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How to Help Ukrainians
And how the Ukrainians have already helped us.
Last night’s TNB with Eliot Cohen was exceptional. I think everyone who watched it came away smarter. I know I did.
Two pieces of rumor this morning which are unconfirmed as I’m writing, but worth thinking about should they be true.
The first is a report that Ukrainian forces have killed Russian Maj. Gen. Andrey Kolesnikov. If true, this would be the third flag-level officer KIA.
Why would this be good news? Obviously it would be helpful because any holes in the Russian command/control structure will create instability and chaos, at least temporarily. And this instability will presumably reverberate both up and down the chain. Any instability in the army is a risk for Putin, because it introduces the possibilities either of the army disintegrating or of him losing control of it.
But the bigger news would be what this loss tells us about both Russian and Ukrainian comms.
The Ukrainians could kill one general by accident. Two by coincidence. But three? That suggests that Russian comms are not secure and that Ukraine has the ability to exploit this vulnerability.
The second report is that the head of the fifth service of the FSB, Sergei Beseda, and his deputy have been placed under house arrest by Putin.
Beseda’s branch supposedly contributed to the planning of the invasion.
If true, this would mean that recriminations have begun in Russia, which, again, will cause instability within the regime.
In order for Putin to be deposed, the high-power players within his government must feel such a high degree of uncertainty that they could reasonably conclude they’d be better off without Putin. If Putin is punishing key officials, it can only destabilize that power structure.
Again, if this report is true, then it would indicate Putin’s hold on power is becoming more tenuous.
Once again: None of this is possible without the valor of Ukraine.
Last night, Prof. Cohen made this point quite beautifully: The Western unity we are seeing, the Russian disarray, the strategic defeat being imposed on Vladimir Putin—the price of all of it is the blood of the Ukrainian people, who rose up as one to defend their country and insist on their right to exist.
We owe them a debt that can never be repaid.
2. How to Help
With luck, Ukrainians will eventually get all the help they need from various governmental organizations. So I don’t think there’s much need for normal folks to try to donate, say, weaponry. The way to leverage giving is to try to find the cracks where large-scale assistance takes longer to ramp up.
So here are some organizations that people have suggested to me that might be useful ways for you to help.
International Red Cross: Surging aid to refugees fleeing to Poland.
Ukrainian Red Cross: Direct aid to the in-country branch.
World Central Kitchen: Getting food to refugees and to those who remain in Ukraine.
MOAS: Helping to bring medical aid to Ukrainian civilians.
JDC: Getting aid to vulnerable Ukrainian Jews.
Ocalenie Foundation: A Polish group helping refugees as they arrive.
Caritas: Has two in-country organizations helping with personal kits, water, and information for displaced Ukrainians.
Razom: Medical supplies and democracy protection.
Kyiv Independent: A free-press operation reporting from Ukraine.
Timothy Snyder has some more direct places to give, because of his on-the-ground contacts in Ukraine. See here. And Professor Beth Gazley, who studies nonprofits, has a short, helpful guide on how to get the maximum leverage for your donations.
Sometimes I feel like all I ever do here is ask you guys to give money to one cause or another, so I’m sorry if this feels like just one more thing.
But I feel like we have a real community, together, and this is the kind of stuff I talk about with my real-life friends. So I wanted to share it with you, too.
Please consider helping if you can. And if you have other ideas or thoughts, discuss them in the comments. Thanks for bearing with me.
3. Leaving Russia
I forking love Russia. I started reading about it as a Cold War kid and while I hated the Commies, I always loved the Russian people. I saw Rocky IV. I knew that, given the chance, the true soul of the Russian people would always cheer for Rocky over Ivan Drago. And to be honest, I also had a lot of sympathy for Drago, too. He didn’t ask for that job. He was as much a victim of the Politburo as everyone else.
But I loved Russia from afar. CNN’s Nic Robertson has spent 30 years in Russia reporting on the country and its people. And now he’s leaving. His farewell essay is heartbreaking.
My first visit to Moscow came in 1990 not long after the Iron Curtain began to fall. I'd seen the Berlin Wall come down in the previous year, heralding the reunification of East and West Germany, and was in Bucharest shortly afterwards when Romanian President Nicolae Ceaușescu was deposed.
Back then a packet of American Marlboro cigarettes waved at the roadside outside the CNN bureau on the imposing Kutuzovsky Prospekt got you a taxi ride, another pack paid for a haircut. Moscow was finally connecting to the world; our bureau had phone lines that I helped install as a young engineer that were direct satellite extensions to our Atlanta switchboard.
During those bright, long summer days, the USSR's last leader Mikhail Gorbachev gave our network permission to erect a stage on Red Square in the center of the Russian capital. We were the first western media to broadcast live from the fabled military parade ground, yards from Lenin's tomb in the shadow of the Kremlin's foreboding brick walls, and were witness to the Soviet Union's last party Congress.
The world was changing, the Cold War thawing, new horizons beckoning, and a generation of Russians was about to taste the freedoms they craved.
Seven years later I helped Gorbachev -- who had been ousted from power not long after our Red Square debut, ousted following a coup, and succeeded by the alcoholic Boris Yeltsin -- climb a rickety iron ladder to another live stage at the top of a swanky new western chain hotel where we were covering the elections that year. Democracy seemed at hand. . . .
In recent days Moscow's clogged arteries have pulsed to flashing blue lights of police vehicles of every size and shape, from lowly traffic cops to lumbering trucks loaded with recently arrested protesters, their strident sirens insisting other traffic yield to them as they blast their way through.
As more Ukrainian cities crumbled under Russian bombardment, at home riot-ready cops enforced Putin's Orwellian writ to crush any sympathy for their neighbors. Across Russia, more than 1,000 protesters a day were arrested during the first week of the war.
We watched as young and old alike, men and women were body-slammed, arms bent excruciatingly behind backs, faces slammed on floors, legs kicked apart by a well-trained, well-paid, menacing human machine. A branch of the state has been grown for this purpose, and it is now being wielded unflinchingly.