Russia Retreats from Kherson

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Another retreat by the Russian military, this time from Kherson. This past week Russian troops were ordered to evacuate from Kherson. Kherson is a port city located where the Dnipro River meets the Black Sea, and it was a central focus in Russia’s attempt to control the southern coast of Ukraine.

When Russia initially assaulted and captured Kherson it tried to assimilate the people into its sphere. But the Ukrainians of Kherson fought back and would not accept Russia’s efforts to strip the city and region of Ukrainian language, currency, and education. When Russia claimed to “annex” parts of Ukraine including Kherson, after a sham election, the citizens of Kherson stood defiant. This past week as Russian troops evacuated and Ukrainian soldiers entered the city the people of Kherson celebrated their return to Ukrainian control. One townsman reported to a New York Times reporter on scene, “people walk on the streets and congratulate each other, it’s just a holiday!”

There are a few schools of thought forming over Russia’s retreat. Some believe that Russia is moving to regroup and reposition its soldiers before the incoming winter, and in doing so avoid personnel and equipment losses from Ukrainian attacks and its own inability to adequately sustain forces over an extended battlefield. By moving its troops to the eastern side of the Dnipro River which borders Kherson, Russia is attempting to improve the survival odds for its troops using the river as a defensive barrier. 

President Biden spoke about the Russian retreat during a Press conference on Nov. 9 when he also answered questions about the midterm elections. Biden seemed to insinuate that the timing of the Russian retreat was linked to the US midterm elections. He pointed out that he thought it was interesting that Russia waited until after the US congressional election was complete to announce the retreat. Biden said, “it’s evidence of the fact that they have some real problems with the Russian military. 

In addition to this retreat, Russia is having problems on the home front. Hundreds of thousands of men have fled the country to avoid the draft. As of Nov. 4 the Kremlin reported over 700,000 men had left in approximately two weeks. Many believe Russian President Putin’s announcements that new military conscripts will not be sent to the vicinity of Kherson and that college students would be exempt from the military mobilization are an effort to deflect some criticism of the Russian military’s ongoing failures. Despite the tensions in Russia Putin has still managed to fill his military personnel quota to sustain his so called “special military operation” in Ukraine. Putin spoke to the media in early November saying that “mobilization is complete.” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also claimed that Putin’s goal of calling up 300,000 reservists had been achieved. However, as Ukraine continues to push back, a portion of the Russian public and military are not happy. 

To show his support for ongoing Ukrainian military advances and to celebrate the liberation of Kherson, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited Kherson on Monday, Nov.14. Zelenskyy commented that he believes this (i.e., the liberation of Kherson) is the “Beginning of the end of the war.” Zelenskyy continued, “Ukraine was ready for peace, but peace for all of our country, all of our territory.…That is why we’re fighting against Russian aggression.” Now that the Ukrainian flag once again flies over Kherson and Zelenskyy has visited to celebrate the Russian retreat, morale is high in southern Ukraine. Zelenskyy’s presence continues to be motivating to Ukrainian citizens. He is a symbol of the resilience and courage of Ukraine as demonstrated in Kherson when Russia was firing missiles at entrenched troops less than a mile away.  

North and South Korea Exchange Missiles Over Naval Dispute

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

         On Monday, Oct. 23, missiles were fired by North and South Korea. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said that they fired in response to North Korea’s recent and continual missile testing. South Korea also reported a North Korean merchant ship entered South Korean waters on Monday.  Concurrently North Korea fired ten rounds of artillery shells as a warning to South Korea, because North Korea claims a South Korean Navy ship entered into North Korean waters on Monday.

         Vice President Kamala Harris spoke out about the ongoing missile firing by North Korea and expressed the U.S.’s support for South Korea. Harris said, “I talked with the President about it, and it is clearly a provocation, and it is meant, we believe, to destabilize the region and we are taking it seriously, and everyone should.” She continued, “It is destabilizing the region and that is one of the reasons why the visit that I have made to Korea, to the Republic of Korea, is important because it is a statement about the strength of our alliance and our dedication, The United States’ dedication to the alliance in terms of security, prosperity, stability.”

         This conflict arose over the Yellow Sea to the west coast of the Korean peninsula. Since the Korean partition in 1945 there have been many disputes in and around the area. Technically, North and South Korea are still at war and tensions remain strong. In 2010 there were two attacks on Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea and 50 South Koreans were killed.

         The U.S. has military personnel stationed all over the world, including in South Korea. South Korea and the U.S. conduct regular military training exercises and do missile testing to deter North Korea. North Korea states that it does not see joint South Korean and American military cooperation and exercises as a drill. North Korea believes that the two counties are working together to practice a potential invasion of North Korea.

For its part North Korea does very little to dissuade the US and South Korea from continuing their close cooperation. CBS News reported that, as of Oct.23, North Korea had conducted 24 missile tests in 2022. These tests continue to concern South Korea, the US, and other countries in Asia, most notably Japan.

         Isaac Stone Fish, the CEO of Strategy Risk, which is a program that helps corporations and non-profit organizations minimize their risk of exposure to China, talked about how concerned the U.S. citizens should be with the rising tensions between North and South Korea. Fish said, “I don’t think we need to be that concerned. As always for North Korea, the most costs go to the North Korean people. For Americans, the biggest risk is mostly to the 28,00 American troops stationed in South Korea, the troops in Japan and the possibility of an attack on either South Korea or Japan.” Fish speculates that North Korea could be trying to draw attention to themselves knowing that the U.S. has midterm elections coming up.

Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea speculated that North Korea knows that the US has a complicated relationship with Russia and China which would make it difficult for the U.S. to work with those two regional powers to find a potential solution for the issues with North Korea. Seong-Chang said, “The South Korean military needs to make thorough preparations to prevent fresh skirmishes from happening on the West Sea and prevent them from causing the worst-case scenario like the North Korean military’s artillery bombardments on the South Korean Border.”         While there is currently no direct threat to the continental U.S. posed by North Korea, US citizens should still be aware of the rising tensions in Korea as South Korea and Japan are valued US allies, and potentially a miscalculation in missile trajectory could cause a North Korean missile to impact on South Korean or Japanese territory. Such a mistake, whether an error or purposeful by North Korea could cause the US and its allies to enact additional economic sanctions or military retaliation against North Korea, igniting a conflict which could potentially injure or kill hundreds of thousands of people

North Korea Tests Missiles that can “hit and wipe out” Enemies

international politics, Politics

 By Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

         On Sunday, Oct. 9, North Korea continued its missile testing by launching two short-range ballistic missiles toward the east. In response, South Korea has boosted its surveillance of North Korea. South Korea reported that the two missiles were launched between 1:48 AM and 1:58 AM from the city of Munchon. These launches are only two in an ongoing military demonstration by North Korea.

         The tensions between North and South Korea began at the end of World War II when Korea was divided. The Soviet Union supported the North, and the United States supported the South. A consensus could not be reached on what form of government should rule, so both the North and South created two new governments with the supervision of the Soviet Union and the U.S. The new governments are divided at the 38th parallel. The North became the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, aligned with the Soviet Union and the South became the Republic of Korea, aligned with the U.S. and other Western countries.

         In 1952 at the end of the Korean War, the 38th parallel was replaced by a buffer zone named the Korean Demilitarized Zone. This line divides the country in half. Tensions continue today as North Korea continues to expand economically and wishes to demonstrate its power to the rest of the world.

         You may be thinking, what is the problem with missile testing? This question is answered by Kim Dong-yub, a professor who teaches North Korean studies in Seoul, South Korea. Dong-yub stated that because the missile traveled an estimated 370 miles, he believes a potential target of that distance could be the South Korean southeastern port city of Busan. Another missile launched over Japan was a new intermediate-range weapon that can travel up to 2,800 miles. Dong-yub speculates this missile is designed to hit targets as far away as Alaska or Hawaii.

         October 10th was the 77th Anniversary of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, and profound statements were released by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA said that the missiles launched from North Korea were in response to naval drills between the U.S. and South Korea because it involved the aircraft carrier, USS Ronald Reagan, which is a nuclear-powered ship. It has not been used for five years. KCNA stated that “Through seven times of launching drills of tactical nuclear operation units, the actual capabilities…of the nuclear combat forces read to hit and wipe out the set objects at any location and any time was displayed to the full.” This indicates a direct threat against Reagan and its support fleet. Many Westerners are worried about the deliberate use of the words “hit and wipe out” as some of the missiles being tested have such a long range.

         Kim Jong-un, spoke out making his intentions crystal clear. He states that the recent missile tests were “an obvious warning” to South Korea and the U.S. He also stated that his military would maintain “their strongest nuclear response posture and further strengthen it in every way.”

         This year North Korea has launched over 40 missiles. Many believe North Korea will continue to “send messages” until the U.S. formally recognizes North Korea as a Nuclear State which would mean many UN sanctions would be lifted from North Korea. The school of thought that is beginning to gain attention is that the war between Russia and Ukraine is causing a distraction that North Korea is using to its advantage.

Tensions between Greece and Turkey over Cyprus Islands 

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Wikivoyage

Today when you hear about a conflict between Greece and Turkey you might be confused thinking the conflict ended in the 1970s. That was true until this week.  

On Oct. 1st Cyprus celebrates its annual Independence Day. In 1960, Cypriot freedom was formally recognized by the governments of Greece, Turkey, and the United Kingdom (UK) in what is called the London and Zürich Agreement. The agreement was the result of a series of meetings that started in February 1959, when representatives from Greece, Turkey, and the UK met to draft an agreement that would cement Cyprus as an independent state. At the meeting, a constitution was also drafted which was designed to share power between the Greek majority (77%) and the Turkish minority (18%) on the island. Officially, on Aug. 16, 1960, Cyprus was recognized as an independent state. But soon after, in 1963, the agreement fell apart.  

In Dec. 1963, Cyprus was beset by violent clashes between Greek and Turkish factions, the United Nations sent in a peacekeeping force to geographically separate the opposing factions. Hostilities simmered until 1974 when Turkey sent their military in to claim almost 50% of the island in the North. Turkey self-claimed the land as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Turkey was the only one to recognize this area. Directly to the south of Turkey’s claimed land is what is called the UN Buffer Zone, and many refer to it as “the green line” which is still occupied by UN peacekeeping forces. The UN Buffer Zone stretches from the west coast of Cyprus horizontally to the east coast across a total of 112 miles. The Buffer Zone, which was established in 1964, was enhanced in 1974 when Turkey invaded. In response to this Turkey built up its own border defenses on the Northern side of the Buffer Zone. Turkey’s line is known as the Attila line which was named after the code name for the Turkish invasion of Cyprus labeled “Operation Attila.” Turkey’s barrier is lined with concrete walls and barbed wire, and it has ditches meant to deter tanks and minefields spread throughout. The UN Buffer Zone and Turkish barricade run right through the middle of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, Nicosia remains the last capital to be physically divided in Europe. In addition to the Cypriot land that the UN and Turkey occupy there are two areas on the southern coast that are British sovereign base areas. Most of southern Cyprus comprises the Republic of Cyprus and is populated by ethnic Greeks. 

Allegedly this past weekend there was a deployment by Greece of dozens of U.S. made armored vehicles to the Aegean islands of Samos and Lesbos. Turkey summoned the Greek ambassador and protested. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that the island be demilitarized. Erdogan warned that Turkey would not hold back on defending its interests against NATO allies, including Greece. Erdogan is now calling for formal recognition of Turkey’s self-claimed land in Northern Cyprus.  

At the Cyprus Independence Day parade, on Oct. 1, Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos said that Turkey’s “revisionist and destabilizing behavior” is undermining security in the east Mediterranean region. Panagiotopoulos disregarded Erdogan’s demands to demilitarize the islands saying, “as if they are not being threatened and as if we don’t have the right to take all defensive measures for them.” 

These demands from Turkey increase tensions between Turkey and Greece while leaving Cyprus, in the middle. Greece has stated they can defend the islands despite Turkey’s threats.  

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said that even though Cyprus is being supplied with more military equipment the action is not designed to provoke Turkey, nor should it provide Turkey a basis for bolstering the 40,000 troops it has stationed in the North.  

NATO and the European Union want to assist in defusing the current escalation in tensions, but a permanent solution for the ethnic hostilities in Cyprus has not been reached for almost 50 years. 

United Nations General Assembly Aims to Defuse Tensions

international politics, Politics

By: Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Tuesday, Sept. 13th kicked off The United Nations (UN) 77th Annual General Assembly. Tuesday September 20th marked the beginning of formal discussions. The General Assembly was created in 1945 under the Charter of the United Nations. The General Assembly is a valuable tool of the international community because it brings together the leaders of the countries who signed the UN Charter, and it acts as an open conversation between countries where policies can be discussed and/or developed.

The theme of this year’s Assembly is “a watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges.” This year’s discussion topics include the COVID-19 pandemic and its lasting effects, the War in Ukraine, climate change, and various humanitarian challenges.

On Sept.r 21 President Biden addressed the Assembly. He commented on key topics that will be discussed in the Assembly. He spoke about the war in Ukraine saying that he hoped all 141 nations in the UN General Assembly would condemn Russia’s actions. Biden said, “the United States is also working closely with our allies and partners to impose costs on Russia, to deter attacks against NATO territory, to hold Russia accountable for the atrocities and war crimes.” He said, “I reject the use of violence and war to conquer nations or expand borders through bloodshed.” President Biden emphasized his vision for a world “that is grounded in the values of democracy.”

President Biden included comments about China in the portion of his speech concerning democracy. Biden explained, “We do not seek conflict. We do not seek a Cold War. We do not ask any nation to choose between the United States or any partner. But the United States will be unabashed in promoting our vision of a free, open, secure, and prosperous world…”

At the Assembly, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi said that China wishes to keep peace in the international community. Yi said, “turbulence and war can only open Pandora’s box, and he who instigates a proxy war can easily get himself burned.” U.S. and Chinese comments sound promising for diplomatic solutions to on-going disputes, but the U.S. and China still have two significant sources of tension: the status of Taiwan and Chinese claims to territorial authority over the South China Sea. China believes that Taiwan is officially part of the Republic of China, and the U.S. has practiced “strategic ambiguity” by saying there is one China but recognizing Taiwan as an autonomous state. As far as the South China Sea, China claims the sea as part of its sphere of influence, while the U.S. is adamant that the waterway through which more than 22% of global commerce passes is international water that can be freely traversed by the international community.

Tensions between the U.S. and China increased when the U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan on August 2, 2022. When Pelosi visited, China’s military announced air and sea drills near Taiwan with “potential” testing and launching of conventional missiles. Pelosi said, “We cannot stand by as the Chinese Communist Party proceeds to threaten Taiwan – and democracy itself.” China did not approve of Pelosi’s visit and said that it damaged peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. During Pelosi’s visit tensions were high in the U.S. yet no harm came to Pelosi or her motorcade during the visit despite the disagreement between countries.

In President Biden’s Speech to the General Assembly, he mentioned Taiwan by saying, “We seek to uphold peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits. We remain committed to our One China policy, which has helped prevent conflict for four decades and we continue to oppose unilateral changes in the status quo by either side” Chinese Minster Yi also mentioned Taiwan during the Assembly by stating that Taiwan has been “an inseparable part of China’s territory since ancient times.” Yi says the One China policy is an accepted norm in the international community. He then went on to say that “Any move to obstruct China’s reunification is bound to be crushed by the wheels of history.”

In both President Biden and Minister Yi’s speeches any reader or viewer of the Assembly can see that the two leaders have a disagreement over the “ownership” of Taiwan. But, with both countries emphasizing a desire for peace there may be a potential for future diplomacy between the US and China about Taiwan’s place in the international community.

Discussions about the war in Ukraine and climate change are promised as the Assembly continues over the next week.

Ukraine Advances Against Russia

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff 

Time

         The war in Ukraine ever since Russia invaded in February 2022. Ukraine has asked for and received help from much of the Western world while trying to defend its territory. In the month of September, we have watched Ukraine start to change the tide of the war. President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Ukraine has recaptured 6,000 square kilometers since the start of September. 

This past weekend, as part of a broad counter-offensive, Ukraine took back the Kharkiv region from the Russians near the Russian-Ukrainian border. Ukrainian forces took control of the town of Velykyi Burluk, located 65 miles east of the city of Kharkiv, and within 15km of the international border. The US think tank, the Institute of the Study of War (ISW) has stated, “Ukrainian forces have inflicted a major operational defeat on Russia, recapturing almost all Kharkiv oblast in a rapid counter offensive.” 

Under the Ukrainian onslaught Russian forces have abandoned their defensive positions and retreated in an undisciplined manner. The governor of the Kharkiv region, Oleh Syniehubov, said, “[the] enemy hastily abandons its positions and flees deep into the previously occupied territories” and that “in some areas of the front, our defenders reached the state border.” Ukrainian Military Intelligence said that the Russians who are retreating have engaged in, “mass looting, loading generators, telephones, and computers taken from Ukrainians on to their cars.” There are reports that schools have robbed and sports equipment stolen from gyms, the GUR (Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Center) said. 

         The Russian response to the Ukrainian territorial gain has included missiles aimed at the nationwide power grid. This has resulted in the Ukrainian people going without power, gas and running water. President Zelensky responded by rhetorically asking the Russians, “Do you still think you can intimidate, break us, force us to make concessions?” he said, “Cold hunger, darkness and thirst for us are not as scary and deadly as your friendship and brotherhood. We will be with gas, lights, water, and food and without you.” 

         The Allegation of Russia war crimes in Ukraine has persisted since the inception of the Russian invasion. After Ukraine took back Kharkiv, a Ukrainian member of parliament said that on Monday four “corpses with signs of torture” were found in the liberated city.   

       The US has been closely following tactical developments and consistently sending money and weaponry to support Ukraine since the initiation of hostilities. Last week, the US announced that it would be supplying an additional $2.8 billion in military assistance, e.g., weapons, information system, reconnaissance platforms and ammunition to Ukraine. US leadership is expressing concern about Russians war tactics involving energy. On Sept. 8, President Biden held a meeting with other Western leaders over a video chat. His main message was to stay unified in punishing Russia for trying to weaponize energy. US officials currently believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to wear down the Ukrainian economy and demoralize Western Europe. By turning off the Russian pipeline that runs into Europe, Russia seeks to keep fuel prices rising until Europe waivers in its military and financial support for Ukraine and encourages Ukraine to accept peace on unfavorable terms. One US official stated that Putin’s attempt to strangle the European economy has had the opposite effect on morale by saying, “if anything, we believe Russia’s actions have actually only increased unity among Europeans,” the message that Russia is sending every European is that it is not reliable. So the European animosity towards Russia is just increasing”

Lindsey Graham Abortion Bill

national politics, Politics

Ceara Grady, Staff

Newsweek

On Sept. 13, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham introduced a bill that would impose a federal ban on abortions after 15 weeks. Such a bill would allow laws in conservative states that ban abortion earlier to remain in effect but would impose restrictions on liberal states that do not currently restrict abortion. Abortion is an incredibly polarizing issue in the United States today, particularly since the overturning of Roe v. Wade with the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision in June. With the Senate’s current 50-50 split and elections in November with the potential to shift the majority one way or the other, including in Pennsylvania, debates around abortion draw more attention than ever before.  Considering that banning abortion is unpopular nationally and that, since Roe was decided, Republicans have argued that aboriton should be an issue left to the discretion of the states, there is very little support in the Senate for Senator Graham’s bill. Many Republican Senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have come out and said that Senator Graham’s proposed bill does not speak for the Senate GOP conference and that it is unlikely to garner much support. This distancing from Senator Graham’s bill without commenting on its content signals the Republican recognition that abortion is an issue on which they are in the national minority and one that will lose them important votes in their upcoming races.

Upon introduction of this bill, many Pennsylvanians turned their attention to their Senate candidates for the upcoming November election: Democratic nominee Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and Republican nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz. Fetterman did not hesitate to unequivocally denounce Senator Graham’s bill. He confirmed his position that he rejects any effort by the government to impose restrictions on abortion and that he, as a Senator, would support legislation to codify the right to choose. Dr. Oz has been more hesitant and less clear about his views on Senator Graham’s bill. A spokesperson for his campaign made the following statement: “Dr. Oz is pro-life with three exceptions: life of the mother, rape, and incest. And as a senator, he would want to make sure that the federal government is not involved in interfering with the state’s decisions on the topic.” Fetterman’s team was quick to highlight Oz’s roundabout answer to a question important to many voters. Pennsylvania voters can expect to see this topic, among many others, debated by Fetterman and Oz on Oct. 25.

EU Energy Prices Soar as Russia Cuts off Natural Gas Exports

Politics

Ian Krysztofiak, Staff

Energy prices skyrocketed on Monday as the state-controlled Gazprom PJSC announces the shutdown of the Nord Stream Pipeline that supplies the EU with 40% of its natural gas. The Nord Stream Pipeline runs from Vybord Russia under the Baltic Sea to Greifswald Germany. The Kremlin says western sanctions has made maintenance of the pipeline impossible yet declines to send the gas through other functioning pipelines. Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, wholesale natural-gas prices in northwest Europe were at around seventy euros a megawatt-a hour, as of Sept. 5, 2022, the price per megawatt-a hour is 252 euros.

Europe is on the front lines of this economic war with Russia, the soaring electricity prices and natural gas shortages has hindered the European economy and has them concerned about blackouts and shortages in the winter months when energy demand picks up. Heading into the winter, the analysts believe Europe will be able to survive without state-directed rationing. European utilities companies are working endlessly to find replacements to Russian gas, the U.S. and the middle east are sending them a supercooled liquified-natural gas alternative.

EU governments fear that power markets are posed to break due to the massive cash payments that these companies are required to make to trade on energy exchanges. Officials see that these failed payments could promote financial instability creating a vicious cycle of volatility.

By cutting gas supplies to Europe creates risk for Moscow, recently the EU has agreed impose a price cap on Russian oil to limit Russia’s ability to finance its war with Ukraine. Russia has threatened to retaliate by cutting off oil and gas exports to countries that implement this price cap.

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz mentioned earlier this week that his country was “much better prepared” to secure enough national gas for Germany to avoid blackouts during the winter than they were a couple of months ago. He also mentioned that “we can deal quite well with the threats that are coming our way from Russia.”

Russia to officially declare war on Ukraine, U.S. officials speculate

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff
Header Image: BBC

Just weeks after the Russian military was accused of war crimes by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Western officials are speculating that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be moving towards an official declaration of war against Ukraine. The speculation comes in preparation for “Victory Day” in Russia on May 9. The day commemorates Russia’s victory against the Nazis in 1945. The day is symbolic to the Russian people and Putin himself. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Putin “is probably going to declare on this May Day that ‘we are now at war with the world’s Nazis and we need to mass mobilize the Russian people.”

U.S. officials have begun to speculate the Declaration of War may be coming on May 9 after reviewing Putin’s language in the months since Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Putin has been careful to avoid the word “war “and called the invasion a “special military operation.”

If Russia is moving towards declaring war it could mean Putin could move all of his troops in the reserves to action in Ukraine.According to Russian Generals, it looks like their eyes may be on Moldova next. 

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991 Moldova became independent. Russia then led a separatist movement into Transnistria which declared itself independent from the Moldova Republic. If the trend continues that Putin wants to rebuild Russia’s empire by taking over former countries in the Soviet Union, Moldova is a logical target. Last week the senior Russian Commander explained that his goals for Russia’s next move into Ukraine is to gain access to Southern Ukraine and move into Transnistria. 

Transnistria is a strip of land approximately 1,350 square miles wide in-between Ukraine and Moldova and is not internationally recognized. There are roughly half a million people who live there that have their own constitution, military and flag. The majority of those people are Russian speakers. Russia has previously used the justification for freeing oppressed “Russian speakers’” when invading Ukraine. By going through southern Ukraine and securing Transnistria, Russia would also gain access to the Ukrainian port city of Odessa on the Black Sea.

Moldova is increasing security measures after an explosion occurred in the towns of Maiac and Tiraspol located in Transnistria to the northeast of Moldova. Moldova has implemented military checkpoints in its cities and canceled its annual victory day parade on May 9. 

An expert on Moldova, Bob Deen, who is a senior research fellow at the Clingendael Institute think tank in the Netherlands says, “We have seen that the topic of Transnistria is becoming discussed more openly in the Russian public domain. Russian recent statements could be an indication of the ambitions Moscow has there.” 

In addition to Russia’s military operations increasing in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that “NATO is essentially going to war with Russia through a proxy.” President Biden addressed these comments saying that calling out NATO is a sign of “desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure.”

Russia pulls out of Kyiv, U.S. meets with Ukraine to discuss aid

Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Header Image: Kyiv Post

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Kyiv, Ukraine to meet with Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. While in Ukraine they engaged in a three hour meeting where they discussed the turning tide of the war, Russia’s strategy, and what aid Zelenskyy needs. 

After the Russian Military failed to take Kyiv, they turned their attention to the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine. The Donbas region has had Russian supporters fighting there for years, since 2014. The region is on the Russian border, so it makes it easier for Russia to fight there. They are close to supplies and reinforcements from Russia. The Donbas region changes the nature of the fighting because it is a flat and open space. Russia retreating from Kyiv is progress for Ukraine, but they now must focus on using long-range weapons, such as artillery, to fight the Russians from a greater distance. Russia’s repositioning away from Kyiv was one of the topics brought up during the meeting and Blinken said, “When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding. Russia has sought as its principle aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed.”

Blinken and Austin demonstrated the US’s continuing support for Ukraine. They are the two highest-level Americans to visit the Ukrainian capital since the war started in February. They were cautioned of the dangers of traveling to Ukraine, but Blinken explained, “We had an opportunity to demonstrate directly our strong ongoing support for the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people. This was, in our judgment, an important moment to be there, to have face-to-face conversations in detail…The strategy that we’ve put in place, massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts are having real results.”

The next step to help Ukraine is to send military equipment that meets current needs, especially long-range weapons such as howitzers and anti-artillery radars. On Thursday, April 21st President Biden announced, “An additional $800 million in military aid will be sent to Ukraine.” This aid includes howitzers and artillery ammunition, tactical vehicles, and drones. The US has provided an estimated $3.4 billion worth of aid since February 24 at the start of the war. President Biden has also accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of genocide and war crimes in Ukraine. 

The US is not the only country to help Ukraine and more continue to join. Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have all offered to give military aid to Ukraine. English Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “They need support with more artillery; that is what we will be giving them.”

The US embassy in Ukraine has remained closed since the beginning of the hostilities, but President Biden announced Bridget Brink as his nominee for Ukrainian ambassador on Monday, and this, along with SecState Blinken’s assurances on Sunday signal the embassy may be up and running in the next few weeks.

Secretary of State Blinken returned to Washington after the meeting, but Secretary of Defense Austin did not accompany him. Austin traveled to Ramstein, Germany along with 20 other representatives for a North Atlantic Treaty Alliance (NATO) meeting. In the April 26 meeting assistance to the war in Ukraine was discussed along with long-term remedies for the current conflict in Europe.