Rape: The Russian tool of conquest

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 6, June 2022

Police uncover the body of Karina Yeshiva, 22, in Bucha. Witnesses say she was tortured, raped, and shot in the head by Russian soldiers. Source: DW.

Stephanie Wild
University of Cape Town

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, at least 4,000 civilians have been killed. Moscow has therefore been accused of targeting civilians. However, this is not the only tactic emerging. Acts of rape and sexual violence are also emerging as a weapon of war. In fact, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report on the 3rd of June stating that they had already received allegations of 124 acts of conflict-related sexual assault in Ukraine. These reported assaults have mostly been against women and girls, ranging from gang rape, to coercion, to forcibly bearing witness to acts of sexual violence perpetrated against partners and children. Concerns surrounding human traffickers exploiting existing networks are also on the rise. A United Nations Security Council meeting, in particular, brought this to the attention of the world on June 6. 

Sexual violence being heavily associated with stigma and shame, the concern is that the actual figure is much higher than 124. A more accurate idea of the actual figure will only emerge with an end to the conflict. However, considering the number of reported sexual assaults, it is clear that Ukrainian women are the victims of sexual violence perpetrated by Russian soldiers each day. This points to a weaponization of sexual violence.  

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Putin’s Folly

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 2, February 2022

Protestors against 2022 Russia invasion of Ukraine, at the Hachiko square in Shibuya, Japan. Wikimedia.

Richard Shortt, Ph.D.
Leader of New Zealand’s multi-agency Combined Threat Assessment Group

The work of unravelling Putin’s folly in the Ukraine began February 24 with the firing of the first missiles and artillery shells that signalled his invasion. It will be slow, time-consuming work, assuming no national uprisings in either the Ukraine or Russia by ordinary folks demanding an end to the killing and destruction, or more significant interventions by Western powers – both of which I consider unlikely. It will, in all probability, take longer than the time Putin has left sitting on the Russian imperial throne. But it will happen.

We are currently in what I term the Chaos Phase of the work. This is where invasion leads to death, destruction, despair and defiance. It is the defiance that will ultimately lead us to the next phase, meanwhile, troops and civilians will die, infrastructure will be destroyed and damaged and people on all sides of the issue will watch in stunned horror at what modern warfare and forced occupation means in a modern-day European country.

The Russian forces will emerge victorious. There is very little doubt about that, but not before the Ukrainian efforts deliver martyrs who will fuel the next phase – Resistance. Continue reading

The Risks of AI: An Interview with Georgetown’s Helen Toner

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 10, No. 1, January 2o22

Helen Toner, Director of Strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University.

Anders Corr, Ph.D.
Publisher of the Journal of Political Risk

The JPR interview with Helen Toner, the Director of Strategy at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University, was conducted via email between 4 January 2022 and 13 January 2022.

Corr: What are the national security risks and benefits of AI?

Toner: This is a huge question! AI is a general-purpose technology, meaning that—like electricity or the computer—its impacts will be felt across practically all industries and areas of society. Accordingly, it presents a huge range of potential risks and benefits from a national security perspective. One way of trying to summarize the possibilities might be as follows: the benefits will largely be in line with the kinds of benefits we have seen from increasingly sophisticated computing technology more generally: greater efficiency and accuracy, as well as the ability to perform tasks at scales impossible for humans (think: how Google search trawls the web). In terms of risks, one breakdown proposed by Zwetsloot and Dafoe is to think in terms of risks from accidents (i.e. unintended outcomes from using AI), misuse (i.e. the deliberate use of AI to cause harm), and structural changes (i.e. how progress in AI shapes surrounding systems and dynamics). I realize this is fairly abstract, but it’s impossible to enumerate specific risks without narrowing the scope to particular application areas, time frames, and actors.

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The Banyamulenge Genocide in the Democratic Republic of Congo: On the Interplay of Minority Groups’ Discrimination and Humanitarian Assistance Failure

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 11, November 2021

Village in Bibogobogo set alight. Photograph by Neri Patrick, taken on October 19, 2021.

Delphin Ntanyoma
Erasmus University

For two weeks now, a humanitarian convoy (five trucks) transporting humanitarian assistance to support the Banyamulenge in Bibogobogo (sometimes spelled Bibokoboko) has been intercepted by administrative and security officials in the city of Baraka [1].Two international humanitarian organizations, including the World Food Program (WFP), that have been working in this region to support displaced and local populations, resolved to support internally displaced Banyamulenge in Bibogobogo. The WFP’s support used an intermediate humanitarian organization, familiar of the context, to provide the assistance. On its way from Uvira to Baraka, rumors circulated that this is not humanitarian assistance but rather that the trucks contained ammunition and guns. Several sources including ones linked to civil society organizations in the region have confirmed that youth in Baraka (who support administrative and security officials) erected barricades to block the trucks. Truck drivers were obliged to unload everything to check what was inside each box. In the end, the search found that there was nothing linked to guns and ammunition. However, the assistance is now stored in Baraka, and it is uncertain if these organizations will be courageous enough to reload and bring the assistance to Bibogobogo. Continue reading

Yemen: Carnage or Strategy? What is the War Really About?

Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 9, No. 3, March 2021

Map of Yemen’s insurgency, according to published reports. Pink: Controlled by Hadi-led government. Green: Controlled by Revolutionary Committee. Tan: Controlled by Southern Transitional Council. White: Controlled by Ansar al-Sharia/AQAP forces. Grey: Controlled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Blue: Controlled by local, non-aligned forces like the Hadhramaut Tribal Alliance. Salmon: Controlled by forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh. Source: Ali Zifan.

William R. Hawkins
Former U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee member

Every new President is challenged by foreign adversaries early in their term to test how U.S. policy may change with a new administration. Iran did not wait long to send its proxies into combat against American forces and allies. In Iraq, Shiite militia groups launched rockets attacks which wounded several Americans. On February 26, President Joe Biden sent air strikes against several related militia targets in Syria in retaliation. This seemed a continuation of President Donald Trump’s policy of muscular deterrence inaugurated by the drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s Quds Force, while he was meeting with Iraqi militia leaders on January 3, 2020. President Biden sent a further message of deterrence to Tehran with a show of force by two B-52 strategic bombers escorted by Israeli fighters. The connection was important because an Israeli ship docked in Dubai was bombed by terrorists suspected of working for Iran on February 25.  

In Yemen, Iran’s proxy Houthi rebels have stepped up attacks by drones and ballistic missiles against Saudi Arabia, targeting both population centers and oil industry targets. Every few days, another barrage is launched. On March 7, Houthi Brigadier Yahya Sareea claimed the group had fired 14 drones and eight missiles at Ras Tanura, one of the world’s biggest oil ports, and other targets near their border. In retaliation, the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi renewed their air campaign in Yemen with strikes at the rebel-held capital of Sana’a and other key targets. The coalition had pulled back on their air strikes due to pressure from the U.S., but restraint by Riyad and Washington has only encouraged the rebels. Continue reading