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Cup of Joe – 3/15/22

“More than two weeks into a war he expected to dominate in two days, Vladimir Putin is projecting anger, frustration at his military’s failures and a willingness to cause even more violence and destruction in Ukraine, in the assessment of U.S. intelligence officials,” the AP reports.

A senior Defense official briefed reporters earlier today on the status of the Russian invasion and, according to Roll Call, this is the main takeaway: “Almost all of Russia’s advances remain stalled.”

New York Times: “Jake Sullivan said that Russia would suffer ‘severe consequences’ if it used chemical weapons, without specifying what those would be. He sidestepped the question of how Mr. Biden would react. So far he has said the only thing that would bring the United States and its allies directly into the war would be an attack on NATO nations. Quietly, the White House and the senior American military leadership have been modeling how they would respond to a series of escalations, including major cyberattacks on American financial institutions and the use of a tactical or ‘battlefield’ nuclear weapon by Mr. Putin to signal to the rest of the world that he would brook no interference as he moves to crush Ukraine.”

“The more the fighting moves west, the more likely it is that an errant missile lands in NATO territory, or the Russians take down a NATO aircraft.”

“Russia has turned to China for military equipment and aid in the weeks since it began its invasion of Ukraine, the Washington Post reports.

“The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, did not describe what kind of weaponry had been requested, or whether they know how China responded.”

Financial Times: “Another person familiar with the situation said the US was preparing to warn its allies, amid some indications that China may be preparing to help Russia. Other US officials have said there were signs that Russia was running out of some kinds of weaponry as the war in Ukraine extends into its third week.”

New York Times: “Russia has also asked China for additional economic assistance, to help counteract the battering its economy has taken from broad sanctions imposed by the United States and European and Asian nations.”

“American officials, determined to keep secret their means of collecting the intelligence on Russia’s requests, declined to describe further the kind of military equipment Moscow is seeking.”

“The US has information suggesting China has expressed some openness to providing Russia with requested military and financial assistance as part of its war on Ukraine,” CNN reports. “The consideration was detailed in a diplomatic cable relayed to allies in Europe and Asia… The cable did not state definitively that assistance had been provided.”

“Russia has threatened to pay international bondholders in roubles rather than dollars just days before a key interest payment on its external debt comes due,” the Financial Times reports. “Moscow is scheduled to make a combined $117 million in interest payments this Wednesday on two dollar-denominated bonds… Neither bond’s contracts gives Russia the option of paying in roubles.”

“Russia has sent the clearest signal yet that it will soon default — the first time it will have failed to meet its foreign debt obligations since the Bolshevik revolution more than a century ago,” CNN reports. “The default could come as early as Wednesday, when Moscow needs to hand over $117 million in interest payments on dollar-denominated government bonds, according to JPMorgan Chase. Although Russia has issued bonds that can be repaid in multiple currencies since 2018, these payments must be made in US dollars.”

“Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war on Ukraine and the resulting global response will set Russia’s economy back by at least 30 years — close to old Soviet Union times — and lower its standard of living for at least the next five years, according to economists, investors and diplomats,” CNBC reports.

“Practically overnight, the country’s 40-year effort to build a prosperous market-based economy that began under former leader Mikhail Gorbachev has failed, one more casualty in President Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.”

“Russian prosecutors have issued warnings to Western companies in Russia, threatening to arrest corporate leaders there who criticize the government or to seize assets of companies that withdraw from the country,” the Wall Street Journal reports.  “The calls and visits included threats to sue the companies and seize assets including trademarks.”

New York Times: “In private, officials express concern that Mr. Putin might seek to take Moldova, another former Soviet republic that has never joined NATO and is considered particularly vulnerable. There is renewed apprehension about Georgia, which fought a war with Russia in 2008 that today seems like a test run for the far larger conflict playing out.”

“And there is the possibility that Mr. Putin, angered by the slowness of his offensive in Ukraine, may reach for other weapons: chemical, biological, nuclear and cyber.”

“The United States accurately predicted the start of the war in Ukraine, sounding the alarm that an invasion was imminent despite Moscow’s denials and Europe’s skepticism. Predicting how it might end is proving far more difficult,” the New York Times reports.

“There are three separate back-channel efforts underway to start negotiations — by the leaders of France; Israel and Turkey; and, in a recent entree, the new chancellor of Germany. But so far, all have hit the stone wall of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s refusal to engage in any serious negotiation. At the Pentagon, there are models of a slogging conflict that brings more needless death and destruction to a nascent European democracy, and others in which Mr. Putin settles for what some believe was his original objective: seizing a broad swath of the south and east, connecting Russia by land to Crimea, which he annexed in 2014.”

“And there is a more terrifying endgame, in which NATO nations get sucked more directly into the conflict, by accident or design.”

Mother Jones obtained a memo from the Russian government to the country’s media outlets urging them to use clips of Fox News host Tucker Carlson peddling a Russia-friendly narrative about the Ukraine invasion on his show.

According to talking points sent to Russian media, the Kremlin wanted viewers to hear as much from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson because he “sharply criticizes the actions of the United States and NATO, their negative role in unleashing the conflict in Ukraine, and the defiantly provocative behavior from the leadership of the Western countries and NATO towards the Russian Federation and towards President Putin, personally,” Mother Jones reports.

Carlson’s been pretty pissed at fellow Fox News colleague Jennifer Griffin for debunking Russia’s disinformation on biolabs in Ukraine, by the way.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) took to Twitter to denounce former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s comments on the war in Ukraine. Said Romney: “Tulsi Gabbard is parroting false Russian propaganda. Her treasonous lies may well cost lives.”

Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told the Washington Free Beacon that she attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, 2021 “but got cold and left early.”

When the House Jan. 6 Committee finally puts out its public report on the Capitol attack sometime this year, expect it to be more digestible than Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Bible-length text of 448 pages on his Russia election interference probe, CBS News reports: The committee is reportedly expected to present much of the evidence in video and multimedia formats.

The idea is to make the panel’s findings easier to broadcast on TV and spread on social media, according to CBS News. The committee also reportedly wants to show evidence that’ll jolt people who feel like they already understand what happened on Jan. 6.

The committee was reportedly inspired by the House impeachment managers–one of whom included current Jan. 6 panel member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD)–presenting a jarring 13-minute video of the Capitol attack during Trump’s second Senate impeachment trial.

“White House officials are having early discussions about having President Joe Biden travel to Europe soon amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine,” CNN  reports.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will deliver a virtual address to members of the U.S. Congress at 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday morning, the Washington Post reports.

Zelensky pressed President Biden during their latest call for more sanctions to further squeeze Russia, CNN reports. “Zelensky specifically asked Biden for further efforts to cut off Russia from international trade and to continue targeting the Russian elite, as the US has continued to add more oligarchs and their families to its sanctions list. Zelensky also mentioned closing off Russia’s access to international waterways during the call.”

Washington Post: “A growing number of U.S. lawmakers ratcheted up pressure on President Biden on Sunday to increase military aid to Ukraine, including sending fighter jets and air defense systems that the administration rejected last week.”

“The public calls from both Republicans and Democrats to answer Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s urgent pleas for air assistance come as the Biden administration declined an offer from Poland to deliver MiG-29 airplanes to Ukraine for fear such a move could be interpreted by the Russians as an escalation of the United States’ role in the war.”

“The bipartisan push underscores the growing hawkishness among many leaders on Capitol Hill, who have been urging Biden to do more to help Ukraine defend itself against Russian attacks as the war rages into its third week.”

Playbook: “Something quite striking has happened in Washington since Russia invaded Ukraine. Congress — which typically takes a back seat on foreign policy matters — has repeatedly driven the White House beyond its comfort zone with bipartisan demands for more assertive policies.”

“It started with calls for tougher sanctions, then escalated to an appeal for a larger military and humanitarian assistance package. Members of both parties then clamored for a U.S. ban on Russian oil, which the White House saw as politically risky given the effect on gas prices at home. And they insisted that the U.S. end permanent normal trade relations with Russia.”

“The tactics have worked. And this week, lawmakers will be at it again — this time nudging the Biden administration to go further than it wants in facilitating the transfer of fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine.”

“A last-minute phone call from Mitch McConnell to Chuck Schumer helped seal an unprecedented congressional infusion of aid to Ukraine, increasing the ask by $1.5 billion in a single conversation,” Politico reports.  Said McConnell: “To Chuck’s credit, he said, ‘OK.’ It wasn’t a hard sell.”

“China forced millions of people into lockdown and closed big cities yesterday after the number of coronavirus cases tripled in 24 hours, marking the country’s worst day since the original Wuhan outbreak,” the Times of London reports.

The Guardian: Hong Kong tackles deadliest Covid wave.

Zeynep Tufecki: “What if China had been open and honest in December 2019? What if the world had reacted as quickly and aggressively in January 2020 as Taiwan did? What if the United States had put appropriate protective measures in place in February 2020, as South Korea did?”

“To examine these questions is to uncover a brutal truth: Much suffering was avoidable, again and again, if different choices that were available and plausible had been made at crucial turning points. By looking at them, and understanding what went wrong, we can hope to avoid similar mistakes in the future.”

Niall Ferguson: “I don’t think Putin is mad. I think power has corrupted him. And it has also distanced him from reality. He clearly underestimated the Ukrainian resistance, and he clearly underestimated the risk to the Russian economy. These are miscalculations, not signs of madness. They’re the kind of miscalculations you make if you are very divorced from reality, because you lead the life of a czar, in vast — if hideous — palaces, surrounded by people who are terrified of you and tell you what they think you want to hear.”

“If I put myself in Putin’s position, I don’t think he’s trying to resurrect the Soviet Union. He’s looking back even further and trying to bring back the Russian Empire, with himself as ‘Czar Vladimir.’ It’s an ideology of conservative, orthodox nationalism that Putin offers, that has nothing to do with the Soviet legacy.”

Eliot Cohen: “The American fear of escalation has been a repeated note throughout this conflict. But to the extent American leaders express that sentiment, or spread such notions to receptive reporters, they make matters worse, giving the Russians a psychological edge. The Russians can (and do) threaten to ratchet things up, knowing that the West will respond with increased anxiety rather than reciprocal menace. We have yet to see, for example, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin telling the world what a wretched hand the Russians are playing militarily, and how superior ours is—a message he is particularly fit to deliver.”

“As for the nuclear question: We should not signal to the Russians that they have a trump card they can always play to stop us from doing pretty much anything. Nuclear weapons are why the United States should refrain from attacking Russia directly, not why it should fear fighting Russians in a country they invaded.”

“Nuclear deterrence cuts both ways, and the Russian leadership knows it. Vladimir Putin and those around him are ill-informed but not mad, and the use of nuclear weapons would threaten their very survival.”

NPR: “In an attempt to curb inflation, the Federal Reserve is expected this week to begin raising interest rates for the first time in three years.”

“The move presents President Biden and Democrats with yet another political challenge from a different end of the economic spectrum than higher prices.”

“Higher interest rates, after all, will put a strain on Americans looking to borrow. Buying a home or car, or taking out a student or business loan, for example, will all cost more — although even after several expected rate hikes, borrowing costs will remain low by historical standards.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he can’t support Sarah Bloom Raskin, President Biden’s nominee for the Federal Reserve’s vice chair of supervision, Axios reports.

Without Machin’s support, her confirmation is thrown into doubt.

Wall Street Journal: “Last month, Republican lawmakers united in opposition to Ms. Raskin refused to attend a crucial committee vote. That deprived Democrats of a quorum needed to advance her along with four other Fed nominees to the full Senate, including Chairman Jerome Powell.”

“The Biden administration says that it might have to scrap critical Covid-19 programs unless Congress moves to approve funding left out of the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Democratic leaders now plan to hold a stand-alone vote in the House this coming week on $15.6 billion in Covid-19 aid, without paying for it by clawing back state funds. Such an approach would likely hit a wall in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats would need at least 10 Republican votes to advance the proposal.”

Punchbowl News: “The White House hasn’t done anything to sell this legislation to Congress. This is a complaint you’ll hear from House and Senate Democrats… The White House faces enormous challenges on numerous fronts, especially with the growing military and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. But this issue isn’t going to get resolved unless there’s a high-level push from the administration, and that hasn’t happened yet.”

A wastewater network that monitors for Covid-19 trends is warning that cases are once again rising in many parts of the U.S., Bloomberg reports.

“More than a third of the CDC’s wastewater sample sites across the U.S. showed rising Covid-19 trends in the period ending March 1 to March 10, though reported cases have stayed near a recent low.”

“A group of 89 House Democrats is asking President Joe Biden to make provisions aimed at addressing climate change the ‘building block to restart negotiations’ on their stalled social spending bill,” Politico reports.

The U.K. government is looking into the possibility of housing Ukrainian refugees in the mansions of sanctioned Russian oligarchs, Axios reports. Said a government spokesperson to The Guardian: “We are working to identify the appropriate use for seized properties while owners are subject to sanctions.”

Colorado Republicans tried to stop Democrats from passing a bill codifying the right to abortion in state law by staging a 23-hour filibuster, the Denver Post reports.

“The outcome of this legislation is not in question. Democrats hold a 41-24 majority in the House and will pass this bill. They took a voice vote Saturday morning to advance it, and the House speaker said a final chamber vote is expected next week. At that point the bill will be kicked over to the Senate, which Democrats also control.”

New York Times: “Europe has already spent two years on high alert against the pandemic. But now the manifestations of its anxieties and desires for self-defense have shifted from the masks, vaccines and lockdowns of Covid to the bunkers, iodine pills and air raid sirens of nuclear war.”

“From Italy to Sweden, Belgium to Britain, the specter of nuclear war, which had seemed a relic of the past, is permeating a new generation of European consciousness. And it is prompting a new look at defense infrastructure, survival guides and fallout shelters that not long ago were the purview of camouflage-wearing, assault-weapon-toting survivalists or paranoid billionaires.”

Lawmakers in Florida’s GOP-controlled Senate and House couldn’t reach an agreement on Friday over reforming the state’s condo laws to prevent another massive collapse like the one in Surfside, Florida that killed 98 people last year.

The chambers clashed over a provision in the House bill that would ban condo owners from waiving the funding of reserves used to pay for building repairs. The Senate argued that the provision would be too expensive for the condo owners.

Friday was the last day of the regular legislative session, so that window’s shut now.

But hey, last week wasn’t a total loss for Florida Republicans: At least the legislature was able to come to a consensus on banning kids from hearing about LGBTQ+ stuff. 

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

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