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The Trump Administration endorses fill in in the European theater the deployment of the Aegis system put in place by Obama.

The main defense deployment in Europe is the Ballistic Missile Defense System, a NATO capability that has been completed following the so-called European Phased Adaptive approach (EPAA). Put in place during the Obama Administration, the Trump Administration has just ratified it in its Missile Defense Review. The withdrawal of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Weapons Treaty (INF Treaty), which bound the United States and Russia, puts the missile defense system on the diary of European priorities.

Launch of the ESSM missile from the Spanish frigate Álvaro de Bazán.

▲ Launching of the ESSM missile from the Spanish frigate Álvaro de Bazán [Armada].

article / Martín Biera

In the pre-industrial era, battles were largely fought face to face, but in the technological era the line of defense can be placed at a great distance. Thus, in Europe the main defense deployment is the Ballistic Missile Defense System. This is a NATO capability that integrates the Aegis naval system and the Patriot land-based system, produced by Lockeed Martin and Raytheon, respectively, which can be used in the same scenario.

Its deployment in Europe was proposed by the Obama Administration in 2009 in what is known as approach European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). This program aims to progressively develop anti-ballistic capabilities that will assist in the defense of NATO allies in the European theater.

The Missile Defense Review document, released by the Pentagon in January, reiterates the U.S. commitment to the planned program. "The United States is committed to fill in the deployment of the EPAA," the text states.

If in other respects, the Trump Administration has shown signs of a certain withdrawal of its military deployment in the world, on this point it maintains its technological and operational contribution so that NATO can sustain in the European theater its missile defense architecture. "The United States will strengthen regional missile defense capabilities and cooperative relations with its allies and partners," the document adds. It calls, however, as it has already done in relation to overall contributions to NATO by its member states, for "additional allied investment in missile defense, including development and joint production, to better share the common defense burden."

Phased implementation

The EPAA is planned in four phases, from agreement with the Polish Foreign Ministry and the administration of former President Obama in the strategy of implementing advanced anti-ballistic missile systems in Europe.

The first phase, implemented in 2011, included the deployment in the Mediterranean Sea of ships equipped with the Aegis Anti-Ballistic Missile System (SAMB) and SM-3 IA missile launchers capable of intercepting short and medium range missiles (up to 3,000 kilometers). The frigate Álvaro de Bazán is equipped with the Aegis combat system (the Spanish Navy is the only one in Europe, besides the Norwegian Navy, integrated in this system). It also included the installation of a radar device located in Turkey, the AN/TPY-2, which operates in the X-band (microwave section of the electromagnetic spectrum, used by communication satellites).

The second phase was implemented in 2015. It additionally covers the deployment in Romania of a surface-to-air missile launch system subject IB-SM-3 capable of countering short- and medium-range missiles of more than 500 kilometers effective range, and the deployment of the four ships with the Aegis AMB capability. AN/TPY-2 radar capabilities were enhanced with an additional network of sensors.

The third phase, in 2018, consisted of the deployment in Poland of a ground-based subject II-SMA missile launcher capable of combating intermediate-range missiles (IRBM up to 5,500 km). The launchers are located at the Redzikowo base.

The last phase will take place in 2020 and will allow U.S. allies to improve anti-missile systems against medium- and long-range missiles and ICMBs, culminating in the implementation of SM-3 Block IIB systems that will also include a command and control system.

Thus, the SAMB Aegis system includes the capabilities deployed on the two permanent instructions (in Poland and Romania) and on board four Aegis BMD ships (in the Mediterranean Sea, based in Rota), as well as a radar operating in the X-band and a network of sensors, which makes it possible to defend the European continent against short, medium and long-range missiles.


First, infrared and communication satellites provide early warning. When a ballistic missile is launched, it is detected by the infrared satellite; the information it picks up is sent to a communications satellite, which notifies a NATO headquarters, where it is analyzed. In the case of Europe, this information is sent to the Ramstein base in Germany, where it is confirmed whether the projectile is a threat. It is then communicated to all appropriate forces, both commanders and defense systems.

When the engine finishes burning the fuel on the missile's upward trajectory, the infrared satellite can no longer detect it, so long-range sensors, such as the AN/TPY-2 system or the Smart-L Radar naval system located in Holland, are used. These sensors detect and continue analyzing the missile so that it can be intercepted. The process also integrates the Aegis system, which consists of AN/SPY-1 radars capable of tracking more than 100 objects. Together, these systems perform a more detailed analysis of the tracking and possible consequences of a ballistic missile.

All systems, on land, at sea and in the air, have the ability to share and update instantly share information. The core topic of this system is the ability to destroy the missile outside the atmosphere, largely thanks to the Aegis system, although systems such as THAAD can also provide additional capabilities. The Aegis system provides cover for missiles that have passed through the atmosphere; in the event that a missile re-enters the atmosphere, the Patriot system, which is used by France, Germany, Spain and other countries, comes into operation.

Patriot System

Following Poland's decision to allocate a higher percentage of GDP to defense, the country is expected to increase its military capacity. On March 28, Poland signed a $4.75 billion agreement with the United States for the purchase of the Patriot missile system. Its manufacturer, Raytheon, undertook to build in Poland parts core topic of the system, creating "new high-tech jobs", as required by Polish law.

Poland will join fifteen other countries in Europe, the Pacific and the Middle East that share and operate with this system This agreement comes after Poland signed a ten-year agreement with Raytheon to facilitate the introduction of Patriot missiles among the country's defensive capabilities. In mid-2018 Warsaw ran into some complications in acquiring the Patriots, as the civil service examination put up roadblocks to the approval of the purchase. Finally, the Polish government and Raytheon signed the project at the agreed value of €4.75 billion.

In November 2017 Romania and Sweden also showed interest in purchasing Patriots. In the case of the Middle East, the countries that mainly use this system are Israel and Qatar, although the Pentagon has expressed its desire to withdraw its batteries from the region.


outline Ballistic Missile Defense System

outline of the Ballistic Missile Defense System [Ministry of Defense of Japan].


Russian alternative

The Polish purchase of Patriot missiles was criticized by Russia. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova condemned the "progressive militarization" of that country. Moscow sees such "militarization" moves as an element of destabilization of the military and political apparatus in Europe and a threat to Russia.

The Kremlin criticized the deployment of the Patriot missile system batteries as a violation of the arms control treaty signed in 1987 between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan. This Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty) is about to be abandoned by the United States on the grounds that Russia has been violating it with some of its missile developments.

In response to degree program for advances in surface-to-air missile technology, the Russian arms industry developed the S-400 Triumf, which NATO designates as the SA-21 Growler. The S-400 system is a mobile defense system, which offers greater versatility and firepower. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and India have shown interest in purchasing this system despite US sanctions. The fact that major users and customers of U.S. weapons are interested in competing companies poses a problem for the U.S. military industry. The S-400 is capable of reaching a flight ceiling of 185 kilometers and an effective range distance of 120, 250 and 400 kilometers depending on the missile employee. By 2020 the Russian Army will have a new generation missile system, the S-500, a more advanced and more powerful version than the current ones.


"Invincibility is in oneself, vulnerability is in the adversary.
Invincibility is a matter of defense, vulnerability is a matter of attack. As long as you have not observed vulnerabilities in the order of battle of the adversaries, hide your own attack training , and prepare to be invincible, in order to preserve yourself. When adversaries have vulnerable orders of battle, it is time to go out and attack them." The Art of War, Sun Tzu.

Both NATO and Russian systems clearly have a deterrent facet. Every military operation has a relevant diplomatic, political and interest role. After the Russian annexation of Crimea and the Vostok 2018 and Trident Juncture maneuvers, missile defense systems appear to be the future of European and international security. In recent years, in a context of militarization of space by the world's military powers, a update of missile systems is underway that not only makes it possible to reach farther but also to be more precise. From agreement with the defense strategy of both the European and the Atlantic organization has led its partners to have better capabilities than their competitors to ensure the security of States. Consequently, a progressive but effective modernization of anti-missile systems.

In recent years, in the face of Russia's and China's advancement and modernization of weapons, the United States has seen the need to develop space-based systems capable of shooting down missiles, with some resemblance to the cancelled Pebbles Program. The Pebbles program sought to put into orbit autonomous systems capable of intercepting any missile launched by U.S. competitors. These systems would provide the U.S. and its allies with a capability to counter almost any subject projectile, giving them an unprecedented advantage. The employment of anti-missile systems strengthens the bond between the United States and its allies, thus enabling more effective defense and cooperation as a necessary relationship.

On the other hand, there are analysts who can see this escalation in the purchase and use of AMB systems as a new cold war, at least on a smaller scale, mainly because it is taking place in Europe and in new facets such as the economic one, manifested through the influence that arms companies exert over national governments.

Categories Global Affairs: Central Europe and Russia Security and defense Articles

One of the poorest countries in the Americas may become the world's largest oil producer per capita, disrupting its relationship with its neighbours.

Promising oil discoveries in Guyana's waters augur greater regional relevance for this small and poor South American country. Territorial disputes between Venezuela and its neighbour, over the Essequivo territory that Caracas has historically claimed (more than half of Guyana's surface area), may be exacerbated by the opening of wells in deep waters that Guyana administers but over which Venezuela is seeking fair international arbitration.

Image created by ExxonMobil of its exploration in Guyanese waters

Image created by ExxonMobil about its exploration in Guyana's waters.

article / Ignacio Urbasos Arbeloa

ExxonMobil has discovered oil deposits 193 km off the coast of Guyana that could completely change the course of Economics and its international influence. After several decades of failed attempts to search for hydrocarbons in its subsoil and an exhaustive search since 1999, in 2015 the Liza field responded positively to seismic analysis, subsequently showing abundant oil reserves at a depth of 1,900 metres. At the moment, estimates speak of 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable oil to be found in the Guiana Basin, which extends to Suriname, another country with a promising oil future. Companies such as Total, Repsol and Anadarko have already obtained exploration rights in the different blocks offered so far by the Guyanese government, but it is the Stabroek Block, exploited by Exxon (45%), Hess (30%) and China's CNOOC (25%), which will be the first to start producing in 2020.

Expected to reach 700,000 barrels per day by 2025, this is the largest deepwater global deepwater finding of the decade and one of the most valuable additions to conventional oil production. The crude is Pass for middle distillates, precisely what Gulf of Mexico refineries are looking for in a market saturated by light crude from fracking. If agreement is to optimistic estimates, by 2025 this impoverished country of about 700,000 people would surpass OPEC member Ecuador in oil production, making it the world's largest producer of barrels per capita (ahead of current leader Kuwait, which produces 3.15 million barrels per day and has a population of 4.1 million). Production costs per barrel are estimated at $26 per barrel considering taxes, so profits are expected to be plentiful in virtually any future scenario (WTI is currently around $50 per barrel), making Guyana one of the biggest attractions in the oil industry at the moment. fees Prospecting led by Exxon, a company that already dominates exploitation in the so-called deepwaters, had a success rate of close to 80% in 2018, which has generated enormous expectation in a sector accustomed to fees of 25%.

The positive impact that this finding will have for Guyana's Economics is evident, although it is not Exempt challenging, given the high levels of corruption or a bureaucracy and class political inexperienced for negotiations at this level. The IMF, which is advising Guyana, has already recommended freezing further negotiations until the tax system is reformed and the country's bureaucratic capacity is improved. The IMF has estimated Guyana's GDP growth at 28% by 2020, a historic figure for a country whose exports are based on rice, sugar cane and gold, Economics . The government is already designing an institutional framework to manage oil revenues and cushion their impact on other sectors. Among the proposals is the creation of a sovereign wealth fund similar to those of Norway, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, which could be set up this year with partnership of experts from the Commonwealth, to which the country belongs.

Historic dispute with Venezuela

These new discoveries, however, increase tension with Venezuela, which maintains a territorial dispute over 70 per cent of Guyanese territory, the Guayana Esequiba belonging to the Captaincy General of Venezuela during the Spanish Empire. The disputed territory was subsequently de facto colonised by the British Empire when the British took control over the Dutch territories of Guyana in 1814. In 1899 an international tribunal ruled unanimously in favour of the UK against Venezuelan claims. Subsequent revelations, however, demonstrated serious elements of corruption in the judicial process, rendering the award "null and void" (non-existent) in 1962. In 1966, the United Kingdom, as representative of British Guyana, and Venezuela signed the Genevaagreement , which established a commitment to reach a settlement agreement: the 1970 Port of Spain protocol , which froze negotiations for 12 years. After the end of this period, Venezuela demanded that Guyana return to direct negotiations, and in accordance with the United Nations Charter, the diplomatic formula of good offices has been agreed upon and remains in force to this day, but no significant progress has been made. Since Guyana's independence in 1966, Venezuela has promoted an indigenous separatist movement in the region, Rupununi, which was harshly repressed by Georgetown, setting a precedent of military tension on the border.

Although a formal agreement has never been reached on the territorial dispute, the arrival of the socialist People's Progressive Party (PPP) to government in Guyana in 1992 and the electoral victory of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela in 1999 ideologically aligned the two countries, which allowed them to reach Degrees unprecedented cooperation during the first decade of the 21st century. In the framework of this golden era, Guyana participated between 2007 and 2015 in the Venezuelan Petrocaribe initiative, receiving some 25,000 barrels per day of oil and derivatives, which constituted 50% of its consumption, in exchange for rice valued at market prices. committee On the other hand, Guyana supported Venezuela's candidacy to the United Nations Security Council in 2006 in exchange for Caracas' express promise not to use the privileged position it temporarily acquired in the territorial dispute. An important precedent was Hugo Chávez's statement in 2004 that he did not object to Guyana "unilaterally granting concessions and contracts to multinational companies, as long as this favours the development of the region". Despite the existence of unfriendly acts between the two states during this period, the vital importance that Venezuela's anti-imperialist foreign policy gave to the Caribbean during Chávez's term of office forced him to treat topic with the utmost restraint in order to avoid a disagreement with CARICOM and to maintain Guyana's support in the OAS.


Map of Guyana's oil blocks (in yellow), showing the delimitation of territorial waters and Venezuela's claims.

Map of Guyana's oil blocks (in yellow), showing the delimitation of territorial waters and Venezuela's claims.


New tensions

As a result of the oil discoveries, the historic territorial dispute with Venezuela is back on the agenda. A change of government in Georgetown has also contributed to this. The 2015 elections brought the A Partnership for National Unity, led by former military officer David Granger, to power in Guyana. It is a multi-ethnic coalition that could be described as centre-right and less ideologically sympathetic to neighbouring Venezuela than the previous president, PPP's Bharrat Jagdeo. Tensions escalated at the end of 2018, following the seizure on 23 December by the Bolivarian National Navy of two Guyanese-flagged vessels belonging to ExxonMobil that were prospecting in the area and which, according to Nicolás Maduro's government, had entered Venezuelan waters. agreement . The international response was swift, with the United States urging Venezuela to "respect international law and the sovereignty of its neighbours". One of the most complex issues in the territorial dispute is precisely the projection of each country's waters. The position defended by Venezuela is to draw the maritime limits of agreement to the projection of the Orinoco River delta, as opposed to the Guyanese position, which draws the line in a manner favourable to its territorial interests. Although this was a secondary element in the territorial dispute, the economic potential of these waters places them at the centre of the discussion.

To all this must be added the declaration by group de Lima, of which Guyana is a member, not to recognise the May elections in Venezuela and to threaten to sanction the country economically (although, to date, it has not recognised the opposition candidate Juan Guaidó as interim president). The international ostracism of the Bolivarian Republic has allowed Guyana to obtain important diplomatic support from the aforementioned group de Lima, CARICOM and the United States in relation to its international dispute and the detention of the Exxon ships.

result The future of relations between Venezuela and Guyana depends to some extent on the outcome of the March elections in Guyana, which will pit the hitherto president, David Granger, recently ousted from power by a motion of no confidence, against the leader of the PPP, Bharrat Jagdeo, whose party has maintained the best relations with Chavista Venezuela. The no-confidence motion is a historic milestone for the South American country, which will have to prove its social cohesion and political stability amid geopolitical tensions and an international investment community that is watching the events closely development .



Increased revenues for defence

Georgetown, for the moment, limits itself to diplomatic action to defend its territorial sovereignty, but Guyanese Defence Force documents prior to the oil discoveries already identified the need to develop military capabilities should such resources be found in the country. According to Exxon's estimates, agreement , Guyana would be earning $16 billion annually from 2020, which would increase the military expense , currently at around 1% of GDP. In August 2018, the Army of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana carried out the largest military exercises in its history, mobilising 1,500 troops out of an estimated 7,000-strong army. Information available about the material resources of the navy and aviation show the need for a quantitative and qualitative improvement. Overcoming the ethnic divisions between the Indian and African-origin population should be one of the priorities of the armed forces, which suffer from a clear under-representation of the original Indian community, a source of historical suspicion in civil society.

At final, the Caribbean region of South America will be marked in the coming years by Guyana's economic potential and its struggle for territorial survival in the face of Venezuela's legitimate demands. Achieving a real development of the oil industry will undoubtedly be the best way of safeguarding its future as a sovereign and independent country. Venezuela's political uncertainty, mired in an enormous crisis, generates fears of a possible military escalation as an escape valve for internal economic and political pressure against a rival that lacks the resources to confront it. The ability of Guyana's political class to manage the brutal increase in its economic resources after 2020 is still an unknown, but it is conceivable that the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere will reach great heights on development if it is able to learn from its neighbours and manage a regional context that is favourable to its national interests.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Articles Latin America

Disputed ethnicity, British colonial-era grievances and fear of a 'fifth columnist' minority

The humanitarian crisis suffered in Myanmar by the Muslim minority Rohingyas also raises strategic issues. With the country surrounded by Islamic populations, certain ruling groups, especially Buddhist elements, fear that the Rohingyas, who are declared foreigners despite having been on their territory for generations, will act as fifth columnists. Fear of jihadist contamination is also invoked by a government that has not respected the human rights of this minority.

Rohingya refugees

▲ Rohingya refugees [Tasnim News Agency/CC].

article / Alexia Cosmello Guisande

In August 2017, what was known as "the great exodus of the Rohingyas" took place in Myanmar; a year later, in 2018, the humanitarian catastrophe taking place in that country reappeared on the front pages of international newspapers. The international community, automatically, came out in favor of the Rohingya minority group . The media talked about the problem, and continue to do so, using populist language, trying to seek the emotion of the public.

The Rohingya story is little known to the public, who are generally unaware of the origin of the conflict and the Burmese government's motives. Currently, the Rohingyas are considered by the UN as "one of the most persecuted minorities in the world". In order to understand the core of the current problem, it is of great importance to make a brief analysis of the history of Myanmar, of the Rohingyas and of the relations between this minority and the country that hosts them.


The current state of Myanmar is a real mosaic of ethnicities, languages, religions and insurgent movements. There are 135 different ethnic groups recognized, but approximately 90% of the population is of Buddhist religion, so that the remaining denominations are considered as minorities in the country [1]. Specifically, the Rohingyas are of Muslim religion and more than half of the community is concentrated in the Rakhine or Arakan region, one of the poorest in the country. Here the population is roughly divided between: 59.7% Buddhists, 35.6% Muslims and the remaining 4.7% other religions.

The Muslims of Rakhine are divided into two groups, on the one hand, the Kaman, who despite being of another confession, share customs with the Buddhist population and are recognized and guaranteed citizenship in Myanmar by the Government. On the other hand, the Rohingyas, who are a mixture of different ethnic groups such as Arabs, Mughals and Bengalis. This second group, group , has no recognized nationality or citizenship in the State, since, despite the fact that its members have been in the country for generations, they are still considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

It was between 1974, when the Emergency Immigration Law was issued, and 1982, when the Citizenship Law was passed during the dictatorial period of General Ne Win, that the Rohingyas were declared by law illegal immigrants without the right to citizenship in Myanmar. This law, together with the Government's refusal to separate them into identities, is one of the reasons why the conflict between the authorities and the Rohingyas began. To the conflict must be added the involvement of the military, which tends to instigate confrontation in the region between different ethnic groups.

Because they are stateless, which is in itself a violation of human rights, they lack recognition of other basic rights such as access to work, Education or health care, as well as freedom of movement within their own country. The conflict with this minority community goes beyond religion, as it also affects the political-economic aspects of group. They are being culturally discriminated against, economically exploited and politically marginalized.


Rakhine region on the coast of Myanmar, adjacent to Bangladesh.

Rakhine region on the coast of Myanmar, adjacent to Bangladesh.

To understand the Myanmar government's arguments for denying them citizenship, one must understand the history of the community. In itself, their origin is unclear, which makes their status more complex and controversial. They themselves claim to be indigenous people originally from the region they now inhabit, Rakhine. History does not contradict this, but neither does it confirm it; there is historical evidence that they have been living there for generations. On the one hand, a version of their origin, collected by historian Jasmine Chia, dates the first Muslim settlements in Arakan (former name of Rakhine) during the seventh century; these settlers continued to live in the region until the ninth century, but it was not until the fifteenth century when they settled definitively and formed a community. Versions of local historians contradict the previous version and date the first Rohingya settlements in the nineteenth century when the place was under the colonization of the British Empire, along with India and Bangladesh, so they argue that they were actually settled in Chittagong and with the transit of people and internal exodus migrated to Rakhine. Finally, French historian Jacques P. Leider states that the first time the term "Rohingya" was used was by a British doctor in the 18th century, so even though they were not yet settled in the area at that time, the ethnic group already existed.

The Second World War is considered to be the origin of the current problem. Japan wanted to invade Burma, so the British Empire decided to arm the Rohingyas to fight against the Japanese. But the group used the weapons given by the authorities, as well as the techniques learned, to defend the country against them. They burned lands and temples of other ethnic groups, mainly Buddhists. In 1944 they pushed the Japanese back, for which the British, who were still in control of the area, praised them [2].

In 1948 Burma gained independence from the British Empire, which gave several minorities representing 40% of today's Myanmar the opportunity to arm themselves and rebel against the new political system. Even today parts of the country are still controlled by these groups. Prior to independence, the country's Muslims formed the Muslim Liberation Organization (MLO), which after 1948 was renamed the Mujahid Party. This group is on the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) list of terrorist groups. The Government allowed the removal from the country's terrorist list of those groups that had signed a ceasefire with the State. This implies that the Government allows their free development and investment in these areas in need after years of isolation. In other words, these groups can now move freely around the country and participate in politics. This is not the case of the Rohingyas, who are still considered a group of foreigners and a vehicle for the expansion of jihad, from agreement with the point of view of the Myanmar Government and the Buddhists. In the recent period, the Islamic State has been expanding the Islamic religion narrative internationally, for this reason Buddhist monks (Ashin Wirathu) have called Islam a religion that directly threatens the Myanmar state and warn that it is through the Muslim minority that such violent ideas can more easily permeate the country due to the contact of elements of that minority with international terrorist groups.

The Burmese government justifies its actions against the Rohingyas on the grounds that the conflict between the two religions since the period of British colonization may lead to further conflicts. On the other hand, there is fear on the part of the Government, Buddhists and other minorities towards the Rohingyas because of their organizations such as the Arakan Rohingha National Organization or the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, which have an almost direct connection with leaders and/or members of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda or the Taliban.

Buddhists view with concern the rapid population growth of Muslims, which will possibly lead in the not too distant future to Muslims being in a position to outnumber the Buddhist community at issue , thus ceasing to be a minority. Linked to this fear is the fact that the country is surrounded by nations of Muslim religion, and according to Buddhists, if there were an unexpected invasion of Myanmar by some of these countries, the Rohingyas would fight in favor of the invaders, as they do not feel part of the country [3].


While this fear on the part of Buddhists and the government itself is understandable, the human rights violations, some of which have led to real humanitarian crises, are not justifiable. In fact, behind the anti-Rohingya attitude, beyond the arguments officially invoked before the international community, there seems to be a historical resentment towards this minority for the burning of temples and land during the colonial era and a fear of open confrontation.

Clearly, a country's history marks its present and its future, and those events of decades ago explain part of what is happening in Myanmar today. While past grievances cannot be forgotten, dragging the desire for revenge from generation to generation is the best recipe for failure as a society or even tragedy. The abused Rohingya children are growing up hating the country in which they reside, which is counterproductive to the government's objectives and feeds back into the fear of one to the reaction of the other.


[1] FARZANA, Kazi Fahmida. Memories of Burmese Rohingya Refugees: Contested Identity and Belonging. "Introduction" (p. 1-40).

[2] ROGERS, Benedict. Burma: A Nation at the Crossroads. Rider Books, 2015

[3] FARZANA, K. F. op. cit. "The Refugee Problem from an Official Account" (p. 59-86).

Categories Global Affairs: Asia World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

Geopolitical misgivings about perceived foreign interests should not distract beneficiary countries from implementing sustainable use.

The Guaraní Aquifer has given rise to more political than scientific literature in South America, denouncing the supposed interest of great powers (formerly the United States, now China) in taking away the water that naturally belongs to the countries of the region. These crusades often distract from a more indisputable fact: the risk comes not so much from outside as from uncontrolled practices and the lack of clear legislation in the aquifer countries themselves. This article reviews the results of some recent programs of study on the characteristics and state of the Guaraní Aquifer.

▲ source: UC Irvine/NASA/JPL-Caltech

article / Albert Vidal

About one third of the large groundwater aquifers are at a critical status . Current technology does not allow us to predict exactly how much water we have left on the planet, and precisely because of this uncertainty, accelerated groundwater extraction is too great a risk and not worth taking. 

The map above shows the 37 largest aquifers in the world, which have been studied by a NASA satellitemission statement known as the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE). This mission statement has attempted to measure the water levels in the aquifers, in order to check the water stress to which they are subjected, as well as their level of renewal. Of these, there are 21 whose extraction is not sustainable, and they are losing water very rapidly. Among these, there are 13 whose status is particularly critical (darkest red), and threatens regional water security. There are 16 other aquifers that enjoy sufficient recharge to not lose water or even gain water; these are marked in blue.

This NASA research , the results of which are analysed in a study by Water Resources Research, divides aquifer water stress into 4 different types, from highest to lowest intensity: extreme stress, variable stress, human-dominated variable stress and no stress. Let us now look at another map, taken from this study, which shows sample the spatial distribution of groundwater abstraction in the world:


source: Water Resouces Research


The colour of the dots indicates the intensity of abstraction, measured in millimetres per year. Thus, this statistic sample is the sum of withdrawals for industrial, agricultural and domestic use. At first glance, it can be seen that the countries that suffer the most accelerated extraction are India, Pakistan, China, Egypt and the United States. In the case of the Guarani Aquifer, the extraction points are located in Paraguayan territory and near Sao Paulo, with an extraction of between 0 and 5 millimetres per year.

financial aid The research has produced other maps that can be useful for a deeper understanding of the problem. In this case, the following map sample gives an average of the annual recharge of aquifers in the world.


source: Water Resouces Research


The yellow colour represents negative recharge, i.e. systems that are losing water. The blue colour, on the other hand, marks those aquifers that have a positive recharge (the more intense the blue colour, the greater the recharge). The Guaraní aquifer, in particular, has a recharge of 225 millimetres per year.

Finally, we will look at two maps referring to the water stress of aquifers.


source: Water Resouces Research


The countries listed above (a) suffer from extreme water stress, i.e. natural recharge is negative, and there is intense human use. This particularly affects the African continent, the United States, the Middle East and the heart of Asia.

Here we show (b) those aquifers with a variable stress level. This means that they have a positive natural recharge, but at the same time there is human use that could be detrimental. The Guaraní Aquifer falls into the latter category group.

The Guarani Aquifer

Making reference letter to a famous phrase from one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech - "with great power comes great responsibility" - we can say that the countries that enjoy access to the Guarani Aquifer System (GAS) must assume the responsibility that comes with having been endowed with this important natural resource . They know that these riches often bring competition, unrest and even problems such as internal instability and tensions between some large companies and governments.

The SAG is a transboundary aquifer that extends below the surface across 1.2 million km2 between Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. According to the most recent research, it is the third largest groundwater aquifer in the world reservationin terms of surface area, and contains about 45,000 km3. Low recharge capacity is the most common problem in our planet's aquifers, as it is often not enough to cover the amount extracted, thus jeopardising their sustainable use. This system is particularly important because of its very high renewal capacity (between 160 and 250 km3 per year), which takes place thanks to the abundant rainfall that feeds it.

Challenges posed by

Let us begin, then, with a brief historical contextualisation. There have been several moments that will help us understand the current state of interests and challenges surrounding the SAG. In 1969, the La Plata Basin Treaty was signed, to carry out a series of programs of study on the hydrological basin of La Plata (which includes the Guarani Aquifer). Three decades later, in 2001, the agreement framework on the Environment of Mercosur was ratified, which highlighted the importance of the environment and proposed the creation of a legal framework to conserve it. Between 2003 and 2009, the project for the Environmental Protection and Sustainable development of the Guarani Aquifer System(PSAG) was developed thanks to the impulse of the four countries of the Rio de la Plata basin, to prepare a framework of management of the SAG with criteria of environmental sustainability (and to anticipate future problems). Finally, in 2010, the Treaty of San Juan was signed; a much broader treaty of cooperation, but not ratified by all states parties. Also known as agreement of the Guarani Aquifer, it was influenced by many supranational bodies and transnational companies. So where are the problems?


sourceOwn elaboration from various sources programs of study


First of all, Argentina and Uruguay ratified the Guaraní Aquifer agreement in 2012, which provided for a series of restrictions on water extraction in order to manage the aquifer's resources in a more sustainable way. What happened is that neither Brazil nor Paraguay ratified it at the time, and their signatures are necessary for the agreement to enter into force. Surprisingly, Paraguay stepped forward in 2018 and ratified the agreement, showing signs of wanting more cooperation. Brazil depends heavily on the water extracted from the SAG (especially its southern provinces), so it wants to renegotiate the agreement of the Guarani Aquifer, in order to obtain more favourable conditions.

Of course, Brazil is not alone in having problems with the current status . Paraguay, for example, did not ratify the agreement until 2018, alleging a violation of national sovereignty (something totally understandable, if we take into account that Paraguay owns the area aquifer recharge with the largest extension). As an example of all this, Miguel Giraut, from Argentina's Ministry of Mines and Energy, commented in 2016 that coordination was non-existent.

In addition to these regional tensions, there are other subject problems related to interference from outside powers, international organisations and transnational corporations. Again, a reservation such as the SAG is particularly attractive to companies and some countries that need to secure their water supply. However, these dangers are relatively innocuous compared to others that could lead to aquifer contamination or irreversible change in the ecosystem.

If we approach this question with some realism, intentional contamination of the aquifer (by chemical attack, for example) is unlikely to occur, as it would not be in anyone's interest. Certainly, there is a danger of accidental contamination by spillage of toxic substances from agriculture. In Brazil, in particular, there is a lot of agribusiness being developed over the aquifer (especially for soybean cultivation). It so happens that pesticides, residues and agro-toxins can also enter through the same cracks through which the water that recharges the aquifer passes. In addition, the recent introduction of hydraulic fracturing techniques (known as fracking) is another potential source of contamination.

Another possible risk comes from accelerated extraction by transnational companies or governments themselves, which would exceed the level of recharge and produce irreversible changes in the ecosystem. Deforestation brings another risk factor: water infiltration capacity is reduced when trees are felled, and the soil is exposed to erosion and pollutants as it loses nutrients (especially in recharge areas). Population pressure and economic growth add further variables to the uncertain future.

Uncertain but hopeful future

In sum, while these challenges may evolve negatively, there are many reasons to be hopeful. After all, the water in the aquifer is highly prized for its medicinal purposes, its usefulness for the coffee industry and its use in geothermal energy production. That is why the owners of this precious resource are primarily interested in conserving and managing it in a sustainable manner, and they are fully aware that cooperation is crucial to this end.

Moreover, the SAG could increase the geopolitical and geo-economic importance of the region, which until now has been considered a peripheral region on the international stage. It is obvious that water is gaining importance as a natural resource given its scarcity and growing demand. Although the region is unlikely to become a major player, given its geographical location and integration difficulties, it could provide an opportunity for the four Southern Cone countries to take leading positions in areas related to the sustainable extraction and fair distribution of water in the future. To seize this opportunity, it is necessary to adopt exemplary attitudes right now. If this happens, not only will they be seen as exemplary countries, but they will surely attract investment in new and more efficient extraction methods. development All of this will also boost the socio-economic development of the population living above the aquifer, which, if it can be maintained, will mark the future of South America.

Categories Global Affairs: Energy, resources and sustainability Articles Latin America

The risk of military use of the facility, fuelled by confidentiality clauses, fuels discussion in Argentina and suspicion in Washington.

China's arrival on the far side of the moon has put the spotlight on Chinese space developments. For this new degree program, Beijing has a tracking and observation station in Patagonia, the first on its own territory. In Argentina, there has been an extensive discussion about possible unacknowledged purposes of these facilities and alleged secret clauses negotiated at the time by the Kirchner administration. The government of Mauricio Macri guarantees the peaceful uses of the station, but the controversy has not ceased.

Chinese space station in Argentina's Neuquén province

Chinese space station in the Argentinean province of Neuquén [Casa Rosada] ▲ Chinese space station in the Argentinean province of Neuquén [Casa Rosada].

article / Naomi Moreno Cosgrove

After years of gradual economic penetration, which has led it to become the leading commercial partner in several South American countries and a major lender and investor throughout the region, China's incursion into Latin America is no longer silent. The influence it has achieved in various nations - for example, it acquires almost 90% of Ecuador's oil exports and its credits have been essential for the subsistence of Venezuela and certain Brazilian public companies - means that China's activities are attracting special attention and its expansion is becoming increasingly clear.

China's growing power in Latin America is especially noted by the United States, although its own neglect of the region, sometimes presented as a consequence of its pivot towards Asia, has contributed to national governments' attempts to meet its needs by seeking other partners from reference letter.

Already suspicious of China's growing presence in the Americas, any activity in strategic fields such as security arouses particular suspicion in Washington. This has also been the case with moves made by Moscow, such as the siting of a station for the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema or GLONASS) in Managua (Nicaragua). The secrecy surrounding the operation of the facility has caused mistrust among the population itself, raising suspicions as to whether its use is intended solely to provide a higher quality of the Russian navigation system or whether there is the possibility of strategic exploitation by Russian aerospace defence forces.


Suspicions about the so-called Far Space Station, the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) station in Patagonia, in the province of Neuquén, stem from entrance from the fact that it was negotiated at a time of particular disadvantage for Argentina, due to the financial weakness of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's government and its need for urgent credit. When Argentina was out of the international credit markets for having defaulted on nearly 100 billion dollars in bonds, the Asian country was a blessing for the then president.

In 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis, China sent representatives to Latin America to discuss an issue that had little to do with currency fluctuations: Beijing's space interests. This was due to China's desire to have a centre in the other hemisphere of the globe that could support its space activity, such as the expedition to the far side of the moon.

After months of negotiation under great secrecy, the Chinese government and the government of the province of Neuquén signed a agreement in November 2012, giving China the right to use the land - rent-free - for fifty years. The technical agreement was signed by the Chinese state-owned business Launching Security and Control Satellite (CLTC) and the Argentinean National Commission for Space Activities (CONAE).

Enormous in size, the larger of the two circular antennas - it is twelve stories high, weighs 450 tons and has a large diameter - and visible from a great distance due to its location in the middle of a desert plain, the station soon became an ideal target for controversy and suspicion. Fears that, in addition to its declared civilian use, it might also have a military purpose and be used to gather information by intercepting communications in that part of South America, fuelled the controversy.

After becoming Argentine president in 2015, Mauricio Macri entrusted the then foreign minister Susana Malcorra and the Argentine ambassador in Beijing, Diego Guelar, with the task of negotiating that agreement should include the specification that the station would only be used for peaceful purposes, which the Chinese accepted.

In spite of everything, the discussion about the risks and benefits of the Chinese base is still alive in Argentine public opinion. Politicians from civil service examination in Neuquén consider that "it is shameful to renounce sovereignty in your own country", as Congresswoman Betty Kreitman said when provincial legislators heard about project.

Beyond Argentina's borders, White House officials have called project a 'Trojan Horse', reflecting US concerns about the initiative, according to sources quoted by The New York Times. Even apart from any strategic dispute with the United States, some Latin American leaders have doubts and regrets about established ties with China, worrying that previous governments have subjected their countries to excessive dependence on the Asian power.


The main questioning of the Chinese base, then, has to do with its possible military use and the possible existence of secret clauses. The latter have been the main cause of international suspicion, as Macri himself came to validate the existence of these clauses when they became a weapon against the Kirchner government, and promised to reveal them when he became president, something he has not done. However, the Argentine space authorities themselves deny any section secrecy.

Perhaps the misunderstanding can be found in the fact that the contract signed between the Chinese CLTC and the Argentinean CONAE states that "both parties will maintain confidentiality regarding the technology, activities and monitoring, control and acquisition programmes of data". Although confidentiality regarding third parties in relation to technology is a common internship , in this case it contributes to public mistrust.

Given that the CLTC reports to the Chinese People's Army, it is difficult to deny that the data it obtains will come under the domain of the Defence hierarchy and may end up being put to military use, although not necessarily for military purposes. Experts also say that antennas and other equipment used to support space missions, similar to those the Chinese have in Patagonia, are likely to increase China's intelligence-gathering capabilities. "A giant antenna is like a huge hoover. It sucks up signals, information, all subject of things," Dean Cheng, an expert on China's national security policy, was quoted as saying in the NYT.

Categories Global Affairs: Security and defense Articles Latin America Space

Washington warns of increase in violent transnational gangs and estimates MS-13 membership at 10,000 members

The Trump Administration has called attention to an increase in violent transnational gangs in the United States, particularly Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13, which is related to gang members from the Central American Northern Triangle. Although Trump has invoked this issue in a demagogic manner, criminalizing immigration and forgetting that the Central American maras were born in Los Angeles, the FBI finds that these organizations are recruiting more youth than ever before and demanding greater violence from their members. U.S. authorities estimate that these gangs are governed to some extent from El Salvador, but the hierarchy is not so clear.

Mara Salvatrucha graffiti

▲ Mara Salvatrucha graffiti [Wikimedia Commons].

article / Lisa Cubías[English version] [Englishversion].

Never before has the word "animal" probably caused so much controversy in the United States as when President Donald Trump pronounced it in allusion to members of the Marasalvatrucha or MS 13, on May 16. Initially it seemed that he was referring to all undocumented immigrants, which provoked widespread rejection; he then specified that label had meant to apply to gang members who arrive illegally in the United States to commit acts of violence. Trump placed his war on gangs in the framework of his immigration policy of zero tolerance and reinforcement of national agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in order to reduce migration flows from Latin America to the United States.

The description of the Latino youth gang phenomenon as an immigration problem had already come up in Trump's January 28 State of the Union speech . Before the U.S. congress , Trump told the story of two teenagers, Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, who had been brutally murdered by six MS-13 members as they were returning home. He asserted that criminals had taken advantage of loopholes in immigration law to live in the United States and reiterated that the congress should act to close them and prevent gang members from being able to use them to enter the country.

Despite Trump's demagogic oversimplification, the truth is that Latino gangs are a product of the United States. They are, as The Washington Post has put it, "as American-made as Google." They were born in Los Angeles, first from children of Mexican immigration and then fueled by the arrival of migrants and refugees fleeing armed conflicts in Central America. Thus, El Salvador saw the emergence of a twelve-year civil war between the government and leftist guerrillas during the 1980s. The length and brutality of the conflict, coupled with the political and economic instability the country was experiencing, fueled the exodus of Salvadorans to the United States. The influx of young people from El Salvador, and also from Honduras and Guatemala, led to the emergence of the Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 maras, both related to the pre-existing Mexican Mafia (La M).

When peace came to Central America in the 1990s, many of these young people returned to their countries, following their families or expelled by U.S. authorities because of their criminal activities. Thus, the maras began to operate in the Northern Triangle, where they constitute a serious social problem.


According to the department of Justice, there are some 33,000 violent street gangs in the United States, with a total of 1.4 million members. MS-13, with around 10,000 enlisted youths, accounts for only 1% of that total and in 2017 only 17 of its members were prosecuted, yet it deserves the full attention of the White House. Regardless of possible political interests of the Trump Administration, the truth is that US authorities have been highlighting its increase and its dangerousness, in addition to warning that certain orders are issued from El Salvador. This transnationality is viewed with concern.

The United States does not recognize MS-13 as a terrorist organization, and therefore has not included it in its National Counterterrorism Strategy released in October 2018. It is instead categorized as a transnational criminal organization, as described in an April 2017 Justice department document. According to this document, several of the gang leaders are imprisoned in El Salvador and are sending representatives to cross illegally into the United States in order to unify the gangs operating in U.S. territory, while forcing the MS-13 organization in the United States to send their illegal earnings to the leaders of group in El Salvador and to exert more control and violence over their territories.

The FBI assures that MS-13 and Barrio 18 "continue to expand their influence in the United States". These transnational gangs "are present in nearly every state and continue to grow in membership issue , targeting younger recruits than ever before." As grade of the aforementioned department Justice indicates, the Attorney General warned that "in the last five years alone" the issue of gang members "has risen significantly." "Transnational criminal organizations like MS-13 present one of the most serious threats to the security of the United States," he said.

Stephen Richardson, director attachment of the FBI's research criminal division, told congress in January 2018 that the mass arrests and incarceration of MS-13 members and mid-level leaders over the past year in the United States have caused frustration for MS-13 leaders in El Salvador. "They are very interested in sending younger, more violent criminals through their channels into this country to be gang thugs," he told the House Homeland Security committee .

The transnational character of the MS-13 is questioned by expert Roberto Valencia, author of articles and books on the maras. He works as a journalist for El Faro, one of El Salvador's leading digital media outlets; his latest book, graduate Carta desde Zacatraz, was published a few months ago.

"At first, the Los Angeles gangs served as moral guides over those who migrated to El Salvador during the 1990s. Some of the veteran leaders now living in El Salvador grew up in Los Angeles and have maintained personal and emotional ties to the Structures of the gangs to which they belonged," Valencia tells Global Affairs. "However," he adds, "that does not imply an international connection: everyone, no matter where they live, believes they are the essence of the gang and are not subordinate to the organization in another country." "Some leaders in El Salvador share a very staff relationship with the organization they got their start in the United States, and that is not so easily dissolved, but the link as a single organization was broken long ago," he says.

Valencia firmly rejects any interference by the US MS-13 in El Salvador's MS-13. He admits, however, that there may be some subject influence the other way around, as Salvadoran gang members in the United States "may be deported to El Salvador and end up in Salvadoran jails, where they may be punished by prison mafias."

Migrants: cause or consequence?

Roberto Valencia also speaks out about Donald Trump's references to gangs: "Trump talks about MS-13 to win votes under the premise of an immigration policy that ends up criminalizing all immigrants. It is outrageous that Trump presents them as the cause, when gangs started in the United States. In fact, the vast majority of migrants from the Northern Triangle come to the United States escaping gangs."

In Central America, the control that gangs exert over a society that is poor ranges from demanding "rent" (extortion) from companies and people who own small businesses to forcing older women to take care of babies that gang members have had, and "asking" young girls to become girlfriends of the gang's main leader if they do not want to be killed themselves and their families. The application of young girls is an extremely common cause of migration, which is also indicative of the misogynistic culture in rural areas of Latin American countries.

In most of his comments, Trump has described MS-13 as a threat to public safety and the stability of American communities. However, the Center for Immigration programs of study , a leading independent, non-profit research organization, conducted a research on the impact of MS-13 in the United States and addressed immigration measures the Administration should take to control its presence. It found that MS-13 and other gangs are indeed a threat to public safety, thus sharing Trump's view, but disagreed with Trump by not linking immigration to the impact of gangs.

U.S. attorney Greg Hunter, who has been a member of the Criminal Justice Act panel in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia since 2001 and has worked on gang-related matters, says that shoplifting and illegal immigration cases are far more frequent than those that can be categorized as threats to public safety or the "American community," such as drug trafficking and murders. He also alludes to the fact that these organizations are not centralized and, although they operate under the same identity, they do not follow the same orders. He asserts that the gangs have made efforts to centralize operations, but have result ineffective.

It is crucial to take into account the statistics on the influx of migrants when assessing the recent migrant caravans from the Northern Triangle that Trump has sought to link to gangs. The US president said these migrants were "stone-cold criminals."

However, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection record does not suggest this. In its 2017 Securityreport it counts a total of 526,901 illegal immigrants who were denied entrance, of which 310,531 were detained and 31,039 arrested; of the latter only 228 belonged to MS-13 and as many were members of other maras (61 of them from Barrio-18).

Categories Global Affairs: North America Security and defence Articles Latin America

skill of the two powers to have instructions in the Indian Ocean and to be active in strategic neighboring countries.

Rumors of possible future Chinese military use of area in Gwadar (Pakistan), where Beijing already operates a port, have added a great deal of attention in the last year to the rivalry between China and India to secure access to points in the region that will allow them to control the Indian Ocean. India regards this ocean as its own, while for China it is vital to ensure the security of its energy supplies from the Middle East.

Chinese work to transform Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands into an island in 2015.

▲ China's work to transform Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands into an island in 2015 [US Navy].

article / Jimena Puga

The two major Asia-Pacific powers, China and India, are vying for regional supremacy in the Indian Ocean by establishing military instructions and economic agreements with bordering countries such as Pakistan. The Indian Ocean, which borders Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australia, is home to one of the most crucial and strategic points for international trade. Nearly 40% of the oil extracted from the sea is produced in the Indian Ocean, which also has rich mineral and fishing deposits.

Five years ago China began its major territorial reclamation in the South China Sea, and the country has established a territorial status quo in its favor without receiving any international impediments, in order to counter the US military presence in the region, established during the Cold War, and which controls the South China Sea and all goods coming from Africa, the Middle East and the Strait of Malacca. This territorial expansion of the Middle Empire began in December 2013; since then China has built more than average dozen more artificial islands, located in a strategic location through which a third of global maritime trade passes, and has deployed military assets on them.

However, the creation of these islands has caused great damage to the region's marine ecosystem. The coral reefs that China has destroyed in order to use them as a base for the establishment of its islands provided food and shelter for numerous marine species, as well as supplies for Asia's most important fishing companies. However, thanks to this territorial expansion China is in a better position not only for maritime and air control of the area but also to continue to advance its strategy of power projection in the Indian Ocean and part of the Pacific to satisfy its plans for power and supremacy in the region.


In early 2018, some reports suggested that China plans to set up a naval base next to the port it is developing in Gwadar, in Pakistan, although Pakistani authorities deny that Beijing has requested that the facilities be put to that use. In any case, the docking of military vessels at area in Gwadar would connect that point with the country's recent military and naval base built in Djibouti - the first China has abroad - as part of a growing network own of instructions air and naval along the Indian Ocean.

India, the greatest power among regional countries, is responding to Chinese expansion with unexpected strength. Delhi aspires to control the most strategic maritime trade points in the Indian Ocean including the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz and the Mozambique Channel. In addition, India is gaining access to the instructions of its foreign allies in the region. In 2017 it signed a logisticsagreement with the US that would mean free access to US military installations across the region (agreement which perhaps has something to do with the US desire to create an alternative to the Silk Belt and Road Initiative and curb the rapid growth of the Asian superpower).

In January 2018, India also announced the agreement logistical exchange with France involving free access to French military facilities in Djibouti, namely in the Red Sea and on the island of meeting, south of the Indian Ocean (perhaps to counter Sino-European agreements). Finally, India is also building strategic relations and infrastructure near the Persian Gulf. And after years of negotiations, Delhi has managed to formalize a agreement with Iran to modernize and expand the port of Chabahar, near the Strait of Hormuz. While it is true that the vast majority of agreements are commercial in nature, they have enough potential to increase India's access and influence in Central Asia.

In response to Beijing's military base in Djibouti, New Delhi has begun seeking access to new facilities in Seychelles, Oman and Singapore. From Tanzania to Sri Lanka the two Asian powers are attempting to increase their military and economic presence in countries along the Indian Ocean in their mission statement for regional supremacy. Finally, it is possible that India's 2017 request for drones from the US was aimed at goal monitoring Chinese activity in the ocean.

"My Chinese colleagues have explicitly told me that if the U.S. continues to fly over and navigate in what they self-described as 'their waters,' China will shoot down the corresponding intruder," said Matthew Kroenig, a CIA and Pentagon analyst. "Maybe it's just a bluff, but if China were to shoot down an American plane, it would be the perfect scenario for a U.S. military buildup. It's hard to see President Trump or any other American leader turn his back on this issue."


PEARL NECKLACE OF CHINA. 1-Hong Kong; 2-Hainan; 3-Paracel Islands (disputed); 4-Spratly Islands (disputed), 5- Sihanoukville and Raum (Cambodia), ports; 6-Itsmo de Kra (Thailand), infrastructure; 7-Cocos Islands (Myanmar), antennas; 8-Sittwe (Myanmar), port; 9-Chittagong (Bangladesh), port; 10-Hambantota (Sri Lanka), port; 11-Marao (Maldives), offshore exploration; 12-Gwadar (Pakistan), port; 13-Port Sudan; 14-Al Ahdab (Iraq), oil exploitation; 15-Lamu (Kenya), port. Chart from 2012; missing to note China's first overseas military base, in Djibouti, inaugurated in 2017 [Edgar Fabiano].



The moves by both powers stem from the fear that the other countries will join in coalition with their opponent in the future, but they also do not want to completely abandon the expansion of economic relations with each other by altering the regional order too drastically.

This power of the weak has limitations, but it has so far worked to the benefit of both India and China. Due to globalization, particularly in the economic sphere, weaker states have adopted asymmetric strategies to extract resources from their neighboring superpowers that aspire to be leaders on the international stage. Often, these border countries had to choose a superpower to obtain resources, as was the case during the Cold War. The difference in this era of globalization is that these states can extract concessions and resources from both Beijing and Delhi without formally aligning themselves with one of them, as is the case, for example, with Vietnam. The absence of a bloc rivalry, as was the case during the Cold War, and the high levels of economic interdependence between India and China make it easier for many of the smaller states to avoid signing an alliance with one of these leaders.

India's subtle strategy involves developing entente with Japan and the member countries of the association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as with the United States. Specifically, the quadrilateral negotiations initiated between India, Japan, the US and Australia are another stabilizing mechanism vis-à-vis China.

However, the strategies of the smaller states in South Asia have limitations. Although China is offering greater economic attendance , these countries, except Pakistan, are unlikely to form military alliances with China because if they do, it would provoke a negative response from India, the dominant power in the region, and the United States, the international superpower that still has a strong naval presence in the Indian Ocean. We are witnessing a new dynamic of diplomatic relations in the Asia-Pacific region.

This new trend of rapprochement with smaller countries translates into an inclination to use economic appeal to persuade neighbors rather than military coercion. How long this trend will continue remains to be seen. India's new strategies with other international powers may be the key to complicating the freedom of action and decision that China is having in the military realm, especially in this time of peace. What is clear is that China's aspiration for supremacy is visible by all countries that are part of the Asia-Pacific region and will not be as easy to establish as the Empire at the Center thought.

Categories Global Affairs: Asia Security and defense World order, diplomacy and governance Articles

The US will pull out of the treaty if Russia doesn't 'return to full compliance'. Putin has taken the dispute to the UN

With all the conflicts and issues threatening worldwide security, the last thing the world needs is a new arms race, or what many are calling a new Cold War. European countries in particular are worried that US President Donald Trump pulling out of the INF Treaty might lead to exactly that. United States, supported by NATO, accuses Moscow of cheating on the missile treaty. At the beginning of December, the Trump administration gave 60 days to Russia to "return to full and veritable compliance". President Vladimir Putin has taken the issue to the United Nations.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan at the signing of the INF Treaty, in 1987

▲ Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan at the signing of the INF Treaty, in 1987 [Reagan Presidential Library] [Reagan Presidential Library].

ARTICLE / Nicole Davalos

To understand what the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty is about and why the possible US withdrawal concerns most of the international community, we have first to understand why it was created and what its purpose is. The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 following the deployment by the Soviet Union of missile SS-20 in Europe, which was retaliated by American cruise missiles and their Pershing II missiles. The issue with intermediate-range missiles back then was that their flying time was as little as 10 minutes, which was seen as a possible trigger to nuclear war. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan signed the deal, prohibiting land-based cruise or ballistic missiles with ranges between 311 and 620 miles (500-1,000 kilometers, short-range) and between 620 and 3,420 miles (1,000-5,500 kilometers, intermediate-range).

It is important to note, however, that the treaty does not cover air or sea-launched weapons even though they can potentially fly the same distances. Russia's 3M-54 Kalibr, a sea-launched missile, is an example. The following charts retrieved from the official website of the US Department of State outline the affected missiles specified under the elimination protocol of the treaty:

The INF Treaty has helped not only to solve the problems of its time towards the end of the Cold War but also serves still to this day as an umbrella of protection for US's allies in Europe. The INF provides a measure of strategic stability on the European continent.

According to the Stockholm National Peace Institute, by 1991, 2,692 missiles had been eliminated thanks to the treaty; 846 owned by the US and 1,846 owned by the USSR. The treaty also allows both parties to inspect each other's progress in eliminating the missiles to maintain transparency. So, if so much progress has been made as a result of the INF, then why is it that President Trump now insists on a US withdrawal?

President Trump has accused Russia of repeatedly violating the treaty. In fact, former President Obama first accused Russia of violations in 2014 during the Ukraine crisis, when Moscow allegedly deployed a prohibited missile. "I don't know why President Obama didn't negotiate or pull out" were the words of the current president, "...we're not going to let them violate a nuclear agreement and go out and do weapons and we're not allowed we're going to terminate the agreement. We're going to pull out." Recently, the NATO confirmed Russia's violations. Jens Stoltenberg, NATO's Secretary General, urged Russia to address these concerns in a "substantial and transparent manner."

These accusations have truly created tensions between both parties of the treaty. Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov has repeatedly denied the violations. He even went as far as claiming that it was, in fact, the US who first violated the treaty, with "armed US drones" that "fly within the ranges prohibited by the treaty". As for the president, Vladimir Putin, he has replied with questionable threats such as "revenge is inevitable and they will be destroyed. And we, as victims of aggression, will go straight to heaven as martyrs while they will just croak." In general, the Kremlin sees a US withdrawal as a confirmation of how "unreliable" a partner the United States is when it comes to other countries' interests since it would be acting completely unilaterally and pulling out implies security concerns for many other countries, especially European countries.

Europe shows the most concern for the possible dissolution of the INF Treaty since it is believed that Russia's intermediate range missiles would pose the biggest threat to them. Many analysts agree that this is a particularly bad time for the US to make a decision that would further raise tensions within Europe since security-related tensions such that of immigration exist in the region already. EU spokeswoman for foreign affairs and security policy Maja Kocijancic stated that the United States and Russia should definitely engage in dialogue and try to preserve the treaty, since "the world doesn't need a new arms race."



The most unexpected and interesting role in all of this, however, is China's. It is no secret to anyone that what displeases President Trump the most about the INF Treaty is that China is not a signatory. If Russia is violating the treaty, and China, on the other hand, is not part of such an agreement that restricts its missile force, then the US seems to be at a disadvantage. "If Russia's doing it and if China's doing it and we're adhering to the agreement, that's unacceptable," stated President Trump last October. In fact, according to Admiral Harry Harris, head of the US Pacific Command, if China were part of the INF Treaty right now, around 95% of its missile force would be violating it. When it comes to China's reaction to the White House's desire to withdraw, to "think twice" is what Beijing wishes Washington would do. Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, said US withdrawal would lead to a "multitude of negative effects."

What's now left to be seen is whether President Trump will, in fact, pull out from the treaty. Presidents Putin and Trump both met in Paris in November, but although many different issues were discussed, a potential meeting to formally discuss the future of the INF Treaty was not part of the conversation. But if the US does withdraw, will that really mean a new Cold War? According to many analysts, an arms race like the one the world was experiencing back when the treaty was originally signed, might definitely become a reality. The Kremlin has also hinted several times at the possibility of a new arms race; the Russians would be "forced to develop weapons" to "restore balance in the sphere" if the US were to pull out.

For now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on December 4 that the US "will suspend its obligations as a remedy effective in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and veritable compliance". Ten days later, Russia submitted a draft of resolution to the UN General Assembly in support of the INF Treaty calling on all sides to fulfill their obligations. It seems to be a move towards a bilateral negotiation, but 2019 will begin with uncertainty in a matter so critical as this.

Categories Global Affairs: Central Europe and Russia North America Security and defense Articles

The text attempts to avoid stagnation, but does not open the door to decisive transformation

Cubans will vote in referendum next February 24 on the project of the new Constitution C by the National Assembly in December after a period of enquiry popular. In the preamble of the project the reference letter was introduced at the last minute to the goal communist which already existed in the 1976 Constitution, but which had not been initially incorporated in the draft, so that the final text is even less novel.

Building of the committee Central of the Communist Party of Cuba

▲ Building of the committee Central of the Communist Party of Cuba [framework Zanferrari].

article / Alex Puigrefagut

Six decades after the Revolution, Cuba leaves behind the surname Castro, with the arrival in April 2018 of Miguel Díaz-Canel as head of state, and is preparing to approve a new Constitution, which will replace the one promulgated in 1976, to symbolize this new time. This new Magna Carta, whose initial text was C by the National Assembly in July 2018, then submitted to three months of popular enquiry for the presentation of amendments and finally C as by the deputies on December 22, has as its goal main objective to seek the modernization of the Cuban State and the sustainable development of the same, without losing the essence and the main ideals of the socialist ideology of the State.

entrance At the end of the Castro era at the helm of Cuba, the State has found it necessary to include in the new essay the socioeconomic transformations carried out in the country since the previous Constitution came into force, as well as to partially modify the State structure to make it more functional. It is also worth mentioning the willingness to recognize more rights for citizens, although with limitations.

When examining the constitutional project , four aspects are particularly noteworthy: the specification of the ideology of the State, the figures and Structures of the State and the government, the question of private property and finally the redefinition of citizens' rights.

Maintenance of socialism

The text C initially by the National Assembly did not include the reference letter at goal to reach a communist society, a fundamental point that was present in the previous Constitution. The article 5 of the 1976 Magna Carta established that society "organizes and orients common efforts towards the high goals of the construction of socialism and the advance towards a communist society".

The omission of this point was really only a change of language, since at no time was the idea of socialism abandoned, in fact, the socialist character of the Cuban State was ratified. In the words of Esteban Lazo, president of the National Assembly, this new Constitution "does not mean that we are renouncing our ideas, but rather that in our vision we are thinking of a socialist, sovereign, independent, prosperous and sustainable country". However, in case there were any doubts, after the period of popular deliberation, the Assembly introduced as an amendment the express accredited specialization to communism in the preamble of the final text, given the alleged pressure from the most immobilist sectors.

The new Constitution reaffirms the socialist character of the Cuban regime, both in the economic and social spheres, giving a leading role to the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) as the highest power in society. The socialist nature of the Cuban State is underscored by the maintenance of the single-party system.

Presidential limits

The new Constitution includes some changes in the state structure. The most outstanding characteristic is that the Antillean country will have a president of the republic as head of state and a prime minister as head of government, in contrast with the current status of the same position for both functions: president of the committee of State and of Ministers. Everything indicates that this distinction will result more in a distribution of work than in a division of powers between the two positions, so this change will not be transcendental, given the control that will continue to be exercised from the PCC.

Another transformation in the political system is the elimination of the provincial assemblies for the creation of provincial governorships, with the goal to give a greater decentralization to the administrative power and a greater dependence of the legislative command on the executive.

As for the presidential term, the new Constitution limits it to five years, with the option of a single reelection for the same period. This change is important since it should lead to a rotation of members, and it is assumed that with this there would also be a renewal of ideas both within the Party and the Executive. The purpose is to avoid the stagnation of a historic generation without new ideas.

Finally, the president will be elected directly by the deputies of the National Assembly; in other words, Cuba does not give entrance to the direct election of its leaders, but maintains the indirect election system.

Private property

The document includes several forms of property, among them socialist property, mixed property and private property. The accredited specialization to the latter does not imply its formal recognition, but the confirmation of a internship whose extension the new Constitution endorses. This implies, therefore, the recognition of the market, a deeper participation of private property and the welcome to more foreign investment to enliven the country's Economics .

This need to reflect in the Constitution the greater participation of private property has occurred because, in many cases, the contribution of property and foreign investments have exceeded in the internship what was established in the previous constitutional framework . But this step will also lead to greater control in this area.

These changes in the economic sphere are aimed at goal to support the adjustments initiated by Raúl Castro a decade ago to boost economic growth and counteract the embargo established by the United States more than fifty years ago; in addition to fixing some of the country's labor force in the private sector as self-employed workers, especially in micro and small enterprises.

Citizen's rights

Finally, regarding the redefinition of citizens' rights, the constitutional project establishes a new functioning in the interaction of the State with the population through the flexibilization of economic, legal and civil rights. From the approval of the new text, the Cuban State must guarantee citizens the extension of Human Rights, although only in accordance with the international treaties ratified by the Caribbean country.

This, which despite this limitation could be seen as an opportunity for citizens, in reality has little of an opening, because although Cuba has signed United Nations agreements on political, cultural, civil and economic rights, it has not actually ratified them. Thus, in principle, Cuba should not be obliged to recognize these rights.

Another highlight of the relaxation introduced is article 40, which criminalizes discrimination "on grounds of sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnic origin, skin color, religious belief, disability, national origin or any other distinction harmful to human dignity". In the initial text that went to instructions , the recognition of same-sex marriage was introduced, but citizen rejection led to an amendment that finally withdrew the express protection of same-sex marriage.

After analyzing the main novelties of the constitutional project , it can be determined that the Cuban regime perceives a certain need for change and renewal. The new Constitution goes somewhat in that direction, but although it tries to avoid stagnation, it does not open the door to a decisive transformation either: neither complete continuity -although there is more of this- nor revolution within the system. It is clear that the new generation of leaders, with Miguel Díaz-Canel at the helm, can be seen as a continuity of the Castro regime, for the simple fact that the Castros directly determined the successor, in addition to the fact that many of their ideals are the same as those of the generation that made the revolution. But on the other hand, Cuba is certainly forced to slightly modify its course in order to be more present in the international system and to seek a more functional state and government.

(Updated January 3, 2019)

Categories Global Affairs: World order, diplomacy and governance Articles Latin America

The United States continues to monitor the innovation of methods that could also be used to introduce terrorist cells or even weapons of mass destruction.

In the last ten years, the proliferation of submersible and semi-submersible vessels, which are difficult to detect, has accounted for a third of drug shipments from South America to the United States. The incorporation of GPS systems by the cartels also hampers the global counter-narcotics fight. A possible use of these new methods for terrorist purposes keeps the United States on its toes.

Narco-submarine found in Ecuador's jungle in 2010

▲ Narco-submarine found in the jungle of Ecuador in 2010 [DEA].

article / Marcelina Kropiwnicka [English version].

Drug trafficking to the major consumer markets, especially the United States and Europe, is particularly innovative: the magnitude of the business leads to attempts to overcome any barriers put up by the States to prevent its penetration and distribution. In the case of the United States, where the illicit arrival of narcotics dates back to the 19th century - from opium to marijuana and cocaine - the continued efforts of the authorities have succeeded in intercepting many drug shipments, but traffickers are finding new ways and methods to introduce a significant volume of narcotics into the country.

The most disturbing method in the last ten years has been the use of submersible and semi-submersible vessels, commonly referred to as narco-submarines, which make it possible to transport several tons of drugs - five times more than a fishing boat - while evading coast guard surveillance [1]. Satellite technology has also led traffickers to leave drug loads at sea, which are then picked up by pleasure boats without arousing suspicion. Recent reports from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the U.S. counter-narcotics agency, refer to these methods reference letter .

Through the waters of Central America

For many years, the usual way to transport drugs leaving South America for the United States has been by fishing boats, speedboats and light aircraft. Advances in airborne detection and tracking techniques have pushed drug traffickers to look for new ways to move their cargo northward. Hence the development of narco-submarines, whose issue, since a first interception in 2006 by U.S. authorities, has seen a rapid progression.

This means of transport is one of the reasons why, since 2013, trafficking along the drug route from Colombia (the country that produces 93% of the cocaine consumed in the US) to Central America and Mexico, from where the shipments are smuggled into the US, has increased by 10%. According to the DEA, this corridor now accounts for an estimated 93% of the movement of cocaine from South America to North America, compared to 7% of the route that seeks the Caribbean islands (mainly the Dominican Republic) to reach Florida or other parts of the U.S. coast.

For some time, a rumor spread among the US Coast Guard that drug cartels were using narco-submarines. Without having seen one so far, the agents gave it the name of 'Bigfoot' (as an alleged ape-like animal known to inhabit the forests of the U.S. Pacific).

The first sighting occurred in November 2006, when a U.S. Coast Guard patrol boat spotted a blurred shape in the ocean about 100 miles off the coast of Costa Rica. When the agents approached, they discovered three plastic tubes emerging from the water, which came from a submersible vessel making its way six feet below the surface. Inside they found three tons of cocaine and four men armed with an AK-47 rifle. The Coast Guard christened it 'Bigfoot I'.

Two years later there would be a 'Bigfoot II'. In September 2008, a U.S. Navy frigate on coast guard duty apprehended a similar craft 350 miles from the Mexico-Guatemala border. The crew consisted of four men and the cargo was 6.4 tons of cocaine.

By then, US authorities estimated that more than 100 submersibles or semi-submersibles had been manufactured. In 2009 they estimated that they were only being able to stop 14% of shipments and that this mode of transport supplied at least a third of the cocaine reaching the US market. The navies of Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala have also seized some of these narco-submarines, which in addition to being located in the Pacific have also been detected in the Caribbean and the Atlantic. Manufactured by hand in the jungle, perhaps the most striking episode was that one of them was found in the interior of Ecuador, in the waters of a river. 

Their technical innovation has often surprised counter-narcotics officials. Many of these self-propelled narco-submarines are as long as fifteen meters, are made of synthetic materials and fiberglass, and have been designed to reduce radar or infrared detection. Some models have also been fitted with GPS navigation systems so that fuel can be refueled and food can be delivered to rendezvous along the route.

GPS Location

The development and generalization of GPS has also served drug traffickers to introduce further innovations. One procedure, for example, has been to fill a torpedo-shaped container with drugs - like a submersible, but this time unmanned - attached to a buoy and a signal transmitter. The container can hold up to seven tons of cocaine and is attached to the bottom of a ship by a cable. If the ship is intercepted, it can simply drop the container deeper, only to be retrieved by another vessel thanks to the satellite locator. This makes it extremely difficult for the authorities to capture the drugs and arrest the traffickers.

The GPS navigation system is also used to deposit drug loads at points in U.S. territorial waters, where they can be picked up by pleasure boats or a small group of people without arousing suspicion. The package containing the cocaine is coated with several layers of material and then the whole thing is waterproofed with a foam subject . The package is placed inside a canvas bag which is deposited at the bottom of the sea to be later recovered by other people.

As the DEA notes in its 2017 report , "this demonstrates how drug trafficking organizations have evolved their methods for conducting cocaine transactions using technology." And quotation the example of organizations that "transport kilos of cocaine in waterproof packages to a predetermined location and attach it to the ocean floor to be later removed by other members of the organization who have GPS tracking," which "allows members of drug trafficking organizations to compartmentalize their work, separating those doing the maritime transport from the onshore distributors."


Cocaine travel from South America to the U.S. in 2017

Cocaine journey from South America to the United States in 2017 [DEA].


Terrorist risk

The possibility that these very difficult to detect methods could be used to smuggle weapons or could be part of terrorist operations is of concern to U.S. authorities. Retired Vice Admiral James Stravidis, former head of the U.S. Southern Command, has warned of the potential use of submersibles especially "to transport more than just narcotics: the movement of cash, weapons, violent extremists or, at the worst end of the spectrum, weapons of mass destruction."

This risk was also referred to by Rear Admiral Joseph Nimmich when, as commander of group South of work Joint Interagency, he was confronted with the emergence of submersibles. "If you can carry ten tons of cocaine, you can carry ten tons of anything," he told The New York Times.

According to this newspaper, the stealthy development of homemade submarines was first developed in Sri Lanka, where the rebel Tamil Tigers group used them in their confrontation with government forces. "The Tamils will go down in history as the first terrorist organization to develop underwater weapons," the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense claimed. In 2006, as the NYT states, "a Pakistani and a Sri Lankan provided the Colombians with plans to build semi-submersibles that were fast, quiet and made of cheap, commonly available materials.

Despite this origin, ultimately written request related to Tamil rebels, and the terrorist potential of submersibles used by drug cartels, Washington has reported no evidence that the new drug transportation methods developed by organized crime groups are being used by extremist actors of a different stripe. Nonetheless, the U.S. is keeping its guard up given the high rate of shipments arriving undetected.



[1] REICH, S., & Dombrowski, P (2017). The End of Grand Strategy. US Maritime Pperations in the 21st Century. Cornell Univesity Press. Ithaca, NY. Pp. 143-145.

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