Category : Military / Armed Forces

(Economist) Ukraine’s foreign minister warns of faltering European resolve

The European Union surprised the world—and itself—with its unified response after Vladimir Putin ordered his tanks into Ukraine on February 24th. Unprecedented sanctions and new security policies swiftly appeared. But as the war grinds into its second month and Russian missiles and shells continue to rain down on Ukrainian cities, European resolve has begun to wane. That is the stark assessment of Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister. “What we saw in the beginning of the war was the rise of the European Union as a powerful player that can bring change,” Mr Kuleba told The Economist. “What I see in the last ten days in the European Union is backsliding back to its normality where it cannot decide on strong and swift action.”

Mr Kuleba’s remarks were made on March 22nd by video link from an undisclosed location inside Ukraine. He highlighted two trials facing his country: Russian aggression on one side, and Western hesitancy on the other. The stakes remain as existential as ever, despite Russia’s initial setbacks on the battlefield. Russia’s shelling rings louder than its words. “There is no correlation between diplomatic dynamics and the dynamics on the battlefield,” Mr Kuleba said. Ukraine’s ability to prevail against its larger neighbour rests on three pillars, he argues: Ukrainian stamina, weapons supplies and Western sanctions. “We always realised that there would be no country fighting shoulder to shoulder with us, that it would be the cross that we have to bear. But to help us, countries can do two things: send us necessary weapons and impose sanctions.”

Western sanctions have already made an impact. “Almost every tenth sentence [Russian negotiators] say is about sanctions,” Mr Kuleba said. “It’s a pain for them.” But not yet painful enough. Many of the toughest-seeming measures have turned out to be what the minister calls “half-measures”.

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

(New Statesman) Rowan Williams–Putin believes he is defending Orthodox Christianity from the godless West

But we might do worse than ask why non-Western cultures so fear being sucked into what they consider a moral vacuum. If all they see is a series of reactive demands for emancipation acted out against a backdrop of consumerism and obsession with material growth, the suspicion and hostility is a bit more intelligible. What do we in the shrinking “liberal” world think emancipation is for? Perhaps it is for the liberation of all individuals to collaborate in a positive social project, in a society of sustainable and fair distribution of goods. Perhaps it is for the construction of a social order in which our interdependence, national and international, is more fully acknowledged.

Solidarity with Ukraine involves sanctions that will cost us as well as Russians – decisions that will affect our reliance on oil and gas and open our doors to more refugees. If we are willing to accept these consequences for the sake of a positive vision of interdependence and justice, we shall have a more compelling narrative to oppose the dramatic, even apocalyptic, myths arising elsewhere in the world.

Unwelcome neighbours, after all, tend not simply to disappear; in which case, we must work out how we live respectfully with them. One thing that might be said in response to Patriarch Kirill is that neighbours have to be loved, not terrorised into resentful silence – a matter on which the God first acknowledged in Kyiv in 988 had a good deal to say.

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Posted in --Rowan Williams, Church History, History, Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine

(WSJ) Russia, Failing to Achieve Early Victory in Ukraine, Is Seen Shifting to ‘Plan B’

After Russian forces failed to secure a quick victory over Ukraine, senior U.S. officials see signs the Kremlin is shifting to a new strategy to secure key territorial objectives while seeking leverage to compel the Ukrainian government to accept neutrality between Russia and the West.

The U.S. and its allies had widely interpreted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initial objectives to include the seizure of Kyiv in a matter of days, and the replacement of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government with a pro-Russian regime.

None of that has come to pass. A senior U.S. official said indications suggest more than three weeks of grueling combat—in which Ukraine has put up fierce resistance to Russian forces—has prompted Mr. Putin to adjust his tactics.

The new assessment of Mr. Putin’s intentions, which is shared by senior officials within the Biden administration, is to compel Kyiv to accept Russian claims to Ukraine’s southern and eastern territories. Having seized both Crimea and regions of Donbas in 2014, Russia seeks to secure a “land bridge” between western Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, and to expand Russian control of the Donbas region.

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

(Economist) Trains run through the dark to keep Ukraine going

The vital nature of the railways has transformed the way they are run. When the war started on February 24th, the system’s management triggered a secret plan worked out in advance for a national emergency. Female staff with families were evacuated abroad. Train drivers were recalled from retirement. Meanwhile a core management team packed suitcases for an as yet unclear period on the road. That central team has been in charge of strategy for the past 22 days, making decisions from aboard randomly chosen trains to avoid being hit by the Russians. Operational decisions have mostly been delegated to station managers, who work with military police around the clock to ensure as safe a passage for staff and passengers as they can.

Petro Stetsuk, the controller at Kyiv’s central station, is but one of a number of war heroes keeping the railways running. The former head of Ukraine’s transport police and a 30-year veteran of the railways, 60-year-old Mr Stetsuk has been camped alongside the tracks for the past three weeks. It has been a constant battle, fought alongside a slimmed-down staff of 60 railway workers. They have repaired the station after it was damaged by a falling rocket; turned the station’s east vestibule into a soup kitchen, field hospital and psychological clinic; and put more than 2m frantic fellow Ukrainians on evacuation trains to the west. Passenger flows are now less than the highs of late February, when close to 80,000 flowed through the station daily. But the work continues to be taxing. “My main job is keeping my people calm so they can make good decisions,” Mr Stetsuk says. He laughed: “Plus, of course, finding the train drivers, the carriage assistants, preparing the trains, calling the end stations, and making sure people aren’t blown up en route.”

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Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Travel, Ukraine

(Economist) How to tweak drug-design software to create chemical weapons

The story began in 2021, when Collaborations Pharmaceuticals, which uses computers to help its customers identify molecules that look like potential drugs, was invited to present a paper on how such drug-discovery technologies might be misused. The venue was a conference organised by the Spiez Laboratory, in Switzerland. This is a government-funded outfit that studies risks posed by nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. To prepare for the presentation some of Collaborations’ researchers carried out what they describe as a “thought exercise” that turned into a computational proof of concept for making biochemical weapons.

Their method was disturbingly simple. They took a piece of drug-discovery software, called MegaSyn (a piece of artificial intelligence, ai, which the company has developed for the purpose of putting virtual molecules together and then assessing their potential as medicines), and turned one of its functions upside down. Instead of penalising probable toxicity, as makes sense if a molecule is to be used medically, the modified version of MegaSyn prized it.

The result was terrifying. Trained on the chemical structures of a set of drug-like molecules (defined as substances easily synthesised and likely to be absorbed by the body) taken from a publicly available database, together with those molecules’ known toxicities, the modified software required a mere six hours to generate 40,000 virtual molecules that fell within the researchers’ predefined parameters for possible use as chemical weapons.

The list included many known nerve agents, notably vx, one of the most toxic. But the software also came up with not-yet-synthesised substances predicted to be deadlier still.

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Posted in Drugs/Drug Addiction, Military / Armed Forces, Science & Technology

(Economist) Ukraine fights on–Despite negotiations, there seems to be no end in sight

The war, the dictator insisted, was “going to plan”. If that is his opinion then his minions are keeping him from the truth. According to American defence sources, 10% of Russia’s invasion force has been lost, presumably either killed or wounded. It is shy at least 233 tanks, 32 surface-to-air missile launchers and 41 planes, drones and helicopters, according to Oryx, a blog which tracks such weapons using pictures made public on the internet. On top of that which has been destroyed, a fair bit of workable Russian kit has been captured—much of it towed away gleefully, and on video, by farmers with tractors.

These are severe losses of men and materiel. What is more, they seem to have fallen disproportionately on elite units such as the vdv airborne forces, Spetsnaz special forces and the First Guards Tank Army, an armoured force purportedly both well trained and equipped. British defence intelligence says that these losses are so severe that they have left Russia “struggling to conduct offensive operations”. It has been forced to redeploy forces from its eastern military district (which stretches to Vladivostok), from its Pacific fleet and from Armenia; it is also recruiting Russian and Syrian mercenaries.

This is a high price for what are, as yet, relatively scant gains.

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

Ukraine Invasion: joint statement from English Church leaders

“In this holy season of Lent, we call upon churches everywhere to campaign for an immediate end to the war in Ukraine, and to proclaim the dignity of every human life, whatever its nationality.

“We welcome and commend the extraordinary efforts of countries neighbouring Ukraine in receiving refugees from the war and call on the UK and the whole of Europe to follow their example. We support every measure to protect the most vulnerable.

We commit ourselves to pray for the nations of Russia and Ukraine, our own Government and people, and for all who find themselves refugees, or bereaved, wounded or destitute. May Christ have mercy upon our world.”

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Posted in England / UK, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine

(W Post) Anthony Faiola–Why Putin’s nuclear threat could be more than bluster

The scariest site on the Internet isn’t lurking on the dark web, but hiding in plain sight at “Nukemap” lets you pick the size of a nuclear bomb, plunk it anywhere in the world and see the extent of the possible destruction. Drop a pin near Kyiv and you’ll see the plausibility of the Russian invasion of Ukraine going nuclear.

Not because of the vast devastation of such a device — but because of just how limited the damage could be in certain scenarios.

The advent of tactical nuclear weapons — a term generally applied to lower-yield devices designed for battlefield use, which can have a fraction of the strength of the Hiroshima bomb — reduced their lethality, limiting the extent of absolute destruction and deadly radiation fields. That’s also made their use less unthinkable, raising the specter that the Russians could opt to use a smaller device without leveling an entire city. Detonate a one kiloton weapon on one side of Kyiv’s Zhuliany airport, for instance, and Russian President Vladimir Putin sends a next-level message with a fireball, shock waves and deadly radiation. But the blast radius wouldn’t reach the end of the runway.

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

(Economist) Missile strikes inside Ukraine’s capital point to a new phase in the war

Although Russian soldiers are not believed to have made meaningful advances towards the city centre for more than a week, the bombardment has turned up the pressure. “Their plan is to wear us down through intimidation and exhaustion,” says Serhii Kuzan, head of the Ukrainian Security and Co-operation Centre, a think-tank.

To the north-west and north-east of the capital Ukrainian forces are fighting tooth and nail to hold back the Russian invasion, and whole small suburban towns are being laid to waste. Critically, they have largely succeeded in keeping Russian artillery out of range of the city centre. As a result, for many in Kyiv, the war has been more of a distant rumble than a reality—until now.

Some 25 minutes’ drive north-west of the centre, the Russian advance has been halted at the town of Irpin. In the north-east a convoy of advancing tanks was stopped at Skybyn on March 10th. Since then thousands of residents have fled the Russians, some pell-mell and others in organised convoys.

On the morning of March 14th a missile hit another block of flats, in the northern district of Obolon, killing two. A few hours later yet another missile smashed into a nearby street, destroying parked cars and a trolley-bus and killing a pedestrian. Within an hour of that strike electrical engineers were at work reconnecting severed and dangling cables.

No one knows for sure if these missiles are aimed at military targets and have missed, or are designed to sow panic by hitting civilian areas at random. If panic is the aim, it is not working.

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Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(Nikkei Asia) Czar Vladimir Putin is divorced from reality: Niall Ferguson

These are miscalculations, not signs of madness. They’re the kind of miscalculations you make if you are very divorced from reality, because you lead the life of a czar, in vast — if hideous — palaces, surrounded by people who are terrified of you and tell you what they think you want to hear. If I put myself in Putin’s position, I don’t think he’s trying to resurrect the Soviet Union. He’s looking back even further and trying to bring back the Russian Empire, with himself as “Czar Vladimir.”

It’s an ideology of conservative, orthodox nationalism that Putin offers, that has nothing to do with the Soviet legacy. A lot of people get this wrong.

He has a huge incentive to speed up the defeat of Ukraine, using more brutal methods if that’s what it takes. Because if he doesn’t win, then I think his position at home will become very vulnerable.

If I’m him, the crucial thing now is to achieve victory over Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian army as fast as possible so that we can get to some peace negotiation from a position of strength. In that negotiation, Putin might be willing to make some concessions to get the sanctions reduced or removed.

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

(WSJ) In the Rubble of Kharkiv, Survivors Make Their Stand: ‘It’s a War, and It’s a Dirty War’

In the days since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, shelling and airstrikes have killed hundreds of people in Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million about 20 miles from the Russian border. Residents spend their days and nights huddled in the subway. Above them, explosions devastate their city.

At least 400 high-rise apartment buildings have been hit, Kharkiv city authorities said. Strikes have damaged the art museum, with its collection of famous Russian painters including Repin and Shishkin, and the Korolenko library, which houses priceless manuscripts.

“Everyone is in shock here,” said Ihor Terekhov, the city mayor. “We used to think of the Russians as our brothers. Even in our worst nightmares, we never imagined that they would destroy our city.”

Russia’s attempt to use rapid thrusts by armored columns and assaults by paratroopers and special forces to seize the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and other cities, overthrowing the country’s government, has stalled in the face of fierce resistance. Now, Moscow is resorting to a punishing, wholesale destruction, shelling and bombing residential neighborhoods and historic downtowns.

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Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine, Urban/City Life and Issues, Violence

(Church Times) Relief Agencies focus on fleeing Ukrainians, the Largest exodus of refugees in Europe since 1930-45 war

Christian charities and churches are hard at work in Eastern Europe to address the plight of those affected by the war in Ukraine.

More than 2.1 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion on 24 February, according to UN figures on Tuesday, in what is the largest exodus of refugees in Europe since the end of the Second World War.

USPG and the diocese in Europe have put together an emergency appeal to help those caught up in the conflict. Funds are supporting the work of Anglican chaplaincies in neighbouring Poland and Hungary — but also in Western Europe, where many refugees are now arriving.

On Wednesday, the diocese’s Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Caspari, said that the chaplaincies’ community relationships and cross-continent links meant that they were ideally positioned to support refugees. They have been distributing aid, as well as individual grants.

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Posted in Charities/Non-Profit Organizations, England / UK, Europe, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Ukraine, Violence

(Economist leader) The Stalinisation of Russia–As it sinks in that he cannot win in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is resorting to repression at home

To grasp Mr Putin’s appetite for violence, look at how the war is being fought. Having failed to win a quick victory, Russia is trying to sow panic by starving Ukrainian cities and pounding them blindly. On March 9th it hit a maternity hospital in Mariupol. If Mr Putin is committing war crimes against the fellow Slavs he eulogised in his writings, he is ready to inflict slaughter at home.

And to gauge Mr Putin’s paranoia, imagine how the war ends. Russia has more firepower than Ukraine. It is still making progress, especially in the south. It may yet capture the capital, Kyiv. And yet, even if the war drags on for months, it is hard to see Mr Putin as the victor.

Suppose that Russia manages to impose a new government. Ukrainians are now united against the invader. Mr Putin’s puppet could not rule without an occupation, but Russia does not have the money or the troops to garrison even half of Ukraine. American army doctrine says that to face down an insurgency—in this case, one backed by nato—occupiers need 20 to 25 soldiers per 1,000 people; Russia has a little over four.

If, as the Kremlin may have started to signal, Mr Putin will not impose a puppet government—because he cannot—then he will have to compromise with Ukraine in peace talks. Yet he will struggle to enforce any such agreement. After all, what will he do if post-war Ukraine resumes its Westward drift: invade?

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

(Bloomberg Opinion) Hal Brands–China Placed a Losing Bet on Vladimir Putin

For one thing, Putin’s attack has underscored the financial and technological dominance of the Western world. There is simply no precedent for the speed and severity with which the U.S. and its allies have punished Putin, almost totally isolating Russia from the global economy.

Sanctions are inflicting severe damage on Russia; a stock-market collapse, import problems and a debt default all loom. China is watching from the sidelines as the world’s leading democracies have shown the willingness and ability to pummel international aggressors economically. Although China, with a larger, more diversified, more globally integrated economy, is a far harder target that Russia, Xi must be wondering what economic carnage awaits his country if it attacks Taiwan.

Second, Russian aggression has activated antibodies to Chinese power. Japan, Singapore and Taiwan joined the anti-Putin sanctions team because they worry that unchecked aggression in Europe will tempt Beijing to make moves in the Pacific. If Putin sets a precedent of successful conquest, Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida has said, “it will have an impact on Asia, as well.”

Warnings that Beijing might use force against Taiwan in the next few years no longer seem so hyperbolic, which means that Putin’s gambit could result in more determined, multilateral containment of China.

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

(PRC) Religious dimensions of the conflict between Russian and Ukraine

News coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has touched on religious dimensions of the longstanding conflict between the two countries. Russia and Ukraine are home to some of the world’s largest Orthodox Christian populations, but the Orthodox Church of Ukraine gained independence from the Russian Orthodox Church in 2019 amidst the ongoing political turmoil. Now, the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has sought to justify the invasion, although other Russian Orthodox clergy have expressed opposition to the war.

Around the time of the split between the Ukrainian and Russian churches, we published a blog post based on data from a Pew Research Center survey of Central and Eastern Europe conducted in 2015 and 2016. The analysis found that even before the split between the two churches, a plurality of Orthodox Ukrainians (46%) looked to the leaders of the Ukrainian national church (either the patriarch of Kiev or the metropolitan of Kiev and all of Ukraine) as the highest authority of Orthodoxy, while just 17% saw the patriarch of Moscow as their spiritual leader. The patriarch of Moscow received higher levels of support in eastern Ukraine than in western Ukraine, consistent with a broader geographic pattern of views toward Russia within Ukraine at the time of the survey.

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

(Economist) Will Moldova be dragged into Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine?

Unless it receives urgent help, Moldova faces a catastrophe. The government estimated before the invasion that it could accommodate just 15,000 Ukrainians. Already, refugee centres are full, the border guards are overstretched and stocks of relief supplies are running dangerously low. If nearby Odessa, a city of 1m people just 50km from the border, comes under Russian assault, as seems entirely possible, tens of thousands more will come. “The prospects are dire,” says Mr Popescu. “We are talking about a major threat to the whole state system.”

The government intends to ask the eu to deploy Frontex, the eu’s border agency, to support its own border police. But it is financial support, above all, that is needed. The European offer of just €15m ($16.5m) to help allay the immediate crisis is meagre. The government is already running a big and growing deficit, owing in part to the rising price of natural gas imported from Russia. The economy has suffered two recessions in recent years, the most recent because of the pandemic. Without generous help, Moldova will not cope. Yet many Moldovans feel that they have been forgotten, as aid and praise rain down on Ukraine’s far richer neighbours in the eu.

Moreover, the refugee crisis may only be the first part in what many fear will be a two-act tragedy. There is widespread nervousness that Russia does not intend to leave Moldova alone if it is successful in Ukraine.

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

(NYT Op-ed) Thomas Friedman–Putin Has No Good Way Out, and That Really Scares Me

In the coming weeks it will become more and more obvious that our biggest problem with Putin in Ukraine is that he will refuse to lose early and small, and the only other outcome is that he will lose big and late. But because this is solely his war and he cannot admit defeat, he could keep doubling down in Ukraine until … until he contemplates using a nuclear weapon.

Why do I say that defeat in Ukraine is Putin’s only option, that only the timing and size is in question? Because the easy, low-cost invasion he envisioned and the welcome party from Ukrainians he imagined were total fantasies — and everything flows from that.

Putin completely underestimated Ukraine’s will to be independent and become part of the West. He completely underestimated the will of many Ukrainians to fight, even if it meant dying, for those two goals. He completely overestimated his own armed forces. He completely underestimated President Biden’s ability to galvanize a global economic and military coalition to enable Ukrainians to stand and fight and to devastate Russia at home — the most effective U.S. coalition-building effort since George H.W. Bush made Saddam Hussein pay for his folly of seizing Kuwait. And he completely underestimated the ability of companies and individuals all over the world to participate in, and amplify, economic sanctions on Russia — far beyond anything governments initiated or mandated.

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

(Church Times) Ukrainian Churches deplore rising death-toll, as Russian Patriarch disregards calls for intervention

Church leaders in Ukraine have deplored the growing number of civilian deaths in the current war and have backed calls for firmer Western action, as the Patriarch of Moscow disregarded worldwide appeals for him to condemn the invasion and urge a halt to the fighting.

“All the people of Ukraine are suffering hourly from the terrible realities of war — and these are innocent sufferings, since they have done no harm to Russia,” the leader of Ukraine’s independent Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany Dumenko, said in a Sunday message to his clergy.

“Let us be comforted by the realisation that our innocent sufferings will be crowned inevitably with victory and eternal glory, just as the sufferings of Christ were crowned with them. . . With God’s help we will win — and Ukraine, now crucified by the Russian occupiers, will be resurrected.”

The message was one of several issued by the Metropolitan on Sunday, after talks with the Mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, and the commander of Ukrainian forces defending the capital.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Orthodox Church, Other Churches, Russia, Ukraine

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–The West can endure an oil embargo: Putin can’t

There is a reasonable chance that an embargo will set off the internal disintegration of Vladimir Putin’s siloviki regime (KGB mafia), though by what mechanism and on what timetable remains obscure. Will Russia’s patriotic generals agree to devastate the Varingian cradle of Kievan Mother Rus with cluster bombs? I doubt it.

Professor Alan Riley from the Atlantic Council said the combination of central bank sanctions, ejection from the Swift payments system, and an energy embargo could test this brutal but narrow and brittle regime to destruction. “We may reach the point where Putin can’t even pay his troops,” he said.

Those in Europe still baulking at an energy embargo should study what happened in 1935 when Benito Mussolini launched a 400,000-strong invasion of Ethiopia, to the indignation of a world moving beyond imperialism.

Half measures proved to be the worst of all worlds. Calibrated sanctions enraged Mussolini without stopping him. They pushed him into an alliance with Hitler, bringing about what the democracies most feared.

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

(Former Archbp of Canterbury) Lord Rowan Williams–on the Failure of the Russian Church

Posted in --Rowan Williams, Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Other Churches, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Ukraine needs negotiated peace, not more war, says Archbishop Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for peace negotiations in Ukraine and compassion for refugees, as the humanitarian crisis in the country worsens.

Speaking to pupils at a school in Crawley, on Saturday, Archbishop Welby said: “We need negotiation, mediation, getting people to support peace but not creating more war.” He also called for UK citizens to show generosity towards refugees. “We need to turn towards each other and care for each other,” he said.

More than 1.6 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion on 24 February, according to UN figures.

On Friday, USPG and the diocese in Europe announced an emergency appeal to help those caught up in the conflict. Funds will go to Christian charities and churches working on the ground to support people fleeing Ukraine.

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Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) Poland will play an outsized role in Western efforts to assist Ukraine

Poland has long warned its Western partners about the risk of Russian aggression in Ukraine, and indeed beyond, and the need to anchor its neighbour in NATO and the EU. Today, as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the country is on the frontline of a potentially explosive conflict. The role it seems to play is as important as it is dangerous. Poland is fast becoming the lynchpin of the Western effort to defend Ukraine and deter Russia, a role that exposes it to considerable danger at the same time as it is playing principal recipient of the most extensive and rapid movement of refugees in Europe’s post-war history.

Hundreds of Stinger missiles, Javelin anti-tank weapons and other munitions have been pouring into Ukraine, through Poland and Romania, as part of America’s $350m package to assist the besieged country. Pentagon officials say that most of the weapons have already reached Ukraine. America has also proposed that Poland supply Ukraine with its own MiG-29 fighter jets, and receive American F-16s in exchange, according to Antony Blinken, the secretary of state. So far, Polish officials say they will not be sending warplanes to Ukraine, though there are reports that they may be supplied in unassembled form.

People are making their way across the border as well. Most of the world’s attention has been on the 1.6m Ukrainians who have escaped abroad since the start of the war, including the 1m refugees who have reached Poland. But many are heading in the opposite direction. Over the first ten days of the war, Polish border guards recorded 217,000 crossings into Ukraine. Of these, a large share are by Ukrainians, men and women, coming back home to enlist.

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

(NYT) ‘No Wavering’: After Turning to Putin, Xi Faces Hard Wartime Choices for China

Now it appears that Mr. Xi’s display of solidarity may have, possibly unwittingly, emboldened Mr. Putin to gamble on going to war to bring Ukraine to heel.

A retracing of Beijing’s trail of decisions shows how Mr. Xi’s deep investment in a personal bond with Mr. Putin has limited China’s options and forced it into policy contortions.

Before and shortly after the invasion, Beijing sounded sympathetic to Moscow’s security demands, mocking Western warnings of war and accusing the United States of goading Russia. Over the past two weeks, though, China has sought to edge slightly away from Russia. It has softened its tone, expressing grief over civilian casualties. It has cast itself as an impartial party, calling for peace talks and for the war to stop as soon as possible.

The quandaries for China, and Mr. Xi, remain.

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

(Economist) How to help Ukraine as Vladimir Putin bombards its cities

NATO is already supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons and imposing harsh sanctions on Russia. It can and should do more. One idea is for Poland to give Ukraine some of its old Soviet-made fighter aircraft. It could also bolster Ukrainian air-defences with longer-range systems than the portable Stinger missiles they have received so far. Both would help more than asking NATO pilots to do the job for them.

Another good idea would be to degrade Russia’s economy further by imposing embargoes on buying Russian oil and gas. The current sanctions avoid energy, but Russia desperately needs hard currency from oil and gas exports to pay for its imports, because existing sanctions have frozen its reserves.

Both arms supplies and an embargo also risk escalation. And sanctions on Russian energy would come at a high price to the world economy. But they entail less risk and a lower price than a no-fly zone would. What is more, they might actually work.

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

(FT) Residents of Ukraine’s fallen cities regroup under Russian occupation

Mayor Ihor Kolykhaiev laid out the new rules in a Facebook post. His constituents could leave home in groups no bigger than two. Cars should drive at low speed. Arrangements were made to collect corpses of Ukrainians killed in the main square and other parts of town, which the city said numbered at least 49, mainly civilians.

“We are experiencing colossal difficulties with collecting and burying the dead, delivering food and medicines, rubbish removal, accidents removal, etc,” Kolykhaiev said.

“For now, the flag flying above us is Ukrainian,” he added. “And in order to stay that way, these requirements must be met. This is all I can offer for now.”

Alongside Kherson, smaller cities that fell to Russian forces this week are Berdyansk and Melitopol, which were captured on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

However, Ukrainians say the Russian hold on these cities has been incomplete and that the occupiers have shown little sign they are equipped to run them, or interested in doing so.

Read it all.

Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Keep resisting Russian invasion, church leaders tell Ukrainians

Religious leaders in Ukraine have urged its citizens to continue resisting the Russian invasion…, as churches around the world condemned the war, and Anglicans in Europe held a special service for peace.

“Remember firmly that the truth is on our side — and where the truth is, there is God and victory,” the leader of the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany Dumenko, told Christians this week.

“Defenders of Ukraine, brothers and sisters, you have ruined the aggressor’s intentions for a quick victory. The whole world admires how Ukraine has successfully resisted Russian aggression.”

The message was released as Russian tanks continued to advance on Kyiv, despite aborted peace talks. By mid-week, dozens of Ukrainian civilians had been reported killed by missiles and shells in the country’s second city, Kharkhiv.

In a new sign of its distancing itself from the Moscow Patriarchate, the Primate of the Moscow-linked Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Metropolitan Onufriy Berezovsky, instructed all parishes to pray for God’s mercy amid the “cries and groans of the Ukrainian people” and “making the authorities wise and strengthening our army with courage”.

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Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Other Churches, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–Putin’s energy shock is broadening into a world food crisis, so brace for rationing

Record food commodity prices are an ordeal by fire for some 45 poorer countries that rely heavily on food imports: the Maghreb, the non-oil Middle East, swaths of Africa, Bangladesh, or Afghanistan. The World Food Programme warned of “catastrophic” scarcity for several hundred million people last November. The picture is worse today.

“Everything is going up vertically. The whole production chain for food is under pressure from every side,” said Abdolreza Abbassian, the ex-head of agro-markets at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

“I have never seen anything like it in 30 years and I fear that prices are going to go much higher in the 2022-2023 season. The situation is just awful and at some point people are going to realise what may be coming. We’re all going to have to tighten our belts, and the mood could get very nasty even in OECD countries like Britain,” he said.

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Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Poverty, Russia, Ukraine

Lawrence Freedman–Is This a War Putin Cannot Win?

From the start the Russian campaign has been hampered by political objectives that cannot be translated into meaningful military objectives. Putin has described a mythical Ukraine, a product of a fevered imagination stimulated by cockeyed historical musings. His Ukraine appears as a wayward sibling to be rescued from the ‘drug addicts and Nazis’ (his phrase) that have led it astray. It is not a fantasy that Ukrainians recognize. They see it as an excuse to turn their country into a passive colony and this they will not allow. No Russian-backed government would have legitimacy and Russia lacks the capacity for an indefinite occupation to keep such a government in place.

This underlying strategic folly has been reinforced by the tactical ineptitude with which the campaign has been prosecuted. A quick and relatively painless victory, with Kyiv in Russian hands and President Zelensky nowhere to be seen, might have allowed Putin to impose a victor’s peace of some sort, whether in promises of neutrality and demilitarization, new constitutional arrangements, or even territorial concessions.

Instead, the Russian generals chose to show how smart they were by relying on speed and surprise to take key cities, using only a fraction of the assembled force, and not even bothering to gain control of the skies. The arrogance of the plan was shown in the move against the capital. This involved flying in regular units to the outskirts of the capital to meet up with special forces and sundry saboteurs already in its precincts. This ended as an operational shamble.

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Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(Politico) ‘Yes, He Would’: Fiona Hill on Putin and Nukes

For many people, watching the Russian invasion of Ukraine has felt like a series of “He can’t be doing this” moments. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has launched the largest ground war in Europe since the Second World War. It is, quite literally, mind-boggling.

That’s why I reached out to Fiona Hill, one of America’s most clear-eyed Russia experts, someone who has studied Putin for decades, worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations and has a reputation for truth-telling, earned when she testified during impeachment hearings for her former boss, President Donald Trump.

I wanted to know what she’s been thinking as she’s watched the extraordinary footage of Russian tanks rolling across international borders, what she thinks Putin has in mind and what insights she can offer into his motivations and objectives.

Hill spent many years studying history, and in our conversation, she repeatedly traced how long arcs and trends of European history are converging on Ukraine right now. We are already, she said, in the middle of a third World War, whether we’ve fully grasped it or not.

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Posted in History, Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(Washington Post) Ukraine conflict could spark surges of covid, polio, other diseases, say experts

But as more than half a million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries, global health officials fear that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be the latest reminder of a grim lesson — that war and disease are close companions, and the humanitarian and refugee crises now unfolding in Eastern Europe will lead to long-lasting health consequences, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

As Russia’s military campaign accelerates, Ukraine’s hospitals are running out of critical medical supplies as travel is increasingly choked off by the conflict. The country’s health workers and patients are relocating to makeshift shelters, seeking to escape explosions. Meanwhile, officials at the World Health Organization, United Nations, U.S. State Department and other organizations warn of rising civilian casualties and new pressures on the region’s fragile health-care systems.

“What we’re dealing with now in Ukraine is a double crisis,” said Máire Connolly, a global health professor at the National University of Ireland Galway who has studied the link between conflict and disease. In an interview, Connolly said she was worried not just about threats from the coronavirus pandemic but also those from Ukraine’s polio outbreak, which global experts had sought to quell for months. She also said she fears the potential resurgence of tuberculosis during the current conflict.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine