My wife voted for the communists in 2012, not for Putin, and after ten years here, says if she went back, she would vote for them again. If you use the word Perestroika around her, duck, because you are going to be attacked. I thought this was all very cute until my friends in Ukraine were run out of their apartments and cities by Russian missiles, and Natasha keeps insisting on calling it a special operation, and until the 12th week of the war would not lay any blame at all on Russia, saying Ukrainians were criminals. She has never liked them.
Finally, she admits it is not credible to think Ukraine destroyed 30% of itself, and some of those missiles are Russian, and it’s not right. But that’s as far as she’ll go. In ten years of living here, she still prefers Russian news and believes Western news is just propaganda. Well. I cannot exactly point to all the stupid articles that say Russia is losing (plainly they have tripled the territory they control since February 24th) or Tucker Carlson and dispute her.
The cab driver who took my wife to the airport, to come to America, in October of 2012, asked her, “How can you leave this beauty?” Russia is beautiful. The view from my wife’s flat, which she still owns, her sister lives there, is of gorgeous trees on both sides. You can reach out and touch the leaves. The sounds of kids playing in a garden across the parking lot drift up into the open window. Have you noticed the sound of kids playing is identical in every language? It is universal. In a few steps one is in a local shopping area, with access to a Metro Station, their name for “subway”. For about ten cents you can ride to any other point in the city. Just a two block walk away is a modern American-style shopping mall with a gun store and a food court and a supermarket in the basement. The roads are wide and the cars big like in America. I was comfortable renting a car and driving there. It is not crazy like Europe. Ukraine is like Europe. I wouldn’t drive there.
I once remarked to someone there were no homeless in Russia, that the government provides housing. My. Wife. EXPLODED at me. Nooooo. You didn’t get a place to live unless you WORKED. Housing, food, daycare, everything was associated with a job. The Soviet Union was no welfare state. Sounds like a Republican paradise, in fact.
I imagined a political refugee seeking freedom, a better life. Well. Truth is Natasha and I couldn’t communicate very well for the first half dozen years. Very nice. No arguments. But eventually we began to talk. Natasha left because it was too cold. Her body didn’t function in the middle of Siberia, and she could not have children there. Immediately we had a child in warm Houston. Now she has heat exhaustion. I guess there is always something.
My wife, you will have guessed by now, despite her short stature and sweet voice, is no pushover. She was an accountant. A chief accountant, she’ll have you know. And has stood up to Russian businessmen and let them know if they bothered her, she’d expose all their crookedness and they were wise enough to back off. You can mess with me, but I’d suggest you not mess with my wife.
Natasha keeps in touch with people in Russia every day. She says they are being told the war will last three years.
Ukraine is still a “special operation”. “War” is the word used in connection with NATO. The vile enemy supplying weapons and fighting a proxy war using Ukraine. We call it the Ukraine War, which is apt. Why? Because it is confined to Ukraine. What Russian city has been attacked and demolished? None. Maybe a couple of oil depots and one weapon factory, but otherwise no damage, and zero Russian civilians have been killed. Only one out of every 20 funerals in Russia are for a dead soldier. Their loss rate compared to their population is nil. They can keep going forever, gaining territory inch by inch. They don’t have negative news about the special operation because the public won’t tolerate it. Putin is just complying with his public’s wishes. His popularity jumped to nearly 90% and stays there.
What could Russia conceivably do with 3 years of fighting, I asked myself? That’s way more than enough to take Ukraine, even at their slow pace. Suppose they spend the rest of 2022 consolidating Donbas and perhaps taking Odessa to lock up the coast and create a world food crisis. Then what? Well, the 65-mile Sulwaki Gap connecting Belarus to a split off piece of Russia called Kaliningrad is only monitored, not actually defended. NATO probably would not do much if Russia seized it. What could they say? “No, you can’t connect to your own territory”?
I can see them grinding away as they did in Ukraine, suffering NATO counter attacks, but nevertheless gaining ground inch by inch which they never give up. NATO will only be reactive. Punitive. Once the ground is Russian, NATO will be “afraid” to actually push Russia back off “its” territory for fear of escalation, nuclear war, whatever.
Russia will insist on a buffer zone to keep NATO nukes away from its territory. And a connection between Russia and Kaliningrad which doesn’t rely on Belarus, the upper lime green region. Lithuania and Latvia will just be glad their whole countries were not taken over (but eventually they will be). Then Russia will go for the port of Gdansk in Poland.
By 2024 they will begin encircling western Ukraine, which they probably won’t have tried to directly occupy, letting the West think they have given up. From Odessa they’ll push through Moldova, using their allies in Transnistria as an excuse, and south from Kaliningrad along the Polish border toward Lviv in western Ukraine. Who is going to stop them? If we haven’t by then, we won’t.
Natasha says nothing will change if Putin is replaced. Russia might become even more aggressive. She’s thinking about Medvedev, who is the most hawkish at the moment, making threats of nuclear war as fast as spokesman Peskov can retract them. Shoigu, she says, is soft, and might be the better outcome from our point of view. Here is my take on all of them:
Natasha says Navalny is a joke, that no one would vote for him. The opposition is the communist party. Most of the parties are artificial creations that Putin arranged to give an appearance of democracy.
Russians are not suicidal Islamic radicals. They are not expecting 70 virgins in heaven. Remember the cab driver? They are in love with life and beauty. My wife intends to live another 50 years. When I mentioned nuclear war, she immediately started stockpiling supplies and looking for local fallout shelters (there aren’t any anymore, the US is unprepared for nuclear war compared to the 60’s).
Russians are Orthodox Christians. They have never had a Protestant Reformation. They have never developed an idea of thinking and interpreting things for themselves. Natasha made a comment that all American churches were greedy for money. I had to think about what she meant. Heck, I had to do some research. The Roman Catholic church got some crazy ideas. One of them was selling “indulgences”. For money, your sins are forgiven, or you get out of purgatory. The Eastern half of the church, Orthodoxy, would have nothing to do with it. The church was split. Years later Martin Luther and others started thinking this didn’t make any sense, and developed the idea of thinking for themselves. Well, in Orthodoxy that’s not allowed. But there isn’t much motivation for it. The Catholics had provided the motivation. In some letters exchanged between the Lutherans and the Orthodox Patriarch, it was apparent that even though both had a beef with the Roman Catholics, they could not even comprehend each other’s way of thinking. Tradition and authority were the rule in Orthodoxy. Freedom to do whatever you wanted as long as you weren’t hurting another group was the rule in Protestantism.
The US was founded by two groups: The commercial enterprises like the Virginia company. And the religious groups that didn’t fit in Europe, the Pilgrims, Puritans, Quakers, etc. We get the idea of working and making money from the first, and the idea of freedom from the latter. When Russia clamped down on their press at the start of the war, I tried to explain the Bill of Rights to Natasha. She had no clue, and was not able to understand it. Regulation of the press in Russia was just a matter of laws passed by majority vote in the Duma. I actually asked Natasha not to apply for US citizenship just yet. I think she needs to study some US history. She has no clue what it means. Fortunately, communists aren’t running for office here, but plenty of socialists are, and I’m afraid she might get the two confused as I did.
If you don’t like what Natasha said, then do something about it. Biden is not going to act unless pushed. Trump is still welcome in Russia; they think he is an ally. Liz Cheney is really tough on Russia but the Trumpites aren’t going to vote for her. So what are you going to do?
Well, agitation and protest does not work unless it is continuous. I suggest writing the President and your Senators and your Representative about twice a week, until they finally step up. I think air force intervention is necessary to actually push Russia out of Ukraine. Short of that, we should think about what would make it costly to them? Sanctions they’ve got handled. Sanctions are there whether they fight or not. They aren’t going to meet all the demands to remove sanctions, so they aren’t really an incentive. Sanctions are useful for slowing them down, just not a motivation for them to stop. Control of a quarter of the world’s grain and cooking oil exports, combined with the metals in Ukraine, are worth an enormous amount, and they will be able to sell these things sanctions or no.
Here is one suggestion that adds cost to Russia for everything they blow up. Send this message to your leaders: Support Zelensky formal Russian compensation multilateral agreement to deter further destruction! Use US assets to forcibly unblock port of Odessa! Expel Russia from pre-2014 borders! No negotiation with terrorist state Russia!
As far as supporting Ukraine, what do you think it takes to stop a military with a budget of $66 billion a year? That is Russia’s defense budget. Of the recent $40 billion package, only $15 billion was weapons. That’s not even a good start. Send this message: You will have to out-spend Russia to stop them – the Reagan method. They spend $66 billion a year. Actual military aid from US to Ukraine is only $19 billion counting the new so-called $40 billion package. This is a joke. Russia now has carte blanch to fight a forever war and no incentive to stop. Step up and use serious US assets to stop slaughter, prevent world food crisis and prevent food refugees flooding US.
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You can write directly to Russians using the Estonian Email to Russia Service:
I do not think you’ll get far trying to convince them. You can (a) deluge them with evidence, which eventually convinced Natasha, or (b) just scare them. Russians don’t want to lose a war, or to even have a nuclear war.
The items below are formatted to bring up translations of news pages into Russian.
‘We need a way out’: Former Russian colonel criticizes war efforts in Ukraine, for Russian speakers:
«Нам нужен выход»: бывший российский полковник критикует военные усилия в Украине для русскоязычных:
BASELINE NEWS LINKS FOR RUSSIANS – Start with Bucha, this is the information they don’t have.
Shooting two men in the back near Kyiv
Под Киевом стреляли в спину двум мужчинам
Russia Attacks World Food Supply
Россия атакует мировые запасы продовольствия
Russia attacks civilians and residential buildings in Odessa
Россия атакует мирных жителей и жилые дома в Одессе
Russian casualties are higher than reported
Потери россиян выше, чем сообщалось
Russians destroy Mariupol completely and kill 21,000 civilians
Русские полностью разрушают Мариуполь и убивают 21 тысячу мирных жителей
Because Russia attacks civilians, UW vows to weaken Russia so cannot attack another country
Поскольку Россия нападает на мирных жителей, UW клянется ослабить Россию, чтобы не нападать на другую страну