What We’re Watching

What our analysts are watching and key events they are keeping an eye on
27th December 20217 min

Next weeks guidance will be our annual forecast and the key events our analysts will be watching for 2022

US Generals fear coup. In an op-ed commentary published in the Washington Post last week, three retired US generals, all veterans of the Iraq War, warn that the 2024 presidential election could lead to a political crisis dwarfing that of 2020, and a split by the military into rival camps.  The generals further contend that, if former president Donald Trump or a similar candidate loses again in 2024, renegade military units might overthrow the election winner and install Mr. Trump in the White House. “Under such a scenario, it is not outlandish to say a military breakdown could lead to civil war,” they wrote. The generals highlighted the “disturbing number” of veterans and active-duty members of the military that took part in the January 6th attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters – more than 1 in 10 of those charged had a service record. They pointed to recent resistance within the military towards federal vaccine mandates, such as a refusal to comply led by the commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino. The generals urged that everything must be done to prevent another insurrection, including holding leaders who inspired the last one to be held to account. The generals also suggested that the Defence Department “war-game” possible post-election scenarios to identify weak spots and put in place “safeguards.”

Biden Signs Bill Banning Imports From China’s Xinjiang Into Law. US President Joe Biden signed a new legislation  (Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act) that bans imports from China’s Xinjiang region over concerns about forced labor, provoking an angry Chinese condemnation with its US embassy insisting in a statement that the act “ignores the truth and maliciously slanders the human rights situation in Xinjiang.” and noted that it would respond further in light of developments. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Biden’s approval of the law  underscored  the “United States’ commitment to combatting forced labor, including in the context of the ongoing genocide in Xinjiang.” According to the bill, all goods from Xinjiang, where Beijing has established detention camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim groups, are assumed to be made with forced labor. It bars imports unless it can be proven otherwise. China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority has been labelled “genocide” by Washington while China denies abuses in Xinjiang. The move is a continuation of Trump’s hardline policy on China who in its final days in January, had announced a ban on all Xinjiang cotton and tomato products.

Read our analysis on the Geopolitics of Xinjiang

Putin’s end-of-year conference focuses on tensions with the West. Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-year press conference in Moscow on Thursday the 23rd December as soaring tensions with the West over Ukraine have sparked fears of an all-out war. Tensions with the West over NATO’s presence in the former Soviet space cast a long shadow over the annual conference. The Kremlin hand-picked around 500 international and domestic journalists to participate. In addition to the Ukraine crisis, journalists questioned Putin on topics ranging from Russia’s crackdown on civil society and the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the economy to his relationship with Russian Santa Claus in the nearly four-hour event. Several questions were dedicated to the situation with Ukraine, with Putin railing against Kiev and its Western allies for causing the recent surge in tensions and demanding that the West give Russia security guarantees “right now”. There was little presented at the conference that was not known, but we will be watching for Russian posturing as talks with the US come to fruition

Russia and US agree talks over Ukraine. After moving nearly 100,000 troops to Ukraines border, Russia has confirmed the US has agreed to talks in January 2022 in Geneva. Summarising Russia’s proposal, Putin said: “Without any tricks, we simply raised the question that there should be no more NATO movement to the east. Our American partners say they are ready to start these negotiations at the very beginning of the next year in Geneva.” Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley spoke with his Russian counterpart and they discussed “regional security-related issues of concern,” the U.S. military said. “The phone call is a continuation of communication between both leaders to ensure risk reduction and operational de-confliction. In accordance with past practice, both have agreed to keep the specific details of their conversation private,” the military added. Putin had been searching for talks from the very beginning of December when Russia’s military moved into Ukraine borders. We will be watching for the American response and what is and is not up for negotiation.

Read our analysis on is Russia preparing to invade Ukraine?

Libya’s elections postponed. The country’s first presidential elections, scheduled for the 24th December, were indefinitely postponed at the last minute, due to fierce disagreements over who should be allowed to stand had not been resolved. What didn’t help, on the day the vote should have taken place, the UK in Libya Twitter account published a message saying it continued to recognise the interim government of national unity “as the authority tasked with leading Libya to elections and does not endorse the establishment of parallel governments or institutions”. Various factions and international powers are jockeying for position in the north African nation. Postponing elections has become  a common tactic to maintain the status quo, this is why many factions have resorted to violence, which has been the status quo since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown back in 2011.

Turkey Going Knee Deep in Africa. The third Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit took  place in Istanbul under the theme “Enhanced Partnership for Common Development and Prosperity”. The two-day summit, hosted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, marks a new stage in Turkey’s relations with the African Union and African countries, according to Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). In October, President Recep Tayyib Erdogan of Turkey took a four-day diplomatic tour through Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Since going into Libya, Turkey has realised a new region for economic alliances. Erdogan is endearing himself to African countries by expressing concern and care for the continent’s international value. At the Turkey-Africa Summit, he lamented that “1.3 billion people live on the African continent and it is not represented at the [U.N.] Security Council…” All this appears like a déjà vu of China’s great leap in Africa. At what seems like a dig at the US and European powers, Turkish Ambassador to South Africa Elif Comoglu Ulgen said “[Africans] see Turkey as a country not coming to the continent with any colonial baggage”, adding that they are “here on the continent with a win-win strategy.” 

Saudi Arabia building its own ballistic missiles. US intelligence agencies have assessed that Saudi Arabia is now actively manufacturing its own ballistic missiles with the help of China. Saudi Arabia is known to have purchased ballistic missiles from China in the past but has never been able to build its own – until now, according to three sources familiar with the latest intelligence. Satellite images obtained by CNN also suggest the Kingdom is currently manufacturing the weapons in at least one location. US officials at numerous agencies, including the National Security Council at the White House, have been briefed in recent months on classified intelligence revealing multiple large-scale transfers of sensitive ballistic missile technology between China and Saudi Arabia, according to two sources familiar with the latest assessments. “While significant attention has been focused on Iran’s large ballistic missile program, Saudi Arabia’s development and now production of ballistic missiles has not received the same level of scrutiny,” Jeffrey Lewis, a weapons expert and professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told CNN. We will be watching for the official US response as this development does serve US interests in dealing with Iran, although it does bring an additional dynamic to this volatile region. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts