Everything, actually, is in an uproar. Language is in an uproar! The Ukraine isn't the Ukraine anymore! My apologies, Ukraine. My excuses are two, first, I learned about the Ukraine a long time ago, and second, I've studied a lot of German and it will always be Die Ukraine to them. Not all countries take an article in German, but there is a short list of countries that do. Der Schweiz (Switzerland), for instance. But now, just “Ukraine,” and it was no surprise after I considered the matter. German is crazy for articles. Notice that Ukraine is feminine, while Switzerland is masculine. They can't get enough articles. The articles alone are like a little puzzle. Slavic languages have no articles at all.
This Russian invasion is full of surprises. Similar things have happened before. Georgia, Azerbaijan, even Ukraine! The Russians grabbed Crimea years ago. That was all small bites, and all of those limited actions went very well. This Ukraine business is much more visible, the justifications are angrier and more numerous, and the Russians are not limiting their advances to those two fictional “break-away regions” in the Donbas.
The Russians certainly gathered an impressive array of mobile ground strength, and they've been in place for a while. It's somewhere around half of their ground based military. I was sure that if they were going to do it, they'd do it while the ground was still frozen. The Russians know that area very well; I'd wager that they know every foot of it. They had been over it four times with the Germans, twice in each direction. If your plan included mechanized, mobile warfare, you did it while the ground was frozen. If you waited until the ground thawed, you got stuck in mud that is so aggressive, so deep, and so dangerous that they have given it a name:
It happens every year, like clockwork. When February had almost passed and the front was still quiet, I figured that was it, no war right now, the ground will be starting to melt. But they did attack at the very end of February, and sure enough, photos abound of Russian tracked vehicles, tanks, self-propelled guns, stuck in mud over the tops of the tracks. It's like something that the Red Army general staff would trick the Nazis into doing back in the Great Unpleasantness.
And why are there so many photos of Russian recon vehicles abandoned because they ran out of fuel? Even whole tanks, intact. The general staffs know very precisely the range of these vehicles, and part of their job is to set an assembly point about eighty percent into the range of the most vulnerable vehicles and be prepared to met them there and refuel them all. Or, send them out a certain distance with orders to about face and return before they go bingo-fuel.
These are all rookie mistakes, and if the Russian POWs are any indication, it does look like they have sent in the greenest, youngest, least experienced troops first. All of this is very confusing to the onlooker.
To make matters worse, Putin is throwing around the threat of escalation, even hinting at using nuclear weapons. On whom? He is silent on that point. Ah, to be threatened by gangsters. Heaven at once.
Being threatened by nukes is nothing new to people my age. We grew up with it; we lived with it for decades. Personally, it never bothered me, because I was fairly well informed and I trusted the Soviets not to do anything stupid. These new gangsters are worse than the Soviets. The Soviets at the top had zero desire to lose their regime, their country, and their very cushy way of life. I also trusted the American officials at the top. Nothing could be worse for business than nuclear war, and they didn't want to get yelled at. The generals on both sides? We had more cowboys than the Soviets did, but luckily they all kept it in their pants. I wonder if we can trust this new bunch of yahoos that are in charge of both countries. (Russia and the U.S.)
Besides, nukes are so passe! We modern folk should be much more worried about cyber-war, space-war, and, dare I say it, 'Net-war! Kill the electric grid and black-out the entire country. That would get people's attention. No wi-fi? No Internet? No Netflix? No access to your cash? Wow. You think world logistics is bad now? Try it without electricity. No Amazon Prime!
But it's unspeakable! Or is it? Things could get out of hand PDQ. In politics, nationalism is still popular. We love America! We're patriots! I hate to break it to you, but the really rich people don't feel like that anymore. They've gone all the way international. They've got money and assets stashed everywhere, and they've got their own planes, with pilots, to move them out of harm's way when push comes to shove. They all speak the same language, money, and nothing else matters to them. They are the new aristocrats, the ownership class, and they are stateless. Or they could be part of any state that they want to be part of. As Herman Melville wrote so eloquently, “evil, if wealthy, travels freely, and is never bothered to show papers. Virtue, if a pauper, is stopped at all borders.” (From Moby-Dick. Paraphrase alert.)
So these new oligarch scumbags don't care what happens in Ukraine, or anywhere else. They don't care what happens in their own “home” countries. Putin; Bezos; Musk; Pablo Escobar's widow; they're in the Tens-of-Billions-of-Dollars club. Hell, the Hundreds-of-Billions club. Go anywhere, anytime, get the red carpet rolled out. Need a visa? Permanent residency? New passport? Right this way, sir! Does anyone think that they care if a few cities around the world get microwaved? They'll sign off on it pretty fast if it will make the value of their Bitcoin go up.
Might be just the thing to get the working people back in line. Quit bitching about freedom and rights and health care. You don't watch out, the next city to get the pika-don* might be yours!
Would you put it past them?
*Pika-don: what the Japanese called those atomic bombs. Literally flash-boom.