Thomas L. Friedman | The Ukraine War Still Holds Surprises. The Biggest May Be for Putin. – The New York Times

     Opinion Columnist

“LONDON — Here’s a surprising fact: At a time when Americans can’t agree on virtually anything, there’s been a consistent majority in favor of giving generous economic and military aid to Ukraine in its fight against Vladimir Putin’s effort to wipe it off the map. It’s doubly surprising when you consider that most Americans couldn’t find Ukraine on a map just a few months ago, as it’s a country with which we’ve never had a special relationship.

Sustaining that support through this summer, though, will be doubly important as the Ukraine war settles into a kind of “sumo” phase — two giant wrestlers, each trying to throw the other out of the ring, but neither willing to quit or able to win.

While I expect some erosion as people grasp how much this war is driving up global energy and food prices, I’m still hopeful that a majority of Americans will hang in there until Ukraine can recover its sovereignty militarily or strike a decent peace deal with Putin. My near-term optimism doesn’t derive from reading polls, but reading history — in particular, Michael Mandelbaum’s new book, “The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy: Weak Power, Great Power, Superpower, Hyperpower.

Mandelbaum, professor emeritus of U.S. foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (we co-wrote a book in 2011), argues that while U.S. attitudes toward Ukraine may seem utterly unexpected and novel, they are not. Looked at through the sweep of U.S. foreign policy — which his book compellingly chronicles through the lens of the four different power relationships America has had with the world — they’re actually quite familiar and foreseeable. Indeed, so much so that both Putin and China’s president, Xi Jinping, would both benefit from reading this book.

Throughout U.S. history, our nation has oscillated between two broad approaches to foreign policy, Mandelbaum explained in an interview, echoing a key theme in his book: “One emphasizes power, national interest and security and is associated with Theodore Roosevelt. The other stresses the promotion of American values and is identified with Woodrow Wilson.”

While these two world views were often in competition, that was not always the case. And when a foreign policy challenge came along that was in harmony with both our interests and our values, it hit the sweet spot and could command broad, deep and lasting public support.

“This happened in World War II and the Cold War,” Mandelbaum noted, “and it appears to be happening again with Ukraine.” “

David Lindsay: Bravo Thomas Friedman.  Here is a comment that supports us Ukrainiacs.

Citizen
NYC June 7

Interesting take on the conflict. Speaking of Putin, I’ve come to the conclusion that Putin is doomed. His biggest miscalculation (in a sea of many) is not understanding the national interest of his biggest ally and neighbor, China. Apparently, China was not consulted in Putin’s Ukraine ‘adventure’. But China was expected to back up Putin when his adventure went awry. However, China has it’s own reasons to refuse–and not simply because of threats by the West not to intervene. The reason is, Putin did not give a thought to China’s global aspirations, which are bigger than Putin’s delusions. China has had a longstanding initiative with respect to Asia, and in particular, Africa, called the “Belt and Road” initiative, which aims to provide African infrastructure in exchange for access to Africa’s continental (and under-utilized) resources. And right now, Putin’s adventure is causing a serious food shortage in Africa and parts of Asia. In short, Putin’s adventure in Ukraine is hurting the leaders China needs to do business with. Even if it wanted to help Putin, it cannot be seen to be assisting the very cause of Asia and Africa’s deepening food crisis. Add in his impetuous behavior, and lack of care as a neighbor, and China may well decide it has nothing to lose by letting Putin (and Russia) twist in the wind. Bordering Russia’s unpopulated Far East, China billion+ population stands to gain from an AWOL Russia. Russia’s High Command knows this. Putin is toast.

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Thomas L. Friedman | Putin’s Ukraine War Woke Up Europe – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“BERLIN — I’ve been writing nonstop about the Ukraine war ever since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, but I confess that it took coming to Europe and meeting with politicians, diplomats and entrepreneurs here for me to fully grasp what happened. You see, I thought Vladimir Putin had invaded Ukraine. I was wrong. Putin had invaded Europe.

He shouldn’t have done that. This could be the biggest act of folly in a European war since Hitler invaded Russia in 1941.

I only fully understood this when I got to this side of the Atlantic. It was easy from afar to assume — and probably easy for Putin to assume — that eventually Europe would reconcile itself to the full-scale invasion Putin launched against Ukraine on Feb. 24, the way Europe reconciled with his 2014 devouring of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, a remote slice of land where he met little resistance and set off limited shock waves.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

This invasion — with Russian soldiers indiscriminately shelling Ukrainian apartment buildings and hospitals, killing civilians, looting homes, raping women and creating the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II — is increasingly seen as a 21st-century rerun of Hitler’s onslaught against the rest of Europe, which started in September 1939 with the German attack on Poland. Add on top of that Putin’s seeming threat to use nuclear weapons, warning that any country that interfered with his unprovoked war would face “consequences you have never seen,” and it explains everything.”

Thomas L. Friedman | My Lunch With President Biden – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“President Biden invited me for lunch at the White House last Monday. But it was all off the record — so I can’t tell you anything he said.

I can, though, tell you two things — what I ate and how I felt after. I ate a tuna salad sandwich with tomato on whole wheat bread, with a bowl of mixed fruit and a chocolate milkshake for dessert that was so good it should have been against the law.

What I felt afterward was this: For all you knuckleheads on Fox who say that Biden can’t put two sentences together, here’s a news flash: He just put NATO together, Europe together and the whole Western alliance together — stretching from Canada up to Finland and all the way to Japan — to help Ukraine protect its fledgling democracy from Vladimir Putin’s fascist assault.

In doing so, he has enabled Ukraine to inflict significant losses on Russia’s invading army, thanks to a rapid deployment of U.S. and NATO trainers and massive transfers of precision weapons. And not a single American soldier was lost.

It has been the best performance of alliance management and consolidation since another president whom I covered and admired — who also was said to be incapable of putting two sentences together: George H.W. Bush. Bush helped manage the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany, without firing a shot or the loss of a single American life.

Alas, though, I left our lunch with a full stomach but a heavy heart.

Biden didn’t say it in so many words, but he didn’t have to. I could hear it between the lines: He’s worried that while he has reunited the West, he may not be able to reunite America.

It’s clearly his priority, above any Build Back Better provision. And he knows that’s why he was elected — a majority of Americans worried that the country was coming apart at the seams and that this old war horse called Biden, with his bipartisan instincts, was the best person to knit us back together. It’s the reason he decided to run in the first place, because he knows that without some basic unity of purpose and willingness to compromise, nothing else is possible.

But with every passing day, every mass shooting, every racist dog whistle, every defund-the-police initiative, every nation-sundering Supreme Court ruling, every speaker run off a campus, every bogus claim of election fraud, I wonder if he can bring us back together. I wonder if it’s too late.

I fear that we’re going to break something very valuable very soon. And once we break it, it will be gone — and we may never be able to get it back.

I am talking about our ability to transfer power peacefully and legitimately, an ability we have demonstrated since our founding. The peaceful, legitimate transfer of power is the keystone of American democracy. Break it, and none of our institutions will work for long, and we will be thrust into political and financial chaos.”

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.” “

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).

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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

Thomas L. Friedman | Shameless McCarthy, Soulless Putin and Nameless Ukrainian Soldiers – The New York Times

   Opinion Columnist

“I am thinking about three people today whose behavior could have a significant impact on the world in the coming months and possibly years: a soldier with no name, a politician with no shame and a leader with no soul.

The first I admire, the second we should have nothing but contempt for and the third must forever be known as a war criminal.

The unnamed soldier is the thousands of Ukrainians — those in uniform and those civilian men and women — who are defending their country’s nascent democracy against Vladimir Putin’s barbaric attempt to wipe Ukraine off the map.

Whether they are professionally trained soldiers or “babushkas” using their smartphones to call in coordinates of Russian tanks hiding in the forest behind their farms, their willingness to anonymously fight and die to preserve Ukraine’s freedom and culture is the ultimate refutation of Putin’s claim that Ukraine is not a “real” country but rather an integral part of Russia’s “own history, culture and spiritual space.” We don’t know their names — I can’t name a single Ukrainian general, despite all their success so far — but their deeds have shown Putin that the country they are fighting for is very real, very distinct and willing to ferociously defend itself.”

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.”

Thomas Friedman | How Do We Deal With a Superpower Led by a War Criminal? – The New York Times

“It is hard to believe, but now impossible to deny, that the broad framework that kept much of the world stable and prospering since the end of the Cold War has been seriously fractured by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. In ways we hadn’t fully appreciated, a lot of that framework rested on the West’s ability to coexist with Putin as he played “bad boy,” testing the limits of the world order but never breaching them at scale.

But with Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, his indiscriminate crushing of its cities and mass killings of Ukrainian civilians, he went from “bad boy” to “war criminal.” And when the leader of Russia — a country that spans 11 time zones, with vast oil, gas and mineral resources and more nuclear warheads than anyone else — is a war criminal and must be henceforth treated as a pariah, the world as we’ve known it is profoundly changed. Nothing can work the same.

How does the world have an effective U.N. with a country led by a war criminal on the Security Council, who can veto every resolution? How does the world have any effective global initiative to combat climate change and not be able to collaborate with the biggest landmass country on the planet? How does the U.S. work closely with Russia on the Iran nuclear deal when we have no trust with, and barely communicate with, Moscow? How do we isolate and try to weaken a country so big and so powerful, knowing that it could be more dangerous if it disintegrates than if it’s strong? How do we feed and fuel the world at reasonable prices when a sanctioned Russia is one of the world’s biggest exporters of oil, wheat and fertilizer?”