Tag Archives: ukraine

Kira Rudik wows Conference with a powerful and personal speech


Kira Rudik is the leader of Holos, the first Liberal Party to be elected to the Ukrainian Parliament. She is also Vice President of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – the political grouping that brings together like-minded political parties within Europe. She is a proud European and has campaigned for many years for Ukraine to join the EU.

She was welcomed on to the stage by Layla Moran, who was dressed in the blue and yellow of Ukraine. Kira started with some thank yous – and it was clear she knew a number of our senior members well.

She then told us about the day the invasion happened, starting at 5am. Kira and nearly two thirds of the MPs made their way to the Parliament Building – a highly dangerous act as the building was an obvious target. They were allowed 10 minutes together in the chamber during which time they hit buttons furiously so they could pass all the necessary legislation. All the political parties vowed to work together until the war was over – a pledge that has been challenging but still holds.

You can watch her speech here:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review


Ukraine has approximately 30 days before the autumn/winter rains bring their counter-offensive to a muddy halt.

To date they appear to have broken through the first line of a three-line Russian defense in an area around Bakhmut and Zaporizhzhia. There is an outside possibility they can achieve a major breach, but that is highly unlikely.

There is more depressing news for Ukrainian troops. For a start the bromance between Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un will keep the Russian troops supplied with artillery shells to help keep the advancing Ukrainians at bay.

Then there are problems with Poland. Up until this week the Poles have been a driving force behind EU and NATO support for Ukraine. But Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki – with one eye on the farming vote and next month’s general election – has stopped military supplies to Ukraine because Ukrainian grain is driving down Polish wheat prices.

Poland has the support of Slovakia and Hungary and wants EU-wide restrictions on the import of Ukrainian grain. The Ukrainians, of course, are exporting their grain to EU countries because the Russian blockade makes it impossible for them to ship it to their usual customers in the Middle East and Africa.

The next problem is signs that US support is waning. This week Volodomyr Zelensky turned up in Washington to assure American lawmakers that Ukraine is slowly but surely winning. President Biden responded with a $325 million military aid package. Zelensky also has the support of the leadership in both the Senate and House of Representatives. But a group of far-right Republican Trump supporters are threatening to block a financial package which includes an extra $24 billion in aid to Ukraine.

And then, finally, there is the fact that Trump has pledged to stop military aid to Ukraine if he is elected in 2024.


It has taken seven years, but it looks as if the investigation of France’s right-wing leader Marine Le Pen may end up in court.

She and 23 members of Her Rassemblement National – including her father Jean-Marine Le Pen – are accused of misuse of EU funds. They allegedly used a total of about $620,000 of money which was meant to be spent on EU administration to fund party activities.

The accusation comes from the Paris Prosecutor’s office and still has to be confirmed by the prosecuting judges. But it seems highly likely that that is a formality.

If she is found guilty, Marine Le Pen faces the possibility of a $1 million fine, 10 years in jail, and a 10-year ban on holding public office. Her conviction would have a major impact on the French and European political landscape.

According to the Paris Prosecutor, Ms Le Pen spent $45,000 of EU funds to pay her personal bodyguard. On another occasion she is alleged to have diverted EU funds to pay for a meeting to discuss party activities and hung an EU flag outside the meeting room. When the meeting started she told party members “take that s**t down.”

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

The Ukrainian Offensive Hasn’t Failed.  We have Failed the Ukrainians.

Without a doubt, the Ukrainian Military’s recent counteroffensive has proved more challenging than the last one.  Ukraine’s ability to put together such counteroffensives and defend the wider country remains at the mercy of the generosity of military aid donors.  “Give us the tools and we will finish the job” Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky pleaded.

However, the arrival of military aid has often been delayed for political reasons as much as logistical ones.  This counteroffensive for instance has seen the Ukrainian Military forced to determinedly advance without air cover.  This is despite the Ukrainian Government requesting Fighter Jets, such as F-16s, to be sent for their defence since the start of the 2022 invasion.  The delay in the arrival of equipment for the current counteroffensive gave ample time for the invading Russian enforces to entrench and defend the land they have stolen.  Some reports say it has even given them ample breathing space to counter some Western weapons such as HIMARS.  Western leaders have justified the incremental approach to giving such aid to encourage de-escalation.  Despite this, Russian President Vladimir Putin reading Western reticence as weakness, as he has always done, has proceeded on his same imperialist course. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is betting that the short-term concerns of Western democracies, such as the US Presidential election next year, will mean that the alliance that supports Ukraine will ultimately fall apart.  This is why those democracies, especially European ones need to convene a long term plan to support Ukraine.  Bilateral and piecemeal military aid announcements were never sufficient to achieve victory.  If NATO membership is barred to Ukraine, then alternative security assurances need to be given to Ukraine.  A Memorandum of Understanding enshrining a commitment to support Ukraine could either be agreed between that country and it’s allies collectively or on a bilateral basis.  What is imperative is that European countries in particular plan for a future where the considerable US aid to Ukraine is potentially no longer available.  Brexit aside, the UK needs to be involved in any European discussions about supporting Ukraine in the long term to coordinate efforts.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 14 Comments

Lib Dems for Ukraine

We have potholes. They have craters. We have a cost of living crisis. They have a cost of dying crisis. We have hospital waiting lists. They have a list of bombed hospitals. As I write this in Kyiv, Vladimir Putin is trying to kill me. Not just me but everyone in the Ukrainian capital.  To be fair, Russia’s hypersonic missiles, sorry, elderly Russian ironmongery, keep getting shot out of the sky. But the war in Ukraine is not over by a long chalk. The charge sheet of Russian barbarism gets grimmer by the day: targeting civilians, torture, execution, rape, castration.

The values of Ukraine are our values: democracy, liberalism, we don’t just respect the other – we fight for them. Together, we must stand against the Fascist International. Our job as Liberal Democrats is to keep up the pressure on the Conservative government and remind the rather too many people in the Labour Party that the word of Vladimir Putin is not reliable, to put it mildly. That’s why we are setting up the Liberal Democrat Friends of Ukraine.

Three policies stand out. We must support Ukraine with the military hardware necessary for the defeat of Russian fascism. We must make Britain as welcoming to Ukrainian refugees as the European Union is: if you have a Ukrainian passport, you can stay and live and work in Britain for three years, just as you can in Germany, Italy, France, across the whole union. We must burn down Londongrad and send Russia’s ill-gotten gold to help rebuild Ukraine.

I am no arsonist. But Londongrad – where Russian oligarchs hide their dirty money – is a danger not just to Ukraine but also to our own democracy. For far too long, the Labour and Conservative parties let Vladimir Putin get away with murdering people in Britain because they liked the sheen of Moscow gold.

Senior figures in Labour and the Tories have been far too close to the Kremlin and its proxies for comfort. Tony Blair made a catastrophic mistake when he identified radical Islam as a greater danger than Russian fascism. To secure cover for the “war on terror” he went out of his way to cosy up to Vladimir Putin.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 3 Comments

UK Trade Unions rally in solidarity: resounding support for Ukraine at TUC 2023

This past week at the 2023 UK TUC Congress, trade unions stood in solidarity with Ukraine in the face of the fascist russian invasion, passing a motion from the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign.

The motion, moved by GMB, seconded by ASLEF and supported by the NUM, supports the immediate withdrawal of russian* forces from all Ukrainian territories occupied since 2014; Ukrainian unions’ calls for financial and practical aid from the UK to Ukraine; a peaceful end to the conflict that secures the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the support and self-determination of the Ukrainian people; the full restoration of labour rights in Ukraine and a socially-just reconstruction and redevelopment programme that embeds collective bargaining and rejects deregulation and privatisation; TUC work, and facilitation of affiliates’ engagement, with the main Ukrainian trade union centres (FPU/KVPU), and acknowledges the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign.

Amidst the support for Ukraine, however, there was a minor pushback from the RMT, NEU, UCU and FBU. None supported the motion, with RMT, NEU and UCU choosing to abstain and FBU voting against, adding that they “do not think the escalation of war is in the interests of the russian or Ukrainian working class”. This is despite russia having carried out annexations, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ukraine since 2014.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review

Donald Trump

Donald Trump will never see the inside of a prison. Neither will he be fitted for an orange onesie.

Not because he is innocent. Based on the evidence I have read to date, he is guilty as Hell. And I am sure a lot more will come out during the numerous trials he faces.

No, he will remain a free man for several reasons. One is that his lawyers will use every trick in their legal library to delay, delay, delay. They will appeal against the Washington venue for the trial there. They will also claim that the Washington judge is biased. The same with New York.

Their objections will be dismissed. But justice requires that they be heard and that takes time.

Next, there is the jury selection. One recent trial took several months to select the jury because they went through over a thousand potential jurors. In the case of Trump, the difficult is in finding 12 people in politically polarised America who do not have an opinion of the man and his election lie.

Even if a jury is selected, a venue is agreed for all four trials and impartial judges are found, there is a reasonable chance that a dedicated MAGA supporter will find their way onto a jury and block a guilty verdict.  Unanimous jury decisions are required in American trials. That is a high bar for the Trump prosecutors.

Let us suppose he is found guilty on a felony charge in a court by a jury somewhere in America. The verdict is then likely to outrage and activate his MAGA base to such an extent that Trump wins the 2024 election. If that happens he will simply pardon himself and his many co-conspirators. The case in Georgia will be more difficult because he can only give pardons for federal crimes and Georgia is a state crime. But his highly paid lawyers should be able to find a loophole.

If they don’t, there is the appeal process. If Trump is found guilty he will appeal. The appeal process can extend for years, possibly up to and beyond Donald Trump’s allotted time on this Earth.

Russian spies

Spies, spies, everywhere – especially the Russians. Which is not surprising. They had a huge spy network in Tsarist days. It was massive under the Soviets and, of course, Vladimir Putin was a KGB agent in East Germany.

There is also the fact that Russia is at war, oops, I mean conducting a “special military operation” (SMO) in Ukraine. The SMO means that Russia needs intelligence on who in NATO is supporting what, when, where, how and why in Ukraine. Also, who they can support to espouse the Russian cause, scatter seeds of division and discontent and maybe even overturn a government or two.

And finally, if the war escalates, how best to attack NATO.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 21 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review


The Ukraine war has resulted in the world facing a shortage of every grain product and the prospect of widespread starvation in the developing world and spiralling food prices in the developed.

Shortages of corn and wheat – Ukraine and Russia’s two biggest grain exports – have increased demand for that other major grain product – rice. This has led India to ban exports of non-basmati rice “to ensure adequate domestic availability at reasonable prices.” India exports 40 percent of the world’s rice.

To compound the problem other major rice producing countries – Thailand, Pakistan and Vietnam – have all suffered bad harvests this year due to deteriorating weather conditions.

But back to Ukraine where Vladimir Putin has ended the Turkish-brokered deal to allow grain ships past the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. He followed that up with a devastating drone attack on Izmail which handles about a quarter of Ukraine’s grain exports. An estimated 40,000 metric tonnes of grain bound for Africa, China and Israel was destroyed and the port has been closed indefinitely. Since withdrawing from the grain deal on 27 July, Russia has destroyed an estimated 200,000 metric tonnes of grain as well as civilian ships, port facilities and grain storage silos.

It should also be noted that Ukraine’s Izmail is at the mouth of the Danube and on the opposite bank is NATO member Romania.


Vladimir Putin has weaponised food. He has created a worldwide shortage and is now using access to Russian-produced grain to blackmail/bribe selected countries.

This was obvious at the recent Russia-Africa Summit in St Petersburg where he promised free grain to carefully selected African countries. Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Eritrea and the Central African Republic have all been rewarded for their support at the UN and links with the Wagner Group.

The summit, however, was not the big success Putin hoped for. The last such gathering was in 2019 when 45 African leaders turned up in Sochi. This time only 27 made the trip north to Russia’s Baltic port.

The drop in numbers was largely due to Putin’s failure to deliver on his promises. In 2019 Russia promised to quadruple direct investment in Africa. But since then it has dropped by two thirds and now represents only one percent of the total inflow of Sub-Saharan Africa’s capital investment.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 38 Comments

A leftist divorce

On February 26th, 2023, Labour MP John McDonnell addressed rumours that there was a split within the left after a difference of opinion between himself and former Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn on whether Ukraine should be armed to fight back against the russian invasion.

McDonnell denied this, claiming “an honest difference of opinion”. And what a difference; either provide firepower to a population facing a fascist invasion or choose neutrality and encourage the invaded country to accept annexation, deportation and genocide.

A breeding ground for division in the left is foreign policy. Most notably since the formation of the Stop the War Coalition (STWC) in 2001, individuals on the far-left have used the platform to voice their disagreement with what they view as the greatest evil on this earth; “Western (American) imperialism”.

There is, however, a problem; you cannot reach a peaceful settlement with an oppressor that refuses to recognise the basic human rights of the oppressed, something STWC ignores. This was the case in 2015, when Tariq Ali called for Western forces to “stand side-by-side with Assad and the russians”, despite Assad having used chemical weapons on his own people and russia by that point having carried out crimes against humanity in Chechnya, invaded Georgia and Moldova, and annexed Crimea.

There have always been, however, those on the left that are willing to put ideology to one side to fight the common enemy: totalitarianism. Whether the International Brigade that supported the Popular Front against Franco (before Stalin decided to torture and kill those that dared to believe in anything other than Stalinism) or social democrats across Europe working with neoconservatives and liberals in supporting NATO intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, there have been those on the left that support fighting against tyranny.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 42 Comments

“I am not Amazon”

Are you as angry as I am by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace’s comments today? At the NATO summit, as a side issue, the G7 nations promised more military supplies for Ukraine. In a briefing to journalists Wallace said:

There is a slight word of caution here, which is that whether we like it or not people want to see gratitude.

My counsel to the Ukrainians is sometimes you’re persuading countries to give up their own stocks of weapons and yes the war is a noble war and yes we see it as you doing a war for – not just yourself – but our freedoms.

But sometimes you’ve got to persuade lawmakers on the Hill in America, you’ve got to persuade doubting politicians in other countries that you know that it’s worth it and it’s worthwhile and that they’re getting something for it.

And whether you like that or not, that is just the reality of it.

I said to the Ukrainians last year, when I drove 11 hours to Kyiv to be given a list – I said, I am not Amazon.

Earlier he had told Sky News that Ukraine is “always asking for more even after receiving the latest batch of arms”.

Richard Foord, our Defence spokesperson, shares my fury. He says:

Ukrainian people are dying every single day because of Russia’s illegal and unjust invasion – all they are asking for is the equipment needed to protect their country.

It is ill-judged to scold them for this and demand that they show more ‘gratitude’. Rishi Sunak should make clear that the Defence Secretary’s comments do not represent the UK’s position on our support for Ukraine.

It’s vital that we continue to stand for the rules-based order and with the Ukrainian people.

Quite apart from the appalling reminders of past imperial power, don’t we all know that threats to an ally are threats to all of us?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 31 Comments

Observations of an expat: Ukraine and NATO

Vilnius is about to enter the history books. The capital of Lithuania will next week (Tuesday and Wednesday) be the scene for a potentially historic NATO summit.

At the top of the agenda will be the question of NATO membership for Ukraine.

Needless to say, a decision to invite Ukraine into the Western Alliance would have global repercussions. It would both deter and infuriate Russia. Extend the Eastern borders of NATO. Strengthen the European arm of the Alliance. Allow the US to move more resources to the Pacific which would anger the Chinese.

As of this writing most of the European members of NATO – with the exception of Hungary and possibly Turkey – favour the admission of Ukraine. The Biden Administration is not so keen because of the fear of Russian retaliation. On Fri c day, Moscow conducted nuclear air drills over the Baltic region. It was a clear pre-summit warning of the possible consequences of Ukrainian NATO membership.

However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, made a compelling case for Ukraine half in NATO in this week’s issue of Foreign Policy magazine. “Today,” he writes, “Ukraine is a net contributor of security protecting the European-Atlantic Community from an aggressive and revanchist Russia… When Ukraine wins the war it will have battle-hardened Ukrainian troops protecting NATO’s Eastern flank.”

He appears to accept the political and security problems that would accompany full-fledged membership of the Western Alliance. “We are not seeking immediate membership,” he writes. “We will not drag NATO into this war. We have never requested foreign troops on the ground in Ukraine. With the generous assistance of our partners we will defeat Russia on our own. This war is ours to fight.”

But he adds that the “next war” can be avoided by admitting Ukraine into NATO. However, Kuleba leaves open when that membership would be finalised. Instead he suggests that NATO publicly accept that Ukraine is as important to NATO to as NATO is to Ukraine. Furthermore that Ukraine is an “inseparable part of the Euro-Atlantic security” framework and finally that Ukraine is invited to join NATO and that that membership will take effect “when all the conditions are met.” The foreign minister does not spell out what the conditions should be.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 25 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review

United States

Did Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden talk this week? On the surface it would seem they did not.

Blinken spent a constructive few days in Beijing repairing Sino-American relations, at least to the stage where the two sides were talking to each other even if they were failing to agree on very much.

Then, almost as soon as Blinken steps off the plane, his boss calls China’s President Xi Jinping a dictator. The Chinese foreign ministry immediately responded by attacking Biden’s comments as “blatant political provocation.”

The American president is well known for his foreign policy gaffes and when they occur the State Department jumps in to pour oil on troubled waters and restore diplomatic calm. Not this time.

The State Department spokesman said the following day: “We will continue to responsibly manage this relationship and maintain open lines of communications with the PRC. But that, of course, does not mean we will not be blunt about our differences.”

He added: “We have been very clear about the areas in which we disagree, including clear differences about the merits and demerits about democracies versus autocracies.”

It would appear that Blinken and Biden are playing a good cop, bad copy routine. This is partly for domestic consumption. US administrations aim for a bipartisan foreign policy, but that is difficult to achieve in the current polarised climate with China the whipping boy of the Republicans and an increasing number of Democrats.

Africa and Russia

Africa went to Moscow this week. It also went to Kyiv, but the most important and interesting leg of the trip was to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin.

Of course, it wasn’t all of Africa. It was the heads of government of Egypt, South Africa, Congo, Comoros and South Africa. The delegation was led by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa who has come under attack for refusing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and allowing Vladimir Putin to visit South Africa in August despite a warrant for his arrest issued by the International Criminal Court.

The African leaders called the trip a “Peace Mission” and justified their involvement by the fact that their continent suffered a 30 million tonnes of grain shortfall in 2022 because of the war in Ukraine. They issued a ten-point plan which called for guaranteed grain supplies, an exchange of prisoners of war and the return of all children to their country of origin.

In Kyiv that had to run for air raid shelters during a missile attack and were told by President Zelensky that there could be no peace without Russian withdrawal.

In Moscow, President Putin told them that the grain deal could be cancelled altogether; that the “special military operation” would drag on and that the thousands of Ukrainian children taken to Russia were moved to protect them. In short, there was no joy for the Africans in either capital.

Back in South Africa, the trip has been branded a poorly conceived and badly executed effort to repair Ramaphosa’s tarnished image. The South Africans were especially humiliated when the plane carrying Ramaphosa, his advisers, journalists and 15 containers of weapons, was stopped at Warsaw Airport because it did not have the correct paperwork. The plane had to return to South Africa and start all over again.


Meanwhile, the Ukrainians are planning their own diplomatic offensive to back up their military counter-offensive.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 1 Comment

Tom Arms’ World Review


War Is Hell and as Zelensky’s troops enter the second week of their counter offensive it is clear that Ukraine is the seventh circle. The Ukrainians are taking heavy losses for so far minimal gains as they hurl themselves against an elaborate Russian “defense in depth.”

President Zelensky has said that the counter offensive is going according to plan. General Mark Milley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, more phlegmatically reported: “It is a very difficult fight.”

The Ukrainians have had some success in the Donetsk region where they appear to have regained about 40 square miles of territory. They are also advancing on Bakhmut. But the Russians appear to have the edge in the vital Zaporizhia region where the Ukrainians have lost a number of tanks, including recently supplied German Leopards and American tanks. Having said that, Putin has admitted to losing 54 tanks in the past ten days.

To a large degree the counter-offensive appears to be a big step up from a probing exercise but not yet a full-scale frontal assault. The Ukrainians are still looking for weak points in the 600-mile long Russian defensive line and neither side has committed its reserves.

Among the major developments in Russia this week have been the Russia Day celebrations on Monday and a new enlistment law. The first marks the day that Russia seceded from the old Soviet Union and was used by Putin to deliver a rally around the flag speech while warning of tough times ahead. The second allowed the recruitment of convicts into the regular army. This will enable the government to reduce unpopular conscription levels but will also exacerbate the conflict between the Wagner Group and the army, as prisons are also the main recruiting ground for the mercenary group.


Teflon Trump can’t win. His arraignment on federal charges this week may have failed to dent his popularity among hard-right Republican voters, but the wider voting public is thoroughly unimpressed. The numbers don’t stack up for a third Trump attempt at the White House.

Registered Republicans are 38.8 million of the voting population. At a guess I would say that roughly 3.8 million of them are either so sick of Trump that they will either abstain or vote against him.

Democrats are 49 million of the voting population. I reckon that they will all vote for the Democratic candidate – even if he is an octogenarian – to insure that Trump stays out of the White House.

That leaves the Independents who are 41 percent or 65.68 million of the registered voting population. The latest opinion polls show that they are split 40/60 with the 60 percent adamantly opposed to Trump returning to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

That means that if all the registered voters cast their ballots tomorrow for one of the two main candidates that Trump (assuming he is the Republican candidate) would receive about 44 million votes and the Democratic candidate (whomever that may be) would receive 78.8 million.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review


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

Tom Arms’ World Review


The ultimate Pyrrhic victory is the best way to describe the Russian capture of Bakhmut. The town has minimal strategic victory. It has cost 20,000-plus Russian lives and 50,000 casualties. Tens of thousands of artillery shells, missiles and drones have been expended. The siege has tied up Russian forces for months and left Putin’s army of a pile of rubble.

While the Russians have been throwing themselves against the Bakhmut brick wall, the Ukrainians have been taking delivery of hundreds of state-of-the-art tanks, training on F-16s, building up their drone arsenal and gathering forces for their counter offensive.

Exactly where that counter offensive will be aimed remains a top secret. A hint might be in this week’s cross-border raid on a military base in the Russian provide on Beogorod which is more or less right in the middle of Russian-Ukrainian border

The Ukrainians are not supposed to attack targets on Russian soil. This would seriously worry their Western backers who do not want to widen or escalate the conflict. So Volodomyr Zelensky’s government have denied any involvement in the attack.

In this denial they are helped by two Ukrainian paramilitary groups – Freedom of Russia and the Russian Volunteer Corps—who have both claimed credit for the operation. Both these groups say they have filled their ranks with Russians living in Eastern Ukraine and defectors from the Russian army. The declared aim of both is the overthrow of Vladimir Putin as well as an independent Ukraine.

In the shadowy world of paramilitaries it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially as both groups are based in the Russian-occupied Donbas Region. But Freedom of Russia is believed to be the largest of the two group with 1,000 armed men. They are also believed to surreptitiously receive training and weapons from the Ukrainian military, but operate independently.

The Russian Volunteer Corps has virtually no links with the government in Kyiv. This is because they and their leader Denis Nitikin are far-right White Supremacists who want to overthrow Zelensky as well as Putin because the Ukrainian leader is Jewish. They are Russian ultra-nationalists who want Moscow to concentrate on protecting ethnic Russians inside Russia’s existing borders.

Russia and China

The Sino-Soviet love fest continued this week with a meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries.

At the end of the two days of talks Moscow’s Mikhail Mishustin declared that due to “sensational pressure” from the West, Sino-Russian cooperation had reached an “unprecedented high.”

During his talks with Chinese counterpart Li Qiang, The Russian prime minister signed a series of agreements to bolster trade in services, agriculture and sporting links.  But conspicuous by its absence was a Chinese commitment to provide Russia with military support for its invasion of Ukraine.

Chinese President Xi Jinping believes that China is locked in an irreversible ideological battle with the West and that Russia is an essential partner if it has any chance of success. He and Vladimir Putin are as one as regards the strategic goal. But they differ on tactics.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review


Pakistan is a nuclear power with an estimated 165 nuclear warheads and bombers and missiles to deliver them. This is important to remember as the country slides into political, economic and social chaos. Also remember that Pashtos are the second largest ethnic group in Pakistan (18 percent) and the largest (42 percent) in neighbouring Islamic fundamentalist Afghanistan.

Mustn’t forget either that Pakistan’s Pashto community are supporters of the Taliban and that Al Qaeeda and ISIS are re-establishing bases in that benighted and dangerously unstable Afghanistan. Then there is also the fact there have been 434 terrorist attacks in Pakistan this year, the majority by Islamic fundamentalists with links to groups based in on the western side of the Hindu Kush.

Another concern is that China holds 30 percent of Pakistan’s $100 billion debt. The country’s foreign reserves have virtually disappeared to pay for oil imports. General inflation is running at 34 percent and food prices are soaring at an estimated 50 percent.

Finally, Pakistan’s army and intelligence community pull the country’s political strings. Politicians cannot stay in office without their support. Which is big part of Imran Khan’s problems.

He had the military’s support when he became prime minister in 2018 at the head of a coalition. But the former international cricket star was the wrong person to head a coalition. Khan is used to giving orders rather than compromising, and was soon publicly attacking his coalition partners. But the final straw came when he began toying with the idea of curbing the power of the military.

Last April, Khan lost a parliamentary vote of no confidence. He rejected it and has refused to resign. In response the succeeding government has charged him with more than 100 offenses ranging from fraud to blasphemy. It should be said that this is standard political practice in Pakistan. The successor prime minister to Khan – Shehbaz Shaif – was released on bail for corruption charges to enable him to lead the government.

The 232 million Pakistanis have meanwhile split between pro and anti-Imran Khan Factions with the military leading the anti-faction. Riots and demonstrations have become a daily feature of life in Pakistan.


The much anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive remains much anticipated. The promised 230 Western tanks have arrived as well as 1,500 armoured vehicles. An estimated 60,000 Ukrainian troops appear to be ready to attack. The assault could literally be launched any day.

The most likely battle site is in the south around Kherson. A strike there could sever the land bridge between the Russian forces in Crimea and the Donbas Region.  The problem with that plan is that the Russians have constructed one of the most elaborate defensive systems ever seen. The Ukrainians could end up hurling themselves against a 160 mile long Russian brick wall off trenches, mines, anti-tank traps and razor wire.

They could suffer the same fate that has befallen the Russian Wagner Group in their months’ long attempt to capture Bakhmut. Russians casualties in Bakhmut are estimated by Western intelligence to be as high 60,000 with 20,000 of them being fatal. The town has been reduced to an unrecognisable pile of rubble.

Wagner head Yevgeny Prigorzhin blames the failure of his prison-recruited force on the official military’s refusal to provide his convicts with enough ammunition. He has even released an expletive-laden diatribe attacking Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the head of the armed forces, Valery Gerasimov.

Prigorzhin is probably right. The Russians are reported to be low on ammunition and the official military establishment wants to husband its resources for the coming Ukrainian counter offensive. But the row between the Wagner Group exposes a deep division and absence of a clear command structure within the Russian military establishment. This can only benefit the Ukrainians when they finally launch their much anticipated assault.

Northern Ireland

There was really nothing new in the substance of Biden’s remarks this week about Northern Ireland. What was new and unfortunate was the language he used.

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

Eurovision: Lib Dems call for a Ukraine cultural reconstruction fund to mark Grand Final

The Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to create a ‘lasting legacy’ for this week’s Eurovision by setting up a Ukrainian cultural reconstruction fund with the UK’s European allies.

Eurovision 2023 is being hosted by the UK on behalf of Ukraine – after Ukraine was victorious in the 2022 edition of the contest, amidst the initial months of Russia’s invasion.

The BBC has emphasised that this Saturday’s Grand Final will have “glorious Ukraine at its heart.”

To commemorate the occasion, the Liberal Democrats have urged the Government to commemorate the occasion by establishing a Ukrainian cultural reconstruction fund, …

Posted in News and Press releases | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review


The advisers to King Charles III have scored an own goal on the eve of his coronation.

The crowning of a new monarch is the obvious opportunity for the British public – and the Commonwealth – to re-examine their monarchical v republican sympathies. And the resultant opinion polls make grim reading for King Charles III and his “heirs and successors.”

A YouGov poll for the BBC this week showed that a majority of the British public – 58 percent – supported the monarchy. However, among 18-24 year olds the figure was only 32 percent.

King Charles is also head of the Commonwealth and head of state in 15 Commonwealth countries. A straw poll of the 15 indicates that almost all of them are likely to become republics during the coming reign. As for the head of the Commonwealth, that is an elected position and Charles had to campaign hard to succeed his mother in the role.

In the midst of this monarchical uncertainty, Buckingham Palace (or possibly the Archbishop of Canterbury) has dramatically changed a key part of the coronation ceremony and in doing so alienated millions. The king’s subjects watching the ceremony on television are being asked to stand and swear “that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty and to your heirs and successors, according to law, so help me God.”

I have no problem with this because I separate the person from the institution. To my mind the monarch is the physical repository of British history, tradition, culture and law. Swearing allegiance to him (or her) is a bit like Americans swearing allegiance to the Star Spangled Banner.

But most people fail to see this distinction, and the wording of the oath does not help.  They don’t go beyond the person, whose faults include committing adultery against the glamorous and much loved Diana. They may support the monarchy but not necessarily the monarch and resent being asked to do so.


France appears to have a self-image problem. It also has a problem with economic realities, political crises and their relationship with their president.

This week the annual May Day parade descended into riots which in turn led to accusations of heavy-handed police tactics. Another general strike (which probably means more riots) has been scheduled for 6 June.

The immediate cause of the general discontent is President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to a decree that raised the pension age from 62 to 64. The rise made was backed by sound economic reasoning and undermined by poor political logic and tactics.

The row over the pension age was the straw that broke the back of the French body politic. Voters have been disturbed for some time by Macron’s tendency to do what he thinks best with scant regard for the views of his fellow Frenchmen.

This week the French president has been on a countrywide tour to try to explain his pension policies. It is too little too late. Almost everywhere he has gone his speeches have been drowned out by the angry banging of pots and pans.

On top of that, a recent survey exposed an underlying French discontent with their lot in life.  The poll revealed that 67 percent believe that France ranks with the United States in social and economic inequality. The United States is 71st out of 169 countries with 169 being the least equal. France is 6th, just below the Scandinavians.

Discontent has political consequences. It feeds populist politicians who promise simple solutions to complex problems.  A poll last month by the Elabe Group for BFM TV revealed that if a presidential election was held then it would be won by Marine Le Pen, leader of the Far Right National Rally. She would, according to the survey, garner 55 percent of the vote compared to 45 percent for Macron.

Marine Le Pen has already announced that she will stand again for the presidency in 2027. Macron is constitutionally barred from standing for a third term. His greatest fear is that he will be known as the president who paved the way for Marine Le Pen entering the Elysee Palace.


Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 13 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review


It is a case of mixed messages coming out of Paris. On the one hand, we have President Emmanuel Macron telling homeward bound journalists that Taiwan should not be a European concern and that France (and Europe by extension) should not let its China policy be determined by American “extremists”.

On the other hand, while Macron was speaking after his state visit to China, the French frigate Prairial was steaming through the Taiwan Straits while the Chinese Communist Party was flexing its muscles with an encirclement exercise of the island.

France,  is unique as the only European nation with substantial holdings in the Indo-Pacific region. It has seven territories with 7000 troops protecting a total population of 1.65 million. Ninety percent of France’s exclusive economic zone is in the region.

China is a clear threat to French interests. That is why the French navy regularly conducts exercises with its American equivalent and military equipment sold to Taiwan in the 1990s is still maintained by French technicians.

But Macron wants a bigger slice of the growing Chinese pie. This is why 53 business executives accompanied the president on his state visit. He also does see France as a counter balance to America—allied with but independent of the super power, a foreign policy that France has pursued in varying degrees since the days of Charles deGaulle.

In short, the French are doing what they do best: Juggling a dozen diplomatic balls at the same time.


1.25 million Americans have top secret clearance. They include contractors as well as military personnel, civil servants and politicians. Therefore it is not surprising that one of them was a low-level 21-year-old right-wing, racist, gun enthusiast who decided to be Mr Big to his friends by posting secrets on an internet gaming site.

Jack Texeira, who worked in the intelligence wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, will have the rest of his life to regret his vanity.

So will millions in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world. Texeira’s leak disclosed CIA assessments of the Ukraine military on the eve of their counter offensive against Russian forces in the Donbas. It revealed which brigades are the best equipped and trained. It exposed both weaknesses and strengths which the Russians can now exploit.

Texeira also released a CIA assessment of the political machinations within the Kremlin. There were probably few surprises for Moscow, but knowing that the CIA knew something enables the FSB (Russian intelligence) to track the information back to its source and thus endangers American agents in Russia.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 18 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review

United States

US presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis this week said Ukraine is a territorial dispute. He also said that Ukraine is not one of America’s vital national interests. This puts him seriously at odds with President Joe Biden, America’s NATO allies and about 50 other countries who firmly believe that the war in Ukraine is a battle between democracy and autocracy, good and evil.

DeSantis was not always of this opinion. In 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimea, the Florida governor was in the forefront of those calling for Ukraine to be armed. The reason for the shift appears to be his political ambitions.

First hurdle in the race to the White House is securing the Republican Party nomination and at the moment  the opinion polls show him trailing his main opponent – Donald Trump, who is well known for his pro-Russian, anti-NATO and anti-Ukraine politics.

DeSantis clearly reckons that the only way to beat Trump is to out-Trump the former president. The problem he will face – once in 1600 Pennsylvania Ave – is moving from an anti to pro-Ukraine policy. De Santis’s rhetoric is a strategic gift to Vladimir Putin. He and his Kremlin coterie are banking heavily on a Republican victory in 2024. This means they only have to hold on for another 18 months or so before American disenchantment becomes official foreign policy.


The French, it is said, work to live. Americans, Brits, Japanese, Germans … live to work. This basic difference in outlook goes a long way to explaining why millions of Frenchmen and women are protesting and striking against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the start of the state pension from 62 to 64 years. It will deprive them of two years “living time” or, as the neighbouring Italians would say: “La Dolce Vita.”

The problem with this idyllic view of life is that it clashes with hard-nosed demographics. France’s population is growing older and less productive. The French Treasury can’t afford to arm Ukraine, switch to a green economy and pay for the pandemic as well as continue to pay for one of the world’s most generous pension schemes. Especially as the French population is clinging to life much longer than the insurance actuaries estimated when today’s retirees entered the workforce.

In fact, when estimating premiums and pay-outs, insurance companies calculate that their customers will live for five years after they start taking their pension. The current average life expectancy of a Frenchman is 82. The maths no longer work.

The demographic problems faced by France, are common throughout the developed world. Which is why governments are pushing up state retirement ages. But this has not stopped the French from arguing that their national motto of “Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité” makes them a special case.

As a result, for the last few weeks they have been out in their hundreds of thousands to protest against Macron’s plans. They were heard. More importantly, the Deputies to the National Assembly listened. This week Macron failed to garner the necessary Assembly votes to push through his pension plans. So he used Article 49:3 of the constitution which permits the government to enact legislation without parliamentary approval, but allows the opposition to table a quick vote of no confidence.

The reaction was immediate and brutal. Opposition Deputies banged their desks, waved flags and placards and sang the Marsellaise. They also tabled the aforementioned vote of no confidence in the government. Outside the National Assembly riots broke out across the country. More than 150 people were arrested by Friday morning.

If the no confidence vote is passed then the government of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne will fall and parliamentary elections will be held. Macron’s Renaissance party is already in a minority in the National Assembly. After an election with the pension age as the only issue, his representation will almost certainly fall further. This will make it more difficult for him to govern and be grist for the mill of his far-right opponent Jean-Marine LePen.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review


British Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s “Stop the Boats” policy is in danger of being torpedoed by the European Convention on Human Rights. But then Ms Braverman may have an answer to that problem: Withdraw from the convention and the jurisdiction of the administering European Court of Human Rights.

The Illegal Migration Bill – as it is officially called – is aimed at stopping the estimated 50,000-plus people who are expected to cross the English Channel in small boats this year. It is one of the five cornerstone goals of Rishi Sunak’s premiership.

A key element of the policy is that any small boat refugee crossing the channel to seek asylum in Britain will be detained for 28 days without access to the law. At the end of that period, if they are not granted asylum, they will be flown to Rwanda or transported back to their home country. There will be no right of appeal and anyone deported will be banned from future asylum applications.

Most legal eagles agree that the proposed law is a breach of the International Convention on Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights which binds the British government to protect people (including refugees) from being killed or subject to inhumane and degrading treatment. It also exposes the Home Secretary to the charge of unlawful imprisonment and the denial of basic legal rights.

In anticipation of these obstacles, Ms Braverman has said that the European Court of Human Rights is “at odds with British values” and the “will of the British people,” thus raising the spectre of British withdrawal. It was British lawyers in the early post-war years who were largely responsible for drafting the European Convention of Human Rights and establishing the court. For their template they used Magna Carta and the 1689 English Bill of Rights with the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, the US Bill of Rights and the UN Declaration of Human Rights thrown in for good measure. Ms Braverman would appear to be “at odds” with legal history.


Russian missile attacks on Ukraine reached new levels this week and raised the danger levels at Europe’s largest nuclear reactor at Zaporizhzhia.  The missiles temporarily knocked out the outside power source which was needed to cool the reactors.

Power was restored on Thursday, but this was the sixth time that outside power has been cut off and workers have been forced to switch to emergency diesel generators to protect the reactors. Rafael Grossi, the head of the UN’s International Atomic Entergy Agency, said: “Each time this happens we are rolling the dice. One day our luck will run out.”

He accused the international community of complacency over the fate of the Zaporizhzhia power plant and urged the Russians, Ukrainians and all other interested parties to “commit to protect the supply and safety of the plant.”

Not all, nuclear experts agree with Senor Grossi’s dire warning. Some say that the reactors have been shut down to such an extent that they require little or no power to stay safe. They all agree that the ones in greatest danger are the Russian soldiers guarding the site and the Ukrainians working there.

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

Observations of an expat: A Chinese peace

The Chinese Ukrainian peace kite is unlikely to remain aloft for long for several reasons:

  • Neither the Russians nor the Ukrainians are prepared – yet – to throw in the towel.
  • Vladimir Putin cannot afford failure.
  • Neither Ukraine nor its NATO backers can afford failure.
  • A Chinese brokered peace is unacceptable to the US because it increases Beijing’s position in the world at Washington’s expense.

However, both Volodomyr Zelensky and Vladimir Putin will meet President Xiping, foreign minister Wang Yi and any other Chinese emissaries. Zelensky needs to be seen to be willing to talk to keep Beijing from supplying Putin with weapons and Putin must do the same to secure the weapons.

In one sense, the Chinese are the ideal peace brokers. Putin is the aggressor. He is the one who must be persuaded to stand down. The Chinese are the only ones with sufficient leverage over the Russian leader. The Turks have tried and failed. So have the Israelis. The US and its allies have ruled themselves out by supplying weapons to Ukraine.

In the best diplomatic traditions, Beijing’s 12-point proposal manages to annoy both sides in the conflict while at the same time projecting lofty aspirations with the minimum of detail.

The proposal calls for respecting sovereignty. Russia has clearly breached Ukraine’s sovereignty. Abandon the Cold War mentality. This is a state of mind for which both Russia and NATO could be blamed. Protect civilians and POWs. Great, and remember Bucha, Kharkhiv, Mariupol and Kherson. Resolve the humanitarian crisis, which has created 6.8 million Ukrainian refugees. Promote post-war reconstruction which so far is estimated to cost Ukraine $1 trillion. Stop threatening to use nuclear weapons; a threat which only Putin has used. And end unilateral sanctions which means sanctions not approved by the UN and would undermine Western sanctions against China.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

Irredentism: the greatest geopolitical threat of our time

Today, many countries around the world are nation-states: sovereign political entities in which one “nation” (a particular ethnic, cultural, or linguistic group) comprises a large majority of a country’s population. In a way, it does make sense; after all, it is easier to communicate with people who speak the same language as you. But some issues do arise: what about people groups who fall outside of the “nation”? What if members of your “nation” live outside of your country’s borders? Despots of all creeds have answered these questions with the same response: genocide and irredentism.

Irredentism is defined in the Free Dictionary as “a national policy advocating the acquisition of some region in another country because of common linguistic, cultural, historical, ethnic, or racial ties.”  This is a fair description of Russia’s and China’s “national policy” towards Ukraine (especially Crimea and the other Russian-majority areas of the country) and Taiwan, respectively. Putin has been loudly proclaiming the Russian people’s historical rights and interests in that country whilst denying that the Ukrainians even exist as a distinct people. Meanwhile, the People’s Republic of China is building up its military to potentially invade the island of Taiwan, which the Beijing government regards as a breakaway province.

Both geopolitical crises have the potential to spiral into a new global conflict, and this threat has historical precedence. Irredentism is the intersection between ethnonationalism and war, as irredentist movements can spiral from a “political talking point” to an invasion.

National unification appeals to people who oppose an irredentist regime, hence irredentism’s political usefulness to dictators. In Russia, for example, Putin’s popularity increased following the annexation of Crimea. Irredentist regimes thrive in an environment of perceived persecution, whether the Germans in the Sudetenland or Russians in the eastern and southern Ukraine, so the irredentist can claim that the invasion of a neighbouring country can be justified as “helping your own”.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

Tom Arms’ World Review


China has marked the first anniversary of the Ukraine War with a pair of unsurprising foreign policy papers. The first one concentrates on the Ukraine War and proposes a well-trod and contradictory solution: Russia respects Ukrainian national sovereignty. Everyone respects Russia’s security aspirations and nobody imposes sanctions against anyone.

The second paper is more about calls for a new world order. Again, no real surprises. China is trying to re-write the international rule book by playing to the interests of the developing world in Africa, Asia and South America.

The second paper is important but China’s position on Ukraine is of more immediate interests and whether Beijing likes it or not, the two issues are clearly linked. The outcome of the Ukraine War will influence which way the global South jumps: If Ukraine wins then American influence grows. If Russia stomps Ukraine then it is a victory for Beijing as well as Moscow.

But back to China’s Ukraine paper which was preceded by foreign minister Wang Yi’s tour of Europe and participation in the Munich Security Conference. The goal of the trip was to drive a wedge between the US and its NATO allies. He failed.

Hanging over Wang’s trip was the claim by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that China is on the cusp of supplying weaponry to Vladimir Putin. Wang Yi denied this to EU foreign affairs commissioner Josep Borrell. But at the same time, Chinese diplomats, are letting it be known that the option is on the table. And if the US pushes them too far they will use it.


START has stopped. To be more precise it has been suspended by Vladimir Putin. This means that the last of the US-Russian strategic arms agreements has crumbled. These treaties were key building blocks in the diplomatic structure that ended the Cold War and continues to govern East-West relations.

So what is START? Well, for a start, it is an acronym for Strategic Arms Reduction Talks. Its full name is actually New START and it replaces START One which expired in 2009 as well as START Two and three which never got off the ground and the Treaty of Moscow (aka SORT).

What does (or did) START do? It cut by 10 percent the number of strategic missile launchers of Russia and the US and set up a system of on-site inspections to verify that both sides were sticking to the agreement. The total number of launch platforms, which includes submarines, missile siloes and heavy bombers is limited to 1,550 each. It does not reduce the number of nuclear warheads they can hold, just the delivery systems. But then warheads are pretty useless if a country does not have the means to deliver them.

The START talks are the successor negotiations to the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation) talks which started with the 1972 ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty and limited the increase in the size of the super powers’ nuclear arsenals. At the height of the Cold War the Soviet Union had an estimated 40,000 nuclear warheads and the US 30,000.

President George W. Bush started unravelling the strategic arms structure in 2001 when he withdrew from the ABM Treaty over Russian objections. START was a major foreign policy victory for the Obama Administration but in 2019 Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump withdrew from the INF Treaty which limited the deployment of Intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe.

New START was last treaty standing. It was due to expire in 2021, but was extended for another five years. However, the Russians have been in breach of the agreement since March 2020. That is the last time Americans were allowed to inspect Russian facilities. The initial excuse for refusing access was the pandemic. That was superseded by the Ukraine War, which, of course, is the reason for the current suspension and, as most diplomats know, there are few things more permanent than the temporary.

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

Observations of an expat: Happy Birthday

Fans of our foreign editor, Tom Arms, will be delighted to hear that he has started a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

Happy Birthday Ukraine, the Russian people, Europe, America and all the rest of the world.

The Ukraine War is one year old. An estimated 300,000 lives have been lost so far – and that is only the soldiers.

More than 5.2 million refugees have fled the fighting, mainly women and children who have left fathers, sons and husbands behind. Those who remain in Ukraine live in daily fear of Russian missile attacks. Many are without water, electricity or heating.

The ripple effects of the Ukraine War have encompassed the world. A trillion dollars’ worth of damage has been inflicted on Ukraine and the war has so far cost Europe and America an estimated $215 billion and this is only the beginning.

The Ukraine War has closed key gas and oil pipelines from Russia to Europe and forced Europeans to seek alternative supplies from America and Middle East. This in turn has pushed energy prices to crisis levels.

Inflation has been fuelled by energy problems and food shortages as Ukraine, Russia and Belarus are major suppliers of grain, sunflower oil and fertilisers.

The war has also produced tectonic diplomatic shifts. It has united Ukrainians and provided them with a clear national identity reinforced by a charismatic leader. Yes, Putin is right when he says Ukraine’s history is closely linked with that of Russia. But its future is not.

The war has also re-united Europe and NATO. For years America has complained about low levels of European defense spending, especially in Germany. Donald Trump even threatened to withdraw from the alliance. That has ended. Europeans are spending more and sending aid to Ukraine. The EU financial aid is actually $5 billion more than America’s $45 billion. But America’s total commitment of humanitarian, financial and military -dwarves the contributions of all the other countries combined.

Putin claims that his invasion is a reaction to NATO enlargement. If so, the war has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as Sweden and Finland have reversed their long-standing commitments to neutrality to apply for NATO membership and Ukraine is now a de facto member of the Western Alliance, but still outside the ultimate protection of Article Five.

Vladimir Putin’s repeated threats – veiled and unveiled – to use nuclear weapons has also revived the fear of a nuclear war. As has his announcement this week that he is suspending Russia’s in arms reduction talk, formally ending inspections of nuclear weapons sites and increasing Moscow’s nuclear arsenal.

On the ground, both sides are literally dug in with trenches crisscrossing in a general north-south gash across the Eastern part of Ukraine. Russia is believed to be on the verge of throwing another 200,000 conscripts against the Ukrainian frontline. The Ukrainian, for their part are hoping that poorly-led Russian troops will exhaust themselves against their defensive wall and fall to a Ukrainian counter offensive in the spring.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 5 Comments

The defence of Ukraine: the fight for liberal values

On 24th February 2022 an old friend sent me a Facebook direct message.  He apologized to me if he had ever spoken the threat of President Vladimir Putin’s Russia down.  This was after years of debating and getting to know each other on the University Model United Nations (MUN) Conference circuit.  I had won awards for representing Russia on the MUN Security Council passionately and accurately.  The invasion of Ukraine hadn’t begun.  It had begun 8 years before.

What followed on 24th February 2022 was not necessarily inevitable, but our country and the West need to face up to the truth that our actions and inactions made it more likely.  Simply put, our inadequate responses to Putin’s escalating behaviour over the years led us to this point.  For years we postponed the question of standing up to Putin.  In return he smelled our fear.  The tragic irony is that if we acted then the potential costs would be minimal compared to now.  By acting late there are no guaranteed safe ways out of this situation.  Thus are the costs of appeasing bullying on an international scale.

Putin’s Russia is conducting a war against liberal values and any semblance of a liberal rules based international order.  The United Nations Charter enshrines the right of all countries to determine their own foreign policy.  It also recognizes the right of countries to resist invasion from another sovereign state and for allied nations to provide all necessary aid to maintain that resistance.

What should our stance be as a party?  In my opinion a Liberal Foreign Policy should not be a pacifist foreign policy when Europe’s liberty is under threat.  Our party should be urging our government to convene with Europe to help create a continent wide action plan for every willing European nation to do their best to match, and hopefully exceed Russia’s arms production.  Ways to finance such efforts will need to be found.  Significant windfall taxes on large and thriving energy companies could help in this.  Ukraine should certainly not be begging for anything from us at this stage.

Posted in Op-eds | 17 Comments

One year ago today …

Embed from Getty Images

Liberal Democrats have been commenting on the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ed Davey said:

Today all of us will be thinking of the Ukrainian families split up by Putin’s invasion. We will be thinking of those who have lost a loved one and those who fight for Ukraine’s freedom.

Over the past year we have seen amazing acts of heroism in Ukraine as well as unflinching unity across Europe and our politics in the UK.

We will never forget the suffering of the Ukrainian people at the hands of Putin’s barbaric regime and we will stand in solidarity with Ukraine until they achieve victory.

Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

Almost one year ago today, our world shifted on its axis as Russian soldiers, tanks and instruments of war crossed the border and rolled into the sovereign territory of Ukraine. It spelled what so many of us had hoped we would never see again- war in Europe.

Putin’s invasion is an assault on diplomacy and democracy, on peace and freedom. In places like Bucha and Irpin, he has sanctioned unimaginable atrocities. He does not belong in the Kremlin; he belongs in the Hague.

As I reflect on the suffering that the Ukrainian people have endured, it has become terrifyingly clear that the liberal and democratic structures we take so much for granted can be so easily taken from us.

That is why we must defend the values that unite us and support our Ukrainian friends as they rebuild their lives so far away from home.

In Scotland, people have shown an overwhelming amount of collective generosity as they open up their homes to refugees fleeing the conflict. I am immeasurably proud of work taking place in my own constituency of Edinburgh Western, where Volunteer Edinburgh have done an incredible job at greeting displaced Ukrainians and coordinating donations, learning centres and other opportunities across the city.

Today, the world remembers everything that has been lost. But we also hope that one day soon, Ukraine will once again enjoy its blue skies of freedom.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | Leave a comment

War in Europe and the role of the UK

The Big Lie of the Russian position regarding the war in Ukraine is that they had no choice than to invade. They did have choices, and furthermore they should see the events of 2014 onwards in Ukraine as a Russian policy failure, rather pleading mere victimhood. The harsh reality is that all deaths in the war were and are avoidable.

This is Step One in the doctrine of ‘know your enemy’. But to go beyond Step One it is necessary to reject the Western Big Lie; that the war was unprovoked. The ‘retail’ position of the UK is that Russia invaded because Putin, and the Russian government, are irrational and mad. This is quite the opposite of ‘know your enemy’, and an attempt to mask the role of US neo-conservatives in Ukraine, especially since 2014. This is the same group of individuals behind the 2003 Iraq war, the extended war in Afghanistan, Western involvement in the Syria, Somalia and Libya conflicts, and other adventures. They all resulted in relatively negative net outcomes for the US, UK and Western Allies.

The UK position for the public domain is however understandable in times of war; to show resolve and maintain public support. The point made is that Russia must be removed from all de-jure Ukrainian territory, President Putin must step down, and all efforts covert and overt, kinetic and cyber must be made to bring this about. Weapon supplies must be stepped up to support the ‘regime change’ doctrine that Russia will eventually be comprehensively defeated. Few might fully realise that this is likely unachievable without nuclear war.

For UK parliamentarians and political parties, the future path of the war may require ‘heads above the parapet’, the absence of which resulted in the Afghan war dragging on for at least 15 years longer than necessary. At least the UK Liberal Democrats objected to the Iraq war project.

However, there are two reasons why the UK position on Ukraine is very difficult for UK parliamentarians.

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | 41 Comments

Kira Rudik: The fuel we are living on is hope

Editor’s Note: Updated with video on 12 February. 

Last night the Lib Dem European Group hosted an event with the leader of Ukraine’s Holos Party, Kira Rudik. Holos is one of five parties now in ALDE and was the first liberal party to gain seats in the Ukrainian Parliament.

LDEG have now put the video on their You Tube channel.

If you haven’t got time to watch it now, here are some of the highlights of Kira’s conversation with former Lib Dem President and vice President of ALDE, Sal Brinton. But do go back and watch it when you can.

Kira first appeared at Lib Dem Spring Conference last year, just 18 days after the invasion. She talked then about how she would never have expected to be learning how to fire a rifle and described her 2 hour daily Kalashnikov training as “a hell of a workout.” At that point she was wanting the international community to give Ukraine a chance against the Russian invaders.

Almost a year later, she talked about what life was like in Ukraine. Certainly they had held off the Russians and had even taken ground back off them, but they had lost 50 % of their energy infrastructure.

They can produce enough energy but can’t distribute it. They make sure that critical infrastructure like hospitals have what they need – the rest, she says, they figure it out as the go along. They  have electricity outages which have impact on water supplies and heating. In Ukraine’s freezing Winter, the  priority is heating, then running water then electricity. She said that when you wake up, you check if your phone is charged, if you have heat, it’s 50/50 if you have running water. You need water stored everywhere at home as you may not have it for 2-3 days at a time.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | Leave a comment

Lib Dems react to Zelensky speech

This was not the day MPs and peers expected when they got up this morning.

Interspersed with the usual Wednesday merry-go-round of PMQs and associated media came a surprise visit from Ukraine’s leader, Volodymyr Zelensky to address both Houses of Parliament in the historic Westminster Hall. His leadership and the determination of his people has impressed anyone who cares about democracy, human rights and freedom. He has made a robust case for international help and has constantly pushed western powers for more. He has had to support too many of his people through brutal atrocities and the destruction of their way of life.

The presence of a leader who has spent almost a year fighting off the Russian onslaught, against all the odds, certainly made at least the weekly clash between the Prime Minister and Keir Starmer a bit more civilised.

As MPs gathered in Westminster Hall to hear Zelensky’s address, that new grown up spirit wasn’t always in evidence, though. Never one to miss the opportunity for fun, Alistair Carmichael did bunny ears behind Munira as he took a selfie.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 15 Comments

Observations of an expat: Ukraine tanks conundrum

Supplying tanks to Ukraine is not as simple a matter as it may appear at first glance.

It is an issue that is interwoven with competing and overlapping problems of military strategy, political pitfalls, German guilt, Russian nationalism and expansionist ambitions, Ukrainian self-determination, nuclear blackmail, the long-term prospects for peace in Eastern Europe and the age-old battle of good versus evil.

The solution to send perhaps a total of 200 tanks from various NATO countries to Zelensky’s army is insufficient to satisfy the Ukrainians and more than enough to fuel the Russian propaganda machine.

Ukraine is flat tank country. Ukraine wants NATO tanks – especially the German Leopards – to launch a counter-offensive to regain territory.

NATO initially rushed to Ukraine’s aid with defensive equipment; primarily anti-tank and anti-missile weaponry to stop the massive Russian tank attack from Belarus and to blunt Russian artillery barrages.

It worked. In fact, better than expected. So much so that Volodomyr Zelensky appears determined to build on his success to drive the Russians out of all the territory which Ukraine has lost since 2014 (and Russia has annexed) including Crimea.

This would seem quite reasonable as international law is quite-rightly wedded to the principle of self-determination and in 1994 Russia guaranteed Ukraine’s pre-2014 borders and its territorial integrity in return for Ukraine relinquishing its nuclear weapons and signing the nuclear non- proliferation treaty.

But Eastern Ukraine is predominantly Russian-speaking. The majority of its inhabitants have traditionally looked east to Moscow. As for Crimea, it has been Russian since 1783 and one of Moscow’s most important naval centres.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 19 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Andrew Tampion
    "As Liberals we try to avoid banning things – but..." call me a libertarian if you must but I think that as liberals we should always think twice before banni...
  • Ewan Hoyle
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=uNAPwzB67Kc Video here too....
  • Ewan Hoyle
    The attached video shows how to restrict Labour’s gains while ensuring Conservative defeat, and also how to push PR up the agenda and deliver influence to the...
  • James Baillie
    I of course largely agree with Sandy's comment above. Re what Tristan said - I don't disagree with you that we need to shift Tory voters, as someone who grew...
  • Tom
    Yue He - I echo what others have said. It would be a crying shame if someone thought that they couldn’t be involved in our party or our parliament because of ...