Weekly Snapshot:

9-15 September 2018

1. Russian Hostility towards NATO Exercise

In October and November, NATO will be holding the largest military response exercise it has executed since the 1980s. Exercise Trident Juncture 2018 is set to take place in Norway and simulate a reaction to a NATO partner being invaded and attacked by another aggressive nation. Though it has not been explicitly stated, countering Russian aggression around Norway has been a talking point for NATO since 2016, when Russia sailed one of their aircraft carries off of Norway’s coast in a clear-cut attempt at showing force.

Critics of the exercise in both Russia and the West have expressed their distaste with what they see, as a counter showing of force. NATO officials and leaders of the exercise have been quick to react, claiming that the exercise is in no way intended to show Russia the ability of NATO to respond and fight, but instead a test for NATO internally and Norway as a country. Regardless of the rationale, Moscow still believes the exercise is about a potential war with Russia.

Apart from the specific operation, Norway also sent waves of contempt through Russia with its recent invitation of 700 United States Marines to train near the Russian border. Independent quoted a Moscow response to this invite via the Russian Embassies Facebook page saying, “We see it as clearly unfriendly, and it will not remain free of consequence.” Whether or not the consequences from Russia will actually amount to significant action is unknown.

Moscow does not view the West as frankly rational thinker. Under Vladimir Putin, mass expenses in military and intelligence budgets have led way to responses from the rest of the world, which Russia seemingly does not understand or feel reasonable. The aggressive nature of Russia continues to breed hostility throughout the world and will not cease until Putin abandons his imperialistic mission. NATO training and joint exercises can only seem hostile if Russia believes they themselves are a threat.

2. US administration unveils National Cybersecurity Strategy

This week the Trump administration has laid out a comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy. This is the first update to US cybersecurity policy since 2003. Obviously, a lot has changed in the 15 years since the last strategy on cybersecurity, the advent of social media, the ease of access to the internet around the world, and the increased use of technology by terrorist groups.

The new plan gives the government the ability to launch cyber attacks against actors from foreign countries, and also actors that are sponsored by foreign countries. This is a big step forward for American security due to the increase in cyber attacks from Iran, China, and Russia. With this new strategy, the government will be able to better protect its interests and the interests of its citizens.

3. The US approves $330 million in military sales to Taiwan

The United States Department of State has approved a sale of $330 million dollars of military equipment to the Taiwanese government. The sale is of mostly airplane parts for the F-16, C-130, F5 and the Indigenous Defence Fighter (IDF). The Pentagon has said that this sale is simply for the maintenance of the Taiwanese Air Force and will not shift the balance of military power in the region.

Taiwan and China have long been against each other, the former retaining its independence and the latter believing that Taiwan is a territory of China. The Taiwanese government is made up of the reminiscent of the pre-revolution China, a government that the US had good relations with. After fleeing the communists in China they settled in what is now Taiwan. In order to keep diplomatic relations with China, the US does not diplomatically recognize Taiwan, however, the US remains one of Taiwan’s biggest allies.

The Chinese government has said that this new action by the US could jeopardize the Sino-US cooperation. A daunting threat as both counties are working together in order to create peace in Korea. This action of selling airplane parts is not likely to actually halt cooperation between China and the US but is a good indication of just how much Taiwan means to the Chinese government and just how much they want them gone. Taiwan is a legitimate, important democracy that is critical to American values and interests.

4. The EU is to get around US sanctions on Iran

The EU and Iran have agreed to set up new channels to facilitate trade that would not subject the EU to US sanctions. This new mechanism would allow the EU, China, and Russia to continue trade of oil and other essential business without having the US slap sanctions on them for doing business with Iran.

After the US ended the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, the US has said it will put sanctions on any country that continues to trade with Iran. This new vehicle for trade is supposed to circumvent that initiative from the US. It is still unclear as to how they will do this, but if done could have devastating effects on the world.

One of the main reasons for the sanctions is to deter the Iranian regime from continuing to create nuclear weapons. If trade continues, the Iranian economy will continue to grow, giving them more resources to increase their military spending (both on nuclear technology and terrorist groups like Hezbollah). By the EU and other countries trying to go through a backdoor in order to bypass US sanctions, they are making it harder for the US to enact their foreign policy on Iran.