For the Love of Russia

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The invasion will continue. I see no signs that Putin is about to relent.
The mounting number of dead and maimed, the growing destruction in Ukraine, will not stop him.
In his obstinacy – his unremitting cruelty – he is telling us that the West no longer matters to him.
He is counting on China for support. And on all those other countries that have chosen to side with them.
Putin’s actions are making clear the division in our world. On the one side China-Russia and their followers, on the other the West.
Meanwhile, shortages will worsen, inflation will increase while economic growth will likely decrease. For now.
But there’s always room for the unexpected.

Here’s Putin in his bunker on Sunday afternoon.
Just the day before he addressed a stadium filled with his supporters. He spoke to them for five minutes and reminded them of the absolute necessity of invading Ukraine. That nation was threatening all Russians. He was forced to act.
He is sitting at his desk. On the wall in front is an array of video monitors tracking the progress of the war. A bank of multi colored phones lies within easy reach.
On one of the screens the image of President Zelensky appears. It is a clip of Zelensky’s address to the British parliament a few days earlier. The audio is muted. Putin has replayed it several times already.

‘To be or not to be, he told them. What a joke. This man, this… nothing… that’s what he is, nothing at all, believes he can defy me. But I will squash him. No, not that… that’s too easy.
Instead, once I capture him, I will put him on trial for genocide against the Russian speaking people of Ukraine, and for being a Nazi. He says he’s Jewish, but I know he’s a Nazi.
How dare that man become a symbol of bravery while I, me, yes, Vladimir Putin, after all I’ve done, become a symbol of cruelty to the world. But it’s all disinformation. All of it. I am right, everyone else is wrong.
And I will kill, kill, kill until all of Ukraine is mine. Every corner of it.
Biden calls me a war criminal. What does he know.
I will join with China and together we’ll crush America.
But first… yes, first… I must have all of Ukraine, dead or alive. I don’t care.
My troops are now advancing again. And I’m firing more and more missiles, to destroy their towns and schools and hospitals. Everything that stands.
He wants to talk, says Zelensky. But there’s nothing to talk. I’ve already made it clear that I need total surrender. Everything.
And if he doesn’t surrender… if my army is not enough… then I’ll drop a bomb on Kyiv. A big, fat, nuclear bomb… and I’ll flatten that city. And I’ll demand an immediate unconditional surrender or I’ll drop a second nuclear bomb, on Lviv.
And Russians will love me… and the Chinese too… yes… they all will. And we’ll start all over again in Ukraine. Like the Japanese did. In fact, I’ll help write their new constitution’.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of St Petersburg, in the basement of an apartment building, a group of Russian officers have gathered in a secret meeting that is now drawing to a close.
There are seven officers gathered in a circle, facing each other. Three of them are women. The meeting was convened by officer Y7X – his code name – who now addresses the participants.
Officer Y7X – ‘His actions do not represent the essence of our country. We invaded on February 24th and we have not even seized Kyiv. Instead, we’re killing civilians, women and children. How are we going to explain this to our heirs? How will our nation explain it to history?
We are a strong and smart country. We were the first in space, we have made important contributions in the arts, in science, in industry, but under this man’s leadership we have come to worship weapons above all else and to lend support to dictators everywhere. We have lost our purpose’.
Officer Y9G – ‘It is the moment to act. We’re all conscious of what’s at stake. And the personal risks we run’.
Officer Y4M – ‘This may be the last time we see each other. But we have made our choices’.
Officer Y5Z – ‘We may yet prevent the use of chemical weapons or worse, of nuclear ones’.
Officer Y2Q – ‘The odds are against us succeeding, I believe we are all aware of that, and yet we know we must proceed. If we fail, we commit to not betraying each other’.
Officer Y8H – ‘Conscious as we are that, should we fail, the actions we are about to take may never be made public’.
Officer 76D – ‘And that neither our spouses nor our children will ever learn of them’.
Now officer Y7X stands and holding up his clenched fist says, ‘For Russia!’
They all stand and repeat in unison. ‘For Russia!’
Each officer embraces every other member of the group and one by one, with intervals of a few minutes, leave their location.

Oscar Valdes,,, 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,,, buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.

What Use Will the Sanctions Be After they Bomb Us?

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Said Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, a few days ago.
He is right.
The West has announced sanctions on two major Russian banks and on Russian debt after Putin’s troops entered the Donetsk and Lugansk ‘new’ republics in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine.

But the EU–US alliance is choosing to not announce what is to follow until the invader takes the next step.
To Putin, that smells of the West not being truly convinced of his intentions to take over the entire Ukraine.
The only firm deterrent to him would have been NATO’s troops on the ground, but since Ukraine is not a NATO member, that was never going to happen.

There is a clear difference in the motivations of the contending parties.
Putin has made up his mind to annex Ukraine.
The West, though committed to placing sanctions on him, is not quite clear on which ones to choose.
So Putin, who’s willing to dare and push his way through the entire country, East to West, North to South, is not deterred by them.

Regardless of Mr Biden’s firm efforts in addressing the crisis, Putin is calculating that the West’s lack of strong conviction owes to their needing to check with lots of nations to make sure no one member of the alliance is disproportionately burdened by any one sanction.
Putin, on the other hand, does not have to weigh any such considerations. He alone speaks for Russia, and therein lies his advantage.

It was a confidence booster for the West to hear that, upon starting the invasion, Germany had stepped up and stopped the certification of Nord Stream 2, the gas pipeline from Russia to their northern shore. But as Putin’s troops run over Ukraine, what else will they agree on?

Putin seems to have no interest in diplomacy.

‘What use will the sanctions be after they bomb us?’

Zelensky sees, quite clearly, that Ukraine matters more to Putin than to the West.
Placing sanctions on Russia will also have an economic cost to the West but it is Ukraine that will pay dearly once they end up a vassal state.
Ukrainians know this is their fight. They know it will be Ukrainian blood that will be spilled.
Western principles will be invoked and sanctions placed on Russia to support such principles, but in the end the great fight will be fought by Ukrainians. It will be their parents and children and brothers and sisters who will die in defense of their land, paying with their flesh and blood the price to have a destiny of their own.

Putin is no grand strategist but a clever and vicious thug. He can spot weakness in an adversary and do what he needs to suit his needs.
Today, he is bent on grabbing a nation, capturing a people, subjecting it to his will.
We don’t know what he will want tomorrow.
Letting him know in advance what the sanctions are may be more effective than announcing them after his assaults. And though sanctions alone, however severe, will not deter him, they will inflict harm, which combined with Ukrainians’ courage to fight may prove decisive.

Ukrainians know it us up to them to bear the greater cost of the struggle.
And that surrender is not an option.

Oscar Valdes., buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts

Only a Dream, Mr Zelensky?

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Mr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, recently stated publicly, after a meeting with chancellor Scholz of Germany, that perhaps Ukraine’s desire to one day become part of NATO was only a dream.

Dear sir, now, more than ever, Ukraine needs to embrace her dream.

When Russians are growling at your borders, baring their teeth and threatening to devour you with their superior forces, Ukraine needs to embrace her dream.

When many in the world have rushed supplies to you so you can fight the good fight, Ukraine needs to embrace her dream.

We don’t know how this will end, but there have already been thousands of courageous Ukrainians who have given their lives in combat because they believed in their country’s dream.

This is not the time to hesitate.

While your country remains divided, a majority have spoken up and said they want to chart their own course in history. They have stepped up and said they do not want to live under the feet of a bully neighbor.

I read that many of your citizens have chosen to no longer speak in Russian and so affirm the Ukrainian language.

Ukrainians and Russians have shared a past but Ukrainians reject being chained and oppressed by them and wish to embrace the future as a separate nation.

To forge ahead on this uncertain path, the nation needs to dream.

You should not, as their leader, in a moment of great consequence, succumb to doubt. Russia is forcing a course upon you. They are not asking but compelling you to obey them.

They say that they feel threatened. But the West nor you have threatened Russia. It is an invention of theirs to grab more territory. An invention of a leader who wants more and more land under his authority.

In the face of overpowering forces, it is the dream your people harbor that will sustain the hope to fight on. It is the dream that will fuel the resistance against the intruders.

Mr Zelensky, time is running out. It may be that you are now living the last days of your presidency.

Let your people know, on any occasion you have, that you stand with the dream of a free Ukraine. That you will fight for it, and never bow to anyone who wishes to decide for you what your future should be.

Sir, you owe it to yourself, to your nation and to your children.

Long live a free Ukraine.

Oscar Valdes., buzzsprout, apple and google podcasts.

Biden’s Response to Putin

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Has been energetic and realistic. He has not looked at the 130,000 Russian troops amassed on Ukraine’s eastern flank and said to himself, ‘maybe they’ll go away.’

I understand that Biden’s characterizing such buildup as presaging an ‘imminent attack’ has unsettled Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, since the latter has his nation’s economy to manage, but to think that Russia’s military buildup is meant to merely kick off a war of nerves on Europe and America, is pure poppycock.

Putin wants to inflict harm on the West for what he sees as his diminished great power status, particularly in light of China’s rise.

Just 20 years ago China’s GDP was estimated to be $1.34 trillion while Russia’s was $306 billion. But in those two decades, China’s GDP has grown more than 13 times to become an $18 trillion economy while Russia’s has only gone up 5.5 times.  (2021 figures)

So China has zoomed past Russia and left them wondering, ‘what the hell just went by?’.

To make matters worse, all this has happened while Putin has been in power. So it is a great embarrassment for him and his nation, to be seen by the rest of the world as having been outclassed by their neighbor.

It has got to hurt Putin.

In his moments alone he has to wonder what didn’t he do to better direct the course of Russia.

He wishes he had had the daring to accomplish, steal, connive, do whatever worked, to rise as the Chinese have.

But he didn’t.

Meanwhile, the longing to be in the spotlight doesn’t go away. So what better way than to invent a crisis and claim that the West is a threat to him.

President Biden has seen right through it. He has not dithered. He’s acted promptly and is making every effort to get an incredulous Europe to face the facts. That to be dependent on Russia for energy is a horrible idea, in light of Putin’s predatory history.

Europe has been steeped in denial, which leads to timidity and so favor the notion that the threat to Ukraine is mere bluffing.

Putin is a wounded and vengeful man, who cannot blame anyone but himself for not releasing the considerable powers of Russia to reach as high as they can. Had Russians been allowed to be part of a market economy that embraced political freedoms, Russia would now be a leading economy. But it didn’t happen.

The blame falls squarely on Vladimir Putin.

He cannot live with that truth so he invents threats, hounds, imprisons or poisons dissidents, stokes a resistance movement in eastern Ukraine that has cost 14 thousand lives so far.

Oh, yes, he has modernized his Army and now has supersonic missiles. And gas and oil and wheat to export, but the potential of Russia, under his power, has been wasted.

He can’t face that truth so why not demonize the West instead.

And when Biden stands firm, Putin then talks of the West ‘goading’ him into invading Ukraine. Or he gets Xi Jinping to send a Chinese official to tell the West to ‘calm down.’

No. There’s no time for that.

Putin’s threat is real.

President Biden has had the wisdom to face it and should not relent one bit in his stance to confront Putin.

And Putin should think of stepping down. He has done enough harm.

Oscar Valdes  apple and google podcasts, and buzzsprout

Putin Wants War

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Something about his inflated ego, courtesy of the docility of the majority of Russians who have tolerated his repressive rule.

The man has mobilized large numbers of soldiers and war materiel.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.

Putin has been further emboldened by the divisiveness he sees in the West, notably Germany and now Macron in France talking about the EU needing to formulate their own strategy, separate from the one of the alliance with the US.

An invasion of Ukraine would be a serious blow to the Free World. A country which has been urgently asking to join us in the West, being trampled on by a thug.

So far, about 14000 Ukrainians have died over the last few years in the Eastern section, as separatists supported by Putin challenge the democratically elected government in Kyiv.

But Russia wants more, regardless of the cost. They want the whole of the Ukraine. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 was not enough.

Putin believes he needs a war to ensure Russia’s security, but no one is threatening Russia. We, in the West, have plenty of problems to solve. Anyway, all they have is oil and gas but that can be had from elsewhere. The security crisis Putin speaks of is entirely his invention.

The US-EU alliance should not give in an inch to Russia.

And NATO should keep open the option for Ukraine and any other former Soviet nation to join them.

Any concession to Putin under threat of invasion is bad news. It would be read by the rest of the world, and China, as a sign of weakness.

We can’t afford it. Not now, not ever.

There are a lot of highly capable men and women presently strategizing how the West should proceed, but from a citizen’s point of view, it makes sense to put troops and materiel on the border with Russia. If you threaten us, we will respond.

And keep the troops there until he backs off, otherwise he’ll bring troops back and then we have to send them in again, making the West feel like a yo-yo.

The fact that Europe grew so dependent on Russia for their energy needs, i.e natural gas, speaks of a horrendous lack of foresight. Somehow, the EU did not factor in that a regime where a dictator has the boot on the throat of his people, with dissidents in jail or murdered, is likely to think they can push others around.  

Putin’s repeated abuses in Ukraine were not given the importance they required. And because of it the current crisis has occurred.

Putin wants war. The West needs to act like it’s ready.

Blunt talk from our leaders is essential. We need to know where we stand.

I read that in Ukraine, president Zelensky is choosing to say to his people that things will be okay. To be patient. I disagree. Ukrainians need to hear the truth. Just like we do.

Oscar Valdes.  apple and google podcasts, and buzzsprout