30 June, 2022 Brief Update: Turkey Lifts Objections To NATO Membership For Sweden and Finland

Earlier this week, the prospect of Sweden and Finland becoming full North Atlantic Treaty Organization members cleared a major hurdle. Turkey lifted its veto of the two Scandinavian nations joining the alliance. The relationships between the governments of Sweden and Finland and NGOs deemed terrorist threats by Turkey threatened to derail the membership plans completely. Following weeks of debate and hours of negotiations, the three nations came to an agreement. Finland and Sweden will lift their arms embargoes on Turkey, strengthening laws against Kurdish militant activists that Ankara deems to be terrorists, and holding honest discussions over Turkish extradition requests for suspected Kurdish fighters.

Turkey won out. A statement released by President Erdogan’s office said as much. Now Erdogan is expected to push US President Joe Biden to push for a sale of F-16s to Turkey. Biden has stated the potential F-16 sale is separate from the NATO matter, but many experts believe the sale will go through for the sake of alliance unity in the aftermath of Erdogan accepting the new NATO applicants.

Ukraine Update 2 April (Afternoon)

  • Another effort is underway to deliver humanitarian aid and buses to Mariupol. Yesterday’s attempt to evacuate civilians was unsuccessful after aid groups were not given the security guarantees needed despite Russian promises to establish a humanitarian corridor and call for a temporary ceasefire.
  • The withdrawal of Russian ground forces north of Kiev is underway and progressing. However, in other parts of Ukraine, Russian attacks are continuing and pressure remains. As the Russian focus shifts to fighting in eastern Ukraine, some of the forces that had been engaged in the failed push on Kiev could find themselves in Donbas quite soon.
  • Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said Turkey stands ready to organize a seaborne evacuation of civilians from Mariupol.
  • According to reports from the Ukrainian general staff, Moscow is mobilizing its troops in Moldova’s occupied Transnistria to demonstrate its readiness to attack Ukraine from the southwest and for potential provocations in the Moldova-Ukraine border region.

Ukraine Update 1 April, 2022 (Pre-Dawn)

  • Conflicting reports are coming out of Mariupol concerning Russia’s promise to allow more humanitarian access to the besieged city. Despite claims by the Russian government, many obstacles remain. Today, a convoy of buses sent to Mariupol for the purpose of evacuating residents from the city was halted by Russian troops in Berdyansk on their way to Mariupol. There has been no comment from the Russian defense ministry on the matter, though earlier in the day the ministry released a statement claiming a humanitarian corridor would be established on Friday morning from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia. This comes at the request of the French and German governments which have been working for some time now on expanding efforts to evacuate the heavily damaged city.
  • After over a month of combat operations in Ukraine, the Russian military continues to function without a theater commander. Instead, the campaign is being run from Moscow in a centralized manner reminiscent of the old Soviet days. This could also explain why Russian forces have struggled in the Ukrainian campaign. With no theater commander, the amount of coordination between different services and combat arms is likely minimal. Requests for air support or fire strikes (Russian term for artillery fire missions) must climb the ladder. Even in the digital age, this process takes time. Needless to say, combat commanders on the ground in Ukraine are fighting the war with their hands tied behind their backs as a result.
  • Ukrainian and Russian negotiators are set to resume talks in Turkey on Friday. Turkish President Erdogan has been making an effort to set up face-to-face talks between the foreign ministers of the two warring nations, yet there has been no sign that either diplomat will be involved in Friday’s discussions.

Ukraine Update 29 March, 2022 (Late Afternoon)

  • Russia’s intention to withdraw forces from the Kiev region indicates a strategic shift in priorities away from efforts to encircle the Ukrainian capital and towards the continued fighting in the Donbas. By all indications, Russia has begrudgingly accepted that operations around Kiev have reached a dead end. Now, in order to salvage something from this conflict, Vladimir Putin is looking to eastern Ukraine.
  • With the first in-person meeting between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators having taken place today in Turkey, talks between Moscow and Kiev are entering a new phase. Russia is becoming more pragmatic about the war in Ukraine but has shown no desire for a swift conclusion. The decision by Moscow to ‘sharply reduce’ military operations around Kiev and Chernihiv has been presented as a gesture “to increase mutual trust for future negotiations.”  In reality, it is more likely the creation of an opportunity to reconsolidate and resupply.
  • According to the New York Post, Ukraine has struck a Russian military base inside of Russia for the first time since the early days of the war. The strike reportedly was made against a base near Belgorod, a Russian city roughly 25 miles northeast of the Russian-Ukrainian border.

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.