Adrian Olivier,

Sunday 24 September – Sunday 1 October:

On Sunday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that Russia had not helped his country in defending Nagorno-Karabakh, openly rowing with Russia. Russia in turn said that Pashinyan only had himself to blame for Azerbaijan’s victory over Karabakh because he had insisted on seeking to work with the West rather than working with Moscow and Baku for peace. Russia said Pashinyan had “shied away from working in rhythm with Russia and Azerbaijan and instead ran to the West” to resolve the Karabakh crisis. Washington expressed its alarm at the Karabakh crisis as US Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Samantha Power and US State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Yuri Kim arrived in Yerevan. “The United States is deeply concerned about reports on the humanitarian conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh and calls for unimpeded access for international humanitarian organizations and commercial traffic,” USAID said in the announcement of the trip.

On Sunday, President Emmanuel Macron announced that France will withdraw its ambassador and its 1,500 troops from Niger by the end of the year. Niger’s junta welcomed the announcement, saying: “Imperialist and neo-colonialist forces are no longer welcome on our national territory. The new era of cooperation, based on mutual respect and sovereignty is already underway”.

On Monday, two Bahraini soldiers were killed in a drone strike conducted by Yemen’s Houthis. It was unclear if the drone attack and killing of the Bahraini soldiers would derail the peace talks currently underway between the Saudis and the Houthis. The Saudi Arabian-led coalition warned Houthi fighters that “such repeated hostile and provocative actions are not consistent with the positive efforts being made … to end the crisis and reach a comprehensive political solution”. The coalition said it “reserves the right to respond at the appropriate time and place”.

On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced from the UN headquarters in New York that he would visit the North Korean capital of Pyongyang next month [October]. 

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğa visited Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave, where he met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Erdogan hailed Azerbaijan’s swift victory in last week’s battle over Nagorno-Karabakh, saying: “It is a matter of pride that the operation was successfully completed in a short period of time, with utmost sensitivity to the rights of civilians”. Erdogan was there to discuss Turkey-Azerbaijan ties and regional and global issues. Erdogan and Aliyev signed a deal for a gas pipeline and the Turkish leader said “I’m very pleased to be with all of you as we connect Nakhchivan with the Turkish world.” 

On Tuesday, South Korea hosted senior diplomatic officials from Japan and China in a trilateral meeting aimed at easing Beijing’s concerns over its neighbours growing military ties with the United States – in August, the South Korean and Japanese presidents were in Washington for a summit in which they agreed to host regular military drills. The meeting involved South Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Japan’s Senior Deputy Foreign Minister and China’s Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister who were all told in a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin to “work closely together…[to] produce tangible outcomes, which will produce benefits that can be felt by the people of the three countries”. The three countries agreed to hold trilateral summits between foreign ministers “in the next few months”. Beijing described them as a “in-depth discussion on promoting the stable restarting of cooperation.” The three countries began having three-way summits in 2008 but they were suspended in 2019 because of Covid and a dispute between Tokyo and Seoul over Japanese colonial rule and World War II. North Korea’s recent spate of missile tests – and it’s growing relationship with Russia – have convinced Japan and South Korea to seek closer security ties with the U.S. 

On Tuesday, South Korea hosted its first military parade in a decade to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the country’s armed forces. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol gave a warning to North Korea: “If North Korea uses nuclear weapons, its regime will be brought to an end by an overwhelming response from the (Seoul-Washington) alliance”.

On Tuesday, North Korea’s UN ambassador Kim Song delivered a speech to the General Assembly in which he accused the U.S. of making 2023 an “extremely dangerous year” in which “The United States is now moving on to the practical stage of realizing it’s a sinister intention to provoke a nuclear war”. Song vowed that the Hermit Kingdom would “further accelerate the buildup of its self-defence capabilities to defend itself impregnably… The more the reckless military moves and provocations of the hostile forces are intensified threatening the sovereignty and security interests of our state, the more our endeavours to enhance national defense capabilities would increase in direct proportion.”

On Wednesday, state media in Iran announced that a launch of an imaging satellite had been successful. It is unclear when the launch took place, but presumably within the last few days. The Noor-3 (‘noor’ means ‘light/ray of light’ in Farsi) satellite was put into orbit 450 km above the Earth’s surface by the aerospace division of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) and will collect data and images. IRGC commander General Hossein Salami called the launch a “victory” though at present it is unclear when the launch took place – though presumably in the last few days. Authorities released footage of a rocket taking off from a mobile launcher. Details in the video corresponded with a Guard base near Shahroud, some 330 kilometers (205 miles) northeast of the capital, Tehran. The base is in Semnan province, which hosts the Imam Khomeini Spaceport from which Iran’s civilian space program operates. The Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has its own space program and launched its first satellite in 2020. Western analysts say the development of satellite launch vehicles advances Iran’s ability to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) because they share the same technology. 

On Thursday, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius signed a deal worth $3.5 billion with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant for the purchase of the Israeli Arrow 3 anti-ballistic missile system. It is a mobile – truck mounted – air defence system developed jointly between the United States and Israel – Israel was obliged to seek American permission for the sale. The system will be paid for out of the 100 billion euro fund created in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Germany has championed European Sky Shield – a joint European project for the acquisition of short-, medium- and long-range missile defence systems. France and Poland are notable exceptions – they argue any joint air defence project should use European equipment. The Arrow 3 is expected to be delivered by the final quarter of 2025. 

On Thursday, House Republicans began their first hearing into an impeachment enquiry into President Joe Biden. James Comer, Republican chair of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee said the probe “has uncovered a mountain of evidence revealing how Joe Biden has used his public office for his family’s financial gain”. The White House also has rejected the corruption allegations, with a spokesman calling the inquiry “extreme politics at its worst”.

On Thursday, Taiwan unveiled its first-ever domestically-produced submarine, the 80 metre long Hai Kun. Taiwan is aiming to build a fleet of 10 submarines to “disrupt the PLA’s attempt to encircle and attack Taiwan from the east and west”. China’s Defense Ministry said Taiwan was “over-rating itself and attempting something impossible.” “No matter how many weapons [they] build or purchase, they cannot stop the general trend of national reunification, nor can they shake the People’s Liberation Army’s… strong ability to defend national sovereignty,” spokesperson Wu Qian said. 

On Thursday, Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist President Samvel Shakhramanyan signed a decree declaring that the unrecognized republic will cease to exist by January 1, 2024.

On Friday, General Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States was honoured at a retirement ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall near Arlington, Virginia. Milley’s four-year term as chairman ends at midnight on Saturday. He will be succeeded by Air Force General C.Q. Brown on Sunday. President Joe Biden was present and spoke at the ceremony. Both took swipes at former president Donald Trump. 

On Friday, the Swedish government announced it would authorise the military to assist the police in fighting organised criminal groups, which have arisen because of an “irresponsible immigration policy and a failed integration”. The warring immigrant gangs have unleashed a wave of violence in Sweden, including bombings and shootings that have killed dozens. National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg clarified, however, that armed forces would not be given “direct” policing tasks. Kristersson said Sweden’s armed forces could help police with knowledge of explosives, helicopter logistics and analyses, adding that this could be done without changing any laws. The Scandinavian country has been wrestling with rampant gang crime for years. Thornberg said it now poses a “serious threat to the safety and security of the country.” After winning the election last year, Kristersson’s coalition government had given police greater powers and introduced harsher punishment for gun crimes.

On Saturday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a temporary funding bill to avert a government shutdown. The House voted 335-91 to pass the bill which funds the government for an additional 45 days. As part of the bill, there is a freeze on aid to Ukraine. The bill was passed by the Democrat-majority 88 to 9 – all nine holdouts were Republicans. After passing Congress, the funding bill was sent to President Biden who signed it into law. The U.S. government will be funded until November 17, at which point another funding bill will have to be agreed on. 

In Slovakia, Robert Fico, who campaigned on a pledge to end military aid to Russia, has been asked by President Caputova to go ahead and form a new government. One of the first heads of state to congratulate Fico was Hungary’s Victor Orban. Slovakia is likely to join Hungary in challenging EU consensus on ongoing support for Ukraine.