Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 23 July – Sunday 30 July:

On Sunday, an American drone operating in the skies over Syriawas targeted in a “buzzing” encounter by a Russian jet. The drone, an MQ-9 Reaper, was on a mission against Islamic State forces in Syria, under the command of U.S. Central Command which oversees American forces in the Middle East. Last month, U.S. forces carried out 37 strikes on Islamic State operatives in the region. The Russian jet maneuvered into close proximity directly above the drone before launching its flares onto the drone, which damaged its propeller. Despite the damage, the Reaper drone was able fly back to its home base. The US military accused Russian jets of “blatant disregard for flight safety”. Lt Gen Alex Grynkewich, of Central Command, said: “We call upon the Russians in Syria to put an immediate end to this reckless, unprovoked and unprofessional behaviour.” This is at least the third incident this month following a buzzing on July 7 of another American drone for two hours by a Russian jet before the drone killed an Islamic State leader in Eastern Syria. On July 16, a manned U.S. surveillance aircraft was buzzed by a Russian jet, which the U.S. says endangered the four crew members. On Wednesday, another Russian jet fired flares at an American drone operating in Syrian skies. 

On Sunday, Russia and China concluded joint naval exercises in the Sea of Japan. The exercises, which began on Thursday 20 July, aimed to strengthen naval cooperation between the two countries which seek to undermine American hegemony and “maintain stability and peace in the Asia-Pacific region”. The Russian Defence Ministry was quoted saying: “Some 20 combat exercises were carried out… including joint artillery fire on maritime, coastal and air targets”. The Russian navy was represented by two anti-submarine ships, two corvettes and other auxiliary ships. Last weekend, Beijing said it was sending five warships, including a guided-missile destroyer. Navy aircraft were also involved. That was the sixth such China-Russia patrol in the area since 2019.

On Monday, seven months after introducing legislation to overhaul the powers of the judiciary, a bill was passed by the Knesset – the Israeli Parliament – which abolished the reasonableness clause that allows Israel’s Supreme Court to overrule government decisions. The vote passed into law by a final vote of 64-0 as only coalition members took part in the vote. There are 120 Knesset members, but the vote was boycotted by the opposition, who left the vote shouting “shame!”. In a televised address on Monday night, the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, described the bill as “a necessary democratic act” that would “return a measure of balance between the branches of government.” A spokesperson for the White House said on Monday that the US viewed the developments at the Knesset as “unfortunate”, and “urges the Israeli government to work toward consensus through political dialogue”.

On Wednesday the Federal Reserve announced a 25 basis point increase in the Fed funds target rate to a range of 5.25% to 5.5%. This is the highest rate since early 2001. “Inflation has moderated somewhat since the middle of last year. Nonetheless, the process of getting inflation back down to 2% has a long way to go,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in his post-meeting press conference on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the U.S. labour market has remained tight, making the FOMC’s fight against inflation more difficult. The Labor Department reported the U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in June, while the rate of increase of U.S. wages held steady around 4.6% year-over-year. The unemployment rate fell slightly to 3.6% in June, remaining very close to 50-year lows.

On Wednesday, Niger’s Presidential Guard, led by the Guard’s commander General Abdourahamane Tchiani, staged a successful coup d’état. President Mohamed Bazoum and his family members in the country were detained by the Presidential Guard, which closed the country’s borders and declared a curfew. Tchiani has proclaimed himself leader of the military junta (“transitional government”) now in charge of Niger. During a cabinet meeting on July 24, President Bazoum had reportedly decided to dismiss Tchiani from his position as Presidential Guard commander. Their relationship had become strained, and this coup may have been staged by Tchiani to retain his powerful position. Niger is host to more than 2,000 Western troops from the U.S. and France, and has been the largest recipient of American military aid – receiving around $500 million since 2012. In response to the coup, the European Union has suspended all financial and security support and cooperation with Niger. The African Union has called on the junta leaders to return to their barracks. This was the fifth military coup d’état since the country gained independence in 1960. On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said American security and economic support were dependent on Bazoum’s release. Also on Saturday, France suspended all aid to the country and demanded the immediate the reinstatement of Bazoum. The African Union issued a 15-day ultimatum to the junta leaders to return Bazoum to power. Russia maintains a strong presence in the country and some observers believe Moscow may have played a role in the coup.

On Tuesday evening, a Russian delegation led by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in North Korea to attend the 70th anniversary of the July 27 1953 Armistice that ended the Korean War (1950-1953). Shoigu’s visit is the first by a Russian defence minister to North Korea since the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union. On Wednesday, North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un and Shoigu toured a defence exposition in the capital Pyongyang, where the two were seen in front of drones and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Both Chinese and Russian delegations were in Pyongyang for the anniversary celebrations. On Thursday, before the parade, Kim met with Shoigu to discuss military and security issues. The parade began at night, with Shoigu and Li Hongzhong, a Chinese Communist Party Politburo member, standing to either side of Kim. The parade featured North Korea’s Hwasong-17 and Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missiles and a flyover by new attack and spy drones, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Friday.

Beginning on Thursday, the second Russia-Africa Summit was held in St. Petersburg after being postponed from October 2022. With only 17 African heads of states in attendance (the 2019 summit saw 43 heads of state in attendance), the summit has been interpreted as a “slap in the face” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Nigerien (not Nigerian) delegation was unable to attend due to the coup. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner Group’s leader, was in attendance – his first known public appearance in Russia since launching a stalled rebellion. During the summit, which ended on Friday, Putin offered free grain to six African nations and offered assurances that Russia was trying to prevent a global food crisis after withdrawing from the Black Sea Grain Initiative. He also offered debt write-offs and said “Russia’s attention to Africa is steadily growing”. Russia is reportedly developing “very ambitious initiatives” in Africa and is seeking to increase its investments in the continent – at the Soviet-era level. 

Also on Friday, the U.S. announced a $345 million military aid package for Taiwan as it ramps up support for the island nation threatened by China. The White House did not elaborate on what weapons will be provided, but will likely include air defence systems. Beijing swiftly rebuked the announcement, with a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington calling for an end to military sales to Taiwan and the raising of tensions in the Taiwan Strait. The U.S. Congress has recently authorised the Biden Administration to draw aid for Taiwan from existing military stockpiles in the U.S. – in much the same way Washington supplies Ukraine. 

On Saturday, U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that the U.S. will help Australia produce guided multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) by 2025. With China’s vast missile complex a threat to any Western action in the region, Australia’s development of MLRS will allow long-range strikes on Chinese targets in the event of a war. Austin and Secretary Blinken were in the Queensland state of Australia on Saturday for the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultation,(AUSMIN) It has been held most years since 1985,with the meetings alternating between locations in the Australia and the United States.

One thought on “The World That Was”
  1. China has been in Africa for several decades raping her mineral wealth and enriching dictators. Russia is making moves. Where is the US, UN, EU and World Bank? No investment in Africa unless they committ to completely unreliable and insane “renewables – wind and solar” and so called “GMO” crops which produce about 20-30% less yield without enhancing human health. Oh well “let them eat cake” as far as the First World is concerned and leave the the voracious appetites of Communist regimes. Sure recipe for success??

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