Thomas Friedman | Why Do We Swallow What Big Oil and the Green Movement Tell Us? – The New York Times

“. . . . Because our continued addiction to fossil fuels is bolstering Vladimir Putin’s petrodictatorship and creating a situation where we in the West are — yes, say it with me now — funding both sides of the war. We fund our military aid to Ukraine with our tax dollars and some of America’s allies fund Putin’s military with purchases of his oil and gas exports.

And if that’s not the definition of insanity, then I don’t know what is.

Have no illusion — these sins of the green movement and the oil industry are not equal. The greens are trying to fix a real, planet-threatening problem, even if their ambition exceeds their grasp. The oil and coal companies know that what they are doing is incompatible with a stable, healthy environment. Yes, they are right that without them there would be no global economy today. But unless they use their immense engineering talents to become energy companies, not just fossil fuel companies, there will be no livable economy tomorrow.

Let’s look at both. For too long, too many in the green movement have treated the necessary and urgent shift we need to make from fossil fuels to renewable energy as though it were like flipping a switch — just get off oil, get off gasoline, get off coal and get off nuclear — and do it NOW, without having put in place the kind of transition mechanisms, clean energy sources and market incentives required to make such a massive shift in our energy system.

It’s Germany in 2011, suddenly deciding after the Fukushima accident to phase out its 17 relatively clean and reliable nuclear reactors, which provided some 25 percent of the country’s electricity. This, even though Germany had nowhere near enough solar, wind, geothermal or hydro to replace that nuclear power. So now it’s burning more coal and gas.

A 2019 working paper for the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research found that in Germany “the lost nuclear electricity production due to the phaseout was replaced primarily by coal-fired production and net electricity imports. The social cost of this shift from nuclear to coal is approximately $12 billion per year. Over 70 percent of this cost comes from the increased mortality risk associated with exposure to the local air pollution emitted when burning fossil fuels.” “

Nigel Gould-Davies | Russia Cannot Be Allowed to Say It Has Won This War – The New York Times

Mr. Gould-Davies is the senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine 10 weeks ago, Western governments have tirelessly condemned this egregious act and declared their support for Ukraine. But as united as they have been in their outrage, they have been vague about their goals.

This posture has begun to change. Recently, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that America wanted “to see Russia weakened” so that it could not threaten its neighbors again. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss of Britain said that her country would seek “to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine.” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, declared that “we want Ukraine to win this war.”

But what the West is unclear about is how it wants the war to end. While it has chosen the means to respond to Russia’s aggression — principally, military aid to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia — it has not defined the ends these methods will serve. Instead, Western policy has largely been focused on outcomes it wants to avoid rather than achieve. The first is a Ukrainian defeat that allows Russia to install a puppet regime in Kyiv. The second is Russia’s resort to weapons of mass destruction or expansion of the war beyond Ukraine.”

David Lindsay: Excellent piece. Here is a comment I hope is true.

Bruce Rozenblit
Kansas City, MO8h ago

The atrocities committed by Russia have united the free world. This will not stand. Russia will be pushed out of Ukraine. The West will no longer trade with Russia so long as Putin or anything like him remains in power. That’s it. Putin thought that the West’s dependence on Russian resources would keep us from ourtracising his country from the global economy. He was wrong. Necessity is the mother of invention. The West will now develop new sources of energy, especially non-fossil sources, as it rapidly weans itself off of Russian oil and gas. Actually, the world is awash in natural gas. The problem is getting it from here to there but that can also be accomplished. Putin greatly underestimated how Western tribalism plays into this conflict. Ukraine is not Syria or Bosnia. These people are White, Slavic and Christian. They are our fellow tribe members. Attacking them is personal, familial. Putin has awakened the sleeping tiger. Putin is girding for a protracted conflict. So can we. The naval blockade in the Black Sea will be broken. Those sea lanes will be opened up. The next phase of escalation will be naval. Russia cannot afford this war. It does not have the financial resources to wage it. A protracted conflict will bankrupt it, literally. Russia has now put itself on a path to its demise. When this is over, Russia will be forced to change, or collapse from within.

6 Replies56 Recommended

Thomas L. Friedman | The War Is Getting More Dangerous for America, and Biden Knows It – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“If you just followed news reports on Ukraine, you might think that the war has settled into a long, grinding and somewhat boring slog. You would be wrong.

Things are actually getting more dangerous by the day.

For starters, the longer this war goes on, the more opportunity for catastrophic miscalculations — and the raw material for that is piling up fast and furious. Take the two high-profile leaks from American officials this past week about U.S. involvement in the Russia-Ukraine war:

First, The Times disclosed that “the United States has provided intelligence about Russian units that has allowed Ukrainians to target and kill many of the Russian generals who have died in action in the Ukraine war, according to senior American officials.” Second, The Times, following a report by NBC News and citing U.S. officials, reported that America has “provided intelligence that helped Ukrainian forces locate and strike” the Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet. This targeting assistance “contributed to the eventual sinking” of the Moskva by two Ukrainian cruise missiles.

As a journalist, I love a good leak story, and the reporters who broke those stories did powerful digging. At the same time, from everything I have been able to glean from senior U.S. officials, who spoke to me on condition of anonymity, the leaks were not part of any thought-out strategy, and President Biden was livid about them. I’m told that he called the director of national intelligence, the director of the C.I.A. and the secretary of defense to make clear in the strongest and most colorful language that this kind of loose talk is reckless and has got to stop immediately — before we end up in an unintended war with Russia.

The staggering takeaway from these leaks is that they suggest we are no longer in an indirect war with Russia but rather are edging toward a direct war — and no one has prepared the American people or Congress for that.

Vladimir Putin surely has no illusions about how much the U.S. and NATO are arming Ukraine with matériel and intelligence, but when American officials start to brag in public about playing a role in killing Russian generals and sinking the Russian flagship, killing many sailors, we could be creating an opening for Putin to respond in ways that could dangerously widen this conflict — and drag the U.S. in deeper than it wants to be.”

Thomas L. Friedmann | A Message to the Biden Team on Ukraine: Talk Less – The New York Times

    Opinion Columnist

“Growing up in Minnesota, I was a huge fan of the local N.H.L. team at the time, the North Stars, and they had a sportscaster, Al Shaver, who gave me my first lesson in politics and military strategy. He ended his shows with this sign-off: “When you lose, say little. When you win, say less. Goodnight and good sports.”

President Biden and his team would do well to embrace Shaver’s wisdom.

Last week, in Poland, standing near the border with Ukraine, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin got my attention — and certainly Vladimir Putin’s — when he declared that America’s war aim in Ukraine is no longer just helping Ukraine restore its sovereignty, but is also to produce a “weakened” Russia.

“We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” he said. “So, it has already lost a lot of military capability. And a lot of its troops, quite frankly. And we want to see them not have the capability to very quickly reproduce that capability.”

Please tell me that this statement was a result of a National Security Council meeting led by the president. And that they decided, after carefully weighing all the second- and third-order consequences, that it is in our interest and within our power to so badly degrade Russia’s military that it will not be able to project power again — soon? ever? not clear — and that we can do that without risking a nuclear response from a humiliated Putin.”

David Lindsay:  I admired this piece by Friedman, until I got to the following comment.

Ricardo
France May 3

Oh boy, what a flawed piece by Friedman: 1. Team Biden was pretty careful from the start to keep us out of WW III. That’s why they ruled out US troop involvement – in spite of the obvious disadvantage of losing strategic ambiguity. They have been consistent about that (thankfully). 2.Team Biden has innovated by using public communication about secret insights for the first time in US foreign policy history. That has debunked many Russian lies, helped turn the tables in the communication war, and done a lot of good so far. 3. Ukraine is not a small country. Everyone in the world can find it on a map (except a small group of people). 4. Not true: “our goal began simple and should stay simple: Help Ukrainians fight as long as they have the will.” First, Friedman was against that. Second, the West’s strategy is evolving with Russia’s blunders, and that makes sense. Third, once Ukraine is armed, they will keep fighting until they have all of their country back, including Crimea. So the West will have to tell them them where to stop. 5. Austin’s remarks refer to that decision. Team Biden’s well-considered intention was to signal that we are not close to that point, i.e. the cost for Russia to continue is high. Friedman didn’t understand that though. 6. Team Biden has been pretty consistent throughout this terrible war. Unlike many other countries (incl. Europeans).

9 Replies377 Recommended
x
Which inspired me to write my own comment.
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments:
Good points by both sides. That is confusing. As usual, Tom Friedman makes many good points. I’m persuaded by some excellent comments though that the Austin remarks were probably well thought out, and conveyed power and strength. I recommend the new song on Youtube, We are all Ukrainians Now, or “Ukrainian Now,” by Tom Paxton and John McCutcheon.
I think Europe and the US should put more skin in the war. I’d like to see NATO and the US take over the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, as a “humanitarian mission,” to free up Ukrainian ports, so the Ukraine can move its wheat to the markets in the third world. NATO cold seize Mariupol, to protect innocent civilians from genocide, and seize the Crimea, because they can. We are already seizing super yachts, why not take back the Crimea, which was invaded and stolen. Heavy weapons and fuel could then move more quickly into the war zones through several ports. Risky, yes, but also heroic and honorable.
David also writes at InconvenientNews.net

Ukrainians Flood Village of Demydiv to Keep Russians at Bay – The New York Times

The waters that poured into Demydiv were one of many instances of Ukraine wreaking havoc on its own territory to slow Russia’s advance. Residents couldn’t be happier. “We saved Kyiv,” one said.


“DEMYDIV, Ukraine — They pull up soggy linoleum from their floors, and fish potatoes and jars of pickles from submerged cellars. They hang out waterlogged rugs to dry in the pale spring sunshine.

All around Demydiv, a village north of Kyiv, residents have been grappling with the aftermath of a severe flood, which under ordinary circumstances would have been yet another misfortune for a people under attack. This time, it was quite the opposite.

In fact, it was a tactical victory in the war against Russia. The Ukrainians flooded the village intentionally, along with a vast expanse of fields and bogs around it, creating a quagmire that thwarted a Russian tank assault on Kyiv and bought the army precious time to prepare defenses.

The residents of Demydiv paid the price in the rivers of dank green floodwater that engulfed many of their homes. And they couldn’t be more pleased.”

Thomas L. Friedman | China and Russia Are Giving Authoritarianism a Bad Name – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The last decade looked like a good one for authoritarian regimes and a challenging one for democratic ones. Cybertools, drones, facial recognition technology and social networks seemed to make efficient authoritarians even more efficient and democracies increasingly ungovernable.

The West lost self-confidence — and both Russian and Chinese leaders rubbed it in, putting out the word that these chaotic democratic systems were a spent force.

And then a totally unexpected thing happened: Russia and China each overreached.

Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and, to his surprise, invited an indirect war with NATO and the West. China insisted that it was smart enough to have its own local solution to a pandemic, leaving millions of Chinese underprotected or unprotected and, in effect, inviting a war with one of Mother Nature’s most contagious viruses — the Omicron mutation of SARS-CoV-2. It’s now led China to lock down all of Shanghai and parts of 44 other cities — some 370 million people.”

Thomas L. Friedman | Free Advice for Putin: ‘Make Peace, You Fool’ – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/13/opinion/putin-ukraine-war-strategy.html

     Opinion Columnist

“As Vladimir Putin embarks on his Plan B — a massive military operation to try to grab at least a small bite of eastern Ukraine to justify his misbegotten war — I thought: Who could give him the best advice right now? I settled on one of America’s premier teachers of grand strategy, John Arquilla, who recently retired as a distinguished professor of defense analysis at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. When I called Arquilla and asked him what he’d tell Putin today, he didn’t hesitate: “I would say, ‘Make peace, you fool.’”

This is also known as the first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.

Arquilla did not pluck his phrasing from thin air. After the D-Day landings on Normandy on June 6, 1944, it became quickly obvious that the Germans could not contain the Allies’ beachhead. So after a German counterattack near Caen failed on July 1, the top German commander on that front, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, phoned Berlin to report the debacle to the army chief of staff, Wilhelm Keitel, who then asked him, “What shall we do?” — to which von Rundstedt famously replied: “Make peace, you fools! What else can you do?”

The next day von Rundstedt was removed — not unlike what Putin has just done, bringing in a new senior general, one who helped crush the opposition movement in Syria with unrestrained brutality — to run Phase 2 of his war. This did not work for the Germans, and without making any predictions, Arquilla explained why he believed that Putin’s army, too, could meet very stiff resistance from the undermanned and underarmed Ukrainians in this new phase.

It starts, he argued, with all that is new in this Ukraine-Russia war: “In many respects, this war is our era’s Spanish Civil War. In that war, many weapons — like Stuka dive bombers and Panzer tanks — were tested out by the Germans, and the allies learned things as well, before World War II. The same is being done in Ukraine when it comes to next-generation warfare.”

Bret Stephens | What Do We Do if Putin Uses Chemical Weapons? – The New York Times

    Opinion Columnist

“There are reports that Russia may be planning to use — or, according to unverified reports from local officials in Mariupol, might have already used — chemical weapons as part of its offensive in eastern Ukraine. The Biden administration has already set up a Tiger Team of national security officials to consider options in the event this happens; now is the time for these discussions to become more public.

We’ve traveled this road before, badly. In August 2012, Barack Obama publicly warned the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria against employing chemical weapons. “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” he said. “That would change my calculus.”

It didn’t.  . . . “

Paul Krugman | Putin, Ukraine and the Illusion That Trade Brings Peace – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/11/opinion/germany-russia-ukraine-trade-gas.html

Opinion Columnist

“On April 12, 1861, rebel artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter, beginning the U.S. Civil War. The war eventually became a catastrophe for the South, which lost more than a fifth of its young men. But why did the secessionists believe they could pull it off?

One reason was they believed themselves to be in possession of a powerful economic weapon. The economy of Britain, the world’s leading power at the time, was deeply dependent on Southern cotton, and they thought a cutoff of that supply would force Britain to intervene on the side of the Confederacy. Indeed, the Civil War initially created a “cotton famine” that threw thousands of Britons out of work.

In the end, of course, Britain stayed neutral — in part because British workers saw the Civil War as a moral crusade against slavery and rallied to the Union cause despite their suffering.

Why recount this old history? Because it has obvious relevance to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It seems fairly clear that Vladimir Putin saw the reliance of Europe, and Germany in particular, on Russian natural gas the same way slave owners saw Britain’s reliance on King Cotton: a form of economic dependence that would coerce these nations into enabling his military ambitions.”

Charles A. Kupchan | Putin’s War in Ukraine Is a Watershed. Time for America to Get Real. – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/11/opinion/ukraine-war-realist-strategy.html

Mr. Kupchan is a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“During his recent speech in Warsaw, President Biden said that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” only to clarify a few days later that he was merely expressing outrage, not announcing a new U.S. policy aimed at toppling Russia’s leader. The episode, interpreted by many as a dangerous gaffe, underscored the tension in U.S. foreign policy between idealism and realism.

Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine should provoke moral outrage in all of us, and, at least in principle, it warrants his removal from office. But Mr. Putin could well remain the leader of a major power into the next decade, and Washington will need to deal with him.

This friction between lofty goals and realpolitik is nothing new. The United States has since the founding era been an idealist power operating in a realist world — and has on balance succeeded in bending the arc of history toward justice. But geopolitical exigency at times takes precedence over ideals, with America playing power politics when it needs to.

During the Cold War, Washington promoted stability by tolerating a Soviet sphere of influence and cozying up to unsavory regimes willing to fight Communism. In contrast, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, America operated under conditions of geopolitical slack; great-power rivalry was muted, enabling Washington to put front and center its effort to promote democracy and expand a liberal, rules-based international order.”