Cup of Joe – February 21, 2023

“President Biden made a surprise trip to the besieged capital of Ukraine on Monday, traveling under a cloak of secrecy into a war zone to demonstrate what he called America’s ‘unwavering support’ of the effort to beat back Russian forces nearly a year after they invaded the country,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Biden arrived unannounced early Monday morning to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the two stepped out into the streets of Kyiv even as an air-raid siren sounded, a dramatic moment captured on video that underscored the investment the United States has made in Ukraine’s independence.”

Washington Post: “The secret, high-risk visit to the historic Ukrainian capital — where air raid sirens blared as Biden walked the streets — signals continued commitment from the United States, the largest financial and military backer of Ukraine’s effort to repel Russian invaders from its territory.”

Evan Coren: “President Biden’s trip to Ukraine has some similarity to recent American presidents’ visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, except the US and its allies do not have control over the airspace over Ukraine. This alone significantly reshapes the security concerns for such a trip.”

President Biden’s surprise trip to Ukraine will likely go down as one of the most important moments of his presidency.

The symbolism of the trip — coming a day before Vladimir Putin marks the one-year anniversary of his ruthless invasion — is unmistakable and has already reverberated around the world.

The video of Biden meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky was both historic and amazing. The details of the trip, including 20-hour of train travel across war-torn Ukraine, are stunning. And the riskiness of the visit is unlike anything we’ve seen from a president in our lifetimes.

Biden’s statement also showed unmistakable resolve on the part of the United States: “I will announce another delivery of critical equipment, including artillery ammunition, anti-armor systems, and air surveillance radars to help protect the Ukrainian people from aerial bombardments. And I will share that later this week, we will announce additional sanctions against elites and companies that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine. Over the last year, the United States has built a coalition of nations from the Atlantic to the Pacific to help defend Ukraine with unprecedented military, economic, and humanitarian support – and that support will endure.”

“Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. He’s counting on us not sticking together. He was counting on the inability to keep Nato united. He was counting on us not to be able to bring in others to the side of Ukraine. He thought he could outlast us. I don’t think he’s thinking that right now.”  — President Biden, quoted by the BBC.

The war in Ukraine has turned into the most important battle for democracy since the end of World War II.

To the great distress of many MAGA Republicans, President Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv early this morning (US time). Here are some of the most striking images.

The National Review, a conservative publication very critical of President Biden, weighs in on the president’s surprise visit to Ukraine: “This trip took guts.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was enraged by President Biden’s “incredibly insulting” trip to Ukraine and later called for his impeachment.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) “called for the U.S. to be separated by red and blue states and for a shrinking of the federal government in a tweet on President’s Day, the latest in a string of controversial statements from the two-term congresswoman,” NBC News reports.

Said Greene: “We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. Everyone I talk to says this. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies, we are done.”

“It’s really not even worth my brain space to spend time responding to fools. These people know nothing about national security and foreign policy.” — Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO), in a NBC News interview, responding to the Republicans criticizing President Biden for making a surprise visit to Ukraine.

“President Biden’s visit to Ukraine comes as China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, is scheduled to visit Moscow for talks that are also likely to cover the war in Ukraine,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Russian President Vladimir Putin will counter Mr. Biden’s messages in Poland on Tuesday by delivering a major national address on the same day.”

Daily Beast: “Biden’s trip sent an important reminder to Beijing just how high a priority Ukraine is for the U.S. and the West and presenting the war in the context of Russia’s violations of international law will emphasize to the Chinese that directly supporting Russia’s attack and serial war crimes would make China an accessory to those crimes.”

“The sanctions China would endure and the rift such a step would incur with the international community would be devastating for China, particularly given the fragility of its economy at the moment.”

“President Vladimir Putin likes to portray himself as a new czar like Peter the Great or Ivan III, the 15th-century grand prince known as the ‘gatherer of the Russian lands,’” the Washington Post reports.  “But Putin’s year-long war in Ukraine has failed so far to secure the lands he aims to seize, and, in Russia, there is fear that he is leading his nation into a dark period of strife and stagnation or worse.”

“Some in the elite also say the Russian leader now desperately needs a military victory to ensure his own survival.”

“President Joe Biden’s administration is planning to impose new export controls and a fresh round of sanctions on Russia, targeting key industries a year after Vladimir Putin started his invasion of Ukraine,” Bloomberg reports.

“The measures will target Russia’s defense and energy sectors, financial institutions and several individuals, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. The US and allies are also expected to turn their focus to preventing the evasion and circumvention of sanctions — and disrupt support Russia receives from third countries.”

New York Times: “Mr. Biden departed the United States on Air Force One for Poland at 4:15 a.m. Eastern on Sunday. Only a few reporters, sworn to secrecy and deprived of their phones, came with him, along with Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser; Jen O’Malley Dillon, his deputy chief of staff; and Annie Tomasini, the director of Oval Office operations.”

“Reporters traveling with him were allowed to send a pool report to other journalists only after his arrival. An American official who asked not to be identified said that after the flight to Poland, Mr. Biden crossed into Ukraine by train, traveling for nearly 10 hours to Kyiv. He was to leave on a similar train trip and then, after crossing back into Poland, head to Warsaw.”

“Footage of Mr. Biden with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and their public remarks was not made public until hours afterward.”

New York Times: “The air raid alarm that sounded as Biden visited Kyiv was prompted by a Russian Mig-31 fighter jet that was detected taking off in Belarus, a Russian ally that borders Ukraine to the north… The jet was equipped with a Kinzhal hypersonic missile that Ukraine does not have the capacity to shoot down, he said.”

“Last month, amid the raucous battle to elect House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, former president Donald Trump spoke with a hard-line Republican who had been influential in blocking McCarthy’s path to power,” the Washington Post reports.

“The agitator was not a member of Congress, or even an elected official. It was Trump’s former budget director, Russell Vought, who has quietly emerged as an intellectual leader of the GOP’s conservative flank.”

“Vought explained his opposition to McCarthy, citing the California Republican’s deals with Democrats to increase federal spending. Trump, who supported McCarthy, didn’t push back, Vought said. Conservatives eventually extracted concessions from McCarthy that could empower them to secure spending cuts.”

“The ‘Buy America’ initiative that President Biden says will promote domestic manufacturing and fuel a blue-collar renaissance is running into a problem: The United States no longer produces many of the items needed to modernize roads, bridges and ports,” the Washington Post reports.

“The $1 trillion infrastructure legislation that the president signed in late 2021, however, insists that U.S. materials be used.”

Heather Cox Richardson: “Therein lies the Republican Party’s problem. What are its reasonable and enduring policies? One of the reasons Biden keeps pressuring the party to release its budget is that it’s not at all clear what the party stands for.”

“Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to issue any plans before the 2022 midterm election, and in 2020, for the first time in its history, the party refused to write a party platform. The Republican National Committee simply resolved that if its party platform committee had met, it ‘would have undoubtedly unanimously agreed to reassert the Party’s strong support for President Donald Trump and his Administration.’”

“The U.S. Capitol Police investigate thousands of possible threats on members of Congress and the Capitol each year,” the Washington Post reports.

“But the number of people who are prosecuted for such conduct is small: only 22 last year, out of more than more than 300 cases that investigators deemed worthy of referring to federal prosecutors for a look, according to statistics released by the Capitol Police.”

“House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has given Fox News’ Tucker Carlson exclusive access to 41,000 hours of Capitol surveillance footage from the Jan. 6 riot,” Axios reports.

“Carlson TV producers were on Capitol Hill last week to begin digging through the trove, which includes multiple camera angles from all over Capitol grounds. Excerpts will begin airing in the coming weeks.”

“The Biden administration has averted a potential diplomatic crisis over Israeli settlements at the United Nations that had threatened to overshadow Western efforts for the world body to spotlight Russia’s war with Ukraine during the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion this week,” the AP reports.

“Multiple diplomats familiar with the situation said Sunday that the U.S. had successfully managed to forestall a contentious U.N. Security Council resolution pushed by the Palestinians and their supporters that would have condemned Israel for settlement expansion and demanded a halt to future activity.”

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