Tom Arms’ World Review

Sweden and Finland want to join NATO. Vladimir Putin has reversed himself and reluctantly said that membership of the Alliance by the two Nordic countries posed “no threat”.  A seamless Swedish-Finnish application seemed certain.

Wait, the diplomats forgot about the perennial thorn in NATO’s Southern flank- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. An application to join NATO requires the approval of all 30 members and President Erdogan has threatened a Turkish block. His reason? He is angry because Sweden and Norway give asylum to members of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) which he is trying to wipe out. Sweden and Finland also imposed sanctions against Turkey when Erdogan ordered his troops into Northern Syria in 2016 (they are still there).

At the top of the list of criteria for NATO membership, is, according to the US State Department, a commitment “to uphold democracy, including tolerance for diversity.” On that basis, Erdogan’s Turkey would fail membership requirements. Since the attempted 2016 coup, Erdogan has jailed nearly 80,000 judges, military officers, civil servants, police, teachers and journalists. 130 media organisations have been closed. Homosexuality is banned and Erdogan has announced plans to reinstate the death penalty. There is, of course, no question of booting Turkey out of the Alliance. It is the strategic bridge between Europe and Asia and at the moment prevents Russian ships from sailing through the Dardanelles to join the war in Ukraine. Realpolitik trumps human rights.

But should Erdogan be allowed to prevent solidly democratic countries from joining NATO? The British government have indicated a possible workaround if Erdogan refuses to change his mind. It has signed a separate “mutual assistance” treaty with Norway and Sweden. If other NATO countries followed suit then the Turkish veto would be irrelevant.

The shooting in a Buffalo supermarket which left ten African-Americans dead is not an isolated incident. According to a report by the respected Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) 67 percent of the domestic terror incidents recorded in 2020 were organised by far-right and white supremacist groups. Many of those who stormed Capitol Hill were White supremacists. FBI Director Christopher Wray described White Supremacy as a “significant and pervasive threat” to the US. President Biden called it a “poison running through the body politic.”

But why are these people turning to violence in a democratic country? The answer is simple: America’s demographics are changing which means non-Whites comprise a bigger slice of the voter pie.  Between 2010 and 2020 the proportion of White Americans dropped from 63.7 percent to 57.8 percent and by 2050 they are expected to be in the minority -although still far and away the largest ethnic group.  The government, argue the White supremacists, are either actively encouraging this shift or ignoring it. Payton Gendron, who is allegedly responsible for the Buffalo shooting, wrote in a 180-page manifesto that the government is intentionally replacing White people with minorities through immigration. This is known as the “Replacement Conspiracy” and its being actively circulated by White Supremacist groups.  Several supremacist organisations have called for the overthrow of the US government and the creation of a White “ethno-state” carved out the Pacific Northwest and populated only by Whites. The Buffalo shooting, the warped thinking behind it, demographic changes and the dreams of an ethno-states underscore that race will be a difficult and defining issue in American politics for years to come.

Coronavirus has finally reached the hermit kingdom of North Korea – with a vengeance. The latest reports are that over 1.5 million of the country’s 26 million inhabitants are infected with the highly-infectious Omicron variant of Covid. The regime is totally unprepared. None of the population have been vaccinated (except perhaps the leadership). There is no testing and tracing equipment. There is very little personal protection equipment for medical staff and an acute shortage of beds.  North Korea’s health service has been described as a disgrace before the pandemic reached it and nothing has been done to prepare for it. South Korea has offered no strings attached medical help, equipment and vaccines, but so far North Korea’s Kim Jongun has refused all offers of assistance.

In the meantime he continues the rapid development of the country’s nuclear weapons programme. American intelligence believe that Kim is planning another intercontinental ballistic missile test to coincide with President Biden’s visit to South Korea this coming weekend. But both Washington and Seoul are adamant that any such test will not deter them from offering humanitarian aid to deal with the Covid crisis.

Mariupol has fallen. 1,700 Ukrainian fighters have emerged from the bowels of the besieged Azovstal Steelworks to be taken prisoner. Russia now has military control of an unbroken swathe of Ukrainian territory stretching from Crimea to northeastern Ukraine. It is well-placed to attack Odessa and cut Ukraine off from the sea. Vladimir Putin has declared a battle victory. But should he? Against all the odds the defenders of Mariupol held up tens of thousands of Russian troops for 85 days and cost the Russians billions of roubles in artillery bombardments and air strikes. Those 85 days have been used by the West to rush supplies to Ukraine and Zelensky’s forces used the time to train and equip more soldiers and prepare defensive lines.

The result is that elsewhere in Eastern Ukraine the Russian advance has almost ground to a halt. The Russians have failed to establish a vital river crossing and their attempt to do so cost an estimated 500 men, 30 tanks and a pontoon bridge. A retired Army Colonel, Mikhail Khodaryonok, has risked Putin’s wrath this week by going on government-controlled Russian state television to say that Russia is fighting an unwinnable war. The Russian president is said to be disgusted with his generals and taken over tactical command from his Moscow headquarters. Hitler made the same move after the D-Day landings with predictable consequences

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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  • The British government have indicated a possible workaround if Erdogan refuses to change his mind. It has signed a separate “mutual assistance” treaty with Norway and Sweden.

    Finland and Sweden.

  • The war in Ukraine has brought the issue of European security to the fore. The governments and peoples of Sweden and Finland, having carefully deliberated their options, determined on Nato membership as being in their long term security interests.
    The Russian approach to European security is diametrically opposed to that of other European states. The Putin regime seem to consider Europe as a region of vassal states to be divided up between themselves and the USA in terms of spheres of influence based on geographic proximity and historical domination. Needless to say, most European counties, not least Ukraine, will beg to differ with this approach.
    Tragic and destructive as the invasion of Ukraine is at some point the Russian juggernaut will be halted and turned back, whether by the regular Ukrainian military with the help of Western military supplies or partisan forces. Thoughts will then need to turn to long term reconstruction of Ukraine and Europe’s future relations with Russia for the decades to come.
    Meanwhile, the immediate issues of concern are alternative energy supplies in Europe and food security across Asia, Africa and South America as Ukraine’s black sea ports remain blocked.

  • Occasionally a high level diplomat comes clean with what is really going on behind the scenes. Boris Bondarev, a veteran Russian diplomat to the UN Office at Geneva has done just that with a resignation letter laying bare the corruption of the Putin regime with a clarity that only those on the inside can muster Russian diplomat to the UN quits and pens scathing letter slamming Putin’s ‘intolerable’ war in Ukraine

  • Charles Smith 24th May '22 - 10:19pm

    The decision by Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership is historic for many reasons. For Sweden, it means ending two centuries of military non-alignment.
    And while there’s enthusiasm for expanding NATO in most quarters of the alliance, the marriage itself won’t be legal until all 30 existing members ratify the new memberships.

  • Perhaps Martin Luther’s “I have a dream” speech should be compulsory learning in all American schools. How can the colour of your skin have anything to do with you as a human being? You might as well choose the size of your heart. Until it is realised that we have far more in common than what distinguishes us we are going to have racial strife throughout the world.

  • NATO and similar nations need to move to some sort of majority decision making. It is ridiculous that 1 or 2 nations can thwart the will of the great majority. If they knew this these minority countries might be less obnoxious.

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