“Why is Vladimir Putin threatening to take another bite out of Ukraine, after devouring Crimea in 2014? That is not an easy question to answer because Putin is a one-man psychodrama, with a giant inferiority complex toward America that leaves him always stalking the world with a chip on his shoulder so big it’s amazing he can fit through any door.
Let’s see: Putin is a modern-day Peter the Great out to restore the glory of Mother Russia. He’s a retired K.G.B. agent who simply refuses to come in from the cold and still sees the C.I.A. under every rock and behind every opponent. He’s America’s ex-boyfriend-from-hell, who refuses to let us ignore him and date other countries, like China — because he always measures his status in the world in relation to us. And he’s a politician trying to make sure he wins (or rigs) Russia’s 2024 election — and becomes president for life — because when you’ve siphoned off as many rubles as Putin has, you can never be sure that your successor won’t lock you up and take them all. For him, it’s rule or die.
Somewhere in the balance of all of those identities and neuroses is the answer to what Putin intends to do with Ukraine.
If I were a cynic, I’d just tell him to go ahead and take Kyiv because it would become his Kabul, his Afghanistan — but the human costs would be intolerable. Short of that, I’d be very clear: If he wants to come down from the tree in which he’s lodged himself, he’s going to have to jump or build his own ladder. He has completely contrived this crisis, so there should be no give on our part. China is watching — and Taiwan is sweating — everything we do in reaction to Vlad right now.”
“Grave may have been the mistakes of Donald Rumsfeld, but George W. Bush’s first defense secretary did have a gift for memorable phrases. One of them — “weakness is provocative” — explains the predicament we again find ourselves in with Russia’s belligerence against Ukraine and NATO.
Let’s recap how we got here.
■ In August 2008, Russia invaded Georgia and took control of two of its provinces. The Bush administration protested but did almost nothing. After Barack Obama won the White House that fall, he pursued a “reset” with Russia. In 2012, he cut U.S. force levels in Europe to their lowest levels in postwar history and mocked Mitt Romney for calling Russia our principal geopolitical threat.
■ In September 2013, Obama famously retreated from his red line against Bashar al-Assad’s use of nerve gas in Syria, accepting instead a Russian offer of mediation that was supposed to have eliminated al-Assad’s chemical arsenal. That arsenal was never fully destroyed, but Vladimir Putin took note of Obama’s palpable reluctance to get involved.
■ In February 2014, Russia used “little green men” to seize and then annex Crimea. The Obama administration protested but did almost nothing. Russia then took advantage of unrest in eastern Ukraine to shear off two Ukrainian provinces while sparking a war that has lasted seven years and cost more than 13,000 lives. Obama responded with weak sanctions on Russia and a persistent refusal to arm Ukraine.”
By Glenn R. Simpson and
Mr. Simpson and Mr. Fritsch are the founders of Fusion GPS.
“As the founders of Fusion GPS, the research firm that commissioned the reports by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele that raised some of the earliest warnings of Russia’s actions, we’re willing to clear up some of the nonsense now so abundant on the right.
House Republicans like Representatives Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan seem eager to portray Fusion as co-conspirators with the Ukrainians in some devilish plot to undermine Mr. Trump’s 2016 candidacy. That could not be farther from the truth. None of the information in the so-called Steele dossier came from Ukrainian sources. Zero. And we’ve never met Serhiy Leshchenko, the Ukrainian former legislator and journalist whom Republicans want to blame for the downfall of Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
That said, our investigation of Donald Trump did get a great boost because of Ukraine, just not in the way Republicans imagine. We began looking into Mr. Trump’s business dealings and ties to Russia in the fall of 2015 with funding from Republicans who wanted to stop his political ascent. The Ukraine alarms went off six months later, when candidate Trump brought into his campaign none other than Mr. Manafort, a man with his own tangled history with Russian oligarchs trying to get their way in Ukraine.
It turns out we already knew a great deal about Mr. Manafort’s activities in Ukraine because we worked on several stories about his work for Russian-backed politicians eight years earlier, when we were both still writing for The Wall Street Journal. That reporting threw a spotlight on how Mr. Manafort, while representing clients involved in fierce geopolitical struggles over Ukraine, had neglected to comply with a lobbying law requiring that he register as a foreign agent — the very law, among others, to which he pleaded guilty of violating.”
“WASHINGTON — He stood on one side of a war-damaged bridge in Ukraine staring across at Russian-backed forces and saw the real-world consequences of President Trump’s efforts to advance a personal agenda. “More Ukrainians,” he said, “would undoubtedly die.”
Recalling that moment during explosive testimony on Tuesday, William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, laid out in visceral terms the stakes of what he saw as an illegitimate scheme to pressure the Kiev government for political help by suspending American security aid.
In by far the most damning account yet to become public in the House impeachment inquiry Mr. Taylor described a president holding up $391 million in assistance for the clear purpose of forcing Ukraine to help incriminate Mr. Trump’s domestic rivals. Mr. Trump’s actions, he testified, undercut American allies desperately fighting off Russia’s attempt to redraw the boundaries of Europe through force.”
“WASHINGTON — The effort to pressure Ukraine for political help provoked a heated confrontation inside the White House last summer that so alarmed John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, that he told an aide to alert White House lawyers, House investigators were told on Monday.
Mr. Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Gordon D. Sondland, the Trump donor turned ambassador to the European Union, who was working with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats, according to three people who heard the testimony.
The aide, Fiona Hill, testified that Mr. Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the people familiar with the testimony.
“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition. (Another person in the room initially said Mr. Bolton referred to Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Mulvaney, but two others said he cited Mr. Sondland.)”
“For some Europeans, the most embarrassing revelation of the now very public phone conversation between Donald Trump and Ukraine’s president on July 25 was not the attempt by Mr. Trump to interfere in the judiciary system of a foreign country for his own political benefit. Nothing the American president does could surprise any longer.
What they found particularly disappointing, instead, was the servility with which his young counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, sought to ingratiate himself with Mr. Trump, pretending that he had won the Ukrainian presidency by imitating him, claiming to have appointed a new prosecutor general who would be “100 percent my person,” and happily joining in the Euro-bashing that has become one of Mr. Trump’s trademarks.
Masks were falling off. So this popular maverick comedian turned real-life politician after playing one in a TV series, this promising reformer that President Emmanuel Macron of France had hosted at the Élysée even before he was elected, was in fact another spineless, unprepared leader jumping into President Trump’s every trap.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Macron have been wise enough not to comment on this pathetic turn of events. Privately, French diplomats insist that Paris still actively supports Mr. Zelensky — even more so in light of the American meltdown. What is at stake in Ukraine for the European Union is far too important, and the risk of seeing Mr. Trump’s dirty work derail laborious efforts to reform that post-Soviet country far too real.”
David Lindsay: Here is the perfect antidote to Rachel Maddow, who spent way to much time the other night on the Inspector General’s calling 8 house committees for an emergency meeting, to get rubbish about conspiracy theories put together by non other than Rudy Guiliani.
Here are the top two comments I endorsed:
Excellent article. It helped me realize that in reading the transcript of Trump’s phone call with President Zelensky, it’s worth noting what was not in the transcript, and not just the criminality so clearly in evidence. There was not even the briefest discussion of Ukraine’s economic or military situation or any other item of substance, and this at a very fraught time in the history of the Ukraine, as well as in the US-Russian relationship. Such dereliction of duty by an American president should itself be cause for impeachment.
This essay underscores the absolute essential nature of globalism and diplomacy. It reveals what happens if amateurs are placed in charge of highly specialized and professional administrative positions. When the Trumpist path is taken, everything falls apart. We are falling apart. The United Kingdom is falling apart. And now, Ukraine in falling apart. All of this ensuing chaos is to the benefit of Putin. Putin is waging a war of chaos and disfunction against the West. The more disorganized the West becomes (Brexit), the more turmoil inside our governments (Trump’s war on our institutions and public meritocracy), the more friction between allies (Trump’s ever expanding trade wars with our closest allies), the lesser the threat the West presents to him and the stronger Russia becomes. Trump, with his attempt to extort political assistance from Ukraine, plays right into Putin’s hand. Trump, whether he realizes it or not, is Putin’s puppet. The EU has been trying to pull Ukraine into the West’s sphere of influence and rule of law through increased trade. Trump is doing the complete opposite. He is using tariffs as weapon to isolate and turn all against all. This new trade war with the EU, which has just started, has the potential to be devastating, both economically and strategically. It will cost consumers plenty, reduce trade and slow down the global economy, which is already slowing down from tariffs on China. Putin couldn’t be happier.
“A week before Michael T. Flynn resigned as national security adviser, a sealed proposal was hand-delivered to his office, outlining a way for President Trump to lift sanctions against Russia.
Mr. Flynn is gone, having been caught lying about his own discussion of sanctions with the Russian ambassador. But the proposal, a peace plan for Ukraine and Russia, remains, along with those pushing it: Michael D. Cohen, the president’s personal lawyer, who delivered the document; Felix H. Sater, a business associate who helped Mr. Trump scout deals in Russia; and a Ukrainian lawmaker trying to rise in a political opposition movement shaped in part by Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort.”
Many good comments. Cheerleaders all. Keep digging!!
“WASHINGTON — Few political consultants have had a client fail quite as spectacularly as Paul Manafort’s did in Ukraine in the winter of 2014.President Viktor F. Yanukovych, who owed his election to, as an American diplomat put it, an “extreme makeover” Mr. Manafort oversaw, bolted the country in the face of violent street protests. He found sanctuary in Russia and never returned, as his patron, President Vladimir V. Putin, proceeded to dismember Ukraine, annexing Crimea and fomenting a war in two other provinces that continues.”
So Paul Krugman was right last week, when he said there was a fishy bias favorable to Putin in the Trump camp.