Third Culture Queen vol. 14

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

Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific

  • Australia concluded China was behind hack on parliament, parties (Reuters)

    Australia’s cyber intelligence agency - the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) - concluded in March that China’s Ministry of State Security was responsible for the attack, the five people with direct knowledge of the findings of the investigation told Reuters.

    The five sources declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue. Reuters has not reviewed the classified report.

    The report, which also included input from the Department of Foreign Affairs, recommended keeping the findings secret in order to avoid disrupting trade relations with Beijing, two of the people said. The Australian government has not disclosed who it believes was behind the attack or any details of the report.

    The timing of the attack, three months ahead of Australia’s election, and coming after the cyber-attack on the U.S. Democratic Party ahead of the 2016 U.S. election, had raised concerns of election interference, but there was no indication that information gathered by the hackers was used in any way, one of the sources said.

    Pompeo said countries could not separate trade and economic issues from national security.

    “You can sell your soul for a pile of soybeans, or you can protect your people,” he told reporters at a joint appearance with Payne in Sydney.

    Morrison’s office declined to comment on whether the United States had expressed any frustration at Australia for not publicly challenging China over the attack. The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

  • Deal or no-deal, Brexit's puppet master has more strings to pull (Reuters)

    Ultimately, Johnson has five choices: strike and ratify a deal with the EU in 50 days; renege on his promises to leave the EU on Oct. 31; somehow get around the law; resign to let another leader request a delay; or an election is triggered.

    The Cabinet Manual, which sets out the laws, rules and conventions on the operation of government, says if the prime minister resigns on behalf of the government then Queen Elizabeth will invite the person who appears most likely to be able to command the confidence of lawmakers to serve as prime minister and form a government.

    UPDATE: Boris Johnson humiliated by Luxembourg PM at presser (The Guardian)

  • ECB announces fresh stimulus as eurozone economy falters (The Guardian)

    The move restarts a programme paused by the ECB in December after the purchase of €2.6tn of bonds since first use of QE in 2015.

    The ECB also said it would cut its deposit rate – the interest paid to commercial banks when they place funds with the central bank – by 0.1 percentage points to a new all-time low of -0.5%, meaning banks would incur charges on any balances they kept there. Negative interest rates are meant to encourage banks to lend to consumers and businesses, rather than park their money with the ECB.

    The stimulus package comes as the eurozone economy falters alongside a broader global economic slowdown that has been triggered by rising trade protectionism and the US-China trade war.

    Related: Europeans Want the EU to Act Like a Superpower (Bloomberg)

    Related: The economic policy at the heart of EU is creaking (The Economist)

  • Freed in prisoner swap, Ukraine's Sentsov warns: Don't trust Russia (France 24)

    "As far as Russia's wishes for peace go, a wolf can put on a lamb's clothing, but his teeth don't disappear. Don't believe this," Sentsov said after flying in to Kiev on Saturday along with 34 other Ukrainian prisoners.

    The prisoner swap "doesn't mean Russia is ready to liberate Ukraine, to give back Crimea and Donbass," Sentsov said, referring to the separatist-held eastern region.

    Ukraine will only be able to regain control of the Crimean peninsula after "an inevitable change of regime in Russia," Sentsov said.

    While in jail, Sentsov refused food for 145 days to push for the release of all Ukrainian prisoners in Russia, suffering serious health problems in the process.

    UPDATE 1: Trump administration reinstates military aid for Ukraine (Reuters)

    UPDATE 2: EU Extends Ukraine-Related Sanctions On Russia (RadioFreeEurope)

    Related: Russian police raid opposition activists’ homes in 43 cities (AP)

  • Indian Army, Chinese PLA face-off after more than an year (New Indian Express)

    Indian and Chinese army troops were involved in a face-off in Ladakh on Wednesday morning, the first since over a year and amid a dip in trust levels between the two nations after India took away special privileges to Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370.

    Many areas of the Pangong lake are disputed.

    “On Wednesday morning there was a face-off between the Indian Army and the Chinese PLA when they objected to our troop movement in the northern bank of Pangong Tso, or lake,” a senior Army officer said. But the Indian Armymen stood their ground as they were within India’s territory, the officer added.

    The two sides have since returned to their bases. This is the first face-off since July 2018, when the two nations’ troops confronted each other in Burtse in northern Ladakh after the Chinese built a temporary hut. The officer said the Army had registered a complaint after Wednesday’s incident and asked for a border personnel meeting in Chushul-Moldo near the latest face-off.

  • Indian government to invest $1 trillion in infrastructure over 5 years (Live Mint)

    The minister said government spending for railways, roads, highways, waterways and airport, coupled with investment in social sector will create jobs, boost domestic demand and create more industries in the country. “These steps will ultimately make India a $5 trillion economy (by 2024-25).”

    Towards this, the government has been taking steps to bring India back on the growth trajectory and achieve the target turning India into a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25. On Saturday, the finance ministry said it has set up a task force to identify technically and economically viable infrastructure projects that can be kick started in the current financial year and can be included in the ₹100 trillion plan for the sector in the next five years.

  • Israel Election Results: Here’s What Might Happen Next (Haaretz)

    The Joint List of Arab parties, who have never sat in an Israeli government, earned 13 seats to become the third-largest party in parliament. Should a unity government be formed, its leader Ayman Odeh, would become the country’s next opposition leader, an official state position. (Related: PBS and Vox)

  • Japan may have to dump radioactive water into the sea (Reuters)

    Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) will have to dump radioactive water from its destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean as it runs out of room to store it by 2022.

    Any green light from the government to dump the waste into the sea would anger neighbors such as South Korea, which summoned a senior Japanese embassy official to explain how the Fukushima water would be dealt with.

    “We’re just hoping to hear more details of the discussions that are under way in Tokyo so that there won’t be a surprise announcement,” a South Korean diplomat told Reuters, requesting anonymity due to the bilateral sensitivity.

  • Little Outrage in Arab World Over Netanyahu’s Vow to Annex West Bank (NYT)

    The reasons for the muted response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election promise on Tuesday were many: It was seen as a late-game appeal by Mr. Netanyahu to right-wing voters. Israel already has de facto control of the territory in question. And the Palestinian cause no longer stirs passions across the region as it once did.

    “Yes they care,” the Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab said of Arabs in other countries. “But will they move their troops? No. Are they going to withdraw their money from American banks? No.”

    That does not mean that the Arab public does not care, he said. Support for the idea of a Palestinian state remains a rare issue that still generates broad consensus across the Arab world, even if people are not out protesting.

    The issue is particularly sensitive for Jordan, a close United States ally that has a peace treaty with Israel but sits across the Jordan River from the very territory Mr. Netanyahu seeks to annex.

    (Related: CNN, The Times of Israel and WDRB)

  • New Asia initiative in Turkish foreign policy (Daily Sabah)

    For example, when Turkey approaches the East, some experts may depict it as an axis shift in Turkish foreign policy, or it could very well be the opposite in the future. Therefore, to prevent Turkey from getting crushed between the U.S.-led and the Chinese-led orders, Turkey may try approaching pioneering Asian countries according to their levels of success in various sectors to complete and modernize its transformation.

    For instance, China could be approached for artificial intelligence (AI), Japan for automobiles, South Korea for machines and so on. In this way, as a middle power, Turkey would be secured from excessive dependence on two major powers. Thus, Turkey would be able to maneuver more independently. This would enable Turkey to minimize its future losses and maximize its power of survival against any internal and external threat. (Related: Ahval)

  • Russia’s Middle East Power Play (National Review)

    How did Moscow pull this off? In Washington foreign-policy circles, it is generally recognized that Russia’s return to great-power status in the Middle East has somehow run through the conflagration in Syria, where the Kremlin has — to use a shopworn phrase — “played a weak hand well.” What is less appreciated is that President Vladimir Putin has achieved this feat by applying the same great-power-competition playbook that was successfully deployed against Russia by the United States during another Middle East war nearly 50 years ago. 

    Specifically, it was the Cold War statecraft of President Richard Nixon and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, around the 1973 Yom Kippur War that maneuvered Moscow to the margins of the Middle East, where it was then consigned for decades. Now the Kremlin has reversed that defeat by harnessing precisely the principles of realpolitik that propelled American strategy to triumph in the region in an earlier era.

    These include an instinct to treat regional conflict not as an opportunity for win-win cooperation among the great powers but as an arena for zero-sum competition between them; to seek advantage in these contests not through the application of overwhelming force but through sudden but limited measures designed to surprise an opponent and break its will; and — most Kissingerian of all — to position oneself to be closer to all of the combatants in a conflict than any of them are to each other, in order to be at the center of eventual dealmaking.

    More fundamentally, just as Nixon and Kissinger approached the Arab–Israeli conflict through the overarching framework of the Cold War, Putin has consistently viewed Syria through the prism of what he considers to be Russia’s paramount foreign-policy challenge, which is not Islamist extremism or Iranian imperialism, but geostrategic competition with the United States and the restoration of what he regards as Moscow’s rightful place in the ranks of the global great powers. It is therefore unsurprising that U.S. initiatives predicated on denying or diminishing this reality — as successive attempts to partner with Russia in Syria have been — consistently come to naught. 

    UPDATE: Russia conducts massive military drills with China, sending a message to the West (CNBC)

  • Spain's PM and Far Left suggest talks to avoid looming election (Reuters)

    Negotiators for both sides said on Tuesday talks had hit a dead end. On Wednesday, acting PM Sanchez and Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias told parliament they were prepared to continue, without offering any of the compromises the other was seeking.

    Sanchez, a Socialist, turned down an offer by Podemos’ Pablo Iglesias to meet one-on-one, telling him to present any new proposals via the negotiators.

    “There are many ways to reach an understanding ... If you have proposals we will listen. Let the progressive legislature in which the Spaniards voted start working,” Sanchez said, appealing to Iglesias not to block his government.

    Iglesias said he wanted the Socialists to restore an earlier offer of cabinet posts rather than their current offer, of subministerial jobs. The Socialists withdrew their earlier offer after Podemos said it wanted more important cabinet positions.

    The time to reach an agreement is running out. Two government sources said that the Spanish King was likely to hold consultations next Tuesday with the political parties to verify if a workable government is in the offing and then ask its potential leader to face a parliamentary vote by Sept. 23.

  • Trump administration approves F-35 jet sale to Poland (CNN)

    Poland has been steadily increasing its defense spending, in part due to Warsaw's concerns about Russia following Moscow's incursion into Ukraine.

    Poland is one of only a handful of NATO members that spends the NATO recommended 2% of GDP on defense. It also meets the other NATO target of spending more than 20% of its defense budget on equipment.

    The $6.5 billion jet purchase represents a major share of Polish defense spending as the country was projected to spend about $11.9 billion on defense in 2019, according to NATO statistics.

    Among America's European allies, Norway, Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK possess the F-35. Belgium and Denmark are also purchasing the aircraft.

    Related: World Military Spending Is on the Rise at $1.8 trillion (Voice of America)

  • Turkey Says U.S. Stalling on Syria 'Safe Zone', Will Act Alone if Needed (Haaretz)

    His comments came after President Tayyip Erdogan said at the weekend that Turkey rejected Washington's protection of the Kurdish YPG fighters and added that the NATO allies faced differences "at every step" in the safe zone.

    Erdogan also said Turkey would act alone if the safe zone was not established by the end of September, a warning Cavusoglu repeated on Tuesday, 20 days before month's end.

    Turkey aims to send 1 million of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it hosts to the planned safe zone in northern Syria, and warned Ankara would "open the gates" to Europe – which provided $6.7 billion to help control the flow of migrants – unless it received international support.

    UPDATE: U.S. Poised to Send 150 Troops to Patrol Northeastern Syria (NYT)

    UPDATE: Turkey, Russia, Iran agree to ease tensions in Syria's Idlib (Reuters)

    (Related: New York Times)

  • Yellowhammer: no-deal chaos fears as Brexit papers published (The Guardian)

    The document, which says it outlines “reasonable worst case planning assumptions” for no deal Brexit, highlights the risk of border delays, given an estimate that up to 85% of lorries crossing the Channel might not be ready for a new French customs regime

    The reliance of medical supplies on cross-Channel routes “make them particularly vulnerable to severe extended delays”, the report says, with some medicines having such short shelf lives they cannot be stockpiled. A lack of veterinary medicines could increase the risk of disease outbreaks, it adds.

    On food supplies, supplies of “certain types of fresh food” would be reduced, the document warns, as well as other items such as packaging.

    Later, it adds: “Low income groups will be disproportionately affected by any price rises in food and fuel.”

    On law and order it warns: “Protests and counter-protests will take place across the UK and may absorb significant amounts of police resource. There may also be a rise in public disorder and community tensions.”

    The documents also outline a potential impact on cross-border financial services and law enforcement information sharing.

    It says Gibraltar could face significant delays on its border with Spain, with four-hour waits likely “for at least a few months”.

    The document also concedes that there will be a return to some sort of hard Irish border despite a UK insistence it will not impose checks: “This model is likely to prove unsustainable due to significant economic, legal and biosecurity risks and no effective unilateral mitigations to address this will be available.” (Related: BBC)

The Global South

  • Africa, Great Power Competition, and the US Navy (Defense One)

    For example, China has tripled its loans to Africa since 2012, making Beijing a major debt holder for multiple African governments as well as the second largest supplier of weapons to African nations. China has notoriously used debt to strong-arm countries throughout the world—they are conducting a form of coercive debt diplomacy. Consider Sri Lanka’s ballooning debt; China forgave a $1 billion loan in exchange for 15,000 acres of land and control of a port facility––which was built by a Chinese-owned entity––for 99 years.

    Russia’s intentions are not much better. By employing oligarch-funded, quasi-mercenary military advisors, particularly in countries where leaders seek unchallenged autocratic rule, Russia looks to gain access to natural resources on favorable, exploitative terms. These countries have elected leaders that mortgage mineral rights for a fraction of their worth to secure Russian weapons. In recent years, they have continued to reinforce relationships with their traditional weapons customers.

    By contrast, the East African country of Djibouti is home to a U.S. military base named Camp Lemonnier, which has been in operation for more than a decade and employs more than 1,000 Djiboutians. Even before you start counting the jobs created by U.S. contracts with Djiboutian companies, the United States is the second-largest employer in Djibouti after the Djiboutian government itself. The U.S. military provides many contracts to Djiboutian firms that support the base as well as the local economy, totaling more than $200 million annually in direct and indirect payments to Djibouti. That budget constitutes nearly 14 percent of Djibouti’s gross domestic product. These statistics do not include the training and support the U.S. Navy has provided to help Djibouti map its own trajectory. The differences between what we aspire for our African partners and what China and Russia seek to squeeze out of them could not be farther apart.

  • Egypt and Ethiopia at odds as talks over Blue Nile dam resume (Reuters)

    Egypt says Ethiopia has “summarily rejected” its plan for key aspects of operating a giant dam the East African nation is building on the Nile, while dismissing Ethiopia’s own proposal as “unfair and inequitable”.

    The $4 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) was announced in 2011 and is designed to be the centerpiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter, generating more than 6,000 megawatts.

    In January, Ethiopia’s water and energy minister said that following construction delays, the dam would start production by the end of 2020 and be fully operational by 2022.

    The dam promises economic benefits for Ethiopia and Sudan, but Egypt fears it will restrict already stretched supplies from the Nile, which it uses for drinking water, agriculture and industry.

  • Hundreds of refugees to be evacuated from Libya to Rwanda (The Guardian)

    Under the agreement, the government of Rwanda will receive and provide protection to refugees and asylum seekers in groups of about 50, who will be put up in a transit facility outside the capital of Kigali. After their arrival, the UNHCR will continue to pursue solutions for them. Some will be resettled to third countries, others helped to return to countries where asylum had previously been granted and others will stay in Rwanda. They will return to their homes if it is safe to do so.

    “Rwanda has said, ‘We’ll give them the space, we’ll give them the status, we’ll give them the residence permit. They will be legally residing in Rwanda as refugees.’”

    Rwanda, a country of 12 million, is the second African country to provide temporary refuge to migrants in Libya. It already supports around 150,000 refugees from neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi.

  • Sudan's major floods present first challenge for its new leader (Reuters)

    “The civilian government is right now an abstract notion,” said Magdi El Gizouli, a Sudanese academic based in Germany and fellow of the Rift Valley Institute, a non-profit research organization. “It will emerge eventually but whether it can exercise power is a totally different story.”

    The flood crisis comes at a time of huge transition for Sudan, as months of protests ushered in a transitional government that must also tackle a full-blown economic crisis and internal conflicts, issues that helped bring down the three-decade rule of Omar al-Bashir.

    Hamdok’s cabinet was sworn in on Sunday; civilian state governors are yet to be appointed.

    In an interview with Reuters days after his inauguration, Hamdok said the flood situation required “immediate and strategic intervention” and that “the government must put in place solutions and plans to ensure that the harm to citizens from floods and rains does not repeat.”

    He has announced the formation of a task force to focus on the flood-relief effort and said Sudan should follow the lead of other countries by building damns, channels and other ways to make use of the water.

  • US and Brazil agree to Amazon development (BBC)

    The US and Brazil have agreed to promote private-sector development in the Amazon. Brazil's foreign minister Ernesto Araujo said opening the rainforest to economic development was the only way to protect it.

    They also pledged a $100m (£80m) biodiversity conservation fund for the Amazon led by the private sector.

    On Friday, Finland urged EU countries to consider stopping importing beef and soybeans from Brazil in order to put pressure on Brazil to tackle the fires.

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the biodiversity investment fund would support businesses in hard to reach areas of the Amazon.

    He added: "The Brazilians and the American teams will follow through on our commitment that our presidents made in March. We're getting off the ground a 100 million dollar, 11-year Impact Investment Fund for Amazon biodiversity conservation and that project will be led by the private sector."

    Comment: Not even $10m/year for one of the lungs of the world? American leadership lacks the foresight and wherewithal our era needs.

  • West African leaders pledge $1 billion to fight Islamist threat (Reuters)

    Groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State have strengthened their foothold across the arid Sahel region this year, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking local ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.

    The fifteen members of the West African bloc and the presidents of Mauritania and Chad had gathered for an extraordinary summit in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ougadougou, to address the growing insecurity.

    ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said the commission had decided to “contribute financially and urgently to joint efforts in the fight against terrorism” by pledging $1 billion.

    In 2017, five countries - Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania - backed by France, launched the G5 Sahel taskforce to combat the insurgents. But the initiative has been perennially underfunded.