Week of March 26
The Chinese Trade War Heats Up:
Over the week, the Chinese have threatened to retaliate against $60 billion worth of US tariffs with their own, potentially signaling the beginning of a trade war. The United States claims that the tariffs are in response to a sophisticated Chinese campaign of systematic information, patent, and technology stealing worth approximately $60 billion per year in lost revenue. The Chinese, naturally, claim these numbers are false and the tariffs are unprovoked and unnecessary. There is significant evidence to suggest that the Chinese are in fact using hostile takeover bids to acquire technology, especially in areas like energy and ai development, such as the attempted takeover of the American chipmaker Qualcomm that was halted by the US government. Furthermore, American companies are rarely allowed access to Chinese markets unless they meet strict entry requirements, which oftentimes involves these companies handing over technology or patents in return for access. While a trade war is obviously a very serious eventuality, especially between the worlds two largest economies, this is not necessarily an unprovoked attack by the US, especially considering the geopolitical desires of China to be considered one of the Great Powers of the world.
US Expels Russian Diplomats:
The United States expelled over 60 Russian diplomats from American soil in response to the nerve agent attack that took place against a former soviet spy on English soil. The attack, which has been described as a military grade nerve agent only capable of being manufactured by Russia, was a blatant attack on British sovereignty by the Russian government, and the American government had yet to respond to this transgression until now. The expulsion is an uncharacteristically strong response to the Russians that President Trump has been loath to send in the past. While not extremely debilitating to the Russian diplomatic corps, the strength of the response comes in its rarity. While Russia has vowed to respond to the expulsions, it is yet to be seen what the ultimate message is from the administration. While this could potentially be the beginning of a change of heart by the administration towards closer ties with Russia, it might also simply be an anomaly, one which has little effect on Russian geopolitical calculus.
Saudi Arabia Intercepts Seven Missiles from Yemen:
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia intercepted and destroyed seven missiles fired from Yemen by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, the fragments of these weapons struck and killed an Egyptian man living in the kingdom. This was the first death of Saudi soil since their intervention in Yemen began three years ago. Three of the missile were aimed at the Saudi capital Riyadh, while the rest were each heading to different cities in the south of the country. While missiles being fired at Saudi Arabia from Yemen is not an unprecedented phenomenon, the scale and timing of this particular attack is critical. Saudi Arabia is deeply involved in supporting the government in Yemen, while Iran is backing and arming the rebels seeking to overthrow the government. It is a proxy war for a larger regional struggle between the two countries for influence in the region. Iran has recently deepened its support for the rebels, which means that this attack probably only occurred with the prior approval of Tehran. This will potentially escalate tensions between the two already strained nations, and may potentially deepen the crisis in Yemen if Saudi Arabia retaliates with airstrikes.