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The Rape of Ukraine . Thank God my father got out in 1939. The most amazing ski film ever made.

This morning, I’ve been buying NVDA, ENB. AAPL, UNH, TSLA, and GOOGL.

I don’t profess to be good at this. I had a feeling at 4 AM when I saw the dismal futures that they were going to open low and bounce.

Bingo. That’s happening.

Putin’s “logic” for his invasion makes no sense. What he’ll do with Ukraine is a mystery wrapped in a conundrum. Maybe he forgot his country’s history with Afghanistan?

A convoy crosses a bridge in Termez, now part of Uzbekistan, during the withdrawal of the Soviet Red Army from Afghanistan, on May 21, 1988.

Had my father not left Europe in 1939 to escape the Nazis (he was Jewish) and the Russians (he was a capitalist), I would be Ukrainian today and living in one of those towns now being shelled by  Putin’s thugs. Instead I’m in upstate New York where today’s concern is tomorrow’s big snow storm.

I suspect that our sanctions on Russia will hurt (in order) the Russian people, ourselves (Boeing and others get scarce minerals from that part of the world) and finally Putin and his oligarch cronies, who’ve been stashing money away since Putin grabbed Crimea 8 years ago — and won’t feel one tiny little thing.

Two days ago, I wrote a blog, “Nobody is escaping this. But there are logical things we can all do.” If you missed the piece, click here.

Here are the best two pieces I’ve read recently on Ukraine by writers much smarter than me:


The Rape of Ukraine
Taking Putin’s grievances seriously would be nothing more than a death wish for a return to the terrible 20th century
by Bernard-Henri Lévy, Tablet

And so, Putin has crossed the line.

During an Ubu-esque meeting in which he chastised his minions as though in a bad Ernst Lubitsch film, he recognized the independence of the separatist territories of Donbass.

And so here we have the West ridiculed; Ukraine defeated; and thousands of men and women who have fought for eight years to maintain the freedom of Luhansk and Donetsk, handed over to thugs.

In the fog of provocations and lies still to come, we must satisfy ourselves, for now, with recalling the following:

No. 1: Russia has no right to Ukraine. None. No right to amputate, and no right to dictate its alliances. Of course, geopolitics is an affair of power relations. But right remains right. This dictates that peoples are not pawns for the powerful in the Great Game of empires. That the United States and Russia, when Ukraine renounced in 1994 its nuclear arsenal, formally took over guaranteeing Ukraine’s security. In violating borders, Putin has betrayed his word. He has revealed his true face. He has banished himself from the concert of nations.

No. 2: Ukraine, he said, has a common history with Russia. But, remember this: It was a colonization. And then, under the Bolsheviks, the strategy of the “iron sweep” to rid Odessa of its anarchists. Then, with Stalin, the Holodomor, the extermination by hunger, that made at least 4 million victims. The rest—the bad literature about the so-called “fraternity” of the Slavic peoples, the fable of the “Kievan Rus’” that would be, in the late ninth century, the cradle of a Russia yet to exist— just smacks of propaganda. Either Putin knows this and is playing the fool, or he is ignorant of it, and we should recommend he read Vasily Grossman, Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry, or more recently, Anne Applebaum’s Red Famine. As for us in the West, we had one and only one task: As in Afghanistan, Kurdistan, and everywhere peoples strive to embrace democracy, help Ukraine unfetter these bonds of subjection, misfortune, and death.

No. 3: Putin, beyond the hour-and-a-half of verbal diarrhea he unleashed on us, has a goal. Only one. To weaken Ukraine. To bring it to its political knees. To break the democratic élan launched eight years ago by the citizenry assembled in Kyiv’s Maidan. His method was calumny, offense, the transformation into fascists of the hundreds of youths who died clutching the starred flag of Europe. And he had another method: sending the little green men of the FSB to Donbass with batches of Russian passports; the open mustering of his army to stop an alleged genocide; then, in the days that followed, an occupation in the style of Prague or Budapest. He did both. It’s a historic crime against Ukraine and a frontal attack on Europe and the West.

No. 4: We hear this one a lot: The diplomats will have to be back on the scene to help Putin calm down, to stop him, to help him save face. Maybe. I don’t know. But one thing is sure. We should not reverse the roles and lose sight of the fact that it was Putin, and he alone, who broke the taboo over war in Europe. We must remember that it’s Ukraine, and Ukraine alone, that honor commands us to save from an atrocious and announced offensive. And, even if things end there and we can breathe a sigh of shameful relief, it behooves us to never forget how, well before today’s troubles, from last December and January, the Kremlin described Europe as a wide-ranging “theater of military conflict” (Alexander Grushko, deputy minister of foreign affairs); brandished the threat of a “preventive” nuclear strike of the kind Israel wields against Iran (Andrey Kartapolov, chair of the Duma’s Defense Committee); and let partisan and friendly media (Svobodnaya Pressa) announce that, in the case of an enlarged NATO, Russia would vitrify “all of Europe and two-thirds of the United States in thirty minutes.” No peace agreement could erase these staggering declarations, without precedent, which I assembled in a piece from Jan. 18. Or else, it would be a Munich-style peace.

No. 5: Does all this mean that we should not take into account Russia’s feeling of being surrounded, mistreated, humiliated? I think that this humiliation is a myth. I remember how NATO, since 1994, proposed to Russia a “partnership for peace.” How Russia was invited to join the Council of Europe and the G7. I remember the 2002 NATO-Russia summit in Rome. And Barack Obama’s July 2009 visit to Moscow, offering a reset of all nonconventional weaponry. And the self-imposed limits, up to and including Donald Trump and Joe Biden, on the number and reach of American weapons deployed in Europe (even while Russia violated its agreements). I can see no other example of a fallen empire that benefited from such sweet consideration from its adversaries. And I believe that the legend of Russian humiliation is the last trap that must be avoided.

This is what the next red lines should be, after the disaster in Donbass.

Beyond that would reign a diplomacy that, true to the etymology of the word, would consist of bowing obsequiously before force.

The same causes producing the same effects, it would be the return of the terrible 20th century.


The Crushing Loss of Hope in Ukraine

Putin has declared that history is destiny, and that Ukraine will never get away from Russia.
by Marsha Gessen, New Yorker

“Are you listening to Putin?” is not the kind of text message I expect to receive from a friend in Moscow. But that’s the question my closest friend asked me on Monday, when the Russian President was about twenty minutes into a public address in which he would announce that he was recognizing two eastern regions of Ukraine as independent countries and effectively lay out his rationale for launching a new military offensive against Ukraine. I was listening—Putin had just said that Ukraine had no history of legitimate statehood. When the speech was over, my friend posted on Facebook, “I can’t breathe.”

Fifty-four years ago, the Soviet dissident Larisa Bogoraz wrote, “It becomes impossible to live and to breathe.” When she wrote the note, in 1968, she was about to take part in a desperate protest: eight people went to Red Square with banners that denounced the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. I have always understood Bogoraz’s note to be an expression of shame—the helpless, silent shame of a citizen who can do nothing to stop her country’s aggression. But on Monday I understood those words as expressing something more, something that my friends in Russia were feeling in addition to shame: the tragedy that is the death of hope.

For some Soviet intellectuals, Czechoslovakia in 1968 represented the possibility of a different future. That spring, events appeared to prove that Czechoslovakia was part of the larger world, despite being in the Soviet bloc. The leadership of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia was instituting reforms. It seemed that, after the great terrors of both Hitler and Stalin, there could be freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, a free exchange of ideas in the media, and possibly even actual elections in Eastern and Central Europe, and that all of these changes could be achieved peacefully. The Czechoslovaks called it “socialism with a human face.”

In August, 1968, Soviet tanks rolled in, crushing the Prague Spring in Czechoslovakia and hope everywhere in the Soviet bloc. Nothing different was going to happen here. It became impossible to live and to breathe. This was when eight Moscow acquaintances, with minimal discussion and coördination, went to Red Square and unfurled posters that read “For Your Liberty and Ours” and “Hands Off Czechoslovakia,” among others. All were arrested, and seven were given jail time, held in psychiatric detention, or sent into internal exile.

Ukraine has long represented hope for a small minority of Russians. Ukraine shares Russia’s history of tyranny and terror. It lost more than four million people to a man-made famine in 1931-34 and still uncounted others to other kinds of Stalinist terror. Between five and seven million Ukrainians died during the Second World War and the Nazi occupation in 1941-44; this included one and a half million Jews killed in what is often known as the Holocaust by Bullets. Just as in Russia, no family survived untouched by the twin horrors of Stalinism and Nazism.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991, both Russian and Ukrainian societies struggled to forge new identities. Both contended with poverty, corruption, and growing inequality. Both had leaders who tried to stay in office by falsifying the vote. But in 2004 Ukrainians revolted against a rigged election, camping out in Kyiv’s Independence Square for weeks. The country’s highest court ordered a revote. Nine years later, when the President sold the country out to Russia—agreeing to scrap an association agreement with the European Union in exchange for fifteen billion in Russian loans—Ukrainians of vastly different political persuasions came to Independence Square again. They stayed there, day and night, through the dead of winter. They stayed when the government opened fire on them. More than a hundred people died before the corrupt President fled to Russia. A willingness to die for freedom is now a part of not only Ukrainians’ mythology but their lived history.

On Monday, Putin took aim at this sense of hope in his rambling, near-hour-long speech. Playing amateur historian, as he has done several times in recent years, Putin said that the Russian state is indivisible, and that the principles on the basis of which former Soviet republics won independence in 1991 were illegitimate. He effectively declared that the post-Cold War world order is over, that history is destiny and Ukraine will never get away from Russia.

Hannah Arendt observed that totalitarian regimes function by declaring imagined laws of history and then acting to enforce them. On Tuesday, Putin asked his puppet parliament for authorization to use force abroad. His aim is clear: in his speech, he branded the Ukrainian government as a group of “radicals” who carry out the will of their American puppet masters. As the self-appointed enforcer of the laws of history, Putin was laying down the groundwork for removing the Ukrainian government and installing one that he imagines will do the Kremlin’s bidding.

Putin expects to succeed because he can overwhelm Ukraine with military force, and because he has known the threat of force to be effective against unarmed opposition. Putin’s main opponent, Alexey Navalny, is in prison; the leaders of his movement are all either behind bars or in exile. The number of independent journalists in Russia has dwindled to a handful, and many of them, too, are working from exile, addressing tiny audiences, because the state blocks access to many of their Web sites and has branded others “foreign agents.” Putin’s sabre-rattling against Ukraine has drawn little protest—less even than the annexation of Crimea did eight years ago. On Sunday, six people were detained for staging a protest in Pushkin Square, in central Moscow. One of them held a poster that said “Hands Off Ukraine.” Another was an eighty-year-old former Soviet dissident.

What Putin does not imagine is the kind and scale of resistance that he would actually encounter in Ukraine. These are the people who stood to the death in Independence Square. In 2014, they took up arms to defend Ukraine against a Russian incursion. Underequipped and underprepared, these volunteers joined the war effort from all walks of life. Others organized in monumental numbers to collect equipment and supplies to support the fighters and those suffering from the occupation of the east, in an effort that lasted for several years. When Putin encounters Ukrainian resistance, he will respond the only way he knows: with devastating force. The loss of life will be staggering. Watching it will make it impossible to live and to breathe.

There was a moment there for me

Mike Nash a smart reader, wrote me, “If you sell stocks that drop 15% soon you will have sold everything you own because almost everything is dropping over 15%.

Mike, I did sell fallen stocks where I thought their world had changed — etc, HD and LOW — and I sold some that just kept falling, like HON and AMD. But I’ve been sitting there with stocks I really like — AAPL, AMZN, NVDA, GOOGL, PANW, UNH, TSM and COST.

To get me moving, I have been playing tennis every day, despite my iffy shoulder. My son has scheduled me to go skiing in Colorado soon. To get me in the mood, he sent me the most amazing ski film ever made. Shot in Zermatt, Switzerland, the film took two years to plan. The most amazing sequence is when the skier Markus Eder slips into the belly of a glacier (an ice cave) to finally emerge a couple of k’s down the mountain.  This video will likely quicken your pulse a bit just watching him. Do not try any of his 100 feet jumps. Enjoy.

Keep moving. See you soon — Harry Newton