Tag Archives: Russia

Zelensky and the World v. Putin and Russia

Ukraine’s courage, like David’s defying Russia’s Goliath, has caught the imagination and support of the free world. Everyone expected the country to crumble under overwhelming Russian military might. Six days later, Ukraine is resisting the Russian juggernaut with unforeseen mettle and determination. Putin must be confounded that his projected slam-dunk occupation is not going as planned.

His troubles began with President Volodymyr Zelensky, who refused the evacuation offer from the United States. “I need ammunition, not a ride,” he (now famously) responded. The young, former comedian with no political experience has evolved into a heroic wartime leader. Zelensky is rallying his people every day, exhorting them to fight in any way they are able. And they are responding. Fiercely. Civilians are taking up arms, studying TikTok video instructions for driving captured Russian tanks, gathering bottles to fill with explosives. Girls are making camouflage nets for their soldiers. A brewery in Lviv stopped making beer, producing Molotov cocktails instead.

Conversely, Putin is revealing himself to be not so much a master strategist, but rather an aging autocrat who, after decades of no opposition, has lost his ability to perceive hard-edged reality. Some of his troops are reported to have surrendered and their tanks run out of gas.

Zelensky’s example is inspiring not only his countrymen, but the entire world. Crowds are protesting Russia’s invasion worldwide, even inside Russia, where thousands have been arrested.

NATO and the European Union have imposed devastating banking sanctions. Germany has executed a complete reversal of its decades of nonintervention: it is now sending military equipment to aid Ukraine and canceling the Russian gas pipeline to stymie Russia; historically neutral Switzerland and Sweden are sending arms to Ukraine. Beyond Europe, Taiwan, Australia and Japan are joining forces with the anti-Russia coalition.

International support for Ukraine is symbolic as well as tangible. Landmarks around the globe are sporting the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag: the Empire State Building in New York, the Colosseum in Rome, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, the London Eye, are just a few of the many. And not only in Europe: monuments in Toronto and Sydney and Tokyo are also illuminated in blue and yellow. 

The sports world is joining in. The International Skating Union has barred Russia and Belarus from its competitions. In soccer, some countries threatened to boycott the qualifying games for the World Cup if Russia were a participant. Then the international soccer associations UEFA and FIFA banned Russian teams from competing on the world’s fields for an indefinite period, and St. Petersburg will no longer host the very important Champion League’s final game.

In the entertainment field, Disney is boycotting Russia, and Netflix will no longer carry the propaganda channels required by Russian law, though it means the possible loss of hundreds of thousands of Russian subscribers. Warner Bros. has indefinitely delayed the Russian opening of The Batman, an eagerly anticipated blockbuster film.

Without taking away any appreciation of Ukrainian heroism or the international support it has galvanized, I have to remark that our unhappy world has many conflicts and suffering peoples. Is it right or fair that Ukraine receive so much sympathy and attention while other travails go ignored? African students fleeing the Ukraine to return to their homelands have reported being made to wait at the border for a much longer time than Ukrainians, even being beaten and abused by Ukrainian border guards. Of course, Ukraine and the Slavs are White and European while Africans and Arabs are people of color.

1 Comment

Filed under Foreign Affairs, Ukraine

Trump steps in it

Hard for me to decide whether Trump is insane or crazy like a fox. He lies and contradicts himself and tweets his outrage at “fake news,” i.e., any unfavorable press coverage. He continues to do it because that kind of behavior won him the election. But who in his right mind would ruin a potential week’s worth of good press following his maiden speech to Congress? Whether Trump actually deserved praise is a moot point, but his success in reading the complete, coherent sentences on the teleprompter for an hour is definitely an accomplishment for him.

Yet instead of basking in the acclaim for appearing “presidential” for the first time, Trump got enmeshed in the Sessions brouhaha. Though Sessions gave false answers under oath, Trump fumed over the attorney general’s recusal from the investigation into the contacts between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Even more difficult to understand is his claim that President Obama wiretapped the telephones in Trump Tower. If Trump’s accusation was an attempt to deflect attention away from the Sessions/Russia fiasco, the effect was to intensify attention and negative publicity. Trump either doesn’t know or assumes his base doesn’t know that a president doesn’t have the authority to order the surveillance of an American citizen. So, if Trump is wrong, he’ll look beyond stupid and vengeful.

On the other hand, if Trump is right, it’s even worse for him. The surveillance would have to have been authorized by the FISA court, based on probable cause, in effect, a charge that Trump or someone connected to him had committed a crime.

Then Trump followed his sensational accusation with a peevish complaint about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance as his replacement on “The Apprentice.” The juxtaposition of a presidential criminal act and the ratings of a TV show is striking.

We are in deep do-do, falling down a seemingly bottomless rabbit hole. Welcome to Trumpworld’s Wonderland!

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics, Trump

Democracy still lives

trumpangryIn the Age of Trump, many of the people who couldn’t imagine him president now fear for the survival of American democracy. Far from making America great, Trump is undermining and attacking the institutions that made America great. He has railed against the independent judiciary, firing the acting attorney general and impugning judges who thwarted his attempt to impose a discriminatory travel ban. The ban took the form of an executive order that violated the Constitution in various ways, including the contravention of freedom of religion. Trump has declared war on the press, whose freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment, for the reason that it is playing its essential role in a democracy. Trump and his family are profiting from his position. The press is investigating illegal and suspicious acts and attempts to cover them up by the members of Trumpworld. Fake news! cries Trump with each new leak.

Every day brings new revelations of conversations and relationships between Trump and members of his administration with Russians connected to the Russian government or Putin himself. U.S. intelligence services have irrefutable proof that Russia attempted to influence the election in favor of Trump. It is becoming apparent that Trump and an increasing number of his associates have relationships with Russia that they have tried to conceal, even under oath, as Jeff Sessions did during his confirmation hearing for the post of attorney general.

If all the contacts with Russia that are surfacing are innocuous, why lie about them? Why is Trump so dismissive of the Russian tentacles winding around him and reaching deep into his administration? After it was clear that Michael Flynn had not only undercut then-President Obama by improperly divulging information to the Russians but denied having done so, why did it take more than two weeks for Trump to decide Flynn couldn’t continue as national security adviser? In view of Russia’s meddling in the election, why are most Republicans still supportive of Trump and his tarnished cohort and reluctant to appoint a special counsel? Many questions to be asked and answered.

I have sketched only the barest account of the subversion of democracy that we are witnessing today. Long before any indication of Russian influence and possible collusion, the attempted censoring of the press and the Muslim ban, I worried very much about Trump’s despotic ability to mesmerize a crowd, his erratic nature, his ignorance about the fundamentals of government, his cluelessness about economics and foreign affairs and especially his totalitarian admiration for authority. Long ago I recognized the peril in Trump’s unlikely but steady ascendancy. Democracy is fragile, I thought. I kept thinking of the complacency of the German Jews who believed “it can’t happen here.” But it is happening here. This time has no precedent and this presidency is like no other, I read time and time again. I am not at all happy to see my prescience being confirmed.

But, after all the hand-wringing, a comforting thought came to me. Democracy is still functioning as it should. The judiciary stood up to Trump. Citizens rebelled. First they flooded the airports to protest the holding of people for hours without being charged or tried. At every airport lawyers volunteered to represent immigrants and their families who were bewildered at best and tortured at worst,. U.S. attorneys filed suits against Trump’s order and with a temporary victory, they obtained a lull in the proceedings that allowed the courts to establish some order.

Beginning with the Women’s March the day after Trump’s inauguration, people are exercising their right to assemble peacefully and petition the government. The continuing protests, unprecedented in number and size, are in every town of every state. Citizens demand town halls with their congressmen/women where they demonstrate their anger and call for action. They know who represents them in Washington and they call to register their opinions. More people than ever before are deciding to run for office.

The free press now comprises all the media. Newspaper journalism is augmented by television, cable, radio and social media. Reporters are vying with each other to investigate and publish the truth behind the prevarications of the Trump administration.

But this is a race against time. Trump will be filling judicial vacancies with his own appointees, and it will become increasingly difficult to resist his policies and expose the lies and misdirection.

Leave a comment

Filed under American Society, Politics, Random, Trump