Tag Archives: britain

Tom Arms’ World Review

Ukraine

The Ukrainian counter-offensive has begun. It has coincided with the at least partial collapse of the Nova Kakhovka Dam which has literally muddied the waters.

Ukraine’s generals are continuing to wrap their military plans in a dense fog of war. For weeks artillery barrages, drone strikes and the occasional incursive attack have been softening up the roughly 600-mile Russian defensive line. Then the attack started Tuesday with the war’s first night attacks on Wednesday and Thursday.

Given the length of the frontline, Russian troops are inevitably spread thinly. But at the same time they are well dug in. Moscow’s ground forces may be lacking but, according to the Royal United Services Institute, their army’s engineers are world class. They have constructed several lines of defense involving minefields, trenches, mini-fortresses and “dragon’s teeth” tank traps.

Ukraine’s main thrust appears to be aimed at the politically strategic town of Bakhmut and in the Zaporizhia Region. Detailed reports are being withheld but President Biden declared he was “optimistic” and Volodomyr Zelensky said he was in hourly contact with his generals.

There have been some reports that Ukrainian troops advanced a mile into the area around Bakhmut and a slightly greater distance near Zaporizhia. In the case of the latter, however, the Russians are believed to have beaten the Ukrainians back and regained most of the ground lost. It is too soon to declare any successes or failures by either side.

It is believed that the Ukrainian objective is to drive a 20-mile-wide corridor to either Melitopol or Mariupol on the Sea of Azov. This would sever the land bridge connecting Russia to the bulk of its forces in Crimea and, it is hoped at the very least, force Putin to the negotiating table.

According to Western experts, the apparent sabotage of the Nova Kakhovka Dam should be seen in the context of the Russian defensive effort. A sort of literal opposite of a scorched earth policy.

The road across the dam was one of the main intact links across the Dnieper River from Ukraine to the Russian-occupied eastern region. And the flooding downstream has tied up the Ukrainian military in rescuing thousands. It has also left 2,250 square miles of Ukrainian agricultural without vital irrigation water; poisoned drinking water with spilled sewage, oil and chemicals; and renewed fears about the safety of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant whose reactors were cooled by water from the reservoir created by the dam.

At the same time, however, the Russians have to deal with the problems of flooding on the eastern bank of the Dnieper. On top of that, the strategic Crimean Peninsula is almost completely dependent for drinking water on a canal which starts just north of the dam. This canal is running dry as reservoir levels drop.

Britain and China

Britain will host an AI summit – without China. This is one of the outcomes of this week’s Washington visit by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The exclusion and containment of China was one of the underlying themes that ran through the Biden-Sunak White House talks.

But first Artificial Intelligence. The summit will be held in London sometime in the autumn. It will involve all Western countries. Its purpose will be to establish international regulatory ground rules.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 10 Comments

Political disconnect in Calais and Dunkirk

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 10.30.54It is not surprising that media reports focus on the appalling conditions in the Calais and Dunkirk camps. On a recent trip Lord Roberts’ team saw for themselves how men, women and children live in knee-high mud, and brave the winter weather with little more than flimsy tents to keep the wind and rain at bay. In response to accusations that the British government are neglecting their humanitarian responsibilities, the Prime Minister champions the fact that under the Dublin Regulations, the UK has to allow family members of British people to claim asylum in the UK.

Despite the Dublin Regulations, the reality is that virtually no one can access this legal route. Many asylum seekers do not fully understand the unnecessarily complex system, and are unaware of exactly what their rights are; there are even reports of British passport holders unable to enter the UK from the camps. Despite government claims that British officials are present in the camp, these visits are occasional at best and offer no means of beginning an asylum claim. So although many asylum seekers in Calais and Dunkirk (as well as across Europe) have a legitimate legal right to claim asylum in the UK, it is incredibly difficult to access in practice. 

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 2 Comments
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