Written by Sietske Moshuldayev
This June 2022 report highlights ten prominent conflicts selected following the close monitoring of news sources and open-source intelligence gathering over the past month. As fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces continued in Ukraine, nuclear testing threats from North Korea intensified and a potential new Turkish military operation in northern Syria sharpened international concerns. Meanwhile, the governments of Tunisia and Ecuador saw increased public protests demanding political and economic change. Militant groups continued to destabilize the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso, with government forces increasing their counterattacks. El Salvador’s government prolonged its fight to control drug gangs, while citizens in Sri Lanka and Nepal protested amidst worsening political and economic conditions. It is useful to continue monitoring developments in these counties in the upcoming weeks to remain aware and vigilant of potential escalations and subsequent ripple effects.
World Conflicts - June 2022
a. The Russia-Ukraine War
As the end of this month marks the 127th day since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, most of the fighting now continues in the eastern Donbas region. Some renewed Russian attacks in the north and south continue to occur as well. This month, Ukrainian military was forced to retreat from Severodonetsk, their last major foothold in Luhansk. Other cities, including Kyiv, endured several bombardments. Russia continues to hold on to its objectives as it blames its foreign debt default and the general global food crisis on Western states. Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to receive financial and military support as several Western leaders visited Kyiv this month and the EU accepted its bid to join the union. NATO is reinforcing its Eastern and Baltic defenses as Finland’s and Sweden’s accession has been accepted by Turkey. As the ongoing conflict continues to impact millions of Ukrainians, Russians and communities abroad that face worsening fuel and food shortages, this conflict requires continued monitoring.
b. North Korean Nuclear Test Threats
With North Korea’s nuclear facilities expanding, increased threatening rhetoric and enhanced North Korean defense plans, tension has risen this month with worries of a nuclear weapons test by North Korea. Since 2006, North Korea has tested six nuclear weapons but halted its nuclear program in 2017. Since the beginning of this year, however, it has alarmed other states with increased missile tests. This saw US efforts to toughen UN sanctions in May but the motion was vetoed by Russia and China - noteworthily the first disagreement since the sanction regime on North Korea started in 2006. With the regional security balance on the line, the US has already ramped up its military cooperation with South Korea and Japan in recent weeks to deter North Korea. What the impact of such enhanced regional relations will be - as North Korea perceives this as a growing threat - remains to be seen.
c. Tension over a New Turkish Offensive in Syria
As new Turkish military operations targeting northern areas of Syria may commence soon, international worries arose this month over a potential re-escalation of conflict in Syria. Turkey aims to establish a 30km safe zone along Turkey’s southern border with Syria where it perceives the Syria Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) as a serious national security threat. Turkey has long seen the YPG as a terrorist organization and aims to destabilize them. The YPG, however, presents the largest faction of the US-backed Syrian Democracy Forces. The US has pressured Turkey to cancel its plans and Russia, Syria’s traditional ally, has also warned Turkey of unwanted tension. Iran, on the other hand, voiced comprehension of Turkey’s ambitions. With a UN mandate for aid supplies to Syria ending on July 10th and an extension likely to be vetoed by Russia, an escalation will gravely impact Syrian citizens and overall regional stability. It remains to be seen what these pressures will bring.
D. Public Unrest over Government Changes in Tunisia
Tunisian citizens and opponents of the incumbent president continued protesting moves that strengthen the executive role of President Kais Saied. Along with the sacking of 57 judges at the beginning of the month - which has seen judges on strike ever since - President Saied is drafting a new constitution that strengthens presidential powers and allegedly excludes the mentioning of Islam. The constitution will be subject to a referendum on July 25th and opposition parties have already indicated they will boycott it. These moves come after the suspension of the supreme judicial court and parliament earlier this year along with other actions further consolidating Saied’s position. Many opposition groups and citizens view these alterations as the untangling of the democratic changes implemented following the 2011 turmoil. With protests likely to continue as the referendum date comes closer, in addition to ongoing disputes over economic pressures, this conflict should be monitored in upcoming weeks.
E. Deadly Protests in Ecuador
Ecuador has seen a series of violent mass protests since June 13th amidst demands for economic policy changes and improved costs of living. Protestors, primarily members of various indigenous groups, have blocked roads and attacked oil fields leading to food supply shortages in cities and reducing the country’s oil output by half. Sources report at least five civilian deaths and one soldier. President Guillermo Lasso entered talks with the protestors following a short state of emergency but these have halted due to the soldier’s unexpected death. In the meantime, right-wing President Lasso passed a vote of impeachment, indicating both government support for and opposition to his handling of the situation thus far. These events present a larger version of less violent protests and talks held last October, where similar demands were made. With both the government and the protestors adhering to their stances and talks halted, it remains to be seen how the situation will evolve next.
Brief Alerts - June 2022
a. Intensified Rebel Militancy in The Democratic Republic of Congo
Following a resurgence of M23 militant activity in eastern DRC since May, relations between the DRC and Rwanda worsened this month as the former accuses the latter of backing the rebels. Despite Rwanda rejecting this claim, previous invasions of the DRC by Rwanda in the 1990s place extra tension on stability in the region.
b. Planned Attacks by Burkina Faso’s Military Forces
After several deadly attacks in Burkina Faso this month, the government now plans to actively counter jihadist groups in northern and southeastern regions. It has provided a 14-day ultimatum for citizens to evacuate designated regions but without much guidance. With operations yet to start, it remains to be seen how this will develop.
c. Prolonged ‘State of Emergency’ in El Salvador
The third renewal of El Salvador’s state of emergency has human rights organizations alarmed about the dire circumstances in which detainees are being captured and held. With over 41,300 people detained thus far, the government is set on eliminating the gangs and allegations of human rights violations are likely to continue.
d. Sri Lanka’s Deepening Economic and Political Crisis
Prolonged fuel and food shortages continue to spur public protests in Sri Lanka despite the new cabinet attempting to appease the protestors. With fuel now only sold for essential services, further unrest is likely to continue as citizens demand further policy changes and the long-awaited resignation of the president.
e. Fuel Price Protests in Nepal
A rise in fuel costs caused clashes between citizens and the police in Kathmandu late this month. With Nepal’s economic conditions similar to that of Sri Lanka prior to its full-scale crisis, developments in Nepal may require closer monitoring in the upcoming weeks.
While the conflict in Ukraine is highly likely to continue in the upcoming weeks, it remains to be seen whether actual escalations - and to what extent - will occur regarding the North Korean and Syrian conflicts. As North Korea pursues its national agenda, it is likely to face international repercussions should it conduct a nuclear weapons test. Turkey frames its new military operation as necessary for its national security, but its international standing is simultaneously impacted daily by other events, such as the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, with a concrete deadline set for a potentially new constitution in Tunisia, it is likely that protests will continue, perhaps even escalate. Ecuador has seen talks between the government and the protestors in the past, which may indicate that this can happen again. As for the brief alerts, more violence can be expected in the cases of the DRC, Burkina Faso and El Salvador, with protests likely to continue in Sri Lanka and Nepal. Needless to say, all these conflicts, in addition to conflicts not covered in this report, will require close monitoring in the upcoming month.
About the author: Sietske Moshuldayev
Sietske Moshuldayev has an international background and is inherently intrigued by the causes and consequences of geopolitical events. She has completed two bachelors at the University of Leiden (International Studies, BA & Political Science, BSc) and currently pursues a masters in International Security at Sciences Po, Paris. Having specialized in East Asian affairs for her undergraduate studies, she now focuses on global risks and risk management.