Recently at The Bulwark:
CHARLIE SYKES: Five Hard Truths About Ukraine
THE NEXT LEVEL🎧: Inconceivable 🔐
SECRET POD: The DeSantisstans 🔐
HANNAH YOEST: Getting Away with Running Dangerously
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MONA CHAREN: Thank God Trump Isn’t President Right Now.
Biden is a normal man with normal flaws. He made some errors, but he sees clearly what sort of menace Vladimir Putin is. Only the most obtuse or twisted soul could fail to see it. . . which brings us to the president’s predecessor.
The Ukraine crisis reminds us that Trump is no run-of-the-mill fool, but a unique combination of stupidity and venality. A quick refresher on his relations with Putin and Ukraine leaves little doubt that far from deterring Putin, he was Putin’s most reliable “useful idiot.” Trump’s most durable legacy is the Putinesque level of deceit he introduced into the American bloodstream, but he was also a mark.
Trump wasn’t the first president to go soft on Putin, of course. Barack “Tell Vladimir I’ll have more flexibility after the election” Obama plowed that ground very well. Failing to enforce his red line in Syria and inviting Russia to assert dominance there; failing to impose harsh sanctions after the annexation of Crimea; and mocking Mitt Romney for taking the Russian threat seriously, Obama was hardly a model of fortitude.
But at least Obama knew what he was doing. He chose diffidence and called it wisdom. Trump was a dupe and a dope, a walking refutation of the adage “you can’t kid a kidder.” An inveterate liar himself, he could never discern when he was being played, at least by the strongmen he admired like Putin, Kim, and Xi.
Russia won’t be able to take large Ukrainian cities. But that won’t stop them from bombing them into rubble. Americans say ‘make it end,’ but it won’t until Putin accepts defeat in a war he can’t win. Retired Lt. General Mark Hertling, the former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army, joins Charlie Sykes today.
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DAVID J. KRAMER: What the Ukrainians Are Fighting For.
The current crisis is a result of Putin’s fear that a successful, democratic Ukraine that looks westward instead of to Moscow poses a threatening alternative to the kleptocratic, authoritarian system that he oversees in Russia.
Putin sought to destabilize Ukraine so that the West would lose interest in it. He failed. For all its fits and starts, Ukraine has been moving in a positive direction. It deserves Western support and eventual membership in NATO and the EU. Through his first invasion in 2014, Putin inadvertently renewed in Ukrainians a strong sense of national identity as a proud, independent state. He also produced a spike in support for joining NATO, which before 2014 had been supported only by a small minority of the country. Just before the latest invasion, more than 60 percent of Ukrainians supported joining NATO for its Article 5 security guarantees.
In the lead-up to this latest crisis, the Biden administration did an excellent job of coordinating with allies and preparing an unprecedented package of sanctions in the event Putin invaded. The sanctions have been swift and have already had a major impact on the Russian economy. The ruble has plummeted in value while interest rates in Russia have soared. Russian oligarchs are desperately trying to shield their ill-gotten yachts and property from law enforcement. Putin himself has been sanctioned and is rightly viewed as a pariah.
CATHY YOUNG: Blaming the Ukraine Invasion on … the Gays?
The patriarch’s insistence that the war in Ukraine is all about gay parades reminded me of a brilliant Russian-language poem someone shared with me on Twitter the other day, written by Russian-Ukrainian poet Artem Polezhaka in late 2013 and titled “Reportage.” The poem hilariously spoofs state-owned Russian television’s hysterical reporting on the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv: the reporter breathlessly recounts the increasingly grotesque horrors he supposedly witnesses—a mélange that features neo-Nazis, jihadists, looters, cannibals, and Jews who “drink Christian babies’ blood by the bucket”—but keeps coming back to gay orgies.
It made me think, too, of fairly common claims by pro-Kremlin conservatives in the United States that the real reason the libs hate Putin and Putin’s Russia is the homophobia. Most recently, this argument was trotted out by political commentator Richard Hanania in a Substack post which argued that liberal elites in America had viewed the Putin regime with relative indifference until 2013, when Russia “passed a law banning gay propaganda towards minors” (in reality, restricting any gay-themed content in any place where minors could see it, including public events promoting gay rights), and Putin began his transformation into a Hollywood villain.
On the jukebox🎵… The internet is amazing, and it gave us this.
Make Honduras Great Again? Arizona’s crazy Kari Lake wants to be governor in the MAGA mold, which of course involves promoting mercantilism. But where are her t-shirts made? From the Arizona Agenda (sign up!):
Kari Lake says she’ll bring manufacturing to the U.S. and Arizona by buying U.S. made products, but her $40 campaign T-shirts are made in Honduras, Tucson Weekly’s Jim Nintzel notes. GOP governor candidate Matt Salmon’s shirts are made in the U.S., and they’re only $25.
“He’s your problem now…” Ever wonder what it was really like when Mark Sanford disappeared? His former chief of staff Scott English shares the tale.
The role Nic Cage was meant to play… Himself.
How integration with the west is dooming the Russian economy. An interesting thread from Kamil Galeev.
A look at Trump’s dossiers… Ever wonder what his political operation tells him about random state elected officials? Here you go. Townsend, who accidentally says the quiet part out loud, is now running against the even crazier Wendy Rogers.
Your funny fact of the day… Trump goon Stephen Miller, age 36, is still on his parents’ family cell plan.
Dear Russian Warship… Well, you know the rest. The Ukrainians apparently devised a wild plan to sink it. (Let’s get them some Harpoon missles, shall we?)
How Humans of New York changed its mission. Your #longread of the day. A taste:
Stanton still struggles with his professional identity. He had tried calling himself a journalist, but it never felt right. When he called himself a writer, the writers piled on. “ ‘No, you’re not a writer. This isn’t writing,’ ” Stanton said, imitating them. “ ‘This guy’s being celebrated as a photographer, but he’s not a good photographer.’ What do I tell my mom I am? Every time I try on those clothes, they don’t fit right.”
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