It’s Tuesday, March 8th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:
1) Ukraine Crisis Puts Pressure On Biden Administration
The Topline: With war raging between Ukraine and Russia, pressure is building on the Biden administration to cut off Russian oil imports as civilians face continued threats trying to escape the fighting.
Quote Of The Day: “We are now talking to our European partners and allies to look in a coordinated way at the prospect of banning the import of Russian oil, while making sure that there is still an appropriate supply of oil on world markets. That’s a very active discussion as we speak.”
– Secretary of State Antony Blinken
A third round of talks between Ukraine and Russia ended yesterday with no major developments, as the United Nations reported that over 400 civilians have been killed so far in Russia’s invasion. Of those killed, 27 are children. Over 800 have been injured, though experts have cautioned that the actual number is almost certainly higher.
Russian forces are making significant gains in the north, south, and east of Ukraine, and targeting cities across the country with heavy rocket fire — with some reports saying they’re specifically targeting civilians in certain regions. Russian forces continue to ignore ceasefires or so-called humanitarian corridors.
International sanctions and companies pulling their services from Russia have to this point seemed to have no real effect on deterring Putin. Now, America and Europe’s dependence on Russian energy has become a central issue.
In response, the Biden administration is now considering a possible ban on oil imports from Russia, but no decision has been made yet.
According to a U.S. official, if a ban of Russian energy does happen, it’s likely that the U.S. will do it alone. Germany is the biggest purchaser of Russian energy in Europe, and they’ve rejected a ban on Russian oil.
Don’t Forget China: On Monday, the Chinese Foreign Minister called Moscow the “most important strategic partner.” He also said the Communist Party remains focused on promoting the “development of a comprehensive China-Russia partnership in this new era.”
2) “People’s Convoy” Gathers Near D.C.
The Topline: A convoy of truckers calling themselves the “People’s Convoy” has gathered in Hagerstown, Maryland, this week to protest COVID restrictions and vaccine mandates. While the Canadian truckers blocked the streets of Ottawa for weeks, this convoy is slowly circling D.C.
Quote Of The Day: “I am fearful, [myself] and the organizers are fearful of them trying to do to us what they did to those involved in January 6th. It is our belief that they will try to do that….we are not and will not go into D.C. proper.”
– Brian Brase, leader of the convoy
The Hagerstown Speedway in Maryland is the launching point of the convoy, where more than 100 large trucks and hundreds of smaller vehicles joined together.
The truckers told The Daily Wire they were “here for freedom.” They are protesting COVID restrictions across the country and want President Joe Biden to end the emergency order, initially issued under President Donald Trump, which includes all remaining COVID-related vaccine mandates.
The U.S. convoy mirrors the Canadian trucker convoy that ended a few weeks ago and began as a response to the government mandate that Canadian truckers crossing the border must be fully vaccinated.
A few hundred members of the national guard were deployed to D.C. in late February to help control traffic related to concerns about the trucker convoy.
Right now, the convoy isn’t planning to enter the city, or construct any type of deliberate blockades. The leader of the convoy, Brian Brase, admitted there is a faction of this group who wants to go into D.C., but as of right now, he’s against that. He brought up “concerns about people trying to come in here who didn’t belong,” warning that anyone who intends to “cause harm, violence and disruption” is not welcome.
The organizer said that several prominent U.S. senators and lawmakers plan to speak with the convoy this week. He also hinted that a nearby governor might speak with them as well.
3) The Optics War In Ukraine
The Topline: Russian President Vladimir Putin has found that conquering Ukraine is tougher than he anticipated, and he now appears to be losing the optics war in the West when compared with former actor and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
President Zelensky first won a Ukrainian sketch comedy competition show when he was 17, initiating his career as a comedian. From there, he won the Ukrainian version of Dancing with the Stars before starring in a number of films, largely Russian language romantic comedies. He was even the voice of Paddington Bear in the Ukrainian-dubbed version of the 2014 film.
In 2015, he began starring in a sitcom, “Servant of the People,” playing the president of Ukraine.
He has said that experience was part of what inspired him to run for office and he was still playing that role as he was campaigning to be president.
The television production company behind the show formed a political party with the same name as the party on the show, and Zelensky won the presidency running with that new party platform.
Within a month of the show’s finale, Zelensky was elected president.
In one viral moment that galvanized supporters of Ukraine, Zelensky posted a video selfie to Telegram, a messaging app popular in Russia, announcing he wasn’t leaving Kyiv as Russian troops were reportedly heading directly toward the city. When the American military offered to airlift him out of Kyiv, he reportedly said he didn’t need a ride, he needed ammunition.
In his most recent video on March 3rd, he said, “We have nothing to lose but our own freedom.”
It was reported that last week, as the E.U. gathered to debate imposing sanctions on Russia, the German delegate was balking at employing the harshest measures, but that changed when Zelensky was teleconferenced in. He gave an especially passionate five-minute speech, pleading for the E.U.’s help and ended by saying it may be the last time those leaders saw him alive. By the time he was done, the mood had reportedly entirely shifted to his side.
Other Stories We’re Tracking
Netflix and TikTok have suspended their services in Russia. A spokesperson for Netflix announced the move Sunday, citing the “circumstances on the ground” in the region. TikTok pointed to the new “fake news” law in Russia, and said they have “no choice” but to suspend livestreaming and new content to their video service in the country.
President Biden continues to be under water in the polls. According to Real Clear Politics’ average of national polls, the president’s approval sits at 42, while his disapproval is currently 54, a 12-point gap. On his handling of the economy and foreign policy, the gaps are larger: 20 and 19 points, respectively. 64% of Americans believe the country is moving in the wrong direction.
The global death toll from the virus has surpassed 6 million people, according to data gathered by the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering. According to the CDC, the 1918 influenza pandemic is estimated to have killed at least 50 million people around the world.
Washington State will lift its statewide indoor mask mandate starting March 12th, but students in Seattle public schools may be required to wear masks through May 1st. A Seattle teachers union is pushing the district to maintain masks until at least 2 weeks after students return from spring break, claiming the masks give students a “sense of safety and normalcy.”