Archive for April, 2019

Baltic Pipe Project to Increase Central Europe’s Energy Security

The European Commission has signed off on a 215 million euro Connecting Facility grant for the Baltic Pipe Project. The project is expected to boost energy security in Poland and also the Baltic states and Central Europe. The project would connect Poland and Denmark with Norway, its aim is to create a new gas corridor in the European market. As of 2022, the new pipeline will allow the passage of gas from the North Sea to the Polish market and further into the Baltic States. This project will not only positively impact the economies of these nations but their security as well. With a more secure source of gas, these countries will be better-protected from regional energy monopolies like Russia, it will be less likely for Russian energy influence to impact these nations negatively.

Daniel Kalke

https://www.neweurope.eu/article/baltic-pipe-project-deal-to-boost-central-europes-energy-security/

The Mueller Report and National Security

On Thursday, April 18, the long-awaited, although redacted, Mueller report was released to the public. This report has been anticipated by the public for nearly two years with most onlookers expecting a clear answer to the question of obstruction. Mueller, however, chose not to charge President Trump on an obstruction on justice. Instead, Mueller turned out the decision to Trump-appointed Attorney General William Barr who concluded that there was no collusion with Russia or obstruction of justice. Despite the apparent conclusion of this case, assuming no further investigations from Congress, the question of national security must be asked. Carl Bernstein, author and CNN analyst, argues that the Mueller report makes a convincing case that President Trump himself is a threat to national security. Bernstein cites his Watergate colleague Bob Woodward’s book Fear: Trump in the White House when he claims that Trump is, in fact, a danger to national security. President Trump nearly obstructed justice and colluded with Russians. These events were only prevented by staff members ignoring some of Trump’s orders. The Mueller report does not exonerate President Trump and reveals how easy it would be for President Trump to go against American national security interests.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/carl-bernstein-mueller-report-shows-trump-a-threat-to-national-security

-Emma

Democrats Debate Defense

     Image result for Blue Dog Democrats logo Image result for Congressional Progressive Caucus logo

The Blue Dog Coalition Logo (left) and the Congressional Progressive Caucus logo (right).

    As the Trump administration’s posture hearings come to a close debate ensue on what should be made of the FY 2020 defense budget proposal, most notably whether to change the current spending caps on discretionary spending. Caps were set back in 2011 as a part of the Budget Control Act (BCA). The proposed budget looks to increase the caps by equal percentage in both non-defense and defense sectors. The Congressional Progressive Caucus argues against the move calling for an equal level of spending for both sectors, not just a equal increase. Blue Dog Democrats argue any increases to caps is worrisome. Also on the table in the proposed budget,  increase spending in defense in the OCO funds (not subject to BCA’s caps), a move contested by individuals on all sides of the aisle.

       Overall, the debates on increased defense spending will continue over the next few months. The proposed $750 million for defense in FY 2020 is likely to some cuts before a final budget is agreed upon. The rift defense spending is seemingly causing within the Democratic Party will be interesting to follow, especially as defense spending is likely to be an issue for up for debate in the upcoming 2020 election cycle.

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2019/04/22/will-congressional-democrats-find-unity-on-the-budget/

By: Maeve R.

Arab League promises $100m per month to Palestinian Authority

The Arab League met in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday and pledged to give $100 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) to fill the gap in the budget left when Israel withheld $138m in tax transfers earlier this year. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Israel collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinians but withheld this amount because the PA gives payments to the families of Palestinians that have been jailed for attacks against Israelis. The payments are intended to be welfare for families who have lost a breadwinner, but they are perceived by Israel as incentivizing the violence. This punishment of withholding funds seems reasonable because terrorism should never be tolerated or rewarded. However it also comes across as a bit harsh given the other recent cuts. The U.S. slashed funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee program, UNRWA, and for development programs in the Palestinian territories. The UN’s World Food Program also cut back services due to funding shortages. Despite the ethics behind it, it’s obvious that operating as a single economic entity certainly makes this tense relationship even messier. The Arab League’s donation to the PA may help families who are hurting from the struggling economy but it’s important to analyze other possible implications. Maybe the creation of a Palestinian State backed by the Arab League is a possible move.

 

-Katelyn H.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/arab-league-pledges-100m-palestinian-authority-summit-190422084227770.html

Russia & North Korea

Kim Jong Un expects to meet with Putin in Russia soon, after Putin’s invitation. There is speculation that this is a “step off” to China for the Russian federation, North Korea’s best ally. Russia also has good relations with the state, and seeks to utilize the mineral supply of the small nation.

This seems to be a continuation of the Soviet Era, where Russia had infrastructure in North Korea, while also supplying military weapons. Economic support ended in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

This announcement comes after the U.S.’s “stalled nuclear negotiations”. Putin has claimed to obtain a denuclearization agreement from Kim. This is not true, but the two states are still on good terms. “While military cooperation between the states was stopped by United Nations sanctions, Moscow provided grain and humanitarian aid to the North. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of North Korean migrant laborers have worked in the underpopulated far east of Russia”. The relationship is odd, but somehow effective when it comes to peace and cooperation.

This could mean worsened tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, Trump has been unable to communicate diplomatically the way Putin has. It is not a cause for concern for the time being, but Russia-N. Korea relations should be monitored.

https://www.dw.com/en/north-korea-kim-jong-un-to-meet-putin-in-russia-soon/a-48438451

-Christina C.

Sri Lanka attacks: Eight Britons killed in explosions

Out of the hundreds that were killed in the bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, eight of them were British citizens. A family was killed at a table in the Shangri-La Hotel in the capital, Colombo. Only the husband survived. Another 500 people were injured in the blasts. 35 foreign nationals died and Danish, Indian, Turkish, and Dutch citizens also suffered casualties. In Colombo, St. Anthony’s Shrine, the Cinnamon Grand, Shangri-La Hotel, and Kingsbury Hotel were targeted. Other churches and a zoo were also targeted. The Queen said “Prince Philip and I were deeply saddened to learn of the attacks in Sri Lanka yesterday and send our condolences to the families and friends of those who have lost their lives”. The Sri Lankan government has reported that the bombings were conducted by an international network known as National Thowheed Jamath but no one has claimed responsibility. Leaders all over the world are sending their condolences and showing their extreme disapproval of the attacks. I think that since so many nationalities were affected it could bring some countries together in the fight against terror attacks like these. Leaders need to not only speak out against these attacks but show their commitment to how they will not allow things like this to happen in the future.

https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48004465

-Peyton

China won’t find lost F-35 stealth fighter first, says Pentagon

Andrew Radel

Summary:

Two weeks ago an F-35,  of the Japanese air force, was lost in the seas just off the coast of Japan’s northern Islands. As a top secret stealth fighter the Japanese and American naval forces have initiated an intemsive search to recover the missing aircraft. However, there is well warranted speculation that both Russia and China have initiated searches for the F-35 in an attempt to obtain valuable technology intel associated with the aircraft. The author also states that while this is real possibility it is unlikely that they will be able to find the aircraft before Japan and the U.S. due to their familiarity with the incident’s details (where and when) and the aircraft’s systems (emergency beacon signals). Presently, this situation remains in development as the U.S. and Japan continue their search.

Analysis:

While the authors skepticism of Russia and China’s ability to find this technologically sophisticated fighter is believable one should not underestimate their efforts to find the fighter. Also, the possibility that Russian and Chinese naval surveillance assets were in use at the time of the fighter’s crash should be considered. Overall the confidence that the U.S. and Japan will find the downed fighter before its rivals was a bit overdone. Similar incidents during the Cold War where the U.S. attempted to make these types of recovery efforts on Russian naval technology with lost submarines is something that its rivals may attempt to refer to as they possibly attempt to find this hi tech weapon off Japan’s coast.

Link:

https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2019/04/22/china-wont-find-lost-f-35-stealth-fighter-first-says-pentagon/.

US Will No Longer Grant Sanctions Waivers for Iranian Oil Imports

In an attempt by the Trump administration to continue their policy of maximum pressure towards Iran, the State Department is expected to announce that they will not be renewing waivers on Iranian oil. The announcement is set to take effect beginning on May 2nd. Eight countries (China, India, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Greece, Italy, Taiwan) had been granted 180 day waivers. Greece, Italy, and Taiwan have already eliminated their imports of Iranian oil while Japan and South Korea have significantly reduced theirs. China, India, and Turkey still rely on Iranian oil and the US decision to not renew waivers could result in trade tensions. Secretary of State Pompeo stated that the move is possible because global oil supply is greater than demand. Experts project that Iran is currently exporting around a million of barrels of crude oil a day. That number is down from 2.5 million one year ago. By not renewing any waivers, the Trump Administration seeks to reduce Iranian oil exports to zero. I think that the move will have the intended effect of further crippling Iran financially. Sanctions have already reduced Iran’s ability to fund terror groups in the region like Hezbollah. They have also had trouble transporting oil to waiver protected countries since international companies fear Iranian business comes with US sanctions. The move is a great way to further cripple Iran’s economy, but it will not coerce them into renegotiating the Nuclear Deal. As long as the EU is committed to upholding the deal, their attempts to bypass sanctions will undermine the Trump Administration. And at the end of the day, Trumps’s endgame is renegotiation of the Nuclear Deal.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/04/21/no-more-waivers-united-states-will-try-force-iranian-oil-exports-zero/?utm_term=.9a3cba502f06

-David

Mueller’s Redacted Report: Trump’s Achilles Heel

This past Thursday, Robert Mueller and his investigation team released a redacted report on Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election.  Mueller’s initial report, which was released weeks prior, had shown that Trump was innocent of any collusion in the Russian interference in the election.  However, this redacted report paints a new story on Trump’s administration.  The report illustrates that the although Trump didn’t collude with Russia in their cyber meddling in the election, he is portrayed as “deceitful and paranoid, encouraging his aides to withhold the truth and cross ethical lines in an attempt to thwart [Mueller’s] probe into Russia’s interference in US elections”.  This report shows Trump as a dishonorable leader.  Fortunately, many of his commands were ignored or avoided by his aides.

Furthermore, this report shows much more than Trump’s unethical antics.  The report illuminates that our cybersecurity is a long way from being as proficient as we desire.  Our cybersecurity has shown its weaknesses in the 2016 presidential election and now we have a president who would rather lie and protect his reputation than to admit that our nation needs more to enhance its cybersecurity.  Currently, it is difficult to say whether Trump will ever condemn the Russians and decide to focus on building a strong cyber infrastructure.  Our only hope for now may be to wait for the next presidential election.  The American people must choose a candidate that is honorable and will be willing to fund for cybersecurity.

Lucas T

https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/20/politics/donald-trump-mueller-report-anger/index.html

Protect US Energy Security by Outlawing Oil Price-Fixing by OPEC

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries controls over 80 percent of the world’s oil reserves and continues to manipulate oil production and therefore oil pricing, to the detriment of U.S. energy industry. despite the harm, OPEC is causing the U.S. our military is deployed to protect oil shipping lanes in the Persian Gulf used by Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members, this costs U.S. taxpayers at least $81 billion annually. A possible solution to this seemingly one-sided affair would be to hold OPEC accountable for price fixing.  Price Fixing is illegal in any other industry and companies that get caught face prosecution while OPEC producers have continued to avoid punishment for their blatant price fixing. It is important that e apply the same standards to the international oil industry as we do to other industries, especially because of oils importance to our economy. Bipartisan legislation in the House called the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Acts (NOPEC) looks to amend the Sherman Antitrust Act to allow the U.S. Justice Department to prevent OPEC members from using a sovereign immunity defense to evade U.S. antitrust law. This would greatly benefit U.S. energy security as it would potentially lower oil prices and lessen the constriction on the U.S. energy industry.

Daniel Kalke

https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/dennis-blair-protect-us-energy-security-by-outlawing-oil-price-fixing-by-opec

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