Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, February 26 through Friday, March 4, 2022 [Vol.3 No.33]
Siege of Ukraine Begins
The Week’s Most Notable
Two weeks ago, when the Ukrainian invasion began, Russia tried to conduct an American-style war. The use of precision weapons, highly targeted attacks, and small operational units were intended to keep the destruction and bloodshed to a minimum. The presumption was that Ukraine would be rolled up quickly and the people more than willing to hand their government over to a puppet regime. That delusion lasted about five days. Now the Russians have adopted their standard tactics – siege and destroy – which move at a more glacial pace but are exceedingly crushing. Given all the things that have happened in the past two weeks, it’s useful to look back at the Weekly Journal reporting from the previous week (in italics) and update it with what happened this week:
There will be many refugees, anywhere from a hundred thousand to several million. There were 1.4 million refugees by the end of this week, so several million seems probable. In any case, it will be the largest number of refugees since WWII, which over the next six months or so will have enormous economic, social, and political impacts on countries throughout Europe.
Resistance will take shape within Ukraine and is likely to be tenacious. True but in spades; both military and civilian Ukrainian resistance was fierce and disrupted Putin’s timetable. They appear to have forced the Russians into falling back to their traditional siege and destroy tactics, which they employed in Chechnya and Syria. Unfortunately, these tactics are devastating and will probably result in the destruction of several Ukrainian cities including Kyiv. Putin has already said that conquering the entire country is the goal, which means that a very long guerrilla campaign is ahead.
Putin’s nuclear threat, while obvious bluster. . . Bluster, yes, but it inserted the threat of nuclear war into the discussion, mainly because Putin has shown himself to be ruthless, and the threat has to be taken seriously. For example, understanding that a no-fly zone risks lethal combat between nuclear capable forces (U.S./NATO versus Russian).
The sanctions imposed on Russia/Putin will take months if not years. In a fundamental sense true, but the astonishing speed with which Europe, the U.S., and most of the world responded with consequential sanctions has had an enormous psychological effect. Most economists and analysts underestimated the speed with which Russia’s economy appears to be collapsing. Of course, “collapsing” is a vague term. As long as the Russians continue to sell oil and gas, they continue to have an economy. On the other hand, the complex web of sanctions now being imposed will lead to a period of several months where Russians discover that commerce and life are not what they were; this has impact.
The world economy will be affected, if only by ripple effects in the price of gas and oil. An important addendum: the Ukraine war is changing the military configuration throughout the world, most obviously in the commitment by Germany to increase its military budget on a yearly basis – by more than $100 billion in 2022. Given the remembrance of history, the announcement sent shudders throughout Europe – and presumably the Kremlin – as a resurgent German military changes many things. Many countries will wish to up their armament and the EU will be in the middle of a new struggle for the formation of a “European army.”
Putin’s invasion changes the autocratic-oligarchic political momentum worldwide. This was poorly stated. For the autocratic, populist, right-wing leaders all over the world who were using Putin’s playbook and idolizing him at every turn, Putin suddenly became the universal bad guy. It brought instant focus to the depravity of autocratic governments and is providing an opportunity for defenders of democracy. In the U.S., the right-wing/GOP/Trumpists faction went off in many contradictory directions.
Saturday, February 26
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 80,619,795; Deaths: 975,384
[CPAC] Trump Flirts with 2024, Calls Putin “Smart”, Ukraine War an “Atrocity” – Republican rhetoric at its finest, well-laced with contradiction, coy obfuscation, and smirky slyness. As for Trump running in 2024, of course he is, but campaign laws force him to delay the announcement. This year’s CPAC got off on a pro-Putin footing but landed hopping around the invasion of Ukraine. Some of the right-wing media are desperately trying to find a way to spin the invasion as pro-Putin; most others on the right – especially old guard GOP – have either clammed up or come out against Putin.
[Coronavirus] Two Studies Suggest COVID Came from a Wuhan Market – The studies are still under peer review and are not going to be considered definitive, but they do add much evidence and research behind the widely held opinion that the origin of COVID-19 comes from live animals in a market and not from a lab accident. The U.S. versus China politics of the situation will keep alternative explanations alive for some time.
Sunday, February 27
[German Rearmament] Germany Announces Massive Increase in Military Spending – Following Bundestag approval, Chancellor Scholz announced that Germany would increase its military budget by €100 billion for 2022. This epochal change in German policy caught many by surprise, as Germany has generally kept its military expenditures moderate. However, the war in Ukraine has created undeniable support for a military capability that can resist – Putin, for example. Other countries in Europe will no doubt follow Germany’s example. The long-term effects on geopolitics are likely to be difficult to overestimate.
[Russian Media] Russia Begins Crackdown on Protesters, Media – There is no war, only “special operations.” (This is remindful of Trump’s Big Lie; deny the reality of visible evidence.) Protest is illegal. Publishing “nonfactual” (not government approved) information is punishable with imprisonment of up to 15 years. When propaganda and disinformation are not enough, the iron fist comes out. It’s what authoritarian regimes do the world over. [Update: U.S. media, telecoms – CNN, Skype, Verizon – pull up stakes from Moscow. They were later joined by IKEA, AirBnB and other businesses. And by Monday more than 6,500 people in 54 cities were arrested for street protests.]
[Ukraine] Ukraine Cease-Fire Talks Begin – The talks are being held on the border between Belarus and Ukraine, already something of a concession by the Zelensky government. Zelensky said that he didn’t have high expectations, but that he wanted to leave no doubt that he tried “to stop the war when there was even a small chance.” The Russians have little incentive, other than PR, to make concessions while they are at the beginning of their offensive. [Update: Various attempts at cease-fire/peace talks took place throughout the week, all ending in vows to keep trying. By the end of the week even that was abandoned.]
[Russia Nukes] Putin Puts Nuclear Forces on High Alert – A procedural and almost non-substantive move by the Russian military, sufficient enough to alarm world media. Most governmental and military leaders understand this to be a form of diplomatic-PR signaling, which doesn’t make the situation any more reassuring. No one, except maybe Putin, likes bringing nukes into the conversation.
[Barr Book] Former AG Barr Writes Book, Disses Trump – No book by former AG Barr can be considered a tell-all, but his self-serving commentary at least fills in some gaps about his disputes with Trump. Most of it centers on Trump hammering the falsehood that the election was stolen. Barr considers that not only wrong but condemns the “absurd lengths” to which Trump “took his stolen election claim that led to rioting on Capitol Hill.”
Monday, February 28
[Russia Ruble] Russian Central Bank Hikes Interest Rate to 20% as Ruble Crashes – By the time most sanctions against Russia have kicked in, weeks or months from now, much of the Russian economy could already be rubble, including the ruble as it dropped to a record low against the dollar. Although Russia has salted-away more than $600 billion in currency reserves, U.S., EU, and World Bank maneuvers are seeking to making it difficult for Russia to use the reserve; most of the money is held in Western banks and can be sequestered by various means.
[Ukraine] Zelensky Formally Applies for EU Membership – This is a PR move. It takes 5 to 10 years or more to clear all the requirements for EU membership, even when the political environment is approving.
[Ukraine ICC] International Criminal Court Opens Top Priority Ukraine War-Crime Investigation – With Putin’s war in the invasion of Ukraine being so flagrantly against international laws and treaties, the ICC noted that it was moving “as rapidly as possible.” Keep in mind that this investigation will be still continuing long after the war is over and could possibly, and harmlessly, be noted as the last word.
[ Sanctions on Russia] World Imposes Cultural Iron Curtain on Russia – In short order, Disney suspended all theatrical releases in Russia, FIFA suspended Russian soccer teams from play anywhere in the world, CNN and other media outlets leave Russia – and many similar actions from worldwide athletic and cultural organizations. On one level Putin can say “hernya” (bs), but there are many other levels; everywhere Russians turn, Russia will no longer be participating in some important event, or popular things from abroad will no longer be available. It does have cumulative impact.
Tuesday, March 1
[SOTU] Biden’s State of the Union Speech – This SOTU was a two-parter: The first part was Ukraine and related topics. Understandably, this was a last-minute addition, which accounted for some of its flavor of spontaneity, if not fully inspirational language. Biden made it clear the U.S. would not be sending troops or planes to Ukraine, but left open most everything short of that. He did not mention covert activity, but that’s the “just short of open warfare” option. In general, with this conflict the U.S. says what’s happening and what it is going to do and both of these things turn out to be mostly true. The U.S. public, thanks to counter propaganda by the right wing and less than stellar promotion by the Democrats don’t think that Biden’s done a good job on the Ukraine issue. In fact, it’s been exceedingly adroit and thus far effective.
The other part of the SOTU, often referred to as the “laundry list,” covers all the things that presidents like to say they will do. It makes good copy and later talking points but hardly the most stimulating public speaking. The main points concerned fighting inflation, dealing with crime (“Fund the police”), and preparing for the end of the pandemic. It struck most observers that, in a way, the tone of this part of the speech was nostalgic, harkening back to a time when Democrats and Republicans could barter and finagle legislation in good faith. Biden called it a new “unity agenda.” Most Democrats wince when he says something like that because it means in reality “let Manchin take the lead,” which is like handing the agenda over to a quasi-Republican. Biden is not a stem-winding public speaker, but he is plainspoken and his tone is caring and avuncular, so all-in-all Republicans called the speech a dud, and Democrats thought it was comforting.
[Jan. 6 Investigation] Jan. 6 Committee Subpoenas Six Trump Allies – The group included members of Trump’s legal team, a right-wing OANN reporter, and a campaign attorney. These were all people who pushed the “stolen election” meme.
[Anti-Trans Texas] ACLU Filed Suit to Prevent Texas from Investigating Parents Who Support Their Trans Teens – Texas is pushing the idea that medically supporting young people who wish to change their gender is child abuse. For example, parents could be charged with a crime for giving a child puberty-suppressing drugs. The actual intent is to leverage religiously based sentiments to political advantage, on an issue that is intensely complex, inherently private, and psychologically volatile.
Wednesday, March 2
[Ukraine] Concentrated Shelling of Ukrainian Cities Begins – Signaling a change in Russian tactics, missile and artillery attacks on residential areas of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, and elsewhere. The objective is to destroy as much physical property and infrastructure as possible – making life miserable for civilians. The tactic is often considered a war crime.
[Jan.6 Investigation] House Select Committee: Evidence That Trump and Eastman May Have Committed Crimes – This is not a blockbuster – why? The actual evidence points to Trump and his quasi-lawyer John Eastman conducting activities that appear to be “criminal conspiracy” and “fraudulent activity” while pursuing – knowingly – the false claim of a stolen election. The committee cannot initiate prosecution, so they filed the court case, in an attempt to have the court grant them access to Eastman’s emails. The idea is that at this early stage the DOJ can pick up the threads and start an actual criminal investigation. Otherwise, the evidence and the case must wait until the committee files a formal report and/or recommendations for DOJ investigation.
[U.N.] U.N. General Assembly Condemns Russian Invasion of Ukraine – The vote was 141-5 with 35 nations abstaining and 5 voting against it. The abstainers included India, Cuba, and China. Only Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea, and Eritrea voted against the measure.
[NRA] Judge Rules against Bid to Dissolve NRA – New York State Supreme Court Judge Joel Cohen said the state’s allegations of corruption and mismanagement by top NRA officials fell short of demonstrating a public harm, which is necessary to justify a “corporate death penalty.” However, the judge left most of AG Letitia James lawsuit intact. The trial is already 18 months long and has many months to go.
[Ukraine] Russia Shells and Captures Nuclear Power Plant – There was a fire, and the Russians did shell the nuclear facility at Zaporizhzhia, but fortunately – this time – there was no danger of radiation leak. It did cause a massive media and governmental overload throughout Europe. The threat inherent in any attack on a nuclear plant overshadowed almost all other news for the day. The plant is the largest nuclear facility in Europe and the attack on it virtually unprecedented. [Update: The fire was extinguished Friday morning. The diplomatic fire-storm however was just getting started.]
[Ukraine] Russia, Ukraine Tentatively Agree on Safe Evacuation Corridors – Hammered out in a meeting near the Polish border, negotiators from both sides agreed on the principle of evacuation corridors to help civilians leave major Ukrainian cities for safe countries. [Update: The agreement, not formally concluded, lasted less than two days.]
[Ukraine] One Week: 1 Million Refugees Flee Ukraine – About half the refugees are children. Experienced UN observers say this is one of the most rapid evacuations they’ve ever seen. Countries throughout Europe as well as the United States are creating special categories of facilities for registering and managing the millions of refugees.
Friday, March 4
[U.S. Employment] February Employment Figures Break Expectations – The underappreciated good economy did it again with February employment numbers adding 678,000 jobs and lowering the unemployment rate from 4% to 3.8%.
[Ukraine] Poll Shows 7 in 10 Americans Support Russian Sanctions, even if Inflationary – The Ukraine invasion has stirred the American public. A new NPR-PBS News Hour/Marist Institute of Public Opinion poll shows that 83% of Americans are in favor of sanctions – 69% of Democrats polled, , and 58% of Republicans – even if it raises energy prices in the U.S.
[Russia – Ukraine] Russia Cracks down on “Fake News” – The Russian legislature unanimously passed new legislation to make the spreading of “fake news” regarding the country’s military situation (saying it’s a war, not a “special operation”) subject up to15 years in prison. The situation is dire for most remaining non-government media; BBC, Bloomberg, CNN either have or are preparing to shut down their operations in Russia.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 80,896,406; Deaths: 983,509
As most people actually know, the pandemic isn’t over in the U.S., or anywhere in the world for that matter. However, the number of cases is, in most places, declining. There are worries of course; in Great Britain there’s been an uptick in new cases of the BA.2 variant of the Omicron variant, which is somewhat more infectious, and there have been a few new cases of the supposedly debunked Deltachron variant, but the WHO has yet to pull the alarm cord on either of them. More worrisome and yet to be addressed is the rising number of people with long COVID, persistent symptoms from COVID-19 or serious knock-on effects to major organs such as heart, liver, and lungs. Since long COVID could be affecting as many as 30% of people who had the original infection, this could be a serious medical issue for many months.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
On Thursday, [the target] was Vice President Harris. . . . [Carlson] suggested that his dismissal of the threat of invasion was spurred by the fact that Harris had been dispatched to the Munich Security Conference in mid-February as the conflict loomed. ‘We assumed that if things were dire, serious people would be involved in fixing them. But we looked up, and we saw Kamala Harris involved, and that reassured us.’
Phillip Bump, “Tucker Carlson Says it’s Kamala Harris’s Fault He Carried Putin’s Water,” The Washington Post, 3/4/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]