Nikki Haley’s Hypocrisy and Faux Outrage Over Ukraine
Plus, Will Ukraine Turn Out Like Chechnya or Finland?
Recently at The Bulwark:
CHARLIE SYKES: Whose Side Are You On?
SONNY BUNCH: A Crucial Film to Understand Ukraine's Struggle 🔐
You can support The Bulwark by subscribing to Bulwark+ or just by sharing this newsletter with someone you think would value it.
WILL SALETAN: Nikki Haley’s Hypocrisy and Faux Outrage Over Ukraine
In the two months leading up to the invasion, as Putin massed forces on the Ukrainian border, Haley was preoccupied with China, not Russia. Her advocacy organization, Stand for America, hardly mentioned Ukraine. In op-eds, interviews, and tweets, she talked about China but largely ignored Russia.
When she did mention Ukraine, her comments were foolish, self-serving, or pernicious, On Jan. 31, she tweeted: “Biden should care about our own border as much as he claims to care about the Ukrainian border. #ProtectAmerica.” That message, parroting Trump’s isolationist rhetoric, undercut American resolve. It implied that the defense of Ukraine was disingenuous and was a substitute for protecting the United States.
Haley also blamed Biden for tempting Putin. On Feb. 7, as Putin was considering his options, she tweeted that the Russian president was correct to view Biden as soft. “The world’s worst dictators realize just how weak Joe Biden is. It’s why Russia is eyeing Ukraine,” she wrote. Her words didn’t just deflect responsibility from Putin. They also signaled that he need not fear American retaliation. On Feb. 23, just before the invasion, she accused Biden of “teasing” Putin with weakness—the kind of language that’s sometimes grotesquely applied to survivors of sex crimes. The next day, as the attack was underway, she again blamed Biden, claiming that he had given Putin “the green light.” “I don’t think Putin initially thought he wanted to go to war,” she asserted.
As America’s allies rallied to Ukraine’s defense, Haley insulted them.
In addition to his other miscalculations, Putin has fathered modern Ukrainian nationalism, and made NATO stronger and more unified than it’s been in years. Former Ambassador Eric Edelman joins Charlie Sykes on today’s podcast.
Bulwark+ members can listen to an ad-free version of this podcast on their player of choice.
TIM MILLER: MAGA Candidate Begs For Absolution From Dorm-Room David Duke.
Joe Kent’s attempt to re-ingratiate himself with youthful confederates was streamed live in an excruciating 47-minute interview with the American Populist Union that was billed as an attempt to “set the record straight” on L’affair Fuentes.
What is the APU? It’s a group of teens and post-teens who are trying to advance Christian white identity politics through memes and ugly sunglasses. They’ve been called the “forgotten gamers of America.” This interview was Kent’s second appearance before them. So he clearly sees them as a key constituency.
Kent appeared across from David Carlson, who is the APU’s “chief content officer.” Baby-faced with a hint of rosacea and clad in a black funeral suit, Carlson resembles a nerdy, beta version of Buzz from Home Alone, mashed up with the anti-Semitic McGoo Collins from School Ties.
For this colloquy, Kent wore a flannel shirt in his den. (Carlson was seated in front of a stark red background that may or may not have been concealing his childhood bedroom. Who can say.)
Honestly, no matter what you’re imagining, it’s not enough. You have to see this insanity for yourself.
JOHN SIPHER: Will Ukraine Turn Out Like Chechnya or Finland?
A more hopeful example of what we are likely to see in Ukraine is Moscow’s experience with Finland. As part of the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Nazis and Soviets agreed that Finland (among other countries) fell into the Soviet “sphere of influence.” Stalin demanded Finland, which was not a party to the treaty, turn over territory to the Soviet Union. Finland refused. In response, Stalin invaded Finland and sought to install a puppet regime. He assumed that Finland’s small army would quickly crumble and that Finland’s large working class was ready to support Moscow’s communist goals.
Instead, Stalin was caught off-guard by the Finns’ willingness to fight, even with little or no assistance from the outside world. Although the Finns had no tanks, artillery, or air power, they put up a vigorous and successful defense. Finns facing Soviet tanks invented the Molotov cocktail, named after Stalin’s foreign minister.
Like today’s Russian army in Ukraine, the Red Army entered Finland in 1939 with little real knowledge of Finland or the Finns and extremely poor intelligence. Instead, the Soviet troops were fed a diet of propaganda. The lack of understanding was matched by poor preparation—many Soviet conscripts didn’t even know the name of the country they were invading, and many came without proper gear to fight in winter conditions. Massive Soviet frontal attacks along thin forest roads led to thousands of needless deaths—so many that some Finnish soldiers reportedly went mad from the up-close slaughter of so many Soviet soldiers. The Finns were clever, too: Noticing that the Soviets dropped their soldiers from low-flying airplanes into soft snow banks behind the lines, the Finns painted the massive boulders in the disputed Karelian isthmus white, with expected results.
JOHN AGRESTO: What Putin Cares About Most.
From Achilles to Caesar to Napoleon to Stalin what motivates the most evil of human actors is not money or love or even ideology or power, but the thought of glory and the eternal life it brings. (Neither political science nor economics seem to have, in these cases, a true understanding of motivation or solutions; perhaps history, psychology, and even literature need to steady us.) Death comes to all—but glory is one way to deny the grave its victory. Yes, some hope to win deathless fame by doing good; others (sometimes far too many of them) care not how fame comes. Building up or tearing down—it matters not.
That Ukraine will be destroyed and many thousands killed is of little concern to Putin. But to be known for ages as the great restorer of Russian glory—and to bask in the fame and personal glory of having accomplished this—seems to be the sum of his concerns. It’s not just great men who change the course of History; sometimes it’s the most dreadful and depraved.
If this analysis of Putin is correct, it means that the other great causes of war—ideological fervor and religious fanaticism—are absent or only weakly present. Like those ancient tyrants who sought “deification,” only the fear of failure—or failure itself—will succeed. But sociopathic sadism in the service of personal glorification may well be the hardest thing for civilized people to defeat or even fully to understand.
Where is Sidney Powell’s fundraising cash going?
Slava Ukraini! Get a Ukraine shirt from Raygun, and 100% of the profits will be donated to the Red Cross to help Ukranians in need.
Zelensky is a… thug? That’s what Rep. Madison Cawthorn thinks, apparently. (Yes, the guy who lost a fight to a tree, among many other bizarre and deplorable things.)
Yes, let’s get Ukraine some S-300s. More air defenses are needed.
The grift continues… Apparently Trump Force One, has been grounded for years up in New York. So a wealthy Republican loaned Trump a plane to use, and it experienced engine trouble and had to do an emergency landing because of engine failure. Now, Trump is asking his supporters to buy him a new plane, which you know they will. Ironic, of course, because he was the “successful business man” who is apparently so wealthy, but needs to rely on ordinary Americans to buy the plane for him. (Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly suggested that the plane with engine failure was Trump Force One, which apparently is still grounded.)
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.