Ukraine Update: 1 June, 2023

Russia is blaming Ukraine for the shelling of its territory in the Belgorod oblast area close to the border. The Russian government also claims a number of attempted cross-border raids in the area by Ukrainian soldiers were defeated. There were also reports of an explosion inside the city of Belgorod, likely caused by a drone. There were casualties in that incident, but none were fatal. The violence near the border is being affected by the fog of war, as well as the blanket of disinformation. Despite Russia blaming Ukraine for the shelling and raids, pro-Ukraine paramilitary groups are claiming responsibility for the latest attacks. It remains unclear if Russia truly knows which party is responsible for the attacks and is simply attempting to save face, or if Moscow is still uncertain.

Kiev suffered yet another volley of Russian missiles launched in the pre-dawn hours today. These were SS-26 Stone short range ballistic missiles (often identified by their Russian name Iskander by amateurs in social media). Three people were killed and according to the Ukrainian government, Apartment buildings, hospitals and schools were damaged by missile fragments according to the Ukrainian government. Probably a line of propaganda, but there is no sense talking publicly about military and government targets that might’ve been struck.

In Moldova at a meeting of the European Political Community, British PM Rishi Sunak said Ukraine’s “rightful place” is within NATO. There is increasing pressure, on the surface at least, for NATO to admit Ukraine as a full member despite the realities of the moment. Quite honestly, Sunak and Great Britain are bending over backwards to supply Ukraine with as many average-quality British weapons as possible. In the meantime they continue to strip British military supplies from armor to artillery ammunition. God forbid the Brits find themselves faced with sudden crisis, they could find themselves in need of weapons and ammunition. The same holds true for many other NATO members.

This has not deterred Ukraine from pleading for more weapons, ammunition and money. Volodymyr ‘Oliver Twist’ Zelenskiy was also in Moldova begging for more and chastising the EU and NATO for not doing more. The set of balls on that man is astounding.

I still despise Putin and Russia more than Zelenskiy, but not by as comfortable of a margin as I’d like. Ukraine’s leader is a huckster. NATO should buy him a suit instead of sending him more war supplies and money.

30 May 2023 Update: Kosovo Strife, South China Sea Tensions

Unrest and tension remain evident in Kosovo following Monday’s riots in north Kosovo towns with Serbian majorities. Violent clashes broke out in several municipalities, resulting in 30 NATO soldiers and over 50 protesters being injured. The violence broke out after Serbian protesters attempted to take over the offices of ethnic Albanian mayors. Last week the ethnic Albanians assumed their posts following elections last month that were boycotted by the Serbs who represent a majority, touching off major protests. Kosovar police and NATO peacekeepers moved in to stabilize the situation, however, violence continued. Serbia even went as far as increasing the alert status of its own military and moving additional forces to the border with Kosovo. As tensions continue to rise there are new calls by the EU, United States, Germany and other nations for Kosovo and Serbia to resolve the latest dispute through dialogue.



Tensions are also hearting up in the South China Sea. A Chinese research ship and five escort vessels operated in Vietnam’s EEZ late last week near gas blocks operated by Russian firms. Vietnam publicly demanded the ships leave and dispatched a pair of fisheries ships to the area. Under international rules and regulations, ships are allowed to cross the  EEZs of other nations, but China’s operations have long been regarded as hostile by Vietnam and other countries with claims in the South China Sea, including the Philippines and Malaysia. Chinese incursions to Vietnamese waters have escalated over the past decade and this does not look to change at any point in the near future.

On another SCS front, the US, Japan and Philippines will be conducting a joint coast guard exercise from June 1-7 in waters off of Bataan. The exercise will be centered on improving interoperability between the coast guards of participating nations. China will likely view the purpose behind the week long exercise as something entirely different, of course.  

A Brief Note: Pre-Memorial Day Week, 2023

Good evening, everyone. Sorry for not keeping up with the regular posting schedule this week but it has been one of those weeks where real life gets in the way. I have had a family issue to deal with (something good), am still trying to sneak down to Florida for a quick look at a property and of course between all of this I’m trying to get settled in at the Jersey Shore for the summer. So, my schedule has been pretty hectic this week and looks to continue this way through Saturday. I will try and get a post in tomorrow or Friday, but the regular posts will start up again over the weekend at some point.

Again, apologies. And I hope you all enjoy the long Memorial Day 2023 weekend. –Mike

Ukraine Update 21 May, 2023: Bakhmut’s Fate

Volodymir Zelenskiy’s claim that a small section of Bakhmut remains under Ukrainian control is a sailboat of hope braving increasingly heavy seas of factual certainty. By most independent accounts coming out of the Bakhmut area, Ukrainian forces have been ejected from the town. Russian forces and elements of the Wagner Group are in control of Bakhmut. In Hiroshima for the G7 summit meeting, Zelenskiy was faced with having to put the best face possible on the increasingly negative news coming out of Bakhmut. Almost defiantly, Ukraine’s leader has declared the town has not been captured by Russia. As the hours slip by, Ukrainian officials back home are also scrambling to put the best face upon the situation. According to Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, “Our forces have taken the city in a semi-encirclement, which gives us the opportunity to destroy the enemy … [who] has to defend himself in the part of the city he controls.” Neither Zelenskiy nor his defense officials and general officers would go into detail on their statements.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy also said Sunday that Bakhmut was “only in our hearts,” a curious reference which could be intended to pave the way for bad news in the coming hours and days. If the town is in Russian hands the defeat will reverberate across Ukraine and have a profound effect on Ukrainian morale both on the frontlines and among the population. Meanwhile, with the news from Bakhmut still fresh, US President Joe Biden announced $375 million more in aid for Ukraine, which included more ammunition, artillery, and vehicles. Because so far, the billions of dollars in equipment and war material that has already been shipped east just has not been sufficient to stop the Russian advance permanently. Biden’s philosophy is similar to the ‘throw money at a problem to fix it’ mentality so rampant in Washington DC. Only instead of throwing money, Biden’s tossing artillery shells and armored vehicles.  

The Upcoming G7 Summit

As leaders are arriving in Hiroshima for the G7 Summit to be held this weekend, Ukraine and China are expected to dominate the agenda. Other subjects will undoubtedly be discussed but these are the two poised to take center stage.

The G7 nations are united when it comes to Ukraine. There has been no loosening of support, either material or financial, being streamed to Ukraine by the West. With this in mind, there are a handful of areas where disagreements have cropped up. Most notable lately is the push by Western European nations to pressure the Biden administration into supplying F-16s to Ukraine. Since the start of the conflict this has been a redline for the United States. Internally, Republicans oppose any such transfer and there are a number of influential voices inside the Pentagon thinking along similar lines. Despite this, a number of US allies are moving forward on the F-16 acquirement front. The United Kingdom and the Netherlands are moving to build an international coalition to provide Ukraine with F-16s. Or at the very least to provide training to Ukrainian pilots. The topic will almost certainly be broached in Hiroshima over the weekend, with additional pressure placed on President Biden.

When it comes to China, the G7 are less united in finding methods to deter China’s military ambitions. Not all of the G7 nations have formed hardline approaches on China. The prospect of economic coercion has made tackling China’s ambitions akin to walking on egg shells. The primary concern for some G7 nations is the extent of their reliance on the Chinese economy. European member-states and the EU (which is a non-enumerated member) find themselves forced to adopt rather compromising positions in order to keep their supply lines and critical technologies secure. On the surface, the G7 comes across as more-or-less united on China, yet behind the scenes there are a number of crucial items such as this demanding attention.