The Russian flagship Moskva sinking after being hit by Ukrainian Neptune missiles. From the start of this war there has been natural concern about the difficulties of keeping it confined to two belligerents within defined geographical boundaries. This concern is most often expressed in scenarios in which Vladimir Putin, having seen his ambitions thwarted and with his forces on the run, lashes out in anger, even with nuclear weapons.
This is a question on the topic: could the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 377 be used for this. It allows the GA to bypass the UNSC and is specifically designed for when a member of the P5 is the cause of trouble. What do you think?
Question for tonight’s Q+A: what do you make of the estimate that Russia has lost one third of its forces in Ukraine? Is that a reliable estimate?
Lawrence, a question for this evening’s seminar :
In an earlier seminar I asked you whether you thought it likely that Putin would resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons. You thought it unlikely then and more recently you wrote that you couldn’t see how he could gain strategic advantage by the use of such weapons in the Ukraine theatre.
Are you still of the same opinion? There have been warnings from the Americans and others of the possibility of Putin resorting to the threat or actual use of such weapons in extremis as he loses the conventional war.
There has been much sabre rattling of Russia’s nuclear capabilities and the argument that NATO aggression may lead to nuclear war. Also Boris Johnson appears to have offered Finland and Sweden the umbrella of the UK nuclear deterrent during their accession process to NATO membership.
Do you see the increasing possibility of the defeat of Russia’s conventional forces increasing the risk that Putin might resort to the use of nuclear weapons in a last-ditch effort to avoid total defeat in Ukraine perceived as an existential threat to Russia?
So what do you reckon on the likely use of such weapons in this war and in that event what might be the West’s response?
Thanks, John Turner
Lawrence, Sam, it seems that the role of Turkey is quite important, yet there is a dearth of useful analytical material to situate the causes of its positioning on various issues and where it is likely headed. You raise the question of its cooperation with maritime navigation measures. There is also the recent announcement from Erdogan that he will not support the entry of Finland and Sweden to NATO. We need a better understanding of all this.
Any idea why Russia have not made a more serious effort to block western arm shipments into Ukraine. ? Also why have they not targeted the Ukrainian decision making centres in Kiev. Finally why is the main rail line into Kiev still operational?
Another good article (I don't think Lawrence knows how to write a bad one). I await with concern and interest the likely Ukrainian counter offensive.
Breaking the Black Sea blockade ought to be an international moral cause. It's disgusting and despicable that poor people in Africa, and no doubt other nations, will go hungry because Putin is a reckless sore loser about Russia's defeat in the Cold War. All nations with any naval forces should contribute to this inherently peaceful activity. That especially applies to the European nations!
The Black Sea ports are key but what about the Dnipro River? Was wondering how much of its agricultural shipments, eventually exported through ports, and ag input imports are transported on it, as might be difficult if Russians are taking pot shots at river boats?
Do you think the end game here will revolve around Sevastopol? It seems to me the loss of their base there would be something the Russians would see as cataclysmic. On the other hand, it is a huge and proven threat to Ukraine if it stays. We read about Macron and I think to a much lesser extent Scholz looking for ceasefire options - do you think this is driven by the knowledge the Ukrainians may soon well be capable of retaking Crimea and will put Russia in a situation - the only situation really - where the Russians genuinely do believe they need to take extreme measures?
Why couldn’t NATO members Romania and Bulgaria, 7 frigates, 7 corvettes, 1 submarine, with NATO defensive air cover, escort cargo ships to Turkish protection in the Straits, then hand over to NATO fleet/air protection in the Mediterranean and beyond? Russian attempts to prevent passage would be attacks on NATO members, triggering Article V.
As sure a tectonic plates shape our planet, creating mountains, valleys and seas, conflict always occurs on the same real estate. It’s only the leasehold that is contested, changing hands occasionally as history records - from the Greeks to romans, the mongols, to Catherine the great, the Ottomans, Russians, British, French and modern Turks - the Black Sea geography never fails to elicit business from those seeking to trade up the property ladder!
Two aspects of the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict that have perplexed me are 1.) the lack of commentary on the economic (and therefore geopolitical) impact of Ukrainian commodity strangulation - this was always an issue once the conflict didn’t go according to Russian plans, and 2.) the lack of any clarification on the political objectives of the U.K. government (is this a recurring theme in UK politics?).
I have no idea what the next moves are but I have a keen eye for news on Mykoliev (docks upgraded for NATO warships in 2019) and Kherson in opening up a trade corridor out of the Black Sea.
Yet the maritime challenges faced with opening up such a route would seem writ large, with 20 odd Russian assets, including sub-surface, in the region, as well as the Crimean peninsula and Sevastopol in Russian hands. (thinking back 40 years, recall the old Argentine submarine San Luis, almost single handedly kept the Carrier Battle Group at bay). So, even if (‘if’) NATO or a coalition maritime force were to open up a ‘safe’ sea route, it would still seem a challenging task (even considering Russian morale and poor operational performance thus far).
And this is where ALL roads AGAIN lead to Turkey. Turkey has been flexing it’s regional muscle and influence in the region for some time and, to Western ire, been keeping a finger in several pies. Buying Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles, collaborating with Russian firms in arms manufacturing, yet…. Russia and Turkey in different camps in Syria, it’s TB2 drone being hailed by Ukrainians in defeating the much vaunted T90 MBT. And now we have turkey playing politics for a pay off with regards to Swedish and Finnish membership of NATO (I wonder what they’ll squeeze out of it).
As far as a safe maritime corridor for commodities out of Ukraine, a protected sea lane, swept by minesweepers, protected from submarines….Turkey also holds the cards - with Article 19 of the Montreux Convention and control of the Turkish Straits. As a belligerent nation Russia cannot move any additional vessels into the Black Sea (unless they’re home port is in the Black Sea). But(!) just as importantly, Turkey has closed the straits to ALL non-Turkish warships! Turkey still has a foot in the West, but it also still has interests in the Middle East, and in Russia. It is, and will continue to play the current situation for it’s own strategic interests (as it should). But opening a safe sea route, whilst critical to the West, NATO and the world, is going to be a challenge of great magnitude and one which, if practical, will give Turkey big gains.
Egypt could play a key role in this. Their own grain is being blocked. They can lead diplomatically, in concert with other nations also dependent on Ukrainian grain. And they can contribute ships to an int'l task force to open Odesa, the main muscle of said force to be provided by NATO.
Have you seen this incredible exchange about Ukraine on Russian TV? The idea that there is no public critique of the war is clearly inaccurate