Tag Archives: ukraine

Tom Arms’ World Review

Sweden and Finland want to join NATO. Vladimir Putin has reversed himself and reluctantly said that membership of the Alliance by the two Nordic countries posed “no threat”.  A seamless Swedish-Finnish application seemed certain.

Wait, the diplomats forgot about the perennial thorn in NATO’s Southern flank- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. An application to join NATO requires the approval of all 30 members and President Erdogan has threatened a Turkish block. His reason? He is angry because Sweden and Norway give asylum to members of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) which he is trying to wipe out. Sweden and Finland also imposed sanctions against Turkey when Erdogan ordered his troops into Northern Syria in 2016 (they are still there).

At the top of the list of criteria for NATO membership, is, according to the US State Department, a commitment “to uphold democracy, including tolerance for diversity.” On that basis, Erdogan’s Turkey would fail membership requirements. Since the attempted 2016 coup, Erdogan has jailed nearly 80,000 judges, military officers, civil servants, police, teachers and journalists. 130 media organisations have been closed. Homosexuality is banned and Erdogan has announced plans to reinstate the death penalty. There is, of course, no question of booting Turkey out of the Alliance. It is the strategic bridge between Europe and Asia and at the moment prevents Russian ships from sailing through the Dardanelles to join the war in Ukraine. Realpolitik trumps human rights.

But should Erdogan be allowed to prevent solidly democratic countries from joining NATO? The British government have indicated a possible workaround if Erdogan refuses to change his mind. It has signed a separate “mutual assistance” treaty with Norway and Sweden. If other NATO countries followed suit then the Turkish veto would be irrelevant.

The shooting in a Buffalo supermarket which left ten African-Americans dead is not an isolated incident. According to a report by the respected Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) 67 percent of the domestic terror incidents recorded in 2020 were organised by far-right and white supremacist groups. Many of those who stormed Capitol Hill were White supremacists. FBI Director Christopher Wray described White Supremacy as a “significant and pervasive threat” to the US. President Biden called it a “poison running through the body politic.”

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See an Award Winning Movie and Help Ukraine

The Lloyd George Society and Rights-Liberties-Justice are sponsoring a showing of the film Mr Jones at the National Liberal Club on 20 June. The movie tells the story of Gareth Jones, a Welsh journalist and former employee of Lloyd George, who travelled secretly to the USSR to uncover the truth about the Holodomor, the great famine of 1933 under Stalin’s regime in the Ukraine. Jones witnesses appalling conditions, including starving people whose grain has been forcibly taken away for consumption elsewhere, villages whose entire populations have died or just vanished and ‘horrifically, he stumbles across examples of cannibalism. Yet despite his evidence, Jones finds it hard to get the matter taken seriously once back in Britain.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

The Irish question has bedevilled British, European and American politics since… well, forever. It played a role in the Council of Whitby in 664. In 1169 England’s Norman rulers invaded and started centuries of direct conflict.

All this was supposed to end with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Well two events this week have brought it back from a shallow grave: The emergence of Sinn Fein as the largest party on both sides of the border and British refusal to accept the Northern Ireland protocol. The two political incidents have also brought the possibility of a united Ireland a giant step closer. Sinn Fein is totally committed to a referendum in the north on a united Ireland. The long-term stranglehold of the Protestants on the politics of the six northern counties has been a major stumbling block. That has ended.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is also pushing the two halves together. It has tied Northern Ireland economically to the EU and the southern part of the island and weakened trading ties with Britain. The Protestants are, of course, opposed to the protocol. The conservative Boris Johnson government is trying to reverse it because of their traditional links to Protestant parties and commitment to a divided island.  But the Protestant establishment – in the form of the Democratic Unionist Party – is no longer in the majority. And the majority of Northern Irish voters see their future in Europe and that means linked with the Republic of Ireland. But they still have to contend with die-hard Protestants, who, if they cannot win at the ballot box, could easily turn to the terrorist tactics of their IRA counterparts.

Britain was the driving force behind the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in 1949. It pushed for the alliance to quickly admit former Warsaw Pact members in the 1990s and has taken the lead in arming Ukraine. This week British PM Boris Johnson was in Sweden and Finland to sign “mutual assistance” treaties with Sweden and Finland. The three countries are now pledged to come to each other’s aid in the event of a crisis. The treaties are a symbolic first step towards full-fledged Swedish and Finnish membership of NATO which is expected to be finalised at next month’s heads of government summit.

Vladimir Putin is furious and has promised retaliation. NATO expansion, Putin has repeatedly asserted, is one of the main reasons for his invasion of Ukraine.  But for Sweden and Finland, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is THE reason for their decision to end 200 years of neutrality for the Swedes and 67 years for the Finns.

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Ukraine won Eurovision. Now we have to win a war.

Eurovision is an acquired taste. Many people regard it as a pleasure. War is an enforced taste. Very few people regard it as a pleasure.

The win last night at the world’s most popular, and often cheesiest, song contest is a mood boost for Ukraine. The jury had put the UK entry, Space Man by Sam Ryder at the head of the pack. In an ordinary year, Sam Ryder would have given the UK the winner that has eluded it since Katrina and the Waves.

This is not an ordinary year. Last night’s event opened with a Rockin’ 1000 rendition of the anthem “Give Peace a Chance”.

The public vote, especially in Europe and Australia, was in favour of Stefania, performed by Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra. Without the war, this performance might have won in its own right. However, this was a night where politics blended with music. As the crowd roared its approval, Oleh Psiuk pleaded: “Please help Ukraine, help Mariupol, help Azovstal right now.” Ukraine duly won Eurovision for a second time.

President Zelensky said on hearing the result: “Our courage impresses the world. Our music conquers Europe! Next year Ukraine will host Eurovision!”

That’s ambitious but the world needs to do everything it can to ensure that ambition is fulfilled. That means winning a war first.

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World Review: Strange bedfellows in France, Ukraine, Roe v. Wade and Belarus

French politics have been thrown into confusion with an unprecedented “Stop Macron” alliance of the left for next month’s parliamentary elections. The  concordat has been forged by France’s elder statesman of the Left, Jean-luc Melenchon who just missed being included in last month’s presidential run-offs. He has persuaded the Communists, Greens and Socialists to join his France Insoumise (LFI, France Unbowed), to stop Macron’s pro-business, pro-EU legislative agenda. But Melenchon’s pre-election coalition does not spell a foregone victorious conclusion for the French Left. The latest opinion polls show a three-way split between the left-wing alliance, Macron’s La Republique en Marche and the right of centre conservatives and Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally.

The Socialists and Melenchon make strange bedfellows with opposing views on the EU and NATO membership. They do, however, agree on the bread and butter issues of lowering the retirement age, raising the minimum age and capping prices on essential products. On the other end of the political spectrum, it is uncertain whether the Republicans will support Macron or Le Pen in the new National Assembly. The political map is further complicated by France’s two-round electoral assembly which appears to give Macron’s party a slight advantage in the run-off vote on 19 June. The only thing that is clear at the moment is that the National Assembly elections are making life complicated for the newly re-elected President Emmanuel Macron and the results may make his second term very difficult.

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Observations of an Expat: Crossing the Ukrainian Rubicon

America this week crossed its Ukrainian Rubicon.

It took a while. And with good reason. US foreign policy was badly burned by operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East. It could not afford another expensive failure.

That’s not to say that the Biden Administration failed to support Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion. It froze the oligarchs’ assets, imposed sanctions, dispatched 100,000 US troops to Europe and provided $14 billion in military and humanitarian aid.

But at the same time, President Biden, was ultra-careful not to prod the Russian bear into a World War Three. There were to be no NATO boots on Ukrainian soil and a close watch was kept on any weapons provided to the Ukrainian military.

NATO forces will still keep out of Ukraine, but the flow and type of weapons is being substantially upgraded. On Thursday the president announced that he wants Congressional approval for a further $33 billion for Ukraine. $20 billion in the form of military aid; $8.5 billion in economic aid and $3 billion in humanitarian aid. A pro-Ukraine Congress will almost certainly approve the package.

The president also wants to liquidate the $1 billion-plus in oligarchs’ frozen assets to help offset the cost of the Ukraine war. This may not be much in comparison to the global total, but if Europe follows suit they will add an estimated $30 billion to the pot.

Biden’s announcement followed a trip to Kyiv by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, which in turn was followed by a meeting at America’s Ramstein Air Base in Germany of more than 40 countries who pledged to support Ukraine. The usually soft-spoken low profile Lloyd Austin was loud in his condemnation of Vladimir Putin and his support for Volodomyr Zelensky.

“We will not allow Putin to win,” said Austin, and it was clear from his comments and those of Antony Blinken that in supporting Ukraine the US believed it was backing good against evil and was on the right side of history. “Russia,” said the American Defence Secretary, “is waging a war of choice to indulge the ambitions of one man. Ukraine is fighting a war of necessity to defend its democracy, its sovereignty and its citizens.”

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Making Putin Pay

This week, G7 finance ministers said that they – together with the international community – will be helping Ukraine to the tune of more than US$ 24 billion this year and beyond. And the door is open for more.

However, this is just a drop in the ocean of blood and destruction in Ukraine. Already three weeks into Russia’s invasion, President Zelenskyy had estimated that Ukraine had suffered half a trillion US dollars’ worth of damage to housing and infrastructure, let alone the ongoing cruel cost of human suffering and death.

Western countries are reported to have frozen at least half of the Russian Central Bank’s estimated US$ 600 billion of foreign currency reserves which are in their possession. Rather than help its own people have better lives, Russia is said to have been gradually putting aside such a colossal sum since Crimea’s 2014 annexation to have a handy “fortress Russia” war chest. They are now experiencing serious difficulties, as much of that prop is no longer available to them.

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Tom Arms’ World Review

The Russians have changed generals as well as shifting the focus of their attack from the north to the east and south. The new man is Lt. General Alexander Dvornikov, aka “the butcher”, a title he earned for his merciless bombardments in the Second Chechen War and Syria. In the first he levelled Grozny and the second left Aleppo a smouldering ruin whose streets were littered with the bodies of civilians. General Dvornikov is wanted for alleged war crimes in Syria and has been blacklisted by the EU.  Vladimir Putin has awarded him with the Hero of Russia medal.

Dvornikov’s appointment also signals a change in strategy. Previously, daily operations were directed from military headquarters in Moscow. Dvornikov, who has been in Eastern Ukraine for the past two years, is expected to have much more control. His experience is with mechanised artillery units and the terrain of Eastern Ukraine is more suited to his tactics. The north and west of the country is heavily-forested. The south and east is the breadbasket of Europe with wide open plains resembling the American Midwest. His problem is that the Ukrainian military have prepared for his attack with trenches and anti-tank traps. He should also bear in mind that being a general in the Russian army is a dangerous job. The Ukrainians have killed eight so far.

Meanwhile, back on the home front, Vladimir Putin is resorting to the tactics of the man whom he has repeatedly said he admires – Joseph Stalin. The Soviet dictator used a combination of fear, the media, the police and repression to ensure adherence to his policies. Putin is doing the same. The enemy, according to Putin and Russian television, is no longer Neo-Nazis in Kyiv. It is the West “attempting to destroy Mother Russia.” Ukrainians are no longer fellow Slavs awaiting liberation, they are “traitors who deserve only to be ground into the dust.”

Also guilty of treason, is anyone who disseminates “fake news” about the “special military operation” in Ukraine (“fake news” is defined as anything other than news that originates in the Kremlin). So far 15,000 people have been arrested for refusing to toe the Putin line. They face up to 15 years in prison.  To further keep the lid on the dissidents, authorities are encouraging family, neighbours and friends to inform on each other – another Stalinist tactic.

For the moment the strategy is working. Vladimir Putin appears to have the overwhelming support of the Russian public. This may change with a worsening of the economic situation. When Western sanctions were initially imposed the rouble nose-dived and overnight the savings of millions of Russians were wiped out. Since then the central bank has intervened, buying roubles from its reserves. This has blunted the effect of the sanctions and stabilised the currency, but the head of the central bank, Elvira Nabiullina, has warned that this policy is unsustainable beyond the short term. But no matter, President Putin, has decided he wants a result by the 9th of May, the anniversary of the end of World War Two, which means that eastern Ukraine can expect a rough next few weeks.

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Moran: Backsliding democracies from the USA to Ukraine

At the end of last year, the United States of America was added to the International IDEA’s annual list of “backsliding” democracies for the first time, pointing to a “visible deterioration” it said began in 2019.

Remarkably, the number of backsliding democracies has doubled in the past decade with more than a quarter of people alive today now living in one of these democracies. What’s more, in addition to “established democracies” such as the US, this list of backsliding democracies includes EU member states Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.

And it gets worse.

According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance the number of people living in fragile democracies rises to more than two in three with the addition of authoritarian or “hybrid” regimes.

To put it more succinctly, democracy is in retreat.

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Tom Arms’ World Review: “Butchers of Bucha”

Here’s a good one: In the wake of the Bucha massacres, a Russia Today commentator opined this week that the dead Ukrainians littering the street were killed by British intelligence because Bucha sounds like butcher in English. This made it easier, he continued, for British newspapers to write headlines such as the “Butchers of Bucha.”

How SIS and/or British troops managed to sneak undetected into Bucha, blow up homes, tanks and roads and kill the inhabitants is left unexplained. But that is of no consequence.  The problem is that too many Russians believe him. In fact, what passes for a reasonably independent opinion poll in Russia this week showed that 80 percent of the population accept the Kremlin version of events. A big part of this support is because the Russian people are denied access to news reports produced from outside Russia.

But this is only part of the story. Putin knows that domestic support is essential for success in Ukraine and he has been laying down the foundational lies since 2007—perhaps even before. These included: Ukraine is governed by Nazis. NATO is threatening to overrun Russia. Russian culture is under threat from the West. Russia is being denied its rightful place as a great power. With this firm propaganda bedrock in place – and total state control of the media – it becomes easier for the Russian public to swallow the inevitable mountain of lies that follow.

It is unsurprising that Russian soldiers are being accused of violent war crimes. Violence begets violence and Russia, according to their own statistics, is a violent society. Russian police have reported that one in four Russian households have suffered domestic violence at some point. The figures are considered a major embarrassment, so much so that the Duma recently voted to massage the statistics by decriminalising several categories of domestic violence in an attempt to improve the national image.

The roots of the problem are directly linked to chronic national alcoholism.  Twenty-five percent of Russian men die before the age of 55 alcohol-related diseases. On average, each Russian downs 1,500 shots of vodka a year. Various governments over the years have tried to curb Russians’ love affair with the bottle. The latest attempt was in 2010 when President Dmitri Medvedev introduced a minimum charge of $3 a bottle of vodka and banned drinking and driving. The legislation, however, appears to have little effect on drinking habits and recently the Kremlin gave into public pressure and amended the drink driving law to allow “one for the road.”

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Observations of an expat: Amazing Ukraine

It is incredible what the Ukrainian army has achieved. If NATO answers the Ukrainian foreign minister’s call for “weapons, weapons and weapons” then Vladimir Putin is almost certain to suffer the most humiliating of humiliating defeats.

A few facts and figures: Ukraine’s defence budget is $5.4 billion. Russia’s is $61.7 billion. Russia has five times as many active military personnel as Ukraine; six times as many tanks and artillery, four times as many armoured vehicles; 13 times as many aircraft and more than ten times as many ships.

The line-up in Ukraine resembles the Biblical David and Goliath tale and with the same result.

The reason is that wars are not always decided on the simple issue of numbers and types of guns. There are any number of other unquantifiable factors that are thrown into the messy mix and can determine the outcome of battle.

For a start there is the undeniable question of justice. Right v. wrong. Good v. Evil. There is no doubt that in the opinion of the overwhelming proportion of the world’s population that Ukraine stands on right side of the equation and Russia on the wrong.

That has been underscored by this week’s vote in New York to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Commission by a shattering majority of 93 votes to 24 with 58 abstentions. To remove a permanent member of the Security Council from an important UN body is a major international political statement which must reinforce the resolve of every Ukrainian fighter preparing to repel the anticipated Russian offensive in the East.

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5 April 2022 – today’s press releases

  • Sunak to cash in £40 billion VAT windfall as families face cost of living crisis
  • Brand Putin’s armies and mercenaries as terrorists in response to atrocities

Sunak to cash in £40 billion VAT windfall as families face cost of living crisis

  • Rishi Sunak set to rake in an extra £38.6 billion in VAT over next four years due to soaring prices
  • Typical family to pay £430 more in VAT next year, on top of National Insurance rise coming into force today
  • Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey launches local election campaign with call to slash VAT and save struggling families £600

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to rake in an extra £38.6 billion in VAT over the next four years, as skyrocketing inflation leads to higher prices in the shops, official forecasts have revealed.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats shows this means a typical family will pay an estimated £430 more in VAT next year, compared to what they paid in 2021-22. The figures are taken from the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility.

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Observations of an expat: more global moves

The Ukraine War continues to create tectonic shifts on the global diplomatic scene.  This week it has helped Beijing stake its claim to Afghanistan and Central Asia as a Chinese sphere of influence.

Also in Asia, New Delhi has become the centre of diplomatic ferment as East and West bid for support from the South Asian giant.

At the same time, the EU has ditched its “talk about trade only” policy with China to join the US in pressuring Xi Jinping to come out against the war.

In the meantime, Putin has turned the energy screws on Europe by demanding that they pay for his gas in roubles in order to support the sanctions-damaged currency.

The move has been welcomed by Beijing who think that the Western alliance will collapse in the face of the energy crisis. The EU and US however, remain united in demanding that China must not help Russia circumvent sanctions, climb off its rickety fence, act like a responsible global power with a stake in the world order, and pressure Putin to stop the killing in Ukraine.

But let’s start first in Afghanistan and central Asia where China has organised a multilateral initiative to stake its claim to replace the US as the major foreign power in Central Asia following the American retreat.

The diplomatic manoeuvrings started last week with a visit to Kabul by Chinese delegation led by Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The acting Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi described his guests as “the most important high-level delegation received by Afghanistan.”

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Farron: Nationality and Borders Bill worst legislation I’ve seen in 17 years

In a passionate speech in the House of Commons yesterday, Tim Farron condemned the Nationality and Borders Bill saying it is based on a bogus premise, that we are swamped by asylum seekers. He slammed the “utterly bogus, completely contrived and arbitrary notion” that asylum seekers should be treated if they got here by illegal routes.

Farron asked why are we not granting asylum seekers the right to work? He said if MPs vote for this Bill, “they are voting for deaths in the channel”. People come here not because of the pull factor, but because of the push factor and …

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Ukraine: Johnson is not Churchill, he is Basil Fawlty

Those that had the strength of will to listen to Boris Johnson’s speech to the Conservative Party spring conference yesterday were left gasping and outraged. One of the least statesmanlike prime ministers in British history had the gall to compare the decisions facing the people of Ukraine with those people in Britain made over Brexit:

“I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time. I can give you a couple of famous recent examples. When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners. It’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.”

Lib Dem MPs and many others were quick to attack Johnson for his crassness and insensitivity.

 

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Observations of an expat: crunch meeting

Next Thursday and probably Friday and possibly the weekend – will be one of the most important dates in world history. NATO and EU leaders meeting in Brussels will decide – or not to decide – what to do in Ukraine.

Ukraine will then decide whether to continue fighting and how. Ditto Vladimir Putin.

Australia, Japan and South Korea’s foreign and defence policies will be dramatically affected. China may come off its rickety fence. India and the OPEC countries will have to make big decisions under heavy pressure from both sides of the warring coin.

International markets – stock markets, commodity markets, oil and gas markets—will either plunge or soar at the news from Brussels.

The world will wait to hear whether we have moved a giant step closer to nuclear Armageddon or inched away from it.

The variations are endless and each has known and unknown consequences. With the threat of nuclear war hanging over every decision, the room for error is nil.

If Vladimir Putin did not possess the world’s largest nuclear arsenal then the answer would be relatively easy: Attack and drive the Russians out. But he does, and he has threatened to use them. The question then arises: Is Putin Bluffing?

More to the point, can the Western Alliance afford to risk the possibility that he is not bluffing?

If he is not bluffing then there is an accepted three-stage nuclear escalation with a pause after the first two to give either side an opportunity to back off: battlefield nuclear weapons which would probably be confined to Ukraine; Intermediate-range nuclear weapons which would be confined to European targets and, then of course, strategic systems which would involve hitting the US.

Putin, however, refuses to play by the rules. He may go straight for American targets, which is why Joe Biden will block anything that could lead to a nuclear exchange.

So the option of committing NATO troops to Ukraine is off the table because Putin has threatened to respond with the nuclear option. That is, it is off the table for now.

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Davey to Truss: Emergency airlifts for refugees on Polish border needed

Ed Davey has called for an emergency airlift for Ukrainian refugees on the Polish border who want to reach the UK. In a letter today to the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary, Ed Davey has suggested the UK Government must now provide free flights to the UK, with coaches to the nearest Polish airports from key border crossing points and welcoming reception centres for the refugees on arrival at the UK.

The call comes following the Liberal Democrat Leader’s visit to the Polish border this week to meet with Ukrainian refugees and the charities supporting them. In contrast to the swift action of the British public to offer shelter and countless volunteers from the UK to help with the humanitarian crisis, Ed Davey was appalled by the absence of any UK Government personnel to provide swift and safe passage to those fleeing to the UK.

Boris Johnson’s reckless dismissal of security warnings about one wealthy Russian contrasts with his heartlessly inadequate response to countless Ukrainian women and children fleeing Putin’s bombs. This shames him and his Government.

Emergency airlifts are now the best guarantee for these refugees to get to the UK safely and swiftly, to the kindness and compassion of the British public waiting for them.

It was shocking to see so many other nations united and already helping refugees at a humanitarian aid centre near the Ukrainian-Polish border, whilst the UK Government had no-one.

The queues of refugees are exhausted and traumatised. Surely these families have been through enough. It’s urgent that people are now airlifted to safety and help so they can start rebuilding their lives.

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Ed Davey: Visiting Poland’s border with Ukraine

Yesterday Ed arrived in Poland at the Ukrainian border and saw first-hand how Polish people were welcoming their exhausted neighbours.

He shared some photos and stories with colleagues back in Kingston. Here are some of them.


Border crossing – the exhausted people are met with a short walk to the queue for the onward bus, and either side are multiple tents and “stalls” with hot food, drinks, nappies and toiletries, sim cards for the Polish telecom networks and initial information


12 year old Artsiom with his mum – just had a very long journey from Kharkiv which they said was in ruins. It is his dream to come to London.

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How to help Ukraine, Part 3 – harness the children

I am proud to report that the Scout Group of which I am the Akela – First Wandsworth – raised £1,500 for the International Red Cross in just two hours.

A group of 8 to10-year-olds baked cookies, biscuits and cakes. Decorated them with the blue and yellow colours of Ukraine. Set up a table on Wandsworth Common. Raised the Ukrainian flag and produced homemade collecting tins and mobile phones for credit card payments.

They were mobbed. They were also enthused and motivated to do more. And they will.

The young people of this country are one of its most under-utilised charity resources. They may not have the cash but they have the energy and the smiling cherubic faces that pull the heart-strings of the Scroogest of Scrooges.

Our children want to help. They do not want to be talked down to or patronise. They want to do more than play computer games. They want to understand and be part of the world. Point them in the right direction. They will take off like willing rockets and grow to better persons because of it.

Of course, use discretion. They very young should continue be encouraged to continue to be protected from the real world by parents, grandparents and teachers. But when they start to read and listen to the news and talk among themselves they demand to be told more. And when there is a war they want to do more. Let them.

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15 March 2022 – today’s press release

New sanctions list: Shutting the door after the private jet has bolted

Responding to the government’s new expanded sanctions list of Russian individuals, coming almost three weeks since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Layla Moran MP said:

This is shutting the door after the private jet has bolted. The Government has finally got their act together – but we should have been in this position weeks ago. This delay has given Putin’s cronies a priceless window to firesale their assets.

Now we need to go further. There are still too many associates of Putin getting away with it

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14 March 2022 – today’s press releases

  • Ministers losing track on Ukrainian refugee visa u-turns
  • Homes for Ukraine: Refugees still trapped in bureaucratic limbo
  • Economic Crime Bill: Lib Dems close ‘Oligarch Loophole’

Ministers losing track on Ukrainian refugee visa u-turns

Responding to Sajid Javid’s confusion this morning over a family reunion route for Ukrainian refugees, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

The Government has u-turned so many times over visas for Ukrainian refugees, it seems even its own Cabinet Ministers have lost track.

Three weeks on, it is unacceptable that the Home Office is still turning away desperate families fleeing Putin’s war, and snaring them in red tape at the border. It is shameful that even Ukrainians working in our NHS cannot bring family members to join them.

The Government must make one more u-turn, and allow any Ukrainian refugee to come to the UK without having to apply for a visa first.

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Ed Davey’s speech to Conference: Lib Dems can defeat this awful Government

A powerful selection on Ukraine, a call for Priti Patel to be sacked, a celebration of Chesham and Amersham and North Shropshire, a tribute to Lib Dem by-election stalwart Erlend Watson, a decent gag about Dick Turpin, an evisceration of the Tories over sleaze and partygate (including a call for a public enquiry into Boris Johnson’s relationship with Lebvedev) and an attack on Tory MPs for keeping Boris Johnson in power, setting out what the Lib Dems offer for health and education and a look forward to the local government elections in May…all this and more delivered by Ed Davey to Lib Dem members gathered in York.

 

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Lib Dems adopt most ambitious policy in UK to help Ukrainian refugees

Ongoing bureaucratic barriers to refugees fleeing Ukraine and the appalling UK Government attitude to them, the bravery of young political activists in Ukraine who are having to defend their country against invasion, the courage of young activists in Russia who are protesting Putin’s actions, the need to end our dependence on others for energy supply, the importance of standing up for the right of sovereign nations to be part of Europe, the chilling prospect of how we respond to escalating brutality from Putin’s army. These were just some of the points mentioned in an emotional and powerful debate on the situation in Ukraine this morning.

This afternoon at 5:40 pm, we’ll be hearing from Kira Rudyk, the leader of our Ukrainian sister party Holos from Kyiv. If you want to hear her, it’s not too late to register here.

The policy we passed today was the most ambitious to help Ukrainian refugees of any major UK political party.

We call on the government to enable refugees from Ukraine to come to the UK without having to apply for a visa, to work with allies to create accessible routes to safety for all refugees displaced from Ukraine, to provide economic, military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and to reverse the international development budget cut.

The party’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran said even the government’s latest sponsor scheme would still force Ukrainian refugees to “jump through bureaucratic hoops” to come to the UK.

Ukrainians have been let down by the UK government in their hour of need. Priti Patel is presiding over a chaotic shambles – and the result is that Ukrainians who we should be supporting are being turned away simply because they don’t have the right paperwork.

Even the government’s latest scheme will still leave refugees having to jump through bureaucratic hoops before coming to the UK.

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Tom Arms’ World Review – 13 March 2022

Back in the halcyon days of the Cold War both sides accepted a nuclear strategy called Mutual Assured Destruction which was gifted with the appropriate acronym of MAD. It had a simple basis: Both sides (the West and the Soviet Union) possessed enough nuclear weapons to wipe out the other (and the rest of the world). Therefore it was in neither’s interest to use their nuclear weapons. As mad as MAD sounds, it worked. No nuclear weapons by either the US or Soviet Union, or Britain or France were used throughout the Cold War. There were some almost incidents, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, but Armageddon was always averted as a MAD sanity prevailed. However, the problem with MAD is that it is built on the premise that the leadership in Washington and Moscow is led by rational people. Now the people in the West are seriously concerned because of doubts about Putin’s sanity. Three years ago there was concern about the mental stability of Donald Trump who famously said: “I can’t understand. If we have nuclear weapons, why don’t we use them? It appears that there is a growing need for a failsafe chain of command among the nuclear powers to avoid the problems of hubris-driven mental instability leading to a disastrous button-pressing incident.

Russia, according to the White House, has prepared chemical weapons for use in Ukraine. Moscow claims that Ukraine has done the same. Ridiculous say both Washington and Kyiv. If the latter are to be believed then Putin is preparing a false flag operation whereby Russians claim they have been attacked by Ukrainian chemical weapons and respond with chemical guns blazing. But what chemical weapons? The Soviets at one time had the world’s largest biological and chemical weapons store. In fact, an estimated 65,000 were employed in the deadly business. Then along claim the 1973 Biological Weapons Convention and the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention which banned these instruments of mass destruction. At the time, Russia had nearly 40,000 tons of chemical weapons. In 2017 the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported that Moscow had destroyed its “declared” weapons stock. Then came the 2018 Novichok attack in Salisbury on former GRU agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter followed by a similar murderous attempt in 2020 on Russian dissident Alexei Navalny. In 2021, the CIA reported that Russia was back in the chemical weapons business, or, it had never really left it. This week’s White House announcement about the spectre of Russian chemical weapons leaves an important unanswered question: Is Russian use of chemical weapons a red line for NATO? If not, why mention it?

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Observations of an expat – Ukraine: where are we going?

Putin has to go. But when and how? What will be the result of his Ukrainian failure in Russia and the rest of the world? How much damage will be inflicted on Ukraine and almost every other country before he is thrown out of the Kremlin?

Working on the assumption that the West will win (any other scenario is unthinkable), what will be the short, medium and long-term repercussions for the world?

The immediate consequence is Hell for Ukraine, pariah status and economic disaster for Russia and economic pain for everyone else.

Vladimir Putin expected Ukraine to fall into his lap like an over-ripe Slavic apple. It didn’t happen. They are fighting back with a fierce patriotism which has shocked the Russian president and won global admiration.

Most of the world has rallied around with the toughest sanctions since World War Two and tons of military hardware – but no troops and no planes for a no fly zone. Ukraine is not a member of NATO and the alliance is terrified of Ukraine escalating into World War III if NATO and Russian troops directly face each other.

So Ukraine is fighting on behalf of a Western Alliance of which it is not officially a member.  It is fighting a war which is the clearest cut case of good against evil since 1939. It is a war which has been 70 years in the waiting.

In the short term Volodomyr Zelensky’s brave army will probably lose militarily. The Russian army is too big. As I write this blog the tank column that has been inching its way towards Kyiv is fanning out through the surrounding forests for a major bombardment of the Ukrainian capital and Russian planes are increasing their attacks.

But a conventional Russian military victory would be a political disaster for Putin. His invasion has created a sense of Ukrainian nationalism which would lead to an insurgency war which would more than equal Moscow’s ten-year Afghan calamity, which in turn led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The economic war would continue and Russia would be forced to retreat behind an unsustainable Soviet-style Iron Curtain.

There are reports that Putin has seen the writing on the wall. He has allegedly fired eight generals and turned on his trusted FSB to accuse them of providing him with faulty intelligence which led to  his invasion order. The FSB is said to have responded by accusing their leader of creating a climate of fear so that reports were doctored to justify his political wish list rather than presenting evidential facts.

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Amendments for Conference and Ukraine

The Federal Conference Committee met on Saturday, 5 March to review amendments, emergency motions, and questions to reports submitted for next week’s Spring Conference.

Spring Conference 2022 will again be held online via the Hopin platform, and we would like to thank the Conference Team and the wider team at HQ for making it happen.

As mentioned via email and in an earlier post on Lib Dem Voice and the Federal Conference Facebook Page the FCC has agreed to allow a later deadline on emergency motions on the topic of Ukraine, following the Russian invasion and the evolving situation. You can still submit an emergency motion on Ukraine here.

We are also delighted to announce that there will be a fringe session held on Sunday, 13 March from 17:40 to 18:45 with Kira Rudyk, Leader of the Holos Party in Ukraine (a sister party of the Lib Dems), who will be joined by Layla Moran MP, answering questions from members on her experience and the current situation in Ukraine. I do encourage you to attend this exciting fringe event.

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Mark Pack’s March report

It was a shocking and sobering sight just a few days ago to wake up and see a photo of Kira Rudyk, the leader of a sister liberal party of ours in Ukraine holding a gun and preparing to fight.

It was also a reminder of the importance of our liberal values – and the need for internationalism to support fellow humans, rather than to try to hide away within our own borders as if the rest of the world doesn’t exist. Viruses, climate change and dictators don’t stop at borders, and nor should our compassion for other people.

The wave of sanctions, both mandatory from governments and voluntary as others too have ceased trade, cancelled events and ended Russian participation, is a reminder of just how much integration there was – economically, socially and culturally – between Russia and the rest of the world.

A frequent hope of liberals is that such extensive links can bring people together and reduce the risk of conflict. What the invasion of Ukraine has shown, however, is that such hope is not enough. We also need strong multinational institutions with the necessary powers to enforce their decisions when required.

Getting that right will help avoid future Ukraines, but we also have to work with where we are in the present. Which is why we’re pressing the government so hard to take effective action against the Russian oligarchs who have secreted so much wealth in London and spent so heavily on British politics, British legal services and British financial services.

Events in Ukraine will come up in multiple ways at our online federal spring conference 11-13 March. You can still register for the event here (and it only costs £5 if you have not come to conference before).

In the light of both the tragedy in Ukraine and the controversies over the Chinese use of money to influence British politics, we’ve been reviewing our rules for checking the international aspects of potential donations to confirm that they have the right safeguards in them.

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Ed Davey calls for an honorary knighthood for President Zelenskyy

Embed from Getty Images

Volodymyr Zelenskyy was given the unprecedented opportunity to address a packed Commons yesterday by video link. You can see his speech here if you missed it.

His speech echoed Churchill’s oratory:

We will fight at sea, we will fight in the air, we will protect our land. We will fight everywhere… and we will not surrender.

He received a standing ovation, which again is very rare in Westminster.

That appearance fully justifies Ed Davey’s call to award him an honorary knighthood. Ed said:

At this dark moment, we must be offering President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people not just our support but our recognition too.

For decades, many heroes of liberal democracy from across the globe have been rewarded with an honorary knighthood here in the UK. President Zelenskyy should follow in the footsteps of individuals like Nelson Mandela, and be awarded this honour.

I hope the UK Government will get behind the Liberal Democrats’ call to give President Zelenskyy an honorary knighthood. It is the very least we can do, as we step up our offer of support to the people who elected him.

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Ukrainians deserve better than being stuck in Home Office visa appointment queue

Responding to Home Office figures which show that just 300 visas have been issued to Ukrainian refugees under the Family Scheme, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

Ukrainians fleeing for their lives deserve far better than being stuck in a queue for a Home Office visa appointment.

People across the UK want to welcome Ukrainian refugees with compassion, but instead Priti Patel is keeping them out with pointless extra bureaucracy. No amount of spin can disguise the inadequacy of her response.

Our country has a proud tradition of offering sanctuary to those in need. The Government should remember

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Refugees: Shameful that Ukrainians escaping Putin’s terror are being turned away

Responding to the news that Home Secretary Priti Patel is now investigating a humanitarian route for Ukrainian refugees without family in the UK, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said:

It is shameful that Ukrainians escaping Putin’s terror are being turned away from the UK. It flies in the face of our country’s proud history of providing sanctuary to people fleeing war and persecution.

Priti Patel has spent her time as Home Secretary closing down safe routes for refugees to come to the UK. For her to say she’s just started ‘investigating’ those routes for Ukrainians is a welcome

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