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Fascinating political shifts, including the decisive victory of a figure who had been vilified, have taken place in Ukraine

The war is still about democracy.

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Americans must keep in mind what is at stake in a real military conflict between freedom and tyranny in Europe as Donald Trump’s antics and reports of the GOP’s descent into antidemocratic craziness flood our newsfeeds.

Here are three brand-new pieces from The Atlantic, though, to start.

The Distance

As I’ve stated numerous times, there are many fronts in the global war against democracy, but none are being fought with greater fervor than in Ukraine. Alex Vindman, a former member of the National Security Council staff who is currently in Ukraine, expressed concern this morning that the world would become weary of the fight there because to its protracted nature. Although I can see his concern, I don’t believe that is now taking place. But it’s important to remember what the United States and its allies have at risk in Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine isn’t just a “war” in which two parties are at odds and resort to employing force to enforce their will. The Russian onslaught is not one of the battles described by Prussian high priest of military philosophy Carl von Clausewitz as “an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.” The endeavor to destroy Ukraine is more akin to the Nazi conquering campaigns in World War II, or, for a more futuristic comparison, to the alien war against Earth in the beloved 1996 film Independence Day. When the American president tries to give up to the invaders and inquires about what they require of people in exchange for a cease-fire, they respond with a single word: “Die.”

It isn’t a perfect comparison. In the early stages of the conflict, Vladimir Putin would have accepted a quick and orderly capitulation. He had long before persuaded himself that Russians and Ukrainians are interchangeable, therefore his early objectives did not include destroying Ukrainian cities and inhabitants. He may have believed that Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, would leave following an immediate attack on Kyiv or be assassinated by his own forces, and that Ukrainian children would line the streets with flowers to greet the occupying Russians.

Instead, with assistance from the West, Ukraine fought back and consistently defeated the Russian military. In Moscow, the Russian equivalent of shock and awe changed to shock and dismay, and Putin—whose conceit and ego are now deeply ingrained in this conflict—changed the Russian war objectives from a campaign of swift conquest to a campaign of death and destruction as retaliation for Ukrainian impudence.

What is the current situation like on the battlefield?

As you read the news from Ukraine, keep the following three points in mind:

A deal would not be of interest to the Russians. Russians who believed the war would never affect them are running out of soldiers and supplies, and the fighting is drawing closer to their homes. With assistance from the West, the Ukrainians may outlast the Russians while suffering horrific losses.

Understanding why the United States and its Western allies must fund and maintain the war for the long run is largely dependent on the first premise, that the Russians are not interested in a settlement. Even by Russian standards, Putin will soon reach 70, so this war will go on as long as he continues to breathe. No matter what he says in public, his ultimate objective will always be to subjugate all of Ukraine.

Second, Putin believed he could win quickly while the Russian people went about their daily lives, especially in major cities like Moscow and Leningrad St. Petersburg. But contrary to what Western analysts had projected, the Russian military has proven to be much more brittle. (I’m one of those who makes a mistake.) Putin is now waging the war with more children from the glubinka, the Russian outback, many of whom are of ethnic non-Russian descent, after losing some of his best warriors.

According to some accounts, Putin is even attempting to recruit in prisons by promising Russian inmates a commutation in exchange for participating in the conflict in Ukraine. If the Russian high command sets a lot of convicted criminals in army uniforms loose on the battlefield with guns and grenades, the horrible acts—and perhaps war crimes—we’ve already seen in Ukraine will appear like a warm-up. But this is a sign of desperation in a nation that once took pride in the strength of its military.

Finally, the fight has become and will continue to be a grind. For months, the United States and other countries have delicately balanced their support for Ukraine while avoiding actions (like no-fly zones) that would set off a conflict between Moscow and the West. This is a reasonable course of action, and in my opinion, Joe Biden has done a brilliant job of assisting Ukraine in continuing the conflict. We ought to carry on doing so, supplying more and better weaponry as quickly as we can.

The 40 million Ukrainians, who are battling for their survival as a nation, will be better off in the long run. According to Admiral James Stavridis in an email earlier today, the Russians are carelessly tossing bodies and weapons into the conflict, turning it into “a foot race between Western patience on the Ukrainian side versus Putin’s horrible burn rate of killed-in-action and equipment.” I would rather have Zelensky’s hand of cards than Putin’s, according to Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander.

The Russians may still exert tremendous pressure on Ukraine in the foreseeable future, though. They want to annex Ukrainian territory, even if it means razing entire cities to the ground and leaving dead people in their wake.

It’s a struggle for liberty and democracy. Although Americans may become tired of the news and the gloomy photos, the Ukrainians, who will want the West’s help for a very long time, won’t.

Current News

Water problems along the Colorado River have reached a point where other states must make unheard-of water cuts. The FDA voted to permit over-the-counter sales of hearing aids. A hearing over demands to unseal the probable-cause affidavit of the investigators will take place on Thursday before the federal magistrate judge who authorized the Mar-a-Lago search warrant. (The Justice Department contends that this affidavit should remain sealed in order to safeguard witnesses and maintain the secrecy of the proceedings.)

Dispatches

Brooklyn, All Over: Would we support Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses if it were released today, wonders Xochitl Gonzalez?

Evening Take a look at The Unlovable, Irresistible. Donne, John

Through James Parker

A typical day in Elizabethan London for a nobleman of more or less normal means and customs looked something like this: You got up at four in the morning, wrote 14 letters and a 30-page treatise on the nonexistence of purgatory, engaged in a duel, composed a sonnet, watched a Jesuit get publicly mutilated, created a scientific device, wrote another sonnet, went to the As You Like It premiere, courted someone else’s wife, and then contracted the bubonic plague and perished.

My argument is that the Elizabethans crammed a lot in. With fascism, COVID, and melting glaciers, perhaps future generations will conclude that we are doing a lot for our age. Maybe. However, life for the Elizabethans had a weird contradictory ugly-beautiful density.

Read the entire piece.

More Culture Break Content from The Atlantic

Read. W. E. B. Du Bois’s lost romance book Dark Princess serves as a reminder of how the romance genre can help us see fantastical possibilities.

Watch. HBO On television, Max’s Industry is the most exciting program.

Play our crossword every day.

P.S. The Russian war in Ukraine is hurting both Russian and Ukrainian families and breaking friendships in addition to killing people and leveling towns. Broken Ties, a documentary directed by the Russian Andrei Loshak that you ought to see, depicts conversations about the war among friends and family. Nothing, not even the horror in their own children’s cries or the corpse bags returning from the conflict zone, can break through the bubble that surrounds some Russians.

You will be shocked by the degree of denial present among regular Russians about a war that their own loved ones are experiencing in real time, especially if you think that millions of people’s inability to accept reality regarding the 2020 presidential election is a terrifying aspect of the political landscape in the United States.

— Tom

This newsletter was supported by Isabel Fattal.