Posted by BW Actual on Feb 23rd 2024



  • The NYT commemorated the second anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine with an interview of its longtime correspondent there, who assessed that this is "probably the most precarious position that Ukraine has found itself in since the first weeks of the war...the advantage is definitely with Russia." The brief transcript pasted below explains why.
  • Presidents Biden and Putin exchanged silly insults this week: Biden started it Wednesday night when he called Putin a "crazy S.O.B." during a fundraising event in San Francisco; when Putin heard about that, he mockingly waved it off as "Hollywood cowboy-style behavior to serve domestic political interests."
  • Putin also won't be thrilled that Biden met with the late Alexey Navalny's widow and daughter on the same trip to California and used the occasion to honor the deceased opposition leader for his "extraordinary courage and his legacy of fighting against corruption" in Russia.
  • The White House will announce new sanctions on Pres. Putin over Navalny's death today.
  • An anonymous source leaked a trove of documents about the Chinese government-linked company I-Soon's extensive efforts to hack targets abroad at "a scale greater than we’d seen before" (in the words of FBI Director Wray).
  • Cybersecurity analysts are still parsing all the leaked info for insight into Chinese hacking threats and links between the Chinese government and companies like I-Soon.
  • One interesting tidbit gleaned so far: I-Soon appears to have been targeted for retaliation because it turned to illegal activity like ransomware attacks after its Chinese government funding wavered (or perhaps was siphoned off by corrupt officials). Now some of Beijing's activities and vulnerabilities are being laid bare by a leak brought about - albeit indirectly - by its own doing.
  • Pres. AMLO took revenge on a NYT journalist probing alleged ties between AMLO's allies and drug cartels by reading the journalist's private phone number aloud during his daily press conference.
  • The NYT criticized AMLO's move as "a troubling and unacceptable tactic from a world leader at a time when threats against journalists are on the rise" and published its investigation anyway.
  • The investigation found that U.S. law enforcement officials probed allegations that AMLO's allies met with and accepted millions in bribes from drug cartels after AMLO took office office - though the U.S. never opened a formal investigation and ultimately closed the probe.
  • AMLO says the allegations are "completely false," but the new interest in them clearly bothered him enough to punish the journalist who brought them to light.
  • In front of a crowded stadium audience in Ghazni, the Taliban publicly executed two men who had been convicted of separate stabbing murders.
  • Public executions and floggings were common during the Taliban's previous stint in power from 1996 to 2001; they've been less common this time around: these were the third and fourth executions since Aug. 2021, and there have been about 350 floggings in that time.
  • While Western media reported on archaic public executions, Afghan media stayed quiet: the top headline on ToloNews today is about the U.S. moon landing described in the next section - which has no connection whatsoever to Afghanistan. There's no mention of the executions anywhere on the site.
Other News
  • The Odysseus - an unmanned spacecraft built by Houston-based Intuitive Machines - became the first craft to land on the moon in over 50 years, and the first private spacecraft to reach the moon. It landed near the moon's south pole, and will explore the surrounding area for ice.

Two years of war in Ukraine (NYT)
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. Two years later, the war is in an uncertain phase.

Ukraine exceeded the expectations of many around the world by surviving and then driving back Russian forces in the first year of the war. But the second year was largely defined by brutal clashes, with no major breakthroughs on land by either side.

The war’s third year opens with Ukraine on the defensive and struggling to hold the line as it finds itself outmanned and outgunned, much as it was in the first days of the war.

To get a sense of where the war stands and where it is going, I spoke with Marc Santora, who is in Kyiv and has covered the war since the beginning.

Amelia: Russia just took Avdiivka, winning a major symbolic victory. Does that mean it has the momentum right now?

Marc: This winter is probably the most precarious position that Ukraine has found itself in since the first weeks of the war. And, as we get into this third year, the advantage is definitely with Russia.

The Russians know that this is a moment of Ukrainian weakness. There are two main reasons for that.

First: The U.S. military aid has been stopped for months, and it’s unclear if or when more will come. On my trips to the front, whenever you talk to any commander, it is the No. 1 thing they talk about: lack of ammunition and resources.

And second: manpower. The less ammunition they have, the deadlier the battles become for the Ukrainians. And they’re already struggling to get people to fill forces that are depleted after two years of fighting.

What is your sense of the mood — on the front, and in Kyiv?

There is a sense of exhaustion that is palpable.

The soldiers are still as determined as ever. But they’re exhausted. Many of them haven’t had breaks in months and months at a time. They haven’t seen their families. And, for civilians, how do you measure exhaustion? One way is the daily air alarms. By certain counts, there have been 3,000 to 5,000 hours of alarms. That’s four months that people are spending in a bunker. It’s sort of hard to get your head around.

The government doesn’t release figures about the death toll, but there are funerals every day. Everyone here knows someone who has been killed or injured in the fighting. It is a country in perpetual mourning. Still, remarkably, recent polls suggest 90 percent believe they will win the war — as long as they have the support of their allies.

How has your thinking on the future of the war changed in recent weeks or months?

It’s going to be a long war that will probably only grow deadlier. And I don’t think people have really wrestled with what a Ukrainian loss would look like.

Ukraine losing doesn’t just mean some new government. Ukraine truly losing means that you will have a massive amount of bloodshed, a massive new refugee crisis, you’ll have Russia on the borders of NATO nations, and emboldened. The consequences are big.

Most military analysts believe that if Ukraine can hold the line and rebuild its forces this year, they may be in a better position to go on the offensive. So you could see — not next year — but the year after being the decisive year. But war is wildly unpredictable.