Indivisible Upper Yellowstone – Weekly Journal
The Week of Saturday, February 19 through Friday, February 25, 2022 [Vol.3 No.32]
Russia Invades Ukraine
The Week’s Most Notable
The week when war began in Ukraine. Literally the start of a world historic event, the week when Vladimir Putin began a classic unprovoked propaganda-fueled military assault on a smaller neighboring country. With a population of 44 million, Ukraine is not that small, but it is at a distinct military disadvantage. Putin appealed to history for the attack; others had difficulty finding a single practical reason, so first question: Why?
There is a remarkable consensus among analysts: This is Putin’s war; it’s personal, top to bottom. His motivation has two parts: One, he considers the dissolution of the Soviet Union the world’s greatest tragedy and he wishes to return Russia to Soviet boundaries; and two, he wishes to discredit or destroy democratic governments, especially those that have an influence in Russia – in this case Ukraine. He may not want Russia to formally occupy Ukraine, although Russian soldiers will linger, but he wishes to have a complete regime change, replacing Zelensky’s elected government with a puppet regime similar to that of Lukashenko in Belarus.
Second question: Why now? Preparation for this war began months ago. Putin was putting in place logistics, diplomatic rationale, and at the last moment a domestic propaganda campaign for an invasion. At some point, poising all forces at the edge of attack can’t be sustained – either go forward, or leave. The majority of the world thought it was a bluff, that Putin would back down. Obviously, it wasn’t a bluff. The internal forces that Putin must balance – the oligarchs, the military-intelligence complex, and the government bureaucracy – might eventually provide some dynamics. External conditions – NATO, the EU, the U.S. and Biden, the pandemic, etc. – don’t provide any clear-cut cues. Right now, it appears the timing was arbitrary.
Third question: What will happen? Given the inherent capriciousness of war and the risks Putin is taking with the invasion – he is currently losing the worldwide PR battle and many analysts believe he has made an enormous mistake – most believe he will be initially successful in capturing the major cities and forcing a regime change. At what cost? Ukraine is not impotent, and short of sending troops, the EU, NATO, and the U.S. will react much more forcefully than they did to the initial Russian takeover of the Crimea in 2014. Here are some possible outcomes:
There will be many refugees, anywhere from a hundred thousand to several million. Primarily they will pour into Poland and Romania, and thereafter need to be dispersed and accommodated throughout Europe. This will be a massive economic, social, and political disruption with many powerful and unforeseen consequences.
Resistance will take shape within Ukraine and is likely to be tenacious. It will be supported and to a certain extent coordinated with NATO countries, making it a constant source of provocation for Putin. This will be ugly and in terms of eventual regional peace, dangerous.
Putin’s nuclear threat, while obvious bluster, may ultimately force the rest of the world to confront the problem of nukes being held by many countries as the “last resort.” It’s one reason why the U.S. isn’t eager to put troops into Ukraine.
The sanctions imposed on Russia/Putin will take months if not years to have significant impact. Collectively, however, the various components of making Russia a pariah state and singling-out its ruling elite will have an effect. Probably sooner rather than later it will send Russia to the negotiating table.
The world economy will be affected, if only by disruption in the distribution of oil and gas. There will also be disruptions in other supply chains, but the major impact will be cost inflation of oil/gas related products. This is already a politically sensitive topic, especially in the U.S. and Europe.
Putin’s invasion changes the autocratic-oligarchic political momentum worldwide. Suddenly, what had been a very incremental, low-key, and quite successful program (using Putin’s playbook) of undermining democratic governments is in jeopardy. Even in the U.S., open support for Putin from Trump, Fox News, and other significant Republicans is running into a really negative reaction. It’s possible that Putin could undo decades of antidemocratic propaganda.
Biden nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson for the Supreme Court: One good thing for the week – Judge Jackson has a long and distinguished record and was already approved by the Senate for her current position as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. That won’t stop the GOP or Fox News from trotting out semi-cloaked racial attacks. [Tucker Carlson: “Let’s say you wanted to humiliate and degrade it and undermine its ancient institutions. “Well, you might take the single most important appointed position in the entire government and announce in public that you were filling that position on the basis of appearance. Not on the basis of skill or wisdom or fealty to the founding documents of the United States but on the way the person looks.”] Judge Jackson will be confirmed by the Senate in a few weeks. There will be two important “firsts”: First black woman on the Supreme Court and the first with public defender experience. She will be part of a 6-3 minority.
Saturday, February 19
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 80,115,432; Deaths: 962,218
[Munich Conference] European Leaders Gather in Munich to Discuss Ukraine Crisis – Two notable speeches: Pres. Zelensky of Ukraine called the European governments’ response “appeasement” but asked for their support. The other speech was by the Chinese Foreign Minister, who pointedly called for respect of national sovereignty (shaking a finger in Putin’s direction), while at the same time highlighting China’s desire to stay unencumbered by the crisis.
[Canada Protest] Police Finish Arrests and Truck Towing to End Freedom Convoy – It wasn’t really the end, as protesters remained in parts of Ottawa, but the air was definitely out of the tires. Initially about protesting COVID mandates, the demonstration grew and became less well defined – though still popular as a kind of general right-wing protest against government. Copy-cat protests are occurring elsewhere, including the U.S.
Sunday, February 20
[Ukraine] Biden Convenes the National Security Council to Discuss Ukraine – Continuing to say that Russia plans an invasion of Ukraine, Biden assembled the NSC to go over political and military options as well as the impact on the U.S. economy. VP Harris noted that the U.S. could see increased energy costs if Russia invades.
[Ukraine] Diplomatic Flurry: Biden Agrees “in Principle” to Special Summit with Putin – Diplomatic moves by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Blinken open a path for cease-fire meetings. [Update: Starting on Monday bullets replaced diplomatic bulletins.]
[Coronavirus] Queen Elizabeth II has COVID-19 – Just when the Conservative government is declaring the pandemic will be all but over on Thursday.
[Winter Olympics] Winter Olympics Conclude, Norway Tops Medal List, Again
Monday, February 21
[Ukraine] Putin Declares Ukraine a Nonstate, Sends Troops into Breakaway Provinces –– Technically, the invasion of Ukraine began with the movement of Russian troops in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Part of each province was already under Russian control. A full invasion begins when Russian troops either cross over the boundaries of the provinces, or attack from across the borders of Belarus and elsewhere.
[Coronavirus] Unmistakable: COVID-19 Cases Declining – Reports from nearly all 50 states indicate that the Omicron surge is ending. Medical analysis of the data collected by Johns Hopkins University showed that cases have dropped by 50% in less than two weeks. Barring the unpredictable appearance of yet another major variant, the U.S. could well and truly be out of the pandemic by summer – at least for people with the vaccine sequence and a booster.
[Trump Social Media] Trump Launches TRUTH Social, It Glitches – Intended to be a new social media platform similar to Twitter, the opening day of Trump’s Truth Social was marred by the inability of thousands to subscribe and numerous other operational glitches. Really, this is not anti-Trump hyperbole.
Tuesday, February 22
[Ukraine] U.S., Others Impose Sanctions on Russia for Ukraine Invasion – It was apparent that these sanctions are just a beginning, as countries wait to see if Russian troops press on beyond the breakaway provinces or start advancing from other points along the border between Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
[Ukraine] Trump Says Putin’s Moves in Ukraine “Genius” – While not surprising coming from a Putin aficionado such as Trump, this was significant not only under the circumstances – an actual invasion by Russia – but because it’s indicative of the attitude held by a number of right-wing congresspeople and members of the GOP. Their support of Putin is likely to become a major albatross hung on Republicans in general, although Mitch McConnell and others have taken up the more traditional Republican anti-Russian response.
[Arbery Trial] Defendants in Arbery Trial Convicted of Hate Crimes – The three men, already convicted of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, have now been found guilty by another jury for federal hate crimes. This could add another life sentence on top of their current life sentences for murder. The case was advanced to prove that their motives were rooted in an intractable hatred of black people.
[Jan. 6 Investigation] Supreme Court Denies Trump Effort to Withhold Documents – The high court simply wrote it will not take up the case (failure to grant certiorari). The House Select Committee should begin receiving documents from the National Archives as early as this week.
[Women’s Soccer] Equal Pay Settlement for Women’s Soccer Players – After years of litigation, negotiation, and public demonstration, the United States Soccer Federation has agreed to pay members of the U.S. women’s national team $24 million to settle the ongoing lawsuit. The settlement sets a precedent for equal pay between professional women players and men players.
Wednesday, February 23
[Ukraine] Russian Invasion of Ukraine Begins – Missiles and bombs began falling on major Ukrainian cities during the night between Wednesday and Thursday. The Russian invasion of Ukraine from points all along the border with Russia, Belarus, and from the Black Sea has begun in earnest. The general expectation is a quick victory for Russia, starting with the fall of the capital, Kyiv.
[Trump Investigation] Two Key Prosecutors Resign from Manhattan Trump Investigation – As an illustration of how difficult it can be to pin a criminal charge on a former president, two specialized anti-racketeering prosecutors, Carrie Dunn and Mark Pomerantz, abruptly quit after current Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg expressed doubts about the continuing investigation. As it so often is with criminal charges, proving “intent,” is difficult. That seems to be the case here, but the two prosecutors disagreed with that estimation.
[U.S. Post Office] USPS Will Buy Mostly Gas-Powered Trucks, Giving Middle Finger to EPA and Biden – The EPA had “strongly recommended” purchase of electric vehicles (148,000 in all), aligning with the Biden administration’s desire to move the federal fleet to all-electric. Apparently, the administration has not solved the Postmaster General problem, as Louis DeJoy, a Trump ally and enemy of the EPA, still holds the position.
Thursday, February 24
[Ukraine] Russia Announces “Special Military Operation” – Invasion by any other name, without much rationale other than “a long overdue strike against an American-led world order that is an empire of lies.” Biden’s response: “President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”
[Ukraine] Most Countries Begin Ramping-Up Sanctions against Russia – With the exceptions of China, North Korea, and India, countries around the world have begun instituting sanctions, ranging from financial penalties to banning of travel and certain forms of commerce. The U.S. and Germany concluded their effort to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from opening, the EU placed sanctions against 400 Russian oligarchs, military people, and key bureaucrats. This sounds like a lot, but since sanctions are a limited and delayed treatment, the effect on Putin will probably be minimal, at least in the short run.
[Ukraine] Russia Arrests 1,745 People in 54 Cities for Protesting the Attack on Ukraine – It’s not that the demonstrations will change Putin’s mind but that they happened at all. In a country where dissent is almost entirely illegal, it takes considerable courage for thousands of people to take to the streets. It’s indicative not so much of Putin’s weakness but the sympathy for Ukraine, and Ukrainians in general.
[Ukraine] Pentagon Orders 7,000 More Troops to Europe – In a military situation involving more than half a million soldiers, this is obviously a token troop movement, purely symbolic; but then symbolism at this point is mostly what NATO has.
[Floyd Case] Three Minneapolis Ex-Officers Found Guilty of Violating George Floyd’s Civil Rights – The three men involved (in addition to the convicted murderer Derek Chauvin) – Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung, and Thomas Lane – willfully violated Floyd’s civil rights by not providing medical care after he lost a pulse.
Friday, February 25
[Supreme Court] Biden Nominates Ketanji Brown Jackson to be Associate Supreme Court Justice – The Supreme Court has never had a black woman justice; if confirmed – which is all but certain – Judge Jackson will fill the seat being vacated by Justice Breyer. She is currently a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit (Merrick Garland’s old position). Opposition to her nomination is likely from only the most racist elements of the GOP and right-wing media.
[Ukraine] “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.” – Ukrainian President Zelensky declined the U.S. offer for evacuation. He is rapidly becoming the symbol of Ukrainian resistance, which, counter to all expectations, seems to be having an effect on the Russian “blitzkrieg.” Signs of that resistance, which is gathering momentum despite the probable outcome, has galvanized not only media coverage but public outpouring worldwide in support of Ukraine.
[Ukraine – NATO] NATO Does First Ever Activation of Response Force – There are 40,000 troops in the Response Force and some of them will be deployed to areas near the Russian border. At this point, this is a symbolic gesture.
[Ukraine] Offers for Negotiations Have Begun – Russia offered negotiations in Belarus, a showboat maneuver filled with impossible conditions, which Ukraine promptly rejected; but still, a somewhat strange early offer of negotiations by the Russians.
[CDC – Coronavirus] Major Policy Shift: CDC OKs No Masks Indoors for 70% of Americans – Bowing in part to good news in the data (and probably to intense political pressure), the CDC now supports no masks indoors in most American counties. People with higher risk should continue to wear masks. Significantly, relaxing of the mask rules does include schools, which may end the ongoing controversy.
[Coronavirus] U.S. Coronavirus Totals: Cases: 80,534,290; Deaths: 972,295
Politics, Legislation, Election Notes
Expect a very confused and divided GOP to come up with a surprising number of excuses/angles for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Trump, Cruz, Young, Hawley, Greene, Vance, Tucker Carlson and other openly pro-Putin Republicans espouse the “rigged [U.S.] election” for causing Putin’s war. (This is so lame it probably won’t be used for long.) Another branch of the GOP (Blackburn, Boebert, Rodgers, Daines, Noem – all heavily funded by the oil and gas industry) has latched onto the idea that Biden encouraged the war by failing to increase U.S. petro-production such as the Keystone XL Pipeline. (The U.S. gets 7% of its petroleum supply from Russia, not a big factor in Russia’s thinking.) Currently, the GOP is swinging around to a rationale that says Putin wouldn’t have attacked Ukraine if Trump were president. (Based on what evidence? Right now, Trump is saying that Putin was smart to attack; Trump’s a Putin enabler.) There will be more variations, especially since McConnell isn’t buying any of it.
And what are the Democrats doing to exploit all this?
New: GOP -> G.O. PUTIN!
Pinned Point: Until the filibuster rules are modified, most of the Biden agenda will not pass the Senate.
Quote of the Week
Colombia’s constitutional court voted Monday to decriminalize abortion in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, a transformative shift for the majority-Catholic country and the latest sign of a turning tide in Latin America. . . . The ruling makes Colombia the third large country in the region to decriminalize the procedure in slightly more than a year, after Mexico and Argentina.
Samantha Schmidt, “Columbia Court Decriminalizes Abortion, Adding to Regional Momentum,” The Washington Post, 2/21/2022.
[The IUY Weekly Journal assumes readers are at least casually familiar with names and events. For more details, check with internet search.]