Gustave Caillebotte Paris Street, Rainy Day 1884
EU ministers conference: After February 1, free travel in all of EU for every citizen who’s had a booster shot within 9 months of their second shot.
BUT: people already know the Omicron shot is supposed to come in 100 days.
Yeah, the unvaxxed occupy all hospital beds… Just not in Wales?!
The judge ruled that federal contractors nationwide are no longer subject to Biden’s vaccine mandate.
This prevents a lot of misery.
• Judge Blocks Biden’s Vaccine Mandate For Federal Contractors Nationwide (JTN)
A U.S. district court judge blocked the Biden administration on Tuesday from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on employees of government contractors across the nation. This conservative win adds to a string of losses for President Joe Biden in federal courts. Southern District of Georgia Judge R. Stan Baker ruled in favor of multiple contractors across seven states – Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. A district judge in Kentucky last week issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Biden administration from enforcing their vaccine mandate on contractors, but it only applied to three states – Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. Because one of the plaintiffs in the Georgia decision, Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., is a trade group with members across the United States, Baker’s decision applies nationwide.
Baker, a Trump appointee, wrote that the plaintiffs “will likely succeed in their claim that the President exceeded the authorization given to him by Congress” when Biden issued an executive order on Sept. 9 mandating federal contractors to receive COVID-19 vaccines. The White House announced last month that it was delaying federal contractors’ vaccine mandate deadline until January, not December as previously planned. Last week the Biden administration also pushed back its deadline requiring federal workers to be vaccinated. Federal workers now have until January to be vaccinated. A federal judge in Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction earlier this month to stop “Biden’s national vaccine mandate for healthcare workers,” Just the News reported.
“There have been zero deaths from Omicron worldwide and in countries like the UK it hasn’t even caused anyone to be hospitalized.”
• South Africa Healthcare Chief Says Omicron May Signal the End of COVID-19 (SN)
The CEO of South Africa’s largest private healthcare network says that the Omicron variant is “so mild” that it “may signal the end of COVID-19.” According to Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare Ltd., the early days of the variant suggest there is absolutely no need to panic and that it might actually be a good thing. “If in the second and third wave we’d seen these levels of positivity to tests conducted, we would have seen very significant increases in hospital admissions and we’re not seeing that. In our primary care clinics it is mainly people under 30-years-old,” he said. “So I actually think there is a silver lining here and this may signal the end of Covid-19, with it attenuating itself to such an extent that it’s highly contagious, but doesn’t cause severe disease. That’s what happened with Spanish flu.”
“We are seeing breakthrough infections of people who have been vaccinated, but the infections we’re seeing are very mild to moderate. So for health care workers who have had boosters, it’s mostly mild. I think this whole thing has been so poorly communicated and so much panic generated.” Friedland’s comments won’t be welcomed by Big Pharma, which continues to make vast profits from endless booster vaccines. Not will his remarks be amplified by the corporate media, which has enjoyed a huge boost in ratings from endless COVID fearmongering. However, the CEO’s statement correlates with what other health experts on the ground in South Africa have said about Omicron.
The doctor who first discovered the variant says the it is “mild” and hasn’t caused an uptick in hospitalizations. Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, echoed Dr. Barry Schoub’s sentiments, noting that the patients infected with omicron had “symptoms (that) were so different and so mild from those I had treated before.” There have been zero deaths from Omicron worldwide and in countries like the UK it hasn’t even caused anyone to be hospitalized.
Twitter comments: “Notably, the new Israel booster study finds highly negative VE for the first month after booster administered and only afterwards turns positive which makes overall VE low (35% for first 3 months).”
“This says vaccines not very effective for first three months, but boosters are being recommended at 3 months intervals for some. So right when they become most effective, get another one? Maybe I’m not understanding.”
• Green Pass and COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots in Israel (SSRN)
The paper describes an analysis based on data published on November 1, 2021, by the Israeli Ministry of Health (MOH) on its control dashboard about returning Israelis through the national airport. The data include the respective numbers of Vaccinated and Unvaccinated individuals and the number of positive COVID-19 cases identified in each group. These reflect the modified definitions of Vaccinated and Unvaccinated status after the Pfizer booster vaccination campaign in Israel (August-October). In particular, to maintain a Vaccinated status and specifically the “Green Pass”, individuals who received the initial 2 doses more than 6 months ago were required to receive the booster vaccine.
Israel national airport is a unique setting, where the Vaccinated and Unvaccinated individuals all have to test, which allows a more objective assessment of both the booster and Green Pass efficacy in preventing infections. The analysis suggests that the positivity rate (number of cases divided by number of tests) among the Vaccinated cohort throughout August-October is only 1.54-fold smaller than the one among the Unvaccinated cohort (about 35% relative protection). More specifically, compared to the Unvaccinated group, the Vaccinated group has a significantly higher positivity rate during the month of August, then in September it shows a 3.45-fold smaller positivity rate (71% relative protection), and this protection decreases to 2.66-fold (62% protection) during October.
The analysis suggests that the relative protection of the booster shot against infection is likely to be significantly smaller than the initial estimates of 10-11-fold (over 90%) reported by the MOH, probably around 60% at best. This also implies that the absolute number of infected individuals in the Vaccinated group is likely to be at least as high as in the Unvaccinated, raising serious concerns that the new Green Pass is inefficient in preventing infection spread, and could expose high risk individuals to risk.
Two long and detailed articles from Nature. Which leave me with the impression that they’re more sophisticated sales jobs for the vaccines.
• Beyond Omicron: What’s Next For Covid’s Viral Evolution (Nature)
Delta and its descendants now account for the vast majority of COVID-19 cases worldwide. Most researchers expected these Delta lineages to eventually outcompete the last holdouts. But Omicron has undermined those predictions. “A lot of us were expecting the next weird variant to be a child of Delta, and this is a bit of a wild card,” says Aris Katzourakis, a specialist in viral evolution at the University of Oxford, UK. Teams in Botswana and South Africa identified the variant in late November — although researchers say it is unlikely to have originated in either country — and health officials have linked it to a rapidly growing outbreak centred in South Africa’s Gauteng province. The variant harbours around 30 changes to spike, many shared with the other variants of concern, and scientists worldwide are working to gauge the threat it poses.
The swift rise in cases of Omicron in South Africa suggests that the new variant has a fitness advantage over Delta, says Tom Wenseleers, an evolutionary biologist and biostatistician at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. Omicron carries some of the mutations associated with Delta’s sky-high infectivity. But if increased infectivity were the sole reason for its rapid growth, it would translate to an R0 in the 30s, Wenseleers says. “That’s very implausible.” Instead, he and other researchers suspect that Omicron’s rise may be largely due to its ability to infect people who are immune to Delta through vaccination or previous infection.
Scientists’ portrait of Omicron is still blurry and it will take weeks before they can fully assess its properties. But if the variant is spreading, in part, because of its ability to evade immunity, it fits in with theoretical predictions about how SARS-CoV-2 is likely to evolve, says Sarah Cobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois. As gains in SARS-CoV-2’s infectivity start to slow, the virus will have to maintain its fitness through overcoming immune responses, says Cobey. For instance, if a mutation or set of mutations halved a vaccine’s ability to block transmission, this could vastly increase the number of available hosts in a population. Cobey says it’s hard to imagine that any future gains in infectivity could provide the same boost.
That evolutionary path, towards immune evasion and away from gains in infectivity, is common among established respiratory viruses such as influenza says Adam Kucharski, a mathematical epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “The easiest way for the virus to cause new epidemics is to evade immunity over time. That’s similar to what we see with the seasonal coronaviruses.”
Oh yeah, boosters!
• SARS-CoV-2 Breakthrough Infections In Vaccinated Individuals (Nature)
Vaccines against viruses work by generating immune responses that inhibit the infection process (mainly serum antibodies that bind and/or neutralize virus particles and, for mucosally applied vaccines, also mucosal secretory IgA) and by creating immune memory in the form of antigen-specific memory B cells and T cells that are primed to produce a rapid anamnestic response when the infection reintroduces the vaccine antigen into the body. These mechanisms can prevent initial proliferation of the virus or, failing that, rapidly control it, reducing the amount of virus to which the host is ultimately exposed and the duration of the exposure. While the amount of circulating antibody present following vaccination (or any antigenic stimulus) increases rapidly, on a timescale of days to weeks, it also declines rapidly from its peak on a timescale of weeks to months, and then more slowly over a time scale of decades.
The first phase reflects antibody secreted by short-lived plasmablast populations, which expand right after antigen exposure as a first line of defense. They typically die within 1–2 weeks after antigen exposure and the antibody they secreted declines based on the specific antibody half-life (approximately 21 days for IgG). The second, usually very slow, phase of decline likely reflects the kinetics of long-lived plasma cells, which migrate to the bone marrow and from there secrete antibody into the blood, often maintaining stable titres for many years. Importantly, although peripherally injected vaccines can induce low levels of IgG and monomeric IgA antibodies at the mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract (which are the main entry portal for respiratory viruses) they do not induce secretory IgA efficientl2. The small proportions of IgG and IgA that land on the mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract after intramuscular vaccination disappear relatively quickly as serum antibodies wane.
Whether a breakthrough infection occurs when a vaccinated host is exposed to an infectious person depends on whether the immune response present in that person at the moment of exposure is sufficient to abort or rapidly control the infection (Fig. 1). Given the kinetics of immune responses, it is not surprising that the amount of protection offered by a vaccine against infection might decline over time, allowing more breakthrough infections as the immune response wanes over months (as observed for influenza virus vaccines) and/or as immune memory wanes over years (as observed for mumps vaccines). Likewise, protection might increase after a breakthrough infection or after a subsequent vaccine dose, which enhances the person’s immune response. It is also unsurprising that older individuals, whose neutralizing antibody responses to COVID-19 vaccines are typically lower, appear to be at greater risk of breakthrough infections at any given time following vaccination.
Covid has exposed the WHO as a failed entity.
• WHO Europe Says Covid Vaccine Mandates Should Be ‘Last Resort’ (Y!)
The World Health Organization (WHO) in Europe on Tuesday cautioned against making Covid vaccines mandatory, while urging better protection of children among whom cases are high. Europe is battling a fierce surge in the pandemic, with the WHO registering 120,000 Covid-related deaths on the continent since November 23 when it warned of up to 500,000 more deaths by March 2022. Regional director Hans Kluge said compulsory vaccines should be “an absolute last resort and only applicable when all other feasible options to improve vaccination uptake have been exhausted”. Noting that mandates have increased vaccine uptake in some cases, Kluge said these were “context specific”, and added that the effect mandates may have on “public confidence and public trust” must also be considered.
The regional health bloc also noted that the number of cases had increased “across all age groups, with the highest rates currently observed in the five to 14 years age group.” “It is not unusual today to see two to three times higher incidence among young children than in the average population,” Kluge told a press conference. “The health risks extend beyond the children themselves,” Kluge added, noting that children risk passing the infection to parents and grandparents in the home. Improved ventilation and the use of masks should be a standard at all primary schools as part of a safe learning environment, while avoiding school closures and remote learning, the regional director said. “Vaccinating children should be discussed and considered nationally,” Kluge added.
The WHO’s European region comprises 53 countries and territories, and includes several in Central Asia. The organisation also expressed concern about rising cases of the recently discovered Omicron variant of the virus, but stressed that the fight should still be focused on the currently dominant Delta variant. “The problem now is Delta and however we succeed against Delta today is a win over Omicron tomorrow, before it eventually surges,” Kluge said. Meanwhile in Norway, where 29 cases of the Omicron variant have been confirmed, health authorities warned that the new variant would likely add to the stress on health services to a “significant degree”.
Is anybody tracking this on a broad scale?
• Vaccine-Resistant Mutations Correlate Strongly With Vaccination Rates (NIH)
The importance of understanding SARS-CoV-2 evolution cannot be overlooked. Recent studies confirm that natural selection is the dominating mechanism of SARS-CoV-2 evolution, which favors mutations that strengthen viral infectivity. Here, we demonstrate that vaccine-breakthrough or antibody-resistant mutations provide a new mechanism of viral evolution. Specifically, vaccine-resistant mutation Y449S in the spike (S) protein receptor-binding domain, which occurred in co-mutations Y449S and N501Y, has reduced infectivity compared to that of the original SARS-CoV-2 but can disrupt existing antibodies that neutralize the virus.
By tracking the evolutionary trajectories of vaccine-resistant mutations in more than 2.2 million SARS-CoV-2 genomes, we reveal that the occurrence and frequency of vaccine-resistant mutations correlate strongly with the vaccination rates in Europe and America. We anticipate that as a complementary transmission pathway, vaccine-breakthrough or antibody-resistant mutations, like those in Omicron, will become a dominating mechanism of SARS-CoV-2 evolution when most of the world’s population is either vaccinated or infected. Our study sheds light on SARS-CoV-2 evolution and transmission and enables the design of the next-generation mutation-proof vaccines and antibody drugs.
Trying to confuse natural immunity and vaccine “protection”.
• Study Shows Omicron Variant Partially Evades Vaccine’s Protection (GR)
Researchers studying the effects of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine on the Omicron variant announced on Tuesday that the variant is partially capable of evading the vaccine’s protection. The team, which has been working in South Africa since the discovery of the new variant, said that those who have recovered from Covid and are fully vaccinated, as well as those who have received a booster shot, are well protected against the variant. The team conducted tests in lab dishes with samples from a dozen people who were fully vaccinated with Pfizer’s vaccine. The results indicated that Omicron is capable of escaping the vaccine’s protection– but only partially.
“There is a very large drop in neutralization of Omicron by BNT162b2 [Pfizer/BioNTech] immunity relative to ancestral virus,” said Alex Sigal, the study’s lead author, on Twitter. Sigal works for the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban. “Omicron escape from BNT162b2 neutralization is incomplete. Previous infection + vaccination still neutralizes,” Sigal said. Sigal told CNN that these results were much better than what he and his team had expected: “I thought this news was very positive. I expected worse,” Sigal said in an interview. Many experts were expecting Omicron to almost completely bypass the protection of vaccines. “This is not a variant that has completely escaped. It certainly escapes. It is certainly bad. But it looks to me like there are ways of dealing with it.”
The study analyzed human lung cells and blood to find their results. It has yet to be peer-reviewed. “Previous infection, followed by vaccination or booster, is likely to increase the neutralization level and likely confer protection from severe disease in Omicron infection,” the study read. Some of the samples had a 41-fold reduction in neutralizing antibodies deployed against the Omicron compared to the levels of antibodies present in earlier Covid-19 variants. But Sigal said that that number is fluid and subject to change with further tests and variables, including if the person had been previously infected. The news comes as evidence is mounting that Omicron may be producing less severe infections than previous Covid-19 variants, like Delta.
On Saturday, the South African Medical Research Council published a report about an Omicron-driven outbreak in the Tshwane district in South Africa’s northern Gauteng Province, one of the first areas in the world where Omicron has overtaken Delta as the dominant strain. The researchers wrote that in the last two weeks there has been an “exponential” rise in caseloads, but significantly, the surge has not corresponded to a significant uptick in hospitalizations and deaths. “The relatively low number of COVID-19 pneumonia hospitalizations in the general, high care, and ICU wards constitutes a very different picture compared to the beginning of previous waves,” the report said, examining data from the Steve Biko and Tshwane District Hospital complex.
How does “never” sound to you? Just dump Pfizer, it’s the only way out of the pandemic.
• FDA Wants Until at Least 2096 to Fully Release Pfizer’s Vaccine Data (Siri)
A prior post explained that the FDA has asked a federal judge to make the public wait until the year 2076 to disclose all of the data and information it relied upon to license Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Literally, a 55-year delay. My firm, on behalf of PHMPT, asked that this information be disclosed in 108 days – the same amount of time it took for the FDA to review and license Pfizer’s vaccine. The Court ordered the parties to submit briefs in support of their respective positions by December 6, 2021. The FDA’s brief, incredibly, doubles down. It now effectively asks to have until at least 2096 to produce the Pfizer documents. Not a typo. A total of at least 75 years. Other than producing an initial ~12,000 pages in around two months, the FDA thereafter only wants to commit to producing 500 pages per month. The FDA also disclosed that it actually has approximately at least 451,000 pages to produce.*
Each side gets to file response briefs on December 13, 2021, and then there is oral argument on December 14, 2021 before the Judge. If you want to read the response to the FDA’s position, a copy of the introduction in the brief my firm filed is below. And below that, a downloadable copy of each side’s full briefing is available. Enjoy. And if you find what you are reading difficult to believe – that is because it is dystopian for the government to give Pfizer billions, mandate Americans to take its product, prohibit Americans from suing for harms, but yet refuse to let Americans see the data underlying its licensure. The lesson yet again is that civil and individual rights should never be contingent upon a medical procedure.
Why is all this stuff heavily redacted? Who has the right to be kept secret, and what is that based on?
• New NIH Records Reveal Information About Research Into Coronavirus (JW)
Judicial Watch announced today that it received 221 pages of records from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which include a grant application for research involving the coronavirus that was submitted in 2018. The grant application appears to describe “gain of function” research involving RNA extractions from bats, experiments on viruses, attempts to develop a chimeric virus and efforts to genetically manipulate the full-length bat SARSr-CoV WIV1 strain molecular clone. The documents were obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit for records of communications, contracts and agreements with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The lawsuit specifically requests records about National Institute of Health (NIH) grants that benefitted the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
On January 27, 2020, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) official David Morens emailed Chief of Staff Greg Folkers in a heavily redacted thread, writing: “[S]ome background on our support of the Ecohealth group (Peter Daszak et al), which has for years been among the biggest players in coronavirus work, also in collaboration with Ralph Baric, Ian Lipkin and others. [Redacted]”. NIAID has been funding Peter’s group for coronavirus work in China for the past 5 years through [grant] R011R01A|110964: “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.” That’s now been renewed, with a specific focus to identify cohorts of people highly exposed to bats in China, and work out if they’re getting sick from CoVs.… Collaborators include Wuhan Institute of Virology (currently working on the nCoV) and Ralph Baric.
The results of the work to date include: • [Redacted] • Discovered Swine Acute Diarrheal Syndrome Virus (SADS-CoV) killing >25,000 pigs in Guangdong Province (Published in Nature) • Found SARS-related CoVs that can bind to human cells (Published in Nature), and that cause SARS-like disease in humanized mouse models. • [Redacted] Also, prior to the above R01, Peter’s folks worked under an R01 with Eun-Park as Program Officer on viral discovery in bats, and originally identified SARS-CoV as having a likely origin in bats (published in Science). Folkers forwards the message to Anthony Fauci and others.
In a “Notice of Award” dated July 13, 2020, the NIH increased the amount of NIH money going to Peter Daszak’s firm, EcoHealth Alliance, by $369,819 with a project period that runs from June 1, 2014, through June 30, 2025, for Daszak’s project “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.” EcoHealth was to receive $637,980 in each of the years 2019 through 2024 under the grant.
Did they really think they could push through Marx in the US?
• Controversial Biden Banking Nominee Omarova Bows Out (JTN)
Cornell Law Professor Saule Omarova withdrew her nomination for comptroller of the currency following Senate Republicans voicing concerns about her Marxist ties. In Omarova’s withdrawal letter posted Tuesday by the White House, she wrote that while it was an honor to be nominated by President Joe Biden, “it is no longer tenable” for her to continue as a nominee and ultimately lead the agency in charge of regulating American banks. Biden responded that he accepts Omarova’s withdrawal, and says she “was subjected to inappropriate personal attacks that were far beyond the pale.” Biden described his former nominee as “a strong advocate for consumers and a staunch defender of the safety and soundness of our financial system” who would have “brought invaluable insight and perspective to our important work on behalf of the American people.”
Republicans, moderate Democrats and banking industry officials disagreed with Biden’s nomination. Omarova, a Kazakh native educated in the USSR, was under scrutiny for a history of leftist statements, as previously reported by Just the News. In 2019, she tweeted, “Until I came to the US, I couldn’t imagine that things like gender pay gap still existed in today’s world. Say what you will about old USSR, there was no gender pay gap there. Market doesn’t always ‘know best.'” A video surfaced earlier this year of the Moscow State University alumna cheering for oil and gas companies to go bankrupt. Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) responded by calling on Biden to withdrawal Omarova’s nomination. As recently as October of this year, a paper by Omarova was published titled, “The People’s Ledger: How to Democratize Money and Finance the Economy.”
The professor called for “replacing commercial bank reserve accounts with universally available deposit accounts” so “all U.S. citizens and law-abiding citizens and lawful residents, local governments, nonbanking firms and nonbusiness entities” can bank at the Federal Reserve. Her proposed plan would have the Federal Reserve take money from these accounts when “it is necessary to expand the money supply in order to stimulate economic activity.” Her thesis at Moscow State University was “Karl Marx’s Economic Analysis and the Theory of Revolution in The Capital,” but she declined to provide it to the Senate Banking Committee to review.
No word on what is in the deal. Over a quarter of a trillion dollars.
• Apple Signed Secret $275 Billion Deal With Chinese Government (ZH)
Investors and journalists have been openly questioning whether Apple CEO Tim Cook, once praised for his deep-rooted connections within the CCP, has allowed his relationships in China to sour as the US has stepped up criticisms over human rights – treatment of the Uyghers in Xinjiang and elsewhere – and Taiwan. These ties have grown intensely controversial, eliciting criticism from lawmakers, rivals and even the company’s own employees. And just as the SEC prepares to boot dozens of Chinese companies off of US stock exchanges for refusing to comply with US audit standards (something the CCP has expressly forbidden under the auspices of data privacy), reporters with the Information have just published a bombshell: At some point in the not-too-distant past, Cook struck a $275 billion deal with the Chinese government while facing pressure from the CCP.
The deal emerged after a series of meetings between Cook and Chinese officials back in 2016. China is Apple’s second-biggest market after the US, and has long been targeted as a critical market for growth. Apple’s iPhones have seen growing popularity despite rising tensions with the US. This year, Apple became the second-biggest smartphone maker in China. The deal, which was forged over the span of years, represents a five-year plan, according to documents from inside Apple that have been seen by the Information. Whether talks on another five-year plan are in the works isn’t yet clear.
The fact that Apple never disclosed this deal to the US – it’s only just now being publicied – will likely trigger an angry response from lawmakers, who are bound to question Apple’s loyalty to the US, along with whether it prioritized profits and growth over respecting human rights (so much for all that climate virtue signaling). Before the deal was struck, documents show, Apple executives were scrambling to salvage their relationship with Chinese officials, who had accused Apple of not contributing enough to the local economy. Amid the government crackdown and the bad publicity that accompanied it, iPhone sales plummeted, though they have since bounced back.
Yesh, just try and put US missiles on Ukraine soil. Buchanan’s view is from the Cold War.
• Putin To Biden: ‘Finlandize’ Ukraine, Or We Will (Pat Buchanan)
Either the U.S. and NATO provide us with “legal guarantees” that Ukraine will never join NATO or become a base for weapons that can threaten Russia — or we will go in and guarantee it ourselves. This is the message Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending, backed by the 100,000 troops Russia has amassed on Ukraine’s borders. At the Kremlin last week, Putin drew his red line: “The threat on our western borders is … rising, as we have said multiple times. … In our dialogue with the United States and its allies, we will insist on developing concrete agreements prohibiting any further eastward expansion of NATO and the placement there of weapons systems in the immediate vicinity of Russian territory.” That comes close to an ultimatum. And NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg backhanded the President of Russia for issuing it:
“It’s only Ukraine and 30 NATO allies that decide when Ukraine is ready to join NATO. … Russia has no veto, Russia has no say, and Russia has no right to establish a sphere of influence trying to control their neighbors.” Yet, great powers have always established spheres of influence. Chinese President Xi Jinping claims virtually the entire South China Sea that is bordered by half a dozen nations. For 200 years, the United States has declared a Monroe Doctrine that puts our hemisphere off-limits to new colonizations. Moreover, Putin wants to speak to the real decider of the question as to whether Ukraine joins NATO or receives weapons that can threaten Russia. And the decider is not Jens Stoltenberg but President Joe Biden.
In the missile crisis of 60 years ago, the U.S., with its “quarantine” of Cuba and strategic and tactical superiority in the Caribbean, forced Nikita Khrushchev to pull his intermediate-range ballistic missiles, which could reach Washington, off of Fidel Castro’s island. If it did not do so, Moscow was led to understand, we would use our air and naval supremacy to destroy his missiles and send in the Marines to finish the job. Accepting a counteroffer for the U.S. withdrawal of Jupiter missiles from Turkey, Khrushchev complied with President John F. Kennedy’s demand. Russia’s missiles came out. And Kennedy was seen as having won a Cold War victory. Now it is we who are being told to comply with Russia’s demands in Ukraine, or Russia will go in to Ukraine and neutralize the threat itself.
When the Warsaw Pact collapsed and the USSR came apart three decades ago, Russia withdrew all of its military forces from Central and Eastern Europe. Moscow believed it had an agreed-upon understanding with the Americans. Under the deal, the two Germanys would be reunited. Russian troops would be removed from East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. And there would be no NATO expansion into Eastern Europe. If America made that commitment, it was a promise broken. For, within 20 years, NATO had brought every Warsaw Pact nation into the alliance along with the former Soviet republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Neocons and Republican hawks such as the late John McCain sought to bring Ukraine and two other ex-Soviet republics, Georgia and Moldova, into NATO.
Putin, who served in the KGB in the late Soviet era and calls the breakup of the USSR the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century, is now saying: Enough is enough. Translation: “Thus far and no further! Ukraine is not going to be a member of NATO or a military ally and partner of the United States, nor a base for weapons that can strike Russia in minutes. For us, that crosses a red line. And if NATO proceeds with arming Ukraine for conflict with Russia, we reserve the right to act first. Finlandize Ukraine, or we will!”
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