Michael Hammerschlag
10 min readMar 4, 2022


by Michael Hammerschlag

smashed Kharkiv, home till last May, 2nd Ukr city 1.5 mil
Destroyed Irpen aptmt NW of Kyiv, where pal Dima lived

Washington DC: HammerNews
-March 13-April 18- I’ve liked Biden since he was too young to be in Congress, but our reaction to Russia’s Ukraine threats has been the most hysterical I’ve seen. It’s as if we forgot every lesson of the Cold War on how to deal with a lying provocative bullying Russia… steady calm firm pressure, not rising to every bait, ignoring the wanton willful escalations, speak softly and carry… well, some stick. Obviously we had very specific Intelligence, but still, screaming like Henny Penny about the Invasion, over and over, belied our status as a superpower and diminished the warnings’ credibility- I didn’t believe it and neither did Zelinsky (till a day before R-Day?). Our proof was: “because I told you so”. We were giving Putin exactly what he wants- panic + fear! To constantly speak of Invasion as inevitable was crazy, that could be seen as a green light for attack or actually be pushing Putin into a box- follow through, or lose face!

Worse, since we weren’t going to directly help Ukraine, as a non-NATO member, this just continually telegraphed our weakness. Xi — Putin’s supposed Alliance of Expansionist Dictators was a result, something dreaded for years, and contemptuously brazen during an Olympics. That was the final piece the Little Big Man needed for an attack (“Just wait till after the Olympics…”). Putin’s hostage video War Speech, Dr No before his craven Cabinet, looking like beaten schoolkids, was chilling, … how many Russians support the invasion fluctuates wildly, I’ve read from 8 to 70%! Granted maybe Biden interrupted and delayed Putin’s schedule, not inconsequential in giving Ukraine time to prepare.

Destroyed Azov port Mariupol
Destroyed Azov port Mariupol

This had happened before, 3–5 times, 80,000–110,000 Russians on the border, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2020 in fact there were maybe 60,000 Russians in Crimea and the Donbas, inside Ukraine! The Ukrainians weren’t alarmed, because they’ve seen it all before over years of grinding trench warfare in the Donbas, which killed 15,000, including 3 friends and 10 acquaintances. The purpose was the same: to rattle, to intimidate, to weaken, to bleed Ukraine (more than the constant ceasefire violations that kill soldiers every week). But the returning body bags will make Afghanistan look easy- Ukraine is a modern country with a battle hardened 250K Army and millions of guerrilla partisans who’ve lost any taste for “Mother Russia”. Ukraine actually ruled a vast empire 400 years before Moscow existed! VIDEO- Maidan Victory Explained 2/22/14- what have Russians got themselves into? Amazing confession/appeal from a Russian police Col captive.

Russian T-72s upgraded tanks w reactive armor

We can’t react to every lie + provocation publicly- you have to punch back firmly in private, where a robust CIA comes in (which Trump presumably sabotaged re Russia), but Russia has been running amuck for 15 years, and paid little cost for it- Sanctions are something Putin (+ Xi) despises as a tool of the weak, but something he could endure… in 2014. Biden should have never warned Russia what we would do- you should always keep an enemy guessing; every time we talked to Putin, his threats grew, like in his last Macron call.

Since Putin turned wholesale against the West in 2007, he has:

  • Slaughtered the Syrian resistance, propping up the brutal minority Baathist Gov (Russia has never fought in the Middle East!)
  • Provoked the worst migrant crisis in history, flooding Europe with millions of desperate refugees, causing a resurgence of fascist Parties (whom he has funded)
  • Murdered + Poisoned Yushchenko, Litvinenko, Navalny, Politkovskaya, Nemtsov, a Brit defector + civilians
  • Invaded + annexed Crimea; promoted, funded + sent troops to create the Donbas Insurrection/War
  • Broke up the EU, in supporting and promoting Brexit
  • Helped elect his pet Donald Trump to the Presidency, where he dutifully tried to destroy every US alliance
  • Scrambled the brains of 200 US diplomats + Embassy personnel with a directed energy weapon (I absolutely believe, this was an obsession of Russia’s for decades)
No love here

Far from carrying a big stick, we haven’t used a feather duster on Russia, even after all these outrages; some acts of war. Had the Crimean Invasion cost some Russian lives he probably wouldn’t have started the Donbas Insurrection. Above all Russia craves respect, as the only other military superpower, even disappearing a few KGB Residents* or poisoners would be an acknowledgment of their power… rather than Obama’s Pyrrhic slam of Russia as a “fading regional power”, which made me physically wince. As long as Russia has thousands of nukes on missiles, they are quite super.
* yeah FSB, SVR, GRU, but we are back in the Cold War, maybe a warmer one

Sanctions, to VVP, are a tool of impotent bureaucrats without the courage to actually fight. They take forever to work, hurt the innocent rather than the leaders, smack of schoolmarmish superiority — enraging to inferiority obsessed Sovs, and congeal into a frozen moral dictat rather than an evolving policy. In 1941 Japan, they perhaps provoked Pearl Harbor! Indeed, Mini Me Medvedev expressly warned of that… and these are the most extreme sanctions ever leveled- Zelensky’s heroism has rallied the world (also think, he’s worth ~$200 mil and could be an exile Prez on a beach). “Don’t you want to run away,” America helpfully offered, as we withdrew our precious diplomats when they were most needed. Even the US reaction to Putin supposedly raising his Nuclear Threat Level… Nothing*, is dangerous, again it displays weakness, if we are scared off by his wild man threats… why not escalate? The rules of the Nuclear dance are we must respond in kind… it does not allow for adult behavior! We should be at DEFCON 3, or 4, at least. We should also have 1–2 carrier battle groups off of Taiwan, it being a great time for China to invade, perhaps the Quid Pro Quo for Putin’s Alliance… and whether China fulfills Russia’s rearmament request may be the first act of terminal Power Blocks, so far no signs they are. The sanctions have been successful in initially destroying the value of the Ruble, which dropped from 78/$ to 134/$, but with massive intervention (20% interest), it has bounced all the way back. Krugman says that that would send Russia into a deep Depression. RADIO REPORT on devaluation.

*2 sites now say that our DEFCON Level is 3, raised March 1 (but I need more confirmation)

What does Putin want??

To recreate the Soviet Union, and he’s over halfway there- Belarus is totally captive on Russian gas + power, Kazakhstan just had to beg for Russian troops, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, were also bribed + bullied into joining his Collective Security Treaty Org; but the heart of Putin’s longing is little brother- breadbasket, temperate vacationland Ukraine.

B. to hurt the West and almost anyone else- in his conspiratorial zero-sum-game Slavic mind, America has caused every revolt and color revolution, not indigenous forces; and anything that hurts the West… is good for Russia. Russia even spreads anti-vax lies among poor African countries… why?

C. crush any opposition in Russia- kill, subvert, jail any possible “opponent”. Even being the richest man in the world ($300–500 bil) doesn’t relieve the crawling paranoia of his manifest crimes + murders

D. He wants respect, as in consultation on big Western moves; problematic when they are in reaction to him! Ironically, it’s dubious Ukraine would ever be offered NATO membership, cause of its innate corruption, but especially because it was always Russia’s red line. Perhaps an unofficial pledge to not offer NATO them would have defrayed this horror; but… see E, Iraq blowback

E. He feels betrayed by (exc-@6min) the spectacular lies of GB2’s Iraq Invasion, where he signed off on the destruction of a client state because of vapor WMDs (“They have played us…”), and the expansion of NATO, especially into the Baltics on the Motherland’s border, against implicit promises

Above all, Putin wants to destroy Democracy in the West… sadly in the US, there is no light between him and the Republican Party.

Bristling F-16 Wild Weasel electronic warfare + AA missile attack jet

What can America do? Train some Ukrainian pilots in the Wild Weasel anti-missile-battery F16s, and donate them; they have HARM missiles that can home in on the hundreds of Buk, Strella, Uragan mobile anti-aircraft missile batteries that fill Ukraine. Losing their air superiority was why Ukraine was stopped dead halfway into retaking the Donbas (that and thousands of Russian regulars + mercenaries). Give them 200 of our surplus or excess planes- what they desperately need to resist the Invasion, our hard intelligence of Invasion should have provoked a Berlin airlift of weapons. Now it may be too late- they should be flown there by Instructors, the best Ukr pilots given a 2 day crash course, and set them loose on the Invaders. Or as Zelinsky has suggested, MIGs from Poland or Czechia, no learning curve on them, but the missiles may be in short supply. This was finally getting fast tracked, but shockingly Biden stopped it- WW3 is more likely if one doesn’t stand up to an aggressive bully! The murderous Invader should be afraid of our reaction!

Molotovs for the guests

As the richest ($400 bil? $15–30 bil a year oligarch krisha for 22 yrs- Ioffe says 600!- exc psychoanalysis) and single most powerful man in the world, Putin is spectacularly isolated, much more so by Covid (which has decimated Russia; double their admitted deaths and they have 1.8 mil fatalities relative to US!), looking for all the world like a Specter villain at his BIG Table, and really may be cracking up. He suffers from a serious Napoleonic complex, in 2007 we thought the pint-sized potentate would chose KGB comrade Ivanov as his PM (to castle w him as Prez, forever), but HE was too tall, so Vlad Vlad found the only man smaller than him, tiny Medvedev. In his Invasion explanation he recited his idiotic assertion that Ukraine wasn’t a country, while admitting it was the birthplace of Russia; an explosive cognitive dissonance that makes him dangerously unhinged, a literal MoFo.

And his absurd antediluvian Soviet-unifying Nazi genocide attacks on Ukraine may work on the old + stupid, but not on the young + many of his people, who feel fondly about their little brother Ukraine. Ukrainians were the only people to mount an extended Resistance to Soviet depredations, so were smeared with the most toxic arrow in the Soviet propaganda arsenal- Nazis. But Russians have been fed hateful propaganda against them since the Orange Revolution in 2004, and especially Maidan in 2014; now the last 4 free media outlets have been crushed along w Twitter + FB, amidst an insanely repressive crackdown on dissent. The Iron Curtain has finally crashed down on Russians; the young + modern will try to escape (1/4 mil have); while no honest news exists for the lumpen proletariat. That Propaganda has taken a terrible toll- in early 90’s every Soviet understood THE GOV LIES, which made people willing to pay 100x more for any Western product because everything local was bad- in 2.3 decades of Putinism they have forgotten that lesson; and the poison ink of lies has reclouded 60–70% of Russian brains, like Fox News has done to Americans. Now every election must be fixed, lest the will of the people possibly reveal how reviled he is.

Smashed Kharkiv, home till last Summer

Ukrainians resistance has been awesome- aided by US intelligence, they wiped out 19 of 20 Russian Paratrooper assaults on their Military Airfields, and downed a plane with another 100, so the reinforcement fly-in and lightning takeover attack was stymied, forcing green young tentative troops to do their spastic grinding Invasion, and it sometimes seems Putin is close to suing for peace. Even Russian commanders were in the dark about the actual Invasion, in Putin’s Cabinet bullying, he only demanded occupying the Donbas. Ukraine forces have even taken back much territory! That Paratroop decimation may restrict Russia’s further aggression for years.

burial of bagged bodies in mass grave Irpin, NW of Kyiv

No country in the 20th Century has suffered more than Ukraine, crushed between monstrous totalitarian regimes: Czarist, Bolshevik, Communist, Nazi, Stalinist; 70 million were killed in the Soviet Union from 1913–1953, always much more in Ukraine. When I first went to Kiev in Feb ‘92, the people were bursting with quiet pride- after 70 years, they finally had their country back…. losing it now would be an unspeakable tragedy (Independence voted +90% Dec ‘91). It is a very beautiful city, with 1000 yr old churches, high bluffs on the mighty mile-wide Dnieper, dozens of islands (all parks, many wild, no millionaires!) and 28 beaches in the relatively clean fresh water. If his cruel Invasion bogs down, as it’s seemed to, gangster Putin will resort to terror bombing, what the world saw in Syria... and didn’t lift a finger.

Ukrainians don’t deserve this….. they never did.

Michael Hammerschlag spent over 15 years in Russia + Ukraine from 1991 to 2021, living in Moscow, St Petersburg, Kyiv, Kharkiv, + Lviv. His commentary and articles- have appeared in New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Honolulu Advertiser, Capital Times, Global Post, Yahoo, Business Insider, Media Channel; Kiev Post + Weekly, Business Ukraine, PIK in Kiev; and Moscow News, Tribune, Guardian, Times, + Novaya Gazeta (editor won Nobel) in Russia. He covered the break-up of the SU, Yeltsins new Russia, rise of the Mafiya, Putin’s Press crackdown, 2008 Collapse + inflation, Election of Yanukovich + Zelensky, EuroMaidan Protest/Revolution, the Poroshenko Gov, and the Donbas War.

HOW to STOP THE BLEEDING video fm Ukr doctor (in Rus)



Michael Hammerschlag

Michael Hammerschlag spent over 15 years in Russia + Ukraine from 1991 to 2021, articles in NYT, IHT, Prov Journal, Seattle Times, Yahoo, Business Insider, CJR