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CAPTURED RUSSIAN WEAPONS ARE PACKED WITH U.S. MICROCHIPS

Ukraine intelligence showed us lists of mostly U.S.-made microchips it says were found on captured or destroyed Russian military equipment. 

By HOWARD ALTMAN

May 27, 2022

The WARZONE

When Ukrainian forces began to take apart several pieces of captured or partially destroyed Russian military equipment, they found a strong reliance on foreign microchips – especially those made in the United States – according to component lists Ukraine intelligence shared with The War Zone.  The chips in question were found inside a recovered example of the 9S932-1, a radar-equipped air defense command post vehicle that is part of the larger Barnaul-T system, a Pantsir air defense system, a Ka-52 “Alligator” attack helicopter, and a Kh-101 (AS-23A Kodiak) cruise missile.

The component list offers some of the most detailed information to date about the extent of where the Russians are getting critical microchips, semiconductors and other components. The items on those lists raise serious questions about Russia’s ability to produce the technological components its war machine relies on and the ability of countries like the U.S. to keep those technologies secure, an expert tells The War Zone.

In the Barnaul-T air defense command post vehicle, for example, Ukraine intelligence said its specialists found eight microchips from U.S. manufacturers like Intel, Micrel, Micron Technology and Atmel Corp. in its communications systems.

Ukrainian specialists also found five U.S.-made chips – manufactured by AMD, Rochester Electronics, Texas Instruments, and Linear Technology – in the direction finder of a Pantsir air defense system.

There were at least 35 U.S.-made chips found in the Kh-101 cruise missile, including those manufactured by Texas Instruments, Atmel Corp. Rochester Electronics, Cypress Semiconductor, Maxim Integrated, XILINX, Infineon Technologies, Intel, Onsemi, and Micron Technology.

When they opened up the turreted electro-optical system of the Ka-52 Alligator, Ukraine specialists found 22 U.S.-made chips and one Korean-made chip. The U.S. manufacturers included Texas Instruments, IDT, Altera USA, Burr-Brown, Analog Devices Inc., Micron Technology, Linear Technology and TE Connectivity.

While the U.S. and several other nations instituted sanctions after Russia launched its full-on invasion on Feb. 24 that prevented selling them equipment including microchips, there is no indication that any of the chips in these captured or destroyed Russian assets violated any of those provisions. In fact, some of the manufacturers were previously subsumed by other companies.

IDT, for example, was purchased by the Japanese firm Renesas in 2019. Micrel was purchased by Microchip Technology Incorporated in 2015. Atmel Corp. was also purchased by Microchip

Technology, in 2016. Cypress Semiconductor Corp. was acquired by Infineon Technologies in 2020. Altera was purchased by Intel in 2015. Burr-Brown was purchased by Texas Instruments in 2000.

The origin of the microchips found in these Russian weapons is unclear. These chips would not necessarily have to have been sourced directly from the manufacturers. Also, there is a massive and largely unregulated market for recycled chips, largely emanating from China, and many of them appear to be quite old. Ukraine intelligence officials who provided the component list also could not say where the chips originated.

But Skip Parish, a counter-drone/directed energy weapons/electronic warfare/red team subject matter expert for NATO and the U.S. military, reviewed the list of components provided by Ukraine intelligence and said they raise a number of issues.

It highlights, he said, a “total dependence on western technology” in applications of “integrated chips sets in key sensitive working parts of Russian weapon systems – targeting, navigation, communications and execution of the weapon.”

It also shows the “breakdown or non-existent U.S. controls” in International Traffic in Arms Regulations, “both supporting investigations when found in foreign weapons.”

On May 11, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told a Senate hearing that sanctions against Russia were forcing it to seek alternate sources of key components.  “We have reports from Ukrainians that when they find Russian military equipment on the ground, it’s filled with semiconductors that they took out of dishwashers and refrigerators,” Raimondo testified, who recently met with Ukraine’s prime minister.

While components found in appliances, for instance, are harder to prevent falling into the wrong hands, U.S. officials, Parish said, do have the authority to prevent shipments of those dual-use chips if they consider the application to have critical military uses.

And, he said, this highlights and offers the need for “a clear path to stopping Russian weapons success without being there, and “a crash domestic program to stop the shipments of technology” from U.S. allies Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, collectively known as the “Five Eyes.”

While Raimondo testified that Ukraine said Russians have been using appliance parts in its tanks, that is not likely the case in the more sensitive systems laid out by Ukraine intelligence, Parish said. “The optics in the Ka-52 armed helo targeting and the missile guidance systems,” he said, “are of the greatest concern.”

The War Zone reached out to all the microchip manufacturers named in this story and several responded. Most said they no longer do business with Russia. Many said they either don’t know or can’t control where their chips wind up. And one company disputed the Ukraine intelligence assertion that its chips were found in Russian military equipment.

A spokeswoman from Onsemi, for instance, pointed out that her company’s chips are not military-grade, thus easily obtainable.

Stefanie Cuene, head of public relations for onsemi, said that her company’s chip “is a commodity, not military grade and available anywhere on the open market.” “We already viewed the war in Ukraine with serious concern,” Gregor Rodehüser, spokesman for Infineon Technologies told The War Zone. “Your message deepens these concerns.”  “While we cannot

comment on the topic specifically, Infineon has implemented appropriate measures to ensure compliance with the sanctions.”

After the beginning of the war in Ukraine, he said, “we have stopped all direct and indirect shipments to Russia, Belarus and the respective Russian-backed regions in Ukraine. This also includes technical support.”

Infineon Technologies, Rodehüser said, has not yet “found any evidence of military use of our products in Russia. We therefore screen customers and markets sourcing our products for compliance with legal export regulations.”

Intel said while they can’t know where their chips wind up, they no longer do business with either Russia or Belarus. “While we do not always know nor can we control what products our customers create or the applications end-users may develop, Intel does not support or tolerate our products being used to violate human rights,” said Penny Bruce, Intel’s director of corporate communications. “Where we become aware of a concern that Intel products are being used by a business partner in connection with abuses of human rights, we will restrict or cease business with the third party until and unless we have high confidence that Intel’s products are not being used to violate human rights.”

Intel, said Bruce, “has suspended all shipments to customers in both Russia and Belarus.” Additionally, “Intel will continue to comply with all applicable export regulations and sanctions in the countries in which it operates; this includes compliance with the sanctions and export controls against Russia and Belarus issued by the US and allied nations.”

Analog Devices “is committed to full compliance with U.S, EU and other countries’ laws including export controls, trade sanctions and regulations,” said Ferda Millan, a company spokeswoman.

TE Connectivity, meanwhile, disputed the Ukraine intelligence component list.  “We did a search in our parts database and were not able to find a match to the part number you provided,” said Jeff Cronin, a company spokesman.  The issue of foreign components winding up in Russian military equipment despite sanctions has come up before.  After Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014, it was hit with a previous round of sanctions. Those, however, apparently did not prove foolproof.

It is unclear how concerned the Commerce Department might be over the microchips Ukraine intelligence said were found on the Russian air defense systems, helicopter, and cruise missiles.

The department did not respond to a request for comment by Friday afternoon. We will let you know what they say if they do respond.

There is already a lot of evidence that existing sanctions are hurting Russia’s defense industry. And Ukraine claims that the older components Russia is using, particularly in the Kh-101, make them less effective. But given Russia’s reliance on the large numbers of microchips, semiconductors, and other components floating around – and its close relations with China, a top manufacturer and recycler of these parts – the long-term effects of sanctions, at least in regards to high-tech components like chips, remains to be seen.

So too does the U.S. reaction to the chips they are using.

 

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com

 

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U OF T TO WELCOME STUDENTS AND FACULTY FROM UKRAINE AMID ONGOING WAR

May 12, 2022

University of Toronto

With the support of a $3.2-million donation by the Temerty Foundation, the University of Toronto is preparing to welcome more than 200 students from Ukraine whose studies have been disrupted by the ongoing war.

The first cohort of 20 students has already begun to arrive on campus as part of an exchange initiative between U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science and the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (KMA), which is Ukraine’s oldest university and regarded as its top school for the social sciences and humanities.

They could be joined by up to 100 more students in September. Up to five KMA faculty are also coming to U of T as visiting professors.

Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, said U of T’s longstanding relationship with KMA – which includes initiatives such as the Petro Jacyk Program for the Study of Ukraine at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy – made it possible to put the exchange program together quickly. “When the war broke out and we were looking to understand how we may support colleagues affected by the crisis, KMA came to mind for us because of our historic and productive relationship and with the encouragement of faculty, staff and volunteers,” Woodin said. “We were able to begin conversations quickly to learn about the particular needs of KMA students and faculty.  “I am incredibly grateful for the Temerty Foundation’s support of the university’s efforts, which will allow these scholars to continue their studies and research at U of T.”

For their part, James and Louise Temerty said the foundation’s donation reflects their belief in the importance of education to promote peace, tolerance and prosperity. “Like so many others, we have watched the violence in Ukraine unfold with outrage and sadness – and noted the devastating consequences it has had on people’s lives, including students,” the Temertys said in a joint statement. “By building on our existing relationship with the University of Toronto, we hope to help sustain the mission of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and ensure the continuity of its students’ educational needs.”

The KMA partnership is just one of many initiatives across the university to support students in Ukraine.

The department of computer science, in the Faculty of Arts & Science, and the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence, swiftly moved to create a program for 29 upper-year undergraduate and graduate students from Ukrainian universities via a summer research exchange program. U of T Mississauga, too, is running a summer exchange program that is expected to accept 20 undergraduate students.

U of T is also accepting displaced students from Ukraine through its Scholars at Risk program, which is being supported by a $1-million matching fund for donations.

The U of T exchange effort – 2022-2023 U of T Special Exchange Program – Ukraine – is overseen by the Centre for International Experience, which handles applications from students with Ukrainian citizenship as well as non-Ukrainian nationals attending a post-secondary institution in the country. Students who come to U of T via any of the pathways overseen by the program will not need to pay tuition and incidental fees.

For the KMA exchange program, students were invited from across the breadth of disciplines offered by the Faculty of Arts & Science, with the majority planning to take courses in the humanities and social sciences. Graduate students will become members of the department most closely aligned to their current disciplines and will be provided with graduate research supervisors.

The five visiting KMA professors are expected to lead smaller cohorts of KMA students who will be grouped by discipline to help ensure a smooth transition to U of T life. The Faculty of Arts & Science will also foster connections between the KMA arrivals and the wider U of T community, as well as the Ukrainian diaspora in Toronto.

David Palmer, U of T’s vice-president, advancement, thanked the Temerty Foundation for supporting U of T and the Faculty of Arts & Science in removing barriers that stand between displaced students in Ukraine and their pursuit of higher education. “I would like to express my deepest gratitude to James and Louise Temerty for their unflinching support of U of T’s efforts to boost access to education for people displaced by this devastating war,” Palmer said. “Their visionary gift will help U of T and the Faculty of Arts & Science safeguard the continuity of students’ educational needs and provide a safe and supportive environment in which to continue their studies and research.”

Woodin noted that the inbound exchange is intended to be a temporary measure that supports the continued education, research and teaching activities of KMA students and faculty – and that U of T and the Faculty of Arts & Science are cognizant of the need to avoid contributing to a Ukrainian “brain drain.”

She said it is hoped that KMA students and faculty will be able to return to a peaceful Ukraine after their year term, but that U of T will continue to be a strong partner should the scholars require ongoing support. She added that the inbound exchange was agreed to as the first step in a wide-ranging partnership that will include student and faculty exchanges as well as research collaborations. “The Faculty of Arts & Science stands to benefit from our academic collaborations with KMA because we have great research synergies,” Woodin said. “But we’re also going to benefit at the undergraduate level because having students together in the classroom – whether physically on exchange, or in virtual Global Classrooms – enables them to learn from each other on a range of topics, given that they have different lived experiences. “The arrival of KMA students and faculty this year represents the foundation for our future ambitious partnership.”

Using mechanisms already in place for its undergraduate research summer program, the department of computer science was able to launch its program just a few days after Russia invaded Ukraine, according to Professor Marsha Chechik, chair of the department.  “When we heard of the massive exodus of refugees, we began looking for ways to help and make a substantive difference. A lot of us have connections with scholars in Ukraine,” said Chechik, who was born in the former Soviet Union. “Our goal was to allow students an opportunity to study in a peaceful environment and with world-class faculty.  “With support from the

department, the Vector institute and University Advancement, the program will welcome 29 young scholars whose studies were disrupted by the war.”

Chechik said most of the arriving students are women due to the Ukrainian government barring most men of conscription age from leaving the country. “This was obviously not planned and is not in our control, but we are nonetheless excited that these women will come and study with us,” said Chechik, whose own lab will be welcoming two of the arriving students. “Computer science is a very male-dominated discipline, so we will benefit from being able to welcome some outstanding female talent.”

Going forward, Chechik said she envisages the program offering opportunities to students in other conflict-stricken parts of the world.  “This process was focused on students from Ukraine, but I’m hoping that it can be extended past this year and to other places where there are scholars in need.”

At U of T Mississauga, meanwhile, its summer exchange program is being co-ordinated by the Office of the Dean with support from the Office of the Registrar, International Education Centre, Student Housing and Residence Life and other student affairs and services departments.

The program is provided at no cost, and includes in-person academic activities, on-campus housing, a stipend and travel costs. “These students are facing so many challenges, and we don’t want the loss of their education to be another,” said Rhonda McEwen, vice-principal, academic and dean at U of T Mississauga, noting similar assistance was recently extended to students displaced by unrest in Syria and Afghanistan.  “The university has several initiatives in place to support out-of-country international students at risk, and we will continue to look for ways to help these students – and those from other countries – stay on track despite the terrible hardships they are enduring at home.”

 

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NATURAL GAS, RARE EARTH MINERALS: WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR UKRAINE IN THE TERRITORY RUSSIA IS TRYING TO CONQUER

 The invasion may be about Russian imperialism, but it’s also about securing natural resources

Murray Brewster

CBC News

May 27, 2022

 

The war in Ukraine is about Russian mythology — the notion of reuniting two peoples with a long, viscerally complicated relationship going back centuries — and outdated ideas about spheres of influence.  It could be about empire building, or rebuilding, depending on how you want to interpret your history and what text you use as a guide to explain Moscow’s attempt to subjugate an independent nation of 44 million souls. And that may very well be.

There is, however, a cold, hard, underappreciated calculation, one that —  depending upon how the war ends — has the potential to secure either Ukraine or Russia’s economic future for the next century.  If you take a map of the areas occupied or being fought over by Russian forces and then transpose it to a resource map of Ukraine, you begin to understand what it is at stake beyond hazy cultural delusions and dreams of empire.

The eastern Donbas region, where most of the fighting has taken place over the last eight years, is often referred to as the industrial heartland of Ukraine. Rich in coal, it has helped fire the steel plants, foundries and electric generators of the country for a century, or more. It is more than that, though.

Critical mineral superpower

Ukraine has the potential to become a “critical mineral superpower,” according to a recent evaluation by SecDev, an Ottawa-based research and analysis think-tank.   The country ranks fourth globally in terms of total assessed value of natural resources, with roughly $15 billion in annual output and a potential “assessed value [that] could be as high as $7.5 trillion,” according to the report. Beyond that, Ukraine is thought to have the largest supply of recoverable rare earth resources in Europe, although much of it is undeveloped.  Rare earth minerals (cerium, yttrium, lanthanum and neodymium) and alloys are used in many devices people use every day, such as computer memory, rechargeable batteries, cellphones and much more.

Roughly 80 per cent of Ukraine’s oil, natural gas and coal production reserves can be found in the Dnieper-Donetsk region, which has been the major focus of Russia’s military operations to “liberate” the country, the SevDev report noted.

Equally importantly, Ukraine is thought to have the second-largest natural gas deposits in Europe, estimated at 1.2 trillion cubic metres of proven reserves — and possibly up to 5.4 trillion cubic metres, much of it the now-contested offshore Black Sea region.

The gains Russia has made thus far in the invasion mean Moscow now has control of two thirds of its neighbour’s maritime shelf, which is where an estimated 80 per cent of Ukraine’s offshore oil and natural gas deposits are found.

Invasion timing not a coincidence

The timing of Russia’s military actions, and its choice of territory to conquer, is not a coincidence, said Oleksandr Kharchenko, the managing director of the Energy Industry Research Center, a research and consulting firm in Kyiv.

At the time of the 2014 annexation of Crimea, Ukraine had been in talks with the Shell Oil Co. and Chevron Corp. to develop the Black Sea reserves —  plans that were scuppered because of Russia’s actions.  The Black Sea is “a huge source of [natural] gas, which was [discovered] in Soviet time, and we have other sources that [were] clearly stopped because of [the] Russian invasion,” he said. The goal of the development program, he said, was to wean Ukraine off imports of Russian oil and natural gas.  “Everyone believed that in five, seven years of development, even if [there was] 50 per cent success [rate in development], it will be enough to have Ukraine independent from Russia,” Kharchenko said in a recent interview with CBC News.

Exports of minerals from Ukraine

Minerals and metals accounted for more than 30% of exports from Ukraine in March 2022, a value of more than $4 million US.

A table showing the value of mineral and metal exports from Ukraine

Product Value (USD) % of all exports ▼
Ferrous metals
Includes iron, steel, manganese, chromium, and nickel
  $2.4M      18.7%
Ores, slags, ashes   $1.3M         8.9%
Mineral fuel, petroleum and petroleum distillation products
Includes coal and natural gas
  $242.8K          1.7%
Other metals
Includes lead, zinc and tin, copper and aluminum
 $128.1K        0.9%
Salt, sulphur, soil and stones    $81.5K        0.6%

Table: Dexter McMillan  Source: State Statistics Service of Ukraine  CBC News

 

In the interceding years until last winter, he said, Russia directed much of its covert intelligence in Ukraine toward sabotaging the country’s energy independence ambitions, particularly in hydrocarbon development.

Ukraine was getting set to issue more exploratory approvals in the region when Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24, Kharchenko said. “I don’t believe that it was accidental. I believe that Russia has a very good understanding” of what was at stake for Ukraine and what it could lose if its former client became a competitor or alternate supplier of energy to Europe, he said, which is Moscow’s biggest market.

Tens of thousands of residents of Russian-controlled city of Kherson in southern Ukraine have fled since the beginning of Moscow’s invasion. Those who remain say there are consequences for defying Russia.

The Greater Russia myth

Former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said sabotaging his country’s mineral and hydrocarbon development plans are “a very important part” of Russian President Vladmir Putin’s plan, but not the prime motivator, from his point of view.   “Compromise is unreachable because the picture is black and white: Putin wants to kill us, and we simply want to live,” Poroshenko said. “Putin wants to erase our country, our state and our nation from the world map.”

Zuzanna Nowak of the Polish Institute of International Affairs said she also believes that the prime motivation of the war is rooted in the myth of a “Greater Russia” and patriotism, but she can’t help but notice how the historic line of the war and the current battle map can be tied to resources.  “All the troubles, what we saw since 2014; they have always been related to the issue of liberalization of the Ukrainian gas market,” said Nowak, who also noted that Ukraine has enormous potential for hydrocarbon storage and that European leaders were interested in developing it to improve Europe’s overall capacity.

All wars are about resources

But it is too simplistic to say that the war in Ukraine is solely about resources, said one of the authors of the recent SecDev assessment.  Having said that, “all wars ultimately are about some kind of resource,” said Rafal Rohozinski, the founder of SecDev. He said it is hard to ignore the economic benefit that would accrue to Russia should it win the war and carve up Ukraine’s mineral and hydrocarbon wealth. “The areas of occupation, not just now but going back to 2014, really encompasses the eastern part of the country, which not coincidentally, happen to also be the place where you have the largest natural resource endowment that Ukraine has,” Rohozinski said. He described the rare earth deposits as “the real wild card” as many countries are quietly scrambling to secure their own supply.

The notion that Moscow saw its neighbour as a strategic economic threat should not be discounted, and Rohozinski believes that the longer the war drags on, the more Russia will feel the need to find some benefit in order to justify the enormous cost. “A lot of Russia’s security strategy over the last two decades has been built upon these twin pillars of military-political security, but then also energy security,” he said.  “The fact that, now, as the war has gone definitely against Russia, in terms of its immediate political objectives of overthrowing the Ukrainian regime, it may well become a war over those resources that happen to be in the lands that it controls.”

 

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

 

 

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TO THE TOPIC AT HAND

May 28, 2022

Nazar  Rozlutsky, PhD, author of six books, currently a junior sergeant in the Armed Forces of Ukraine:

“I am not a military man. I never wanted to be in the military. I am a researcher, have a PhD in history and work at a museum. I am also a writer. I am supposed to be researching history, writing scientific and popular science works, and fiction too, because I like it and I am good at it.

 

But lately I’ve been in the military. Because there is a war in my country. Every day we engage in artillery duels, in which one successful strike by an enemy will turn us into mince. We sleep in the cargo beds on top of the boxes in unbelievable narrowness, and take a warm shower once a month. When it’s raining, we’re wet. When we’re in a swamp, we’re as dirty as hell (and, again, we take a shower once a month, and there is no guarantee that we will have such an opportunity the next month). And when it was cold, my brothers in arms froze off their fingers. We eat only when we have a minute to spare, not when it’s time to eat or when we have an appetite. We sleep so irregularly that I don’t know if I will ever be able to return to my standard schedule from 11pm to 7am. At the same time, we are a priority target for the enemy. And they try to wipe us out in different ways, at any moment.

 

Thousands of historians, writers, accountants, bankers, IT specialists, teachers, designers and representatives of other completely peaceful professions in Ukraine have found themselves in these conditions, if not in more drastic ones. They are being killed with 152 mm artillery and Tochka-U missile launchers. Bullets, VOGs, clusters and phosphorus ammunition flies at them. Some of them have already died. And some will never return to their profession because they are burned out. But they all continue to fight. Because Ukraine is behind them. Because if they lay down their arms, their parents will be killed, their wives and daughters will be raped, and their homes will be destroyed or confiscated.

 

And when politicians from France, Italy, Germany and other countries offer us to lay down our arms, agree to lose territories, provide Russia with some security guarantees (what an absurdity; Russia does not need any security guarantees; it’s Russia’s neighbors who need guarantees against the threat from Russia).

 

Then I feel anger and deep disgust. I loathe these worthless people who, because of their prejudices or because of Putin’s dirty money, are ready to condemn my country to occupation, to a slow and painful death. I feel disgust and anger at those who have great opportunities to help overcome the crisis, but instead seek, consciously or unconsciously, to deepen it. Because even the complete capitulation of Ukraine will not solve the problem of global security. On the contrary, it will push Russia into new conquests.

 

We do not need offers to surrender. If you are not ready to fight with us against a rabid enemy, then help us with weapons, money, and sanctions. We need a lot to defeat Russia and thus drastically reduce the global crisis. But we have the main thing – motivation. We have historians who are ready to sleep on top of boxes, five people in two sleeping places, without being able to shower. We have accountants who are ready to eat only porridge with stew for months. We have young students who spend their best years risking their lives. And they will not go anywhere, unless they are all killed.

 

Ukraine will fight to victory as long as she can resist. And what will you do?”

 

Sincerely,

Nazar  Rozlutsky

 

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DECOLONIZE RUSSIA

To avoid more senseless bloodshed, the Kremlin must lose what empire it still retains.

By Casey Michel

The Atlantic

May 27, 2022

The former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski once said that without Ukraine, Russia would cease to be an empire. It’s a pithy statement, but it’s not true. Even if Vladimir Putin fails to wrest back Ukraine, his country will remain a haphazard amalgamation of regions and nations with hugely varied histories, cultures, and languages. The Kremlin will continue ruling over colonial holdings in places including Chechnya, Tatarstan, Siberia, and the Arctic.

Russia’s history is one of almost ceaseless expansion and colonization, and Russia is the last European empire that has resisted even basic decolonization efforts, such as granting subject populations autonomy and a meaningful voice in choosing the country’s leaders. And as we’ve seen in Ukraine, Russia is willing to resort to war to reconquer regions it views as its rightful possessions.

During and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the Russian empire hit its modern nadir, the United States refused to safeguard the newly won independence of multiple post-Soviet states, citing misplaced concerns about humiliating Moscow. Emboldened by the West’s reluctance, Moscow began to reclaim the lands it lost. Now Russia’s revanchism—aided by our inaction and broader ignorance of the history of Russian imperialism—has revived the possibility of nuclear conflict and instigated the worst security crisis the world has seen in decades. Once Ukraine staves off Russia’s attempt to recolonize it, the West must support full freedom for Russia’s imperial subjects.

The U.S. had an opportunity to unwind the Russian empire before. In September 1991, as the Soviet Union was falling apart, President George H. W. Bush convened his National Security Council. In the lead-up to the meeting, the White House seemed unsure how to handle the splintering superpower. Some of Bush’s closest advisers even called for trying to keep the Soviet Union together.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney was not one of them. “We could get an authoritarian regime [in Russia] still,” he warned during the meeting. “I am concerned that a year or so from now, if it all goes sour, how we can answer that we did not do more.” His end goal was clear: as Deputy National Security Adviser Robert Gates later wrote, Cheney “wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.”

Bush demurred. Rather than accelerate the Soviet disintegration, he tried to avoid antagonizing Moscow, even as President Boris Yeltsin’s administration began pushing the anti-Ukrainian animus that Putin now embodies. For years—as Russia stabilized and eventually prospered, and

as Cheney masterminded some of the most disastrous American foreign-policy decisions in recent decades—many believed that Bush had selected the better strategy. Armageddon, as one historian phrased it, was averted.

In 2022, as Putin tries to restore the Russian empire by littering corpses across Ukraine, Bush’s position appears myopic. He—and American policy makers after him—failed to see the end of the Soviet Union for what it was: not just a defeat for communism, but a defeat for colonialism. Rather than quash Russia’s imperial aspirations when they had the chance, Bush and his successors simply watched and hoped for the best. As Bush’s National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft later said about the Soviet collapse, “In the end, we took no position at all. We simply let things happen.”

We no longer have that luxury. The West must complete the project that began in 1991. It must seek to fully decolonize Russia.

Many of Russia’s former colonies, including places such as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Armenia, succeeded in achieving and sustaining independence after the fall of the U.S.S.R. But only Ukraine’s independence has become an obsession for Putin. It’s not hard to see why. Stiff-arming Russia at every turn, Ukraine emerged as the biggest hurdle to the Kremlin’s efforts to reconsolidate its empire and undo the independence movements of the early 1990s.

Not every one of the Kremlin’s colonies was so successful in achieving independence in those years. Scores of nations—“autonomous republics” in Russian parlance—never escaped the Kremlin’s control. For many, the process of decolonization made it only halfway.

Chechnya, for instance, endured multiple horrific wars after declaring independence in the early ’90s. Yet when Chechen leadership turned to the West for aid, U.S. officials looked the other way. Many across the West remained blinded by the “saltwater fallacy,” which posits that colonies can be held only in distant, overseas territories. Instead of viewing places such as Chechnya as nations colonized by a dictatorship in Moscow, Western officials simply saw them as extensions of Russia proper. So rather than recognize the Chechens’ struggle as part of the global push toward decolonization, American President Bill Clinton compared them to the Confederacy and backed Yeltsin despite his brutality. Clinton’s position not only effectively sanctioned the horrors unleashed on innocent Chechens, but it showed Putin, then a rising bureaucrat, that Russian force would go unchallenged by the West. As former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar said, Western pressure could have prevented the violence in Chechnya. Analysts agree. Yet Washington twiddled its thumbs, and Grozny was flattened.

Chechnya’s story is one of many. Nation after nation—Karelia, Komi, Sakha, Bashkortostan, Chuvashia, Kalmykia, Udmurtia, and many more—claimed sovereignty as the Soviet empire crumbled around them. Even regions that had been colonized by the Kremlin for centuries pushed for independence. In a 1992 referendum in Tatarstan, nearly two-thirds of the population voted in favor of sovereignty, even though Soviet authorities had drawn the republic’s borders to exclude some 75 percent of the Tatar population. As election observers wrote, the republic was motivated by “years of pent-up resentment” against Russian colonialism, and saw “huge support” for the referendum in ethnically Tatar regions.

Instead of propping up these emergent nations, the U.S. prioritized stability. Washington feared that any volatility in the region might cause Russia’s nuclear and biological weapons to fall into the wrong hands. Administration after administration made the same mistake. In his “Chicken Kiev” speech, George H. W. Bush warned Ukrainian separatists against “suicidal nationalism” (which Ukrainian separatists promptly ignored). Bill Clinton kept up his buddies-and-belly-laughs relationship with Yeltsin while Russian forces slaughtered Chechens en masse. George W. Bush took a hands-off approach to the entrenchment of Putin’s regime, even as Russian forces steamrolled into Georgia. Barack Obama’s blinkered “reset” policy set the stage for Putin’s initial invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Donald Trump fawned over Putin and subordinated Ukraine’s interests to his pursuit of domestic political gain.

The result: Chechnya remains dominated by a Kremlin-appointed despot. Tatarstan saw any pretense of sovereignty snuffed out by Putin. On and on Moscow marched, reclaiming nations desperate to escape its embrace. In Ukraine, we see the same story. Moscow is unlikely to stop there.

Russia is not the only polyglot nation that has failed to address its legacy of colonization. China currently oversees the largest concentration-camp system the world has seen since the Holocaust, dedicated to eliminating Uyghurs as a distinct nation. And much of the U.S. still refuses to view its own history as one of rote imperial conquest, from the Founding Fathers seizing Indigenous lands to the ongoing colonial status of places such as Puerto Rico.

But it’s Russia—and, more specifically, Russian imperialism—that presents the most urgent threat to international security. Now the bill of allowing Moscow to retain its empire, without any reckoning with its colonial history, is coming due.

Decolonizing Russia wouldn’t necessarily require fully dismantling it, as Cheney proposed. The push toward decolonization could instead focus on making the kind of democratic federalism promised in Russia’s constitution more than a hollow promise. This would mean ensuring that all Russian citizens, regardless of region, would finally be given a voice in choosing their leaders. Even simply acknowledging Russia’s colonial past—and present—would make some difference. “As much as decolonizing Russia is important for the territories it formerly occupied, reprocessing its history is also key for the survival of Russia within its current boundaries,” the scholars Botakoz Kassymbekova and Erica Marat recently wrote.

Until Moscow’s empire is toppled, though, the region—and the world—will not be safe. Nor will Russia. Europe will remain unstable, and Ukrainians and Russians and all of the colonized peoples forced to fight for the Kremlin will continue to die. “There is no way for Russia to move forward with Putin and there is no way for Russia to move forward without addressing its imperial past and present,” the analyst Anton Barbashin recently tweeted. “Give up empire and attempt to thrive or hold [on] to it and continue degrading.”

Russia has launched the greatest war the world has seen in decades, all in the service of empire. To avoid the risk of further wars and more senseless bloodshed, the Kremlin must lose what empire it still retains. The project of Russian decolonization must finally be finished.

Casey Michel is a writer based in New York. He is the author of American Kleptocracy: How the U.S. Created the World’s Greatest Money Laundering Scheme in History.

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CARNEGIE HALL MUSTERS STARS FOR A BENEFIT CONCERT FOR UKRAINE

Headliners from the fields of classical music, jazz and Broadway joined forces to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and show solidarity with its victims.

By Matt Stevens and Javier C. Hernández

May 24, 2022

The New York Times

It was not a typical chorus on the stage of Carnegie Hall: the acclaimed pianist Evgeny Kissin reading from a sheet of paper as he sang Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere” with a gathering that included the actor Richard Gere, the mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and the Broadway star Adrienne Warren.

But there they were — four members of the full company that took part in Monday night’s benefit concert in support of Ukraine, an array of star power singing onstage as members of the Ukrainian Chorus Dumka of New York joined from the aisles.

“Hold my hand and I’ll take you there,” they sang. “Somehow. Someday. Somewhere.”

It was that kind of night at Carnegie Hall, as artists from many disciplines and the institution itself came together to speak out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and show solidarity with its victims.

The Ukrainian Chorus Dumka, an amateur ensemble that specializes in secular and sacred music from Ukraine, opened the concert with the Ukrainian national anthem. Diplomats, foreign and domestic, offered thanks and spoke about the power of the arts in times of crisis. In between songs, the mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves paused and choked up briefly while speaking about her husband, a doctor, who was in attendance just a day after returning from Ukraine, where he had been helping provide medical care.

“Music heals and inspires, music boosts hope and confidence,” the first lady, Olena Zelenska, said in a prerecorded video message that played early in the program. “Today’s event is a reminder that Ukraine is an integral part of world culture.”

“Music on this stage is a separate important victory,” she added. “It is a sign of unity of our cultures against the chaos and grief of war. And all of you who are in this hall today are our effective and true allies in this cultural struggle.”

The evening included more than a dozen artists and ensembles. There were performances by the jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, the violinist Midori, the singer Michael Feinstein, the soprano Angel Blue and the Broadway singer Jessica Vosk. Mr. Kissin appeared toward the end of the program — first with the violinist Itzhak Perlman to play John Williams’s Theme from “Schindler’s List,” and then to play Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2 alone.

In an interview with The New York Times before the concert, Mr. Kissin said that playing in the benefit felt “so natural for me that I can’t even call it a decision.”

“Unfortunately, I am too old and not qualified to take a gun and go to fight in Ukraine, so I’m doing everything I can: sending money and taking part in concerts for Ukraine,” he said. “As a Jew who was born and grew up in Russia, I, having belonged to the greatest victims of the Russian xenophobia, have always felt solidarity with all its other victims, including the Ukrainians.”

Gavriel Heine. The American conductor, a fixture at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, for 15 years, has resigned from his post as one of the state-run theater’s resident conductors. He said in a series of interviews that he had been increasingly disturbed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Valentin Silvestrov. Ukraine’s best-known living composer, Mr. Silvestrov made his way from his home in Kyiv to Berlin, where he is now sheltering. In recent weeks, his consoling music has taken on new significance for listeners in his war-torn country.

Anna Netrebko. The superstar Russian soprano faced backlash in Russia after she tried to distance herself from President Vladimir V. Putin with a statement condemning the war. She had previously lost work in the West because of her past support for Mr. Putin.

Olga Smirnova. A principal soloist at the Bolshoi Ballet since 2016, Ms. Smirnova announced that she had joined the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam, becoming one of the most significant Russian cultural figures to leave the country because of its invasion of Ukraine.

Valery Gergiev. The star Russian maestro and vocal supporter of Mr. Putin was removed from his post as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic after he refused to denounce Russia’s actions in Ukraine. His abrupt dismissal came three years before his contract was set to expire.

Alexei Ratmansky. The choreographer, who grew up in Kyiv, was preparing a new ballet at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow when the invasion began, and immediately decided to leave Moscow. The ballet, whose premiere was set for March 30, was postponed indefinitely.

Monday’s benefit represented Carnegie’s latest effort to use its platform to publicly support Ukraine. This season, Carnegie Hall had initially intended to highlight the work of Valery Gergiev, the Russian conductor who is a prominent supporter of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and who had planned to conduct a series of concerts at the hall with both the Vienna Philharmonic and the Mariinsky Orchestra. But it called off those engagements after Russia invaded Ukraine, becoming one of the first cultural institutions to fire artists with strong ties to Mr. Putin.

Several similar benefits for Ukraine have been held by New York arts groups. In March, the Metropolitan Opera put on a concert featuring Ukraine’s national anthem and a piece by the Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov, among others. The Met also has helped organize what is known as the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra for a tour that is planned for this summer.

The New York Philharmonic plans to honor the people of Ukraine at its upcoming Memorial Day concert, and to fundraise with the International Rescue Committee.

Carnegie Hall has said proceeds from its concert on Monday would go to Direct Relief, a humanitarian aid group that supports relief efforts in Ukraine.

As the concert closed with the full-company finale, a man sitting in the center section of the parquet could barely contain his enthusiasm and warm feelings. Before the members of the Ukrainian chorus could make their way back up the aisle, he stood up from his seat and reached out to grasp a chorus member on the shoulder in a gesture of appreciation.

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PUTIN’S TERROR IN UKRAINE IS NOT RANDOM: IT’S STRATEGY

By YULIA LATYNINA

05/26/22

The Hill

When the Russian army withdrew from Ukraine’s Kyiv region, the world was shocked by the sheer scale of murder and rape that it had perpetrated. This level of wanton violence is usually characteristic of low-tech paramilitaries engaged in asymmetric warfare, and quite unexpected from the regular forces of an industrial nation.

It is easy to explain away these killings as the product of a lack of control, or of low troop morale. But the real reason for the atrocities perpetrated by the Russian army is both more simple and more sinister: Russian President Vladimir Putin has adopted mass terror as a conscious strategy to attempt to intimidate — and dominate — Ukraine’s population.

Among the first targets destroyed in Mariupol were local hospitals, along with a theater that sheltered at least 1,300 civilians. This can’t be chalked up to indiscriminate bombing; rather, it reflects the Russian version of “shock and awe,” which entails the systematic destruction of civil infrastructure — including hospitals — in order to demoralize the population.

This strategy is reflected in the treatment of prisoners and the displaced. Every civilian who seeks to leave occupied urban centers, like Mariupol, is forced through a filtration camp. There, the penniless refugees are strip-searched, browbeaten, threatened, and generally subjected to all manner of demeaning treatment. This reflects terror on an industrial scale. After all, a soldier might shoot a civilian by mistake. But you can hardly set up a “filtration” camp accidentally.

Nor have civilians been allowed to flee combat zones, as international law demands. Instead, in multiple cities, Russia’s military command established blockades and fired on civilian cars trying to leave. Granted, the order given may not have been to “kill every fleeing civilian car,” but the practical effects of painting fleeing civilians as enemies was precisely that.

The fate of those who stayed behind was more gruesome still. People were shot in the back of the head, with hands tied behind their back. Some civilians were tortured by soldiers and then transferred to a prison in Russia, and, what is even more sinister, right now Russia is engaged in a campaign of mass terror and harassment in every conquered region, including those that were occupied virtually without resistance.

“In and near Kherson there are at least four prisons where they torture and kill,” says Ukrainian presidential advisor Alexei Arestovich, 46. “And we know of two new Buchas that happened in Kherson and in Zaporizhia regions.”

Vadym Boychenko, 44, the mayor of Mariupol, told me: “The whole city of Mariupol is turned into a giant concentration camp.” The city still has some 100,000 inhabitants left — and anybody who ventures on the streets can be strip-searched or beaten, or much worse.

This is not something that is done by out-of-control troops. These are not random acts, but part of a systemic campaign by Russian forces of eliminating anyone who might be a Ukrainian patriot or a potential troublemaker.

Of course, the victims were not called that. In Russian official newspeak, they were called “Nazis,” and all “Nazis” were to be eliminated. Everybody who didn’t hail the Russians who destroyed their houses, killed their family and robbed their property as liberators were “Nazis.” As a result, all Ukrainians were deemed “Nazis,” and subject to “de-Nazification.”

Russian authorities didn’t mince words, either. Alexey Zhuravlev, a deputy of the State Duma, literally called for the extermination of 2 million Ukrainians. While Margarita Simonyan, head of Russia’s infamous RT propaganda outlet, complained that “[a] very substantial part of Ukrainians are Nazis.”

It is easy to mistake this orgy of killing for uncontrolled violence, but it is not. It is an attempt to cow the people and instill a sense of utter hopelessness. Even the randomness of killings and rapes contributed to this perception; for the terror to be truly terrifying it has to be random.

This has been President Putin’s strategy of choice. He is not naïve enough to believe all Ukraine will love him. From the outset, he knew that he would have to cow the Ukrainian people into submission — and that mass terror is his only means of doing so and the only type of warfare of which the Russian army is capable.

The civilized world has a term for those who orchestrate campaigns of mass terror to achieve their political objectives. It’s the same one that President Biden used in March when referring to Russia’s president. The term is “war criminal.”

 

Yulia Latynina, a journalist, worked for Echo of Moscow radio station and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper until they were shut down as part of the current war in Ukraine. She is a recipient of the U.S. State Department’s Defender of Freedom award.

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IS A DURABLE PEACE BETWEEN UKRAINE AND RUSSIA POSSIBLE?

By ALEXANDER J. MOTYL

05/26/22

The Hill

 

Now that the Kremlin’s offensive has stalled and the Ukrainian armed forces appear poised to defeat Russia, various authoritative Western voices — from French President Emmanuel Macron to Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio to the New York Times — have begun calling for a negotiated end to the war.

Their intent may be laudable; their chances of success are nil. The reason is simple. Ukraine wants to survive as a nation and as a state and has no claims on Russian territory. Russia wants to destroy Ukraine as a nation and as a state and wants to seize all of Ukraine’s territory. Ukraine is playing a positive-sum game in which both sides can win. Russia is playing a zero-sum game in which Russia wins everything and Ukraine loses everything.

Unless Russian President Vladimir Putin changes Russia’s game, there is no compromise possible and, hence, no durable peace. Both sides could take a breather to regroup their forces, but a stable, long-lasting peace is possible only if Russia accepts Ukraine’s existence as both a nation and a state.

Thus far, there is no evidence of such a change of heart. Quite the contrary, Russian rhetoric and policy have become increasingly dismissive of Ukraine’s right to exist. Claims that Ukraine does not and should not exist abound; the genocidal killing of Ukrainian civilians and the destruction of Ukraine’s cultural legacy continue unabated.

Seen in this light, Italy’s recently announced four-point peace plan appears unrealistic. Although its elements are perfectly reasonable, as far as most reasonable people are concerned, the plan assumes that Putin’s Russia also could be reasonable. Russia could agree to a ceasefire and Ukraine’s neutrality (points 1 and 2 of the plan) as temporary adjustments to its strategic goal of destroying Ukraine, but it never would agree to Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea and the Donbas and a withdrawal of Russian troops from all of Ukraine (points 3 and 4). Ukraine, in contrast, could easily agree to all four points, at least as starting points for further negotiations.

How, then, could Russia be brought around to accepting Ukraine’s existence? There are three formidable obstacles to such a metamorphosis.

First, Putin has explicitly adopted genocide as the core of his approach to Ukraine. Given that Ukraine’s destruction is the central desideratum of Putin’s Ukraine’s policy, Russia will remain intransigent in its zero-sum approach as long as Putin remains president. To put the matter less diplomatically, Putin will have to leave office, whether by force or not, for anything to change in Russia’s Ukraine policy. Rome would do well to shelve its peace plan until that day.

To be sure, Putin’s successor also could be a hardliner. But even if he is, his line is almost certain to be softer than Putin’s, both because he will have invested less personal capital in genocide and

because he may be looking for a convenient issue to enhance his own authority and distance himself from Putin’s catastrophic war. And, of course, it’s not inconceivable that, if a post-Putin power struggle were to break out, quasi-democrats might even be able to seize the government.

Second, Russia is a fascist state that needs an enemy and war to legitimize itself and retain its popularity with the population. Putin’s departure would remove the linchpin of the fascist regime and thereby fatally weaken it, but the only thing that would guarantee a withdrawal from zero-sum thinking would be regime change. Russia need not become democratic; run-of-the-mill authoritarianism would suffice to make a significant difference. Naturally, there is no hope of any kind of regime change as long as Putin remains in charge.

Finally, Russian political culture is explicitly hostile to Ukraine and Ukrainians and has been so for several centuries. The popular mindset doesn’t determine policy, but it does place constraints on what may and may not be undertaken by policymakers. Political cultures, like all cultures, take time to change, and they change radically only if they experience serious traumas.

What, then, could overcome all three obstacles? Not peace plans, not vain stabs at negotiation, not concessions by Ukraine, and not ceasefires doomed to breakdown. The only thing that could change Russia quickly would be a serious defeat in the war with Ukraine. At the least, Ukraine would have to drive out Russian forces from the territories they occupied after Feb. 24. Ideally, Russia also would be driven out of Crimea and the Donbas.

If that were to happen, Putin in all likelihood would fall, the regime would collapse, and Russian political culture would begin to change from Russian supremacism toward some form of peaceful coexistence with its neighbors.

The lesson for the West is painfully obvious. If it wants real peace in Ukraine, it should keep doing everything possible not to save Putin’s face but to hand him a serious defeat.

 

Alexander J. Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers University-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires and theory, he is the author of 10 books of nonfiction, as well as “Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires” and “Why Empires Reemerge: Imperial Collapse and Imperial Revival in Comparative Perspective.”

 

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WHAT WILL IT TAKE FOR UKRAINE TO WIN ITS WAR WITH RUSSIA? WESTERN WEAPONS AND POLITICAL WILL, SAY EXPERTS

Murray Brewster

CBC News

May 24, 2022

It made for an extraordinary sight recently on the broken, battered streets of Kharkiv on a warm Saturday afternoon. A Russian T-80 main battle tank, draped in camouflage netting and Ukrainian flags and pennants, was broken down in front of a neighborhood grocery store, where weary shoppers shuffled past with barely a glance. “Russian junk,” the tank commander joked. He was happy to talk as long as we didn’t identify him, or his unit.

The tank, captured a month before by Ukrainian forces who had doggedly defended the country’s second-largest city, had a clogged oil filter and the crew lounged in the intermittent sunshine waiting for the mechanic from the local depot to bail them out.

The commander, bearded, jovial but haggard, simply beamed through his ballistic sunglasses at how the tank’s 125 millimetre cannon had been turned back on the Russians and ultimately helped drive them away from the city.  It killed many Russians, he said proudly.

What he wouldn’t give, the commander said, for an American-built Abrams M-1 tank or even a German-manufactured Leopard 2, the kind used by the Canadian army.

In many ways, the scene was emblematic of the kind of war the Ukrainians have been forced to fight, where they’ve had to beg, borrow or steal what they need to survive.

A global contact group, intended to coordinate pledges of military equipment from more than 40 allies in and outside NATO, met for a second time Monday at the U.S. air base in Ramstein, Germany.

Throwing caution to the wind

Despite a veneer of allied solidarity with Ukraine, there is an undercurrent of bitterness which occasionally rises to the surface. You heard it in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s virtual speech to NATO leaders in mid-March and again recently with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba’s remarks in interviews with U.S. media.

The thrust: Thousands of lives would have been saved had the United States and western allies provided sophisticated military aid requested by Ukraine months before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the full-scale invasion in February. They are not wrong, said former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst. “It’s very simple,” he said. “Western aid, especially U.S. aid, has been essential for Ukraine, but it has been slow. It has been cautious, overly cautious. And if we had sent what we should have sent, when we should have sent it, Ukraine’s position would have been stronger.”

Canada, one of the last western countries to send lethal aid, cannot escape criticism in this vein. A request by Kyiv for arms and munitions was under “review” in Ottawa for months before Russian troops stormed across the border. “Canada has been surprisingly timid and late, just like the United States,” said Herbst, who served for 31 years as a foreign service officer in the U.S. State Department and is now a senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.

Given the large Ukrainian diaspora population in Canada and its leading role as a military trainer in Ukraine, with all of the insight that would bring, “you’d expect more from Canada, but they have been no better than the Biden Administration, perhaps even worse,” Herbst added. “Of the major NATO allies, the one country that has shown strength and vision was the U.K.” In late January, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised non-lethal aid to Ukraine, he said Canada wasn’t sending lethal weaponry because it didn’t want to give Russia any excuse to invade Ukraine.

Taking Stock

So, how badly has Ukraine been mauled?  Reliable official figures are hard to come by and third party estimates vary wildly. In a rare moment of clarity, Zelensky hinted on Sunday that as many as 100 Ukrainian soldiers were dying each day in the Donbas. A few weeks ago, he told CNN up to 3,000 troops had been killed defending the country.  It is the material losses that preoccupy Phillip Karber, president of the Potomac Foundation who has made 39 trips to Ukraine since the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia and is considered one of the foremost western experts on the eight-year-old war.

He’s done his own calculations based upon long-established military formulas and the kind of intense fighting he’s witnessed over the last three months. Since the Feb. 24 Russian invasion, Karber believes that a little less than half of Ukraine’s tanks have been destroyed or damaged; almost two-thirds of the army’s Soviet-era armoured personnel carriers have been wrecked and up to a quarter of the military’s artillery pieces.

Ukraine’s defence ministry would not confirm to him, or CBC News — for operational security reasons — how close Karber’s estimates might be. It is, however, against such a stark backdrop that Ukraine’s pleas for heavy weapons and equipment can be better understood and urgently appreciated. Several western military experts, who’ve been quietly advising the Ukrainian government at different levels, have privately remarked at how officials reluctantly share information, other than providing lists of military equipment.

More NATO than NATO

As the brutality, horror and atrocities of the Russian invasion revealed themselves, western governments have shed their inhibitions and agreed to ship a variety of surplus heavy military equipment. They are stuffing the pipeline, proposing to fill gaps and create an army equipped with a hodge-podge of equipment that — significantly — comes with a complex supply and spare parts chain as well as different, often specialized training needs.  “You know that there’s this cornucopia of systems,” said Karber, “I laugh, half as a joke but it’s actually serious. Ukraine is going to have more different types of NATO weapons, more standardized with other NATO nations than any other country in NATO.”

The easiest for the Ukrainians to integrate is the Soviet-era equipment being donated from other former Warsaw Pact countries, including Poland which has provided T-72 tanks and early BMP infantry fighting vehicles. Ukrainian troops know how to drive and fight with them.

What will be more difficult is integrating more high-tech western equipment, be it French mobile artillery guns, Norwegian air defence missiles, Australian M-113 tracked armoured personnel carriers, or Canadian and American M-777 towed howitzers. All of them have different supply needs and training sets that could take months to get up and running. All of it will help Ukraine hold the line, stay in the fight, and not lose the war.

Building a new army on the run

Not losing, however, is different than victory and Karber said, in order to win, the Ukrainian army will have to conduct a major, theater-wide counter-offensive to reclaim territory.  To do that, he said he believes, they’re going to have to create a totally separate strategically-employed army group, one that could and should be equipped with more modern western military vehicles.

The United States could, out of its existing arsenal of recently-retired gear, equip the Ukrainians with hundreds of M-1 Abrams tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles — enough to tip the balance on the battlefield in favour of the Ukrainians. “Do the systems exist? And are they available in significant numbers and are not in current active use in the U.S., or NATO countries, or potential donor countries? The answer is yes,” Karber said.

The other important key to turning the tide is airpower. Karber said recently retired American F-16 fighters and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, with sufficient airframe life, could be made available and would be necessary for any potential large-scale counter-offensive. It would take political will on the part of NATO allies to help Ukraine build such a force, Karber added.

Avoiding a war of attrition

Without some kind of major counter-offensive, retired U.S. Army lieutenant-general Ben Hodges said the two countries will be reduced to exchanging blows.  “I do believe that Ukraine is going to end up winning, and I use that word on purpose,” Hodges said, noting that U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin recently talked about Ukraine “winning” the war. “You know, 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve never heard any administration use the word win. It was always, you know, make things better, no safe haven for terrorists, but I mean, there was no, nobody’s talking about winning.”

Russia, he said, has chosen a war of attrition in the east of Ukraine. Hodges said he doesn’t believe Moscow has the capacity to launch a major offensive and could possibly become vulnerable by late summer, as the bite of international sanctions takes its toll on the Russian defence industry.  “So I’m thinking that Ukraine, if I was advising them, that’s what they would be doing with a lot of this new equipment, new troops, training them, preparing them for employment, in a counter offensive sometime in end of August, early September,” Hodges said.

Both Hodges and Karber say it’s important for allies not to be lulled into a false sense of security by the recent advances of Ukrainian troops in clearing Russian forces away from both Kyiv and Kharkiv.

While the Ukrainians stopped the invaders at the gates of both cities and gave them “a really, really bloody nose,” as Karber put it, the fact is – in the end – Russia chose to cede the territory rather than having its forces chewed up further.

Outside of Kharkiv, over the last several days, there is still the distant rumble of artillery and see-saw battles for some villages that the Ukrainians have reclaimed.

Sitting on his captured iron monster on a Kharkiv street corner, the Ukrainian tank commander was seemingly unconcerned. “If they try to come back,” he said through an interpreter,”we will cut their throats.”

 

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

 

 

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EDITORIAL: THE KYIV INDEPENDENT’S RESPONSE TO THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

by The Kyiv Independent

May 24, 2022

A veiled manifesto of appeasement from a newspaper known for its stellar coverage of Russia’s horrific invasion has disappointed many.  In the editorial, the New York Times editorial board argues that it’s too dangerous to assume that Ukraine can win the war. It says “Russia is too strong,” that Ukraine should make a “painful compromise” and give up some territories to Russia. The U.S. must understand the futility and stop “taunting” Russia, the editorial says. Meaning: Ukraine will lose anyway, stop helping it so it’s over faster.

In short, the editorial attempts to pass off appeasement and betrayal of the free world’s values as pragmatic reasoning.  Dark times have always shed light on those willing to compromise their values to preserve their daily comforts. Neither a French president, a German intellectual, nor an award-winning American newspaper are exempt from being wrong. As a newsroom witnessing the war from inside Ukraine, we want to set the record straight.

Ukraine winning the war with Russia isn’t “unrealistic” or even “likely.” If we want the world to be anything like what we know it to be, then Ukraine winning is the only option.  And Western financial and military support for Ukraine is the only way to establish “long-term peace and security on the European continent” that the New York Times editorial board is rooting for. Ukraine’s belief in its victory isn’t based on overconfidence. It’s based on necessity.

Any concession to Russia now will lead to another war sooner or later, while Ukrainians stuck in any region occupied by Russia will be tortured, raped, or killed. The New York Times is running story after story about the living hell through which Russia puts Ukrainian civilians in occupied territories. Meanwhile, its editorial board is suggesting that Ukraine should cede territories to Russia, where more atrocities will undoubtedly happen.

Appeasement isn’t the voice of reason. It’s fear and short-sightedness that will only make things worse, something we’ve all seen too many times in the past.

Allowing Russia to annex Crimea emboldened Russia to try to swallow the Donbas. When it invaded in 2014, carving up a sovereign state and killing civilians, the other world leaders’ tepid response made Russia’s bloody dictator feel empowered to do more.

It’s obvious that he’s been planning the full-scale invasion of Ukraine ever since. It’s often been said by world leaders and analysts that one of Vladimir Putin’s main miscalculations was assuming that the West would let him take Ukraine easily. It didn’t.  Now the New York Times is calling for the West to do what Putin expected and give up.

Make no mistake: If you appease a dictator, whose troops regularly indulge in war crimes, it will lead to a catastrophic geopolitical shift.  A Russian military victory would lead to land grabs and brutal conquest becoming the new norm. Allowing a power-hungry fascist dictatorship to succeed will encourage other dictatorships to try.

Telling the U.S. and NATO to ask Ukraine to sacrifice itself for the delusional hope of “long-term peace and security on the European continent” is the same as urging them to cede Taiwan to China. It’s the same as averting eyes from the rape, torture, and what appears to be a planned-out genocide committed by the Russians in Ukraine and by the Chinese in Xinjiang. It’s a deal that shouldn’t be taken.

Nor are we forced to take it. The assumption that Russia, despite its colossal battlefield losses, is still a superpower with a potent military is a lie groomed by Russian propaganda over the past 15 years.

It’s a lie many in the West still believe, in spite of Russia’s modest-at-best progress in Ukraine and its losses of tens of thousands of soldiers and thousands of vehicles.

Russia has already lost over 40% of the territories it invaded since February. And yet, some continue to think that the Russian military is unbeatable.

The reality is that Russian corruption, theft, mismanagement, and lack of transparency led to the country’s military being poorly trained and equipped. Highly-motivated soldiers could have offset these problems. But Russia has no viable justification for the war it could feed its demoralized soldiers, who are often used as cannon fodder.

The Russian military is weak, its command structure is abysmal and it can very well lose the war to the smaller but much more motivated Ukrainian forces willing to defend their homes, families, and country until the last breath.

Meanwhile, following the New York Times’ advice will lead to more war, more destruction and a heavier burden on American people in the long run.

But perhaps one of the most striking features of the editorial is the complete lack of understanding of Ukraine and Ukrainians.

Ironically, the New York Times makes the same mistake that the Russians did when they attacked Ukraine in February. The Russians assumed that Ukrainians would welcome them or surrender. The New York Times editorial board should know better than to make similar assumptions about Ukrainians now.

If anything, the Gray Lady should learn from its mistakes, like when it ran a story about how modern and lethal the Russian military is, a month before the invasion would prove otherwise.

Because here’s the thing. Ukrainian society will never agree to any concessions. Those who don’t understand this simple fact don’t understand Ukraine at all, and perhaps shouldn’t share their uneducated speculations in one of the world’s leading media publications.

Even President Volodymyr Zelensky, however popular he is now, wouldn’t be able to persuade Ukrainians to concede. According to a recent poll by the Kyiv International Sociology Institute, 82% of Ukrainians believe that Ukraine should not give up territory for peace under any circumstances.

After seeing the atrocities committed by Russian troops in Borodyanka, Bucha and Mariupol, the Ukrainian people see very clearly that this is a war for survival against a fascist regime that denies Ukrainians the right to exist. Concessions would be a swift death sentence for thousands of Ukrainians. This fact apparently escapes the New York Times editorial board. The newspaper doesn’t have to go far to find some clarity.

As professor Timothy Snyder pointed out in his spectacular guest essay, published on the same day as the controversial editorial, “so long as Nazi Germany seemed strong, Europeans and others were tempted. It was only on the battlefields of World War II that fascism was defeated.”

Ukraine will win, sooner or later, because no fascist state has ever truly prevailed over a free country.

The democratic world can make this victory come sooner and be less costly for the people of Ukraine and for the world. It can do so by stepping up military support for Ukraine and pressure on Russia.

Ukraine is fighting this war on behalf of the free world – to make sure it remains free. The free world must at least try to match the Ukrainians’ bravery.