Weekly Snapshot
25 November – 1 December 2018

1. Tensions flare between Russia and Ukraine

This past weekend, two Ukrainian naval vessels and a Ukrainian tugboat were stopped from sailing into the Sea of Azov at the only entrance to the sea, the Kerch Strait. They were stopped by the Russian military in an attempt to presumably cripple the Ukrainian economy by closing its biggest seaport, that of Mariupol. Once stopped, the Ukrainian vessels were then attacked by the Russian Navy and FSB, by first ramming into the ships and then opening fire. Several Ukrainian crew members were injured in the attack, and the ships were then seized by the Russian navy.

This is the most recent display of aggression from the Russians against Ukraine, stemming from the 2014 annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. After the attack, Russia has deployed a new S-400 surface to air missile defense system. This is the fourth unit to be put in Crimea. Since September, Russia has tripled its tanks at a nearby base on the border of Ukraine and Russia. All of this aggression has led the parliament to vote to impose 30-day martial law in Ukraine.

The United States has several assets near Ukraine, including thousands of soldiers stationed in Poland and several other NATO countries in the region. Tensions are also high between NATO and Russia after this year’s military exercises named Trident Juncture that simulated a world power (Russia) invasion of a NATO ally. Whatever happens in Ukraine, the United States and NATO will likely be involved due to their proximity to the conflict.

2. The US getting close to closing a military deal with Saudi-Arabia

The United States is close to closing a 15 billion dollar deal with Saudi-Arabia for 44 THADD missile defense systems. This would give Saudi-Arabia the ability to defend itself against missiles coming from Yemen. The current administration is still seeking how to justify this move through proving an economic and strategic need for an alliance with Saudi-Arabia.

The White House is getting a lot of blowback from legislators due to the recent killing of a Saudi journalist in a Saudi-Arabian embassy in Turkey.

This deal may get hung up by Congress if they pass the proposed bill to end US support to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. There have been harsh words from both sides about the actions and inactions of the Saudi-Arabian government took in the killing and covering up of Jamal Khashoggi, leaving an uphill battle for the White House to finish this deal with Saudi-Arabia.

3. Two US Navy ships sail through the Taiwan Strait

In the third such operation this year, two US Navy ships sailed through the Taiwan Strait in strict opposition to the Chinese government. America, the chief protectors of the waterways, continues to sail this route to show that it is open to the international community and not closed off by the Chinese. As the strait is still technically considered international waters, it is open for all to use. In a statement by a representative from the U.S. Pacific Fleet “The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

This action has brought increased tensions between the US and China as this action will likely be seen as a sign of support to Taiwan from the US government. A spokesman from the Chinese foreign ministry said: “We urge the United states to…cautiously and appropriately handle the Taiwan issue, avoid damaging the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and China-US relations.”

All of this is ahead of the G20 summit in Argentina this weekend where 20 world leader will get together and discusses many international issues. President Trump and President Xi will have a working dinner during one of the days of the meeting where talks of Taiwan are sure to come up.