Ukraine Update: 28 November, 2022

Nine months into the war finds Ukraine’s allies struggling to keep Ukraine supplied with arms and ammunition. As a rule, expenditure of ammunition and material in a war will exceed pre-war estimates. Ukraine is a classic example of this, requiring an almost constant resupply from the West to keep its armies fighting. Both Russia and Ukraine are burning through ammo and material at a pace not seen in Europe since World War II.  This incessant demand for weapons, ammunition and other material is starting to wear down European, and even US supplies and war stocks. Armories in many NATO nations have been stripped of artillery, anti-tank missiles, ammunition and air defense missiles for Ukraine. There is dangerously little remaining in NATO stockpiles. Now, the West scrambles to continue supplying Ukraine while simultaneously replenishing its own stockpiles.

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As Russian missile attacks against Ukraine’s power facilities increases, the Ukrainian government is considering a limited evacuation of Kiev residents to other areas where services have not been disrupted. The Russian attacks have brought on power outages and the water supply in much of Kiev has been disrupted. Kiev’s mayor, former heavyweight boxer Vitaly Klitschko told the British Broadcasting Company, “This is a temporary relocation of certain categories of people to the suburbs, where there may be services.”

With damage caused by Russian attacks and winter weather setting in, the national power grid is going to be taxed immeasurably between December and late February in many areas of Ukraine. Emergency cut-offs of electricity will become more common as the days go by. It is almost assured that Ukraine will need assistance from abroad to prevent a collapse of its electrical grid.

Author’s Note: I apologize for the longer-than-expected delay. That bug was a little more resilient than expected. It would seem the end of 2022 is shaping up to be busy so I’m getting on the ball. China update tomorrow and then we’ll go from there.

Missile That Landed In Poland Was A Ukrainian SAM

After yesterday afternoon’s mass rush to judgment by many in the media regarding the missile that landed in Poland, this morning they are being forced to walk back their initial claims. As have a number of politicians and government officials in Ukraine, Poland and across Europe. The reason for this because the preliminary investigation has revealed the missile was not fired by the Russian military. It seems the missile was likely launched by Ukrainian air defense forces likely during a Russian cruise missile attack. Components of the missile, an SA-10 Grumble, came down near the Polish village of Przewodów and killed two Poles.

Both NATO and the Polish government said earlier there is no indication of a deliberate Russian attack. In Ukraine, the government in Kiev has amended its position on the matter. After vociferously blaming Russia for the act, government officials have become rather quiet and are requesting access to the site of the blast. In Brussels NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also said there will be no Article 4 meeting until the investigations have been completed.

Yesterday’s incident caused anxiety and concern around the Western world. Since the start of the war in Ukraine the possibility of the fighting spilling across the border into the territory of a NATO member-state and widening the conflict has been a major concern from Washington to Brussels. The first reports from Poland made it appear as if NATO’s  greatest fear was coming to life. Luckily, as time went on it became clear this was not the case.

No Confirmation That Russian Missile Landed in Poland

It’s been a tension-filled afternoon and evening on NATO’s Eastern Flank after a Russian-made missile landed in Poland, a short distance away from the Ukrainian frontier. It did not take long for the media to assume the missile belonged to the Russian military. In the absence of facts, the media speculated, and soon the Polish government called an emergency meeting. Social media reports took over from here and it was not very long before World War III was trending on Twitter and other platforms this afternoon.

As it stands now, there has been no confirmation that the missiles were Russian, in spite of supposed remarks by a US ‘intelligence official’ that they were. The US government, as well as other Western allies are investigating but have not been able to confirm the cause of the explosion. Two Polish citizens were killed in the blast, however little beyond this is known for certain. Consultations are taking place across Europe this evening. Poland has invoked Article 4 and tomorrow NATO ambassadors will meet to discuss the matter in detail.

Russia has denied that any of its missiles had been targeted at any points in proximity to the Polish border. The incident did occur around the same time a heavy wave of Russian missiles struck power infrastructure targets around Ukraine, causing considerable damage.

As the night goes on, hopefully more solid information will become known. We’ll follow up with an update here late tomorrow morning.  

Biden And Xi To Meet Monday Before The G20 Summit Begins

Joe Biden and Xi Jinping will hold a face-to-face meeting on Monday in Indonesia just before the opening of the G20 summit. This will be the first in-person meeting between the US and Chinese leaders since Biden took office in January 2021 and comes at a point where Sino-US tensions are on the rise due to several issues from the war in Ukraine to Taiwan. Members of the Biden administration have said the purpose of the mini summit will be to set expectations. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters today that Biden “will get to sit in the same room with Xi Jinping, be direct and straightforward with him as he always is and expect the same in return from Xi.”

It is worth mentioning that Biden tried the same approach with Vladimir Putin in Switzerland back in the summer of 2021 and it failed miserably. Hence the Russia-Ukraine war currently raging.

For this go-around, the stakes are higher for the United States. Xi has consolidated his hold on power and appears to be chomping at the bit to confront the US should Washington decide on a policy of containment to hold back an expansionist move on the part of Xi and China. Biden placed himself and the nation in a corner when he publicly affirmed that the US will defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. That comment, coupled with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan sent US-China relations plummeting and introduced an period of Chinese military exercises around the island-nation as well as a round of attempted coercive diplomacy by Beijing around the Western Pacific.

Ukraine Fatigue Is Becoming A Very Real Concern In The US and Europe

On Saturday the Washington Post reported that the Biden administration is privately urging the Ukrainian government to indicate an openness to negotiations with Russia and downplay its refusal to hold peace talks unless Vladimir Putin is removed from power. According to the Post’s sources, the aim is not to force Kiev to enter negotiations, but to make certain Ukraine has the support of other partner nations, especially in Europe. As the war in Ukraine rages on it causes more damage to the world economy and there are growing signs that voters in Europe are souring on the prospect of supporting Ukraine’s war over a prolonged period. For that matter, there are signs in the United States that Ukraine Fatigue has established a beachhead. The midterm elections on Tuesday should prove to be an accurate barometer of the American public’s tolerance of Washington’s continuing blank check, no-holds-barred support of Ukraine.

 This winter will likely provide the greatest gauge for Europe’s tolerance for future support of the Ukraine war. Despite assurances from the European Union and several Western European nations about national and continent-wide storage of natural gas, concern remains about the effects a particularly cold winter could have in store for Europe. Industrial output is an area of particular concern. A hypothetical energy shortage in Germany, for example, will force Berlin to put restrictions in place that could have long-term negative consequences on the German economy. Added to these concerns in Europe is the latest wave of Russian missile and drone attacks against Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. These strikes have been quite effective, despite the Ukrainian government’s insistences otherwise. In fact, Kiev is warning of significant disruptions to power, heat and water services over the winter if the attacks continue. Many Europeans believe it will only be a matter of time before Kiev turns to Europe to provide the materials and finance to repair its energy infrastructure. Yet with much of Europe facing its own energy worries in the coming months, Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian government could find his benefactors on the continent to be in a reluctant mood to provide help.