Thursday, April 28, 2022

China’s Official Response to Abe: We Will “Take All Necessary Measures”

The Chinese Consul-General in Los Angeles responded to the April 12 column of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a clearly authorized (and probably drafted) Foreign Ministry letter to the editor. It contained all the basic arguments China’s uses for their policy of return of Taiwan to China.

Abe, who remains a power in Japanese politics, was advocating an evolving position in Japanese and U.S. foreign policy circles concerning the importance of Taiwan to the West and China’s timeline to retrieve the island. Based on more than a decade of China’s statements and behavior, especially under the leadership of President Xi Jinping, the growing consensus is that Xi, who’s about to secure another five-year term, will take action before he leaves office.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan (L) and President
Xi Jinping of China during a meeting at the Great Hall
of People, Nov. 2014 | Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters
The importance of Taiwan to the U.S. and its democratic allies has also increased in the last decade. Besides the obvious value of the island as a functioning democratic state, with the 21st largest economy in the world (4 times larger than Ukraine (55th)) and a long-term relationship with the U.S., including a security guarantee that any change in its status must be, as mostly recently stated by President Joe Biden to Xi, “peacefully accomplished.”

But, it’s China’s stated ambitions and aggressive action the last decade that has enhanced Taiwan to near existential importance. If China intends on being the dominant power in the Indo-Pacific, then Taiwan may be the most important asset for both sides. Of course, its close ally, Russia, has just heightened concern that most of the current deterrence assumptions may fail.

If and when Ukraine fades in attention, expect Taiwan and China front and center with much more aggressive security and deterrence concepts.

Read The Buzz: Will the U.S. and Japan Step-up for Taiwan?

Democrats Now Predicted to Lose the House and Senate

It is nearly universally believed that the Democrats will lose the House of Representatives. The only debate focuses on the size of the new Republican majority – ten or less or 40 or more as in the great shellackings of 1994, 2010 and 2018. But, the latest assessment on Senate seats from several sources see Republicans with a distinct advantage to also win the Senate. The map below is Larry Sabato’s latest (3-1-12) Crystal Ball posting, which describes Democrats with 47 seats, Republicans with 49 (counting those likely, lean, safe or not up by the respective parties).

Crystal Ball – Senate Race

Unfortunately for the Democrats, the analysts believe the four toss-ups lean Republican in spite of having three Democratic incumbents, with two in the West – Arizona (Mark Kelly) and Nevada (Catherine Cortez Masto) – and one in the South – Georgia (Raphael Warnock). It cites the problems of the normal anti-first term tide, the economy (inflation), Biden’s especially heavy drag, and in all three states, some form of cultural issue – which Democrats haven’t found an adequate response – immigration, crime and parental school involvement (race, gender).

See Center for Politics: Notes on the State of the Senate

Friday, April 22, 2022

Sean Penn at The Nixon

It was a strange juxtaposition for Sean Penn, with Fox News anchor Bret Baier, President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and an audience of mostly Richard Nixon Library supporters, talking about his charity work, especially with Ukrainian refugees. He related his wrapping up filming a documentary with President Zelenskyy on February 23 and being in Kyiv for the start of the invasion. He received several fulsome ovations for his encouragement of support for Ukraine and call for national unity.

The event received a large article in the Orange County Register. It was good for the Nixon Foundation and Sean Penn’s message of reaching across-the-aisle.

Sean Penn (L), Bret Baier and Robert C. O’Brien discussed
the war in Ukraine at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library
and Museum | Courtesy of Nixon Foundation

If Debate Doesn’t Move Numbers, Macron Wins Close

The presidential polls in France continue to predict a close Emmanuel Macron reelection. The impact of Macron-Marine Le Pen debate will be added to the factors affecting the final vote on Sunday, April 24, but polls the last week have improved Macron’s position. Several post-debate polls gave him the edge in their exchange.

French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and French President
Emmanuel Macron take part in a debate, April 20, 2022
Photo: Ludovic Marin/Pool/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Macron won by 32 points in 2017 after a very close first round (24% Marcon to 21% Le Pen). No one expects a win of that proportion this time. They were 5 points apart at the first round election on April 10, 2022. 

Among Le Pen’s nationalist fellow travelers in the Kremlin and Washington, D.C., her hostile views on the EU and NATO are applauded. However, the position was more popular before President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. A decision by French voters to put Le Pen in the Élysée Palace would be a massive shock to the international system and France’s position in it akin to Brexit (2016 referendum) for Great Britain or Donald Trump (2016 election) for the U.S.

In recent years, the EU was not popular with the French. Gallup reports that only 37 percent of French adults approved of EU leadership in 2017, but today, that has increased to 48 percent. The French, ever independent, are still closely divided, with 45 percent today disapproving of EU leadership.

The decision by the French voters will be important for the entire Western alliance.

Read The Buzz: French Pollsters Get It Right

Thursday, April 21, 2022

State and Federal Taxes Finally Get Californians Down

The Berkeley IGS poll shows two-thirds (64%) of California voters consider state and federal income taxes they pay too high. This resistance to taxes is a 10-point increase from 6 years ago when it registered at 54 percent.

They also judge their economic circumstances as worse off. Forty-two percent of California voters report they are worse off from last year, with only 21 percent saying better off. Nearly a reverse from 6 years ago (25% worse off, 48% better off).

While Democrats are somewhat less tax critical, more than half still say they are too high (54%). Most Republicans (83%) believe taxes are too high and no-preference/other (66%) are above the state average.

California state government is now facing a major constraint in funding its ambitious aspirations.

Russia’s War Threatens to Expand – No-Fly Zone?

Since the launch of the Ukraine War, President Putin has used the threat of nuclear weapons to attempt to limit U.S. and NATO help for Ukraine. President Biden has offered repeated assurances that he is avoiding commitment of American troops or combat with Russia. However, many NATO countries and the U.S. are providing significant funding and weapons. The recent amount of U.S. and NATO help for Ukraine ($800 million in the latest tranche from the U.S.) has produced a new threat from Putin of “unpredictable consequences.” Also, two nations – Finland and Sweden that have been outside of NATO – are allowing a debate about joining. Putin immediately threatened, including moving nuclear weapons near them. 

The West has been testing Russian tolerance. Putin’s next step may be attacking the roads and railways that still move refugees out of the country and materials in. Will that produce a Western response? War with direct combat with the West is possible as the Russian war effort remains stalled and the West is perceived as the main cause of the difficulty.

Are Americans ready for war? Polls have repeatedly showed that Americans do not want U.S. soldiers in combat. Only 25 percent support sending U.S. troops. However, they have been overwhelmingly in favor of supplying weapons (72%), sanctions (78%) and sending troops to NATO allies (63%).

They also have been clear that some Russian behavior could justify direct combat, such as attacking a NATO ally (69%), using nuclear (68%) or chemical weapons (61%). And in general, the criticism of Biden’s performance in the war leans toward the U.S. should do more. For example, 74 percent believe sanctions on Russia should be increased (data from an April 2022 CBS News poll).

Polling on creating a no-fly zone is difficult because explaining what it entails and the risks of confrontation associated with it make questions complex and hypothetical. But, in questions by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (March 25-28, 2022), it appeared that voters are not at this time supportive of a no-fly zone over Ukraine that might trigger combat (41% support) or sending U.S. troops to Ukraine to help defend it (36% support). 

Today, under present circumstances, Americans are not ready for combat with Russia.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Even in California, Democrats Crash: Feinstein and Harris With Low Approval

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is near the end of her long service in the U.S. Senate. Elected in 1992 in a special election to replace Pete Wilson, who retired, Feinstein had been Mayor of San Francisco (served 1978-88), including during the 1984 Democratic presidential convention. She is unlikely to seek reelection in 2024 at 90 years old and facing complaints she’s missing a step by colleagues and staffers. Another influential woman in California politics is Kamala Harris (57), former State Attorney General and U.S. Senator. She joins Feinstein in not doing very well in California polls.

In recent California Berkeley IGS polls. Feinstein had 30 percent (19 points negative) and Harris at 35 percent approval (10 points negative).

Even in California, 2022 will be a difficult year. Joe Biden won the California presidential election by 34 points in 2020; he’s only 4 points in positive territory today, down from 27 points a year ago.

Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, 2019 | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Caruso Becomes Frontrunner for LA Mayor

The latest LA Times poll (published April 11, 2022) has Los Angeles businessman, Rick Caruso, in first place for the race for mayor in an election less than eight weeks away (June 7). Caruso, in his first run for political office, only announced for mayor on February 11, 2022 and was at the bottom of early polls with better-known candidates.

Since his announcement, he has spent $9 million, mostly on television and social media in a near saturation campaign. The other main candidates have made minimum expenditures, although Karen Bass, the other leading candidate, has money to spend at this point ($2 million). Expect big, big money to be invested in the race.

Homelessness, crime and affordable housing are top issues. The attack ads will start soon. At the recent debate, as one would expect, Caruso got the most airtime because he had to respond to the most attacks. His best lines: “There’s 63 years of career politicians on this stage” and “There’s a lot of empty promises.” Bass defended the political establishment with “stop denigrating” career politicians, “people who devote their life to public service.”

Most LA voters describe themselves as liberal (61%), 14 percent conservative and 25 percent moderate. In 1993, the last time a Republican was elected in LA (Richard Riordan) 29 percent were liberal or conservative and 65 percent moderate. The city has shifted to the left, but the issues today are law and order and economic security – better for a more conservative candidate, especially with a non-political image and “get things done” track record.

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, from left, businessman Rick Caruso and LA City
Attorney Mike Feuer at a mayoral debate on USC campus,
Mar. 22, 2022 | Pool photo Genaro Molina/LA Times

Read The Buzz:

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Japan: New Leadership Steps Up

New Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has a 60 percent approval rating and momentum going into upcoming Upper House of Parliament election in July. Since being elected in October 2021, Kishida has had to deal with the tail of the pandemic, a stalled economy and a host of urgent foreign policy issues, including new threats from North Korea, a pact between China and Russia (Feb. 4, 2022) and the war in Ukraine (Feb. 24, 2022).

In foreign policy, Kishida continues the high-profile international relations initiatives of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe and the Japanese Foreign Ministry recognized early that the U.S. relationship with former President Donald Trump would need personalized attention. Arising the last decade was a much more aggressive China and renewed missile testing by North Korea. The intensifying threats required strengthening the U.S. alliance and relations with the Western alliance (in a geopolitical sense) in the Indo-Pacific. Abe continues to be a strong advocate of step-up military preparedness with increased defense expenditures.

Kishida moved quickly to join other Western nations in the boycott of Russia in spite of negotiations of still disputed islands from WWII (Russian has withdrawn from the negotiations) and purchase of Russian oil and other goods. A new government in South Korea creates at least some possibility of shifting the dialogue to national security needs from cultural legacy problems that have stymied conversations for several years. Finally, Japan has island chains in conflict with China. China is less than 100 miles from Taiwan, so that Taiwan and its security have become much higher priorities.

Kishida’s party, the LDP, could win a strong majority in the July election providing support for the fulsome foreign policy agenda.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Putin Rules Russia With 83% Approval

Russian President Vladimir Putin has an 83 percent approval rating and 81 percent of Russians approve of the war (53% strongly approve) according to Levada, the only credible Russian polling organization. Analysts point out that some element of the responses reflect that opposition to Putin and the war has been criminalized, and after more than a decade of mostly one-sided media messaging of Putin and the Russian nationalist positions on the U.S., NATO and Ukraine, it’s understandable that most Russians believe the state narrative on the war and support Putin’s leadership. However, as Russian analysts and longtime observers point out, there is an alignment with Russian experience since the collapse of the USSR and the rise of Putin that helps reinforce the narrative.

  • The Yeltsin years were chaotic and accompanied by massive hardship. Democracy and reform were discredited by the end of the 1990s.
  • People yearned for stability and security. Putin offered that and much of this century has seen economic improvements, from higher oil prices and market reforms of the 1990s.
  • Using nationalist and religious themes, Putin has made restoration of Russian greatness, both regionally and internationally, a goal. The Crimea annexation was very popular.
  • America has been a longtime adversary. Countering the West and NATO was made a security issue. Any hardships today are blamed the West.
  • Ukraine is a part of Russia has been a long-term theme. Any problems in the country are due to the West and its manipulation of Ukrainian leaders. Russian-speaking Ukrainians have been threatened and harmed.
  • An entire generation of Russians have known no other leader beside Putin. He is identified with the nation’s greatness and their national pride.
  • For some, it’s simply fatalism. Putin isn’t going away, might as well live with it.
  • There are tensions with the war and hardship, but between repression and constant propaganda, no real alternatives are available.

There is no basis to believe the public will demand a change of policy in Ukraine or change of leadership.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

What Will Start the War?

History and polling indicate some of the circumstances that restrain and propel the U.S. to war. Iraq and Afghanistan are recent memories of failed military engagements offering restraint, but recent public opinion research shows that Americans strongly support Ukraine and oppose Russia since the invasion.

  • Russia is seen as a threat, Putin a very bad actor
  • Ukraine and President Zelenskyy have overwhelming approval
  • Sanctions have bipartisan support, even if prices rise
  • Growing abhorrence of the war crimes
  • But strong opposition to use of troops in direct combat with Russians, some (partisan) criticism of NATO and apprehension about danger of use of atomic weapons

The Biden administration and NATO members are very cautious to not engage directly with Russia while providing material help and imposing severe sanctions. Russia, of course, knows this caution and is expert in American and European public opinion and leadership views. They work diligently to expand the zone of non-interference as to what constitutes “war” and raise the possibility of countermeasures, including the threat of nuclear weapons. Their goal is to divide the alliance and populations and to hold the West at the NATO borders while the war continues.

Unfortunately for Russia, the war is taking much longer than expected and the media coverage of the carnage is building increased hostility toward Russia’s actions and Putin specifically. There is public pressure for more action. The U.S. administration remains cautious, but has used more aggressive accusations and rhetoric about war crimes and genocide.

What could get America into combat?

President Biden and NATO have said a direct attack on NATO would trigger an “appropriate” response. The following have been mentioned as serious enough to cause the U.S.-NATO to examine an “appropriate” or “proportional” response.

  • Direct attacks of a NATO country
  • Attack in non-Ukraine space against American forces, such as an attack against a U.S./NATO military plane or a Black Sea ship
  • The use of chemical weapons

But the debate today is: Should NATO and the U.S. try to create a no-fly zone, safe corridors or provide food, water and medical help to trapped civilians? Putin would likely claim it an act of war. Even if the U.S./NATO actions didn’t produce a specific counteraction from Russia, the effort to implement and protect the programs could put the U.S./NATO in combat with Russian forces and weapons, including some in Russian territory. That could produce the escalation the West is trying to avoid. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Election Deniers Control State Republican Party

Republican Secretary of State candidate, Mesa County
Clerk Tina Peters, speaks at Colorado Republican State Assembly,
Apr. 9, 2022 | Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Donald Trump and the 2020 election continue to dominate the Colorado Republican Party. Celebrity election deniers were the two winners for key nominations at Saturday’s state nominating convention. The office delegates were most passionate about was Secretary of State. Tina Peters, the indicted Mesa County Clerk, won the nomination with 60 percent of the vote. Her co-nominee denier, Representative Ron Hanks, was designated the U.S. Senate nominee as he was the only candidate receiving the necessary 30 percent threshold. Hanks is famous for attending the January 6, 2021 rally/riot at the Capitol.

U.S. Senate candidate Ron Hanks speaks during the GOP Assembly
in Colorado Springs, CO, Apr. 9, 2022 | Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun
The crowd of 3,700 roared whenever their names were mentioned. Although Hanks was helped by the large field of mostly unknown candidates, the party establishment did not have much sway as their endorsed senate candidate failed to gain traction. Clearly, the party activists were mostly interested in the Trump disputed 2020 election and “election integrity,” with repeated references to using paper (no mail-back) ballots and hand counting (no computers) results.

The primary will be June 26 and both Peters and Hanks have challengers, but clearly, Donald Trump, the 2020 election and election integrity will be primary issues. Democrats look forward to the focus.

Read The Buzz: Election Deniers Rally at State Capitol

Poll Shows Serbia Citizens Not Pro-EU Membership

In a new (March 2022) poll conducted by Ipsos with consultant Srdjan Bogosavljević, only 46 percent of Serbians would favor joining the EU, much lower levels of support than in nearby states of Montenegro (90%), Albania (77%) and North Macedonia (74%).

Also, only 21 percent of Serbs have a positive opinion of the EU. Their opinion of it has declined in recent years. In 2015, 14 percent said they did not expect Serbia to join the EU. Today, 43 percent now don’t believe Serbia will join it. Also, the number of those Serbs unwilling to join the EU if Kosovo’s independence is required has grown from 32 percent to 49 percent today. 

Colorado State Republicans Attack Colorado Mail-in Voting System

The Colorado Republican State Convention approved resolutions attacking Colorado’s mail-in ballot system (no paper ballots) and called for hand counting (no computers or electronics) ballots.

The mail-in system, approved by the legislature in 2012 and operating since, is considered a model system around the country for providing voter access, high turnout, fast reporting and election integrity. But since the 2020 election, Colorado Republican activists have criticized it and just nominated candidates for Secretary of State and U.S. Senate who are celebrity opponents.

The system is highly favored by voters. Two Colorado polls in the last presidential election showed the system has strong majority support. In a Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research poll, 57 percent of voters “strongly approve” the mail-back option and with 25 percent offering “somewhat approve.” Only 10 percent “strongly disapprove” of it.

A University of Colorado poll showed 69 percent said they had confidence in the mail-back option. Republican convention delegates are significantly out-of-touch with Colorado voters.

Many of the same Republican activists have also challenged the voter approved initiative (2016) that allows unaffiliated voters to participate in primary elections. Their legal case was rejected by Federal District Court Judge John Kane on jurisdictional grounds, but in general, party activists, especially Trump loyalists (Donald Trump’s former attorney John Eastman represented the plaintiffs), do not want non-party voters to participate in the Republican primary, potentially diluting their influence on nominations.

See The Buzz: Colorado Voters Support Mail-in Ballotin, But Prefer Dropping It Off

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

French Pollsters Get It Right

President Emmanuel Macron won the first round of the French presidential election, with a five-point margin as predicted by final polls published last Friday. Because the election between Marine Le Pen had been closing, the Macron forces had been concerned they could slip back to second place.

This is the second presidential election French polls have performed well. Last time Macron and Le Pen faced off, he won the second round by 32 points. The polls this time see a much closer second round vote (less than 6 points). The election is in two weeks – April 24.

Macron and Le Pen ran neck-and-neck in the 2017 first round presidential election (24% Macron to 21% Le Pen), pushing the traditional old-right and left parties of France off the stage. After this election, they appear defunct. The center-right, Les Républicains, candidate Valérie Pécresse, failed to even get 5 points, the threshold necessary in France to have party expenses paid. The old Socialist Party of former President François Hollande represented by the mayor of Paris got only 2 percent. The new left-wing party has been led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who polled better than five years ago (20% in 2017). He is a charismatic 70-year-old unlikely to leave a party legacy. Will his votes mostly go to Macron or not vote? 

The battle line today is between Macron’s new “La République En Marche!” pro-European centrist position and Le Pen’s newly branded “National Rally” far-right nationalist position that is trying to soften its edges and emphasize economic issues. It should be close.

French pollsters predict a tight runoff between President
Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen | AFP

Read The Buzz: French Elections Gets Close

Only 18% Approve AMLO Sham Recall

In what opponents called a “sham” recall election, only 19 percent of Mexicans turned out to support President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). He had sponsored and promoted the recall and a “no” vote to supposedly give himself a mandate to complete his six-year term. With no opposition and his party supporting it, he received 90 percent of the vote to stay in office. AMLO is in the middle of a single six-year term and many observers believe the left-leaning, anti-establishment politician with an authoritarian-bent would like to change the Mexican Constitution and receive a second term. He denies it.

A billboard in Mexico City encourages voters to support Mexican President
 Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the recall referendum on April 10, 2022
Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AFP via Getty Images

Monday, April 11, 2022

Russia Removed From UN Human Rights Council

Nations Human Rights Council is displayed during a meeting
 of the UN General Assembly, Apr. 7, 2022 | John Minchillo/AP
In a victory for accountability, Russia was removed from its position on the UN Human Rights Council for their rights violations in Ukraine, so visible on daily news programming. It was also a victory for diplomacy and the U.S. United Nations representative, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who led the effort. The vote was only the second time in the Council’s history a country was removed (Libya in 1991) and Russia and its friends fought it.

Russia’s invasion had already been condemned in a UN resolution for causing a human rights crisis in Ukraine (March 24) and in an earlier resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, withdrawal of all forces and protection of civilians (March 2).

The vote to remove Russia from the Council was highly contested and only passed 93 to 24, with 58 abstentions. The two earlier resolutions were passed by at least 140 nations (two-thirds of the members voting needed to pass).

Russia claimed the effort was an “illegitimate and politically motivated step.” Various reasons were given for abstentions and “no” votes, including the resolution as premature, investigations are ongoing and the resolution simply reflected American and European geopolitical agendas, Western hypocrisy and selective outrage about human rights. These are frequently heard rationalizations for no action by some factions of the world body. The vote-counting and work of Thomas-Greenfield shows the importance of diplomacy.

Read AP: UN assembly suspends Russia from top human rights body

Friday, April 8, 2022

Justice Brown Jackson

On April 7, 2022, by a vote of 53 to 47, Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, which was frequently overwhelmed by embarrassing QAnon-base politics, she was joined by her husband, parents and two daughters. If there was one star of the show, it was the eloquent Senator Cory Booker, who summed up the historic significance of the confirmation.

The Supreme Court will have two African American justices. It will be interesting to watch.

Patrick Jackson, the husband of Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji
Brown Jackson, reaches out to hold her hand as she sits in the audience area
during her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, March 21, 2022
Photo: Kent Nishimura/LA Times via Getty Images

Conservative activist Ginni Thomas sits with her husband,
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, at a Heritage Foundation 
event in October in Washington, D.C. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images 

French Election Gets Close

The French right-wing represented by Marine Le Pen has closed the gap with centrist President Emmanuel Macron by toning down the immigration and cultural issues and emphasizing the cost of living, especially gas prices. Could she win? Since mid-March, Macron’s vote measured by a French “poll of polls” average has slipped from more than 30 percent to 25 to 28 percent. Le Pen has increased from 17 percent to now 20 to 23 percent, or about a 5-point gap. Two other candidates have about 25 percent, representing the far-left Jean-Luc Melenchon (about 15%) and the far-right Eric Zemmour and center-right Valerie Pecresse (17% together).

The second round voter intentions (more speculative at this point) have also closed from more than 20 points in mid-March to between 3 to 8 points now with Macron winning (Marcon 53% to Le Pen 47%).

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Putin Alone, Frustrated; Zelenskyy With Friends, Supporters

Vladimir Putin approached his fateful decision to invade Ukraine mostly on his own. It was a surprise to elites in the capitals of Europe and even to many around the Kremlin and Moscow. He has, as most observers point out, become increasingly isolated. Putin is now pictured alone at the end of the long table, repeating lists of historic grievances in discussions with world leaders and giving manic-style lectures to Russians over state-controlled media claiming the West is trying to destroy Russia, but all is going according to his plan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with French  President
Emmanuel Macron in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 7, 2022
Photo: Sputnik/Kremlin via Reuters/File Photo

The decision to invade was based on a host of assumptions that turned out to be wrong, dangerously wrong for Putin’s invasion plan.

  • The attack would move very quickly to Kyiv
  • Ukraine would welcome it, or at least not resist
  • The Ukrainian government would fall and Russian control established quickly
  • Europe and the U.S. would move slowly and sanctions be limited by economic self-interest of EU members

Whereas Volodymyr Zelenskyy has remained in the field with his army and on Zoom with world leaders. As of April 6, Ukraine is beating the odds in a very difficult circumstance.

American public opinion remains divided on partisan issues, but united on the Ukraine war. Zelenskyy has a 72 percent level of confidence among Americans “to do the right thing regarding world affairs” and Putin has 6 percent. President Biden gets an average of 48 percent.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses Congress via video
at the U.S. Capitol, Mar. 16, 2022 | J. Scott Applewhite/Pool/Getty Images

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Election Deniers Rally at State Capitol

More than 200 deniers of the results of the 2020 presidential election rallied at the Colorado State Capitol on Tuesday. Three hours of speeches describing conspiracy theories as to the Trump 2020 election were led by CEO of MyPillow, Mike Lindell, and Mesa County Clerk, Tina Peters. The rally included State Representative Ron Hanks of Fremont County.

On Sunday, the State Republican Party state convention will be held in El Paso County and Peters and Hanks will vie for nominations as Colorado Secretary of State and U.S. Senate. It will be a moment of truth for the party.

CEO of MyPillow Mike Lindell appears at an election-denial rally on the
west steps of the Colorado State Capitol, Denver, Colorado, April 5, 2022
Photo: Hyoung Chang/Denver Post

Read Denver Post: Mike Lindell, Tina Peters and other election deniers spread conspiracy theories at Colorado Capitol

Ten World Leaders’ Approval at Home, Biden in the Middle at 42%

The most common value for the approval of ten world leaders recently tested by Morning Consult was 42 percent (mode). President Joe Biden’s approval – 42 percent. The two most popular leaders listed in the poll were Prime Minister Narendra Modi (77%) of India and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (68%) of Mexico.

The two lowest approvals are registered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson (33%) of the UK and Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez  (34%) of Spain. Biden, in the 40-percent range, is joined by Chancellor Olaf Scholz (45%) of Germany, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (43%) of Japan, Prime Minister Scott Morrison (42%) of Australia and President Jair Bolsonaro (41%) of Brazil.

Governing democracies with more than 42 percent is difficult. Two European populist-nationalists were reelected this week, in Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (parliamentary election) and President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

China-Russia Pact – A New World of Disorder

After years of discussion, visits and diplomatic preparation, on February 4, 2022, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China signed an accord at the Beijing Winter Olympics that in their view would end U.S. global dominance (5,400 words in English translation). Within three weeks, Putin would invade Ukraine and launch European politics in a new direction. But, Asian politics and the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific was equally affected.

Their entente on the fiftieth anniversary of the Nixon-Mao visit will likely be as historic as the first. Russia and China stated their shared grievances and their vision of a world order with the U.S. and Western (geopolitical) positions greatly diminished. The new order would adopt their commercial and trade requirements and to their new form of democracy.

Communiqué of Beijing Winter Olympics – February 4, 2022

  • Friendship…has no limits (2-4-22). Redistribution of power in the world. After invasion, support is “rock solid” (Foreign Minister Wang Yi, 3-6-22).
  • Anti-West, anti-sanctions
  • Mutual support for no NATO expansion and Taiwan a part of China
  • No NATO in Pacific, no pivot to Asia
  • New form of democracy: anti-color revolutions

In this new era, the rules and norms of the last 70 years are in review, contention and redrafting. Among the topics in conversation: What is the argument to be made for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons? Should Japan and Australia significantly increase their military defense? Can Japan and South Korea overcome differences to cooperate on defense in the Indo-Pacific? Can China be deterred from attacking Taiwan with anything short of commitment to help the Taiwanese at a greater level than now being provided to Ukraine? Are nuclear weapons more of a deterrent for coming to the defense of a sovereign country than a deterrent of the threatened attack by an aggressor with nuclear weapons?

Moscow & Beijing have declared their opposition to further enlargement of
NATO & to formation of other regional security alliances | Li Tao/Xinhua/Getty

Monday, April 4, 2022

Authoritarian Behavior Costs Russia and China Support

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and
Chinese President Xi Jinping | AP
Russia and China claim their authoritarian models offer “attractive” methods of strong, consistent governance, systems that get things done and a unique definition of democracy.

Unfortunately, their behavior belies their claims. Russia’s seizure of Crimea and intervention in Donbas convinced Ukrainians that their independence was valuable and being allied with Russia was not. China’s actions in Hong Kong offered proof their guarantees of self-governance are meaningless. The invasion of Ukraine with all its death, destruction and cruelty has also failed to achieve its objectives. Meanwhile, Russia has only provided its population state-oriented propaganda and no public dialogue or debate. Russia’s behavior lacks any “attractive” aspects, and elite and public opinions in democracies have turned against both Russia and its ally, China. Several key reports of opinion:

  • Ukraine turns against Russia after Crimea and Donbas: In 2013, it believed Russia was “mostly good” – 88%, but only 42% in 2021; in 2013, join NATO – 30%, but 56% in 2021 (2021)
  • Taiwan: After being largely apathetic, 72% will now fight against forced unification, 62% even if declare independence (youth more supportive), 60% identify Taiwanese (2021)
  • Japanese public support more assertive action: 86% support Prime Minister Kishida’s sanctions on Russia, 90% concerned China may invade Taiwan, 75% worried about disputed islands with China (2022)
  • U.S. would defend Taiwan with troops in 2021 – 52%, 19% in 1982; 60% see Taiwan as an ally or partner; 61% China rival or adversary; Americans are 84% favorable toward Japan (2021)
  • Democracies. There has been a 20% increase in approval in most NATO countries since 2020. NATO has been revived in key European countries, up 30% in Germany, 19% in France and 18% in Britain.

Will the U.S. and Japan Step-up for Taiwan?

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a virtual meeting
 with U.S. President Joe Biden, Jan. 21, 2022 | Credit Kyodo via Reuters
The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research March 23 panel of experts analyzed the impact of the invasion of Ukraine on the policies of the Indo-Pacific and especially what it means for Taiwan. In their comments to the question will the U.S. and Japan defend Taiwan, they said:

Koji Murata – Professor, Doshisha University, Kyoto. “Japan is getting more assertive in international security affairs.” “Security of Taiwan is closely connected to Japan’s security.” “Taiwan is much, much more important to the U.S. than Ukraine.” “Fighting against a nuclear power is extremely dangerous and I’m sure the U.S. is reluctant to fight against China over Taiwan. But nuclear deterrence is not all or nothing; it’s much nuanced.”

Suisheng Zhao – Professor, Korbel School Director of the Center for China-U.S. Cooperation. “These leaders should never underestimate the resistance of any people on their own motherland to an outside invader. The U.S. learned this in its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. China would face the same if it went in with force to Taiwan.” “If I was China’s leader, I would think the U.S. wouldn’t get involved [in defending Taiwan] because it would be a nuclear war.” “U.S. power is in decline in comparison with China.” 

Floyd Ciruli – Professor, Korbel School Director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research. “Putin’s and Xi’s authoritarian model isn’t an easy sell. Neither are respected or trusted among the world’s democracies. The Ukraine invasion has united the West and NATO is revived. Russia’s efforts have alienated people they want on their side.” “America today wouldn’t go to war with China over Taiwan. But the line is moving with the growing awareness that these two autocratic nations want to change the status quo.”

Can South Korea and Japan Work Together Despite Differences?

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research March 16 panel of experts on Asian foreign policy believe that a significant strategic goal in the Pacific is to get Korea and Japan working together with the U.S. Can they overcome historical disagreements and join together for the security of the Indo-Pacific? In their comments to the question, they said:

Nobukatsu Kanehara – Senior Advisor to the Asia Group, Tokyo; Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary to Prime Minister Abe; Deputy Secretary-General of the National Security Secretariat. “Will South Korea’s incoming president Yoon manage the country’s challenges in an a la carte fashion, or play a leading role in addressing Indo-Pacific issues? The expectation is that Yoon will try to strengthen ties with Japan, but the domestic audience in both countries remains strongly resistant to mending the relationship.

Junya Nishino – Professor, Director of Center for Contemporary Korean Studies, Keio University. “Last week in the South Korean presidential election the conservative candidate [Yoon Suk-yeol] won by a very narrow margin. We will see a dramatic shift in South Korea’s military forces.” “In 2017, the Moon government tried to restore relationships with China. Now many South Koreans realize that mending ties with China was a fantasy.” “The Biden administration’s strategy needs a strong Japan-South Korea tie.”

Christopher Hill – Newly confirmed ambassador to Serbia, former ambassador to Korea, head of U.S. Delegation to Six-Party Talks. “We don’t have a world war, but we have a world crisis. When the history books are written they will talk about the issue of the corona virus and the collapse of the global order from Russia attacking its neighbor.” “I strongly believe that the ROK and Japan, two successful democracies in Asia, need to work together and get beyond their issues of the past.”

Friday, April 1, 2022

Democratic Congresspersons in Competitive Seats Don’t Mention Biden

Although Democrats haven’t lost optimism that their general prospects could change by November, they have mostly given up on a bump up for President Biden. Poll after poll in the second half of March indicate he’s received no help from his management of the war, even though most people agree that helping Ukraine, sanctions and staying out of combat are the right policies. 

Today, inflation is rated the top issue of concern, and a new NBC poll has Biden’s performance managing inflation 33 percent positive and 63 percent negative. Added to a negative approval rating of 63 points, Republicans ahead in the generic ballot test (4 points) and only 28 percent of the public believing the country is going in the right direction, Democrats are facing unfavorable midterm conditions.

Republican challengers are attacking on inflation, crime, and depending on the area, a mix of social issues, especially related to schools. Democrats are describing infrastructure projects, climate goals and dangers to democracy, but they are avoiding talking about Biden.

Read The Buzz: