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Monthly Review June 2019

Monthly Review June 2019

Europe

EU: leadership stalemate

EU leaders met several times throughout June in order to determine who will become the new head of the European Commission. The recently elected new European Parliament will have to approve the successor to Jean Claude Juncker. At the end of June, German politician Manfred Weber, previously considered the main contender for the post, dropped out of the race. His candidacy was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but other countries felt that this would have represented an excessive strengthening of German influence in the EU. Thus, a socialist representative of the Netherlands, Frans Timmermans, become the new head of the European Commission. He is supported by the President of European Council Donald Tusk. 

However, Timmerman’s bid is opposed by Hungary and Poland who don’t agree with his of his pro-migrant position.

Britain: two challengers

On June 7, British Prime Minister Theresa May officially notified members of the Conservative Party of her resignation. The process of choosing a new Tory leader has started.. whoever becomes the leader of the conservative party will also become the country’s Prime Minister.

During the process of selecting from among the Conservative Party’s deputies, two candidates for the post of prime minister were identified: ex-foreign minister Boris Johnson and current foreign minister Jeremy Hunt. Johnson is calling for a hard Brexit, i.e. leaving the EU without striking a deal with Brussels. Hunt, on the other hand, believes the UK’s exit must come following an agreement with the EU on the terms. Many are critical of Hunt’s position, saying his policy is much like Theresa May’s had been. If Hunt wins, t is possible that Britain will not be able to get out of the EU anytime soon. Johnson’s victory will certainly lead to the exit without an agreement which would have unpredictable consequences for the kingdom and all of Europe.

Germany: on its way to hypersound

On June 6, the German newspaper Welt announced that Germany had launched a program to develop hypersonic rockets. The company MBDA is engaged in the project, a prototype weapon will likely be ready within the next three years, making Germany the first European country to join the hypersonic arms race. Thus, Berlin intends to be a military leader in Europe.

Russia’s return in PACE

On June 26, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) approved a resolution that restores the powers of the Russian delegation in full.  In 2014, the delegation of the Russian Federation was deprived of the right to vote over the events in Ukraine and Crimea. In 2015, PACE twice considered restoring the powers of the Russian delegation, but the sanctions only tightened.

Restoring the powers of the Russian delegation demonstrates that European countries and Russia are striving to maintain minimal ties, and eventual convergence. 

Eurasia

Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia

On June 5, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived for a state visit to Russia. Within three days, he held large-scale talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The Russian and Chinese delegations signed about 30 documents, as well as a joint statement by the two leaders on strategic issues. The visit of Xi Jinping demonstrates the allied relations of the two countries and the willingness to work together to resolve key global issues.

Protests in Georgia

On June 20, mass protests began in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. The occasion was the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy (IAO) meeting which was held in the country’s parliament, during which time the head of the meeting’s Russian delegation, State Duma Deputy Sergei Gavrilov, sat in the chair reserved for the head of the Georgian Legislative Assembly. Opposition forces have used this occasion for mass protests against the ruling party “Georgian dream.” Georgian authorities were quick to blame Russia for the incident. As a result, relations between Georgia and Russia became complicated. Moscow temporary halted flights from Tbilisi.

Inside Georgia, the protests demonstrated the strengthening of extremely pro-American forces, guided by ex-President Mikhail Saakashvili. In 2020, the parliamentary elections and these forces intend to achieve victory… American hawks want to bring them to power to use the territory as to assert military pressure near borders of Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Moldova: a compromise between Russia and the West

From 8 to 15 of June, government crisis continued in Moldova. On June 8, a coalition of the pro-European bloc ACUM and the pro-Russian Socialist Party was created in the country’s parliament, under pressure from the ambassadors of Russia, as well as the United States and the EU. As a result, the Democratic Party of the local oligarch Vlad Plakhotniuk was removed from power. Plakhotnyuk tried to preserve his power: he organized protests and used the Constitutional Court, which was completely controlled by him. However, having lost any external support he had, he was forced to flee the country on July 15.

Whatever temporary considerations bring the two sides together, it is unlikely that a coalition government composed of such diverse forces will last long enough.

Middle East

Conference on Palestine in Bahrain

On June 5-26,  a workshop entitled “Prosperity for Peace” was organized in Bahrain under the auspices of the United States Two days before the White House unveiled its plan for the economic development of Palestine, which involves attracting $50 billion in its economy over ten years, the development of strategic infrastructure, industry and the social sphere. The plan provides a global investment fund to boost the economy of Palestine and neighboring Arab states and would see an investment of $5 billion in the transport corridor connecting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The United States views this economic plan as the basis for resolving the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The conference, however, failed even before it began. The Palestinians refused to participate in the conference outright given Trump’s recent undisguisedly pro-Israel maneuvers. The plans of the United States did not receive positive reactions in a number of Arab countries (Lebanon, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria), as well as in Turkey, Russia and China.

Palestinians and their supporters accuse the United States of trying to force them to abandon the struggle for independence and Jerusalem for relatively minor money. Israel also intends to achieve international legitimization of its settlements on the west bank of the Jordan River via the American-brokered peace process.

However, the event in Bahrain ended without the final documents being signed, signaling the collapse of Jared Kushner’s so-called  “deal of the century.”

Elections in Istanbul Round 2

On 23 June, the candidate of the opposition Republican People’s Republican Party, Ekrem Imamoglu, won the re-election contest for mayor of Istanbul, defeating Turkey’s former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. Analysts believe the victory of the opposition candidate is the biggest defeat for Turkish President Recep Erdogan in the past 16 years. Yildirim (a figure close to the Turkish President) lost in Istanbul, a critical city both in terms of power and symbolism: it is the city where Erdogan started his political career. Imamoglu had already won the municipal elections on March 31, 2019before Erdogan’s party successfully petitioned for re-election.

Iranian crisis: a course of aggravation

During June, the US’ relations with Iran continued to deteriorate dramatically. On June 13, unknown persons attacked two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. One of the tankers was carrying cargo to Japan, which seemed suspect as the attack coincided with a visit to Tehran by the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. Abe intended to mediate between Iran and the United States.

The United States quickly accused Iran of attacking the tankers, but Iran denies the charges. This could easily have been a provocation by the United States or Israel to worsen the conflict and isolate Iran by blaming them for acts of terror in neutral and foreign waters. After the incident, the United States strengthened its military presence in the Middle East by sending another 1,000 troops and warships to the region.  When Iran downed an American drone on 20 June, the conflict aggravated to the brink of open conflict. The United States has also introduced new sanctions against the Islamic Republic, targeting Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. 

The US claims that it is ready for dialog, but only for the purpose of creating a new, stricter nuclear deal. Iran isn’t currently interested in signing any deal, as it has no confidence in the US after the Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal. Due to the US’ hard-line position, an early resolution of the crisis is unlikely. Both sides continue to balance on the brink of war.

S-400 for Turkey: final countdown

Turkish President Recep Erdogan repeatedly stated throughout the month that deliveries of Russian S-400 air defense systems to Turkey will begin as planned in July. On June 29, he discussed the delivery of military equipment with Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump at the G20 summit. As noted, Trump has so far not gone through with threats of sanctions against Turkey because of the purchase of the Russian air defense systems.

Later, the press secretary for the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed statements that the contract for the supply of anti-aircraft missile systems S-400 to Turkey implies a partial transfer of technology. From a political point of view, the supply of the C-400 is a demonstration of Turkey’s independent foreign policy. The transfer of modern technology will enhance the country’s military potential and help Turkish manufacturers of air defense systems to make its own defense equipment.

 North America

Canada: recognition of native genocide

In early June in Canada, a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was presented a report to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which talked about the serious threat of violence faced by indigenous women and children in Canada. The document states that government policies towards these groups of people in Canada can be described as a race-based genocide. Despite the data in the report, it is unlikely that the situation of Indians in Canada will actually change, as colonialism and racism remain deeply embedded into government institutions. 

 Trump vs Mexico

On June 8, Mexico agreed to take “unprecedented steps” to curb the flow of migrants through its territory in the United States. If the country failed to meet his demands, Trump threatened to introduce harsh trade duties against the country. Earlier, President Trump said that he would raise tariffs on goods from Mexico by 5% if Mexico City does not do its part in the fight against illegal migration.

Mexico agreed to deploy parts of its National Guard throughout the country, starting on Monday, June 10th. The Mexican government also promised to take decisive action to counter the illegal human trafficking. 

In the short term,  Trump’s move proved to be a victory… but in the long run, American pressure and worsening relations between Mexico and the United States could force Mexico to look for alternatives among other world powers.

Democrats: the first battle

On June 27-28, the first debates between potential US Democratic presidential candidates were held in the United States. The result was a fall in support for the main leader of the election race to date: former US Vice President Joe Biden. Most analysts believe that Biden spoke extremely poorly. He was reminded of his support for segregation at the start of his political career, and the former vice president did not have an adequate answer in many peoples’ eyes. As a result, Tom  McInerney, a reputable San Francisco lawyer and one of the most influential fundraising organizers for Joe Biden’s election campaign, said he would not support the candidate. The issue of race is extremely important for Democrats, who present themselves as a party that champions social minority groups.

South America

New US sanctions against Cuba

On June 5, the United States introduced new sanctions against Cuba. Washington also banned group educational trips for tourists from the United States to Cuba and prohibited American passenger ships from entering Cuban ports. US Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin believes that the new sanctions will tighten the country’s budget and prevent money from going to the Cuban military, intelligence and special services. 

Venezuela: a new coup attempt

On June 26, the Minister of Communications and Information of Venezuela, Jorge Rodriguez, announced that on June 23 and 24, the opposition, with the support of the United States, Colombia and Chile, intended to overthrow and assassinate President Nicolas Maduro, his wife Celia Flores, and the head of the National Constituent Assembly Diosdado Cabello. A day earlier, the US Special Representative for  Venezuela Elliot Abrams said that the United States had not ruled out a military solution to the situation in the country.

The United States has not abandoned its attempts to provoke regime change in Venezuela. The main focus of the US pressure has shifted to Iran, but Venezuela is undoubtedly still in America’s radar.

Asia

Protests in Hong Kong

Throughout June, protests against amendments to an extradition bill were held in Hong Kong. The local government proposed an initiative to extradite criminal elements to “plug holes” in the legislation to stop sheltering criminals. At present, criminals taking refuge in the territory of Hong Kong cannot be extradited to mainland China.

However, Hong Kong separatists and pro-Western elements have used the law as a pretext for launching protests with wide-goals. According to them, the changes indicated that Hong Kong was losing its autonomy. China itself has blamed external forces for sparking the situation in Hong Kong. The British government and the former British colonial governor of Hong Kong directly support the protests. From the geopolitical point of view, protests in Hong Kong are aimed at preventing the full integration of the important economic and financial center with China. Likewise, in the international arena, they are being used as a pretext to criticize China’s human rights record. 

Xi Jinping’s visit to the DPRK

On June 20, PRC Chairman Xi Jinping arrived on a state visit to the DPRK. This was the first trip for the Chinese leader to North Korea in 14 years. According to experts, over the past few years, ties between the two countries have intensified. China is showing interest in strengthening its influence on resolving the crisis around North Korea. Beijing also emphasizes its status as the main partner of the DPRK and patron of the North Korean regime.

G20 Summit

On June 28-29, the G20 Leaders Summit took place in Osaka. Heads of the leading economies of the world discussed major global issues. The main themes of the multilateral agenda were the future of the digital economy and WTO reform. The leaders did not make any breakthrough decisions in these areas.

The main bilateral meeting in the forum was the negotiations between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping. The parties did not agree on ending the trade war. However, according to the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party  “People’s Daily,” during a meeting in Osaka, Trump promised not to introduce new duties on the importation of Chinese goods into the United States. Negotiations between Washington and Beijing will be resumed. In the trade war between China and the United States, a de facto truce was signed. However, it is far from a lasting peace.

 India: Trade war with the USA

On June 16, India introduced import duties on 28 items of American goods. The total cost of the products, which will be affected by the new tariffs, is not reported, but previously the authorities were talking about $241 million. The decision of New Delhi is a response to US actions.

Earlier, on June 5, India was excluded from the list of countries that received trade benefits in the framework of the General System of Preferences (GSP) of the United States. In 2018, according to the Congressional Research Service, this exempted $6 billion worth of Indian goods from duties.  

United States President Donald Trump criticized the actions of the Indian leadership. The aggravation of trade and economic relations undermines the attempts of the United States to make India its main ally in their fight against China in the region, which is referred to as the “Indo-Pacific” by Americans.

Trump-Kim: An unexpected meeting

On June 30, a meeting between the leader of the US, Donald Trump, and the leader of the DPRK, Kim Jong-un took place at the DMZ, the line separating North and South Korea. President Trump was visiting South Korea and, the day before, unexpectedly invited Chairman Kim to meet him through his Twitter account.

Trump became the first sitting president of the United States to, albeit symbolically, set foot on DPRK territory during this meeting. The head of the White House called this event a great day, noting that in the future he would like to lift the sanctions on North Korea, but for the time being, they will continue. The specific results of the meeting are not reported. It is essentially symbolic, demonstrating that the dialogue continues. 

Africa

Sudan: coup and US intervention

On June 12, Al-Arabia TV reported that a new military coup attempt was averted in Sudan. 68 officers were detained. Supposedly, the supporters of the previously deposed president Omar al-Bashir were behind the failed coup. On June 5, supporters of Bashir had already attempted to free him from prison.

The situation in Sudan continues to be tense. The country continues to see protests, supported by the West. Protesters demand fresh elections from the military junta. Dozens of people have died in Khartoum during the crackdown in early June.

The United States has continued to expand its intervention in the Sudanese political process. On June 25th, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East African and Sudan, Makila James, acknowledged this. In the United States Congress, she said that Washington will continue to put pressure on the military and that non-profit organizations supported by the United States became the main driving force behind the protests in Sudan. 

Ethiopia: the coup d’etat and the premonition of civil war

On June 22nd in the Ethiopian region of Amhara, a coup was attempted. It was led by General Asaminew Tsige. The insurgents killed Seare Mekonnen, head of the General Staff of the Ethiopian army and Ambachew Mekonnen, head of the Amhara government. 

Riots in northern Ethiopia have broken out over the past few years. They are associated with the intensification of the conflict between two large ethnic groups – Amhara and Gumuz.

The controversy between the Amhara and the central government escalated after the current Prime Minister, Abia Ahmed, came to power in Addis Ababa in April 2018. Previously, the Amhara ruled the country, but Ahmet represents another ethnic group – Oromo.

The death of the head of the region is a very heavy blow to the positions of the current Prime Minister Abia Ahmed, who supported the candidature of Ambachew Mekonnen. Mekonnen was a key ally of the federal government in Amhara. 

In Ethiopia, separatist sentiment is strong in Amhara. There is also a high risk of inter-ethnic clashes that could trigger a civil conflict. The country’s army, as events show, is not a single entity. Various groups within the army are loyal to the tribal and ethnic leaders and risk war with each other.

 
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