Tag Archives: putin

Tom Arms’ World Review

Putin’s hold on power

Vladimir Putin’s hold on power must be slipping away. But which Kremlin insider might replace him? Well, according to the constitution, the Prime minister – who is Mikhail Mishustin – is meant to succeed the president if he has to suddenly resign or is incapacitated. Mishustin has been responsible for the dealing with the economy which is reeling from sanctions. He has done a reasonable job and is in the front rank of successors, but not regarded as a number one possibility.

That could be Nikolai Patrushev, former head of Russian intelligence organisation the FSB. He is known to be a hard-line ultranationalist. Another hardliner is Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov who has been publicly urging the Russian president to use tactical nuclear weapons. Also in the running is Mikhail Mizintsev, another hardliner who is known as the “butcher of Mariupol” and has recently been brought back from the front to be Deputy Minister of Defense. Dmitry Medvedev kept the presidential chair warm for four years from 2008 while Putin sorted out the constitution. He is another possible and recently warned that Putin “is not bluffing” about nuclear weapons. There are several more potential usurpers in the Kremlin wings. At the moment they all have one thing in common—they are ultra-nationalist right-wingers committed to the war in Ukraine.

China

Public protests involving banners, smoke and loud hailers are rare in China. They are virtually unheard of on the eve of a Chinese Communist Party Congress. The reason is that they can be life-threatening for the protesters.

But that did not stop two brave souls from unfurling banners from an overpass. One read: “Let us strike from schools and from work and remove the dictator Xi Jinping.” The other focused on Xi’s unpopular Zero Covid strategy and said: “No restrictions. We want freedom. No Lies. We want dignity.” The protesters were quickly surrounded by police and carted off, but videos quickly made it onto social media. China’s censors meant they were just as quickly erased from the local internet, but not before they could be reposted for the rest of the world to see. The protests are a huge embarrassment for Xi who is expected to be confirmed as president for a third term by the 2,500 delegates gathering in Beijing on Sunday. The fact that the men were willing to risk – quite possibly sacrifice – their lives for their protest indicates the depth of opposition to Xi Jinping.

Donald Trump

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Observations of an expat: Tactical Nukes

The problem with great power is that using it is too often an abuse of power and if you abuse it, you lose it.

This is especially true of nuclear power as Vladimir Putin may soon discover.

The Russian President has been rattling his nuclear sabres since before his February invasion of Ukraine. He hopes that rattling alone will be enough to bring the West to heel.

This appears to be another of his miscalculations, leaving him with two unpalatable choices: put up or shut up.

If he decides to put up (i.e. use nuclear weapons) then there are a number of options available to him. To start with he will probably start at the bottom of the nuclear leader, that is with tactical or battlefield nuclear weapons. He has a wide range of such weapons to choose from.

The explosive yield of Russia’s tactical nukes ranges from 10 times that of the Hiroshima atomic bomb to less than 0.3 percent of the 1945 explosion. They can be delivered by missile, artillery, landmines, drones, bombers, mortars, even recoilless smooth-bore rifles.

There are different types of explosions. There is the air burst which was used over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This bomb explodes in the air above the target. The force of the explosion destroys people and property on the ground but the effects of radiation are minimised.

A ground burst maximises radiation damage because it irradiates the ground which it hits and throws thousands of tons of dirt and rubble into the atmosphere where air currents can move it hundreds of miles from the bomb site.

A neutron bomb, also known as the capitalist bomb, explodes in the air and kills people within its range but leaves property intact.

Russia has about 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons. NATO used to have a massive Cold War superiority of tens of thousands but now only has about 100.

The reason for its former superiority is that NATO relied on tactical nuclear weapons to slow down a Soviet attack in order to give time for American troops to be rushed across the Atlantic.

Then the Cold War ended and there was a concern that the weapons might fall into the hands of terrorists so NATO tactical nuclear weapons were dismantled. The Russians returned their tactical weapons to storage depots but did not dismantle them.

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When it comes to Ukraine let’s not forget the geopolitics before we rush in

A while ago I read a book by British journalist, Tim Marshall, entitled ‘Prisoners of Geography’, where he argues that where you live colours to a great extent your perception of the world around you. That Mr Marshall is an believer, if that’s the right word, in ‘geopolitics’ is very clear. He’s now followed this up with ‘The Power of Geography’, which I have yet to read; but I assume this takes the idea further.

Geopolitics states that politics, especially international relations, is influenced by geography. That certainly makes sense to me and I would argue, for example, that, living on an island as they do, it is perhaps not surprising that so many English voters, many with an atavistic fear of ‘Johnny Foreigner’ and being prepared to believe some of the myths pedalled by Messrs Farage and Johnson etc, voted to leave the EU.

Interestingly, in the furthest extremities of our islands, namely Scotland and Northern Ireland, support for continued EU membership was higher. With the luxury of firm frontiers and never having been occupied by a foreign ‘power’ for a millennium it is clearly very hard for many to empathise with many European citizens whose parents and grandparents have witnessed occupation at first hand. Who can blame them if many still see in closer economic and political cooperation with their neighbours a way of avoiding such disruption in the future?

There are many places where geography, or possibly our interpretation of it, have, since WW2 alone, come back to bite us, for example in Korea, the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Whether it is the arbitrary drawing and redrawing of boundaries, linguistic, cultural or religious boundaries, trying to impose ‘solutions’ based on our own, largely western  perception of what is best is often a recipe for strife and unnecessary bloodshed. I would urge our leaders in the West to be careful not to overreact to what is going on today on the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

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Observations of an Expat: Russian Pivot

While the world public’s attention was focused on submarine rows between allies and the rising Chinese threat, Vladimir Putin was making disturbing diplomatic and political moves to change the security map on the European side of the Eurasian land mass.

The focus of Putin’s efforts is Belarus and the faltering regime of Alexander Lukashenko. Ever since his clearly fraudulent elections, “Europe’s last dictator” has suffered riots, demonstrations, defecting Belarussians and Western sanctions. All of this presents opportunities and problems for Vladimir Putin and headaches for everyone else. A Lukashenko/Putin summit plus a major military manoeuvre underscored both.

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Observations of an expat: Start talks Start

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US-Russian talks started this week in Vienna between US and Russia to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) which expires in February.

Negotiators face massive obstacles – for lots of reasons.

For a start, Presidents Trump and Putin are fond of their nuclear toys. They have both effectively scrapped the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Force Treaty and announced significant investment in new nuclear weapons.

Both men are keen on the more “bang for the buck” theory of nuclear war.

The other big reason the talks are headed for failure is the Trump Administration’s insistence that China is included in the negotiations. China’s nuclear arsenal is miniscule (300 warheads compared to an estimated 6,185 American and 6,800 Russian). But the Americans view the Chinese as the greater medium to long-term threat to American interests.

The French and British nuclear deterrents have been accounted for in the complex alphabet soup of Soviet-American nuclear weapons accords. But France and Britain are American allies. China and Russia are – at the moment – close – but not allied. The Chinese argue that if they are included then why not also India, Pakistan, Israel and possibly even Iran. This would, of course, turn negotiations into an incomprehensible farce as each country has a different strategic reason for its nuclear deterrent.

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Observations of an ex pat: Tough for Trump

Donald Trump is in a no-win situation as regards  Russian hacking vs. American intelligence agencies vs Donald Trump.

Putin, as we all know by now, has been accused by all the American intelligence agencies (and several foreign ones) of hacking into the computers of the Democratic National Committee and leaking the contents to help Trump win the US presidency.

The Russian President has denied this as he has denied many other misdeeds. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, he channel for the leaks, has backed him up. So has Donald Trump.

On the other side of the fence are, not surprisingly, a Democratic Party in search of a scapegoat to explain the inexplicable and America’s spy nerds.

Trump can’t really say that he agrees with the intelligence agencies. To do so would leave him branded as Putin’s poodle and undermine his mandate to govern. 

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LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott: EU values are in stark contrast to Putin’s

European FlagLiberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber Edward McMilan-Scott, who is also the European Parliament’s Vice President for Human Rights, has been writing in the Yorkshire Post about the contest between the values of the EU and those of Vladimir Putin. The EU is built on democracy and liberal values while Putin seeks to build a Eurasian alliance built on homophobia and nationalism.

To understand what is happening in the Ukraine, we have to know something of President Putin’s Eurasian dream that is steering events. This involves the

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Opinion: Ukraine – Next Steps

ukraineAn international affairs policy wonk could be forgiven for thinking that April Fools’ Day had come early. After all, the last 72 hours have seen the Russian Federation occupy Ukraine’s Crimea, and apparently threaten to attack Ukrainian forces in Crimea if they don’t surrender. Such an action is in direct violation of the 1994 Bucharest Memorandum, the OSCE’s Helsinki Final Act, and Article 2(4) of the UN Charter.

The use of force without the explicit authorisation of the UN Security Council has a very specific name: aggression. The Nuremburg Tribunal described aggression as the “supreme international crime”: aggression starts wars, destroys lives and is a visceral attack on the international rule of law.

Simply, aggression is international gangsterism of the highest order.

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