Saturday Report 2/26/22 - Did China Punk Putin?
The Best of the Rest of the News
— Did Chinese President Xi punk Russia’s President Putin? Taiwan has been a thorn in the side of China ever since Chiang Kai-shek led his revolt to the island we call Taiwan today and established what is now one of the world’s most robust and successful democracies. President Xi has repeatedly asserted that Taiwan is still part of China and will one day reunite with that nation, so it would be quite useful for him to know how the western world will react when a large nuclear power tries to seize and occupy a democratic nation under the rubric of that nation being illegitimate. But how to find out how America, Europe and the democracies of Asia and Australia/New Zealand would react — and what weapons and tools they may employ as punishment — if he were to simply roll into Taiwan with a huge military? How about, I’m speculating Xi and his advisors may have thought, getting Russia to do the same thing with Ukraine? That would be on a par with China taking Taiwan, and would quickly reveal how reactive the West would be to such a move. Other than the fact that just a week or two ago Putin traveled to China for the Olympics and hung out with Xi, and that China has offered weak support to Russia in taking Ukraine (refused to vote against them in the UN Security Council, for example), I have no evidence for this theory (and welcome your comments below), but I can guarantee that if China didn’t set Putin up, if it was just a happy coincidence from their POV, China is watching very, very carefully to see how we and the rest of the democracies of the world react.
— When will Republicans stop supporting autocratic leaders like Putin and instead support democracy? Putin famously put his main opponent in the last election into prison (after apparently trying to poison him) and Trump has called for the same to be done to Hillary Clinton continuously for the past seven years (a work being carried on now by John Durham). Now Trump, Pompeo, the Fox primetime lineup, and Republican politicians across the country seeking to curry favor with Trump are openly praising Putin as a “genius” and a “great leader.” At the same time, having failed in their attempt to put the last Democratic candidate for president in prison, they’re doing the next best thing — putting voters in prison and making it harder and harder to vote. This sort of behavior just a decade ago would have led to expulsion from the GOP and four decades ago would have led to an investigation by the FBI; now, for the GOP, taking Putin’s side over America’s means it’s “Thursday.” How long will the Republican Party continue to embrace oligarchy and autocracy? How long will they continue to take a hammer to our elections, the foundation of democracy? Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse recently went on CNN and denounced Putin, but still favors voter suppression and thus the ongoing crippling of democracy in America. Sasse is a small crack in the GOP wall, but I’m not holding my breath that Republicans will reject autocracy and embrace democracy any day soon.
— Is President Putin the dog that caught the car? Whether he was egged on by President Xi or not, it’s clear that Putin and his military are encountering a lot more resistance to their effort to seize Ukraine and replace its government with a toady than they expected. From reports of a Russian platoon surrendering to Ukrainian forces because they don’t want to kill cousins and neighbors, to a Russian veterans organization saying their children were taken to the edge of Ukraine for military exercises and “tricked” into invading that nation, to incredible acts of heroism by Ukrainians like defying the Russian navy on Snake Island and the Ukrainian soldier who died blowing up a bridge to stop the Russian advance, to Ukraine mobilizing a small army of hackers to help out, to the Anonymous hacker collective taking down the Russian Ministry of Defense’s website and leaking their data onto the dark web, nothing seems to be working out the way Putin had expected.