Nicaragua and Russia Resume And Deepen Military Ties

As the United States continues to supply Ukraine openly and generously with weapons and other materials in the midst of its war with Russia, it appears Moscow is rekindling a military relationship with Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan government recently announced a new military collaboration with Russia. Beginning in July, more Russian troops, aircraft and ships will start arriving in the Central American nation. Officially, the Nicaraguan government is labeling the program a “military exchange, instruction, and training initiative to support humanitarian aid operations.” Between the lines, however, is the unstated intention to transform Nicaragua into a hub for Russian forces in the Caribbean region. Coincidentally, the announcement comes as relations between Managua and Washington continue to deteriorate. Nicaraguan leader Daniel Ortega, certainly to friend of the United States, will use the program to annoy the US and relieve Nicaragua’s economic troubles, which he blames the United States for.

NATO expansion and the war in Ukraine are providing Russia with all the motivation needed to project military power in the backyard of the United States. This strategy is similar to the one pursued by the Soviet Union in the 1980s during Ortega’s first tenure as Nicaragua’s leader. During that period of time, the US mined Nicaraguan harbors to harass and dissuade Eastern Bloc shipping and undertook other covert activities to frustrate Soviet efforts to establish a toehold in Central America. The effort was ultimately successful, though it nearly caused the downfall of the Reagan administration through the Iran-Contra affair.

This time around, geopolitical dynamics are somewhat different, yet the US would be wrong to ignore an increased Russian presence in Nicaragua. Especially given the free rein the Nicaraguan government appears ready to allow Russian forces to operate with. Decree 10-2022 approved by the Ortega-controlled legislature authorizes Russian military forces to “patrol” Nicaragua’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts. Even though Russia has lost tremendous amounts of international support and respect, the prospect of MiGs and Russian warships operating in such close proximity to US waters and territory is too tempting to pass up. For Ortega, the new phase of military cooperation between Russia and Nicaragua gives him a propaganda victory which could entice otherwise reluctant international companies and nation-states to invest in Nicaragua.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Fights For His Political Life

Pakistan’s embattled leader is not giving up without a fight. Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation as a no-confidence vote prepares to make its way through parliament on Sunday. He told Pakistanis he has no intention of leaving office on anyone else’s terms. “I will not resign,” Khan said, invoking a cricket analogy: “I will fight until the last ball.”

Also in the address, Khan blamed the United States, claiming Washington has conspired with opposition parties to remove him from power. Criticism of the US war on terror, US drone attacks against targets in his country and Pakistan’s refusal to allow the US military to stage attacks against targets in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan from the country were cited as the primary reasons for the US to seek his dismissal. Khan also claimed the US is attempting to control Pakistan’s foreign policy.

It is no secret that Washington is dissatisfied with Pakistan’s geopolitical maneuvers in recent months and years. Khan has attempted to reach out to Afghanistan’s new Taliban leaders and establish a rapport that could lay the foundation for a relationship down the line. Under Khan, Pakistan has continued to foster closer ties with China as US-China relations continue to deteriorate.

Khan has also had problems at home. Namely, the cooling relations between him and the military. Although Pakistan’s military is no longer the de facto ruler of the nation, it maintains a powerful presence in domestic politics. Some would even say it continues to control Pakistan from behind the scenes. The fact it now perceives Khan as a possible threat speaks volumes about the vast political instability that exists just beneath the surface in Pakistan.

Author’s Note: Back to Ukraine later this evening or tomorrow, as well as some changes to the blog’s theme and layout. The present setup is only permanent. Once I get some time tomorrow, I’ll work on it.

Ukraine Update 25 March, 2022

  • US President Joe Biden will give an address on Saturday, marking the end of his latest trip to Europe. The White House is calling the upcoming speech ‘significant.’ “He will give a major address tomorrow that will speak to the stakes of this moment, the urgency of the challenge that lies ahead, what the conflict in Ukraine means for the world, and why it is so important that the free world sustain unity and resolve in the face of Russian aggression,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said. During his trip, Biden made it clear he is looking ahead to the post-Ukraine conflict time period and the US role.
  • On the topic of the geopolitical order post-Ukraine, a number of NATO allies are making moves designed to improve their spot in the pecking order. France, Greece and Turkey are planning a joint humanitarian operation to evacuate civilians from Mariupol in the near future. French media claims Emmanuel Macron will be speaking to Vladimir Putin on the matter later this evening.
  • Western officials claim a Russian brigade commander was deliberately run over by an armored vehicle driven by his own men. The officer was a colonel and commander of the 37th Motor Rifle Brigade. “The brigade commander was killed by his own troops, we believe, as a consequence of the scale of losses that have been taken by his brigade,” a British official said. “We believe that he was killed by his own troops deliberately. We believe that he was run over by his own troops.”

North Korea Tests Its Newest ICBM

Slipping away from Ukraine for a brief spell, North Korea’s latest missile test is raising concerns across the world. The US, South Korea and Japan have all condemned what looks to be the test of an ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) by the North on Thursday, its first ICBM test since 2017. The test was far from unexpected. US officials have been warning for weeks now that an ICBM test was probable in the ‘near future.’ The missile flew for 71 minutes, traveled a distance of 671 miles, and reached a maximum altitude of 3,852 miles. It landed 100 miles off the coast of Japan, prompting Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to label the launch as ‘reckless’ and ‘unacceptable.’

This missile, officially named the Hwasong-17, has upgraded capabilities over its predecessor, with the ability to reach the United States and carry multiple-independently targeted re-entry vehicles. In other words, more than a single warhead. It is more of a threat to the United States than Western Pacific nations, yet this has not deterred South Korea from staging its own demonstration in response to Pyongyang’s launch, firing its own ballistic and cruise missiles and dropping guided bombs, in order to “demonstrate the determination and capability to immediately respond and punish” North Korea.

Ukraine Update 16 March, 2022: Zelenskiy Addresses the US House and Senate

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed the US Senate and House of Representatives this morning by way of a video link. He came before the US Legislative Branch to plead his nation’s case for more weapons, aircraft and the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. In effect, Zelenskiy’s speech was an end run of sorts around the Executive Branch. The White House has stated over and over that a no-fly zone is not going to happen and the US serve as the middleman to deliver Polish MiGs to the Ukrainian Air Force. The US position has been mirrored by many of its NATO allies. Ukraine will be provided with as much assistance as possible, short of taking action that could classify the US or any other NATO nation as a co-combatant.

Zelenskiy understood this coming into the morning’s address and worked it into his plea. He invoked US history and asked lawmakers to remember Pearl Harbor, September 11th and Martin Luther King’s famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. Zelenskiy’s remarks were filled with dozens of potential sound bites and digital headlines. The Ukrainian leader came across more like a overindulged toddler rather than the leader of an embattled nation at war.

“Is this a lot to ask for – to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people? Is this too much?” Zelenskiy asked.

Answer: Yes, it is. Especially since a no-fly zone will inevitably lead to clashes between US and Russian forces and serve as the spark for a larger, regional conflict between NATO and Russia. NATO is not going to risk war to save Ukraine. Javelins and Stingers are one thing, but a no-fly zone is another matter altogether.