Bret Stephens | Russia’s War in Ukraine: This Is How World War III Begins – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The usual date given for the start of World War II is Sept. 1, 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland after the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. But that was just one in a series of events that at the time could have seemed disconnected.

Among them: Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Italy’s invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. The remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 and the Spanish Civil War, which started the same year. Anschluss with Austria and the Sudeten crisis of 1938. The Soviet invasion of Poland weeks after the German one and Germany’s western invasions the following year. Operation Barbarossa and Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The point is, World War II didn’t so much begin as it gathered, like water rising until it breaches a dam. We, too, have been living through years of rising waters, though it took Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for much of the world to notice.

Before the invasion, we had the Russian invasions of Georgia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine; the Russian carpet bombing of Aleppo; the use of exotic radioactive and chemical agents against Russian dissidents on British soil; Russian interference in U.S. elections and massive hacks of our computer networks; the murder of Boris Nemtsov and the blatant poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny.”

“. . . . .  Refusing to impose a no-fly zone in Ukraine may be justified because it exceeds the risks NATO countries are prepared to tolerate. But the idea that doing so could start World War III ignores history and telegraphs weakness. Americans squared off with Soviet pilots operating under Chinese or North Korean cover in the Korean War without blowing up the world. And our vocal aversion to confrontation is an invitation, not a deterrent, to Russian escalation.

There is now a serious risk that these illusions could collapse very suddenly. There’s little evidence so far that Putin is eager to cut his losses; on the contrary, to do so now — after incurring the economic price of sanctions but without achieving a clear victory — would jeopardize his grip on power.

Bottom line: Expect him to double down. If he uses chemical weapons, as Bashar al-Assad did, or deploys a battlefield nuclear weapon, in keeping with longstanding Russian military doctrine, does he lose more than he gains? The question answers itself. He wins swiftly. He terrifies the West. He consolidates power. He suffers consequences only marginally graver than the ones already inflicted. And his fellow travelers in Beijing, Tehran and Pyongyang take note.

How does the next world war begin? The same way the last one did.”  -30-

David Lindsay: Excellent points in general by Bret Stephens. The comments against him are also good.  He could acknowledge that NATO going to war with Russia could lead to a nuclear world cataclysm.  But I side with Bret on four grounds. First, some things are worth dying for, and if we are going to be the land of the free, we have to be willing to fight our enemies. Second, The US and Britain, and possible NATO, guaranteed Ukraine’s independence, if it would give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons left there when the Soviet Union collapsed.  We are obligated by our agreement to come to their rescue. Third, the Russians don’t want the end of world this year, any more than we do. Even if Putin turns suicidal, the generals around him as group probably are not.

Fourth, we are probably all going to die anyway from climate change and the sixth extinction, so one should do an analysis as to whether stopping the destruction of the Ukraine will help or hurt the war on climate change causing green house gas pollution.

I’m not sure this last point is decisive, but it would be sad indeed, if we sacrificed the Ukraine and its brave people to ambition of the Putin regime, only to all go up an Armageddon of climate disasters. Which brings me back to the the first point. Some things, for people who believe in law and order and democracy, are worth dying for.

Charles Blow | What Is Our Moral Obligation in Ukraine? – The New York Times

“In June of 1998, Clinton declared a national emergency under the pretense that the governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia, with respect to Kosovo, were threatening to “destabilize countries of the region and to disrupt progress in Bosnia and Herzegovina in implementing the Dayton peace agreement, and therefore constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

NATO intervened, ended the war and brought an end to most of the immediate suffering.

This poses the question: When does America have a moral obligation to intervene — particularly for humanitarian reasons — in conflict? And which factors contribute to the choices we make?

America and NATO have a clear geopolitical interest in Ukraine: President Vladimir Putin of Russia cannot be allowed to get away with such unprovoked, naked aggression. What kind of precedent would that set? And who’s to say that he would stop there?

But when the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, spoke via video to Congress on Wednesday, part of the appeal he was making was a moral one, an appeal to the American belief in and commitment to the very idea of democracy.

He said:

Peace in your country does not depend anymore only on you and your people. It depends on those next to you, on those who are strong. Strong does not mean big. Strong is brave and ready to fight for the life of his citizens and citizens of the world. For human rights, for freedom, for the right to live decently and to die when your time comes, not when it is wanted by someone else, by your neighbor. Today the Ukrainian people are defending not only Ukraine, we are fighting for the values of Europe and the world, sacrificing our lives in the name of the future.

The question is how far is America compelled to go. President Biden signed off on $13.6 billion in aid on Tuesday and announced on Wednesday that $800 million in military assistance would be sent to Ukraine as part of that funding. These are not trivial amounts. Furthermore, America and its allies have imposed stiff economic sanctions on Russia. The sanctions could contribute to inflation, which means that Americans may pay even more than what the administration is pledging in direct assistance.

I say that the United States must supply military aid and should supply humanitarian aid. But I also say that we must be more consistent in determining who deserves outpourings of our humanitarian impulses.

Human suffering is human suffering. It has been a constant in the story of mankind. Sometimes it overlaps with our national interests, and sometimes it does not. But our sense of morality must remain constant, and in it we must find a place for equity.”  -38-

David Lindsay: I think NATO should treat Ukraine like a member, and go to war to save the country. Here are some comments I endorse:

Kansas City11h ago

Our moral obligation to Ukraine is absolute. Together with the UK we GUARANTEED Ukraine’s safety, security, and territorial integrity when we persuaded it to give up the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the former Soviet Union. We have entirely reneged on that commitment (as we have on commitments to other people and countries in danger, like Iraqis and Afghans who helped U.S. troops while we were involved there) and America’s word has become worthless. Just another indicator of America’s decline and fall.

6 Replies236 Recommended

Gary V
Oakland, CA11h ago

Charles Blow, in my view of the world it is very clear. When a free peoples are attacked by a neighbor, whether internal as in Rwanda, Sudan or external like in Bosnia, Kosovo and now in Ukraine ( I leave out a lot of other conflicts) and possibly in the future Taiwan, the leaders of the free world without slicing and dicing “strategic interests” or “they are not a NATO country” should intervene. What is the purpose of life if we cannot help people who want freedom from oppression, dictatorship and autocracy? will we, as individuals do our best to stop a neighbor from killing his family? if yes, what is the difference in nation states from preventing this in a nationwide basis. We cannot hide from our responsibility.

2 Replies170 Recommended

We made many promises to Ukraine. Foremost; that we would protect them if they got rid of their nuclear arsenal. We have a clear moral obligation in Ukraine.

2 Replies159 Recommended

A City Under Siege – David Leonhardt – The New York Times

” — in southeastern Ukraine, near the Russian border — has been under siege for more than two weeks. It is the city where Russia last week bombed a maternity hospital and yesterday attacked a theater that hundreds of civilians were using as a shelter. It was unclear how many of those sheltering survived, according to a Ukrainian official.

Since the war began, two of the few working journalists in Mariupol have been Mstyslav Chernov and Evgeniy Maloletka of The Associated Press. My colleagues and I were deeply affected by their dispatch, and we’re turning over the lead section of today’s newsletter to an excerpt from it.

The bMariupolodies of the children all lie here, dumped into this narrow trench hastily dug into the frozen earth of Mariupol to the constant drumbeat of shelling.

There’s 18-month-old Kirill, whose shrapnel wound to the head proved too much for his little toddler’s body. There’s 16-year-old Iliya, whose legs were blown up in an explosion during a soccer game at a school field. There’s the girl no older than 6 who wore the pajamas with cartoon unicorns and who was among the first of Mariupol’s children to die from a Russian shell.”

Outraged by the Attacks on Yazidis? It Is Time to Help. – by Nadia Murad – NYT

Three years ago I was one of thousands of Yazidi women kidnapped by the Islamic State and sold into slavery. I endured rape, torture and humiliation at the hands of multiple militants before I escaped. I was relatively lucky; many Yazidis went through worse than I did and for much longer. Many are still missing. Many have been killed.

Once I escaped, I felt that it was my duty to tell the world about the brutality of the Islamic State. Yazidi women hoped that recounting our experiences of mass murder, rape and enslavement would bring attention to the Yazidi genocide. We received sympathy and solidarity all over the world, but now what we really need is concrete action to get justice and allow our community to return to its homeland.

via Outraged by the Attacks on Yazidis? It Is Time to Help. – The New York Times

Rwanda Accuses France of Complicity in 1994 Genocide – The New York Times

“KIGALI, Rwanda — The Rwandan government released an independent report on Wednesday accusing French officials of complicity in the 1994 genocide, risking further strains to already icy relations between the two countries.

The report, commissioned by the Rwandan government and conducted by a Washington law firm, alleges that French military forces trained their Rwandan counterparts, supplied them with weapons even after an arms embargo, and gave cover, under the auspices of a United Nations-sanctioned humanitarian mission, in the last moments of a genocidal campaign.

Researchers and the Rwandan government say they cannot get France to make good on earlier commitments to fully open its archives or otherwise investigate the country’s role.

“What happened in the early ’90s and even before, in the lead-up to the genocide, is something France will have to come to terms with,” said Louise Mushikiwabo, the foreign minister of Rwanda. “Rwanda is not going away. We’re not going anywhere.”

Archival documents show that the French government was a close ally of the Rwandan regime that planned and perpetrated the mass slaughter of an estimated 800,000 people, most of them members of the Tutsi ethnic minority. Historians say a son of François Mitterrand, the French president at the time, was also a close friend of the Rwandan leader whose government organized the genocide.”

via Rwanda Accuses France of Complicity in 1994 Genocide – The New York Times

For excellent reading on the genocide in Burundi and Rwanda, I recommend Strength In What Remains, by Tracy Kidder.     From;

“The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of the modern classics Mountains Beyond Mountains and The Soul of a New Machine returns with the extraordinary true story of a young man and his will to survive.

In this remarkable book, New York Times bestselling author Tracy Kidder once again delivers the masterful story of a hero for these modern times.

Deo grew up in the mountains of Burundi, and survived a civil war and genocide before seeking a new life in America. In New York City he lived homeless in Central Park before finding his way to Columbia University. But Deo’s story really begins with his will to turn his life into something truly remarkable; he returns to his native country to help people there, as well as people in the United States.

An extraordinary writer, Kidder has the remarkable ability to show us what it means to be fully human, and to tell the unadorned story of a life based on hope. Riveting and inspiring, this may be his most magnificent work to date. Strength in What Remains is a testament to the power of will and friendship, and of the endurance of the soul.”

My Interview With a Rohingya Refugee: What Do You Say to a Woman Whose Baby Was Thrown Into a Fire? – by Jeffrey Gettleman – NYT

“As I walked out of the refugee camp, my phone rang. The instant I said hello, my wife could hear it in my voice.“What’s wrong?” she asked.“I just finished the worst interview of my life,” I said.

I was standing near the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh, where half a million Rohingya people, probably one of the most unwanted ethnic groups on the planet, fled after government massacres in Myanmar. I had just said goodbye to a young woman named Rajuma and watched her — a frail figure in a red veil — disappear into a crowd with one of the most horrible stories I had ever heard.

I’ve covered genocide in Sudan and children being blown apart in Iraq. I’ve been dispatched to earthquakes, hurricanes, civil wars, international wars, insurgencies and famines. As foreign correspondents, this is what we do, rush into the world’s biggest disasters. In 20 years of doing this, I’ve become a specialist in despair.But Rajuma’s story stopped me.”

David Lindsay:

This news reporting lifts Jefrey Gettleman up to a new level, in my awareness, up to Nicholas Kristof.
Thank you Jeffrey for this report.

Here are the top comments. I read deep into the comments section, for solace.


Tucson 1 hour ago

This is what genocide looks like, sounds like, feels like to witness.

And on the same online front page of the NYTimes, we are treated to the story of big game “hunting” ranches in Texas where the extremely wealthy can go to kill animals and call it love.

Anger, hatred, dehumanization, disrespect for life…is contagious. We are seeing it everywhere, and our current President is aiding and abetting this social turn.

The Rohingya must get true sanctuary somewhere, and we must help them–all of us on this planet must help. Otherwise, we have reached a state where all of us are dehumanized. Not humane, and therefore not human. Compassion is a human birthright–having, expressing it, receiving it. It is genetically encoded. That we are in an era of so many instances where compassion is replaced with anger and hatefulness, is just appalling beyond words.

P. Dutta

Berlin, Germany 1 hour ago

Thank you for covering these horrific events. Journalists like you go to places that everyone else turns a blind eye to. ‘Ami Dukkhito’ doesn’t actually mean ‘I’m sorry’ in Bengali though. It literally means ‘I’m sad’. It is an appropriate thing to say under the circumstances as we don’t have an equivalent word to ‘sorry’ in Bengali. ‘Ami Dukkhito’ implies that you share her pain. Please do keep shining the light of awareness on these darkest of places.


is a trusted commenter Salt Lake City, UT 3 hours ago

Thank you for telling the world about Rajuma and the murder of her baby. Something good will come of this telling because there are still very good people in this world who express kindness all around us.

Vera Chasan

USA 1 hour ago

Thank you for a beautifully written story – and for bearing witness to this. I can’t begin to fathom the depth of pain Ms. Rajuma must know, but I weep for her and her family. I wish I believed that something good will come of this story – and perhaps, for some readers, we are more sensitive to the Rohingya plight and more ready to offer support.


NEW YORK 1 hour ago

Anybody cares what is happening in Rohingya ethnic cleansing ? The answer is NO. Because there is no oil or gas or mineral resources for western economic powerhouse countries .Even UN is very quiet about this genocide. Because Rohingya people are extremely poor Muslims. I am glad that the NYT publishes some news of atrocities there now and then. Bangladesh, a densely populated country is one of the poorest in the world. I thank the government and the people of Bangladesh for opening their door to shelter these unfortunate people with their limited resource. Some Muslim countries, specially Turkey came forward to help them. What happened to other oil rich Muslim countries? India is not helping that much as expected. China is helping Myanmar with arms and money to expedite this cleansing process. Where is humanity ? Where are compassionate heart of good human beings? Where are Buddhist religious teachings of love and AHIMSA (abstain from killings) to attain Nirvana? May God help these poor people.

A Nobel Peace Prize Winner’s Shame – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“For the last three weeks, Buddhist-majority Myanmar has systematically slaughtered civilians belonging to the Rohingya Muslim minority, forcing 270,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh — with Myanmar soldiers shooting at them even as they cross the border.

“The Buddhists are killing us with bullets,” Noor Symon, a woman carrying her son, told a Times reporter. “They burned houses and tried to shoot us. They killed my husband by bullet.”Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the widow who defied Myanmar’s dictators, endured a total of 15 years of house arrest and led a campaign for democracy, was a hero of modern times. Yet today Daw Suu, as the effective leader of Myanmar, is chief apologist for this ethnic cleansing, as the country oppresses the darker-skinned Rohingya and denounces them as terrorists and illegal immigrants.

And “ethnic cleansing” may be an understatement. Even before the latest wave of terror, a Yale study had suggested that the brutality toward the Rohingya might qualify as genocide. The U.S. Holocaust Museum has also warned that a genocide against the Rohingya may be looming.”

Horrible story, great writing.

Here are two comments I recommended.

T Townsend

Ann Arbor, MI 1 day ago

Nick, thank you for your bold reporting on this and the crises in Yemen, Angola, and numerous others. Your work is so important.


is a trusted commenter Boston 1 day ago

By now, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi – I used to refer her as ‘Daw’ instead of ‘Ms’ – has had more than her share of free passes. Not anymore.

I have no qualm of Henry Kissinger getting a Nobel Peace Prize. It might be a bit disingenuous but he did end the Vietnam War, even if with a ‘thud.’ But Ms Aung San is far more disappointing. For a while, people said she was new and might need her footings. But the Rohingya problem is nothing new. And allowing a Buddhist country to descent into hell is just breathtaking, in a very bad way. They are just a bunch of wrathful spirits. If Ms Aung San can’t speak out for them now, who is she supposed to protect?

NYT Pick


Cascadia 1 day ago

Myanmar is still a military dictatorship. The civilian government, including Suu Kyi, has no real power. She knows that if she criticizes the military leaders they may eliminate the civilian government, which is just for show anyway.

She should do so anyway. It is the right thing to do, even though in the short run it will only have negative consequences.


In Myanmar, a Wife’s Wrenching Decision – Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

“SITTWE, Myanmar — How much should you sacrifice to save your husband’s life?And how much hardship do you inflict on your son to rescue your husband?Those are the questions Jano Begum faced. Jano, 22, and her husband, Robi Alom, 30, are among the more than one million Muslims who belong to the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, subjected to an ethnic cleansing that a Yale study suggests may amount to genocide.”

Source: In Myanmar, a Wife’s Wrenching Decision – The New York Times