I was sitting in the Killarney Rose, a gin mill in on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan, after work when the news of the collapse of the Soviet Socialist Republic was announced on the television over the bar. The room went silent for a moment. A young man was talking to an older man next to me. He said something to the effect that now that the cold war was over, maybe we could count Russia as an ally. The older man cursed and told his bar stool buddy that we could never trust the Russians and that they would always hate America. He was, of course, talking about governments rather than people.
It was December 5, 1989 in Dresden, East Germany. It was not even a month since the fall of the Berlin Wall. “People Power” as they called it, was in evidence everywhere. A crowd had stormed the offices of the Stasi, the East German Secret Police. Next the crossed the street to a, seemingly innocuous, private home that housed the Soviet KGB. The guard on duty raced inside. Soon, a KGB officer came out to address the crowd and told them to disperse or they would be fired upon. The crowd dispersed. The officer placed a call to the Red Army Tank Corp asking for protection. The commanding officer told him that they could not move without orders from Moscow. Then he uttered a phrase that haunted the young officer for the rest of his life “Moscow is silent.” So began the odyssey of Vladimir Putin’s journey back to Leningrad. Putin talks about his return to a crumbling Soviet Union and finances being so dismal that he was forced to drive a cab. Whether he was a cabby or not, he realized that he possessed a valuable commodity. Connections from his days in the KGB. These connections are his oligarchs.
Putin still decries the fall of the Soviet Union, saying that “First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.”
It is little wonder that Putin has invaded Ukraine as he did Georgia and the Crimea area of Ukraine in 2014. It has become clear that Putin wants to reestablish the Soviet Union and will do so at all costs. He hinted at the use of nuclear weapons against any nation that opposes his incursion into Ukraine. Today is day seven of his baseless, and unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation.
Putin is a “long game” player, setting up pieces far ahead of their actual use on the game board and he has by no means finished with the United States. In January 2022, Putin stated that he would not invade Ukraine. His Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, echoed his statement. Putin lied. The Russian President also told the world that he did not interfere in the 2016 US election. It is becoming clear that he lied. Putin’s government ran a multifaceted attack against our electoral process through hacking, and via social media, but also through coordinated rallies and protests led by Russian agents, right here in the United States. He needed Trump to win the Presidency as he knew that Trump would disrupt the status quo, while Hillary Clinton would be a hardliner against his government and thereby impede his plans. Trump went on to destroy relationships and foster anti-American sentiment amongst our European allies and threatened to pull the United States out of NATO. His misinformation and lies drove political division to its breaking point instilling violence and chaos. In 2020, he ran for reelection. But the COVID Pandemic stood in his way. Putin didn’t have a plan to penetrate our system for mail in ballots. Even the appointment of Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General couldn’t disrupt our free and fair election of 2020 as Putin had the 2016 presidential election.
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Then came the attack on the United States Capitol. Were it not for the bravery of the vastly outnumbered Capitol Police Force, the very seat of the Government of the United States could have fallen. This had to be a moment of ecstasy for Vladimir Putin. If the United States was fighting against itself, there was nothing to stand in the way of his plan to reestablish the former Soviet vassal states.
But it didn’t happen. While there remains a wide schism between political ideologies, there was no second Civil War.
The Biden Administration has worked tirelessly to coordinate the delivery of much needed weapons and medical supplies from the United States and its NATO allies to Ukraine. The sanctions against Russia and the individual Oligarchs have dramatically impacted their country’s economy. The Russian Rubble has devalued to the equivalent of one cent USD. According to a brief that can be found on whitehouse.gov, the United States and it allies have also imposed the following:
“Severing the connection to the U.S. financial system for Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, including 25 subsidiaries, by imposing correspondent and payable-through account sanctions. This action will restrict Sberbank’s access to transactions made in the dollar. Sberbank is the largest bank in Russia, holds nearly one-third of the overall Russian banking sector’s assets, is heavily connected to the global financial system, and is systemically critical to the Russian financial system.
Full blocking sanctions on Russia’s second largest financial institution, VTB Bank (VTB), including 20 subsidiaries. This action will freeze any of VTB’s assets touching the U.S financial system and prohibit U.S. persons from dealing with them. VTB holds nearly one-fifth of the overall Russian banking sector’s assets, is heavily exposed to the U.S. and western financial systems and is systemically critical to the Russian financial system.
Full blocking sanctions on three other major Russian financial institutions: Bank Otkritie, Sovcombank OJSC, and Novikombank- and 34 subsidiaries. These sanctions freeze any of these institutions’ assets touching the U.S financial system and prohibit U.S. persons from dealing with them. These financial institutions play a significant a role in the Russian economy.
New debt and equity restrictions on thirteen of the most critical major Russian enterprises and entities. This includes restrictions on all transactions in, provision of financing for, and other dealings in new debt of greater than 14 days maturity and new equity issued by thirteen Russian state-owned enterprises and entities: Sberbank, AlfaBank, Credit Bank of Moscow, Gazprombank, Russian Agricultural Bank, Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Transneft, Rostelecom, RusHydro, Alrosa, Sovcomflot, and Russian Railways. These entities, including companies critical to the Russian economy with estimated assets of nearly $1.4 trillion, will not be able to raise money through the U.S. market — a key source of capital and revenue generation, which limits the Kremlin’s ability to raise money for its activity.
Additional full blocking sanctions on Russian elites and their family members: Sergei Ivanov (and his son, Sergei), Nikolai Patrushev (and his son Andrey), Igor Sechin (and his son Ivan), Andrey Puchkov, Yuriy Solviev (and two real estate companies he owns), Galina Ulyutina, and Alexander Vedyakhin. This action includes individuals who have enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian state, and have elevated their family members into some of the highest position of powers in the country. It also includes financial figures who sit atop Russia’s largest financial institutions and are responsible for providing the resources necessary to support Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. This action follows up on yesterday’s action targeting Russian elites and their family members and cuts them off from the U.S. financial system, freezes any assets they hold in the United States and blocks their travel to the United States.
Costs on Belarus for supporting a further invasion of Ukraine by sanctioning 24 Belarusian individuals and entities, including targeting Belarus’ military and financial capabilities by sanctioning two significant Belarusian state-owned banks, nine defense firms, and seven regime-connected official and elites. We call on Belarus to withdraw its support for Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Sweeping restrictions on Russia’s military to strike a blow to Putin’s military and strategic ambitions. This includes measures against military end users, including the Russian Ministry of Defense. Exports of nearly all U.S. items and items produced in foreign countries using certain U.S.-origin software, technology, or equipment will be restricted to targeted military end users. These comprehensive restrictions apply to the Russian Ministry of Defense, including the Armed Forces of Russia, wherever located.
Russia-wide restrictions to choke off Russia’s import of technological goods critical to a diversified economy and Putin’s ability to project power. This includes Russia-wide denial of exports of sensitive technology, primarily targeting the Russian defense, aviation, and maritime sectors to cut off Russia’s access to cutting-edge technology. In addition to sweeping restrictions on the Russian-defense sector, the United States government will impose Russia-wide restrictions on sensitive U.S. technologies produced in foreign countries using U.S.-origin software, technology, or equipment. This includes Russia-wide restrictions on semiconductors, telecommunication, encryption security, lasers, sensors, navigation, avionics and maritime technologies. These severe and sustained controls will cut off Russia’s access to cutting edge technology.
Historical multilateral cooperation that serves as a force multiplier in restricting more than $50 billion in key inputs to Russia- impacting far more than that in Russia’s production. As a result of this multilateral coordination, we will provide an exemption for other countries that adopt equally stringent measures. Countries that adopt substantially similar export restrictions are exempted from new U.S. licensing requirements for items produced in their countries. The European Union, Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, have already communicated their plans for parallel actions. This unprecedented coordination significantly expands the scope of restrictions on Russia. Further engagement with Allies and partners will continue to maximize the impact on Russia’s military capabilities.”
In addition, Russia has been expelled from the “SWIFT” banking system. “It is a messaging network that connects banks around the world and is considered the backbone of international finance. The Belgian-based consortium links more than 11,000 financial institutions operating in more than 200 countries and territories, acting as a critical hub to enable international payments.”
In neighboring countries, Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed with open arms. Regular citizens offer their own homers for a place for the displaced to sleep and shelter. There are tents set up at the border of Poland that distribute food and water, not from Polish Government sources, but from average people. All across Europe, refugees are being welcomed. These countries are setting an example for the world on how to act and react.
Yet, here in the United States we are peppered by Putin driven propaganda. Ultra conservative media outlets have been parroting TASS and RTV (both Russian State-owned media) talking points for 6 years. Propaganda and conspiracy theories were the Soviet’s strong suit back in the 80’s and Putin is a master at the art of manipulation.
He is manipulating us through the media, through social media, through members of our own government that speak in unison with Russian State Media outlets. Be careful.
There are things for us to ponder in a tumultuous time. Comparisons to reality that need to be made:
- Wearing a mask in crowded venues is infringing on my freedom.
- People of Ukraine are hiding in basements and subways with children and pets in an attempt to keep their freedom.
- Eastern and Western Europe are welcoming Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war and the tyranny of Vladimir Putin.
- At the US southern border, people fleeing civil war, despotic dictators, and criminal gangs, seeking asylum are turned back or caged, referred to as criminals, hated and reviled by our citizenry, and demonized by the media. The US does not help those in need anymore. (The lie that “Those People” take all our jobs because they work cheap is simply not true. The United States is in the midst of the worst employee shortage we have ever faced.)
- Putin lies about Ukraine to legitimize his invasion. Zelensky is a Nazi, the civilian casualties are because they work or were near plants that manufacture weapons, etc.,
- Some members of our own government parrot his allegations.
It is time that we grow up as a nation. The time for division is over. In order to remain the shining bastion of freedom and democracy in the world, we need to put aside conspiracy theories, hatred, prejudice, and partisan nonsense. Ronald Reagan’s campaign slogan was “It’s Morning in America”. It is time that we wake up and embrace one another’s differences and work together, not obstruct one another. It can be Morning in America, again….if we let it.
Note: For those wishing to help the people of Ukraine, below is a list of charitable organizations: