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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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 L. Friedman | Putin Had No Clue How Many of Us Would Be Watching – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/03/opinion/ukraine-russia-wired.html

Opinion Columnist

“Almost six weeks into the war between Russia and Ukraine, I’m beginning to wonder if this conflict isn’t our first true world war — much more than World War I or World War II ever was. In this war, which I think of as World War Wired, virtually everyone on the planet can either observe the fighting at a granular level, participate in some way or be affected economically — no matter where they live.

While the battle on the ground that triggered World War Wired is ostensibly over who should control Ukraine, do not be fooled. This has quickly turned into “the big battle” between the two most dominant political systems in the world today: free-market, “rule-of-law democracy versus authoritarian kleptocracy,” the Swedish expert on the Russian economy Anders Aslund remarked to me.

Though this war is far from over, and Vladimir Putin may still find a way to prevail and come out stronger, if he doesn’t, it could be a watershed in the conflict between democratic and undemocratic systems. It is worth recalling that World War II put an end to fascism, and that the Cold War put an end to orthodox communism, eventually even in China. So, what happens on the streets of Kyiv, Mariupol and the Donbas region could influence political systems far beyond Ukraine and far into the future.

Indeed, other autocratic leaders, like China’s, are watching Russia carefully. They see its economy being weakened by Western sanctions, thousands of its young technologists fleeing to escape a government denying them access to the internet and credible news and its inept army seemingly unable to gather, share and funnel accurate information to the top. Those leaders have to be asking themselves: “Holy cow — am I that vulnerable? Am I presiding over a similar house of cards?” “

Excellent essay and comments. Here is my favorite comment in the top 20 or so.

BG
Texas  April 3

While Russian soldiers commit atrocities against civilians, the leaders of NATO stand by and watch. President Zelensky was correct when he said a few weeks ago that Ukrainians were fighting for democracy for all of us. And it is Ukrainians who are paying the price for the West’s courting of Putin and his riches. It is the Ukrainians who are dying, not the citizens of the EU who have not turned off the taps to Russian gas and are thus funding Putin’s war against Ukrainian democracy. Putin never had any security fears from NATO. His fear has always been of democratic government. It’s time for the US and the EU to step up and fight with Ukraine, not just give them weapons that might help them stave off some Russian attacks but will not help them win the war against Putin. Only the combined power of NATO can do that. Putin is a threat to the world, and he needs to be stopped.

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David Lindsay: In the near future, while waiting for NATO to get it’s act together, NATO should send in to Ukraine advanced anti aircraft and anti-missile defense systems, with a few green soldiers, who know how to operate them.

Thomas L. Friedman | How to Defeat Putin and Save the Planet – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/29/opinion/how-to-defeat-putin-and-save-the-planet.html

Opinion Columnist

“It is impossible to predict how the war in Ukraine will end. I fervently hope it’s with a free, secure and independent Ukraine. But here is what I know for sure: America must not waste this crisis. This is our umpteenth confrontation with a petro-dictator whose viciousness and recklessness are possible only because of the oil wealth he extracts from the ground. No matter how the war ends in Ukraine, it needs to end with America finally, formally, categorically and irreversibly ending its addiction to oil.

Nothing has distorted our foreign policy, our commitments to human rights, our national security and, most of all, our environment than our oil addiction. Let this be the last war in which we and our allies fund both sides. That’s what we do. Western nations fund NATO and aid Ukraine’s military with our tax dollars, and — since Russia’s energy exports finance 40 percent of its state budget — we fund Vladimir Putin’s army with our purchases of Russian oil and gas.

Now, how stupid is that?

Our civilization simply cannot afford this anymore. Climate change has not taken a timeout for the war in Ukraine. Have you checked the weather report for the North and South Poles lately? Simultaneous extreme heat waves gripped part of Antarctica this month, driving temperatures there to 70 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the average for this time of year, and areas of the Arctic, making them more than 50 degrees warmer than average.

Those are not typos. Those are crazy superextremes.

“They are opposite seasons — you don’t see the North and the South (Poles) both melting at the same time,” Walter Meier, a researcher with the National Snow and Ice Data Center, recently told The Associated Press. “It’s definitely an unusual occurrence.” And last Friday, no surprise, scientists announced that an ice shelf the size of New York City had collapsed in East Antarctica at the beginning of this freakish warm spell.

It was the first time humans observed “that the frigid region had an ice shelf collapse,” The A.P. noted, adding that if all the water frozen in East Antarctica melts, it would raise sea levels more than 160 feet around the world.”

” , , , , , The best and fastest way to do that, argues Hal Harvey, the C.E.O. of Energy Innovation, a clean energy consultancy, is by increasing clean power standards for electric utilities. That is, require every U.S. power utility to reduce its carbon emissions by shifting to renewables at a rate of 7 to 10 percent a year — i.e., faster than ever.

Utopian? Nope. The C.E.O. of American Electric Power, once utterly coal dependent, has now pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, using mostly natural gas as a backup. Thirty-one states have already set steadily rising clean energy standards for their public utilities. Let’s go for all 50 — now.

At the same time, let’s enact a national law that gives every consumer the ability to join this fight. That would be a law eliminating the regulatory red tape around installing rooftop solar systems while giving every household in America a tax rebate to do so, the way Australia has done — a country that is now growing its renewable markets faster per capita than China, Europe, Japan and America.

When cars, trucks, buildings, factories and homes are all electrified and your grid is running mostly on renewables — presto! — we become increasingly free of fossil fuels, and Putin becomes increasingly dollar poor.” -30-

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
To the Editors of the New York Times,
I appreciate that you dropped your pay wall, for subscribers to share articles about the Covid 19 epidemic. I now think you should drop your pay wall, for subscribers to share articles about climate change and the sixth extinction. I would even argue, that the free articles about covid, are far less important.
As a hawk for the environment, I dare suggest, that the extinction of millions of species, including our own, is a bigger crisis that the pandemic. In fact, pandemics are one of nature’s ways to keep humans from overpopulating themselves to the point of their own oblivion.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.Net

Thomas L. Friedman | Xi, Putin and Trump: The Strongmen Follies – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The last five years have been a master class in comparative politics, because something happened that we’d never seen before at the same time: The world’s three most powerful leaders — Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump — each took drastic steps to hold onto power beyond their designated terms of office. One failed. Two succeeded. And therein lies a tale that says so much about our world today.

Trump failed for one very simple reason: American institutions, laws and norms forced him to cede power at the end of his four years — barely — despite both his efforts to discredit the electoral results and his unleashing of supporters to intimidate lawmakers into overturning his loss at the polls.

Putin and Xi fared better — so far. Unencumbered by institutions and democratic norms, they installed new laws to make themselves, effectively, presidents for life.

Pity their nations.”.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT  

These comments, so critical of Thomas Friedman’s brilliant essay, remind me of a remark by the young woman, Greta Thunberg, “Blah, blah, blah.” The multiple comments against the fascist and white supremacist tendencies in the new Republican party, are perhaps correct, but do not do justice to Friedman, who wasn’t writing this week about the sins and catastrophe which is the new Trumpist Republican party. Friedman’s ending was admirable. It included: “The fact that Putin apparently took that limitless friendship as a green light to invade Ukraine has clearly left Xi flummoxed and floundering. China is a big importer of oil, corn and wheat from Russia and Ukraine, so the Russian invasion has nudged up its costs for these and other food imports, while also helping to drive down China’s stock market (though it is bouncing back). It has also forced China to appear indifferent to Russia’s savaging of Ukraine, straining Beijing’s relations with the European Union, China’s biggest trading partner. I wonder how many officials in Beijing are now muttering: “If this is what happens when you have a president for life. …” ” Thank you Thomas Friedman, for your incisive observations. My fellow commenters, let me remind you, the objects of your attacks, these op-ed writers, are limited to about 800 words, so they address a topic, and not all topics. Often, the best comments, negative or positive, respond to the topic at hand. David blogs right here, in comments, and at InconvenientNews.net.

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EDT commented 4 hours ago

EDT
New York4h ago

@David Lindsay Jr. I agree and appreciate your critique but don’t hold out hope that the commenters you are addressing will read and reflect. It is unfortunate as you note that comment sections get clogged up with folks who just want to vent against the columnist or something but don’t have much to say about the article being commented on. Also echo your appreciation of Tom Friedman’s excellent piece

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Thomas L. Friedman | In Putin’s War on Ukraine, Expect the Unexpected – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Every war brings surprises, but what is most striking about Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine — and indirectly against the whole democratic West — is how many of the bad surprises, so far, have been for Putin and how many of the good surprises have been for Ukraine and its allies around the world.

How so? Well, I am pretty sure that when Putin was plotting this war, he was assuming that by three weeks into it he’d be giving a victory speech at the Ukrainian Parliament, welcoming it back into the bosom of Mother Russia. He probably also assumed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would be in exile in a Polish Airbnb, Russian troops would still be removing all the flowers from their tanks thrown by welcoming Ukrainians, and Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping would be high-fiving each other for having shown NATO and Sleepy Joe who’s going to set the rules of the international system going forward.

Instead, Ukrainians have given Russians a tutorial on fighting and dying for freedom and self-determination. Putin appears locked into his own germ-free isolation chamber, probably worrying that any Russian military officer who comes near may pull a gun on him. Zelensky will be addressing the U.S. Congress virtually. And, rather than globalization being over, individuals all over the world are using global networks to monitor and influence the war in totally unexpected ways. With a few clicks they’re sending money to support Ukrainians and with a few more keystrokes telling everyone from McDonald’s to Goldman Sachs that they must withdraw from Russia until Russian soldiers withdraw from Ukraine.”

DL: Keep  reading.  Amazing story in the full article, of how Americans are using AirBNB, to send money to people in the Ukraine. The resurgence of Covid in China is hurting Russia’s oil revenues.

Thomas L. Friedman | I See 3 Scenarios for How Putin’s Ukraine War Ends – The New York Times

“The battle for Ukraine unfolding before our eyes has the potential to be the most transformational event in Europe since World War II and the most dangerous confrontation for the world since the Cuban missile crisis. I see three possible scenarios for how this story ends. I call them “the full-blown disaster,” “the dirty compromise” and “salvation.”

The disaster scenario is now underway: Unless Vladimir Putin has a change of heart or can be deterred by the West, he appears willing to kill as many people as necessary and destroy as much of Ukraine’s infrastructure as necessary to erase Ukraine as a free independent state and culture and wipe out its leadership. This scenario could lead to war crimes the scale of which has not been seen in Europe since the Nazis — crimes that would make Vladimir Putin, his cronies and Russia as a country all global pariahs.

The wired, globalized world has never had to deal with a leader accused of this level of war crimes whose country has a landmass spanning 11 time zones, is one of the world’s largest oil and gas providers and possesses the biggest arsenal of nuclear warheads of any nation.

Every day that Putin refuses to stop we get closer to the gates of hell. With each TikTok video and cellphone shot showing Putin’s brutality, it will be harder and harder for the world to look away. But to intervene risks igniting the first war in the heart of Europe involving nuclear weapons. And to let Putin reduce Kyiv to rubble, with thousands of dead — the way he conquered Aleppo and Grozny — would allow him to create a European Afghanistan, spilling out refugees and chaos.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
UC Graduate mentions a fourth option, Putin succeeds, and the Trumpistas come back to power, and Putin rebuilds the Soviet Union by killing people and ending democracies. I have a 5th option. NATO gets inspired and shamed by the bravery and horrible suffering of the Ukrainian people, and decides, like adults, to come to Ukraine’s rescue, by admitting them into NATO, and declaring that they will send troops to expel the Russian invasion from the independent country of Ukraine. Then they do it. If the fools and fearful around Putin allow him to destroy the world with the nuclear weapons supposedly at his command, we will not have to worry about the climate crisis or our impending extinction, as part of the sixth great extinction on planet earth.,
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net.