In Other News – Ukraine Rebuilds as War Rages On and Putin Has His Own Spin to Russian Citizens – 5/19/2022

May 19, 2022

Mariupol is a hard fought and pyrrhic victory for Russia because by all accounts the war is going poorly for Putin and further entrenching him with the consequences of his strategic blunder. While vigorously celebrating its control of Mariupol, Russia has publicly scaled back its ambitions once again and is now trying to secure only a portion of eastern and southern Ukraine rather than the whole of it. By reliable accounts, Russia has lost nearly a third of the forces that it originally committed to this “special operation”, which have been plagued by poor moral, equipment breakdowns and malfunction, inadequate training, and dysfunctional command and control. At a wider level, more and more companies are withdrawing permanently from Russia – including McDonalds, Siemens, and Renault. U.S. and European Central Banks seem poised to allow Russia to default on its debt for the first time since 1917 and as time passes the effects of massive sanction efforts are taking hold. Whether Hungary’s Orban keeps the EU bloc hostage from imposing a bloc-wide ban on Russian energy, nearly all E.U. countries have begun their transit away from Russian energy. And Finland and Sweden have now formally applied to join NATO, which despite Erdogen’s sturm und drang will move forward.

Ukraine is taking steps to rebuild even while the war rages on. This week the US Senate voted to deliver more than $40 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and the US Embassy reopened in Kyiv nearly three months after American diplomats were withdrawn. Ukrainians are making efforts to start rebuilding Kharkiv and Bucha, areas devastated by the Russian military in recent weeks. In addition, thousands of Ukrainians are reportedly returning to Kyiv after fleeing during the early days of the war. This enthusiasm to recover is not tempered by senior US officials’ caution that Moscow’s shift to the Donbas could be temporary.

Indeed, it looks like Russia may be doubling down on its information war to caste its own version of events to its citizens that remains untethered to reality. While the stalwart soldiers from the Azovstal Steel Plant are carted off for a show trial in Russia to advance Putin’s narrative that he is de-nazifying Ukraine, the facts on the ground reveal the reality. Even this effort will be hard to sustain as at the same time, Ukraine has begun its own war time war tribunal and Human Rights Watch reports that they have independently verified myriad reports that Russian soldiers have perpetrated a series of war crimes including summary executions, unlawful killings, enforced disappearances and torture. Also the head of the UN Food Program has said that Russia will be weaponizing food if Putin does not allow the reopening of Ukrainian ports where tons and tons of food are languishing and millions across the world could die. Nevertheless, Putin is likely to continue to persist in Ukraine to his own detriment.