Wednesday’s Forum

Steven L. Taylor
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). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. MarkedMan says:

    I thought Biden’s SOTU was a master class. By focusing on Ukraine and the Ukrainian people he was continuing the message to Putin that the world recognizes them as a distinct country, that there is no hope that he can strike a deal with the West but instead must deal with the Ukrainian government. His message of united action was forceful, and at one point he noted that countries rallying together included some in Asia and Africa which, at least in part, was a message to China.

    And I like the fact that he came out so strongly touting the actions fueling our comeback from COVID and the benefits of policies towards the non-rich, directly contrasting them with Republican policies. By sitting on their hands and getting caught on camera looking like sulky children, the Repubs reinforced that these policies came from the Dems and their side of the aisle has done nothing. I hope whoever is running against the Republican Senators who refused to applaud for his “going after tax cheats” line are smart enough to use it in a commercial.

  2. charon says:

    Long thread about how I think the first 96 hours have gone, still very early/incomplete impressions. The initial Russian operation was premised on terrible assumptions about Ukraine’s ability & will to fight, and an unworkable concept of operations. Moscow badly miscalculated. 1/

    Director, Russia Studies at CNA. Senior Adjunct Fellow, CNAS. I follow Russian military capabilities, operations & strategy. Opinions are mine alone, hopefully.

  3. charon says:

    During my time in Europe, there was 3 countries’ armies we evaluated as “extremely poor.” Belarus was one of those (I won’t name the other 2). Now they’re joining Russia against Ukraine…it will be the combat equivalent of a mosh pit.

  4. JohnSF says:

    Heard a fair bit of President Biden’s speech on BBC radio; very good, IMO.

    Question for you Americans – and this isn’t mockery, by the way, just my British tin ear for foreign accents – does his accent sound a bit reminiscent to you of Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolf?
    Or is it just me?

  5. charon says:

    1/8. Russia has a history of aiming for quick and decisive strikes against Ukraine, failing, then revealing the aims of the operation in media prepared on the assumption of success.

    4/8 Something similar seems to have happened with the invasion of 2022. Like the hack in 2014, the invasion did not lead to the expected result. This left Russian media with prepared material which, since it assumed success, reveals (or confirms) the goals of the Russian invasion

    Yesterday, multiple Russian state media published an extremely shocking, even for Kremlin standards, essay: it presumed “Putin solved the Ukrainian question for ever” – i.e. it presumed Russia took over Ukraine and essentially annexed it into a forever-new–old-union. But…

  6. charon says:


    So indeed, this was meant to toast a Greater Russia outcome that never happened. Here’s the plan the author had – and apparently, was seen as endorseable by state media:×900

  7. charon says:
  8. charon says:


    The question of what are Putin’s goals came up in yesterday’s forum. This document is the answer.

  9. Kathy says:

    Putin’s bid to recreate the USSR succeeded in recreating the early years after the success of the bolshevik revolution, which turned the former Russian empire into a pariah state.

    So far, so good?

  10. CSK says:

    With respect to the discussion the other day about whether Putin is rational: Alexei Navalny referred to him as “our obviously insane czar” and called for continuing mass protests against him.

    James Clapper has called Putin “unhinged.”

  11. JohnSF says:

    In Europe: natural gas prices are now 10 times the level of this time last year.
    Better turn the thermostat down another notch and put another jumper on.

    OTOH, things could be worse:
    If you had invested £10,000 in Sberbank in October and forgotten about it, you’d have £10 now.

    Also, Maersk has confirmed it will cease shipping to and from Russia, except for food and medicines.
    Similar shutdowns announced by MSC, CMA CGM, Ocean Network Express, Hapag-Lloyd.
    Little short of informal blockade.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:
  13. Scott says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Pro sports have become another thing I can’t care about.

  14. JohnSF says:

    Thinking to myself: that must work out about €19o per megawatt-hour (differnt units of calculation for gas prices are a proper pain).
    Now, IIC a study showed a fairly conservative estimate of current costs for synthetic methane production coming to €150/MWh. Found it.

    So at current prices syn-methane from wind and nukes potentially cheaper then fossil fuel!

    Just the teensy problem of building the plants.
    Yes, lads, it’s investment time .
    Paging Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie, please pick up on the white courtesy phone…

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scott: I don’t care.

  16. Scott says:

    Let me toss this out there. We’ve been here about this convoy for days now. 40 km long, creeping to Kiev. Does that make any kind of sense? Isn’t there anything more vulnerable than trucks creeping along in a straight line? Seems easy enough to jam up. Even if it’s Molotov cocktails. This has the feel of the caravans moving through Mexico to the US border. Something that never really materializes.

    What am I missing?

  17. Sleeping Dog says:

    Ross Douthat had a funny line in this AM’s Times, in discussing scenarios for how the Russian invasion ends in an unlikely coup against Putin.

    (If anyone suggests sending some talented revolutionaries on a sealed train to St. Petersburg, let’s hope Joe Biden passes.)


    It’s Biden’s fault. 😉

  18. JohnSF says:

    If the Russian command is anywhere near approaching the neighbourhood of sanity, they will have SAM/AA around that convoy and air patrols above it, and infantry spread out in the woods either side.

    If so, what Ukraine really needs to hit it is a stand off strike that can overwhelm the defences; and by this point (if ever) they simply lack that capability. They almost certainly lack the ground forces capable of getting through that (assumed) wider defence.

  19. CSK says:

    Well, Trump barely knew where Ukraine was and thought Finland was part of Russia. How did we survive?

  20. Mikey says:

    @JohnSF: Where are the Jewish space lasers when you need them?

  21. CSK says:

    Per Axios: The plot to assassinate Zelenskyy by a squad of Chechen hit men was foiled when the Russian Federal Security Service tipped off Ukraine.

  22. JohnSF says:

    A barrage of British sky rockets would get the job done well enough: Brimstone
    But unfortunately Ukraine doesn’t have the launchers, support systems and training needed.

  23. Kathy says:


    Well, if you moved Who to second base, the whole routine would collapse.

  24. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Sleeping Dog: No longer Obama’s? Shit, another thing I have to adjust to.

  25. a country lawyer says:

    @Scott: As discussed in the thread yesterday, the ideal weapon against a slow moving truck convoy is air strikes, something Ukraine doesn’t have. Molotov cocktails are useless against armor but can work against troops or unarmored wheeled vehicles in confined areas like municipal streets. It would be a waste of life to attempt to throw molotov cocktails against armed infantry in the open fields. What could work against a convoy of trucks is artillery. Field artillery, however, is vulnerable to counter battery fire and air attack. It seems to me that mortars would be the ideal weapon for attacking the convoy. Mortars are mobile, accurate and can be effective against troops and thin skinned vehicles. 4.2 Mortars could wreak havoc on the convoy and even 81s would cause significant damage.

  26. MarkedMan says:

    @CSK: I gotta believe this is Ukrainian disinformation. If it were true, wouldn’t they protect that source and keep it secret? It seems more likely that statement was just meant to sew division.

  27. Jen says:

    @MarkedMan: That story definitely gave off “let’s make Putin paranoid” vibes. Could be accurate, could be PSYOPs.

  28. CSK says:

    That’s possible, of course. The assassination attempt is being reported all over as if it were fact, though. The statement about it came from from the head of Ukraine’s National Security Council, Oleksiy Danilov.

  29. Jay L Gischer says:

    Yeah, color me skeptical on the idea that FSB tipped off Ukraine about an assassination plot, too.

    I mean maybe… It’s more likely though, that Uk gov is saying this to sow discord and protect their actual sources.

  30. Jen says:

    @CSK: The assassination plot, I’m sure, is accurate. Putin has a bit of a…reputation in that regard (e.g., don’t stand near windows, and certainly do not eat or drink anything on offer). It’s the notion that the Federal Security Service tipped off Ukrainian authorities that is puzzling, because it’d be pretty easy to identify who had that info. I cannot imagine that Ukrainian authorities would relinquish a source like that.

  31. CSK says:

    But then the Ukrainians would get the Federal Security people in trouble anyway by citing them. Unless that was part of the point.

  32. Sleeping Dog says:


    Wiping out the assassination team likely happened. Attributing it to a tip from a Russian intelligence officer? Add it to the fact that Putin must be thinking the Biden has been reading his email… yeah it will make him more paranoid.

  33. Jen says:

    @CSK: I think that may well be the point. FSB is where Putin comes from, as former KGB. What better way to unnerve him than to make him question the people who he trusts most.

  34. CSK says:

    If that’s the case, then it really is a superb use of psyops. Putin will be foaming at the mouth, if he isn’t already.

  35. Jen says:

    @CSK: I just saw a comment that I think encapsulates this well:

    “If it’s true, it’s fantastic news. If it’s not true, it’s fantastic propaganda.”

  36. gVOR08 says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Ross Douthat had a funny line in this AM’s Times

    Sorry to disagree, but nope. Never has happened. Ain’t gonna happen. Douthat writes there are three scenarios for how this ends: coup against Putin, Russia crushes Ukraine, or negotiated settlement. Duh. And he gets paid big bucks by NYT for this banality.

    When they were forced to drop Bill Kristol NYT searched high and low for the best conservative writer they could find, and ended up with Douthat. That should tell us something about the intellectual state of conservatism.

  37. just nutha says:

    @CSK: WTF??? What is this? “You guys stay out of it! Only I get to assassinate Zelenski!” Seriously?????

  38. CSK says:

    @just nutha:
    That contretemps could be taking place as we speak.

    So to speak.

  39. just nutha says:

    @Jen: @CSK: As you can see, my interpretation is slightly at angles to the more conventional interpretation. Thing is, I’ve actually WORKED for people who think that way. It’s what came to mind first for me, reading the information.

  40. just nutha says:

    @CSK: On the other hand, if it is disinformation, it’s right up at the same level as the “I don’t need a ride…” comment earlier in the week.

  41. Jen says:

    @just nutha: Pretty much anything is possible at this point. Is it possible that Putin sent a hit squad? Absolutely. I’d put money on that.

    Did the FSB turn information over to Ukraine? It’s possible. If so, did they do it because they think Putin has gone too far? Eh…not unless there’s someone there angling for Putin’s job. Could they have done so because they were annoyed that the hit squad was a (checks notes) group of Chechen special forces and they were jealous? Maybe. Did someone else turn over the info? Maybe.

    Like the quote above says, if it’s true, great news; if it isn’t, great propaganda. Keeping Vlad knocked back on his heels not knowing who or what to trust is *exactly* the type of shit-chaos he likes to create so I’m thrilled if he’s getting a taste of his own polonium.

  42. HarvardLaw92 says:

    In other news, an idiot juror who lied on his juror questionnaire (seemingly with purpose) has put the Maxwell conviction at risk of being overturned on appeal.

  43. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @a country lawyer:

    Why not Javelins?

  44. MarkedMan says:

    @Jen: Hmmm. A week or two ago there was a kerfluffle because Chechnya’s leader sent thugs to kill/arrest an old woman and her husband in Moscow. At the time there were a few comments to the effect that Putin would just let him march his henchmen into Moscow, thousands of miles out of their jurisdiction, because he didn’t care what the Chechnya’s did as long as he kept the peace. But that grated against me, as regardless of what he thought of the situation, one thug letting another come into his house just didn’t square up. But now we know Putin was ready to invade and relying on Chechnya special forces for all kinds of things. Perhaps he just taking advantage of the situation?

  45. a country lawyer says:

    @HarvardLaw92: That would work, as well as handheld TOWs if they have them.

  46. JohnSF says:


    Why not Javelins?

    They are using them and very effectively, but they are fairly flat trajectory and need line of sight.
    Mortars better, artillery better still.
    But thing is, that convoy is to the north of the largest concentrations of Eussian assulat formations, approaching Kyiv.
    Not much chance of getting mortars close enough in enough numbers, Javelins even less, assuming an infantry screen out.

  47. CSK says:

    Russia’s making good use of the Trump playbook. It rejected the U.N. resolution condemning its action in Ukraine, adding that in the U.S., “the legitimately elected president of the country was overthrown.”

  48. JohnSF says:

    @CSK: Well, if the Democrats don’t turn that into one of the most potent election ads of all time, there’s just no hope for them (or us)

  49. Jen says:


    “the legitimately elected president of the country was overthrown.”

    This is absolutely standard Putin. He’s trying to introduce external chaos and have us fight with ourselves over this little tidbit of utter f%$#ing nonsense, so that we stop focusing on Ukraine.

    I will be SO HAPPY when he’s gone.

  50. dazedandconfused says:


    That was an unclear translation.

    He was referring to Yanukovych’s getting deposed by the Maidan Square crowd.

  51. CSK says:

    Which one? Trump or Putin? 😀

    I’ll be dancing for joy when BOTH of them are gone.

  52. CSK says:

    Oh, damn. The Newsweek article said it was Trump.

    But…they ARE using Trump’s favorite locution: Fake news.

  53. Jen says:

    @dazedandconfused: Ah, okay. I mean, not okay-okay, but okay.

    Yeesh. What a news cycle…

  54. dazedandconfused says:


    Everybody kinda had to get it wrong, as that’s what the translator said at the time.

    I’ve often wondered how those UN translators do it, they have to listen to what the guy is saying while at the same time be speaking a translation of what the person just said. I can pat my head while rubbing my belly but that’s next-level s%@t.

  55. Flat Earth Luddite says:


    Yeesh. What a news cycle…

    All it really needs is Jimmy Snooka coming off the top rope…

    *and yes, Cracker, I know, I know…

  56. CSK says:
  57. CSK says:

    Indeed. It’s interesting that I could assume so quickly that it was true. Jenwas correct when she pointed out that it would be just like Putin to offer up this distraction.

  58. Mister Bluster says:

    Across the nation, Republican governors and legislators are showing Americans what conservative leadership looks like.
    Iowa Governor Republican Kim Reynolds’s response to the State of the Union Address

    See real conservative leadership as Texas Governor Abbot directs the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to begin crotch inspections of it’s clients.

  59. HarvardLaw92 says:


    I was thinking more in terms of what weaponry is effective from the standpoint of what will likely amount to an ongoing guerilla war. Mortars are great, until you have to lug them around. Artillery decidedly less so. Lightweight CLU FGM-148 has a 2.5 mile effective range, and it’s fire & forget. Pretty effective weapon for bleeding the Russian Army to death IMO. Let them enjoy their own version of Vietnam.

    Funny thing about convoys as well – once you explode the guys at the front, the road tends to get blocked up pretty quickly.

  60. JohnSF says:

    In guerilla war with small units, yes, that will be the case.
    But actually, mortars are similar in weight to a Javelin; an L16 81mm is 78lb, a Javelin 49lb; lighter, but not that much lighter.

    Thing is, this convoy is close behind the Russian armoured units setting up the siege of Kyiv, and within the apparent lines of other reinforcement columns on either side, looks like.

    And if the officers commanding haven’t got infantry screens (and light armour?) out in the woods a mile or so on each side, and gunships shuttling overhead, then they are spectacularly incompetent even for Russians.

    I really hope the Ukrainians get a crack at it; but I suspect they simply cant get close enough now.

    One British artilleryman: “Get my battery within 30 klicks of that shower of bastards, and you can open the gates of hell.”

  61. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @JohnSF: I’ll go back to my idea of a couple of days ago: drone strikes, launched from Poland and the Baltic states. As a twist of the knife, paint the drones with Ukrainian flags.