1. Russian increased aggression in Crimea
Tensions between the Russians and Ukrainians have erupted in the past days as conflict has arisen over a shared waterway, the Sea of Azov. In late November, Russian soldiers seized control of three Ukrainian navy ships capturing 23 sailors in the process. Three of these soldiers were injured in the process from Russian shots being fired. Many believe stopping the ships from entering the Sea of Azov is an attempt from the Russian government to close various trade seaports to diminish Ukraine’s economy. The capturing of these navy sailors has been the first open armed conflict between the two countries since 2014 when Crimea was annexed by the Russian government.
This instance brings fear to the possibility of increasing armed conflict in Ukraine, where Russian goals are to use Ukrainian separatists to support revolutionary forces within Ukraine to grow Russia’s sphere of influence. As NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, stated, “What you saw yesterday was very serious, because you saw actually that Russia used military force in an open way.” (Stoltenberg 2018). The Russian Federation is already starting to move new military units to Crimea and the Russia/Ukraine border, showing immense aggression coming from the Kremlin.
With events such as the INF Treaty ceasing to exist and NATO military operation Trident Juncture occurring, Russian and NATO relations have been under increasing stress. A planned meeting between President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin was intended to take place at the G20 Summit in Argentina, but the meeting was canceled abruptly due to the events occurring in Crimea. Donald Trump tweeted shortly before the G20 Summit saying “it would be best for all parties concerned to cancel my previously scheduled meeting in Argentina with President Vladimir.” (Trump 2018) It’s likely in the next coming weeks to see increased sanctions against Russia, along with increased NATO presence in Eastern Europe.
It seems little could be gained by Russia from recent aggression towards Ukraine, but it will test Western nations, including the United States, on how far they will let Russia go before real action is taken. Another possibility is for Ukraine to join NATO, thus threatening Russian aggression with the backing of NATO forces. As joining NATO has been a major priority of Ukraine for imminent threat reasons, the action would be a bold move from the United States. Russia has expressed strong opposition to Ukraine joining NATO as it would ultimately either stop Russian influence from spreading or enact Article 5 and trigger a World War 3. Uncertainty is to come on what actions will be taken in upcoming weeks, but it is likely to see some pressure put on Russia from its negative activity.
2. United State’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia grow worrisome
After over a month from the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia, and the United States ties are still sore. Questions arose in the United States if sales of weapons should continue to Saudi Arabia. Even after CIA intelligence pointed to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordering the death of the Washington Post journalist, President Donald Trump decided against taking serious actions against Saudi Arabia.
One of the reasons, Trump argues in a statement on the incident, was arms sale contracts between the two countries. Trump’s statement wrote “If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries — and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!” (Trump 2018). As this is true, questions are raised on what technology is the United States selling to Saudi Arabia. For instance, the Saudis have proposed a deal with the United States involving the purchase of 44 THAAD missile defense systems. Continued sales to Saudi Arabia has to be questioned at some point to ensure the United States isn’t supporting another Mujahideen type force in Yemen.
As seen in the past, Saudi Arabia hasn’t always used their weapons bought from the United States properly. An example of this is the horrific event where 51 people, including 40 school children, were killed by Saudi led coalition fighting in Yemen.
The reasoning behind the attack was a supposed malfunction of the U.S. made bomb due to the individuals not knowing how to use the bomb. As events like these continue to happen, the question remains of what is more important, ethics or self-interest when it comes to sales of weapons to the House of Saud. As this is true, many in the national security field believe something has to be done.
It is likely that increased pressure will be put on Saudi Arabia to stop making decisions that leave a negative impact on the morals of the United States. Otherwise, the United States will continue to sell the Saudi’s weapons and keep up the fight in the Persian Gulf against Iranian supported terrorism.
3. North Korea’s deep understanding of EMP and the future of EMP
North Korean journalist Mun Dong Hui has reported through the Daily NK that officials within the Workers Party of Korea are spreading informational documents related to EMP possibilities. An EMP, or electromagnetic pulse, supplies a short burst of electromagnetic energy that can destroy anything made with electrical components. This supports the claims made by the Congressional EMP Commission that North Korea understands the capabilities of EMP and might be planning to conduct an EMP attack on America or it’s allies. What Americans don’t understand is an EMP attack is a very realistic possibility for North Korea, as it doesn’t take as immense research or development as nuclear weapons do.
The fear of an EMP attack is growing larger and larger as time goes on. The ultimate worry of EMP is a rouge country, or terrorist organization would gain control of deploy a ballistic missile containing an EMP device that could destroy large key portions of the electrical grid of the United States. This means all electrically operated devices, including running water, refrigeration, and modern transportation would cease to exist until the electrical grids could be rebuilt. Unfortunately, this process of rebuilding the electrical grid would take a significant amount of time. As assumed, an EMP attack on the United States would expose the vulnerabilities of technology, leaving America sitting ducks for an attack.
EMP specialists and PAI Board of Advisors members Dr. Peter Pry and Ambassador Hank Cooper have suggested the United States should rebuild parts of the electrical grids thus preventing the national security threat of EMP. Although the EMP Commission has been disbanded, previous estimations by the committee say over a 3-5 year period, and 10-15 billion dollars, the United States could prevent EMP threat by reinforcing electrical grids and transformers. This spending would be just over 1% of the United States discretionary spending budget, which is much less than rebuilding costs would be after an EMP attack.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that any actions will be taken in the near future. President Donald Trump has yet to show any reaction towards EMP and the possibility towards an EMP commission from redeveloping is becoming bleaker. The United States needs to understand the warnings that come with ignoring possible EMP threats, like the recent case in North Korea. With such a high-cost benefit analysis about the prevention of an EMP attack, it would be in the best interests of America to spend more on EMP concerns. As this is not the main priority of the new Democrat majority in the House of Representatives, it is unlikely any spending will be taken to prevent an EMP attack, and the emerging threat of EMP will remain unaddressed.