Ukraine Update: 26 December, 2022

Over Christmas weekend there have been indications of both Russia and Ukraine at the very least signaling a willingness to open sincere negotiations with the other side. But only under specific sets of circumstances. In an interview aired on Christmas Day, Russian leader Vladimir Putin claimed he is ready to negotiate with ‘all parties engaged in the Ukraine War’ however, the Ukrainian government and its Western supporters have refused to consider peace talks. “We are ready to negotiate with everyone involved about acceptable solutions, but that is up to them – we are not the ones refusing to negotiate, they are,” Putin said in the interview.

Today,  Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his nation wants to chair a so-called ‘peace summit’ at the United Nations in February, 2023. He suggested that the UN secretary general could mediate the conference, but then went on to apply a caveat to Russia’s participation in a peace summit: Russia would be included only if it faces a war crimes tribunal in an international court. Since the chances of Moscow agreeing to this term are basically non-existent, don’t expect to see Russia and Ukraine sitting down to discuss peace at any point in the coming weeks.


Meanwhile, a second attempted Ukrainian drone attack on an airbase deep inside of Russian territory appears to have taken place. The Russian defense ministry reported that air defense forces in and around the Engels Airbase engaged and destroyed a drone near the base. But unfortunately, falling debris killed three servicemembers. Engels is a major Russian bomber base that was supposedly targeted by the Ukrainian military earlier in December. Neither the Ukrainian government or armed forces have admitted being behind the attack, but military spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said the explosions were the result of what Russia was doing on Ukrainian soil.

Ukraine Update 28 March, 2022

  • US President Joe Biden did some damage control on his own behalf over comments he made over the weekend suggesting Russian President Vladimir Putin should be removed from power. Biden said today that he stood by the statement, yet it was a personal expression of his outrage and not an official change in US policy. “I was expressing the moral outrage I felt toward this man,” Biden told reporters today, effectively rejecting suggestions he misspoke. Right, Joe. 😊 Administration officials have been trying to put out fires created by the comments. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed the United States does not  “have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter.”
  • The Group of Seven (G7) member nations have rejected Russia’s demand to pay for natural gas exports in rubles. G7 energy ministers and secretaries met via videoconference and affirmed that doing so would be a breach of  existing contracts. Last week, Vladimir Putin announced that ‘unfriendly’ nations will now be required to pay for natural gas in Russian currency. Putin’s announcement raised gas prices even higher amid worries this could be a precursor to a shutdown of pipelines providing natural gas supplies to many European nations.
  • The next round of Ukraine-Russia peace talks will take place in Istanbul on 29 March, 2022. The Turkish government will be the host.
  • There have been conflicting reports on which side controlled Irpin, a town located north of Kiev. Initial reports of Ukrainian forces liberating the town made the rounds through much of Monday. In his nightly address  President Volodymyr Zelenskiy clarified the situation. “The occupiers are pushed away from Irpin, However, it is too early to talk about security in this part of our region.”  Translation: Russian forces have retreated from Irpin, but a counterattack is expected within the next 12 hours or so.

A Repeat of History On The Horizon For The United States In Afghanistan?

As the US drawdown from Afghanistan speeds up, with 90% already complete according to CENTCOM, the Taliban continues to push Afghan government forces out of many districts. At the same time, Taliban representatives continue to negotiate with government representatives in Doha, Qatar. The languid pace of the peace talks underway provides a striking contrast to the war raging back home, along with a sliver of insight to the Taliban’s present strategy. As the talks go on, Taliban forces are making gains back home. The Doha Peace Process now gives the Taliban cover as it gobbles up additional districts controlled by Afghan government forces. When Kabul protests the increasingly aggressive Taliban military offensives currently taking place, the Taliban representatives in Doha can correctly state that their presence there represents a sincere effort to bring the fighting to a close. The question is, how many nations in the region and around the world are going to buy that argument? And in the process, provide the Taliban with a sheath of legitimacy it could not have dreamed of obtaining one year ago.  

The deterioration of the situation on the ground is raising questions about the Biden Administration’s plan (or lack thereof, as the case may very well be) for the Afghan withdrawal. The administration has been insistent upon all US forces being removed from Afghanistan by 11 September, 2021, not coincidentally the twentieth anniversary of the event that initially brought US forces to Afghanistan. It seems that the pullout will be completed earlier than September, raising the possibility of the Taliban having complete control of the country by the end of the summer. This would be a foreign policy disaster for the administration and have a detrimental effect on US efforts in other parts of the world.

Images of helicopters evacuating the last Americans from the embassy rooftop in Saigon as the city fell in 1975 have been branded into the US foreign policy psyche. Now, as two US aircraft carriers move into position to support the evacuation from Afghanistan, those ghosts from the past are slipping back into the national conscience. The prospect of a similar exit from Kabul in the coming months is now quite real and the Biden administration has to take steps now to make certain to does not become reality.  

Thursday 9 August, 2018 Update: Gaza Erupts Again


Over the last twenty-four hours, the Gaza strip and southern Israel have been transformed into free-fire zones. Even with Egyptian-brokered ceasefire talks between the two sides underway, the volatile situation spilled over once more. A barrage of Hamas rockets and mortars was fired against Israel from positions in Gaza, prompting a wave of Israeli airstrikes against military targets in Palestinian territory. The majority of the projectiles fired by Hamas were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome system, but not all. Some did manage to make it through, causing injuries to at least 11 Israeli citizens. According to Palestinian government sources, three people were killed in the Israeli air attacks.

Some analysts believe Hamas is ratcheting up the attacks in order to show its strength during the negotiations. While possible, this strategy runs a serious risk of sparking a full-blown conflict with Israel, even if neither side wants that. Another prospect is that the order to initiate the latest rocket attacks came directly from Tehran. It is well known that the Iranian government has tremendous influence with Hamas. With the regime under increasing pressure from US economic sanctions snapping back into place, Iranian leadership might surmise that instigating a flareup of hostilities between Hamas and Israel will give it some needed breathing room. The timing of events certainly supports this possibility. Coincidences are rare in the world of Middle Eastern geopolitics.

Israeli citizens have been wounded in the attacks, opening a door to the possibility of further escalation. Public pressure on the Israeli government for further military action against Hamas could rise, contradicting the government’s desire to stabilize the situation. Protecting its citizens is the main priority for the Israeli government though. If the Hamas rocket attacks continue, and the number of Israeli casualties rises, this conflict could escalate dangerously. If that occurs, likelihood of a major conflict breaking out increases ten-fold.

Wednesday 1 November, 2017 Update: Russia Pushes Ahead With Plan for Renewed Syrian Peace Talks


In the aftermath of the Russian intervention on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and his government, Moscow has taken an active role in diplomatic efforts to bring the conflict to an end. As time went on following the introduction of Russian military forces, the fortunes of war turned irreversibly in Syria’s favor. Despite temporary setbacks, and a US military response to al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons earlier this year it is safe to assume that when the shooting finally ends in Syria, al-Assad will remain in power. The Syrian conflict is winding down, but without a formal diplomatic compromise involving all parties. This is where the problems begin.

The Syrian Conflict is ripe with players, both combatant and non-combatant. A final compromise cannot come about until all of them have an opportunity to carve a piece of the cake off for themselves. Unfortunately, the sheer number of parties involved assures that the mad dash for a piece of the cake will inevitably dissolve into a fight for the last morsel. The peace process promises to be every bit as difficult and bitter as the conflict itself.

Nevertheless, Russia is making a push to begin a fresh round of peace talks later this month in Sochi or possibly on the Russian military base in Latakia, Syria. The conference is being called the “Syrian Congress on National Dialogue” and is expected to discuss reconciliation, political reform and other issues that will be of utmost importance in post-war Syria. The newly proposed Syrian constitution will also be discussed. Anti-Assad rebels and other members of the Syrian Opposition are among the invitees, as are the Kurds. The inclusion of the Kurds has been surprising to many in the region. In all previous UN sponsored peace talks there hasn’t been a visible Kurdish involvement.

Turkey and Iran endorsed the Russian plan yesterday. The Syrian National Council, the primary Western-supported opposition group has denounced the effort as an attempt by Moscow to perform an end run around UN-supported peace talks in Geneva. To be fair, UN peace talks have accomplished little, however Russia’s motives are highly suspect. It is no secret that Moscow wants to redraw Syria, and the region in way that is supports Russia’s overall geopolitical goals.