I've been wondering when Ukraine would start striking targets inside Russia. I mean where does it say in the rule book that the battlefield has to be just in Ukraine? With Russian targets inside Russia being hit... does that mean Putin's propaganda ministry gives up on the "Don't Say War" diktat? Anyway, this morning 2 Ukrainian helicopters crossed the border and shot up an oil depot in Belgorod (population- 337,030 ), setting in on fire, according to the regional governor. Reporting for the NY Times this morning, Anton Troianovski and Haley Willis wrote that "The strike appeared to be an embarrassment to Russia’s military, which said last week that Ukraine’s air force had been 'practically destroyed.' Ukraine’s military had previously only managed to hit Russian territory with ground-launched missiles."
But the 2 helicopter incursion isn't the only instance of the war expanding. Syria is about the join in the invasion. Hundreds-- likely to become thousands-- of Syrian troops (officially 'mercenaries') have arrived in Russia for training before deploying to Ukraine. The Times called it Syria "effectively returning the favor to Moscow for helping President Bashar al-Assad crush rebels in an 11-year civil war."
Using mercenaries is not considered a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, but there is a separate United Nations treaty that criminalizes it. Ukraine is a signatory to that treaty, but Russia is not.
“What we are seeing is predatory recruitment,” said Sorcha MacLeod, the chair of the United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries. “They are taking advantage of the poor socioeconomic situation that these people find themselves in.”
The war in Ukraine could pull in large numbers of Syrians, given the scope of the battle, the high number of Russian dead and wounded and Russia’s close ties with the Syrian military. But much about the deployments and activities of Syrian mercenaries remains murky because of the covert nature of their work.
Western officials, experts tracking the issue, recruiters and returned fighters described a messy system in which men with few options scramble for limited opportunities to risk their lives for salaries they could not match at home.
...The roughly 300 soldiers already in Russia are from the 25th Division of the Syrian Army, known as the Tiger Forces, which are seen as elite and work closely with Russian officers. The Russians have offered them $1,200 a month for six months with a $3,000 bonus when they return to Syria, said the Syrian government ally.
Their families are promised $2,800, plus $600 a month for one year, if their loved ones are killed in combat, he said, adding that in Syria, those soldiers earn about $100 a month, while soldiers from less elite units earn less than $50 per month.
A commander of a militia made up of fighters from Syria and neighboring countries that received Russian support during the Syrian war said his group had sent another contingent of 85 men to Russia. They included Lebanese, Iraqis and Syrians, he said, adding that more were on the way.
“The Russians helped us when needed it, and now it’s time to give back part of what they offered us,” the commander said.
It's not a world war yet, but yesterday Paul Krugman asked if Putin will kill the global economy. A stretch? Yeah... all the way back to 1914 and John Maynard Keynes' vision of "World War I as the end of an era for the global economy" that didn't get fully back on track for 7 decades. Krugman predicts we're about see a second deglobalization and "a significant rollback in world trade."
[W]hat Putin has taught us is that countries run by strongmen who surround themselves with yes-men aren’t reliable business partners. A Chinese confrontation with the West, economic or military, would be wildly irrational-- but so was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Tellingly, the Ukraine war appears to have led to large-scale capital flight from… China.
So if you’re a business leader right now, surely you’re wondering whether it’s smart to stake your company’s future on the assumption that you’ll keep being able to buy what you need from authoritarian regimes. Bringing production back to nations that believe in the rule of law may raise your costs by a few percent, but the price may be worth it for the stability it buys.
If we are about to see a partial retreat from globalization, will that be a bad thing? Wealthy, advanced economies will end up only slightly poorer than they would have been otherwise; Britain managed to keep growing despite the decline in world trade after 1913. But I’m worried about the impact on nations that have made progress in recent decades but would be desperately poor without access to world markets-- nations like Bangladesh, whose economic achievements have depended crucially on its garment exports.
Unfortunately, we’re relearning the lessons of World War I: The benefits of globalization are always at risk from the threat of war and the whims of dictators. To make the world durably richer, we need to make it safer.