Russia’s Nuclear Weapons Rhetoric: How Concerned Should We Be? – The New York Times

“President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia began ramping up his nuclear rhetoric this fall, raising the specter that he could use such a weapon in Ukraine. As Mr. Putin was making threats, senior Russian generals were discussing the circumstances when they might possibly use a tactical nuclear weapon, The New York Times reported.

American officials said they have seen no movement of Russian nuclear weapons and do not believe that the Russian government has decided to detonate such a device. But as Russia suffers setbacks on the battlefield, even talk about using one has raised alarm.”

Bret Stephens | Putin Is Starting to Do What Won Him a War 7 Years Ago – The New York Times

“. . . The strategy is clear. Putin’s armies might be falling back in the field. But if he can freeze, starve and terrorize Ukraine’s people by going after their water supplies and energy infrastructure — while waiting for winter to blunt Ukraine’s advance — he might still be able to force Kyiv to accept some sort of armistice, leaving him in possession of most of his conquests.

That would count as a victory in Putin’s books, however wounded he might otherwise be. It would also be encouragement to China’s Xi Jinping as he eyes Taiwan and Iran’s Ali Khamenei as he tries to suppress weeks of protest that are starting to have the color of a revolution. Much more is at stake in the outcome in Ukraine than the fate of Ukraine itself.

What can the Biden administration do? More. And more quickly.

So far, we’ve had a policy of nick-of-time delivery of critical weaponry, such as the Javelin and Stinger missiles that saved Kyiv at the beginning of the war and HIMARS, the rocket systems that turned the tide of war over the summer. We need to switch to an approach that stays consistently ahead of the pace of war and weather.

On Tuesday the administration announced that it would soon be delivering to Ukraine two National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, or NASAMS, with ranges of up to 30 miles. But there’s a hitch: Only “in the next few years,” according to a report in The Times, will Ukraine get to take delivery of the next six systems.

Ukrainians, whose country is nearly the size of Texas, need the systems now. If the United States can’t deliver them quickly, we can at least provide Ukrainians with unmanned aerial vehicles (U.A.V.s) that can give them vastly improved detection and defensive capabilities over much longer ranges.

The Biden administration has been considering the sale of four of the U.S. Army’s long-endurance U.A.V.s armed with Hellfire missiles since June, but the request has been held up in the bowels of Pentagon bureaucracy for months over excessive fears that some of its technologies could fall into Russian hands. Why not approve the sale, increase the numbers and start training Ukrainians on the systems immediately?” . . . .

The Untold Story of ‘Russiagate’ and the Road to War in Ukraine – The New York Times

“On the night of July 28, 2016, as Hillary Clinton was accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in Philadelphia, Donald J. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, received an urgent email from Moscow. The sender was a friend and business associate named Konstantin Kilimnik. A Russian citizen born in Soviet Ukraine, Kilimnik ran the Kyiv office of Manafort’s international consulting firm, known for bringing cutting-edge American campaign techniques to clients seeking to have their way with fragile democracies around the world.

Kilimnik didn’t say much, only that he needed to talk, in person, as soon as possible. Exactly what he wanted to talk about was apparently too sensitive even for the tradecraft the men so fastidiously deployed — encrypted apps, the drafts folder of a shared email account and, when necessary, dedicated “bat phones.” But he had made coded reference — “caviar” — to an important former client, the deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who had fled to Russia in 2014 after presiding over the massacre of scores of pro-democracy protesters. Manafort responded within minutes, and the plan was set for five days later.

Kilimnik cleared customs at Kennedy Airport at 7:43 p.m., only 77 minutes before the scheduled rendezvous at the Grand Havana Room, a Trump-world hangout atop 666 Fifth Avenue, the Manhattan office tower owned by the family of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Shortly after the appointed hour, Kilimnik walked onto a perfectly put-up stage set for a caricature drama of furtive figures hatching covert schemes with questionable intent — a dark-lit cigar bar with mahogany-paneled walls and floor-to-ceiling windows columned in thick velvet drapes, its leather club chairs typically filled by large men with open collars sipping Scotch and drawing on parejos and figurados. Men, that is, like Paul Manafort, with his dyed-black pompadour and penchant for pinstripes. There, with the skyline shimmering though the cigar-smoke haze, Kilimnik shared a secret plan whose significance would only become clear six years later, as Vladimir V. Putin’s invading Russian Army pushed into Ukraine.”

Thomas Friedman | Putin and M.B.S. Are Laughing at Us – The New York Times

“. . . . While America can still theoretically take care of most of its own needs for oil and gas today, unlike Europe, we do not have enough to export at the scale required to make up for Putin’s and OPEC Plus’s cutbacks and ease Europe’s transition to a decarbonized future.

But the green progressives never got that message. At a House committee hearing two weeks ago, Representative Rashida Tlaib demanded to know if JPMorgan Chase C.E.O. Jamie Dimon and other banking executives appearing before the panel had any policies “against funding new oil and gas products.”

Dimon answered, “Absolutely not, and that would be the road to hell for America.”

Tlaib then told Dimon that any students who had student loans and bank accounts with JPMorgan should retaliate by closing their accounts. Have no doubt: This kind of juvenile moral preening by Tlaib surely made Vladimir Putin’s day. She’s nowhere nearly as bad as the G.O.P. senators who were inspired for years by ExxonMobil lies that climate change is a hoax, and then used that to block our transition to clean energy. But Tlaib still made Putin’s day.

What lifted Putin even more was when he watched Bernie Sanders, House progressive Democrats and the whole G.O.P. last week come together to kill a bill backed by President Biden and the Democratic leadership to streamline the permitting process for domestic energy projects, particularly permitting for gas pipelines and wind and solar transmission lines — one of our biggest impediments to a stable green transition.

Hard to know who is worse, the progressives who did not understand how much solar and wind energy require quicker transmission permitting to safely scale clean energy or the Republicans, who knew oil and gas companies need quicker pipeline permitting to grow gas production, but killed it so Biden would not have another success. As Joe Manchin, a fossil fuel-friendly Democrat who championed the bill, put it: “What I didn’t expect is that Mitch McConnell, my Republican friends, would be signing up with Bernie or trying to get the same outcome by not passing permitting reform.”

All in all, Putin had a bad month in Ukraine — but a good month in the U.S. Congress.

This is not complicated, folks: Do you want to make a point or do you want to make a difference? If we want to make a difference, we need to maximize our energy security, natural security and economic security, all at once. The only way to do that effectively is to incentivize our market to produce a stable and secure supply of energy, with the lowest possible emissions at the lowest possible costs as fast as possible.

The only truly effective way to do that is with a strong price signal — either taxes on dirty stuff or incentives for clean stuff — plus steadily increasing clean energy standards for power generation along the lines proposed by Hal Harvey and Justin Gillis in their new book “The Big Fix: Seven Practical Steps to Save Our Planet.

As long as we are not ready to do that, we’re just faking it, indulging in virtue signaling on the left and the right — and Putin and M.B.S. are laughing all the way to the bank.”  -30-

Paul Krugman | War, Inflation and Squandered Credibility – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“What does Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, understand that Vladimir Putin doesn’t?

OK, I know that may sound like a trick question, or a desperate effort to offer a counterintuitive take on recent events. We may say that the Fed has gone to war against inflation, but that’s just a metaphor. Russia’s war on Ukraine, unfortunately, is all too real, leading to tens of thousands of deaths among both soldiers and civilians.

Yet the Fed and the Putin regime have this in common: Both took major policy actions this week. The Fed raised interest rates in an attempt to curb inflation. While Putin announced a partial mobilization in an attempt to rescue his failed invasion. Both actions will inflict pain.

One important difference, however — aside from the fact that Powell is not, as far as I know, a war criminal — is that the Fed is acting to maintain its credibility, while Putin seems determined to squander whatever credibility he might still have.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Did I write before that I love Paul Krugman. His columns are almost always excellent, and always challenging. It is good for the brain, like doing a hard jig saw puzzle, only you learn more reading Krugman than doing a jig saw puzzle,– about economics, politics and the world. The commenters here think Krugman has made a mistake in his assumption that a dictator has to worry at all about his credibility. They are wrong. Remember the French revolution. Where they might be on to something, it is hard to think of many examples were credibility is more important than raw power. There are more examples if you scrape. The Confederacy miss-estimated that England would support their uprising, because England valued their cotton more than it valued the human rights of slaves. My fear is that Putin will use these poor, pressed, 300,000 young men to secure the large eastern part of the Ukraine, and keep it. So I want NATO and the US to dramatically increase its support, and possibly even take over the Black Sea, for humanitarian reasons. The United States might have to go onto a war footing, without declaring war, to fight two wars at once. We need a war to slow the climate crisis, and a war to stop the spread of Putinism and fascist overreach. But we should not get confused. The climate crisis is the larger danger to our national and personal security. David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion on 18th century Vietnam and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Marlene Laruelle | Russia’s Putin Is in Trouble – The New York Times

Ms. Laruelle is a professor at the George Washington University and the author of “Is Russia Fascist?”

“In the wake of a stunning counteroffensive in which Ukrainian forces reclaimed over 1,000 miles of territory, Russia is uneasy.

The country’s political talk shows, usually so deferential, have given the floor to more critical voices. Opponents of the war have weighed in — about 40 officials from municipal councils signed a petition requesting the president’s resignation — and previously loyal figures have begun to mutter about the regime’s failings. In a sign of general discontent, Alla Pugacheva, Russia’s most famous 20th-century pop star, has come out against the war. Six months of consensus has started to crack.

That consensus wasn’t as cast-iron as it might have seemed. While many Western observers tend to view the Russian regime as a monolith, the reality is more complex. Though the war has significantly reduced the scope for dissent, there are still several competing ideological camps within the ruling elite capable of making their voices heard. For example, the so-called systemic liberals, mostly concentrated in state financial institutions and among oligarchs, have expressed concerns about the war’s consequences for the Russian economy. But it is another group, emboldened by the Kremlin’s failure to deliver victory in Ukraine, that is putting ever more pressure on the regime.

Call it the party of war. Made up of the security agencies, the Defense Ministry and outspoken media and political figures, it encompasses the entire radical nationalist ecosystem — and its adherents have been mounting a sustained critique of the Kremlin’s handling of the war in Ukraine. Powerful, well positioned and ideologically committed, they want a much more aggressive war effort. And judging from Mr. Putin’s address on Wednesday — where he announced the call-up of roughly 300,000 troops, gave his support to referendums in the four occupied regions of Ukraine on joining Russia and repeated the threat of nuclear escalation — they seem to be getting their way.”

Thomas L. Friedman | Three Paths Toward an Endgame for Putin’s War – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

MUNICH — Last week was an interesting week to be in Europe talking to national security experts, officials and business executives about Ukraine. Ukraine and its allies had just forced Russian invaders into a chaotic retreat from a big chunk of territory, while the presidents of China and India had seemed to make clear to Vladimir Putin that the food and energy inflation his war has stoked was hurting their 2.7 billion people. On top of all that, one of Russia’s iconic pop stars told her 3.4 million followers on Instagram that the war was “turning our country into a pariah and worsening the lives of our citizens.”

In short, it was Putin’s worst week since he invaded Ukraine — without wisdom, justice, mercy or a Plan B.

How Russian Trolls Helped Keep the Women’s March Out of Lock Step – The New York Times

“Linda Sarsour awoke on Jan. 23, 2017, logged onto the internet, and felt sick.

The weekend before, she had stood in Washington at the head of the Women’s March, a mobilization against President Donald J. Trump that surpassed all expectations. Crowds had begun forming before dawn, and by the time she climbed up onto the stage, they extended farther than the eye could see.

More than four million people around the United States had taken part, experts later estimated, placing it among the largest single-day protests in the nation’s history.

But then something shifted, seemingly overnight. What she saw on Twitter that Monday was a torrent of focused grievance that targeted her. In 15 years as an activist, largely advocating for the rights of Muslims, she had faced pushback, but this was of a different magnitude. A question began to form in her mind: Do they really hate me that much?

That morning, there were things going on that Ms. Sarsour could not imagine.

More than 4,000 miles away, organizations linked to the Russian government had assigned teams to the Women’s March. At desks in bland offices in St. Petersburg, using models derived from advertising and public relations, copywriters were testing out social media messages critical of the Women’s March movement, adopting the personas of fictional Americans.

They posted as Black women critical of white feminism, conservative women who felt excluded, and men who mocked participants as hairy-legged whiners. But one message performed better with audiences than any other.

It singled out an element of the Women’s March that might, at first, have seemed like a detail: Among its four co-chairs was Ms. Sarsour, a Palestinian American activist whose hijab marked her as an observant Muslim.”

Bret Stephens | Five Blunt Truths About the War in Ukraine – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Five sentences sum up the war in Ukraine as it stands now.

The Russians are running out of precision-guided weapons. The Ukrainians are running out of Soviet-era munitions. The world is running out of patience for the war. The Biden administration is running out of ideas for how to wage it. And the Chinese are watching.

Moscow’s shortfalls with its arsenal, which have been obvious on the battlefield for weeks, are cause for long-term relief and short-term horror. Relief, because the Russian war machine, on whose modernization Vladimir Putin spent heavily, has been exposed as a paper tiger that could not seriously challenge NATO in a conventional conflict.

Horror, because an army that cannot wage a high-tech war, relatively low on collateral damage, will wage a low-tech war, appallingly high on such damage. Ukraine, by its own estimates, is suffering 20,000 casualties a month. By contrast, the U.S. suffered about 36,000 casualties in Iraq over seven years of war. For all its bravery and resolve, Kyiv can hold off — but not defeat — a neighbor more than three times its size in a war of attrition.”

Thomas L. Friedman | The Ukraine War Still Holds Surprises. The Biggest May Be for Putin. – The New York Times

     Opinion Columnist

“LONDON — Here’s a surprising fact: At a time when Americans can’t agree on virtually anything, there’s been a consistent majority in favor of giving generous economic and military aid to Ukraine in its fight against Vladimir Putin’s effort to wipe it off the map. It’s doubly surprising when you consider that most Americans couldn’t find Ukraine on a map just a few months ago, as it’s a country with which we’ve never had a special relationship.

Sustaining that support through this summer, though, will be doubly important as the Ukraine war settles into a kind of “sumo” phase — two giant wrestlers, each trying to throw the other out of the ring, but neither willing to quit or able to win.

While I expect some erosion as people grasp how much this war is driving up global energy and food prices, I’m still hopeful that a majority of Americans will hang in there until Ukraine can recover its sovereignty militarily or strike a decent peace deal with Putin. My near-term optimism doesn’t derive from reading polls, but reading history — in particular, Michael Mandelbaum’s new book, “The Four Ages of American Foreign Policy: Weak Power, Great Power, Superpower, Hyperpower.

Mandelbaum, professor emeritus of U.S. foreign policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (we co-wrote a book in 2011), argues that while U.S. attitudes toward Ukraine may seem utterly unexpected and novel, they are not. Looked at through the sweep of U.S. foreign policy — which his book compellingly chronicles through the lens of the four different power relationships America has had with the world — they’re actually quite familiar and foreseeable. Indeed, so much so that both Putin and China’s president, Xi Jinping, would both benefit from reading this book.

Throughout U.S. history, our nation has oscillated between two broad approaches to foreign policy, Mandelbaum explained in an interview, echoing a key theme in his book: “One emphasizes power, national interest and security and is associated with Theodore Roosevelt. The other stresses the promotion of American values and is identified with Woodrow Wilson.”

While these two world views were often in competition, that was not always the case. And when a foreign policy challenge came along that was in harmony with both our interests and our values, it hit the sweet spot and could command broad, deep and lasting public support.

“This happened in World War II and the Cold War,” Mandelbaum noted, “and it appears to be happening again with Ukraine.” “

David Lindsay: Bravo Thomas Friedman.  Here is a comment that supports us Ukrainiacs.

Citizen
NYC June 7

Interesting take on the conflict. Speaking of Putin, I’ve come to the conclusion that Putin is doomed. His biggest miscalculation (in a sea of many) is not understanding the national interest of his biggest ally and neighbor, China. Apparently, China was not consulted in Putin’s Ukraine ‘adventure’. But China was expected to back up Putin when his adventure went awry. However, China has it’s own reasons to refuse–and not simply because of threats by the West not to intervene. The reason is, Putin did not give a thought to China’s global aspirations, which are bigger than Putin’s delusions. China has had a longstanding initiative with respect to Asia, and in particular, Africa, called the “Belt and Road” initiative, which aims to provide African infrastructure in exchange for access to Africa’s continental (and under-utilized) resources. And right now, Putin’s adventure is causing a serious food shortage in Africa and parts of Asia. In short, Putin’s adventure in Ukraine is hurting the leaders China needs to do business with. Even if it wanted to help Putin, it cannot be seen to be assisting the very cause of Asia and Africa’s deepening food crisis. Add in his impetuous behavior, and lack of care as a neighbor, and China may well decide it has nothing to lose by letting Putin (and Russia) twist in the wind. Bordering Russia’s unpopulated Far East, China billion+ population stands to gain from an AWOL Russia. Russia’s High Command knows this. Putin is toast.

7 Replies414 Recommended