Intelligence Forecast
November 2019




1. Russian Research Ship Nears American Waters

Yantar is a Russian intelligence-gathering ship that has been known to travel to various areas of the world to gain information on underwater telecommunication systems and destroy undersea military equipment. This ship, however, has traveled outside its normal areas of voyage to investigate in the Caribbean. 

Although the Caribbean is legally open to anybody to sail under international law, the presence of this Russian vessel in the region on and off since 2017 brings concern for national security experts. Yantar has been seen in various areas where Russian military equipment has been destroyed, but no Russian equipment has ever been lost in the Caribbean, thereby categorizing this as a different mission. 

Some experts in the intelligence field have noted that the ship has been seen interacting with underwater telecommunication systems in previous years. This can be problematic, as there are several telecommunication lines between the United States and most of South America that lie in the Caribbean Sea. If these lines were to be tapped or tampered with, it is possible Russia could be knowledgeable of all communications between the US and most, if not all, South American countries. 



The United States must counter foreign interference in its own hemisphere as addressed in the Monroe Doctrine to prevent foreign influence on America or its neighboring countries. 


2. Air Force’s New Non-Kinetic Laser System Shows Promise

For several years, the Air Force has been working on a laser defense system that would be able to detect and demobilize unknown aircraft. Produced by Lockheed Martin, the new defense system, titled ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset), will be able to intercept the target and cause structural damage. By using electromagnetic radiation, the ATHENA system is capable of destroying multiple types of drones either by igniting the material or igniting a fuel source on board the drone. Lockheed Martin has already tested the ATHENA system multiple times with successful results.


As the world gets more technologically advanced, drone usage is becoming more available to the general public and terrorist organizations. Although a $50 drone may seem innocuous, a quick modification would allow it to hold a small bomb that could destroy anything within its blast radius. The ATHENA system will alleviate Air Force concerns over drone warfare on the battlefield, as drones can destroy anything from PATRIOT missile systems to a multi-million-dollar aircraft. Drones are also becoming a cost-effective way to perform battlefield recognizance of the enemy, which ATHENA is slated to prevent.


Laser defense systems are no longer the stuff of science fiction, but a significant tool used by the military to defend against airborne enemy assets. It is only a matter of time before more non-kinetic weapons will be developed to better defend American interests. 


3. U.S. to Leave Few Troops in Syria

Recent news from the Trump administration suggests that not all American troops have been pulled from Syria. Around 600 troops will remain stationed there to prevent the spread of ISIS. Additionally, the U.S. troops will have the mission of securing multiple oil fields in eastern Syria.

As this is a far cry from the number of troops needed in Syria to prevent the rise of another radical Islamic group or to guarantee Kurdish citizens safety, one questions if this is going to be an effective strategy in the long run. 

During the Obama administration, it was evident that pulling most U.S. troops out of Syria and Iraq led to the rise of ISIS. The great dilemma of how involved the United States should be in the Middle East has been answered multiple times. The less America is involved in the Middle East, the worse off the region is. Americans might be feeling deja vu in the next few years if America doesn’t maintain a sustainable amount of troops in the Middle East to prevent chaos.