As the West begins to shape its response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, the emerging conventional wisdom is that there is little the world can do to stop Vladimir Putin from doing whatever he wants to do. Here is Peter Baker in The New York Times warning that Russia will likely get away with its Soviet-style land grab fairly easily:
Russia is an even tougher country to pressure, too formidable even in the post-Soviet age to rattle with stern lectures or shows of military force, and too rich in resources to squeeze economically in the short term. With a veto on the United Nations Security Council, it need not worry about the world body. And as the primary source of natural gas to much of Europe, it holds a trump card over many American allies. [The New York Times]
Ben Judah, writing in Politico Magazine, goes further, arguing that wealthy interests in Europe are too invested in Russia's oligarchical scheme to put any pressure on it:
Moscow is not nervous. Russia's elites have exposed themselves in a gigantic manner — everything they hold dear is now locked up in European properties and bank accounts. Theoretically, this makes them vulnerable. The EU could, with a sudden rush of money-laundering investigations and visa bans, cut them off from their wealth. But, time and time again, they have watched European governments balk at passing anything remotely similar to the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which bars a handful of criminal-officials from entering the United States.
All this has made Putin confident, very confident — confident that European elites are more concerned about making money than standing up to him. [Politico Magazine]
In this view, the West has neither the means nor the will to draw Putin's blood. But it does have the means, including the visa bans and banking sanctions that Judah cites, which would chip at the heart of the Russian regime; a revived effort to install missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, which were scrapped amidst a "reset" in relations that is obviously dead and gone; and a general strengthening of Western-friendly governments around Russia, including Georgia, Poland, and the provisional government in Kiev (whether this includes NATO membership in the case of Georgia and Ukraine is a debate for another day).
Does the West have the will? To suggest that it doesn't seems to underestimate the historical significance of the moment. This is a naked land grab on a different order of magnitude than Russia's move into Georgia in 2008, which was legitimately shrouded in a fog-of-war-type situation. Now that the scales have fallen from everyone's eyes, now that Putin's territorial ambitions and agenda have been so totally exposed, the West has little choice but to make his transgressions as painful as possible — otherwise what would stop Putin from expanding his thug regime? Ryu Spaeth
Speaking on Russia's state-run Rossiya channel on Saturday, President Vladimir Putin admitted that Moscow and Washington have "disagreements," but that "there is something that unites us, that forces us to work together," Reuters reports.
"I mean general efforts directed at making the world economy more democratic, measured and balanced, so that the world order is more democratic," Putin said. "We have a common agenda."
His comments come two days after he told a Russian phone-in show that the United States wants "not allies, but vassals," and is behaving like the former Soviet Union in its overreaching foreign policy. Sarah Eberspacher
A new report from the United Nations on Friday says at least 120,000 people have been displaced due to ongoing violence in Yemen (an Oxfam report put the minimum number closer to 121,000).
"This is in addition to the 300,000-plus Yemenis already displaced by previous violence," Adrian Edwards, a spokesperson for the UNHCR, said in a statement reported by NPR. "It's feared this figure could rise significantly if violence continues."
The number of displaced persons has escalated since Saudi-led airstrikes began against the Houthi rebels more than three weeks ago. Iran submitted a four-point peace plan to the U.N. on Friday, but Reuters reports that other international diplomats have dismissed the country's claims of brokering peace, saying Iran, which has backed the Houthi rebels in the conflict, is not a neutral party. Sarah Eberspacher
You can plan the perfect IMAX event to drum up interest for your teaser trailer, but sometimes (all of the time), the internet is going to ignore your carefully laid out plans.
Such was the case for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice director Zack Snyder, who countered an online leak of the upcoming film's trailer by releasing the real deal on Friday night. As his tweet accurately claims, Warner Bros.' version is neither blurry nor pirated. Watch Ben Affleck's Batman and Henry Cavill's Superman square off, sans IMAX, in the video, below. —Sarah Eberspacher
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that the Islamic State claimed its militants were behind a series of attacks on the city of Jalalabad that killed at least 33 people and injured more than 100 on Saturday.
"Today the deadly attack in Nangarhar Province, who claimed responsibility?” asked Ghani while speaking on national television. "Taliban did not claim responsibility, but Daesh claimed responsibility." The New York Times notes that Daesh is the Arabic pronunciation of ISIS.
Several explosions occurred near the New Kabul Bank branch, as government workers lined up to collect their paychecks. The deadliest attack involved a suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives. Officials said all of the victims were civilians.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the most prolific scorer in NBA history, underwent successful quadruple-bypass surgery in Los Angeles, according to a statement released Friday by UCLA Health. Abdul-Jabbar had the procedure done Thursday at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after being admitted there with cardiovascular disease earlier this week.
Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer and is most known for his 14 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers during the "Showtime" era. In his 20 years in the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar won six championships and was named league MVP six times. He is expected to make a full recovery. Kimberly Alters
A San Diego man trying to board a bus in his wheelchair was stripped of his transit pass because he didn't have proper "proof" of his disability. A transit cop told Joey Canales, 31, that he wasn't carrying the proper paperwork and confiscated the pass. "My disability is not hidden," Canales told the officer, who also issued him a ticket.
On Friday at 6 p.m., former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will appear on Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, where he's expected to lay out details of his future announcement about whether he'll run for president. Baier has been interviewing potential candidates in his series The Presidential Contenders: 2016.
Speaking with reporters before heading to New Hampshire this weekend to join several fellow potential and confirmed GOP candidates, Huckabee was predictably cryptic. "I will at least give people an understanding of when there will be an announcement and where," he said.
In January, Huckabee ended his own show on Fox News to explore a second shot at the White House — he won the Iowa GOP caucuses in 2008. Earlier this week, he also stated his nationally broadcast radio show would end in May. Stephanie Talmadge