February 12, 2021

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National Security

Russia

U.S. officials stressed they will be “clear-eyed” in dealings with the Russian Federation and that its adversarial actions in Crimea, eastern Ukraine, Georgia and the Middle East must be countered. On January 23, the U.S. Navy conducted the first joint maritime and air training mission in the Black Sea for 2021. Comment:  NATO and U.S. joint training operations with Ukraine and other regional partners will likely expand in an attempt to counter Russian foreign interference. (Source: Department of Defense News, Sixth Fleet Public Affairs)

Burma

The Biden Administration announced yesterday, targeted economic sanctions against the coup plotters, will withhold Burma’s financial assets, and provide active human rights support for those detained by the junta. The Administration also stated they will hold those accountable who plotted to overthrow Burma’s November 8th election. These U.S. financial, diplomatic, and economic sanctions are the first executive actions applied against a foreign actor seeking to overturn by force a democratic election in their country. Comment: This Presidential action sets the stage for additional diplomatic, economic, and human rights sanctions against other countries: notably, Russia, with its long history of election interference and China’s targeted arrests of elected officials in Hong Kong.  (Source: Department of State and the White House Executive Order)

Environment

The Colorado River Basin

The Colorado River is a primary source of water for California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and the Mexican states of Baja California and Sonora. Additionally, water from the Colorado River is transferred through pipelines and tunnels across the Rocky Mountains. This water provides 25-75 percent of Colorado’s, New Mexico’s, and Wyoming’s largest front range cities. These cities and surrounding areas have a combined population of more than 3 million people. This diverted Colorado River water eventually flows into Arkansas, South Platte, and Rio Grande Rivers, and is reused by Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas for irrigation, municipal and industrial purposes.

Drought and climate change are negatively impacting the Colorado River from its primary sources to its delta in Mexico. The Bureau of Reclamation estimates that the last 19-year period was the driest in more than 100 years of record keeping. This trend is expected to worsen, likely resulting in significant water loss and reductions for the downstream and upstream Colorado River riparian states.

Comment:  Colorado River water reductions will, as in the past, lead to disputes between the individual Colorado River riparian states and possibly Mexico. As in previous water disagreements, Congress and the Courts will become the arbiter for Colorado River water allocations. Of special concern, the burgeoning Front Range cities hold only the most junior Colorado River water rights and would be the first major urban areas to be negatively affected if their allocated Colorado River water diversions are significantly reduced or halted. These cities have few recourses to other water sources and the loss or significant reduction of Colorado River water would be immediate and far-reaching. In addition, the loss of Colorado River water to the states east of the Rocky Mountains, which also benefit from this water, would be consequential and could result in additional interstate disputes impacting upon water rights for the South Platte, Arkansas, and Rio Grande Rivers. (Source: Bureau of Reclamation, Congressional Research Service)

The Coronavirus Pandemic

COVID-19 Trends

The Biden Administration stated this week they are not where they would like to be on genetic sequencing of the COVID-19 variants. The Administration also complained about the Trump Administration’s handling of COVID and stated the situation was direr than they had believed prior to assuming the Presidency. Center for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 futures reporting shows a likely 90-day trend reduction in cases and hospitalizations, though COVID deaths are still likely to increase. Comment: CDC COVID-19 forecasting models have yet to include potential or expected increases from the new COVID variants, that are assessed as more highly transmissible. Additionally, a rolling back of State mandated social distancing, public gathering, and reduced masking recommendations could amplify COVID-19 spread, given the identified presence of the new variants in the United States. (Source: The White House, CDC, HHS)

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