Ukraine Continues to Push Back


 

Topics Covered This Week:

  • Russia-Ukraine Update

  • Poland and U.S. Argue Over Jets

  • Ban on Russian Products and Sanctions Continue

  • South Koreans Go to the Polls

  • China Pushes into the Western Hemisphere

  • Worldwide Threat Assessment Report

  • History's Mysteries: The Frequency Hopper

 

Russia-Ukraine Update:

What are the updates there?

Ukrainian forces continue to hold Russian troops on Kyiv's northwest outskirts. This is preventing them from closing in on the capital city. However, Russian troops east of the city are closing in, and the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has reported the presence of at least six Russian battalion tactical groups in the towns of Brovary and Boryspil.


Russia continues to target Ukrainian infrastructure. Russian forces seized Zaporizhzhia, the largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine. It is on the southern bank of the Dnieper River, in Enerhodor. Moreover, Russian troops appear to be targeting Ukrainian oil refineries and storage sites with precision strikes.

What is the reasoning behind taking the nuclear power plant?


It is the largest of Ukraine's four nuclear power plants. Together they provide about half of the country's electricity. Gaining control of the power plant is a strategic win for Russian forces as; they can now control access to electricity. This will come in to play as civilians in Ukraine continue to protest the Russian invasion. Without power and access to the outside world, morale among Ukrainians could wane and Russian forces could more easily take over other strategic location like Kyiv.

And how is that takeover of Kyiv going? Not good for the Russian forces. The Russian military has suffered between 2,000 and 4,000 killed in the first 11 days of the invasion, and those numbers are far higher than the military anticipated because they expected a “quick, decisive victory.” To put those numbers in perspective, the United States suffered just under 2,500 military casualties in the whole 20 years of the Afghan war.


While Putin and his military leaders were assured a swift takeover of the capital city, we are two weeks into the conflict, and their military convoys are stalled and their pushes into the capital city have been successfully thwarted.

How long do you think the Ukrainian military will be able to hold the city?

The soldiers and people of Ukraine have been an incredible force. They are out financed, out manned, and out gunned; but they continue to be the better prepared force. Their resolve has been inspiring. However, due to Russia’s confidence in a swift takeover, Putin did not direct the majority of Russian forces into Ukraine. That option is still on the table as well--- as the option to just bomb the city into submission. I, for one, am hoping that does not happen, but with Putin backed into a corner I worry that the next move will be devastating.


 

Poland and U.S. Argue Over Jets:

Will NATO and the US get involved before this disaster?


That is a tough one to predict, as all Western countries are straddling the fence in an effort to support Ukraine without causing World War III. Right now the US and Poland are arguing over who will give Ukraine the MiG-29 fighter jets.

The Polish government shocked U.S. officials on Tuesday by announcing it was ready to transfer its 28 MiGs to the U.S., and that they would be handed over by the United States to Ukrainian pilots fighting off the Russian invasion.

Can you explain why they would choose this option?


Poland is trying to protect themselves from being seen as an OVERT supporter of Ukraine militarily in this conflict. Poland wants no part in the optics of being viewed as an active military participant because if Ukraine were to fall, Moldova would be next. Then once that strategic country is overtaken, Poland will be the next country caught in Putin’s crosshairs.

Besides being shocked, what was the U.S.'s reaction to the proposal? U.S. officials said the plan was not tenable, and the logistics would make it almost impossible. The aircraft would have to be outfitted for non-NATO pilots to fly. They would also have to take off from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fight in a war in Ukrainian air space. So, for the same reasons we discussed last week as to why a no fly zone would be an act of war, the same could be viewed by Putin in this situation.

 

Ban on Russian Products and Sanctions Continue:

It seems like only sanctions are on the table right now. What are the updates on the ban of Russian products?


The big product is obviously Russian oil, and that will hit communities in the U.S., U.K., and Western Europe the hardest. It may do little damage to Russia, as China makes up over 32% of all Russian oil purchases. This accounts for more than 34 billion dollars.

Also, Russian vodka is being banned in many countries. This is leading some Russian vodka companies like Stolichnaya (stow-lik-nai-uh) to rebrand it's merchandise in the hopes it can shake the anti-Russian sentiment from it's product.

Do you have a list of businesses shutting down operations in Russia?

I sure do, and that list gets updated daily. So far the major players are: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, McDonalds, and the list goes on and on. I will put the list in the show notes for everyone to review what companies they choose to support during this war.


A new list from Yale University’s Chief Executive Leadership Institute---which is tracking business responses--- finds that more than 200 corporations have curtailed their operations in Russia. On the flip side, some three dozen companies with significant exposure in the country have not yet left.

Do you want to call out a few of those companies who remain operating in Russia?

Actually I do, and there are some pretty well known brands here: Caterpillar, Logitech, Marriot Hotels, Intercontinental Hotels (Which has at least 26 locations within Russia), and the American multinational conglomerate corporation 3M (Which produces N95 masks and various other health care supplies.). Those companies will not be able to stand on the sideline for long. Those are some big names in business.

 

South Koreans Go to the Polls:


What happened in South Korea this week?

South Korean residents went to the polls to elect a new president, and as of this recording the results are in. Conservative Yoon Suk-yeol has officially been declared the winner.

Who were the two candidates?

The two candidates were a conservative political outsider who has a knack for making controversial statements on social media and a liberal political elite that wants to increase social welfare programs. Sound familiar? It isn’t just me making the Trump comparisons, as the Korea Herald ran this headline over the weekend: Is "Yoon Suk-yeol the South Korean Trump?"

Well, is he a candidate similar to Donald Trump? It seems to me, every right wing or conservative candidate in the world seems to be labelled the Trump of that country. The Korea Herald said that both have made remarks that would be offensive to other countries, praised heavily controversial political figures, gone after foreigners, and are anti-China hardliners.

I believe the anti-China rhetoric and comments that he would take a harsher stance on North Korea, are the reasons behind his success as a presidential candidate. Watching what is going on in Ukraine right now is not good optics for the liberal candidate viewed as friendlier to Chinese and North Korean governments.

 

China Pushes into the Western Hemisphere:

Do you want to discuss what China has been up to since the end of the Beijing Olympics?


While most are understandably focused on Ukraine, China continues to apply significant influence in the Western Hemisphere. As part of it's Belt and Road Initiative, China is helping fund:


  • $7.9 billion nuclear power plant in Argentina

  • $5.6 billion highway in Jamaica

  • $5 billion energy refinery in Cuba

  • $6 billion in projects near the Panama Canal

In Nicaragua, China is assisting with a housing program for 84 municipalities. Cuba has also started offering Chinese classes as a language course in secondary education. They helped fund the construction of a new national library in El Salvador. In addition, they are financing tourist attractions and critical infrastructure projects in that country.

What is important to note is that many South American countries that are building stronger partnerships with China, have changed their position on supporting Taiwan. In 2022, there will be even more investment from China in the Caribbean and Latin American nations.

What are the implications of this investment by China into Latin American countries?

The most dangerous implication is allowing China a launching pad for operations if WWIII does in fact kick off soon. For a long time, North American populations felt safe from possible large scale violent engagements during times of war. Flying planes into Pearl Harbor or the World Trade Center would be the least of our worries if China is afforded the opportunity to hold munitions in these nearby nations. And not to overshadow the U.N. comments from earlier, China can use money, power, and influence to have those nations reject any sanctions from the U.N. if China were to invade Taiwan. It is a very strategic plan that could fast track China’s decision to invade.

 

Worldwide Threat Assessment Report:

So then, what is the greatest threat at this moment to free society?

That is a great question to segue into the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment. That assessment was released last month, and completed in January before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. So the Worldwide Threat Assessment puts China as the greatest threat to the United States and its allies. Russia stayed at number two.

Do you agree with the assessment?

I actually do believe that China holds more influence around the globe. I believe that had China invaded Taiwan before Putin made his move in Ukraine, there would not be the amount of sanctions and backlash that Russia has seen. China is the second largest economy in the world. Russia, however, sits outside the top 10 at number eleven.

We have seen this lack of concern over Chinese humanitarian crises play out in the NBA and Hollywood, two multi-billion dollar entities, because China invests hundreds of millions of dollars into those organizations. A sanction on China would hit those groups hardest.

Also, let’s not gloss over how inept the Russian military has looked and the size and scope of the Chinese military---to include a vast cyber warfare operation. All that leads to my assessment that China is a more formidable opponent to Western ideology.

Any other interesting bits of information?

CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION received a full section as opposed to the typical subsection within Transnational Issues.

What do they assess as the Climate change threat?

They assess that climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to U.S. national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about how

to respond to the challenge. Meanwhile, environmental degradation will increasingly intersect with and worsen climate change effects in many countries---particularly low-income countries. Also, Geopolitical tensions are likely to grow as countries argue about how to accelerate the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions necessary to meet the Paris Agreement goal to limit the rise in global temperature.

Also, added to the report this year was a subsection on INNOVATIVE USE OF NEW TECHNOLOGY.

What was the assessment there?

The intelligence community maintains that one of the most significant, ongoing trends in new military technology and weaponry is the growing combination of higher speed, longer range, greater maneuverability, and pinpoint accuracy. Another concern is the proliferation of commercial “drones” that could be used by state actors for surveillance, or worse, loaded with munitions and used as a weapon.

Where do you think that threat will fall next year?

Much like Climate Change, I think it will get it’s own section next year. The use of hypersonic missiles and armed drones will be an increasing threat for many years, until capable defenses can be instituted.


 

History's Mysteries: The Frequency Hopper:


Let's get to this week's History's Mysteries!

As stated last week, we are highlighting the great women within the Intelligence and technology communities. This week is a special request from my beautiful cohost, and we will discuss the creator of a technology that is crucial to intelligence operations. That person is: Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, known most notably as Hedy Lamar.

She was born in 1914 in Vienna, Austria. She is known mostly for her work in film and even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But that is not her most important achievement. Hedy Lamar is credited with creating a frequency-hopping signal that could not be tracked or jammed. During World War II, Lamarr learned that radio-controlled torpedoes, an emerging technology in naval war, could easily be jammed and set off course.

However, the technologically was difficult to implement, and during WWII the U.S. Navy was not receptive to considering inventions coming from outside the military. During the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, U.S. Navy ships began to be outfitted with the technology.

How does the intelligence community still utilize this technology?

Not just the intelligence community, but the military as a whole utilizes frequency-hopping technology to keep radio communications secure. Even in the civilian world, it has been employed in wireless technologies like cell phones and BlueTooth.


In 1997, the Electronic Frontier Foundation honored Ms. Lamarr with a special Pioneer Award, and she became the first woman to receive the Invention Convention's BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award.

In the last decades of her life, the telephone became her only means of communication with the outside world-- to include her children and close friends. She often talked for up to six or seven hours a day on the phone, but she spent hardly any time with anyone in person until her death in Florida on January 19, in the year 2000.

 

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