Russia has continued to aggressively reassert itself militarily. It has made its new approach clear by threatening to target US missile shield sites with nuclear weapons, testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile and providing nuclear fuel and promises of military assistance to Iran.
If it was not clear before it is apparent now that a US attack against Iran is off the table. Long term plans to isolate and weaken the country with sanctions, as successfully carried out with Iraq, have also failed. Russia and China have rallied behind Iran with military support, diplomatic support at the UN Security Council, and inclusion in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Despite the change of plans, the US is still tied down with Iraq and Afghanistan. Russia will continue to use this to its advantage in reasserting its power over Eastern Europe, as has been seen with bold statements about the US missile shield, meddling in Georgia and the formation of closer ties with Belarus. An assertive stance, at least rhetorically, can be expected when Kosovo declares independence in the new-year, although Russia’s ability to intervene is limited.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS: December 17 – 24, 2007
Increased consumption of meat and bio-fuels and global warming related crop failures have caused a depletion of world cereal reserves and a 40% increase in food prices over the last 12 months. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report warned that this trend is expected to continue.
War in Iraq
The US military in Iraq has lost track of another 12,000 weapons, including more than 800 machine-guns, and everything from 2,100 new electricity generators to half a dozen garbage trucks. This follows revelations in the summer by the US government’s accountability office that 190,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and automatic pistols earmarked for Iraqi government forces had gone astray in 2004 and 2005.
The Pentagon Defense Criminal Investigative Service has launched a probe into whether U.S. military and civilian contractors sold arms intended for Iraqi security forces on the Iraqi black market. Some have alleged that weapons were intentionally diverted to destabilize rival groups.
Hundreds of torture victims have filed a complaint in Washington Federal Court against CACI, the private military contractor involved in torturing and abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq.
US government lawyers flatly denied that videotapes destroyed by the CIA contained any scenes of the torture of terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay. The issue came to light earlier this month when CIA chief Michael Hayden told staff in a letter that in 2005 the agency had destroyed tapes showing the interrogations of two Al-Qaeda suspects.
Undisclosed Drug Enforcement Agency sources have stated that the CIA owned Gulfstream II jet that crash landed in the Mexican Yucatan in late September carrying four tons of cocaine was carrying out a Department of Homeland Security Operation.
The Lakota Indians have withdrawn from treaties with the United States and asserted independence.
European nations brought down the last remnants of the Iron Curtain by forming a vast free-movement zone embracing 24 countries from Spain to Estonia.
The pound homed in on an all-time low versus the euro as expectations of an interest rate cut on the back of a slowing economy led investors to sell the currency.
Missile Defense Shield
Russia has threatened to target two proposed American bases in Europe with its nuclear missiles if the Pentagon presses ahead with its plans for a missile defense shield. It has also stated that it will retaliate against any action that weakens its nuclear deterrent.
A Russian submarine in the Barents Sea test-fired a new inter-continental ballistic missile.
Russia is continuing towards developing a global positioning system, GLONASS, independent of the GPS system operating by the United States.
Russia signed a $1.5B stabilization loan for Belarus. The loan comes after Belarus joined Russia in opposing the US missile shield.
Russia started nuclear fuel shipments to Iran for the unfinished Bushehr power station, which is expected to go live in approximately 6 months. According to Russia, spent fuel from Bushehr will be returned to Russia for reprocessing and storage.
Iran announced plans for a second nuclear power station and is continuing to work towards refining its own uranium. The United States and Israel are concerned that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons.
Russia has also announced plans to help Iran develop air defense and radar systems and to further assist Iran militarily.
Turkey / Iraq
Turkey has continued its offensive against the Kurds in Iraq, attacking by ground and air for the third time this week. Turkey’s military chief General Yasar Buyukanit stated that the US provided intelligence and opened up Iraqi airspace to facilitate the attacks against towns and areas where Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) supporters are thought to reside. The PKK has been agitating for an independent Kurdistan that would include part of Kurdish-dominated southern Turkey.
The Gulf Cooperative Council, consisting of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and the UAE, announced plans to form a common market for 2008 and a regional currency for 2010.
Pakistan / India
Pakistan said that recent missile tests by neighbouring India would lead to a new arms race in the region.
Taiwan has announced a significant increase in military spending including funds to produce a missile that could strike China.
A deal was closed for the US to supply Taiwan with 8 new submarines. The US staid it will continue to provide Taiwan with weapons despite China’s opposition to the sales.
Russia has announced that it is willing to help Libya obtain civilian nuclear power. Libya was long accused by Western governments of seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In late 2003, however, Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi renounced all attempts to develop a non-conventional arsenal, clearing the way for the lifting of Western sanctions and the restoration of diplomatic relations.