For our first post and our fresh start into the new year, we felt it that instead of rehashing the tumult of 2017, we would rather outline some of the political and security trends for 2018 and situations we think are worth staying on top of:
Tensions over the INF Treaty
The Intermediate range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 was signed between the United States of America and the Former Soviet Union and has been taken on by the Russian Federation. The aim of this treaty is for the disassembling and banning the further construction and deployment of ground based nuclear missiles with a range between 500 km and 5500 km (310 to 3417 miles). This has been relevant recently as both the United States and the Russian Federation have accused the other of breaking the terms of this treaty. Whilst the United States maintains that the Russian Federation have stationed nuclear capable Iskander-M missiles in the Kaliningrad enclave, the Russian Federation has called out the United States for their missile defence facility in Deveselu, Romania. The Russian accusation implies that the “Aegis Ashore” Missile defence station is capable of launching nuclear capable missiles in addition to its defence capabilities. The tensions have reached their highest level in November 2017 when US Secretary of Defence Mattis accused Russia of violating the treaty during his remarks at a NATO summit.
Since the end of December 2017, there have been violent protests in Iran. Although these protests first were critical of the economic policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the movement spread to multiple cities and widened its message to become critical of the entire political system. Whether these protests will lead to eventual lasting change or simply be snuffed out is as of yet unclear, however it will certainly be a topic of interest in the coming year(s).
Chinese expansionism in Africa
August 17th saw the opening of China’s first overseas military base in Djibouti. The placement of the base means that it can easily aid in efforts to resupply ships moving through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea and support humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts in the region. The Djibouti base is part of China’s $1trillion OBOR scheme. (One Belt One Road economies.) Chinese involvement with African Partnerships as described by NEPAD(New Partnership for Africa’s Development) is to champion democracy, the rule of law and human rights 1. However the only cause for concern with China’s integration can be seen with Chinese intervention in Angola and Djibouti. In Angola, since 2004, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has secured $15 billion from Beijing in loans and various credit lines, paid back in oil exports. After all these injections of money and booming oil business, Angola should be leading in developing it’s country’s infrastructure and improving it’s citizens living, yet Angola still possess the world’s worst child mortality rate. Again with Djibouti, the growing Chinese presence with increasing funding will hopefully see an overall growth in the country’s infrastructure and the living standard of its citizens, which would change Djibouti’s poverty rating hopefully down for 40%.
Russian Influence in the Middle East
In December 2017 Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian Armed Forces had accomplished their goals in Syria, and that most of the troops stationed at the Khmeimim Air Base would be withdrawn. Furthermore, Putin announced that the naval facility at Tartus will be upgraded to a full fledged naval base, with enough docks to accommodate up to 11 ships of all types. This will finally allow the Russian Federation to establish a long sought after and firm maritime foothold in the Mediterranean. Despite the recent successful drone attacks against both of the Russian installations in Syria, the Russian Federation will certainly play an important role in the stability of the region in the coming years.
Tensions in South East Asia
A big year for North Korea. After testing ballistic missiles last year over Japan, Capabilities of the country seem to still be expanding. In other news, after years of silence of the nation, the participation of NK in the Winter Olympics will be a great insight for the rest of the world, as they turn their eyes to South Korea.
Further delays in Thailand may not see the election happen this year, so what does that mean for South East Asia?
The Philippines – (first hand source)
Now the 12th most terrorised country in the world, Mindanao being the main island targeted. ISIS and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) bomb the island in a different way to what we see in Western terror attacks. Some of the attacks are carried out in old-school prop aircraft and seem to follow more conventional war methods than the more asymmetric strategy we see elsewhere. The Philippines is still operating under martial law because of this. The war on drugs continues, the picture painted by the government in the press is that individuals are taking drug problems in their own hands, not that there is government action being taken in the form of “clean up squads.” The fear created by the truth and the papers lead the majority of the populace to believe that if you can be linked to a drug gang, you might as well be a dead man walking. Duterte’s assertive action sees the tolerance for crime dropping, surely a great move forward for the Philippines. However, as an outsider all this may seem perverse, with chaotic fake news flying around the news stations and on social media, but the Philippines is a very conservative country where divorce and adultery are illegal and the death penalty still stands. In relation to the US, it is very easy to draws ties between Duterte and Trump, but again the U.S. is a very different nation.
70 years on, and Japan may legally be on the edge of creating its own military. The “Self-Defense Force” established in 1954 will be “legalised” by 2020, as currently it does not breach the prohibition the U.S. sanctions on Japan back in 1946. The ratifying of the SDF means that service men and women will be recognised for their service, and of course lift the 70 year old restrictions put in place under Harry Truman.
After North Korea’s missile firings over Japan, a move to a more defensive country are rational, however the expansion of their military power could be the start of some trouble in East Asia.
The Orchestra of Europe
Where do we begin. The transition continues for Britain leaving Europe, paving huge changes for the U.K. as well as the rest of the European Union. Will there be a second referendum after the kerfuffle of May’s government and ineptitude? It’s going to be exciting to see what happens this year concerning the repercussions of Brexit. France looks to expand trade ties with Asia – is this start for a breakdown of the EU, or just an expansion of the single market? Of course there are some government elections, from the likes of Hungary, Ireland, Sweden and Russia.
As we approach the end of the first month, it’s already exciting and interesting to see how our predictions may change…
Thank You for reading and we would love to hear your predictions! Drop us a message on any of our social media or comment below.