Briefly Noted: Foreign Politics, Geopolitics
The other day we wrote briefly about the stunning upset in the Swedish elections. I won’t attempt to explain the Swedish electoral system, but the end result was that the ruling Social Democrats lost power by a slim margin. The big winner in the election was the Sweden Democrat party, whose share of the vote increased to 20%, at the expense of all other parties. It is now the second largest party in Sweden. The Sweden Democrats are, by Swedish and EU standards, an outcaste party—radical conservatives, populists. By US standards probably not so much. They ran on an anti-immigration and law and order platform—Sweden has the unenviable reputation of being the most dangerous country in Europe.
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The interesting thing coming out of the Swedish election is this. While the four party “conservative” coalition will be the basis for a new government, the party that will head the government will be the kinda libertarian Moderate party, which has traditionally been the opposition to the Social Democrats. The Sweden Democrats, who led the Right to victory in the vote, will be excluded from the government. The other side of that coin, of course, is that they will have the power to end the government any time they want to. The result is that the significance of the election is probably mostly as a bellwether of public opinion and as a signal to the rest of Europe. For an interesting article about all this, check this out:
What Does The Right's Historic Victory In Sweden Mean For Europe?
Electoral politics move on to Italy, later this month.That could prove to be momentous.
Now, the big geopolitical story of the week was undoubtedly the annual summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCo), held in Samarkand. What, you missed that one? Ah, well, it was a big deal. For my purposes the main event was a press conference at which Russian president Vladimir Putin made a variety of interesting statements. It appears that Putin is utterly unfazed by the Ukrainian “counteroffensive” but did say that Russia had fired some “warning shots” at Ukraine with regard to its recent “terrorist attacks”. That sounds very much as if Russia is contemplating upgrading its Special Military Operation (SMO) to an counter-terror operation.
What follows is my summary of a discussion of Putin’s remarks as well as other highlights of the summit. The summary is interspersed with quotes from Putin’s press conference. While it’s a bit rough and ready, I think it will be worthwhile.
Putin Press Conference in Samarkand.
Putin Says Russia May Soon Upgrade SMO to Counter Terror Operation
Putin is totally familiar with Western plans to "dismember" Russia [ as per, for example, former US Army Europe commander Ben Hodges], and knows that it's a longstanding plan. It has been an idea of the UK since at least the era of WW1 and Putin also refers to Zbigniew Brzezinksi in that regard. Note that Putin conflates the USSR with "historical Russia"--with Russia as its nucleus. The West's objective of dismembering Russia won't succeed, says Putin, nor will any attempt to play off Russia and China against each other succeed. The SMO in Ukraine was commenced to thwart these Western objectives--to create an anti-Russian "enclave" in Ukraine that would ultimately lead to the collapse and dismembering of Russia. The SMO is therefore an existential matter and the Russian leadership cannot allow the SMO to fail, even if there should be temporary setbacks. Russia has the resources to make it succeed.
With regard to Russia's "restrained" response to the threat posed by the West in Ukraine, Putin said that he would not regard the SMO as "restrained" because it is, after all, a military response. Russia is now seeing "attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks and damage Russia's civilian infrastructure." Indeed, he says, we WERE quite restrained in our response, but that will not last forever. And he cites recent "sensitive blows" in Ukraine, referring to attacks on Ukraine's energy infrastructure. "Let's call them warning shots. If it continues our response will be more impactful."
"Terrorist attacks are a serious matter. In fact it is about using terrorist methods. We see this in the killing of officials in the liberated territories." Putin is referring to assassinations, that Ukraine's government has taken credit for. "We even see attempts to perpetrate terrorist attacks in the Russian Federation, including attempts to carry out terrorist attacks near our nuclear facilities, nuclear power stations, in the Russian Federation." Putin then specifies: "I'm not talking about the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant." "We will respond if they fail to realize that this is unacceptable. They are, in fact, no different than terrorist attacks."
Putin is then asked whether there's a need to "adjust" the SMO "plan." Putin responds in typically precise legal fashion, distinguishing between the ‘plan’ and its mode of implementation.
"No, the 'plan' will not be adjusted." That leaves open the possibility that the SMO could be upgraded to an anti-terror operation, while the overall "plan" remains in place. "The main goal [i.e., not the ONLY goal] remains the liberation of Donbass. Our operations continue at a slow pace, but consistently and gradually. I must emphasize that we're not fighting with the full army but only with part--with contracted forces [Wagner Group, Chechens]. This is why we're not in a rush in this respect. Some objectives are important, while others are secondary. The main task remains the same and it's being carried out."
Re the Ukrainian "counteroffensive and Ukrainian plans for victory on the battlefied, Putin adds: "Let's see how it unfolds, and how it ends."
I saw the video of Putin making that remark, and he smiled broadly when he said: Let’s see how it ends.
Putin is unfazed, confident in the overall "plan." BUT, it's likely that before long the Russians will upgrade the SMO to a counter-terrorist operation. Perhaps as early as Monday when MoD Shoigu visits the Duma.
Modi Says India Russia Friendship 'Unbreakable'
Both China and India appear to welcome Russia's increasingly close relations, probably to help mediate tensions.
The UK media has tried to imply that China and India were critical of Putin. The full readout shows this was spin. In fact these meetings went very well for Putin.
The rapprochement between Assad and Erdogan appears to be progressing rapidly. This is a Middle East game changer. Erdogan stated that if Assad had attended the summit, he (Erdogan) would have met with him. Further, Russia appears to be heading toward a "strategic partnership" with Iran. Another possible gamechanger.
Aside from the military news and commercial deals, the major theme at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Samarkand seems to have been: dedollarization. Remarkably, Putin also had a meeting with the supposedly pro-American PM of Pakistan--who called Putin "your excellency" and asked for Russian gas pipelines to Pakistan. Meanwhile the US is trying to strongarm Erdogan into stopping use of the Mir card in Turkey.
The collective West continues to write scripts about Russia, to denigrate Putin and his country, but without informing their populations what dedollarization will mean for the West. We could be heading for a world in which the largest economic bloc will be run by people whose native languages are not English.
What cards does the West have to play?
Stirring up conflicts. Russia - Ukraine. Central Asia. China - Taiwan. The Caucasus--Armenia - Azerbaijan. Color revolutions. Xi Jinping has been going around warning other countries about this. It's a destructive and misguided policy, and one that is likely to unify non-Western countries.
A final link—to an article by Gordon M. Hahn:
Hahn contends that a recent article by Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Valeryi Zaluzhnyi, and Lieutenant General Mikhail Zabrodskii first Deputy Chairman of the Ukrainian Rada’s Committee for National Security, shows that the Ukrainian military is very unhappy with the much heralded Ukrainian “counteroffensives”, which they regard as frittering away Ukraine’s most valuable resource at this time on a PR exercise.
The article is of interest for several reasons. First, it reflects the strategic thinking of the Ukrainian military command at this point in time, the complete dependence of Ukrainian military capability on Western military and financial support, and intentions to escalate the war if Ukraine is well-supported, seize back Crimea from Russia, and engage in massive artillery and other air attacks on Russian territory. But the most important aspect of the article and the one I will focus on here are its indications of the Ukrainian military command’s disagreement with President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to conduct the present offensives in the south in the Kherson direction and in the north in the Izyum direction without the proper preparation and sufficient manpower and weaponry and instead carry out a military offensive for what seem to be largely political reasons at great costs to Ukraine’s personnel and weapons stockpiles without any real prospects of making a permanent breakthrough on either front.
I think Z is soon going to be resuming his former piano "playing" career, as he will be designated the head terrorist otherwise.
China's Xi Says Regional Alliance Will Thwart 'Color Revolutions'