Category : Military / Armed Forces

(Economist) How to win Ukraine’s long war

On the face of it, a long war suits Russia. Both sides are using huge amounts of ammunition, but Russia has vastly more. The Russian economy is much larger than Ukraine’s and in far better shape. In pursuit of victory, Russia is willing to terrorise and demoralise the Ukrainians by committing war crimes, as it did by striking a shopping mall in Kremenchuk this week. If needs be, Mr Putin will impose grievous suffering on his own people.

However, the long war does not have to be fought on Mr Putin’s terms. Potentially, Ukraine has vast numbers of motivated fighters. It can be supplied by the West’s defence industry. In 2020, before sanctions, the economies of nato were more than ten times bigger than Russia’s.

Ukraine’s turnaround begins on the battlefield, by stopping and reversing the Russian advance. Mr Putin’s generals will continue to have more weapons, but the sophisticated nato systems now arriving have longer range and greater accuracy. By adopting tactics devised in the cold war, when nato too was outnumbered by the Red Army, Ukraine should be able to destroy Russian command posts and supply depots. Ukraine scored a success on June 30th, when it used nato weapons to drive Russian forces off Snake Island, a strategic prize in the Black Sea. It should aim to impose a “hurting stalemate”, in which it takes back similarly symbolically important territory, such as the city of Kherson, imposing a heavy price on Russia.

If Russia starts to lose ground on the battlefield, dissent and infighting may spread in the Kremlin.

Read it all (registration or subscription).

Posted in Foreign Relations, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(NYT front page) A More Muscular NATO Emerges as West Confronts Russia and China

Faced with a newly aggressive Russia, NATO leaders on Wednesday outlined a muscular new vision that names Moscow as the military alliance’s primary adversary but also, for the first time, declares China to be a strategic “challenge.”

It was a fundamental shift for an alliance that was born in the Cold War but came to view a post-Soviet Russia as a potential ally, and did not focus on China at all.

But that was before Feb. 24, when Russian forces poured across the border into Ukraine, and Chinese leaders pointedly did not join in the global condemnation that followed.

“The deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests,” NATO leaders said in a new mission statement issued during their summit in Madrid.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Europe, Foreign Relations, Globalization, History, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(WSJ) U.S. Held Secret Meeting With Israeli, Arab Military Chiefs to Counter Iran Air Threat

The U.S. convened a secret meeting of top military officials from Israel and Arab countries in March to explore how they could coordinate against Iran’s growing missile and drone capabilities, according to officials from the U.S. and the region.

The previously undisclosed talks, which were held at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, marked the first time that such a range of ranking Israeli and Arab officers have met under U.S. military auspices to discuss how to defend against a common threat.

The meeting brought together the top military officers from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan and came as Israel and its neighbors are in the early stage of discussing potential military cooperation, the officials said.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also sent officers to the meeting. The U.S. was represented by Gen. Frank McKenzie, then the head of the U.S. Central Command.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NYT front page) Linchpin of Ukrainian Defiance, a Southern City Endures Russian Barrage

MYKOLAIV, Ukraine — There is no door on Anna Svetlaya’s fridge. A Russian missile blew it off the other day. The detached door saved her, protecting her chest from shrapnel as she passed out in a pool of blood.

It was just before 7 a.m. in a residential district here in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv when Ms. Svetlaya, 67, felt her world explode in a hail of metal shards, glass and debris as she prepared breakfast.

Her face a mosaic of cuts and bruises, her gaze dignified, Ms. Svetlaya said: “The Russians just don’t like us. We wish we knew why!” A retired nurse, she surveyed her small apartment, where her two sisters labored to restore order.

“It’s our ‘brother Russians’ who do this,” said one, Larisa Kryzhanovska. “I don’t even hate them, I just pity them.”

Read it all.

Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(Washington Post Op-ed) China’s military expansion is reaching a dangerous tipping point

Top military leaders from the United States and China met last weekend at a forum in Singapore, where they attempted to manage mounting tensions between the superpowers. But throughout Asia, there’s growing fear that China’s drastic military expansion will soon result in Chinese regional military superiority, which could embolden Beijing to start a war over Taiwan.

That sense of urgency was palpable at last week’s Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual conference of diplomats, officials and experts from across Asia, organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. Over three days of discussions a common sentiment emerged: China is racing to become the dominant military power in Asia in the next few years — and if it succeeds, Beijing is likely to use force to attempt to subdue Taiwan’s democracy. Russia’s attack on Ukraine has dispelled any notion that revisionist dictatorships can be deterred by anything short of a superior opposing military force.

In recent years, Chinese President Xi Jinping has said that China plans to achieve military parity with the United States in Asia by 2027. As the Chinese military advances in both technology and territorial presence, leaders in the People’s Liberation Army are now openly threatening to attack Taiwan and promising to fight anyone who attempts to intervene. Beijing is speeding up its plans, and the United States risks falling behind.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General

(FA) Richard Haas–A Ukraine Strategy for the Long Haul

With regime change in Kyiv unattainable, Putin has reduced his ambitions, focusing on controlling a slice of the south and east of Ukraine in an effort to enlarge and connect the territories he took in 2014. What he has not given up, however, is his belief that Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign entity. As a result, it is difficult to imagine Putin ending the conflict. If Russian forces fare poorly in their ongoing offensive in the Donbas, he will be loath to accept what many might view as a defeat in a war he started. Doing so could render him vulnerable to internal challenge and could come to define his legacy. If, on the other hand, Russian forces gain the upper hand, Putin will see no reason to agree to a cessation of fighting.

Further dimming the prospects of peace is the unlikelihood that any of the developments that could change Putin’s calculus will materialize. Take, for instance, criticism within Russia of the war. Ukraine claims that 30,000 Russian soldiers have already been killed in battle, whereas other assessments suggest that the number is half as high. Whatever the precise figure, it is surely larger than the Kremlin had imagined. In a normal society, that would sap support for the war. But because the government can so effectively control information and crack down against its opponents, domestic criticism of the war has been relatively muted so far.

What if the economic pressure mounts? For now, the sanctions are nowhere near the point of threatening to bring down Putin. Higher oil prices and the emergence of buyers such as India have helped offset reduced sales to the West. Europe, for its part, continues to import Russian gas. If it stopped doing so, Russia would be hard-pressed to sell the gas to others, but Europe is likely to keep buying. Worried about their economies, European countries will resist cutting off imports until they can be assured of either alternative supplies of gas or substitute energy sources—all of which will take years to materialize.

Then there is the prospect of pressure from China, which has so far stood by Russia. If the West persuaded Beijing to distance itself from Moscow, then Putin might realize that his invasion was costing him a vital partner. The United States and Europe should do what they can to drive apart the two powers, including offering incentives to China while also warning it that continued support for Russia would lead to a further deterioration of U.S.-Chinese relations. But even if they tried, their efforts still might fail, as Chinese President Xi Jinping would be extremely reluctant to do anything that would lead to Russia’s defeat or that would suggest that he erred in associating China so closely with Russia…..

Ultimately, what is probably required to end the war is a change not in Washington but in Moscow. In all likelihood, given Putin’s deep investment in the war, it will require someone other than him to take steps that would end Russia’s pariah status, economic crisis, and military quagmire. The West should make clear that it is ready to reward a new Russian leader prepared to take such steps even as it keeps up the pressure on the current one.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., England / UK, Europe, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(OUP blog) Grace Davie–The president and the Patriarch: the significance of religion in the Ukrainian crisis

Borders in this part of Europe have shifted over many centuries in a marchland squeezed between East and West, most recently—and tragically—between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. The key point, however, is the following: Ukraine’s western frontier is open to the West in a way that disturbs both Putin and the Russian Patriarch. Their unease is captured in the extraordinary sermon delivered by the Patriarch on 6 March (the eve of Orthodox Lent) just two weeks after the Russian invasion commenced. Patriarch Kirill sees the Russian campaign as a war to defend Orthodox civilization against Western corruption, symbolised in this case by the holding of gay pride marches.

Much has been written about the relationship between Putin and the Patriarch, most of which lies beyond the present discussion. The crucial fact, however, is abundantly clear: both men see themselves as defenders of an integral Christian culture as Western influence creeps ever closer. Seen from this perspective, Western “ideals”—not least, democracy, a market economy, secularity, diversity, and tolerance—become a threat to civilization itself. Thus, a culture war tips inexorably into a religious one, and becomes all the more difficult to resolve.

One reason why this is so is the incapacity of Western minds to grasp the continuing significance of religion in much of the modern world. That is unfortunate as good social science—including effective policy outcomes—demands that we see the issues from the point of view of the adversary as well as from our own. Only then can effective dialogue begin.

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Posted in Church History, History, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine

Remembering D-Day–Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s D-Day Prayer on June 6, 1944

“My Fellow Americans:

“Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

“And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

“Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

“Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
“They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

“For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

“Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

“And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

“Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

“Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

“And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

“And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

“With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

“Thy will be done, Almighty God.

“Amen.”

You can listen to the actual audio if you want here and today of all days is the day to do that. Also, there is more on background and another audio link there.–KSH.

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Spirituality/Prayer

(NYT) As War Rages Into Its 100th Day, Russia Now Controls a Fifth of Ukraine

As the war in Ukraine approaches its 100th day, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday that Russian forces now control one-fifth of the country, a blunt acknowledgment of the slow but substantial gains that Moscow has made in recent weeks.

Though battered, depleted and repulsed from their initial drive to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Russian troops have used their superior artillery power to grind closer to their goal of taking over the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, known collectively as the Donbas, where Kremlin-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian troops since 2014.

Mr. Zelensky said Russia had expanded its control of Ukrainian territory from an area roughly the size of the Netherlands before the invasion began to an area now greater than the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg combined. Seizing that swath of land could give President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia huge leverage in any future talks to end the war, as well as a base of operations to launch further attacks inside Ukraine.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Patriarch Kirill escapes EU sanctions thanks to Orbán’s intervention

Patrtriarch Kirill of Moscow has been removed from an EU-sanctions list of Kremlin-associates after a last-minute intervention by the government in Hungary. The intervention took place during a meeting of EU member-state ambassadors in Brussels on Thursday.

Hungary’s move surprised diplomats: ambassadors believed that consensus on the package’s provisions — the EU’s latest response to Russian aggression in Ukraine — had been reached at an extraordinary summit of EU heads of state on Monday. Diplomats assumed that the Thursday meeting was merely to formalising the agreement and make technical arrangements for the imposition of the new, wider sanctions.

For some hours, however, the whole list of sanctioned individuals was in doubt, as Hungary’s representative refused to accept the package unless Patriarch Kirill’s name was removed.

The sanctions package, the EU’s sixth in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, covered both personal measures against leading figures in the Russian regime (freezing their assets and banning them from travel in the EU), and corporate moves to severely restrict imports of Russian oil to the EU single market.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(W Post) Beijing chafes at Moscow’s requests for support, Chinese officials say

Russian officials have raised increasingly frustrated requests for greater support during discussions with Beijing in recent weeks, calling on China to live up to its affirmation of a “no limits” partnership made weeks before the war in Ukraine began. But China’s leadership wants to expand assistance for Russia without running afoul of Western sanctions and has set limits on what it will do, according to Chinese and U.S. officials.

Moscow has on at least two occasions pressed Beijing to offer new forms of economic support — exchanges that one Chinese official described as “tense.” The officials familiar with the talks spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

They declined to share specifics of Russia’s requests, but one official said it included maintaining “trade commitments” predating the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, and financial and technological support now sanctioned by the United States and other countries.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Economy, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Washington Post) In Chernobyl’s delicate nuclear labs, Russians looted safety systems

In the days before the invasion, all but a few hundred employees were evacuated. Those who stayed worked shifts lasting hundreds of hours under Russian supervision, often not resting for days while trying to keep the station safe and systems running.

Meanwhile, the station’s equipment and information were being systematically stolen or destroyed, said Kramarenko. Now that he’s back in charge, he’s been checking on some of the stolen equipment that had been fitted with GPS trackers. Some are still transmitting location data.

“We see that part of it is located on the territory of Belarus, along the border. And part moves around the territory of Belarus — Gomel, Minsk, other places,” [Yevhen Kramarenko] said.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(RNS) Ukrainian Orthodox primate: ‘We are called to stop this evil’

You invited all Orthodox Christians to reject Moscow’s spiritual yoke. Are you specifically addressing those 400 Russian Orthodox priests in Ukraine who have called for a church tribunal against Patriarch Kirill?

It doesn’t relate only to those priests. This is for all those in the Russian Orthodox Church. In Ukraine, it is the one state institution that has a connection to Moscow. That’s why I call all Orthodox people to unite around Kyiv, because the spiritual part of it is very important. Putin very successfully uses the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. But we see that gradually Ukrainian people understand all this.

According to the latest poll taken at the beginning of March, before the atrocities in Bucha were revealed, 70% of Ukraine was Orthodox Christian. Among them, 52% support (the Orthodox Church) of Ukraine. Only 4% support the Russian Orthodox Church. Last year in December, they had the support of 15%.

That’s why I am convinced that eventually we will all be in one local Orthodox Church of Ukraine. As long as we have the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine, it creates some illusion for Putin. He had an illusion before the full-scale invasion that in three, four days he will capture all Ukraine. He thought Ukraine would accept him, meet him with flowers, but it didn’t happen. Every parish in Ukraine has to have a free choice.

Read it all.

Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Russia, Ukraine

More Poetry for Memorial Day: Tomas Tranströmer’s The Half-Finished Heaven

From here:

Despondency breaks off its course.
Anguish breaks off its course.
The vulture breaks off its flight.

The eager light streams out,
even the ghosts take a draught.

And our paintings see daylight,
our red beasts of the ice-age studios.
Everything begins to look around.
We walk in the sun in hundreds.

Each man is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

The endless ground under us.

The water is shining among the trees.

The lake is a window into the earth.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature, Sweden

Military Times’ Honor the Fallen for 2022 Memorial Day

Military Times Honor the Fallen

Please take the time.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces

Music for Memorial Day–Eternal Father, Strong to Save (The Navy Hymn)

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Military / Armed Forces

More Poetry for Memorial Day–Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

In Flanders Fields for Memorial Day 2022

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

–Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

In thanksgiving for all those who gave their lives for this country in years past, and for those who continue to serve; KSH.

P.S. The circumstances which led to this remarkable poem are well worth remembering:

It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915 and to the war in general. McCrea had spent seventeen days treating injured men — Canadians, British, French, and Germans in the Ypres salient. McCrae later wrote: “I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days… Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.” The next day McCrae witnessed the burial of a good friend, Lieut. Alexis Helmer. Later that day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the field dressing station, McCrea composed the poem. A young NCO, delivering mail, watched him write it. When McCrae finished writing, he took his mail from the soldier and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the Sergeant-major. Cyril Allinson was moved by what he read: “The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” Colonel McCrae was dissatisfied with the poem, and tossed it away. A fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915. For his contributions as a surgeon, the main street in Wimereaux is named “Rue McCrae”.

Posted in Canada, Death / Burial / Funerals, Military / Armed Forces, Poetry & Literature

A Prayer for Memorial Day

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead: We give thee thanks for all thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence; and give us such a lively sense of thy righteous will, that the work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Military / Armed Forces, Spirituality/Prayer

(W Post) U.S. intelligence document shows Russian naval blockade of Ukraine

Newly declassified U.S. intelligence shows that a Russian naval blockade has halted maritime trade at Ukrainian ports, in what world leaders call a deliberate attack on the global food supply chain that has raised fears of political instability and shortages unless grain and other essential agricultural products are allowed to flow freely from Ukraine.

Russia’s navy now effectively controls all traffic in the northern third of the Black Sea, making it unsafe for commercial shipping, according to a U.S. government document obtained by The Washington Post.

The document, based on recently declassified intelligence, analyzed the density of Russian naval activity along portions of Ukraine’s southern coast and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia occupied and annexed in 2014. The blockade that ensued following Russia’s invasion in February halted civil maritime traffic, “entrapping Ukrainian agricultural exports and jeopardizing global food supplies,” according to a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the intelligence.

Read it all.

Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(WSJ front page) Ukraine War’s New Phase Shifts Outlook for its End

Nobody knows how or when the war will end in Ukraine, but it’s clear that right now Russia isn’t winning. According to Western governments and private analysts, Moscow failed to achieve its initial goal of a lightning strike into Kyiv to take down the government. And success for its Plan B, a scaled-down offensive to push Ukrainian forces back in the east and southeast of the country, looks increasingly difficult.

Some things that seemed highly probable at the start of the war, such as the collapse of the Ukrainian state, now are seen as unlikely. Ukraine is in an existential fight, said the chief of the British defense staff, Adm. Tony Radakin in a speech in London on Monday, “and it is going to survive.”

In this latest phase of the war, tank battles are being supplanted by artillery-dominated exchanges. The Russians are undertaking offensives in some places, including in the eastern region of Luhansk. They finally overcame the last remaining Ukrainian holdouts in the southern port city of Mariupol. Elsewhere, the Ukrainians are counterattacking, most notably in the north beyond Kharkiv.

“The war is entering a protracted phase,” Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov told European Union defense ministers on Tuesday. He said there were “many indications of Russia preparing for a long-term military operation,” including engineering and fortification works in the Kherson and Zaporizhya areas.

Read it all (registration or subscription).

Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist Cover story) The coming food catastrophe

Mr Putin must not use food as a weapon. Shortages are not the inevitable outcome of war. World leaders should see hunger as a global problem urgently requiring a global solution.

Russia and Ukraine supply 28% of globally traded wheat, 29% of the barley, 15% of the maize and 75% of the sunflower oil. Russia and Ukraine contribute about half the cereals imported by Lebanon and Tunisia; for Libya and Egypt the figure is two-thirds. Ukraine’s food exports provide the calories to feed 400m people. The war is disrupting these supplies because Ukraine has mined its waters to deter an assault, and Russia is blockading the port of Odessa.

Even before the invasion the World Food Programme had warned that 2022 would be a terrible year. China, the largest wheat producer, has said that, after rains delayed planting last year, this crop may be its worst-ever. Now, in addition to the extreme temperatures in India, the world’s second-largest producer, a lack of rain threatens to sap yields in other breadbaskets, from America’s wheat belt to the Beauce region of France. The Horn of Africa is being ravaged by its worst drought in four decades. Welcome to the era of climate change.

All this will have a grievous effect on the poor. Households in emerging economies spend 25% of their budgets on food—and in sub-Saharan Africa as much as 40%. In Egypt bread provides 30% of all calories. In many importing countries, governments cannot afford subsidies to increase the help to the poor, especially if they also import energy—another market in turmoil.

The crisis threatens to get worse.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is running out of steam, again

Eighty years ago the second Battle of Kharkov was raging in what was then the western Soviet Union. The Red Army had heroically driven the Nazi Wehrmacht back from the gates of Moscow. It gathered in a bulge west of Izyum, a town to the south of Kharkov, as Ukraine’s second city was then known. The subsequent Soviet offensive, launched on May 12th, was a disaster. Soviet armies were driven back and encircled. Over 170,000 Soviet troops were killed. Nikita Khrushchev later focused on the battle when denouncing his predecessor as Soviet leader, Stalin. “This is Stalin’s military ‘genius’,” he sneered, citing the crude tactics of frontal assault. “This is what it cost us.”

The Russian army is once again gathered around Izyum. And once more it is on the retreat from Kharkiv, as the city is now called, after another underwhelming campaign. It has been a month since Russia, having abandoned its assault on Kyiv, launched a fresh offensive in the eastern Donbas region. The idea was to encircle Ukrainian troops in a large salient stretching from Izyum in the north to the city of Donetsk in the south, in part by driving south from Izyum.

There have been minor successes. Russia has taken almost all of Luhansk province—it held only the southern part before the war—bar a salient around the well-defended city of Severodonetsk. It has also pushed south of Izyum, taking villages towards Barvinkove, an important rail junction, and the industrial cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. Yet progress has been achingly slow—one or two kilometres a day—and casualties heavy. The war is now dominated by grinding artillery duels, rather than swift mechanised offensives. Much of Donetsk province is still in Ukrainian hands.

Read it all.

Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Washington Post front page) Oil Sales Remain Russia’s Lifeline

Despite the European Union’s drastic measures to wind down imports of Russian oil, Moscow still has plenty of buyers — and at prices steep enough to keep government revenue high and its coffers flush.

Before the war with Ukraine, Russia sold about half of its 7.85 million barrels a day of crude and refined oil to Europe. But with the war and the E.U.’s vow to abruptly end its reliance on Russian oil and gas, the Kremlin has been benefiting from high world prices while looking for new customers and reorienting its export strategy toward Asia.

The windfall shows how hard it is to punish a major oil and gas power such as Russia when so much of the world — especially developing countries — depends on fossil fuels.

Even with “severe oil production cuts” expected this year, Russia’s tax revenue “will increase significantly to more than $180 billion due to the spike in oil prices,” according to Rystad Energy, an independent research firm advising investors. The figure is 45 percent higher than in 2021.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(FT) ‘We are now living in a totally new era’ — Henry Kissinger

We are now [faced with] with technologies where the rapidity of exchange, the subtlety of the inventions, can produce levels of catastrophe that were not even imaginable. And the strange aspect of the present situation is that the weapons are multiplying on both sides and their sophistication is increasing every year. But there’s almost no discussion internationally about what would happen if the weapons actually became used.

My appeal in general, on whatever side you are, is to understand that we are now living in a totally new era, and we have gotten away with neglecting that aspect. But as technology spreads around the world, as it does inherently, diplomacy and war will need a different content and that will be a challenge.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Uncategorized

(Economist) Why weapons crucial to the war in Ukraine are in short supply

Of all the assistance America has provided to Ukraine, the gift of 5,500 or so Javelins has been perhaps the most welcome. Armed with these light anti-tank missiles, Ukrainian forces managed to stall, and eventually reverse, the Russian advance on their capital, Kyiv. Little wonder, then, that the Javelin has acquired exalted status among Ukrainians, celebrated in music and paintings (an image of the Virgin Mary holding a Javelin has gone viral).

The Javelin features a fearsome combination of power and precision. It is a “fire-and-forget” weapon, allowing soldiers to take cover quickly after firing. It can strike targets more than 3km away and hit the top of the tank—its most vulnerable part.

In all, America and its allies have provided more than 60,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. These include not just the Javelin but also the Panzerfaust from Germany and Next-generation Light Anti-tank Weapons (NLAWs) from Britain and Sweden. All have helped (along with other types of weapons). More than 3,000 Russian tanks and other armoured vehicles in Ukraine have been destroyed, damaged, abandoned or captured, according to Oryx, an open-source intelligence blog. With Russian forces narrowing their focus on Donbas, however, still more weapons are needed. More than 10,000 Russian armoured vehicles remain in operation (with thousands more in storage), according to Mark Cancian of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. President Joe Biden has asked Congress for a whopping $20bn more in military aid. But assistance in the form of Javelins and other anti-tank systems could soon dry up.

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Posted in Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Science & Technology, Ukraine

(Washington Post) Looming ground battle is crucial phase in Ukraine, U.S. officials say

U.S. military officials assess that a crucial, and perhaps decisive, phase of the Ukraine war is shaping up in the eastern part of the country, where Russian troops may surround Ukrainian forces in hopes of pummeling them in an epic, long-distance ground battle reminiscent of the last century.

New U.S. shipments of heavy artillery and counter-artillery radar, tactical drones, armored vehicles and other equipment are being rushed to Ukraine before tens of thousands of troops, amounting to up to half of the Ukrainian army, are caught in what is known as a “double envelopment” maneuver that would bring them under simultaneous attack from two sides.

The Ukrainians are located in a north-south crescent between deep Russian lines in the southeastern Donbas region, and a potential pincer movement to their west.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(FT) Putin abandons hopes of Ukraine deal and shifts to land-grab strategy

Vladimir Putin has lost interest in diplomatic efforts to end his war with Ukraine and instead appears set on seizing as much Ukrainian territory as possible, according to three people briefed on conversations with the Russian president.

Putin, who was seriously considering a peace deal with Ukraine after Russia suffered battlefield setbacks last month, has told people involved in trying to end the conflict that he sees no prospects for a settlement.

“Putin sincerely believes in the nonsense he hears on [Russian] television and he wants to win big,” said a person briefed on the talks.

Though Moscow and Kyiv agreed their first draft communique at a meeting in Istanbul in late March, talks stalled after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of committing war crimes against civilians in cities such as Bucha and Mariupol.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Washington Post) Commander hints at Russian ambitions beyond Ukraine

A Russian commander said Friday that Moscow wants to take “full control” of eastern and southern Ukraine, in part so it could have a path to neighboring Moldova — raising fears that the nearly two-month war could spill outside of Ukrainian borders.

The comments from Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s Central Military District, seemed to hint that the Kremlin — which has been stymied in its bid to take over the Ukrainian capital — still wants to conquer wide swaths of its neighbor’s land, and potentially threaten the nations that lie beyond. They drew swift condemnation from Moldova, where residents have worried since the beginning of the war they could be next in the Kremlin’s crosshairs.

Minnekayev said capturing Ukraine’s east and south would create a “land corridor” to the Crimean Peninsula — which the Kremlin annexed in 2014 — and give Moscow influence over “vital objects of the Ukrainian economy,” according to the Russia state media outlet Tass. It would also provide “another way out to Transnistria,” Minnekayev said, referring to a thin strip of land that runs along Moldova’s border with Ukraine that functions as a separate nation, though it is not recognized as such, even by Russia.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Conflict likely to get worse, say Ukrainian church leaders

Churches in Ukraine have advised citizens to be ready for an intensification of Russia’s invasion, as representatives of the Council of Europe condemned the destruction of religious sites, and pressure continued for Russian Orthodox leaders to call for a ceasefire in the two-month war.

“The war that Russia has imposed on us and on the whole world did not begin with missiles and bombs — it began with deception, untruth, and lies,” the head of Ukraine’s independent Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), said in a Sunday homily.

“The Lord is now showing us how we must resist with the testimony of truth. Evil is evil, not just an alternative viewpoint, and war is war, not just some conflict. Rapists, looters, and murderers are criminals, and what they are perpetrating is a genocide of the Ukrainian people.”

Metropolitan Epiphany was speaking as evidence emerged that Russian forces had launched a new offensive along a 300-mile front line in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine. Moscow confirmed on Monday that its shells and missiles had struck more than 1000 targets.

The Metropolitan said that Ukrainians knew from experience that Russia had long concealed “evil plans to restore the tyranny of a rotten, overthrown empire”, and that the divine commandment to love neighbours did not mean “loving the evil they do”.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Parish Ministry, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine, Violence