Finally Friday Reads: Resplendent with Breaking News EditionPosted: March 17, 2023 Filed under: Breaking News, just because | Tags: #IndictmentsAreComing, Finland, NATO, Putin: International Man of Crime, Trump Grift, Trump lies, Trump Theft, Trump Traitor 14 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!
Wow, is it hard to keep up with the headlines this week! Just this morning, we learned that the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. This is from NBC News. “International Criminal Court issues arrest warrant for Putin over alleged Ukraine war crimes. The court said Friday that the Russian leader is responsible for overseeing the forced deportation of children. The Kremlin has previously denied the accusation.” It’s reported by Henry Austin.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant Friday for Russian President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of being responsible for war crimes in Ukraine.
Putin committed the “war crime” of overseeing the unlawful abduction and deportation of childrenfrom Ukraine to Russia, the court said in a news release.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that Putin bears individual criminal responsibility for the aforementioned crimes,” the court, based in The Hague, Netherlands, said its pre-trial judges had assessed.
It added that Putin had failed to “exercise control properly over civilian and military subordinates who committed the acts, or allowed for their commission, and who were under his effective authority and control.”
Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, Putin’s presidential commissioner for children’s rights, is also alleged to have committed similar crimes, the ICC said.
While warrants are often issued in secret “to protect victims and witnesses and also to safeguard the investigation,” the release said that the court was “mindful that the conduct addressed in the present situation is allegedly ongoing, and that the public awareness of the warrants may contribute to the prevention of the further commission of crimes.”
From the early days of the invasion last February, Kyiv has accused Russia of forcibly transferring children and adults.
Turkey is backing Finland’s entrance into NATO. The NATO expansion may also give the Russian people some reason to feel less safe with Putin in charge. Hungary has also agreed to the deal. This is from Bloomberg News.
Turkey and Hungary both signaled they plan to ratify Finland’s entry into NATO, bringing the military alliance a step closer to welcoming its 31st member as the ripples from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spread across the European security landscape.
“We’ve decided to start the process for the approval of Finland’s membership in our parliament,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a news conference Friday together with his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto in Ankara. He added he hoped to complete the approval process for Finland by May 14 elections due in Turkey.
Meanwhile, Hungary plans to approve the Finnish entry March 27, Fidesz parliamentary leader Mate Kocsis said in a Facebook post. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has continually delayed a parliamentary vote in contrast with his statements of support for NATO’s enlargement.
The stance taken by Turkey and Hungary decouples the Nordic countries’ bids to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, filed in May to deter any Russian aggression following its invasion of Ukraine. The comments cast further doubt on the timeline for Sweden’s accession.
“Progress on Sweden’s bid depends on steps it will take,” Erdogan said. Hungary also said it will decide on Sweden’s membership at a later date.
I vividly remember someone trying to leave with the Abraham Lincoln bust during Trump’s removal from the White House. It seems more stuff went missing. This is from the Washington Post. “Two gifts to Trump family from foreign nations are missing, report says. More than 100 gifts worth nearly $300,000 were not properly reported to the government, a new report finds.”
Federal officials cannot find two gifts received by President Donald Trump and his family from foreign nations, including a life-size painting of Trump from the president of El Salvador and golf clubs from the Japanese prime minister, according to a new report from House Democrats.
The gifts are among more than 100 foreign gifts — with a total value of nearly $300,000 — that Trump and his family failed to report to the State Department in violation of federal law, according to the report, which cites government records and emails.
The 15-page report, a result of ayear-long investigation by the House Oversight Committeeinto Trump’s failure to disclose gifts from foreign government officials while in office, revealed that the Trump family did not disclose dozens of gifts from countries that are not U.S. allies or have a complicated relationship with Washington. That includes 16 gifts from Saudi Arabia worth more than $48,000, 17 gifts from India worth over $17,000, and at least 5 gifts from China. Trump reported zero gifts entirely the final year of his presidency, according to the report, while he reported some of the gifts received in previous years.
Trump repeatedly told advisers that gifts given to him during the presidency were hisand did not belong to the federal government, former chief of staff John F. Kelly and other aides have previously told The Washington Post.
Investigators are continuing to search for the large portrait of Trump gifted to him ahead of the 2020 election by Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele and the golf clubs worth more than $7,000 thatTrump received from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during visits to the Trump International Golf Club and Kasumigaeski Country Club in 2017 and 2018, the report says.
Count the silverware before and after anywhere this family travels. They’ll take anything! Meanwhile, court watch continues, and bets on Trump’s indictment are that both Manhattan and Georgia will come for him next week. Lock him up!
I’m beginning to wonder if Charlie Sykes reads us. Who besides me penned Orange Caligula? This is from the Bulwark. “Trump Picks an Enemy: Us. The Orange Caligula sides with Russia.” Of course, he does. I bet he heads there if those indictments come through too.
Because on Earth 2.0, this would be the stuff of endless news cycles and nightmares.
Here is Donald Trump channeling Kremlin propaganda, siding with Russia, even as he declares that our real enemy is . . . other Americans.
Despite the wishcasting punditry, the magical thinking of his rivals, and the fervent hopes of the Hollow Men of the GOP, this man is the presumptive nominee of the Republican party, and therefore possibly the next president of the United States. (The DeSantis bubble hasn’t burst. But it’s leaking.)
I don’t mean to alarm you. You should be alarmed.
Let’s break this down:
TRUMP: The State Department, the defense bureaucracy, the intelligence services, and all of the rest need to be completely overhauled and reconstituted to fire the Deep Staters and put America first.
We have to put America first.
At a time of growing international tension, the former president is threatening a massive purge of the nation’s defense infrastructure. He proposes dismantling — and completely overhauling — the Defense Department, the nation’s intelligence agencies (our eyes and ears), and the country’s foreign policy capabilities.
Mass firings, the loss of centuries of experience. A purge of independent, adult voices, and anyone else who might tell the new president “no.”
More important though, after the purge of the “Deep Staters,” he would “reconstitute” the country’s destroyed defenses, presumably by stacking the agencies with his own loyalists.
All while Russia advances, China rattles sabers, and the Middle East boils.
You can read the rundown that includes dumping NATO. We just found out Hungary and Turkey aren’t even up for that.
We all know Trump is just full of shit. This Washington Post article on the report of his commission on election fraud just shows how much he knew and chose to ignore. “Trump-commissioned report undercut his claims of dead and double voters. A report commissioned by the former president’s campaign and obtained by The Post did not back up his claims of fraud and did not provide evidence to overturn the 2020 election.”
When Donald Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, in a now-infamous bid to overturn the 2020 election, he alleged that thousands of dead people had voted in the state.
“So dead people voted, and I think the number is close to 5,000 people. And they went to obituaries. They went to all sorts of methods to come up with an accurate number, and a minimum is close to about 5,000 voters,” he said, without citing his study.
But a report commissioned by his own campaign dated one day prior told a different story: Researchers paid by Trump’s team had “high confidence” of only nine dead voters in Fulton County, defined as ballots that may have been cast by someone else in the name of a deceased person. They believed there was a “potential statewide exposure” of 23 such votes across the Peach State — or 4,977 fewer than the “minimum” Trump claimed.
In a separate failed bid to overturn the results in Nevada, Trump’s lawyers said in a court filing that 1,506 ballots were cast in the names of dead people and 42,284 voted twice. Trump lost the Silver State by about 33,000 votes.
The researchers paid by Trump’s team had “high confidence” that 12 ballots were cast in the names of deceased people in Clark County, Nev., and believed the “high end potential exposure” was 20 voters statewide — some 1,486 fewer than Trump’s lawyers said.
According to their research, the “low end potential exposure” of double voters was 45, while the “high end potential exposure” was 9,063. The judge tossed the Nevada case even as Trump continued to claim he won the state.
The “Project 2020” report conducted by the Berkeley Research Group has now been obtained by prosecutors investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. A copy was reviewed by The Washington Post, and it shows that Trump’s own campaign paid more than $600,000 for research that undercut many of his most explosive claims. The research was never made public.
The Justice Department has sought and obtained multiple reports, emails and interviews from witnesses that show campaign officials analyzing, and often discrediting, claims that Trump was making publicly, according to several people involved in the investigation, who like some others spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal details. The Berkeley report was provided to the Justice Department earlier this month, one of the people said, after some people involved in its crafting received a subpoena.
Why do people believe this idiot? Nothing he says is true.
Anyway, I’m cold and achy. It’s raining like crazy and has gone into the 40s. It’s the second coming of Winter. I have to dig out clothes I just boxed up, and I’m ready to sleep for some time. Between this and the time change, I feel like a slug.
Have a good weekend! Indictments are coming!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Thursday ReadsPosted: March 24, 2022 Filed under: Afternoon Reads | Tags: Brett Kavanaugh, Brussels, Joe Biden, Josh Hawley, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Lindsey Graham, Madeline Albright, NATO, Poland, Roe v. Wade, SCOTUS, Ted Cruz, Ukraine, Ukraine war, Vladimir Putin 24 Comments
It’s another big news day. We lost Madeline Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State, paving the way for other women to meet with NATO allies and announce new sanctions on Russia. Afterwards, he will visit Poland and perhaps even go to the border of Ukraine. Today is the final day of the hearings on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Today will be dedicated to testimony from people who support or oppose her nomination. The Ukraine war continues, with reports of Ukrainian victories and numerous analyses of the failure of Putin’s efforts to subdue it’s neighbor. I’ll get to as much of this news as I can.
The Washington Post: Madeleine Albright, first female secretary of state, dies at 84.
Thursday Reads: And So It Begins…Posted: February 24, 2022 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Act of War, GOP, Joe Biden, NATO, Russia attacks Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukrainian artists, United Nations, Vladimir Putin 49 Comments
The images in this post are by famous Ukrainian artists. You can read more about them at this Odessa Journal link.
Well it really happened last night. Russia attacked multiple Ukrainian cities. There is a massive amount of reporting and commentary; I can only offer a sampling.
Politico: Battles flare across Ukraine after Putin declares war.
After his declaration of war just before 6 a.m. Moscow-time, the Ukrainian government reported airstrikes at military facilities in the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipro, as well as artillery fire on the border. The authorities in Kyiv reported a pincer movement attack on its troops from Belarus to the north, potentially attempting an encirclement of Kyiv, and from Crimea to the south. Russia insisted it was destroying military bases and airfields, not civilian targets.
Ukraine warned that Moscow was turning to propaganda tricks by suggesting that Russian troops were not meeting resistance and by exhorting Ukrainians to lay down their weapons. Kyiv insisted that its troops were locked in heavy fighting, had shot down seven warplanes, destroyed dozens of armored vehicles and killed dozens of enemy soldiers. Fighting has drawn very close to Kyiv and Kharkiv.
Adviser to the Ukrainian presidential office Oleksiy Arestovych vowed that the Russian forces would not reach the capital. “Fierce battles will be waiting for them there, we will stop them,” he was quoted as saying by local media.
In a sign of the desperate straits Ukraine is facing against a stronger adversary, however, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for a general mobilization. The country also put out an appeal for blood donors as news began to filter in of dozens of Ukrainian casualties across the country.
U.S. President Joe Biden vowed a united response against the Russian attack by Washington and its allies, while U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said: “President Putin, in the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia. This conflict must stop now.” Later on Thursday, the EU is set to agree a sanctions package intended to weaken Putin’s ability to wage war, though there was no immediate sign that it would touch all-important energy revenues.
Earlier on Thursday, Zelenskiy imposed martial law and said he had contacted Biden to co-ordinate an international response. “Today we need calm from each of you. Stay at home if possible. We are working, the army is working, the whole security apparatus of Ukraine is working.” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called for “devastating” sanctions on Russia and for weapons’ deliveries to the Ukrainian military.
Vitaly Klitschko, mayor of Kyiv and former heavyweight boxing champion, told people to have an emergency suitcase ready in case they needed to get to shelNAter.
At Just Security, Maria Popova and Oxana Shevel argue: Russia’s New Assault On Ukraine Is Not Entirely – Maybe Not Even Largely — About NATO.
In his Feb. 15 Just Security article “Ukraine: Unleashing the Rhetorical Dogs of War,” Barry Posen argued that NATO and Ukraine should have cut a deal with Russia because the Ukrainian military would surely be defeated by Russia without direct U.S./Western military participation and U.S. offers of equipment were only encouraging a potential Ukrainian insurgency against Russian occupation that would be as bloody as it would be futile. The prescription depends entirely on Posen’s assumption that to satisfy Russia, all Ukraine would have had to do would be “to swallow the bitter pill of accepting armed neutrality between NATO and Russia, rather than NATO membership.”
This assumption contradicts events of recent months and the historical record. While Vladimir Putin has claimed that his goal is keeping Ukraine out of NATO, he also insisted that he was just conducting military exercises. Instead, he is invading Ukraine again. He likewise insisted in 2014 that he wasn’t capturing Crimea, despite the presence of his unidentified “Little Green Men” and his subsequent annexation of the peninsula, or that he was not fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas area in the east all these years, despite all evidence to the contrary. There is no reason to take Putin at his word. His Feb. 21 diatribe conferring Russian recognition of independence for the two eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and his order for Russian troops to move in as ostensible “peacekeepers” shows clearly his disdain for diplomatic resolutions.
Moreover, this is not even primarily about NATO.
NATO’s eastward expansion may have played a role in straining the relationship between Russia and the West, but mainly because, for Russia, seeing former satellites eagerly abandon it for the greener pastures of Euro-Atlantic integration stung. However, Putin’s rhetoric and actions over almost two decades reveal that his goals extend beyond imposing neutrality on Ukraine or even staving off further NATO expansion. The larger objective is to re-establish Russian political and cultural dominance over a nation that Putin sees as one with Russia, and then follow up by undoing the European rules-based order and security architecture established in the aftermath of World War II. Given these goals, Ukrainian neutrality is a woefully insufficient concession for Putin.
Read much more at the link.
AP News: The Latest: UN chief warns Russian actions could devastate.
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says Russia’s attack on Ukraine — as he appealed for President Vladimir Putin to stop his troops — was “the saddest moment” of his five-year tenure.
The U.N. chief opened the emergency Security Council meeting late Wednesday by urgently appealing to Putin: “In the name of humanity, bring your troops back to Russia.”
But during the meeting, Putin announced that he was launching a “special military operation” in eastern Ukraine.
Guterres later urged the Russian president to withdraw his troops and added: “In the name of humanity do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century, with consequences not only devastating for Ukraine, not only tragic for the Russian Federation, but with an impact we cannot even foresee in relation to the consequences for the global economy.”
A war would cause deaths and displacement and people will lose hope in the future, Guterres said, adding Russia’s actions would harm the global economy.
“What is clear for me is that this war doesn’t make any sense,” Guterres said, stressing that it violates the U.N. Charter and will cause a level of suffering if it doesn’t stop that Europe hasn’t know since at least the 1990s Balkans crisis.
CNN: Biden to impose additional sanctions on Russia now that Ukraine assault is underway.
President Joe Biden, vowing the world will “hold Russia accountable” for the attack underway in Ukraine, will spell out a set of sanctions on Thursday once meant to deter such an assault.
Set to address the nation Thursday afternoon, Biden is expected to unveil new measures that could cut off Russia from advanced technology, announce new restrictions on large financial institutions and slap sanctions on additional members of the inner circle of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The planned sanctions, the latest US reprisals against Moscow this week, had been reserved as Biden hoped to maintain some leverage in dissuading Putin from a full-scale invasion. But so far, Western threats of economic punishment, as well as Biden’s strategy of revealing what the US knew about Putin’s buildup of forces to try to make the Russian leader second-guess himself, have proven ineffective.
After months of predictions and warnings, Russian forces began their attack on Ukraine Thursday morning local time, with reports of troops crossing the border to the north and south, explosions in multiple cities including the capital Kyiv, and warnings from Putin of future bloodshed unless Ukrainian forces lay down their arms.
Biden’s sanctions are now meant to punish Putin’s actions, rather than prevent them, by going after Russia’s economy, its military capabilities and those closest to the Russian President. How much they can alter Putin’s decision-making going forward, however, remains an open question.
Before he speaks, Biden is planning to confer with the leaders from the Group of 7 industrialized nations about which sanctions they plan to impose, hoping to coordinate a response that projects unity among Western allies. US and European officials spoke by phone overnight into Thursday to coordinate their responses.
Gideon Rachman at Financial Times: Putin’s war will shake the world.
The phoney war is over. The real war has begun. For several weeks, the US and British governments have believed that Vladimir Putin was intent on a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. That is now happening.
The precise targets of the Russian military are still emerging. But it is already clear that this is not a limited attack, confined to the disputed regions of eastern Ukraine. Explosions have been heard in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. And there are reports of Russian troops crossing the border from Belarus — which is the shortest and most direct route to Kyiv.
Western security services, which have accurately predicted the course of events up until now, believe that Putin intends to overthrow the Ukrainian government and install a puppet regime in its place. This “decapitation” strategy will take in not only the central government, but also regional and local governments. Lists have been drawn up of Ukrainian officials who will be arrested or killed.
The military tactics that Russia uses are likely to be extremely brutal — “the kind of thing we saw in Syria and Chechnya”, according to one US official. The deployment of Russian artillery and its air force would mean heavy military and civilian casualties on the Ukrainian side. Some western sources have spoken of 50,000 deaths within a week.
The Ukrainian military is determined to fight back. But it is likely to find itself heavily outgunned. The Russian goal may be to surround Kyiv and force the collapse or resignation of the Ukrainian government, led by Volodymyr Zelensky.
The Russians will not want to get involved in urban warfare, if they can avoid it. They are also determined to keep the west out of this conflict. In his speech, announcing the invasion, Putin warned outsiders tempted to interfere that there would be “consequences you have never encountered in your history” — a thinly veiled reference to nuclear war.
This is a terrifying article that concludes by asking whether Western states could end up getting involved.
Western governments are also actively debating how to help a Ukrainian insurgency — if and when it emerges — to fight a Russian occupation. Supporters of this plan of action believe that it will be both a moral duty and a strategic imperative to allow Ukrainians to continue the fight. Others worry that supporting an insurgency could turn Ukraine into a new Syria on the borders of Europe.
This is interesting from Anton Troianovski at The New York Times: Many Russians Feel a Deep Unease Over Going to War.
MOSCOW — Waiting for her friends on Moscow’s primly landscaped Boulevard Ring earlier this week, Svetlana Kozakova admitted that she’d had a sleepless night. She kept checking the news on her phone after President Vladimir V. Putin’s aggrieved speech to the nation on Monday that all but threatened Ukraine with war.
“Things are going to be very, very uncertain,” she said, “and, most likely, very sad.”
For months, Russians of all political stripes tuned out American warnings that their country could soon invade Ukraine, dismissing them as an outlandish concoction in the West’s disinformation war with the Kremlin. But this week, after several television appearances by Mr. Putin stunned and scared some longtime observers, that sense of casual disregard turned to a deep unease.
Early Thursday morning, any remaining skepticism that their country would invade was put to rest, when Mr. Putin declared a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Pollsters said that most Russians probably supported Mr. Putin’s formal recognition of the Russian-backed territories in eastern Ukraine this week, especially because they had no choice in the matter and because no significant political force inside the country has advocated against it.
War is a different matter altogether, though; in recent days, Russia has not seen any of the jubilation that accompanied the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
Going to war is one of Russians’ greatest fears, according to the Levada Center, an independent pollster. And after Mr. Putin’s angry speech and his cryptic televised meeting with his Security Council on Monday, Russians realized that possibility was lurching closer toward becoming reality.
Read the rest at the NYT.
At Mother Jones, David Corn asks why Republicans are rooting for Putin: Is It Amnesia or Hypocrisy That Fuels the GOP’s Crazy Response to Putin?
In the midst of an international crisis created by Russia that could potentially trigger a war in Europe, Republicans and right-wingers on and off Fox News have pledged allegiance to…Vladimir Putin. At the least, they are siding with the Russian autocrat and trash-talking President Joe Biden’s effort to block his aggression. But there’s nothing surprising about the ongoing romance between conservatives and the democracy-crushing thug-leader of Russia, who has invaded Ukraine and violated international law. Anyone shocked by this has forgotten one of the key facts of the 21st century: Putin waged war on the United States, and Donald Trump and his party aided, abetted, and benefitted from that attack.
In recent days, as Putin has threatened a conflagration, top conservatives and GOP officials have practically pinned “I’m-with-Vlad buttons” onto their lapels. One example: Mike Pompeo, Trump’s final secretary of state and before that his CIA director, had only praise for the corrupt Russian autocrat, describing him as “talented” and “savvy.” Donald Trump, speaking to a conservative podcaster on Tuesday, hailed Putin’s moves in Ukraine as “genius.” Referring to Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine, Trump said, “Putin declares a big portion of…of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful…I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper…Here’s a guy who’s very savvy.” Later in the interview, Trump continued to gush: “I knew Putin very well. I got along with him great. He liked me. I liked him. I mean, you know, he’s a tough cookie, got a lot of the great charm and a lot of pride. But the way he—and he loves his country, you know? He loves his country.”
No condemnation. No call for opposing Putin’s illegal and provocative maneuvers. Just one big bear hug from Trump for the tyrant. Putin may spread repression by force but he sure “loves his country.” (Remember, Trump’s crush on Putin stretches back to 2013 when he tweeted: “Do you think Putin will be going to The Miss Universe Pageant in November in Moscow—if so, will he become my new best friend?”)
Conservatives have also boosted Putin by pooh-poohing the invasion of Ukraine as no big deal. In his usual too-clever-by-half way, Tucker Carlson on Tuesday night dismissed outrage over Putin’s aggression:
What is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him? Has he shipped every middle-class job in my town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked my business and kept me indoors for two years? Is he teaching my children to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Is he trying to snuff out Christianity? Does he eat dogs?
It seemed as if Carlson was quasi-defending Putin because the Russian leader does not advocate critical race theory and is not the leader of China. He ridiculed concerns over Putin’s threat to world peace and stability and asserted Americans are being “trained to hate” the Russian leader. In other words, there’s no reason to fret about Putin’s militarism—and if you do worry, you’re just a brainwashed sheep.
Read the rest at Mother Jones.
So here we are. I have no idea what’s coming, but I’m very worried. After four years of Trump, and two years of a deadly pandemic, we don’t need any more calamities.
I’ll try to post updates in the comment thread today. I have difficulty looking at the computer screen for very long these days, but I’ll do my best. I hope you all will post comments and links too. Take care everyone!
Tuesday ReadsPosted: February 22, 2022 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Germany, Joe Biden, NATO, Nordstream 2, Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin 20 Comments
Yesterday, Vladimir Putin finally ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine, while trying to put the blame on the U.S., NATO, and the Ukraine government. Putin claimed the troops were for “peacekeeping” purposes, to protect ethnic Russians in two parts of Eastern Ukraine.
At first the Biden administration debated whether to call this an “invasion,” but as of this morning that has changed. Newsweek: Biden Administration Backtracks, Is Now Calling Russia’s Attack on Ukraine an Invasion.
President Joe Biden‘s administration has called Russian troops entering Ukraine an “invasion” for the first time on Tuesday morning after members of Congress from both parties used the term and called for tough sanctions.
The Biden administration had not previously referred to the Russian military action in eastern Ukraine as an “invasion” but White House officials have said a further response will be forthcoming and is likely to include more sanctions.
Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer called Russian military action in eastern Ukraine an “invasion” in remarks to CNN on Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees on Monday recognizing the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) in Ukraine’s east as independent states and ordered Russian troops into those regions.
“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,” Finer said.
“I think ‘latest’ is important here,” Finer said.
“An invasion is an invasion, and that is what is underway, but Russia has been invading Ukraine since 2014,” he said.
Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. There has also been a Russian presence in Donetsk and Luhansk since 2014.
Follow the latest developments at CNN: Live Updates: The latest on the Ukraine-Russia crisis. or at The New York Times Ukraine live updates.
Western nations have begun sanctioning Russia for it’s illegal aggression:
The New York Times: Germany puts a stop to Nord Stream 2, a key Russian natural gas pipeline.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday that Germany would halt certification of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline that would link his country with Russia, one of the strongest moves yet by the West to punish the Kremlin for recognizing two separatist regions in Ukraine.
The German leader’s announcement came hours after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia ordered armed forces to the separatist regions, the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
Germany’s allies in Europe and the United States had been pressing Mr. Scholz for weeks to state publicly that the $11 billion pipeline, which was completed late last year and runs from Russia’s coast to northern Germany under the Baltic Sea, would be at risk of being blocked in the event of a Russian move against Ukraine.
“The situation today is fundamentally different,” Mr. Scholz told reporters in Berlin. “That is why we must re-evaluate this situation, in view of the latest developments. By the way, that includes Nord Stream 2.”
CBS News: U.S. imposes sanctions after Putin recognizes breakaway Ukraine regions.
President Biden signed an executive order Monday imposing sanctions that target two Russia-backed breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine in a swift response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize the regions as independent.
The order bars “new investment, trade and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in” the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, located in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
The order also provides authority to impose sanctions on “any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine,” Psaki said, adding the administration will later “announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.”
CNBC: UK announces first tranche of Russia sanctions, targets banks and wealthy individuals.
The U.K. has slapped targeted economic sanctions on five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals following President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send troops into eastern Ukraine.
Addressing lawmakers on Tuesday in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the first tranche of sanctions would target Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.
The measures would also sanction three “very high net worth” individuals: Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg.
The individuals concerned will see their U.K. assets frozen and be banned from traveling to the country, Johnson said. All U.K. individuals and entities will also be barred from having dealings with them, he added.
Johnson said the move to sanction Russia had arisen despite himself and several other world leaders giving Putin “every opportunity” to pursue his aims via diplomacy….
He added, “This the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do and we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed alongside the United States and the European Union if the situation escalates still further.”
Russian stocks plunged and the ruble slid closer to a record low on Tuesday as investors reacted to President Vladimir Putin’s decision to order troops into eastern Ukraine.
Moscow’s MOEX stock index dropped 1.5% after shedding more than 10% on Monday, bringing losses so far this year to about 20%. Shares in Russian oil company Rosneft were hardest hit Tuesday, dropping 7.5%. In total, more than $30 billion has been wiped off the value of Russian stocks this week alone.
The ruble fell toward 81 versus the US dollar on Tuesday, its weakest level in more than a year and close to its record low. The moves prompted Russia’s central bank to announce measures to support banks, including a provision that will allow them to use last Friday’s prices for stocks and bonds when reporting their financial positions.
More pain could be on the way.
“We expect further declines near-term in the Russian stock market,” analysts at JPMorgan Chase wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday. The Wall Street bank downgraded Russian equities to “neutral” from “overweight.”
Damage to Russia’s markets and economy would be limited if its troops do not advance beyond the parts of eastern Ukraine that Putin recognized as independent on Monday, according to analysts. But Russia would pay a higher price if further aggression causes the West to respond with punishing sanctions that could cut the country’s banks off from the global financial system and make it difficult to export oil and natural gas.
Analyses of the Ukraine situation:
At The Atlantic, Tom Nichols reacted to the insane speech Putin gave yesterday: Putin Chooses a Forever War.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a long speech full of heavy sighs and dark grievances, made clear today that he has chosen war. He went to war against Ukraine in 2014; now he has declared war against the international order of the past 30 years.
Putin’s slumped posture and deadened affect led me to suspect that he is not as stable as we would hope. He had the presence not of a confident president, but of a surly adolescent caught in a misadventure, rolling his eyes at the stupid adults who do not understand how cruel the world has been to him. Teenagers, of course, do not have hundreds of thousands of troops and nuclear weapons.
Even discounting Putin’s delivery, the speech was, in many places, simply unhinged. Putin began with a history lesson about how and why Ukraine even exists. For all his Soviet nostalgia, the Russian president is right that his Soviet predecessors intentionally created a demographic nightmare when drawing the internal borders of the U.S.S.R., a subject I’ve explained at length here.
But Putin’s point wasn’t that the former subjects of the Soviet Union needed to iron out their differences. Rather, he was suggesting that none of the new states that emerged from the Soviet collapse—except for Russia—were real countries. “As a result of Bolshevik policy,” Putin intoned, “Soviet Ukraine arose, which even today can with good reason be called ‘Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s Ukraine’. He is its author and architect.”
It is true that Soviet leaders created the 1991 borders. That is also true of what we now call the Russian Federation. Putin, however, went even further back in history: “Ukraine never had a tradition of genuine statehood.”
By that kind of historical reasoning, few nations in Europe, or anywhere else, are safe. Putin’s foray into history was nothing less than a demand that only Moscow—and only the Kremlin’s supreme leader—has the right to judge what is or is not a sovereign state (as I recently discussed here). Putin’s claims are hardly different from Saddam Hussein’s rewriting of Middle East history when Iraq tried to erase Kuwait from the map.
Read the rest at the Atlantic link. Nichols is genuine expert on Russia.
Another Russia expert, Julia Davis, wrote about the reaction of Ukrainian citizens yesterday at The Daily Beast: Kremlin TV Asks ‘Where’s the Champagne?’ as Ukraine’s Kids Are Prepped for War.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stunned the world on Monday when he unilaterally recognized two Kremlin-backed separatist regions in Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk, as independent states and ordered Russian troops to conduct so-called “peacekeeping operations” there. The move has sparked widespread condemnation from global leaders who have accused Putin of violating international law and expressed concerns that the latest escalation may soon morph into a full-scale Russian invasion of its neighbor.
In Ukraine, Putin’s decision has only exacerbated the pain and anguish caused by years of bloody conflict, fueled and funded by the Kremlin. Parents across the country have been doing whatever they can to prepare their families for a potential Russian onslaught. “If you want to know how Ukrainians react to Putin’s speech, here’s a glimpse: moms on Facebook discuss putting stickers on their children’s clothes, when they go to school, indicating their blood type,” journalist Olga Tokariuk tweeted on Monday. “Make no mistake: this speech was perceived as a declaration of war on Ukraine.”
For some, the new developments have only deepened their resolve to fight back. “With his speech alone Putin consolidated Ukrainians like no-one else here could. My friends are talking about joining the territorial defense,” Ukrainian reporter Iryna Matviyishyn wrote. “And currently the Kremlin’s madman is the most hated person in Ukraine.”
In contrast, there was joy and laughter on Russia’s state television.
On Monday, RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan appeared on The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev ready for a major celebration. “First of all, I don’t understand why there isn’t champagne in the studio,” she said. Beaming ear-to-ear, Simonyan described feeling “an overwhelming sense of euphoria” and added: “I’ve been waiting for 8 years for this… It finally happened. This is true happiness.” Claiming to speak on behalf of the “Donbas’ people,” Simonyan exclaimed: “Thank you, Mother Russia!”
David Ignatius at The Washington Post: Opinion: Surprising cracks, if small ones, appear in Kremlin support for Putin on Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin presented a theatrical justification for war with Ukraine on Monday, but initial Russian military actions along the border were limited — and there seemed to be a few small cracks in Kremlin support for Putin’s obsession with regaining Russian dominion in Kyiv.
Read more at the WaPo.
The New York Times on Biden’s strategy: Wooing Allies, Publicizing Putin’s Plans: Inside Biden’s Race to Prevent War.
In a series of top-secret meetings last October, President Biden’s national security team presented grim intelligence that would soon trigger a fierce effort to prevent what could become the largest armed conflict in Europe since World War II.
Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, was preparing to invade Ukraine, top intelligence and military officials told Mr. Biden. Gathering each morning in the Oval Office for the global threat assessment known as the President’s Daily Brief, they described satellite images of Russian forces methodically advancing toward Ukraine’s border.
Not only did the United States have images of troops moving into position, it also had the Russian military’s plans for a campaign against Ukraine — elements of which had already begun. At one of the morning meetings, Mr. Biden dispatched William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, to Moscow with a message for Mr. Putin:
We know what you’re planning to do.
Stopping him would be a challenge. Many of America’s closest allies were skeptical that Mr. Putin — a master of disinformation — would actually invade. The use of U.S. military force against Russia was off the table, so the allies would have to threaten Mr. Putin with economic pain so severe it would also have consequences in Europe and the United States. And it was far from certain that Republicans in Congress would back whatever the administration did….
The White House acknowledged from the start that its campaign to stop Mr. Putin might not actually prevent Russia from invading Ukraine. But at the very least, White House officials say, Mr. Biden exposed Mr. Putin and his true intentions, which helped unite, at least for now, the at-times fractious NATO alliance.
Over the course of three and a half months, Mr. Biden made three critical decisions about how to handle Russia’s provocations, according to interviews with more than a dozen senior administration officials and others who requested anonymity to discuss confidential meetings. Early on, the president approved a recommendation to share intelligence far more broadly with allies than was typical, officials said. The idea was to avoid disagreements about tough economic sanctions by ensuring that everyone knew what the United States knew about Mr. Putin’s actions.
Mr. Biden also gave the green light for an unprecedented public information campaign against Mr. Putin. With the support of his top intelligence officials — and with a promise to protect the intelligence agencies’ “sources and methods” — the president allowed a wave of public releases aimed at preventing Mr. Putin from employing his usual denials to divide his adversaries.
Read more details at the NYT link.
So that’s where things stand this morning. I’m sure there will be more developments throughout the day today. What are your thoughts on this? What other stories are you following?
Tuesday ReadsPosted: February 15, 2022 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Canada, Christina Yuna Lee, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, John Durham, Justin Trudeau, Marcy Wheeler, Mazars, Michael A. Sussmann, NATO, NYC Chinatown murder, Rodney Joffe, Trucker convoy, Trump Organization, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin 21 Comments
There may be some movement in the Ukraine crisis. The AP reported this morning that some Russian troops are being pulled back and returned to their bases. Later the story was updated to report that Putin wants to negotiate: Putin: Russia ready to discuss confidence-building measures.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Moscow is ready for talks with the U.S. and NATO on limits for missile deployments and military transparency.
Speaking after talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Putin said the U.S. and NATO rejected Moscow’s demand to keep Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations out of NATO, halt weapons deployments near Russian borders and roll back alliance forces from Eastern Europe.
They agreed to discuss a range of security measures that Russia had previously proposed.
Putin said that Russia is ready to engage in talks on limits on the deployment of intermediate range missiles in Europe, transparency of drills and other confidence-building measures but emphasized the need for the West to heed Russia’s main demands.
The statement followed the Russian Defense Ministry’s announced a partial pullback of troops after military drills, adding to hopes that the Kremlin may not be planning to invade Ukraine imminently. The Russian military gave no details on where the troops were pulling back from, or how many.
From The Washington Post: Russia says some troops withdrawing from Ukraine’s border; NATO chief notes ‘cautious optimism’ but sees no de-escalation yet.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the legal filing by John Durham, the special counsel appointed by Bill Barr to investigate the Russia investigation, that implied some kind of sinister activity by the Clinton campaign in 2016. The right wing media has been going nuts over this, but it’s basically meaningless. Charlie Savage explains at The New York Times: Court Filing Started a Furor in Right-Wing Outlets, but Their Narrative Is Off Track.
When John H. Durham, the Trump-era special counsel investigating the inquiry into Russia’s 2016 election interference, filed a pretrial motion on Friday night, he slipped in a few extra sentences that set off a furor among right-wing outlets about purported spying on former President Donald J. Trump.
But the entire narrative appeared to be mostly wrong or old news — the latest example of the challenge created by a barrage of similar conspiracy theories from Mr. Trump and his allies.
Upon close inspection, these narratives are often based on a misleading presentation of the facts or outright misinformation. They also tend to involve dense and obscure issues, so dissecting them requires asking readers to expend significant mental energy and time — raising the question of whether news outlets should even cover such claims. Yet Trump allies portray the news media as engaged in a cover-up if they don’t.
The latest example began with the motion Mr. Durham filed in a case he has brought against Michael A. Sussmann, a cybersecurity lawyer with links to the Democratic Party. The prosecutor has accused Mr. Sussmann of lying during a September 2016 meeting with an F.B.I. official about Mr. Trump’s possible links to Russia.
The filing was ostensibly about potential conflicts of interest. But it also recounted a meeting at which Mr. Sussmann had presented other suspicions to the government. In February 2017, Mr. Sussmann told the C.I.A. about odd internet data suggesting that someone using a Russian-made smartphone may have been connecting to networks at Trump Tower and the White House, among other places.
Mr. Sussmann had obtained that information from a client, a technology executive named Rodney Joffe. Another paragraph in the court filing said that Mr. Joffe’s company, Neustar, had helped maintain internet-related servers for the White House, and that he and his associates “exploited this arrangement” by mining certain records to gather derogatory information about Mr. Trump.
The right wingers are thrilled by this story, but it’s complete bullshit.
The conservative media also skewed what the filing said. For example, Mr. Durham’s filing never used the word “infiltrate.” And it never claimed that Mr. Joffe’s company was being paid by the Clinton campaign.
Most important, contrary to the reporting, the filing never said the White House data that came under scrutiny was from the Trump era. According to lawyers for David Dagon, a Georgia Institute of Technology data scientist who helped develop the Yota analysis, the data — so-called DNS logs, which are records of when computers or smartphones have prepared to communicate with servers over the internet — came from Barack Obama’s presidency.
“What Trump and some news outlets are saying is wrong,” said Jody Westby and Mark Rasch, both lawyers for Mr. Dagon. “The cybersecurity researchers were investigating malware in the White House, not spying on the Trump campaign, and to our knowledge all of the data they used was nonprivate DNS data from before Trump took office.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for Mr. Joffe said that “contrary to the allegations in this recent filing,” he was apolitical, did not work for any political party, and had lawful access under a contract to work with others to analyze DNS data — including from the White House — for the purpose of hunting for security breaches or threats.
Marcy Wheeler has been covering this story since the beginning. You can read what she has to say in these posts at her Emptywheel blog:
John Durham, Ask Not For Whom The Statute of Limitation Tolls…
John Durham Chose To Meet With John Ratcliffe Rather Than Witnesses Necessary To His Investigation.
Donald Trump Suggested Michael Sussmann Should Be Killed Because Rodney Joffee “Spied” On Barack Obama.
This is a horrific story about a possible hate crime from The New York Times: Screams That ‘Went Quiet’: Prosecutors’ Account of Chinatown Killing.
Police officers who responded to a 911 call about a disturbance in a Lower Manhattan building on Sunday heard a woman screaming when they reached the sixth floor, but the door to the apartment where the screams had come from was locked.
As police struggled with the door, at first they still heard her calls for help, but “then she went quiet,” a prosecutor, Dafna Yoran, said in a Manhattan Criminal Court hearing on Monday night. Another voice emerged, sounding like a woman and telling them, “‘We don’t need the police here — go away.’”
When a specialized police unit arrived and broke down the door, they found Christina Yuna Lee, 35, dead in her bathtub with more than 40 stab wounds. The second voice, Ms. Yoran said, was actually that of Assamad Nash, who had followed the victim into the building on Chrystie Street in Chinatown, forced his way into her home and stabbed her.
When officers broke into the apartment, the police found Mr. Nash hiding under a bed and the knife believed to be the murder weapon hidden behind a dresser, prosecutors said.
It’s not yet clear why Ms. Lee was targeted, but the Asian community in New York is terrified.
Mr. Nash, 25, whose last known address was a men’s homeless shelter in the Bowery, was arraigned on first-degree charges of murder, burglary and sexually motivated burglary. A judge ordered him held without bail, and prosecutors said he was facing a sentence of up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
Though the authorities have not determined that Ms. Lee was targeted because of her ethnicity, her killing stoked fears in the city’s Asian community, which was already on edge after a rise in attacks during the pandemic.
Her killing also fit a pattern that has become an unsettlingly common feature of the pandemic in New York City: a seemingly unprovoked attack in which the person charged is a homeless man. In many neighborhoods in Manhattan, residents have expressed growing concern about homeless people, some of whom seem to be struggling with mental illness, menacing and harassing passers-by.
Ms. Lee, who graduated from Rutgers University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in art history, worked as a creative producer for Splice, an online music platform based in New York City. The company said in a statement that it was heartbroken over her “senseless” death.
Read the rest at the NYT.
One more story on the trucker blockade story from The Washington Post: ‘Freedom Convoy,’ police face off near U.S.-Canada border crossings as Trudeau invokes Emergencies Act.
There’s a lot happening in the news today. What stories have you been following?