Pablo Picasso The old fisherman 1895
The actual end of democracy. pic.twitter.com/OXA4SHnNug
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) December 20, 2023
TUCKER: "Elon Musk is a world-historic figure bc he gave us a place to say what we think is true. If you can't say what you think, you are a slave, just to be clear, you're not a citizen, you're not a man. You're a slave"pic.twitter.com/PpPV2F00eW
— Jack Poso 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) December 20, 2023
Led by donkeys
Loving the Christmas lights outside Tory HQ this year 🎄 pic.twitter.com/8qEDYUUQxC
— Led By Donkeys (@ByDonkeys) December 20, 2023
Scott Adams: “I’m loving the Colorado overreach. The decision will be reversed. Trump’s poll numbers will go up. But best of all, this gives you permission to assume the 2020 election was rigged – without proof – because “stop Trump at any cost” is evident in this decision.”
A split vote would be pretty bad.
The Colorado decision to bar Donald Trump from the ballot will be overturned because it is wrong on the history and the language of the 14th Amendment. Dead wrong. The question is whether the US Supreme Court will speak with one voice, including the three liberal justices. As with the three Democratic state justices who refused to sign off on the Colorado opinion, these federal justices can now bring a moment of unity not just for the court but the country in rejecting this shockingly anti-democratic theory. For years, the disqualification theory has been treated like some abstract parlor game for law professors. While Democrats called for the disqualification of 120 House members, it was treated as a fringe theory. It has now lost its charm as a legal brain teaser.
As I have previously written, the disqualification of Trump is based on the use of a long-dormant provision in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. After the Civil War, House members were outraged to see Alexander Stephens, the Confederate vice president, seeking to take the oath with an array of other former Confederate senators and military officers. They had all previously taken the same oath and then violated it to join a secession movement that claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans. That was a true rebellion. January 6, 2021, was a riot. That does not excuse those who committed crimes that day — but it was not an insurrection. The majority on the Colorado Supreme Court adopted sweeping interpretations of every element of the decision to find that Trump not only incited an insurrection, but can be disqualified under this provision.
It does not matter that Trump has never been charged with even incitement or that he called for his supporters to go to the Capitol to protest “peacefully.” In finding that Trump led an actual insurrection, the four justices used speeches going back to 2016 to show an effort to rebel before Trump was ever president. There are ample grounds to summarily toss this opinion to the side. However, that would not answer the call of this historic moment. What these four justices did was a direct assault on our democratic process in seeking to bar the most popular candidate in the upcoming election. Whatever the view of Trump, this is a decision that should rest with the voters. Not only are these four justices seeking to bar the votes of millions of voters (even barring the counting of write-in votes), but they are doing so in the name of democracy.
It is the ballot cleansing that is usually associated with authoritarian countries like Iran, where voters are protected from “unworthy” candidates. Justice Robert Jackson once observed that he and his colleagues “are not final because we are infallible, we are infallible because we are final.” A decision on Colorado could put this theory to rest by the sheer finality of the appeal. However, it is not the finality that is needed at this moment. We need clarity. Clarity of purpose and principle. The Supreme Court plays a unique role in our system at times like these. It must at times defy us in rejecting racism as cases such as Brown v. Board of Education. At other times, it has protected in rejecting government overreach as in cases such as Katz v. United States, demanding warrants to overcome the reasonable expectation of privacy. This is a time where it can unify us.
TURLEY: “This country is a powder keg and this court is just throwing matches at it.. for people that say they are trying to protect democracy, this is hands down the most anti-democratic opinion I’ve seen in my lifetime.” pic.twitter.com/g9bz6JWmbb
— ALX 🇺🇸 (@alx) December 20, 2023
“I was one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after January 6. I think the court’s decision is shameful.”
For years, we’ve been told that Donald Trump is a worse-than-Hitler threat to democracy and that those who opposed him—leading Democrats, the courts, Noam Chomsky, Michael Avenatti, Rachel Maddow, the hosts of The View, even old Twitter—were just trying to protect it. It’s odd then to now be told that the best way to save democracy is by banning Trump from the ballot. That’s what happened in Colorado yesterday, when the state’s Supreme Court ruled in a 4–3 decision that former president Donald Trump—currently the most popular presidential candidate—was disqualified from appearing on Colorado ballots for the 2024 presidential election. The decision—perhaps the most extra-constitutional act by a high court in my lifetime—is astonishing on every level.
First, the reasoning: The Colorado court did it by reinvigorating Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment, which reads in part that “no person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States” who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”Those words were written in 1866, less than a year after the Civil War ended, a war in which over 300,000 Union soldiers died to keep America united, in order to bar many former Confederate officials from serving in government. January 6 was my third day in Congress. I had to be evacuated from the House chamber after a violent mob stormed the Capitol that day. I considered it then, and consider it now, a dark and shameful day. But no federal court has found, nor is the Justice Department even alleging, that Trump is guilty of anything close to insurrection or rebellion. And yet here is the highest court in an American state taking upon itself to conclude a violation of federal statute.
Second, the split: The vote was not unanimous, but 4 to 3. As Washington Post columnist Jason Willick noticed, all of the Colorado Supreme Court justices are Democratic appointees, so what predicted their vote was not party, but law school. “All Ivy League grads voted to disqualify. All Denver Law grads voted not to disqualify.” In a time when elite schools appear uniquely removed from reality, amid a political moment defined by elite failure, the irony is profound. Trump campaigns on “saving America” from elites seeking to thwart the will of the people. Those elites, in turn, respond by confirming Trump’s worst allegations.
Third, the consequences: What is extraordinary today will be precedent tomorrow; past exceptions become today’s rule. Bending the law and loosening interpretations to force Trump’s accountability for January 6 into the legal realm will be far more damaging in the long term than whatever Trump’s opponents think they might prevent. Broadening the Fourteenth Amendment understanding of insurrection from the horrendous bloodshed of a civil war or equivalent catastrophe will open the floodgates to tit-for-tat challenges. If Trump’s rhetorical culpability for January 6 qualifies, similar lawsuits against Democratic politicians who encouraged BLM rioters will swiftly follow. Was Kamala Harris giving “aid or comfort” when she fundraised bail money for rioters? You can imagine where this could go.
Texas Lt. Gov @DanPatrick flips script on Democrats after Trump gets barred from ballot in Colorado:
"Maybe we should take Joe Biden off the ballot in Texas for allowing 8 million people to cross the border since he’s been President.”
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) December 20, 2023
“The result is an opinion that lacks any limiting principles. It places the nation on a slippery slope where red and blue states could now engage in tit-for-tat disqualifications..”
In his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde wrote that “the only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” The four Colorado justices just ridded themselves of the ultimate temptation and, in so doing, put this country on one of the most dangerous paths in its history. The court majority used a long-dormant provision in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment — the “disqualification clause” — that was written after the Civil War to bar former Confederate members from serving in the U.S. Congress. In December 1865 many in Washington were shocked to see Alexander Stephens, the Confederacy’s onetime vice president, waiting to take the same oath that he took before joining the Southern rebellion. Hundreds of thousands of Americans had just died after whole states seceded into their own separate nation with its own army, navy, foreign policy and currency.
So Congress declared that it could bar those “who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.” January 6, 2021, was many things — and all of them bad. However, it was not an insurrection. I was critical of Trump’s speech to a mob of supporters that day, and I rejected his legal claims to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election in Congress. However, it was a protest that became a riot, not a rebellion. Indeed, despite the unrelenting efforts of many in the media and Congress, a post-January 6 Harvard study found that most of the rioters were motivated by support for Trump or concerns about the election’s fairness, not by a desire to rebel. Even the Justice Department’s special counsel Jack Smith, who threw every possible charge at Trump in two indictments, did not believe he had sufficient basis to charge Trump with incitement or insurrection.
Much can be said about this decision, but restraint is not one of them. What is most striking about the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling is how the majority removed all of the fail-safes to extend the meaning of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to block Trump. There were a number of barriers facing advocates who have tried to stretch this provision to cover the January 6 riot. The four justices had to adopt the most sweeping interpretation possible on every one of those questions in order to support their decision. The only narrow part of the opinion came with the interpretation of the First Amendment, where the four justices dismissed the free-speech implications of disqualifying presidential candidates based on political position and rhetoric.
The result is an opinion that lacks any limiting principles. It places the nation on a slippery slope where red and blue states could now engage in tit-for-tat disqualifications. According to the Colorado Supreme Court, those decisions do not need to be based on the specific comments made by figures like Trump. Instead, it ruled, courts can now include any statements made before or after a speech to establish a “true threat.” It was inevitable that the Trump-ballot challengers would find four jurists in one state willing to follow something like the Wilde Doctrine. However, it is also important to note that a series of Democratic jurists previously refused to do so in various cases. They did so not out of any affinity to Trump but out of their affinity to the Constitution.
President Biden’s problem right now is not simply that his polls are bad. It’s that he is leaking support from key Democratic blocs — and that his nemesis, former President Trump, is doing surprisingly well. The starkest example comes among young voters. A New York Times/Siena College poll released Tuesday showed Trump ahead of Biden by 6 points among registered voters under 30. If such a performance were to be reflected in an actual election, it would make a Trump victory all but inevitable. In 2020, Biden crushed Trump by 24 points among the under-30s, according to the main exit poll — and still won just a narrow electoral college victory. The new poll cannot be dismissed as an outlier, either.
An NBC News survey last month showed a very similar pattern, with voters under 35 favoring Trump by 4 points, 46 percent to 42 percent. It was the first NBC News poll of Biden’s presidency that showed Trump beating the incumbent president overall, albeit by a slim 2-point margin. The findings bring up two intertwined questions: Why is Biden doing so badly with younger voters, and why is Trump doing so well? The first part of the question is easier to answer. The 81-year-old Biden — a relative moderate and a staunch institutionalist — has never been an especially inspiring figure to young voters. Young progressives have been disappointed that he has not taken more expansive action on priorities from climate change to voting rights. Student loan repayments resumed in October after Biden’s efforts to forgive significant student debt were blocked by the Supreme Court.
That left Biden in a vulnerable position — which then became exponentially worse when Israel unleashed a furious attack on Gaza after the Oct. 7 Hamas assault that killed around 1,200 Israelis. Younger Americans are, overall, far more sympathetic to the Palestinians than older generations are. Polls suggest many such voters have recoiled at Biden’s vigorous support for Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the Palestinian death toll mounts. The New York Times poll showed voters under 30 disapproving of Biden’s handling of the Middle East conflict by an enormous margin — 72 percent to 20 percent. “It’s what’s driving young voters away from Biden more than anything, even though it is obviously one part of a larger picture,” said Usamah Andrabi, the communications director for Justice Democrats, a left-wing group. Biden has adopted a tougher rhetorical tone with Israel recently, including saying last week that it was starting to lose support because of “indiscriminate bombing.”
“..remember Kamala Harris’s summer 2020 boasts about the protests that, she knew (contrary to “fact checkers”) had already a long history of violence..”
Donald Trump is being erased from the Colorado primary (and general?) ballot, by warping the 14th Amendment, and in a way never envisioned by its creators. So now can one be guilty by fiat of Confederacy-like “insurrection,” when he has never been charged with, much less convicted of, such a crime?How can a buffoonish January 6th riot become an “insurrection,” when no one was armed, there was no plan to seize power, and protestors were advised by the purported insurrectionist leader “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard”?As far as election insurrectionary interference, why did liberal journalist Molly Ball label the leftwing effort to defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 election a “cabal” (e.g., “That’s why the participants want the secret history of the 2020 election told, even though it sounds like a paranoid fever dream–a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information”)?
And why did Ball double-down and further call it a “conspiracy” (“There was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes, one that both curtailed the protests and coordinated the resistance from CEOs. Both surprises were the result of an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans, of CEOs, Silicon Valley billionaires, street protestors…Their work touched every aspect of the election. They got states to change voting systems and laws and helped secure hundreds of millions in public and private funding. They fended off voter-suppression lawsuits, recruited armies of poll workers and got millions of people to vote by mail for the first time. They successfully pressured social media companies to take a harder line against disinformation and used data-driven strategies to fight viral smears.”)?
As far as efforts to nullify the popular vote, do we remember the pathetic 2016 ensemble of C-list Hollywood celebrities (e.g., Martin Sheen, Debra Messing, James Cromwell, BD Wong, Noah Wyle, Freda Payne, Bob Odenkirk, J. Smith Cameron, Michael Urie, Moby, Mike Farrell, Loretta Swit, Christine Lahti, Steven Pasquale, Dominic Fumusa and Emily Tyra)? They were drafted by leftwing groups to cut commercials urging the electors to reject their constitutional duties of reflecting their states’ popular votes, and instead, as faithless electors, to vote instead for Hillary Clinton, the loser in their respective states’ popular votes. How did they rationalize that anti-constitutional gambit? Well, remember Martin Sheen’s shameless sophistry to ignore the Constitution and the election results?
“As you know, our founding fathers built the Electoral College to safeguard the American people from the dangers of a demagogue, and to ensure that the presidency only goes to someone who is to an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” So what makes a high elected official an insurrectionist? Current or past advocacy for using violence against the government, as represented by, say, the Supreme Court? Or urging on more protests that had already turned violent, eventually leading to 35 deaths, 1,500 injured police officers, $1-2 billion in property damage, and a torched courthouse, police headquarters, and iconic church? Attempting to break into the White House grounds? Sending the president into a secure underground bunker?
If so, remember Kamala Harris’s summer 2020 boasts about the protests that, she knew (contrary to “fact checkers”) had already a long history of violence: “But they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop, and this is a movement, I’m telling you. They’re not gonna stop, and everyone beware, because they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop before Election Day in November, and they’re not gonna stop after Election Day. Everyone should take note of that, on both levels, that they’re not going to let up — and they should not. And we should not.” What was the Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer intending, when in 2020 he incited a throng at the very doors of the Supreme Court, warning of violence to come to two justices whom he called out by name?“I want to tell you Gorsuch. I want to tell you Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” “Hit you”?
“All you need to know about the new “coalition of the willing”. Saudi, UAE and Egypt – soon to become BRICS members – NOT willing.”
No one ever lost money betting on the ability of the Empire of Chaos, Lies and Plunder to construct a “coalition of the willing” whenever faced with a geopolitical quandary. In every case, duly covered by the reigning “rules-based international order”, “willing” applies to vassals seduced by carrots or sticks to follow to the letter the Empire’s whims. Cue to the latest chapter: Coalition Genocide Prosperity, whose official – heroic – denomination, a trademark of the Pentagon’s P.R. wizards, is “Operation Prosperity Guardian”, allegedly engaged in “ensuring freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.” Translation: this is Washington all but declaring war on Yemen’s Ansarullah. An extra US destroyer has already been dispatched to the Red Sea. Ansarullah sticks to its guns and is by no means intimidated. The Houthi military have already stressed that any attack on Yemeni assets or Ansarullah missile launch sites would color the entire Red Sea literally Red.
The Houthi military not only reaffirmed it has “weapons to sink your aircraft carriers and destroyers” but made a stunning call to both Sunnis and Shi’ites in Bahrain to revolt and overthrow their King, Hamad al-Khalifa. As of Monday, even before the start of the operation, the Eisenhower aircraft carrier was around 280 km off the closest Ansarullah controlled latitudes. Houthis have Zoheir and Khalij-e-Fars anti-ship ballistic missiles with a range of 300 to 500 km. Ansarullah Supreme Political Council member Muhammad al-Bukhaiti felt compelled to re-stress the obvious: “Even if America succeeds in mobilizing the entire world, our operations in the Red Sea will not stop unless the massacre in Gaza stops. We will not give up the responsibility of defending the Moustazafeen (oppressed ones) of the Earth.” The world better get ready: “Aircraft carrier sunk” may become the new 9/11.
Weapons peddler Lloyd “Raytheon” Austin, in his current revolving door position as head of the Pentagon, is visiting West Asia – mostly Israel, Qatar and Bahrain – to promote this new “international initiative” for patrolling the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb strait (which links the Arabian Sea to the Red Sea) and the Gulf of Aden. As al-Bukhaiti remarked, Ansarullah’s strategy is to target any ship navigating the Red Sea linked to Israeli companies or supplying Israel – something that for the Yemenis demonstrates their complicity with the Gaza genocide. That will only stop when the genocide stops. With a single move – a de facto maritime blockade – Ansarullah proved that the King is Naked: Yemen has done more in practice to defend the Palestinian cause than most of the key regional players put together. Incidentally, they were all ordered by Netanyahu in public to shut up. And they did.
It’s quite instructive to once again follow the money. Israel has been hit very hard. The port of Eilat is virtually closed, and its income fell by 80%. For instance, Taiwanese shipping giant Yang-Ming Marine Transport Corporation originally planned to re-route its Israel-bound cargo to the port of Ashdod. Then it cut off any shipments to any Israeli destination. It’s no wonder Yoram Sebba, President of the Israel Chamber of Shipping, revealed himself to be puzzled by Ansarullah’s “complex” tactics and “unrevealed” criteria that have imposed “total uncertainty”. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have also been caught in the Yemeni net. It’s crucial to keep in perspective that Ansarullah only blocks ships that are going to Israel. The bulk of maritime shipping in the Red Sea remains wide open. So shipping giant Maersk’s decision not to use the Red Sea, alongside other global shipping behemoths, may be pushing the envelope too fast – as in nearly begging for a US-led patrol to be in effect.
They mean business.
A general mobilization is being carried out in northern Yemen to send soldiers to the Gaza Strip if such an opportunity arises, member of the political office of Yemen’s Ansar Allah rebel movement, also known as the Houthis, Houtham Assad told Sputnik on Wednesday. “As for the general mobilization in support of our people in the Gaza Strip, it was launched in all provinces, training camps were opened, tens of thousands of young people volunteered to study military craft, several groups have already graduated in various provinces of Yemen,” the official said. The people are being called upon to support our people in Gaza, who are being “subjected to genocide by the Israeli occupation army with the support of the United States” the official said, adding that if the conditions are right then they will take part in military operations in the Gaza Strip.
They’re firing $2,000,000 missiles at $2,000 drones.
Pentagon officials are worried about the growing cost of countering Yemeni Houthi drone and missile attacks in the Red Sea, Politico reported on Wednesday. This comes after several major freight companies suspended travel through the region, citing concerns over the safety of their vessels. The US Navy has shot down 38 drones and several missiles over the Red Sea in the past two months, according to the US Department of Defense. On Saturday, the US destroyer USS Carney shot down 14 drones – suspected to be launched from Yemen – in one attack alone. The Houthis have stepped up attacks on shipping in the region amid the escalating Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza. With the death toll among the Palestinians reportedly nearing 20,000, the rebels have vowed to continue their assaults until “the Israeli aggression against” their “steadfast brothers in the Gaza Strip stops.”
Politico reported that the cost of using US naval surface-to-air missiles is increasingly concerning, quoting sources from the Department of Defense. Each munition is reportedly worth an estimated 1,000 times more than the drones they’re used on. “That quickly becomes a problem because the most benefit, even if we do shoot down their incoming missiles and drones, is in their favor,” said Mick Mulroy, a former US Defense Department official and CIA officer. He believes the US needs to start looking at cheaper systems more in line with the costs expended by their opponents. The most likely method to be used in parrying Houthi strikes is expected to be the Standard Missile-2, with a range of 92 to 130 nautical miles and costing $2.1 million each. The other available tools for the job – Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles or airburst rounds – are likely to have too limited of a range, Politico’s sources said.
“My guess is the [destroyers] are shooting SM-2s for as long as they can – they are not in [the] business of taking chances on hostile targets getting close,” the former official commented.Their experts estimate that the suicide drones deployed by the Houthis cost $2,000 at most. The US doesn’t seem to have a cheaper option than what it’s using now, Samuel Bendett, an adviser with the Center for Naval Analyses, told Politico, adding that “driving down the cost of such defenses is essential in the long term.” On Monday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the formation of an international maritime task force to counter rebel attacks on vessels in the Red Sea. Houthi spokesman Mohammed al-Bukhaiti replied on X (formerly Twitter) that the US measures are an escalation and that the rebels won’t stop until the “genocidal crimes in Gaza stop… no matter the sacrifices it costs” them.
“Hamas wished to break the 17-year siege on Gaza and put the Palestinian issue back on the table in the international arena.”
Hamas political leaders are in talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA) about how to govern Gaza and the West Bank after the war with Israel ends, with the goal of establishing a Palestinian state, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on 20 December. “We don’t fight just because we want to fight. We are not partisans of a zero-sum game,” Husam Badran, a member of Hamas’ Doha-based political bureau, stated. “We want the war to end.” The Hamas leader’s statement marks a change from 7 October, when the armed wing of the group led an assault on Israeli military bases and settlements in which more than 1,200 Israelis were killed, both by Hamas and Israeli forces themselves due to the Hannibal Directive. Hamas wished to break the 17-year siege on Gaza and put the Palestinian issue back on the table in the international arena.
During the attack, Hamas took over 200 Israeli soldiers and civilians captive hoping to exchange them for the freedom of thousands of Palestinians long held in Israeli prisons. Now, after Israel has killed more than 20,000 Palestinians in Gaza, Hamas’s political wing is seeking an end to the conflict. “We want to establish a Palestinian state in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem,” Badran said. Badran also stated Hamas wishes to join the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which represents Palestinians at the United Nations and other international forums. “It will be a national dialogue,” Badran said. “We have always said the PLO should contain any Palestinian faction.” Badran and other Hamas officials say the talks have also included Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief with close Emirati and Egyptian support, and former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
“I am no friend of Hamas,” Dahlan said. “But do you think anybody is going to be able to run to make peace without Hamas?” The Hamas political leaders indicated they would be willing to join the PLO and support negotiations for a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. But Badran said that Hamas had no plans to recognize Israel as long as the occupation continues. “The world has no right to ask when people are being killed,” he said. “It’s not logical to ask this question at this time.” Badran denied rumors of a division between Hamas’ Gaza branch and its political leadership in Doha. “The leadership of Hamas, both inside Gaza and outside it, is in complete agreement on strategies and political positions across various issues,” he said. Badran says Hamas is seeking a full-scale ceasefire and a full exchange of captives from both sides. “If there is a ceasefire, our stance is crystal clear: We want an exchange of all-for-all,” he said.
Sergey Poletaev is co-founder and editor of the Vatfor project. I took the first and last bit of his long article.
Since coming to power 24 years ago, Putin has developed an image as an uncompromising fighter against the enemy, and his promise (of the Chechen war-era) to “waste them in the shi*thouses” tends to be applied to everything, including Ukraine. However, in relations with the West and Kiev, Putin has always been a man of compromise. The principle his policy in Ukraine (as indeed throughout the post-Soviet region) has been to press for an agreement. From the gas wars under ex-Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko to the Black Sea Fleet deal under his successor, Viktor Yanukovich, from the Minsk agreements under Pyotr Poroshenko to the Istanbul epic under Vladimir Zelensky, Putin has never beaten Ukraine to death, but has confined himself to slaps in the hope of making his opponent see the point.
This approach is often criticized, but Putin, like Russian elites in general, fundamentally and organically regards Ukraine as a separate country and has always recognized its right to exist. In this paradigm, Kiev itself has to accept an offer that cannot be refused, and, as insurance, Putin has always created a plan B: In order not to depend on Ukraine for gas, bypass pipelines were built; in parallel with the naval treaty, the Crimean operation was developed (and implemented in March-April 2014), and so on. In the early years, Putin talked directly with the Ukrainian elites, but as Kiev lost its independence, he negotiated with the participation of Western European powers (the Minsk agreements, signed at the second attempt) and, apparently tacitly, the United States. The agreements worked less and less well from year to year, but the approach adopted made it difficult to achieve more.
Moreover, in a vacuum, the Minsk Agreements were a kind of diplomatic triumph: after all, having been approved by the UN Security Council, Minsk-2 became an international legal treaty of supreme force, binding on Ukraine. The backup plan in case Minsk failed was the “special military operation” (as it is known in Russia) in its original form: First, a few months of heightened military tensions, then a full-scale police-style operation to force Kiev to submit to Moscow’s terms. In Istanbul in March 2022, it was proposed to involve the US, the UK, and China as the ultimate guarantors. Beijing did not seem to mind, but the West flatly refused, and Putin waited for his counterparts to get real while he kept Ukraine in his grip by force: tightening and loosening his grip.
Is it working? Well, the West has armed Kiev as much as it can (but without going totally over-the-top, such as massive supplies of long-range missiles), but it has not yet taken irreversible steps, such as Ukraine’s admission to NATO. Meanwhile, the severity of anti-Russian sanctions is balanced by the non-binding nature of their implementation. Whether it’s by secret agreement or on its own initiative, over the past two years a different balance has emerged: the West is not letting Ukraine collapse but is not provoking an escalation, while Russia is bringing Ukraine to its knees but not bringing it down.
“..the current relative calm may well last until the US elections at the end of 2024. A deal will then be offered to the new administration, whatever it may be..”
The Kremlin’s scenario for the coming year could be as follows: maintain the current intensity of fighting, slowly advance in Donbass and exhaust Ukraine in order to demonstrate to the West the firmness of the Russian position and the futility of hopes for a military victory by Kiev. The offer, which the West cannot refuse, is essentially this: Either you give up Ukraine, or we will crush it as a state and eliminate the threat on a voluntary basis. If Ukraine does not collapse in the coming months, the current relative calm may well last until the US elections at the end of 2024. A deal will then be offered to the new administration, whatever it may be. Putin has done this before: He delayed the Minsk showdown until after Zelensky’s election, and only when he was convinced of his lack of commitment did he give the military operation the green light.
Thus, the military escalation will become another insurance policy for different occasions: in the absence of substantive agreements, a major attack with decisive targets will be launched within the framework of the current operation, and if an agreement can be reached on the demilitarization of Ukraine according to the Istanbul principles and on Kiev’s military neutrality, the sword of Damocles of a new – this time unrestrained – Russian operation will hang over Ukraine in case of attempts to change the status quo. Putin himself has hinted at such a scenario: At a memorable meeting with military correspondents in early June 2023, he spoke of a “second march on Kiev” that would require a new mobilization.
The timing can be gauged from the words of Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu: by the end of 2024, the main tasks in army construction and the development of the military-industrial complex must be completed; according to the budget plans, 2024 is also the peak year for national defense spending, and the result will have to be used somehow. One sign of the preparations for the aforementioned ‘great campaign’ will be a sharp change in official rhetoric. It will be a big, nationwide affair, so military propaganda will have to work at full throttle. But if our conclusions are correct, this is a back-up scenario, and the mobilization is also a back-up scenario.
For Putin, it is more important to make a big deal with the West than to crush Kiev: After all, this is the reasons for which the military offensive is being conducted, and the physical reduction of Ukraine is a side effect. If it succeeds, Ukraine has the chance to become a larger version of Georgia – and that would probably be the best fate for it. No deal is possible in the here and now, but after the failure of Kiev’s counteroffensive, the West is reluctant to send money and arms to keep its client in its current, not-so-good shape. Unless the tide turns, Ukraine’s chances of holding out against the Russian onslaught will diminish with each passing month, and with them the West’s hopes of overthrowing Putin by force.
What plan? You lost, Antony.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that Washington has a clear strategy for the future of Ukraine but warned that financial support is wearing thin as an aid package stalls in Congress. Speaking at his end-of-year press conference at the State Department on Wednesday, Blinken said that 2023 has been “a year of profound tests” as Washington attempts to navigate a series of global challenges in Ukraine, Gaza, and elsewhere.But as signs grow, particularly among Republicans, that US enthusiasm to continue to support Ukraine in its near two-year conflict with Russia is waning, Blinken said to reporters that Washington has a concerted strategy for the future of the country.
“We have a very clear plan,” he said, “to make sure that Ukraine can stand on its own two feet – militarily, economically, democratically – so that these levels of support and assistance will no longer be necessary.” The first of which, he suggested, was to free up additional financial aid for Ukraine so that Kiev can meet its immediate challenges. “We have to help Ukraine get through the next period of time, get through this winter, get through the spring and summer,” Blinken said. He added: “I’m also focused on the fact that they have their own plans to continue.” Pressure from Democrats, and even Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, has so far failed to persuade Republicans in Congress to rubber-stamp a $50 billion military aid package for Kiev.
Dissenting voices in the legislature have insisted that the White House agree on border security provisions as a condition of the deal. Without approval from Congress, Blinken warned that financial aid will rapidly dwindle. “There is no magic pot we can draw from,” he said. “The assistance, the support that we have designated for Ukraine that is running out, that is running down. We are nearly out of money. And we’re running out of time.” Blinken also stated that the US will continue efforts to encourage other countries to provide further support for Kiev, and ensure that Russia’s operation is a “strategic failure.”
“They [the US government] were very worried about Russia getting closer with Europe,” Putin said..”
The US Senate will not approve a major new foreign aid package this year, including around $60 billion for Ukraine, after failing to reach a deal on domestic border security, leading lawmakers have announced. Republicans have insisted they will not approve the White House request to send billions of dollars to foreign nations unless the Democrats introduce significant immigration reforms at home. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had postponed the Senate’s Christmas break by a week in the hopes of hammering out an agreement. In a joint statement with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, the two top senators expressed hope that a deal could be reached “early in the new year.” The statement said senators and the administration of President Joe Biden will use the remainder of the year “to work in good faith toward finalizing” a potential deal.
Unlike the Senate, the Republican-majority House declined to shorten its recess to allow more time for additional talks. Speaker Mike Johnson has called on the White House to present a clear plan on how pouring more money into Ukraine would help it prevail in the conflict with Russia. Biden has accused Republicans of holding the proposed foreign aid “hostage,” and by extension jeopardizing US national security. The National Security Council’s John Kirby reiterated during a briefing on Tuesday that the White House has “no magic pot of money” to tap into, and that existing aid for Ukraine was about to run out. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky addressed the issue during an end-of-year press conference on the same day, expressing belief that “the US will not betray us.”
“We have an agreement, and this agreement with the US will be fully implemented,” he insisted. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Washington of initiating the Ukraine conflict with the 2014 armed coup in Kiev and using it for selfish gains as he attended a Defense Ministry meeting on Tuesday. “They [the US government] were very worried about Russia getting closer with Europe,” Putin said, adding that Washington successfully created a rift “and now they are putting the financial burden on Europe too.” According to US media, officials negotiating the border deal have agreed in principle to raise the threshold for migrants seeking to claim asylum in the US and to give the government more authority to expedite expulsions. The parties have conflicting positions on which groups of migrants should be kept in custody and which should be paroled.
Only 2 years ago.
Someone is jealous.. 😅 pic.twitter.com/vvNp7hglet
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) December 20, 2023
The “skeleton” of a stingray. Just like sharks, stingrays don’t have any bones. Instead, their bodies are supported by cartilage, which is the same material that our ears are made from. This gives stingrays their bendy, flexible appearance.
How food commercials are made
— Science girl (@gunsnrosesgirl3) December 20, 2023
In Georgia there is a stray dog called Kupata who regularly arrives to help children cross the road
— Science girl (@gunsnrosesgirl3) December 20, 2023
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