Russia destroyed one of its own satellites with a ground-based missile Nov. 15, in a test of its PL-19 Nudol DA-ASAT (direct-ascent anti-satellite) system. The blast created thousands of pieces of debris that quickly spread out into Earth orbit. The US says it has identified more than 1,500 trackable pieces of debris from the strike, and many thousands of smaller ones that cannot be traced. That same day, the Russian space agency, RosCosmos, reported that the astronauts on board the International Space Station had to shelter in place due to a cloud of debris passing by the station every 90 minutes, the time it takes for the ISS to orbit the Earth. It was unclear if the debris threatening the ISS came from Russia's ASAT test.
In Episode 97 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg dissects the geopolitics of the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die, and how the Daniel Craig reboot of the series has finessed the cultural icon's role in the New Cold War. Famously, the film was produced pre-pandemic, with its release postponed a year due to the lockdown—and its key plot device is a mass biological warfare attack, anticipating the conspiranoid theories about COVID-19. Yet it could also be prescient in warning of a superpower confrontation over the Kuril Islands—disputed by Russia and Japan, and an all too likely flashpoint for global conflict.
Tensions on the European Union's eastern border escalated sharply this week as Polish border guards repulsed a wave of some 4,000 asylum seekers and migrants seeking to cross from Belarus. Poland has mobilized 15,000 soldiers to the region to prevent people from crossing, and Belarusian security forces are not allowing the migrants to turn back. The migrants are sleeping rough as temperatures plunge below freezing; a 14-year-old boy froze to death, becoming at least the eleventh person to have died attempting to cross the border. There are fears the situation could result in a military confrontation.
Thousands marched in Glasgow as the COP26 climate summit entered its second week Nov. 6, demanding ambitious and concrete proposals on limiting global warning to 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels—the lowest target under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Police arrested 21 people, including members of the Scientist Rebellion movement who had chained themselves to the King George V Bridge over the River Clyde in Glasgow's city center. A UN Climate Change Update on Nationally Determined Contributions issued two days earlier found that even with the new pledges made thus far at COP26, emissions are still set to rise 13.7% by 2030. To be compliant with the 1.5C goal, they must fall 45% by that year.
Some 5,000 troops from member states of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on Oct. 18 initiated military maneuvers code-named "Echelon-2021," Search-2021" and "Interaction-2021" in Tajikistan near the border with Afghanistan. More than half of the troops involved are Russian. Gen. Anatoly Sidorov, head of the CSTO joint staff, said in a statement: "We pay special attention to the Central Asian region. The situation around the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan remains the main source of instability. This is why we are holding three drills simultaneously for the first time as part of the joint training."
France, now in the process of drawing down its military presence in West Africa's Sahel nations, has criticized plans that could see Russian mercenaries brought to Mali, where jihadist groups tied to ISIS or al-Qaeda operate in large parts of the country. Reports suggest that Mali's transitional government is considering a deal with the Wagner Group, which has close links to Vladimir Putin and is also active in Central African Republic. The Coordinating Body of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition of Tuareg rebel groups that signed a peace deal with the Malian government in 2015, likewise expressed its "firm opposition" to any agreement to bring in the Wagner Group. (TNH)
The Republic of Armenia on Sept. 16 instituted proceedings against the Republic of Azerbaijan at the International Court of Justice, the United Nations' top judicial organ, over alleged violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by Azerbaijani authorities. In its application, Armenia contended that "for decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination," including mass killings, torture and other abuses. Armenia also contended that these violations were directed at individuals of Armenian ethnicity regardless of their actual nationality.
A Law on Indigenous Peoples passed last month by Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has aroused rage from Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose forces have been occupying the Crimean Peninsula since 2014. Bill No. 5506 was introduced by President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 18, the day that the Crimean Tatars commemorate Stalin's 1944 deportation of the entire people from their homeland. The law recognizes three indigenous peoples of Ukraine—the Tatars, Karaites and Krymchaks. It guarantees these peoples collective and individual enjoyment of all cultural, educational and linguistic rights, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.