Steven L. Taylor
Sunday, March 6, 2022
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective.
He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog).
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Possibly disclosing Zelenskyy location to Russia hit squads:
One of the oddest threats that Putin made before invading Ukraine, was to place missiles in Cuba and/or Venezuela. To accept the placement of the weapons would be a high risk policy for either country, so it begs the question, what would be the incentive for Cuba or Venezuela? After all even before sanctions, Russia wasn’t an economic powerhouse that could have solved some problems for C/V by throwing money at them.
Subsequently both Cuba and Venezuela abstained in the UN vote condemning Russia and now word that the US is negotiating with Venezuela to buy oil to replace any Russian imports.
‘A no-brainer’: Merrimack Valley RTA makes all buses free to ride for two years
Yesterday the Russian government sent a wide body jet to Washington. No idea why, nor why the US allowed the flight.
You can see the flight path here. And according to Flightradar24, the plane is still in Washington.
@Kathy: Thats just odd. Part of an exchange of stranded diplomats? Stranded billionaires?
@charon: Good LORD, how utterly irresponsible of them.
@MarkedMan: Oh, I just read the article, which mentions a rumor about diplomats
Picking up diplomats is the most likely explanation, although I could see the potential for an exchange of someone for the WNBA player who has been stuck in Russia for a month.
Ar least a dozen of the “diplomats” are being expelled for espionage, according to NBC and other sources.
Thread re Telegram, compromised security issue.
This is priceless. A team of Russian soldiers decided to use the elevator, rather than the stairs, to reach the roof of a building. The building management shut off the electricity, trapping the Russians in the elevator.
I hope this is true. I got it off Tom Nichols’s Twitter account.
Trump thinks we should start a war between Russian and China by disguising our F-22s as Chinese plans and using them to “bomb the shit” out of Russia.
@CSK: Is this a Zen koan? What is the sound of one hand clapping? How do you disguise a stealth airplane?
By putting a Chinese flag on it, says Trump. I meant to write “planes” instead of “plans” above.
that’s not even a good plot for a bad B movie.
Not sure if it’s already been mentioned (if so mea culpa), but Visa and MC have both shut down Russia. Cards issued by Russian banks no longer work on their networks, anywhere, and cards issued outside of Russia no longer work in Russia.
The average Russian just got a much larger reason to panic (and to be pissed off).
I did note this yesterday in the thread “Putin Threatens Ukrainian Statehood”. You’re right about the consequences. Putin’s already dealing with some large-scale protests in his own front yard.
I’d say he was joking, but the man has no sense of humor unless you count laughing at people’s tragedies.
Per ABC: The World Health Organization confirms that the Russians have attacked several health care facilities in Ukraine. Multiple deaths and injuries reported.
He will claim it was a joke once the ridicule comes. That’s the limit of his understanding of humor.
@charon: While I could see this being true, I also wonder if COVID is just his excuse for putting in an aggressive anti assassination regime. Russian state actors have developed expertise in killing people by an incredible range of poisons, including radioactive ones. Putin may have good reason to suspect anyone and anything that comes near him.
I’m growing increasingly uncomfortable with the indiscriminate discrimination (heh) against all things “Russian.” Shutting down systems of commerce, seizing assets, disinviting Russian citizens, etc. By state and non-state entities.
If I understand the specifics correctly, much of this is not based on any rule of law or previously accepted principles of the international community. In fact, it flies in the face of them.
Yes, I understand that this indiscriminate discrimination can have some positive effects wrt the conflict (eg, choking off the financing of it). And that “we” don’t have that many palatable levers to pull.
And still, I wonder about the broader effects — wrt to this conflict, other current conflicts that don’t get attention, and future conflicts. The mob justice and bandwagoning just doesn’t sit well.
[And just to be clear, what is happening in Ukraine is atrocious. And the suffering of the Ukrainian people dwarfs my discomfort. I’m personally closer to this situation than I am able to say, but please don’t read into my comment anything other than what I wrote.]
Perhaps you could clarify what you mean by “mob justice and bandwagoning.”
@MarkedMan: Sucks to be his food taster.
At least in the US, the president has broad statutory authority to declare persons, companies, and countries to be certain kinds of bad actors and then freeze their assets. IIRC, there are such freezes made by every president from Carter on that are still in force.
@Mimai: The general public doesn’t do nuance very well. Generalized anti-Russian feeling is inevitable, and there’s nothing to be gained by getting exercised about the inevitable. And I don’t think we do shunning and shaming nearly enough. Bill Barr for instance.
Re state actors, I realize that many heads of state have broad authority to freeze assets. And broad authority to do all kinds of things (eg, enemy combatants).
Re non-state actors, here’s a sampling of recent actions against all things “Russian”: Film industry boycotts. Russian businesses in the US and elsewhere being boycotted and vandalized. Chess players being disinvited. Russian cats being banned from competitions.
We can discuss the specifics, wisdom, legality of each of these. But my broader point is that there seems to be a bandwagon effect going on here. A reflexive acceptance and agreement of these actions. And/or a conspicuous reluctance to critically analyze the principles involved and the implications wrt issues outside the current conflict.
And the “mob justice”? Lynchings? Physical assaults?
Thank you for encouraging me to be more precise in my language. The term “mob justice” has expanded over the years. And unevenly so. So instead of instigating another discussion of terminology, I’ll simply retract my use in this thread.
There are two good reasons to exclude Russians. One, any money they earn will get taxed and help pay for the Russian war effort. Why not hire a non-Russian and avoid that? Second, it helps to both publicize the Russian war effort and, hopefully, undercut support for the war. If you look at how Russian media is controlled and the even harsher restrictions Putin is imposing it is clear lots of Russians have no idea what is happening. A lot of this is being driven by Putin’s concerns about his popularity and election in 2024. If this war becomes unpopular he needs to respond.
There’s a scene in “All’s Quiet in the Western Front*,” where one of the German soldiers fantasizes about the politicians, diplomats, businessmen, and generals, being forced to fight barehanded in an arena in order to settle disputes, instead of sending kids off to get killed in the trenches.
That’s still not, unfortunately, how the world works or can be made to work.
But it’s a worthy ideal to aspire to.
*I can’t believe I read that book just once and over 40 years ago. Though I did see the movie about a year later.
Well, it doesn’t mean “Zelenskyy,” that’s for sure.
I have several acquaintances, one of whom I see regularly, who are Russian. They are all good citizens of the US. Some came over as children, some as adults. One has some hair-raising stories about living under Soviet rule. One is Jewish, and its her father that has the hair-raising stories.
My family changed both the spelling and pronunciation of our last name “Gischer” probably during WWI, because of generalized “German” hatred.
So I feel its important to not make this about “Russians”, but about Putin and his supporters.
I differ with commenters above in that I feel we are way to eager to get into shunning and shaming, far out of proportion with its overall effectiveness.
The VISA and Mastercard thing is pretty broad-brush. It’s worrisome.
The zoologist sticking her neck out in the battle of the sexes
That book is now at the top of my To Read queue.
Whoa! An absolutely sensible and effective way to keep the discussion from going off into the death spiral of conflicting definitions! Kudos!
Hey now, we can’t have any of that around here. We have standards to uphold after all.
@Mimai: There are no international police or judicial entities that have any enforcement beyond what countries grant them. Russia is engaged in a war of territorial seizure which is in violation of international law but they don’t care. Once a country has removed itself from the world’s legal framework there are few, if any, bars on retaliation. We are essentially conducting a soft war against a rogue nation. Russian musicians and athletes are citizens of a country effectively at war with the world. Barring and banning them makes perfect sense and is a net good for all kinds of reasons, Not the least of which is avoiding having them stranded in enemy territory when things heat up. There are very good reasons countries evacuate their citizens in such circumstances.
As for the average Americans attacking or vilifying people of Russian descent or even citizenship that happen to be living here is bigoted and thuggish. Such people are primarily motivated by hatred and chaos and are only using whatever public anger comes to hand as an excuse to let their depravity out in public.
@Mimai: @Jay L Gischer: My feeling is that everyone is floundering around, looking for actions to take to put pressure on Putin. The throwing of everything against the wall to see what will stick. Hence the sillier reactions against vodka, Russian cats, etc.
There also might be the idea that this is the only way to get the message out to the average Russian that their country did something Really Bad, since they’re certainly not getting it from official Russian news reports….(not that I think this will actually help matters–the more likely reaction is “we’re going to support our ruler even more because we’re being attacked.”
About the only non-nuclear strategy I can see working (unless the financial squeeze actually does make it impossible for the Russian government to pay for things in a few weeks, as some commentators have claimed) is for us to help Ukraine to set up for a long-term guerrilla war and pain-in-the-arse against Russia.
@Mimai: I understand what you are saying. I’ve long been uncomfortable with sanctions, mostly because they have an outsized impact on the general population of a country, rather than affecting leadership (take, for example, North Korea. The general population there is harmed far more than leaders by sanctions).
That said, this current situation with Russia has the potential to be a long, drawn-out and very bloody mess. I think what the powers that be are trying to do is turn the tap off HARD, so that Putin gets pressure from the only people who seem to have any sway with him (oligarchs). This war needs to stop FAST, before it spreads to become a wider conflict that pulls China and India even further in.
While y’all have been chatting about international politics, I’ve been getting things done.
As it was.
As it is.
Now… the bathroom side of the opening still needs the frame built (that can wait until next weekend, or evenings during this week), and I have to finish out the empty space at the bottom (I have some fun plans for that).
Worked from 08:30 to 17:30 yesterday building the shelving unit, and 08:30 to 11:30 today building the frame and varnishing it. Now I’m going to go slip into a coma. 🙂
Great comment, but are any people of Russian ancestry being attacked here in the U.S.? I haven’t seen any reports of such assaults, and I’ve been following this closely.
I’d argue that this is both by design and quite necessary. Without the ability to attack Russia in a direct way – i. e. US military assets and personnel on the ground in Ukraine, which I will agree would probably feel good but is ill advised, our most effective weapon is to destabilize the Russian economy and disillusion the Russian people. Not just with respect to the oligarchs who facilitate Putin, but with respect to the average guy trying to survive. If you want to apply pressure from within, as we are trying to do, then it’s pretty essential that the pressure be exerted by as large a swath of the population as possible. Oligarchs getting angry is useful, but fomenting general uprisings against Putin’s government is much more so. Suddenly Putin finds himself fighting on two fronts – one in Ukraine and another on the streets of Moscow / St Petersburg / etc. It weakens him, but unfortunately the pain has to be widely felt across the population to accomplish it.
In the wake of the suspension of VISA and Mastercard services, Russian banks Sberbank, Alfa, and Tinkoff will begin using the Chinese UnionPay system.
Not very useful, tbh. The only way that UnionPay cards can be utilized outside of China is through cross linking with Visa / MC / Amex, etc. Otherwise it’s a mainland China thing (as seen by the fact that 99.5% of the transactions on the network occur within China).
Frankly, it wouldn’t be that much more difficult for US processing networks to cut off Chinese banks facilitating these transactions than it would be for them to cut off the Russian ones. Russia is (understandably) grasping at straws.
They plan to couple it with Russia’s Mir network.
Indeed. The Met just jettisoned Anna Netrebko. This has become a situation (and rightfully so) where these folks are going to have to choose sides and accept the consequences of their choices. There are no islands of neutrality left standing.
Many excellent comments. I agree with a lot of what has been written. A couple of points:
1) The vast majority of commentary (here and elsewhere) focuses exclusively on the perceived benefits (more on that below) of various actions. I see much less on the real/likely/possible downsides of various actions (note: I am excluding military actions, as the downsides of these have been discussed). This is what I mean when I say there has been a lack of critical analysis.
2) There appears to be a widespread assumption that these actions will indeed yield the benefits that are intended. I question this. I’m sure we can all find examples from the historical record to support our priors on the effectiveness of said actions. And that supports my point. I’d like to see more critical analysis of one’s assumptions wrt effectiveness. Not to mention unintended consequences.
Which is useful only within Russia in ruble transactions and would be anyway. The whole intent of Visa & MC backing out was to deny them international transaction ability / effective dollar conversion, which is what folks on the street in Russia are seeking – a way, any way, to hedge against the destruction of the value of the ruble. Unless they want to go shopping in China in yuan, they’ll remain just as walled off from dollar denominated value. If it turns out that these Chinese banks are facilitating it anyway backdoor, which isn’t difficult to trace, then they risk being cutoff themselves. China isn’t going to risk its economic ties with the West over the Russian domestic market I think.
It appears to be a desperation move.
There are always unintended consequences in a situation with this many interconnected systems and moving parts. It’s unavoidable. Unfortunately applying domestic pressure via imposing pain on the Russian people is one of the few options we have available, so we have to make use of it to maximum effect. As CSK noted, we are already seeing escalating protests within Russia. These folks are risking prison to do it, but they’re mad enough to do it anyway. That kind of domestic upheaval is invaluable.
TLDR: it’s unfortunate that the Russian people have to suffer, but this is already a de facto war between their country and the West. In war, people suffer, and they’re not immune. Just how it goes.
I’ll agree. They’re trying to stem off domestic upheaval. This won’t do much in that regard. The guy on the street in Russia wants to get out of rubles and into hedged value, of whatever variety he can find, as quickly as possible. More and more, we are locking them out of that ability and into a currency that’s losing more value by the hour. They won’t ever be Weimar wheelbarrows to buy bread, but they don’t need to be. All they need to be is pissed off, scared, and panicking. As far as I can tell anyway, they’re there
The UN’s Human Rights Commission has verified that there have been 1123 civilian casualties in Ukraine. And, let me reiterate, the Russians have shelled hospitals.
With respect to what is going on in Russia, I agree. I was referring to a long-held, 30K-foot view that I’ve had wrt sanctions, and how long they can take to really have that impact. It sorta/kinda came close to happening in Iran. No one is taking up arms in North Korea. I get that in those cases it’s an attempt to play the long game, I just have always been a little bit uncomfortable with the effects (such as starving a populace). I understand the need–and logic–behind sanctions.
And I’ll agree, with the caveat that Iran and NK already were essentially walled off from the western economic system. Imposing sanctions on them hurt, but their isolation had already imposed on them a large degree of insulation. It’s a lot harder to get upset over not having access to something that you never really had access to in the first place.
This is interesting because it’s really the first time that we have effectively walled off an economy that was deeply interconnected with, and had become accustomed to having access to, the western global economy. Unlike Iran and NK, the folks on the street in Russia are painfully, acutely aware of what they’ve lost, which makes them much more useful from a domestic anger standpoint IMO.
More than 4300 people were detained by police today in protests Russia-wide.
Mmhmm, and unlike the US and to a somewhat greater degree here in France, those folks are directly risking being imprisoned. I see this as potentially being the start of Putin’s Bloody Sunday moment. Make war on your own people, and see how that goes. At least in Russia, it has never ended well. How long does he think they’re going to just stand by and let him arrest them?
Mind you, that 4300 was just the figure for today, or so I understand. At least a thousand, probably many more, were arrested last week.
You’d expect that they’re either going to have to start releasing people or run out of storage space pretty soon. He’s playing with fire IMO. He evidently sees himself as some sort of reinvented tsar, but learned nothing from the mistakes of the last one. At least judging from how intent he seems to be on repeating them anyway.
Here’s Putin’s response, just in: He told Ukraine to stop fighting.
Sounds like something Nicholas would have said to the Japanese… 🙂
The Russian family near us is displaying a small Ukrainian flag from their porch.
Things getting expensive.
@Mimai: We’re basically at war with Russia, but using economic tools rather than military tools, and carefully never using the word “war” to describe it.
Take that as a baseline and then ask if we are being more or less harmful to average Russians than we would be in a hot war. (How many people are glowing cinders, etc)
I’m far more worried about talk of no-fly zones and Senators saying someone should assassinate Putin (to be clear, it might be good if someone assassinated Putin, but the US government should be very carefully avoiding talk of that kind) than I am of the pile on effects economically. In fact, that pile on effect might make this shorter.
@HarvardLaw92: “All they need to be is pissed off, scared, and panicking.”
Let us hope they get pissed off, scared and panicking as quickly as Americans who see gas prices going up fifty cents and are ready to hand the country back to Trump…
Unfortunately, both sides suffer in a war. Also unfortunately, doing nothing isn’t really an option. The chips fall where they fall. If the American people are collectively stupid enough to re-elect Trump, then they deserve what they’ll get.
The Russians can be expected to have some of the same thing that happens here, a “Support out Troops!” mentality. It’s a messed up muddled up shook up world..
It’s more than that, they are in an information bubble, think they have been attacked.
Look at it the way I do: Trump won only by a fluke in 2016. He lost decisively in 2020.
@CSK: Battlefield leadership from the former commander-in-chief of our armed forces. Gawd almighty, can no one shut this moron up?
@CSK: I’ve seen a couple, but assume there is more. I meant it when I said there are people who delight in thuggery and will latch onto whatever cause seems popular and emotionally charged.
@Mu Yixiao: Man… WTF is wrong with you? That is neat and orderly. It even looks good.
@CSK: Just lay there and enjoy it.
@Mimai: In my opinion and observation, sanctions are always about war against civilian populations by other means. We don’t make these choices in spite of the hardships they will impose on civilians, but rather because of those hardships.
Been wanting to do that upgrade for a long time. Got inspired to get my ass in gear because a woman I really like is coming over next weekend–with her boyfriend–for a “joint cooking exercise”. I’ve gotta up my game if I’m going to make myself look better than the boyfriend. 😀
Boy, where have I heard that before? Why does it sound so familiar? Reminiscent of the Iraq war? Everything FOX news says?
@CSK: @MarkedMan: Same here, tho they tend to have a direct connection to Ukraine.
@Mu Yixiao: HA! I almost added, “What are you trying to do? Impress a woman???”
@Mimai: “2) There appears to be a widespread assumption that these actions will indeed yield the benefits that are intended. I question this.”
I agree. The alternative in this case is troops on the ground; MAD dictates that choice unacceptable. (And it is possible that the government will fall anyway, though that seems less likely at this point.) The choices seem to be do what we’re doing or do nothing. The sanctions that are being used are probably the last shot available. I’ve not been a sanctions fan since before I went to Korea over a decade ago (Korea solidified my views, if anything), but war is hell and this is, most definitely, war.
If anyone had “to repatriate spies,” in their bingo card, you win.
@wr: On Thursday, I paid over $4/gallon for the first time ever in my remembrance. I only wish I’d filled up the evening before. Oh well. Fortunately, my tank is only ~8 gallons, so the total can’t get much over $35 or $40.
@charon: Putin told them they are on a mission to save the oppressed Russians of The Ukraine from Azov Battalion nazis, actually.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
Yes, but as the guy at the neighboring gas pump reminded me this morning, loudly and repeatedly, “THIS S*** IS ALL JOE BIDEN’S FAULT!!!”**
Unfortunately for him, his Ford F350 and 40-gallon tank is WAY more expensive to fill than your Spark or my Sonic. I know MY heart was bleeding for him (not).
** I understand that Pres. doesn’t control gas prices at the pump, but apparently this is too complex an idea for some people …
Really nasty weather passed through Iowa, near Des Moines, yesterday evening. I believe de stijl and maybe other OTB commenters live around those parts. Hope all are ok.
@OzarkHillbilly: Even better, trying to impress a woman and her boyfriend!
@Mu Yixiao: Easy there, you just had heart problems and stents installed!
@Mimai: I was hoping they’d all check in, as well, and it looks like more dangerous weather in Dixie Alley today and tonight.
@Just nutha ignint cracker:
I realize that this is your reality and it’s surprising.
And, I’ve been paying that for this entire century, at least.
Anyone up on international law/ law under war conditions? If we are seizing the yachts and mansions of the oligarchs are we breaking international law or law as practiced with an aggressor nation in war?
The US is not a state party to the Rome Statute, so “international law” honestly is of no consequence to / has no bearing on its actions. What’s taking place is authorized by federal law, specifically IEEPA (50 U.S.C. § 1702).
Thanks. Couldn’t find anything in my own amateurish search.
@Jay L Gischer: If anything, I’m surprised that it took this long. And yes, my reality is sort of otherworldly to lots of people. That’s not surprising either.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: I should also say that I’m surprised that the gas tank is so small. On the other hand, it is a really small car, so 8 gallons is probably all that it can drag around efficiently.
No worries. It’s not exactly a mainstream area of the law. Glad to clarify.
Biden made the necessary declaration in 2021, Executive Order 14024.
No edit button
The above was supposed be a list of EO’s…
14024, 14038, 14039, and 14065. Apologies
Interesting article What if Putin Loses?
What is the desired end state(s)? I just don’t know what is possible but I fear we have a cornered wild animal – no telling what direction he will strike.
For decades Russia has mounted a campaign to make the West more dependent on its oil and gas – both money, and as an insurance policy. https://thehill.com/opinion/energy-environment/596304-investigate-russias-covert-funding-of-us-anti-fossil-fuel-groups?rl=1
Saudis did likewise about 20 years ago regarding Canadian Oil Sands, funding environmental groups (I remember the Audubon Society and the Sierra Club, there were others) to oppose “dirty” Canadian oil. “Follow the money.”