Category : 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.

Read it all.

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.

Read it all.

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

(CT) Ukrainian American Churches Deploy Praise as a Weapon

In the East Village, some of those refugees attend Cornerstone First Ukrainian Assembly of God, where elderly women in traditional headscarves worship alongside young people in sweatshirts. The Pentecostal congregation now includes Russians, Nigerians, and Belarusians, with services in a mix of Ukrainian, Russian, and English.

Many at Cornerstone have family in Ukraine and fear their fate as the war continues day by day. On Sunday, one woman with white hair wept softly through the whole service.

“What can we do but stay in prayer and cry to God?” said elder Peter Pristash, who lived much of his life in Ukraine and is now a US citizen.

As the nuclear threat escalated tensions, people in the service were in disbelief about how quickly the situation had spiraled.

“Our minds fail to understand: How is this possible in this day and age?” said Pristash before the congregation. “God allowed this to happen, and we do not know why. But we know God is sovereign, and he is on his throne. There are people who think if they kill someone it will accomplish a goal.”

Read it all.

Posted in Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, 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

(NYT) Using Commerce and Culture, World Turns Its Back on Russia

In Switzerland, the Lucerne music festival canceled two symphony concerts featuring a Russian maestro. In Australia, the national swim team said it would boycott a world championship meet in Russia. At the Magic Mountain Ski Area in Vermont, a bartender poured bottles of Stolichnaya vodka down the drain.

From culture to commerce, sports to travel, the world is shunning Russia in myriad ways to protest President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Not since the frigid days of the Cold War have so many doors closed on Russia and its people — a worldwide repudiation driven as much by the impulse to show solidarity with besieged Ukrainians as by any hope that it will force Mr. Putin to pull back his troops.

The boycotts and cancellations are piling up in parallel with the sanctions imposed by the United States, Europe, and other powers. Although these grass-roots gestures inflict less harm on Russia’s economy than sweeping restrictions on Russian banks or the mothballing of a natural gas pipeline, they carry a potent symbolic punch, leaving millions of ordinary Russians isolated in an interconnected world.

Read it all.

Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(BBC Thought for the day) Archbishop Stephen Cottrell-How Shall we Respond to the Appalling War in Ukraine?

How should we respond?

Well here’s three things all of us can do –

Be prepared to make sacrifices ourselves. Sanctions on Russia will also affect us. We have to be ready to pay that price.
Offer generous humanitarian aid. Just think for a moment what it’s like to be a young family living in the middle of Kyiv at the moment, sheltering from bombs in metro stations, fearing for the future. We must offer help.
Be ready to welcome Ukrainian refugees into our country. And, make it easier for them to come.
And, for me, there’s a fourth. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I will be praying.

Yes, for an end to the madness of war and a withdrawal of Russian forces; but also because we people of faith believe prayer changes things, beginning with ourselves.

Read it all.

Posted in Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Church of England (CoE), Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Spirituality/Prayer, Ukraine

(FT) Russia launches fierce rocket attack on Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

Russian forces have launched a heavy bombardment of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, an assault that overshadowed the first direct talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials since President Vladimir Putin began his invasion five days ago.

Residents of the city said they had come under intense artillery and rocket fire from Russian positions. Video footage shared on social media showed high-rise apartment blocks in Kharkiv being hit by heavy shelling that shrouded the sky with plumes of dark smoke.

“Dozens of civilians are dying,” said regional governor Oleh Sinegubov. “It’s happening during the day when people go to pharmacies, for food, for drinking water. This is a crime.”

Read it all.

Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threat shows how much is going wrong for him in Ukraine

It seems ever clearer that the Russian elite is appalled—and impoverished—by his paranoid adventurism. The worse his plans go in Ukraine, the sooner cracks will start to appear in his regime and the more the Russian people will take to the streets. If Mr Putin is to hold on to the Kremlin, he may be obliged to impose terror of a severity that Russia has not seen for decades.

Mr Putin’s first mistake was to underestimate his enemy. Perhaps he believed his own propaganda: that Ukraine is not a real country, but a fake erected by the cia and run by crooks who are despised by the people they govern. If he expected Ukraine to collapse at the first show of Russian force, he could not have been more wrong.

Mr Putin’s second mistake was to mismanage his own armed forces. His air force has so far failed to dominate the skies. He has laboured to reassure his people that Russia is not engaged in a war, but just what he calls a “denazification” operation. Soldiers, unsure of what they are supposed to be doing, have turned up in Ukraine expecting to be welcomed as liberators. If he orders troops to slaughter their Ukrainian kin in large numbers, they may not obey. If many of his troops die in the attempt to crush Ukrainian cities, as is likely, he will not be able to cover it up at home.

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Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King’s College London) Lawrence Freedman–Why Putin may fail

For those of us who have long wondered why Putin would embark on an aggressive war the core puzzle has been what he could hope to achieve politically. A limited campaign in Eastern Ukraine made some sense as it would carve out an area that could be sustained and defended over time. The current scale of operations makes less sense because it essentially requires regime change in Kyiv. In Iraq and Afghanistan the US and the UK learned through bitter experience how difficult this can be. Put simply even relatively authentic leaders with strong local roots (and it is not obvious that Russia has any of those available) that have been put in place by foreigners have limited legitimacy and will soon be relying on the occupying force to sustain them in power.

Before this, Russian forces needs to find and deal with President Zelensky. He has so far performed with dignity and bravery as an unexpected war leader. Putin will want him out of the way. Zelensky is insisting for the moment that he must stay in Kyiv and direct the war effort, even while reporting that Russian saboteurs are in the city. At some point a hard decision might have to be taken about either relocating to Western Ukraine or even establishing a government in exile. So long as he can continue to operate in Ukraine his leadership serves as a rebuke to Putin.

Even if the government loses control of the capital and is forced to flee, and the command systems for Ukrainian forces start to break down, that does not mean that Russia has won the war. It is only a mind-set that fails to understand the wellsprings of Ukraine’s national identity that could believe that a compliant figure could be installed as Ukrainian president and expect to last for very long without the backing of an occupation force. Russia simply does not have the numbers and capacity to sustain such a force for any length of time. One would have thought that with the memories of the Orange Revolution of 2004-5 and the Euromaidan of 2013-14 that Putin would have some appreciation of the role that ‘people power’ can play in this country, unless again he believes his own propaganda that these movements were manipulated into existence by the Americans and their allies. Ukraine shares a land border with NATO and equipment can pass through to Ukrainian regular forces so long as they are fighting – and then to an anti-Russian insurgency should this conflict move to that stage. This is why it is important not to focus solely on whether Russia achieves it military objectives. It is how it holds what it can seize against civilian resistance and insurgency.

The point about wars (and I have studied many) is that they rarely go according to plan. Chance events or poorly executed operations can require sudden shifts in strategy. The unintended consequences can be as important as the intended. These are the pitfalls surrounding all wars and why they should only be embarked upon with good reason (of which the most compelling is an act of self-defence).

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

(Church Times) Ukraine invasion is ‘a call to action’, Archbp Stephen Cottrell tells Lords

Speaking in an emergency debate in the House of Lords on Friday morning, Archbishop Cottrell condemned Vladimir Putin’s “flagrant disregard of the Ukrainian people’s legitimate right to self-determination”.

“Jesus urged his followers to be ‘peacemakers’, not simply peace-lovers,” he told peers. “This is an important distinction, because it is a call to action.

“The horrors being visited on Ukraine must must be a wake-up call for us that peace is something you need to work at.”

Archbishop Cottrell continued: “We must use all our diplomatic muscle and energy, stringent economic sanctions, and focused political will to force Russia to step back from this aggression, withdraw its troops and silence the guns, not least because effective sanctions will mean many innocent Russians suffer as well. Our actions must be swift and cohesive if they are to be decisive.”

Lasting peace “requires a new commitment to international instruments of law and order, accountability and investment so that we make peace and choose peace, not just hope to keep it.”

Read it all (registration or subscription) and you may find his speech in full there.

Posted in Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

“There will be no escalation in the coming week either, or in the week after that, or in the coming month,” declared Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s envoy to the European Union, on February 16th. “Wars in Europe rarely start on a Wednesday.” And indeed it was early on Thursday, February 24th, as dawn broke over Ukraine, that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, took to television to declare war on Ukraine in the form of a “special military operation” to “denazify” the country.

Within minutes explosions were heard near Kyiv’s main airport, as well as in many other cities. Video footage taken in Ukraine showed cruise missiles slicing through the air and slamming into buildings. Mr Putin had launched what is sure to be Europe’s most intense war in a generation—possibly its largest since the second world war. It will shake his regime to its foundations, debilitate Russia’s economy and fracture Russian society. It will shatter existing assumptions about European security. It could well send shock waves through the global economy.

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

(Church Times) Ukraine invasion: Church leaders and charities react with horror and dismay

Earlier on Thursday morning, the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, wrote on Twitter: “We wake this morning to the sickening sights and sounds of war. Praying for all in Ukraine, for all who are fearful of what lies ahead and for the minimum possible bloodshed.

“At a time of international crisis, please join me in praying fervently for peace in Ukraine and especially for the wellbeing of our little Anglican community of Christ Church, Kyiv (which meets in the German Evangelical Church of St. Catherine’s).”

Bishop Robert co-ordinated an online prayer vigil on Thursday evening, including the Anglican chaplain in Moscow, the Revd Malcolm Rogers, and members of the Anglican community in Kyiv if it safe for them to do so. A further vigil is being organised by the Diocese in Europe on Shrove Tuesday (1 March) at 6 p.m.

On Thursday afternoon, the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, said: “This act of aggression impacts very harmfully on a free, democratic European state and on all the nations of Europe. I exhort you to pray for peace with justice for the people of Ukraine.”

In their statement, the Archbishops invited Christians to “make this Sunday a day for prayer for Ukraine, Russia, and for peace”, and also endorsed Pope Francis’s call to make Ash Wednesday (2 March) a global day of fasting and peace for Ukraine.

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Ecumenical Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Russia, Spirituality/Prayer, Ukraine, Violence

Archbishop Justin Welby’s Thought for the Day today

To wake up to the news of war is terrible.

To wake up to its reality is orders of magnitude worse.

Shakespeare refers to war as chaos – the loosing of the dogs of war – and calls for one of his characters to cry out the warning about what it means.

Those in the Ukraine will be thinking about their relatives on the front lines, or the friends on the front lines. We are thinking, where is it going to go next? Politicians are thinking, what do we do?

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England, Military / Armed Forces, Religion & Culture, Russia, Ukraine, Violence

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York Appeal for Prayer

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, Church of England (CoE), Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

Putin: ‘We decided to launch a special military action’

A grim start to the week and an even grimmer night for the world. Lord, have mercy.

Posted in Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) Andrei Zorin, a professor of Russian at the University of Oxford, explains how national mythologies foment conflict

Today, when Russia and Ukraine are on the brink of a major war, that idea of kinship may seem preposterous. Yet few conflicts are as deep and irreconcilable as family feuds. The omens are especially bad when one of the “brothers” believes in his natural right to be in charge of the whole family and the other is independent-minded and rebellious. Remember the Bible, where human history begins with a fratricide.

The family tensions between Russia and Ukraine are aggravated by a dispute over their heritage. Russia’s understanding of history idealises Kyiv as “the mother of all Russian cities”, and the source of Russia’s religion, culture, alphabet and a network of dynastic and military connections. The huge statue of the Kievan prince Vladimir, who baptised Old Rus, was erected in 2016 near the entrance to the Kremlin. If this claim on Kyiv’s past were to be renounced, not only would Russian history be shorter by at least a quarter of a millennium, but Russia would also, more importantly, be deprived of its European identity.

Russia’s historical narrative is to a large extent defined by miraculous transformations that turn even the most humiliating defeats into apocalyptic triumphs. The traditional stories of major Russian wars–be it against the Poles in the 17th century, the Swedes in the 18th, the French in the 19th or the Germans in the 20th–all follow the same pattern. After initial defeats that put the country on the brink of utter ruin, a strong leader mobilises the nation and imposes a devastating defeat on the enemy.

Mr Putin appears to be exploiting this tradition.

Read it all.

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

Analyst Greg Valliere on Where the Ukraine Crisis May go from here

MUCH MORE AGGRESSIVE SANCTIONS are likely; the initial reaction from the White House — that this may not be a full-fledged “invasion” — will encounter withering criticism from anti-Russia hawks in Congress. Biden has to announce fresh sanctions, probably today. (The Nord Stream pipeline will stall.)

TWO WAYS TO READ THIS WEEKEND’S DEVELOPMENTS: The really negative theme is that Putin, increasingly unstable and isolated, is determined to reverse NATO’s move eastward. He wants to restore, at least partly, the old Soviet Union map and he wants a Russia-China alliance to check the West. From the Baltics to Taiwan, this is ominous.

SECOND, THERE’S A LESS NEGATIVE SPIN that Putin may stop at the two breakaway regions, just as he stopped at Crimea nearly a decade ago. If Putin can convince the West that he simply wants to protect Russians in eastern Ukraine, that could avoid massive sanctions and a bloody war — both of which would damage Putin’s political support within Russia.

PUTIN’S OFF-RAMP would be to claim victory in the east, while agreeing to a deal brokered by Emmanuel Macron that would lessen the NATO presence in countries near Ukraine.

Read it all.

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

Pray for Ukraine and Peace in the World

Posted in Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Spirituality/Prayer, Ukraine


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

(WSJ) Beijing Weighs How Far to Go in Backing Putin on Ukraine

China’s top leaders have spent days weighing how far Beijing should go to back Russian President Vladimir Putin and how to manage a partnership many call a marriage of convenience as opposed to one of conviction.

With the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine looming, China’s final arbiter of power—the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee led by President Xi Jinping —has largely disappeared from public view.

Behind closed doors, according to people with knowledge of the matter, one topic of intense discussion is how to respond to the Russian-Ukraine crisis and back Moscow without hurting China’s own interests.

The brooding has gone on for more than a week, practically since Mr. Putin got on a plane back to Moscow after meeting with Mr. Xi and attending the Feb. 4 opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics. The unusually extended discussion underlines how urgent and delicate the situation is for Beijing despite Mr. Xi’s public stance of support for Russia.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–Putin is close to winning in Ukraine

The other reason why Mr Putin may desist is if Germany and France have promised behind closed doors to give him what he wants without a war: Ukraine on a platter, stripped of sovereignty and locked into Moscow’s strategic orbit. To call it Finlandisation is a euphemism. It is closer to Russification.

We will find out soon enough what has been going on in these private sessions but it was revealing to see the ashen face and involuntary wince of Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky as the German Chancellor spoke in Kyiv.

Mr Scholz did indeed seem to be pulling the rug from underneath his feet, deflating Ukraine’s hope of genuine independence with the soft-spoken words and careful precision of an employment lawyer, the Chancellor’s former job.

Markets are implicitly betting that a Western sell-out on Mr Putin’s terms is the likely outcome, and that Ukraine will be pressured into “voluntary” realignment – like the Czechs in 1938 – allowing business to continue as usual.

Utter cynicism is usually the safest bet.

Read it all (registration and or subscription).

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

(Washington Post) David Ignatius–Putin’s impending ‘march of folly’ in Ukraine

The world will be watching in horror if Russia invades Ukraine this week — but just watching. Ukraine will fight alone, as Russian tanks roll across the flat, frozen terrain; precision bombs destroy key targets near Kyiv and other cities; and the country becomes a killing field unlike anything Europe has seen since 1945.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will quickly win the initial, tactical phase of this war, if it comes. The vast army that Russia has arrayed along Ukraine’s borders could probably seize the capital of Kyiv in several days and control the country in little more than a week, U.S. officials believe.

But then Putin’s real battle would begin — as Russia and its Ukrainian proxies try to stabilize a country whose people largely detest them. If just 10 percent of Ukraine’s 40 million people decided to actively resist occupation, they would mount a powerful insurgency. Small bands of motivated fighters subverted America’s overwhelming military power in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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

(NYT) White House warns of ‘immediate’ threat of Russian invasion in Ukraine

The Biden administration warned on Friday that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia could mount a major assault on Ukraine at any time, having built up formidable land, sea and air forces on three sides of its smaller neighbor.

U.S. intelligence officials had initially thought Mr. Putin was prepared to wait until the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing before possibly ordering an offensive, to avoid antagonizing President Xi Jinping of China, a critical ally. In recent days, they say, the timeline began moving up, an acceleration that Biden administration officials began publicly acknowledging on Friday.

“We continue to see signs of Russian escalation, including new forces arriving at the Ukrainian border,” Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser, told reporters on Friday, adding that an invasion could begin “during the Olympics,” which are scheduled to end on Feb. 20, and warned that all Americans should leave Ukraine in the next 24 to 48 hours.

U.S. officials still do not know whether Mr. Putin has decided to invade, Mr. Sullivan insisted. “We are ready either way,” he said. “Whatever happens next, the West is more united than it has been in years.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(WSJ) Dismal Russian Record in Occupied Eastern Ukraine Serves as Warning

The Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions were once the engines of the country’s economy and dominated its politics.

They produced its richest man, billionaire industrialist Rinat Akhmetov, as well as former President Viktor Yanukovych, ousted by the street protests that triggered the Russian invasion in 2014.

Since then, however, the two areas—now nominally independent “people’s republics” inside the larger regions of Luhansk and Donetsk—have turned into impoverished, depopulated enclaves that increasingly rely on Russian subsidies to survive. As much as half the prewar population of 3.8 million has left, for the rest of Ukraine, more prosperous Russia or Europe. Those who remain are disproportionately retirees, members of the security services and people simply too poor to move. Current economic output has shrunk to roughly 30% of the level before the Russian invasion, economists estimate.

As Russian President Vladimir Putin is massing more than 100,000 troops for a possible broader invasion of Ukraine, the developments in Donetsk and Luhansk show what many fear could happen to the rest of the country if he were to carry that out. The dismal record of Russian rule is one reason so many Ukrainian citizens, including Russian-speakers, are ready to take up arms so that their hometowns won’t meet the same fate.

Read it all.

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

(Telegraph) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard–Putin will never have another chance like this to overthrow the European strategic order

The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington has laid out the likely options for the Kremlin in an essay by CIA veteran Philip Wasielewski and CSIS security chief Seth Jones.

Mr Putin could peel off the Black Sea coast and link up to the Crimea, perhaps pushing beyond Odessa to deprive Ukraine of its entire coast. However, the British warning on Saturday suggests that he aims for total decapitation of the Ukrainian state.

He could seize the whole of Orthodox Eastern Ukraine as far as the Dnieper River. But this would leave a large enough rump to survive as a viable state and permanent headache.

The conquest would have to include Kiev, the great prize for Mr Putin, who harks back to Kievan Rus as the ancient cradle of the Russian nation in his mythologised ethno-nationalist version of history. His 7,000 word manifesto published last year dismisses the Ukrainian state as the invention of Soviet cartographers.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist leader) Momentum is building for war in Ukraine

The first world war became inevitable once mobilisation orders had been issued in Berlin, argued A.J.P. Taylor, a British historian. The complexities of early-20th-century railway timetables, upon which troop movements then depended, made any alteration virtually impossible. Modern armies do not suffer the same constraints. But as Russia sends more and more units to Ukraine’s borders, a grim momentum is building.

Last week’s diplomacy yielded nothing. Some of Vladimir Putin’s demands are impossible for nato to accept, as he well knew. (Essentially, he wants nato never to admit new members, and to remove its forces from any country Russia threatens.) On January 19th President Joe Biden said that he expects Russia to “move in” on Ukraine.

On January 14th hackers sabotaged Ukrainian government websites, getting them to display a poster of the Ukrainian flag and map crossed out, and warning Ukrainians to “be afraid and expect worse”. Over 100,000 Russian troops are massed on Ukraine’s eastern border, with field hospitals and fuel dumps. “Battalion tactical groups” have arrived in Belarus, a Kremlin client state north of Ukraine, in apparent preparation for a two-front attack that would divide Ukrainian forces and menace the capital, Kyiv. Only a trigger is lacking, and America says it has evidence that a “false flag” operation is planned to allow Russia to claim its men had been attacked by Ukraine. The odds of war seem perilously high.

Read it all (registration).

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

(Eurointelligence) Wolfgang Münchau–When Russia invades… … Europe will appease

When Russia invades, Germany and other European countries might at one point run out of gas. That would depend on how energy enters into this conflict. Germany has left itself in this position because successive governments failed to develop a coherent energy policy. Three nuclear plants went offline at the beginning of 2022, as will the last three at the end of this year. With the Greens in government, I see no chance of a policy reversal. The new coalition has ambitious plans for investment in renewables, but the maths does not add up. The energy transition requires unprecedented investment in modern gas-fired power stations as an interim solution. That means Russian gas for the most part. The Greens might kick up a fuss over Nord Stream 2, but I don’t think they will have the gumption to leave the government over a pipeline, and sacrifice their investment programme for renewable energy sources. The deal is done.

When Russia invades, it will be a matter of smoke and mirrors. Russia has no interest in occupying all of Ukraine. It will never invade a Nato country, and try to occupy it. My fear is that Putin may at one point choose to close the Suwalki gap, the stretch of land along the Polish-Lithuanian border that separates the Russian province of Kalingrad from Belarus. That would give Russia direct land access to the southern Baltic Sea, and drive a wedge through the EU. The Baltic States would at this point be geographically isolated from the EU, surrounded by Russia from all sides. This is the scenario depicted in our hypothetical map above. It might also seek to extend its military control of the Black Sea, cutting through the Ukrainian lands that separate it from Transnistria, a Russian-speaking breakaway province in eastern Moldova.

When Russia invades, Germany will appease. Germany will push for minimal sanctions, and only those that don’t damage German exports. They will veto any proposal to cut Russia off from the Swift payment system, if such a proposal were ever made. Nord Stream 2 is safe because neither the EU nor the Biden administration want to upset the Germans. A Republican majority after the mid-term election this November might change the Americans’ policy, but by then the gas will have started to flow.

Read it all.

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

(Telegraph) Is the world is at the most dangerous strategic juncture since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard thinks so

While Britain’s political class is distracted by a Downing Street party, the world is at the most dangerous strategic juncture since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

The West faces escalating threats of conflict on three fronts, each separate but linked by unknown levels of collusion: Russia’s mobilisation of a strike force on Ukraine’s border, China’s “dress rehearsal” for an attack on Taiwan, and Iran’s nuclear brinkmanship.

Each country is emboldening the other two to press their advantage, and together they risk a fundamental convulsion of the global order.

You have to go back yet further to find a moment when Western democracies were so vulnerable to a sudden change in fortunes. Today’s events have echoes of the interlude between the Chamberlain-Daladier capitulation at Munich in 1938 and consequences that followed in rapid crescendo, from Anschluss to the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Iran, Politics in General, Russia, Taiwan, Ukraine

(FT) Ukraine warned of ‘high probability’ of Russian military escalation this winter

Western intelligence suggests a “high probability of destabilisation” of Ukraine by Russia as soon as this winter after Moscow massed more than 90,000 troops at its border, according to Kyiv’s deputy defence minister.

Hanna Maliar told the Financial Times at the weekend that while interpretations of western intelligence “need further discussion”, they underlined “the high probability of escalation of the situation”.

When asked if the risk of Russian military aggression was higher than during the past years, she said: “Information of our [military intelligence services] coincides with the information of partner countries about the high probability of destabilisation of the situation in Ukraine this winter.”

Maliar added that allies’ conclusions were “based not only on information about the number of Russian troops along the Ukrainian border”, suggesting Washington had additional intelligence about Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s intentions.

Read it all.

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

(CEN) Confusion grows over fresh divisions in Ukraine Orthodoxy

Orthodox Christians in Ukraine – and in Orthodoxy worldwide – are in confusion following Metropolitan Filaret (pictured on the left) of Kiev’s break from the new Ukraine Orthodox Church, established just a year ago by Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

The Patriarch’s decision ended three centuries of Russian Orthodox canonical authority over all Ukraine Orthodox.

Ninety-year-old Filaret, the Soviet-era Russian Orthodox Church leader in Ukraine who formed the breakaway nationalist ‘Kiev Patriarchate’ when the USSR dissolved, was Patriarch Emeritus and joint leader of the new church, which comprised his patriarchate and an earlier breakaway, the small Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

Led by Metropolitan Epiphany, the new church claims to control some 7,000 parishes, 77 monasteries and 47 dioceses, with some 500 parishes having switched allegiance from the continuing Russiaaligned Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate] – voluntarily or under nationalist pressure.

Declaring the new church “too much under the control” of the Ecumenical Patriarch, and that in practice his own role counted for little in its decisionmaking rather than being ‘side by side’ with Metropolitan Epiphany, Filaret has proclaimed the re-establishment of his former Kiev Patriarchate. He is busily rebuilding its support following an extraordinary ‘restoration assembly’ of his followers in Kiev’s historic St Volodymyr’s Cathedral last June, defying both Epiphany and the Ecumenical Patriarch.

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Posted in Orthodox Church, Ukraine