Crimea is a beautiful, verdant, beach-ringed peninsula with strategic importance as a Black Sea port. But if Russia plans to keep Crimea, Ukraine may want to let Russian President Vladimir Putin keep his "expensive, Pyrrhic victory," says NYU professor Mark Galeotti in his blog, In Moscow's Shadows. Galeotti explains:
Strictly from a coldly logical position (and I am not advocating this, I should add), in many ways it is in Kiev's interests for Moscow to steal Crimea, and turn it into some pseudo-state or new part of the Russian Federation. Ukraine loses a sunny peninsula, but also a distinct drain on the state's coffers (the Crimean economy is not great, and the region receives net subsidies from the center). It sheds the most troublesome and Russophile of its regions, one which has been a turbulent locus of trouble for Kiev for most of post-Soviet Ukraine's history. It also gets concrete proof of the threat it faces from Russian bullying and probably accelerated and solicitous assistance from the U.S., EU, NATO, etc. It also validates every Ukrainian fear about Russia. [In Moscow's Shadow]
Galeotti further argues that the best weapons against Putin are measures to freeze the assets and ban the travel of Russian elites. "Putin is nowhere near as powerful at home, within the elite, as before," he adds. Sometimes the bold move isn't the smart one. Peter Weber
China on Saturday lodged its expected objections to President-elect Donald Trump's acceptance of a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in a sharp break with diplomatic habit. American and Taiwanese leaders are last known to have spoken directly in 1979 as the United States does not formally recognize Taiwan as an independent nation, separate from China.
"We have noticed relevant reports and lodged solemn representation with the relevant side in the United States," said a representative from China's Foreign Ministry. "The 'one China' principle is the political foundation of China-US relations." Earlier comments from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi place the blame squarely on "petty" Taiwan.
Trump on Twitter defended the call, noting that he did not initiate it and suggesting it is hypocritical to avoid normal diplomatic relations with Taiwan given American weapon sales to the island. "Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment," he said, "but I should not accept a congratulatory call." Bonnie Kristian
President-elect Donald Trump endorsed the Philippines' controversial drug war tactics, claimed volatile Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday after a short phone call with Trump Friday night. "He was quite sensitive to our war on drugs and he wishes me well in my campaign and said that we are doing, as he so put it, 'the right way,'" Duterte said.
Since taking office, Duterte has launched a brutal attack on suspected drug dealers, encouraging extrajudicial killings by police and vigilantes alike. "My order is shoot to kill you," he infamously said of dealers. "I don't care about human rights, you'd better believe me." At least 2,400 people believed to be drug users and dealers were killed in the first two months of Duterte's administration.
Trump has yet to comment on Duterte's account of the conversation. Bonnie Kristian
President-elect Donald Trump spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday, in a move that critics say will surely infuriate the People's Republic of China. While the phone call between the U.S. president-elect and the Taiwanese president appeared to be mainly congratulatory, it broke over three decades of precedent; the last time leaders of the two countries spoke directly is believed to be 1979 and the U.S. doesn't formally recognize the Taiwanese government. China considers the island a breakaway province, and so the phone call is expected to create an uproar in Beijing.
The Hamilton Mixtape dropped Friday and immediately rose to the top of the charts. The 23-track album sits at No. 1 on iTunes and is also the No. 1 paid album on Amazon. A homage to the Broadway hit Hamilton, the album features covers from artists like Alicia Keys, Sia, The Roots, and Busta Rhymes. Some tracks stay loyal to the cast album renditions, but The Atlantic noted "many do shift emphases in refreshing ways, confirming these songs' potential to live outside a narrative."
The album debuted Thursday night with a live performance at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, the home of Hamilton. Becca Stanek
President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte — the man who told President Obama to "go to hell" and threatened to "break up" with America — for a meeting at the White House next year, Reuters reported Friday, citing an aide to Duterte. The Philippine president's special adviser Christopher Go said the invitation came during a "very engaging, animated" phone call between Trump and Duterte that lasted "just over seven minutes."
Duterte has already expressed enthusiasm about Trump's victory, and said he does not "want to quarrel anymore" now that Trump will be assuming office. Duterte's relationship with the U.S. has been rocky recently, after Obama suggested he would question Duterte's campaign against the drug trade that has left thousands dead. "Son of a b-tch, I will swear at you," Duterte responded, prompting Obama to cancel their meeting.
A "source" indicated last week to Reuters that Trump will approach his relationship with Duterte with a "clean slate." "He is perfectly capable of talking to Duterte in an open way without being wedded to previous policy failures," the individual told Reuters. "If anyone is going to be able to right the ship, it's someone with Mr. Trump's profile."
Even before news broke of Trump's conversation with Duterte, The New York Times reported that the president-elect's "freewheeling phone calls with foreign leaders" had "unnerved diplomats at home and abroad." So far, he has praised the president of Kazakhstan, who The Times described as "one of the world's most durable despots," expressed interest in visiting the "fantastic country" of Pakistan, and seemingly blown off the British prime minister. Becca Stanek
The Indiana wind seems to have blown the cover on President-elect Donald Trump's secret to keeping his red ties perfectly in place. As Trump stepped off a plane Thursday to tour the Carrier plant in Indianapolis, a strong gust briefly upended Trump's signature hairdo and tie — revealing two pieces of strategically placed Scotch tape:
Look close and you’ll see Donald Trump scotch tapes his tie together. As seen as he excited plane in Indiana today as the wind kicked up: pic.twitter.com/Qzzkup5AZd
— Hunter Schwarz (@hunterschwarz) December 2, 2016
Apparently even men with sprawling business empires and a penchant for gold leaf can enjoy the simplicity of DIY fixes. Becca Stanek
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is putting the brakes on Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein's recount efforts. On Friday, Schuette announced he is filing a lawsuit to block Stein's "frivolous, expensive recount request" in the state. "It is inexcusable for Stein to put [Michigan voters] at risk of paying millions and potentially losing their voice in the [Electoral] College," Schuette tweeted, noting he had filed an "emergency motion" with Michigan's Supreme Court to "ensure a timely process."
Stein's efforts are also facing pushback in Wisconsin. The Associated Press reported Friday that Trump supporters have filed a federal lawsuit to halt Wisconsin's recount, which started on Thursday. The lawsuit argues that the recount "threatens the due process rights" of those who voted for Trump.
Stein announced last week she would raise money to fund recount efforts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, after cybersecurity experts noted alleged irregularities in the states' results. No evidence of a hack has emerged. Becca Stanek