The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 33

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, September 18th, 2023

Good morning everyone,

Let’s dive right in today.

In Europe, Ukraine hits valuable Russian targets, Poland bans Russian cars, and Russia hosts Kim Jong Un.

Over in the Middle East, the Taliban crackdown on opposition, Iran and the US host a prisoner swap, and the US and Israel are set to meet.

Meanwhile in Africa, Libya has extreme flooding, there’s a new military alliance in the Sahel, and the war in Sudan continues.

In the Americas, the US and Canada agree to an arms deal, El Chapo’s son is sent to the US, and Brazil cracks down on Bolsanaro protestors.

In Asia and Oceania, the South Korean opposition takes drastic measures, China meets with the European Union, and South Korea tests for Japanese radiation in the water.

It’s just another day at the office. Let's take a look:

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

Major Chinese Military Exercises

The Liaoning during training. (Photo - Getty Images)

Sunday, September 17th, 2023: (2 Minute Read) China has launched large naval exercises this week in an attempt to push back against the United States’ earlier security exercises with the Philippines, Japan, and Australia. Late last week, American and Canadian warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait.

Among many warships, China deployed an aircraft carrier with an armada of destroyers, frigates, and supply ships. There were also jets, bombers, and supply aircraft, some of which were close to violating Taiwanese airspace, according to Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense.

Sightings of China’s aircraft carriers are very rare, as they only have two domestically built carriers in service. It is also increasingly worrisome for the Taiwanese government, as China's new aircraft carriers represent a significant leap in the country's naval capabilities. These modern carriers, such as the Type 001A and Type 002, demonstrate China's commitment to expanding its maritime influence and power projection in the Indo-Pacific region, marking a notable development in its naval strategy. The dual use of air and naval operations is generally practiced to sustain air operations over specific areas of land or water.

This aggressive type of exercise has left many Pacific countries seriously concerned about their security in the future. It has led to an increase in security agreements between the U.S. and other regional powers. China's military presence in the South Pacific has raised concerns and captured global attention in recent years. The region, traditionally dominated by Western powers, has witnessed China's expanding influence through infrastructure development, diplomatic overtures, and a military buildup. Beijing's construction of dual-use facilities in places like the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea has fueled suspicions of strategic intent. While Chinese officials emphasize economic cooperation, the mounting presence of naval vessels and military exercises hint at broader ambitions. This has prompted neighboring nations, along with the United States and its allies, to recalibrate their regional strategies, sparking a complex geopolitical dynamic in the South Pacific.


September 12th, 2023 - Ukrainian missiles struck a Russian naval repair facility in occupied Sevastopol, which significantly damaged, or potentially destroyed, two Russian ships that were docked at the facility. Ukrainian pilots struck the facility using several UK-supplied "Storm Shadow" missiles, with insider help. Ukrainian infiltrators were able to leave at least three cellphones throughout the facility, which helped the Ukrainians triangulate their coordinates. Russia has denied much of the damage caused by the strike; however, satellite imagery and video show otherwise. A submarine and a landing vessel were hit in the strikes.

A photo showing damage dealt to the sub, the Rostov-on-Don.

September 17th, 2023 - Poland has banned the entrance of personal vehicles with Russian plates from Belarus. This joins a wider European ban on Russian-licensed cars that has effectively blocked all land travel for Russians into Europe. Previously, the EU had banned the entrance of Russian-plated vehicles into the bloc; however, Poland was still allowing their entrance should they come through Belarus. Poland in May blocked commercial traffic from both Belarus and Russia into the country, which completely sealed its borders.

September 18, 2023 - The leader of North Korea, Kim Jung Un, made a rare appearance outside North Korea in a six-day tour of Eastern Russia alongside Vladimir Putin, which included a symbolic exchanging of rifles between the two leaders as well as discussions regarding the resumption of infrastructure projects that were abandoned following sanctions placed upon North Korea by the UN and culminated with a parting gift given by the Russians. The visit marks the first foreign visitation by the North Korean leader since the COVID-19 pandemic and has led some commentators to be concerned that North Korea may help arm Russia in its war against Ukraine. While a Russian spokesman made no comments regarding any military deals, the two nations discussed increasing trade regarding grain as well as the resumption of air travel between the two nations.

Middle East

September 16th, 2023 - The Taliban has detained 18 people in a series of raids on the International Assistance Mission (IAM) headquarters in Ghor, Afghanistan. The raids took place between September 3rd and September 13th, where the Taliban detained 17 Afghan nationals as well as 1 American national, who was arrested on charges of "promoting Christianity". The IAM stated that the people arrested have supposedly been taken to Kabul.

A photo of an IAM building in Afghanistan.

September 18th, 2023 - The US and Iran are today initiating what is effectively a prisoner swap in a deal that was made public last month. Both Iran and the US are to free five prisoners, and the US has unfrozen $6 billion in Iranian assets that have been transferred to Qatari accounts. The 5 Americans have left Iran on a plane for Qatar, and 2/5 of the Iranians have arrived in Qatar, where they will then be flying to Iran. Notably, the other three Iranian prisoners did not wish to return to Iran.

September 15th, 2023 -The US announced that US President Biden and Israeli PM Netanyahu will be meeting this coming Wednesday in New York City. The meeting has been long awaited by Netanyahu and put off by Biden. Things have been tense between the two leaders since Netanyahu began pushing his extensive plans for judicial reform, which Biden has consistently come out in condemnation of. While there are a number of things on the two leaders’ agenda, judicial reform is likely to be a hot topic of discussion.


September 10th - Present, 2023 - The Libyan city of Derna was hit with a devastating flood which has potentially killed over 11,000 people, while over 10,000 are still missing. The overall chaos of the situation and rescue attempts have made a proper death toll hard to assess, as different organizations put out different numbers. Derna was hit by Storm Daniel, which broke two dams close by Derna, which caused the flood that has wiped away entire neighborhoods and changed the landscape of the coastal city. Rescue operations have been continuing throughout the week.

A satellite view showing the destruction in Derna (Photo from Planet Labs PBC Via AP).

September 16th, 2023 - The Niger Junta, Burkina Faso, and Mali have formalized a military alliance as the "Alliance of Sahel States". The new alliance carries with it collective defense; however, it also has several economic factors and seeks joint cooperation in anti-terrorism measures. The anti-terrorism measures are likely to be a key part, as both Mali and Burkina Faso suffer strongly from militant groups. The creation of the alliance worsens the brewing war between what is now the AES and ECOWAS, which have stated their intention to invade Niger in order to reverse the coup.

September 13th, 2023 - The Sudanese military has launched a series of strikes on market areas in Nyala, in southern Darfur, which have killed at least 40 people. These strikes come days after similar strikes by the Sudanese military in Khartoum, the capital, which killed at least 20 people, though some sources say above 40. Most, if not all, of the 40+ killed are reported to have been civilians. The Darfur region has caught some of the worst violence in the Sudanese civil war.

The Americas

September 15, 2023 - The US State Department has authorized the sale of munitions and other systems for MQ-9B drones to the Canadian government. The deal is set to cost $313.4 million for the Canadian government; however, the contract has not yet been signed and negotiations are ongoing. The munitions include 219 Hellfire II missiles, 12 Mk82 general-purpose bombs, and six Mk82 filled inert bombs, with General Atomics fulfilling the role of the principal contractor in the deal.

September 15, 2023 - The son of the infamous drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Ovidio Guzman, has been extradited to the United States to stand trial regarding charges of smuggling Fentanyl into the country in a move to crack down on Fentanyl trafficking into the country by the Biden administration. Oviedo is a capo of the Los Chapitos, a group that consists of El Chapos’ sons, who are key players in the world of narcotics and are affiliated with the Sinaloa Cartel. Ovidio was previously captured in 2019 but was ordered to be released on the orders of Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López, fearing the cartel’s retribution. Ovidio was recaptured on January 5th following a fierce firefight in Sinaloa, leading American officials to request his extradition in February so that he could face charges on US soil. US court documents have revealed that Ovidio and his brothers have been key players in trafficking fentanyl into the country, controlling extensive international operations within the trade while making millions off their victims.

El Chapo’s son, Ovidio Guzman (Photo - Cortesía)

September 14, 2023 - Brazil’s Supreme Court has opted to convict three people who participated in the storming of the Brazilian capital on January 8th of this year to a minimum of 14 years in prison on charges of an attempted coup d'etat and armed criminal association. The defendants were additionally ordered to pay 30 million reais ($6 million) for vandalism, with the amount being shared by the three. The assault on the capital came after Brazil’s previous president, Jair Bolsonaro, made claims that authorities claim to be unfounded and created to "spread doubts and incite conspiracy theories." Bolsonaro was previously barred from holding office until 2030 in June due to the allegations and his actions in inciting the riot at the capital, and he was convicted of abuses of power and misuse of the media.

Asia and Oceania

September 17th, 2023 - Lee Jae-myung, leader of South Korea's Democratic Party, initiated a hunger strike on August 31, citing concerns about government economic management, threats to media freedom, and the handling of the Fukushima wastewater release. He was subsequently hospitalized due to malnutrition, and prosecutors have sought an arrest warrant for him in connection with alleged misconduct during his tenure as mayor of Seongnam City, including losses incurred by Seongnam Development Corporation and bribery allegations. Lee vehemently denies these accusations, labeling them as baseless political conspiracies.

Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung (Photo - YONHAP)

September 17th, 2023 - During his meeting with Malta's Foreign Minister Ian Borg, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi emphasized their mutual commitment to promoting China-European Union cooperation, underscoring China's intent to engage individually with EU member states and strengthen regional and global ties. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as quoted by Xinhua, underscored China's commitment to promoting open trade and cooperation with the European Union. His call to reject protectionism aligns with China's stance on fostering a global environment of economic openness and multilateral cooperation, reflecting their desire for positive outcomes in China-EU relations and the broader international community. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met with Wang as well.

September 17th, 2023 - South Korea's Minister of Oceans and Fisheries has announced plans to expand emergency seawater radiation testing by incorporating additional coastal locations. This move aims to alleviate public concerns surrounding Japan's discharge of contaminated water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean. All samples taken have met the safety standards so far, and no radiation has been detected in seafood products, the minister added.

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