‘More reckless than a land war in Europe’

‘More reckless than a land war in Europe’

THE CONVERSATIONS THAT DROVE THE CONVERSATION— There were two conversations in Washington about Ukraine this week about, well, two conversations: Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy’s impassioned speech to Congress, and President Joe Biden’s long chat today with Chinese President Xi Jingping. Leaders spoke across time zones and oceans to try to express their positions and find room to end, or perhaps win, a war.

But where did these talks lead, if anywhere? Are there off-ramps emerging in Moscow and Kyiv? To try to glean what comes, Nightly chatted over Slack with world and national security editor Ben Pauker. The conversation has been lightly edited.

How do we see these two conversations affecting the Ukraine crisis, if at all?

The two talks couldn’t have been more different. Zelenskyy, dressed in his army greens, gave a tight, 14-minute address to Congress from his secret bunker, asking for more weapons, more support, and more airpower. The Biden administration met the call, offering up another $800 million in military aid, including more missiles and (for the first time) armed drones.

The Xi talks, which reportedly lasted two hours this morning, were Biden’s attempt to pry China away from supporting Russia’s invasion — or at least get them to put some rhetorical pressure on Putin.

Where does it all go from here? The West is now flooding Ukraine with weapons and attention. The truth is that it’s to China’s strategic advantage to have the U.S. worried about Europe and not the Pacific.

How much more is the U.S. able to do for Ukraine without overly antagonizing Russia? And will congressional pressure push Biden to do more?

It’s been decades since the phrase “nuclear war” seemed to be on everyone’s lips. There’s real concern in Washington that Putin could do something even more reckless than start a land war in Europe: He has an enormous stockpile of “tactical” nukes and a military doctrine that could allow for their use if the Russian offensive stalls out.

Some members of Congress are pushing Biden to do more than just throw money at a proxy war, but that’s an emotional response with dangerous consequences. The White House is looking at the bigger picture of strategic U.S. interests and the very real threat of nuclear escalation.

Is there any sense of the White House trying to help Putin find a way out of the conflict?

There’s lots of talks of peace negotiations, but no indication yet that the Kremlin is interested in anything other than the comprehensive destruction of Ukraine’s government.

Several players have quietly offered themselves up as possible mediators (Israel, China, John Cena), but the reality is that the opposing sides are too far apart on what would be the terms of an acceptable peace.

Sadly, I think it’s still too early. Russia’s invasion may not be going well according to Twitter, but Putin has more time and more cards to play before he’ll take a deal.

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‘More reckless than a land war in Europe’

What'd I Miss?

— GOP ignores Trump impeachment echoes in Russia-Ukraine war:Then-President Donald Trump ordered his No. 2 to skip Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s 2019 inauguration, put a secret hold on a package of military aid for months and deprived the incoming Ukrainian leader of a White House meeting meant to show solidarity with the West. Simultaneously, Trump and his allies repeatedly asked Zelenskyy to open politically motivated investigations into Democrats, including then-candidate Biden. But Republicans, only one of whom supported Trump’s first impeachment, are brushing off any suggestion that their frustration with Biden’s pace of Ukraine aid is at odds with their earlier defense of Trump’s posture toward Kyiv. They’re also blaming Democrats for harming Ukraine, now at war with Russia, by launching the impeachment inquiry in the first place.

— House Dems blame oil companies for gas prices:House Democrats are keeping a spotlight on the oil industry as gasoline prices hover near record levels, with Natural Resources Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) demanding that industry executives testify on why they haven’t jumped to drill new wells that would ease the crunch. The move escalates the political messaging war between Democrats and Republicans over who’s to blame for the high prices at the gas pump that have hit voters. Republican senators have pointed the finger at Biden for the skyrocketing oil prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But as oil prices have pulled back from their recent peak, Biden and other Democrats are hammering the oil companies they contend are keeping retail prices artificially high.

— Jan. 6 trial centers on lingering mystery: Where was Mike Pence?A defendant set to face just the second trial in the nearly 15 months since the attack intends to make that question the centerpiece of his defense Monday. And the judge in the case just gave him the green light to grill the Secret Service about it. Couy Griffin, the leader of Cowboys for Trump, says Pence’s evacuation to a secure location took him off of Capitol grounds — and outside a Secret Service perimeter established to protect Pence while lawmakers counted Electoral College votes, the last step to certify the 2020 presidential election.

— The latest supply chain concern: ballot paper:Supply chain snags are making it harder for election officials to secure the raw materials they need to put on this year’s primaries: paper and envelopes. Local governments are placing orders months in advance for the supplies they need to print and mail ballots and other materials to make sure they don’t get caught without voting materials. The strain, caused by the same global issues holding up everything from garage doors to computer chips, is stretching already-thin election budgets and making long-term planning more challenging.

— Washington Post uses speech-protection law to fight reporter’s discrimination suit:The Washington Post is wielding a law aimed at protecting free and open debate on public controversies to throw out a lawsuit brought by one of its own reporters claiming she was discriminated against because of her status as a sexual assault victim. A District of Columbia Superior Court judge conducted hourlong arguments today on the Post’s unusual bid to use a district statute known as the anti-SLAPP law to dismiss the case filed last July by writer Felicia Sonmez over the newspaper’s decision to block her from covering sexual-assault-related stories.

Nightly Number

Parting Words

TIME AFTER TIME— Tyler emails:

It’s March, you’re watching college basketball, and a commercial comes on: A man’s alarm goes off. He leaps out of bed. Smiling with a pep in his step, he heads to a coffee shop, the office, his kid’s hockey game, all with a jaunty spirit while those around him look zombified. “Mark’s secret?” the narrator says. “He knew it was Forward Season and planned ahead.”

The commercial ends with Mark peacefully in bed at 9 p.m. The screen reads, “Plan Ahead. Jump in Bed. #FWDSZN.” It’s all brought to you by The Ad Council. Or maybe the surgeon general.

This is David Prerau’s vision of the end of the Daylight Saving Time wars.

Prerau has been thinking about Daylight Saving Time long before this week. He’s written a history of it, Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time. He has co-authored multiple government reports on the issue, and counseled Parliament in London on time shifts.

And he doesn’t like the idea of Permanent Daylight Saving Time, even as he’s seemingly devoted his life to the topic. The Senate passed a bill by unanimous consent this week that would ban Fall Back forever.

“You would think, out of 100 senators, at least a few would be interested in other options,” Prerau said. His preference is the status quo, paired with a PSA campaign encouraging people to go to bed earlier to deal with the physical effects of sleep loss.

In the 1970s, as many of us learned this week, Americans tried permanent Daylight Saving Time and hated it. “People didn’t like getting up in the dark, going to work in the dark, and they certainly didn’t like sending their kids to school in the dark, on dark roads waiting for the bus, or on dark city streets,” Prerau said.

And the jet leg of Spring Forward needs to be weighed against the virtues of later sunrises in the summer and earlier ones in the dark of winter, he added. “You have 120 days of winter benefit by having standard time to earn your 240 days of summer benefit by having daylight time,” he said. “But people don’t focus on that. They focus on the one day.”

And for those who note Hawaii and Arizona don’t change their clocks? Prerau points out that those states have unusual geographical circumstances, with Hawaii being close to the equator, and Arizona in a desert area that doesn’t need more sunlight.

So if you don’t live in a place like that, Prerau advises a bit more sleep the few nights before Spring Forward — a move that requires only the unanimous consent of you and your pillow.

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