Megathread for news/updates/discussion of Russian invasion of Ukraine - May 23-24
This thread is posted Monday/Wednesday/Friday - please try to post relevant content in here, such as news, updates, opinion articles, etc. Especially significant updates may warrant a separate topic, but most should be posted here.
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‘Never have I been so ashamed’: Russian envoy criticizes war (AP)
Mixed feelings about this one.
ONE: it's a big resignation. Anyone in the top diplomatic echelon resigning now (bonus points for condemning the war in the process) is big. Don't expect Peskov to resign – they're either much too loyal or backed into a corner by now – but this is pretty big without crumbling Putin's reign. Good to see someone in such a high position leave and close the door so loudly behind them.
TWO: now?! Did you not have like 8 years to consider the fact that Putin lied about Crimea being historically part of Russia? He lied to his country and the rest of the world, and you were still there doing his bidding because... uh... mortgages? I don't know, but why stick around for so long if your principles are so tense?
THREE: I can't really blame the man, after having been closing my eyes on much of what's been happening until the heat really started to burn my dull ass. I've been really trying not to talk much about it, though my friends and my family know pretty much where I stand. (My family's laughing at my political views is the reason they have no clue where I am right now.)
FOUR: expect I really feel like I fuckin' can blame the man. In the red corner: me, a nobody circling down the depression drain, surrounded by crab mentality worshippers and other depression thrill riders. In the blue corner: a diplomat with more than a decade of experience and dozens of connections in the highest echelons of power in Russia, as well as many equally-experienced diplomats abroad. These are not comparable levels of insight into one's country's foreign politics.
FIVE: many of those trying to cause a fuss about the growing threat of fascism in the modern Russia were called alarmist and shunned. Or killed. By Putin. (We don't know for sure, but come the fuck on.)
SIX: Putin's been doing his thug thing for decades and getting away with it in front of our very own eyes. Georgia, Crimea, his leap-frog presidency, the amendments to the constitution... Ukraine was just the boiling point. We all felt the heat rising. Some resisted, some doubled down on the status quo.
SEVEN: every turn of events is obvious in retrospect.
This method of resignation seems suicidal, literally, so I wondered where Bondarev is now. The article says:
Last Friday, my favourite ukrainian was victim of a phishing scam targeting databases of refugees coming from Ukraine and their hosts/families.
Someone pretending to be from Europol called her and got her to transfer 2000 EUR to Thailand via Remitly.
I'm so fucking pissed. I'm chasing the money down but I'm seriously fucking pissed at this worst-of-the-worst targeting. Thankfully, it's just money, but this is hitting her really hard...
Would love advice if someone can suggest anything. I already filed a variety of police, FTC and fraud watch reports and I'm using those to push Remitly to reimburse the money as a facilitator in fraudulent payments.
Russian soldier gets life in prison in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial (WaPo)
The first of MANY more to come, we can only hope.
Starbucks leaving Russian market, shutting 130 stores (AP)
Literally two days ago (one day before the news broke) I was thinking of visiting a Starbucks while in Saint Petersburg.
Europe accepts Putin’s demands on gas payments to avoid more shut-offs (Washington Post)
Someone has to trade euros for rubles and I guess the idea is that Gazprombank is it.
It's not obvious to me why it matters who does the foreign exchange transaction. If the European company or Russia did the transaction instead of Gazprombank, isn't the economic effect the same? Why does anyone care?
Is it that Russia can't easily do foreign exchange trading because it's under sanctions? Or do they get worse terms than other traders would?
Excellent questions that I have no clue about.
But just to recrystallize the point here: These questions about currency are primarily about propping up the market value of the ruble. European countries paying in Euros means the conversion puts pressure on the Ruble (up or down I don't know, my brain refuses to accept the dynamics of supply and demand as applied to currencies). Meanwhile, Putin is sitting on a pile of foreign currency that he's currently expending quickly to prop up the appearance that the Russian economy is doing fine.
It feels to me as if whether the Russian government does the conversion or a Russian bank, it doesn't ultimately matter, the effect should be the same. Which is to say, Europe is de facto paying in Euros, not in Rubles.
I have no expertise, but here's my attempt to think it through:
Russia definitely wants to support the ruble. That's one purpose of capital controls.
But they also need euros, to buy imports. Exchanging euros for rubles and then exchanging them back again to buy imports has no net effect on exchange rates.
One reason to do this would be to make sure the right people in Russia can get the euros by using the foreign exchange market. This might be in support of the war effort (importing essential goods for the military, for example). Another reason would be to evade sanctions. More transactions between more parties makes it harder to tell what's going on. It could also make corruption easier.
The people who have official approval or connections can buy foreign goods or move money abroad more easily. Meanwhile, ordinary Russians are limited by capital controls, unless they can figure out a way around them.
(Incidentally, China has had capital controls for many years. I don't know how leaky they are.)
I'm cringing while posting this here, but Kissinger's words have a lot of weight in some circles, so I think it's important to be aware when he makes emphatic statements.
Henry Kissinger: Ukraine must give Russia territory
I'm fascinated with Kissinger as a historical figure, but his geopolitical worldview is incredibly depressing.
It's also a bizarre fuckin' outlook. I can appreciate that it's coming from someone who's lived in cautious awe of the Soviet Union for a very long time, but the latest events must have given people a shake-up as far as their views on Russia are concerned, no?
Russia has proven to be an ultimately-dictatorial, repressive regime with a paper-tiger army and a visibly-ill paranoid dictator with a lust for power and clearly no concern for his own citizens. If there ever was a "proper place" for Russia in the European balance of power (a sentence that does not make much sense to me), is it not gone with the wind now?
The devil's advocate in me wants to argue that maybe Russia serves as an excellent buffer between the growing and politically-sharp China, as well as the volatile Middle East, so that the old-world portion of NATO can focus on other matters. I can understand that it might all just be a political game for him: gamble on this, plan for that, and if a bunch of people die in the process, doesn't matter as long as you get what you want.
But it's not an outlook I see myself in.
That's Kissenger. I've also, for different reasons, been very surprised by some statements by Noam Chomsky about this war.
I think that's generally true, and he feels that realpolitik provides varying advantages and constraints on different nations, allowing some to be players of the game and others just pawns. I really don't have a good feel for how these type of geopolitical dynamics are framed and discussed among those truly in power but I've been going back and forth between hoping that we're on the cusp of a big change vs expecting that this is just a hiccup before more of the same.
Not sure if it's been published here or if I'd seen it elsewhere, but here is what three Ukrainian scientists from the US and one Ukrainian political analyst have to say about Chomsky's opinions.
It was surprising indeed how little he thought of Ukraine, given his status on an "intellectual".
Thanks for that link! I had not seen that yet. I would be very interested to see if Chomsky responds.
I am not a well-versed Chomsky scholar, but some of his writings, particularly on corporations and propaganda, have been very foundational to my own thoughts. But his statements about Ukraine, particularly in the way they parallel some of Kissinger's above, are deeply disappointing. I've also learned more recently about his views on the Bosnian genocide, and these also deflated my respect for him. I still think that a lot of what Chomsky has written is incredibly important, but I guess these other comments are just a reminder that people are complex, not 100% good/right, and that everyone can be self-contradictory.
For what it's worth, I think this shows very clearly that we are all humans, therefore we are all fallible.
I have great admiration for John von Neumann's intelligence, but his aggressively-militaristic anti-USSR position during and after WWII does not allow me to respect him fully.
On a similar note (though perhaps less in amplitude), I have great admiration for J. K. Rowling as an author of one of the greatest stories of the modern times, but her staunch anti-transgender position makes me not want to think of any more than I absolutely have to.
Which isn't to say Chomsky is any more right to express support for Ukraine's surrender (in one way or another). It's just that... I guess people are rarely ever flat characters, and so our opinions of them must equally have dimensions to them.
Say what you will about the. current US supreme court, but they are all very much intellectual. So was Kissinger for that matter.
I suspect Chomsky belongs to that band of intellectuals who somehow still hope Russia is merely in a transformation phase on its way to a Trotsky paradise.
Then I suspect the term is misapplied.
Wielding an intelligence without being willing to apply it is hardly a mark of wielding an intelligence.
Jomani of the West posted an update on the military situation on Twitter (unrolled). There's a lot going on, but it's not looking good along the Donets.
The NYTimes has a great visual on how the war has shifted, viewed through maps:
Russia's shrinking war