Archive for September, 2014

NATO and Russia as Allies

This article takes an interesting facet in bring up the idea that both Russia and Ukraine become part of NATO.  Adding both of these nations to NATO would be beneficial for all parties.  Ukraine would have assistance in dealing with internal ethnic Russia problems from the east and west from alliance obligations, while Russia will also benefit with diminishing security concerns from the west.  The west would gain assistance from Russia in dealing with the Islamic State.

The article does not describe the great economic benefits that Russia and Europe alone could gain from this, especially during this period in time.  Sanctions would be lifted from both sides to resume normal trading, but there could also be a great increase of trade between nations.

Achieving such a diplomatic feat during this crisis would be amazing, but very unlikely.  Even if this was achieved, it will still be years before the negative sentiments were to disappear, but it would be a big first step between east and west.  There would have to be a lot of negotiating and compromises from both sides.  The western world would have to understand and accepted Russia’s interesting vice versa.  However first we all need to the table to begin talks to even begin to consider this.  Unfortunately it seems that no one is willing talk at this point.  Peaceful diplomatic negotiations are the best route between large nations to ensure their own security.


Zachary T.

Article: Moscow Times

Israel accused of genocide

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of war crimes during the recent 50-day conflict in Gaza. While Abbas did not threaten to go to the International Criminal Court, he did not mince his words when it came to condemning Israeli actions, saying it was impossible to continue negotiations until Israel answered for its actions. Naturally, Israel and the United States responded by condemning Abbas of being offensive and unwilling to work towards peace.

Frankly, there is nothing unusual about this situation. Flinging insults across the aisle between Israel and Palestine has been taking place for decades, but the timing of Abbas’ strong words is noteworthy. In Gaza, Hamas is currently quite popular because the group was involved with much of the fighting during the Gaza conflict, causing Abbas and Fatah to pale in comparison. By sharply criticizing Israel and making serious accusations, Abbas could be trying to show the people of Gaza that he is dedicated to being an effective leader and not lose any more popularity than he already has.


France and US Team up to Fight Extremism in North Africa

The United States and France are entering a new era of cooperation in military operations abroad. With Islamic Extremism spreading to North Africa, even as south as Nigeria, the American homeland seems even closer at risk. Europe proper is a big target on the Islamists’ list, and with American allies and interests in danger, it was only a matter of time before the US began to delve into the chaos that is the Maghreb.

The United States for years has performed military operations in the Horn of Africa and in the Middle East. France recently launched Operation Barkhane, an attempt to drive Islamic extremists out of five north African nations. The United States has recently sent about 3,000 troops to fight Ebola in the southern coastal nations of northern Africa. While these are to keep order and maintain stability to prevent a pandemic, they also serve as a bulwark against any unwanted invasion of Islamic extremism into the area.

Operations in Libya proved to be the first successful cooperative military engagement the French and Americans performed (albeit with some help from the British as well). With the Arab Spring leading to a rise in radical groups and organizations feeding off the chaos of Revolution, the French and Americans have even more reason to intervene. A Somalia-style failed state so close to Europe would be catastrophic and could lead to even more problems down the road.

While no war has been declared, and most operations are done at the behest of the African nations themselves (see: Mali), these escalating events do signal a rise in interventionist policies by the Western Powers, as well as a shift away from a purely US-led world vs terrorism. Now the other Powers (specifically the other permanent members of the UNSC) have interest in committing to military engagements abroad. These might be seen as neo-imperialist, but honestly, the US cannot do it all on her own, she needs her buddies to back her up.




– Sacha Brenac

Respiratory Illness Outbreak Among Children

A puzzling virus has been effecting children and has been reported in at least 38 different states. Scientists are not able to understand why this enterovirus is causing children to wheeze and have difficulty breathing. While it has been confirmed the illness is an enterovirus, wheezing and breathing difficulties are not normal symptoms of one. Plus, the fact that the enterovirus seems to only effect children is baffling as well.

I do not feel that this virus is an immediate threat to the security of our nation at this time. Is this a bigger issue right now than the Ebola issue? In my opinion, no, simply because there have been no reported deaths. But, being that it is directly correlated with the health of our youth, I also do not feel that it should be taken lightly. This enterovirus is like any before it, directly effecting breathing which is scary in itself, but imagine what else the virus could be capable of. All measures possible should be taken to answer the questions the scientist have about the virus and to hopefully create a treatment or vaccine against the virus.

How do you feel about enterovirus 68?

– Lauren Barker

General Winter as a tool of Russian foreign policy

Cold snap_550x300

Image taken from

The Telegraph published an article Friday in which Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk accused Russia of using the upcoming winter as a tool to exploit Ukraine’s energy insecurity in the current crisis between the two nations. Stating:

“They want us to freeze. This is the aim and this is another trump card in Russian hands. So, except military offense, except military operation against Ukraine, they have another trump card, which is energy,”

Yatseniuk reiterates the refrain that Russia has stopped the flow of natural gas to Ukraine in order to gain better leverage in negotiations. Gas deliveries were cut off in June. As winter nears, it will be increasingly important for Ukraine to get Russian natural gas to heat the country. Negotiations are currently underway as well for Ukraine to pay the ‘debt’ that they are said to owe Russia.

The article goes on to discuss the dependence of the rest of Europe on imports of Russian natural gas, even claiming that most of the dependent nations will still be buying gas into the 2020s with few options for the next decade in terms of breaking from their dependence.

General Winter, famously the capricious ally of the Tsarist and Soviet state, is again in the position to further Russian foreign policy goals as Europe has few alternatives when it comes to heating homes as the temperature drops.

Personally as an individual who adopts a Pro-Nuclear stance, it seems that a very viable option for the near future is the expansion of the nuclear energy sector, which can provide consistent, clean energy the whole year round, something solar cannot do for example, during winter months. What Europe could (and should) be doing now is turning towards modern reactor designs in a bid to both curtail emissions and produce states that are energy independent. The added benefit is that Russia would no longer have so potent a weapon in its gas industry.

Further reading on natural gas relations between east and west.


Has Core al-Qaida Been Diminished Beyond Repair?

In the last few years the President and his administration have often referred to core al-Qaida as diminished and no longer a major threat to the US. Many believe that Ayman al Zawahri, leader of al-Qaida, is likely still alive even though there have been reports he may have died in a recent airstrike. He has been leading the group for many years now and, although reaching retirement age, is hesitant to, “step away from a movement that seems to evolve without him.” In a statement recently released Zawahri said, “Oh mujahedeen, unite and reject the differences and discord.” He said this in a tone that seemed to highlight the decline in the relevance of core al-Qaida. The leadership has also been depleted over time and the Taliban have been replaced with a fledgling democracy. According to US counter terrorism officials the threat from the Khorasan group, an al-Qaida off shoot, has not changed the view that senior al-Qaida leadership is in decline. FBI director Comey also recently stated that, “there is not a highly capable, functioning AQSL [al-Qaida senior leadership] in the Af-Pak area. These things seem to support the idea that core al-Qaida has been diminished.

However there are also counter points to help refute this argument. There has been the recent creation of a cell in Syria that is supposedly dedicated to plots against the US as well as the fact that al-Qaida fighters in the Af-Pak region have survived the US combat missions that are due to end this year. Assuming that Zawahri is still alive, only one of the three high-level targets named after the 9/11 attacks have been captured or killed. The Khorasan group also seems to have complicated the plan for US departure from Afghanistan, this group is supposed to be a time capsule of all but forgotten operatives from the bin Laden era. These points can be used to refute that argument that al-Qaida is in a state of diminished capacity.

Administration officials have been saying that, although they claim that al-Qaida’s capabilities are diminished, the objectives of the war in Afghanistan remain undiminished. Many believe that Zawahri’s death would ultimately cause the network’s Pakistan leadership base to collapse because there is nobody who is able to properly fill his shoes. However, it is also believed that if he were killed, control of the group would likely shift to the Yemen affiliate whose leader, Nasir al-Wuhayshi would become Zawahri’a successor. In the mean time the Obama administration has been a bit murky on how exactly it will reach it’s endgame of eliminating al-Qaida leadership and disrupting any possible emerging threat. It seems to be understood that this plan involves a final push to get Zawahri, although the resources here are dwindling, and that we would rely on Afghanistan security forces to prevent the return of al-Qaida even though the capabilities of these force remains unproven. US forces are expected to be down to just a few hundred people, mainly advisers, by 2016. I personally believe that if we were to buy the argument that al-Qaida is not diminished enough then, regardless of cost, we should stay in Afghanistan until the problem is solved. I’d rather know that the threat to our country has been completely eliminated than hope for the best and leave because it’s a costly war.


Portland Press Herald

The Blame Game


Obama has been getting backlash from the intel community and lawmakers when he said that the Director of National Intelligence, Jim Clapper underestimated the ISIS threat. A military intelligence official said that the White House failed to act when the administration had the chance to target a senior leader of ISIS. The information regarding the opportunity to target the leader has been included in Obama’s daily brief for over a year. McCain stated,”We predicted this and watched it. It was like watching a train wreck and warning every step of the way that this was happening … It is a direct result of our failure to leave a residual force behind.” Obama also stated that it is “absolutely true” that the U.S. overestimated the ability and will of the Iraqi army to control the chaos in the region.

The blaming needs to stop. Obama needs to step up and own up to the fact that he failed to act when he had the opportunity to do so. The administration needs to put this issue behind them, and focus on the terrorist threat. In any given situation where U.S. security is threatened, it will always be better to overestimate the threat and underestimate our and our allies’ capabilities.


A fourth year of war with no end in sight

The Syrian civil war is now in its fourth year and there is no sign of relief in the future. When a Syrian civil defense worker was recently interviewed he mentioned his frustration with the United States and “the entire world” (Karam) due to their lack of action despite 200,000 people having died in this conflict. The relief worker, Raed Saleh, deals with the aftermath of government air attacks, “car bombings, shelling and sniper fire” (Karam) and is trying to raise awareness for his group. These relief workers, also known as the White Helmets, “go out under fire and in the middle of destruction to help civilians, and for that reason the whole world should help them” (Karem). There has been some support from France, Britain, Italy, the United States and Japan but is not nearly enough.

It is astounding to think that with only 2 murders, although American, the United States takes immediate action on the group ISIS because it threatens our American values. The same exact thing has been happening in Syria for four years now. American values have been challenged by the Assad regime through the government’s killing of its own people. I predict that since destroying ISIS is the new goal people will forget about the Syrian civil war and all of its atrocities. The United States should remain consistent when using the argument of threats to American values as an excuse to take down a group of terrorists or when getting involved within another country. America needs to stay consistent on when we choose to intervene or provide support. I believe the Obama administration should send even more equipment and assistance to help relief workers if they choose to not end the conflict between the rebels and the Syrian government.


North Korea addresses the UN for the First Time in 15 Years

For the first time in 15 years the North Korean foreign minister, Ri Su Yong addressed the UN and spoke about the nuclear program in North Korea. Yong accused the UN of having “double standards” when it comes to “counter-terrorism” attacks. He specifically cited that the UN has been allowing for the US to execute air strikes in Syria, while the UNSC did not accept the North Korean request to end US military exercises in South Korea. As for the nuclear program in North Korea, Ri Su Yong blames the United States for its development. He claimed that it was the”hostile policy” of the US which drove North Korea to develop their nuclear program, but it is for deterrence purposes not offensive purposes. Also, Yung mentioned that the nuclear program is not up for discussion in that it is not a “bargaining chip”.

It has been a long time since North Korea has addressed the UN and not surprisingly, the message was not a positive one. The UN sanctions which have been imposed on North Korea recently have not halted the program, but the fact that North Korea sent their foreign minister to the UN to speak may be indicative of a more open international relations policy than we’ve seen from North Korea before. North Korea is not developing nuclear weapons just for the sake of their security though. With the recent developments of their long range missiles, it is hard to believe that these nuclear developments are a defensive maneuver. For now, monitoring the North Korean program seems to be the best option as  the US already has our hands full with the fight against ISIS. If North Korea wants to be cooperative with other countries within the UN, so be it. Relations between North Korea and the US are not going to change anytime soon, but their nuclear development is something we should keep on our radar.


Ukraine’s desperate need for more foreign aid



Ukraine’s economy is crashing and the International Monetary Fund will now have to consider pushing back the program of funding Ukraine with emergency money, three years. Lubomir Mitov, the chief Europe economist at the Institute of International Finance says he estimated that Ukraine could be looking at a “financing hole” of anywhere between $13 to $15 billion in only one year. The IMF expressed earlier this month that Ukraine needs a considerable amount of more money just to sustain itself to the end of next year. Given that the civil war in Ukraine continues the aid amount that Ukraine will need is climbing to an amount close to $19 billion, this doesn’t include the $30 billion the IMF is working toward in a global bailout program. Mitov says that Kiev’s budget deficit could get as low as 12% making aid more necessary.  As part of Europe’s geopolitical discourse and trade agreement, Europe must fund these financing projects. 

If Ukraine’s economy falls, Russia will have an ideal opportunity to seize more territory in Ukraine (if not Ukraine itself at some point). Some may say that Russia’s conflict with Ukraine is all part of a plan to recreate a Soviet Union. If this is in fact the case, Stalin will have a perfect opportunity to make advancements on Ukraine.  Not only does this spark the idea (or threat) of communism to some but it will also cause considerable economic and political effects around the world. More and more journalists have been tossing out the idea of a new cold war, and if this is true of the future the US would be facing a security threat. The US then, does not want Russia gaining any more territory in Ukraine. Therefore, there would be some considerable effects globally if Ukraine’s economy fell. 



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