Good morning, and welcome to the Global Situation Report for Monday, 11 December 2023.
- GUYANA, VENEZUELAN OFFICIALS TO MEET: Officials from Guyana and Venezuela agreed to hold bilateral talks over the disputed Essequibo region of Guyana.
- Talks are scheduled for Thursday, even as both countries mobilize troops ahead of a potential conflict.
- Venezuela maintains they were cheated out of the land after the 1899 borders were decided by Britain, the United States and Russia, and their assertion over the territory is intended to keep foreign powers from meddling in South American affairs.
- Guyana remains adamant that its territorial boundaries are “nonnegotiable” and that the dispute will be decided by the United Nations International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Why It Matters: An ICJ ruling is likely to set up a scenario similar to the 2016 case between the Philippines and China. The ICJ ruled a territorial dispute in favor of the Philippines but failed to enforce its ruling against China, which continually encroaches into the Philippines’ territory. That would leave other powers like Brazil, a coalition of South American states, or possibly the United States to enforce a ruling in favor of Guyana. – M.S.
- INDIA, VIETNAM KICK OFF MILITARY EXERCISE: The Indian and Vietnamese militaries kicked off an 11-day military exercise aimed at building joint interoperability between the two forces.
- The command post exercise includes around 100 personnel who will share ideas and tactics on the deployment of engineer and medical units.
Why It Matters: India has sought closer economic and military ties with Vietnam and has gifted Vietnam numerous patrol boats to improve the country’s maritime security. Chinese maritime militia and fishing boats have battered Vietnamese waters, increasing the demand for foreign protection against Chinese incursions. India sees itself as an aspirational naval power, while increased defense cooperation with Vietnam can be tied back to a strategy to limit Chinese aggression. – M.S.
- RUSSIA: WEST IN DISCUSSIONS TO REPLACE ZELENSKY: Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR)chief Sergey Naryshkin said that Western officials are in “serious” discussions on replacing Ukrainian President Volodimyr Zelensky.
Why It Matters: The desire among some NATO officials to bring the war to an end is an open secret at this point. NATO officials have publicly expressed that desire, although press releases on at least two occasions have walked back those politically sensitive comments. Meanwhile, Zelensky has cemented himself as an unwavering patriot who will not budge on concessions to bring the war to an end. While this report may be Russian propaganda to cast doubt among Ukrainians, it’s virtually certain that NATO officials acknowledge behind closed doors that replacing Zelensky will grease the wheels of a negotiated settlement with Russia. – M.S.
- CHINESE COAST GUARD DISABLES FILIPINO VESSEL: During a resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal, the Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) collided with a Filipino supply ship and disabled its engine.
- The Chinese damaged the engine with a water cannon.
- Numerous other Filipino vessels were sprayed with water cannons, attacked with Long-Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs), and interdicted by but not boarded by Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) crews this weekend as they attempted to resupply Filipino outposts.
- One other Filipino vessel reported damage to their navigation and communications equipment that they classified as “intentional targeting” by the CCG.
Why It Matters: The repeated usage of water cannons indicates a new normal level of force for the CCG. RHIB interdiction and LRAD usage are new tactics for the CCG. While the confrontation was clearly intentional, it is unclear if the Chinese intentionally disabled the vessel. The ambiguity of the disabled engine is a perfect example of how accidental engagement can occur, as it acts as an escalation but is not clearly intentional. The Filipinos could interpret this as an attack on their vessel since the CCG also collided with it. – J.V.
THAT’S A WRAP: This does it for today’s edition. Thank you for reading. If you know folks who would also like to receive this email, would you please forward it to them? We appreciate you spreading the word. – M.S.