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Sensemaker: Nato redux

Sensemaker: Nato redux

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Russian missiles hit a shopping mall in central Ukraine, killing 18 people and injuring 59 with fears the number of victims could rise.
  • At least 46 people were found dead in an abandoned lorry near San Antonio, Texas.
  • A gold miner found a mummified 35,000-year-old baby woolly mammoth in north-western Canada.

Nato redux

If one of Putin’s war aims was to teach Nato a lesson, job done. The alliance has learned he is a rogue aggressor to be deterred with a massively increased military presence along the full length of Russia’s western flank.

Yesterday Nato’s secretary general announced a nearly eight-fold increase in the size of its quick reaction force as part of “the biggest overhaul of our collective deterrence and self-defence since the Cold War”.

It won’t help the families mourning shoppers killed in a rocket strike on Kremenchuk, but better late than never.

If Nato’s members endorse the plans at their summit in Madrid today, they will

  • effectively commit the alliance to defending every inch of its territory, updating a “tripwire” strategy that the Baltic states feared would allow them to be wiped out by a Russian invasion before Nato could respond;
  • send a message internationally that Putin’s anti-Nato paranoia is achieving the reverse of what he hoped; and
  • send a message that Moscow will repackage as proof that it was right about Nato all along.

Will it actually happen? There are reasons to think so.

  • The Nato summit follows the G7 meeting of rich democracies that just took place in Germany where leaders committed to supporting Ukraine for “as long as it takes”.
  • The plans would continue, albeit at a faster rate, a trend that has seen the quick reaction force grow from 13,000 troops to 40,000 since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea.
  • No Nato members have, so far, expressed a desire for restraint towards Russia. (By contrast, France and Germany have briefed that they want a more restrained approach from Nato to China – another item on the summit’s agenda.)

What would it do? The additional troops would enable the deployment of a combination of land, sea and air assets within two days in the event of an attack. Many of Nato’s existing forces were placed at “high readiness” after Russia invaded Ukraine and were sent to alliance members along Russia’s border, including Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland.

  • The greater numbers would allow additional deployments to Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. 
  • Existing deployments of 1,000-strong multinational battle groups would grow to brigades of 3,000-5,000 troops.
  • More military equipment would be sent to the Baltic states, which feel particularly exposed to Russian aggression. Last week Estonia’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, said Nato’s existing plans to roll back any Russian attack on her country within six months would see it “wiped off the map”.

Sweden, Finland, Turkey. This was also meant to be the summit at which Nato welcomed Sweden and Finland to the fold. Both reacted to Russia’s invasion by ending decades of neutrality and applying for membership, which needs consensus approval. Most members didn’t hesitate. Turkey had other ideas. 

It claims Sweden and Finland are too soft on what it considers terrorist Kurdish organisations such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It wants the Scandinavian countries to

  • grant extradition requests for individuals wanted by its authorities; and
  • end an arms embargo imposed after Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into Syria against Kurdish forces that were leading the fight against Isis.

Other Nato members have Kurdish minorities but Sweden’s is especially large. It includes Amineh Kakabevah, a former guerilla fighter turned Swedish MP who is keeping the coalition government of Magdalena Andersson in power with a working majority of one. Turkey’s President Erdogan is said to be vexed by Kakabevah’s extraordinary leverage.

He has not specifically demanded Kakabevah’s extradition. Instead all sides seem quietly to be hoping she loses her seat in September’s Swedish elections. 

Erdogan, Andersson and Finland’s president Sauli Niinisto have agreed to meet on the sidelines of the summit. In the meantime Kakabevah is demanding that Sweden forsake Nato membership rather than extradite her fellow Kurds. “It’s unbelievable that Sweden is so scared of Putin that it would abandon everything it believes in for another dictator, Erdogan,” she told the Times

That’s one take. Another is that Sweden wants to join Nato to defend what it believes in.


Another strike
About 1,500 British postal workers will go on a one-day strike in a dispute over pay. The Communication Workers Union, which represents some 3,500 members involved in the dispute, said its members rejected a pay offer which it said was worth 3 per cent from April this year, offered together with a £500 lump sum. The union described the deal as “woefully inadequate” and well below the current inflation rate of 9.1 per cent. The strike adds to a wave of industrial action disrupting the UK’s economy this summer. Last week rail staff staged their biggest strike in three decades over pay and jobs. Voters old enough to remember the last time unions took on a UK government with such determination – in 1984 – may be less likely to back it in the next election than they were then.


Violent clashes at Melilla
More than 2,000 migrants tried to breach the perimeter fence that separates Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Melilla. There were violent clashes between Moroccan police and Spanish security forces. Morocco said 23 of the migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, died. Many more were injured. More than 140 mostly Moroccan police officers were injured. It’s the most serious incident at the enclave, which together with another enclave on the coast called Ceuta, attracts thousands of African migrants looking to enter Europe. Human rights groups have called for an investigation. An Amnesty International spokesman said most of the migrants were fleeing conflict in South Sudan.


Abort user data
Developers of period tracking and fertility apps say they’re working on anonymising user data in response to the US Supreme Court striking down the constitutional right to an abortion. App data could be used against people in states where abortion may be criminalised. Natural Cycles, the first birth-control app approved by the Food and Drug Administration, said it’s building a “completely anonymous experience” so that not even the company itself can identify the user. To note: calls, text messages, location data and Google searches could be – and have been – used to argue an illegal abortion has occurred. The EFF has a useful rundown of how to limit your digital footprint when seeking an abortion. 

The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT

Nutrition inflation
The price of Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), treating the most acute form of child malnutrition, is projected to increase by 16 per cent over the next 6 months. Unicef says this could leave over 600,000 children without access to RUTF, which can be the difference between life and death. Simultaneously, 49 million people in 43 countries are living one step away from famine. Countries considered to be relatively stable are seeing a rapid rise in childhood malnutrition — in Uganda, severe child wasting has risen by 61 per cent since 2019. Soaring inflation rates resulting from post-pandemic demand, climate shocks and armed conflicts, including the war in Ukraine, are driving up food prices, and emergency help for the world’s hungriest isn’t immune.

Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitics

Stolen grain
Russian forces in occupied areas of Ukraine have been “systematically stealing grain and other produce from local farmers,” according to a BBC investigation. Farmers told journalists that Russian forces not only stole their grain, but destroyed their premises and equipment, including grain trucks. Some of those trucks had GPS trackers. Using the tracker data, journalists found these trucks drove south into Crimea and then onwards into Russia across the recently-completed Kerch Strait bridge, which Ukraine has said is a key target for its air force.

Thanks for reading. Please share this around and tell us what we’ve missed. News tips and story ideas are welcome. Email them to sensemaker@tortoisemedia.com.

Paul Caruana Galizia

With additional reporting by Katherine Whitfield.

Photographs Getty Images, Javier Bernardo/AP/Shutterstock

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