This is a very somber day. I am filled with deep empathy for the people of the Ukraine, whose lives have been turned topsy-turvy at the whim of a pyschopath. I don’t feel much like writing about the epidemic in this context. To some extent Putin is doing this because he senses weakness and division in Europe and the US. Ironically, this invasion will likely heal that division. But he is also doing it because he is old and has had this delusional fantasy of rebuilding Russia for decades and is running out of time to realize that fantasy. He is dangerous because of his delusions. People say he is smart, but not so much really. This will prove to be another dramatic step down for Russians. The country is a corrupt kleptocracy, kept functioning only because of oil and gas revenues, which will now decline substantially. China, the only remaining customer, will not be interested in paying $100 a barrel or more for Russian energy. It is losing population at a rapid clip, alcoholism is rampant and young people want to leave. Putin’s version of Russian jingoism isn’t going to play well as living standards decline yet further.
It is our obligation to do everything we can to keep those living standards going down–close off every export market we can to Russia; seize every asset owned by a Russian in the US or Europe and sell them with the proceeds going to Ukraine resistance and relief. All Russian military assets in this hemisphere should be destroyed and we should make it clear that any ship or plane that carries any Russian goods to countries like Cuba and Venezuela will be sunk or shot down. Economic sanctions are not enough to deter psychopaths; they must pay a price in their precious military. Action must be immediate, massive and persistent. We aren’t going to change Putin’s behavior, but we can make him and the Russian people pay a huge price, and eventually the Russian people will themselves rise up against his dictatorship.
A couple of side notes. I have read extensively on climate science for decades. Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit was one of my heroes for his brave and persistent deconstruction of shoddy and fake climate science. Steve unfortunately has become a Russian propogandist and Putin apologist, and that has become his main avocation, rather than climate, which he has far more expertise in. Truly, truly sad.
And then there is Congressperson Tulisi Gabbard, also often a brave, independent voice, but whose take on the Russian invasion of a sovereign nation is that it is our fault because we talked about Ukraine coming into NATO, which would put NATO right on Russia’s borders. Aside from the general inanity of this take, she might want to look at a map, where she will see that NATO already is on Russia’s borders.
And finally, the Russian invasion will allow Democrats to get out from under the epidemic. It will provide great cover for ending all restrictions with everyone’s attention focussed elsewhere. That is not much of a silver lining for the people of Ukraine.