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Monthly Review: July 2018

Monthly Review: July 2018

Europe

NATO summit: Realist Trump against European liberals

July 11-12 in Brussels the NATO summit took place. The behavior of the President of the United States Donald Trump attracted the attention of most of the world media. He firstly criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for buying gas from Russia and refusing to raise military spending to a level agreed to at past summits (2% of GDP). Then Trump demanded from other countries to increase the share of military spending to 4%. However, most European allies opposed the demand.

At the NATO summit, several prepared decisions were made: the creation of two new command centers to facilitate the logistics of the transfer of American troops to the continent – one in the US and another in Germany, the official invitation of Macedonia to the Alliance, confirmation of the decisions of the Warsaw Summit regarding the future membership in NATO of Ukraine and Georgia. However, the summit demonstrated the existence of serious ideological disagreements within this military bloc between Europe and the United States. US President Donald Trump as a realist views NATO as an instrument for protecting US national interests, including the interests of the US military-industrial complex. Europeans see Alliance in liberal optics – as an instrument to protect common (liberal and democratic) values.

Trump’s visit to the UK: hard Brexit

On July 12-15, just after the NATO Summit had ended President Donald Trump visited the United Kingdom. July 13, talks were held between Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May. The American president demanded that the British prime minister take a tougher negotiating position on negotiations with the EU on Brexit. Otherwise, according to Trump, the future of trade relations between London and Washington will be in peril. Also during the visit, the American leader gave an interview to the British tabloid the Sun, where he stated that he considered former British foreign secretary Boris Johnson to be a good candidate for the post of Prime Minister. Several days before, Johnson resigned accusing Theresa May of turning Britain into an EU colony.

 The American leader intervened in the internal affairs of Great Britain, demonstrating its vassal status and  the desire to use London against the EU adding more havoc into British internal politics .

Trump and Putin in Helsinki: great bargain

July 16 in the capital of Finland the summit of Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump took place. It was the first bilateral meeting of the two leaders, who in the past had encountered only on the sidelines of multinational forums. The main agreements voiced by the leaders were: joint protection of Israel’s security, coordination in Syria, the desire to coordinate issues of strategic stability (nuclear weapons), joint work to stabilize the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed practical directions for cooperation in the following areas: exerting pressure on Ukraine to implement the Minsk Agreements, harmonizing prices for natural gas on a global scale, assisting the American justice system in interrogating suspects involved in interference in US elections in 2016 . In exchange, Russia wants to interrogate the former US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, and the initiator of the Magnitsky act, William Browder. They are suspected of stealing more than 1 billion dollars from Russia. Half of this sum, according to Putin, they invested in the campaign of Hillary Clinton. With such a gesture, the Russian leader demonstrated the possibility of a realistic union of the two states and designated the main enemy – the union of the transnational oligarchy and the liberal establishment.

Also as it was leaked after the summit, the propositions on Ukraine were discussed too, including the referendums on the special status of Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.

The Movement: against Soros

The former chief strategist of the White House and the head of the Donald Trump presidential campaign Stephen Bannon announced 21 of July that he will create a new pan-European populist network – the Movement. The aim is victory in the elections in European parliament in 2019, and countering forces of left-liberalism, first of all the network of  infamous George Soros. The Movement will provide financial and technological resources to European right-wing populism and intended to create a friendly base for Trump’s America force, which may be used as a pressure tool in its relations with Europe.

Africa

BRICS: The African Dimension

July 25-27 in the largest city of South Africa, Johannesburg, the BRICS summit was held. Particular attention was paid to the development of the African continent. China and India are active in Africa. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is also ready to establish a special format for relations with the region -“Russia-Africa Summit” . Thus, Moscow has indicated that it considers this continent to be a zone of its special interests.

Another important point of the summit was the presence of Turkish leader Recep Erdogan on it, after a tour of African countries. Turkey has positioned itself at this summit as the leader of the Islamic world and is also interested in developing relations with African countries and joining BRICS.

The summit demonstrated potential of BRICS to develop and counter western hegemony despite the Western efforts to destabilize the union from within.

Ethiopia and Eritrea: the path to peace

On July 9, in Asmara the capital of Eritrea, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiyeh Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki signed a declaration of peace and friendship. The war between the two countries was going on in 1998-2000, but 18 years of relations remained tense. Now Ethiopia and Eritrea have agreed on economic and political cooperation.

This could give landlocked Ethiopia access to Eritrean ports on the Red Sea. Of the foreign powers, China is interested in the export of its projects in Ethiopia to the sea,  and China wins the most. However, there is a danger that the agreement with Eritrea will provoke a protest among a number of tribes of Ethiopia, which believes that some territorial concessions presumed in the Erithrea-Ethiopia deal endangers their interests.

Zimbabwe: The first elections after Mugabe

July 30 general elections were held in Zimbabwe. It was the first vote after the former president Robert Mugabe was ousted in November 2017. Emmerson Mnangagwa, former vice-president who was loyal to China was considered as a main contender for assuming the presidency. However, serious competition was made by the representative of the opposition Nelson Chamisa, who pledged to “kick out the Chinese companies” from the country. The prospects of the second round of elections are very high and according to the opinion polls. Mnangagwa and Chamisa run very tight. Mnangagwa is expected to receive 42% of the vote, compared to 31% for Chamisa. That puts Chinese domination in this country in jeopardy.

Latin America

Mexico: the triumph of left populism

July 1 general elections were held in Mexico.  The leader of the National Regeneration Movement – Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected to be new president of the country. The National Regeneration Movement became the dominant force in the country’s parliament.

Obrador positions himself as a leftist populist and declares the priority of protecting national interests. In the past, he critisised US President Donald Trump. He stands for the preservation of the agreement on NAFTA, beneficial for Mexico, while Trump intends to reshape it. Political changes in Mexico will inevitably affect the negotiations on the future of the free trade zone in North America. Another potential effect of the elections is the transformation of Mexico into one of the centers of a sovereign, independent from the US politics in Latin America.

Cuba: the start of Perestroika

July 22-23 the unicameral Parliament of Cuba The National Assembly of People’s Power approved a draft of a new constitution that radically changes the country’s political system. Cuba will abandon the goal of building communism, legalize some private property, allow same-sex marriages, and divide the posts of the head of state (president) and head of government. Political and economic liberalization symbolize the readiness of the socialist state to integrate into the global Western capitalist world while still advocating the merits of a socialist system and staying true to its ideology.

Nicaragua: on the verge of a coup

In Nicaragua, protests have been continuing since April 2018. The death toll reached 500 people in July 2018. The reason for the turmoil is the deterioration of the economic and social situation in the country due to reforms under the recipe of the IMF. Discontent of the population is used by liberal forces to overthrow the government of Daniel Ortega and for the final reorientation of the country from China and Russia to the United States.

Eurasia

Visits of Netanyahu and Abbas to Moscow

On July 11, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow. On July 13, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also arrived for talks with Vladimir Putin. The coincident of two visits demonstrates the importance of Russia for the political strategies of both participants in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In addition, Netanyahu discussed with the Russian leader the situation in  Syria and Iran’s presence in this country. Also, given the influence of the Israeli lobby on Trump, the visit could be useful to Putin in the run-up to a meeting with the US president.

Political repressions in Armenia

On July 28, the second president of Armenia Robert Kocharian was arrested. He is accused of overthrowing the constitutional order. It is about his participation in suppressing the unrest in 2008, in which the current Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan took part. Now Pashinyan, who came to power after the color revolution in May 2018, is engaged in score-settling with opponents.

In addition, the charges have been brought against the CSTO Secretary General Yuri Khachaturov, who is also allegedly involved in the dispersal of the 2008 demonstrations. These steps endanger the positions of Armenia within the military bloc, headed by Russia and creates the possibility of internal political destabilization in the future.

Middle East

Turkey: the presidential republic

July 9, 2018 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan officially was sworn as the President of Turkey. On June 24 he won the presidential election. According to the new constitution adopted at the referendum last year, it is now in the president who becomes the principal power player in Turkish policy. Turkey’s transition to the presidential republic is caused both by objective needs and by subjective needs.

First of all, Turkey faces the task of a final break with the West, which is also taking place within the domestic policy. The quasi-authoritarian model is more in line with the country’s historical tradition and with the tasks of an enhanced economic breakthrough through power mobilization, distancing from the West and choosing the path of development as an enlightened Islamic Eurasian country.

Syria: The offensive to the border of Israel

On July 12, 2018, the Syrian flag was raised in the square near the Al-Omari mosque in Daraa. It was here in mid-March 2011 that the first mass protests broke out, which later developed into a civil war. By the end of July 2018, the Syrian army had completely liberated the south-west of the country from the militants and  stopped nearby the occupied Golan Heights. A small enclave of the Islamic state is subject to intense artillery fire and air strikes. The only uncontrolled parts of Syria, apart from the desert enclaves of the ISIS, are a vast area under the control of pro-American Syrian democratic forces in the north and east of the country (Kurds), the zone of the Great Idlib under Turkish control and the zone of the strategically important At-Tanf crossing, under the control of US special forces and their allies. It is expected that these areas will also decline in future.

Tel Aviv is concerned that Iran’s military presence zone can be established at its borders and is negotiating with Moscow on this matter. This caused frequent shelling of Syrian territory from Israel and the destruction of the Syrian Su-22 on July 24, 2018 by the Israeli troops.

Israel: a Jewish state

On July 19, the Israeli Knesset passed a law on the Jewish character of the State of Israel. The law significantly reduces the rights of the Arabs, the Arabic language ceases to be a state language on a par with Hebrew. Another important point is the consolidation of claims to Jerusalem and the declaration that the existence and development of Jewish settlements is the national interest of Israel today.

The new law is unacceptable for the Palestinians and only exacerbates the split and confrontation between Jews and Arabs, aggravated after the United States had recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at the end of the previous year and the transfer of the American embassy there in May 2018. Such a situation brings a possibility of a new aggravation of the Arab-Israeli conflict and creates a pretext and ideological basis for new bloody military operations against Palestinians.

North America

Anti-Iranian sanctions prepared

On July 2, 2018, the administration of Donald Trump announced its intention to reduce to zero the revenues that Iran receives from oil exports. The main strategy is the imposition of sanctions against buyers of Iranian oil. Such a threat forced Japan to refuse to purchase. This was announced on July 19, 2018. India is still in meditation. Turkey and EU countries have already opposed the sanctions on Iranian hydrocarbons.

The US is likely to be able to hit the revenue side of Iran’s budget, but Tehran can respond with an intensification of activity undermining American influence in different regions of the world. Also, such steps are pushing Tehran into the arms of China and Russia, which will not comply with sanctions and make even more disagreements in the relations between the US and Turkey.

Trump and Juncker: US victory

July 25, 2018, US President Donald Trump held talks in Washington with the head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker. The result, according to Trump, was the EU’s readiness to lift trade barriers for American goods and to purchase more US LNG. If this decision is approved by the EU countries, it will mean the US victory in the trade dispute and the increased dependence of Europeans on the United Sates in energy and economy.

Asia

Japan and EU: free trade

July 17, the EU and Japan signed an agreement on the establishment of a free trade zone. As a result, an economic space emerged, which includes one-third of world GDP. The union arose against the backdrop of a trade debate on tariffs between the EU and Japan on the one hand and the United States on another. The new bloc can be regarded on the one hand as a challenge to the United States and a signal for greater independence for Washington’s allies. On the other hand, the Japanese and European elites are still committed to maintaining cooperation with the US and forcing Donald Trump to join their liberal economic bloc and expanding the free trade zone.

Elections in Pakistan: populist militocracy

On July 25, Pakistan held a general election. In the parliamentary elections the winner was the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (“Pakistani Justice Movement”). Its leader is the charismatic Imran Khan, a former captain of Pakistan’s cricket team, an ethnic Pashtun. It is a relatively new populist party, whose main ideological features are the protection of social justice, the fight against corruption and the strengthening of the country’s sovereignty in relations with the United States.

In the past, Imran Khan was accused of collaborating with the Pakistani Taliban. Now he is blamed by opponents to be pawn of the influential Pakistani military . In his triumphant speech, Khan, who could become the new prime minister, outlined foreign policy priorities. The first: the continuation of cooperation with China and the construction of CPEC. The second is the transformation of relations with the US to favor both powers, and not just Washington. The third is neutrality in the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, while stressing the need to develop ties with Iran. The fourth is the willingness to discuss complex issues with India, including the Kashmir conflict.

Pakistan is becoming more sovereign and Eurasian, less Atlanticist, but the military continues to play a major role in the country’s politics.

Cambodia: strongman’s victory

On July 29, parliamentary elections took place in Cambodia. The Cambodian People’s Party and its leader Hun Sen won. He has run the country for 30 years. In recent years, Hun Sen has been strictly pro-China’s line, which will continue in the future. The West does not recognize the  election results because of pressure on opposition, blamed for working in the US interests.

United World International

Independent analytical center where political scientists and experts in international relations from various countries exchange their opinions and views.