The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 11

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, April 10th, 2023

Good morning everyone,

It's been eleven weeks since the restart of the Atlas Newsletter, and ultimately, things have gone quite smoothly. As noted in the past, there are other newsletters in the works once the proper logistics are set up, so keep an eye out for that. The website continues to flourish with daily articles, tons of open-source content, and in-depth international updates. If you haven't already signed up for a free account, it goes highly recommended. Alternatively, a monthly subscription gets you exclusive content and unlimited access to as many international updates as you can read.

With all that being said, let's take a look at the world. In the Middle East this week, Israel is back in the spotlight as major clashes between the IDF and various militias lead to dozens of casualties and strikes in both Syria and Lebanon. Meanwhile in Europe, Macron visits China as he calls for European separation from the United States, Finland officially joins NATO, and the war hits home for Russia. In Africa, rebel groups continue to kill dozens, South Africa struggles with its energy crisis, and political unrest in Sudan continues. In the Americas, former U.S. President Donald Trump is arrested, and an axeman attacks a school in Brazil. Over in Asia and Oceania, North Korea expresses dissatisfaction with South Korea, and the Philippines opens military bases for U.S. military use.

All in all, it's just another day at the office. Let's take a look:- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, & the Atlas team


Sunday, April 9th, 2023: Over the weekend, China maneuvered dozens of aircraft and ships around Taiwan in retaliation for a meeting between the U.S. House of Representatives speaker and the Taiwanese president and a visit to Taiwan from the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman. On Saturday, China announced a military drill that simulated a blockade surrounding the island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own. The People’s Liberation Army announced the start of three-day "combat readiness patrols" and several weeks of live-fire training to demonstrate Xi Jinping's willingness to use force to bring Taiwan back into China's sphere of influence.

On Saturday, the first wave of 42 aircraft was accompanied by eight surface vessels in the waters around Taiwan. A second wave of 71 aircraft and nine major surface vessels were detected later. 45 aircraft directly crossed into Taiwanese airspace from the mainland, the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense said in a statement. "We condemn such an irrational act that has jeopardized regional security and stability," the statement read. The island's military responded by activating their air defenses and scrambling aircraft to track the Chinese planes. During an August 2022 visit by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Chinese conducted similar incursions with aircraft, ships, and live fire drills, which included rocket launches over Taiwan, sending Taiwanese civilians to air-raid shelters for cover.

A Chinese statement declared, "This is a serious warning against the collusion and provocation between the 'Taiwan independence' separatist forces and external forces, noting also that the exercises "defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity."

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy shakes hands with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen after delivering statements to the press at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California on Wednesday. (Photo - AP/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called for the United States to openly commit to the defense of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion, saying, "The question for the Congress – should we have a defense agreement with the island of Taiwan? We don't; should we have one? ... Yes, I'd be very much open to using U.S. forces to defend Taiwan, because it's in our national security interest to do so."

China sees visits between foreign nations and Taiwan as violations of their "one-China principle". Chinese media criticized the visit as giving "credence to her pro-independence stance" and acting to "bolster the collusion between the anti-China hawks in Washington and her pro-independence forces."

According to the State Department, the United States has committed to making "available defense articles and services as necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability."

The Taiwan Relations Act also notes that the United States "maintains our capacity to resist any resort to force or other forms of coercion that would jeopardize the security, or the social or economic system, of Taiwan."

It should be noted that the United States does not officially recognize Taiwan as a sovereign independent nation.


April 4th, 2023 - Russian police have arrested and charged 26-year-old Darya Trepova with terrorism after accusing her of being responsible for the April 2nd St. Petersburg bombing. The bombing targeted Russian Mil-blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, who was holding a pro-war discussion in a café owned by Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin. During the talk, he was given a small statuette that contained hidden explosives, which detonated, killing him and wounding nearly two dozen others. Though Darya has been arrested, the Russian National Republican Army has claimed responsibility, stating Darya is innocent. Russian officials remain split on who to blame, with some pointing to opposition groups in Russia and others saying Darya acted in coordination with Ukraine. Officially, she is charged with "a terrorist act by an organized group that caused intentional death".

April 6th, 2023 - French President Emmanuel Macron landed in China this week, being welcomed directly by the Chinese foreign minister. Macron was then driven to Tiananmen Square, where a massive military parade took place, firing cannons in welcome. Eventually he headed to the Great Hall of the People, where Chinese President Xi Jinping descended the steps to greet him. The considerably lavish display shows the importance with which China views France as an ally within the European Union. Though the EU is not technically headed by one particular nation, France and Germany often contest de facto leadership; thus, France is a key player in driving EU policy one way or another, which China hopes to benefit from. What is particularly striking about the level of showmanship put into Macron’s visit is the level of showmanship put into the visit of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the same time. That being, none. She was greeted by the ecology minister at the normal passenger exit. In a speech before her trip, she described China as "repressive", and Chinese media have described her as an "American puppet".

Macron walks with President Xi Jinping past a military parade in Tiananmen Square. (Photo from Ng Han Guan/Getty Images)

April 4th, 2023 - The Finnish flag has been raised for the first time at the NATO headquarters in Belgium. NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said, "Finland will get an ironclad security guarantee. Article 5, our collective defense clause 'One for all and all for one' -will now, from today, apply for Finland". One of the official Russian reasons for the invasion of Ukraine was to prevent further NATO expansion on the Russian border. However, when Russia invaded Ukraine, both Finland and Sweden, two neutral countries, opted to join NATO. Sweden still maintains hope to join, though they are presently stopped from doing so by Turkey and Hungary. Finland joining the alliance doubles NATO’s land border with Russia.

Middle East

April 4th - Present, 2023 - Israeli police launched a raid on the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites of Islam, in which they were filmed beating several Palestinians with clubs and firearms. The footage sent ripples throughout the Muslim world, with dozens of groups calling for conflict. Shortly after the raid, scores of clashes took place between Israeli police and Palestinian militant groups, with two major attacks on civilians also taking place, one in Tel Aviv and one in the Jordan Valley. In Tel Aviv, one tourist was killed in a car ramming attack, and in the Jordan Valley, three women were killed after Palestinian gunmen opened fire on their car. Scores of rockets were fired from Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon, which resulted in retaliatory strikes by Israel. Partially in response to the raid and partially in response to the clashes thereafter, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has announced a new operation, which they have named "Let the Checkpoints Fall", in which they have begun routinely targeting IDF checkpoints throughout Israel in an attempt to dismantle them.

A photo of the first night of clashes in the West Bank.

April 9th, 2023 - Israeli sources have claimed that Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force Commander, Ismail Qaani, has been killed in an Israeli drone strike. Qaani was named Commander of Iran’s Quds Force on January 3rd, 2020, after the American assassination of its previous leader, General Qasem Soleimani. The strike was targeting the residence of Maher al-Assad and reportedly killed several IRGC envoys along with those in the Syrian military. Qaani was reported to have landed in Damascus on April 8.


April 7th, 2023 - Protests broke out across Sudan after the signing of the agreement which would begin to transition Sudan to a civilian government, was delayed for the second week in a row. This time, no new signing date was declared. Civilian democracy groups and the military government had previously already reached an agreement, but the continued delay comes from within the military itself. The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, the largest civilian democracy group involved in the negotiations, has stated the delay is due to internal disagreements over a military reform that would see the Rapid Support Force, a large paramilitary within the nation, integrated into the national military. After the signing was delayed, protests were called for the next day. Though tear gas and stun grenades were deployed by police, there is no word on injuries.

Protestors marching in Sudan. (Photo from Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters)

April 2nd, 3rd, 2023 - The UN mission in the DRC, MONUSCO, has received reports of killings of over 30 civilians across April 2 and 3, by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group affiliated with the Islamic State. The full MONUSCO statement, released April 6, reads:

"MONUSCO condemns the ADF attacks which caused more than 30 dead in Ituri Kinshasa on April 06, 2023: The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), Ms Bintou Keita condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the killings of more than 30 civilians in the province of Ituri. MONUSCO received reports of these massacres of civilians on April 6, but the killings attributed to Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militiamen occurred on April 2 and 3 on the border between Mambasa and Irumu territory. Mrs. Bintou Keita deplores these despicable attacks against the civilian population. It urges the Congolese authorities to launch an investigation and bring to justice the perpetrators of these summary executions. The Head of MONUSCO reiterates the Mission's commitment to contributing to these efforts and reiterates her call for an immediate cessation of violence by all armed groups against civilians. It reaffirms MONUSCO's commitment alongside the defense and security forces Congolese forces to drastically reduce attacks on civilians through unilateral and joint patrols. Ms. Bintou Keita finally reiterates the Secretary-General's appeal to foreign armed groups to lay down their arms unconditionally and return to their country of origin."

April 5th, 2023 - The South African government has revoked the national state of disaster that it declared in February to try and combat South Africa’s ongoing energy crisis. South Africa has been plagued with energy problems since 2007, resulting in citizens in some parts of the country being without power for up to ten hours per day. South Africa does not have enough power infrastructure to support its needs and is thus forced to ration power. The power cuts are taking a significant toll on the nation's economy and are expected to reduce economic growth in the coming year by 2%. Many of the nation's telecommunications companies are being forced to divert funds to constructing their own power infrastructure, including solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries, causing them to lag behind in network upgrades. The government has stated they will attempt to combat the crisis with "current legislation", but faith is low given the length of the crisis, which has been prolonged by government inaction.

The Americas

April 4th, 2023 - Former US President Donald Trump was officially arrested upon his arrival at the Manhattan courthouse presiding over his trial. He has pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree in relation to a hush money case in 2016. In 2016, it is alleged that a sum of $130,000 USD was paid to pornstar ‘Stormy Daniels’ in order to keep silent about an affair she had with Trump in 2007. The sum was said to have been paid by Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who claims he was later reimbursed by Trump for the payment.

A photo of Trumps arrest. (Photo from ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)

April 5th, 2023 - Four children have been killed and five others injured in Blumenau, Brazil, after a man wielding an axe hopped a wall and attacked a preschool before later turning himself in at a police station. Shortly after, Blumenau Mayor Mário Hildebrandt temporarily suspended classes and declared a 30-day mourning period. Brazilian President Lula tweeted, "There is no greater pain than that of a family who loses its children or grandchildren, even more so in an act of violence against innocent and defenseless kids. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of victims and the community of Blumenau in the face of the monstrosity of what occurred".

Asia and Oceania

April 10th, 2023 - Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has stated that the four Filipino military bases that were recently opened up to the United States are not allowed to be used for any offensive purposes. "We will not allow our military bases to be used for any offensive action. It is only meant to help the Philippines when the Philippines is in need of help. What we’re simply doing is continuing to strengthen defense of our territory, defense of the republic," he said. The opening of bases is part of an expanded defense agreement with the US. Notably, three of the four bases opened are strategically close to Taiwan, while the other is near the South China Sea. The expansion comes ahead of the largest ever joint exercises between US and Filipino troops, set to begin on April 11th. The drills will involve around 12,000 US forces, 5,000 Filipino troops, and approximately 111 Australian troops. The drills will run until April 28th.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (Photo from Reuters)

April 10th, 2023 - North Korea has called South Korea a "puppet traitor" after it appears they may have severed a communication channel between the two nations. For the fourth straight day, the North has failed to respond to routine calls through an inter-Korean liaison communications channel. Normally, the calls are to be held weekdays at 9AM and again at 5PM. The cutoff, paired with more North Korean weapons tests, are likely a show of discontent in regards to anti-submarine drills the South held in coordination with the United States. This is the first time since 2021 that the line has been silent for more than a day. In 2020, North Korea cut communication for an entire year after South Korean activists launched anti-regime leaflets across the border via balloon, and it was cut for two months in the summer of 2021 after the South held military drills with the US.

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