Exceptional Powers – Anglo U.S Democratic TYRANNY

March 26th 2023

How the search for Iraq’s secret weapons fell apart

Protest against the Iraq War, August 2003 - protestor holds aloft card reading "B.Liar"

By Gordon Corera

Security correspondent, BBC News

Twenty years after the invasion of Iraq, controversy still rages over the existence of the “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) which provided the UK’s justification for taking part. New details about the search for WMDs have emerged as part of a BBC series, Shock and War: Iraq 20 years on, based on conversations with dozens of people directly involved.

“Crikey.” That was the one-word reaction from a senior MI6 officer when told by a colleague in late 2001 that the Americans were serious about war in Iraq.

CIA officers also recall the shock of British counterparts. “I thought they would have a heart attack right there at the table,” recalls Luis Rueda, head of the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group. “If they weren’t gentlemen, they would have reached across the table and slapped me.”

The message soon reached Downing Street. It would be spies rather than diplomats who would deliver it.

“I was probably the first to say to the prime minister, ‘Whether you like it or not, get your ducks in a row because it looks as though they’re building up to an invasion,” the then-head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, and a frequent visitor to Washington, tells the BBC in a rare interview.

MI6 – the UK’s foreign intelligence service – was about to become deeply embroiled in one of the most controversial and consequential episodes in its history.

For the US, the issue of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), were secondary to a deeper drive to overthrow the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. “We would have invaded Iraq if Saddam Hussein had a rubber band and a paperclip,” says Mr Rueda. “We would have said, ‘Oh, he will take your eye out.'”

For the UK, when it came to selling Iraq to an uncertain public, the threat supposedly posed by Iraq’s WMDs – chemical, biological and nuclear weapons – was central.

It has sometimes been alleged that the UK government made up the claims about WMDs. But ministers from that time say they had been assured by their own spies the weapons did exist.

“It’s really important to understand the intelligence I was getting is what I was relying on, and I think I was entitled to rely on it,” former Prime Minister Sir Tony Blair tells me. On the eve of the invasion he says he asked for – and was given – reassurances from the Joint Intelligence Committee. He declines to criticise the intelligence services for getting it wrong.

Other ministers say they had doubts at the time.

“On three occasions I questioned Richard Dearlove about the provenance of this intelligence,” says the then foreign secretary, Jack Straw. “I just had an uneasy feeling about it. But Dearlove assured me on each occasion that these agents were reliable.” However, Mr Straw says that it is ultimately for politicians to take responsibility, because they make the final decisions.

Asked if he looks back on Iraq as an intelligence failure, Sir Richard’s answer is simple: “No.” He still believes Iraq had some kind of weapons programme and that elements may have been moved over the border to Syria.

Sir Richard Dearlove in 2008, sitting in the back of a car
Image caption, Sir Richard Dearlove, pictured in 2008

Others disagree. “It was a major failing,” says Sir David Omand, then the UK’s Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator. He says a confirmation bias led government experts to listen to fragments of information which supported the idea that Saddam Hussein had WMDs, and discount any that did not.

Some inside MI6 say they also had concerns. “At the time I felt what we were doing was wrong,” says one officer who worked on Iraq, who has never spoken before and asked to remain anonymous.

“There was no new or credible intelligence or assessment which suggested that Iraq had restarted WMD programmes and that they posed an imminent threat,” says the former officer, speaking of the period of early 2002. “I think from the government’s point of view it was the only thing they could find…. WMD was the only peg they could hang the legality on.”

Existing intelligence in the spring of 2002 was patchy. MI6’s long-standing agents in Iraq had little or no information about WMDs, and there was a desperate hunt for fresh intelligence from new sources to bolster the case, particularly when a dossier was planned for September.

Another insider recalls decoding a message saying there was “no more important role” for the intelligence service than persuading the British public of the case for action. They say that questions were raised if this was appropriate, and the message was deleted.

MI6's headquarters seen from Vauxhall Bridge, central London
Image caption, MI6’s headquarters in central London

On 12 September, Sir Richard walked into Downing Street with news of an important new source. This person claimed Saddam’s programmes were being restarted and promised to deliver new details soon. Even though this source had not gone through the full checks, and their information was not shared with experts, details were handed to the prime minister.

Sir Richard dismisses accusations that he got too close to Downing Street as “ridiculous” but will not comment on the details of the case or specific sources. But in the coming months, this new source never delivered and was ultimately deemed to have been making it up, other intelligence sources say. Quality control was breaking down, they argue.

It was likely some of the new sources were making information up for money or because they wanted to see Saddam overthrown. In January 2003, I met a defector from Saddam’s intelligence service in Jordan. He claimed to have been involved in developing mobile laboratories to work on biological weapons, out of sight from UN inspectors.

His claims made it into US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN in February 2003, even though some within the US government had already issued a “burn notice”, saying that the information was not to be trusted. Another source codenamed “Curveball”, whom the US and UK relied on, was also making up details about the labs.

Saddam Hussein, pictured in 1987
Image caption, Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq from 1979 until his downfall in 2003

It is worth remembering that Saddam did once have weapons of mass destruction. A few weeks before the 2003 war, I visited the village of Halabja in Northern Iraq, and heard locals describe the day in 1988 when Saddam’s army had dropped chemical weapons on them. The truth about what happened to those weapons would only emerge after the war.

Saddam had ordered the destruction of much of his WMD programme in the early 1990s after the first Gulf War in the hope of getting a clean bill of health from UN weapons inspectors, one of Iraq’s top scientists later told me. The Iraqi leader may have hoped to restart the programmes at a later point. But he had destroyed everything secretly, partly to maintain the bluff that he might still have something he could use against neighbouring Iran, with whom he had just fought a war. So when Iraq was later asked by UN inspectors to prove it had destroyed everything, it could not.

One Iraqi scientist later revealed that they had disposed of a deadly compound that western intelligence agencies said was unaccounted for, by pouring it into the ground. But they had done so near one of Saddam’s palaces, and they feared that owning up to this fact would have got them killed by the Iraqi leader. The result of all this was that Iraq could never really prove that it no longer had weapons.

By the end of 2002, UN inspectors were back in Iraq looking for WMDs. Some of those inspectors, speaking to the BBC for the first time, can recall looking at sites where intelligence tip-offs from the West suggested mobile labs might be based. They found only what one calls a “glorified ice cream truck” covered in cobwebs.

The public at the time never learned that as war approached, with sources failing to deliver and inspectors drawing a blank, there were concerns. “Panicky” is how one insider describes it. “My future is in your hands,” Mr Blair said, half-jestingly, to Sir Richard in January 2003, as the pressure was growing to find proof of WMDs.

A 105mm gun is dropped by a Chinook helicopter to British 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery on the Fao Peninsula in southern Iraq, on March 21, 2003
Image caption, March 2003: UK troops in southern Iraq

“It was frustrating at the time,” Sir Richard now recalls. He accuses inspectors of having been “incompetent” for failing to find anything. Hans Blix, who led UN chemical and biological inspections, tells the BBC that until the start of 2003, he had believed there were weapons, but began to doubt their existence after the tip-offs drew a blank. He wanted more time to get answers but would not get it.

The failure to find a “smoking gun” would not stop war in March 2003.

“I tried right until the last moment to avoid military action,” Tony Blair tells the BBC. President George Bush, fearing his ally would lose a vote in parliament on the eve of war, did offer him in a video-call the opportunity to back out of the invasion and only be involved in the aftermath, but the prime minister turned it down.

He defended his decision both as a matter of principle in terms of the need to deal with Saddam Hussein, but also because of the need to maintain the UK’s relationship with the US. “It would have had a significant impact on the relationship,” he says, adding: “When I was prime minister, there was no doubt either under President Clinton or President Bush, who the American president picked up the phone to first. It was the British prime minister. Today we’re out of Europe and would Joe Biden pick up the phone to Rishi Sunak first? I’m not sure.”

But no WMD would be found afterwards either. “It all fell apart,” one former MI6 officer says, recalling a post-war internal review of sources. And this would leave deep and lasting consequences for both spies and politicians.

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March 24th 2023

Putin says Moscow to station nuclear weapons in Belarus, US reacts cautiously

By David Ljunggren

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko outside Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko during a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia February 17, 2023. Sputnik/Vladimir Astapkovich/Kremlin via REUTERS

March 25 (Reuters) – Russia will station tactical nuclear weapons in neighbouring Belarus, President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday, marking the first time since the mid-1990s that Moscow will have based such arms outside the country.

Putin made the announcement at a time of growing tensions with the West over the Ukraine war and as some Russian commentators speculate about possible nuclear strikes.

The United States – the world’s other nuclear superpower – reacted cautiously. A senior administration official noted Russia and Belarus had talked about such a deal over the past year, and said there were no signs Moscow planned to use its nuclear weapons.

Establishment Still Fearing Donald Trump.

Luke Harding’s pathetic smear campaign against Trump and Putin. Democrats and U.K Elite with their so called ‘independent media’
( sic ) so badly wanted war on Russia that they colluded to waste Trump’s entire term which finished off with the very dubious so called CAPITOL RIOTS set up to get him jailed. R J Cook.

Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday revealed a letter that he says is “totally exculpatory” evidence proving his innocence in the Stormy Daniels hush money case.

It comes as the latest development in the case dominating national headlines in the past days, in which Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is reported to be pursuing an indictment on Trump regarding his alleged involvement in $130,000 of hush money paid to adult film actress Daniels to stop her from going public about an affair she claims she had with Trump. Trump has denied the affair, saying he’s a victim of extortion.

As a part of the investigation, a Manhattan grand jury has heard testimony from former Trump associates, which included former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, a star witness who pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance laws in August 2018 for arranging that payment to Daniels and another woman claiming to have had an affair with Trump.

Cohen initially told press outlets in February 2018 that he paid this money out of his own pocket, but reversed his account in his guilty plea, claiming to have done so at Trump’s direction and that he was reimbursed by the Trump Organization through routine legal expenses.

Trump has previously called the payment part of a monthly retainer given to Cohen, through which the lawyer “entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties.” He has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.

The letter that Trump disclosed in a Truth Social post on Wednesday was sent by Cohen’s lawyer Stephen Ryan to the Federal Election Commission on Feb. 8, 2018, in response to a complaint filed by government watchdog Common Cause.

“In a private transaction in 2016, before the U.S. presidential election, Mr. Cohen used his own personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000 to Ms. Stephanie Clifford,” Ryan stated in the letter.

“Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed Mr. Cohen for the payment directly or indirectly,” Ryan continued, referring to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

The statement in the letter mirrors Cohen’s statement to media outlets in February 2018.

Joseph Tacopina, Trump’s lawyer on the case, confirmed with The Epoch Times the letter’s authenticity.

Trump said the letter constitutes “exculpatory” evidence and called for an immediate end to Bragg’s case.

“Wow, look what was just found—A Letter from Cohen’s Lawyer to the Federal Election Commission. This is totally exculpatory, and must end the Manhattan District Attorney’s Witch Hunt, immediately,” Trump wrote in the post.

“Cohen admits that he did it himself. The D.A. should get on with prosecuting violent criminals, so people can walk down the sidewalks of New York without being murdered!”

Though the exact charges pursued by Bragg’s office are unclear, it is widely speculated that Bragg is pursuing a felony charge of falsifying business records, which requires the falsifying of business records to be done in connection with another crime—in this case, the violation of federal campaign finance laws. This complicated legal strategy that combines state and federal laws, however, is seen by some legal experts as high risk.

March 23rd 2023

The Unexpected Climate Impact of Russia’s War in Ukraine

There are many ways to measure the consequences of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began a year ago on Friday, Feb. 24, 2022. Most of them—7,200 Ukrainian civilians killed, 8 million forced to flee abroad, a global hunger crisis driven by surging food prices—paint an unremittingly tragic picture, for both Ukraine and the world. For the climate though, it’s a little different.

Twelve months in, the war’s decidedly mixed carbon impact is coming into view. Inside Ukraine, experts have tracked vast amounts of the greenhouse gasses that have been unleashed by Vladimir Putin’s path of destruction. Outside of Ukraine, though, the opposite has happened. To many analysts’ surprise, Putin’s decision to squeeze gas exports to Europe last summer has pushed the region’s emissions down in recent months. It has also accelerated a global phase out of fossil fuels: just ask British oil major BP, which in January revised its pre-invasion estimates to predict a much sharper decline in demand for fossil fuels in 2035, citing countries’ post-war belief that renewables provide better energy security.

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But let’s look at the bad climate news first. Forest fires sparked by fighting, attacks on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines, the need to rebuild hundreds of thousands of blasted buildings, plus the millions of fossil-fueled journeys by soldiers, munitions, and refugees, adds up to a lot of extra carbon pollution. Russia’s targeting of Ukraine’s energy system, starting in October, has been particularly damaging: as oil depots and gas power plants have exploded, releasing carbon and methane into the air, Ukrainians have been forced to rely on dirtier fuels to keep warm. “We saw a huge influx of inefficient [diesel-powered] generators in November and December,” says Lennard de Klerk, a Dutch carbon accounting expert in Kyiv preparing a report on the war’s greenhouse gas impact, due to be presented to the U.N. in June.

Read more: Ukraine Wants Russia to Pay for the War’s Environmental Impact

De Klerk puts the first year of war’s carbon footprint in the region of 155 million metric tons, roughly the annual emissions of the Netherlands. Some of that will have been offset by the fact that Ukranians likely didn’t emit as much carbon as they normally do in a year (202 million metric tons in 2021): energy demand has fallen due to the shuttering of industries and the fact that 18% of the population was forced to flee to the safety of nearby countries. De Klerk, though, says much of that economic activity and residential energy use will simply have migrated to other European countries.

The better—if not exactly good—news is that Europe slashed its emissions in the later part of 2022. Many climate advocates had feared that Russia’s suspension of natural gas exports to the E.U. would force the bloc to use more coal, which is twice as polluting. And some countries, including Germany and the U.K., did extend the life of coal plants that were due to be shut down. But the far more dominant trend was a fall in energy use. Europeans responded to dizzyingly high gas prices by turning down their gas-powered home heating—an option made more feasible by an unusually mild winter—or closing down businesses that couldn’t pay their energy bills. The E.U.’s non-electricity natural gas consumption has fallen 17% year-over-year since the start of the war—which translates to 117 metric tons of avoided carbon emissions, according to Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Finland-based Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. “Europe’s CO2 emissions overall would have been higher without the invasion and Putin’s attempts at an energy war.”

Read more: Soviet-Era Centralized Heating Systems Were Ukraine’s Secret Weapon for Cutting Emissions. Now They’re a Vulnerability

To be clear, Ukrainian lives ruined, businesses imploding, and Europeans unable to afford heating are no one’s idea of a good way to cut carbon. But it’s hard to ignore the push towards cleaner, more efficient energy spurred by Putin’s actions over the last year. In 2022, as fossil fuel prices rose and European leaders sought to wean the region off Russian fossil fuels, the amount of solar capacity installed jumped a staggering 47% compared to 2021. Sales of heat pumps, an electric alternative to gas heating, jumped 37%; sales of electric vehicles rose 31%. Some of the more coordinated efforts to cut energy use will be helpful even if energy prices fall: for example, the rollout of apps to help people use electricity at low-demand times, or programs to better insulate homes to improve energy efficiency.

If such changes continue to accelerate, as Myllyvirta predicts they will in 2023, it won’t only bring us closer to our climate goals. It will also bring us closer to a world in which leaders who depend on fossil fuels for their power lose their ability to wage pointless wars.

A version of this story also appears in the Climate is Everything newsletter. To sign up, click here.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Write to Ciara Nugent at ciara.nugent@time.com.

March 21st 2023

U.K Pushes Russia Nearer The Abyss.

Vladimir Putin has sought to exploit a British statement that it would supply Ukraine with tank shells made with depleted uranium, arguing that the delivery of the armour-piercing weapons would prompt a Russian response.

The Russian leader’s comments, made during the visit to Moscow by his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, came in response to a parliamentary answer given by a junior British defence minister in the House of Lords on Monday.

Annabel Goldie said that the UK would supply “armour piercing rounds which contain depleted uranium” to Ukraine with its gift of 14 Challenger 2 tanks because they are deemed “highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armoured vehicles”.

Does Russia have depleted uranium weapons?

Image result for Does Russia have depleted uranium shells ?

Russia has a significant number of different DU-rounds in its arsenals. There are reports of mass production of the improved Svinets-1 and Svintes-2 depleted uranium ammunition, for which the T-80BVM tanks were modernized during the last years.

Where does Russia get its uranium?

Image result for Does Russia have depleted uranium shells ?

The Russian Federation’s main uranium deposits are in four districts: The Trans-Ural district in the Kurgan region between Chelyabinsk and Omsk, with the Dalur ISL mine.

Depleted uranium is used for tank armor, armor-piercing bullets, and as weights to help balance aircrafts. Depleted uranium is both a toxic chemical and radiation health hazard when inside the body

What does depleted uranium do to the body?

Image result for what does depleted uranium do ?

Very severe exposure causes tissue destruction and is rapidly fatal. Radiation sickness is only seen above a threshold radiation dose. Such doses are not expected to be seen from any imaginable pathways of exposure to depleted uranium.

Why do we use depleted uranium in bullets?

Image result for what does depleted uranium do ?

First deployed on a large scale during the Gulf War, the U.S. military uses depleted uranium (DU) for tank armor and some bullets due to its high density, helping it to penetrate enemy armored vehicles.24 Jan 2023

Why deadly depleted uranium is the tank buster’s weapon of choice

David Hambling

Thu 18 May 2000 14.45 BST

The use of depleted uranium weapons is again causing concern. The people of Kosovo have been alarmed to discover that the conflict there has left radioactive contamination, just as it did in Kuwait nine years ago.

Why do the United States and Britain continue to use a waste product of the nuclear industry in their weapons? Some commentators allege that it is a conspiracy between the military and the nuclear industry to dispose of dangerous waste in hostile countries. The real reasons are more complex.

Metallic uranium occurs naturally in tiny quantities. In its native state it is a mixture of highly radioactive uranium-235 and less active U-238. U-235 is used in reactors and atomic weapons; once it is extracted, the rest is depleted uranium (DU). It is a poisonous heavy metal like lead or mercury, but only slightly radioactive.

To understand why DU makes a good anti-tank weapon you have to enter the Alice In Wonderland world of high-energy collisions. When metal meets metal at five times the speed of sound, hardened steel shatters like glass. Metal flows like putty, or simply vaporises. A faster shell does not necessarily go through more armour, but, like a pebble thrown into a pond, it makes a bigger splash.

Armour penetration is increased by concentrating the force of a shell into as small an area as possible, so the projectiles tend to look like giant darts. The denser the projectile, the harder the impact for a given size. DU is almost twice as dense as lead, making it highly suitable. The other metal used for anti-tank rounds is tungsten, which is also very hard and dense. When a tungsten rod strikes armour, it deforms and mushrooms, making it progressively blunter. Uranium is “pyrophoric”: at the point of impact it burns away into vapour, so the projectile stays sharp. When it breaks through, the burning DU turns the inside of a vehicle into an inferno of white-hot gas and sparks.

Normal uranium is not as hard as tungsten. But a classified technique allows it to be hardened. This is believed to involve alloying it with titanium and cooling it so that it forms a single large metallic crystal rather than a chaotic mass of tiny crystals. This structure is very strong and produces an improvement similar to the difference between a brittle pencil lead and a carbon-fibre tennis racquet. The final advantage of uranium is cost. Machined tungsten is expensive, but governments supply DU more or less free.

As with most weapons, depleted uranium is not as deadly as its proponents – or its critics – claim. One tank was hit four times with no casualties. Twenty US vehicles took penetrating hits from DU weapons during the Gulf war. Thirteen crew members were killed, but 113 others – almost 90% – survived. The long-term health effects are not known.

It is likely that DU will be phased out eventually, not for health reasons but for military ones. It was introduced to solve the problem of breaking through heavy armour. But tank armour is concentrated mainly at the front, facing the main threat; it is thinner on the sides, and thinner still on top. If the entire vehicle were clad in thick armour it would be too heavy to move. Instead of brute force, the clever approach would be to attack the weakest point.

After decades of development a new generation of anti-armour weapons is being fielded. These “brilliant” weapons find their own targets, unlike mere smart bombs, which have to be directed. One example is Sadarm (Seek And Destroy Armour). It is fired like a normal artillery shell into the target area, where it ejects two submunitions that descend by parachute. As they fall, Sadarm scans the ground with radar and infrared sensors. Targets are identified, and the most important are selected – a Scud launcher in preference to a tank, a tank rather than a truck.

Sadarm fires a slug of molten metal at the selected target. The slug takes on an aerodynamic shape as it travels through the air, ideal for piercing armour. Though less powerful than a DU shell, it can break through the top armour of any tank.

Engagements between tanks are fought face-to-face, at a maximum distance of about 4km. Sadarm can be lobbed at an enemy 20km away. Missiles carrying brilliant munitions can range out to 100km or more.

Sadarm and other brilliant weapons use tantalum, an exotic heavy metal for which little data is available. But it appears to be highly toxic, especially when vaporised. We will probably discover its full effects only after the next hi-tech war.

In sufficient amounts, DU can be harmful because of its chemical toxicity. Like mercury, cadmium, and other heavy-metal ions, excess uranyl ions depress renal function. High concentrations in the kidney can cause damage and in extreme cases renal failure.

No human cancer of any type has ever been seen as a result of exposure to natural or depleted uranium. The chance of developing cancer is greater with exposure to enriched uranium, because it is more radioactive than natural uranium [ATSDR 2008b].

Why use depleted uranium in bullets?

SILVER BULLET made from depleted uranium can pierce even the heaviest armor. Uranium shells burn away at the edges upon impact¿a “self-sharpening” that helps them bore into armor. Used as ammunition, it penetrates the thick steel encasing enemy tanks; used as armor, it protects troops against attack.

What to Know About Depleted Uranium Exposure in Veterans

Written by Rebekah Kuschmider

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on July 06, 2022

In this Article

Serving in the armed forces leads to potential exposure to dangerous substances. Veterans who were deployed to missions in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, and Eastern Europe may have been exposed to depleted uranium. This byproduct of uranium enrichment was used in military vehicles and weaponry. 

Because enriched uranium is a radioactive substance, there has been concern about the possible health effects of depleted uranium. While depleted uranium does not have the level of radioactivity of enriched uranium, some experts fear that it might cause health problems. The Department of Defense and Department of Veteran’s Affairs monitor exposed veterans to track any health problems they may have.

What Is Depleted Uranium?

Uranium is a naturally occurring element that has radioactive properties. All uranium isotopes are radioactive, but one particular isotope called Uranium-235 (U-235) is critical for providing nuclear energy and in nuclear weapons. The military has applications for U-235 in their weapons programs as well as non-lethal functions like powering submarines.

U-235 makes up a very small portion of uranium ore. It must be extracted through an enrichment process that leaves the remainder of the ore behind. This remainder is known as depleted uranium.

Depleted uranium is still radioactive, but it emits alpha particle radiation, which is not powerful enough to penetrate human skin. Just being around depleted uranium is not a danger to human health. If a person ingests depleted uranium, though, it can be a health hazard.

What Are Some Depleted Uranium Effects?

Natural uranium is a common element found in soil and water. Everyone consumes some amount of uranium without ill effects. Your body can excrete most uranium that you ingest.

The small amount that gets absorbed, though, spreads throughout the body. It is most likely to accumulate in the bones or the kidneys. Uranium can remain in bones for a long time; the half-life of uranium in bone tissue is 70–200 days. Uranium that settles in other tissue leaves the body as urine within 1 to 2 weeks.

Natural and depleted uranium have the same level of toxicity and typically do not cause health effects. If you take in very large quantities of the material, though, you may be at risk for health issues related to uranium toxicity, such as kidney damage.

There are no indications that either depleted or natural uranium can cause cancer. The major concern from uranium ingestion is damage to the kidneys. Typical uranium consumption has not been shown to lead to kidney damage. Kidneys have even been shown to heal within several weeks of above-average levels of exposure, such as exposure due to occupation.

Ukraine war: UK defends sending uranium shells after Putin warning

A Challenger 2 tank
Image caption, The UK is sending 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Kyiv to aid Ukrainians in the fight against Russia

By Laura Gozzi

BBC News

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia would be “forced to react” if the UK sent shells made with depleted uranium to Ukraine.

He accused the West of deploying weapons with a “nuclear component”.

The UK confirmed it would provide Kyiv the armour-piercing rounds alongside Challenger 2 tanks – but insisted they have a low risk of radiation.

Depleted uranium “is a standard component and has nothing to do with nuclear weapons”, the MoD said.

“The British Army has used depleted uranium in its armour piercing shells for decades,” the statement added.

“Russia knows this, but is deliberately trying to disinform. Independent research by scientists from groups such as the Royal Society has assessed that any impact to personal health and the environment from the use of depleted uranium munitions is likely to be low.”

Former British Army tank commander – and chemical weapons expert – Col Hamish de Breton-Gordon, said Mr Putin’s comments were “classic disinformation”.

He said depleted uranium rounds used by Challenger 2 tanks contained only trace elements of depleted uranium.

He added it was “laughable” to suggest depleted uranium rounds were in any way linked to nuclear weapons, which uses enriched uranium.

Depleted uranium is what is left over after natural uranium has been enriched, either for weapons-making or for reactor fuel.

It is mildly radioactive in its solid form. But it is a very heavy substance, 1.7 times denser than lead, and it is used to harden rounds so that they can penetrate armour and steel.

When a weapon made with a depleted uranium tip or core strikes a solid object, like the side of a tank, it goes straight through it and then erupts in a burning cloud of vapour.

The vapour settles as dust, which is poisonous and also weakly radioactive.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said sending depleted uranium ammunition to Ukraine would mean the UK was “ready to violate international humanitarian law as in 1999 in Yugoslavia”.

“There is no doubt this will end badly for London,” Mr Lavrov added.

On Tuesday evening, a spokesman for the Pentagon said the US would not be sending any munitions with depleted uranium to Ukraine.

Shells with depleted uranium were used in Iraq and the Balkans, where some claim it was linked to birth defects.

A 2022 UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report said depleted uranium was an environmental concern in Ukraine.

“Depleted uranium and toxic substances in common explosives can cause skin irritation, kidney failure and increase the risks of cancer,” it said.

“The chemical toxicity of depleted uranium is considered a more significant issue than the possible impacts of its radioactivity,” it added.

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March 20th 2023

BBC says Xi Jin Ping Is Thick Like Stalin.

Foreword to the following, British BBC news reports today described Xi as rather dim witted surrounding himself with even more retarded government officials whose compliance keeps him in power. The self important macho suit wearing suave patronising reporter went on to liken Xi to Stalin. The ‘analysis’ went on to assert that Xi would supply limited arms to Russia but did not want Russia to win, only to help broker a face saving deal for Russia as a country it aimed to dominate. It was asserted that both countries wanted to revert to a world order from 300 years ago because they objected to the Anglo U.S multi polar world order model (sic ).

R J Cook

Bi-bi-si govorit, chto Si TSzin’ Pin takoy zhe tolstyy, kak Stalin.

Predisloviye k sleduyushchemu: segodnyashniye novostnyye soobshcheniya britanskoy Bi-bi-si opisali Si kak dovol'no tupogo cheloveka, okruzhivshego sebya yeshche boleye otstalymi pravitel'stvennymi chinovnikami, ch'ya ustupchivost' derzhit yego u vlasti. Samovlyublennyy macho v kostyume uchtivogo pokrovitel'stvennogo reportera sravnil Si so Stalinym. Daleye v «analize» utverzhdalos', chto Si budet postavlyat' Rossii ogranichennoye kolichestvo oruzhiya, no ne khochet, chtoby Rossiya pobedila, a tol'ko dlya togo, chtoby pomoch' zaklyuchit' sdelku po spaseniyu litsa Rossii kak strany, nad kotoroy ona stremilas' dominirovat'. Utverzhdalos', chto obe strany khoteli vernut'sya k mirovomu poryadku 300-letney davnosti, potomu chto oni vozrazhali protiv anglo-amerikanskoy modeli mnogopolyarnogo mirovogo poryadka (tak v originale).

R Dzhey Kuk

Xi Putin meeting: What to expect from China-Russia talks

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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Uzbekistan in September 2022
Image caption, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping (pictured together last year) will meet for talks in Moscow this week

Chinese President Xi Jinping is embarking on his first trip to Russia since the country invaded Ukraine last year, and is set to sit down for talks with President Vladimir Putin.

Our Russia editor Steve Rosenberg and China correspondent Stephen McDonell have been considering what each side seeks to gain from the talks, and what we know about the relationship between the two countries.

Putin looking for help from a friend

Analysis box by Steve Rosenberg, Russia editor

Imagine you’re Vladimir Putin.

You’ve started a war that hasn’t gone to plan; you’re up to your eyeballs in sanctions; and now the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for war crimes with your name on it.

It’s at times like these you need a friend.

Enter Xi Jinping.

President Xi once called President Putin his “best friend”. The two have much in common: they are both authoritarian leaders, and both embrace the idea of a “multi-polar world” devoid of US domination.

In Moscow they’re expected to sign an agreement on “deepening the comprehensive partnership” between their two countries.

The Chinese president’s state visit is a clear sign of support for Russia – and its president – at a time when the Kremlin is under intense international pressure.

And Russia’s relationship with China is fundamental to withstanding that.

“Putin is building his own bloc. He doesn’t trust the West anymore – and he never will again,” believes journalist Dmitry Muratov, a former Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

“So, Putin’s looking for allies and trying to make Russia part of a common fortress with China, as well as with India, some parts of Latin America and Africa. Putin is building his anti-Western world.”

In this “anti-Western world”, Moscow is heavily reliant on Beijing – now more than ever, as the war rages in Ukraine.

“War has become the organising principle of Russian domestic politics, foreign policy and economic policy. There is an obsession with destroying Ukraine,” concludes Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“For that you need arms, money and an economic lifeline. China provides Russia with, at least, components for arms, and civilian technology that can be used for military purposes. It definitely provides money.”

To counter Western sanctions, and to shore up the Russian economy, Russia has been boosting trade with China, primarily in the energy sector. Expect oil, gas and energy pipelines to be on the agenda at the Putin-Xi talks.

But, once again, imagine you’re Putin. One year ago you and Xi proclaimed that your partnership has “no limits”. If that’s really the case, might you expect China now to help you out in Ukraine, by supplying Russia with lethal aid and facilitating a military victory for Moscow? The US claims that China is considering doing just that. Beijing denies it.

As they say in Russia, “there’s no harm wishing for something” – but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. If there’s one thing the last year has shown it is that the “no-limits partnership” does have limits. Up to this point Beijing has apparently been reluctant to provide direct military assistance to Moscow, for fear of triggering secondary sanctions in the West against Chinese companies. As far as Beijing is concerned: sorry Russia… it’s China first.

That very point was made very bluntly recently on a Russian state TV talk show.

“Ahead of President Xi’s visit to Moscow, some experts here have been overexcited, elated even,” noted military pundit Mikhail Khodarenok.

“But China can have only one ally: China itself. China can only have one set of interests: pro-Chinese ones. Chinese foreign policy is utterly devoid of altruism.”

Xi’s signals to Putin can only go three ways

Analysis box by Stephen McDonell, China correspondent

Officially Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia is to promote bilateral ties between two neighbours and certainly these governments say they are becoming ever closer.

There are agreements to be signed, meals to be had, photo opportunities to be staged.

All governments have such visits, so why all the attention on this one?

Well, for one, this is the leader of one of the world’s two great superpowers visiting an ally – who happens to be the person who has unleashed a bloody invasion of another country in Europe – in 2023.

Many analysts have pondered what China might do if it looks like Russia is facing a clear, humiliating defeat on the battlefield.

The Chinese government says it is neutral. Would it just step back and let that happen, or start pumping in weapons to give the Russian army a better edge?

After Xi arrives in Moscow, he and his Russian counterpart may speak about other things, but all the attention will be on the Ukraine crisis.

His signals to Vladimir Putin can only go three ways:

1. Time to consider pulling back with some face-saving compromise

2. Green light to keep going or even go in harder

3. Nothing either way from China’s leader

China is coming off the back of brokering a deal in which Iran and Saudi Arabia have re-established diplomatic relations. It is becoming ever more prepared to inject itself into matters way beyond its shores. This would seem to make option three unlikely.

With option one, if it involves Beijing again being able to claim the mantle of global peacemaker following the Iran-Saudi deal, this would be quite a neat feather in Xi’s cap.

The main problem with that option is the extent to which it would also benefit China.

The bleakest of options is number two, but there is a reading whereby Russia’s war with Ukraine plays into Beijing’s geopolitical strategy. The Kremlin is taking on the West, eating up Nato resources and, the longer the war goes on, the more it tests the appetite of the Western public for yet more conflict if the People’s Liberation Army should move to take Taiwan by force.

The calculation from Beijing could be that, the longer the war continues, the fewer people are going to want to get involved in another one.

The Chinese government’s claim to neutrality also does not match the state-controlled news reporting here. The evening TV bulletins run the Kremlin line and devote a huge proportion of their coverage to blaming the “the West” for the “conflict”. It doesn’t speak about a “war” and would never dream of referring to an “invasion” of Ukraine.

Publicly, China says the sovereignty of all nations should be respected (ie Ukraine’s), but so should the “legitimate security concerns” of other countries (ie Russia).

Yet it is not Kyiv where Xi Jinping is visiting. It’s Moscow.

So, when Xi leaves Moscow in a few days, Putin will either be worried about wavering Chinese support or buoyed by the backing of one of the two most powerful people on the planet.

The smart money seems to be on the latter.

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March 19th 2023

Ukraine war: Putin pays visit to occupied Mariupol, state media reports

By Laurence Peter & Samuel Horti

BBC News

Russian President Vladimir Putin has paid a surprise visit to Mariupol, a Ukrainian port captured by Russia after its forces pounded much of it to ruins.

An official video shows Mr Putin driving a car through streets at night and speaking to people. The Kremlin says it happened late on Saturday.

It is believed to be his first trip to a newly-occupied Ukrainian territory.

Mariupol’s exiled mayor told BBC News that Mr Putin was a “criminal” who had “returned to the scene of the crime”.

“He has come in person to see what he has done,” Vadym Boychenko said. “He’s come to see what he will be punished for.”

Other exiled Ukrainian city officials said Mr Putin had visited at night so he would not see the destroyed city in daylight.

Tass news agency says he travelled to Mariupol by helicopter. In the video he is in the car with Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin, who explains how the city is being rebuilt.

The Kremlin has said the decision to drive round the city was made spontaneously by the Russian leader.

Putin also visits the city’s Philharmonic Hall, which had been due to be used for trials of captured Ukrainian forces before they were released in a prisoner swap instead.

The Russian leader is also reported to have met top military commanders in Rostov-on-Don, a Russian city just east of Mariupol.

Mariupol has been under Russian occupation for more than 10 months after being devastated in one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the conflict. Ukraine says more than 20,000 people were killed there.

UN analysis estimates that 90% of the buildings were damaged and around 350,000 people were forced to leave, out of a pre-war population of about 500,000.

putin in mariupol
Image caption, Mr Putin was filmed looking at maps near residential buildings

A group of locals have told the BBC that Russia is conducting an expensive campaign to rebuild the city and win over the hearts and minds of its people. The purpose is to assimilate Mariupol and make it Russia’s own. Russian authorities say 300,000 people are now living there.

The fighting saw Russia strike a Mariupol theatre where hundreds of civilians were sheltering. The building collapsed, and at least 300 are believed to have died there.

Ukraine and human rights groups say the attack amounted to a war crime.

It is among incidents for which Mr Putin and his regime could be held legally responsible, the United Nations has said.

The International Criminal Court said on Friday it had issued a warrant for the arrest of Mr Putin over involving the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia. It means he could now be arrested if he sets foot in any of the court’s 123 member states.

On Saturday Mr Putin made an unannounced visit to Crimea, to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of the territory from Ukraine.

He visited a new Russian arts school, a children’s summer camp and future cultural projects, such as the New Russia museum and museum of Christianity, Russian state media reported.

The Kyiv authorities have vowed to liberate all Russian-occupied territories, including Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

Comment The Anglo U.S led NATO fat cat elite feel the pain of Crimea like a festering sore. They know their jingoistic masses won’t see, let alone connect, the hideous western war crimes in Latin America , Afghanistan and Middle East,, with all the power grabbing murderous regime changing shamelessy advertised as war for democracy – as with Ukraine.

BBC is supposed to the bench mark of stromg independent media in a country that uses Google to mark and block this website as unsafe , as well as blocking my RT newsfeed. A retired U.S General has commented that Ukraine cannot defeat Russia without NATO boots on the ground – an obvious trigger for nuclear conflict. Crimea, among other things, is considered a rich source of oil deposits, so well worth World War 3. R J Cook.

March 17th 2023

Inane supercilious patronising chattering classes – have no interest in justice or human rights unless it suits the cause of their self interested vainglorious pseudo liberal leftism, R J Cook.

This is a comment on the following report from the BBC. The ICC claims to be independent but never does anything the western hideously rich elite does not tell them to do. Their hypocrisy is shuddering. When it comes to dealing with western war crimes,which are abundant, the ICC is at best pusillanimous.

If this was not the case, then George Bush Senior, George Bush Junior,Tony Blair and Ukraine’s Petro Porsoshenko, and Saudi Arabia’s ruling Mafia would be top of the list. It is laughable that Dominic Raab boasts that Britain will lend a hand to ‘bring Putin to justice (sic ).’

I know from personal experience that the ruling elite- backed by the inane supercilious patronising chattering classes – have no interest in justice or human rights unless it suits the cause of their self interested vainglorious pseudo liberal leftism.

The proof of this pudding is there in the reality of how the Anglo U.S elite- with their military mad men and forked tongued lying politicians – jailed and abused the human rights of war crime whistle blowers Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange. Manning has been neutralised by the elite and their media. Julian Assange spent years in refuge at the London Ecuadorian Embassy before the U.S ,with Britain’s blessing, financed a regime change to open the doors to heavy handed London moronic cops. He is now quietly dying in a stinking dirty British jail, awaiting extradition to face a secret Kangaroo Court in the U.S.. Britain’s vile so called independent media refuse to talk about it because MI6 and wealthy media owners set the agenda.

This attack on Vladimir Putin, who was forced into this war by western treachery,treaty violation NATO expansionism so lucrative to the arms industry, and greed for Ukraine’s resources and a dumping ground for the constant influx of New Europeans, worsens every day. Trumped up war crimes by the western parasites who set fire to the Middle East in 1990 ( over oil prices and control of supply, with lies about democracy) demonstrates just how far they will go to secure regime change in Russia – before moving on to China. The explosive potential of this situation is horrendous. The recent Black Sea drone incident should have been another warning but the west has some big egos in charge. They have been ignoring Putin for the last 15 years. I don’t expect them to stop before it is way too late.

R J Cook

Arrest warrant issued for Putin over war crime allegations

No excuse to deport children to Russia, says ICC prosecutor

Vladimir Putin stands accused of being responsible for war crimes in Ukraine, including the unlawful deportation of children to Russia.

ICC prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan tells the BBC’s Anna Holligan that the deportation of children was inhumane and that Russia could have taken other measures to protect children – if that was its intention. The children’s commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova has suggested she was helping children by evacuating them from war zones.

“If there was a danger in a particular area, move them to other parts of Ukraine where that danger was not present,” he says.

“If that wasn’t possible, offer to move them to third countries.”

But this “accelerated process that seemed to have been implemented” by Moscow to give children a foreign nationality “is something that required attention, and this is what also gave additional impetus to the investigation”, he says.

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Posted at 18:5718:57

We see where the evidence leads us – ICC prosecutor

More now from the prosecutor of the ICC.

Karim Ahmad Khan tells the BBC’s Anna Holligan that “no proper prosecutor will start with a target, you start with the evidence and see where the evidence leads you”.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a head of state, in the military, or someone “low in the pecking order”, no impunity is allowed, he says.

“Individuals are responsible for their actions,” he adds.

“This type of crime, one doesn’t need to be a lawyer, one needs to be a human being to know how egregious it is,” he says, on the crimes that Vladimir Putin is accused of.

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Posted at 18:4218:42

Law will catch up with you, says legal commentator

Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERSCopyright: Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS

The ICC’s arrest warrant for Putin is “to some extent symbolic” but it does “send a message”, lawyer and legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg tells the BBC.

He says the message sent by the court is that Putin may be head of state today, but might not in future, and “at some point the law will catch up with you”.

Rozenberg goes on to say the warrant may have a diplomatic impact on other countries that have been sitting on the fence.

He also tells the BBC that we don’t know “what other arrest warrants are lined up but are sealed and haven’t been published”.

“The court thinks it’s in the interest of justice for us to know about these particular arrest warrants,” he adds.

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Posted at 18:3418:34

ICC prosecutor urges war criminals: Look at history

Those who feel they can “commit a crime in the daytime, and sleep well at night, should perhaps look at history”.

That’s the message from Karim Ahmad Khan, prosecutor of the ICC, who’s spoken to the BBC’s Anna Holligan.

Khan says no-one thought Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader who went on trial for war crimes in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, would end up in The Hague.

But he did.

So did Liberia’s Charles Taylor, who was sentenced to 50 years in jail, and Rwanda’s Félicien Kabuga, who was arrested in 2020.

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Posted at 18:2718:27

Watch: Raab vows to assist ICC with forensic and investigative support

Some more reaction to bring you from the UK government, this time from Justice Minister Dominic Raab.

He vows to assist the ICC with forensic and investigative support and says he will be meeting with counterparts from other countries in London on Monday.

Has Putin been anywhere he could now be arrested?

The ICC itself can’t arrest Vladimir Putin – that’s up to the countries that have signed an agreement with the court called the Rome Statute.

123 states have signed up – and Russia isn’t one of them. So Putin won’t be arrested or extradited from Russian territory.

But has he travelled anywhere since the war started where he could now technically be arrested?

Here’s a list of his foreign trips:

  • June: Tajikistan, Turkmenistan
  • July: Iran
  • September: Uzbekistan
  • October: Kazakhstan
  • November: Armenia
  • December: Kyrgyzstan, Belarus

Of these, only Tajikistan is party to the statute


But it’s also worth mentioning that all of the places he’s been – apart from Iran – are either full or associate members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a post-Soviet group dominated by Russia.

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Posted at 18:1118:11

ICC uses very specific offence to directly accuse Putin

Dominic Casciani

Legal Correspondent

The ICC has the power to charge political leaders with “waging aggressive war” – meaning an unjustified invasion not undertaken in self-defence.

But Russia is not a signatory to the court so that’s not a route open to its prosecutors. Russia would also use its veto, as it has already done in relation to Ukraine

, to stop any attempts at the UN Security Council to grant the ICC new powers in relation to that offence.

So some war crime experts had been calling for world leaders to launch an Ukraine war crimes tribunal as another means of charging Russia’s leaders.

They argued that no other crime but waging aggressive war could be pinned on Putin – meaning the only people who could ever theoretically face court would be his generals and foot soldiers.

But the ICC appears to have found a way around this justice gap by dusting off the very specific offence of deporting children.

The fact that Russia is not a party to the ICC still means Putin won’t be extradited anytime soon but the arrest warrant could leave the president marooned in his own country – unless he wants to voluntarily surrender to The Hague.

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Posted at 18:0018:00

Warrants are a wake-up call – Human Rights Watch

Nada Tawfik

reporting from New York

Some reaction to bring you now from Balkees Jarrah who is the associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch.

He tells me: “This is a big day for the many victims of crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine since 2014.

“With these arrest warrants, the ICC has made Putin a wanted man and taken its first step to end the impunity that has emboldened perpetrators in Russia’s war against Ukraine for far too long.

“The warrants send a clear message that giving orders to commit or tolerating serious crimes against civilians may lead to a prison cell in The Hague.

Quote Message: The court’s warrants are a wake-up call to others committing abuses or covering them up that their day in court may be coming, regardless of their rank or position.” from Balkees Jarrah

The court’s warrants are a wake-up call to others committing abuses or covering them up that their day in court may be coming, regardless of their rank or position.”Balkees Jarrah

What does the International Criminal Court do?

ICCCopyright: ICC

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has been part of the global justice system since 2002, but its concentration on African issues has led to accusations of bias.

The Rome Statute which established the court has been ratified by 123 countries, but the US is a notable absence, along with China, India and Russia.

What is the court designed to do?

To prosecute and bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The court has global jurisdiction.

It is a court of last resort, intervening only when national authorities cannot or will not prosecute.


  1. The International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for alleged war crimes in Ukraine
  2. The court accuses him of being responsible for forcibly deporting children from Ukraine to Russia after the invasion last year
  3. ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan says children “can’t be treated as spoils of war” and that it’s possible Putin could stand trial
  4. Russia, which does not recognise the ICC’s jurisdiction, denies its forces have committed atrocities in Ukraine
  5. Putin’s spokesman called the decision “outrageous and unacceptable” while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed it as “historic”
  6. A warrant has also been issued for Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights

BBC Analysis

Frank Gardner

BBC News, Security Correspondent

So are we about to see a penitent Vladimir Putin sitting in the dock in The Hague?

Not a chance, much as Ukraine and its friends would relish that.

Russia, like the US, is not a party to the ICC, which can only prosecute those held in countries in its jurisdiction.

Under present conditions it is unimaginable that Russia would hand over either its president or his Commissioner for Children’s Rights to face justice.

But legally, this move still presents Putin with a problem.

He may be the head of a G20 state and about to shake hands with another world leader, China’s Xi Jinping, but he is now a wanted man and this will inevitably place restrictions on which countries he now visits.

March 14th 2023

Aukus deal: Summit was projection of power and collaborative intent.

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, US President Joe Biden and United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hold a press conference at the Naval Base Point Miramar in San Diego, California, USA
Image caption, This was an occasion when old democracies came together to counter a new and growing adversary – China

By Chris Mason

political editor, travelling with prime minister

This was a projection of power and collaborative intent in images and words.

Under warm early spring sunshine the message was clear.

The imagery and words working in unison: old democracies coming together to counter a new and growing adversary – China.

The submarines deal will create thousands of jobs in Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, in Derby and elsewhere.

And while any political agreement can be unpicked by successors, the budgets, decades-long timelines and near inevitability of China’s strategic importance suggest this is an alliance that could last.

The trip rounds off an intense blast of international diplomacy for Rishi Sunak, after Friday’s dash to Paris.

The prime minister’s team appear happy with how it went, although being described in public by US President Joe Biden as a man who “has a home here in California” is not an element of his biography they would seek to put up in lights.

He faced questions too on this trip – not least from me – about a story in The Guardian he doesn’t deny, that the electricity grid in his corner of North Yorkshire had to be upgraded, at his own expense, to provide the power needed to heat his private swimming pool.

There is no suggestion of any scandal. It is, instead, a further illustration of his vast wealth. It is for you to decide whether this matters one iota, or not.

Some of his political opponents seek to use it to suggest a detachment from the day-to-day worries of millions of families. Others are squeamish about sounding envious or anti-aspiration.

This trip also taught us about some future moments to look ahead to. One firmly in the diary. The other almost firmly in the diary.

“It’s my intention to go to Northern Ireland and the [Irish] Republic”, said President Biden, referring to the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in April.

It’s thought he will formally confirm his plans on St Patrick’s Day, when many of Northern Ireland’s politicians will be in Washington.

And talking of Washington, the prime minister will head there in June.

This trip to California was Rishi Sunak’s first to the US as prime minister, but its focus was narrow, on defence. The aim of the visit in the summer would be to discuss a far wider range of issues.

Now, as I type these words on the flight back from San Diego, attention turns back to the domestic fray – and Wednesday’s Budget.

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March 13th 2023

In A Few Years, The Russian Army Could Run Out Of Tanks. What Happens Then?

It’s a matter of intensive debate just how many recoverable tanks Russia has in storage. Novaya Gazeta estimated there are 8,000 “preserved” tanks. But one open-source analyst counted 10,000 T-72s, T-80 and T-90s in the war reserve.17 Feb 2023

David Axe

Forbes Staff

I write about ships, planes, tanks, drones, missiles and satellites.


Feb 17, 2023,04:12pm EST

Russian president Vladimir Putin visits Uralvagonzavod in 2015.
Russian president Vladimir Putin visits Uralvagonzavod in 2015.Wikimedia Commons

Two or three years. That’s how long the Russian army might have before it runs out of tanks, according to one estimate.

And that’s why it’s not inconceivable that, in the near future, Moscow might do what Kyiv has done—and ask its foreign allies for their tanks.

Russia widened its war in Ukraine with a front-line force of around 2,500 T-90, T-80 and T-72 tanks. In a year of hard fighting, it has lost no fewer than 1,600 of them.

The Kremlin has ordered tank-makers Uralvagonzavod and Omsktransmash to make good those losses, but there are limits to what they can accomplish.

The companies at present lack the capacity and components for large-scale production of new tanks. And there are only so many old tanks in long-term storage that the firms economically can recover and restore for front-line use.

Uralvagonzavod in Sverdlovsk Oblast, in southeast Russia, builds new T-72B3 and T-90M tanks, but slowly. According to Novaya Gazeta, the Russian defense industry currently produces no more than 250 new tanks a year.

But at the present rate of loss, just maintaining the armor corps’ fighting strength requires Russia annually to come up with 1,600 tanks. Barring a once-in-a-generation expansion of Russia’s industrial capacity, production constraints mean 1,350 of those “new” tanks must come from reserve stocks.

It’s a matter of intensive debate just how many recoverable tanks Russia has in storage. Novaya Gazeta estimated there are 8,000 “preserved” tanks. But one open-source analyst counted 10,000 T-72s, T-80 and T-90s in the war reserve.

The problem is, most of those tanks are lined up tread-to-tread in outdoor parks, where they’ve been exposed to rain and cycles of cold and hot that have rusted metal, rotted rubber and degraded sensitive optics.

The open-source analyst assumed just a third of the 6,900 stored T-72s are recoverable. Maybe half the 3,000 T-80s realistically can be restored. There also are a couple hundred new-ish T-90s in storage, most of which should be in reasonably good condition.

So in fact, Russia might have as few as 3,800 repairable tanks in reserve. A Russian source told Novaya Gazeta that Uralvagonzavod and Siberia-based Omsktransmash can restore 600 old tanks a year on top of the 250 new T-72s and T-90s Uralvagonzavod can build.

Do the math. Russia went to war with 2,500 tanks, lost 1,600 in the first year and, over the same span of time, might have built or repaired around 850.

Russian industry in the last year or so also patched up a few hundred 1970s-vintage T-62s, but these tanks clearly were an expedient—and have made exactly one notable contribution to the war effort: providing Ukraine with captured hulls its technicians can modify into engineering vehicles.

The gap, between Russian tank losses and the production or restoration of fresh tanks, isn’t insurmountable. The less effort Uralvagonzavod and Omsktransmash put into “upgrading” an old war-reserve tank, the faster they can provide that same tank to a front-line brigade.

Standards visibly are slipping. Just a couple of years ago, Russian industry equipped new tanks with the latest Sosna-U digital day-night sight—a reasonably modern set of optics that should allow a tank crew to identify an enemy vehicle from two or three miles away under the right conditions.

But the Sosna-U appears to include cloned or illegally-sourced European components. It’s a bottleneck in Russian tank production. Nearly-complete tanks could wait around for years for production of sights to catch up to production of hulls.

So Uralvagonzavod and Omsktransmash have begin delivering reconditioned, war-reserve T-72s and T-80s with the low-tech 1PN96MT-02 analog thermal sight substituting for the Sosna-U.

The 1PN96MT-02 would have been state-of-the-art … in the 1970s. Compared to the Sosna-U, it cuts in half the range at which a tank crew can identify an enemy vehicle.

Uralvagonzavod and Omsktransmash could speed up tank deliveries in order to keep pace with losses—but at a capability cost, and not for long. As the companies recover from storage the last intact T-72 and T-80 hulls, Russia could have just four options. None of them good.

It could dip back into its stocks of 50-year-old T-62s. But T-62s tend to get captured or destroyed nearly as fast as they arrive at the front, so the museum-quality tank is less a solution to Russia’s tank problem than the appearance of a solution.

Alternatively, the Kremlin could invest billions of dollars in a risky bid to expand new tank production.

But every dollar the government spends on Uralvagonzavod and Omsktransmash is a dollar it can’t spend on, say, artillery shells, cruise missiles or fighter jets. Russia’s military needs are wide-ranging and deepening as the war grinds on. Tanks aren’t the only priority.

There’s a theoretical third option—one that has been inconceivable in Russia since the darkest days of World War II. Russia could import tanks the same way it now imports drones, shells and rockets. It just so happens that North Korea and Iran both produce heavily-modified versions of the T-72.

The fourth option of course is to de-armor the army—and equip fewer brigades with fewer tanks. But that would require the Kremlin to rewrite decades-old doctrine so that its suddenly tank-less forces have some guide for how to fight.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that doctrinal flexibility isn’t exactly a Russian strength. If intellectual reform is the alternative, a Russian general might prefer to send his troops into battle in North Korean tanks.

Comment This is typical patronising western propoganda. NATO planned this proxy war on Russia with Poroshenko et al in 2008. If their docile ignorant football obsessed masses had any idea of what war in Ukraine is about,what it is doing and leading to, they would go mad. R J Cook

How the search for Iraq’s secret weapons fell apart

Protest against the Iraq War, August 2003 - protestor holds aloft card reading "B.Liar"

By Gordon Corera

Security correspondent, BBC News

Twenty years after the invasion of Iraq, controversy still rages over the existence of the “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs) which provided the UK’s justification for taking part. New details about the search for WMDs have emerged as part of a BBC series, Shock and War: Iraq 20 years on, based on conversations with dozens of people directly involved.

“Crikey.” That was the one-word reaction from a senior MI6 officer when told by a colleague in late 2001 that the Americans were serious about war in Iraq.

CIA officers also recall the shock of British counterparts. “I thought they would have a heart attack right there at the table,” recalls Luis Rueda, head of the CIA’s Iraq Operations Group. “If they weren’t gentlemen, they would have reached across the table and slapped me.”

The message soon reached Downing Street. It would be spies rather than diplomats who would deliver it.

“I was probably the first to say to the prime minister, ‘Whether you like it or not, get your ducks in a row because it looks as though they’re building up to an invasion,” the then-head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, and a frequent visitor to Washington, tells the BBC in a rare interview.

MI6 – the UK’s foreign intelligence service – was about to become deeply embroiled in one of the most controversial and consequential episodes in its history.

For the US, the issue of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), were secondary to a deeper drive to overthrow the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein. “We would have invaded Iraq if Saddam Hussein had a rubber band and a paperclip,” says Mr Rueda. “We would have said, ‘Oh, he will take your eye out.'”

Ukraine war: Heavy losses reported as battle for Bakhmut rages

Ukrainian servicemen on a BMP-2 tank drive towards Bakhmut on 11 March
Image caption, Ukrainian servicemen travel towards Bakhmut on Saturday

By George Wright

BBC News

Ukraine and Russia have reported inflicting heavy losses as the battle for Bakhmut rages on.

Moscow has been trying to take the eastern Ukrainian city for months in a grinding war of attrition.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces had suffered more than 1,100 deaths in the past few days, with many more seriously injured.

Russia said it had killed more than 220 Ukrainian service members over the past 24 hours.

The BBC is unable to verify the numbers given by either side.

Analysts say Bakhmut has little strategic value, but has become a focal point for Russian commanders who have struggled to deliver any positive news to the Kremlin.

Capture of the city would bring Russia slightly closer to its goal of controlling the whole of Donetsk region, one of four regions in eastern and southern Ukraine annexed by Russia last September following referendums widely condemned outside Russia as a sham.

“In less than a week, starting from 6 March, we managed to kill more than 1,100 enemy soldiers in the Bakhmut sector alone, Russia’s irreversible loss, right there, near Bakhmut,” Mr Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

He added that 1,500 Russian soldiers were wounded badly enough to keep them out of further action.

Russia’s defence ministry said Russian forces had killed “more than 220 Ukrainian servicemen”.

The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Col Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi, said the Russian mercenary Wagner Group was attacking his troops from several directions in a bid to break through defences and advance to the central districts of the town.

The paramilitary organisation is at the heart of the Russian assault on Bakhmut. Its leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has staked his reputation, and that of his private army, on seizing Bakhmut.

He said on Sunday that the situation in the city was “difficult, very difficult, the enemy is fighting for every metre”.

“And the closer to the city centre, the fiercer the fighting,” he said in a voice recording published on Telegram.

After his envisioned capture of Bakhmut, “we will begin to reboot” and “will start recruiting new people from the regions”, he said.

And on Saturday, the Institute for the Study of War – a US think tank – reported that Moscow’s offence was stalling.

“Wagner Group fighters are likely becoming increasingly pinned in urban areas… and are therefore finding it difficult to make significant advances,” it said.

There were about 70,000 people living in Bakhmut before the invasion, but only a few thousand remain. The city was once best known for its salt and gypsum mines and huge winery.

Like Russia, Ukraine has also given Bakhmut political significance, with President Zelensky making the city an emblem of resistance.

When he visited Washington in December, he called it “the fortress of our morale” and gave a Bakhmut flag to the US Congress.

Western officials estimate between 20,000 and 30,000 Russian troops have been killed or injured so far in and around Bakhmut.

March 12th 2023

The toxic legacy of the Ukraine war

It has been one year since the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine. The war has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced millions and caused widespread environmental damage. A preliminary monitoring of the conflict in Ukraine undertaken last year by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners points to a toxic legacy for generations to come.

The full range and severity of consequences will require verification and assessment, although thousands of possible incidents of air, water and land pollution and the degradation of ecosystems, including risks to neighbouring countries, have already been identified.

UNEP, the environment authority within the UN system, is supporting the Government of Ukraine on remote environmental impact monitoring and is preparing to undertake field-level impact assessments – expected to be a colossal task given the scale and geographical spread of reported incidents.

Support to disaster- and conflict-affected Member States and regions is core to UNEP’s mandate of delivering technical assistance and environmental governance support that keeps the state of the world’s environment under constant review.

Over the past twenty years, UNEP has conducted multiple conflict-related impact assessments, including in Afghanistan, Colombia, DR Congo, Kosovo and the Western Balkans, Iraq, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territories, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.

The organization conducted an initial scoping visit to Ukraine in 2022, in support of the UN Resident Coordinator and at the request of Ukrainian authorities and is mobilizing more support to help assess the broad range of environmental impacts.

“The mapping and initial screening of environmental hazards only serves to confirm that war is quite literally toxic,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen. “The first priority is for this senseless destruction to end now. The environment is about people: it’s about livelihoods, public health, clean air and water, and basic food systems. It’s about a safe future for Ukrainians and their neighbours, and further damage must not be done.”

“Ukraine will then need huge international support to assess, mitigate and remediate the damage across the country, and alleviate risks to the wider region,” she added.

“Millions of displaced Ukrainians need a safe and healthy environment to come home to if they are expected to be able to pick up their lives. As soon as the fighting ends, and it must end soon, a colossal clean-up operation must be supported,” said Lubrani, the UN’s Resident Coordinator in Ukraine.

According to UNEP and partner data, the conflict has seen damage across many regions of the country, with incidents at nuclear power plants and facilities, energy infrastructure, including oil storage tankers, oil refineries, drilling platforms and gas facilities and distribution pipelines, mines and industrial sites and agro-processing facilities.

The result has been multiple air pollution incidents and potentially serious contamination of ground and surface waters.

Water infrastructure, including pumping stations, purification plants and sewage facilities, has also suffered significant damage, and multiple industrial facilities, warehouses and factories have been damaged, some storing a range of hazardous substances ranging from solvents to ammonia and plastics.

Hazardous substances have also been released from explosions in agro-industrial storage facilities, including fertilizer and nitric acid plants. There are also reports of the targeting of several large livestock farms, where livestock carcasses pose a further public health risk.

In many urban areas the clean-up of destroyed housing will bring its own challenges, with debris likely to be mixed with hazardous materials, particularly asbestos. Satellite imagery has also shown a significant increase of fires in various nature reserves and protected areas, as well as forested areas.

Furthermore, pollution from the extensive use of weapons including in populated areas and the large volumes of military waste, including destroyed military vehicles, creates a major clean-up challenge.

March 11th 2023

If I Was A Patriot – by R.J Cook

Watching England’s Rugby UnionTeam beaten at home by France 53 to 10 was a pleasure.One hopes for a similar disaster against France. A male friend recently asked me if I was a patriot. I said I would be if I could find anything about England, or Britain for that matter, to be patriotic about.

Victorious France

I recall, as a deluded youth, joining the Air Training Corps, sort of RAF kindergarten. We paraded, did rifle drill and had flying lessons in Chipmunk trainers. I read comics and watched 1950s films where the images were as black and white as the messages about Britain’s righteous wartime heroics..

Britain has always excelled at propogada which is why they are cheer leaders for the proxy war on Russia in the name of Porsoshenko’s super corrupt Ukraine – a perfect mate for Britain. The cost of supporting this war is presented to the gullible masses as a cost of living crisis.

Britain’s elite, in bred with their upstart better organised German rival Imperial elite, wanted European war in 1914, playing French ‘revanche’ for 1870-1 to get it. In the process they got the 1917 Russian Revolution and have feared Russia ever since. That is why they conspired to assassinate intellectual Lenin and have him replaced by brutal moron Stalin. The object of the exercise was to discredit communism.

While the global rich retrenched during the inter war years, Karl Marx’s ‘spectre of communism haunting Europe’ loomed large, even scaring the United States’ fat cats. Hitler and the Nazis were seen as a bulwark aganst communism until it became clear that Hitler and company believed their own lies. Hitler deceived Russia while expecting an alliance with fellow U.K Fascists.

The rest is history as they say ,so here we are again, the British elite and the U.S playing the vain EU megolomanacs and NATO war mongers. Still one hopes that France and Germany will see the danger before it is too late.

State Asset stripper Petro Porsoshenko,Ukraine’s fifth post Soviet President ,2014 -19, has admitted lying on NATO’s behalf about Ukraine neutrality ,with the 2008 Minsk Treaty to buy time for an arms build up,leading to lucrative NATO and EU membership. Meanwhile the U.K’s MI6 had been busy buying traitors like Skirpal to subvert Russia’s last vestiges of national identity, cultural independence and socialism.

Ukraine has to be opened up to global capitalism, and living space for African migrants. The current massive war damage is a bonus for U.S dominated construction companies. It makes a mockery of pandering to climate change. Recent strange summer and winter should ring alarm bells.

So what has this to do with the rugby ? Shutting Russia out of international sport on the grounds of drug abuse when all seriously competitive nations including U.K do this, was crucial to making Russia look evil and corrupt. Sport is religion and religion has always been politics as with Judaism, the Roman perversion of Christianity and the Muslim rip off of the bible -or offshoot if you want to be polite.

Defeated England Rugby Captain,Ellis Genge, Six Nations Twickenham March 11th 2023. Like the national football side, teams are chosen with diversity in mind. England,like the rest of U.K, has problems with political correctness and masculinity. Every player in the England team was seriously lacking. Ironicsally France is coached by an Englishman. RJ Cook

Since the U.K are the leading war mongers and U.S front men over Ukraine, an England rugby defeat of France would have been used to pump up its’ media and politicians into even more strident lunacy leading us off the cliff. The type of English public school boys and girls of Mi6 don’t see that the Russian viewpoint is wider than aged Putin’s – and Russia is much bigger than Moscow. Russia is not Iraq. Russia is not alone. The U.K should be because it is run by very dangerous spoiled greedy self obsessed hedonistic hypocritical amoral conceited arrogant morons whose only interest in Europe is what they can get out of it.

With all of this in mind and what corrupt police state Britain has done to my son and I, there is no reason for me to be a patriot or to salute the hypocrit adulterer King Charles III ,who famously expressed a desire to be the TAMPAX of his fomer lover, now wife ,Queen Consort and champion of oppressed women everywhere. R J Cook

March 10th 2023

Feds: Proud Boys deployed foot soldiers in sedition plot

FILE - Rioters wave flags on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. Federal prosecutors are employing an unusual strategy to prove leaders of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group orchestrated a violent plot to keep President Joe Biden out of the White House, even though some of the defendants didn't carry out the violence themselves. AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

FILE – Rioters wave flags on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. Federal prosecutors are employing an unusual strategy to prove leaders of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group orchestrated a violent plot to keep President Joe Biden out of the White House, even though some of the defendants didn’t carry out the violence themselves. AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors are employing an unusual strategy to prove leaders of the far-right Proud Boys extremist group orchestrated a violent plot to keep President Joe Biden out of the White House, even though some of the defendants didn’t carry out the violence themselves.

As they wrap up their seditious conspiracy case, prosecutors are arguing that Proud Boys chief Enrique Tarrio and other leaders of the group handpicked and mobilized a loyal group of foot soldiers — or “tools” — to supply the force necessary to carry out their plot to stop the transfer of power from Donald Trump to President Joe Biden after the 2020 election.

These “tools” helped Proud Boys leaders overwhelm police, breach barricades, force the evacuation of the House and Senate chambers and disrupt the certification of Biden’s victory, prosecutors allege.

Defense attorneys have dismissed the “tools” theory as a novel, flawed concept with no legal foundation. They argue that the Justice Department is trying to unfairly hold their clients responsible for the violent actions of others in the crowd of Trump supporters. Tarrio, for example, wasn’t even in Washington on Jan. 6.


The seditious conspiracy trial, which started nearly two months ago, is one of the most serious cases to emerge from the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and comes as some conservatives continue to try to downplay the riot and push false narratives about what happened that day. Tarrio, who led the neofacist group as it became a force in mainstream Republican circles, is among the highest-profile defendants to stand trial yet and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of seditious conspiracy.

March 9th 2023

Balance Of Power According To Bloomberg

Signs of President Vladimir Putin’s waning power in what the Kremlin calls its “near abroad” of former Soviet republics are visible all around Russia’s borders.Georgia offers the latest evidence after the ruling party today abandoned controversial “foreign agents” legislation that had triggered two nights of violent clashes between police and protesters.Key reading:Georgia Drops ‘Foreign Agent’ Law After Night of Violent Clashes Five Dead After Azerbaijan, Armenia Clash in Disputed Region US Closely Eyes Sanctions Evasion in Central Asia, Blinken Says Moldovan Leader Accuses Russia of Ouster Plot in Security Push Putin’s War in Ukraine Pushes Ex-Soviet States Toward New AlliesFor two decades, Georgia has worked to detach itself from Russia’s orbit, drawing closer to the European Union and NATO.The EU and the US told the government in Tbilisi in unusually blunt terms that relations would be harmed by legislation they warned had much in common with one that Putin has used to silence civil society in Russia.That together with the protests was enough to force a climbdown for a government that had no wish to be left out in the cold with Moscow again.While Ukraine continues to battle Russia’s invasion, the president of neighboring Moldova last month called out what she said was a Russian plot to destabilize her tiny republic and turned to Europe for support.Elsewhere, it is the EU and the US that have been driving recent negotiations to try to reach a final peace agreement between Georgia’s Caucasus neighbors. That is a change from a few years ago, when Putin brokered a truce deal that halted a 2020 war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.Russia worked for years to reduce US influence in central Asia after ties intensified during American military operations in Afghanistan. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s summit talks with five central Asian republics during a visit to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan last month was an assertion of American interest in Moscow’s former backyard.The shock of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted nations across the ex-Soviet empire to strengthen US and EU ties.The legacy of the war may be that more than 31 years after the Soviet Union was formally dissolved, much to Putin’s chagrin, Moscow’s influence as “the center” finally collapses.
WATCH: Georgian authorities in Tbilisi detained dozens of protesters. Click here to listen to our weekly global politics Twitter Space conversation on the political and economic turmoil hitting emerging market nations from Nigeria to Pakistan. And if you are enjoying this newsletter, sign up here.
Global Headlines
New salvo | Russia launched a devastating bombardment across Ukraine, killing at least five people and casting hundreds of thousands more into sporadic blackouts with a mix of weapons that mostly evaded air defenses. At the same time, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for reinforcements to defend the city of Bakhmut, to prevent Moscow from gaining an “open road” to capture more territory in the eastern Donbas region.The Kremlin’s cyberwar against Ukraine began with a bang, but like the conflict on the ground, it has fizzled, failing to produce the full-blown digital chaos that many predicted.Tax hike | US President Joe Biden is proposing a series of tax increases on billionaires, rich investors and corporations as part of his budget request set to be released today. But the proposal has little chance of passing Congress, particularly now that Republicans control the House of Representatives.Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will meet with Iowa Republican legislators in Des Moines tomorrow amid rising expectations that he will run for president in 2024, sources say. Coming Soon: Understand power in Washington through the lens of business, government and the economy. Find out how the worlds of money and politics intersect in the US capital. Sign up now for the new Bloomberg Washington Edition newsletter, delivered Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Egypt has come almost full circle in winning back and then losing the confidence of bond investors just over two months after sealing a deal with the International Monetary Fund. Credit-default swaps, used to insure against non-payment of debt, have risen by the most worldwide after Ecuador in the past month and signs of distress are flashing in the bond market again.Diminished role | For decades, China’s premiers were towering figures in Beijing. When Li Qiang, 63, ascends to the job this weekend, he’ll inherit a position greatly reduced in both political stature and direct authority. Perhaps no other office has lost as much under President Xi Jinping’s efforts to consolidate power than the premier, who officially leads China’s cabinet.Shares in Chinese suppliers of materials for semiconductors surged after unsubstantiated reports of impending Japanese export curbs circulated on social media, underscoring the nervousness surrounding US efforts to isolate Beijing’s chip industry. A Chinese city will use lockdowns and school and business closures as part of its plan to contain influenza outbreaks, sparking concern among citizens about a return to the country’s economically crippling Covid-19 restrictions.
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New Delhi Is Already Back to Its Bad Old Ways: Ruth Pollard Hong Kong’s New Normal Isn’t Fooling Anyone: Matthew Brooker Why Block TikTok When You Can Put It on Probation?: Minxin PeiHitting the buffers | What’s left of Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s progessive agenda has been thrown into doubt after the government’s landmark overhaul of the tax system was unexpectedly defeated in parliament yesterday. Coming six months after voters rejected a new constitution that looked to enshrine a series of social rights — and after just a year in office — questions are now being asked about Boric’s political acumen, and of his administration’s ability to push through any kind of meaningful reforms.Boric speaks during his inauguration ceremony in Santiago on March 11, 2022. Photographer: Cristobal Olivares/Bloomberg
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Ukraine war: Russian air strikes hit cities across country

Related Topics

Emergency workers at the site of a Russian missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 9 March, 2023
Image caption, Emergency workers attended burning cars damaged by the Russian missile strikes in Kyiv

By Emily McGarvey & Marita Moloney

BBC News

Russia has launched missiles at targets across Ukraine, from Kharkiv in the north to Odesa in the south and Zhytomyr in the west.

Buildings and infrastructure were hit in Kharkiv and Odesa, with power blackouts in several areas. Attacks on the capital Kyiv are also reported.

The electrical power supply at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has also been lost.

It comes as bitter fighting continues for the eastern city of Bakhmut.

Emergency services in Kyiv are at the scenes of blasts in western and southern districts of the capital where the mayor, Vitaly Klitschko, said explosions had taken place.

Mr Klitschko said cars were burning in the courtyard of one residential building and he urged people to stay in shelters.

A mass missile attack struck an energy facility in the port city of Odesa, triggering power cuts, its governor Maksym Marchenko said. Residential areas were also hit but no casualties were reported, he added.

“About 15” strikes hit Kharkiv city and region, with “critical infrastructure facilities” and a residential building targeted, regional administration chief Oleg Synegubov said.

In western Ukraine, at least four people were killed in Lviv after a rocket hit their home, the region’s governor Maksym Kozytskyi said on Telegram.

One person has died and two others were injured following drone and missile strikes in the Dnipropetrovsk region, according to governor Serhii Lysak.

Emergency workers extinguish fire in vehicles at the site of a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 9, 2023
Image caption, The aftermath of missile attacks on Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv

Nuclear energy operator Energoatom said a strike at the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is Europe’s largest, meant the “last link” between the facility and the Ukrainian power system was cut off.

Russia-installed officials in the Moscow-controlled part of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region said the halt in electricity supplies to the power station from Ukrainian-held territory was “a provocation”.

Other regions hit include Vynnytsia and Rivne in the west, and Dnipro and Poltava in the centre of the country.

The attacks mark the biggest day of Russian missile strikes on Ukraine since the end of January, when 11 people died after dozens of buildings were struck in several regions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion just over a year ago. Since then tens of thousands of combatants and civilians have been killed or injured and millions of Ukrainians became refugees.

The US Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, suggested on Wednesday that President Putin might be planning to drag out the war for years but that Russia was not strong enough to launch major new offensives this year.

She said the war in Ukraine had become a “grinding attritional war in which neither side has a definitive military advantage”.

“We do not foresee the Russian military recovering enough this year to make major territorial gains, but Putin most likely calculates the time works in his favour, and that prolonging the war including with potential pauses in the fighting may be his best remaining pathway to eventually securing Russia’s strategic interests in Ukraine, even if it takes years,” she said.

Ms Haines said Russia might turn to defending the territories it now occupies, adding that it would need additional “mandatory mobilization and third-party ammunition sources” to sustain even its level of operations in Ukraine.

Read More https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-64897888

March 8th 2023

Asylum requests soared in the EU last year. Applications neared 1 million, a level that hasn’t been recorded since the 2015 migrant crisis.
Toyota and Honda hiked wages. The Japanese carmakers agreed to raise pay by an amount not seen in at least two decades, putting the pressure on other large companies to do the same.
Russia and China flaunted their ties. The Chinese Communist Party’s foreign policy leader Wang Yi traveled to Moscow to meet with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov, while US president Joe Biden met with European leaders in Poland.
Apple neared a healthcare breakthrough. The iPhone maker is inching closer to getting its Apple Watch to read blood sugar levels without a prick.
South Korea beat its own record for world’s lowest birth rate. The country has spent more than $200 billion over the past 16 years to address its declining population, to no avail.
Drought trends look grim in the Horn of Africa. Sparse rainfall is making projections worse than they were during the 2011 famine, which killed hundreds of thousands of people.
British lawmakers accused tax authorities in India of intimidation. BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai have been under investigation after a documentary that was critical of prime minister Narendra Modi aired.
Baidu’s Ernie Bot is coming in March. Yes, the Chinese search giant has a ChatGPT rival, and yes, it has the best name so far.
What to watch for
Photo: Reuters (POOL)
Leaders of the G7 nations will hold an online meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday (Feb. 24) in a show of solidarity with the country as it marks one year since Russia invaded.
Zelenskyy is likely to ask for more military equipment, such as fighter jets. It’s an ongoing demand that has been dominating talks with foreign heads of state as Ukraine’s military leaders worry that Russia will launch a major new offensive on the anniversary date.
US president Joe Biden agreed to send tanks to Ukraine last month, but not fighter jets—a position held by other allies such as the UK. In both countries, however, there are growing calls to meet Ukraine’s demand.
At a grassroots level, Ukrainians abroad have organized rallies in 38 countries over Feb. 24-25 to demonstrate continuing support as the war enters its second year.
Charting the US labor movement
You know how the saying goes: United we bargain, divided we beg. US workers seem to be taking the phrase to heart these days. With the rise of labor power during the pandemic, pro-union sentiment in the US has reached record highs, and new data reflects how this changing attitude has translated into action.
A report released on Feb. 21 from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations finds that worker stoppages swelled from 2021 to 2022.
Here’s how the numbers stack up.
Graphic: (Julia Malleck)

March 7th 2023

Asylum requests soared in the EU last year. Applications neared 1 million, a level that hasn’t been recorded since the 2015 migrant crisis.
Toyota and Honda hiked wages. The Japanese carmakers agreed to raise pay by an amount not seen in at least two decades, putting the pressure on other large companies to do the same.
Russia and China flaunted their ties. The Chinese Communist Party’s foreign policy leader Wang Yi traveled to Moscow to meet with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov, while US president Joe Biden met with European leaders in Poland.
Apple neared a healthcare breakthrough. The iPhone maker is inching closer to getting its Apple Watch to read blood sugar levels without a prick.
South Korea beat its own record for world’s lowest birth rate. The country has spent more than $200 billion over the past 16 years to address its declining population, to no avail.
Drought trends look grim in the Horn of Africa. Sparse rainfall is making projections worse than they were during the 2011 famine, which killed hundreds of thousands of people.
British lawmakers accused tax authorities in India of intimidation. BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai have been under investigation after a documentary that was critical of prime minister Narendra Modi aired.
Baidu’s Ernie Bot is coming in March. Yes, the Chinese search giant has a ChatGPT rival, and yes, it has the best name so far.
What to watch for
Photo: Reuters (POOL)
Leaders of the G7 nations will hold an online meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday (Feb. 24) in a show of solidarity with the country as it marks one year since Russia invaded.
Zelenskyy is likely to ask for more military equipment, such as fighter jets. It’s an ongoing demand that has been dominating talks with foreign heads of state as Ukraine’s military leaders worry that Russia will launch a major new offensive on the anniversary date.
US president Joe Biden agreed to send tanks to Ukraine last month, but not fighter jets—a position held by other allies such as the UK. In both countries, however, there are growing calls to meet Ukraine’s demand.
At a grassroots level, Ukrainians abroad have organized rallies in 38 countries over Feb. 24-25 to demonstrate continuing support as the war enters its second year.
Charting the US labor movement
You know how the saying goes: United we bargain, divided we beg. US workers seem to be taking the phrase to heart these days. With the rise of labor power during the pandemic, pro-union sentiment in the US has reached record highs, and new data reflects how this changing attitude has translated into action.
A report released on Feb. 21 from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations finds that worker stoppages swelled from 2021 to 2022.
Here’s how the numbers stack up.
Graphic: (Julia Malleck)
We’ve got two other charts for you, breaking down the top industries that are organizing labor actions, and the biggest demands from workers in 2022. Roll up your sleeves, this data is worth digging into.

Asylum requests soared in the EU last year. Applications neared 1 million, a level that hasn’t been recorded since the 2015 migrant crisis.

Police Computer Hacking Powers and Civil Liberties

By: Garry Crystal – Updated: 8 Jan 2021|comments*Discuss

Hacking Personal Computer Powers Privacy

The view that Britain has become a surveillance society has been reinforced by the computer hacking powers granted to the police. The police are now able to hack into personal computers without the need for a court warrant.

Police Powers and Remote Searching

The UK police has now been given the power to hack into private computers without the need for permission from the courts. This new power utilises remote searching to access personal computers and obtain private information. Civil liberty groups are calling these new powers a breach of privacy rights. The new police hacking powers have been quietly rolled out across Britain without much publicity. The police claim that this type of surveillance is a necessity when it comes to tracking criminal activity on the internet.

Diversity of Police Hacking Powers

There are a number of ways that the police can hack into a personal computer without the user’s knowledge. Remote searching means that the police can hack into the user’s computer from another location. This is achieved by sending a virus to the suspect’s computer in an email. The police would then be able to view the suspects emails and browsing habits. Key logging is another form of hacking that sends back details of each keyboard key used by the suspect and can be used to obtain passwords. Wireless networking can be used to hack into a suspect’s computer and monitor their online activities and search hard drives.

Police Computer Hacking and Court Warrants

Civil liberties groups such as Liberty are claiming that this type of police power should be backed up by a court warrant. Police do not need a court warrant to hack into a member of the public’s personal computer. The only permission that is required is the approval of a Chief Constable. The Chief Constable must be satisfied that the act of hacking into a personal computer is in proportion with the crime that is being investigated. According to Liberty, the act of police computer hacking is no different from breaking into someone’s home and taking private information without a warrant.

UK Personal Computer Information Accessed Across Europe

The information obtained by the police through computer hacking will not just be limited to the UK. The European Union has now been given the power to request this information from UK police. Police authorities in EU countries can now request that UK police hack into certain computers to obtain information. This information will then be passed back to the police in countries in the

European Union. This can all happen without the knowledge of the computer user.

The Many Ways the Public can Be Tracked

The police power to hack personal computers is just one more addition to the list of the ways in which the UK public are constantly monitored and tracked. Common surveillance and tracking of UK residents include:

  • CCTV in the UK; the public make 300 appearances each day on closed-circuit television cameras
  • Registration plate recognition cameras can track vehicles across the UK
  • Landline telephones and mobile phone tapping and call list details
  • Credit card transactions can be used to monitor shopping habits and account holder locations
  • New UK passports with biometric details
  • Anyone arrested for a recordable offence can be made to give DNA samples to the police
  • Electoral role and NHS records can be used for location and personal details
  • Personal computer cookies that monitor and collect data on a user’s web browsing habits

The UK has arguably become a surveillance society with decreasing privacy rights. British residents are under constant surveillance the minute they leave their homes. There are over four million CCTV cameras in the UK alone; that is one camera for every 14 people. The monitoring of work rates, communication methods and travel is constantly increasing. Simply going on holiday abroad can mean full body scans in UK airports. With the police now able to hack into the public’s personal computers it looks like this is one more step to complete UK citizen surveillance by the government.

Consequences for Refusing a Full Airport Body Scan

By: Garry Crystal – Updated: 28 May 2020|comments*Discuss


Full Body Scanners Airport Images

Full body scans used at UK airports have been criticised by civil liberties groups for breaching privacy rights. But this has not stopped the authorities from enforcing consequences such as banning passengers from flights if they refuse a full body scan.

Full Body Scanners and Safer Flights

Full body scanners have been in use in some UK airports since the summer of 2010. These devices are aimed at improving security on flights and designed as an anti terrorism measure. These scanners were introduced after a failed bomb attempt on a transatlantic flight on Christmas day 2009. The body scanners are being rolled out at major airports across the UK and are already in place in Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham. Many people simply view body scanners as necessary security measure but civil liberties groups do claim they are an infringement of privacy rights.

The Public’s View of Full Body Scanners

Many passengers believe that if they have nothing to hide they have nothing to be concerned about. But the first passengers to use the scanner did have mixed reactions with some claiming that the scan felt incredibly intrusive. The biggest misconception, according to airport security staff, is that the scanners will show passengers naked. According to security employees this is not the case, although photographs of the images taken from the body scanners are extremely revealing. The images taken from the full body scans are deleted as soon as the scan has been undertaken.

Alternatives to a Full Body Scan

People who do refuse to allow a full body scan in the UK do not have an alternative. In the US, passengers can refuse a full body scan and have the right to request a full body pat down by security officials instead. This is not the case in the UK as the government decided that full body pat downs would not offer the same search efficiency. Not everyone will be chosen to undergo a full body scan at airports. The selection process is random but passengers who are chosen for a full body scan and refuse to comply will not be permitted to fly.

Extra Security Measures taken at Airports

Undergoing a full body scan at airports may not actually be the end of the airport security checks. If for some reason the scanner cannot make a full assessment of the passenger then a strip search may be necessary. Passengers will then be required to enter a private area where they will be asked to explain any abnormalities. If security officials are still not satisfied the passenger may be required to remove layers of clothing until the security officials are satisfied. Passengers do have the right for a body search to be made by members of the same sex.

Consequences of Refusing a Full Body Scan

Anyone who is chosen for a full body scan at a UK airport and refuses will be banned from the intended flight. There is no alternative method of security search available to passengers. This consequence extends to every age group, and the exemption for under 18s that was in place has now been removed. Civil liberties groups are critical of this infringement of rights especially since no alternative to the full scan has been set in place. Members of the public who have refused the scan on religious grounds have been banned from flying.

Airport Full Body Scan Code of Practice

A code of practice has been drawn up by the Department of Transport on the use of full body scanners. Rules for the use of the scanners include:

  • Body scanner operators and passengers are separated by a screen
  • The images are anonymous and are destroyed after the screening
  • Passengers are chosen to be scanned at random
  • Passengers cannot be selected for scanning on the basis of race, ethnic origin, age or gender
  • Passengers have the right to request that they are scanned by members of the same sex

Although there has been an outcry from civil liberties groups the airport full body scanners are set to stay in the UK. Passengers have a choice if they are selected for screening, and that choice is comply with the screening or be banned from flights.

Can police hack your WIFI?

Your digital communications are stored across a variety of locations, including on locally on your device, on a service provider’s systems or by your network provider. The police can gain access to your data through mobile phone extraction, device hacking, cloud extraction or social media intelligence.

Read More https://www.civilrightsmovement.co.uk/police-computer-hacking-powers-civil-liberties.html

The Friday Read

‘Something Was Badly Wrong’: When Washington Realized Russia Was Actually Invading Ukraine

A first-ever oral history of how top U.S. and Western officials saw the warning signs of a European land war, their frantic attempts to stop it — and the moment Putin actually crossed the border.

A photo collage with faces of Avril Haines, Tony Blinken, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden, Janet Yellen and Bill Burns

Illustrations by Nazario Graziano for POLITICO; Photos by AP, Getty Images, iStock

By Erin Banco, Garrett M. Graff, Lara Seligman, Nahal Toosi and Alexander Ward

This oral history was compiled and woven together by writer and historian Garrett M. Graff,based on dozens of hours of interviews by POLITICO national security reporters Erin Banco, Lara Seligman, Nahal Toosiand Alexander Wardwith more than 30 key figures of the U.S. government and Western allied response. (Additional interviews were contributed by Jack Blanchard, Graff and Maggie Miller.)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine exactly a year ago was as shocking as it was clearly foreseen. The merciless bombardment of Ukrainian cities, the hundreds of thousands of troops and scores of tanks that rumbled across the border on Feb. 24, 2022, followed months of rising tension and concern, and provided perhaps the biggest foreign policy test yet for the Biden administration.

For nearly a year prior, U.S. and Western officials had signs of what was coming: a suspicious buildup of Russian troops, intelligence about the Kremlin’s plans, statements from President Vladimir Putin himself. Those officials raised increasingly specific public alarms, some of which were based on a novel new strategy of rapidly declassifying and publicizing intelligence in near real-time, and made desperate attempts to avert a war, even as it became more and more clear that Putin was determined to invade.

The events in eastern Europe in 2021 and 2022, coming just as the world emerged from the Covid-19 pandemic, also unfolded against a fraught geopolitical backdrop: In 2014, Russia had already seized Crimea from Ukraine, and fighting by Russia’s irregular, unmarked troops, known as “little green men,” had destabilized eastern Ukraine and led to a long-running, low-level war that had continued ever since. Meanwhile, during the summer of 2021, the United States faced its own challenge: a chaotic and controversial end to its nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan.

This is the story of the Biden administration’s strategy and reaction to that looming Russian invasion — the battle to persuade skeptics and rally foreign allies to confront an almost-unthinkable threat, one that continues to shake the world today. All titles and military ranks are presented based on roles the speakers held in February 2022, and interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.

I. The Buildup on the Border

‘Something Was Badly Wrong’

Spring – Fall 2021

Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director, Defense Intelligence Agency: DIA is supposed to be the master sense-makers of militaries around the world — how they’re organized, trained, equipped, where they are, why they fight, when they would fight, what their doctrine is and what their leaders are all about. I’ve been thinking about the Russians for a very long time. The national defense strategy said, “Hey, the pacing threat is China, but Russia is this acute threat out there.” I always had that in the back of my mind — Russia is potentially very, very dangerous.

Jon Finer, deputy national security adviser, National Security Council, White House: In the spring of 2021, we started to see a concerning buildup of Russian forces on the border with Ukraine.

Avril Haines, director of National Intelligence: In that April-March period, I’d seen it build up. There was definitely a moment where I recognized that this is not just a force buildup for diplomatic effect. Putin is clearly considering military action on some level. At that point, the only military action that seemed plausible was a much smaller incursion.

Jake Sullivan, national security adviser, White House: That was deeply alarming, because it was out of historical norms. There was no other credible explanation for what they were up to.

Jon Finer: For obvious reasons, given the history of 2014, given the conflict that had been going on ever since, it raised real concerns about their intention.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, director, National Security Agency, and commander, U.S. Cyber Command: We knew they weren’t going to invade in April 2021. Why do we know it was an exercise? Because the U.S. intelligence community really knows when Russia conducts exercises, and it was an exercise.

Jake Sullivan: Part of the motivating impulse for making the proposal for the summit in Geneva [in June 2021] was to try to create an alternative path that would involve Russia deescalating around Ukraine and us trying to inject some stability — not just into the U.S.-Russia relationship, but stability into the broader Ukraine situation. When President Biden met with President Putin in Geneva, obviously the top story around that visit was the ransomware attacks and cyber, but a healthy amount of the discussion behind closed doors was about Ukraine.


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President Joe Biden looking at Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen in profile, while Putin speaks.
President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet during the U.S.-Russia summit in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 16, 2021. | Pool photo by Peter Klaunzer

Jon Finer: There was a period leading into that summit and immediately after in which the Russians appeared to draw some forces back.

Emily Horne, spokesperson, National Security Council, White House: That immediate crisis turned out to be diffusible.

Avril Haines: A variety of things took place that brought everybody’s temperature down.

Emily Horne: There was a sense of “This is not over yet” as we were leaving Geneva. Did we think that there would be war in Europe in the next six months when we left that meeting? No, I don’t think anybody would have predicted that on the plane ride home. But very quickly after that meeting, Putin came out with his manifesto.

Jake Sullivan: Over the summer, Putin published a long article about Ukraine. His rhetoric began to change quite markedly in public. At that point, our antenna went up higher. Something was shifting in his mindset.

“Over the summer, Putin published a long article about Ukraine. His rhetoric began to change quite markedly in public.”

—Jake Sullivan

Jake Sullivan

Antony Blinken, U.S. secretary of State: The storm clouds were starting to gather many months before the invasion.

Avril Haines: Then we were starting to see this new buildup.

Dame Karen Pierce, British ambassador to the U.S., Washington: Something was badly wrong.

Gen. Mark Milley, chair, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Pentagon: We’re out of Afghanistan by 31 August, and there was a planned Russian exercise called Zapad, and they started marshaling the troops for the exercise in the September time frame. Right about then we realized this is odd; it was much bigger in scale and scope than the previous year’s exercise.

Vice Adm. Frank Whitworth, director of Intelligence (J-2), Joint Staff, Pentagon: Some of the intelligence became quite compelling.

Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier: You have a bunch of analysts here who are specialists in military intelligence — this is what they do. Their happy spot is doing assessments on order of battle and many other things. When you see the amount of stuff that the Russians moved towards the Ukraine, and when they did that, that’s a pretty significant tell.

Gen. Mark Milley: In September, they came to me with this map, and laid it out on my table; they explained, this was different, sir, this looks different, this is bigger in size and scale and scope, the disposition, composition of the force, etc. We talked for maybe an hour. I gave them a bunch of questions — next day they come back. They drilled down in a lot of detail. I say, “OK, let’s see what the rest of the intel community has to say.”

Top: An honor guard of Russian soldiers marching while holding rifles, with their reflections being shown on the wet ground. Bottom: An explosion is seen in the sky among clouds of smoke, with tanks spread across a field below.
Scenes from the Zapad strategic exercise in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia in September 2021, which was carried out by Russian and Belarusian armed forces. The size of the exercise gave U.S. intelligence leaders reason to believe that Russia was planning to invade Ukraine. | Vadim Savitskiy/Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP

Bill Burns, director, Central Intelligence Agency: We had begun to see across the U.S. intelligence community, including CIA, what were unmistakable signs of a serious Russian buildup along Ukraine’s borders, and picking up intelligence that they’re planning for what seemed to be a major new invasion of Ukraine.

Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier: It looks very, very dark for the Ukrainians.

Eric Green, senior director for Russia and Central Asia, National Security Council, White House: I was struck by the confidence and clarity that the IC [intelligence community] had in this assessment. The alarm bells definitely went off.

Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser for international economics, National Security Council, White House: We thought we had quelled his appetite for territory by meeting him in Geneva and trying to address some of the strategic concerns he’d been raising, but then here we were again, with an even larger force.

Gen. Mark Milley: It took about a week or two to put together this picture of a really significant, sizable Russian force. Then I said, “OK, we need to brief SecDef.” We didn’t say it was an invasion yet. We just knew it was different.

Antony Blinken: We saw not only the massing of forces on the borders of Ukraine, we also — through the information that we got — had an understanding of what the Russian leadership was actually thinking and planning for those forces.

Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs, Pentagon: We were reading intelligence that convinced us of Russia’s motives — to significantly destabilize Ukraine, and then ultimately to invade Ukraine.

Avril Haines: We were pulling together the strings and constantly in that mode: “OK, but could this be interpreted from a different perspective? Is there another way to think about this?”

Gen. Mark Milley: We set up to brief the president. We briefed in the Oval, and it’s a very serious, very somber brief. There’s this many Russian forces, this is the size, this is what the capability is, this is their composition, this is the disposition. This is the size of the Ukrainian forces. We went over what the Russians’ most likely and most dangerous courses of action are. It certainly grabs everyone’s attention.

Avril Haines: It was hard to believe, at first, honestly. Most people said, “Really? A large-scale military option? That seems unlikely!”

Avril Haines

“It was hard to believe, at first, honestly. Most people said, ‘Really? A large-scale military option? That seems unlikely!’”

—Avril Haines

Gen. Mark Milley: When someone like me is saying, “Hey, this is the most dangerous course of action — you’re probably going to see five field armies coming this way, two over here, and five over there. It’s going to be preceded by a significant amount of Russian bombings and missile attacks, and this is going to be the most horrific combat operations since the end of World War II.” People are sitting there going “What planet did this guy just walk in from?” I can understand that, actually.

Gen. Paul Nakasone: By the 11th of October, I’m convinced the Russians are going to invade Ukraine. The preponderance of intelligence was different than anything we’d ever seen before.

Dame Karen Pierce: A few people in our system — because of the [April] 2021 [buildup] not coming to anything — thought this was saber rattling, but not for very long. It didn’t take too long for the whole U.K. system to think this would be an invasion. We thought it would take the form either of an air assault on Kyiv or an assassination of the leadership — or possibly both.

Gen. Mark Milley: We end up briefing [President Biden] frequently throughout the fall because this thing keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger in size and scope.

Liz Truss, foreign secretary, United Kingdom: The threats clearly became worse through the autumn.

Antony Blinken: That began an incredibly intense period of engaging the world, as well as engaging with the Russians, to try to prevent them from doing what we saw building, and with the rest of the world to warn them about what was coming.

Emily Horne: There were three priorities early on: Support Ukraine — nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine, bolster NATO and avoid a war with Russia.

Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology, National Security Council, White House: This was really a coming-of-age for our cyber community — we never before mobilized like this for a geopolitical crisis. It reflects the extent to which cyber was now a mainstream national security issue. The White House had three major lines of effort [on the cyber side]: We mobilized to provide a range of assistance to the Ukrainians, we mobilized with the international community, and we really mobilized across the U.S. government and the private sector in a way we never did before.

Jon Finer: It’s a very rare thing in international affairs that you get such a clear, unmistakable and advanced warning of a major geopolitical event. More often, they just happen and you’re forced to scramble and respond and react.

Gen. Mark Milley: It’s 30 days after the exit from Afghanistan. Some people said that the invasion of Ukraine was a result of the withdrawal. I don’t agree. It’s obvious the invasion was planned before the fall of Afghanistan.

Jake Sullivan: Looking back over the course of 2021, it seems clear that [Putin] was toying with the idea all the way through, and he was getting more and more agitated about the future course of Ukraine. He didn’t wake up one day in September-October and decide to do this. The footsteps were there.

II: Preparing for the Worst

‘I don’t think any of us wanted to believe.’

October – November 2021

Jake Sullivan: [The buildup] led us to do two things in October — one, to have the president send Bill Burns to Moscow to engage the Russians directly and to have the president make this a major topic of conversation with key allies at the G-20 in Rome.

Daleep Singh: It was tense because Russia was part of the G-20. Putin didn’t show up. [Russian Foreign Minister] Sergey Lavrov did. In the general session, I remember very clearly sitting behind President Biden, and he was reflecting on the historical moment. “We’re at this inflection point, history is going to judge whether democracies could come together and defend core principles that underpin peace and security.” He was looking right at Lavrov when he said that, and he said defending freedom is not costless.

Antony Blinken: There was a meeting on the margins of the G-20, in Italy, when President Biden convened the French, German and U.K. leaders. We shared with those leaders in some detail the information we had about what Russia was planning. That was maybe the most significant early wake-up call moment.

Jake Sullivan: Coming back from Rome, I realized that we were looking at a matter of weeks, not months or years. We needed to get ourselves organized as a government. I instituted a daily meeting here at the NSC, with a significant number of senior people at the NSC who covered everything from the military to sanctions to diplomacy to intelligence, so that we could organize a whole-of-government response and whole-of-alliance response to what Russia was doing.

Top: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaking to reporters in front of a G-20 branded background. Bottom: Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Joe Biden standing in a row.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (top) traveled to Rome at the end of October 2021 to attend the G-20 Summit in Putin’s place. During the summit, Biden met with Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel (bottom) to share intelligence about Russia’s plans. | Pavel Bednyakov/Sputnik via AP and Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Eric Green: [Jake Sullivan’s] office isn’t massive, but he has a table with eight or 10 chairs, then some easy chairs and a couch. The meetings would be from a half-dozen to 15 people depending on the issue set, all very informal.

Jake Sullivan: I was determined not to have regrets if the worst came to pass — I was determined to ensure that we had done everything we possibly could think up to first try to head this off, and if we couldn’t put it off, put ourselves the Western world and Ukraine in the best possible position to deal with it, and to put Russia in the worst possible position to succeed. That was my motivation every single day through November, December, January, February. That was the North Star.

Bill Burns: The trip the president asked me to take to Moscow at the beginning of November was to lay out in an unusual amount of detail exactly why we were concerned that Putin was preparing for a major new invasion, and then to be very clear about what the consequences would be should Putin choose to execute that plan. I had a bad feeling going out on that trip about what was coming. That was only reinforced by the conversations I had there.

Michael Carpenter, U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Vienna: When you’ve spent your entire adult career working on Russia, there is a distinction between the plausibility of something and the shocking nature of something that is so epic in its proportions that you know it’s going to shape your career and world politics for years to come.

When I saw this information about Russia’s imminent attack for the first time, it did seem plausible, but it was also deeply, deeply shocking — it would be history changing. That was the horror of it all. Any large-scale Russian war against Ukraine was going to be a human and humanitarian tragedy.

“It would be history changing. That was the horror of it all.”

—Michael Carpenter

Michael Carpenter

Bill Burns: [While I was in Moscow,] I was talking to [Putin] on a secure phone. It was a strange conversation. He was in Sochi — this was the height of yet another wave of Covid, Moscow itself was under a curfew — so he was isolating himself. The conversation was pretty straightforward. I laid out what the president had asked me to lay out to him. His response was a lot of what I had heard before from him about his convictions about Ukraine, and in many ways, his cockiness about Russia’s ability to enforce its will on Ukraine. His senior advisers were pretty consistent as well. Not all of them were intimately familiar with his own decision-making, so at least one or two of them were a little bit surprised with what I laid out to them because the circle of advisers had gotten so small.

Eric Green: The Russian interlocutors — they didn’t seem fully read into what was going to happen.

Bill Burns: I came away with a very strong impression that Putin had just about made up his mind to go to war.

John Kirby, assistant to the secretary of Defense for public affairs, Pentagon: That trip went a long way to convincing us that this was a no-kidding invasion.

Emily Horne: I am no Kremlinologist, but one thing that has struck me throughout this process — and certainly struck me throughout the fall of ’21 — is that a lot of the times Putin and Russia were saying very plainly what their intentions were and what they wanted to do. And the West often had a very difficult time understanding that and hearing that. He made the case for what ultimately transpired very clearly in that manifesto in the summer of ’21.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): The big thing that was clear to me was that after we basically gave him Crimea after the 2014 invasion — Putin was allowed to stay in occupation of these territories — his goal was always the same. The rhetoric coming from Putin was very escalatory, setting the conditions for toppling the government in Kyiv because there were Nazis, making the argument they’re defending Mother Russia against the NATO puppet aggressor, all the rhetoric to the domestic audience to justify the invasion. The invasion of Crimea made him believe that we would do nothing.

Dame Karen Pierce: He had said so much that it did not seem possible he would or could back down, which was unusual because normally Putin leaves himself wiggle room.

Avril Haines: There were things that really made this a much more compelling case — budget decisions that were taken, other forms of intelligence surrounding it, the information campaign that they were playing. It wasn’t until you brought it all together, you start to see how the picture pulls together. Then the second piece was, “OK, I still don’t understand why would he make this decision?” It seems self-defeating. The analysts really put together that picture that helped us to see [his reasoning] more effectively.

Read More https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2023/02/24/russia-ukraine-war-oral-history-00083757?utm_source=pocket-newtab-global-en-GB

About the Author

Robert Cook
facebook https://www.facebook.com/rj.cook.9081 I went to school in Buckinghamshire, where my interests were music ( I was a violinist ), art ( winning county art competitions ) athletics and cross country ( I was a county team athlete ). My father died as a result of an accident- he was an ex soldier and truck driver- when I was 11. It could be said that I grew up in poverty, but I did not see it like that. As a schoolboy, I had my interests, hobbies and bicycle, worked on a farm, delivered news papers, did a lot of training for my sport, painting, and music. I also made model aeroplanes and was in the Air Training Corps, where we had the opportunity to fly an aeroplane. I had wanted to be a pilot, but university made me anti war. At the University of East Anglia-which I also represented in cross country and athletics- I studied economics, economic history, philosophy and sociology. Over the years, I have worked in a variety of manual, office and driving jobs. My first job after univerity was with the Inland Revenue in Havant, near Portsmouth. I left Hampshire to work for the Nitrate Corporation of Chile, then lecturing, teaching and journalism - then back to driving. I play and teach various styles of guitar and used to be a regular folk club performer. I quit that after being violently assaulted in Milton Keynes pub, after singing a song I wrote about how cop got away with killing Ian Tomlinson at G7, in broad daylight and caught on camera. The police took no action, saying taht my assailant had a good job. The pub in question was, and probably still is, popular with off duty police officers.

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