September 2023

A threat on two fronts

While the focus of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been on the threat posed by Russia to the West, Yvonne Gill is right to highlight the equally significant risk presented by the Wagner Group highlight (‘Impact of Prigozhin’s putsch’, Aug. 2023). The prospect of this mercenary group acquiring nuclear weapons is deeply troubling and the West has every reason to be concerned. Recently, the British foreign affairs select committee accused its government of long-standing complacency in allowing the Wagner Group to spread its tentacles beyond Russia and deep into Africa, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and stated that the Group should be designated a terrorist organisation. That the Wagner Group’s recent military coup against Putin was only halted when a deal was brokered by the Belarusian president provides a clear insight into the power its leader wields. Managing to humiliate Putin on home soil with apparent impunity begs the question: if Putin can’t contain him, then who can?

A Ahmed

Islamabad, Pakistan

Health of the military

I think that the case of Private Travis King crossing the border into North Korea is disturbing for very different reasons from those expressed by Duncan Bartlett (‘On the run to North Korea’, Aug. 2023). Setting aside the diplomatic crisis that the soldier’s actions have caused, the most striking thing about this incident is the apparent poor mental health of the soldier in question – his behaviour would suggest that he is experiencing a mental health crisis and coverage of the story by other news outlets backs up this theory.

When are we going to treat our veterans with the respect they deserve and provide them with the psychological help needed? Active service, separation from family and support networks for months at a time can exact a very high price, least of all on young, vulnerable soldiers. It is time for those responsible for our wellbeing to do better.

Name & address withheld

History will judge

In her fascinating article (‘Nordic re-alignment’, August 2023), Tanya Vatsa skilfully unravels the numerous diplomatic factors at play in determining which countries are admitted to NATO’s military alliance. She also sets out the short sightedness of Moscow’s invasion of Kyiv and illustrates the increasingly desperate position in which Putin finds himself as his gamble against NATO admitting states from the buffer zone, as well as – most significantly –  Ukraine, fails spectacularly.

In light of this huge development, the question must surely be: how will Putin react to this new political landscape and will this lead to an escalation in hostilities, including the use of nuclear arms? While NATO’s decision to admit Finland is of mutual benefit, the diplomatic and military significance of Ukraine’s admission cannot be overestimated – a critical milestone in this bloody and protracted conflict, which history will judge as either another catastrophic miscalculation – this time by Biden – or a robust and pragmatic response to a brutal tyrant.

Mr Ali Karimi  

Stockholm, Sweden

International law in tatters

Dear Sir,

Richard Gregson’s report (‘China frustrates action against Pak-based Jihadi gangs’, August 2023) unravels the extent to which  China and Pakistan have collaborated in making a mockery of international attempts to bring Pakistani jihadists to justice. It makes for a depressing read and begs the question: what can be done to make China toe the line and adhere to the international rule of law? Which country will call it out if not the US? And, perhaps most interesting, what is China’s motivation in behaving in such an egregious way?

Fourteen years after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the families of the 166 innocent victims continue to be denied justice. As Jason M. Blazakis, Professor of practice at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, stated in 2018 in The Hill: ‘A lethal, miasmic mix of bureaucratic inertia, diplomatic dysfunction and misperception has contributed to the fact that LeT members Sajid Mir, Mazhar Iqbal, Abu Qahafa (his nom de guerre), and their ISI handler, Major Iqbal (no relation to Mazhar), roam free’. Considering the single-minded determination with which the US hunted down the 9/11 hijackers, Pakistan’ deliberate attempt, with China’s assistance, to subvert justice is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue.

Dr Pradeep Shahs


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