Third Culture Queen vol. 21
Rising Regions | Eurasia, the Indo-Pacific, and the Global South
|Kyle Borland||Oct 7, 2019|
Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific
While not mentioning China in relation to the Quad -- a bloc made up of Australia, India, Japan and the US, which was created more than a decade ago during the George W. Bush administration before going into a hiatus -- Morrison said: “It is a key forum for exchanging views on challenges facing the region, including taking forward practical cooperation on maritime, terrorism and cyber issues.”
China’s increasing economic influence, military might and diplomatic footprint in the Indo-Pacific has triggered concerns among the Quad nations. The elevation of the discussion last week, on the fringes of United Nations General Assembly, from official-level talks suggests the previously informal framework is being strengthened to present a united front on regional security issues.
Australia and its main ally the U.S. are also concerned China may be looking to establish a military base in the South Pacific that would extend its military reach toward the Americas. They’ve been striving to build an alternative model to Beijing’s state-directed lending for infrastructure projects that forms part of its Belt-and-Road Initiative.
China has made its opposition to the Quad’s “Indo-Pacific strategy” clear -- in March 2018, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the bloc was a “headline-grabbing idea” and warned of the risks of “stoking a new Cold War.”
Related: The Conclusion of the Future of India-US Strategic Romance (Modern Diplomacy)
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Belarus Rejects Russia’s ‘Unacceptable’ Terms of Integration (Moscow Times)
Russia and Belarus, currently members of a largely symbolic union state, have been in talks to deepen their integration, a process that has fueled concerns of a possible quiet annexation by Moscow. The Kommersant business daily reported last month that the countries plan to unify their customs and energy policies by 2021 and establish a single tax code, civil code and list of foreign trade rules by 2022.
“Frankly speaking, [Russia’s] initial proposals stipulated the inclusion of certain provisions that were unacceptable, particularly for Belarus,” Vladimir Makei, Belarus’ foreign minister, told the RBC news website Tuesday.
Makei said the creation of supranational bodies as outlined in the proposals runs afoul of the 1999 Russian-Belarussian deal, which envisions a union state with a common currency, legal system and a joint defense and foreign policy.
“We must pay more attention to implementing a coordinated agricultural and industrial policy — this is the most important thing,” Makei said. “There are no political issues whatsoever associated with the formation of a federation or a confederation.”
China, Russia Deepen Technological Ties (South China Morning Post)
Russia is helping China to build an early warning system to counter missile attacks, Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.
Speaking at an international affairs conference in the resort town of Sochi, he said Moscow was helping China increase its missile defence capability, Russian state-owned news agency Sputnik reported.
“This is a very serious endeavour that will fundamentally and radically increase the defence capability of the People’s Republic of China because only the United States and Russia have such a system at present,” the Russian leader said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say when the system would be operational, but told reporters on a conference call that the move highlighted Russia’s close ties with China.
EU: Boris Johnson Brexit plan not remotely acceptable (The Guardian)
The European parliament has told Boris Johnson that his proposals for the Irish border do not “even remotely” amount to an acceptable deal for the EU, in comments echoed by Ireland’s prime minister.
The committee of MEPs representing the parliament’s views on Brexit said the prime minister’s proposals could not form the basis for an agreement, describing them as a “last-minute” effort. The European parliament will have a veto on any withdrawal agreement.
“Safeguarding peace and stability on the island of Ireland, protection of citizens and EU’s legal order has to be the main focus of any deal,” it said in a statement. “The UK proposals do not match even remotely what was agreed as a sufficient compromise in the backstop.”
Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, also accused Johnson of contradicting his own proposals during an appearance by the British prime minister in the Commons, in which he sought to convince MPs there would be no return of a hard Irish border.
Europe’s Next Move and the US-China Standoff (The Diplomat)
The U.S. call for an export control regime tailored to omni-use technologies will impact trading nations with a strong focus on high-technology sectors most drastically. Regulations that will follow from this process will have great implications for the operations of global companies with U.S. headquarters. In fact, the impact extends beyond U.S. borders, because of the extraterritorial jurisdiction of U.S. law. This means that foreign products containing more than 25 percent of U.S. material may require a re-export license from the United States. For one, the Netherlands – home to leading companies in emerging technologies, including semiconductors, photonics and quantum technology – will be deeply affected by such regulations as they operate both on the United States and the Chinese markets. The Dutch government and the EU share the United States’ concerns about the proliferation of non-Western norms and standards through emerging technologies. They do not, however, wish to use export control as a political instrument to curb China’s rise as a technological power.
Therefore, upholding European norms for the use of certain technologies challenged by China and shielding against Washington’s attempts to exercise authority beyond its territorial boundaries are both key challenges to act upon. Extraterritorial jurisdiction could well result in broad sanctions against European companies and disruption of the value-chains that businesses depend upon to innovate and competitively sell their products. After all, economic integration and interdependence between the United States and China and the importance of trade with China to the rest of the world are far greater now than at the time of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
This disagreement requires the Netherlands and other EU member states – in coordination with key stakeholders from business and academia – to redouble their efforts and recraft their own approach to export controls of omni-use technologies. While continued bilateral dialogue with the United States is important, now is the time to engage actively on the EU level to create a truly efficient EU-wide export control system for emerging technologies. Next to a coordinated response to the U.S. shift, adoption of the proposed EU autonomous dimension and introduction of electronic licensing are crucial steps.
The world of offshore finance is not restricted to Mediterranean microstates or colonial holdovers in the Caribbean: It is everywhere, including the United States. It is estimated that developing countries lose up to $1 trillion in illicit finance annually—much of it ending up in the U.S. financial system, which has become a nexus of global corruption. The U.S. Department of the Treasury suggests that approximately $300 billion is laundered in the United States each year, or roughly 2 percent of national GDP—though the true figure may be much greater.
Anonymous finance is kleptocracy’s handmaiden. This system runs primarily on global networks of shell companies that can be created and controlled with almost total secrecy, making them the contemporary jet-setting criminal’s money laundering vehicle of choice. And the United States is mass-producing these weapons of mass corruption.
Domestic reform is urgently needed to enable international action, coordinated primarily between Europe and the United States. The offshore finance and pay-to-play political systems created over decades to maximize the power and wealth of Western plutocrats are now being used by authoritarian kleptocrats to undercut the West itself.
The best way to think about the threat posed by kleptocracy’s influence is as a triple-mawed hydra—each head operating independently but tied to the same body of corruption.
The first head is the threat of weaponized finance interfering, corrupting, and influencing Western politics, for both personal and ideological ends, such as an obscure Russian bank’s mysterious loans to the French far-right. The second head is the empowerment of kleptocracy at home through money laundering and the accumulation of Western assets—both individual rulers and autocratic systems as a whole, such as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s inclusion of top military officers in his regime’s vast drug trafficking operation to ensure their loyalty. The last is the deliberate threat posed by strategic investments and purchases of Western assets by anti-democratic actors with the aim to steal, shut down, or control critical technology or infrastructure. China’s Belt and Road Initiative is the case in point, scooping up acquisitions from Malaysia to Montenegro.
It’s possible to protect against all three of the hydra’s heads. But it can’t be done by any one country alone. Because of the free movement of capital inside the West, any break in the system endangers the whole. Yet instead of working together to fortify common defenses, the United States and the EU are clashing—and Britain could yet spin off altogether. The lack of a strategic conversation that would integrate anti-money laundering efforts into national security means regulation continues to be seen narrowly through the lens of commercial advantage without thinking about the wider costs.
Saree said the offensive 72 hours earlier had defeated three "enemy military brigades", leading to the capture of "thousands" of troops, including Saudi army officers and soldiers, and hundreds of armoured vehicles.
He said the prisoners "will be treated according to the ethics and the customs on the basis of a deal to exchange the POWs with the aggressors."
Shireen al-Adeimi from Michigan State University said the attack might change the Saudi leadership's perceptions of the four and a half year conflict.
"It's incredibly embarrassing for the Saudis giving how much support they have from not only the UAE but also the United States, the UK and several other countries. If the Houthis are able to carry out this level of operation it poses a significant turn in this war," al-Adeimi told Al Jazeera.
Related: U.S. could hit crude oil export milestone after Saudi attacks (Axios)
The crowds gathered in Baghdad's Tayaran Square and attempted to march onto the central Tahrir Square only to be met with open fire and heavy tear gas. Police also used live ammunition in the Zafaraniya district of Baghdad and there were protests in the northwestern Shula district.
The demonstrations, which appear to be independent of any political party, started in the capital on Tuesday, and later spread to cities across Iraq's mainly Shia south. At least 31 people have been killed in three days of clashes.
Those demonstrating have directed their anger at Abdul Mahdi's year-old government and a wider political class they accuse of being corrupt and doing nothing to improve their lives.
Al Jazeera's Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said the protests "pose the biggest challenge yet to Abdul Mahdi, but it's unclear how he can stop the outpouring of anger against his rule, with no apparent leaders of protesters to negotiate with".
The deal is part of the bloc’s “Asia connectivity” strategy, launched last year amid growing international concerns about Beijing’s vast “new Silk Road” of railways, roads and ports across the globe using billions of dollars in Chinese loans.
The EU-Japan agreement repeatedly stresses the importance of projects being sustainable both environmentally and fiscally — a veiled swipe at the Belt and Road initiative, which critics say saddles countries with vast debts to Chinese companies that they cannot repay.
“Connectivity must be sustainable in financial terms — we must bequeath to the next generation a more interconnected world, a cleaner environment and not mountains of debt,” Juncker said before the signing ceremony.
“It’s also a question of creating interconnections between all countries in the world and not merely dependence on one country.”
Abe said that together Japan and the EU could build “sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based connectivity.”
“Of course it goes without saying that in order to make the connectivity linking Japan and Europe something rock solid, the Indo-Pacific — the sea route that leads to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic — must be free and open,” Abe said.
Related: Japan and Europe can build their own silk road (Japan Times)
Russia’s foreign minister is taking aim at the West, saying its philosophies are out of step with the times.
"It is hard for the West to accept seeing its centuries-long dominance in world affairs diminishing," Sergei Lavrov said. "Leading Western countries are trying to impede the development of the polycentric world, to recover their privileged positions, to impose standards of conduct based on the narrow Western interpretation of liberalism on others."
He also criticized NATO’s decision to attack Libya, which he says split the country apart. He says the West “has its own rules in the Balkans” as well. And under Western intervention, he says, Venezuela’s “statehood was destroyed before our eyes.”
Lavrov said the Americans view all aspects of the Middle East and North Africa through an "Iranian prism, as if they're consciously trying to find more reasons in order to try to support their hard-to-support statements saying Iran is the main source of evil in that region, and all bad things come from Iran."
Related: Russia’s Medvedev slams U.S. for Cuba embargo during Havana trip (CNBC)
“There are cracks in the armor suggesting Saudi Arabia is interested in exploring a new relationship with Iran,” said Philip Gordon, a former White House coordinator for the Middle East. “The worst outcome for the Saudis is to move to a confrontation with Iran expecting the U.S. to support them and find out they won’t.”
He added, “This administration has shown it’s not really ready to take on Iran.”
Top officials from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, Saudi allies which could suffer if open conflict broke out, have spoken publicly of the need for diplomacy to reduce tensions and have made their own efforts to reach out to Iran. The Emirates has held direct maritime security talks with Iran, and has pulled back from the war in Yemen, where it is allied with the Saudis in a battle against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
If Saudi Arabia joins Kuwait and the Emirates in reaching out to Iran, it could undermine the Trump administration’s effort to build an international coalition to ostracize and pressure the Iranians.
“The anti-Iran alliance is not just faltering, it’s crumbling,” Martin Indyk, a distinguished fellow at Council on Foreign Relations and a former senior diplomat, said Thursday on Twitter. “MBZ has struck his deal with Iran; MBS is not far behind,” he said, referring to the Emirati crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, or MBZ, and the Saudi crown prince, known as MBS.
He also noted that Mr. Trump’s most hawkish anti-Iran adviser, John R. Bolton, had left the administration, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is fighting for his political life and Mr. Trump has shown a willingness to talk directly to the Iranians.
South Korea showcased its F-35A stealth fighters to the public for the first time during the Armed Forces Day ceremony Tuesday to officially mark the introduction of the radar-evading high-tech fighters that North Korea has angrily protested.
South Korea has so far brought in eight F-35As, beginning with two in late March, under a plan to deploy 40 fifth-generation jets through 2021. But it has handled their arrivals in a low-key manner, sparking speculation Seoul is concerned about resistance from North Korea.
By the end of this year, South Korea is expected to introduce 13 F-35As, and it is reviewing an option to buy 20 more units, according to the officers.
North Korea has intensified its criticism against South Korea for the introduction of such advanced weaponry, claiming that such a military buildup is aimed at destroying North Korea and threatens peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.
Related: US Air Force tests intercontinental ballistic missile (The Hill)
The protesters were arrested at rallies that flared in July when opposition politicians were barred from a local election. Allegations of police brutality and what many Muscovites saw as harsh jail sentences have sparked an unusual public outcry.
Several people have been sentenced to up to four years in jail, and others are being prosecuted for crimes such as violence against police officers
The opposition had hoped for as big a turnout as possible, arguing that authorities would be compelled to release jailed protesters if they felt holding them could dent their ratings further.
The White Counter group which monitors political protests said it counted 25,200 people at the rally. Police put the figure at around 20,000.
The big picture: The UAE's space program resembles a startup spaceflight company like Virgin Galactic more than NASA or Roscosmos.
"They could take the normal path and then that would just put them where the U.S. and Russia were 50 years ago, or they could start a new path, and they can be in front of everybody in 50 years," Peter Marquez, a consultant that has worked with the UAE on its space program, told Axios.
The intrigue: The UAE — which launched its space program in 2014 — invested about $383 million into the agency in 2018, according to Euroconsult.
The nation plans to launch its Earth-imaging Falcon Eye-2 satellite in the coming year, though the first Falcon Eye satellite was destroyed in a launch failure in July.
"They also want to leap ahead of where everybody is and start developing the capabilities that people are going to need in 100 years," Marquez said.
Hundreds of Ukrainians have protested after President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had backed an agreement that would bring elections to territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
Mr Zelensky came to power promising to end the five-year conflict in the east which has left 13,000 people dead.
Any vote would be under international standards and would not be held "under the barrel of a gun", he said.
Nationalists rallied in Kiev with banners demanding "no capitulation".
Proposed in 2016 by Germany's then-foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the plan details free and fair elections in the east under Ukrainian law, verification by the OSCE international security organisation, and then self-governing status in return.
Mr Zelensky told a news conference that the elections would be held under Ukraine's constitution, and only when no "troops" remained in the separatist areas. This has been taken to mean Russian troops, although Russia denies that its soldiers are present in the east.
Related: The Geopolitics of Ukraine’s ‘The’ (Foreign Policy)
The Ukrainian journalist Olena Goncharova broke down the specifics of the etymological insult in a series in the Kyiv Post called “Honest History.” “Saying ‘the Ukraine’ is more than a grammatical mistake — it is inappropriate and disrespectful for Ukraine and Ukrainians,” she wrote. Attaching “the” in front of the name not only suggests that Ukraine is a “sub-part or region of a country,” like “the Fens in England, the Algarve in Portugal, and the Highlands in Scotland,” but it implies that Ukraine is a vassal state, a colonial territory, whereas “Ukraine is no longer a part of another country or empire,” she emphasized. “After many hard battles, it has become an independent, unitary state.”
Related: A New Path to Peace in Ukraine? (GZERO)
Related: US finalizes sale of 150 anti-tank missiles to Ukraine (AP)
Related: Far From the Front Lines, Javelins Go Unused in Ukraine (Foreign Policy)
Vietnam Tests China’s Patience In The South China Sea (Yahoo Finance)
Vietnam is one of the countries which stands to lose the most if Beijing achieves its goal. Recently, Hanoi has become even more isolated as other littoral states are abandoning ASEAN’s united front against China. The Philippines is close to signing an agreement for joint oil and gas exploration, while Malaysia has agreed to set up a bilateral dialogue mechanism to defuse tensions.
Vietnam, however, maintains its overlapping claim with China on at least a part of the South China Sea. Despite the area’s promising geology concerning energy deposits, few companies dare to challenge Beijing as they would suffer sanctions and limited access to the world's second-largest economy. Repsol, for example, was ordered to suspend drilling following Chinese threats. In recent months rumors of ExxonMobil leaving Vietnam have stirred the Asian country, which has compelled the foreign ministry to dispel the reports.
The American energy giant acquired several blocks of the coast of Vietnam from BP in 2009. Drilling started in 2010 and led to positive results two years later. Political tensions with China, however, have lowered the area’s priority to Exxon, but on January 16 the company signed a highly anticipated project framework agreement with PetroVietnam to develop the massive gas field.
The Ca Voi Xanh or Blue Whale gas field lies 50 miles of the coast from Danang and could produce 150 bcm of natural gas over the lifetime of the program. A total sum of $10 billion is required to start production in 2022, which could earn the Vietnamese government approximately $20 billion over several decades. Even more important, the Asian country can avoid a looming energy crunch which potentially could cause major blackouts due to Vietnam's rapidly increasing energy consumption.
Why the Middle East Is More Combustible Than Ever (Foreign Affairs)
For those Arab states, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been nudged to the sidelines by the two other battles. Saudi Arabia prioritizes its rivalry with Iran. Both countries exploit the Shiite-Sunni rift to mobilize their respective constituencies but are in reality moved by power politics, a tug of war for regional influence unfolding in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and the Gulf states.
Finally, there is the Sunni-Sunni rift, with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE vying with Qatar and Turkey. As Hussein Agha and I wrote in The New Yorker in March, this is the more momentous, if least covered, of the divides, with both supremacy over the Sunni world and the role of political Islam at stake. Whether in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, or as far afield as Sudan, this competition will largely define the region’s future.
Together with the region’s polarization is a lack of effective communication, which makes things ever more perilous. There is no meaningful channel between Iran and Israel, no official one between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and little real diplomacy beyond rhetorical jousting between the rival Sunni blocs.
Related: ‘No question of Taliban fighters targeting India’ (Sunday Guardian)
Related: The difference between Iran and Saudi Arabia (Arab Weekly)
Related: Russia says it has downed almost 60 drones in Syria this year (France 24)
The new Bretton Wood Conference would create a much larger budget and framework than the Paris Climate Accord, which calls for $100 billion per year of contributions through to 2025 with expected further contributions beyond that. The UN report acknowledges in order to reach some success a Global Green New Deal would cost “trillions, not billions, of dollars per year.”
Bretton Woods Conference framework could protect environmental policies from political platform shifts that could easily undo reverse progression.
“Due to the scale and urgency of the problem, an institution with global reach such as the Bretton Woods system would be much more effective than piecemeal actions by individual nations that could continually change due to domestic political considerations” says Dr. Peter Beck, professor of environmental science and policy at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas.
On the same token, Dr. Beck also has some reservations to such a proposal. Funding this organization sufficiently would require buy-in by the industrialized nations, which would be difficult in the current environment, Beck says.
“The rich world has profoundly broken its promise to the global south that there would be finance forthcoming to help cope with climate change. That's one of the biggest obstacles we face to planet-scale progress on climate.”
Related: We need a GND for humanity’s greatest challenge (New Statesman)
Related: Taking on climate change: The new east-west divide? (ECFR)
The closures came amid a harsh security clampdown following rare demonstrations in several cities last weekend, all of which were broken up by police. Lawyers say more than 2,000 people have been arrested since then, though Egypt's general prosecutor claims his office has questioned no more than 1,000 people over the latest protests.
The demonstrations erupted over corruption allegations leveled earlier this month against the military and el-Sissi. Those allegations were made by an Egyptian businessman living in self-imposed exile who said he had worked with the military for 15 years. El-Sissi warned Friday against "deceitful" attempts to discredit his rule.
The government effectively banned all public protests in 2013, shortly after el-Sissi led the military's overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president, amid mass protests against that president's brief rule.
Earlier this month, self-exiled contractor Mohamed Ali posted inflammatory videos accusing the president and some military commanders of misuse of public funds to build presidential palaces and a tomb for the president's mother. The allegations came as economic reforms and austerity have squeezed Egypt's lower and middle classes badly.
Haitians are protesting widespread food and fuel shortages, a weakening currency, double-digit inflation and graft accusations lodged against public officials in the impoverished Caribbean nation.
Many are calling for President Jovenel Moise to stand down after what they say is a failure to address the myriad of problems. Four people died in clashes in recent days.
The protests on Friday were among the largest and most violent in months, with witnesses reporting that a special unit of the Haitian National Police was looted and a police vehicle set on fire.
Moise also canceled his speech at the United Nations General Assembly this week and made a rare address to the nation.
He suggested a unity government in the hope of calming tempers after a ruling-party senator fired a pistol to disperse a crowd, injuring a photojournalist.
Latin America Already Has a Model to Solve Venezuela (Americas Quarterly)
The doctrine included three essential elements: First, an acknowledgement that democratic governance and the protection of human rights were inseparable. Second, a call for states to agree in advance that, should egregious violations of democratic rule or human rights threaten popular sovereignty in a member state, a two-thirds vote by the remaining states would make collective action permissible. Finally, the proposal called for a pre-commitment by the only great power in the Americas, the United States, to work through the regional system instead of unilaterally.
Under Rodríguez Larreta’s view, popularly elected governments should make pre-commitments of their own, including permitting in advance the regional support of democracy should it be under threat. Outside powers helping to restore a legitimate government or counter anti-democratic forces would not pose a threat to national sovereignty because sovereignty should be based on the popular will. Anti-democratic forces could not claim true, popular sovereignty. But by the same token, action by the international community would only be legitimate if it followed clear, collectively agreed procedures. They could not be the sole initiative of a great power, dressed in humanitarian garb.
Washington closed its embassy during the 1991 overthrow of then-President Siad Barre's military regime which ushered in decades of chaos. However, diplomatic relations have strengthened in recent years.
On Monday, al-Shabab fighters attempted to storm the US military base in Baledogle in southern Somalia that hosts Somali and US forces and is used to launch drones that attack al-Shabab targets.
The US military says it has carried out 54 air raids against al-Shabab and a local affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) this year.
A statement by the US mission to Somalia on Wednesday noted that the re-establishment of the embassy is another step forward in the resumption of regular US-Somali relations, "symbolising the strengthening of US-Somalia relations and advancement of stability, development, and peace for Somalia, and the region".
The Geneva-based council adopted the resolution brought by countries including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru, which are hosting millions of Venezuelan refugees.
These nations, part of the Lima Group, are among the 50 countries that have given their backing to Juan Guaidó, head of Venezuela's National Assembly, who declared himself president in January saying Mr Maduro's re-election last year was fraudulent.
The resolution condemned "widespread targeted repression and persecution" through what it called the excessive use of force by security agents against peaceful anti-government protesters, the closing down of media and the erosion of the rule of law.
It also condemned arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances carried out by security agencies, including the special force known as Faes, and pro-government civilian armed groups, called colectivos.