Topics covered in this episode of "This Week Explained":
Update: Russia Invaded Ukraine
The Freedom Truckers hit the DMV
Vehicles attempt to take over Richmond, VA
China makes ominous threats to Taiwan
Russia Invaded Ukraine
This week, Russian President Putin officially recognized the so-called People's Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as Russian provinces. Once that declaration was signed, Russian troops started their move into these locations. These two break away states are majority Russian-speaking; as well as most of the populace considering themselves to be in fact be Russian. Think of it like a Texas town that borders Mexico. Let’s say Laredo, Texas, which is 89% populated by those of Mexican decent and 91.3% of the population speaks Spanish. What Putin has done is equivalent to Mexico unilaterally recognizing Laredo Texas as part of Mexico and then sending troops into the city.
Why Ukraine is important to Putin?
Putin wants to reestablish the Soviet Union under his control, and Ukraine is the first step in taking back what he sees as Russian land. Putin feels that Lenin's Bolshevik Government made an error in recognizing the independence of various countries, Finland included, in 1917. As a former Soviet Republic, Ukraine has deep social and cultural ties with Russia. Russian is also spoken there, but ever since Russia invaded in 2014, those relations have frayed. In order to regain Soviet-era land, Putin has to strategically invade Ukraine before moving to countries like Poland, Finland, Sweden, etc.
Could Putin potentially invade a country like Finland?
Not only do I think he would, but once the opportunity presents itself, he will do it. He made that known in his rambling speech about Russia’s history. He made the point that he feels Finland is an integral part of it.
What are Western countries doing about it?
Sanctions are what the United States and Western Europe have agreed upon. Germany has halted approval on Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The EU has agreed to broad sanctions on 351 state members who backed Russia's decision to recognise the rebel-held regions as independent states in parliament. The US said it will cut off Russia's government from Western financial institutions and target high-ranking "elites." The UK has sanctioned five Russian banks and three billionaires.
What has Russia’s response to these sanctions been?
The Russian government warned of a "painful" response to the United States over its sanctions against Russia. Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Russia will target "sensitive" US assets as retaliation. Russian cyber personnel have begun attempted hacks of US Department of Defense personnel. In Europe, Russia has warned of sky rocketing fuel and energy prices that would cripple the European economy.
What about Ukraine?
There are some former Ukrainian military members who had finally gotten their lives back together after participating in an armed conflict in 2014, who are now being drafted back into military service. While they love their country and will defend it to the bitter end, they are also dealing with mental health issues and low morale stemming from the last conflict. Let's not forget the countless civilians who are facing uncertainty and are in harm's way.
Media's take is misleading:
New York Times: " In fiery speech, Putin made the case that Ukraine is integral part of Russian History"
CBSNews: "How the Ukraine crisis is already hitting American wallets"
The Freedom Truckers arrive in the DMV:
As mentioned on a previous episode, Canada was going through a heated trucker protest against the government’s COVID mandates. Now, those protests have arrived in the United States, where truckers have planned to convene on, what is called in the Washington DC metro area as the “Beltway." The Capital Beltway is a 64-mile Interstate Highway in the Washington metropolitan area that surrounds Washington, D.C.
What are the truckers protesting?
The main grievances include mask mandates, COVID-19 vaccinations, and rising fuel prices that will only increase with this Russian invasion of Ukraine.
What are the truckers trying to accomplish and how?
The original plan had been to illegally park or go against the flow of traffic in order to cause massive traffic congestion and cause havoc in the Washington, DC metro area. They have since backed off that plan and have agreed to travel with the flow of traffic.
What is the government doing to counter this protest?
About 700 unarmed National Guard troops are set to be deployed around the D.C. area to assist with traffic control and help local authorities solve any issues. Also, 400 D.C. National Guard members and 50 large tactical vehicles will be deployed to designated traffic posts. There is a plan in place where those national guard soldiers can stay in until March 7th depending on the outcome.
Richmond, Virginia takeover attempted by car club:
Richmond Police say they were able to stop a planned car club takeover of the city from getting out of control. Organizers of what is called “RVA 2.0" spent several months promoting the event details, and police quickly picked up on the specifics of the event. They were able to thwart a possible dangerous situation in the capital of Virginia. On Saturday night, Richmond Police say about 300 cars converged on the city to meet up at various locations. One of the organizers told media they were just there to talk car and no illegal activity was planned.
What did the police do?:
Police however issued 45 summons for offenses including:
Disregarding a red light
Improper exhaust system
Failure to wear a seatbelt
No valid operator’s license
Richmond police also arrested Richard C. Shreve Jr., and charged him with felony eluding of a law enforcement officer, reckless driving, and illegal window tint.
Could China invade Taiwan next?
China has now made it public they have aligned with Russia. Their next step, after the successful annexation of Ukrainian areas, is the formal reunification of Taiwan with mainland China. This week Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters that Taiwan is an "inalienable part" of the country of China, and that belief is an "indisputable historical and legal fact." Hua went on to say, "It is common knowledge that the Taiwan question was caused by a civil war, and there is political confrontation between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait due to that civil war. However, China's sovereignty and territory have never been divided and cannot be divided. This is the status quo of the Taiwan question." While both Russia and China have made historic claim to the conflict areas, China appeared to separate itself from Russia by specifically saying the territory has "never been divided and cannot be divided."
What is Taiwan doing in response?
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen ordered the creation of a task force to study how the Russia-Ukraine conflict could affect Taiwan's conflict with Beijing. Taiwan is obviously following what's going on in Eastern Europe very closely, and they do see a very close parallel with that situation.
So what are the experts predicting about a potential invasion of Taiwan by China?
Some experts, and others who aren’t so much experts, consider a Chinese action toward Taiwan as imminent while others consider an invasion of Taiwan as a few years away.
So where do you (Kervin) stand?
For me, that will depend on what happens next in Ukraine. Once Putin places his president in power in Ukraine, China will be paying close attention to how the US and Western Europe react. If the reaction is more sanctions, China will immediately jump at the chance to take over Taiwan and not care about sanctions.
If, however, all Western powers are aligned through military might, China may take a "wait and see" approach over the next few years. The "wait and see approach" would allow China to build up its military might while Western powers become depleted during a conflict with Russia.
Is there a potential for WWIII within our lifetimes?
I know I will be called a warmonger or whatever, but I think the chances a world war breaks out in the next 5 years is HIGHLY LIKELY. I stand at 75% sure that we will see a complete World War on multiple fronts within that timeframe.
HISTORY'S MYSTERIES: General Harriet Tubman
The one, the only, Araminta Ross, AKA Minty, AKA Moses, AKA General Tubman who took her mother’s first name Harriet. She is well known for her work in the Underground Railroad, where she led thousands of slaves north to freedom. But, during the Civil War she volunteered as a nurse for the Union Army. Afterward, became a spy. In 1863, she became the first woman to lead an armed military expedition into battle during the war, guiding Union soldiers into the Combahee River Raid in South Carolina.
In her years of guiding people away from slavery on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman had to arrange clandestine meetings, scout routes without drawing attention to herself, and think on her feet. Although she was illiterate, she had learned to keep track of complex amounts of information. These were all the skills that any aspiring spy would need to acquire to be successful. Unfortunately, Tubman wasn't able to immediately start gathering intelligence. One problem was that, being from Maryland, she had no local knowledge to draw on. And the liberated people from the area mostly spoke Gullah---a combination of English and African languages. Even though she initially was met with some issues, Tubman was able to assemble a group of trusted scouts to map territory and waterways. Having received Secret Service funds in January 1863, Tubman was also able to pay those who offered useful information, such as the location of Confederate troops or ordnance.
Was she successful in thwarting attacks by Confederate forces?
Yes. This was demonstrated in one operation when Union ships proceeded unharmed because they knew where Confederate mines had been submerged. Tubman oversaw the expedition alongside a colonel she trusted, thus making her the first and only woman to organize and lead a military operation during the Civil War.
Unsurprisingly, she was also successful in The Combahee Raid that would overwhelm the Confederates leading Confederate leaders to report: "The enemy seems to have been well posted as to the character and capacity of our troops and their small chance of encountering opposition, and to have been well guided by persons thoroughly acquainted with the river and country." Harriet Tubman is such a fascinating historical figure in that she fled Southern slave states and gained her freedom, but did not allow herself to be complacent in a free lifestyle. She would risk her freedom and her life rescuing slaves from the bondage of Southern plantations.