Tag Archives: war

Following the war in Ukraine – an update

SLOVYANSK, UKRAINE – APRIL14: Ukrainian troops ride tanks on the way toward Slavyansk on April 14, 2014 in Ukraine. Tension has been rising in Ukraine, with pro-Russian activists occupying buildings in more eastern towns and a Russian fighter jet making passes over a U.S. warship in the Black Sea. (Photo by Ilia Pitalev Kommersant Photo via Getty Images)

My post, How is the war going?, from two months ago recently got a lot of attention. Probably because of recent changes on the ground in Ukraine. A lot has changed in those two months, and I have found other military analyses that are worth following for their daily updates. So here is a list of the sites I currently think anyone interested in this war should follow.

Of course, one should never take any particular analysis as gospel. Everyone has their bias and different skills – I have sometimes been shocked at the poor knowledge of the Ukrainian events of 2014 or of the concern about European security that some analysts show.  That is why it is worth following several analysts and making one’s own critical assessment of what they present.

So here is my current list of YouTube channels I watch that are usually updated daily. I have ranked these with those I consider the best first.

Military Summary Channel

The guy running the Military Summary channel seems to be a military expert. His summaries often provide information like the number of battle groups in each area, which is lacking in other summaries. It is worth remembering that this war probably has more to do with the destruction of enemy forces than the capture of territory. He also does get into speculating on the likelihood of impending battles (interesting but not necessarily correct – the hardest thing to predict is the future). He comes across as knowledgeable but objective

Defense Politics Asia

Defense Politics Asia is run by a guy from Singapore. He has a Singaporean sense of humour and is always checking and reevaluating his sources and information so often makes changes when he can get verification of a claim.

New World Econ

This is a newer channel I have come across with far lower subscription numbers – but still worth following. It has regular posts and often does short posts on breaking news.

THETI Mapping

Another new channel with lower subscription numbers but valuable analyses.

Weeb Union

Yet another newer channel with lower subscription numbers but valuable analyses.

The subscription numbers for these last three channels are growing rapidly as more people become aware of their work.

War in Ukraine

The War in Ukraine summaries of harder to understand, if only because his maps are less detailed. He does also provide extra information which I find sometimes good (like his analysis of the situation in Lithuania regarding the blockage of the Kaliningrad) and sometimes not so good.

He definitely has a pro-Ukrainian bias (he is Ukrainian) but has no illusions about the dire state of the Ukrainian economy and the widespread corruption there.

Denys Davydov

Denys Davydov is a Ukrainian pilot and is clearly biased toward Ukraine – he comes across as a bit naive. Still worth watching because he does give an idea of what Ukrainians may be pinning their hopes on.

While he continues to present a propaganda message which is unfortunately common on social media, his predictions are often fanciful. Some people prefer his simplistic messages. (One of my followers recently combed through my list and ended up reposting only Denys – obvious confirmation bias.

The economic and geopolitical wars

There is also an economic war, based on the sanctions and their effect on the Russian economy and Western economies – particularly those of the NATO countries but also the rest of the world. It’s much harder to find convincing and objective information on this. It is up to readers to use the sources they feel most comfortable with. However, for those interested in this aspect I recommend Alexander Mercouris. His analyses are always thoughtful and I learn a lot from him. For example, he was the only analyst I am aware of who suggested the Russia Military would withdraw from Izyum several days before it happened. He argued that Izyum no longer had military value to the Russians.

War and the loss of young lives are horrible, but I think the economic and geopolitical wars will end up being more important than the military war as their outcome will affect us all.

Ukraine/Russia war, an intelligence operation or a sting, Ukrainian and UK spies, and Bellingcat

It sounds like a story from spy fiction or a James Bond film, but it was a real-life drama involving an intelligence plan to entice a Russian pilot to defect to Ukraine with his high-tech plane – if you believe the Russian side. Or a scam by a group of maverick non-intelligence Ukrainian which recovered intelligence information for the Ukrainians.

The Russian side claims they were given important military information which enabled them to r=eradicate a number of targets in Ukraine. The other side claims their little plot enabled them to expose a number of Russian intelligence agents – members of the FSB. If you believe the self-styled investigative agency Bellingcat, which was allegedly involved.

It could also be that whatever the truth this episode could be the reason a large number of members of the Ukrainian intelligence agency, the SBU, were recently sacked and now face charges of treason.

The story itself does not interest me – readers can get the Russian side of the story from the video above. Also useful are comments from a British guy, iEarlGrey, currently living in St Petersburg, who produces a YouTube channel with daily critical commentary on the news in Russian and Western media.

What does interest me is that a leading member of Bellingcat was involved. This outfit markets itself as an objective investigative news agency but actually receives funding from western government and intelligence agencies (see How Bellingcat launders National Security State talking points into the press).

The involvement of a high-ranking Bellingcat member, or indeed a member of any media agency, in an intelligence action, is concerning. It should ring alarm bells to readers. How can a news agency which is closely involved with intelligence agencies and actively working in intelligent actions be considered as providing anything like reliable news?

People on the Russian side who claim they were to receive cash from Ukrainian and NATO intelligence agencies for the hijack of the plane have outed Christo Grozev, the Bellingcat investigator, as their contact for the cash and orders. Effectively Grozev admitted in Twitter posts to being involved in the operation.

I have followed Grozev on Twitter for quite a while – probably initially because of his Bellingcat links. But lately, I have experienced him as someone who is naively pro-Ukraine – continually tweeting some of the more fantastic stories Ukrainians have produced about this war. So, someone who does not come across as an objective journalist. In fact, I had come to see his accounts as just another one of the many accounts to Ukrainian government has set up to spread disinformation about the war.

No one should trust Bellingcat

Anyone who has followed the activities of Bellingcat and its founder Eliot Higgens will be aware that it is not a trustworthy news or investigative source. It clearly has strong links with intelligence agencies and NATO governments. It presents a picture of rigorous investigation of open-access sources and is consequently often used by the mainstream media as a source. Like the White Helmets in Syria which is linked to jihadi antigovernment and terrorist sources, it is often used by governments and intelligence agencies to plant disinformation in the mainstream media. A bit like many think tanks. This method is used to overcome the lack of credibility most governments have.

Now and then I experience people assuring me of the facts of a particular news item by referring to their source as Bellingcat or the White Helmets. All that tells me is that the person giving me these assurances has not bothered to really check the information. They may have simply been fooled by the description of the White Helmets or Bellingcat as non-governmental groups funded by public donations. In most cases, these people are simply indulging in confirmation bias, and think citing the names of these groups lends credibility to the information.

It doesn’t.

Ukraine war – a failure of honest diplomacy and reason

People should think for themselves. Peter Hitchens says “Not since the wild frenzy after the death of Princess Diana have I ever met such a wave of ignorant sentiment. Nobody knows anything about Ukraine. Everyone has ferocious opinions about it.” See “Can anyone explain to me why this was called evacuation and not surrender?

I am amazed this article by Viktor Yanukovych has had so little publicity. It’s by the fourth President of Ukraine, who was overthrown in a coup in 2014. It contains a succinct summarily of the problems which led up to the coup, and to the current war Ukraine-Russia war.  Yet it has only become available because it was posted on Facebook by Yanukovych’s lawyer. It saw a brief comment from a Polish news outlet (the ex-president did refer to Poland’s interest in territory in western Ukraine) – but that is all I can find.

The article is On the Verge . . .  The Fate of Statehood of Ukraine is Being decided now

I followed developments in Ukraine during the crisis in 2013/2014. In my mind Ukrainians had to choose between two different futures:

  1. Their role as a bridge between West and East. At that time, I thought a future Ukrainian membership of the EU would be consistent with that role.
  2. A hostile frontier between West and East with the promise of eventual NATO membership for Ukraine

Of course, underlying these two alternatives were the basic ethnic differences in Ukraine with the rise of Ukrainian nationalist forces in the west and the large numbers of ethnic Russians in the East. The crisis partly reflected this ethnic conflict.

Yanukovych writes:

“The nationalist forces demanded creation of a mono-ethnic state, from a diverse country, whose indigenous people, due to historical circumstances, belonged to different cultures and ethnic groups. This was a breeding ground for accumulation of internal political contradictions, which ultimately resulted in the political crisis of 2014.”

That programme for a mono-ethic state seems so stupid in this modern day and age. Many countries accommodate diverse populations through sensible language laws and political and regional representation. But this was prevented in Ukraine because of the ascendency, and dominance after the coup, of ultranationalist forces.

Failure of diplomacy and political reason

  1. In February 2014 the European Union helped broker an agreement on settlement of political crisis in Ukraine. This was signed on 21 February 2014 by the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and the leaders of the parliamentary opposition. It provided for constitutional reform, early presidential election, handing in of illegal weapons and a move away from the confrontation between the government forces and demonstrators. It seemed to be a good start, but it was rejected by the ultranationalist forces which controlled the demonstrations. They carried out a coup – with the support of the US which was clearly opposed to the agreement.
  2. Later, in an attempt to stop the civil war that resulted from the coup, the Normandy Countries (France, Germany and Russia) brokered agreements for a ceasefire, control of arms in the region and a political settlement based on elections, recognition of a degree of autonomy and constitutional changes. These were the Minsk Agreements which were signed by the Ukrainian president and by leaders of the break-away regions.But they have never been carried out – despite the current president Volodymyr Zelenskyy standing on a peace platform and receiving overwhelming electoral support in the 2019 presidential elections (he received 73 per cent of the vote in the run-off to Poroshenko’s 25 per cent).

    The fact that ultranationalist forces were able to prevent any progress in the Minsk agreements or the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the war zone shows they had overwhelming influence despite their apparent poor election results.

  3.  The Minsk Agreements had broad international support – they were endorsed by the UN Security Council (of which New Zealand was a member at the time). Despite this, western politicians simply gave lip service to them and, in effect, supported the Ukrainian refusal to carry them out. This represents a huge diplomatic failure by mainly western countries, and they must bear responsibility for the current war which the agreements could have prevented.

    If the Minsk Agreements had been carried out Ukraine’s territorial integrity would have been preserved. That is no longer possible.

Rational advice from high-ranking diplomats and experts

Referring to Henry Kissinger’s recent comments on the Ukraine-Russia war Yanukovych writes in his article:

“But Mr. Kissinger only repeated the thoughts he expressed long before 20122. The former US National Security Advisor and Secretary of State during the presidencies of Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon told me at the time that, based on political realities, he saw no alternative for Ukraine’s role as a bridge between Russia and the West. Attempts to change the status quo would inevitably lead to a conflict with Russia, which potentially carried very serious consequences not only for Ukraine, but for Europe as well.”

These warnings had also been voiced by many academic experts on Russia and Ukraine. One would have thought, then, that there would have been serious diplomatic moves to overcome the serious security problems in Europe caused by the lapse and withdrawal from important arms control and similar security treaties.

But again, diplomacy failed the world. The Russian Federation did make public proposals for the settlement of these problems, but they were not taken seriously by diplomats in NATO and the US. Nor were the Russian warnings that refusal of serious negotiation would lead to Russia taking their own unilateral steps of a “technical-military” nature.

Failure of diplomacy or pursuance of geopolitical interests?

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the current war was motivated by geopolitical interests. Refusal to carry out agreements reflected the interests of the USA and NATO as well as the nationalist Ukrainian groups. The refusal to carry out serious European security negotiations served the interests of European and US leaders who have promoted hostile policies to the Russian Federation for some time and had been responsible for the withdrawal from previous arms control agreements.

Certainly, the more vocal western opinion formers on social media, people like Bill Browder, Anne Applebaum, Michael McFaul, Anders Åslund, etc., simply could not hold back. They are salivating because all their dreams had come true. The Russian invasion of Ukraine meant that governments would now carry out the extreme economic warfare measure they had been advocating for years. They believe the economic and military war would precipitate regime change in the Russian Federation – even leading to the breakup of that country

In recent years I have lamented the absence of any genuine peace movement anymore. I also lament the lack of rational and honest diplomacy in today’s world – and that is dangerous. In the 1980s we were seriously concerned about the nuclear arms race. The peace movement was large. But there were also sensible political leaders in the East and West who did sit down and negotiate sensible arms control measures.

It would be a lot better today if we had a mass peace movement of people who could think for themselves rather than succumb to the current approved group thinking. It would also be better if we had rational political leaders prepared to negotiate security and arms control treaties rather than seeking to impose their own geopolitical aims on the world.

Manufacturing news, and opinion, about Syria

I originally posted this video from the RFS (Revolutionary Forces of Syria Media Office) Channel – but after realising that they were a “rebel”/”terrorist” group and had probably posted it by mistake I instead used a version saved by Moon of Alabama. Sure enough, when I checked a few hours later RFS had removed the video. (* See Footnote below).

For a while now I have felt our mainstream media has presented a very biased picture of the war in Syria.

I have been particularly concerned about the way the  media relies on “activists” from areas held by “rebels”/”terrorists” – surely that is just an admission that the media is using propaganda provided by these very “rebels”/”terrorists” who are fighting this war.

Then there are non-governmental groups often cited as sources – as if the fact they are NGOs is somehow an indication they are reliable. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Aleppo Medical Centre,   the Aleppo Media Centre and the White Helmets are some examples.

A phoney White Helmets rescue?

All these NGOs are suspect – and especially the White Helmets which produced the above video. I have written about this group in White Helmets dupes New Zealand government?, Anti-Syrian propaganda and the White HelmetsVoluntary media censorship is ethically wrong and Dissecting pseudoscientific and political propaganda.

In the video above they appear to be doing what is called a Mannequin Challenge where people remain frozen in action like mannequins while a video is recorded. It’s the sort of thing one could do while recording a fictional enactment – but certainly not while recording an emergency rescue situation.

In the past, I have found the White Helmet rescues presented on our mainstream media very unconvincing. Almost always a child was being rescued, often from very deep in a pile of rubble, and the White Helmet rescuer would run with the child toward or way from the camera. The videos played on our sympathy for children – but the lack of real injuries (a little bit of blood – or tomato sauce – and dust) were not consistent with a real situation. The lack of proper rescue equipment and provision of aid to the “victims” was also suspicious.

So what we have here is apparently an enactment. The two White Helmets rescuers and the “victim” were set in place and remained still and silent while the mannequin challenge was filmed. Then “action!” The victim screams, the White Helmets leap up and what appears to be recorded background noise starts.

The White Helmets propaganda videos have been very effective. Full of action, playing on natural sympathy for children. But the organisation operates only in the “rebel”/”terrorist” areas. And our media very rarely shows any coverage of the children and other civilians killed, injured or rescued in the government areas. There are plenty of these incidents and they are being filmed. (The little girl below is a survivor of terrorist shelling of two primary schools in west Aleppo where at least 8 children were killed). It’s just that our media very rarely shows them.

Footnote

This photo from the filming session for the White Helmets video above has also appeared online. Furtherer evidence the video is fake?
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Inna Kukuruza – “her eyes spoke to the whole world”

Inna

Iconic photos are often associated with historic event, especially conflicts. The picture of the man stopping a Tank in Beijing during suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 is an obvious one.

For me the photo above will always be connected with Ukraine and the current conflict there. As one blogger put it, Inna Kukuruza’s “eyes spoke to the whole world.”

She was a civilian victim of the recent jet attack on the centre of Lugansk in Eastern Ukraine (see Lugansk war crime). Over the past few days I have watched (or tried to watch) videos of the attack and it’s aftermath. This has been extremely difficult because they are just so graphic. I decided not to include any videos here – although if you have a strong stomach the blog post Inna Kukuruza shall not be forgotten has a brief extract.

Fueling a new cold war

They say that truth is the first casualty in war. But, I would think the further away you are, and the less involved your country is, the more objective the information available on a conflict. I have been sadly disillusioned on this with the coverage of the South Ossetian/Georgian/Russian war by our news services.  While there have been a few alternative reports on Radio New Zealand the coverage on New Zealand TV has been completely one sided. It seemed that Russia was the only aggressor and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and his fellow Georgians were the only victims.

Sadly, here is where one has to resort to the internet. Even so there can be problems. Georgia claims that some of their web sites had been disabled for a period because of DDoS attacks. Three Russian news services I consulted (Russia Today, The St. Petersburg Times and RIA Novosti were frequently down in the last week. Russia Today reported numerous DDoS attacks often made it unavailable.

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Let’s ban cluster bombs

Cluster bombs AVAAS.ORG are mobilising pressure on countries currently negotiating a cluster bomb ban

“Cluster munitions kill children and other civilians long after wars are over–and this week, we have a chance to ban them. 109 countries are in the final stages of negotiation on a cluster bomb ban — but some are trying to water down the treaty with loopholes, exceptions, and delays.

Our information is that the delegations obstructing a strong treaty in the last few days include the UK, France, Germany, Spain, South Africa, Canada, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Japan, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland, so messages to these leaders will be particularly valuable.

A worldwide outcry for a strong treaty is needed now. The treaty will be signed Thursday.”

The AVAAS.ORG website offers a simple mechanism enabling you to contribute your name to this worldwide outcry.