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Security Brief: EUCOM Week of May 9, 2021

Week of May 9, 2021 | Issue 31

Erwan Mahoudo, Jessica Sumner, EUCOM

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at the World Economic Forum to discuss Democratic Reform in 2019[1]

Date: Thursday, May 13, 2021

Location: Armenian border with Azerbaijan

Parties involved: Armenia, Azerbaijan

The event: Amernian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan accused Azerbajani troops of crossing the Southern border of Armenia in an attempt to assert new territories. The Azerbajani foreign minister dismissed the accusation, explaining that Azerbaijan was operating within its own borders. This event comes less than half a year after the Nagorno-Karabakh war, which ended with a ceasefire in November 2020 and the victory of Azerbaijan. The conflict ignited due to a dispute over the territory surrounding Lake Sev, shared by both countries.

The implications:

  • Since the Armenian defeat, the country has been suffering a deep political crisis, forcing it to bring the parliamentary elections forward from December 2023 to June 2021. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan officially resigned in April to allow elections to take place but remains as acting Prime Minister, and has been actively campaigning across Armenia. The elections will likely increase the tensions in Armenia as Pashinyan is viewed by many as a traitor after the loss to Azerbaijan. Many of his public appearances are under high levels of tensions and involve hundreds of police officers to escort him.

  • This calling out of Azerbaijan is likely a political move for Pashinyan who wants to regain the confidence of Armenians and specifically individuals in the region bordering Azerbaijan. The statement made by Prime Minister Pashinyan comes while Azerbaijan has expressed its willingness to engage in diplomatic discussions to ease the tension. It is likely that Russia or Turkey will get involved in the talks since they have been the primary peacekeepers during the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Date: Friday, May 14, 2021

Location: Ireland

Parties involved: Irish Healthcare Service

The event: Ireland had to shut down their IT system on Friday May 14, 2021 due to a cyber ransomware attack on its system that occurred between Thursday night and early Friday morning. It is still unclear who the hackers are and what group they are affiliated with. According to healthcare officials, the system will likely be down or disturbed for several days.

The implications:

  • This event brings to light how exposed to cyberattacks and ransomware attacks the health care systems are in Europe. In February, two hospitals were hit by a ransomware attack in France, and last September a ransomware attack on a German hospital led to the indirect death of a woman. The attack also comes days after the US’s largest pipeline was hit by a ransomware attack, creating shortage of gas because of panic-buying. There are high concerns about the vulnerability of critical infrastructure in Ireland that will likely lead to escalating attacks by hacking groups.

  • It is likely that more ransomware attacks will target infrastructure that have a great impact on governments and the public because of the leverage it offers to the attacker. Although many officials stated that Covid 19 vaccinations, as well as emergency services, and ambulances were not affected, it is likely there will be important disruptions in other services such as radiology, cancer patients waiting for radiation treatment, or elective surgeries.

Date: Friday, May 14, 2021

Location: Moscow, Russia

Parties involved: Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), USA, and Russia

The event: Russia has frozen the bank account owned by Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) in an act of censorship while simultaneously, the Russian government has designated the United States as an “unfriendly state.” Bailiffs were first sent to the US-owned offices of RFE/RL over alleged unpaid fines. This event follows the 2017 move by the Russian government to designate RFE/RL as a “foreign agent.”

The implications:

  • Russia and the U.S. have seen relations between the two grow increasingly tense since the most recent U.S. election and the events transpiring around the case of Alexei Navalny. Therefore, this move by the Russian government against RFE/RL is likely to further escalate the animosity between the U.S. and Russia given the significant impact RFE/RL had in combating communism and promoting a divergent view-point from Russian state media.

  • It is likely that this move by Russia will work in favor of the U.S.’s stance towards Russia, because it demonstrates another level of censorship which further demonstrates Russia’s ability to antagonize the U.S. from within its own borders. This move is also likely intended to stress the resources of RFE/RL in an attempt to push out foreign influence and promote Russian state backed ideas.




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