Tag Archives: vladimir putin

Tom Arms’ World Review

The jury is out on the value of French President Emmanuel Macron’s numerous and lengthy telephone/zoom/face to face talks Vladimir Putin.

Some diplomats claim that he is providing a valuable role in keeping open the lines of communication between NATO and the Kremlin. Others maintain that his talks have given Putin a totally undeserved credibility. Either way, the Vlad-Emmanuel chats do not appear to have had a great impact Macron’s re-election hopes as the French presidential campaign swings towards the final week before the first round on 10 April.

Macron has been the favourite for the past six months, but this week he dropped a percentage point from 28 to 27 percent of the expected first round vote and his chief rival Marine Le Pen climbed from 18 percent to 20. Pollsters, however, still give the incumbent the advantage in the 24 April second round, but it has narrowed to 52-53 percent of the vote.

Right-winger Ms Le Pen has clearly had some success in de-demonising her National Rally Party. She has been helped by the candidacy of the extreme right-winger Eric Zemmour who wants to deport 100,000 Muslims a year. Ms Le Pen has successfully shifted the focus of her campaign from the traditional issue of immigration to the cost of living crisis. This has put her in a position to pick up second round votes from the left of the French political spectrum with her economic policy and votes from the right with her slightly more acceptable anti-immigration policies.

However, Macron has also had some recent successes. In January, the French economy has its biggest every monthly jump as it bounced back from the pandemic and he has managed to reduce unemployment to 7.4 percent.

Reports emanating from Britain’s MI6 and GCHQ and America’s CIA and National Security Agency are in total agreement – Putin goofed. He completely miscalculated the resolve of the Ukrainian people and the Western Alliance and the ability of his own military forces. But according to the spy chiefs, it gets even worse. The Russian president has surrounded himself with advisers who are terrified of telling him the truth. The result is that his decision to invade was made on the basis of intelligence which fitted the prejudices and political beliefs of Putin rather than the facts.

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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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Moran: Stronger ties with Europe needed to counter Putin

Today, Conference agreed a roadmap to improve the UK’s trading relationship with Europe, benefitting British families and businesses, helping counter the threat posed by Putin’s Russia.

The approved motion calls for closer ties in education by through the Turing scheme and Erasmus Plus. The UK should seek cooperation agreements with EU agencies and work to reach a UK-EU agreement on asylum seekers. It should deep trade with Europe, including by negotiating greater access for UK food and animal products to the Single Market. Eventually, the UK should place its relationship with the EU on a more formal footing by seeking to join the Single Market.

Layla Moran said:

At this dark moment, our security depends on urgently forging a relationship that works with our closest neighbours. Countering the grave threat posed by Putin means we must stand tall with our European allies instead of needlessly antagonising them.

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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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The West must stop Putin in Ukraine for good

Many say Putin’s vision is to rebuild an empire for Russia, a policy he has been pursuing incrementally since his invasion of Georgia in 2008.

After all the suffering unleashed in Ukraine, it is imperative that Putin must be stopped in his tracks at the juncture, despite the danger this may entail.

If Putin is not dissuaded by the heavy economic cost he is suffering now, we must up the game, especially if Kyiv is subjected to a full-scale attack coupled with an attempt to decapitate the Zelensky leadership. What to do?

Firstly, increase substantially the risk for Putin. Biden was very wrong to declare from the start that NATO would not get involved in Ukraine and more recently that there would be no no-fly-zone. Putin feels he has a carte blanche from Biden to do what he wants. The rhetoric from the West must now change to: “all options are on the table” because of the Russian atrocities being committed.

Secondly, intensify cyber warfare covertly to disrupt all command and control as well as logistics to the Russian military forces.

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Observations of an expat: Putin’s Samson option

The Samson Option is a not widely known Armageddon-type Israeli nuclear strategy. The world is worried that Vladimir Putin will adopt it and adapt it to the current crisis.

The strategy is based on the dramatic suicide story of the Biblical strongman Samson.

Shorn of his locks, blinded and a prisoner of the Philistines, the once powerful Samson was brought in chains to the temple of his enemies. He appeared weak, but he retained enough of his strength to throw his chains around the temple pillars and pulled with all his might so that the walls and roof came crashing down, killing the Philistines – and Samson.

Translated into the 21st  century military terms, the Samson Option says that if the State of Israel is being overrun and about to cease to exist, the Israelis will use their nuclear arsenal of several hundred missiles and warheads to destroy the invading enemy – and themselves.

Israel’s Arab neighbours believe the threat and it has successfully deterred a serious attack ever since it became known that the Jewish state possessed nuclear weapons.

For Israel, the Samson Option is a last ditch deterrent defensive strategy. They do not intend to use nuclear weapons offensively.

Vladimir Putin’s adaptation is a different case. It has elements of defensiveness but it is linked to his military offensive in Ukraine (and possibly elsewhere in Eastern Europe). This strategy is made more dangerous by tough opposition in Ukraine and the world’s reaction to his invasion and by Putin’s terrifying statement: “if the world does not include Russia why should it exist.”

Additional anxiety is created by the fact that Putin, like so many dictators, has conflated his country’s national interests with his own survival. Furthermore, he sincerely believes in “Russia’s historic mission” to dominate Europe. Conversely, he is convinced that NATO and the EU are thwarting that “historic mission” and in doing so threatening the Russian state which must expand and dominate to survive.

The terrifying conundrum that the world faces is that Putin has placed himself and his country in a position where he must not fail. The West, however, must ensure that he does fail and, is seen to fail.

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Observations of an expat: Putin’s disastrous time machine

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has thrown the world back in time to a world order based on the dangerous dictum: might is right.

We have been pushed through the looking glass into a new world where laws and treaties are irrelevant and life and death decisions are made on the basis of blatant lies and where the morally bankrupt prevail.

Overshadowing this frightening reality is that Vladimir Putin has his finger on the button that controls the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

Facing this disaster scenario is an unprepared West. For years it has over-focused on the economic challenge of China while downplaying the more immediate threat of an increasingly bitter, autocratic, militaristic, nationalistic, messianic and possibly unhinged Vladimir Putin.

War with Russia was unthinkable. It defied common sense as the rest of the world understood it. Surely the threat of massive sanctions would force Russian business to control Putin. No, the Russian president sits at the apex of an unprincipled kleptocracy and has skilfully tied Russian business interests to his own extreme views.

Successive US administrations have not helped. George W. Bush unilaterally scrapped the ABM Treaty and turned a blind eye when Putin attacked Georgia. Obama over-pivoted towards Asia while his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed reset buttons with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

But worst of all was Donald Trump a self-confessed admirer of strongmen in general and Putin in particular. He pushed recognition of the Russian annexation of Crimea. As Russian tanks rolled across the Ukrainian border this week Trump and his ex-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Putin as a “genius.”

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The title of Mr Putin’s article is a misnomer

Ukraine matters to Russia, and Russia – or Putin if you will as both are currently inseparable – means it.

This is in substance the message carried by the deployment of about 100.000 soldiers along the Ukrainian border. To make his message clearer Mr. Putin not only deployed some of its best trained units or nuclear, biological, and chemical reconnaissance vehicles but also its latest and very dangerous Iskander ballistic missile launchers – as Janes reports.

The alleged ‘historico-philosophical’ basis for this deployment is to be found in the long article entitled ‘On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians’ signed by President Putin himself. It is freely available in English on the Kremlin’s website and, having read it from top to bottom, I found it fascinating at multiple levels.

For a start because Mr. Putin, to justify Russian-Ukrainian ties, goes back to the princes of the Rurik dynasty. The latters named after the legendary Rurik, chief of the Rus, who reigned in 862 and whose current titled heirs includes one of my very good friends who was until a few months ago the Ambassador of Switzerland to the Republic of Latvia, Republic of Estonia and Republic of Lithuania. I wonder what, now back to Switzerland, he would make of this paragraph of the article:

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World Review: 9/11, Trudeau, Putin and Patel

It is the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Two decades since 2,996 lives were lost in suicide attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. In New York the occasion will be marked by families of the dead reading statements about their loved ones. The event will be closed to the public. Elsewhere in the world, the anniversary will be marked with foreboding. The attack was carried out by Al Qaeeda and was planned and coordinated from its base in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Within weeks a US-led NATO force toppled the Taliban government. There has not been a Jihadist attack on US soil since. President Biden has now withdrawn US forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban is back in power.

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Observations of an expat: Is Ukraine another Cuba?

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The conventional wisdom is that nuclear Armageddon was avoided in October 1962 by a plucky iron-willed young American President. Not quite. A new book by award-wining Russian author Serhii Plokhy reveals that the Cuban Missile Crisis was created by poor communication at every level in both countries and that it was more a matter of luck rather than pluck that saved the world.

Miscommunication and misunderstanding remains a Russian-American problem and is now coming to the fore again over Ukraine.

But back to October 27, 1962. The US naval blockade of Cuba had been in force for five days. To persuade the Soviet submarines to return home President Kennedy ordered US ships to launch a continuous barrage of depth charges on any members of the Soviet underwater fleet that they found. The purpose was to harass rather than destroy.

But Valentin Savitsky, captain of nuclear-armed B-59 was not privy to American thinking. By the 27th of October his crew had endured two days of tension, diminishing air supplies and increasing heat. Savitsky gave the order to surface. He was immediately subjected to a barrage of tracer bullets fired by trigger happy US fighter pilots circling the area.

Convinced that war had started and he was under full-scale attack, the Soviet captain gave the order to dive and fire a nuclear torpedo.

Fortunately lady luck intervened. The captain of the US destroyer Cony realised the danger and flashed an apology from his signal light. It was spotted by the sub’s signals officer just as the B-59 slipped beneath the waves, and was only seen because his searchlight became stuck. The apology was immediately relayed to Savitsky who, at the last minute, countermanded his attack order.

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Donald Trump is the most dangerous threat to western democracy this century…but not for the reasons you may think

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Donald Trump is a dangerous President.

That’s not an especially controversial statement to make outside of his own social media support bubble. In fact, Donald Trump is so obviously ineffective, anti-intellectual and corrupt that the fact he managed to get elected to the highest office in the democratic world is something of an impressive achievement.

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Paddy Ashdown gets stuck into EU Referendum debate

There are few people who understand how the world works better than our Paddy. He really gets how global power structures are changing and how vital it is that countries with liberal values work together, so it’s no surprise that he really wants us to vote to stay in the EU for our own and for international good.

I’m not quite sure why he’s chosen a Sunday afternoon in the Easter holidays to wade into the fray afresh with a cheeky tweet, but you can’t really argue with him on this.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: We must embrace Putin to beat Islamic State

Paddy Ashdown has been writing in the Times about the need to get Russia onside in the fight against Islamic State.

Russia has so far been excluded from our coalition that is fighting Islamic State (Isis). Why? It has a dog in this fight, too — arguably a much bigger one than we have. Sunni jihadism is roaring away in the Russian Islamic republics of Dagestan and Chechnya, almost as much as in Iraq and Syria. We in Europe may be concerned about jihadis returning from the battlefield. But Russia is one of the battlefields.

Washington friends tell me that the reason for this reluctance to draw in Russia is the personal animus between presidents Putin and Obama. If so, get over it. A wider coalition that includes the Russians, actively or passively, could open the way to a UN security council resolution, provide the best means of limiting the spread of the crisis and vastly enhance our horsepower in resolving it.

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LibLink: Paddy Ashdown: Alex Salmond should apologise for his poor call over Vladimir Putin

paddy ashdown - paul walter“Lib Dem Statesman Paddy Ashdown”. That’s how the headline in Paddy’s Sunday Mail article describes him.

Paddy is writing in response to Alex Salmond’s comments on Vladimir Putin . As a reminder, this is what Salmond said:

Obviously, I don’t approve of a range of Russian actions, but I think Putin’s more effective than the press he gets, I would have thought, and you can see why he carries support in Russia.

“He’s restored a substantial part of Russian pride and that must be a good thing. There are aspects of Russian constitutionality and the intermesh with business and politics that are obviously difficult to admire. Russians are fantastic people, incidentally; they are lovely people.

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Menzies Campbell MP on Salmond’s “disturbing lack of judgement” over Putin

Alex Salmond - License Some rights reserved by Ewan McIntoshYou would think that politicians would have more sense than to express any sort of admiration for Vladimir Putin. Alex Salmond has followed in the footsteps of Nigel Farage. He told Alistair Campbell for GQ:

Obviously, I don’t approve of a range of Russian actions, but I think Putin’s more effective than the press he gets, I would have thought, and you can see why he carries support in Russia.

He’s restored a substantial part of Russian pride and that must be a

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Clegg slams Farage over “extreme” and “utterly grotesque” Putin comments

Nigel Farage MEPMost Liberals would have been choking into their Corn Flakes this morning upon reading that Vladimir Putin, who apparently has designs on Finland, is the object of Nigel Farage’s admiration.

I just think it is utterly grotesque that Nigel Farage apparently admires – and that was the question to him, ‘Who do you admire?’ – admires someone, Vladimir Putin, who has been the chief sponsor and protector of one of the most brutal dictators on the face of the planet, President Assad, who has blocked at every single

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LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott MEP: Cameron’s EU policy plays into Putin’s hands

Edward McMillan Scott, Vice President of the European Parliament with responsibility for human rights and democracy has been writing about how David Cameron’s European policy has enabled Russia’s President Putin to develop his strategy for a Eurasian Union based on illiberal and anti-democratic values.

He opens by outlining the problems faced by Angela Merkel with the rise of the eurosceptic right wing AFD:

Events in Ukraine may still overshadow Thursday’s trip to London by Angela Merkel, during which David Cameron will seek her support for EU reform.  She will not be pleased that Cameron has allowed his Eurosceptics to continue talks with

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LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott MEP: Tories are playing into Putin’s hands in high stakes game

Edward McMillan ScottYorkshire and the Humber MEP Edward McMillan-Scott has a longstanding interest in human rights. He’s travelled all over the world to make the case to governments who don’t respect their citizens’ freedoms. He’s understandably not wildly chuffed about the Winter Olympics taking place in Sochi and how this might fuel Putin’s ambitions. He explained why in the Yorkshire Post.

Putin has international ambitions for Russia: this is the new Great Game, the 19th century strategic rivalry and conflict between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Eurasia.

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