The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 29

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday August 21st, 2023

Good morning everyone,

Let’s jump right in today. In Europe, an Austrian politician faces corruption charges, several nations promise F-16s to Ukraine, and EU observers come under fire in Armenia. Over in the Middle East, Iran meets with Saudi Arabia, Iraq accuses Iran of human rights abuses, and Hezbollah attempts to apprehend a Syrian terrorist. Meanwhile in Africa, Somalia aims to join the EAC, ECOWAS confirms Niger military intervention, and the UN prepares to leave the Congo. In the Americas, Guatemala gets a new president, there’s another major bus crash in Brazil, and another assassination of an Ecuadorian politician. In Asia and Oceania, South Korea, Japan, and the US increase their cooperation, an Indian politician calls attention to a border dispute, and China holds an important conference.

It’s just another day at the office. Let's see:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, Trent Barr, & the Atlas team

NATO Suggests Ukraine May Join If Land Concessions Are Made

(Photo - via the Atlantic Council)

Sunday, August 20th, 2023: (2 Minute Read) Speaking to Norwegian media, the Chief of Staff to NATO’s Secretary General, Stian Jenssen, alluded to the fact that Kyiv may have a route into membership with the alliance.

"I think that a solution could be for Ukraine to give up territory and get NATO membership in return," he continued, "but it must be up to Ukraine to decide when and on what terms they want to negotiate." Despite this olive branch of sorts, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has continuously pushed that Ukraine shall not cave to NATO pressure on the matter, stating that as part of a 10-point peace plan, Ukrainian borders must be restored as they were pre-invasion.

According to the Turkish Anadolu Agency, the alliance scrambled to reaffirm its support, saying, "We fully support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as NATO leaders reaffirmed at the Vilnius Summit in July. We will continue to support Ukraine as long as necessary, and we are committed to achieving a just and lasting peace."

Despite the attempt at reassurance, officials from the two warring parties also made statements, with Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev stating on Twitter, "A new idea for Ukraine has emerged from the North Atlantic Alliance office: Ukraine will be able to join NATO if it gives up the disputed territories. It does look like an interesting idea. The only problem is that all of – supposedly – their territories are highly disputable. And to enter the bloc, the Kiev authorities will have to give up even Kiev itself, the capital of Ancient Rus."

This statement further highlights that, in spite of NATO’s hope for a cessation of hostilities, Russia’s foreign policy goals have remained unsurprisingly unchanged. Moreover, Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak slammed the ‘ridiculous’ comments: "Trading territory for a NATO umbrella? It is ridiculous. That means deliberately choosing the defeat of democracy, encouraging a global criminal, preserving the Russian regime, destroying international law, and passing the war on to other generations." Continuing, "murderers should not be encouraged by appalling indulgences."


August 18th, 2023 - Sebastian Kurz, the former Chancellor of Austria, has been charged with giving false testimony following an inquiry that questioned the corruptibility of his government. Kurz has denied the allegations, saying on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, "We look forward to the truth finally coming to light and the accusations turning out to be groundless." The trial is set for October 18th, while charges could lead Kurz to spend upward of three years in prison, a sentence that has left some questioning the relative short imprisonment for his alleged crimes. The alleged false testimony occurred in 2020, when Kurz was questioned about appointments to the state holding company, OBAG. Kurz resigned from his position in 2021 after prosecutors opened an investigation into him and nine other people regarding various degrees of complicity in bribery, corruption, and breach of trust.

August 20th, 2023 - Both the Netherlands and Denmark have confirmed they will be sending F-16s to Ukraine once Ukraine has "successfully selected, tested, and trained Ukrainian F-16 personnel, as well as necessary authorizations, infrastructure, and logistics". The Netherlands will be donating 24 of the jets, whereas Denmark is expected to send 18. Notably, this was done with the support of the US, which approved the transfer from both countries. No timeline for the transfer has yet been established.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte pictured on August 20th (Photo from AP/Peter Dejong).

August 15th, 2023 - The EU Observer Mission in Armenia (EUMA) came under fire by Azerbaijani units during a patrol on the border, prompting them to shelter in an Armenian trench as their vehicles were fired upon. Originally, both EUMA and Azerbaijan denied the incident after the Armenian MoD posted about it on their website. However, after video evidence of the incident surfaced, EUMA deleted their original tweet and instead posted a new one confirming that an incident took place.

Middle East

August 18th, 2023 - Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his first ever visit to Saudi Arabia. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran called the talks "beneficial", however they have not stated what the discussion was about. Iran and Saudi Arabia are historic rivals within the region, and despite recent leaps in their diplomatic status, they maintain a number of economic and political disputes across the region. The prince was extended an invitation to travel to Tehran, which he reportedly accepted.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pictured with the Iranian Foreign Minister in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (Photo from Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters).

August 20th, 2023 - An Iraqi official has accused Iran of halting water flow from the Little Zab River from Iran into Iraq. Iraq is already suffering from drought and desertification, which will only be worsened by the cessation of the river's waters. The Little Zab River helps to feed the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, and so the cut has caused levels in these rivers to drop as well. "We are grappling with a formidable crisis, particularly with respect to our drinking water supply. The cessation of water flow by Iran has immediate repercussions on Iraq’s Qaladze and Ranya towns, with ripple effects extending to adjacent regions", said Selam Omer, director of the Ranya District Water Department in the Sulaymaniyah province. He further added that around 100,000 people in Qaladze are solely dependent on the water from the Little Zab River.

August 20th, 2023 - The primary suspect in the July 27 bombing in Damascus, Syria, which killed at least six people, has died in Lebanon. He threw himself off the seventh floor of the building he was sheltering in when it was being raided by authorities. He initially survived the fall but soon succumbed to his injuries after being taken to the nearby St. George Hospital. Hezbollah forces had been responsible for the raid. After the suspect carried out the attack in Syria, he illegally crossed into Lebanon and had been residing with relatives in Beirut. The attack was claimed by ISIS.


August 20th, 2023 - The Secretary-General of the East African Community has announced that the EAC is hopeful that Somalia will become the bloc’s eighth member within this year. In January, the EAC sent a verification mission to Somalia in order to establish its readiness, and according to the Secretary-General, negotiations with Somalia on its requirements for entry will begin on August 22 and last until September 5. Originally, Somalia applied to join the EAC in 2012; however, progress has been slow due to internal instability and the rampant militant factions Somalia’s government faces.

August 18th, 2023 - ECOWAS has officially stated that they will be intervening militarily in Niger, though they have purposefully not disclosed when any sort of intervention will be taking place. "We are not going to engage in endless dialogue, and we are drawing a line in the sand... The coup in Niger is one too many". Nigeria, Benin, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal have all pledged resources to support the intervention, while Mali and Burkina Faso have pledged support to Niger, which has requested a Wagner presence in the nation.

Pictured is a Nigerian soldier (Photo from STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images).

August 15th, 2023 - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has stated that MONUSCO’s (the UN mission in the DRC) departure from the DRC is imminent. MONUSCO has been in the DRC for 25 years but has grown increasingly unpopular due to what many say is its inability to provide any meaningful change in the volatile countryside. Last year, MONUSCO’s mandate was extended for an additional year due to the significant instability caused by the resurgence of the M23 rebel group, but no extension appears to be coming this time as MONUSCO prepares to depart the country, despite conditions still being poor.

The Americas

August 20th, 2023 - Bernardo Arevalo, a Guatemalan presidential candidate with a strict anti-corruption policy, is set to become the next president, according to the most recent polls. Arevalo currently holds a 58% to 37% lead over the former first lady, Sandra Torres, with 99% of votes counted. The new president is set to take office on January 14th. Arevalo has made promises to "purge institutions co-opted by the corrupt" and bring back those who he claims will support the call for justice within the country, following a number of attorneys, judges, and journalists fleeing the country due to the rampant political violence that plagues it. Despite his win, Arevalo will still have to contend with an opposition-led congress, which may prevent the new president from enacting the changes he has called for on a national scale. President Alejandro Giammattei welcomed the new president into office on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, and promised to start an "ordered transition" once results were formalized.

Guatemalan presidential candidate Bernardo Arevalo addressing a crowd of supporters.(Photo - via BNN)

August 20th, 2023 - Seven people have died and more remain injured after a bus transporting Corinthian soccer fans crashed in Brazil early Sunday morning. The fans were leaving the Minas Gerais state capital of Belo Horizonte after their team played there. Passengers claim there were a total of 43 people on board the bus, leaving 37 injured, including one with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. The bus crash occurred due to a brake failure, which forced the bus into a ravine, where it flipped. The Brazilian soccer team expressed their sorrow over the accident and expressed solidarity with the families of those involved. President Lula Inacio Lula da Silva also offered condolences to the family. "I hope for the recovery of the injured and an investigation into the causes of the accident. We need peace and vehicles in good condition on the roads because there is no way to recover lives lost," he said in a social media post.

August 14th, 2023 - The leader of Ecuador’s leftist Revolución Ciudadana party, Pedro Briones, was assassinated in Ecuador’s northwestern state of Esmeraldes on Monday, according to fellow presidential candidate Luisa González. This comes a mere week after another candidate, Fernando Villavicencio, was similarly assassinated, and an attempted assassination attempt was narrowly avoided by parliamentary candidate Estefany Puente the next day. Briones had previously claimed the assassination of Villavicencio was due to a "criminal mafia," which runs rampant in Ecuador. President Lasso initiated a state of emergency in the country on August 10, which will last 60 days.

Asia and Oceania

August 20th, 2023 - South Korea and the United States have initiated a collaborative, extensive military drill. The primary objective of this exercise is to enhance their defensive capabilities and readiness in response to the evolving nuclear and missile threats posed by North Korea. The 'Ulchi Freedom Shield' exercise will span 11 days until August 31. It will encompass approximately 30 field training activities that simulate a full-scale war scenario. An official from South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed these details, highlighting that the quantity of drills conducted this year will surpass those seen in past joint military maneuvers. This joint exercise occurs within a context of heightened vigilance involving South Korea, the United States, and Japan regarding North Korea. Last Thursday, South Korean intelligence informed lawmakers of North Korea's preparations for various provocative actions. Among these is the possibility of yet another intercontinental ballistic missile test.

The leaders of South Korea, the United States, and Japan arrive for a joint news conference at Camp David on August. 18, 2023. (Photo - Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

August 19th, 2023 - Prominent member of India's opposition party, MP Rahul Gandhi, who is on a tour of the Ladakh border region, took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the PM’s claim that not an inch of land has been lost in the Union Territory "is not true". He stated, "Here, people are saying that the Chinese army has entered our land. They say that now they cannot go to the place which was earlier used for grazing. They are clearly saying... The Prime Minister said not an inch of land has been lost, but that is not true. Ask anyone in Ladakh, they will tell you this."

August 18th, 2023 - The seventh gathering of the Chairperson's Council of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) has convened in Beijing. Presiding over the meeting was Chairman Wang Huning, a member of the Political Bureau's Standing Committee within the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. During the session, Wang emphasized the imperative for the CPPCC National Committee to undertake comprehensive research and analysis, actively participate in nationwide discussions, and contribute "wisdom and strength" to deliver comprehensive economic development. The CPPCC's attention was directed toward the nation's overarching diplomatic priorities, and it aims to maintain its role in fostering international interactions. Wang also urged the CPPCC National Committee to present more substantial recommendations and strategies for upholding national security. The meeting additionally adopted several documents, which included the CPPCC National Committee's preliminary guidelines for amplifying and enhancing democratic supervision.

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