- Ukraine’s Farmers Start Harvest With Few Places to Store Grain WSJ
As Ukrainian farmers struggle to export grains and seeds from last year’s harvest, they are running out of space to store this year’s.
With Ukraine’s Black Sea ports cut off by the war with Russia, Ukraine has found it hard to export much of its massive grain and seed production. Officials project they will be able to ship out around one-third of what they usually do.
Because of the bottleneck, millions of metric tons of grain, soybean and oilseed are currently still in warehouses and silos that should be empty by now in anticipation of the new harvest, which has already begun and moves into high gear during the next month. The Ukrainian government estimates farmers need space for an additional 10 to 15 million tons of grain. That is equivalent to about 24% of this year’s expected crop.
Farmers say that without proper storage their grains and seeds will go to waste at the same time Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens exports from both countries, sending global prices higher.
- Ukraine to restrict Russian books, music in latest cultural break from Moscow Reuters
- Russia should wait for US to ‘come crawling back’ – former president RT
The US would perceive Russian attempts to negotiate a prolongation of the New START nuclear treaty as a sign of weakness, so no talks should take place unless Washington changes its behavior, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev argued on Monday.
“We don’t have any relationship with the US at the moment. They are at zero degrees Kelvin. And we should not unfreeze them for now,” the official wrote on social media.
“Let them come or crawl and beg for it. And they should value it as an act of utmost generosity,” he added. “Otherwise, this is how it looks: they toss only sleaze our way, and we go, there, have this nuclear deal, please.”
New START is the last remaining bilateral nuclear arms reduction treaty between the US and Russia. It limits the two nations’ stockpiles of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles for them. While president, Medvedev signed the deal with US President Barack Obama in April 2010.
- Teachers threaten strike next term as government told to solve profession’s cost of living crisis Telegraph
Teachers could go on strike next school term if they are not given a pay rise that matches inflation, the general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) has warned.
The threats of industrial action by teachers come ahead of a week of strikes by rail workers, which are expected to be the biggest and most disruptive in 30 years.
Dr Mary Bousted told the BBC that her members have suffered a real world drop in wages of 20 per cent since 2010, and this, combined with large number of unpaid overtime hours worked, have left them feeling undervalued.
- War Derails Plan to Ditch Coal After UK Championed Global Cuts Bloomberg
The UK now aims to keep a reserve of coal-fired plants available this winter rather than shutting almost all of them over the next three months as planned.
Efforts to get rid of dirty power are being slowed as the war hits European economies, with soaring gas and electricity prices stoking inflation and raising the specter of recession. While peers such as Germany are also rethinking coal ahead of this winter, the change of tack by the UK in particular highlights how energy security has turned into the top political priority in such a short time for a government that was so zealous at COP26.
- Cost of living protests held across Ireland as inflation reaches four-decade high EuroNews
Thousands took to the streets in Ireland after inflation surged to its highest level since the 1980s, prompting cost of living protests in cities across the country.
- Macron’s party loses parliament majority RT
- ‘The situation is serious’: Germany plans to fire up coal plants as Russia throttles gas supplies CNBC
Germany has said the deteriorating gas market situation means Europe’s largest economy must limit the use of natural gas for electricity production and burn more coal for a “transitional period.”
Economy Minister Robert Habeck on Sunday warned that the situation is going to be “really tight in winter” without precautionary measures to prevent a supply shortage.
As a result, Germany will seek to compensate for a cut in Russian gas supplies by increasing the burning of coal — the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel in terms of emissions and therefore the most important target for replacement in the transition toward renewable alternatives.
“That’s bitter, but it’s almost necessary in this situation to reduce gas consumption. We must and we will do everything we can to store as much gas as possible in summer and autumn,” the Green Party’s Habeck said in a statement, according to a translation.
- Gas crisis warning issued in Denmark RT
“Make no mistake, we are in a very serious situation and we may end up in a real gas supply crisis. And that means that companies that are not protected risk being closed down completely, and it can be costly,” Ranis told Danish broadcaster DR.
- Italian foreign minister accuses own party of ‘immaturity’ over Ukraine Reuters
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio on Sunday accused his own 5-Star Movement party of undermining government efforts to support Ukraine and weakening Rome’s standing within the European Union.
His outburst could signal an imminent schism in the group he once led, with 5-Star officials due to meet later on Sunday to consider Di Maio’s position following other recent broadsides.
The internal party feuding also creates problems for Prime Minister Mario Draghi as he faces an important vote in parliament on Tuesday over Ukraine, with some 5-Star members looking to limit Italy from sending further weapons to Kyiv.
- Shipwreck of a World War II barge that sank in 1943 surfaces after Italy’s largest river reaches low levels during drought Business Insider
A historic drought affecting Italy’s largest river has brought a World War II-era shipwreck to light.
The Po River runs 405 miles from the Cottian Alps to empty into the Adriatic Sea. It’s currently facing its worst drought in 70 years, which has caused a decades-old sunken ship to resurface.
The Zibello, a 160-foot barge that transported wood in World War II and sank in 1943, is usually hidden beneath the Po’s waters, the Associated Press reports. Now, the river’s water levels are so low that the wreckage is visible to onlookers.
- Italy’s Eni faces a sixth daily shortfall of Russian gas supplies Reuters
Russia’s Gazprom has said it will only partially meet a request by Italy’s Eni for gas supplies on Monday, Italy’s state-owned energy exchange said, signalling a sixth consecutive daily shortfall.
Eni is monitoring the issue and will communicate any available update, GME added.
The Italian company said that over the weekend it had received similar supplies from Gazprom to deliveries in recent days, without elaborating. On Friday it only got half of the gas it had requested, while on Thursday it received 65% of the volumes requested and on Wednesday was sent 85% of what it wanted.
- Spain battles wildfires fuelled by one of earliest heatwaves on record The Guardian
Asia and Oceania
- Heaviest rain in 60 years hits southern China, as experts warn extreme weather will only get worse CNN
Parts of southern China were hit by the heaviest downpours in 60 years over the weekend, amid warnings by experts that extreme weather is becoming more frequent.
Severe landslides have been reported in at least seven provinces and many roads are flooded, according to state media. In southwestern Guizhou province, swollen rivers spilled over roads, sweeping away cars and homes, videos on social media showed.
- Russia becomes China’s top oil supplier RT
Russia became China’s top oil supplier in May, with exports soaring 55% from last year, Reuters reported on Monday, citing data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs.
According to the report, imports of Russian oil to China last month amounted to nearly 8.42 million tons, or 1.98 million barrels per day, including volumes pumped via the East Siberia Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline and shipments from Russia’s European and Far Eastern ports. The 25% increase from April enabled Russia to displace Saudi Arabia to become China’s largest oil supplier.
China slashed its imports of Saudi oil to 7.82 million tons, or 1.84 million barrels per day, down from April’s 2.17 million bpd. Brazil’s supplies dropped by 19%, amounting to 2.2 million tons. Despite the lingering Covid-19 related drop in demand, China’s overall oil imports rose nearly 12% in May year-on-year to 10.8 million barrels per day.
- Massive Oil Refining Capacity Idle in China Even as Prices Soar Bloomberg
As gasoline prices soar and the US considers invoking Cold War-era laws to boost production, there’s a massive pool of oil refining capacity on the other side of the Pacific Ocean that’s sitting idle.
Around a third of Chinese fuel-processing capacity is currently out of action as Asia’s largest economy struggles to put the coronavirus behind it. If tapped, the extra supply of diesel and gasoline could go a long way to cooling red-hot global fuel markets, but there’s little chance of that happening.
That’s because China’s refining sector is set up mainly to serve its mammoth domestic market. The government controls how much fuel can be sent abroad via a quota system that also applies to privately owned companies. And while Beijing has allowed more shipments at times over the years, it doesn’t want to become a major oil-product exporter as that would run counter to its goal of gradually de-carbonizing the economy.
“China’s absence in the export market is keenly felt in the broader regional, and even global market,” said Jane Xie, a senior oil analyst at data and analytics firm Kpler. There’s been a massive expansion in refining capacity in the country over the last three to five years, but that hasn’t really translated into increased oil-product exports, she said.
China is unwilling to commit genocide against hydrocarbon bonds.
- Xi Jinping, China’s Chief Career Planning Officer? Bloomberg
Over the next few weeks, China will churn out a record 10.8 million college graduates. Finding them jobs is proving to be an unexpected headache for President Xi Jinping’s government, which has been struggling to contain Covid-19 outbreaks with citywide lockdowns.
Prospects are so dire, some universities have been urging seniors to delay graduation. Students complained to Caixin that they were not allowed to defend their thesis unless they had found a job. Some were forced to declare they would be “self-employed,” just so they could get their diploma. As of April, less than half of the graduating class had received a job offer, according to online recruitment site Zhaopin Inc.
State-funded universities are under a lot of political pressure. In May, urban youth unemployment hit a record 18.4%. By July, the peak of graduation season, it could reach 23%, according to estimates by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. As such, universities need to do their part to keep this number down. After all, strict Covid controls at the expense of soaring youth unemployment is not a good look for Xi, who is expected to win an unprecedented third term late this year.
Increasingly, new college graduates are hoping that the government can provide their first jobs. State-owned enterprises are the most highly desired placements, while only 17.4% of the class of 2022 wants to work for a private business, according to the latest Zhaopin survey.
This is not what the state is prepared to offer, however. Since the late 1990s, SOEs have pared hiring, with the number of urban workers halving to just about 55 million. Government jobs are also well sought-after, but the number of new recruits has remained stable at around 170,000 per year.
Instead, in the past decade, the private sector has become China’s biggest employer, with about 150 million urban workers. In the cities, there are also more than 110 million self-employed residents, who pick up part-time contracts, odd jobs or gig economy work. A few managed to become social-media influencers.
In a clear sign of how scarce city jobs have become, southwestern Yunnan province recently offered new college graduates an annual subsidy of 50,000 yuan ($7,464) per person to work in rural villages. Some netizens joked it was a replay of the 1968 “down to the countryside movement,” when Mao Zedong sent privileged urban youth to remote areas to learn from farmers.
As to whether Yunnan can deliver, it is anyone’s guess. The subsidy is no small sum — it would be about five months of the average starting salary for graduates from the elite Tsinghua University.
- Bank of Laos Limits Daily Foreign Exchange Transactions
A new Decision on currency exchange services for commercial banks and exchange booths limits the sale of foreign currency to LAK 15 million per individual, per day. [about 1000 dollars]
- India’s Russian coal buying spikes as traders offer steep discounts The Jakarta Post
India’s purchases of Russian coal have spiked in recent weeks despite global sanctions on Moscow, as traders offer discounts of up to 30 percent, according to two trade sources and data reviewed by Reuters.
- Philippines moves closer to building world’s largest solar project Bangkok Post
Solar Philippines has submitted offers to contract most of its planned 10 gigawatts of projects, including the world’s largest, as the Southeast Asian nation seeks to meet rising demand for electricity while shifting away from coal.
- Middle East accounts for 43% of US arms transfers, report finds MEMO
According to the Institute’s annual yearbook for 2022, four Arab countries came in the top ten arms importing countries in the world during the period from 2017-2021. They were named as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“Middle Eastern states imported 2.8 per cent more arms in 2017–21 than they did in 2012–16. This followed an 86 per cent increase in arms imports to the region between 2007–11 and 2012–16,” the report said.
- Qatar Energy partners with Eni for North Field East LNG project Reuters
- Israel excludes Arab communities from solar energy project MEMO
The Israeli authorities have excluded Arab communities in the country from a pilot solar energy project that will serve as a model for its solar energy industry, Haaretz revealed on Sunday. This could have the effect of excluding Arab Israelis from having access to solar energy “for years,” said the newspaper, due to a change in the conditions imposed by Israel’s Land Authority on the project that makes it accessible only in Jewish communities.
“The discriminatory criterion in the voltaic energy project is a climatic injustice,” Haaretz reported Joseph Abramovich, a solar energy pioneer in Israel and Africa, as saying. Abramovich is a promoter of Project Wadi Attir, a Bedouin solar energy initiative in the Negev Desert. Bids have been invited “only for land owned by Jews,” he noted.
- Explosion near security headquarters rocks Baghdad Iraqi News
A security source revealed that twin explosions took place on Sunday morning near the fence of a security headquarters of the intelligence service, according to Alsumaria News.
The source elaborated that no casualties were caused by the two explosions, and they only caused material damages.
Iran’s export to EU up 37% in 4 months on year Tehran Times
Iran and Russia Revive the North-South Transport Corridor NEO
Azerbaijan seeking to upgrade ties with Iran: ambassador Tehran Times
Baku has good economic and political ties with Tehran, Alizadeh said in a meeting with Mahmoud Shalouei, the assistant to the Iranian culture minister, state news agency IRNA reported.
Referring to the upcoming visit of the Azeri culture minister to Iran, the ambassador hoped that cultural relations would widen during the visit.
Shalouei, too, expressed hope that Iran-Azerbaijan cultural cooperation would strengthen.
Kazakhstan and Iran should bring mutual trade to $3 billion – Iranian President TASS
Electricity of authorized cryptocurrency mining units to be cut off as of Wednesday Tehran Times
The electricity of authorized cryptocurrency mining units will be cut off from the beginning of the next Iranian calendar month Tir (Wednesday, June 22) until the end of the restriction, the Iranian Energy Ministry’s Spokesman for the electricity sector Mostafa Rajabi Mashhadi announced.
Following the Iranian government’s approval of cryptocurrency mining as industrial activity in 2019, numerous companies started mining cryptocurrency across the country thanks to the extremely low-cost electricity, and now Iranian power plants started to see this industry as an opportunity to increase their revenues.
In January 2020, the Ministry of Industry, Mining and Trade issued over 1,000 licenses for cryptocurrency mining units.
In addition to the approved units, some unauthorized miners have also started using household electricity for cryptocurrency mining and this has created major issues for the country’s electricity industry which is already facing serious problems created by drought and reduced rainfall.
- In Jacobabad, One of the Hottest Cities on the Planet, a Heatwave Is Pushing the Limits of Human Livability Inside Climate News
Jacobabad, a landlocked city in Pakistan’s Sindh Province nearly 340 miles north of Karachi, is pushing the limits of human livability on a warming planet. Since the beginning of March, an unprecedented heat wave has gripped India and Pakistan, affecting more than a billion people on the subcontinent. And Jacobabad has been among the cities worst hit. Experiencing temperatures in excess of 100 degrees for 51 straight days, beginning in March. Last month, the temperature here reached 123.8 degrees and before that, reached 122 degrees on three separate occasions.
- Pakistan’s weekly inflation rate increases by 3.38 per cent after fuel price hike IndiaTV
- New Bill That Passed House Reinvokes Old Russian Bogeyman As Pretext For More US Intervention in Africa Popular Resistance
During the Cold War, the U.S. government invoked the pretext of Russian interference to justify a range of crimes, including the assassination of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, the overthrow of Pan-Africanist hero Kwame Nkrumah, the arrest of Nelson Mandela and intervention in the Angolan civil war.
Just when we thought that that era had passed, the House of Representatives on April 27 passed the “Countering Malign Russian Influence Activities in Africa” Act by a 415-9 vote.
The bill in part would direct the U.S. Secretary of State, using “detailed intelligence,” to identify in Africa “local actors complicit in Russian activities.”
The U.S. in turn may very well seek to punish those actors through economic sanctions or even regime change. “Russian aggression” is generally being invoked to justify greater U.S. intervention in Africa, including the expansion of the Africa Command (AFRICOM) and U.S. military base network across the continent.
The Nay votes for the “Countering Malign Russian Influence Activities in Africa” Act all came from Republicans. Supposed progressive stalwarts like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Barbara Lee, Ro Khanna and members of the “Squad” all voted Yea.
After passage of the bill, he voiced his pride in the “exceptional show of bipartisan support,” which he said “demonstrated how Putin’s war in Ukraine, and the Kremlin’s corrupt and illicit activities in Africa to fund war and other exploits have worked to unify Congress and the international community.”
- African Union chief urges EU to ease food payments to Russia Politico
Senegalese President Macky Sall, who currently chairs the African Union, on Sunday called on Brussels to provide some scope for African countries to pay for imported cereals and fertilizers from Russia despite EU sanctions excluding Russian banks from international payment systems.
“We want to pay, but it is becoming impossible. So we ask the Europeans for the same mechanism as for gas and oil,” Sall told Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview.
Brussels didn’t impose sanctions on the export of Russian cereals or fertilizers to non-EU countries, but has excluded several Russian banks, including Sberbank, from the international payment mechanism SWIFT. EU rules, however, leave some room for countries to make payments to Russia for other imports such as gas.
Last month, Sall told a meeting of EU leaders that sanctions on Russia’s financial system and difficulties in finding insurers were threatening imports of grains and fertilizers to Africa. After meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month, he again suggested that Western sanctions contribute to the food crisis.
That problem was also discussed during a bilateral meeting in Paris between Sall and French President Emmanuel Macron last week. Macron then told Sall that disruptions have nothing to do with EU sanctions, according to an Elysée official.
- East Africa leaders to meet Monday to discuss DR Congo conflict Iraqi News
The leaders of seven nations comprising the East African Community bloc will meet Monday to discuss the security situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s violence-torn east, the Kenyan presidency said.
The meeting comes as heavy fighting revives decades-old animosities between Kinshasa and Kigali, with the DRC blaming neighbouring Rwanda for the recent resurgence of the M23 rebel group.
- Kenya, US revisit trade talks, agree to expedite process Bilaterals
Kenya and the US have revisited trade talks between the two countries as ministers meet at the World Trade Organization’s 12th Ministerial Conference in Geneva.
As a next step, the two countries have agreed to work to finalise a list of areas for cooperation to deepen economic engagement.
- Sudan’s wheat harvest at risk of going to waste Africa News
Sudan’s wheat harvest is at risk of going to waste after the country’s cash-strapped government backed out of promises to purchase it at favourable prices.
“The agricultural bank wants us to pay for our loans in wheat, according to the encouraging price which was set at 43,000 (Sudanese pound, almost 88 euros, ed.). One (a farmer, ed.) must register with the bank the quantity they will supply, and the bank will determine the quantity it will take. After calculating the loans, the bank will determine how much each farmer should supply, in bags or kilos, over a certain period of time. And if there is a surplus, they will shelf it, according to what we heard”, said Ahmed.
According to the UN, over 18 million people, nearly half the Sudanese population, are expected to be pushed into extreme hunger by September.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, both key grain suppliers, threatens to compound Sudan’s existing food security troubles.
“The negative consequences will start showing in the short-term. People will refrain from using fertilisers and pesticides, or they won’t be able to prepare or buy them. There will be a problem due to the depreciation of the Sudanese pound and the fact that farmers have no money”, said Abdellatif Albouni, a farmer and agricultural researcher.
According to a 2021 UN report, wheat from Russia and Ukraine make up between 70 to 80% of Sudan’s local market needs.
- Govt Can’t Refine Russian Oil, Opposition Politician Says All Africa
Three times this year, South Africa has abstained from voting on United Nations resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Now, South Africa’s energy minister, Gwede Mantashe, has called for the country to purchase Russian crude oil, an act that would be a flagrant disregard of the sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s government put in place by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union.
Opposition Democratic Alliance lawmaker Kevin Mileham said Mantashe’s call is ridiculous.
“Frankly, Mr. Mantashe’s comments and calls for South Africa to buy oil from Russia are misguided,” Mileham said. “South Africa’s refining capacity is at an all-time low at the moment with the majority of our refineries shut down, so we have no way of refining oil purchased from Russia.”
Mileham said it’s easier and cheaper to purchase refined fuel from refineries overseas like Singapore, the Middle East, Nigeria, Europe.
- Zim Targeting Key Role in Global Electric Car Industry All Africa
Zimbabwe is poised to become a key player in the global transition to green energy, not only through lithium mining, but its beneficiation that can empower local communities and develop the nation as a whole, President Mnangagwa has said.
In yet another milestone in the country’s quest to reach its target of a US$12 billion mining industry economy by 2023, President Mnangagwa yesterday officiated at the ground-breaking ceremony of the US$300 million Bikita Minerals Spodumene, a project that will result in increased production of lithium with a projected annual income of US$500 million for the next 10 years.
Treasury Secretary Yellen Says Recession Not ‘At All Inevitable’—But Inflation Is ‘Unacceptably High’ Forbes
Yellen says elevated U.S. inflation locked in for the rest of the year, holiday gas tax ‘worth considering’ Fortune
Investment banks are sounding the recession alarm — and Main Street is starting to fret about economic slowdown as well Business Insider
U.S. recession is more than a 50/50 possibility in 2022, Nomura says Fortune
There’s an 85% chance of a recession based on stock market price action as gloomy talk of a downturn becomes self-fulfilling, JPMorgan says Business Insider
Recession Probability Soars as Inflation Worsens WSJ
Joe Biden says the US economy can deal with inflation — and yet more Americans are googling “recession” than at any time since 2004 Business Insider
Energy Secretary Granholm sees ‘tough summer’ for U.S. drivers as fuel demand rises: ‘Driving season just started’ Fortune
Money to build new roads and bridges under Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure project is ‘evaporating’ because of inflation Business Insider
New report finds dangerous levels of ‘forever chemicals’ found around military bases Responsible Statecraft
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new health advisories for four different polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl chemicals, more commonly known as PFAS, acknowledging the toxicity of the family of chemicals linked to several types of cancer, reproductive problems, and weakened immunity.
PFAS are commonly known as “forever chemicals” because once they enter the bloodstream they are virtually indestructible. PFAS are found in a range of commonplace items from nonstick pans to body lotion to pizza boxes. As one New York Times piece put it, “To say that PFAS are difficult to avoid is an understatement.” Even so, that’s more true for some than others.
Defense communities are among the hardest hit, primarily because of the Pentagon’s use of AFFF, an effective but deadly firefighting foam containing PFAS. When it rains, all of those “forever chemicals” wash away, oftentimes entering nearby drinking water sources. Even though internal Air Force reports acknowledged the toxicity of PFAS as early as 1973, the military continued to use AFFF.
Today, at least 400 military sites have confirmed PFAS contamination in their groundwater. Women exposed to PFAS reported uterine tumors, birth defects, hysterectomies, and miscarriages. “Don’t get pregnant,” one 19-year-old airman was warned.
- Biden deciding on China tariffs, says he will speak with Xi soon Inquirer
President Joe Biden said on Saturday he was in the process of making up his mind on easing U.S. tariffs on China and planned to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping soon.
- Texas Republicans declare Biden ‘not legitimately elected’ RT
“We reject the certified results of the 2020 presidential election, and we hold that acting President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected by the people of the United States,” the resolution, passed by voice vote, reads.
- Canada Steps Up Surveillance Of Indigenous Peoples To Push Pipelines Popular Resistance
Canadian police and security forces have intensified their surveillance and harassment of Indigenous people in recent months in an effort to clear the way for the construction of two long-distance oil and gas pipelines in British Columbia, earning the condemnation of international human rights observers.
“The Governments of Canada and of the Province of British Columbia have escalated their use of force, surveillance, and criminalization of land defenders and peaceful protesters to intimidate, remove and forcibly evict Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en Nations from their traditional lands,” the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) wrote in an April 29 letter.
- The Amazon rainforest is disappearing quickly — and threatening Indigenous people who live there The Conversation
Forests throughout the world are shrinking year after year — and Brazil is the epicentre. According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than a quarter of the Amazon rainforest will be devoid of trees by 2030 if cutting continues at the same speed.
Article 25 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples rules that these communities fully possess the “the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources.”
This article is not being respected by the Brazilian government in the Amazon.
Although the country had pledged to significantly reduce deforestation and limit clear-cutting to 3,925 square kilometres, data from Human Rights Watch shows that chainsaws have razed nearly 13,000 square kilometres of tropical forests, making communities of Indigenous peoples even more vulnerable.
Multiple abuses have been documented in Brazil since the beginning of colonization, including the illegal encroachment of the Brazilian state on Indigenous territories. Under Bolsonaro, the number of criminal networks contributing to the deforestation of the Amazon has multiplied. Organized crime views the large timber and agriculture industries as opportunities to move and launder money. The groups illegally exploit forest land, then hide drugs in timber shipments destined for Europe or Asia.
Experts qualify this illegal activity as “narco-deforestation.” Numerous illegal gold and mineral extraction sites are also operating in the Amazon, and the companies running them often make threats to the Munduruku that live there.
People and activists who have protested the ongoing deforestation have been threatened, harassed and killed. In 2019, the NGO Global Witness recorded 24 deaths of environmental activists and land defenders, almost all occurring in the Amazon. This puts Brazil in third place among the countries with the highest number of deaths of environmental defenders, after Colombia and the Philippines.
- Left-wing candidate and former guerrilla Gustavo Petro wins Colombian presidential race CNN
Gustavo Petro will become Colombia’s first leftist leader, after winning the country’s presidential race on Sunday.
The former guerrilla won by a slim margin with over 50% of the votes, against 77-year-old entrepreneur Rodolfo Hernandez. In this historic win, his running mate Francia Marquez will now become the first Afro-Colombian to hold executive powers.
- The world can avoid a recession but it won’t think it can until it does, says David Roche CNBC
The Ukraine War
- Injuries reported after strike at Russian drilling platforms in Crimea RT
Suspected Ukrainian attacks targeted drilling rigs off the coast of Crimea in the Black Sea on Monday morning, the head of the Russian region, Sergey Aksyonov, said in a statement. He added that the rigs were manned by 12 workers, five of whom have been rescued so far, including three with injuries.
Aksyonov did not disclose the exact locations of the facilities, but said they were owned by Chernomorneftegaz, a company that develops offshore gas and oil fields. Its ownership has been disputed by Ukrainian energy giant Naftogaz since 2014, when it was nationalized after Crimea voted to re-join Russia.
I wonder what secret equipment those rigs were hiding that would cause Ukraine to kill civilians, because obviously Ukraine wouldn’t commit a war crime like that for no good reason.
- Ukraine Intensifies Strikes Against Russian-Controlled Areas WSJ
Ukraine intensified artillery and missile strikes against the Russian-controlled parts of the Donbas region, targeting weapons depots and military bases in an effort to stall a Russian offensive, while Moscow unleashed new salvoes of long-range missiles—some of them shot down by air defenses—on cities across Ukraine.
The city of Donetsk, the biggest in Russian-controlled Donbas, this weekend came under the worst artillery barrages since the conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014. The strikes hit military facilities, according to video footage of burning ammunition depots posted on local social-media channels, but also damaged civilian infrastructure. The Russian-appointed mayor of Donetsk, Aleksey Kulemzin, whose office was also hit by the shelling, said five civilians had been killed.
I’m pretty sure the main things being hit are civilian infrastructure. To quote Zelensky, when Russia was hitting hospitals in Mariupol: “A children’s hospital, a maternity ward. How did they threaten the Russian Federation? What is this country, the Russian Federation, that is afraid of hospitals, maternity wards and is destroying them?"
The Russian invasion of Ukraine was launched by President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 24 with the ostensible goal of protecting Donbas, one-third of which has been controlled by Russian proxies since 2014. But Russian forces have been unable to dislodge Ukrainian troops from the immediate outskirts of Donetsk in nearly four months of fighting.
Questioned about this failure at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday, Mr. Putin said that a frontal attack on Ukrainian positions near Donetsk would cause too many casualties and called for patience as Russian troops carry out a complex campaign to encircle Ukrainian forces in the region.
- ‘It’s a must for us to fight’: Kramatorsk mayor fears the worst as Russians draw near The Guardian
“Your first time in Kramatorsk? Empty, no people,” said the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Goncharenko, speaking almost apologetically in near fluent English, before revealing the situation is a little more complicated than it first appears.
“Unfortunately there are 60,000 remaining, out of a population of 210-215,000,” of whom the mayor estimated that 70% to 75% are “old people who will never leave their house, [except for] the case of huge bombing like it was in Mariupol, Rubizhne and Sievierodonetsk”.
Few linger on the streets and the mayor said he would prefer if more went, although, he added, their decision is not reflective of latent pro-Russian support. That, he argued, was largely extinguished in 2014 after Kramatorsk was occupied by Kremlin-backed separatists for nearly three months.
“Eight years ago the quantity [of pro Russians] was probably 35% to 40%. But everybody has seen what they did here. Now, no more than 3-4% would support Russian peace, as it is called. It’s typical situation in most cities in the east, south and central Ukraine,” Goncharenko said.
In reality, Kramatorsk is a city of contrasts. A total of 59 were killed in a Russian missile strike on the out-of-town railway station in early April – a terrible attack that local officials say could have been far worse because there were larger crowds massed nearby, a little deeper inside.
Wasn’t that the attack caused by a Tochka-U, the missile that only Ukraine uses?
A school was bombed in the centre a few days before that, a gym basketball hoop still visible amid a collapsed facade, tumbling into a large crater. But otherwise damage in the heart of Kramatorsk is limited, key buildings untouched.
The war, though nearby, has not yet wholly arrived inside the city, which explains why so many are willing to remain. There is only an occasional sound of shelling when the Guardian visited and, with one critical exception, utility services are functioning relatively normally.
Electricity supply and phone connections are working (there is free town wifi) as is water, with some of the small villages around the town reconnected a few days earlier. Thirty per cent of the shops are open, the mayor says, including a well-stocked supermarket housing the town’s only indoor cafe, and cash machines operate.
However, the key problem is that Kramatorsk has no gas supply. “Without gas it will not be possible to give the people the proper type of heating. It is the most dangerous question for us,” the mayor said, adding starkly: “In the winter, it will be very difficult to live in a city like this.”
Nor is there any viable alternative: converting to heating by electricity would require recabling 954 apartment blocks and years of work. “One city, Nikopol, has already this experience in the past. They needed three years to change the heating of houses. And we have only four months,” Goncharenko said.
- Russian troops to advance towards Kharkiv, Ukraine official says Reuters
The situation north of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is quite difficult as Russian forces have been trying to get closer to shell the city again, an official at Ukraine’s interior ministry said on Sunday.
“Russia is trying to make Kharkiv a frontline city,” Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to the interior minister, told Ukraine’s national television.
- Russian Forces Tighten Noose Around Important Cities in Ukraine’s East NYT
Russian forces appeared poised to tighten the noose around thousands of Ukrainian troops near two strategically important cities in the fiercely contested Donbas region of eastern Ukraine on Sunday, mounting an assault on Ukrainian front lines that forced Ukraine to rush reinforcements to the area.
On a day of fighting that put even territory thought to be securely in Ukrainian hands in play, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, warned that the war could grind on for years. They urged Ukraine’s Western allies to settle in for the long haul as Russia moved aggressively to wear Ukraine down through what Mr. Johnson, writing in The Sunday Times of London, called a “campaign of attrition.”
The Russians made an initial breakthrough Sunday in Toshkivka, a small town southeast of the metropolitan area of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, where vicious street-by-street fighting and artillery duels have raged for weeks. Sergei Haidai, the regional military governor, acknowledged that the Russians had “had success” in the Toshkivka area but said the occupiers “suffered defeat” after Ukrainian artillery went to Toshkivka’s defense.
- Lugansk official confirms surrender of Aidar militants near Severodonetsk TASS
Miroshnik added that the village has been completely cleared from militants and “recently invincible Nazis” are now testifying about their deeds and draw on maps the location of their “associates” in Lisichansk and its suburbs
- Ukraine mourns ‘our golden generation’ killed on frontlines The Guardian
Thousands of young Ukrainians, who have only ever known an independent Ukraine, volunteered to join the army and its territorial defence forces when Russia launched its invasion on 24 February.
And while the country has been successful in repelling Russian forces, it is now suffering some of its heaviest losses since the start of the war as the battle for the east of the country enters its decisive stages. Between 100 and 200 Ukrainians are believed to be dying every day as the fighting turns into a prolonged war of attrition with no end in sight.
Many are fighting with practically no military training against a Russian army that, while stuttering, still outguns its opponent by as many as 10 to one.
Valya Polishchuk, a photographer from Kyiv, said that her days now are “filled with going from funeral to funeral”. “I was at the funeral of another friend when I heard about Roman,” she shrugged, before kneeling as the car passed carrying Ratushnyi’s body.
“Our golden generation is dying because they are fighting for an idea. In Russia, many are fighting for money,” said Sanina.
“Ukraine’s new generation will be different – they will remember this war for the rest of their life. There will be no reconciliation with Russia for decades to come.”
Climate and Space
- China scientists find a grain of hope in climate change rice research SCMP
Tweaking a pair of genes in rice could significantly improve the crop’s heat stress tolerance and increase yield under higher temperatures, according to a new study by Chinese scientists.
The discovery could help secure food supply, with crops vulnerable to rising temperatures and extreme weather events under climate change, the researchers said, in a paper published on Thursday in the journal Science.
The study identified the interaction between two genes in rice cells, which the scientists found can enhance the heat tolerance of rice and increase its productivity by 20 per cent in a heatwave. The same genes can be cloned in other major crops, such as maize and wheat, to improve their heat tolerance, they said.
- Rainforests Nations Want To Be Rewarded For Saving Their Trees — Now Forbes
The Honduran government is emphasizing clean energy and the environment when addressing poverty in the country. It is thus moving to protect its ecosystem and rainforest — a proposition that necessitates an $8 million increase in its environmental budget. Indeed, it covets its rainforest, which covers 56% of the country and houses 91 national parks and protected areas.
But like a lot of emerging countries, it needs jobs and food. And therein is the paradox that Honduras and other rainforest nations in Asia and Africa face: the forests are the most effective way to suck heat-trapping emissions out of the air. But the same trees could also be harvested for wood, or the land could be farmed. Developed nations are pushing those countries to keep their trees. But they have value, the opportunity cost of what they would otherwise create.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany spotlighted the topic last week. In a nutshell, the UN needs to adopt a financial mechanism to compensate those countries for keeping their trees — to make them worth more alive than dead. To do that, the 2015 Paris climate agreement approved ’Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation,’ or REDD+. It rewards a country for saving its forests and is a nature-based solution.
“Seventy percent of our population is in poverty,” says Malcom B. Stufkens, deputy minister for energy, environment, and mines for Honduras, in a conversation with this reporter in Bonn. “People need to live. They need money and food. We need to come out with mechanisms. Otherwise, they sell their land or forest. We must pay them not to cut. The people will have money in their pockets and have other livelihoods. It will prevent migration. The need is urgent.”
- The International Space Station swerved to avoid colliding with shrapnel from a Russian anti-satellite missile test Business Insider
Dipshittery and Cope
- FINA Restricts Transgender Women From Competing at Elite Level NYT
The world governing body for swimming effectively barred transgender women from the highest levels of women’s international competition on Sunday, intensifying a debate over gender and sports that has roiled state legislatures and increasingly divided parents, athletes and coaches at all levels.
The vote by FINA, which administers international competitions in water sports, prohibits transgender women from competing unless they began medical treatments to suppress production of testosterone before going through one of the early stages of puberty, or by age 12, whichever occurred later. It establishes one of the strictest rules against transgender participation in international sports. Scientists believe the onset of male puberty gives transgender women a lasting, irreversible physical advantage over athletes who were female at birth.
World swimming would also establish a new, “open” category for athletes who identify as women but do not meet the requirement to compete against people who were female at birth.
More than 70 percent of FINA’s member federations voted to adopt the policy, which was devised by a working group set up in November that included athletes, scientists and medical and legal experts. The policy will go into effect Monday, just days after the start of the world swimming championships in Budapest.
“We have to protect the rights of our athletes to compete, but we also have to protect competitive fairness at our events, especially the women’s category at FINA competitions,” Husain al-Musallam, the president of the federation, said in statement.
There are no transgender women competing at the world swimming championships, and only one transgender woman, a Canadian soccer player, is known to have ever won a medal at the Olympics.
The move, however, came just three months after Lia Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an N.C.A.A. Division I swimming championship — she won the 500-yard women’s freestyle — putting a spotlight on the issue. She has said little about her win, but recently told Sports Illustrated: “I’m not a man. I’m a woman, so I belong on the women’s team.” She has also said that she hopes to try to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team in 2024. Under the new rule, she would not be eligible to compete there.
Advocates on both sides of the issue said the international swimming body’s move could advance the growing movement to prevent transgender women from competing even in recreational sports while undercutting efforts to provide full access to sports for people regardless of the gender they were assigned at birth.
“It’s very unfortunate that FINA has made this ruling,” said Joanna Harper, a medical physicist who has written extensively on gender and sport and advised several international sports federations, including the International Olympic Committee. “Trans women are not taking over women’s sports, and they are not going to.”
Alejandra Caraballo, an instructor at Harvard Law School and an expert on transgender issues, said the FINA rule would give the green light for other bodies to pass similarly restrictive bans and also require athletes to produce as many as 10 years or more of invasive medical records and blood tests.
Anne Lieberman, the director of policy and programs at Athlete Ally, a group that supports the rights of L.G.B.T.Q. athletes, called the regulation “deeply discriminatory, harmful, unscientific” and out of step with the I.O.C.’s guidelines on fairness and inclusion. She said the regulations would “not be enforceable without seriously violating the privacy and human rights of any athlete looking to compete in the women’s category.”
Last year, World Athletics, which has imposed strict restrictions on runners who compete in some women’s events, corrected its own research, acknowledging that it could not find a causal relationship between high testosterone levels and enhanced athletic performance among elite female athletes.
- NATO Must Bring Finland, Sweden and Turkey Together Bloomberg, by a former supreme allied commander of NATO, James Stavridis.
When I was supreme allied commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization about a decade ago, I would often point out to Americans the enormous capability of the alliance: combined defense spending near $900 billion (outspending China and Russia by nearly three times); 24,000 combat aircraft; 3 million men and women under arms, almost all of them volunteers; and 800 oceangoing warships. It was the richest and most capable military alliance in human history.
But I’d also carefully point out its Achilles’ heel: the need for consensus to finalize any important decision, meaning all 28 members (there are now 30) had to vote favorably before a single soldier, sailor or airman could deploy. I spent countless hours in Brussels briefing the North Atlantic Council, the highest governing body of NATO, to make the case to undertake an operation in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Libya or on the waters of East Africa on counterpiracy.
And you’ve done a great job in all those countries!
Today, the alliance has a seemingly easy decision before it: whether to allow Sweden and Finland, both imminently qualified nations, to join. Unfortunately, Turkey is holding up the vote, which could already have occurred without Turkish opposition.
What will be the ultimate outcome, and what can the alliance learn from this challenging moment?
Maybe you should ask countries in advance whether they’re okay with these kinds of decisions?
Clearly, Finland and Sweden are excellent candidates. I commanded some of those nations’ militaries in Afghanistan, Libya and the Balkans — where they deployed under NATO leadership as partners. Both have highly capable armies, navies and air forces, and the Swedes produce the superb Gripen fighter plane. They are near-Arctic nations with deep experience in the high north, where Russia continues an aggressive posture.
But Turkey, a NATO member for 70 years, objects to their membership, complaining that both nations harbor what Ankara considers Kurdish terrorists — members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Because all 30 nations must agree the accession of new members, Turkey’s objection raises a significant barrier.
When told they are on the losing end of a 29-1 argument, the Turks quickly point out that the Balkan nation of Macedonia had to wait 10 years, and undergo a name change to Northern Macedonia, before it was finally allowed to join NATO, because of a single holdout, Greece. The Greeks, who have a northern province also called Macedonia, objected to the original name of the country. A combination of pressure from the rest of the alliance and the negotiated name-change finally undid the logjam.
But a key difference is that Macedonia, a tiny nation with a very small military, did not offer the kind of powerful military advantage to the alliance that the two northern nations do. And all of this is unfolding in the face of the war in Ukraine — which portends further conflict by Russia.
During my time as NATO commander, I saw several other standoffs where one nation or a small group of countries tried to hold out against the overall pressure of the alliance. The most dramatic was in the case of the 2011 Libyan intervention, in which some members did not want the alliance to fulfill the United Nations resolutions establishing a no-fly zone and an arms embargo against Moammar Al Qaddafi’s regime.
This was ultimately decided by a compromise wherein all the nations agreed with the overall mission, but some chose not to send their armed forces to participate. Of note, Sweden, although not a member at that time, fully participated, and its Gripen aircraft did highly effective work.
The way that they’re talking about fucking destroying Libya is driving me insane. You are directly responsible for untold human suffering. If there was an ounce of justice in this world, you would be rotting in jail for the rest of your life.
During my time as NATO operational commander, the Turks were a strong supporter of our missions. They capably participated in every operation, and provided significant forces in Afghanistan (where they had charge of security in the capital of Kabul for more than a decade), the Balkans, Libya and on counter-piracy. Turkey has the second-largest army in the alliance, and hosts the NATO land command (a vital three-star headquarters) in the coastal city of Izmir.
No one wants to set up a situation where Turkey becomes isolated politically, diplomatically and militarily. There is already mutual discontent between Ankara and Brussels over the Turkish decision to purchase the Russian S-400 air-defense system; ongoing disputes with Greece in the Aegean Sea; and pressure on the military, media and judiciary after an attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016. The Turks have been rebuffed from membership in the European Union for decades.
Both sides need to tread carefully here. NATO should listen respectfully to Turkish concerns and encourage Sweden and Finland to do what they can — within the constraints of their own legal and political systems — to address the Kurdish issues. Turkey needs to be mindful of the larger context of the moment given the war in Ukraine, and the very strong sentiment across the alliance to bring in the Swedes and Finns. Off-the-radar diplomacy will be key, as the glare of publicity and frustrated public statements will not move the discussion forward constructively.
What does that mean? “Address the Kurdish issues?” There’s not a ton of wiggle-room here. Your best bet is to somehow coerce Turkey, the most important member of NATO aside from the US, to give up their demands without also kicking them out of NATO. Good luck with that. I hope Sweden and Finland are blocked for ten years just like Macedonia was.
Finally, as the most powerful member of NATO, the US, has a special responsibility to finding a path to untying this Gordian knot. Simply cutting through it by force won’t solve the underlying tensions which have been exacerbated by the EU’s long rejection of Turkish membership. There may be incentives the US can offer Turkey, ranging from military purchases to economic support for refugees they host from Syria.
The path forward is narrow, and will require effort by all sides to bring these two superb candidates to membership. This mission needs to be at the top of the list for the US State and Defense Departments, both for the military capability it will add to NATO and for maintaining the political unity that is required to keep the alliance healthy.
- Ukrainian mayor worried by growing anti-Russian hatred RT
In an interview with the New York Times, published on Saturday, Trukhanov said that he was against renaming the city’s central Pushkin Street, named after the famous 19th century Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.
“I would not support that. [Odessa] is the intercultural capital of Ukraine. I am worried by the growth of hatred of all things Russian,” the mayor claimed.
- Putin’s War in Ukraine Will Lead to His ‘Demise’: Exiled Oligarch Newsweek
He went to the Oracle of Dnipro, and she said: “If Zelensky does not surrender, he will destroy a large country."
Exiled Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky said Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “has embarked on a route that is going to lead to his demise” when it comes to his invasion of Ukraine.
“If he wins now in Ukraine, he will, because of domestic problems, start a war with NATO. And eventually he will lose that war,” the billionaire said in an interview with the Financial Times.
Oh, to be an exiled Russian oligarch. You get to both be rich as fuck and also tell the western media what they want to hear, making you a dissident hero. The Russian Federation’s Solzhenitsyn.
- Weapons Failures Could Disarm Russian Arms Diplomacy Bloomberg
Russia’s botched invasion of Ukraine has been a public relations disaster for the world’s second-largest exporter of weaponry. Plentiful images of exploded Russian tanks — their turrets ejected and abandoned in fields — a reportedly high failure rate for some Russian precision-guided missiles and the embarrassing loss of the supposedly upgraded flagship cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea are poor advertisements for military prowess. Never mind that the war was supposed to be an easy win for a modernized force.
Add in questions around competitiveness and the supply difficulties that lie ahead — between sanctions and Russia’s urgent need to replace its lost equipment — and the export picture is grim. Given just how much security ties matter in Moscow’s friendships, the diplomatic implications could create an opening that the U.S. and its allies should seize.
The military-industrial complex still has an outsized role in Russia’s self-perception, polity and economy, even if oil and gas dwarf it in export terms. It accounts for a large proportion of technology-intensive exports, and is a source of foreign exchange and jobs: Conglomerate Rostec, which has swallowed both military and civilian production, had close to 600,000 employees in 2019.
But no less importantly, exports are a key tool in Russian foreign policy. Moscow may lack Washington’s soft power or Beijing’s deep pockets, but it has Soviet-era ties to fall back on, is flexible on funding and politics and happy to engage in volatile spots. Generally cheap, relatively simple to use and yet effective, its weaponry is popular from China and India to Egypt and Sub-Saharan Africa. Its successes in Syria were a boon to defense exports, drawing buyers’ attention to the Su-34 and Su-35 aircraft and to Kalibr cruise missile systems.
American planes can’t fly in rain but other countries still want them. Why would made-up faults in Russian equipment, the country that makes the best missiles on the planet, make a difference at all? “Oh yeah, don’t buy Russian tanks, a thousand of them totally just exploded in Ukraine yesterday.” This is pure copium. I ain’t reading this shit anymore.
- Europe Needs a Better Nuclear Deterrent Against Putin Bloomberg
Russian President Vladimir Putin has catapulted a European debate long relegated to footnotes right into the headlines. Does “Europe” need its own nuclear arsenal to deter a potential Russian strike, now or in future?
In one scenario, France could extend its nuclear umbrella to the whole European Union (of which the UK is no longer a member). French President Emmanuel Macron speaks often about achieving European “autonomy,” by which he usually means independence from the US. So he should in theory be amenable.
In practice, the French are neither willing nor able. Since Charles de Gaulle, France has always insisted on total sovereignty over its arsenal and all decisions pertaining to it. In that sense, visions of a Europeanized “force de frappe,” as the French call their nukes, suffer from the same problem as ideas about a “European Army.” Without a United States of Europe, it’s not clear who’d be in command, when and how.
Moreover, the French arsenal isn’t suited for the job. France has a relatively small stash of 290 nukes. In the event of all-out war, an adversary like Russia, with thousands of warheads, might be tempted — and able — to take out those weapons with a preemptive first strike. Deterrence only works if retaliation is assured.
France could only end the world a couple times over, which is totally insufficient.
France’s nukes are also of the wrong type. They’re “strategic” — that is, bombs capable of causing many Hiroshimas worth of devastation each, and therefore meant to be used only in a total-war scenario to take out entire cities in the enemy’s homeland.
If Russia were to escalate, however, it would do so with “tactical” nuclear weapons — smaller warheads deployed at short ranges to cow an enemy into submission or win specific battles. It’s inconceivable that France (or anybody) would retaliate for an initial and limited tactical strike by going directly to strategic retaliation and thus Armageddon.
Literally what the fuck are you talking about? I swear, everybody is doing their own little mini-debates and rationalizations in their heads to try and figure out a loophole to exploit while not realizing that their enemy does not give a shit. “Well, Russia said that if the West sends missiles capable of hitting Russian territory then they’ll hit decision-making centers. So, what if we cleverly just leave them at the border, earmarked for nobody, and then let Zelensky know in advance in secret where they are? Then, they aren’t technically for Ukraine, so they technically can’t fire at Ukraine!” BOOM. 50 generals/officers dead. If Putin is a tyrannical madman, then of COURSE he might go for immediate nuclear annihilation rather than a more reasonable approach! You can’t have this shit both ways!
- Losing Troops in Ukraine, Russia Grapples With Its Manpower Problem WSJ
Stop and think for a second - the Wall Street Journal has created an article, as well as speculations, based entirely on completely fabricated information. This is literally no different to a flat-earther writing an angry thousand-word diatribe on how the round-earth theory is obviously wrong.
As Russia tries to take the initiative in eastern Ukraine, Moscow has had to find fresh manpower from some unlikely places for what is shaping up to be a crucial phase of the war.
Since the beginning of what the Kremlin calls its special military operation, it has tried to pursue its campaign with an army at peacetime strength. The results have been mixed. Though Russian forces have made gains in the east and south of the country, they sustained crushing losses in Moscow’s initial attempt to seize Kyiv, by some counts losing as many soldiers as the old Soviet Union did in Afghanistan.
Yet Russia’s leadership has been reluctant to take the step of declaring war, which would allow it to order a full mobilization of fighting-age men. That, analysts say, would tie Russian President Vladimir Putin’s own fate too closely to the outcome.
Instead, Moscow has introduced a number of stopgap measures to reinforce its battle-depleted ranks, from offering lucrative short-term contracts to allowing over-40s to sign up, potentially making tens of thousands more soldiers available.
“There are macro signs that the Russians are having significant problems generating the kind of manpower they need, without going to a full mobilization,” said Phillips O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Ukrainian forces, aided by U.S. intelligence and increasingly equipped with Western weapons, have killed between 10,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers, analysts say, and likely injured many more, taking them out of the fight. Russia’s leaders have responded by removing key commanders from the field. Lt. Gen. Sergei Kisel, commander of the first Guards Tank Army, was suspended for failing to take the city of Kharkiv. Vice Adm. Igor Osipov, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet commander, was suspended after the sinking of Moscow’s flagship missile cruiser, the Moskva, in April, the U.K. Defense Ministry said.
Most of Russia’s casualties were suffered in the initial assault on Kyiv, which Ukrainian forces pushed back in March. The units that suffered the heaviest losses have been withdrawn and are now being reconstituted with new soldiers or combined with other units before being sent back into Ukraine to continue the fight in the east, said analysts.
That has put an onus on the Kremlin to find fresh manpower. The Russian military has started taking short-term contracts of several months at a time to help fill out its fighting units, and recruitment officers have started sending out requests to veterans to report their whereabouts if a wider mobilization is launched, said Jack Watling, research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London.
The Duma’s decision to remove age restrictions for soldiers signing short-term contracts also opens up a wider range of potential fighters. Now over-40s can join, opening a door for veterans with experience in the conflicts that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union, including Moscow’s two wars in Chechnya.
“There were lots of Russians who saw combat in the 1990s who are older. Demographically, Russia also has an aging population,” said Mr. Watling. “Given where the body of the population is, the Duma law is understandable.”
Russia’s military has meanwhile raised monthly salaries for contract soldiers to nearly $4,000 a month, about four times the average salary in Russia, together with bonuses for planes and tanks destroyed. Recruits can sign up for as few as three months. For Moscow’s purposes, it isn’t ideal, military analysts say.
“This kind of short-term contracting with people coming and going—it disrupts unit cohesion,” said Mr. Watling.
I wonder if there were a different theory explaining why Russia is making it so older people could temporarily join the army? I wonder if perhaps it could be something to do with creating a source of employment for older people in the Russian econo– you know what, nevermind. A million Russian soldiers have died and Russia is too incompetent to even do military formations properly. Their brains are simply too small and vodka-poisoned, unlike the Aryan European and exceptional American brain. You’re right.
- Zelenskyy visits Odesa as Russia continues its blockade and declares: ‘We will not give the south to anyone… and the sea will be Ukrainian’ Business Insider
Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared that the Black Sea will return to Ukranian control after he visited the Southern regions of Ukraine and spoke to troops there.
His visits included the cities of Mykolaiv and Odesa, which are both part of Russia’s effort to take control of the Black Sea Coast.
“I talked to our defenders - the military, police, National Guard, Terrorist Defense,” Zelenskyy wrote in a Telegram post. “Their mood is sure, they all do not doubt our victory.”
“We will not give the south to anyone, we will return everything - and the sea will be Ukrainian - it will be safe,” Zelenskyy wrote.
- Ukrainian troops are deserting battle and Russian troops have ‘troubled’ morale as the war is expected to last years, NATO chief says Yahoo
krainian troops are deserting battle while Russian troops are facing “troubled” morale as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could drag on for “years,” officials said.
“Combat units from both sides are committed to intense combat in the Donbas and are likely experiencing variable morale,” the British defense ministry said, per a Sunday report from The Associated Press.
The defense ministry said that “Ukrainian forces have likely suffered desertions in recent weeks,” but that “Russian morale highly likely remains especially troubled.”
The ministry also reported that there have been “cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur.”
Project, seethe, cope.
- Are We Sure America Is Not at War in Ukraine? NYT
In the more than three months since Russia invaded Ukraine, the Biden administration has said a lot of things about the war. It had to walk a few of them back almost immediately, like when President Biden’s statement that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” turned out not to be a call for regime change. On other points, its rhetoric has sharpened over time: In March, America’s goal was to help Ukraine defend itself; by the end of April it was a “weakened” Russia.
But on one thing the administration has been very consistent: America won’t get into war with Russia for Ukraine.
“We do not seek a war between NATO and Russia,” President Biden wrote in The Times at the end of May. “As much as I disagree with Mr. Putin, and find his actions an outrage, the United States will not try to bring about his ouster in Moscow. So long as the United States or our allies are not attacked, we will not be directly engaged in this conflict, either by sending American troops to fight in Ukraine or by attacking Russian forces.”
Much of the praise and critique of Mr. Biden’s Ukraine policy has accepted his version of events. But are we sure Americans can reliably recognize when we’ve joined a war?
Presidents have a history of insisting they have no intention of going to war, until they do. “He kept us out of war,” President Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 re-election slogan declared, only for Wilson to take us into World War I a mere month into his second term, right after describing American intervention as inevitable.
During the presidential election of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson promised he was “not about to send American boys nine or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” But in February 1965, within a month of his inauguration, Johnson authorized the bombing campaign known as Operation Rolling Thunder. A month after that, “American boys” were in Vietnam.
That history is instructive on the shelf life of any president’s promise — perhaps particularly during an election — to keep us out of war: Even if it’s true at the moment it’s uttered, it is no guarantee for the future.
But at least in the cases of World War I and Vietnam there was a demonstrable shift from not at war to at war, and Americans could point to a moment when that shift occurred. That bright line meant presidents could make straightforward promises to stay out of a war, and the public could tell when those promises weren’t kept.
In recent decades, however, especially in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, we’ve moved into a model of perpetual warfare, with ambiguous boundaries of chronology, geography and purpose. The line between what is war and what is not war has perilously blurred, and determining the moment we move from one into the other has become a more difficult task.
That’s partly because of technological advances, like drone warfare and cyberattacks, that have made it possible to commit what might otherwise be seen as acts of war — killing adversaries, destroying buildings, degrading nuclear facilities — in other countries without U.S. troops ever leaving U.S. soil.
Yeah, those could be seen as acts of war. Might be because they are - including sanctions.
It’s also a function of executive war-making: Congress hasn’t formally declared war since 1942, but successive presidents have relied on the broad war powers granted to George W. Bush in 2002 to authorize the use of military force.
Are we at war in Pakistan or Somalia, for example, where we have been conducting drone attacks against Qaeda, Islamic State and Taliban militants in Pakistan since 2004 and Al Shabab in Somalia since 2011? Or at war in Niger, where U.S. forces were deployed and where four American soldiers were killed in an ambush in October 2017?
The United States has never officially joined the civil war in Yemen, but a Saudi-led coalition has killed civilians with U.S.-made warheads and chosen targets with American guidance.
Our role in the seven-year conflict in Yemen has been robust enough that many experts believe the Saudi-led coalition would sue for peace without it. It has been robust enough that American lawmakers — including a bipartisan majority of senators in 2019 and Representatives Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington, and Peter DeFazio, Democrat of Oregon, this year — have characterized it as a violation of Article I of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power to declare war, and of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which sharply limits, in nature and timeline, military action initiated by the president.
We crossed the line in Yemen, those lawmakers concluded, even if it’s not wholly clear where the line is.
And what we’ve done in Yemen looks a lot like what we’re doing in Ukraine. Last month, leaks by U.S. officials revealed that the United States helped Ukraine to kill Russian generals and strike a Russian warship, and Mr. Biden signed a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, a lot of which is for military assistance like weaponry and intelligence sharing. The bill, which Ms. Jayapal and Mr. DeFazio voted for, comes on top of billions of prior military support. The Biden administration also announced, this month, that it will send rocket systems to Ukraine that could theoretically strike inside Russian territory, and it reportedly has plans to sell the Ukrainian government four drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles.
Are we at war in Ukraine? If we swapped places — if Russian apparatchiks admitted helping to kill American generals or sink a U.S. Navy vessel — I doubt we’d find much ambiguity there. At the very least, what the United States is doing in Ukraine is not not war. If we have so far avoided calling it war, and can continue to do so, maybe that’s only because we’ve become so uncertain of the meaning of the word.
I wonder if there’s a deeper lesson here about empire or the lack of empathy about the position of other countries towards you? …nah, it’s just kinda wacky that we can be involved in so many conflicts and yet not really be at war!
- US is worried about Russia using new efforts to exploit divisions in 2022 midterms CNN
Homeland and national security officials are worried about how Russia could significantly exploit US divisions over the November midterms, considering scenarios like Russia staging smaller hacks of local election authorities – done with the deliberate purpose of being noticed – and then using that to seed more conspiracies about the integrity of American elections.
The fact that the Democrats are going to lean even harder into Russiagate than they ever have before is really fucking depressing, especially when they lose everything to the Republicans because they’re both unwilling and unable to govern the country. God, we have to put up with this shit for years to come, now.
- Why China’s Xi Jinping’s damage control is all about heading off a crisis CNBC
For President Xi Jinping, dispatching his special envoy to Europe for a three-week charm tour was just one of many acts of high-stakes damage control ahead of the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress this autumn.
Xi’s economy is dangerously slowing, financing for his Belt and Road Initiative has tanked, his Zero Covid policy is flailing, and his continued support of Russian President Vladimir Putin hangs like a cloud over his claim of being the world’s premier national sovereignty champion as Russia’s war on Ukraine grinds on.
Few China watchers believe Xi’s hold on power faces any serious challenge, but that’s hard to rule out entirely given how many recent mistakes he’s made. So, Xi’s taking no chances ahead of one of his party’s most important gatherings, a meeting designed to assure his continued rule and his place in history.
European business leaders understood that as the context for their recent meetings with Wu Hongbo, the special representative of the Chinese government for European affairs and former UN Undersecretary General. His message was a similar one at every stop: Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Germany, and Italy.
“The Chinese want to change the tone of the story, to control the damage,” said one European business leader who asked to remain anonymous due to his Chinese business interests. “They understand they have gone too far.”
The businessman described Wu, with his fluent and fluid English, as one of the smoothest, most open, and intellectually nimble Chinese officials he’s met. At every stop, Wu conceded China had “made mistakes,” from its handling of Covid-19, to its “wolf warrior” diplomacy, to its economic mismanagement.
His trip came as concerns in China have grown about “losing Europe” in the wake of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Germans and their political leaders — Europe’s most significant target for Chinese diplomats and business — are raising new questions about everything from investment guarantees for German business in China to specific projects like VW’s factory in Xinjian province, home of human rights abuses against the primarily Muslim Uyghur population.
Though Wu addressed Putin’s war in Ukraine only indirectly, his message was designed to reassure Europeans that they are preferred partners, as opposed to the United States. His bottom line: China will always be China, a country of growing significance and economic opportunities for Europe.
Yet lost ground in Europe is just one of many gathering problems President Xi faces ahead of his party congress, which will determine the country’s economic, foreign policy and domestic agenda for years to come.
However the Congress turns out, there is growing talk among China experts about whether we are entering a period of “Peak Xi” or even “Peak China.” There’s growing evidence that he and the country he represents (and his approach has been to make the two inseparable) have reached the height of their influence and reputation.
Bloomerism and Hope
- China and Russia Are More Inseparable Than Ever Bloomberg
Last week’s call between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping was timed to coincide with the latter’s birthday — but also to send a message. By reaffirming Beijing’s support for Moscow even as the Russian military is laying waste to a wide swath of Ukraine, the Russian and Chinese presidents were signaling to the West that their nations’ newly forged strategic alignment will endure.
This near-alliance between two autocratic behemoths presents the West with its greatest geopolitical challenge since the end of the Cold War. Finding some way to break it apart — as US President Richard Nixon managed with his outreach to Mao Zedong 50 years ago — would seem an obvious priority. Unfortunately, the conditions for such a stratagem don’t exist today as they did then.
A decade before Nixon’s shocking visit to Beijing, a clash of personalities and ideological visions between Mao and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had already laid the groundwork for the dissolution of their alliance. Abroad, Khrushchev sought peaceful coexistence with the West while Mao advocated confrontation. Domestically, Khrushchev initiated the process of de-Stalinization. Mao saw him as a weak-kneed revisionist who was betraying true communist ideals.
By contrast, Putin and Xi, who have met each other 38 times since 2013, are reportedly close friends. They share similar nationalist values and a profound antipathy toward the West. Each seeks to establish a sphere of influence in his nation’s geopolitical neighborhood and sees the U.S. as the primary obstacle to his vision of national greatness.
In terms of national interest, Russia and China are more closely aligned today than any time since the end of the Cold War. Their relationship began as a marriage of convenience; each country saw tactical benefits from good ties even though they lacked deep strategic trust. In recent years, however, as their relations with the U.S.-led West have turned increasingly hostile, the pairing has evolved into a marriage of necessity. Only close strategic alignment can reduce their mutual vulnerability.
There are, of course, several scenarios under which the new Beijing-Moscow axis might yet crumble. Most obviously, a regime change in Russia would demolish the ideological and strategic foundations of the Sino-Russian alignment. This could happen if Putin falls from power and democracy returns to Russia. But Western leaders would be unwise to bet on such an outcome.
Relations could also sour if Putin, like Mao in the early 1960s, were to grow disenchanted with China because Xi, like Khrushchev, chose to play the long game and preserve China’s economic ties with the West rather than provide unlimited support to Russia. Yet even then, Russia would have nowhere to turn as long as it remained isolated by the United States and Europe. Something from China is still better than nothing from the West.
In theory, another U.S.-China rapprochement — a Nixon-to-China redux — could pull Beijing away from Moscow. But this, too, is a pipe dream. The U.S. has made it abundantly clear that it sees China as its greatest long-term threat. For his part, Xi isn’t likely to grasp any olive branch from US President Joe Biden, which would inevitably look like a tactical ploy.
The only plausible strategy is also the least palatable — and probably impossible — politically. The US and Europe could focus on winning over Russia, the weaker party in the axis.
Xi has long worried about the West tempting Putin away with major concessions. In their virtual meeting last December, Xi openly praised Putin for rejecting “attempts to sow discord between Russia and China,” inadvertently revealing his fears about Western efforts to accommodate the Russian leader.
A decisive military defeat of Russia that resulted in Putin’s fall would obviously make the task easier. But such a scenario is virtually unthinkable: Nuclear powers can always resort to the ultimate weapon of mass destruction when faced with a catastrophic defeat.
Alternatively, the West could seek a quick end to the war on terms that favor Putin. The Russian leader would in theory then have more space to maneuver and limit his dependence on China. Whether Western governments have enough political space themselves, not to mention will, to engineer such an outcome, though, looks increasingly unlikely.
Whoopsie daisy! You just almost-irreversibly slammed two of the most powerful and anti-west countries on the planet together and made them strong allies, the exact opposite to what you should have done!
- The US Could Lose the New Cold War With China and Russia Common Dreams
The United States appears to have entered a new cold war with both China and Russia. And U.S. leaders' portrayal of the confrontation as one between democracy and authoritarianism fails the smell test, especially at a time when the same leaders are actively courting a systematic human-rights abuser like Saudi Arabia. Such hypocrisy suggests that it is at least partly global hegemony, not values, that is really at stake.
For two decades after the fall of the Iron Curtain, the U.S. was clearly number one. But then came disastrously misguided wars in the Middle East, the 2008 financial crash, rising inequality, the opioid epidemic, and other crises that seemed to cast doubt on the superiority of America’s economic model. Moreover, between Donald Trump’s election, the attempted coup at the U.S. Capitol, numerous mass shootings, a Republican Party bent on voter suppression, and the rise of conspiracy cults like QAnon, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that some aspects of American political and social life have become deeply pathological.
Of course, America does not want to be dethroned. But it is simply inevitable that China will outstrip the U.S. economically, regardless of what official indicator one uses. Not only is its population four times larger than America’s; its economy also has been growing three times faster for many years (indeed, it already surpassed the U.S. in purchasing-power-parity terms back in 2015).
While China has not done anything to declare itself as a strategic threat to America, the writing is on the wall. In Washington, there is a bipartisan consensus that China could pose a strategic threat, and that the least the U.S. should do to mitigate the risk is to stop helping the Chinese economy grow. According to this view, preemptive action is warranted, even if it means violating the World Trade Organization rules that the U.S. itself did so much to write and promote.
This front in the new cold war opened well before Russia invaded Ukraine. And senior U.S. officials have since warned that the war must not divert attention from the real long-term threat: China. Given that Russia’s economy is around the same size as Spain’s, its “no limits” partnership with China hardly seems to matter economically (though its willingness to engage in disruptive activities around the world could prove useful to its larger southern neighbor).
But a country at “war” needs a strategy, and the U.S. cannot win a new great-power contest by itself; it needs friends. Its natural allies are Europe and the other developed democracies around the world. But Trump did everything he could to alienate those countries, and the Republicans—still wholly beholden to him—have provided ample reason to question whether the U.S. is a reliable partner. Moreover, the U.S. also must win the hearts and minds of billions of people in the world’s developing countries and emerging markets—not just to have numbers on its side, but also to secure access to critical resources.
In seeking the world’s favor, the U.S. will have to make up a lot of lost ground. Its long history of exploiting other countries does not help, and nor does its deeply embedded racism—a force that Trump expertly and cynically channels. Most recently, U.S. policymakers contributed to global “vaccine apartheid,” whereby rich countries got all the shots they needed while people in poorer countries were left to their fates. Meanwhile, America’s new cold war opponents have made their vaccines readily available to others at or below cost, while also helping countries develop their own vaccine-production facilities.
The credibility gap is even wider when it comes to climate change, which disproportionately affects those in the Global South who have the least ability to cope. While major emerging markets have become the leading sources of greenhouse-gas emissions today, U.S. cumulative emissions are still the largest by far. Developed countries continue to add to them, and, worse, have not even delivered on their meager promises to help poor countries manage the effects of the climate crisis that the rich world caused. Instead, U.S. banks contribute to looming debt crises in many countries, often revealing a depraved indifference to the suffering that results.
Europe and America excel at lecturing others on what is morally right and economically sensible. But the message that usually comes through—as the persistence of U.S. and European agricultural subsidies makes clear—is “do what I say, not what I do.” Especially after the Trump years, America no longer holds any claim to the moral high ground, nor does it have the credibility to dispense advice. Neoliberalism and trickle-down economics were never widely embraced in the Global South, and now they are going out of fashion everywhere.
At the same time, China has excelled not at delivering lectures but at furnishing poor countries with hard infrastructure. Yes, these countries are often left deeply in debt; but, given Western banks' own behavior as creditors in the developing world, the U.S. and others are hardly in a position to point the finger.
I could go on, but the point should be clear: If the U.S. is going to embark on a new cold war, it had better understand what it will take to win. Cold wars ultimately are won with the soft power of attraction and persuasion. To come out on top, we must convince the rest of the world to buy not just our products, but also the social, political, and economic system we’re selling.
The U.S. might know how to make the world’s best bombers and missile systems, but they will not help us here. Instead, we must offer concrete help to developing and emerging-market countries, starting with a waiver on all Covid-related intellectual property so that they can produce vaccines and treatments for themselves.
Equally important, the West must once again make our economic, social, and political systems the envy of the world. In the U.S., that starts with reducing gun violence, improving environmental regulations, combating inequality and racism, and protecting women’s reproductive rights. Until we have proven ourselves worthy to lead, we cannot expect others to march to our drum.