March 11, 2022

The Holodomor was different, the Holocaust was different

The last time the Kremlin had control of Ukraine’s nuclear power stations Chornobyl became a frontpage story

The Holodomor was different, the Holocaust was different

Stalin’s genocides were not seen by the outside world, indeed the Holodomor was covered up by The New York Times.

Hitler’s war was covered by war correspondents but there were only rumors about the Holocaust until liberation at the end of the war.

Putin’s genocide is right there for everyone to see day-after-day often with advance warnings of “graphic scenes”.

Polling and news stories suggest the public thinks Putin should be stopped.

Below there is a Wall Street Journal article on the challenge we face supporting Ukraine. And further down is a Washington Post article about the building danger at Chornobyl and other Ukrainian nuclear power stations.

The last time the Kremlin had control of Ukraine’s nuclear power stations Chornobyl became a frontpage story.

I hope this Michael Ramirez cartoon helps make the case - No-Fly Zone!


The Wall Street Journal

The West’s Challenge: Helping Ukraine Without Firing on Russians

Military analysts think risk of use of nuclear weapons is low, but one that governments don’t want to run [The cost of being risk adverse in dealing with Putin I suggests only delays the inevitable confrontation and costs innocent lives. RAM]

By Stephen Fidler Follow

Updated March 9, 2022 5:37 pm ET

The U.S. and its allies are walking a fine line in Ukraine, seeking to help the Ukrainians thwart the Russian invasion while avoiding crossing Russian red lines and getting pulled into a direct conflict with a nuclear-armed adversary.

So far, Washington and European capitals have responded to the steadily increasing violence of Moscow’s military offensive with weapons deliveries, intelligence sharing and financial aid to Kyiv, as well as sweeping economic sanctions against Russia.

Western efforts to support Ukraine as it fights the Russians go well beyond the assistance the U.S. and its allies delivered to the mujahedeen following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Such intervention is a gray area in conflict. Against a country with nuclear weapons, it is fraught with risks of miscalculation.

The back and forth over whether and how to supply warplanes to Ukraine from NATO’s stock of Soviet-era jets is a sign of the sensitivity of such supplies.

The Pentagon ruled out Wednesday supplying Polish MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine, citing the high risks involved. [The embarrassingly feckless handling of the MiG-29 fiasco should not serve as a distraction for the delivery of other warplanes Ukrainians have been trained to fly. The A-10 Warthog for example. The west should not play deaf to Zelenskyy’s requests. RAM]

Ukrainian servicemen moved U.S.-made Stinger missiles last month. PHOTO: SERGEI SUPINSKY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Earlier, when asked about the possible transfer of the Polish jets, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the use by Ukraine of airfields in other countries would be “a very undesirable and potentially dangerous scenario.” [It is really disappointing and disturbing how successfully the Kremlin has control over what the United States and the west is willing to do in the present circumstance. RAM]

The West so far has also refused Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s pleas to impose a no-fly zone over Ukrainian territory, a step that would also risk a direct confrontation between Western and Russian forces that could seriously escalate.

Military analysts think the risk of the use of nuclear weapons is low but it is a risk governments don’t want to run. [Have these governments – so demonstrably slow in catching on to Putin’s intentions – contemplated the consequences of their current policy? Putin has nuclear weapons thus they will measure their response to his slaughter as he moves west. Do these governments realize Putin still going to have those nuclear weapons as he focuses on Finland and – don’t kid yourselves – a few NATO members. When are these governments going to grasp reality? Putin is not going to stop until he is stopped. Better to take him on in Ukraine where the people are proving to be a better fighting force than any single European member of NATO. RAM]

“The Russians have swallowed the fact that in the midst of a war, Ukraine gets supplied by other countries with military equipment, the kind of step that would always have been considered hostile in the environment of a war,” said Jonathan Eyal, director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London.

Moscow has also turned a blind eye to all the discussion of foreign volunteers joining the conflict, he said.

U.S. soldiers took part in an exercise outside the operating base at Arlamow Airport in Poland. PHOTO: OMAR MARQUES/GETTY IMAGES

On the other hand, President Vladimir Putin has said Russia would regard any nation that participates in a no-fly zone as a participant of the military conflict—and the West appears to be listening. [Listening? No, capitulating. So far NATO has spoken with a deep and firm voice that Putin does not have a vote on what Nation wants to become a member of NATO, he has no veto Brussels declares. Ah, maybe, but Putin clearly has a veto on what the United States and the west will do in Ukraine. An oil field with nukes and the brazen Kremlin leader controls a supposed superpower and its NATO allies. RAM]

Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said the Western allies want to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia that would be risked by trying to impose a no-fly zone.

“NATO and the U.S. seem to have accepted right now that there is a red line of direct fire” between Russian and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces that they won’t cross. One red line has held and another has dissolved, he said.

The trouble with red lines, however, is they get blurry at the edges—and they can change over time.

One reason Russia hasn’t threatened consequences for supplying Ukraine with arms may be that it can’t do much about it. Later in the conflict, if its forces move west, it may seek to choke off these supply lines, bringing an increased risk of direct conflict between Russia and NATO. [“May” – really? Is there really a doubt? Putin will impose his will and death wherever he can as long as he can get away with it. He is drawing the red lines and the more powerful forces are staying away from his lines. If they are ever going to stand up to Putin, when will it be? How many lives have to be lost? RAM]

Political pressure in the West may also keep the no-fly zones in play. No-fly zones can be interpreted in different ways. They could be limited to providing protection for humanitarian evacuations, tasked to stop Russian aircraft from flying or even to prevent missiles from being launched, which would entail attacking Russian ground facilities. [Damn right political pressure is going to keep no-fly zones in play. Putin has played three straight American administrations and in doing so has put Ukraine and, realize it or not, the west in the vulnerable position it is in today. Had they understood what clearly was coming this war would not be taking place. As political pressure continues maybe the governments who have been “hearing without listening” will begin to hear and realize their mistakes. First step to take - No-Fly Zone RAM]

Mr. O’Brien said that he can’t see a way for any no-fly zone to avoid crossing the red line. “No matter how you define it, you would end up with NATO firing on Russia, unless the Russians choose not to contest it,” he said. [It is only a matter of time. Now better than later. The ghost of Chamberlain needs to be put to rest. RAM]

In assessing the risks of intervention, the U.S. and its allies also make judgments about benefits. In ruling out the supply of Polish MiG-29s to Ukraine, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said they wouldn’t add significantly to the effectiveness of the Ukrainian air force against Russia. [True or backfill to diminish the MiG-29 fiasco? RAM]

A jet fighter pilot before taking off for a daily NATO border-watch mission sortie over Poland at the Mont-de-Marsan air base, France. PHOTO: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Ukraine’s own jets are still flying and Russian air power isn’t playing the critical role that Western assessments expected before the invasion. [That clearly depends on what you want to see. Maybe Russian air power hasn’t done what western analysts expected but the people of Ukraine likely think those Russian planes have played a critical role. Think bombing hospitals and other civilian targets. RAM]

Wednesday said that “Ukrainian air defenses appear to have enjoyed considerable success against Russia’s modern combat aircraft, probably preventing them achieving any control of the air.”

An appraisal from Justin Bronk, a specialist in military air power also at the Royal United Services Institute, concludes that one important reason for the Russian air force’s failure to intervene decisively, despite its modern equipment, is that it “lacks the institutional capacity to plan, brief and fly complex air operations at scale.”

It operates aircraft in small numbers, at low altitudes and often at night because its aircraft are vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles launched by the Ukrainians, he said.

“It might be that greater SAM support would be of more immediate use to the Ukrainians than trying to hand over more complex jets,” said Mr. O’Brien. He said the supplies by the U.S. and others of Stinger surface-to-air missiles to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s may have made the war unwinnable for the Soviets.

On the other hand, if NATO does get into a direct confrontation with Russia, it is hard to know where it would end. In some ways, the risks have been heightened by the Russian military’s poor performance in Ukraine.

Russia said it would allow civilians to leave some besieged cities starting Wednesday; residents in Mariupol have gone without power and water for more than a week; satellite images show extensive damage around a bridge leading to Kyiv. Photo: Maxar Technologies/AFP

“Russia doesn’t want to get into a direct confrontation with NATO because if they get into a direct confrontation with NATO, it either goes nuclear or they lose,” said Mr. O’Brien. [Choice of words matter. Russia doesn’t want a direct confrontation. Why, because Russia would lose, and it is time NATO and the United States understand that is what must happen. The Kremlin’s threats are not neighborly warnings to spare the west a defeat. They are threats hoping to curtail the west’s involvement because U.S./NATO involvement would mean Russian defeat. And Putin has to be defeated or his war will continue. One way or another he will continue his war unless he is defeated and stopped. RAM]

Analysts say they think the risk that Moscow uses nuclear weapons is very low, despite Mr. Putin’s repeated reminders that Russia has them. It would be a disaster for Russia and wouldn’t help its war aims in Ukraine. The U.S. and Russian militaries set up a hotline this month to further reduce the risks. However, the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons would be so horrible that the U.S. and its allies are reluctant to run even this very small risk. [Understand, I do not discount the risk but Putin started the war and once he did the risks are there. Avoidance only puts off the inevitable. RAM]

Lawrence Freedman, professor emeritus of war studies at King’s College, London, said he believes Mr. Putin is “still thinking in deterrence terms—not offensive—but nonetheless it indicates this is pretty high stakes.”

“I think no-fly zones fall away on that basis. We are not going to go to war with Russia.” [I do not have a “emeritus” before or after my name but it seems pretty clear to me that we are at war – a war Putin started. And I believe anyone pretending Putin's war is only with Ukraine is misreading and misunderstanding what he is doing and where he intends to go. It is past time for a no-fly zone maybe a humanitarian no-fly zone but I no-fly zone to protect civilians in Ukraine. Think the "victory" markings on the jet in Rameriz's cartoon. RAM]

Write to Stephen Fidler at

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Appeared in the March 10, 2022, print edition as ‘West’s Tactical Challenge: Navigating Putin’s Red Lines.’

A Soviet-era radar system, once used as part of an early-warning missile defense network, stands behind a sign warning of radioactivity at Chernobyl in 2018. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

A Headline on A-10 of The Washington Post print edition this morning –

WHO: 18 attacks so far on health facilities in Ukraine

[Again think the "victory" markings on the jet in Rameriz's cartoon. RAM]


The Washington Post

Chernobyl plant disconnected from power grid; Ukraine demands cease-fire for urgent repairs

Ukraine’s closed Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been disconnected from the nation’s power grid by Russian forces, Ukraine’s state-owned grid operator Ukrenergo said Wednesday, potentially jeopardizing the cooling of nuclear material stored at the site.

“Because of military actions of Russian occupiers the nuclear power plant in Chornobyl was fully disconnected from the power grid. Nuclear station has no power supply,” Ukrenergo said in a statement on its official Telegram page, using Ukraine’s spelling for the plant. [It took forever to get The Washington Post and other media to stop using the Russian spelling for Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. They still resist using the Ukrainian spelling for Chornobyl but at least here it is noted. RAM]

Electricity is needed for cooling, ventilation and fire-extinguishing systems at the closed site. In a statement on its Facebook page, Ukrenergo also said that emergency diesel generators have been turned on but that the fuel would last for only 48 hours.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday demanded a cease-fire with Russia to allow repairs.

“The only electrical grid supplying the Chornobyl NPP and all its nuclear facilities occupied by Russian army is damaged,” he tweeted. “… I call on the international community to urgently demand Russia to cease fire and allow repair units to restore power supply.”

He warned that after reserve diesel generators run out of fuel, “cooling systems of the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel will stop, making radiation leaks imminent. Putin’s barbaric war puts entire Europe in danger.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday on Twitter that the power loss “violates [a] key safety pillar on ensuring uninterrupted power supply,” but it added that “in this case IAEA sees no critical impact on safety.” The agency said factors including the volume of cooling water at Chernobyl were “sufficient for effective heat removal without need for electrical supply.”

The IAEA also said Tuesday that it had lost contact with monitoring systems that transmit data on nuclear material at the Chernobyl plant. [Hum, making definitive statements after loss of contact with the monitoring systems. I am not sure that is comforting. RAM]

The U.N. nuclear watchdog’s director general “indicated that remote data transmission from safeguards monitoring systems installed at the Chornobyl NPP had been lost,” the IAEA said in a statement.

“The Agency is looking into the status of safeguards monitoring systems in other locations in Ukraine and will provide further information soon,” it added.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted Wednesday that the IAEA had “unexpectedly lost connection” with the monitoring systems, calling it an “extremely dangerous situation.”

The Chernobyl plant, then under the Soviet Union’s control, was the scene of a 1986 disaster in which explosions and fires sent a huge radioactive cloud over parts of Europe and left contaminated soil and other fallout, which remains dangerous, at the plant site.

The catastrophe ranks as the world’s worst nuclear power plant accident.

Last month, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that its forces had taken control of the area near the site as part of Russia’s wider invasion of Ukraine, sparking global alarm. [The world saw what happened back when “the Center” (Kremlin) had control of Chornobyl. And back then the Kremlin was not freely and repeatedly talking about nuclear weapons, nuclear war, etc. pounding its collective chest to threaten and deter. Regardless of the bellicose rumblings out of Putin and the Kremlin, I know I don’t want that bunch to have control of Ukraine’s nuclear energy facilities. RAM]

The European Union said in a statement Wednesday that it was “extremely concerned” by the nuclear safety risks “caused by the Russian invasion on Ukraine and the potential damage to its nuclear facilities.”

It issued an “urgent call” for Russia to end its military operations near all nuclear power facilities in Ukraine and to allow their safe operation.

“We must do everything that we can to prevent a nuclear accident, incident or other radiological emergency that could seriously impact local populations, neighboring countries and the international community. It is time to act to avoid such a scenario,” the statement said. [But of course they are hoping for Russia to “act”. Decisive action is not a specialty of Europe. RAM]

Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko also said Wednesday, according to Reuters, that authorities do not know what the radiation levels are at Chernobyl and have no control over what is happening at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, which was seized by Russian forces last week.

The IAEA this week reiterated an offer to both sides for the director general to travel to Chernobyl and other sites in Ukraine to help protect nuclear facilities amid the conflict. [Now, if some arrangement is made for this fellow to travel to Chornobyl and I were him I would be asking for a no-fly zone – just saying. RAM]

The Chernobyl zone, one of the most radioactively contaminated places in the world, has remained closed since 1986, although a small number of people still live in the area — mostly elderly Ukrainians who refused to evacuate.

The building containing the exploded reactor from 1986 was covered in 2017 with an enormous shelter aimed at containing radiation still leaking from the accident.

Robots inside the shelter work to dismantle the destroyed reactor and gather up radioactive waste. It is expected to take until 2064 to finish safely dismantling the reactors.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said Ukrainian authorities have told the agency that it was “increasingly urgent” to rotate out the Chernobyl plant’s 210 technical employees and guards to ensure “safe management” amid “worsening” conditions. They have been working at the plant since Russian forces took control. [I am not a nuclear expert but it seems to me like we are looking at a recipe for disaster. RAM]

“I’m deeply concerned about the difficult and stressful situation facing staff at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and the potential risks this entails for nuclear safety,” Grossi said. “I call on the forces in effective control of the site to urgently facilitate the safe rotation of personnel there.”

Annabelle Chapman contributed to this report.

Please note - and know - the headline for this email, the introduction and the parenthetical comments throughout are Mr. McConnell's and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation or the Friends of Ukraine Network.