Ukraine War, March 14, 2022: Worst- and bad-case (nuclear) scenarios; the riskiest option may be to not oppose Putin with conventional force, NOW; An act of immense moral courage by a Russian state television editor on live news broadcast — UPDATED March 16, 2022

Developing

Due to rapidly-breaking developments and in order to facilitate readers’ access to the latest dispatches, we are publishing this article as it is being written. please check back for updates and additions.

Dispatches

See,

1)  Matt Bai, “Our cause in Ukraine is inspiring. It probably won’t stay that way, Washington Post, March 13, 2022 (7:01 p.m. EDT);

2) Francis Fukuyama, “Preparing for Defeat,” American Purpose, March 10, 2022https://www.americanpurpose.com/articles/preparing-for-defeat/4:03 pm);

3) Veronika Melkozerova, “The Western World Is in Denial; I understand why democratic countries are reluctant to fight, but I worry they don’t understand what will happen next,” The Atlantic, March 14, 2022 (11 AM ET),

Veronika Melkozerova is a journalist based in Kyiv. She is the executive editor of the New Voice of Ukraine, an English-language news site.

4) Eliot A. Cohen, “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,” The Atlantic, March 14, 2022 (6:00 a.m. ET);

5) “Hier werdet ihr belogen“ – Mitarbeiterin unterbricht Nachrichten im Staatsfernsehen,” Die Welt, den 14. März 2022;

Vor einem Millionenpublikum hat Marina Ovsyannikova am Montagabend die Abendnachrichten im russischen Staatsfernsehen unterbrochen. Während der Live-Übertragung im Ersten Kanal um 21 Uhr Moskauer Zeit (19 Uhr MEZ) sprang die Frau plötzlich hinter Nachrichtensprecherin Jekaterina Andrejewa ins Bild und hielt ein Protestplakat gegen den Ukraine-Krieg hoch.

„Stoppt den Krieg. Glaubt der Propaganda nicht. Hier werdet ihr belogen“, stand auf dem Plakat. Dazu rief sie mehrmals laut: „Nein zum Krieg, Nein zum Krieg, Nein zum Krieg!“ Anschließend brach die Übertragung ab und es wurden Bilder aus

6) Le Monde avec AFP, “Russie : en plein journal télévisé, une manifestante brandit une pancarte contre l’offensive en Ukraine; Marina Ovsiannikova, une employée de la puissante chaîne publique Pervy Kanal, a affiché sur un panneau plusieurs messages dont « Ne croyez pas la propagande ». Elle pourrait être poursuivie pour avoir « discrédité l’utilisation des forces armées russes »,” Le Monde, le 15 mars 2022 (00h41, mis à jour à mis à jour à 01h03).

Le Monde reports:

Dans une vidéo enregistrée préalablement et publiée par OVD-Info, Marina Ovsiannikova explique que son père étant ukrainien et sa mère russe, elle n’arrive pas à voir les deux pays comme ennemis.

« Ce qui se passe actuellement en Ukraine est un crime. La responsabilité totale de cette agression repose sur la conscience d’une seule personne : Vladimir Poutine », dit-elle pour commencer.

« Malheureusement, j’ai travaillé pour Pervy Kanal ces dernières années, faisant de la propagande pour le Kremlin. J’en ai très honte aujourd’hui », ajoute-t-elle notamment. « J’ai honte d’avoir permis que des mensonges soient diffusés à la télévision, honte d’avoir permis que le peuple russe soit “zombifié” », s’excuse-t-elle.

7) UPDATE: “Russian TV producer ‘extremely concerned’ for safety after protest live on air; Marina Ovsyannikova says she stands by her actions in first interview since live TV intervention, ” The Guardian, March 16, 2022 (13:17 GMT);

8) UPDATE: “Denis Kataev, Marina Ovsyannikova broke the state propaganda machine – others will follow; Her anti-war protest on live TV revealed to millions of viewers that the Russian government is not telling them the truth,” The Guardian, March 16, 2022 (10:42 GMT);

Commentary

How will the war end?

The worst case scenario

The worst case scenario for an end to the Ukraine war is a full nuclear exchange.  As we wrote earlier, “It could all end in a flash, and if it does it will be the last flash you will ever see.”

Before this happens, however, it is likely that the Russian military would revolt and overthrow Putin.

A bad but possible scenario: Nuclear exchange and destruction of an American and a Russian city

There is one very bad scenario that, while unlikely at present, could potentially occur before Putin is overthrown.

That scenario would follow the use of a tactical nuclear weapon by Putin, then the entry of NATO into the military conflict in Ukraine (if they haven’t already entered), possibly with attacks against Russian forces, missile batteries, and radar stations in Russia and Belarus.

Under this scenario, after a full NATO entry into the conflict, Putin would double down by taking out an American or European City with a nuclear strike. Such a strike would probably be followed quickly by a NATO nuclear strike taking out a Russian City.

At this point, Putin might be overthrown by a Russian military coup.

If he is not, the risks would be great of escalation toward a full nuclear exchange initiated by Putin.

The future of civilization, and even human life on the planet, would then depend on Russian military officials with responsibilities for nuclear weapons not following Putin’s orders.

Moreover, it is not even clear that this theoretical break-point would actually occur in reality. The room for errors and mistakes, for actions that are not the product of rational choice, is great.

The exchange could involve cities like Boston and St. Petersburg.

U.S. and Allied policy to repel Russian aggression

Obviously, U.S. policy should be aimed at avoiding the above possibilities.

Biden’s approach to date has been to avoid any action that might be perceived by Putin as NATO becoming engaged in a military conflict with Russia.

This approach has not deterred Putin from doubling down and ratcheting up his actions on the escalatory ladder. He seems to interpret Biden’s and NATO’s diffidence as a weakness.

Weakness does not deter Putin.

This failed approach is based on the “Rational Actor Fallacy”, and does not take into account how Putin’s behavior might be affected by powerful emotions, personal fears, and even illusions of historical grandeur.

We don’t know, moreover,  whether Putin is suffering from some terminal disease, or is taking medications such as powerful steroids which could deeply affect his thinking and decision making.

We know even less about the bureaucratic and organizational forces that could affect Russian behavior. One dimension of Russian organizational behavior is the military strategy of using terror and bombarding cities and civilian populations. This is organizational behavior, not behavior that is the result of rational calculations by a single “rational actor” or unitary mind.

The risks of action to stop Putin, e.g., by using force to halt his commission of crimes against humanity and in effect mass murder through the bombardment and starvation of civilian populations, are indeed great.

However, the risks of inaction may be even greater, allowing Putin to move up the escalatory ladder without meeting any
forceful resistance.

Biden’s threats of “red lines” are essentially meaningless, as they may be summarily dismissed by Putin, who will remember clearly how Barack Obama quickly folded when Bashar al-Assad crossed his “red lines” and used chemical weapons in Ghouta, Syria in August 2013.

There are no risk-free options.

The safest option may be to oppose Putin with conventional force now, before he moves further up the ladder of escalation.

An act of immense moral courage by a Russian television editor on the Evening News

When I read of the Russian news program editor who, on the principal evening news program in Russia, ran behind the newscaster and held up a sign that said, “You are being lied to,” I was awed by this single act of immense moral courage.

Die Welt reports:

In front of an audience of millions, Marina Ovsyannikova interrupted the evening news on Russian state television on Monday evening. During the live broadcast on Channel One at 9 p.m. Moscow time (7 p.m. CET), the woman suddenly jumped into the picture behind news anchor Ekaterina Andreyeva and held up a protest poster against the Ukraine war.

“Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. You will be lied to here,” the poster said. She shouted out loud several times: “No to the war, no to the war, no to the war!” The transmission then broke off and pictures from a hospital were shown.

My first association was to Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans, who were instrumental in the anti-Hitler student resistance movement centered around the University of Munich in 1942-43. Known as “Die Weisse Rose” (“the White Rose”), the group distributed anti-Nazi pamphlets, at first in Munich and then also in other cities. The group’s members were all caught and executed. Sophie and her older brother Hans were beheaded by guillotine on February 22, 1943.

See,

Tanja B. Spitzer, “Sophie Scholl and the White Rose; Sophie Scholl and the White Rose movement, while less known to Americans, is a powerful example of youthful resistance to the Nazi Regime,” The National World War II Museum, February 22, 2020.

The Trenchant Ohserver

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