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Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko has signed a deal with Russia to base Russian nuclear weapons in his country. The strategic impact of such a move is negligible, but a lot can go wrong with this foolhardy plan.

First, here are four new stories from the Atlantic,


a stressful summer

Russia has taken another step towards nuclearizing its satrapy in neighboring Belarus. This is bad news but not a crisis (yet). But first, I want to add a note to what I wrote a few weeks ago about the drone attack on the Kremlin.

I suggested that the strange strike on the Kremlin building was unlikely to have been an act sanctioned or carried out by the Ukrainian government. My best guess at the time was some sort of false-flag tactic by the Russians to justify more repression and violence against Ukraine, as well as internal discontent in Russia. I didn’t think that Ukrainians would attack an empty building in the middle of the night.
The US intelligence community, however, now thinks the attack may have been a Ukrainian special operation of some sort. The same American analyst, According To the new York TimesNot sure exactly who authorized the action against the Russian capital:

US intelligence agencies do not know which unit carried out the attack and it was not clear whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky or his top officials knew about the operation, although some officials believe Mr Zelensky was not .

This isn’t much to go on, especially because the intelligence community’s confidence in this approach is “low”, meaning that there is at least some general, but not specific, evidence for it. The Americans suggest the attack may have been “orchestrated” by Ukrainian security services, but this implies a number of possibilities, including civilians, a small militia, some people linked to Ukrainians, or even a commando team. Can

However, the best evidence is that it was not a false flag, with the exception of the firing wave of missiles, the Russian government has said and done almost nothing in response, either in Ukraine or in Russia. If Vladimir Putin’s security forces had carried out the incident, they would almost certainly have been taking advantage of it, but they are not. Instead, the Kremlin seems paralyzed and has clamped down on any reporting about the whole affair; If the Ukrainian goal was to rattle Russian leaders, mission accomplished. So my theory has gone up in smoke – the danger of trying to cobble together an explanation while waiting for better evidence – but I thought it important to update you here.

Now about those Belarus nuclear.

Putin announced back in march They intended to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus, a move that Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was doing little uncomfortable throat-clearing As he tried to stay in Putin’s good graces, clearly nervous about hosting weapons of mass destruction in his fiefdom. Hesitation is over: Belarus Defense Minister Viktor Khrinin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu tomorrow signed a formal agreement Permission to deploy Russian nuclear weapons in Belarus.

This would be the first time Soviet Russia has deployed nuclear weapons outside its territory, but the bombs are not yet in Belarus. Lukashenko was in Moscow yesterday to attend a summit of the Eurasian Economic Forum, and although he claimed that the complicated process of transferring Russian nuclear bombs has already begun, I don’t believe him. (There I go again, theorizing in the absence of evidence. But Western intelligence agencies watch Russian nuclear weapons movements very closely, and so far none of them have indicated that They see anything happen.) Furthermore, Lukashenko’s claim was not absolutely certain; When asked in Moscow whether the weapons had already arrived, They said“Perhaps. I’ll go and see.”

Now, without going too far on my skis, I will say that the leaders of countries with nuclear weapons on their territory, without exception, know whether they have them or not, and they do not need to “go and see”. Lukashenko’s flippant remarks tell me that he knows that nothing has moved yet, and that he understands that his role in this dangerous partisanship has to do with the Kremlin’s attempt to rouse Western nerves about nuclear war. Have to play

Putin, for his part, has said that the Russian nuclear weapons storage facility will be completed by July 1. Nuclear weapons certainly require highly secure military installations and personnel trained in handling such systems, such as how to load them onto their equipment. Delivery vehicles, and the unique safety precautions around them. Even in the best of times, nuclear weapons are a high-maintenance proposition, and accidents do happen: in 2007An American B-52 flew over the United States with six nuclear bombs, which the crew did not know were attached to the wings.

It is also possible that Putin is downplaying the political impact of the nuclear deal, given recent questions about Lukashenko’s health. the strongman of belarus has been feeling weak lately, Putin’s gangland style will be to ensure he quickly gets Belarus as a staging ground for his nuclear threats if he senses the grim reaper is about to step in.

Putin’s July deadline is also significant because it means the Russians will be moving nuclear weapons in the heat of intense fighting. Such a timetable is probably deliberate. The Kremlin boss believes the West is too afraid of nuclear war, and he intends to play on that fear. Western leaders, of course, Are Very afraid of nuclear war, because they are not complete psychopaths. Putin and his generals, although cruel and vicious men, are afraid of it, no matter what they say, because they are not suicidal. (So ​​were the Soviet leaders and their generals, as We learned after the Cold War.)

However, Putin failed to understand that years of conflict with the Soviet Union taught the United States and its allies how to counter an aggressive Kremlin and escalate threats at the same time. Putin as I often noteis a Soviet Nostalgic who yearns for the old Soviet Empire and who still believes that a weak and decadent west Will not oppose it.

As always, I’m not worried about Putin’s deliberate move to start World War III, but about some kind of error or accident while transferring nuclear weapons from one insane authoritarian country to another. Putin could keep nuclear weapons close to Ukraine and then claim that NATO is threatening Russia’s nuclear deterrent, thus provoking a crisis he feels is enough to get the West to back down from supporting Kiev. Will inspire It would be another hyperbolic blunder in a series of bad moves, but Putin, as we know, isn’t exactly a master strategist. It’s going to be a tense summer.

Connected:


today’s News
  1. a South Carolina circuit-court judge temporarily blocked The state’s six-week abortion ban, a day after Governor Henry McMaster signed it into law.
  2. A House committee led by Texas Republicans recommended impeachment State Attorney General Ken Paxton yesterday cited years of alleged law breaking and misconduct.
  3. Mississippi Police Officer Joe Adrian Murry shotAn unarmed 11-year-old black boy has been suspended with pay pending investigation of the shooting.

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A scene from 'American Born Chinese'
Carlos Lopez-Calleja / Disney

A Chinese American Show That Doesn’t Bother To Explain Itself

by Shirley Lee

Growing up in suburban New Jersey, I dreaded the arrival of new visitors. I was not anti-social; I just feared that someone who was not Chinese – as were most of my classmates – would not understand my family’s home and all its inevitable differences. Even if they didn’t ask me about cultural items they could find around the house, I felt the need to explain what they were looking for, to put them at ease. We stuck it on the wall because it’s the Chinese character for fortune! These hard-boiled eggs are brown because they’ve been soaked in tea! In an attempt to prove that my surroundings were completely normal, I turned myself into a tour guide and my house into a spectacle.

American born Chinese Does not bother with such disclaimers. The Disney+ show, which is streaming now, is upbeat and unashamed about its ultra-specific focus on the Chinese American experience.

Read full article.


more than the Atlantic


culture break
A scene from 'Yellowjacket'
Callie Schwarmann / Showtime

Watch. yellow jacket‘ The season 2 finale (streaming on Showtime) made a terrible mistake.

Hear For newly launched first episode radio atlantic Podcast with host Hanna Rosin, on whether the war in Ukraine could be distracting the world at a critical moment.

Play our daily crossword.


PS

This is my last Daily for the next week, as I’m leaving for some sunshine and downtime, but senior editor Isabelle Fattal and our colleagues the Atlantic Will keep things lively here as always. (This newsletter will close on Monday for Memorial Day, so look for the next edition on Tuesday.)

With vacation on my mind, I’d like to recommend a movie about Las Vegas that lives in Martin Scorsese’s shadow casino (of an unquestionable masterpiece) for a very long time. Twenty years ago, William H. Macy, Maria Bello and Alec Baldwin starred the coolerOne of the bleakest movies since Sin City leaving Las Vegas, Messi plays a “cooler” whose bad luck is so contagious that casinos hire him to stand in for people who win a lot of money at the table.

It’s a love story and a crime story, but it’s also about old Vegas becoming a new (and fabulous) Vegas. Back then, developers were making a futile attempt to turn an industry devoted mostly to gambling, alcohol and sex into a theme park for families. Alec Baldwin—who was nominated for Best Supporting Actor—contested to this by boasting about the strip around 2002: “You mean the Disneyland silent fest over there? Huh? That’s a fucking violation that is.” Something that used to be beautiful, that used to have class, like a gorgeous high priced hooker with a special client… It makes me want to cry, because I remember the way she used to be.

I encourage him every time. See you in a few weeks.

– Tom


Catherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.

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