Archive for April, 2021

Biden Requests Security Budget for 2022

On Friday, April 9th, President Biden submitted his initial fiscal 2022 national security budget request. The request asks for $753 billion with $715 billion for the Defense Department. The budget request itself remains vague in dollar figures except for the most highly focused security concerns. Specifically requesting “$500 million for the Technology Modernization Fund, an additional $110 million for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and $750 million as a reserve for Federal agency information technology enhancements.” Some certainties about the request is that it would cut off funding towards overseas contingency operations, raise pay for men and women in the military, and put more investment towards non-defense. China’s rapid development remains “top challenge” to national security and the budget request seems to indicate shipbuilding will be receiving renewed attention and investment to supplement rising fears. It outlines prioritizing R&D sectors in order to “underpin the development of next-generation defense capabilities,” which goes along with Biden’s earlier statement to increase investment into key infrastructure as well as climate and energy research. Nuclear defense is assumed to remain untouched as “traditionally” a large sum is allocated to the National Nuclear Security Administration of the Energy Department. One for sure aspect of the request is that many areas will be receiving cuts in funding, for one because the $715 billion represents a flat-rate that, when adjusted for inflation, amounts to slightly less the previous year’s funding and secondly to accommodate the Administration’s focus on infrastructure more so than traditional defense. Either way people on all sides are dissatisfied with the initial request and there is bound to be another lengthy budgetary process. Personally, I think the inclusion of the request of climate and energy crises as a security threat is an improvement to the last administration’s budget but many things are yet to be determined for certain. As I’ve mentioned before shipbuilding has frequently had issues and requested in millions and/or billions down the drain so it will be interesting to see how the budget accounts for this history. The next step in the process should occur in June.


Virginia R.

Facebook closes fake account meddling in Ethiopian internal affairs’

Egypt continues attacking Ethiopia on all front. Just recently, Facebook closes accounts that were meddling in Ethiopia’s internal affair. According to the BBC, the accounts collectively have up to 300,000 followers and use Amharic (Ethiopia’s official language), instigating biases about the Ethiopian grand renaissance dam. Additionally, the fake accounts have also been criticizing Turkey’s foreign policy and affirming positive attributes about Egypt.

Though this may seem like a new phenomenon for the west and other parts of the world, Egypt’s meddling in Ethiopian internal affairs has been widely known by the Ethiopian community. Perhaps this could be an eye-opener for the world, how Egypt is behaving and may lead to a policy shift in how they have been managing the GERD dispute.


Majority of Domestic Terrorism Incidents Now Being Driven By Far-right Extremists

Short follow up to my presentation I gave last week. 

According to a Washington Post analysis of data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies are being perpetrated by white-supremacist, anti-Muslim and antigovernment extremists and are reaching new heights. (1)

“The number of all domestic terrorism incidents in the data peaked in 2020.” (2)

This peak represents domestic terrorism that hasn’t been seen in a quarter-century with victims including African Americans, Jews, immigrants, LGBTQ individuals, Asians and other people of color. (3)

Far-right extremist terror is only on the rise and we can expect with some certainty that under the Biden administration (an authority to act in opposition to) that it will continue to thrive unless comprehensive policies are taken to address it. 

Gabriel Matteson




China’s use of force against Taiwan

In the past year China was been sending its military planes in the Taiwan’s air defense zones, but of recently China has sent its largest incursion into Taiwan’s airspace . According to the Taiwan’s defence minister, China sent over fourteen  J-16, four J-10 fighter jets,  four H-6K bombers, which can carry nuclear weapons; and two anti-submarine aircraft near Thailand’s Pratas Islands. This event may have happened due to the Untied States sending  personnel to Taiwan to inspect the nation’s maintenance capabilities, training grounds, defensive positions, tank driving simulator purchasing, and guidelines for tank operation. It was stated after the U.S survey the that military will try to set up a training center for M1A2T tank driving and shooting exercises at the Kengzikou training ground in Hsinchu County’s Xinfeng Township which will take four years to build. It seems that Taiwan is building up its military in response to China’s actions.


Nord Stream 2

With the potential rise of Nord Stream 2, it has a multitude of other nations frightened and alerted. Nord Stream 2 is an energy pipeline that is being built between Russia and Germany that runs across the Baltic sea. It is going to be used to provide gas supply from Russia to Europe. Nations such as the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and Poland have begun acknowledging the inimical situation. These nations would be damaged economically because this pipeline would bypass them completely. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has gone as far as to provide a public statement hinting that the United States needs to act fast and effectively. 

The issue of Nord Stream 2 is not only critical in the short term but will also be prevalent for long term issues. To elaborate, harmful long-term events of this can be argued to be isolation of Russia’s weak links (Ukraine), allows a loophole for sanctions facing Russia and will continue to overpopulate the infrastructure within the European Union.  

With President Joe Biden and his administration in office, this means that there should be a diplomatic approach rather than a militaristic approach which eliminates the threat of military intervention for Russia.

Olivia S.

Several Dead as al-Shabab Suicide Bombing Targets Somali Regional Governor

In Somalia a suicide bomber detonated outside of a hotel in Baidoa, the capital of Somalia’s Bay Region and one of its major cities, killing three people and injuring five civilians. The intended target was the regional governor of Somalia, his bodyguards were among two of the people killed in the bombing. Al-Shabab, a terrorist organization whose allegiance is pledged to al-Qaeda, has claimed full responsibility for the attack.

Al-Shabab has been attempting to overthrow the federal government of Somalia since 2007 and has been launching various attacks against civilians and members of government. The group has been especially active lately, with another attack last week on military bases close to Mogadishu.

The Biden administration should take notice of smaller terrorist organizations such as al-Shabab who are pledging allegiance to major organizations like al-Qaeda. It’s smaller groups like al-Shabab and other affiliates of al-Qaeda that are becoming increasingly more active and dangerous, who have the potential to destabilize the region affecting U.S. interests. Al-Shabab’s presence in Somalia is also extremely concerning geopolitically because they are extremely close to Al-Qaeda in the Arabia Peninsula in Yemen. If these two groups collaborate, more instability could begin to spread out across the peninsula and down into the Horn of Africa.

-Marissa Fedora

China’s Islamophobia continues to crack down

In a piece done with Foreign Policy, Matthew Chitwood, a research writer and photographer with expertise in rural development and education exchange in China, sat down and interviewed with Ma Zhijun at the Shadian’s Grand Mosque, the largest in southwestern China. According to the article, China’s religious policies are tightening, including new regulations enacted in 2018 and 2020, and Muslim communities across China are feeling the pressure. Uyghur Muslims have been facing increasingly repressive policies by being placed in reeducation camps and counter-extremism training. Now, Hui Muslims are in danger of being in the same position that Uighur Muslims.

In 1968, China was at the height of the campaign to “smash the Four Olds” where the goal was to destroy pre-Communist elements of Chinese customs- old customs, old culture, old habits and ideas. In Shadian, mosques were closed, prayers were forbidden, Qurans were burned, and most accounts cite Han forcing Hui to eat pork. One mosque in Shadian was converted into a propaganda center where communist work teams lived, raised and slaughtered pigs. This was just the beginning for anti-sentiment towards Muslims.

Public sentiment towards the muslim population in China hardened after the Kunming Railway station attacks in 2014, where eight Uighurs from Xinjiang armed themselves with knives and began slashing indiscriminately, killing 31 people in the process and more than 140 were injured. Shadian was then labeled as a center for “ethnoreligious extremism”. Even after the 2015 Paris attacks and Islamic State violence in Syria and Iraq reinforced public perceptions of the threat of Islam. However, according to Ma Xiaoxiao in the piece, “That is not our Islam!”

According to Xi Jinping in a statement made to the 19th Party Congress: “The Communist Party will insist on the Sinicization of Chinese religions and provide active guidance for religion and socialization to coexist”. Furthermore, restrictions in Shadian have increased ever since the author’s last visit to the city, including hijabs being prohibited in state institutions like schools and universities, hospitals and government buildings. All kindergartens that taught religious education have closed, except one government operated school.

How should the Biden administration react to the increased Islamophobia in the region? Not much can be done except by keeping an eye on the region so that further human rights abuses aren’t committed. Considering the increasing pressure from the international community, including international norms, China would be wise to stop these human rights abuses before international community takes action that involves intervention.

Miguel Terrazas

China’s Crackdown on Islam Brings Back Memories of 1975 Massacre

Syria Likely Behind 2018 Gas Attack

An OPCW investigation has shown that Syria was likely behind the chlorine gas attack on the city of Saraqeb in February 2018. Evidence indicated that Syrian Tiger Force operatives around Saraqeb, and a helicopter was flying above the bombed area at the time of the attack. In April of 2020 the OPCW also concluded that Syria had used chlorine and sarin gas in the Hama region, so it is possible they were using it back in 2018 too. No one died in the 2018 attack but several people had to be treated for gas exposure.

While chlorine gas is not a banned substance, its use in warfare is under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. The area where the bomb was dropped in 2018 was rebel-controlled, but still a part of Syria. Is it considered a war crime when used against your own population? The US government used tear gas against its civilians during the BLM protests in 2020. Though the situations are different, as Syria is involved in a civil war and the area was controlled by rebels, so it was armed combat. Either way it does nothing for Syria’s international reputation.

Eleanor Haas


Boko Haram Terrorists Killed By Military Forces

During a counter-terrorism operation on Monday, 11 members of Boko Haram were killed. On top of this, various resources held by Boko Haram were seized by the troops that conducted this operation, which was held in Northeastern Nigeria. While this is a victory for the military forces, it does little to mitigate the damage done by Boko Haram, who have killed more than 30,000 people. For these types of operations to have a significant effect, they must happen on a constant basis. Nightly raids by different military forces in the region would have a significant impact on curtailing terrorist activities. 


Hunter M

Experts Alarmed Over Russian Contractors’ Abuses in Africa

U.N. experts are alarmed at reports of Russian Military Contractors (RMC)  alleged behavior in Central Africa. Russia sent military contractors to Central African Republic in 2018 and has recently bolstered its position to help fight off a rebel force before elections in late December 2020. The RMC’s have been involved in clandestine operations alongside Russian forces in Syria and the Ukraine.

In short, rebel groups were set on disrupting the December 2020 elections. Six rebel groups, who together control more than 2/3 of the country, joined together to achieve a common goal of ensuring the former president did not achieve reelection.

Alleged behavior of the RMC’s includes mass executions and torture during interrogations. These situations occur and one must be willing to accept the reality of war and conflict if they are to engage in it. However, there must be consequences for those responsible if proven guilty. According to experts, there seem to be no plans for investigations or reprimands.

Regardless of sides, there are international laws of armed conflict that certainly apply to these RMC’s as well. The human rights atrocities characteristic of Russia should not exist there, let alone be enacted around the world in a foreign conflict under a contractor designation.

Cameron W

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