By video hookup, the Ukrainian president, Zelensky, addressed throngs of supporters in Prague. He said, “If we win — and I’m sure we will win — this will be a victory of the whole democratic world.”
Zelensky has a certain understanding of the struggle he and his country are in. You may think it wrong. But you will probably agree that Zelensky has earned the right to a hearing.
• According to reports, Zelensky has dodged at least three assassination attempts. I don’t know what the rules of succession are, under the Ukrainian constitution. But his successor — if he has one — will have big shoes to fill. Zelensky has been remarkably brave, embodying the national resistance. Many in the West regard Putin as manly. In reality, he is mainly a bully and thief. Anyone looking for manliness can look to Putin’s adversary in Kyiv.
• In a previous set of notes, I cited Mitt Romney. Romney is uncomfortable calling Putin’s assault on Ukraine a “war.” So am I. What is happening in Ukraine is a war, of course. But it’s a peculiar kind of war. No Ukrainian, so far as I’m aware, threatens any Russian civilian. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are getting wantonly killed. The war is a case of a people trying to defend itself against a murderous, unprovoked, nation-destroying assault.
Rarely is a conflict so black-and-white, in my judgment. There are no two sides.
• A report from the Associated Press ends this way:
Kyiv’s central train station remained crowded with people desperate to flee. “People just want to live,” one woman, Ksenia, said.
Yes. People just want to live. It can’t be put in a more elementary fashion than that.
• Over and over, Ukrainians are yelling at Russian troops, “Go home!” This is significant. For years, people have said that Ukraine is not a real country. That Ukrainians are basically Russians with a funny accent. That “the Ukrainian region” was born to live under rule by Moscow.
These people have been peddling bunk, either knowingly or unknowingly.
• When I was in fourth grade, our teacher was an émigré from Ukraine. This was in Ann Arbor, Mich., at Pattengill Elementary School. Mid ’70s. Not being able to pronounce his last name, we called him “Mr. K.” Most of the kids, I’m afraid, treated him poorly. Snotty little SOBs, everywhere you looked.
One day, we went to an assembly at which Mr. K. and his family performed Ukrainian national songs and dances. They did so in traditional dress.
Anyway, I have thought of Mr. K. in recent weeks. I asked him once about what he had seen in the Old Country. I don’t remember his words. I remember the look on his face, the tone of his voice, and the emotions he expressed. I got the feeling: Nightmarish, barely speakable things had occurred.
• Edward Wong, a correspondent for the New York Times, tweeted a photo — very hard to look at. Wong commented,
Pure horror: Russian soldiers are deliberately killing Ukrainian civilians trying to flee. A mother & 2 children were killed and father wounded by a mortar shell as hundreds of civilians sought safety.
At what point do soldiers have a responsibility for what they’re doing, along with those giving them orders? How was this question worked out at Nuremberg?
• Ukrainians are badly outmatched, militarily. But their hearts are clearly in the fight. What about Russian hearts? What Russian soldier could possibly want to be there? How much does the question of spirit matter, versus the question of matériel, etc.?
• My God, Russians are brave — Russians protesting at home, and getting violently arrested for it. Here is one photo. Look at that face: a face of Russian honor, as I see it.
• In recent days, I have thought of a famous statement by José Martí, the hero of Cuban independence. I will paraphrase: “When many lack honor, there are always others who have enough honor for many.”
• Russian journalists — independent ones — are among the bravest people on earth. Long have been. Here is a headline: “Last Vestiges of Russia’s Free Press Fall under Kremlin Pressure.” (Article here.)
• Mary Louise Kelly, of National Public Radio, reported,
Taped a remarkable interview with Yulia Zhivtsova, one of the 8,000 Russians who have been detained for anti-war protests. When we reached her near Moscow, she said she will keep speaking up, despite the crackdown. And she insisted that we identify her by her full name.
Have some more:
She wants future generations to know that Russians stood up, that “I was out there, I was protesting, I was against this.” And, “If I keep silent, I’m still not safe.”
Yulia Zhivtsova, what a woman.
• Mary Louise Kelly is the one who was berated by Mike Pompeo, then secretary of state, in January 2020. I wrote about the matter here. Kelly had questioned the secretary about Ukraine, and in particular about Marie Yovanovitch, our ousted — and defamed — ambassador. A shabby episode, and interesting, too.
• Here is an impressive sight: German citizens at the train station in Berlin, waiting for Ukrainian refugees, offering them a place to stay. Here is another sight: baby strollers, left by Poles, for Ukrainian mothers who had to flee with their children in their arms.
• Here is Clarissa Ward, of CNN, doing her work in Ukraine, as she did it in Kabul last summer. Such an impressive woman, an impressive journalist. We owe a lot to the “MSM,” whether we admit it or not. I value anyone who sticks out his neck to bring us the news. And such a person is not very often thanked.
• This is big. It may not seem so, but it is. Reports the Washington Post, “Japan announced it would accept refugees from Ukraine and send bulletproof vests to Kyiv — extraordinary measures taken by one of the countries least welcoming to refugees,” and one that also has “a self-imposed arms-exports ban.”
• How about this? “Denmark to boost defence spending and phase out Russian gas.” (For that Reuters report, go here.) It seems that Putin has at last awakened the West. But how soon will the West fall back asleep?
• As I mentioned previously, Orbán in Hungary has decided not to block EU sanctions on Russia. Which is good. But . . . “With the help of the Hungarian government, the Kremlin is trying to make people believe fake news about the Russian–Ukrainian war.” (For that article, go here.) Same old, same old.
• In 2014, Seth Mandel wrote an article for Commentary: “The Vladimir Putin Fan Club.” He cited a column by Patrick J. Buchanan — which began, “Is Vladimir Putin a paleoconservative? In the culture war for mankind’s future, is he one of us?” Later in the column, PJB wrote, “While his stance as a defender of traditional values has drawn the mockery of Western media and cultural elites, Putin is not wrong in saying that he can speak for much of mankind.”
• Let me commend another article in Commentary — written two days ago, by Noah Rothman. “Take a Good Look at Who Is Fighting for Post-Liberalism,” it’s called. I wish to quote a single line: “Liberty is an idea in bad odor among a narrow but influential set of thinkers whose livelihoods are enabled by liberty itself.” Yes. True now, true always, I suppose.
• You can forgive Ukrainians for being desperate. The foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted a photo and said,
This horrific 500-kg Russian bomb fell on a residential building in Chernihiv and didn’t explode. Many others did, killing innocent men, women and children. Help us protect our people from Russian barbarians! Help us close the sky. Provide us with combat aircraft. Do something!
You may think it unwise to do something — you may be right. But you can also understand a Ukrainian, I bet.
• Here is something to ponder: If a country arms your enemy, in the midst of a war, and imposes an economic blockade on you, isn’t that country also your enemy? This is more than theoretical, obviously. The United States is in pretty deep (rightly, I believe). We are at a very, very tense juncture.
• “America can’t be the world’s policeman!” So true. But, as Jeane Kirkpatrick said, what if there’s a world criminal? Who will stop him? Anyone? Can he act with impunity? “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job,” someone said. If Ukrainians can’t finish the job — if they can’t save themselves, their country — they should at least be able to try, and go down fighting, if go down they must.
What a brave stand they are making. I hope that Ukraine retains its independence and freedom, and that Russians will one day, soon, enjoy freedom, as well as independence.
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