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13 May 22. Australian Labor proposes $1bn Critical Technologies Fund.
Bolstering investment in sovereign AI, robotics, and quantum computing technologies is the target of a new plan unveiled by the Labor opposition.
An Anthony Albanese-led Labor government has pledged to establish a $1 billion Critical Technologies Fund, set up to facilitate increased private sector investment in the development of advanced capabilities, including artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum computing.
The funding would be delivered through loans, equity and guarantees for businesses in the critical technologies sector.
The new capital mechanism would be set up within the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, previously announced by Albanese.
“Labor knows the value of high-tech jobs, and we are firmly focused on a bigger future for the industry,” Albanese said.
“Thanks to Labor’s $1bn Critical Technologies Fund, we will boost high-tech manufacturing, and create more Australian jobs.”
Shadow minister for industry and innovation Ed Husic said the initiative would help build sovereign capability.
“Our $1bn Critical Technologies Fund is an investment in building strategic industry capability in Australia, powering future economic growth, growing jobs – and avoiding a brain drain that is sapping our country of vital talent,” Husic said.
This announcement comes just days after Albanese committed $10m to support Australian advanced manufacturing capabilities via the Flinders University Factory of the Future.
Set up in conjunction with BAE Systems, the Factory of the Future initiative is designed to enhance Australia’s manufacturing capabilities, hoping to enable Australian SMEs to integrate with major defence programs including the Hunter Class frigate program. (Source: Defence Connect)
12 May 22. Jordan’s King Meets With U.S. Security Leaders. Even with all that is happening in Europe and the Indo-Pacific, the Middle East remains a source of concern for the United States and its partners in the region.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the Pentagon today to discuss the situation in the region and to examine ways for the two nations to work together even more closely.
“Jordan is a valued leader in a difficult neighborhood and a powerful partner for stability and security in the region,” Austin said at the beginning of the meeting. “Of course, Russia’s unprovoked and unjust invasion of Ukraine is on everybody’s mind. My recent meetings in Kyiv left me more determined than ever to help Ukraine better defend itself. And I look forward to hearing your views, Your Majesty, on the crisis. as well.”
Jordan is an area of stability in a sea of unrest. The nation shares borders with Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and Saudi Arabia, and there are perhaps as many as a m refugees from Syria and Iraq taking shelter in the nation. There are also Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, which swells that number.
Austin wants to widen and deepen U.S. cooperation with Jordan. “Our partnership with Jordan is more important than ever,” he said. “That’s because of our long-standing friendship, as well as the threats that we face today, including Iran’s support for terrorism, the rise of drug smuggling in the Levant and the continued threat of violent extremist organizations such as.”
The Levant refers to the region along the eastern Mediterranean shores, roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and certain adjacent areas.
Jordan was an active partner in the coalition to defeat ISIS, and King Abdullah is working to deepen ties with Israel in support of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problems.
Austin expressed U.S. concern for the recent escalation of violence in East Jerusalem, and he thanked the king for his efforts to reduce those tensions. “I look forward to our ongoing work together to find a viable path to stability, security and a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians,” the secretary said.
Iran continues to disturb the peace in the region, sponsoring proxy groups that launch attacks using missiles and unmanned aerial systems. “We’ll keep working together to strengthen the region’s multilateral security frameworks to counter destabilizing activities by Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Syria and beyond,” Austin said.
King Abdullah noted the many times and places throughout the world where U.S. and Jordanian troops worked alongside each other. “We have stood shoulder-to-shoulder in many parts of the world, and this is a source of pride and honor for us,” he said. “As we look to the challenges of the region and the future, we know that we’ll be standing next to each other more and more. And that gives me tremendous hope.”
The king specifically wants to examine the situation in the region as it comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic. He noted that many terror groups used the past two years as a time to rebuild and “incubate” terror. (Source: US DoD)
10 May 22. Sri Lanka: Island-wide curfew amid worsening social unrest sustains heightened security threats to bystanders and visitors. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has extended the ongoing curfew to 11 May, 0700 (local time). The decision came after mass violence unravelled across the country yesterday with the latest figures indicating that 231 were injured and seven killed (see Sibylline Alert – 9 May 2022). Property, including hotels, with links to members of Rajapaksa’s SLPP party were also attacked. Sri Lanka’s Tourism Development Authority announced that all international travellers should show their travel documents (passport/air tickets) if they wished to leave the country during the curfew. Otherwise, visitors have been requested to remain at their accommodation. However as of midday today, local time, protesters had blocked the entrance to Bandaranaike International Airport to prevent parliamentarians from leaving the country. Furthermore, essential services will likely experience severe disruptions as multiple trade unions, including those in the medical and railway sectors, have announced a continuous strike. (Source: Sibylline)
10 May 22. Haiti: Kipnap Of Foreign Nationals.
On 8 May, local media reported that armed men had kidnapped at least 17 people, including eight Turkish nationals, eight Haitians and a Dominican, near the town of Papay in the Croix-des-Bouquets area of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. The victims were abducted from the motorcoach they were travelling in from the Dominican Republic to Port-au-Prince. At the time of writing, the kidnappers have not issued any statements indicating their intentions or objectives.
- This latest mass kidnapping is part of a wider trend, with over 1,200 people abducted in Haiti last year. Whilst most kidnappings are of locals, 81 foreign nationals were abducted in 2021, including the high-profile case of the 17 North American missionaries taken last October. Notably, the media reported that the abducted Turkish nationals are members of Muslim organisation Ashape, which offers religious education and language courses. The latest incident also comes after the 29 April kidnapping of a Dominican diplomat in Croix-des-Bouquets, who was released four days later. Most kidnappings occur around Port-au-Prince as local gangs retain control over districts in the capital and exploit Haiti’s ongoing political instability.
- The incident reflects Haiti’s precarious security situation, which has continuously deteriorated since the July 2021 assassination of president Jovenel Moise (2017-2021) and a devastating earthquake in August 2021. Further indicative of the worsening security environment, on 29 March thousands of people took to the streets in the capital and other cities across Haiti to protest over insecurity and violence by armed gangs. According to Haiti’s civil protection agency (DGPC) since August 2020 clashes between gangs in Port-au-Prince have caused the displacement of thousands of local residents. The DGPC has also reported that homicides have increased 17 percent over the last year.
- At the time of writing, no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction. However, local media reports suggest that the 400 Mawozo gang is responsible due to their control of the Croix-des-Bouquets area. The group was behind the kidnapping of the Dominican diplomat as well as of the 17 US and Canadian missionaries last year, for each of whom it demanded a USD 1 m ransom. Although there was no confirmation of ransom payment all the missionaries were eventually released.
- Despite a security forces crackdown on 400 Mawozo that included the 3 May extradition to the US of the group’s main leader, Germine Joly, the group remains powerful. It is currently engaged in a violent turf war with the rival Chen Mechan gang for control of Croix-des-Bouquets and other northern areas of Port-au-Prince, which has led to numerous armed clashes being registered around the city in recent weeks. On 6 May the United Nations reported that at least 75 people had been killed and 68 wounded in armed clashes between gangs in Port-au-Prince since 24 April; and it had received allegations of acts of sexual violence including gang rapes of women and children being committed.
Haiti’s deep political crisis and instability will continue to be a catalyst for gangs to carry out violent criminal acts due to the weakness of the authorities and a general lack of deterrents. The country’s security apparatus suffers from institutional corruption and a lack of funding, allowing opportunistic criminals to prosper. Moreover, the risk of kidnapping of foreign travellers is likely to remain elevated though 2022 as Haiti’s socio-economic environment remains very fragile.
Local gangs, particularly 400 Mawozo will continue to target foreigners as a source of income to fund their turf wars, as they continue to consolidate their control of areas around the capital. Gangs also likely use kidnappings to signal their strength to local politicians and businesses they are seeking to extort in a bid to intimidate them, further underlining Haiti’s challenging operating environment.
The latest kidnapping will likely further strain Haiti’s relations with the Dominican Republic given the abduction of another Dominican national. Concerned over Haiti’s worsening security environment, in November 2021 the Dominican government led by President Luis Abinader adopted a series of controversial measures severely restricting the entry of Haitian migrants into the country, raising concerns in Haiti and internationally over the undermining of Haitian migrants’ rights. More recently, in February, the Dominican government announced the start of the construction of a fence along its border to stop irregular migration from Haiti. Restricting the flow of Haitian migrants into the Dominican Republic will further exacerbate Haiti’s dire socio-economic conditions and likely increase instability and unrest. (Source: Sibylline)
10 May 22. Philippines: Corruption Issues.
On 10 May, according to partial and unofficial results from the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) transparency server, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. emerged as the victor to replace Rodrigo Duterte as the next president of the Philippines.
- Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, had a significant lead over his nearest challenger, current Vice President Leni Robredo, claiming 58.75 percent of the vote with 97.62 percent of the precincts reporting. The former senator will be sworn in on 30 June for a single six-year term, as dictated in the constitution. Additionally, as expected, Marcos Jr’s running mate and daughter of the current president, Sara Duterte emerged as the clear winner in the race for the vice presidency.
- The Philippine electorate went to the polls a day earlier to vote for more than 18,000 elected positions. In addition to electing the new president and vice president, half of the seats in the Senate (upper house of the Congress) and all seats in the House of Representatives (lower house of the Congress), as well as all local governors and mayoral positions across the country were contested.
- The turnout was significant, with an estimated 80 percent of the 65.7 m registered voters submitting a ballot. Long queues were reported in the early hours of voting, with malfunctioning vote-counting machines (VCM) partly to blame. However, Comelec decided that the issues were not sufficient enough to extend voting hours.
- Security was tightened for the election period, with more than 40,000 members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and 40,000 members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deployed to keep order. Comelec also took control over several constituencies in Mindanao to facilitate the election (see Sibylline Daily Analytical Update – 4 May 2022). Despite the heavy security presence, 15 incidents of election-related violence were reported, particularly in the restive southern region of Mindanao. However, overall, the level of violence was lower than in previous elections.
The issues with the VCMs, which sparked calls on social media to extend voting hours as well as accusations of fraudulent electoral practices, prompted protests from hundreds of people opposing Marcos Jr. outside of Comelec’s headquarters in Manila on 10 May. The protests from progressive groups are likely to remain peaceful, although they may become disruptive if accusations of election rigging grow further, driving greater participation. Nonetheless, despite the commanding victory, the divisive nature of Marcos Jr. and his family’s chequered history will mean that regular protests opposing his presidency are likely to be a feature of his time in office. For the coming days, a heightened security presence is likely to remain in place until the official results are confirmed by early June, with election-related violence more likely to be associated with local-level contests outside of the Metro Manila region.
During his campaign, Marcos Jr. offered limited details in policy proposals, though a continuation of the political environment that existed under Duterte is likely (see Sibylline Special Report – 3 May 2022). Although Rodrigo Duterte did not officially endorse Marcos Jr. during the campaign, his daughter’s decision to be the running mate with Marcos Jr. will help secure the Duterte’s continued influence in Philippine politics. The election results also indicate that Duterte’s and Marcos’ allies will dominate the Senate. Further economic reforms to liberalise foreign investment policy, as carried out in the final year of the Duterte administration, are a strong possibility. However, concerted efforts to tackle corruption which continues to blight the operating environment in the Philippines are unlikely under Marcos Jr., as his family continues to be accused of hiding wealth allegedly stolen during Marcos Sr.’s time in power. The Philippines’ score of 7/10 in Sibylline’s ASTRA Risk of Corruption is set to stay in the high-risk category for the foreseeable future.
Human rights abuses have also been a standout issue during Duterte’s administration, particularly his tough ‘war on drugs’. While Marcos Jr. may not pursue the policy with the same vigour as Duterte did during his early years, human rights protection is unlikely to improve in the Philippines. Disinformation aimed at the Robredo campaign, accusing her of being associated with communists among other allegations, had become a characteristic of the election, with tech firms struggling to control the use of social media to spread such disinformation. Consequently, the ‘red tagging’ tactic that Duterte used to suppress government opposition, and that often had fatal consequences for those targeted, is likely to continue into Marcos Jr.’s presidency. This issue will create an inhospitable environment for NGOs, journalists, and social media firms. Additionally, continued allegations of human rights abuses will put the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) agreement – which has allowed more than 6,000 product lines to be exported to the single market from the Philippines tariff-free – at risk.
There has been no indication that Marcos Jr. will take a hostile approach towards the US, as he has claimed that a positive relationship could be beneficial to the Philippines, in contrast to the often volatile relationship between outgoing President Duterte and Washington. As a result, a Marcos Jr. presidency will not foreshadow an overtly hostile operating environment for US or Western firms in the coming years. That said, Marcos Jr.’s stated desire to negotiate bilaterally with Beijing over the South China Sea dispute may frustrate other ASEAN members, as well as Washington and its allies. (Source: Sibylline)
09 May 22. Sri Lanka: PM Resignation. On 9 May, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned after major clashes broke out between his supporters and anti-government protesters. However, violent unrest continues across the country amid an enduring economic crisis and deepening political turmoil, with media reporting two deaths and at least 139 injures thus far today.
- Hours before Mahinda’s resignation, a nationwide curfew was imposed after his supporters stormed an anti-government protest site and clashed with rival protesters prompting the police to use tear gas and water cannons. The army was called in to help police forces in the Galle Face area of Colombo, as they struggle to keep order and contain the violent clashes. Similar tense scenes have also been reported across the country, including violent clashes between different protest groups, between protesters and security forces, as well as attacks targeting buses carrying pro-Mahinda supporters. The likelihood for mob violence and security threats to bystanders remains highly elevated.
- As anti-government protesters outnumber Mahinda supporters, people, entities, and property linked to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s party, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), will be highly vulnerable to attacks. Houses, offices, and cars belonging to now former MPs associated with the ruling SLPP party have been targeted by anti-government protesters in various locations, including Kurunegala, Mathugama, and Wilgoda. Furthermore, the SLPP’s main office was set on fire during the unrest. While former MP Amarakeerthi Athukorala reportedly opened fire on protesters in Nittambuwa, killing one and critically injuring two. He was later found dead with several news sources indicating he had taken his own life. This incident will nonetheless likely stoke further unrest.
- The resignation of Mahinda paves the way for the president and brother Gotabaya Rajapaksa to call for a unity government as the cabinet has been dissolved. However, the largest opposition party as of 8 May refused to join with the president and have been demanding amendments to the constitution in order to reduce the power of the executive. Today’s violence has generated further polarisation within the country, making any attempt in reconciliation extremely challenging. Mahinda’s resignation will not satisfy anti-government protesters who have consistently demanded the removal of every Rajapaksa family member from the government including the president.
Given the widespread violent unrest on the streets, especially in the capital, staff and other personnel are exposed to greater threats in public areas until order is returned. Local media has reported that anti-government protesters were stationed on the Southern Expressway armed with poles to attack Mahinda’s supporters travelling along the expressway. The Galle Face area will continue to host rallies in large numbers as people celebrated Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation.
The state of emergency and curfew will remain in place as it gives security forces sweeping powers to maintain public order, but this could also lead to large-scale arrests and excessive use of force. The army may also deploy more personnel in other parts of the country as violence continues to spread. The curfew and associated chaos will stifle economic activity and cause significant logistical and supply chain disruptions for at least the next 24-48 hours.
The fallout from Mahinda’s resignation and the uncertainty surrounding the composition of a potential new government will likely have an impact on the pivotal IMF negotiations regarding a relief package as the country of 22m people continues to reel under a deepening economic crisis. Escalating political instability and violence may also lead to delays in bilateral aid efforts from countries such as India, China, and Bangladesh, compounding the socio-economic health risks.
US: Ransomware attacks against agribusiness firms will present a long term threat as global food supply shortages linked to the Ukraine conflict persist
On 6 May, US-based agricultural machinery producer AGCO announced that it was subject to a ransomware attack. While AGCO has refrained from disclosing details about the incident, including the attacker’s tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), the agricultural firm claimed that “some of its production facilities” and business operations will likely be “adversely affected for several days”. This attack is indicative of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) 20 April Private Industry Notification (PIN) that food and agriculture sector organisations are at a heightened risk of being targeted by ransomware groups during the harvest and planting seasons (early April – early December) due to “the time-sensitive nature they play in agricultural production”. To this end, any significant cyber attacks against these entities could lead to global food supply chain disruptions, such as the May 2021 ransomware attack against meat processor JBS that caused wholesale meat prices to increase by as much as 25 percent (See Sibylline Cyber Daily Analytical Update – 1 June 2021). Further ransomware attacks are highly likely to be launched against the agribusiness sector in the coming six months, particularly as food supply chains continue to be negatively impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Source: Sibylline)
09 May 22. Hong Kong: Challenges Ahead.
On 8 May, the former chief secretary John Lee was confirmed as Hong Kong’s next head of government in a closed chief executive election. Lee will assume office on 1 July, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s sovereignty handover from the UK to China.
- As the only approved candidate by the central government, Lee’s election as Carrie Lam’s successor was a formality, evidenced by him securing 1,416 of 1,428 valid votes cast by the pro-Beijing Election Committee. Lee’s 99.2 percent winning margin is the highest in the history of Hong Kong Special Administration Region’s (SAR) leadership races. This was the first chief executive contest to be held following a Beijing-led electoral overhaul to ensure only “patriots” can govern Hong Kong. The fact that Lee faced no competition in the race is a reflection of the stringent vetting process for candidates.
- The leadership election process has attracted notable criticism from several Western governments, with the European Union calling it “a violation of democratic principle and political pluralism”. Beijing reacted to these comments with the usual sharp rebuttals, accusing foreign powers of interfering with China’s internal affairs.
- As the former security secretary and later chief secretary, the second-highest position in Hong Kong government behind the chief executive, Lee led the government’s hard-line response to pro-democracy protests in 2019-2020 and is a staunch supporter of the controversial National Security Law. As a result, Lee is among several senior officials in the SAR administration, including outgoing leader Carrie Lam, under US sanctions for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.
John Lee will take over from Carrie Lam at a particularly testing juncture for Hong Kong. The financial and trading hub has experienced significant turmoil over the past three years, stemming from social unrest and the Covid-19 pandemic. While the government is taking some tangible steps to ease the strict social distancing and border restrictions, the city remains deeply divided politically, with the comprehensively enforced National Security Law undermining Hong Kong’s investment climate. Lee will oversee the task of Hong Kong’s post-pandemic economic recovery against the backdrop of a hostile geopolitical dynamic and notable anti-government sentiment amongst the electorate.
While his plans to revamp government institutions are aimed at improving bureaucratic efficiency as well as making the administration “better fit-for-purpose” for the post-pandemic era, the new leader will face some tough, if not insurmountable, challenges. For example, high political apathy among the young population means a career in the civil service is not the most attractive option for many graduates. An ongoing emigration wave following the government’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement will also likely cause a talent or brain drain for the city in the long run.
However, Lee’s immediate attention will be to work with the ongoing administration to ensure a smooth power transition during what will be one of the most sensitive periods in Hong Kong’s political calendar. After banning commemorative events for the Tiananmen Square crackdown anniversary on 4 June for the last two years citing pandemic control rules, the government is unlikely to tolerate any large public gathering for this year’s occasion, though Covid-19 may no longer be a pretext the authorities can use for a ban. For the next six weeks, extra security forces will be deployed to clamp down on anti-Beijing and pro-democracy activities, especially targeting local radical groups, ahead of the 4-June commemoration and the 25th handover anniversary on 1 July. Nonetheless, heavy security presence will likely attract more intense international scrutiny and unfavourable press coverage on Hong Kong, which could in turn further dampen business sentiment for the former British colony. (Source: Sibylline)
09 May 22. World military expenditure passes $2trn; increases slightly in Africa. Total world military expenditure increased fractionally in 2021 to reach $2 113bn, surpassing the $2trn mark for the first time, new research by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has revealed. Military spending also increased in Africa.
SIPRI on 25 April said 2021 saw the seventh consecutive year of spending increases, with the five largest spenders last year being the United States, China, India, the United Kingdom and Russia, together accounting for 62% of expenditure.
“Even amid the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, world military spending hit record levels,” said Dr Diego Lopes da Silva, Senior Researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme. “There was a slowdown in the rate of real-terms growth due to inflation. In nominal terms, however, military spending grew by 6.1%.”
As a result of a sharp economic recovery in 2021, the global military burden — world military expenditure as a share of world gross domestic product (GDP) — fell by 0.1 percentage points, from 2.3% in 2020 to 2.2% in 2021.
African expenditure on the rise
Military expenditure in Africa increased by 1.2% in 2021 to an estimated $39.7bn, SIPRI reported. The total for Africa was almost evenly split between North Africa (49% of the regional total) and sub-Saharan Africa (51%). Over the decade 2012–21, African military spending followed three distinct trends. It first rose continuously between 2012 and 2014, followed by four years of decline until 2018 and then three consecutive years of growth until 2021, to give an overall increase of 2.5%.
In 2021 North African military expenditure totalled $19.6bn, 1.7% lower than in 2020, but 29% higher than in 2012. The long-standing tensions between the two largest spenders in North Africa — Algeria and Morocco — worsened in 2021. Algeria’s military expenditure fell by 6.1% in 2021, to reach $9.1bn, while Morocco’s spending grew by 3.4%, to $5.4bn.
In 2021 military expenditure in sub-Saharan Africa totalled $20.1bn, 4.1% higher than in 2020, but 14% lower than in 2012. The increase in 2021 was the first in sub-Saharan Africa since 2014 and was primarily driven by Nigeria, the biggest spender in the subregion. Between 2020 and 2021, Nigeria raised its military spending by 56%, to reach $4.5bn. The increase came in response to Nigeria’s various security challenges, such as attacks by Islamist extremists and separatist insurgents.
South Africa, the second largest spender in the subregion, cut its military expenditure by 13%, to $3.3bn in 2021. The country’s prolonged economic stagnation has severely impacted its military budget.
In 2021 Kenya, Uganda and Angola were, respectively, the third, fourth and fifth largest military spenders in sub-Saharan Africa. Over the decade 2012–21, Kenya and Uganda have both faced insurgencies that have influenced their military spending. Between 2012 and 2021, military expenditure rose by 203% in Uganda but remained relatively stable in Kenya (down by 4.5%). Military spending by Angola fell by 66% over the same period. The worsening economic conditions in Angola from around 2015 — largely caused by low oil prices and slumps in its oil production — and the slow pace of economic recovery in more recent years were central to the sharp drop in Angolan military spending over the decade.
US military spending amounted to $801bn in 2021, a drop of 1.4% from 2020. The US military burden decreased slightly from 3.7% of GDP in 2020 to 3.5% in 2021.
US funding for military research and development (R&D) rose by 24% between 2012 and 2021, while arms procurement funding fell by 6.4% over the same period. In 2021 spending on both decreased. However, the drop in R&D spending (–1.2%) was smaller than that in arms procurement spending (–5.4%).
“The increase in R&D spending over the decade 2012–21 suggests that the United States is focusing more on next-generation technologies,” said Alexandra Marksteiner, Researcher with SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme. “The US Government has repeatedly stressed the need to preserve the US military’s technological edge over strategic competitors.”
Russia increased its military expenditure by 2.9% in 2021, to $65.9bn, at a time when it was building up its forces along the Ukrainian border. This was the third consecutive year of growth and Russia’s military spending reached 4.1% of GDP in 2021.
“High oil and gas revenues helped Russia to boost its military spending in 2021. Russian military expenditure had been in decline between 2016 and 2019 as a result of low energy prices combined with sanctions in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014,” said Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, Director of SIPRI’s Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.
The ‘national defence’ budget line, which accounts for around three-quarters of Russia’s total military spending and includes funding for operational costs as well as arms procurement, was revised upwards over the course of the year. The final figure was $48.4bn, 14% higher than had been budgeted at the end of 2020.
As it has strengthened its defences against Russia, Ukraine’s military spending has risen by 72% since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Spending fell in 2021, to $5.9bn, but still accounted for 3.2% of the country’s GDP.
China, the world’s second largest spender, allocated an estimated $293bn to its military in 2021, an increase of 4.7% compared with 2020. China’s military spending has grown for 27 consecutive years. The 2021 Chinese budget was the first under the 14th Five-Year Plan, which runs until 2025.
Following initial approval of its 2021 budget, the Japanese Government added $7.0bn to military spending. As a result, spending rose by 7.3%, to $54.1bn in 2021, the highest annual increase since 1972. Australian military spending also increased in 2021: by 4.0%, to reach $31.8bn.
“China’s growing assertiveness in and around the South and the East China seas have become a major driver of military spending in countries such as Australia and Japan,” said SIPRI Senior Researcher Dr Nan Tian. “An example is the AUKUS trilateral security agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States that foresees the supply of eight nuclear-powered submarines to Australia at an estimated cost of up to $128bn.” (Source: https://www.defenceweb.co.za/)
06 May 22. Arctic Partnerships Vital to Regional, National Security, Commanders Say. Alaska plays a central role in the U.S. integrated deterrence strategy regarding the defense of North America, Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck said.
VanHerck, the commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, held a virtual Pentagon press briefing yesterday from Anchorage, Alaska.
The greatest advantage the U.S. has is a strong network of alliances and partnerships, unlike Russia and China, which do not, he said.
For instance, the Arctic Security Forces Roundtable and the Arctic Symposium are both taking place this week.
These forums will further discuss the ways that ally, and partner nations can cooperate in this region, he said.
Navy Adm. Charles “Chas” A. Richard, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, also spoke.
“We both see the Arctic as a key strategic region,” Richard said. “And we know how valuable it is to us and our Arctic allies. Northcom is the Arctic advocate, but I want you to know they are not alone. U.S. forces, including my strategic forces, routinely operate in this region, as do our Arctic allies. It’s important for us to be on the field, because strategic threats emanate from the Arctic; and the evolving threats require continuing attention. You need to look no further than Russia strengthening its forces in the Arctic, the Polar Silk Road is an example of the things that we need to address.”
The Polar Silk Road refers to shipping routes connecting three major economic centers – North America, East Asia and Western Europe – through the Arctic Circle.
“Strategic deterrence, my responsibility, is the foundation of our national defense policy and integrated deterrence. It enables every U.S. military operation around the world, including in the Arctic,” the admiral said.
“I want to emphasize the stable, rules-based international order in the Arctic as well as elsewhere, because it benefits the United States. It benefits all Arctic community nations. It is what’s best for stability, security and overall well-being. allies and partners are our greatest strategic advantage, and we are theirs. … And I’m grateful for the work being done to continually strengthen Arctic security,” he added. (Source: US DoD)
06 May 22. Israel-Palestine Territories: Attack. Late on 5 May, three individuals were killed and four wounded in a stabbing attack in the ultra-Orthodox city of El’ad, in central Israel, approximately 15 km (9 miles) from Tel Aviv. The two suspects remain at large, with Israeli authorities leading a manhunt in a bid to apprehend the perpetrators.
- Israeli police identified the two suspects as Palestinians from Rumana, a village near the Jenin, northern West Bank and have established roadblocks and called for public support to capture the perpetraitors. Meanwhile, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz extended West Bank and Gaza border closures until 8 May, which had been initially introduced ahead of Israel’s Independence Day celebrations on 4-5 May.
- Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have praised the attack as a “heroic operation” in retaliation against the recent storming of Al-Aqsa by Israeli settlers. These statements follow warnings by Hamas’s chief Yahya Sinwar last week that Al-Aqsa represented a “red line”, demonstrating that developments at the holy site represent a key trigger for violent confrontations and attacks.
- The incident also comes as Israel’s Supreme Court rejected a petition on 4 May against the expulsion of over 1,000 Palestinians in the rural Masafer Yatta area, near the city of Hebron, also known as the South Hebron Hills, in the West Bank. The ruling will allow the demolition of eight small villages. In addition, according to a statement released on 6 May, Israel’s Civil Administration plans to advance the construction of additional housing units across the West Bank next week.
The El’ad attack represents the second attack in a majority ultra-Orthodox area in recent months, following a shooting in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak on 29 March. As such, the recent incident is likely to heighten concerns among ultra-Orthodox communities regarding the government’s ability to guarantee their safety. Political opposition parties, as well as right-wing elements within the governing coalition, are likely to leverage these concerns, pressuring Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and pushing for government action in the coming weeks.
In the coming days and weeks enhanced security measures by Israeli forces are likely to persist as authorities look to mitigate the risk of additional attacks amid sustained tensions ahead and throughout 15 May, the anniversary of the Nakba. The date marks “the catastrophe” after the declaration of the state of Israel and the displacement and exodus of Palestinians. As a politically charged date, heightened ethno-religious tensions next week leading up to Nakba Day are likely to drive an intensification in protest activity and violent clashes in key flashpoint locations, such as Jerusalem and hotspots in the Old City. In addition to the developments regarding access to and clashes at Al-Aqsa, renewed demolitions, as well as the planned construction of thousands of housing units across the West Bank, will compound existing tensions.
Heightened security will remain in urban centres, with a latent threat to bystanders in the event of clashes or scuffles which may happen with little notice. Junctions and public transportation will continue to represent a soft target for stabbing and car-ramming incidents, particularly around flashpoint areas such as Israeli settlements, religious sites and mixed Arab-Jewish communities. Additionally, while the increased circulation of unlicensed arms in the West Bank over the past year or so will sustain the likelihood of attacks involving firearms, stringent security protocols, counter-smuggling operations and restrictions on freedom of movement over recent weeks are likely to mitigate the risk of more severe, large-scale incidents. (Source: Sibylline)
06 May 22. Pakistan: Imran Khan set to launch massive movement against the government, driving supply chain disruptions. Today, on 6 May, Imran Khan will hold a rally at 19:00 (local time) in the city of Minawali, Punjab province that is expected to be attended by thousands. At the event, he will launch a “freedom movement” that will conduct a march to Islamabad in the last week of May. In response, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government will also hold rallies in several parts of Pakistan in upcoming days, including today in Fateh Jang stadium, Punjab province. As thousands travel from across the country to attend rallies, highways will likely see greater traffic congestion exacerbated in party by additional security checks at toll plazas, disrupting the movement of staff and goods. Further, Imran Khan supporters among diaspora communities in the UK, USA, UAE and Canada among others will likely also respond to Khan’s call for a “freedom movement” by holding smaller protests in their local regions. (Source: Sibylline)
06 May 22. Colombia: Gulf Clan armed strike in retaliation of Otoniel’s extradition, elevates physical threats to staff in the northwest. On 5 May, members of the Gulf Clan organised criminal group declared an ‘armed strike’ in protest at the extradition of its leader, Dairo ‘Otoniel’ Úsuga, to the US. The strike, under which people are ordered to stay at home and businesses to shut or face violent punishment, increases physical threats to assets and staff in areas of northwest Colombia and will potentially disrupt supply chains in Antioquia department. The group, also known as the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia or the Úsuga Clan, already attacked at least 32 vehicles and blocked several roads in Bolívar, Córdoba, Sucre, and Atlántico departments. The government recently approved a terrorism insurance policy by which it covers the cost of damage to vehicles during protests and strikes in a bid to prevent supply chain disruptions, but the strong presence of the Gulf Clan in some regions will act as a deterrent to transport operations. Staff operating in rural areas face elevated risks of being targeted. (Source: Sibylline)
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