THE COLUMN: 'Not Worth the Bones of a Single Grenadier'

Otto von Bismarck, Germany's Iron Chancellor and the man who united most of the German states into a unified Second Reich in the second half of the 19th century, once famously observed that Der ganze Balkan ist nicht die gesunden Knochen eines einzigen pommerschen Grenadiers wert. "The entire Balkans aren't worth the sound bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier." The joke being that a) the Balkans had always been an intractable mess and always would be, b) Pomerania itself had a long history of being conquered and reconquered by Prussians, Poles, Lithuanians, and Swedes, and Pomeranians were regarded as lousy soldiers, and c) a Pomeranian is a breed of small yipping dog. 

Bismarck was right about the Balkans, but he might as well have been speaking of the Ukraine, a troubled land (its name means "borderland"), oft-conquered, rarely independent, generally restive, and almost always miserable. Like the Kurds, the Ukrainians are for reasons of geography basically a people without a country, long dominated by Russia both in its czarist and Soviet incarnations; indeed, Russians regard the Ukrainian capital of Kiev as an essential part of the Motherland, celebrated in both architecture and music by Viktor Hartmann and Modest Mussorgsky: 

The Ukraine won its independence after the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991. As part of the deal, the Ukrainians were persuaded/coerced by Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, among other signatories to the Budapest Memorandum of 1994, to surrender the nuclear weapons stationed on their soil. The key point for Russia was that the Ukraine, as a buffer state between itself and the West, should never be allowed to threaten the Russian homeland. The Russians, with their tenuous hold on a vast continental empire, the biggest nation on Earth, have long memories of foreign (particularly Teutonic) invasions that stretch well before Napoleon won his pyrrhic victory at Borodino and then had to retreat from a burning Moscow, destroying the Grande Armée. The idea was that Russia wouldn't threaten its former Warsaw Pact states and in return NATO wouldn't edge up to Russia's borders.

You say Kyiv, they say Kiev.

The West, of course, welshed on the deal, and has gradually been impressing other satellite countries near Russia's western border into the service of a now-explicitly anti-Russian (as opposed to anti-Soviet) North Atlantic Treaty Organization: Albania and Croatia in 2009 and, more recently, the military powerhouses of Montenegro and North Macedonia. More are likely on their way, including Finland and Sweden, historically both enemies of Russia. The Ukraine clearly wishes to join NATO as well, especially latterly, under its president Vladimir Zelensky—but at the moment is prevented from doing so by among other things a law passed under its own former government in 2010. 

The biggest cheerleaders for the Ukraine in the current war have turned out to be, surprise, Joe Biden and his always-wrong, America Last foreign policy establishment, headed by secretary of state Anthony Blinken, a retread from both the Clinton and Obama administrations. Biden and his noxious family have long used the Ukraine—the most corrupt country in Europe—as their personal piggybank and money laundromat, and in the recent past he has openly boasted about his ability to legally blackmail Ukrainian officials into doing his bidding. His word as a Biden!

But then, why wouldn't he? As a bloviating senator of nearly half a century, Biden is thoroughly accustomed to never being held responsible for a single thing he says. He's dined out on the death of his wife and daughter in a car accident for 50 years, blithely accusing the other driver of being drunk, which he wasn't, among the many, many other malicious lies he's told. He casually slandered good men like Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas and never lost a moment of sleep over his scurrilous remarks. Biden is emblematic of our parlous politics, the worm in the rotten apple who has finally made his journey from the calyx to the pedicel and emerged into the sunlight, a doddering old fool, vacant-eyed (except when animated by hatred), slack-jawed, wandering aimlessly in search of another hand to shake or another pocket to pick, which as a lifelong politician is all he knows how to do. 

Now, however, he's actually dangerous; presidential pronouncements have consequences. The definition of Irish Alzheimer's—you only remember the grudges—fits him to a T. In his Fredo brain, never very impressive to begin with, he's focusing his animus on Russia because that's the country that most threatens to bring the whole Biden house of cards down around his head. He knows that even the Praetorian Media, which throttles bad news (especially about the louche Hunter, of which there is a seemingly endless supply) in its cradle, won't be able to protect him forever, that he's got two years before his improbable and wholly regrettable presidency is over, and that his choleric chickens will eventually come home to roost. 

And so, with Vladimir Putin calling up the reserves to bolster his faltering invasion (or reclamation) of at least parts of the Ukraine, Biden and his brain trust are turning the conflict into a proxy war between the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R. Never mind that the American military has finally reached the limits of its tolerance, and is cracking under the stress of wokism being imposed upon it from above. It's in no position to fight even a proxy war, much less engage in a nuclear exchange with Russia, but that's exactly where this is heading if the president doesn't stop recklessly shooting off his mouth:

It would help if the castrati in Congress would at least pretend to try and rein Biden in, but under the "leadership" of a malign Chuck Schumer and a rapacious minority leader, Mitch McConnell, not to mention the superannuated, bibulous speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, the first branch of government has taken its lead from the second branch under Biden and is only in it for the money, of which it plans to take all it can get. Declare war? Restrain the powers of the presidency? Stop the march of the spending bills? Surely you jest: don't you know there's still a Covid emergency on, no matter what the man behind the prompter says?

In the meantime, billions and billions of freshly printed greenbacks flow to the Ukraine, where Zelensky conducts a photo-op war that, strangely, never includes any first-hand footage from the front by the American news media. Then again, media mopes are even lazier than Congresscritters, so if they don't see it on Twitter or TikTok, it's not news. They're all Taylor Lorenz now, and they don't care who knows it, as long as their bosses don't find out.

Live! From Kyiv! It's World War III.

Putin is a man who has watched his country shot out from underneath him, the Soviet sphere of influence dramatically reduced, NATO encroaching across his western frontier, his country's birth rate falling, and the once-vaunted Red Army apparently taking a licking from Ukrainians armed by a consort of nations that includes Great Britain and the old "principal enemy,: the U.S.A. So it's well to remember that Russians are used to being pushed to the last extremity before ferociously snapping back and eviscerating their tormentors, whatever the cost to them.

In 1410 the Teutonic Knights were annihilated by a combined Polish-Lithuanian force at the battle of Tannenberg, in the same part of Prussia as Pomerania. In 1943, the Wehrmacht's frozen Sixth Army surrendered to the Soviets at Stalingrad. And in the awful winter of 1812, Napoleon's dreams of total European conquest died in the snows of Eastern Europe as well. It's a bad neighborhood filled with guys a lot tougher than Joe Biden and Tony Blinken. The Ukraine-Russia war is not our fight, and isn't worth the strong bones of a single American soldier or civilian. Let's hope they—and we—don't have to learn that the hard way. Just ask Napoleon.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Kyiving

August in London. Did you ever hear of such a thing? Mummy and Daddy are headed to our country house soon but it’s been the three of us while I’m here at my childhood home in St John’s Wood. Back in California I have my own house. And my Tesla, and my Tesla grid, but I haven’t been terribly motivated to go back. And Britain’s fascination with American crime isn’t helping. Flash mobs looting a 7-11? Risking life and limb for a packet of cheese curls? Staggering really, so here I remain, working, and endeavouring to save our planet.

In an effort not to treat this house like a hotel, I always try to leave a note as to where I’m going but as we’re flying private I couldn’t leave the flight number, and  ‘Off to Kyiv’ didn’t seem like the note one scrawls on the way out the door. So I simply wrote ‘Off with friends, will ring you from STN’. Stanstead, of course, being one of the three airports in London that can handle VIP jets larger than the 767.

Fortunately, (and unfortunately) Stanstead is only thirty miles from London so I couldn’t put off the call for too long, and I did need Daddy’s help. So ring him I did, and luckily he answered. ‘Good morning Jennifer’ he said, ‘Off to Amsterdam to block a mega soy ship from departing?’ 

UGH! He was awake, alright. ‘No Daddy, that happened in May! And as you very well know I have nothing to do with Greenpeace…’ I huffed.

‘Of course’. He said, ‘Hard to keep the good guys straight from the bad boys’.

‘Right’. I said, moving on. ‘I’m headed to Kyiv with Leo DiCaprio and…’

‘The chap who stiffed you at your last fundraiser?’ he interrupted. 

‘Yes. I mean no. He didn’t exactly stiff me, he just couldn’t turn up’, I insisted. ‘ANYWAY, I’m headed over with Leo and Will Smith and…’

‘The boxer?’ he responded.

‘DADDY!’ I said, raising my voice to stop him, ‘I was just wondering if you could explain black money to me—and if it looks bad’. 

‘Well I think you mean dark money and it apparently looks bad to the GAO but how did you feel about it when you attended that environmental bash in St Tropez? I thought you told me it netted over £40 million’. 

‘But that wasn’t dark money…’ I insisted. 

‘No, arguably that was green money but hey…£40 million here, £40M million…pretty soon you’re talking about real money. Listen sweetheart, if you’re asking me if funneling money to a law firm and spearheading climate-nuisance lawsuits is a bad thing, then yes. I would say it is a very bad thing. And if you asked me if I thought flying around in private jets is also its own climate nuisance, I would also say yes. But how do you feel about partying with the bad guy in what they are advertising as war?

‘I thought Putin was the bad guy’, I insisted. 

Everybody's doin' it, doin' it, doin' it...

‘They’re both bad guys, Jennifer, no matter what the Bonos and the Sean Penns and the Angelina Jolies of this world have to say about it—it’s a very bad business. And the environmental aspect of it should be the least of anyone’s concern’. 

‘Even the nuc…’ I interrupted. 

‘Yes, even the nuclear plant!’ He said. ‘This is the equivalent of complaining about the destruction of historical buildings in Syria when they are putting Christian children’s heads on pikes. But I guess the world needs their Turkish apricots so—go. Do your work'. 

I knew he was right. And he had a right to be upset. The whole green-push had affected his ability to safely and efficiently transport oil on his pipeline. And whenever I had a chance I did tell my clients that the absolute best environmental option for transporting oil is by pipeline. Trucks, and ships, and the Exxon Valdez, being obviously the worst.

Our call had taken the lovely edge off of a perfect flat white but I was determined to rally and to save this planet in some small way—today and every day. What I did know was I had to soldier on, and that world governments had failed citizens by not acting aggressively enough to curb global warming. I would use my seat at the table to do good. 

Bro' time at the front.

When I got on the plane I was told Leo was already asleep, so I plopped down on a sofa near the front and asked for some water to take my vitamins. My phone rang. It was my neighbor from California whom I hadn’t spoken to since her pool skimmer made a loud sucking noise about three years ago. 

‘Hello?’ I said.

She responded with a voice that was half porn-star, half I-might-just-be-fourteen, ’Jennifer? It’s your neighbor—Holly’. 

‘Right. Hi Holly. What’s up? I’m on a plane--about to take off’. 

‘Oh wow’, she said. ‘Where are you going?’ 

Wow?? Being on an airplane deserves a wow? ‘I’m headed to Minorca’, I lied. I wasn’t explaining the whole Kyiv/environment/war thing to her. DiCaprio and Will Smith wouldn’t faze an Angeleno, but Kyiv, might. 

‘Oh wow’. She said again. Apparently, it deserved a wow

‘So… what’s up?’ I said, ‘I’m actually on a plane’. 

‘Yeah, well, this is way out of left field but we are all going down to Laguna because of the fires’. 

‘There are fires? Are we being evacuated?’ I said, remembering the Thomas Fire when I chased a fleeing horse for nearly an hour before I got him off the freeway. 

‘No, the fires are in Castaic. We are going because of the smoke. It’s not a lot- a lot—but the insurance will pay if the smoke is bothering us. And so we are all going down to the Monarch in Laguna’.

‘Is the smoke really that… oh, the Monarch with the spa… got it’. And they wonder why our insurance rates are so high. ‘So…Holly, as I said, I’m on a plane… wow, right? I know. So thank you for thinking of me but obviously the smoke isn’t bothering me’.

‘I get that, but isn’t this sort of what you do? Pollution and stuff?’ 

‘Not so much’.

‘Okay, but if your insurance asks can you say it bothered you too?’

‘I don’t think so… I’m in Spain!’ I said, drawing a look from the air hostess. ‘What I can do is say I’m not there and it has the added benefit of being true.’

The Grammys are weapons, too.

Luckily I saw a text come in and used it as an excuse to ring off. It was my father: ‘Be safe in Kyiv. See if you can get me one of those designer tee shirts Mr Z wears’.

Ha! Not a chance he’d wear one but it made me laugh. ‘Roger that. See you soon’ I texted back. 

‘Are you coming back to London?’ he texted. 

‘OMG yes! At the moment California is just a little too toxic’, I said, hanging up and gladly accepting something a little stronger than water from the flight attendant. 

Dealing with the Fallout from Putin's Folly

BUDAPEST -- It is impossible to calculate as yet the number of Ukrainian refugees who have been displaced from their homes by the Russian invasion and forced to flee to safety. An estimated 2.7 million Ukrainians have been accepted by Poland and Hungary and now rest in those countries. Others have gone to neighboring countries or farther afield where they have homes, foreign spouses, and family connections—there are large Ukrainian diasporas across the world, especially in the so-called Anglosphere. Finally, an unknown but large number of Ukrainians have left cities like Kiev under attack to stay with family members and other places of refuge across Ukraine.

By the time the killing stops, as many as 4-5 million Ukrainians could be living outside Ukraine and as many more (out of a population of forty million) will have moved into rural areas or regions outside the war zone. This displacement of millions of people by war is a humanitarian disaster, but of what kind we don’t yet know. That will depend in part on the outcome of the Russo-Ukrainian War. If it were to end quickly in a clear victory for either side, the refugees would almost all return to rebuild their homes.

"Russian women: Call your sons and husbands home."

Cities where they used to live are being pulverized into ruins by the Russian invader. Restoring those destroyed cities—as the Poles restored Warsaw after the Nazis leveled the city in World War Two—will be Ukraine’s first task. The country would receive a great deal of European and American help to do so.

But if the refugees are returning to a country under Russian occupation or divided between Western and Russian “sectors”—with or without a peace treaty—many will want to wage a guerrilla war to drive the invader out. That’s the kind of spirit that currently grips Ukrainians everywhere, and it’s likely to grow fiercer while the war persists.

In the first case, the refugee crisis will be short-lived. Ukrainians are not leaving their country now because they want to live somewhere else. They are leaving it to avoid being bombed or shelled by Russian soldiers. Once that’s no longer threatening them (even if Russia has stationed troops there), the great majority of them will return home—and the refugee crisis will cease to exist.

It is the second case—a Ukraine wholly or partly occupied by Russia—that will produce a permanent refugee crisis. Some refugees will return home to fight; most (probably) will want to settle down in the Western country where they find themselves “for the duration” of Russian occupation. That could be a decade or more.

How should these recipient countries handle this longer-term problem? And how are they actually doing so?

The best models for dealing with this kind of semi-permanent refugee problem are how the world handled the outflow of Hungarians fleeing the Russian occupiers in 1956 and how four years later the international community endorsed the proposal for World Refugee Year that—astonishing though that now seems—cleared up the backlog of post-WWII refugees still living in Displaced Persons camps across the continent. Some years ago I wrote about why WRY succeeded:

First, everyone knew that the refugees and DPs were genuine. The Second World War had ended only thirteen years before, and they were its last visible victims. No one thought they were disguised “economic migrants” who anyway in 1958 were welcome in many countries. Second, they were few in number and largely passive. Unless another hot war broke out, there was unlikely to be many more of them. No one imagined that there was a limitless “pool” of refugees who might overwhelm national borders if governments relaxed their entry rules. Third, we had just had the successful experience of resettling the Hungarian émigrés of 1956. All the Western countries had co-operated in an international effort to take in the “Fifty-sixers” in numbers appropriate to the population size of each recipient country. Austria wasn’t left to handle the exodus for itself simply because it bordered Hungary. All these things fostered an international mood that was receptive to the idea.

Flashback to 2015: a different kind of "migrant" crisis.

Very few of these conditions existed in 2015 when the last refugee crisis erupted which, incidentally, Europe as a whole handled badly, taking about two years to reach the commonsense restrictions that Hungary had imposed almost from the first. But the current Ukrainian refugee outflow does resemble the 1956 and 1960 refugee problems and in principle can be successfully handled by European governments, E.U. agencies, and civil society NGOs.

No one doubts they’re genuine refugees, not economic migrants; they enjoy enormous sympathy from people who have watched on the media the destruction of their homes; they’re disproportionately women and children whose men stay to fight (or to be conscripted—though that stirs indignation from an Amherst feminist legal scholar who argues with perverse ingenuity that Ukrainian women are being deprived of their human right to be conscripted equally with men); and almost all of them hope to return to Ukraine before too long and don’t want to put down roots elsewhere.

All of these qualities ensure that as in 1956, the refugees really are welcome. The only thing that makes people nervous about this inflow is the large numbers involved. A few days ago Bloomberg reported that Slovakia, an E.U. border state of 5.5 million, was experiencing the biggest migration crisis in its history, with an influx of more than 176,000. The figure will be larger now.

What has helped Europe to handle the crisis well is that the politicization of refugee policy—indeed, its weaponization by the Left—has been held in check so far by the crisis. The E.U. Summit’s statement on refugees was rooted in cooperation with national governments:

We commend European countries, notably at the borders with Ukraine, for showing immense solidarity in hosting Ukrainian war refugees. The EU and its Member States will continue to show solidarity and provide humanitarian, medical and financial support to all refugees and the countries hosting them.

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A report from Bloomberg Equality—headlined "Ukraine Crisis Highlights Europe's History of Treating Some Refugees Differently"—conceded through gritted teeth that Poland and Hungary, “two of the most unwelcoming countries” in 2015, had stepped up to the plate:

Hungary, which even built a fence to keep people at bay, has been offering a helpful hand as mostly women with children pour across its border with Ukraine. Prime Minister Viktor Orban explained the change last week, telling reporters “we are able to tell the difference between who is a migrant and who is a refugee. Migrants are stopped. Refugees can get all the help.

In a visit to the Ukraine-Hungary border, historian Andrew Roberts reporting in The Spectator on the work of voluntary religious organizations and bodies like the Order of Malta and the Order of St. John in helping refugees to safety, commented:

There has been some panic in the railway stations in the east, especially during Russian shelling, but for the great majority of the two million people who have left, it has been a well- organized evacuation. Ukrainian men bid emotional farewell to their elderly parents, wives and children before turning around and resolutely heading off eastwards to fight, pleased that their families are safe. One is not supposed to praise manliness in modern society, but there is no other word for what is happening here, and it is not ‘toxic’ but uplifting.

In short, whatever the horrors of Putin’s war or the lack of Europe’s military and economic preparedness for it, everyone—the E.U., NGOs, and even “bad boy” governments like Poland and Hungary—was doing the right thing by refugees.

Sometimes toxic masculinity is exactly what's called for.

All of which is very encouraging but probably overstates the willingness of the E.U. and its senior member states such as France and Germany to forget differences over hot-button issues like refugee policy in the common struggle against Putin.

Even as Poland and Hungary were bearing the heaviest burdens of dealing with rising refugee numbers and other consequences of Putin’s war on Ukraine, the European courts, cheered on by the European parliament, were imposing large fines on both countries for their alleged offenses against the "rule of law." The rule under which these fines were levied is itself an offense against the rule of law and opens the way for centralized E.U. institutions in Brussels to use financial blackmail against member states, forcing them to toe the line on issues that are outside the “competences” of Brussels.

For the moment refugee policy is not a matter of dispute, but one of cooperation and sympathy, between Brussels and national parliaments. That, however, is probably the calm before the storm.