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WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

'If we stop, we die': Ukraine's struggling soldiers emboldened by renewed U.S. support

For the Ukrainian soldiers battling Russia’s offensive, signs of renewed Western support are more than just diplomatic results.

“I can tell you that your money is not wasted here,” said First Sgt. Dmytro Pryimak, a tank commander in the eastern Donetsk region where Kyiv’s troops are struggling to hold back Moscow’s military.

He spoke to NBC News on the ground from a remote area several miles from the front lines, where Abrams tanks provided by the United States are being repaired and refitted for battle.

“We see all this support that the U.S. and all the other allies are providing to us and we appreciate it. Because you fund us, we can maintain our vehicles, we can buy new equipment and we can protect ourselves,” Pryimak said.

The Kremlin’s forces are pushing forward in a number of hot spots across this industrial heartland, which President Vladimir Putin laid claim to again Friday as he outlined Russia’s demands to begin peace talks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy rejected what he said was little more than an ultimatum to give up territory to his country’s invaders. Ukraine has been buoyed by a 10-year security pact and new military aid from the U.S., the loosening of restrictions on its use of Western weapons, and allied support at the G7 summit and then a weekend peace conference.

But with Russia absent from that gathering in Switzerland and some key developing powers declining to sign up to a joint communique, there was little sign of a way forward beyond prolonged war.

‘It will devastate us if we stop now’

Zelenskyy will nonetheless see this flurry of activity as a significant show of support, a galvanized response after months in which his country’s backers seemed to be wavering.

The war’s front lines have scarcely shifted in 18 months, but Ukrainian soldiers say this is only down to their continued fight — and the support they now feel once again in both words and weapons.

Pryimak said the idea that the war had reached a stalemate was an “illusion,” and insisted U.S. aid was helping Ukraine defend ground it would otherwise have lost to Russia.

“Once we cede more territory to Russia, it will not stop,” he added. “We can have some temporary cease-fire, it will last for several months, or for one year or for two years. But in the long run, Russia will come again, more prepared with more equipment, and it will devastate us if we stop now.”

Soldiers like Pryimak are under intense pressure in the east, where a difficult situation has been made dire by Ukraine’s rush to reinforce areas further north after Russia’s military launched a new offensive there earlier this year.

Kyiv’s troops have managed to hold back that advance in the northeastern Kharkiv region, but they too are certain that peace is a long way off.

“If we stop [fighting], we die,” said Georgiy Volkov, commander of a drone unit operating around the key front-line town of Vovchansk. “We can’t stop this fighting because we are fighting for our homeland, for our families,” he said.

“For me, a single peace agreement can be if they leave all territories,” Volkov said, adding that Russia should pay Ukraine to rebuild its villages and cities.

Drafts and divisions at peace summit

While the soldiers were steeling themselves to put allied support to use on the battlefield, Ukraine’s leader was able to call on diplomatic backing at a summit billed as a first step toward peace.

World leaders and officials — Vice President Kamala Harris led the U.S. delegation — gathered at the Alpine resort of Bürgenstock for the two-day conference.

A joint communique signed by nearly 80 countries Sunday called for Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” to be the basis of any agreement and outlined three key principles for a deal to end the war.

With Russia not invited, Putin offered his own demands Friday.

He promised to “immediately” order a cease-fire and begin negotiations if Ukraine started withdrawing troops from the four regions newly annexed by Moscow and renounced plans to join NATO. Ukraine rejected the plan as “manipulative,” “absurd” and a ploy to undermine the Swiss conference.

But there were signs of discord at the summit, too.

India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Brazil were among countries that did not sign the final document. Turkey left early and China did not attend.

NBC News has seen a copy of an earlier draft of the joint communique that called for another summit to be held that would include Russia.

That language did not make it into the final draft, which instead focused on more consensus areas, such as the future of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and nuclear facilities, as well as children deported to Russia.

That left any way forward for diplomatic efforts uncertain, with Ukraine increasingly bullish about its ability to retain allied support and Russia still pressing its offensives in the east and north.

South Africa said that developing countries from the “global south” were taking a less uncompromising stance.

Zane Dangor, director general of South Africa’s Department for International Relations, said there was a route to a diplomatic solution.

Putin had put forward “maximalist demands” that could be watered down if both sides agreed to sit down for peace talks, he said in an interview in Switzerland.

“Negotiations will always begin by both parties putting the maximum demands,” he said.

You don’t get to peace through war, Dangor added, “all you are doing is building the basis for the next war.”

 

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

US warns Ukraine it must defeat Russia to join NATO

In order to become a NATO member, Ukraine has to “win the war” with Russia first, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists at a press briefing on Monday.

US President Joe Biden believes NATO is in Ukraine’s future, but there’s “a lot of things that have to be done” before it can join, Kirby said. When a journalist asked him to elaborate on the “vague conditions” and “unclear pathway” Kiev had been given, the official claimed that Washington’s position was “absolutely clear.”

“First they’ve got to win this war,” Kirby said.

“They gotta win the war first. So, number one: We’re doing everything we can to make sure they can do that. Then when the war’s over no matter what it looks like they’re still going to have a long border with Russia and a legitimate security threat,” he said. Washington will assist in building up Ukraine’s military industrial base, although “corruption is still a major concern,” Kirby added.

Moscow has repeatedly stated that it sees the expansion of NATO towards Russian borders as an existential threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin has named Kiev’s aim to join the US-led military bloc as one of the key causes of the ongoing conflict.

Last Friday, the Russian leader named Moscow’s conditions for a ceasefire and the beginning of peace negotiations. The talks could start as soon as Kiev withdraws its troops from the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions, and cedes its claims to all five former Ukrainian territories that chose to join Russia, including Crimea, Putin signaled. Moscow will not accept a frozen conflict, which would allow the US and its allies to rearm and rebuild the Ukrainian military, Putin claimed, adding that Kiev must formally abandon any plans to join NATO.

The delivery of Western armaments to aid Kiev’s war efforts makes the countries providing it a party to the conflict, Moscow has insisted. Further NATO involvement in the conflict risks a direct clash between Moscow and the US-led military bloc, and threatens to expand into a nuclear conflict, the Kremlin has stressed.

 

NBC News/RT

Africa, with 60% of the arable land on the planet, 30% of the mineral reserves and a population approaching 1.5 billion, is an increasingly vital region for global security. Unfortunately, the US has not been adapting to a rapidly changing scene. In the latest blow, US troops have been forced to leave Niger, where the Pentagon had enjoyed a longstanding security partnership.

At the same time, Russia and China are consolidating political and military influence across the continent. Russian paramilitaries and mercenaries, using the model of the now-defunct Wagner Group, have been operating in Mali, Congo, the Central African Republic and other states. Autocratic leaders are hoping for economic benefits from Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative — and to purchase AI-enhanced versions of the equipment that has made China a surveillance state.

US Africa Command, charged with military-to-military cooperation throughout the region, warns that China is active in all the continent’s 54 countries. General Mike Langley, its commander, says that Beijing aspires to establish naval bases on the Atlantic and Indian oceans, and the Gulf of Aden. It has already built its first official overseas base on the Horn of Africa in Djibouti.

So, what are the basic tenets of a sensible strategic plan for this vast continent?

First, understand the immense diversity of Africa. The linguistic, historical and cultural differences are huge. Compare Ethiopia’s culture of longtime independence with South Africa’s tortuous colonial and apartheid experiences. Francophone Africa is very different than the handful of former Portuguese colonies. And all these countries had long pre-colonial historical experiences that shaped their national characters.

For example, during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the US became paralyzed and failed to react when Hutu militias killed roughly 800,000 Tutsis. We didn’t appreciate the simmering tensions between ethnic groups following Belgium’s colonial administration and were unprepared to intervene in the enormous human tragedy.

Second, concentrate efforts on several “anchor” countries in four distinct geographic areas. These are nations that have both regional and, in some cases, continent-wide influence. Incentives for them could include funding for key infrastructure through the US International Development Financing Corporation to compete with Belt and Road; military sales with preferential treatment for advanced systems such as fourth-generation fighter jets; military-to-military training, especially for special forces and counterterrorism; and more intelligence sharing.

Kenya, recently selected as a Major Non-NATO Ally, is the natural anchor in eastern Africa. Its president, William Ruto, was just hosted for a state visit in Washington — partly in recognition of his nation’s willingness to take on a complex security mission to Haiti that will benefit the US greatly.

Nigeria, the most populous country on the continent and boasting vast natural resources and Atlantic Ocean coastline, will be the key player in West Africa. Washington has had good military-to-military connectivity, but Nigeria could use more support fighting the Boko Haram terrorist group.

South Africa is also an obvious choice, despite the messy aftermath of last month’s election. The US ambassador, Reuben Brigety, recently told me, “It is in America’s interest of the US that South Africa succeed as a democracy that can deliver for its people." South Africa is a continental leader and has an outsized voice in the Global South; it is the only African nation in the G-20; more than 600 American companies operate there, generating revenue roughly equal to 10% of South Africa's GDP.

Ethiopia, with the continent’s second-largest population, is a natural partner in the north. But after a long period of stability, it has recently been wracked by civil war. The US deserves credit for being its top source of humanitarian aid, but we need to increase our diplomatic engagement. Given the flow of refugees from Sudan and Ethiopia’s desire to borrow $7 billion from IMF and World Bank, now is the time to be economically supportive.

Third comes improving ties with influential regional and global organizations. The most important of these is the African Union, headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Yet the US ambassador position has been vacant for more than a year. The State Department should appoint a foreign service officer with immense Africa experience to give the US continent-wide credibility.

Fourth, Washington should coordinate more closely with its global allies. A good example is France, which has retained strong connections with some of its former colonies. While France has also been suffering with withdrawals and expulsions of troops from some of these states (notably Niger and Mali), it retains strong business and military connections in Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin and Chad. Putting joint US-French missions together for military training or economic development projects makes sense.

Fifth is providing more security support. This means military-to-military training and equipment through Africa Command. This has been done on a piecemeal basis, but Africa is not a one-size-fits-all challenge. A more nuanced approach, for example, might be to send ground trainers from not just the Army and Marine Corps, but also from the US reserves and National Guard, who can perhaps relate better to the smaller militaries on the continent.

As for naval support, the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, a massive Expeditionary Support Base — with heavy-lift helicopters, vast cargo capability and teams for special-forces training — began a deployment off West Africa in February. That’s good, but such initiatives should be constant, not sporadic. The US Coast Guard has conducted training in counterpiracy and drug interdiction with small coastal navies of West Africa, but this too needs to be on a more permanent footing.

Finally, Washington must compete with Beijing’s Belt and Road.China’s initiative has a mixed track record at best. While more than 40 out of 54 African nations are registered as part of BRI, some of the construction projects have turned out to be shoddy, and many loanshave been canceled.

The US has institutions such as the Development Finance Corporation, which funds projects from a relatively small $1 billion budget, often working with the private sector and US Agency for International Development. For example, the DFC is now helping finance construction of part of the Lobito Corridor, a rail and road project traversing sub-Saharan Africa. Both the DFC and USAID are a fiscally smart way to engage in Africa, but they are hugely underfunded.

There is no overstating the strategic importance of Africa: By 2050, one in four people on the planet will live there. America’s great-power competitors have made deep inroads, and without a coherent strategy, the US will continue to lose influence and geopolitical advantage.

** Stavridis is also vice chairman of global affairs at the Carlyle Group. He is on the boards of Fortinet and Ankura Consulting Group, and has advised Shield Capital, a firm that invests in the cybersecurity sector.

 

Bloomberg

Tobi Amusan has claimed her fourth consecutive national title in the women’s 100 metres hurdles event. 

The 27-year-old dipped at 12.78 seconds and was way ahead of her competitors in a one-sided final of the event on Monday at the national Olympic trials in Benin, Edo state.

The victory was Amusan’s fourth national title in a row, having swept to victory at the Olympic trials in Lagos in 2021 before winning twice in Benin in the last two years.

In the women’s 100 meters, Favour Ofili clinched the national title and booked an automatic qualification for the Paris Olympics.

The 21-year-old clocked a season-best of 11.06 seconds to finish ahead of Olayinka Olajide, who came second in 11.37 seconds, and Justina Eyakpobeyan in third.

Kanyinsola Ajayi won the men’s 100-meter crown with a blistering 10.14 seconds.

He defeated Alaba Akintola, who clocked 10.16 seconds, and Usheoritse Itsekiri, who finished second and third.

Chukwuebuka Enekwechi won his fourth consecutive men’s shot put national title. He only needed three attempts to his 21.37 meters mark which was insurmountable by his opponents.

 

The Cable

Accomplishing a longtime career goal — whether that's crossing the six-figure mark in your salary or getting a huge promotion — might seem like the solution to feeling completely satisfied at work. But chances are, you could still feel empty, bored, or unfulfilled even after achieving this milestone.

That's normal, Joseph Fuller, a Harvard Business School professor and co-chair of the school's "Managing the Future of Work" initiative, tells CNBC Make It. "Our careers rarely align with every expectation we have for them," he says.

The same logic applies to any professional goal you pursue: If you have unrealistic expectations that a raise or switching jobs will solve all of your problems or be exactly as you'd imagined it, you could be setting yourself up for failure, Fuller cautions.

A common career mistake people make that can leave you "burned out and unhappy," he adds, is not being honest about your priorities and the trade-offs you're willing to make at work. 

"It's a piece of advice I give my students all the time: The people who are unhappiest in their careers are the ones who haven't been honest with themselves about the objectives they want to prioritize in their career, and what they're willing to give up to meet them," Fuller, who also co-hosts the podcast "Managing the Future of Work," explains. 

For example: If it's important to you to have your weekends off and maintain some semblance of a work-life balance, you might not want to take a job that demands 80-100 hour workweeks, even if it pays well or the title looks good on paper.

No job is perfect, but you can find a role that checks most of your boxes if you're clear on your top priorities and which trade-offs you're comfortable — or uncomfortable — making before accepting an offer.

You can evaluate a company's culture during an interview, Fuller suggests, by asking how the company supports employees' professional development, gives feedback and responds to challenges, among other questions. 

Finding a job where you have a sense of control and are excited about the work you're doing can help you stay motivated and ward off burnout, Fuller adds.

The other trick to finding career satisfaction is to work your core values into your day-to-day responsibilities. Fuller says you can pitch your boss a meaningful side project, organize more office socials or volunteer to lead a weekly meeting depending on what you most value.

However you define success, "You want to work for an organization whose objectives align with your own goals and ambition," says Fuller, "whether it's earning six figures or changing the world."

 

CNBC

In the first year of President Bola Tinubu's administration, Nigeria has seen a substantial increase in both external and domestic borrowing, raising concerns over the country's rising debt servicing costs and potential economic implications.

External Borrowings

Nigeria has secured a total of $4.95 billion in loans from the World Bank under Tinubu's tenure. These loans cover various sectors:

- Power Sector: $750 million to enhance the power sector.

- Women’s Empowerment: $500 million to scale up the Nigeria for Women Program.

- Education: $700 million to support the Adolescent Girls Initiative for Learning and Empowerment (AGILE).

- Renewable Energy: $750 million for the Distributed Access through Renewable Energy Scale-up (DARES) project.

- Economic Stabilization: $1.5 billion for the Nigeria Reforms for Economic Stabilization to Enable Transformation (RESET) Development Policy Financing Program.

- Resource Mobilization: $750 million for the Nigeria Accelerating Resource Mobilization Reforms (ARMOR) Program-for-Results.

Additionally, Nigeria received an oil-backed loan of $3.3 billion from the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), with the latest disbursement of $925 million. This loan aims to support Nigeria’s macroeconomic stability and long-term economic growth.

Domestic Borrowings

Domestically, the Federal Government borrowed N20.1 trillion from local investors, marking a 117% year-on-year increase from the previous year. This borrowing was facilitated through various instruments such as FGN Bonds, FGN Savings Bonds, Sukuk Bonds, and Nigeria Treasury Bills (NTBs). Notably, NTBs constituted 66% of this borrowing, with the amount rising by 188% to N13.235 trillion.

The high-interest rate environment, driven by a rise in the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) to an average of 20.32%, contributed to this surge. Consequently, the average interest rate on NTBs rose to 9.1%, and on FGN Savings Bonds, it increased to 17.91%.

Economic Implications

The sharp increase in borrowing has raised alarms about the potential strain on Nigeria's economy. The country’s external debt servicing payments nearly doubled, reaching $2.19 billion in the first five months of 2024, compared to $1.12 billion in the same period in 2023. This rising debt burden could divert resources from critical sectors such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure, exacerbating socio-economic challenges.

Analysts warn that the increased borrowing costs could lead to further inflationary pressures and higher interest rates, impacting businesses and individuals. The substantial rise in government borrowing might crowd out private sector investment, making it more expensive for businesses to access credit.

When Bola Tinubu assumed office as Nigeria's president, he pledged to break the country’s reliance on borrowing for public spending. This commitment, made on August 8, 2023, during the inauguration of the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, raised hopes for fiscal prudence and economic stability. However, less than a year later, Nigeria's borrowing has surged dramatically, with over $8 billion borrowed from external sources and N20 trillion from the domestic debt market. This stark deviation from Tinubu's vow not only undermines his credibility but also poses severe implications for Nigeria’s economic future.

The Legacy of Debt

Under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria achieved a significant milestone by exiting a crippling international debt burden. Through strategic negotiations and repayments, Obasanjo managed to secure debt relief, providing Nigeria with a much-needed fiscal breathing space. This achievement was a beacon of hope, suggesting a path toward sustainable economic management and growth.

However, the administrations that followed have steadily reversed this progress. Former President Muhammadu Buhari's tenure saw a resurgence in borrowing, and now, under Tinubu, the situation has escalated alarmingly. The World Bank loans alone, totaling $4.95 billion, cover sectors ranging from power and women’s empowerment to education and renewable energy. Additionally, an oil-backed loan of $3.3 billion from the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has further swollen Nigeria’s external debt profile.

Domestic Borrowing Surge

Domestically, the scenario is equally concerning. The Federal Government’s borrowing from local investors has skyrocketed to N20.1 trillion, marking a 117% increase from the previous year. This borrowing, facilitated through instruments such as FGN Bonds and Nigeria Treasury Bills (NTBs), has been driven by a high-interest rate environment. The average interest rate on NTBs rose to 9.1%, and on FGN Savings Bonds, it climbed to 17.91%. Such rates indicate a heavy burden on the nation's finances, exacerbating the cost of debt servicing.

Economic Implications

The implications of this borrowing spree are dire. Nigeria's external debt servicing payments nearly doubled to $2.19 billion in the first five months of 2024, compared to $1.12 billion in the same period in 2023. This rising debt burden could divert critical resources from essential sectors such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure, worsening socio-economic conditions.

Moreover, the increased borrowing costs are likely to fuel inflationary pressures, prompting further interest rate hikes by the Central Bank of Nigeria. This cycle of rising costs and interest rates can stifle private sector investment, making it more expensive for businesses to access credit. Consequently, economic growth could be stunted, and unemployment may rise, intensifying social unrest.

The Path Forward

President Tinubu’s administration must urgently reassess its fiscal strategy. Instead of resorting to borrowing, the government should focus on enhancing revenue generation through robust tax reforms and efficient public spending. The Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, tasked with achieving an 18% tax-to-GDP ratio within three years, must deliver tangible results. Strengthening tax collection mechanisms and broadening the tax base (not imposing new taxes) can provide sustainable revenue streams, reducing the need for excessive borrowing.

The government also needs to reduce to the barest minimum the oil thefts in the Niger Delta that have made it impossible to meet Nigeria’s OPEC+ quota of 1.5 million barrels per day. This huge revenue leakage must be blocked.

Additionally, transparency and accountability in managing borrowed funds are crucial. Ensuring that loans are utilized effectively for development projects can mitigate some of the adverse impacts. However, without a strategic shift away from borrowing, Nigeria risks falling into a debt trap that could take decades to escape.

Conclusion

Tinubu’s broken promise on borrowing highlights the urgent need for a disciplined and sustainable fiscal policy. The current trajectory of mounting debt threatens Nigeria’s economic stability and future prosperity. It is imperative for the government to chart a new course that prioritizes revenue generation, prudent spending, and long-term economic planning. Only then can Nigeria hope to avoid the pitfalls of perpetual debt and build a resilient economy that benefits all its citizens.

“I have slaughtered a ram every year starting from 1976 but this year I can't, I just can't.”

Like many of the estimated 100 million Muslims in Nigeria, 78-year-old Kabiru Tudun Wada is not celebrating Eid al-Adha as he normally would because of the cost-of-living crisis.

Muslims around the world traditionally slaughter a ram or another animal on Eid al-Adha, in memory of the prophet Ibrahim's willingness to sacrifice his own son when God ordered him to.

The meat is used to prepare a huge feast for the entire family, while friends and neighbours visit each other and eat the food each family has prepared.

Clerics also recommend that some of the meat is distributed to the poor and needy.

“In years gone by I could afford at least one ram but things have never been tighter,” Wada told the BBC in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria, where the vast majority of people are Muslim.

Nigeria is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in a generation, leading to widespread hardship and anger.

Annual inflation - the average rate at which prices go up - is now over 30%, the highest figure in nearly three decades. The cost of food has risen even more - by 50%.

An average ram now sells for 100,000 naira (£50; $63) which is beyond the reach of many.

Another Nigerian, Auwal Yakasai, 66, said the only way he could afford to slaughter an animal for Eid this year was to find a friend and share the cost.

“We got a camel so the two of us can slaughter together.

“Things are so tight for many people and for some, an arrangement like this is the only way they can make the sacrifice.”

Muslim cleric Idris Garba Sokoto told the BBC that slaughtering a ram, goat or camel on Eid is one of the most beloved deeds a Muslim can perform for Allah.

“Islam traces the origin of the animal slaughtering on Eid to the prophet Ibrahim, who had a dream and was about to sacrifice his son before God intervened with a ram which he slaughtered instead. Since then it has become a religious practice.”

“For cows and camels, up to seven persons can put money together, buy and slaughter together - Islam permits that,” the cleric said.

But for many Muslims, and other Nigerians, basic food is their top priority at the moment - not an animal which some consider a luxury.

Shamsu Mohammed, 54, said that even if someone gave him the money to buy an animal, he would be more inclined to buy cheaper food to stock up his home.

“Slaughtering is not compulsory, as Islam says it is for those who have the means. For those who can't afford it, it’s not necessary.”

Ahead of Eid, the ram markets are normally full of people choosing which animal to buy and take home to their family. Normally, people take great pride in choosing the biggest and most impressive animal.

But this year is very different.

Ibrahim Balarabe Wambai makes his living selling rams and his whole year is normally geared around Eid.

He says the market is very different this year.

"Last year I sold 15 rams but this year, I have sold only seven."

The government say it is doing all it could to turn the economy around.

Around 15 million poor households are receiving a cash transfer of 25,000 naira ($16; £13) a month but these days that doesn't go very far.

As millions of Nigerian Muslims return from visiting the mosques, the prayer on the lips of many will be that things improve so that by next year, they can not only slaughter an animals but buy new clothes as well.

 

BBC

Netanyahu denounces tactical pauses in Gaza fighting to get in aid

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized plans announced by the military on Sunday to hold daily tactical pauses in fighting along one of the main roads into Gaza to facilitate aid delivery into the Palestinian enclave.

The military had announced the daily pauses from 0500 GMT until 1600 GMT in the area from the Kerem Shalom Crossing to the Salah al-Din Road and then northwards.

"When the prime minister heard the reports of an 11-hour humanitarian pause in the morning, he turned to his military secretary and made it clear that this was unacceptable to him," an Israeli official said.

The military clarified that normal operations would continue in Rafah, the main focus of its operation in southern Gaza, where eight soldiers were killed on Saturday.

The reaction from Netanyahu underlined political tensions over the issue of aid coming into Gaza, where international organisations have warned of a growing humanitarian crisis.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who leads one of the nationalist religious parties in Netanyahu's ruling coalition, denounced the idea of a tactical pause, saying whoever decided it was a "fool" who should lose their job.

DIVISIONS BETWEEN COALITION, ARMY

The spat was the latest in a series of clashes between members of the coalition and the military over the conduct of the war, now in its ninth month.

It came a week after centrist former general Benny Gantz quit the government, accusing Netanyahu of having no effective strategy in Gaza.

The divisions were laid bare last week in a parliamentary vote on a law on conscripting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, with Defence Minister Yoav Gallant voting against it in defiance of party orders, saying it was insufficient for the needs of the military.

Religious parties in the coalition have strongly opposed conscription for the ultra-Orthodox, drawing widespread anger from many Israelis, which has deepened as the war has gone on.

Lieutenant-General Herzi Halevi, the head of the military, said on Sunday there was a "definite need" to recruit more soldiers from the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox community.

RESERVISTS UNDER STRAIN

Despite growing international pressure for a ceasefire, an agreement to halt the fighting still appears distant, more than eight months since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas fighters on Israel triggered a ground assault on the enclave by Israeli forces.

Since the attack, which killed some 1,200 Israelis and foreigners in Israeli communities, Israel's military campaign has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health ministry figures, and destroyed much of Gaza.

Although opinion polls suggest most Israelis support the government's aim of destroying Hamas, there have been widespread protests attacking the government for not doing more to bring home around 120 hostages who are still in Gaza after being taken hostage on Oct. 7.

Meanwhile, Palestinian health officials said seven Palestinians were killed in two air strikes on two houses in Al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza Strip.

As fighting in Gaza has continued, a lower level conflict across the Israel-Lebanon border is now threatening to spiral into a wider war as near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia have escalated.

In a further sign that fighting in Gaza could drag on, Netanyahu's government said on Sunday it was extending until Aug. 15 the period it would fund hotels and guest houses for residents evacuated from southern Israeli border towns.

 

Reuters

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Swiss right-wing leader calls Ukraine summit an 'embarrassment'

A leading Swiss right-wing nationalist panned a summit his country was hosting in a bid to pressure Russia to end its war on Ukraine as an "embarrassment", reflecting the view that the talks are damaging for Switzerland's traditional neutrality.

The right-wing Swiss Peoples' Party (SVP), the biggest group in the lower house of parliament, says neutrality is an integral part of Switzerland's prosperity, and it has initiated a referendum to embed the principle in the constitution.

Leading figures in the party have argued Switzerland should not have hosted this weekend's summit without Russia, and Nils Fiechter, chief of the SVP's youth wing, delivered a damning verdict on the talks to Russian broadcaster RT.

"The conference will achieve nothing," Fiechter told RT on the eve of the talks, in comments picked up by Swiss media on Sunday. "The whole thing is an absolute farce and an embarrassment for our country."

The summit being held at the Buergenstock luxury resort has sparked heated debate over whether Switzerland should abandon its neutrality, a position deeply rooted in the Swiss psyche.

Western powers and other nations at the conference were on Sunday seeking consensus on condemning Russia's invasion and underscoring the war's human cost.

Fiechter said the Swiss government had "blindly" bowed to international pressure by not inviting Russia.

"Switzerland is ... allowing Ukraine to dictate who may or may not be invited to this conference and it is allowing it to turn into a Zelenskiy show," he told RT.

"Now we are in danger, and it's a great danger, of Switzerland allowing itself to be drawn into a world war."

Switzerland agreed to host the conference at the behest of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Bern says Russia must be involved in the process but justified not inviting it on the grounds that Moscow had repeatedly said it had no interest in taking part.

The Kremlin has described Switzerland as "openly hostile" and unfit to mediate in peace-building efforts, in particular because of its adoption of EU sanctions against Moscow.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, two of Europe's other historically neutral states, Sweden and Finland, have both joined NATO.

 

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

No more ‘endless’ payments to Zelensky – Trump

Former US President Donald Trump has said that he would stop handing over tens of billions of dollars to Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky, promising to have the situation in Ukraine “settled” if he is re-elected this year.

“I think Zelensky is maybe the greatest salesman of any politician that’s ever lived,”Trump told supporters at ‘The People’s Convention’, a conservative conference held by Turning Point Action in Michigan on Saturday.

“Every time he comes to our country, he walks away with $60 billion,” Trump said of the Ukrainian leader. “So now here’s the beauty. He just left four days ago with $60 billion, and he gets home and he announces that he needs another $60 billion or else it never ends, it never ends.”

The US and other G7 nations on Thursday announced a $50 billion loan for Ukraine, which would be backed by revenue generated by roughly $300 billion in frozen Russian assets. While Zelensky did not ask for “another $60 billion” after leaving the G7 gathering in Italy, he has repeatedly chided his Western backers for not handing over sufficient quantities of cash and weapons, and intensely lobbied Republican lawmakers in Washington to approve a $61 billion military aid package in April.

“I will have that settled prior to taking the White House,” Trump told the crowd in Michigan. “As president-elect, I will have that settled.”Trump then reiterated, as he has on numerous occasions since 2022, that the Ukraine conflict “never would have happened” had he been president.

Trump has repeatedly argued that US President Joe Biden’s policy of open-ended military support for Ukraine is leading the US toward a “third world war,” and has promised that he would end the conflict “in 24 hours” if he defeats Biden in this November’s presidential election.

Trump has never fully elaborated on how he would do this, save for forcing Zelensky to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin, but recent reports by Bloomberg and the Washington Post suggest that he would leverage the US’ massive military assistance to Kiev to pressure Zelensky into accepting the loss of some of Ukraine’s pre-conflict territory.

However, Trump did not lobby his Congressional allies to block the $61 billion aid package in April, and said at the time that he would support lending, rather than gifting, money to Zelensky in future.

 

Reuters/RT

Less than a decade ago, the detention centre of the International Criminal Court, ICC, in Scheveningen on the outskirts of The Hague could easily have been mistaken for a committee meeting of leaders of the African Union. One of its long-term guests was Laurent Gbagbo, a former president of Côte d’Ivoire. From neighbouring Liberia, Gbagbo’s contemporary, Charles Taylor, kept up a punishing schedule on the tennis courts of the facility. With them there also was former Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC, Jean-Pierre Bemba. 

At about the same time, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta; and his Deputy and future successor, William Ruto, were suspects on trial before the ICC. For over five years before that, since 2009, the Court had an arrest warrant still outstanding for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir. 

Even as the ICC advanced towards an arrest warrant for Sudan’s then dictator, the African Union, AU, complained somewhat vainly that “abuse and misuse of indictments against African leaders have a destabilizing effect that will negatively impact on the political, social and economic development of States and their ability to conduct international relations.” 

The month before the ICC authorized the arrest warrant against Omar Al-Bashir, in February 2009, the summit of the African Union’s Heads of State and Government requested the Commission of the African Union “in consultation with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to examine the implications of the Court being empowered to try international crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and report thereon to the Assembly in 2010.” In the wake of the onset of the crisis in Libya, the African Union decided that the ICC’s focus on the African continent was “discriminatory.” In Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea, in June 2014, the AU adopted a treaty to confer on the court jurisdiction over international crimes. This treaty is known as “the Malabo Protocol”, after the city where it was adopted. 

It was the assessment of the AU then that the Bashir arrest warrant would “seriously undermine the ongoing efforts aimed at facilitating the early resolution of the conflict in Darfur.” More than five years after Omar Al-Bashir’s ouster and one and a half decades after the ICC’s arrest warrant for him, the current metastasis of atrocities in Darfur provides reason to reassess the African Union’s fears. 

At the time when the AU first voiced its fears and suspicions about the ICC in the first decade of this millennium, they were largely greeted with derision. This attitude was foundational to the existence of the ICC. At the adoption of the statute establishing the court in 1998, then UK Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, infamously sniffed that “this is not a court set up to bring to book Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom or Presidents of the United States.” 

This colonial superciliousness did not preclude African countries from recognizing the opportunities in the ICC. The continent was the single largest source of resilient support to the project and process that culminated in the creation of the Court. With 33 of the 124 member states of the ICC, Africa provides over 26.6% of the signatories to the Statute establishing the Court, the largest single bloc of any continent. In January 2004, when few trusted the Court to exercise its functions with skill or responsibility, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni voluntarily referred the situation in the country to the court, yielding up the first case received by it. By the end of the first decade of its operations, the prosecutorial docket of the ICC read like a political geography of Africa: Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, DRC, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Sudan, Uganda. 

A senior lawyer practising at the ICC accused it of being “a vehicle for its primarily European funders, of which the UK is one of the largest, to exert their influence and, particularly, in Africa.” For a long time, fundamentalists of the ICC dismissed this view as lacking in credibility.

As the current prosecutor of the Court, Karim Khan, prepared to turn his attentions to the atrocities in the ongoing crisis in Gaza earlier this year, however, all the suspicions about the targeting of Africa by the court were confirmed. In a high profile interview with the Cable News Network, CNN, last month, Khan disclosed that an un-named senior Western official seeking to dissuade him from seeking an arrest warrant against Israel’s Prime Minister, had told him that the ICC was “built for Africa and for thugs like Putin.” 

At about the same time, it emerged that the head of Israel’s much feared foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, had “allegedly threatened a chief prosecutor of the international criminal court in a series of secret meetings in which he tried to pressure her into abandoning a war crimes investigation.” According to The Guardian in London, this was part of “an almost decade-long campaign by the country (Israel) to undermine the court (ICC).” In the wake of these disclosures, those who issue gratuitous lectures to Africa about the impunity and accountability have seen nothing and said even less.

The Prosecutor whom they threatened was Fatou Bensouda, Gambia’s current High Commissioner to the United Kingdom whose courage in defending the independence of her office as the second Prosecutor of the ICC made her the subject of punitive sanctions by the United States.

In the Malabo Protocol, the African Union, tired of protesting the pigmented project of the ICC, decided to endow an African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights with jurisdiction over 14 crimes of an international or transboundary nature on the continent. These include aggression; war crimes; crimes against humanity; genocide; trafficking in persons, in hazardous wastes or in drugs; terrorism, corruption; money laundering; mercenarism; piracy; illicit exploitation of natural resources; and unconstitutional changes in government. 

Despite the truly capacious scope contemplated by this treaty, a sustained international campaign frightened most African states into losing their sovereign nerves about the establishment of the court. The current scandal around the skullduggery and double standards in relation to the ICC’s efforts to address Afghanistan and Palestine have finally persuaded African countries to return attention to the project of an African competence on international crimes. 

On 31 May, Angola became the first country to ratify the Malabo Protocol. That leaves 14 more to do so before the African Court of Justice and Human and Peoples’ Rights can be established. That cannot happen too soon. When it does, the new court will have 15 judges who will sit in three sections. The General Affairs section will handle cases on mostly trade, regional integration and continental institutions. The section on Human and Peoples’ Rights will focus on human rights cases. There will also be a section on International Criminal Law which will have a pre-trial, trial and appellate chamber. The new Court will house one prosecutor and also one registrar. 

Fundamentalists of the ICC mock the idea of an international crimes instance for Africa. In truth, in the period of just over two decades of its operations, the record of the ICC has been largely underwhelming. It can do with all the help that it can get. The continental criminal instance proposed by the AU should be seen as a paydown by Africa on precisely that kind of assistance. Ten years after its adoption, there is no longer time to wait; Angola’s leadership in the push to bring the Malabo Protocol into force deserves to be quickly complemented by other African countries.

A Professor of law, Odinkalu can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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