Be careful what you wish for

Right-wing dictatorship

Robert Barnes, “Supreme Court denies GOP requests to block new congressional maps in N.C., Pa.,” Washington Post, March 7, 2022,


If that light at the end of the tunnel isn’t just that radioactive flash that precedes the mushroom cloud, it might be that the Ukrainian military continues to wildly outperform expectations and that the Russian military continues to confound the experts by underperforming the same expectations. Russia has also apparently dropped its “denazification” demand and will settle for Ukrainian neutrality, that is, no European Union or North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership; recognition of Crimea as Russian territory; and recognition of separatist eastern regions as independent. It’s still an awfully big ask and Ukraine, buoyed by this continuing battlefield success, might well refuse.[1]

As implausible as it may seem,[2] I am convinced that Vladimir Putin must be utterly defeated and utterly humiliated, whether through some sort of coup or on the battlefield, and forced to abandon his imperial ambitions. If I am to embrace Julia Ioffe’s recommended pessimism,[3] this is the only hope for averting a wider war.[4]

The trick is in getting to that point: Doing so undermines the very assumptions that many experts rely on in assuming that Putin will not go nuclear.[5] Be careful what you wish for, because I sure as hell utterly fail to see a way through this conundrum.

Associated Press, “Russia-Ukraine War: What to know as Ukraine resists advance,” February 28, 2022,

Larisa Brown, “Ukraine resistance shatters Putin’s plan for victory in 48 hours,” Times, February 28, 2022,

Martin Farrer, Andrew Roth, and Julian Borger, “Ukraine war: sanctions-hit Russian rouble crashes as Zelenskiy speaks of ‘crucial’ 24 hours,” Guardian, February 28, 2022,

Julia Ioffe, “‘The Image of Putin Has Broken,’” Puck News, February 28, 2022,

Roland Oliphant, “The Russians rolled into Kharkiv like victors, but it was another disaster for them,” Telegraph, February 28, 2022,

Caitlin Ostroff, “Russia’s Ruble, Financial Markets Are Hammered by Sanctions,” Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2022,

Reuters, “Demand for VPNs in Russia, Ukraine leaps as internet control tightens,” February 28, 2022,

Reuters, “The events leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” February 28, 2022,

Roane Carey, “Don’t Be a Tankie: How the Left Should Respond to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine,” Intecept, March 1, 2022,

Richard Fontaine, “The Long Weekend That Changed History,” Atlantic, March 1, 2022,

Camille Gijs, “US sees ‘no indication’ to back Ukrainian claim Belarus has joined Russia’s invasion,” Politico, March 1, 2022,

Quinn Glabicki, “The Russian invasion of Ukraine ignites anger, distress among Pittsburghers from warring nations,” Public Source, March 1, 2022,

Yuras Karmanau et al., “Russia pummels Ukraine’s No. 2 city and convoy nears Kyiv,” Associated Press, March 1, 2022,

Iuliia Mendel, “Love, war and two cats — What fleeing Kyiv looked like for us,” Washington Post, March 1, 2022,

Adam Taylor, “War in Ukraine enters a new phase, even more unpredictable and dangerous than the last,” Washington Post, March 1, 2022,

Nataliya Vasilyeva, Robert Mendick, and Mason Boycott-Owen, “Russian troops in disarray and ‘crying’ in combat, radio messages reveal,” Telegraph, March 1, 2022,

Robin Wright, “What Does Putin’s Nuclear Sabre Rattling Mean?” New Yorker, March 1, 2022,

Christine Emba, “The war in Ukraine doesn’t need your ‘likes,’” Washington Post, March 2, 2022,

Alexander Graef, “Four ways the Russia-Ukraine war could end – from palace coup to Pyrrhic victory,” Telegraph, March 2, 2022,

Luke Harding, Jon Henley, and Martin Farrer, “Russia aims to erase Ukraine, says Zelenskiy, as bombardment intensifies,” Guardian, March 2, 2022,

Jim Sleeper, “Too much reality: Putin’s Ukraine invasion summons Europe’s dark past,” Tikkun, March 2, 2022,

Con Coughlin, “The oligarchs are turning on Russia’s new tsar,” Telegraph, March 3, 2022,

James Crisp, “Russian convoy’s advance on Kyiv deflated by flat tyres and Ukrainian mud,” Telegraph, March 3, 2022,

Julia Ioffe, “Europe’s 9/11,” Puck News, March 3, 2022,

Dave Lawler, “Russia agreed to open “humanitarian corridors” for fleeing civilians: Ukraine official,” Axios, March 3, 2022,

Roland Oliphant, Gordon Rayner, and Lucy Fisher, “Vladimir Putin set to ‘cut Ukraine in two’ as key city of Kherson falls to Russians,” Telegraph, March 3, 2022,

Sacha Pfeiffer, Lauren Hodges, and Christopher Intagliata, “Former NATO commander says a no-fly zone over Ukraine must be on the table,” National Public Radio, March 3, 2022,

Pjotr Sauer, “‘My future is taken away from me’: Russians flee to escape consequences of Moscow’s war,” Guardian, March 3, 2022,

Michael Schwirtz and Richard Pérez-Peña, “Kremlin Vows Victory in Ukraine as Refugees Swell to One Million,” New York Times, March 3, 2022,

David L. Stern, “Russia claims control of vital port city in Ukraine, as convoy outside Kyiv remains stalled,” Washington Post, March 3, 2022,

Jim Heintz, Yuras Karmanau, and Mstyslav Chernov, “Fire out at key Ukraine nuclear plant, no radiation released,” Associated Press, March 4, 2022,

Eric Levitz, “Putin’s War Looks Increasingly Insane,” New York, March 4, 2022,

Simon Lewis and Sabine Siebold, “NATO rejects Ukraine no-fly zone, says ‘not part of this’ war,” Reuters, March 4, 2022,

Reuters, “Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now,” March 4, 2022,

Mark Galeotti, “How does Putin extract himself from this nightmare of his own making?” Times, March 5, 2022,

Toby Helm et al., “Defiant Putin warns the west: your sanctions are akin to an act of war,” Guardian, March 5, 2022,

Dan Lamothe, Alex Horton, and Karoun Demirjian, “Ukraine’s military adapts tactics after enduring Russia’s initial invasion,” Washington Post, March 5, 2022,

Tess McClure et al., “Mariupol to evacuate citizens after Russia declares temporary ceasefire,” Guardian, March 5, 2022,

Yaroslav Trofimov, “Ukraine, Russia Agreement on Evacuating Mariupol Civilians Collapses,” Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2022,

Kalyeena Makortoff, “Mastercard and Visa block in Russia does not stop domestic purchases,” Guardian, March 6, 2022,

Justin McCurry, Samantha Lock, and Luke Harding, “Russia targeting cities as strength of Ukraine’s resistance ‘continues to surprise’, UK says,” Guardian, March 6, 2022,

Catherine Philp, Caroline Wheeler, and Matthew Campbell, “Merciless Vladimir Putin shells Ukrainian evacuees,” Times, March 6, 2022,

Yaroslav Trofimov, “Russian Artillery Kills Ukrainian Civilians Fleeing Kyiv Suburb,” Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2022,

Yaroslav Trofimov and Alan Cullison, “Ukraine Faces Fresh Wave of Attacks Focused on Population Centers,” Wall Street Journal, March 6, 2022,

Benjamin R. Young, “Putin Has a Grimly Absolute Vision of the ‘Russian World,’” Foreign Policy, March 6, 2022,

Tom Ball, “This war will be a total failure, FSB whistleblower says,” Times, March 7, 2022,

Jesus Jiménez, “What Is NATO and Which Countries Are Members?” New York Times, March 7, 2022,

Robert Mendick and Dominic Nicholls, “Russian aircraft losses in Ukraine ‘unsustainable for more than a fortnight,’” Telegraph, March 7, 2022,

Jordan Michael Smith, “Would Putin Really Go Nuclear? Well …,” New Republic, March 7, 2022,

  1. [1]Robert Mendick and Dominic Nicholls, “Russian aircraft losses in Ukraine ‘unsustainable for more than a fortnight,’” Telegraph, March 7, 2022,
  2. [2]Mark Galeotti, “How does Putin extract himself from this nightmare of his own making?” Times, March 5, 2022,; Julia Ioffe, “Europe’s 9/11,” Puck News, March 3, 2022,
  3. [3]Julia Ioffe, “Putin on the Brink… of What, Exactly?” Puck News, February 15, 2022,
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Where does Vladimir Putin stop?” Not Housebroken, March 7, 2022,
  5. [5]Jordan Michael Smith, “Would Putin Really Go Nuclear? Well …,” New Republic, March 7, 2022,

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