Putin’s criminal aggression

a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.



Gravity flashback

What do you remember about October, 1962?

I remember that, a couple of summers earlier, a neighbor on my (Midwestern, middle-class) block contracted to have some extensive construction work done in their back yard. The neighborhood kids became spectators of the more interesting aspects of the construction process. When an excavator showed up and dug a huge hole, speculation centered around the possibility of a new swimming pool. 

As construction proceeded, it was gradually clear that it was not going to be a swimming pool. No, my neighbor was constructing a back-yard underground bomb-shelter. . . in Kansas! Long before Cuba became a factor, the Cold War was obviously taking a significant anxiety toll on some Americans.



October 16-28, 1962

I faced those twelve scary days as a newly-minted ten-year-old. Still, given my neighbor’s underground bomb-shelter, I took what seemed like the gravity of the situation quite seriously. I remember that it was very scary; well, I remember that I felt existentially anxious. I feel a bit like that, again, now. I recently heard a prominent foreign-affairs voice say that the world is presently in a more precarious and dangerous situation than the Cuban missile crisis presented us almost sixty years ago.

So, this week finds many of the world’s people under a rather significant geo-political threat. For those who have not been sufficiently moved by the ominous danger of climate-change, Vladimir “Putin’s criminal aggression” in Ukraine represents an existential challenge of tremendous salience and urgency.             


A curated DIY

It’s my intention to share a few articles and media that I’ve been looking at this week regarding “Putin’s criminal aggression.”  —Please note, these sources don’t all sing one song in perfect harmony. Rather, it’s my sense that these sources join to form a chorus simultaneously singing diverse songs about a theme that is, imho, self-evidently true; i.e.:

freedom is vastly preferable to tyranny, and is worth defending!


Links . . . . 

  • We’ve been considering George Packer‘s recent book, so, let’s begin there. Packer published an article in The Atlantic last Monday: Ukraine Is Redefining America’s Interests. Packer writes: “Since last Thursday, Ukrainian resistance to invasion has shamed and inspired much of the world.” And, “Ukrainians are fighting with the ferocity of people who know exactly what they have to lose.”
  • Born in Moscow, now U.S. journalist, Masha Gessen offers a helpful breakdown (video here) of how Putin interprets current events. His aggression is explained as a bizarre “cosplay”—a copy-cat crime, so to speak. The reference-point/template is the (illegal) U.S./N.A.T.O. bombing in Yugoslavia in 1999. Gessen details Putin’s way of understanding the events then and what they mean to him in the present context.
    • And, Gessen describes Putin’s (magical) thinking regarding reconstituting the Soviet Union. —I note that my Russian Facebook friend who lives in Moscow, Anatoly, wrote last week: “Putin wants to live in USSR.”
    • Finally, Gessen also argues why sanctions won’t work, i.e., Putin’s protected himself and he doesn’t care a whit if Russian people suffer.
  • Chris Hedges allows significant credence to the Russian “security concerns” narrative, yet he speaks plainly enough here: Russia Was Baited Into War but That Does Not Absolve Its Criminal Aggression.
  • Russian born critic, Gary Kasparov, notes (video here) that as far as help from the U.S. and N.A.T.O., it’s more about “banks than tanks.” With regard to U.S. presidential leadership leading us here, Kasparov says: “We went from feckless (Obama) to reckless (DJT).”
  • Ukrainian born, Peter Pomerantsev writes: (Jan. ’22 Time article) (Feb. ’22 Time article) (Feb. ’22 Guardian article).
  • Historians Timothy Snyder and Yuval Noah Harari engage a very informative conversation (video here) with expert in authoritarianism, Anne Applebaum.
  • Timothy Snyder makes an extremely important point (Substack article) about how Putin is deconstructing moral and linguistic structures.
  • Yuval Noah Harari writes (Economist article) (Guardian article) (TedTalk video).
  • Fareed Zakaria argues (WaPo article) that Putin’s “security issues” are with Western soft power; and that Ukraine has issued an extremely significant wake-up call to Western democracies. 
  • Interview with Fiona Hill regarding Putin (Politico article).
  • Diana Butler Bass picks up on an important existing thread regarding the religious dimension of the conflict (article here).
  • Financial Times . . . . War in Ukraine (free to read articles).
  • Joseph Pisenti (RealLifeLore) sketches resource and relational dynamics from Russian imperialist perspective (video here). 

And, finally, a similar in the different

Making connections. Under “How we teach U.S. history matters,” Lindsay Marshall posted this Twitter thread to her Facebook page:
Sadly, Paul Massaro is not just an ignorant, insensitive white guy; he’s a senior policy adviser to congress.


A couple of days before “Putin’s criminal aggression” began, a friend posted a meme on Facebook that claimed violence is the world’s most dominant religion. I commented on the post and while not really liking what I wrote, I do believe that, sadly, it’s true. A snip of my reply:



Note: I’ll post some additional links to more information in a comment below. Please add your sources, too.



Next week: Two things can be true at once

[this post ~850 words (3 minute read)]  


Your thoughts? 



6 thoughts on “Putin’s criminal aggression

  1. hey now, All,

    So, I’ll keep adding to this later. However, I wanted to get it started as an example. Please add any/all sources that you find helpful on the, ‘Ukraine invaded by Russia,’ topic in a comment below, i.e., links and a quick summary or remark for each. Thanks!

    Fareed Zakaria’s “Take” for today (3/6/22), “How To beat Putin for Real.” Zakaria argues for supporting all non-Russian oil and gas producers to really hit Putin where it hurts. WaPo article here || https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/03/03/biden-west-must-sanction-putins-oil-and-gas

    Today Timothy Snyder writes on his Substack page about Putin’s recent crackdown on journalists. Very interesting story angle, i.e., how Russian teachers are instructed to teach school children about the situation in Ukraine. || https://snyder.substack.com/p/how-to-talk-about-the-war

    MIT Technology Review . . . . “The propaganda war has eclipsed cyberwar in Ukraine: Frauds, liars, and grifters are adding to the chaos of the fighting.” By Patrick Howell O’Neill || https://www.technologyreview.com/2022/03/02/1046646/the-propaganda-war-has-eclipsed-cyberwar-in-ukraine

    In an email today [3/7/22] from Timothy Snyder, “The Russian war effort, following a pattern we know from Chechnya and Syria, has shifted to encircling cities and killing civilians.”

    Today (3/9/22) on WBUR’s “Here and Now,” Melinda Herring, Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, makes a rather hawkish argument regarding how to handle Putin. Bottom line, she argues we must get the Polish Migs to the Ukrainians today. || https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2022/03/09/no-fly-zone-ukraine-russia

    Today (3/9/22) on WAMU’s “1A” . . . “Why is authoritarianism surging worldwide?” || https://the1a.org/segments/why-is-authoritarianism-surging-worldwide

    “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” | Full Documentary | Netflix – posted to YouTube . . . . important background // In just 93 days, what started as peaceful student demonstrations became a violent revolution. Netflix documentary Winter on Fire brings you the story of Ukraine’s fight for freedom from the frontlines of the 2014 uprising. || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzNxLzFfR5w

    The political scientist John Mearsheimer has a contrarian view: “So we invented this story that Russia was bent on aggression in Eastern Europe. Putin is interested in creating a greater Russia, or maybe even re-creating the Soviet Union.” An important argument to take in, so please read the piece. However, I’ll say that the quote has a problem in that Putin has said as much himself. New Yorker article: “Why John Mearsheimer Blames the U.S. for the Crisis in Ukraine” || https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/why-john-mearsheimer-blames-the-us-for-the-crisis-in-ukraine

    An interview — highlighting the US/NATO part in Putin’s criminal aggression in Ukraine — with Andrew Bacevich. Bacevich is president and co-founder of the antiwar think tank Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He is a retired Colonel, Vietnam War veteran, Professor Emeritus of International Relations and History at Boston University and author of a number of books including his most recent just out called “After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed.” This interview is titled: “Ukraine is Paying the Price for the U.S. ‘Recklessly’ Pushing NATO Expansion.” || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCntlkpdr0k

    Several voices have made, what they argue is, a reasonable suggestion concerning a potential post-conflict posture for Ukraine. Here, Noam Chomsky argues that only a neutral posture for Ukraine going forward satisfies Russia’s genuine security concerns. “After Dangerous Proxy War, Keeping Ukraine Neutral Offers Path to Peace with Russia” || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ni3j1mhU5M

    As Timothy Snyder remarked the other day, history offers an ominous warning about what will happen next in Ukraine [I note: if, IF, Putin’s war chest doesn’t go bankrupt first]. here’s an NPR report on the lessons of Russia’s military operations in Chechnya, Georgia, and Syria. “In Chechnya and Syria, ominous signs for Ukraine” || https://www.npr.org/2022/03/11/1086153806/in-chechnya-and-syria-ominous-signs-for-ukraine

    This [long] article doesn’t address Russia’s war on Ukraine directly, but it provides excellent and much-needed background for considering current events right now. I strongly encourage you to make time to read the piece. “Foreign Affairs” magazine is rated as just right of center and is accorded much respect for being solid journalism. Media Fact check and Bias says: “Least bias” and “High” for factual reporting.” They offer a free article to provide a sample I imagine. Please read this . . . “The Dictator’s New Playbook: Why Democracy Is Losing the Fight” || https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2022-02-22/dictators-new-playbook

    Reporting on extreme right wing (“neo-Nazis”) groups/militias in Ukraine is becoming more prevalent. This “Fair Observer” article offers some helpful background to the context in Ukraine. “In the context of the Russian invasion, the post-2014 Ukrainian government’s problematic relationship with extreme right-wing parties and neo-Nazi groups has become an incendiary element on both sides of the propaganda war, with Russia exaggerating it as a pretext for war and the West trying to sweep it under the rug.” So, for instance, one prominent group in Ukraine is the “Azov Battalion.” In the U.S., we might think of the “Boogaloo Bois” as a rough corollary. The article, “The Presence of Neo-Nazis in Ukraine,” is informative. || https://www.fairobserver.com/region/europe/medea-benjamin-nicolas-js-davies-ukraine-war-russia-ukranian-neo-nazi-fascists-azov-battalion-89292

    Important background, the Holodomor. History dot com article, “How Joseph Stalin Starved Millions in the Ukrainian Famine: Cruel efforts under Stalin to impose collectivism and tamp down Ukrainian nationalism left an estimated 3.9 million dead.” || https://www.history.com/news/ukrainian-famine-stalin

    A long, but important, article by attorney, professor, journalist, author, Seth Abramson. “The Ten Hardest Truths About the War in Europe” || https://sethabramson.substack.com/p/the-ten-hardest-truths-about-the

    March 14, 2022 – On 24 February, Russia invaded Ukraine, turning an eight-year conflict that started with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, into a full-scale war. This public conversation with Serhii Plokhii and Timothy Snyder will consider where things stand and what’s at stake. “Serhii Plokhii and Timothy Snyder The War in Ukraine and Universal Values” || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBDNo3Upg-0

    A March 18, 2022, ‘On the Media’ interview reports on how the “bio-weapons” *political technologies* were created. “We were warned” || https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/episodes/on-the-media-we-were-warned

    “War On the Rocks” (National security. For insiders. By insiders.) is a website focused on the issues that weigh in on the crisis in Ukraine. You’ll find many free articles available to increase your background knowledge on these topics. “UNDERSTANDING THE RUSSO-UKRAINIAN WAR: A GUIDE FROM WAR ON THE ROCKS” || https://warontherocks.com/understanding-the-russo-ukrainian-war-a-guide-from-war-on-the-rocks/

    Vladimir Putin, Moscow Patriarch Kirill, and the ‘Russian World’ heresy all assert that “there is a transnational Russian sphere or civilization, called Holy Russia or Holy Rus’, which includes Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (and sometimes Moldova and Kazakhstan), as well as ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people throughout the world.”
    “Orthodox clergy, lay people and scholars condemn Moscow Patriarch Kirill.”
    They condemned Kirill because they know that Putin created this false narrative and that Kirill is Putin’s sock puppet.
    So, yeah. “Orthodox Christian Unity Broken by ‘Russian World’ Heresy” || https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/03/15/orthodox-christian-unity-broken-by-russian-world-heresy-a76922

    A new article [March 20, 2022] in Tablet magazine by Jason Stanley and Eliyahu Stern. “Putin’s Fascism” || https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/putins-fascism

    Chris Hedges wrote today [March 21, 2022]:

    “The deliberate targeting of civilians, whether in Baghdad, Kyiv, Gaza, or New York City, are all war crimes. The killing of at least 112 Ukranian children, as of March 19, is an atrocity, but so is the killing of 551 Palestinian children during Israel’s 2014 military assault on Gaza. So is the killing of 230,000 people over the past seven years in Yemen from Saudi bombing campaigns and blocades that have resulted in mass starvation and cholera epidemics.”

    “War crimes demand the same moral judgment and accountability. But they don’t get them. And they don’t get them because we have one set of standards for white Europeans, and another for non-white people around the globe.” || https://scheerpost.com/2022/03/21/hedges-the-lie-of-american-innocence

    A March 23, 2022, newsletter to the Global Guerillas (John Robb’s Report, “Frameworks for decision-makers at the intersection of war, politics, and technology”) takes an interesting approach to the virtual aspect of the present crisis in Ukraine. “Swarms vs Nukes” || https://johnrobb.substack.com/p/swarms-vs-nukes?

    A very interesting March 24, 2022, article by Ukrainian sociologist, Mychailo Wynnyckyj, In it he describes why Ukraine is winning the war. Article: “Why are Ukrainians winning the Russo-Ukrainian war? A social scientist’s view” || https://euromaidanpress.com/2022/03/24/why-are-ukrainians-winning-the-russo-ukrainian-war-a-social-scientists-view

    This ‘War On the Rocks’ webpage post from March 25, 2022, describes how in 2014 Russia established the “Peoples Republics” (of Donetsk and Luhansk) in Eastern Ukraine. The author examines to see if Russia is doing it again in Southeastern Ukraine (Mariupol, etc.). “Will Russia Create New “People’s Republics” In Ukraine?” by Andrew Lohsen || https://warontherocks.com/2022/03/will-russia-create-new-peoples-republics-in-ukraine

    Timothy Snyder’s newsletter for today [3/28/2022] offers a report on open source information regarding what’s happening in Russia with Putin’s war. “The Kremlin’s formula for failure” || https://snyder.substack.com/p/the-kremlins-formula-for-failure

    Conservatives often take a different, more US-policy-critical view. The pushback seemingly overlooks the agency of Ukrainians. “Is There A Path To Peace In Ukraine?” || https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/is-there-a-path-to-peace-in-ukraine

    In my March 20 piece, “Another Apocalypse? Already?,” I wrote about America’s failure with regard to ending our engagement with Afghanistan. Here’s a NPR piece that takes a look at the horrendous conditions for Afghani people and how the crisis in Ukraine is affecting Afghanis. “How The War In Ukraine Is Affecting Afghanistan’s Growing Famine” || https://www.npr.org/2022/03/21/1087897335/how-the-war-in-ukraine-is-affecting-afghanistans-growing-famine

    Also in “Another Apocalypse? Already?,” we recognized what is plain, America’s problem with immigration is racial. Nearly everyone knows that U.S. immigration policy is badly broken, and almost as many know that the responsibility for that brokenness is on both political parties. Our border policy in action with Ukrainians is reported in this ‘Newsweek’ article, “Exclusive: ICE Detains Ukrainians Seeking U.S. Asylum Amid Refugee Crisis.” || https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-ice-detains-ukrainians-us-amid-europes-refugee-crisis-1688854

    Here’s a new ‘War On the Rocks’ post from today [3/31/2022]. “Is Russia’s Invasion a Case of Coercive Diplomacy Gone Wrong?” by James Siebens || https://warontherocks.com/2022/03/is-russias-invasion-a-case-of-coercive-diplomacy-gone-wrong

    Thursday [3/31/2022] Fareed Zakaria wrote in his WaPo Opinion piece: “There was just one problem, then and now: The Algerians then, like the Ukrainians now, had no desire to continue to be colonial subjects. This resistance from the ground is the key piece of the narrative that we sometimes neglect.” Article, “Russia is the last multinational empire, fighting to keep its colonies” || https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/03/31/ukrane-fighting-russia-imperialism-eastern-europe-algeria-kenya

    DW The Day, interviewed exiled Russian oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky [3/31/2022]. The Day’s introduction:

    “Over a month after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has come to understand that “there can be no military solution here,” exiled Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky told DW. Khodorkovsky, a prominent critic of the Russian leader, previously spent a decade in prison in Russia on charges widely regarded as revenge for challenging Putin’s rule. Russian troops began their invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Putin announced that the operation aimed at “demilitarizing” and “de-nazifying” the former Soviet state and protecting Russian speakers in the country. But with Russia failing to quickly occupy the country due to strong Ukrainian resistance and its troops getting bogged down, Moscow recently announced a change in its war aims, saying that it will focus on the “liberation” of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. “Putin is stuck when it comes to the military operation,” Khodorkovsky said, adding, “Putin has two options now: Either he escalates things, which could mean either introducing mobilization or using tactical nuclear weapons, or he can stabilize the situation and begin peace talks in earnest.” In the interview with DW, Khodorkovsky also stressed the importance of a unified Western position. “The West’s position needs to be clear, meaning comprehensive support for Ukraine if the war continues and in case Putin uses tactical nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction,” he underlined. “That sort of clear position from the West will, let’s say, help Putin make the right decision.” The piece: “Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky: Putin realizes ‘there can be no military solution’ | DW Interview” || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfYVX5ZWxBA

    GPS Fareed Zakaria [4/3/2022] . . . . Exiled Russian oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, paints Vladimir Putin as a thug who only understands force, “strength.” || https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fypBI2ovxP8

    WARNING . . . This one is very difficult (very graphic images) as it documents Russian atrocities. The April 3, 2022, media post is entitled: “Podolyak appealed to Western leaders after another shocking photo of the Massacre in Bucha” [Mikhaylo Podolyak, adviser to the head of the Presidential Chamber] || https://hvylya.net/news/250116-podolyak-obratilsya-k-zapadnym-lideram-posle-ocherednyh-shokiruyushchih-foto-rezni-v-buche

    4/3/2022 [again, very graphic images] . . . . This article reports on the post described above, e.g., the Mikhaylo Podolyak, ‘Bucha massacre’ story. This is ‘The Odessa Journal’ article, “‘Did you want another Srebrenica?’ Mikhaylo Podolyak about Bucha massacre” || https://odessa-journal.com/did-you-want-another-srebrenica-mikhaylo-podolyak-about-bucha-massacre

    4/4/2022 . . . . a very interesting Twitter thread this morning leads to a jaw-dropping article [see next entry re 4/3/2022 RIA Novosti article]. The Twitter thread is by Belarusian journalist, PhD Researcher, Tadeusz Giczan (@TadeuszGiczan) || https://twitter.com/TadeuszGiczan/status/1510908227202002947

    This article published on 4/3/2022 in RIA Novosti [Russian state media source] makes any further defense of Vladimir Putin completely incoherent. The article by Timofey Sergeytsev is entitled: “What should Russia do with Ukraine?” (note: I use a Chrome browser so Google translate handles that part) || https://ria.ru/20220403/ukraina-1781469605.html

    Timothy Snyder’s post for 4/8/2022 unpacks Timofey Sergeytsev’s article in RIA Novosti. Snyder writes : “Russia’s genocide handbook” || https://snyder.substack.com/p/russias-genocide-handbook?s=r

    Fareed’s Friday [4/8/22] Washington Post article (will be ‘Fareed’s Take’ on GPS [4/10/22]) is a bit bearish. The article: “Right-wing populists are thriving — even when they’re friends of Putin” || https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/04/07/right-wing-populism-thriving-hungary-france-serbia-lepen-orban

    Reports that Putin’s popularity is increasing is counterintuitive to Westerners. In this WAMU “1A” program Jenn White interviews Peter Pomerantsev regarding Russian propaganda. The section from 18:04 – 18:57 is of particular help in explaining the increasing popularity reports. 1A program: “What Russia doesn’t want you to know and how it keeps you from knowing it” || https://the1a.org/segments/what-russia-doesnt-want-you-to-know-and-how-it-keeps-you-from-knowing-it

    Similarly, Masha Gessen explains to Fareed Zakaria why Russian polls show that Putin’s popularity has increased because of the war on Ukraine. “On GPS: How do Russians see Putin’s war?” || https://www.cnn.com/videos/tv/2022/04/10/0410-masha-gessen-russia-putin-war.cnn

    A pair of articles indicate that Putin’s *political technologies* regarding Ukraine are influencing Russian polarization … First, “There are reports of students turning in teachers and people telling on their neighbors and even the diners at the next table. In a mall in western Moscow, it was the “no to war” text displayed in a computer repair store and reported by a passer-by that got the store’s owner, Marat Grachev, detained by the police. NYTimes article: “Spurred by Putin, Russians Turn on One Another Over the War” || https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/09/world/europe/putin-russia-war-ukraine.html

    Second, “It’s a campaign with dark Soviet echoes, inspired last month by President Vladimir Putin, who praised Russians for their ability to identify ‘scum and traitors’ and ‘spit them out like a fly.’” “I am convinced that this natural and necessary self-cleansing of society will only strengthen our country,” Putin said March 16 in a televised speech, accusing the West of wanting to use a “fifth column” to destroy Russia.” WaPo article: “Russian students are turning in teachers who don’t back the war” || https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/04/10/russia-war-dissent-opposition-crackdown

    [4/12/2022] The Center for Strategic and International Studies asks: “Will the United States Run Out of Javelins Before Russia Runs Out of Tanks?” || https://www.csis.org/analysis/will-united-states-run-out-javelins-russia-runs-out-tanks

    Well, supporting Ukraine certainly does not present itself as a problem free experience. This example goes to show why many folks argue that the end does not justify the means. Imho, Ukraine is wrong for doing this and recklessly incorrect about the effects of doing it. A 4/15/22 WaPo story: “Ukraine is scanning faces of dead Russians, then contacting the mothers.” A sadly fitting WaPo piece for Good Friday. || https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/04/15/ukraine-facial-recognition-warfare

    Timothy Snyder writes about Easter in light of Putin’s Easter offensive in eastern Ukraine. Snyder’s 4/17/ 22 Substack newsletter, “Russia’s Easter Offensive” || https://snyder.substack.com/p/russias-easter-offensive?s=r

    List of organizations helping in Ukraine that you can support. [4/19/22] Timothy Snyder’s Substack newsletter: “Helping Ukrainians survive the Easter Offensive” || https://snyder.substack.com/p/helping-ukrainians-survive-the-easter?s=r

    Whatever you may think of cryptocurrency, the technology that underpins it, blockchain, may be a key to helping make war crime charges stick. “The project — which boasts human rights experts and former government officials among its leaders — hopes to use blockchain technology as well as other tools to ensure that evidence isn’t lost, challenged or corrupted by those who want the alleged crimes of the Russian invasion force covered up.” The 4/20/22 WaPo story: “Can technology bring Vladimir Putin to justice?” || https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/04/18/war-crimes-prosecutions-evidence-blockchain


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