superpower was demanding their surrender: give up their government and demilitarize. If not, they would be run over.

Accustomed to most Russians – not all – bowing to him and not protesting, Putin thought Ukrainians would respond the same way. After all, he had already taken Crimea from them in 2014, and they had been pushed back in the Donbas area.
Putin reasoned Ukrainians would be tired of war and would just stand by, perhaps even applaud as his troops rolled into Kyiv, unopposed.
He would then meet with their president, a former comedian, pat him on the back and put him on a bus to Poland.
There would be protests in the West but they would all calm down once they realized he could cut off their oil and gas supplies and hurt their pocketbooks.

But something different happened.
Ukrainians said, hell no! This is our land and we’ll defend it.
So Putin ordered the troops to move in, still hoping the sounds of the tanks and the roar of the jets would bring Ukrainians to their senses.
They did not.
What has followed has been an unbelievable story of courage and determination, with their president, Volodymyr Zelensky, committing to the task of leadership with great valor.
That amazing story has shaken the West out of their complacency and united them in support of Ukraine.

A divided EU-US alliance has found new vigor and a willingness to stand firm against the aggressor. Sanctions that were not enforced when Putin invaded Crimea, now had a devastating effect.
Just yesterday, Putin went on TV to tell Russians who still believe the story that Ukraine is a Nazi threat, to prepare for yet more hardships, as they contend with job losses, inflation and growing scarcities as a result of the sanctions.
Russia is now on the verge of defaulting on their debt.
The assets it holds in foreign banks, American and European, are frozen. They cannot be used to pay down Russia’s debt.

Putin spoke calmly, promising relief to his fellow Russians who believe they are on the right side of history.
But what I didn’t see in his expression was a trace of remorse.
The thousands of casualties, both Ukrainian and Russian, meant nothing to him.
The horror of the carnage doesn’t touch him.
He is, somehow, insulated from it.
Over 3 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to the West in search of safety – mothers with their children – while the men of fighting age stay behind to resist the barbaric Russian onslaught.
The thousands of dead and maimed don’t seem to weigh on Putin’s conscience.
How did that happen?

He first became prime minister in 1999 and has been in power ever since.
How is it possible that all the leaders he’s come in contact with over the years, didn’t get the essence of the man?
The ascent of Putin has been the failure of leadership in the West.
And the failure of the Russian people – not all – to not stand up against him.
But now the end is near.
The unceasing brutality he’s unleashed on Ukrainians has been seen by everybody, except Russians themselves, for they live in a censored bubble.
Where can he go hide?

China, in its remarkable denial of the extent of the savagery, has become his accomplice.
And Putin is counting on them to circumvent the sanctions.
But the West won’t be easily side stepped.
Putin has begun his fall but he remains a dangerous adversary.
Knowing that his end is near, he will not tolerate the defeat of his army and will resort to nuclear weapons if he thought it would spare him the embarrassment.
Will he fire a nuclear weapon on Kyiv? It is possible.
Will he fire several? He may.
Putin will not survive the scorn he has earned from the rest of humanity, but he may yet stay in power a while longer, until Russians choose to retire him.
The world is waiting.

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

How Does This War End?

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Putin is holding the threat of nuclear confrontation as his answer to the West’s rallying behind brave Ukraine.
He desperately wants Ukraine and is willing to do anything.
Because he has such control over the Russian people, he believes they will tolerate the effects of the sanctions against him for starting the war.
But the pain he’s inflicting on Ukraine seems unreal.

We have heard of people in pain. In Myanmar, in Xinjiang province in China, in Syria, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, Venezuela.
But who had thought it would happen right next to Poland and Slovakia, Hungary and Romania?
Who had thought that one man would disrupt or end the lives of so many?
And that not a single shot triggered Putin’s wrath.
He is angry, he says, because the West is getting too close to him.
He is angry, we can discern, because he has been incapable of moving Russia to the top of the nations of this earth. So he falsely concludes that he is not getting his respect.
But what is there to respect?
That he has nuclear weapons capable of destroying millions of lives? Granted.
But what else?
He has a narrow mind and a lust for destruction.

It seems unreal, to see presidents and chancellors, foreign ministers and diplomats, all going to see narrow minded Putin to ask that he engage in substantial negotiations.
But the man does not budge. He wants Ukrainians to bow to him.
This morning he bombed a military installation near the border with Poland, killing 35, prompting the West to say that any hit to Poland or any NATO nation, even if not intentional, will trigger a full response.
Sadly, it could happen.
Meanwhile, the wave of Ukrainian refugees rushing to the West is now greater than 2.5 million and growing.
The number of casualties is probably in the thousands. The destruction of property rampant.

Ukraine is a big country, home to 44 million people. And it is being destroyed by the actions of one man, who makes decisions by himself. One man, who doesn’t have to answer to anyone.
And what use is the United Nations, when Russia’s or China’s vote in the Security council can block any action by it?
What is the point of that body? A pretense of dialogue?
No one seems to listen. Countries go there to parade their viewpoints but not to hear each other.

The sanctions the West is implementing will hurt Putin. Will hurt the Russian people most of all.
But will the Russian people rise against Putin?
Will they see him for who he is?
Putin is not afraid of a nuclear confrontation and that is his advantage.
We in the West, are afraid of a nuclear confrontation, and that is our advantage.
Preserving the collective work of humanity is important to us and not to Putin.

The question we must be asking ourselves is, why does humanity tolerate the rise of tyrants?
Why do we allow it?
Why does the rest of the world permit any tyrant, anywhere, to rule without the consent of the people?
Why can’t the rest of the enlightened nations of this earth act on behalf of humanity and join to depose those who rule through brutality?
What is the point of sovereignty in today’s world, if we must tolerate dictators who force their people into submission, and then use them to attempt to submit another nation?
What is the point of the United Nations today?
What is the point of someone like Assad in Syria, remaining in power (with Russia’s aid), or the generals in Myanmar (with Russia’s and China’s aid), or in any other dictatorship?
Why can’t there be more external pressures from the rest of the world to unseat these people?
Ukraine story is telling us that it must be so.

But how does this war end?
This war ends with Putin conquering all of Ukraine after a campaign that will leave hundreds of thousands dead and maimed. A nation scorched.
It ends with Europe being flooded with refugees but becoming stronger because of it.
This war ends with Russia becoming weaker and forcing their citizens to look at themselves and choose between remaining servile to Putin or daring to join with other nations in the march to freedom.
It ends with the world economy going into recession and Russia’s loss being the greater.
A stronger West would then have to look ahead and continue preparing for the inevitable confrontation with China, both economic and military.
Russia’s stated aims at the start of the invasion were two: regime change in Ukraine and the country’s demilitarization. They have not changed.
Given Putin’s behavior, I don’t see any point in the West’s continuing to reach out to him for a diplomatic solution. But it is up to the Ukrainian people, whose lives are being lost, to make that choice.
Meanwhile, we will continue to assist.
Is there a risk of a nuclear confrontation? Yes. For Putin is growing desperate.
But the West is ready.
So let us stick with the sanctions, and Ukraine’s heroic resistance will have marked a new beginning for the free world.

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

Afghanistan, Ukraine and Biden

Photo by Mathias P.R. Reding on Pexels.com

He’s been widely criticized, for having pulled out of Afghanistan as he did.
He’s been blamed for signaling to Putin that the US would not commit to long term tasks. That America was eager to isolate.
If it hadn’t been for Afghanistan, they say, there wouldn’t have been the invasion of Ukraine.

Biden did what other presidents before him had not been willing to do. Face reality.
Afghanistan was unwinnable.
It could not be won with neighboring Pakistan sheltering and supporting the Taliban.
Previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic, had not made the choice. Demand that Pakistan cease supporting the Taliban or will not support you.
And so the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the man who ordered the 9/11 attack, took much longer that it should have.
The pullout from Afghanistan was messy but not messier than from Vietnam. But it had to be done. Biden deserves credit for it.

For one reason or another, during our 20 years in Afghanistan, we failed to elicit in Afghanistanis the will to build their nation. Over 2500 Americans died in that country, alongside others from allied forces.
It was very sad to see the country’s undoing, and the difficulties they’re now enduring.
But we had to leave. For now.

Ukraine is a vastly different story. Ukrainian nationals who had left the country to live elsewhere are returning to fight for their land.
President Biden has acted vigorously to pull together the EU-US alliance and Europe has responded.
The Ukrainian people are bearing the brunt of the struggle, fighting valiantly to defend their homeland. Volodymyr Zelensky, their leader, is fully committed to the task and will not surrender.

The Ukrainian bravery has awakened Europe from the denial they were living in, the false belief that they could somehow, through trade, dissuade the brutality of Russia.
Europe had seen it before – in Hungary in 1956, in Czechoslovakia in 68, twice in Chechnya, in the 1990’s and in early 2000s, then in Georgia in 2008 – and still they held out hope that Russian leaders could be depended upon. That it would be okay to rely on them for their oil and gas, their wheat, fertilizers and valued minerals. That the moneys from such purchases wouldn’t be used to finance the massacre of a neighbor’s people.
Even one of their former chancellors, Gerhard Schroder (1998-2005), became a Putin ally, the chairman of the Russian energy company Rosneft and a proponent of the Nord Stream pipeline to supply Germany with 40% of their energy needs.
Such denial was shared by subsequent German leaders with the consent of their people.

But now the Ukrainian nation has awakened Germans and all of Europe from their stupor and so they are owed a debt of gratitude.
The struggle for Europe and the West will not be over until Russia and its vassal nations become democratic countries.
It has fallen to Ukraine to shed the heroic blood that will mark the path to follow.
And then there will be China – for many sectors in the West are still in denial of that nation’s quest for supremacy.

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