Author Archives: Tom Arms

Tom Arms’ World Review: Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Justice at home and abroad, Sri Lanka

Ukraine

After a week of Ukrainian talks the question is whether Vladimir Putin is using negotiations to avoid war or create a pretext to start one. The communiques emerging from Geneva, Brussels and Vienna shed little light on the subject. They are peppered with insubstantial diplomatese phrases such as “frank,” “friendly” and “constructive.” Off the record, journalists are being told that chief US negotiator Wendy Sherman is offering to widen the talks with suggested discussions on missile deployments and other issues. The US is clearly trying to drag out talks in the hopes that protracted jaw, jaw will lead to reduced tensions. But on one issue the Americans and their NATO allies appear to be standing firm: They will not agree to a legally binding commitment to block Ukraine (and Georgia) from NATO membership. Putin has made it clear that Ukrainian enrolment in NATO is unacceptable. In fact, Putin has compared it to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The Russian leader has also denounced America’s strategic arms policies, blaming them from withdrawing from the ABM Treaty (true), INF (not true) and the Open Skies Agreement (not true). However, Putin is also adamant that he will not be bogged down in the “swamp” of protracted negotiations. His concern over lengthy talks is at least partly related to the fact that if he doesn’t move soon Russian tanks will become mired in the mud of a Ukrainian spring. If Putin does invade, Biden has threatened sanctions “like none he has ever seen.” These are likely to include locking Russia out of the international banking system and blocking the Nordstream2 gas pipeline.

Kazakhstan

It now appears that the uprising in Kazakhstan was more of an internal power struggle than a popular uprising. In the wake of the violence the head of, Kazakhstan’s security services, Karim Masimov, has been sacked and charged with treason. In addition, 81-year-old former president Nursultan Nazarbayev has been removed from the chairmanship of the nation’s powerful Security Council and his family has dropped from public view. Nazabaryev, who was an autocratic president for 25 years, hand-picked Kassim-Zhomart Tokayev as his successor. It had been assumed that the ex-president was still pulling the puppet strings and grooming his daughter for the presidency. Now it seems that the puppet has cut the strings and turned on his master. He also appears to have the blessing of Russia’s Vladimir Putin who still holds considerable sway in the former Soviet republic. Twenty-five percent of Kazakhstan’s 18 million citizens are ethnic Russian. Its gas pipelines all run to Russia, and 2,000 Russian troops were called in by Tokayev to protect Russian assets when the revolt started. After killing 164 protesters, arresting 10,000 and possibly neutering the Nazarbayev family and their supporters, Tokayev appears to be firmly back in control and the Russian troops are back in their barracks.

War criminals face justice

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Observations of an ex pat: Migration time bomb

The world is sitting on a migration and demographic time bomb. A perfect storm of environmental, economic, and demographic factors are combing with increased international instability to drive millions of people from the developing to the developed world.

An internationally coordinated response is required to deal with the problem that will not go away. It will just become worse. Instead growing xenophobia is constructing physical and bureaucratic dams that must eventually burst.

Ironically, the two sides of the cultural and geographic fence have complementary problems. There is a shortage of workers in the xenophobic developed world and a surplus in the developing world. Birth rates in Europe, the US and Japan are either failing to replace those who die or—at best—leading to a no population growth scenario.

Low population is accompanied by an ageing citizenry. The median age in most of the world’s rich countries is between 40 and 50. This puts increased pressure on health and social care services, pensions and young workers who have to support their elders.

The developed world is also bordering on, or actually suffering, labour shortages. If their countries’ fail to grow by increased birth rates than they must recruit immigrants in order to maintain productivity levels that can support ageing populations.

In contrast, improved healthcare has dramatically cut the infant mortality rates in the developing world. This means that the median age in most of Latin America is 27. In Africa it is 18. In the case of Niger the median age is 14.8 years. The underdeveloped economies of these countries are incapable of supporting their rapidly growing populations. Their young people are heading north to survive.

To complicate matters further climate change and war is increasing the number of displaced persons in the world. In 2016 there were 10.6 million DPs. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees the figure grew to 84 million in 2021, and that was before the Afghan crisis added several million more to the depressing and worrying total.

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Tom Arms’ World Review: Capitol anniversary, Kazakhstan, Turkey, EU/China

Capital Hill one year on

In his inaugural address President Joe Biden said he wanted to be a unifying figure. For the past year he has sought to do that by largely refraining from attacking Donald Trump and his “election lie” and by staying aloof from the congressional inquiry into the Capitol Hill Riots. This week he climbed off the fence and took off the gloves with this speech in the Rotunda at Capitol Hill. He accused his predecessor of “spreading a web of lies” that led to the 6 January assault. He lamented that the “threats to the constitution have not abated” since he took office and attacked Trump for caring more about his “bruised ego than the democracy or our constitution.” If Biden’s intention is to unite, his speech may have been a mistake. Staunch Republicans have denounced it and even the centre-right Wall Street Journal labelled it divisive.” Biden’s address coincides with the launch of a book entitled “How Civil Wars Start.” The author, American academic Barbara Walter, has spent years, studying civil wars around the world and has sadly concluded that America may be going down the same path as Egypt, Syria and the former Yugoslavia. Ms Walter says one of the main causes of civil war is politicians exploiting ethnic divisions for political gain. She points out that Republicans are appealing to Whites and Democrats to a coalition of ethnic minorities and the country could—based on the experience of other countries—she says that the US may be heading inexorably towards violent conflict. Can it be averted? Biden’s speech may have been divisive but could he afford to continue to ignore Trump’s outrageous claims on the anniversary of the Capitol Hill riots?  The situation has certainly not been helped by Trump’s rambling over the top response to the Biden speech.  Americans should dispense with the phrase “it can’t happen here” and start seriously thinking about how to stop a civil war happening.

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is currently discovering the cost of keeping the lid on dissent. Since independence from Moscow in December 1991 the government has blocked access to the internet, kept a tight rein on the traditional media, controlled the courts and organised elections which resulted with the government regularly winning 100 percent of the vote. After 25 years in office Nursultan Nazarbayev handpicked his successor Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in 2019 but retained power behind the scenes as chairman of the country’s Security Council. Since independence the country has enjoyed major economic growth as it exploited its vast oil, gas, goal and mineral resources. But the cash has not filtered down to the country’s 18 million people who inhabit a country the size of all pof Western Europe. Their average income is only $3,000 a year. The man and woman in the street, however, did enjoy a few perks such as a cap on the price of liquefied petroleum which is used to run most of the country’s vehicles. It was the lifting of that cap which provided the spark that blew the lid off the Kazakhstan pressure cooker this week. So far it has been reported that 26 protesters (President Tokayev labelled them “terrorists” and “bandits”) have been killed. More than a thousand have been injured and 400 hospitalised. Tokayev has ordered troops to shoot to kill future protesters. He has also called on his friend Vladimir Putin for 2,000 “peacekeeping” troops under their collective security treaty. Russia has a major stake in Kazakhstan. There is a large Russian-speaking minority; Russian military bases; major gas pipelines and the world’s largest—Russian-owned– satellite launching facility. The Russians are keen to see stability return to an important ally and were probably behind the decision to re-impose the price cap on LPG fuel for the next six months.

Turkey

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Observations of an ex pat – Ukraine Week

We are entering Ukraine Week. A series of meetings across Europe and at the highest level will probably determine whether 100,000 Russian troops will cross the border into Eastern Ukraine and ignite Europe’s greatest crisis since the end of the Cold War.

It started Friday with a Zoom meeting of NATO foreign ministers. On Monday Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin go head to head in Geneva. Next Wednesday NATO heads of government hold a summit in Brussels, and the following day, in Vienna, the 57 members of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meet in Vienna. The last event includes Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky who will discover just how far other countries will go to defend his nation’s sovereignty.

Conspicuous by its absence from these talks is the EU. The reason is that the issues are primarily security and military and the EU has no defence forces. It will, however, be heavily affected by any Putin-Biden pact and its diplomats will be flapping around the edges of Ukraine Week trying to make its collective voice heard.

So far Putin has done all the running. He annexed Crimea in 2014 and moved his “Green Men” into Eastern Ukraine. He has disrupted shipping in the Sea of Azov and Black Sea; threatened gas supplies to Western Europe and now has 100,000 troops camped out on the Ukrainian-Russian border.

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Observations of an Expat: Christmas Traditions

Tis the season. Eggnog, mulled wine, presents, Christmas trees, yule logs, Christmas cards, Midnight Mass, food, food and more food… The list goes on and on. The Holiday Season is one tradition after another.

In fact, you could call it the Tradition Season just as easily as the Christmas or Holiday Season. But when and where did the traditions start? Well, they came from all over the Western world and some of the Eastern. Some have deeply religious roots. Others tell a political story. Some are strictly secular money making operations.

There was a time when Christmas was banned. And then there is the controversy about the actual birthday. The Bible does not actually give a date for the birth of Jesus, but Biblical historians believe that references to shepherds sitting outdoors at night on hills indicates that it was in the spring.

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World Review: Begin Doctrine, Merkel exit, Macron boost and Biden democracy

It is called the Begin Doctrine. The main tenets are that Israel is the only country in the Middle East region allowed to have nuclear weapons and that it reserves the right to prevent by any means the possession of nuclear weapons by any other country in the region. The Begin Doctrine (named after Menahem Begin who introduced it) was used to justify its attack on Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981. It is now being pulled out of the diplomatic cupboard and dusted off in preparation for a possible assault on Iran’s nuclear facilities. At the same time another final effort is being made In Vienna to revive the Iran Nuclear Accord that was torpedoed by Donald Trump. If it succeeds the Israelis may enforce the Begin Doctrine because they simply don’t trust the Iranians. If it fails the Israelis may enforce the Begin Doctrine because they don’t trust the Iranians. But there is a problem. Iran is not Iraq in 1981. It has a string of enrichment facilities spread throughout the country.

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Observations of an Expat: Ukraine and Geopolitics

Ukraine is now firmly on the East-West, US-Russian agenda. This is a victory for Vladimir Putin. He has proven that even though Russia’s GDP is $400 billion less than chaotic Italy it is still a Great Power who can flex its muscles and demand concessions from Super Power America.

But what are those concessions? Well the big one is, the US will not come to Ukraine’s aid with troops, missiles or drones if Russia attacks Ukraine.

That does not mean, however that President Joe Biden is giving Putin the green light to attack. No, he is threatening sanctions. And this time they appear to be more than the usual slap on the wrist.

The main threat is banning Russia from the Belgian-based SWIFT banking system which manages payments across international borders. This same sanction against Iran has resulted in a drop of 50 percent in their oil exports and 30 percent in their foreign trade.

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World Review: French elections, Barbados, Russian security pact, MI6 and abortion rights in America

The French Presidential elections are hotting up. Far-right candidate Eric Zemmour announced his candidacy this week. He is Euro-sceptic, virulently anti-immigrant and possibly the most anti-Semitic Jew in European politics. The 63-year-old journalist claims that he will save France from decadence and minorities that “oppress the majority.” Zemmour is neck and neck with seasoned extreme right campaigner Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally Party. Which means that the extreme-right vote is split. The left-wing parties are in disarray and have been effectively written off by the French media in the April presidential elections.

On Sunday, primary elections for the Gaullist-oriented Les Republicains ends. There are five candidates: Michel Barnier, Xavier Bertrand, Eric Ciotti, Philippe Juvin and Valerie Pecresse. In the past Les Republicains were described as centre right. But no longer. Emmanuel Macron has stolen those clothes, especially the economic threads. In response, all five Les Republicains candidates have moved to the right with anti-immigration and Eurosceptic policies. All of the above is good news for Macron, who is staunchly pro-European and staying aloof from the immigration debate. Not that he is popular. His approval ratings have slipped from a high of 48 percent in 2017 to under 20 percent. But he stands alone in the winning circle of the centre/centre right. At this moment the betting is on Macron to win as the last man standing.

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Observations of an Expat: Nation v the World

I told you so. In all humility, I was not alone. The WHO issued a veritable flood of dire warnings. Dozens of NGOs did the same. So did an army of globalists who argued that common sense dictated that Covid is a global problem that requires global cooperation to save lives and a world economy of which we are all a part.

We argued that Africa, with poor its health conditions and poorer health facilities, was likely to produce a highly transmissible mutant virus that would find its way north and bite a Europe and America that ignored Africa firmly in the bum.

I may be overstating the case. Scientists are waiting for more data before a judgement on the seriousness of the Omicron variant. So far there appears to be good news and bad news in initial reports from Africa and the 29 non-African countries to which it has spread in a matter of days.

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World Review: Oil, vigilantism in America, refugees, Swedish politics and Omicron

Prepare for an oil price war in 2022. The combatants are OPEC and a consortium of top energy consuming countries including the US, China, UK, Japan, India and South Korea. All of these countries have built up huge strategic oil reserves in case of emergency such as war or another 1973-style OPEC oil embargo. The US has the largest reserves with 638 million barrels tucked away in storage facilities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The last two times America’s oil reserves were used was after Hurricane Katrina and during the Gulf War. Biden is depleting them to combat the energy shortage which has pushed up prices to $81 a barrel and is threatening the US and world economic recovery from the pandemic.

The OPEC countries (and Russia), however, like the high prices and they are used to controlling the market to suit their needs by raising and lowering production. They fear that Biden’s move on economic rather than security grounds threatens their historic stranglehold on the market. An OPEC summit is planned for 2 December. The oil ministers were planning to announce a 100 million barrel increase in production from January; not enough to substantially reduce prices, but possibly enough to stabilise them. That is expected to be off next week’s agenda. President Biden also has internal problems in the form of the Republicans who advocate increasing domestic oil production and reinstating projects such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline to reduce reliance foreign sources. But that, of course, runs afoul of climate change promises.

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Observations of an Expat: Thanksgiving – Made in Britain

Thanksgiving is the most American of American holidays. Or is it?

Like so many other American traditions and customs, Thanksgiving’s origins have its roots on the eastern side of the Atlantic.

Let’s start with the Puritans. They were English. They were religious dissidents who arrived on the shores of New England mainly from East Anglia via an unhappy sojourn in the Netherlands.

The beliefs, history, philosophy, politics and social structures were English. In 1620 there was no such thing as an “American” other than the Native Americans that they eventually supplanted. In fact, they were as English as apple pie, which they also brought with them from Britain.

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World Review: America and China, Austrian vaccination and India’s farmers

It has been an interesting week for Sino-American relations and China in its own right. It started with the two countries agreeing to cooperate on climate change policies. There were no details in this proposed pact, but a start had been made. This was followed by a three-hour virtual summit between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. Both sides basically re-stated long-held positions on trade, Taiwan, the South China Sea and human rights. But it was done in a friendly manner which meant another reasonable start. Then things started going downhill. The Americans are very upset about the new Chinese hypersonic missile and are being loud in their condemnation. Then Biden said he was considering refusing to send a diplomatic delegation to the Beijing Winter Olympics. The athletes can go, but the normal contingent of accompanying politicians are now expected to stay at home to protest Chinese human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

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Observations of an Expat: Two Step… One Step

Russia’s Vladimir Putin is indulging in that well-known two step, one step diplomatic dance. That is two steps forward. One step back.

Sometimes he throws his fellow Europeans off balance by taking a third step and half a step back, or he may refuse to move from his new position.

He prods and pushes, establishing new boundaries both physical and political. Using strategies developed as a high-flying KGB agent, Putin simply denies everything. It is all Western “balderdash,” he claims.

Belarus is a Russian satellite. Its Soviet-style dictator Alexander Lukashenko would hardly dare breathe without first seeking the approval of his Moscow mentor.

One of Putin’s main aims is to destabilise the EU. And it is no secret that the issue of migrant refugees from the Islamic world is a divisive and destabilising issue. The East European Visegrad 4 (which include Poland) are especially against it. So Lukashenko sent agents off to Syria, Turkey and Iraq to recruit thousands of refugees to press against the Polish border fence.

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World Review: COP26, sleaze, Africa at war and Covid

COP26 negotiators have as of this writing (Friday) entered the final stages of a draft agreement. It’s not great news for Planet Earth. So far, the gathered pledges will reduce temperature rises from the current 2.5 degree level to 2.4 degrees centigrade—well short of the 1.5 degree limit which climatologists say is the maximum the planet can bear to avoid worldwide environmental disaster. There are, however, some streaks of silver in this dark cloud. One is that the negotiators have agreed to meet in Egypt next year in a bid to make further progress. Originally it was going be another five year gap. There has also been agreement to stop deforestation. Coal has for the first time been singled for as a main polluter and many countries have promised to end its production and use. Although the US and China, the two biggest users, are dragging their feet.

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Observations of an Expat: Belarus and State Sponsored Human Trafficking

Up to 20,000 Middle Eastern refugees are stuck in a narrow strip of no-man’s land as winter descends upon them. To the west—the dreamed of destination—is a razor wire fence and armed Polish guards. To the east are tens of thousands of armed Belarussian troops to prevent them from going back into Belarus proper.

These refugees have paid thousands of dollars to the agents of Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko who are scouring the Middle East in search of displaced persons in search of a better life in Europe.

They collect their money. Tell them they are going to the promised land of Germany. The refugees are then put on flights to Minsk from Damascus, Dubai or Istanbul. In the Belarussian capital they are met by armed guards who herd them into lorries that transport them to the border with Poland, Latvia or Lithuania. They are unloaded and told to march west. That is when the dream becomes a nightmare.

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World Review: COP26, French fishing, Taiwan territory and Russian gas

COP26 finished its first week with a super abundance of world leaders making a plethora of pledges about climate change. Deforestation is to end (except maybe in Indonesia). More money is to be made available for green technology in developing countries. Eighteen countries (most of them small) have agreed to move away from coal generated energy. Now the leaders have flown home in their gas guzzling carbon emitting private jets and left it to officials to hammer out the devilish details and attempt to wring out concessions from the biggest polluters, mainly China and India who together are responsible for over a third of the planet’s carbon emissions. On the latter point they will have a tough job. India refuses to commit to climate change targets until 2070 which most climatologists reckon is much too little much too late. China, for its part, is continuing to build and export electricity stations powered by its massive coal reserves. Meanwhile, the Global Carbon Project reported that global carbon emissions are climbing back to pre-pandemic levels, with India rising by 12.6% and China by 4% between 2020 and 2021. The climate watchdogs predict that 2022 could see record levels of carbon emissions as air travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.

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Observations of an Expat: Climate people

Climate change affects every single one of the7.8 billion people living on planet Earth and each one of them is an individual with homes, jobs, families, friends, dreams and aspirations.

Already these are being shattered by floods, fires, droughts, desertification and storms. Millions have already been affected. Below are a sample of specific cases that herald future problems for the rest of the world.

Cecile Rvanavaluna used to work in her local rice paddy every day. Now Madagascar’s rice fields—which take up a third of the East African Island’s agricultural land—are dust. Madagascar has been suffering a drought for a record 40 years. It is, according to the UN, the victim of the first climate induced famine.

Cecile and her family are being kept just above starvation levels by handouts from the World Food Programme. Other Malagasy’s are less fortunate. At least 30,000 are said to be dying from starvation. Many are reduced to eating cactus leaves which would otherwise be fed to livestock. With so many in a weakened state disease is rampant.

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World Review: Coups, budget, Brexit, hypersonic China, dictatorships and weaponizing energy

This year the world seems to be suffering from a pandemic of coups. Myanmar, Guinea, Mali, Chad Ethiopia (although technically it is a civil war) and now Sudan. There were also attempted coups in Madagascar and the Central African Republic. It is not surprising. The combined forces of covid-19, Jihadism and long-standing ethnic divisions are taking their toll and the first victims are almost always the poorest countries. Sudan is a prime example. The per capita income is just under $4,000 a year. It ranks 181 out of 225 countries in the wealth stakes. In Sudan’s case neither covid nor Jihadism appear to have played a direct role in the military power grab, although both contributed to general dissatisfaction. It seems, however, the prime driver was good old fashioned greed coupled with fear and a hunger for power. For the past two years the country had been in a political transitional period following the removal of Omar al-Bashiri. The military was gradually returning control to civilians, in particular to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. But according to the military, problems arose when competing civilian politicians tried to develop individual power bases within the army, thus raising the spectre of civil war. Their argument carries little weight with either Washington or Brussels, both of whom have cut off aid to Sudan. The Western capitals are concerned about Sudanese developments because of the danger of the civil war in neighbouring Ethiopia spreading into a destabilised Sudan and the combined problems of the two countries destabilising the upper reaches of the Nile River basin and the Horn of Africa.

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Observations of an Expat: Climate Change Outliers

COP-26 in Glasgow has been organised because of the general recognition that international cooperation on an unprecedented scale is required to prevent the Earth which we all inhabit from alternately sinking beneath the waves or burning to a crisp.

Every country has to agree to concerted measures to reduce carbon emissions in order to keep global temperature rises down to 1.5 degree centigrade. It is a classic case of a chain being only as strong as its weakest link.

The need for action was highlighted this week by a report from the UN Environment Programme that commitments agreed so far would result in temperature rises of 2.7 degrees centigrade. This would spell disaster for almost every inhabitant of this planet.

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World Review: Troubles in Poland, Nigeria, Brazil & the US, and Colin Powell

In this weekend’s commentary on world affairs, LDV’s foreign correspondent Tom Arms reviews the conflict between Poland and the Commission over the primacy of EU law. Nigeria is in a bigger mess than usual as corruption is exacerbated by Jihadism, the pandemic, a rapid rise in gang violence and a resurgence of Biafran secessionism. Brazilian senators are investigating Bolsonaro’s responsibility for 600,000 Brazilian covid-19 deaths. In the States, Trump aide Steve Bannon will go to prison for a year for contempt of Congress. Colin Powell who died this week, was universally recognised as a decent and honest man.

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Observations of an Expat: Saving the world & political incompetence

A perfect storm appears to be gathering over Glasgow to obstruct the COP26 Climate Change Conference which starts on 31 October. Two hundred countries, 100 hundred world leaders and 30,000 participants from politicians to climatologists, to diplomats to businesses and to pressure groups will turn the Scottish city into a logistical nightmare for a fortnight. But that is an insignificant issue and a tiny price to pay if the world’s governments come up with a workable plan to reduce global temperature rises to the target of 1.5 degrees centigrade by 2050 or, hopefully, sooner. Unfortunately, that appears increasingly unlikely for a host of reasons. Top of the list is the world economy. It is in a mess.

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World Review: War in Africa, Northern Ireland, Poland, Lebanon and Russian gas

In this weekend’s World Review, LDV’s foreign affairs correspondent writes on the war in Ethiopia and warns that if the conflict drags on much longer then the almost certain danger is that it will spread throughout Ethiopia and then other countries in the strategic Horn of Africa. Northern Ireland and Poland’s difficulties with the EU have a common stumbling block  – the  European Court of Justice. Have the Russians weaponised exports of natural gas to Europe? And Lebanon took another giant step towards failed state status this week when terrorists killed seven people.

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Observations of an Expat: Crunch Time for Justices

The US Supreme Court has started one of its most difficult and important sessions in history. It will deal with two of America’s biggest issues—abortion and gun laws. Their decisions will have repercussions on the future of the court, the American justice system and the nation’s social divisions.

First the cases: Abortion is one of the most divisive—if not the most divisive issue—in modern American history. The anti-abortion lobby has worked tirelessly to overturn Roe v. Wade since the moment it became law in 1973. The pro-life lobby has fought just as hard to retain it. Donald Trump’s appointment of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanagh and Amy Comey Barrett, has given the court a 6-3 conservative bias and the anti-abortion lobby its best chance ever of overturning Roe v. Wade. For the pro-abortion lobby, a decision to uphold Roe v. Wade with the current make-up of the court could, in theory, put the issue to rest for ever.

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World Review: Tensions east, in NATO, in Facebook and in Boris’s Britain

In this weekend’s World Review, Tom Arms comments on the implications of a mutual defence pact between Greece and France for Turkey’s role in NATO. Heading for cooler climes, Covid-19 has reached Antarctica but for those who as destined to suffer or die from malaria in sub-Sharan Africa, a vaccine has been approved for to tackle the disease. Tension are building in the east and Taiwan, China, the US and other countries are in danger of falling into the trap of unintended consequences. Can Facebook be held to account? And how can Boris boast about Britain being one of the world’s wealthiest countries while branding it “broken”?

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Observations of an Expat: Too Big to Fail

The US Treasury is too big to fail. Failure, however, is a real possibility. In fact, Federal Reserve Bank Chairperson Janet Yellen warned earlier this week that the government would be forced to default on its loans on 18 October unless the self-imposed cap of $28 trillion was raised.

Reluctantly, the Senate voted 48-51 to push up the ceiling by $458 million and postponed decision day to 3 December when battle will be recommenced.

There is a string of dire warnings if the cap is not raised by trillions in the run-up to Christmas. Forty percent of financial aid would be affected which would possibly mean no housing benefits, child benefits, social security, Medicare or Medicaid payments. Federal employees pay would be jeopardised. America’s credit rating would be downgraded. Interest rates would rise affecting mortgages, business loans and credit card payments. Inflation would go up with the obvious impact on prices and pensioners on fixed incomes.

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World Review: Brexit, China, Korean famine and the French at large

In most China shops I have visited there has been a prominently displayed sign that reads: “If you broke it you own it.” The same sign needs to hang over the door of 10 Downing Street. Boris Johnson led the Brexit campaign. He was elected on a “Get Brexit done” platform. He and his Brexiteering cabinet have broken the British economy with shortages of food, gas, petrol, turkeys and even children’s toys; and yet they refuse to own responsibility for their actions. They blame it on the pandemic and international circumstances. To be fair, the pandemic and world conditions are major contributing factors, but Britain is suffering more than any other Western country and the reasons—as trade association after professional body keeps telling us—is Brexit. The fact is that Johnson and Co had no plan A, B or C beyond the exit door.

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Observations of an Expat: European Complacency

Political Complacency is dangerous. It stifles innovation and sweeps problems under the carpet because they involve difficult decisions that might rock the boat but end up sinking it if they are ignored too long.

Angela Merkel was in many ways a good German Chancellor. She was a good European leader. She was a consensus builder inside coalition structures. But her constant search for consensus led her to compromises on important issues which needed to be resolved. This was the downside of an otherwise upbeat chancellorship.

Political agreement resulted in economic prosperity for the Germans—and complacency about the unresolved issues, both in Germany and EU-wide. Her likely successor, Social Democrat Party (SPD) leader Olaf Scholz, appears to be heading the same way with a slight leftward bent.

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World Review: US ballots, the Quad, Britain as a “vassal state” and vaccinated Africans

In this weekend’s review, Tom Arms reports auditors have discovered that Donald Trump received 261 fewer votes in Maricopa County, Arizona, and Joe Biden 99 more undermining those that called the election result the “Big Lie”. Could the crisis at Evergrande slow China’s economy and that of the world? The “Quad” is a new Indo-Pacific alliance of the US, India, Japan and Australia designed to counter the rise of Chinese. India is the outlier in the group perhaps its including might mean it will look more towards the US. France has recalled its ambassadors to Australia and America over the nuclear submarine row but their man in London stayed put, the French claiming Britain has become a “vassal state” of the United States. In another row, vaccinated Americans can visit the UK but vaccinated Africans cannot.

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Observations of an Expat: Russian Pivot

While the world public’s attention was focused on submarine rows between allies and the rising Chinese threat, Vladimir Putin was making disturbing diplomatic and political moves to change the security map on the European side of the Eurasian land mass.

The focus of Putin’s efforts is Belarus and the faltering regime of Alexander Lukashenko. Ever since his clearly fraudulent elections, “Europe’s last dictator” has suffered riots, demonstrations, defecting Belarussians and Western sanctions. All of this presents opportunities and problems for Vladimir Putin and headaches for everyone else. A Lukashenko/Putin summit plus a major military manoeuvre underscored both.

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World Review: Afghanistan, child labour and vaccine passports in France

In this weekend’s World Review, Tom Arms reports the Taliban is proving to be a loose coalition that is quickly falling apart along centuries-old tribal lines and more contemporary political axes. He turns his attention to the impact that Covid is having on child labour in the developing world. And he reviews how Marcon’s insistence on vaccine passports turned France from an country opposed to vaccination to one where 74% of adults have had at least one dose.

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    The steady destroying of the NHS is a serious situation that will need to be addressed. Many, have found life so difficult with the shut down of medical treat...
  • Charley
    Bit of a straw man there Mick given at no point was anyone seeking to force their views on anyone else. Asking someone what their views are is not the same as i...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    Andrew Appreciate your response. I understand. My view though is your opinion and mine, or Mick's, is as valid as any other. Young middle aged, middle aged, ...
  • matt
    As much as I want to see Boris go for his blatant disregard for the rules and failing to stand in solidarity with the Public. And the fact that he is a weak Pr...
  • Andrew Hickey
    Michael Taylor: "FGM could never be tolerated in our party, This clearly violates the harm principle." So does forced pregnancy. So does taking away the rig...