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Bits 'n pieces from east, west and beyond

by LORRAINE H. MARIE
| March 11, 2022 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact. A recent sampling:

Two weeks ago, all was normal in Ukrainian cities. Now, Russian forces are firing on civilian areas, sending more than 1.7 million in flight (Ukraine’s population is 44.13 million). Even though Russia’s military is eight times larger than Ukraine’s, they’ve not prevailed, illustrating that ultra-expensive weapons do not equal battlefield victories. One reason the former superpower is faltering: A former Russian foreign minister stated recently that while the Kremlin tried, for 20 years, to modernize their military, “much of that budget was stolen and spent on mega-yachts. But … you cannot report that to [Putin]. So they reported lies to him instead.”

Also brought to light: how illicit Russian money has influenced politics in the U.K. and U.S. A former Senate campaign staffer has been charged with channeling Russian money into the 2016 election, according to multiple media accounts on both sides of the pond.

Historian and columnist Heather Cox Richardson noted in a recent column that sanctions against Russia are putting its economy in a nosedive. Richardson also noted that while the Russian military looks impressive on paper, they appear short-handed on trucks, food and fuel. Putin has turned to mercenaries to aid his war effort.

The New York Times reported that sanctions directly applied to Putin have been problematic. His financial disclosure papers say he earns $140,000 a year and owns a small apartment. No mention is made of his $1 billion estate, or his yacht, worth $100 million. Columnist Robert Reich, a former Labor Department secretary, points out that sanctions against Russian oligarchs with assets in the U.S. are also problematic. Assets in the U.S. and Europe require lengthy and complex legal processes to gain control over them. Nonetheless, Reich believes sanctions are having an impact. Some Russian oligarchs are urging an end to Russia’s military adventurism. But they lack the political clout that is familiar to U.S. oligarchs, who supply 40 percent of U.S. campaign funding.

Many Russians are leaving Russia. With the threat of possible martial law, there is a constant flow at borders of Russians leaving, the BBC reported. One departing woman said, “People in Ukraine are our people — our family. We shouldn’t be killing them.” She said she would not return to Russia “while our dreadful government is there.” She said most Russians don’t favor the war on Ukraine.

Trains out of Russia are fully booked. A different woman, age 30, said she knew if she didn’t leave now, despite fearing never seeing family and friends again, she might never be able to leave.

Ret. Col. Douglas Macgregor, a senior advisor to former President Donald Trump’s Secretary of Defense, rankled many when telling Fox News the Russian invasion of Ukraine would have ended had the Ukrainian government just acquiesced to Russia’s demands. He accused the president of Ukraine of being a “puppet” and described the Russian offensive as too gentle. Macgregor also felt Ukraine’s president deserved no credit as a hero for leading the nation’s defense, Business Insider reported.

Russia exports 7 million barrels daily of crude and oil products, making it the world’s top such exporter. The U.S. is another top exporter. According to the White House press secretary, the U.S. has 9,000 approved drilling permits that companies are not using; 90% of them are on private land.

Blast from the past: “The first man to raise a fist is the one who’s run out of ideas.” H.G. Wells, English author, sociologist and historian, 1866-1946.