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What my inbox is saying about Ukraine

Ukraine - Putin-web-(New Statesman)
Putin-web (New Statesman)


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)

Ukraine -Private Eye

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.

Ukraine - Crikey
Image by Gorkie (Crikey)

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".


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Lindsay F Bond

Lament follows corpses to mass burial at Port Moresby.
Lament too of corps of Russian conscripts at Makiivka, Ukraine.
Lament is that humans have at their core, moral imperatives.

Lindsay F Bond

Being a really rich Russian might be a factor of ill health.

But not half as unhealthy as stepping up to the window to take advantage of a cool breeze - KJ

Lindsay F Bond

Being Russian might be a factor of ill health. It is reported that Alexei Maslov has gone, possibly the way of Alexander Buzakov.

Lindsay F Bond

Russian Yan Rachinsky, a co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, called the committee's decision to award the prize to recipients in three different countries "remarkable" and proof "that civil society is not divided by national borders, that it is a single body working to solve common problems”. Bravo.

Fresh air. Hope is it wafts, refreshes, breezes, invigorates.

Yes, a Russian co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Lindsay F Bond

Surely Russian President ought acknowledge "failure by the Russian military to protect a bridge".


Evident "morally bankrupt military leadership" is abysmal in itself, so what of "appointment of Colonel General Sergei Surovikin"? Are missiles from vessels in the Black Sea, a show from Surovikin and more of demagogy than the "appointment of Aleksandr Dvornikov"?


To date, Russia's "different commanders and without any obvious coordinating mechanism" suggest "a control that was put", brought but scattered result.

A show of 'cheer squad' from Lukashenko's Belarus speaks of theatre.


It is said that "Putin procrastinated on mobilisation" and the rapid departure from Russia by a cohort of 'service age' men puts paid to cohesion among people of Russia.

Where and with what do these military commanders expect they might be afforded any remembrance? Will they want "to raft down the river to the coast" as did a General in the 1942 Papua schemozzle.

Lindsay F Bond

Way back when in the 1960s, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band put to song a well-used saying about "getting a little help from friends."

Getting by is not a problem but a procedure, as reported by the BBC:

"Almost all Moscow's modern military systems depend on western-made microelectronics, says the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) report.

"Moscow has found ways to bypass sanctions and export controls. If the loopholes are closed, Russia's military might be permanently degraded."

Lindsay F Bond

Stealing from gardens? In PNG, that equates to immediate retaliation to avert starvation.
As is reported “The BBC has seen significant evidence that Russian forces in occupied areas of Ukraine have been systematically seizing not only Ukrainian grain, but also sunflower seeds from local farmers.”

While plundering food has always been an activity by invading armies, and no surprise at Russian incursion into Ukraine, interest will be into the identity(ies) that will benefit from the looting. Be that state or persons?

Lindsay F Bond

Recent remark about what a nation's European membership might bring, states "membership can make a big economic difference, like it did with Bulgaria and Romania, whose GDP respectively doubled and almost tripled since becoming a part of the EU."

Lindsay F Bond

Is it the rush or the ruse?

"The Russian Foreign Ministry announced 121 people [Australian] had been sanctioned but, in a beautifully Russian bureaucratic bungle, Air Vice-Marshal Darren Goldie was banned twice."

Lindsay F Bond

A lithium powered type of tool has been providing information, but now "Google has disabled live traffic data from being displayed on its Maps app in Ukraine."

Arthur Williams

To William. A UK company has just started a project to mine lithium in Cornwall to help UK go green as it is needed in E-car batteries.

Wikipedia - "The transmutation of lithium atoms to helium in 1932 was the first fully man made nuclear reaction, and lithium deuteride serves as a fusion fuel in staged thermonuclear weapons.

"In conceptualised (hypothetical) nuclear fusion power plants, lithium will be used to produce tritium in magnetically confined reactors using deuterium and tritium as the fuel.

"Naturally occurring tritium is extremely rare, and must be synthetically produced by surrounding the reacting plasma with a 'blanket' containing lithium where neutrons from the deuterium-tritium reaction in the plasma will fission the lithium to produce more tritium."

Oh, and then you tell us it is in Ukraine.

Lindsay F Bond

Truth struggles amid conflict.
Ukraine’s Snake (Serpent) Island may have more to tell.

Lindsay F Bond

Beyond the borders of Ukraine, and by what authority? A "violation of international maritime law and the International Convention on Safe Seas'.

The civilian rescue ship, 'Sapphire', on a humanitarian mission, is reported to have been seized and detained by Russian warships near Ziminyi (Snake) Island.

Where is the boundary of Russian intervention?

Ross Wilkinson

And yet there's always the other side's view with Russia announcing there were no deaths on Snake Island and that 82 Ukrainians laid down their weapons and surrendered when requested to do so.

Chris Overland

The unfolding disaster in the Ukraine has been met by a blizzard of meaningless drivel from the western elites.

They are shocked, confused and afraid: all of their fine words cannot disguise the pathetic nature of their collective response to Putin's naked aggression.

Now there are reports of a Russian Foreign Affairs spokesperson threatening Sweden and Finland with grave military and political consequences if they dare to apply to join NATO.

Thus Putin is seizing the moment to threaten countries that are, firstly, long term neutral powers and, secondly, by no plausible stretch of the imagination capable of threatening the security of Russia.

European leaders in particular have proved to be hopelessly incapable of putting together any response other than the limp wristed slap with an economic lettuce leaf that they wrongly describe as 'tough'. That is mere rhetoric although bullshit is a more accurate descriptor.

It is clear that president Biden proposed much more serious actions, notably Russia's exclusion from SWIFT, the system used by banks across the world to facilitate fund exchanges.

This would effectively cripple the Russian financial system by cutting it off from any contact with the wider world. The Europeans shrank from doing this because they know it will damage them too, although to nothing like the extent it will Russia.

The truth is that for 30 years at least Europe has lived in a state of delusion and denial. It's existential dread of rampant and malignant ultra-nationalism has made it close its eyes and ears to the awful truth that this monstrous force is still alive and well, not dead but merely dormant.

Now it is roaring again and they (and we) are pathetically ill prepared to deal with it. Their much vaunted military might is a mere facsimile of the force required to stop Putin. It is fragmented, run down and poorly coordinated.

Only France and Britain have credibly 'war ready' military establishments: the rest are toy soldiers in the main.

Australia is hardly exempt from this problem, mainly because we do not have sufficient long, medium and short range missiles to pose a credible threat to any aggressor.

The military knows this and has been desperately trying to play catch up for a while now but our government prefers to announce big things, like acquiring nuclear submarines or more tanks rather than focus on getting practical things done fast (although, to his credit, Peter Dutton appears to have tried to do this in recent times).

Events in the Ukraine serve as an ominous warning of events to come. Our leaders must galvanise themselves into action to dramatically increase the size and power of our various military establishments, just as both Russia and China have done.

Europe is the special laggard in this case but trying to get them to act collectively is going to require leadership of an order never previously seen in the European Union, notably on the part of Germany.

It must put aside its fear of itself as a military power and once again take up its traditional role as the most militarily powerful country in Europe.

Happily, the Chinese government has realised that Putin's actions amount to serious over reach and have been conspicuously unwilling to endorse them. In fact, they have indirectly criticised them by insisting that the integrity of national borders should be respected.

Our inept prime minister ought therefore to cease his xenophobic ranting about the supposedly perfidious Chinese in the search for votes from the idiot fringe of politics and focus his limited intellect on the actual problems before him that are much more significant and threatening than anything China has said or done to date.

As for PNG, it should be very concerned. When great powers clash, countries like PNG become pawns in the Great Game. As they found during World War II, this is not a comfortable role.

William Dunlop

Keith, I'm on a health downer at present.

What are the massive mineral and other commercial assets in Ukraine? Gas, oil, iron ore, lithium, cobalt, grain?

That's what Putin's after; along with Xi in China a ready, able and willing buyer?

What say you old chap, eh?

First William, sorry to learn you're under the weather and hope Darwin returns to your fine guardianship soon. Ukraine is a food bowl and exports a lot of grains, particularly wheat. Not sure about minerals. I notice Noosa Council has just acquired Darwin Council's former CEO who has walked into significant flood devastation - KJ

Lindsay F Bond

Encouraged to feel for Russian folk by feelings once lifted by the balalaika trill of Lara’s Theme from the 1965 film, 'Dr Zhivago', I am loathe to retract my hope for humanity.

I recall that international tensions with the USSR were such that 'Doctor Zhivago' was filmed not in Russia and by folk not Russian.

The exemplary lead was Omar Sharif, who played Zhivago. Sharif was not only an actor, he was one of the world's best known contract bridge players, a man of credible academic achievement.

Sharif gave his voice also to matters of armed conflict. He considered the idea of using his rifle absurd as the enemy would return fire and level the apartment block he lived in.

An early casualty of this week's invasion was Ukraine’s Zmiinyi (Snake) Island in the Black Sea, 16 hectares of rock about 300km west of Crimea.

My father, along with two other chaps, was stationed for a year (around 1947) in the Coral Sea on the 450 metres long Willis Island weather reporting station.

It's still there today to weather storms (if you will allow me) and to enable offshore cruises to conduct duty free sales.

Places elsewhere in the Pacific may be larger but just as vulnerable to unwelcome intrusion as were the soldiers on Zmiinyi Island who chose to 'confront' (a word folk have become accustomed to hearing of late).

This is to honour those Ukraine service personnel who, in sacrificial duty, bore the indignity of invasive projectiles after refusing to acknowledge the Russian aggressors.

The 13 Ukrainian border guards deployed to the tiny island were directed to surrender by a Russian warship. They were warned to "lay down your weapons or be bombed". "Russian warship, go to hell," they responded, before being killed in the subsequent fusillade - KJ

Chris Overland

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has shamed and humiliated the ‘West’ which has been demonstrated to be both incompetent and impotent.

We will pay for the hubris and sheer stupidity we have displayed in abandoning 45 million people to their fate.

The neoliberal elite have, as a result of globalisation, transferred a huge amount of economic and military power into the hands of autocrats, erroneously believing they would no longer behave like, well, autocrats. More fools them and us.

This is their and our Munich.

My contempt for our political class knows no bounds. Now, like Neville Chamberlain, as rapidly as possible, we must belatedly prepare for the war to come.

We could start the ball rolling by terminating iron ore and coking coal exports to China but far too many people will lose money for this to occur.

So, instead, like 'Pig Iron' Bob Menzies before them, the neoliberal dickheads who lead us will continue to send China the very ingredients they will need to prosecute the war to come in Taiwan and elsewhere.

Of course, there is money in war so long as you are not the one being required to fight it.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Along with Keating's comments I found this article from The New Daily instructive:

Lindsay F Bond

Dither among multiple democratic governances (or is that discussions to sustain dignities?) appears exactly the expectation and advantage sought by a singularly minded individual and retinue, aligned or cowed in careers.

Corney Korokan Alone

Paul Keating's views are very incisive, cogent, and historically accurate.

It is obvious that "imperial empires have their fall-by dates" and that inclusivity and multi-polarism are a given reality ahead of a dwindling and weary portrayal of invincibility dressed in superficial idealism.

Harry Topham

Saw Putin reiterating his belief that the invasion was inevitable as Ukraine posed a serious security threat to Russia.

He did not look too cocky and I got the impression that, as the reality of the consequences of his actions sunk in, he was not as arrogant as before. In fact he looked just a little jittery.

If his mates turn against him we probably will hear that he is not well and recuperating.

I like the look of that mephisto character the Russian Foreign Minister, maybe he's Putin's foil.

Lindsay F Bond

No small a part, Putin learned of Trump.
Information is the bladed edge.

Bernard Corden

Maybe Scomo will shirtfront Putin....."You bet you are"

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