Congo Closes Its Border With Rwanda After Soldier’s Death.

Decades-old tension between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda are providing fuel for a diplomatic crisis that is threatening to escalate. Last month, M-23 rebels began an offensive against Congo. The Congolese government accuses Rwanda of supporting the rebels. The Rwandan government, however, denies any ties with M-23, which is made up largely of members of the Tutsi ethnic group. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame is also a Tutsi. Congo has also directly accused Rwanda of making incursions across the border and vice versa. The new batch of tension is causing alarm in East Africa. So much so that Kenya is urging the deployment of a regional peacekeeping force to the border area.

Congolese rhetoric has grown sharper in recent days, as the government seeking to suspend all current agreements with Rwanda. If Rwanda wants war, “it will have war,” a spokesman for the military governor of Congo’s North Kivu province told thousands of protesters earlier in the week.

This morning the crisis escalated further when the DRC government ordered Congo’s border with Rwanda closed after a Congolese soldier was killed while attacking borders guards inside Rwandan territory. Two Rwandan police officers were injured when the Congolese soldier crossed the border and opened fire, before an officer on duty fired back and killed him 25 meters inside Rwanda, the Rwandan military said in a statement. The incident is being investigated further by the DRC and Rwanda, yet tensions appear likely to continue rising.

Admittedly, I have not kept up with the events in East Africa recently and this crisis has taken me a bit by surprise. I’ll keep an eye on it and do some research to try and get a better feel for the history behind the DNC-Rwanda tensions as well as this present crisis.

Sweden Increases Military Readiness And Sends A Signal To Russia

Wary of what the Swedish Armed Forces’ Commander of Joint Operations referred to as ‘extensive military activity in the Baltic Sea’ at present Sweden is moving to raise its military readiness. Both Russia, and NATO have been holding sizeable exercises, and running patrol operations in the Baltic region of late. The scale of activity has been on a level not seen since the Cold War. This, coupled with the uncertainty of the ongoing global pandemic, and disputed election in Belarus is creating a heightened security situation in the Baltic. The Swedes are rightfully growing concerned and this latest move is intended to send a signal to friend and foe alike that Sweden stands prepared to defend its sovereignty.

It goes without saying, however, that the signal is intended more for Moscow’s benefit rather than Washington’s, or London’s.

Sweden has not been shy about publicizing its deployments. On Tuesday, Swedish television broadcast video footage of armored vehicles arriving on Gotland amid vacationing families, and other tourists. In Stockholm, the Swedish government has been careful not to connect its military moves with the unrest taking place in Belarus. It has admitted the ongoing Russian military exercises are what finally moved Sweden to take action. Along with the armored vehicles, a number of Gripen fighter planes have also been deployed to Gotland. In the Baltic Sea, four Swedish corvettes are presently exercising with the Finnish Navy. Other nations are also moving military pieces around the Scandinavian chessboard. Over the weekend a US special operations aircraft landed on Gotland for a period of time, and farther north Norwegian F-16s, and US Air Force B-52s exercised together over the Arctic.

After Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Sweden became concerned about Russia’s intentions in the Baltic, and Europe. Following years of declining defense budgets, Sweden reversed course and started to spend more money on defense. Since 2014 the size and capabilities of the Swedish armed forces have increased with Russia now seen as an unfriendly, potentially hostile Baltic neighbor. Sweden remains unaligned, and neutral in most regards but that has not prevented Swedish forces from taking part in exercises and engaging in closer military relations with a number of NATO nations.

Sunday 30 July, 2017 Update: Russia Orders US Diplomatic Staff Reduced

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Vladimir Putin is not taking the possibility of fresh US sanctions lightly. With sanctions legislation aimed at Russia about to land on President Trump’s desk, the Russian leader understands perfectly well that Trump is not going to veto the bill and send it back to the House. The legislation will be signed and a new round of US sanctions against Russia will be set in place. Putin has opted to retaliate before the legislation is even signed, and to do so in a fashion which guarantees a US response.

On Sunday Putin announced that the US diplomatic mission to Russia will have to reduce its staff by 755 personnel by 1 September. The reduction in US staff had been announced on Friday, however, today’s announcement was the first to include concrete numbers. Russia also made it known that it would seize two US diplomatic properties in Russia, a move similar to action the US took against Russian properties in America this past December. Putin also added, somewhat ominously, that further retaliation will come if the sanctions are passed.

Since January, the Trump administration and its Russian counterparts had been hoping for an improvement in US-Russia relations. It was not to be following accusations that Russia had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. The accusations have contributed directly to the creation of sanctions and a straining of the relationship between Moscow and Washington. Now, the tit-for-tat exchange is on the verge of escalating. President Trump could very well decide to let these sanctions act as the US response to Sunday’s announcement by Putin. Yet, if further action is taken by Russia, it will result in a proportionate response by the US. If this keeps up into the fall, the United States and Russia might find themselves in a nasty diplomatic scrap, with very few exit options.

*Author’s note: Regrettably, Today’s Dirt will not be posting Part II of the ‘The Case For Military Action Against North Korea.’ My employer has requested that I refrain from writing and posting any articles centered on North Korea and potential US military action against it for a period of time given what is happening right now. I understand the reasons for my employer to ask this of me, and have agreed. After Labor Day, we will revisit the issue and hopefully can work something out. I apologize. *

 

Friday, 21 August 2015 Update: Political Drama In Greece, Tension In Korea, Global Markets Plunge

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August had been a relatively quiet month up until a couple of days ago. As we move towards the end of the month, things are happening across the globe. In the space of the last thirty six hours or so, North Korea and the ROK have traded artillery fire and tensions are on the rise, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has resigned and called for new elections, and China’s economic slowdown is beginning to have a negative effect on world markets. Judging by what we have seen this week, we could be in for a dangerous September.

Tsipras Resigns

For the third time since January, Greek voters are returning to the ballot box. Do not be fooled, Alexis Tsipras’s resignation and call for new elections were not made out of a sense of obligation or an admittance of defeat. They are components of a very shrewd political maneuver. When the third bailout was passed by the Greek parliament in mid-July, one-third the Syriza party’s representatives voted against the bill or abstained. Now, the Syriza party is in the midst of a rebellion and Tsipras needs to gain a new mandate. He is turning to the people to extract him from a very tenuous position and provide him with political cover. Tsipras is banking on the new elections neutralizing the radical left wing of his party. That wing has made his life complicated since July, opposing him almost constantly. Tsipras appears determined to move himself from the radical left to the center and he is using popular will as a political tool to help him get there.

Tension & Threats In Korea

The world has become desensitized to North Korean threats and claims. The regular stream of bold talk coming out of Pyongyang is bolder today, however. Following an exchange of artillery fire with South Korea and the resumption of US/South Korean military exercises, Pyongyang has announced that its forces along the DMZ are in a “quasi-state of war” and will prepare for battle. The North has, in fact, started preparations to test fire short and mid-range ballistic missiles but there have been no concrete signs of preparation for military action against the South.

The situation appears to be following the same line that others before it have. The North Koreans ramp up their rhetoric in an attempt to stoke military tensions on the Korean peninsula in a bid to show its populace that it is confronting the enemy to the south. Kim Jong Un has done this before and predictably will do it again in the future. The real danger here is the possibility that an accident or incident might lead to a military confrontation that neither side wants.

China’s Economic Woes Go Global

It was bound to happen sooner or later. Economists, market analysts, and financial experts around the world have been talking about the economic problems facing China. Last month’s successive devaluations of the yuan signaled that the problems were going to worsen before long. Data was released confirming that China’s manufacturing activity has slowed to its lowest levels since 2009. Global markets were thrown into panic mode almost immediately. Stock markets in Asia were the first to feel the hurt, followed by Europe and then Wall Street. The Dow plunged 531 points today, falling into correction territory. The two day sell off in New York has erased practically all of the 2015 gains for all three US indexes.

The ramifications of a weakened Chinese economy are continuing to play out. Investors are spooked for the moment, though, and it is fair to say that further bad economic news from China will continue to have negative consequences on Wall Street, in London, Tokyo and elsewhere. How these economic problems will translate into the geo-political arena also remains to be seen.

*Note- The third part of the Desert Shield series has been lost. I deleted it from my hard drive my mistake. I will rewrite and post it sometime before Labor Day. In the meantime, Sunday night I’ll post a look at the coming arms race in the Persian Gulf.*