Tom Arms’ World Review – 27 March 2022

Fifteen thousand US troops have been either sent from America or re-deployed to NATO’s Eastern blank in Poland, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria. The total number of American soldiers now based in Europe is 90,000. But before NATO supporters become too excited by this show of martial resolve, it should be noted that at the height of the Cold War in 1960, when the Berlin Wall was built, there were 400,000 American soldiers in Europe spread across 100 sites. One should also remember that NATO has a border with Russia in the Arctic region as well as in Eastern Europe. Until 1999, Norway was the only NATO ally with a land border with Russia. Military planners are working on this strategic fact next week with a military manoeuvre in Norway dubbed “Cold Response”. The military exercise involves 30,000 troops from 27 countries, including 3,000 US marines. These exercises are meant to be held every other year, but because of reluctance from the Trump Administration and Covid, they have not taken place since 2014. This is a pity, because Norway is one of the most strategically placed NATO countries. During World War Two, its long North Atlantic coastline dotted with sheltered fjords, provided Hitler’s navy with a forward base from which to terrorise Allied shipping in the North Atlantic.

In the meantime, Ukrainian Volodomyr Zelensky is pleading for more weapons. The Biden Administration has responded this week by despatching another 2,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 2,000 shoulder-launched Javelin launchers, Another 15,000 anti-tank and surface to air missiles are being provided by other European countries, mainly the UK and Sweden. The EU meanwhile has upped its spending on military equipment for Ukraine to $1 billion. Ukraine will need every penny of it. The British and American arms manufacturers are not giving away their equipment. They are selling it, and just one Javelin missile costs $175,000 whether it hits or misses its Russian target.

One of the key indicators of how worried Vladimir Putin is about domestic opposition is his treatment of Alexei Navalny—Putin’s most vocal, visible and best known political opponent. Until this week, Navalny was residing in a relatively comfortable penal colony just east of Moscow. He had been sent there to serve a two and a half year sentence because he broke the conditions of his parole when he flew to Germany for emergency medical treatment after a Kremlin attempt to poison him (spot the irony). Now, a Moscow court has found him guilty of fraud and contempt of court and sentenced him to another nine years in a maximum security gulag somewhere in the depths of Siberia. This a sure sign that Putin is worried that public opinion may turn against him. He should be. Even though the Kremlin has disbanded Navalny’s organisation, arrested and jailed Navalny and other key figures, he cannot incarcerate the tens of thousands who supported Navalny. They are prominent among those who can be seen bravely demonstrating against the war. The treatment of their leader is a clear message from Putin: Oppose me at your peril.

In the meantime, the war continues. It would appear that at the moment there is a stalemate with some gains by the Ukrainians in beleaguered Kyiv’s beleaguered suburban towns and some by the Russians in the south and east. The Ukrainian flag has been re-hoisted over a few towns outside Kyiv which were briefly occupied by Russian tanks. But in the southeastern city of Mariupol the civilian population is trapped in bombed-out ruins without food, water or medical supplies. Russian forces appear to be making slow progress towards the even more strategic port of Odessa and crawling forward north and west from Crimea. Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, has refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons while Biden has warned Russia that using chemical weapons will have “severe consequences.” Despite the apparent Russian stall, the signs are that Putin will double down. There are indications that he is moving troops from the Pacific region. Mercenaries are being recruited from Syria and Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko may commit soldiers from his 60,000-strong armed forces. As a guide to what Ukraine might expect, observers are looking at the first and second Chechen wars. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991 the Muslim enclave of Chechnya in North Caucasus declared itself independent. The result was an invasion by Russian forces and a bloody war which cost an estimated 100,000 lives. But the Chechens won round one. In 1996 a ceasefire was negotiated and the Russians withdrew. But this left a bad taste in the mouths of Russian nationalists, including Vladimir Putin. In 1999 he became prime minister. Almost simultaneously there were a number of alleged Chechen terrorist attacks. Putin used the attacks as an excuse to launch a second – even more brutal—Chechen war. The capital of Grozny was left in ruins after a three month siege; another 100,000 died and the war dragged on for several more years before Russia was able to establish control over the 6,680 square miles that is Chechnya. Ukraine, by the way is 233,100 square miles.

* 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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17 Comments

  • This opposition Russian MP made a very prescient prediction last year of the coming war in Ukraine and how rampant corruption would completely undermine the Russian military Nevzorov
    To see the kind of forces Putin is using see this short clip of a terrified young kid from Donestsk thrown into the fray
    Russian soldiers taken captive
    I have a student with relatives in the Russian controlled area of the Donbass. He says the conscription age has been raised to 65 there and Ukranians are being press-ganged into the ultra right-wing separist forces in Donetsk and Lugansk.
    There is strong circumstantial evidence that the FSB were behind the 1999 Moscow apartment building bombings and blamed the attacks on Chechens in an agent provocteur action designed to place a strong man in the form of Putin in the presidency to reverse the humiliation of the first Chechen war. It is hard to believe that such cynical murder of Russian citizens could be undertaken by Russian security services but numerous subsequent murders, assassinations and false flag operations make the allegation more plausible.
    Churchill described the Russian mind as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”. It seems, not much has changed.

  • Tom Seelye Arms 27th Mar '22 - 4:17pm

    I would like to rewrite Churchill’s description of Russia to describe the present day country as arrogance, wrapped in nationalism encased in paranoia. I am stymied as to how the rest of the world should deal with such a country. After World War Two the Allies occupied Germany, forced the population to watch films of concentration camps and basically re-wrote their constitution. Russia is too big and too culturally and historically different. Suggestions on a postcard please.

  • …it should be noted that at the height of the Cold War in 1960, when the Berlin Wall was built, there were 400,000 American soldiers in Europe spread across 100 sites.

    Back then the Russian army was considered to be the second best in the world. It’s now the second best army in Ukraine.

  • Tom,

    In WW2, Churchill said “You must understand that this war is not against Hitler or National Socialism, but against the strength of the German people, which is to be smashed once and for all, regardless of whether it is in the hands of Hitler or a Jesuit priest.”
    I don’t see the war in Ukraine as a conflict with the Russian people, so much as a conflict with a corrupt regime that has cemented absolute power in Russia.
    Newsweek has a good analysis of the military campaign noting that the great majority of aerial bombardment has been directed against Ukrainian forces and military installations rather than cities like Kyiv or Odessa.
    Where there has been widespread destruction, as in Kharkiv and Mariupol, it has been largely as a result of ground forces fighting within an urban environment.
    The defenders in Mariupol appear unlikely to be able to hold out for much longer. The redeployment of Russian forces from that area to encircle the main forces of the Ukrainian army in Donbass would probably see a cessation of fighting in Donbass and the land corridor linking that region with Crimea.
    The rest of the world (outside of the Western democracies) will deal with Putin as usual while China further develops alternative payment systems for International trade in East Asia and beyond.

  • @ Joe Bourke Could you please give an attribution or reference for your Churchill quote, Joseph ?

    He said all sorts of things that one could question, but I don’t think he said that.

  • Matt Wardman 28th Mar '22 - 12:40pm

    >The EU meanwhile has upped its spending on military equipment for Ukraine to $1 billion. Ukraine will need every penny of it. The British and American arms manufacturers are not giving away their equipment. They are selling it, and just one Javelin missile costs $175,000 whether it hits or misses its Russian target.

    I don’t think this is right.

    The UK Govt is explicit that UK provided weapons have been “aid”.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pm-announces-major-new-military-support-package-for-ukraine-24-march-2022

    The only ones I can see that Ukraine has clearly funded itself were the latest lot of ATMs from Germany, which were a private deal where the German Govt would need only to approve.

    The German Govt itself declared Mother Hubbard some days ago.

  • Malcolm Todd 28th Mar '22 - 1:24pm

    David Raw
    You are quite right to query Joe Bourke’s Churchill “quotation” at 9.54 pm on 27th March.
    A quick internet search reveals that it is a quote that has been attributed to a book that it doesn’t appear in, and mostly surfaces on far-right sites from which it has spread to poster-quotes such as the internet is rather fond of. It’s almost certainly completely untrue.
    (To be clear, I am not accusing Joe B of using far-right sources! Clearly the “quote” has spread out into the wider internet. But it’s a lesson in the need for caution in attribution.)

  • David Raw,

    I think you are right about the validity of the quote. An internet search reveals:
    “German author Adrian Preissinger falsely attributed the “You must understand that this war is not against Hitler or National Socialism” quote to Churchill in his 1991 book Von Sachsenhausen bis Buchenwald: Todesfabriken der Kommunisten and cited as his source: Hughes’ “Winston Churchill — His Career in War and Peace’ auf S. 145″. In the 1994 English translation of the same book, Preissinger makes the same claim and cites the same Hughes book, only changing the page no. to 45.

    It’s probable that Preissinger took the quote and the name Emerys Hughes from German revisionist Franz Josef Scheidl’s publication which seems to date to 1967 or 1968.
    Scheidl doesn’t claim this is a Churchill quote, but states that is what the German (anti-Nazi) resistance in Switzerland believed.

    Scheidl cites his source within the main text, the (1953, I believe: Deutsche National Bibliothek) book Auch Du warst dabei by former-aid to Ribbentropp.
    The quote also appears in this 1968 book by Kleist.
    So in reality, this is not a Churchill quote, but a quote attributed to an unidentified member of the German resistance by a former Nazi.”

    I think WW2 was a war against the German nation. One of the stated post-war objectives of Nato was containing a resurgence of German militarism. The current conflict in Ukraine is not yet of this nature, and I hope it does not become so, notwithstanding the strong support that Putin appears to retain among the Russian populace.
    Tom Arms comments “I am stymied as to how the rest of the world should deal with such a country”. My view is that the focus of efforts should be directed at the Putin regime rather than the Russian population or nation.

  • Phil Beesley 28th Mar '22 - 2:30pm

    Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic collectively own 500+ operational Soviet era T72 tanks. I think they’re a bit easier to smuggle over the border than a jet plane and more familiar to reservist soldiers.

  • Matt Wardman,

    I expect the arms shipment are a combination of aid from some countries and sales from others. President Zelensky has earlier remarked “it all came at a cost, it’s not for free”. Sometimes we receive weapons directly, but you have to understand that everything has its price,” arms sales
    There have been calls for a lend-lease program to Ukraine, but this does not appear to have gained much traction as of yet Lend-lease

  • @ Joe Bourke I can remember Emrys Hughes as the Labour MP, South Ayshire.

    Hughes was Keir Hardie’s son-in-law, was imprisoned (by the LG government) as a pacifist C.O. in WW1, edited ‘Forward’ in the 30’s and 40’s, and was a life long Republican and Unilateralist.

    He had no time for WSC, but did not write or fabricate your quotation. His papers are in the National Library of Scotland. As to who actually did, I’d counsel caution.

  • David Raw,

    the source of the quote as an unidentified anti-nazi resistance movement is speculation. The issue of whether Russian society is complicit and Russophobia is alive and well, as this article highlights Of course Putin should go, but Russian society must face a reckoning too
    These two countries have close familial links and will have to live as neighbours when this dreadful business comes to an end. Creating longstanding hatreds will make that all the more difficult.

  • @ Joe Bourke “the source of the quote as an unidentified anti-nazi resistance movement is speculation”.

    I never said it was, Joe. The very opposite (in 1992) is more likely to be the case if you care to research it..

  • David Raw,

    the comment above speculates that the source of the quote falsely attributed to Churchill and erroneously citing Emrys Hughes book was probably German revisionist Franz Josef Scheidl’s publication which seems to date to 1967 or 1968.
    Scheidl doesn’t claim this is a Churchill quote, but states that is what the German (anti-Nazi) resistance in Switzerland believed.

    Tom Writes above “After World War Two the Allies occupied Germany, forced the population to watch films of concentration camps and basically re-wrote their constitution. Russia is too big and too culturally and historically different. Suggestions on a postcard please.”
    Tom is right. Germany reformed and recovered relatively quickly after WW2 and West Germany was economically integrated with Europe by the mid 1950s.
    Russia has its own path based on its own strategic interests and it is not that of economic and cultural integration with the Liberal West or the values of open democracy,
    Ukraine has long had the ambition for self-determination for which it has been struggling since the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 and before.
    The western world has to respect Russia’s right to forge its own destiny, while preserving the right of countries like Ukraine to live peacefully within their own borders.
    In a multi-polar world where strategic interests rather than democratic values dominate that requires the military capacity to defend those interests and diplomatic recognition that much of the world may not share the values of liberal democracy.
    Suggestions on a postcard – speak softly but carry a big stick.

  • Matt Wardman 29th Mar '22 - 9:43pm

    Interesting comments all round.

    Can I point to a 10 minute video by historian Mark Felton looking at the Winter War, which has a lot of parallels – Putin being an admirer of Stalin and following a similar playbook.

  • Peter Hirst 31st Mar '22 - 5:10pm

    The question seems to be whether the west can wait for another ruler in Russia who is more sympathetic to the modern world. Russia’s future as far as I can see is as a vast country with a developing world status that can only reminisce about its past. That’s unless it can discover a new role for itself in a changing world.

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