sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

August 15, 2014

Ukraine: Finally a Conflict Worthy of New York Times Coverage

Filed under: politics, Russia, Ukraine — Tags: , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 9:40 pm

Given how they are too post-modern for the conflict between good and evil,the New York Times doesn’t do well with moral clarity.  Israel fighting HAMAS is too much for them.  But here comes Ukraine’s Donbas region, with war full of no good guys, and voila– they get it!

LUHANSK, Ukraine — Every night, as darkness falls over Luhansk, the focus now of intense humanitarian concern and geopolitical intrigue, a cat-and-mouse artillery duel begins.

In a neighborhood of high-rise apartments, residents can readily identify the hollow pops of mortars as they echo among the buildings. After that, rebel fighters can be seen hastily dismantling the weapons and hauling them away.

An hour or so later, the Ukrainian military’s response comes: the whistle and boom of incoming artillery shells, fired from guns outside the city, in a fruitless attempt at silencing the rebel gunners.

You mean, it’s not Russian terrorists executing multiple large-scale false flag operations bombing Ukrainian cities?  While Putin’s fingerprints are all over the whole separatist business and some of his special forces are fighting in Ukraine, let me assure you, as a person who reads both Russian and Ukrainian, and knows people in Eastern Ukraine, few in Ukraine* believe the fairytale that Russian terrorists are slaughtering loyal Ukrainians.  And that it’s not a widespread opinion presents a problem for Kiev — the kind of problem that requires a radical solution.  Many Donbas residents are so convinced that it’s Ukrainian armed forces shell their towns, that they flee to Russia en mass, while others move westward into Ukraine where they don’t register as refugees for the fear of being drafted into Ukrainian army, but busy themselves with defacing Ukrainian flags.

NYT collected the following sample of popular opinion in Luhansk:

Polina Ivanova, a resident of one ravaged area, was sympathetic to the rebel mortar crew. “Look how many civilians are dying,” she said. “They are trying to protect us, and they have nowhere else to fire from. We are surrounded.”

She stood on a stoop in the predawn with Ekaterina Vladimirova, a neighbor who had a different opinion. “Both sides don’t care about us,” Ms. Vladimirova said. “For them, it’s a game. One shoots that way, the other shoots this way, and simple people suffer.”

Oleg Romanov, 29, said he huddled in terror with his wife and 1-year-old son in an apartment while “it booms all night long, and plaster falls from the ceiling.” He then rises at 4 a.m. to take his place in a line for water, and make the rounds of stores to hunt for groceries.

“The rebels fire Grads and leave, and then, of course, the answer comes back to that spot,” he said. “The rebels are long gone by then, but people are still around.”

That’s a pretty representative spread.

The only thing NYT missed in their story is that the utilities in Luhansk, Slavyansk and other Eastern Ukrainian cities were turned off by Kiev.  All in all, the paper of record should stop covering Israel and refocus on Ukraine, which they are infinitely more adept to cover.

It’s not just Ukrainians who question the official account.  Human Rights Watch checked out what’s going on in Donbas, and came up with a report confirming the use of Grad rockets by Ukrainian Army.  Yes, I know it’s HRW.



  1. If not from the Russians, where would the rebels getting Grad rocket launchers from? Why would they fire from populated areas? What are they trying to hit?

    Generally, when artillery returns fire against an enemy artillery position, to be effective that return fire has to be almost instantaneous. Otherwise, what is the point? The target has moved. Firing after the target has moved, particularly into a populated area, is stupid.

    Anyway, because the USA offered the Ukraine military support if they gave up their nukes, we should be more involved this this mess. Yet with Obama in charge, it is probably just as well we are doing so little. Furthermore, I know little about the area; few Americans do. When the USSR broke up, we should have sent charity, but our government should have largely stayed out of it. Guaranteeing the Ukraine’s was an idiot promise.

    I hope it is just my ignorance, but I don’t see a good outcome. Only brief wars have few causalities, but Putin doesn’t seem to be in a hurry. Is he too busy trying to be covert? I don’t know, but he is giving the Ukraine time to organize and steel itself for battle, and the Ukraine does seems to be using that time somewhat effectively. So the longer Putin takes seizing the eastern Ukraine, the more resistance he is likely to encounter.

    Have you ever read The Art of War By Sun Tzu (

    Comment by Citizen Tom — August 16, 2014 @ 6:10 pm

    • I’m not trying to exculpate the separatists. Yes, they are firing from population centers in order to maximize civilian casualties. Granted, many of them (most) are local and really believe that they are fighting for their freedom and against Kiev Nazis, but they are on orders to fire from civilian areas.
      Yes, the US is supposed to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and we should be going to war with Russia over Crimea.
      On the other hand, Ukraine is doing pretty well for itself at this moment, and as far as they are fighting Russian proxies, and not Russia, they are OK.
      Ukraine today is neither liberal nor democracy, and considering the split among Ukrainians it can not exist as a liberal democratic ally of the United States. I will post more about this in a few weeks when Kids start school.
      Kissinger was interested in negotiating neutral unified Ukraine, but Obama is too proud to talk to him. This is probably the most enlightened solution for Ukraine’s problems for the time being. I hope some time in the future Ukraine can be a liberal democratic ally of ours, but this time is not now.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — August 16, 2014 @ 6:31 pm

      • Thanks for the clarification. Look forward to the next installment.

        Because so many different peoples border each other in that part of the world, keeping them from fighting each other is a fools errand. We simply don’t have either the will or the capacity. Hence it concerns me that the US promised to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but President Bill Clinton never evidenced much personal integrity.

        Liberals see banning nukes as a form of gun control, and too many politicians have little problem with lies. What matters is an immediate boost in popularity. Such just have to make someone else, the next administration usually, responsible for keeping their “promises.”

        Comment by Citizen Tom — August 17, 2014 @ 5:06 am

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