News That Matters

02/06/2023 ---- 09/06/2023

As global tensions rise and alliances are tested, the upcoming NATO summit on July 11 in Vilnius, Lithuania, is of significant importance. With Finland having already joined the alliance earlier this year, NATO aims to admit Sweden by this date. However, Turkey and Hungary are currently blocking Sweden's accession, with Turkey accusing Sweden of allowing Kurdish terror groups to operate within its borders and being complicit in far-right protests and Quran burnings. This objection comes at a time when NATO has experienced increased unity and defense spending since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and Turkey's veto could undermine this progress.

The deadline for Sweden's accession holds critical implications for the Western alliance, as missing it could signal weakness to adversaries. In response, the US and UK are offering Sweden assurances and prioritizing its accession, while Turkey seeks approval from the US Congress for its purchase of US-made F-16 fighter jets. Concurrently, Russia claims to have thwarted a major Ukrainian attack in Donetsk, killing 300 troops and destroying 16 tanks. This increase in military activity suggests a Ukrainian counter-offensive may have begun, with Ukrainian ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrskyi reporting troops "moving forward" towards Bakhmut.

Meanwhile, in the Asia-Pacific region, China and Russia conducted a joint aerial strategic patrol on May 24, 2022, marking their sixth joint patrol over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. This comes amid rising tensions in the region and no meeting between Chinese and US defense chiefs at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. The US has made provocations, including sending a spy plane to the South China Sea and partnering with Canada in a warship transit in the Taiwan Straits. NATO's potential expansion into the Asia-Pacific region has raised concerns after Japan announced a plan to open NATO's first liaison office in Asia. The China-Russia joint strategic patrol serves as a counterbalance to US hegemonic actions and demonstrates their capabilities in safeguarding peace and stability in the West Pacific.

Back in Europe, the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant dam was destroyed in southern Ukraine, causing thousands of people to be evacuated from surrounding areas due to flooding. Ukraine's military and NATO accuse Russia of blowing up the dam, while Russia blames Ukraine. The dam, built during the Soviet era, is one of six dams along the Dnipro river and holds water equal to the Great Salt Lake in Utah, US. The breach in the dam has caused flooding downstream in the direction of Kherson, impacting 16,000 people living in the critical zone and contaminating the river with 150 tonnes of industrial lubricant. The International Atomic Energy Agency is monitoring the situation, as the dam supplies water to communities, farmers, and the nuclear power station at Zaporizhzhia. The dam is also vital for carrying water to Russian-occupied Crimea, and its destruction could worsen Ukraine's energy problem and disrupt irrigation in Crimea.

As the global chessboard of conflict unfolds, the upcoming NATO summit and Sweden's potential accession hold significant implications for the balance of power. The interconnected nature of global politics means that decisions made in one part of the world can have ripple effects elsewhere, and all eyes will be on Vilnius come July 11. Will NATO maintain its unity and continue to expand, or will internal divisions and external pressures cause the alliance to falter? Only time will tell.


Recent findings from The Ocean Race have revealed alarming concentrations of microplastics in the world's oceans, including the most remote areas. With concentrations up to 1,884 particles per cubic meter of seawater, this is an 18-fold increase from the 2017-18 Ocean Race. Microplastics, tiny plastic particles measuring between 0.03 mm and 5 mm, pose a significant threat to marine life and ecosystems.

The Ocean Race, a 62,000km sailing competition that began in January and finishes in July, allows sailors to collect data on various environmental factors in locations rarely reached by research vessels. So far, 40 samples have been analyzed, with microplastics found in each one. The highest concentrations were found near urban areas, coastlines, and "garbage patch" areas. Even near Point Nemo, the most remote area in the ocean, 320 microplastic particles per cubic meter were found, a significant increase from the 9-41 particles found during the last race.

These high concentrations of microplastics near shorelines are particularly concerning for fisheries production and the blue economy, which relies heavily on healthy marine ecosystems. The microplastics research is part of a science program during The Ocean Race, involving two teams: GUYOT environnement - Team Europe and Team Holcim - PRB. The samples are sent daily to the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) for analysis, with support from the University of Rhode Island.

The Ocean Race science initiative is part of the Racing with Purpose sustainability program, and all teams in the competition carry equipment to collect data on human impact on the ocean. The race started in Alicante, Spain on 15th January 2023 and will end in Genova, Italy in June. This year's race is also analyzing microplastic fibers, which were not tested in the previous edition. The Ocean Race contributes data to the Ocean Decade Odyssey project, part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

In conclusion, the alarming increase in microplastic concentrations found during The Ocean Race highlights the urgent need for global action to reduce plastic pollution and protect our oceans. The race serves as a stark reminder of the human impact on even the most remote areas of our planet, emphasizing the importance of preserving the health and sustainability of our oceans for future generations.


The Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) is an annual inter-governmental security conference held in Singapore since 2002, organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). It serves as a crucial platform for fostering a sense of community among defense and security policymakers in the Asia-Pacific region. The summit attracts defense ministers, military chiefs, legislators, academic experts, journalists, and business delegates from primarily Asia-Pacific states.

The 19th SLD took place on 10-12 June 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan's Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, was the keynote speaker, with representatives from 42 countries attending, including 37 ministerial-level delegates and over 30 senior defense officials. The 2023 SLD, held on 2-4 June, featured a keynote speech by Chinese State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu on June 4, 2023. Li proposed the Global Security Initiative (GSI) as a means to conform to world peace and development trends, emphasizing China's vision for security in the Asia-Pacific region.

During the summit, tensions between the US and China over Taiwan, South China Sea, and semiconductor chip exports were evident. Li Shangfu warned against using freedom-of-navigation patrols as a pretext for hegemony, while US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin criticized China's refusal of military talks. Despite the tensions, the two officials shook hands at dinner.

In a secret meeting held concurrently with the SLD, senior officials from around two dozen major intelligence agencies discussed Russia's war in Ukraine and transnational crime. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke at the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue summit on June 3, 2023, emphasizing the US alliance with Asia-Pacific countries and criticizing China's "dangerous operational behavior at sea or in international airspace."

Indonesia's defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, proposed a peace plan for the war in Ukraine at the SLD, including a ceasefire, establishing a demilitarized zone, and monitoring by a UN peacekeeping force. Subianto also suggested a UN referendum to determine the wishes of inhabitants in disputed areas.

The Shangri-La Dialogue has proven essential in discussing peace, security initiatives, and addressing tensions between nations. As the world navigates complex geopolitical landscapes, the significance of such forums in fostering dialogue and cooperation cannot be understated. The SLD provides an opportunity for nations to find common ground and work towards a more peaceful and stable world.


The BRICS foreign ministers convened in Cape Town, South Africa, to discuss the potential expansion of the bloc and the establishment of a common currency. Representatives from Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Kazakhstan also attended the meeting, with the BRICS summit of heads of state scheduled for August 22-24 in Johannesburg. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa emphasized the growing global interest in joining BRICS, while Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva supported the idea of a shared currency.

The New Development Bank (NDB), created by the BRICS nations, is expanding its membership, with Bangladesh and the UAE joining in 2021, Egypt in February, and Saudi Arabia currently in discussions. Thirteen nations have formally asked to join the group, while at least six others have expressed interest. India, a founding member, seeks an agreement on the process to ensure it isn't sidelined by China and its allies.

Jim O'Neill, who coined the acronym BRIC, calls for strict criteria on membership, while South African central bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago expresses caution on shared currency plans. Russian and Chinese officials raised the possibility of accepting new members, with more than a dozen countries expressing interest in joining BRICS, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates.

During the meeting, the ministers called for a "rebalancing" of the world order and discussed alternative currencies to the US dollar for international trade, strengthening the NDB, and reforming global decision-making. They also criticized the lack of permanent African representation on the United Nations Security Council.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhouxu expects the group to take on new members, while South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor reiterated that Putin is invited to the August summit, but his attendance remains unconfirmed. The BRICS ministers discussed building influence in a multi-polar world, and Pandor mentioned the potential use of alternative currencies to avoid sanctions.

Countries expressing interest in joining BRICS include Iran, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Argentina, Algeria, and the UAE. The meeting continued on Friday, chaired by Naledi Pandor, South Africa's minister of international relations and cooperation. Preparations for the leaders' summit in August in Johannesburg were discussed, with topics including the Russia-Ukraine conflict, reducing reliance on the US dollar, and plans for expansion.

The NDB is expanding, with Bangladesh, the UAE, Egypt, and Uruguay having joined, and Saudi Arabia in talks to join. BRICS aims to build a platform for cooperation among emerging markets and developing countries, improve global governance, and build a global community of shared future. With the potential expansion of the bloc and the establishment of a shared currency, a new world order may be on the horizon, as the BRICS nations continue to gain influence and challenge the status quo.


The Nord Stream gas pipeline explosions in September have raised concerns about energy security, as the search for the perpetrators behind the attack on the undersea pipelines carrying natural gas from Russia to Europe continues. The incident resulted in a massive release of methane gas and reduced Europe's energy dependence on Russia, increasing US influence.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh alleges US Navy divers planted bombs that destroyed the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in September, citing an unnamed source. However, the Pentagon, White House spokesperson Adrienne Watson, and CIA spokesperson Tammy Thorp have all denied these claims. Swedish officials suspected "gross sabotage," and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called the situation "serious." Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova says Moscow believes the US and NATO were involved in the explosions. However, an investigation involving 23 diplomatic and intelligence officials in nine countries found no evidence that Russia was behind the attack.

The attribution of the attack remains challenging, as the damage occurred in the exclusive economic zones of Sweden and Denmark. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has highlighted the attack's demonstration of the vulnerability of energy networks. Russia remains a key suspect due to its recent history of bombing civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. However, skeptics argue Moscow had little to gain from damaging pipelines that generated billions in annual revenue.

New information has surfaced, such as unidentified aerial drones appearing around Norwegian oil and gas facilities around the time of the Nord Stream attacks. The New York Times cites anonymous US intelligence officials suggesting a pro-Ukrainian group could be responsible. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calls the report a "co-ordinated fake news media campaign." German investigators searched a ship in January suspected of transporting explosives, and German media links a boat used in the attack to a Polish firm owned by two Ukrainians.

The Nord Stream pipeline explosions have intensified the energy crisis in Europe and strained the relationship between Russia and the West. As the world awaits the results of the ongoing investigations, the need for increased security and cooperation in protecting critical energy infrastructure has never been more crucial. The truth behind the Nord Stream pipeline explosions remains elusive, casting a shadow of uncertainty over global energy security.


In a crucial move to prevent a financial catastrophe, the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan legislation lifting the government's debt ceiling to $31.4 trillion. The Senate voted 63-36 to approve the bill, which had already been passed by the House of Representatives with a 314-117 vote. The timely decision came as the Treasury Department warned of an inability to pay bills on June 5 if Congress failed to act. President Joe Biden praised Congress for their timely action and plans to sign the bill into law as soon as possible.

The statutory limit on federal borrowing will now be suspended until January 1, 2025, allowing the government to continue borrowing money to pay its bills and avoid defaulting on its $31.4 trillion debt. The legislation also includes about $1.5 trillion in spending reductions over the next 10 years, which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated would save $1.5 trillion over that period.

The last close call with a default occurred in 2011, which led to the first-ever downgrade of the government's credit rating. This time, the Senate vote saw bipartisan support, with 44 Democrats, 17 Republicans, and 2 independents voting in favor of the bill. The House of Representatives vote had 165 Democrats and 149 Republicans supporting it. President Joe Biden is expected to enact the measure into law soon.

The debt ceiling suspension will last until January 1, 2025, during which time the government will have the ability to borrow money without limit. The legislation also caps non-defense spending, expands work requirements for some food stamp recipients, and claws back some Covid-19 relief funds.

The passage of this bill comes as a relief to many who feared the consequences of a default on the nation's debt, which could have led to a severe financial crisis affecting not only the U.S. economy but also the global financial system. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy thanked the negotiating team, Representatives Garret Graves and Patrick McHenry, for their efforts in reaching this bipartisan agreement. President Joe Biden also expressed his gratitude to congressional leaders for their cooperation in averting a potential financial disaster.

This bipartisan debt limit deal demonstrates the ability of both parties to come together and make difficult decisions for the good of the nation. With the debt limit suspended through January 1, 2025, the government can now focus on addressing other pressing issues and continue working towards a stable and prosperous future for all Americans.