Biden lashes out over memory jabs, then confuses leaders of Egypt and Mexico.
Fears that Israel will expel 1 million Gazans to Egypt desert.
Takeaways from Tucker Carlson’s revealing interview with Putin.
Biden hits back over memory jabs, then confuses Presidents of Mexico and Egypt
A report released by Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Hur detailing shocking lapses of memory from President Biden has caused panic in Democratic circles in D.C. Concerns about Biden’s mental acuity have dogged him since before he became President. Repeated gaffes, his refusal to sit for interviews and apparent attempts to keep him out of the public eye as much as possible have not helped. Polling shows that Biden’s age has been a primary concern for months among potential 2024 voters. Despite this, there has been much denial within the Democratic establishment that Biden’s age or mental capacity are a problem. Special counsel Hur’s report appears to have been a turning point.
After the report came out, Biden held a press conference yesterday to address the report on his handling of classified documents. After his planned remarks, Biden took questions from reporters. There followed several tense exchanges with members of the press. A Fox News reporter asked Biden about the Hur Report’s contention that it would be pointless to bring Biden before a jury because he would appear to be a “well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory”. Biden responded “I’m well-meaning, I’m elderly, and I know what the hell I’m doing”. When the reporter pushed back, Biden responded, “My memory’s so poor I let you speak!”.
Then just a few minutes later, as Biden was walking away from the podium, another reporter asked about the situation in Israel. Biden returned to the podium and described Israel’s military assault in Gaza as “over-the-top”. He also said he’d pushed for Egypt to allow Gazans to cross the border into Egypt. During those remarks, he referred to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as the “President of Mexico”.
Israel-Gaza war: Fears that Israel will expel 1 million Palestinians to Egypt ahead of Rafah offensive
For the last 3 months, more than 1 million displaced Palestinians have been living in tents in and around Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city and the location of the Strip’s sole crossing into Egypt. They have little to protect them from the elements and many are starving with aid into the Strip slowed to a trickle. At the start of the war, these people fled south where they told they would be safe. Now Israel is planning an all-out military incursion into Rafah, supposedly with the aim of destroying four Hamas battalions located there. Foreign leaders have raised fears of a mass slaughter if Israel moves ahead with its plan.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says the US would not support the operation without “due consideration” for the safety of the people taking refuge there. There are fears that Israel may take the qualifier of “due consideration” as a blank cheque to do what it likes with the refugees, having paid only minimal heed to past “concerns” expressed by the Biden administration for civilian safety in Gaza. The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the military to develop a plan “for evacuating the population” in Rafah. Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas fears that this is the moment the entire Israeli operation has been building towards: the mass expulsion of Palestinians into the Sinai Desert in Egypt.
For weeks, Israel has been demanding that Egypt withdraw its troops from the Rafah border, seeking full control of the crossing. Egypt has so far ignored Israel’s demands. Officials in Cairo said that any act by Israel to seize control of the border or expel Palestinians into Egypt would nullify the Camp David Agreements and constitute an act of war.
Tucker Carlson’s wide-ranging interview with Putin
Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson conducted a 2-hour long interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 6 in the Kremlin. Much of the media has lambasted Carlson for giving Putin a platform to speak directly to a US audience. Some have also taken issue with the way the interview was conducted, essentially giving Putin the floor to speak as much as he wanted on any topic he wished, largely uninterrupted and with minimal pushback. However, few sources have meaningfully addressed the content of the interview itself.
I watched the full interview this afternoon. Putin certainly went on at length, which he is known for, and was allowed multiple digressions. However, Putin was able to present in a nuanced way his views on a variety of topics, including the Ukraine war, the rise of China and the BRICS countries, the decline of US hegemony, who really holds power in the US, and even artificial intelligence. I’ve summarized some key points below, but there was far too much ground covered in the interview to be addressed here. I would encourage anyone with sufficient interest and 2 hours to spare over the weekend to watch the full interview (you can find the link below) and make up their own minds.
During the first half-hour of the interview, Putin gave an overview of the first 1000 years of the history of Russia and Ukraine. Throughout, Putin emphasized the deep historical, linguistic and cultural ties between the two nations, as well as efforts by rival powers in Europe, beginning in the 13th century, to attempt to distance Kievan Rus (which comprises part of the present territory of Ukraine) from Mother Russia. Putin opined that the division of Russia from Kievan Rus also made both nations more vulnerable to the political machinations of rival powers, as well as incursions by the Mongols.
The historical discourse also included what Putin sees as missteps by various Soviet leaders in granting Ukraine too much territory and too much autonomy. Putin believed it was a mistake to allow Ukraine to take with it much of the territory granted to it during the Soviet era, including territories on the Black Sea.
Carlson continually pushed Putin to tie this lecture to the invasion that began two years ago. In so doing, Carlson missed Putin’s purpose in laying this out, which should worry anyone hoping for a quick end to this conflict. While Americans aren’t used to thinking in terms of centuries or even millennia of history, Europeans and Russians in particular are quite accustomed to contextualizing current events in this way. What Putin was laying out was a justification not only for laying permanent claim to territories Russia has already seized militarily, but for an ultimate reunification of Ukraine with Russia, whether through peaceful or non-peaceful means. Putin’s view, as presented, is that this must be done to right historical wrongs going back more than 500 years and to strengthen both countries. Putin concludes that these cultural and historical ties make this reunification inevitable.
NATO encroachment and Western interference in the region
Putin also spoke at length about the decades of continued hostility between Russia and the West following the fall of the Soviet Union. Putin also rejected accusations that he had continent-wide expansionist ambitions. On the contrary, he painted the West and the US in particular as the aggressor whose aim is to weaken and ultimately fragment Russia.
Following the dissolution of the USSR, Putin says, hopes were high in Russia that with the ideological wedge of Communism no longer at issue, Russia would be fully integrated with the West and enjoy the benefits of peace and resulting political and economic cooperation. Instead, NATO continually expanded eastward. This was despite early promises to Russia that this expansion would cease and warnings from European statesmen like Egon Bahr that continued NATO expansion would only perpetuate Cold War hostilities.
Putin also accuses the West, and particularly the CIA, of fomenting separatism in the Caucasus (Georgia) in 2008 and the Maidan protests in Ukraine in 2014. Putin portrayed his 2022 invasion as an attempt not to start a war but to end a war that has been ongoing since then. Since 2014, Ukraine, with Western backing, has carried on with air strikes and ground operations in the Russian-majority regions in the Donbass.
Putin also raised a familiar talking point about “De-Nazifying” Ukraine. During WWII, Ukrainian nationalists joined forces with the Nazis to fight Soviet forces. For this reason, Putin says, many Ukrainian nationalists to this day identify with Nazism. Indeed the Azov Battalion, which has fought Russian separatists for years in Eastern Ukraine, frequently wear Nazi insignia on their uniforms.
Desire for a negotiated settlement
Carlson asked Putin his feelings about negotiating a settlement to the war. At multiple points during the interview, Putin said he has always been open to a negotiation and that it was Ukraine and its Western backers that have so far foreclosed on that possibility. He alluded several times to a now widely-reported incident in April 2022 in which former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson convinced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky not to sign an agreement that had been negotiated in Istanbul.
Putin also said that if the West were to stop supplying weapons to Ukraine, the war would be over in a matter of weeks. Carlson raised recent comments by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who said that if Congress doesn’t approve more aid for Ukraine, there could soon be US troops on the ground in Eastern Europe.
Putin answered that this was “a provocation and a cheap provocation at that”. He couldn’t see the reason for sending US soldiers to Ukraine since there are already many American mercenaries already there. He continued:
If someone has the desire to send regular troops, that would certainly bring humanity to the brink of very serious global conflict. This is obvious. Does the US need this? What for? Thousands of miles from your national territory. Don’t you have anything better to do? You have issues on your border, issues with migration, issues with national debt- more than $33 trillion. You have nothing better to do so you should fight in Ukraine? Wouldn’t it be better to negotiate with Russia? Make an agreement?