Inside the Beltway: Saber-rattling or hybrid war in Ukraine?

Is a potential Ukraine conflict a showcase for saber-rattling, economic soul-searching, or something else far more serious? It could be all of those things.

“Russians have already started hybrid war,” reports The Wall Street Journal.

“Moscow is using cyberattacks, economic pressure and, most recently, false bomb threats, to undermine its neighbor, Kyiv says,” the news organization said in an analysis.

Yes, but money talks on a global level.

Glenn Beaton, in a column for The Aspen Beat, said that “war is semi-obsolete in today’s global economy. Just as China doesn’t want war with the United States, which is its biggest manufactured goods customer, Russia doesn’t want war with western or even eastern Europe, which are its biggest oil and gas customers.”

“Say what you will about the perils of globalization, but it does discourage war. Bombing your customer or even your customer’s neighbor is bad for business,” he wrote at the Colorado-based news and opinion site.

“Second, Ukraine is not defenseless even if it doesn’t get much help from NATO. Ukraine could field a couple hundred thousand soldiers. Even if they aren’t great soldiers, they aren’t bad, and soldiers fight notoriously well when defending their own land, cities and families,” Mr. Beaton advised.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is also a major factor, noted Harry J. Kazianis, senior director at the Center for the National Interest and executive editor of its publishing arm, The National Interest.

“We must consider the fact that Russia’s real strategy may not be to conquer every inch of Ukrainian territory but to make Kyiv’s economy, military, and society into something so fractured and broken that Kyiv has no chance of joining NATO or the European Union. And to achieve that — what Putin has stated as his real aims for Ukraine — would be a short, sharp war that turns Ukraine into the basket case of Europe,” Mr. Kazianis predicts.

“The only question now is will Putin be willing — or be able — to handle the economic sanctions the West will impose on him if he does decide to attack? If Putin thinks he can take the economic heat and destroy Ukraine for decades to come, then he will invade,” Mr. Kazianis said in a statement shared with the Beltway.


In the meantime, the situation in Ukraine has become the source of much media speculation. A few headlines from the last 48 hours:

“Biden administration describes brutal Russian invasion scenario and issues grim warning to Americans” (Fox News);  “U.S. officials warn diplomatic efforts are ‘shrinking’ amid Russia-Ukraine tensions” (The Hill); “German Chancellor Olaf Scholz flying to Ukraine, Russia in last-ditch diplomatic bid” (New York Post); “British defense minister cancels holiday as Ukraine crisis deepens” (Reuters); “Finland’s president knows Vladimir Putin well. And he fears for Ukraine,” (The New York Times); “Biden warns Putin U.S. will react ‘decisively and impose swift and severe costs’ if Russia invades Ukraine” (CNN).


Let’s take notice that “Red-Handed: How American Elites Get Rich Helping China Win” by Peter Schweizer is now No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list — this after topping Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestseller lists since the book was published on Jan. 25. And no wonder.

“Schweizer says that, in a quarter-century as an investigative journalist, this is the scariest investigation he has ever conducted,” advised publisher Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.

President Biden, incidentally, is featured on the bright red cover shaking hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“That the Chinese government seeks to infiltrate American institutions is hardly surprising. What is wholly new, however, are the number of American elites who are eager to help the Chinese dictatorship in its quest for global hegemony,” the Harper Books said in advance notes.  

“Presidential families, Silicon Valley gurus, Wall Street high rollers, Ivy League universities, even professional athletes are all willing to sacrifice American strength and security on the altar of personal enrichment,” the publisher advised.


Well, not everything is dour and doleful at the moment.

Valentine’s Day spending in the U.S. is expected to reach $23.9 billion this year, up from $21.8 billion in 2021 and the second-highest year on record, according to the National Retail Federation.  

“Valentine’s Day is a special occasion for many Americans, even more so as we navigate out of the pandemic, and retailers are prepared to help them mark the holiday in a memorable and meaningful way,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the aforementioned federation.

The group’s research also revealed that 53% of U.S. consumers plan to celebrate the holiday on Monday — and 76% of them agree it’s important to do so “given the current state of the pandemic,” the analysis said.


This year’s Valentine’s Day is also expected to benefit from the rising trend of “self-care,” reported the National Confectioners Association, an industry group. The candy authority expects consumers will “treat themselves” to confections, celebrate the day and “support their emotional well-being.”

The makers of Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, meanwhile, now reveal that the messages “celebrate teamwork and encouragement” for Valentine’s Day.

“Just when we all need a little boost, fans of the beloved candy hearts will find 16 new sayings inside this year’s boxes including, “WAY 2 GO,” “CRUSH IT” and “HIGH FIVE” alongside classic messages like “BE MINE,” HUG ME” and “CUTIE PIE,” advises Spangler Candy, the Ohio-based parent company.


• 86% of U.S. adults believe that “true love” exists, 67% say they have experienced it.

• 85% of married people say they have experienced true love along with 69% of women, 64% of men, 60% of divorced or separated people and 43% of those who never married.

• 52% of those who say they have experienced true love said it was “different” from what they expected.

• 33% of U.S. adults overall say they have not experienced true love.

• 69% of those who have not experienced true love think it’s because they “just haven’t found it yet,” while 31% don’t think true love really exists.

SOURCE: A CBS News poll of 1,980 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 27-31 and released Sunday.

• Happy Valentine’s Day and thank you for reading Inside the Beltway.

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