Dateline: Washington – Two Russian intelligence agents and two hackers were charged Wednesday 15 March with masterminding the 2014 hack and subsequent theft of 500 Million Yahoo accounts, according to Reuters. The charges in the 47-count indictment include conspiracy, economic espionage, aggravated identity theft and theft of trade secrets.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord announced the charges at a press conference saying, “The criminal conduct at issue, carried out and otherwise facilitated by officers from an FSB unit that serves as the FBI’s point of contact in Moscow on cybercrime matters, is beyond the pale.”
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) is the successor to the infamous KGB. The indictment names FSB officers Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, both of whom are still in Russia. Also named are Alexsey Belan, one of the FBI’s most-wanted cyber criminals, and Karim Baratov, who was arrested in Canada on Tuesday. Russia does not have an extradition treaty with the United States and, naturally, has denied any and all involvement with the Yahoo hack. With the current media frenzy over alleged Russian interference in last year’s election, it will be interesting to see the Trump Administration’s response to yet another Russian-led hack.
Dateline: South Sudan – Gunmen in South Sudan killed two and wounded three in an attack on a humanitarian convoy, Reuters reports. The convoy, operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), was ambushed on 14 March. South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, has been in a civil war since 2013 when President Salva Kirr fired his deputy Reik Machar. The subsequent conflict, split along ethnic lines, has displaced over 3 million people and driven the nation into a humanitarian crisis. According to the United Nations, nearly half the population is expected to lack a reliable food source by July and much of the nation is already suffering from famine.
This ambush is not the first attack against aid groups in South Sudan. Earlier this week, gunmen briefly detained eight employees of the U.S. charity Samaritan’s Purse, and on Thursday, the Doctors Without Borders run hospital in Wau Shilluk was looted of all medicine.
According to InsideGov, a group that tracks foreign aid spending, $137,448 has been disbursed in 2017. South Sudan is currently projected to receive $225.17 million dollars in foreign aid from the United States, with over a quarter of that figure devoted to stabilization/security operations and conflict mitigation. That amount is bound to change with President Trump’s budget proposals, which significantly cuts spending to foreign aid in favor of defense spending.
The shift from aid to defense spending may also reflect how we approach humanitarian assistance in Africa. United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), currently conducts humanitarian and security partnership missions throughout Africa. As U.S. foreign aid assistance dries up, could we see South Sudan being incorporated into the AFRICOM mission set?
Dateline: Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to scrap an important migrant deal with the European Union in the wake of tensions with multiple governments within the EU, according to the BBC. The dispute centers on a Turkish referendum which would expand President Erdogan’s executive powers. Germany, the Netherlands, and other governments have barred Turkish officials from holding political rallies in their respective countries. Turkey hoped to utilize the rallies to garner votes and political support for the referendum from the 5.5 million Turkish citizens living abroad.
The opposition has created increased tension between Turkey and the rest of Europe, resulting in President Erdogan’s accusations of Nazi-like behavior on the part of Germany and the Netherlands. Turkey currently hosts more than three million refugees and was promised visa-free travel for its citizens and accelerated EU membership negotiations in return for helping stem the tide of refugees entering Europe, which, for a time, it did.
Turkey contends that the EU has broken their promise of visa-free travel while the EU Commission states that it expects Turkey to comply with its commitments. The continued conflict between Turkish and European governments over political rallies and referendum support appears to be chipping away at the relationship between Turkey and its European neighbors.
Turkey’s assistance is crucial in the EU’s management of refugees flooding into the region, which has put an economic and political strain on multiple countries. Without Turkey’s assistance, refugees entering the EU is likely to swell, emboldening populist political movements, which are traditionally anti-immigrant. Turkey’s tensions with the EU may transcend to tensions with NATO member states, giving Turkey another avenue of diplomatic brinksmanship as NATO’s second largest armed force.