Sunday, April 17, 2022

Every Leaf In Wartime

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.
- Martin Luther

It's Easter Sunday today, so let's talk war.

We're more than 50 days into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and to say it hasn't gone well for Russia is an understatement. Estimated losses are up to 20,000 troops, with 20 percent of that officers who are part of a chain of command that can't afford to fall apart. Ukrainian troop losses are around 3,000 troops but an ungodly number of civilians - nearly 5,000 innocent lives - caught in Russia's genocide.

Russia has lost an incredible number of its tanks and heavy armor vehicles within the last two months, due to Ukrainians' effective use of Javelin anti-tank weapons supplied by Western Europe. And word is, Russia's arms manufacturers can't replace what's been lost thanks to sanctions cutting off much-needed materials.

Russia may have command of the Black Sea, but Ukrainian forces are striking without fear and with success. Above all, the sinking of the flag ship Moskva has been a huge win for Ukraine. Not only was it the largest class ship Russia had in those waters, but due to Turkey barring military ships through the only strait in and out of the Black Sea means Putin can't send any ship to replace it.

It's also a huge win for Ukraine because Moskva was the warship that threatened Ukrainian troops - merely a handful, around 13 or so - defending Snake Island off the coast of Odesa during the earliest stages of Putin's invasion. When confronted with a ship that could pound the tiny island into rubble, the soldier in charge - Roman Hrybov - decided there was only one sane response:

"Russian Warship, Go Fuck Yourself:" The defiance of the Snake Island soldiers was note-perfect for this meme-friendly media environment, the "Nuts!" of the 21st Century, and easily marketable for t-shirts and mailing stamps (I'm not kidding! It's already a collectible!)

I know a couple of people who collect stamps,
I totally want to buy a couple for them, I swear.

While the early reports were that the Ukrainian defenders were killed, it later turned out they surrendered after the Moskva's barrage flattened everything, and then were taken to Russia for a month's worth of torture before a prisoner exchange was worked out. Still, the defiance mattered, their survival in the face of incredible odds mattered, and we should expect the Michael Bay biopic to wrap up filming next month for an early January 2023 release date.

Speaking of defiance, one of the reasons why Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine was to spook other neighboring nations like Finland and Sweden into not joining NATO. Well, on that front Putin is getting humiliated even as he rattles his saber ever louder (via Thomas O Falk at Al Jazeera):

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden have sought the protection of NATO and are considering a paradigm shift of their respective security policies: the abdication of neutrality and military independence.

In January, Social Democratic Prime Minister Sanna Marin declared in Helsinki that Finland could not be expected to seek NATO membership during the current legislative period. However, Russia’s invasion has laid bare the disadvantages of being a non-member...

There are indications both Finland and Sweden are heading towards a genuinely historic change of course in their respective security policies. During the Cold War, Sweden and Finland were essentially considered neutral states, albeit for different reasons.

“Sweden’s neutrality was much more part of their national identity, whereas Finland’s neutrality was more pragmatic and virtually forced upon them by the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance signed between Finland and the USSR in 1948,” said (senior lecturer for European security at Aberystwyth University) Alistair Shepherd...

“Polling in Finland found 53 percent in favour of NATO membership and 41 percent in Sweden. More recently that has risen further with over 50 percent now in favour in Sweden [rising to 62 percent if Finland joins]. In Finland, 68 percent are in favour of joining NATO [rising to 77 per cent if the government recommends it],” said Shepherd...

In essence, their memberships would further enhance NATO’s presence and security within the Baltic region. Both Sweden and Finland bring advanced and well-trained militaries into NATO.

“It could create some long-term challenges because having 32 members can slow down or hamper consensus decision-making. It also indicates how far Russia has isolated itself from the rest of the European community,” Alexander Lanoszka, assistant professor in international relations at the University of Waterloo, told Al Jazeera...

In the context of the Russia-Ukraine war, it’s likely to be approved quickly and membership fast-tracked to show the unity and strength of the alliance in the face of Russian aggression,” Katharine AM Wright, senior lecturer in international politics at Newcastle University, told Al Jazeera...

Putin's belligerence towards Ukraine and open talk about rebuilding a Russian Empire that would dominate all of Eastern Europe isn't winning friends and influencing people. Neutral nations like Finland and Sweden now realize their neutral status means nothing to a bullying autocrat, and nations like Poland that are NATO members now remember all too well the bleak despair of being Russian puppets from the Cold War years (and even centuries before all that).

Russia is making noises about elevating hostilities with Finland and Sweden - by placing nuclear-capable warships in the Baltic Sea - in a desperate attempt to stall any NATO vote. There's a rule in NATO's charter they can't accept any member with a standing border dispute with another nation (the legal reason why NATO can't just speed-track Ukraine as a full member right now), and Russia hopes to exploit that against Finland/Sweden to stop them from joining. Thing is, NATO will see the farce for what it is (Russia may have the dispute but Finland and Sweden don't) and proceed on the vote.

The only other hope Russia has to stop Finland and Sweden from joining would be a friendly nation like Hungary - where fellow autocrat Orban just won another election - using its veto power to stop the vote. Thing is, Hungary may be friendly but it's also part of the massive European Union: Hungary cannot afford to isolate itself economically in the middle of that behemoth.

There are few options left for Putin to survive his genocidal folly, at the rate things are going this spring. Things will arguably get bloodier as he doubles down on the madness and death.

But there will be another spring. Another turn of the seasons as his madness fails and his war collapses on itself. Another chance for sunshine to return and for the leaves to turn green again. 

Always another chance for hope.

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

To be a successful bully, you have to instill genuine fear in your targets. Putin has blown a Ukraine sized hole in his fearsome reputation now with the bungling of the attack and Finland still remembers kicking the Soviets' asses the way Ukraine is kicking Russia's ass right now.
All involved still remember the USSR's bloody tactics in WW2, where so many millions of lives were lost, and nobody wants a modern repeat of that.
It still looks likely to get worse before it gets better, but if we can just support Ukraine enough to actually repel Russia, perhaps the evil tide rising in Europe and the world will turn a bit.
Not a lot of hope in that, but more than nothing.

-Doug in Sugar Pine