Fri, 4 November 2022 at 9:22 am
The onset of winter mud and rain has changed little across the Ukraine battlegrounds. There are few decisive breakthroughs in sight.
Neither party, Putin in Moscow and Zelensky in Kyiv, seem ready for realistic talks of peace. They are both looking to their allies for support for a campaign that is set to last another 250 days at least – well into year.
This is going to be difficult for Joe Biden – particularly if he loses control of Congress after today’s midterm elections. America has already committed some $66 billion of support in donations and loans. Ukraine’s war economy consumes in the order of $5 billion a month to survive.
The new UK prime minister has said he will continue to support Ukraine, which has already received just shy of £3 billion of assistance. At the same time the message has gone out that the Treasury intends to cut the defence budget along with those of other big spending ministries. So where will British help for Ukraine come from? Or is it all bluff?
The requirement for ingenious new weaponry and counter measures is urgent given the unexpected menace from the Iranian Shahed – 136 light drones. Moscow has ordered up 1,700 in a first tranche, and now seeking to buy thousands more. Lightweight, low flying – and pretty cheap at $20,000 each –they are surprisingly elusive.
The most effective defence would be a radar shield and missile system, of which the proven world leader is Israel’s Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile combination. The outgoing administration in Jerusalem, and the possibly once and future prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have refused to sell Iron Dome to Ukraine. By an extraordinary twist Israel’s act of omission to Ukraine has ended up aiding its sworn enemy, Iran. Russia is now boosting its production of missiles and drones, and quite likely boosting its venture into nuclear arms.
The Western allies in America and Europe should ditch their somewhat episodic to helping. A broad plan of assistance is now needed to build up its own production of arms and equipment for its forces and to plan ahead for reconstruction. This must involve industry public and private across Nato and the EU, as well as government agencies.
Putin may look now for an operational pause to refurbish his knackered armies. There are even suggestions he may give up the western bits of the Ukraine oblasts he has claimed.
The pause would be a ruse – Putin has to prove he is a winner, to himself as much as his supporters and the Russian people. We shouldn’t forget he has declared war on Europe and the West. He is not playing chess with us so much as a version of the oriental game of Go, a ruthless game where all manner of tactics and cunning count.
We have to be prepared for Russia’s ploys and sallies where we least expect and haven’t been too vigilant. The recent series of mysterious explosions and sabotage on gas and oil pipes, and communications cables across the Baltic and North Seas, not least in British and Irish waters, are a warning.