Archive for August, 2014

Consquences for Russia’s Advancements

  Last week, Russia has once again violated Ukraine’s sovereignty by invasion of eastern Ukraine.  These unacceptable actions by Russia have prompted the world to respond.  The US has already put hard sanctions on Russia and the EU is looking “to bring its sanctions into line with US measures” by hitting Russian oligarchs and companies close to the state.

However, sanctions are not the only thing that is on the EU’s mind.  They are concerned that Putin’s actions against Ukraine will lead to a “point of no return” and cause war.  Lithuania’s president is urging the EU to get serious against Russia since its actions are threatening peace in Europe.  If Russia does not pull back on its actions, we can see Europe getting involved militarily to secure their territories from Putin.  The response force the EU could provide would lead to a very unpleasant war between West and East.  If such a conflict were to escalate enough, we can see the US joining to secure its interests and allies in the region.  This modern confrontation could put US security in jeopardy.

However, looking through Russia’s eyes, the Ukraine wants to be part of Europe which would mean that the Western world would be at Russia’s front door.  Russia would begin feeling less secure in its own region without the old Ukraine buffer between West and East.  Even so, that does not justify Russia’s violation of international law by violating Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Currently, this crisis is solely the EU’s problem to deal with.  The US should not do anything but heavily sanction Russia and we cannot rely on the UN as an organization to resolve this issue.  The EU needs to stand up for its own region without heavy US influence.  The US does not need another large conflict unless if it is necessary to protect its European allies and its security.


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UN Peacekeepers killed in northern Mali

Peacekeepers in some parts of Mali are the only protection from radical Islamists

Peacekeepers in some parts of Mali are the only protection from radical Islamists

Whenever we hear of the UN Peacekeepers, we think of the blue-capped mix of soldiers from different nationalities. We think of this image and of the temporary screen-time they were given in Black Hawk Down, despite their massive importance to the mission overall. However the UN Peacekeepers are doing real work, in real dangerous situations, and suffer real casualties. This article recounts the harrowing events of a bomb truck that killed two Peacekeepers and wounded seven others.

The situation in Mali mirrors the crises engulfing the Muslim world, with Islamist extremists taking control of huge swaths of land, population and resources to a point where they can successfully threaten the central governments. Mali is cut in half, with the more arid and ancient north nearly completely under Sharia law. French expeditionary soldiers were sent in to protect the culturally sacred tombs of Timbuktu and other cities of antiquity, while the United Nations attempts to keep calm the populace and restore order where the government of Mali could not.


The fact of the matter is this: Mali is not the only country torn apart by radical groups, “terrorist” groups and religious extremists. We all hear on the news of the Islamic State, but only ever since it pushed into Iraq form it’s point of origin in Syria. These states in this part of the world are in danger. Underdeveloped and currently overwhelmed by groups that prey on the population for mindless recruits, they require great powers to come in and save them. But sometimes great powers cannot, or will not, for reasons of conflicting national interest. This is why the UN was founded. And this is why the two Peacekeepers who sacrificed their lives in northern Mali should never be forgotten and instead thought of as heroes, the same way we do our own troops.

– Sacha

The DRC Just Became an Even Worse Place


Source: CDC

Earlier this week,  health minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Felix Kabange Numbi confirmed reports that a second outbreak of the Ebola virus has surfaced in the northern DRC province of Equateur. Believed to be unrelated to the Ebola strain that has to date killed over 1,200 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Nigeria, this is the seventh outbreak in the DRC since the virus was first identified in 1976. As of August 26th, this second outbreak had claimed 16 of the 24 reportedly infected, although this estimate is likely low. Authorities in the DRC have responded to the crisis by placing a quarantine around the affected area while the Telegraph reports that medical group Medecins Sans Frontieres are in the process of sending a crew to the DRC to treat these new victims.

Although this new outbreak presents no immediate security concerns for the United States, there are potential long-term consequences that should not be ignored. First and foremost, disease is a destabilizing force and Central Africa has never been known for its stability. Combating the simultaneous spread of two virulent strains of Ebola will undoubtedly strain the already stretched resources of the international medical community. Given that the outbreak in West Africa is the far more pressing concern for Western states, it appears unlikely that this new outbreak will be met with an adequate effort to contain it. Attempts to stop the disease from spreading to other states will be exceptionally difficult given the DRC’s notoriously porous borders and the lack of quality domestic medical care throughout Central Africa. The potential for a second regional Ebola epidemic is very real and the security concerns that could arise from that should not be ignored. That being said, at this point there is little the United States can do outside of continuing to fund vaccine research and monitoring the situation.


Where did pro-russian Ukrainian rebels obtain working MBT’s?


In an article published by the BBC on August 27, it was suggested that the the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are providing heavy weapons systems (in this case MBT’s or Main Battle Tanks) to Ukrainian rebel groups. A video cited by the article as evidence was reportedly taken in Eastern Ukraine near its border with Russia, in the town of Sverdlovs’k, in Luhans’ka oblast.

Sverdlovs’k (below)

Sverdlovs'k Luhans'ka oblast, Ukraine

The video, here, shows a column of armored vehicles moving through a curve in the roadway. The vehicles in the convoy include three MTLB APC’s, two BMP-2 APC’s, three Ural trucks, three T72 variants with reactive armor packages, and what finally appears to be a T72B(M) at 1:46 (picture at top). T72B(M)s are rare considering Ukraine has few and many worldwide are of Russian origin. The Ukrainian army typically uses the T64 instead of the T72 because the end of the cold war left the nation with large stocks of the superior tank. The two appear almost identical, the principal method of discerning between the two being the fact that the T64 has smaller road wheels (wheels that support the tracks).

Three or so theories come to mind as to how the rebels came into posession of at least three normal T72 tanks and a fourth more advanced and even more rare T72B(M). The first would be that they were captured from a Ukrainian army unit in working order during fighting. To my knowledge the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has not reported any losses on that scale in terms of working tanks. The second theory being that they were possibly taken from one of the large tank storage depots, Kharkiv, for example. However the problem with this being twofold: Kharkiv is well north and west of where the video footage was taken, and it does not make sense for the tanks to be taken from the depot and moved southeast away from where they would in theory be needed to fight; secondly a majority of the tanks at the Kharkiv depot are in disrepair or placed in long-term storage states, nowhere near ready for combat without mechanical overhaul and weapons diagnostics, something the rebels are at present not believed to be capable of. Photographer Pavel Itkin took some excellent photos which show the state of disuse at the tank storage depot itself in the Slobozhanshchyna region. The third possibility is that these tanks came from Russia and seems most likely considering the mechanical state of the vehicles.

Kharkiv (below)

Kharkiv, Ukraine

Furthermore, the tanks in the video do not have Ukrainian paint schemes, just a simple flat olive drab color. Ukrainian tanks in active service typically have lighter color paint schemes incorporating simple patterns of two or more colors. It seems unlikely that pro-Russian rebel groups would be able to capture so many tanks in working, much less combat-ready condition. Further unlikely is the notion that the rebels would be able to capably operate such systems on a coordinated basis. IF the Russians are supplying the rebels with tanks, crewmen, training, munitions, etc. needed to operate armor, the Russians believe they can conduct their foreign policy within another sovereign nation and do so with impunity, which poses a huge problem for Ukraine. Not only do they have to deal with rebel forces in large population centers, but with outside logistical support from neighboring state Russia can only mean a more prolonged and complicated conflict. This would prove to NATO and others that concrete measures beyond sanctions are necessary to guarantee the border security of Ukraine from the trafficking of weapons AND possibly personnel.


More “Test-Firings” from North Korea

North Korea has been busy working on their ballistic missile development despite the UNSC resolutions,  specifically 90 reported  test firings this year since February. According to the Gatestone Institute, “North Korea seems to perceive threats against it as largely coming from Japan, South Korea and the United States; its missile development program therefore appears to be directed at these countries.” In the previous year there have been multiple instances of North Korea conducting these tests during convenient times to send a message. For example, in June, two short-range missiles were fired in a perceived reaction to South Korea’s test firing “near a disputed boundary in the Yellow Sea”, conveniently timed just before “Chinese President Xi Jinping was to visit South Korea, to attend a summit meeting to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program.” In a similar fashion North Korea tested more missiles in August before the Pope visited South Korea to promote “‘peace and reconciliation’ for both North Korea and South Korea.” In both these cases North Korea has claimed that these tests are done in the name of science, but all of these tests are a clear violation of the UN Resolution 1718 which “requires North Korea to suspend all activities related to developments of ballistic missiles.” Furthermore, North Korea seems to be making progress in their development of nuclear missiles seeing as there have been reports of “engine tests for its KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile, which can deliver a nuclear warhead.” Another development in violation of UNSC sanctions.

North Korea seems to be test firing away with no repercussions from the international community, so why would they stop? Maybe the idea of short-range ballistic missiles isn’t an immediate threat to the United States, but unfortunately, as the article also states, North Korea may have a medium range missile “capable of reaching Japan and U.S. military bases in the Asia-Pacific region.” These developments are a serious problem of security, especially if they continue and North Korea is able to successfully develop nuclear warheads.  These violations of UNSC sanctions need to be taken more seriously and steps need to be taken to stop these developments, especially with North Korea being so trigger happy in expressing their discontent.

– Robyn

Will educated women start the next uprising in Iran?

According to Al-Monitor, the Iranian government will stop supporting women’s education and focus on encouraging them to have traditional families. An Iranian official has stated that “employing women is not a priority.” Women’s education in Iran is blamed for increase in divorce rates and increase in less children and more working outside the home. Men, however, are not supporting the women in pursuing their careers and dreams but want them to be homemakers and have large families. Furthermore, according to the article, unemployed educated women compared to unemployed educated man is statistically significant. “The MEHR news agency reports that the number of unemployed educated women stands around 1,300,000 higher than unemployed men with the same caliber of education, while ISNA reported that official statistics issued this year show that the number of unemployed female graduates of Iranian universities is twice the number of men.”

Educated women seem dissatisfied with the traditional role of females in Iran. One woman states “College opened my eyes. I no longer longed to be the quiet, obedient, smiling wife who only cooks and cleans. I expected more respect…” This trend will most likely result in Iran criticizing western education. Moreover, we may see a decrease in the freedom of women in Iran to receive an education. That would most likely result in an out cry from human rights and women rights organization which could then backfire on Iran by bringing awareness to the world. Since education opens the door to women wanting more out of their life and if the government cracks down and makes life harder for these educated women, they now have the power and tools to start a public outcry. They no longer will be the silent, obedient to the patriarchal society as Iran would like them to be. They have a voice to be heard.

– Faith


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