The Hill’s Morning Report — Biden to send air defenses to Ukraine, accuses Putin of ‘utter brutality’
President Biden today will join his Group of Seven counterparts during an emergency virtual summit to condemn a bloody new phase of Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Russia today launched another round of missile strikes across Ukraine as the country’s air defense systems intercepted some, although air attacks in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region left at least one person dead (The Wall Street Journal).
On Monday, a massive morning rush-hour missile bombardment in multiple cities killed at least 14 people and injured close to 100 civilians in what the U.S. and its allies immediately denounced as unambiguous war crimes that served to strengthen global commitments to help Ukraine.
In European capitals, protests aimed at Russia were loud and swift. The United Nations General Assembly on Monday convened an emergency special session to debate a previously prepared resolution condemning Russia’s illegal annexation of parts of eastern and southern Ukraine. Russia’s U.N. representative said Moscow was protecting Ukraine by taking four regions from its neighbor. The U.N. secretary general denounced the “unacceptable escalation” of the war.
Biden, who will be interviewed by CNN at 9 p.m. ET, assailed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “utter brutality” in targeting civilians for no “military purpose.” He accused Putin personally of “atrocities and war crimes.” The president restated a U.S. pledge to back Ukraine “for as long as it takes” while imposing “costs” on Russia.
Putin on Monday convened a meeting of Russia’s security council and boasted of a “massive strike” using high-precision weapons in retaliation for a Saturday bridge explosion in Russian territory while also warning of further strikes against Ukraine.
“In the event of continued Ukrainian acts of terrorism on Russian territory, our response will be harsh and in terms of its scale will correspond to the level of threats,” Putin said.
Some U.S. analysts believe Russia’s broadly targeted attacks have been preplanned and were not simply knee-jerk revenge for the weekend truck bombing of a bridge linking Russia to the Crimean Peninsula. Putin raged that the humiliating bridge fireball, said to be Ukraine’s handiwork, was a terrorist attack that warranted Russia’s “defense.”
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky, who has been pleading for air defenses and additional offensive weapons systems from the West, is likely to receive more of what he seeks, reports The New York Times. He will address G-7 leaders today. Biden, who spoke with Zelensky on Monday, vowed to provide advanced air defense systems (Reuters) as Ukrainians, many without power or heat, crowded into underground subway tunnels and returned to war footing expecting more bombardments.
Russia on Monday deployed 84 missiles and used 24 drones, including more than a dozen Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones, Ukraine said, adding that some drones were destroyed by air defenses. Drone launches took place from Belarus and Crimea, while neighboring Moldova protested that Russia flew missiles from the Black Sea over its airspace.
Russia took aim at Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure sites that provide heat and electricity and temporarily knocked out some communications. Russia failed to strike any military targets, according to Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelensky.
▪ The Washington Post, David Ignatius: The consensus in a resolute Kyiv: There can be no compromise.
▪ The Washington Post, Karen DeYoung: Ukraine war at a turning point with rapid escalation of conflict.
▪ The Hill, Laura Kelly: Experts characterized Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian civilians during morning rush hour in major cities as horrific and somewhat predictable.
The White House condemnation of Russia’s actions as war crimes aimed at civilians was an important initial response, according to retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former U.S. Army commander in Europe and now senior adviser to Human Rights First.
During a Monday interview with Bloomberg’s “Balance of Power,” Hodges said, “We’ve got to make it clear to the Kremlin as well as to Kyiv that we are in this for the long haul, that we are going to support Ukraine. What Russia is trying to do is cause us to lose will, to lose the willingness to do this. The Russians are at the end of what they can do, so we have got to make it clear that we are going to stick with Ukraine.”
▪ The Washington Post: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) on Monday called for a freeze on U.S.-Saudi cooperation after Russian attacks and Riyadh’s alliance with Moscow over oil.
▪ CNN: Russian-speaking hackers knocked multiple U.S. airport websites offline on Monday, including that of La Guardia Airport, although operations at U.S. airports were not affected.
▪ The Hill: President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus on Monday announced deployments of more than 1,000 troops in partnership with Russia.
▪ The New York Times: India and China, two powers that have offered Russia some relief in the face of Western sanctions, expressed concern Monday and renewed calls for de-escalation and dialogue between Russia and Ukraine.
LEADING THE DAY
It’s the second Tuesday in October, and the midterms are officially four weeks away. With most races still tight and impossible to predict, pollsters and political watchers alike are prepared for a drawn-out contest, with some results likely to remain up in the air beyond Election Day (Politico).
In Ohio Monday night, Senate candidates Rep. Tim Ryan (D) and Republican J.D. Vance faced off during their only televised debate, each hoping to gain an edge in a race that recent polls characterized as dead-even. Analysts believe the back-and-forth did not dramatically alter the current dynamics of the contest (The Hill).
The candidates clashed over the economy, Vance’s investments in businesses with ties to China, abortion, crime and policing, extremism and whether Biden should run again in 2024. Ryan’s advice to the president: Don’t. “No, I’ve been very clear. I’d like to see a generational change.”
▪ The Columbus Dispatch: Four takeaways from first Ohio Senate debate between Ryan, Vance.
▪ The New York Times: Six takeaways from the Vance and Ryan Senate debate in Ohio.
▪ NBC News: Ryan “all by his lonesome” as national Democrats ignore close Ohio Senate race.
© Associated Press / Francois Mori | Ohio Senate candidates J.D. Vance (R) and Rep. Tim Ryan (D) debated on Monday.
In Nevada, signs are emerging of a possible red wave in November, putting a critical state for Democrats in jeopardy that could end up costing them their Senate majority as well as the governor’s mansion, writes The Hill’s Caroline Vakil. Recent polls have shown Republican Senate hopeful Adam Laxalt leading Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), albeit within the margin of error, and demonstrated that Republicans’ preferred midterm issue — the economy and inflation — is dominating in the minds of residents from the tourism-focused state. While Democrats argue that races have always been close in Nevada, they acknowledge that the stakes are higher this year.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) falsely claimed at a Saturday rally in Nevada that Democrats are “pro-crime” and support reparations for Black Americans whose ancestors were enslaved because those who “do the crime” are owed. The remark has resulted in accusations of racism and dishonesty (The Washington Post).
“They’re pro-crime,” Tuberville said at the Minden, Nev., rally. “They want crime. They want crime because they want to take over what you got. They want to control what you have. They want reparations because they think the people that do the crime are owed that.”
Although some individual Democrats have called for reparations for Black Americans, the party has not supported the idea.
▪ NBC News: NAACP denounces “flat out racist” remarks by Tuberville at Trump rally.
▪ NPR: Tuberville equates descendants of enslaved people to criminals.
Across the country, Republicans are getting more negative and personal, stepping up personal attacks against their Democratic opponents who are clinging to narrow leads in the polls. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports, GOP strategists have found points of attack. One target: Pennsylvania Senate candidate and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s (D) failed business venture in his hometown of Braddock, which he undertook with a regional celebrity chef who had a shady financial record.
▪ New York Magazine: The vulnerability of John Fetterman. Inside this year’s highest-stakes Senate race.
▪ The Philadelphia Inquirer: Fetterman, at a brief stop in Southwest Philadelphia, says Republican Mehmet Oz “lies about my record on crime.”
▪ NPR: Ahead of midterms, there’s a focus on Senate races in Pennsylvania and Nevada.
And in Pennsylvania’s governor’s race, Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano has tried to turn the Jewish day school Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro attended — and now sends his children to — into a dog whistle to be heard by Christians (The New York Times).
In an interview, Shapiro accused his opponent of “courting antisemites and white supremacists and racists actively in his campaign,” although he did not specifically call Mastriano an antisemite.
“Unless you think like him, unless you vote like him, unless you worship like him or marry like him, then you don’t count in his Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said at an event last week. “I want to be a governor for all 13 million Pennsylvanians.”
Meanwhile, with four weeks to go before the midterms, House Democrats are in a position few expected them to be: competitive. As The Hill’s Mike Lillis reports, while top pollsters and watchers remain confident the GOP will take control of the chamber, their expected margins have shrunk considerably.
This momentum is raising Democratic hopes that they can minimize their losses, and if they do lose the speakership, make life tougher for current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who’s favored for the post and is already struggling to bridle the more conservative wing of his party.
In Virginia, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin wasted no time in fulfilling his education campaign promises after he was elected to office, writes The Hill’s Lexi Lonas. Since his inauguration earlier this year, Virginia passed a substantial education budget and Youngkin signed the Virginia Literacy Act, as well as executive orders banning critical race theory. The governor is notching policy wins on issues that are popular among the broader GOP base, and his actions could make him a standout in the leadup to the 2024 election.
▪ The Washington Post: Shaped by gun violence and climate change, Gen Z weighs whether to vote.
▪ The Hill: How a GOP Congress could try to impeach a Biden Cabinet member.
▪ The Hill: Florida students protest Sen. Ben Sasse’s (R-Neb.) appointment over LGBTQ issues.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
➤ ECONOMIC NEWS
The heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank on Monday warned of economic headwinds that raise the risk of a global financial recession. Both groups are holding their annual meetings this week in Washington, D.C. (The Hill).
In the U.S., the labor market is still strong but is losing momentum because of the impact of higher borrowing costs, said IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva (Bloomberg News).
“There’s the risk and the real danger of a world recession next year. The advanced economies are slowing in Europe and so we’ll see where it goes into next year,” said World Bank Group President David Malpass. “The rise in interest rates puts added weight on it. And inflation is still a major problem for everyone, but especially for the poor.”
▪ Bloomberg News: JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon expects U.S. recession in six to nine months.
▪ Wall Street Journal: Two Fed officials make the case for caution with future interest rate raises.
Germany, faced with natural gas supply challenges heading into winter, has a plan for $93 billion in domestic price relief to ease the cost of living (Reuters).
And speaking of stimulus, there is a consensus that the nearly $2 trillion American Rescue Plan signed by Biden in 2021 was a double-edged sword, according to a Washington Post analysis. It padded the economy in cash that spurred the fastest recovery of any Group of Seven nation, even as the indiscriminate nature of that spending helped ignite the biggest jump in consumer prices in 40 years.
Biden has pledged to let the Federal Reserve do whatever it takes to bring inflation down, but the political implications could be dire, writes The Hill’s Sylvan Lane. Fed officials have vowed not to let up in their fight against inflation, even if it means driving the economy into a recession. Many Americans are likely to blame Biden if that happens.
🏠 Higher mortgage rates generally don’t bode well for the housing market, and the U.S. has just seen one of the steepest increases in history, to 7.12 percent (MarketWatch).
As Bloomberg News reports, the housing market is hitting a number of milestones “with spreads on mortgages and benchmark interest rates reaching levels unseen in decades, while the volume of new sales is slowing at a faster pace than even during the aftermath of the global financial crisis.”
And according to Fannie Mae’s latest Home Purchase Sentiment Index, only 19 percent of consumers feel that now is a good time to buy a home, the lowest since 2011 (Housing Wire).
▪ The New York Times: If America needs starter homes, why are perfectly good ones being torn down?
▪ Fortune: The odds of falling home prices in your local housing market, as told by one interactive map.
■ War in Ukraine: Red line on nuclear weapons must be reaffirmed, editorial, Le Monde (France). https://bit.ly/3rHTj94
■ If you think U.S. pensions are safe, just wait, by Allison Schrager, economics columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3RYOWBq
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. Members are scheduled to return to the Capitol on Nov. 14.
The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. to begin procedural consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2023. Senators are scheduled to return for votes on Nov. 14.
The president and leaders of the Group of Seven nations will hold an 8 a.m. ET virtual meeting to discuss Russia and Ukraine. The president will deliver virtual remarks at 2:30 p.m. at a summit focused on fire prevention and control (and firefighters). Biden at 6:45 p.m. will participate in a virtual campaign reception for Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.). He will be interviewed by CNN’s Jake Tapper for a broadcast at 9 p.m. ET.
Vice President Harris will ceremonially swear-in Travis LeBlanc at 3 p.m. to be a member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt at the Department of State at 3:30 p.m. Blinken hosts a working dinner for the Foreign Affairs Policy Board at the department at 7 p.m.
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1:45 p.m.
➤ PANDEMIC & HEALTH
States in which abortion remains legal are feeling the growing influence of Catholic hospitals and health systems, which control about 1 in 7 U.S. hospital beds, The Washington Post reports, and require religious doctrine to guide treatment. The hospitals and clinics follow directives from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which prohibit treatment deemed “immoral,” including abortion, vasectomies, postpartum tubal ligations and contraception.
“The directives are not just a collection of dos and don’ts,” John F. Brehany, executive vice president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and a longtime consultant to the conference of bishops, told the Post. “They are a distillation of the moral teachings of the Catholic church as they apply to modern health care.”
China on Monday imposed more COVID-19 lockdowns in cities across the country as case numbers tripled during a weeklong holiday ahead of a major Communist Party meeting in Beijing next week.
The country is one of the few places in the world still resorting to harsh measures to keep the disease from spreading, but the strict “zero-COVID” approach has taken an economic toll, particularly on small businesses. Many hope the government will ease the country’s lockdown policies after the party meeting (CBS News).
Bloomberg News: China’s tolerance for President Xi Jinping’s unyielding COVID-19 fight is cracking.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,062,681. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 345, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And finally … 🕳️ Black holes may hide a mind-bending secret about the universe. The New York Times reports that new research on the phenomenon includes the possibility that the three-dimensional universe — and everything that occupies it — may be holograms.
“It may be too strong to say that gravity and quantum mechanics are exactly the same thing,” Leonard Susskind of Stanford University wrote in a 2017 paper. “But those of us who are paying attention may already sense that the two are inseparable, and that neither makes sense without the other.”
Now Susskind and his colleagues hope that insight could lead to a theory that combines gravity and quantum mechanics — quantum gravity — and may explain just how the universe began.
(Want to learn more about the black holes conundrum? Popular Mechanics has interesting graphics and lots of theories about dark energy to add to our Earth-bound questions.)