Munich Security Conference
On February 15-16, an international security conference was held in Munich. Many world leaders did not attend: the most senior and influential figure was German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The conference organizers noted the collapse of the unipolar system and the transition of the world to an era of competition between great powers. They also witnessed the collapse of a liberal approach to international relations.
Protests in Albania
In Albania, protests against the ruling Socialist Party intensified. On February 16, tens of thousands tried to storm government headquarters. Thousands of protests were held the following week. Prime – Minister Edi Rama fled the nation’s capital of Tirana. The opposition demands the resignation of the “criminal government.” Representatives of the US and the EU in Albania have already condemned the protests and called on the authorities and the opposition to engage in civilized dialogue.
Is Brexit being delayed… again?
Throughout February, the prospect of postponing Brexit was discussed in European and British media. The idea was brought up by the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the Head of the European Council Donald Tusk. According to British media, the UK is also discussing the possibility. The beginning of Brexit may be postponed from March 29 to several months or even to 2-3 years later. However, the British would then be forced to take part in elections in the European Parliament in May 2019.
Russia leaves the INF
On February 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would suspend its membership in the INF Treaty. The decision was made in response to the US’ earlier withdrawal from the treaty. Putin said that Russia will deploy medium- range and shorter- range ground-based missiles in Europe if the United States takes a similar step. Moscow announced it will start developing new intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, and the creation of a terrestrial analog of the marine medium-range “Kalibr” missiles.
Elections in Moldova
Parliamentary elections were held in Moldova on February 24. Their outcome will determine which political forces will be represented in the government and its geopolitical course. According to the results, the largest number of deputies in the parliament, 34 out of 101, will be President Igor Dodon’s Moscow aligned Socialist Party. The current ruling Democratic Party of business tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc will have – 31 mandates, Liberal party ACUM – 26, the Party of “Sor”, formed by businessman Ilan Sor – 7.
Only the Democratic Party declared its readiness to begin negotiations on the formation of a parliamentary majority. On the other hand, Sor’s party says it is ready to form a coalition with the Democratic Party. The PSRM and the ACUM bloc categorically reject the creation of a coalition among themselves or with the Democratic Party. In such a situation, the creation of a parliamentary majority looks difficult. The most likely outcome is early parliamentary elections.
It is also possible that a bloc of liberals and the Democratic Party will be formed against the pro-Russian President Igor Dodon and his party.
The US will stay in Syria
The United States intends to preserve some of its forces in Syria. On February 2, it was announced that 400 troops will stay in the country: 200 at the base “Al – TANF” near Syrian – Jordanian border, and 200 – as peacekeepers in the northeast of the Syrian Arab Republic.
The refusal of the United States to withdraw a significant part of its military from Syria devalues previous promises including those given to the Turkish leadership. In the implementation of its plans in northern Syria, the Turks will have to reckon with both US forces and their European allies (about 1500 troops).
Dialogue between Turkey, Russia and Iran continues
On February 14, talks were held in Sochi between the presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran: Vladimir Putin, Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani. The presidents paid great attention to humanitarian issues, providing assistance to the Syrian population and facilitating the return of refugees to the country. Special attention was paid to the situation in Idlib. Once again, a military operation against militants in the area was postponed.
The consultations showed the importance of trilateral talks, especially against the contradictory signals from the US.
US and Israel: Bashing Arabs on Iran
On 13-14 February, Warsaw hosted a conference dedicated to the situation in the Middle East. The international ministerial meeting on the Middle East, organized by the US and Poland, initially had an anti-Iranian orientation. During the meeting, representatives of the United States including Vice President Mike Pence and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged their European allies to impose sanctions against Iran.
Also during the event, Israeli Prime-minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a number of Arab delegations and called on Arab countries to unite in a joint struggle against Iran. Israel is the main actor interested in breaking the unity of the Islamic world using the pretext of an “Iranian threat.”
The Warsaw conference could also be considered another step in the joint strategy of the US and Israel to bring Arab countries closer in order to deter the influence other actors in the region, especially the highly successful triangle of Turkey, Iran and Russia.
A state of emergency in the US
On February 15, US President Donald Trump signed a decree imposing a national emergency in the United States. This decree was necessary in order to allocate money to build a wall on the border with Mexico, bypassing Congress. Earlier, Congress categorically refused to allocate the amount requested by Trump for the construction of the border fence. Emergency declaration procedure is an ordinary tool used by Presidents but is normally employed to solve foreign policy problems, such as the introduction of sanctions.
Trump’s decree seriously complicates the confrontation between Democrats and himself on domestic policy issues.
Canada: United We Roll
At the end of February in Ottawa protests began against the policies of the ruling Liberal Party, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. A convoy of about one hundred and seventy cars lined up in front of the national parliament buildings during a protest rally in Ottawa. Protesters expressed dissatisfaction with the growth of tariffs on harmful emissions by commercial enterprises, problems in the oil industry and migration policy.
The Canadian branch of the ” yellow vests ” movement joined the protests indicating the rise of populist demands in the country neighboring the US from the North.
The continuation of the political crisis in Venezuela
The international political crisis around Venezuela continued throughout February. The United States and Brazil have put a major emphasis on the delivery of humanitarian aid. This step was taken to sway the local population to their side. Juan Guaido, the opposition figure who earlier declared himself president of the country, also supports this strategy. The result was the first clashes on the border with Brazil on February 23 where 2 people died. The likelihood of a US invasion remains high.
Haiti: Mass protests and double standards
Since February 7, mass protests have shaken Haiti. The protesters demand the resignation of President Jovenel Moise. He is accused of corruption and poor management of the country’s economy. The authorities of the country refuse to go and have responded by suppressing protests with force, which has lead to numerous casualties among the civil population.
Despite the dire situation of the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, the US and its allies have not condemned the actions of the authorities, which has led many to accuse them of hypocrisy given their reaction to the situation in Venezuela.
Okinawa against the US
On February 24, a referendum was held on the island of Okinawa on the issue of American military bases on the island. Most of the residents of the Japanese prefecture (70%) opposed the preservation of the American air force base. However, it is unlikely that the government will listen to the opinion of the locals. Since the end of World War II, the Japanese government has not been completely sovereign and is required to host the US military bases.
Kim Jong-un and Trump: summit without results
On February 26-27, the second summit of the leaders of the United States and North Korea was held in Hanoi. Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un talked about the prospects for further denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. However, the forum did not bring any concrete results and abruptly ended without a formal common declaration.
The reason was the DPRK’s demand that the US lift sanctions and Washington’s unwilling to make concessions. The failure of the talks shows that the United States is not ready for compromise.
India and Pakistan: on the brink of the war
Over 40 people died as a result of a terrorist attack in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir on February 14. The terrorist detonated a car packed with explosives near a military convoy. It is already known that the attack was organized by the terrorist group Jaish-e -Muhammad. India believes that the actions of the group were coordinated from Pakistan. The Prime-minister of India, Narendra Modi, said that Pakistan was responsible for the attack.
As a result, the ambassador of Pakistan was recalled from India. In India, there were pogroms against Muslims sympathizing with Pakistan. The danger of a possible military confrontation in Kashmir between India and Pakistan increased dramatically. Minor skirmishes have already taken place including cross-border shelling.
The sides are already exchanging blows: each announced that they had shot down an aircraft from the opposing side. On February 28, India struck Pakistani territory.
Saudi Arabia betrays Uighurs for Chinese favor
On February 22, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, arrived in China for a visit. Saudi Arabia signed 35 economic cooperation agreements with China totaling $ 28 billion at a joint investment forum during the visit. Slightly earlier, Turkey took issue in a declaration denouncing that China is oppressing its minority Muslim Uighur population.
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, however, supported China’s actions against the Muslims of Xinjiang. As Prince Mohammed noted: China has the right to carry out anti-terrorism and de – extremist work for the sake of its national security. The position of Saudi Arabia demonstrates that Muslim solidarity does not exist for Saudi rulers.
Sudan: State of Emergency
On February 22, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared a national emergency for an entire year and dissolved local and national governments. The action was taken in response to massive protests in the capital Khartoum and other cities of the country. Protesters demand the president’s resignation. According to the country’s leader, the new measure will help restore order. However, it is most likely that the protests will continue. Influential external forces (Such as the US and EU) are interested in removing Omar Bashir.
32nd African Union Summit
The African Union Summit was held on February 10-11 in Addis Ababa. The chairmanship of the organization passed from the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame to his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El Sisi. According to experts, this means that the Union will focus on security issues this year. Kagame’s priority was economics and economic integration. For Egypt, the fight against terrorism is more important, especially after the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
CAR: On the Road to Peace
On February 2, the government of the Central African Republic signed a peace agreement with 14 armed groups operating in the country. Thousands of people fell victim to civilian wars that broke out in 2013.
Nigeria: Bloody elections
On February 23-24, general elections were held in Nigeria, with President Muhammadu Buhari claiming victory. His main challenger was former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, 72. Both applicants represent the country’s Muslim north. The media called the elections the bloodiest ever seen. At least 39 people were killed by extremist attacks.
Australia: Government under threat
On February 12, the Australian government suffered a crushing defeat during the first day of the first session of parliament in 2019. Members of parliament insisted refugees held in offshore facilities have the right to be transferred to Australia for medical treatment. Prime Minister Scott Morrison opposed the policy. This is the first time since 1929 that the ruling government was defeated in the Parliament on an issue they were prioritizing. According to local political analysts, the situation indicates a high probability of early elections.