Analysis

As the United Kingdom (UK) proceeds with negotiations to leave the European Union (EU), it must account for mounting security concerns regarding the potential drop-off in shared intelligence with EU countries.

A recent report published by the UK’s House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee concluded there will be a “barrier” to security if data transfers between EU nations and the UK are obstructed after Brexit, which would negatively impact the national security and counter terrorism efforts of not only the UK, but EU member states as well.  

In recent years, especially after the attacks in Brussels, Paris, Nice, and Berlin, there has been more cooperation within the EU to keep European citizens safe, highlighting both the growing importance and validity of intelligence sharing. The most recent attack in Barcelona on August 17, when a vehicle driven through crowds of pedestrians killed twelve and injured eighty, only underscores the growing need for collaboration in counterterrorism efforts throughout Europe. As a result, the UK needs to make the reconciliation between its security system and that of the EU a priority in the Brexit negotiations, working hard to secure the best UK-EU intelligence-sharing arrangement possible.

Beijing’s disregard for twenty-year-old agreement raises questions about Hong Kong’s future

Beijing’s disregard for an agreement that ensures Hong Kong’s basic freedoms raises doubts about the future of democracy in this Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

On July 1, 1997, the United Kingdom (UK) handed Hong Kong back to China, ending 150 years of British colonial rule. On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of that occasion, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which stipulated how Hong Kong would be governed after the handover, “no longer has any practical significance.”

Twenty years after the declaration entered into force, and thirty years before its expiration, the agreement is far from insignificant. It produced the “one country, two systems” arrangement between China and Hong Kong. This arrangement has ensured Hong Kong’s ability to govern under democratic principles, while remaining tied to the Chinese mainland.
The Pentagon has confirmed that North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 28. The missile, which landed in the sea off the Japanese coast, flew higher and for longer than the one North Korea tested on July 4. This means it could hit cities in the United States.

Here is what Atlantic Council analysts had to say about this development.

Qatar crisis creates a headache for the United States

Nearly two months in, the diplomatic crisis between the Arab Gulf states is growing ever more complicated. The July 16 Washington Post report that cites unnamed US intelligence officials as claiming that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) precipitated the diplomatic row with Qatar by hacking Qatari state-run news outlets and attributing false statements to the tiny emirate’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, is, if true, troubling for several reasons.
Lingering uncertainty regarding US support for NATO and burden-sharing among allies has raised questions as to the future of the NATO nuclear-sharing arrangement. While US President Donald J. Trump’s reaffirmation of the US commitment to Article 5, NATO’s mutual defense clause, may have temporarily placated allies, intense feelings of insecurity among the European allies remain. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, taking an unusually strong stance, gave voice to these sentiments: “The time in which [Europe] can rely fully on others—they are somewhat over.” With these remarks, Merkel offered her answer to a question that has been asked repeatedly since Trump was elected president of the United States: Can Europe count on its ally across the Atlantic to come to its defense when needed?
In the wake of the recent WannaCry and Petya ransomware attacks, cyber warfare has once again made mainstream news headlines. With cyberattacks becoming increasingly common, it becomes important to understand the options the United States has in dealing with these kinds of attacks.

Petya, though in many ways similar to WannaCry and other ransomware attacks, appears to have been a thinly veiled act of sabotage directed at a specific nation: Ukraine. Organizations and individuals in other countries, some in the United States, were caught in the Petya crossfire. Although few US organizations were damaged by Petya, these attacks will likely continue, and the United States could be the next direct target. The United States has already suffered the consequences of directed cyber interference—in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election, a Russian cyberattack hit systems in thirty-nine US states.

Although the United States certainly could respond in kind to cyberattacks, it is important to ask: should it, and if so, how? The United States must weigh any cyber actions against the possible responses by the opposing party, as well as avoid setting dangerous precedents in a largely undefined theater of conflict.

A familiar threat in a new environment

As the black flags of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fall in Iraq and Syria, new ones have been raised in the Philippines. That ISIS is losing its battle for territory in its home countries, Iraq and Syria, is indisputable. ISIS leaders have admitted that the “caliphate” will soon fall. However, the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is unlikely to be the end of the group as an active terrorist organization. Rather, as ISIS loses power in its traditional territories, it seems to be spreading its extremist ideology through other terrorist groups around the world, including those in the Philippines.

In May, an Islamist group affiliated with ISIS seized control of the Philippine city of Marawi. In this way, ISIS is embracing a “franchise model” similar to that employed by al Qaeda (AQ) following the US response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This franchise model allows the original faction of ISIS to maintain ownership of a disparate grouping of extremist divisions around the world, thereby ensuring its survival.

At its inception in 2013, ISIS broke off from its former affiliation as al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and became a geographically contiguous entity. Today, ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, has fully operational branches in eighteen countries, and aspiring branches in six more, including the Philippines. 
British Prime Minister Theresa May called for a re-evaluation of the United Kingdom’s counterterrorism strategy in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London.  This must be a top priority.

The UK’s current counterterrorism strategy—CONTEST—is organized around four “work streams” also known as the four Ps: Pursue (to stop terrorist attacks), Prevent (to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorist activities), Protect (to strengthen protection against a terrorist attack), and Prepare (to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack).

Of these, Prevent has been the most controversial in part because of the government’s unwillingness to release information on its evaluation of this program and pushback from Muslim communities.
Russia’s large-scale military exercise to be conducted in September can provide critical insight for NATO allies seeking to improve their readiness posture against an increasingly revanchist Russia, according to an Estonian defense official.

“Russians train exactly as they intend to fight, thus Zapad will give up ample information on their military and political thinking as it is right now,” Kristjan Prikk, undersecretary for defense policy at Estonia’s Ministry of Defense, said at the Atlantic Council on July 11. According to Prikk, “we don’t consider this year’s Zapad exercise in itself to be a direct threat to us [NATO] or a cover for an attack, but we have to keep in mind that the Russians have the nasty habit of hiding their actual military endeavors behind exercises.”

“We have to be calm, vigilant, flexible,” in the months leading up to and following Zapad 2017, said Prikk.

In September, Russia will conduct a joint military exercise with Belarus—Zapad. Based on initial indications and past Zapads, the exercise, which will take place in Belarus, will assess the readiness of Russia’s military across many forces—land, sea, and air—and test a range of capabilities—not only conventional, but also cyber and nuclear, within a particular set of scenarios. This will be the first Zapad exercise since 2013. Zapad, which is also the Russian word for “west,” will take place against the backdrop of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, ongoing war in Ukraine, military intervention in Syria, and meddling in the US and French presidential elections.
North Korea’s successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that has the ability to strike Alaska could embolden Pyongyang to be more aggressive in the future, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

“With this nuclear ICBM ‘shield,’ the DPRK [North Korea] likely will be much more aggressive in every other area of its foreign and military policies. We are entering a new and very dangerous era,” said Barry Pavel, a senior vice president, Arnold Kanter Chair, and director of the Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

On July 4, six months after Trump had tweeted that a North Korean test of an ICBM capable of reaching the United States “won’t happen,” North Korea said it had tested such a missile that could hit Alaska.


    

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