Welcome back to another edition of Global News Roundup, a new series compiling news stories from all over the world. This week has seen some turbulent events, with a significant event brewing being the resurgence of fighting in Ukraine, where the much-discussed Ukranian counteroffensive seems to possibly be coming to fruition. There is also other important news, such as the prospect of a new Middle Eastern Joint Navy led by Iran and former Republican Vice President Mike Pence capping off a 2024 Presidential bid.
The dam finally breaks
For months, many following the Ukraine-Russo War have been seeing Ukraine prepare for a major counter-offensive along the southern front. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “The Ukrainian military is prepared for a counteroffensive against the Russian invaders, but this is war and supporters of Kyiv must be ready for the long haul.”
For months, Ukranian soldiers have been trained by western military officials. Up to twelve new brigades are being formed and are learning new NATO-standard fighting tactics and practicing on western hardware that is new to many of the Ukranian soldiers. One of the weapon systems that needed heavy training was for new western tanks, such as the German-originated Leopard tank and the US M1 Abrams tank; the UK also supplied their Challenger 2 tanks.
With training wrapping up, it now appears the counter-offensive may be starting. A couple weeks Ukraine started to conduct more “shaping” operations around the southern frontline, utilizing the recently delivered UK-supplied Storm Shadow Cruise Missles that can travel over 150-miles to strike targets deep behind the Russian lines.
On Tuesday, Russian officials and millibloggers started claiming Ukraine had significantly ramped up their offensive actions along the southern frontline and was doing more than just reconnaissance attacks. Ensuing footage has supported these claims, with Russian-released footage showing large columns of Ukranian equipment. As Ukraine has said they would not release information on the counter-offensive, it has only been the Russians mainly narrating what is happening, although it is usually the same bold claims of repulsing all attacks, with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu saying that all attacks had been repelled with maximum losses inflicted on Ukrainian forces.
While it is unclear what is happening, Russian forces have been confirmed to have disabled a Leopard2A4 tank as well as a radar for the highly effective IRIS-T air defense system supplied by Germany. There has also been further footage of Ukranian columns getting pounded by Russian artillery and aviation. The Ukrainians have denied any counter-offensive is occurring; however, US officials privately estimate Ukraine has likely penetrated 5-10km (3-6 miles) within Russian lines.
The counter-offensive may have another issue. Early Tuesday morning, residents along the Dnipro river complained of large noises from the river, which would be revealed to be water gushing downstream due to the Nova Kakhova dam being blown up. The dam is in Russian-occupied territory and US intelligence points to Russia being the perpetrator. Despite this, it may of backfired, as there are numerous reports of Russian positions being flooded.
Ukraine faces a major issue as much of Ukraine’s wheat-growing south depends on fertile soil that can only happen due to canals being built out from the Dnipro. With the dam’s explosion, the canals will dry up and southern Ukraine is at risk of becoming dry and infertile for growing crops. Entire villages have also been submerged underwater, with tragic videos of the damage surfacing all over.
Sweden might finally join NATO
With President Erdogan winning a third term in Turkey, many are hopeful that Sweden can finally be allowed into NATO. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden teamed up to gain accesion to NATO. This was seen as important as both the countries had a strict adherence to not joining military alliances, but Russias aggression made both nations abandon the rule.
Both nations were at first given a warm welcome, but Erdogan, whose country is a member of NATO, put cold water on the prospect when he refused their bids. While Erdogan eventually relented on Finland’s accession, he stuck firm to Sweden not being allowed in due to the Swedish government’s “support” of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a banned political party and armed guerrilla movement that advocates for a Kurdish state. Some privately think Erdogan is using Sweden as a bargaining chip with other NATO members, such as pressuring the US to allow Turkey into the F-35 fighter jet program.
Sweden joining could bolster the alliances northern flank by giving enhances naval and intelligence assets. In addition, Sweden joining could complete a much-desired joint air force between northern Scandavanian NATO countries. If Sweden joined NATO would have every Scandavanian nation in the alliance, which would effectively shut out Russia’s baltic sea fleet.
Shangri-La shows China chose Europe
The Shangri-La Dialogue is the largest security conference in Asia, with defense officials traveling all over the world for the forum, this year in Singapore. This year was seen as extra important with many fearing an esclation between China and Taiwan is coming.
It was notable that China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu refused to meet with his US counterpart, with Austin calling China out for not meeting and China accusing the US of operating a clique in the region alongside its longtime security partners Japan and South Korea. Shangfu and Austin did shake hands, but that was their only interaction.
Meanwhile, Shangfu met with the Defense Ministers of Germany and the UK, as well as with the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell. This is a continuation of China’s strategy of continuing dialogue with Europe while shunning the west. Earlier this year. French President Emmanuel Macron sparked controversy when he called for Europe to have a more autonomous foreign policy approach than just aligning with the US after visiting China.
China still prefers other partners to the west. However it is now evident that China hopes to forge a closer relationship with Europe, at the expense of the United States.
Turkey’s inevitable economic freefall begins
Following Erdogans’ unusual economic policies, the lira has started it’s predicted decline, with a 7% devalution being recorded on Wednesday.
In a ploy to win re-election, Erdogan introduced economic policies that focused on slashing interest rates. This resulted in a short-term economic benefit, but the lira is set to devalue – only after Erdogan had already win re-election.
It will now largely fall on Turkey’s new Finance Minister to solve the problem in tandem with Erdogan and the next Governor of the Central Bank. Mehmet Simsak is regarded as a well-regarded leader who is respected and trusted by foreign investors and academics. He served as a former deputy prime minister and has called for bringing back economic policies that are “rational.” It will be telling to see how he works with Erdogan in the Finance Ministry.
Erdogan hopes this move towards a different economic approach will soften the stance of critics, but Erdogan must focus on other aspects such as the fear of the erosion of democracy in Turkey if he wants to fully get Turkey on good-standing with the world.
Iran floats new joint navy
On Friday, the commander of the Iranian Navy floated the idea of a joint nav in the Gulf of Persia that would include Iran, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia (Iran’s historical nemesis), as well as India and Pakistan.
This statement would be followed by static from the other countries mentioned. Nevertheless, there are signs this could culminate, with the United Arab Emirates leaving the Combined Maritime Forces, a 38-nation US-led initiate to protect and patrol the waters around the Persian Gulf. The main purpose of it is to guarantee the free and safe transit of goods and services passing through the gulf and the vital Strait of Hormuz (where Iran semi-frequently seizes cargo ships in retaliation to the CMF doing the same for Iranian vessels accused of having goods that circumvent sanctions).
If a new joint navy is formed, it would likely force the US to downscale their operations in the theatre and help China have more security in transporting their goods. It would also further cement that Iran is forging relationships with historical enemies like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, despite sharp religious and political tensions.
There are several issues for this alliance. Besides Iran and Saudi Arabia’s historical rivalry and the fact no other nation has commented on the idea, India and Pakistan have poor relations and would likely never join a military alliance together. Many of the countries mentioned by Iran also rely on the US for economic and military support, with the US supplying Saudi Arabia some of their most advanced weaponry.
Bangladesh Sides with Russia
In the competitive race to find allies in the Indo-Pacific region Bangladesh has been a swing voter. A small country that was formerly a part of Pakistan, Bangladesh has some of the worst metrics for human mortality, and is now facing further issues with Sheikh Hasina working to solidify her power by having opposition figures barred from running for office. Many fear Bangladesh’s upcoming elections will not be conducted free or fairly.
Nevertheless the U still wants Bangladesh’s support, especially as the nation shares a border with the Indian Ocean. In January, the US government successfully lobbied Bangladesh into refusing a Russian ship with nuclear parts to dock as a part of the sanctions on Russia for their war in Ukraine.
However Russia scored a point with Bangladesh with Russia coming to an agreement that would see Russia import 180,000 tons of fertilizer to Bangladesh. Ever since the war there have been problems procuring fertilizer for impoverished nations. Bangladesh has worked to expand fertilizer production with Saudi Arabia, but this will shore up Bangladesh and provide Russia a critical partner for the sanctioned good.
It is now up to the US to decide if and how Bangladesh should be punished for helping Russia evade sanctions, even if it is a non-military product that is vital to the livelihood of citizens in Bangladesh.
A viral video circulated this week of tourists visiting the popular resort of Hurghada in Egypt and watching a man get eaten alive by a shark. This has sparked a lot of attention in social media circles, especially in Egypt.
Namibia: the new OP of Africa?
Namibia has been recently found to have a large quantity of oil, and Namibia gaining a third oil rig has helped even extract more oil. This new rig comes on the back of more oil being discovered by Shell and TotalEnergies and will now lead to Namibia having 13% of Africa’s total oil rigs. This has been further positive news for Nambia, who just like Africa is seeing a resurgence in oil exploration after a historic slump in 2020. This could also lead to further foreign investment into the country, as well as lead to further environmental scrutiny. Africa has some of the worst environmentally friendly practices for oil extraction, but western oil companies have pledged to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
Corrupting the youth
There has been an outcry in Senegal following the sentencing of prominent opposition leader Ousmane Sonko to two years in jail for “Corrupting the Youth.” Sonko, the leader of the PASTEF party was running for President in 2024 and had a large support base, many of whom are now protesting on the streets.
UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres has condemned the arrests of protestors as well as by the Chairman of the African Union Moussi Faki Mahamat. Senegal’s Capital of Dhaka had been dubbed the “LGBTQ+ Haven” of Africa, and Senegal tends to score higher marks for freedom than other nations around like Mali. That is why the crackdown on protests have heightened concern that Senegal could be turning a new dark chapter in their history.
An aviation trade
The British originating airliner Virgin Atlantic has announced a new flight path that will connect Londons Heathrow Airport to Sao Paulo Brazil, the first route for Virgin Atlantic in South America.
This could be a further economic boon to both areas, with trade between Brazil and the UK reaching $9.6 billion dollars in 2022 according to figures from the UK government.
The route would start in 2024 and follows announcements from Virgin Atlantic about resuming flights in the UAE, and expanding more flight paths to India.
Lula Presses Ahead with Maduro
Ever since Lula Inacio De Silva assumed office for his second stint as President this year, he has struck a soft tone with Venezuela. This is despite the global scrutiny Venezuela has faced for rampant corruption and human rights abuses.
However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions, some nations like the US are looking at patching up ties with the Maduro government for the sake of possibly getting more oil to offset the loss from Russian oil. This has led to mass scrutiny from many around the US, and there still has not been solid ground made up between the two countries at the moment.
In a meeting with eleven heads of states for South American nations in Brasilia on Tuesday, Lula said that Maduro was his, “my companheiro (partner)” and that he was the victim of a false narrative saying, “I think, based on everything we’ve talked about, that your narrative will be infinitely better than the narrative they have constructed against you.”
Brazil is seen by many as a leader in South America and if Brazils foreign policy works to court Maduro then it could be assumed other nations will follow. That said, Lula is a leftist figure like Maduro and has been a historical champion of an alliance between South American nations.
Supreme Court strikes down congressional map
The US Supreme Court has struck down Alabama’s congressional map, which could have ramifications for other states as well. Read more about it in this article from Elections Daily editor-in-chief Eric Cunningham.