The Power of Siberia pipeline, a joint Russian and Chinese venture in which Russia has agreed to provide $400 billion of natural gas (LNG) to China over the course of 30 years, presents a complex vector of potential conflict. Arctic ice melt, energy resource shortage, and increasing geopolitical tensions are all implicated. The complex nature of these issues and the uncertainty regarding their eventual manifestation places the pipeline in the realm of emergent conflict.
The Arctic nations, in particular the five littoral Arctic Ocean states – America, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark – are most at risk. China is also a key player, due to both its role as recipient of Russian LNG and its Arctic ambitions. These states are all members of the Arctic Council, the principle body involved in international Arctic governance. While many observers consider Arctic diplomacy via the Arctic Council a success, and point to the generally cooperative nature of international Arctic interaction, this hides the geopolitical divide that exists at the core of the Arctic Council. Most of the five littoral Arctic states belong to Western international and supranational organizations like NATO or the European Union (EU). However, the growing interdependence of Russia and China, and both states’ geostrategic expansionist ambitions, will likely complicate future efforts to prevent Arctic tensions and conflict.
Arctic diplomacy via the Arctic Council has a long history of cooperative conflict resolution. The most notable instance of successful Arctic diplomacy is the landmark 2010 resolution of a Russian and Norwegian Barents Sea border dispute after decades of negotiation. This is largely a result of the unique application of the rule of international law in the Arctic. The predominant legal framework governing Arctic activities is the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which establishes freedom-of-navigation rights, sets territorial boundaries, sets exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and rules for extending continental shelf rights, and has created several conflict-resolution mechanisms. This has provided the Arctic states with a solid and widely accepted legal framework within which to conduct Arctic activities and provided effective mechanisms to address disputes.
The five littoral states reaffirmed their commitment to peaceful and cooperative action within the framework of UNCLOS in the Arctic with the 2008 Ilulissat Declaration. The Declaration commits its signatories to address sovereignty and jurisdiction issues through the “extensive legal framework” that governs Arctic activity. Signatories also promised to strengthen cooperation multilaterally, through existing organizations such as the Arctic Council and Barents Euro-Arctic Council. This emphasis on cooperation is reflected in the five littoral states’ Arctic strategy documents, which share a number of basic goals and principles. These include: a peaceful, safe, and secure Arctic; sustainable economic and social development; environmental protection; addressing the rights and needs of indigenous Arctic peoples; and the maintenance of sovereignty. Another particularly promising development is the signing of the Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic. This treaty, signed in 2011 by Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States, encompasses previous agreements like the Tromsø Declaration and commits its signatories to expanded cooperation and information sharing in Arctic search and rescue missions. The Arctic Council has historically had a reputation for keeping its dealings separate from other international controversies, and has developed an air of isolation from political turbulence.
This analysis demonstrates that Arctic states have taken great pains to maintain the cooperative, peaceful nature of national and international activity in the Arctic. In particular, the dogged adherence to international law has provided a unique way to manage disputes. In addition, the Arctic Council has proven a valuable forum in which member states can address concerns, pursue cooperation, and effectively manage increased access to the Arctic. Its ability to compartmentalize Arctic policy from other international disputes has proven mostly resilient. Which is what makes the impact of Russia’s strategies concurrent to the Power of Siberia pipeline most intriguing.
The insulation from international tumult the Arctic cooperation has enjoyed thus far may be eroding. Russia’s annexation of Crimea, linked to the Power of Siberia pipeline by precipitating the international sanctions which served as a catalyst to signing the deal, has become an important enough threat to influence Arctic policy. In protest of Russia’s supposed revanchism, the Canadian Chair of the Arctic Council refused to attend an Arctic Council meeting in Moscow. The Canadian government saw this action as building on other penalties, like sanctions and travel bans, it had already imposed on Russia. While well-intentioned, Canada’s policy of including the Arctic in its attempts to isolate Russia may have unintended consequences, particularly in light of Russia’s ongoing military expansion there.
Russia has been increasing its military capacity in the Arctic for several years now. On December 1, 2015, Russia’s Arctic Command Headquarters became operational, one of the most visible signs of Russia’s “plan to form a combined arms group and construct a unified network of military facilities in the country’s Arctic territories, by hosting troops, advanced warships, and aircraft to strengthen the protection of its northern borders.” This can be seen as a fulfillment of Russia’s 2009 Russian Arctic Strategy until 2020. This strategy emphasized the national security dimensions of Russia’s Arctic policies, with a discussion of the need to militarily protect Russian interests. In addition, Russian President Vladimir Putin has explicitly stated that any Russian military buildup in the Arctic is a result of US submarines already present in the Arctic. This has begun to trouble Russia’s Arctic neighbors and is rightfully seen as “a direct challenge to the longstanding consensus that the Arctic should be kept free of military rivalry.”.
Such challenges amid Western fears of Russian expansionism and heightened tensions do not bode well for future efforts to mitigate or avoid crisis in the Arctic. Recent backtracking notwithstanding, Canada’s decision to link Arctic cooperation with its wider foreign policy has set a precedent in which other states may choose to prioritize contentious foreign policy over the previously pristine Arctic cooperation. Likewise, Russia’s military buildup violates one of the fundamental tenets of Arctic engagement, that of keeping it free from military competition. In light of these developments, the potential for conflict over the Power of Siberia pipeline, arising from the geopolitics of climate change, energy scarcity, and divergent strategic positions, should become much more likely.
The Power of Siberia pipeline poses the potential for conflict due to the unique forces shaping its place in world affairs. As such, careful and effective policy is necessary to avoid such an undesirable outcome. International cooperation in the Arctic provides the most appropriate policy issue to explore these potentialities. Arctic policy has a reputation for cooperation even in the face of political adversity. For the majority of its existence the Arctic Council, along with related Arctic bodies, have served as valuable arenas for engagement and conflict resolution. However, recent developments give cause for concern that the Arctic may prove as contentious and competitive as other human endeavors. In total, while Arctic policy offers much in the way of useful means to arbitrate disputes and manage conflicts, there is growing evidence that it will succumb to the tendency toward competition and conflict. Thus, the melting ice may one day reveal new grounds for war.
How 4chan Radicalizes Youth and Grooms Them Towards Terrorism
The image board was started in 2003 to discuss anime and various other topics but festered into a safe space for hateful rhetoric soon after. In the aftermath of yet another racially motivated mass shooting by a frequent user, its dangers have finally reached the mainstream.
4chan is an extremely unique website. It has been running since 2003, and over the course of almost 20 years, has influenced many internet memes and phenomena. However, in the wake of the European Migrant Crisis in 2015 and the 2016 Presidential Election, it became associated with white supremacy, especially on its /pol/ board. This hateful rhetoric festered, worsening in 2020 during the COVID pandemic and George Floyd protests. 4chan was sprung into the spotlight once again on May 14th, 2022, when a white supremacists livestreamed his massacre of a supermarket.
This attack, fresh in American’s minds, led many to question why 4chan is still allowed to exist. This comes after 4chan’s rhetoric inspired a 2015 mass shooting in Oregon and its users aided in the organization in the Unite The Right Rally and the January 6th Riots. Clearly 4chan is a hotbed for far-right terrorism. But why is this image board the way it is? The answer lies in its lax moderation of content.
Upon looking at 4chan, you will find it is mostly made up of pornography. However, if you go on the site’s /pol/ board, it does not take long to find the kind of rhetoric that radicalized the Buffalo shooter. One particular post I found featured a racist joke at the expense of Black people. Another was praising fighters in the Ukrainian Azov battalion while joking about killing trans people. Yet another post complained about an “influx of tourists” due to the Buffalo shooter, who they insulted with an anti-gay slur. These memes and jokes seem to appeal to a younger, perhaps teenaged audience. It is clear that they are still trying to recruit youth into their ranks even after the tragedy in Buffalo.
The content is, to say the least, vile. The fact that this stuff is permitted and encouraged by not just the userbase (which numbers in the millions) but also many moderators tells us that there is something fundamentally wrong with 4chan. In fact, copies of the livestreamed Buffalo massacre were spread widely on 4chan to the amusement of its userbase.
Many of the users on 4chan are social rejects who feel as if they have nothing to lose. They feel unaccepted and alienated from society, so they turn to 4chan. Many harmful ideologies, such as White supremacy and incel ideologies, seem extremely validating for these dejected youth. Young, socially alienated men, who make up the majority of 4chan’s userbase, are also among the most vulnerable demographics for radicalization.
What can we do to prevent further radicalization of youth and deradicalize those already affected by harmful rhetoric? First of all, we need to either heavily regulate 4chan or have it shut down. There is no space on the internet for this kind of hatred or incitement to commit horrific acts like what happened in Buffalo. For those already radicalized, we need to perform a campaign of deradicalization among those affected by this rhetoric. But how can this be done?
4chan prides itself on anonymity, so it is difficult to figure out who uses it. Thus, education on radicalization and identification of propaganda is vital. This education should focus on adolescents mostly due to their predisposition towards radicalization when exposed to hateful rhetoric. While White supremacy must be emphasized, other forms of radicalization should be mentioned as well such as Jihadism and other forms of ethnic supremacy. Finally, tolerance must be fostered among all people, not just those at risk of becoming groomed into terrorism.
The age of 4chan has spawned many humorous memes, but it has since become a hotbed for hatred and terrorism. Since memes are able to convey dangerous ideas, websites like Reddit and Facebook need to be heavily regulated to prevent the dissemination of dangerous misinformation. It is unlikely that 4chan will ever moderate itself, as lack of strict moderation is its defining feature. Thus, it has overstayed its welcome and no longer has a place in today’s information-driven society.
New ISIS Strategy and the Resurgence of Islamic State Khorasan
Unlike Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the second late leader of ISIS, who was derided as a “secluded paper caliph” and “an unknown nobody” for his relative anonymity and non-publicity, the new caliph of the Islamic State, Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, has apparently launched a new strategy to strengthen linkages to regional wilayahs (provinces) and boost the group’s global presence.
Indeed, during his short time leading the group (31 October 2019 – 3 February 2022), Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi never publicly addressed his followers, which negatively affected the coordination of the activities of Islamic State-Central (ISC) and its regional branch of the Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP). Although his killing during a US counterterrorism raid in northwest Syria in early February was a major blow to the global jihadi organization, the change in leadership nevertheless provided it with new opportunities to update its command-and-control, recruitment and propaganda campaign.
Predictably, Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, the new ISIS overall leader, sees his historical role not only in ensuring the Caliphate’s continuity and avoiding its potential fragmentation but also in establishing a more direct and consistent command line between its core in Iraq and Sham and its Central and South Asian affiliates.
The new strategy of the Islamic Caliphate not only gave a new impetus to its Khorasan offshoot waging a holy jihad in post-American Afghanistan against the Taliban but also opened a new front line against the post-Soviet Central Asian regimes. Indeed, the analysis of ISKP activities revealed that the proclamation of Abu al-Hassan al-Quraishi as the new Caliph and the launch of a new campaign “Revenge Incursion for the Two Sheikhs” increased the combat capability of IS Uzbek and Tajik fighters, as well as strengthened the coordination of local language and IS-Central propaganda machines.
Notoriously, on April 17, ISIS launched the new campaign “Revenge Incursion for the Two Sheikhs” to avenge the deaths of the former ISIS leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Qurayshi, and his official spokesperson, Abu Hamza al-Qurashi, who were killed in a US raid in February in the northwest Syrian town of Atmeh. In his recent audio address, Islamic State’s new spokesman Abu-Omar al-Muhajir called on the Caliphate warriors to avenge the deaths of the former ISIS leaders by “painfully striking” the enemies of “al-mujahideen” and saying that if they kill, they should “kill by many.” This call was made to the group’s followers worldwide and asked them to remain patient, but also be ready when the “war” begins. Al-Muhajir called to expand the campaign “Revenge Incursion for the Two Sheikhs” to the territory of US, Europe and Central Asia, urging Muslims living there to follow the lead of past “lone wolves” who conducted operations that “filled with horror.” He asked them to repeat “lone wolf” operations by stabbing, attacking, and ramming, and drawing inspiration from recent attacks in Israel.
ISKP Threat to Central Asia
Among the first to support the Islamic State’s new ‘global offensive’ campaign were ISKP Uzbek and Tajik jihadists challenging the new Taliban government and dreaming of overthrowing the ‘Taghut (idolaters) regimes’ in Central Asia. Thus, inspired by the new Caliph’s new strategy, for the first time in the history of the Islamic State, they managed to conduct a transnational jihadi operation from Afghanistan to the territory of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Initially, on April 18, 2022, the ISKP fired ten rocket salvos into the territory of Uzbekistan, which was successfully exploited by the Uzbek-speaking regional jihadi media and IS-Central’s propaganda resources as evidence of the opening of a “second front” in the Central Asian direction. Expert assessments clearly observed the good coordination between the IS-Central’s media and ISKP’s local jihadi mouthpieces, both in terms of Islamic ideological content and hierarchical sequences.
The Islamic State-Central’s Amaq News Agency reported that “Mujahedeen of the Caliphate have fired 10 Katyusha rockets at a murtad (apostasy) Uzbekistan’s military base in the border town of Termez.” The ISIS central media wing also released a photo and video of the projectiles to back its claims. Another IS-Central’s weekly al-Naba newsletter also widely covered the topic of rocket attacks by detailing how the projectiles were fired from Afghan territory on the Central Asian nation.
Following IS-Central official news agencies reports, IS-Khurasan Willayah’s local media outlets, such as Al-Azaim Foundation and Khurasan Radio, the Uzbek-language Xuroson Ovozi (Voice of Khurasan), Tavhid Habar (Tawhid News), Tajik-language Telegram channels Mujahideen of the Caliphate and The Army of the Victorious Nation published a series of audio, video and text messages in Uzbek and Tajik detailing the goals, causes, and consequences of the rocket attack. In particular, Al-Azaim Foundation glorified the rocket attack as “the heroism of the brave lions of Allah Almighty punishing the corrupt army of the murtad Uzbek government.”
The ISKP media outlets were extremely outraged by the Uzbek government’s denial of the rocket attack, claiming that nothing had landed on their territory. In response, pro-ISKP Uzbek, Tajik and Russian Language Telegram channels re-posted IS-Central’s statement, photos, videos of the attacker and a map marked with the possible rocket impact location in Termez.
Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi experts’ attention was drawn to a 24-minute audio address of Khuroson Mujahid, the leader of ISKP Uzbek group, whose speech style and ideological views strongly resembled the late ISIS chief strategist Abu Mohammed al-Adnani. His speech revealed that the ideological vision of ISKP Central Asian jihadists, staunch followers of Takfiri Salafism, is in line with the Islamic State’s global agenda. He considers democracy to be the religion of “murtad states” of Central Asia, the Taliban government and Pakistan. He believes that due to committing shirk (idolatry), deviating Allah and doubting Tawheed (God’s Oneness), the leaders of taghut countries should be killed.
Considering Khuroson’s oratorical skills, Takfiri persuasion and ideological savvy, it is quite possible that the ISKP recruitment and incitement campaign will intensify in Central Asia in the near future. Obviously, the engagement between IS-Central and ISKP in the military, media and ideological directions reached a new level in the more permissive operating environment of post-American Afghanistan.
On May 7, the ISKP carried out a second rocket attack, this time into Tajikistan. According to the Central Media Office (Diwan al-I’lam al-Markazi) of ISIS, “Caliphate’s fighters fired seven rockets from the Khawaja Ghar district of Afghanistan’s Takhar Province towards the Tajik military base near the city of Kulob.” The rocket attacks on the territories of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan for three weeks nevertheless mark a clear escalation by ISKP Central Asian foreign fighters from just hostile anti-five post-Soviet “murtad governments” rhetoric to direct militant action.
Notably, the methods of media coverage of both attacks and the engagement between IS-Central and ISKP’s local media resources were clearly similar. The algorithm of their actions was in line with the new ISIS strategy. Thus, IS-Central posted a brief information about the rocket attacks with video and photos, then the Tajik, Uzbek and Pashto-language local media resources of ISKP glorified the “warriors of Allah”. The Uzbek-language pro-Islamic State Telegram channels Islomiy Maruza Davat Guruh, Khuroson Ovozi, Tawheed news, the Tajik-language Telegram channel of Ulamoi Rabboni (إنَّ اللّٰهَ مَعَنَا) actively propagated ISKR rocket attacks, undermining the image and credibility of the military potential of Tajikistan and the Taliban.
These Central Asian pro-IS media resources, supported by IS-Central propaganda bodies and comprised of a constellation of official branch outlets, regional pro-ISKP groups, and grassroots supporters have become a prominent voice aggressively impugning the Taliban’s reputation in the global jihadi world. Such method makes it possible to preserve the hierarchical structure and maintain a uniform media strategy of the global jihadi group. This reflects that after the fall of the Caliphate and a series of dramatic losses of its leaders, ISIS has learned a bitter lesson and is now moving from centralizing power to strengthening its wilayahs.
Apparently, the ISKP seeks to broaden its appeal in Central Asia both through increasing cross-border attacks against Afghanistan’s neighbors and ramping up the production, translation, and dissemination of propaganda directed at Uzbek, Tajik, and Kyrgyz communities in the region. These rocket attacks and ISKP’s propaganda campaigns targeting Central Asians for recruitment are any indicators, the group has become a serious jihadi power challenging not only the Taliban government, but also the post-Soviet authoritarian regimes. Through its Uzbek, Tajik and Pashto-language Telegram channels, the ISKP is conducted an unprecedented activity to recruit Central Asian jihadi groups affiliated with al Qaeda and the Taliban, as well as new radical Islamists from the Fergana Valley.
Future of ISKP Central Asian Jihadists
Obviously, the ISKP is exploiting the US military withdrawal from the region and the Afghan Taliban’s deviation from the hardline jihadi concept by successfully portraying their government as a Pashtun ethno-nationalist organization rather than a bona fide Islamic movement.
In conclusion, it is to be expected that the ISKP will actively capitalize external operations to undermine the legitimacy of the Taliban government, which assured the US and Central Asian neighbors not to allow Afghan soil to be used to attack Afghanistan’s neighbors. Strengthening cross-border rocket attacks has already raised the morale of ISKP fighters and consolidated its support base.
Thus, the new Islamic State’s strategy to strengthen its offshoots in its provinces is quite capable to reestablish its positioning in the broader global jihadi movement, which we see in the example of IS-Khorasan Province.
How Memes Can Spread Dangerous Ideas
Internet memes are an excellent way to send powerful messages to millions of people. But what happens when they are used for malicious purposes?
Memes have been a means of transmitting messages for centuries, proliferating immensely in recent decades due to their mass proliferation through the internet and their ability to broadcast messages to a massive audience. They have quite a bit of cultural significance and can be based on almost anything, provided they achieve viral status. However, memes have been subject to abuse by malicious groups and actors.
From the Blue Whale Challenge, an internet challenge that resulted in multiple suicides worldwide, to terrorist organizations like ISIS, which use internet memes to recruit young people, memes can be used for malicious purposes. Even toxic subcultures like MGTOW serve as a pipeline towards the incel movement. Indeed, such male supremacist organizations are not strangers to using memes and viral media to propagate their ideas and recruit young men and boys to their cause. In fact, one influencer, who goes by Sandman MGTOW, often posts such misogynistic memes and videos on his Twitter and YouTube channel.
These kinds of memes are easily identifiable by their bias towards a specific issue and their often-political message. One great example of a meme that has been subject to abuse by malicious actors is Pepe the frog. Based on a character by Matt Furie, this meme was abused by the alt right, being depicted as controversial figures such as Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump. The meme was so badly abused by these far-right actors that it was listed as a hate symbol by the ADL.
Memes have also influenced major world events like the 2016 election in the United States and the Arab Spring revolutions in the early 2010’s, which garnered immense media attention through the use of internet memes and viral media. This shows that memes can have the power to influence elections (albeit slightly) and topple oppressive regimes. Being a powerful tool for spreading information, there is also the use of memes for spreading misinformation.
The COVID-19 pandemic mediated a sizeable but modest anti-vaccine movement in countries like the United States, Canada, and Germany. These anti-vaxx groups used social media like Facebook and Reddit to spread memes full of misinformation and pseudo-science It can also be argued that memes were effective tools in spreading misinformation around the elections of 2016 and 2020 in the United States. Memes, while powerful, can be used by malicious actors such as far-right groups and anti-vaxx groups to peddle false information. This has contributed to the US having a COVID death toll of over one million, higher than most other countries worldwide.
The world has progressed quite a bit in the information age. People are able to communicate ideas with millions of people worldwide in seconds. The proliferation if information has never been more efficient in history. That is why the threats that arise from the mass proliferation of memes and viral media are so dire. As was seen during the 2016 and 2020 US elections, COVID, and Arab Spring, memes can be spread to convey messages that can change nations, affect millions (perhaps even billions) of people, and topple dictators. It has become possible for people to change the course of history with a single tweet or a single meme on Reddit or Instagram going viral.
What can we do to stem the massive proliferation of memes that serve to recruit people into dangerous organizations and fill their minds with misinformation? The answer lies in how we confront our biases and how we detect misinformation. People need to be informed about how they can detect bias and propaganda, in addition to using independent fact-checking services. By identifying propaganda from malicious actors and misinformation from online groups, we can stop the spread of dangerous memes before they proliferate.
Post-COVID, Latin American Leaders Say their Countries Are Open for Business
Rising food and energy prices and a migration crisis are posing significant economic and social challenges in Latin America, according...
The WW III that Biden and All Other Neocons Are Leading U.S. Toward
The intensely neoconservative U.S. President Joe Biden is leading the world into a World War III against both Russia and...
Health Leaders Stress Need for Coordinated Global Response to Tackle Pandemics
Improved global coordination and regional capacity building will help ensure the world is better prepared for the next pandemic, said...
‘New dawn’ for Europe as War in Ukraine Strengthens EU and Support for Enlargement
The European Union surprised the world, and even itself, with the speed, scale and unity of its response to Russia’s...
New Accord to Improve Health and Vaccine Equity for 1.2 Billion People in Lower-Income Countries
A groundbreaking initiative launched today at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos 2022 aims to greatly reduce the...
New Initiative to Build An Equitable, Interoperable and Safe Metaverse
The World Economic Forum announced today a new initiative, Defining and Building the Metaverse. The initiative brings together key stakeholders...
Geopolitical Crises Forcing Leaders to Face up to Difficult New Realities
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda delivered a harsh rebuke to Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, pledging “100% support” for President...
Economy4 days ago
The Belt and Road Initiative: Innovative Chinese Ideas for a New World Order
East Asia4 days ago
Holding on to Uncle Sam: US-Taiwan Relations
Economy3 days ago
The Politics of New Global Borderless-Class
Africa4 days ago
Reviewing Russia-Mali Strategic Partnership
Southeast Asia4 days ago
Return of the Marcos and Great-Power Competition
Economy3 days ago
Effective Investment in China: What Should Be Done When the Situation Gets Complicated?
Russia4 days ago
NYT Presents Strong Case for a War-Crimes Prosecution Against Russia
Defense3 days ago
U.S.’ Unperturbed Response to Indian BrahMos Launch in Pakistan: Aberration or New Normal?