Monthly review: November 2018

Monthly review: November 2018


Preparing for Brexit

On November 25th, a summit on Brexit was held by EU leaders. The attendees approved British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan which had been previously agreed upon by the European Commission and the UK government. However, the adoption of this document caused uproar within the UK and cost  May two ministers who resigned in protest.  Brexit minister Dominic Raab was among them.

On the one hand, the approval of the Brexit plan opens the procedure for the UK to leave the EU, on the other hand, a dispute over the conditions of the ext may well lead to Theresa May ’s resignation in the long run.

Macron and Merkel: for a pan-European army

In November, the leaders of France and Germany came out in support of the creation of a pan-European army. This statement was first made by French President Emmanuel Macron on November 6, 2018. He noted that Europe should be able to defend itself from the United States, Russia and China. On November 11, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a similar statement. The messages provoked a negative reaction from US President Donald Trump. Later on, the US representative at the EU Gordon Sundland demanded clarification from Europeans.

In the context of deteriorating relations between the EU and the USA, the idea of ​​a European army looks sensible. From a geopolitical point of view, this is a step along the path of Euro-continentalism aimed at turning Europe into a sphere independent from the US. Even given the preservation of NATO, the Europeans are clearly striving to become a force comparable to the United States within the bloc. The remaining NATO members who are not members of the EU risk being marginalized if they remain in the North Atlantic Alliance.

Paris: 100 years after the end of the First World War

On November 11 in Paris, commemorative events dedicated to the centenary of the end of the First World War took place. However, French President Emmanuel Macron tried to use the celebration to raise his own prestige. Because of this, at the insistence of Paris, a meeting between the presidents of the United States and Russia, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, was canceled. However, other leaders were able to take advantage of the situation for foreign policy consultations. Turkish President Recep Erdogan managed to talk with both Trump and Putin, demonstrating the opportunity to establish working contact with the leaders of both superpowers.

Protests against Macron

In France, on November 17 and November 24, protest actions were held against the authorities’ policy to raise gasoline prices. One of the growth factors was the environmental greenhouse gas tax imposed by the government. Protesters demanded a lower tax burden. However, French Prime Minister Eduard Philippe said on November 18 that the authorities did not intend to cancel the environmental fee.

The protesters demand not only tax cuts, but also the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron. His rating hit record lows- only 24% of French support his policy.

Middle East

Sanctions against Iran

On November 4th, the US re-imposed all previously frozen sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, most importantly, the ban on the export of Iranian oil. However, many US allies, such as Turkey, said they would not comply with the new restrictions. The new sanctions are unlikely to seriously hit Iran since Tehran has developed mechanisms to thwart them. Moreover, by introducing sanctions, the United States thereby strengthens the position of the most radical conservatives in Iran itself and the positions of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. First, they created mechanisms for circumventing sanctions. Secondly, they have always been against dialogue with the United States, demonstrating that negotiations with the United States are in vain – to their advantage.

TurkStream is half ready

On November 19, 2018, in Istanbul, Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the end of construction of the deep sea part of the TurkStream gas pipeline. Thus, the infrastructure for the supply of gas to Turkey is completely ready. In total, the pipeline has two lines with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters each.

In 2019, gas supplies to Turkey will begin, the increase and cheapening of energy carriers will reduce production costs and spur the country’s economic development. Prospects for gas exports will turn Turkey into the most important gas hub, supplying the Balkans and the entire Mediterranean.

The Khashoggi case – double standards

Despite Turkey’s attempts to achieve justice in the case of journalist Jemal Khashoggi, who was assassinated in the Istanbul consulate of Saudi Arabia Khashoggi, Western countries have shown their double standards, refusing to investigate the case or seriously sanction Saudi authorities. In Saudi Arabia itself, the authorities have shifted responsibility to the participants who will be executed.

In turn, US President Donald Trump on November 20th stated that in order to put pressure on Iran, he would not impose sanctions against Riyadh, although the Saudi authorities are likely responsible for the murder of a journalist. Trump even thanked the Saudis for lowering oil prices. Only some European countries such as Denmark, Germany and Finland have suspended arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi crown prince planned to kill Iranian officials a year before Khashoggi

The American newspaper New York Times made a sensational statement. Top officials of the Saudi intelligence close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year tried to assassinate Iranian officials, including Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the ‘Quds Force’, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). They developed a $ 2 billion plan to use a small group of businessmen and their private companies to destroy the Iranian economy by buying foreign currency and the gold coins in Iran.

Afrin: Turkey’s new operation

On November 19th, the formations of the Syrian Free Army (SSA) with the support of the Turkish army began a special operation in the Syrian Afrinne against several hundred extremists from the Shuhada gang Al-Sharqiyah “associated with the Hayat Tahrir ash-sham. ”

The reason for the operation was that a group of armed men from “ Shuhada Al-Sharqiyah “began to engage in robbery in Afrin, oppressing the civilian population.

Turkey’s actions are due to the need to demonstrate the ability to bring order to the areas under its protection in Syria.

“Bloody feast” in honor of the Prophet of Islam in Kabul

The celebrations of Mawlid al-Nabi – birthday of the Prophet Mohammed –  in Kabul gave way to mortal grief. A bomber carried out a suicide bombing struck in the wedding hall of the Uranus Hotel in Kabul. Top Islamic scholars gathered for celebrating and making a religion ceremony to honor the memory of the Prophet of Islam there. During the blast in the hall were about a thousand people. At least 83 of them were injured and 50 people died in a suicide bombing struck. The attack has become one of the most deadly attacks in Kabul in recent months. So far, no one of terrorist groups has taken credit for incident. The Taliban denied its involvement and condemned the terrorist attack on the birthday of the Prophet of Islam.  A top religious scholars  blamed the ISIS for the deadly bombing. But, this terrorist group has not claimed responsibility for a suicide attack yet.


Continuing political crisis in Sri Lanka

On November 9th President of Sri Lanka, Maitripala Sirisena, dissolved parliament after his Freedom Party announced that it did not receive a majority in approving a candidate for the post of prime minister of the country.  Parliament refused to obey the order of dissolution.

October 26th, the President removed Prime Minister Ranil Vikramasinghe from power, which led to a protracted political crisis.

The US and South Korea: More payment

During the last tour of negotiations in Honolulu, representatives of the United States and South Korea could not reach a compromise on the issue of paying for American troops in the country, a source in the South Korean Foreign Ministry reported to the Ronhap news agency.

Meanwhile, at the end of this year, the Special Measures Agreement between the United States of America and the Republic of Korea, which governs the stay of the US military in the south of the Korean Peninsula, is to be ended and the new version to be approved. According to his latest version, the South Korean side annually paid 960 billion won ($ 850 million) for the stay of the American military on its territory. Now the American side demands to increase this amount to 1.5 trillion won ($ 1.3 billion)

However, South Korea refuses to pay as much as the Americans want from it. The conflict reflects the approach of the US administration at Trump: a review of allied relations in terms of the material benefits of the United States. It is possible that this course of Americans will help South Korea to realize the need for reunification and the abandonment of expensive and meaningless American presence.

ASEAN Summit

The ASEAN summit took place in Singapore on November 11-15th, including China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the US.

At the same time, the Asean Plus Three Summit and East Asia Summit took place. The summits demonstrated global interest in Southeast Asia. This region is turning into an important knot of interests of the leading powers of the world.

Taiwan: the return of the Kuomintang?

On November 24th, local elections were held in Taiwan. According to their results, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was defeated. Its candidates won only in 6 of the 22 counties, cities and special municipalities. The Guomindang Party, which ruled Taiwan for most of its history since 1948, received control over 15 territorial entities of Taiwan. The election results indicate the prospects for the return of the Kuomintang to power after the general elections of 2020. At the same time, the Taiwanese, in a national referendum, opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage.


Rongun hydropower plant: energy development

On November 16th, the official launch of the Rogun hydropower plant took place in Tajikistan. The new hydropower plant, whose construction began in 1976, after reaching full capacity, will be able to satisfy the Central Asian republic’s need for electricity.  By height – 335 meters – it is the largest hydroelectric power station in the world.

Previously, the main opponent of the construction was Uzbekistan, but after the death of Islam Karimov, the country changed its attitude towards the project. In addition to promoting the economic development of Central Asia, the new project also has export potential. In particular, electricity can be sold to Pakistan.

CSTO: Belarus v. Armenia

Within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the confrontation between Armenia and Belarus is growing. Belarus, on the threshold of the November 8th summit of the leaders of the organization, declared its claims to the post of Secretary General. Yury Khachaturov, who previously held the post of CSTO Secretary General, is being persecuted by the new authorities of Armenia since he was a protege of the regime of Serj Sargsyan. However, Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, would like to have his appointee at the head of the military organization’s organization.

Nikol Pashinyan criticized Alexander Lukashenko for discussing the appointment of the CSTO Secretary General with the Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Belarus and made a number of harsh statements against Lukashenko personally.

On November 20, at a meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Alexander Lukashenko agreed on the supply of weapons to Baku, which further angered Armenia. Belarus, like Russia, is interested in seeing Baku – a major trade partner and buyer of weapons – as an observer in the CSTO. However, Yerevan is against the idea.

The actions of the new Armenian leadership are hardly constructive, they bring new difficulties of the work of the CSTO and impede the development of this organization.

Tension in the Sea of ​​Azov

The Sea of ​​Azov – the inland sea of ​​Russia and Ukraine, is turning into a new hot spot in Eurasia. In response to Ukraine’s confiscation of Russian civilian vessels, Russia conducted special measures for the inspection of vessels entering the Sea of ​​Azov.

On November 25th, Ukraine initiated a military provocation in the region. Several Ukrainian warships illegally entered Russian territorial waters. As a result, the ships and their crews were detained by Russian border guards. In response, Kiev introduced martial law.

Earlier, the European Union and the United Kingdom declared their special interests in the Azov Sea. It is possible that London and its NATO allies will also provide military support to Kiev.

Salome Zourabichvili – President of Georgia

For the first time, a woman will become President of Georgia. Candidate Salome Zurabishvili, supported by the ruling party “Georgian Dream”, won almost 60% of the vote in the second round of elections, which was held on November 29th. She beat Grigol Vashadze – a candidate from the United National Movement opposition party founded by the former President Mikhail Saakashvili.   The election of the “Georgian Dream” candidate guarantees that there will be no major changes in Georgia’s foreign policy. The country will continue its gradual course towards Euro-Atlantic integration.

North America

USA: midterm elections

On November 6th, mid-term elections were held in the US. The Democrats won a majority in the house, while Republicans retained an advantage in the Senate. In addition to congressional elections, elections for governor were also held.

Overall the Democratic Party gained a slight advantage, although no side could truly call itself the winner. The democrats did not get the victory they hoped for. Republicans lost the house, but the new MPs from the Republican Party are largely loyal to Donald Trump. For the US president, little will change.

It is unlikely that the elections will seriously change the political situation in the United States. The deepening split in American society will increase. The lower house of Congress, however, will try to block the initiatives of the presidential administration and launch new investigations against Trump.

Mueller vs Trump

After the completion of the mid-term elections in the United States, the Commission of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller resumed its work. On November 21st, Donald Trump answered the investigation’s questions about his possible ties with Russia. At the same time, his former adviser Roger Stone was accused of having links with Julian Assange. In addition, on November 28th, Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen stated that he lied before the investigation when he said that Trump had no business interests in Russia after January 2016. According to him, during the election campaign, until July 2016, he tried to launch the construction of a Trump Tower in Moscow. This information can seriously hurt Trump’s image and may be one of the factors that caused Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to be canceled at the G 20 summit in Argentina.

Latin America

Signing the USMCA deal

On November 30th, President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto signed the new US Mexico Canada Agreement – o r USMCA – in Buenos Aires at the G20. The new agreement will replace NAFTA. This is the largest foreign policy success of the Donald Trump administration in the Western Hemisphere.


Ethiopia: coup attempt and ethnic purge

On November 12th in Ethiopia, the attorney general accused the leadership of the local state security agency of an attempt to kill the country’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed. The attempted assassination took place in July 2018. This was followed by the arrest of more than 40 security officers.

The arrests testify to the consolidation of the power of the prime minister, a native of the Oromo people, while his opponents belong to the Tigrayan people. Between the two, an ongoing ethnic struggle is taking place within Ethiopian leadership.

The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front has accused the leadership of ethnic cleansing. However, the actions of the Prime Minister – belonging to the Pentecostal sect with roots in the US, were supported by international human rights organizations, in particular, Amnesty International. This indicates that pro-Western actions may soon follow, in particular, the sale of national resources to foreign companies.

Chad: re-establishing ties with Israel

On November 25th, the Chadian President Idriss Deby visited Israel. During the visit, he spoke in favor of restoring diplomatic ties with that country. They were interrupted in 1972. Chad is counting on Israeli investment and help in the fight against terrorism. The infamous terrorist group Boko Haram is still present in the country’s territory.

Israel, in turn, is interested in access to African natural resources and the acquisition of new allies in the UN. For this purpose, it is seeking to obtain observer status in the African Union.

The Pacific

USA and Australia modernize base in Papua New Guinea

Washington will participate in the expansion of the Lombrum naval base on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. This was stated by Vice President Mike Pence,  speaking on November 17th at the APEC summit in the country’s capital city. Previously, these plans were reported by representatives of the island nation and Australia.

The goal of the project is to contain China’s penetration into Melanesia. In addition, the base can serve as a reference point for operations in the area of ​​the Malay Archipelago and the South China Sea. The base is out of range of Chinese ballistic missiles, unlike Guam. The last time US ships were stationed there was during the Second World War. Now, against the backdrop of growing confrontation between China and the United States in the Pacific, the base has again become popular.

The APEC Summit: no final declaration

The APEC summit this year ended without a final declaration due to disagreements between the United States and China. On the eve of the meeting, US Vice President Mike Pence and Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke at the forum making mutual criticisms.

The event was held on November 17-18 in the capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby.

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January 2022