Peter Beinart |  Make the World Safer, but He’s Too Afraid of the Politics – The New York Times

Mr. Beinart is a journalist and commentator who writes frequently about American foreign policy.

President Biden has the chance to avert a nuclear crisis that could push the United States to the brink of war and threaten the coalition he’s built to counter Russia. But he isn’t seizing it for one overriding reason: He fears the political blowback.

Since taking office, Mr. Biden has pledged to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal that Barack Obama signed and Donald Trump junked. That’s vital, since Tehran, freed from the deal’s constraints, has been racing toward the ability to build a nuclear bomb. Now, according to numerous press reports, the United States and Iran have largely agreed on how to revive the agreement.”

David Lindsay:  How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?
6. One to change the light bulb, and 5 to discuss how they miss and preferred the old light bulb better.
On that note, I miss the NYT Picks, even though I was often mift at them. I would go into them, when the crowd was off on a terribly popular tangent or two, like it is here.
Peter Beinart has written an extraordinarily strong piece, but the crowd will not have any of it.
Beinart wrote: “No president can carry out everything in his party’s platform, of course. But Mr. Biden won’t even repeal policies imposed by the president he defeated and reinstate those of the president he served. And in the case of Iran, that unwillingness is both absurd and dangerous.

It’s absurd because there was no good reason to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization in the first place. Until Mr. Trump did so in 2019, the designation had never been applied to a foreign military. The corps was already under multiple sanctions. And supporters of Mr. Trump’s move frankly acknowledged that the designation was intended to make it politically painful for any future president to revive the Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration killed.”
This is strong, excellent writing, and appears to based on facts and cold logic. Biden is doing a very good job, but there is still room for improvement.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Opinion | They Are the Heirs of Nazi Fortunes, and They Aren’t Apologizing – The New York Times

Mr. de Jong is a former reporter for Bloomberg News and the author of “Nazi Billionaires: The Dark History of Germany’s Wealthiest Dynasties,” from which this essay is adapted.

“The backbone of Germany’s economy today is the car industry. It’s not just that it accounts for about 10 percent of G.D.P.; brands like Porsche, Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen are recognized around the world as symbols of German industrial ingenuity and excellence. These companies spend millions on branding and advertising to ensure they are thought of this way. They spend less money and energy on discussing their roots. These corporations can trace their success directly back to Nazis: Ferdinand Porsche persuaded Hitler to put Volkswagen into production. His son, Ferry Porsche, who built up the company, was a voluntary SS officer. Herbert Quandt, who built BMW into what it is today, committed war crimes. So did Friedrich Flick, who came to control Daimler-Benz. Unlike Mr. Quandt, Mr. Flick was convicted at Nuremberg.”

Good article, and I felt great sympathy for these poor almond growers, until I read these top comments at the NYT:

M. Green
Fort Bragg, CA 2h ago

Have you noticed that almonds are everywhere in milk, mixed nuts, cereals? With water shortages throughout California, almond farmers are monopolizing Central Valley water only to ship huge surpluses overseas, Drive through orchard lands and read signs that cry over not getting enough of our water. It’s hard to sympathize.

2 Replies121 Recommended

 
Yo commented 2 hours ago

Yo
Halfway2h ago

These rich cowboys are growing water intensive crop in a drought stricken desert and now crying foul when market economics takes a course they don’t benefit from. Almonds are luxury food crop, stop growing.

1 Reply107 Recommended

Thomas L. Friedman | China and Russia Are Giving Authoritarianism a Bad Name – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The last decade looked like a good one for authoritarian regimes and a challenging one for democratic ones. Cybertools, drones, facial recognition technology and social networks seemed to make efficient authoritarians even more efficient and democracies increasingly ungovernable.

The West lost self-confidence — and both Russian and Chinese leaders rubbed it in, putting out the word that these chaotic democratic systems were a spent force.

And then a totally unexpected thing happened: Russia and China each overreached.

Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and, to his surprise, invited an indirect war with NATO and the West. China insisted that it was smart enough to have its own local solution to a pandemic, leaving millions of Chinese underprotected or unprotected and, in effect, inviting a war with one of Mother Nature’s most contagious viruses — the Omicron mutation of SARS-CoV-2. It’s now led China to lock down all of Shanghai and parts of 44 other cities — some 370 million people.”

Charles A. Kupchan | Putin’s War in Ukraine Is a Watershed. Time for America to Get Real. – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/11/opinion/ukraine-war-realist-strategy.html

Mr. Kupchan is a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“During his recent speech in Warsaw, President Biden said that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power,” only to clarify a few days later that he was merely expressing outrage, not announcing a new U.S. policy aimed at toppling Russia’s leader. The episode, interpreted by many as a dangerous gaffe, underscored the tension in U.S. foreign policy between idealism and realism.

Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine should provoke moral outrage in all of us, and, at least in principle, it warrants his removal from office. But Mr. Putin could well remain the leader of a major power into the next decade, and Washington will need to deal with him.

This friction between lofty goals and realpolitik is nothing new. The United States has since the founding era been an idealist power operating in a realist world — and has on balance succeeded in bending the arc of history toward justice. But geopolitical exigency at times takes precedence over ideals, with America playing power politics when it needs to.

During the Cold War, Washington promoted stability by tolerating a Soviet sphere of influence and cozying up to unsavory regimes willing to fight Communism. In contrast, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, America operated under conditions of geopolitical slack; great-power rivalry was muted, enabling Washington to put front and center its effort to promote democracy and expand a liberal, rules-based international order.”

Harrison Stetler | Vincent Bolloré, the Mogul Behind Marine Le Pen and the French Right – The New York Times

Mr. Stetler is a journalist who writes about French politics.

“PARIS — Like the rest of Europe, France is gripped by the war in Ukraine. Days from the first round of the presidential election here, the incumbent, Emmanuel Macron, hopes to prevail with what was, for much of the last two months, a muted campaign in which he posed as a steady hand in a time of global instability.

But for all the talk of a united West, the truth is that a noxious blend of oligarchy, nostalgia and bellicose nationalism is ever more ubiquitous on this side of the new Iron Curtain. In France, it is led by a buoyant and confident new right, represented in this election by Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally; Valérie Pécresse of the ostensibly moderate Republicans; and Éric Zemmour, the pugilistic proto-fascist commentator turned candidate.

Yet their electoral showing this month may be but a sideshow in a broader attempt to remake French politics. Behind them all, to one degree or another, is someone not even on the ballot: the media mogul Vincent Bolloré. The scion of an old industrial family, Mr. Bolloré wields a fearsome agenda-setting power; his outlets, known for adopting the flair, tics and style of Fox News, play an outsize role in directing the national debate. The three candidates from the right — and much of the political class, in fact — recycle, in varying shades, messages that run on a loop on his networks.”

‘Like Living in a Horror Movie’: A Ukraine Town Dying a Slow Death – The New York Times

Thomas Gibbons-Neff and 

“HULIAIPOLE, Ukraine — The shelling begins in earnest a little before midnight, well after the sky has turned oily black, the cell towers have powered down and the stray dogs have begun barking into the night.

There is no electricity or running water in Huliaipole. There is just darkness and long minutes of silence when the ticking of battery-powered wall clocks or the grating of open gates in the cold wind are anxiously scrutinized until the next explosion thuds somewhere nearby, rattling windows. And bones.

And then it happens again. And again. A high-pitched screech and then a boom. Sometimes the shells get closer. Or farther away. Maybe, for a few hours, they stop altogether. But it’s been the same routine for almost a month in this town along the front lines in eastern Ukraine, with each night bringing the same question: Where will the next one land?”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Europe gratefully accepted help when they were invade and occupied. It is time for them to pay back. The US and parts of Europe guaranteed Ukraine’s independence when it agreed to give up over 500 nuclear warheads after the fall of the Soviet Union.
NATO should push the Russians out of the Ukraine. Some things are morally correct, and some things are worth taking risks for, even dying for.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net
x

Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances

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Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances
Memorandum on Security Assurances in connection with the Republic of Belarus’/Republic of Kazakhstan’s/Ukraine’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
Presidents after signing the Trilateral Statement, Moscow, 1994.png

U.S. President Clinton, Russian President Yeltsin, and Ukrainian President Kravchuk after signing the Trilateral Statement in Moscow on 14 January 1994
Full text
 Ukraine. Memorandum on Security Assurances at Wikisource

The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances comprises three identical political agreements signed at the OSCE conference in BudapestHungary, on 5 December 1994, to provide security assurances by its signatories relating to the accession of BelarusKazakhstan and Ukraine to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The memorandum was originally signed by three nuclear powers: the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United StatesChina and France gave somewhat weaker individual assurances in separate documents.[1]

The memorandum prohibited the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States from threatening or using military force or economic coercion against Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, “except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.” As a result of other agreements and the memorandum, between 1993 and 1996, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine gave up their nuclear weapons.[2][3]

David Lindsay: This explains why Putin claimed self-defense. But is suggests we have an obligation to the Ukraine.

Thomas L. Friedman | Xi, Putin and Trump: The Strongmen Follies – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The last five years have been a master class in comparative politics, because something happened that we’d never seen before at the same time: The world’s three most powerful leaders — Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump — each took drastic steps to hold onto power beyond their designated terms of office. One failed. Two succeeded. And therein lies a tale that says so much about our world today.

Trump failed for one very simple reason: American institutions, laws and norms forced him to cede power at the end of his four years — barely — despite both his efforts to discredit the electoral results and his unleashing of supporters to intimidate lawmakers into overturning his loss at the polls.

Putin and Xi fared better — so far. Unencumbered by institutions and democratic norms, they installed new laws to make themselves, effectively, presidents for life.

Pity their nations.”.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT  

These comments, so critical of Thomas Friedman’s brilliant essay, remind me of a remark by the young woman, Greta Thunberg, “Blah, blah, blah.” The multiple comments against the fascist and white supremacist tendencies in the new Republican party, are perhaps correct, but do not do justice to Friedman, who wasn’t writing this week about the sins and catastrophe which is the new Trumpist Republican party. Friedman’s ending was admirable. It included: “The fact that Putin apparently took that limitless friendship as a green light to invade Ukraine has clearly left Xi flummoxed and floundering. China is a big importer of oil, corn and wheat from Russia and Ukraine, so the Russian invasion has nudged up its costs for these and other food imports, while also helping to drive down China’s stock market (though it is bouncing back). It has also forced China to appear indifferent to Russia’s savaging of Ukraine, straining Beijing’s relations with the European Union, China’s biggest trading partner. I wonder how many officials in Beijing are now muttering: “If this is what happens when you have a president for life. …” ” Thank you Thomas Friedman, for your incisive observations. My fellow commenters, let me remind you, the objects of your attacks, these op-ed writers, are limited to about 800 words, so they address a topic, and not all topics. Often, the best comments, negative or positive, respond to the topic at hand. David blogs right here, in comments, and at InconvenientNews.net.

Reply      4 Recommended

1 REPLY

EDT commented 4 hours ago

EDT
New York4h ago

@David Lindsay Jr. I agree and appreciate your critique but don’t hold out hope that the commenters you are addressing will read and reflect. It is unfortunate as you note that comment sections get clogged up with folks who just want to vent against the columnist or something but don’t have much to say about the article being commented on. Also echo your appreciation of Tom Friedman’s excellent piece

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How Ukraine’s Outgunned Air Force Is Fighting Back Against Russian Jets – The New York Times

“LVIV, Ukraine — Each night, Ukrainian pilots like Andriy loiter in an undisclosed aircraft hangar, waiting, waiting, until the tension is broken with a shouted, one-word command: “Air!”

Andriy hustles into his Su-27 supersonic jet and hastily taxis toward the runway, getting airborne as quickly as possible. He takes off so fast that he doesn’t yet know his mission for the night, though the big picture is always the same — to bring the fight to a Russian Air Force that is vastly superior in numbers but has so far failed to win control of the skies above Ukraine.

“I don’t do any checks,” said Andriy, a Ukrainian Air Force pilot who as a condition of granting an interview was not permitted to give his surname or rank. “I just take off.”

Nearly a month into the fighting, one of the biggest surprises of the war in Ukraine is Russia’s failure to defeat the Ukrainian Air Force. Military analysts had expected Russian forces to quickly destroy or paralyze Ukraine’s air defenses and military aircraft, yet neither have happened. Instead, Top Gun-style aerial dogfights, rare in modern warfare, are now raging above the country.”

David Lindsay: NATO should make the Polish migs available immediately.

NATO should also provide training and more modern jets if Ukraine has pilots available to learn how to operate them.

Yaroslav Hrytsak | Putin Got Ukraine Completely Wrong – The New York Times

“LVIV, Ukraine — Ukraine is once again at the center of a potentially global conflict. World War I, as the historian Dominic Lieven put it, “turned on the fate of Ukraine.” World War II, according to the legendary journalist Edgar Snow, was “first of all a Ukrainian war.” Now the threat of a third world war hinges on what could happen in Ukraine.

It’s a striking repetition. Why has Ukraine, a midsize country of more than 40 million people on the eastern edge of Europe, been at the epicenter of warfare not once, not twice, but three times?

Part of the answer, at least, is geographical. Set between Russia and Germany, Ukraine has long been viewed as the site of struggle for the domination of the continent. But the deeper reasons are historical in nature. Ukraine, which has a common origin point with Russia, has developed differently over the course of centuries, diverging in crucial ways from its neighbor to the east.

President Vladimir Putin likes to invoke history as part of the reason for his bloody invasion. Ukraine and Russia, he asserts, are in fact one country: Ukraine, in effect, doesn’t exist. This, of course, is entirely wrong. But he is right to think history holds a key to understanding the present. He just doesn’t realize that far from enabling his success, it’s what will thwart him.

In 1904 an English geographer named Halford John Mackinder made a bold prediction. In an article titled “The Geographical Pivot of History,” he suggested that whoever controlled Eastern Europe would control the world. On either side of this vast region were Russia and Germany, poised to do battle. And in between was Ukraine, with its rich resources of grain, coal and oil.

There’s no need to go into the finer details of Mackinder’s theory; it had its flaws. Yet it proved extremely influential after World War I and became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thanks to the Nazi geopolitician Karl Haushofer, the concept migrated into Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” Lenin and Stalin had not read Mackinder but acted as if they had. For them, Ukraine was the bridge that would carry the Russian Revolution westward into Germany, making it a world revolution. The path to conflict again ran through Ukraine.”

David Lindsay:  Yes sir. And here is a good comment:

Socrates
Downtown Verona, NJMarch 19

In 2017, the author J K Rowling trenchantly tweeted a full description of the former guy after the former shoved aside other foreign leaders so he could have a ‘good spot’ in the group photo at a NATO summit in Brussels: “You tiny, tiny, tiny little man.” Never a finer description has been offered for America’s greatest Presidential abomination. And who were this tiny man’s biggest heroes ? Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and China’s Xi Jinping, of which the former said “we love each other.” Authoritarians love authoritarians and authoritarianism. The rest of us need to rise up and defend ourselves from these individuals who are allergic to freedom, democracy, modernity and evolution. Twelve cheers for Ukraine, Ukrainians, Zelensky and the cause of freedom. We need to support them in every way.

22 Replies2092 Recommended

Ezra Klein | Fareed Zakaria Has a Better Way to Handle Russia — and China – The New York Times

“I think that is the place to end. So always our final question, what are three books you’d recommend to the audience?

Fareed Zakaria

I think the book that I remember best, when I got my Ph.D. in international relations, is a book by Kenneth Waltz, called “Man, the State and War.” And it’s the most elegant exposition of the kind of realpolitik point of view, about why living in a world without a world government makes countries have to fend for themselves.

The most articulate expression of the liberal international order is “A World Safe for Democracy” — by John Ikenberry — “Liberal Internationalism and the Crisis of Global Order.” And the book that taught me a lot about Russia, George Kennan, probably the greatest diplomat of the 20th century for America, greatest just in being a literary scholar, an amazingly profound, insightful guy — spoke Russian fluently, among many other languages — he wrote memoirs that won the Pulitzer Prize.

So think about a diplomat whose memoirs won the Pulitzer Prize. And the first volume of those memoirs is basically, 1925 to about 1945. And it’s a fascinating story about what diplomacy was like in those times, what Russia was like, what it meant for the United States to be trying to shape events, when it was not the dominant superpower in the world. And it’s beautifully written. So that’s the third.”