Putin’s Ukraine invasion plus two weeks

If conquered, Ukraine could have a terrible future. Plus latest polls and elections from the US, France, Hungary, South Korea and New Zealand.

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.

If Vladimir Putin eventually succeeds in conquering Ukraine, it’s plausible he will commit massive atrocities.  Conquerors can do this for two reasons: out of frustration at greater than expected resistance and as a warning to other potential conquests.

The Nazis are the most commonly cited evil government, and there is relatively little knowledge of other governments that committed atrocities.  I will give one example: the man-made Soviet famine.  There are also many examples in fantasy books, such as The Hunger Games.

This would not be the first time Ukraine has been subjected to Russian atrocities.  In 1932-33 there was a horrific famine that is estimated to have killed 4 to 7 million Ukrainians.  This famine was man-made, involving rejection of outside aid and confiscation of food.  There is scholarly dispute over whether this was intentional genocide by Soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin, or reckless disregard for human life in the cause of industrialization.

Western sanctions are already damaging Russia economically, so I don’t think Putin will be restrained by fear of further sanctions.  The one thing Putin may fear is a direct military confrontation between the West and Russia, but the West is unlikely to get involved in this way for fear of provoking nuclear war.

With voters strongly supporting Western sanctions, and Ukraine resisting so far, incumbents have increased their support in the second week of the invasion, particularly France’s Emmanuel Macron.  But the increase in oil prices due to the sanctions will add to inflation, and if Ukraine falls, voters may ask why more wasn’t done militarily. 

US, French, Hungarian, South Korean and New Zealand elections and polls

51.6% currently disapprove of Joe Biden’s performance in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate, and 42.5% approve (net -9.1).  Biden’s net approval has improved 2.5 points since last week to his best since early January.  In redistricting news, the US Supreme Court rejected a Republican challenge to state court-drawn maps in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

The first round of the French presidential election is April 10, with the runoff April 24.  In the last two weeks, Macron has surged from the mid 20s to the low 30s in first round polling, with the far-right’s Marine Le Pen on about 18% and now clearly ahead of both the more far-right Éric Zemmour and conservative Valérie Pécresse in the race for the second runoff spot.  There has been no runoff polling since last week, when Macron led Le Pen 56-44.

The Hungarian election is April 3.  The far-right Fidesz has governed since 2010, but faces a challenge from a united opposition (important as 106 of the 199 seats are elected by first-past-the-post).  Fidesz is leading by a few points, but no polls have been conducted since the Ukraine invasion.

At Wednesday’s South Korean presidential election, the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol defeated the centre-left Lee Jae-myung by a 48.6-47.8 margin; FPTP is used.  The conservatives retook the presidency after one five-year term for the left.  Yoon is an anti-feminist who has pledged to abolish the ministry for gender equality. 

A New Zealand Morgan poll, conducted in February, gave the conservative National 38%, the highest since January 2020 and an 11.5% increase since Christopher Luxon replaced Judith Collins as National leader in late 2021.  National and the right-wing ACT now lead Labour and the Greens by 49.5-43, with just 32% supporting Labour.

56 comments on “Putin’s Ukraine invasion plus two weeks”

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  1. Putin is not waiting to conquer Ukraine to commit massive atrocities. He is commiting them now. He is using the 400,000 citizens of Mariupol as negotiation bait, shelling them, bombing them and trying to starve them into submission. He does a ‘deal’ on a humanitarian corridor and then shells that during the local ceasefire.

  2. Just been in touch with relatives in Spain. They’ve organised a convoy to rescue Ukranian women & children & return them to Spain. Recent news tells me they have secured 2 coaches so can take 120 people, all very well organised.

    If you feel like making a contribution I can 100% vouch for them.


  3. Things can’t be going too swimmingly for Vlad.

    He’s getting “volunteers” from Syria!

    Kevin Rothrock
    The Russian Defense Ministry’s TV channel just shared this footage of Syrian combatants ready to “volunteer” in Ukraine. (Putin moments ago endorsed such deployments, claiming that the West is openly sending mercenaries.)

  4. Well, I was pretty wrong in my prognostication before the invasion, thinking that the furthest Putin would go would be to send troops into the Luhansk and Donetsk. But it certainly seems to be overreach. He’s clearly been misled over the readiness of his military, or deluded himself. And in turn he misled them, leading to further collapse in morale once the Ukrainians started firing back.

    Would the nuclear corps fight for him? Have they sold off some valuable and indispensable parts, like the soldiers in Belarus were selling their diesel during the ‘exercises’ prior to invasion? Have rubber seals gone brittle like their truck tires?

    And would the man so paranoid of COVID that he has isolated himself from everyone but (presumably) his bodyguard, and sits at the end of a ten-league table, start a MAD nuclear exchange anyway, or does he stick to sadism against those weaker?

    Belarusian despot Lukashenko doesn’t look happy in his recent photo in Putin’s grasp, perhaps so unhappy that Russia bombarded a Belarusian village as a provocation(and warning) to commit troops to the war as Ukraine alleges. Will the FSB and military leadership absent themselves as well, or decide to rid themselves of Putin as the brittle public support for war starts crumbling away under the weight of losses, making Putin own the losing gamble. Antiwar demos in Russia seem set to continue.

  5. Maria Pevchikh

    Lavrov accused the UK of using chemical weapons TWICE. First time he claimed that the UK staged the Salisbury poisoning. And more recently he publicly accused me of poisoning my boss, @navalny, with Novichok at the request of the UK secret services, which he claims I work

  6. Charles @ #7 Saturday, March 12th, 2022 – 9:50 pm

    Maria Pevchikh

    Lavrov accused the UK of using chemical weapons TWICE. First time he claimed that the UK staged the Salisbury poisoning. And more recently he publicly accused me of poisoning my boss, @navalny, with Novichok at the request of the UK secret services, which he claims I work

    Sergei Lavrov is a bad actor Foreign Minister. He gives Comical Ali a run for his money.

  7. Maria Pevchikh is the head of the FBK Investigative Unit in Moscow. Clearly a very courageous woman.

    “The Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK; Russian: Фонд борьбы с коррупцией, romanized: Fond borby s korruptsiyey, lit. ’Foundation for combating corruption’) was a Russian non-profit organization based in Moscow established in 2011 by activist and politician Alexei Navalny. Its main goal was to investigate and to expose corruption cases among high-ranking Russian government officials.[2] The organisation was funded by private donations.”


    Agree 100% about Lavrov Cat. You should read the thread that the tweet is from. I will say, I reckon him, Peskov and all of his other lieutenants are cowards. Just look at their non-verbal comms on the TV lately. They know it’s wrong and Putin is probably insane, but they are scared of him and want to keep their riches.

  8. Charles,
    I heard an interview with the Foreign Minister before Lavrov the other day. Lavrov was 2IC to him at the time. When Putin took over from Yeltsin (wouldn’t be surprised if it was Putin arranging to have him fully tanked every day), he left and Lavrov took his place. He said Lavrov was a very different person when he knew him. 😉

  9. Thanks for posting those links c@t. They feel a bit speculative. (I may check in on the TED talk later.) But maybe nobody really knows what is going on or what to say. Maybe those who do aren’t talking. Maybe the Russian convoy just wants to get off the road. How long can you sit in a cold stationary vehicle without food or water and waiting to get shot? Maybe it’s easier to quit the convoy altogether when you’re off the road and behind the house. Who knows?

  10. Some random thoughts on Putin’s war.

    Putin has gaslit the West. Putin is smart to do this. It works. But it is time to call him out. Describing the West’s supply of arms to Ukraine as a provocation is no different than shouting “Don’t make it worse…” while you kick someone who’s down and show off your gun. (And the longer the victim fights back the weaker you look.)

    To every fascist and autocrat and dictator, democracies are a cancer; endlessly changing, bewilderingly complex, unreliable, unknowable, insidious, consuming, and above all fatal. They have to be fought aggressively and ruthlessly. This, Putin knows in his bones. So he attacks Ukraine to excise his “cancer”, and accomplishes what Trump failed to do, which was to have Europe arm itself. And unlike earlier centuries the Europeans aren’t at each other’s throats this time. Putin just might have ignited a European century. I wonder what Xi will make of that?

    After 75 years of controlled introspection the living generations of Germans own their place in history. They know their mistakes and the pain they made. They know what they owe the world and what they owe each other. But they also well know their capacity to build and to rebuild. They’ve done so a few times in the past century. Don’t mistake them because they do not strut as Americans do. They are a confident people. And in 2022 they have begun arming themselves. This is a profound shift.

  11. Late Riser,
    Your thoughtful observations are appreciated. I would take the time to listen to the TED talk as the commentator is across the length and breadth of history as it pertains to Putin.

    And, yes, it’s hard to say who’s telling the truth, however, the Russians have truly weaponised disinformation and all other participants are probably thinking, if you can’t beat ’em, join em.

    Though I hasten to add that I simply try and present that information which is so unvarnished that it’s more likely than not to be true.

  12. Putin has sacked two of his spy (FSB) chiefs after the failures in Ukraine.

    I’m sure there are no hard feelings about a military blunder that has made the Russian armed forces look incompetent. Of course FSB only provides intelligence, and did not do the invasion planning.

    I doubt the FSB retirement benefits are anything to look forward to though.

  13. I’ll add Sam Harris in conversation with Garry Kasparov (March 11)

    In this episode of the podcast, Sam Harris speaks with Garry Kasparov about Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine. They discuss Putin’s larger objectives, the perception of the war inside Russia, whether US and EU foreign policy is to blame, the expansion of NATO, American weakness, Republican support for Putin, the sanctions regime, whether the US and EU should impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, whether to openly seek regime change in Russia, how we can avoid WW3, what post-Putin government in Russia might look like, Western economic entanglement with autocracies, and other topics.


  14. So, will Putin accept another chunk of Ukraine, the Donbas Region, and go home with his tail between his legs? Fight on to gain control of half of Ukraine and his desire to gain the port of Odessa? Or keep trying to take all of Ukraine and keep fighting a Western-supplied insurgency for years? Depends how crazed he is.

  15. There’s movement at the station. The Kremlin has sprung a leak:

    According to a report from Mother Jones editor David Corn, a leaked memo from a Russian government division called the Department of Information and Telecommunications Support is urging state media personalities and producers to hype up comments made by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.


  16. Russia drawing China into the war:

    Russia has turned to China for military equipment and aid in the weeks since it began its invasion of Ukraine, U.S. officials familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

    The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, did not describe what kind of weaponry had been requested, or whether they know how China responded.

    White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN that the administration was “communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences” for any Chinese efforts to assist Russia in evading sanctions.”


  17. mikehilliard

    Just been in touch with relatives in Spain. They’ve organised a convoy to rescue Ukranian women & children & return them to Spain. Recent news tells me they have secured 2 coaches so can take 120 people, all very well organised.

    If you feel like making a contribution I can 100% vouch for them.


    Thanks for providing this link. I have just donated 50 Euros, and I have shared the link on Facebook and Twitter, with the info that a friend of mine vouches for them.

    I regard many longterm bludgers as friends.

    I was involved in the early days of online teaching – setting up an online university course from scratch in 1999. It worked surprisingly well, because I found that I could get my enthusiasm and personality across in an online space, and the students also felt able to connect.

    So, in PB-space (sort of like k-space, in the meta properties, but with a fuzzy humanities slant) I am pretty happy that I can “read” the online personalities, and work out who is 1) Genuine, and 2) a person that I respect and would like to spend time with.

    Our PB lunch at Abduls, in Surry Hills, Sydney, completely confirmed my opinion that I am a fairly good judge of online personality and character.

    The lunch was great fun.

    Also, Quasar and others who missed the catch-up, despite the fact that I would love to stay permanently in my lovely bolt-hole in Sainte Foy, the Carnival is almost over, and I need to return to my life in Sydney. So, I will organise another catch-up once we are back in Sydney, mid-May.

    For my mother, born in 1935, the scenes of the tanks rolling through Ukraine are bringing back unpleasant childhood memories. She is convinced that France, too, will fall to the invasion of tanks, and desperately wants to go back to Australia.

    Our place in Sainte Foy, and all the friends we have made, will still be here in a few years time, and me and OH hope to be able come here frequently for circa 4-week periods relatively regularly.

    The flight is long, but both of us in our many different jobs in radio astronomy (we have had few) have spent a lot of time in long-haul flights in economy, to wherever telescopes, or the scientific hubs that ran them, were located.

  18. Quick thanks to c@t. I’ve added Ian Bremmer to the list of people I look for online. I found myself agreeing with him on nearly everything, mostly I suppose because I had already had similar thoughts. But his breadth of detail makes him worth looking for. He provided some answers too. And even the disagreements were minor and thought provoking.

    Thanks again.

  19. Lets take a look at where each of the combatants are at the moment


    Have a well disciplined Armed Services capable of defending cities that it wants to defend for now (note does not mean that it will remain so)
    Have a well supplied Armed Services with high quality western weapons
    Good ties with the west and have access to very reliable military sources.

    Doesn’t have control of the Ukraine skies other than reasonable air defence which will probably deteriorate as the war continues
    Reasonable logistics but this too will deteriorate as major cities become encircled with options to resupply become diminished.


    Appear to have substantial Armed Service Infrastructure in place that allowed it to encircled major Ukraine population centres (especially in the East)
    Military Strategy is pretty clear encircle major population centres and use long range and predominantly Medium range (15-30 miles) Bombardment to level population (the Aleppo option) centres before getting cities to surrender and/or move in ground troops to take the city street by street (and have a military establishment in number to do so)
    Essentially have control of the Ukraine Skies with Planes and Cruise Missiles.

    Initial strategy was uncertain.
    Logistic issues initially but would expect that they may be on the way to overcome.
    Resolve of Russian forces given that the enemy is the Ukraine and the family and societal connections (this is not an enemy that the Russians can demonise)

    So on the current trajectory would seem that we have a long drawn out war that involves house to house fighting in the suburbs of major cities and the Russian win.

    Can the trajectory be changed … Answer yes.

    If the Ukraine can remove or mitigate to a great degree mitigate the major Russian advantage – the placement of artillery in the 15-30 mile surrounds of major Ukraine population centres and bombing the crap out of them.

    The only way they can do this is to establish air superiority in that theatre.

    However the major advantage that the Ukraine has with western weaponry is (apart from anti-tank and anti-light infantry weapons) the use of armed Western drones. If a fleet could be deployed to take out significant numbers of the Russian offensive bombardment capability, this will give the Ukrainian Military the advantage in the following areas:-
    1. It can bring back some normality to major population centre (ie restore power, water, health and food distribution)
    2. Restore its air defence capabilities against cruise missiles and long range aircraft
    3. Allow the Ukrainian Military to conduct successful operations outside of the suburban areas they control.
    4. Allow the Ukrainian Military to establish logistics corridors to it major centres.

    If a fleet of drones were to strategically concentrate on the medium range artillery (and it has access to Western Military intelligence so they know their geographic locations) this would allow the above to happen.

    Have we seen any indications that this is the West/Ukrainian strategy?

    Well the answer is yes and no.

    The West is not showing any obvious signals but the Russian military activities in the West of Ukraine may give us some clues. The cruise missile attack of the Military airfield in Lutsk does give us some clues. Why attack Lutsk and why were there so many reported casualties.?

    The Lutsk location is within 30 miles of the Polish border. The west has a short logistics chain across the Polish border (it can get these weapons from US/GB/France into Poland within 24 hours). In fact it can take the Ukrainian Military into Poland to train them in the use of Drones without peril. It can assemble them in Poland and truck them across the border. These drones have range of 3000Km, they are virtually undetectable by radar, and they a undetectable from the ground at night). Also the command centre can be in the West of Ukraine or alternatively be anywhere in the world (would also get over Biden’s no boots on the ground).

    In denying the Ukraine a “no fly zone” the West knows that it can’t continue on the same path. It also would be good for the West to show a capability that negates the Aleppo strategy which has great impact on civilian populations and is unfortunately being used too often around the world.

  20. I have long since run out of words to describe the horror brought by Putin to Ukrainian soil.

    Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov on Putin’s war crimes and the personal horrors wrought on his country.

    “You can’t understand Russia with your mind!” wrote the 19th-century Russian poet Fyodor Tyutchev.

    I agree with him, but I still have a question: how can one understand Russia at all, if the mind does not help?


  21. I have thought the signalling to Putin by US officials/Biden administration that his threats to possibly use nuclear arms are effective in limiting proper western support for Ukraine, as distinct from attacking Russia directly, is profoundly stupid. It hands Putin a massive advantage and Ukraine a massive disadvantage.

    America’s Hesitation Is Heartbreaking: As the leader of NATO and of the free world, the United States needs to think much bigger than it has thus far.

    By Eliot A. Cohen

    “The American fear of escalation has been a repeated note throughout this conflict. But to the extent American leaders express that sentiment, or spread such notions to receptive reporters, they make matters worse, giving the Russians a psychological edge. The Russians can (and do) threaten to ratchet things up, knowing that the West will respond with increased anxiety rather than reciprocal menace. We have yet to see, for example, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin telling the world what a wretched hand the Russians are playing militarily, and how superior ours is—a message he is particularly fit to deliver.

    As for the nuclear question: We should not signal to the Russians that they have a trump card they can always play to stop us from doing pretty much anything. Nuclear weapons are why the United States should refrain from attacking Russia directly, not why it should fear fighting Russians in a country they invaded. Only a few years ago, the United States Air Force killed Russian Wagner mercenaries by the hundreds in Syria; American and Russian pilots tangled in the skies over Korea and possibly Vietnam. Nuclear deterrence cuts both ways, and the Russian leadership knows it. Vladimir Putin and those around him are ill-informed but not mad, and the use of nuclear weapons would threaten their very survival.

    When the Ukrainians are willing to spill their blood, seemingly without limit, in a wholly admirable cause, American hesitation is heartbreaking.”


  22. I approve of challenging Putin to personal combat. Much simpler solution than what’s going on.

    But I very much disapprove of challenging Putin to combat for Ukraine. Putin doesn’t own Ukraine, and has no legitimate right to claim it. He can’t fight for it, and he can’t lose it in a fight because it’s not his to lose.

  23. In an already fraught global economic environment, the prospect of China providing support to Russia leading to economic repercussions against China from the US (and so, inevitably, Australia) ought to have us quite worried.

  24. Some insights about the Ukraine war from an old buddy of mine, who (before retirement) served his entire military career in the service of EUCOM (the European Command)…

    Anyhow, the consensus seems to be that the Ukrainians have been giving the Russians a much harder time than expected. Perhaps Putin expected the Ukrainians to roll over the way the Hungarians did in the 50’s or Czechoslovakia in the 60’s? This is the largest deployment of Russians troops since WWII and logistics appear to be a big problem for the Russians. The most common metric used for modern conventional warfare is that the attacking force needs to have at least a 3 to 1 advantage in manpower and major weapons systems in order to overcome a defending force that is otherwise equal in terms of troop training and quality of equipment. On paper, the overall Russian armed forces have that advantage over the Ukrainians. Because of the logistics, the Russians are currently spread too thin to get a quick victory. So they’ve resorted to attacking civilians and trying to conquer Kiev and capture Zelensky.
    Frustrating for me is the lack of accurate casualty figures. The US military puts out conservative estimates. The Ukrainiass put out much higher figures for Russian losses. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
    Putin can’t afford to lose so he’s not likely to back down. He believes time is on his side. Sadly, I believe the Ukrainians will eventually cave.

  25. And more:

    Ukraine’s biggest advantage is what Clausewitz called “interior lines”. Basically, being on the defensive in their own country, the Ukrainians are generally very close to their supplies. For the Russians, everything has to be sent in from Russia. Supposedly, Ukrainian drones have been targeting fuel trucks. Without fuel, fuel-hungry tanks soon become so much useless metal.

  26. Those with experience in Afghanistan and Iraq are volunteering to help Ukraine. Also, a tyre fitter from Canada has gone to help change tyres for the Ukrainian military!

  27. Rewi @ #42 Tuesday, March 15th, 2022 – 12:14 pm

    In an already fraught global economic environment, the prospect of China providing support to Russia leading to economic repercussions against China from the US (and so, inevitably, Australia) ought to have us quite worried.

    Alternatively, the Chinese are worried about the economic repercussions that supporting Russia will have on them. America has made it clear to the Chinese via back channels that they have equally severe economic sanctions against the Chinese ready to go if they detect China giving aid and comfort to the enemy, Russia.

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