The birth of the universe.
1. Context is king. Adam Tooze provides just that for understanding the Ukraine crisis in a long post at his Substack homepage. It is worth reading in full. There’s no paywall. (Sources: adamtooze.com, adamtooze.substack.com)
2. Troops, tanks, missiles and warships are on the move. Russian forces, slowly but surely, are surrounding Ukraine on three sides. The picture on the ground suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin is about to launch a massive, multi-front offensive into a neighboring nation that for eight years has been slipping from his grasp into the hands of the West. But the former KGB lieutenant colonel — who has spent his career refining tactics to keep his adversaries off balance and exploit their differences — retains a plethora of options short of starting a full-blown, mass-casualty war that would put his own economy and soldiers at risk. President Biden alluded to those possibilities during a news conference Wednesday. Biden made, and later corrected, a gaffe suggesting that a “minor incursion” would be more permissible, but he revealed an uncomfortable truth at the same time: The United States and its NATO allies have agreed to inflict a devastating economic blow on Russia if Moscow invades Ukraine, but actions short of war — such as cyberattacks or sabotage — could divide allies over how aggressively to respond. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tried to walk back that admission Friday after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva, underscoring that actions apart from a military invasion, including cyberattacks or paramilitary activity, “will also be met with a decisive, calibrated, and again, united response.” Blinken noted that Russia is hatching plans for subversive activity that may not look like a traditional invasion. (via washingtonpost.com)
3. After Russia attacks: “….the third and most likely outcome is a full-scale Russian offensive employing land, air, and sea power on all axes of attack. In this scenario, Russia would establish air and naval superiority as quickly as possible. Some Russian ground forces would then advance toward Kharkiv and Sumy in the northeast, and others now based in Crimea and the Donbas would advance from the south and east respectively. Meanwhile, Russian forces in Belarus could directly threaten Kyiv, thereby pinning down Ukrainian forces that might otherwise move to reinforce the east and south. These forces could advance on Kyiv to hasten the Ukrainian government’s capitulation. A long-term occupation would be unlikely in this scenario. Storming and pacifying major cities would entail a level of urban warfare and additional casualties that the Russian military probably wishes to avoid. Russian forces would be more likely to capture and hold territory to establish and protect supply lines and then withdraw after obtaining a favorable diplomatic settlement or inflicting sufficient damage. Ukraine and the West would then be left to pick up the pieces.” (Source: Alexander Vindman and Dominic Cruz Bustillos, foreignaffairs.com)
4. Nataliya Gumenyuk: “Make no mistake, the threat of more than 100,000 Russian troops stationed near our borders is a matter of existential importance. Ukrainians understand this. But we also understand that our opinions do not necessarily matter. Though it is up to Ukraine to defend itself, there’s almost nothing our government can do to prevent a big war. An air of grim realism prevails. I call it ‘doomed optimism.’ We control what we can control, and we cannot afford to be consumed by anxiety over what we can’t control.” (Source: wilsoncenter.org, washingtonpost.com)