How Might This War End?

Thomas Friedman is a political commentator and author whose work I have shared before. He is a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner who has written extensively on foreign affairs, global trade, the Middle East, globalization, and environmental issues.  In his latest editorial for the New York Times, Friedman details three possible outcomes for the war in Ukraine and I find his assessment thoughtful, and also tragic.  This is a bit longer than my usual post, but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read …


I See Three Scenarios for How This War Ends

By Thomas L. Friedman, Opinion Columnist

March 1, 2022

The battle for Ukraine unfolding before our eyes has the potential to be the most transformational event in Europe since World War II and the most dangerous confrontation for the world since the Cuban missile crisis. I see three possible scenarios for how this story ends. I call them “the full-blown disaster,” “the dirty compromise” and “salvation.”

The disaster scenario is now underway: Unless Vladimir Putin has a change of heart or can be deterred by the West, he appears willing to kill as many people as necessary and destroy as much of Ukraine’s infrastructure as necessary to erase Ukraine as a free independent state and culture and wipe out its leadership. This scenario could lead to war crimes the scale of which has not been seen in Europe since the Nazis — crimes that would make Vladimir Putin, his cronies and Russia as a country all global pariahs.

The wired, globalized world has never had to deal with a leader accused of this level of war crimes whose country has a landmass spanning 11 time zones, is one of the world’s largest oil and gas providers and possesses the biggest arsenal of nuclear warheads of any nation.

Every day that Putin refuses to stop we get closer to the gates of hell. With each TikTok video and cellphone shot showing Putin’s brutality, it will be harder and harder for the world to look away. But to intervene risks igniting the first war in the heart of Europe involving nuclear weapons. And to let Putin reduce Kyiv to rubble, with thousands of dead — the way he conquered Aleppo and Grozny — would allow him to create a European Afghanistan, spilling out refugees and chaos.

Putin doesn’t have the ability to install a puppet leader in Ukraine and just leave him there: A puppet would face a permanent insurrection. So, Russia needs to permanently station tens of thousands of troops in Ukraine to control it — and Ukrainians will be shooting at them every day. It is terrifying how little Putin has thought about how his war ends.

I wish Putin was just motivated by a desire to keep Ukraine out of NATO; his appetite has grown far beyond that. Putin is in the grip of magical thinking: As Fiona Hill, one of America’s premier Russia experts, said in an interview published on Monday by Politico, he believes that there is something called “Russky Mir,” or a “Russian World”; that Ukrainians and Russians are “one people”; and that it is his mission to engineer “regathering all the Russian-speakers in different places that belonged at some point to the Russian tsardom.”

To realize that vision, Putin believes that it is his right and duty to challenge what Hill calls “a rules-based system in which the things that countries want are not taken by force.” And if the U.S. and its allies attempt to get in Putin’s way — or try to humiliate him the way they did Russia at the end of the Cold War — he is signaling that he is ready to out-crazy us. Or, as Putin warned the other day before putting his nuclear force on high alert, anyone who gets in his way should be ready to face “consequences they have never seen” before. Add to all this the mounting reports questioning Putin’s state of mind and you have a terrifying cocktail.

The second scenario is that somehow the Ukrainian military and people are able to hold out long enough against the Russian blitzkrieg, and that the economic sanctions start deeply wounding Putin’s economy, so that both sides feel compelled to accept a dirty compromise. Its rough contours would be that in return for a cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian troops, Ukraine’s eastern enclaves now under de facto Russian control would be formally ceded to Russia, while Ukraine would explicitly vow never to join NATO. At the same time, the U.S. and its allies would agree to lift all recently imposed economic sanctions on Russia.

This scenario remains unlikely because it would require Putin to basically admit that he was unable to achieve his vision of reabsorbing Ukraine into the Russian motherland, after paying a huge price in terms of his economy and the deaths of Russian soldiers. Moreover, Ukraine would have to formally cede part of its territory and accept that it was going to be a permanent no man’s land between Russia and the rest of Europe — though it would at least maintain its nominal independence. It would also require everyone to ignore the lesson already learned that Putin can’t be trusted to leave Ukraine alone.

Finally, the least likely scenario but the one that could have the best outcome is that the Russian people demonstrate as much bravery and commitment to their own freedom as the Ukrainian people have shown to theirs, and deliver salvation by ousting Putin from office.

Many Russians must be starting to worry that as long as Putin is their present and future leader, they have no future. Thousands are taking to the streets to protest Putin’s insane war. They’re doing this at the risk of their own safety. And though too soon to tell, their pushback does make you wonder if the so-called fear barrier is being broken, and if a mass movement could eventually end Putin’s reign.

Even for Russians staying quiet, life is suddenly being disrupted in ways small and large. As my colleague Mark Landler put it: “In Switzerland, the Lucerne music festival canceled two symphony concerts featuring a Russian maestro. In Australia, the national swim team said it would boycott a world championship meet in Russia. At the Magic Mountain Ski Area in Vermont, a bartender poured bottles of Stolichnaya vodka down the drain. From culture to commerce, sports to travel, the world is shunning Russia in myriad ways to protest President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.”

And then there is the new “Putin tax” that every Russian will have to pay indefinitely for the pleasure of having him as their president. I am talking about the effects of the mounting sanctions being imposed on Russia by the civilized world. On Monday, the Russian central bank had to keep the Russian stock market closed to prevent a panicked meltdown and was forced to raise its benchmark interest rate in one day to 20 percent from 9.5 percent to encourage people to hold rubles. Even then the ruble nose-dived by about 30 percent against the dollar — it’s now worth less than 1 U.S. cent.

For all of these reasons I have to hope that at this very moment there are some very senior Russian intelligence and military officials, close to Putin, who are meeting in some closet in the Kremlin and saying out loud what they all must be thinking: Either Putin has lost a step as a strategist during his isolation in the pandemic or he is in deep denial over how badly he has miscalculated the strength of Ukrainians, America, its allies and global civil society at large.

If Putin goes ahead and levels Ukraine’s biggest cities and its capital, Kyiv, he and all of his cronies will never again see the London and New York apartments they bought with all their stolen riches. There will be no more Davos and no more St. Moritz. Instead, they will all be locked in a big prison called Russia — with the freedom to travel only to Syria, Crimea, Belarus, North Korea and China, maybe. Their kids will be thrown out of private boarding schools from Switzerland to Oxford.

Either they collaborate to oust Putin or they will all share his isolation cell. The same for the larger Russian public. I realize that this last scenario is the most unlikely of them all, but it is the one that holds the most promise of achieving the dream that we dreamed when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 — a Europe whole and free, from the British Isles to the Urals.

Dr. Fiona Hill cautions all on civil unrest fomented by the outgoing president

Fiona Hill … a woman of great courage and one who remembered her oath to the Constitution and to the people of this nation when she testified before Congress in October/November 2019. Today, she cautions us, and we would do well to listen to her words of wisdom. Thank you, Keith, for sharing this!

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Dr. Fiona Hill is one of the most credible public servants who risked a great deal by testifying of her concerns regarding the coercion of Ukraine to benefit the president.* In article called “Former Trump official Fiona Hill: ‘President’s actions have put us on the brink of civil war'” by Justine Coleman of The Hill, she cautions of more civil unrest. Here are a few paragraphs along with a link below.

Former Trump National Security Council member Fiona Hill on Monday said that President Trump’s ‘actions have put us on the brink of civil war’ after pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol last week.

Hill, who served as the senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council, called the Capitol raid a “coup” in aPolitico op-ed, saying that a coup does not need to be a ‘sudden, violent seizure of power involving clandestine plots…

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Two More Patriots Testify

Our friend Jeff has some sobering thoughts, after today’s impeachment hearings. His words are both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Our world has turned upside-down, my friends. Please take a minute to read Jeff’s post …

On The Fence Voters

The right-wing echo chamber not amused

Today we heard testimony from two more patriots. Today, we also heard more of the same from a political party that’s out of touch and out of defenses for the President of the United States. Indeed, the last two weeks didn’t go well for him.

And frankly, the next several weeks will not go well for him either. His impeachment is imminent, though it’s not clear what the Democrats plan is for the next stage. I’m assuming it’s a work in progress, but it does appear that witness testimony has concluded today.

Of course, there’s always the chance that former National Security Adviser John Bolton might reach deep into his conscience for some patriotism and decide to come forward. But, he’s got a book deal. That’s much more important.

Former National Security Council official Dr. Fiona Hill and State Department official David Holmes answered…

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The Words Of A Wise Man

Thomas Friedman is a weekly columnist for the New York Times, a well-respected author of seven books, numerous documentaries, and the recipient of three Pulitzer prizes.  His forte is foreign affairs, global trade, the Middle East, globalization, and environmental issues.  Yesterday, his latest column crossed my desk and I felt it worthy of sharing.


It’s Not Trump vs. the Dems. It’s Trump vs. the Country’s True Defenders.

Public servants who swore to protect the Constitution also set the impeachment process in motion.

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by Thomas L. Friedman

Last Thursday and Friday, two important Americans bore witness to the state of our nation. One was President Trump, addressing political rallies. The other was Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until suddenly told to get “on the next plane” — because Trump wanted her removed — without explanation.

Every American should contemplate their remarks, which I excerpt later, and then ask two questions: Whose speech would you want to read to your children’s civics class and which speaker do you think represents the America you want to see evolve and leave to your kids?

This exercise is vital because this impeachment process was not set in motion by the Democratic Party. It was set in motion by civil servants — whistle-blowers from the intelligence community, now supported by National Security Council staffers and diplomats. These public servants also took an oath to serve the country and protect the Constitution, and they have shown remarkable courage to risk their careers, and maybe more, to call out the president for violating his oath.

They are like antibodies fighting the cancer in our political system. John Bolton spoke for all of them when, while national security adviser, he reportedly instructed Fiona Hill, the N.S.C. Russia expert, to tell White House lawyers that he wanted no part “of whatever drug deal” the president’s cronies were cooking up as part of an off-the-books diplomatic effort being led by Rudy Giuliani to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.

It is breathtaking that virtually no Republican lawmakers have manifested similar courage — when all they have to lose is $174,000 in salary and free parking at Reagan Washington National Airport.

This point can’t be stressed enough. Because if Trump is removed from office and the country is healed afterward, it will only be because a majority of Americans understand that this is, at its core, a fight between these noncorrupt, apolitical civil servants — whose norms and institutions make America’s government so envied and respected around the world — and Giuliani and Trump and their pals, who care only about serving themselves and their conspiracy theories.

Trump and his enablers at the state-directed Fox News want to portray this as just another partisan fight — between Trump and his Democratic rivals — in the hope that the public will shrug and say, “There they go again.” They don’t want Americans to understand that this fight is about guarding the most cherished norms and institutions that define us as a nation.

We can’t let that happen. In service of that goal, I repeat some of Trump’s and Yovanovitch’s remarks.

Here’s Trump in Louisiana: “The radical Democrats’ policies are crazy. Their politicians are corrupt. Their candidates are terrible. And they know they can’t win on Election Day, so they’re pursuing an illegal, invalid and unconstitutional bullshit impeachment.”

And here’s Trump in Minneapolis about Joe Biden: “He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

And here’s Yovanovitch in her opening statement to the House impeachment investigators: “For the last 33 years, it has been my great honor to serve the American people as a Foreign Service officer, over six administrations — four Republican, and two Democratic. I have served in seven different countries, five of them hardship posts, and was appointed to serve as an ambassador three times — twice by a Republican president and once by a Democrat. Throughout my career, I have stayed true to the oath that Foreign Service officers take and observe every day: ‘that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,’ and ‘that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.’”

She added: “My parents fled Communist and Nazi regimes. Having seen, firsthand, the war, poverty and displacement common to totalitarian regimes, they valued the freedom and democracy the U.S. represents. And they raised me to cherish these values as well.”

She continued: “From August 2016 until May 2019, I served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Our policy, fully embraced by Democrats and Republicans alike, was to help Ukraine become a stable and independent democratic state, with a market economy integrated into Europe.”

Then Yovanovitch added: “I have heard the allegation in the media that I supposedly told the embassy team to ignore the president’s orders ‘since he was going to be impeached.’ That allegation is false. I have never said such a thing, to my embassy colleagues or to anyone else. … With respect to Mayor Giuliani, I have had only minimal contacts with him. … I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me. But individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”YovanovitchAnd then she explained that after being asked in early March “to extend my tour until 2020, I was then abruptly told in late April to come back to Washington from Ukraine ‘on the next plane.’ You will understandably want to ask why my posting ended so suddenly. I wanted to learn that, too, and I tried to find out. I met with the deputy secretary of state, who informed me of the curtailment of my term.

“He said that the president had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador. He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the department had been under pressure from the president to remove me since the summer of 2018. He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause.”

Alas, Secretary of State Pompeo did nothing to protect her.

Yovanovitch continued: “Although I understand that I served at the pleasure of the president, I was nevertheless incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives. …

“I have served this nation honorably for more than 30 years. … Throughout that time, I — like my colleagues at the State Department — have always believed that we enjoyed a sacred trust with our government. … We repeatedly uproot our lives, and we frequently put ourselves in harm’s way to serve this nation. And we do that willingly, because we believe in America and its special role in the world. We also believe that, in return, our government will have our backs and protect us if we come under attack from foreign interests. That basic understanding no longer holds true.”

If this is how our government will now act, great long-term harm will be done to “our nation’s interest, perhaps irreparably,” Yovanovitch concluded. We will lose “many of this nation’s most loyal and talented public servants,” and “bad actors” in countries beyond Ukraine will “see how easy it is to use fiction and innuendo to manipulate our system. In such circumstances, the only interests that will be served are those of our strategic adversaries, like Russia, that spread chaos and attack the institutions and norms that the U.S. helped create and which we have benefited from for the last 75 years.”

In both Minnesota and Louisiana, Trump supporters chanted “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.” at his red-meat lines. Read these two transcripts and then ask yourself, who’s really protecting and honoring “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.”?

The Deep State bites back

Finally, a few people associated with the Trump administration are beginning to defy Trump. Two women have testified before the House committees investigating Trump with an eye toward impeachment, and I understand there will be more. Our friend Jeff has written about these two trailblazers who put country and law before loyalty to the Oaf in Office. Hopefully there will be more soon. Thank you, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

It’s notable that in the last few days, we’ve seen two women, Marie Yovanovitch and Fiona Hill, come forward to testify before the various committees conducting an impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Trump, surrounding his phone call to the Ukrainian President.

By all accounts, even though we haven’t seen the transcripts, they’ve given powerful testimony, both exhibiting a full grasp of the issues commensurate with their long histories of serving at the State Department and the National Security Council. In other words, here are two powerful women, intelligent and patriotic, who’ve served with distinction and honor for the United States government. Not only that, but both are experts in their particular field of foreign diplomacy, invaluable resources in how we relate to various situational hotspots around the world.

Is it any wonder that the President doesn’t care for either of these two brave women? Of course not. It’s…

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