ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 06/03/2019

File:President Trump and Kim Jong-Un meet June 2018 (cropped).jpgPolitico – Associated Press / North Korea reportedly restoring nuclear facilities

  • North Korea is reportedly restoring facilities at its long-range rocket launch site that it had dismantled as part of disarmament steps last year. The development came after the end of the nuclear summit between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump without an agreement
  • Dismantling parts of its long-range rocket launch facility was among several steps the North took last year when it held talks with USA and South Korea. The site is where Kim Jong un carried out satellite launches in recent years.
  • The move is seen as a preparation to retake long-range missile test-launches if nuclear diplomacy collapses or to add some structures to blow up the launch site more dramatically in a show of denuclearization commitment when U.S. inspectors visit if negotiations with Washington go well.
  • The rail-mounted transfer building is being reassembled at the launch site and two support cranes could be seen at the building. At the engine test stand it appears that the engine support structure is being reassembled

Financial Times – Henry Foy, Chloe Cornish, Asser Khattab & Laura Pitel / Idlib: Russia and Turkey dig in for a final Syria battle

  • In the Russian Black Sea Resort of Sochi, Vladimir Putin welcomed the leaders of Turkey and Iran to discuss about Idlib. It was not the first time the trio had discussed the Syrian province but Moscow made it clear that it was running out of patience with its Turkish partner. Idlib is the last bastion of opposition to President Bashar Al-Assad regime, as well as the site of geopolitical showdown between powerful foreign militaries with opposing ambitions.
  • Both for Putin, supporter of Assad, and Erdogan, who supports those seeking to overthrow the Syrian leader, what happens in Idlib could determine the fate of their marriage of convenience, one that has muddled through the conflict but is now stretched to bearking point.
  • Last September, Putin and Erdogan struck an agreement that was credited with avoiding a Syrian massacre. Russia agreed to halt a planned assault on Idlib by Syrian forces that had encircled the province. In return, Turkey promised to remove the extremists, who had vowed to make Idlib their las spot. The fragility of the deal reflects the web of alliances between foreign powers operating in Syria.
  • Despite the tensions over Idlib, Russia is keen to maintain close relations with Turkey, whose border with Syria makes it a needed partner in the efforts for reconstruction and the resumption of trade flows.

The New York Times – Caitlin Dickerson / Border at ‘breaking point’ as more than 76,000 migrants cross in a month

  • The number of migrant families crossing the southwest border of the United States has once again broken records, with unauthorized entries nearly doubling what they were a year ago, which suggests that the Trump administration’s aggressive policies have not discouraged new migration to the United States.
  • More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border illegally in February, an 11-year high and a strong evidence that stepped-up prosecutions, new controls on asylum and harsher detention policies have not reversed what remains a powerful lure for thousands of families fleeing violence and poverty.
  • Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection declared, “The system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point […] this is clearly both a border security and a humanitarian crisis.” President Trump has instrumentalized these numbers to justify the wall with Mexico, but it will do little to stop migrations, as analysts point.
  • The throngs of new families are affecting communities on the American side of the border. In El Paso, a volunteer network that temporarily houses the migrants after they are released from custody has had to expand to 20 facilities, compared with only three during the same period last year. Migrants are being kept in churches, a converted nursing home and about 125 hotel rooms that are being paid for with donations.

Project Syndicate – Joseph S. Nye / Rules of the Cyber Road for America and Russia

  • Deterrence by threat of retaliation remains a crucial but underused tactic for preventing cyber attacks. There has been no attack on US electrical systems, despite the reported presence of Chinese and Russians on the grid. Pentagon doctrine is to respond to damage with any weapon officials choose, and deterrence seems to be working at that level.
  • However, deterrence will not be enough. The US will also need diplomacy. Negotiating cyber arms-control treaties is problematic, but this does not make diplomacy impossible. In the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user. Thus, it will be difficult to prohibit the design, possession, or even implantation for espionage of particular programs. In that sense, cyber arms control cannot be like the nuclear arms control that developed during the Cold War
  • Nonetheless, if traditional arms-control treaties are unworkable, it may be still be possible to set limits on certain types of civilian targets, and to negotiate rules in order to minimize conflict. Skeptics object that such an arrangement is impossible, owing to the differences between American and Russian values. But even greater ideological differences did not prevent agreements related to prudence during the Cold War.
  • Given the poor state of US-Russian relations, with Putin boasting about new nuclear weapons, the climate for an agreement is not promising, though there have been some hints of Russian interest. At the same time, the partisan divisions in US politics over the legitimacy of Trump’s relationship with Russia also make negotiations difficult. If both sides want to avoid dangerous escalation, perhaps the possibilities can be explored in the context of a professional or military-to-military dialogue.

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