Adrian Oliver,

Sunday 18 February – Sunday 3 March:

On Monday, 20 heads of government – 15 from the EU – gathered in Paris to discuss the supply of artillery ammunition to Ukraine. European nations promised Ukraine 1 million rounds of ammunition by the end of 2024, but will only be able to deliver just over half that amount. Routine underwhelming defence production in Europe aside, Macron made headlines with his refusal to rule out sending Western troops to the battlefields of Ukraine. Macron told reporters “There’s no consensus today to send in an official, endorsed manner troops on the ground. But in terms of dynamics, nothing can be ruled out…We will do everything that we must so that Russia does not win.” Macron declined to provide details about which nations were considering sending troops, saying he prefers to maintain some “strategic ambiguity”. A White House official told Reuters that the United States had no plans to send troops to fight in Ukraine and that there were also no plans to send NATO troops to fight in Ukraine.

On Tuesday, South Korean Defence Minister Shin Wonsik told reporters that North Korea has sent about 6,700 containers carrying munitions to Russia since September. However, in a fact sheet released Friday, the U.S. State Department said North Korea has delivered more than 10,000 containers of munitions or related materials to Russia since September. These containers might have contained ore than three million 152mm artilerry shells or 500,000 122mm rounds. Korean Defence Minister Shin said “While North Korea’s arms factories (for non-Russian exports) operate at 30% capacity due to shortages of raw materials and electricity, the factories producing weapons and artillery shells for Russia are operating at full capacity.” In return for the munitions, Russia has been providing North Korea with food, raw materials and parts used in weapons manufacturing. “It seems that food accounts for the largest proportion [of shipments from Russia], which is believed to have stabilised food prices in North Korea, with other necessities also included,” Shin said. He added that the volume of containers shipped from Russia to North Korea appeared to be approximately 30 percent larger than those shipped from Pyongyang to Moscow in the same period.

On Wednesday, a special congress in the separatist Moldovan region of Transnistria asked Moscow to protect it from “increasing pressure from Moldova.” Transnistria, which split from Moldova when the Soviet Union fell, has remained firmly within the Kremlin’s sphere of influence. Moldova, on the other hand, is attempting to join the European Union. The congress stopped short of calling for unification with Russia, instead passing a resolution appealing to Russia to provide more than 220,000 Russian nationals in Transnistria with greater “protection” from Moldovan authorities. “Transnistria will persistently fight for its identity, the rights and interests of the Transnistrian people and will not give up on protecting them, despite any blackmail or external pressure,” the resolution said. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said, “Protecting the interests of the inhabitants of Transnistria, our compatriots, is one of the priorities.” Before Wednesday, the congress’ most recent meeting was in 2006, when it passed a referendum calling to join Russia. When Transnistrian politicians unexpectedly announced a new meeting, analysts suggested this could lead to fresh calls for unification with Russia. Moldovan and Ukrainian officials downplayed this speculation. 

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual State of the Nation address to the Federal Assembly – Russia’s Houses of Parliament. The speech, covering a wide range of topics from Russia’s demographics and foreign policy to economic development and the invasion of Ukraine, was made in front of around 1,000 officials, lawmakers and diplomats. Of note were Putin’s warnings against escalation of the war in Ukraine, saying “[Western nations] must realise that we also have weapons that can hit targets on their territory. All this really threatens a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons and the destruction of civilisation. Don’t they get that?!” said Putin.

On Thursday, Russia launched an Iranian-made research satellite into orbit. The Pars 1 remote sensing and imaging satellite was launched by a Russian Soyuz rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome – 8,000km east of Moscow. The satellite will scan Iran’s topography from an orbit of 500km, according to the official IRNA news agency. Iran’s Telecommunications Minister Issa Zarepour said Pars-I was “fully domestically developed”.

On Friday, the head of Russian state broadcaster RT, Margarita Simonyan, released a 38-minute audio recording of four German military officers, including the chief of the Air Force, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, discussing the possibility of sending Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine. The audio includes a discussion about whether the Taurus cruise missiles would be capable of destroying a bridge – likely referring to the Kerch Strait Bridge which connects Crimea to the Russian mainland. The audio also contains discussion on the ways Germany could supply Ukraine with targeting information on Russian targets without appearing to be directly involved in the war. On Saturday, the Defense Ministry in Berlin said it believed the audio was genuine and that the conversation had been wiretapped. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz described it as “a very serious matter.” “It will now be investigated very carefully, very intensively, and very quickly,” Scholz said Saturday during a visit to Rome. Although Scholz has said several times that a Taurus delivery is not currently planned, also citing the missiles’ ability to reach Moscow from Ukraine, he has stopped short of ruling it out altogether. It is possible that Germany will still send Taurus missiles to Ukraine – the country has on multiple occasions changed its mind and sent weapons, like Leopard tanks, it intitially refused to send. 

On Sunday, Israel said it would not be sending a negotiating team to Cairo to meet with Hamas. The terrorist group refused to provide a list of living hostages and its demands for the number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons that the Jewish State would have to release to secure their freedom. U.S. President Joe Biden has reportedly been pushing both the Egyptians and Qataris to get Hamas to agree to a temporary ceasefire before Ramadan – expected this coming Sunday. Several Hebrew media outlets reported on the growing pessimism in Israel that a hostage and truce deal can be reached before Ramadan. Jerusalem reportedly suspects Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar has no intention of reaching an agreement in the coming days, hoping instead to escalate violence over Ramadan. On Sunday afternoon, a Hamas official said the group will not agree to a deal without Israel consenting to an end to the war in Gaza, a non-starter for Israel. Biden, under increasing pressure from progressive Democrats, desperately wants a temporary ceasefire in Gaza. He sees a deal for the hostages held by Hamas as the only way to get it while maintaining his unwavering support for Israel. Speaking to troops of the 98th Division on the Gaza border on Sunday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel will not end the war in until Hamas is completely dismantled.

One thought on “The World That Was”
  1. Stalin starved 5 million Ukranians east of the Dniepr river to death and replaced them Russians. In the interim these people have remained Russian at heart and even have Russian passports. This area of land is very important to Russia, with all its heavy industry and rare raw materials. Peace would come quickly if Ukraine simply said ” we keep all land to the west and you take the land to the east, as well as Crimea” (which is also largely Russian speaking).

    Westerners need to understand that Russia is indefensible if an invading army passes the line drawn between Moscow and the Ural mountains and for this reason HAS to defend itself in Europe, which technically speaking Ukraine is part of in modern times. So this is a war of survival for Russia but few in the west understand this. And it’s not Putin that buggered up the Minsk agreement so western leaders need to stop all their bull and understand Putin’s point of view.

    Just for the record I do not support Putin but I predict his comment that “Russia will be the last Christian, anti-woke nation on earth” to be 100% accurate the way the west is replacing Jews and Christians with Muslims.

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