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Sensemaker: How to beat Russia

Sensemaker: How to beat Russia

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Britain’s foreign secretary Liz Truss joined the long list of candidates to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister (see Matthew d’Ancona, below).
  • Steve Bannon, a former adviser to Donald Trump, agreed to testify to the January 6th committee investigating the riot at the Capitol. 
  • Macau closed its casinos for the first time in two years amid a Covid outbreak in the world’s biggest gambling hub.

How to beat Russia

Putin has spent two months destroying the cities of Ukraine’s Luhansk region in order to occupy their ruins. On 6 July he ordered a pause to let his troops regroup. There are unconfirmed reports of Ukrainian forces starting to use Nato-supplied multiple launch rocket systems against Russian supply lines, but the bigger picture is of attrition on the front lines and uncertainty about the West’s role.

So clarity is needed. To end the slaughter, preserve Ukraine as an independent country and bring Putin and his enablers to justice, the goal is simple: defeat Russia. The question is how.

The Ukrainian defence minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, outlines three options, ranging from returning to positions before the 24 February invasion and negotiating remaining occupied territory; continuing to engage in a war of attrition; and waiting for the collapse of the Russian Federation (the third, he admitted, would be a “long story”).

Time is on Russia’s side because of its enormous resources in terms of infantry and weapons. These are mainly out-of-date Soviet ones – but they are still capable of massive destruction.

To push back one of the biggest armies in the world, Ukraine needs to exploit three factors:

  • More motivated fighters (the morale of those defending their land is always higher than that of invaders);
  • More sophisticated strategies and tactics;
  • Western weapons.

From “blitzkrieg” to grinder. After the Russian army’s failed lightning attacks on Kyiv and Kharkiv in March it switched to a more methodical approach, concentrating its forces in one place at a time with massive use of heavy artillery. This has yielded success in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, if success is the term for scorched earth and wrecked infrastructure.

This strategy is backed by a country with more people, more weapons and a bigger economy than Ukraine’s. It’s a strategy based on quantity. In terms of motivation and sophistication, Ukraine is more than a match (see above). In terms of weapons – and sanctions – Ukraine needs more.

Weapons. Experts at the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) have compiled a list of what Ukraine still lacks:

  • Anti-radiation seekers to suppress Russian electronic warfare systems
  • Multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS)
  • 155-mm howitzers
  • Secure communications systems
  • Anti-tank guided weapons and man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADS)
  • Protected mobility such as armoured personnel carriers
  • Point defences to protect critical infrastructure.

Despite almost daily pleas to western leaders, Ukraine is still not getting nearly enough of what it needs to win the battle at the frontline. For example, out of at least 300 MLRS needed, only 50 have been promised. That is many more than a month ago but nearly an order of magnitude less than required.

Sanctions. To beat Russia economically, the world has to stop buying Russian oil and gas. At the moment Europe still pays Moscow nearly €1 billion a day for gas and Russia still sells oil to Asia – at a discount, but a discount on historically high prices. The result: sanctions currently operate like handcuffs on one hand of the criminal. Josep Borrell, the EU foreign affairs chief, insists sanctions will do their job over time. As he puts it, in the end they’ll force Putin to choose between butter and guns.

In the meantime energy customers in the EU and the UK facing ruinous bills may ask why they should pay for Ukraine’s war effort. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, offers an answer: “Well, suppose you don’t pay. We will fight, you will die of hunger [as food prices rise], and then the hypothetical victories of Russia in Ukraine will inspire more offensives elsewhere, and then you will fight.”

Why support Ukraine? The security architecture of Europe and to a lesser extent the world “has shifted fundamentally”, Sam Cranny-Evans of Rusi says. He thinks if Russia isn’t stopped in Ukraine it may roll on to Moldova, “so the job of deterrence remains an important one”.

If the West gives enough weapons to Ukraine and imposes more sanctions on Russia, there is a chance of stopping the aggressor and proving that western democracies can still defend themselves. If not, the only question would be, who is next?


Bedtime Tory stories

Matthew d’Ancona

Thus far the leadership contest to replace Boris Johnson has been a festival of delusion and evasion. Do the candidates grasp how great is the task, and how much damage there is to repair?


Sri Lanka protests
Who is running Sri Lanka? Both the president and the prime minister are in hiding after protesters stormed the presidential palace and the prime minister’s private residence over the weekend, following months of outrage over fuel and food shortages. The colonial-era buildings have effectively become free museums with makeshift signs saying “open to the public”, as people take a dip in the presidential pool. Both men have pledged to resign, but any sense of public victory may be short-lived. The country, once seen as an economic success story, has been pummelled first by Covid and then high energy prices and food shortages following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Protesters blame president Rajapaksa – and his wider family, who have dominated political life in Sri Lanka for years – for their financial misery. Inflation is at 54.6 per cent and rising. Any new leader inherits a country on life support.


The Uber files
Uber, the ride-hailing service, lobbied top politicians including France’s Emmanuel Macron to relax labour and taxi laws as it expanded worldwide, according to thousands of documents leaked to the Guardian. The leaked files also show the company apparently used a “kill switch” to block attempts by regulators to access its data systems – a move reportedly used at least 12 times during raids in countries including France, India, the Netherlands and Belgium. The leak consists of over 124,000 documents spanning the period between 2013 and 2017, when boss Travis Kalanick was forced out. In a statement, Uber said: “We have not and will not make excuses for past behaviour that is clearly not in line with our present values.”

The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT

NHS cuts 
Conservative leadership hopefuls are falling over themselves to promise tax cuts. Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt, both former health secretaries, have promised to cut corporation tax, while Javid and foreign secretary Liz Truss are also promising to scrap the planned national insurance rise. Their reasoning: cutting tax will jumpstart economic growth (read: it is red meat for the party faithful). The NHS is likely to pay the price. Paul Johnson, the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, has said “dramatic” cuts to the NHS or welfare state will be needed if tax cuts are to continue. NHS Providers, who represent trusts in England, warned on Friday that the “political paralysis” in Westminster is “deeply unhelpful” to already strained plans for much-needed upgrades and new hospitals. As any surgeon knows, cuts have consequences. 

Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitics

California’s plastic law
California has passed a law designed to phase out single-use plastics, the most comprehensive legislation of its kind in the country. The law demands that all single-use packaging has to be recyclable or compostable by 2032, while companies must reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging by 25 per cent. The law, signed by governor Gavin Newsom on the same day the US Supreme Court limited the power of the Environmental Protection Agency, has been hailed as a transformative shift. As America’s most populous state, California has the ability to set standards – 17 other states are now following its lead on vehicle emissions. Hopefully it can do the same for plastic waste.  


Japan after Abe
Japan’s leader Fumio Kishida can ride an “unprecedented” wave of public support to increase the country’s defence budget after a strong performance in an election overshadowed by the killing of former premier Shinzo Abe. Kishida’s ruling conservative coalition, led by the Liberal Democratic Party, increased its majority in Japan’s upper house in Sunday’s elections, held two days after Abe was shot dead during a campaign speech. Abe was an outspoken backer of a stronger military and revising Japan’s pacifist constitution. With no elections planned for another three years, Kishida has the space to realise a long-held ambition of his former boss.

The week ahead


11/7 – Conservative leadership election schedule decided by the party’s 1922 committee; Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey gives evidence to Treasury committee; Conservative MP Jamie Wallis goes on trial for traffic offences; Post Office workers go on strike and criminal law barrister strikes continue; Archie Battersbee life support removal hearing heard at High Court, 12/7 – July 12 marches held in Northern Ireland; former prime minister John Major gives evidence to public administration committee, 13/7 – RMT general secretary appears at transport committee session to discuss rail strikes; UK monthly GDP and trade statistics announced, 14/7 – Institute for Fiscal Studies publishes living standards report; British Open begins in St Andrews; NHS waiting times for suspected and diagnosed cancer patients released; hearing for actor Kevin Spacey on sexual assault charges; Duchess of Cornwall hosts reception to mark 160th anniversary of Battersea Cats and Dogs Home, 15/7 – BBC Proms begin at the Royal Albert Hall; Royal International Air Tattoo military air show held in Gloucestershire


11/7 – Eurozone finance ministers meet in Brussels; Manhattanenge, when the sun sets in alignment with New York’s street grid; European Court of Justice hearing on the Super League’s claim that has UEFA has a monopoly on European football, 12/7 – First images from the James Webb telescope due to be released; final legal act due to be passed by EU ministers allowing Croatia to adopt the euro; private funeral to be held for Shinzo Abe; Amazon Prime Day, 13/7 –  UN Security Council holds consultations on political and humanitarian situation in Syria; Joe Biden begins his first Middle East trip as US president; target launch day for European Space Agency’s Vega-3, 14/7 – Bastille Day held in France; National Republic Day commemorated in Iraq; Pacific Islands Forum meeting of leaders concludes, 15/7 – World Athletics Championships begin in Oregon; Donald Trump and two of his children set to testify in a civil investigation into his business practices; Spanish cabin crew for easyJet hold strike action over the weekend.

Thanks for reading. Please share this round, tell us who you think should be the next Tory leader and your thoughts on any stories we’ve missed. Email sensemaker@tortoisemedia.com.

Nina Kuryata
Contributing Editor

With additional reporting by Jessica Winch and Phoebe Davis.

Photographs Getty Images

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