Cup of Joe – 2/23/22

Politico: “Welcome to the new Cold War. And like the last one, strap in for a long and costly military and diplomatic duel with the Kremlin.”

“The world’s attention is on eastern Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces circle. Yet Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ambitions extend far beyond. He wants to renegotiate the end of the Cold War,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Whatever follows Russia’s large-scale military maneuvers, and the announcement Monday to recognize the independence of two breakaway Ukrainian regions and orders to send troops there, Mr. Putin has made clear he wants to redraw the post-Cold War security map of Europe.”

Tom Nichols: “Putin has now affirmed that he refuses to accept the outcome of the Cold War and that he will fight to dismantle the European system of peace and security constructed by the international community after its end. This is Vladimir Putin’s forever war, and Russia, cursed as it has been so many times in its history with a terrible leader, will be fighting it for as long as Putin remains the master of the Kremlin.”

The U.S. is moving its Ukraine embassy staff “out of the country and into Poland for security reasons,” Bloomberg reports.

“For weeks, a parade of European heads of state sought to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “But even as they engaged in a flurry of diplomacy, they found a Russian leader who adopted a steadily harder position, say diplomats, even as he appeared to keep the door open to diplomacy.”

Officials at the EU and the UN plus NATO all swiftly condemned Russia’s actions.

Biden has slapped sanctions via executive order on the separatist regions in response on Monday. On Tuesday, President Biden announced what he called the “first tranche” in a series of stiff sanctions to punish Russia for invading Ukraine, targeting two Russian banks and the country’s sovereign debt, Axios reports.

Biden said sanctions on Russian elites and their families would be rolled out starting tomorrow, and that the U.S. had stronger sanctions in store if Putin continues the invasion. The U.S. and its European allies will ratchet up sanctions against Russia over Ukraine as they see the crisis escalate, a senior Biden administration official said on Tuesday. “This is the beginning of an invasion, and this is the beginning of our response,” the official said. “If Putin escalates further, we will escalate further.”

“We’re ready to press the button to take action on the biggest Russian financial institutions,” the official said.

Wall Street Journal: “Germany said it halted moves to open the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would allow Russia to bypass Ukraine in exporting natural gas to Europe, and the European Union proposed a ban on purchases of Russian bonds, sanctions on all members of the Russian parliament, which is voting on the recognition Tuesday, and an asset freeze for three Russian banks with links to the two statelets.”

“The U.K. government announced a first wave of sanctions against five Russian banks and three high-net-worth individuals.”

Associated Press: “However, Putin continued to knock the world off-kilter with a strategy where confusion about the true extent of an invasion, which would automatically kick in major sanctions, remained unclear and debatable.”

“Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that he had canceled a planned meeting with his Russian counterpart, but that the United States would continue to pursue diplomacy if Russia takes steps to de-escalate its aggression against Ukraine,” the New York Times reports.

“Putin just put Kafka and Orwell to shame: no limits to dictator’s imagination, no lows too low, no lies too blatant, no red lines too red to cross.”  — Lithuania Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, on Twitter.

Biden administration officials have discussed plans with the Ukrainian government for President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to leave Kyiv in the event of a Russian invasion, NBC News reports.

Dan Drezner: “In the past few months I have talked to folks across the foreign policy spectrum as the Ukraine situation has worsened. These include skeptics of President Biden’s overall foreign policy approach and miscues made during his first year in office. And the consensus is that Biden’s approach, apart from one gaffe, has been about as good as one could hope. He has consulted with allies, prepared for contingencies, and thrown the Russian state a little off balance by publishing intelligence before Russia has been able to surprise folks as in 2014.

“All of this has raised the costs for Putin to move on Ukraine. The Russian economy will not be in a good way as things escalate. Monday’s weird Russian security council meeting revealed that not all of Putin’s team was as gung-ho about this move as he was. Nonetheless, Putin has clearly decided he is willing to pay the price to expand Russia’s borders.”

“Biden did almost everything right, and has worsened Putin’s strategic situation. Nonetheless, everyone will lose in the coming weeks.”

Robert Kagan: “Some analysts today imagine a Ukrainian insurgency sprouting up against Russian domination. Perhaps. But the Ukrainian people cannot be expected to fight a full-spectrum war with whatever they have in their homes. To have any hope against Russian occupation forces, an insurgency will need to be supplied and supported from neighboring countries. Will Poland play that role, with Russian forces directly across the border? Will the Baltics? Or Hungary? And if they do, will the Russians not feel justified in attacking the insurgents’ supply routes, even if they happen to lie in the territory of neighboring NATO members? It is wishful thinking to imagine that this conflict stops with Ukraine.”

“The map of Europe has experienced many changes over the centuries. Its current shape reflects the expansion of U.S. power and the collapse of Russian power from the 1980s until now; the next one will likely reflect the revival of Russian military power and the retraction of U.S. influence. If combined with Chinese gains in East Asia and the Western Pacific, it will herald the end of the present order and the beginning of an era of global disorder and conflict as every region in the world shakily adjusts to a new configuration of power.”

“Syria supports the decision of its ally Russia to recognize two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine,” Reuters reports.

“Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega became one of the first world leaders to back Russia’s stance over Ukraine on Monday, saying President Vladimir Putin was right to recognise two regions controlled by Moscow-backed separatists as independent,” Reuters reports.

New York Times: “An outright attack by Russian troops could cause dizzying spikes in energy and food prices, fuel inflation fears and spook investors, a combination that threatens investment and growth in economies around the world.”

“The world is watching. Our allies, our adversaries, and neutral countries will all judge the West by our response — and plan their futures accordingly.”  — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), quoted by the Washington Post, saying the world is watching the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

CNN: “Officials describe the current set of issues he faces as directly in Biden’s wheelhouse and describe a President eager to take them on. Over the course of his decades-long Senate career, he was chairman of both the Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees – experience that lends itself to the Ukraine and Supreme Court situations. He has attended more State of the Union speeches than perhaps any person currently alive.

“Senate Republican leaders have no plans to release an alternative agenda as they try to win back the majority this fall. So Rick Scott is pursuing his own plan,” Politico reports.

“The Florida Republican senator is devising a conservative blueprint for Republicans to enact should they win Senate and House majorities this fall. Among Scott’s priorities: completing the border wall and naming it after former President Donald Trump, declaring “there are two genders,” ending any reference to ethnicity on government forms and limiting most federal government workers — including members of Congress — to 12 years of service.”

“It’s a bold move for the first-term senator and National Republican Senatorial Committee chair. But Scott said the 31-page GOP agenda he’s crafted is separate from his work chairing the party’s campaign arm, adding that it’s ‘important to tell people what we’re gonna do.’ It’s a clear break from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has declined to release a GOP agenda heading into the midterms.”

The move is a clear break from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who has steadfastly refused to release his party’s agenda before the midterms.

Scott’s top priorities include completing the border wall and naming it after Donald Trump, declaring that “there are two genders,” ending any reference to ethnicity on government forms and instituting 12-year term limits for members of Congress.

And then there’s this one: “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount.”

While that might sound innocuous in theory, in practice it means raising income taxes on more than 100 million, mostly poor Americans.

That seems like a bad message for the midterm elections.

Thank you Rick Scott. You may have just guaranteed some Senate seat gains for the Dems.

“President Biden began the interview process for his Supreme Court nomination in recent days,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“President Biden is in the final stages of making his first nomination to the Supreme Court — having completed interviews with at least two leading contenders — and West Wing officials have begun advising outside allies on how to defend the nominee against potential attacks,” the Washington Post reports.

“One of the interviews was with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who has sat on the federal bench for nine years and has a background as a public defender, according to one of the people. Another was with Judge J. Michelle Childs, a federal judge in South Carolina who is a favorite of House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC), an influential Biden ally.”

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) told the Washington Post the confirmation process will be speedy: “The longer you wait, the more likely things get complicated with outside events. What if in the middle of this, God forbid, war breaks out in some part of the world? I mean, things can happen.”

Former President Donald Trump called Vladimir Putin a “genius” on Buck Sexton’s podcast for moving Russian troops into parts of Ukraine.

Said Trump: “I said, ‘How smart is that?’ And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s the strongest peace force… We could use that on our southern border. That’s the strongest peace force I’ve ever seen. There were more army tanks than I’ve ever seen. They’re gonna keep peace all right. No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy.”

He added: “But here’s a guy that says, you know, ‘I’m gonna declare a big portion of Ukraine independent,’ he used the word ‘independent’ and ‘we’re gonna go out and we’re gonna go in and we’re gonna help keep peace.’ You gotta say that’s pretty savvy. And you know what the response was from Biden? There was no response. They didn’t have one for that. No, it’s very sad. Very sad.”

We always said that the former guy was a fascist Russian traitor. I love it when he proves right all the time.

“Of all the former secretaries of state under Democratic and Republican presidents, only one is taking to cable news and social media during a moment of peril in Europe to praise Russian President Vladimir Putin and chastise the Biden administration,” the Kansas City Star reports.

“Mike Pompeo has lauded the Russian strongman over the past month as a ‘talented,’ ‘savvy,’ ‘capable statesman,’ offering his praise during a slew of interviews after his political action committee spent $30,000 on improving his performance in media appearances.”

“Pompeo has targeted Biden as exemplifying ‘enormous weakness,’ leading ‘an America on its back, an America that apologizes.’”

Wall Street Journal: “For the first time in over three weeks, downtown Ottawa on Sunday was largely deserted, with the heavy-duty trucks and thousands of protesters demanding an end to Covid-19 vaccine mandates replaced by police vehicles, officers, and crews trying to clean up after a 23-day demonstration.”

Tamara Lich, a major organizer of the so-called Freedom Convoy, was denied bail Tuesday morning in Ottawa, the CBC reports.

“The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear a free-speech case of a Colorado-based web designer who says she should not be forced to create websites for same-sex weddings under state law,” Axios reports.

In Turkey, it began with a few outraged customers posting photographs of their electricity bills to social media, showing how charges had almost doubled at the end of January. But such complaints have quickly snowballed into a full-blown political crisis for the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey,” the New York Times reports.

“Turks have been hit with runaway inflation — now officially more than 48 percent — for several months, and criticism is growing even from Mr. Erdogan’s own allies as he struggles to lift the country out of an economic crisis.“

The Supreme Court turned away an appeal by former President Donald Trump in his dispute with congressional investigators who have sought access to Trump-era records as part of a House panel’s investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, The Hill reports.

“China’s more explicit warnings in recent days against a Russian invasion of Ukraine show how Beijing is walking a tightrope, trying to build up a partnership with the Kremlin while preventing its relationship with Washington from becoming outright hostile,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“A shared interest in confronting the U.S. has driven the China-Russia relationship to its closest point since the early years of the Cold War seven decades ago.”

“But since Chinese President Xi Jinping this month gave his Russian counterpart his strongest support to date in Moscow’s standoff with the West, Beijing has been calling for a resolution of the crisis through diplomatic channels, aligning its position closer to that taken by the U.S. and its allies.”

“An organizer of one of the truck convoys headed to D.C. later this week says there are plans to shut down the Capital Beltway,” Fox 5 reports.

The U.S. Capitol Police are “aware of plans for a series of truck convoys” to arrive in D.C. to protest during Biden’s State of the Union Address on March 1, the agency said.

The USCP said law enforcement is working to beef up security ahead of the joint session of Congress for the SOTU, including potentially installing a fence around the Capitol again.

The Metropolitan Police, the U.S. Park Police, the Secret Service and the D.C. National Guard are all coordinating with the USCP, according to the agency.

“President Vladimir Putin denied Tuesday that his recognition of separatists’ claims to a large swath of Ukraine showed his ambition to re-create an empire,” the Washington Post reports. In 2005, Putin said the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

Julia Ioffe: “Who would’ve thought that Vladimir Putin was so into numerology and anniversaries. On August 8, 2008—08/08/08—he invaded Georgia. Shortly after midnight in Moscow, on February 22, 2022—02/22/22—he sent troops into the Donbas region of Ukraine after recognizing the independence of the two breakaway ‘people’s republics’ of Donetsk and Luhansk.”

“It also marked the day, exactly eight years ago, that Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych fled Ukraine (with Putin’s help) after ordering his troops to open fire on the protestors in Kyiv’s Maidan, killing over 100 people.”

Speaking of anniversaries, perhaps Biden should remind Putin of this one.

“The original Florida House sponsor of what’s been dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill is proposing an additional provision that’s further inflaming LGBTQ advocates,” USA Today reports.

“An amendment by Republican state Rep. Joe Harding  to be debated and voted on the House floor Tuesday afternoon, would require school principals to disclose a child’s sexual orientation to parents within six weeks if they find out a student has come out as other than straight.”

“That’s on top of the main bill, which generally seeks to regulate discussions in schools of sexual orientation and gender identity, and would give parents the power to sue violators.”

“President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who built his career as an anticorruption crusader and champion of an austere lifestyle, is at the center of a scandal over his eldest son’s use of a luxury Houston house then owned by an oil executive for a top contractor of Mexico’s state-run oil firm,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The president and his son said they haven’t done anything wrong. But the matter, which some have called Houstongate, has gained traction in recent weeks and prompted the president to call reporters who have covered the episode ‘mercenaries’ and compare them to the mafia. He also revealed disputed details about the income of Carlos Loret, one of the investigative reporters who broke the story, and asked Mexican tax officials to investigate him.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Primila Jayapal (D-WA) “asked the Treasury Department’s inspector general to investigate the revolving door between the country’s biggest accounting firms and key policy positions at the Treasury,” the New York Times reports.

Late last year, the New York Times “found at least 35 examples in which lawyers at the country’s biggest accounting firms left to join the government, largely in the Treasury’s tax policy office, and then returned to their old firm…”

“While in the government, many of those lawyers granted tax breaks to their former firms’ clients, softened efforts to clamp down on tax shelters and approved loopholes used by their former firms.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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