COMPILED BY KEITH JACKSON
NOOSA – I always have more reading around me than I’m able to accomplish in the course of one typical lifespan. But I’d rather have too much than have too little.
So today I thought I’d dip into a range of some publications I subscribe to, and get a feel for their first take on Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine.
My own thinking is that there will be no winner from this tragic turn of events (and I include Russia, Ukraine, the United States and the European Union in that heavily populated group).
However, I make two exceptions, China and international arms dealers.
A range of extracts follow. And, as a surprise ending, excerpts from a prescient speech delivered by Australia’s former prime minister Paul Keating in August 2008.
(And if you're wanting to follow what's happening as the Russians try to bring Ukraine to heel, I've found DW television (the international TV and streaming channel of the German broadcasting network Deutsche Welle - and one of their anchors is an Australian, who does us proud).
Jeremy Cliffe, New Statesman (UK)
We are in a different world now. The full effects of Russia’s attack on Ukraine will play out not just over years but over decades — and in ways that no-one, including Putin, can predict with any confidence. The war will almost certainly be the biggest conflict in Europe since 1989, perhaps 1945. It will be transformative.
It is no exaggeration to say that we are probably at some form of turning point in history. Yet it would also be a major error to mistake Putin for the master of that turning point.
Yes, he is the one who has made the misguided, unjustifiable and ultimately self-sabotaging move to attack Ukraine, but he does not get to dictate how that plays out in the long term unless the West lets him.
To take command of that turning point, and decide to where it leads, is the task to which its leaders must now rise. History will be unsparing on those who fall short.
Ian Hislop (editor), Private Eye (UK)
Andrew Ross Sorkin, Deal Book, New York Times (USA)
What’s next? Though Western leaders are threatening harsher punishments if Russia persists, it’s unclear how much bite those will have.
Experts say that Putin has insulated Russia’s economy from sanctions to some degree, and previous punishments didn’t deter Russian aggression. Meanwhile, the Kremlin warned that Americans would face economic blowback as well. It’s also unclear how far the U.S. will go, with Congress struggling to reach consensus.
And Putin appears determined to push ahead at nearly any cost: President Emmanuel Macron of France, during a visit with the Russian leader, reportedly “found that Putin was more rigid, more isolated, and had basically gone into a sort of ideological and security-minded drift.”
Rachel Withers, The Monthly (Australia)
The local response to the horrors unfolding on the other side of the world continues to develop, with Australia planning to send medical supplies and military equipment – but not weapons – to Ukraine.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a new round of sanctions against Russian oligarchs, with sanctions also extended to members of the Russian parliament who voted to authorise the invasion of Ukraine, while many Australians have gathered in Sydney’s Martin Place in a show of support.
The Coalition has been eager to make this as much about China as possible, with almost every government minister using today’s media appearances to lash Beijing as well as Moscow, leaping on what it has claimed is a lacklustre response to the invasion (you’d be forgiven for thinking that China was the nation currently invading its neighbour).
Tom McTague, The Atlantic (USA)
If the past few days of Russia’s choreographed brutality are anything to go by, Putin must look around him and see a world of strength and weakness—of his strength and the pathetic weakness of the sycophants doing his bidding.
Is he really scared of our strength, as we often like to reassure ourselves? Or does he look to the West and see the weakness of human character that is on display among all of his stooges, only multiplied and institutionalised in our democracy?
He sees us fighting among ourselves, grasping for petty domestic advantage, taking his gas and propaganda, corrupting ourselves in the process. The most important question among all of these is whether he is right to see us in this way. The challenge has been set. Much of the 21st century will depend on the answer we give now and in the future
Errol Parker, The Betoota Advocate (Outback Australia)
In other news around town, the expected has happened in Ukraine and Putin has lost the plot. I'm sure I don't need to tell you. If you subscribe to this newspaper, I hope to Christ in heaven that you also consume other news.
The people who write to us and say, "I only get my news from Betoota", need to get their head read. Journalism is like your diet. It needs to be varied and in moderation. Imagine the state of your health if all you ate was pumpkin soup or red Starbursts? You'd have gut pain. But yeah, it's not good and I hope it resolves itself quickly like what happened with Georgia in 2008.
Editorial Board, Washington Post (USA)
Thousands of them courageously took to the streets to protest Mr. Putin’s war, an astonishing sign that his propaganda has not conquered all Russian hearts and minds.
In the three decades that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, the transatlantic community may have taken peace and freedom for granted. Now comes Mr Putin, a former mid-level intelligence official of that vanished empire, who still bitterly laments its passing, to explode Western complacency.
In his characteristic manner, he claims, grotesquely, that Russia must make war on Ukraine because it threatens Russia, when his real ambition is imperial restoration and his real fear is that a neighbour’s exemplary democratic success would undermine his own kleptocratic rule. He must not get away with it. If the United States — firmly, calmly and in concert with like-minded nations — stands with Ukraine, there is a chance he won’t.
Bernard Kean, Crikey (Australia)
As the late Christian Kerr pointed out a decade ago, when the USSR invaded Afghanistan in 1980, Malcolm Fraser was savage in his condemnation — and (unsuccessfully) demanded Australian athletes boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics.
But when it came to blocking wool exports to the Soviets — including from his own property — Fraser was less enthusiastic. And he refused to follow the Carter administration’s block on wheat exports to the USSR, too. At the time, Paul Keating labelled it opportunism. Maybe the same analysis applies right now.
Paul Keating, Speech to Melbourne Writers Festival (Australia)
Extracts from an article by Tom Hyland, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 August 2008: ‘Western leaders blew the chance for peace: Keating’
Paul Keating has accused Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and George Bush of squandering the chance for peace and co-operation created by the Soviet Union's collapse. Instead, he said the West had ‘ring-fenced’ Russia, treating it as a virtual enemy at a time when the risk of Moscow launching nuclear war by mistake was greater than during the Cold War.
World leaders needed a strategy based on "the progress of human existence and not simply the propagation of democracy", he said. Western leaders had failed to grasp a potential "new era of peace and co-operation" created by the end of the Soviet Union in 1990, and failed to find a place for Russia in the global "strategic fabric".
"(Former US president) George H Bush talked about a New World Order, then lost to Bill Clinton. And what happened then? Well, nothing happened then! The Americans cried victory and walked off the field." The Clinton administration "rashly decided to ring-fence Russia" by inviting former Soviet-dominated states to join NATO. "By doing so, the US failed to learn one of the lessons of history - that the victor should be magnanimous with the vanquished," he said.
Instead, they had left the world with a template forged at the end of World War II, "where Germany and Japan were left on the outside, and still are 60 years later, and in which China and India are tolerated and palely humoured".
He said the world was witnessing the eclipse of American power but recent US presidents had done nothing "to better shape the institutions of world governance". Nor did "old powers" like Britain or France offer any help. Former British Labour prime minister Tony Blair had offered nothing new or free-thinking - "he thought being an American acolyte was all that was required".