Geopolitics

The Stakes Of A Ukrainian-Russian Drone Arms Race

A recent unmanned attack could heighten tensions in the conflict zone and have broader geopolitical consequences.

The Stakes Of A Ukrainian-Russian Drone Arms Race

Police officers patrolling Moscow's Red Square

Anna Akage

Last week Vladimir Putin complained that even without accepting Kyiv into its ranks, NATO could place missiles in Ukraine near Russia's borders. Russian media was quick to help prove Putin's point, writing about Washington's current military aid to Kyiv, Ukraine's talks with London on obtaining British Brimstone missiles and Turkish drones in Donbas, which has been a disputed site of conflict since 2014.

Just days later, the Ukrainian military for the first time used the Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 drone in Donbas. The incident Tuesday could seriously change the situation in the conflict zone and have consequences for both Russian-Ukrainian and Russian-Turkish relations.

Turkey enters the conflict 

Russian daily Kommersant writes that the main threat now is the military friendship between Ukraine and Turkey. "We have a really special and good relationship with Turkey, but in this case, unfortunately, our fears are confirmed that the supply of such weapons to the Ukrainian military could potentially destabilize the situation on the line of contact," says Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president.

Information about the use of the drone appeared almost simultaneously with the report that the Ukrainian military occupied the village on the line of contact, which means a full-fledged aggravation of the conflict.

Natalia Nikonorova is the minister of foreign affairs of the Donetsk People's Republic, a self-proclaimed quasi-state in eastern Ukrainian. She tells Kommersant that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles — whatever their production and whatever country supplied them to Ukrainian armed forces — was absolutely unacceptable, adding they were an acute factor in destabilizing the situation.

Representatives of Germany, which is involved in resolving the violence in eastern Ukraine, say that drones "are used by both sides of the conflict."

A Russian drone carrying a package

Ogorodnik Andrei/TASS/ZUMA

A technological arms race?

Russian expert Vasily Kashin believes that the use of drones in Ukraine "will necessitate a radical strengthening of the air defenses of both Ukraine and the Donetsk People's Republic. The balance will require either radical rearmament of the republic's air defense forces or direct participation in their air defense against the Russian armed forces."

But the evidence on the ground might be more mixed: The Ukrainian magazine Livy Bereg took a closer look at the number of Russian drones. Originally, Russia was far ahead of Ukraine in military technological progress. Almost simultaneously, the two countries purchased a tactical drone in Israel. However, while Ukrainian procurement was gathering dust in warehouses, the Russians had already established production by 2011. But then Moscow unexpectedly fell behind.

New information about Russia's unmanned aerial vehicles appeared during the forum "Army-2021." In particular, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that by the end of 2021 the number of drones in the Russian army will exceed 2,000 units. It is unlikely that Shoigu's statement is anything but banal propaganda.

What is known for sure is that Russian drones designed or developed for the military are man-operated and do not contain elements of artificial intelligence. Despite having publicly announced ambitious plans to create strike drones, Russia has not completed them. Thus, in December 2020, Putin ordered the Russian Defense Ministry to speed up work on the Hunter drone, which was to become the main opponent to the Ukrainian drone Bayraktar TB2 of Turkish production. But in February 2021, Russia had to admit that flight tests for Hunter will not end before 2023 and its serial production will begin no earlier than 2024.

The drone competition is a reminder that even as peace talks between Ukraine and Russia continue to stall, the local arms race isn't slowing down.

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

¥10,000

In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never."

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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