So many times in the articles I have submitted to help with ...NEXT
Hilaire Belloc, the Anglo-French man of letters, soldier, sc...
Thomas LeeMay 9, 2022 (0)
In days of the Soviet Union, when religions were frowned upon at best and suppressed at worst, Victory Day was one of the most important of secular holidays in Moscow. All Americans of a certain age can remember the military parades past the Kremlin, sometimes with notables like Fidel Castro on the reviewing stand. Miles of tanks, missile transporters, goose-stepping soldiers and the traditional flyover all were yearly features of the day that commemorated the victory of the Rodina, the homeland, over the forces of Nazi Germany. Stalin was smart about characterizing the battle not in terms of ideology, but of a battle for the (holy) soil of Russian and the rest of the Soviet Union against the invading Hitlerites, as he called them. And if you look at the faces of the soldiers in Moscow that day, you see a wide, wide variety of racial types: Slavs, Asians from the republics…Ukrainians, of course. Which is why the nature of this year's parade is so ironic: Putin has cast this struggle as one between modern day Nazis in the Ukraine (including the Jewish Zelenskyy) and the liberators of the people, which I can promise they are not seen as.
It will be an important day. Many military observers have characterized today as a seminal day in the future progress of the war; some believe that Putin will actually declare war on Ukraine, giving him the ability to call on vast reserves of men. And while the west is more or less uniformly anti-Putin and by extension anti-Russian, at least anti-Russian invasion, Russians evidently feel differently: according to some polls, as many as 73% of Russians support what Putin is doing in the south and east of Ukraine.
Here in Kyiv, the mood is a bit bleak today: more servicemen armed with rifles are walking around, the curfew is earlier, the tension higher. Later today Putin will speak, and what he says likely is going to map out the conduct of the war for the immediate future.
Cracks in his armor have been showing almost since the first week of the war. Ukrainian forces have made some incursions into Russia, and while the 17,000 foreign volunteers is likely a hyperbolic figure, they are in abundance: a Cambodian guy wearing a Ukrainian army uniform walked by me and saluted yesterday, every crease a razor blade.
There really isn't any Ukrainian resistance to the war, no real peace movement; there is a win movement. Around the corner from the apartment I treat myself to on occasion, and always bring some of the others along (for the one thing that turns a simple flat in Kyiv into an antechamber to heaven is the large and deep bathtub) is a sign with Putin wearing an SS uniform. Sleeping and traipsing about in the woods is not the same when you aren't 20 anymore, and especially when you are twice that or more: ibuprofen consumption has been high, and my back on occasion takes real issue with my idealism, if you want to call it that, or maybe just with my decision. Mostly the ground is actually good for the unrepaired herniated disc that I proudly bear, like so many athletic people: a hard bed is better than a featherbed for it, but the iron ground of Kyiv Oblast makes the day every week or ten days that liberty comes, like Kuan Yin, the goddess of kindness, a real treat. It makes the small things in life reassert their proper place.
The air raid system is amazingly efficient: no sooner do you hear the sirens than your phone receives a text, based on location, in English, Russian and Ukrainian. And as much as we would all like to hear that Putin has backed off from his position, and as much, I suspect, as the uncalled-up reservists are waiting to hear the same thing, it is unlikely, for the man is a professional sabre-rattler. He is also pretty good at drawing his sabre, if not terribly subtle: when he built up his forces along the border, and talking heads all over the news and the internet were debating his seriousness, I wasn't and in conversation with comrades here, they weren't either. People fail to realize the financial aspect of the military, and just how much a full mobilization costs. Since we discuss the A-10 on this website, let me draw an analogy based on the A-10's hourly operating costs. A-10's are among the cheaper warplanes to operate on an hourly basis; the best figure I have seen is about $11,000 per hour. Many factors go into the cost estimate: some are what economists call sunk costs, costs that are expended and cannot be recovered – the cost of building the plane and training the pilot, for instance. And, of course, hourly operating costs can vary: bombs are expensive to make, and when you drop one, you could definitely call it expended. So when a guy like Putin places units on alert all along your border, you can count on him having a financial end game in mind: he is looking for a win to offset the cost of mobilization, of maintaining troops in the field, of equipping them, and the win comes in the form of land gains and all that comes along with them: the factories, resources – it all goes into an arcane and ever changing formula with different variables based on the culture of the belligerents.
After all, while two Central American countries fought the Soccer War, can you see the US going to war for basketball? But territorial gain? We have a naval base in an enemy country, and have had it for over an hundred years, serving an invaluable purpose: it allows us to shed American values when they get in the way of the mission. Some would say this defeats the point, but those people better hope there never comes a day when such speech gets THEM thrown on Gitmo. But I digress. I worry and I digress.
Today the world watches to see what Putin will say. He doesn't seem to be one for making threats he won't carry out: a declaration of war would mean terrible things. Pundits around the world are debating how this war will end. Putin could simply declare victory in the areas he has managed to overcome, but one of the wonders of modern communication means that agitprop is immediately subject to peer review so scathing that university professors would quake at facing it. There are a whole class of people called by the writer the “posting polity of the internet” (I refuse to anthropomorphize it, and say “the internet says…”) who pick apart every word said by anyone of note – the ultimate in opposition research, right there at everyman's fingertips. And this polity seems to believe that when he speaks of oppression, Putin is a man of his word. Concomitant with that is his increased rhetoric about NATO complicity with Ukrainian command. Word leaks out on a daily basis about how Putin is becoming increasingly agitated with the help being provided to Kyiv, as little as it is, when seen on the greater scale. Threats of nuclear weapons usage, threats of expanding the war into a pan-European campaign…all are real, and all frighten the people of Europe, quite reasonably. Once again, we are protected by thousands of miles of moat, and it gives us a distant perspective. Being here changes all of that.
Normal life has a way of proceeding apace, although for less time every day: there is a 2000 – 10 pm – curfew in effect, and making sure that there is sufficient food in the place for all comers at all times is necessary…and yet this pales in comparison to what one see at Lviv, at Przymysl. The waiting rooms are confined to children and women, something that might enrage the sensibilities of woke Americans, but only in those who haven't felt the bite of reality a war provides. The ivory-tower sensibilities are possible because a howitzer hasn't knocked it down.
I find myself looking for ways to bring home the reality of the war to Americans. That is why next week we will be starting, technology permitting, a daily interview feed. We want you to see the horrors of European war, war not conducted in a jungle and against people Americans secretly have the luxury of divorcing themselves from, if they would never admit it. We want you to think about helping, for that is the purpose of this site. So for now, perhaps you would do something we have asked before and write your elected representative. Just yesterday, or perhaps that is when it was reported, President Biden indicated that money for Ukraine was “running out.” Once again, the tale of the sunk cost: if we cannot do the thing that is simplest for us, and essentially Zelle Mr. Zelenskyy money, we CAN send him the tools of the trade. Talk of reactivating Lend-Lease, in WWII fashion, abounds. I believe that is what we need to do.
That, and provide a place for those who have been reduced to penury by the war. Temporary Protected Status and another quick route to resettlement in the US have been enacted: put the facilitation of that, as well, into the letter or email you send your representative.
Help us help them…before that vast moat shrinks, and we find out precisely how many FSB men really live in Brighton Beach.
The writer is a former military man, now researching and writing about the Ukrainian Conflict. Questions can be sent directly to email@example.com
Welcome to the discussion.