A Tale of Two Speeches
Plus: Old Ukraine Is Gone. Ukrainians Carry On.
Recently at The Bulwark:
CHARLIE SYKES: Never Again?🔐
THE NEXT LEVEL: State of the Union, Russian Media, and Texas 🔐
THE SECRET POD: The Ukrainian War🔐
You can support The Bulwark by subscribing to Bulwark+ or just by sharing this newsletter with someone you think would value it.
WILL SALETAN on A Tale of Two Speeches.
Many Republicans pretend that Trump doesn’t represent their party. But they suck up to him, refuse to renounce his arguments, and often parrot them. On Sunday, Sen. Tom Cotton repeatedly ducked questions about Trump’s praise of Putin. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did the same on Tuesday. Meanwhile, in a 75-minute forum to lay out their agenda, House Republicans barely mentioned Ukraine. They applied terms such as “dictator,” “regime,” and “communist countries” not to Putin, but to Democrats who enforced vaccine mandates or mask mandates.
Biden has his faults. He botched the negotiations on his Build Back Better plan, misjudged the pullout from Afghanistan, and underrated the severity of inflation. But the gap between his vision of America and Trump’s vision of America makes those faults insignificant. Biden believes in democracy and the rule of law. He believes that the free world must stand together. He believes that Americans should treat one another as compatriots, not enemies, and that they should care about people in other countries.
Trump believes none of this.
It’s a simple choice.
Biden has stitched NATO back together after Trump and Putin tried to tear it apart. The alliance still matters. Meanwhile, Trump-backed candidates won all their races in Tuesday’s primaries — the crazy’s making the crazy crazier.
This weekly livestream, which includes member-only features like live chat and Q&A, starts at 8:00 p.m ET each Thursday night. Can’t make the live show? No problem: We post the video and audio recording of TNB each week, too.
Ukraine Coverage 🇺🇦
NATALIA ANATOVA: Old Ukraine Is Gone. Ukrainians Carry On.
The ethnonationalist speech that Putin gave before he started this latest atrocity is an echo of every insult I’ve ever received from a Russian for identifying with Ukraine. We are an artificial people in the eyes of the Russian Reich. When we insist on being real, we’re called extremist and dangerous. We’re told to lie down and die.
Instead, Ukrainians are throwing themselves at tanks. Would anyone do that for an artificial identity and homeland?
Closed off in his palaces, surrounded by a circle of pliant yes-men in expensive suits, men made rich like shiny ticks off the Kremlin’s corruption, Putin does not see Ukrainians. But the world does.
As I type this, the people I know and love in Ukraine are alive and accounted for—scared, angry, tortured, shaking with righteous fury, fighting on the battlefield, cradling terrified children and animals, but alive. This could change at any moment, and so while I’m here, I’m not really here. When a ghoul seeks to destroy your birthplace, your soul is unmoored.
ANIK JOSHI: Why India Didn’t Back Ukraine at the U.N.
When Russia began its unprovoked invasion of its democratic neighbor Ukraine last week, the initial response from the world’s largest democracy was silence. The government of India has been reluctant to condemn the invasion in the same language as other countries and international bodies. When the U.N. Security Council considered a resolution condemning Russia’s actions—a symbolic measure that Russia was sure to veto—India’s representative said his delegation was “disturbed by developments in Ukraine” but abstained from voting for or against the resolution.
Despite recent strengthening of the U.S.-India relationship, India has a long history with Russia (and the Soviet Union before that) and remains dependent on Russia for much of it’s defense equipment. Modern India was set up by a strong socialist, Jawaharlal Nehru, and had Soviet-like five-year plans for most of its history. Although Prime Minister Nehru cofounded the Non-Aligned Movement, he generally found himself on the side of the Soviets—as did most subsequent Indian governments. In the early 1990s, following the collapse of the USSR and India’s acceptance of free markets under Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao, India started to shift toward a more pro-Western outlook. The U.S.-India relationship has grown stronger in the last two decades, especially with the 2005 nuclear deal, significant growth in foreign direct investment, defense and trade agreements, and joint military exercises.
MONA CHAREN: An Answer to Putin (and Climate Change) in Plain Sight.
The shift in attitudes toward Russia has been vertigo-inducing, but it remains to be seen whether it will stick. The human tendency toward complacency and denial is very strong. (It’s remarkable that the West maintained its vigilance throughout the Cold War, and there were moments when it was iffy.) One way we’ll know if the democracies have truly grappled with the moment is what they do on energy.
Energy policy would seem to be the surest path toward the better world we all hope for. Without energy revenue, Russia is defanged. Oil and gas account for nearly 40 percent of Russia’s federal revenue and 60 percent of exports. The old gibe that Russia is a “gas station with nukes” was only somewhat exaggerated. Europe currently relies on Russia for 40 percent of its energy needs. The Ukraine invasion has spurred the European Commission to look (at last) for alternative sources. “We cannot let any third country destabilize our energy markets or influence our energy choices,” commissioner Kadri Simson told the New York Times. Unfortunately, they seem to be thinking very much inside the box, with an emphasis on “renewables and energy efficiency.”
Claiming the middle ground… Last night, as he was heckled by the Deplorable Sisters, Biden tried to appeal to the people who brought him to the dance. It’s a smart strategy, as John Stoehr suggests, though Biden did throw a few lines to the more liberal parts of his caucus. E.J. Dionne observes, writing at the Post, “A State of the Union can’t instantly alter a presidency’s trajectory, but it can be a circuit breaker. By speaking of his mission abroad & a new strategy for the problems at home, Biden set out to rebuild the coalition that made him president.”
In the coming months, we’ll see if that plan holds. One thing’s for sure, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds was not ready for prime time with the GOP response, which, historically, seems to be akin to the “Madden Curse.” Can you name a GOP politician who gave the SOTU response, knocked it out of the park, and went on to greater things?
One thing Biden had going for him? The far left members of the House Democrats came bearing gifts.
We’re berating kids over masks now? Remember when DeSantis stans told us he was the pro-vaccine governor who was the adult in the room?
Bush dishes on Putin. The 43rd President took some time to talk about the Russian dictator last night in Chicago.
Russia’s Plan C. An excellent analysis by Lawrence Freedman.
Revenge of the ice cream hackers… A company that set out to help McDonald’s franchisees solve their ice cream issues, but was shut down by the Golden Arches, is fighting back.
A soldiers’ union? Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been using the national guard for what appears to be political purposes for months now. Some soldiers are pushing back.
This is what war does to children. It’s a few years old, but applies just as much today as it did when it was made.
That’s it for me. Tech support questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions for me? Respond to this message.
Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. For full credits, please consult the article.