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Putin, Ukraine & Me

David R. Kotok
Sun May 19, 2024

I’m starting today’s commentary with a quote:

Current US policy prohibiting Ukraine from using US-provided weapons in the territory of the Russian Federation is severely compromising Ukraine’s ability to defend itself against the renewed cross-border invasion Russia has recently launched in Kharkiv Oblast. US policy has effectively created a vast sanctuary in which Russia has been able to amass its ground invasion force and from which it is launching glide bombs and other long-range strike systems in support of its renewed invasion. Whatever the merits of this US policy before the Russian assault on Kharkiv Oblast began, it should be modified immediately to reflect the urgent realities of the current situation.

Readers, please take a few minutes time for the full briefing by the Institute for the Study of War. Heres’ the link, with maps and details: “Putin’s Safe Space: Defeating Russia’s Kharkiv Operation Requires Eliminating Russia’s Sanctuary,”

While the news flow in the US seems fixated on the daily Trump trial revelations, the daily ouster of campers in universities or the coming presidential debates, the war activity and risk in Europe is expanding. This has major implications for Europe’s financial markets which will soon have to deal with the political change in the forthcoming European Parliament elections.

And it is a powerful item for all European-based central banks (not just the ECB) and their monetary policies. Please note that the Global Interdependence Center is now organizing a fall delegation to Prague and Warsaw, which will feature discussions on this subject. Two former central bankers (Czech Republic and Poland) will be part of the delegation. For information about this extraordinary program see

At Cumberland, we have maintained a bias in favor of the US defense sector, with its rising need for increased expenditures on drone warfare and various applications of AI and other advanced technologies. The Russo-Ukraine War has demonstrated that need. The alliance of Houthi, Iran, Hezbollah, Russia, North Korea, Belarus, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and others has also proven that need. Note how the threats to shipping in the Middle East and the targeting of American warships has ratcheted up with this form of war.  The threatened region is enlarging.

We are also seeing an attempt by the citizenry in the Republic of Georgia to throw off the Putin yoke of suppression. Will the citizens in Tbilisi succeed or will Russian tanks and forces suppress them?  Remember Putin’s history of overpowering Georgia 6 years before his 2014 invasion of Crimea, Ukraine.  Remember that Georgia was identified as a candidate for the EU. Here’s a direct report of the citizens rally in Tbilisi: “About 50,000 protest in Tbilisi against Georgia ‘foreign agents’ bill,”

Other verified forms of Russia’s direct and insidious behavior have also been revealed. Here’s a Reuters story to be read by serious observers: “Putin warns of global clash as Russia marks victory in World War Two,”

We also recommend reviewing the Global Peace Index ( and the Global Terrorism Index ( Notice the listing of Russia as one of the worst “perps.”

Let me share a reading list, and after it I will tell a personal story. As you review the list, please think about Putin’s behavior in global terms.

Reading List

This is what happens when you take 6 months to decide to send help to an ally who is in a shooting war against a mortal enemy. Thank you to the miscreant Members of Congress like Marge Greene, who has blood on her hands and who is clearly more favorably disposed to helping Putin than the US and its allies, IMO. “Russia’s War Aim is not Kharkov,”

And this is what happens when you permit the ally to fight back and supply them with the appropriate weapons to defend themselves.

“Under Putin, a militarized new Russia rises to challenge U.S. and the West,”

“Russian troops enter base housing US military in Niger, US official says,”

“After Two Years of War, Ukraine Sees Deepening Environmental Wound,”

While global production hasn’t changed much, Ukraine’s agricultural base has been devastated by Russia’s invasion: roughly one-third of Ukraine’s territory is now contaminated with toxic elements such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and mercury leaching from ammunition and weapons into the soil. Forests totaling 9,300 acres have been burned, rivers have been polluted, wildlife has been decimated and land mines have been scattered across 67,000 square miles.

Ukrainian Farmland that's being cleared of unexploded ordnance September 7, 2023

“Inside a Ukrainian Vampire Drone Squad’s Mission to the Front Lines,”

“Exclusive: UN experts say North Korea missile landed in Ukraine’s Kharkiv,”

Intrigue in Europe has intensified with the shooting of a pro-Putin, anti-American, Slovak leader. Remember, Slovakia is a member of NATO. Here’s the Associated Press story:
“Slovakia’s populist prime minister shot in assassination attempt, shocking Europe before elections,”

“Who Shot the Slovak Prime Minister: Inside Information on What Happened,”

“Scam of the Week: Government Fishing,” KnowBe4 subscriber email,

Cybercriminals like to manipulate people into acting on impulse because anyone can fall for this trick, even government officials. In this week’s scam, a Russian hacking group is targeting members of the Polish government with an enticing phishing email. The email contains a link that claims to provide information about a mysterious person who has been in contact with Polish government authorities.  If you click it, the link redirects you through multiple websites before reaching an archive of .zip files. This archive contains a malicious file that is disguised as a photograph. If you open the file, a distracting image is displayed while the malicious software secretly downloads onto your device. Once installed, the malware can collect your sensitive data and send it back to the hackers.


Now here’s my story (abbreviated) and why it’s personal for me.

One side of my family immigrated to the United States from Ukraine. Family records go back to births in Dolyns’ke, Anan’ivs’kyi District, Odessa Oblast, Ukraine. Another family line goes back to a village that is no longer extant in what is present-day Poland. In those days, the entire region was governed by the Russian czar. My ancestors got to this country by boat, in steerage and after walking many miles to a port, whether Bremerhaven or others. One ancestor walked a thousand miles. They were escaping from Russian persecution. Robbery, murders, rapes, beatings were often part of life under the czars. Those who did not leave and their descendants who remained experienced the czarist Russian persecution and then the Russian Revolution and then the effects of World War 1. Then Stalin came to power and Russian persecution and murder took a different form. Those who were in Ukraine experienced a genocide named the Holodomor. Here’s a link to tell you about what that is: And then Hitler followed. The Nazi genocide secretly planned at the Wannsee conference was implemented first by the mass shooting of 1½ million people by the Einsatzgruppen, and later millions more were killed in the concentration camps and the death camps, mostly in Poland. Even as Hitler’s Germany was losing the war, trains to Auschwitz-Birkenau carried hundreds of thousands to annihilation from places as far away as Hungary.

Three generations of my family have served in the armed forces of the United States. The first one rode cavalry under General Pershing. In every case, American politicians waited too long to act and then had to commit to expanded war.

Today, we see present-day fiercely independent Ukraine battling Putin’s Russia. And we see other nefarious Russian activity including continuing interference with US and other Western nations’ elections, widespread cyberattacks, and manipulation through propaganda. For me, the situation is clear: We are engaged in a fight for survival and Putin is the new ruthless leader; those leaders in his orbit are the Mussolinis of today.  I wonder if Orban in Hungary has sent a brown shirt to the cleaners to be pressed.  Readers can search the history of “Sturmabteilung” on their own.

My life partner Christine’s parents were born in Ukraine. Her father was a partisan fighter against Nazis. Her mother was a political prisoner and survived the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women. Her parents were displaced persons after the war and got to the United States because of the kindness of strangers to sponsor them so they could immigrate.

Dear readers, we each must decide for ourselves who we are, what we believe, and what our nation should do and not do. For me, this defense of America against Putin and his ilk is personal.


David R. Kotok
Co-Founder & Chief Investment Officer
Email | Bio




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