Weekly Snapshot
9-15 December 2018

1. Russian military buildup on the border of Ukraine

Recent satellite imagery has shown military buildup activity at the border of Russia and Ukraine. Imagery shows three IL-76 heavy cargo planes coming in and out of the Dzhankoy air base in occupied Crimea. This, along with the new S-400 missile defense system, put in there after the Russian attack on the Ukrainian navy late last month.

Satellites have also shown an increase in military transports going over the contentions Kiev bridge into Crimea. These include armored infantry carriers. Across the border in Russia, tanks, trucks, and equipment have begun piling up as Russia appears to be preparing for a military intervention.

The last time this amount of military equipment was set into place was before the invasion of Crimea in 2014. However, that followed a military exercise that explained the increased military presence. This time there is not a military exercise set, it is simply just a military buildup. As much of Ukraine is still under martial law, both sides seem to be preparing for the worst.

2. Violence over former Al-Shabaab leader campaign in Somalia

Violent protests broke out in Baidoa, the capital of the South West region, over the campaign of Mukhtar Robow. Robow is a former high ranking official with Al-Shabaab, a radical Islamic extremist group that has been designated as a terrorist group since 2008 by the United States. Robow is running for President of the region and has been met with much resistance. Robow was arrested for allegedly bringing Islamist militants and weapons back to Baidoa, and in response, his supporters protested against the police.

The police are being backed by Ethiopian peacekeeping forces. Elders of Baidoa are conflicted as they do not want to see a radical Islamic militant in power, yet they do not want to see the authorities install their own candidate. So far, 11 people were killed in the protests including one lawmaker from the region.

If Robow were to be elected, it could show a strong sign of Al-Shabaab gaining strength and political influence in Somalia. This could be dangerous for the United States missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the rest of Africa.

3. Tensions flare between the US and DPRK

In a statement by North Korea, they condemned the United States administration for increasing sanctions on several North Korean officials and gave a warning of a return to “exchanges of fire.” The North has also threatened that the road to nuclear disarmament could be blocked forever. This is just another tactic being used by the North in their attempt to remain a nuclear power. Despite the landmark summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un last June, not much as been done regarding denuclearization. Several high-level meetings have been canceled abruptly, and talks have seemed to stall.

The sanctions were emplaced on three North Korean officials, including Kim Jong Un’s top aide, for alleged human rights abuses. It is no secret that North Korea has had massive human rights abuses and it is refreshing to know that the United States is starting to take those abuses seriously and finally take action against them. It has been widely thought this stunt of denuclearization is nothing more than a game the North is playing in order to reduce sanctions and gain economic aide. However, the United States must not concede until the North has denuclearized.