(BTW: You’re receiving a second newsletter this week because all the news out of Ukraine justifies offering you a little more information.)
How do Russian citizens feel about this?
We can't paint with a broad brush, but we know that more than 1,700 people have been arrested in 50 cities across Russia (as of writing) since Putin started his offensive. And this is in a country where dissent can lead to imprisonment, or worse.
Why isn't Ukraine in NATO?
1) Limiting the military commitment of NATO members, especially after long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
2) Ukraine is still not quite "democratic" enough by NATO standards, but in 2008 they were assured they would be admitted eventually
3) NATO and Ukraine didn’t want to poke the Russian bear -- aka, picking their battles
4) Ukraine hasn't always been consistent on whether it wants to join, but in 2019 they made their desire to join part of their constitution
But it's never really been about NATO, either. That was just another excuse for Putin.
What is the current state of US sanctions?
He is also sanctioning more billionaires close to Putin.
Biden is also sanctioning individuals in Belarus connected to the attack, including the country's defense minister.
What is Putin's reasoning? Why Ukraine?
Ukraine was a member of the USSR until 1991 and is the second largest country in Europe, behind Russia. Expert Anne Applebaum told us Ukraine represents "a challenge to his authority," and that he wants the country "to become part of Russia again."
President Biden said as much Thursday, explicitly calling Putin's goal a "desire for empire, by any means necessary.”
Is this the beginning of World War III?
World wars can start this way, it’s true. But right now the focus is on Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.
It's understandable that our brains start future tripping, imagining what could be and especially how this could impact those of us outside Ukraine.
But if you're at home, checking your phone, using the internet, and able to travel and speak freely, take a moment to be grateful. Many on social media are joking about Putin and WW3 – but let's remember, there are millions of Ukrainians facing an existential threat right now. Many are fleeing with their families or trying to. Hundreds may have been killed or wounded, and there could be thousands more.
We are going to keep the focus on them until the situation merits expanded concern.