The Russian Empire is already falling apart

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 18 September 2022. © Richard Kemp

Some have predicted that Russia will disintegrate in the face of humiliation in Ukraine. Perhaps, but we are already beginning to see signs of the weakening of Moscow’s hold on its ‘near abroad’ – the former Soviet states that have remained under close Russian influence. Domination of Moscow’s erstwhile empire is vital for Putin’s rehabilitation of Russia as a great power, but his disastrous war in Ukraine may have fatally undermined it.

The conflict has inflicted economic damage on all of the former Soviet states, mostly dependent to one degree or another on Moscow. It has also affected their own security concerns in different ways: some emboldened by Russian setbacks, some fearful for their own independence, and some realising they may not be able to rely on hobbled Moscow for help when they need it.

Azerbaijan last week, for example, launched a deadly attack on Armenian towns outside Nagorno-Karabakh, testing Moscow’s appetite for intervention while on the back foot in Ukraine. Since brokering a cease-fire between the two sides in 2020, Russia has maintained a 2,000 strong peace-keeping force in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, now reportedly scaled-back to stoke the fighting in Ukraine.

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have been looking increasingly to the West, including for mediation, a bitter pill for Moscow to swallow with its own regional influence diminished. Last month Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan voiced unprecedented criticism of his Russian ally, questioning the effectiveness of the peacekeepers, and last week called for assistance that he knows Moscow is not in a position to deliver.

Armenia’s concern is twofold – first that Azerbaijan will continue to exploit Russian weakness and, second, that Moscow will pressure it to join the Union State of Russia and Belarus after emerging from the Ukraine war. Neighbouring Georgia, 20 per cent of whose territory has been occupied by Russia since the invasion in 2008, shares Continue reading

Putin’s war on Ukraine is going so badly that his downfall has become a real prospect

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 12 September 2022. © Richard Kemp

For the first time in this war Russia is on the defensive. A lightning Ukrainian counteroffensive in the east over the last few days has created a turning point from which Putin will struggle to recover. Since their withdrawal from Kyiv in March Russian forces concentrated offensive action in Donbas in eastern Ukraine, making slow but substantial progress and inflicting severe casualties on the Ukrainian defenders. That changed last month when Kyiv began an offensive against Kherson in the south, threatening Crimea — Russia’s most vital possession in Ukraine. Putin had to hold it at all costs and sent up to 30,000 troops to reinforce the Kherson front.

Those troops came from the east, leaving a paper-thin defence, made up largely of poorly trained, equipped and motivated local militias, with many forced conscripts. Kyiv seized the opportunity to exploit this weakness and has now re-taken most of the Kharkiv district, including the strategically vital town of Izyum, as well as parts of Donetsk, so far reportedly capturing some 3,000 square kilometres of territory against little Russian resistance. Russia’s troops were so badly prepared they had not constructed proper fortifications and were forced to abandon vast quantities of combat equipment and supplies, most of which are being re-purposed by Ukraine to strengthen its own units.

As Ukrainian forces continue attacking in the Kherson area, from the east they are now also poised to drive south, potentially threatening both Donbas and Crimea. On the ground Putin has few options and all of them are bad. Although Ukraine will face stiffer resistance in Donbas and the south, the kind of defeat Russia has now suffered at Kharkiv often leads to a domino effect as morale is undermined and panic sets in, including among commanders. Continue reading

‘There We Will Strike Them’: The Munich Massacre and Its Aftermath

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 4 September 2022. © Richard Kemp

Fifty years ago this week, 5th and 6th September 1972, the world watched in horror as Jews were again brutally murdered on German soil, at the Olympics in Munich. Eight Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorists, using the cover name “Black September,” tortured and murdered 11 Israeli athletes, emasculating one of them as he lay dying in front of his team-mates. They stormed the athletes’ accommodation, killed two immediately and held the remainder hostage, demanding the release of 234 terrorist prisoners held by Israel. Prime Minister Golda Meir — who had been a signatory to Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948 — refused to bargain with them, branding it blackmail. She later said: ‘We have learnt the bitter lesson. One may save a life immediately only to endanger more lives. Terrorism has to be wiped out.’

Meanwhile Berlin offered safe passage and unlimited cash to the terrorists, which they turned down. In the chaos of a disastrously botched German attempt to ambush the killers at the Fürstenfeldbruck airbase near Munich on 6th September, with hand grenades and bullets the terrorists butchered the remaining nine athletes in the helicopters that brought them there, as well as a German policeman. All but three of the terrorists were killed in the firefight. The IDF special forces unit Sayeret Matkal (General Staff Reconnaissance Unit) had been poised to mount a rescue operation, but the German government refused to allow them into the country and hubristically rejected advice from the chiefs of Mossad and Shin Bet who had flown in.

They were forced to stand and watch as their fellow Israelis were slaughtered.

The terrorists were armed with weapons smuggled into Germany via diplomats from Libya, where they had been trained for their murderous mission. Libyan president Muammar Gadaffi had funded the attack at the behest of PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who subsequently Continue reading

A Deal Based on Lies: The Iran Nuclear Agreement Will Make War More Likely

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 1 September 2022. © Richard Kemp

As Western governments quake in the face of Russian nuclear threats, they are on the verge of striking a deal that will give Iran that same power over them.

Even after six months of war in Europe, they cannot seem to grasp the parallels between the two. Putin risked invading Ukraine because of Western weakness and appeasement, naively welcoming Russia back into the family of nations after it devoured large parts of Ukraine in 2014, while at the same time filling its war chests with ever more billions of euros from energy exports to Europe.

Iran has been waging war non-stop on the West and its allies in the Middle East since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Appeasing Tehran by endorsing its nuclear programme and handing it billions of dollars from sanctions relief will likewise empower and encourage the ayatollahs to greater aggression even than hitherto. These are the effects of the proposed nuclear deal brokered by the EU, Russia and China. Why is it brokered by the EU, Russia and China? Because the United States was outrageously banned from direct negotiations by Tehran. It is not outrageous that Iran demanded it, but that the US tolerated its own exclusion.

The feeble mantra of the apologists for President Joe Biden’s JCPOA 2.0, a desperate attempt to revive President Barack Obama’s failed agreement from 2015 that paved the way to an Iranian nuclear bomb, is ‘a bad deal is better than no deal’. Well, no it is not, and the deal that is about to emerge will be even worse. The argument of the ‘bad’ dealers is that it buys time for the West, with Micawberish optimism that ‘something will turn up’. This thinking is clear from Biden’s preposterous hope that he can ‘lengthen and strengthen’ the deal once it has been struck. But optimism is not a strategy and it certainly is not a strategy for dealing with a violent and volatile revolutionary regime dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state, which it sees as the proxy of its ultimate enemy, America.

As Western governments quake in the face of Russian nuclear threats, they are on the verge of striking a deal that will give Iran that same power over them.

Even after six months of war in Europe, they cannot seem to grasp the parallels between the two. Putin risked invading Ukraine because of Western weakness and appeasement, naively welcoming Russia back into the family of nations after it devoured large parts of Ukraine in 2014, while at the same time filling its war chests with ever more billions of euros from energy exports to Europe. Continue reading

Putin might just win his giant bet against a fractured West

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 25 August 2022. © Richard Kemp

Putin looks set to win his bet against the fractured West. His calculation on swallowing up Ukraine without Nato intervention sufficient to stop him was based on at least some realities – namely his own successful exploitation of Western inaction in Syria, US failure in Iraq and Afghanistan, and France being driven from Mali after a 10 year campaign.

Surveying this woeful lack of strategic cohesion and resolve, Putin did not buy into the illusion that overtook so many of his opponents at the start of this war: that the invasion had united the West, that the shock had given Nato a semi-permanent new purpose and that it was a miscalculation to think he could get away with another outrage after the 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Early on that rosy picture did appear to be true. Scholz promised big defence spending increases. The supply of arms to Ukraine was patchy but shifted the dial. Massive sanctions caused real pain to the Kremlin. There were problems including Macron’s continued addiction to grand geopolitical bargains which undercut unity and encouraged Putin. Germany remained too dependent on Russian energy, providing vast sums to help finance Russia’s war. Despite other flies in the ointment – such as India sitting on the fence – broadly speaking unity held.

That may all be about to change, with European support fracturing. For the last two months no EU member has pledged new material support to Ukraine. The EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, admitted this week that keeping the bloc together is a ‘day-to-day struggle’. His struggle is going to get harder. Macron no longer has a majority in his parliament and that will inhibit his ability to support Ukraine for the long term as he recently promised. Italian elections next month are likely to lead to a coalition that includes parties strongly opposed to backing Ukraine against Russia. Continue reading

Ukraine is on the precipice of a nuclear disaster

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 19 August 2022. © Richard Kemp

Europe’s largest nuclear power station, Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine, has been repeatedly shelled since Russian forces seized it in March, threatening a radioactive disaster potentially of the scale of, or even greater than, Chernobyl. It would contaminate the Black Sea and create a radiation hazard as far away as Germany – a game-changer in the Ukraine war, transforming it into a full-blown regional conflict.

Now Ukrainian military intelligence is warning that a Russian attack on Zaporizhzhia is imminent, with reports that Moscow has ordered energy workers stationed there to stay at home this weekend. What is not clear is who is actually carrying out the high-risk attacks we have already seen, as each side blames the other.

It makes little sense for Russia to shell a facility that it possesses and plans to use to supply power to Donetsk and Luhansk, except as a false flag operation intended to undermine global support for Kyiv. The other side of the coin is a false flag attack by Ukraine to achieve the opposite and perhaps draw Western nations deeper into the conflict as well as scaring Ukrainian staff at the plant into disrupting output. Despite deep international concern, including a debate at the UN Security Council a few days ago, neither Britain nor the US has directly apportioned blame, although both have sophisticated surveillance assets that ought to be able to identify the source of artillery fire directed at such a hugely sensitive location.

So far, although both sides claim to support a UN inspection at the plant, it has not materialised with Russia and Ukraine blaming each other for that as well. It is hard to see a way to avert disaster. One option could be for the UN to take control of Zaporizhzhia but it is unlikely — certainly in the time-frame needed — that could be agreed on, including by the UN which has demonstrated only toothlessness since the war began. Continue reading

Ukraine only has three months to prevent a winter betrayal

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 17 August 2022. © Richard Kemp

Ukraine is about to enter its time of maximum vulnerability as Russia’s traditional ally, General Winter, arrives on the scene and the Kremlin turns the energy screws on Kyiv’s shivering European backers.

On the battlefield winter will impact both sides as the war goes into deep freeze. Winter tends to favour the defender, better able to find shelter and warmth, while movement by foot and vehicle, a greater necessity for attackers, is impeded by first mud then snow. That might allow the Ukrainian army to hold onto what it’s got now but will prevent it from re-taking any significant part of the vast swathes of territory under Russian domination.

But it is in Europe that winter will have the greatest strategic effect on the war, and Ukraine is more likely to be the loser. As European media increasingly grow bored of a freezing landscape without much fighting to report, the spotlight will be more and more on hardship at home, with the economic crisis intensified by Putin’s conflict biting ever deeper.

While Europeans have been blindly satiating their hunger for cheap Russian energy, for years Putin has been baiting the strategic trap for them to fall into. His funding, disinformation and agents of influence in the environmental movement have increased dependency on Russia, playing a critical role in preventing shale gas exploitation across Europe as well as Germany’s termination of nuclear energy, heavily influenced by green parties that arose from the Moscow-funded anti-nuclear movement in the 1980s. A master of political and economic warfare as well as propaganda, Putin’s objectives were both for Russian economic benefit and to gain political leverage in situations such as this.

Russia reduced gas supplies to Europe by 60% in June. Countries are weighing how to minimise economic damage to their already crippled Continue reading

Gaza: The Usual Suspects Condemn Israel

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 7 August 2022. © Richard Kemp

A week ago US President Joe Biden ordered the elimination of Al Qaida boss Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul. A few days later Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid ordered the elimination of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander Tayseer al-Jabari in Gaza. These were two of a kind: mass killers whose sole purpose was to inflict pain, death and destruction on ordinary decent people to bring about their vision of Islamic conquest.

Commenting on the killing of Zawahiri, UN Secretary General’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN was ‘committed to fighting against terrorism and strengthening international cooperation in countering that threat’.

Of course it was a different story when Israel acted against Jabari. UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland was ‘deeply concerned’ by ‘the targeted killing today of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader inside Gaza.’

Of course he was. No matter that the strike against Jabari and his attack team prevented the deaths of innocent civilians; that is nothing to an organisation that is institutionally biased against Israel. Witness Miloon Kathari, one of the commissioners in the latest UN Human Rights Council kangaroo court investigating Israel, who only a few days ago was forced to make what UN Watch chief Hillel Neuer called a non-apology apology over his antisemitic remarks last month. The commission chairwoman, Navi Pillay, who also has a long track record of anti-Israel bias, previously said Kathari’s remarks were ‘deliberately misrepresented’.

There will be no UN investigation into Zawahari’s killing but there will be into Jabari’s. This time, though, there will be no need for another Human Rights Council witch-hunt; it will simply be folded into Pillay’s permanent commission that has no end and starts with the re-creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Wennesland’s ‘deep concern’ was aggravated by comments from Francesca Albanese, UN Special Rapporteur on the ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’, who managed in one tweet both to condemn Israel and contort its actions into a darkly malign parody of reality — so far, so UN. Conjured from nowhere, she claimed that Israel’s actions were to ‘deter Islamic Jihad’s possible retaliation for its leader’s arrest’, going on to describe the strikes as ‘flagrant aggression’ in breach of international law.

This is pure fiction. Israel has not claimed its operation in Gaza — codenamed Breaking Dawn — is to deter. The government has made it clear that the strikes were to prevent an imminent threat to the Israeli population. It had hard intelligence that PIJ, led by Jabari, was planning attacks across the border from Gaza. Protecting its people Continue reading

The killing of al-Zawahiri is a triumph of US intelligence but a failure of Biden’s foreign policy

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 2 August 2022. © Richard Kemp

Few things could be more emblematic of US foreign policy failure than Bin Laden’s successor and the coordinator of 9/11 living comfortably in the heart of Kabul 21 years after US forces invaded Afghanistan to eliminate Al Qaeda. Killing Ayman al-Zawahiri was a triumph of US intelligence collection and operational capability. Biden was right to agree to the strike: although partially eclipsed by the Islamic State and other jihadist groups, Al Qaeda remains a threat to America and the world, with its global network of terrorist operatives in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Europe, the US, North and East Africa and many other places.

The whole reason US and allied forces entered Afghanistan in 2001 was to deny Al Qaeda and other terrorists the freedom to operate in ungoverned space and to prevent the Taliban from giving them safe haven and support. But thanks to Biden’s disastrous foreign policy decisions, two decades later we are full circle, with the Taliban back in control and again harbouring Al Qaeda terrorists. Zawahiri and his family were not living anonymously in some remote area but in a wealthy district of central Kabul, close to several foreign embassies, in a house reportedly owned by a top aide to Afghanistan’s interior minister. It is inconceivable that the Taliban leadership did not know he was in their midst, churning out videos to incite terrorist attacks against the West and issuing directions to his network.

When Nato forces left Afghanistan, we were assured that the Taliban had changed — that they would no longer allow terrorist groups to operate there. The US even signed an agreement to that effect with the Taliban at Doha, and now Secretary of State Blinken professes outrage that they have not honoured it. Of course they were never going to honour it; they are terrorists with a long-established track record of lies, deception, duplicity and unrestrained violence. Continue reading

‘Here I Am; Send Me’: Teens Stand Against Jew Haters

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 2 August 2022. © Richard Kemp

The Hebrew expression ‘hineni’ means ‘here I am’, most famously used by the great Biblical defender of Israel, Isaiah, who responded to a heavenly call to duty with the words: ‘Here I am; send me’. Hineni encapsulates the spirit of Club Z (for Zionism), a network of Jewish American teens that are standing up for their people and their Zionist identity against the scourge of antisemitism that is on the rise across the US, with the latest FBI figures showing Jews — 2.4% of the population — were the target of nearly 60% of religious hate crimes in 2020.

Jew hate is at its most virulent on campus. A complaint filed last week against City University of New York includes a recorded 150+ incidents of antisemitism on their premises since 2015, more than 60 directly targeting Jewish students with the intent to harm them.

Among the allegations are students carving swastikas on school property, mandatory classes scheduled on Saturdays to prevent observant Jews attending, students using class time to accuse Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing’, endorsement of the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a resolution banning Jewish institutions on campus and even an adjunct professor calling to ‘erase this filth called Jews’.

Faced with such widespread animosity and contempt, as well as cancellation of Israeli speakers and protests against those who support Israel, many Jewish students are tempted to keep away, keep silent or at worst take refuge in anti-Israel activism. Some choose to make a stand for their Jewish and Zionist heritage, a course that requires a strong sense of duty – duty to Israel and duty to themselves and their fellow Jews, because attacks on Israel are attacks on the dignity and honor of all Jews. Confronting this Jew hate, often widespread among their peers, also demands moral and sometimes physical courage. It is Club Z’s mission to help teenagers understand their duty and to find the courage to stand up and be counted. Continue reading

Security – Defence – Intelligence – Counter Terrorism