In the noise created by the twenty-four-hour news cycle, stories that can have a strategic impact on the United States are often missed, leaving the American people in the lurch. This series aims to provide a remedy to that problem. Welcome to the first installment of World News Digest, a weekly roundup of those strategically important stories that have fallen through the cracks
In February, Liberty Nation discussed aggressive actions by North Korea that included the suspected assassination of the Supreme Leader’s half-brother, Kim Jong-nam. In the wake of the investigation into Mr. Kim’s death, Malaysian officials reported that VX, a lethal nerve agent on the UN list of banned weapons of mass destruction, was the murder weapon. Authorities arrested and charged two women with the killing and seven North Korean suspects (four of whom have fled the country) are wanted in their connection with the plot. North Korean diplomats arrived in Malaysia on February 28th where they demanded custody of Kim Jong-nam’s body and opposed any autopsy by the Malaysian government.
The Telegraph also reported on 27 February that North Korea executed five senior officials via anti-aircraft gun for making false reports to the Supreme Leader. South Korea’s National Intelligence Service asserts that Kim Jong-un was apparently enraged by the reports given by the five officials, all of whom worked for the recently disgraced state security chief Kim Won Hong. While the subject of the supposedly false reports is unknown, the timing of the executions and the revelations of North Korea’s involvement in the Kim Jong-nam assassination cannot be dismissed as merely coincidental. Time will tell what further actions the isolationist state takes, or what ramifications its use of VX nerve agent will have in regards to further UN Sanctions.
On the Syrian situation, peace talks between the Syrian government and oppositions groups are currently held in Geneva. The lead negotiator for the opposition, Nasr al-Hariri, stated to reporters that he hopes that President Trump will correct the “catastrophic errors” made by Former President Barack Obama in his handling of the Syrian situation, according to Reuters.
“Obama lied, and he didn’t keep any of the promises he made for the Syrian people. He drew red lines that he erased himself, he kept silent on crimes committed by Bashar al-Assad.”
The red lines in question were the use of chemical weapons and, on Tuesday 28 February, Russia and China vetoed a United Nations resolution drafted by the United States, Britain, and France that would hold the Syrian government accountable for using chemical weapons against its people. It is of note that in 2013 Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention that banned Chlorine as a weapon.
An investigation by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found that the Syrian government had used chlorine gas in three attacks and the Islamic State had used mustard gas in attacks of its own. Reuters reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government denied using chemical weapons and Russia, Syria’s strategic ally, backed them up by questioning the OPCW/UN inquiry. Russia claims that enforcing such sanctions would hinder the success of the Geneva talks. Between the Obama administration and the UN Security Council, it appears that Syria will remain unaccountable for using weapons of mass destruction. With the President Trump’s pledge to strengthen ties with Russia, will the new administration push the issue?
Russia’s recent global activity has also sparked tensions in the Eurozone, prompting Sweden’s government to reconsider its military posture. On 2 March the Sweden moved to reinstate military conscription, according to the BBC. Sweden reestablished its garrison on the Baltic island of Gotland in September of 2016 and, starting in 2018 draft four thousand men and women per year. Draftees will serve from nine to twelve months, in hopes of motivating them to make a career of the military in either active or reserve capacities.
Sweden previously utilized military conscription, but the practice ended in 2010. The Russian annexation of Crimea, the conflict in Ukraine, and increased tension in the area, however, has moved the Nordic nation to relook its defensive posture. Sweden is not a NATO member but works with closely with the alliance. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come in the Eurozone, as nations begin taking more responsibility for their defense. Maybe NATO can learn from its Nordic neighbor.
Don’t miss next week’s roundup of world news on Liberty Nation!