Third Culture Queen vol. 11

Regional Rivalries | Eurasia, the Indo-Pacific, and the Global South

Hey y’all,

People all over the world are breathing a little easier this morning now that John Bolton is no longer working at the White House. Granted, the reason wasn’t the greatest, but whatever finally got Trump there is a win for everyone around the world.

However, there’s plenty happening outside the superpower-sized egos of China and the United States. “Regional Rivalries” is broken up into two sections: 1) Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific and 2) The Global South (Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America)

If you like keeping up with EU dramatics (from the exiting island to the battle in the Eastern Mediterranean), the delusions of grandeur of Putin’s petrostate, the battle over Kashmir, the growth and unification of Africa’s economy, or the direct impacts of climate change on the Americas – then Tuesday’s newsletter is gonna do it for you.

Your inboxes will get a break from me tomorrow, and TCQ will be back on Thursday with a roundup of great thought provoking reads to enjoy over the weekend, on everything from business to modern day-to-day life to big picture cultural trends.

Happy Reading!

– Kyle (@kgborland)

Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific

  • All The Ways Brexit Could Go Now, Explained For the People (BuzzFeed News)

    Now, with Parliament currently going through the process of blocking a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31, Johnson simply doesn’t have the numbers to call the election he wants — his government got smashed trying to trigger an election late on Wednesday night. Jeremy Corbyn is pretty much in control in terms of when an election happens because Johnson needs Labour’s votes.

    Last night, the House of Lords decided it wouldn’t go through days and nights of delaying the anti–no-deal legislation, so that’s pretty much guaranteed to pass in the coming days.

    The law passes, an election is coming, the government has no majority, please stay calm, make a cuppa, and let’s see how this can shake out. (Infographic)

  • America can play China against Russia (The Hill)

    There are three regions where Washington can pursue a strategy of division: Russia’s Far East, Central Asia and the Arctic. China should be supported to expand its influences into Russia’s Siberian and Far Eastern provinces, where it surrendered vast tracts of territory in the 19th Century at a time when China was weak and the Russian empire was comparatively strong. The roles are now reversing and are driven by demography and economic ambition. Attempts to regain those territories for China would be both symbolically and strategically important.

    Demographically, the Russian population is dwindling in Siberia and the Pacific coast regions while the neighboring Chinese population is rising. Along their common border, approximately 4.3 million Russians face over 109 million Chinese, many of whom will be seeking land, work and resources. The steady influx of Chinese workers into Russia indicates that Beijing increasingly views its northern neighbor not only as a raw materials supplier but also as a future provider of land for its swelling and dynamic population.

  • Can ‘Alliance for Multilateralism’ Succeed in a New Era of Nationalism? (WPR)

    Since January 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump has repudiated this role and turned the United States into a revisionist power, mimicking China and Russia in efforts to reconfigure important aspects of the global order. In a desperate attempt to hold the line, France and Germany will officially launch an “Alliance for Multilateralism” at the opening of the 74th United Nations General Assembly later this month. 

    The architects of this new alliance hope to leverage Western democracies’ combined weight and influence to reinvigorate international cooperation. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas first broached this possibility in a July 2018 speech in Tokyo. For too long, he suggested, Germany and Japan had been “rule takers.” In a world that could no longer count on the U.S., that needed to change. “If we pool our strengths,” Maas said, “perhaps we can become something like ‘rule shapers’ who design and drive an international order that the world urgently needs.”

  • Erdogan says it's unacceptable that Turkey can't have nuclear weapons (Reuters)

    “Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But (they tell us) we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept,” he told his ruling AK Party members in the eastern city of Sivas.

    “There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them,” Erdogan said. In fact, many developed countries do not have nuclear weapons.

    Turkey signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 1980, and has also signed the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, which bans all nuclear detonations for any purpose.

    Erdogan hinted that he wanted the same protection for Turkey as Israel.

    (Related: BBC)

  • Europe Is Ready for Its Own Army (Foreign Policy)

    In effect, the only way the formation of such an army will not impinge on national sovereignty is if individual member states retain their own separate forces with complete operational autonomy and each state has a veto on anything the European force might want to do

    If done this way, the European army will be a largely meaningless project.

    But France and Germany already signed a preliminary treaty which aims to build a “common military culture” this January, and that was quite separate from anything to do with the EU. So the two core European powers have already set things in motion. No doubt, smaller Western European countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg will volunteer to join any Franco-German initiatives as they develop in practice, and before long, most of the members of the EU will be signed up, as the project gains steam and establishes credibility. That might eventually be integrated into the EU—but that’s secondary consideration toward making reality. (Related: National Review)

  • Iran uses advanced centrifuges, threatens higher enrichment (AP)

    While insisting Iran doesn’t seek a nuclear weapon, the comments by Behrouz Kamalvandi of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran threatened pushing uranium enrichment far beyond levels ever reached in the country. Prior to the atomic deal, Iran only reached up to 20%, which itself still is only a short technical step away from weapons-grade levels of 90%. He also said Iran would allow U.N. inspectors to continue to monitor sites in the country.

    “So far, Iran has showed patience before the U.S. pressures and Europeans’ indifference,” said Qassem Babaei, a 33-year-old electrician in Tehran. “Now they should wait and see how Iran achieves its goals.”

    Iran separately acknowledged Saturday it had seized another ship and detained 12 Filipino crewmembers, while satellite images suggested an Iranian oil tanker once held by Gibraltar was now off the coast of Syria despite Tehran promising its oil wouldn’t go there.

    “If Europeans want to make any decision, they should do it soon,” he said. France had floated a proposed $15 billion line of credit to allow Iran to sell its oil abroad despite U.S. sanctions. Another trade mechanism proposed by Europe called INSTEX also has faced difficulty. (Related: Al Jazeera)

  • Is Armed Conflict Possible in Today's Europe? (Der Spiegel)

    It certainly doesn't look as though we will soon be facing a revolution, in the sense of violent systemic change. But liberal democracy, which once seemed to be an immovable element of the European consensus, finds itself under pressure. It doesn't exist at all in today's Hungary and it is disappearing in Poland. In Italy, liberal democracy is threatened and right-wing populism in many other countries is proving a difficult challenge to the system.

    Within the European Union, there are initial signs of systemic rivalry: liberal democracy versus authoritarianism. And systemic rivalries, too, have paved the way to war in the past: monarchy against democracy; fascism against democracy; fascism against socialism. In the Cold War, socialism found itself facing down democratic capitalism, and the two systems fought against each other in proxy wars staged in the developing world.

    Thus far, the rule has held that democracies do not fight wars against each other. That, too, helps protect European peace. But a dark future scenario could, for example, foresee an authoritarian country in Europe allying itself with a China as a protector state. That would mark the end of the rule.

    (Related: Foreign Policy)

  • Japan won't join U.S.-led maritime coalition but may go to gulf separately (JT)

    Citing unidentified government sources, the Yomiuri said Japan was considering a plan to send its Maritime Self-Defense Force on information-gathering missions in the areas around the Strait of Hormuz and Bab al-Mandab shipping lane between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea.

    It would also consider including the Strait of Hormuz in the MSDF’s sphere of activity if Iran agrees, the paper said.

    “As for what kind of steps would be effective to secure the safety of navigation of Japanese ships in the Middle East, we would like to look into the matter from various angles including stable crude oil supply, and Japan’s ties with the United States and Iran,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.

    “As we investigate the issue, we want to keep our principle of maintaining our diplomatic effort for easing tensions and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East.” (Related: Japan Times)

  • Ottoman Empire 2.0? (History Today)

    The Balkans are a historical twilight zone, unforgiving on first-time visitors confronted with its chequered imperial chronology.

    In the aftermath of the USSR, the decline of the European Union and the rise of religious tensions, the Balkan states are trying to define themselves in the 21st century. The region is ripe for more powerful states to carve out influence; Russia and Turkey are gaining on the ebbing influence of the EU and NATO in the former Yugoslavia and its surroundings.

    Bosnia-Herzegovina is a study in modern, ‘soft’ imperialism; while 500 years ago the country was occupied by Ottoman forces, it is now occupied to a surprising extent by Turkish money, poured into schools, media, construction and cultural projects in an attempt to recreate some approximation of past influence.

    Erdoğan and his AKP government have always been aware of the political advantages of resurrecting influence in the Balkan region, especially for trade, but there is a more emotional impetus behind this: Erdoğan identifies as an Ottoman leader in troubled modern times and his self-belief has translated into a strange reality. Sometimes he signals his Ottoman credentials with heavy-handed symbolism, sitting in his newly built, 1,000-room White Palace in Ankara with all the trappings of a modern sultan and other times explicitly, such as when he lamented the precise loss of Ottoman territories at the fall of the Empire in 1923:

    In 1914, our land covered two and a half million square kilometres. Nine years later it fell to seven hundred and eighty thousand square kilometres.

    ‘Our land’ is the key: Erdoğan and his fellow founders of the AKP both assume and actively promote a political continuum between the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey which does not exist; nearly 100 years has passed since the Empire’s collapse and much has changed since Atatürk founded a new nation state. During the liberation of Mosul in 2016, Turkish state TV broadcast maps of an enlarged Turkey encompassing northern Iraq, an old Ottoman territory – an explicit sign of imperialist pretensions. If the Balkans were as vulnerable, perhaps the map would include those territories. As it is, the Turks are playing it softly in the West. (Related: Daily Sabah)

  • Pakistan successfully carried out launch of a ballistic missile (Dawn)

    The missile "is capable of delivering multiple types of warheads up to 290 kilometres", said Maj Gen Ghafoor via a tweet, which also included a video of the launch.

    (Related: Nikkei Asian Review)

  • Pro-Putin candidates suffer losses in Moscow elections (The Guardian)

    Pro-Kremlin candidates have suffered losses in local elections in Moscow as Vladimir Putin’s biggest critic hailed the success of his campaign to encourage strategic voting.

    The election was closely watched by both sides following a summer of protests in the Russian capital against the Kremlin’s refusal to allow candidates allied with opposition leader Alexei Navalny on to the ballot.

    According to Russian media reports the Kremlin banned opposition candidates after internal polling indicated they would win at least nine seats. While the city council has few powers, analysts say the Kremlin was reluctant to allow Navalny’s allies a foothold on the electoral ladder ahead of far more significant parliamentary polls due in 2021.

    Discontent with the ruling party has been driven by a variety of factors including a five-year increase in the national pension age, growing economic hardship, and relentless allegations of corruption. The heavy-handed police response to protests that broke out in Moscow this summer also served to bring opposition figures together. Putin’s own ratings are at near-record lows, though still high by international standards.

    Andrei Metelsky, who heads United Russia’s branch in Moscow, was the most high-profile of United Russia’s covert candidates to lose their seats on the council.The party described his election defeat to a little-known socialist backed by the Communist party as “unpleasant”. Related: (CNN)

  • Russia, Ukraine swap prisoners in first sign of thawing relations (Reuters)

    While the exchange of 35 prisoners on each side could help rebuild confidence between Moscow and Kiev and allow them to start talking seriously over other issues including a conflict in east Ukraine, full normalisation is a long way off.

    The freed Ukrainians included 24 sailors detained by Russia during a clash in waters off Crimea last year. Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, jailed in Russia, was also present.

    Among those handed to Moscow was Volodymyr Tsemakh, suspected of involvement in downing a Malaysia Airlines flight over rebel-held east Ukraine in 2014 that killed all 298 aboard. (Related: BBC)

  • Salvini replaced by migration specialist in new Italy coalition (The Guardian)

    A career civil servant and specialist in migration policy has succeeded the far-right leader Matteo Salvini as Italy’s interior minister in a new left-leaning pro-European coalition government aimed at drawing a line under a crisis sparked by Salvini’s populist League party.

    Luciana Lamorgese, a veteran of the interior ministry, has in recent years been in charge of planning refugee and migrant reception centres in northern Italy and is known for promoting integration events and policies. She was also the first female security chief, or prefect, of Milan.

    Her appointment should mark a break from the era of Salvini, whose hardline immigration measures included the closure of Italian ports to NGO rescue vessels and the abolition of protections for asylum seekers. (Related: Haaretz)

  • Turkish Military Enters Syria to Begin Joint U.S. 'Safe Zone' Patrol (Haaretz)

    Armed Turkish military vehicles crossed into war-stricken Syria on Sunday to begin joint patrols with U.S. counterparts to establish a high-stakes "safe zone" along a border region controlled by Kurdish forces.

    The land patrol, which Damascus condemned, marks the latest sign of cooperation between the NATO allies east of the Euphrates even while thorny questions remain over the size and oversight of the safe zone.

    Turkey aims to send some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it hosts to the zone. The patrols would continue in coming days "without any delay for the withdrawal of terrorists and the return of Syrian people," Turkey's Defence Ministry said. (Related: Foreign Affairs)

The Global South

  • A New Economic Race For Africa (International Policy Digest)

    The main challenge within Africa is that there are over fifty nations that should ideally work together to achieve a common goal. Given the current state of affairs though, this is highly unlikely. Although all UN-recognized states are members of the African Union, it does not mean that all of them are willing to cooperate with each other.

    Foreign military and political intervention further complicates the matter. With the UN-military peacekeeping intervention based in Congo and Mali for example, a military strategy was established to reinstate order, support diplomacy, and prevent further crisis. Germany, as a member of the UN, has sent thousands of peacekeeping troops abroad. Military intervention in Mali is taking place unbeknownst to much of the population. Massive protests following a massacre in the village of Ogossagou resulted in Westerners being viewed as occupiers. A sense of colonialism is coming back and with it the exploitation of resource-rich countries and regions. Foreign investors seem to want to secure their share in this financial potential.

  • Brazil, Mexico begin trade talks seeking new commercial deals (CNBC)

    Marcos Troyjo, Brazil’s deputy economy minister for foreign trade, said on Monday that Brazil had formally started free trade talks with Mexico in a bid to build a complex commercial pact between the two largest economies in Latin America.

    The talks represent the latest chapter in Brazil’s efforts to open up its hidebound economy and trade more with the rest of the world. Under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil has already begun talks on a trade treaty with the United States.

    Speaking at a conference hosted by the Brazil-China Business Council, Troyjo said Brazil hoped to increase commerce with Mexico, highlighting the sale of farm products.

  • Cameroon Sends Military to Troubled CAR (Voice of America)

    Cameroon is dispatching more than a thousand troops to help bring peace to its troubled neighbor, the Central African Republic. The troops are leaving as analysts say they are already stretched handling such internal crises as piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the Boko Haram insurgency and the separatist crisis that has left at least 3,000  killed in three years.

    Beti Assomo said Cameroon was deploying 1,300 troops and civilians who, by protecting the Central African Republic, will also be protecting Cameroon. Cameroon hosts about 250,000 CAR refugees, and rebels quite often cross over and hold Cameroonian farmers and cattle ranchers for ransom. They also hide across the porous border with Cameroon when challenged in the Central African Republic

  • Colombia Farc rebels: President vows to hunt down new group (BBC)

    President Iván Duque offered $882,000 (£725,000) for the capture of each of the rebels who appeared in a video with former Farc commander Iván Márquez.

    He was one of the main negotiators of the 2016 peace deal, which ended 50 years of conflict. But now the former commander has accused "betrayal".

    "In two years, more than 500 social leaders have been killed and 150 guerrilla fighters are dead amidst the indifference and the indolence of the state," Ivan Márquez says in the 30-minute video, referring to the high number of activists and former Farc members killed since President Duque took office.

    But President Duque hit back later on Thursday, accusing the rebels of being "narco-terrorists who have the shelter and support of the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro", president of neighboring Venezuela. (Related: Foreign Affairs)

  • Guatemala declares state of siege after drug dealers kill soldiers (Reuters)

    Authorities will send more military and police personnel to Alta Verapaz, El Progreso, Izabal, Peten and Zacapa provinces, a drug-trafficking corridor that runs from the Honduran to Mexican borders. The measure will impose a curfew, prohibit demonstrations and make it easier for the armed forces to detain people. It must be approved by Congress.

    The Guatemalan Army said a group of suspected drug traffickers on Tuesday “ambushed” a patrol of nine soldiers who were sent to detain an aircraft allegedly transporting drugs.

    Guatemala, like neighboring El Salvador and Honduras, is a transit route for much of the cocaine that flows into the United States. Candidates running for public office in recent elections have been accused of links to the drug trafficking underworld, according to the United Nations-backed International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

  • Hurricane Dorian: Bahamas defends response amid criticism (BBC)

    In Marsh Harbour, where 90% of infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, residents complained that aid had been too slow to arrive.

    "We've had to funnel gasoline out of destroyed cars to get injured people back and forth. There's no food, no medicine and no water," said 37-year-old Tepeto Davis. "We're suffering out here and no-one cares about us."

    There were also fears that diarrhoea and waterborne diseases could spread as drinking water might be contaminated, the Pan American Health Organization said, but no cases of cholera had been reported.

    Mark Green, head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said he had been "struck by the focused nature of the devastation" on the Abacos, and that some areas looked "almost as though a nuclear bomb was dropped".

  • Nigeria to repatriate 600 citizens from S. Africa after violence (France 24)

    South Africa's financial capital Johannesburg and surrounding areas were rocked by a surge of deadly attacks against foreigners this week, many directed against Nigerian-owned businesses and properties.

    "They are about 600 now" due to be flown back, Godwin Adamu, Nigerian Consul General in Johannesburg, told AFP.

    Nigerian airline "Air Peace is beginning the airlift by Wednesday, the first flight with 320 Nigerians.” "We will have another one immediately after that."

    At least 12 people were killed in the violence and hundreds of shops destroyed.

  • One killed, five wounded in new Johannesburg violence (Al Jazeera)

    South Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from neighbouring Lesotho, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. But others come from South Asia and Nigeria looking for work in the continent's second-largest economy.

    The recent violence soured ties between South Africa and Nigeria, which summoned Pretoria's envoy and boycotted an economic summit in Cape Town in protest.

    Officials said several Nigerian businesses were attacked and burned down, though they said no Nigerians were killed.

    Foreign workers often face anti-immigrant violence in South Africa, where they compete against locals for jobs, particularly in low-skilled industries.

    In 2008, xenophobic attacks left 62 people dead, while in 2015 seven were killed in attacks in Johannesburg and Durban. (Related: CNN)

  • Pope denounces exploitation of Madagascar’s unique resources (The Republic)

    “Your lovely island of Madagascar is rich in plant and animal biodiversity, yet this treasure is especially threatened by excessive deforestation, from which some profit,” Francis said. He cited forest fires, poaching and the “unrestricted cutting down of valuable woodlands” as particular threats.

    Francis, the world’s first pope from the global south, acknowledged that some of the island’s poor have no choice but to cut down forests to find soil or extract minerals in illegal ways that damage the environment.

    More so than any pope before him, Francis has made environmental concerns a pillar of his papacy, linking global warming to the persistent exploitation of the world’s poor by the wealthy. He has also frequently called attention to the devastation wrought on the poor by corruption, often calling public officials to account on his foreign trips.

    In his speech Saturday, Francis urged Rajoelina, who came to power on a campaign to fight corruption, to make good on his pledges.

    “I would encourage you to fight with strength and determination against all endemic forms of corruption and speculation that increase social disparity, and to confront the situations of great instability and exclusion that always create conditions of inhumane poverty,” he said. “So it is important to create jobs and activities that generate income, while protecting the environment and helping people to emerge from poverty.”

  • Robert Mugabe: From liberator to tyrant (BBC)

    "A lot of people think that pan-Africanism is a thing of the past but that is not true," said Mr Mugabe's staunch ally, Chen Chimutengwende.

    "While imperialism and racism exist, pan-Africanism is still needed," he told the BBC.

    But Zimbabwean journalist Wilf Mbanga said that in his latter years, Mr Mugabe had far more support outside his home country than within.

    "Those young South Africans who praise him do not have to live under his rule," he said, pointing out that many Ghanaians had less than fond memories of life under pan-African hero Kwame Nkrumah, who had inspired Mr Mugabe.

    So how will Mr Mugabe be remembered?

    Mr Chan said that until 2000, Mr Mugabe had a "good report card", although the verdict later turned to "disastrous".

    "If he had died after 10 years in power, he would have been my hero forever," said Mr Mbanga

  • Tunisia airs first 'great debate' ahead of presidential poll (France 24)

    The showdown between the 26 hopefuls over three nights is seen as the highlight of the campaign and a turning point in Tunisian politics ahead of the vote, set to be held a week from Sunday.

    Called “The road to Carthage: Tunisia makes its choice”, the programme was broadcast on 11 TV channels, two of them public, and about 20 radio stations around the country that gave birth to the Arab Spring movement.

    Tunisia has since been praised as a rare success story for democratic transition.