Situation Report: U.N. on notice over North Korea; What to expect when you’re expecting Vlad; Big Oil, Tillerson and Turkey; and a bit more.
By David Francis, Adam Rawnsley, and FP Staff
On notice. Again. America’s U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is putting the world “on notice” over North Korea’s recent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, threatening that the U.S. is “prepared to use the full range of our capabilities,” including military force, to deal with the threat from Pyongyang if other countries don’t step up the pressure. Despite the military rhetoric, FP’s Colum Lynch reports that Haley’s speech to the Security Council called for diplomatic and economic measures in response to the latest test, calling out China for being North Korea’s biggest trading partner. China and Russia, however, remain skeptical of the more aggressive approach, with diplomats from both countries panning any proposed military solutions.
The big meeting with Vladimir. President Trump is facing the mother of all meetings on Friday, when he will have his first face-to-face session with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg. It represents a political minefield for Trump, amid investigations in Washington over his campaign team’s contacts with Moscow and Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Will Trump cut a deal with Putin to have U.S. and Russian forces cooperate in Syria? Will he agree to return those Russian diplomatic compounds in Maryland and New York used by Russian intelligence services? Democrats in Congress have warned against any “unilateral concessions.”
What to expect when you’re expecting Vlad. FP’s Emily Tamkin takes a stab at gaming out Putin’s agenda for his big day with Donald. The White House has said there’s no set agenda for the meeting but Putin spokesman says Ukraine will likely come up. The two leaders are slated for a brief 20 minutes of face-to-face time, which will cut short Putin’s sapce o offer his side of the Ukrainian conflict’s history. But Peskov’s characterization of the conflict as a “civil war” hints that Putin isn’t likely to be candid about Russia’s direct role in eastern Ukraine.
Big Oil to Honor Tillerson in Turkey: America’s top diplomat will travel to Istanbul to accept an award for what he did while CEO of a major oil company. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will receive an award for “excellence in the petroleum industry” at the World Petroleum Congress during his visit to Istanbul July 9 to 10, despite repeated past assurances he would recuse himself from all matters related to Exxonmobil, the energy giant he used to run. State Department officials assured reporters on Wednesday it wasn’t just for his work as Exxon CEO, but broadly on energy issues and U.S. priorities…though he was slated to receive the world well before becoming Secretary of State. Maybe he can put this one on his mantle next to his Russian Order of Friendship award Putin gave him in 2012.
Welcome to Situation Report. Your regular presenter, Paul McLeary, is out for a few days, but will be back next week. You can reach him at email@example.com or either he or Adam on Twitter @paulmcleary and @arawnsley.
Fallen. A U.S. soldier was killed in Afghanistan while serving alongside special operations forces in Helmand Province, according to the Pentagon. Army Pfc. Hansen B. Kirkpatrick, a 19 year old mortarman from Wasilla, Alaska, serving with the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, was killed by enemy indirect fire on July 3.
Potemkin crowds. President Donald Trump is extraordinarily unpopular in Europe so Poland is making sure that the famously sensitive leader will receive a warm welcome by busing in Trump supporters during his upcoming visit for the G-20 summit.
Borders. China’s dispute with India over the two countries’ shared border has plunged relations to “the worst in 30 years,” according to China’s ambassador to India. The South China Morning Post reports that crisis started when Bhutan enlisted India’s help to deal with a dispute over new road construction carried out by the China along a still-disputed border with China and Bhutan. India deployed troops to the area, leading China to accuse Delhi of violating its sovereignty. The two sides have since traded veiled threats, with Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat boasting that India was prepared for a “two and a half front war” and China telling India to recall the “historic lessons” of its 1962 border war with the People’s Liberation Army.
Hobby robbing. Hobby Lobby, an American Craft store, was fined $3 million for illegally smuggling over 5,500 ancient artifacts out of Iraq and into the U.S. for eventual display in museums. The company paid $1.6 million from a broker in the United Arab Emirates even though experts warned company officials that they were likely illegally acquired. The federal government has taken possession of the artifacts where it will consider claims of rightful ownership.
Tag team. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the Trump administration wants to partner with Russia on operations in Syria. Tillerson said he hopes the two countries can work together on issues such as establishing no fly zones and delivering humanitarian aid. The statement comes ahead of President Trump’s first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and follows a series of incidents in which Assad regime allied forces have clashed with America in southern Syria as the U.S. and rebel allies take on the Islamic State’s last holdouts.
Tensions in Syria. Syria’s Kurdish YPG fighters are warning that they could be at war with Turkey soon after Turkish deployments to Afrin and Aleppo near territory held by the group, telling Reuters that the moves are tantamount to a “declaration of war.” For its part, Turkey denies any preparations for an assault on YPG forces, with Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus saying Turkey was simply making “preparations against potential threats.” A conflict between Turkey and the YPG, which comprises the bulk of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the Islamic State, could throw a wrench into the U.S.-led coalition attempts to oust Islamic State fighters from their capital in Raqqa.
Armed and unmanned. The Israeli military is taking a commercial hexarotor drone, strapping a machine gun for eventual use by troops in the field. Defense One reports that the IDF has teamed up with the American company Duke Robotics to use its TIKAD drone as the platform. An early concept drone made by Duke managed to fire a sniper rifle for its Israeli customers, but Duke rolled out the TIKAD to be able to carry the heavier weapons payloads for longer periods of time.
Gold rush. Syria is selling off mineral and energy rights to Russian private security contractors in exchange for their help fighting the Islamic State, according to the New York Times. One Russian company, Evro Polis, has already reportedly teamed up with a security contractor sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for a deal that offers them a quarter of all oil and gas from fields they can reclaim from the Islamic State. Stroytransgaz, another Russian firm, received a share of phosphate mining rights after Russian, Iranian, and Syrian troops ousted the Islamic State from the Sharqiya phosphate deposit.
Trials. An international team of prosecutors say they’re looking to try suspects responsible for the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with a Buk surface-to-air missile system. Prosecutors from countries affected, including the Netherlands, Ukraine, Malaysia, Belgium, and Australia, say they’re looking at a pool of at least 100 suspects and would like to try those responsible in a Dutch court. Investigations by U.S. intelligence as well as open source reporting outlets like Bellingcat have all implicated Russia as the source of the missile system and territory held by Russian-backed rebels as the location of the launch..
More missiles. In other nuclear missile test news, Pakistan test-fired a Nasr short-range ballistic missile. The weapon is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and the new test shows that Pakistan has managed to extend its range an extra 10 kilometers from 60 to 70.
State Morale Dipping: New State Department employee satisfaction surveys show things aren’t going so great in Foggy Bottom, Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz reports. Highlights from a few State Department employees surveyed include: “What are our priorities? No one knows,” “Militarizing of diplomacy continues,” “Our technology is a disaster,” and “To get answers on any given issue is absolutely excruciating.” Not exactly reassuring stuff.
Quote of the day. “I will eat your liver if you want me to. Give me salt and vinegar and I will eat it in front of you.” —Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte offering threats to Islamist militants in Marawi after they beheaded two Vietnamese sailors.