Notes on the Catastrophe | National Review

Notes on the Catastrophe | National Review


Wreckage of an unidentified aircraft that crashed into a house in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 25, 2022 (Umit Bektas / Reuters)

In a war, or a similar catastrophe, you think of everyone, of course. You’re a human being. Man is man. But you can’t help thinking — thinking especially — of those you know personally.

I know Syrians, but they are out of the country, working to help their fellow Syrians, back home. I know North Koreans — but they are out of the country. I know Ukrainians who are right there, in the midst of it.

This has an effect on a person.

• I was in Kyiv only about two years ago, reporting. It was a handsome, bustling city, and peaceful — though Putin was making war in the east of the country. To see it under assault today . . .

• Look at the Ukrainians. See their faces. Putin is terrorizing them. And, while there is much goodwill around the world, they are mainly alone.

• Not long ago, Volodymyr Zelensky was a comedic actor on television. Chances are, he didn’t bargain for what’s facing him and Ukraine today. He is leading a nation fighting for its life — for its very right to exist.

Much strength to his hands, mind, and soul.

• During World War II, London hosted governments-in-exile — the Free French, for example. Who will host a Ukrainian government-in-exile? Who in the world will stand with Free Ukraine?

• Starting in the 1950s, we had Captive Nations Week. It’s still on the books, actually. It may well take on renewed meaning.

• Remember, there are millions of Russians who are not represented by the dictatorship that rules them. There are millions of Russians who want to live in peace with their neighbors and enjoy a decent life.

• The Memorial Human Rights Center, in Russia, issued a statement: “The war unleashed against Ukraine by the Putin regime is a crime against peace and humanity. This war will remain a shameful page in Russian history.”

• In St. Petersburg and other Russian cities, people are demonstrating against the assault on Ukraine, at considerable risk. Many of the bravest people on earth are Russian. It has long been thus.

• For obvious reasons, the Balts feel a particular solidarity with the Ukrainians. The foreign minister of Lithuania, Gabrielius Landsbergis, made a statement:

We in Lithuania know it very well that Ukraine is fighting not just for Ukraine, but for us in the region, Europe and everyone in the democratic world. It is our obligation not just to punish Russia for its actions but to help Ukraine with all and every means available. Now.

• The Taiwanese, too — again, for obvious reasons — feel a solidarity with the Ukrainians. The vice president of Taiwan, Lai Ching-te, wrote,

The people and government of Taiwan stand with Ukraine. The principle of self-determination cannot be erased by brute force.

• Here is Liz Cheney:

As Ronald Reagan knew, America must not “ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire.”

There is no excuse for praising or appeasing Putin.

Liz Cheney stands for an older, ever more distant Republican Party.

• In his address of February 21, Putin called Ukraine a “puppet” of the United States. Funny, but I have heard exactly that “right here at home.”

• I have a memory, from student days. Professor Ernest R. May, the diplomatic historian, was sketching three views of the origins of the Cold War: the official Soviet view; the standard American view; and the “Revisionist,” or “New Left,” view.

With maybe a little mischief, I raised my hand and said, “Could you point out the differences between the official Soviet view and the New Left view?” Professor May smiled.

Today, I hear from the “New Right” many of the things you hear from Kremlin officials: There is no real Ukraine. The West is encircling Russia, endangering its security. People in the east of Ukraine really want to be Russian. The CIA pulls the strings in Kyiv. Blah blah blah.

It makes me dizzy, and somber.

• During the War on Terror, I heard, “Bush is trying to benefit his oil buddies.” Now I hear, “Biden is supporting Ukraine for the sake of enriching alternative-energy producers.” They once said that Vietnam was spurred by Dow Chemical. They said that J.P. Morgan plotted World War I.

It never ends.

• Steve Bannon said, “Ukraine’s not even a country. It’s kind of a concept. . . . It’s just a corrupt area that the Clintons turned into a colony where they can steal money out of.” Many, many people listen to this stuff and believe it.

• A lot of people call themselves “nationalists.” Some of them appreciate nationhood. Some of them just like strongmen.

• Noah Rothman, at Commentary, wrote a piece called “The Fantastical World of the Pro-Putin Right.” In dark moments, I think that CPAC, after its session in Hungary, will hold one in Russian-occupied Kyiv. Tulsi Gabbard is a CPAC speaker. She is tender not only toward Putin but also toward Syria’s butcher, Assad.

• Putin’s forces are doing right now to Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities and towns what they have long done to Syria and Syrians. In concert with Assad, Putin smashed Aleppo, for example. Putin is one of the monsters of this age.

• These guys always find one another — and ally with one another. Here is a tweet from the Russian foreign ministry:

President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

The President of Iran expressed understanding with respect to Russia’s security concerns caused by the destabilising actions of the US and @NATO.

• George Weigel — that veteran and insightful student of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe — writes,

This artificially created crisis, aimed at Ukraine’s destabilization and subjugation, is one expression of Putin’s determination to reverse history’s verdict in the Cold War. Putin has been quite clear about this for twenty years, and only fools or those peering through the ideologically befogged lenses of the new “national conservatism” fail to grasp what is afoot here.

• You occasionally hear that Putin is a champion and defender of Christian civilization and Christian values. Look at the pictures of Ukraine, assaulted. Look at the terrorized people in Ukraine. Does this speak to you of Christian values? Tell the propagandists and liars to get lost.

• In 2014, the G-20 meeting was held in Brisbane. This was after Putin had launched his war against Ukraine. Putin was mingling with the other leaders, all very backslappy, of course. He got to Canada’s Stephen Harper and extended his hand.

Harper said, “Well, Vladimir, I’ll shake your hand, but I really have only one thing to say to you, and that is, get out of Ukraine.” Putin smirked that smirk of his — the kind you see when he denies poisoning his critics — and said, “Well, I’m not in Ukraine.” Harper replied, “That’s why it’s a waste of my time to talk to you.”

• Putin’s Russia was suspended from the G-8, because of Putin’s annexation of Crimea and launch of war. For four years, President Trump called for Russia’s reinstatement to the G-7, making it the G-8 again. The other governments did not agree, however: because the facts on the ground — the reasons for suspending Russia in the first place — had not changed at all.

• In the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election campaign, one candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, survived a murder attempt, barely. It was a poison attack — of the kind for which Putin’s agents are now infamous. The Kremlin had interfered in Ukrainian elections before, of course — but not with violence. Looking back, this act of violence, this attempt at murder, was like a starting gun.

• A fairly short while ago — four or five months — Ukrainian troops were performing heroically in Kabul, trying to evacuate what Afghans they could. And now . . . they are fighting for their country’s life.

• Yesterday, I was talking with an Afghan refugee, who was telling me about other Afghan refugees — in Ukraine. I think of a phrase from American culture: “tempest-tossed.” (It derives from the Bible — Isaiah.)

Writes Anne Applebaum, “The clash that is coming will matter to all of us, in ways that we can’t yet fathom. In the centuries-long struggle between autocracy and democracy, between dictatorship and freedom, Ukraine is now the front line . . .”

• A few weeks ago, I did a podcast with Myroslava Luzina, a political analyst and intellectual in Kyiv. She said, “Either you are on the side of the abuser or you are on the side of human dignity.”

• A murderous, expansionist dictator is redrawing international boundaries by force. We have seen his like before. Either you grasp the danger of this or you don’t. I hope that enough of the world grasps it. God bless Ukraine. God bless all those Russians, and others, who want a decent and happy life, and to live at peace with their neighbors.





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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.