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.

The Lviv Message Job

Russia’s air and missile attacks against Ukrainian airbases and other military targets in the western part of the country have come under increasing scrutiny today as Western governments attempt to decipher the purpose behind those attacks. To be fair, the target set was made up of legitimate military targets. Civilian areas were not deliberately placed in the crosshairs. The timing and location of one attack are the factors causing worry in Western circles.

One attack came against a military installation near the western city of Lviv, a short distance from the Ukraine-Polish border, and a major crossing point for Ukrainian refugees over the past three weeks. The area is also a transit point for convoys carrying Western arms. Earlier last week, Russia issued a stern warning to the United States and its allies that the Russian military will regard the convoys as legitimate targets of war. The warning was largely ignored or minimized by the US and NATO, at least on the surface. Last night’s attacks on targets in western Ukraine can’t be disregarded so easily, seeing how they too contained a more overt message for the West to cease the overt resupply and rearming efforts in Ukraine. Call it a shot across NATO’s bow or a warning. I prefer to view it as a message job where the meaning was anything but hidden or minimized.

It remains to be seen whether the United States and its allies get the message. If Russia believes its efforts have failed, expect to see a convoy carrying arms and supplies east from Poland to Ukraine attacked in the coming days.

Author’s Note: I’ve been out of the loop for much of the weekend catching up on work and enjoying some college basketball since this is Selection Sunday. 😊 Some additional news is coming out concerning the Lviv strike and Russia’s reasoning for it. I’ll talk about that either tonight, or tomorrow morning in a Ukraine Update. –Mike

US and Iran Exchange Warnings

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Some things never change. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, animosity between Iran and the United States continue on. Now it appears as if tension between the two nations is on the rise again after President Trump’s warnings on Wednesday. Trump warned Iran and its proxies against attacking US troops in Iraq. The president spoke of receiving information which suggested a sneak attack against US forces could be in the works. On Twitter, Trump posted the following: “Upon information and belief, Iran or its proxies are planning a sneak attack on US troops and/or assets in Iraq. If this happens, Iran will pay a very heavy price, indeed!” The president did not elaborate further on the information mentioned in his post.

Hours before Trump’s tweet, Iran had earlier warned the US about taking provocative actions in Iraq. General Yahya Rahim Safavi made the statement and concluded with, “Any US action will mark an even larger strategic failure in the current president’s record.” Given the context of the statements coming out of Tehran and Washington it is safe to assume that some type of action against US troops in Iraq has at least been considered by Iran’s leadership.

Meanwhile, Iran continues to suffer tremendously from the COVID-19 pandemic. 3,000 Iranians have died from the virus, and nearly 50,000 are confirmed to be infected. The situation has grown so bad inside of Iran that the UN, and China have asked the US to ease sanctions on Iran for the time being. The Trump administration did offer humanitarian aid to Iran in order to help the nation contend with the coronavirus outbreak but Tehran rejected the offer.

With the multitude of problems facing Iran right now its difficult to believe the government could be looking for trouble. Yet if Iran’s leaders view the United States as being overly distracted by the pandemic, it could sense an opportunity developing to inflict damage upon US forces in Iraq and possibly get away with it.

Storm Clouds Gathering on the Horizon For Georgia

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With international attention presently centered on Iran and the Persian Gulf it comes as no surprise that recent events in Georgia have been overlooked. Protests broke out in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on 20 June after a Russian MP delivered a speech from the speakers chair in the Georgian parliament. This act was viewed as deeply offensive by the Georgian people, and the political opposition. Thousands of citizens took to the streets to demonstrate and the protests swiftly grew violent. The incident in parliament unleashed a torrent of anti-Russia feelings which had been festering among the people. Georgia’s current government has been viewed as being overly receptive to Russian political and business interests, much to the dismay of the Georgian people.  Clashes erupted between protesters and police, resulting in over 250 people being injured.

It is no secret that anti-Russia sentiment runs deep in Georgian society. The brief 2008 Southern Ossetia conflict, and subsequent loss of Southern Ossetia, and Abkhazia contributed greatly to the feelings. Since 2012, Georgia’s government has been led by the Georgian Dream party. GD has moved to restore economic and political relations with Russia, although many Georgians now view these moves as placing their nation back in the Russian sphere of influence.

Russia’s response to the protests has been eye-raising to say the least. State media issued warnings that Georgia is not safe for Russian tourists, and that there have been some attacks on citizens in recent days. The warnings came on the heels of Russian President Vladimir Putin placing a temporary ban on flights to Georgia effective 8 July, 2019. On the surface, Russia’s response appears proportionate to the events which took place last week.

Concern materializes with the realization that the present Russian moves are strikingly similar to what took place during the leadup to the annexation of Crimea in 2014. It began with the discovery of a somewhat obscure and veiled threat facing Russian nationals and citizens living in or visiting Crimea. From there events continued on, gaining momentum until one morning there were Russian troops on the ground ostensibly to protect Russian citizens on the peninsula.

There seems to be a possibility that Russia could be planning something similar for Georgia in the near future.

George Soros Warns the European Union

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George Soros issued a frank warning in an op-ed piece  published yesterday. The billionaire activist, and financial supporter of leftwing  progressive political causes around the world, urged Europeans to “please wake up” and recognize the internal and external threats facing the European Union. He compared the situation facing the EU today to the Soviet Union in 1991. The supra-national organization is facing a revolutionary moment that could pave the way to an uncertain future. Sadly, Soros points out, Europe’s leaders, and citizens seem not to recognize the dangerous territory which the EU is entering.

For a politically-involved wealthy private citizen to be publicly sounding the general alarm, it speaks volumes on the present state of the EU. Soros has long been a staunch supporter of the European experiment. However, unlike  many officials in Brussels, the Hungarian billionaire is also a realist.  The messy Brexit situation, unrest in France, Angela Merkel’s declining influence, and of course, the continuing rise of  populism, and nationalism have come together to form a perfect storm. Soros is obviously hoping his words will motivate Europhiles to take action before it is too late. Yet even he suggests it possible that the union is past the point of rescue.

European Parliament elections are coming in May. Soros is hoping his call will rally the EU and its supporters before then, and perhaps prevent the anticipated antiestablishment surge from becoming a reality. Fears of what the upcoming elections could bring are already circulating around the continent, and many view the May election as being a referendum on the entire 60-year old European Union experiment. There is a very real chance that anti-EU parties can win enough seats to severely disrupt legislative affairs. If Britain is still an EU member come May, it will send representatives to the European Parliament. An awkward scenario at best, a potential political storm at worst.

How the Soros warning is digested will become known as May draws nearer. Can his words rally EU leaders, and supporters in time, or is the European Union destined to meet the same fate as the Soviet Union?