Slate’s war stories correspondent Fred Kaplan spoke with Mary Harris to share his thoughts on President Joe Biden’s Ukrainian position – and what he thinks will happen next.
“If you’ve heard anything about this troop buildup around Ukraine, alarm is probably what’s resonated the most alarm that Vladimir Putin is testing the West alarm that Russia might expand an ongoing military operation inside Ukraine,” Harris said. “But I wanted to talk to Fred because alarm was not his first reaction to this news.”
“What I’m about to say is the kind of thing that, if I’m wrong, could be played back six months from now and make me look really stupid,” Kaplan said. “But I don’t think that he’s going to invade Ukraine. I don’t think that’s what’s going on…If they were really going to invade Ukraine from the east and from the west through Belarus – kind of a pincer movement and then occupy the place – they would need a lot more than 90000 troops. Second…going in and crushing the place, there would be armed resistance. There will be Russians coming back in body bags. And finally, as is in general, Putin has been quite cautious in the use of military force.”
Harris referred to the agreements as “hedges against autocracy” and Kaplan offered, “These two countries, Ukraine and Taiwan, they’re examples of what some people call strategic ambiguity. I mean, were we sort of have a commitment to them, but not quite for many years. These relationships have been allowed to keep things stable. They’ve never really been tested. And now, you know, at least some people are saying they might be tested, and we don’t really quite know what we’re going to do about it.”
Kaplan added, “Biden himself is very keen on on Ukraine. When he was vice president in 2014, he wanted to do more to help Ukraine than than Obama did. He wanted to send some lethal arms even then. But I asked, ‘Is there anybody who is saying that what we need to do is to let Ukraine into NATO’s right now? Or is there anybody who is saying if Russia invades, we have to send us troops to counter them?’ And what I’m hearing is, ‘No, nobody’s saying that.’ So why base your whole position on an insistence for something that that you’re never going to do anyway? Look, I have no idea whether this approach will meet success. I don’t know. But this is what Putin has laid down on the table. Let’s take that as a premise and go from there and see if it’s if it works.”
Kaplan said it appeared Russia could be worried about backlash from the West, specifically the U.S.
“It seems they certainly don’t want to get into a war with the United States,” he said. “What Putin has been doing for the last several years is disrupting and interfering with American democracy and disrupting ties between the U.S. and countries in Western Europe, especially when Trump was president that were provocative and destructive in ways that were indirect and subtle, and therefore not likely to provoke a direct response from the United States. So he goes for the indirect approach, which is much harder to deal with.”
A direct interference in Ukraine would not be wise, according to Kaplan.
“If he really does do what the more alarmed people think he’s priming to do, then yeah, this is going to provoke a tremendous backlash from from the West, which is one reason why I don’t think he’s going to do it because he can’t afford that,” Kaplan said.
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‘Taking Us All for Fools’: Critics Decimate Greg Abbott’s Claims and Defense of His Actions in Wake of School Shooting
Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott in a press conference that left reporters frustrated defended his actions and insisted his earlier praise for law enforcement’s widely criticized response to the Uvalde school massacre was the result of being “misled.”
“I am livid about what happened,” Abbott declared, blaming others for his “recitation of what people in that room told me.”
“I was misled … the information that I was given turned out in part to be inaccurate. And I’m absolutely livid about that” — Greg Abbott on his initial false statement portraying Uvalde first responders as heroes pic.twitter.com/dUIdxnicjm
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 27, 2022
Critics aren’t buying his claims.
Abbott, who’s in the middle of a heated re-election campaign, appeared extremely defensive when reporters asked him questions.
“Let’s be clear about one thing. None of the laws I signed this past session had any intersection with this crime at all,” Abbott told reporters when asked if he would call the legislature back for a special session, as The Texas Tribune’s Sewell Chan noted.
“No law that I signed allowed him to get a gun,” Abbott insisted.
“The answers fell pretty flat,” opined MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace, who noted the press event lasted just 36 minutes, less time than the police officers “stood outside and did nothing,” which was 47 minutes.
Abbott ended the press conference with many reporters almost begging him to take more questions. As the governor left one frustrated reporter was caught on a hot mic saying “unbelievable.”
Chan, who is the editor in chief of the Tribune, added on Twitter: “Abbott rejects background checks as a simplistic and ineffective fix. Wouldn’t have prevented Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe shootings, he says. Tries to turn focus to broken mental health system.”
Former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence Frank Figliuzzi on MSNBC delivered a strong rebuke to Governor Abbott’s remarks.
“No amount of free flights, no amount of free caskets, no amount of mental health counseling is going to bring back any one of those murdered children,” Figliuzzi said, referring to Abbott’s announcement an anonymous donor is putting up $175,000 for funeral expenses of those who were murdered in the shooting and said the state will pay for mental health treatment.
Abbott also insisted that since Texas became a state it’s been legal for 18-year-olds to buy long guns.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was murdered in the Parkland school shooting, blasted Abbott:
.@GregAbbott_TX responding to a question on long rifles “it seems like only in the past decade or two we have had school shootings.” Governor, the assault weapons ban ended in 2004. See the connection? You have actively helped to sell millions of weapons since then.
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) May 27, 2022
And long guns of today, as Figliuzzi noted, are often semi-automatic “killing machines.”
“The governor seems completely unable to understand that he can easily make a distinction when you’re talking about whether an 18-year-old should buy an assault rifle or not. And all he cares about is a century of history in Texas on long guns. We didn’t have the AR-15 style assault weapons back then. He can easily make a distinction and say, ‘you can go hunting, here are the rifles you can do, you can buy, you can possess – and here’s an assault-style rifle.'”
“If he thinks that people are stupid and unable to understand that there is a clear distinction between a killing machine and a hunting rifle, that he’s taking us all for fools.”
‘I Apologize for Interrupting Your Press Conference’: Tearful Texas Democrat Urges Greg Abbott to ‘Do Something’ on Guns
The Texas Democratic State Senator who represents Uvalde stood up during Greg Abbott’s Friday afternoon press conference and almost begged the Republican Governor to “do something” about gun violence after Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School that took 21 lives.
Abbott was trying to place the blame for the school shooting on mental health despite the gunman having no documented issues, and told attendees, “we’re focusing our attention on the wrong thing.”
That was not good enough for Democratic State Senator Roland Gutierrez, who politely introduced himself and said, “I’m not making a political speech.”
“My colleagues are asking for a special session, you’re getting a letter tomorrow,” from the Senate Democratic Caucus.
“We’ve asked for gun control changes – I’m asking you now, bring us back in three weeks.”
Gutierrez grew emotional, sounding as if he was choking up, and added, “I apologize for interrupting your press conference about the needs of this community. I’ve been here for three days with all of these elected officials – this county judge has been working his ass off,” he continued.
“I don’t know how to express the loss of the families that I’ve talked to,” he added.
“You have to do something, man,” Gutierrez said, all but begging the governor to take action, and saying his “own colleagues are calling me and telling me this is enough.”
“I’m sorry to interrupt your press conference… you have to do something” pic.twitter.com/OiRI1OQZWQ
— Acyn (@Acyn) May 27, 2022
Local Texas Cops Blocked Specialized Federal Tactical Team That Killed Shooter From Engaging for One Hour
When a specially equipped U.S. Border Patrol tactical team arrived on the scene of Tuesday’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, local police who were already on the scene wouldn’t allow them to engage with the shooter, The New York Times reports.
“The agents from Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrived at some point between 12 p.m. and 12:10 p.m., according to the officials — far earlier than previously known,” The Times’ report stated. “But they did not breach the adjoining classrooms of the school where the gunman had locked himself in until a little before 1 p.m. Members of the federal tactical team killed the gunman.”
But officials speaking to The Times say the Uvalde Police Department prevented the agents from going in sooner.
The new details further call into the question the thinking behind how law enforcement responded to the shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers. The Border Patrol and ICE agents say they did not understand why they were force to wait. All of the 21 victims died in the area where 18-year-old Salvador Ramos had barricaded himself in.
Read the full report at The New York Times.
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