Yellow Vest Protests in France and the UK
France’s Yellow Vest protests continued into the first month of the new year showing French society unrelenting rejection of the globalist policies imposed by President Macron.
In addition, “yellow vest” style protests were held in the UK, with about 1000 people taking part in the January 12 demonstration. The organizers of the action were The People’s Assembly Against Austerity. Despite the movements insignificant presence outside of France, the yellow vests popularity demonstrates the relevance of populism in Europe, where the protests have had a response in almost every country. In the UK, the first steps of the fledgling movement coincided with parliament’s attempts to block Prime-minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan of and the rise of tensions in the society linked to Brexit.
Serbia: Protests against Vucic
In Serbia, protests against President Alexander Vucic continued throughout January. They began back in December 2018, following the beating of opposition leader Borko Stefanovich in Krusevac last November.
The protesters, who represent the entire political spectrum of the country, demand the resignation of the president and are opposed to the suppression of the opposition. They are also rejecting a possible agreement with the separatists in Kosovo. The Serbian president is accused of plans to reach an agreement with Pristina, essentially recognizing the independence of Kosovo. This would open the way for Serbia to enter the EU and NATO.
Vucic tried to garner support from Russian President Vladimir Putin who visited Serbia. January 17. The rest of the world has been more or less neutral on the question.
France and Germany sign the Aachen Agreement
On January 22 in the German city of Aachen, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel signed an agreement to deepen cooperation and integration between the two states. The partners intend to strengthen interaction in a number of areas – economics, foreign policy and defense, including protection against possible aggression by other countries. Macron and Merkel also reiterated their plan for a European army.
The Aachen agreement demonstrates that within the EU there are smaller sub-allaiances and that the Franco-German alliance is one of these micro-formations. The fact that the Aachen agreement duplicates Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty shows that Berlin and Paris do not trust NATO as a collective security body.
Erdogan in Moscow
On January 23, 2018, Turkish President Recep Erdogan met with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The main topic of the talks was the situation in Syria and the United States’ decision to withdraw its troops from this country. Special attention was paid to the Idlib problem, where, according to the Turkish Foreign Minister, a number of US allies are trying to thwart the Turkish-Russian agreement. Erdogan’s visit to Moscow showed that Russia and Turkey are trying to maintain a close relationship in Syria despite a serious change in the geopolitical situation.
Ukraine: Petro Poroshenko seeks re-election
On January 29, the current President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, announced his intention to participate in the new presidential election. The elections will be held on March 31, 2019. In his electoral speech, Poroshenko said he strongly supports a course to eventually join the EU and NATO. He named Russia the main enemy of Ukraine, despite calling for “cold peace” with Moscow. There is a great chance that, despite his low ratings, Poroshenko will be able to win. His main advantages are the support of the nationalist electorate, administrative resources, the support of regional authorities and Ukraine’s oligarchs.
In January, Donald Trump set a record – the longest shutdown in the history of the country. On January 12, the Trump administration overtook the Clinton administration’s record for longest suspension of state bodies. The shutdown occurred following disagreements between the President and Congress over funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border.
On January 26, Trump announced a temporary suspension of the shutdown and readiness for compromise with the Democrats. The Democrats, however, are unwilling to budge on contributing any money toward the wall, calling it “immoral.”
The government shutdown crisis demonstrates Trump’s effort to make good on his signature election campaign promise. At the same time, the crisis indicates that the coming year will see increasing partisanship and strife on capitol hill.
Brazil: US Base
On January 1, 2018, the inauguration of the new President, Jair Bolsonaro, took place in Brazil. Simultaneously, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo arrived in Brazil. In negotiations with Bolsonaro, he agreed to strengthen cooperation between Brazil and the United States. The new Brazilian president also promised to put pressure on Cuba and Venezuela.
In an interview with local media, Jair Bolsonaro said that he was in favor of an alliance with the United States. He did not rule out that an American military base could appear in Brazil. In addition, Bolsonar said that he was worried about Russia’s support of Venezuela and Moscow’s military activities in the region.
The pro-American course of Brazil’s leadership will hinder the process of liberating Latin America from the unipolar hegemony of the United States and significantly weaken the BRICS alliance. Brazil will be the United States’ new main ally in the region, which will make it difficult for such actors as Russia, China and Turkey to make headway on the continent.
Venezuela: dual power
On January 10, Nicolas Maduro was re-inaugurated as the office of President of Venezuela. However, the opposition controlling the country’s parliament refused to recognize Maduro as head of state, having boycotted the presidential elections last year. Juan Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s opposition-led Congress, declared himself to be the new president of the country.
On January 22, the President of the United States recognized Guaido as President of Venezuela. The crisis of competing presidential claims aggravated the already dire situation in the country. The world community has split. Nicolas Maduro is supported by Turkey, Russia, China, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Guaido was supported by the US, Brazil and their Latin American allies. The EU issued an ultimatum to Maduro, calling for new elections.
All the levers of control are currently still in the hands of Maduro. However, the US and its new main ally in the region Brazil are creating the preconditions to challenge the legitimacy of Maduro’s government. The result of these efforts may even be a military intervention against Venezuela.
USA: a message to the Arabs
On January 10, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo delivered a speech in Cairo, in which he outlined the main priorities of the United States in the Middle East. He called the US a “Force for good in the Middle East ” and stated the need to contain Iran.
Pompeo also said that the United States, despite the withdrawal of troops from Syria, will not completely leave the Middle East.
Pompeo announced that the United States is working on the formation of a new Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), which will counter threats in the region and promote economic and energy cooperation between states.
USA: negotiations with the Taliban
At the end of January, the next round of negotiations between representatives of the US and the Taliban on the possible withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the signing of a peace agreement came to a close. Following the talks, US officials showed a restrained optimism regarding the outcome. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that the United States is ultimately seeking to remove its troops from Afghanistan altogether.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani expressed concern about the talks, as his government has not participated in them. However, it is highly doubtful that the United States will completely leave Afghanistan anytime soon. Washington needs control over Afghanistan in order to exert influence in Central Asia. This region is equally important for opponents of the United States: China, Iran and Russia in particular. A complete withdrawal of troops would strengthen their position, and represent an admission of defeat on Washington’s part. However, if Taliban leadership agrees to maintain American military presence, a significant number of their militants will move to more radical organizations, including ISIS. This could lead to serious security problems for every country in Eurasia.
Turkey: Security Zone in Syria
Throughout January 2019, talks were held between Turkey and the United States over northern Syria. On January 20, US President Donald Trump and Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan decided to speed up the negotiation process with a phone call.
Turkey is seeking to secure its southern border. Erdogan has shown that Turkey is ready for negotiations with all the players involved in the Syrian conflict and ready to take more responsibility for the region.
Huawei – hostage negotiations
On January 28, Acting US Attorney General Matthew Whitaker announced that American authorities had filed additional charges against Chinese cell-phone company Huawei and its financial director Meng Wanzhou. Among the charges are industrial espionage and the breaking of the US sanctions against Iran.
Meng Wanzhou was detained last December in Canada. Now Canada intends to extradite her to the United States. In addition to the ongoing technological rivalry between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, political rivalry is a likely motivation.
The United States is punishing China for cooperating with Iran and attempting to demonstrate its superiority on the world stage. Another motivation is the latest round of trade negotiations, which began in late January 2019 in Washington. The United States will seek concessions from China in exchange for Meng Wanzhou’s freedom.
Soros v. China
On January 24, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, American billionaire and globalist George Soros called Chinese leader Xi Jinping the world’s most dangerous opponent of the “open society.” Back in 2010, Soros called on China to take responsibility for the development of the world… his changing attitude suggests that China does not fit into the West’s strategy of globalization. It is also a sign of the anti-Chinese consensus among the American elites. Soros is against China as much as his main political opponent, US President Donald Trump.
Japan: claims to the South Kuriles
The territorial dispute between Russia and Japan was actively discussed during negotiations between Vladimir Putin and Shinzo Abe in Moscow on January 22, 2019. They discussed a range of prospects for cooperation including a peace treaty. Nonetheless, the positions of both parties remained unchanged – both Moscow and Tokyo claim 4 islands of the South Kuriles, which are currently under Russian control.
It is likely that the excitement around the islands is being motivated by spring elections to the upper house of the Japanese parliament. On the threshold of elections, Abe’s party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, needs to demonstrate patriotism and achieve concrete diplomatic success.
Unsuccessful coup d’etat in Gabon
On January 7, an unsuccessful coup attempt took place in Gabon. 4 rebels seized a state-owned broadcasting station and announced the removal of President Ali Bongo. However, the military quickly suppressed the rebellion.
On the eve of the attempted coup in Gabon the US military send 80 people. There are also 300 French soldiers located in the country. Gabon, a country rich in oil and gas fields, is trying to establish friendly relations with Russia and China. The failed coup may be partly related to external influence.
The Democratic Republic of Congo: Transfer of Power
Opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi was recently elected president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in contentious elections. The elections themselves were held at the end of last year, but the results were only announced on January 10.
However, the representatives of other opposition leaders and the Catholic Church said that the real winner was the other opposition leader – Martin Fayyulu. Tshisekedi is accused of conspiring with former President Joseph Kabila. Joseph Kabila’s Common Front for Congo ( FCC ) also came out ahead in the parliamentary elections. This means that the new president will still have to work with the old elite.
Maarten Fayulu is a former head of ExxonMobil in Africa with extensive transnational connections. His opponents from the opposition and the current government represent the nation’s elites and are ready for a political course with greater independence from the West. In any event, a bloodless transition of power in the DRC, where decades of civil conflict ruined the country – is itself a major step itself.
Australia: security forces training
On January 30, Australian Federal Police announced plans to begin training police in Papua – New Guinea and other Pacific countries. The goal is to strengthen Australian influence in the region and ensure regional security.