Let’s take a moment before we start and focus a bit on what’s going on with Iran before we get into the update on Ukraine’s defense. First: A couple of days ago Iranian athlete Elnaz Rakabi, who was competing at an international competition in Seoul, did so without wearing a hijab. Earlier today it was reported that she’d disappeared, which led to speculation that two possible things happened. The first was that she was defecting/seeking asylum and had made her way to the safety of whichever state she was asking to take her in. The second was that the Iranians had scarfed her up. Unfortunately for Rakabi, who is incredibly brave as she had to know the likely outcome of her protest action, it was the latter.
BBC Persian also cites sources saying Rakabi's cellphone and passport were taken. In addition, the team's departure from S Korea was apparently moved up, from the scheduled Wednesday travel to Monday, just after her competed without the hijab mandated by the Iranian regime. https://t.co/Cg9ygEvJDl pic.twitter.com/YE0fM9w3DF
— Frida Ghitis (@FridaGhitis) October 18, 2022
According to CNN’s Frida Ghitis, citing Iran Wire English, Rakabi has been taken to Evin Prison. Defiant courage in the face of tyranny deserves better even if the reality is that it never receives better.
Second, this interesting thread by an Iranian graduate student who is now, again, outside Iran provides us with an insider’s view of what is going on in Iran:
I'm finally out of Iran and feel safe enough to talk about the situation publicly with an account bearing my name.
The crackdown in Iran is way worse than you think, even if you've been following the news.
Institutions like Amnesty International and news outlets try to stick/
— Moeen Nehzati (@MNehzati) October 17, 2022
where the crackdown is not at its worst and people have the means of speaking up.
— Moeen Nehzati (@MNehzati) October 17, 2022
I’m going to put both the video and English transcript of President Zelenskyy’s speech after the jump:
Today, the battle for a normal life for our people continued.
There were new Russian attacks against our energy system. Some of the drones and missiles were shot down. Thanks again for this to our anti-aircraft fighters, our Air Forces. In particular, the 138th Dnipro anti-aircraft missile brigade for shooting down four “Kalibrs”. Our other defenders of the sky also have good results. Today, I will also celebrate the Kherson anti-aircraft missile brigade for shooting down a Russian Su-25 attack aircraft.
Thanks also to our partners – everyone who helps us with anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense. For example, the German “IRIS-T” has shown itself very well – it is a really effective system.
We are working with partners to provide even more protection to the Ukrainian sky.
Over the past day, more than 10 Ukrainian regions suffered terrorist attacks. Zhytomyr region and Kyiv region, Sumy region, Dnipro and Kryvyi Rih, Kharkiv region and Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and other cities of the south of Ukraine, Donbas. Wherever possible, we are trying to speed up restoration work.
But now, just like in the previous days, the overall situation still requires a very conscious consumption of electricity and limiting the use of energy-consuming appliances during peak hours.
The more conscious our household consumption of electricity is from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., the more stable our energy system will be. Everyone who follows this simple rule for peak hours helps the entire country.
Please explain this to your relatives, friends and neighbors to guide our national unity towards a common and much needed result.
Today I had a lot of meetings and communication regarding infrastructure restoration. Another general meeting on the energy situation is scheduled for tomorrow. We are working out all possible scenarios. And, of course, all this is combined with our measures to strengthen defense against drones.
We should remember that the very fact of Russia’s appeal to Iran for such assistance is the Kremlin’s recognition of its military and political bankruptcy.
For decades, they’ve been spending billions of dollars on their military-industrial complex, and in the end they went to bow to Tehran to get rather simple drones and missiles.
It won’t help them strategically anyway. It only further proves to the world that Russia is on the trajectory of its defeat and is trying to draw someone else into its accomplices in terror.
We will definitely ensure an appropriate international reaction to this.
But now, at the tactical level, the terrorists may still have certain hopes, calculations, new illusions due to Iranian drones. All this will fall apart, just as their previous calculations.
237 days of this war prove that we are able to find an answer to any threats. If we act together – all Ukrainians and nations of the free world.
Today we have an important decision from Estonia – its parliament designated Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. And this is another European step to ensure that the actual reality of Russian terror and the European official attitude towards Russia completely coincide. Terror must receive all types of response – on the battlefield, with sanctions and legally. I am grateful to our Estonian friends for this!
We will continue our work at all levels so that other countries adopt similar decisions.
I held a meeting on working out in UN structures our draft resolution on the creation of a compensation mechanism that would provide compensation at the expense of Russian assets for all the damage caused by this war. We are gradually moving in this direction as well. The terrorist state will inevitably pay for everything it has done.
Another expansion of our United24 platform took place today. This public fundraising platform has already raised more than $200 million from people in dozens of countries.
Oleksandr Usyk became the new ambassador of United24. I just spoke with him and thanked him for his willingness to work for Ukraine.
Oleksandr will focus on projects devoted to the reconstruction of our country, in particular in the Kyiv region.
Let me just remind you that Andriy Shevchenko, Elina Svitolina, Imagine Dragons, creative director of Balenciaga Demna, Liev Schreiber, Barbra Streisand and Mark Hamill are already ambassadors along with Usyk.
Today, 2 billion euros of macro-financial aid from the European Union were allocated to Ukraine’s accounts. This is important for us – for the social support of our people. We are very grateful. We expect other tranches under this package with a total volume of 9 billion euros.
I am grateful to all friends of Ukraine!
I am grateful to everyone who fights and works for our victory!
No matter what the enemy plans and does, our perspective is clear: Ukraine will defend itself.
Glory to Ukraine!
Not to downplay the damage done by the Russian missiles, rockets, and drones that get through, but this is a very impressive kill rate by Ukraine’s air defense:
Ukraine’s Air Force says it downs nearly 86% of Russian-used strike drones
— Illia Ponomarenko 🇺🇦 (@IAPonomarenko) October 18, 2022
Here’s former NAVDEVGRU Squadron Leader Chuck Pfarrer’s most recent assessment of the situation in Kherson:
KHERSON/1250 UTC 18 OCT/ UKR launched 22 aviation strikes targeting 18 Russsian troop & logistical concentrations and 3 RU air defense complexes across all axes of contact. UKR air defense interdicted 38 of 43 Iranian-made Shahed-136 suicide drones, an interception rate of 88%. pic.twitter.com/zQcVcxKqbn
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) October 18, 2022
And here is his assessment of the recently released video of the damage to the Nord Stream pipelines:
SOURCE: I'd like to take this opportunity to credit the video to Swedish media, and @ErikWiman, who was one of the journalists breaking this story.
— Chuck Pfarrer | Indications & Warnings | (@ChuckPfarrer) October 18, 2022
Before anyone decides to start kvetching in the comments, I will politely remind you all that a SEAL’s career begins at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training. Better known as BUD/S. SEAL’s are underwater demolition experts. Does this mean Pfarrer can’t be wrong? No. Does it mean that just about anyone in our comments knows more about this than him? Also no.
This is interesting. What we don’t know is if this is just the Russian citizens that have moved into Kherson or whether this is an excuse to undertake a population transfer of Kherson’s Ukrainian citizenry by forcefully relocating them somewhere in Russia.
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) October 18, 2022
Tadeusz Giczan, a Belarusian journalist and PhD researcher at University College London’s School of Slavonic and East European Studies, has an excellent analysis of what is really going on with the Belarusian military:
Let me try to explain what's wrong with the new wave of deployment of Russian troops in Belarus and why the threat of a new attack on Kyiv from the north is a bluff.
— Tadeusz Giczan (@TadeuszGiczan) October 17, 2022
We go to the Thread Reader app for the rest:
Speaking of Belarus: Ooopsie!
A captain of the elite Alpha unit of the Belarusian KGB has illegally crossed the border and fled the country. He is now being checked by the counter-intelligence services of an unspecified neighbouring country, @nashaniva reports. pic.twitter.com/0Kb24FrguR
— Tadeusz Giczan (@TadeuszGiczan) October 18, 2022
What are some of the leading elected Republicans’ thinking on US support to Ukraine or matters pertaining to Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s re-invasion? Pretty much exactly what you’d expect:
GOP leader Kevin McCarthy tells Punchbowl that new Ukraine aid will have a more difficult road in a Republican House.
“I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine.” pic.twitter.com/sProsbI6WA
— Connor O'Brien (@connorobrienNH) October 18, 2022
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) admonishes Ukrainian officials for vocally rejecting Elon Musk — who's been funding satellites to help Ukraine's military — for proposing that Ukraine make significant territorial concessions to Russia:
"Don't bite the hand that feeds you. Good lord!" pic.twitter.com/w9PiMfESYS
— The Recount (@therecount) October 17, 2022
This image is for both the Starlink Snowflake and DeStupid!
As I’ve stated repeatedly, if the GOP takes one chamber of Congress, let alone both, Ukraine’s support from the US will dry up completely by the end of January 2023!
Politico did a very long interview with Fiona Hill. It is well worth the time to read the whole thing. But I want to excerpt a few really important parts. I think these two responses from Hill, from the second half of the interview, are actually the most important:
Part of the problem is that conceptually, people have a hard time with the idea of a world war. It brings all kinds of horrors to mind — the Holocaust and the detonation of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the dawning of the nuclear age. But if you think about it, a world war is a great power conflict over territory which overturns the existing international order and where other states find themselves on different sides of the conflict. It involves economic warfare, information warfare, as well as kinetic war.
We’re in the same situation. Again, Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014, exactly 100 years after Germany invaded Belgium and France — and just in the same way that Hitler seized the Sudetenland, annexed Austria and invaded Poland. We’re having a hard time coming to terms with what we’re dealing with here. This is a great power conflict, the third great power conflict in the European space in a little over a century. It’s the end of the existing world order. Our world is not going to be the same as it was before.
People worry about this being dangerous hyperbole. But we have to really accept what the situation is to be able to respond appropriately. Each war has been fought differently. Modern wars involve information space and cyberspace, and we’ve seen all of these at play here. And, in the 21st century, these are economic and financial wars. We’re all-in on the financial and economic side of things.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has turned global energy and food security on its head because of the way Russia is leveraging gas and oil and the blockade Putin has imposed in the Black Sea against Ukrainian grain exports. Russia has not just targeted Ukrainian agricultural production, as well as port facilities for exporting grain, but caused a global food crisis. These are global effects of what is very clearly not just a regional war.
Keep in mind that Putin himself has used the language of both world wars. He’s talked about the fact that Ukraine did not exist as a state until after World War I, after the dissolution of the Russian Empire and the creation of the Soviet Union. He has blamed the early Soviets for the formation of what he calls an artificial state. Right from the very beginning, Putin himself has said that he is refighting World War II. So, the hyperbole has come from Vladimir Putin, who has said that he’s reversing all of the outcomes territorially from World War I and also, in effect, World War II and the Cold War. He’s not accepting the territorial configuration of Europe as it currently is.
Reynolds: What do you think is the right response from the West if Putin does detonate some sort of nuclear weapon, either as a demonstration or something else?
Hill: What Putin is trying to do is to get us to talk about the threat of nuclear war instead of what he is doing in Ukraine. He wants the U.S. and Europe to contemplate, as he says, the risks that we faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Euromissile crisis. He wants us to face the prospect of a great superpower war. His solution is to have secret diplomacy, as we did during Cuban Missile Crisis, and have a direct compromise between the United States and Russia.
But there’s no strategic standoff here. This is pure nuclear blackmail. There can’t be a compromise based on him not setting off a nuclear weapon if we hand over Ukraine. Putin is behaving like a rogue state because, well, he is a rogue state at this point. And he’s being explicit about what he wants. We have to pull all the diplomatic stops out. We have to ensure that he’s not going to have the effect that he wants with this nuclear brinkmanship.
Putin is also making it very clear that to get what you want in the world, you have to have a nuclear weapon and to protect yourself, you also have to have a nuclear weapon. So this is an absolute mess. Global nuclear stability is on a knife edge.
But again, this is not about strategic issues. This is not an issue of strategic stability. This is Vladimir Putin pissed off because he hasn’t got what he wanted in a war that he started. It’s another attempt to adapt to the battlefield.
Here are the other parts that I think are really important too:
Reynolds: The war clearly hasn’t gone as Putin originally intended. How has Putin reacted to his setbacks and how do you think his mindset is evolving?
Hill: Whenever he has a setback, Putin figures he can get out of it, that he can turn things around. That’s partly because of his training as a KGB operative. In the past, when asked about the success of operations, he’s pooh-poohed the idea that operations always go as planned, that everything is always perfect. He says there are always problems in an operation, there are always setbacks. Sometimes they’re absolute disasters. The key is adaptation.
Another hallmark of Putin is that he doubles down. He always takes the more extreme step in his range of options, the one that actually cuts off other alternatives. Putin has often related an experience he had as a kid, when he trapped a rat in a corner in the apartment building he lived in, in Leningrad, and the rat shocked him by jumping out and fighting back. He tells this story as if it’s a story about himself, that if he’s ever cornered, he will always fight back.
But he’s also the person who puts himself in the corner. We know that the Russians have had very high casualties and that they’ve been running out of manpower and equipment in Ukraine. The casualty rate on the Russian side keeps mounting. A few months ago, estimates were 50,000. Now the suggestions are 90,000 killed or severely injured. This is a real blow given the 170,000 Russia troops deployed to the Ukrainian border when the invasion began.
So, what does Putin do? He sends even more troops in by launching a full-on mobilization. He still hasn’t said this is a war. It remains a “special military operation,” but he calls up 300,000 people. Then, he goes several steps further and announces the annexation of the territories that Russia has been fighting over for the last several months, not just Donetsk and Luhansk, but also the territories of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
Putin gives himself no way out except to pursue the original goals he had when he went in, which is the dismemberment of Ukraine and Russia annexing its territory. And he’s still trying to adapt his responses to setbacks on the battlefield.
Reynolds: If Putin wants Ukrainian territory so badly, why is he raining down such destruction on civilian areas and committing so many human rights abuses in occupied areas?
Hill: This is punishment, but also perverse redevelopment. You cow people into submission, destroy what they had and all their links to their past and their old lives, and then make them into something new and, thus, yours. Destroy Ukraine and Ukrainians. Build New Russia and create Russians. Its brutal but also a hallmark of imperial conquest.
Reynolds: We’ve recently had Elon Musk step into this conflict trying to promote discussion of peace settlements. What do you make of the role that he’s playing?
Hill: It’s very clear that Elon Musk is transmitting a message for Putin. There was a conference in Aspen in late September when Musk offered a version of what was in his tweet — including the recognition of Crimea as Russian because it’s been mostly Russian since the 1780s — and the suggestion that the Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia should be up for negotiation, because there should be guaranteed water supplies to Crimea. He made this suggestion before Putin’s annexation of those two territories on September 30. It was a very specific reference. Kherson and Zaporizhzhia essentially control all the water supplies to Crimea. Crimea is a dry peninsula. It has aquifers, but it doesn’t have rivers. It’s dependent on water from the Dnipro River that flows through a canal from Kherson. It’s unlikely Elon Musk knows about this himself. The reference to water is so specific that this clearly is a message from Putin.
Now, there are several reasons why Musk’s intervention is interesting and significant. First of all, Putin does this frequently. He uses prominent people as intermediaries to feel out the general political environment, to basically test how people are going to react to ideas. Henry Kissinger, for example, has had interactions with Putin directly and relayed messages. Putin often uses various trusted intermediaries including all kinds of businesspeople. I had intermediaries sent to discuss things with me while I was in government.
This is a classic Putin play. It’s just fascinating, of course, that it’s Elon Musk in this instance, because obviously Elon Musk has a huge Twitter following. He’s got a longstanding reputation in Russia through Tesla, the SpaceX space programs and also through Starlink. He’s one of the most popular men in opinion polls in Russia. At the same time, he’s played a very important part in supporting Ukraine by providing Starlink internet systems to Ukraine, and kept telecommunications going in Ukraine, paid for in part by the U.S. government. Elon Musk has enormous leverage as well as incredible prominence. Putin plays the egos of big men, gives them a sense that they can play a role. But in reality, they’re just direct transmitters of messages from Vladimir Putin.
Reynolds: Putin is very comfortable dealing with billionaires and oligarchs. That’s a world that he knows well. But by using Musk this way, he goes right over the heads of [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian government.
Hill: He is basically short-circuiting the diplomatic process. He wants to lay out his terms and see how many people are going to pick them up. All of this is an effort to get Americans to take themselves out of the war and hand over Ukraine and Ukrainian territory to Russia.
That’s enough for tonight.
Your daily Patron!
A new video from Patron’s official TikTok!
The caption is pretty self explanatory. And I feel Patron’s snoozles! I got sucked into three different meetings today I almost tapped out during the second one despite them being Zoom because I telework!