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.

Ukraine Update 8 March, 2022 (AM)

  • Amid growing pressure both at home and abroad, the Biden administration will announce a ban on Russian oil imports to the United States this morning. The move is intended to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine, which is now entering its thirteenth day. The ban is not expected to have too great of an impact on US oil imports, certainly not to the level a ban by European nations would bring about.
  • The humanitarian corridor and attached ceasefire in Ukraine’s Sumy region appears to be holding at present. Evacuations of civilians from Sumy to Poltava have started and remain underway. In a related development, the Ukrainian government has also confirmed that evacuations from Irpin, a town located near Kiev are now underway. Efforts to evacuate civilians from Mariupol are meeting with considerably less success.
  • Japan has announced a new batch of sanctions aimed at Russia and Belarus. The assets of nearly three dozen Russian and Belarusian officials, business executives with close connections to the governments and oligarchs have been frozen. Exports of Russia-bound oil refinery equipment and Belarus-bound general-purpose items that could be used by its military will also be banned.

Ukraine Update 22 February, 2022 (600PM EST)

This afternoon President Biden gave remarks at the White House, laying out the next phase of the US response to Russia’s recognition of the DPR and LPR. He called the recognition a clear violation of international law. After much confusion and hesitancy about how to label Russia’s actions in the last twenty-four hours, Biden declared them to be the start of an invasion and will be regarded in that manner. He repeated his oft used warning that Russia will face severe sanctions if its forces enter Ukrainian territory. The first wave of US sanctions has already been released and they mainly target a handful of Russian banks and financial institutions.

Biden also announced the movement of Europe-based US military forces into the Baltic States to bolster defenses in NATO’s easternmost member-states. An airborne infantry battalion from the 173rd Airborne Brigade based in Italy and AH-64 Apaches from Germany will deploy, as well as eight F-35A Lightning II fighters that are forward-deployed at Spangdahlem Airbase at the moment.

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Volodymyr Zelenskiy has ordered a call up of Ukrainian reservists but stopped short of a full mobilization. A move that expansive would require a declaration of martial law according to Ukrainian law. Operative level 1 and 2 (OR1, OR2) reservists only will be affected. But do not be fooled, OR1 and OR2 reservists still number at 150,000 men and women.

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The planned talks between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have been cancelled. The two senior diplomats were set to meet on Thursday, but the meeting was contingent upon Russia choosing to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis rather than an invasion.

Note: I’m going to try and spend some time tonight away from Ukraine and recharge my batteries. So, unless something major develops, this will be the last update for the day. Next one will be up tomorrow morning. –Mike