Vladimir Putin has no plan

Ukraine


Fig. 1. “Destroyed Russian military vehicles located on the main street Khreshchatyk are seen as part of the celebration of the Independence Day of Ukraine in Kyiv, August 24.” Photograph by Gleb Garanich for Reuters, August 24, 2022,[1] fair use.

[Vladimir] Putin, who started his career as a Soviet KGB agent, has always kept his own counsel, relying on a close inner circle of old friends and confidants while seeming to never fully trust or confide in anyone. But now a new gulf is emerging between Putin and much of the country’s elite, according to interviews with Russian business leaders, officials and analysts.

Putin “feels the loss of his friends,” said one Russian state official with close ties to diplomatic circles, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “[Belarusian President Alexander] Lukashenko is the only one he can pay a serious visit to. All the rest see him only when necessary.” . . .

“There is huge frustration among the people around him,” said one Russian billionaire who maintains contacts with top-ranking officials. “He clearly doesn’t know what to do.”[2]

There remains a divide between ‘pragmatists’ who see the war as lost and ‘hawks’ who want to escalate further.[3] Yevgeniy Prigozhin, whom Julia Ioffe thinks might lead a coup against Vladimir Putin,[4] is of course among the hawks[5] and the notion of the war as ‘existential’ for Russia[6] persists as India and China worry that Putin will go nuclear.[7]

What’s probably most dangerous here is the appearance that Putin lacks a plan.[8] That’s the precise formulation that leads someone who thinks he can “fix it” to step in and if, indeed, that person is Prigozhin[9] or someone of similar mind, then the war might get bloodier still.

Michael Sallah and Mike Wereschagin, “Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s secret call to Mitch McConnell puts squeeze on oligarchs,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 29, 2022, https://www.post-gazette.com/news/politics-nation/2022/12/29/zelenskyy-mitch-mcconnell-ukraine-putin-oligarchs/stories/202212280090

Catherine Belton, “Putin, unaccustomed to losing, is increasingly isolated as war falters,” Washington Post, December 30, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/12/30/putin-isolated-russia-ukraine-war/


Migration

Robert Moran, “City receives 15th bus carrying immigrants from Texas to Philadelphia,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 29, 2022, https://www.inquirer.com/news/philadelphia/bus-immigrants-texas-philadelphia-asylum-greg-abbott-20221229.html


Illiberalism


Fig. 2. Photograph by Joachim F. Thurn, August 1991, Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F089030-0003, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE.

The coalition pledged to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, a move that will deepen the conflict with the Palestinians. And its members agreed to prioritize potentially far-reaching changes that would curb the power and influence of the independent judiciary, one of a number of measures that critics warn risk damaging Israel’s democratic system and paving the way for racism and discrimination against minorities. . . .

Mr. [Binyamin] Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, is set to return to office 18 months after he was ousted. On trial for corruption, he has grown ever more dependent on his hard-line allies because the more liberal parties refuse to sit in a government led by a premier under criminal indictment.

One of the most controversial elements of the new government’s plans is the prioritization of changes to the judiciary, including legislation that will allow Parliament to override Supreme Court rulings. This would limit the influence of the independent judiciary, which has played an important role in preserving minority rights in a country that lacks a formal constitution, and would give more unchecked power to the political majority.[10]

Isabel Kershner, “Israel’s New Hard-Line Government Raises Hackles Ahead of Inauguration,” New York Times, December 28, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/28/world/middleeast/israel-far-right-netanyhu-inaguration.html


Gilead

Donald Trump

Finances


Fig. 1. Trump International Hotel, Las Vegas, undated image credited to https://www.flickr.com/photos/glynlowe/ [bad link], CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The returns show that [Donald] Trump paid little, if anything, in income taxes over six years, including the four in which he served as president. They have also led to questions from lawmakers and others about whether Trump claimed deductions on items that may not warrant it to avoid paying taxes. . . .

The release [by the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee] marks another blow to Trump, who is struggling to mount a campaign for president as numerous investigations and controversies continue to swirl around him. His most recent actions, from dining with avowed white supremacists to suggesting terminating the Constitution, have left many in the Republican Party reconsidering whether he remains the most viable candidate to lead the GOP after midterm voters largely rejected candidates backed by the former president.

The release of Trump’s tax information is the most sweeping such action taken by Congress in a half-century. A similar action involving a president has not occurred since 1973, when the IRS turned over President Richard M. Nixon’s tax returns to a congressional committee.[11]

Jeanne Sahadi, Maegan Vazquez, and David Goldman, “Trump’s tax returns confirm he paid little in federal income taxes in his first and last year of presidency,” Cable News Network, December 30, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/30/politics/donald-trump-tax-returns-released/index.html

Marianna Sotomayor, Jonathan O’Connell and Michael Kranish, “House panel releases Trump tax returns in another setback for former president,” Washington Post, December 30, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/12/30/trump-tax-returns-congress/

Coup attempt


Fig. 3. “Jake Angeli (Qanon Shaman), seen holding a Qanon sign at the intersection of Bell Rd and 75th Ave in Peoria, Arizona, on 2020 October 15.” Photography by TheUnseen011101 [pseud.], October 15, 2020, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

National Guard troops requested by Capitol Police at 2:30 p.m. did not arrive at the building until three hours later. Steven Sund, the chief of Capitol Police at the time of the breach, told the committee his request in advance of Jan. 6 for National Guard support was denied.

By contrast, [D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III] said D.C. police were at the Capitol less than 20 minutes after being requested, even though the chief had not heard directly from Sund. [Mayor Muriel E.] Bowser said she later told [Army Secretary Ryan D.] McCarthy, who demanded an explicit Capitol Police request for troops, “Your Capitol is being overrun. I don’t have permission to be up there either, but [Metropolitan Police Department] is there … they need help.” . . .

Both Bowser and Contee said, as was reported in the days after the attack, that the Army secretary was concerned about the “optics” of having “boots on the ground.” Bowser said she also thought there was concern within the Defense Department that Trump “would try to use the United States Army to storm the Capitol.”

McCarthy, whose interview was also released Thursday, told the committee he was concerned about “soldiers in plain view of a certification of election” when Trump supporters — including former administration official Michael Flynn — were calling for martial law.[12]

Adam Goldman and Alan Feuer, “Republicans Step Up Attacks on F.B.I. as It Investigates Trump,” New York Times, December 29, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/28/us/politics/fbi-gop-attacks.html

Rachel Weiner and Peter Hermann, “D.C. mayor: Feds failed on Jan. 6 by thinking far-right was ‘friendly,’” Washington Post, December 29, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/12/29/bowser-contee-jan6-transcripts/

Police White supremacist gangs


Fig. 1. Image credited to Darnella Frazier, made from a video posted to Facebook, of Minneapolis white supremacist gangster Derek Chauvin’s knee on George Floyd’s neck, May 25, 2020, via ABC News,[13] fair use.

“[Capitol Police] thought [white supremacists] were friendly to law enforcement and that they loved their country,” Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said in her January 2022 interview with the House [January 6] committee, a transcript of which was released Thursday. She said, however, earlier D.C. rallies of “white nationalist groups … showed us that they were antagonistic to law enforcement.”[14]

Rachel Weiner and Peter Hermann, “D.C. mayor: Feds failed on Jan. 6 by thinking far-right was ‘friendly,’” Washington Post, December 29, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/12/29/bowser-contee-jan6-transcripts/


  1. [1]Reuters, “Ukraine puts destroyed Russian tanks on display in Kyiv,” August 25, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/ukraine-puts-destroyed-russian-tanks-on-idUSRTSALV9Q
  2. [2]Catherine Belton, “Putin, unaccustomed to losing, is increasingly isolated as war falters,” Washington Post, December 30, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/12/30/putin-isolated-russia-ukraine-war/
  3. [3]Catherine Belton, “Putin, unaccustomed to losing, is increasingly isolated as war falters,” Washington Post, December 30, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/12/30/putin-isolated-russia-ukraine-war/
  4. [4]Julia Ioffe, “‘Putin’s Chef’: The Man Behind Russia’s Shadow Army,” Puck News, December 13, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-chef-the-man-behind-russias-shadow-army/
  5. [5]Catherine Belton, “Putin, unaccustomed to losing, is increasingly isolated as war falters,” Washington Post, December 30, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/12/30/putin-isolated-russia-ukraine-war/
  6. [6]Bruno Maçães, “‘Russia cannot afford to lose, so we need a kind of a victory’: Sergey Karaganov on what Putin wants,” New Statesman, April 2, 2022, https://www.newstatesman.com/world/europe/ukraine/2022/04/russia-cannot-afford-to-lose-so-we-need-a-kind-of-a-victory-sergey-karaganov-on-what-putin-wants
  7. [7]Catherine Belton, “Putin, unaccustomed to losing, is increasingly isolated as war falters,” Washington Post, December 30, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/12/30/putin-isolated-russia-ukraine-war/
  8. [8]Catherine Belton, “Putin, unaccustomed to losing, is increasingly isolated as war falters,” Washington Post, December 30, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/12/30/putin-isolated-russia-ukraine-war/
  9. [9]Julia Ioffe, “‘Putin’s Chef’: The Man Behind Russia’s Shadow Army,” Puck News, December 13, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-chef-the-man-behind-russias-shadow-army/
  10. [10]Isabel Kershner, “Israel’s New Hard-Line Government Raises Hackles Ahead of Inauguration,” New York Times, December 28, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/28/world/middleeast/israel-far-right-netanyhu-inaguration.html
  11. [11]Marianna Sotomayor, Jonathan O’Connell and Michael Kranish, “House panel releases Trump tax returns in another setback for former president,” Washington Post, December 30, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/12/30/trump-tax-returns-congress/
  12. [12]Rachel Weiner and Peter Hermann, “D.C. mayor: Feds failed on Jan. 6 by thinking far-right was ‘friendly,’” Washington Post, December 29, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/12/29/bowser-contee-jan6-transcripts/
  13. [13]Catherine Thorbecke, “Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, complaint says,” ABC News, May 29, 2020, https://abcnews.go.com/US/derek-chauvin-knee-george-floyds-neck-minutes-complaint/story?id=70961042
  14. [14]Rachel Weiner and Peter Hermann, “D.C. mayor: Feds failed on Jan. 6 by thinking far-right was ‘friendly,’” Washington Post, December 29, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/12/29/bowser-contee-jan6-transcripts/

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