Tom Arms’ World Review

Ukraine

The Ukrainians are advancing – slowly. They don’t trust the Russians. Vladimir Putin has given his troops the order to abandon the western half of the key city of Kherson. Civilians and medical staff have been evacuated from both the eastern and western halves of the city divided by the river Dnieper.

But the Ukrainians are not rushing in to fill the vacuum. They are concerned that the Russians have covered their retreat with land mines and other explosives and have trained their artillery on the deserted streets. Furthermore, that they are preparing for deadly street-to-street, house-to-house fighting in the eastern half of the city.

In the meantime, the Kremlin rumour mill continues to churn out stories about the imminent overthrow of President Putin. The left anti-war wants peace and an end to the war while the right nationalist wing is demanding that more resources – including, if necessary, tactical nuclear weapons, be thrown into the fight. The latest opinion polls, however, show that 78 percent continue to support Putin personally, although support for the war is slipping.

2022 World Cup

Someone should have warned the Qataris about being careful about what you wish for before they started bribing officials to secure the 2022 World Cup. The sporting event is second only to the Olympics in the pantheon of international sporting events and usually brings economic and political benefits to the host country.

In the case of Qatar’s ruling al-Thani family, they are spending $30 billion on hosting the football event. This involves building half a dozen stadiums, roads, a state-of-the-art metro and a number of hotels. They can afford it. Qatar is the smallest nation ever to host the World Cup, but it is among the top ten wealthiest in the world. The per capita income of the oil and gas-rich Gulf emirate is $61,000 a year and it has a sovereign wealth fund of $450 billion. It can afford to show off its wealth.

But at the same time, it would rather not have the spotlight turned on its human rights record – especially as regards migrant labour and LGBTQ rights. Tens of thousands of construction workers were recruited from South Asia to build the World Cup infrastructure. They worked in searing heat, were paid abysmally low wages and lived in squalid dormitory conditions. If they wanted to return home they had to apply for an exit visa which was rarely granted. The Guardian reported that 6,500 of them died. This figure been disputed, but the newspaper says it is based on reports from South Asian embassies in Qatar.

Support for the LGBTQ community is a major issue in developed countries. In the Islamic world gay sex is banned by the Koran. In Qatar it can result in three years’ imprisonment and a hefty fine. If you are a Muslim, the stated penalty is death, although it is yet to be enforced. The policy has enraged gay footballers and fans and at one point the Dutch football team considered playing in protest pink.

Sahel Region

Africa’s Sahel Region has long been regarded as the fiefdom of the French military where its troops intervened almost at will in former French colonies. No more. This week French President Emmanuel Macron announced his government’s National Strategic Review which confirmed that the French military was withdrawing from Africa and refocusing on the Russian threat to Russia.  He is also increasing the French defense budget by 7.4 percent to $44 billion (Britain’s is $49.89 billion and Germany is $49.01 billion).

But France’s departure from the Sahel leaves a large and worrying hole in the region’s defences. The French have been the major European force in the region opposed to Jihadist organisations Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa. These organisations have been responsible for displacing 2.3 million people and the deaths of an estimated 300,000 children. They have also contributed to the spread of famine and disease and the migration of refugees to Europe. Britain, Estonia, America and Sweden have also contributed to what became known as Operation Barkhane (named after the crescent-shaped dune in the Sahara), but they were there in a support role for the French. There is not much point in their remaining without the French.

COP27

Conspicuous by their absence from the COP27 climate change in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh are Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. They also failed to turn up at last year’s climate conference in Glasgow. It would seem that neither Russia nor China equate their national interests with the goal of reducing fossil fuel emissions.

The Russian economy, is, of course, heavily dependent on the export of oil and gas. It is financing Putin’s Ukraine War. China is the world’s largest consumer of coal. It is also the largest user of coal-generated electricity and the second largest polluter in the world (after the US). The energy crisis created by Russia turning off the fossil fuel taps to Europe has forced many governments to move away from developing renewable sources to trying to squeeze as much as possible out of the non-renewable sector.

The result is that the world is likely to fail to reach its Paris target of keeping global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees centigrade. It is already 1.2 degrees hotter than pre-industrial times and climatologists reckon that on the present trajectory it will go to 1.8.

The hardest hit will be developing countries and a UN report issued just before the conference said that $2.4 trillion would be needed by the end of the decade to compensate developing countries for the damage caused by global warming and to help in the shift away from fossil fuels. The World Bank is the globe’s biggest multilateral lender and its managing director Axel van Trotsenberg said that it is ready and willing to provide the finance. But its ability to do so depends on capital provided by developed countries.

* 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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7 Comments

  • Jenny Barnes 13th Nov '22 - 9:52am

    CO2 emissions up again this year, ditto fossil fuel consumption. Roughly 2% pa, which over 35 years doubles… back in 1987, if humanity had just stopped increasing our fossil fuel usage, we would be much better off. Wait a minute, where’s my SUV.

  • @Jenny ….
    We hear a lot about emissions from fossil fuels etc …
    But hardly anyone mentions livestock farming , which is a major contributor to environmental damage .
    Behind all the crafted speeches – nothing will change .
    It will require a huge lifestyle change that many just couldn’t adhere to.

  • George Thomas 13th Nov '22 - 3:24pm

    The UK (and others) need to demonstrate that green energy can be at least as financially lucrative so nations such as China, India and USA get on board. Rishi Sunak’s weak approach to climate emergency so far is not a good start.

  • The situation in the Sahel could go bad from a refugee point of view if the French carry out their withdrawal. Morocco and Algeria are already nearly at blows and the Wagner group mercenaries are active. Spain could be targeted by migrant smugglers.Maybe Gibraltar also.

  • The prospect of a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine conflict appears rather distant at present. President Zelensky has spelled out the terms for an end to the war within Ukraine.
    Restoration of territorial integrity, respect for the UN charter, compensation for all damages caused by the war, punishment of every war criminal and guarantees that this will not happen again.
    Russian terms (for a ceasefire at least) appear to be recognition of Russian territorial claims in the annexed areas in the East and South of Ukraine and Ukranian neutrality meaning no engagement or association with the EU or any defensive alliances like Nato.
    The Kyiv administration, recognising that Putin would likely never be prepared to accept their terms. wants negotiations with a “future leader” from Moscow.
    President Macron of France (who has made numerous efforts to engage Putin in a dialogue) speaking at the Paris Peace Forum over the weekend has specified that negotiations must happen when “the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian leaders will decide this, in terms decided by them”.
    It seems then, that a war of attrition will likely be continued as long as President Putin remains in control of affairs in Moscow.

  • David Garlick 14th Nov '22 - 3:19pm

    We cannot let any country derail progress by their absence. Keep Calm and Carry On whilst Continuing Condemnation of their failure to act. Need to point out to them that they will stand alone in their fight for survival if/when Climate Change really kicks in if they don’t join in the battle to avoid catastrophy.

  • You could alternatively view Russia’s curtailing of fossil fuels to Europe as an opportunity to increase our move to renewables. I doubt either features in Putin’s calculations. The fact remains that if we invested heavily in renewables we could avoid many of the issues with energy supply and provide high wage jobs at a time of increasing unemployment.

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