Good morning, and welcome to the Global Situation Report for Thursday, 17 August 2023.
- FIRST UP: Niger asks for volunteers
- The ruling military junta in Niger is calling for volunteers to prepare for possible military intervention from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
- The African Union has rejected the ECOWAS proposal of a military solution to restore the previous government in Niger. ECOWAS will hold talks on a standby military force to deploy to Niger for the next two days.
- A new U.S. ambassador is set to arrive in Niamey to begin working with the junta while the State Department attempts to avoid escalation.
Why It Matters: The military junta in Niger has been heavily propagandizing the population, particularly younger citizens. This is likely in advance of what could be a general conscription effort to oppose an ECOWAS-led intervention. Due to logistical challenges, an organic African intervention in Niger is unlikely to succeed. If Russia and/or China fell in with Niamey’s new government to oppose Western efforts to restore the democratic order, that could be a longer-term problem with regional implications. Look for foreign intervention by the Russia-China alliance to determine the severity of the situation between Niamey and ECOWAS. – M.M.
- BALTICS: Lithuania closing two border crossings with Belarus
- Citing an increased threat from the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, the government of Lithuania announced the closing of two border crossings with Belarus.
- “This decision is a preventive measure aimed at controlling threats to national security and possible provocations at the border,” according to Lithuania’s Interior Minister. Lithuania will instead route cross-border traffic through a port of entry with greater security measures.
- “Poland and Latvia share their concern about the threat of hybrid warfare from Belarus,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said following a meeting with Lithuanian President Edgars Rinkeviczs.
Why It Matters: Russia and Belarus have been conducting gray zone activities along Baltic borders since before Moscow invaded Ukraine. Lithuania’s security measures are prudent given that Moscow and Belarus see the Suwalki Gap as key terrain to create a land bridge between the Russian-led Union State and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Poland and Latvia’s concerns are warranted. – M.M.
- ISRAEL: Milley to Tel Aviv over military concerns
- U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, is scheduled to travel to Tel Aviv next week to assess how a crisis in the Israeli government and military is affecting U.S. readiness in the region.
- Some Israeli reservists have suspended their service to protest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s overhaul of the country’s Supreme Court.
- Milley will meet with Israeli defense officials to discuss how the ongoing issues affect U.S.-Israeli cooperation. Senior Israeli officials warned earlier this week of decreasing readiness.
Why It Matters: Much of the unrest in Israel is being driven by U.S. NGOs working to undermine Netanyahu’s political agenda – specifically his Iran counter-nuke strike planning. Milley is likely visiting Tel Aviv to assess the success of the White House-directed effort and to determine how close Jerusalem is to taking the gloves off with Iran and its proxy Hezbollah. – M.M.
- COMRADES: China responds to U.S.-Vietnam announcement
- A Chinese foreign ministry official met with his Vietnamese counterpart this morning, likely in response to comments from U.S. President Joe Biden last week that Vietnam was ready to join the U.S. sphere of influence.
- “Vietnam wants to change our relationship and become a partner,” Biden said last week, adding that he would soon travel to the country.
- Vietnamese officials said they would maintain positive relations with China and avoid any official contact with Taiwan.
Why It Matters: China appears to be playing defense against closer U.S. relations with Vietnam. If Biden’s comments are accurate – if Vietnam is prepared to become a major U.S. strategic partner on the diplomatic level of Japan and South Korea – then the shift would represent another U.S. diplomatic coup in the Asia Pacific. A Chinese state media outlet encouraged Vietnam to adhere to its communist ideals, adding that it’s part of what brings the two countries together. China, however, recently started airstrip construction on an island that is currently disputed territory with both Vietnam and Taiwan. Chinese encroachment is pushing Vietnam toward the Western alliance, despite Chinese diplomatic efforts. – M.S.
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