All posts by jmb82BBp

Special forces of Zionist youth – opinion

Article published in The Jerusalem Post, 18 July 2022. © Richard Kemp

Watching the high school teens of Club Z in dialogue with pro- and anti-Zionists in Israel was an education in itself. Even the most ardently Zionist speakers approached their topics with caution, more used to American students that get triggered, fleeing to safe spaces and crying rooms, if faced with too strong a dose of the truth.

This lot had no use for safety and their tears were reserved for Rachel Frankel and Miriam Fuld who told stories of their loved ones brutally slaughtered by jihadist fanatics. Every speaker was left awestruck by the students’ unyielding stance, unexpected knowledge and deep-penetrating questions.

The anti-Zionists thought their words would elicit the standard sympathetic nods and murmurs, as they spun their halftruths and outright falsehoods to hand-wringing youths who would scurry back home and parrot them to gullible school friends.

Instead, they got an audience that saw straight through the tired narrative, and vigorously but politely pushed back against every fake tale of woe and fabricated legal recitation with the most powerful weapon in their armoury: the truth.

Yes, they knew all about the Fourth Geneva Convention but unlike the self-proclaimed peace activists, fully equipped with bushy beards and patronizing clichés, they also knew it doesn’t come close to applying in Judea.

Nor, in contrast to many high school and college students, did they buy the flimsy, anonymous and unconvincing stories of IDF abuse that have been bought and paid for by foreign funds to undermine the legitimacy of Israel.

Until it was too late, the Israel-haters didn’t realize these kids are the special forces of Zionist youth. Preparing to face the antisemitic bile so prevalent on US campuses, they have been trained by experienced instructors while at high school and they practise their skills on the Continue reading

Ukraine is no longer a Western priority

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

The fall of Boris Johnson contributes to Ukraine’s rising peril. His Churchillian support for Ukraine and push for blistering sanctions in the face of a lacklustre response from Joe Biden and heel-dragging in European capitals propelled him to world leadership in the campaign against Russia. None of Johnson’s potential successors are likely to equal his resolve, especially as the domestic economic consequences of the war continue to bite and bite hard.

With the Tory leadership election set to drag on at least into September, all political attention will naturally be on that, to the exclusion of new policy and action on the war. Media eyes, in any case tiring of Ukraine, will also be distracted, removing much of the impetus for government ministers and civil servants to focus on the conflict.

More worryingly, such diversion isn’t just a feature of British politics. It is a phenomenon across the West, occurring at precisely the worst time for Ukraine. In America, the political and media spotlights have turned to the mid-term elections in November. And while most American voters, on both sides, back Washington’s support for Ukraine, their main concern is economic issues that directly affect them like the soaring inflation, at least one third of which is directly attributable to the war and sanctions against Russia.

Biden, in campaign mode and eager to disperse responsibility, has emphasised that link between Western inflation and Putin’s actions. That will play out in longer term congressional support for government policies on Ukraine but more immediately we are likely to see greater caution from an administration that is already deeply fearful of losing its narrow majority in the Senate and the House.

The balance between fighting for a democracy assailed by authoritarian aggression, a generally popular cause in the States, and managing economic pain at home, is going to be influenced by how successful the fight is. Right now, with 54 billion dollars of US Continue reading

Whilst the G7 dithers, Putin is rebuilding his strategic power

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 28 June 2022. © Richard Kemp

Despite claims in the West that Russia has already been defeated strategically, Putin has been rebuilding alliances that had frayed at the start of his invasion. China, the Kremlin’s most important partner, hedged its bets when Putin sent his forces in, calling for peace while laying at least part of the blame on Nato and the US. But just over a week ago, President Xi pledged greater economic and defence ties with Russia, flying in the face of Joe Biden’s direct warning to him in March against aiding Putin.

India and South Africa have also stuck with Putin, refusing to condemn his aggression at the UN. Indonesia too refused to join the international sanctions regime and, despite pressure, has invited Putin to the G20 summit in Bali in November which it is hosting. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran still maintain good relations with Moscow; and, along with Xi, Egypt’s President el-Sisi this month addressed the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, dubbed the ‘Russian Davos’.

Sri Lanka, facing a major fuel crisis, is sending ministers to Moscow to negotiate for oil at discounted prices. As well as economic self-interest, some of the countries that remain with Russia are influenced by anti-Western sentiment and some are only too willing to provide pathways for Putin and his oligarchs to get around ever-tightening financial controls and economic sanctions, including by transferring wealth and commodities. For example Iranian shipping, long used to overcome its own international sanctions, is reported to have been transporting Russian oil exports. All in all it has been a rather successful diplomatic project for the Kremlin, bearing fruit at a time when things are turning on the battlefield too.

What a striking contrast with the West, which has spent the G7 summit bickering over protectionism and irrelevant pet projects — such as President Macron’s grandstanding ‘European Political Continue reading

Ukraine has been betrayed by the West

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 16 June 2022. © Richard Kemp

Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz and Mario Draghi all looked very jolly as they took the train to Kyiv. During their visit yesterday, they made all the appropriate noises about backing Ukraine in its fight against Vladimir Putin. But they have played a large part in the country’s increasingly precarious situation. The three biggest economies in the EU have been dragging their heels on supplying arms while continuing to pour billions of euros into Moscow’s war chest by buying its energy. Scholz’s promise of tanks and failure to deliver them and Macron’s plea that Russia shouldn’t be humiliated have underlined Europe’s weakness.

The sluggish Western military response has meant that, in the east, Russia has a 10 to 15-fold advantage in artillery, the most important battle-winner in this campaign. While the Russians are firing 50,000 shells a day, Ukraine is unable to hold its own with plenty of Nato ammunition but hardly any guns to fire it. Despite big talk by the US and UK about sending multiple-launch rocket systems, a potent stand-off weapon that could help redress the balance, only a handful are being supplied against the 300 President Zelensky says he needs.

So as the Russians advance steadily over some of the most fortified terrain in the world, the Ukrainians are falling back in the face of blistering artillery fire, with a casualty rate of up to 800 a day. As other strongpoints have collapsed, the bastion town of Severodonetsk looks set to fall despite hard fighting to defend it. In the south, Ukrainian forces are making limited advances towards Kherson, while the Russians are stiffening their defences and claim to have reactivated the port. It is here we are likely to see the next major Russian offensive, as Putin aims to move west to capture the entire Ukrainian coast and threaten Moldova.

Early assumptions that Ukraine would decisively defeat the Russians are being unwound as Putin pushes forward, seemingly unfazed by the huge loss of life and hardware. But this new reality may not have been fully grasped even in some Western capitals. In a briefing on Tuesday, Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s defence policy chief, claimed that Putin would not be able to capture a significant proportion of Ukraine, yet 20 per cent of the country is already in his hands. America’s complacent line prevails in Whitehall as well, which takes the extraordinary position that Russia has already been strategically defeated.

That view does not seem to be shared in Beijing. At the start of the war, Xi Jinping tried to look both ways, blaming Nato for provoking Russia while calling for peace. But as the three European leaders headed for Kyiv, Xi was on the phone to Putin, pledging deeper co-operation between their countries. In the most unequivocal declaration of support for Putin since the war started, Xi committed China to backing Russia on issues such as sovereignty and security.

This must have come as a blow to Washington after months of efforts to get China to distance itself from Russia. Only hours before the call, Continue reading

Justifying terrorism

Speech by Colonel Richard Kemp at the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, during debate on initial report of commission investigating Israel-Palestine conflict

14 June 2022

This commission of inquiry is equivalent to Putin’s propaganda machine. The disinformation from Moscow justifies their illegal war on Ukraine; the disinformation from today’s report justifies Hamas’s illegal war on Israel.

I wish to address the commissioners. Putin wrongfully says an illegitimate Ukrainian state occupies Russian territory; you wrongfully say an illegitimate Israeli state occupies Palestinian territory.

Putin falsely says his war is to protect Russian-speakers in Ukraine; you falsely say Hamas’s violence is to protect religious rights in Jerusalem.

Why is this commission swallowing their lies — hook, line and sinker — and amplifying them with a megaphone that contorts reality into a travesty of human rights?

Neither this commission nor Putin count Hamas as terrorists. You back them with words while Putin backs them with guns.

Today’s report validates and encourages Hamas’s terror tactics, just as it outrageously denigrates Israel’s lawful defence. Your work here today ensures renewed bloodshed tomorrow. It incites hatred of Jews around the world, and cruelly betrays the Palestinian people.

Before Putin was expelled from this body, he voted to create your commission of inquiry, and now—like Hamas—he has endorsed your report. I can think of no greater indictment.

UN Will Justify a Mirror Image of Putin’s War

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 8 June 2022. © Richard Kemp

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Permanent Commission of Inquiry into Israel, due to make its initial report on June 13, has a mendacious mandate worthy of Vladimir Putin himself. Putin went to war to turn into reality his much repeated insistence that Ukraine is an illegitimate state that has no right to exist and is inseparable from the rest of Russia. Similarly, the UN mandate allows it to question the very existence of the State of Israel. Unlike all other UN inquiries, this one has no historic time limit and enables the commission to range right back to the foundation of the state. The commissioners won’t be bold enough to explicitly declare that Israel has no right to exist, but you can be certain that will be the subtext running throughout their report.

An important part of Putin’s vendetta against Ukraine is propaganda and disinformation, and that is the role the UNHRC has also allotted itself in the campaign against Israel. The actual fighting is done by Hamas and their henchmen, backed and supplied by Putin’s ally Iran. But even before the notorious 2009 Goldstone Report, the UNHRC justified and encouraged Hamas violence, and that has played a crucial role in efforts to vilify and isolate Israel as well as incite greater bloodshed in the Middle East and attacks against Jews around the world.

Like Putin in Ukraine this year and in 2014, Hamas has initiated a series of unprovoked violent attacks against Israel. The latest major wave, in which it launched over 4,000 missiles against Israel’s civilian population in May 2021, was the premise for the UNHRC’s current inquiry, although of course Israel’s self-defence rather than Hamas’s aggression is the focus of their ire. The scale of the Gaza conflict and the relative strengths of the two sides is completely different, but just like Putin in Ukraine, Hamas’s war against Israel aims to conquer the territory of a sovereign democratic state that it believes should not exist.

The Hamas Covenant explicitly claims that every inch of Israel’s land belongs to Muslims. This is echoed in the Palestinian National Charter, the founding document of the PLO which controls Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. The slogan ‘from the river to the sea’, familiar from anti-Israel protests and university campuses around the world, means that the Jewish people have no right to nationhood anywhere from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

Both Hamas and Putin’s Russia, like most dictatorships, habitually plead self-defence as their justification for aggression. Putin pretends that NATO is a threat to Russia, yet he understands it is a defensive alliance that has no hostile intent; Hamas claims Israeli aggression while knowing that Israel would not and has never used force except in defence of its sovereign land and people. Just as Putin describes Continue reading

Putin has regained the military initiative in Ukraine

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 29 May 2022. © Richard Kemp

A victory in Donbas – if he manages to secure it – is not the endgame for Vladimir Putin. He means to bend the entirety of Ukraine to his will and humiliate Nato and the US. Those, like Henry Kissinger and Emmanuel Macron, who think making peace is a matter of handing a slice of territory to Moscow, fail to understand a fundamental point: Putin’s strategic perspective goes much further than eastern Ukraine, and he has far more time and leverage than we assumed.

Many commentators had warned the West against complacency after Russia’s failed attempt to seize Ukraine in one blow in February. Putin’s army may have displayed tactical ineptitude and low morale, but it was always clear that a regrouped force could nevertheless achieve some of his objectives. That is precisely what is happening now, with the tide beginning to turn against the Ukrainians in the Donbas district of Luhansk.

Moscow has been making steady territorial gains there and inflicting heavy casualties on Ukrainian forces. President Zelensky admitted last week that up to 100 of his troops are being killed every day in the eastern region. That level of attrition will be severely degrading Ukrainian military morale and fighting strength. And, given what we know about Russian war tactics, it is unlikely they will be attaining anywhere near as many casualties.

In the face of blistering artillery bombardments followed up by tank and infantry attacks, Ukrainian troops have been on the retreat. Sometimes this has involved tactical withdrawal to more sustainable defensive positions, but mostly such moves are made out of necessity. The city of Severodonetsk is on the verge of being stormed. If it is captured alongside another key city, Lysychansk, then much of Luhansk will be under the Kremlin’s auspices. That marks a significant defeat for Ukraine – and the West. Continue reading

The West should call Putin’s bluff and escort Ukrainian grain ships

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 22 May 2022. © Richard Kemp

Putin’s blockade of grain and other foodstuffs leaving Ukraine by sea threatens a shortage that could cause starvation for millions around the world as well as major political upheaval. Russia attacked eight cargo vessels early in the conflict and another struck a mine, paralysing sea movement in the Black Sea. With no other feasible option to counter Moscow’s stranglehold, now is the time for a humanitarian coalition of navies to mount an operation to protect merchant shipping.

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest suppliers of corn, barley and wheat and, according to British transport minister Grant Shapps, the blockade could create a global famine that causes more deaths than the war itself. Twenty-five million tons of grain are waiting to be shipped and food prices are soaring — as high as 50 per cent in some developing countries.

As well as a humanitarian disaster we are facing an international security crisis. Many of the 400 million people that depend on Ukraine’s grain are in North Africa and the Middle East where serious political instability threatens if populations can no longer afford bread and other staples. Steep increases in the cost of food helped trigger the Arab Spring rebellions of the early 2010s. Last week General Christopher Cavoli, US Army commander in Europe and North Africa, warned the fallout from Russia’s blockade could strengthen terrorist groups, including the Islamic State, who thrive on food insecurity and poverty. Not to mention the new wave of migration towards Europe that this could produce.

We will soon reach a crunch point as this year’s harvest looms. Measures to increase shipments by rail and road including to seaports in Poland and Romania are in hand and making a difference. Continue reading

Vladimir Putin cannot afford another defeat like Kharkiv

Article published in The Daily Telegraph, 16 May 2022. © Richard Kemp

Russia has given up on attempts to seize Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, a major objective since the beginning of Putin’s war. The significance of this moment should not be underestimated, even if we’ve heard it multiple times in recent months: this is a major, embarrassing defeat for Moscow. While early efforts to encircle Kharkiv succeeded, the Russian army failed to turn that advantage into capturing the city, a consequence of its ineptitude and failures elsewhere on the battlefield. Now these forces are withdrawing from around the city to reinforce efforts in the east.

This was not Putin’s plan; indeed it wasn’t even his backup plan. Once the attempts to take Kyiv failed, he wanted to continue assaults against Kharkiv while simultaneously attacking the Donbas. These two efforts were going to be the consolation prize. Yet he has now failed in the former and is behind schedule in the latter. And even if he continues to make steady progress in the Donbas, he will soon need reinforcements, and it is not clear where he will find them in sufficient time.

Ukraine now has the opportunity to redeploy troops from the north of the country to fight in the east. Putin knows this and, it seems, has instructed Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko to deploy his own forces close to the border with Ukraine under the guise of military exercises. This directly threatens Kyiv and will have the effect of fixing Ukrainian troops in place for the time being. It is another sign that Russia is increasingly concerned about the balance of forces in Donbas.

Russia is also under pressure from Ukrainian counter-attacks in Kherson in the south, where they have now switched to defence rather than the previously planned offensive, pushing further west in the direction of the major port of Odessa. Despite this, Russia continues to fire missiles at Odessa, a key Black Sea city, although a full-scale assault on it is now looking increasingly unlikely. Continue reading

Will NATO Fight?

Article published by the Gatestone Institute, 10 May 2022. © Richard Kemp

Great Britain is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s public enemy number one. In March the Kremlin branded UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson the most active anti-Russian leader. A few days ago on television, Putin’s propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov fancifully suggested Russia should drown Britain in a radioactive tsunami created by Poseidon nuclear torpedos that would leave survivors in ‘a radioactive desert, unfit for anything for a very long time’.

Putin is upset about Britain’s stance over Ukraine, leading Europe and much of the world in aggressive sanctions against Russia; and pouring in financial and military aid plus decisive secret intelligence to help keep Kiev in the fight.

Needless to say, front-line states facing Russia take the opposite view of the UK. During visits to Poland and Finland in the last two weeks, the enthusiasm for Britain was palpable — among politicians, military and ordinary people alike. As a Brit I don’t remember such a warm reception anywhere in the world except perhaps in the US when we stood firmly by their side in the aftermath of 9/11.

Poles, Finns, Latvians, Lithuanians and other close neighbours of the Russian bully also appreciate the UK’s forward-leaning role in NATO’s pre-emptive deployment, positioning increased combat forces on their territory alongside other allies, predominantly the US.

Promises by NATO leaders that Putin will face the consequences if any of his soldiers so much as puts a toe-cap onto NATO soil of course reassure these beleaguered countries. But are we giving them false hope? Can eastern states really rely on the US and western European NATO members to ride to their aid if they get into a fight with Russia? Would we actually throw our young men and women against Putin’s steamroller — even the rather ramshackle steamroller that has been grinding its way across Ukraine?

If NATO blood would in fact be spilt should Russia invade Poland or the Baltic states, why have we utterly rejected the prospect of spilling it to help protect Ukraine from Putin’s mass killings, torture, rape and destruction? Ukraine is not a NATO member and NATO states have Continue reading