Plus, a reader question about Aaron Bushnell.

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Today's read: 13 minutes.

The war in Ukraine hits two years. Plus, a reader question about Aaron Bushnell.

My border solutions.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a members-only piece on my solutions to the border crisis. The piece was intended to lay out a plan that this president, this Senate, and this House could agree on. In other words, it’s a compromise solution. With border negotiations all but dead (once again), we've decided to lift the paywall on this piece and make it free and available to everyone. You can read it here. If you like it, don't forget to subscribe to get more members-only content.

Quick hits.

  1. Former President Donald Trump won the Michigan GOP primary with 68% of the vote to Nikki Haley's 26%. (The vote) Meanwhile, President Biden won his primary with 81% of the vote, though 15% of voters — roughly 100,000 people — cast "uncommitted ballots" as part of a protest movement against Biden's support for Israel's actions in Gaza. Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes in 2020. (The results)
  2. House Speaker Mike Johnson suggested a federal funding deal could be coming into focus after he met with White House and Senate leaders on Tuesday. (The remarks
  3. Hamas and Israeli leadership downplayed ceasefire talks after President Biden suggested that a deal could come as soon as this weekend. (The response)
  4. Oral arguments over a Trump-era ban on bump stocks, a modification that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire continuously, will be presented before the Supreme Court today. (The case) Separately, The Supreme Court seemed skeptical of a pair of laws in Texas and Florida that would allow those states to regulate how social media companies determine what content gets posted on their platforms. (The arguments)
  5. Both President Biden and former President Trump are expected to visit the southern border today. (The visits)

Today's topic.

Two years of war in Ukraine. On Saturday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the second anniversary of Russia's full-fledged invasion by welcoming Western leaders to Kyiv and pleading for more support in the war.

Allies from the European Union and Group of Seven democracies expressed solidarity with Ukraine over the weekend. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) visited Ukraine on Friday and used the visit to urge Republicans in Congress to move forward on a bill that would provide billions of dollars of aid to Ukraine. On Saturday, Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen all arrived in Kyiv as an act of solidarity.

“Two years ago, here, we met enemy landing forces with fire; two years later, we meet our friends and our partners here,” Zelensky said.

As the war enters its third year, Ukraine's position has become increasingly desperate. A summer counteroffensive by Ukraine failed, and the country is now running low on soldiers, ammunition and international support, all while questions abound on whether they can sustain their fight against Russia. Amid battlefield losses, President Zelensky recently replaced his popular top general with a new military commander.

Meanwhile, Russia has momentum, gaining advantages along the front lines and recently taking control of the eastern city of Avdiivka after months of fighting. Ukraine's forces have now taken up a defensive position in hopes of preventing further losses, and Russia controls roughly one quarter of Ukrainian territory.

At the same time, Ukraine has had some success fighting in the Black Sea, where it has sunk Russian warships and landed strikes against military installations in Crimea.

“As things stand, neither side has won. Neither side has lost. Neither side is anywhere near giving up. And both sides have pretty much exhausted the manpower and equipment that they started the war with,” Gen. Richard Barrons, a British military officer who is co-chair of a defense consultancy, told the Associated Press.

Both sides have concealed the number of soldiers killed from the public to maintain morale and protect battlefield strategies. However, the first independent statistical analysis of Russia's soldiers found that roughly 75,000 Russian troops have been killed in the war so far, though Russia has only acknowledged around 6,000 casualties. Last week, President Zelensky said roughly 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in the fighting, though U.S. analysts have estimated the number is closer to 70,000. Close to 20,000 civilians have been injured, and 10,000 civilians have been killed

While the fighting continues, members of Congress are debating whether to advance a standalone bill for $60 billion of military aid for Ukraine, after a bipartisan compromise to tie the funding to immigration reform was rejected by Republicans in the House and Senate. The U.S. has already directed about $75 billion of military, humanitarian and financial support to Ukraine, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (this number does not include all war-related U.S.-approved funding, like money directed toward allies).

Today, we're going to examine some arguments from the left and right in the U.S., as well as some international perspectives, about the war in Ukraine and the path forward.

What the left is saying.

  • The left urges commitment to Ukraine, saying Putin is weaker than he says and the West is stronger than we think.
  • Some criticize Biden’s foreign policy approach for being too militaristic and outdated.

The Bloomberg editorial board said not to buy Putin's bluff, because the West can outspend him.

Putin has celebrated a boost in production and GDP as proof his economy is thriving, but "the limits to such 'military Keynesianism' are already evident," the board said. "The war’s consumption of able-bodied workers has driven the unemployment rate to an extreme low of 2.9%, forcing civilian industries to pay more for scarce labor... the central bank has had to hike its benchmark interest rate to 16%, further squeezing the private sector.

“Military spending won’t keep adding to GDP growth: Just maintaining it at the current level would require big sacrifices in other important areas, such as social spending and much-needed infrastructure maintenance," it added. "Worse for Putin, he’s rapidly eroding the defenses he constructed to protect the economy and himself from unexpected shocks. Much of the central bank’s reserves are frozen in the West. The National Wellbeing Fund’s liquid assets have declined by nearly half since the beginning of the war, to about $55 billion. The government is running an annual budget deficit of about $17 billion, and its borrowing capacity is of limited use if domestic banks are the only available lenders."

In The Nation, Jeet Heer said Biden's Cold War "nostalgia" is dooming his presidency.

"The killing fields of Gaza are only making visible the horrific and ongoing human costs of Biden’s long-standing commitment to an obsolete Cold War liberalism that is completely inadequate to the challenges of the 21st century," Heer said. "Joe Biden is an over-eager and uncritical enthusiast for military Keynesianism—the use of arms spending to fuel economic growth. The ideal of Cold War liberalism was to fuse foreign and domestic policy, creating an integrated warfare/welfare state."

"Underlying this project is the brute political reality that it is easier to get bipartisan consensus and elite comity (which Biden, still a man of the Senate in his worldview, always seeks) if you push for defense spending rather than social spending," Heer said. "Unfortunately, Biden’s pursuit of this illusory agenda is leading to a disaster-prone foreign policy, where an aversion to diplomacy combines with a commitment to increases in arms spending and assertions of hegemony."

What the right is saying.

  • The right mostly supported bolstering Ukraine’s defenses, with some criticizing Biden for not doing more sooner.
  • Others on the right are more skeptical of additional funding to support another international quagmire.

The New York Post editorial board wrote that “Ukraine needs America’s full support more than ever.”

“From the start, The Post has called on President Biden to offer ‘more weapons and a visibly beefed-up commitment to helping Ukraine’s own military effort,’” the board wrote. “In other words: Give Kyiv whatever it needs to beat back Moscow’s forces: Heed the pleas of President Volodomyr Zelensky; ignore Putin’s blustering bluffs. Time after time after time, Biden has blinked, refusing to deliver at all, or not until long months after Ukraine requested particular help — and, even then, not enough to meet the need.”

“Our president’s other critical shortfall has been his failure to make the case for helping Ukraine to the American people,” the board said. “He’s far more obsessed with the ‘threat to democracy’ posed by his domestic political opposition than the one posed by the butcher in the Kremlin. Yes, Republicans share plenty of blame, too: A good chunk of the party pretends Putin could become America’s friend if we just appeased him enough;” but, they ask, “how will abandoning Ukraine help our standing in the world, safeguard our interests and do anything but embolden China? It also ignores a lesson taught over and over in history: Madmen cannot be appeased.”

In American Greatness, Thaddeus G. McCotter argued that American elites caused problems with past militarism, and now push a “Domino Theory 2.0” for more. 

“In sum, today, policymakers and elites have now stuck the rest of us with the butcher’s bill for their arrogance and avarice: a revanchist, authoritarian Russia and an avowedly hostile, implacably aggressive communist China,” McCotter said. “For some abstruse reason, they expect the public to forget or ignore that these policymakers and their corporate cronies have been culpable for causing this crisis. These policymakers have forgotten the hard lessons of Vietnam."

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has made the point that Putin must face accountability in Ukraine for us to defend Taiwan. “His admission that there needs to be ‘some accountability’ underscores the absence of accountability to the American public regarding military aid to Ukraine’s. Excepting the rote invocation of the ‘Taiwan must be defended’ mantra, it also unwittingly reveals policymakers’ almost zero discourse with the American people as to why a free Taiwan is an imperative in protecting our nation’s vital strategic interests. Instead, the public gets the Domino Theory 2.0.”

From abroad.

  • European allies stress the importance of committing to Ukraine’s defense, saying the consequences of failure would be dire.
  • Others say that the extent of the death and destruction demonstrate the need for an immediate end to the war.

The Kyiv Independent editorial board said it's time to wake up or fall.

“Some things have remained unchanged. Ukrainians still want to fight till the end. The accumulated exhaustion, loss, and pain haven’t converted into the desire to surrender. Russia’s goal of exterminating the Ukrainian nation has also gone unchanged. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin continues to say that Ukraine’s existence is a mistake. This leaves Ukrainians with no other choice than to fight for their survival in a war they never wanted.”

“But there are some things that, two years in, aren’t so certain anymore. The most important of them is this: How serious the West is in its support of Ukraine.” Aid for Ukraine has become "politically weaponized in Europe and North America — where critically needed aid for Kyiv to the tune of $61 billion is still tied up in the U.S. Congress... All of this leads to the painful question, but one we must ask: Could the West let Ukraine fall – if not on purpose, but due to sheer neglect and breakdown of their resolve – and face the consequences of the whole world order collapsing?”

In the United Kingdom, the socialist site Morning Star argued that “it’s time for [a] Ukraine ceasefire.”

“Given Russia’s undoubted superiority in manpower reserves over Ukraine, it may therefore be better placed to profit from protracted deadlock. However, most of the Nato leadership continues to insist on war until victory for Ukraine, despite the absence of any plan for achieving that objective, beyond wishing without discernible foundation for a more pliant regime in Moscow to emerge,” the editorial staff wrote. “This then is surely the time for a peace initiative, based on the mutual recognition that maximum demands are unachievable.”

“Yet no-one is yet coming forward with such a proposal. Earlier Chinese efforts and a Nato-sponsored conference this year did not lead anywhere,” they said. “Russian language rights in Ukraine should be guaranteed, and Russia should unambiguously acknowledge Ukraine’s right to sovereignty and independence… The first step is a ceasefire which, like all ceasefires, starts with the contesting armies in more or less their present positions. Such a plan would mean both Putin’s neo-tsarist chauvinism on the one hand, and Ukrainian nationalism and Nato expansionists on the other, accepting less than full victory.”

My take.

Reminder: "My take" is a section where I give myself space to share my own personal opinion. If you have feedback, criticism, or compliments, don't unsubscribe. Write in by replying to this email, or leave a comment.

  • With our needs at home and recent failures in military adventurism, I get why many Americans are hesitant about sending aid to Ukraine.
  • Still, supporting Ukraine and opposing Russia is the right thing to do — and it’s smart strategy, too.
  • That doesn’t mean I don’t want peace, but it does mean that Ukraine is calling the shots, and that we should support them on the path they choose.

I can't believe it has been two years.

It feels like just a few months ago that I was writing pieces about the war beginning and the need not to lose the plot. My biggest fears, that Kyiv would fall in a matter of weeks, did not come true. We underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian people and the will of the West. But many of my fears have been borne out: A long, expensive, protracted battle with a total of hundreds of thousands dead. Division in the U.S. about how to proceed. Waves of economic disruption across the globe. And an authoritarian leader in Vladimir Putin who is being valorized by useful idiots.

Many of my readers believe that the U.S. should pause its funding or condition it entirely on peace talks. Some have suggested the U.S. should pressure Ukraine to accept territorial defeats, give up the land it lost, and end the war. These inclinations come from genuine and rational places. Americans are tired of seeing tens of billions of dollars go to far-off places they've never been, funding conflicts that don't feel relevant, all while so many issues here at home go unresolved.

I get it. A large part of me is sympathetic to those positions. But I still believe there are better reasons to stay in the fight alongside Ukraine than there are to abandon it.

For starters, it's a just position. Military adventurism and recent failures in the Middle East have scarred many Americans, including me. It's been a long time since the U.S. was unambiguously on the "right" side of a war. But this is the right side. Putin has made it clear that he did not invade Ukraine because of NATO expansion or U.S. aggression or because there are neo-Nazis in the Ukrainian army. He invaded because he does not believe Ukrainians are a separate people from Russians, or that their country should have sovereignty. He believes Ukraine belongs to him. He believes the Soviet Union falling is the greatest tragedy of his lifetime. He feels this way about other former Soviet states too, some of whom are NATO members or rushing to become ones.

If you have doubts about this just go watch his interview with Tucker Carlson. Talk to people from Bulgaria or Moldova or Belarus who are watching warily or dumping their own GDP into defending Ukraine with prayers of stopping Putin. If Russia had toppled Ukraine in a matter of weeks, I believe wholly that he would have moved on. That Russia didn’t, hopefully, has given him second thoughts. But if he wins this war that threat will remain.

And then there are the Ukrainian people. Again: Read their stories or look at what life is like and this war does not feel complicated. Perhaps I am too close to this issue, having family and friends who are Ukrainian — some of them living or operating in Ukraine right this minute — or perhaps that makes me more clear-eyed about it. In 1994, our government promised Ukraine we'd protect them from incursions like this. Our government has broken many promises. We have the opportunity to fulfill one now.

Finally, there's the practical argument that supporting Ukraine is a smart and cost-effective foreign policy. If being on the right side of history, countering Putin's ambitions, or sympathy for the plight of Ukrainians is not enough to outweigh concerns about our involvement or our spending on this war, then maybe this does: Pouring money into Ukraine's coffers now is a better financial decision than letting it fall.

The latter would mean giving Ukraine — with its vital natural resources, trade routes, and supply chains — over to an adversary. It would mean risking a future all-out war between Russia and a NATO ally, one we are legally bound to protect, and that in all likelihood would result in our own soldiers on the ground and far more money being spent. It would mean destabilizing the European Union, our third-largest trading partner. As Romina Bandura and Ilya Timtchenko have argued, funding Ukraine is closer to an investment than a cost. I find their argument persuasive.

Again: I know many readers disagree, and I understand where that hesitation comes from. I feel hesitant, too. But when I listen closely to Putin, when I read the arguments about the position we are in and what to do next, I genuinely think supporting Ukraine is morally right, strategically sound, and surprisingly economical. This does not preclude pushing for peace talks or ceasefires or negotiations — all of that should happen. But Ukraine is a sovereign and free country, and they get to set the terms. Ultimately it is not our decision whether to prolong this war or not. It is Ukraine’s. So far they are choosing to stay in the fight for their country. Our decision is only whether we want to stand by them or let them fight alone.

Disagree? That's okay. My opinion is just one of many. Write in and let us know why, and we'll consider publishing your feedback.

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Your questions, answered.

Q: Aaron Bushnell sacrificed his life to raise awareness about what is happening in Gaza. Do you think it will have an impact on the politics of this issue in the U.S.?

— Joel from Southern California

Tangle: Briefly, for anyone who is unaware: Aaron Bushnell was a 25-year-old active duty member of the U.S. Air Force who set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. He died of his injuries.

In a video Bushnell posted online, he said he would "no longer be complicit in genocide" and screamed "free Palestine" as he burned. The self-immolation was meant as an act of protest and has been celebrated as such. Bushnell's name and images from the video are all over social media. Anecdotally, I personally counted about 30 friends who posted his story approvingly on Instagram between Monday and Tuesday alone.

My short answer to your question is yes, it may have a meaningful impact on awareness about Gaza; but I don’t think it is going to meaningfully change the politics of it. Nor do I think it will change what happens in Gaza. Simply put: If people weren't already moved by the images coming from Gaza, I’m not sure why they’d be any more moved by his suicide. If any readers felt especially changed by it, I’d be curious to hear from them. 

Finally, I also want to say that I object to the framing of him sacrificing his life for this cause. In 2022, after a climate activist set themselves on fire in Washington, D.C., I wrote an entire piece about the very dangerous ways I thought the story was being framed by journalists in the media. Namely, that they were holding the activist up — just like Bushnell — as committing some kind of fearless act for the greater good.

I want to say clearly that Bushnell committed suicide. In debating the language use around what he did, a friend floated the term “revolutionary suicide” to me, which I had not heard. I wouldn’t call his act “revolutionary,” but so long as we call it “suicide” then I’m fine with that language. I think we have to be really cautious about the contagion effect of celebrating or honoring suicide; just as with celebrating or giving notoriety to mass shooters, this is one way to make it spread. 

However noble or pure his intentions, however clear-minded he was about what he was doing, I urge people to try to communicate his message without writing about him as a martyr, or a hero,  or sharing images of him burning alive to make the point. It’s important not to compound the harm of a life lost by encouraging copycats, or others with suicidal thoughts, who may see an opportunity to attach their pain to a political movement and give themselves permission to take their own lives.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or go to for a list of additional resources.

Want to have a question answered in the newsletter? You can reply to this email (it goes straight to my inbox) or fill out this form.

Under the radar.

For the first time since 2019, the southern border is now the number one issue for Americans, according to Gallup. 28% of Americans name immigration as the most important problem, up from 20% last month. Voters now rank the issue higher than "government" and "economy in general" as the most important problem facing the country today. Separately, a Monmouth poll found that a majority of Americans support building a border wall for the first time since Monmouth started asking the question in 2015. The Gallup results. The Monmouth results.


  • 74.3 billion. The total amount of aid in U.S. dollars that the U.S. has sent to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.
  • 46.3 billion. The amount of military aid in U.S. dollars that the U.S. has sent to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, the most of any nation.
  • 0.32%. The amount of aid that the U.S. has sent to Ukraine as a share of GDP, the 32nd-most of any nation.
  • 4.1%. The amount of aid that Estonia has sent to Ukraine as a share of GDP, the most of any nation.
  • 400,000,000. The number of bullets and grenades the U.S. has sent to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion.
  • 10,378. The total of civilian deaths in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, according to the U.N.
  • 40-45 years old. The average age of Ukrainian soldiers currently, according to Ukrainian defense officials.

The extras.

Yesterday’s poll: The majority of the 555 Tangle readers who responded to our poll on the South Carolina primary said the results don’t tell us anything. “We're 8 months out from election day. SO MUCH could happen between now and then that could help or hinder either candidate,” one respondent said.

What do you think should be the strategy the United States pursues with Ukraine? Let us know!

Have a nice day.

At the age of 55, Deepak Swaroop left his position as a senior partner at an accounting firm in England to find the next chapter in his life. He’d read about Lucy Kellaway, the Financial Times editor who left journalism and founded Now Teach, an organization that helps people change careers and become teachers, and got inspired to join the program. Swaroop is now one of the 850 people who have left careers in fields like finance, medicine, and engineering to retrain as teachers through Now Teach. “I was keen to do something which had a purpose, so I could contribute back to society in a way,” Swaroop said. Reasons to be Cheerful has the story.

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Isaac Saul
I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Bucks County, PA — one of the most politically divided counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.