The disgraced former president’s top national security adviser has been doing a slew of interviews the past few weeks. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, John Bolton, like most former national security advisers, has found himself being asked for his opinion on rapidly changing events. John Bolton’s bona fides as a truly terrifying warmonger span decades, and he has been critical of Trump—for a price. Bolton says what most of us already know: Trump’s extortion attempts, in the form of holding back military aid from Ukraine in order to dig up dirt on then-candidate Joe Biden’s son Hunter, is a big part of the reason Vladimir Putin did not invade Ukraine until now.
“He obviously saw that Trump had contempt for the Ukrainians. I think that had an impact,” Bolton told VICE earlier this month. Bolton goes on to detail a phone conversation Trump had with Vladimir Putin, shortly after Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected, during which Trump asked Putin how he felt about him. According to Bolton, Trump’s lack of knowledge and backbone in that conversation likely reinforced Putin’s belief that Trump didn’t have strong feelings in support of Ukraine’s leadership.
Trump’s choice to bring Bolton on to replace H.R. McMaster was considered ominous at the time, since Bolton’s No. 1 foreign policy idea has always seemed to be “invade everybody.” But Bolton was in the rooms where Donald Trump conducted foreign policy discussions and played little brother to Putin. “Trump had no idea what the stakes were in Ukraine,” Bolton said.
In fact, Bolton explained to VICE, Trump’s lack of curiosity for anything is profound. “It's hard for me to describe how little he knows,” Bolton tried to explain. This true mediocrity is why Trump’s reasoning for things is so whimsical and useless. He has no context or knowledge for much of anything. “He once asked [then-White House Chief of Staff] John Kelly if Finland was part of Russia. What he cared about was the DNC server, and Hunter Biden, and the 2016 election, and the 2020 election. That's what it was all about. And I think he had next to no idea what the larger issues were.”
Bolton, in an interview with the Washington Post earlier in March, Bolton said that he believed Vladimir Putin’s lack of open invasion of Ukraine during the Trump administration was possibly predicated on the Russian dictator’s belief that Trump would pull the United States out of NATO during a second term in office.
Arguably the saddest exchange between Bolton and VICE’s interviewer is the one when Bolton says he is unsure what Trump would have done if Russia had invaded Ukraine when Trump was in office. He joked, “He never got that server! Those Ukrainians wouldn’t give him the server!” The interviewer remarked that Ukraine probably wished that this mythical server with Hillary’s secret plans existed so they could have ingratiated themselves to Trump. Bolton’s reply, also clearly joking (or half-joking, at least) sounds like something Trump and the MAGA world would have held up as proof, not the absurdist joke it would have been:
“They should have given him a server and said, ‘Hey, we found that—may have been erased, but here's the server.’”
“The world, with American leadership, Is trying to choke off an aggressive fascist state without starting WWIII. As a result, gas prices are going to go up. Hell, the price of everything is going to go up.”
On the surface, this tradeoff seems almost superficial. Bring down an aggressive fascist state without directly engaging the U.S. military, and while doing everything possible to prevent the war from expanding outside it’s current area of conflict? It seems like an easy deal. However, as Jason points out, just because it’s a better deal than an actual shooting war between NATO and Russia, doesn’t mean it’s a get-out-of-pain free card. For many people, the increases in costs will hit hard. There are millions of people out there who are always on the brink when it comes to their finances. There are also people out there who might have just made a decision—like buying a new truck—which seemed completely reasonable without factoring in a war they didn’t know was coming.
“First, from my old unit pep talks: ‘don't be an asshole.’ Now is not the time to make your dig about someone's pick up truck choice or to be smug about your Tesla. Everything will cost more for everyone. Remember we are all in this together.”
For better than a decade, oil prices have been remarkably low. After peaking around 2008, at a point when it looked like $100 a barrel and up was the indefinite future, the rapid spread of fracking across the U.S. and around the world brought on a super abundance; a world where oil production has been limited by demand rather than production. In Cheap Oil World, some of the dependencies and decisions that were made seemed entirely reasonable (so long, of course, as the environment, and specifically the critical damage to the climate, weren’t considered).
But now we’re seeing the price of cheap oil and cheap natural gas. And if we’re not careful, we’ll pay for it in widening divisions in the U.S.
One thing that can definitely help: All those guys shouting “back to the office!” because seeing people neatly stuffed in rows of cubicles satisfies their ego, can chill for awhile. Working from home saves gas. And saving gas is the best way to limit the cost of this war.
The Ukrainian ministry of defense is setting the number at over 11,000 Russian troops killed, wounded, or captured. That’s about 6% of those who were arrayed for this conflict.
⚡️ Pentagon: 2,000-4,000 Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine. U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Scott Berrier said that the intelligence community has “low confidence” in its assessment of how many Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine, CNN reports.
Movement (literally) on the deal to get more MiG-29s into Ukraine by engineering a swap for F-16s. For now, it seems the MiGs are on their way to a U.S. base in Germany. Whether they’ll fly from there into Ukraine isn’t clear.
BREAKING: Statement by the Polish government approves the transfer of all of the country's MiG-29 fighter jets to the US, likely as the first stage in a swap deal that will see them transferred to Ukraine.https://t.co/opMnx2HenZ
Included in this is a claim that Russia lost 30 helicopters yesterday in a Ukrainian counterstrike outside Kharkiv. That would be about 1% of all the helicopters Russia has brought to this conflict taken down at a blow. Note that this hasn’t been recorded at Oryx because, at least at this time, there isn’t circulating video confirming the losses.
This Polish mayor is not about to let former deputy prime minister of Italy, and head of the hard-right Northern League, Matteo Salvini, brush off his past support of Putin.
Salvini tries to go to the Ukrainian border with Polish mayor. Mayor whips out t-shirt with Putin on it Salvini once wore in European Parliament and says “no respect for you" pic.twitter.com/7ahSzwlHnV
Vladimir Putin has been bullying Ukraine for many years. But that’s not all. Now, in addition to massing Russian military forces along the border—surrounding his neighbor in what can only be seen as preparation for invading that country—he’s lying about Ukrainians’ very identity in order to snuff out their independence.
Americans know a little something about breaking away from a country with whom we share much in terms of cultural roots. Thanks to history, we also know that when powerful countries start remaking the borders of Europe by force, it opens the door to massive bloodshed.
The lies Putin’s telling these days have a very specific purpose, designed to buttress his bullying. The primary lie is that there are no Ukrainians. He denies their existence as a people, as a community that possesses a national consciousness. They’re really just Russians, you see. That’s why it’s not wrong for Vlad to remake or even erase a border that his country agreed to respect in 1994. He openly violated that treaty in 2014 with his military incursion into the Donbas region of southeastern Ukraine—where he both provided material support for pro-Russian separatists and sent some of his own troops as well—not to mention his outright forced annexation of Crimea. Russia has been violating the agreement consistently ever since.
One of our country’s most highly regarded experts on Eastern Europe, Zbigniew Brzezinski, explained that “without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.” This is why Putin wants to delegitimize the concept of Ukrainianness. It’s all part of his plan to bring them under his thumb and restore his country’s status as a world power, and also perhaps shore up his political position at home in true Wag the Dog fashion. Invasion seems to be imminent.
NEW: The US believes Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine, and has communicated that decision to the Russian military, three Western and defense officials tell me.
Who are the Ukrainians? More importantly, who gets to address that question? Putin clearly believes that the answer to the second one is himself, as he laid out his falsehood-laden response to the first one. This took the form of a Jul. 2021 document titled “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” The two groups are, he claimed, “one people—a single whole … a single people” who have “a common faith, shared cultural traditions … language similarity.” The misinformation was strong in this piece of Фигня.
The article runs through a recitation of historical events extensive enough to make one long for an invasion just to bring it to an end. This 1000-plus year “history” dating back to the medieval state of Kievan Rus’—a loose federation of East Slavic, Baltic, and Finnic peoples in Eastern and Northern Europe that existed from the late 9th to the mid-13th century—is presented in a one-sided fashion that paints the development of a Ukrainianness that exists separate from Russianness as simply false, and as merely the result of foreign influences, ranging from Poles to the Catholic Church to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Political scientist Ivan Krastev noted: “Putin looks at Ukraine and Belarus as part of Russia’s civilizational and cultural space. He thinks the Ukrainian state is totally artificial and that Ukrainian nationalism is not authentic.”
It’s bad enough when a pundit or entertainer tries to define what is and what is not authentic about another group. When the guy doing it has the firepower to actually conquer that group’s country, now we’re talking about a whole other kind of danger.
As for today’s Ukraine, Putin made clear in his missive that he sees himself as the sole and rightful arbiter of what that sovereign nation’s borders should be: “Apparently, and I am becoming more and more convinced of this: Kiev simply does not need Donbas.” In other words: Russia ain’t leaving eastern Ukraine as long as he’s calling the shots. On a side note, Russia doesn’t “need” Donbas either, or benefit in material terms from having some degree of control over it—unless they want a region well-situated to mass-produce Panasonic tape decks.
Finally, Putin presented his conclusion: “I am confident that true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia.” Now that’s what I call an abusive partner. Thomas Friedman, in the New York Times, recently offered a slightly different phrasing that perfectly captures Vlad’s thoughts on the matter: “Marry me, or I’ll kill you.”
An analysis of Putin’s essay at the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan think tank focused on international affairs, noted that it had “been likened in some quarters to a declaration of war” against Ukraine. The analysis included commentary from two experts. Melinda Haring, Deputy Director of the Eurasia Centerat the Atlantic Council, stated:
Putin’s delusional and dangerous article reveals what we already knew: Moscow cannot countenance letting Ukraine go. The Russian president’s masterpiece alone should inspire the West to redouble its efforts to bolster’s Kyiv ability to choose its own future, and Zelenskyy should respond immediately and give Putin a history lesson.
Danylo Lubkivsky, director of the Kyiv Security Forum and a former Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, added:
Putin understands that Ukrainian statehood and the Ukrainian national idea pose a threat to Russian imperialism. He does not know how to solve this problem. Many in his inner circle are known to advocate the use of force, but for now, the Russian leader has no solutions. Instead, he has written an amateurish propaganda piece designed to provide followers of his “Russian World” ideology with talking points. However, his arguments are weak and simply repeat what anti-Ukrainian Russian chauvinists have been saying for decades. Putin’s essay is an expression of imperial agony.
UKRAINE’S HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE
Despite Putin’s propaganda—and the document discussed above is just one part of a far-reaching Russian campaign—the Ukrainian people have a long record of expressing an independent national consciousness, of fighting for their independence from Russia as well as other neighboring states. There’s far too much in his diatribe to refute point by point, but suffice it to say that his denial of Ukrainians’ collective existence is far from fact-based. It’s hard to accept the objectivity of a self-styled historian of Ukraine who, in 2008, Putinsplained the following to then-President Bush, “You don’t understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state.”
In reality, in the late nineteenth century, at the same time as other peoples in Central and Eastern Europe, proponents of a Ukrainian sense of peoplehood—nationalists, they called themselves—emerged and began building a movement. At the end of the First World War, these Ukrainian nationalists fought to create an independent state out of the chaos in the region, but were defeated. The part of their country that had been under Tsarist Russian control was ultimately absorbed by the Soviet Union, with a newly independent Poland taking the portion that had been part of Galicia, a previously Austro-Hungarian province. At the end of the Second World War, the USSR grabbed that territory from Poland as well.
Since 1991, when the Soviet Union broke apart, Ukraine has been independent, and sought to carve its own path outside of Moscow’s shadow. The current president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has cultivated what one Ukrainian journalist described as: “an inclusive Ukrainian national identity transcending the barriers of language, ethnicity and memory that have so often served to divide Ukrainians.”
TRUMP REARS HIS ORANGE HEAD
Zelensky is none other than the man whom our disgraced former president tried to bully into becoming a stooge in his quest to slander Joe Biden. Those actions led to the first impeachment of The Man Who Lost An Election And Tried To Steal It, thanks in part to the brave actions of whistleblowers like Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. In fact, Trump as well as numerous right-wing politicians and media figures have all but openly sided with Putin on Ukraine, as Daily Kos’s Mark Sumner thoroughly presented here (and here, on Fucker Carlson specifically).
Vindman, who was born in Ukraine and came with his family to the U.S. in 1979 at the age of three, served as director for European affairs at the National Security Council, and was the top expert on Ukraine in the White House under Fuck a l’Orange. He has urged the U.S. to provide significant defensive military support to Kyiv, and wrote passionately in December about how the land where he was born has evolved since claiming its freedom when the USSR disintegrated:
Over the past 30 years, Ukraine has made major strides in its experiment with democracy. Despite worrying instances of government-backed corruption—undeniably, there is still more work to be done—Ukraine has made hard-fought progress on reform in the midst of war. Six presidents, two revolutions and many violent protests later, the people of Ukraine have sent a clear message that reflects the most fundamental of American values: They will fight for basic rights, and against authoritarian repression.
PARALLELS WITH CHINA AND TAIWAN
We may be seeing some similar developments farther East. After more than seven decades of separation from the mainland government of China, and four decades as a vibrant democracy, the people of Taiwan have increasingly begun to see themselves as having a separate national consciousness as Taiwanese rather than Chinese. For many Ukrainians as well as Taiwanese, the fact that their countries are committed to democratic values, which their erstwhile “big brother” countries reject only serves to heighten their desire to define their separate sense of peoplehood. Both of the larger brothers consider their counterpart’s independence to be a grave offense they cannot abide.
People in Taiwan and China are absolutely paying attention to what’s happening between Russia and Ukraine. Furthermore, the growing ties between Moscow and Beijing—please note the warm meeting between their leaders at the Winter Olympics, hosted by China—not to mention the shared belief that a great power should be able to dominate within a self-defined sphere of influence, offer Putin support for his actions that could counteract potential punishment imposed by the West.
Ultimately, the lies Putin enumerated mask an even more profound truth, one that has nothing to do with an argument about the legitimacy of a particular national identity. Even if Russians and Ukrainians had been “one people” a thousand years ago, or even a thousand days ago, who cares? Things transform in an instant.
DECLARATION(S) OF INDEPENDENCE
Prior to the American Revolution, most of those who were allowed to participate in the political life of the American colonies, as well as their wives and children, defined themselves as English. Nevertheless, they maintained a “right,” as the Founders argued in the Declaration of Independence, to change their minds. Sometimes, in Thomas Jefferson’s words, “it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another.” Ukrainians, who want to look west rather than north, and who want democracy rather than autocracy, have made the same judgment regarding Russia.
We know what the Russian president is, and what he wants. This is a man who says the quiet part out loud. He actually lamented the collapse of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” He added that the event represented not the liberation of tens of millions but instead “a genuine tragedy.” Why? Because “tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.”
The borders of Russia should apparently encompass everywhere Russian people live—with the caveat that Putin himself defines who is Russian. It’s up to no one else other than the self-proclaimed father of the Russian people, the bridegroom to Mother Russia, who will gather together once again all his wayward children, including the ones who ran away from home and never want to go back. Please note his foreign minister’s characterization of the countries once under the sway of the Soviets as “territories orphaned by the collapse of the Warsaw Treaty Organization and the Soviet Union.” As for Ukraine specifically, the head of Vlad’s national security council proclaimed in November that it was a “protectorate” of Moscow.
The type of “we’re all one people” ethno-nationalist claptrap Putin has been spewing on Ukraine is at least an echo, even if not a direct parallel, of the language Adolf Hitler used in 1938 to justify the Anschluss that forcibly joined Austria to Nazi Germany and to justify taking the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia, as well as aggressive action toward Poland. In all these cases, Hitler claimed that he was simply reuniting people who shared German ancestry—German blood. To clarify, Putin is talking more about shared Russian culture than blood ties, and there’s no evidence he is bent on genocide or world domination.
Nevertheless, a great power committing this kind of aggression—now threatening to commit even more of it—and using this kind of tribal nationalism as a pretext, is something that Europe has not seen for almost a century. It cannot be allowed to succeed, and thankfully President Biden and our European allies are taking steps to make sure that it doesn’t.
House Republicans are demanding transcripts of a call between President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about a possible Russian invasion of the country be released after disputed reports over the substance of the conversation.
CNN initially reported that a senior Ukrainian official described the talk between Biden and Zelensky as “long and frank” but that it “did not go well.”
CNN reporter Alexander Marquardt, late Thursday, tweeted alarming quotes provided by the Ukrainian official.
“A Russian invasion is now virtually certain once the ground freezes, Biden said to Zelensky, a senior Ukrainian official told [CNN reporter Matthew Chance],” he wrote.
“Kyiv could be ‘sacked,’ Russian forces may attempt to occupy it, ‘prepare for impact’, Biden said, according to this official.”
A Russian invasion is now virtually certain once the ground freezes, Biden said to Zelensky, a senior Ukrainian official told @mchancecnn. Kyiv could be “sacked,” Russian forces may attempt to occupy it, “prepare for impact”, Biden said, according to this official.
The characterization of the phone call was immediately disputed by the White House and the Ukrainian government, according to Newsweek.
National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne described the CNN report based on a Ukrainian official’s comments as “completely false.”
This is not true. President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February. He has previously said this publicly & we have been warning about this for months. Reports of anything more or different than that are completely false. https://t.co/chkFOhwWHn
Horne would later tell CNN that “anonymous sources are ‘leaking’ falsehoods.”
A spokesman for Zelensky also posted to Facebook that the accounts were “completely false.”
A readout of the call on the White House website makes no mention of any dire warnings to Ukraine, instead indicating that Biden “reaffirmed” to Zelensky that the United States would “respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine.”
House Republicans though, challenged the White House to clear the air by demanding they release the actual transcript of the call.
They added a video of Biden in 2019 calling on then-President Trump to “release the transcript of the call” between him and Zelensky, a call that led to the former president’s first impeachment in 2019.
The hashtag ‘#ReleaseTheTranscript’ began trending and was the number one leading topic on Twitter Friday morning.
Releasing the transcript of Biden’s call with Zelensky seems like a logical step. The last thing all parties involved need is reckless and possibly false comments by the President escalating tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.
BREAKING: We have recovered the Ukraine call report that @JakeTapper and CNN just deleted
The controversy comes as experts are warning of a nuclear exchange should Russia and the U.S. come to blows.
“As Russian troops bear down on Ukraine and the United States prepares its own military buildup in Eastern Europe, concerns are growing across the ideological spectrum that the standoff could inadvertently escalate into the unthinkable: nuclear war,” Politico reports.
The column cites “current and former officials and experts on both sides of the Atlantic” who worry about ‘miscalculations’ and ‘stumbling into nuclear confrontation.’
Is there anything at stake here that could justify even the remote chance of nuclear war?
Shortly after Biden was sworn into office, dozens of House Democrats quietly called on President Biden to relinquish sole control over the country’s nuclear arsenal and the ability to launch a strike using those weapons.
Nearly three dozen House Democrats on Monday called on Biden to relinquish his sole authority to launch nuclear weapons, in the latest appeal to reform the command-and-control structure so that no single person can initiate a nuclear war https://t.co/AOIHaYf1b4pic.twitter.com/OSKJ64d3cW
Hold on to your helmets! It’s true the White House is reporting that its proposed new Pentagon budget is only $740.5 billion, a relatively small increase from the previous year’s staggering number. In reality, however, when you also include war and security costs buried in the budgets of other agencies, the actual national security figure comes in at more than $1.2 trillion, as the Trump administration continues to give the Pentagon free reign over taxpayer dollars.
You would think that the country’s congressional representatives might want to take control of this process and roll back that budget—especially given the way the White House has repeatedly violated its constitutional authority by essentially stealing billions of dollars from the Defense Department for the president’s “Great Wall” (that Congress refused to fund). Recently, even some of the usual congressional Pentagon budget boosters have begun to lament how difficult it is to take the Department’s requests for more money seriously, given the way the military continues to demand yet more (ever more expensive) weaponry and advanced technologies on the (largely bogus) grounds that Uncle Sam is losing an innovation war with Russia and China.
And if this wasn’t bad enough, keep in mind that the Defense Department remains the only major federal agency that has proven itself incapable of even passing an audit. An investigation by my colleague Jason Paladino at the Project On Government Oversight found that increased secrecy around the operations of the Pentagon is making it ever more difficult to assess whether any of its money is well spent, which is why it’s important to track where all the money in this country’s national security budget actually goes.
The Pentagon’s “Base” Budget
This year’s Pentagon request includes $636.4 billion for what’s called its “base” budget—for the routine expenses of the Defense Department. However, claiming that those funds were insufficient, Congress and the Pentagon created a separate slush fund to cover both actual war expenses and other items on their wish lists (on which more to come). Add in mandatory spending, which includes payments to veterans’ retirement and illness compensation funds and that base budget comes to $647.2 billion.
Ahead of the recent budget roll out, the Pentagon issued a review of potential “reforms” to supposedly cut or control soaring costs. While a few of them deserve serious consideration and debate, the majority reveal just how focused the Pentagon is on protecting its own interests. Ironically, one major area of investment it wants to slash involves oversight of the billions of dollars to be spent. Perhaps least surprising was a proposal to slash programs for operational testing and evaluation—otherwise known as the process of determining whether the billions Americans spend on shiny new weaponry will result in products that actually work. The Pentagon’s Office of Operational Test and Evaluation has found itself repeatedly under attack from arms manufacturers and their boosters who would prefer to be in charge of grading their own performances. [...]
It's not just the food service industryÃ¢Â�Â�27% of private-sector workers in the U.S. don't have the ability to stay home from work without losing a paycheck. We need to make sure our response to the coronavirus includes solutions that protect workers, their families, & communities. https://t.co/suV0mzUscM
At Daily Kos on this date in 2004—FDR’s “Hundred Days” Honeymoon—1933:
Whether you count from the inaugural or, as historians do, from March 9, the Hundred Days, like the Hundred Years’ War, didn’t actually add up to a hundred, but they have nonetheless been the measure—usually in negative terms— for what succeeding administrations have accomplished. A study has even gone so far as to determine how effective presidentsbefore Roosevelt were in theirfirst 100 days. None came close. During the emergency session of Congress FDR called 15 major laws were passed and signed, all by June 16.
That legislation—some of it conservative, most of it moderate, none of it radical, all of it experimental—derived from no over-arching plan, and certainly not from any liberal ideology that Roosevelt presented during the campaign and brought with him into the White House. Rather than a package of legislation, as implied by the Hundred Days label, what Roosevelt and his "Brain Trust" of academics and economic theorists produced was a mish-mash, exactly what would be expected of experimentation in the face of a daunting crisis. "The notion that the New Deal had a preconceived theoretical position is ridiculous," said Frances Perkins, who would become FDR’s, Secretary of Labor from 1933-45, the first woman ever to serve in the Cabinet.
The experiments worked not just for what they actually achieved—which was a mixed bag—but also for how their very coming into being changed the nation’s somber mood. As Roosevelt said at his inaugural: "This nation asks for action, and action now"; "We must act, we must act quickly"; People want "direct, vigorous action." As Jonathan Alter wrote in The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, "In the argot of a later age, Roosevelt was relentlessly on message." He spurred hope in the face of despair by force of personality.
On today’s Kagro in the Morning show: What's so super about Tuesday? Well, Joan McCarter, for one thing. And you probably weren't expecting Sexy Vinyl Vixen Brit Hume! How Trump's been gaming the FVRA. Coronavirus, continued. Impeachment vs. pardons: Let's all say we believe it!