Ukraine: We have feelings March 16, 2022 5:32 AM   Subscribe

Russia invaded Ukraine. We have megathreads (first, Russia orders troops into Ukraine; second, The Bear and the Sunflowers; third, I Give You, Kyiv, These Polissia Flowers and This Bright Sun; and fourth, I Give My Little Stars to Children) on the blue and several related posts. The threads on the blue are meant to center those narrower topics. That is not enough. We also need a thread to share our perspectives, thoughts, musings, and feelings about the war.

You are welcome to vent, console, encourage, mourn, worry, or otherwise express your feelings (within the community norms; no violent fantasies, please) about this tragic, ongoing crime against humanity.

If you need the opposite of more threads about Ukraine, Remembering the Shire here on MetaTalk is an oasis that lets us "celebrate ordinary beautiful things and good moments."

A shoutout to the individuals (forgive me for not listing you) who have performed a mighty community service by creating these and related posts. A shoutout as well to the many commentators who have offered valuable news, insights, and commentary on this fast-moving, horrifying event. Your work is much appreciated.

Finally, a small request. As I was reminded yesterday, we are all human and make mistakes (especially me!). Given that, please keep things civil. We are not at war with our fellow MeFites.
posted by Bella Donna to MetaFilter-Related at 5:32 AM (125 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

Mod note: Just a note up top -- mods WILL NOT be closely monitoring this thread (we learned during the Trump years that threads for people to talk about their emotions are good for the community but very, very hard on mods), so if there is bad behavior or a serious problem, you will have to flag things or use the contact form.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:35 AM on March 16, 2022 [9 favorites]

posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:24 AM on March 16, 2022 [24 favorites]

Thank you Bella Donna and mods!
posted by 15L06 at 6:39 AM on March 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

My biggest difficult feelings about this war come from the cognitive dissonance i'm having between the way the american media has been reacting to this compared to the way they reacted to the war in iraq. we americans invaded as aggressors, killed hundreds of thousands (if not more than a million) innocent people, completely destroyed the political stability of an entire region, threw all neighboring states into chaos (there is a direct line from 2003's Shock & Awe to the Syrian civil war) and we went on with our lives like it was nothing. With Ukraine, the CBS evening news host signs off every night with prayers for the Ukrainian people, and I sympathize, but where were the prayers for the Iraqis? Not only that, but we did it as a democracy, and our current President voted in favor of the action. Almost the entire class of "elder statesmen" (and stateswomen!) share complicity. Are they all as evil as Putin? Do we treat them with the same disdain? And why not.

Asking this question is not whataboutism! It's genuine. After Iraq, why would Russia tame its imperial impulses, the game is on, the world is being divided up again, and we sharpened the blades. Why would China resist an attempt to reintegrate Taiwan? I can see Putin's logic: if I don't act, I'll lose out on my chance to stake a claim.

We destroyed the "rules based international order" and these are the consequences.

I just think this reckoning has to be fully dealt with, although in a way it's too late: we never pursued our own aggressors for their crimes. Who are we to tell another country to not pursue its own imperial goals when we felt so free to pursue ours?

I want the war to end, but also I believe the Ukrainians have a right to defend themselves and perserve their own self determination (which incidentally is a principle in contradiction with wanting the war to end, which would end most quickly if they surrended). I just can't stand seeing the same National Security Wonks showing up on TV moralizing about the "evil" Putin and then going back to their Alexandria cocktail parties filled with the same ghouls who broke the world 20 years ago and not only faced no consequences, but if anything were enriched and increased in status as a result. Fuck them all, fuck all our oligarchs and our warmongers. If we perish in a nuclear conflict I blame George W. Bush first, not Putin (which is another thing, he was *our man* in the Kremlin. We supported his rise to power! We put him there! We thought he would be friendly to western capital interests. Well, we got ourselves a capitalist in Moscow and guess what, like so many others, he's a Fascist too, you idiots).

More feelings are: I wish people on TV and elsewhere would shut up about a No Fly Zone like it's a magic button you press and Russian planes fall out of the sky. A No fly zone means shooting down planes and bombing air defenses. It means killing soldiers of a nuclear armed state in an act of war. It means the end of everything. Go to a therapist and talk about your death drive, work through your desire for total global annihilation, don't advocate for it on television.
posted by dis_integration at 6:51 AM on March 16, 2022 [57 favorites]

I'm not exactly proud of it, but I have been gleefully checking in on the whining of Lee Camp, a failed stand-up who had a long running show on RT America pulled out from under him when the FSB couldn't pay anyone there anymore. It's a tiny thing, but watching him flail for a new platform while yelling about "censorship of anti-imperialist voices" gives me a little warmth.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 7:28 AM on March 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

The main point in comparing Russia's attack on Ukraine vs. the US' attack on Iraq (and are we talking about the first or the second?) is that Ukraine's 'sin' was trying to become more western, more democratic nation while Iraq's was to be led by a despot who wanted to keep on despot-ing. It's only barely a loin-cloth but it is real: that said, the invasion of Iraq was not the US' proudest moment and I went out into the street with millions of others to protest it and I wrote letters and etc. Important to note, I wasn't thrown in jail for any of it.

It is, I think, a worthwhile point to bear in mind - War is a racket, Iraq was the US', Ukraine is Putin's.

In the first week or so I was very, on a subterranean, deep down at the most base layer of my being, worried that this was not a 'normal' war or attack but the beginning of the end. That Putin had flipped out and was looking to provoke NATO or even the EU into a ground war that would turn nuclear that would, well, cue the Looney Tunes theme and Porky sputtering "That's all folks!" As it has ground on though it seems more apparent that Putin just wanted to quickly break Ukraine's Gov and put in his own guy, then quite possibly in five years move on to the next nation on his list. Ukraine (with the financial and armoury of the west at their back) having beaten Putin's grift-hobbled forces to a standstill, or at least to a not quick, easy rout - everything has been re-jiggered and Putin's lack of any bold moves in the last few days leads me to think he had no bigger plan. Which is a relief.

The last ten years has been pretty fucking flabbergasting - Brexit and Trump to me the head-liners. Aleppo/Syria notwithstanding, to hobble, take the US out of the fight and distract the EU is a mighty coup - the two biggest economies put up against the ropes by a player that has only a fraction the weight to throw around... (Added to Brexit & Trump would have to be Gerd Schroeder, former Chancellor of Germany who was recruited by Russian Gas interests and pushed for what is now Germany's crazy dependence on Russian nat. gas - UK steps out of the EU and the biggest economy left is under Putin's heel? nice.) In a couple interviews I've heard lately there has been mention of "The War has already started, we just don't realise it yet." and I have to wonder if this wasn't the war all along. That Putin was doing what he knows best - sowing division. With the help of FoxNews/Murdoch.

I hope Putin loses Ukraine, I hope his ass gets handed to him and then he winds up like the Ceaucescu's. And then, then I hope Murdoch decides to pack it in and we can get back to the work of saving ourselves from the remnants of the industrial revolution, from the carbon that is going to snuff us the fuck out.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:34 AM on March 16, 2022 [22 favorites]

Perhaps a little under a decade ago, I mentioned to a friend who is positioned to Know Things that I was considering a visit to Moscow (as a stop on a larger trip). She responded with such astonishing vitriol that I abandoned the plan immediately--something to the effect of, "I can't believe Americans are stupid enough to think that we are not always, always, always, forever at war with Russia. Fuck Russia."

At the time I kind of thought her work had maybe...pushed her beyond what was reasonable. But no, apparently not.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:43 AM on March 16, 2022 [12 favorites]

I am finding Timothy Snyder to be an incredibly stabilizing force in my perspectives. The talk, linked in the most recent thread, between he and Ta-Nehisi Coates covered some territory about the value of being able to separate principle from persons/institutions, and distinguishes Memory from History.
This is something I have been integrating personally during my recent discovery that I am autistic. It's been illuminating to discover that most humans assign much more weight to "collections of things" like persons, countries, philosophies, etc. as opposed to my native perception which are like human archetypal processes.
What I'm getting at is that hypocrisy is the standard state of the world. The actions of the US empire in Iraq are condemnable. The lies, certainly. This gets to be true at the same time as it is not exactly the same as what is happening now in Ukraine. I have to leave judgements as to which is more evil to persons possessing a measuring stick that takes those readings. I failed a driving test because I could not answer which is worse, to hit-and-run, or to pass a stopped school bus. Both are filed under DO NOT DO for me.
I get in trouble because when I encounter these principles in small, survivable scales in my community, I confront them and can't be talked down like it's insignificant because when the same forces play out on larger scales, like in Russia, as in Iraq, it's pure horror for people on the receiving end. I'd like to see less hypocrisy and revisionism all around, but it is UBIQUITOUS as a human phenomena.
I realize this comment is veering into unhelpful re: the topic at hand. Thing is, people who want to move the levers of power according to how they see they might be moved are going to express inconsistency. What is consistent about them is their lust for access and the particular flavor of credibility that is assigned from having rooted for the winning team, instead of being grounded in principle. Rhetoric abounds.

Ukraine will continue to aggressively advocate for a no-fly zone. It is what they subjectively need. It's not for me to amplify that because I know just enough to know how little I know about cascading effects. That's my processing, though. Emotions are high and not everyone who is amplifying that is expressing a death drive (some, fuck yea, I imagine are at their own unprincipled games about it, in it for the destabilizing forces of the conversation itself).

Most of the arguments I see from the perspective of people fluent in the local culture agree that a show of strength(force) rather than equivocation or acquiescence is the way to engage "successfully" in the behavioral language that Putin is expressing his desires in.

I'm more relaxed with the role/response of the US in this conflict than in any other during my lifetime. I can't say what is the right thing to do, but I'm honestly surprised that it hasn't spiraled into omg terrible decisions in every direction. I have a cautious hope that there may be adults in the rooms using actual data to figure out how to defend real humans and actual principles with a minimum of selfish maneuvering for unrelated advantages.

Thank you, metafilter community, for being great in ways that would add another 800 words to this comment if I went into them.
posted by droomoord at 7:43 AM on March 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

I am feeling pretty helpless at the moment. Not hopeless but definitely helpless. Sweden has decided to double its defense budget, which makes sense if you can no longer take peace for granted but really sucks. Because I am the primary emotional support for my daughter and her family, and because both of us have mental illnesses, I cannot throw a big welcome refugees party and invite someone into my home. I completely admire the hundreds of thousands of people who have already accepted strangers into their homes in Poland and Moldova and in other border nations. I am in awe of the volunteers who organized two buses from Sweden to drive to the border and collect as many refugees as possible and are doing all the organizational shit that the government should be doing to get them registered for benefits and placed in homes of the volunteers they have also organized.

Those people are heroic. They are not the kind of heroic that picks up a gun and goes to the front. As it happens, we need many flavors of brave and that is one fucking super important flavor. At the same time, there are creepy reports about predators who are taking advantage of women and children arriving outside of Ukraine. And then there are the poor residents still trapped there, many against their will.

everyone in my family but my son-in-law have been sick since Friday. That’s a baby, a five-year-old, and a seven-year-old plus my daughter. I have been sick since Sunday. Today I went over for an hour and a half to hold my feverish baby grandchild as his big sister went to the doctor. Eventually the baby fell asleep on my lap. His big brother leaned against me on the sofa and watched Pokémon card videos (in English!) between coughing fits.

My granddaughter has been sick for days. Everyone has. The kids are so miserable and so is their mom. And we are also privileged. We are safe, we have shelter, no one is trying to hurt us. I think about the Italian woman who drove to the border of Ukraine to take her grandson to safety. His parents did not want to leave. That boy is the age of my oldest grandson. His parents told him he was going to go on vacation with grandma. I don’t know if he will ever see his parents again. What I know is that his grandmother argued and argued and argued with her son before she got into the car and then when they met finally in person, she told her son “if you love him, you will send him with me.” And then she drove away not knowing if she will ever see her own son again but at least knowing her grandson is safe for now.

I don’t click on violent images on purpose. I accidentally saw an image of a young girl, about the age of my granddaughter. I could only see the back of her body, which was beautiful and peaceful. I recognized the smooth neck and small arms from my granddaughter. For such a long time, for so many years, children are so small compared to adults. This young girl was killed, along with her grandmother, when they were trying to escape. I am not religious and I do not know what other people believe or feel, but I think of it as a blessing that her grandmother also died. I cannot begin to imagine the horror of surviving the violent deaths of any of my grandchildren.

So many strangers have come together to help Ukrainians. That matters. The global failure to respond to Syria and other aggressions in the same way as Ukraine, also matters. I don’t have a fix, I just wanted to acknowledge it. Racism is a problem and it’s going to keep being a problem and it’s a bigger problem than this thread but it touches everything.

Thanks for being here. I’m just so sad.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:28 AM on March 16, 2022 [42 favorites]

I think that honestly, while I definitely use Iraq as a talking point in the other direction with leftist friends who are like "nah what Russia is doing is totally fine", what Russia has done has actually helped recalibrate both my sense of evil and my sense of what actual old school imperialism is. Iraq was wrong; I too protested like many others about it. But it was absolutely wrong in a different level and scale. It was not an invasion to intentionally destroy a people to punish them for daring to make different choices. It was not, in fact, an invasion of conquest - despite the fact that a lot of the left-narrative of the time was "war for oil" it was not, in fact, a war for oil, or a war to conquer the resources of Iraq and take them back for American consumption. It was not deliberately killing civilians, on purpose, en masse, as an attempt to intimidate the government. It was not sending assassins to kill the young children of leaders. It was not refusing to let people working to keep a nuclear containment safe from sleeping. It absolutely had war crimes, I opposed them and was right to oppose them - but they were not even close to the same scale of destruction and vileness. This has a lot of reasons, and isn’t purely about morality, but it’s still true. Putin is evil in a way that George Bush was not – and I say this as someone who had a lot of friends die because of what George Bush chose.

I don't think you or anyone is a bad person for feeling these feelings, I think they're honestly relatively common feelings on the left, but the ubiquity of these feelings frustrates me, because I think in many cases they are centered by the same level of media consumption about the war, and I don't know how to deal with that. I've been consuming news about the invasion of Ukraine at a pretty high level, and am really intimately familiar with the atrocities happening there, the need and the people, but also I recognize the emotional and mental damage that is causing. I can’t ask others to dive in at the same level, but also, I don’t know how to deal with people who think it’s not a huge, enormous, world destroying problem without showing them war footage.
And it kind of freaks me out to see people going about their day. It kind of freaks me out to have people offering me relaxation time – how can I possibly relax when this is happening? I haven’t slept more than four or five hours a night for the last three weeks. I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep again until the war is over. Somehow I have to keep paying my bills and doing interviews to keep paying my bills in future, and I just don’t understand how. I want to scream all the time.
posted by corb at 8:51 AM on March 16, 2022 [46 favorites]

I played my first war games as a child - before I could really contextualize what the counters representing the German and Russian armies in operation Barbarossa and the siege of Stalingrad really represented. But, because of that experience I also walked quickly past every military recruiter at the end of high school, and I was recruited and called aggressively - particularly by the Navy who wanted me to be a ship or submarine nuclear reactor operator. At the same time, I always knew I could never claim to be a conscience objector. I put that out there to recognize that the rest of this comment comes from a place of western privilege and safety, and I've been hesitant to comment in the Ukraine threads for that reason.

A few thoughts have been pressing on me, and I appreciate the place to share them.

Individual human beings are hypocritical, while nations, particularly democracies are mercurial as well. Even when the leader of a democracy believes what they say, they often are not in a position to follow it up. Collectively we find our way to hypocritical self-benefit in the best of times. When you add evil and incompetence to the mix there is no doubt that the self-dealing and exceptionalism can be staggering. In this moment, none of that excuses the evil that Putin has led Russia into, and I find most analogies wanting. Likewise, I am frustrated by narratives that center "Russia vs. 'the West'" and don't give autonomy to individual countries in making decisions and choosing their own direction.

I recognize that some found the conversation about foreign fighters a distraction, but I also see it as the discussion of those who are trying to find a cure to the problem versus those who are treating the horrific symptoms. We will not humanitarian aid our way to what I believe is a satisfactory resolution of this conflict. It saddens me that this became viewed as a derail or that anyone discussing the provision of assistance to the Ukrainian cause felt that people were dismissive of their efforts. I learned a great deal of context from that discussion which puts into perspective not only what Ukrainian soldiers are facing, but also what other meaningful military aid might encounter.

Most significantly, I'm unsure how best to talk about Putin's threats. I see Putin as not much different than any other abuser. The problem is that the standard Mefi advice is to get away from someone like that, which isn't an option here. Putin has stated an ambition to rebuild his vision of a former Russian empire. He has also threatened significant escalation to anyone who seriously tries to stop him, including a public statement of increasing nuclear readiness. I'm not prepared to simply determine that having made that threat, Putin gets his way. He'll learn the wrong lesson from that.
I'm generally impressed with the messaging and discipline from the US and European powers around this topic, even as it means a frustratingly slow response in some regards (even as it has been lightning fast in others). I do think there is an important need for an international level discussion of how not to make Western assumption that all escalation leads to armageddon into a place of Western weakness which Putin can exploit. Sadly this may be a multi-year project which places the burden of pain on the Ukrainian people, but just has Putin has slowly raised the temperature to get to this point, those who oppose Russian imperial expansion will need to find ways to firmly push back while at the same time cool things off.

I'm struck by how little discussion there is about China in all of this, which I suspect suits the Chinese just fine. In my opinion the US should be using this opportunity to build bridges and find common ground in response to the Russian aggression.

Finally, I'll say the same thing about Putin that applies to many other leaders. He is not only cause, but also a symptom. Even if he were no longer in charge, Russia would not suddenly be a friend. We (speaking from the US) definitely have to do some introspection about our own implicit politics of "inevitable democracy" and how that is received in the rest of the world. Putin won't be forever, but Russia is a world neighbor and the only way we can move in time is forward.
posted by meinvt at 9:00 AM on March 16, 2022 [10 favorites]

t was not, in fact, a war for oil, or a war to conquer the resources of Iraq and take them back for American consumption. It was not deliberately killing civilians, on purpose, en masse, as an attempt to intimidate the government. It was not sending assassins to kill the young children of leaders.

This isn't the place for debate about this, I don't think, but it absolutely was all of these things, and it was torture chambers too.
posted by dis_integration at 9:02 AM on March 16, 2022 [21 favorites]

What Bush did was absolutely evil. It was awful that he hadn't been legitimately elected and millions of us in the streets could do nothing to stop the war. The 9/11 attacks had traumatized enough of the population that revenge (even against the wrong target) was enough for the majority. Not prosecuting our former leaders for war crimes was a mistake, but Obama chose to spend all his political capital on the ACA, and millions of us have benefited from that. It's easy to look back and find fault with past priorities. Certainly there were plenty of steps that could have been taken to reduce the power of Putin and the Putin/Trump wing of the GOP. But it seemed absurd at the time that the Republican Party could dig itself so deeply into the pockets of Russian crimelords.

What Putin is doing is more evil than what Bush did. The concept of "the lesser of two evils" is a longstanding one that holds a lot of truth. Many people find it hard to accept that and reject making a choice between two evils (but let's not relitigate the 2016 election hahaha). The USA and Russia have both chosen wars of aggression. In the end it doesn't matter much that the war on Ukraine is more evil. Americans and Russians alike can speak the truth that this war is evil (but Russians will pay a much higher price for speaking that truth).

Just like there were lots of people working against the Iraq War in the USA (not that it helped), we shouldn't be quick to demonize the Russian people. It's dismaying to see opinions like "this is just the Russian national disposition." Russian people were victims of Soviet authoritarianism the same as Ukrainians (though often to a lesser degree). I studied the Russian language in the late 1980s, and subscribed to Soviet Life, and visited Moscow and then-Leningrad in 1988. The Soviet state was a legitimate enemy because of the way they treated the people of their nation. Of course the Reagan-ruled state in the USA was a pretty legitimate enemy at the time as well.

Too many people think the "West" (or the USA) won the Cold War. That's completely false. EVERYONE lost the Cold War. Rampant consumerism and extreme capitalism were weapons that hurt our society as much as they hurt the USSR--it just took longer. One thing we should have learned during the Cold War is that the leadership of a nation and the population of a nation are not equivalent. We should always try to reach across borders to get regular people talking with each other. We should never trust our leaders implicitly. We should get out in the streets even when it seems to be making no difference.

I was raised to believe that bad things shouldn't happen. That it was an affont to my existence when plans went awry. But it doesn't take much learning of history to find that life is basically a parade of bad things happening all the time. The more we try to insulate ourselves from the bad things that make up the basic framework of our world, the more we separate ourselves from what it means to be human. Sorry for the hodge-podge of ideas here, but it's a good thread to have available. Thanks for putting it here.
posted by rikschell at 9:32 AM on March 16, 2022 [14 favorites]

I live thousands of miles away from Ukraine now after living much closer a decade or so ago, but a good friend here has his whole life in the besieged city of Mariupol: his whole family, all his childhood friends, every school and institution he remembers from his childhood. Of course, he can't just abandon his life here and go there, and even if they could get out, they can't come here: the Covid restrictions still in place here make it simply impossible.

He gets messages from other people who know someone who might have heard something every few days. He sees videos on Telegram channels and tries to surmise which apartment block he's just seen be hit by an airstrike. It's been weeks now with no power, no food, no water, no heat and no fuel. There's no way in or out. And many thousands of people are going to start to die very soon. And because there's no power, there's no way to charge a phone, and the mobile networks seem intermittent at best. He doesn't even whether the people in his family are alive or dead right now; he will absolutely have friends and acquaintances he will be counting among the dead. Mariupol was Ukraine's capital of culture in 2021 and now the whole of the city seems just...destroyed.

Needless to say, he is beside himself, and he is taking time off work in case he needs to support them in some way on a moment's notice. The helplessness I see him experiencing is the most heartbreaking experience I can remember in my adult life.

It makes no sense; I now understand what people mean when they talk about war being "senseless". There is just no reason his family, like everyone in Ukraine, like everyone who just had a normal life but find themselves in a war zone, should be experiencing this.

I send him a message every day or two after he emailed a bunch of us saying he liked knowing we're thinking about him and his people. Yesterday's was something like, "Hey, I'm thinking about you guys today. I hope you find some time to rest when you can today if you were up late last night. Take care and know we're all hoping for the best." I don't usually get a reply.

I am trying to remain optimistic. But I don't know that I could live very long in those conditions.
posted by mdonley at 9:37 AM on March 16, 2022 [21 favorites]

The marking of 60 years on this rock creeps toward me in the dark.

Over four decades, I've closely followed international relations and war. I've taken courses, read books, have had many discussions with thoughtful and informed people. I have an avocational interest in nuclear weapons, probably because I've had numerous family and friends who've worked at the national laboratories.

Just after I came of age, Reagan ad libbed his "Star Wars" proposal in a television address after Edward Teller had been whispering to him these sweet, sweet nothings.

Teller is the man who brought us the fusion bomb after Oppenheimer and other Los Alamos scientists felt researching it was unnecessary and dangerous. Teller is the man who — encountering this obstacle to his ambition — betrayed Oppenheimer by handing him over to the red-baiters. Years later, Teller gained Reagan's ear. Edward Teller was a man who understood the implications of nuclear weapons policy.

Reagan did not.

And because Reagan was a simpleton on the verge of senility, he naturally felt that a missile defense "shield" — later known as the Strategic Defense Initiative — would be a wonderful thing. It would be the solution to the nuclear threat.

Edward Teller, I believe, understood very well that a sufficiently effective missile shield would allow a first strike by the US against the Soviet Union with little fear of retailation. Edward Teller was willing to bet that the USSR, seeing the US about to implement an effective missile shield, wouldn't recognize that it faced an existential threat and initiate a first strike before the system became active.

For a few years — until it was apparent that SDI was more a lifetime-employment plan for military contractors than it was a functional technology — I believed there was a frighteningly large probability that one day I'd see a flash out of the corner of my eye heralding the end of the world as I knew it.

When the USSR collapsed, I figuratively held my breath, waiting in fear that an overlooked warhead would find its way into the hands of terrorists funded by deep pockets and unleashed upon a city somewhere far or near. After twenty years of this not happening, I found myself happily surprised to admit that global non-proliferation cooperation was actually working. I no longer worried so much about that mushroom cloud on the horizon I'd had nightmares about most of my life.


...this day, I see the world's second largest nuclear arsenal in the hands of an ex-KGB agent who has gone all-in on a revanchist resentment and an ideology of perpetual war with the West. I see this man launching a grotesque war of invasion and oppression as an act of grandiose psychopathy.

Today I see people who called themselves "anti-war" twenty years ago clamoring for NATO to send tanks and missiles and jets into Ukraine to fight Russia. I see right-of-center "hawks" making the same argument as a way to score partisan points against the President. I see left-of-center "hawks" moved by humanitarian concerns wishing to . . . widen the scope of the war from forty million civilians to several hundred million civilians. I see "independents" worried about the price of gasoline and wondering aloud why so many white Christians are refugees and insist something must be done, preferably involving explosions.

I see the media cheerleading the escalation of a war because war means more clickthroughs.

Today, after all these years, I am more afraid of that blinding flash of light, of “that one big flame[. — t]he one flame [that] ate everything organic, everything that would burn” than ever before in my adult lifetime.

So it goes.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:05 AM on March 16, 2022 [22 favorites]

it's rather depressing to me - we won the cold war and didn't accomplish much of anything with the peace and here we are again - having to worry about whether things will go boom

this is not a sane civilization
posted by pyramid termite at 10:19 AM on March 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

I think that honestly, while I definitely use Iraq as a talking point in the other direction with leftist friends who are like "nah what Russia is doing is totally fine", what Russia has done has actually helped recalibrate both my sense of evil and my sense of what actual old school imperialism is. Iraq was wrong; I too protested like many others about it. But it was absolutely wrong in a different level and scale. It was not an invasion to intentionally destroy a people to punish them for daring to make different choices. It was not, in fact, an invasion of conquest - despite the fact that a lot of the left-narrative of the time was "war for oil" it was not, in fact, a war for oil, or a war to conquer the resources of Iraq and take them back for American consumption. It was not deliberately killing civilians, on purpose, en masse, as an attempt to intimidate the government.

Came to say exactly what dis_integration did... I'm not here to debate any further, but I want to register that this is deeply revisionist.
posted by dusty potato at 10:42 AM on March 16, 2022 [18 favorites]

I think I agree with nearly everyone here. I also find the western European and US treatment of this war as radically different from the tens of nation-scale wars that have happened in my lifetime hard to really understand.

It's good to care about and oppose war. Why this one, in particular, instead of the others? This time the media is paying attention? The media was paying attention when the US invaded Iraq for slightly different reasons supported by equally vacuous propaganda, and we cheered. (Most of us. Some, including me, were arrested and pepper sprayed for standing on the sidewalk and saying that invading other countries is bad. I got off very lucky compared to many others who were brutalized by US cops for speaking out against war crimes.)
posted by eotvos at 10:44 AM on March 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

I figure some of the reasons the Europe and the US cares right now are:
- The Ukrainian narrative is brilliantly consistent, compelling and transparent vs. Putin's narrative is low-effort bullshit.
- racism
- The US and EU are already invested in Ukrainian sovereignty with funding , free trade, and alliance talks.
- Putin has been annoyingly frog-boiling his villainy on the world stage for a while now.
- It is impossible to shoot Covid in the face or haul it away with a tractor.
- Caring about something that other people are caring about is just EASIER.
posted by droomoord at 11:00 AM on March 16, 2022 [15 favorites]

I figure some of the reasons the Europe and the US cares right now are:

- It’s one long day’s drive from a lot of Europe. This matters, a lot. Proximity : Putin raising hell in Syria is over there - Putin raising hell in Ukraine is “my brother-in-law has gone back to fight” is, “we can’t finish your job, our head carpenter went home to fight” is, “Our servers are off-line and our head IT tech is out of contact because he is fighting. We hope.” Is, “my neighbor’s cousin is coming with her two kids, do you know anywhere they can stay?”

It is not abstract. It is here.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:15 AM on March 16, 2022 [31 favorites]

Instead of Iraq, one can raise the question of why a murderous dictatorship (which just last Friday beheaded 81 people) can engage in a genocidal war of conquest with active military support of the UK and the US. The famine due to the naval blockade on Yemen is the genocide part and the deliberate bombing of hospitals by the Saudi is the war crime part.

How I feel? Unbelivably frustrated, that calling attention to hipocrisy is branded as whataboutism. No, i want a stop to Russian agression as well as a stop to the Saudi agression.
posted by kmt at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2022 [22 favorites]

Racism is absolutely a part of it. But European nations also feel threatened by Russia in a way that they did not feel threatened by other parties in other wars. I mean a lot of European nations as a whole. The Russian government has made a point of threatening Sweden twice now about potential NATO membership. Before that, the general population was not interested in NATO membership. Now a majority of the population, according to polls, have suddenly become proponents. Which fucking sucks. At least, as a Swedish citizen, it’s not my idea of fun for Sweden to decide to join up with NATO. And for now, it does not plan to. But our Prime Minister traveled to London yesterday or the day before to make nice with the odious Boris Johnson because my nation needs well-armed friends.

Sweden did not have skin in the game when it came to the invasion of Syria. To be fair, this is a racist country that said no to Syrian refugees but only after it had accepted 184,000 of them. That’s how many Germany accepted. Those two countries were in second place in terms of accepting the most Syrian refugees. But the country never worried that Russia was going to come invade Sweden after it was done criming in Syria or Crimea or other places. (Sorry, I am bad at many things including history and geography.)

In many ways this war is like other wars and other violent excursions in which big powerful countries have their way with smaller vulnerable nations. The difference is that Sweden can see itself in Ukraine. Part of that is racism, part of that is culture, maybe part of that is history. I don’t know and I can’t pretend to know. The only thing I know for sure is that Sweden, to me, used to seem wary of Russia but not actually afraid of it. Now we are afraid of Russia and planning accordingly. That is new or at least feels new to me.

The demonization of the Russian people is horrifying. I see official photos of Russian conscripts and other soldiers posted on Twitter to announce that they have been killed in the war and my heart breaks for them and for their families. I don’t think the Russian people are responsible for this crime. Individual officials, of course. Various slimy oligarchs? Sure. But in general, the Russian people are also victims of their government. They are not suffering in any way like the residence of Ukraine. But that does not make them responsible for the war. I especially admire the protesters who are risking so much just by standing silently and holding a blank piece of paper.

I don’t know what is going to happen, and I don’t know what should happen. If my grandson ever asks me why the world did not do more to stop the slaughter, I won’t know how to answer.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2022 [16 favorites]

...this day, I see the world's second largest nuclear arsenal in the hands of an ex-KGB agent who has gone all-in on a revanchist resentment and an ideology of perpetual war with the West. I see this man launching a grotesque war of invasion and oppression as an act of grandiose psychopathy.

One hope I do have is that there is a scenario where Putin's overextension collapses his regime, he's retired one way or another, and there is serious reform in the country. Including significant (multi-laterally balanced) reduction of their nuclear arsenal. I'm guessing that the upkeep is costing them a lot more than they can really afford, and if there's been as much corruption and diversion of funds as with their regular military then currently a lot of them may be in a state where they're more a threat to Russia than anywhere else.

It's a long shot, but somewhere I do have some bits of the Berlin wall a friend who was there sent me, a reminder that sometimes good things happen.
posted by Buntix at 11:26 AM on March 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

I'm honestly not sure if this thread is going to ultimately be sustainable - a thread for feelings is helpful for things where most of the people are feeling the same thing, a thread for feelings is not always super helpful where the feelings of one person are wildly upsetting to the feelings of other people, or where a number of people are mildly affected and others are majorly affected.

But I'll go with it anyway.

I just talked to a friend of mine who is upset about someone that we mutually care about who left for Ukraine and who is heading into severe danger. They said "I just want to help this person, I don't know how, but I want to help, I would be helping if only I knew how". And so I gave them the specific items that that person has identified as being helpful to that person. They are:

1) helping that person's immediate family with things so they can focus on their family member
2) helping that person with logistics, supplies, or research
3) helping bring an end to the war in Ukraine through pressuring legislators to act
4) helping by creating social media supportive of Ukraine and condemning of what Russia is doing right now.

And there was a really long awkward silence. Because when that person said "I want to help", what they meant was "I want to help get this person home from Ukraine", not "I want to help as this person is requesting to be helped".

And I think I'm just feeling a ton of frustration about this person and the situation in general, because the Ukranians are being really clear, and the people in Ukraine or involved with people in Ukraine are being really clear, about what they want. And what they want is in many cases not what people in the West want the Ukrainians or people who are there to want. And like - a lot of people seem to be having trouble with that, because their desire to center the desires of affected people and their desire to stick to a particular worldview can't coexist.
posted by corb at 11:28 AM on March 16, 2022 [44 favorites]

Flagged as fantastic, corb. You are exactly right. Thank you.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:33 AM on March 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Who is Peter Schiff, and why?

@PeterSchiff: "I understand times are hard, but doesn't the President of the #Ukraine own a suit? I don't have much respect for current members of the U.S. Congress either, but I still wouldn't address them wearing a t-shirt. I wouldn't want to disrespect the institution or the Unites States."
posted by Buntix at 12:42 PM on March 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Here’s a feeling. Kleptocrats, sociopaths, and lead-addled grunts determine our fates. Bullies win because they want it more and play dirty. Everyone else is highly programmable. Most individuals and countries are self-interested. Maybe it wasn’t like that when we hung out in the hundreds, but the past 1k years? Madness. Fuck everyone, honestly. Especially Putin, but pretty much everyone.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:57 PM on March 16, 2022 [4 favorites]

Peter Schiff is already rightfully being mocked to the moon and back, but this one caught my eye:

"When Gandhi was invited to Buckingham Palace in 1931, a reporter asked: “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the king?"
Gandhi replied: "Do not worry about my clothes. The king has enough clothes on for both of us.”

My heart is so broken, I'm nearly completely inarticulate, so please forgive me if I keep borrowing words from others for a bit. I'll try to do attributions when/as I can.
posted by vers at 1:00 PM on March 16, 2022 [11 favorites]

Since this is the feelings thread, I'll just go in a corner and take a moment to let it out:

I fucking hate this mother fucking guy. War is such a waste of everything. IT's a waste of earth's resources and people. It's so fucking stupid. Someone had to extract metal and it had to be refined in a factory people built and work in, probably under hazardous conditions, to turn into a tank or a gun or a bomb to go to some place and break more shit that had to be extracted and refined and built until itself is blown up and the fire around everything pollutes the air while a bunch of people die. And the people die prematurely before they can circle back to the point of giving out whatever empathy and care went into forming them and their lives and making things "whole". And kids die after someone, probably a woman, gave up large amounts of her own life to care for them. fucking waste upon waste upon waste to satisfy the undefinable needs of a fucking loser with some fucking complex he could have just done some western style therapy to deal with.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:40 PM on March 16, 2022 [43 favorites]

Well Putin's new despotic rant is making my hair stand on end

@PeterSchiff: "I understand times are hard, but doesn't the President of the #Ukraine own a suit?

Maybe he can borrow Schiff's clown suit.
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:46 PM on March 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

I don't know where to begin with my thoughts on this war and how it seems to be changing many things about the world order right before our eyes. And not just the world order- I'm reassessing all kinds of ethical and political positions held by myself and others, most of which have been found sorely wanting. Suffice to say that while I remain a leftist, I'm pretty appalled at the simple-mindedness of a lot of leftist responses from the US and Western Europe. I recommend reading and donating to something like Commons instead of wasting time on some fuckin' tankie nerd or whatever.

On an unrelated note, I like learning languages. I'd never really thought about learning any Slavic languages, even when, years ago, my roommate at the time managed to get pretty fluent in Russian. When Russia invaded Ukraine, I figured I'd try to learn a bit of Ukrainian; at the very least, the Cyrillic alphabet wouldn't be a total mystery anymore. Fast forward a few weeks, and I arrange a tutoring session with a woman in Kyiv via Italki. She writes to say thanks, and warns me she may have to reschedule if there's an air raid.

Our session was supposed to start an hour ago. Mere minutes before that, she wrote to say she had to head to the basement for a few hours to escape an air raid. I really hope to get another message from her soon.

Sorry if this is rambling bullshit. Like I said, I don't know where to begin. I wanna thank all y'all who have contributed to this (and the main Ukraine) thread. I dig hearing from each and every one of you.

слава україна.
posted by heteronym at 1:49 PM on March 16, 2022 [20 favorites]

i understand times are lenient but doesn't the pope own a suit?
posted by pyramid termite at 2:08 PM on March 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

This is why I think there is the emotional investment in the invasion of Ukraine. Europe, where many of my ancestors came from used to be saddled with dozens, if not more petty monarchies which lined their serfs and soldiers up, to shoot at each other, over their hangnails, and bravado. The thirty years war, the hundred year war, finally WW1, then WW2. The wall came down. So finally Europe soldified into the EU, and then with brisk business with Russia, there seemed to be a long, deserved period of peace on the way. But little men like Putin have no place in peacetime. Then hanging out at his palatial estate, and cruising on his yacht, he takes one too many mushrooms and has this vision of an even bigger empire to rule. He is aging, he is not a beloved superstar of the west, surrounding himself with cultural icons like Anna Netrebko and Valery Gurgiev, still does not make him attractive to the west, drawing B listers who just don't reflect enough glow to make him feel real. Suddenly he is befriended by a political physicist, and Putin is talking about unimaginable new weapons at his disposal, and his sun has set, and all that is left, is smouldering fury that he is unleashing on his family. There is this talk of neutrality, there will never, ever, be a Ukraine that is neutral about Russia, not an Eastern bloc, not an EU, no one, except Armenia, sick of genocide, Syria for reasons of co-authoritarianism, and then there is big oil, who is really showing us who is boss, we, with our wallets ripped open.

Anyway, with the US out of Afghainstan, and the EU thriving, now with more invested neighbors, Putin's pathetic nature is blooming, and the wretched Chechen, in on the sport, I am glad Zelensky lived long enough to address congress, still waiting for that front page obituary. I imagine the Russian Putiners are even more annoying than the Trumpers, but who knows when our civil war will break out? I am frightened and disturbed every waking hour.
posted by Oyéah at 3:23 PM on March 16, 2022 [5 favorites]

The wire that holds the cork
That keeps the anger in
Gives way
And suddenly it's day again.
The sun is in the east
Even though the day is done.
Two suns in the sunset
Could be the human race is run.
posted by dg at 6:36 PM on March 16, 2022 [6 favorites]

Thank you so much for starting this thread.

Over the past three weeks, I have gone through almost the full range of emotions described here.

Aside from profound sadness for the people of Ukraine, my most dominant emotion is shame that my generation (GenX) could not prevent the world from getting into this horrible state. It was not for want of trying--in my more than two decades in International relations, many have struggled to contain Putin, fight climate change, etc.--but we have failed even harder than we thought.

This morning, I woke up in the middle of a dream about aliens coming to take over the earth, and was disappointed to find it was not real.
posted by rpfields at 7:11 PM on March 16, 2022 [8 favorites]

My German mother was born in East Prussia in 1940 and some of her earliest memories are of fleeing Soviet troops in 1944. My siblings and I have long thought that she showed some signs of PTSD, but she's always been quick to change the topic when we brought it up. Since the war in Ukraine started, her incidents of vertigo and nausea have increased sharply in both frequency and duration, but she still can't talk about it. It seems like such a small thing compared to what many Ukrainians are going through now -- she's thousands of miles from any fighting, and living a comfortable middle-class American life -- but we have no idea how to help her.

Vladimir Putin is a boil on the ass of humanity.
posted by Slothrup at 7:30 PM on March 16, 2022 [13 favorites]

i'm pissed because we keep on digging ourselves deeper with entirely voluntary dumb violent and selfish decisions and actions based on tribal concocted BULLSHIT when we have REAL, UNAVOIDABLE, INTRINSIC, NON-NEGOTIABLE-REALITY-BASED problems as a species to deal with on the only rock we fucking have or are going to have in the NEXT 10,000 years as our home comes under mortal threat

like the PAST 10,000 years of us as a species struggling out of the muck to understand the world we are in, how it works, our study of biology,, chemistry, physics, math, sociology, psychology, engineering and technology gave us a shot at some form of self-determination beyond disease and starvation and pain and rutting to have enough babies to overcome the relentless need to reproduce lest nature or some incomprehensible-to-us-until-recently-cataclysm snatch us away and we are almost there in our understanding and power to affect our world for good and now we're gonna consume and greed and tribe and fight our way back to fucking ignorance and the ooze
posted by lalochezia at 9:34 PM on March 16, 2022 [13 favorites]

I want to declare that I am irritated by lovely well-meaning FB posts about the value of peace. The Ukrainian government and most likely the majority of its people have made it clear that they think the continued existence of Ukraine as a country is more important to them than peace. Because the quickest and easiest way to peace would be capitulation. And I live in the UK, we have no collective memory of invasion. I have no idea what I would want if I were in the Ukrainian's position, but I can respect their reasonable desire to be unmolested in their own country. So yeah, people posting about peace without explicitly calling for Russian troops to go home are really irritating me.

Also, the Ukrainians' propaganda / public relations / communications / soft diplomacy is absolutely a thing of wonder and beauty. Whoever is working on it has risen to the professional challenge of their lives under the most appalling of circumstances.

And finally, I read this fantastic presentation about the practicalities of how the city of Hamburg accommodated Syrian refugees in 2018, and I realise that there is absolutely no chance that the UK would ever give so much with such care as Germany already has, however imperfect that has been. That Germany has learned how to do this is a consequence of its own horrific history - German families in East Prussia would not have needed to flee Soviet troops if the German people as a whole had made different choices in the 1930s and 40s. All of this has somehow made me prouder than ever of the creation of the European Union and the peace and prosperity it has brought to its inhabitants.
posted by plonkee at 12:05 AM on March 17, 2022 [18 favorites]

One of the things I’ve realized is that even though my friends and family and community are safe and privileged (for now), it is okay and natural to feel deep, deep grief over this war, over climate change, nuclear bombs, all wars. It’s okay and natural to be traumatized over people bombing the shit out of other people and it’s natural to grieve over how crazy humans can get (myself included). Everyday I think - it was just luck that I was born where I am. It is just luck if you are born in a country that hasn’t been bombed to oblivion. But for the grace of god, there go I.

I don’t know if we will make it as a species, but I think the earth will last. And I think deep down, I do believe that humans will survive. I guess this is a form of faith that life will find a way somehow. I hope this is true.
posted by gt2 at 2:12 AM on March 17, 2022 [11 favorites]

There are solid historical, geopolitical and humanitarian reasons we are paying so much attention to Ukraine, and I've been a little frustrated with conversations about racism concerning its news coverage. Although I have no doubt some racism has been at work in the coverage of other victims of war at other times, I think a conversation about it now is unfair to Ukraine.

That region has survived, in just the past century, two world wars and two civil wars, not to mention imperial, soviet, and Nazi rule. Yet it has evolved into a democracy on its own. It now has a Jewish president and a Jewish prime minister. The people there are not just recognizable, but relatable. They work in IT. They're good at social media. They were as shocked by the invasion as the US would have been. They also live on the border of our biggest allies. All those allies fear they are next: Why else would Finland and Sweden be talking about NATO? Why else would Germany suddenly be markedly increasing its defense spending? Why else would Polish, Czech and Slovenian leaders have taken a train directly into a war zone that 2 million people had just fled?
posted by Violet Blue at 2:40 AM on March 17, 2022 [22 favorites]

I'm trying to focus on Zelensky's being tough and inspirational (and I'm watching Servant of the People, who wants it on FanFare? I put in a request), and Ukrainians fighting the hell back and DIY Molotov'ing, and the fact that this has not been a slam dunk easy win for Putin after all. Nyah nyah nyah.

Also, seriously, a guy plays the president on TV, THEN BECOMES PRESIDENT FOR REAL, and then doesn't suck?!? Freaking amazing. I've always really hated it when someone with literally no political experience runs for a "running things" office and I wish we had laws preventing people for running for president or governor without having held one political office before so they'd know what they were getting into, and Trump is obviously the world's worst example of this. (Though to be fair, I don't have objections to Ahnuld. Especially since he seems to be a lone reasonable Republican these days.) So I'm pretty impressed with this guy and every day he's still alive is a miracle. Fingers crossed and god bless the dude.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:09 AM on March 17, 2022 [7 favorites]

I do think it's sort of inevitable for people who have been trying to call attention to refugee and other humanitarian crises for years to feel frustrated at the inconsistency and hypocrisy of some public figures who are now reacting to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine as they should have been to other past and current humanitarian crises. I think it's understandable, but I agree that in most cases, calling people out and trying to recenter the discussion on all the ongoing humanitarian problems in the world more broadly is counterproductive, and unfair to Ukraine. (Arguably, not doing so is unfair to refugees from Central America and Syria: there is no perfect solution here.)

A better approach, in my opinion, is to encourage the empathetic reaction that people are having to Ukrainians dealing with an assault on their homes, and in the future ask them to remember that response when they think about refugees from other areas. Empathy is nourished by practice, and responding to people stretching their empathy in ways they haven't before by criticizing them for not doing so in the past can only discourage them from trying again. Conversely, reminding them of the empathy they're capable of when they fail to apply it in the future is a more positive, and effective, use of shame.
posted by biogeo at 9:58 AM on March 17, 2022 [26 favorites]

"[A] guy plays the president on TV, THEN BECOMES PRESIDENT FOR REAL..."

Thoroughly agreed, and there have been multiple examples of it worldwide, including in Denmark where the wonderful TV series Borgen unquestionably influenced the election of Helle Thorning-Schmidt.

Had there not been a war, Zelensky's presidency was tracking to be mediocre, at best, with some corruption, and the nepotistic hiring of a lot of his entertainment colleagues, as Vox's great little video Volodymyr Zelenskyy, explained in 8 moments summarizes neatly. That he rose to the occasion was less of a surprise, however, if you analyze the values at the root of "Servant of the People," which the New York Times describes as idealistic and "insightful about the pressures on a fledgling democracy with more-powerful neighbors. While Russia is not central to the plot, consciousness of it is everywhere." When Zelensky, as fictional President Holoborodko, wants to get the attention of an unruly audience, he yells: “Putin has been overthrown!”
posted by Violet Blue at 10:34 AM on March 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

Had there not been a war, Zelensky's presidency was tracking to be mediocre, at best, with some corruption, and the nepotistic hiring of a lot of his entertainment colleagues....

I have just had the uncomfortable realization that we've seen this kind of "mediocre person rises to the occasion in a crisis" thing before - with Rudy Giuliani.

Maybe it's a reminder to judge his wartime actions in that context.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:10 AM on March 17, 2022 [6 favorites]

Helping the Ukrainian armed forces
So that people can come back alive
Timothy Snyder

I was speaking the other day to a pacifist I have known for decades. I was in the midst of making a point I have been trying to get across these last three weeks. Every day that the Ukrainians resist, I was saying, is a day that we have been given to consider our own values.... The pacifist interrupts: "it is also a day we have been given to get arms across the Polish border into Ukraine. Every single one of those Russian tanks has to be stopped."

Conversations like that one have persuaded me to devote a newsletter to the Ukrainian armed forces. The U.S. government will act in response to the appeal Volodymyr Zelens'kyi made in Congress. You can act faster.

In publishing these links to these organizations, I am thinking about war, but also about peace. In my mind's eye I see a wedding I attended in Ukraine with my family. I find photographs: my son, in front of a church, in his Ukrainian embroidered shirt. Like my son's, my embroidered shirt is in the traditional Ukrainian colors of red and black: "любов і смерть," as the lady who made it told me, stroking the colored threads with a forefinger, love and death. They brush together.

As I look at the wedding photos, I know where some of the young men are now: army, territorial defense, government... They have volunteered to defend their country.

My kids ask me what these Ukrainian friends are doing, and I tell them. In a better world, one without this idiotic, criminal invasion, these young Ukrainians would be researching, teaching, working in their businesses, spending time with their families.

I would rather imagine them at peace. But I don't have trouble imagining them at war. It's their country, it's been invaded. They know that Putin aims to destroy Ukraine as a state and nation, which means killing people, such as themselves, who care about it. They are supported by a creative and devoted civil society.

I understand this. And I want them to return healthy to the people who love them.

initiative, Unite with Ukraine, makes it very easy for people in North America to donate medical supplies, fuel, night-vision goggles, vests, and communications systems to the people serving in the army and territorial defense. This is via the Ukrainian World Congress. If you are in the armed forces in Ukraine and want to request such material, that link is here.

Come Back Alive, in Ukraine, concentrates on protective gear and other equipment soldiers need. You can donate to them with a credit card here.

Army SOS, also in Ukraine, includes medical gear and other things soldiers need. You can donate via PayPal under, or by bank transfer in dollars to: Charity fund ARMY SOS; IBAN Code UA203052990000026003016809842; SWIFT PBANUA2XXXX; Name of bank: JSC CB "PRIVATBANK.

You can also contribute to the Ukrainian armed forces using a credit card.

For the original with the embedded links lost in Copy and Paste, visit Timothy Snyder's Substack
posted by 15L06 at 11:24 AM on March 17, 2022 [9 favorites]

If he was anything like Gunvald Larsson, I'd nominate Mikael Persbrandt.
posted by y2karl at 11:35 AM on March 17, 2022

"I have just had the uncomfortable realization that we've seen this kind of "mediocre person rises to the occasion in a crisis" thing before - with Rudy Giuliani."

There may be something to that. Although there are certainly many other global examples of shows about politicians, I've heard some describe "Servant of the People" as a campaign ad. The oligarch who owned the network that ran Zelensky's show also backed his campaign — and helped make him rich. I have read Zelensky is worth about $15 million, which goes a lot farther in Ukraine than here. There were fears that the Oligarch's power would only grow once Zelensky hit office, but I gather they distanced him instead.

One uneasy-making interpretation of events is that Putin assumed Zelensky would be a pushover because of his cushy rise, which is why he invaded now. I also found it disheartening to read another entertainer was gearing up to challenge Zelensky in the next election, only to repurpose his drive when the war broke out. To all appearances, Ukraine, like the US, has a long history of mistrust for its politicians. There, like here, the comedian is taken for its most trustworthy "truthteller."

Although I did not like Zelensky's approach to campaigning, which included refusing to debate, and mostly relied on social media, there is no question that Zelensky has used his performance and media savvy with incredible skill during the war. I couldn't believe, for example, that the war footage Zelensky showed Congress included a rousing score. And the fact remains that Biden did offer to come and get him, and Zelensky wouldn't even consider it. Whether that was partly ego talking lest he go down in history as Ukraine's last president, or idealism or a very human mix of both probably doesn't matter. By any standard, a rich man who stays when he could escape, and leads when he could cower, is heroic.
posted by Violet Blue at 11:49 AM on March 17, 2022 [11 favorites]

I have just had the uncomfortable realization that we've seen this kind of "mediocre person rises to the occasion in a crisis" thing before - with Rudy Giuliani.

It's a (possibly over-stated) truism that great wartime leaders make indifferent peacetime politicians. I would like to point out that Giuliani was a politician who became a star, and Zelensky was a star who became a politician.
posted by Grangousier at 12:05 PM on March 17, 2022 [7 favorites]

Reagan isn't really a better touchstone.

(And if the shithead Lets Go Brandon right wasn't so deep into Putinsplaining they'd be flogging the hell out of that comparison)
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:20 PM on March 17, 2022

Servant of the People Season 1 on Fanfare if people want to start watching it. I'm through a few episodes and may add thoughts later.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:56 PM on March 17, 2022 [3 favorites]

My apologies, by accident i pasted the fundraising appeal into the wrong metatalk thread, i am sorry.
posted by 15L06 at 2:10 PM on March 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

A better approach, in my opinion, is to encourage the empathetic reaction that people are having to Ukrainians dealing with an assault on their homes, and in the future ask them to remember that response when they think about refugees from other areas. Empathy is nourished by practice

This is just such a wonderfully written comment and I really appreciate it; because it's not that people are wrong when they say 'hey, you're doing this but you didn't do it for others', but I fear that the most likely effect of that response is for decision-makers to come to their senses and say "yeah, yeah, you're right, I'm going to stop doing the good thing". When really, we want everyone to have the good thing, to encourage feelings of international solidarity and of helping others.
posted by corb at 3:22 PM on March 17, 2022 [20 favorites]

Also, making oneself right by making another wrong is the same shit with new frosting, however noble the cause. We are all in this together. In theory, at least.
posted by y2karl at 6:17 PM on March 17, 2022 [4 favorites]

My brain just surfaced Amazing Grace and Chuck and I'm not thrilled about it
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:37 PM on March 17, 2022

I am finding myself very upset by the wanton destruction of perfectly good material objects like housing and cars at a time when humanity is fully aware that we don’t have infinite resources. This is on top of my fury regarding the invasion in general. It’s such a fucking pointless waste.
posted by wondermouse at 8:13 PM on March 17, 2022 [10 favorites]

And if the shithead Lets Go Brandon right wasn't so deep into Putinsplaining they'd be flogging the hell out of that comparison

When Russia sanctioned Canada, it barred leaders from all major federal parties, including conservative leaders.

But when Russia sanctioned the U.S., it barred Democratic leaders only. It didn’t name a single GOP leader.

The signal couldn’t be clearer.
posted by Mitheral at 5:16 AM on March 18, 2022 [21 favorites]

But when Russia sanctioned the U.S., it barred Democratic leaders only.

I mean -- they sanctioned Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden, ferchrissakes -- neither of whom have any formal role in the government or the Democratic party.
posted by Slothrup at 6:08 AM on March 18, 2022 [6 favorites]

A better approach, in my opinion, is to encourage the empathetic reaction

Kunkush the cat's epic journey to find its refugee family [Grauniad/YouTube]
posted by Buntix at 11:20 AM on March 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

@Nolan Peterson: "There is an incredible sense of kindness among the random people I encounter in Kyiv. Many smiles and helping hands. In my 8 years of living here, I’ve never had more strangers strike up a conversation with me. It’s a pretty remarkable reaction to the hardships of wartime."
posted by Buntix at 11:44 AM on March 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

I am super angry how the thread in the blue is turning into i don't know what to call it, a mixture of selfrighteous concerntrolling and armchair analysts informed and educated by social Media.
I should Not have opened it.
posted by 15L06 at 12:09 PM on March 18, 2022 [10 favorites]

Good news! The Ukrainian tutor I mentioned upthread is alive and well. Apparently she was somewhere else in Ukraine when the war started and has stayed there since, along with her family, her parents, and a couple other families. Air raids are still a threat, but she's not in as much danger as I thought, since she's not in Kyiv. We spent a lot of time talking about the war, the Russian language in Ukraine, propaganda, and animal rescue (since I work at an animal shelter). I booked more lessons, not only out of solidarity, but because Ukrainian, even at this preliminary stage, is looking like a pretty fascinating language. (I mean, every language is rad, but I'm deriving particular satisfaction from pronouncing even basic Ukrainian words.)
posted by heteronym at 1:12 PM on March 18, 2022 [16 favorites]

My feelings? Here where there are no bombs, I’m mostly focusing on supporting the least likeable people, folks with mental illness in an un-pretty way who are facing war-horror like everyone but aren’t getting as much support and solidarity as people without social disabilities. My sibling either killer himself or died of an overdose this winter and was not discovered for weeks. My job is to squeeze every last drop out of the tube of toothpaste that is my life force, in support of others, even if it obliterates me.
posted by The Last Sockpuppet at 3:25 PM on March 18, 2022 [13 favorites]

My understanding is that Ukraine is what Russia could have been if it wasn’t run by a bunch of power-mad, money-obsessed oligarchs. Which isn’t to say it was perfect, but it was a hell of a lot better.

When all this mess is concluded, I hope that we start pouring our money and effort into helping rebuild Ukraine back to some semblance of what it was before. Let Russia solve its own problems for a while.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 9:45 PM on March 18, 2022 [4 favorites]

Update: my friend's family are all alive and have left Mariupol. What is next for them, I don't know. But they are alive and going somewhere safer.

"Anyway, best day of my life", he messaged me earlier today.
posted by mdonley at 10:18 AM on March 19, 2022 [22 favorites]

I really hope there is not another Ukraine megathread. The casual comment of nuclear war being preferable etc ist too much, on top of all the rest.
I know the solution is to stay away, but it makes me sad and angry that this is all i can do.
posted by 15L06 at 2:16 PM on March 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

When really, we want everyone to have the good thing, to encourage feelings of international solidarity and of helping others.

That's actually what AOC has been working on domestically, in a video she said that in the process of helping the Ukrainian refugees seeking safety in the US, it will hopefully help make refugee and migration policies fair for all people going to the US.

However, I think it is entirely fair to point out hypocrisies promulgated by public figures or politicians. There's a power dynamic there which means it's up to the privileged to wield their empathy in a justifiable way. "Please don't criticize people (which people?) because they don't know how to be empathic and criticism would just alienate them" is a conservative line (and note, the very statement itself is a form of criticism anyways) we've heard over and over in all sorts of political contexts. There are contexts in which people, especially public figures, can take criticism in stride, or else they have no business representing citizens.
posted by polymodus at 2:32 PM on March 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

I think we soon need another Front Page Post about the Ukraine War. The latest excellent one is over a week old and now has over 1000 comments, and it is now getting rather awkward to view properly.

MetaFilter comments and links on these posts have been one of the best ways to get some perspective on this ongoing tragedy, compared to most other media.

(I'm not the best person to create this kinda post myself, and if I tried it would be pretty clunky. So I'd like to encourage those who are good at this sort of thing.)
posted by ovvl at 4:37 PM on March 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

I read in The Guardian Mariupol residents are being kidnapped to obscure places in Russia, without ID papers. 4-5000 such displacements.
posted by Oyéah at 8:04 PM on March 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

This turned out to be a hodgepodge and I guess here is a place for it...

I am Jewish and though my family background is not via Ukraine, there are many in my community who have complex connections and responses that I have been reading. Even for me, reading about the Cossack history of Ukraine in positive nation-building terms feels like a lot of cognitive dissonance.

The fact that Ukraine is currently being led by a Jewish man my age, and he was elected by a landslide and is seen as a hero now, it's both hard to wrap my head around and very hopeful for me.

I hope for all Ukrainians that their resistance is ultimately and swiftly successful and they can keep building their safe and diverse national home.

I'm spooked that Zelenskyy, if successful, will overstay, and be not great for Ukraine and 'bad for the Jews.' I kind of hopes he manages to be a wildly successful and popular wartime leader and then resigns, supports peacetime democracy, enjoys the fruits of his personal and national legacy, and stays out of the way. I hope he has the ego for that.

I'm baffled by those who say that Ukrainians should not resort to violent resistance, or that the conflict is due to Western involvement. I think that knowledge in the west of Holodomor is way too limited, and anybody who knows that history should understand why many Ukrainians would reasonably believe that 'peaceful' surrender will not ultimately lead to more 'peaceful' outcomes, or even more survival, for them and their families.

I wish there were more/better/more contextualizing coverage of the women who are staying and fighting. We have this image of men who fight and language about 'sending sons to war', but anyone who studies history knows that whether or not a woman is a combatant, she faces equally bad or worse fates under conquest/occupation than a man. The idea that noncombatant status (in a defensive war) protects women is completely anti-historical, as far as I can tell. Arming women with both training and weapons seems like at least giving them a literal fighting chance, as well as tactically beneficial.

At the same time when I saw the early news about restricting travel for men 18-60 to keep them for the war effort, that was horrifying. Men of 'fighting age' are often the first targets/victims of genocide, and it felt very ominous.

I was very heartened to see big business voluntarily withdraw support from Russia. I think industry cooperation if not full out support has been key for the success of state violence (including American state violence). I hope this will both significantly hamper Russia and encourage companies to act with a sense of responsibility in general.

While I think there are solid historical and geo-political reasons that explain at least to some extent why this conflict to be getting the coverage it does in the West (or maybe I should say USA since that's where I am), I have so much sympathy for those, especially themselves from homelands facing similar onslaughts, when they express pain and frustration with it. Not to mention the additional layer of undeniable ugly racism in a lot of media coverage. I do think white Americans need to be very thoughtful about how we navigate this though. I don't think our most effective role is outrage or righteous anger expressed in this context, and I get frustrated when I hear it.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:50 PM on March 19, 2022 [15 favorites]

To anyone who feels frustrated when people bring up the issue of racism in coverage of the war in Ukraine: please, PLEASE, *please* do not engage in Why Ukraine's Tragedy Is More Deserving comparisons making use of Who Has Had More Wars And Struggled Harder To Achieve Good Governance.

Northern and Eastern Africa were theatres of war for both WWI and WWII. Colonial European rule lasted through my parents' childhoods. The hard-won fights for independence in the mid-20th century were followed by civil conflicts in many places. Idealists struggled for democracy and self-determination. Despots fought for power and control, often funded and armed by Western nations. There are vibrant economies and cultural centers across the continent. It is the birthplace of humanity and is home to some of the most precious artifacts of human civilization.

Kenya is full of people who look like my friends and neighbors. They work in IT. They're good at social media. In 2017, 79.5% of registered voters voted in their general elections, putting most Western democracies to shame. 45% of the vote went against the current president, even though he's been indicted by the ICC for elections violence, even though the head of information, communication, and technology at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was brutally murdered before the elections even began. I worked in East Africa for almost ten years, and civil violence there didn't make it to the general news in the US even once. How often do you read about the current civil war in Ethiopia? In the NYT, the only coverage I've seen on the front page is because a young Spanish woman working with MSF was recently murdered by the Ethiopian military.

*No one suffering the evil of war is more deserving of our empathy.* It is ok to feel strongly about Ukraine! If you feel more strongly about Ukraine than other conflicts, those are your feelings, and they are your business! It is also ok to feel frustrated that Americans in the aggregate (the only Westerners I can really speak for) do not ever appear to give a shit about war in Ethiopia, or Syria, or Burma, or CAR, or South Sudan, or any other nation which is not "on the border of [the West's] biggest allies", or to hear people say that their reason for feeling more strongly about [war in Europe] is because [Europeans] are "relatable".
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:06 AM on March 20, 2022 [24 favorites]

Flagged as fantastic, r9t. Sorry about your name, my phone is such a pain. Please forgive me.
posted by Bella Donna at 11:55 AM on March 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

rrrrrrrrrt, I think this war feels more closer to some people on Mefi is because it is geographicaly and geopolitically closer. For people in the Horn of Africa, for example, I would guess they have had the last few years to feel like some of us who are in country neighbouring Ukraine are feeling now.

I feel like I have no choice now than to pay attention and absorb the atrocities that are being committed (though I still cannot look at the images). It's like me and mine have to prepare as well, though I have no clue as to how.

This is also the only war in my lifetime where I feel we are teetering on the brink of WWIII and that we might well be witnessing the begining of the end. However horrendous other wars, in Europe or elsewhere, however great the humanitarian crisis, for me personally, this is the first time that I fear for all humanity, ultimately.

And another aspect for those of us from this part of Europe - Russia is itself, and has been for hundreds of years, a brutal COLONIAL power. This is generally not accepted in the west - since it is the left who tends to be concerned about colonialism and the American left at least has decided that colonialism can only ever be perpetrated by white people against people of other races. It is the first time in my life that this aspect of EE history is paid even passing acknowlegement in the western mainstream - though even now it is highly controversial.

I do not know why some (many?) people in the US treat one type of humanitarian crisis as different from others - no doubt racism plays a part. But let me assure you that having live under a genocidal colonial power (or 'within its sphere of influence', as some so coyly put it) it is painful at this juncture to be reminded that yet again your part of the world is undeserving of the attention it is getting, and people who care have to engage in some sort of mea culpa. That is all.
posted by doggod at 12:35 PM on March 20, 2022 [7 favorites]

I am afraid for the people of Mariupol. I am also afraid for Zelensky, I hope he doesn't get trolled out into the open by steps Putin takes at that 5 AM deadline. Putin is working against the well being of our entire planet, for what I see as his narcissistic entertainment. I hope the residents can clear the area, though it is not likely. Maybe Mariupol is where he hoped to berth his ex-yacht. I wish this world could decisively stop this kind of paternal worship and violence, fetish, which allows for these actions all over, whether it is Sudan, Palestine, our cities, our own homegrown civil conflict brewing, the past, the present, the future. I once belonged to a gangster HOA, I hold out little hope, and that is the crux for me. I had hope, but no longer. People love jerks. The worst is on the way. Russians themselves need to step more, to end this.
posted by Oyéah at 8:06 PM on March 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

doggod, your feelings come through strong and clear. What I understand to be similar feelings from other folks here on MeFi and out around in the world come through bright as day, too. They are real, legitimate, terrifying feelings. It is an awful situation. I have not and am not asking you, or anyone else, not to feel those feelings. What I am asking is for people not to respond to critiques of Ukraine war coverage that suggest racism may be at play in how much attention is paid to this conflict vs others with arguments like “it’s a scrappy democracy that emerged out of a brutal history of conflict and oppression”, as if crises that *aren’t* international news for weeks at a time haven’t involved scrappy democracies that emerged out of brutal histories of conflict and oppression.

If there are people telling you that this war is less deserving of people’s empathy than other wars, I would shake with the same anger and say the same thing to them that I said above: war is evil, and engaging in pissing contests about whose war is the most awful war is beneath the gifts that evolution has granted humankind.

But saying, “the coverage of this war reflects racism” - or, for that matter, “please don’t use arguments about how Ukraine’s conflict deserves attention because it is a scrappy democracy that emerged out of a brutal history of conflict and oppression” - is not the same as saying “this war doesn’t deserve our attention”, “people who care about this war need to apologize”, “Russia is not a genocidal colonizer because they only genocide and colonize people in Eastern Europe”. That is all.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 8:11 PM on March 20, 2022 [9 favorites]

These are highly emotional issues for many people, and that makes it hard to hear each other sometimes. I have had to remind myself more than once that someone saying "racism is at play in the way the war in Ukraine is covered compared to other conflicts" is not saying "you are racist to care about the war in Ukraine."

War, anywhere and everywhere, harms all living things. And racism shapes our view of everything, including war. Both these things can be true.
posted by rpfields at 9:26 PM on March 20, 2022 [6 favorites]

rickshell: we shouldn't be quick to demonize the Russian people. It's dismaying to see opinions like "this is just the Russian national disposition." Russian people were victims of Soviet authoritarianism the same as Ukrainians (though often to a lesser degree)

OK, honest question. How do we hope that Russian people will make any change in their country, or what their country does to its neighbours, without causing them to suffer?

Russians have elected Putin 4 times, with increasing majorities, and his popularity is above 70%. My gut reaction these days is that Russia is a war machine, and the people of Russia appear to be willing cogs. It's very hard to maintain sympathy with that.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:19 PM on March 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

But saying, “the coverage of this war reflects racism” - or, for that matter, “please don’t use arguments about how Ukraine’s conflict deserves attention because it is a scrappy democracy that emerged out of a brutal history of conflict and oppression” - is not the same as saying “this war doesn’t deserve our attention”, “people who care about this war need to apologize”, “Russia is not a genocidal colonizer because they only genocide and colonize people in Eastern Europe”.

So I had a lot of feelings about your comment, which was good! It really helped me clarify in my own head where those feelings are coming from, and that helps me explain it to others - because I'm realizing I actually have very, very different feelings in hearing these statements depending on the positionality of who is saying the statements, and that's kind of a confusing place to be coming from for other people seeing it.

For my fellow friends and comrades of color, I'm happy to have conversations about how race and the history of racist colonialism impacts how war is covered in a variety of places, including how this war is covered. I don't think it's determinative - I don't think it's as simple as 'the coverage is racist and that explains the difference' but I think that race certainly impacts, because what doesn't race and racism impact, and it's deeply embedded in so much structural crap.

But I do bristle and get deeply frustrated when I hear this from white people, especially white leftists, because I feel like the critiques are not genuine in the same way, and aren't coming from the same place. Like you, I can only speak for what I see in the aggregate, and can't speak for any particular Mefite. But what I see in the aggregate from my white leftist friends is largely coming from one of a few different strains, and all of them are frustrating.

For some people, it seems like just reflexive condemnation of whatever they think is the dominant narrative - it's just another way to say that they don't like whatever is happening. They say 'oh, the coverage is racist, what about [insert X conflict in a country with a majority population of color here]'? But these people are, by and large, not people who have significantly cared about those countries, they are not people who have done work assisting people in those countries, they are not people who have connections to those countries. They're just dragging those countries out as a gotcha - they're also being racially problematic by reducing conflict and humanitarian issues in those countries to a punchline that they're going to forget shortly after saying it. It's like people who bring out the size of US mass incarceration on social media every time someone mentions the Uighurs, but have literally never so much as attended a meeting, read a book, or even signed a petition about actually stopping US mass incarceration.

And the second, and more complicated issue, is that a lot of white leftists I know are absolutely repeating Kremlin propaganda right now, because Kremlin propaganda has been targeting the left for a long time. A majority of the leftists I know off-Metafilter who started off last week or so, all at the same time, with "It's racist for everyone to care about Ukraine right now" are now saying things, all at the same time, like "But what if the Ukrainian government is just killing all its own people to make Russia look bad?", or a number of things that are really obviously recognizable as propaganda. And that makes it really hard to have a discussion with them, and hard to hear them repeating it, because the Kremlin has found a way to hijack their skepticism about mass media to start filling their heads with absolute garbage propaganda, and I don't know what to do about it other than throw up my hands and get mad.

So I think it's difficult, because in places like this, it's hard to really determine where someone is coming from. I don't know someone's history, I don't know what work they've been doing, and I'm not really in a place to question them about it.

And the difficult thing is that propaganda exists for a reason, and it's spread for a reason. If everyone is encountering similar propaganda at the same time, it's because someone perceives there to be a benefit in them receiving it. And that's just as true with the intro stuff as the latter stuff. Whether true or not, it absolutely benefits Russia to have everyone talking and questioning why people care about the war in Ukraine, because it helps peel people away from the full throated support that Ukraine has been receiving and that has been helping it survive.

And so how do I deal with that? Other than keeping those conversations to private spaces or spaces off social media, or to keeping them to people I know actually care, I don't know. I definitely would be interested in how you think we can talk about the one publicly with a generalized audience without triggering all the bad stuff.
posted by corb at 11:55 PM on March 20, 2022 [22 favorites]

...Russians have elected Putin 4 times, with increasing majorities, and his popularity is above 70%

And this comes from polls conducted by the Russian entity equivalent to the Pew Research Center? Still I don't dispute what you write Popular Ethics -- [ yours is a nice nick, btw: two words containing multiple multitudes of readings -- a model how-to of its sort... ] but... To know things rightly, we must know them in detail; and as details are almost infinite, our knowledge is always superficial and imperfect as La Rochefoucauld once wrote.

In my opinion, true for whatever we Corb, Ivan Fyodorovich, Katullus, languagehat and yourself aside to name but a few of the other more knowledgeable than the average member bears aside: whatever we think, say or opine upon comes from what we know. And we know so little.

Russia is one big matryoshka to me anymore, sliced, diced and chopped in hundreds of possibly factual julien fries. The intelligensia are fleeing in numbers as big as those of Ukrainians crossing Polish borders while the stranded clueless sheep look up at home. At, among other things, a deepfake Tucker Carlson spewing the same shit he spews at home. Only in Russian. It is beyond irony. What a world.

What a world turned upside down. I can't sleep, lay and listen to the BBC World Service and finally drift off to Byzantine dreams that fall way outside the permitted guidelines. Armageddon tired of this shit. So tired...
posted by y2karl at 1:55 AM on March 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

My gut reaction these days is that Russia is a war machine, and the people of Russia appear to be willing cogs.

As an American, albeit one living in Europe, I am grateful for outsiders who do not judge me by my government. The least I can do (until and unless I have evidence that Russia turns out to be a democracy and the majority voted to invade Ukraine) is to extend the same courtesy to Russians. Citizens do rally in times of war but I am pretty sure the populace was not in charge of the invasion and related decisions.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:12 AM on March 21, 2022 [9 favorites]

The least I can do (until and unless I have evidence that Russia turns out to be a democracy and the majority voted to invade Ukraine) is to extend the same courtesy to Russians. Citizens do rally in times of war but I am pretty sure the populace was not in charge of the invasion and related decisions.

I understand that position, but I want to push back a little. Putin has amassed enough unchecked power to be able to invade Ukraine on a whim. That power did not come by accident or provenance. He was allowed and encouraged to take it over 20 years. If ordinary Russians do not suffer greatly in this moment - if they don't feel a tenth of what their country is inflicting on Ukraine - what motivation is there for them to regret (and hopefully reverse) their collective choice to let this happen?
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:10 AM on March 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

I understand that position, too, but I'd like to push back on your pushback. You're right that Putin's power didn't come by accident or provenance, but it also didn't come by democratic action. It isn't for nothing that people refer to modern Russia as an oligarchy. This doesn't excuse the portion of the Russian population that is supportive of Putin's regime, but it's also true that most Russians don't have access to critical information about the Putin regime from a free and independent press, because the the regime and its predecessors have been careful to curtail any source of information that they don't control. Putin was "allowed and encouraged" to take power over 20 years primarily by a few oligarchs who expected to personally profit from their relationship with him, and with the passive assent of a population that has been systematically lied to for a generation to keep them from revolting against their oligarchic masters. And to a great extent, the power of those oligarchs has been derived not from popular assent by the Russian people, but by capitalists outside of Russia who have been all to eager to provide the oligarchs with immense wealth in exchange for a portion of their criminally-acquired material resources, stolen from the Russian people.

I think it is true that the Russian people ultimately have to take responsibility for overthrowing the oligarchy and finding a more equitable and peaceful government. But this is because there is no other practical solution, not because they need to regret a collective choice that it's debatable whether they really freely made. Those of us outside of Russia need to be prepared to offer whatever assistance we can to those who have been fighting the power of the oligarchs for decades, and reverse our own complicity in enabling their rise and perpetuation. The sanctions in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine is a good start, but really we should have been enforcing for decades our own laws on human rights and criminal activity that our own would-be oligarchs have skirted by trading with Russia's for decades.
posted by biogeo at 10:35 AM on March 21, 2022 [12 favorites]

They need to start the war crimes trial and arrest Putin, or arrest him on murder and conspiracy charges out of Ukraine. I would love it if we could start playing the law game, instead of the heads of nations and war, game. Get him on parking tickets. Ticket the tanks.
posted by Oyéah at 8:38 PM on March 21, 2022

corb, thank you for all that detail (and how apropos, y2karl, to read that quote from Michel in your comment as well).

You ask how people might talk about this kind of frustration in public - to me, your comment feels like a model for how to do that. You describe fully what people have said about Ukraine that frustrates you, what motivations you understand them to have and context for why you think they have those motivations, and then explain why those statements, motivations, and context upset you. It feels very much in line with the NVC idea of, "When [someone says something], I feel [an emotion], because [context]."

This feels much different than the kind of thinking that inspired my original comment, which feels a lot more like "When [people say something I care about is problematic in some way], I feel [judged by them, and then counter-judgment *of* them], because [*my* care is justified - by history, the urgency of the situation, etc.]" Note - I'm not trying to put words in anyone's mouth here - this is a general line of thinking I've encountered often, and frequently in my own head.

There's a disjoint in there that feels like an assumption of bad faith and personal attack on the part of people who are making a general and potentially legitimate critique. It feels not-quite-in-good-faith itself.

All that said, what you describe in your comment is appalling and important for me to read: I'm dismayed that so many white American leftists you know seem to be engaging in what seems like (my words) petty virtue-signalling, paranoid, disinformation-spreading trolling, and general bad-faith behavior around this very topic. Not surprised - I am a white American leftist - but still dismayed. I haven't heard anyone personally or in the newspapers I read talking in those kinds of ways: without any context suggesting bad faith or personal attack in the comments I responded to, I assumed good faith and that what's been said has been typed. Thanks for showing me a bigger, more complicated picture of how people are using this particular critique.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 10:14 PM on March 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

I'm normally a lurker here—looks like I haven't posted in over seven years—but I wanted to add a few thoughts to corb's excellent comment about how the Kremlin targets leftists in the United States, Western Europe, and elsewhere. Let me focus on the US because it's where I live and the country I understand best, although I don't think the propaganda is fundamentally different in the other countries (like Canada and France) that I'm most familiar with.

My understanding is that the best propaganda often starts with a truth, one that the audience deeply and viscerally understands, and uses it in the service of a lie. I think Julia Ioffe put it well on Colbert a few weeks ago when she said that Russian propagandists "often just take a little bit of truth and spin it into this cotton candy of lies." In this case, for good reason, many progressives and leftists in the United States are deeply committed to addressing racism and are particularly attuned to racism in politics and the media in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the right-wing fervor around critical race theory, and other events that I don't need to enumerate here.

Corb paraphrased the line as "It's racist for everyone to care about Ukraine right now" and notes hearing it from people who also say other things that are more obviously conspiratorial. I actually want to hone in on just how manipulative and misleading that first line is, and just how selective it is in the service of a conclusion that's so hard to back up if you actually consider all the facts on the ground.

First, at the outset, the assumption that everyone cares about Ukraine right now is mostly driven by a comparison of the airtime and column inches Ukraine is getting in the mainstream media right now, compared to other wars and conflicts in Yemen, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. If you really wanted to gauge whether everyone in the US cares about Ukraine right now, you'd have to look not just at media coverage but also at other things, including US behavior towards Ukrainian refugees.

I've actually found it difficult to find a lot of information about that in high-quality, trustworthy publications. It appears that the main action we've taken so far is granting Temporary Protected Status to Ukrainians who arrived in the country on or before March 1. That's better than nothing, but if it's the totality of our response, that's pathetic.

In the meantime, there are scattered reports of Ukrainians who are so desperate to avoid the dysfunctional US refugee system that they've flown to Mexico and are trying to enter the US via the land border and claim asylum. And that we're subjecting them to bullshit Title 42 expulsions. On paper, the logic is that asylum seekers might bring COVID into the US, which is really just a transparent rationalization for anti-immigrant sentiment, especially now that most of the pandemic measures in the US are gone. In any case, so far it's difficult to see how we in the US are being any more welcoming towards Ukrainians than Hondurans, Guatemalans, or Salvadorans.

Second, it's very selective to focus on hypocrisy, as if the problem were too much help to Ukrainians and not too little for people from other countries. Poland has taken in something like two million Ukrainians, compared to a tiny number of Syrians back in 2015. I'm not saying that the charge of hypocrisy is necessarily wrong, but I can't see how it's progressive to focus fire on Poland right now when there are plenty of other wealthier countries that didn't take in many Syrians and may not end up taking in many Ukrainians either (like the US and multiple countries in Western Europe).

Third, even if you take it at face value that the American media is concentrating more on Ukraine than on Yemen primarily because of racism, I think that's only half true. I'm sure most of the people here on MetaFilter have noticed racist tropes that US news media often applies to war and conflict in Africa. In an honest accounting, yes, racism is certainly a very real part of the equation. I think you also have to consider biases based on ethnicity, geography, wealth, nationality, and religion. And those don't all clearly cut in Ukraine's favor, in some cases very much the opposite.

Really, I think even that misses the biggest factor. One of the strongest biases in the American news media is bias against all coverage of anything foreign. If I had to venture an analysis, I'd say a big part of the extensive US coverage is because there are so many plausible ways this war could affect us directly, whether that's in economic terms, or via direct military conflict on an unimaginable scale, or by triggering a collapse of the postwar international architecture that we have such a large stake in (and I'm talking not just about the American alliance system but also even the UN itself).

The criticism that the media is driven by a racist double standard isn't exactly wrong, but it feels like a radical oversimplification, one that exploits progressive and leftist antiracist sentiment in order to push a conclusion that just doesn't make sense.

Anyway, all of this is not to say that claims like the existence of a racist double standard need to be suppressed. I certainly think there is truth in the claim. But obviously when a party to the conflict is spreading a line—a party with a vast state propaganda apparatus at that—we need to ask ourselves just why it's in their interest, and not just whether it's true in isolation but also whether the broader case that they're making is true. I'm not completely sure how to put that into practice, but at a minimum I think it's useful to ask, when making a claim, am I putting this in the service of a genuinely pro-Yemeni argument, or am I just making an anti-Ukrainian argument in disguise.
posted by neal at 5:30 PM on March 22, 2022 [9 favorites]

Are heads of state exempt from prosecution? Can't Ukraine issue a warrant, get interpol pick him up on terror charges for bombing a mall, and an art school? Try him quick and neat in Ukraine? He has flown in and out of Europe and Syria recently. Kangaroo court style, lock him up.
posted by Oyéah at 7:11 PM on March 22, 2022

I typed a few angry responses before editing this to be kinder and about feelings, but I will say that I find the idea that it is the Ukrainians and people helping them who are prolonging the war, rather than the Russian Federation which is responsible for it, to be both a bold and upsetting take.
posted by corb at 3:45 AM on March 23, 2022 [15 favorites]

I realize I am cherry-picking, but just wanted to lodge a counter-argument to this:

Third, even if you take it at face value that the American media is concentrating more on Ukraine than on Yemen primarily because of racism, I think that's only half true. I'm sure most of the people here on MetaFilter have noticed racist tropes that US news media often applies to war and conflict in Africa. In an honest accounting, yes, racism is certainly a very real part of the equation. I think you also have to consider biases based on ethnicity, geography, wealth, nationality, and religion. And those don't all clearly cut in Ukraine's favor, in some cases very much the opposite.

I believe that the complaints about media racism are actually a bit more than "half true". There were so many examples of reporters saying that "this time it's different because the refugees look like us" that Trevor Noah was able to make a supercut of them for a segment on his show.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on March 23, 2022 [3 favorites]

It's not just a binary choice between Russia or Ukraine "winning". In one of the earlier posts I linked to a Bret Devereaux Twitter thread about the possibility of a "messy peace".

At some point it's likely that Ukraine and Russia are going to sign some kind of peace treaty. That might be ratifying something close to a "Russian victory", or it might be something close to a "Ukraine victory" with a bit of face-saving language for Putin, or it might be something in between.

What kind of peace it is depends on factors which include the military progress of the war, the economic damage of sanctions, and the state of public opinion in Russia.

It's a mistake to think "X is useless because it won't end the war" or "Y is useless because it won't cause a revolution in Russia". X and Y are factors which could end the war sooner, and could end it more favourably for Ukraine.

So I think Niall Ferguson's argument that military aid for Ukraine is just about extending the war is a bit disingenuous. Like many on the hard right he's emotionally sympathetic to supposed "strong men" like Putin, even if he can't quite rationalize siding with him in a case that so blatantly evil. But he's unconsciously or consciously looking for excuses to let Putin win, because "strong men" ought to triumph over the weak.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 8:01 AM on March 23, 2022 [12 favorites]

- at , your argument seems to be that we should stop supporting Ukraine, because supporting them is somewhat self-serving.

Do you think Ukrainians themselves should have a say in their fate? Cause it appears they want to fight for their freedom and their integrity.

Or are you of the opinion that the west should wisen up and let the chips fall as they may? Given that we know what ' as they may' means in this case - the annihilation of the country and at the very least cultural genocide.
posted by doggod at 9:47 AM on March 23, 2022 [5 favorites]

I know you are trying a more subtle approach than the last "Ukraine is the bad guy for not giving up" comment that got deleted, -, but it's still nonsense. Russia has neither the population nor the resources to take and hold a Ukraine that chooses to resist; 44 million to 144 million is not "tiny"; continuing to arm Ukraine is in fact exactly the thing that will end the war faster, as Putin isn't going to stop until he thinks that he is losing land and thus leverage in peace negotiations; etc, etc.

What Ukraine ends up with may not be a win, in some senses can never be a win because they never wanted to go to war and at best can only return to the previous normal with grievous loss of life and infrastructure, but it will be a hell of win compared to becoming a permanent slave state of a fascist Russia.
posted by tavella at 11:09 AM on March 23, 2022 [17 favorites]

About what I'd expect from a whataboutist Assangite. (I'll get my bread from breadtube, thanks.)

What do the editors of the 'prestigious' Zeit think now, by the by?
posted by snuffleupagus at 11:14 AM on March 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

Well, remember, this is the person who believed Ukrainians in the east would support the invasion.
posted by tavella at 11:18 AM on March 23, 2022 [5 favorites]

OMG, I can't believe what I'm seeing! It's beyond insulting to call the desires of a good chunk of a nation a 'coup'! Did you ever participate in a revolution? In an uprising? Do you have any idea of the courage it takes to do so, of the risks people take? To see them thus degraded by propaganda is not worth even spitting on.

No time for this concern trolling - go and tell Ukrainians that they should lay their weapons down and accept the Russian boot once more.

Can't believe what I'm reading, absolutely disgusting.
posted by doggod at 11:53 AM on March 23, 2022 [15 favorites]

And of course, in this supposed "coup", what happened was that Yanukovych turned tail and ran, to enjoy his ill-gotten gains in Russia, and the parliament voted him out of office due to his abandonment of said office, and scheduled new elections.
posted by tavella at 12:05 PM on March 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

But they are fighting a proxy war by now.

I want to speak to you kindly, because I think odds are good that you are one of the people I profiled above; likely on the left, likely consuming a lot of Kremlin-influenced media and social media that purports to tell the "real story". One of those stories is likely the story you seem to be unintentionally repeating, and that you bought into in the past; that the difficulties between Russia and Ukraine are played up, and that there are broad swathes of the Ukrainian people who really wouldn't mind being ruled by Russia or would even welcome it, and that conflict was created or escalated by NATO. I imagine that is part of why you think that NATO and other forces should abandon Ukraine, so that things can "normalize".

I want to encourage you to question that assumption. Why did you believe, on Feb 23, that the Russians would be greeted, as part of an invading army, as a friendly force? What sources were you reading that made you think that? What makes you believe now that being ruled by the Russians would be good for the Ukrainian people? Is it possible that if you are still reading the same sources, that they are equally as wrong about whatever you are believing now?
posted by corb at 12:34 PM on March 23, 2022 [21 favorites]

I think it's a bit naive to talk about "agency", now, when the US basically planned and realized one of its coups, as also underlined by the prestigious Zeit

Naive, like “a lot of people in eastern Ukraine are actually pro-Russian... because, well, they are Russian. Putin is not going to a Vietnam situation. He knows to have a lot of support (or non-opposition) on the ground” levels of naive? Please, continue enlightening us, all-knowing - 🙏
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 2:50 PM on March 23, 2022 [5 favorites]

Shifting gears a bit...

I'm curious to share this here, in the international space of Metafilter- but in my US context it's been striking how my social world (in person and online - which really just means Twitter) went from pretty breathless commentary/focus on Ukraine, to basically back to normal within about the same span as the whole Bad Art Friend saga. That's a slight exaggeration, and certainly many people I know are still occasionally checking on what's happening there, but the only people I know closely following it are people with personal ties to the region. It seems like at this point, most Americans have concluded that nuclear war with Russia does not seem imminent, and so it's back to talking about all the usual topics. I imagine it might be different in Europe though?

I realize this was posted two days ago, but still feel like I'd like to respond:

If ordinary Russians do not suffer greatly in this moment - if they don't feel a tenth of what their country is inflicting on Ukraine - what motivation is there for them to regret (and hopefully reverse) their collective choice to let this happen?

Someone already pushed back on this in terms of why this was by no means "a collective choice" and also that Russians don't exactly have easy access to a free media, but I just want to add, your logic here is rather strange. If we cause Russians to die from starvation, lack of medical supplies, etc. (because that's ultimately what these sanctions will do), cut them off from the world culturally (which has already happened), essentially abuse them from afar, you think the average Russian is going to become more pro-West? What would stop them from being even more likely to buy into Russian propaganda that Putin is the only one that cares about them, because the rest of the world sure doesn't. I understand the logic behind sanctions as a short-term strategy, but I really hope, whatever happens, these sanctions don't last long - they will be utterly brutal and catastrophic for the average Russian, and inflicting that on a nation of roughly 144 million people cannot end well.
posted by coffeecat at 5:11 PM on March 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

The Russian people don't know what is happening, by design; maybe 30% know, the 70% will be told whatever, as to why the West pulled all their business out, why the banks don't work. The boxcars full of bodies, largely of conscripts from central Asia, will tell a tale, that Russians will also not hear or see, like that proverbial tree which falls where no one can hear. Putin has sacrificed non-white Russians, or even dissenters to this war. He has taken hostages, bombed civilians, and sites of civilian activities, theaters, malls, buildings marked "children." The ruble stops with Putin, and we, the west aren't doing business with his traveling shit show. We are not doing business with the people of Russia, until they work out an awakening and take responsibility for what they have allowed, by not questioning what is happening.

Middle class matrons In Moscow haven't sacrificed their sons and daughters yet. We have Baryshnikov, asking the west not to punish Russian artists. Russian children are still safe to go to art school, as they should be, their parents should be questioning. But see, this is how totalitarianism works, toxic patriarchy works; no one takes responsibility for what autocrats do, they have surrendered their identity, their autonomy, their moral compass at the gate, of their tiny piece, of the tiny economy, the crumbs and dregs, the oligarchs don't want.

Putin has now caused the death and maiming of their joy, their hope, for grandchildren, their hopes for opportunity in the more affluent economy they were promised. Putin has dirtied Russia, he has raised the black specter of the hopelessness of the past.

I don't want to hear how it is just better to submit to little fucks like him, and let the big money take care of things. Viewing block after block of residential buildings razed with people in them in Mariupol, it is clear, you don't surrender to the monsters who ordered this slaughter, and who will want to conceal it's existence later.

Putin isn't done, because it is about him, it will not end until everyone in Russia, knows everything, and does something about him, and how they elect leadership, how they get their leaders to answer for what they do.

I don't want ill for Russia, I would much rather the people were able to take part in governance more, and be a part of the bigger shitshow we humans have created, it has some good points. Infrastructure, warm housing for near zero temps, zoos, theaters, schools, those came from hard work, the monsters aren't finished with the remodel. They are just taking a breather. Later if they are allowed to win, everything will be blamed on Zelensky, and Russia will build back better, without all those pesky, disloyal Ukrainians. Now Ukraine has some sort of eyeball on Russia's electronic warfare toy, they should find that other RF unit that is screwing up Finnish air space, and maybe if that kind of unit can collaterally cause Havana Syndrome. There must be fifty ways...

What would Putin hope to accomplish at G20? Seeing everyone before he destroys them? He still thinks he has a winning hand in this game. Obviously I can't say more than what has been said, and I am not there, but as a matter of spirit, I am there and I don't respect the opinions of those who suggest surrender, and smiling more.
posted by Oyéah at 6:19 PM on March 23, 2022 [3 favorites]

Damn. The lowest estimates count hundreds of thousands of civilians having died in Iraq as consequence of US invasion. I can't believe there's motivation to say Ukraine is worse than that. It betrays a stellar lack of empathy and stunning deficiency of self awareness to feel the need to say that the brutal invasion of Iraq "was absolutely wrong in a different level and scale" from what's happening in Ukraine. Damn. I'm sorry, that's just cruel and it's hard to not wonder, loudly and vocally, whether there's a coordinated effort in the West to propagandize both tragedies in very different ways. Damn.
posted by vocativecase at 1:08 PM on March 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

The lowest estimates count hundreds of thousands of civilians having died in Iraq as consequence of US invasion

I don't want to get into an extended back and forth about whether X or Y war is better or worse than the situation in Ukraine. However, I do encourage you to consider that when considering fatalities and damage, timescale is important. In one month, the Russian army has done a truly overwhelming amount of civilian damage: it has completely destroyed 10 hospitals, apartment blocks, infrastructure for food and water, has literally besieged starving populations to try to force Ukraine to surrender, and has displaced literally 1/4 of the total population and half of the children in the entire country.

This is in one month. I truly cannot imagine how much worse it will be in another one.
posted by corb at 2:07 PM on March 24, 2022 [9 favorites]

I said nothing about whether one chain of war crimes was better or worse than another chain of war crimes. Indeed, what I said was that it's cruel to litigate the question, which you're clearly interested in doing.
posted by vocativecase at 2:25 PM on March 24, 2022

I did not approve one minute, one dollar, one death of the Iraq war. Same with the ruthless invasion of Ukraine. War is a blunder. It is in no way immoral to support Ukraine, by any means possible.

You could say Ukraine deserves this because they lost to Napoleon. Ukraine is happening right now. Putin just couldn't have a free and prosperous nation, in full view of his serfs, a nation which speaks his language, showing his citizens what it is like to live without dictatorship, and, prosper, that this is possible outside Russian control.
posted by Oyéah at 2:37 PM on March 24, 2022 [4 favorites]

Iraq was also a civil and religious war fought between several factions. The US did not kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, strife between Shia, Sunni, ISIL, al Qaida, backed by several different nations, and proxy war between Middle Eastern nations. This is not about Iraq.

This is about a terrorist attack on a sovereign nation, of intense cruelty, and cruel intensity.
posted by Oyéah at 2:50 PM on March 24, 2022 [2 favorites]

Over on the other thread about Ukraine, Ukraine government official says 402,000, Ukrainians have been kidnapped to Russia. There is a figure in the hundreds of thousands from this month. How could that be? Were they pushed onto ships?
posted by Oyéah at 3:28 PM on March 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

'Trains to the east....' There are trains bringing material up to the border -- they don't have to go back empty.

Maybe there was more to what Zelenskyy was saying to the Knesset than was apparent at the time.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:58 PM on March 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

Since it was requested to move it...

You know, I am beginning to delight at the consistency of how, when people bring in insightful voices from Ukrainian experts, polymodus pops up to say they are just mean and stupid and don't really understand what is going on, here are are some non-Ukrainians to explain how they don't really know their own minds. Ukrainian military advisor: with ice-cold accuracy predicts the motivations, order of attack, and timing of Russia's assault on the Ukraine from three years out, and explains the two futures Ukraine faces. polymodus: he's so ruuuuuuude! Here are a bunch of lefties to explain how the war is actually NATO's fault and the US and Russia should have a summit to hack up Ukraine between them (an actual thing in said recording.)
posted by tavella at 8:43 PM on March 24, 2022 [4 favorites]

And this explanation of the, er, root of an insult now synonymous w Putin is how I learned why that word those young Russian guys taught us made them collapse into giggles when we yelled it at the top of our lungs into the empty white-night streets near Leningrad's Palace Square. We were all teenagers, or close enough, and knew it was some kind of naughty, but were mostly communicating in the language of beer. I don't recall if those were the same guys who both showed up at the hotel as black market sellers and yet felt free to drag race the young police guys with us in the car... Or maybe just ones we met breaking curfew. I loved that city but never did get back.

My other favourite place from that summer was what we now know as Kyiv, which was sunny and hot and beautiful with glorious ice in the water we were warned not to drink. We stayed near the Maidan, and were allowed to walk around the city in small groups. Later there was an option to visit an agricultural museum — I knew nothing back then; oblivious to the omissions and outrages — and a farm with incredible cherries just picked by a worker who was taking his midday nap (i.e., pointedly ignoring us) under the tree. Our Soviet guide running herd.

It was a long time ago and irrelevant to today; just some memories.
posted by to wound the autumnal city at 9:19 AM on March 25, 2022 [9 favorites]

regarding the profanity:

There is not Mrs. Janek!

Also, I wish I could remember who this was, but at that age when curse words are new and outrageous me and my friends kept bugging a Russian speaker to tell us how to say "go fuck yourself" in Russian.

Which resulted in us wandering the halls loudly proclaiming HELLO HOW ARE YOU!

('Privyet kak dela' sounded sharp enough to our anglophone ears.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:49 AM on March 25, 2022 [4 favorites]

The implications of the US President calling for Putin to go as some kind of offhand remark is not the same kind of 'derail about the US' as before.

It's not centering the experience of Americans or in fact derailing any other conversation that's happening right now. It's news.

The way Biden went about it is scary if it was unplanned.

It would be nice if people fought the urge to muzzle other users or otherwise police the thread, and just flagged the stuff that irritates them. Or put it here, as I am doing now.
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:50 PM on March 26, 2022 [7 favorites]

The implications of the US President calling for Putin to go as some kind of offhand remark is not the same kind of 'derail about the US' as before.

I'm Asian American. Taiwanese and Hong Konger, so you can imagine my feelings re. Ukrainians.

But "Listen to X minority group" was always a heuristic, not dogma. Sure, for the manageability of news megathreads, staying on topic is reasonable. But for example if I as a member ever spout hawkish bullshit and link questionable meme/twitter sources about Taiwanese current events, I'd like there to be some kind of space for someone to tell it to me without mincing words. That would be actual solidarity.
posted by polymodus at 3:31 AM on March 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Well, first of all I hope those of you reading this are doing reasonably well. For me personally as for many of you I suppose the past month has been waves of dread with a few good days mixed in. I dread Putin's savagery, I dread the eagerness for war stories, I dread the re-militarization of Germany. I dread the embrace of muscular posturing and the crusader spirit. Sometimes it seems like we're doomed to repeat the same patterns over and over again, and it's comforting and disgusting at the same time, like a dysfunctional habit. That's the most dreadful of all.
posted by dmh at 1:52 AM on March 28, 2022 [6 favorites]

The way Biden went about it is scary if it was unplanned.

Putin: “Nuclear is not off the table!”

Biden (to aide-de-camp): Hold my beer…
posted by From Bklyn at 6:16 AM on March 28, 2022 [2 favorites]

This Tweet by Timothy Snyder (Link to threadreader) pretty much sums it up for me. Especially: "When Americans speak to other Americans about what #Ukraine must do, we are heedlessly negating Ukrainian sovereignty. 7/"
Being American he mentions Americans, but for me being Austrian, i replace this with Austrians.
posted by 15L06 at 2:57 PM on April 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Reading about the murders in the suburbs of Kyiv, you know fuck Putin. Fuck his threat of nuclear war. Fuck him... as someone somewhere else suggested, NATO should go in with a full flotilla to help/provision Mariupol and Odessa and just let the Russian's fire bullet one...

I have terrible judgement, I know that, but no majority of people, anywhere, wants this.
posted by From Bklyn at 8:28 AM on April 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

I am devastated by the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine. The pain and loss of the Ukrainian people is a scream that shreds my heart.

But, also, I am also devastated by the blatant dehumanization and demonizimg of the entire Russian people that's suddenly all over Twitter. It's like people don't realize that this is exactly the kind of thinking that enables these sorts of atrocities in the first place. This is why the majority of fucking Americans yawned or even cheered at images of torture at Abu Ghraib. I'm reading tweet after tweet of supposed deep historical analysis of how the Russian people are murderous barbarians and always have been. How they are backward and incapable of self-governance and so forth. There's zero self-awareness of how this is the exact rhetoric that has justified all sorts of horrors in the past.

I don't mean to beat a dead horse, but I can't emphasize enough how much the reaction to Abu Ghraib shocked and saddened me and completely eliminated forever my ability to hope that "we" couldn't ever be the terrible people doing terrible things. It's not that I was naive before . . . it's that I just didn't realize just how not different Americans truly are. So now when I hear or read Americans viciously dehuminizing an entire nation of people, I don't have the luxury of thinking, oh, it's an understandable overreaction to seeing horrors, it doesn't mean we're capable of horror ourselves. Because we are. We are capable. We have done.

And this is hugely important to me because I want to believe that bearing witness to these atrocities means that we will learn to never do or allow such things again but . . . the heartbreaking truth is that this isn't how either history or human nature works. How things actually work is that today's atrocities become tomorrow's justification for tomorrow's atrocities. And round and round we go.

I don't know how to live in this bleak and ugly world.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:45 PM on April 3, 2022 [14 favorites]

I agree with you 100 percent, Ivan Fyodorovich.

Perhaps this interview with Nina L. Khrushcheva is helpful, at least i found it helpful.

Among other things she says:
"Soon, there will be no voices left to challenge Putin’s narrative that the West is out to destroy Russia. All Russians will see are unprecedented Western economic sanctions – which are taking a toll on ordinary people – and a global boycott of Russian culture, athletics, and civil society (or what’s left of it). By forcing Russians to accept collective responsibility for Putinism, the international community, led by the US, is bolstering Putin, not destroying him. Perhaps the Russian people will rise up against the Kremlin one day, as the West seems to hope, but by then many will be dead or exiled."
posted by 15L06 at 12:16 PM on April 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Link to interview with Nina L. Khrushcheva
posted by 15L06 at 1:40 PM on April 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

The news stories I read today, about how family doesn't believe family, even family that has been harmed in this outrageous, genocidal mess; how close friends of dozens of years, don't believe what is happening to Ukraine. Then I read about Russian soldiers thinking they have come as liberators, realizing they aren't and doing harm anyway. A whole lot of people are being liberated from their lives, and secondarily their means of living, their homes, their reasons for living, their families. It is the worst thing.
posted by Oyéah at 11:44 PM on April 5, 2022 [3 favorites]

...The organizational culture and institutions that encourage atrocity in armies do not appear all at once; rather, they escalate through a learning process. Hull documents how the lessons of fighting francs-tireurs in the Franco-Prussian War conditioned German brutality in Southwest Africa and its occupation in Europe during World War I, culminating in the Wehrmacht’s participation in the horrors of Nazi brutality. Likewise, brutal Japanese systems of occupation were developed in occupied Korea and then exported to the broader “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.”

The elements of this same pattern in the Russian Armed Forces are quite evident. Before the war, the Russian military’s problem with hazing, called dedovshchina, particularly of first year conscripts, is well documented. Efforts to reduce hazing focused on changing the terms of service rather than altering the conditions of service or changing the military’s institutional culture seem largely to have failed. At the same time, Russian command decisions created a clear permission structure for further brutality. Prior to the invasion, U.S. intelligence warned that Russian forces had a “kill list” for Ukrainians to be assassinated or sent to camps, including journalists, activists, and minorities; that Russian forces apparently brought mobile crematoriums to an invasion they expected to be quick and relatively easy may speak to the scale of the intended post-conquest killing they expected to do.

Much like the Germans in Southwest Africa, as the Russian advance stalled and the prospect of a quick, decisive victory slipped out of their grasp, Russian commanders responded by escalating brutality in an effort to regain momentum, shelling urban centers with cluster bombs and other heavy munitions. In some cases, as with the Russian strike on a theater in Mariupol housing a children’s shelter that was clearly marked “children,” civilian deaths appear to have been the intent in a failed effort to coerce a Ukrainian surrender.

As can now be seen in places like Bucha, the callousness of Russian leadership toward civilian deaths has created the same kind of permission structure, leading to escalating brutality against civilians by Russian soldiers even in areas under Russian control. These are not isolated acts: Instead, it must be understood that Russian leadership—including Putin, himself—are responsible for first fostering the kind of organizational culture that lends itself to such brutality. Putin’s own language and the language used by Russian state media in this “special military operation” have reinforced that very permission structure by declaring all opposition to the Russian invasion is “Nazism.”

However, the history of atrocity-prone armies has a caution for the architects of murder too. In a study of mass violence in Roman warfare, historian Gabriel Baker notes that while Roman mass violence against civilians could be strategically effective when the Romans were already clearly winning, in cases where the Romans were facing difficulties—precisely the sort of frustrating circumstances that often lead modern armies to employ mass violence—it was (at best) generally ineffective and often counterproductive, hardening resolve and extending conflicts. Japanese mass violence in the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere had the same effect, hardening resistance to Japanese occupation and sapping Japan’s anti-Western, imperialist propaganda’s effectiveness. It seems likely that Russian atrocities will also be militarily ineffective, hardening Ukrainian resolve to resist and international resolve to sanction Russia and support Ukraine.

For citizens of other countries watching in horror, the scenes from Bucha should serve as a potent reminder of the need to foster a culture of restraint in the military, both among officers and enlisted personnel, as well as maintain effective civilian oversight of the military. But in Ukraine, the only means of stopping the escalating atrocities committed by the Russian military is by defeating it.
What Makes Armies Commit Atrocities
posted by y2karl at 3:04 PM on April 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

God, I am just so tired. So tired. I wake up in the morning and immediately go into trying to help and stay up until night trying to help and I still feel helpless, even though I know it's making an impact.

I feel really alone. I feel like as this war goes on people care less and less about it, and I don't know what to do about it.

And I can't really talk to anyone about it, because most of my RL friends are like "but why do you care so much" and I can't explain it to them other than gesticulating wildly.
posted by corb at 11:33 AM on April 9, 2022 [7 favorites]

corb at least you are directing efforts and getting something productive done. I am sitting passively consuming this, in a country where all around me are either ambivalent or following the Russian line.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:43 AM on April 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

And I can't really talk to anyone about it, because most of my RL friends are like "but why do you care so much" and I can't explain it to them other than gesticulating wildly.

My most avowedly and loudly leftist online friends are desperate to talk about anything else and it's real depressing. It's like there's no news aside from SCOTUS grandstanding and pop culture distractions. You'd better fucking believe if the US or NATO had initiated any kind of operation even remotely like this the Discords would be overflowing.

What's the inverse of whataboutism?
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:41 PM on April 9, 2022 [5 favorites]

“And I can't really talk to anyone about it, because most of my RL friends are like 'but why do you care so much' and I can't explain it to them other than gesticulating wildly.”

I've not experienced that, but I feel like it's potentially there.

My opinion and strong feeling is that this is the single most momentous geopolitical event since the fall of the USSR. I genuinely do fear that it could escalate into something even more awful. I don't know how it is that it's not the focus of everyone's attention.

I'm acutely aware that the atrocities committed in Ukraine are not novel and that most people have usually ignored similar crimes when they've been committed elsewhere (or by "us"), but that doesn't in the least reduce the horror of the fact of these crimes or the impact of watching them happen practically in real time. And that is in a way horrifying in itself: that the world can be watching this happen and it just keeps getting worse. I'm angry that past events have been ignored or dismissed but I think I've naively believed that if people only paid attention and knew, that they'd feel differently. But now I'm not so sure. The apocalypse will be televised tweeted, it seems.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:40 PM on April 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

I'm angry that past events have been ignored or dismissed but I think I've naively believed that if people only paid attention and knew, that they'd feel differently. But now I'm not so sure.

I think this is pretty much where I'm at, along with a helping of what snuffleupagus is experiencing. Most of my friends at this point are left or left-adjacent, and I was really convinced we would all be on the same page. Instead it's like pulling teeth to get anyone to say anything, and everyone is cheerfully posting about, well...pretty much anything else.

I grew up in New York City, and I think the time period that I grew up there, with people's grandparents having experienced the Holocaust, made me really have a fundamental misunderstanding of how willing people were to stand up to things like that. It was just taken for granted, of course you would have stood up and gotten involved and and and. Of course you would have done something so that people's grandparents weren't still haunted. The way that people reacted the first few days after Ukraine was invaded seemed right and normative and just. Of course we weren't just going to let the modern day equivalent of Poland being invaded again stand! Of course!

And then it just...started being cycled into people's existing political interpretations of the world. The left didn't know what to do because it doesn't like being on the same side or even thinking it's on the same side as the US. The centrists are doing the same thing they always do, which is saying they hope it works out if directly confronted but not actually dealing with it otherwise. The veteran community yes is very activated but it's no surprise that they have feelings about military intervention.

And it's not just that people aren't looking, people totally are looking and know. People I know and am friends with know people fighting in Ukraine and still don't bother watching the news. It just seems like this willful and collective blindness and I fundamentally, fundamentally don't understand.
posted by corb at 9:59 PM on April 9, 2022 [5 favorites]

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