Weekly Link Roundup

♥ Currently reading Ukraine and Russia: From Civilized Divorce to Uncivil War: “To many Russians, Ukraine is part of Russia, without which Russia is incomplete. This belief is rooted in the hundreds of years in which much of Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union, in the Russian foundation myth which sees the origins of today’s Russia in medieval Kyiv, and in the important role played by people from Ukraine … in Russian/Soviet culture and politics. The sense of something important being lost was profound. Vladimir Putin invoked this history to justify the seizure of Crimea in 2014. The geographer Gerard Toal applies the concept of ‘thick geopolitics’ and Elizabeth Wood refers to ‘imagined geography’ to show how Russia’s perception of its geopolitical situation shaped Russian policy in its ‘near abroad’ … Actors are willing to take disproportionate risks to avoid a perceived loss. Applied to international relations, states will try very hard to preserve the status quo or to restore it when they perceive it has been disrupted for the worse. Henry Kissinger, relying on history rather than behavioral economics, similarly argued that whether great powers accepted the status quo was crucial to the maintenance of stability. After 1991, Ukraine, Russia, and the West had different understandings of the new status quo. Therefore, each saw itself as defending the status quo, and saw others’ efforts to overturn it as signs of malicious intent.”

Understanding the History of Ukraine: Recommended Reading (NYPL): “Most of the titles selected are more recent works that take into account pivotal moments from the last couple of decades. Perhaps most importantly, it aims to provide a balanced discussion, offering some of the different perspectives interwoven in the country’s complex history.”

The U.S. and the E.U., Aiming to Punish Oligarchs, Ban Luxury Exports to Russia. (The New York Times): “As part of a fourth wave of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, the European Union and the United States announced [03/11] that they would no longer allow any exports of luxury goods to Russia … While many luxury groups had already closed their stores in Russia, this move will prevent shipments of high-end watches, cars, apparel, alcohol and jewelry from reaching the country. The White House placed the value of American luxury exports to Russia at about $550 million a year.”

Putin’s War Is a Death Blow to Nuclear Nonproliferation (Foreign Policy): “The NPT is the bedrock of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime. It contains the only binding commitment to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon states. The agreement explicitly acknowledges that preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons cannot be achieved by individual states but requires the dedication and collaboration of the global community. The NPT also contains the obligation of nuclear-weapon states to not transfer nuclear arms to other states—and of non-nuclear-weapon states to refrain from receiving, manufacturing, or acquiring nuclear weapons … In its preamble, the NPT recalls that countries must refrain … ‘from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.’ “

Here’s Just How Weird Some of Those Russian Bonds Really Are (Bloomberg): “… a prospectus for euro-denominated bonds sold by Russia back in November of 2020 and due in 2027 … includes 15 pages of risk factors, seven of which are largely dedicated to sanctions alone … Risk factors like these are common … What’s less common are alternative payment clauses that allow the issuers to pay in another currency under certain circumstances … these bonds were issued with just such a clause, setting out how Russia might be able to pay in rubles if, for ‘reasons beyond its control,’ it can no longer come up with the foreign currency needed to make payment.”

The Three Rules for Canceling Russia Fairly (The Atlantic): “Companies and organizations … should pursue these goals: avoiding actions that punish innocents without helping the war effort, taking care to maintain a distinction between Russians competing and competing for Russia, and safeguarding civil liberties as strenuously as in peacetime.”

For a Ukrainian Poet, Putin’s War Is All Too Familiar (The New York Times): “Russia, in his view, had for centuries taken Ukrainian history and culture as its own, and then was left naked with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. ‘The powerful and glorious Russia is a country without history, and that is what alarms Putin the most … To be without its history was not prestigious. That’s where the war comes from.’ “

Russia’s Red-Hot Temple of Contemporary Art, and Its Jet-Setting Cofounder, Are Losing Major Exhibitions (Vanity Fair): “It’s unclear how the museum will function going forward … Right now, even with the shows not happening, the museum is open. And that might not be a bad thing. On Instagram, young Muscovites are eating at the cafe, hanging in the library, and taking selfies with artworks on display. In a city where many young citizens oppose the warmongering and xenophobia of their country’s forever president, Garage could be the one of the last places in town to experience unfiltered, uncensored contemporary art.”

The Weakness of the Despot (The New Yorker): “You have an autocrat in power—or even now a despot—making decisions completely by himself … Very few people talk to Putin, either Russians on the inside or foreigners. And so we think, but we don’t know, that he is not getting the full gamut of information. He’s getting what he wants to hear. In any case, he believes that he’s superior and smarter. This is the problem of despotism. It’s why despotism, or even just authoritarianism, is all-powerful and brittle at the same time. Despotism creates the circumstances of its own undermining. The information gets worse. The sycophants get greater in number. The corrective mechanisms become fewer. And the mistakes become much more consequential. Putin … believed that the Ukrainian government was a pushover. He believed what he was told or wanted to believe about his own military, that it had been modernized to the point where it could organize not a military invasion but a lightning coup, to take Kyiv in a few days and either install a puppet government or force the current government and President to sign some paperwork.”

Only NATO Can Save Putin (The Atlantic): “NATO intervention in Russia’s war on Ukraine could halt that country’s barbarous attacks. But it would mean war between Putin’s regime and the West, and this war would be such a gift to Putin that we should expect that he will soon do everything he can to provoke it … NATO intervention would help Putin by allowing him to rally his nation and impose even harsher measures to suffocate dissent … the term NATO can still produce a visceral response in Russia … Putin could also use NATO’s participation in the war to override objections in the Kremlin or the Russian defense ministry regarding the use of nuclear weapons … Putting so many military assets in play, with combat breaking out all over Europe, could spark a catastrophe that neither we nor Putin intended.”

Russia Is Losing Tens of Thousands of Outward-Looking Young Professionals (The New York Times): “Before the war broke out, only about 3,000 to 4,000 Russians were registered as workers in Armenia … But in the two weeks following the invasion, at least an equal number arrived almost every day in this small country. While thousands have moved on to other destinations, government officials said late last week that about 20,000 remained. Tens of thousands more are looking to start new lives in other countries … Armenia, a former Soviet republic which has remained neutral in the conflict, has offered the softest landing. Unlike the reception in Georgia, none of the Russians interviewed said they had encountered hostility. Here, they can enter the country without visas or even passports and stay up to six months, and Russian is widely spoken.”

Ukraine Brings Back Agonizing Realpolitik Decisions (The Wall Street Journal): “The U.S. now has to decide whether to return to the days of realpolitik, when it held its nose to foster good relations with unsavory regimes to better confront a larger danger emanating from Russia … the Biden administration faces that choice when it comes to relations with Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran and some of the more autocratic governments in Europe … overhanging it all is the mega question of whether the U.S. can foster better relations with China to offset a Russian menace, despite misgivings about Beijing’s policies … Debates raged over whether the U.S. was making unwise or even immoral choices in pursuit of anti-Soviet friendships, and whether it was sowing the seeds for long-term unrest and alienation from swaths of world citizens by befriending leaders who ruthlessly suppressed internal debate and dissent.”

How to Make Peace With Putin (Foreign Affairs): “… the time to sketch the outlines of a diplomatic solution is now … An enduring settlement will have to balance the interests of all parties to the conflict … no party achieves its ultimate goals, but each gets something it urgently needs—this is the inevitable outcome of any negotiation to end a horrific war. It will not look like the victory that many in the West and Ukraine yearn for. Still, a settlement that preserves an independent Ukraine with the wherewithal to defend itself should count as a major success. It is worth remembering that the West won the Cold War not in one fell swoop but through a series of steps.”

The Bad Guys Are Winning (The Atlantic): “Today, the most brutal members of Autocracy Inc. don’t much care if their countries are criticized, or by whom … modern autocrats are using aggressive tactics to push back against mass protest and widespread discontent … Autocrats who adopt it are ‘willing to pay the price of becoming a totally failed country, to see their country enter the category of failed states,’ accepting economic collapse, isolation, and mass poverty if that’s what it takes to stay in power.”

♥ (Video) A Message to the Russian People (Arnold Schwarzenegger on YouTube)

You can help Ukrainian children devastated by the recent conflict by donating to UNICEF, or donate to the organizations listed here (compiled by NPR) which support the Ukrainian people.

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