Tom Arms’ World Review

United States

The Kevin McCarthy election fiasco will have far-reaching consequences for Speaker McCarthy, Donald Trump, the Republican Party, the conduct of US government and the rest of the world. Let’s start with Mr. Trump. He endorsed Mr McCarthy. The “Never Kevins” in the far-right Republican Freedom Caucus ignored him. The voters ignored his key endorsements in the mid-term elections. Trump’s star is still in the firmament, but on the wane.

Now for the Republican Party. The battle to secure McCarthy’s election exposed a split. A small group of 20 right-wing extremists were able to delay and nearly blocked the election of Kevin McCarthy against the wishes of 202 of their party colleagues. They have also wrung key concessions out of the Speaker. The Freedom Caucus have discovered power. They will use it.

What are these concessions and what impact will their implementation have? First of all, if any one member of Congress does not like something that Speaker McCarthy has done they can table a vote to remove him. At the very least, this has the potential to seriously disrupt and delay congressional business. .  This means that McCarthy will be much more politically circumspect then he might have been otherwise.

Next, the Speaker has agreed to give more time to debate and amend legislation on the floor of the house. The Freedom Caucus are also known as “Disrupters” and they are particularly keen on disrupting or blocking any spending bills, especially those related to Ukraine and foreign aid. And if it means stopping the machinery of government, then, according to Freedom Caucus members, so be it.

France

The British NHS is not the only European health service with problems. The French are also wringing their medical hands. The problem? Not enough staff and – as in Britain – the looming threat of strikes. As the New Year dawned some Paris hospitals reported 90 percent of staff reported sick in protest at working conditions. The country’s second largest health union has called for an “unlimited walkout” of nurses followed by a strike by GPs.

President Emmanuel Macron is throwing money at the problem but so far it is not working. Forty percent of French nurses are planning to leave the profession this year despite an extra $10 billion wage package.  Wannabe doctors are being offered a $50,000 golden handshake to enter the profession.

The French desperately needs them. Rural areas are especially short of medical staff, some communities have been without a doctor’s surgery for several years and the situation is only likely to worsen as about half of the French doctors are over 55 and fast approaching retirement age.

UK

There is a stand-out villain in Prince Harry’s book “Spare” – the press, especially Britain’s tabloid newspapers. I, in common with most of the public, have some sympathy and understanding with Harry’s views especially as one of the worst elements of the tabloids – the paparazzi played a major part in his mother’s death.

But the Duke of Sussex and his supporters ignore some basic facts: Newspapers are businesses. They are also a crucial element in any democratic society. Furthermore, the more successful they are as a business the greater their degree of freedom, which in turn is good for democracy. To make money and be free they must give the public the news that they want to read. The public wants to read about scandal and rows, especially if they involve the world’s most famous Royal Family.

And, of course, the Royal Family, needs the press. If the media stop reporting their activities they become an irrelevancy. Prince Harry should realise all the above. His book is making a fortune on the back of royal tittle tattle which tabloid readers love. And his willingness to lift the royal veil has swung the media spotlight firmly in his direction.

Russia

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia’s notorious Wagner Group, won two major awards last year: The title of “Hero of the Russian Federation” and the “Corrupt Person of the Year Award.” The first was presented to him by his friend Vladimir Putin and the second by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

The shadowy private army which is the Wagner Group is playing an increasingly important role in the Ukraine War.  Officially, there are no private armies in Russia.  They are against the law. Unofficially, the Wagner Group has become Putin’s privately-controlled army beyond the reach of legal niceties and ministry of defence bureaucracy. As well as Ukraine, the Wagner Group operates in Syria, Libya and Mali. Wherever it goes, it leaves a trail of rape, murder and a raft of other war crimes.

This is not surprising given that its ranks are filled with convicts. Of the 50,000 Wagner mercenaries currently in Ukraine, 40,000 of them were in prison cells a few months ago. These hardened criminals are ruthless and they are achieving results. It appears that this week they have gained control of the Ukrainian town of Soledad. The town is the centre of Ukraine’s salt mines which can provide protected ammunition dumps and 200 miles of tunnels to infiltrate soldiers behind Ukrainian lines. But more importantly, the capture of Soledad provides Putin with a much-needed PR boost. Yevgeny Prigozhin may be in line for an oak leaf cluster for his Russian hero medal.

* 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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6 Comments

  • Mel Borthwaite 15th Jan '23 - 1:09pm

    My concern about the Russia/Ukraine war is that all the ingredients exist to ensure that this conflict escalates towards a full scale, nuclear, world war. My thinking is simple: Russia will not accept a defeat and will fully mobilise, turn the economy into full war-economy mode, or escalate to the use of nuclear weapons, if needed to prevent defeat. It will also define losing Crimea and the Donbas as a serious military defeat. At the same time, Ukraine and NATO will not accept a defeat and NATO appears willing to escalate its support for Ukraine, both in terms of types of advanced weapons it is willing to supply…and perhaps boots on the ground?…to ensure Ukraine does not lose the war. Ukraine and NATO define a defeat as Ukraine losing Crimea and the Donbas. Some may think that the demise of Putin may be the way this ends but I think it more likely that any successor of Putin would be at least equally determined to win this war.

  • Jenny Barnes 15th Jan '23 - 3:48pm

    ” all the ingredients exist to ensure that this conflict escalates towards a full scale, nuclear, world war.”
    Looking on the bright side, that means we don’t need to worry about climate change any more.

    I see the UK government is sending Ukraine 10-12 Challenger 2 tanks. This doesn’t make much sense as the Ukrainies are used to operating lighter Soviet era T72s – many from Poland. If they get more tanks from elsewhere in Nato they will be German made Leopards. Both Challenger & Leopard are too heavy for many of the bridges in Ukraine.

    The UK has 227 Challenger 2s, and apparently has a contract to upgrade 148 of them to Challenger 3 fully digiitised all singing & dancing. The other 50 odd would be put in storage. Why not 1) give those 50 to Ukraine? 2) actually, give all 227, which would give them a serious tank force and spend the money that they were going to spend on Ch3 upgrades on a nice new fleet of Leopards, matching the rest of the Nato kit. The attempted replacement of Warrior IFVs with a newly developed UK specific vehicle – Ajax – turned out very badly indeed. It would have been more sensible to buy the proven German Marder IFVs; as it is the Warriors are still in service.

  • @ John Waller. I am flattered. Thank you. And thank you for buying a copy of “The Encyclopedia of the Cold War.” I hope it was cheap because it is hopelessly out of date as it was published in 1992. That is the main reason I am working on an update but that will be an e-book and won’t be available for at least 18n months. The Corfu Channel Incident is not in the 92 edition. i missed it but prompted by your comment have done some quick research and decided to include it in the second edition.
    Thank you also for the suggestion that I should publish a collection of my Lib Dem Voice articles. It provides a warm feeling to know that such a book would have one sale outside my immediate family.

  • Peter Hirst 18th Jan '23 - 4:56pm

    @JennyBarnes. those sort of comments illustrate how distractions such as the Ukraine war prevent the global community from adequately tackling the climate challenge. We could end up with a terrible predicament of temperatures barely compatible with human life with a say 50 year period in which we must live with them before we see imiprovement. This scenario is completely preventable with the political will. We seem to have politicians who have a complete aversion to tackling long-term issues and it is going to be touch and go whether we will even get to that point without a radical rethink.

  • Joseph Gerald Bourke 18th Jan '23 - 6:46pm

    Peter,

    oddly enough the Ukraine war may do far more to accelerate Europe’s move towards zero carbon energy than any number of COP summits. Thomas Malthus, in his 1798 book “An Essay on the Principle of Population” observed that as food production grew, so did population and this increase in population outran the availability of fertile land from which to produce more food, ultimately leading to famine and population decline. He had not forseen the immense increase in agricultural productivity that the Industrial revolution would produce. It is in this kind of technological innovation in renewable energy that the solutions to the climate crisis must lie.
    Those technological innovations will need to be available to those countries from where the great majority of CO2 emissions emanate – China, USA, India and Europe as a whole.
    The UK on its own accounts for only around 1% of global emissions, but has the scientific and engineering capability to contribute to the development of renewable energy technology that can be rolled out worldwide, just as was the case with the Covid vaccines.

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