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
The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel released an opinion Saturday saying President Trump's plan to hire his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for a senior advisory role in the White House does not run afoul of federal anti-nepotism law.
"We conclude that [the federal anti-nepotism statute] does not bar this appointment because the president's special hiring authority ... exempts positions in the White House Office" from the ban, the opinion tells Trump, later noting that in "choosing his personal staff, the president enjoys an unusual degree of freedom, which Congress found suitable to the demands of his office."
The 14-page document was prepared by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Daniel L. Koffsky, who is "a longtime career lawyer at Justice," as Politico reports, and not a Trump appointee. Kushner's appointment could still face an ethics challenge in court, though it is unclear how a plaintiff could demonstrate standing to sue. Bonnie Kristian
At least four people were killed and more injured after a tornado ripped through southern Mississippi Saturday morning, officials from the city of Hattiesburg reported on Twitter. Two of the deaths occurred in a trailer park, where impermanent structures offered less protection from the extreme weather.
The tornado struck around 4 a.m. "It woke me up and half the roof was gone," said Hattiesburg's Edna Smith, whose home was badly damaged. "I don't know what I'm going to do now. I'm going to try to get some help." Part of Smith's roof landed in her backyard, while the roof of her neighbor's porch shoved her car into a brick wall.
Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree declared a state of emergency as rescue efforts continue and 13,000 people remain without power. At least one local university has sent students home so destruction on campus can be repaired. Bonnie Kristian
Actress Ashley Judd took the stage at the Women's March on Washington following filmmaker Michael Moore on Saturday, and she shared a beat poem by 19-year-old Tennessean Nina Donovan titled "I am a nasty woman." Repeatedly referencing President Trump's insult for then-rival Hillary Clinton during the final presidential debate, the poem's author says she is a nasty woman — but "not as nasty as a man who looks like he bathes in Cheeto dust, a man whose words are a dis to America, Electoral College-sanctioned hate speech."
"I didn't know devils could be resurrected, but I feel Hitler in these streets," Judd continued. "A moustache traded for a toupee, Nazis renamed." Watch her full performance below. Bonnie Kristian
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) January 21, 2017
After starting his second day in office with a stop at the interfaith National Prayer Service, President Trump is scheduled to visit the CIA. His nominee for CIA director, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), is not expected to be confirmed until Monday at the soonest, but the visit may be designed to smooth relations with the agency after longstanding campaign controversy.
The event "is over capacity at 300+," tweeted Press Secretary Sean Spicer of Trump's visit to the CIA's headquarters at Langley. "Excited to thank the men and women of the intelligence community."
For weeks before taking office, Trump rejected the CIA's conclusion that Russia attempted to manipulate the U.S. election on his behalf, dismissing the U.S. intelligence community as "the same people that said Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction." As recently as last week, Trump said in a press conference that it is "disgraceful" American intelligence agencies like the CIA allowed the unverified dossier on his alleged ties to Russia to be released. "That's something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do," he charged. Bonnie Kristian
After a busy day of inaugural festivities Friday, President Trump's campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, did not attend the Women's March on Washington on Saturday — but she did tweet her support for the event.
Thanks for standing, speaking & marching for our values @womensmarch. Important as ever. I truly believe we're always Stronger Together.
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 21, 2017
The protest of the new Donald Trump administration on Saturday featured remarks from speakers including America Ferrera, Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem, Scarlett Johansson, Melissa Harris-Perry, and more.
An estimated 500,000 protesters converged on Washington for the Women's March; the crowd at Trump's inauguration the day before was projected to be 800,000 to 900,000 people. Both crowd tallies are remain unofficial appraisals at this stage. Bonnie Kristian
"We march today for our families and our neighbors, for our future, for the causes that we claim and the causes that claim us," said actress America Ferrera on Saturday at the Women's March on Washington. "We march today for the moral core of this nation, against which our new president is waging a war."
"He would like us to forget the words, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,' and instead take up a credo of hate, fear, and suspicion of one another," she continued, "but we are gathered here and across the country and around the world today to say, 'Mr. Trump, we refuse!'"
Originally expected to be attended by about 200,000 women, Washington officials now say the Women's March organizers estimate their numbers at half a million strong. Watch Ferrera's full speech below. Bonnie Kristian
After threat of invasion from neighboring Senegal to enforce election results, former President Yahya Jammeh of Gambia agreed to peacefully relinquish his post. Jammeh lost the contest in December and initially conceded. Then, a week later, he announced he would not leave office but rather would continue his two-decade rule of the tiny West African nation.
Saturday morning, Jammeh gave a televised speech announcing he has "decided today in good conscience to relinquish the mantle of leadership of this great nation with infinite gratitude to all Gambians." He insisted the decision "was not dictated by anything else but by the supreme interest of you, the Gambian people and our dear country," ignoring the arrival of Senegalese troops in his nation just 24 hours prior.
Jammeh first took power in 1994 after a military coup and once claimed he would rule Gambia for "a billion years." The new president, Adama Barrow, has been waiting in Senegal and will enter Gambia to take office as soon as a security sweep has been completed. Bonnie Kristian