2,300 words on Ukraine


Yes, Putin is capable of causing boundless suffering. Just ask Grozny.

He used vague language to say Russia’s nuclear arsenal is ready, probably to distract from his lack of success in Ukraine.

Missile defense is good these days, probably even better than publicly known.

Vlad’s looking nutty. He accused the Jewish president of Ukraine of being a Nazi.

Putin wants to revive an ancient Russian empire, but his main goal might be a better footing in his next election.

Sanctions without oil are a joke.

No, this is not all NATO’s fault—but Vlad hopes you’ll think it is.



Russia has increased the intensity of its Ukraine invasion. It blew up Kharkiv’s central Freedom Square with a missile, and is about to encircle the capital city of Kyiv with a 40-mile-long convoy.

In his first State of the Union address, President Joe Biden said last night:

“Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO Allies—in the event that Putin decides to keep moving west. For that purpose we’ve mobilized American ground forces, air squadrons, and ship deployments to protect NATO countries including Poland, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

“As I have made crystal clear the United States and our Allies will defend every inch of territory of NATO countries with the full force of our collective power. …

“When the history of this era is written, Putin’s war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger. … Putin may circle Kyiv with tanks, but he will never gain the hearts and souls of the Ukrainian people.”



If Vladimir Putin has indeed become irrational, there’s no telling how far he’ll go. If the way he treated the Chechen capital of Grozny in 2000 is an indication, farther than we’d like to contemplate. At that time, The New York Times reported:

“Russian soldiers did not capture Grozny. They obliterated it.

“Apartment houses along Lenin Prospekt have been pulverized. Minutka Square, once a bustling plaza, has been blasted beyond recognition.

“It is hard to find a single structure in the city center that has not been wrecked by a bomb, damaged by artillery or raked by gunfire. …

“Grozny looks more like Stalingrad after World War II or Guernica after the Spanish Civil War.”

The United Nations called it the most destroyed city on earth, without a single building left undamaged.

If Putin did that back when the world didn’t question his sanity, just his moral compass, it’s easy to see why his next move is anybody’s guess.



The worst-case scenario is probably deployment of nuclear weapons.

On Sunday, Putin announced that he had ordered his military chiefs “to put the deterrence forces of the Russian army into a special mode of combat duty.”

This terminology is unclear, even to Russian military experts in the West.

Consensus holds that it probably means Russia’s nuclear command and control system was moved to a phase enabling it to receive a launch order. Thus, a level up from standby, so to speak. If Putin were unable to be reached for any reason, and nuclear weapons were detonated on Russian soil, the country would be able to retaliate.

The UK’s secretary of defense, Ben Wallace, thinks Russia used the vague terminology deliberately. He told the BBC on Monday that the phrasing was intended to frighten the West and “remind the world he’s got a deterrent” and get global media “talking about it rather than the lack of success they are having in Ukraine.”

Even if so, any mention of the word “nuclear” raises the stress level, and conjures images of mushroom clouds across the planet, but the mere use of nuclear warheads does not necessarily equal such an apocalypse.

For starters, missile defense has come a long way since the early decades of the Cold War. Most of it is secret—trillions of dollars in US military spending has gone unaccounted for. In a world where multiple countries own ICBM arsenals, where would you direct such spending? I’d put it toward preventing enemy missiles from reaching me, thereby giving my arsenal an advantage. I’d strive to remove the “mutual” from “mutual assured destruction,” or MAD, introduced on Wikipedia as:

“a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two or more opposing sides would cause the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender.”

Even the parts of US and NATO missile defense known to the public are impressive. Presumably, the secret parts increase overall effectiveness. This, combined with Russia’s poor military showing in Ukraine so far, suggest that a push of the nuclear button by Vlad would equal his assured destruction only, and he probably knows this. Whether he cares is debatable.

And, yes, Russia claims to have hypersonic missiles that America can’t defend against, but if you and I know about them, I’m guessing the Pentagon knows too. The public has been aware of them for more than a decade already. Spies usually find things out earlier.



Maura Reynolds at Politico reached out to Fiona Hill, “one of America’s most clear-eyed Russia experts, someone who has studied Putin for decades” in her former capacity as a Russian and European affairs specialist on the US National Security Council. She’s currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission.

She told Reynolds that Putin has been acting more emotional than usual lately. “There’s evident visceral emotion in things that he said in the past few weeks justifying the war in Ukraine. The pretext is completely flimsy and almost nonsensical for anybody who’s not in the echo chamber or the bubble of propaganda in Russia itself.”

That’s for sure. He tried to get Ukraine’s military to topple its own government because the country was run by drug addicts and neo-Nazis. Such a claim is absurd on its face, but doubly nutty in this case because Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was born to Jewish parents, and Ukraine fought against Nazi Germany. Zelensky explained as much in his plea to Russia for peace before the invasion commenced:

“They tell you that we’re Nazis. But how can a people that lost eight million lives to defeat the Nazis support Nazism? How can I be a Nazi? Say it to my grandfather, who fought in World War II as a Soviet infantryman and died a colonel in an independent Ukraine. …

“Take note, that I am speaking to you all in Russian now … This is our land, and this is our history. What will you fight for and with whom? Many of you have visited Ukraine. Many of you have relatives here. Some might have studied at Ukrainian universities, and befriended Ukrainians. You know our character, you know our people, and you know our principles. You know what we value.”



Zelensky’s message apparently resonated with millions of Russians but was lost on the one at the top, acting on his own for reasons even he may not fathom. Hill explained:

“This visceral emotion is unhealthy and extraordinarily dangerous because there are few checks and balances around Putin. He spotlighted this during the performance of the National Security Council meeting, where it became very clear that this was his decision. He was in a way taking full responsibility for war, and even the heads of his security and intelligence services looked like they’ve been thrown off guard by how fast things were moving.”

She thinks he’s chasing pipe dreams of ancient Russian empire reconstitution:

“I’ve kind of quipped about this but I also worry about it in all seriousness—that Putin’s been down in the archives of the Kremlin during Covid looking through old maps and treaties and all the different borders that Russia has had over the centuries. …

“Ukraine was the country that got away. And what Putin is saying now is that Ukraine doesn’t belong to Ukrainians. It belongs to him and the past. He is going to wipe Ukraine off the map, literally, because it doesn’t belong on his map of the ‘Russian world.’”



She doubts he’ll stop the campaign underway until he conquers Ukraine. “Now, if he can, he is going to take the whole country. We have to face up to this fact. Although we haven’t seen the full Russian invasion force deployed yet, he’s certainly got the troops to move into the whole country.”

If there’s a reason for this unprovoked aggression, it’s probably his need to appear necessary to Russians for their own safety, ahead of his next election in 2024. Reynolds summarized Putin’s past campaign strategy:

“Putin came to power after a series of operations that many have seen as a kind of false flag—bombings of buildings around Russia that killed Russian citizens, hundreds of them, followed by a war in Chechnya. That led to Putin coming to power as a wartime president. The annexation of Crimea in 2014 also came at a difficult time for Putin. Now we’re seeing another big military operation less than two years before he needs to stand for election again.”

Hill acknowledged the pattern, then: “Part of Putin’s persona as president is that he is a ruthless tough guy, the strong man who is the champion and protector of Russia. And that’s why Russia needs him. If all was peaceful and quiet, why would you need Vladimir Putin?”

She encourages remaining emotionally prepared for Putin to keep doing the unthinkable. “So if anybody thinks that Putin wouldn’t use something that he’s got that is unusual and cruel, think again. Every time you think, ‘No, he wouldn’t, would he?’ Well, yes, he would. And he wants us to know that, of course.”



Sanctions, fine, even the supposedly aggressive ones being applied now, although somehow still not covering oil, Russia’s lifeblood. Attention, business lobby: not enough. Hill addressed this head-on:

“Right now, everyone who has been doing business in Russia or buying Russian gas and oil has contributed to Putin’s war chest. Our investments are not just boosting business profits, or Russia’s sovereign wealth funds and its longer-term development. They now are literally the fuel for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. …

“Sanctions are not going to be enough. … Just as we wouldn’t be having a full-blown diplomatic negotiation for anything but a ceasefire and withdrawal while Ukraine is still being actively invaded, so it’s the same thing with business. Right now you’re fueling the invasion of Ukraine. … If Western companies, their pension plans or mutual funds, are invested in Russia they should pull out. Any people who are sitting on the boards of major Russian companies should resign immediately.”



In the United States, a contingent of commentators argues that this invasion is America’s fault, that the US and NATO applied unnecessary pressure on Russia by creeping eastward.

I mentioned this angle in last Sunday’s Kelly Letter. One phrasing of the argument is that America would not tolerate Russia’s missiles in Canada, Cuba, or Mexico, so why did we expect Russia to tolerate Western military assets advancing toward its western border?

To Hill, and another seasoned commentator I’ll get to in a moment, this demonstrates the success of Putin’s full-spectrum information war.

First, Hill:

“I mean he has got swathes … of the US public saying, ‘Good on you, Vladimir Putin,’ or blaming NATO, or blaming the US for this outcome. This is exactly what a Russian information war and psychological operation is geared towards. He’s been carefully seeding this terrain as well. We’ve been at war, for a very long time. I’ve been saying this for years.”

Now to Marie Yovanovitch, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine, who was interviewed by New Yorker editor David Remnick, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for his book Lenin’s Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire. The interview was published just yesterday.

About the argument that Putin’s invasion is the fault of NATO’s eastward expansion, she had this to say:

“Well, that’s certainly the Russian narrative, Putin’s narrative. But what should we have done differently? What should we have said to the countries of Central Europe, who had fears of their own, and fears that they would be left in a no man’s land? Should we have said, ‘Yeah, we’re just not interested’? I think that would’ve been a mistake.

“You know, the thing about the United States and NATO and the European Union is that we have ideas. We are about democracy and freedom and capitalism and security, as well as individual liberties. It’s a fact that people are better off under democracies.

“And, since World War Two, that has been the single most important driver of American influence and power. … it’s our ideas that attract others. Russia under Putin doesn’t really have that power of attraction. He only has the power of coercion, and we are seeing that now in Ukraine in a brutal way. … NATO is a defensive alliance. It does not pose a threat to Putin or Russia. In fact, the leaders of Europe and President Biden were trying to ratchet down tensions before all this.”

In another note, I’ll explore whether this cursed invasion marks the terminal phase of Putin’s malignant reign, and possibly crunch time for the Chinese Communist Party. Rather than representing the rise of an unbeatable Eurasian axis of autocracy, the Beijing-Moscow tie-up might signify the collapse of communism.

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  1. Salazar Roque
    Posted March 21, 2022 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Zelensky Announces Ban on 11 Political Parties


    Since when a “hero”, “a champion of freedom and democracy” suppresses opposition parties?

    As I said before, I know practically nothing or, maybe even nothing at all about this conflict, but, loyalties and propaganda wars aside, we should look at things from a position of neutrality to avoid being pulled into a fight or a position we could end up regretting later.
    I think that we should keep our minds and our eyes open to even the smallest of the details and by doing so, expose the devil. Remember: The devil is in the details.

  2. Chris Misciagno
    Posted March 7, 2022 at 3:20 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Jason, for your well thought out and refreshing outlook on this awful situation.

    I work overseas in US embassies around the world, and, until recently, my family and I were posted to Kyiv. I am now working just over the Polish border in a hotel with a rump embassy staff. I have seen personally the human devastation caused by this maniac and have many colleagues and friends whose lives have been upended by the insane events going on right in front of us.

    Putin has been a danger for many years and will continue to be so unless he is stopped. That is something I believe only the Russian people can do themselves, and only if the truth eventually reaches them, despite their compromised state media.

    I will add a plug here for your Sig system that has been so useful for me personally in this intense atmosphere without a day off in many weeks: not needing to check the markets, and only having to worry about my rebalance at the end of March, gives me peace of mind; I just don’t have the time or bandwidth to follow Wall Street very closely right now.

    Thanks for your system and your excellent newsletter.


  3. Posted March 6, 2022 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Kelly,
    I am a Romanian citizen and I am 180 km from the war zone. My relatives on the Chilia Arm of the Danube, the border with Ukraine, hear daily air alarms and the sinister noise of explosions due to long-range Russian missiles and heavy artillery. I am glad that the Romanian authorities and volunteers everywhere are making life easier for the Ukrainian refugees, who are hard pressed by the consequences of the struggles of a medieval ferocity.
    I am not happy that NATO refuses to help the Ukrainians with the US SEAL commando troops, which would have caused serious damage to the enemy as well as a smaller number of civilian casualties. It would not have been the first time the US had intervened in secrecy. The Russians did not even know what was hitting them, especially since the Ukrainian people had given them all the support of the SEAL fighters.
    Many fighters of the French Legion asked to fight in Ukraine as natural persons, so without forcing / exposing the French state. But …. Macron opposed (!!! ???). However, they agreed by law. to send fighters on their own responsibility to Poland, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Romania and other states. Elite troops in small teams, with sophisticated equipment (called people of darkness) that wreak havoc on Russian tank divisions and aviation. The Japanese sent interceptor missiles / destruction of Russian cruise missiles. Here, too, the Russians have suffered heavy losses, considering that a rocket costs as much as a TESLA hybrid / electric car.
    My family donated to the Ukrainian children stunned by explosions, alarms, some winter things, powdered milk, sweets, perishable food.
    Thank you, Mr. Kelly, for having a good soul and for being emotionally involved, with a responsible man’s mind, in relation to the terrible suffering of some innocent people who find in my country, as refugees, all the help they need.

    Sorin Vlad
    Romania – Europe

  4. Salazar Roque
    Posted March 4, 2022 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Jason Kelly,

    Your letter should’ve been named “Personal OPINION without any reliable citation: 2,300 words on Ukraine”

    To me, your letter sounds like a very passionate would-be thesis about Mr. Putin or Russia and nothing else.

    I know practically nothing about the current (and even past) situations involving the Ukraine, but, somehow, reading your letter made me think that I know just a little bit more than a few people in this highly populated little planet.

    I have no firm opinion on the subject, especially that I think I still have a lot to learn about it, but I feel sorry for all the people in the Ukraine and also the people of Russia. I’ve never been personally inside a war zone, but I gather that wars can cause a lot of suffering and death during and after them. So, I pray for all the people and all the soldiers of the Ukraine and Russia and also for the world, as, from what I understand, this conflict may end up affecting the entire globe.

    Now, as far as your letters go, I wouldn’t mind continuing to receive them, whether you change your style to include reliable citations of well researched material or not, as, regardless, I might continue to learn, either about the actual facts or about the general sentiment on the subject, including that of a number of famous authors.

    Sincerely and gratefully,


  5. John Qualtrough
    Posted March 3, 2022 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Jason. Very insightful, as always.

    Putin and his cronies must stand trial for this massive war crime.

  6. Henry Mourad
    Posted March 3, 2022 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    The idea that we provoked Russia and put it in a corner is obviously ridiculous. But, here’s an interesting idea, however ridiculous it is: how about offering Russia to join NATO?

  7. Dianne
    Posted March 3, 2022 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    Wonder if you’ve read Martin Armstrong’s take on the most recent development:

    Destroying the World Economy in a Blink of the Eye
    WEDNESDAY, 02 MARCH 2022

    Biden has seriously lost his mind and is now talking about banning all Russian sales of energy. Biden and world leaders are taking advice from Bill Browder who is telling them now to confiscate all Russian assets belonging to what he claims are Oligarchs.

    There is ZERO consideration of how pension funds and mutual funds have also invested in Russia. They will now have all their assets seized. Worse still, this has the distinct risk of migrating to China for the West has demonstrated that they have turned the world economy into a political weapon. This is why SWIFT is no longer a viable international payment system when it is subject to politics. Hence, China is now moving in high gear to launch its alternative to SWIFT. This is now destroying the world economy and it is no longer beneficial to be dealing in international trade that once provided the foundation for world peace. This is expanding beyond just Russian cyberattacks against US banks. This is unleashing World War III in the financial markets.

    This is the most DANGEROUS advice in modern history. One of the key components in making the decision on international investment is COUNTRY RISK. I would never have advised a client to invest in Iran for they have simply nationalized assets wiping out private investment. These words coming from Biden’s mouth following the advice of Bill Browder is just unimaginable. Chinese now have been put on notice that their personal assets can also be seized if there is a political dispute with China.

    This is absolutely insane. This is tearing the world economy apart at the very seams. This is why the West will lose the distinction of the Financial Capital of the World post-2032. We are witnessing the very decision that will undermine the entire West all because of its refusal to be objective and its personal hatred of Putin who the US created by the attempted take over of Russia via the bankers back in 2000.

    While this Ukrainian Crisis is taking the headlines, there is no attention being given to the implementation of the digital passport in Europe and other regions across the globe. They are using this diversion to implement total surveillance upon we the people under the pretense of looking for Russians now. Perhaps you can now see why our computer will be correct again. China will emerge as the financial capital of the world post-2032. Biden has just agreed with other world leaders to drive a stake into the heart of freedom and capitalism in one fell swoop.

    This week could prove to be a devastating blow to international capital. We are below a number of Weekly Bearish Reversals and the Dow could drop to retest the 29,500 level. We should all send a thank you note to Bill Browder for NEVER in all my career have I ever heard of such insane advice coming from someone who has a personal feud with Putin.”

    • Posted March 3, 2022 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      No, Dianne, I had not seen this article.

      I dismiss it on several counts:

      1. Russia brought this on, not Biden.

      2. An economic response is appropriate. The current sanctions pose little long-term danger to the global economy. In fact, they need to be made harsher by including oil.

      3. No pension fund is going to collapse because of these sanctions. If any did, it would be an irresponsibly run fund in which nobody should have invested.

      4. There’s nothing wrong with SWIFT. China wants to create its own financial system in order to dethrone the dollar in favor of its own centrally controlled alternative as the global reserve currency. No thanks.

      5. The Ukraine invasion will not upend international finance.

    • Salazar Roque
      Posted March 21, 2022 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      Zelensky Announces Ban on 11 Political Parties https://link.theepochtimes.com/mkt_app/zelensky-announces-ban-on-11-political-parties_4349682.html?utm_source=appan2029090

      Since when a “hero”, “a champion of freedom and democracy” suppresses opposition parties?

      As I said before, I know practically nothing or, maybe even nothing at all about this conflict, but, loyalties and propaganda wars aside, we should look at things from a position of neutrality to avoid being pulled into a fight or a position we could end up regretting later.
      I think that we should keep our minds and our eyes open to even the smallest of the details and by doing so, expose the devil. Remember: The devil is in the details.

  8. Kathy L Cote
    Posted March 3, 2022 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    Jason, I am thankful for your non-biased commentary. I do not read mainstream media. To be informed about what is going on in the world is vital, but so is having faith that God is in control and working behind the scenes. Have faith. Keep strong. Thank you again for all you do. Kathy

    • Posted March 3, 2022 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Of course, Kathy. Yes, have faith and keep strong.

  9. Joe Petti
    Posted March 2, 2022 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

    I always look forward to your current analysis of the present situation. Your up-to-date comments are appreciated and helpful.
    Thanks for doing what you are doing!

    • Posted March 3, 2022 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      My pleasure, Joe, and thank you for the comment.

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