As U.S. forces pull out of Afghanistan, the Taliban are making dramatic territorial gains in a new, tragic phase of the war. The Taliban’s rapid offensive is not merely a function of dwindling U.S. combat and logistical support, but a concerted push by their patron Pakistan to establish a foothold in the war-torn country. Afghanistan has been at its ‘forever war’ since the Soviet invasion in December 1979. It may stay in that state for years to come. The discord between the great powers: U.S., China, Russia, India, and others doesn’t help.
Soviet dominance left Central Asia’s environment in shambles. From hundreds of nuclear blasts in the testing grounds of Semey (Semipalatinsk) in Kazakhstan to barbaric destruction of water management in the drying-up Aral Sea, these environmental disasters left the land-locked five countries to deal with destroyed human lives, ruined ecosystems, and pollution.
When Joe Biden confronts the strongman of Russia on June 16th, the global balance of power will be at stake, for the remainder of his presidency and beyond. The responsibility on Biden's shoulders will be tremendous. The forecast? Grim.
This Newlines Institute Contours podcast presents a deep dive into U.S. President Joe Biden’s inaugural visit to Europe, his administration’s commitment to collective defense, and the fragile trajectory of U.S.-Russian relations ahead of the June 16 Geneva summit between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. In this episode, Newlines Institute Senior Analyst and Contours host, Nicholas Heras, sits down with four special guests: Jim Townsend, Jr., an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security’s Transatlantic Security Program and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy; Rachel Rizzo, the Director of Programs at the Truman Center and Truman National Security Project; Dr. Ariel Cohen, a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council and Founding Principal of International Market Analysis, Ltd; and Caroline Rose, a Senior Analyst and Head of Newlines Institute’s Power Vacuums Program.
Last Friday, a cyber-attack was conducted against the Alpharetta-based Colonial Pipeline, which spans 5,500 miles from Houston to the Port of New York and New Jersey and meets 45% of the East Coast’s fuel needs. The ransomware attack is believed to have been perpetrated by criminal hacker syndicate ‘Darkside.’ Even though the breach targeted business rather than operational computer systems, the company has halted all pipeline operations out of an abundance of caution. With this major artery shut down, a shortage of heating oil, jet fuel, gasoline and diesel will soon hit the North East. Gas prices are already trending upward, and that’s with a temporary freeze. If the systems that run the pipeline do become compromised, the pipeline may be shut for weeks or even months.
On Thursday April 15, President Biden imposed long-awaited sanctions on Russia, blaming the Kremlin for the SolarWinds hack that breached U.S. government agencies and American companies. The sanctions are aimed at Russia's disinformation efforts and the occupation of Crimea, along with its recent military buildup and exercises on the Ukraine border. Ten Russian diplomats were expelled as a result.
The idea of space-based laser weapons orbiting the earth has been a part of popular culture and real life government projects for decades, from James Bond’s Goldeneye to Ronald Reagan’s ambitious “Star Wars” program. Recently, the Pentagon began developing a framework to promote the innovation of what it calls Direct Energy Weapons (DEW) designed to weaponize laser systems for use against military targets. The U.S. military more than doubled its spending on DEWs between 2017 and 2019, from $535 million to $1.1 billion. Yet, compared with the massive funding for kinetic missile defense and nuclear modernization, these are minuscule budgets.
Beijing and Moscow assiduously followed former president Donald Trump's second impeachment trial for the same reasons they followed the first: the United States is China's and Russia's number one geopolitical rival. What's relevant to America's domestic politics, then, is relevant to its rivals' foreign policy ambitions. To prevent acts of hostility in a time of tumult—virtual and real—the Biden administration will need to reassure allies, shore up American institutions and deter aggression.
Central Asia’s economies have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with demand for the region’s prolific oil and gas supplies down substantially over the course of 2020. Relative to last year, global oil demand is expected to contract by 9 million barrels (about 10 percent) and crude prices remain at an anemic $48/bbl. International natural gas prices are at multiyear lows. This is bad news for gas giant Turkmenistan, hydrocarbon rich Uzbekistan, and OPEC+ member Kazakhstan, which all rely on oil and gas revenues to fill government coffers.
By most accounts, OPEC, the global oil exporting cartel and their allies led by Russia — known as OPEC Plus — should be wary of the incoming U.S. administration’s rhetoric. President-elect Biden campaigned on an historically pro-environment agenda: He intends to rejoin the UNFCCC Paris Agreement on climate change, achieve a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, and invest trillions into a ‘clean energy revolution’ that will transition America towards green electrification. This adds yet more obstacles for an organization that once viewed the United States — the world’s number one crude consumer — as its prized export market.
“The third revolution in fifteen years is an indication that Kyrgyz society is developing immunity against corrupt and authoritarian rulers. In an surprisingly fast development, the people swept aside the president, annulled the election, which were broadly viewed as falsified, released a former president from jail, and appointed an acting prime minister, a mayor of the capital Bishkek, and a militia (police) chief. The new elections may take place soon.
“This is not the first time the Kyrgyz have kicked out leaders they perceive as corrupt and abusive. Two of the former presidents reside in Russia and Belarus respectively. So far, Kyrgyzstan beat Ukraine with its two Maidans, yet that did not improve the economy or attract foreign investment. The real challenge for the Kyrgyz people is to address the conflicts between clans and between the north and the south, and to ensure that the new leaders and the government will get corruption under control. Whether they need to change the Constitution to achieve that remains to be seen.
“Finally, it is important to understand that Kyrgyzstan may be a model for other countries in Central Asia and in the former Soviet Union where people may think that they exhausted all other available and peaceful means of protest and appeal. I am not a supporter of violence or extra-constitutional means of political struggle, but in the stolen Belarus presidential elections, in the Russian “annulled” constitutional process, or in the forthcoming elections elsewhere—if the powers that be trample on their own laws and brutally abuse police authority and resort to violence, otherwise peaceful citizens may resort to the Kyrgyz recipes to assert their rights.”
Una guerra que nunca ha terminado vive su capítulo más sangriento desde la última gran tregua.
A más de 30 años del inicio del conflicto del Alto Karabaj (o Nagorno Karabaj), Armenia y Azerbaiyán cruzan otra vez disparos y misiles y dejan muertos y heridos en una de las zonas de mayor tensión del planeta.
In this video series, Dr. Ariel Cohen discusses current events happening around the world. The discussion in this video will focus on possible Tik Tok sanctions, the events in Belarus, & the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Thank you for watching and be sure to subscribe for more updates on currents events happening around the world.
Developments in the oil market over the past two months have been catastrophic. From the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, the collapse of demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic, historic (but ultimately unsuccessful) OPEC+ cuts, to negative prices, the prospects of a crude market rebound seem dim.
In a historic collapse, U.S. oil prices plummeted over 300% on Monday as traders unloaded their positions ahead of the May contract expiration Tuesday. Of all the unpredictable economic swings in financial markets that have occurred since the onset of the global pandemic, Monday’s oil wipeout is without a doubt the most jaw-dropping.
Widespread public outcry is growing over the possibility that former Russian Interior Ministry official Alexander Prokopchuk could be elected as the president of Interpol, an international organization that facilitates cross-border cooperation between law enforcement agencies.
Ariel Cohen and Anton Altman
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that his country, the world’s leading oil and gas producer, plans to work closely with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the oil cartel.
Russia has long spoken about linking up with OPEC, but at this point the extent of its participation has been sending high-level delegations to attend OPEC meetings in Vienna as observers.
What exactly happened in Helsinki? Washington—from Congress to the administration to the media—has been left scratching their heads. Trump’s dealing with Russia is like vaudeville meets a spy thriller—Monty Python meets Tom Clancy.
On July 16, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are to meet in Helsinki, Finland, for what promises to be an historic summit—one likely to define the course of U.S.-Russian relations for many years to come. Following on the heels of the July 12 NATO summit in Brussels, the outcome of these U.S.-Russia talks may affect the unity, and even the survival, of the West.
As the US is engaged in pre-election navel-gazing, Russia is not taking a summer nap. The Kremlin never sleeps, and especially not in August, and not during the Olympic season. The Beijing Olympics in 2008 coincided with the Russia-Georgian conflict, and the Ukrainian crisis developed during the Sochi Winter Olympics.
In the snow-covered, fairy-tale city of Munich, global security leaders gathered for their yearly conclave, the Munich Security Conference, the Davos of foreign policy and power.However, instead of Bavarian glory, tension was in the air. This participant repeatedly saw speakers talking past each other, creating an impression that this was not a dialogue about the fate of the world, but an absurdist theater spectacle by Eugene Ionesco.
Ukraine is Russia’s gateway into European gas markets. Of the 193 billion cubic meters (bcm) Russia’s state-owned Gazprom pumped westward in 2017 – nearly 40 percent of Europe’s total supply – 93 bcm transited via Ukraine. Moscow, however, wants to change that, diminishing Ukraine’s transit role. Kyiv, on the other hand, hopes to maintain the current arrangement, as transit revenues contribute some USD 2-3 billion annually.