By Duncan Copeland Executive Director, TMT and Dr Ian M Ralby CEO, I.R. Consilium A new Spotlight report by TMT, in cooperation with I.R. Consilium, examines both how foreign fishing operators are accessing and exploiting African flag registries for their fishing vessels in pursuit of legal impunity, and how weaknesses in African flagging regimes attract this exploitation. The global fishing market is projected to be worth $194 billion by 2027, so there is ample financial reward to be gained by fishing illegally. High-risk fishing vessel owners – those operations that are most likely to engage in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, unsustainable and/or destructive fishing practices, and/or those involving broader forms of associated crimes – are looking to create a situation where they can harness the resources of a State without any meaningful restrictions or management oversight. Challenges with maritime governance and limited fisheries enforcement capacity across the continent of Africa, combined with the relative health of African fisheries, makes the continent an ideal venue for high-risk fishing operators to test a variety of tactics for evading accountability. Recognizing this phenomenon is a critical first step in discerning what can be done about it. While concerns have been raised and discussed for many years about the ‘genuine link’ between the flag state and the beneficial owners and/or operators of vessels, broader flag-related concerns continue to emerge around fishing vessels that indicate a growing relationship between the flag of the vessel and high-risk fishing practices. These practises are particularly acute in Africa, where some fishing vessel owners and operators exploit African flags to escape effective oversight and to fish unsustainably and illegally both in sovereign African waters and in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The Spotlight report examines two distinct high-risk flagging processes: 1) ‘flags of convenience’, the use of African open registries to fish in waters beyond the national jurisdiction of African nations, and 2) ‘flagging-in’, the use and abuse of various local rules to…


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Unanchored in Ankara: How Turkey’s Ukraine Dilemma May Lead to a Widening Fissure in the Global Economy

An Economic Ecosystem of Sanctioned and “Less Popular” States Could Expand a Parallel Global Economy Dr. David Soud, Dr. Ian Ralby and Rohini Ralby Turkish President Recip Tayyep Erdogan’s phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Sunday 6 March 2022 indicated that Turkey is continuing to walk a fine line, encouraging Russia to end the war but refusing to join NATO allies pressuring Russia to do so with sanctions. The stakes of this high-wire act are even more precipitous than they may at first seem. By seeking to maintain good relations both with its Western allies and with Russia, Turkey may find itself catalyzing the expansion and entrenchment of a parallel global economy of sanctioned states and their enablers. As the country that can effectively control access to the Black Sea, Turkey is a critical player in both the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the potential responses to it. Understanding Turkey’s equities in the situation, therefore, can shed light on what choices it may make that could, in turn, affect the world.  Turkey’s roles as a NATO ally, the key party to the Montreux Convention, and a major trading partner with both Ukraine and Russia have all garnered international attention since the 24th of February. Turkey’s roles as the world’s leading exporter of wheat flour and second largest exporter of pasta, however, have not.  Nor has the reality that by the end of June, Turkey will run out of the grain it has stored to maintain that output, and without any clear return to market from the Russian and Ukrainian supply chains, Turkey may not be able to fulfill the orders of its own trading partners.  Those partners – many of which rely on Turkey for staple food supplies – are largely fragile and less popular states outside the direct supply chains of Ukrainian and Russian grain routes.  They include Iraq, Iran, Venezuela, and Somalia. Given their central role in global…


Featured image for “The Deeper War: Mind Is the Defining Battlespace of Our Time”

The Deeper War: Mind Is the Defining Battlespace of Our Time

Rohini Ralby, Dr. David Soud, Dr. Ian Ralby Consider three events that have commanded global headlines over the past several years: the Russian influence campaign around the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the April 2019 bombings in Sri Lanka, and the current invasion of Ukraine by Russia. If we go by surface indicators, the three episodes look completely different. The first involved the strategic rivalry of two world powers, the second took the form of a horrifically violent series of physical attacks by a small group of conspirators, and the third is a land war launched to invade and conquer a sovereign state. What links the three events, along with many others, lies deeper: in all three cases, minds were weaponized. What might be called the mental battlespace has always been with us. Well over two thousand years ago in The Art of War, Sun Tzu placed special emphasis on the state of mind and condition of heart in leaders, soldiers, and noncombatants alike. He also insisted that any strategist must above all know three things: himself, his adversary, and the terrain. In the past twenty years, the terrain of human conflict has shifted in unprecedented ways, as have the adversaries traversing it, and the ideal of genuine self-knowledge has largely been swept aside by a torrent of outward stimuli and popular forms of self-affirmation. Information technology, especially the internet, has made the abstract terrain of thought, belief, and narrative the defining battlespace of our time. We are already globally at war—a kind of ambient, ceaseless war within collective and individual minds, and it is this conflict, or web of conflicts, that will decide humanity’s future. Any strategist who fails to grasp this reality will always lag behind those who do. By now, we ought to be thoroughly disabused of the notion that the internet and related technologies would necessarily be forces for good, means of overcoming barriers, catalysts for freedom. Whatever else they have made…


Featured image for “Ukraine is Not Enough: Just the Beginning of Russia’s Assault on the World”

Ukraine is Not Enough: Just the Beginning of Russia’s Assault on the World

By Dr. Ian Ralby, Dr. David Soud, Rohini Ralby The image of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping together at the Beijing Olympics solidified, for many observers, the sense that Russia and China really are partnering up to simultaneously strengthen their own relationship and weaken the global power of the United States and its allies. Several major outlets have since raised concerns about this new dynamic in the “great power competition,” but so far, few public analyses have delved into how such a grand strategy might work, and fewer still have examined deeply enough how the Sino-Russian agreements reached in Beijing are a driving force behind Russia’s brazen invasion of Ukraine. Nor have they looked at what will come next. Amid all the moving parts of these machinations and the chaos of this conflict, one critical implication has been grossly underexamined: how Russia is relying on China’s support to weaponize global food supply chains in furtherance of an agenda that stretches far beyond Ukraine. The building blocks of this strategy are already in place. Both US-China and US-Russia relations have hit new lows of mutual recrimination – likely the worst in the last three decades – and the global ambitions of Beijing and Moscow are filling the space left by Washington’s retreat from the world, initiated under the last Administration. The result is that the United States and Europe are relying on traditional pressure points that have less and less effect on international affairs. The recent Sino-Russian agreement on oil and gas will help shield Russia from the pain of further sanctions, thereby reducing the economic leverage NATO members can realistically apply. Responding to this invasion with sanctions, therefore, is little more than offering thoughts and prayers, particularly given not only Russia’s now unfettered access to certain Chinese markets, but also its use of cryptocurrencies, illicit gold and other transnational criminal financing schemes, and other sources of revenue that lie outside sanctionable and regulated systems. But…