Rhetorical Questions

While the UK succumbs to self-imposed political, economic and regulatory destruction, the Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to repel Russia’s increasingly desperate attempts to bring literal destruction to their country.

In a Metafilter comment in mid-September, I wrote (in response to another comment that “If this evolves from a limited ‘special military operation’ to total war, I guess Russia can win. They have the cannon fodder (and nukes). But can Russians tolerate such a thing?”):

So we’re supposed to believe Putin’s line that this has been a limited special military operation and not total war? Russia massed a ton of troops on the border and invaded in force, and has been bombing civilian targets across the country for months. What was reducing Mariupol to rubble other than “total war”? They’ve done everything they could except use nukes, and the fact that they haven’t done that by this point suggests that they won’t. ¶ Many Russians, sadly, have shown that they’ll tolerate genocide, and presumably would also tolerate the use of nuclear weapons (just as too many Westerners were in favour of using them during the Iraq war—the number of “turn the desert into glass” comments back then was significantly higher than zero). But Putin’s instinct for self-preservation is clearly holding him back. He’s wanted the world to think he’s crazy enough to use them, but that doesn’t mean he is. He’s happy to portray this as a war with NATO for domestic rhetorical purposes, but that doesn’t mean he wants an actual hot war between Russia and NATO. ¶ I trust Ukraine in this. They don’t want to be nuked, and the risk to them right now is surely greater than the risk to the rest of us. But they’re not letting that hold them back at this critical moment. Zelenskyy’s point in his “without you” message about Russia’s hollow claims of brotherhood was well-made, but Ukraine still has years of experience of living under the same roof as Russia—if anyone can see through Russia’s bullshit, it’s Ukraine.

In the weeks since, Putin has escalated his rhetoric over nukes, officially proclaimed his annexation of territory which was in the process of being reoccupied by Ukraine as he did, and ranted at length about the West; but I haven’t seen much reason to qualify anything in that earlier comment.

Instead, I wrote some limericks.

Vladimir Putin just knew / The Ukrainian Army was through, / So was totally shocked / To be thoroughly mocked / As they stood fast and cried, "'ey, f— you!"

The invasion? Our progress is slow. / The enemy's stubborn, you know. / When we mobilize troops, / We discover that—oops— / They say, "Hell no, we're not gonna go."

A Russian, while looting a fridge, / Sees a missile fly over the ridge— / A HIMARS-launched rocket— / And grasps, to his shock, it / Is headed towards the Kerch Bridge.

Edit, 10 October: And here’s another…

The Donbas, in the east of Ukraine, / Has for over eight years known the pain / Of Russian "persuasion"— / Now outright invasion— / To obtain Ukraine's coal, gas and grain.

And not a limerick:

When Putin tried to take Luhansk, / The AFU replied, "No thanks." / When Putin asked, "How goes Donetsk?" / His generals hemmed and hawed, "Don't esk." / To seize control of coal and gas, / He's torn apart the whole Donbas.

2 October 2022 · Events