It’s Tuesday, March 1st, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:
1) Political Impact Of Ukraine For Biden
The Topline: As Russia continues its violent invasion of Ukraine, a growing number of Americans now say President Joe Biden could have done more to prevent the conflict.
President Biden came into last week with a 37% approval rating, which is around his lowest point, and it appears to be going down further with the news from Ukraine.
According to a Washington-Post/ABC poll, 33% of Americans approve of the president’s handling of the conflict, while 47% disapprove. Another poll from Gallup found that among Democrats, 64% approve of the job he’s doing in Ukraine, while among Independents, that number falls to 35%.
Twelve months ago, 56% of Americans approved of Biden’s foreign policy, while 40% disapproved. Today, those numbers have flipped.
According to the poll from ABC, just 23% of Americans say the U.S. has gotten stronger on the world stage since Biden took office.
Another poll from Gallup gauged Americans’ views of Russia and found that the same number of Republicans and Democrats – 88% each – view Russia unfavorably.
Over the weekend, President Donald Trump spoke at the conservative conference CPAC, and implied that things in Russia would have gone differently if he were in charge. According to a poll from the Harvard Center for American Political Studies, a large majority of Americans agree, with 62% of those polled saying Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if Trump were still in office. The poll also found that 59% of Americans believed Putin moved on Ukraine now because he saw “Weakness” in President Biden.
Midterms: A new poll from ABC and the Washington Post shows Republicans with a 49-42 advantage in early midterm voting, while among registered voters who say they’re likely to vote in November, the advantage jumps to 54-41.
2) Ukraine Updates
The Topline: The Russian invasion of Ukraine has carried on for more than five days, while pushback from the international community continues to grow.
Belarus, which Russia used as the launch point for the northern front of their invasion, could soon join the war themselves.
The Belarusian border was also the location chosen for initial peace talks between Ukraine and Russia. A Ukrainian delegation arrived to take part in the talks on Monday, while Russia captured two more Ukrainian cities, and the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, came under heavy rocket fire.
The first round of peace talks concluded Monday evening in Ukraine, with an agreement on topics for future talks.
Shortly after, explosions were reported in Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv. With reports that the Russians have deployed 75% of their assembled combat power in Ukraine, there have been no noticeable changes in the Russian position, according to U.S. officials.
On Monday, President Zelensky signed an official application to join the European Union.
Zelensky said, “Our goal is to be with all Europeans and, most importantly, to be equal. I’m sure that’s fair. I am sure we deserve it.” Zelensky remains in Kyiv, despite reports that Russia has sent 400 mercenaries into the city to assassinate him.
Putin has escalated his rhetoric. In an economic summit on Monday, for example, he called the West an “empire of lies.” He also ratcheted up fears of nuclear war by putting his nuclear forces on increased alert.
As economic sanctions from the west went into effect, the Russian ruble crashed, losing 40% of its value. In an effort to prop up the ruble, the Russian central bank raised its key interest rate to 20% and ordered companies to sell 80% of their foreign currency revenues.
Refugees: One UN refugee agency said up to 4 million Ukrainians could be displaced. The latest numbers suggest at least 360,000 people have already fled the country. Poland alone has reported taking in at least 200,000 Ukrainians. There are also reports that at least 20,000 Polish citizens have crossed into Ukraine to aid in their defense, but that remains to be confirmed.
Last week, Zelensky said 13 soldiers on a small island south of Odessa had died “heroically” after Russian warships attacked. Reports that they told the Russian warship to, “go F— yourself,” went viral, especially on social media.
The Ukrainian Navy is now reporting that the soldiers are “alive and well,” having been forced to surrender after repelling two attacks by Russian forces.
3) Breaking Down ‘SWIFT’
The Topline: Western countries continue to ramp up sanctions on Russia and have moved to block it from the SWIFT banking system.
Quote Of The Day: “Either they’re actually able to weather this storm and they’re strengthened by it …Or in the short run, the bone is so brittle that it’s going to break in a way that Russia…comes out of this even weaker.”
– Vivek Ramaswamy, entrepreneur and New York Times bestselling author
Russia is now being blocked from the SWIFT banking system.
SWIFT is the system that allows banks to effectively send messages to one another, and allows the wire transfer architecture to operate. It’s what allows people to wire money from one institution to another. Being pulled off the system makes it very costly for a country to operate in the global financial system.
China has its own alternative to SWIFT, but there aren’t many people using it by comparison. Russia has a nascent alternative, as well.
Taking Russia off of the antiquated system could catalyze the transition to making alternatives come to life and develop real network effects of their own. Russia can also effectively use its reliance on crypto and blockchain-based approaches to transfer money in the meantime, in a way that bridges it to plugging into the Chinese or alternative SWIFT system.
Other Stories We’re Tracking
More mask mandates are being lifted across the country. Starting Wednesday, New York’s public school children will no longer need to wear masks. California is also lifting its school mask mandates starting on March 12th, though officials will still “strongly recommend” mask wearing. Masks are also now optional in the U.S. Capitol complex, including for those who attend the State of the Union address.