BoJo the Buffoon–and a Clownish Historian too (note COVID 19 UPDATE)

From a New Statesman re-upping of a 2015 review by the excellent historian Richard Evans:

“One man who made history” by another who seems just to make it up: Boris on Churchill

Churchill “was no party-pooper” according to Boris Johnson, whose self-serving biography of the wartime leader was derided by the historian RJ Evans in this review published in the New Statesman in 2014. The irony is palpable: faced with Tory defection and a rebellious media, it seems as if Johnson’s own efforts to live up to his hero’s reputation as a reveler – attending parties in No 10 while the population endured grinding lockdowns – have backfired with potentially terminal effect.  

Boris Johnson, as the subtitle of this book proclaims, is a firm believer in the “great man” theory of history. Not for him the subtleties of the complex interplay of historical forces and individual personalities. Subtlety is not Boris’s strong point. Winston Churchill alone, he writes, “saved our civilisation”. He “invented the RAF and the tank”. He founded the welfare state (although Boris gives David Lloyd George a bit of credit for this, as well). All of this, he argues, confounds what he sees as the fashion of the past few decades to write off “so-called great men and women” as “meretricious bubbles on the vast tides of social history”. The story of Winston Churchill “is a pretty withering retort to all that malarkey. He, and he alone, made the difference.”

…Anyone who has the time or energy to press a couple of keys on a computer to look up “tank”, “RAF”, “welfare state” or even “the Second World War” on Wikipedia will see Boris’s sweeping claims vanish in a cloud of inconvenient facts…

Johnson doesn’t weigh up policies and ideas with any care or penetration. If he doesn’t like them, he dismisses them as “rot”, “tripe”, “loopy”, “bonkers”, “barmy” or “nuts”; their advocates and practitioners as “loonies”, “plodders”, “Stilton-eating surrender monkeys”, and so on.

There are some truly cringe-making metaphors and wordplay in the book. Churchill, we learn, was “mustard keen on gas” as a weapon in the First World War. He was “the large protruding nail on which destiny snagged her coat”. Young Tories “think of him as the people of Parma think of the formaggio Parmigiano. He is their biggest cheese.” And Chamberlain’s “refusal to stand up to Hitler” was “spaghetti-like” (clearly Boris is rather fond of Italian food)…

In a book that involves a good deal of modern European history, Boris the Eurosceptic clearly doesn’t find it necessary to master the details. Croatia, he tells us casually, was ruled by “some Ustasha creep or other” in the interwar years (it was not), while in the same period there was a plague of “communist uprisings in eastern Europe” (there was not). The Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam, he writes in his offhand way, was “originally intended for some minor offshoot of the Hohenzollern dynasty” (it was not – it was built for the crown prince, heir to the German throne)…

Present-day politics obtrude in other ways, too. Anyone who wonders why Boris has written this book need look no further than the general election that is due in a few months’ time. If the Conservatives lose, the leadership of the party will be up for grabs and Boris will be a candidate. Writing a book about Churchill might help people take him seriously. After all, Churchill, he writes, “spoke in short Anglo-Saxon zingers”. He was a “rogue elephant” in the Tory party. He made a career as a highly paid journalist. He was definitely not a “lefty-liberal Milquetoast”. “He was no party-pooper.” He was “incorrigibly cheerful” and his verbal style was both “demotic and verbally inventive”. He “incarnated something essential about the British character – and that was his continual and unselfconscious eccentricity”. Now, who is this meant to remind you of? 

Richard J Evans is Regius Professor of History at the University of Cambridge

The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History 
Boris Johnson

One rather suspects BoJo might, at least in his fantasies, admire this aspect of Churchill–an earlier post:

Churchill on Killing Pathans

More clowning at this post:

Northern Ireland, or, BoJo is Making a right Mash of Brexit, Links to Bangers Section

UPDATE: More buffoonery–excerpt from an article in the London Review of Books by John Lanchester:

What the UK needed in early 2020, more than anything else, was for the pandemic to be taken seriously. We needed someone willing to look at what had happened in Wuhan and Lombardy, and make the most of the few weeks’ notice the UK had providentially been granted. Unfortunately, in Johnson it had a prime minister whose entire personality and philosophy are based on not taking things seriously. This was to have tragic consequences. In the early months of 2020, when the news about Sars-CoV-2 was emerging and getting rapidly, frighteningly worse, Johnson failed to chair five consecutive meetings of Cobra, the government’s crisis committee. It is almost unknown for the prime minister not to chair Cobra when he or she is in London. According to David King, the former government chief scientific adviser, Blair and Brown never failed to chair a Cobra meeting. Johnson failed five times in a row, always on the subject of Covid. The reason isn’t far to seek: he didn’t understand it and didn’t take it seriously. In the early months of 2020, the UK government had 25,000 civil servants working on Brexit, which Johnson was well aware lay somewhere on the spectrum between a mistake and a disaster. His private life was on the same spectrum. In the months after becoming prime minister, Johnson became the first holder of that office to get divorced, get married and have a baby, more or less simultaneously. Covid was not a priority. It’s amazing he showed up to any Cobra meetings at all.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Ukraine, or, the Incredible Emptiness of PM Trudeau

(Caption for photo–from his government’s presser on the Ukraine crisis–at top of the post: “Defence Minister Anita Anand, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly look on as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks, Jan. 26, 2022 in Ottawa. [Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press].”)

Anyone surprised by our “passive-aggressive” prime minister? All tuque and no skates–excerpts from a piece by a very sharp Globe and Mail columnist:

Trudeau’s dithering on Ukraine should fool no one

Konrad Yakabuski

As Russian President Vladimir Putin issues NATO an ultimatum calling for withdrawal from Eastern Europe, and amasses more than 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border, the Trudeau government is torn between courting Canadian voters of Ukrainian descent and its desire to propagate its delusionary self-image as a “helpful” player on the world stage…

We found out on Wednesday [Jan. 26] what “more” means after Mr. Trudeau announced an extension of Canada’s years-old military training mission in Ukraine, which had been expected. He also said Canada would provide non-lethal equipment to the country. In other words, Mr. Trudeau is trying to get away with doing as little as he possibly can…

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly has repeated the same empty slogans as Mr. Trudeau in recent days, on the heels of a trip last week to Kyiv that was more ceremonial than anything else. It followed similar pilgrimages by her counterparts in other NATO countries and, hence, went unnoticed outside of Canada. It was just another example of playing to Ukrainian-Canadians at home…

Is this what Mr. Trudeau meant when he said Canada was back?

An enlightened foreign policy might have recognized long ago the benefits of reducing European dependence on Russian energy by promoting Canadian liquid natural gas exports to the continent, to prevent Mr. Putin from holding Europe hostage as he does now. But the Liberals refused to look beyond their own domestic political interests to Canada’s national interests [see tweets at end of the post].

What we are left with is a passive-aggressive mess that fools no one and only ensures yet more eye-rolling when Canada’s name comes up in international forums. None of our allies is looking to Canada for “help” on the Ukraine crisis; they know perfectly well they will not get it.

You want eye-rolling?

And that non-existent Canadian LNG supply:

The demand:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Canada, Corruption, Money Laundering: Far From a Squeaky Clean Great White North

Further to this post (note others near bottom),

British Columbia Launders Money Cleanest

just about our top journalist and a passionate polemicist who sure can tickle a keyboard (disclosure: good friend) has at our feckless governments–at the Ottawa Citizen:

Canada has a corruption problem, as Transparency International shows

Our score on the annual Corruption Perceptions Index has dropped again, to its lowest ever: 74 out of 100. And this ranking only scratches the surface.

Author of the article: Terry Glavin

Canada has come off badly again in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index , with the country’s score falling faster than that of any other country in the 180-nation rankings released this week. Canada’s score has dropped to its lowest ever — 74 out of 100 — a slide that has cost Canada eight points over the past five years alone.

And the CPI only scratches the surface. It doesn’t measure “issues related to financial secrecy and money laundering,” Transparency International points out, “or the role of the private sector in allowing the corrupt to safely hide and enjoy proceeds of their crimes.”

It’s in those vices that Canada’s reputation has rightly taken a battering in recent years, from revelations about the billions of dollars in drug money laundered through casinos into Vancouver real estate, to nationwide bar association standards that allow lawyers to hide their clients’ shadowy sources of wealth.It’s no small matter that the CPI measures only public-sector types of corruption: bribery, diversion of public funds, nepotism in the civil service, bureaucrats abusing their authority for private gain, empty-promise whistleblower protection, useless conflict-of-interest laws and so on.

The capacity of government to detect money-laundering practices falls within the CPI’s purview, but one shudders to think what Canada’s score would be if the federal government allowed a degree of public scrutiny sufficient to effectively expose the rackets that move money into Canada on behalf of big-time gangsters, police-state apparatchiks, and oligarchs and kleptocrats from Belarus to Beijing [emphasis added].

Last year’s “ National Criminal Intelligence Estimate on the Canadian Criminal Marketplace ,” a report prepared by the federal Criminal Intelligence Service, reckoned the amount of dirty money finding its way into above-ground Canadian assets such as real estate every year at perhaps $133 billion [emphasis added].

TI’s annual index does a thorough enough job of assessing how well governments around the world enforce controls on the pillaging of public treasuries, TI Canada’s James Cohen told me this week. “But it’s not capturing who is passively allowing or is taking advantage of weak beneficial ownership laws,” Cohen said, referring to laws that would otherwise reveal the identities of individuals behind the shell companies and numbered companies that own so much Canadian real estate.

The federal government has promised a beneficial-ownership law, but it isn’t planned to come into effect for another three years. Quebec and British Columbia had been leading the way, at least in plans for a public registry, but B.C.’s registry, promised four years ago, has now been stalled for another year. Across Canada, ever since a 2015 Supreme Court ruling on solicitor-client privilege, lawyers have been free to withhold information from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (Fintrac) about their clients’ suspicious financial transactions. The judges more or less invited the government to fix the law to compel lawyers to report their clients’ dodgy dealings, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has declined to clean it up….the main prize is a properly searchable and publicly accessible beneficial-ownership registry, developed in coordination with the provinces.

That’s been promised. And as is so routinely the case with the Trudeau government’s promises, we are all still waiting for it to be fulfilled…

Snow-washing: the national, year round, Olympic white collar sport. How serious a country are we?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Theme video: perhaps the Canada we should be:

Little-Known Component of Canadian Intel Community Blows the Gaff on Organ of PRC/CCP Interference

Further to this post,

Globe and Mail to PM Justin Trudeau Gov’t: Time to Get Real about Foreign Interference, esp. by PRC (note UPDATE)

the intelligence people at the Canada Border Services Agency (see here and here) recently produced, at a Canadian court hearing, some very interesting information about a part of the CCP’s United Front Work Department–from a story by two excellent investigative reporters at Global News who know the PRC file very well:

Canadian government report accuses China of widespread campaign of espionage, manipulation

By Stewart Bell & Sam Cooper

A government report on Chinese espionage activities in Canada accuses Beijing of engaging in a “systematic campaign of intelligence-gathering, persuasion, influence, and manipulation” against the Chinese community.

In the report obtained by Global News, Canadian officials alleged the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office [more here on the Office and the UFWD] was tasked with “influencing or manipulating” community members, and using “coercive tactics” against dissidents and minorities.

“This involves intimidation of OC (Overseas Chinese) at every level of society,” the report said.

“The managing of their behaviour is accomplished through incentive or disincentive, as well as intelligence-gathering, surveillance, and subversion against OC communities [emphasis added].”

A remarkably candid overview of Chinese intelligence activities, the report was disclosed during a recent court case involving a former Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO) employee who attempted to immigrate to Canada.

While China has been widely accused of targeting the diaspora, particularly pro-Taiwan and democracy activists, as well as Uyghurs and Falun Gong practitioners, it is rare for the Canadian government’s take on such activities to be made public [emphasis added, especially in such damning, specific language].

China claims the OCAO is responsible for Chinese citizens living abroad but the Canadian report makes the case that it “engages in espionage” and “is known to operate in Canada.”

“The OCAO is involved in covert action and coercion against OC communities and other minorities around the world by targeting Chinese dissidents overseas, and engaging in intelligence gathering on OC and their activities,” it said.

“The OCAO works to undermine individuals identified as threats to the CPC (Communist Party of China), and it organizes and monitors ‘overseas Chinese business, student, cultural, media, and political networks.’”

Written by the Canada Border Services Agency’s security screening branch, the March 2020 report is a rare look at Canada’s official assessment of Chinese espionage and foreign influence activities in the country and around the world [emphasis added].

Last week, the Federal Court dismissed an appeal filed by the former OCAO employee, Yong Zhang, seeking to reverse a decision denying his application for permanent residence.

The court ruled the immigration officer who processed his case had “reasonably determined” there were “reasonable grounds to believe that information gathering was taking place in Canada against overseas Chinese communities.”..

Mehmet Tohti, a Uyghur Community leader in Ottawa, said the details of the CBSA report, and the judge’s ruling, were accurate and spoke to the espionage and foreign interference threats in Canada.

He alleged he was among those targeted.

Hours before he was to testify before a Parliamentary committee on China in July 2020, he said he received a message saying his mother was “dead.” Uyghur rallies in Toronto have also attracted counter-protests that he suspects were orchestrated by the overseas affairs office [emphasis added–presumably by staff at the consulate general in Toronto; the bloated (for genuine consular work) staffs of it, and the other PRC consulates general in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, should be severely reduced by our government and hang the consequences for Canadian offices in China]

In the report, which quoted the U.S. government, academic journals and news accounts, the CBSA called the Chinese intelligence services among the most active in the world, and said they were evolving and “becoming more aggressive [good OSINT work eh? and I’m sure they have classified support].”

“Although estimates on the number of spies vary, it has been reported that ‘China can rightly claim to have the world’s largest, most amorphous, but also most active intelligence sector … as any Chinese, especially those from China, from student to CEO, are potential active intelligence assets [emphasis added, no politically correct punch pulling],’” the CBSA report said.

The report said China’s communist party was preoccupied with “the elimination of rival discourse or potential threats among OC groups that are critical of the regime, or that challenge its hold on power.”

“To mitigate these threats, the CPC replies on the OCAO, which has established ‘attachments in PRC [Peoples Republic of China] embassies, consulates, and representative agencies in almost every country to personally liaise with local OC communities.”..

OCAO “identifies enemies of the PRC, monitors diaspora, manipulates organizations, and is involved in covert intelligence gathering. The OCAO is focused on the elimination of threats to the regime and it seeks to undermine those threats in the countries in which it operates.”

Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu said the Chinese communist party “considers overseas Chinese as an asset to be selfishly used through manipulation and control for advancing their interests.”Chui, who lost his Richmond, B.C., seat in the last federal election following what he alleged were attacks from Chinese communist party operatives [see this post: “Don’t Bet on a PM Trudeau Government Investigating PRC Interference in Canada’s Election (note UPDATE)“], said Canada was not doing enough to fight foreign interference.

“The result is that ironically, in a multicultural society like Canada, many communities may prioritize their priorities more aligning with these foreign states, rather than what is critical for themselves and their families living here.”

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

Wow. Amazing honesty in a Canadian government report made public, even if an indirect manner. One hopes PM Trudeau’s government are questioned hard on the report. The House of Commons resumes sitting January 31.

A very relevant post, note others mentioned at end:

The Long Reach of the Dragon’s Claws, Hong Kongers in Canada Section

And a National Post story from almost exactly three years ago by another reporter doing excellent work on the PRC’s activities in Canada:

How China uses shadowy United Front as ‘magic weapon’ to try to extend its influence in Canada

Its activities include influencing the Chinese diaspora to back China, co-opting foreign political and economic elites and promoting Beijing’s agenda worldwide

Author of the article: Tom Blackwell

Lots of info on nefarious Chicom activities in Canada has been public for quite some time. About time that we are really waking up. Now let’s have some charges laid and some pseudo-dips PNG-ed.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Hindutva in Uttar Pradesh, or, Attack of the Killer Cows

Further to this post,

Their Man Modi and his Magic…and Uttar Pradesh (note farmers’ protest UPDATE)

from a BBC article:

Uttar Pradesh: Why deadly cow attacks are an issue in Indian state election

By Nitin Srivastava
BBC Hindi, Uttar Pradesh

Ram Raj was drinking tea at his home in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on a chilly November evening last year when a stray cow attacked him.

Over the next few minutes, his young grandchildren screamed and watched in horror as the animal mauled him. The 55-year-old farmer died of severe injuries on the way to hospital.

“It was a painful death and my mother-in-law has stopped having proper meals ever since,” his daughter-in-law, Anita Kumari, said.

Such attacks have become common in India’s most populous state, where a ban on cow slaughter has led to a huge rise in the cattle population. So much so that they have become an issue in the state’s upcoming elections, which are set to begin on 10 February [emphasis added].

Hindus consider the cow holy, but until recently many farmers took their old cows to slaughterhouses.

“We used to sell our cows once they stopped giving milk or were no longer fit for ploughing fields. That was our back-up plan for hard times,” says Shiv Pujan, a paddy farmer.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has cracked down heavily on cow slaughter in keeping with its right-wing Hindu agenda – the practice is now illegal in 18 states, including Uttar Pradesh, or UP {emphasis added].

Here, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, a hardline BJP leader himself, shut down several allegedly illegal slaughterhouses after coming to power in 2017 – even though this is a huge business in UP, which is a major exporter of buffalo meat.

Cattle traders, many of them Muslims or Dalits (formerly untouchables, who are at the bottom of the Hindu caste hierarchy), have even been attacked and killed by vigilantes often linked to the BJP or local right-wing groups [emphasis added].

So, many of them have given up on the business, fearful of buying or transporting cattle. And farmers now simply abandon old and unproductive cows.

“Now there aren’t any buyers so obviously, no-one can sell them,” Mr Pujan says, adding that he and others are forced to leave old cattle in nearby forests.

These stray cattle are often seen roaming the towns and villages in UP, where farmers and locals say they turn hungry and aggressive. One such cow entered the courtyard of Ram Raj’s home and when he and his family got scared and started yelling, it attacked him.

Mr Pujan himself was recently attacked by a herd of stray cattle while trying to chase them away from his field…

Bhupendra Dubey, 36, had returned to his village after losing his job during the first wave of Covid-19 in 2020. He died when the animal attacked him in the local market, where he had gone to buy sweets for his son.

About 100km (62 miles) away, Ram Kali, 80, has been in a coma since 2019, when she was attacked by a cow. Her family says she still doesn’t know that her only son died of Covid-19 early last year.

Opposition parties have taken up the issue in UP, a largely rural state where farmers are a crucial voting bloc.

The governing BJP’s state spokesperson, Sameer Singh, said that the government was “devising new strategies” to deal with the problem.

“These should not be called stray cows as the animal itself is part of the Hindu culture. We never leave our elders to die when they grow old, how can we leave our cows to die on the roads?”

The cows are meant to be housed in cow shelters – Mr Adityanath’s government has allocated millions of rupees to construct more shelters. They also imposed a special alcohol tax to maintain thousands of state-run cow shelters…

And a post from July 2021:

Hindutva on the March in India’s most Populous State, Uttar Pradesh (240 million, one-sixth of the country)

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Serbia Stiffs Rio Tinto (Dominic Barton Chair) over Lithium Mine

(Caption for photo at top of the post (note also Chinese company named on banner), from a Deutsche Welle story: “Serbia’s ruling party has changed its mind about a proposed lithium mine following large protests”.)

Further to this post at which the Rio Tinto mine in mentioned,

PRC Investment, or, “hell on Earth” in Serbia

now the Balkan country stands up to at least one foreign investor–excerpts from a Reuters story:

Rio Tinto has few options to save Serbia lithium mine, none good

Rio Tinto has only bad options as it tries to salvage its US$2.4-billion Serbian lithium project after the country’s leaders bowed to environmentalists and cancelled it last week.

The Anglo-Australian miner could sue the government, a step likely to fail and further antagonize Belgrade, or bet that pro-mining politicians emerge victorious in April parliamentary elections, a result that would embolden opponents.

The mining titan has little experience charting where to go next.People inside Rio said that while they were aware of the political tensions around the project, the government’s decision to pull the plug was a surprise that left the company scrambling for a strategy on how to proceed.

With elections looming, Belgrade halted the project after widespread protests against the mine, dashing Rio’s hopes of becoming a top 10 lithium producer [emphasis added].

The miner, which said it has always complied with Serbian laws, is reviewing the legal basis for the decision…

If the decision is upheld by a new government, it could prompt Rio to walk away without taking further action, legal experts also said.

The miner has spent US$450-million already on prefeasibility and other studies, according to its project fact sheet…

The Serbian project was slated to be Europe’s biggest lithium mine, producing 58,000 tonnes of refined battery-grade lithium carbonate a year, enough to power one million electric vehicles…

In Serbia, the best case scenario is Rio Tinto gets its licences back after the April elections. The populist ruling coalition, led by the Serbian Progressive Party, has seen its 2020 election majority eroded over its backing of mining in Serbia [see post noted at start of this one]

One wonders how much of the mine’s output might have gone to China. And poor Dominic Barton, freshly minted chairman of Rio Tinto, hot off his gig as Canadian ambassador to the PRC–a post on that:

Dominic Barton, Canadian Prince of Cashing-in Compradors, and Conflict of Interest (note “UPDATE”)

Plus a post on Canada and lithium, note first “Comment”:

Why No National Security Review of Purchase by PRC SOE of Canadian Lithium Mining Company?

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

US Air Force Secretary Not so Hyper on Hypersonics; How to Play the USAF’s ACE Card?

Further to this post,

US Air Force Hypersonics Programs not Manoeuvering very Rapidly or Purposefully, or, Missiles Looking for Missions

the civilian head of the service is a very sharp fellow (see his bio), good to have one such on top of a military branch; pity none like him in Canada. At the start and end of an article at Air Force Magazine (my suggested title: “Hold those Hypersonic Horses):

Kendall: Don’t Mirror China on Hypersonics…

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall warned of putting too much emphasis on hypersonics just because China is advancing in that area, saying hypersonic missiles are better suited to China’s strategy and that USAF has yet to determine the right munitions mix for the future…

The targets that China is “worried about, that we present” are well addressed with hypersonic weapons, Kendall said during a Jan. 19 virtual Center for a New American Security event. These tend to be major air bases in the Pacific and naval formations. But “I think we have to be careful about not mirror-imaging the potential threats,” he said.

There was a “rush” during the Trump administration to develop hypersonics, Kendall noted, but they may not always be the most “cost-effective … tool” for the Air Force.

We don’t have the same targets that [China is] worried about,” he said. “We have to think about what’s most cost-effective for us … [Hypersonic systems are] very expensive compared to conventional weapons. So we’ve got to look at that very carefully [emphasis added] and decide where we need to be in that tradeoff. I don’t think enough work has been done on that.”

Kendall didn’t elaborate on the targets most compelling for USAF or whether they are best addressed by slower, stealthy cruise missiles, air-breathing hypersonic cruise missiles that would be cheaper than the boost-glide variety, or direct-attack weapons.

Broadly, he said, the U.S. goal is “having a deterrence that defeats aggression, … whether it’s in Ukraine or … Taiwan, for example.” The “core mission” of adversaries such as China, however, is “to keep us out of their part of the world, or to keep us from intervening,” he said. These are “very different operational requirements.”The right weapons mix is “still very much an open question for me,” Kendall said. He acknowledged that hypersonic missiles have the advantage of being fast and unpredictable and “can be a valuable asset” but that the Air Force needs to better plot its path for future munitions [emphasis added].

“There is a role for hypersonics in that mix,” he allowed. “And I think we should continue to proceed with developing and fielding appropriate hypersonic” systems…

Right Concept for the Future

Kendall said the Air Force’s agile combat employment model of rapidly moving forces around to many different bases is the right concept for the future. But bringing it to fruition requires a number of steps that Kendall pledged he will not allow to be sacrificed for programmatic priorities.

“We need … a sense of urgency” about bringing ACE about, he said. That will mean air bases “have to be harder,” with hardened shelters and facilities. Additionally, “We have to create some ambiguity for the enemy. We have to use multiple locations and deception to do that. We also have to have some level of defenses so that [the enemy] has some uncertainty about how successful his attack might be.” The Air Force also has to “change the equation” about “how much leverage [an enemy could obtain by] … shutting down … a small number of air bases. That, to me, is probably the most immediate task on the list, and one of the easiest ones … when you think about what you have to do [doesn’t seem so easy to me].” .. 

Two posts related to ACE:

US Air Force Planning for “Distributed Operations” in Pacific

US Air Force Planning vs PLA in Indo-Pacific

And a tweet on hypersonics:

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

PRC Investment, or, “hell on Earth” in Serbia

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “Activist groups in Zrenjanin have been pressing the authorities to release information about the size of the factory, its technology and its likely impact on the environment. Credit…Marko Risovic for The New York Times”.)

Further to this post based on an article by the same reporter,

PRC Buying Serbia, or, Belt and Road–and Bondage?

the NY Times‘ bureau chief for East and Central Europe (based in Warsaw) returns to the country for this major article–excerpts :

Some belt. Some road. One suspects this photo at the end of the article was included for its black humour value:

A murder of crows near Zrenjanin. 

A murder of crows near Zrenjanin. Credit…Marko Risovic for The New York Times

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Russia vs Ukraine, or, US Hyperpower (formerly) Over-Stretch (note UPPERDATE)

(Caption for photo at top of the post: “U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shake hands before their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. ALEX BRANDON/Getty Images”.)

An American conservative’s realistic view of the realities–excerpts from a piece at the NY Times (note Canadian government tweets at “Comments”):

How to Retreat From Ukraine

By Ross Douthat

Opinion Columnist

…The United States in its days as a hyperpower made a series of moves to extend our perimeter of influence deep into Russia’s near-abroad. Some of those moves appear to be sustainable: The expansion of NATO to include countries of the former Warsaw Pact was itself a risk, but at the moment those commitments seem secure. But the attempt to draw Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit, the partway-open door to Ukrainians who preferred westward-focused alliances, was a foolish overcommitment even when American power was at its height [emphasis added].

…in geopolitics good intentions are always downstream from the realities of power. Whatever its desires or ours, the government in Ukraine has simply never been in a position to fully join the West — it’s too economically weak, too internally divided and simply in the wrong place. And the actions of the Bush and Obama administrations — and for all of Trump’s personal sympathies for Putin, some Trump administration acts as well — have left us overstretched, our soft-power embrace of Kyiv ill-equipped to handle hard-power countermoves from Moscow.

Given those realities, and the pressing need to concentrate American power in East Asia to counter China, it’s clear enough where an ideal retreat would end up: with NATO expansion permanently tabled, with Ukraine subject to inevitable Russian pressure but neither invaded nor annexed, and with our NATO allies shouldering more of the burden of maintaining a security perimeter in Eastern Europe.

But as with Afghanistan, the actual execution is harder than the theory. Coming to a stable understanding with Putin is challenging, because he’s clearly invested in being a permanent disrupter, taking any opportunity to humiliate the West. Extricating ourselves from our Ukrainian entanglements will inevitably instill doubts about our more important commitments elsewhere, doubts that will be greater the more Kyiv suffers from our retreat. And handing off more security responsibility to the Europeans has been an unmet goal of every recent U.S. president, with the particular problem that a key European power, Germany, often acts like a de facto ally of the Russians [emphasis added, note tweet at end of the post and see this post: “NATO, the EU and the US in the Not-So-Brave New World after Afghanistan (note UPDATE)“].

…my sense is that we are still placing too much weight on the idea that only NATO gets to say who is in NATO, that simply ruling out Ukrainian membership is somehow an impossible concession. This conceit is an anachronism, an artifact of the post-Cold War moment when it briefly seemed possible that, as the historian Adam Tooze puts it, the world’s crucial boundaries “would be drawn by the Western powers, the United States and the E.U., on their own terms and to suit their own strengths and preferences.”

That’s not how the world works now, and precisely because it’s not how the world works I would be somewhat relieved — as an American citizen, not just an observer of international politics — to see our leaders acknowledge as much, rather than holding out the idea that someday we might be obliged by treaty to risk a nuclear war over the Donbas.

And if we cannot give up the idea outright, the idea of giving it up for some extensive period — like the 25 years suggested by Thomas Graham and Rajan Menon in a recent Politico op-ed — seems like a very reasonable deal to make.

Something can be reasonable and still be painful — painful as an acknowledgment of Western weakness, painful to the hopes and ambitions of Ukrainians.

But accepting some pain for the sake of a more sustainable position is simply what happens when you’ve made a generation’s worth of poor decisions, and you’re trying to find a decent and dignified way to a necessary retreat [emphasis added–and when much of the world is viewing a United States seeming to fall apart internally].

And here’s the conclusion of a piece at Slate by Fred Kaplan:

…pressure will need to be placed on Ukraine. Blinken and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko have both said, in separate public forums, that enforcement of the Minsk Agreements could go a long way to reduce tensions. These agreements—signed by Russia and Ukraine in 2015 but ignored by both sides since—called for a ceasefire of the war between Ukraine and separatist militias in Donbas province, an exchange of prisoners, the disarmament of militias, but also free elections in Donbas, which could have an effect on Ukraine’s policies.

At some point, the issue of NATO’s further enlargement will have to be settled. It is crazy to trigger a war for the principle of a cause—Ukraine’s possible membership in NATO—that isn’t actually going to be enacted. There must be ways to defuse the dispute without surrendering the principle. NATO could issue a statement explaining the many reasons Ukraine is not eligible for membership today. Experts could be consulted on how long it would take for this to change. In tandem with these steps, Biden and other Western leaders should hold behind-the-scenes talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, offering a boatload of security assurances and economic goodies, in exchange for his withdrawing his request for NATO membership—on the condition that Russia withdraws its newly mobilized tanks and other weapons from the Ukrainian border.

Will this be easy? No. Diplomacy is hard, especially when the disputes and conflicts of interest are as complex and deep as they are here. Will everyone be satisfied with the outcome? No. Ukrainians would like the warm-blanket security of NATO’s Article 5 guarantees. Russians (not just Putin) would like the uncontested restoration of their “sphere of influence” to the west. They’re not going to get these things.

The questions on the board: Does Putin think it’s worth the risks of war to make a stab at getting what he wants, which, in some sense, he sees as the recovery of Russia’s destiny as a great power? Can Biden come up with enough compromises to steer Putin away from war without giving up too much? The next few months may be nerve-racking.

Plus two relevant tweets:

1)

2)

Time to wake up and smell both the coffee and the vodka.

UPDATE: This, towards the end of an article at the NY Times Magazine, does make one wonder:

…not a very inspiring speech, but it got at a fact about the war in Donbas that is often overlooked. It has split the country, yes, but it has also brought many Ukrainians together as never before. It has created a nation, you might say, or the beginnings [beginnings?] of one, where before there was only an uncertain former Soviet republic.

Especially in the context of this May 2021 post:

How many Ukrainian Nations? Or…

UPPERDATE: Here are some things about the origin of the current crisis that one almost never sees in our media–from an article at War on the Rocks by Michael Kofman:

Although the crisis has structural roots in the post-Cold War settlement, the proximate cause of this standoff is a series of political turns in 2020 and early 2021. After initially being open to dialogue, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration took a hard turn away from pursuing compromises with Moscow. Zelensky arrested Putin’s ally Viktor Medvedchuk and banned three pro-Russian television channels in the country. Putin has also railed against a discriminatory language law passed in 2019, which has just entered into force. Not only has Ukraine continued on a westward trajectory, but Zelensky has also chosen to take a hard line, and has begun to actively eliminate Russian influence in Ukraine. This turnabout dashed any hopes that Russia had of achieving a desirable political settlement and removed a path for Russia to get out from under Western sanctions. Russian officials have publicly made clear that they see no further point to negotiating with Zelensky, viewing his administration as a marionette of the United States, and have instead approached his patron — Washington.

We’re not exactly getting a full picture.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @mark3ds

Why No National Security Review of Purchase by PRC SOE of Canadian Lithium Mining Company?

Further to this post where the transaction is noted near the end,

Lithium and Batteries for EVs look like just another Canadian Hi-Tech Pipedream

1) A piece at the Toronto Star via the Macdonald-Laurier Institute:

Ottawa looks on as China buys Canadian lithium operations

Given Canada’s own critical minerals list, and what we already know about China’s determination to achieve global high-tech dominance, there were clear reasons for reviewing the Neo Lithium purchase, writes Jeff Kucharski. 

Efforts to strengthen Canada’s supply chains for critical minerals were undermined last week when our own government decided not to conduct a national security review into the purchase of a Canadian lithium producer by a Chinese state-owned enterprise.

The decision is bizarre. Lithium, which is on a list of 31 minerals that Ottawa says are critical to Canada’s economy [emphasis added], is imperative to modern manufacturing, including large-scale battery storage needed for clean energy transition and, significantly, batteries for the flourishing electric vehicle (EV) industry.

Now the Zijin Mining Group Ltd is cleared to buy Toronto-based Neo Lithium Corp.

China is establishing global dominance of high-tech manufacturing, including EVs, by having state-owned enterprises acquire foreign intellectual property, technologies and assets. Securing access to critical minerals is essential to that mission [see this post: “The PRC’s Rare Earths Squeeze…“].

China already controls a quarter of the world’s supply of lithium-ion batteries, and Canada is a target for acquisitions. In 2018, Vancouver-based Lithium X was purchased by NextView New Energy Lion Hong Kong. That same year the Chinese company Tianqi bought a 23.8 per cent share in a Chilean lithium mine from Canada’s Nutrien. Last November, Vancouver-based miner Millenial Lithium narrowly missed being acquired by China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., which was outbid by an American buyer.

In the case of Neo Lithium, were elected officials advised that a security review was unnecessary? If so, for what reasons? Did the PMO veto a review so as not to offend China? If so, should Canada be making security decisions based on whether other countries will be displeased?

China is known to use economic coercion for political purposes; in 2010 it halted critical mineral supplies to Japan over a territorial dispute. Against this backdrop, Canada and other countries have joined the U.S.-led Energy Resource Governance Initiative to develop alternative supply chains for critical minerals and reduce dependence on China.

It would have been surprising enough if the Neo Lithium bid had undergone a security review and was cleared, but the deal never even triggered a review [emphasis added] under the Investment Canada Act, which assesses significant investments in Canada by non-Canadians, with an eye to promoting economic growth and employment opportunities that benefit Canada.

Some observers feel a review wasn’t ordered because Neo Lithium’s mine is in Argentina and not in Canada, however this alone would not preclude a review [emphasis added]. The legislation cites a range of concerns, including whether an investment by a state-owned enterprise could harm Canada’s national security.

Given Canada’s own critical minerals list, and what we already know about China’s determination to achieve global high-tech dominance, there were clear reasons for reviewing the Neo Lithium purchase.

Canada currently has no lithium mines, and a review of the latest takeover could have identified any number of risks to national security, including that Canada and its partners will now have reduced access to vital lithium stocks [emphasis added], since production from Neo Lithium’s mine will now likely be exported to China to further its dominance in the sector [but even if the mine had stayed in Canadian hands the company might well still have sold its output to the PRC].

Canada’s national security interests don’t end at our borders. Resource firms should be considered as contributors to advancing Canada’s national security interests, irrespective of where their activities and assets are located. While Ottawa shouldn’t be exerting undue control over the commercial activities of Canadian firms, it does have an interest in ensuring those activities preserve Canada’s national — including economic — security. This latest acquisition raises serious questions about how effectively Canada’s national security review process is aligned with our critical mineral strategies.

The government needs to reduce the discretionary nature of the current legislation and provide clearer guidance on what types of investment situations would automatically trigger security reviews [emphasis added, I wouldn’t place any bets on serious action].

Canada’s economic security requires that we have access to resources that are needed to develop clean energy technologies and stronger resource supply chains. Allowing major suppliers of critical minerals to be bought up by Chinese state-owned firms does the reverse, putting Canada at a competitive disadvantage in the energy and resource sectors that will be critical to our success in the 21st century.

Jeff Kucharski is an energy policy specialist, a senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and adjunct professor at Royal Roads University.

2) And from an article at the Globe and Mail (in the business section as all too frequently happens, not the main news section):

Champagne to face federal committee hearings as state-owned Chinese firm buys Canadian lithium company

Niall McGee Mining reporter

François-Philippe Champagne, the federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, will go before a federal committee as early as next week and answer questions about why Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is allowing the acquisition of Canadian lithium firm Neo Lithium Corp. by a state-owned Chinese mining company without conducting a formal security review.

On Thursday [Jan. 20], a federal committee on industry and technology made up of Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Bloc Québécois members passed a motion that compels Mr. Champagne to testify next week on the matter. Also providing testimony at the hearings will be critical mineral industry experts and academics.

In October, Zijin Mining Group Ltd., which is controlled by the Chinese government, announced its intentions to buy Toronto-based Neo Lithium for $960-million. The junior Canadian company is developing a high-grade lithium brine project in Argentina, and it plans to supply the silvery white critical mineral to the electric-vehicle industry…

The lack of a review surprised several well-regarded security experts, and sparked a backlash from the Conservatives, who argued that allowing the takeover of Neo Lithium, without significant due diligence, potentially weakens Canada’s ambitions to develop a domestic supply of lithium.

While the specifics around the Trudeau government’s decision have not been made public, the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development told The Globe last week that the deal was “systematically and thoroughly scrutinized [emphasis added].” The department made its decision after factoring in the nature of Neo Lithium’s mineral deposit, and whether Canadian supply chains are likely to be able to exploit the final product.

It also took into account the company’s marginal presence on Canadian soil. While Neo Lithium trades on a Canadian stock exchange, its management team and the vast majority of its employees are based in Argentina…

Oh well, I guess. A relevant earlier post:

Premier Ford Touts Ontario EVs[good luck]

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds