International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses developments in the Middle East, the Balkans and around the world. Dr J Scott Younger is a President Commissioner at Glendale Partners and member of IFIMES Advisory Board. In his text entitled “Putin’s War, world meetings, etc.“ he continues with his analyse of the war in Ukraine.
The last period has been busy with world meetings none of which have or only peripherally involved Russia because of their malign intent on Ukraine. A distinct change from reporting about the Ukrainian conflict is the football World Cup, the 4-yearly event now being hosted by Qatar, an occasion which was previously hosted by Russia in 2018, and where Putin was frequently visible. The fact that he had annexed Crimea 4 years before had been ‘forgotten’ about and he took all the praise for a successful event. However, Russia has not qualified for the current Middle East held event. They will be sorely missed! The Qatari event is taking a significant amount of airtime, not just about football, but that is another story.
Just finished is the UN sponsored COP27, at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheikh in Egypt. At this, according to the Secretary-General of the UN, Antonio Gutteres, we are on a highway to hell that is because we, especially the large countries of the developed and developing world that include China, USA, Russia and India, are not doing enough to cut emissions of CO2 so that global average temperatures are not kept below rising beyond 1.5oC above an arbitrary pre-industrial level. It is felt that the climate change that would follow would be completely disruptive and leave the world in disarray. A factual contrary view is expressed by the American Institute of Economic Research (17.10.2022). One is left with the feeling that these huge meetings, which cost billions of dollars each year, finish with little in return. There must be a better way to handle the world’s problems.
The other major event which was taking place was a meeting of the G20, countries which are the largest in terms of their economy. This was held at the Convention Centre at Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, with President Joko Widodo as host. The ambience that Bali provides is wonderful, peaceful. Would that some of that peace could be taken away!
The leaders of these nations all put in an appearance at this event, except Putin, which gave rise to the meeting being called the G19, although Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister attended for a short while to spout the usual denials and listen to G19 members tell Russia to get out of Ukraine and end the war. The conflict has hurt so many countries, particularly in Africa, because of disruption to essential grain supplies, Ukraine being a key supplier on the world stage of wheat and Russia is trying to deny Ukraine its crucial Black Sea outlet.
Meanwhile, Putin was in his ‘bunker’, lying low. Shades of Hitler! Will he meet a similar end? He has not been visible in the last period and the conduct of the war was left to the generals. They continued to wage the war at long range, with missiles and Iranian drones. This was because they know that they cannot win the conflict on land but the Ukrainians don’t have the force’s to bring it to an end, from their point of view. It could go on for some time, despite the recent Ukrainian success with the recapture of the strategic city of Kherson. The Russians withdrew their troops largely intact and blowing up a section of the main crossing of the Dnipro River to greatly hinder the Ukrainian advance. With 30,000 soldiers, albeit a good number of raw recruits properly dug in they will be very difficult to dislodge and, furthermore, they will continue their aerial bombardment. Such a strategy without progress on land has never worked; it stiffens the resolve of those under attack to resist. It is an attempt to harm the citizens and infrastructure, particularly the water supply and power grid with winter months of bitter cold weather started with several more months ahead.
There was concern a few days ago of a near miss on the nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia which lies about 100 km from Kherson. The UN has taken an interest with qualified observers on the ground. Each side blames the other and, although it is more likely to be the Russians, the disaster due to a strike would be worse than Chernobyl and would affect many people over a very wide area with the radiation fall-out.
Presidents Joseph Biden and Xi Jinping, of the US and China respectively, met at the G20 summit in Bali, shaking hands cordially in greeting. However, they only cemented points of national agreement and left issues, such as Taiwan, on the table. There will be trouble brewing in a couple of years with regards to Taiwan, by 2024, when the US are due to change their president, and we don’t know whether or not President Biden will be re-elected for a second term or whether Donald Trump will be given a second chance. I, for one, do not understand how Trump can earn the right to stand as the Republican candidate with a number of court cases outstanding against him. But the US is different! There could be a change in the attitude of the US government should there be a Republican in the White House and, if it be Trump, it will be impossible to predict what will happen with his maverick style.
However, in the near term, Putin will reappear if the present stalemate is favourable to him; otherwise he will let his generals run things, or appear to, so they can carry the blame if things go wrong. The end game is in sight, but don’t hold your breath!
About the author:
Dr J Scott Younger, OBE, is a professional civil engineer; he spent 42 years in the Far East undertaking assignments in 10 countries for WB, ADB, UNDP. He published many papers; he was a columnist for Forbes Indonesia and Globe Asia. He served on British & European Chamber boards and was a Vice Chair of Int’l Business Chamber for 17 years. His expertise is infrastructure and sustainable development and he takes an interest in international affairs. He is an International Chancellor of the President University, Indonesia. He is a member of IFIMES Advisory Board. Lived and worked in Thailand from 1978 to 1983 and visited Burma, Bangladesh and Nepal for projects.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect IFIMES official position.
Ljubljana/Glasgow, 28 November 2022
 IFIMES – International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has Special Consultative status at ECOSOC/UN, New York, since 2018.