The Sunday Subject – March 6, 2022

President Biden delivered his State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

In his speech, Biden condemned Russia and promoted his domestic agenda. He voiced support for a united global resistance to defend the world order threatened by Russian aggression, and stated that Putin “badly miscalculated” in invading Ukraine, as the world has united together against Russia. The President also outlined spending plans to fight inflation, and made a new pitch for social spending programs that have been stalled in Congress. 

The refugee crisis in Europe continues to grow as explosions hit major Ukrainian cities.

Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky has accused Russia of war crimes as it bombs Ukraine’s major cities and targets civilian infrastructure and residential districts indiscriminately. The most recent example of Russia’s war crimes appeared Saturday, when Russian troops broke a ceasefire in the city of Mariupol meant to allow residents a safe passage out of the city. After the first forty-five minutes of what was supposed to be a seven hour ceasefire, Russian forces opened fire on the fleeing refugees and resumed shelling around the city. According to the United Nations, more than 1.45 million people have fled Ukraine, making it the largest and fastest displacement of people in Europe since World War ll. 

The EU has announced additional unprecedented and crippling sanctions against Russia.

The EU declared it will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and equipment to Ukraine, marking a watershed moment, as the EU was designed as a “peace-project” and has long-avoided the topic of war. The bloc also announced it would strengthen its sanctions against Russia’s collaborator, Belarus. Additionally, the package will target 70% of the Russian banking market and key state owned companies; enact an export ban that will cripple Russia’s integral oil sector; ban the sale of aircrafts and equipment to Russian airlines; limit Russia’s access to crucial technology, such as semiconductors or cutting-edge software; and revoke Russians’ privileged access to the European Union. The most stark policy shifts, however, occurred in Germany. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced this week that Germany would end its dependence on Russian gas, spend an additional 100 billion euros on its military (finally meeting NATO’s target of 2% of GDP), and provide hundreds of anti-tank weapons and missiles to Ukraine, among other things. In doing so, Germany has entered a new landmark era in its foreign policy. Mindful of both its history and dependence on Russian energy, Germany had since its reunification abided by the idea that it could bring “change through trade,” thus engaging in a policy of trading with countries led by authoritarian leaders with poor human rights records antithetical to Germany’s values. “What Olaf Scholz announced was the biggest sea-change of German policy since reunification,” said Tyson Barker of the German Council on Foreign Relations.

The strategic southern Ukrainian city of Kherson fell on Wednesday.

Kherson is the only big city to have been captured by Russia since the fighting began. Russian forces have done reasonably well in southern Ukraine compared to the stalled operations in the north and around Kyiv. In Kherson, hundreds have protested against the occupation, chanting slogans of freedom, and standing in front of tanks and armored vehicles, refusing to move despite warning shots.