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Closing The Skies

Foreign Policy Blogs - Tue, 22/03/2022 - 19:39


The debate of the day is being highlighted by Ukrainian President Zelinsky’s direct and open communications with semi-supportive world leaders over the next few days while he addresses their legislative bodies, and in turn, their citizenry. While Ukraine’s Armed Forces and locals taking up arms have fought hard and have done a measurable amount of damage to Russian Armour, the situation on the ground has notably changed due to their effective resistance. The importation of anti-tank weaponry has been incredibly effective for close in combat and has made invading cities an assured kill box for Russian tanks and support vehicles. In turn, Russia, who faced similar obstacles in the earlier Chechen conflicts, have resorted to tactics they saw as effective in later Chechen conflicts by using long range artillery and missile systems to punish towns, cities and the remaining population. Russia has essentially been trying to put in a siege of all major cities in Ukraine in range of their artillery systems.

Ukraine has only a few options in bringing an end to this conflict on their end and that of their allies, but friendly gestures will not save more lives. If Western Allies do not help immediately to Displace Russia’s military funding, defend the skies over Ukraine from artillery strikes on their populations, and create disarray in Russia’s artillery units, then the only outcome will result in close in combat with anti-tank rockets as a last resort.

The most stark policy development lately has been the lack of effort from European and other Western countries to displace Russian oil and gas in their economies. Partial restrictions, especially from oil and gas producing nations, in the importation of Russian products is partially contributing to continued violence. While European countries are closely tied to Russian oil and gas imports, the refusal of North American oil and gas to immediately increase production and actively displace Russian oil and gas for Europe is indirectly funding hundreds of Russian tanks and missiles. By allowing a large and consistent funding source to Russia, you are allowing the war to continue. It is not a solution to displace Russian energy products with oil and gas from conflict zones and those that have themselves created refugee crises of hundreds of thousands of people, or who shell civilians themselves. Ignoring violence will result in another future war. It is simply displacing violence, not oil.

The recent debate on the importation of MiG-29 fighter jets from Poland to Ukraine and its resulting failure injected a great blow to the confidence Ukraine has in the support it has been receiving from abroad. The request Ukraine has asked for, to help close the skies over the country to Russian attacks, may only have one effective solution. Ukrainian jets have been targeted by S-400 anti-aircraft systems based in Belarus that has caused a tremendous amount of damage. Most likely the sophistication of the S-400 and its long range would render Ukrainian responses in the air mute. While Starstreak, Stinger and Igla MANPADS is an incredibly powerful low level defense for Ukraine, the need for systems that can target high flying aircraft and incoming cruise missiles and artillery is needed to blunt the siege on Ukrainian cities.

While the ability to ship items to Ukraine through its Western borders is still open, Ukraine’s allies who are not willing to implement a no-fly zone should rapidly implement a missile umbrella over major populations centres. It has been demonstrated that even older Soviet era systems like the SA-8 and SA-13 have stood up to aircraft like the SU-25, and MANPADS have even destroyed modern aircraft like the Russian SU-34. Older and very effective systems that are known to the Ukrainian forces should be pushed into the country immediately as their effectiveness in numbers is a game changer. With more modern systems possessed by Ukraine like the SA-11 and SA-15, additional systems should be given to Ukraine supported by Western systems that operate in a similar fashion. SA-15 type systems are designed to target cruise missiles and other artillery, and any system that can stop a Russian barrage may make a Russian siege a futile exercise.

The intense response by Ukraine has pushed the tactics of Russia’s invasion into one where Russian Armed Forces have decided to preserve themselves by using their artillery systems to bombard targets before sending forces in to take over major metropolitan areas. The result of using artillery shells and multiple launch rocket systems is what is creating a human rights disaster as those weapons are not precise and are used to destroy large sections of the city as was the case in Grozny during the Chechen wars. While only used on a few occasions, Ukraine needs long range counter artillery battery systems like an MLRS, or Katyusha type artillery and systems like the SS-21 Tochka and SS-23 Oka to respond to Russian artillery units surrounding major cities. While drones have committed some impressive attacks, surprisingly without being shot down, they can also provide a firing solution to counter artillery while focusing in on valuable targets. The lack of effective Russian air cover over their units also means that sending combat capable drones to Ukraine would likely help tremendously, as Russian Armour and mobile air defense have been lost to drone attacks by Ukraine. Even the most modern systems like the S-400 would not be able to defend against a swarm of drones and could act to deplete the missile site of missiles against human pilots if needed.

It appears to be the case that the most modern and impressive of Russia’s military equipment was designed not solely to support the local army, but to encourage sales of their military technology abroad. Newer systems that have seldom been used in real combat are not working as planned possibly, and the best equipment is so few in numbers that it is not being used on the battlefield. While T-90 tanks have been destroyed by anti-tank rockets, a tank designed to protect its crew with high tech systems against such equipment, the majority of the tanks are upgraded T-72 tanks, followed by other Soviet era equipment that one would have thought would have been scrapped or sold abroad by the 2020s. The most modern of systems are Russian designed anti-air systems like the S-400, as the Soviet Union was designed more to defend against invasion as to not repeat the past during the Second World War. That technology however is still effective, and Ukraine possessed many older systems that have shot down modern Russian aircraft.

Ukraine was always the best and first line of defense against NATO during the Cold War, and the Soviet Union planned their defense and accompanying technologies out for generations. Forces in the Ukraine SSR were the tip of the spear for defending the Soviet Union, and much of that Cold War defense technology works incredibly well to this day. Russia’s armed forces are linked to their Soviet heritage, and is the best defensive force in the world. It was never going to be easy invading Ukraine, at a point one of the best defensive forces in the world with the best defensive force in the world. Ukraine was the site of some of the biggest Soviet victories against the Germans in the Second World War. For the Soviets, Ukraine was created to defend a future attack.

Jack London ou la puissance indomptée

Le Monde Diplomatique - Tue, 22/03/2022 - 19:23
Jack London (1876-1916) aura longtemps souffert des étiquettes qu'on lui a accolées : cette figure d'auteur héros de sa vie, durablement minorée comme romancier pour enfants, fut également et vigoureusement célébrée en tant que modèle d'écrivain engagé. Or il conjugua toutes sortes de contradictions. / (...) / , , , , , , , - 2017/03

Les maladies du Nord migrent en Afrique

Le Monde Diplomatique - Tue, 22/03/2022 - 17:20
Signe des profondes transformations à l'œuvre en Afrique, les maladies dites « de pays développés » se répandent dans la plupart des États du continent. Si les nouvelles habitudes alimentaires sont aussi en cause, cette dégradation de la santé des populations trouve sa source dans l'urbanisation (...) / , , , , , , , , - 2017/03

En banlieue, autoentrepreneur faute de mieux

Le Monde Diplomatique - Tue, 22/03/2022 - 16:18
Au terme du mandat de M. François Hollande, les espoirs ont cédé place à la désillusion dans les banlieues populaires : les relations avec la police se sont détériorées, les inégalités scolaires demeurent abyssales et le chômage atteint des sommets. Exclus du marché du travail, nombre de jeunes issus de (...) / , , , , , , , , , - 2017/03

The Ukraine War and the Testing of America

Foreign Policy Blogs - Mon, 21/03/2022 - 19:38

How much danger does this pose to us?


Ukrainians’ courage and conviction constantly amazes Americans watching the awful news from that nation.  We should take their inspiration to heart.  Not only will watching become more painful, but we will feel our own repercussions.  Some are scarier, and closer to reality, than we might think. 

We understand that Putin cannot afford to lose this war.  He apparently could not leave Ukraine in peace either.  Its independence and liberalization posed a standing rebuke to his rule.  In a certain logic of Russian leadership, any rebuke can lead to ouster or death.

As a possible path to winning, Putin can cast free nations as weak and hypocritical, so long as he continues his attack and the West continues to tiptoe around his red lines.  If we allow Ukraine to be crushed, in this view we reveal the emptiness of our claims of principle.  We “forcefully” pushed our Liberal World Order, starting with color revolutions and progressing to NATO expansion, but cower when force pushes back.  The West is no different from any other regime.  Our rules based order is only an order based on our rules.  Any advance in that perception is a win.

This logic might see America as the font of the trouble.  It is not incorrect: America cannot but stand as a rebuke to any dictator in the world.  This nation conceived itself on a principle, that all persons are equally endowed with rights we couldn’t give away, and that governments’ purpose is to secure those rights.  We rejected a standing government on this premise.  Thus, as John Quincy Adams said, “wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or will be unfurled, there will (America’s) heart, her benedictions and her prayers be.”  We believe all people have unalienable rights and cannot help but favor any who claim them, anywhere on the planet.  Promoting freedom is aggression for any dictator, and the most powerful nation identifies itself this way. 

This zero-sum logic leads to a clear, if we hope distant, danger.  Putin follows that logic in his warning not to “interfere in the Ukraine invasion and his alert of Russian nuclear forces.  On March 9, the Duma formalized his claim that the West is waging “economic warfare” on Russia, the same kind of sham threat he invoked for the invasion.  Putin points the nuclear gun at us, just as he pointed the invasion gun at Ukraine. 

If nuclear wars were deterred by the fear of Mutually Assured Destruction, Putin also saw America’s moral power destroy a Russian state.  He needs to erode that power.  Today he might settle for embarrassing us – if China brokers a peace, an effective dictatorship shows up free societies’ fecklessness.  But ultimately, the only difference between our threat of freedom and his threat of nuclear warfare is who gets destroyed.  In this calculus, a nuclear strike on an American target might help.  Saddling a free society with the choice whether or not to retaliate and risk Armageddon could make free society look either incompetent or immoral.  Putin could get a win.  It is an evil, but strategic, logic.

In Fiona Hill’s words, “yes he would, and he wants us to know that.”  We cannot know why, whether as negotiating maneuver, as key to some grand purpose, or simply to bully.  Michael O’Hanlon points out precedents in US-Soviet behavior.  Lawrence Freedman assesses Putin’s objectives as still strategically defensive.  But Americans cannot dismiss the threat because we think Putin would be crazy to act on it.  And people do copy others’ methods.  The question is how to deal with a strategically logical bully.

Would America abandon a nation under attack precisely for its freedom because Putin points the nuclear gun at us?  Are Americans ready to live under a nuclear threat over Ukraine?  How about for our creed?  We need to think about how we carry our founding tenets.  Our creed is the one thing American cannot afford to lose.  We must ensure its viability and our fidelity. 

This imperative puts certain demands on our responses.  First, our interest is not only to stop Putin but to keep fidelity to our principles.  Stopping him is urgent and imperative but he is not the only threat.  Losing a fully democratic – not just democratizing – Taiwan to PRC coercion would be at least as damaging as losing Ukraine.  Second, any compromise to our principles must be carefully weighed, or rejected outright.  Putin’s raw aggression may justify some easing of scruples, but engaging Venezuela to replace Russian oil – keeping prices down to limit our costs – risks moral debasement.  Third, we need to make clear that our sanctions aim at Putin’s regime, not the Russian people.  We must mount our opposition with judiciousness and clarity lest we paint ourselves as Putin would, interested really in power, not freedom.  Fourth, again, our standing rebuke will draw nuclear threats.  Our own nuclear force is a deterrent, but dictators will test it and confrontation always risks war. 

There is a logic that says Putin will eventually raise another threat, and not stopping him now will create a bigger problem later. By this logic we should defy Putin’s warnings, whether by setting a “no-fly zone” or sealing off western Ukraine from Russian troops.  Tempted as we may be, are we prepared for nuclear brinkmanship, unscrupulous countermoves, and casualties?  Have we devised ways to manage China relations, absorb economic costs, and deal with other painful effects?  The logic of calling the bluff is balanced by logics of prudence and preparation.  Convictions are meaningful only when followers shoulder the burdens, and we must acknowledge the burdens to truly shoulder them. 

Far from least, Americans need to commit at home as well as abroad, in our own lives and with each other, to realize our national identity of the self-evident truths.  We are tired, of pandemic, shortages, the presumptions of experts, the selfishness of the secure, the institutional callousness and personal meanness or condescension.  We are polarized by self seeking factions and their careerist leaders.  But the choices we demand, the equality we deserve, all rest on the creed we all share.  America cannot be the nation conceived in 1776 unless we validate its premises.  Tests are coming. 

Les pompiers entre dévouement et amertume

Le Monde Diplomatique - Mon, 21/03/2022 - 18:39
Les pompiers sont en contact permanent avec les plus défavorisés. Ils assistent depuis une vingtaine d'années à la dégradation simultanée de leurs conditions de travail, sous l'effet des politiques de rigueur, et des conditions de vie de ceux qu'ils aident. Avec des conséquences politiques dont les (...) / , , , , , , , - 2017/03

Macron, les vieux habits de l'homme neuf

Le Monde Diplomatique - Mon, 21/03/2022 - 16:38
Étroitement associé à la politique économique du président François Hollande, le candidat du mouvement En marche ! se présente pourtant comme un homme « hors système », loin des partis et des coteries. Cautionnée par la presse, la métamorphose de M. Emmanuel Macron en évangéliste politique masque mal la (...) / , , , , , , , , , - 2017/03

Majorité sociale, minorité politique

Le Monde Diplomatique - Sun, 20/03/2022 - 19:04
Étrange démocratie française : depuis trente-cinq ans, les programmes des grands partis de gouvernement ne correspondent pas aux attentes économiques des classes populaires, qui représentent pourtant plus de la moitié du corps électoral. Contrairement aux idées en vogue sur l'effacement des clivages (...) / , , , , , , , , - 2017/03

Le châtelain et la châtelaine

Le Monde Diplomatique - Sat, 19/03/2022 - 19:00
À bien des égards, les anciennes châtelaines auraient pu se reconnaître dans le tableau que M. François Fillon dresse des activités de son épouse. À une différence près, toutefois : les épouses d'autrefois n'étaient pas rémunérées. Quoi de plus naturel qu'un professionnel de la politique — tellement (...) / , , , , , - 2017/03

Bouillonnement antisystème en Europe et aux États-Unis

Le Monde Diplomatique - Fri, 18/03/2022 - 18:56
La bannière européenne a perdu son éclat, tant les politiques de l'Union se sont révélées désastreuses. Partout ont fleuri des mouvements antisystème. Dans quelques pays, ils se situent résolument à gauche. Mais nombre d'entre eux font de la xénophobie leur fonds de commerce. / États-Unis, Extrême droite, (...) / , , , , , , , , , - 2017/03

Odessa ou les charmes du superflu

Le Monde Diplomatique - Fri, 18/03/2022 - 16:50
On connaît peu, à l'Ouest, la fantaisie et le charme particuliers d'Odessa, grand port de la mer Noire, plaque tournante commerciale et pétrolière de l'Ukraine. Irena Wiszniewska, raconteuse d'histoires, inventrice d'un stratagème idéal pour sonder l'âme des individus et des peuples, y a succombé. / (...) / , , , , , , - 2012/04

La chevauchée américaine pour la direction du monde

Le Monde Diplomatique - Thu, 17/03/2022 - 17:40
Malgré la disparition de l'Union soviétique, malgré les appels à l'isolationnisme de certains élus américains, Washington ne renonce pas à ses objectifs planétaires considérés comme « vitaux » pour sa sécurité, notamment l'extension du « marché ». Les Etats-Unis continuent d'affirmer leur volonté d'assumer (...) / , - 1993/11

Les Assyro-Chaldéens, minorité oubliée

Le Monde Diplomatique - Wed, 16/03/2022 - 18:37
Minorité ethnique, linguistique, culturelle et religieuse, les Assyro-Chaldéens des régions du sud et du sud-est de la Turquie (de Diyarbakir à Shemdinli) fuient vers l'Europe pour échapper aux persécutions des Turcs et des Kurdes. L'exode de cette communauté chrétienne a débuté en 1980, au lendemain (...) / , , - 1987/11

La dure sanction des défaillances françaises

Le Monde Diplomatique - Wed, 16/03/2022 - 16:34
L'accord dont il est question ici, peu satisfaisant pour la technologie française, met en évidence les faiblesses structurelles de notre industrie, lourdes de conséquences. / France, Industrie, Mondialisation, Électronique - 1987/09 / , , , - 1987/09

Muette agonie de l'Irak

Le Monde Diplomatique - Tue, 15/03/2022 - 19:05
Très divisé, le conseil de sécurité des Nations unies a repris ses discussions sur l'Irak. Trois projets ont été soumis au débat, celui de la Grande-Bretagne, appuyé par les Etats-Unis, celui de la Chine et de la Russie et, enfin, un « document de travail » de la France. Le projet britannique pose de (...) / , - 1999/07

Fêter une révolution sans donner des idées

Le Monde Diplomatique - Tue, 15/03/2022 - 17:03
Le centenaire de la révolution de 1917 embarrasse les autorités russes, qui se félicitent de son retentissement mondial mais exècrent toute idée de renversement du pouvoir. Les rares commémorations doivent être l'occasion de réaffirmer l'importance de l'unité nationale, antidote à la lutte des classes. (...) / , , , , - 2017/03

Les Nations unies contre Terminator

Le Monde Diplomatique - Mon, 14/03/2022 - 19:16
Les premières discussions formelles des Nations unies pour interdire l'utilisation des systèmes d'armes létaux autonomes doivent se tenir l'été prochain à Genève. Sans un consensus pour encadrer les développements de l'intelligence artificielle en matière d'armement, la réalité pourrait bientôt (...) / , , , , , - 2017/03

Pékin, scène rock

Le Monde Diplomatique - Mon, 14/03/2022 - 17:15
Fini le temps où les jeunes amateurs de musique occidentale devaient s'échanger sous le manteau les disques des groupes venus d'Europe ou d'Amérique. Les rockeurs les plus en vue sont désormais chinois et se produisent parfois sur les scènes internationales. Devenus très créatifs, ils découvrent les (...) / , , , , - 2017/03

Mais où sont les vrais héros de la démocratie américaine ?

Le Monde Diplomatique - Sun, 13/03/2022 - 18:55
La guerre du Golfe aura eu au moins le mérite de faire fonction de révélateur quant à l'état d'esprit de la société américaine. La docilité de la presse fut remarquable, parce que l'institution était censée représenter le « contre-pouvoir ». De même la furie guerrière et l'aboulie créatrice d'Hollywood, (...) / - 1991/07

Francophonie : le dilemme des écrivains africains

Le Monde Diplomatique - Sun, 13/03/2022 - 16:54
La promotion de la langue française et de la diversité culturelle et linguistique figure en tête des missions de l'Organisation internationale de la francophonie. Écrivain sénégalais d'expression française, Boubacar Boris Diop écrit également en wolof depuis 2003. Il interpelle les auteurs africains : (...) / , , , , , - 2017/03