Archive for January, 2022

Russia receives more threats as Putin still claims that there’s nothing to worry about

President Vladimir Putin has received more threats since tension has continued to build in Europe. Last week, the U.S. had threatened Russia with economic consequences if they enter Ukraine. Today, Britain has also joined in with the threats while much is Europe is still silent. This silence is fear, since Russia has so much economic influence over the region. At the United Nations Security Council, Russian elites had held firm to their claim that there is no proof or sign of a military invasion of Ukraine. Even China chimed in on this statement, supporting Russia’s claim. This may be because China also doesn’t want NATO so close to their communist equivalent. Poland, also neighboring Ukraine, has made a gesture to offer munitions to Ukraine if they need it. Yet, Russian troops are amassed near the Polish border as well. This may have been a risky move for Poland, since they are now potentially in Russia’s crosshairs as well. In more western news, President Biden has made Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani a major non NATO ally, which is basically a personal ally not associated with NATO. Obtaining another ally in the Middle-East can prove to be beneficial, especially since they’re discussing regional security.

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/us-uk-ready-punish-putin-associates-if-russia-invades-ukraine-2022-01-31/

-Luke

The Resurgence of ISIS

3 years ago, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) lost its last remaining piece of territory at Baghuz, a little village along the Euphrates next to the Border with Iraq. However, earlier this week, ISIS took control of a prison containing many imprisoned jihadists. The Syrian Defense Force (SDF), with help from the US (Airstrikes, intelligence, troops), took back parts of the prison and surrounding neighborhoods taken by ISIS. On top of this, last Friday, ISIS militants stormed an Iraqi military base, killing 11 Iraqi troops, this being the most notable attack in months. A Lot of the attacks occurred in regions disputed by the Iraqi government and the Kurds in Northeastern Iraq. These ISIS attacks are ushering a new generation of ISIS fighters, who all have ties with old members of ISIS. Iraq itself has tens of thousands of people who are relatives with many ISIS members, many of whom are detained for their connection. Prisons and who controls them are very important when discussing this topic. In Syria and Iraq, there are thousands of troops that are ISIS. In 2019, Iraq’s head of army intelligence warned of future attempts on prisons by ISIS to free jihadists. 

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/01/25/world/syria-news-isis-us

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/isis-gunmen-launch-major-attacks-iraq-syria-dozens-killed-rcna13105

https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/21/middleeast/isis-attack-prison-iraq-intl/index.htmlhttps://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-691792

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-iraq-syria-kurds-attacks-b1997932.html

https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/voices/isis-iraq-syria-turkey-attacks-b1985507.html

https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/19/trump-syria-isis-071499

The Rise of A.I. Fighter Pilots “Killer Aces”

Independent defense contractors are working in conjunction with DARPA Labs in an attempt to devise and perfect an aerial A.I. fighter plane. The intent, according to a DARPA spokesperson, would not be to completely remove the pilot from combat, instead, it would be to put them in a position on the ground to observe the plane through visual sensors installed on the plane and intervening only when necessary.


outline of a mechanical hand holding a plane in the sky


The benefits are that without a human inside the plane, should the aircraft be shot down it would not be such a serious problem since the pilot would not have actually died. Furthermore, since the human pilot would not actually be present in the plane, the aircraft would be able to make sharper turns and accelerate at a faster speed beyond what human pilots would be able to survive.

The D.O.D.’s position on lethal autonomous weapons, established in 2012, requires a human decision-maker to remain in the loop to an “appropriate” degree. David Ochmanek, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corporation, whose former office at the Pentagon drafted the 2012 directive, said “It does not, in fact, prohibit the development of autonomous weapons.” Rather, he added, “it puts in place a number of processes for review and safeguards. The commander has to be able to intervene and turn on the autonomy and turn it off as needed.”

The D.O.D. sees the development of autonomous fighter aces are a deterrent to acts of aggression, for instance, Russia invading a NATO country, or China invading Taiwan.

Analysis:
The problem with autonomous lethal systems is that once authoritarian nations get their hands on them, it would be difficult for popular uprisings to succeed. Even if the majority of the armed forces revolted, or were unwilling to enact a tyrant’s will, they would only need a small team that would be willing to operate autonomous systems and that would make the dictator difficult to remove.

Additionally, I do not believe that A.I. will overtake humans anytime soon. A.I.’s still are prone to mistakes that humans simply do not make. Generally, A.I. systems will operate on domestic soil for the majority of nations and are more likely to kill citizens if they make a mistake. I think that true lethal autonomy is potentially possible in the long-term future, but not short or near term. I also think that they are dangerous and should only be researched to keep up with other rival nations.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/01/24/the-rise-of-ai-fighter-pilots

-Jacob Veil

Ukraine: Boris Johnson considers doubling UK troops deployed to eastern Europe amid Russia invasion threat

The UK has offered to send troops to Eastern Europe specifically around the Baltics to counter recent Russian aggression. This comes about as NATO mobilizes for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine. While the UK is already sending weapons to Ukraine, they have also considered sending weapons to the Baltics. Many allies are sending weapons to the Baltics, perhaps in an attempt to be seen as doing something while avoiding a direct confrontation with Russia or sending weapons to a conflict zone. This increase in troops and weapons could escalate the already high tensions between NATO and Russia, with NATO having come to the conclusion that a Russian invasion of the Ukraine is almost assured. The UK has also discussed imposing sanctions on Russia and more specifically Russian oligarchs who often use London for money laundering. 

  It is, however, unlikely that British troops would enter Ukraine and engage Russian forces should an invasion occur, as this could lead to a war between NATO and Russia.

  This all comes about as the UK is trying to increase its international presence since they left the EU. Britain wants to increase its international presence after Brexit and exerting leadership in NATO is a big part of this strategy.  In addition, Conservative governments in London have seldom shied away from the use of force abroad. The UK has also taken an increasingly tough stance on Russia since the 2018 poisoning of Russian dissident Sergei Skripal in London.

-Kevin

Ukraine: Boris Johnson considers doubling UK troops deployed to eastern Europe amid Russia invasion threat (msn.com)

Britain Toughens Stance on Russia, as Russia Presses NATO for Assurances (msn.com)

Japan Not Entirely Opposed to INF Missile Sites

In the aftermath of the Kishida-Biden meeting over a week ago, Japanese leaders are considering having American formerly INF-bound missiles staged within their country, easily capable of striking Chinese and North Korean targets. The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty had banned land-based ballistic, cruise missiles (and their launchers) with ranges of 500-1,000 km (short-medium-range) and 1,000-5,500 km (intermediate-range) from being in use by the US and Soviet Union (later applied to Russia). But with increasing Chinese aggression in the Pacific and reputable claims that Russia had been violating the treaty be testing missiles that exceeded the aforementioned ranges, the Trump administration suspended and withdrew from the INF in 2019. No longer bound by the INF, the US can deploy the missiles anywhere they please, and sites in Japan and South Korea are perfectly sites to launch a counter-attack against Chinese or North Korean, or Russian missile strikes. While this a great form of deterrence, there is much discomfort within Japanese politics about this, specifically concentrated on Japan’s own strike capabilities and whether, in seeking better deterrent defenses of the home archipelago, the Japanese government breaks the spirit of Article 9 forbidding the right to belligerency and war.

“Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.”

In my opinion, it is natural to have a aggressively defensive posture given Japan’s state. If INF missiles are deployed, it would likely cause a bellicose response from China and North Korea. But their governments are already actively engaged in a positive feedback-loop that reassures them that everyone gangs up on them and so they get more aggressive and assertive against their neighbors which only continues to fuel their paranoia. With their foreign policy engaged in offensive realism, INF missiles may exacerbate that paranoia. Unless there is a radical change in leadership or regimes, the current Chinese and North Korean leaders will only get more aggressive, so the Japanese may as well just arm themselves with some of the best deterrence the US has to offer today.

Missiles Banned By The INF Treaty

https://www.politico.com/newsletters/national-security-daily/2022/01/31/japan-not-closing-door-on-hosting-american-inf-missiles-00003840

-Ryan Llufrio

Some European countries relax covid policies while others choose to intensify their approach

As we enter the new year, countries across the globe are reanalyzing their approaches on how to tackle to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the New York Times, there are many European countries that are easing their restrictions while others are looking to implement stricter mandates in order to contain the virus. In the Netherlands, where prior covid policies have been labeled as rather harsh, officials have started to relax their rather strict approach by allowing for cafes and restaurants to remain open until 10pm as long as attendees can provide a negative covid test or proof of vaccination. Similar demonstrations of laxity can be seen in countries such as England and Austria due to high rates of vaccination, and fairly low rates of infection. England, for example, will no longer require vaccinated travelers to take a covid test prior to entering the country. Germany, Poland, and Eastern-European counties, on the other hand, are demonstrating their favorability towards stricter policies in order to tackle the covid pandemic. While Poland has switched to remote learning for the time being, German lawmakers are seeking to implement a vaccine mandate for German citizens.

European countries, although they are still experiencing the detrimental impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, tend to have higher vaccination rates compared to the United States. In addition, many of these now lifted mandates hinge on the vaccination status of an individual. With this in mind, it will be interesting to see how the relations between the U.S. and European countries will develop as controversy surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine continues to be an issue in the eyes of many. In the case of Germany, which is looking to ramp-up its approach to the pandemic, it is very likely that they could require all visitors to be vaccinated if they wish to enter the country. While England will not be requiring all travelers take a covid test before entering, the requirement will still remain in place for un-vaccinated patrons. It is very likely that vaccination status will be the determining factor when it comes to one’s ability to travel abroad as this issue unfolds. Only time will tell, but changes in Covid mandates will reveal how willing other countries will be to tolerate individuals, especially tourists, who are not vaccinated.

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/01/26/world/omicron-covid-vaccine-tests

Darcy Spicer

The Battle for the World’s Most Powerful Cyberweapon

Pegasus is a surveillance software sold on a subscription basis by an Israeli firm called NSO Group. It is claimed to be able to “consistently and reliably crack the encrypted communications of any iPhone or Android smartphone.” Pegasus has been used for both law enforcement and anti-terrorist activities.  Israel has used sales of Pegasus to further its interests in the international community. The US originally was a buyer but later banned the use of it. Now the US seeks to restrict the sales because of Pegasus uses in countries with terrible human rights records. NSO has also been added the commerce department’s “entity list” which means that NSO now lacks access to US computer products like Dell computers and Amazon cloud servers. These actions could also have been done in order to prevent hostile actors from being able to access the Pegasus software and use it against the US.

The Battle for the World’s Most Powerful Cyberweapon – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

-Bryce Buchanan

Live Updates: U.S. and Russia Accuse Each Other at U.N. of Stoking Ukraine Crisis

Tensions are rising between the US and Russia regarding the crisis on the Ukrainian border. US diplomats said Russia is threatening the peace by increasing their military presence on their border with Ukraine. Russian diplomats responded by saying that they never planned on invading Ukraine and that the US is secretly hoping they invade so that the US can respond however they seem fit. Kremlin diplomats also accused US diplomats of fearmongering to provoke escalation. This meeting of the Security Council happened because the United States requested a meeting where both sides could attempt to diplomatically avoid further conflict, and also potentially sway world opinion. I find it unlikely that Russia was never planning on invading Ukraine since they annexed the Crimean Peninsula relatively recently, showing that they have intentions to expand their European influence.

Biden has said he would respond to a Russian invasion of Ukraine with crippling economic sanctions. Sanction focused rhetoric allows the US to have some leeway in determining the level of involvement as the situation progresses. I think it’s smart to threaten extremely heavy sanctions since it doesn’t guarantee a US involvement in military conflict if one should arise. But there is evidence that shows sanctions are almost useless in trying to successfully deter Russia from advancing their troops.

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/01/31/world/ukraine-russia-us#ukraine-security-council

– Altan Murray

Far-right extremism is on the rise with an attack in London likely this year, shows Met intelligence

Far-Right extremism is on the rise in England, with Met Police and MI5 (the British Security Service) believing that there will likely be a terrorist attack within the next year. In London specifically Far-Right activity has been on the rise. Numerous right wing and white nationalist groups have been engaging in activism in recent months, likely caused by an influx of Afghan refugees and COVID-19 restrictions. It appears that many of the groups also hail from other European countries, with Eastern European residents of London making up a significant portion of the far-right activist groups.

It is worrisome that Far-Right activity has been increasing in London, as well as places like the United States and Canada. It appears that many factors that motivate the Far-Right in other nations, such as the influx of refugees and COVID restrictions, are shared motivations for the Far-Right across the world. However, it is interesting that Eastern European Far-Right groups are more organized in places like London, according to MI5. Eastern Europe continues to be a hotbed for White Nationalist activity, and it appears that many Eastern Europeans in Western nations are bringing Far-Right activity to Western Europe. The information given for this article from MI5 and the Met police may signal that a trend of increased Far Right and Nationalist activity is occurring in Western Europe and North America.

 

Far-right extremism is on the rise with attack in London likely this year, shows Met intelligence  | Daily Mail Online

 

-AJ DeGeorge

Implications Israeli tech firms face from potential Russian/ Ukrainian conflict

In recent years, especially under the circumstances of COVID, Israeli tech companies have faced difficulties hiring employees within the state and have begun outsourcing workers from areas within Eastern Europe, but predominantly Ukraine. Israeli businessmen claim Ukrainian programmers do quality work for a cheeper hire, and happen to share the same work drive as Israelis.  With so many Ukrainians working for Israel companies, It is estimated that in the case of a Russian invasion, around 17,000 employees would be in danger.  Israeli companies are concerned by this matter and are taking precautions, making plans to protect their employees if the Russians proceed.  Certain companies established plans to evacuate their employees to the UK, Poland, and Israel.

Because Ukraine is such a critical aspect of Israels economic growth, many Israeli businessman fear for the future.  Despite this threat, many Ukrainian employees are dismissing the issue at hand.  They claim the Russians will not want to invade heavily populated areas, as they have done before in Georgia, where severe losses would be faced on both sides.

https://www.jpost.com/business-and-innovation/opinion/article-694863

Jenny Thompson

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