Tom Arms’ World Review

Ukraine

The ultimate Pyrrhic victory is the best way to describe the Russian capture of Bakhmut. The town has minimal strategic victory. It has cost 20,000-plus Russian lives and 50,000 casualties. Tens of thousands of artillery shells, missiles and drones have been expended. The siege has tied up Russian forces for months and left Putin’s army of a pile of rubble.

While the Russians have been throwing themselves against the Bakhmut brick wall, the Ukrainians have been taking delivery of hundreds of state-of-the-art tanks, training on F-16s, building up their drone arsenal and gathering forces for their counter offensive.

Exactly where that counter offensive will be aimed remains a top secret. A hint might be in this week’s cross-border raid on a military base in the Russian provide on Beogorod which is more or less right in the middle of Russian-Ukrainian border

The Ukrainians are not supposed to attack targets on Russian soil. This would seriously worry their Western backers who do not want to widen or escalate the conflict. So Volodomyr Zelensky’s government have denied any involvement in the attack.

In this denial they are helped by two Ukrainian paramilitary groups – Freedom of Russia and the Russian Volunteer Corps—who have both claimed credit for the operation. Both these groups say they have filled their ranks with Russians living in Eastern Ukraine and defectors from the Russian army. The declared aim of both is the overthrow of Vladimir Putin as well as an independent Ukraine.

In the shadowy world of paramilitaries it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially as both groups are based in the Russian-occupied Donbas Region. But Freedom of Russia is believed to be the largest of the two group with 1,000 armed men. They are also believed to surreptitiously receive training and weapons from the Ukrainian military, but operate independently.

The Russian Volunteer Corps has virtually no links with the government in Kyiv. This is because they and their leader Denis Nitikin are far-right White Supremacists who want to overthrow Zelensky as well as Putin because the Ukrainian leader is Jewish. They are Russian ultra-nationalists who want Moscow to concentrate on protecting ethnic Russians inside Russia’s existing borders.

Russia and China

The Sino-Soviet love fest continued this week with a meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries.

At the end of the two days of talks Moscow’s Mikhail Mishustin declared that due to “sensational pressure” from the West, Sino-Russian cooperation had reached an “unprecedented high.”

During his talks with Chinese counterpart Li Qiang, The Russian prime minister signed a series of agreements to bolster trade in services, agriculture and sporting links.  But conspicuous by its absence was a Chinese commitment to provide Russia with military support for its invasion of Ukraine.

Chinese President Xi Jinping believes that China is locked in an irreversible ideological battle with the West and that Russia is an essential partner if it has any chance of success. He and Vladimir Putin are as one as regards the strategic goal. But they differ on tactics.

Putin is keen on the quick military solution, possibly because he is stronger militarily then he is politically and his commodity based economy rests on finite resources. In keeping with Chinese history and culture, Xi takes a more long term view.

A key part of the Chinese long view is to strengthen the economy as much as possible. The deals agreed this week do just that. For a start Sino-Russian trade is expected to jump for a record high of $100 billion in 2022 to another record of $200 billion in 2023. Much of the increase is due to increased Russian oil and gas sales to China which benefits China because they are buying at discount prices and paying in Chinese Yuan rather than dollars.

Turkey

Recep Tayyip Erdogan is almost guaranteed victory in this Sunday’s run-off presidential election. In round one he secured 49.6 percent of the vote and this week the knocked-out third wheel in the race – ultra nationalist Organ Ince – urged his supporters to switch their votes to Erdogan.

So what does a continuation of Erdogan’s 20-year rule mean? For a start, Turkey’s economy will remain a mess. The Turkish president will continue to ignore the advice of every economist everywhere and keep interest rates low. This will fuel inflation which is currently at 43.7 percent.

Next, Erdogan will continue to move Turkey away from Ataturk’s secularism towards an Islamic state. His political base is in the rural socially conservative and religiously-oriented region of Anatolia. His opponents are found mainly in the cosmopolitan and secular cities such as Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir and in the tourism centres along the south coast.

68-year-old Erdogan will also use his victory – coupled with a parliamentary majority – to increase his stranglehold on the judiciary and the media. This will mean more arrests and a further swelling of the country’s prison population.

Relations with NATO, the US and the EU will continue to deteriorate. Erdogan claimed he had a “balanced policy” towards Russia and the West. But in reality his policy had a distinct tilt towards Moscow.

This policy has become more pronounced since the start of the Ukraine War.  Erdogan joined NATO allies in condemning the invasion but has refused to apply sanctions, has bought a Russian missile defense system and is buying a Russian nuclear power plant. Turkey is also a recognised conduit for high-tech equipment for the Russian military.

In short, an Erdogan victory on Sunday is bad news for almost everyone except Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

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5 Comments

  • The Sino-Soviet love fest seems as unholy an alliance as that of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that enabled those powers to partition Eastern Europe between them. The establishment of the treaty was the conclusion of the negotiations for an economic agreement between Russia and Nazi Germany which the Soviets used to obtain an political agreement.
    Today’s Russia has become a outright criminal regime with every institution of society (Government or Civic) under the control of the security services with a Mafia like boss at its head. What that regime has in common with the Chinese communist party is hard to fathom. Hitler and Stalin should have had nothing in common. However, that did not stop the USSR furnishing Nazi Germany with the raw materials, oil, food and munitions to embark on its invasion of Western Europe while protecting its eastern flank with a non-aggression pact.
    Ukraine, like Poland from 1939, has suffered outrageous atrocicities and been the victim of unspeakable war crimes.
    John Sweeney is a British investigative journalist. In February 2022, Sweeney moved to Ukraine to report on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and has since also been writing for The Jewish Chronicle. Sweeney has covered Russian President Vladimir Putin’s wars from Chechnya to Georgia, Syria and Ukraine. He is hoping to be selected as a Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for next years elections. He has this year produced a documentary film The Eastern Front: Terror and Torture in Ukraine

  • Erdogan is Putin’s Achilles Heel…

  • If Erdogan continues on his course what would it take to suspend or expel Turkey. Better to have all weather allies like Sweden and Finland than half hearts like Turkey or Hungary.

  • The size of Russia is too much for any single country. If the defeat of it results in some of its territory being claimed by other countries in a post war treaty, it might achieve multiple aims. China and India both require more land for their huge populations. I can’t believe better use can’t be made of the Asian land mass as the world heats up than Russia is currently doing.

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