Friday Reads: Postcards from Ukraine and TrumpistanPosted: March 18, 2022
Good Day Sky Dancers!
Well, thanks to Daylight Savings Time I have now fallen back an hour behind Standard Time and 2 hours behind what is the time now. So, my poor confused body has me back at breakfast time when it’s past lunch now. Wow! There are so many headlines demanding attention. It’s hard to know where to start.
Putin’s committing War Crimes on a frantic schedule while there is a rush to get medical supplies and food to those trapped in active war zones. There are direct attacks reported today on food markets, kindergartens, and apartment buildings in a Kyiv neighborhood. Ninety Percent of Mariupol is gone. Lviv is under threat now. A building was hit and destroyed this morning.
There are several stories today on Putin’s requests for help from China and India. Is China more reluctant to help Putin than Putin likely expected? President Biden had a video call with China’s leader. From the AP: “In video call, Biden presses China’s Xi on Russia support”.
Key figures for a war half a world away, President Joe Biden and China’s Xi Jinping spoke for nearly two hours on Friday as the White House looked to deter Beijing from providing military or economic assistance for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
China’s Foreign Ministry was the first to issue a readout of the video conversation, deploring “conflict and confrontation” as “not in anyone’s interest,” without assigning any blame to Russia.
Ahead of the call, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would question Xi about Beijing’s “rhetorical support” of Putin and an “absence of denunciation” of Russia’s invasion.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying pushed back, calling the U..S. administration’s suggestions that China risks falling on the wrong side of history “overbearing.”
Planning for the leaders’ discussion had been in the works since Biden and Xi held a virtual summit in November, but differences between Washington and Beijing over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s prosecution of his three-week-old war against Ukraine were expected to be at the center of the call.
China on Friday also sought to highlight its calls for negotiations and its donations of humanitarian aid, while accusing the U.S. of provoking Russia and fueling the conflict by shipping arms to Ukraine. Xi also renewed China’s criticism of sanctions imposed on Russia over the invasion, according to Chinese State Media. As in past, Xi did not use the terms war or invasion to describe Russia’s actions.
“As leaders of major countries, we need to consider properly resolving global hotspot issues, and more importantly, global stability and the production and life of billions of people,” he was quoted as saying.
In an attempt to show international support for China’s position, state broadcaster CCTV said Xi also discussed Ukraine in phone calls with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, contending the leaders’ views were “extremely close.”
“EU leaders have very reliable evidence that China is considering providing military aid to Russia. All the leaders are very aware of what’s going on,” the senior EU official said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly about confidential information.
He did not say what kind of assistance Moscow had requested.
“We are concerned about the fact that China is flirting with the Russians,” he added. The EU will “impose trade barriers against China” should Beijing proceed with Russia’s request, he said, as “this is the only language Beijing understands.”
The EU-China summit, scheduled for April 1 with President Xi Jinping, will go on as scheduled, as confirmed in a meeting with all EU countries’ top representatives in Brussels on Friday.
The deepening Ukraine crisis is seen as a test to the strength of the Russia-China relations. Beijing has repeatedly dismissed U.S. reports about its involvement in the Ukraine crisis as “disinformation.
India continues to do business with Russia including buying Russian Oil at a discount. Here’s a link to a Vox article on the relationship between the two countries. The analysis is by Jen Kirby.
India forged a relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. That has carried over into the present day because of mutual interest and nostalgia, but the biggest reason might be defense. India’s arsenal is largely Soviet- or Russian-made; various analysts put the amount anywhere between 60 percent and 85 percent. And India needs its military to counter what it sees as the biggest threat in its neighborhood: China’s rise.
China’s rise is also the reason India and the United States have deepened their partnership in recent years; India is a member of the “Quad” (along with the US, Australia, and Japan), an informal alliance that came about years ago but which both the Trump and Biden administrations have sought to strengthen. The Quad doesn’t explicitly say it exists as a counterweight to Beijing; it’s a grouping of democracies focused on regional cooperation and other issues. But everyone — including China — gets it.
The antagonism between Washington and Moscow, made worse by Ukraine, puts India in an uncomfortable bind. Except India is used to this. In the Cold War, India practiced nonalignment, where it sought to avoid becoming entangled in the superpower conflicts and maintain its sovereignty. Although that policy has evolved in the decades since, the idea of autonomy still undergirds how India sees its foreign policy.
India “can really silo off relationships,” said Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, focusing on national security and the Indo-Pacific region. “The relationship they have with Russia should have no bearing whatsoever on their relationships with China, the US, or anybody else.”
It is why India has walked a careful tightrope since Russia launched its war. Prime Minister Modi spoke to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shortly after the invasion, reportedly saying in these calls that he wished for an end to hostilities and a return to dialogue. Modi has had to work with both governments over efforts to evacuate thousands of Indian citizens stranded in Ukraine. (At least one Indian student was killed in the siege on Kharkiv.)
While India hasn’t denounced Russia, it has made some pointed comments. India’s Ambassador to the United Nations said in a statement after an abstention on a February 27 UN Security Council vote that the global order is anchored in “respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states.” (That element — Russia’s unprovoked incursion into a sovereign Ukraine — is the one that India might be most sensitive to because of its own border dispute with China.)
But the Ukraine war may test India’s foreign policy approach,especially as Putin’s conflict threatens to bring Moscow even closer to Beijing. Yet so far, India has not budged.
Bloomberg reports that the US believes that “Putin Likely to Make Nuclear Threats If War Drags, U.S. Says.
- Defense Intelligence Agency chief offers a grim assessment
- Russia may ‘rely on its nuclear deterrent’ to signal strength
President Vladimir Putin can be expected to brandish threats to use nuclear weapons against the West if stiff Ukrainian resistance to Russia’s invasion continues, draining conventional manpower and equipment, according to a new assessment by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.
“Protracted occupation of parts of Ukrainian territory threatens to sap Russian military manpower and reduce their modernized weapons arsenal, while consequent economic sanctions will probably throw Russia into prolonged economic depression and diplomatic isolation,” Lieutenant General Scott Berrier, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said in its new 67-page summary of worldwide threats.
So, let me briefly put up some things from our alternative reality country within a country, Trumpistan, and efforts to bring it to heel in the justice system. This is from Politico as reported by Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein: “Jan. 6 trial centers on lingering mystery: Where was Mike Pence as riot raged? Prosecutors say that Secret Service witnesses will refuse to disclose Pence’s precise location because it could jeopardize national security protocols for the current vice president Kamala Harris.”
Where precisely was Mike Pence while a mob descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021?
A defendant set to face just the second trial in the nearly 15 months since the attack intends to make that question the centerpiece of his defense Monday. And the judge in the case just gave him the green light to grill the Secret Service about it.
Couy Griffin, the leader of Cowboys for Trump, says Pence’s evacuation to a secure location took him off of Capitol grounds — and outside a Secret Service perimeter established to protect Pence while lawmakers counted Electoral College votes, the last step to certify the 2020 presidential election.
Prosecutors, who have charged Griffin with breaching a Secret Service-protected zone, say the argument is nonsense. Not only was Pence within the Capitol complex for the duration of the riot, they say, but it wouldn’t matter if he left, since the trespassing law he’s charged with only requires that Pence intended to return.
Griffin’s case has become an important test for the Justice Department, with potential ramifications for hundreds of those charged with “entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds” on Jan. 6, a misdemeanor that carries a one-year maximum jail sentence. If U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden decides Pence’s precise location matters, it could echo across many of the nearly 800 cases stemming from the insurrection.
Prosecutors have repeatedly emphasized that the law only requires that Pence was or “would be” returning to the Secret Service zone to prove Griffin’s crime. They recently amended the language of the charges to emphasize that point.
John Nichols reports on “The Loathsome Hypocrisy of Republicans Who Now Applaud Volodymyr Zelensky. When congressional Republicans had a chance to impeach and convict Trump for blackmailing Zelensky, 247 of them refused. “ for The Nation.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky got a hero’s welcome from the US Congress this week, with Republicans joining Democrats in applauding for the embattled leader of a country that is resisting a brutal Russian invasion. But a lot of the people who were applauding failed Zelensky and the Ukrainian cause when it might have mattered most. That was when former President Donald Trump was impeached and tried for seeking to blackmail Zelensky for political purposes.
The political pendulum swings so fast these days that it is easy to forget what was happening barely two months ago, let alone two years ago. But in late 2019 and early 2020, Ukraine was at the center of a national debate about Trump’s lawless presidency, and his political extortion of Zelensky.
So, let’s hope we can bankrupt the Trump Family Crime Syndicate and its enabler, Rupert Murdoch. This is written by Erich Boehlert: “
Rupert Murdoch for years has enjoyed a Trump-like ability to avoid responsibility for the avalanche of lies he promotes. That all may be changing thanks to a pair of billion-dollar defamation lawsuits surrounding Trump’s Big Lie campaign — Murdoch appears powerless to stop the looming legal reckoning.
This week, Justice David Cohen of State Supreme Court in Manhattan issued a stinging rebuke of Fox News. Denying the network’s attempt to dismiss a $2.7 billion lawsuit filed by Smartmatic, the election technology company that Fox smeared as part of Trump’s Big Lie offensive following the 2020 campaign, Cohen waved off Murdoch’s attorneys.
“Even assuming that Fox News did not intentionally allow this false narrative to be broadcasted, there is a substantial basis for plaintiffs’ claim that, at a minimum, Fox News turned a blind eye to a litany of outrageous claims about plaintiffs, unprecedented in the history of American elections, so inherently improbable that it evinced a reckless disregard for the truth,” Cohen wrote in his 61-page opinion. The judge repeatedly signaled that the lawsuit can proceed because there’s a reasonable chance that a jury would find Fox guilty of defamation.
So, that’s a lot for us to think about and discuss. I hope your weekend is restful. Turn off the TV. I find that helps.
What’s on your blogging and reading list today?