May 9th in Ukraine

It should come as no surprise that May 9 was more subdued th...



In days of the Soviet Union, when religions were frowned upo...



Thomas LeeMay 19, 2022 (0)

So many times in the articles I have submitted to help with this noble work – and I don't say that from a bully pulpit, whatever that is, or with a heroic tear leaking from my far-seeing eye – I have emphasized the real similarities between the combatants in this war, and really, in every war: generally young, often not worldly, universally afraid, and almost wholly unaffected in their daily lives by the outcome of the war they have been tapped to fight. That is the nature of the young soldier, or pilot, or medic…they have one heck of a lot more in common with the soldier they are staring at through the gunsight than they do with the general who is sending them into the fire. And they certainly have almost nothing in common with the politicians who are making the decisions that affect them so strongly.

I read a death-bed interview with a Russian female soldier, a sniper, who talked affectionately about her colleagues, Ukrainian, Russian, Bessarabian, Modavian…Soviet, at the time, and the upshot of what she said about her service in WWII was this: we all would have been fine without the bosses screwing everything up. I didn't fight for the monster Stalin, but for the millions of good and honest Soviet citizens who wanted nothing more than a simple and happy life. And I am sure that the boys in the German tanks felt the same. Bosses! We would have been fine without them!


Now one thing about the United States, plutocracy that it is, is that the military is not seen as a career for the privileged any longer. The fact that it was practically the only career for the wealthy in England, Germany…any monarchy, really meant that the powerful had a personal stake in things in the way our wealthy and powerful do not. Sure, Harvard guys served during WW2, but from what I can tell, most of the officers who run today's military are from large land-grant colleges in the west, or south…it just isn't seen as a good investment of one's life and time, unless the far-sighted guy who joins wants to go into politics or something.

It makes me wonder. British military historians had often – generally – been soldiers themselves, thinking, rightly, that the best way to understand an ambush, and thus describe one, was to be in one. Or twenty. Look at the poetic tradition that emerged from WWI, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfrid Owens…Teilhard de Chardin, nobleman, Jesuit and enlisted stretcher bearer.

Is that why no one can see that the entrance of two new members into NATO is being seen, and rightly, as a response, if not a provocative response, to Putin's war in Russia? It means that if one Russian soldier sets foot in Finland, it could set in train a string of events that could lead to nuclear Armageddon. Do I understand why Finland wanted in? Absolutely. But until now, Russia felt that there was a buffer zone surrounding it from NATO, and now, with Finland, Sweden and Ukraine, not yet a member but being treated somewhat like one, joining the ranks of those allied against Russia…it Is easy to see why Mr. Putin Is not feeling like backing down is wise. Instead, he is feeling increasingly ganged-up upon, and while he certainly brought it on himself, well - blessed are the peacemakers, said the man on the mount. He didn't call for an escalation. He called for swords being beaten into ploughshares.

Increasingly the western media is portraying the war as virtually won. It is not, and moreover, what happens afterward is really the test. Putin is allegedly ill. Putin is allegedly more and more at odds with the oligarchia, Russian billionaires who supported his rise.

Not so. Look to Mariupol, where the fight for the factory is done, and both sides have declared victory. True, victory is a murkier concept than it was when it meant overrunning the enemy's capitol and installing a quisling there to help mulct it of its resources. Now it can mean territorial gains; it can mean landing a plane on an aircraft carrier and putting up a big banner declaring victory, and then fighting for another ten years. But it really means what the people fighting want it to mean.

Starting a war, on the other hand, is remarkably clear. Putin packed men at the border, and on the appointed day, the tanks rolled. A clear commencement. And now he is angry and frightened about the decisions of Sweden and Finland to join his enemies. Recall that Mr Putin is trained as a lawyer and a spy. Having a NATO country abutting Russia is something unthinkable from his youth in the USSR. Formative notions are perhaps the strongest, and the presence of hostiles on the border – barbarians at his gate – is really unlikely to have the success it hopes for, with Putin absolutely agape at this turn of events.


I am afraid. I am in Kyiv as I write, enjoying few days of sleep in a bed. Since I was the designated coffee-getter this morning, I went around the corner to see my new friend Sergei, the coffee-maker.  I went down in the scary, Soviet era elevator, out the door and around to Shevchenko Prospekt, where Coffeycoffey is manned, faithfully, by my new buddy, who has not taken off the Yankee cap I gave him since I did. I think he might sleep with it on; he is 21, and will be called up soon, so if you see a Ukrainian soldier wearing a real, live non-adjustable official Yankee hat, with a formidable uinibrow, that's Sergei. And despite the two air raids last night, both of which came to nothing, the air was different this morning. Many more soldiers, all armed, were out on Shevchenko. The Federal Police were walking in threes, not alone. And fighters were going overhead, even old Mig 21's, which means they are hauling everything out of mothballs. 


Turkey opposed the move by Sweden and Finland, and although one might ask why, it is because they stand in the direct way of an angry Russia. Erdogan is the man on the top, and doesn't want the balance of power disturbed. I am afraid that is what has happened; it is sort of like stationing nuclear rockets in Cuba.

It hits too close to home.

So, while it may strengthen NATO, I also believe it brings us closer to the Guns of August 2.0. Perhaps not, but let me quote Buffalo Springfield, as a cautionary tale:


There's Battle lines being drawn

Nobody's right, if everybody's wrong

Young people speaking their mind

Getting so much resistance, from behind…


Anyway…we better watch out, children. This isn't over by a long, long shot.

The writer is a former military man, now researching and writing about the Ukrainian Conflict. Questions can be sent directly to


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