It’s the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This week’s best read? Ukrainian food writer and friend Olia Hercules (pictured), of course, on how her family has (barely) survived the last year.
I take some heart from the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg’s recent assessment from Moscow. That there are two minorities in Russia: those that are strongly pro war and those that are against. But there is — significantly — one silent majority: those who are profoundly confused and don’t know how to oppose this. There seems to be a lot of in-fighting amongst the hawks at the moment so hopefully they claw each other to pieces and lose their death grip. I really trust Steve’s coverage. He loves and understands Russians and speaks beautiful Russian. He has played the piano with Gorbachev. I can see how sad this situation is making him but he continues to file balanced, insightful reports and is clearly respected inside the Kremlin. The day I really lose hope will be the day they chuck him out, which surely they will at some point. I never thought I’d live to see the day when everything would revert to the mentality of 1960s Sovietology but here we are.
A favourite piece of nuanced assessment this week comes from Fiona Hill, the Russia specialist who testified against Trump at his impeachment. She takes the view that it will be very difficult to make Putin walk away. She advocates a dual military-diplomacy response and appears to be warning against the West throwing all its chips on a military solution. Even if there is a military victory for Ukraine, there will then be a negotiation. The question of Crimea may also need to go back on the table. This nuanced and, I think, realistic view is rarely represented.
My book on French literature is now out in Russia and I’ve had some very sweet and sometimes cryptic messages from Russian readers. They are clearly looking for escapism. I have mixed feelings but I usually reply to them. How to Own the Room was supposed to come out in Ukrainian last year but obviously that’s no longer in the works.