Tag Archives: Russia

I apologize, Mitt

Mitt Romney appears to have earned a worldwide apology from those of us who once scoffed at a notion he put forth while he was running for president of the United States in 2012.

A decade ago, the junior U.S. senator from Utah said Russia posed the “greatest geopolitical threat” to the United States. President Barack Obama led the snickering and tittering — and the ridicule — of the Republican presidential nominee’s assertion. I joined in the laughter.

Well, guess what. It turns out Romney was correct.

Russia has launched an unprovoked war with Ukraine, helping plunge the world into utter chaos.

To be clear, I don’t recall that Romney foresaw what the world is witnessing when he made those Russia remarks during the heat of a presidential campaign. He offered a statement that has borne much more truth than we imagined in the moment a decade ago.

Now the senator is saying that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ought to consider responding militarily if Russia uses tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine. A full-throated NATO response would pulverize Russia, Romney said.

Am I going to laugh now at such a suggestion coming from Sen. Mitt Romney? Hardly.


Ukrainians winning grassroots support

I am trying to remember a time when a nation involved in a war in a far-off land has earned the kind of support on American soil that we are seeing demonstrated for Ukraine in its struggle against Russia.

I am 72 years of age and have seen quite a bit during my time on this Earth. I went to war once myself while wearing my own country’s uniform and I have watched many conflicts erupt all over the world.

This one is so vastly different in terms of the response coming from rank-and-file Americans. I see it constantly.

Vehicles flying Ukrainian flags; they are adorned with bumper stickers proclaiming support for Ukraine; business owners are plastering Ukraine-flag posters on their windows.

My wife and I recently returned from a brief trip to the Texas Hill Country and when we parked our travel trailer at an RV park in Johnson City, we noticed a propane gas dealer flying a full-sized Ukraine flag on the lot next to Old Glory in Dripping Springs.

Judging by that overwhelming show of support for Ukraine over the butchery bring brought to that country by Russians, the only conclusion I can draw is that our politicians — who represent our needs and wishes — had better do what the folks back home are demanding of them.

Which is to give Ukraine all the help it seeks to beat back the Russian invaders.


Handle prisoner swaps carefully

Trevor Reed’s release from a Russian prison cell thrills me greatly. The young Texan, a former Marine, is now home after spending 900-plus days in prison for a crime he denies committing.

The Biden administration and members of the Texas congressional delegation worked hard to secure Reed’s release. He’s now home. I wish the young man well as he recovers his health and his emotional well-being.

Now, though, comes a word of caution.

President Biden agreed to swap Reed for a Russian who was held in our prison system. The exchange took place the way it’s done in the movies; the two men walked past each other without saying a word.

I will not dispute the need to do whatever it takes to Americans freed from wrongful imprisonment. I just hope we don’t get too carried away with this idea of releasing foreign bad guys who well could be released to do harm to us.

We still need to get two more Americans out of prison in Russia. Paul Whelan has been held for a couple of years on spying charges; Brittany Griner, a woman’s basketball star, was arrested by airport security agents for trying to board an airplane carrying cannabis products in her baggage.

We need to get these Americans home, too. I just want the administration to be careful about sending Russian lawbreakers back to where they could do harm to this country or our allies.

Do the ends justify the means? In this case, yes … but not every single time.


Rules of war have changed … or have they?

Those of us who can recall earlier conflicts between nations can remember a time when civilians lost their lives when military machines attacked unarmed targets indiscriminately.

Then the rules changed — supposedly — when the Geneva Convention adopted prohibitions against hitting “soft” targets. Nations would (more or less) follow those restrictions.

Now we have the horror unfolding in Ukraine. The carnage and destruction brought by Russian missiles, artillery shells and bombs on apartment complexes, schools, hospitals, houses of worship is beyond the pale.

The scenes being televised around the world of entire neighborhoods in Mariupol leveled by Russian ordnance should fill any of with rage.

Ukrainian forces repelled Russian invaders in their effort to take the capital city of Kyiv. The Russians pulled back, reorganized and have begun an all-out assault on the eastern and southern portions of Ukraine. The armed forces under Vladimir Putin’s command have acted in a throw-back fashion, reminding many of us of the brutality inflicted throughout Europe and Asia during World War II.

In this era of “smart bombs” and precise targeting of military installations, seeing the images from Ukraine should serve as a graphic reminder that Russia is governed by a monster masquerading as a world leader.


Trying to understand Putin

I am acutely aware of the difficulty involved with analyzing what goes through the mind of a tyrant, a killer and a despot particularly when this individual is committing war crimes while invading a sovereign nation.

That won’t stop me from seeking to understand what Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is thinking as he wages war against Ukraine.

The Ukraine War has gone badly for Russia, at least in terms of the expected “quick conquest” Putin surely expected when he launched the invasion two months ago. Russian armed forces have suffered tremendous casualties, making me wonder: Does Putin send letters of condolence to parents, siblings and spouses of fallen Russian soldiers, the way U.S. presidents have done? Does he thank them for their sacrifice and for the service of their deceased warriors?

Putin is widely considered a war criminal. President Biden has accused him of committing genocide against Ukrainians. Russian athletes are being banned from international competition. World leaders are walking out of global meetings when Russian government officials stand to speak.

How does someone such as Vladimir Putin justify his actions? How does he explain to the people he governs (with an iron fist) the nature of what is transpiring in Ukraine?

We hear via leaks that Russian oligarchs are rebelling against Putin. They oppose the war, too.

It’s troubling in the extreme for me to assess what must be passing through this individual’s mind and for what tugs at what passes for his heart. I realize it’s an exercise in futility. However, it illustrates the complicated path over which Putin’s adversaries must travel as they deal with the machinations of a madman.


War with Russia? No way!

Let us settle down for a moment or two, shall we? I want to offer a word of assurance, admittedly from the cheap seats, about the prospect of American fighting forces marching into battle with Russians.

It won’t happen!

The Russians are getting their butts kicked in Ukraine, as they try to subvert the sovereign nation along Russia’s western border. The Russians appear set to conquer the seaport of Mariupol. Their attempt to take control of the Ukraine capital in Kyiv met with failure.

Neil Steinberg, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, seems to think war with Russia is possible. He writes:

Is the United States heading toward war? It seems a very real possibility. Some arms convoy in Poland will be hit, and the gears of general conflagration will start to turn. It’ll all seem inevitable, afterward. Then we can be haunted aplenty.

Just to be clear. I’m not saying the United States shouldn’t continue arming Ukraine. We have to. Which means we must accept the possibility of war. We don’t like to think about that. The whole strategy of handing weapons to Ukrainians and letting them actually pull the trigger is a tactic designed to avoid dragging ourselves into actual fighting. The easy way.

Read his essay here: Are we going to war with Russia? – Chicago Sun-Times (suntimes.com)

President Biden has pledged on numerous occasions that there is no way on God’s Earth that American forces will fight Russians … on the battlefield, or in the air, or at sea. I am going to take him at his word on that pledge.

Americans are sick and tired of war. We cannot tolerate another protracted ground fight with Russia. Period. Full stop.

We should continue to aid Ukraine with arms and related supplies. I have no trouble supporting that effort. That is as far as it should go. We can speed up delivery of the materiel and we should do so.

I can see no circumstance where we will commit young Americans to a ground war with Russia.


Why not respond in kind?

My perch in the cheap seats as I watch the Ukraine War play out way over there gives me a chance to wonder about something: If we are so fearful of Russian cyberattacks, why don’t we threaten to unleash our own cyber weapons against them?

The U.S.-Russia cold war might be taking a new form to replace the one that formerly featured nuclear weapons pointed at each other back in the days of the Evil Empire, when Russia was called The Soviet Union.

I don’t want my retirement account to be sucked dry by some cyber spook hunkered in some Moscow bunker. However, we live in the world’s most technically sophisticated nation. We have uber-geeks prepared to do all kinds of harm if given the lawful order from on high to do so.

It seems we are capable of crafting a cyber policy that we could make public — without revealing, of course, the tactical aspects of what we intend to do. Tell the Russians what kind of damage we can do to their cyber system and then — as we did during the other Cold War — dare them to launch an attack on us.

It would be a form of Mutually Assured Destruction 2.0.

It therefore would be equally MAD for the Russians to perform any funny stuff if we are ready to respond in kind.


Impossible to endorse these actions

My ability to comprehend the depravity being brought to Ukrainians is being taxed to the max. Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin invaded a sovereign nation intent on occupying its capital city within three days.

His supposedly vaunted Russian military machine has failed in its mission. That has not stopped Putin from violating what appears to be every standard of decency established by the Geneva Convention in his effort to subdue Ukraine.

He has bombed and shelled hospitals, schools, churches, apartment buildings and has killed thousands of civilians. The scenes of destruction brought against Ukraine belie another truth about this war, which is that Ukraine is putting up one hell of a fight to fend off the invaders. Hence, the failed mission to march into Kyiv.

What happens next is anyone’s guess. The two sides supposedly are “negotiating” a possible end to the hostilities and yet the Russians also are reportedly gathering in eastern Ukraine and preparing for another all-out assault.

What remains arguably the most confusing element in all of this is how Putin can function day to day realizing that virtually the entire planet is aligned against him. The destruction and the visual images of the casualties his troops have left behind have turned this man into an international pariah.

There can be no coming back from the depths to which this individual has taken his nation.


Vietnam analogy takes shape?

There appears to be a sort of Vietnam analogy possibly taking shape on the battlefields in Ukraine. I can’t quite get my arms completely around it, but I do sense a certain similarity coming into focus.

More than 50 years ago, the United States was engaged in a death struggle with Vietnamese forces over control of South Vietnam. The United States won virtually every military engagement against the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army. We did not win the hearts and minds of the people.

So, U.S. and North Vietnamese negotiators ventured to Paris to work out an agreement to end hostilities. The agreement came to pass in January 1973. We pulled our forces out but by April 1975, North Vietnam was able to roll its tanks into Saigon and rename the city after Ho Chi Minh.

Fast forward to the present day.

Russia has invaded Ukraine. The Russians are unable to win over Ukrainians’ hearts and souls. Ukraine is waging a hell of a fight to save their country, much as the Vietnamese did against our forces in the1960s and 1970s. The Russian advance has been stalled. Ukraine is taking back some of the territory it lost in the initial combat.

Now we hear that Russia is beginning to give a little in talks with Ukraine. Might there be an agreement reached that could end this senseless slaughter? Might the Ukrainians be able to declare some form of “victory” against a vastly superior military force?

OK, so the Vietnam-Ukraine analogy isn’t aligned perfectly. I do see enough similarity, though, to suggest that Ukraine might have been able to “win the war” while losing all the “battles” on its way to ending the Russian onslaught.

Let us not forget, either, that the U.S.-led economic sanctions are crippling the Russians to the point of disabling them from continuing the fight.


Worried about Taiwan

While the world recoils in horror at what is transpiring in Ukraine and wondering whether China is taking notes on what lies ahead for another potential conflict, I want to offer a brief word of worry about a possible target of Chinese aggression.

It sits off the China coast. Taiwan has been a thriving nation of its own since 1949, when Chiang kai-Shek’s government set up shop in Taipei after losing a bloody civil war with the communists.

China wants Taiwan back. It has been threatening to take the island nation back ever since the end of the conflict on the mainland. Whether Russia succeeds in its effort to subdue Ukraine could spell a heap of trouble for China and for Taiwan.

My interest in Taiwan is personal. I have been there five times, starting in 1989. I returned in 1994, in 1999, 2007 and 2010. My first visit came at the end of a grueling three-week tour of Southeast Asia. Taiwan was still under martial law. It lifted the martial law between my first and second visits.

The country is as independent from China these days as it possibly could be … except that it hasn’t declared its independence. It dare not make the declaration, as it would enrage the communists on the mainland to the point of launching an invasion of their own to retake the island.

Taiwan’s population now consists almost entirely of people who were born there. Few Taiwanese have any direct tie to China. The country is a thriving democracy. Taiwan is an economic powerhouse. It also possesses a stout military apparatus that benefits from a defense agreement with the United States.

To be clear, Taiwan has few diplomatic allies, in that the world recognizes only “one China.” That happens to be the one that governs in Beijing. However, the reality is that even though Taiwan once was part of China, it now considers itself to be a separate nation. Yes, it is a curious and complicated matter that cannot be solved easily and cleanly.

I cannot pretend to know how this will play out. President Biden has been talking extensively with Chinese leaders since war broke out in Ukraine. I keep hearing that Biden has persuaded the Chinese to stay out of the Russia-Ukraine fight; that it shouldn’t send arms to Russia. That suits me just fine.

If the Ukrainians somehow can broker an end to the fighting without Russia marching into Kyiv, then there could be some hope that China would have to rethink whatever aspirations it has about taking Taiwan back in a fight to the finish.

Believe this, too: Taiwan will fight like hell for their country just as Ukrainians are fighting for theirs.

It all still brings cause for worry.