Cup of Joe – 2/25/22

“Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine — including attacking the capital, Kyiv — in an overnight barrage that was swift, broad and ruthless. The attack was exactly in line with President Biden’s dire forecasts,” Axios reports.

“The world is waking up to a new era of global upheaval. Two sovereign nations are in a conventional war in Europe for the first time since World War II, with huge ramifications for the power dynamics of Russia and the superpowers, the U.S. and China.”

Washington Post: “Putin warned of grave consequences for anyone considering interfering with Russia’s plans, appearing to threaten the use of nuclear weapons.”

“On Day 1 of the first major land war in Europe in decades, the Russian military plunged into Ukraine by land, sea and air, killing dozens of Ukrainian soldiers, and ominously touching off a pitched battle at the highly radioactive Chernobyl exclusion zone that risked damaging the cement-encased nuclear reactor that melted down in 1986,” the New York Times reports.

“NATO ambassadors gathered Thursday morning for an emergency meeting in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with a pledge to defend alliance members and support Ukraine, which isn’t a member,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which since 2008 has had an invitation to potentially join the alliance, has breathed new life into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the U.S.-led military alliance created in the ashes of World War II to square off with Moscow.”

British prime minister Boris Johnson announced the “largest set of economic sanctions Russia has seen,” including banning Russian banks from the U.K. finance system, blocking Russian firms from raising money in London and sanctions against over 100 Russian individuals and entities, Bloomberg reports.

“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences. Today, I’m authorizing additional strong sanctions and new limitations on what can be imported to Russia.” — President Biden, in a statement from the White House.

President Biden announced that G7 leaders have agreed to impose new sanctions against Russia, including further measures on four financial institutions and sanctioning “Russian elites and their family members,” Axios reports. Biden said the sanctions “are going to impose severe costs on the Russian economy both immediately and over time.” He added: “We have purposely designed these sanctions to maximize a long-term impact on Russia and to minimize the impact on the United States and our allies.”

The White House has now issued a fact sheet on the new sanctions, which include: 

  • Severing the connection to the U.S. financial system for Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank
  • Full blocking sanctions on Russia’s second largest financial institution, VTB Bank (VTB)
  • Full blocking sanctions on three other major Russian financial institutions: Bank Otkritie, Sovcombank OJSC, and Novikombank
  • New debt and equity restrictions on 13 of the most critical major Russian enterprises and entities 
  • Additional full blocking sanctions on seven Russian elites and their family members
  • Sanctions on 24 Belarusian individuals and entities, including targeting Belarus’ military and financial capabilities by sanctioning two significant Belarusian state-owned banks, nine defense firms, and seven regime-connected official and elites 
  • Exports of nearly all U.S. items and items produced in foreign countries using certain U.S.-origin software, technology, or equipment will be restricted
  • Russia-wide restrictions on technological goods critical to a diversified economy and Putin’s ability to project power; that includes exports of Russian technology
  • Tax and fee exemptions for other countries that join in the restrictions on Russia.

“Russia’s stock market dropped at a record-breaking pace and the ruble plunged after Moscow launched a full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine,” the Financial Times reports.

Bloomberg: “U.S. officials spent hundreds of hours over five months debating, crafting and then touting a punishing array of economic sanctions to try to scare Russian President Vladimir Putin off invading Ukraine, but almost from the beginning, many shared the same view: This strategy probably won’t work.”

“More than a dozen current and former U.S. officials, many of whom helped assemble the response, told Bloomberg News they’ve been deeply dubious that sanctions would change Putin’s behavior. Yet after Biden made clear last year that the U.S. would not send troops or heavy weapons to Ukraine, there were no other solid options. It was left to his team to try to prove, for the first time, that the threat of economic warfare against a major adversary like Russia would suffice when military deterrence wasn’t an option.”

The scope of the Russian attack continues to come into focus Thursday, but reports suggest a combined air, sea, and land offensive as part of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine:

  • Russian forces appear to have penetrated into Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
  • Ukrainian officials confirmed it has won the Battle of Hostomel for control of the Antonov airport a few kilometers outside Kiyv. All Russian troops have been killed and their helicopters destroyed.
  • Ukraine reported that Russian ground troops were advancing in the north across the border with Belarus.
  • Ukraine reported missile and airstrikes against more than a dozen cities.
  • Russia claimed that by mid-morning Thursday it had disabled Ukraine’s air defenses and air bases.
  • Russian forces have captured two villages in the Luhansk region, according to the Ukraine Interior Ministry.
  • The attack began with reports of Russian amphibious landings along the Black Sea and Azov Sea coasts. Heavy shelling was reported at the Azov port city of Mariupol. As hostilities ensure, Ukrainian airspace was closed to civilian aircraft.
  • Ukraine shot down six Russian fighters and a helicopter, a senior Ukrainian military official told the New York Times (Russia denied the report).
  • A few hours ago, Ukraine claimed it had repelled Russian advances on Chernihiv and Kharkiv.
  • President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine was opening up its armories “to anyone who wants to defend the country.”
  • Ukraine is reporting that more than 40 of its service members have been killed and dozens wounded in the initial Russian attack.
  • “Kyiv may fall to Russian forces tonight as Ukraine’s air defenses have been effectively eliminated,” Bloomberg reports.   “Russian troops are advancing toward Ukraine down both sides of the Dnieper river and look set to take the capital.”
  • Russia has captured the Chernobyl nuclear plant, Reuters reports.  Associated Press: “The exploded reactor has been covered by a protective shelter to prevent radiation leak and the entire plant has been decommissioned.”

“President Joe Biden has been presented with a menu of options for the U.S. to carry out massive cyberattacks designed to disrupt Russia’s ability to sustain its military operations in Ukraine,” NBC News reports.

“Two U.S. intelligence officials, one Western intelligence official and another person briefed on the matter say no final decisions have been made, but they say U.S. intelligence and military cyber warriors are proposing the use of American cyberweapons on a scale never before contemplated. Among the options: disrupting internet connectivity across Russia, shutting off electric power, and tampering with railroad switches to hamper Russia’s ability to resupply its forces.”

New York Times: “When Ukraine gave up a huge arsenal of nuclear weapons left on its territory after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it famously struck a deal with Washington, London and Moscow, trading the weapons for a guarantee of its security and borders. Not surprisingly, the Ukrainian government is wondering what happened to that guarantee.”

“But President Vladimir Putin of Russia has a very different complaint: He is spinning out a conspiracy theory — perhaps as a pretext to seize the country in a military operation that began there early Thursday — that Ukraine and the United States are secretly plotting to put nuclear weapons back into the country.”

“Russia’s new military push against Ukraine poses another threat to Europe’s already tenuous supply of natural gas,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week said he wouldn’t turn off his country’s flow of gas to Europe, after deploying troops to two breakaway Ukrainian provinces. But his announcement early Thursday of fresh military action in the country ratchets up risks to Ukraine’s gas-transport infrastructure, crucial to European supplies. It also poses the threat that Russia will shut off its gas in response to Western sanctions meant to punish Moscow.”

Financial Times: “Russia is confident it can shrug off Germany’s decision to halt certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and believes EU efforts to diversify the bloc’s energy sources will fail.”

Alexander Vindman: “After Ukraine became independent and forfeited the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal, the West could have loosened the purse strings to guarantee the country’s economic independence. After the 2004 Orange Revolution, the West could have embraced Ukraine’s Western aspirations, accelerated an EU Association Agreement and a NATO Membership Action Plan, and driven domestic transformation to shield Europe’s largest country from nascent Russian revanchism. After the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, the West could have invested in a strategic security partnership with Ukraine that would have made the costs of a Russian offensive prohibitively high. Yet none of this came to pass.”

“Instead, for two decades, the U.S. entertained illusions about what might be accomplished with Russia, a reluctant partner, while remaining oblivious to opportunities in Ukraine, a far more willing one. In its relationship with Russia, the U.S. had limited prospects of achieving any objectives outside of arms control, whereas with Ukraine it might have successfully influenced regional development.”

The Economist: “Over the past decade intensifying geopolitical risk has been a constant feature of world politics, yet the world economy and financial markets have shrugged it off. From the contest between China and America to the rise of populist rulers in Latin America and tensions in the Middle East, firms and investors have carried on regardless, judging that the economic consequences will be contained.”

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is likely to break this pattern, because it will result in the isolation of the world’s 11th-largest economy and one of its largest commodity producers. The immediate global implications will be higher inflation, lower growth and some disruption to financial markets as deeper sanctions take hold. The longer-term fallout will be a further debilitation of the system of globalized supply chains and integrated financial markets that has dominated the world economy since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.”

Tom Nichols: “The Russians are going to defeat the overmatched Ukrainians, and they do not need nuclear weapons to do it. And while Vladimir Putin is, in my view, unhinged and reckless, I see no indication that he is seeking war with the United States or NATO. Nonetheless, there are multiple paths to a dangerous nuclear confrontation that could embroil Moscow and Washington in a situation neither of them expects or wants.”

Former President Donald Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin “smart”and criticized President Biden’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to a recording of an event at Mar-a-Lago last night. Said Trump: “I mean, he’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions. I’d say that’s pretty smart.”

Trump also phoned into Fox News to criticize Biden: “He doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. It’s a disgrace. It’s an absolute disgrace. We have get back into the real world now. We had energy at a level that nobody’s ever seen.” He added: “And it all happened because of a rigged election.”

Punchbowl News: “An extraordinary situation has unfolded in recent days as Trump has lashed out at Biden and praised Putin. There’s nothing like this in U.S. history as far as we can remember. The Republican leadership and senior ranks of the party have basically ignored Trump on this issue, and they’ll continue to do so.”

“Yet this could become a serious problem within the GOP the longer this situation goes on. The November elections are less than nine months away. Republicans already blame Biden for provoking the Ukraine invasion by botching the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. Can they back Biden now on Ukraine while the leader of their party – and Trump is the leader – rails against the president? What will this mean for Trump’s own future?”

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) blamed President Biden for allowing Russia to invade Ukraine, CNN reports. Said Stefanik: “After just one year of a weak, feckless, and unfit President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief, the world is less safe. Rather than peace through strength, we are witnessing Joe Biden’s foreign policy of war through weakness.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that President Biden should increase sanctions against Russia “all the way up” after Moscow began a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, The Hill reports. Said McConnell: “Ratchet the sanctions all the way up. Don’t hold any back. Every single available tough sanction should be employed and should be employed now.”

Dan Pfeiffer: “The Republican message on Ukraine is all over the map. They are calling Biden weak, simultaneously claiming his sanctions won’t do enough or will do too much, arguing he is unfocused or is too focused on Putin.”

“This Republican incoherence is not by design. In some cases, it reflects legitimate differences in the party (i.e. pro-fascist v. fascist-curious), but it’s mostly a bunch of dumb people saying whatever dumb thing first pops into their pea brains. However, the strategic confusion ends up being a feature, not a bug. Republicans are — somewhat inadvertently — setting up a ‘heads we win, tails you lose’ dynamic on the Ukrainian issue. They want to attack Biden for being weak and attack him if sanctions lead to higher gas prices or other disruptions to American life.”

Maria Bartiromo said on Fox Business that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine was concocted by White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan to distract from Hillary Clinton’s campaign spying on Donald Trump.

White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates lambasted former President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir as “nauseating, fearful pigs” after Trump declared Putin’s actions against Ukraine “pretty smart.”

He added that their every “action is driven by their their own weakness and insecurity, rubbing their snouts together and celebrating as innocent people lose their lives.”

“China urged action to stop tensions escalating over Ukraine and has called for a diplomatic solution to the ongoing crisis as Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine on Thursday,” the South China Morning Post reports.

“China’s envoy to the United Nations Zhang Jun did not mention Russia by name and he neither endorsed nor condemned Russia’s declaration of independence for Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions or Putin’s decision to send troops.”

Clara Ferreira Marques: “Autocrats help autocrats, and China has so far taken Russia’s side in its standoff with the West.”

Richard Haass: “Now would also be a good time to restart a high-level strategic dialogue with China.”

Playbook: “There hasn’t been a significant cross-party ‘rally around the flag’ effect for a president since the surges experienced by George W. Bush after 9/11, the first days of the war in Iraq and the capture of Saddam Hussein.”

“The prospects for widespread GOP voter support are slim, but it’s conceivable Biden could recover some of the goodwill he’s lost, especially among Democrats and independents, as his approval rating has sunk from the low 50s to the low 40s over the last year.

“Western leaders are split on whether Russia should be ejected from the Swift international payments system, a move that would deliver a heavy blow to the country’s banks and its ability to trade beyond its borders,” the Financial Times reports.

“Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, on Thursday pushed ‘very hard’ to remove Russia, but he admitted to MPs that it was ‘vital that we have unity’ on the issue among western allies.”

“Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor, warned his country had reservations about such a dramatic move and so did the EU.”

President Biden has reached a decision on his first nominee to the Supreme Court, CNN reports.

“The precise timing of the announcement remains fluid, given the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but a Friday ceremony would mark two years to the day when Biden made his initial pledge to choose the first African American female justice during a 2020 primary debate in South Carolina.”

A “dozen progressive groups are revealing their preferred candidate among the finalists: U.S. Appeals Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson,” NBC News reports.

“The United States has expelled Russia’s second-ranking diplomat in Washington in retaliation for the Russian expulsion of the No. 2 U.S. diplomat in Moscow earlier this month,” the AP reports.

“The expulsion is unrelated to the unfolding Russian invasion of Ukraine and is part of a long-running dispute between Washington and Moscow over embassy staffing. However, it comes as tensions between the two capitals have hit a post-Cold War high over Ukraine.”

The first thing you notice about Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) new policy blueprint is how silly it sounds.

As Josh Barro points out: “The whole Rick Scott document has a hilarious “back of a napkin” feel, like they had a brainstorming session, and then instead of talking to the pollsters or the bean-counters about the ideas they came up with, they just dumped everything on the whiteboard into a PowerPoint.”

The document touches on all the big culture war issues related to education, immigration, race and crime. And it pledges to name the unfinished border wall after Donald Trump.

But the document never even mentions health care, as Steve Benen notes:  “There were no references to the Affordable Care Act. “Obamacare” went unnoticed. The Republican senator wants to pursue an almost cartoonishly reactionary agenda on a wide range of issues, but repealing the ACA didn’t make the cut.  Literally the only reference to “health care” in the entire 31-page document was a passing reference to giving veterans more private-sector choices. That’s it. That’s the contribution Scott’s lengthy blueprint makes to the debate over health care policy.”

It’s true the Republican party doesn’t really have coherent policy positions anymore. Trump didn’t even have a campaign platform in 2020.

But almost 12 years after Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law — which Joe Biden rightly called a “big fucking deal” at the time — the debate finally seems to be over.

“Aleksei Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition politician, used a court hearing on Thursday to condemn President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” the New York Times reports.

Said Navalny: “The war with Ukraine has been unleashed to cover up the robbery of Russian citizens and divert their attention away from the country’s internal problems, from the degradation of its economy.”

Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “live” announcement of a “special military operation” against Ukraine, broadcast last night, was actually filmed three days ago, Novaya Gazeta reports.

“There is no purgatory for war criminals. They go straight to hell, ambassador.”  — Ukraine’s UN ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, speaking to his Russian counterpart.

Sarah Palin plans to seek a new trial and have the judge disqualified after losing her defamation case against the New York Times, Reuters reports.

A Trump supporter who entered the U.S. Capitol through a broken window and declared “this is war” on Jan. 6 was sentenced to 45 days behind bars, NBC News reports.

Jen Psaki, who plans to leave the White House this year, is being feverishly courted by CNN and MSNBC, Puck reports.

A new Washington Post poll finds 75% of Washington, D.C. residents support an effort by Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) to clear homeless encampments.

“Though it was billed as a grass-roots, nonpartisan event intended to oppose government Covid-19 mandates, a trucker demonstration that left California for Washington, D.C., on Wednesday appeared to be tightly aligned with far-right organizations and activists” the New York Times reports.

“Many of those behind the demonstration, which was planned as an American version of last month’s chaotic Canadian protest, have connections to the violent attack on the Capitol in January 2021, or supported the lie that fraud in the 2020 presidential election was to blame for Donald Trump’s loss.”

BuzzFeed News: The U.S. version of the Canadian trucker convoy had a tough first day.

Popular Information: “Most people have probably never heard of the website Conservative Brief. It employs just three writers and it does not produce any original reporting. Nearly all of its articles are aggregations of Tweets, YouTube videos, or other media websites, presented with a far-right spin… Yet Conservative Brief has emerged in 2022 as a dominant force on Facebook. It has recently become more popular on the platform than the New York Times and the Washington Post.”

“How did this happen? Popular Information has uncovered evidence strongly suggesting that Conservative Brief is paying a network of large Facebook pages, including several controlled by prominent conservative political personalities, to post its content. This conduct, if it is indeed occurring, is in direct violation of Facebook’s rules.”

Popular Information: “The DC Enquirer website was registered on January 8, 2022. The first article was posted on January 19, 2022 — just 36 days ago. The site is so new that you can’t find it by Googling its name.”

“The content is unremarkable, aggregated pieces designed to push the buttons of the right… But in just over a month, the DC Enquirer has become more popular on Facebook than the Washington Post. Its rapid success on Facebook is the result of an audacious scheme to manipulate the Facebook algorithm.”

“A national advocacy group promoting school vouchers bombarded conservative Georgia voters with glossy mailers tying Republican state legislators from their districts to Stacey Abrams and other ‘radical left’ figures. It backfired in spectacular fashion,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

“The aggressive strategy was meant to pressure legislators to end a yearslong feud over public funding of private education in Georgia. Instead, the Capitol’s halls buzzed Tuesday with incredulous GOP lawmakers infuriated by the group’s approach.”

Said House Speaker David Ralston (R): “I am livid. I’ve been around politics for a long time, but this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my career and one of the most deceitful.”

Ralston said the voucher proposal is now dead for the year.

“The U.S. Postal Service finalized plans Wednesday to purchase up to 148,000 gasoline-powered mail delivery trucks, defying Biden administration officials’ objections that the multibillion dollar contract would undercut the nation’s climate goals,” the Washington Post reports.

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

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