Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused NATO leadership of giving the ‘green light for further bombing of Ukrainian cities’ by refusing at Friday’s summit to establish a ‘no-fly’ zone over Ukraine, saying those who oppose the move bear responsibility for civilian deaths going forward, Axios reports.
“The furious new tone from Zelensky reflects his growing frustration with NATO’s refusal to ‘close the sky’ — a step he believes would change the trajectory of the war, but that NATO fears would spark a direct conflict with Russia.”
“Three commanders in Russia’s army have been killed after moving up towards the frontline in an apparent attempt to restore momentum to the invasion of Ukraine,” The Independent reports.
“President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine spoke with more than 300 members of Congress on Saturday, imploring them to ban the importation of Russian oil and to send more jets to his country,“ the New York Times reports.
“The meeting, conducted via Zoom, was the first time Mr. Zelensky had addressed both houses of Congress since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
“The White House effort to design a strategy to confront Russia over its invasion of Ukraine is linked to an urgent re-examination by intelligence agencies of President Vladimir Putin’s mental state,” the New York Times reports.
“The debate is over whether his ambitions and appetite for risk have been altered by two years of Covid isolation, or by a sense that this may be his best moment to rebuild Russia’s sphere of influence and secure his legacy. Or both.”
“Throughout the pandemic, Mr. Putin has retreated into an intricate cocoon of social distancing — though he allowed life in Russia to essentially return to normal. The Federal Protective Service, Russia’s answer to the Secret Service, built a virus-free bubble around Mr. Putin that far outstrips the protective measures taken by many of his foreign counterparts.”
“As his troops continued to run into stiff resistance in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin delivered an ominous message to Ukrainians on Saturday, telling government leaders they might lose their statehood and likening the withering sanctions imposed on his country to a declaration of war,” the New York Times reports.
Said Putin: “The current leadership needs to understand that if they continue doing what they are doing, they risk the future of Ukrainian statehood.”
“Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Saturday as the crisis in Ukraine deepened,” the Washington Post reports.
“The country has walked a diplomatic tightrope in its response to the war. Israeli officials have voiced support for Ukraine, whose president — Volodymyr Zelensky — is the only other Jewish head of state in the world. They have called Ukraine a liberal democratic ally.”
“But mindful that Russia backs the Syrian regime on Israel’s northern border, Israel is concerned about provoking Moscow. Russia has also unofficially permitted Israel to carry out strikes targeting weapons transfers to Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shiite group in Lebanon.”
New York Times: “Israel is in a unique position to potentially barter a deal, or at least pass messages between Western allies, Russia and Ukraine, given its alliance with the United States, its quiet cooperation with Russia in Syria and is shared cultural ties to Ukraine.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the BBC that he is convinced Ukraine can win its war with Russia.
Said Blinken: “If it’s the intention of Moscow to try somehow to topple the government and install its own puppet regime, 45 million Ukrainians are going to reject that one way or the other.”
New York Times: “Much as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 set off a tumultuous cascade of changes across Europe, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought the West to a comparable, if far more ominous, historical reckoning.”
“The shock of Russia’s invasion led Germany to discard six decades of military-averse policy rooted in its own wartime experience. Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced the Germans would ship Ukraine 1,000 shoulder-launched antitank rockets, 500 surface-to-air Stinger missiles and 2,700 Soviet-era shoulder-fired missiles — as well as embark on a mammoth, $110 billion rearming program at home.”
“It led the once-divided European Union to unite behind choking sanctions that will ban Russia’s central bank, which holds Mr. Putin’s war chest, from selling any assets to European banks. Brussels, long derided as an economic giant but a foreign-policy dwarf, pledged to spend $500 million on defensive weapons for Ukraine.”
“Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz denied that Russian troops were bombing Ukrainian cities, dismissing such information as fake,” i24 News reports.
Italian police seized two yachts belonging to sanctioned Russian oligarchs who had their boats docked along the Italian Riviera, La Stampa reports.
“Russia’s national airline, Aeroflot, has cancelled nearly all international flights from 8 March, because of what it called ‘additional circumstances’ impeding its operations,” the BBC reports. “Domestic routes and flights to neighbouring Belarus will continue unchanged.”
“Biden administration officials pressured some Democratic senators not to support bipartisan legislation by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that would ban oil and gas imports from Russia,” Axios reports.
“The quiet lobbying campaign reveals a White House intent on preserving President Biden’s authority to decide what costs to impose on Russia for invading Ukraine — and on what timetable.”
“Donald Trump was aware long before he took the stage at the ‘Save America’ rally on 6 January that he would not march to the Capitol to protest the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s election win, according to his White House private schedule from that day,” The Guardian reports.
“The former president started his nearly 75-minute long speech at the Ellipse by saying he would go with the crowd to the Capitol, and then repeated that promise when he said he would walk with them down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capitol.”
“But Trump’s private schedule – released by the House select committee investigating the Capitol attack in a filing on Wednesday – shows Trump must have known that there were no plans for him to join such a march, and that he was being taken back to the White House.”
Former national security adviser John Bolton that he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin was “waiting” for a possible United States withdrawal from NATO, claiming former President Donald Trump would have likely made such a move had he been reelected, The Hill reports.
Wall Street Journal: “Russia’s bid to seize the airport embodied its military planners’ ambitious assumptions that Ukrainian defense would collapse under overwhelming firepower. Russian officials and propagandists have for years boasted that Moscow’s forces could overrun its smaller neighbor in days.”
“But the resistance by Ukraine’s army and soldiers such as Lt. Kharchenko, backed by volunteer fighters, has slowed the Russian advance, halting it entirely in the area around Hostomel Airport after a day of back-and-forth fighting. The airport standoff has emerged as the key to Ukrainian resistance and one big reason Russian forces have become bogged down so far.”
The Atlantic: “Scholz announced that Germany would end its dependence on Russian gas, spend an additional 100 billion euros on its military, and deliver hundreds of anti-tank weapons and Stinger missiles to Ukraine in order to help its overmatched military counter Russia’s all-out assault. Germany may also be forced to extend the life of its nuclear plants to fill the energy gap created by the halt to Russian gas supplies.”
“Each one of these decisions represents something of an earthquake. Taken together, they are a political cataclysm that no one saw coming—not from a novice chancellor known for his caution, not from a coalition of German parties with pacifist roots, and certainly not from a government led by the Social Democrats, with their history of close ties to Russia.”
“As Russian troops invaded Ukraine last week, Marco Rubio was live-tweeting what looked like detailed intelligence,” Politico reports. “It’s a highly unusual display of transparency from a senior senator on the Intelligence Committee who gets regular, bipartisan briefings on high-level U.S. assessments. But Rubio is comfortable parsing Russia’s war in public, saying he isn’t revealing anything classified or sensitive, even as critics slam his tweets as irresponsible and unverified.”
“While Rubio says none of his tweets have included or referenced classified information, he has nodded at secret assessments of Putin’s psychological fitness, his intentions and his military’s current and future operations.”
Matt Lewis: “Barr and Bolton obviously have a lot in common—in addition to working for Trump, despite knowing he was a rotten president. They’re both in their early seventies. Both had serious credentials before Trump came along—Barr served as attorney general for President George H.W. Bush and Bolton later served as ambassador to the United Nations for President George W. Bush. Both men invited criticism for waiting to tell their full stories in a book. And now, both are publicly sharing with the American public negative details and insights about Trump (although Barr continues to try to have it both ways by praising Trump for his conservative policies and criticizing him for his lack of character).”
“What, if anything, do these similarities mean?”
“Are they desperate to remain politically relevant and somehow postpone their own mortality? Are they now, for similar existential reasons, trying to launder their legacies? And if so, what’s the deal with holding back until your book gets published?”
Jonathan Bernstein: “One group of Republicans spent the buildup to the war mocking Biden’s warnings about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion plans; that includes the rump faction that had, until about a week ago, ranged from Putin-curious to full-on Putin fans.”
“As for most other Republicans? They have demonstrated they have little or nothing to offer. They’ve been at their best — or I suppose their least-worst — when they bash Biden for vague, unspecified weakness without suggesting how he’s been weak in Europe or what specifically they want him to do to be stronger. But it goes downhill when they do suggest specifics, whether it’s Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker advocating for a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone (which Florida Senator Marco Rubio, to his credit, knocked down as the beginning of World War III) or South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham calling for someone to assassinate Putin.”
“Republicans are so averse to agreeing with anything a Democratic president is doing that, when a Democratic president occupies the middle ground, they have little to say.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence rebuked those in the Republican Party who have praised Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent weeks, including most prominently former President Donald Trump, The Hill reports.
Said Pence: “There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin. There is only room for champions of freedom.”
“The number of Texas residents who traveled out-of-state to access abortion care increased dramatically after the most restrictive abortion ban in the U.S. went into effect in the state in September,” Axios reports.
“Newly released data shows that Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas’ surrounding states saw a nearly 800% increase in abortion patients from Texas between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2021.”
“China is committed to ‘resolving the Taiwan question in the new era,’ it said in its annual government report issued Saturday, using sharper wording than in previous such reports amid debate among foreign-policy experts over whether Beijing would attempt a takeover of the self-ruled island similar to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the Washington Post reports.
“Beijing’s annual work report traditionally includes a couple of paragraphs declaring that the government will continue working toward the unification of Taiwan. This is the first year since President Xi Jinping came to power a decade ago that this section of the annual report includes a time frame — ‘in the new era’ — although it’s unclear how long a period this means.”
“North Korea on Saturday fired a ballistic missile into the sea, according to its neighbors’ militaries, extending Pyongyang’s streak of weapons tests this year amid a prolonged freeze in nuclear negotiations with the United States,” the AP reports.
“Iran agreed to provide international atomic monitors with documents that will help resolve a contentious investigation, paving the way for a broader nuclear agreement with world powers and a potential return of Iranian oil to global markets by the third quarter,” Bloomberg reports.
New York Times: “Officials have warned of another rocky tax filing season ahead, saying it could be a ‘very frustrating tax season for both tax payers and tax professionals.’ Democrats have pointed to the tumult as evidence that the agency needs more funding. Mr. Biden has called for investing $80 billion in the agency over a decade to help crack down on tax cheats, estimating that would raise $400 billion in tax revenue.”
“But tax-averse Republicans, who have spent years cutting the agency’s budget, have seized on the I.R.S.’s problems as proof it should not be given more money or responsibility, with at least one lawmaker calling for the tax collector to be abolished.”
“Much of the agency’s current woes can be traced to those budget cuts, which have eroded the agency’s ability to function at a critical moment.”
Tom Nichols: “It’s going to get worse. The images and sounds from these first few days are a mere prologue to what will come once Putin realizes that he is on track to lose this war, even if he somehow ‘wins’ by flattening entire cities.”
“In my rage, I want someone somewhere to do something. I have taught military and national-security affairs for more than a quarter century, and I know what will happen when a 40-mile column of men and weapons encircles a city of outgunned defenders. I want all the might of the civilized world—a world of which Putin is no longer a part—to obliterate the invading forces and save the people of Ukraine…”
“And yet, I still counsel caution and restraint, a position I know many Americans find impossible to understand. Every measure of our outrage is natural, as are the calls for action. But emotions should never dictate policy. As President Joe Biden emphasized in his State of the Union address, we must do all we can to aid the Ukrainian resistance and to fortify NATO, but we cannot become involved in military operations in Ukraine.”
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean (D) spoke out about the threats and harassment she has received, the Idaho Statesman reports. While she didn’t provide details on the nature of the threats, McLean offered some insights into how they have changed her daily routine. She said out of concern for her safety, she no longer travels around Boise without someone knowing where she is, and she now usually has a bodyguard.
Former Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman (D) writing in the Kansas City Star: “Coffee cups are allowed on House chamber desks, yet during evening sessions, many of those cups contain alcohol. I was appalled at the drunken debate, remembering how hard I campaigned just to be sitting at one of those desks…”
“Legislators are permitted to carry concealed guns in the Capitol (really) and many pat their pants pockets during high stress debates, reminding everyone who has firepower. One year, I witnessed a screaming near-fistfight of legislators behind my seat as security rushed to intervene.”
“On another late night, I prepared to hide under my desk as an armed inebriated state senator paced our side gallery in intimidation during a contentious House vote on her bill.”
“Iowa’s state auditor has again called for Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) to return nearly $450,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds that were used to pay for 21 governor’s office staff members for three months in 2020,” the Des Moines Register reports.