Russian President Vladimir V. Putin has just announced a "special military operation" to "de-Nazify the Ukrainian government" so as to halt the supposed "genocide" being committed against Russian speakers in Ukraine. There is not a shred of justification for any of this. The extreme nationalist fascist groups in Ukraine do not support and are not part of the current Ukrainian government, whose leader is half Jewish. There has been a low level war between the Ukrainian government and the separatist republics in the east, now officially recognized by the Putin government, with 14,000 dead on both sides. But recently the Ukrainian military has not even been responding to the heightened rate of shelling coming out of the republics. Putin has also complained of a supposed move of Ukraine to join NATO, but no such move has been going on at all.
This is pure and unadulterated aggression without a shred of justification. Reportedly missiles are now striking Ukraine's capital city, Kyiv. This is more than just a war to defend the republics in the East. Putin has lost his mind.
I shall note one lie he made last night, one he has made previously, with it central to this invasion, with me now hearing on TV that "tanks are now rolling across the border" not far from Kharkiv. Putin claimed the night before last that "Russia created Ukraine," with this being done by "Lenin and the Bolsheviks." But in 1917 a Ukrainian Peoples' Republic, which in 1918 declared its independence from Russia. It survived for two years until Poland conquered its western portion and Lenin's Russia conquered the central and eastern parts. When Lenin established the Ukrainian SSR a few years later, it was formed out of a portion of what had been an already existing independent Ukrainian nation.
Miscalculation after miscalculation. He underestimated Biden's resolve and that of NATO and EU countries. He underestimated the resolve to use sanctions. And so he keeps pushing because he has no other option.
Yes, he has lost the plot. He can't back down without feeling like he loses face, and his authority is based on being a bully.
So, Barkley, what is your take on all the sanctions so far? Any bite?
I happened to notice the saddening remark about your wife being ill and wish you to know that this indeed saddens me. I hope with all my heart that your wife strengthens quickly.
I will have your both in my thoughts through this time.
May you please be well.
You and your family will remain in my thoughts.
Thank you, Anonymous. Marina has come home and hopefully will be OK, although she has had a lot of health issues. She is very upset about the current set of events. She still has family in Moscow.
On the matter of sanctions, I do not know quite how seriously they are going after these individuals close to Putin. What might really get their attention is if UK seizes their properties in London, which many of them own.
Clearly two very important potential sanctions have not been invoked, canceling access to SWIFT and ending purchases of oil and gas from Russia. The former has not happened apparently because of opposition from some European powers. That one is the big one, which would really have a large impact on both some of these individuals as well as the broader Russian economy.
Of course, on the latter, Nord Stream 3 has been canceled or at least halted, but otherwise the oil and gas will flow, with this probably reflecting Biden's worry about high oil prices in the US. The Russian economy does seem to be being affected, at least the ruble and stock market are way down. But it can probably struggle through if SWIFT and oil and gas sales continue.
Knocking Russia out of SWIFT probably won't do much. This has been a bit of a myth. SWIFT is an efficient messaging service. It's the interbank transfers (corresponding accounts) that matter. Embargo Russia financially, and SWIFT won't matter. Yesterday's sanctions don't look like a full embargo, but they could be pretty hefty. The Russian stock market seems to have stabilized, but the Russian middle class has basically lost 15 years of investment in private pensions. That is already pissing a lot of people off. Nordstream 2 was a blow for the moment; alternative demand to Norwegian gas and American LNG would be an even bigger blow.
The UK holds important keys: lots of Russian wealth in London housing and in capitalization on the London stock market. But so long as the Tories are Putin LLC...
Biden should freeze Putin's assets. I have to believe someone at the CIA and Treasury knows where he keeps his loot.
Ukraine is trying to argue that Russia's taking the Soviet place on the UN Security Council was never debated and approved (unlike for China). That would be quite the coup, so to speak: kick Russia off the Security Council over a technicality. Putin hurt by his own kind of thinking.
Kyiv is going to fall, as will most of Ukraine. The Russian army will get a bloody nose, but they have too much firepower and embrace the tactic of cannon fodder. But this is just a battle; they will lose the war, the only question is when and how many will suffer before then.
Putin will no doubt soon remind us about the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
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