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After years of tensions, on March 10th, 2023, Riyadh and Tehran, with China acting as host and facilitator, agreed to reopen diplomatic relations. China also offered a 12-point proposal to Kyiv and Moscow on the first anniversary of the invasion, meant to end the war in Ukraine. Beijing’s attempts to act as a peace facilitator demonstrate the Chinese Communist Party’s aims to shape a Chinese-centric future. These deals, particularly regarding Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and China, can be read as indicators of a global shift towards a more bipolar order intent on challenging the West.
The anniversary of the Ukraine-Russia war stormed social media in February, as the month of “love” ended; however, as the third month of 2023 approached, United State’s national security erupted with a new “mysterious” white balloon flying across North America.
Recently, Xi Jinping, the leader of China, and Vladimir Putin, leader of Russia, met at the Kremlin in Russia to participate in talks of their strategic vision for the future. This visit comes amid the still ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine and raises eyebrows for state leaders around the world watching closely as relationships between China and Russia grow tighter. The meeting was advertised as a way for the “self-described friends” to show their personal support for each other.
As of 2022, the United States was producing approximately 1% of the world’s lithium, all of which comes from Albemarle’s Silver Peak in Nevada. There are no other functioning lithium mines in the country. Despite other potential mining sites in the United States being considered and developed, the US is producing only 1/75th of their projected lithium demand in future years. Because of this, the US is considering mining and purchasing lithium from outside the US.
Although first becoming active years before Russia’s “special military operation”, Wagner Group, the private military contractor and parastatal arm of the Russian military has become increasingly visible since the invasion of Ukraine. The PMC is a convenient asset for the Kremlin, however recent critical comments made by Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin about top Russian military leadership indicate developing growing pains in the relationship between the Russian government and Wagner Group.
Newly elected Iraqi Prime Minister, Mohammed al-Sudani, recently spoke out in an interview expressing support for U.S. military presence and training in Iraq. This statement holds both disillusion and relief for the United States, due to a history of tension between the two countries.
As the world approaches the one year anniversary of the Ukraine and Russian War, Russia is indicating they have no intention to step back any time soon. In light of the extensive sanctions against Russian interests, people, and their ability to conduct international banking, President Vladimir V. Putin has linked Russia’s banking system to the same banking institutions as Iran.
A number of updates in Cuba-US relations emerged as 2023 began. While contention and long-standing ideological differences remain, it appears that the developments in relations between the countries are signs of improvement.
On December 13-15, 2022, the White House hosted forty-nine leaders from across the African continent to the second U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. This historic event has only happened once before, in 2014 with former President Barack Obama. The purpose of the summit was several fold: to build trust with the many countries of the African continent, advance the interests of the African Union, to foster new economic activities, and more. This summit is seen as an important step in building better relationships with “a new, more prosperous Africa”, as President Obama said during the first summit. This year’s summit is especially important as it comes amid economic hardship across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a debt crisis for many African countries.
On November 24th 2022 in Urumqi, China, there was a fire that broke out in a residential building that resulted in a total of 10 deaths, many of whom were children. The fire took place in an area that was sanctioned off in quarantine due to the Zero COVID health policy that Xi Jinping has established over China, with regulations and restrictions placed on the building. The firemen that were called onto the site were unable to get into the building to save them due to the many lackdown measures that were in place in the building, which ultimately resulted in many avoidable deaths. This incident resulted in an uprising by the Chinese citizens, with many protests and candlelight vigils held all around China.
Cyber-attacks on critical U.S. infrastructure pose a tremendous threat to the American population and government. For years, the threat has grown in the form of state-sponsored cyber attackers and threats via data mining and malware coming through applications and social media. The current United States infrastructure is not sufficiently prepared or resilient to withstand attacks that can cause damage to critical segments of the medical, financial, power, and governmental sectors. Experts suggest that radical updates to infrastructure and improved security practices are required to prepare adequately for state-sponsored attacks or undermining from near-peer rivals.
The United States has recently renewed its goals to reduce carbon emissions and move towards reliance on renewable energy sources such as solar plants, electric vehicles, and wind farms. This transition from the traditional use of fossil-fuels to renewables for energy production requires an extraordinary amount of mineral extraction. The location of such minerals is condensed in few areas throughout the globe, such as China, Australia, Chile, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The extraction and refining processes of such minerals is currently dominated by China and Chinese firms. Sourcing of minerals in volatile regions also threatens the reliability of access to those necessary for energy production, whether it be due to civil unrest or climate risks. Relying on Chinese mineral production limits the bargaining power of the United States as it becomes increasingly reliant on these energy sources.
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