As the United States continues to supply Ukraine openly and generously with weapons and other materials in the midst of its war with Russia, it appears Moscow is rekindling a military relationship with Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan government recently announced a new military collaboration with Russia. Beginning in July, more Russian troops, aircraft and ships will start arriving in the Central American nation. Officially, the Nicaraguan government is labeling the program a “military exchange, instruction, and training initiative to support humanitarian aid operations.” Between the lines, however, is the unstated intention to transform Nicaragua into a hub for Russian forces in the Caribbean region. Coincidentally, the announcement comes as relations between Managua and Washington continue to deteriorate. Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega, certainly to friend of the United States, will use the program to annoy the US and relieve Nicaragua’s economic troubles, which he blames the United States for.
NATO expansion and the war in Ukraine are providing Russia with all the motivation needed to project military power in the backyard of the United States. This strategy is similar to the one pursued by the Soviet Union in the 1980s during Ortega’s first tenure as Nicaragua’s leader. During that period of time, the US mined Nicaraguan harbors to harass and dissuade Eastern Bloc shipping and undertook other covert activities to frustrate Soviet efforts to establish a toehold in Central America. The effort was ultimately successful, though it nearly caused the downfall of the Reagan administration through the Iran-Contra affair.
This time around, geopolitical dynamics are somewhat different, yet the US would be wrong to ignore an increased Russian presence in Nicaragua. Especially given the free rein the Nicaraguan government appears ready to allow Russian forces to operate with. Decree 10-2022 approved by the Ortega-controlled legislature authorizes Russian military forces to “patrol” Nicaragua’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Even though Russia has lost tremendous amounts of international support and respect, the prospect of MiGs and Russian warships operating in such close proximity to US waters and territory is too tempting to pass up. For Ortega, the new phase of military cooperation between Russia and Nicaragua gives him a propaganda victory which could entice otherwise reluctant international companies and nation-states to invest in Nicaragua.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the US Senate and House of Representatives this morning by way of a video link. He came before the US Legislative Branch to plead his nation’s case for more weapons, aircraft and the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. In effect, Zelenskiy’s speech was an end run of sorts around the Executive Branch. The White House has stated over and over that a no-fly zone is not going to happen and the US serve as the middleman to deliver Polish MiGs to the Ukrainian Air Force. The US position has been mirrored by many of its NATO allies. Ukraine will be provided with as much assistance as possible, short of taking action that could classify the US or any other NATO nation as a co-combatant.
Zelenskiy understood this coming into the morning’s address and worked it into his plea. He invoked US history and asked lawmakers to remember Pearl Harbor, September 11th and Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. Zelenskiy’s remarks were filled with dozens of potential sound bites and digital headlines. The Ukrainian leader came across more like a overindulged toddler rather than the leader of an embattled nation at war.
“Is this a lot to ask for – to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people? Is this too much?” Zelenskiy asked.
Answer: Yes, it is. Especially since a no-fly zone will inevitably lead to clashes between US and Russian forces and serve as the spark for a larger, regional conflict between NATO and Russia. NATO is not going to risk war to save Ukraine. Javelins and Stingers are one thing, but a no-fly zone is another matter altogether.
Negotiations between Ukrainian and Russian officials was cut short on Monday due to a ‘technical pause.’ These talks, the fourth round since fighting began in February, were being conducted via video link. They are expected to resume on Tuesday.
According to US officials, China is expressing some openness to giving Russia the financial and military aid it has requested. It is not certain whether or not China has made a final decision about providing assistance. The partnership between China and Russia has caused increased concern in the West and is proving to be a major roadblock in isolating Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Russian claims that Ukraine is preparing to use chemical weapons have continued despite no solid proof being provided by the Russian government. There’s growing concern in Western circles that the empty claims are part of a Russian plan to stage the ‘discovery’ of Ukrainian chemical agents and use the incident to its advantage politically and militarily.
Good Morning. Just a brief update on a handful of events taking shape in or around Ukraine this morning. This afternoon or evening, I plan to post a second update for the day. Either then or tomorrow, I’ll talk a little about some other areas around the world where things are also happening such as the Middle East and Northeast Pacific.
Ukraine and Russia began a new round of negotiations today, despite the continued heavy Russian shelling of Kiev and growing casualties. According to Ukrainian government sources, these will be “hard” talks aimed at establishing a ceasefire to be followed by a withdrawal of troops and security guarantees with Russia.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was supposed to address the Council of Europe today, but has stepped away from the commitment due to ‘urgent matters in Ukraine.’ The Ukrainian prime minister will speak instead.
The US is quietly warning China it will face consequences should Beijing decide to provide Russia assistance. Yesterday, numerous media outlets reported that Russia has requested military equipment in the past days. As US and Chinese officials meet in Rome, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the US had “been spreading disinformation targeting China on the Ukraine issue, with malicious intentions.”
France and Germany are calling for a ceasefire in the eastern Ukraine as fighting has flared up in the region this month. Following a conference call between French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the leaders of Ukraine and Russia, the two Western leaders released a statement calling for both sides to withdraw their forces from the disputed areas in the east. They also warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe if conditions do not change soon. The German government claimed on Monday night that the four parties have agreed on a number of “immediate measures” in the conflict. If this translates to concrete action on the ground or not remains to be seen.
Fighting in the Ukraine conflict historically reaches a peak in ceasefire violations around late July and early August. This year appears to be no exception. In addition to the ceasefire violations, Kiev is claiming that additional Russian forces are arriving on its border. Ukrainian Chief of General Staff Viktor Muzhenko stated that Ukrainian forces have observed new activity on the Russian side of the border. Like the annual upsurge in fighting, Russian military activity near the border at this time of the year is nothing new.
The United States, by design, as well as coincidence, is playing a much more active role in this year’s Ukraine summer drama. The House is about to pass a new bill that will place many new sanctions on Russia for everything from its annexation of Crimea in 20014 to its attempts to influence the 2016 US presidential election. At the same time, the new US envoy to the Ukraine Kurt Volker indicated that the White House is pondering sending arms to Kiev to increase the defensive capabilities of Ukrainian forces fighting in the east. As Russia has been openly sending weapons, and troops to assist the separatists fighting in the east, similar US assistance for Kiev is a balanced response. Volker does not believe Moscow would view the move as a provocation. The Obama administration had limited US assistance to non-lethal military aid, which translated mainly to training, and the replenishment of non-lethal supplies like MREs, and medical equipment. The Trump administration seems ready to change that dynamic.
*Authors note: Part 2 of the Case for Military Action Against North Korea will be posted on 1 August. I have not forgotten. 😊*