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Defending Ukraine, Biden Shows Resolve — And Restraint

Restraint is a useful but often unsatisfying virtue, and in the case of Ukraine, there are plenty of people who think that it's not a virtue at all. Fortunately, American policy is being set by Joe Biden, who has a sober understanding of the perils of overreach.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine spurred all sorts of extravagant demands for U.S. action. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), urged the president "to send not just arms but troops to the aid in defense of Ukraine." Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS)., was one of several GOP members of Congress to say the U.S. should establish a no-fly zone in Ukraine — which could mean shooting down Russian warplanes.

Biden dismissed these options, even as he extended economic aid, weapons and moral support to the besieged Ukrainian government. But prudence invites charges of weakness. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., says Biden is "scared of Putin."

On Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), took to Twitter to accuse Biden of "a betrayal of #Ukraine and democracy itself." His offense? Declining to provide Ukraine with missiles that can hit targets as far as 185 miles away.

"We're not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia," Biden said flatly. The obvious reason is that such missile attacks would drastically raise the stakes for Vladimir Putin — who, let us not forget, has the world's largest arsenal of nuclear weapons. Biden is not about to outsource our fate to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Another idea is to deploy U.S. Navy ships to break the Russian blockade of Odessa, which has deprived the world of Ukrainian grain. But Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed out that this option could lead to direct combat with Russia.

"Right now, the sea lanes are blocked by mines and the Russian navy," he said Tuesday. "It would be a high-risk military operation that would require significant levels of effort."

But the concept of "high risk" doesn't register with inveterate hawks who think every problem can be solved by the application of America's armed might — a theory decisively refuted in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places.

Such disasters instilled in Biden a healthy skepticism about military intervention. But that skepticism has also moved him to look for alternatives in dealing with foreign crises.

As it has from the start, his administration is trying to ensure that Ukraine can stave off the Russian invasion — without provoking Putin to escalate and without embroiling the U.S. in the war.

Biden hasn't tried to dictate what Zelensky should aspire to achieve or what he should be willing to accept. In an op-ed in Wednesday's New York Times, he said he "will not pressure the Ukrainian government — in private or public — to make any territorial concessions."

At the same time, he's made it plain that the U.S. commitment has strict limits. Biden's op-ed didn't fantasize about a complete victory that would evict Russia from every inch of Ukrainian soil. His goal, he wrote, is to help Ukraine achieve "the strongest possible position at the negotiating table." Left unspoken is that any negotiations are bound to require territorial concessions.

Biden's administration has adopted a variety of stern measures to punish and weaken Putin and deter him from broader aggression, most recently signing a package of military, economic and humanitarian aid costing $40 billion.

Biden moved 12,000 troops into NATO countries bordering on Russia, including Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Romania. He welcomed the request from Sweden and Finland to join the alliance.

He imposed a ban on Russian oil and gas imports — a step that prodded the European Union, which is far more dependent on them, to approve its own ban.

He adopted severe economic sanctions to deprive Russia of the money to fight the war. The decision led a host of big Western corporations, from McDonald's to Apple to ExxonMobil, to stop doing business in Russia. All this has been a marvel of Western cooperation and resolve.

It has also had tangible results. Russian exports and imports have plunged. Inflation hit nearly 18% in April. The Russian army has found itself repeatedly stopped or pushed back, and as many as 15,000 of its soldiers have been killed.

Biden understood the importance of responding forcefully to an unprovoked act of aggression. But he also knows that pushing too far can lead to disaster.

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.

Ukraine Doing 'Everything' To Defend Donbas From Russian Onslaught

Lysychansk (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukraine has pledged to do "everything" to defend Donbas, where an intensifying Russian offensive is prompting Kyiv's forces to consider a strategic retreat from some key areas to avoid being surrounded.

Russia is waging all-out war for the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions that make up Donbas -- the country's industrial heartland -- where Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Moscow of carrying out a "genocide".

In his daily address to Ukrainians, Zelensky said the Russians had "concentrated maximum artillery, maximum reserves in Donbas."

"There are missile strikes and aircraft attacks -- everything," he said.

"We are protecting our land in the way that our current defense resources allow," he added. "We are doing everything to increase them."

Pro-Russian separatists said Friday they had captured the town of Lyman between Severodonetsk and Kramatorsk, on the road leading to the key cities still under Kyiv's control.

Russian forces are also closing in on Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in the Lugansk province, with conflicting reports about the extent of their advance.

Regional governor Sergiy Gaiday insisted that the Russian forces would not be able to seize the entire region within two to three days -- but said that Ukraine's troops may have to withdraw from some areas to avoid being surrounded.

"Most probably they will not seize (Lugansk), because there's enough strength and means to hold the defense," he said on Telegram.

"Maybe even to avoid encircling there might be a command to our troops to retreat."

Escalation

A Lugansk police official, cited by Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti, said Severodonetsk was "now surrounded" and Ukrainian troops could no longer leave the city.

That was denied by senior city official Oleksandr Stryuk, though he acknowledged the situation was "very difficult" with incessant bombing.

"People are willing to risk everything to get food and water," said the head of the main aid distribution centre in Lysychansk, Oleksandr Kozyr.

"They are so psychologically depressed that they are no longer scared. All they care about is finding food."

Three months after Russia launched its invasion on February 24, leaving thousands dead on both sides and forcing 6.6 million people out of the country, Moscow has gained control over swathes of eastern and southern Ukraine, including port cities Kherson and Mariupol.

"Russian forces have made steady, incremental gains in heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine in the past several days, though Ukrainian defenses remain effective overall," said the US-based Institute for the Study of War.

To further help Ukraine fight back against the invasion, Washington was preparing to send advanced long-range rocket systems, according to US media reports.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby did not confirm the plans to deliver the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) to Ukraine, a highly mobile system that can fire up to 300 kilometres (186 miles) which Kyiv has said it badly needs.

"We are still committed to helping them succeed on the battlefield," he said.

Mykhaylo Podolyak, an adviser to President Zelensky, referring to the rocket systems, said on Twitter that some of the country's partners "avoid giving the necessary weapons because of fear of the escalation. Escalation, really?"

'Suffering'

In a historic move against Russia's spiritual authorities, the Moscow branch of Kyiv's Orthodox Church said Friday it was cutting ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, declaring "full independence"

A church council that focused on Russia's "aggression" condemned the pro-war stance of Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church.

"Not only did he (Kirill) fail to condemn Russia's military aggression but he also failed to find words for the suffering Ukrainian people," church spokesman Archbishop Kliment told AFP.

Ukraine has been under Moscow's spiritual leadership since at least the 17th century, but part of its Orthodox Church broke with Moscow in 2019 over Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in Donbas.

Seeking to build on the international pressure on Russia, Zelensky will speak with EU leaders at an emergency summit Monday as they try to agree on an embargo on Russian oil, which is being held up by Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban has close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Rather than continue trading with (Russia), we need to act until they stop their policy of aggression," Zelensky told a think tank in Indonesia.

But in Moscow, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said the country expects to receive one trillion rubles ($15 billion) in additional oil and gas revenues this year, a windfall from the sharp rise in oil prices caused in part by its invasion of Ukraine.

As his navy blockades Ukrainian ports, Putin also rejected accusations that he was using food shortages as a weapon. Russia and Ukraine supply some 30 percent of the wheat traded on global markets.

Russia has tightened its own exports and Ukraine has vast amounts stuck in storage, driving up prices and cutting availability for importers across the globe.

In a call Friday with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Putin put the blame on "anti-Russian sanctions by the United States and the European Union, among other things," according to the Kremlin.

He also accused Kyiv of "sabotaging" negotiations and urged Ukraine to de-mine ports "as soon as possible" to allow the passage of grain-carrying vessels, the Kremlin said.


Kyiv Court Convicts Russian Sergeant Of War Crimes And Orders Life Sentence

Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP) - A Ukrainian court found a young Russian soldier guilty of war crimes Monday for killing a civilian and handed him a life sentence, in the first verdict of its kind since Russia's invasion three months ago.

The judgement came in as President Volodymyr Zelensky took to the virtual stage in Davos, urging political and business elites at the World Economic Forum to end all trade with Russia and keep supplying his country with weapons.

Russian attacks are pummeling eastern Ukraine, but all eyes Monday were on the capital Kyiv, in the landmark trial against 21-year-old Russian serviceman Vadim Shishimarin.

Shishimarin, a shaven-headed sergeant from Siberia, had admitted in court to killing a 62-year-old civilian, Oleksandr Shelipov, in the village of Chupakhivka in northeast Ukraine.

He claimed he shot Shelipov under pressure from another soldier as they tried to retreat and escape back into Russia in a stolen car on February 28, the fourth day of Moscow's invasion.

Shishimarin had apologised and asked Shelipov's widow for forgiveness, adding: "I was nervous about what was going on. I didn't want to kill."

But prosecutors claimed he shot between three and four bullets with the intention of killing the civilian.

"The court has found that Shishimarin is guilty (of war crimes) and sentences him to life imprisonment," Judge Sergiy Agafonov announced on Monday, as the Russian looked on from the glass defense box.

He was also found guilty of premeditated murder, which Agafonov said was "committed with direct intent."

Stop Russia Trade

Shishimarin's lawyer Viktor Ovsyannikov said he will appeal the verdict, calling it "most severe", adding that "you can feel societal pressure" on the decision.

The landmark ruling is expected to be followed by others, with Ukraine opening thousands of war crimes cases since Moscow's invasion.

International institutions are simultaneously investigating abuses allegedly committed by Russian forces in cities like Bucha and Mariupol, which have become emblematic of the destruction and suffering of the three-month-old war.

As the verdict was read out in Kyiv, Zelensky continued his attempts to maintain Western support with a video address at the Davos summit, which this year is dominated by the fall-out of the war -- and from which Russians have been barred.

He highlighted the cost to his people of the war, revealing that 87 people were killed in a Russian attack earlier this month on a military base in northern Ukraine.

Zelensky insisted that tens of thousands of lives would have been saved if Kyiv had received "100 percent of our needs at once back in February", when Russia invaded.

"This is why Ukraine needs all the weapons that we ask (for), not just the ones that have been provided," said Zelensky, flanked by Ukrainian flags and wearing an olive-green T-shirt.

He also called for an oil embargo on Russia, punitive measures against all its banks and the shunning of its IT sector, adding that all foreign companies should leave the country.

'Scorched-Earth Tactics'

Shishimarin's lawyer Viktor Ovsyannikov said he will appeal the verdict, calling it "most severe", adding that "you can feel societal pressure" on the decision.

The landmark ruling is expected to be followed by others, with Ukraine opening thousands of war crimes cases since Moscow's invasion.

International institutions are simultaneously investigating abuses allegedly committed by Russian forces in cities like Bucha and Mariupol, which have become emblematic of the destruction and suffering of the three-month-old war.

After failing in its initial goal of capturing Kyiv, Moscow's forces are now squarely focused on securing and expanding their gains in the Donbas region and on Ukraine's southern coast.

In the eastern city of Severodonetsk, a focus of recent fighting, regional governor Sergiy Gaiday accused Russian forces of "using scorched-earth tactics, deliberately destroying" the city.

Gaiday said Russia was repositioning forces from the Kharkiv region, others involved in Mariupol's siege, pro-Russian separatist militias, and even troops freshly mobilised from Siberia to concentrate their firepower on the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

'Savagery'

More than six million people have fled Ukraine and eight million have been internally displaced since the war broke out, according to the United Nations.

For the civilians left behind near the front, prayer is often the only comfort left.

Southwest of Severodonetsk, in the city of Bakhmut, Maria Mayashlapak scanned the devastation of her home, where a missile imploded her kitchen and cratered her vegetable garden.

"I was reciting my morning prayer for God to keep me from getting hurt," the 82-year-old recalled, as the family's kitten mewed from somewhere in the rubble.

Sunday's bombardment of the Donetsk region killed at least seven civilians and wounded eight others, according to the Ukrainian army.

Shelling and missile strikes also continued to pound Kharkiv in the north, as well as Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia in the south, Ukrainian officials said.

The effects of the war are also being felt far beyond Ukraine, particularly the impact of a Russian blockade that has left one of the world's breadbaskets unable to export its grain.

"It's savagery for one country to have food spoiling like this and for other people to be left poor and hungry," said Dmitriy Matulyak, a farmer near the Black Sea port of Odessa.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has been unequivocal on the matter, saying last week that the war "threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity".

burs-ar/jm

'Shoot Yourself In The Legs': Russian Troops Mutiny In Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin's troops are deserting their leader's illegal and ill-fated war in Ukraine, which commenced on Thursday, February 24th.

The Atlantic Council estimated on Tuesday that in just 84 days, "one-third of the 190,000-strong invasion force" has been captured, injured, or killed. The organization calculated that "based on the current rate of attrition, the Russian army will suffer 50,000 combat deaths by September."

Although Putin has haplessly attempted to downplay the scale of the depletion of his units, the magnitude of the losses is weighing heavily on the occupiers who are stuck in his pointless, genocidal "special military operation."

Met with valiant resistance by the Western-equipped Ukrainians from the moment that they crossed the border into Ukraine's sovereign territory, Putin's men are exhausted, demoralized, and have determined that the casualty toll and absence of necessary materials are unsustainable.

The abysmal conditions on the ground are purportedly triggering a mass mutiny among the disenchanted ranks.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate posted an intercepted telephone conversation to its Facebook page in which an aggrieved Russian soldier revealed that he and his comrades plan to quit.

According to translations provided byThe Daily Beast, the “mobilized” men are fed up with Putin's incompetent leadership as well as the Kremlin's lack of battlefield support.

The situation is so untenable, the individual said, that "even the Chechen forces fighting alongside them mock them as 'meat,'" noted The Daily Beast.

He predicted to a personal contact back in Russia:

Everyone who is here … I’m telling you … everyone is planning to take off on the 26th.

Who in turn replied:

Isn’t that stupid?

Which was countered with:

Isn’t it stupid that we’re here?

The infantryman then disclosed that Putin's forces intend to ditch their assignments “on the basis of the fact" that Moscow "put us on the front with absolutely nothing.”

The continued back-and-forth was remarkable.

“I want to tell you even more... a battalion commander is leaving with us and even a staff colonel," he told his friend. “They don’t provide us with any [equipment],” he said, complaining that certain weapons are outdated relics leftover “from 1945.”

I “look at them and go, ‘holy shit, what would you need those for?’ They laugh at us. You know what they call us? Blessed. We ask, ‘Why blessed?’ They say because we are walking around with no equipment, no helmets, without anything. … The Chechens call us meat," he said.

“It’s not desertion, because we shouldn’t be on this territory. … We crossed the border as 200s,” he added, which is Russian slang for slain personnel. “We’re not actually here. So if they say I’m a deserter, fuck off, I’m not here. Prove otherwise.”

Amazingly, in a second seized exchange that was shared on Facebook, two Russian fighters were heard contemplating how to quickly escape the carnage.

One of them apparently encouraged his mate to "take someone else’s weapon, a Ukrainian one, and shoot yourself in the legs."

The story continues here (subscription required).

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Finland, Sweden Ask To Join NATO As Ukraine War Crimes Trial Begins

Brussels (AFP) - Finland and Sweden on Wednesday submitted a joint application to join NATO as Russia's invasion of Ukraine forces a dramatic reappraisal of security in Europe.

The reversal of the Nordic countries' longstanding policy of non-alignment came as Ukraine opened the first war crimes trial of a Russian soldier since the invasion began.

Vadim Shishimarin, 21, from Irkutsk in Siberia, pleaded guilty to killing an unarmed 62-year-old man in Ukraine's Sumy region on February 28 -- four days into the invasion.

"By this first trial, we are sending a clear signal that every perpetrator, every person who ordered or assisted in the commission of crimes in Ukraine shall not avoid responsibility," prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said.

Russia's government has no information on Shishimarin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that many such cases reported by Ukraine are "simply fake or staged".

Peskov further accused Kyiv of a "complete lack of will" towards peace talks, after Ukrainian negotiator Mykhaylo Podolyak said stop-start dialogue was "on hold", having failed to yield any breakthroughs.

The Kremlin also intensified a tit-for-tat round of diplomatic expulsions against European countries, ordering out dozens of personnel from France, Italy and Spain.

At NATO headquarters in Brussels, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg formally received the applications from the Finnish and Swedish ambassadors, calling them "an historic step".

"All allies agree on the importance of NATO enlargement. We all agree that we must stand together and we all agree that this is an historic moment which we must seize," he said.

The membership push could represent the most significant expansion of NATO in decades, doubling its border with Russia, and President Vladimir Putin has warned it may trigger a response from Moscow.

But the applications face resistance from NATO member Turkey, which accuses the Nordic neighbours of harbouring anti-Turkish extremists.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded "respect" from NATO over his government's concerns.

Western allies remain optimistic they can overcome Turkey's objections and for now, several including Britain have offered security guarantees to Finland and Sweden to guard against any Russian aggression.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Nordic applications would not have been expected a short time ago, "but Putin's appalling ambitions have transformed the geopolitical contours of our continent".

Mediators for Azovstal

On the ground, in Ukraine's ruined port city of Mariupol, a unit of soldiers had been holding out in the Azovstal steelworks, but Moscow said Wednesday that 959 of the troops had surrendered this week.

Kyiv's defence ministry said it would do "everything necessary" to rescue the undisclosed number of personnel still in the plant's tunnels, but admitted there was no military option available.

"The evacuation mission continues, it is overseen by our military and intelligence," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address.

"The most influential international mediators are involved."

Those who have left Azovstal were taken into Russian captivity, including 80 who were heavily wounded, the Russian defence ministry said.

The ministry, which published images showing soldiers on stretchers, said the injured were transported to a hospital in the eastern Donetsk region controlled by pro-Kremlin rebels.

The defence ministry in Kyiv said it was hoping for an "exchange procedure... to repatriate these Ukrainian heroes as quickly as possible".

But their fate was unclear, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refusing to say whether they would be treated as criminals or prisoners of war.

Putin had "guaranteed that they would be treated according to the relevant international laws", Peskov said.

'My war is not over'

Despite their last-ditch resistance in places such as Mariupol, and their successful defence of Kyiv, Ukrainian forces are retreating across swathes of the eastern front.

White smoke from burning fields marks the pace of Russia's advance around the village of Sydorove, on the approaches to the militarily important city of Slovyansk and Ukraine's eastern administrative centre in Kramatorsk.

Army volunteer Yaroslava, 51, sat on a slab of concrete jutting out from the remains of a school in Sydorove where her husband's unit had set up camp before it was hit by a Russian strike.

She stared at a spot where rescuers and de-miners had spotted a motionless hand reaching out from the rubble.

"We had settled in London before the war but felt like we had no choice but to come back," Yaroslava said.

"My two sons have just signed three-year contracts with the army. We will fight. We will still fight," she said without moving her eyes.

"My war is not over."

The war crimes trial in Kyiv, expected to be followed by several others, posed a test of the Ukrainian justice system at a time when international bodies are also conducting their own investigations.

Shishimarin faces a possible life sentence. Prosecutors said the sergeant was commanding a unit in a tank division when his convoy came under attack.

He and four other soldiers stole a car and encountered the man on a bicycle, shooting him in cold blood, according to the prosecutors.

The International Criminal Court said Tuesday it was deploying its largest-ever field team to Ukraine, with 42 investigators, forensic experts and support staff being sent into the field to gather evidence of alleged atrocities.

The US State Department also announced it was creating a special unit to research, document and publicise Russian war crimes.

Russian Soldiers Reported To Sabotage Putin’s War On Ukraine

Members of the Russian's armed forces have reportedly been mulling over ideas to deliberately sabotage their own military operations in an effort to impede Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war efforts to continue his invasion of Ukraine.

According to The Daily Beast, the latest developments reportedly stem from "recordings of alleged Russian troops’ phone calls that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) intercepted."

During one conversation, an alleged Russian soldier claimed they'd been funneling sand into their tankers' fuel systems to create clogging issues.

“I don't follow stupid orders, I simply refuse,” one fighter was reportedly heard telling a fellow comrade-in-arms. “The motherf*cker sent me to tanks, motherf*cking piece of shit. I f*cked it up and that's it.”

Another Russian soldier also admitted that he and multiple of his fellow comrades had intentionally "damaged their tank—the last one left in their regiment—to interfere with an attack plan," per another document shared by the SBU. “We have one tank left in the regiment,” he said. “In short, we broke our tank ourselves in the morning so as not to go.”


However, the Beast reports that these aren't the only efforts being made to obstruct Putin's war. Per the news outlet: "The Russian war effort isn’t only being hampered from the inside. Inspired by the Russians’ intercepted phone calls, Ukraine’s government encouraged other Russian troops to disobey orders and refuse to attack, echoing earlier calls to surrender and abandon the war path."

In a statement released on Friday, May 6, 2022, the SBU said it "welcomes this practice. But even it can be improved—just ‘give up’ and leave the war in Ukraine!”

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby also released a statement addressing the latest intel. While Kirby admitted that he is aware of the intelligence-sharing effort, he confirmed the United States has no involvement in it.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Russian State Media Proposes Inflicting Famine On Ukraine (Again)

From 1932 to 1933, millions of Ukrainians died of starvation and disease in a Great Famine engineered by then-Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin. The Holodomor – named by combining the Ukrainian words for hunger (holod) and extermination (mor) – was only one example of the unholy atrocities that were inflicted upon the Soviet people by Stalin over his 31-year reign of terror.

The Holodomor was officially recognized as genocide by Ukraine and more than a dozen other nations in 2006.

Today, Ukraine is known as "the breadbasket of Europe," and its agricultural exports account for a significant portion of all of the calories consumed around the world. But Russian President Vladimir Putin's barbaric invasion of Ukraine and his military's indiscriminate slaughter of civilians is stoking fears that hunger could once again be used as a weapon of mass destruction.

Over the weekend, propagandists on Russian state television mused about cutting off Ukraine from its crops and exporting them to China.

"Ukraine's deal with the Chinese and the corn didn't come through," political scientist Dmitry Evstafiev said on Russia 1."If they need it, we'll supply them with Ukraine's corn," host Vladimir Solovyov interjected.

"Certainly, certainly, especially since we have every opportunity to do it," Evstafiev concurred. "Cutting off the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine from the Black Sea, from the croplands, from the breadbasket granary, this is the most dangerous thing, and the corn too."

The Kremlin's goons also fantasized about targeting farms in the United States as a means of strong-arming the Americans into capitulating to Putin's demands.

"And one more thing that is still ahead for us," Evstafiev continued, "we need to find the effective spots of vulnerability for Americans. We need to think, and not discuss it publicly, but we need to identify them and apply pressure to make that the last drop that will force the American elites to recognize that they need to negotiate with us. And that they need to negotiate with us on our terms and not on their terms."


Watch the translated version below courtesy of The Daily Beast's Russia expert and Russian Media Monitor founder Julia Davis:

Davis' followers immediately recognized what Russia is proposing.










One person noted that Putin's playbook eerily mirrors the plot of the television show that catapulted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's rise to power.

Others, meanwhile, pointed out that Moscow is running out of options to sustain its disastrous operation in Ukraine.




Printed with permission from Alternet.

Why Republican Talk Of 'Invasion' From Mexico Is A Dangerous Lie

Republicans eager to concoct reasons to attack the Biden administration have spent the past month beating their well-worn drum about a nonexistent “invasion” at the U.S.-Mexico border by Latino immigrants. But this time around, the effect has been jarring.

That’s because, since late February, the world has been seeing in real time what an actual invasion looks like, thanks to the attack on Ukraine by Vladimir Putin and the Russian Army. We’ve witnessed cities bombed into rubble, tanks rumbling through the countryside, suburbs turned into death camps, women and children murdered while waiting at railway stations.

When ordinary people think of invasions, they usually are referring to what we are seeing in Ukraine: One nation’s government sending its armed forces across borders and attempting to defeat the other nation's military and ultimately depose its government. You know, what we did in Iraq. Planes, tanks, bombs, the works. Shock and awe.

They don't think of poor people trekking across the desert, looking to land hard labor in our farm fields and on construction sites, or at least escape persecution and seek political asylum, quite the same way. Unless, of course, they are Republicans.

As James Downie in The Washington Post observed:

Notice that McCaul didn’t limit this comparison to traffickers or criminals trying to cross the border. No, every single person trying to cross—including the tens of thousands seeking asylum and the hundreds of thousands of families and unaccompanied children who are just seeking a better life—is in McCaul’s framing no different from soldiers invading a sovereign nation.

The invasion rhetoric has become thick on the ground as Republicans prepare for the 2020 midterm elections in their usual fashion: ginning up as much fear about nonwhite immigration as humanly possible.

Donald Trump, as usual, has been leading the way. “We are being invaded by millions and millions of people, many of them criminals,” he told the crowd at a rally in Washington Township, Michigan, on April 2, claiming that between 10 and 12 million undocumented people were waiting to cross the border. “We will be inundated by illegal immigration."

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York, the House’s third-ranking Republican, also called it an invasion. “Ending Title 42 will worsen the already catastrophic invasion at our Southern Border,” she tweeted. “Joe Biden and his Far Left policies are destroying our country.”

Steven Miller, Trump’s white nationalist-friendly former senior adviser and the architect of Title 42, was even more dire: “This will mean armageddon on the border. This is how nations end.”

Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, who has become Republicans’ go-to white nationalist in the House, joined in the hysteria on Twitter: “This is full scale invasion. This is 540,000 in one month. Putin sent 150,000 troops into Ukraine and we are ready to set fire to the world. Eliminating Title 42 will only add fuel to the fire. Madness.”

Texas lawmakers have been especially frantic in pushing the “invasion” rhetoric. Some of them are even encouraging Gov. Greg Abbott to declare an “invasion” under the U.S. Constitution, and then use state personnel to deport immigrants.

Under the plan, Texas would invoke Article IV, Section 4, and Article I, Section 10, of the Constitution to exercise wartime powers and use state Department of Public Safety officers and state National Guard troops to immediately turn back migrants at the border. The plan is being pushed by a group of former Trump administration officials and the National Border Patrol Council (NBPC), the union that represents agents and support staff of the U.S. Border Patrol. Brandon Judd, the head of NBPC, recently said Abbott should “absolutely” declare an invasion.

Judd also echoed white nationalist “replacement theory” rhetoric: “I believe that they’re trying to change the demographics of the electorate; that’s what I believe they’re doing,” he said.

The “invasion” declaration idea is being heavily promoted by the Center for Renewing America, a conservative think tank led by Ken Cuccinelli, a former Homeland Security official under Trump. Abbott has not committed to the plan, however. Most legal observers note that the term invasion is reserved to mean an “armed hostility from another political entity.”

The most pernicious aspect of the invasion rhetoric, however, is that it is fundamentally eliminationist in nature: It dehumanizes the people it targets. In this case, it serves two specific functions: It justifies state coercion and violence, and it creates permission for nonstate violence.

It’s rhetoric that has been consistently cited as inspiration and motivation by domestic terrorists of recent vintage, ranging from Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik in 2011 to the man who shot up the Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019, killing 26 people. That man’s manifesto described the attack as a response to the "Hispanic invasion of Texas,” and expressed fears that changing demographics would "make us a Democrat stronghold.”

Similarly, the man who walked into a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018 believing Jews (and specifically the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) were responsible for the immigrant caravan then arriving at the Mexico border, around which Trump and Fox News had indulged in nonstop fearmongering, used the same rhetoric. He posted on Gab just before he murdered 11 people and wounded six:

HIAS likes to bring invaders that kill our people.

I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered.

Screw your optics, I’m going in.

It’s fascinating how the same cast of characters promoting “invasion” rhetoric has played a role in helping spread the very same far-right violence that such eliminationist speech is intended to fuel. It’s worth remembering that when Cuccinelli was the deputy director of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under Trump, he and Acting Director Chad Wolf blocked the release of a threat assessment of future dangers to the nation that highlighted white supremacist violence and Russian election interference, saying it was blocked because of the way it might “reflect upon President Trump.”

“Mr. Cuccinelli stated that Mr. Murphy needed to specifically modify the section on white supremacy in a manner that made the threat appear less severe, as well as include information on the prominence of violent ‘left-wing’ groups,” a whistleblower later averred. Cuccinelli was also heavily involved in DHS’ project in the summer of 2020 to use an army of federal contractors to collect information on Portland’s antifascist activists, which a subsequent review found had engaged in a long litany of constitutional violations.

Invasion rhetoric has a long and violent history in American politics, dating back to the origins of nativism in the 1830s, when anti-Irish agitators like Samuel Morse (inventor of the telegraph) called the arrival of immigrants a “Papist invasion” and an attack on “the American way of life.” Likewise, a panic about a “Chinese invasion” arriving on the West Coast “900,000 strong” in the 1860s led to the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1872.

Japanese immigrants began arriving in the 1890s, and with them, fresh resentment:

During the early 1900s, paranoia about an “invasion” from Asia (mostly Japanese immigrants) gave birth to another wave of nativism. In San Francisco, local agitators founded the Asiatic Exclusion League, dedicated to repelling all elements of Japanese society from the city's midst. Its statement of principles noted that "no large community of foreigners, so cocky, with such racial, social and religious prejudices, can abide long in this country without serious friction." And the racial animus was plain: "As long as California is white man's country, it will remain one of the grandest and best states in the union, but the moment the Golden State is subjected to an unlimited Asiatic coolie invasion there will be no more California," declared a League newsletter. As one speaker at a League meeting put it: "An eternal law of nature has decreed that the white cannot assimilate the blood of another without corrupting the very springs of civilization."

It became popular among right-wing border extremists in the 1990s, particularly white nationalist ideologues like Glenn Spencer, who concocted the “Reconquista” conspiracy theory claiming that Latino ideologues were secretly conspiring to return the American Southwest to Mexican rule, creating a new Hispanic nation called “Aztlan.”

This conspiracy theory was revived by Patrick Buchanan in his 2001 book The Death of the West, which played a foundational role in spreading the white nationalist conspiracy theory of “cultural Marxism” into the mainstream. Similarly, his 2006 book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America had as its core thesis a revival of the “Reconquista” theory, claiming that Mexico was "slowly but steadily taking back the American Southwest."

“You’ve got a wholesale invasion, the greatest invasion in human history, coming across your southern border, changing the composition and character of your country,” Buchanan said on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes in November 2007.

In the context of the Ukraine war—where Americans can see on a daily basis what an actual invasion looks like—some conservatives at least recognize how wildly out of proportion that kind of rhetoric seems now. And in light of the very real and very lethal consequences for Texans this kind of rhetoric has had in the recent past, its pervasiveness is a real cause for concern. It’s not just “hot talk.”

David J. Bier of the libertarian Cato Institute called invoking an invasion an “overheated political analogy … An ‘invasion’ isn’t just an overstatement,” Bier wrote. “It’s a completely unserious attempt to demand extraordinary, military-style measures to stop completely mundane actions like walking around a closed port of entry to file asylum paperwork or violating international labor market regulations in order to fill one of the 10 million job openings in this country.”

As the Post’s Downie observes:

Abbott, McCaul and McCarthy, whether they admit it or not, recognize that the easiest way to protect their standing in the Republican Party is to embrace the hate and stoke the same bigoted fury that led a man to open fire in a store. Perhaps one day, the GOP’s fever will break. Until it does, this country’s future remains very dark.

Printed with permission from DailyKos.