Tom Arms’ World Review

So we know that abortion is now, or is about to be, illegal in about half of the American states. But what about the rest of the world? And what affect is the Supreme Court decision having elsewhere?

In Brazil at the moment abortions are allowed in cases of rape and incest. Populist right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro has used the overturning of Roe v Wade to call for a total ban. At the same time, other countries have condemned the ruling. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it a “major step backwards.” Almost simultaneous with the Supreme Court decision, Germany scrapped a Nazi-era law that bans doctors from offering information about abortion procedures. Spain took steps to remove parental consent for 16-17 year olds. French legislators proposed a bill to make abortion a constitutional right and the Dutch voted to abolish a mandatory five-day wait for women seeking an abortion. Within the EU only Malta has a total ban on abortion. Poland is the next strictest country on abortion laws. It allows pregnancy terminations in cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is threatened. Generally, abortion has become accepted as a woman’s right in all but 37 out of 195 countries in the world.

The Ukraine War is sucking ammo dumps dry. The Russians are the worst hit. A tough Ukrainian defense has forced them to resort to blanket artillery barrages. They started with high precision missiles and by mid-May had fired off an estimated 2,200 of them. They are not cheap. Each cruise missile costs $1.9 million. They also take time to build and involve semi-conductors and transistors which are unavailable in Russia. Moscow’s now depleted precision munitions means that it is using more low precision artillery shells – about 20,000 a day – which increases the collateral damage. Tanks are another problem. The Ukrainians have been particularly adept at knocking out Russia’s tanks. So far the kill rate has topped a thousand. Each tank costs about $4 million and takes a minimum of three months to build.

But the other side – Ukraine and its Western backers – is also having problems. Kyiv didn’t have much to start with and most of it was out of date Soviet-era Russian-produced weaponry. It now has to rely on NATO defense equipment which they do not know how to use. So they have to be trained which takes time. Britain has taken a key role in training Ukrainian troops. But NATO is also running short of weapons to send Ukraine, especially the Europeans who have been particularly generous. Poland for instance, has given a quarter of its tanks to the Ukrainian army. Britain has donated about a third of its highly-effective Starstreak anti-tank missile systems and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is pleading the special case argument to increase defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP.

Germany, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have seriously depleted their weapons stocks. One of the reasons that the NATO summit agreed to a near ten-fold increase in troop and weapons levels in the Baltic region is because the defense cupboards in that region are heading towards bare. US ammo dumps are also taking a hit. Ukrainians have made good use of American-made Javelin missiles. Seven thousand of them – roughly a third of the total US stock of Javelins – has been sent to Ukraine. The American armaments industry produces an estimated 1,500 Javelin missiles a year. But the US has other similar systems and the industrial capacity to expand production. In a war of attrition, the West is much better placed then Russia. The next question is: Does it have the political will?

It was summit week. First the G7 and then NATO. The main topics were – surprise, surprise – Ukraine, Russia and China. Contrary to what the Russian press agency Novosti reported, both summits demonstrated that the Western Alliance is sticking together. In fact, at the G7 in Germany, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron ended six years of a private war to declare that Ukraine had brought them together for Europe’s latest bromance. The G7 had other highlights. One was challenging China’s Belt Road Initiative with a Biden sponsored $600 billion alternative to be called the Partnership for Global Infrastructure. The US will supply $200 billion; the EU $300 billion and the rest will come from Canada, the UK and Japan.

The NATO summit in Spain was meant to set alliance strategy for the next ten years and it did just that. Russia was declared the immediate threat and 260,000 more troops were promised for the defense of Europe. Additional aid was pledged to Ukraine. Sweden and Finland joined the alliance and Turkey dropped its opposition to their membership in return for American f-16 jets and a Scandinavian promise to extradite Kurdish rebels to Turkey. But the biggest change was the Alliance declaring that China was a threat to democracies – albeit not as immediate as Russia. NATO was founded in 1949 to counter the danger of the Soviet Union and its activities were restricted by treaty to Europe and the North Atlantic. The war in Afghanistan was an aberration brought about by the Taliban’s refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden after 9/11. Madrid affirmed a global reach policy and underscored this dramatic change by inviting the leaders of South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand to attend the summit as “observers.” The Chinese, however, are not happy. “NATO is extending its tentacles to Asia-Pacific,” said Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, “in an attempt to export the Cold War mentality.”

The Congressional Inquiry into the 6 January Capitol Hill riots has established that Donald Trump is almost certainly guilty of inciting the attack. Also that he sought to overturn legal electoral processes. He or his staff may even have colluded with the rioters. The problem for Attorney General Merrick Garland is that almost is not good enough in the eyes of the law. Any federal prosecutors will have to prove the guilt of Donald Trump beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt, especially as he is a former president and likely candidate for the 2024 elections with a significant amount of national support. Not even this week’s explosive testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson was enough to tip the scales of justice. It will have hurt Trump politically, but most of what Ms Hutchinson said was hearsay and thus inadmissible in a court of law.

BUT, at the end of the Hutchinson testimony, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney dropped a legal bombshell that may yet put the elusive Trump in an orange onesie. The ex-president’s nemesis reported that two anonymous witnesses have come forward to say they were approached by Trump staff to say that the former president expected them to “do the right thing” in their testimony before the committee and to investigators. This is quite clearly witness tampering. It is highly illegal. Any Trump staffer who issued such a statement faces prison time. And if the order to make such a statement can be traced back to Donald Trump then he too is likely to spend time behind bars.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and the author of “The Encyclopedia of the Cold War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain” that has sold out in the US after six weeks but is still available in the UK.

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20 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 3rd Jul '22 - 11:07am

    I’m not sure that Trump asking someone “to do the right thing” is proof that he wanted them to do something illegal. If the testimony was stronger – say, that he asked them explicitly to do something that was clearly morally wrong or illegal, then there may be weight in that testimony. But if the strongest evidence of his wrongly doing is that he asked people to do the right thing….really?

  • Britain has donated about a third of its highly-effective Starstreak anti-tank missile systems…

    STARStreak is a surface to air missile typically used as a man-portable air-defence system (MANPADS).

    STARStreak:
    https://www.thalesgroup.com/en/markets/defence-and-security/air-forces/advance-air-defence/starstreak

  • >The Ukraine War is sucking ammo dumps dry.

    Britain has donated about a third of its highly-effective Starstreak anti-tank missile systems and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is pleading the special case argument to increase defence spending to 2.5 percent of GDP.

    The question has to be: in what timescale will the UK have restored its conventional weapons stores back to pre-Ukraine “special military operation” levels.

    I suggest the faster we restore our depleted arms stores the more options we keep on the table. The risk with Russia’s depleted weapons store, is that it could be more tempted to utilise its nuclear store…

  • Martin Gray 3rd Jul '22 - 12:26pm

    Sanctions have never brought a conflict to an end … Ultimately it will be a negotiated settlement .
    Its difficult to see beyond a situation where Ukraine has to cede territory .
    The alternative is a bitter protracted conflict with a neighbour the size of Russia .
    To remove Russian forces to pre 2014 borders looks like an impossibility, given the Ukrainian army is losing 100-200 soldiers a day …

  • Steve Trevethan 3rd Jul '22 - 12:51pm

    Did the Taliban refuse to hand over Bin Laden?
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/oct/14/afghanistan.terrorism

    While those in power in the USA make it one of a group of misogynist nations, might we distance ourselves from such a nation?

  • Joseph Bourke 3rd Jul '22 - 1:40pm

    According to the American political science professor, John Mearsheimer there are 3 principle causes of the Russo-Ukrainian war. The first is the spread of liberal democracy to Ukraine that the Putin administration considers a Western inspired plot to undermine the influence of Russia in former Soviet states and a direct threat to autocratic rule by the United Russia party. The second is Ukraine’s stated wish to become a member of the European Union tying its future economic development to European markets rather than Russia. The third is the potential Nato membership of Ukraine which although not likely in the foreseeable future has been supported as a longer term ambition by at least the USA.
    Mearsheimer makes the argument that it does not matter what the West thinks it is rather what Russia thinks is a threat to its interests that we must respond to. That argument, taken to its logical conclusion, would mean that European countries have to accede to any Russian demands (no matter how unreasonable) to preserve the peace.
    What seems to be missing from all this analysis is the issue of resources – specifically Ukraine’s natural gas reserves in the Carpathian Mountains, Black sea and large fields stretching through the Donbas. Control of these fields preserves Russia’s current dominance of European energy markets. Both Exxon mobil and Shell were due to begin exploiting these fields prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They have now withdrawn.
    It is going to be a long war and as always natural resources are at the heart of it.

  • Joseph Bourke 3rd Jul '22 - 2:01pm

    The Economist leader discusses the question of a long war in Ukraine this week How to win Ukraine’s long war
    “The more Mr Putin believes he has succeeded in Ukraine, the more belligerent he will become. He set out his ambitions in a speech this month, smirking as he talked about how Peter the Great seized parts of Sweden. He will fight tomorrow with whatever weapons work for him today. That means resorting to war crimes and nuclear threats, starving the world and freezing Europe.

    The best way to prevent the next war is to defeat him in this one. Leaders need to explain to their people that they are not only defending an abstract principle in Ukraine, but also their most fundamental interest: their own security. The eu needs to shore up its energy markets so that they do not fracture next winter. Ukraine must have more weapons. The risk of escalation today is real, but if a bad peace is forced on Ukraine Mr Putin’s nuclear threats will not stop. They will only become more dangerous, especially if Russia’s conventional forces are at a disadvantage.

    In the long war ordinary Russians will suffer and Ukrainians endure unspeakable pain for Mr Putin’s vanity. To prevail means marshalling resources and shoring up Ukraine as a viable, sovereign, Western-leaning country—an outcome that its defiant people crave. Ukraine and its backers have the men, money and materiel to overcome Mr Putin. Do they all have the will?”

  • Jeff 3rd Jul ’22 – 11:36am….STARStreak is a surface to air missile typically used as a man-portable air-defence system (MANPADS)…..

    The early versions were only surface to air; later versions are also surface to surface

  • Steve Trevethan 3rd Jul '22 - 3:08pm

    Might part of the Ukraine problem be that the the Russian government is of the opinion that the American elite is working to dominate/maintain dominance of our World?
    Might the government of China be of the same opinion?
    Should any nation dominate our World?

  • @Steve Trevethan – Might also be, our perception of Russia also be part of the problem?
    I ask as I have real problems understanding why the UK/US are so paranoid about Russia/USSR.

    But yes, I agree, we do have a big problem with the US psyche and its seeming inability to cope with it no longer being the world’s pre-eminent economic power…

  • Joseph Bourke 4th Jul '22 - 1:24pm

    The desire of the US to maintain its influence around the world may be a source of contention. It is not however a justification for the waging of a war of aggression by Russia in Ukraine.
    This tendency to confuse explanation and justification has cropped up again in contemporary debates over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Only Russia and its rampaging army are to blame for its murderous actions in Ukraine.
    Western countries are perfectly entitled to purue their political, diplomatic and commercial interests with Ukraine and other independent sovereign countries around the world including supporting opposition efforts to curtail corruption and promote democracy and human rights. Autocracies like Russia that insist on imposing a police state on their populations may not like such influences close to their borders, but it does not give them the right to flout internationally recognised norms or any justification for murdering their neighbours in their homes.
    Ed Davey in March said “If we are to stop Putin, we must remember the simple truth demonstrated so clearly these past few weeks. We are stronger when we act together,”
    “We must fight now for that safer, more Liberal world. To reverse this Government’s cuts to our armed forces and work with our allies, so Putin understands that free nations will stand united against him”.
    Yulia Tymoshenko agrees saying “Peace only comes when we ‘finish’ Vladimir Putin by military might”.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Jul '22 - 2:03pm

    Very good appraisal from Tom/

    Highly eloquent from Joe. The difference between explaining and understanding, and supporting and agreeing, is something too few in politics relate to.

    We can indeed see why Russia, like Germany after the First World War, might feel certain things. It in no way makes their stance any less delusional / paranoid.

    The far left, just like the far right, meet. The horizontal axis of political views is not accurate. Its a circle. on the bottom do start in the middle, with centre ground liberalism, move a little left, to social democracy, the further with socialism, do the same to the right with Christan democracy then conservatism, at the top, communism and fascism either side of nazism!

  • Dr Peter Hirst 4th Jul '22 - 4:49pm

    Abortion though a right is a last resort one. Far better to use contraception properly and avoid the need for it. If you believe in souls, they arrive at the time of conception and deserve respect as do those of animals and even trees.

  • Dr Peter Hirst 5th Jul '22 - 11:08am

    As I see it Martin a soul is a part of every living thing, a property of them. It’s a bit like gravity only becoming apparent when there is something to acquire it. We wouldn’t know gravity existed if there was no matter to experience it.

  • Joseph Bourke 5th Jul '22 - 1:59pm

    Plato suggests the soul is divided into three parts, which he calls appetite, reason, and spirit. Continuing on the Russian theme, Dostoevsky describes the Russian soul as “unspoken, unconscious, and can only be strongly felt”.
    To have a Russian soul was to be exceptional and to possess precisely that which set Russia apart from the allegedly “rationalist, materialist, work-oriented, and time-conscious world” of industrial nineteenth-century Europe. Today, the ‘Russian Soul’ is contrasted with Amercan exceptionalism or European liberalism.
    G K Chesterton wrote of American exceptionalism that The United States was the only nation “with the soul of a church. America was established on the basis of a creed, and the founding document of that creed was the Declaration of Independence. By subscribing to its tenets, anyone can be—or become—an American. Chief among those tenets is equality, but not equality in the modern sense of that term. In all likelihood Thomas Jefferson was not a traditional Christian, but he did believe in “Nature’s God” in whose eyes all men were created equal.
    Where the Abortion issue fits with this line of thought it is hard to say. The Christian church believes a soul is created at the point of conception. In modern society, the argument is that a foetus becomes a conscious human life when it can survive outside the womb.

  • Jenny Barnes 5th Jul '22 - 4:14pm

    Do viruses have souls? How would you tell?

  • Kazakhstan appears to be coming under pressure from Russia with the closure of the Trans-Caspian oil pipeline Tokayev orders to develop oil export routes bypassing Russia

  • @Martin – “Oscar and Richard Hertwig described zygote formation in the 1880s, with no reference to souls. “

    Given what was happening at the time, why would there be a reference to souls in a scientific work? To have done so, without observable evidence, would have risked the work being called out for not being scientific.

    However, we know from our observations that at some point the embryo acquires the ghost in the machine and becomes human. Likewise anyone who has been around someone dying will know the ghost has left the machine. The unanswered question is just what is the ghost – is it just some artifact that causes “the power” to be switched on and then causes the power to trip off, or is it something else altogether. Being able to answer this question is at the heart of the abortion debate – without a “soul” we are just dealing with a machine not a human being.

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