May 30 • 1HR 12M

The Counteroffensive

Live from Kyiv, Tim Mak joins us on the Cosmopolicast.

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Claire Berlinski
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Let’s take a short break from AI today to catch up on the news from Ukraine. In the past 24 hours, Russia has launched three massive drone and missile attacks on Kyiv. Stunningly, at least eight drones targeted Moscow early today, hitting one of its wealthiest neighborhoods.

My friend Tim Mak, a former US Army combat medic, is in Kyiv. He’s been there since February 23, 2022, when he arrived as an investigative correspondent for NPR. He’d been sent to cover the story of the Russian military buildup. The night he arrived, Russia invaded.

He’s been in the thick of it since then. He’s the one who tracked down Russia’s 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade, the unit that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. He spent ten months investigating a single war crime:

I wanted to focus on a name instead of a number, to put a face to all the apparent crimes but also to gauge whether justice is possible. If I could solve even one murder—learn about the victim, what happened, who was responsible—maybe it would reveal how likely accountability is for all of them.

To understand that story, I decided again to focus on just one—the story of the dead man in the street, near Nova Basan.

Then NPR, like so many news organizations, decided they could no longer afford to keep him in Ukraine. This is the story foreign correspondents have been hearing for decades, now—however significant the story might be, it just costs too much to report the news from abroad.

But instead of returning to the US, Tim decided to stay and keep working on his own. He thought the story was just too important to leave. So he started The Counteroffensive, on Substack. It’s superb, and it’s also an experiment, because he doesn’t know whether enough people will pay for it to make it sustainable.

So listen to this podcast and have a look at what he’s doing: If you think it’s valuable to have this perspective, subscribe. I hope you will, because there has to be a way to fund journalism like his. I really want Tim to succeed, so I’ll make you a deal: If you subscribe to The Counteroffensive today, I’ll throw in a free three-month subscription to the Cosmopolitan Globalist. Just send me an email letting me know you subscribed.

As he writes, and as I can confirm:

War reporting is dangerous and expensive.

Readers can’t do anything about the danger, but they can help us purchase the gear we need to mitigate risk. And they can help us not go into crushing debt in order to bring this critical news to the public. 

As of this moment, I’m paying for all our expenses out of my own pocket. 

Your support buys us what we need to report: body armor, medical kits, car rentals, recording equipment, and emergency supplies. And it’s not just gear—hiring my Ukrainian interpreter Ross costs thousands of dollars a month. 

For US$8 per month—less than a bottle of Sriracha! Or a bowl of pho!—you can be a supporter of regular reporting on the war in Ukraine—and fight against the instincts of many to turn away from the horrors of the conflict.

“The Counteroffensive,” he writes, will as the name suggests cover the Ukrainian counteroffensive—which may be beginning now, if the drone attack was the opening volley. 

“But the name is meant to signify a broader campaign: against apathy, cynicism and ignorance about world events in general and the emergence of a new Cold War in particular.”

I hope it works. Go, Tim. Stay safe.


For those of you who prefer reading to listening, here’s a transcript:

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