William Burns’s talks with Russia’s foreign intelligence chief are the most senior in-person meetings since the start of the war in Ukraine.
The head of the Central Intelligence Agency warned his Russian counterpart against using nuclear weapons in a face-to-face meeting on Monday in Turkey, White House officials announced, part of the Biden administration’s effort to reduce the threat of escalation in the war in Ukraine.
The talks, led by William J. Burns, the director of the C.I.A., were the highest-level in-person meetings between senior Russian and American officials since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February. The discussions are part of the Biden administration’s efforts to step up its communications with senior Russian officials to convey concerns on the nuclear threat.
Mr. Burns’s meeting was not an attempt to negotiate with Russia over the end of the war — American officials have repeatedly insisted no peace talks will be conducted without the involvement of Ukraine’s government. The discussions, instead, were almost entirely focused on the threat of nuclear escalation, these officials said.....
Russia launched around 100 missiles and drones against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure today—the largest since the war began—with the clear aim to spread terror, and to also knock out Ukraine’s energy grid. (Ukraine claims that 73 of the missiles were shot down, which may or may not be true.) If anyone wonders why Ukraine is winning the war, it’s because Ukraine knocks out Russia’s logistical hubs and depots, while Russia would rather kill civilians and inconvenience them this winter in the cold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian trains run virtually unimpeded, supplying Ukraine’s war effort on the fronts.
This war has laid bare Russia’s incompetence from top to bottom, and that extends to the effectiveness of their weaponry. The fact that two Russian cruise missiles missed their Ukrainian target and landed in Polish territory isn’t surprising; whatissurprising is that it hadn’t happened until now. That two people were killed in the attack raises the stakes.
The two missiles hit 100 kilometers from their presumed intended target of Lviv, so some people are skeptical it was a mistake, but I’d be shocked if Russia was interested in escalating with NATO. They’re already losing the war. The last thing they need is either Poland or NATO engaging. If the target was military, perhaps a supply depot or rail head feeding Western weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, there would be logic to such an attack. They hit a farm. This doesn’t make any sense beyond “oh shit, we missed … by a lot.”
So the big question is: Will Poland invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization? And the answer to that is: not likely. Article 4 allows for consultations between the allies, and that is almost assuredly going to happen. They’ll demand an explanation and apology from Russia. The alliance will talk about strengthening its Polish front. Maybe they’ll rush additional air defense units to the border area. But it seems inconceivable that either side is eager to use this mistake to escalate further. At most, NATO might send an “if it happens one more time ...” message that will force Russia to avoid further hitting western Ukraine, lest it screw it again. Russia already backed down to Turkish threats on the Black Sea grain deal, so they’re not currently operating from a position of strength.
There is no chance the alliance hasn’t gamed out this possibility already. Now we wait and see what Poland’s and the alliance’s reponses will be.
....... Meanwhile, I want to once again stress the inadequacy of the Russian missile barrage. At last count, Russia spent hundreds of millions of dollars on its dwindling supply of missiles to knock out power for 7 million Ukrainian citizens. Russia is losing the war, and yet it continues to prioritize terrorism against civilians as opposed to hitting militarily valuable targets. This is a victory for Ukraine. Ukrainian forces are currently rushing from the Kherson front to reinforce their positions in the Donbas, where Russia continues its human-wave attacks on Bakhmut and Pavlivka. And instead of hitting the rail and logistical lines making this shift possible, Russia hits power generation facilities and apartment complexes. Russia’s tactics are cruel, definitely, but they are also unfathomably stupid.
......... With the fog of war cleared somewhat around Kherson, it’s clear thatallthe rumors about Ukrainian forces crossing the Dnipro into Russian-held territory were false. There is zero evidence of any Ukrainian incursions past the river, and no one is making those claims anymore. Whether it was irrational exuberance, informational psyops, or something else, it seems increasingly clear that Ukraine is happy with the current Kherson borders and will happily use the spare military capacity to reinforce its other fronts.
Meanwhile, I suspect my theory will hold—that Russia will withdraw all forces out of range of 155mm artillery, so about 15 to 25 miles from the Dnipro River, and locals in some of those “gray zone” villages will put up Ukrainian flags, “liberating” their territory. But there is little reason for Ukraine (or Russia) to militarily occupy those villages for now. ...........
These updates are always interesting, but this is one of the best in a long time. Julia leads with the talk of revolution, which itself is a remarkable acknowledgement. But listening in, these pundits are very explicit about their “social contract”—the politicians are left to rule Russia as they see fit, including their grift, so long as the people are allowed to lead their lives in relative peace. The mobilization violated that contract, the Russian people now have skin in the game, and Russia’s rulers have to be increasingly wary of, as one of the pundits put it, “annoyance.” We know Russians are docile people, but they do have a history of revolution. Now would be as good a time for one as any.
The fear is that the new Republican House might be more hostile to Ukrainian aid. Note that Joe Biden has a backup plan in that case—for one, pass this aid now, in the lame-duck session. But beyond that, the Lend-Lease Act allows Biden to keep delivering weapons to Ukraine without additional congressional action. This is just a clearer, easier, more transparent approach. Either way, Ukraine has nothing to fear so long as Biden remains president.
At this time, we don’t know where this missile came from. But, let’s assume for a moment that it’s confirmed Russian, then what? What is Menendez threatening here exactly? If you want to make Russia pay, start delivering ATACMS long-range rockets to Ukraine, so they can strike even deeper behind enemy lines (including the Kerch Bridge, still under repair).
Honestly, Russia has done plenty enough to merit “significant consequences.” At this point, we should be doing everything possible to arm Ukraine in the short term with ATACMS and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and in the long-term with F-16 fighter jets. But none of that is within Mendendez’ control. He’s a senator, not the Commander in Chief.
Get the facts. The alliance has already gamed out how it would respond in this eventuality. Let the facts come out, and then we see what’s next. Hopefully, it means better and more weapons for Ukraine.
NUSA DUA, Indonesia (AP) — Leaders of most of the world's economic powers are nearing approval of a declaration strongly denouncing Russia’s invasion that has devastated Ukraine and roiled the global economy .
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gabriel Sterling, his top lieutenant, proved this week that there are no Republican heroes. While they might have fought Trump’s Big Lie (perhaps largely because they were the ones getting death threats) when it comes to holding free and fair elections in which a Democrat has a very good chance of winning, they are cheating Republicans to the core.
The two officials reversed course this weekend, after having assured voters in at least “some counties” they would “likely have Saturday voting following Thanksgiving.” The next day, once it was assured that Democrats would have the Senate majority regardless of the outcome of the Georgia runoff between Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Hershel Walker, they reneged, sending out an advisory memo to local officials telling them that voting won’t be allowed that Saturday because it’s the day after a holiday. That state holiday used to be known as Robert E. Lee’s Birthday, now it’s just a state day off. This is after Republicans cut the runoff campaign period in half to help the GOP win. Now they’re trying to take a critical day of voting away.
Democrats, who have a pretty good record of beating this kind of cheating in the courts, are suing. Warnock’s campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic Party of Georgia (DPG) filed suit in the Superior Court of Fulton County of Georgia to secure that day of early voting, and they’ve got some good evidence on their side.
If the Saturday after Christmas wasn’t sacrosanct to GOP officials, while all of a sudden is the Saturday after Thanksgiving?
“It’s not our choice. It’s literally in black-letter law that the Saturday following a state holiday cannot be used for early voting,” said Sterling. “We all thought there was going to be Saturday voting until we looked at the law really closely.” It’s the same law as in 2020-21.
It’s cherry-picking, the Democrats say, because the provisions they are citing to block the vote don’t apply to runoffs. In writing the statute, the Georgia legislature “expressly distinguished between three different categories of elections”, they point out: a primary election; a general election; and a runoff. And the ban on early Saturday voting after a holiday “applies only to primary and general elections, not runoffs.”
If Raffensperger is going to conflate runoffs with primary and general elections, they say, then he should be instructing the counties to have voting available on November 19, because state law requires that the polls have to be open on the second and third Saturdays before primary and general elections. If runoffs are supposed to be treated just the same as other elections, then there should be that extra day as well.
“That is not how the statute operates: if the sentence’s prohibition on holding advance voting on a Saturday after a holiday applies to runoffs, so too must its command that advance voting be held on the second and third Saturday in the first place,” they write. “To read the statute otherwise is nonsensical.”
Yes, it’s nonsensical. It’s also cheating. Republicans—and particularly Georgia Republicans—will do anything to keep Democrats down. Their new law slashed ballot box access for absentee ballots. They cut the time for runoff voting in half after Democrats Jon Ossoff and Warnock won in 2020-21, and now they’re twisting the law to cut out key early voting days.
The only answer is to fight in the courts and on the ground, by making sure that the Warnock campaign has the money and the volunteers to get out his vote. The DSCC and party are making sure the court battle is covered. We can help with the rest.