Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 17 March – Sunday 24 March:

On Sunday, Russia concluded its three-day presidential election, with President Vladimir Putin the clear winner. Putin said the election had “consolidated” national unity and that there were “many tasks ahead” for Russia as it continues its course of confrontation with the West. “No matter how hard anyone tries to frighten us, whoever tries to suppress us, our will, our consciousness, no one has ever managed to have done such a thing in history, and it won’t happen now and it won’t happen in the future. Never,” he said. On Monday, the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) reported that Putin had won 87.3% of the votes in an election which Western observers have called rigged. His nearest rival, Nikolay Kharitonov of the Communist Party, had won just 4.3% of the ballots counted. The result means Putin will rule until at least 2030, when he will be 77 and he is legally able to rule until 2036. 

On Monday, North Korea fired short-range ballistic missiles towards the Sea of Japan to the east shortly after American and South Korean forces had concluded joint Freedom Shield military drills. North Korea has long condemned joint US-South Korea military drills, calling them rehearsals for an invasion. Pyongyang earlier this month warned that Seoul and Washington would pay a “dear price” for this year’s Freedom Shield drills, which involved twice as many troops as last year. About 27,000 US soldiers are stationed in South Korea. Shortly after the missile launches, Blinken and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol took to the stage at the opening of the Summit for Democracy, which is this year being hosted by South Korea.

On Tuesday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw military drills involving “newly-equipped super-large” multiple rocket launchers. According to North Korean state broadcaster KNCA, the exercises involved simulating an aerial explosion of shells at predetermined altitudes above targets. “They fully demonstrated their excellent crack-shot artillery marksmanship and prompt and thorough combat readiness,” KCNA said.

On Tuesday, Yemen’s Houthi rebels launched naval missiles at a U.S. tanker — the Mado — in the Red Sea, according to spokesman Yahya Sarea. He also said the group fired winged missiles at Israel’s coastal region of Eilat, which borders the Red Sea. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The Houthis have vowed to continue attacks on Israeli, U.S., or British-linked warships in the Red Sea as long as Israel continues its war on Gaza. Last week, senior Houthi and Hamas leaders held a rare meeting to discuss ways to coordinate their “resistance” during the war, according to reports.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised during a trip to Manila that Washington retains an “ironclad” commitment to defend the Philippines. The United States has been deepening diplomatic and military contacts with its ally recently as tension with China rises. “These waterways are critical to the Philippines, to its security, to its economy, but they’re also critical to the interests of the region, the United States and the world,” Blinken said at a joint news conference with counterpart Enrique Manalo. Beijing promptly responded to the US official’s statement, with Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lin Jian insisting that “The United States is not a party to the South China Sea issue and has no right to interfere in maritime issues that are between China and the Philippines.” Lin Jian continued, saying American military cooperation with the Philippines “should not harm China’s sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea, let alone be used to prop up the Philippines’ illegal position.” Beijing and Manila have competing territorial claims in the South China Sea and the Philippines was the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the Asia Pacific region from 2015 to 2022. Since Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos Jr came to power in 2022, there has been a marked improvement in relations with the U.S., with Blinken saying the relations between the two countries are now in “hyperdrive.” In the past year, Manila has nearly doubled the number of its bases accessible to U.S. forces, including three new sites facing Taiwan, which is also resisting pressure from Beijing, which claims the island state as its own. US President Joe Biden is due to host Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at a summit in Washington in April to discuss economic ties and the Asia Pacific region.

On Wednesday, Russia announced that it was aware of American intelligence efforts to use commercial satellite operators including SpaceX to build a constellation of spy satellites under a classified contract with a U.S. intelligence agency. “We are aware of Washington’s efforts to attract the private sector to serve its military space ambitions,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters. Such systems “become a legitimate target for retaliatory measures, including military ones,” Zakharova said. It was reported earlier this month that Elon Musk’s company is building the spy satellite network. 

On Wednesday, Admiral John Aquilino, head of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, testified to the House Armed Services Committee that he believes China’s military will be prepared to invade Taiwan by 2027. This is the date U.S. military officials believe Chinese President Xi Jinping has set for the island’s forcible reunification with mainland China. Since 2020, the People’s Liberation Army has added more than 400 fighter aircraft and 20 major warships while doubling its ballistic and cruise missiles. The communist country has increased defence spending by 16% to more than $223 billion and has been simulating maritime operations and air blockades against Taiwan. 

On Wednesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that by the end of this year, Russia will create 2 new ground armies as well as 16 new brigades and 14 new divisions. The creation of this force would likely require a new round of mobilisation. 

On Thursday, news broke that Yemen’s Houthi rebels had signed a deal to allow for safe passage of Russian and Chinese shipping passing through the Red Sea. According to the report by Bloomberg, Russia and China will provide political support for the Houthis at the United Nations Security Council. The Houthis had already signalled they weren’t targeting Chinese or Russian vessels, but Bloomberg reports Russia and China may have been seeking a more concrete deal after the Houthis reportedly misidentified the ships they targeted. That includes the March 6 attack on the “True Confidence” ship, which yielded the first casualties in the Houthis’ campaign, killing three crewmembers—a Houthi spokesperson claimed the ship was American, but it had been sold in February to a Liberian-registered company. In another incident, Houthi missiles exploded close to a ship loaded with Russian oil, just days after the Houthis had signalled that Russian ships were safe to pass. 

On Friday, Russia targeted Ukrainian power infrastructure in what Kiev called the largest attack on energy facilities in two years. The missile and drone attack hit a vast dam over the Dnipro River and left more than a million others without power, forcing Kiev to seek emergency electricity supplies from Poland, Romania and Slovakia. The strikes, in retaliation for Ukrainian shelling and cross-border raids last week, caused blackouts in seven regions. Condemning the attack, Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko said: “The goal is not just to damage, but to try again, like last year, to cause a large-scale failure of the country’s energy system.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a Russian publication that Moscow saw itself as in a “state of war” because of the West’s intervention on Ukraine’s side. The comment is a rhetorical escalation from the “special military operation” language that Russian officials have used to this point and may signal Kremlin attempts to prepare Russians for another mobilisation. 

On Friday night, over 100 people were killed at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow when gunmen in camouflage clothing opened fire with automatic weapons at concert-goers. The Islamic State has taken responsibility for the brutal assault in three different messages issued since Friday. On Saturday, Russian authorities announced that they had arrested four individuals suspected of the attack in the southwestern Bryansk region of Russia and were being brought to Moscow. Russian state media reported that “all terrorists detained in the Bryansk region are foreign citizens.” Two weeks ago, the U.S. embassy in Moscow warned that “extremists” had imminent plans for an attack in Moscow. The embassy issued its warning several hours after the FSB said it had foiled an attack on a Moscow synagogue by a cell of the militant Sunni Muslim group Islamic State. Despite the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility, Vladimir Putin in a televised address said the gunmen “tried to hide and moved toward Ukraine, where, according to preliminary data, a window was prepared for them on the Ukrainian side to cross the border.” Putin vowed to punish those responsible for the assault, one of the deadliest in Russia in decades. U.S. officials have attributed the attack to ISIS-K, a branch of the Islamic State that has been active in Iran and Afghanistan. The four have appeared in a Russian courtroom, one missing an eye and another missing an ear. 

On Sunday, France raised its terror alert warning to its highest level following the Islamic State attack in Moscow after a meeting of senior security and defence officials met with President Emmanuel Macron. France’s terror alert system has three levels, and the highest level is activated in the wake of an attack in France or abroad or when a threat of one is considered to be imminent. It allows for exceptional security measures such as stepped-up patrols by armed forces in public places like train stations, airports and religious sites.

3 thoughts on “The World That Was”
  1. “Manila has nearly doubled the number of its bases accessible to U.S. forces, including three new sites facing Taiwan, which is also resisting pressure from Beijing, which claims the island state as its own. ”
    Are you not aware that the vast majority, including an absolute majority of Western power nations, adhere to a One State policy with China? That Taiwan s a part of China? So China does not ‘claim’ Taiwan as its own – Taiwan itself is compliant with the One State policy….
    There are other alarming signals in your article indicating that it is written by a Stooge….
    “This is the date U.S. military officials believe” – attribution please. This is a complete fantasy being used to shape the US narrative that they (We) need to fight China… I reject that out of hand.
    “Western observers have called rigged.” What are you saying? Are YOU saying it was rigged ? I read plenty of reportage that this was a no more of a rigged election that an election in the USA… Are you saying that Vlad Putin should not be considered the ‘elected’ President ? What is your intention here – The Russians seem to like Vlad quite a lot – in fact, I find the 87% is a reasonable fit with the mood of the Russian electorate …. I reject the use of “Western observers’ saying it was a rigged election – please provide attribution for your statement.
    “Freedom Shield “, and “Summit for Democracy” are both nauseating and manipulative terms – typical of the repulsive American habit of Kindergarten-level NLP, and deserve to be shunned by adults, yet you make no comment there….
    I had no great expectation of insight, or even-handedness here, but this article by Adrian Olivier is chip-wrapper gibberish. Try harder to provide useful insight and commentary.

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