I am terrified and yet very hopeful that our world leaders will craft a plan. Putin will be cornered, no matter what. I read this on Twitter this morning:

"From my wife, who was born in Russia: "NATO should just offer European citizenship to any Russian soldier who wants to defect. Within an hour, Russia will have no army" @evan_lorenz

Rather chilling and I believe very true.

Expand full comment

I so and always appreciate your perspective. This line in particular resonates in sadness: "the deadly games that old people play with the lives of the young". Prayers.

Expand full comment

Mark Mullen

February 22 at 8:15 AM ·

So about Ukraine, since everybody is talking about it, I have spent some time there and tons of time near it, and many of my friends haven't been there or very near by, here goes.

The central thing about Putin is not if he is crazy or if he is playing the long game or whatever. The thing to think about are his motives. Since his earliest childhood he needed to prove himself. Rather than compassion and support he was surrounded by paranoia and fear. But now he controls Russia completely. There are no oligarchs, meaning at least semi-independent sources of wealth or power, there’s only him. And like all with complete control, he increasingly identifies himself with his nation as its embodiment, and the Russian nation with the Russian state. And to him, there is only self interest for each, any appeal to fairness, the rule of law, or ethics are fake. There is only self interest and anybody who pretends otherwise is a hypocrite, nieve, or both.

He bracketed his path to power over three years between two brutal acts. The first was a month after he had been chosen by Yeltsin as his successor to rule Russia in August of 1999. That September, he ordered the FSB/KGB to bomb different apartment buildings on several early mornings in September 1999, mainly in Moscow but in other places as well. Hundreds were killed as they slept. The population was terrified as they waited to see if they would die in the night from the next bomb. He blamed Chechen terrorists, said it was time for a strong hand, and started the Second Chechen War. The second was the arrest in October 2003 of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's richest man who had built Yukos, an oil company, Russia's largest independent corporation.

With Khodorkovsky in prison, any remaining independent or wealthy individuals fell in line with Putin or fled the country. Over the years, Putin has ordered the assisnation of many outside of Russia, in Washington DC when Mikhail Lesin, Putin's former media chief, was murdered in the Dupont Circle Hotel the night before he was to speak to the US Department of Justice in 2015. Many others, particularly in the UK. It’s his way of projecting power.

The source of his power is stolen money. In Russia, all capital originates from extraction, of gas, mining, etc and he takes however much he wants, and deploys the funds or infrastructure of whatever business he wants, however he wants. Any business that grows to a certain level will be tested and told to comply. All of this is off the books. Over half of the capital stock of Russia is held by shell companies, laundered via off-shore accounts, invested mainly in the US and Europe, and deployed if and when it wants it to be. For example it has been the only source of funds to Trump Inc for decades. Those in Russia without access to these funds, or the businesses those funds sustain, have very little money and even less power.

Putin believes he can exploit division between and within the US and Europe, that he can buy off whoever he wants. Using his substantial resources he has been quite successful at this so far.

Nobody who is a bully thinks they are bullying. Nobody who is corrupt says to themselves they are now going to engage in an act of corruption. First, they tell themselves that this is how the world works, everybody is this way. But that's not enough, they also need to make themselves the victim in as many ways as possible, no matter how implausible. That is what Putin is doing by pretending that he feels NATO is a threat, or that Ukraine is not a real country, or that is a part of Russia. He doesn't even care if the Russian people believe that, it's just creating some narratives for those in Europe or America to turn over. He has invaded and occupied his neighbors because he's in charge. He's in charge because he steals his people's money and Europe and the US allow him to do whatever he wants with it..

So what can we each do about this?

1) There will be lots of talk of sanctions, are they serious? Serious enough? How serious is this country's sanctions compared with that country's sanctions? Sure, put on some sanctions, but that whole discussion is largely a smokescreen. Putin has contributed via shell companies, and assisted via social media, a large group of Republican politicians in the US and Conservative politicians in the UK and in every other country in Europe. Stolen Russian capital owns real estate within walking distance from where 90% of the people reading this are sitting. The key to dealing with this is stronger beneficial ownership legislation. That would require beneficial ownership to be disclosed in real estate and all other financial transactions. It is a very practical step that will strengthen democracy and hurt bullies, all of whom benefit from concealing their stolen funds.

2) Russia's power and money comes mainly from Europeans paying their gas bills for Russian gas. European energy policy, particularly related to gas, needs to manage that problem. In a broader context, working for renewable energy directly fights against corruption because hydrocarbon extraction is virtually always corrupt and moving away from it starves corruption. Europe needs to move away from dependence on Russian gas, and the US needs to get its own house in order in terms of enabling money laundering as Europe's consumers pay the price for this.

3) Remember when Kazakhstan was all over the news for the first week of January, then silence? Don't let that happen to Ukraine. If you are telling yourself you care about Ukraine now, make a commitment to find out what is happening there when it's not all over the news. Because remember, Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.

And finally,

4) Seek out and listen to people from and in Ukraine. They know what's going on.


Expand full comment
Feb 24, 2022·edited Feb 24, 2022

I wonder if Putin got bad health news, and is trying to leave a mark before the end.

If not . . . My wish for Putin:

To spend the rest of his days under house arrest in a shabby dacha, visited by no one but a nurse, watching Russia become a liberal democracy with a broad economy that benefits all, funded by repatriated and confiscated oligarch money.

I think an appropriate, useful thing for Americans to do right now is to raise funds for Ukranian refugees, and for rebuilding after this mess is over.

Expand full comment

Those who wish for peace and freedom across the globe are horrified and our hearts are with Ukraine today. The test of our collective will and mettle will be our response over time. Will we continue to support an innocent country as gas prices rise and stocks fall? Will we place a greater emphasis on democracy than inflation? Will we finally recognize that dictatorships are always expansive, and our freedoms only as durable as our willingness to sacrifice for a greater good?

Expand full comment

It is difficult for me to have hope this morning as I contemplate the power of a madman with an arsenal of nukes who has publicly threatened Europe with those same weapons. He cares not a whit for the lives of anyone, much less his own people. He is sick.

Expand full comment

I join my prayers to your. My heart just aches for the soldiers & civilians on all sides. The Ukranians deserve peace and freedom as much as the rest of us. May it come to be and soon.

Expand full comment

I hope as you do Mr. Rather, but in order for that to happen, the US is going to have to reassess its militarism around the globe whether by reducing the arms it sells, curtailing policing the world, exporting democracy to countries that never asked for it, etc. Putin is wrong and will, i hope, pay an exorbitant price before he decimates Ukraine. I also hope that the people in this country supporting him face consequences for "aiding and abetting the enemy."

Expand full comment

"I suspect he will be considered a villain in the histories he does not have the power to rewrite. And I hope that the ultimate response to that villainy is a new commitment to peace, security, and democracy". I was saying the same thing to my father last night about the former president, and those who are supporting him for personal gain. History will hold them accountable. Unfortunately there will be so much suffering in the meantime.

Expand full comment

Thank you, Mr. Rather, for your wise commentary about Putin's attack and violence. I pray for the Ukrainian people...and the Russian people as well.

Expand full comment

I join my prayers for the Ukrainian (and Russian) people who have had no say in this disaster. I pray NATO will remain strong. And I pray that many in our country will see the similarities between Putin and our former president.

Expand full comment

Great commentary Dan -I also worry about the growing global dictator authoritarianism we've seen here and elsewhere recently ... a threat to world order.

Expand full comment

putin's demise will be at the hand of his own country... men and women.

Expand full comment

This is a very scary situation. I fear that this could be the end to a world we have known, His last comments almost sound like he is intending to start a nuclear war and there will be no winners in that outcome.

Expand full comment

Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Expand full comment

Dear Dan & Elliot,

I certainly am not an expert historian or savvy in military tactics. But regardless, as a hopefully sane, rational peace loving person ( along with the majority of the world ) I think certain things have become self evident and cannot comprehend how this has been allowed to happen.

It is clear at this point that Putin is unhinged, out of touch with global/humane reality, and teetering on the border of not being sane or rational. On this side of The Pond, we have his counterpart in Trump. Both have had a divisive, damaging, life threatening effect on the world! It is not like we haven't seen this played out before...Hitler, Mussolini, Franco. And yet history is repeating itself.

The Big Difference is we all now possess weapons of mass destruction as Putin so tactlessly tried to remind the World in his irrational diatribe this week! That in itself was the Big Clue! I do not think this is an oversimplification, but just thoughts we all have questions about...

It is a little after 1:00 PM here and President Biden is supposed to give an address at 1:30 ( postponed from 12, then 12:30).

I cannot begin to imagine where this is going. It is very frightening.

Just venting now. Still hoping greater minds will make some order out of this...

Expand full comment