Thomas L. Friedman | Three Paths Toward an Endgame for Putin’s War – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

MUNICH — Last week was an interesting week to be in Europe talking to national security experts, officials and business executives about Ukraine. Ukraine and its allies had just forced Russian invaders into a chaotic retreat from a big chunk of territory, while the presidents of China and India had seemed to make clear to Vladimir Putin that the food and energy inflation his war has stoked was hurting their 2.7 billion people. On top of all that, one of Russia’s iconic pop stars told her 3.4 million followers on Instagram that the war was “turning our country into a pariah and worsening the lives of our citizens.”

In short, it was Putin’s worst week since he invaded Ukraine — without wisdom, justice, mercy or a Plan B.

Thomas L. Friedman | Putin Will Make People Choose Between Heating or Eating This Winter – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“While some Russian soldiers in Ukraine are voting with their feet against Vladimir Putin’s shameful war, their hasty retreat doesn’t mean that Putin is surrendering. Last week, in fact, he opened a whole new front — on energy. Putin thinks he’s found a cold war that he can win. He’s going to try to literally freeze the European Union this winter by choking off supplies of Russian gas and oil to pressure the E.U. into abandoning Ukraine.

Putin’s Kremlin predecessors used frigid winters to defeat Napoleon and Hitler, and Putin clearly thinks it’s his ace in the hole to defeat Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who told his people last week, “Russia is doing everything in 90 days of this winter to break the resistance of Ukraine, the resistance of Europe and the resistance of the world.”

I wish I could say for certain that Putin will fail — that the Americans will outproduce him. And I wish I could write that Putin will regret his tactics, because they will eventually transform Russia from the energy czar of Europe to an energy colony of China — where Putin is now selling a lot of his oil at a deep discount to overcome his loss of Western markets.

Yes, I wish I could write all of those things. But I can’t — not unless the U.S. and its Western allies stop living in a green fantasy world that says we can go from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable energy by just flipping a switch.”

“. . . .  But the most important factor for quickly expanding our exploitation of oil, gas, solar, wind, geothermal, hydro or nuclear energy is giving the companies that pursue them (and the banks that fund them) the regulatory certainty that if they invest billions, the government will help them to quickly build the transmission lines and pipelines to get their energy to market.

Greens love solar panels but hate transmission lines. Good luck saving the planet with that approach.”

David Lindsay: Yes and amen. Here is one of several good comments:

Bruce Rozenblit
Kansas City, MOSept. 13

Electrical engineer checking in. Mr Friedman is 100% correct on this one. The most fundamental component to a green energy future will be a massive buildout of our transmission system. No matter what the source of power, it is useless without a means to transmit it across the nation. Now I’m not talking about making our grid smart. I’m talking massive towers with 345 KV and even 500 KV lines. Lots of steel, aluminum and concrete arrayed all across the land. And no, we can’t put these things underground at such high voltages. This is a matter of national security. We built the interstate highway system as a matter of national security. We needed a way to transport weapons and material all over the place. We used eminent domain to acquire the land for the highways. We should do the same for these new transmission lines. A few ranchers cannot be allowed to block our energy security. Pay them a fair price for the land and build away. Most people underestimate how difficult an undertaking this is. Not only will it take years to build out, it will take years to design. Plans have to be drawn up and contracts let. We are talking about tens of billions of dollars in contracts for thousands of miles of transmission lines. And then there will be all the substations and control equipment to hook it all together and make it work. We have to spend the money to do this and the federal government should fund it, just like they did with the highways.

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Thomas L. Friedman | Biden’s Big, Bold, Surprising Plan for a Green Transition (I Hope) – The New York Times

  Opinion Columnist

“While it’s important that the U.S. maintain its longstanding alliance with Saudi Arabia, I wish President Biden had used Zoom for his recent meeting with the Saudi leadership. It was a bad look and bad energy policy for the U.S. president to fly all the way to Saudi Arabia to plead for more oil output when all he had to do was fly to Houston.

When it comes to energy policy today, Biden is not realistically diagnosing our problems or offering a comprehensive solution. (He has also gotten zero help from the G.O.P.) Suspending the federal gasoline tax or draining our strategic petroleum reserves is not a strategy. They are signals that you have none. America is the world’s largest oil producer — not Russia or Saudi Arabia — and we need to get our act together fast by harmonizing three priorities.

In the short term, we need more oil and gas produced in the cleanest ways, with the least methane leakage, to bring down prices at the pump and help dampen inflation. Also in the short term, we need to produce more oil and gas to export to our NATO allies in Europe that have vowed to get off Russian oil — because if the Europeans do so without an abundant alternative, the global price of oil could go to $200 a barrel next winter and force their citizens to choose between heating and eating.”

Most important, for the short term and the long term, we need to produce as much renewable energy and efficiency as possible to help mitigate climate change, which is helping to ignite dangerously high temperatures around the world this month, among many other weird and scary weather phenomena.

In other words, we need a strategy for a GREEN TRANSITION.”

David Lindsay:  I must admit, I  really liked this article. Sometimes, Friedman has the voice of Saruman. Most of the top comments villify Friedman, for allowing that there are any oil and gas execs who aren’t soulless. But I like the idea of asking them for help.

Here is a comment I fully approve:

Bruce Rozenblit
Kansas City, MO July 26

What most people do not realize is the massive contribution fossil fuels make to, not just our economy, but our civilization. It’s in everything. It’s energy moves everything. We have invested about 250 years to build out fossil infrastructure and it’s going to take the rest of the century to get rid of it. Now I’m no apologist for the oil companies, but they do realize how difficult this transition is going to be. This is an all hands on deck situation where all individuals as well as government must participate. In fact, the demand for electricity is going to increase as we switch transportation over to EV’s and heat our homes with heat pumps, and by a lot. Notice the oil executive made no mention of atomic power. It’s as if he is oblivious to it. The only way we can generate the massive amounts of electricity we will need is to utilize atomic power along with renewables. Realistically, we have no choice. Fortunately, there are advanced reactor designs that are now in the pilot plant stage such as TerraPower. Why isn’t big oil investing in these projects? If oil is on the way out, then why not invest in something that can still make money? It appears they don’t see it that way and want to hold onto those wells. The GOP isn’t on board either with atomic power. Again, they are beholden to big oil. This logjam must be broken.

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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 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

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.”