CHRIS OVERLAND & KEITH JACKSON
ADELAIDE & NOOSA – As the Ukraine War moves to its one-month anniversary, the more important Western nations are tonight holding an unprecedented series of three summits in Brussels - NATO, G7 and European Union, all in a row.
They do so as the outcomes of the war remain uncertain, but as Vladimir Putin’s destruction and terrorism continue.
An important reason why Ukraine has succeeded in stalling and, on some fronts, is pushing back the Russian offensive is that its army is bristling with sophisticated anti-tank and short range anti-aircraft missiles.
In addition, the USA is shipping a number (thought to be around 100) 'suicide' drones, which are effective at killing tanks and artillery at ranges of around eight kilometres.
It is also rumoured that some of those eastern European states that were part of the former Soviet Union, are covertly shipping Soviet-era high altitude anti-aircraft missile systems.
These systems are familiar to Ukrainian soldiers whereas some of the West's modern systems would require extensive training before they could be used, including Israel's Iron Dome system.
It has been made clear to Russia that Western weapons will continue to flow to Ukraine regardless of the Russians’ protests or threats.
There have been a number of not very veiled threats that if Russia tries to interdict NATO supply convoys, this will trigger retaliation from NATO, perhaps in the form of imposing some sort of no-fly zone over the southern borders of Ukraine.
Thus far at least the Russians have not attacked NATO convoys or aircraft presumably because they could not cope with any escalation in the war, at least using conventional non-nuclear weaponry.
Vladimir Putin is in a very serious situation now: he cannot win this war and cannot afford to lose it either.
Hence the resort to what the Germans called 'Wunderwaffe' (super weapons) like hypersonic missiles.
In military terms, this is gesture tactics which will not save him any more than deploying the V1 and V2 rockets did Hitler in 1944-45.
There seems to be no present strategic advantage in them.
Hypersonic weapons can travel multiple times faster than the speed of sound and can manoeuvre mid-flight.
They are much harder to track and shoot down than conventional ballistic missiles.
But the main thing super about them is their cost, an estimated $US50-100 million (K175-K350 million ) each.
In the US, hypersonic missiles are amongst the most debated weapons initiatives in many years.
The debate has occurred in the knowledge of Chinese and Russian advances in cutting-edge weapons. Putin in particular boasts of his progress on hypersonic technology.
But the Americans are more circumspect.
“Can you do the job with conventional missiles at less cost, just as effectively?” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said recently.
“Hypersonics are a way to penetrate defences, but they’re not the only way.”
And so the Ukraine War goes on, with its many frontiers.
As I write, the Western nations are undertaking an unprecedented sequence of NATO, G7 and EU summits in Brussels.
They have warned Putin that Russia will pay “ruinous” costs for invading Ukraine.
Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy says he hopes the summits will come up with some “meaningful steps”, adding that they will reveal “who is a friend, who is a partner, and who betrayed us for money”.
Zelenskiy knows, as English playwright and poet John Heywood wrote in 1546, that “it’s an ill wind that blows no one any good” – misfortune usually benefits someone, and war always benefits the arms’ dealers and those who try to play off one side against another.
There are a number of nations, including India and Israel, who have some soul searching to do on this latter issue.
Meanwhile, Australia is sending 70,000 tonnes of coal to Ukraine, which has abundant reserves of its own coal.
Nobody seems quite sure why we decided to do this – or how it will get there.