Russia’s Diminishing Resources and Proliferation in Unstable Regions

Russia’s Diminishing Resources and Proliferation in Unstable Regions

Depletion of Russia’s Mineral Wealth

Russia is expected to run out of many of its mineral resources by 2025. Within a decade economically viable reserves of zinc, manganese, copper, nickel, and platinum will have run out, these mineral resources are necessary for running a modern economy. To combat this threat to its economic security, the Russian Federation has pursued a number of mineral exploitation projects in Africa and other continents.

Uranium Supplies and Nuclear Energy Proliferation

Russia has specialized skills in nuclear energy desired by much of the developing world. In exchange for minable material exploitation needed for the Russian economy, leaders have initiated a number of nuclear energy development contracts with African countries.
Note Russia has also included minable uranium from Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia.

Contracts for Russian developed nuclear energy facilities exist in the Africa countries of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Ghana, Ethiopia, Sudan, Zambia in spite of security concerns and instability. These contracts follow the China model of noninterference into the local politics and corruption in these countries. China is developing nuclear energy projects in Sudan, Kenya, and Uganda.

China is Russia’s largest importer of oil. Oil and gas account for almost 70% of the Russian economy contributing to almost half of it’s federal budget. Despite this, Russian infrastructure continues to suffer and restrict growth to its economy. “I am convinced that infrastructure is one of the key problems of the Russian economy. We are underinvested here, the quality of infrastructure does not correspond to the level of Russia’s development and is a serious obstacle on the way of economic growth,” according to Russia’s Economic Development Minister Maksim Oreshkin.

International Investment in Diversification and Infrastructure

Over the course of Vladimir Putin’s presidencies, he has asserted his commitment to stimulating non-commodity sectors of the economy, improving the business climate in Russia, and making it more attractive to foreign direct investment (FDI). Discouragement for international investment in Russia based on internal government corruption since the collapse of the Soviet Union has led to further nuclear and arms proliferation in the Middle East and Africa and consequently further military build-up in the motherland.

The lack of foreign investment in Russia has prevented its ability to develop other skills and commodities to offer to developing countries. This policy has also reinforced Russia’s growth in the narrow industries of defense and energy over the long term. The most attractive forms of trade with Russia for Middle East countries is in arms and nuclear energy followed by oil technology and transportation logistics. Instability in these regions continues to demand a steady stream of weapons.

Yet with the majority of the Russian economy based on oil and natural gas, it shares some of the same problems as Middle East countries in the need to diversify its industries and build up its internal infrastructure to support diversification. US trade agreements therefore with the Russian Federation and the Middle East could be aimed towards emerging markets to begin building economic diversity in these regions, and infrastructure development on all sides.

At the same time, the direct security capabilities of the US, Russia, China and local governments in these regions could therefore be directed towards the common threats of militant extremism. Control of transportation on land, water, and by air for example is essential to minimize the flow of supplies including natural resources, aid provisions, and other economic stimulus currently ending up in the hands of militant extremist groups in addition to stabilizing threats between regional players.

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Syrian Conflict Continues in the Province of Idlib

Syrian Conflict Continues in the Province of Idlib

Airstrikes Expected as Forces Converge on Rebels

With as many as 30,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq, the Syrian conflict recently renewed as Assad attempts to neutralize the last pockets of resistance backed by Iran including possible chemical attacks on rebel held territory in Idlib. The Province of Idlib is known for its stressed water conditions where much of its agriculture is currently out of production. Erdogan backed opposition groups there are struggling to resist Assad and hold the territory they have claimed.

Negotiations with Syria have proven unsuccessful as Turkey and the United Nations criticize Assad’s continued use of force, and US-backed militias once again have engaged IS remaining strongholds. Airstrikes recently hit Hajin with phosphorus bombs where previously an audio recording by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi claimed IS was not limited to that area.

Western Threats against Assad

The UK may be preparing to enter the conflict after MPs criticized the UK’s continued inaction and called for a strategy to prevent further atrocities in Syria. Parliament previously voted on interference in chemical attacks in Cameron over engagement in Syria. Conflicts in both countries continue, and the UK may be reconsidering its stance on Syria.

Germany, with Angela Merkel’s support, is also expected to join air strikes in the case of further chemical attacks after a recent meeting with the US. France has condemned the use of chemical weapons but says that France has no interest in Syria’s choice of leadership. Israel is continuing its efforts to check Iranian power in Syria including its Hezbollah proxies.  

Turkish Backing for Rebels

Over $4 billion has been spent on aid to Syria from the US. A large number of refugees over the course of the conflict have migrated to Idlib which is held by rebel groups that Syria, Russia, and Iran say must be rooted out after Trump warns not to attack them. Turkey’s designs on Idlib involve barricading itself from incoming, potentially hostile, refugees and disrupting Kurdish opposition in Turkey.

The province was captured by rebel groups back in March 2015 including the al-Nusra Front, Jund al-Aqsa, Jaish al-Sunna, Liwa al-Haqq, Ajnad al-Sham, and Faynad al-Sham. Rebels immediately took possession of utilities, transit routes, and other tactical and economic points of interest within the province.

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Energy Solutions to the Problem Grid Part 2

Energy Solutions to the Problem Grid Part 2

The US Nation’s $177 Billion Electric Bill Investment Gap

Most transmission and distribution (T&D) lines of the electric grids in the US were constructed in the 1950s and 60s with only a 50-year life expectancy. There are three main interconnected power grids– the Eastern Interconnection, Western Interconnection, and Texas Interconnection in the lower 48 states responsible for 640,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines. These grids are vulnerable to 3 categorical types of threat. Storms and other weather anomalies, cyber attacks, and congestion overloading the system have all created power outages. However, due to the length of some lines, long-term repairs can prove dubious.   

“Often a single line cannot be taken out of service to perform maintenance as it will overload other interconnected lines in operation.”

The US can, however, utilize new technology and new engagements to access resources internationally to begin building a supergrid in cities experiencing an abundance of growth over the next 10 to 50 years incrementally replacing existing T&D lines. With some manufacturing returning to the US and industry diversification in developing countries that depend on the US, the demand for energy domestically and internationally will rise.

Improving Commercial Viability for Emerging Market Tech

The emergence of a second grid to supplement growing cities provides new opportunities for smart grid technology and materials such as superconducting mesh, cables, and Superconducting Magnetic Energy Storage (SMES) that substantially cut losses in energy storage and transmission. Advances have also been made in wireless and some green technology. International engagements to develop new materials may improve the commercial viability for some of these emerging technologies to the benefit of both the US and developing countries.

The geology and weather of some areas have also changed since the time the original grid was established. Urban growth in some areas like San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, Atlanta, and Dallas, northern Colorado, and other midsize cities present the new opportunities for designs that work with existing and projected environmental conditions. The McKinsey Global Institute estimated that 577 fast-growing middleweight cities will contribute half of the global growth by 2025 and a significant portion of this will be from emerging markets with middleweight cities together contributing 45% of global growth by 2025. These locations represent ideal candidates for new grid and alternative energy options.

Areas recently hit by storms that have sustained severe weather damage to energy infrastructure may also constitute ideal places to begin engineering initiatives closing investment infrastructure gaps and improving Gross Domestic Product (GDP) performances at local and national levels and import/export efficiency. Yet only a small fraction of the energy sector has established Public Private Partnerships (PPP). These engagements can and should be utilized to a greater extent however in streamlining access to resources and global infrastructure global development.

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Iran Executes 3 Kurdish Prisoners ignoring UN Appeal for Fair Trials

Iran Executes 3 Kurdish Prisoners ignoring UN Appeal for Fair Trials

Iran Executes 3 Kurdish Prisoners ignoring UN Appeal for Fair Trials

According to media outlets Iran has executed three Iranian Kurdish prisoners that had been accused of belonging to a militant group that attacked civilians and security forces in the Kurdish region of Iran. Loqman Moradi, Zanyar Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi were reportedly denied the right to see their attorneys while imprisoned and were tortured leading to them making confessions to crimes they did not commit. United Nations special rapporteurs Javaid Rehman and Agnes Callamard made calls to Iranian officials to stop the executions and asked the regime to provide fair trials to the three men but the Islamic regime ignored the request and executed the men.

“We are horrified by the news that the Iranian authorities have executed these men, despite widespread condemnation of their death sentences and calls from U.N. human rights experts and other bodies to halt their executions,” Philip Luther | Amnesty International

In addition to the recent execution of Kurdish prisoners, the IRGC has claimed responsibility for the deadly missile attack on September 9, 2018 against Kurdish rebels located in northern Iraq. The Kurds hold a region within Iraq’s borders that currently operates semi-autonomous from the Iraq state two headquarters in this region were struck by IRGC rockets killing a reported 11 people and another 50 were wounded. The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan were the headquarters that were targeted showing Iran’s determination to wipe out all Kurdish resistance in Iran, even if such resistance occurs outside its own borders.

Kurdish People were promised a nation of their own

The Kurds are indigenous to the ancient Mesopotamian plains and highlands in territories now claimed by Turkey, Armenia, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. A Kurdish state, or empire, was never formally established rather over the course of history the territory in which they have resided has shuffled from Empire to Empire. In ancient times it was controlled by the vast Persian Empire in more recent times the Ottoman Empire held control of the Mesopotamian region. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire was divided between French and United Kingdom control under the Sykes-Picot Accord (1916) the Kurdish peoples call for the creation of their own state was ignored. It was at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919-1920 that the superpowers of the time outlined a plan for the Kurds to establish a state separate from the countries that currently occupied the territory they had historically resided in. East of the Euphrates, South of Armenia, and North of the Turkish frontier with Syria a new Kurdish state was carved out. However, as the Kurds started to organize and talks of a system of government developed a revolution in Turkey waylaid their plans and under the military might of the revolution, the new secular state of Turkey was established to the detriment of the Kurdish cause. So it was the Kurdish people were unwillingly adopted by the Turkish state and were renamed by the government “Mountain Turks.” In later treaties going into the 1920s, the Kurdish people’s plight was ignored and the possibility of a Kurdish state seemed forever gone.

Iran’s Dark History with the Kurds

Historically the Kurds have been a non-assimilated ethnic group in Iran for centuries and periodically Chiefs of Kurdish tribes have risen up against the Iranian government. Early rebellions, like the one of 1918-1922 lead by Simko Shikak, was less a bid for Kurdish autonomy and more about gaining regional power in the confusion during and following the first World War. Simko Shekaka’s rebellion attacked Kurds and government forces alike but was eventually quelled and despite making another bid for power Simko was driven from Iran into Iraq. Muhammed Rashid, around the time of the Second World War, jump-started a revolution that gained traction within the Kurdish people creating a sense of nationalism and revitalizing the idea and need for a Kurdish state.

During the occupation of Iran by Anglo-Soviet forces, Soviet troops took over the administration of the Kurdish region in Iran utilizing the communist party known as the Tudeh and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) which then led to the announcement of the creation of an independent Kurdish People’s Republic and a People’s Republic of Azerbaijan under Soviet control. Thus Iranian Kurds were granted autonomy, and with Soviet troops in Azerbaijan, Joseph Stalin pressured the Tehran government for an oil concession.

Even though this Soviet initiative was led by Qazi Muhammed, a Kurd, the vast majority of Kurds opposed the People’s Republic and within a year it collapsed. The Azerbaijan Crisis failed to get the Soviets cheap oil from Iran but marks the first conflict of the Cold War. Eventually, the Tudeh party was also banned. The KDP however, continues to this day working internationally for Kurdish rights and independence with the support of foreign governments.

This theme of Kurdish rebellions being eschewed by global politics continues throughout the 20th century and into the 21st where we arrive at the current political climate of the Islamic Regime systematically persecuting Kurds and brutally crushing any resistance within Tehran and its allies.

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China to Train Afghan Counterterrorism Brigade

China to Train Afghan Counterterrorism Brigade

China has increasing trouble keeping out of regional conflicts as its trade interests continue to expand in the Middle East. Afghanistan’s counterterrorism brigade per a recent agreement will now be training in China. The recently discovered mineral wealth in the mountains of Afghanistan promise rewards for those willing to fight for them. China is currently building up military establishments in Afghanistan and equipping the Afghan fighters with combat vehicles, helicopters, air capabilities, and reconnaissance.

China is seeking Russian or Soviet-made equipment like the MI-35 and the US has planned to help replace Afghanistan’s aging fleet of Russian Mi-17 helicopters with U.S.-made UH-60 Black Hawks. Reports show Chinese ground troops on joint counterterrorism patrols over the last year since Taliban militants have regained some of their strength in the region.

Expanded interest in the Middle Eastern Regions

Chinese engagement with Pakistan is made in the hopes of securing border security between Pakistan and Afghanistan due to China’s significant stake in the economies of both countries. In 2017, China pledged $73 million to support Afghanistan fledgling security forces including Afghan border police and seek investment in ground transportation in line with Chinese loans and transportation development in Pakistan.

China is in the midst of facing policy changes with respect to security in countries in which they have a significant investment. Metallurgical Corporation of China Limited (MCC), one of China’s state-owned mining companies, has taken possession of a huge copper deposit, Mes Aynak, from the Taliban. Speculation of a Chinese military presence in Pakistan has been acknowledged. China’s economic and geopolitical alignments in the region include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries including Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan into the Eurasian energy and transport corridors.

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