Our Best Stuff From a Big Week for Ukraine
A surprise campaign in the country’s northeast has Russian forces retreating.
Hello and happy Saturday. In our line of work, it can be frustrating to publish a story only to have it become outdated quickly. That happened to us this week, but I’m not at all grumpy about it.
Just yesterday, we ran an article from Giselle Donnelly detailing the latest developments out of Ukraine. She wrote about how the attention of Ukraine watchers was on an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive to retake the vital Black Sea port city of Kherson in the south, but Ukraine had something up its sleeve. Last week, the Kherson counteroffensive began with a series of attacks. But then days later, in a whole different part of the country, Ukraine launched another offensive: Troops set out from Kharkiv in the northeast, headed in a southeasterly direction to go after Russian positions in the Donbas.
The situation was fluid enough that after she filed and while I was editing, reports came out that Ukraine had liberated about 20 towns, and we included that news. What has happened since is truly remarkable. The Ukrainian flag is flying once again over the city of Kupiansk, and Ukrainians have also taken Izium. Both have been important railway and logistical hubs used by the Russians to maintain supply lines. “Retaking Izium is perhaps Ukraine’s most significant success in pushing back the Russians since the beginning of the invasion,” the Guardian declared.
Normally I’d be using “reportedly” repeatedly because the situation on the ground can be uncertain. But the Russian Ministry of Defense has confirmed that it has retreated from key towns in the Kharkiv region.
The West rallied around Ukrainians when they demonstrated inspiring resolve in the early days of the war, denying Russia its hoped-for quick seizure of Kyiv and total takeover of the country. But the last few months have been a war of attrition. So it’s easy to feel almost giddy about Ukraine’s success this week.
But I can’t help but have a competing sense of dread. Vladimir Putin is not one to admit defeat easily, if at all. It’s frightening to think of what he could do in response to the developments this week. Ukrainian officials claim that a missile strike launched from Russia hit a hospital in northeast Ukraine on Friday, and that Russians had also fired missiles into civilian areas in Kharkiv.
But Ukrainian gains are better than the alternative. And the West should not only continue to support Ukraine, but do whatever it can to take advantage of the moment. As Donnelly writes, “The United States can make this the moment when the previous ‘Ukraine can win’ proposition becomes a ‘Ukraine will win’ prospect. The Biden administration has traveled a long road from Kabul to Kyiv. It must now press on.”
Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams has been, as Andrew writes, “one of the most pivotal American politicians of the last few years.” After losing to Brian Kemp in 2018, she turned her attention to increasing voter registration in the state and was so successful that she’s credited with turning the state purple. She was on the shortlist of candidates to be Joe Biden’s running mate. But she’s never actually held statewide or national office. Andrew traveled to Georgia to follow her campaign and details her focus on guns, abortion, and health care. “It's plain a lane is there for Abrams,” he writes. “Whether she can close the deal is another matter. She remains a polarizing figure in Georgia, having long denied the legitimacy of Kemp’s 2018 election and struggled to distance herself from what she describes as unfair Republican attacks that she supports defunding the police.”
Recently, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Democrats had worked to get schools reopened amid the pandemic “in spite of Republicans,” a comment that led to much eye-rolling and online dunking. But it got Jonah thinking about something a little deeper: the inability of people to admit when they are wrong, or that sometimes, it’s not the “other guys” who are evil. “While it can take courage to call out the people on the other side of an issue, a deeper political courage comes from being willing to admit that no one has a monopoly on political virtue—or facts. Sometimes, it helps to ask, ‘Am I the bad guy?’ And—just sometimes—the answer might be, ‘Yes.’
The war has displaced millions of Ukrainian citizens. Millions have resettled in Europe, and more than 100,000 have made it to the United States. But, Harvest notes, “The administration’s reliance on pathways other than the traditional refugee process has provoked concern and criticism. Many Ukrainians struggle to get permission to work and their legal status may soon expire.” She writes about the various ways that people have made their way here—from the 25,000 who came to the U.S.-Mexico border to the 46,000 who used the Uniting for Ukraine program, which allows someone in the United States to sponsor people, who are then granted humanitarian parole. But parolees have to apply for permission to work, and the status is temporary.
And now the best of the rest:
Can a bipartisan effort by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat, and Susan Collins, a Republican, win over enough GOP senators to pass a measure codifying gay marriage? Haley reports in Uphill (🔒).
The primaries are wrapping up, so Chris makes his forecast for the House in the midterms in Stirewaltisms (🔒): cloudy with a strong chance of a small GOP majority.
While everyone else was buzzing about the latest round of new iPhones and Apple Watches, Klon was focusing on a different announcement from the company: that it would buy memory chips for its devices from Chinese company YMTC. He criticizes the move in The Current (🔒).
Could the Democrats come to regret the student debt relief giveaway? Free stuff tends to be popular, but Frederick Hess notes that with the move coming on the heels of the Inflation Reduction Act—which painted the Democrats as trying to address inflation and runaway federal spending— “loan forgiveness risks making them look like phonies.”
On the pods: We have a few recurring themes this week. Rafael Mangual joins Jonah on The Remnant to argue against decarceration and depolicing and they get into the sociological factors behind criminality. On Good Faith, David and Curtis Chang discuss the “particularly vexing challenge of justice when crimes are committed.” Meanwhile, David and Sarah dive into the courtroom battle between the Justice Department and Donald Trump over classified documents on Advisory Opinions, while you should tune the Dispatch Podcast for more on the Mar-a-Lago investigation.