Tom Arms’ World Review: Russian setbacks, Ukraine, North Korea, Saudi, Trussonomics, Hurricanes

Setbacks for Russia

The Chinese, according to senior diplomatic sources, have told Vladimir Putin that they will not support his use of nuclear weapons. This is unsurprising given that Beijing used a recent UN meeting to reaffirm its long-standing policy of “assured retaliation” which basically means no first use and no support for first use of nuclear weapon by other countries.

The Chinese position is one of a series of mounting Russian diplomatic setbacks that are running alongside a series of battlefield defeats.

On Friday there was a Cold War echo when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded jointly to jailed Belarussian activist Alex Byalyatski, banned Russian dissident organisation Memorial and Ukraine’s Centre for Civil Liberties. The award was clearly meant to undermine Putin.

Meanwhile 44 European heads of government (all of them except Belarus and Russia) met in Prague to present a united Euro-front against Russia.

At the same time, NATO defence ministers gathered in Brussels with arms manufacturers to discuss beefing up assembly lines.

And finally, because success breeds success, the US Congress voted another $542 million in economic and military aid to Ukraine.

Signalling success in Ukraine

NATO’s investment in Ukraine is starting to pay intelligence dividends. Any war scenario provides opportunities for testing equipment and ideas as well as learning about the strengths and weaknesses of the warring parties.

European military chiefs learned the rudiments of trench warfare during the American Civil War. There are also coups from captured equipment such as the T-90M tank which I wrote about last week. But of even greater significance is Ukrainian success in the signals war.

Modern warfare depends hugely on the ability of a warring state to 1- send and receive signals 2- block homing signals from the opposition’s guided missile and artillery systems and 3- deploy effective homing signals so that your ordnance reaches its target. The NATO equipment supplied to Ukraine is scoring high marks on all three. This is playing a major role in hobbling the Russian military and providing NATO with vital battlefield SIGINT (signal intelligence).

Attention Seeking Kim Jon-Un

“Look at me. Look at me. Don’t forget about the problem of North Korea.” That appears to be the message that Kim Jon-un is firing off along with missile after missile after missile—40 of them so far this year.

The latest one had the capability to reach the American-owned Pacific island of Guam where the US has a large military presence. The missile test caused a mini-panic in Tokyo which evacuated parts of the country and suspended some rail services. It also prompted US and South Korean forces to retaliate with military exercises in the Sea of Japan and Yellow Sea.

None of these responses appear to have phased Kim in the slightest. He now has an arsenal of tested missiles capable of carrying nuclear-tipped warheads with ranges of 1,200 to 10,000 miles. His economy is a disaster zone. North Koreans are starving. He runs a gangster pariah state. But Kim Jong-un is the power in a nuclear power which means other world leaders have to listen to him. Or, at least, that’s what he thinks.

Saudi’s oil antics

The US—and by extension the wider Western Alliance—used to depend on Saudi Arabia as a staunch ally in the Middle East. That is no longer the case as this week’s two percent cut in OPEC production shows. A production cut, of course, means a rise in oil prices at a time when Putin-induced high energy prices are threatening to bring European economies to their knees.

In an attempt to justify the move, Saudi oil minister Abdulaziz bin Salman, said that a primary purpose of the oil cartel (which now includes Russia as a de facto member) is to provide a “stable energy market.” He added that OPEC was providing that stability by being proactive in adjusting supply ahead of a likely downturn in demand as the world economy slows down.

Of course, the “stable” prices at a high level enables Putin to continue funding the war which is a major reason for the downturn in the world economy. It also helps to fund Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman’s war in Yemen and grandiose infrastructure projects. MBS, by the way, has just been promoted to prime minister.

Liz vs the “Anti Growth Coalition”

It is difficult to find people opposed to economic growth. Expanding the economic pie is generally regarded as a good thing. So, Liz Truss has her work out cut out for her in identifying and vilifying the “anti-growth coalition” at which she took aim in her first big speech as British Prime Minister.

Of course there are different kinds of growth. There is sustainable and unsustainable growth. There is also socially uneven growth that benefits one group at the expense of another. And finally there is growth at all costs. Liz Truss appears to be going for unsustainable, social uneven growth at all costs.

Wealthy bankers will now be earning two or three times their previous incomes to entice them back into the City of London. A raft of regulations that protected workers, children, the environment… will be thrown onto the political bonfire. An under-financed government will be subjected to more spending cuts.

It is unsurprising that the market, the IMF, the Bank of England, Conservative backbenchers and even some of the prime minister’s own cabinet colleagues have condemned Trussonomics and joined the anti-Liz-Truss-growth-coalition. On second thoughts, she should have no problem identifying targets.

Hurricanes

Florida is called the “Sunshine State”. It is where New Yorkers flee when winter snows hit. It is said that the second highest circulation figures for the New York Times can be found in winter time Miami and the second highest circulation figures of the Miami Herald can be found in New York during summer.

The lure of sun, sand and a bit of sex has been driving people to the southernmost state since the 1920s when the railways arrived and engineers started draining the swamps. It is now the third most populous state in America and the home to Disneyworld. It is also the state most ravaged by hurricanes. The latest one—Hurricane Ian– left 110 people dead and caused an estimated $57 billion in insured losses.

It is the loss to American pocketbooks that is likely to have the biggest long term effect. The insurance premiums of the average Florida homeowner are four times the national average. Ian has so far forced six private insurance companies into insolvency.

Hurricane insurance is also provided by the state government which has a vested interest in keeping homeowners paying property taxes in Florida. But as climate change threatens increasingly destructive storms, the state is facing the same problems as the private sector.

* 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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3 Comments

  • But as climate change threatens increasingly destructive storms, the state is facing the same problems as the private sector.

    There has been no increase in the frequency of Named Storms, Named Storm Days, Hurricanes, Hurricanes Days, Cat. 3+ Hurricanes, Cat. 3+ Hurricanes Days, or Accumulated Cyclone Energy over the last 40 years. Last year (2021) had the lowest number of hurricanes (37) for at least 40 years…

    ‘Global Historical Tropical Cyclone Statistics’:
    http://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu/Realtime/index.php?arch&loc=global

    ‘This should be the absolute peak of hurricane season — but it’s dead quiet out there’ [September 2022]:
    https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/09/this-should-be-the-absolute-peak-of-hurricane-season-but-its-dead-quiet-out-there/

    Seasonal activity is running 50 percent below normal levels.

    ‘Old-school data suggests hurricanes in the Atlantic are not more frequent than in the past’ [July 2021]:
    https://phys.org/news/2021-07-old-school-hurricanes-atlantic-frequent.html

    Researchers found no evidence on the timeline of larger than normal numbers of hurricanes forming over the past few decades—instead, it showed that the numbers were on par with prior spikes in the late 1940s and early 1880s. They also found no evidence indicating that modern hurricanes are any more powerful than those in the past.

  • Tom Seelye Arms 10th Oct '22 - 11:45am

    My sources agree and disagree. Fewer but more damaging storms this season. The fact is that the world’s oceans and atmosphere are warming up. This means that more water is sucked up into the air above the West African coast and this results in stormier weather.

  • Peter Hirst 10th Oct '22 - 2:04pm

    Though no economist I don’t think a growth at all costs approach will work before the next GE in the present environment. It might help to preserve the few remaining seats the Conservatives might hold onto. The new danger is that Labour sensing victory will forsake all progressive policies so that they can rule for as far as the eye can see.

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