Today’s Headlines and Commentary

Katherine Pompilio
Tuesday, February 22, 2022, 2:07 PM

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Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into two separatist regions in Ukraine after recognizing their independence, reports the New York Times. Putin appeared on Russian state television to sign decrees recognizing the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as independent from Ukraine. Putin then announced his plans to deploy Russian troops into the regions for the purpose of “peacekeeping.” Security officials speculate that Putin’s decision to send troops into Ukrainian territory for peacekeeping functions is part of a wider military campaign to invade Ukraine. Several nations at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting condemned Putin’s order as a violation of international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations spoke about Putin’s decision to deploy troops into Ukrainian territory. She said, “He calls them peacekeepers. This is nonsense. We know what they really are.”

President Biden signed an executive order issuing sanctions on Russia for its recognition of two separatist regions in Ukraine as independent, according to Politico. The order prohibits new U.S. investment in the Donetsk and Luhansk breakaway regions, imports and exports from the regions, and financial and property transactions as determined by the Treasury Department. Biden’s order stated that “The Russian Federation’s purported recognition of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic of Luhansk People’s Republic regions of Ukraine contradicts Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements and further threatens the peace, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and thereby constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.”

Germany halted the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline project in response to the deployment of Russian troops into Ukrainian territory, writes Reuters. The $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline project is reportedly designed to double the flow of Russian gas directly into Germany. The energy project is supposed to lower gas costs for European consumers, but it has infamously faced backlash from the European Union and the United States because of the project’s likelihood of increasing European dependence on Russia for critical natural resources. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted his support for Germany’s decision. He wrote, “This is a morally, politically and practically correct step in the current circumstances. True leadership means tough decisions in difficult times. Germany's move proves just that.”

A massive data leak of more than 18,000 bank accounts holding over $100 billion revealed evidence that Credit Suisse accounts were allegedly used by clients involved in crimes such as money laundering or drug trafficking, reports BBC. The Swiss private bank is accused of opening and maintaining accounts for high-risk clients, including for some criminals involved in human trafficking. Credit Suisse denied the allegations and suggestions about alleged wrongdoings in business practices or lack of due diligence. 

The Supreme Court formally rejected Donald Trump’s most recent request to block the release of White House records to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, writes Axios. Trump's attorneys argued that if the National Archives and Records Administration released the records it would “seriously cripple executive privilege.” The court’s rejection came in an unsigned order issued without comment and maintained a lower court's decision that the sitting president does not need to honor Trump’s invocation of executive privilege. 

Former President Trump’s media company released an alternative social media platform on Apple’s App Store called “Truth Social,” according to CNN. The app is reportedly a “Twitter-like” platform where users can write and post “truths” to their personal accounts. Truth Social is allegedly Trump’s way of returning to social media after being suspended by multiple mainstream platforms after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.  

Forty-nine U.S. states announced plans to end indoor mask mandates amidst the nationwide steady decline of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, reports USA Today. Johns Hopkins University data reports that U.S. coronavirus cases dropped sharply from 800,850 five weeks ago to just over 100,000 on Sunday. Hawaii remains the only state to keep its indoor mask mandate in effect. 

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Ben Connable discussed how building the Iraqi army will fight to prevent another disaster. 

David Priess shared an episode of the Chatter Podcast which featured a timely discussion on the history of President’s day and the legacy of George Washington. 

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Katherine Pompilio is an associate editor of Lawfare. She holds a B.A. with honors in political science from Skidmore College.

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