The Triple Crisis Shaking the World

By JOSCHKA FISCHER

This article taken from www.project-syndicate.org

More than just a public-health disaster, the COVID-19 pandemic is a history-defining event with far-reaching implications for the global distribution of wealth and power. With economies in free-fall and geopolitical tensions rising, there can be no return to normal: the past is passed, and only the future counts now.

BERLIN – The COVID-19 pandemic is entering its second phase as countries gradually reopen their economies and loosen or even revoke strict social-distancing measures. Yet, barring the arrival of an effective, universally available therapy or vaccine, the transition back to “normal” will be more aspirational than real. Worse, it risks triggering a second wave of infections at the local and regional level, and possibly on a much larger scale.

True, political decision-makers, health-care providers, scientists, and the general public have learned a great deal from the experience of the first wave. Though a second wave of infections seems highly probable, it will play out differently than the first wave. Rather than a full-scale lockdown that brings economic and social life to a standstill, the response will rely mainly on strict but targeted rules for social distancing, face masks, telecommuting, video conferencing, and so forth. But, depending on the next wave’s intensity, local or regional lockdowns may still be deemed necessary in the most extreme cases.

Much like the first wave of the pandemic, the next phase will involve a trio of simultaneous crises. To the risk of new infections getting out of control and spreading globally once again must be added the ongoing economic and social fallout and an escalating geopolitical bust-up. The global economy is already in a deep recession that will not be quickly or easily overcome. And this, along with the pandemic, will factor into the intensifying Sino-American rivalry, particularly in the months leading up to the United States’ presidential election in November.

As if this combination of health, socioeconomic, and geopolitical upheavals were not destabilizing enough, one also cannot ignore the Trump factor. If US President Donald Trump were to win a second four-year term, the current global chaos would escalate dramatically, whereas a victory for his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, would at least bring greater stability.

The stakes in the US presidential election could scarcely be higher. Given the world’s mounting crises, it is no exaggeration to say that humanity is approaching an historic crossroads. The full extent of the economic recession probably will not become apparent until this fall and winter, when it will most likely come as another shock, because the world is no longer accustomed to such dramatic contractions. Both psychologically and in real terms, we are accustomed to continuous growth.

Will richer countries in the West and Asia be able to deal with a deep, widespread, prolonged recession or even depression? Even if trillions of dollars in stimulus spending proves sufficient to offset a full collapse, the question will be what comes next.

In the worst scenario (which is not impossible), Trump is re-elected, the second wave of the pandemic is global, economies continue to crash, and the new cold war in East Asia turns hot. But even if one does not assume the worst, the triple crisis will usher in a new era, requiring that national political and economic systems and multilateral institutions be rebuilt. Even in the best-case scenario, there can be no return to the status quo ante. The past has passed; only the future counts now.

We should harbor no illusions about what might and should come next. The crises triggered by the pandemic are so deep and far-reaching that they inevitably will lead to a radical redistribution of power and wealth at the global level. The societies that have prepared for this outcome by mustering the necessary energy, know-how, and investments will be among the winners; those that fail to see what is coming will find themselves among the losers.

After all, long before the pandemic, the world was already undergoing a transition to the digital age, with far-reaching implications for the value of traditional technologies, legacy industries, and the distribution of global power and wealth. Moreover, an even greater global crisis is already fully visible on the horizon. The consequences of runaway climate change will be far graver than anything we have ever seen, and there will be no chance of a vaccine to solve that problem.

The COVID-19 pandemic thus marks a real turning point. For centuries, we have relied on a system of political economy comprising sovereign egoistical nation-states, industries (both under capitalism and socialism) that run on fossil fuels, and the consumption of finite natural resources. This system is quickly reaching its limits, making fundamental change unavoidable.
The task now is to learn as much as we can from the first wave of the triple crisis. For Europe, which seemed to have fallen far behind economically and geopolitically, this moment represents an unexpected opportunity to address its obvious shortcomings. Europe has the political values (democracy, rule of law, and social equality), technical know-how, and investment power to act decisively in the interest of its own principles and goals, as well as those of humanity more generally. The only question is what Europeans are waiting for.

Visits: 541

When the CIA Interferes in Foreign Elections

A Modern-Day History of American Covert Action

By 

This article taken from www.foreignaffairs.com

Russian President Vladimir Putin tends to respond to questions about his government’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with a mix of denials and countercharges. It is the United States, he alleged in June 2017, that “all over the world is actively interfering in electoral campaigns in other countries.” The purpose of this claim is to excuse and distract from Russia’s actions, and in many places overseas, it’s working. From Kyiv to Brussels to London, government officials told me that they assume the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) frequently interferes in elections abroad.

This perception is understandable: for decades, it was true. The CIA’s first-ever covert action program was an operation to manipulate Italy’s 1948 election. American intelligence officers spread incendiary propaganda, bankrolled their preferred candidate, and orchestrated grassroots initiatives—all to advantage Italy’s centrist forces over their leftist competitors. After the Italian Communist Party lost, the 1948 operation became “a template,” David Robarge, the CIA’s chief internal historian, told me, for what the agency then did in “many, many countries” in competition with its Soviet counterpart, the KGB. From Chile and Guyana to El Salvador and Japan, the CIA and the KGB targeted democratic elections across the globe. Some of those operations manipulated ballots directly; others manipulated public opinion; all were designed to influence election outcomes.

Then, the Cold War ended, and the opposing objectives of Moscow’s and Washington’s electoral operations—to spread or to contain communism—became obsolete. Since then, Russian intelligence has interfered in many foreign elections, not to advance an ideology but to promote divisive and authoritarian-minded candidates, sow chaos and confusion, and delegitimize the democratic model. But what of the CIA?
Over the past two years, I interviewed more than 130 officials about the century-long history of covert electoral interference, or concealed foreign efforts to manipulate democratic votes of succession. My interviewees included eight former CIA directors and many more CIA officers, as well as directors of national intelligence, secretaries of state, national security advisers, a KGB general, and a former U.S. president. I learned that in the twenty-first century, Washington’s senior-most national security officials have considered using the CIA to interfere in foreign elections at least twice. In one instance—in Serbia in 2000—debate turned into action, as the CIA spent millions of dollars working against the tyrant Slobodan Milosevic. In the other—in Iraq in 2005—the CIA stood down. In both instances, U.S. policymakers weighed the potential benefits of covert action against the perceived risks. These behind-the-scenes stories reveal why, contrary to Putin’s claims, Washington, unlike Moscow, has moved away from the practice of covert electoral interference.

“THERE’S A DEATH THRESHOLD, AND MILOSEVIC CROSSED IT”
The first case arrived in 2000, when Milosevic, the Yugoslav president, was competing for reelection in Serbia. Milosevic was many things: a Moscow-aligned Communist, a Serbian nationalist, and a grave abuser of human rights. In the mid-1990s, he had enabled a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A few years later, he did the same in Kosovo, as his soldiers systemically terrorized, murdered, and expelled ethnic Albanians. The severity of these atrocities prompted NATO, in 1999, to launch an air campaign against Milosevic’s forces and an international court to indict him as a war criminal. Leon Panetta, U.S. President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff from 1994 to 1997, told me, “Milosevic was viewed as a bad guy and influence and somebody that was going to turn that part of the world upside down if there weren’t steps taken to go after him.”

The 2000 election presented such an opportunity. “I don’t know that we publicly said that our goal was regime change,” said James O’Brien, then Clinton’s special envoy for the Balkans, but “we did not see Milosevic being able to lead a normal country.” From mid-1999 to late 2000, public and private U.S. organizations spent roughly $40 million on Serbian programs, supporting not just Milosevic’s opposition but also the independent media, civic organizations, and get-out-the-vote initiatives. Through this overt engagement, O’Brien explained, the United States aimed to level the playing field in an election that Milosevic was poised to manipulate.

As the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) influenced the Serbian election in the light, the CIA did the same in secret. John Sipher told me that between 1991 and 2014, when he was serving as a CIA operations officer, he knew of just one “successful” operation to interfere in an election: in Serbia in 2000. “There was a covert effort to try to support the opposition to Milosevic,” Sipher said, recalling that after Clinton notified select members of Congress, the CIA went to work “supporting and funding and providing help to specific opposition candidates—that was the main thing.”

Sipher, who became the CIA’s station chief in Serbia just after the election, explained that the agency funneled “certainly millions of dollars” into the anti-Milosevic campaign, mostly by meeting with key aides to Serbian opposition leaders outside their country’s borders and “providing them with cash” on the spot.
As the State Department and U.S.-funded NGOs influenced the Serbian election in the light, the CIA did the same in secret.
In an interview, Clinton confirmed that he authorized the CIA to interfere in the 2000 election in favor of Milosevic’s opponents. “I didn’t have a problem with it,” he told me of the CIA’s covert action program, because Milosevic “was a stone-cold killer and had caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.” Just as Cold War–era U.S. presidents believed they could strengthen foreign democracies by undermining communist candidates, Clinton believed he could strengthen Serbian democracy by working against Milosevic. “The guy was a war criminal,” Clinton told me. “I didn’t consider Milosevic to be a democracy candidate; I thought he was trying to get rid of democracy.”

In Serbia, the CIA’s focus was on influencing minds rather than altering ballots. “We did not rig the vote nor knowingly lie to the voters to get them to support the people we hoped to win,” Clinton explained. Instead, the CIA provided money and other types of assistance to the opposition campaign.

Congressional leaders knew about and backed this secret plan. Trent Lott, the Senate majority leader, recalled that when he was briefed on the CIA’s operation, he supported it wholeheartedly. “[Milosevic] was totally out of control,” Lott told me. “We weren’t gonna invade, but it was a mess, and we had to do something.” CIA officers, unlike other U.S. government officials, could operate undercover. “Because of the nature of the way we do business,” explained Douglas Wise, then a CIA operations officer based in the Balkans, “Serbia was a lot more penetrable than it was for people who were much more overt, shall we say.” The U.S. intelligence community’s involvement in the election was “substantial,” Wise continued, as Washington used “all the instruments of our national power to create an outcome that was pleasing for the United States.”
But would it be enough? As the election approached, Clinton worried that Milosevic would cheat his way to victory. “These elections are going to be important, but they probably won’t be fair,” he told Vladimir Putin, Russia’s new president, two and a half weeks before the vote, according to a recently declassified transcript of their conversation. “Milosevic is running behind in the polls, so he’ll probably steal it. It would be preferable for him to lose, but he’ll probably arrange not to.” (Putin, in response, complained about NATO’s intervention the previous year. “We weren’t consulted in the decision to bomb Yugoslavia,” he said. “That’s not fair.”)

U.S. democracy promotion organizations, sharing Clinton’s concerns, sought to ensure that Milosevic could not falsify the vote count. One U.S.-funded NGO trained more than 15,000 activists to monitor polling places. The day of the election, opposition members tallied ballots alongside government officials. The state’s vote count suggested that Milosevic had a narrow lead. The parallel count, however, revealed the truth: he had lost overwhelmingly. Major protests erupted. Milosevic, unable to quell a popular revolution, was forced to resign.

The CIA’s hand remained hidden. Two decades later, now retired American intelligence officers expressed unexplained confidence that their work proved pivotal in defeating Milosevic. Sipher commented on the “success” of the CIA’s operation. Wise said that the United States made “a big difference” and that “a combination” of covert and overt tactics had produced “a positive outcome.” As with all covert operations to influence voters, though, the CIA could not assess its precise impact. “Measuring it is hard,” Sipher recognized. But he noted that Serbian government officials did credit the CIA for their victory behind closed doors. “Many of the key players who became senior figures in the follow-on government continued to meet with us and continued to tell us that it was our efforts that led to their success,” Sipher said, “in terms of helping them with everything, from advertising to financing to how they did things” during the campaign.

In interviews, more senior government officials grew uncomfortable at any mention of the CIA and Milosevic’s defeat. “I know stuff about that, but I’m not able to talk about it,” said John McLaughlin, who was the CIA’s deputy director in 2000. This discomfort made sense: CIA interference in the 2000 election was not representative of the agency’s post–Cold War operations. How often, after all, can a war criminal be ousted by ballot? “There seemed to be a higher comfort level not just in the intelligence part of the world but really just policy writ large that something had to be done in the Balkans,” said Steven Hall, a former CIA operations officer who was stationed in the region in 2000. For Washington, “electoral manipulation” had become “a tool of last resort,” Wise added, and the Serbian case was “the complete exception,” in part because of Milosevic’s atrocities and in part because of the “receptive,” “credible,” and “attractive” nature of the opposition. For such cases, Wise argued generally, “the ends justify the means . . . the risk is you maybe do something that is un-American in the eyes of some.” But the result is “the genocidal maniac is no longer in power.”

When I asked Clinton why covert action was merited in Serbia, he said simply, “There’s a death threshold, and Milosevic crossed it.”

THE CIA IS SIDELINED
In 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush was on the verge of authorizing another such operation. The story unfolded in the White House Situation Room, where, in the summer and fall, national security officials weighed a familiar proposal: for the CIA to engage in covert electoral interference. This time, the target would be Iraq.

In March 2003, the United States had invaded Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, the country’s longtime dictator, and seize weapons of mass destruction that he allegedly possessed. Hussein’s government fell within weeks, but no such weapons were found. Struggling to justify the war, Bush renewed his promise to transform Iraq’s political system. In late 2003, he declared that “Iraqi democracy will succeed” and that its citizens would enjoy popular representation. “For [the U.S. government] at that time it was extremely important to have free and fair elections because that’s actually justifying the invasion,” said Arturo Muñoz, then a senior CIA operations officer. “As long as we didn’t find weapons of mass destruction, we were kind of desperate by then to justify ourselves, so at least we can create democracy in this place.” American democracy promotion organizations poured resources into Iraq. The International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, in particular, launched substantial programs there, helping to produce voter-education materials, train party officials, and facilitate political debates and get-out-the-vote efforts.

The purpose of elections, though, is for voters to determine the direction of their state. In this sense, Bush had a problem: intelligence reports indicated that his preferred candidate, Ayad Allawi, would lose in Iraq’s first-ever parliamentary election, scheduled for January 2005.
The transition from containing Communism to promoting democracy made electoral interference a riskier proposition.
The U.S. intelligence community believed that Iran was manipulating the election in favor of Allawi’s opposition. “Of course, Iran was involved,” said McLaughlin, then the CIA’s deputy director. “Why wouldn’t they be? They’re right next door, they have the capability, and they were close to some of the leadership.” Wise was based in Iraq ahead of the election and a few years later, became the CIA’s station chief there. He described Iranian interference in the Iraqi election as wide-ranging: “We’re talking money, activists, threats, extortion, a paramilitary presence.”

Bush and his advisers debated whether to respond with covert action. John Negroponte, then the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, regularly participated in interagency teleconferences from Baghdad with a sole agenda item: CIA-led electoral interference. “We really thought about it hard,” said Negroponte, who told me that he had been “open to the possibility” in discussions with other senior administration officials.

Deliberations reached a serious enough stage that the White House briefed the congressional leadership on its planning. “[The] top line was that there’s an opportunity here to engage in a way that could provide much more of a guaranteed outcome,” recounted Tom Daschle, then the Senate minority leader. The officials I interviewed could not recall, or were unwilling to share, the operational details of the CIA’s plan, although Daschle told me that it included “a lot of activities that we thought were just untoward and inadvisable.”

For the CIA, interfering in Iraq’s election would be the latest rendition of an age-old operation, and by the fall of 2004, the agency was moving toward action. Allawi had come to expect covert help. “The initial attitude of the U.S. was to support moderate forces, financially and in the media,” he said in 2007. Then, unexpectedly, this assistance “was brought to a halt,” Allawi said, “under the pretext that the U.S. does not want to interfere.”

Within the CIA, Congress, and the White House, an unlikely alliance of officials had united against covert electoral interference. The CIA’s representatives, Negroponte recalled, “least wanted to be involved” with this operation, since it could expose the agency to criticism if detected. McLaughlin, laughing, said that he “wouldn’t disagree” with Negroponte’s recollection. “We had, after all, invaded a country to make it democratic,” he said. “How hypocritical would it be then to subvert their election?” Speaking generally, Muñoz said, “If you’re going to ruin the elections, and it becomes known, and things frequently leak,” then once “word gets out that so-and-so won because the CIA did X, Y, and Z, then you’ve just wrecked the whole foreign policy adventure that you’ve embarked on.”

Congressional leaders also objected to the plan. For Daschle, the arguments against covert action were twofold. The first was a matter of optics: how “terrible it would look” if exposed. The second was normative. “It was no longer the Cold War,” he said. “Doing what we had been doing even twenty years earlier was just not appropriate; it wasn’t keeping with what our country should be all about.” Daschle recalled that Nancy Pelosi, his counterpart in the House of Representatives, was “very vocal” in opposing the plan. Pelosi reportedly found an ally in Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser. “As I heard the debate go on,” Negroponte said, “I realized, ‘It is just not worth it, and people do not want to do it,’ and we rejected it.”

Bush, in attempting to build a democracy, was unwilling to intervene covertly in that democracy’s elections. “You wanted to be pretty much clean and free when it came to interference in their electoral processes,” McLaughlin said. “I was involved in a lot of covert action planning and decisions, and you always have to ask yourself, ‘What are the unintended consequences of what we are proposing to do or thinking about doing?’”

The CIA’s plan was shelved. And come January 2005, Allawi’s coalition lost resoundingly in a contest marred by instability and terrorist attacks. A governing coalition with close ties to Tehran then took power.

A NEW AGE
How, then, has the role of the CIA changed in the post–Cold War period? As Russian intelligence again manipulates elections around the world, the CIA has charted the opposite course. The Serbian operation, according to various U.S. officials, was an “extraordinary” measure that reflected extraordinary circumstances. For the Iraqi election, which did not involve a ruler like Milošević, U.S. policymakers judged that the risks of covert action were too high. In the years since, based on my interviews with the seven directors of the CIA from July 2004 to January 2017, as well as former directors of national intelligence and deputy CIA directors, the logic behind the Iraqi decision has become the norm. Contrary to Putin’s claims, Washington has all but abandoned the use of covert electoral interference.

In interviews about the CIA’s modern covert action programs, the United States’ former spy chiefs fall into two groups. The first insists that the agency no longer engages in covert electoral interference. David Petraeus, who led the CIA in 2011 and 2012, said he is “not aware . . . in more recent times” of such operations. John Brennan, the CIA’s director from 2013 to 2017, offered a more blanket assurance: “With President Obama and President Bush 43, there was never an effort to try to influence the outcome of a democratic election. We believed it was antithetical to the democratic process to do that.” The CIA once targeted foreign elections, he continued, “but over the course of the last 18 years or so, that has not been the case.”

The second group of officials does not speak in absolutes, suggesting instead that the CIA has moved away from, but not necessarily stopped, influencing elections overseas. “There wasn’t much of it. This is not something that intelligence does with anything like the sense of flexibility and freedom that it might have had in the early Cold War,” said McLaughlin, who, as the CIA’s number two in 2000, would have been involved with the Milosevic case. Since then, such operations have, at the very least, been raised at the highest levels. The Bush administration debated the Iraq scheme; the Obama administration weighed similar proposals. “It’s not like these ideas don’t resurface, but at least in [the Obama] administration they would get rejected,” said Tony Blinken, who served in senior national security positions for the entirety of Barack Obama’s presidency.

Former CIA director John Brennan testifying before the House Intelligence Committee in Washington, May 2017
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Of this second group, Leon Panetta, the CIA’s director from 2009 to 2011, was the most forthcoming. He said he never “got into” altering votes directly or spreading disinformation. But on rare occasions, his CIA did influence foreign media outlets ahead of elections in order to “change attitudes within the country.” The CIA’s method, Panetta went on, was to “acquire media within a country or within a region that could very well be used for being able to deliver” a specific message or work to “influence those that may own elements of the media to be able to cooperate, work with you in delivering that message.” As in Italy in 1948 or Serbia in 2000, the programs that Panetta described complemented overt propaganda campaigns. “Even though we were operating on a covert basis,” he said, “you had to make sure that the overt methods that were being used at least delivered the same message.” Even this type of operation presented risks. “There is no question it’s a gamble,” Panetta continued, which is why it was an option of last resort and why more aggressive tactics had been sidelined.

Every interview pointed to the same conclusion: for the CIA, covert electoral interference has become the exception rather than the rule. Either the agency no longer seeks to influence election outcomes, as Brennan and Petraeus asserted, or it does so in rare cases when, as with Milosevic, a tyrant can be ousted by ballot. The exact truth is unknown. But this general shift marks a dramatic departure from the Cold War, when the CIA was interfering in the elections of “many, many” countries. Of this evolution, Negroponte, a former director of national intelligence, said, “Frankly, political action of that kind is really part of the past. Iraq convinced me of that. It was just zero appetite for [electoral] intervention.”

Skeptics will insist that the United States’ intelligence chiefs are lying. But considering present-day realities, the skeptics may be the ones defying logic. It would be self-defeating for the CIA to manipulate foreign elections in all but the most exceptional of circumstances. One reason why concerns the end of the Cold War, which robbed the CIA of its long-running purpose: to counter the Soviet Union. Milosevic, for one, was a relic of a previous era. In September 2001, the CIA found a new focus in counterterrorism, which called for drone strikes and paramilitary operations, not electoral interference.

The United States’ post–Cold War leaders declared an era of liberal democracy defined by free and fair elections. This transition, from containing communism to promoting democracy, made covert electoral interference a riskier proposition. As Michael Hayden, a former CIA director, explained, “Meddling in an electoral process cuts across the grain of our own fundamental beliefs. You might want to do it to level the playing field, you might want to do it because of just the demands of national security, but it doesn’t feel right.” McLaughlin elaborated upon Washington’s evolving outlook. “If you are interfering in an election and are exposed as doing so,” he said, “you are a lot more hypocritical than you would have appeared in the Cold War, when that sort of thing tended to be excused as part of the cost of doing business.”

Hypocrisy, however, had not stopped the CIA before. And in recent years, as great-power competition has reemerged, the United States has had a stake in many foreign elections. Changes in high politics, then, only partly explain this shift in CIA activity. The rest of this story has to do with the spread of the Internet, which has exposed American elections to outside interference. Officials in Washington are reluctant to execute the type of operation to which their country has become so vulnerable. “If you’re in a glass house, don’t throw stones,” Petraeus said. “And we’re the biggest glass house when it comes to Internet connectivity.”

The digital age has also made it harder to maintain the secrecy of covert operations to manipulate foreign electorates. “It’s very difficult to keep that kind of activity from ultimately getting out,” Petraeus continued. And for Washington, getting caught matters. “If the United States were identified as having promoted disinformation or tampering with votes in an election, it would undermine our credibility and our policy efforts, given how inconsistent such actions would be with the values we promote, which are at the heart of our soft power,” said Avril Haines, a former deputy CIA director. “The same is not true for Russia.

Visits: 137

Sino-US ties at a crossroads

THE confrontation instigated by the United States with China continues to intensify. The pandemic has escalated tensions between them that were already at a record high before the Covid outbreak. This fraught situation has variously been described as a new Cold War, end of the post-1979 era, a geopolitical turning point and less seriously, a ‘scold war’.

What does this mean for the world’s most consequential relationship? Is this a transformative moment from where ties will have to be completely redefined rather than reset? Will the two global powers arrive at a modus vivendi or will their stand-off become an enduring feature of the international landscape? How much of China-bashing in the US reflects campaign politics in an election year? Is the friction an inevitable result of a global power’s response to the rise of another that can challenge its predominant position — a classic phenomenon witnessed throughout history when power dynamics shift fundamentally?

Is economic decoupling between the two inescapable? Or will present hostilities eventually give way to a restructuring of ties in which relations may end up being fiercely competitive and selectively cooperative but with overtones of hostility?

Clearer answers will emerge over time. But a key factor that could shape future relations will be the US presidential election in November when the next occupant of the White House will have to decide how to manage relations with China: to stabilise the relationship on new terms, or embark on a course of drawn-out confrontation. In both eventualities, a return to engagement that previously characterised relations with China is unlikely.

The future course of Sino-US ties will have far-reaching consequences for the world.

This is because the political consensus and public opinion that has emerged in the US — fanned by President Donald Trump’s actions and rhetoric — sees China as an adversary that has exploited the US on trade and poses a strategic challenge that needs to be countered and contained, not engaged. Many foreign policy advisers of the Democratic contender for the presidency, Joe Biden, also happen to be hawks on China. Therefore, whoever wins the election will likely follow a tough line on China.

Beijing’s interest lies in de-escalating tensions and steadying relations. But it is up against the weight of US-led Western opinion that has become increasingly sceptical and hostile towards China. The European Union which has strong economic equities in ties with China is being assiduously courted by Beijing to encourage it to follow an independent path from Washington. But developments in Hong Kong have added to European suspicions of China.

In the face of Trump’s provocative statements and actions during the pandemic, China has generally kept its cool, reacting sharply only when Washington crossed certain red lines or when Trump’s patently misleading narrative needed to be countered. But top US officials led by Trump have continued virulent criticism of China. This provoked China’s foreign minister Wang Yi to warn that the US was pushing China to the brink of a new Cold War. But he also stressed that both countries had a major responsibility for “world peace and development”, and that “China and the US stand to gain from cooperation, and lose from confrontation”.

There are limits though to China’s forbearance in the face of offensive US actions. There is fresh thinking in Beijing about how to deal with a more antagonistic Washington and growing nationalist sentiment that their country should push back against Western criticism and US bullying. This sentiment is already driving a more assertive Chinese policy in Asia.

China is expected to emerge as the world’s largest economy in a decade. This should itself persuade the US and its Western allies that engagement is necessary in their own interest with a country that will be pivotal to achieving post-pandemic global economic revival and addressing a host of other international challenges. However, this rational calculation and also the fact that China remains Washington’s biggest lender may not be enough to overcome US apprehensions about the challenge posed to America’s global position by China’s rise.

A report titled United States Strategic Approach to the People’s Republic of China, submitted by the White House to Congress last month, lays bare these wide-ranging concerns. It says that US National Security Strategy demands that Washington “rethink the failed policies of the past two decades — policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners”. The future approach should be based on “tolerance of greater bilateral friction”.

The report says that America is in strategic competition with China and enumerates the economic and security challenges posed by Beijing. The tone is of a power anxious to counter a strategic challenger whose economic strength and reach have already eroded America’s global pre-eminence. More explicitly, US Defence Secretary Mark Asper declared in February that China is top of the Pentagon’s list of potential adversaries.

In one of the most influential books on Sino-US relations published in 2017, Harvard scholar Graham Allison invoked the ancient Greek historian Thucydides’ depiction of the dangerous trap that emerges when one great power challenges or is poised to displace another. The historian had pointed to the inevitability of war when the fear of the rise of another power determined the established power’s actions. Allison recalled that in 12 of 16 cases in history this dynamic between the two led to conflict.

The need to avoid the Thucydides’ Trap has not only been Allison’s advice but that of several thinkers and policymakers, most notably Henry Kissinger. Allison often quotes Kissinger as saying, “The Thucydides’ Trap is the best lens for looking through the noise and news of the day to the underlying dynamic driving the relationship between the US and China.” Kissinger has also frequently warned of the devastating consequences of falling into this trap and urged the need to place relations on a stable and peaceful course.

The key question is whether the present era’s most significant bilateral relationship will be managed responsibly to avert a complete breakdown, even conflict. After all the future course of Sino-US relations will be a game changer for the world, with far-reaching consequences for the global economy and international peace and security.

The writer is a former ambassador to the US, UK and UN.

This article taken from www.dawn.com

Visits: 115

Redefining National Security for the Post-Pandemic World

This article taken from www.project-syndicate.org

 

Three decades of efforts to broaden the definition of “national security” have largely failed, and it is time to try a new approach. Thinking instead in terms of global security would expand policy discussions beyond national governments and lead to a stronger emphasis on making societies more resilient.

WASHINGTON, DC – The world has spent the last 30 years trying to redefine “national security” in ways that will allow nation-states to prepare for and tackle a wider range of threats to our existence and wellbeing. Alternatively, national security has been juxtaposed with “human security,” again in an effort to focus money and energy on dangers to humanity as much as to national sovereignty.

But those efforts have largely failed, and it is time to try a new approach. Instead of widening our definition of national security, we need to start narrowing it. That means distinguishing national security from global security and putting military security in its place alongside many other equally important but distinct priorities.

We must begin by asking four essential questions: What or who is being protected? What threat or threats are they being protected against? Who is doing the protecting? And how is protection being provided?

In its classic form, national security involves protecting nation-states from military aggression. More precisely, as Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter states, it is about preventing or countering “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”

Nation-states now face other threats, including cyberattacks and terrorism, although such attacks generally must be sponsored by one state against another to threaten a country’s territorial integrity or political independence. Hence, these threats really qualify as subsets of military security. Climate change, on the other hand, poses an existential threat to many island states as a result of rising sea levels, and similarly endangers already arid countries by contributing to desertification and water scarcity.

Moreover, whereas the world of 1945 was almost entirely defined by nation-states, today’s security experts must also focus on threats that transcend national borders. Unlike military aggression, phenomena such as terrorism, pandemics, global criminal networks, disinformation campaigns, unregulated migration, and shortages of food, water, and energy do not necessarily threaten the political independence or territorial integrity of a particular state. But they do endanger the safety and wellbeing of the world’s people.

The distinction between national and global security is not just semantic. It goes to the heart of the third question: who is doing the protecting? National security is the province of national governments, and of a fairly small group of homogeneous people within them who traditionally have focused almost entirely on military security. Those establishments have expanded in recent years to take account of issues like cybersecurity, health security, and environmental security, but only at the margins.

Thinking in terms of global security, by contrast, opens the door to participation by a far wider group of people – starting with mayors and governors, who are directly responsible for the safety and welfare of the residents of their states, provinces, and cities. Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, for example, US city and state officials have been actively engaged in preventing and protecting against future attacks. They are as likely to talk to their counterparts around the world as national diplomats or defense officials are.

Even more broadly, global security has no official designees. CEOs, civic groups, philanthropists, professors, and self-appointed leaders of every description can launch and join efforts to keep all of us safe. Indeed, the COVID-19 crisis has provided many instances of effective leadership from sources other than national governments.

For example, while the US and Chinese governments have used the pandemic to ratchet up bilateral tensions, myriad international networks of researchers, foundations, businesses, and government agencies have been working together to develop treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, with little concern for nationality.

Broader participation in global-security efforts will also increasingly dissolve the boundary between “domestic” and “international” affairs and policy. Health, environment, energy, cybersecurity, and criminal justice have all traditionally been seen as domestic matters, with foreign-policy and security experts regarding defense, diplomacy, and development as entirely separate realms involving relations between countries and international organizations. But this distinction will progressively crumble.

These shifts will in turn create opportunities for a vastly more diverse range of people to sit at the table on global security issues. Despite some gradual changes in conventional military domains in recent years, far more women and people of color occupy prominent positions in city governments, and in fields like health and environmental protection, including environmental justice.

The final piece of the puzzle is how to provide global security. Traditional military security is ultimately focused on winning. But many global threats primarily call for greater resilience – that is, less winning than withstanding. As Sharon Burke of New America has argued, the goal is more to build security at home than to destroy enemies abroad.

We certainly still want to “win,” if winning means prevailing over a virus, or eradicating a terrorist cell or disinformation network. But the deep nature of global threats means they can be reduced, but almost never eliminated. Arming people with the means to recognize and avoid danger, survive trauma, and adapt to new circumstances is a better long-term strategy.

Nearly twice as many Americans have now died of COVID-19 than died in the Vietnam War. But many national leaders in the US and elsewhere remain focused on great-power competition, and appear less concerned with the pandemic’s mounting death toll than with distracting domestic publics by pointing fingers at other countries. And yet the lessons of this crisis will loom large in how we think about and provide for our security in the future.

That will be particularly true for younger generations. New America’s Alexandra Stark, for example, argues that COVID-19 is her generation’s 9/11. Instead of the highly militarized anti-terrorism response that the US adopted in the wake of those attacks, she calls for a new grand strategy “fundamentally oriented around human wellbeing,” refocusing on human health, prosperity, and opportunity. That sounds like security to me.

Visits: 118

DEEP SEA RIVALS: EUROPE, TURKEY, AND NEW EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN CONFLICT LINES

The eastern Mediterranean is becoming ever more perilous as geopolitical fault lines steadily enmesh the region. These rifts emerge from the Cyprus ‘frozen conflict’, competition for valuable gas fields, and the increasingly entangled wars in Libya and Syria.

Overview: Fear and loathing in the Eastern Mediterranean

Asli Aydıntaşbaş Julien Barnes-Dacey Cinzia Bianco Hugh Lovatt Tarek Megerisi

In a world of pandemics, forever wars, and great power showdowns, it might come as a surprise that Europe’s next crisis is emerging from disputes over maritime law. In the eastern Mediterranean, a scramble is under way between countries in the region for access to recently discovered gas fields. Conflicting legal claims to the fields are merging with old and new conflicts, and have led to the creation of a new geopolitical front in the eastern Mediterranean that should cause Europeans substantial concern. At the heart of these tensions lies the unresolved dispute in Cyprus and long-standing antagonism between Turkey and Greece, around which a broader front of anti-Turkey forces is lining up. These disputes have also now grown to encompass the civil wars in Libya and Syria, and have drawn in states from as far afield as the Gulf and Russia.

The eastern Mediterranean’s potential for escalation was evident in February 2020, when France deployed its Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier to defensively stalk Turkish frigates sailing near to the contested gas fields close to Cyprus. The fact that NATO allies are staring each other down on the European Union’s doorstep should cause all Europeans to pay greater attention to the region. The escalating conflict in Libya and the rivalry between Turkey and its Gulf rivals now directly intersect with the European-Turkish disputes over gas and territory. What happens in the eastern Mediterranean is no longer a peripheral issue for Europe.

The EU has a direct stake in the matter, but remains divided on how to approach it. The bloc has a significant interest in upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Cyprus, securing its own energy interests, and advancing a political resolution to the conflict in Libya to manage refugee and terrorism challenges. The anti-Turkey front that has converged in the eastern Mediterranean is led by EU member states Cyprus, Greece, and France. They, in turn, are working with players from further afield, such the United Arab Emirates, whose intensifying competition with Turkey is a defining feature of the strained – and ever-more destabilising – situation in the Middle East. But, collectively, these countries’ activity risks entrenching geopolitical fault lines, with consequences for Europe as a whole, not least the crucial relationship with Turkey.

To address this, the EU and its member states need to change tack and pursue a wider, inclusive deal with Turkey. They will need to incrementally agree on the components of this new bargain and, critically, base it on pragmatic engagement with Ankara rather than escalatory measures against it. Europe’s decision-makers are aware that they cannot afford a complete diplomatic breakdown, much less a kinetic confrontation, with Turkey given the world of trouble already present on their eastern and southern flanks.

This awareness needs to translate into a policy shift in which Europeans remain committed to key policy principles – namely, the sovereignty of Cypriot and, therefore, EU territory – but also recognise the dangers of current tensions with Ankara, as well as the convergence of Middle Eastern conflict lines within areas of their dispute. This approach can only succeed if Turkey also demonstrates its support for it by scaling back its drilling activity and naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean. Europeans should incentivise Turkey to do so by dialling down the recent military and political measures they have put in place. This will help prevent the dispute from slipping into increasingly zero-sum and dangerous positioning, while dispelling the impression that Europe has ganged up on Turkey in a common cause with Arab states.

NEW GAS FIELDS AND THE ANTI-TURKEY CLUB
Cyprus is central to the eastern Mediterranean’s rising tensions. After more than 40 years of frozen conflict, over the past decade hopes rose that the discovery of significant gas reserves could improve the chances of a settlement between the island’s Turkish and Greek communities. In the process, gas exports from Cyprus would help the EU diversify its energy supplies and boost regional cooperation. In time, however, a different impulse took over – one that is now increasing tension between not just Cyprus and Turkey but also between wider regional players.

A collective interest in leveraging eastern Mediterranean gas reserves spurred increased cooperation between Greece, Cyprus, Israel, and Egypt, as well as key energy companies from Italy and France. This grouping has grown to encompass Italy itself, Jordan, and Palestine, culminating in the creation of the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) in Cairo in January 2019. Noticeably absent is Turkey – despite its overlapping maritime claims, vast domestic market, and potential as a transit route for eastern Mediterranean gas exports. This coalition has received the backing of the United States, whose relationship with Turkey is also strained due to divergences on a growing number of issues, most recently Ankara’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 air defence systems.

Although the desire to create a geopolitical hub that excludes Turkey was not the organisation’s founding purpose, it has grown to define the emerging coalition. Perceptions of the EMGF as an anti-Turkey club were bolstered when it extended its remit to include regional security cooperation and joint military drills around Cyprus. Greece and Cyprus have sought to leverage the undersea gas reserves and the creation of the EMGF grouping to improve their own political standing – at Turkey’s expense. The forum offers both countries a means to strengthen a broader alliance to counter Turkish influence. Israel and Egypt maintain acrimonious relations with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while the forum’s anti-Turkey slant has also attracted the UAE, which is engaged in an acute regional rivalry with Turkey. Like Egypt, the UAE takes issue with Turkey’s support for Muslim Brotherhood movements across the region.

This fault line is starkest in Libya, where Turkey and the UAE provide military support to opposite sides in the deepening civil war. In November 2019, Ankara and the internationally recognised Libyan government struck a partnership agreement on a maritime boundary, which created an exclusive economic zone that cuts across Greek and Cypriot interests. The move seeks to preclude the proposed EastMed pipeline, which would bring gas to European markets from Israel, Egypt, and Cyprus. Turkey has also recently applied for licences to start drilling off the coast of Libya.

This agreement caused Cyprus and Greece to line up behind Abu Dhabi’s man in Libya, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who France has long supported. But these fault lines also extend into Syria, with supporters of both sides of the civil war hiring Syrian fighters. This draws the Libya and Syria conflicts closer together – and gives Russia a greater opportunity to cement its position in the Mediterranean.

TURKEY: BACKED INTO A CORNER?
The Turkish government has long suffered from a chronic siege mentality, believing itself to be surrounded by hostile forces that threaten its core interests. The formation of the EMGF appears to vindicate such concerns.

Turkey has little room for manoeuvre to its south and west, despite having the longest contiguous coastline in the eastern Mediterranean. Ankara also believes that making concessions in this part of the sea would be tantamount to conceding to the Greek position on various maritime disputes between the two countries in the Aegean. Turkey’s difficulties are exacerbated by its failure to discover gas in its local waters. Given its own economic woes, Turkey will not cede the potentially lucrative exploitation rights around Cyprus without representation for Turkish Cypriots. Turkey has long favoured a model that allocates maritime rights based on continental shelves. But this differs from the approach adopted by European states, which is based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), to which Turkey is not a signatory.

From Ankara’s perspective, there are clear links between this eastern Mediterranean coalition – as embodied by the EMGF – and wider regional conflicts, as well as the Emirati-led campaign against Turkey. Turkey believes that a slowly emerging superstructure of political, economic, and security interests will inevitably challenge its regional position. This has transformed an economic competition into an existential struggle. Turkey has responded in its traditional fashion – with escalation: namely, by increasing its military presence in Libya and concluding the maritime agreement with the Tripoli-based government. In parallel, Turkey has deployed naval expeditions to explore gas fields claimed by the Republic of Cyprus and to chase away research vessels operating under Republic of Cyprus licences.

NAVIGATING THE REGION’S CHOPPY WATERS
The EU’s current eastern Mediterranean policy centres on a ‘soft containment’ of Turkey, as marked by its introduction of new sanctions on the country in February 2020. These measures came at the request of Cyprus, Greece, France, and Italy in a bid to curtail Turkey’s predatory drilling expeditions. This dynamic was further highlighted in May 2020 in a joint declaration by Cyprus, France, Greece, Egypt, and the UAE, which “urged Turkey to fully respect the sovereignty and sovereign rights of all states in their maritime zones in the eastern Mediterranean … [and] strongly condemned Turkey’s military interference in Libya”. Turkey responded by accusing the states of forming an “alliance of evil” that would create “regional chaos and instability”.

Clearly, the EU is right to stick up for the sovereignty of the Cyprus and its maritime claims: the bloc’s non-recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) is a pillar of its legal policy on the island. Nevertheless, the exclusionary approach towards Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean has contributed to escalation in Cyprus, as well as Libya, where European interests relating to migration and terrorism are directly under threat. This wider confrontation has also drawn the UAE more deeply into the Mediterranean theatre, a development that should be as much a cause for European concern as Turkey’s widening role. The threat of a confrontation with Turkey on Libya and wider eastern Mediterranean issues risks destabilising the long-standing refugee deal between Ankara and the EU. It could also weaken the EU position on Syria if, as has been mooted, some member states re-engage with Bashar al-Assad as a means of increasing pressure on Turkey, which maintains a military presence in northern Syria. More broadly, unless the pressure eases, this could further worsen Turkey’s relationship with the US, NATO, and the EU more generally.

There is no doubt that the EU needs a more functional relationship with Turkey to protect its core interests in migration, energy, and the Middle East. The EU should now adopt a different approach – one that recognises the need for more constructive engagement with Turkey, and that highlights their shared interests in trade, energy, and regional security. This does not have to involve a miraculous resolution of the Cyprus conflict – or, at the other end of the scale, a move towards the two-state solution supported by hawks in Turkey and Turkish Cypriots. But it might involve the recognition of some Turkish claims around the rights of Turkish Cypriots to the region’s energy spoils. And it should certainly include a rejection of active European participation in the destabilising regional conflict between Ankara and Abu Dhabi. The EU needs to carefully advance the following confidence-building steps that are in sync with core EU principles.

Cyprus
The highly contested, internationalised, and multilayered nature of problems in the eastern Mediterranean makes it impossible to address all sources of tension in one go. Instead, the EU should view the Cyprus conflict as the symbolic heart of the crisis and as a potential way to advance wider de-escalatory measures. While holding firm to its core principles, the EU should explore avenues for addressing technical issues related to gas exploitation. These are easier to engage with and resolve than more ideologically charged political questions around a final resolution of the conflict or maritime law. Besides allowing for meaningful headway on important issues, this approach would build much-needed confidence between the parties.

Firstly, European states should push the Cyprus and Turkish Cypriots towards technical-level discussions, with the goal of ensuring that all Cypriots can benefit from the island’s gas reserves – whether they live in the north or the south. Turkish Cypriots can be represented without needing to recognise the TRNC or legitimise the Turkish military presence on the island. As the EU and the UN already regard Turkish Cypriot leaders as interlocutors on intercommunal issues, they should bring them into discussions on hydrocarbons. This process could be underpinned by a moratorium on gas exploration in Cyprus’s exclusive economic zone, while Turkey would need to pull its drilling ships and navy out of the area.

Bring Turkey into the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum
A wider agreement with Turkey would have to include Turkish access to the regional gas network, both in its current form and in future infrastructure developments. The current configuration of the EMGF as a conduit for political and security developments is aggravating regional tensions. For energy, security, and economic reasons, Europe and Turkey have similar imperatives to reach a deal with each other. The EU should propose Turkish access to the EMGF as an entry point to a wider deal. This would also help improve relations between Turkey and Egypt, and ease exploration and development tension between the EU and Turkey.

Linking up Libya
Enhanced European cooperation with Turkey on Libya is another necessary dimension of a more effective EU approach to the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s deal with the Libyan government has angered much of Europe. But Europe’s current response risks marginalising it in the region – and will only prolong the war in Libya, given Turkey’s centrality to any resolution there.

Europeans need to adopt an approach that not only presses Turkey to take a seat at the negotiating table but also provides it with incentives to do so. Europe should simultaneously ask the same of Haftar’s external backers, who in many ways bear greater responsibility than Turkey for the recent escalation in Libya.

The EU should use the assets of its recently deployed naval operation and the opening created by Tripoli’s Turkish-backed military gains to press the UAE to agree to a ceasefire and meaningful political talks. Europe should express frustration with not only Ankara but also Abu Dhabi for its role in escalating the regional conflict. This step would help convince Turkey that the EU is not singling it out. A balanced European approach to Libya, including an impartial attempt to monitor arms-embargo violations, would help persuade Turkey that the southern Mediterranean is not turning into another arena to exclude Turkish influence.

Progress on wider maritime talks would also help advance this effort, given that Turkey’s position in Libya is partly driven by concerns that other actors are looking to squeeze it out in the Mediterranean.

The EU can take steps to ease deepening eastern Mediterranean tensions in accordance with European interests. It should adopt a broad-based approach that recognises and seeks to reconcile the complex linkages that now criss-cross the eastern Mediterranean. The EU has the capacity to ensure that the accumulated benefit of a wider deal prevents backsliding elsewhere. Ultimately, a wider EU approach would aim to turn the current situation on its head, taking advantage of the highly interconnected nature of the issues and of shared interests to create a mutually acceptable stabilising track. The depth of the problems means that no single, all-encompassing bargain is possible. But Europeans could stitch together a patchwork of more self-contained deals as they work towards establishing a ‘new bargain’ with Turkey.

Given the potential for instability in the eastern Mediterranean to affect core EU interests – migration, counter-terrorism, energy security, sovereignty, and more – European states not directly involved in the overlapping conflicts should help improve the relationship with Turkey.

Countries such as Germany have highlighted how they could work to support the political process in Libya. Berlin has already provided a neutral forum for all states to try to agree on core principles. But so far it has failed, partly because of a lack of European consensus on broader eastern Mediterranean issues and relations with Turkey. This was demonstrated most recently by Turkey’s recent pressure on Malta to withdraw its support from the EU’s Mediterranean mission, Operation IRINI. As is so often the case, a lack of unity is fatally undermining Europe’s attempts to become a relevant actor, and is creating further space for other actors beyond Turkey and the UAE – namely Russia – to fill the void.

 

This article taken from www.ecfr.eu

Visits: 329

TURKEY AND COVID-19: DON’T FORGET REFUGEES

Find below an Article written by Kemal Kirişçi and Murat Erdoğan and published at brookings.edu;

 

It has been more than a month since the first COVID-19 case was detected in Turkey. Since then, the number of cases has shot up significantly, placing Turkey among the top 10 countries worldwide in terms of cases. Government efforts have kept the number of deaths relatively low, and the health system so far appears to be coping reasonably well. However, real challenges in managing the pandemic remain.

One of the most acute challenges relates to Turkey’s vast refugee and migrant population. The number of Syrian refugees, asylum seekers from a range of countries, and irregular migrants in the country surpasses 5 million. Most of them lead precarious lives in difficult circumstances, making them particularly vulnerable to contracting and spreading the virus.

The Turkish government needs to consider the specific circumstances and needs of this population. Bearing in mind that COVID-19 does not recognize borders — and that protecting refugees is an international responsibility — improved international cooperation is urgently needed.

REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS, AND IRREGULAR MIGRANTS IN TURKEY

In 2014, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Turkey became the country hosting the largest number of refugees in the world. According to the latest figures from the Turkish Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM), the Syrian refugee population alone is close to 3.6 million. They reside in towns and cities across practically the whole country, with only less than 2% living in camps. They were granted “temporary protection” upon their arrival and enjoy access to a range of free public services, including education and health care. Additionally, there are an estimated 370,000 asylum seekers and refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, and elsewhere. They too have access to public services.

Finally, there are irregular migrants. This includes asylum seekers whose cases have been rejected and who have not been able to go back to their home countries. There are also undocumented migrants who have become stranded in Turkey in their quest to travel onwards to the European Union. In the last five years, Turkish authorities have detained 1.2 million irregular migrants and have been able to return only a small percentage of them. Considering that not all Syrian refugees are registered, a conservative estimate would put the number of irregular migrants at over one million. This, together with registered Syrian refugees, constitutes close to 6 or 7% of Turkey’s population.

CORONAVIRUS CHALLENGES

The greatest challenge to these refugees, asylum seekers, and irregular migrants is economic. The March 2016 deal on refugees between the European Union and Turkey and the accompanying Facility for Refugees in Turkey (FRIT) provides close to 1.5 million of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees and 200,000 non-Syrian asylum seekers with a modest financial support. However, this program — known as the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) and implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent — is not comprehensive and is far from meeting the basic economic needs of the refugees. Hence, an estimated one million of Syrian refugees must work to be able to sustain themselves.

Related Books

In an economy that has been struggling, and where close to one-third of nationals work informally, the overwhelming majority of refugees, asylum seekers, and irregular migrants are employed informally in very precarious conditions. The massive economic downturn caused by the pandemic, together with measures to prevent the spread of the virus (such as closures of small businesses, social distancing, restrictions on travel, and a ban on people under 20 and over 65 leaving their homes) is further complicating this picture. It is causing many refugees to lose their jobs and their meager income on the one hand, and on the other it is pushing them into such desperation to consider accepting jobs that many refuse to do because of COVID-19.

Registered Syrian refugees and other asylum seekers enjoy access to basic health services. The Turkish health system so far, has been able to cope with COVID-19 cases. This could dramatically change in the coming weeks and months, complicating access to health services. Furthermore, most refugees live in crowded and often particularly squalid conditions, making them more vulnerable to contracting the virus. But it is irregular migrants who are especially vulnerable, as the fear of being detained prevents them from seeking access to health services. Reports that health services are being denied complicates their situation and heightens their risk of exposure to the virus, as well as the risk of spreading it.

COVID-19 has forced Turkish schools to introduce distance learning, like elsewhere in the world. The transition is still ongoing, lack of access to the equipment necessary for online learning is complicating matters for poorer families with children. Enrollment in the Turkish public school system has increased considerably during the last few years. The Conditional Cash Transfers for Education (CCTE), funded by the EU, subsidizes families committed to sending their children regularly to school instead of informal work. With uncertainty around when normal schooling will again be possible, it is going to be important to mount a concerted effort to ensure that refugee and migrant children are able to continue with their schooling to preserve the modest gains of the past.

A final challenge has to do with public attitudes towards refugees and migrants. A significant proportion of the Turkish public has become resentful of them. Initially, the public welcomed Syrian refugees fleeing the violence in Syria. However, as years went by and prospects of their return diminished, this welcome wore out. Growing economic hardship in Turkey and rising unemployment have made matters worse. A survey conducted late in 2017 found that more than 71% of respondents believed that Syrians were taking jobs away from people in Turkey, while another survey found that almost 65% thought the Turkish economy risked deteriorating because of the burden of looking after the refugees. In 2019, 83.2% of those surveyed called for the return of all refugees and disagreed with the government’s policy of hosting them. These results suggest that refugees and migrants risk being stigmatized or even the targets of violence, especially if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens and the economy falls further.

Visits: 1400

SAUDI ARABIA AND RUSSIA REACH MAJOR DEAL TO CUT OIL PRODUCTION

Oil prices were at record lows for the past couple of months as the the production increased by Saudi Arabia and Russia. But on 9th of April those two states agreed on a major deal to cut oil production.

Find below the news from axios.com regarding the sucject.

 

OPEC+, led by mega-producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, reached a tentative agreement Thursday to impose large cuts in oil production as the coronavirus pandemic fuels an unprecedented collapse in demand, per Bloomberg and Reuters.

Why it matters: The revival of OPEC+ collaboration patches up the early March rupture between the countries, which had pushed already depressed prices down much further by threatening to unleash even more new supplies into the saturated market.

The outlets, citing anonymous sources in the group, say the emerging OPEC+ agreement calls for cutting 10 million barrels per day in May and June.
That would amount to roughly 10% of global demand levels before the outbreak, which analysts now see cutting around 25 to 30 million barrels per day — or more — from global consumption in the near-term.
How it’s playing: Oil prices rose earlier today in apparent expectation of the agreement, but later fell back.

Prices surged late last week when talk of a very steep cut first surfaced. Today’s limited move suggests traders have already priced the reductions in — and recognize they pale in comparison to demand losses.
The global benchmark Brent crude was trading at around $32-per-barrel as of 2:30 p.m. ET — around $10 higher than they were in the middle of last week but below where they started the day.
How it works: Per the Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia is pledging to curb 4 million barrels per day from April production levels, while Russia will scale back by 2 million barrels daily.

“The tentative OPEC+ plan would see 10 million barrels a day of cuts through June, dropping to 8 million a day from July and then 6 million a day in the first quarter of next year,” Bloomberg reports, citing an anonymous delegate to the meeting.
What they’re saying: “The market’s muted price reaction is a sobering indicator of the headwinds that remain, namely demand destruction,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Tran told Reuters.

“If true, the preliminary production cut of 10 million bpd among OPEC+ members is a good first step, but it would still not be enough given the 20 million bpd+ supply overhang expected for 2Q20,” the consultancy Rystad Energy said in a note when word of the agreement began emerging.
What’s next: Energy ministers from G20 nations are slated to meet remotely Friday, and Russia and Saudi Arabia are hoping for millions of barrels per day in combined cuts from countries outside the OPEC+ group, including the U.S., the world’s largest producer.

The Trump administration has declined to offer firm commitments, but has repeatedly touted upcoming market-driven cuts in U.S. production as low prices prompt oil-and-gas companies to scale back.

Visits: 1075

DANGEROUS COUNTRIES OF AFRICA

Since the beginning of the human history Africa is always a magical place for the rest of the world. The nature, beauty and different mentality of its people always attracted outsiders. In our time although most of the continent are now considered to be modern and safe there are still some countries who could not solve their issues regarding the safety of its people and tourists. Here is a list of African countries from the very dangerous to the unsafe. The list has prepared through the warnings of US State Department.

 

Central African Republic

Crime, Civil Unrest, Kidnapping or Hostage Taking

Right now, violent crimes such as armed robbery, battery, and homicide are common in the country. The State Department says many areas of the Central African Republic are currently controlled by armed groups who regularly kidnap, hurt, and even kill civilians.

The State Department warns of demonstrations currently happening in the Central African Republic, and notes that even demonstrations that began peacefully have been known to escalate into violence. The crime in the middle of the country is said to be the most frequent, with armed robberies and kidnappings being commonplace.

The Department also says in the event of unrest or catastrophe, transportation and border access could be closed with little to no notice, and the U.S. government would have a difficult time assisting American citizens in need of evacuation.

Traveler Lee Abbamonte’s experiences in the Central African Republic in 2016 reflected the uneasy and chaotic state of the country. Despite being extremely well traveled, he concluded that the danger of traveling outside the capital city of Bangui is “not worth the risk.”

Libya

Crime, Terrorism, Civil Unrest, Kidnapping, Armed Conflict

The State Department is advising travelers to avoid travel to Libya due to the high threat of crime and kidnapping for ransom. The Department says the risk is especially high for Westerners and U.S. citizens.

Terrorism is also a concern in Libya. Violent extremist activity is common in the country, with groups making threats against the United States on a regular basis.Terrorists have been known to target tourist hotspots like hotels, malls, and transportation hubs. Currently, the State Department recognizes four different terrorist groups, including ISIS, as threats to American travelers in Libya.

The general civil unrest in the country is also a concern for visiting tourists. Large cities in Libya such as Tripoli and Surman have seen frequent armed conflicts and terrorist attacks.

Risk of attack on commercial transportation might be the biggest threat in Libya. Some airports in the country are closed altogether, and flights out of others have the possibility of being cancelled without notice. The FAA has even issued a “Special Federal Aviation Regulation” prohibiting certain flights in and out of Libya.

If not for the current unstable nature of the country, Libya would still be a popular tourist destination given its ancient sites and exotic landscapes. But because of the strife, many Libyan tour companies have ceased operation.

Mali

Crime, Terrorism, Kidnapping

The State Department is telling travelers to avoid Mali because of frequent troubles with violent crime such as kidnapping and armed robbery. Northern and central Mali are said to be the worst areas for these problems. Violent crime is also prevalent in the country during local holidays and seasonal events. Visitors should expect frequent interference and roadblocks as police try to address the problem.

The political instability of the country is also a cause for concern. A peace agreement in the northern area of the country in 2015 has been slow to take effect, with militia groups regularly turning to violence to exert their influence in the area.

Terrorism and kidnapping are also concerns in Mali, as attackers often target tourist areas including hotels, restaurants, clubs, and Western diplomatic missions.

In 2017, armed terrorists killed five people at a tourist resort near the capital of Bamako. Two years prior, in 2015, 170 people were held hostage at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako. Over 25 people were killed by terrorists in that takeover.

The United States also isn’t able to assist citizens who might find themselves in trouble in northern Mali, as security concerns prohibit government employees from entering the area.

Like in Libya, the FAA has issued a “Notice to Airmen” in Mali, telling civil aviation operators that they are at risk of being fired upon if they choose to fly at certain altitudes over Mali or land at Malian airports.

Somalia

Crime, Terrorism, Kidnapping, Piracy

Piracy has long been associated with the country of Somalia. Pirates are active off the Horn of Africa, especially in international waters.

The U.S. State Department also warns of the risk of kidnapping and murder in Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, and those moving around the country should expect to see illegal roadblocks.

Terrorism is common in Somalia as well, with terrorists continuing to plan and enact kidnappings, bombings, and other attacks in high-traffic areas like airports, seaports, government buildings, hotels, restaurants, and other venues where lots of people are gathered. Westerners, including U.S. citizens, are often targeted by terrorist groups.

Schools acting as “cultural rehabilitation” centers are also operating around Somalia, and have been known to hold people against their will.

There has also been a risk of cross-border violence along the stretch of land that divides Somalia and Kenya. Large scale attacks by insurgent group al-Shabab have been known to target aid workers and civilians.

Al-Shabab has thousands of members, and the United States has carried out dozens of airstrikes in Somalia over recent years targeting the organization.

Like in Libya and Mali, the FAA has issued a “Notice to Airmen” flying civil aircraft at lower altitudes over Somalia given the high risk of terrorist and militant activity.

Travel blogger and entrepreneur Johnny Ward tells the story of his trip to Somalia, where his flight out of the country ended up being cancelled because al-Shabab was attacking the airport he was scheduled to depart from.

Sudan

Crime, Terrorism, Civil Unrest, Kidnapping Armed Conflict

As of April 11, 2019, the State Department ordered the departure of all non-emergency government employees from Sudan.

There is a national state of emergency across Sudan, which gives security forces increased power and authorizes the use of force and arrest across the country. Foreigners and nationals have been detained. Security forces are able to arrest anyone they think is upsetting the public order, including protestors.

Demonstrations, rallies, roadblocks, checkpoints, and curfews are prone to occur without warning throughout Sudan.

Much of the tension comes from the standoff between the Government of the Republic of the Sudan and opposition forces. Armed opposition forces are active along the border between Chad and Sudan. Central Darfur as well as southern regions such as the Blue Nile and South Kordofan are also at high risk for militant conflict.

In 2017, a journalist recounted his dangerous experience in Darfur, saying he was kidnapped, tortured, and thrown in jail.

Terrorist groups are also active in the country, and look to target Westerners through suicide bombings, kidnappings, and shootings.

South Sudan

Crime, Kidnapping, Armed Conflict

The State Department is telling travelers to steer clear of South Sudan in part because of common violent crime. Carjackings, robberies, kidnappings, and other shootings are prevalent in the country, and the State Department says foreign nationals have even been victims of sexual assault and rape.

Conflict between various ethnic and political groups is ongoing throughout South Sudan, and travelers are at risk of being caught in the middle of it all. Like in Mali, the United States government has a limited ability to help American citizens in need in South Sudan, even though there is a U.S. embassy in the capital city of Juba.

It is especially dangerous for journalists to visit the country, as many have described being harassed while working in South Sudan. Some have even been killed.

Aid workers are another group at risk in South Sudan, with humanitarian efforts often targeted by armed grou

ps.

Many Countries In Africa Have Level 3 Designations

A Level 3 designation from the State Department means the U.S. government urges travelers to reconsider visiting these countries in light of safety concerns.

Countries with a Level 3 designation include:

Burkina Faso: Crime, Terrorism, Kidnapping
Burundi: Crime, Armed Conflict
Chad: Crime, Terrorism, Minefields
Comoros: Civil Unrest
Democratic Rep. of the Congo: Crime, Civil Unrest, Health Risks, Kidnapping/Hostage Taking
Guinea-Bissau: Elections, Crime, Civil Unrest
Mauritania: Crime, Terrorism
Niger: Crime, Terrorism, Kidnapping
Nigeria: Crime, Terrorism, Civil Unrest, Kidnapping, Piracy

 

 

Visits: 473

IS NORTH KOREA A REAL THREAT FOR THE WORLD?

Almost everyday we read something about how dangerous the North Koreas is and how crazy its leader Kim Jong-un. Actually in all of his published photos Kim Jong-un is smilimg very friendly and as far as we know the North Koreans love him very much. But we also hear the news that he could easily kill his relatives or some politicians without much reasoning. Until this point he is a classic dictator administrating a poor country but there is a big difference and the difference is that he has missiles and nuclear power. So is he crazy enough to start a nuclear war and is he capable of that? Here is an examination of North Korea’s nuclear power by bbc.com;

North Korea’s missile and nuclear programme

Hwasong-12 missile launch in North Korea (August 2017)

North Korea is widely believed to have missiles capable of striking long-range targets, including potentially the US mainland.

It also claims to have developed a hydrogen bomb and to be able to mount it on a missile.

Despite the thaw with South Korea and the talks with the US, there is no indication Pyongyang has scaled down its military power.

Here’s what you need to know about the North’s missile and nuclear weapons programme and its military forces.

Missiles that can reach the US

Throughout 2017, North Korea tested several missiles demonstrating the rapid advances of its military technology.

The Hwasong-12 was thought to be able to reach as far as 4,500km (2,800 miles), putting US military bases on the Pacific island of Guam well within striking distance.

Later, the Hwasong-14 demonstrated even greater potential with some studies suggesting it could travel as far as 10,000km if fired on a maximum trajectory.

This would have given Pyongyang its first truly intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), capable of reaching New York.

Eventually, the Hwasong-15 was tested, peaking at an estimated altitude of 4,500km – 10 times higher than the International Space Station.

If fired on a more conventional “flatter” trajectory, the missile could have a maximum range of some 13,000km, putting all of the continental US in range.

Graphic: North Korea's high altitude tests
white space
Graphic: North Korea's high altitude tests

However, doubts remain as to whether these missiles could successfully carry and deliver a warhead for such a distance, and whether North Korea has the expertise to accurately hit a target.

In 2019, North Korea carried out a series of short-range missile tests, ramping up in July and August in what it called “warnings” to the US and South Korea over their military drills

Then in October, Pyongyang appeared to have developed a new capability when it test-fired a missile capable of being launched from a submarine.

In theory, being able to launch a nuclear-equipped missile from a submarine increases the range of North Korea’s strike capability while also making its launch platform more difficult to detect. The threat is offset by the country’s old and limited submarine fleet, which may be able to make a one-way trip to within range of Hawaii.

The apparent successes of all these tests has raised questions as to how North Korea’s missile programme has improved so rapidly. Observers believe Pyongyang may have acquired high-performance liquid-propellant engines from illicit networks in Russia and Ukraine.

Hwasong 14 missile launchImage copyrightKCNA
Image captionThe Hwasong 14 is road mobile and launched from a detachable platform on a concrete pad.

Thermonuclear bombs

On 3 September 2017 North Korea conducted by far its largest nuclear test to date, at its Punggye-ri test site.

Estimates of the device’s explosive power, or yield, ranged from 100-370 kilotons. A yield of 100 kilotons would make the test six times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945.

North Korea claimed this test was its first thermonuclear weapon – the most potent form of nuclear explosion where an atomic detonation is boosted by a secondary fusion process to produce a far bigger blast.

Map: North Korean nuclear testing
white space

American military intelligence believes that North Korea has successfully miniaturised a nuclear warhead to fit inside a missile.

In April 2018 North Korea announced it would suspend further nuclear tests because its capabilities had been “verified”.

As part of the thaw in relations, North Korea promised to dismantle the Punggye-ri site and in May blew up some of the tunnels in the presence of foreign journalists but without any international experts present.

Pyongyang also told the US it would destroy all its nuclear material enrichment facilities – yet without a clear timetable most experts are hesitant to take the North at its word.

Millions of soldiers

North Korea has one of the largest standing armies in the world – with more than one million soldiers and estimated reserves of some five million.

Much of its equipment is old and obsolete, but its conventional forces could still inflict massive damage on South Korea in the event of war.

North Korea also has around 200,000 special forces troops which could be expected to infiltrate the South in the event of any conflict.

They could potentially exploit a semi-secret network of 20-25 large tunnels which span the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) – the border area – emerging behind South Korean and American forward lines.

NK-RoK: The military balance
white space

A further threat comes from thousands of North Korean artillery pieces and rocket launchers deployed along the border. Their firepower could devastate South Korea, including the capital Seoul, which at a distance of less than 60km, is well within range.

Chemical weapons could also be used. In 2012 the South Korean government assessed that North Korea could have between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, potentially one of the largest stockpiles on Earth.

American forces in South Korea and the wider region

The United States has had a military presence on the Korean Peninsula since the Korean War. Today, South Korea has the third highest deployment of US troops anywhere in the world.

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) there are some 28,000 US troops stationed across South Korea including almost 9,000 air force personnel. In addition, the US has some 300 M1 Abrams tanks and armoured vehicles deployed.

US B-1B Spirit bomberImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionUS strategic bombers have carried out training flights over the Korean peninsula.

Washington has also installed its controversial THAAD missile defence system at Seongju in South Korea, which would be used shoot down North Korean short and medium range missiles in the event of war.

In the wider region, Japan hosts more US forces than any other nation, with some 47,050 deployed, according to the IISS, the majority being naval personnel. It also has an aircraft carrier based in Japan.

There are also significant US forces on the US Pacific island of Guam, which is sometimes described as a “permanent aircraft carrier”.

North Korea has previously threatened to fire missiles at the waters around Guam.

Visits: 362

TURKEY FRUSTRATED BY THE LOSS OF 33 SOLDIERS

The unrest in Syria finally affected Turkey in a shocking manner. It was reported that last night 33 soldiers were killed and several injured as a result of a fighter plane attack. The details are not clear yet but the attacks have been realized by Syrian military forces. Turkish forces are in Syria for the last couple of months and they have established 12 observatory points to ensure the safety of the region. However that attack was somehow expected as Syrian military forces are also around the region and trying to kill the terroristswho are against their regime.

Syria is backed up by Russia and Russia declared the region as a non flight zone for Turkish military planes. So Turkey is in a difficult situation right now, it has all the power to answer the attack but by doing that it may face serious problems with Russian Federation so steps should be taken very carefully.

As Turkey sees the Syrian problem very related with the refugee issue it decided not hold the refugees in camps but let them go to Europe by land and sea. Turkey has currently 5 million refugees, most of them Syrian origin. A substantial part of these refugees found a way of living in Turkey but there are still millions looking for migrating to a European country.

Coming months will be very troublesome for Turkey and Europe.

We will follow the developments.

Visits: 245

HONG KONG IS GIVING $1200 TO ALL CITIZENS

To accelerate the slowing economy and to get rid of the effects of the protest Hong Kong administration decided to give $1200 to its 7 million citizens. Here is the infromation from the cnn.com;

Hong Kong (CNN Business)

Hong Kong is handing most of its residents a pile of cash to spend as it tries to save its slumping economy from the aftermath of protests and the coronavirus outbreak.

The Asian financial hub said Wednesday that the measure — the cornerstone of a 120 billion Hong Kong dollar ($15.4 billion) stimulus package — will involve giving 10,000 Hong Kong dollars (about $1,280) to all permanent residents in the city who are at least 18. About seven million people will benefit from that program.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan also warned that the city will record its first budget deficit in 15 years due to the recession that began in the third quarter of 2019.
The situation is expected to worsen. Chan said the deficit for the next fiscal year through March 2021 is expected to hit a record high of around 4.8% of the city’s GDP.
“Hong Kong’s economy is facing enormous challenges this year,” Chan said. “The outlook is far from promising in the near term.”
The financial secretary said during a budget presentation that Hong Kong’s economy has been “dragged by a host of headwinds” that percolated last year, including fallout from months of mass protests, the ongoing US-China trade war and the slowing global economy.
Those issues pushed Hong Kong into recession, with the economy shrinking 1.2% overall last year, marking its first annual decline since the global financial crisis.
Now, it is also confronting the spread of the novel coronavirus, which “has dealt a severe blow to economic activities and sentiment in Hong Kong,” Chan told the city’s Legislative Council.
Hong Kong's Financial Secretary Paul Chan in a speech to lawmakers on Wednesday.
Hong Kong’s Financial Secretary Paul Chan in a speech to lawmakers on Wednesday.
Some of the money for the relief package will come from a special fund that has been established “in view of the deteriorating economic and employment conditions as a result of the novel coronavirus epidemic,” Chan said.
In addition to the government handout, the government will also slash income tax for some residents, he said, adding that this would impact almost 2 million taxpayers. Authorities also plan to give low-income residents of public housing a month of free rent, as well as provide a one-off allowance to 200,000 underprivileged households.
Next’s year’s projected budget deficit is “higher than what many people expected,” according to Terence Chong, an associate professor of economics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
But he added that Hong Kong can likely take the hit given it maintains a healthy financial cushion — it has about $145 billion in fiscal reserves.
“This [deficit] actually is not that big a deal,” Chong told CNN Business. “We do have ways to get back the money, so I’m not that worried about that.”
The Hong Kong government has been trying to boost its economy for months. It has already rolled out several rounds of stimulus collectively worth more than 30 billion Hong Kong dollars ($3.9 billion).
Despite the ongoing challenges, Chan said he believes the economy will be able to bounce back in the long term.
“Although the impact of the epidemic on our economy in the near term could possibly be greater than that of the SARS outbreak in 2003 … Hong Kong’s economic fundamentals remain solid,” he said. “The economy of Hong Kong should be able to recover once the epidemic is over.”
— CNN’s Eric Cheung contributed to this report.

Visits: 283