Lavrov’s Warning

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned the world against underestimating the chances of a nuclear conflict emerging from Russia’s war in Ukraine. “The risks now are considerable,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russia’s state television. “I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.” Lavrov’s warning comes as the West increases its material support for Ukraine as the war shifts to the Donbas region. Heavy weapons are now being shipped from NATO nations into Ukraine, including self-propelled artillery and self-propelled anti-aircraft gun systems. Russia’s previous warnings that NATO equipment could be considered a legitimate target of war once it enters Ukrainian territory. In Washington, Moscow’s ambassador to Russia has told the United States to stop weapons shipments to Ukraine, warning that Western weapons are inflaming the conflict. Lavrov extended the argument in his comments. “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war.”

While Lavrov’s warnings could be nothing except for bluster, his words should not be dismissed entirely. The risks of a potential nuclear escalation are at least present at this stage. We’re at a point now where the United States and her allies need to consider the viewpoint of Russian leadership. It would help to view the situation from the perspective of Russia and not make decisions largely based on interpretations stemming from a prism of Western views and opinion. The stakes for Russia in this conflict are enormous, to say the least. If Vladimir Putin concludes there is no chance of a victory on the battlefield through only conventional means, all bets are off.

The West should not be intimidated from supporting Ukraine. However, at the same time, some government officials in Europe and the US might want to consider how their recent remarks are being interpreted by the Kremlin. For example, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin admitted a US goal now is to see Russian military capabilities significantly weakened to the point where it cannot conduct military operations abroad in the aftermath of this conflict. Austin’s words run the risk of  being interpreted as the US posing an existential threat to Russia and provoking Moscow into expanding the war beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Escalation is not in the best interests of anyone.

Ukraine Update 14 April, 2022: Moskva and the Baltic

  • The origin of catastrophic damage to the Slava class guided missile cruiser Moskva has yet to be confirmed. The Russian Defense Ministry claims the ship suffered a shipboard fire that caused ammunition to explode. The ship was evacuated but remains afloat. Ukraine had a different version of events, unsurprisingly. Ukrainian government officials took to social media and boasted that Moskva had been struck by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles and this was the cause of the fire and damage. The Russian Defense Ministry claims the fire is now out and efforts are being made to tow the ship back to port. As of now, it’s unclear whether the Russian side of the story or Ukraine’s version contains the most facts. With luck more will be learned today, and the pieces of the puzzle will come together.
  • As Finland and Sweden move closer than ever to perhaps becoming members of NATO, the Russian government has wasted little time issuing a strong warning to the two nations. Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s security council and former president of Russia said that Russia will bolster its Baltic Sea region defenses in the event Finland and Sweden join NATO. The move might include nuclear forces. “There can be no more talk of any nuclear-free status for the Baltic – the balance must be restored,” Medvedev said. His remarks underscore the unease which Russia has over the situation in the Baltic region. The Lithuanian government dismissed the veiled threat, however. Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas reminded the world that Russia already has nuclear weapons in place in the region. “The current Russian threats look quite strange when we know that, even without the present security situation, they keep the weapon 100 km from Lithuania’s border. Nuclear weapons have always been kept in Kaliningrad. The international community, the countries in the region, are perfectly aware of this. They use it as a threat.”

Ukraine Update 22 March, 2022

  • Ukrainian government and military officials claim the possibility of Belarussian involvement in the ground war is increasing by the day. On the heels of this, Western intelligence sources I’ve spoken with claim Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko has been deferring deployment by 3-4 days every time Moscow has asked about it. The Belarussian military is made up largely of conscripts and there’s fear in Minsk that joining the war in Ukraine could lead to mass desertions or worse.
  • Russian warships in the Sea of Azov have started firing into Mariupol, a first in the city’s siege. The firing has been largely limited to naval gunfire support, but its not yet known if this is directed fire or indiscriminate rounds.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons if Russia perceives a threat to its very existence as a nation. “If there’s a threat to the very existence of our country, it can be used in accordance with this concept,” the spokesman said in response to a question of whether Russia’s use of nuclear weapons could be completely ruled out. Russian military doctrine, like that of its Soviet predecessor, considers the first-use of nuclear weapons if a conventional conflict is being lost. Originally, this doctrine was developed for a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict in Europe during the Cold War. However, now it would apply to a conflict such as the one in Ukraine right now.
  • NATO has invited Volodymyr Zelenskiy to address the summit of NATO leaders on Thursday. It would be done via video format. Zelenskiy’s press secretary, Serhiy Nykyforov has stated he will take an ‘active role’ in the summit, but did not explain precisely what this means.

Kim Jong Un Health Concerns Revive Concerns of A North Korean Collapse Scenario.

7474940

In the last 24 hours conflicting reports have emerged concerning the health of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. Sources in the US government have stated that US intelligence received word that Kim Jong Un was in ‘grave condition’ following cardio-vascular surgery. As a result, the United States is closely monitoring reports on Kim’s health, and simultaneously reassessing the overall current picture in that part of the world. South Korea, on the other hand, has reported no unusual signs regarding Kim’s health. Seoul has been unable to confirm Kim’s alleged poor health.

In time, the correct status of Kim Jong Un’s health will become known. If he turns up on television looking healthy and vibrant at some point in the coming days, the US claim was obviously a false alarm. However, if the opposite holds true and Kim is either clinging to life, or is already dead, the world will once again be faced with the prospect of a North Korean collapse. At first glance, the prospect of the North Korean regime collapsing might seem promising. It is not. If Kim dies, then a vacuum develops in Pyongyang. This could touch off fighting between various factions of the North Korean regime, and its military, as they fight for the crown. China, South Korea, and the United States all have a stake North Korea’s future too, for competing reasons in most cases. The possibility of one, or more of these nations’ militaries intervening in some way is not outside the realm of responsibility. That is the point when things would really start to go south, no pun intended.

Then there is the wildcard in any potential post-Kim North Korea: whoever controls the nation’s weapons of mass destruction. The North has chemical, and nuclear weapons, along with the platforms to deliver those weapons at least as far as Guam, and possibly all the way to the west coast of the United States. If it appears as if the weapons of mass destruction are not under the control of a stable faction, or political official, the US, China, or South Korea may feel compelled to secure, or destroy those weapons.

In short, the death of Kim Jong Un is something which nobody in Washington, Beijing, or Seoul is rooting for. Yet until the truth about Kim’s health is revealed, there will be speculation, and preparation aplenty taking place in these capitals, and around the region.

Pakistan’s Leader Adding Fuel to the Kashmir Fire

7373939337

Last week at the UN General Assembly Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan placed Kashmir back on the global stage with a thinly veiled warning. If the world does not pay attention to events in Kashmir, a nuclear war that engulfs the entire world will be the result:

“If a conventional war starts between the two countries … anything could happen. But supposing a country seven times smaller than its neighbor is faced with the choice either you surrender, or you fight for your freedom till death? What will we do? I ask myself this question … and we will fight. … and when a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond the borders.”

Khan’s contentious address to diplomats and world leaders in the general assembly hall was generally viewed as a threat wrapped in a warning about Kashmir following India’s move to integrate the territory with the rest of the nation. In spite of Khan, and many other Pakistani politicians’ efforts, India continues to charge ahead with its plans.

For its part, India responded to Khan’s rhetoric with calm and poise. Indian diplomat Vidisha Maitra called the Pakistani leader’s speech “brinkmanship, not statesmanship.” She also addressed Khan encouraging Muslims in Kashmir to rise up against the Indian occupiers, reminding him of Pakistan’s reputation as the home base for most terrorist groups in the region.

Pakistan has failed to muster collective outrage from fellow Muslim nations in Asia and the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has informed India that it understands New Delhi’s actions in Jammu & Kashmir. This position was personally conveyed by the Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to India’s senior security adviser Ajit Doval during a meeting in Riyadh Wednesday.

The real concern for the time being is not Pakistan and India turning the region into a pane of glass via nuclear weapons. The true danger is that Khan and Pakistan will encourage Muslim groups in Kashmir to launch attacks against Indian security troops and other government targets in the state. Action such as that could prove to be a catalyst which eventually makes Khan’s words last Friday prophetic in nature.