A Few Ukraine Links

Flag Ukraine Silhouette Ruins Soldier War
CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain photo via Max Pixel

No time for analysis, but I found the following to be worth a read.

First, an analysis by Allen Little of the BBC: Ukraine war: Putin has redrawn the world – but not the way he wanted. It makes a case, with which I agree, about the way in which this war will likely change (or, indeed, has already changed) global politics. I will caveat that by saying placing the war in the historical list in which he does may be a bit premature. Still, I don’t think it is off-the-wall, either.

Second is an interview in Der Spiegel with Bulgarian political scientist, Ivan Krastev: “Putin Lives in Historic Analogies and Metaphors”. Among the things discussed: Putin’s state of mind, the historical narratives that shape the situation, and like the BBC piece, how all of this could change global politics (especially European politics).

A key excerpt in regards to Ukrainian identity:

Krastev: There is a Harvard study about the results of asymmetric wars. At the end of the 19th century, the stronger military power almost always won. In the second half of the 20th century, the militarily weaker side won in 55 percent of the wars. Did anyone think that Afghanistan could fend off the U.S.? I don’t think the Ukrainians can hold out in the long run, but I also think that a long-term occupation of Ukraine is impossible – because of the uprisings that are to be expected and also because of the economic costs of such an occupation. That is the terrible paradox of this war for Putin: The only thing that the world has learned in the past weeks is that Russians and Ukrainians are not a single people. In a certain sense, Ukrainians are even prepared to let their own state founder as a way of gaining an identity.

This reminded me of a tweet from Mississippi State political scientist Vasabjit Banerjee:

While the military side of all of this is not yet settled, the reality is that Putin has achieved the exact opposite of what he wanted: Ukraine is now further out of Russia’s orbit than perhaps it ever has been. (Not to mention that his aspirations of returning Russia to the status of superpower has been dashed).

In regards to European politics:

…There was that one tweet: On a single day, Putin managed to put an end to Swedish neutrality and German pacifism.


This crisis has destroyed a couple of stereotypes. The Germans have slaughtered two sacred cows. Nord Stream 2 as a symbol of German mercantilism, and pacifism as a symbol of German moralism. Even stereotypes about Eastern Europe have disappeared. Suddenly, the unempathetic East is bending over backwards to take in refugees. And all that is happening because there is an identifiable enemy. The Polish government hasn’t suddenly become more democratic in the last two weeks, but it did realize that the true threat to its sovereignty isn’t coming from Brussels, but from Moscow.

I recommend both pieces.

And a bonus link: political statement or expression of school spirit? Via the BBC: Russia denies cosmonauts board space station in Ukrainian colours

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Lounsbury says:

    For the cosmonauts, one has to suspect ‘plausible deniability’ as difficult to fully credit school spirit (which is for me mostly a very American thing) blinding them to the symbolism…

  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    Both of those are good articles and here’s a second to your recommendation.

    Yesterday a tumblr ran the picture of Lee Miller bathing in Hitler’s tub at his Munich apartment, my thought was, “hurry the day when we see a journalist bathing in Putin’s tub”.

  3. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog:
    Actually, Zelenskyy bathing in Hitler’s tub might be even better.

  4. CSK says:

    Excuse me. I meant Zelenskyy bathing in Putin’s tub. Blame it on an insufficiency of coffee.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Lounsbury: Over at Balloon Juice Adam Silverman notes that Russian cosmonauts wore yellow and blue flight suits once before, in 2014 right after Russia seized Crimea. This appears to have been a planned gloat and statement that Ukraine is Russian that went as well as their war plan.

    He also notes that people have been looking at satellite photography looking for an ammunition dump in western Ukraine that looks like the one in the video of the mighty Russian hypersonic missile strike. They’ve found a farm in eastern Ukraine. I heard some talking head say if it was the Dagger hypersonic missile, it’s still in a prototype stage and they may have an inventory of three.

  6. Mister Bluster says:

    @Sleeping Dog:..tumblr

    The tumblr link needs a Trigger Warning for T&A!

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    That hypersonic missile was evidence of desperation. You don’t waste your fanciest toy blowing up a building, that’s a job for a dumb bomb or a regular cruise missile. Hypersonic missiles are about penetrating sophisticated air defenses, particularly at sea. The Ukrainians don’t have that kind of defense.

    I take it as a lame attempt to convince the world that Russia isn’t as weak as it seems to be. “Okay, we can’t actually manage a convoy because we have too few trucks and the ones we have are broken down, but look! We have a go fast missile!”

  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    I have no interest in easy bets, I only like to bet against the odds, so I’m putting a chip down on this: I suspect we actually are arranging to move the Polish jets to Ukraine. It’s not the sort of thing you’d want the Russian air force alerted to, it’s something you’d want to do on a moonless night, figuratively. It’s quite a complicated thing to pull off, as is moving F-16s to Poland. So, my fearless prediction: sometime in the next two weeks the Ukrainians will get the jets.

  9. Matt says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I doubt it.

    The majority of mig 29s in poland were sold to poland for a buck each from germany (Mig 29a and UB versions). Those planes supposedly got NATO related updates to the avionics, radios, and such after the sale. No telling what language was used in the updates and how much NATO only stuff was installed. If they installed NATO regulation hardpoints Ukraine might have munitions issues. Those german migs weren’t used in Kosovo for multiple reasons including the excessive hand holding required for vectoring. Germany sold them for a symbolic price for very good reasons.

    As for the mig29 itself there’s some problems with the Ukrainians using them. The biggest problem is the prevalence of Russian SAMs everywhere. There’s plenty of missiles available for the Russians to chuck at Ukrainian aircraft. The mig29s are outdated and the Russians are fielding far better aircraft. The mig29 came with a terrible passive radar array and I’ve read nothing about upgrading those. The situational awareness in a mig29 cockpit is almost nonexistent and requires a constant feed of information from local controllers. Russian doctrine was basically “defend near airfield and do only what you’re told to do”. So the plane presents less information to the pilot than one would see in western planes. Mig29s also have issues with ingesting debris on airfields. They guzzle fuel and leave a nice visible exhaust trail.

    Prior to the war Ukraine’s airforce was poorly maintained and the mig29 requires a lot of maintenance to fly.

    Ukraine would get a lot more bang for the buck out of armed drones.

  10. Michael Reynolds says:


    Ukraine would get a lot more bang for the buck out of armed drones.

    Not if you’re thinking air cover for a counterattack. Drones don’t kill Sukhois. Granted Stingers and SAMs, but still, you’d want some jets in the air. Also useful if you wanted to be cheeky and strike a target inside Russia.

    Ukraine has superiority in numbers, and that advantage is growing. Ukraine has a few hundred tanks and other armored vehicles. I could see them picking their time and place (the advantage of interior lines) and putting together a credible thrust.

  11. JohnSF says:

    On Ukrainian national identity:
    There are grounds for it being rather more of a thing than Tilly or Krastev think; but in a negative way.

    There is/was a strong current of anarchism in Ukrainian politics, culture and attitudes.
    A massive distrust of, and cynicism regarding, politicians, administrators and officials of all sorts.
    This is rather understandable, given the history of the place.

    The default attitude was for society and politics/the state to be opponents, in a way that is difficult for most westerners to grasp.
    (This is according to the explication of a couple of Ukrainians back in 2014; but their arguments seem to hold)

    The party politics of post-Soviet Ukraine was dominated by oligarch controlled, and mafiya-entwined, parties, and ubiquitous corruption and suborning of legality.
    The same pattern as in Russia; interrupted by the revolutionary outbreaks of 2004 and 2014.
    The Euro-Maidan, as it is called: note the “Euro”.

    A lot of what is taken to be “ethnic” political divisions may relate much more to rival oligarch networks power bases.
    Which is why the periodic “how shocking!” nonsense about “overthrowing a duly elected president” in 2014 misses the point.

    The oligarchic grip on Ukrainian politics has only slowly eroded since 2014.
    Euro-Maidan was one element.
    Poroshenko’s election another, partial, one (look at the electoral map for Poroschenko compared to previous elections)
    Zelensky’s election another step: yet another national upsurge of “anti-politics” at work.

    The linguistic divides in Ukraine sometimes relates to “ethnicity” (which a lot of outsiders, and Americans particularly often misunderstand: see Scots or Swiss for similar cases “ethnic” groups with shared “national” identification) but also to urbanisation.
    The countryside, the peasantry, was and is (even in the “Russian speaking” east) largely Ukranophone; the central, eastern and southern cities, Russophone, due to social and political factors. Ukranophones who moved to the cities often became Russophone or bilingual in a generation.

    Now, a massive factor in Ukranophone Ukrainian “national” consciousness.
    Ukrainian was primarily the dominant language of the countryside, of the peasants.
    That, if you are familiar with Russian history may start to ruing a bell.

    Before 1861, serfs. (And in a lot of ways, little better than serfs even after 1861, until 1917)

    Consider the biography of the iconic Ukainain nationalist poet Taras Shevchenko

    These lines in particular:

    Through these men Shevchenko also met famous painter and professor Karl Briullov, who donated his portrait of Russian poet Vasily Zhukovsky as a lottery prize. Its proceeds were used to buy Shevchenko’s freedom on 5 May 1838

    To buy his freedom.
    Why yes, Victoria, they were slaves.
    Almost ALL Ukrainians were slaves (the Ukranophones, that is: c.90%)
    Enslaved, or enserfed if you prefer, by the Russian empire after it’s expansion into Ukraine.
    And that is one key point in understanding the Ukrainian attitude toward the Russian state.

    (Of course, most Russian were slaves also: but the historical and cultural ramifications rather different. But that’s another post entirely. He threatened.)

  12. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Tumblr outlawed forward presenting female nipples several years ago, to there are no T’s there :), but maybe some A

  13. JohnSF says:

    Important caveat to my comment above:
    This applies to the formerly Russian Imperial areas.

    The formerly Austrian (for a time) area of Ruthenia (Carpathian Mts and area around Lviv) had serfdom abolished in 1781.
    And the Polish and Austrian forms of serfdom had serfs bound to the soil, but did not allow them to be sold as persons (they could be, and were, sold as a land/serf package as part of an estate).

    Russian serfdom came to include sale of persons i.e. full chattel slavery, during the 18th century.

    There were also some peasants who remained non-serf, especially Serbs and Russified Germans who had settled in south Ukraine; and the other urban populations (Jewish, Polish, Greek, Tatar) ; it’s complicated. 🙂

    And the linguistic map is not irrelevant either, though not quite as dominant as some people think.
    Cultural and civil-political networks, as well as oligarch networks, mafiya alliances, meia circulations and “machine”-political networks all form and propagate more readily within a given linguistic zone.
    But (and this is important) often the rural and urban areas in what seems to be a geographically distinct zone are often markedly different.
    Compare this map, of dominant languages in districts, with this one, of dominant languages by percentages.
    This difference due to urban areas that don’t cover that much ground have more people.

  14. Matt says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Not if you’re thinking air cover for a counterattack. Drones don’t kill Sukhois. Granted Stingers and SAMs, but still, you’d want some jets in the air. Also useful if you wanted to be cheeky and strike a target inside Russia.

    Sukhois don’t capture land.

    Ukrainian MANPADS and mobile sam systems are the ones shooting down Sukhois. Those are the reasons why the few air strike made by the Russian jets have been at night and low altitude. The stingers are quite good at defending against low flying aircraft though so those changed things. The Ukrainians are counter attacking quite well without air superiority.

    You continue to ignore the maintenance and supply issues involved with the old polish migs. That the Ukrainians were pretty bad about maintaining their own airforce. That Ukraine keeps losing and retaking airports. That the mig29 isn’t a good plane for improvised airfields. Drones are awesome in that situation though as they can take off from about anything.

    Hitting Russia from Ukraine with mig 29s is a pipe dream at best and a waste of resources. There’s a wall of AA and SAM positions between Ukraine and any target in Russia proper. The mig29 fully loaded with external fuel tanks has a FERRY range of roughly 1300 miles. That’s running at optimal throttle settings and with no afterburner or maneuvering and an one way trip. It could get them into Russia proper but not far and I don’t see any targets that would be worth it.

    Ukraine has superiority in numbers, and that advantage is growing. Ukraine has a few hundred tanks and other armored vehicles. I could see them picking their time and place (the advantage of interior lines) and putting together a credible thrust.

    Depends on what numbers you’re talking about. IN aircraft Ukraine is dwarfed by Russia in theater already. Russia can still go full tilt war and just start blasting everything. Up until now though they have been showing a surprising amount of restraint considering their history.

    The real fight is in the south.

  15. JohnSF says:

    I’d agree that MiG’s probably of limited utility at present compared to SAM.
    But they might be useful, at some point. Can’t hurt to have them.
    More useful might be higher grade SAM: Turkish S-400’s would be amusing.

    Above all, long range sub-munitions carrying missiles would be a real game-changer.
    But they would take time to obtain and train.

    As for restraint in the artillery war, they haven’t shown much in Mariupol or Kharkiv.
    I’d suggest the real reason for lack of heavy bombardment of Kyiv it’s not been restraint but constraint.
    That much of the artillery and ammunition is pretty certainly tangled up in the epic supply column chaos north of Kyiv.
    That, and actually getting a secured area in range is proving difficult, as Ukrainians seem to still be stamping on attempts to extend the area of control.

  16. charon says:

    Why Ukraine resisted Russia’s invasion:

    A thread:


    How Putin managed to derussify East Ukraine in just 8 years?

    Discussion on the potential deescalation of the war in Ukraine with all security implications it has illustrates the difference between the goal- oriented and the system-oriented thinking

  17. charon says:

    Down the above linked thread a ways,


    Putin’s conflict manufacturing strategy irreversibly de-Russified East Ukraine. Whatever pro-Russian sentiments existed there, are gone now. Ties with Russian kins over the border severed. Donbass War triggered this process and Z-invasion completed it. Russian Ukraine is no more

  18. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    I have a sneaking suspicion the whole public debate/request from Ukraine for MiG’s is really just posturing and theater. Zelensky keeps publicly pushing for them, castigating the West. We don’t supply them, but continue to shove vast quantities of AA and AT weaponry into Ukraine. Russia complaining about aid provided gets drowned out by the yelling about the aid we are NOT providing.

    Basically, while TFG definitely did not play multi-dimensional chess, I can completely see Zelensky, Biden, and other leaders privately snickering and agreeing–yeah, you keep publicly demanding the showy shit, we’ll keep giving you the good stuff.

  19. JohnSF says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:
    But another possibility may be that MiG’s might have some utility later on, if Ukraine is fighting in the south-western third of the country in May.
    Just a thought; there may be more to plan for than just the next few days and weeks.
    Though of course, those days and weeks are the most important thing right now.

    Longer term, if only a ground launch variant of the AGM-158 JASSM and/or SCALP EG-Storm Shadow was available, they’d be enormously useful.

  20. Andy says:

    Mig-29s aren’t useless but aren’t very useful in the current conflict. Ukraine will get much more bang-for-buck from other types of assistance.

    The current conflict in the air is dominated by ground-based air defenses. Fighter aircraft just aren’t very useful. Plus, neither Ukraine nor Russia is very good at deconfliction – so keeping those fighters from being mistakenly shot down by Ukrainian air defenses – to include gomers in the field with MANPADs – greatly lessens their utility.


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