TOC Ready Room 24 June 2022: Flawed court ruling overturned; Escalation in Russia-NATO confrontation; Gates ag-buy pushback

What’s wrong and right with the world.

Until the Supreme Court ruled Friday morning on Dobbs v. Jackson, this edition of Ready Room was going to lead with the “Russia-NATO escalation” segment.  But such a momentous ruling, which basically overturned Roe v. Wade, obviously merits comment, however brief.

The Dobbs ruling is good law, unlike Roe (and some other landmark rulings including Obergefell, the same-sex marriage case).  It’s good law because it recognizes that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t confer a “right” to abortion on which states cannot impose limits.

It’s good law because it doesn’t overturn any state laws, like those of New York and California, that are as consistent with the Constitution as any state law that puts limits on the conditions in which abortion is permissible.  If the people of a state want to change their abortion laws, they can do so.

The Supreme Court has not outlawed abortion.  It can’t and shouldn’t do that, any more than it can tell states they mustn’t seek to limit or outlaw abortion.  Given the language of our Constitution, starting with the 9th and 10th Amendments, it’s not the role of the U.S. Supreme Court, or indeed of any branch of the federal government, to impose a single solution on such a matter on the entire nation.

If Congress wants to pass a constitutional amendment making it the business of the federal government, that would be another story.  We’ll see how that goes over time.

Meanwhile, the Dobbs ruling should make it easier for Congress and the state legislatures to reverse situations in which taxpayers are paying for abortions and abortion advocacy.  Abortion is one of a number of decision-of-conscience things taxpayers should not be required to pay for, as if it’s settled sentiment in the community that abortion is a morally-neutral tool for public welfare.  The enduring and persistently robust objection of most of the American people to unrestricted abortion (about 70% since 1973) has demonstrated there is no such sentiment.

For five decades the Roe ruling has perverted the relationship of the government to the consciences of the people.  The deeply corrupting weight of that, at least as regard abortion, has been lifted.  The shrieking, obscenities, and death threats from pro-abortion extremists today (and in the last few weeks) are evidence of the corruption over time.

The states are at bat now to see where this goes next.  I saw a tweet earlier with a photo of Washington, D.C. businesses putting up plywood over their windows in anticipation of post-ruling violence from pro-abortion riots.  I’m hopeful that the energy will drain quickly from the rioting.  It doesn’t do any good to threaten D.C. now.  The pre-ruling “leak” from the court on Dobbs failed in its objective, and the moving finger, having writ, moves on to the states.

Worth noting: it was Trump’s SCOTUS appointments that made this ruling possible.  I can think of very few, if any, Republicans who in Trump’s place would have stuck by Brett Kavanaugh under the most heinous political onslaught any of us in the living generations has ever seen.  Without prevailing in the Kavanaugh appointment, just about anyone else (other than Trump) would have pulled punches with the next one, instead of going with Amy Coney Barrett.  Quite a few potential presidents might have nominated any of Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Coney Barrett, but almost none would have withstood the maelstrom to actually get all three through the Senate.

Trump’s appointees were never guaranteed to rule as they have on Dobbs.  The more important point is that they weren’t afraid to.

Escalation and confrontation

A worrying trend was recorded last week (in the period 15-17 June 2022).  Reporting on the events didn’t make a real break in the U.S media until this week.  In this TOC RR we’ll do little more than look at what the events were.

The confrontations were between the U.S. and NATO, on the one hand, and Russia on the other.  Although U.S. media have picked up on them, it’s quite possible readers haven’t heard about them.

As regulars of TOC know, I’ve previewed for months the likelihood that a Russian campaign against the U.S. and NATO, to affect our will and even ability to support Ukraine, would take asymmetric forms.  Two events in Syria , on 15 and 16 June, look like examples of such measures.

One is of particular concern because it involved Russia bombing a facility in southern Syria used by the U.S. Coalition and Syrian fighters our government supports.  The facility is the one we’ve occupied for some years now at Al-Tanf.

All images: click to enlarge for legibility. Map credit: https://syria.liveuamap.com/; author annotation.

According to reports, Russia gave short notice to the U.S. of an intent to bomb an outpost close to the site as a deterrence measure against the Syrian force we’ve been training there, Maghawir al-Thawra.  (The Russians used the deconfliction communications arrangement that has been in place since late 2015.)

The U.S. was able to warn the Syrian fighters so they could evacuate the outpost before the air strike.  The implication is that Russia never intended to bomb U.S. personnel.

That said, the implication of a warning to the U.S. is also entirely obvious.  A six-year-old would see through any silly arguments that Russia didn’t mean this as a veiled threat to the United States, which is vastly outnumbered in Syria by Russia, Iran, and Assad.

Something notably missing from our arrangements there is effective air and missile defense against the forces Russia, Iran, and Assad have available.  The safety of our forces depends mainly on a quiescent status quo in which no one feels at liberty to mount standoff (or terrorist) attacks on us.

Given the periodic eruptions of mortar and missile attacks on our isolated, poorly defended forces in Iraq (with a few also in Syria) over the last few years, merely assuming that quiescent conditions will continue is a bad bet.

Making it a worse one is the other event of last week in Syria.  On 16 June, U.S. Special Forces conducted a helicopter raid near the Turkish border (see map) to seize an ISIS leader who apparently was known to be there.  Although the flight profile and the seizure were restricted to territory held by the Kurds and by Turkish-aligned Syrians, Russia sent jet fighters to see what was going on, a reaction that obviously could have imperiled the U.S. operation.

It might have resulted in misunderstanding and escalation as well.  This is a bad trend, and one that won’t get better, especially as it will probably be allowed by Washington, D.C. to fester.  It’s not a good situation for our troops to be in.

Also on 16 June, considerably further north in the Baltic Sea, a Russian warship reportedly violated the territorial waters of Denmark on two separate occasions.  The Danes provided video (see here) which shows ships of the Russian Baltic Fleet involved.

Google map; author annotation
Google map; author annotation

Specifically, according to Danish reporting, the Neustrashimy-class frigate Yaroslav Mudry (RFS 777) is the one that penetrated Denmark’s waters near the island of Christiansø.  (Danish reporting refers to the frigate as a corvette.)  Yaroslav Mudry is seen in the video, along with an Alexandrit-class minesweeper, Aleksandr Obukhov (RFS 507).  There was no report that the minesweeper entered Danish waters.

Russian frigate Yaroslav Mudry (RFS 777). Danish MOD video via AFP, Arutz Sheva

The Alexandrit-class vessels have the typical mine countermeasures role, which is not customarily considered to include offensive mine activity.  That said, any ship can serve as a minelayer for at least some purposes.  (Yaroslav Mudry certainly could.)

Russian minesweeper Aleksandr Obukhov (RFS 507). Danish MOD video via AFP, Arutz Sheva

It’s probably not an “information,” or messaging, accident that the frigate was out violating Denmark’s waters in company with a mine warfare vessel.  It would serve as a reminder of the very restricted nature of the Danish Straits, and the ease with which they could be endangered by minelaying.

Denmark’s foreign minister, Jeppe Kofod, tweeted out some stout words on Friday 17 June 2022.

In some ways, the emerging situation is more volatile than during the Cold War.  By the time the Baltic was widely and routinely patrolled by modernized, capable NATO navies (i.e., from the early 1970s on), elements of a modus vivendi on the seas had been to some extent institutionalized, and Soviet Russian behavior had been relatively consistent under years of observation.  With the tensions over Ukraine in 2022 a new baseline is still being set, and at an especially touchy time.

Adding to the touchiness, of course, are the applications of Finland and Sweden to join NATO, deplored by Moscow.

Another factor is Lithuania’s decision to prohibit Russian logistic movement through Lithuania to supply the Russian enclave in Kaliningrad, which is heavily militarized (including nuclear equipped short-range ballistic missiles) and forms an essential element of Russia’s defense concept in the Western theater of operations.

There is little point in being indignant at Russia about Kaliningrad.  If any of us were military planners in Moscow, we would want to hang onto it too and keep it fortified.  (Stalin was awarded Kaliningrad after World War II, which is the basic story of its post-war fate.)

It is, naturally, a sore point for the Baltic Republics and Poland, in particular, and for NATO in general an enduring planning concern in Northern Europe.  For Russia, it’s an indispensable outpost that keeps St. Petersburg from being permanently bottled up at the wrong end of a maritime tunnel, on the eastern edge of the Baltic.

Russia can supply Kaliningrad from the sea.  It’s the political escalation of the Lithuanian decision – understandable as it is – that bears vigilant concern.

Kaliningrad as a tolerable source of tension, like so many pillars of the late status quo, is a feature of post-1945 geopolitics that is being set a-tremble by NATO’s sluggish, scattered reaction to the Ukraine invasion.  As with events like Turkey closing the Bosphorus to warships (including two-way transit by Black Sea navies), Sweden and Finland seeking NATO membership, and Switzerland meaningfully breaching neutrality for the first time in 200 years, the Lithuanian decision about Kaliningrad is something that can’t simply settle back at some point to the status quo ante.

Add conditions reaching beyond Europe to that calculus, such as Russia’s success at boosting the ruble and selling oil and gas advantageously because of the supply restrictions imposed by U.S. policy, and it’s clear that whoever is “winning” the seeming proxy war in Ukraine, it isn’t NATO as an alliance.

Even if Ukraine pulls off a reversal of Russia’s excruciating 2022 gains in Donbas, too much has now changed to pretend this war never happened, and it’s 2021 again.

One more item of interest in the category of Russian asymmetric warfare.  In this case it’s a potential development in that category, not a clearly demonstrated one.  But Tom Rogan published an excellent treatment at the Washington Examiner this week suggesting that Russian cyber-saboteurs may have been behind a gas plant explosion on Texas’s coastal island of Quintana on 8 June 2022.

The explosion affected major U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter Freeport LNG.  I won’t regurgitate the story here; read Rogan. But just a few points bear emphasis.

The Freeport LNG plant in Quintana, TX is doused for cooldown after an 8 June 2022 explosion. KHOU-11 Houston video.

One is that the Freeport facility won’t resume operations for months.

According to Freeport, “Preliminary observations suggest that the incident resulted from the overpressure and rupture of a segment of an LNG transfer line, leading to the rapid flashing of LNG and the release and ignition of the natural gas vapor cloud.”

The date of the explosion put it the week before Russia began tightening the screws in earnest on European gas customers, including Germany.  Loss of Freeport’s output rattled the global market, as Rogan notes.

Oddly enough, it took Freeport nearly a week to put out a statement, and in the interim the company had declined to answer any questions about whether federal law enforcement was involved in an investigation.

Rogan has found that the apparent M.O. in the explosion (if M.O. it was) mirrors that of a Russian cyber-actor designated “XENOTIME” by Western analysts.  XENOTIME is associated with the Russian Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics, which has been linked by analysts to a 2017 attack on Saudi oil infrastructure.  The U.S. sanctioned the Russian entity in 2018.

Again, please read Rogan for the rest of the story.  In the meantime, being afraid is at your discretion.  But being concerned – very concerned?  I advise it.

Bill Gates’s farmland adventure

This will be the briefest of mentions, as I have an extended article to come out in the days ahead on Central Plains agricultural land and foreign buyers.  It’s a real bear trying to put something like that together; much of the purchasing is done through cut-outs, and you can never be sure who’s really behind it.  (If we took things at face value, we’d suppose Canadians have become near-psychotic about buying up U.S. farmland in every state west of the Mississippi.)

At any rate, this development merits notice because it looks to be a case of North Dakota using state law to fight back against what the state suspects may be an ulterior motive for Gates’s purchase there, using a trust, of a large tract of agricultural land. (H/t: Western Journal)

North Dakota wheat field. Pixabay

It’s not clear what the state can ultimately accomplish with a $100,000 fine imposed on the buyer, if the buyer is found to have a common, trust-purchaser goal of denying use of the land to productive agricultural purposes.  (Grazing cattle is one of the most common denials made by trusts that gain control of Western lands.)

The state attorney general wants the Gates trust to prove its bona fides or divest itself of the land, with the deadline of one year for that.  There are unanswered questions in my mind about what North Dakota can actually do.

But this situation is noteworthy for the state weighing in, as opposed to a single private landowner or group of landowners.  I’ll try to stay after this for any updates.

Feature image: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Felix Garza Jr. (Via Wikimedia Commons)

10 thoughts on “TOC Ready Room 24 June 2022: Flawed court ruling overturned; Escalation in Russia-NATO confrontation; Gates ag-buy pushback”

  1. Russia sent jet fighters to see what was going on,
    fwiw. Russian fighter jets and helos have been making regular, and unexpected, tours of the North Syrian border, mostly to deter Turkey from their announced, but still pending, invasion.
    source: https://twitter.com/spriteer_774400 follows both Syria and Ukraine.

    Even if Ukraine pulls off a reversal of Russia’s excruciating 2022 gains in Donbas
    Only excruciating for Ukraine military, because , on June 24, 2022, it was impossible to keep track of how many hundreds, or thousands, of Ukraine soldiers surrendered in Donbas. A cascade of surenders still in process.

    June 25 starts a gloomy week for the G-7 and NATO meets. They both might have to ban AngloMedia reports, which have been full-blown UkrainePropaganda.
    They’ll be asking Australia for real intel on how to stop SanctionBoomerangs,
    and, why Finland announced the border will re-open to Russian tourists on June 30, or July 1.

    The B-Team is going to need a rehab vacation to recover from Schloss Elmau, Madrid, and very well organized, by al-Sisi and MbS, GCC+Egypt+Jordan+Iraq meet in Jeddah.

    1. Always good to hear from you, D4x. Yes, the Russians routinely fly along the northern Syrian border. The reporting on the Specops helo intercept indicated the Russians reacted to the US op, as opposed to merely happening to be there when it went down. It’s unlikely US special warfare planned the op without regard to when Russian fighters or helos are usually up along the border, so it’s not a stretch to accept it as a reaction. (I assume the Russians keep a ready fighter pair on 5 or 15-min alert, and it takes hardly any time to get from their airbase to the border at fighter speeds.)

      It’s possible we notified the Russians using the hotline once the US op was airborne, although I never saw a statement on that point. Regardless, the Russians would have intercepted our helos to make the point that they can interfere with our ops in Syria.

      Meanwhile, as you say, a lot of initiative being shown in numerous quarters out there. It would be exhausting and rather pointless to try to write about all of it. I admit I have less interest when there’s no hope of a wise, useful, pro-American, pro-stability response by the US administration. And there isn’t while Biden is in office. The efforts by long-time foreign policy commentators to keep making it all fit an old construct that already fell apart in the Obama years are rapidly losing their interest.

      That said, I’m sure something will come along soon that’s worth writing about. MBS sure looks happy these days, like a kid in a candy store. The media look like escaped inmates from an asylum, cheering on the “unity” of NATO while NATO can’t unify on anything actually important. No one seems to recognize that adding allies you’ll have to defend, to a perimeter you aren’t bothering to actually make defensible, is how the Roman Empire spent its declining years. We see how that went.

  2. My diatribe begins here: The State Department is completely responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nuland and her cohorts were very helpful to the Biden, Pelosi, Kerry, and other families as they reaped corrupt fortunes from Ukraine. The US, NATO, the EU, and the despicable Davos crowd are not the good guys in the current fiasco. Putin made efforts to be accepted in Europe. His overtures were rejected. He is now accepted that rejection and is playing hardball. That is to say for playing keeps. NEOCON dinosaurs are at the center of vilifying Russia. NEOCONS no longer have any role to play. They are stuck in the past and are powered simply by hatred. The WEF and the West look like fools. The EU, NATO, and the US have sabotaged themselves. The Finland and Lithuanian situations are not occurring because the West has everything under control. Like it or not, the power centers of the World are changing. On the other hand, we are leading in the insane WOKE procession. BTW, IMO the EU is toast. Simply look at Germanys’ return to coal. Economics will always resurface at some point. Sooners. Maybe.

    1. Way to go, WR. Truth hurts some of our good freinds butts. “Neocon”, in your context, has ZERO to do with antisemitism. I refer the local commentariat to a recent YouTube video by Caroline Glick and David Goldman concerning the war in the Ukraine – hardly an antisemitic bone in either of those bodies.

      PS
      Opticon, Lithuania’s position “understandable”? You tryin’ to incite a website-wide insurrection? 🙂

  3. The end of the great judicial excuse to allow Ba’al to claim his child sacrifices is over. But Ba’al still rules many big cities which then rule many victimized states. The termination of Roe, Doe, and Casey means the beginning of a long and bumpy road that will challenge the pro-life majority like it has never, before. My old man always told me; it doesn’t matter how you vote if you know that you are going to lose. It’s how you vote when you have a chance to win that counts. Hopeless opposition is an easy virtue signal. The fight to save innocent lives is one thing; but changing the hearts and minds of the sociopathic behavior that has become a mass, dark, evil cloud over so many souls is going to be infinitely more difficult.

    On the issue of Russia and it’s fundamental and ancient subjugation by pervasive evil there is little to be done other than present a perceived unbeatable foe. Vlad the First is a murderous evil thug, and unfortunately Russia’s domination by a succession of murderous evil thugs seems to be a millennia long continuous problem for the Russian people and the world.

    To those on the “right” who toss around the epithet “Neocon” please remember its context and origins. It originated as an anti-Semitic slur and was applied to Jewish scholars, diplomats, and foreign relations thinkers like Irving Kristol and the Podhoretz family. You may disagree with those impulses and policy evaluations but beware appropriating Leftist descriptors for policy advocates for whom you have a disagreement.

    It is also prudent to remember that a twin engine airliner packed with luggage, people, fuel, and provisions can fly at trans-sonic speed, non-stop from South Korea to Atlanta, Georgia… again… non-stop… and land two-hours before takeoff (technically). The world is no longer a place where non-interventionism is practical as a global assertion. It hasn’t been since the first bomb fell on Pearl Harbor, and the post-WWI unholy alliance between the Leftist Pacifists and the Rightist Isolationists may bear a large chunk of the responsibility for the rise of Leftist thugs like Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, and yes… even Adolf Hitler. The world is too small and the weaponry too powerful to replay the old Isolationist nostrums and bromides.

    -OAB

    1. About Ba’al, it’s a good thing you held your nose and voted for Trump then, right oab? Pity, we can’t say the same for your neocon freinds.
      Peace, love, and, Tucker Carlson 🙂

    2. Really weak and pathetic on the Antisemite slander. If you don’t have anything meaningful to say STFU. At least you didn’t write one of your 10 page painfully obtuse and obvious garbage posts. Very best regards.

  4. Oh dear. I don’t think OAB meant to imply WR is an antisemite – and I’m quite certain WR is NOT an antisemite and has never displayed the slightest tendency in that direction.

    Unfortunately, the once-benign term “neocon” has become a litmus-test word in the last 10-15 years or so, and strayed from its original meaning. It’s true that it’s used by antisemites now as a shorthand way of claiming Jews have too much influence on US foreign policy. But there are plenty of people who just use “neocon” to mean someone is overly interventionist abroad and likes to overstretch and over-commit US power.

    A lot of MAGA folks use it that way. People like the Bushes and Cheneys are usually who they’re referring to, as opposed to making it about Jews.

    I keep that straight without much difficulty, but then, I can also state the original definition of a neocon (1970s), which was someone from the moderate Left who saw foreign policy and security issues as Ronald Reagan did.

    Ironically, those original neocons were the opposite of “new world order” types. (Prominent examples were Jeane Kirkpatrick, Irving Kristol, and Pat Moynihan.) They were national sovereignty folks who viewed “globalist” enterprises as inherently inspired by communism and related collectivist ideas. The neocons recognized that the Soviet International encouraged such movements, even when the movements seemed to have impeccable “capitalist” credentials (which believe it or not the Club of Rome was thought to have back then), and so were hostile to them.

    Now, of course, in the 2020s, people who don’t like “NWO” politics associate neocons with it. That would have astonished conservative thought leaders like Bill Buckley. The Club of Rome was already around in the 1970s, and had nothing to do with the emergence of neocons.. Neocons were very much an American phenomenon, and one reason they emerged at the time they did was that the US Democratic Party had started careening wildly to the left as the Vietnam War drew to a close. The neocons were appalled by what was happening with George McGovern (Dem presidential candidate in ’72) and Jimmy Carter. Ted Kennedy, if anything, was even worse.

    Anyway, neocon is misread by some folks, in the way criticism of George Soros is cynically called “antisemitism” by his defenders on the Left. I think OAB was articulating a warning about it, rather than accusing WR. But we see how easy it is to cross signals on that.

    1. Jeane Kirkpatrick an all time favorite. ” I said what I meant and I meant what I said.” BTW, it is too late for NEOCONS to jump off the Ukrainian train wreck. Germany starting to see the light. They did wait for the Fake One to leave Madrid. Very thoughtful indeed. Very best regards!

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