— Пeрзидент Роисси (@KermlinRussia) October 11, 2022
My only conclusion, after reporting this piece, that Russia's war in Ukraine is being prosecuted by a bunch absolute fucking psychos. https://t.co/eL46xjarbp
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) October 12, 2022
Russian (childhood) expat — ““General Armageddon” & Putin’s Bridge to Nowhere”:
… Vladimir Putin described the attacks as retaliation for the explosion that partly demolished his beloved bridge across the Kerch Strait connecting the Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland. If you look at a map of the area, you realize that Nikita Khrushchev wasn’t, as Putin claims, a dunce and a traitor for making Crimea part of the Ukrainian S.S.R., rather than the Russian S.S.R. It’s a peninsula, and its only connection by land is to Ukraine, not Russia. It’s why Putin sent “volunteers” into eastern Ukraine as soon as he annexed Crimea in March 2014: he needed a land bridge, an easy way to get to this fancy new peninsula he’d stolen from his neighbor, as well as a way of supplying it with water, power, food and all kinds of other vital necessities. Unfortunately for Putin, his forces were stopped at Mariupol by the newly formed Azov Battalion, made up, in part, of far-right Ukrainian nationalists.
Putin had another plan to connect Crimea to the Russian mainland. Less than an hour after announcing the annexation, the Kremlin announced the tender for a state contract to build a bridge across the Kerch Strait, the body of water between Crimea and Russia. Putin gave the $5 billion contract to his childhood judo buddy, Arkady Rotenberg, a man who was such a talented businessman that he became a billionaire in the first decade of Putin’s rule. The bridge, which was supposed to accommodate both car and rail traffic, was a priority for the Kremlin, and unlike every other government project, it was finished ahead of schedule, just in time for Putin’s third reelection, in 2018.
Putin put a lot of stock in that bridge. As a man who thinks often about his historic legacy, he spoke explicitly about how he was able to accomplish a great feat of engineering, of crossing a sea that both Nicholas II and Josef Stalin had attempted, but failed, to conquer.
And so, we can imagine the agony that Putin felt when he discovered, in the early hours of October 8, that his bridge had been engulfed in a massive fireball that completely destroyed one of the two sections that carried automotive traffic, and damaged several kilometers of railway track. It could not have escaped his noticed that whoever had planned the bombing just missed his 70th birthday by a few hours. A report later indicated that the driver of the eighteen-wheeler that allegedly carried the explosives onto the bridge was set to detonate them on the day of the Russian president’s jubilee, but had stopped to take a nap…
It took Putin 36 hours to respond. On Sunday, in a hastily-staged, televised meeting in Putin’s office with his old college classmate and former K.G.B. buddy, Alexander Bastrykin, the slightly psychotic head of the feared Investigative Committee, the president let his country know that the bridge had been blown up by the Ukrainian special forces in an act of terrorism. Retaliation would be swift. Within hours, cruise missiles and other rockets were flying at every major city in Ukraine, disturbing whatever sense of normalcy had returned to Kyiv, the capital, or Lviv, in the far west.
It was a clear campaign of terror, and many close observers saw the fingerprints of one man: General Sergei Surovikin. A tall, stocky man with a shaved pate and an arched brow, Surovikin looks like a more menacing version of Mike Myers’ Dr. Evil. He was appointed to head Russia’s “special military operation” on the day of the bridge calamity, October 8, which was surely no coincidence. The news was hailed by hardliners all across the propaganda machine, from Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov to television host and propaganda harpy Olga Skabeeva, who reminded everyone that Surovikin’s last name had its roots in the word surovy, meaning harsh or severe, and that his nickname was “General Armageddon.”…
Random terrorist attacks against Ukrainian cities at a time when Russia is losing on the ground in Eastern Ukraine won’t lessen Ukraine’s resolve (in fact, the opposite), but we need to try to understand here what Putin is thinking.
— Sergey Radchenko (@DrRadchenko) October 10, 2022
Another Russian expat, now a historian:
First, he is just retaliating in rage against the Crimean bridge attack. He has already framed this as a “terrorist” act, which makes it easier to sell murderous strikes on Ukrainian civilians as a tit-for-tat. At the same time, he’s responding to right-wing calls for escalation.
Remember all of this is happening in the context of a fairly unruly few days for the Russian establishment characterized by visible attacks on Shoigu from Kadyrov and co. So this is Putin “reasserting control” and responding to probable domestic critics.
Second, this is a (highly futile) effort to undermine Zelensky’s support base by demonstrating that Kyiv is not safe and that for all the news from the frontlines, Zelensky has not been able to make it any safer than it was at the start of this war.
Finally, and this is probably the key motivation, this strike aims to demonstrate capability, if not the intent, to obliterate Kyiv because of course there’s an implied nuclear threat behind each conventional strike into the heart of the Ukrainian capital.
Putin is basically saying here that he cannot be outplayed in the fame of oneupmanship simply because he suffers from no moral restraints. It’s a serious message and it’s not clear yet what our response to this will be.
President Nixon talked a big game about his Madman Theory, but it’s beginning to seem as though Putin actually has come unmoored from consensus reality…
The sure way to avoid nuclear war is for Russia not to start one. If they don’t do it, nobody else will.
Likewise, the sure way to end the invasion of Ukraine is for Russia to withdraw from Ukraine. The war is all of Russia’s making. The war stops when Russia stops it.
— David Frum (@davidfrum) October 9, 2022
When you hear talk of the alleged danger of “humiliating” the Putin, it’s most often from a talker who is ouching from the humiliation of his/her past cheerleading for Putin. They hope that if western diplomacy rescues Putin from his debacle, it will also redeem them from theirs.
A successful defense of democracy by a coalition of fellow-democracies that exposes the western supporters of Putin, right and left, as crooked and stupid – that is the outcome that the pro-Putin talkers fear. That’s why they invoke “nuclear war” to head that outcome off.
Firing a nuclear weapon onto a Ukrainian field or into a Ukrainian city would be a horrific crime. But it won’t save Putin from defeat. There’s only one thing that can save him: his western friends, headed by Donald Trump. They are invoking “nuclear war” to justify themselves.
Putin’s western friends are acting for the same ghastly mix of reasons as ever. For them, nothing has changed this fall. For them, “nuclear” is only the latest argument to frighten non-stooge voters into doing what the stooges wanted to do all along, for their own stooge reasons.
Meanwhile, what is actually deterring Putin from using nuclear weapons is the same thing that deterred the USSR before him: Western capabilities and his own survival instinct. Without nukes, he still has a path to emerge from this war alive, even keep power. If he uses them? No.
When this war ends, and for many years afterward, those in the West who don’t value or cherish the economic and security architecture that links democracies from Estonia to New Zealand – will blush when Ukrainians answer: “We believed in you. Why won’t you believe in yourselves?”
— Emile Ghessen (@emileghessen) October 7, 2022