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Dear Friends,

Kyiv to Prague is ordinarily two hours by plane. War has closed Ukraine’s skies to commercial aircraft. This week, it took me 24 hours in a journey that included an overnight train from Kyiv to Lviv, a car ride from Lviv to the Polish border, a walk across the border, another car ride to Krakow, and a flight to the Czech capital.

I was in Ukraine — joined by colleagues in a visit organized by American Purpose — for meetings with defense and foreign ministry officials, parliamentarians, journalists, human rights activists, and civil society leaders. You can read about my impressions here (Opens in a new window). Give a listen to our discussion from Kyiv with Giselle Donnelly, Iulia Joja, Dalibor Rohac, and Dan Baer. It’s available as an “Eastern Front” podcast (Opens in a new window), the AEI program co-hosted by Giselle, Iulia, and Dalibor.

Veronika Velch, who was with us and who originally hails from Kyiv, sees Russia now as trying to wear Ukrainians down, waiting for the U.S. to turn inward and the West to split. Supporting Ukraine with adequate military assistance is becoming an urgent matter. We should contemplate what Russian victory would mean for both Ukraine and the region. Read Bill Galston on the challenge here (Opens in a new window).

What Happens in Ukraine Does Not Stay in Ukraine

I’m in Prague now. Czechs are at peace — and jittery. A friend who lives outside the city tells me he and his wife are chopping wood for the winter. Faith Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, is advising Europe to prepare for a cut-off of Russian gas supplies this winter.

In Prague, American Purpose co-hosted this week — with Michael Žantovský and the Václav Havel Library — a roundtable that touched on implications of Russia’s war on European security. In Prague the mantra is to help Ukraine get back at least to status quo ante, February 23. Across the region, the refrain is: Heavy weapons to the front! There’s a sense here that we’re racing against a clock. In Kyiv, we heard of windows for Ukrainian victory closing by the end of the calendar year.

Eliot Cohenspoke to us this week by Zoom about Russian military capacities. He also addressed the issue of Ukrainian troop morale in grueling combat conditions not witnessed in Europe since World War II.

Ulrich Speck was part of our Prague roundtable. He was in Vilnius recently. The Nordic and Baltic states place their trust in deterrence. You can read Uli’s take-aways from Prague, Vilnius — and from Washington where he was recently — here (Opens in a new window).

Where you sit matters. In Washington, we weigh carefully the costs of action. Central and Eastern Europeans focus on the costs of inaction. I discussed the contrast and stakes this week with Andy Walworth and Carl Cannon on their RealClear podcast (Opens in a new window).

Reading and Listening

There’s a good deal to commend in American Purpose. Robert Aliber writes about the collapse of the housing market in China. Aaron Friedberg speaks to Richard Aldous about his new book (Opens in a new window) “Getting China Wrong.”’ Jon Temin worries that our commitment to fighting aids abroad is in conflict with our pledge to strengthen democratic governance. Larry Diamond has a forthcoming piece on the midterm elections; Peter Schuckon how we (and the Democrats) ought to think sensibly about immigration. John Hood has a reflection on Afghanistan, and on America as ally. Michael Mandelbaum’s next piece works through our democracy’s challenge. We also have Rob Satloff next week on President Biden’s upcoming visit (July 15-16) to Saudi Arabia.

Listening and Watching (Prague)

I’ve also been in Prague for a board meeting of my former company Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. President Jamie Fly and his colleagues face a host of extraordinary challenges. I’ll mention one. Three RFE/RL journalists in Belarus are in prison for practicing their trade, one at the beginning of a 15-year sentence. This week, four professors in Belarus were arrested in three days. Authoritarians seem to think it’s their moment.

RFE/RL pushes back. In 23 countries in 27 languages, RFE/RL does remarkable work across platforms — television, web, video, radio, and social media. Here’s (Opens in a new window) RFE’s Persian service on a protest in Iran demanding the release of arrested school teachers. Here’s (Opens in a new window) RFE’s “Current Time” reporting on the battle for Syevyerodonetsk. This video (Opens in a new window) by the Ukrainian service reports on how Ukrainian forces salvage and reuse Russian armored vehicles.

RFE/RL is marinated in history and culture. During the Cold War, Czech exile-journalist Rozina Jadnrá played music banned by the Communists in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Playwright-dissident Václav Havel loved this, of course. Jadnrá in Munich in 1988, a year before the breach of the Berlin Wall and Prague Velvet Revolution. On December 29, 1989, Havel became president of a free Czechoslovakia. A few years later, Havel invited President Bill Clinton to move RFE/RL headquarters from Munich to Prague.

Michael Žantovský, now head of the Havel Library in Prague, is author of the definitive Havel biography (Opens in a new window). We’ll host Mark Pomar in the fall on his new book on RFE/RL. You can find more on the gifted and brave individuals who work for RFE/RL today here (Opens in a new window).

Keep in mind that June 26 is a “Brahms for Ukraine” concert with the Washington City Choir and Orchestra at Washington National Cathedral. American Purposeis a partner organization. You can buy tickets here (Opens in a new window). You can watch the performance on Sunday at 5 pm ET here (Opens in a new window).

The program features the Brahms Requiem, the premiere of Robert Shafer’s “Prayer for Ukraine,” and an exquisite piece by Elgar. Here’s (Opens in a new window) Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic with Elgar’s Nimrod, from “Enigma Variations.”

We believe in cause and community, in inspiration and aspiration.



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