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Tag: russian aggression

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Biden Wisely Favors Fossil Fuels For Today, But Not Tomorrow

Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine has thrown world energy markets into turmoil. Prices are high; Europe is still dependent on natural gas from Russia; and Joe Biden is urging other countries to boost petroleum output. For his efforts, the president is under attack from both Republicans and Democrats, who are each erring in their own peculiar way.

Biden has banned imports of Russian oil and gas because such purchases would help fund Putin's war. But he is not content to see world oil supplies shrink. On Thursday, he said he would release one million barrels per day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve over the next six months.

The administration has also lobbied the unsavory governments of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela to boost output. The same president who wants to phase out the burning of fossil fuels now wants to ensure that plenty of fossil fuels are available for burning.

His GOP critics accuse him of hypocrisy. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La), said, "Biden must end his war on American energy production so the United States and our allies can have access to affordable, secure energy." Republicans still live by Sarah Palin's credo: Drill, baby, drill.

But progressives are equally unhappy, urging Biden to take steps to "end the fossil fuel era and petrochemical tyranny" by ramping up renewable energy production. "Putting more oil on the market is not the solution to our problem but the perpetuation of our problem," said Mark Brownstein, vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Both sides make the same mistake, which is failing to understand the difference between short-term necessities and long-term imperatives. In an emergency, your focus is on the immediate need, not the long-term one. But it's important that while attending to the present, you don't forfeit the future.

Biden is capable of meeting both obligations. He understands that letting prices soar is a bad thing for the anti-Putin effort (and the world economy). At the moment, his priority is depriving Russia of the means to fund its aggression.

Biden's Strategic Petroleum Reserve announcement helped, pushing prices down below $100 per barrel. Getting other oil exporters to increase production would further depress prices and make it harder for Putin to sell his most important commodity.

If resisting aggression against Ukraine means making nice with Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, so what? Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt teamed up with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin to defeat Nazi Germany, and it's a good thing they did. "If Hitler invaded hell," Churchill said, "I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."

Conservatives think Russia's power over global fuel supplies proves the need to produce more oil here at home. They say that by canceling the Keystone pipeline and putting a moratorium on new oil and gas leases on federal lands, Biden has inflated gasoline prices and doomed Americans to be fleeced by Putin.

But those policies have little if anything to do with the current price of gasoline. Killing Keystone didn't reduce oil supplies, because it hadn't been built. New federal oil and gas leases would take years to generate production. Biden's policies may mean higher fossil fuel prices down the road, but not now, and not soon.

The current supply crunch, we are told, proves the need to increase exploration and drilling. But the supply of oil on the world market — and the price here at home — will always be at the mercy of unpredictable events in foreign lands. Under the oil-friendly presidency of George W. Bush, the price more than quadrupled, topping out at $128 per barrel — the equivalent of over $168 in today's money.

Sunshine and wind keep coming regardless of wars and revolutions on distant shores. Supplies of renewable energy are far more reliable than those of fossil fuels. Real "energy independence" is not producing more oil and gas at home; it's freeing ourselves from the need for either. Putin has far more to fear from solar panels and wind turbines than from the Permian Basin, and so do Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

More important, though, is that clean energy addresses the emergency of climate change — which is less immediate than Putin's invasion but ultimately even more dangerous. Doubling down on fossil fuels is the wrong strategy for a warming world.

The war in Ukraine is a matter of urgent consequence, but it won't last forever. The best energy policy is one that meets the needs of today without torching tomorrow.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Fox News And Vladimir Putin Recycling Propaganda In Feedback Loop

Throughout former President Donald Trump’s term in office, Media Matters carefully documented a phenomenon we defined as the “Trump-Fox feedback loop,” in which the right-wing propaganda network’s programming inspired over 1,000 tweets from its most important viewer, steering his obsessions and political talking points. That phenomenon came to an end when Trump lost his Twitter account after waging a literal assault on American democracy — which Fox also prodded him to do — but it has now been replaced by a new version, in which Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s talking points excusing his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine have come to resemble Fox’s own coverage of the assault.

In a real-life illustration of the Putin-Fox feedback loop, a recently reported memo from the Russian government directed the country’s media outlets to promote as many clips of Fox News star Tucker Carlson as possible, as the regime’s propaganda and Carlson’s own rhetoric have dovetailed almost perfectly.

Media Matters documented Wednesday that Putin’s denunciation of what he called “national traitors,” Russians who live supposedly elitist lifestyles that put them out of touch with the Russian nation, was remarkably similar to Tucker Carlson’s fake populism. (Putin's use of “national traitors” is co-opted Stalinist language, which he has used in the past.) Carlson was born into wealth and privilege, while Putin is reportedly one of the richest men on Earth and lives like a king.

Putin’s speech Wednesday seemingly contained another example of the confluence of Kremlin and Fox News talking points, when he attempted to directly address any potential Western audience, telling them that they should not blame Russia for the global economic consequences of sanctions stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Instead, according to Putin, they should blame their own governments for the negative side effects of international sanctions. He also urged his audience to view the sanctions themselves as part of an effort to distract from the harms already being done in their home countries by their own governments and ruling “elites.”

All of these accusations have had antecedents on Fox News programming, from prime-time front man Tucker Carlson as well as other network hosts.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: For us, it is also obvious that the Western patrons are simply pushing the Kyiv authorities to continue the bloodshed. They are supplying them with new shipments of weapons and intelligence. They are providing other assistance, including the sending of military advisers and mercenaries.

In terms of weapons, they have chosen economic, financial, trade, and other sanctions in relation to Russia, which are hitting Americans and Europeans themselves in the form of rising prices for gasoline, energy, foodstuffs, and employment losses associated with the Russian market. We shouldn’t do, what is called, shift the problem from a sore head to a healthy one, and blame our country for everything.

I want ordinary citizens of Western governments to hear me, as well. They are now persistently trying to convince you that all your difficulties are the result of some hostile actions of Russia. That from your wallet you need to pay for the fight against the mythical Russian threat. It’s all a lie.

And the truth is that the current problems faced by millions of people in the West are the result of many years of actions by the ruling elites in their governments. Their mistakes, short-sightedness, and ambitions. These elites are not thinking about how to improve the lives of their citizens in Western countries, they are obsessed with their selfish interests and excess profits.
(Translated by Media Matters from Russian state TV)

A person can easily go through Putin’s talking points in the order he delivered them above and notice how well they match up with Fox News programming over the last few weeks:

“Western patrons are simply pushing the Kyiv authorities to continue the bloodshed”

  • On the March 15 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host suggested that providing weapons to Ukrainians in their resistance to Russia’s invasion might simply “prolong the fighting in Ukraine at the expense of the vulnerable civilian population in Ukraine,” declaring that such an act “would be cruel.”

“Sanctions … are hitting Americans and Europeans themselves”

  • On the March 11 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host specifically attacked the Biden administration’s ban on Russian oil, as well as its overall response to the invasion, as “the single most damaging thing any American president has ever done to this country and to the world. Not to Putin, to us.”

“Rising prices for gasoline, energy”

  • Multiple Fox News personalities attacked President Joe Biden for banning Russian oil, accusing him of deliberately wanting to raise gasoline prices on American consumers — after those same Fox commentators had previously attacked Biden for not placing sanctions on Russian oil, branding it an act of moral cowardice.
  • Fox News hosts then pivoted to accusing Biden of using the sanctions to divert the blame for high gas prices away from himself, and to make Putin into his “fall guy.”

“Problems faced by millions of people in the West”

  • On the February 28 edition of The Faulkner Focus, Fox host Pete Hegseth minimized the importance of the ongoing war in Ukraine in comparison to problems at home in America: “I was at CPAC this weekend talking to conservatives and young people, and they said yes, what is happening in Ukraine is important. But it pales in comparison to the crime I see in my streets, to the wokeness I see in my culture, to the inflation I see at my pocket book, to the real border I care about, which is the southern border, which is wide open. On every single issue, the quality of life of average Americans has gone down.”
  • On the February 18 edition of Jesse Watters Primetime, shortly before the war began, the host complained that “you know how the news cycle moves, you'll hear ‘Ukraine’ and then, once the bombs start dropping, you'll never hear about inflation, CRT, the open border, crime, anything.”

“These elites ... are obsessed with their selfish interests and excess profits”

  • On the March 15 edition of Jesse Watters Primetime, the host wondered whether Russia’s war was instead “engineered as a distraction” by the Biden administration, to distract from any scandals surrounding the president’s son Hunter Biden.
  • On the March 11 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, the host also put forward the idea that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was really the product of a conspiracy by American elites to keep their own power: “At exactly the moment when the emergency powers they awarded to themselves to fight COVID started to wane, our leaders began pushing for conflict with Russia.”
  • On the February 22 edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, just before the war began, Carlson alleged that the coming sanctions on Russian energy were really a plot to benefit Democratic donors: “Maybe they're not against rising oil and gas prices. Maybe they are for them. Maybe expensive energy would be good for the many renewable deals their friends and donors are invested in.”
  • And on February 16, when Russia had been putting its troops in position to attack Ukraine, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo repeatedly claimed that the entire Russian threat against Ukraine was really an elaborate hoax by the U.S. State Department, in order to distract from supposed scandals related to 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Clarification (3/18/22): This piece has been updated for clarity.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

Putin's Crazy Nuclear Threats Display Weakness, Not Strength

In a properly-run dictatorship, Dear Leader always wins thunderous electoral victories. You won’t see Vladimir Putin in any late-night cliffhangers. Regardless of how many of his political opponents fall out of windows, get shot dead in the street, find neurotoxins in their underwear, or get thrown into prison—or, in the case of Putin’s outspoken critic Alexi Navalny, both—the Little Tsar’s faithful supporters can be depended upon to keep cheering.

Or, at minimum, to avert their eyes.

The awful truth, you see, is that under the right circumstances, Fascism can be very popular. Most people are instinctively nationalistic, and Putin’s basic message of “Make Russia Great Again,” as Kevin Drum puts it, can be counted upon to resonate. So long, that is, as the Little Tsar maintains complete control of Russian media and prevents foreign news from filtering into the country.

Last year, the Russian military outlawed the possession of Smartphones by soldiers. Last week, Margaret Sullivan reports, its parliament banned the words “war,” “invasion” and “attacks” from being used to describe Russia’s assault upon Ukraine. Instead, it’s called a “special military action,” supposedly to protect Russian-speaking UkraInians from their “Nazi” oppressors.

Ukraine’s defiant President Volodymyr Zelensky, of course, is a Jew, which makes the lie particularly grotesque. But then sheer audacity is often the key to effective propaganda.

Inside Russia, reporting and publishing “fake news,” a phrase borrowed from Putin’s biggest American fan, Donald J. Trump, is now a criminal offense, punishable by 15 years in prison. Moscow, police have been reported spot-checking people’s cellphones on the street, hunting for dissenters. Western news organizations such as the BBC, CNN, and the Washington Post have quietly quit sending bylined dispatches from inside Russia lest their reporters get thrown into dungeons.

Even Fox News, where the pro-Putin cheerleading stopped only last week, and whose brand-name personalities Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham had become regular fixtures on Russian state TV, no longer reports direct from Moscow. It’s too dangerous.

Russia has banned Facebook and Twitter.

And, yes, it’s certainly working. Wave the flag, beat the drum and report only thunderous victories over fiendish enemies—"Oceania was at war with Eurasia; therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia,” Orwell wrote in “Nineteen Eighty-Four”—and the great majority will support the Little Tsar for as long as the illusion survives.

The ”Two Minutes Hate” is always well-attended.

An extraordinary report in the New York Times documents the stunning experiences of besieged Ukrainians trying vainly to make their Russian relatives understand what’s going on. Instead, they encounter “a confounding and almost surreal backlash from family members in Russia, who refuse to believe that Russian soldiers could bomb innocent people, or even that a war is taking place.”

Reporter Valerie Hopkins interviewed Misha Katsurin, a Ukrainian restaurateur, who phoned his Russian father to describe his efforts to evacuate his wife and children. Instead of sympathy, he got yelled at for siding with Nazis.

Far from bombarding Ukrainian cities and villages, the older man insisted, Russian soldiers are handing out blankets and food to victims of Nazi atrocities. His son’s eyewitness accounts counted for less than state TV propaganda—where Russian artillery barrages are definitely not targeting civilian neighborhoods. Also, there’s certainly no 40-mile-long tank convoy stalled impotently on a Ukrainian highway, a show of military incompetence that has astonished observers worldwide.

One couple told The Times it was “easier to explain the invasion to their 7-year-old daughter than to some of their [Russian} relatives.” For his part, Misha Katsurin says “I am not angry at my father — I am angry at the Kremlin. I’m angry about the Russian propaganda. I’m not angry at these people. I understand that I cannot blame them in this situation.”

Problem is, the Little Tsar can’t keep Russians in the dark forever. As the coffins of Russian soldiers begin to come home, and embittered soldiers start telling their war stories at family gatherings and in bars, the awful truth will begin to emerge.

Historically speaking, Russians have had a lot of bitter experience decoding government propaganda. Under the Soviet Union, the nation’s two leading newspapers were Pravda (truth) and Izvestia (news).

Russians told a bitter joke that became proverbial: “There is no truth in news and no news in truth.”

So, yes, the Russian people have seen this movie before. Which could very well be, come to think of it, why Vladimir Putin has resorted to crazy talk about nuclear weapons. Isolated from the outside world and surrounded by the worst kinds of sycophants and yes-men, it may be dawning upon him what a terrible trap he’s set for himself and for Russia.

Invading Ukraine was supposed to weaken NATO and divide America from Europe. Instead, it’s made the Western democracies more united than ever. The hard part will be finding the Little Tsar a survivable way out

Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons, a novel and a memoir. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Can Biden And Putin End The Ukraine Crisis Without Shots Fired?

A 19th-century Mexican president once summarized his country's plight: "So far from God, so close to the United States." Ukraine has the same problem, but with Russia. And its geographic proximity is particularly worrisome right now.

President Vladimir Putin, who annexed Crimea from Ukraine in a 2014 invasion, has raised fears he is planning another attack. He has massed troops near the border of the former Soviet republic, demanding that NATO renounce the possibility of Ukraine ever joining the alliance or providing bases for its forces.

The U.S. foreign policy establishment and its allies in Congress have taken this opportunity to remind us that they have no new ideas and that all their old ones are bad. They claim that American credibility is on the line and warn the Biden administration not to show insufficient resolve.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) said any accommodation on our part would "embolden Vladimir Putin and his fellow autocrats by demonstrating the United States will surrender in the face of saber-rattling." Retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former commander of NATO forces, declared, "Appeasement does not work any better now than it worked for Neville Chamberlain in the late 1930s."

There are a couple of flaws in their reasoning. The first is the gap between their fierce rhetoric and their mild remedies. Even McCaul and Stavridis don't think the U.S. should go to war if Russia invades Ukraine. Our support for Ukraine does not extend to putting our troops in harm's way. In case of a Russian invasion, whatever we might do to help Ukraine or punish Russia will not make much difference.

The second is that credibility is a false idol. President Joe Biden's critics accuse him of damaging ours with his chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. If Biden doesn't respond appropriately on Ukraine, they insist, China will assume it can swallow up Taiwan without paying a price.

But just because the U.S. leaves one conflict or avoids another doesn't mean it will follow the same course in another place or at another time. Bill Clinton pulled out of Somalia but intervened in Bosnia.

George W. Bush was forced to issue a meek apology to China in 2001 after an American military plane collided with a Chinese fighter and crash-landed on a Chinese island, where its crew was held hostage. But that didn't stop him from invading Afghanistan or Iraq.

As for "appeasement," diplomacy requires compromise, and not every compromise is the moral equivalent of surrender. When Ronald Reagan signed a 1987 treaty banning intermediate-range nuclear missiles from Europe, angry conservatives compared him to ... Neville Chamberlain. Two years later, though, the Berlin Wall came down.

Putin's posture is hardly evidence of Hitler-like ambitions. Suppose that Mexico were to enter an alliance that put Russian or Chinese troops on its soil to deter U.S. bullying. We would never tolerate it, any more than President John F. Kennedy was willing to tolerate Soviet missiles in Cuba.

The Russian president has indicated that, in parallel fashion, he is not willing to tolerate NATO troops, tanks, missiles and warplanes in Ukraine. The Kremlin is following "the NUPIMBY principle — No Unfriendly Powers in My Backyard," says Stephen Van Evera, an international relations scholar at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "States almost universally resist the close approach of hostile powers and alliances toward their borders."

Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, scoffed at such concerns, tweeting: "NATO has never and will never attack Russia." But in a dangerous world, nations can't count on the benign intentions of other nations — not in the short term, and certainly not in the long term. What counts is capabilities.

In this crisis, the U.S. wants to ensure the security and independence of Ukraine. Russia wants to eliminate the prospect of another NATO ally on its border. Fortunately, there is a solution that achieves both objectives without war: an agreement that Ukraine will be a neutral country, in exchange for Russia's commitment to back off and leave Ukraine in peace.

There is a good precedent for this solution. In 1955, Austria had to commit itself to neutrality in the Cold War to get the Soviets to end their military occupation of one zone of the country. As a result, wrote historian Tony Judt, Austria soon emerged as "a model Alpine democracy: neutral, prosperous and stable."

Ukraine has not been so lucky. But with a recognition of reality and some creative statesmanship, it could be.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.