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Friday, January 21, 2022

Ukraine, Explained

If you were a foreign leader hostile to the United States — for example, sitting in Moscow or Beijing — how would you view the United States today?

You should know that over the past 20 years he has fought two largely failed wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that many Americans are not interested in waging another distant conflict with a vague link to national security.

You know that the US itself does not seem to be able to decide how strongly it is about democracy when the former president and his allies across the country imitate the game of autocrats who want to undermine the election results.

And you should know that the United States is so politically polarized that many voters and members of Congress cannot rally around the president even during a foreign crisis. Ultimately, Americans responded to the pandemic with division and anger, leading to widespread rejection of life-saving vaccines and continued chaos in schools.

With all this in mind, you may not be particularly intimidated by the United States, even though it still has the world’s largest economy, most important currency, and strongest military.

This background helps explain tensions in both Ukraine and Taiwan. In each of these, an authoritarian power is making noise about an invasion of a small nearby democracy, and the United States sternly warns of any such action. Two authoritarian powers – Russia and China – may eventually step down, at least temporarily. But their growing aggression is a sign of their willingness to challenge what their leaders see as a weakened US.

Today I will focus on Ukraine. President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday spent two hours in an intense videoconference, mostly about Ukraine. Russia recently moved troops to the Ukrainian border, raising fears of an invasion.

Putin believes that Ukraine – a country of 44 million and formerly part of the Soviet Union – should be subordinate to Russia. The two countries share a 1,200-mile border and cultural and linguistic ties (which many Ukrainians believe are exaggerated by Putin).

But instead of joining Russia, Ukraine has shifted towards the West, including the ouster of a Putin-backed leader in 2014. The current president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has spoken out against Russia’s attempts to expand its influence.

“Putin sees Ukraine becoming a de facto US and NATO military outpost,” says my colleague Michael Crowley, who is in charge of the State Department.

The accumulation of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine is a signal that Putin will consider invading if Ukraine does not retreat from the West. Russia has already annexed the Crimean peninsula of Ukraine during the 2014 military operation, although most of the world does not recognize it as Russian territory.

Foreign aggression often gives political leaders a chance to garner nationalist support at home, especially as a distraction from domestic problems. And Russia has internal problems such as rising Covid-19 cases, slow wage increases and rising prices. Opposition groups held some of the largest anti-Putin marches in recent years last year.

Putin may also fear that his influence over Ukraine is waning, both because of Zelenskiy’s resistance within Ukraine and because of Russian politics. Kadri Liik of the European Council on Foreign Relations writes:

Not all of Russia’s political establishment shares Putin’s obsession with the country or his passionate belief that Ukrainians and Russians are the same people. “Putin sees that the next generation might not care, so he decided he had to create facts for them,” said one Russian political insider. [said]…

For years, Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces have fought along the eastern border of Ukraine (another hot spot besides Crimea). Yesterday the sides were fired upon from machine guns and grenade launchers. International diplomats fear the skirmish could be a pretext for an invasion of Putin.

Nor is Russia’s tactics limited to the use of force. She waged a disinformation campaign, falsely calling the 2014 revolution a fascist coup and launched cyberattacks against Ukraine’s government, military, and security systems. This tactic is, of course, also reminiscent of Putin’s interference in the 2016 elections to aid Donald Trump’s campaign, which Russia falsely accused Ukraine of.

Read Also:  The W.H.O. names an advisory group to study the origins of the pandemic.

In a recent Atlantic magazine article, Ann Applebaum explains how Putin and his allies are also using disinformation to support a dictator in Belarus. “They seek to perpetuate and strengthen the autocratic world while undermining the democratic world,” Applebaum said in a recent interview with NPR.

Even if Russian troops do not invade, Putin could benefit from the confrontation by intimidating the United States and Western Europe and forcing them to retreat from Ukraine.

Putin has rejected multilateral diplomacy towards Ukraine, insisting on personal conversations with the United States. “He wants a Cold War-style treaty,” says Anton Troyanovsky, head of The Times’ Moscow bureau. But Putin’s demands, including the promise that NATO will end military cooperation with Ukraine, are likely too great for Biden.

Rather than a treaty, it is a constant mix of confrontation and diplomacy.

The Ukrainian army itself seems to be superior to Russia. And a full-blown US military response seems dubious, given the foreign war weariness shared by Biden and many American voters.

But Biden still has options. The US could increase its military support to Ukraine, which could make a possible invasion bloodier and more costly for Russia. (The US is pursuing a similar strategy in Taiwan.)

According to the president’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan, Biden could also threaten Russia with sanctions, as he did during a phone call with Putin yesterday. “He told President Putin bluntly that if Russia continued to invade Ukraine, the United States and our European allies would respond with decisive economic measures,” Sullivan told reporters. Biden said that if Russia did attack Ukraine, the United States would react stronger than the US takeover of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

But sanctions may not be enough to deter Putin. As Applebaum pointed out, autocracies have suffered sanctions in recent years, thanks in part to economic aid from other autocracies, including China. This is one of the realities of a world in which autocracy is on the rise.

For more: Five takeaways from the conversation between Biden and Putin.

The most popular original in Netflix history is now Red Notice, a robbery movie starring Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds. The plot is a mixture of action cliches: Johnson plays the legal strongman, Reynolds plays the jester, and Gadot plays the femme fatale, writes Beatrice Loiza in the review.

While Red Notice has a relatively small cultural footprint compared to Netflix hits such as Squid Game and Bird Box, the company’s previous most popular film, it is designed for mass circulation. It has been criticized by critics, but has taken over 328 million viewing hours since its November debut. “It is reasonable to assume that more people have watched Red Notice than any new film released this year,” writes Lucas Shaw for Bloomberg.

Of course, streaming a movie is significantly less effort than paying and getting off the couch. As Aya Romano writes in Vox, Netflix can also directly introduce huge numbers of viewers to its headlines every time they log in, without the need for a complex or traditional marketing campaign.

Infinitely adaptable, this is one version of aloo andai, a Pakistani dish made from spicy scrambled eggs and potatoes.

Five minutes to make you love the organ. And a selection of books about musical legends, including a biography of Aliya.

“I’m a girl from Oklahoma, and where I come from is Jesus Christ and there is Reba,” says actress Christine Chenoweth on country star Reba McIntyre’s profile.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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