War against Ukraine’s sovereignty by Russia and pro-Russian separatists

Questions for Bill Barr about His Cover-Ups Pertaining to Ukraine and Russia, Starting with: Who Withdrew the Red Notice for Yevgeniy Prigozhin?

Billy Barr’s effort to launder his reputation with a book tour has started, kicked off with a supine WSJ review that includes just one “some said” clause treating as debatable the provably false claims he made in his book about intervening to eliminate all consequences for Trump’s top associates for lying to cover up their interactions with Russia during the 2016 election.

During much of Mr. Barr’s time in the Trump administration, some said he protected the president at the expense of the Justice Department’s independence, especially over his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Barr issued his own summary of Mr. Mueller’s investigative report depicting the results in a way that Mr. Mueller and others described as misleading or overly favorable to Mr. Trump. He also worked in the ensuing months to undermine some of the prosecutions spawned by the Mueller investigation. An example was his decision to drop the criminal case against Michael Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser.

Mr. Barr has said that he intervened to correct what he saw as overreach by the prosecutors and flaws in the department’s approach to those cases, a stance he maintains in his book.

Barr’s book tour happens at the same time, the Times reports, as 400 Wagner mercenaries sent by Putin to Kyiv are trying to hunt down the elected President of Ukraine.

More than 400 Russian mercenaries are operating in Kyiv with orders from the Kremlin to assassinate President Zelensky and his government and prepare the ground for Moscow to take control, The Times has learnt.

The Wagner Group, a private militia run by one of President Putin’s closest allies and operating as an arm-length branch of the state, flew in mercenaries from Africa five weeks ago on a mission to decapitate Zelensky’s government in return for a handsome financial bonus.

Information about their mission reached the Ukrainian government on Saturday morning and hours later Kyiv declared a 36-hour “hard” curfew to sweep the city for Russian saboteurs, warning civilians that they would be seen as Kremlin agents and risked being “liquidated” if they stepped outside.

This makes me wonder whether Viktor Medvedchuk — the guy Putin would like to install as a puppet — had help escaping from house arrest.

People’s deputy from the Opposition Platform – Pri Life party, Putin’s godfather Viktor Medvedchuk, escaped from arrest.

Source : information from the ZN.UA edition , obtained from the Office of the Prosecutor General, Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko

Details : According to sources, on February 26, the Prosecutor General’s Office instructed the National Police to check the presence of Medvedchuk at the address where he is under house arrest.

The National Police fulfilled the order: Medvedchuk was not at the scene.

The coincidence of Putin’s invasion with Barr’s attempt to launder his reputation led me to put together a partial list of questions Barr should be asked (hopefully by Lester Holt) as he attempts to pretend he didn’t pervert justice — in part — to protect Trump from his attempt to extort Ukraine. For example:

  • Why didn’t Barr recuse himself from the review of the whistleblower complaint against Trump given that Trump told Zelenskyy Barr would contact him during the Perfect Phone Call? (This post provides more details of how Barr’s DOJ mishandled that referral.)
  • Why did Barr only refer the transcript of the call, and not the entire whistleblower complaint, the latter of which would have led Public Integrity to see the tie between Trump’s call and Rudy’s successful effort to get Maria Yovanovich fired (for which Rudy remains under active investigation)?
  • Why did OLC, first, write a memo refusing to share the whistleblower complaint and, once they did, overclassify passages of the call to hide Barr’s own role?
  • Why did Barr personally warn Rupert Murdoch before Sean Hannity got on a plane to fly to Vienna as part of Rudy’s grift?
  • Why did Barr try to fire Geoffrey Berman at a time it was investigating Rudy Giuliani’s role in all this?
  • Why did Barr ask one of his most politicized US Attorneys, Scott Brady, to serve as an intake point for Russian disinformation from Andrii Derkach?
  • Why did Barr separate the investigation into Derkach from the one in which Rudy, who met with Derkach after he had been IDed as a Russian agent, was already under investigation?

Had Barr not intervened in all these ways, the US would have been better able to protect its own democracy from Trump (and Giuliani’s) attempt to corrupt Ukraine’s democracy. Instead, Ukraine is schooling America about what it takes to defend democracy.

But given the assassins hunting down Zelenskyy even as Barr attempts to launder his reputation, there’s perhaps a more urgent question. Why did Bill Barr’s DOJ let the Red Notice for Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s arrest drop in September 2020?

In March 2020, DOJ dismissed the case against two of Prigozhin’s companies that had interfered in the 2016 election, but not Prigozhin himself. As I wrote, the decision was not as suspect as some of Barr’s other interventions in Mueller prosecutions (though it happened at the same time). Because Prigozhin’s corporate persons, but not his biological person, showed up to contest the charges, the Prigozhin defense became substantially an effort to learn FBI’s sources and methods. A Dabney Friedrich decision on the protective order exacerbated that, and another required DOJ to start naming US persons affected. Dropping the case against two corporate persons was not, itself, suspect. DOJ did not drop the case against Prigozhin or his trolls.

Even though the charges against the biological person Prigozhin had not been dropped, in September 2020, Interpol removed Prigozhin from the list of those who could be arrested, citing the dismissal against his corporate persons. This allowed Prigozhin to make several trips to jurisdictions, including Germany, from which he could have been extradited.

It’s certainly possible Billy Barr had no role in this decision and that DOJ tried to point out that, in fact, the charges against Prigozhin remained (and still remain). But given that he gave a screed that seemed to attack the prosecution as a whole at the time, perhaps DOJ affirmatively let Prigozhin slide.

But as his book tour takes place against the backdrop of assassins hunting for Zelenskyy, it seems like a good time to ask him if he did intervene to let the owner of Putin’s paid killers travel free from any risk of direct legal consequences for his intervention in America’s own democracy.

Three Things: The C C D of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

[NB: check the byline as usual, thanks./~Rayne]

This is an opinion piece, no reporting, simply some thoughts which Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have spawned.

It also offers fresh thread space since comments are getting deep below some of the previous threads.

~ 3 ~

Colonialism is alive although not necessarily well, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrates.

When persons of color talk about decolonialism it’s frequently in the context of anti-racism — making a concerted effort to unwind domination and occupation of people, place, and culture which have been suppressed and oppressed by white supremacy and white nationalism.

It’s the reawakening of culture and consciousness like indigenous language and thinking in those places where they have lived and where their people first arose.

Because racism is so often tightly wound with colonialism, it’s easy for white people to believe this is unrelated to them, or worse, reject it as “woke-ism.”

The invasion of Ukraine reminds white people colonialism is ongoing and very much affects people who look like them. It underpins the tensions between Britain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. It’s part of the conflict between People’s Republic of China and Xinjiang Province, Taiwan, and Hong Kong where different minority ethnic groups have long existed apart from the Han majority in China. It’s at the heart of Israel’s domination and apartheid of Palestine; it still affects entire continents including Africa and South America.

After dizzying waves of political and cultural slicing and dicing across several millennia, Ukraine had its own identity as a sovereign state beginning in the mid-1700s but for a handful of years when it was resorbed into the Russian empire. When the USSR collapsed in 1991, Ukraine emerged again as an autonomous sovereign state. It has since then struggled against various forms of incursion by Russia to maintain its sovereignty while working to establish its autonomous cultural identity (ex. Kyiv not Kiev).

In 2013 Ukraine chose to align itself more fully with Europe, exercising its collective human right of self-determination — a rejection of colonization by any other nation-state. Unfortunately its pro-Russian president obstructed this choice setting off the Euromaidan protests and the Maidan revolution, which in turn may have led to Russia’s incursion and occupation of eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

What we are watching now is the continued effort by Russia’s Putin to destroy Ukraine’s sovereignty and restore its previous identity as a subset of Russia — a colonial force seeking to re-colonize a former colony. It is more than re-colonization, though; it’s an expressed intent to erase people on an individual and national level. A pogrom.

It wouldn’t hurt to pay more attention to how people of color view Russia’s colonialist efforts for this reason. You might try following Terrell Jermaine Starr (https://twitter.com/terrelljstarr) who is currently reporting from Ukraine and Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon (https://twitter.com/ksvarnon) who has been studying Ukraine.

It’s equally important to reexamine unconscious colonial bias while our heads have been opened to decolonization. Like the words used to explain the Russian invasion compared to other ongoing colonization.

As if the US hadn’t installed a colonial occupation in Iraq during the Bush administration. As if Iraq wasn’t already a civilized nation before the US invasion in 2003. As if Afghanistan hasn’t been occupied by Russia and then the US in our lifetime.

~ 2 ~

Consent is a core component of democracy, autonomy, and sovereignty.

Watch who across the right-wing in the US supports Putin’s invasion. If you look through the lens of respect for affirmative consent, it’s no surprise at all which right-wing extremists support Putin.

They don’t support consent by anyone who isn’t part of their immediate in-group, either.

Which persons reject the autonomy and agency of women and LGBTQ+ people over their own bodies?

Which persons reject the sovereignty of indigenous peoples’ lands, or the true history of colonized and occupied people?

Which persons reject the civil rights of non-whites and others marginalized, including the voting rights of non-whites who elected Joe Biden as president?

The same people who also support Putin’s invasion have no qualms about rejecting the human rights of Ukrainians. They generally have a problem with democracy here or elsewhere, which relies on the consent of the people.

~ 1 ~

DARVO isn’t merely a behavior exhibited by abusive individuals but colonialists and fascists. Stripped to its barest form it’s victim blaming: they made me do it, they were asking for it, so on, while denying responsibility for the abuse.

If you’re familiar with abusive relationships particularly with narcissists, you recognize the behavior. We saw it throughout Trump’s campaign and administration.

A framework developed by psychologist Jennifer Freyd, DARVO means “deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender,” a defensive mechanism used by abusive persons when confronted with their actions.

We saw this with Trump when he accused his rape victim E. Jean Carroll directly and through spokespersons of lying about the attack and attempting to profit off her lawsuit against Trump for defamation, making himself out to be a victim of an opportunist instead of a serial sexual abuser.

Trump scaled up DARVO frequently; one particular attack used repeatedly has been the claim he’s been spied on by Democrats and the previous Obama administration. We all know know that these claims were outright fallacious, while intended to redirect attention from spying done for his benefit like the hacking of the DNC servers in 2016, and yet more redirection from whatever he was doing with classified and top secret material during and after his administration.

Nearly all the GOP and its white evangelical base have employed DARVO by claiming victimhood though it exists in a majority white country with a majority white government established to protect white supremacy and nationalism with preference for Christian fundamentalism.

At scale when aimed at a population, DARVO is a confluence of different propaganda techniques melding the Big Lie and tu quoque fallacy using virtue words and smears to gaslight the population into believing the perpetrator over anyone trying to hold them to account.

This is what Putin has done and is doing with Ukraine; he’s an abusive leader claiming a false victimhood to defend his attack on a sovereign neighbor.

From The Hindu:

Unfazed by tough Western sanctions, President Vladimir Putin said on February 24 that he decided to launch a “special military operation” aimed at the “demilitarisation and denazification” of Ukraine and also bring to justice those who committed numerous crimes against peaceful people, including Russian nationals.

“People’s republics of Donbass approached Russia with a request for help. In connection therewith, I made the decision to hold a special military operation,” Mr. Putin said in a special television address.

He said the goal of the military operation is to “protect the people that are subjected to abuse, genocide from the Kiev regime for eight years, and to this end we will seek to demilitarise and denazify Ukraine and put to justice those that committed numerous bloody crimes against peaceful people, including Russian nationals”. Justice and truth are on Russia’s side, Mr. Putin was quoted as saying by state-run TASS news agency.

We can imagine what Russian state media has been reporting about Ukraine based on this tissue of lies used to create a casus belli.

Julia Ioffe explains what Putin has done but ultimately it’s propaganda.

If anyone was to ask Putin if he is using manufactured excuses for war, he’d deny it.

He’d claim the Ukrainian government is at fault and has started this war.

He’d reverse the victim again as he has already, claiming Russians and Ukraine’s Russian nationals.

He’d claim these false victims have been damaged by Ukraine’s current government.

Deny, attack, reverse victim and offender.

It’s not the first time Putin’s done this and gotten away with it. He may have done this about the 1999 Russian apartment bombings in order to boost his political profile and get himself elected; reporting on this may have been the reason behind Alexander Litvinenko‘s assassination.

What more self-victimization can we expect from Putin as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues?

~ 0 ~

No matter how long this invasion lasts, no matter the costs wreaked by either side, no matter the amount of ginned-up rationalizations for the violence unleashed on Ukraine, Putin has already lost to this man.

I hope he lives to see the last Russian invader leave his country.

How Not to Lose a World War between Authoritarianism and Democracy, Two

My last thread on how not to lose a World War between authoritarianism and democracy got really long and I’m overdue for an update. Same rules, new developments.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has provided masterful leadership since Russia invaded. This morning, Ukraine let it be known that when the US offered him safe passage out of the country, he responded, “I need ammunition, I don’t need a ride.”

Not only will this bolster Ukrainians fighting for their country, but it will make it clear that Zelenskyy is not a mere pawn of the US.


Last night, a joint US-Albanian motion to condemn Russia’s invasion failed in the UN Security Council with a Russian veto. Russia holds the presidency right now, so Ukraine’s ambassador and others criticized Russia’s involvement in presiding over the vote.

Importantly, however, China abstained. While China is still protected Russia in its invasion, the abstention vote suggests Russia hasn’t been able to persuade China that it had created enough legitimacy for its invasion.

Ukraine’s ambassador suggested that one day the Russian people might be liberated too.


Over the course of the last day, Europe led the US in imposing sanctions in Putin and Sergei Lavrov personally.

Most major oligarchs still escape sanctions (in part because they’ve obtained residency in Western countries). But minutes ago, Roman Abramovich announced he’s stepping back from management of Chelsea football.


Over the course of the day, the last remaining hold outs on limiting Russia’s access to SWIFT have come on board. So in a few days, Russia will be further removed from the world economy.

Symbolically, Germany just announced they’re sending arms to Ukraine, regarding the invasion of Ukraine as a threat to the post-war order.

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a statement. “It threatens our entire post-war order. In this situation, it is our duty to do our utmost to support Ukraine in defending itself against Vladimir Putin’s invading army. Germany stands closely by Ukraine’s side.”

Update: Ursula von der Leyen has just made the SWIFT removal official.

First, we commit to ensuring that a certain number of Russian banks are removed from SWIFT. It will stop them from operating worldwide and effectively block Russian exports and imports.

Also, the EU has collectively closed their airspace to Russian planes.


Largely thanks to Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s leadership and courage, the support of western public around the world have joined in supporting Ukraine.


The biggest developments in the last day, however, come in increased volatility for Russia. Prominent Russians continue to condemn the war. Russia has had nowhere near the success in Ukraine they expected and the delay has given time for a resistance to form. European nations have committed to send more weapons to Ukraine. Ukraine just rolled out a website where Russian mothers can check to see if their sons have been killed or captured in Ukraine.

In addition to protests in Russia and all over the world, a particularly big protest in Georgia must seriously concern Putin. Kazakhstan also reportedly refused to send troops to Ukraine.

Russia has been really ratcheting up the propaganda and censoring both formal media outlets and social media, in an attempt to prevent Russians from learning how things are really going in Ukraine. But Ukraine has had some successes in hacking through these media defenses.

How Not to Lose a World War between Authoritarianism and Democracy

Joe Biden just announced a second round of sanctions retaliating against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. To understand what he said, it helps to think of the challenge facing Biden: how to avoid losing a World War between authoritarianism and democracy.

Vladimir Putin not only wants to reassert a Russian empire, he wants to do so as a dictator. This is about far more than preventing a democratic Ukraine on his border. Rather, he has been working to discredit the liberal order — both its real hypocrisy, and its claim to work better than authoritarianism — for decades. To do so, he needs to break up US hegemony, split the western alliance, and hopefully, dismantle democracy in the United States. He needs to do so while sustaining his own rock solid hold on power in Russia.

As noted, I think he believed he would have easier early success than he had. I think he believed he could peel off allies (on top of Hungary) within both NATO and Europe, as well politicians and the public within alliance countries. I’m sure he still believes he can use gas supplies and inflation as a weapon to chip away at democracy over time. But thus far, I believe that Biden’s success at undercutting Russia’s efforts to create a casus belli and his ability to achieve some unity thus far made Putin’s gambit far riskier.

Biden emphasized his success in making it clear that Russia was the unjustified aggressor that at the beginning of his presser.

So here’s how to think of Biden’s presser as an effort to not lose a world war between authoritarianism versus democracy.

1. Don’t let it become a world war between authoritarianism versus democracy

As Russia launched its attack last night/this morning, China clearly didn’t know what the party line was yet.

Statements this morning seemed to indicate fairly broad support for Russia’s efforts, with China’s foreign minister expressing support for “Russia’s legitimate concerns on security issues.” Later in the day, while still refusing to call Russia’s attack an invasion, China’s Deputy Foreign Minister declared that, “China is closely following the development of the situation. What you are seeing today is not what we have wished to see,” Hua [Chunying] said. “We hope all parties can go back to dialogue and negotiation.”

China is going to — and clearly had already committed to — help Russia mitigate the economic impact of the response to its action. China shares Russia’s belief it should be able to impose military domination over its sphere of influence (in their case, Taiwan and the South China Sea).

But China has far more to lose from an economic crash and a total split of the world than Russia.

Biden’s not going to persuade China to help isolate Russia. But if he can prevent China from fully backing Russia, he will stave off the worst possible outcome: a world war pitting authoritarianism against democracy.

When he was asked if China would back sanctions on Russia, Biden could have said, “no,” because I’m sure they’re not doing so. But by stating that, he would have incited cries to crack down on China, which is the last thing the US wants right now.

He didn’t answer because it’s not the right question to ask.

Update: The NYT reports on the unsuccessful US effort to get China to stave off this war. It will be interesting to see if China felt they were misled by Putin.

Over three months, senior Biden administration officials held half a dozen urgent meetings with top Chinese officials in which the Americans presented intelligence showing Russia’s troop buildup around Ukraine and beseeched the Chinese to tell Russia not to invade, according to U.S. officials.

Each time, the Chinese officials, including the foreign minister and the ambassador to the United States, rebuffed the Americans, saying they did not think an invasion was in the works. After one diplomatic exchange in December, U.S. officials got intelligence showing Beijing had shared the information with Moscow, telling the Russians that the United States was trying to sow discord — and that China would not try to impede Russian plans and actions, the officials said.

2. Retain the tools of hegemonic power

The US has gotten far weaker in the last two decades. But it still retains the tools of global financial hegemony, which is what it uses to impose its will, and which Russia has been aggressively targeting since at least 2006. Russia made exposing America’s abuses of its access to the SWIFT financial messaging system a priority in its efforts to delegitimize US power, most notably with Shadow Brokers releases but also, to the extent it could control such things, the Snowden leaks. And since 2014, Russia and China have put the framework in place to roll out their own financial messaging system to bypass SWIFT.

That system would not replace SWIFT anytime soon. But if it were up and running it could provide an alternative to SWIFT for toxic regimes, undercutting America’s ability to use SWIFT to make human rights demands.

I suspect that’s one of many reasons why Biden did not announce SWIFT sanctions yet. He claimed (and I’ve seen experts on Iran sanctions say the same) that the other bank sanctions (in part, limiting Russia’s ability to bank in Dollars, Pounds, Euros, and Yens) he imposed are just as strong. But one reason to impose financial sanctions via US and UK banking systems rather than SWIFT is because US and UK banking systems remain a lot more irreplaceable right now than SWIFT.

3. Don’t antagonize your allies

The bigger reason why Biden didn’t kick Russia out of SWIFT yet is because key allies — Italy, Germany, and Cyprus — aren’t willing to do that yet. Part of this has to do with buying Russian natural gas. Part of it has to do with their trade with Russia.

All three countries have lagged other allies but are coming around (and as noted in this post, a new coalition government in Germany is still getting its feet wet).

So in the meantime, the US and UK can accomplish much of the same goals by expelling Russia from their own financial systems.

In the meantime, Finland and Sweden look much closer to joining NATO than they ever have before (and will attend a NATO summit tomorrow). In other words, Putin’s insanity may lead to the expansion of NATO, not its fracture.

4. Keep the public happy

Underlying the SWIFT decision and others, of course, is minimizing the impact of inflation, especially spiking gas prices.

Europe is not prepared to forgo Russian gas yet, and won’t be until temperatures get far warmer (and fall-back measures involving gas from Qatar and other sources have been proven).

The need to mitigate the impact of this war on consumers is something democracies have to deal with and why Putin thinks authoritarian government is better! But it’s a key reason why European countries cannot entire isolate Russia, at least not yet.

Update: See Adam Tooze on the exceptions to the sanctions that largely undercut them.

5. Increase Putin’s volatility

When Putin first planned this (as I keep saying) I imagine he thought it’d be easy to manufacture a casus belli that would make it easier to achieve his goals both domestically and internationally.

That failed.

That will make it far easier to isolate Putin internationally.

It will raise the cost of the operation, which seems to have contributed to real apprehensions among Putin’s closest advisors (both his intelligence chiefs and some of the Oligarchs, and even some military officials).

It has also led a significant number of Russians to protest, an unbelievably courageous step. Thousands of Russians have already been arrested, yet more are coming out to protest the invasion.

Perhaps Putin believed he would be hailed as a hero, like he was when he annexed Crimea. Instead, cousins are being sent to kill cousins and a brave handful of Russians are objecting to the barbaric act Russia has taken on.

As it happened, Biden announced a ton of sanctions on Russia’s top banks and some of Putin’s top flunkies. But not on Putin himself. He simply didn’t answer a question about whether the US was doing that.

I’m not entirely sure why that’s the case. Partly, Putin’s wealth is a lot harder to pin down (and some is held by others, who may have been sanctioned).

Whatever the reason, though, the very best kind of political pressure one can put on Putin is via his Oligarchs. Without their consent, his own power would be far more tenuous.

So while I doubt that’s the reason the US sanctioned a bunch of oligarchs but not Putin, it might have the effect of exacerbating whatever discomfort his closest allies have with this action.

Vladimir Putin prefers authoritarianism because its easier to coerce legitimacy than negotiating it. That’s true. It would be far easier if Biden could order China to stay out, if Biden could order Germany to buy off on greater financial sanctions, if Biden could ignore right wing efforts to use financial stress to undermine his Administration.

He can’t. That’s what makes defending democracy all that more difficult. That’s why the sanctions weren’t what the public expected.

Remarkably, however, Biden has done a better job at persuading allies than Putin has at coercing them.

Ukraine Defends Democracy

I happened to wake up at 3AM my time just as Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

The last thread has gotten long and I’m mostly doom-scrolling like the rest of you, so I thought I’d put up some links.

As the invasion was rolling out, President Zelenskyy made a speech, partially in Russian, appealing to the Russian people to stop this attack.

I would like to address the citizens of Russia directly, not as president, but as a citizen of Ukraine, and I address the citizens of Russia as I would the citizens of Ukraine. We share a more than 2000 kilometer border. Your soldiers are stationed all along it, almost two hundred thousand soldiers, and thousands of military vehicles. Your leaders have chosen for them to take a step forward and into the territory of another country. And that single step could be the beginning of a great war on the European continent.

The whole world speaks of what could happen day to day. A cause for war could arise at any moment. Any provocation, any incident, could be the flare of a fire that burns everything.

You have been told that this flame will bring liberation to Ukraine’s people. But the Ukrainian people are free. They remember their own past and will build their own future. They build, they do not destroy, as they themselves have told you day after day on television. The Ukraine in your news and the Ukraine of real life are two entirely different places, and the difference is that the latter is real.

Zelenskyy then said the Ukrainian government would give weapons to anyone wanting to help defend the country.

As the invasion was just beginning, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN raised whether the Russian Federation was ever legally given USSR’s seat on the security council. Then he basically told Russia’s Ambassador to go to hell. “There is no purgatory for war criminals, they go straight to hell ambassador”

Thus far, Republican members of Congress have been far more critical of Putin’s invasion than Tucker and Trump. At least until his next golf outing, that includes key Trump ally Lindsey Graham.

Again, it’s possible that Putin’s invasion will lead to greater solidarity among Europe, NATO, and the US than the division he surely counted on. In fact, both Finland and Sweden will attend an emergency NATO summit tomorrow. Czech President, Miloš Zeman, until days ago viewed as unreasonably friendly to Putin, has called to isolate him.

Another key player will be Erdogan. Shortly before this invasion, Turkey and Ukraine signed a trade pact. Ukraine has asked Turkey to halt warships from transiting the Bosphorous.

Ireland, another neutral country, is backing EU sanctions, which is non-negligible given Russian business presence in Dublin.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has come out with a fairly supportive statement about Russia’s invasion. If Putin can’t keep China on board this invasion would become unsustainable, but thus far he has a green light.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is in Moscow, meeting with Putin today. Putin appears to be trying to put together a BRICS type block against democracy (with Pakistan included).

Within Russia, some celebrities and journalists have already gone on record opposing the attack. Authorities are arresting those who dissent, including Marina Litvinovich after she called for protests.

Zelenskyy just tweeted that Russian occupying forces are trying to seize Chernobyl.


The Paulie Plot in Ukraine

Last weekend, the UK formally released an intelligence assessment that part of Russia’s plans in Ukraine involve a plot to replace Volodymyr Zelenskyy with a pro-Kremlin functionary.

The NYT version of the story noted that the four people named in the alleged plot all have ties to Paul Manafort.

All four of the other Ukrainians named in the communiqué once held senior positions in the Ukrainian government and worked in proximity to Paul Manafort, former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign manager, when he worked as a political adviser to Ukraine’s former Russian-backed president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. After Mr. Yanukovych’s government fell in 2014, they fled to Russia.

It also claimed that, because of a division of labor within the Five Eyes, this intelligence came from the UK.

In Washington, officials said they believe the British intelligence is correct. Two officials said it had been collected by British intelligence services. Within the informal intelligence alliance known as “Five Eyes,” Britain has primary responsibility for intercepting Russian communications, which is why it played a major role in exposing Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

I noted that you might make such a claim if the collection point (reflected in the Manafort tie) were not a legal NSA target to the US.

Indeed, NBC’s Ken Dilanian explained (but did not include in his story) that this was US intelligence announced by the UK.

It would make sense that this kind of intelligence came from the US — though if it did, it might well come from the FBI, not NSA.

When Manafort traded campaign strategy to Russia for relief from his debt to Oleg Deripaska on August 2, 2016, his cooperation in a series of similar efforts to install a Russian functionary to head Ukraine was part of the deal. Citing numerous documents obtained from Manafort’s devices, Mueller made public Manafort’s participation in the effort through the time he went to jail in 2018.

We can be certain that FBI has continued its investigation of such issues. We can be sure of that because we know (in part from Treasury’s increasing focus on Kilimnik) that FBI has developed a better understanding of Konstantin Kilimnik’s role in both 2016 and his ongoing efforts to undermine US democracy in 2020. We know that because DOJ continues to protect large swaths of  Mueller’s files on Kilimnik’s other American partner, Sam Patten, which significantly focused on who was who in Ukraine and the various tools Russia used to manage the country via client politicians. The same is true of Rick Gates’ interviews. But we also know that, thanks in part to Trump’s continued ties to anti-democratic efforts in Ukraine, the FBI has continued to investigate what has been going on in Ukraine. Not only has EDNY conducted an investigation into Andrii Derkach, but Special Master Barbara Jones just handed over a bunch of Rudy Giuliani’s communications involving such issues to the FBI.

One thing we learned from all those investigations was that Paul Manafort was the guy Oleg Deripaska had employed, for years, to use the tools of modern campaigning, leavened by a great deal of corruption, to install puppet governments who would cater to Deripaska’s business interests. In 2016, Russia deployed Manafort to the United States to do the same thing in the US.

With the distance of almost six years, it may be safe to say that Russia succeeded in their 2016 attempt to interfere in the US election not so much from a failure of US intelligence collection in Russia (after all, the FBI warned the DNC it was being hacked in real time). It was — in addition to a misunderstanding of the WikiLeaks operation — a failure of US intelligence collection in Ukraine, whence the human side of the operation was significantly launched. The US has dedicated a good deal of energy to addressing that failure in recent years, though Russia continued to use Ukraine as a platform from which to undermine US democracy through the 2020 election.

Ukraine was then, as now, the test ground for Russia’s larger efforts to either subject “democracy” to the whims of kleptocracy or discredit democracy beyond the ability to govern. Among the things Russia tested on that ground was the 2017 NotPetya attack, which did devastating damage to a slew of companies who did nothing more than do business with Ukraine; I would be surprised if Putin hadn’t at least entertained similar efforts in the months ahead.

Before 2016, the US had the hubris to believe its own democracy was immune from such efforts (and that its tolerance for money laundering would not, in fact, foster kleptocracies on the other side of the world that could damage the US in turn).

Amid debates about how (or whether) the US should respond to Russia’s aggression, some have raised real questions whether, in the wake of January 6, the US has any place lecturing Ukraine about its democracy and whether the US wouldn’t be better, instead, putting its own house in order. It’s a fair question. But it misunderstands how 2016 led directly to January 6. It also misunderstands Russia’s project in Ukraine and beyond, which is of a piece with its earlier attack on  American democracy.

We may not have a NATO commitment to defend Ukraine from Russia’s assault (though we do have a NATO commitment to defend NATO allies that Russia has likewise threatened). But we’ve recently seen that attacks on Ukraine are just the prototype for larger attacks elsewhere.

Update: Both Jonathan Swan and Jonathan Weisman have pieces out today attempting to explain why Tucker Carlson and Marjorie Greene Taylor are rooting for Putin in his aggression against Ukraine that don’t mention that Putin helped get Trump elected.

The backstory: Two observable shifts have happened in the GOP electorate over the past 15 years. The first is a growing skepticism about foreign intervention in general — frustration and anger still fueled by the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • The second is a more recent warming towards Russia — initiated by the party’s most powerful figure, Donald Trump.
  • Trump’s rhetoric about Putin was a far cry from 2012 when the GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney warned that Russia was America’s “number one geopolitical foe.” (Prominent Democrats mocked Romney at the time but in the age of Trump endorsed his view and apologized).