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“The invasion has begun”
Following the launch of Putin’s attack in Ukraine, President Biden promises swift and decisive consequences for the Russian autocrat.
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FIRST THINGS FIRST
BREAKING — Moments after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced late Wednesday night military action against Ukraine to claim land by force in two separatist regions of the country that don’t belong to him, the attack the Biden administration warned was imminent is now underway.
“The invasion has begun,” Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister said as missile strikes caused loud explosions in the capital city of Kyiv.
“The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine tonight as they suffer an unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.”
President Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday night as well.
This crisis has been Supercreator’s lead story for weeks now, as the White House warned of an imminent invasion while also extending Putin the opportunity for a diplomatic resolution. But it still feels surreal that what’s been expected to happen for a while now has finally transpired.
“Peaceful Ukrainian cities are under strikes,” Kuleba said. “This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin.”
A White House official said President Biden will speak to the nation later this morning. He is expected to announce further consequences the US and its allies and partners will impose on Russia for the attack.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was briefed on a secure call this evening by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan about the ongoing attack.
40 members of Congress — from both the Democratic and Republican parties — urged President Biden to receive authorization before he sends US troops into Ukraine. The White House has said Biden has no intention of sending US military or troops to fight in Ukraine. But Congress said it wanted to reassert its war powers just in case.
And as expected, oil prices have soared while stock futures have plummeted as the global markets react to the international uncertainty.
“Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way,” Biden said. “The world will hold Russia accountable.”
— Biden’s new sanctions: A day after Germany shelved Nord Stream 2, President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday additional sanctions on the company building the pipeline and its corporate officers.
“These steps are another piece of our initial tranche of sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine,” President Biden said in a statement. “As I have made clear, we will not hesitate to take further steps if Russia continues to escalate.”
Vice President Kamala Harris spoke about the crisis on Wednesday before a meeting with the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.
“As you know, we have imposed significant costs in response to Russia's reinvasion of Ukraine and we are working closely with our allies and our partners in that regard,” Harris said. “The threat of a full-scale attack on Ukraine remains and so we will remain vigilant and watching what is happening there and in close coordination with our allies and our partners around the world.”
Nord Stream 2 would have allowed Russia to bypass Ukraine in exporting gas to Europe.
The White House on Tuesday called the pipeline an $11 billion investment by Russian President Putin that will now go to waste.
“It sacrifices what would have been a cash cow for Russia’s financial coffers,” a senior administration official said.
Psaki said the Nord Stream 2 measures are the final penalties in what the administration is calling the “first tranche” of sanctions.
She added the White House believes Putin is now improvising his military strategy in part because he didn’t expect America and its partners to gather and share as much intelligence as they have. Psaki warned that Russian troops are still in attack position and Putin could operationalize a further invasion at any moment.
In addition to the Nord Stream 2 sanctions, President Biden on Tuesday also blocked two large state-owned Russian financial institutions from the global financial system. The move also foreclosed Russia’s access to the US dollar and place restrictions on five Russian elites and their family members.
The measures are part of a “start high, stay high” strategy designed to deter Putin from further escalation.
The sanctions are part of a strategy the White House said will “start high and stay high” to deter Putin from further escalation while limiting the economic impact on energy and gas prices at home.
— Meanwhile, in Ukraine: President Zelenskyy on Wednesday declared a state of emergency in Ukraine and called on millions of Ukrainian citizens to leave Russia, Zachary Basu at Axios.
The emergency declaration called on millions of Ukrainian citizens to leave Russia since Zelenskyy said it would be difficult to ensure his citizens’ safety in a hostile country.
Zelenskyy will reportedly remain in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to protect himself against what US officials warn would be a devastating assault.
Psaki declined to answer if the US had been in contact with Ukraine to offer security assistance for Zelenskyy or if the administration believed it had a responsibility to do so.
The White House has told Congress the US will commit $1 billion in assistance to Ukraine in the event of a military conflict.
Ukraine was also on defense against a new wave of cyberattacks, though its government stopped short of attributing the attacks. (Last week the White House said the Russian government was responsible for a separate round of attacks against two Ukrainian banks.)
The administration said there is no current threat to American cybersecurity but an official encouraged private companies to bolster their protection in case the US’s assessment changes.
— The EU’s next steps: The European Union is expected to announce next week a strategy to break free from Russian gas, Michael Birnbaum and Steven Mufson at WaPo report.
The plan would take years to execute and come at a high cost. But it would also give Europe a level of energy independence that could ultimately diminish the economic leverage Putin has over its countries.
“Through his actions, President Putin has provided the world with an overwhelming incentive to move away from Russian gas and to other forms of energy,” President Biden said.
— “A historic mistake”: Madeleine Albright, the first female secretary of state, wrote in an NYT op-ed that Putin is making a historic mistake: “Instead of paving Russia’s path to greatness, invading Ukraine would ensure Mr. Putin’s infamy by leaving his country diplomatically isolated, economically crippled and strategically vulnerable in the face of a stronger, more united Western alliance.” Read the full op-ed.
— Related: “Fact-checking Putin’s speech on Ukraine” [Glenn Kessler / WaPo]
BIDEN FEELS HONORED AHEAD OF HIS SCOTUS PICK — The White House wouldn’t disclose on Wednesday if President Biden has selected the Black woman he will nominate to the Supreme Court. But, forgive me for sounding like a broken record at this point, he’s still on track to announce the pick by the end of the month.
“I think the president is looking forward to announcing a historic, eminently qualified Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. He feels there’s tremendous honor in that,” Jen Psaki said on Wednesday. “But he is very much looking forward to making this announcement and getting this individual confirmed.”
Psaki also said the White House will work to ensure all the women considered will exit the process with the exceptional reputations they entered it with.
“That means defending them publicly, standing up for them, providing information to debunk any information that’s being put out about them that’s inaccurate,” Psaki said. “And hopefully they all feel that we have delivered on that promise. But that has been important to the President from the beginning.”
100 DAYS OF BIF — Before it became law in November, the bipartisan infrastructure deal was known at the White House and on Capitol Hill as the bipartisan infrastructure framework — or “BIF.”
The White House took a victory lap on Wednesday to mark 100 days since President Biden signed BIF into law.
“The historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will rebuild crumbling road and bridges, replace lead pipes, help provide high-speed internet to every family in America, and produce concrete results that change people’s lives for the better,” the administration said. “By reaching all communities all across the country — including rural communities and historically underserved populations — these investments will position the United States to win the 21st century.”
Since the signing, the White House has focused on providing implementation resources to states, territories, tribes and local governments; guaranteeing federal agencies are good stewards of taxpayer dollars; delivering projects on time, on task and on budget; and showcasing how the law benefits communities in every corner of the country.
— ICYMI: “One down, one to go”
TLAIB TO HIT DEMS AFTER BIDEN’S SOTU — Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan will deliver a formal response to President Biden’s State of the Union address next Tuesday on behalf of the Working Families Party, Holly Otterbein at Politico reports.
Tlaib is expected to knock Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema for their opposition to core components of the president’s economic agenda. Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer is also expected to receive criticizing for leading a group of conservative Democrats who attempted to sink the Build Back Better Act unless the bipartisan infrastructure deal passed first. Otterbein also reports Tlaib will give Biden props for passing the American Rescue Plan in March of 2021, which funded an additional round of stimulus and the vaccines and boosters.
Rep. Tlaib’s office did not respond to a request from Supercreator for the summary of her prepared remarks.
The response runs the risk of resurfacing internal dissent among the progressive and conservative wings of the Democratic Party.
But progressive lawmakers see this year’s midterm elections as an opportunity to expand the House Democratic majority by electing more outsiders who share their politics and can turn them into meaningful policies.
Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman responded to Biden’s first address for the WFP last year.
Tlaib was elected to the House in 2018 and immediately formed an alliance with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley that’s known as “The Squad.”
Tlaib announced in January that she will run for reelection this year in Michigan’s newly redrawn 12th District. The seat will be open because Brenda Lawrence, the state’s only Black member of Congress is one of 30 House Democrats who are retiring.
As I reported yesterday, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa will deliver her party’s response to the president’s speech.
HBCU BOMB THREAT UPDATE — The FBI got back to Supercreator with an update on the investigation into the nationwide bomb threats targeting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, houses of worship and other faith-based and academic institutions.
The threats targeted 57 institutions from Jan. 4 to Feb. 16 through threats made in phone calls, email, instant messages, and anonymous online posts.
— Here’s what the FBI shared:
To date, FBI agents from multiple field offices are conducting hundreds of interviews and gathering a variety of electronic evidence for analysis.
The FBI is investigating these cases as racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism and hate crimes.
The bureau has been prioritizing information sharing and officials in Washington, DC have briefed approximately 2,800 law enforcement partners, and community, academia, and faith leaders.
“This investigation is of the highest priority for the Bureau and involves 31 FBI field offices that are actively working with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to identify those involved,” the FBI said in a statement. “We recognize the fear and disruption this has caused across the country and we will continue our work to make sure people feel safe in their communities, schools, and places of worship.”
The bureau said the investigation is ongoing so it wouldn’t disclose more details. But it said it would continue to share with schools, partners, and the public as information becomes available.
— Best of Supercreator: “Instagram thinks you’ll get over it”
TODAY IN POLITICS
— President Biden will participate this morning in a virtual Group of Seven meeting with the leaders of Japan, Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Canada to discuss Russia-Ukraine and the priorities of the German G7 Presidency year. Secretary of State Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will also attend. Then the president will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
— Vice President Harris will ceremonially swear in this morning Joseph Donnelly to be Ambassador to the Holy See and Scott A. Nathan as CEO of the US International Development Finance Corporation.
— The House is out.
— The Senate is out. Senators will receive an unclassified briefing on Ukraine this afternoon.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
— Ed Bastian on why America needs a national no-fly list:
Holding individuals accountable for criminal behavior shouldn’t be a controversial or partisan issue. Even in a divided nation, we can agree that employee and passenger safety is a critical part of emerging from the pandemic and returning to our lives. Since I first proposed this step, it has been heartening to hear many voices of support, including those of business and labor leaders.
We think it is time to stop keeping track of this threat airline by airline. Flying is a privilege, not a right. Those who choose to break the rules and put others in danger by compromising safety and security should lose that privilege. A national no-fly list, maintained with the full authority of the federal government, would be an effective tool to help ensure that, as our nation returns to the skies, the worst offenders are grounded.
— Emma Orlow on why restaurant crayons shouldn’t be for kids:
Crayons at restaurants have a long history, and are largely favored by parents (and owners) hoping to keep young kids occupied during mealtime. But why should kids have all the fun? If you feel too old, or too cool, to draw with restaurant crayons, let me assure you that you’re not. If restaurants are meant to be a respite from our homes, then crayons are the perfect ways to blow off steam, perhaps with a glass of wine in the other fist.
— Eric Levitz on the consequences of the urban-rural culture war:
All of which is to say: A hefty portion of the Democrats’ troubles in rural America seem structurally determined. For its entire modern history, the Democratic Party’s stronghold has been major cities. As the population of those cities grew more socially progressive, the Democrats were bound to follow suit. And in becoming the party of progressive social values — in a context of deepening urban-rural culture war — Democrats were always likely to suffer an erosion of support in rural areas.
— Sarah Jones on how the Republican “parental rights” push harms kids:
Parents don’t lack rights in the U.S. They already enjoy the wide freedom to educate their children as they wish, including at home or in private schools. They can raise their children to be Christians or witches or both; the state does not interfere. Liberals are generally satisfied with this state of affairs: There is no appetite to prohibit parents from raising their children in even the most hate-filled churches. Yet the right behaves as if parental rights were under sustained and serious attack, as if the parent has been dislodged from a high place and, as Abbott said, should be restored. The GOP’s position on parental rights isn’t entirely coherent. Any attempt to ban gender-confirming therapy for transgender children theoretically infringes on the rights of the parent, but this hasn’t dissuaded the party from its attacks on trans rights. In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton had previously issued an opinion defining gender-affirming care as ‘child abuse.’ Trans children and their families must now fear the long arm of the state, which will reach into their most private and personal affairs
The right’s real ambition isn’t restoration, though, but expansion; they want to create new rights on top of the privileges parents already enjoy. In the party’s view, parental rights both supersede and exist in conflict with the rights of the child. The right insists that what’s good for parents is good for kids. This is not necessarily the truth, as any queer person can say in return. The idea that children are already people, with thoughts and needs independent of their parents, never factors into the party’s position at all. The parental-rights movement isn’t new. As journalist Kathryn Joyce has observed, the concept is associated historically with some Christian homeschool activists, who lobbied for a constitutional amendment that would enshrine the right of a parent to teach their children at home. The language might sound familiar. “The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right,” it states. But why parental rights, and why now?
— Roxana Hadadi on how to watch Euphoria:
I needed some way to take all this in, so I offer you my simple but effective trick: Consider Euphoria a soap opera.
Yes, Euphoria is a challenging story about addiction, forgiveness, empathy, and whether the worst thing you do defines you forever. Yet Euphoria has devoted a whole season to the roller-coaster ups and downs of two love triangles, and you could argue that one of them is actually a love rectangle that involves one of the people in the other love triangle. Consider, too, the grand declarations of affection, the shifting loyalties and alliances, and the enigmatic, mysterious characters. This is all soapy stuff, and placing these elements within that genre framework is the way to watch Euphoria without falling down a well of sadness.
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