You might not know about the broadcaster from Russian state TV who marched on the flagship evening new program earlier this week, protesting the invasion of Ukraine and warning about the lies told by Vladimir Putin’s government. She was detained and, as of this writing, hasn’t been heard from since.
You might not know that Washington state houses the third-largest nuclear arsenal in the world thanks to the Ohio-class subs that ply international waters out of the Bangor naval base on the Kitsap Peninsula. If you missed that sobering tidbit, check out the deep dive by Patrick Malone of The Seattle Times, published last weekend.
You might even have missed the sound of jets in the nighttime airspace over the Methow starting a couple of weeks before the start of Putin’s war. Navy fighter pilots on ready? Who really knows? Who can follow it all? And what can any of us do about it?
Those last questions pale in light of the brutality against Ukraine. But they are the ones that Americans, buffered by oceans on either side, need not ignore. We have our own lives to live and demands to address. And compassion fatigue is real. After more than six years of political divide and two-plus of COVID disruption, it’s no surprise that people turn away and tune out.
Until that last question nags: What can any of us do about it? About the destruction of the very country Putin is obsessed with owning? About the 2.5 million Ukrainians who have fled, with nowhere certain to go? About the newborns huddled in basements as tanks roll to Kyiv?
Too little. But make no mistake: Putin’s war is our war, and not just because we don’t like the price at the gas pump. It’s a war on a century of hard-fought democracy — everything from civil liberties to free speech to an independent press. Our weapons might seem small, but they are mighty if we wield them: We can stay informed. We can lobby our elected representatives. And we can send what money we can, whether it’s $5 or $5,000.
In the digital age of disinformation, who do we trust to inform us, or to use our money wisely? A week ago, people flooded Airbnb with reservations in Ukraine, telling hosts to use them for refugees. That grassroots response could never have happened before social media. But it raises new questions: When the money arrives at the other end, how do people access it? How can we be sure the rooms go to the people who need them most? That’s but one example in an era when scams abound and we are on our own to investigate them. The internet gives people a voice and access that never existed before. But in times of crisis, the tried-and true remain the rock.
Putin has pulled a Hitler, decapitating independent journalism in Russia as he sells his “special military operation” to free Ukraine. In Ukraine itself, it is the legacy press that can be relied on: The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, Reuters, CNN, NPR and the members who carry their work, including The Seattle Times. Most have lifted any paywalls on related coverage.
As for donations: Again, go with the tried-and-true. All the sites above carry updated and reliable links. Top of those lists:
- Médicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).
- The International Committee of the Red Cross.
- The United Nations High Commission on Refugees.
The channels aren’t perfect. Delivery routes are being choked. But those organizations have on-the-ground experience, or channel funds to other vetted relief agencies.
The other route is to lean on personal contacts you trust. Contact your preferred religious organization: Catholic Franciscans are at work on the Poland-Ukraine border. If you value a free press, consider the Kyiv Independent. The site started after journalists from the Kyiv Post — a fiercely independent English-language newsweekly — were fired recently. The start-up has passed muster under heavy scrutiny.
These relief workers and reporters aren’t indulging in trauma porn. They are working on donations and at risk to their own lives — so we can stay informed and do what we can.