A good “Facebook friend” sent me an article written by one of his Orthodox acquaintances, Robin Phillips, on Ukraine and Vladimir Putin.  It is obvious the author sees things quite differently than I. So my friend asked me to write a response. I had already been working on a blog entry on sketching out some important points on Ukrainian history. So after finishing writing out this response, I decided to post it on my blog. I am doing so with some reluctance because of its length and the fact I repeat points I have already included in previous blogs. Nevertheless, at his request, here is my response for those of you who are interested. 

First, the author assumes without any justification that Putin follows Alexander Dugin and defines Russia’s goals based on what Dugin says. I’ve heard this before from a couple of Western writers. I follow Dugin on a couple of social media sites and read some of his stuff. I respect him, and I suppose Putin does as well. But to say Putin can be understood by reading Dugin is either willful ignorance or intellectual dishonesty. We are to believe that since Dugan said something about taking over Tbilisi in 2014 we know what Putin is after in Ukraine. Uh, no. Then he says Ukraine has a long history going back centuries fighting for independence. Ukraine as it is known today hasn’t even existed for centuries. Further, close examination shows the conflicts centuries ago were often peasants fighting their own overlords for land rights. 

Putin’s speech, to which the article makes reference, is clearly in the context of his (Putin’s) 8 year struggle to get Kyiv to quit shelling the Donbas–which is historically and culturally Russian. To say Putin was parroting views espoused by Dugin about the expansion of Russia is ripping what he said out of context. 

Phillips, like many western writers, seems intent on keeping the focus off the main issue, which is the murdering of Russian speakers in the Donbas area. He doesn’t even mention it. Putin had been appealing to the Minsk Accords for 8 years. The accords (or “agreements” as they are sometimes called) called for Kyiv to issue a ceasefire and stop shelling the Russian speaking people in those oblasts. Estimates by those there, e.g., Eva Karene Bartlett, Patrick Lancaster and many others, are that around 14,000 people have been killed and 8,000 of those were civilians. Recently Angela Merkel, then Chancellor of Germany, and Francois Hollande, the President of France at the time, admitted they used the Minsk Accords as nothing more than a ruse to give Ukraine time to prepare for war with Russia. They were not actually seeking a peaceful settlement. Rather than face the fact  that Western leaders wanted the killing to continue, many writers like Phillips try to “pull a fast one” and start accusing Dugin and Putin of being the warmongers. 

When Putin refers to “our historic lands,” he is talking about the Russian speaking population in eastern and southern Ukraine. How anyone could listen to that speech and conclude he is really talking about Dugin’s goals for Russia is, well, when I taught Biblical studies we called it “eisogesis.” You read into the text what you want it to mean. I have heard a statement by Putin so many times that I can actually quote it in Russian: “He who does not regret the fall of the USSR has no heart. He who wants it rebuilt has no head.” The fall of the USSR was horrible for families like my late wife’s family. Her dad was military. They went months without pay. Putin has absolutely no desire to rebuild the USSR. 

The residents and leaders of Luhansk and Donetsk pleaded with Putin to step in and stop the shelling for 8 years. Unfortunately, Putin did make a big mistake. He trusted that Western leaders were telling him the truth. He told the people in the Donbas to wait and the Minsk agreements would mean all nations would support stopping the shelling. If he wanted to take over Ukraine, why did he wait so long? 

Let me interject a couple of other points made by Scott Ritter to those who think Putin has intended all along to take over Ukraine. Unlike Phillips, Ritter is a career military officer. Like me, he was in the U.S. Marine Corps. Honesty compels me to admit he was a high ranking commissioned officer, and I was a low ranking non-commissioned officer. 

First, as I said, Putin refused to go in for 8 years after the Nuland phone call (see below). It was only after the U.S. refused to stop sending missiles close to the Russian border that he finally sent in troops. Second, when he sent in troops, he went in with a very small force–he said the military operation would be surgical. It would not be an American style “shock and awe” which always left a lot of dead civilians. He has since been criticized because he sent in such a small force. The Russians only entered and surrounded the Donbas area. Originally, they obviously had no intention of going on further into Ukraine. 

Then immediately after going in Putin agreed to a negotiated settlement worked out between Ukrainian and Russian leaders in Istanbul in March 2022. It essentially protected the Donbas region from further shelling and allowed the Russian language to be spoken along with other protections. Putin agreed that Russian troops would be withdrawn, and Kyivan representatives agreed to stop the shelling. Both sides were set to sign around April 1. That is, until Boris Johnson showed up and insisted that Zelensky NOT sign that agreement! All money from NATO and the U.S. would be cut off. Zelensky withdrew according to his orders from his Western masters. Ritter says it flies in the face of all LOGIC (to use a term Phillips supposedly likes) to say this is how someone wanting to take over a country acts. First you delay going in; then you go in with a very small number of troops; then you immediately agree to sit down and negotiate a mutually agreed upon settlement. That is not how a “takeover” is done. 

Obviously Phillips has neither read nor listened to Putin address the issue for the last 8 years. The Minsk Accords stated that Russian would be a legal language.  After the U.S. funded coup, it became illegal to speak or teach Russian in schools. (Hmm…what if they did that with Spanish in America?) That it was a U.S. led coup d’etat is made clear by the intercepted phone call of Victoria (“F..k the EU”) Nuland to the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. (The call is still on YouTube.) She later also proudly admitted that the U.S. had spent $5 billion in Ukraine since 1991. Can you imagine what Americans would say if Putin and Russia poured $5 billion into the pockets of Mexican politicians? 

Phillips calls Dugin a warmonger, yet it was Dugin’s daughter who was murdered in a car bomb last year–as he watched in horror. Who was trying to start a war then? Since then, I rarely see Dugin posting much of anything other than memorials to his beautiful daughter. I have a daughter. I can understand. 

After the U.S. admittedly starved 500,000 Iraqi children with sanctions, which Madeleine Albright said was, “unfortunate but necessary,” and then murdered over one million Iraqis (military and civilian) in the “Shock and Awe” mission of G.W. Bush, we learned it was all based on a lie–Scott Ritter’s team found no WMDs. Ritter stated his life was threatened by someone in the U.S. government if he actually published that report. (Don’t threaten a Marine. It won’t work.) 

Furthermore, the U.S. invaded Syria and STILL to this day occupies a significant portion of it and continues to steal it’s oil and wheat. I was terribly disappointed when Donald Trump admitted that fact in an almost light hearted manner. Children are dying in Syria under U.S. occupation, but yet Americans like Phillips still call Russians the warmongers. I again agree with Ritter who said in a recent post that the hypocrisy of the U.S. has reached unbelievable levels. 

I make absolutely no claims to being an expert on Ukrainian history.  That is way above my paygrade. I do know enough to believe that Phillips, however, has an understanding of Ukrainian history which is contorted by his anachronisms. He uses the term “Ukraine” and “Ukrainians” to talk about times when there was no Ukraine. Phillips may want to consider reading what actual Ukrainian historians say about their history. I recommend “Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation,” by Ukrainian historian Serhy Yekelchuk. He is a bona fide scholar. Check his CV. He wrote that book before all the controversy really got heated, but it had started. One reason I admire him is that he presents both “sides,” but I still have no idea which side he would be on. He is very objective.  

For most of the history of what is now Ukraine, the western part (west of the Dnipro) was under the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg dynasty. The east was under the Romanovs. The two groups in no way considered themselves a country or a united people. They did not speak the same language; they did not have the same religion; they did not share a common heritage or culture. As Yekelchyk and others have pointed out, there was no sense of a Ukrainian nation. Philips makes it sound like they had standing armies. The word “natsiia,” in Ukrainian, according to Yekelchyk, does not even have the same meaning as the English word “nation,” although it is usually translated that way. The Ukrainian word refers to “an ethnic community of people who have a common origin, language, and culture.” 

The word “Ukraine” simply meant “borderland.” For thousands of years it was a border between open plains and forests. It was a border between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Eventually it was a border between the USSR and the EU. “Ukraine” (the word and the nation) did not even appear on maps produced at the beginning of the twentieth century. It wasn’t until the 1890s they dropped the name Rusiyans (Ruthenians) and opted for “Ukrainians.” 

At the turn of the century Yekelchyk says, “The peasants in Dnipro were loyal to their family, village, region, church and perhaps the tsar in faraway St. Petersburg. They knew they were not Muscovites nor Poles, nor Jews, but did not yet have a clear notion of allegiance to a broader Ukrainian nation.” The residents were concerned about land, about farming, about providing food for their families. Their enemies were the nobles and others with great wealth who exploited them. As far as the language, which, like Russian, developed from Church Slavonic, 95% of Ukrainian speakers lived in rural areas. Even after Bolshevism had (forcibly) developed the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic (they later switched it to “Soviet Socialist”) of the 1,898 Bolshevik bureaucrats in Ukraine, only 345 spoke Ukrainian. It was during the Soviet period that learning the language was eventually taught in the schools starting at the second grade. 

I’m not going to go into every detail of this article, because, forgive my harshness, it is just not worth it. Ukrainian history is complicated! To respond to all points in simplistic analyses like this one takes more time than it’s worth. Phillips, like so many Westerners, starts with the presupposition that Putin is an evil dictator who wants to build the USSR all over again. I live here. I am a Russian citizen. I follow the news here. From my experience his analysis is completely false.

For expert military and other advice, however, I follow Ritter, as I said, a career Marine, who fought in Desert Storm. I also follow Col. Douglas MacGregor, a career U.S. Army officer who also is a combat veteran from the Gulf War. Then I like to hear from Col. Richard Black, a career Marine officer (and former state senator), who was wounded several times in Vietnam. My point is those who keep saying I get my views from watching the Russian news are again using diversionary tactics. Where do they get their information? From reliable U.S. newscasts? 

Obviously, I don’t know Phillips but his article appears to me to be written by someone who has not lived or spent much time in this part of the world. He writes the way most Western writers do: Anachronistically imposing the study of the complicated history of Ukraine onto a Western historiographical procrustean mold or bed.  I highly recommend a recent article by David Stockman who says, “Ukraine is sui generis. It’s a hodgepodge of variant histories, ethnicities and religious traditions that never belonged under the roof of a single state and which marinated during recent centuries as vassals under the tutelage of Czarist Russia. Its historically meandering boundaries, in fact, were only finally frozen in current form during the 20th century by the brutal dictates of Lenin, Stalin and  Khrushchev.” (I love that line, “Its historically meandering boundaries.”)

As I have mentioned, I have had Ukrainians visit in my home. Two ladies who visited and spent a weekend with us before Oksana passed away did NOT like Putin. Yet they hated the involvement of the West even more! I asked why. They said, “Everything out of the West is pure propaganda. We don’t like Putin, but lying about Ukraine is not the way to change things.”  

I live with the reminder of a connection with old Rus. Luga, the city in which I live, was founded by Katherine the Great. A large statue of her stands about a 10 minute walk from my home. The street I live on is Kievskaya Street. We moved here from our apartment on Kirova Street. It’s obvious where “Kievskaya” comes from, but I didn’t know the origin of “Kirova.” Interestingly, I was watching the news one day and saw the Russian troops had entered the city of Kirova in Donetsk. 

In my first English class teaching in Luga, Nikita was one of my better students. He spent his summers back in his Ukrainian hometown. When he came back one fall, I got him to fill me in on how things were going in Ukraine. At the end of our conversation I asked him, “Nikita, do  you consider yourself Ukrainian or Russian?” He looked surprised and a bit confused. He then said, “I don’t know. Both I guess.” 

I’ve also mentioned my late wife’s mother was born in Ukraine. Oksana’s father was born in Belarus. They both consider themselves Russian, but, kind of like Nikita, it’s hard to explain or even to acknowledge the need to explain. Technically I am both American and Russian since I have citizenship in both countries. Yet I am an American. No confusion. It is not like that with many people here when it comes to Ukrainian and Russian. 

Back in the summer of 2019, Oksana’s parents went back to Belarus where her dad still has family. They asked our son Gabriel if he wanted to go with them, and he said sure. He loves studying about countries. He was only 11 years old but he could identify 100 national flags! Anyway, after he returned to Russia, he was telling me various things about the trip. The funniest story he told was about Oksana’s paternal grandmother. They lived not far from Ukraine. She was in her late 80s at the time. (She has since passed away.) He said one night she was cooking and got all excited telling Ded (grandpa) a story. Gabriel was fluent in Russian by then, but he said she started sounding weird. She threw in Belarus words. (People in Belarus I have been around essentially speak Russian, but they pronounce some sounds differently, e.g., the “G” sound is pronounced  like the “H” sound so it can get a bit confusing.) But then she threw in some words Gabriel did not understand at all. He asked Ivan, his grandfather, what she had just said. He said, “I don’t know Gabe. Back in the old days Mom would go shopping in the nearby Ukrainian city. It had a lot of things she liked. So she picked up the Ukrainian language. So now she speaks Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian–and she is not really aware she is mixing them. That’s the way it was for her generation.”

I tell those anecdotes to show you how these clear lines of demarcation between the countries that the West imposes on Eastern Ukraine and Russia are simply not consistent with the experiences of the people who live here. 

I can’t believe how people talk about Putin as violent and commend Zelensky as the champion of democracy. NBC recently sent a reporter, Keir Simmons, to Crimea. Surprisingly to some of us, he was an  honest reporter. He interviewed people in Crimea and without exception they said they thought of themselves as Russians. They want to remain Russians.  So what did Zelensky do? He put the reporter on the “Kill List,” the same list Zelensky had put Darya Dugina on. (See  Yet Phillips stays close to the narrative that it is Dugin and Putin who are the real killers.

I first came to Russia in 2002. That is when I met and later married my beautiful Russian wife. There was a WHOLE lot of pain in losing her to cancer, but I don’t regret marrying her one bit! It was worth the pain. I’ve lived here going on 10 years now–a little over 2.5 years in St. Petersburg and 7 years in Luga. When I came here this was one devastated rundown country. Crime was everywhere. You could not carry your wallet in an outer pocket. I saw few cars and no women drivers. The cars were mostly old Soviet Ladas. Russia now is a totally different country. I walk around town several times a week. There are well over 3 times as many restaurants, grocery stores, and clothing shops as when I first came. All kinds of cars are out on the street–and my taxi driver last week was an old Russian grandmother!

As I’ve said in previous blogs, I don’t know what kind of person Putin is deep inside.  Maybe he goes home and kicks his dog and cusses at the hired help. Furthermore, there are some issues here that are beyond my ability to understand. And I can’t judge the heart and motives of anyone, including Vladimir Putin. 

When it comes to politicians I can only judge actions and results. I look to see if the actions are consistent with the political promises they made before the elections. With Putin, they are. Scott Ritter made a point that Ray McGovern and other (genuine) Russian experts have made repeatedly: He said, “Everyone wants to know what Putin is up to, what are his motives, what is he planning. The best way is just to listen to him.” If someone thinks they know more about Russia than Ritter (or McGovern), then they probably will not be convinced by anyone. Ritter was the first U.S. military man (Marine!) who set foot on a USSR military base. He was there to inspect their INF weaponry. He majored in Russian studies in college because he wanted “to kill a Commie for mommy” (his words). After coming here, living here, meeting Russians and going into their homes, he changed his perspective. 

I’ve read 13 biographical books on Putin. Some present him in a good light, but obviously some authors don’t like him.  I’ve learned something from every one of them–even “The New Tsar,” by NY Times reporter Steven Lee Myers. He doesn’t like Putin at all, but he has some great biographical information that was very helpful.  He did great research.

I admire Putin, and I don’t admire many politicians. President Harry Truman said, “The buck stops here.” He really was talking about the fact the president ultimately has to take blame when things go wrong. But then the president ought to get some credit if things go the other way. I don’t think Putin turned this country around on his own, but it would not have happened without him. The main thing about Vladimir Putin is he loves his country and is dedicated to making it better. And in my opinion he has. I don’t need to read books to see what has happened to this country since Putin was made president. 

The U.S. hates Putin, and they loved Yeltsin. The country was destroyed by that poor drunk, who got wealthy kissing the buttocks of American politicians, just like Zelensky does now. The U.S. loves leaders of other countries they can boss around. In a source rarely seen or published in the West, Yeltsin later stated why he picked Putin as his successor. He said all the others in his administration would come in and report to him, and then they would flatter him or invite him to go have drinks.  Only Putin never did that. He presented his reports, explained his findings, and left. At least Yeltsin knew what kind of man Russia really needed. 

Sharon Tennison picked up my blog and corresponded with me for a while. She is in her 80s now, and I have not heard from her in a long time. She worked for an NGO going in and out of the USSR when Putin worked for the mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak. She said EVERY Russian administrator she talked to would eventually get around to asking for a bribe or for help getting U.S. citizenship. Only one never did. It was Vladimir Putin. So if Phillips feels comfortable judging others about whom he knows so little, he is certainly free to do so. That is what freedom of the press means.  It’s extremely comfortable to be a Putin-hater these days. It’s risky for a journalist or commentator to go the other way. Fortunately, I don’t have to care how well my writings are accepted. Furthermore, I don’t need to read books or “go to learn logic” to understand Putin’s work and the results of said work. I live here. I’m raising my two kids here.


Scott Ritter on Vladimir Putin:

Here is a link to the text (in English) of Putin’s speech:


Most of my blog entries recently have focused on the war in Ukraine, which began almost a year ago. In this one I will not ignore some issues related to the war, but my focus will be more on our family’s experiences.

It has been good to hear from those who have told me that my summaries of the various perspectives of people like Scott Ritter, Douglas MacGregor, Gilbert Doctorow, Richard Black and others have been helpful, since not everyone has the time to research different sources. I am equally grateful to those who write with sincere questions about how my children and I are doing. It is humbling to hear from those readers who tell me they remember us in their prayers regularly. So I decided family will be the focus of this one. For the more politically minded, I’ll deal more with events related specifically to the war in my next blog. 

Someone recently asked me what my overall goal is in writing this blog. My primary focus is the same as when I started in June of 2016: to inform readers in the U.S. about what life is like in small town Russia for an American. It turned out to be more complicated than I thought. I never dreamed of the events that would shape our experiences here. I knew the 2016 presidential race would be contentious, but I had no idea that Russia would be blamed for the election of Donald Trump. I did not imagine the bitter political fights that would result. Neither did I foresee a worldwide pandemic that would shut down international travel, as well as many small businesses in America. That has never happened in my life. And in my worst nightmare I never expected I would lose my wife to cancer and be left to raise our children here without her. 

Now there is a proxy war between Russia and the West, led by the U.S. I don’t think anyone will protest me calling it a proxy war because leaders in the U.S., including President Biden, have stated openly that the main goals of the U.S. are to weaken Russia, ostensibly so that Russia cannot invade other countries, and get rid of Putin. I heard him shout, “Putin must go.” The U.S. wants regime change–again. Further, the Ukrainian Defense Minister said recently that Ukraine was providing the blood for the war, so NATO should supply the weapons. No one disputes the fact this war is not just between Moscow and Kiev. This war is the West versus Russia. The future of Ukraine and the Ukrainians is hardly “front and center.” 

LIFE IN LUGA FOR THE FREEMANS. In general, not much has changed in the daily life of people here over this past year. The shelves in the grocery stores are quite full, and prices have returned to about what they were before the war. We are in the dead of a cold and snowy winter here in northwest Russia, but I can still buy a variety of fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. The ruble remains strong against the dollar. Fortunately, I was able to get some money transferred, but then that got shut down. I’m still working on alternatives. But financially we are doing fine with the money I withdrew before Russia got pulled from SWIFT, plus what I did get transferred.  As I think I have mentioned, I get direct deposits from the Russian government as a pensioner with two minor children; then I also get a “socialization supplement” because I am a widower with children. It isn’t a lot, but it covers basic expenses given the extremely low cost of living here as compared to my hometown in the U.S. 

Nevertheless, with these blessings, there are still battles as a single father in a foreign land. Recently I transferred my children from the school they have been attending to one closer to our home. It was quite an ordeal. My little girl started first grade exactly one week after her mom died. She has never quite adjusted. I thought she was doing well, but then recently she started having what seemed almost like panic attacks when it came time to go to school. I don’t know all the reasons. As I have said before about my own experience, the old saying, “grief is a process not a place” is true. You may believe you are doing better, but then something triggers a relapse. I noticed my daughter started getting out an album with pictures of her and Oksana. Then one night I got up to check on her after she had fallen asleep, and I saw she was clutching that photo book when she fell asleep. 

Somehow she never connected emotionally with her teacher. Russian elementary students keep the same teacher from year to year until they are out of elementary school. I met with the Director (Principal) and explained that things were not working out well. She was very understanding. Our priest has a daughter who goes to School #3 here in Luga, although they live in a village 15 minutes away. (Schools go by numbers here.) I have mentioned his oldest daughter tutors me in Russian. We discussed moving Marina Grace to this school instead of School #5. Marina very much wanted to switch. For three years I taught English in a private school that held classes in late afternoons and early evenings. I had noticed students from School #3 performed very well. I even mentioned this to a colleague at the school, and she said, “Yes, that school seems to have more of an international emphasis.” I met with the Director of this school and the lady who would be Marina’s teacher. I was very impressed, and Marina was as well. We decided to make the change. 

Later the Director of the original school requested I come back and talk about Gabriel, whose academic performance was not as strong this year. There were other issues I won’t get into, but we both decided it would be best if he also went to the other school with Marina Grace. 

The transfers took a lot of time and a lot of documents. Nothing gets done in Russia without a bunch of documents that have to be signed! So I met with the Directors of both schools on more than one occasion. Therefore I have not been able to respond to some comments on my blog as quickly as I usually do. My focus has been on my kids. I hope now to be more prompt and thorough in my responses. 

SAFETY IN RUSSIA. I had several friends send me questions on the announcement recently that the U.S. was advising Americans not to travel to Russia, and for those already in Russia to get out. This announcement appeared on the U.S. Embassy Facebook page: 

Travel Advisory: Russia – Do Not Travel

Do not travel to Russia due to the unpredictable consequences of the unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, the potential for harassment and the singling out of U.S. citizens for detention by Russian government security officials, the arbitrary enforcement of local law, limited flights into and out of Russia, the Embassy’s limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Russia, and the possibility of terrorism. U.S. citizens residing or travelling (sic) in Russia should depart immediately. Exercise increased caution due to the risk of wrongful detentions.

The U.S. government’s ability to provide routine or emergency services to U.S. citizens in Russia is severely limited, particularly in areas far from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, due to Russian government limitations on travel for embassy personnel and staffing, and the ongoing suspension of operations, including consular services, at U.S. consulates.”

I consider this pure propaganda and an attempt to present life in Russia for Americans in the worst possible light. It seems the U.S. is doing all it can to justify in the eyes of the taxpayers the over $110 billion sent to Ukraine while the citizens of Ohio are struggling under a horrible catastrophe.

In all the meetings I had about my children, the Directors of both schools conveyed a deep sense of concern and care for my children. At one school the English teacher served as my interpreter. She was very good. I can communicate in Russian, but on sensitive issues I was glad to have her to interpret. At one point when there was a break in the conversation she turned to me and said, “Mr. Freeman, I cannot imagine what it is like for you to go through this with your children here in Russia without their mother. You have my deepest condolences.” That is typical of how I am treated here. At no point in all my conversations was there any condescension or rudeness. 

Last Sunday I was feeling pretty low. The issues surrounding my children and their schooling were upsetting. Then I thought I had worked out a way to transfer money, only to have it shut down. I went on to Liturgy. Neither of my children went with me. Marina spent Saturday night with her grandmother. Gabriel had been to two birthday parties in one day, and when he eats a lot of sweets, his stomach is not good the next day. I arrived at church at the same time as the village doctor. She greeted me kindly and gave me a big hug. As soon as I got situated in the church, one of the men who assists at the altar came to me and gave me a hug and told me he was praying for me. Then two or three more came over and shook my hand and spoke kind words. 

It is not just people with whom I am familiar. In my nine years living in Russia I have never encountered anyone who responded angrily at me when they found out I was American. And it is not just because I live in a small town. I lived in St. Petersburg for two and a half years. It is a city of well over 5 million people. I have been to Moscow, a city of 12.7 million people, several times. The kids and I are planning a trip to Moscow over spring break to see friends there. I have no qualms about traveling from here down to Moscow with my children. I have not detected anything that indicates the attitudes of Russians toward Americans living or visiting here have changed at all because of the war. 

It isn’t that bad things can’t happen to you in Russia. Of course there are evil people here as in every country. I can honestly say, however, I feel a whole lot safer traveling to Moscow with my children than I would feel about taking them to New York, Chicago, Atlanta or a lot of other U.S. cities. There is no comparison.

As I told a couple of people on Facebook, I am treated far better in Russia as an American than some Russians I know in America are treated. The announcements on U.S. Government web-sites or social media sites about dangers in Russia are pathetic lies. They continue to refer to Russia’s “unprovoked full scale invasion of Ukraine.” No, an example of a full scale unprovoked invasion is when the U.S. lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and then sent in jets bombing military and civilian locations and murdering civilians along with the military personnel. They did the “shock and awe” destruction of this country a few years after having starved over 500,000 children to death, which was described as “unfortunate but necessary.” Then they celebrated, “Mission Accomplished.” 

I follow the posts of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Integrity and diplomacy are lost to those who are in that place. Recently I was watching an interview with Larry Johnson, a blogger and former analyst with the CIA. He observed, “What makes this proxy war different is the complete demonization of Russia and Putin. Only the U.S. has been the one invading and killing without just cause.” He went on to state Putin’s justified concerns about Russian security given what the U.S and NATO were doing in Ukraine. Again, Johnson is not some Putin apologist. He spent a career with the CIA. 

CONCLUSION: All along in my blog I have referred to the “blessings and battles” of life in Russia for my American family. For our first 5 years here the blessings far outweighed the battles. But things have changed. There are the blessings of time with my children and the encouragement I receive from folks like those at our church that I mentioned. The battles of facing all the decisions I have had to make alone gets tough. I said at one point that I had quit saying, “I wish Oksana were here.” I admit I relapsed lately. 

My battles are not just here in Russia, however. Yesterday I watched all the news from the U.S. that I could stomach. After sending billions of dollars to a corrupt government in Ukraine, they are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars shooting down UFOs? Every time Hunter Biden’s laptop is mentioned or more classified documents are found, shortly thereafter some “red herring” is spotted and the mainstream media go obediently chasing after it. Well, I’ll deal more with those issues in my next blog. 

I’ve also watched as the cultural values I was taught growing up in America are either removed or considered immoral. I would have far more fears concerning the physical, moral and spiritual dangers to my children in America than in Russia–no matter what The U.S. Embassy in Moscow says. So I continue to believe my kids and I should be in Russia. And I have hope that better days lie ahead. 


Obviously there is a lot going on with Russia, the U.S., Ukraine and the war. I decided any overview would be very difficult. In this blog I’ve chosen to state my opinion on three issues I deem important. I will refer to the sources upon whom I base my opinions on occasion, but my regular readers already know who they are. I will report on what I have gained from the sources I have selected as trustworthy and from my own experience here as well. Obviously, this summary repeats some points I have already written about. 

The West continues to lie. Both the politicians and the obedient press continue to lie about this whole war. Most Americans acknowledge they know little or nothing about Ukraine. The fact that Ukraine has such a complicated history makes exploitation easier. Thus, the regular folk can’t see the massive holes in the reports given. Here are the three main facets I see in the deception being propagated by the powers-that-be in Washington and in the subservient mainstream media. 

First, despite clear evidence to the contrary, they continue to call Russia’s actions of going into Ukraine “unprovoked.” As I’ve stated ad nauseam, the fact that Putin pleaded for 8 years with the U.S., France and Germany to force Ukraine to abide by the Minsk agreements and stop murdering Russian speaking Ukrainians in the Donbas goes unreported. The uncontested fact that the U.S. continued to place missiles nearer and nearer to the Russian border is also ignored. We now know this war was planned long ago. Russia said, “this far and no further.” When Russia struck back, the West howled at warmongering Putin. Even some writers like Doug Bandow, who believes the West should not have intervened, still state Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is inexcusable. Apparently they believe that as bad as the war is, the fact Putin did not roll over like everyone else and let the U.S. dictate world policy means he is evil. I think the recent video by John Mearsheimer sums up clearly the hypocrisy of the U.S. Please watch this two minute video. 

Second, Western leaders continue to lie about the economic situation here in Russia. As many of you know, the World Economic Forum held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland recently. Kenneth Rogoff, Harvard professor and former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, said that Russians are facing “incredible poverty” because of the sanctions. His description of the Russian economy made it look as if we’re all starving. Also at the conference Vadis Dombronskis said, “The sanctions are working. Russia’s economy was in recession last year and is going to be in a deeper recession this year.”  I am stunned that men with such credentials can be so ignorant or so deceitful (not sure which). 

Here is the actual situation. Please note the discrepancies between EU predictions and reality. 

 Jan. 21, 2023 (EIRNS)—On Jan. 20, the EU Commission tweeted that: “When Putin started his brutal war against Ukraine, the EU moved quickly and decisively. We have imposed nine rounds of heavy sanctions against Russia, crippling its ability to finance the war.”

That same day, one could read data on the Russian economy, summarized by Italian economist Michele Geraci: Exports +14% (EU forecast: −30%); Surplus +66% (EU forecast: −22%); Imports −9% (EU forecast: −35%); GDP −3% (EU forecast: −11%); ruble +15%

“Here we have a serious delusion problem: a persistent, false psychotic belief that is being kept despite indisputable evidence of the contrary,” Geraci commented.

You can also see Scott Ritter’s response at

I also see posts on social media that let me know the lies are being told in other venues than academics and politics. I follow a couple of Russian expat sites on Facebook. There are members there like me who live here, but there are others who are interested in moving here. One wrote from America last week asking if there were any banks still open in Russia. I think I was like many others and wondered what she meant. One guy answered and said there are many banks open in Russia (he listed a few) and asked her why she asked. She said, “I just read an article here and it said things are so bad in Russia the banks are closing.” More than a few responded to assure her that is a complete lie. 

The reason I believe the actual statistics I posted above and not the two academics I mentioned is because I live here. I buy groceries, clothes for my kids, pay their doctor bills and medicines, I do my banking here, etc. I see the price of gas every time I go walking, and it has not changed in well over a year. I could not survive on my Social Security in America. I do fine here. I know they’re lying primarily because I live here. I know Americans in various parts of Russia who say the same thing I am saying. 

Third, all of the lies eventually get around to the need to overthrow Putin.  Rogoff and others have said specifically there is a good chance the horrible economy caused by the sanctions will bring about regime change. An old friend sent me a couple of articles three weeks ago. One was from The Jerusalem Post stating Putin is going to retire because he is afraid of a coup. He could be killed by the Russian people rising up against him! The other article was claiming (again) that Putin is dying. I received another one today. Then Ukrainian President Zelensky told the folks at Davos that Putin may already be dead. I told a couple of people on-line that Putin is amazing. According to my count he has died 4 times in the last month.

I responded to my friend by sending an article showing Putin’s approval rating hovering around 80% in all major polls. And I see him frequently on TV. His physical and mental health are good–much better than Joe Biden’s. It is amazing to me that Joe Biden can stumble around on stage or on a tarmac, mumble incoherently when giving talks and yet the U.S. press boldly claims it is Putin’s health that is so bad and refuses to discuss Biden’s condition.

To sum up on Russia’s economy, the EU apparently thinks that the West is the “only game in town” for Russia. Russia has turned to the east and to the south. Exports of gas and oil are up; Russia just announced it has had the highest grain harvest in history, and it has led the world in grain and wheat exports for the last 5 or 6 years. It also is still the leading exporter of fertilizer. The other side of the proverbial coin is that Western economies are suffering far more than Russia is. 

The battle situation in Ukraine. I continue to see and read on the Western news that Ukraine is still winning. They just need a few more billions and some more weapons to finish the job. Before getting to the subject of the weaponry, I’ll do a quick review of the military situation as I understand it. 

Solidar and Bakhmut. The proxy war in Ukraine still remains “front and center” in the news. The latest news is that the city of Solidar has fallen to the Russians. It is not a large city at all. Two significant points about that city, however: The name of the city means “gift of salt.” Its name comes from the fact there are a number of salt mines around it. I’ve just read that now Ukraine is going to be looking at a shortage of salt. 

More significantly, from a military perspective, it opens the way to nearby Bakhmut and the losses suffered in Solidar by the Ukrainians have made it more difficult for them to hold on to Bakhmut. Scott Ritter describes Bakhmut as the “gordian knot” that will open things up to Russian troops taking charge of the whole region. 

As I have mentioned, Scott Ritter, Col. Douglas Macgregor and quite a few others have predicted a major Russian offensive that has not yet occurred. I think there are two reasons for the delay. One is the weather. It appeared the ground was going to be frozen enough to allow the Russians to move in with the heavy tanks and equipment needed for the offensive. Nevertheless, after freezing temps for about a week, the weather warmed back up a bit and is now above freezing most days in southern Ukraine. Here in Luga it is usually much colder than down in Ukraine, but we did have the same phenomenon. It was bitterly cold here a couple of weeks ago–down to minus 23 (F) one Sunday. But now it has warmed up to temps just below freezing. One can’t do a major offensive on the wet, thawed ground in Ukraine. 

The other reason for the delay of the major offensive is that Ukraine kept sending more and more troops to Solidar and Bakhmut, and Russia kept inflicting them with huge losses. MacGregor chose a number of sources to examine and concluded that Ukraine has now lost about 122,000 KIA. Another 35,000 are missing and presumed dead. So Ukraine has lost over 150,000 troops (not counting casualties) while Russia has lost around 20,000. (I have seen reports as low as 16,000 and as high as 24,000.) Loss of life is awful. I don’t care how many or how few, it is depressing to read. This is the nature of war, however. Ukraine started with fewer troops than the Russians, and they are losing many times more troops than the Russians. 

The sending of weapons. Finally I’ll make a few observations about the tanks and other military equipment being sent to Ukraine. I’m not going to go into all the details about the specific weapons. You can find others on-line who can explain the specifics better than I. In addition to Ritter, I recommend Brian Berletic who has a channel on YouTube called, “The New Atlas.” He has some good presentations of the specific tanks and equipment being sent. 

The other confusing aspect of the weapons is the numbers being sent. As I indicated in an earlier blog, Zaluzhnii, the head of the Ukraine military, said they needed 300 more tanks. The U.S. has been reluctant to send any because transporting such equipment is complicated and difficult. But Germany said they would not send tanks unless other countries did. Then Poland got involved. Frankly, I lost track of the specifics because the numbers kept changing. And one day after Biden promised America would send tanks, I woke up to a headline that he had changed and said the U.S. does not have the tanks in inventory right now. It will be a few months before they can be sent. 

No matter which numbers one uses, it is clear that Ukraine will get nowhere close to the 300 they said they needed, and they won’t get anything for several months. If they get 100 I will be surprised. Here are a few things to remember about the weapons being sent. 

First, weapons and vehicles are coming from the U.S., Germany, Sweden, Poland and other countries. There are no uniform guidelines in the construction of military equipment. Thus, the training for each set of tanks or vehicles will have to be separate. They had to bring Ukrainians to Ft. Sills, Ok. to train them on the Patriot defense system. How are they going to coordinate the training of the technicians needed for the vehicle operations and maintenance? 

Tanks and other Infantry Fighting Vehicles are complicated to operate and service. This is common knowledge. I was reading an article on the M1 Abrams, and it said that on average 8 hours of service is required for every one hour of use. The M2 Bradley was referred to as “a maintenance nightmare.” 

Second, conducting battle with a tank battalion is complicated. It takes a lot of coordination. Col. MacGregor drove tanks and eventually led in tank warfare. That was his specialty. He noted that even when you are using the same kind of tanks operated and serviced by the same men, you still run into problems of coordination in battle. While sending tanks sounds like this will be such a great asset, the truth is, according to him, getting tanks solves nothing. It is unimaginable how an attack could be coordinated with the Abrams from the U.S., 14 Leopards or 40 Mardeis from Germany, 50 Swedish CV90S, and 14 Challengers from the U.K. And they will be fighting a Russian battalion trained with its own tanks and outnumbering the Ukrainians. It is sending Ukrainians to certain death and destruction. 

CONCLUSION. Gilbert Doctorow recently quoted Russian commentator Vyacheslov Nikonov, a member of the Russian Duma, in reference to the increased sending of weapons by the West: “More Russians will die, but it will not change anything as far as the outcome.” That is sad and infuriating. The U.S. and its NATO minions are not going to change the outcome with anything short of nuclear weapons. Nikonov pointed out Russia has 12,000 to 13,000 tanks. I saw a major headline on one U.S. news site boasting that 14 Leopard tanks would be sent.  The ignorance and deceit is depressing. 

The vitriol in the West continues to increase. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said openly, “We are fighting a war against Russia.” It has gone beyond just supporting Ukraine. NATO is at war. Lindsey Graham, whose ignorance about this part of the world seems to know no limits, just continues the worn-out mantra, “We have to fight the Russians over there so we won’t have to fight them here.”  This from a man who supports the 800-900 U.S. military bases outside the borders of the United States. The U.S. literally has military bases all over the world, but it is Putin who is trying to take over the world. 

It seems every time I get encouraged by someone in D.C. saying it is time to end it, the neocons and liberal interventionists mount a renewed drive to demonize Russia. Further, in addition to Poroshenka and Merkel admitting the Minsk Agreements were just a ploy to give Ukraine more time to prepare for war, Francois Hollande, then President of France, recently said the same thing. They were all lying, and they were all planning for an eventual war between Ukraine and Russia. This war did not take place because Putin woke up one morning and decided to invade Ukraine. This war was being planned by the Western leaders for years. But you won’t hear that in the U.S. media. 

Rogoff said he has hopes Putin will be removed from office. My hope is much different. I hope with the continued decline of Ukraine’s options on the field of battle, the continued destruction of the economies of the West, that regime change will be on the other side of my world.


We moved to Russia from South Carolina in early June, 2016. I started writing this blog just before we moved to give my friends in America some idea of what life was like moving to Russia. My family and I moved from a small town in South Carolina, U.S.A. to a small town in Russia. It started out as something fun to write about–daily life in Russia for an American. But after Donald Trump won the election, there was a change in the air: The Russians did it! The divisions in America became deep and bitter, and Russia was blamed for it. Evil Mr. Putin had swayed the election from his office in the Kremlin. Then after a break we had the COVID crisis that shut down most everything, including international travel. In the midst of the COVID crisis my wife found out she had cancer and passed away in 2021. Suffice it to say, I don’t know exactly what our plans were, but things have not gone according to plan. 

As we all know, after a long time of tension over U.S. missiles near the Russian border, President Putin sent troops into Ukraine for the “Strategic Military Operation” in February of 2022. It wasn’t long before it was clearly a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia. President Biden and others in America openly stated the purpose was to get rid of President Putin. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was totally unprovoked according to them. NATO adopted sanctions against Russia, and the U.S. began sending money and weapons. Despite the fact that the sanctions have hurt the West far more than Russia, and the weapons and money have hardly impacted the results on the battlefield (despite Western media lies to the contrary), the U.S. continues the drive to make sure Putin does not remain as president of Russia. 

So my blog shifted this past year to updates on the war as seen from Russia. I remember in September, 2016 watching the news from America and then reading an article on how the sanctions from 2014 were choking Russia. I realized that lying about Russia had gone mainstream in my home country. I don’t mean things were presented from a different perspective. They were lies. So I have sought to present a different perspective based on my studies and my experiences here. As we begin the new year, I will address issues pertaining to Ukraine before I close with a few words about how things are with my kids and me. 

THE SITUATION ON THE GROUND. There have been no major events on the ground that have changed the nature of the war. The conflict is in a “grind it out mode” as someone described it. All the sources I trust agree that Ukrainian forces are experiencing significantly higher casualties than the Russians, although the numbers vary to some degree. I would say the  average given is about 7 or 8 Ukrainian casualties for every 1 Russian casualty. Of course, much of the Western MSM reports a very different picture. As I have stated before, however, elements in their narrative seem mutually exclusive: Ukraine is dominating, but over half of Ukraine is without power; U.S. weapons are being successful, but billions more must be sent. The HIMARS was working great, but now we must send the longer range Patriot system. Russia is running out of tanks and ammo, but Ukraine needs 300 more tanks, 500 more Howitzers and a lot more military vehicles. 

As I have mentioned, Russia mobilized over 300,000 reservists back into active duty. They have been training for some time and as I understand about half of them are now in Ukraine. The numbers of troops available are going up because there are a substantial number of individuals volunteering to serve. It is true that some fled the country rather than serve, and this fact was reported widely in the Western news. Far greater numbers have volunteered. Gilbert Doctorow reported that even some members of the Russian Duma have gone to the front. Col. MacGregor said the reports he received were that the recruiting stations in Russia are full. None of this was reported in the Western MSM as far as I could tell. 

I sometimes read that Russia is being obstinate when it comes to negotiating. There are several reasons for Russia’s reluctance. I think the ones below are among the most significant. 

BIDEN RENEGED.  Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern recently reminded everyone of how it is now clear President Biden reneged on his statements to President Putin a year ago ( At the end of December 2021 Biden assured Putin, “We have no intention of deploying offensive weapons in Ukraine.” Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov stated that Russia tried to follow up and get firm assurances and details in writing on what Biden had promised. They wanted more than just a verbal commitment given in a phone conversation. After several attempts to get a formal commitment in writing, Ushakov stated, “We have received no meaningful response on deployment of strike weapon systems on Ukrainian territory.” 

McGovern indicated that Putin has come to see Biden as incapable of negotiations. Biden says things, but then either forgets that he said them or changes what he said to conform to the dictates of his advisors. Putin is like many Americans I know: He wonders who is running the country?  Some make jokes about Biden’s verbal slips or the fact he sometimes just makes nonsensical remarks or even appears lost on stage. It is not funny, however, when his cognitive impairment impacts foreign relations while a proxy war is going on. This greatly hinders negotiations. 

MERKEL’S ADMISSION. I have frequently mentioned the Minsk Accords, also referred to as Minsk Agreements. These were a set of recommendations essentially calling for “regionalism” (as some have termed it) in Ukraine. 

As I have stated before, Ukraine has a diverse history with different ethnic groups making up what is now Ukraine. The boundaries that are now Ukraine were largely established by Lenin during his leadership of the USSR. Of course, at that time Ukraine was not a country. It was one of the Republics of the Soviet Union. Lenin moved the boundary of what was then the Republic of Ukraine eastward to include the regions usually referred to as the Donbas, which had been a part of Russia. The residents of those oblasts were (and are) primarily ethnic Russians. That is why they have continued to see themselves as Russian. Their families have spoken Russian for centuries. Lenin thought the USSR would always exist, so in some sense it didn’t matter where one drew the boundaries. Later, Khrushchev changed Crimea from being in the Russian republic to the Republic of Ukraine. It seems that perhaps the only concern of the leaders was efficiency in governing the different regions. 

So Ukraine had the problem of internal cohesion long before there was outside interference. Different segments of the population spoke different languages and had other religious and cultural differences. The Minsk Accords were seen as a way to recognize the fact that Ukraine has internal divisions while laying the groundwork for a united Ukraine. 

I’ll quickly recap what I have discussed more in-depth in earlier blogs. The catalyst that led to the Minsk Accords was the U.S. led and funded coup d’etat in 2014 overthrowing the democratically elected president of Ukraine and establishing the pro-Western Arseniy Yatsenuk as president. The tensions within Ukraine were greatly exacerbated when use of the Russian language in the local governments and in schools was outlawed. Leaders of the new pro-Western government began shelling those in the eastern regions because those in the east had declared their independence from what they saw as an illegitimate and antagonistic government in Kiev. 

The Minsk Accords called for a ceasefire, the removal of heavy weaponry from the front lines, the release of prisoners of war, constitutional reforms in Ukraine providing self-governance to specific areas in Donbas, and the resumption of Ukrainian government control of the state border.

As an aside, I saw an old video of Volodymyr Zelensky speaking out in support of the agreements before he became president. His native language is Russian. I have stated in previous blogs that these accords were primarily set forth by Germany, along with France. On February 17, 2015 the U.N. Security Council issued a statement unanimously adopting the agreements ( 

Yet, somehow they were never enacted. I blamed the U.S. for undermining the accords by continuing to place missiles closer to the Russian border and not putting any pressure at all on Ukrainian leaders in Kiev to abide by the agreements. The shelling continued for 7 more years, and 14,000 people were killed in the Donbas. Estimates by those I trust indicate that roughly 8,000 of those were civilians. 

In June, 2022 Petro Poroshenko, president of Ukraine at the time the agreements were announced, stated that although he signed the Minsk Accords, in reality he was only trying to buy time to get Ukraine’s military ready to fight Russia. That was not surprising. Recently, however, many of us were quite surprised that in an interview with Der Spiegel, Angela Merkel, former Chancellor of Germany, said her motives were much the same. She stated, “I believed back then and still now, that during the Minsk agreements I bought the time Ukraine could use to better resist a Russian attack. It is a stronger, more resilient, country now.” She was even more emphatic in a later interview.

I don’t want to read too much into my impressions, but when I saw the TV reports here in Russia which included videos of Putin’s remarks after her interview, it seemed to me he was shaken. My opinion is that Putin trusted Merkel more than any of the other Western leaders. I recall one time I was surprised that when he spoke to her in German she replied in Russian. It just seemed they had a good working relationship. So he recently apologized for having tried for so long (8 years) to get the Minsk Accords enacted. The whole thing was a ruse. The Western leaders had no intention of a peaceful settlement. 

Again, when the West calls for negotiations, they must accept the fact that, as McGovern said, “now the Russian army will talk.” Russia will lay the groundwork for the negotiations on the battlefield first since obviously Putin cannot trust the word of the Western leaders who control Zelensky. Further, the hypocrisy of the U.S. is clear to any honest and informed observer. The U.S. condemns Russia for “invading” Ukraine, after the U.S. has invaded Libya, Iraq, Syria and other countries under false pretenses. In a recent podcast Scott  Ritter mocked the U.S. denunciation of Russia knocking out the power grid of Ukraine. He was one of the troops who moved into Iraq and their orders were to blow out the power grid first. One must be careful in dealing with such blatant hypocrites. 

Recommendation. I would like to call attention here to an interview that Eva K. Bartlett did with Col. (and former Senator) Richard Black. It is an hour long interview. There is so much information in this interview. Eva spent time on the ground in Syria. She now lives in Moscow but spends a lot of time in Donetsk and other places in Ukraine. She is a true journalist who reports what she sees and experiences. If you want to see who is really committing the war crimes, please follow her on Facebook, VK, Telegram or her website. She does not sit at a desk simply regurgitating what wire reports or what Ukrainian news outlets put out. So this is an interview with a knowledgeable reporter and a man experienced in military combat and American politics.

POSITIVE SIGNS FROM AMERICA. While most of the news still looks bad for those of us longing for a meaningful resolution to the conflict in Ukraine, there have been a few “silver linings” even in the clouds of bad news. So I’ll mention the “bad news/good news” I find. 

THE OMNIBUS BILL & AMERICA’S PRIORITIES. The Omnibus Bill was passed at the end of the year–later than required actually. It was over 4,000 pages, and yet members of Congress were given no extra time to read it. Sen. Rand Paul posted a picture of the massive amount of paper that was in the document. It wasn’t just a lot of paper, it was a lot of money–$1.77 trillion! While Biden had requested $37 billion to go to Ukraine, Congress actually approved $45 billion for Ukraine. 

After Zelensky’s visit to the White House and his speech to Congress, both Republican and Democratic leaders were glowing and insisted that the money to Ukraine was essential. Republican Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell declared, “To defeat Russia is the number 1 priority of Republicans.” Of course, Democratic leaders were saying the same thing. 

That is not the positive news I mentioned, of course. The good news is that clearly McConnell’s words are not indicative of how Americans feel. There was a Gallup Poll released on December 12, 2022. The question put to the American people was, “What is the most important problem facing America?”  The top answers were:

The American government:  19%

Inflation/Cost of living: 16%

Economy (in general): 12%

Immigration: 6%

Several other issues made the top 12. “Russia” was the response given by LESS THAN 1% of respondents as the most important problem facing America. Politicians keep insisting that Russia is the number one priority. Clearly, the American people do not agree. The irony is Americans believe by far that the American government is a greater problem than the Russian government. ( The dissonance between the money grubbing U.S. politicians, along with their media subordinates, and the American people is growing. I pray that at some point soon it will reach the boiling point. It’s the economy stupid. There is reason for hope that things could change. 


The Economic Times did an interview with Valery Zaluzhny, the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian army. I did not see the video of the interview, but those who did pointed out that Zelensky was present but never spoke. Zaluzhny never mentioned him or invited him to comment. 

Overall Zaluzhny’s message was that he can beat the Russians. Yet, Ritter, MacGregor and several others point out that a careful reading of the transcript indicates there is a growing recognition that Ukraine cannot win. Zaluzhny said he can win IF he gets 300 more tanks, 600-700 more infantry vehicles and also added in the course of the interview he needed 500 Howitzers. Neither NATO nor the U.S. has 300 tanks or that many infantry vehicles available. While the Western press has pushed the line that Russia was running short of ammo and other needed military items, there is a growing recognition that it is the Western powers that are endangering their own national security by sending their hardware to Ukraine. Even the Wall Street Journal indicated that it is the Western countries that are running out of ammo. Ritter, MacGregor and others say the bottom line of the interview is that people are being prepared for the ultimate defeat of Ukraine. 

THE PATRIOT MISSILE DEFENSE SYSTEM. I mentioned above the Patriot system now being touted as the answer to Russian aggression (like the HIMARS was a few months ago). Some are not convinced that the Patriot battery the U.S. is sending will make any difference at all. It takes 5 months just to train people in how to use the Patriot. A lot will happen in Ukraine over the next 5 months. Further, it takes 93 people to operate one battery. What has not been mentioned in the mainstream media is that the Patriot has a terrible record, e.g., in the first Gulf War in Iraq it did not knock out any enemy missiles. In the 2nd Gulf War the Patriot shot down more allied aircraft than Iraqi missiles. Further, the U.S. is sending only one battery. There are 8 launchers per battery. This would not be near enough to stop Russian cruise missiles even if the Patriot were as good as the U.S. claims. It is not just that the U.S. is sending money and weapons to Ukraine. At some point it will become clear that nothing helped. 

FAMILY MATTERS. As I think I mentioned, both my children had a lot of sickness at the start of this winter. Fortunately, they are doing much better. I’m still struggling with keeping up as a single father in a foreign land. I got caught up on groceries and getting the clothes washed, but I waited too late to start shopping for the toys Grandfather Frost would bring. Fortunately, they arrived in the nick of time. I didn’t plan well, but I prayed a lot. 

Holidays are tough for those of us with grief. I dreaded New Years Eve, which is the biggest holiday of the year in Russia with the possible exception of May 9. It went better than expected. Grandfather Frost and Snow Maiden came over with gifts early in the evening. Marina Grace was ecstatic. It seems Grandfather Frost knew exactly what she wanted. Oksana’s parents brought in food for a meal about 10:00 p.m. Gabriel left shortly thereafter to spend time with a friend and his family. Marina Grace danced and sang for us all. I have not seen her that happy since her mom passed away. Obviously, that made my evening. I didn’t need anything else.

Nevertheless, life here is tough for me. It wouldn’t matter where we lived. Going through the holidays without that partner with whom you are so close is just not the same. There is still a hole in the heart. It would be easier in some ways if I were close to my American family for sure. But as I have stated several times, I’m just not sure how we could make it in America right now. I have no idea how things will turn out for traditional families like ours when the dust settles in the States. 

I do plan for the kids and I to do some traveling in the future. We are planning a trip to Moscow during their spring break from school. There is potential there with an international community. We would love to spend some time with them. The American Orthodox priest and his wife have invited us down. They stayed with us a few days after Oksana passed away, and we became very close. For now, however, we are in Luga and I simply have to make the best of things. My kids are healthy and happy. Any parent can survive if you have that. 


I am going to take a break from giving updates on Ukraine in this blog entry. I think many of us are waiting to see what happens when the ground freezes in Ukraine and Russia makes its move. I want to offer some rambling reflections from my personal past that will explain to some degree how I came to the perspectives I now have on American domestic and international relations. Some of these I have mentioned in previous blogs. I’m trying to keep my American readers in mind, but I also have picked up readers from several other countries. So some readers may not be familiar with the past events about which I write. I tried to give enough information to make it understandable. 

RACISM. I was born in the segregated south of the United States. By segregated I mean there were schools for white kids and other schools for black kids. Most churches were segregated as well. The black folks in our small town lived in a section of town separated from us–”colored town” as it was called by some but much more explicitly racist language was used by others. I can still recall walking down main street in my little town and seeing “White Only” signs on many storefront windows. When I started first grade I had never been around a black person very much in my life. 

Using racial slurs, e.g., the “n” word, and telling racist jokes was common. Not in my home, however. I never heard my father use a racial slur, tell a racist joke, or express or show any disrespect or condescension to a black person. He didn’t lecture us on it. He simply didn’t do it–so I didn’t either. 

Voices crying for equality refused to be silenced. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in August, 1963 had a powerful impact as he called America to become the nation of “all men are created equal” as it had always claimed to be. His dream was that the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners could sit down together at the table of brotherhood. He dreamed his four little children would one day be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. He quoted the prophet Amos, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream!” One could hardly argue he was being “un-American.” The cry of “segregation now, tomorrow and forever” would grow weaker.

Things changed for me when I entered sixth grade. My classmate, Rocky Grissom, came out and told us there was a colored boy in our classroom. We went to see. We stared. His name was Vincent. Looking back I can’t imagine what that sixth grader must have felt with the stares, the pointing and the giggling. He had to feel so lonely. 

Over time, however, things changed. The boys in my class played baseball during recess. We chose sides and had some good games. Vincent was a good hitter. So the giggles and the pointing turned to, “Way to go, Vincent! Good hit!” Vincent worked his way up to getting chosen among the first of us. 

The next year I went to a new school because we moved. There were a few more black kids. Then each year things changed. By my senior year we were fully integrated. There were no more separate schools based on race. I played high school football. I was the right offensive guard. Next to me was Ronnie, a really good right tackle. He was black. So was Tommy, our right end. Sometimes my dad would let me drive our old beat up Toyota to school. I would give Ronnie and Tommy rides home after football practice. We laughed a lot. Another black friend, Edwin, would come over to our house, and we would shoot basketball together. Twelve years earlier black and white kids going to the same school, playing on the same sports teams, and riding around together was unthinkable. Unlike what some Southern politicians had warned us of, things were actually better sitting together at the table of brotherhood. 

After high school I joined the Marines. Of course, by this time it was fully integrated. I got to know people–black and white–from all over the country. As we trained together I continued to question a number of things about American politics. I wondered why so much effort and energy had been devoted to maintaining racial segregation. What were they supposedly protecting us from? Why had they been so committed to keeping black people out of the local diner? Was it reality or rhetoric? Convictions or political expediency? 

RUSSIANS.  Obviously I was also raised during the Cold War. We were taught that the Russians were out to destroy our culture and our country. I really did believe that. The Communists were atheists and had no morals. When they tried to put nuclear missiles in Cuba, we all cheered for President Kennedy when he got them to back down. We were not aware of the back channel deals. We couldn’t have Russians and their weapons that close to us! (We used the designation “Russia” and “Soviet Union” pretty much interchangeably. We didn’t know the names of all those republics.) So in 1983 when Ronald Reagan called the USSR the “evil empire,” I agreed with him. 

Then things changed, however. As the USSR was being dismantled, Reagan himself seemed to change. A nuclear war could never be won and should never be fought. As I recall it was during a Q & A at a university in Moscow in 1988 that he stated he would not use the evil empire designation for Russia again. Then we won the Cold War! (At least that is how we saw it.) We got our man Boris Yeltsin in power. We made no secret of the fact we were trying to manipulate the voting in Russia. We needed to do that to get them started in democracy like America. Trust us, Russia, we’re the good guys. We’re here to help. Russians were starving in the 90s, but they still should thank us for getting them out of Communism. Such was our worldview. 

As I have recounted, in 2002 a friend who had somehow teamed up with Russian churches and orphanages asked me to accompany him to Russia. Since I taught in a university I had time in the summer to make the trip. So I accepted the invitation. It was during that trip I got to meet and be around real live Russians for a little over two weeks. I went back at the end of the year with two other Americans and spent New Years Day 2003 in Russia. 

It was then I had the same kind of feeling I had had over integration. What had we been afraid of? Did we believe these were people who lusted for war and world dominance? Or were we the ones actually lusting for world dominance? I could understand Scott Ritter’s experiences that he describes in some podcasts I have heard. He really was ANTI-RUSSIAN. He knew he wanted a military career and wanted to defeat the Russians. He said, “Kill a Commie for Mommy” wasn’t just some empty phrase. He majored in Russian studies not because he loved Russia, but because he wanted to learn how to tear it down. But when he did come to the USSR to inspect their weapons and make sure they were abiding by the INF treaty, he met and worked with Russians. They were regular people. They were easy to work with. He was invited to the home of one of the Russians he got to know. He met his wife, his kids, and thought, much as I did–we’re a lot alike. 

Obviously my relationship with Russia became much more personal. I eventually married a Russian and, as I said in my last blog, we lived here in Russia and in the States. We enjoyed life in both worlds. 

THE POLITICS OF DIVISION. My life experiences brought me to the point of cynicism about American politics. Most politicians seem to like division–political, racial, religious, whatever. Any break in the wall between people can become a point of leverage for those wanting more power. They like finding an ethnic group or any group where they can sell fear and animosity. And they don’t mind going to war to keep the country divided. We spent almost 20 years in Vietnam. Americans were deeply divided over that war. I remember so many protest marches and even violent confrontations. Some of us still remember the Kent State shootings in which 4 unarmed university students were shot dead and 9 others were wounded by the National Guard during a peace protest.

We lost the war, but after it was over they took us to war in Afghanistan. It lasted even longer than the war in Vietnam. Neither war accomplished anything militarily or politically. Now we have generals who couldn’t figure out how to win any of our wars giving us “expert” advice on the war in Ukraine on the nightly news. A lot of American military personnel died in those wars, while others got promoted for sitting in offices and sticking to the script. 

I realize there have been other battles and skirmishes as well. We still sanction Syria and steal most of its oil. Their children are dying, but that is not our problem any more than the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children were our problem. 

In my recent blogs I have tried to show that Putin tried for 8 years to stop the killing of innocents in Donbas. He appealed to the Minsk Accords and tried to protect his country from U.S. missiles at the Russian border the way John Kennedy kept Soviet missiles from getting too close to America. Nevertheless, the claim is still widely accepted that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was unprovoked. It’s the image, not the reality, that is important. 

Putin has also been criticized by some from the other perspective for not going in with more force and taking out more of the infrastructure of Ukraine right away–the way the U.S. does. Scott Ritter now maintains Putin was clearly wrong with his original Strategic Military Operation. It is clear that Putin’s desire to minimize the loss of civilian lives and preserve the infrastructure of Ukraine did not work. Nevertheless, I will never criticize any leader who sees war not as a first response but as a last resort. When the U.S. showed it would ignore the needs of its own citizens and send billions to Ukraine, Putin had to change tactics. 

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS. It is hard to believe that many U.S. politicians are still using the same ploys to manipulate the citizens of America. They still play the race card, only now it’s those evil white supremacists that are the real danger. Black Lives Matter gets a free pass. Russia is no longer Communist, but I have to say that U.S. politicians are pretty good at playing off those old fears. America may have 800-900 military bases outside its borders all around the globe, but it is Putin who is trying to take over the world. Fear is a powerful tool for a politician obviously. It’s easier to get the funds; it is easier to get the votes. Vote for me and my side, we’ll keep you safe from “those people.”  

Sometimes I wonder how they can make up some of the stuff about Russia I hear on the news in America. How can they look at themselves in the mirror? But in an earlier blog I have quoted the line from the character J.R. Ewing from the old Dallas series many years ago. He explained to his brother how one can get to the point mentally and emotionally that you can exploit people just to get rich: “Once you lose your integrity, Bobby, the rest is easy.” From living here in Russia these years I have learned that a lot of Western politicians, journalists and “experts” have made it easy on themselves apparently by using that same method. 

When I joined the Marines at 18 years old, I was told I would be sent to Vietnam. When I completed my advanced training after boot camp I was told again I would be going. I was asked if I had a problem with that. I said that was fine. I would go fight the Communists over there so we wouldn’t have to fight them here in America. (I can’t believe I was gullible enough to use that line.) They never told me why I wasn’t sent. I was talking to my American friend here last year, and I told him that sometimes people comment on how brave I was. I said, “But it really wasn’t courage it was…” And he said, “It was the adventure!” I said, “Yes! Exactly!” He said he became a cop for the same reason. 

I see now how my youthful stupidity and wanderlust was manipulated by my country for the greater good–not the greater good of the country. It was for the greater good of politicians and the military industrial complex which Eisenhower had warned about.

Now that I’m older and have had enough adventures, I have a greater longing to see hungry children fed, and people who have lived in fear given peace. I’m heartbroken when I see the devastation that my home country has caused around the world. In the hippie days of my youth we Marines would make fun of those “long haired freaky people” singing peace songs and carrying “Make love, not war” signs. 

Now it does not seem so trite. I so want to see a powerful anti-war movement in America again. I long for the days which the Holy Scripture speaks of when, “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” The problem in America is that some people make a lot more money manufacturing the modern equivalent of swords and spears than they would fashioning ploughshares and pruning hooks. 

I realize that there are evil people in the world who must be stopped. I personally believe there are times that evil must be confronted even if it means using military force. Again, however, it should be as a last resort not a first response. It ought to be rooted in how to advance freedom, not in how to advance unipolar authority. In my next blog I’ll discuss how some in the West were merely using the Minsk Peace Accords as a delay tactic so Ukraine could prepare for war. They never had a sincere desire or plan for peace. 

I realize that things do look bad for people like me. But I take heart in men like Martin Luther King, Jr., who still dared to dream with all the evil he saw around him. I’m going to end by doing something risky. Some time ago I was reading a passage in Russian and came across what seems to me to be a proverbial expression. I haven’t talked with any Russians about it, so I could be way off point. But I hope I understood it correctly:  Мечтать не вредно; не мечтать вредно, “To dream is not harmful; not to dream is harmful.” When I read it I thought–we can’t be afraid to dream. 


I am offering another update here on recent news and events from Russia. I’ll deal a little with the Ukrainian situation. I will focus more, however, on how things are here in Russia, particularly with the economy. I’ll also include an update on our family. 

The major event going on right now in Ukraine is Russia’s continued cruise missile attacks on the power grid in Ukraine. Ukraine struggled to restore about half the power to the 10 million who had lost electricity, but the next Russian attack was largely successful so quite a bit of Ukraine is still without electricity. 

On the one hand, Ukraine and some of its western sponsors are saying that Russia is committing war crimes by depriving civilians of heat and water. Russia does not deny that civilians are being greatly distressed by the attacks on the system. Nevertheless, as I mentioned in my last blog, these facilities are “dual use.” They provide electricity and water to the bases being used to attack Russian troops. Thus, it is not a war crime for Russia to destroy the grid. Russia responded to the criticisms by saying that the West continues to supply weapons that are being transferred to locations best suited to kill Russians. Russia has a right to try and stop those transfers. If the West wants the missiles to stop, then it should stop trying to aid in the killing of Russians. 

Throughout this conflict there have been examples of what should be investigated as war crimes committed by Ukraine in my opinion. I saw videos from independent reporters like Eva Karene Bartlett and Patrick Lancaster of Ukrainians firing from hospitals and schools, thus requiring Russia to fire back to take them out. Then the cry goes up that Russia is attacking innocents in hospitals and schools. While it is a crime to blow up such a building, it is not a war crime to fire back even if civilians are hit. It is a war crime to use civilians as shields. But no investigation of Ukraine seems forthcoming. 

Others have pointed to the hypocrisy of the U. S. in its accusations. I mentioned that Scott Ritter, who participated in Desert Storm, said that one of the first objectives the U.S. troops were given when they attacked Iraq was to take out the power grid. In 1999 NATO, led by the U.S. of course, bombed the Yugoslavian power grid as soon as it entered the country. The U.S. also attacked the power grids of Syria and Libya. It is significant in my opinion that none of these countries were within thousands of miles of the U.S. border. None of those countries had ever attacked the U.S. There was no existential threat to the U.S. or NATO from these countries. Russia, on the other hand, is defending itself against the U.S. placing missiles on its borders. It is also defending the Russian speaking residents of the eastern regions of Ukraine from the constant shelling authorized by Kiev. 

THE RUSSIAN MILITARY SITUATION.  The U.S. continues to raise the hopes of those wanting Russia’s defeat by claiming Russia is running out of ammo. This week Dimitry Medvedev again showed videos, this time of a visit to one of the main ammo producing manufacturers. The sign behind him said, “Region,” but I don’t know if that was the name of the factory or what. He demonstrated that Russia has plenty of ammo and there are several factories still running strong that are producing even more weapons and ammunition. 

I also think at least some in the West are getting suspicious of the claims that Russia is running out of ammo. I believe two reports in The New York Times illustrate my point. I don’t have a link to the first article because I got it from what Alex Christoforos read on his daily updates on The Duran. I did not get the exact date of the article. It really does not matter because the article was not giving statistical updates. The basic point of the article questioned the accuracy of the information coming from U.S. sources concerning Russia’s ammunition supplies. They noted Western and Ukrainian sources have been saying for some time that Russia’s stockpile is dwindling. Even as early as last May Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russia was running short of ammunition and artillery rounds. That was 6 months ago! Yet Russia recently launched its biggest aerial attack on Ukraine since the conflict began. The author questioned how Russia can launch these attacks if they have been running short on ammo for months. 

There have been various theories put forth as to how to explain this fact, but the problem remains for the West. Russia continues to fire far more missiles and artillery rounds than Ukraine. The explanation that makes most sense is the one put forth by both Ritter and MacGregor. Russia has been planning on the possibility of military conflict since 2014, and they have been producing the weapons and ammunition that they believed they would need. 

I do have a link to the other NY Times article: In this article the author states it appears that it is the U.S. and NATO countries that are running out of ammunition. Obviously the leaders of the U.S. and other NATO countries did not think Russia would respond with military aggression. They apparently believed that Russia would back down before going to battle or not put up much of a fight. They were wrong. The article states that while perhaps Russia is running short on ammo, clearly the West did not predict correctly what would happen. Russia not only has engaged in military conflict, the battles are, in their words, “chewing up” supplies of not only NATO but the U.S. as well. There is now a “mad scramble” to provide Ukraine with what it needs. In the German version of Business Insider, Eva Hoegl, the German parliament’s Defense Commissioner, stated Germany has ammunition for only one or two days of battle. She said it will take an additional 20 billion euros ($19.5 billion) to replenish stocks. 

The truth is no one in NATO or the U.S. had any idea how much artillery and ammunition that Ukraine would need to fight Russia. It is far more than what was needed in Afghanistan. As Camille Grand, a defense expert for NATO said, “A day in Ukraine is a month in Afghanistan.”  In other words, the Western “experts” did not think Russia would be able to launch a serious attack. When they did go to war they obviously had greatly miscalculated the Russian arsenal. There is an old adage that anyone who has been around the military has heard many times: “Know your enemy.” The U.S. vastly underestimated its enemy in this proxy war it wanted. 

THE ECONOMY IN RUSSIA. When the U.S. led sanctions were put in place in February there were some predictions that Russia’s GDP would drop by double figures. This year the International Monetary Fund predicted on April 1 that the GDP of Russia would contract by 8.5%; in June they modified that to a contraction of 6%; their latest prediction is that it will contract by 3.4%. They predict a contraction next year of 2.3%. As a side note, the GDP of Ukraine contracted 35% this year. 

Goldman Sachs said the Russian economy is healthier than the economies of larger European countries. They stated that domestic consumption is actually up in Russia. The ruble remains as one of the strongest–if not THE strongest–currencies in the world. President Biden was wrong: The ruble did not turn to rubble. 

The West keeps trying to pressure Russia economically with sanctions that are clearly idiotic. They are now pushing for a price cap on the cost of Russian gas and oil. In other words, they want to tell Russia what it can charge for its energy resources. First, NATO sanctioned Russian oil and  gas. That completely blew up in their collective face, so now they want to set the price Russia can charge. This plan comes from people who supposedly are capitalists. It’s like telling the store what they can charge you for their products. Russia responded that it will not sell energy to any country that participates in the demand for price caps. 

Russia has other customers. The Western leaders seem not to be able to grasp that fact! China has been a long time purchaser of Russian natural gas and has increased its imports. Turkey is perhaps going to be the “European hub” for Russian natural gas. Turkey has also started paying for some of its natural gas with the ruble. India also refuses to go along with the sanctions or the price caps. Trade between Russia and India will break another record for high volume this year, as it did last year. India is now Russia’s largest gas importer. Exports of fuel and petrochemicals from Russia to India will increase sixfold this year, and the purchase of Russian fertilizers will increase sevenfold. Those are very substantial increases obviously. As an aside, there are many reports on how European countries are getting around the sanctions and still buying Russian gas and oil. 

STATUS OF THE CONFLICT. Despite the billions supposedly sent to Ukraine for all kinds of offensive and defensive weapons, Ukraine remains largely in the dark–literally. Now with the FTX controversy, I think both Americans and Ukrainians wonder where all these billions have gone. Whose pockets are being lined with this money? Clearly the weapons sent to Ukraine have not stopped the Russians. 

I have mentioned several times since I started writing this blog that I  question whether U.S. leaders and their press are willfully ignorant of Russia or are they intellectually dishonest. I think it is both to some degree. But this conflict shows how ignorant they really are. Scott Ritter explained it in one statement quite some time ago: The thinking of these Western leaders is still stuck in the 1980s. They really believe Russia now is like the USSR was when it was collapsing. 

STATUS OF THE RUSSIAN FREEMANS.  I really appreciate the kind words and prayers for our situation here that some have messaged to me. We did not celebrate Thanksgiving as we did when Oksana was still with us. Gabriel had to go to school. Marina Grace is still struggling with a bad cough. She goes back to the doctor today. She feels fine. In a way, I think that works against her. I’m constantly telling her to slow down, don’t run, don’t talk. But Oksana’s mom stays in close contact with the teacher and goes over all her school work with her. 

I’ve gotten into a certain rhythm with washing clothes, dishes and with “house work” in general. I have not been doing my Russian lessons the last two weeks because my tutor’s boyfriend has been home on leave from Ukraine. I told her to spend all her time with him while he is home. He goes back to his military unit there today. So I hope to resume lessons this week. 

I admit it is lonely. As I said in an earlier blog, I don’t constantly think, “Oh, if only Oksana were here” like I did earlier. I have accepted her departure. But it’s tough not having a mother/wife in the home. As Scripture says, “It is the little foxes that spoil the vine.” It is the little things that seem to bother me the most. Going to get groceries or going to the open market is not as enjoyable now that I go alone. I have not watched television or sat down to listen to music since Oksana’s death. I really do not look forward to the holidays. In fact, I dread holidays now. 

I also admit there is a bit of fear. I’m a pensioner with kids, and thus the chances of me remarrying are not great. I am concerned about my kids’ future. I am a person of faith, however. One aspect of losing your spouse is realizing how helpless you were all along. Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t worry about tomorrow because it will be alright.” He said don’t worry about tomorrow because today has got enough troubles of its own. I keep telling myself that! 

The good news is that since Oksana passed away I have not been sick. I told someone that yesterday and added that since I just bragged about it I’ll probably be sick next week!  Nevertheless, I still go on my long walks, and I go out and gather wood, split it, and bring it in and build a fire in our furnace. The freezing weather and snow have not stopped this southern American as of yet. I am thankful. 

CONCLUSION. I admit I am not detached from what is going on with Russia, Ukraine and the U.S. I am not a completely objective observer. My late wife and I lived together for over 8 years in both the U.S. and Russia. During those 16 years we formed deep and abiding friendships with both Russians and Americans. We enjoyed both cultures. So, yes, I am quite angry with the so-called leaders of my own homeland for their lying and deception–and the deaths resulting from their blatant dishonesty. They are determined to turn the word “Russian” into a slur. For me, it is not just about politics. It is about whether and when I can go home again. I miss my American family. I miss the America I grew up in. 


Every blog I write now I feel like I have only scratched the surface. Therefore I have chosen three links that I believe would be helpful if you are interested in more in-depth analysis. 

The first is by Larry Johnson. He is a former CIA agent who writes about the ignorance rampant about Russia in this so-called intelligence agency. 

This link is to a 30 minute interview with John Whitehead done a few years ago. It was sent to me by one of my former students this past week. Whitehead is an attorney who specializes in constitutional law, human rights, and social freedoms. His explanations of the impact of the Patriot Act and other U.S. laws are quite informative–and quite scary. 

Unfortunately WordPress would not copy the third link. It is to a book review by Philip Pilkington. The article is, “How Russia Views America.” I think you can find it with a google search.


Those readers who follow me regularly will recognize I am writing blogs more frequently than usual. I have generally tried to write about one a month. Since the conflict in Ukraine has become “front and center” in the news, however, I have tried to offer more frequent updates. I don’t believe the number of readers has increased overall. A few have told me they understand why I am writing on Ukraine, but they prefer the blogs about daily life. I understand because I prefer writing about daily life. On the other hand, I have picked up new readers who have said I described them well in a recent blog when I said most people just don’t have time to dig into all the related issues. And they really don’t trust the news on TV anyway. So they read my blog to catch up with what is going on. That’s quite a compliment. So I again offer an update on the latest news from my perspective. Nevertheless, I fully realize that there are still so many aspects to this conflict that I cannot provide a full commentary. 

THE MISSILE INTO POLAND. The biggest event since my last blog was the missile that landed across the Ukrainian border in Poland killing two Polish civilians. Initial wire reports in the U.S. and U.K. were that it was Russia who fired the missile. They said it came from the Russian made S-330 system. 

The Russians recently escalated their cruise missile attacks on the Ukrainian power grid. So the assumption was that either intentionally or unintentionally one of those missiles went into Poland. Most reports seem to indicate it was an intentional attack by the Russians before any investigation at all. President Zelensky immediately declared it was Russia and that NATO must get involved in the war without delay since Poland is a member of NATO. 

Surprisingly, the first person I heard who disputed this claim was President Biden. When questioned by reporters he indicated that while further investigations must go on, the trajectory of the missile did not look like it came from Russia. In the clip I saw one reporter seemed shocked and asked him to repeat to be sure that he meant Russia did NOT fire the missile. 

After some actual investigation there was a consensus that it was not the Russians who fired the missile. The U.S. was tracking all incoming missiles over Ukraine. Nevertheless, Zelensky persisted in saying it was “undoubtedly” the Russians. He continued almost frantic appeals for NATO to get involved. Word leaked that Jake Sullivan called him and told him to “tread carefully.” 

Soon pictures were shown of the missile itself. It was fired from an S-300. I have mentioned this system in some of my former blogs. The S-300 is a missile system which can be used to fire at incoming missiles, planes, or drones. It was developed in the USSR in the late 70s. Russia still uses it, and a variation is built in Ukraine. Russia has developed other more advanced launchers, however.  They have the S-400 and now the S-550. The S-550 can fire hypersonic missiles. 

Gilbert Doctorow points out two relevant capacities of the system. First, the settings can be changed to fire ground to ground at targets. It is not only a surface to air system. Second, the  missiles shot into the air have an inbuilt self-destruct mechanism so that if they miss their target in the air they do not explode upon hitting the ground. 

The missile that was fired into Poland was, according to weapons expert Scott Ritter, a Ukrainian missile based on the serial numbers. The next issue concerned whether it was fired intentionally at Poland or did it simply go off-course after having been fired at incoming Russian cruise missiles and accidentally end up in Poland.  Most believed the latter interpretation. 

I agree with Scott Ritter and the minority who believe it was intentionally fired from Ukraine into Poland. My main reason is that the missile did not simply go off course. If it was fired at incoming Russian cruise missiles it was fired with the S-330 pointed to the east from whence would come Russian missiles. I agree missiles can and do go off course. But a casual glance at the map shows that Poland is west of Ukraine and Russia is east of Ukraine. How can the radar for the S-330 launch be pointed to the east and the system fires to the West? It seems likely to me that the S-330 would have to have been pointed to the west to fire toward Poland. As I said, missiles do go off course, but it is not likely that they turn around and go in the opposite direction. 

That would then leave the question as to whether Zelensky ordered the firing of the missile without the knowledge of his American masters. I follow those who believe Zelensky did not order the missile to be fired. Of course, this is only an opinion. Obviously I do not have access to actual conversations among the Ukrainians. I believe that decision was made on the ground by those wanting to start a war in which NATO would have to get involved–the proverbial “false flag.” Zelensky has never been in control of his army in my opinion. The Azov Battalion and other Nazi fighters pay him little attention. This is not a president who is in any sense in control of his country or his military. He does what his American masters say, and his military does what the Nazi leaders say. 

As an aside, I realize that there are still some holdouts who believe the Nazis are either not present or hold no power in Ukraine. I would point to a story that caught my eye because of the odd headline: CNN banned from Ukraine! The anti-Russian CNN banned? While some outlets try to put a different spin on the events, it seems CNN aired a video clip of a Ukrainian soldier waving a Ukrainian flag with one hand while giving the Nazi salute with the other. All that talk of freedom of the press and democracy in Ukraine did not stop them from banning the network for allowing such to be shown to Americans.

Nevertheless, U.S. leaders continued to hold Russia responsible for the missile in Poland, as did NATO. Despite the agreement that the missile came from Ukraine, General Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs and Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense stated at a new conference that Russia was still responsible for the missile going into Poland because Russia had started this war. In other words, Russia didn’t do it, but Russia is responsible for it. 

THE HYPOCRISY OF THE WEST. I have become quite cynical since starting this blog about my life in Russia since 2016. I am amazed that all the things that have been blamed on Russia from the election of Donald Trump as president to much more mundane issues. A friend sent me a link to a story that states the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture is blaming Russia for the increase in the prices of turkey for Thanksgiving dinner in America this year ( 

 Despite my cynicism I was still taken aback at Milley’s about face on the issue of continuing the war in Ukraine. As I pointed out in my last blog he leaked to the N.Y. Times that he had told the president that Ukraine had done all it could and they needed to press for negotiations. In this latest press conference, however, I lost track of how many times he said “as long  as it takes” in reference to maintaining the fight against Russia. I also noted that President Biden announced he would like another $37.7 billion to go to Ukraine. I have honestly lost track of how many billions the U.S. has sent or will send to Ukraine–or supposedly to Ukraine. I believe it will be over $90 billion if Biden gets his wish–as I expect he will. The voters have not approved the sending of one dime of it. 

There are other examples of the hypocrisy of the West toward Russia, but I’ll mention only a couple more. First, Russia sent a video to the U.N. of 10 Russian POWs being shot to death by Ukrainian soldiers. They were not trying to escape. They were simply murdered. The U.N. responded with some vanilla explanation that more investigation was needed. Nothing more has been heard on the subject. 

Second, Ukraine continues to try and bomb the nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia, which is the largest nuclear plant in Europe. Ukraine has fired 25 artillery rounds at the plant according to the latest information I have. One hit building No. 2, where the nuclear fuel is stored. The International Atomic Energy Agency is well aware of these attacks and has sternly warned against them. Yet the U.S. and its NATO vassals have offered no condemnation of Ukraine’s dangerous attacks. Any idiot knows that if it were Russia attacking a nuclear facility denouncements would be shouted from every rooftop by the Americans. (On the surprise of the chief of the IAEA at Putin’s knowledge of the plant see 

There were some who set forth the ridiculous claim that it is the Russians who are firing on the nuclear facility. I say ridiculous because it completely defies logic on two points. First, why would Russia bomb a facility that it has taken over? Russia is in charge of the facility. Second, a nuclear explosion there would endanger thousands living in Russia. Nuclear atoms don’t just stay at the site of an explosion. (For a discussion of this and related matters by Marcus Papadoupolos and Gilbert Doctorow see

MISLEADING CLAIMS. There are also claims made by the Americans which are clearly intended to mislead the audience in my opinion. I mentioned Milley and Austin speaking out recently. Milley claimed that Putin’s intention all along was to enter Ukraine in order to get rid of Zelensky as president and then to move across Ukraine, cross the Dnieper, overtake Odessa and then move northward so he could take over all of Ukraine. He assured his listeners that the U.S. would not allow these goals to be accomplished. They would stop the Russians. 

The problem with this scenario is he has no evidence that this goal was ever envisioned by Putin. Putin wanted the Donbas region of Donetsk and Luhansk to be free from Ukrainian control and NATO not be allowed to move any closer to Russia with the U.S. missiles. He has been criticized for not sending more troops into Ukraine. But his purposes were only about the two most eastern regions who wanted freedom because the U.S. had led and funded the coup d’etat of 2014. Leaders of those regions asked him back in 2014 if they could join Russia. Over the 8 years before Russian troops went in he said no. He continued to try and get the Minsk accords in place. We are supposed to believe that he has wanted to take control over Ukraine, but he refused the pleas for help from Donbas for 8 years. Further, if he wanted to take over all of Ukraine he would have sent in more troops than he did back in February.

Milley would have the world believe he really knows the mind of Vladimir Putin and he knows that Putin really wants to take over Ukraine–despite all the evidence to the contrary. That  way when Putin does not take over Ukraine he and his U.S. comrades can boast they stopped him. 

I would also classify something General Lloyd Austin claimed in his time before the press as misleading, although on a minor scale compared to Gen. Milley. It is widely known Russia has been attacking the Ukrainian electric grid with precision guided missiles. Austin said that the U.S. had sent the NASAMS Air Defense system to Ukraine, and it had had a 100% success rate in stopping a recent barrage of Russian missiles. What he did not say is that each system holds only 6 missiles and they only sent two systems. That is, of the 90-100 missiles fired by Russia in that attack, twelve were stopped by the Americans. So after so many billions the U.S. can take pride in the fact it stopped V.V. Putin from taking over land he never intended to take and stopping 12 out of about 100 missiles. 

THE RUSSIAN MISSILES. Russia is attacking the energy grid of Ukraine. It is firing precision guided missiles daily. Last week President Zelensky announced that 10 million Ukrainians are without electricity. These are mainly in Kiev, Kharkov, Zhytomyr, and Lviv regions. Zelensky and the West see these attacks as criminal. Yet Scott Ritter was among the first to go in Iraq as part of Desert Storm. He stated, and many have confirmed, that one of the first things they did was take out the electrical power grids. Of course, the U.S. invaded Iraq based on fabrications about Weapons of Mass Destruction charges as I have mentioned before. Attacking electrical and other energy facilities is not uncommon and is not a war crime. Energy grids are “dual use facilities.” That is, they supply energy, usually electricity, to both civilian and military locations. There are not certain power plants for cities and homes and other power plants for military bases. Thus, according to international law they are fair game for attack–as the U.S. well knows. 

I would add that Gilbert Doctorow pointed out that all these missiles fired by the Russians were certainly precision missiles. Not one life was lost. They hit the targets. And they continue to do so. The last I heard was that 67% of the capital city, Kiev, had lost power. Lviv had lost 80%. I’m sure those numbers have gone up. In the video I linked above Doctorow reminds the listeners that the mobilized Russian troops will be finishing their training in the next few weeks. The numbers of Russian soldiers in Ukraine will more than double. Further, the ground will be freezing. The tanks can move well on the frozen earth. It would be almost impossible for the Ukrainians to stop Russia even if they had electricity. 

At some point the U.S. and NATO are going to have to face the truth about Ukraine. The world will know. I can’t imagine any excuses that would convince any thinking person that the politicians and press have not been lying all along. My suspicion is that it will be much like when the U.S. left Afghanistan after so many years of fruitless war. They just left and moved to a different subject. In fact, as Candace Owens recently stated, literally the next day after leaving Afghanistan they started talking about admitting Ukraine to NATO. Since the inner D.C. circle controls most of the Western MSM, they can simply change the subject. We shall see if a Republican majority House of Representatives can hold anyone accountable. 

THANKSGIVING. It is with a touch of sadness that I wish my American readers a Happy Thanksgiving. I say sadness because my late wife, Oksana, always said her favorite American holiday was Thanksgiving. She said Christmas seemed to her to have gotten overwhelmed with shopping for gifts and planning for Santa. July 4 was great, but it didn’t hold as much meaning for her since she was Russian and didn’t care all that much for fireworks. Thanksgiving, however, while uniquely American, touched her deeply. It was a day the nation set aside to thank God for his blessings and spend the day eating and rejoicing with family. We continued to celebrate it here in Russia after we moved back. We would eat delicious Russian turkey. So I wish all you Americans a Happy Thanksgiving! 


In the last couple of blogs I have avoided giving any updates on how events are going in the proxy war in Ukraine mainly because there is so much discrepancy between the reports. One sometimes wonders if journalists or commentators are even describing the same war. And from responses I sense that people have pretty much decided who they trust. I have followed the Americans Ritter, MacGregor and Black simply because I regard them as honest, as well as knowledgeable in military affairs–a combination that seems a rarity among journalists these days. 

KHERSON. Recently, however, there was a very significant event that has received even more attention than usual. The Russian troops withdrew from the city of Kherson (Херсон), a city President Putin had already declared as now part of Russia. Kherson is located near the southern end of the Dneiper River just before it flows into the Black Sea. Russian troops had taken over the city back in March, not long after the special military operation began.

The departure of Russian troops was hailed by Ukraine and many in the West as a great victory, indicating they really are superior to the Russian forces. Clearly this withdrawal was a victory for Ukraine. On the other hand, while many saw it as a setback for Russia, they were not convinced this one event indicated Ukraine had demonstrated military superiority. 

What I have tried to do in this blog is piece together how the Russian military leaders have dealt with and explained the evacuation. I have tried to summarize their points as best I can. Since I am not following my usual sources I have to take the blame for any inaccuracies in stating their views. Despite my reluctance, I decided to write this blog because rarely in the reports I read from America do the media bother to give the Russian leaders’ interpretation of events. They focus almost solely on how American leaders and Zelensky see things. 

The two men seen frequently on Russian TV discussing Kherson were General Surovikin and Minister of Defense Shoigu. President Putin was not involved in the conferences I saw. Surovikin was put in charge of the overall operation in Ukraine after the move from being a special military operation to what most would now call a war. I’ve focused mainly on piecing together what Surovikin has said about the events. I hope from this summary American readers can perhaps get a better understanding of the perspectives of the Russian decision makers.  

First, Surovikin stated that what Russia initially intended as a special military operation with Ukraine turned out to be a proxy war led by the U.S. and NATO. I have mentioned before that I do not believe Putin or his advisers believed that the U.S. and NATO would send Ukraine billions of dollars in weapons and cash. Some have criticized Putin and his military leaders for starting with such a small military force in Ukraine, but I am reluctant to do so simply because I never thought that, given the state of the U.S. economy, the government would send over $65 billion dollars to Ukraine either. What goes on in Eastern Ukraine has absolutely no impact on the lives of Americans who are struggling to pay for gas and groceries. So I can’t criticize Putin for not seeing it. I am an American, and I didn’t see it coming. 

Second, Surovikin stated that while many see the retreat as a sign of defeat, the fact is that during the operation in Kherson, Ukraine had six to seven times more soldiers killed or wounded than did Russia. A major factor in the decision for Russia was whether there was a need to risk the lives of Russian soldiers further, given the heavy damage they had already done to Ukraine. He stated that Ukraine is obviously willing to lose many men if it means the billions of dollars will continue to flow in from the U.S. and other NATO countries. So from a tactical position Russian leaders knew the losses to Ukraine in terms of their soldiers and equipment were heavy. Surovikin indicated staying on in Kherson did not provide a sufficient enough strategic advantage to warrant risking the loss of more Russian lives. 

Third, since the time Russia took over Kherson, one of the main fears of the Russians were the threats and attempts by Ukraine to destroy the hydroelectric dam located north of Kherson. If they were successful in destroying the dam a huge deluge of flood waters would have been turned loose. Of course, if the Russians were there during such an event it would mean heavy losses of lives and equipment. But the destruction of that dam would also have meant the destruction of many homes and the loss of many civilian lives. This was not a risk the Russian leaders thought they needed to take. 

Of course, many Russians in Kherson and many who lived there and had migrated to Russia were greatly afraid. They believe the Ukrainians will treat the Russians there terribly. Surovikin concluded by saying Russia always comes back for its own. Russia could afford to vacate Kherson temporarily. 

The allusion to returning to Kherson was apparently in reference to what will happen as a result of the 300,000 troops that Russia has mobilized. When it became clear the strategic military operation was not going to accomplish the intended goal of de-nazifying Ukraine, Putin had ordered 300,000 reserves back into active duty. I think it was two or perhaps three weeks ago Shoigu reported to him that the 300,000 were physically present and being trained for their work in Ukraine. Shortly after that Putin announced the number was 318,000 because others had volunteered to come back to active duty. Then I heard that the number was still increasing. I do not know what the final number is. Some of those troops have already been sent to Ukraine. The majority are still in Russia undergoing further training. 

Just a brief personal observation. I mentioned in a recent blog that Luga has a military base here that trains soldiers primarily in artillery. I frequently see military personnel when I am out in town. I am continuing to see increasing numbers of  soldiers here. 

I will now address a couple of miscellaneous issues.  

REPORTS AND RUMORS. I cannot address all the rumors I see in the Western media that are pushed as “news” about Russia. I saw one today that said that there would probably be a halt in the war for the next six months because it is turning cold, and the Russian military cannot fight in the winter. The journalist actually wrote that. It is a mystery to me how reporters who know no more about Russian history than to make a statement like that get well paying jobs for reporting on Russia.

The fact is Russia is waiting for it to turn cold. It is really wet here now. The temps have been above freezing in Luga, but we had our first snow today and the temps dropped to 0 degrees Celsius. I check the weather in Ukraine occasionally and it is usually about 5-7 degrees [C] higher there than here. Our long range forecast predicts we will not be above freezing again in the foreseeable future. Usually, this means we stay below freezing for the winter. My hunch is in about two or three weeks that will hit Kherson and other regions. The frozen ground allows the tanks to maneuver better. Russian vehicles of all sorts are made to go in the snow. 

Another item I’d like to address is the attitude of the people here. Someone responded to my last blog and said he read reports that the Russian people were very upset and seething over the withdrawal of troops from Kherson. I asked him to give me the link because I had not seen that. He promptly did, so I decided to do a little more research. I concluded that perhaps the unrest was among Russians who have lived in Ukraine or have relatives living there who were upset with the withdrawal for obvious reasons. They feared for their loved ones. 

Long time readers may recall I have mentioned before that Ukrainians have been pouring into Russia for a long time. When I got my Temporary Residency three years ago, I noted that the “Document Center” in St. Petersburg was packed with Ukrainians. I received an e-mail from a reader who lives near the Moscow area. He said, “Hal, the number of Ukrainians getting visas and citizenship in St. Petersburg is nowhere near what it is here and in some of the Southern regions.” He was right. 

Nevertheless, the majority of Russians seem to have accepted the decisions of the administration given the reasons set forth by Surovikin. According to the Levada poll, at the end of August Putin’s approval rating was 83%. At the end of September it had dropped to 77%. At the end of October it was at 79%. A few other polls place it higher than that. I do not expect a large drop in his approval ratings as a result of the withdrawal. 

THE EVACUATION AND THE FUTURE. One of the things that surprised me to some degree was the smoothness of the Russian retreat across the river. They did not retreat a great distance, but it was over water. I expected that Ukraine artillery and weaponry would be fired at them as they left since such a withdrawal can leave troops vulnerable. Surovikin made it clear that the logistics of the evacuation were very complicated. It meant moving a lot of men and machinery. I can easily understand that, but I just expected it would be complicated even more by the fire they would receive from the enemy. 

I was not the only one who noticed this. I don’t remember where I read it, but someone pondered if perhaps the absence of any Ukrainian opposition meant that the evacuation to the east bank of the river may hint that negotiations may begin. That is, there could have been a secret agreement that the Russians would leave and thus this would provide an “off ramp” for Russia to still control Ukraine east of the river, and Ukraine could claim it had routed the Russians and could proudly claim the west bank. 

It seemed a bit far-fetched when I first read it, but then I read others who were saying that some in the U.S. are telling Zelensky it is time to negotiate. That seemed strange since the U.S. was the one who cut off negotiations back around the first of April. 

Then I listened to a very interesting interview with Col. MacGregor done by Glenn Diesen. Diesen is one of the scholars on Russia I try to read as frequently as possible, and I really appreciate MacGregor’s inside military insights. (See It is a wide ranging discussion that I highly recommend. But about the 14:30 minute mark MacGregor talks about Gen. Mark Milley who is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That makes him the highest ranking military man in America. 

MacGregor is no admirer of Milley, as you will hear in that interview. What I found interesting was what MacGregor said about information leaked by Milley to the New York Times. The article quoted Milley as saying, “I advised the President that the Ukrainians had done as much as they reasonably could do. I urged him to put pressure on Kiev and negotiate with the Russians.” So the highest ranking military person in America has told President Biden that the Ukrainians really can’t do any more. They better negotiate. 

Now what Biden and his puppet masters will do with that information, I don’t know. I certainly do not expect a pull-out in the immediate future. But it was the first solid sign of hope I have seen. I think the superiority of Russia will become more evident to people as it has to Milley, in the coming weeks. The big tanks will start to roll. Up to this point Russia has only had 20% of its ground forces in Ukraine. That is about to change drastically. Within a month they will more than double their ground force. Russia already fires 20,000 rounds of artillery per day. Ukraine fires 7,000. The rumors have been flowing that Russia is running out of ammo. They aren’t. They have huge supplies, and I saw the videos of the tanks that they still have in warehouses when Deputy Chairman Medvedev was shown the reserves on hand in a video on the news.  

On the other hand, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal (and other publications as well) the U.S. is buying 100,000 artillery shells from South Korea. Many, like Macgregor and Ritter, believe it is the U.S., not Russia, that risks running low on weapons and ammunition.  

Then there are the increasing number of protests and even riots in some European cities. The weather is going to get colder. Some countries are buying Liquified Natural Gas from America, but they are paying about 4 to 5 times what Russia sold natural gas to Germany for. LNG sales from Russia have also risen by 50% so some are not sticking closely to the sanctions. There is a recent prediction in Germany that its economy will shrink by 20-30%. This will be catastrophic not just for Germany but for other nations who depend on the German economy. This is bad news, of course, for Western European countries, but I am hoping the leaders of these countries will say it is time to end the sanctions. 

LIFE IN RUSSIA & AMERICA. Life here goes on as normal. I still have seen no major changes. I am concerned about life in America. I am hearing of more unrest over the cost of living and the inflation rate. I really don’t know how people are doing it. I have stated before that my salary in America was a bit above the average salary. But with three kids we struggled every month. If any of us got sick, it was really difficult. “Obamacare” robbed me of health insurance. After the economic devastation of people losing jobs during the COVID crisis, I really can’t imagine what would have happened to us. My job was discontinued at the small company where I worked. 

I listened to an interview I saw on Facebook with Jeffrey Sachs from a few  years ago. It was after he had written the book, “A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism.” I think it was 2018. I don’t know why this interview suddenly popped up on FB. But he made the point that the U.S. leaders are now incapable of solving America’s problems. He gave examples:

  1. The opioid crisis. Huge numbers of people are suffering and dying from fentanyl and other addictions. In November of 2021 the CDC released a report that stated there were over 100,000 deaths in the U.S. from drug overdose in the last year, primarily from fentanyl. ( That is up from over 78,000 the previous year. Yet, nothing much has been done, and the subject rarely appears in the news. The border crisis exacerbates the problem, but that, too, is pushed aside and remains unsolved. My American friend who I used to walk with before they moved is a retired cop. He also pointed out that there are often other crimes associated with fentanyl use. Yet, there is little focus on this by leaders in Washington. Either they don’t know how to solve it or just don’t care to spend the time to do so. The so-called war on drugs does not provide the politicians with the kickbacks they get from a real war. 
  2. Health care. Sachs said that U.S. health care costs are at least twice what they are in any other country. Yet nothing is really being done to address the financial stress that this puts on families in America. 

I think I mentioned in a previous blog that both Gabriel and Marina Grace have been sick lately and missed school. Yesterday I took both of them to the pediatrician here to get re-checks to see if they could return to school. (She said Gabriel could, but give Marina one more day at home.) The cost for BOTH children totaled the equivalent of $10.66. The original full blown 40 minute appointment two weeks prior was around $20. So for about $30 both my sick children were seen by a pediatrician twice. I’ll let my American readers calculate what they think they would have paid.

3. Sachs also mentioned the continuing crisis in the Middle East that has been going on for decades. America continues to pour huge amounts of money supporting Israel, but there is no attempt being made to actually solve the issues and conflicts. 

4. The income inequality continues in America. The short version is the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer in terms of real expendable income.

5.Infrastructure. Both Obama and Trump promised they would focus on the infrastructure, but neither one really accomplished anything. Sachs focused especially on the fast rail system that was promised but was never delivered.

I know almost nothing of Jeffrey Sachs. I’ve heard the name of course, but I have not read any of his books. But as I watched the interview, I thought, “He’s right. Those are major problems that have been there a long time and NOTHING is being done to accomplish a solution.” Maybe I just missed it, but I didn’t see any of the candidates set forth any reasonable solutions to these problems prior to the elections last week. 

American politicians are focused on Ukraine and have already sent billions and billions there. Of course, as I remind my readers in every blog, Putin’s “invasion” is always referred to as “unprovoked,” despite the fact that anyone even remotely familiar with the events knows Kiev was killing people in the Donbas for 8 years and the U.S. kept moving more missiles into Ukraine. But getting back at Putin is more important than thousands dying of drug overdoses or families unable to pay doctor bills. I’m trying to remember what substantial problems America’s politicians have actually solved in recent years. 

Every Russian I know or I read hates what is going on in Ukraine. They do not blame Mr. Putin; they do not think the invasion was “unprovoked.” And many of these were beforehand what I would call, “pro-American.” They liked America. 

I fear the goodwill may be over for good, however. When we moved to the States in 2008 Oksana made friends quickly. So many wanted to “meet the Russian”! I remember one of her new friends from church told me, “I can’t believe I’m going out to eat with a real Russian!” We laughed. I was not kidding when I told her, “Oksana, you’ve got more friends in America than I do!” There are still good Americans who would accept us if I went back with my kids. But I really don’t know how life would be for them. Russian is their primary language, and they are being “socialized” in the Russian way. And I can’t say how I would or could adjust to living in America again. The divide between my two worlds is rapidly becoming a chasm. 


As I indicated in my last blog, there are too many facets to the Ukraine/Russia conflict to discuss in one or two blogs. Even a brief update on important aspects of it would be quite long. Furthermore, there seems to be no agreement at all on how the war is going. As Patrick Lawrence recently wrote, “As the U.S. elections approach, the gap between the Western media’s depiction of the war in Ukraine and the actual war waged on the ground appears to be widening more dramatically.” I am not going to continue to debate that point. I have presented my sources and their qualifications. They are still saying Russia will emerge victorious, despite the fact the U.S. is getting more involved. We shall see how it ends. 

In this blog I will cover a speech that President Putin recently gave that I think sets forth some very important points for understanding the broader issues surrounding this conflict from Russia’s perspective. It isn’t just about Ukraine vs. Russia. The West and Russia have fundamentally different understandings of international policy and politics. Further, the domestic values being espoused by the two sides are not compatible either. The U.S. aims at a unipolar world with the U.S. and its vassal states at the top. All other nations need to submit and become like the West. Putin sets forth the Russian understanding of the need for multipolarity, with nations respecting the sovereignty of each other. 

THE VALDAI SPEECH. The Valdai Discussion Club started back in 2004. It is made up of over 1,000 representatives from over 85 countries that come together for speeches, discussions, etc. It is named for Lake Valdai, which is near the city of Veliky Novgorod, a nice city located not too far from Luga. I have visited there a couple of times. President Putin gives a speech to a plenary session each year. 

This speech came roughly two weeks after President Biden’s National Security Strategy speech on October 12. For a full transcript of that speech see In the speech Biden divides the countries of the world between democracies and autocracies. Of the current situation he said, “Democracies and autocracies are engaged in a contest to show which system of governance can best deliver for their people and the world.” He specifically named Russia and China as the autocracies, but, as usual, gave no criteria upon which this evaluation was based. 

I believe Putin’s speech this year was perhaps a response to what Biden had said, although he certainly went beyond that. Since it was a very significant speech I wanted to discuss some basic points he made. I will not go over the whole speech, which lasted about 42 minutes. It was packed with facts and quotes. Afterwards there was a long Q & A. (Here is the speech with English subtitles I did not watch all of the Q & A, since it lasted over 3 more hours after the speech. From what I saw his responses were clear and specific. Further, he used no notes during the Q & A. 

As an aside, I have received messages asking me about Putin’s health. It seems that some of the Western media are still claiming he has severe health problems. I hardly believe a man as weak and sick as the Western media has described Putin could have managed to last that long. I am in pretty good shape, but I couldn’t last 4 hours without several breaks. 

If you watch just a few minutes of the speech you can tell it is an international audience. Putin showed quite clearly the differences between the West (i.e., the U.S. and its vassal states in Europe) and Russia. Here are the issues I found significant for my blog.

He started by referring to the attack often used by Biden and many U.S. politicians that Russia does not abide by the “Rules Based International Order.” He rhetorically asked who came up with these rules? I have also wondered where are they written down and when were they voted on? In much of the rest of his speech he demonstrates how it does not appear the U.S. abides by any rules.

His first point was that the U.S. does not want to deal with other countries on an equal basis. They deny the  sovereignty and uniqueness of other countries and trample on these other states’ interests. He quoted Alexander Solzhenitsyn who said that typical of the West is “a continuous blindness of superiority.” It upholds the belief that vast regions everywhere must develop and mature to the level of the current western systems. The U.S. is the standard by which other democratic nations must be judged. 

Putin, continuing to follow Solzhenitsyn, stated that belief in one’s own infallibility can be dangerous. Look at what the U.S. does, not what it says. The Nazis burned books if they contained ideas contrary to what the leaders believed. Now the West is banning books written by Dostoevsky and other Russian writers. I thought of a recent Tucker Carlson clip on Amazon blocking purchases of any works by Alexander Dugin. He is a Russian philosopher who holds no political office. (Ukrainians murdered his daughter recently with a car bomb probably intended for her father.) Dugan is Russian and therefore his ideas must be kept from Americans. I don’t think that I’m in the minority of Americans when I say that never in America have I seen the censorship that we are now seeing. It ranges from what books can be purchased to what can be seen on YouTube and then to what can be posted on social media. Is this society a true “rules based democracy”? As Tucker pointed out, free speech is the bedrock of any democracy. He made the point that to block anyone from expressing his or her views is to block the practice of democracy. 

Second, Putin said the U.S. wants to impose its will on other nations regardless of the means needed to do so. Putin reviewed the events in Ukraine In 2014. We know the U.S. directed the coup, and they bragged about how much they spent on it. Later, Putin questioned why the U.S. decided that it had to carry out the coup. Yanukovich had practically renounced power. He agreed to go ahead and have early elections, and he had little chance of continuing in power. Putin said the simple reason is the U.S. wanted to show “who is the boss here.” They wanted to demonstrate to the world that they had the power to choose who would be president of Ukraine. Hence, no one can now call Ukraine a “sovereign country.” The U.S. currently directs Zelensky’s decisions and funds both the military and operational budget of Ukraine. 

Putin also used an earlier example from the time of Donald Trump’s presidency. On January 3, 2020 President Trump ordered the murder of Iranian general Qasemi Soleimani at an international airport in Baghdad, Iraq. Soleimani had been invited there to participate in negotiations between Iraq and Iran. The U.S. had nothing to do with this trip. Yet they carried out a drone assassination in a third country. Trump said Soleimani was a terrorist, and admitted he had him murdered. 

Agnes Callamard, a U.N. expert, presented her findings to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva and said the U.S. had provided no evidence that indicated Soleimani was planning an imminent attack on U.S. interests. The U.S. does not submit to such requirements. The U.S. believes it can murder a general who has been invited to another country for negotiations and need not provide any evidence to support the contention this was a justified execution. Again, it was to show everyone that the U.S. is the unipolar power in the world. Is this due process according to any “rules based international order”? 

Putin then turned to what Russia stands for. Russia affirms the right to express Christian, Islamic or Jewish values. What is required is that they respect each other. And he believes this is happening in Russia. For example, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist and Jewish holidays are all celebrated in Russia. 

On the subject of religious and traditional values Putin stated, “Traditional values are not a rigid set of postulates that everyone must adhere to.” While Russia affirms traditional values, Putin does not believe it has the right to force these on other countries. He continued, “If the West wants to embrace strange and trendy ideas like dozens of genders or gay pride parades, so be it. Let them do as they please.” Russia, on the other hand, does not allow gay pride parades and recognizes gender as biologically determined. The U.S. has no right to tell Russia it should not support the traditional understanding of genders and marriage. 

He concluded that the desire of many Western leaders for global domination will not succeed. He said there are essentially “two Wests.”  He clarified, “The first is traditional, with a rich culture. The second is aggressive and colonial.” The Western leaders now in power want to turn other nations into tools. If these nations refuse to be used, they will be destroyed. That is not true of all persons or countries in the West, however, according to Putin. The West is not united. And many groups and individuals are rebelling against the dominant Western arrogance. I was a bit surprised at how strongly he asserted that the time of the unipolar dominance of the world is coming to an end. 

I would like to add more observations that came out of discussions of his speech. First, Putin’s speech was based on illustrations drawn from facts. It was not just random and generalized statements. He backed up what he said. He noted how the West, on the other hand, tends to generalize and call things “Kremlin intrigues” while offering no clear understanding of how they know what the intrigues going on in the Kremlin are. He challenged Western leaders to “lay out your viewpoints conceptually.” 

Of course, they often do not say “Kremlin intrigues.” They call Putin various names such as autocrat, dictator and worse. But Putin’s point still stands. They don’t say what it is about Putin that leads them to believe he is a dictator or autocrat. The U.S. President orders the murder of a general of a country with whom the U.S. is not at war, but that is not being an autocrat. The U.S. leads and funds a coup d’etat in a country with which it has had very little relations in the past and none of the events of Yanukovich’ presidency had any direct impact on America. 

Apparently a number of Americans fear a “big brother” type atmosphere is growing in the U.S. toward its own citizens. I have had several Americans write to me about Russia and have expressed their fear of writing their views in a simple e-mail. They take various precautions and use various means to avoid detection. Are they just paranoid? 

Do most Americans believe the reported election results of 2020 were accurate? Is the democracy really functioning at that basic level? I cannot say because the polls vary so widely. But clearly a significant number do not believe Joe Biden got the largest number of votes in American history. Yet rather than focusing on restoring the trust of Americans in the “system,” the current modus operandi of the government leaders seems to be to keep attacking Putin. 

This past summer an American friend who had moved to Russia a few months earlier was telling me how friends and family had responded. Of course, he caught a lot of criticism from some. He told me, “They say I’m living under a dictatorship. What do they mean?”  I told him I have been told the same thing many times and have written asking people to be specific. Specificity is apparently not required when making accusations against Vladimir Putin. 

Another observation I had while watching the speech was that it was clear from watching those attending that Putin’s comments were appreciated. When I do read the news from America or sometimes hear interviews, they often say or indicate that Russia is alone in this opposition to U.S. hegemony. Russia is isolated. 

From watching this plenary session it was clear that Russia is not isolated. Further, I feel sure that BRICS, the economic union of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, will be inviting other nations to join. Iran, Argentina, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have all expressed interest in becoming part of it. The G-7 has long been seen as the leading economies in the world. That is simply no longer true. And after a winter of these sanctions against Russia it is no longer clear that all of these countries will even survive economically. 

A prime example of the weakening of U.S. influence is in the recent meeting of President Biden and Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmon. Biden asked the Crown Prince not to reduce oil production. In fact, he wanted it increased. But he pleaded with him to delay any cuts till after the U.S. election in November. The Crown Prince told him he would talk to the OPEC plus members (Russia being the plus 1). After meeting with Putin, it was announced they would decrease production by two million barrels a day. Obviously, the Crown Prince valued Putin’s approval more than that of Biden. Russia and Saudi Arabia are the two largest exporters of oil in the world. Russia is not isolated. 

Some Americans will no doubt find what I write as confirming their belief that they do not want anything to do with Russia. I understand that. They believe the direction of values and commitments in America is going the right way. I agree with what Putin said in that I don’t try to convince them otherwise. On the other hand, the old view that Russia is driven to restore the USSR and is willing to trample over countries to do so, is completely inaccurate. It is the U.S. that is trying to force its will on the rest of the world. Just google how many wars the U.S. has been involved in worldwide since World War 2. 

Putin sent troops into Ukraine to keep U.S. and NATO missiles away from Russia’s borders and also to stop the murdering of the innocent civilians in the Donbass region of Ukraine. I keep repeating that point because that point keeps getting silenced and ignored by individuals and organizations that ought to know better. 

We were members of a congregation affiliated with the Orthodox Church of America when we lived in the states. I recently read the statements by The Holy Synod of the OCA condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine For 8 years the Ukrainian government was ordering the murder of approximately 14,000 men, women and children living in the Donbass and no word of protest was offered. This is quite common even among humanitarian organizations and groups in America. Ignore the murders that went on in the Donbass, and condemn the invasion that was intended to stop them. 

That many disagree with Putin ordering troops to go into Ukraine was to be expected. Organizations and individuals have a right to condemn what they believe is immoral. Nevertheless, such disagreements, as Putin said, ought to be put forth in an accurate conceptual framework. Persons, groups or organizations have a moral duty to be informed of all the issues, actions and conflicts that were in place when Russia went in. If one condemns Russia’s actions in Ukraine, then many of us believe you have an obligation to explain why you defend, or were simply silent about, Ukraine’s murderous actions over that 8 year period. 

I respond to those who say Putin should not have sent troops into Ukraine with a question: Would you have said that if you had been living in an apartment basement in the Donbass for 8 years? If you had a child about 8 years old–the age of my daughter–who had never been able to play outside freely, would you have said it is immoral for Putin to send in Russian troops to set you free? It is easy to sit in a comfortable office in America and condemn Russia. It’s actually quite popular. One need not fear reprisals or sharply worded criticisms if one offers such condemnations. 

I again state what I have said before. No country denied that Ukraine was shelling the Donbass. The Minsk Accords called on them to stop. Clearly, no one calls on someone or some country to stop doing something unless they are confident they are in fact doing it. America did not speak up and say, “No, they aren’t shelling those people. They aren’t killing them.” No one stood up to protest when Poroshenko said the children of the Donbass would live in basements. They knew what was going on. They didn’t care. 

I realize this is not a popular thing to say, especially to many of my American readers. Evil, in their minds, is located in the heart of Vladimir Putin. That makes things simple. Nevertheless, some of us cannot keep quiet. If there had been another option put forth to stop the murders in the Donbass I would have gladly got on board. I am confident the overwhelming majority of Russians would have also. Russians didn’t want war with Ukraine. But when France and Germany set forth the Minsk Accords in 2014 and 2015, the Americans decided to move more missiles into Ukraine and never insist Ukraine follow the accords and stop the shelling and killing. The U.S. gave them money while they were shelling innocent people. The actions of Vladimir Putin were provoked by his failure over 8 years to convince the West that the shelling had to stop and the missiles had to stay away from Russia’s border. 

Politics is not about ideals. It is making choices based on the reality of the situation. Most of us have heard the expression, “War is politics by other means.” Putin attempted to work through the usual political avenues for a diplomatic settlement that would protect the people of Donbass from Ukrainian shelling and his own people from U.S. missiles. Those avenues were closed. 

As I have stated before I get questions on why I like Putin–and criticisms by those who think I do. I don’t know the man. I have no idea whether I would like him or not. There are other issues I’m quite sure I disagree with him on. Long ago I gave up on putting my faith in any man or woman in politics. I look at specifics. The Russian economy is doing so much better than it was when America’s puppet Boris Yeltsin was president. Concerning Ukraine, I really don’t know how Putin could have reacted differently and better given the options the Americans left him with. War is a horrible thing. So is 8 year old girls having to play in basements all their lives. Moscow recently posted the photos in the city of all the children who have been killed in Ukraine as a result of the shelling by the Ukrainians. I watched the video taken of those photos. I’m a parent, and I’m not really open to the view that letting things continue as they were going was a good or acceptable thing. It was time for politics by other means. 


This Ukraine/Russia confrontation remains complicated. There is no way to discuss all related issues and how those issues are being interpreted. So I’ve decided to take one or two aspects of it at a time. I wanted to leave room for some personal updates since a few have asked how my family and I are doing. 

In my last blog I stated the reasons I trust the main sources I use for information on how the fighting in Ukraine is progressing. The three military men I most frequently watch or read, Scott Ritter, Douglas Macgregor and Richard Black, have proved their patriotism in battle. They also have nothing to gain from their analyses of the events in Ukraine from contracts from weapons manufacturers or MSM outlets. 

I ended the blog just briefly raising some questions as to how the news about Ukraine as it appears in the Western MSM leaves one with questions. So I want to explore that issue more broadly in this blog before moving on to the personal update. What I am addressing are claims that seem to be mutually exclusive. That is, if one report is true, then there are certain other claims that cannot also be true–at least without some meaningful explanations.

BACKGROUND.  I will first go back to before the Ukrainian crisis to the election of Donald Trump in 2016 as an example of what I mean. Many people recall John McCain saying, “Russia is a gas station masquerading as a country.” President Barack Obama, in his last press conference as President, said Russia could not “change or significantly weaken the U.S.” He said compared to the U.S., “Russia is a smaller and weaker country.” He continued that Russia doesn’t produce anything anyone wants except gas, oil, and arms.   ( These kinds of statements were what one typically heard about Russia in those days. Russia’s economy was said to be no bigger than that of the state of Texas, and its GDP was miniscule. 

Yet, after Donald Trump was elected President, we were told, “Russia did it.” It was as if Putin directed the election of the president of the United States from his Kremlin office. How does a man whom they had said runs a small, weak, “gas station” kind of country control the results of the election of someone to the highest office in the country that claims to be the most powerful on earth? Now, the Mueller Report indicated there was no proof that Russia interfered, but my point is that we had been hearing how weak, small, and economically insignificant Russia was, and then almost all of the mainstream press quickly turned and joined the politicians who said Russia had covertly changed the course of American history. If one holds to both those understandings of Russia some explanation is definitely needed. Otherwise, this is cognitive dissonance on a national level. 

REPORTS ON THE FIGHTING IN UKRAINE. I have noticed this same tendency in reports about the war in Ukraine. From the very beginning of the “invasion” of Ukraine, the majority of Western news outlets have said that Ukraine is winning. It doesn’t even seem close. Russia is struggling with very low resources in terms of ammo, tanks and even personnel. I have read reports that Putin has cancer, and that the Russian people are on the verge of throwing him out of office if he doesn’t hurry up and die. Volodymir Zelensky, who some have compared to Churchill, is the master leader. Ukraine is  the model of integrity and courage, and Russia is corrupt and in danger of falling apart. The 8 years Ukraine shelled and killed people in the Donbass got “whited out” even by some scholars and authors I trusted. That the U.S. was moving missiles to Russia’s border did not imply any evil intent. Russia overreacted. The invasion was “unprovoked.” 

On the other hand, if claims Ukraine has been and is still winning are true, then why is it that we see Mr. Zelensky constantly pleading for more money and weapons? On October 13 C-SPAN, showed a video of Zelensky saying he needs: 1)$38 billion to cover next year’s budget; 2)$17 billion to rebuild critical infrastructure; 3)$2 billion to rebuild electrical infrastructure; 4)”not less than” $5 billion for gas and coal purchases. This $55 billion is in addition to the billions which supposedly have already been sent. 

At the same time, the German publication, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, stated that Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmigal told the EU that Ukraine needs the 9 billion euros ($8.8 billion), which was approved in May. Ukraine needs that money right now. Shmigal said they needed the money not only for weapons, but to pay wages and pensions. He stated, “The most important thing for us is that it comes as soon as possible. We need it so our financial system can survive.” So while Zelensky is telling the U.S. that they need billions more, the Ukrainian Prime Minister is going to the EU appealing for billions as well. Yet we are supposed to believe Ukraine is winning and Russia is almost out of ammo and only has outdated tanks left. Usually the side that is dominating is not the one desperately in need of money to replenish its stock of destroyed weapons or fund infrastructure that has been destroyed. Russia’s ANNUAL defense budget is $51.3 billion, and they aren’t begging anyone for help. How are they doing that with the tiny economy they supposedly have?   

I am not saying there is no explanation for this seemingly contradictory information. It could be that all the money the U.S. supposedly is sending to Ukraine is not getting there. Also, some real journalists, not in the MSM, suggest that a significant amount of those billions could be going to weapons manufacturers for weapons that will not be ready for quite some time. That would explain the $16.95 billion explosion in profits at Raytheon alone. 

Or, reporters could check on Scott Ritter’s claim that he has seen a large number of these weapons available on the black market. Then again it is possible that some of that money is making its way back to those politicians who keep voting to support authorizing the funds. Connections with defense contractors could explain how, according to Col. Macgregor, Liz Cheney went from being worth $7 million to $40 million after 3 of her two year terms in office. But neither the political leaders nor the mainstream press seem interested in resolving or explaining anything. Ukraine is winning and still needs massive amounts of weapons and dollars. Accept that as the facts. 

On the Russian side of things, I have previously mentioned my own personal experience here. I don’t see any great rise in prices;  stores are well-stocked, and I hear and see the weapons at the artillery base here; I see the soldiers (many more than usual) in town when I go for my walks, and they seem in good spirits. Living here does not lead one to believe this is a country about to collapse under the weight of military defeat. 

As far as the attitude of the people here toward Putin, I keep up with the polls of how Russians think about him. I primarily use Levada as the poll I follow. I have two reasons: First, they are not pro-Putin so no one can say it is one of Putin’s polls. Sometimes I read their commentary on the results and sense that they really do not like what they are reporting when it is good news for Putin. Second, in the last two elections which I have checked, the results turned out to be within about 2% of what the Levada polls had predicted.

At the end of September Putin’s approval rating was down to 77% from 82% in the previous poll. So he still has almost twice the approval rating Biden has in the U.S.  Further, the dissatisfaction I have heard about Putin here is primarily about him not being aggressive enough in attacking Ukraine. I don’t know anyone who wanted this war with Ukraine. Nevertheless, they know the leaders in the U.S. have made it clear this war is not about helping Ukraine; this war is about the Americans wanting to tear down Russia.

The Russian people are not just trusting Putin more. Prime Minister Mikhail Mishushtin’s approval ratings are also up from their usual mid-50s before the invasion to ranging from 66% to 72% since February. The Government of Russia before the invasion had a 50% approval rating. Now it is between 68-71%. Rather than bringing Putin and his government down in the eyes of the Russian people, as Joe Biden promised, America’s actions have given greater stability to Putin’s support. 

The last I’ll say on Ukraine for now concerns the reason I believe the U.S. is involved. It surely is not to save Ukrainian lives or to protect their borders. Russia and China stand in the way of the unipolar power that the U.S. craves.  The Rand Corp. is a research think tank that frequently offers analyses to the U.S. Department of Defense. Several of Rand’s reports indicate there MUST be regime change in Russia to achieve the desired global supremacy. Putin must go. And many have been suggesting for some time that a proxy war in Ukraine is the best way to accomplish his removal. 

PERSONAL SITUATION. My two kids here are doing well overall. Gabriel had a skin problem that finally cleared up. My little girl had bronchitis which kept her out of school for two weeks. Next week is fall break, and hopefully everyone will be full speed after that. Emotionally they seem to be doing fine. They mention their mom from time to time but it is always in a positive and cheerful way. They have fond memories of her. 

My experience has been more complicated, as you might expect. It has now been over 14 months since Oksana passed away. I am getting back into life as I mentioned before. I remember from my days as a psychology major in my university studies reading Elizabeth Kubler Ross on the 5 stages of grief. Acceptance was the last one. From a very different perspective the Protestant missionary Elizabeth Elliot wrote a book on her husband’s murder. She, too, said acceptance is the goal toward which the grieving person must strive. To be honest, despite my undergraduate degree being in psychology and having a couple of theology degrees, I still had no clue what it meant to accept Oksana’s death. 

In my opinion, there is so much about grief that one does not understand until you experience it. Only now do I believe I am accepting her death. I don’t keep saying or thinking, “if only Oksana were here.” I realize I’m on my own. I mentioned in my initial blog on my grief that one of the main problems I have had is with guilt. I said then I don’t mean I had cheated on her or did bad things to her. None of that! It was the guilt of wishing I had treasured her more. I wish I had gotten up and gone with her when she went to the market or shopping. There were so many things I could have done better. Acceptance, in my opinion, means you internalize the fact that this is the way life is. I had to accept my imperfections as a husband before I could accept her death. Then I changed the focus to the times, events and joys we did share together. 

I have also been better with realizing sadness is not sacred. There is no value in feeling sad. It sounds weird, but it is like I felt obligated to continue being sad. To laugh again would be disrespectful. As an Orthodox Christian, I do not believe Oksana is sad. So I have tried to focus on things that do give me joy. My children are my main source of joy. As I’ve said, my son is a teenager. I don’t get many hugs from him. When I was 14 years old my dad didn’t get hugs from me! We do have good chats, however. On the other hand, my little girl loves giving me hugs and telling me she loves me. I focus on that. I know that sounds syrupy, but it is the truth. 

The passing of time has also allowed me to get my mind back into the things I enjoy. I had lost my powers of concentration, but that’s better now. I mentioned I’m studying Russian with my priest’ daughter. She’s a great teacher, and I feel very comfortable admitting the things I just do not understand or can’t remember. I put the Russian lessons away for so long after Oksana died. Finally, some things are coming back. Furthermore, my tutor’s boyfriend is a Lieutenant in the Russian army and is in Ukraine, so we share our worries and our prayers with each other. 

Also, I’m back to reading things I enjoy. I’m reading my favorite author G.K. Chesterton again. And I started reading the “children’s books” by C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia. Wow, I must have the mind of a child because those books are so enjoyable and relaxing. 

I also get support from people at my church. Most of them don’t say that much because they know my Russian is not that great. But they let me know they are glad to see me and are praying for me. There are two older Russian gentlemen who come to me every Sunday I am there and give me a big Orthodox hug. They start talking to me, and even though I do miss some words, I can appreciate they are letting me know of their prayers and best wishes. Their genuine smiles do a lot for me. 

In my blog, “A Grief Experienced,” I used C.S. Lewis’ book, A Grief Observed to talk about his and my grief. That book was immensely helpful to me. So many things he said I knew exactly what he meant and how he felt. There was one thing that he said, however, I did not understand at all. He said he didn’t want to forget his wife. How could you forget her??? Oksana was always on my mind! No way I could forget her. But I read the book again, and I realized he had more time between her death and writing that book than I had had. 

For so long after Oksana died, I would walk by places that would bring back such memories of our shared joy that would just devastate me as I walked without her. There was a little playground outside an apartment complex that we would walk by when we first moved to Russia. Gabriel was 8 and Marina was barely 2. They would both go to that playground, and we would watch them laugh and play for a few minutes. After she died, I would walk by and fight that memory. The kids are older, and Oksana is gone. I couldn’t keep the memory away, and it was so painful. 

With the passing of time, I can keep the memories away. That is a part of acceptance in my opinion. You can control your thoughts. But as I was walking and reflecting on that, I realized what Lewis meant. The memories are painful, so you push them away. But you don’t want to push all the memories away. How do you push away the pain and not push her from your memory? You don’t want to forget her. Just realizing that has helped me to cope with it thankfully. 

Nevertheless, even though I am making progress, it is still lonely being a single parent in a foreign country. I constantly second guess myself. One friend told me to just go get me another Russian wife. I laughed and told him that apparently the Russian ladies are underwhelmed by me: there is no line of  prospective Russian brides outside my door! It is good to laugh. On a serious  note, however, I wonder how I will do living life here in Russia as my kids get older. For a number of reasons, I feel so detached from my American homeland. I can’t wait till we can visit again, but I don’t see how I could live there–after all I’ve seen from living on the outside.  

I can’t solve that dilemma now. Again, I keep reminding myself that I am a person of faith.  What I have to do now is something else Elizabeth Elliot said that I believe I have mentioned before. She said, “Just do the next thing.” When the worries of the future start stabbing my mind, I change my thoughts: what time do I have to wake the kids up tomorrow? Do I have my grocery list ready? Sounds trivial I know, but sometimes the deep things in life are beyond our capacity to bear.