February 25th, 2022: War in Ukraine
This week, Paul Brandus shares the devastating realities of a full scale invasion of Ukraine by Putin and Russia.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is on.
And as the worst fighting in Europe since World War II rages — Vladimir Putin threatens the west — with a not-so-subtle reference to nuclear war.
I’m Paul Brandus — you’re listening to West Wing Reports— it’s Friday, February 25.
President Biden — at the White House Thursday.
The president has made good on what he said he would do — squeeze the Russian economy through a variety of sanctions. But it’s not just America — Biden emphasizes that U.S. allies in Europe and Asia are working together:
Now — one thing that Biden did NOT say publicly — is that he is considering is U-S cyberattacks on Russia — perhaps designed to disrupt Moscow’s ability to wage war.
That ability thus far — appears unimpeded — that raw sound recorded by one terrified Ukrainian family.
The Russian attacks have been widespread — coming from the north, east and south. No question, this is a full-fledged invasion — brutal and indiscriminate — as war always is. The Russians are expecting heavy casualties — they’ve brought — get this — mobile crematoriums with them — so they can get rid of their own dead troops. Britain’s defense minister calls this chilling — and says the Russians are trying to hide troop deaths from the Russian people.
Meantime, the invasion has sparked this question: Just how far will Putin go? That question was out to the Secretary-General of NATO — Jens Stoltenberg:
Of course that’s the million-dollar question — and most likely near — if not at — the top of Putin’s list are the three tiny, vulnerable Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Stalin grabbed them in 1940 and forced them into the Soviet Union. They broke away in 1991, and are now NATO countries, meaning the U.S. is obligated to defend them if attacked.
I wrote a column for Dow Jones/MarketWatch about this — here’s what I said:
Putin eyes the Baltics as a ravenous wolf might a newborn lamb. America and our NATO allies must further reinforce the Baltics immediately. We must understand that our 30-year holiday from history, which began with the Soviet collapse, is over. Defense spending must rise.
During the Cold War, the U.S. spent, on average, about 7% of GDP on defense annually. After 1991, both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton began cutting spending, and by the end of the Clinton era fell as low as 2.9% of GDP. It’s about that now, in fact.
But — there are legitimate questions about U.S. naval readiness, and the size of the fleet itself. Many of the warplanes our military flies are decades old. The B-52 bomber, for example, while upgraded with modern technology, is still an aircraft that first took to the skies during the Kennedy era. We have underinvested in defense too long, and in too many areas.
It is also believed that the U.S. has no proven defense today against high-tech Russian weapons such as hypersonic missiles. China also has them. And both Moscow and Beijing have robust cyber weapons and have not been shy about using them.
Both of these adversaries - China and Russia - also see space as a prime battleground, and a war against America could very well begin by blinding the satellites that are indispensable to our modern economy.
In short we are vulnerable.
Let me end with this. For all his blundering — his invasion of Ukraine is a colossal and massively destabilizing error — Putin’s pre-war calculations included this: He thinks that Americans are divided, and this weakens us.
On this one point, Putin is right. We are a badly divided people and it does indeed weaken us. Putin sees advantage in this. Perhaps we Americans should set aside our nasty partisan rancor and think about — that — in the dark days that surely lie ahead.
I like to end each week with a quote — something you might find thoughtful: This week: is’t from George Washington — general and later our first president:
To be prepared for war — is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.
Think about it.
That’s all for this week. Here’s my email — [email protected]
West Wing Reports is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Special thanks to CSPAN for the audio clips.
Our producer and sound designer and engineer: Noah Foutz
Executive producers: Michael D’Aleoia and Gerardo Orlando.
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