The Sunday Subject – March 13, 2022

Russia has intensified its campaign of destruction and bombardment in Ukraine’s cities.

As Russian troops ramp up their strategy of devastating Ukraine’s cities, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the invasion as a “war of annihilation.” Among other brutal and indiscriminate attacks, a Russian strike hit a maternity hospital in the besieged southern city of Mariupol this week. According to Zelensky, about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers and 500 civilians have been killed.

Congress finalized a $1.5 trillion spending bill, which includes $13.6 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine.

In addition to $46 billion for domestic programs, such as maternal and child health programs, tribal programs, public education and mental health programs, the bill funds vital arms and equipment  for Ukraine. “This bill invests in future prosperity, in our health, and reduces everyday costs for millions of Americans, such as child care, a college education, and heating and cooling costs,” said Democratic Senator Patrick J. Leahy. In order to get Republican support, Democrats agreed to exceed the administration’s request for Pentagon spending and maintain restrictions on federal money that they had hoped to eliminate, including the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funding for most abortions.

As the civilian toll in Ukraine grows, President Biden has banned Russian oil imports.

Many Ukrainians remained trapped in besieged cities, resulting in increasing pressure to punish Russia. Average US gas prices have hit a record high at $4.17 a gallon, surpassing the previous high from July 2008.

Yoon Suk-yeol has won South Korea’s highly contentious presidential election.

Yoon, an anti-graft prosecutor, beat the governing party’s center-left candidate, Lee Jae-myung, reinstating conservatives to power in the closest election in the country’s democratic history. Yoon’s platform focused on a tougher stance on North Korea and closer alignment with the United States, in addition to promising voters anti-corruption, meritocracy and the rule of law. Yoon will likely struggle to pass legislation without the support of his opponents, who retain a legislative supermajority in the National Assembly. Yoon will also have to reckon with South Korea’s tricky position as a military ally of the US that trades heavily with China — a tension that has been exacerbated by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which further intensified the political and economic divisions between autocracies and Western democracies.