Geopolitical Insights


June 25, 2021

What has Happened:

Ahead of next week’s monthly Around the World piece, our team is providing some quick insights into the geopolitical events that are top of mind for our clients. Below, Generals Kearney, Walsh, and Chinn discuss the Russian naval exercises conducted a few hundred miles off the coast of Hawaii this week as well as the recent elections in Iran and Israel and how they may impact U.S. interests.


Why it Matters:

Russian Naval Exercises

“This is very much like the Cold War incidents often done with submarine exercises. Given U.S. carriers are symbols of U.S. global power and reach, it is not surprising to see this exercise. Because it was close enough to Hawaii to be observed, this would indicate intentionality. If the U.S. were to demonstrate a capability like this, it would be characterized as a flexible deterrent operation to send a message. Given the timing of the Putin-Biden meeting and this event, there could be a message of strength being sent. Lastly, these exercises also test the timing of U.S. reactions and our response capabilities. From my view, this is old school Soviet Union Cold War tactics.” – General Frank Kearney


“The recent Russian military’s sea and air exercises near Hawaii were designed to send multiple messages to the U.S., its allies and partners, and the world audience. Putin is a master at messaging and keeping Russia and his name at the forefront of global power discussions. The movement of these large Russian sea and air task forces far out into the Pacific and near the U.S. military’s headquarters in Hawaii is unseen since the competition with the Soviet Union during the Cold War and sends a clear message to all that Russia remains a global power. The timing of the exercises (as the G-7 and NATO conferences were taking place) was Putin-esque. He wanted all to know that he is still a key player on the global stage and in the Pacific while both groups met to shift some of their traditional focus away from Russia and towards China. Finally, the Russian exercises signaled to all that Russia has an ability to attack U.S. aircraft carriers (our Navy’s crown jewels) and the U.S. Navy’s global power projection capabilities. The demonstration and messaging put into question whether the U.S. Navy is thinking behind the times with its emphasis and plans on large aircraft carrier battle groups while Russia and China develop and field long-range anti-aircraft carrier missiles.” – General Robert Walsh

“I concur with Frank and Bob and would offer the following. This is tied to Putin’s desire that Russia be viewed as a global power and is flexing its military and informational capabilities to demonstrate to the world their continued great power influence. This was a planned exercise by Russia that INDO-PACOM was aware of and in this scenario, the U.S. was the aggressor and Russia was the defender. This messages well with the Russian people and their partners that the U.S. is a threat. Russia can spin the message (like they did with the Cuban Missile Crisis) as a huge victory for Russia over the U.S. as they stood up to the U.S. and forced us to remove all the missiles in Turkey aimed at Russian cities. This Russian military exercise was not a crisis but provides an example as to how the Russian people receive information and are influenced by State media and in turn, how we are also influenced in what we believe by our media/senior leadership as we claimed the Cuban Missile Crisis was a huge victory for us. Nothing to be concerned about right now, but I see this as great power messaging by Russia.” – General KK Chinn


Iran and Israel Elections:

“The recent election of Ebrahim Raisi as Prime Minister of Iran will have a far greater impact on Iran and the U.S. returning to the JCPOA than the election of Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Raisi ran on the position approved by the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran would honor its JCPOA commitment. However, Raisi is the hardest of Iran’s hardliners and is far more extreme in his views than previous Prime Minister Rouhani’s more moderate positions. He has also been discussed as a possible successor to Khamenei. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan have both said that they would like a “longer and stronger” JCPOA deal than the previous one. Raisi immediately pushed back saying that he would not negotiate Iran’s ballistic missile program or stop support of Iran’s regional militias. Even with this strong language, we can expect Raisi to come back to the table just so he can ease the pain of U.S. sanctions that are having a crippling impact on Iran’s economy and its ability to fund terrorism. Israel’s Bennett said that Raisi’s election is a wakeup call to those who want to return to the JCPOA negotiating table. He went further saying “these guys are murderers, mass murderers.” Biden is walking diplomatic and political tight ropes in how he handles both Iran and Israel with all eyes watching.” – General Robert Walsh


Original Post 06/25/2021