Putin’s Ukraine invasion plus one week

Commentary on the invasion that began last Thursday, and a look at the polls since the invasion in the US, UK and France, where there are elections in April.

12:29pm Friday UK Labour has retained Birmingham Erdington at a by-election by a 55.5-36.3 margin over the Conservatives, up from 50-40 at the 2019 election. The Lib Dems and Greens had about 1% each.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Vladimir Putin began Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Historically, attempts to conquer sovereign countries have not been unusual. Alexander the Great and Napoleon are still famed as conquerors. The Roman empire did much conquering, and European colonial powers were very cruel to native populations. The UK’s Queen Elizabeth is the descendant of William the Conqueror, who conquered England in 1066.

Occasionally invasions by more powerful countries are repelled. Two examples from the UK are Scotland repelling England in the 14th century, and the UK repelling the Nazis early in WW2. But in most cases, the only feasible protection for smaller countries is to be allied to bigger powers that will fight if the smaller ones are invaded.

Putin’s gamble was that the West would not send major military equipment, such as tanks, warships and aircraft, to support Ukraine. Without this support, it is likely that weight of numbers will eventually allow Russia to conquer Ukraine. While sanctions will damage the Russian economy, they won’t stop the Russian tanks or artillery. In a drawn-out invasion, civilian casualties will be high.

I am sceptical that Ukraine will continue to resist if conquered. Tyrannical regimes are effective at brutally suppressing dissent. There isn’t news anymore about Chechnya, which rebelled against Russia in the 2000s.

The polling is not like the reaction to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The only leader who has received a massive jump is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, whose approval surged 59 points since December to 91%.

US: Biden’s ratings down, 62% say invasion wouldn’t have occurred under Trump

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, 53.0% disapprove of Joe Biden’s performance and 41.5% approve (net -11.5). Biden’s net approval has dropped about one point since the invasion.

In a poll conducted at the start of the invasion, 62%, including 38% of Democrats, thought Putin would not have invaded had Donald Trump still been president. 59% thought Putin ordered the invasion because he saw weakness in Biden, while 41% thought Biden was not a factor.

I believe this polling highlights that the fallout from the Afghanistan troop withdrawal in August 2021 has crippled Biden on any national security issue. It also continues to affect his ratings on eg the economy because voters have lost confidence in his competence.

In US redistricting news, courts in North Carolina and Pennsylvania have finalised new maps. The new NC map was created after courts rejected a Republican gerrymander, while Pennsylvanian courts resolved a dispute between the Democratic governor and Republican legislature. In Ohio, Republicans used their majority on a redistricting commission to pass a gerrymander, but it is likely to be rejected by state courts.

Overall, there are currently 179 Democratic-leaning seats in the FiveThirtyEight tracker, 171 Republican-leaning and 33 competitive. Democrats are up 11 seats from the old maps, Republicans down six and competitive down six.

Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to replace the retiring Stephen Breyer on the US Supreme Court. If confirmed by a simple majority in the Senate, Jackson will be the first Black woman Supreme Court judge. But she will replace a left-wing judge, and the 6-3 right majority will be retained.

France: a Macron vs Le Pen runoff more likely

The first round of the French presidential election will occur April 10, with a runoff April 24 between the top two. Since the Ukraine invasion, incumbent Emmanuel Macron has gained to be in the mid to high 20s from the mid 20s. The latest polls suggest the far-right Marine Le Pen has moved ahead of both the more far-right Éric Zemmour and conservative Valérie Pécresse.

Pécresse had appeared to be the most competitive runoff opponent for Macron, but the latest two runoff polls have Macron winning by about 60-40. Le Pen is now closest, with Macron leading her by about 56-44.

UK: Little change as Labour faces by-election

The Ukraine invasion has not changed the polls very much in the UK, with Labour ahead of the Conservatives by a low single digit margin, reflecting a continuing recovery for Boris Johnson from “Partygate”.

Polls close at 9am AEDT Friday for a by-election in Birmingham Erdington, which Labour won by a 50-40 margin over the Conservatives in 2019.

211 comments on “Putin’s Ukraine invasion plus one week”

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  1. The outcome of the Quad meeting on Ukraine-Russia via Bernard Keane:

    The outcome of the virtual Quad meeting between Joe Biden, Narendra Modi, Scott Morrison and Fumio Kishida wasn’t much. The only reference to Ukraine was an agreement to “a new humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mechanism which will enable the Quad to meet future humanitarian challenges in the Indo-Pacific and provide a channel for communication”. Sounds like even the diplomats had trouble devising something to fill out the 166-word statement.

    Narendra Modi may be a Putin appeaser, but he’s OUR Putin appeaser
    © Provided by Crikey

    The Quad was held back by the unwillingness of the Indian leader to say anything to offend Russia. Modi has refused to criticise the Putin regime, on which he is heavily reliant for military equipment. So reliant, in fact, that the Biden administration is considering imposing sanctions on India to protect US military technology.

    It’ll be more like a Trio Plus One than a Quad if that happens.

    Important to distinguish between Putin’s ‘rhetoric’ and ‘what he’s likely to do’
    Australia, meanwhile, is happy to criticise China for failing to impose sanctions on Russia but is deathly silent on India’s failure to do so (it’s a similar line at The Australian, where Greg Sheridan pleaded for India not to be “hemmed in” or “bullied” on Russia). A similar hypocrisy exists in relation to Israel, which has also refused to impose sanctions — indeed, senior Israeli figures have lobbied the US to weaken sanctions. Even Israeli newspapers have ferociously condemned Israel’s failure to criticise the Putin regime.

  2. Boerwar at 5.15pm

    The Quad isn’t much at the moment.

    We are, however, entering the Asian century.

    So, try and chisel India off Russia or try and get China to be pro-democracy?

    Is there a third option?

  3. ‘C@tmomma says:
    Saturday, March 5, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    There is footage of members of the French Foreign legion going into Ukraine to fight on the side of the Ukrainians.’
    The Legion is part of the French Army. Individuals may have deserted. If they go into Ukraine they are no longer members of the French Foreign Legion.

  4. I googled ‘French Foreign Legion Ukraine’ and found stories suggesting 14 (or 16) Legionaries had deserted in an attempt to travel to Ukraine, but were detained in Paris. Some inconsistency between stories.

    Agree with Boerwar, they’re in the French Army, so France would have to order an operation – maybe a ‘special military’ one?

    As I type, hard not to hum ‘La Marseillaise’…

  5. India has a lot of Russian made equipment and doesn’t want to hurt that relationship.

    But the quad has always been a strange beast. It is a strange mix of the Super power and biggest economy in the world, the rich ageing number 3 economy, the developing soon-to-be largest nation in the world, and the strange out of place resource exporting middle power. So it could be said that India is the odd one out because it is developing and much poorer per capita than the others but in reality the only thing binding the group is opposition to China.
    It is not going to be an Asian NATO as much as the conservative governments of Australia have wanted. It was first formed by during the Bush/Howard era abandoned by the Rudd Government and then restarted under Trump and Turnbull. I doubt it will survive this crisis if India doesn’t change direction (it might become a trio instead but then what’s the point – the US has agreements with both nations).

  6. Currently viewing on Netflix Winter On Fire, a documentary on the 2014 “Maidan” uprising in Ukraine.

    If you get a chance…. just watch it. (98 minutes).

    This is what Russia is up against if they win the battle. The war has only just begun.

  7. Putin has called a local ceasefire to enable residents of Mariupol to evacuate. It is a city of well over 400,000 people.

  8. “At least 16,000 people from overseas have volunteered to fight in Ukraine against Russia’s deadly onslaught – and some have already started arriving, the country’s president has said.”..

    That’s the only way for the rest of Europe to “get involved without getting involved”.

    If Putin is smart he should wrap up the operation soon and get a convenient agreement with Zelensky. If he is an idiot he will go on, get bogged down, risk de-moralisation of his soldiers and finally transform Ukraine into his Vietnam. If that happens he will lose everything and as soon as the Russians start to retreat, Ukraine will join the EU and NATO and that’s the end of the Russian dreams in the area.

  9. It is worth studying French behaviours in Occupied France during World War 2. A guerilla war in Ukraine would be beset not only by the occupying army but also by Russophiles groups.
    It would become, IMO, a particularly vicious and nasty guerilla war.

  10. If some Ukrainians want to be in Russia, then they could have sold up, and moved over the border to Russia!

    I don’t see an Aussie separatist group in NZ. They just get on a plane.

  11. Boerwar
    Yes, it would be messy. I imagine the Pro Russian group to be smaller than the Independence group. Much blood would flow between them.

  12. Boerwar @ #158 Saturday, March 5th, 2022 – 7:29 pm

    ‘C@tmomma says:
    Saturday, March 5, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    There is footage of members of the French Foreign legion going into Ukraine to fight on the side of the Ukrainians.’
    The Legion is part of the French Army. Individuals may have deserted. If they go into Ukraine they are no longer members of the French Foreign Legion.

    Bravo, Boerwar and your pettifogging knowledge. 🙄

  13. I’m sure they go with Macron’s tacit blessing and he will have them back into the French military should they survive the Ukrainian conflict.

  14. “pukkasays:
    Saturday, March 5, 2022 at 9:10 pm
    India, China and Russia; if they form a strategic/economic alliance that would be a new world order.”

    The new world order has been here for some time now. Ever heard of the BRICS: the economic bloc formed by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa….

  15. “puffyTMDsays:
    Saturday, March 5, 2022 at 8:40 pm
    If some Ukrainians want to be in Russia, then they could have sold up, and moved over the border to Russia!

    I don’t see an Aussie separatist group in NZ. They just get on a plane.”

    They don’t want to leave their place to live in Russia, they want their place to be part of Russia. Same with the pro-EU Scots, post-Brexit. At some point in time they will ask for a referendum to join the EU, they won’t leave Scotland to live somewhere in the EU.

  16. There is a bit of confusion by a lot of people between the concept of Russian speaking Ukrainians and Russians in Ukraine. The pro-Russian parties got 13% in the last election. But about half of the population speaks Russian. Most of the Russian speakers still see themselves as Ukrainian (despite the linguist difference to the Ukrainian speakers).
    In 2014, the Russians tried supporting an uprising in Kharkiv but its support was extremely limited because the vast majority of people saw themselves as Ukrainian. Even in the Donbass the areas that ended up in the breakaway republics were the parts that had a lot more ethnic Russians due to the fact that those areas had a lot of Russian migration in the soviet era (and Crimea is just ethnically different to the rest of Ukraine so was really easy to take over).

  17. Alpo
    Well, like Scotland, that is an argument to span centuries. As an Aussie, the idea of cutting up an island of Britain, which is about the size of my grass verge, into different countries is an alien concept, and quite ridiculous. But, hey, I don’t live there and each to their own. In fact being in a different country by crossing an imaginary line was a shock when I went to the UK and visited France and Greece. Flying over three countries in 90 minutes was weird.

    To me, the end of your country is when you hit the sea, except for the islands off the mainland. There are states, buy they are for arguing about sport, and who has the prettiest women and most handsome guys, and Left v Right governments.

    But, I can see how Ukraine et al want to be their own countries and if they do, so I can understand how Scotland wants to be one as well. Some people want to be in the big pond and others want their own little pond. We Australians are totally privileged to be on our own in our own big pond, buy only because we stole it.

    But such isolation can lead to an unusual take on the world, like mine.

    I acknowledge I hold contradictory and hypocritical views. My snow is not pure and undriven.

  18. Re B.S. Fairman Fri 4 Mar at 10.17 pm

    Your summary of the Short War (# 1) scenario has two distinct aspects. It is clear that there will not be a puppet regime in Kyiv with any popular support. That was already clear to informed Russian experts (such as Andrey Kortunov) before the invasion. The second aspect is whether the invaders can capture Kyiv within the next week (Kortunov said Putin’s timetable for a military victory was 2 weeks). That currently looks unlikely, so the most likely scenario then becomes a Long War (# 2), as you say.

    A wider, European war (# 3, or “fully fledged” war to use NATO chief Stoltenberg’s description, as if the war in Ukraine is not now that) is unlikely, because NATO is averse to it, as most probably is Putin.

    While the best outcome would be one of Putin’s praetorian guard eliminating him (# 5) that is most probably at least as unlikely as a wider war, because all conceivable assailants fully depend on him. His regime is a personalist dictatorship, unlike the situation after Stalin died when Beria was killed.

    This leaves a negotiated cease-fire and compromise (# 4) as the only likely alternative to a Long War.

    Currently Putin is setting all the conditions for any extremely limited temporary cease-fire (which are being breached by the invading army in Mariupol), so there is no clear movement yet toward # 4.

    A big problem with getting to scenario 4 is the need for some external mediation. There are very few likely prospects. Turkey’s Erdogan will talk with Putin on Sunday and has offered to host talks. If the invaders are still advancing Putin is unlikely to talk seriously.

    In the interview with Mike McFaul (linked by Bushfire Bill on the main thread, Wed 2 Mar 5.54 pm) he proposed Berlusconi and Kissinger as possible mediators. Both will be unpalatable to the Ukrainians, but Putin may not accept others the Ukrainians might find acceptable, so if Erdogan’s offer does not work it may be very hard to set up a real mediation.

    Kortunov suggested Merkel (whom Putin might reject) or possibly President Xi, who was mentioned by Fiona Hill (interview linked by Cat at 5.45 pm), but they might be less motivated than Erdogan, or in Merkel’s case probably less likely to get Putin to compromise because of his macho mentality.

    It will be a struggle to even get momentum toward # 4, which is a big difference from the 2008 war in Georgia, when Sarkozy more or less took Medvedev’s (i.e. Putin’s) conditions directly to Saakashvili in Tbilisi who had to accept them because Russian troops were not far away.

    You are correct to say Putin won’t accept a compromise that means Russia leaves Ukraine as the loser. That is one major obstacle to a negotiated end to this shameful war, that the perpetrator will demand to be seen as not having lost, even though a stalemate (Long War) will be his reason to negotiate.

    Kortunov hints at this problem in his BBC interview on 2 Mar at:


    This is a dreadful situation of horror and deceit, a catastrophe for Ukraine and a disaster for Russia, with the most likely scenario (Long War) becoming increasingly horrible as more Russian war crimes occur. Ukraine may face hard choices when a real mediation begins, but that now looks too far away.

  19. Steve777 says:
    Saturday, March 5, 2022 at 10:22 pm

    Maybe Georgia should be applying for fast-track Nato membership. Should they do so, maybe Nato should grant it.

    Perhaps we should propose a new collective security organ, The Indo-Pacific Treaty Organisation, and it could be called TIPTO.

  20. bc @ #177 Sunday, March 6th, 2022 – 3:41 am

    Apparently John Bolton is saying that Trump planned to pull out of NATO in his second term:

    As he intimated not too subtly during his first term. He did the spadework for it. He and Putin had their chats with no scribes and you just know it would have been on the list of subjects they covered.

    I read a column by George Will last night about Trump and his fast increasing irrelevancy to the Republican Party, citing his lack of success with his endorsed candidates in the Republican Primaries going on now. In it he quotes Longfellow:

    A European war is unhelpful for Trump because it reminds voters that Longfellow was right: Life is real, life is earnest. Trump’s strut through presidential politics was made possible by an American reverie; war in Europe has reminded people that politics is serious.


  21. At present, so far as I am aware, only one candidate has nominated for the seat of Bennelong. No Labor, Liberal or Greens as yet, but I do have Rhys Collyer, representing the UAP. Lucky me. Decisions, decisions….

  22. Big improvement in Biden’s approval in the recent Marist poll compared to a month ago.

    And 538 have an article on his polling wrt Ukraine

  23. Link to the 538 article

    “Last week, I identified a paradox in the polling on Ukraine: Americans disapproved of Biden’s handling of the situation but agreed with the specific actions he’s taken….

    Political science tells us that people turn to trusted political elites to tell them what to think about foreign policy. And as long as Republicans keep telling their voters that Biden is mishandling Ukraine — while not opposing (even supporting!) his actual policy on it — partisan polarization may prevent Biden from reaping any political benefit.”

  24. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-merseyside-60631735

    Looks like the British Port workers are not going to accept any ship carrying Russia “blood” oil; Fully backed by their union Unite.

    In some respects the public opinion being so strongly pro-Ukrainian in Europe will make any diplomatic solution that makes any concession to Russia near on impossible.

    It has got to the stage that the Polish donation of Migs which was called off earlier in the week is now back on (with the provision that Poland will get F-16s to cover itself…. how they train up the ground crews and pilots to maintain these is a mystery, so I suspect there will USAF units based in Poland for a few years).

  25. B S Fairman at 4.29pm

    It wouldn’t surprise me if various Eastern European NATO members are able to set up an implied quid pro quo: we’ll be a transit point for assistance to Ukraine, Western powers supply us with new & improved military gear to fend off the Bear.

    Some may view this with cynicism, I see it as a win-win, provided Ukraine survives to the satisfaction of Ukrainians.

  26. a r at 6.03pm…

    ” B.S. Fairman @ #185 Sunday, March 6th, 2022 – 3:29 pm

    In some respects the public opinion being so strongly pro-Ukrainian in Europe will make any diplomatic solution that makes any concession to Russia near on impossible.”


    (Sorry, I don’t really know how to cut/paste here. ‘Please know’ I agree with
    a r’s “Good”!)

  27. I didn’t mean that as a bad thing, just that the European leaders may lack the testicular fortitude of the Ukrainians.

    Things are looking pretty rough for the Russians that they are moving in reinforcements from Khaborovsk (look where it is on a map).

  28. A little dark humour:
    Putin is gives speech to Russians, due to Wests sanctions we’ll need to work harder!
    A voice from crowd:
    – We will work 2 shifts!
    – Thank you, you must be real patriot!
    – We will work 3 shifts
    – Such patriotism for country! By the way what’s your occupation?
    – I work at morgue…

  29. In today’s episode of what a monster Putin is, Lt Colonel Vindman says that he has been told that all the men that have protested against the war in Russia are being immediately shipped out to the front lines in the Russian Army. 😡

  30. Monstrous and self-defeating.

    If Putin wants to reinforce his front-lines with untrained and poorly-motivated soldiers sympathetic to Ukraine who are likely to desert or surrender at the first opportunity, I say we let him. 🙂

  31. a r @ #104 Monday, March 7th, 2022 – 1:53 pm

    Monstrous and self-defeating.

    If Putin wants to reinforce his front-lines with untrained and poorly-motivated soldiers sympathetic to Ukraine who are likely to desert or surrender at the first opportunity, I say we let him. 🙂

    No. He is sending them to their certain deaths because they protested. They will die because they are untrained. Not that we can do anything about it except congratulate them on their bravery in standing up to Putin in the first place.

  32. On Sunday I tripped on a step up after parking my car at a servo. I didn’t want petrol, just a drink. I smashed my head into the concrete and got an egg head. Now I have two very black eyes and am very sore.

    I called for an ambulance but after about on hour I rang again but one had not been allocated yet, so I cancelled it and drive home.

    I was not going to wait all night in the A&E to see a doctor.

    That is the state if health services under a Lib government.

    I am going to see my doctor tomorrow.

  33. PTMD,
    Oh noes! Not you too! We need you to get better real quick and get back to providing us with your thoughtful insights! :kiss:

  34. Here is some relatively ‘good’ news from The NYT and a credible commentator (maybe doing a bit of disinfo of his own 😉 ):

    In an interview with journalist Kara Swisher for the New York Times, Clint Watts, a research fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, claims Russian President Vladimir Putin has a growing disaster on his hands after invading Ukraine and it could lead to a collapse at home in Russia.

    Watts, who served in the U.S Army and went on to be recruited by the FBI to assist in combating terrorism, claims the unpopularity of the war among Russian citizens will continue to grow and, combined with the sanctions that are already crippling the country’s economy, may threaten his tenure as leader of Russia.

    The former FBI official explained that Putin won’t be able to disguise the war dead, which will continue to grow because the Ukrainians are putting up such a stiff resistance that Putin — and his generals — appear to have not anticipated.

    “He’s got a disaster on his hands, for a couple reasons,” Watts told Swisher. “Militarily, even if he is successful, he’s taking casualties. That will filter back home. You cannot disinformation your way out of 10,000 dead. It’s just not possible. And you’re going to have war-wounded. The mothers in Russia have always been the pushback against Putin during these conflicts. This is going to be next-level scale.”

    Pointing out that it is hard to occupy a country, the analyst suggested Putin will be unsuccessful at installing a compliant government that will be able to control the populace, meaning the Russians will need an unsustainable 800,000 soldiers to tamp down an insurgency that Watts predicts “won’t go away.”

    Add to that, dissatisfaction over the collapsing economy and the crippling sanctions that are also afflicting Russian oligarchs could lead to Putin’s downfall.

    “This will not settle down at home,” he stated before going into greater detail. “And for those that have had the open markets, the open economy, you know, more open economy, more open information space — when these things start trickling and shutting off, you’re going to see two things. One, those that can flee will. Who are those that flee? Those with money. And those that stay, there’s going to be fights and wars. And so my big worry is that we’re worried about Kyiv falling today. I’m worried about Moscow falling between day 30 and six months from now.”

    “He’s going to throw everything at the wall to try and convince Russians that things are going well, that the war was justified. And if he gets into trouble or the West really mounts a coordinated defense, he’s going to say, look, they’re doing it to us. I have to defend us. It’s defensive. It’s defensive. And will they buy that? I don’t know. I think it’s starting to break,” he added.


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