Ukraine Update: 1 November, 2022

The Pentagon is sending a team of weapons experts to Ukraine to inspect US weapons being used by Ukraine in its war against Russia. This move comes as midterm elections approach and Republicans voice concerns about how well Ukraine is using US military support. More specifically, there is growing worry that some weapons and other material is being illicitly diverted and ending up in the hands of arms dealers with questionable reputations, or nation-states the Pentagon would rather not see in possessiion of US weapons. To be fair, oversight is a good idea at this point. With billions of dollars in material and monetary aid having been shuttled to Ukraine since February, 2022 and Republicans on the verge of recapturing at least the House of Representatives next week, questions on accountability and the lack of oversight will only continue to grow if not addressed. The Pentagon, and the White House by extension hope the weapons experts arrival in Ukraine puts the matter to bed before January.

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A joint decision by the United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine was made to stop merchant ships moving through the Ukrainian crop-export route after Russia said on Monday the vessels were not safe using it. Shipments have been leaving Ukrainian ports since Russia suspended its participation in the Black Sea export agreement signed in July. A mass Ukrainian drone strike on Sevastopol late last week is the root cause behind Russia’s move. The UN plans to issue an update on the crop-export route tomorrow, but for now all ship traffic moving through this area appears set to come to a halt on Wednesday.

Author’s Note: Brief update on Ukraine for this 1st day of November. Later in the week I might double back and discuss the target shift from tactical to strategic that is going on as the Russia-Ukraine war nears the winter months.

Flashpoints For October, 2022

Here we are six days into October and it’s apparent the remainder of the month will be an active one around the world. Multiple situations deserve monitoring from the continuing war in Ukraine to the effects it is having in Europe and other places. In China the twice-a-decade Communist Party congress is less than two weeks away. President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a third term in office, prompting speculation about this will mean for the Taiwan situation, relations with the United States, and China’s lackluster economic growth of late.

Newcomers to the potential hotspot table this month will be North Korea and the simmering Hellenic-Turk rivalry in the Aegean Sea. North Korea just recently fired an MRBM over Japan, prompting the end of a heavy missile test schedule in the later days of September and early October. There is growing speculation that Pyongyang will schedule its long-expected nuclear weapon test for the days leading up to the Communist Party congress’s start in China. The North’s last test look place in September, 2017 a short time before the commencement of a BRICS conference in China. Despite China being North Korea’s closest ally, a test on the eve of the Communist Party congress would strain relations at least for a brief period, while sending a message to the rest of the world about the pace and direction of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. On the flip side, a nuclear test has been anticipated by the US, South Korea and Japan since around late April and it has yet to materialize. There is no solid data indicating a test will take place in the coming days or weeks.

Meanwhile, relations between Greece and Turkey have become more strained since late summer over what Ankara claims is a Greek military buildup on islands in the Aegean Sea. Following a brief ease of tensions earlier in the summer months Ankara and Athens are increasing the rhetoric. This occurs periodically, but the danger of the rivalry becoming a military clash is always present.  

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.