Fig. 1. “The atomic cloud over Nagasaki 1945.” Photograph from Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Overseas Operations Branch, New York Office, News and Features Bureau, (12/17/1942 – 09/15/1945), by Charles Levy, August 9, 1945, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
There is a new blog post entitled, “If Vladimir Putin doesn’t make sense, he doesn’t make sense, and he cannot last.” I have already updated it.
In general, Vladimir Putin appears ever more to be acting out of desperation, delusion, and fury; indeed, some might call it a military-grade temper tantrum, potentially even with nuclear weapons. For all of it, there is still no coherent path to victory. Putin still isn’t making sense.
So on one hand, there is the suggestion in my original post that Putin must surely fall; this is, after all, no way to run a war, let alone a country. On the other, he appears ever more the cornered, wounded animal, albeit with nuclear weapons (that, admittedly, he may not actually be able to use), and thus, all the more dangerous. It’s a scary, scary time.
Josie Ensor, “Nuclear weapons convoy sparks fears Putin could be preparing test to send ‘signal to the West,’” Telegraph, October 3, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/10/03/nuclear-weapons-convoy-sparks-fears-putin-could-preparing-test/
Luke Harding, Isobel Koshiw, and Peter Beaumont, “Russia no longer has full control of any of four ‘annexed’ Ukrainian provinces,” Guardian, October 3, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/03/russia-has-no-full-control-of-any-of-four-annexed-ukrainian-provinces
Dominic Nicholls, “Russia’s bloated military has finally been properly tested – and the results are not good,” Telegraph, October 3, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/10/03/ukraines-lyman-victory-shows-skill-trumps-numbers-when-comes/
Mary Ilyushina, Emily Rauhala, and Isabelle Khurshudyan, “Ukraine hammers Russian forces into retreat on east and south fronts,” Washington Post, October 4, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/10/04/russia-retreat-kherson-lyman-ukraine/
Pjotr Sauer, “Attempts to play down retreats in Ukraine no longer wash inside Russia,” Guardian, October 5, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/05/attempts-to-play-down-retreats-ukraine-russia-war-kremlin-military-failure
Ishaan Tharoor, “Annexations show the depth of Putin’s imperial delusion,” Washington Post, October 5, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/10/05/putin-colonial-imperial-delusion/
Yasmeen Abutaleb, “Biden suggests Putin’s nuclear threats mean a ‘prospect of Armageddon,’” Washington Post, October 6, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/06/biden-putin-nuclear-armageddon/
Charlie Cooper, “Coal built the EU. Will gas destroy it?” Politico, October 6, 2022, https://www.politico.eu/article/prague-summit-enegy-gas-eu-ukraine-war-russia-vladimir-putin/
Robyn Dixon, “As Ukraine war falters, Russians ask a risky question: Could Putin fall?” Washington Post, October 6, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/10/06/putin-successor-president-russia-war/
Alex Horton, “Russians flee by boat to Alaska after Putin’s military mobilization,” Washington Post, October 6, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/10/06/russians-flee-alaska/
Nandita Bose and Pavel Polityuk, “Biden says Putin’s nuclear threat brings risk of ‘Armageddon,’” Reuters, October 7, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/ukraine-forces-break-through-russian-defences-south-advance-east-2022-10-03/
Christian Esch et al., “Berlin and Washington Play Out Nuclear Scenarios,” Spiegel, October 7, 2022, https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/berlin-and-washington-play-out-scenarios-of-a-nuclear-strike-by-putin-a-ecbc1772-8526-4ce1-ae0d-7270309df54e
Greg Miller et al., “Putin confronted by insider over Ukraine war, U.S. intelligence finds,” Washington Post, October 7, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/10/07/putin-inner-circle-dissent/
Peter Beaumont, “Impact of Kerch bridge blast will be felt all the way to the Kremlin,” Guardian, October 8, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/08/impact-of-kerch-bridge-blast-will-be-felt-all-the-way-to-the-kremlin
Adam Schreck and Vasilisa Stepanenko, “Explosion on Crimean bridge damages key Russian supply route; 3 dead,” Los Angeles Times, October 8, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2022-10-08/truck-bomb-damages-crimea-bridge-a-key-supply-artery-for-russias-war-effort
Maite Fernández Simon and Paul Sonne, “Putin’s bridge of dreams explodes in flames,” Washington Post, October 8, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/10/08/kerch-bridge-crimea-symbolism-putin/
Times of Israel, “Russia says truck bomb caused Crimea bridge explosion, stops short of blaming Kyiv,” October 8, 2022, https://www.timesofisrael.com/russia-says-truck-blast-caused-crimea-bridge-explosion-stops-short-of-blaming-kyiv/
Yaroslav Trofimov, “Major Explosion Hits the Bridge Between Crimea and Russia, Halting Traffic,” Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/major-explosion-hits-the-bridge-between-crimea-and-russia-halting-traffic-11665215052
Peter Beaumont, “Vladimir Putin calls blast on Crimea-Russia bridge an ‘act of terror,’” Guardian, October 9, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/09/russia-ukraine-war-attack-housing-zaporizhzhia
Siobhán O’Grady, Anastacia Galouchka, and Whitney Shefte, “In Russian-occupied Izyum, she was raped and tortured,” Washington Post, October 9, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/10/09/izyum-rape-torture-occupation-russia/
Alice Speri, “The Mother Crime: Will Putin Face Prosecution for the Crime of Aggression in Ukraine?” Intercept, October 9, 2022, https://theintercept.com/2022/10/08/russia-putin-ukraine-war-crimes-accountability/
Dan Sabbagh, “GCHQ head: Putin making strategic errors due to unconstrained power,” Guardian, October 10, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/10/gchq-head-putin-making-strategic-errors-ukraine-russia
Dan Sabbagh, “Kremlin decision to target Ukraine’s cities was political, not tactical,” Guardian, October 10, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/10/kremlin-decision-to-target-ukraines-cities-was-political-not-tactical
Pjotr Sauer, “Sergei Surovikin: the ‘General Armageddon’ now in charge of Russia’s war,” Guardian, October 10, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/10/sergei-surovikin-the-general-armageddon-now-in-charge-of-russias-war
George Styllis, Gareth Davies, and Grace Millimaci, “Deadly strikes are just ‘first episode’ of response to Crimea attack, says Medvedev,” Telegraph, October 10, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/10/10/ukraine-russia-war-latest-putin-nuclear-crimea-bridge-zaporizhzhia/
Julia Ioffe, “‘General Armageddon’ & Putin’s Bridge to Nowhere,” Puck News, October 11, 2022, https://puck.news/general-armageddon-putins-bridge-to-nowhere/
Adela Suliman, “Russian military ‘exhausted,’ Putin’s judgment ‘flawed,’ U.K. spy chief says,” Washington Post, October 11, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/10/11/russia-military-exhausted-gchq-ukraine/
Fig. 2. John Fetterman as mayor of Braddock, photograph uncredited and undated, via Next Pittsburgh, fair use.
In passing, Rebecca Traister mentions ads running in the Philadelphia area, which, like much of Pennsylvania, has a significant Black population, depicting John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, as soft on crime. I see similar billboards around Pittsburgh targeting Josh Shapiro, the Democratic candidate for governor. It does seem perplexing until you connect the Republican “law and order” trope as race-baiting. You see it also with the gun nuttery. It’s all—all of it—really playing on white fear of and revulsion toward Black people.
So why place these billboards where Black people will see them? First, because the campaigns in question have written off the Black vote, so they don’t care if Black people are offended. Second, because there are white people living in proximity to these Black people to whom these ads will appeal. It’s ugly as hell, but Republicans have been playing this game for a while now.
Rebecca Traister, “The Vulnerability of John Fetterman,” New York, October 10, 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/john-fetterman-dr-oz-pennsylvania-senate-race.html
“Companies just continue to break labor law,” Ms. [Lorena] Gonzalez Fletcher said. “They break it at the local level, the state level and federally, and there are no consequences. Everything is about enforcement.”
Noam Scheiber, “Biden Proposal Could Lead to Employee Status for Gig Workers,” New York Times, October 11, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/11/business/economy/biden-gig-workers-contractors-employees.html
Fig. 1. President Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Clarence Mitchell during signing ceremony of the voting rights act. Yoichi Okamoto, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
Jonathan Lai and Jeremy Roebuck, “The Supreme Court just undid a key ruling for counting undated Pennsylvania mail ballots,” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 11, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/politics/election/pennsylvania-undated-mail-ballots-us-supreme-court-20221011.html
- Yasmeen Abutaleb, “Biden suggests Putin’s nuclear threats mean a ‘prospect of Armageddon,’” Washington Post, October 6, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/06/biden-putin-nuclear-armageddon/; Bloomberg, “Russia Test-Fires Nuclear-Capable ICBM in Warning to U.S. Allies,” April 20, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-04-20/russia-stages-test-of-nuclear-missile-in-warning-to-u-s-allies; Daniel Boffey, “Russia reasserts right to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” Guardian, March 26, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/26/russia-reasserts-right-to-use-nuclear-weapons-in-ukraine-putin; Julian Borger, “Russia’s nuclear threats ‘totally unacceptable’, says UN chief,” Guardian, September 22, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/22/russia-nuclear-threats-totally-unacceptable-says-un-chief-antonio-guterres; Nandita Bose and Pavel Polityuk, “Biden says Putin’s nuclear threat brings risk of ‘Armageddon,’” Reuters, October 7, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/ukraine-forces-break-through-russian-defences-south-advance-east-2022-10-03/; Josie Ensor, “Nuclear weapons convoy sparks fears Putin could be preparing test to send ‘signal to the West,’” Telegraph, October 3, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/10/03/nuclear-weapons-convoy-sparks-fears-putin-could-preparing-test/; Edward Helmore, “Jake Sullivan: US will act ‘decisively’ if Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” Guardian, September 25, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/sep/25/us-russia-ukraine-war-nuclear-weapons-jake-sullivan; Mary Ilyushina, Miriam Berger, and Timothy Bella, “Russian TV shows simulation of Britain and Ireland wiped out by a nuke,” Washington Post, May 3, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/03/russia-ireland-nuclear-weapons-video-ukraine/; Yuras Karmanau, “Putin puts nuclear forces on high alert, escalating tensions,” Associated Press, February 27, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-kyiv-business-europe-moscow-2e4e1cf784f22b6afbe5a2f936725550; Luke McGee and Claire Calzonetti, “Putin spokesman refuses to rule out use of nuclear weapons if Russia faced an ‘existential threat,’” CNN, March 22, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/03/22/europe/amanpour-peskov-interview-ukraine-intl/index.html; Julian O’Shaughnessy, “I’m reconquering just like Peter the Great, insists Vladimir Putin,” Times, June 10, 2022, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/president-putin-creates-police-department-to-impose-martial-law-xqhlt79fn; Reuters, “Hailing Peter the Great, Putin draws parallel with mission to ‘return’ Russian lands,” June 9, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/hailing-peter-great-putin-draws-parallel-with-mission-return-russian-lands-2022-06-09/; Farida Rustamova, “Vladimir Putin is making rash and secretive decisions in face of defeats, Kremlin insiders warn,” Telegraph, October 2, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2022/10/02/vladimir-putin-making-rash-secretive-decisions-face-defeats/; Dan Sabbagh, “GCHQ head: Putin making strategic errors due to unconstrained power,” Guardian, October 10, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/10/gchq-head-putin-making-strategic-errors-ukraine-russia; Dan Sabbagh, “Kremlin decision to target Ukraine’s cities was political, not tactical,” Guardian, October 10, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/10/kremlin-decision-to-target-ukraines-cities-was-political-not-tactical; Pjotr Sauer, “Putin flirts again with grim prospect of nuclear war – this time he might mean it,” Guardian, September 21, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/21/putin-flirts-again-with-grim-prospect-of-nuclear-war-this-time-he-might-mean-it; Pjotr Sauer, “Sergei Surovikin: the ‘General Armageddon’ now in charge of Russia’s war,” Guardian, October 10, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/oct/10/sergei-surovikin-the-general-armageddon-now-in-charge-of-russias-war; Jordan Michael Smith, “Would Putin Really Go Nuclear? Well …,” New Republic, March 7, 2022, https://newrepublic.com/article/165634/putin-nuclear-weapons-ukraine-us-response; Paul Sonne and John Hudson, “U.S. has sent private warnings to Russia against using a nuclear weapon,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/22/russia-nuclear-threat-us-options/; Adam Taylor and William Neff, “Why the world is so worried about Russia’s ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons,” Washington Post, March 29, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/29/why-world-is-so-worried-about-russias-tactical-nuclear-weapons/; Ishaan Tharoor, “Putin makes his imperial pretensions clear,” Washington Post, June 13, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/06/13/putin-imperial-russia-empire-ukraine/; Ishaan Tharoor, “Russia pushes the panic button and raises risk of nuclear war,” Washington Post, September 21, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/09/21/russia-referendums-ukraine-occupied-nuclear/; Ishaan Tharoor, “Annexations show the depth of Putin’s imperial delusion,” Washington Post, October 5, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/10/05/putin-colonial-imperial-delusion/; Simon Tisdall, “Putin is trapped and desperate. Will his friends in the west rescue him?” Guardian, August 28, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/28/putin-is-trapped-and-desperate-will-his-friends-in-the-west-rescue-him-russia-ukraine; Robin Wright, “What Does Putin’s Nuclear Sabre Rattling Mean?” New Yorker, March 1, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/what-does-putins-nuclear-sabre-rattling-mean↩
- David Benfell, “If Vladimir Putin doesn’t make sense, he doesn’t make sense, and he cannot last,” Not Housebroken, October 10, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/10/10/if-vladimir-putin-doesnt-make-sense-he-doesnt-make-sense-and-he-cannot-last/↩
- Lewis Page, “Why Putin would be a fool to go nuclear in Ukraine,” Telegraph, October 2, 2022, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/10/02/why-putin-would-fool-go-nuclear-ukraine/↩
- Kim Lyons, “Braddock Mayor John Fetterman keeps on truckin’ in his quest for the Senate,” Next Pittsburgh, March 11, 2016, https://nextpittsburgh.com/features/the-challengers-braddock-mayor-john-fetterman-keeps-on-truckin/↩
- Rebecca Traister, “The Vulnerability of John Fetterman,” New York, October 10, 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/john-fetterman-dr-oz-pennsylvania-senate-race.html↩
- Noam Scheiber, “Biden Proposal Could Lead to Employee Status for Gig Workers,” New York Times, October 11, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/11/business/economy/biden-gig-workers-contractors-employees.html↩