Happy Saturday! We woke up to the news that a delegation of U.S. Republican senators led by Mitch McConnell traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. As much as these visits have come to be almost commonplace since the video of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walking the streets of the capital with Zelensky splashed across our TV screens and social media feeds last month, they are still remarkable.
Back in early February, during Vladimir Putin’s buildup of forces along the Ukraine border that presaged the invasion, Giselle Donnelly wrote a piece for us debunking the conventional wisdom that Russia had an overwhelming military advantage against Ukraine. She discussed how the collapse of the Soviet Union had eviscerated the remnants of the Red Army and that Putin had focused his time and resources in building up his nuclear arsenal at the expense of his conventional forces. And she pointed out that Ukrainian troops had become battle-tested over eight years of fighting in the Donbas region.
She was prescient, but I still remember the dread I felt early on, wondering wheter Russia would take Kyiv in a matter of days and what would happen if it had been able to kill or capture Zelensky, who had already won the hearts and minds not just of his countrymen but so many in the West.
And yet, Ukraine has endured. Not without horrific losses, of course. The sense of relief we felt when Russia pulled back from its assault on Kyiv proved fleeting when images emerged of mass graves and bodies of civilians littering the streets of Bucha. You see images of destroyed neighborhoods and realize it will take years to rebuild.
Back in 2012, Barack Obama mocked Mitt Romney for warning that Russia was our biggest geopolitical threat. We should never forget that Romney was right and Obama was wrong (and it’s a testament to Romney’s character that he hasn’t spent the last few months spiking the football). But Ukraine’s resilience presents us with an immense opportunity to diminish that threat for years, if not decades. Russia has suffered devastating losses in terms of forces, equipment, and leadership (10 generals have died in combat so far).
The West’s support of Ukraine has made this possible, but we can’t take the foot off the gas. While this newsletter is largely a review of the week that was, I can tell you that on Monday we’re publishing a piece that details why Congress needs to approve the latest round of Ukraine aid, totaling $40 billion and currently being held up by Sen. Rand Paul. We need to keep an eye on Germany and France, whose leaders are proving less resolute than they should be. Yes, we’ve expended considerable resources on the war already, and sanctions on Russian energy are a drag on the global economy. But it’s all peanuts in comparison to the costs of a wider war in Europe or the long-term threat of a Russian regime emboldened by its adventurism in Ukraine.
Thanks for reading and have a good weekend.
Many of us didn’t learn about the infant formula crisis until late last week or early this week. Back in February, Abbott Nutrition had to recall formula made in its Sturgis, Michigan, plant and has since closed the facility over bacterial contamination. Parents in several states are facing a truly desperate situation–it’s not easy to change an infant’s diet overnight and some babies need specialized formula to deal with dietary allergies or sensitivities. In Capitolism, Scott Lincicome looks at how government policy contributes to the problem and essentially ensures that there is no easy fix. The federal government restricts imports to placate “Big Dairy” and the FDA has onerous labeling laws that make it hard to import formula from European manufacturers–never mind that European countries in many cases have stringent standards of their own and that the formula is high quality and safe. He also details a few ways that WIC–an admirable and worthy program that provides vouchers to low-income families to purchase food–contributes to the problem because of the way contracts are given to favored manufacturers.
Audrey traveled to Pennsylvania to cover a rally in which Donald Trump appeared to campaign for his chosen candidate in the GOP Senate primary, Dr. Mehmet Oz. But, as Audrey noted, you’d be hard-pressed to know that was the purpose of his appearance based on his speech. “Only 45 minutes into his speech did Trump finally get to the point,” she writes. “‘His show is great,’ Trump said of the celebrity heart surgeon who recently canceled The Dr. Oz Show in his bid to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey.” She also details how Trump has gone after Oz’s main opponent, David McCormick, who for months sought out the former president’s endorsement for himself.
The Biden administration has failed in its push for a new nuclear with Iran to the point that removing the Islamic Revoluntionary Guards Corps’ designation as a terrorist group is under consideration. The EU coordinator for the indirect talks that have taken place intermittently throughout Biden’s term suggested the U.S. at least partially lift the designation. But Congress is pushing back–the Senate passed a (nonbinding) motion to keep Biden from making the move. But Iran is inching closer to being able to produce enough material for a weapon. Will any deal that could be reached even be worth it? Charlotte writes: “The international community must now decide whether an increasingly toothless deal is worth extending the regime billions of dollars in sanctions relief and other concessions, and, if not, how to address the Islamic Republic’s creep toward nuclear threshold status.”
And now for the best of the rest:
Jonah is no fan of the protests going on at the homes of Supreme Court justices who are expected to overturn Roe v. Wade after the leak of Samuel Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs, but he also has no time for the Republicans who are condemning those protests after defending the January 6 riot at the Capitol.
The U.S. has been on a “modernization holiday” in regards to its nuclear policy since the George W. Bush administration. Eric Edelman and Franklin C. Miller explain why that’s been a mistake, as adversaries like Russia, China, and North Korea are working hard to up their nuclear forces.
The January 6 committee has subpoenaed GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and Reps. Scott Perry, Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, and Jim Jordan. In Uphill, Haley has the details.
Isn’t it kind of weird for Russia to claim that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, is also a Nazi? You would think, but “the Jews are really Nazis” is an unfortunately common trope. Andrew Fink dives into the long history of anti-Jewish propaganda in the Soviet Union and Russia.
Giselle Donnelly surveys Russia’s troop movements since Putin announced that his forces would focus on securing the Donbas region in the eastern part of the country. She notes that Russian troops are (once again) bogged down and that Ukrainian forces have a real opportunity to disrupt Russia’s supply chains and logistics.
Don’t miss the pods! On The Dispatch Podcast, Steve has a great conversation with Jonathan Martin and Alex Burn about their new book, This Will Not Pass, touching on not only its explosive revelations about Kevin McCarthy but also the many problems of the Biden administration. David and Sarah are still talking about the Dobbs leak on Advisory Opinions, but this week’s focus was on the protests outside the homes of justices. And if you’re annoyed by the idea of forgiving student loan debt, you’ll love Jonah’s discussion with Beth Akers of the American Enterprise Institute on The Remnant.