Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, March 5 through Friday, March 11, 2022 [Vol.3 No.34]
Ukraine Invasion Turns to War Crimes
The Week’s Most Notable
The third week of Putin’s war in Ukraine confirmed just how much what happens there will affect the rest of the world. Not the least was the realization that the change in Russian military tactics included what the rest of the world considers war crimes, such as destruction of civilian areas, use of cluster bombs, and targeting hospitals. These are not new tactics for the Russian military, as they had used them before in Chechnya and Syria, but the world didn’t seem to care then; it does now.
It’s been well-documented and confirmed by many sources that the Russians planned on a quick victory, four – five days and Kyiv would fall, the government would be displaced, the Ukrainian people would feel liberated. The symbol of this victory was the 40-mile-long parade of Russian vehicles heading down the road from Belarus to Kyiv, bringing occupying forces and equipment. Instead, the column stalled; it became the symbol of one of the worst tactical failures in modern military history. The column was hung up for almost 2 weeks, repeatedly attacked and incapacitated – in full view of media drone cameras. Kyiv did not fall. The government was not displaced, in fact Ukrainian President Zelensky transmogrified from a comedian-novice-politician into one of the most famous and effective leaders in recent history. Ukrainians did not meet the Russians with cheers, but with jeers and lethal defiance.
So far, nine Russian generals and officers have paid with their lives, including General Valery Gerasimov, the architect of Russia’s war plans in Chechnya and Syria. Most of the deaths were not accidents of war but the result of targeted high-tech surveillance. The Ukrainian Army, fighting on its own turf (using its great ally “General Mud” – nobody plans military campaigns for the Ukrainian spring), has been to the astonishment of many, effective and elusive. While casualty figures in war are notoriously malleable, it’s apparent that Russia has lost thousands, not hundreds. Three weeks on and Ukraine is far from conquered – however, consensus among military analysts is that within the next month most of the major cities will be in Russian hands and the war will devolve into a well-funded guerrilla insurrection.
It’s not that Russia has lost the war, but it’s apparent it can’t win it honorably. It has already resorted to brutal tactics and war crimes; many analysts, including U.S. intelligence, give a high probability to the use of chemical warfare. If the situation becomes desperate for Russia, or threatens total collapse, there is a strong possibility Putin will authorize the use of at least tactical nuclear weapons. These are nukes for short range, battle oriented situations; Russia has more than 2,000 tactical nukes, more than any other country. Keep in mind that Russia does not really have the military resources to indefinitely hold a country the size of Texas with 44 million un-pacified people. It does not take much imagination to see the seeds of World War III.
Meanwhile, the great realignment of petroleum powers is gathering speed. Fossil fuels may be, ever so hopefully, on the way out, but for now the world still runs on petroleum energy and petroleum countries/companies run the world. By isolating and choking Russia’s most important income – the sale of oil and gas, the Ukraine war is forcing not only Russia but the other petroleum powers (U.S., Saudi Arabia, Canada, Iraq, China, UAE, Brazil, Iran, Kuwait, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Norway) into sometimes drastic realignment, particularly with major customers such as the European Union, India, China, and Japan. The economic and geopolitical results of all this jockeying will be felt for years. High gas prices will be just one of many impacts.
The Russian economy is tanking (metaphor appropriate). The unexpected and unprecedented collaboration among most of the countries of the world and most of the relevant corporations have made this round of sanctions against Russia far more than a PR Tiger. Symbolically and in reality, the Russian economy has already been hit. However, it is unlikely to produce a quick or consequential shift of power away from Putin. In fact, he is rapidly transforming Russian society into a complete totalitarian state under his control. There is even a possibility that the majority of Russians will rally around him if they have been convinced by propaganda to feel that Mother Russia has truly been threatened.
It now looks like that more than 5 million Ukrainian refugees will flood Europe. This will be the largest war-related movement of people since WWII. The majority of these people are women and children, which will impose a much greater burden for a longer time on the social services in European countries. In short, this is going to cause enormous economic and social disruption that will haunt Europe well beyond the end of whatever happens in Ukraine.
Thanks to the pandemic, the U.S. economy has been volatile for more than a year; now, with the disruption of fossil fuel distribution and costs, inflation will be a difficult issue for at least another year. This will have political impact. The nascent right-wing Pro-Putin political movement is struggling to realign its rhetoric, but that won’t change the fifth-column nature of their anti-liberal government, pro-authoritarian Trump-GOP party. The inflation-related issues are likely to carry them through the midterm elections.
Saturday, March 5
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 80,937,892; Deaths: 986,316
[Ukraine] Trump Conjures False Flag Opportunity – He seemed to be joking when he said to a gathering of Republican donors, “The U.S. should put the Chinese flag on F2 stealth fighters and bomb the shit out of Russia. We’d say, ’China did it, we didn’t do it, China did it,’ and then we’d sit back and watch as Russia and China start fighting.”
Sunday, March 6
[Ukraine] Mariupol Evacuees Attacked – The Russians had agreed to a temporary cease-fire on Saturday, but continued to fire on the city and the evacuation route throughout Sunday. It appears the Russians are intent on making Mariupol a symbol of what happens to resistors by using carpet shelling, starvation, and entrapment – all war crimes.
[Russian Protest] Russian Police Arrest 4,300 Antiwar Protesters – Putin’s government is now imposing wartime censorship on all forms of media and on public protest. Withdrawal of most Western media and the closing of the remaining independent Russian media sources, leaves information control at a totalitarian level. Polls show the majority of Russians believe the Ukrainians started the “problem.” The word ‘war’ is not permitted.
[Oil Negotiations] U.S. Officials Discuss Oil Imports with Venezuela – Currently the U.S. has embargoed Venezuelan oil imports in protest to the authoritarian government of President Nicolάs s Maduro. Sanctions on Russian oil and gas, which is about 7% of U.S. supply, have driven the search for alternative sources – the U.S. isn’t the only one participating in this desperate foot race. [Update: Venezuela releases two U.S. prisoners. “Not part of a deal,” said the State Department.]
Monday, March 7
[Ukraine] Russia Offers Humanitarian Corridors Leading to Russia and Belarus – Ukrainian negotiators spotted the trap. [Update: Although negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have not led to any kind of breakthrough, nor was one expected, there have been occasional agreements, as for example the humanitarian corridor between the city of Sumy and Poland.]
[Truck Convoy] D.C. Area Truck Convoy Protest Slows Traffic – Supposedly the motivation for the protesters are the COVID mandates, very few of which are still in place anywhere in the nation. Put charitably, these kinds of protests are running out of gas.
[Inflation] Gasoline Prices Highest since 2008 – Thanks to intensive coverage of gas and oil sanctions against Russia, petroleum companies felt safe to raise prices, which means in the U.S. about an 11% increase from last week. California is now well above $5 per gallon.
[Supreme Court] SCOTUS Rejects GOP Effort to Block Pennsylvania, North Carolina Redistricting – The high court also ruled that maps approved by state supreme courts should be used. This favors the Democrats in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
Tuesday, March 8
[Ukraine] Biden Bans Russian Oil/Gas Imports – The U.S. becomes one of the first countries to honor the argument that the only fundamental way to punish the Russians for the Ukraine invasion is to shut off their income from oil and gas sales. The move will undoubtedly trigger higher gasoline prices, even though the U.S. imports less than 7% of its oil from Russia.
[Jan.6 Trial] Jan. 6 Trials: Jury Finds Guy Reffitt Guilty – In an extremely important win for the DOJ, the jury’s decision of guilty on several charges, including carrying a handgun while trying to disrupt the certification of the 2020 election, carries a potential 20-year sentence,
[Don’t Say Gay] Florida Passes Don’t Say Gay Bill – The new law culminates the recent focus by right-wing and Republican elements to attack LGBTQ children. The cover is “parental rights” and the environment is mainly in the schools. Most parents and their LGBTQ children bitterly opposed this intrusion by the state into their lives. It has also spawned the “anti-grooming” meme (against supposed preparation of children for sexual molestation), now being forwarded in a number of states in various types of legislation.
[Ukraine] U.S. Rejects Polish Offer of MiG Fighter Jets for Ukraine – This was a hot potato for a few days. Similar to the no-fly zone issue, the problem for the U.S. was Russia’s determination to use anything involving missiles or airplanes as an escalation of the war. Shooting down Russian planes, with or without NATO equipment, has the potential to lead to nuclear arms conflict.
[Ukraine] McDonald’s, Starbucks, Coca-Cola Pull Out of Russia – These marquee companies headline the parade of corporations leaving Russia. While not of significant economic impact, their disappearance from Russia will be widely noted by the population. Analysts say these companies have weighed the hassle of staying in Russia against the negative PR in the rest of the world and have chosen to leave (at least temporarily).
Wednesday, March 9
[Ukraine] Russia Attacks Mariupol Maternity Hospital, Kills Three – This quickly became a poster incident as media clips went viral showing the destruction of the hospital and a very pregnant woman being carried out on a stretcher. Fact is, when Russia turns to its “demoralize the population” strategy, it deliberately attacks public health facilities, transportation, and service buildings.
[Ukraine] Russia Close to the Brink of Debt Default – Sanctions have made it very difficult for Russia to make payments on its various foreign debts. Payment in rubles is rarely acceptable. Russia will likely escape this current predicament, but long-term acquisition of foreign loans and meeting foreign debt service will become a greater problem.
Thursday, March 10
[Ukraine] Russian, Ukrainian Foreign Ministers First Meeting, “No Progress” – A smile-for-the-cameras moment that no one expected to result in significant negotiations. Nevertheless, it was a “high-level” meeting, which means the Russians are keeping that option open.
[South Korea] Presidential Election: Conservative Yoon Suk-yeol Wins – His victory returns conservatives to power after five years of Democratic Party rule. The race was close and voter turnout high, despite the threat posed by a surging COVID-19.
[Government] Congress Approves $1.5 Trillion Government Funding – Just meeting the deadline of Friday by a few hours, the government is now funded until September 2022. The bill contains a few interesting bipartisan elements such as $15 billion for Ukraine, 6% increase in military spending, and 7% increase for health, education, and other non-defense spending, along with reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
[U.S. Census] 2020 Census Undercounts Minorities – Minority undercounting – by a record 18.8 million in 2020 – is traditional, but the 2020 Census was particularly bad for Latinos (a 5% undercount, 2.5% worse than 2010). Blacks (3.3%) and reservation Indians (5.6%) were also undercounted but percentagewise closer to 2010 counts. The pandemic and Trump administration interference were cited for some of the discrepancies. Undercounting of minorities means they get a smaller share of federal dollars than they are entitled to.
[MLB] Major League Baseball, Players End Lockout with Deal – Play ball! (Full season.)
Friday, March 11
[Ukraine] Countries Prepare New Tariffs for Russia – For example, Biden called for revocation of Russia’s “most favored nation” trading status, which would allow new tariffs. This must be approved by Congress, but appears to be on a clear track. On a global basis, new tariffs levied against Russian products are a largely unheralded but effective means of damaging profit margins for companies in Russia.
[Ukraine] Kyiv under Imminent Threat, Air Attacks Expand West – The Russian military appears to be successfully regrouping and mounting attacks in new directions. A major push on Kyiv is expected to begin this weekend, along with the new offensive against the city of Dnipro, an industrial hub on the Dnieper River.
[Ukraine] Russia Takes Secret Bio-Weapon Laboratory Conspiracy to U.N. – Two research facilities in Ukraine do work on biological and chemical warfare and have received U.S. funding. The contested difference is that the U.S. says both facilities are for research, mainly in response to the use of biochemical warfare; Russia says that they are weapon-grade biochemical warfare production centers. So far, this has mainly been a “they said without proof” contest. Its main significance is that the Russians have previously used proactive charges as a cover for their own planned use. If, in the end, the Russian charge proves bogus, then it will be interesting to track who took up the Russian cause; e.g., China, Tucker Carlson, Glenn Greenwald, and Thomas Massey (R–KY).
[Abortion] Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to Texas Abortion Ban – The ruling left standing the Texas Supreme Court judgment that it is permissible for states to exempt its officials from abortion lawsuits if enforcement has been carried out by civilians. In other words, SCOTUS left standing a law that is clearly against its Roe v. Wade decision until it decides whether to ignore precedent and change Roe.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 81,157,273; Deaths: 993,223
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
A bipartisan breather. Congressional Republicans and Democrats have generally found common ground in opposing any kind of Russian threat. This time, with the exception of a few pro-Putin Republicans, bipartisan agreement was reached on extending sanctions, blocking import of Russian oil, and developing new tariffs against Russia. In fact, probably because of the general sentiment of unified action against Russia, there’s been on atmosphere in Congress which could not be called collegial, but could be called “taking a breather from partisanship.” One of the results was the passage of the $1.5 trillion funding for the federal government, which contains some bipartisan enhancements including $15 billion for the effort in Ukraine.
Ukraine blame game, U.S. version: Republicans – It’s Biden’s fault! Democrats – Trump’s fault! Most of the world – Putin’s fault, obviously.
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
Why are so many men under the impression that being raped is fun? The latest in a long line to express this view was Robert Regan, the Republican nominee for — and the heavy favorite to win — a vacant Michigan House seat. . . . This is the same man who last year offered the opinion that feminism is a ‘Jewish program to degrade and subjugate White men’ and more recently called the Russian invasion of Ukraine a ‘fake war just like the fake pandemic.’
Karen Tumulty, “No Matter What Men Say, Rape Is Never Something to Lie Back and Enjoy,” The Washington Post, 3/9/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]