routinely amplifies Russian claims about the war with Ukraine and about secret biological weapons research, as part of its own information battle with the United States that began with the debate over the spread of Covid-19.

China’s heavily censored internet, which aggressively stifles unwelcome political opinions, has also freely circulated conspiracy theories about a possible American role in the spread of monkeypox, as Bloomberg reported.

Russia’s efforts to push the claims about biological weapons come from an old Russia propaganda playbook, adapted to the age of social media.

Researchers at the RAND Corporation called the Russian strategy a “fire hose of falsehood,” inundating the public with huge numbers of claims that are designed to deflect attention and cause confusion and distrust as much as to provide an alternative point of view.

died on Tuesday, that it would hurt newly warming relations with the West.

Russia’s propaganda model today has been adapted to take advantage of “technology and available media in ways that would have been inconceivable during the Cold War,” according to the RAND study.

Despite “a shameless willingness to disseminate partial truths or outright fictions” and a disregard of consistency, the strategy can often be persuasive to some, especially those who have preconceived biases, one of the authors, Christopher Paul, said in an interview.

“There are still people who believe the C.I.A. caused AIDS in Africa, even though that idea has been thoroughly debunked,” Mr. Paul said. “Not many, but some.”

Like many disinformation campaigns, Russia’s accusations on occasion have a passing relationship to facts.

Even before the war in Ukraine, Russia raised alarms about U.S. efforts to establish closer defense and research ties with several of Russia’s neighbors, including other former republics of the Soviet Union.

invoked a special session was in 1997, when Cuba accused the United States of spraying a plume of insects over the country’s crops, causing a devastating infestation.

The proceedings were not public, but several nations later submitted written observations about Cuba’s claims and the United States’ rebuttal. Only North Korea supported Cuba’s claim. Eight countries — Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand — concluded there was no link. China and Vietnam said it was impossible to determine. (Russia submitted no response.)

“There’s a big silent majority that just wants to sit on the fence,” Dr. Lentzos said. “They don’t really want to take a side because it could hurt their interests either way. And so the big question is not ‘Do these guys believe it, or not?’ It’s to what extent are they motivated to act on it and speak out.”

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Biden Formalizes U.S. Support For Finland, Sweden Joining NATO

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
August 10, 2022

NATO rules require the consent of all of its 30 existing members before Finland and Sweden can officially accede into the alliance.

President Joe Biden formally welcomed Finland and Sweden joining the NATO alliance Tuesday as he signed the instruments of ratification that delivered the U.S.’s formal backing of the Nordic nations entering the mutual defense pact, part of a reshaping of the European security posture after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“In seeking to join NATO, Finland and Sweden are making a sacred commitment that an attack against one is an attack against all,” Biden said at the signing as he called the partnership the “indispensable alliance.”

The U.S. became the 23rd ally to approve NATO membership for the two countries. President Biden said he spoke with the heads of both nations before signing the ratification and urged the remaining NATO members to finish their own ratification process “as quickly as possible.”

The Senate last week approved the two, once-non-aligned nations joining the alliance in a rare 95-1 vote that President Biden said shows the world that “the United States of America can still do big things” with a sense of political unity.

The countries sought out NATO membership earlier this year to guarantee their security in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offensive in Ukraine. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s rules require the consent of all of its 30 existing members before Finland and Sweden can officially accede into the alliance, which is expected in the coming months.

The candidacies of the two prosperous Northern European nations have won ratification from more than half of the NATO member nations in the roughly three months since the two applied. It marks one of the speediest expansions of the pact of mutual defense among the United States and democratic allies in Europe in its 73-year history.

U.S. State and Defense officials consider the two countries net “security providers,” strengthening NATO’s defense posture in the Baltics in particular. Finland is expected to exceed NATO’s 2% gross domestic product defense spending target in 2022, and Sweden has committed to meet the 2% goal.

Sweden and Finland applied to join NATO in May, setting aside their longstanding stance of military nonalignment. It was a major shift of security arrangements for the two countries after neighboring Russia launched its war on Ukraine in late February. President Biden encouraged their joining and welcomed the two countries’ government heads to the White House in May, standing side by side with them in a display of U.S. backing.

The U.S. and its European allies have rallied with newfound partnership in the face of Putin’s military invasion, as well as the Russian leader’s sweeping statements this year condemning NATO, issuing veiled reminders of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and asserting Russia’s historical claims to territory of many of its neighbors.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Senate Votes 95-1 To Ratify NATO Membership For Finland, Sweden

President Joe Biden sought quick entry for the two previously non-militarily aligned northern European countries to the Western military alliance.

U.S. Senators delivered overwhelming bipartisan approval to NATO membership for Finland and Sweden Wednesday, calling expansion of the Western defensive bloc a “slam-dunk” for U.S. national security and a day of reckoning for Russian President Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine.

Wednesday’s 95-1 vote — for the candidacy of two Western European nations that, until Russia’s war against Ukraine, had long avoided military alliances — took a crucial step toward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and its 73-year-old pact of mutual defense among the United States and democratic allies in Europe.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer invited ambassadors of the two nations to the chamber gallery to witness the vote.

President Joe Biden, who has been the principal player rallying global economic and material support for Ukraine, has sought quick entry for the two previously non-militarily aligned northern European nations.

Approval from all member nations — currently 30 — is required. The candidacies of the two prosperous Northern European nations have won ratification from more than half of the NATO member nations in the roughly three months since the two applied. It’s a purposely rapid pace meant to send a message to Russia over its six-month-old war against Ukraine’s West-looking government.

“It sends a warning shot to tyrants around the world who believe free democracies are just up for grabs,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said in the Senate debate ahead of the vote. “Russia’s unprovoked invasion has changed the way we think about world security.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who visited Kyiv earlier this year, urged unanimous approval. Speaking to the Senate, McConnell cited Finland’s and Sweden’s well-funded, modernizing militaries and their experience working with U.S. forces and weapons systems, calling it a “slam-dunk for national security” of the United States.

“Their accession will make NATO stronger and America more secure. If any senator is looking for a defensible excuse to vote no, I wish them good luck,” Sen. McConnell said.

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who often aligns his positions with those of the most ardent supporters of former President Donald Trump, cast the only no vote. Hawley took the Senate floor to call European security alliances a distraction from what he called the United States’ chief rival — China, not Russia.

“We can do more in Europe … devote more resources, more firepower … or do what we need to do to deter Asia and China. We cannot do both,” Hawley said, calling his a “classic nationalist approach” to foreign policy.

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, like Hawley a potential 2024 presidential contender, rebutted his points without naming his potential Republican rival.

That included arguing against Hawley’s contention a bigger NATO would mean more obligations for the U.S. military, the world’s largest. Cotton was one of many citing the two nations’ military strengths — including Finland’s experience securing its hundreds of miles of border with Russia and its well-trained ground forces, and Sweden’s well-equipped navy and air force.

They’re “two of the strongest members of the alliance the minute they join,” Sen. Cotton said.

U.S. State and Defense officials consider the two countries net “security providers,” strengthening NATO’s defense posture in the Baltics in particular. Finland is expected to exceed NATO’s 2% GDP defense spending target in 2022, and Sweden has committed to meet the 2% goal.

That’s in contrast to many of NATO’s newcomers formerly from the orbit of the Soviet Union, many with smaller militaries and economies. North Macedonia, NATO’s most recent newcomer nation, brought an active military of just 8,000 personnel when it joined in 2020.

Senators’ votes approving NATO candidacies often are lopsided — the one for North Macedonia was 91-2. But Wednesday’s approval from nearly all senators present carried added foreign policy weight in light of Russia’s war.

Sen. Schumer said he and McConnell had committed to the country’s leaders that the Senate would approve the ratification resolution “as fast as we could” to bolster the alliance “in light of recent Russian aggression.”

Sweden and Finland applied in May, setting aside their longstanding stance of military nonalignment. It was a major shift of security arrangements for the two countries after neighboring Russia launched its war on Ukraine in late February. Pres. Biden encouraged their joining and welcomed the two countries’ government heads to the White House in May, standing side by side with them in a display of U.S. backing.

The U.S. and its European allies have rallied with newfound partnership in the face of Putin’s military invasion, as well as the Russian leader’s sweeping statements this year condemning NATO, issuing veiled reminders of Russia’s nuclear arsenal and asserting Russia’s historical claims to territory of many of its neighbors.

“Enlarging NATO is exactly the opposite of what Putin envisioned when he ordered his tanks to invade Ukraine,” Sen. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday, adding that the West could not allow Russia to “launch invasions of countries.”

Wednesday’s vote by Republicans and Democrats stood out for the normally slow-moving and divided chamber. Senators voted down a proposed amendment by Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul intended to ensure that NATO’s guarantee to defend its members does not replace a formal role for Congress in authorizing the use of military force. Paul, a longtime advocate of keeping the U.S. out of most military action abroad, voted “present” on the ratification of Sweden and Finland’s membership bid.

Senators approved another amendment from Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan declaring that all NATO members should spend a minimum of 2% of their gross domestic product on defense and 20% of their defense budgets on major equipment, including research and development.

Each member government in NATO must give its approval for any new member to join. The process ran into unexpected trouble when Turkey raised concerns over adding Sweden and Finland, accusing the two of being soft on banned Turkish Kurdish exile groups. Turkey’s objections still threaten the two countries’ membership.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Senate Set To Vote To Ratify Adding Sweden, Finland To NATO

By Associated Press
August 3, 2022

Finland and Sweden are abandoning their longstanding traditions of neutrality after Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Senate is set to ratify NATO membership for Finland and Sweden, a crucial step toward swiftly expanding the Western military alliance with a show of U.S. support in response to Russia’s war with Ukraine.

Senators have invited the ambassadors of the countries to witness Wednesday’s historic debate and vote, which would open a new era for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. President Joe Biden has sought quick entry for the two previously non-militarily aligned northern European allies, and approval of the ratification resolution has vast bipartisan support in Congress.

“Our NATO alliance is the bedrock that has guaranteed democracy in the Western world since the end of World War II,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Schumer said he and Republican leader Mitch McConnell had committed to the country’s leaders that the Senate would approve the ratification resolution “as fast as we could” to bolster the alliance “in light of recent Russian aggression.”

NATO’s 30 member countries are in the process of considering the addition after Sweden and Finland set aside their longstanding stance of military nonalignment. It was a major shift of security arrangements for the two countries after neighboring Russia launched its war on Ukraine earlier this year.

The U.S. and its European allies have rallied with newfound partnership in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression, strengthening the NATO alliance first formed after World War II.

President Biden sent the protocols to the Senate for review in July, launching a notably speedy process in the typically divided and slower-moving Congress.

Each member country in NATO needs to approve the accession of new members. The process ran into trouble when Turkey raised concerns over adding Sweden and Finland, in part because it views the two countries as soft on banned Turkish Kurdish exile groups. But the process has continued to move forward despite those early reservations.

On Wednesday, the Senate is expected launch several hours of debate, including on two amendments, before the final vote.

One amendment from Sen. Rand Paul would ensure that NATO’s guarantee to defend its members does not replace a formal role for Congress in authorizing the use of military force. Another from Sen. Dan Sullivan would declare that all NATO members should spend a minimum of 2% of their gross domestic product on defense and 20 percent of their defense budgets on “major equipment, including research and development.”

Funding for NATO sparked as a top concern during the Trump era, including among some Republicans, but those issues have slid from prominence in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

McConnell has taken a lead role urging GOP support for NATO and vowing during Sweden and Finland would be quickly approved for membership during his own visit to Kyiv and the region earlier this year.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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On Russia, Europe Weighs Competing Goals: Peace and Punishment

BRUSSELS — Losing ground to Russia’s brutal advance in the east, Ukraine on Monday demanded an arsenal of sophisticated Western weapons many times greater than what has been promised, or even discussed, underscoring the rising pressure on Western leaders to reconsider their approach to the war.

The tactics that served the Ukrainians well early in the war have not been nearly as effective as the fighting has shifted to the open ground of the Donbas region in the east, where Russians are relying on their immense advantage in long-range artillery. Russian forces are poised to take the blasted city of Sievierodonetsk, the easternmost Ukrainian outpost, and are closing in on the neighboring city of Lysychansk.

With the leaders of France, Germany and Italy planning their first visit to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, since the war began, they and other Western leaders have to decide whether to double down on arming Ukraine or press harder for negotiations with Moscow to end the war.

running out of ammunition for their Soviet-era artillery, and Ukrainian officials contend that Russian artillery in the east is out-firing their own, 10 to 1.

Mykhailo Podolyak, the Zelensky adviser, said Ukraine needs 300 mobile multiple rocket-launch systems, 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and 1,000 drones to achieve parity with Russia in the Donbas region where fighting is concentrated — numbers many times beyond anything that has been publicly discussed in the West. The United States has promised four of the mobile rocket launchers and Britain a few more; Washington has sent a little more than 100 howitzers, and other nations a few dozen more.

faster than Ukrainians can be trained to use them — but Mr. Podolyak, Mr. Zelensky and others clearly mean to keep up the pressure on the West, complaining daily that the current arms flow is woefully inadequate.

mposed tough economic sanctions on Russia, supplied significant financial and military aid to Ukraine, and insisted publicly that it is up to Ukraine’s own, democratically elected leaders to decide how and when to negotiate with Russia.

But they also worry that a long war will bring in NATO countries and even cause President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to escalate what has been a brutal but conventional campaign. President Emmanuel Macron of France, in particular, has twice said it was important not to “humiliate Russia.”

European officials also worry about the damage being done to their own economies by inflation and high energy prices, and about the likely domestic political backlash. And many in Europe are eager to find a way, even if it’s a temporary cease-fire, to resume Ukrainian grain exports as global food prices soar and parts of the world face a threat of famine.

Such talk raises hackles in Kyiv and in the capitals of Central and Eastern Europe where Russia is most feared, and officials questioned how committed their friends to the west are to beating back Mr. Putin’s aggression. Leaders of several countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc believe this war is about more than Ukraine, and that the Kremlin’s ambitions to re-establish that sphere of influence and overthrow the European security order must be met with defeat, not a cease-fire.

matériel, but fear it could soon be surrounded, trapping a large number of Ukrainian troops.

Mr. Michta wrote for Politico.

“For the first time in the modern era,” he wrote, “it would force Moscow to come to terms with what it takes, economically and politically, to become a ‘normal’ nation-state.”

Reporting was contributed by Andrew E. Kramer and Valerie Hopkins from Kyiv, and Thomas Gibbons-Neff from Lysychansk, Ukraine.

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Shortage of Artillery Ammo Saps Ukrainian Frontline Morale

DONETSK REGION, Ukraine — Nearly four months after Russia invaded, the Ukrainian military is running low on ammunition for its Soviet-era artillery and has not received enough supplies from its allies to keep the Russians at bay, Ukrainian officials and artillery officers in the field say.

The shortage has put Ukrainian troops at a growing disadvantage in the artillery-driven war of attrition in the country’s east, with Russia’s batteries now firing several times as many rounds as Ukraine’s. While the West is sending in weapons, they are not arriving fast enough or in sufficient numbers to make up for Ukraine’s dwindling arsenal.

The Western weapons, heavy, long-range artillery pieces and multiple-launch rocket systems, are more accurate and highly mobile, but it takes time to deploy them and train soldiers to use them. In the meantime, Ukraine is running out of ammunition for the older weapons.

The Guardian newspaper that Ukraine was losing the artillery battle with Russia on the front lines because of the shortage of artillery shells for its older guns. He said Ukraine was firing 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day and had “almost used up all of our ammunition.”

By contrast, Russian forces are firing about 60,000 artillery shells and rockets each day in the Donbas fighting, according to a senior adviser to the Ukrainian military command who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington, Va., said ammunition supplies would be critical to the final outcome in the battle for eastern Ukraine.

“This war is far more about attrition by artillery than maneuver, which means one of the deciding factors is who has more ammunition,” he said.

That Ukraine was running low on ammunition has hardly been a secret. Ukrainian officials flagged the problem months ago. On the front lines, commanders watched, alarmed, as stocks dwindled mid-battle. Soldiers say requests for artillery support go unanswered, for lack of shells.

Vadym Mischuk, 32, a Ukrainian soldier who had just rotated off the frontline near the eastern city of Bakhmut, said Thursday that there is so much Russian artillery fire that “we don’t even hear ours.” One soldier, who declined to provide his name for security reasons, estimated that for every one Ukrainian shell fired, the Russians fired 10.

The Ukrainian military has been honest about the shortfalls — something an army would not typically telegraph to the enemy in a war — perhaps because doing so adds a sense of urgency to appeals for more powerful Western weaponry.

“In early March we were already well aware that during intensive war with Russia our resources were depleting,” Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, wrote on Facebook on Thursday. He added, “Relying solely on Soviet weapons was definitely a losing strategy.”

Even before the invasion, Ukraine’s ammunition depots had been targets for saboteurs, regularly blowing up like gigantic, lethally dangerous fireworks displays.

Spies or drones dropping incendiary devices were blamed in many cases. Between 2015 and 2019, six ammunition depots blew up in Ukraine, burning about 210,000 tons of ammo, or three times more than the Ukrainian army expended in the same time span fighting Russian-backed separatists, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Following Russia’s invasion, NATO countries have stepped in to bolster Ukraine’s supply of ammunition, but the transfers have not always gone smoothly. Countries of the old Warsaw Pact and NATO countries used different calibers of ammunition — an enduring legacy that means much of Ukraine’s arsenal, built decades ago to Soviet specifications, cannot fire Western ammunition.

Ukraine’s newly acquired hoard of NATO’s 155-millimeter artillery shells is now larger than its entire artillery ammunition stockpile before the war started, Mr. Reznikov said. But the Ukrainian forces have too few guns at the front to fire the munitions, and are facing extensive logistics challenges not only to get them into the fight, but also to maintain them once there.

Some European countries have shipped so many of their own ammunition reserves to Ukraine — in some cases up to 30 percent — that they’re increasingly anxious about replenishing their stocks, European Union officials said.

Officials said that while there was still a relatively steady flow of military equipment from the E.U. and its allies, Ukraine was not receiving as much heavy artillery as it needs.

With artillery shells in short supply, Ukrainian forces have adjusted their tactics to compensate for the lack of artillery support. On Friday, for example, a tank unit in Donbas was using a Ukrainian T-64BV tank more like an artillery piece than a main battle tank.

Instead of attacking targets directly, the tank drove several kilometers toward the front, positioned itself in a tree line, and lobbed shells at Russian positions while a Ukrainian officer adjusted its aim over the radio and using a drone overhead — the procedure typically used with mortars or howitzers.

“It is a fact already that the tanks are used because there is not enough artillery,” said the artillery unit commander, who asked to go by his nom de guerre, Razor. His unit of 122-millimeter, self-propelled howitzers had run out of Ukrainian ammunition and was now using Czech-supplied shells.

But ammunition can be fickle. Decades-old ammunition can become unreliable if not stored properly over time, potentially leading to more duds. Another soldier, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that a batch of Czech-supplied rockets were faulty, with only three out of 40 firing.

Ukrainian soldiers wounded in combat have also voiced dismay about the paltry artillery support, which they blamed on a lack of ammunition.

“There is not an hour with a pause” in Russian bombardments, Lt. Oleksandr Kolesnikov, who was wounded late last month, said in an interview in an ambulance while being evacuated to a hospital to the west. “The artillery is very intense.” He said his commander called in artillery in response but received only one salvo.

The Russian artillery superiority has frightened soldiers, he said. “In war, everything is scary and we fear everything. Only idiots are not afraid.”

Reporting was contributed by Oleksandr Chubko from Kramatorsk, Ukraine, Maria Varenikova from Barvinkove, Ukraine, Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels and Helene Cooper and John Ismay from Washington.

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In Ukraine Crisis, the Looming Threat of a New Cold War

MOSCOW — Vladimir Pozner was an English-language Soviet propaganda editor in Moscow in 1962, a job that gave him rare access to American newspapers and magazines. That allowed him to follow the Cuban Missile Crisis outside the Soviet media filter, and sense a world at the brink of war.

Mr. Pozner, a longtime Russian television journalist, says he now feels something similar.

“The smell of war is very strong,” he said in an interview on Friday, a day when shelling intensified along the front line in eastern Ukraine. “If we talk about the relationship between Russia and the West — and in particular, the United States — I feel that it is as bad as it was at any time in the Cold War, and perhaps, in a certain sense, even worse.”

Unlike 1962, it is not the threat of nuclear war but of a major land war that now looms over Europe. But the feeling that Russia and the United States are entering a new version of the Cold War — long posited by some commentators on both sides of the Atlantic — has become inescapable.

President Biden hinted at it on Tuesday in the East Room of the White House, pledging that if Russia invaded Ukraine, “we will rally the world to oppose its aggression.” President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia drove the matter home on Saturday, when he oversaw a test launch of nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles that can evade American defenses.

whether Mr. Putin is staging an elaborate, expensive bluff or is truly on the verge of launching the biggest military offensive in Europe since 1945. But it does appear clear that Mr. Putin’s overarching aim is to revise the outcome of the original Cold War, even if it is at the cost of deepening a new one.

Mr. Putin is seeking to undo a European security order created when his country was weak and vulnerable after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and to recreate the sort of geopolitical buffer zone that Russian rulers over the centuries have felt they needed. He is signaling that he is prepared to accomplish this by diplomatic means, but also through the use of force.

The crisis has already brought Mr. Putin some tactical wins as well as perilous risks. Since first mounting a threatening troop buildup on Ukraine’s borders last spring, he has managed to seize Washington’s attention — a goal for a Kremlin that, as in the Cold War, sees confrontation with the United States as its defining conflict. But his actions have also spurred anti-Russian attitudes and further united Europe and the United States against Russia — something that should worry the Kremlin given the West’s still-far-greater global economic and political might.

now looms as the more serious strategic adversary in the long term.

But to Mr. Putin, the fight to roll back his country’s defeat in the original Cold War has already lasted at least 15 years. He declared his rejection of an America-led world order in his speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, warning of “unexploded ordnance” left behind from the Cold War: “ideological stereotypes” and “double standards” that allowed Washington to rule the world while crimping Russia’s development.

This weekend, in one of the many ominous developments of recent days, Russia is skipping the Munich conference — an annual meeting at which Western officials have been able to sit down with their Russian counterparts throughout the prior tensions of Mr. Putin’s rule.

Instead, the Kremlin released footage of Mr. Putin in the Kremlin’s situation room, directing test launches of its modernized arsenal of nuclear-capable missiles from bombers, submarines and land-based launchers. It was a carefully timed reminder that, as Russian television recently told viewers, the country can turn American cities “into radioactive ash.”

And Mr. Putin has massed a monumental force to Ukraine’s north, east and south in order to signal that the Kremlin sees the former Soviet republic’s pro-Western shift as such a dire threat that it is willing to fight a war to stop it. The confrontation in some ways evokes the Berlin crisis of 1961, when the Soviets demanded that Western forces leave Berlin, and East Germany eventually built the wall that divided East and West. To some Russians, the fact that Ukraine is much closer to Russia than Berlin is what makes the new Cold War even more dangerous.

“Back then, the frontier ran through Berlin,” said Mr. Suslov, the Moscow analyst. “Now the frontier goes through Kharkiv” — a Ukrainian city on the Russian border that is a day’s drive from Moscow.

The Cold War may also offer parallels for what could happen within Russia in the event of war. Analysts predict an even more authoritarian swing by the Kremlin, and an even more ruthless hunt for internal enemies purportedly sponsored by the West. Mr. Pozner, a state television host who was born in Paris, grew up in part in New York and moved to Moscow in 1952, posited that Russia’s foes in the West could even be quietly hoping for war because it could weaken and discredit the country.

“I’m very worried,” Mr. Pozner said. “A Russian invasion of Ukraine is a catastrophe for Russia, first and foremost, in the sense of Russia’s reputation and what’s going to go on inside Russia as a result.”

Some Russian analysts think Mr. Putin could still de-escalate the crisis and walk away with a tactical victory. The threat of war has started a discussion in Ukraine and in the West about the idea that Kyiv may disavow NATO membership. And the United States has already offered talks on a number of initiatives that Moscow is interested in, including on the placement of missiles in Europe and on limiting long-range bomber flights.

But Mr. Putin is making clear he wants more than that: a wide-ranging, legally binding agreement to unwind the NATO presence in Eastern Europe.

The intensity of the crisis that Mr. Putin has engineered is evident in the harsh language that the Kremlin has deployed. Standing this month alongside President Emmanuel Macron of France at the Kremlin, Mr. Putin said President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine had no choice but to carry out a 2015 peace plan that Russia was pushing: “You may like it, you may not like it — deal with it, my gorgeous.” Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, in a joint news conference with his visiting British counterpart, Liz Truss, said their discussion had resembled that of a “mute person with a deaf person.”

“Sometimes discussions were rather heated between Soviet and American leaders,” said Pavel Palazhchenko, a former Soviet diplomat. “But probably not to that extent and not as publicly as now. There is really no parallel.”

Mr. Palazhchenko, who translated for the Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev in his summits with American presidents, describes that language as an outgrowth of a Russian frustration with the country’s security concerns being ignored. During the Cold War, Washington and Moscow came together over landmark arms control agreements. During the Putin era, little of that has happened.

“This is a clear emotional and psychological reaction to the years and even decades of the West and the U.S. being rather dismissive of Russian security concerns,” Mr. Palazhchenko said.

Doug Lute, a former American ambassador to NATO, rejects the notion of past disrespect for Russian interests, especially given that Russia’s nuclear arsenal is “the only existential threat to the United States in the world.” But like Mr. Palazhchenko, he also sees lessons in the Cold War for emerging from the current crisis.

“It may be that we settle into a period where we have dramatically different worldviews or dramatically different ambitions but even despite that political contest, there’s space to do things in our mutual interest,” Mr. Lute said. “The Cold War could be a model for competing and cooperating at the same time.”

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Vladimir Putin: Crafty Strategist or Aggrieved and Reckless Leader?

MOSCOW — At this moment of crescendo for the Ukraine crisis, it all comes down to what kind of leader President Vladimir V. Putin is.

In Moscow, many analysts remain convinced that the Russian president is essentially rational, and that the risks of invading Ukraine would be so great that his huge troop buildup makes sense only as a very convincing bluff. But some also leave the door open to the idea that he has fundamentally changed amid the pandemic, a shift that may have left him more paranoid, more aggrieved and more reckless.

The 20-foot-long table that Mr. Putin has used to socially distance himself this month from European leaders flying in for crisis talks symbolizes, to some longtime observers, his detachment from the rest of the world. For almost two years, Mr. Putin has ensconced himself in a virus-free cocoon unlike that of any Western leader, with state television showing him holding most key meetings by teleconference alone in a room and keeping even his own ministers at a distance on the rare occasions that he summons them in person.

Speculation over a leader’s mental state is always fraught, but as Mr. Putin’s momentous decision approaches, Moscow commentators puzzling over what he might do next in Ukraine are finding some degree of armchair psychology hard to avoid.

capture Crimea without firing a single shot. The proxy war that Mr. Putin fomented in Ukraine’s east allowed him to deny being a party to the conflict.

“Starting a full-scale war is completely not in Putin’s interest,” said Anastasia Likhacheva, the dean of world economy and international affairs at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. “It is very difficult for me to find any rational explanation for a desire to carry out such a campaign.”

Even if Mr. Putin were able to take control of Ukraine, she noted, such a war would accomplish the opposite of what the president says he wants: rolling back the NATO presence in Eastern Europe. In the case of a war, the NATO allies would be “more unified than ever,” Ms. Likhacheva said, and they would be likely to deploy powerful new weaponry along Russia’s western frontiers.

as an existential threat to his country, said that Moscow’s growing military presence on the Ukrainian border was a response to Ukraine’s deepening partnership with the alliance.

Given that such a war still seems unthinkable and irrational to so many in Moscow, Russian foreign policy experts generally see the standoff over Ukraine as the latest stage in Mr. Putin’s yearslong effort to compel the West to accept what he sees as fundamental Russian security concerns. In the 1990s, that thinking goes, the West forced a new European order upon a weak Russia that disregarded its historical need for a geopolitical buffer zone to its west. And now that Russia is stronger, these experts say, it would be reasonable for any Kremlin leader to try to redraw that map.

few Moscow analysts were predicting a military intervention. And skeptics of the view that Mr. Putin is bluffing point out that during the pandemic, he has already taken actions that earlier seemed unlikely. His harsh crackdown against the network of Aleksei A. Navalny, for example, has contradicted what had been a widely held view that Mr. Putin was happy to allow some domestic dissent as an escape valve to manage discontent.

“Putin, in the last year, has crossed a lot of Rubicons,” Michael Kofman, the director of Russia studies at CNA, a research institute based in Arlington, Va., said last week. “Folks who believe that something this dramatic is unlikely or improbable may not have observed that qualitative shift in the last two years.”

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Ukraine Live Updates: U.S. and NATO See No Immediate Sign of a Russian Military Drawdown

michael barbaro

From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily.

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Today: Russia is making preparations for what many fear may be a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, prompting warnings from the U.S. of serious consequences if it does. I spoke to my colleague, Moscow bureau chief Anton Troianovski, about what Vladimir Putin wants from Ukraine and just how far he may go to get it.

It’s Wednesday, December 8.

Anton, describe the scene right now on the border between Ukraine and Russia. What does it look like? What exactly is happening there?

anton troianovski

Well, what you’re seeing on the Russian side of the border within 100 to 200 miles away is that thousands of Russian troops are on the move.

archived recording 1

A top military official says intelligence shows nearly 100,000 Russian troops —

archived recording 2

Russian troops have massed on the border of Ukraine.

archived recording 3

— troops on the border with Ukraine. And that’s prompted fears of an invasion early next year.

anton troianovski

We’re seeing a lot of social media footage of tanks and other military equipment on the move, on trains, in some cases, heading west toward the Ukraine border area from as far away as Siberia.

archived recording

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been building for some time in the wake of —

anton troianovski

These satellite images that we’re seeing show deployment areas around Ukraine that were empty as recently as June that are now full of military equipment-like tanks and armored personnel carriers.

archived recording

The U.S. called it unusual activity.

anton troianovski

And obviously, Russia moves its forces all the time. It does big military exercises, snap military exercises all the time, but what we’re being told is that these military movements are very unusual. Some of them are happening at night and, in other ways, seemingly designed to obfuscate where various units are going. And experts are saying we’re also seeing things like logistics and medical equipment being moved around, stuff that you really would see if there were real preparations being made for large-scale military action.

michael barbaro

So what’s happening in Russia is not just the movement of the troops that would perhaps carry out an invasion, but the kind of military personnel and equipment that would be required to deal with the repercussions of something like invading Ukraine?

anton troianovski

Yes. So American intelligence officials are seeing intelligence that shows Russia preparing for a military offensive involving an estimated 175,000 troops —

michael barbaro

Wow.

anton troianovski

— as soon as early next year.

michael barbaro

And Anton, is Ukraine preparing for what certainly looks, from what you just described, as a potential invasion?

anton troianovski

They’re in a really tough spot because no matter how much they prepare, their military would be utterly outgunned and outmatched. Ukraine doesn’t have the missile defense and air defense systems that could prevent a huge shock-and-awe campaign at the beginning of Russian military action.

They also don’t know, if and when an attack comes, which direction it might come from, because Russia could attack from any of three directions. So we’re not seeing a big mobilization in Ukraine right now, but our reporting on the ground there does show a grim and determined mood among the military. The soldiers on the border have made it clear that if it comes to it, they will be prepared to do what they can to make this as costly as possible for the other side.

michael barbaro

So I guess the question everyone has in this moment is why would Putin want to invade Ukraine right now and touch off what would no doubt be a major conflict, one in which, as you just said, Russia would have many advantages, but would nevertheless end up probably being a very deadly conflict?

anton troianovski

So obviously, we don’t yet know whether Putin has made the decision to invade. He’s clearly signaling he’s prepared to use military force. What we do know is that he has been extraordinarily fixated on the issue of Ukraine for years. But I think to really understand it, you have to look at three dates over the last 30 years that really show us why Ukraine matters so much to Putin.

michael barbaro

OK. So what’s the first date?

anton troianovski

The first one, 1991, almost exactly 30 years ago, the Soviet Union breaks up, and Ukraine becomes an independent country. For people of Putin’s generation, this was an incredibly shocking and even traumatic moment. Not only did they see and experience the collapse of an empire, of the country that they grew up in, that they worked in, that, in Putin’s case, the former K.G.B. officer that they served. But there was also a specific trauma of Ukraine breaking away. Ukraine, of all the former Soviet republics, was probably the one most valuable to Moscow.

It was a matter of history and identity with, in many ways, Russian statehood originating out of the medieval Kiev Rus civilization. There’s the matter of culture with so many Russian language writers like Gogol and Bulgakov coming from Ukraine. There was the matter of economics with Ukraine being an industrial and agricultural powerhouse during the Soviet Union, with many of the planes and missiles that the Soviets were most proud of coming from Ukraine.

michael barbaro

So there’s a sense that Ukraine is the cradle of Russian civilization, and to lose it is to lose a part of Russia itself.

anton troianovski

Yeah. And it’s a country of tens of millions of people that is also sandwiched between modern-day Russia and Western Europe. So the other issue is geopolitical, that Ukraine in that sort of Cold War security, East-versus-West mindset, Ukraine was a buffer between Moscow and the West. So 1991 was the year when that all fell apart.

And then by the time that Putin comes to power 10 years later, he’s already clearly thinking about how to reestablish Russian influence in that former Soviet space in Eastern Europe and in Ukraine in particular. We saw a lot of resources go in economically to try to bind Ukraine to Russia, whether it’s discounts on natural gas or other efforts by Russian companies, efforts to build ties to politicians and oligarchs in Ukraine. Really, a multipronged effort by Putin and the Kremlin to really gain as much influence as possible in that former Soviet space that they saw as being so key to Russia’s economic and security interests.

michael barbaro

Got it.

anton troianovski

And then fast forward to the second key date, 2014, which is the year it became clear that that strategy had failed.

archived recording

Now, to the growing unrest in Ukraine and the violent clashes between riot police and protesters.

michael barbaro

And why did that strategy fail in 2014?

anton troianovski

That was the year that Ukraine had its — what’s called its Maidan Revolution.

archived recording 1

The situation in Kiev has been very tense.

archived recording 2

Downtown Kiev has been turned into a charred battlefield following two straight nights of rioting.

anton troianovski

It’s a pro-Western revolution —

archived recording

They want nothing short of revolution, a new government and a new president.

anton troianovski

— that drove out a Russia-friendly president, that ushered in a pro-Western government, that made it its mission to reduce Ukraine’s ties with Russia and build its ties with the West.

archived recording

Ukrainians who want closer ties with the West are once again back in their thousands on Independence Square here in Kiev. They believe they —

michael barbaro

Hmm. And what was Putin’s response to that?

anton troianovski

Well, Putin didn’t even see it as a revolution. He saw it as a coup engineered by the C.I.A. and other Western intelligence agencies meant to drive Ukraine away from Russia. And —

archived recording

With stealth and mystery, Vladimir Putin made his move in Ukraine.

anton troianovski

— he used his military.

archived recording

At dawn, bands of armed men appeared at the two main airports in Crimea and seized control.

anton troianovski

He sent troops into Crimea, the Ukrainian Peninsula in the Black Sea that’s so dear to people across the former Soviet Union as kind of the warmest, most tropical place in a very cold part of the world.

archived recording

Tonight, Russian troops — hundreds, perhaps as many as 2,000, ferried in transport planes — have landed at the airports.

anton troianovski

He fomented a separatist war in Eastern Ukraine that by now has taken more than 10,000 lives and armed and backed pro-Russian separatists in that region. So that was the year 2014 when Russia’s earlier efforts to try to bind Ukraine to Moscow failed and when Russia started taking a much harder line.

michael barbaro

And this feels like a very pivotal moment because it shows Putin’s willingness to deploy the Russian military to strengthen the ties between Russia and Ukraine.

anton troianovski

Absolutely. Strengthened the ties or you can also say his efforts to enforce a Russian sphere of influence by military force. And it’s also the start of what we’ve been seeing ever since, which is Putin making it clear that he is willing to escalate, he is willing to raise the stakes and that he essentially cares more about the fate of Ukraine than the West does.

And that brings us to the third date I wanted to talk about, which is early this year, 2021, when we saw the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, really start taking a more aggressive anti-Russian and pro-Western tack. He cracked down on a pro-Russian oligarch and pro-Russian media. He continued with military exercises with American soldiers and with other Western forces.

He kept talking up the idea of Ukraine joining NATO. That’s the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Western military alliance. And in a sense, this is what Putin seems to fear the most, the idea of NATO becoming more entrenched in this region. So Putin made it clear that this was starting to cross what he describes as Russia’s red lines and that Russia was willing to take action to stop this.

michael barbaro

So to put this all together and understand why Putin is doing what he’s doing when it comes to Ukraine, we have as a backdrop here this fixation with Ukraine for historic, political, economic and cultural reasons. And what’s new and urgent here for Putin is his belief that Ukraine is on the verge of a major break with Russia and toward the West — in particular, a military alliance, NATO — and that he cannot tolerate. And so that brings us up to now and this very imminent and scary threat of a Russian invasion.

anton troianovski

That’s right, Michael. I spoke to a former advisor of Putin’s recently who described Ukraine as a trauma within a trauma for the Kremlin — so the trauma of the breakup of the Soviet Union plus the trauma of losing Ukraine specifically for all those reasons you mentioned. And the thing is it’s true.

Russia is losing Ukraine. I think objectively, though, you have to say it’s losing Ukraine in large part because of Putin’s policies, because of the aggressive actions he’s taken. And if you look at the polls before 2014, something like 12 percent of Ukrainians wanted to join NATO. Now, it’s more than half.

michael barbaro

Wow.

anton troianovski

So you put all that together, Ukraine is indeed drifting toward the West. It does seem like Putin feels like he’s running out of time to stop this and that he’s willing to escalate, he’s willing to raise the stakes, to keep Ukraine out of the West. And what we’re seeing right now on the border is all that playing out.

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michael barbaro

We’ll be right back.

So Anton, the question right now is will President Putin actually carry out an invasion of Ukraine? And how should we be thinking about that?

anton troianovski

Well, it’s quite perilous, of course, to try to get inside Putin’s head, but here’s the case for invading now. Number one: NATO and the United States have made it clear that they are not going to come to Ukraine’s defense, because Ukraine is not a member of the NATO alliance, and NATO’s mutual defense pact only extends to full-fledged members. And of course, I think, politically, Putin believes that neither in the U.S., nor in Western Europe, is there the will to see soldiers from those countries die fighting for Ukraine.

michael barbaro

Right. And President Biden has just very publicly pulled the United States out of the war in Afghanistan and more or less communicated that unless American national security interests are at play, he will not be dispatching troops anywhere.

anton troianovski

Exactly. So Putin saw that, and he sees that potentially things could change. If the West does have more of a military presence in Ukraine in the future, let alone if Ukraine were to become a member of NATO at some point — it’s not going to happen in the next few years, but perhaps at some point — then attacking Ukraine becomes a much more costly proposition. So it’s a matter of war now could be less costly to Russia than war later.

michael barbaro

Right. The geopolitics of this moment may work in favor of him doing it in a way that it might not in a year or two or three.

anton troianovski

Absolutely. And then there’s a couple of other reasons. There’s the fact that if we look at everything Putin has said and written over the last year, he really seems convinced that the West is pulling Ukraine away from Russia against the will of much of the Ukrainian people. Polling doesn’t really bear that out, but Putin really seems to be convinced of that. And so it seems like he may also be thinking that Ukrainians would welcome Russian forces as liberators from some kind of Western occupation.

And then third, there’s the economy. The West has already threatened severe sanctions against Russia were it to go ahead with military action, but Russia has been essentially sanctions-proofing its economy since at least 2014, which is when it took control of Crimea and was hit by all these sanctions from the U.S. and from the E.U. So Russia’s economy is still tied to the West.

It imports a lot of stuff from the West. But in many key areas, whether it’s technology or energy extraction or agriculture, Russia is becoming more self-sufficient. And it is building ties to other parts of the world — like China, India, et cetera — that could allow it to diversify and have basically an economic base even if an invasion leads to a major crisis in its financial and economic relationship with the West.

michael barbaro

Right. So this is the argument that Putin can live with the costs of the world reacting very negatively to this invasion?

anton troianovski

Exactly.

michael barbaro

OK. And what are the reasons why an invasion of Ukraine might not happen? What would be the case against it, if you were Vladimir Putin?

anton troianovski

Well, I mean, I have to say, talking to analysts, especially here in Russia, people are very skeptical that Putin would go ahead with an invasion. They point out that he is a careful tactician and that he doesn’t like making moves that are irreversible or that could have unpredictable consequences.

So if we even look at the military action he’s taken recently, the annexation of Crimea, there wasn’t a single shot fired in that. That was a very quick special-forces-type operation. What we’re talking about here, an invasion of Ukraine, would be just a massive escalation from anything Putin has done so far. We are talking about the biggest land war in Europe since World War II, most likely. And it would have all kinds of unpredictable consequences.

There’s also the domestic situation to keep in mind. Putin does still have approval ratings above 60 percent, but things are a bit shaky here, especially with Covid. And some analysts say that Putin wouldn’t want to usher in the kind of domestic unpredictability that could start with a major war with young men coming back in body bags.

And then finally, looking at Putin’s strategy and everything that he’s said, for all we know, he doesn’t really want to annex Ukraine. He wants influence over Ukraine. And the way he thinks he can do that is through negotiations with the United States.

And that’s where the last key point here comes in, which is Putin’s real conviction that it’s the U.S. pulling the strings here and that he can accomplish his goals by getting President Biden to sit down with him and hammering out a deal about the structure of security in Eastern Europe.

So in that sense, this whole troop build-up might not be about an impending invasion at all. It might just be about coercive diplomacy, getting the U.S. to the table, and getting them to hammer out an agreement that would somehow pledge to keep Ukraine out of NATO and pledge to keep Western military infrastructure out of Ukraine and parts of the Black Sea.

michael barbaro

Well in that sense, Anton, Putin may be getting what he wants, right? Because as we speak, President Putin and President Biden have just wrapped up a very closely watched phone call about all of this. So is it possible that that call produces a breakthrough and perhaps a breakthrough that goes Putin’s way?

anton troianovski

Well, that’s very hard to imagine. And that’s really what makes this situation so volatile and so dangerous, which is that what Putin wants, the West and President Biden can’t really give.

michael barbaro

Why not?

anton troianovski

Well, for instance, pledging to keep Ukraine out of NATO would violate the Western concept that every country should have the right to decide for itself what its alliances are. President Biden obviously has spent years, going back to when he was vice president, really speaking in favor of Ukrainian sovereignty and self-determination and trying to help Ukraine take a more Western path. So Biden suddenly turning on all of that and giving Putin what he wants here is hard to imagine.

michael barbaro

Right, because that would create a very slippery slope when it comes to any country that Russia wants to have influence over. It would then know that the right playbook would be to mass troops on the border and wait for negotiation with the U.S. and hope that the U.S. would basically sell those countries out. That’s probably not something you’re saying that President Biden would willingly do.

anton troianovski

Right. And then, of course, the other question is, well, if Russia doesn’t get what it wants, if Putin doesn’t get what he wants, then what does he do?

michael barbaro

So Anton, it’s tempting to think that this could all be what you just described as a coercive diplomatic bluff by Putin to extract what he wants from President Biden and from the West. But it feels like history has taught us that Putin is willing to invade Ukraine. He did it in 2014.

History has also taught us that he’s obsessed with Ukraine, dating back to 1991 and the end of the Soviet Union. And it feels like one of the ultimate lessons of history is that we have to judge leaders based on their actions. And his actions right now are putting 175,000 troops near the border with Ukraine. And so shouldn’t we conclude that it very much looks like Putin might carry out this invasion?

anton troianovski

Yes, that’s right. And of course, there are steps that Putin could take that would be short of a full-fledged invasion that could still be really destabilizing and damaging. Here in Moscow, I’ve heard analysts speculate about maybe pinpoint airstrikes against the Ukrainian targets, or a limited invasion perhaps just specifically in that area where Russian-backed separatists are fighting.

But even such steps could have really grave consequences. And that’s why if you combine what we’re seeing on the ground in Russia, near the border, and what we’ve been hearing from President Putin and other officials here in Moscow, that all tells us that the stakes here are really high.

michael barbaro

Well, Anton, thank you very much. We appreciate your time.

anton troianovski

Thanks for having me.

michael barbaro

On Tuesday afternoon, both the White House and the Kremlin released details about the call between Putin and Biden. The White House said that Biden warned Putin of severe economic sanctions if Russia invaded Ukraine. The Kremlin said that Putin repeated his demands that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO and that Western weapons systems not be placed inside Ukraine. But Putin made no promises to remove Russian forces from the border.

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We’ll be right back.

Here’s what else you need to know today. On Tuesday night, top Democrats and Republicans said they had reached a deal to raise the country’s debt ceiling and avert the U.S. defaulting on its debt for the first time. The deal relies on a complicated one-time legislative maneuver that allows Democrats in the Senate to raise the debt ceiling without support from Republicans, since Republicans oppose raising the debt ceiling under President Biden. Without congressional action, the Treasury Department says it can no longer pay its bills after December 15.

Today’s episode was produced by Eric Krupke, Rachelle Bonja and Luke Vander Ploeg. It was edited by Michael Benoist, contains original music by Dan Powell and Marion Lozano, and was engineered by Chris Wood. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly.

That’s it for The Daily. I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.

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