Russia-Ukraine conflict escalates with Russia’s seizure of three Ukrainian ships

Yesterday, Russia seized three Ukrainian vessels with 23 sailors on board claiming that they crossed its maritime border and maneuvered dangerously. Russia believes that this is a provocation from the Ukrainian side to declare martial law and postpone the March elections, which President Poroshenko is almost certain to lose. Ukraine sees this as just another dangerous Russian aggressive action against Ukraine and called on NATO and United Nations to condemn Russia. During the emergency UN security council meeting, US UN Ambassador Haley condemned Russia’s behavior and said that Russia purposefully impeded Ukrainian vessels from lawfully entering the Kerch Strait. This action was also condemned by the NATO secretary general Stoltenberg, who highlighted Russia’s open use of force against Ukraine, which injured a number of sailors. President Poroshenko declared martial law, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Ukrainian Rada. This is the highest the tensions have been between these two countries, which could potentially escalate into an open conflict.

These events underline the perilous situation that Russia and Ukraine find themselves in. United States and its NATO allies need to do everything they can to deescalate the situation. Russia should be urged to return the sailors safely and unharmed, as well as the vessels. They also should allow commercial traffic through the Kerch Strait, because it breaks the international law of free maritime travel.


IDF Goes Undercover

Members of the Israeli special operations forces (IDF) are being accused of impersonating human aid officials and infiltrating the Gaza Strip presumably for intelligence purposes. Hamas has suspected this for some time now and several news agencies, including the Israeli Television News Company, have reported it. The members are assumed to have carried fake Palestinian ID cards and issued claimed to have had food distribution coupons to hand out to the refugees in the strip. Israel probably used the name of a well known aid organization such as UNRWA to avoid suspicion.

This is clearly a border security issue that could turn into an even more intense humanitarian issue. Hamas may become more suspect of aid groups. If able to, the organization may fully prevent foreign aid workers from coming in and make all Gazans come to Hamas for their necessary aid. This could make more people loyal to Hamas in the area, radicalize them, and create an even bigger security problem for Israel if the blockade is not lifted soon.


FaceBACK in hot water

Internal Facebook documents were seized in England from an American businessman traveling in London as Facebook is back in hot water with British lawmakers regarding the earlier Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal. The British hearing and document seizure highlight growing tensions between European regulators and Facebook just as the social media company is facing additional questions in the United States from lawmakers, which will likely intensify as Democrats retake control of the House in January. A dispute has now arisen on whether or not to make the seized documents public.  It is believed that these documents will shed light on the company’s data practices leading up to the 2016 election of Donald Trump.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal took the world by storm in March, and this likely won’t be the last data harvesting scandal. The seizure of these documents and subsequent hearing will be interesting to learn about, and new bombshells may be dropped. Data is harvested by millions and millions of apps each day, so much that “privacy” seems to be a state of the past. If the documents are made public, they could also certainly add fuel to the fire that is the Mueller investigation.






Some Indicators of Hope for Iran’s Economy

Iran’s main airline, Iran Air, actually increased the number of international flights after the Trump Administration’s sanctions were reintroduced on November 5th. This is a decent economic indicator into the future of Iran’s economic security. Many speculated that the corporate mainstays of Iran would take, at the very least, a short term hit because of the indirect and direct pressure the United States is putting on the Iranian economy. This is good news for an already bad economic situation for the Iranian people and economy. If the economic trends and earnings of other corporate entities within Iran follow the path  of Iran Air the Iranian economy may be able to survive. This is a good direction for the economic security of the Iranian people.

The early failure of the United States sanctions is that the European Union in charge of flight travel into Europe, has stated that they will not enforce the U.S. sanctions and will continue to observe the various regulations and agreements of the JCPOA.

The United States Treasury reinforced its position of corporations that choose to do business with Iran Air or any other sanctions entity will face “punitive treasury action.”

Moves to support Iranian interests by the E.U. may encourage States and Firms that have little economic interdependence with the United States to push the boundaries of the U.S. sanctions and continue to do business with Iran.


Aussies under… siege? Attack? What?

China is once again on the defensive after US Vice President Pence squarely fingered Chinese intelligence services for repeated cyberattacks against Australian companies. These attacks, which have reportedly been going for years, have specifically targeted sectors across the Australian economy from industry to corporate and military. According to senior Australian officials the goal is “…to steal our intellectual property.” The attacks have led to criticism of  Australia’s public and private sectors in their lax security against such threats. To be sure, this is a threat that is unlikely to diminish as China seeks to steal ideas from or sabotage perceived competitors. The larger issue at play here however, is that there is no set norm of what an appropriate response would be to such a cyberattack. At present, it seems the only public response to such attacks is to issue a strongly worded statement. Even if these countries are conducting retaliatory strikes, these are carried out in relative secrecy and do nothing to assure citizens and firms that their governments are able to provide for their security. If one country were to drop bombs on another, we have some idea of what the response would be, but a cyberattack? Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer.


China’s Nuclear Fusion Reactor Success

Earlier this month the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) fusion reactor in Hefei, China conducted a successful test. The purpose of EAST is to fuse the nucleus of two atoms, most likely hydrogen, to create a new heavier atom resulting in massive amounts of energy. It is this very same process that fuels stars throughout the universe, including our own. For this reason, most headlines reporting on this test have dubbed the EAST reactor an “artificial sun” which is a bit of an exaggeration for the sake of sensationalism. This most recent test saw the EAST reactor heat hydrogen atoms to temperatures approximating 180 million degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in a stable plasma for a just over a minute. While these temperatures are about six-to-seven times hotter than the core of the sun, a temperature increase of another seven times is required to actually achieve nuclear fusion. The sun is capable of achieving fusion at a lower temperature of about 27 million degrees due to its massive gravity that is unreplicable here on Earth, thus creating the need for higher temperatures to produce the same effect. Other reactors around the world are working on similar reactors, and like China, are getting ever closer to finally achieving nuclear fusion and nearly unlimited clean energy.

If nuclear fusion can be achieved then the current worldwide fossil fuel industry would be upended resulting in a new international status quo, especially among fossil-fuel dependent states like in the middle east. Furthermore, the first nation to create a working fusion reactor places itself in a good position of having a revolutionary new piece of technology that everyone wants. Given the current rocky/competitive relationship between the United States and China, a nuclear fusion race similar to the space race could be possible going forward.

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–John Reinboldt, 11/26/2018

Changing Perspectives on Climate Change?

This last Friday, the National Climate Assessment released a nearly 1,700-page report that warns about a world heading into complete chaos by the end of the 21st century as a result of climate change.

The scientific report, which was produced by 13 federal agencies, describes an American future nothing short of apocalyptic due to rising threats from climate change. It suggests no facet of life — whether it’s global trade, national security or personal health — will be safe. The disasters from climate change will start to compound each other, as will the consequences. An updated report is released every four years;  this new National Climate Assessment notes some specific warnings, such as rising sea levels, disruptions in food productions and the spread of wildfires, and warns without swift and immediate action, Americans can expect mass deaths, global food shortages, economic devastation, crumbling infrastructure, and increased crime rates in the coming decades.

It is clear throughout class discussions and from this report that climate change creates new risks and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities in communities across the United States, presenting growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth. This report paints an extremely grim picture for the future of the US that I think leads to similar discussions we had in class regarding how seriously should discussions of climate change be taken?  In class, we mentioned how more often than not, climate change initiatives take a backseat when it comes to political action or security concerns. Do you think a report such as this that highlights such a grim future could cause some reconsideration of climate change as a security threat?

-Christiana Meyers


Repatriation of Refugees


Syrian refugees are beginning to return to Syria. Just last month, over 2,380 people returned from Jordan. 300 of these were military deserters who were pardoned upon their return to Syria.

These are not the first refugees to be repatriated, however this is a significant number including deserters. The way these people were treated sets a precedent for the return of others. It is vital that the first waves of returnees are welcomed and safe to begin rebuilding their homeland. This will encourage others to return.

The repatriation of Syrians is a stated goal of the Kingdom of Jordan and Russia. There is clear evidence that many refugees desire to return to Syria which is necessary for repatriation to be possible. Though complete rebuilding is unlikely until all fighting ceases, there is room for Syrians to begin rebuilding along the Turkish border and in other boarder areas. The US, Turkey, and the other involved actors must work to create and maintain a safe environment which allows for the return of Syrians to their homes. It should be easier to gain multilateral support for repatriating Syrians because it is a common goal for several major actors. However, regardless of international reactions, it is really up to the Syrian government under President Assad to affirm Syrians’ security, both within the state from outside actors such as IS but also from persecution which has emanated from his regime.

-Anna K.

Putin plans a response, if US quits the INF treaty

President Putin met with his military advisers to discuss possible courses of action in response to US wanting to quit the INF treaty. Putin said that this would not be left without an answer one way or another. US wants to exit the treaty citing Russian violations and the need to include China and North Korea in it. Russia denies the accusations and says it developed new weapons as a response to United States doing the same thing. Putin also warned that this can lead to a new “arms race.”

This is a serious security issue, because if US exits this treaty, then this could lead to another arms race, which would not be ideal for the world. Last time US was involved in an arms race, it almost led to nuclear war a few times. US should get not exit the treaty but ask to renegotiate it, where it will include North Korea and China. This way, the treaty can be salvaged and a new arms race can be put on hold.


NATO official warns EU force would be ‘unwise’

It seems that NATO chairman Stuart Peach has warned against the possible formation of the EU army that has been advocated for by Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. Stuart Peach is a U.K Air Marshal and has stated that such a standing force would be redentent considering the EU and NATO both have alliance systems that exist and the formation of a greater EU army could cause more harm then good at the end of the day.   Having more command structure would overall be detrimental to the ability for either structure to operate at maximum efficiency.

This has some interesting ramifications in the grand scheme of things. This can be understood as a move by Europe to rely less on the United States to act as a deterrent against outside aggressive forces such as Russia even though it could be potentially harmful from a logistically stand point. As such, it could show a weakening of NATO’s power structures.

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