Monthly review: December 2018

Monthly review: December 2018


Merkel’s successor elected

On December 7, the Christian Democratic Congress was held in Germany. A new party leader was elected by a majority of votes to take over after Angela Merkel. Merkel’s successor will be Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the former Prime Minister of the State of Saar and the Secretary-General of the CDU. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer is personally close to Angela Merkel and is very likely to continue her policies if the CDU / CSU bloc wins the next elections to the Bundestag.

Terrorist attack in Strasbourg

On December 11, in the center of Strasbourg France, a man opened fire on passersby with a machine gun, killing 5 and injuring over a dozen. Police officers wounded the criminal at the scene, but he managed to escape.Later, on December 14, a local resident was killed during the arrest. Police found a video where the criminal swore allegiance to the terrorist group ISIS.

The attack became a useful vehicle for the French authorities, who used it as a pretext to try to stop the “yellow vest” protests.

Chaotic Brexit

On December 13,  British MPs from the Conservative Party were on the verge of casting a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Theresa May. The vote was scheduled due to the severe opposition to May’s Brexit plan, which May had previously approved with the European Commission. However, this plan was not officially voted on by parliament.

The main problem with the document, according to critics, is the uncertain future of Northern Ireland and its borders with the Republic of Ireland. This, in turn, may once again spur separatist sentiment in Ulster.

While Theresa May remained party leader,  she was forced to make a promise not to run for Prime Minister in the next election.

The next day, Teresa May attended the EU summit. She did not manage to achieve the concessions she strove to achieve for Great Britain.

The fact that Parliament is determined not to accept her plan, raises concerns that Brexit will most likely pass without agreement from the EU. This could have  unpredictable consequences for the economy and politics of the United Kingdom.Lack of support from more than a quarter of Tory deputies makes Theresa May’s position very weak.

Government crisis in Belgium

On December 21, King Philippe of Belgium accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Charles Michel and his government. On December 18, Charles Michel announced his resignation at a meeting of parliament. Earlier, five members of the government representing Flemish nationalists (of the N-VAParty)resigned in protest of the prime minister’s decision to sign the UN migration pact they had rejected, effectively breaking the governmental coalition.

The next elections will be held in May 2019. Increased political instability in Belgium could lead to the strengthening of forces outside the current structures of power.

The Yellow vests shake France

Throughout December, yellow vest protests continued in France, as complaints regarding fuel price hikes slowly turned into general rebellion. Despite attempts by the government to pacify the unrest, the demonstrations went ahead as planned. President Emmanuel Macron’s ratings, meanwhile, continue to fall steadily.

This December, Macron’s approval rate reached its lowest level ever against the backdrop of the massive protests throughout France: only 23% of French people positively evaluate the president’s work while in office.


Parliamentary elections in Armenia: Pashinyan’s victory

On December 9,  the first early parliamentary elections were held in Armenia, which were won by the “My Step” bloc of acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, pulling in more than 880 thousand votes (70.43%). The Prosperous Armenia Party (8.37%) and Enlightened Armenia Party (6.37%) were also elected to the National Assembly.The former ruling party – the Republican Party – did not enter in the parliament, as they did not pass the necessary  5% threshold.In terms of foreign policy, nationalist outlooks have been used to mobilize the electorate, a trend that will certainly continue.

Pashinyan will continue to insist on the inclusion of the unrecognized Armenian government of Nagorno-Karabakh in the negotiation process on the future of Azerbaijan’s uncontrolled region. Such a policy will undoubtedly spark opposition from Baku, meaning we can expect the situation to escalate.

Middle East

Global Migrants Pact

UN members adopted the Global pact for safe, orderly and regular migration today in Morocco, after 6 months of discussions between more than 150 countries.

While the new document cannot force states to follow the rules it lays out, it does have a strong advisory and “team-building” nature. At the same time, on the European level, pressure is being put on countries to comply: the document emphasizes that a given state cannot independently resolve its own migration issues.

According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the global pact is necessary to facilitate market access for legal migrants. He believes that simplified legal migration will reduce the number of illegal immigrants. His speech covered support for migrants, providing them with employment as well as their wellbeing at all migratory stages.

However, not everyone is optimistic about the idea, and many refused to sign the pact, including the USA, Australia, Israel, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Belgium and Bulgaria.

Those opposed to the pact say it will have a reverse effect, and that migrants will receive too much privilege.

Turkey: US sells Patriot air defense system

On December 8,  the US State Department and the Pentagon approved a deal to supply Turkey with the Patriot air defense system at a cost of $ 3.5 billion. Now, the decision must be approved by Congress. For more than ten years, Ankara has attempted to negotiate with the United States regarding the purchase of air defense systems. The situation moved from a dead stop only when Turkey decided to buy the Russian S-400 system. Both Moscow and in Ankara emphasized that regardless of the new deal with the US, the S-400 sale is already being implemented, and will not be canceled.

Turkey is strengthening its air and missile defense capabilities significantly, becoming one of the strongest powers in the region in this regard. The US’ offer to sell the Patriot system demonstrates that Ankara is a very important ally for Washington that they do not intend to lose. Ankara can use this fact to promote its own interests and maneuver between other major powers.

US withdraws troops from Syria

On December 19, US President Donald Trump announced that he was beginning to withdraw troops from Syria. The formal reason – the defeat of ISIS. However, the fact that Trump spoke with Erdogan shortly before this announcement demonstrates the importance of the Turkish factor in making this decision. Later, Trump stated that he believes Turkey will be able to finish off ISIS in Syria. In addition, Trump’s decision is the fulfillment of a pre-election promise as well as a partial return to the politics of realism and American populism he promoted during the campaign (the US got involved in the Syrian conflict because of the globalist aspirations of the Obama administration).

Trump’s decision plays into the hands of Ankara above all. The United States has de facto abandoned its Kurdish allies (although the Americans deny it). As a result, separatist and terrorist forces are losing their former support, and Turkey can freely conduct operations in the Manbij area in northern Syria, maximizing their influence.

Damascus Iran and Russia all stand to gain from the new arrangement.


Presidential Elections held in the Democratic Republic of Congo

On December 30, presidential elections were held in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Voting was postponed several times, first two years ago and then again last week, but the results are finally being tallied. The results will be announced in January 2019.

The DRC is a country torn apart by conflict and strife, and one of the least stable states in Africa. A state of new civil war following the current elections is a possibility depending on who claims victory.

The main candidate for the post of president is ex-Interior Minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari. He has already officially been named the successor to the current head of state, Joseph Kabila.

In September, the Supreme Court of the Democratic Republic of the Congo ruled that the country’s former vice-president and main opposition candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba, could not take part in the elections. Bemba instead supported another candidate – Martin Fayulu, a former Exxon Mobil manager. His possible victory may lead to the increased influence of foreign capital in the country.

Protests in Sudan

For several weeks, Sudan was shaken by thousands of protests. They began on 19 December reportedly due to a rise in bread prices. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, however, declared  that “traitors and mercenaries” are exploiting a difficult situation “in the interests of the enemy.”

On the one hand, the protests have a real domestic political basis and cannot be connected solely with Sudan’s foreign policy. However, recently, Sudan has been actively cooperating with Turkey and Russia. Ankara recently received the opportunity from Sudan to rent a port on the Red Sea with almost full ownership. Russia was also offered this opportunity. In addition, Moscow is interested in mining Sudan’s minerals and using the country’s territory for the construction of the Trans-African Railway. In December 2018, Omar Bashir became the first Arab leader to meet with Bashar Assad since the start of the civil war in Syria.

Sudan’s turn toward a multi-polar world is encouraging the globalists to turn the country’s internal strife toward its own advantage.


North Korea: rejection of denuclearization

North Korea has refused to disarm unilaterally until the United States eliminates the threat coming from its side, the Korean Central News Agency reported December 20.

The statement was made against the news of the US withdrawal from Syria. The DPRK demonstrates that it does not intend to give up its sovereignty, which it sees as being guaranteed by its nuclear capability. The US is proposing to reduce its military presence in the region, potentially even withdrawing troops from South Korea.

Japan: permission for migrants

On December 9, the Japanese parliament reached a decision allowing the use of foreign workers in the country. The amendments to local legislation will enter into force in April 2019. Previously, Japan was one of the few countries in the world where only the labor of its own citizens was allowed.

The decision was motivated by Japan’s aging and dwindling population numbers.

Bangladesh: women’s war

On December 30, parliamentary elections were held in Bangladesh. Their peculiarity is that the two main political forces of the Muslim country are headed by women

The favorite on the ballot is the party of the Prime Minister of the country Sheikh Hasina “Awami League”, followed by the oppositionist Nationalist Party of Bangladesh, led by Khaleda Zia, who is currently imprisoned.

North America

The resignation of “Mad Dog” Mattis

On December 20, US President Donald Trump announced that Pentagon Chief James Mattis, known by the nickname “Mad Dog”, will be leaving his post.

The US president stressed that, despite disagreements, Mattis will quit the service with distinction at the end of February.

In general, Mattis’ leave is related to plans for the withdrawal of troops from Syria, as well as the possible withdrawal of the US military from Afghanistan.

However, paying attention to the President’s working team, there are potentially deeper concerns involved.Trump will put his stake on new people with a totally different outlook, making serious changes to his working team.

Mattis is last of the group of generals (Kelly, Mattis, Dunford, McMaster), who is announced they would be leaving the Trump Administration. These people formed an inner circle in the US government during the first two years of Trump Administration and held a great deal of power. Trump’s team change indicates that he might have new plans for US foreign policy.

Christmas shutdown

On December 22, the US government shutdown occurred, temporarily suspending numerous government departments.

The partial cessation of the work of the federal government, caused by the lack of a compromise between the Republicans and Democrats on the budget for the next year, affected 800,000 civil servants in the United States. The State Department, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Homeland Security remain without funding.

The main stumbling block is Donald Trump’s demand that Congress allocate money for the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico to combat illegal migration.

Trump in the conflict zone

On December 27, US President Donald Trump visited troops stationed in Iraq. The president arrived on an American base for an unplanned visit – even the Iraqi authorities were not notified in advance.  Donald Trump made a speech to the bases’ personnel where he said the United States should not act as the world’s police force.

Trump’s action, from one point of view, is simply a tradition of American presidents visiting troops in a conflict zone. On the other hand, this may be a signal to the hawks that at least the United States is not withdrawing troops from Iraq. At the same time, speaking about the reluctance to be the world’s policeman, Trump managed to inspire American populists, his most active supporters.

Latin America

Mexico: Inauguration of Manuel Lopez Obrador

On December 1, populist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who won the presidential elections in Mexico in  July of this year, officially became the head of state.

Lopez Obrador made it clear that he intends to change the vector of development of the country. First of all, in regard to security issues that in recent years have become dire.  In addition, Obrador intends to change the state’s strategy of combating drug trafficking and revise part of the foreign contracts for the exploitation of oil fields in the country.


Australia: the Stars are calling

On December 11, Australian authorities announced the creation of a national space agency headquartered in Adelaide. State investment in the new cluster will amount to more than $ 40 million in the first phase. The new agency will open a wide range of opportunities for national business and will provide an opportunity to enter the global space industry.

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