Putin is failing in his goal of expanding Russia's borders. His only ‘victory’ is recreating the very worst of the old Soviet state.
Thank you, Jim, for introducing us all to your brother Tom and his writings. On the point at the end of this one about how, if Bucha and other atrocities in Ukraine represent genocide, it would be a different kind because both are Slavic peoples and their only difference is language: I suggest Cambodia as a possible partial analogue. I'm no expert, but it might even be that Communist or Communist-esque ideology could be where part of the analogy lies, if there is one. Ethnic or language difference played no role in the Cambodian genocide - it was ideological, right? Would Russian nationalism in Ukraine be a legitimate analogue to Khmer Rouge Maoism?
Thank you, Jim and Tom, for connecting some of the more pertinent historical dots in this tragic timeline. As fate would have it, I saw your post moments just before receiving a news alert that President Biden has explicitly called for a war crimes trial of Putin, but I actually read your combined reflections after I had received the notification. Earlier in the week I had already begun to imagine the scene with Zelenskyy actually negotiating face-to-face with Putin, but the discovery of the mass murder of civilians makes it harder to contemplate.
Without wanting to quibble about such tragic circumstances, the killing of civilians in Bucha resembles Srebrenica more than Katyn but really neither came to my mind when I saw the accounts myself. The relative timing and nature of the earlier two massacres may seem irrelevant, but I have always thought that Katyn massacre began while the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact was still being respected by the Germans and the Russians took these actions with deliberation, and the atrocities at Srebrenica seemed planned as an attempt to eliminate large numbers of Bosnian males who might eventually join in the fight against Milosevic and his militia [and I agree with another reader who made this last point in a comment posted earlier today...].
It is difficult to make such distinctions without seeming to nitpick, but the killings in Bucha frankly reminded me of the retreat to the north of the SS-led Das Reich division in France after D-Day in 1944. My wife's family was directly impacted both in that some were in the Resistance while others were very young witnesses to the roundup of about males between 16 and 60 that led to the mass hanging of 99 along the main street of Tulle and the deportation to Dachau of 150 others who mostly did not return... that says nothing of the massacre of over 600 civilians in the village of Oradour-sur-Glan. Having just seen [on Monday, April 4] a report on the BBC from Bucha that shows that the Ukrainian resistance there was quite effective, it would seem these massacres were a brutal retribution against the civilian population during the retreat of the Russian forces.
Why compare the Russian forces in Ukraine to the Nazi troops withdrawing from the Mediterranean to defend the Fatherland after years of being told that they were the best and were unbeatable? The question answers itself...
If I may add a different perspective, I was somewhat relieved to read the other day that the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons by the Russians was rendered more explicit and relatively less worrisome in the geopolitical scheme of things. The problem, of course, is what might be interpreted as an "existential threat". Just suppose that he and his most fervent supporters have an inflexibly irredentist vision of a Greater Russia somewhere between nostalgia for the defunct Soviet Union and the fantasy of a 21st century version of the Tsarist empires as evoked by the names Peter, Catherine, or even Nicolas... or is Putin simply trying to protect his ill-gotten status and riches with people like Navalny and others chipping away at his domestic credibility?
The Big Question, then, is whether the instruments of the Russian state are actually under his unilateral and absolute control and whether the continued existence of those institutions is tied to his personal survival.
For what it's worth, and this isn't in any way meant to rationalize the atrocity committed, I think there may have been a military logic to the Srebrenica massacre. Those singled out for execution were all men and boys--future Muslim fighters. Women and children were separated and forcibly removed.
Another for what it's worth, and probably one you already know, but John Burns' Bosnia war reporting for the Times was magnificent. In one of Burns' stories that sticks in my mind, he interviewed a Serbian from the countryside who, with his friend, murdered several generations of one family in front of their home, and couldn't get the image of one of his victims, a little girl in a red dress, out of his head.
These are my $6.00 thoughts...
So, what you're saying, to make the comparison between Katyn and Bucha capable of existing in anything remotely resembling a rational universe, is that the killings at Bucha were a deliberate state policy of Russia. Those killed in Ukraine were selected using criteria established by the Russian government in order to support a national political strategy. The victims of this atrocity were killed because they would have...
waiting for it ...
Still waiting ...
Other than the Russian military killing people, there’s not much to compare.
Your brother's "revelations" on Katyn are not news to me, especially when you look at the structure and accession processes of the Polish military in the 1930s -- and also keeping 1920 in mind. Instead of making this bogus comparison (which fails to stand on its own even as printed) perhaps your brother (or even you) should have just concentrated on the facts of Bucha as they are emerging and limited the comparison to similar incidents initiated by the Russian military over the years. There are plenty to choose from without digging deep into the "Bogus Box".
Note: As regards the larger conflict picture, 1920 (the Battle of Warsaw) does have something to offer. Perhaps your brother's attention could be guided in that direction, offering us analysis a little more focused, and avoiding minefields of his own making.
What comes to mind for me is a movie about what nuclear war I saw many years ago, but I have never forgotten the tag caption on the screen at the end: "Will the survivors envy the dead?"