Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, the pariahs

Fiona


Fig. 1. Screenshot by author from animation in a Washington Post article,[15] September 23, 2022, fair use.

“An aircraft when sufficiently high enough can fly safely above a hurricane as long as they avoid the individual thunderstorms that sometimes are adjacent to the hurricane,” a spokesman for the Professional Pilots Association, a nonprofit group through which pilots discuss safety, told The Washington Post.

Still, such conditions nearby would probably not make for a pleasant flight, said Randy Bass, a certified consulting meteorologist who runs Bass Weather Services.

“I wouldn’t have wanted to be on that flight,” Bass said.[16]

The flight landed safely in Newark.[17] But trusting capitalists with this kind of stunt is just not my thing. I’ll be keeping my wheels on the ground, thank you very much.

Scott Dance and Amudalat Ajasa, “Fiona grounded dozens of flights. A JetBlue plane flew right over it,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/09/22/jetblue-hurricane-flight-fiona/


Ukraine


Fig. 1. “The atomic cloud over Nagasaki 1945.” Photograph from Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. Overseas Operations Branch, New York Office, News and Features Bureau, (12/17/1942 – 09/15/1945), by Charles Levy, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

When the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to condemn the invasion shortly after it started, 35 countries abstained. It wasn’t just China and fellow dictatorships such as Cuba and Nicaragua, but also India, South Africa and Senegal. Others, including Ethiopia and Morocco, didn’t vote at all.[18]

I see the United Nations as largely irrelevant. The only body with actual authority is the U.N. Security council, where five permanent members, including Russia, hold a veto. But U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has now condemned Russia’s nuclear threats.[19]

“I’m also deeply concerned by reports of plans to organise so-called referenda in areas of Ukraine that are not currently under government control,” [United Nations Secretary General António Guterres] said. “Any annexation of a state’s territory by another state resulting from a threat or use of force is a violation of the UN charter and of international law.”

Russia was widely condemned at Thursday’s security council meeting chaired by the French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, repeated Beijing’s line that the UN charter and territorial integrity must be supported, without directly criticising Russia, which is an ally. Wang did not, however, offer Moscow any rhetorical support in a carefully worded address.[20]

It is starting to look like the lesson here may be that if you are against the United States and you are an imperialist, you need to succeed quickly. Opposition to Russia’s war was, at best, lukewarm in parts of the world that long suffered U.S. and European colonization.[21] Now that Russia is failing, countries seem to be jumping on a bandwagon with more strident opposition. Are they cynical hypocrites? Of course they are. Is this a criticism of our system of social organization? Of course it is.

As to those nuclear threats,

The Biden administration generally has decided to keep warnings [sent for several months] about the [grave] consequences of a nuclear strike deliberately vague, so the Kremlin worries about how Washington might respond, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive deliberations.

The attempt by the White House to cultivate what’s known in the nuclear deterrence world as “strategic ambiguity” comes as Russia continues to escalate its rhetoric about possible nuclear weapons use amid a domestic mobilization aimed at stanching Russian military losses in eastern Ukraine.[22]

I think strategic ambiguity has limits. I think the recipients of ‘strategically ambiguous’ messages can generally assume that they threaten a minimum, not a maximum response. It is true that they can’t be sure. But the assumption will hold in a vast majority of cases and finds support in this:

The Biden administration would face a crisis if Russia were to use a small nuclear weapon in Ukraine, which isn’t a U.S. treaty ally. Any direct military U.S. response against Russia would risk the possibility of a wider war between nuclear-armed superpowers — the avoidance of which the Biden administration has made its No. 1 priority in all of its Ukraine policymaking.[23]

The real threat here is the very thing that Joe Biden has made plain he seeks to avoid, which I think fatally undermines this strategic ambiguity.

CBS News, “President Biden warns Vladimir Putin not to use nuclear weapons: ‘Don’t. Don’t. Don’t,’” September 16, 2022, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/president-joe-biden-vladimir-putin-60-minutes-2022-09-16/

Mary Ilyushina, “Ukrainian strikes into Russia’s border towns compound Putin’s troubles,” Washington Post, September 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/09/17/ukraine-belgorod-putin/

Isabelle Khurshudyan and Kamila Hrabchuk, “‘Look, these are our boys’: Ukrainian troops drive Russian tanks on new front line,” Washington Post, September 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/09/17/look-these-are-our-boys-ukrainian-troops-drive-russian-tanks-new-front-line/

Laurence Peter, “Ukraine war: Russian pop megastar Alla Pugacheva condemns conflict,” British Broadcasting Corporation, September 18, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62948146

Steve Rosenberg, “Megastar speaks out,” British Broadcasting Corporation, September 18, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-62948146

Gabriel Gavin, “Putin’s push for a new USSR reawakens the bloody chaos of Soviet collapse,” Politico, September 19, 2022, https://www.politico.eu/article/vladimir-putin-fall-russia-empire-ukraine-war-armenia-azerbaijan/

Thomas Bolton, “Russian forces ‘palpably panicking’ in Kharkiv region, says Zelenskyy,” EuroNews, September 20, 2022, https://www.euronews.com/2022/09/20/russian-forces-palpably-panicking-in-kharkiv-region-says-zelenskyy

Robyn Dixon, “Russia moves toward annexing Ukraine regions in a major escalation,” Washington Post, September 20, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/09/20/russia-referendum-annexation-luhansk-donetsk-kherson-ukraine/

John Gambrell, “Ukraine, using captured Russian tanks, firms up its lines,” Associated Press, September 20, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-kyiv-kharkiv-3351d15af41ddde4176cb7cf72e74ac4

Matthew Luxmoore and Mauro Orru, “Russia Moves to Annex Occupied Lands as Ukraine Presses Offensive,” Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-moves-to-tighten-grip-on-occupied-lands-as-ukraine-presses-offensive-11663675647

Barbara Kollmeyer, “Putin’s partial draft announcement appears to spark scramble to leave Russia as flights fill up,” MarketWatch, September 21, 2022, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/putins-partial-draft-announcement-appears-to-spark-scramble-to-leave-russia-as-flights-fill-up-11663769382

Pjotr Sauer, “Putin flirts again with grim prospect of nuclear war – this time he might mean it,” Guardian, September 21, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/21/putin-flirts-again-with-grim-prospect-of-nuclear-war-this-time-he-might-mean-it

Zoya Sheftalovich, “Putin calls up 300,000 reservists, makes nuclear threat,” Politico, September 21, 2022, https://www.politico.eu/article/putin-announces-partial-mobilization-russian-reservists-nuclear-threat-conscription-ukraine/

Ishaan Tharoor, “Russia pushes the panic button and raises risk of nuclear war,” Washington Post, September 21, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/09/21/russia-referendums-ukraine-occupied-nuclear/

Julian Borger, “Russia’s nuclear threats ‘totally unacceptable’, says UN chief,” Guardian, September 22, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/22/russia-nuclear-threats-totally-unacceptable-says-un-chief-antonio-guterres

Robyn Dixon, Mary Ilyushina, and David L. Stern, “Putin faces fury in Russia over military mobilization and prisoner swap,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/09/22/mobilization-putin-anger-russia-war/

Robert Mackey, “Russians Return to Streets to Protest Widening of Putin’s War on Ukraine,” Intercept, September 22, 2022, https://theintercept.com/2022/09/22/russia-ukraine-putin-war-protests/

Paul Sonne and John Hudson, “U.S. has sent private warnings to Russia against using a nuclear weapon,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/22/russia-nuclear-threat-us-options/


Gilead

Donald Trump

Coup attempt


Fig. 1. Original: The White House. Derivative work: J. J. Messerly, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

I’ve been thinking recently that Donald Trump is done politically and, indeed, that seems to be becoming a prevailing view.[24] But there’s still this relationship he has with his true believers, that Tina Nguyen touches on,[25] that I still see evidence of in a vastly diminished but still non-zero number of Trump yard signs around southwestern Pennsylvania.[26] There are still rabid right wing militia groups[27] and their loosely aligned gun nuts. There are still police white supremacist gangs and white supremacists in the military. There is still white Christian nationalism and, certainly not to be forgotten, a white Christian nationalist Supreme Court.[28]

Gilead may now only be a dream, but it is still a dream. It is a figurehead, a unifying figure for white Christian nationalism that is going down, not all the rest of the scary stuff. We do not know yet what will happen to or with this rest of it. The only thing I can say with confidence here is that this rest of it is not going away.

Jennifer Rubin, “If Garland sincerely believes in the rule of law, Trump is in deep trouble,” Washington Post, September 19, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/09/19/garland-trump-cannon-ruling-appeal/

Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, “Special master to Trump’s lawyers: ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it,’” Politico, September 20, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/20/trump-special-master-judge-mar-a-lago-00057805

Perry Stein, Devlin Barrett, and Shayna Jacobs, “Special master prods Trump lawyers: ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it,’” Washington Post, September 20, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/20/dearie-mar-a-lago-trump/

Chris Walker, “Trump’s Lawyers are Already Bickering With the Special Master, Whom They Picked,” Truthout, September 20, 2022, https://truthout.org/articles/trumps-lawyers-are-already-bickering-with-the-special-master-whom-they-picked/

Devlin Barrett, “Appeals court sides with Justice Department in Mar-a-Lago case,” Washington Post, September 21, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/21/mar-a-lago-appeal-court-ruling/

Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, “Trump suffers setback as appeals panel rejects Cannon ruling,” Politico, September 21, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/09/21/donald-trump-special-master-00058176

Tina Nguyen, “‘DeSantasy’ Revisited,” Puck News, September 21, 2022, https://puck.news/desantasy-revisited/

Richard Nixon [Justin Sherrin], “That is, if I were a Judge and was overturned in this manner, I would find it hard to leave the house” Twitter, September 21, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/09/22/thorough-rebuke-judge-aileen-cannons-pro-trump-order/

Julian Mark, “Trump says presidents can declassify docs ‘even by thinking about it,’” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/22/trump-hannity-declassify-documents/

David Smith, “‘He’s done’: how Donald Trump’s legal woes have just gotten a lot worse,” Guardian, September 22, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/sep/21/donald-trump-lawsuit-new-york-investigation

Perry Stein, “Dearie asks Trump lawyers whether they believe FBI lied about seized documents,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/22/dearie-trump-order-declassify/


  1. [15]Scott Dance and Amudalat Ajasa, “Fiona grounded dozens of flights. A JetBlue plane flew right over it,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/09/22/jetblue-hurricane-flight-fiona/
  2. [16]Scott Dance and Amudalat Ajasa, “Fiona grounded dozens of flights. A JetBlue plane flew right over it,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/09/22/jetblue-hurricane-flight-fiona/
  3. [17]Scott Dance and Amudalat Ajasa, “Fiona grounded dozens of flights. A JetBlue plane flew right over it,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/09/22/jetblue-hurricane-flight-fiona/
  4. [18]Bloomberg, “The West Must Bridge the Global Divide Over Ukraine,” June 6, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-06-06/the-west-is-behind-ukraine-the-developing-world-not-so-much
  5. [19]Julian Borger, “Russia’s nuclear threats ‘totally unacceptable’, says UN chief,” Guardian, September 22, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/22/russia-nuclear-threats-totally-unacceptable-says-un-chief-antonio-guterres
  6. [20]Julian Borger, “Russia’s nuclear threats ‘totally unacceptable’, says UN chief,” Guardian, September 22, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/22/russia-nuclear-threats-totally-unacceptable-says-un-chief-antonio-guterres
  7. [21]Bloomberg, “The West Must Bridge the Global Divide Over Ukraine,” June 6, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2022-06-06/the-west-is-behind-ukraine-the-developing-world-not-so-much
  8. [22]Paul Sonne and John Hudson, “U.S. has sent private warnings to Russia against using a nuclear weapon,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/22/russia-nuclear-threat-us-options/
  9. [23]Paul Sonne and John Hudson, “U.S. has sent private warnings to Russia against using a nuclear weapon,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/22/russia-nuclear-threat-us-options/
  10. [24]David Smith, “‘He’s done’: how Donald Trump’s legal woes have just gotten a lot worse,” Guardian, September 22, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/sep/21/donald-trump-lawsuit-new-york-investigation
  11. [25]Tina Nguyen, “‘DeSantasy’ Revisited,” Puck News, September 21, 2022, https://puck.news/desantasy-revisited/
  12. [26]David Benfell, “More questions than answers as Donald Trump flags come down,” Not Housebroken, September 10, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/08/28/more-questions-than-answers-as-donald-trump-flags-come-down/
  13. [27]David Benfell, “The danger that remains,” May 23, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/01/07/the-danger-that-remains/; David Benfell, “The danger that still remains,” Not Housebroken, January 22, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/24/the-danger-that-still-remains/
  14. [28]David Benfell, “The white Christian nationalist Supreme Court,” Not Housebroken, September 18, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/09/18/the-white-christian-nationalist-supreme-court/

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