Global Security Briefing – October 2021

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United Kingdom

Demonstrations by climate change group, Insulate Britain, have resulted in severe delays to motorists, with demonstrators bringing traffic on the main motorway circling London, the M25, to a standstill on eight separate occasions in three weeks. They have also blockaded the Port of Dover, a major trading route to Europe, causing delays to goods and travel. 

The UK has been suffering from distribution of basic goods, including certain foods since the end of August and the situation shows little sign of improving. In recent weeks there has been panic buying of fuel, leaving many petrol stations unable to keep up with the increased demand and therefore restricting the ability to travel, especially over longer distances. 

The current situation is likely to continue until effective procedures to restore the supply chains can be implemented. This includes recruiting more truck drivers to get supplies to where they need to be and a more robust policing policy of the road network.

Kosovo & Serbia 

Tensions have been rising in Kosovo and Serbia, which have stemmed from Kosovo’s government deploying special police forces to the border crossings to impose a new rule of removing Serb license plates from cars coming into the country, saying that a decade old deal had expired. Pristina said they were merely replicating what Serbia had done for the past 10 years. 

The height of this latest disagreement saw Serbian military aircraft being flown close to the border with Kosovo in an apparent show of strength. In response the NATO-led KFOR mission in Kosovo increased its patrols on the border with Serbia in a bid to deescalate tensions.

On 30th September 2021, a deal was announced by the EU, which will see Kosovo remove police units from its northern border with Serbia and these will be replaced with NATO troops. From 4th October, both countries will place special stickers on car licence plates to remove national symbols and allow the free movement of citizens.

Tensions in the region are likely to remain high, despite Miroslav Lajcek, the EU’s envoy saying. “After two days of intense negotiations, an agreement on de-escalation and the way forward has just been reached.” Serbia still doesn’t recognise Kosovo as a separate nation and considers the border as a temporary boundary.

Mali

President of Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, has described any decision by Mali to hire Russian paramilitary groups as “suicide” and a “red line” for other countries in West Africa. Mali’s government seized power in a military coup in May and has expressed the need to “seek other partners” after France’s President Macron announced a plan to half the number of French troops deployed in the region and shift the military headquarters in the Sahel from Mali to Niger. 

The concern is that this will open the way for the gap left by the French troop reduction to be filled by the Wagner group, a Russian mercenary outfit, who UN investigators have accused of committing atrocities in the Central African Republic. On 26th September 2021, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, confirmed that Mali had requested help from private Russian companies, but denied that the Russian government was involved in the deal for Mali to recruit 1,000 Russian paramilitaries. 

The UK’s Africa minister, Vicky Ford, called for Mali to reconsider any agreement. “The UK is deeply concerned by consultations between the Malian government and the organisation known as the Wagner Group,” she said in a statement. “The Wagner Group is a driver of conflict and capitalises on instability for its own interests, as we have seen in other countries affected by conflict such as Libya and Central African Republic.”

Mike Bisley, Security Analyst

The TRIP Group

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