Is the U.S & its allies prepared if Russia invades Ukraine?
Following high-stakes talks between US President Joe Biden and Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin says Russian troops at the border of Ukraine threaten “no-one” with Biden and his European allies backing Ukraine’s “territorial integrity”
This of course follows the two leaders speaking via a secure video call for two hours.
The Kremlin has labeled the summit as “frank and professional” and says Putin requested Biden for ‘guarantees’ that NATO will not expand eastwards.
The White House says Biden “voiced the deep concerns of the United States and European Allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine”.
The administration has made it clear that the US and its allies will respond with both economic and other measures “in the event of military escalation”.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wolpe from the U.S. studies centre reaffirmed that Biden was very clear about the sanctions that America will take if Russia invades Ukraine.
Is it going to be a repeat of the Crimean peninsula takeover in 2014?
Russia and the US have longstanding differences over Syria, U.S. economic sanctions, and alleged Russian cyber attacks.
“I think this is a different crisis and a different year and a different precedent. Biden is ready to act, what the object of what President Biden is trying to do is to get Russia to de escalate, dial the tensions down,” Biden told tickerNEWS.
Wolpe says United States has been working to build the alliance with European allies this year and Biden is consulting with them closely.
“Their feelings (European allies) on Russia is that Russia should not if Ukraine wants to join NATO, NATO wants to consolidate its position. That’s that is their objective. That’s what they want, they will do it,” Wolpe said.
Wolpe says European allies don’t want Russia to invade “at all” and want to deter it, and there’s two things threatening it.
First, there could be an escalation of military forces in Europe, that would be a really dangerous situation. Wolpe says “Because if there is an invasion of Ukraine, no one wants a wider war. But to deter it, there’s this economic package being developed, which essentially would decouple Russia from the world economy, cut it off.”
“We’re at a moment where Putin has some important decisions to make, do I go forward? Or do I try other ways to increase my influence over Ukraine without going to war?”
Is the object to remove Russia from the world economy and make them pay a very heavy economic price?
Wolpe says you can stop Russia from using the swift system in the banking system, so international transactions can’t be executed. But that also means that where does Russia go?
“Well, Russia can have a stronger alliance with China, and create other problems in other areas of the world, and more problems in Europe, if China also plays its economic cards, with the Belt and Road Initiative and other ties it has in Europe,” Wolpe said.
“So it really is a moment for people to step back and say, Okay, what are the consequences here? And what do we want to achieve? Biden’s object is stability.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan says Pres. Biden and Vladimir Putin’s phone conversation on Tuesday was “direct and straightforward”
“I will look you in the eye and tell you as President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him today that things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now,”said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
“We still do not believe Pres. Putin has made a decision” on whether to invade Ukraine, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters after Biden-Putin call
“In listening to Jake Sullivan, it was just quite clear that Biden knows exactly what he will do,” Wolpe said on the press breifing.
“If Russia invades Ukraine and the consequences it will have and he’s prepared to do it. Half of deterrence is, is having the other side believe you actually will do it? Well, I believe Biden has been very clear on that.”
What does Russia want?
Wolpe says Putin feels at the end of the Cold War was humiliating for his country, and he wants to rebuild it.
“The control over Belarus, he really is angry that the Baltic States, of course, join NATO. We’ve got Crimea back. There’s a whole thread of nationalism here and pride, which is important, and that is important to any country and its destiny,” Wolpe says.
“So the question really is, can these arrangements be worked out without the resort to war?”
“You know, we talk about a a note normal world post COVID. You have a war over Ukraine and the normal world retreats for a long time to come. So really, all of our welfare is at stake here in this. I wouldn’t call it a crisis yet. In this developing situation, which really poses challenges to how we want this world to be in 2022.”
Why Trump’s historic indictment won’t dampen his support
Donald Trump: polling suggests criminal charges won’t dampen his support
Donald Trump’s impending court case marks an historic moment in US politics. He will be the first former president of the United States to face criminal charges and trial by a jury. He and his supporters are already calling the case a political manoeuvre designed to reduce his chances in the 2024 presidential election.
The court case will affect his campaign but it will not exclude him for running for office next year. Early indications suggest that his political base will continue to rally around him. Within hours of the news, his followers were gathering outside his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida to express their support.
The indictment comes after a grand jury in New York agreed that there was enough evidence to charge the former president. The investigation, led by Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg, looked into the legality of hush money payments to former adult film star Stormy Daniels.
The exact nature of the charges will not be known until Trump is arraigned next week. According to US reports, he is likely to be accused of more than one count of falsifying business records (classed as a misdemeanour, a lesser crime in the US legal system), after Trump allegedly recorded the payment as a business expense. If found guilty, he could face a fine.
He might also be charged with breaking election campaign laws, which is a more serious felony offence and carries a potential prison sentence. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
Any criminal charges, or even a jail sentence, would not restrict Trump from running for office under the US constitution. He has previously stated that he would do so even if he was charged. Historically, there are instances of individuals running for president while facing charges or even from a prison cell.
What may affect his chances is the amount of time that he will need to commit to dealing with the charges laid against him. To date, his campaign has been relatively quiet, but it will need to gain momentum in the lead up to the Republican convention in July 2024.
On March 25 and 26, Trump held his first campaign rally for the 2024 election at Waco, Texas. Despite predicting that he would be arrested, thousands turned up to show their support.
Claiming that the 2024 election would be “the final battle”, Trump criticised the prospects of potential challengers, such as Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, and stated that the investigation was like something out of Stalinist Russia. He told his supporters “from the beginning it has been one witch-hunt and phony investigation after another”.
Trump’s immense popularity with Republicans is unlikely to be damaged by any indictment resulting from the New York investigation. One poll showed that most Republicans believe that the investigation is politically motivated, while another indicated that most Americans think that Trump will be acquitted of the charges.
The Harvard/Harris poll shows that popular support for the charges is split along party lines – 80% of Democrats believe he should be indicted, while 80% of Republicans believe he should not. And 57% of Republicans think a trial could help Trump in the election run.
Republicans lawmakers have already come out in support of Trump. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said that the indictment was an “unprecedented abuse of power”. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise tweeted that the charges were “one of the clearest examples of extremist Democrats weaponizing government to attack their political opponents”.
Even Trump’s potential rivals for the 2024 nomination have come out in support of the former president. DeSantis said the charges were “un-American” and a “weaponization of the legal system”, while Pence called the indictment “an outrage”.
For many observers, the question remains: why does Trump still figure so highly in the Republican polls after everything that has happened?
A Harvard/Harris poll from mid March, shows that Trump has increased his favourability among Republican voters to 50%, giving him a 26-point lead over DeSantis, if the presidential nomination was decided now. Former vice president Mike Pence is a distant third with just 7%. A more recent Fox News poll makes the gap between Trump and DeSantis to be even greater at 30%.
Worryingly for Democrats, those polled of all political persuasions give Trump a four-point lead over Biden. There is a glimmer of hope for the Democrats, though, in that 14% of those polled were undecided on either Trump or Biden. It’s a significant number, and those individuals will be key to deciding who wins the election in November next year.
Trump’s immense popularity with Republicans is unlikely to be damaged by any indictment resulting from the New York investigation. This is because the Republican Party is still the party of Donald Trump. His base support has never fluctuated since 2016. Many of them feel he stands up for them when no-one else does.
His Republican opponents, such as DeSantis, are trying to outdo Trump at being Trump. But they are pale imitations, and Trump knows this.
Earlier this year, Trump told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference: “I am your warrior, I am your justice.” And they believe that. His supporters believe that he is the only person capable of protecting their values and way of life.
In a supporting speech at Waco, Trump-ally, Representative Marjorie Taylor-Greene said: “Trump is the man for the hour. He’s the only man who can take on Washington in the times that we live in.”
While the indictment might make some moderate Republicans rethink their loyalty to the former president, his base will back him to the bitter end.
‘Let him go’: Biden calls out Russia over reporter spy arrest
President Biden called for Russia to free Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, an American citizen who has been accused of spying on behalf of the U.S. government.
“Let him go,” Biden told reporters when asked about Gershkovich’s arrest.
Russian state news agency TASS has reported that Gershkovich was ordered to be held in custody until May 29. He is spending his third day in Russian captivity.
Asked about @WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich, an accredited American reporter, who was arrested in Russia on espionage charges, President Biden said, "Let him go" and added there is a process. pic.twitter.com/rdT4376D4Y
— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) March 31, 2023
Russia’s main security service, the FSB, claimed Thursday that Evan Gershkovich, a correspondent based in Moscow, had been trying to obtain state secrets.
The Wall Street Journal rejected those allegations, saying in a statement that it “vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter.”
A Russian district court in Moscow said Thursday that Gershkovich would be detained until May 29.
It is the first time an American journalist has been detained on accusations by Moscow of spying since the Cold War.
It comes a week after US authorities announced charges against a Russian national, Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, accusing him of being a Russian spy.
How does Donald Trump’s indictment affect his chances of running for president?
Donald Trump has become the first U.S. President to be criminally charged
Former U.S. President Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury after a probe into hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels.
The adult film star maintains she had an affair with the former president, and was paid to keep it quiet. She said the sexual encounter occurred in 2006, a year after Trump married his current wife Melania, and over a decade before he ran for President of the United States.
While the payment was legal, it was allegedly recorded as a business expense, which is illegal in New York.
Daniels said the two had consensual sex.
Michael Cohen was Trump’s lawyer at the time, who made the $130,000 payment to Daniels in 2016, several days before the U.S. presidential election. He said he would “take a bullet” for Trump.
Two years later, he pleaded guilty to nine federal crimes including tax fraud, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations.
Cohen told CNN he was surprised about the timing of the indictment but “this is a long time coming.”
It means the former president will likely be arrested in the coming days. He will then enter a Manhattan courthouse, where he will be fingerprinted and have his mug shot taken.
Alvin Bragg is the Manhattan District Attorney, who helped to sue the Trump Administration more than 100 times during its four-year term.
Trump has previously described the indictment as an attempt to “weaponise” the U.S. justice system.
In a statement, Trump’s lawyer said “he did not commit any crime”.
“We will vigorously fight this political prosecution in court,” the statement read.
What happens now?
The U.S. is fast approaching a presidential election, and Trump has signalled he will run for office again.
Many Republicans have swiftly defended Trump since the indictment came to light. This includes Nikki Haley, who is a current 2024 presidential candidate herself.
“This is more about revenge than it is about justice,” she tweeted.
Calvin Dark is a global affairs commentator in Washington, who said the reaction will be mixed among senior republicans.
“When it comes to Nikki Haley or former vice-president Mike Pence, they’re going to be an interesting situation.
“They’re going to want to use this to their political advantage to provide an alternative to many who might not want to nominate an indicted former president,” he said.
However, a criminal conviction would not prevent Trump from moving forward with his presidential campaign.
U.S. law does not stop criminals from running and serving as president—even if it’s from a prison cell.
“I think Ron DeSantis is going to play it pretty quiet. You might see a snide comment here and there. If you’re opponent is digging a hole, tell them to keep digging,” Dark said.
What does it mean?
Many U.S. conservatives believe the former president is being held to a different standard of justice.
Meanwhile, Democrats have viewed this through the lens of holding people in power to account.
“We are in unchartered legal and political territory,” said Bruce Wolpe from the U.S. Studies Centre.
“His base is all in. This will not change Republican voter sentiment towards Trump as a political candidate for the presidency,” Wolpe said.
Trump is facing a string of other probes, including his efforts to undo the results of the 2020 presidential election, and whether he illegally interfered in Georgia.
Why Trump’s historic indictment won’t dampen his support
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