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The World This Week
Leaked Pentagon Documents: Major Takeaways

  GP Team

The World This Week #210, Vol. 5, No. 14
23 April 2023

Padmashree Anandhan, Harini Madhusudan, Rashmi Ramesh, Ankit Singh, Anu Maria Joseph and Femy Francis

Takeaways from Pentagon leaked documents: Russia-Ukraine Conflict a Tactical Lens, the growing presence of Wagner and the Turkiye Increasing its Relevance

1. Russia-Ukraine Conflict From a Tactical Lens
First, a negative prediction for Ukraine’s air force and counteroffensive. The document leak confirmed that Ukraine is fighting with limited air defence systems. Since 2023, Ukraine began demanding modern aviation and fighter jets which can change the gears from defensive to offensive. It faces a threat of exhaustion of medium to high-range air-defence systems (S-300, SA-3, and SA-12) such as IRIS-T by March, SA-11 by April, and NASAMS by May 2023. Additionally, the inability to match the “Russian air superiority,” and increased usage of SA-10, while SA-11 depletes. It claims the increased capability of Russia in ariel manoeuvring and improved accuracy in “long-range munitions.”  

Second, fragility and frustration in the Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF). The maps in the leaked documents disclose the vulnerable position of the Ukraine forces in the southwest, northern, eastern, and southern. It confirms the Russian encirclement of the Bakhmut, leaving out West of Bakhmut, the only supply route for UAF subject to attacks. The document also confirms the defeat of Ukraine's forces in the north, forcing it to withdraw from Berkhivka resulting in the loss of the Ground Line of Communication (GLOC) between Bakhmut and the M-03 highway. This highway is considered essential for Ukraine as it connects to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, losing the GLOC would challenge its ground force operation. To ease the difficult position in the Bakhmut, Ukraine plans to involve Shaman or Kraken units of Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR) for a maximum of two weeks. In the battle of Bakhmut as per the leaked documents, clashes have emerged between the UAF and Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR), as UAF demands only the “combat element” of the HUR units without its “command and control.” HUR Officer has criticized the UAF leadership for asking only for combat as it mandates a “clear ground control” to reduce the complexities faced by Ukraine forces and to secure Yahidne (located in the centre of Bakhmut, another side of Berkhivka). Securing Yahidne is crucial for Ukraine as it is predicted to host an important supply road for Ukraine.

Third, third-party entities and the US allies' role in military support and strengthening. Throughout the war, Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of receiving support from external actors. On the one hand, the US, the EU, and NATO allies have been supporting Ukraine. On the other, Belarus and Iran have been supporting Russia. The leak has exposed the involvement of other actors in the conflict and revealed the military exercises conducted by NATO allies in a 24-48 hours span. The documents confirm the transfer of the Iskander-M division, and Russia’s air defence units into Belarus to launch an offensive into Ukraine. This shows Belarus’s approval to switch from training to launching an offensive into Ukraine from its territory. In the case of South Korea, it has faced pressure from the US to send ammunition to Ukraine. To avoid the public debate of it adhering to US’s demand, it has tried to circumvent its support through Poland, although Poland’s reaction was yet to be verified. For Israel, which has so far agreed to provide non-lethal aid to Ukraine, the documents reveal the possibility of different scenarios which can prompt it to provide lethal aid to Ukraine. Especially under the pressure of the US, a shift in Russia’s behaviour in Syria and its relations with Iran. Apart from this, the most surprising element would be the engagement of the “joint staff” of the US, the UK, France, Latvia, and the Netherlands in Ukraine. The joint land, sea, and air military exercises held between the southeast Flank of Europe, NATO allies, and numerous training camps held by the US, Germany, and Netherlands for UAF showcase the intensity and depths of military strengthening.

Fourth, a grim overview of Russia in the battle for Donbas. When Russia began the war, the first step was to proclaim Donetsk and Luhansk regions as its republics. The war later north and south of Ukraine created an inverted “c.” This area coming under Russia’s control announced the annexation of the republics along with Zaporizhzhia and Kherson despite Ukraine's successful counteroffensive in Kherson. As a result of Russia’s determination to counter Ukraine’s defence, challenges in terms of logistics, command control, and personnel emerged. The same has been validated by the leaked documents. It states that due to Russia’s decision to involve the forces from the self-proclaimed republics, the Wagner Group, its private military security along with the Russian forces in different tactical attacks has led to exhaustion. Therefore, predicting a difficult recovery of Russian forces and replenishment of stocks, resulted in a “stalemate” beyond 2023.

2. An Increasing Presence of Wagner 
The Wagner group is led by Putin ally Yevegeny Prigozhin, known as "Putin's chef.” Wagner group has emerged as one the most popularly talked about aspects of the Russian efforts in the War in Ukraine. 
First, the observation of Wagner’s renewed recruitment process. The documents alleging the Wagner group’s resumed recruitment refer to Project 42174. This project is aimed at recruiting, training and integrating Russian convicts to fight the War. The document refers to a moment when the senior Wagner officials were stationed at 70 prisoner recruitment points and in its background, the Russian MoD recalling their recruits. 

Second, the deployment of mercenaries in Africa and South America. The Wagner Group sent their troops to the Central African Republic and Mali. It has also shown interest in deploying its troops to the southern coast of the U.S. in Haiti. “They’ll work for anyone and offer dictators coup security,” Vice News reported, referring to vulnerable national leaders who might employ the Russian mercenaries as private security details and a loyal military force.

The Wagner group, in the past months, has been complaining of a short supply of weapons to their war-fighting troops in Ukraine. With this background, the documents reveal the group’s efforts to reach out to other countries to meet their requirements. In early 2023, the group was reported to have sought munitions and equipment from China. However, China has so far not sent any weapons or scripted a contract with the group regarding weapons deliveries. With Turkiye, the group has sought drones, counter-battery systems, howitzer artillery, and electronic warfare systems. The document also reports the Turkish refusal of some of these requests. In the case of Belarus, it was reported that Minsk had already delivered 50 per cent of unspecified weapons promised by early January 2023, and had offered the group to send 300,000 VOG-17 grenade launcher rounds. With Syria, the group bought six SPG-9 grenade launchers and 180 grenades.

3. Saudi Arabia-Houthis and Israel-Palestine on a New Peace Launchpad 
First, the update on the negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Houthis. In February, the Houthi spokesperson was updated on Saudi Arabia’s negotiating terms. The update was mainly on the directive to consider the options for the payment of salaries to public sector employees in both government and Houthi-controlled areas. However, sources to the Houthis suggested that Riyadh planned to delay and drag negotiations, eventually forcing the former to reduce the number of demands. Issuing a strong statement with a firm intent was suggested as a counter-move to build pressure on Saudi Arabia. In mid-February, as the media reported, ceasefire and direct talks between the two parties seemed dicey. The UN-brokered truce had expired and there were difficulties in reinstating it. In March 2023, the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia brokered by China, opened a much smoother diplomatic channel.

Second, the protests in Israel. Israel has been witnessing massive protests against the controversial judicial reforms that will significantly alter the functioning and independence of the country’s judiciary. The protests have mostly been concentrated in Tel Aviv. The leaked documents suggest that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad is encouraging its staff and citizens to participate in the protests. The Prime Minister’s office denied the claims saying that the “Mossad and its senior officials did not- and do not- encourage agency personnel to join demonstrations against the government, political demonstrations or any political activity.”

Third, escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine. The leaked paper discussed the risk of violation of the deal reached between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Israeli government at Al’ Aqaba, Jordan. The US along with Egypt was part of the talks held in February. The papers clearly state that the PA and Israel are together locating the militants in the West Bank, but the attacks from Palestinian militants will be used as a justification by Tel Aviv to unilaterally disregard the Jordan deal. The differences between Hamas and the PA are not concealed. Hamas, soon after the talks in Jordan, criticised the PA for participating in it. Rightly anticipating, Hamas issued a statement in the media warning that Israel will not adhere to the deal and continue settler policies and attacks.

4. Turkiye Increasing its Relevance in Times of Multiple Crises
First, leveraging its geography to help Europe away from Russia through natural gas. As per the leaked documents, Turkiye is encouraging bilateral energy cooperation with Israel to let Israeli natural gas be transported through Turkiye. The vision of Turkiye as a bridging factor in getting new natural gas networks to Europe has been since the beginning of the century. However, the crisis in Ukraine has given life to the rerouting of gas networks to Europe through Turkiye. Natural gas seems to be the solidifying factor over contested geopolitical factions in the Mediterranean.

Second, Turkiye and FATF. Turkiye is on the grey list of (the Financial Action Task Force) FATF for abetting criminal nexus in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. In its primer, FATF has advised Turkiye to have stricter supervision in money laundering through banking, the real estate sector and important minerals like gold. As per the leaked documents, the criminal nexus in Turkiye has been instrumental in getting weapons procured by the Wagner group as well as facilitating Russia in bypassing European sanctions on trade with Russia. Turkiye has an emerging defence industry, currently, the value of cumulative contracts in the sector stands at USD 64.8 billion. There have been previous revelations by journalists on Turkiye supplying illegal arms from Europe and Russia to Syria. Some Turkish-origin electronic warfare suits have been recovered in Europe and Africa as well. Therefore, despite FATF grey-listing Turkiye has managed to increase its clout in defence diplomacy, formally and informally.

Third, Turkiye’s assertive autonomy in geopolitics. Turkiye was opposed to the accession of Finland and Sweden into NATO. It relented later on after the USA offered Turkiye avionics software upgrades on its current fleet of F-16S. Turkiye is also going through a populist regime and has urged the international community to be addressed as Turkiye and not Turkey. Turkiye as per the government an expression of its culture and civilisation. The reinvigoration of its past in the expression of Turkish identity for internal and external political space hints at the accelerated nation-making and asserted autonomy assumed by Turkiye.

5. DRC’s Assessment on Regional and International Troops Fighting Against M23 Rebel Campaign
First, the East African Community’s (EACs) balkanization of DRC. In June 2022, the seven-nation East African Community decided to form a military force against the M23 rebel campaign in eastern DRC. In November, Kenyan troops were deployed, followed by Burundi, Uganda and South Sudan. However, the Kenyan contingents are said to have hesitated to take military action against the M23 rebels. The troops are accused of ignoring the recommendations of the Nairobi dialogue, which stipulated that regional forces would be deployed to control and combat any aggression within DRC. Similarly, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni recently said that his troops were a “neutral force” that would not combat the M23 rebels. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese doctor who won the 2018 Nobel Prize said that the EAC force consists of “destabilising states.”

Second, the narrative of the Congolese should bring the Congolese together against M23 and the Rwandan forces. The re-emergence of M23 rebels, a group of Tutsi majority, began in November 2021. Since then, the Congolese army has been incapable of containing the offensive. A section of the DRC population suggests joining hands with other active armed groups in the country; in particular the Mai Mai and the Democratic Forces for Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which are Hutu led, in order to fight against the rebels and the Rwandan forces. They believe that the DRC could handle its own security issues through inclusive efforts by engaging with other armed groups. Recently, President Felix Tshisekedi in his speech said that only the Congolese could help the Congolese against M23 and the Rwandan forces.

6. US-Chinese Struggle for 5G Bidding on the Jordan Soil
First, the US is keeping track of trade negotiations. The report “Jordanian Government Officials, Orange Telecommunications Representatives discuss 5G bids,” exhibits the purview of US intelligence keeping a record of bilateral trade deals and issues.   The representative of Orange Telecommunications, Jordan stated that they received USD 61 to 62 million higher bids from Ericsson and Nokia beating Chinese company Huawei Technologies. It is reported that Nokia in fact did not bridge the gap but “allegedly” had a Jordanian intelligence working to reduce the bid disparity and negotiate compensation with Ericsson and Nokia. This triggered the Jordanian Minister of Justice and Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to formulate a legal framework. 

Second, Jordan's in the crossfire of the 5G race between the US and China. The Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein supporter of Jordan's 5G efforts urged the US that it would be exempt from choosing Huawei as its 5G network. Contrastingly, the statement seems to waver as Jordan fears retaliation from China. The crown prince in February expressed that ideally, they want to Huawei out of Jordan's 5G network plan but would need financial backing to bridge the gap between bids. To do damage control Jordanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs assured China that they would continue with their bilateral economic relationship. This comes after China criticised them for excluding Chinese companies from the 5G roll a plan in which a few major telecommunications companies in Jordan terminated Huawei from consideration. 

7. The US Maneuvering Allies on Defence Diplomacy  
First, South Korea fears the mismanagement of their supplied ammunition. South Korea has supplied ammunition to the US aiming to replenish their diminishing stockpiles owing to the Russia-Ukraine war. On 1 March, according to the leaked documents Yi Mun-Hui secretary to foreign affairs at the South Koreas National Security Office expressed concerns that the US would not be the ‘end-user’ for the ammunition supplied. As close allies, it cannot stand to refuse US demand but is concerned that these weapons would be directed towards Ukranian war efforts. South Korea faces a dilemma to provide artillery as they are pressurised by Washington and their policy to not supply lethal aid to countries at war.

Second, South Korea officially changes its policy and now would provide military and weaponry assistance if civilians are attacked. On 19 April, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol hinted at their plans to enlarge their aid for Ukraine to military and weaponry support in case of a large-scale civilian attack. President Yoon said that: “If there is a situation the international community cannot condone, such as any large-scale attack on civilians, massacre or serious violation of the laws of war, it might be difficult for us to insist only on humanitarian or financial support.” The recent update of President Yoon hinting at changes in their policy against providing lethal aid for war, and the leaked documents reporting the concerns of South Korean foreign dignitaries on being pressurised by Washington reflects the ever-looming pressure over US allies.


News from around the World
Regional Roundups

East and Southeast Asia This Week
Myanmar: Junta burned down the village of Sagaing rendering 7,500 civilians homeless.
On 21 April, Myanmar Junta attacked 700 houses in Sagaing Township and burned the resident's homes. It is estimated that 100 troops marched the Inn Saa village after raiding a nearby village of Taline Kyun. Owing to the attack, it is reckoned that 7,500 civilians had to leave their homes behind. This comes after the recent airstrike attack by the Junta which killed nearly 210 civilians including unassuming children and locals.
Japan: Alarmed by North Korean spy satellites, prepares to shoot down if it breaches territory
On 22 April, Japanese Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada alarmed the military to prepare to shoot down any North Korean spy satellite in case it falls within Japanese territory. He also ordered to the deployment of troops in the southern prefecture of Okinawa in case the ballistic missiles fail. This comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the expedited launch of their first-ever spy satellite

South Asia This Week
India: Visit of the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia
On 17 April, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and the Minister of Trade and Industry, Denis Manturov arrived in India. Along with the Indian Minister of External Affairs, he chaired the 24th session of the Inter-governmental Commission. Both sides reviewed the bilateral relations and also highlighted the imbalance of bilateral trade. They also discussed the issue of payments due to the sanctions in Russia.
Nepal: Visit of the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia
On 21 April, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia arrived in Nepal. Russia agreed to provide assistance with wheat grains and chemical fertilizers. Both sides discussed the potential of direct air service between the two countries. Additionally, they deliberated on the supply of Russian helicopters and motor vehicles to Nepal and cooperation on infrastructure projects including the subway, railways, motorways, and a hydropower plant

Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Iran: US submarine made to surface in Iranian waters
On 20 April, an Iranian official said that the US Navy submarine was made to surface in the Strait of Hormuz, violating the Iranian borders. Commander Shahram Irani said that “the US submarine was approaching while submerged, but the Iranian submarine Fateh detected it and carried out manoeuvres to force it to surface as it went through the Strait.” The submarine corrected its course after being warned. Iran said that the matter would be taken to relevant international bodies. The US Navy, however, did not issue a statement regarding the issue.
Uganda: Government agrees to reconsider anti-LGBT bill
On 20 April, the Ugandan government agreed on reconsidering the anti-gay bill, passed by the parliament the previous month. During a meeting, President Yoweri Museveni said that the MPs resolved on "proposals for improvement" of the bill. The bill prescribed life imprisonment for the LGBT community and the death penalty for what it referred to as aggravated homosexuality. The bill was passed with majority support in the parliament. However, the critics argued that the law will promote homophobia and that anyone suspected to be LGBT will be affected.
Europe and the Americas This Week
Russia: Badminton Federation upholds ban on Russian and Belarusian Players
On 20 April, the Badminton World Federation, based in Kuala Lumpur, announced its decision to maintain its suspension of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials, days before the start of Badminton qualifying events. Athletes generally should be allowed to compete, “without judgment of their passport and separate from any geopolitical conflict outside the control of the sports movement,” but security concerns are still too much of a threat amid the crisis in Eastern Europe, the BWF said. However, it plans to create a “pathway” for athletes from the two countries to return.
Europe: NATO Chief's Stresses on Stopping Russian Aggression
On 20 April, NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Ukraine for the first time since the war. On the question of Ukraine joining NATO, Stoltenberg said that its accession would be a priority in its agenda in the upcoming July summit. He added: "Ukraine's future is in the Euro-Atlantic family, Ukraine's future is in NATO, all allies agree on that." The surprise visit was due to Ukraine's ongoing preparation for the "Spring counteroffensive." In his address, he highlighted that EUR 150 billion in support was being provided by NATO allies and training help to the soldiers. Although the time period of the war was unknown, he stressed that Russia's aggression has to be "stopped."
The UK: Deputy Prime Minister Resigns over Allegations of bullying civil servants
On 21 April, UK's Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab resigned from the government over bullying allegations. Earlier, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tasked a senior lawyer to investigate eight formal complaints from many civil servants over Raab's conduct during his tenure as the Justice Secretary, Foreign Secretary, and Brexit Secretary. Although Raab denied bullying allegations, he accepted to resign if evidence was found. The details of the investigation are yet to be disclosed. It has been questioned as to why Saunak himself didn’t ask Rabb to step down, while the debacle created a weaker image of Sunak and his governance of the Tory Party.
Spain: Faces worst drought conditions owing to increased temperatures
On 19 April, Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez remarked the drought situation as an "emergency." In 2022, the temperatures have increased to 1.3 degrees, the highest since 1960 and by 2023 it has increased to 1.6 degrees. Of all areas, Catalonia has been observed to be the most affected and in the past three years, the water level in northern Catalonia had reduced to 27 per cent. Similarly, in L'Espluga de Francoli, people have been saving water ahead to tackle water rationing. The drought was due to worsening climate change resulting in increased water evaporation.
Poland and Ukraine: Agreement to allow transit of grains to export abroad
On 18 April, Poland and Ukraine ratified an agreement to allow the transit of grains. As Poland was the first to ban Ukraine’s grain imports, it struck a deal with Ukraine to ensure no backlog of grains remained in Poland. Through the signing of the deal, the grains will be transited into Poland for exporting to another place. According to the spokesperson Miriam Garcia: “The main purpose of the solidarity routes was to provide Ukraine with alternative routes for the export of agricultural products and other products, guaranteeing the functioning of the Ukrainian economy in the context of the blockade of the Black Sea ports.” On 17 April, in response to the grain import ban by Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia the European Commission expressed its objection. Commission’s spokesperson Miriam Garcia stated that the EU member states cannot decide their trade policy on their own.
The US: Merck to acquire Prometheus with USD 10.8 billion to increase portfolio in auto-immune diseases
On 16 April, Merck and Co. announced that it will buy Prometheus Biosciences Inc for claiming space in auto-immune diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Merck has a patent in cancer medicine and treatment. By the end of the decade, Keytruda might be potentially accessible to generic medicine manufacturers if the novelty of the drug does not improve.  Merck earned USD 21 billion last year on revenues from Keytruda, the proceeds of which are being used to increase the portfolio of the company.
The US: Federal Lawsuit against Google on anti-trust law Becomes Stronger
On 17 April, the US Department of Justice declared that nine states have joined hands in a Federal case against Alphabet’s Google. Google is accused of taking advantage of running its digital advertising business. The department maintains that Google should be forced to sell its ad manager while Google denied any wrongdoing. The lawsuit was initiated during the Trump administration. Last week, a court in India upheld a judgment which fined Google for using its dominance in revenue-sharing terms.

Canada: Public servants join a strike across the nation
On 19 April, more than 155,000 from the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) union participated in a strike after the union failed to reach a wage deal with the federal government. PSAC president said: “We truly hoped we wouldn’t be forced to take strike action, but we’ve exhausted every other avenue to reach a fair contract for Canada’s federal public service workers.” The public servants are majorly from Treasury Board and revenue agencies. Tax agency workers initially sought a pay bump of more than 30 per cent over three years, while the other group is seeking a 13.5 per cent pay rise over three years. Inflation peaked at 8.1 per cent in Canada last year.
Argentina: Central bank hikes interest rate to 81 per cent
On 20 April, the Central Bank Banco Central de la República Argentina (BCRA) hiked the benchmark interest rate by 300 basis points, it is the second big hike since March. The bank would continue to monitor the evolution of the general level of prices, the dynamics of the exchange market and the monetary aggregates for the purpose of calibrating its rate policy.  Inflation was recorded at 104 per cent for March 2023. According to Reuters, March inflation data had clocked in at 7.7 per cent, the highest monthly level in two decades.

About the Authors
Harini Madhusudan, Rashmi Ramesh, Akriti Sharma and Ankit Singh are PhD scholars in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Padmashree Anandhan, Anu Maria Joseph, and Femy Francis are Research Associates at NIAS.

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