Bitter, isolated — Putin may have lost the plot
The Russian president’s determination to defy all reason and wage war on Ukraine is raising doubt about his mental health
Marco Rubio, a former presidential candidate whose position as vice-chairman of the US Senate’s select committee on intelligence gives him extensive access to secret information, cryptically tweeted: “I wish I could share more, but for now I can say it’s pretty obvious to many that something is off with Putin.
“He has always been a killer, but his problem now is different and significant. It would be a mistake to assume this Putin would react the same way he would have five years ago.”
Germany to Raise Defense Spending Above 2% of GDP in Response to Ukraine War
Decision breaks with decades of lower investment in defense than peers and a growing energy partnership with Russia
“We have to ask ourselves: What capacities does Putin’s Russia have? And which capacities do we need to counter his threats?” Mr. Scholz told parliament, gathered for an extraordinary session on Sunday. “It’s clear, we will need to invest a lot more in the security of our country to defend our freedom and our democracy.”
“Putin wants to establish a Russian empire…the question is…whether we can summon the strength to set boundaries to warmongers like Putin,” Mr. Scholz said.
RUSI: [The Royal United Services Institute, UK think tank]:
Ukraine Through Russia’s Eyes
The Kremlin’s pre-invasion research suggested Ukraine was fertile ground for subversion, but the shock of war may transform Ukrainians’ willingness to resist in unpredictable ways.
According to the polling data, Ukrainians in early February were, by and large, pessimistic about the future and apathetic about politics, and did not trust politicians, political parties or the majority of Ukraine’s domestic institutions. Their main concerns were overwhelmingly inflation and the cost of living, with both perceived to be rising.
Trust in the office of the president sat at 27%, with 67% distrustful of the presidency. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had poor approval ratings at −34, but a high proportion of Ukrainians polled still professed that they would vote for him over other candidates. The Ukrainian Army, both regular and reserve, was highly trusted, with 68% of the population supportive, as were military veterans, while regional and municipal governments were comparatively well-trusted with over 40% of the population having a favourable opinion of them. However, other institutions enjoyed approval figures that ranged from mediocre to poor, including the police at 28% and domestic security services at 23%. Trust in the Rada – the Ukrainian parliament – and in political parties was abysmal, at 11% and 8% respectively. And when it came to willingness to serve in the military or otherwise resist a foreign invasion, 40% of respondents stated that they would not defend Ukraine.
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New Research Points to Wuhan Market as Pandemic Origin
Scientists released a pair of extensive studies on Saturday that point to a market in Wuhan, China, as the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. Analyzing data from a variety of sources, they concluded that the coronavirus was very likely present in live mammals sold in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in late 2019 and suggested that the virus twice spilled over into people working or shopping there. They said they found no support for an alternate theory that the coronavirus escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan.
Can Putin Recover From This?
The Fed and the European Central Bank move hard, fast, and together.
Central-bank sanctions are a weapon so devastating, in fact, that the only question is whether they might do more damage than Western governments might wish. They could potentially bankrupt the entire Russian banking system and push the ruble into worthlessness.
Russia is also being hit by a partial cut-off from the SWIFT system. SWIFT is a messaging technology based in Belgium that allows banks to talk to one another in secure ways, enabling the safe and sure electronic transmission of funds. SWIFT is not a bank, nor is it exactly a payments system. It is instead a way to guarantee that money moves where it is supposed to go. Countries cut off from SWIFT, as Iran was in 2012, are effectively cast back into the precomputer era—forced to rely on primitive barter transactions, or Breaking Bad–style pallets of physical cash, to fund their governments and their economies.
To understand the Ukraine-Russia conflict, look to colonialism
Ukrainians have been fighting Russian imperialism for hundreds of years
“You are being told that we are Nazis,” Zelensky said. But 8 million Ukrainians died fighting with the Soviet army in World War II. Zelensky’s grandfather served in the Soviet infantry; my grandfather, born and raised outside Kyiv, spent the war running radio cables between the front line and Moscow.
“You are told that we hate Russian culture,” Zelensky said. “But how can you hate culture? Any culture? Neighbors always enrich each other’s cultures, but that does not make them one entity,” he said. “We are different, but that does not make us enemies. We want to build our own history, peaceful, calm and fair.
Zelensky’s address was both an appeal and a prayer, a clearheaded response to Russian justifications for war. His voice was calm and forceful, but you could hear the anger behind his words. He underscored that though Russians and Ukrainians may share kin and culture, that does not mean their relationship can forever be that of colonizer and colonized.
Wendy Rogers said white nationalists are ‘patriots’ and called for hanging political enemies
Later in the evening, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio gave a rambling, 40-minute speech in which he seemingly didn’t realize he was speaking to a crowd of white nationalists. At times, he seemed taken aback at the reaction to things he said.
“I have the reputation of being the biggest racist in the country,” he said, to robust applause. “What are you clapping for, that I am or that I’m not? Well, I’m not.”
Later, when he repeated that he was called “the biggest racist in the country” and received loud applause, he quickly added, “I have a black grandkid, I got a Mexican grandkid,” prompting some in the crowd to boo him.
At another point, Arpaio boasted about having a howitzer artillery gun while sheriff.
“Everyone said, ‘What are you using this for?’ I said, ‘To shoot people that come across the border,’” he said, eliciting raucous cheers from the crowd that left Arpaio visibly surprised.
“Wait a minute. I didn’t mean to shoot the illegals coming across. I’m saying the illegals that are terrorists and other violent (criminals), if they’re going to start shooting at my people, I’m going to fire back,” he explained, to much fewer cheers.
“I’m not about to shoot illegals who are coming across, just for coming illegally,” he finished, to no cheers.
Summary from RH Fontaine/Twitter:
Since the invasion began, the scale and rapidity of geopolitical shifts have been astonishing. Already:
Russia has moved from a sullen, revisionist state to a clear and present danger to its neighbors, and has directly threatened countries beyond Ukraine. Governments have no trust in or tolerance for the Putin regime. (1)
The world’s major economies, save China, have combined to foment a financial crisis in Russia, casting aside the previous worries about systemic economic risk. That, in turn, may provoke domestic unrest with unknown implications. (2)
Germany has moved from a pacifist laggard on defense spending to announcing a huge increase, moving ahead of 2% of GDP. “We must put a stop to warmongers like Putin,” the new Chancellor says. “That requires strength of our own.” A new Germany. (3)
Finland and Sweden are firmly aligned with the West and against Moscow, and the invasion may tip them into NATO membership. (4)
Neutral Switzerland – Switzerland! – will freeze Russian assets as a result of Moscow’s aggression. Full neutrality has become untenable given popular revulsion at the invasion. (5) [see Reuters for update]