Author Archives: Tom Arms

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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Observations of an Expat: Underwater Problems

The Anglo-American decision to sell nuclear submarines to Australia has launched a new round of geopolitical musical chairs with long-lasting repercussions.

The Americans, Australians and British are very happy with their new seats and the new nuclear sub deal and the creation of a new alliance called AUKUS.

The French are furious with the three allies. They have been left standing on the outside. It completely scuppers their $50 billion deal to sell the Australians electric submarines. It also weakens the Franco-British defence agreement that had become one of the pillars of the Western Alliance. “It is a stab in the back,” exclaimed the furious French foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian.

The Chinese are, of course, livid.

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Observations of an Expat: Bataclan

The Bataclan Trial which opened this week in Paris has huge domestic and international significance.

Domestically, it will be an act of national catharsis. 1,500 “civilian plaintiffs”—surviving victims and family members of the dead—are scheduled to give five weeks of testimony about the horror of the attack on Friday the 13th 2015 and its life-changing consequences.

The bulk of the nine-month trial, however, will focus on the details of the attack on the Bataclan Theatre, the Stade de France and the street cafes of the 10th and 11th arondissements, and the origins and planning of the operation. The latter will be closely followed by intelligence agencies around the world for information to help identify and defeat future attacks.

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World Review: 9/11, Trudeau, Putin and Patel

It is the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Two decades since 2,996 lives were lost in suicide attacks on the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and in a field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. In New York the occasion will be marked by families of the dead reading statements about their loved ones. The event will be closed to the public. Elsewhere in the world, the anniversary will be marked with foreboding. The attack was carried out by Al Qaeeda and was planned and coordinated from its base in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Within weeks a US-led NATO force toppled the Taliban government. There has not been a Jihadist attack on US soil since. President Biden has now withdrawn US forces from Afghanistan and the Taliban is back in power.

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Observations of an Expat: Nation Building

To nation build or not to nation build? That is the question vexing Western capitals in the wake of humiliating defeat and failure in Afghanistan.

Is it nobler to continue to attempt to export/impose Western political and cultural values to the rest of the world or does Afghanistan spell the end of a policy which has dominated foreign affairs since the end of World War Two?

When NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 they had clear goal: Remove the ruling Taliban from power so that the country ceased to be a base for international terrorism.

But then the policy changed to nation building for two reasons.

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World Review: Qatar as power broker, EU rapid deployment and abortion in Texas

In one of history’s ultimate ironies, the West may end up working with the political organisation it overthrew and fought for 20 years. The reason? To prevent another more extreme Islamic organisation from using the central Asian country as a base for terrorism. ISIS-K has made it clear that it wants to use terror to undermine the West and export Islamic fundamentalism. It has also said that the Taliban leadership is as much a target for their suicide bombers as Americans.

At a Pentagon press conference this week, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the Staff, described the Taliban, as “ruthless” but added that in war “you do what you must.” When asked if the US would cooperate with the Taliban, he said: “that is a possibility.”

Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab flew to Qatar which has been acting as intermediary between the West and the Taliban.

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Tom Arms’ World Review – 29 August

Afghanistan

As Kabul descends into chaos it is becoming painfully clear that this is largely due to poor political leadership in the West. America – Trump and Biden – bear the lion’s share of the blame. Trump for laying the groundwork and Biden for failing to jettison Trump’s work and the serious miscalculation that the government of Ashraf Ghani could hold back the Taliban tide.

But the Europeans also have to accept a big share of the blame, especially British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The British were the lead European partner in Afghanistan. They have (or had) the second largest NATO military force and have a historic involvement in the country. President Biden made it clear back in April that he would withdraw US troops by 9/11 at the latest. Boris did nothing. It was not until the Taliban was banging on the gates of Kabul that he started trying to organise European NATO to persuade Biden to remain in Afghanistan or, at the very least, substantially delay US withdrawal. Even then something may have been salvaged if Boris had not been leading the charge. As one former senior diplomat said: “He has virtually zero credibility with the Biden Administration and every EU capital. He is regarded as lazy, untrustworthy and a political lightweight.”

Western diplomats are fleeing Afghanistan in droves. In fact, most of their embassies now stand empty. But that is not the case with the Russians. Their diplomats are operating at full tilt strengthening relations with the Taliban with whom they have been quietly working for several years. Taliban leaders have been in and out of Moscow since for some time, and at one point the Trump Administration was accusing the Russians of supplying the Afghan Islamic rebels with weaponry. The charge was successfully denied. But the change of regime has been warmly and publicly welcomed by the Russians who maintain that the Taliban victory will bring peace and prosperity to the streets of Kabul and hills and valleys of rural Afghanistan.

Part of the reason for the Russian diplomatic offensive in Afghanistan is to fill the political vacuum left by the West and exploit America’s humiliation and discomfort. But there are also practical considerations. Russia retains wide-ranging economic and military interests in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. It is concerned that instability, Jihadism and a rogue Taliban will destabilise the other Asian stans and encourage Chechen rebels. They are also concerned that a failed state in Afghanistan will result in an increase in the drug trade with Russia. Moscow still has painful memories of their nine-year war in Afghanistan, but practical politics have won the day.

The UK

More signs that Brexit is beginning to bite. It has taken longer than expected, but the reality factor is replacing the fear factor. As predicted by Remainers, it is the lack of EU immigrant workers which is causing the current problem, especially in the agricultural and trucking industries. The two sectors rely on what is classified as unskilled labour to harvest the crops and move those products to supermarket shelves while still fresh. Unskilled jobs have been traditionally filled by immigrants, mainly because they are dirty, physically exhausting, and low-paid and involve long hours. British workers don’t want them. The result is that the number of lorry drivers is down by 20 percent and agricultural workers by at least 25 percent. Supermarkets are seriously worried about empty shelves.

The response of British Home Secretary Priti Patel is “pay more money and hire British workers.” There are several problems with this diktat. First of all, there is already a general labour shortage caused partly by Brexit and partly by Covid. Next, although, agricultural work and truck driving are classed as unskilled, that is a labour fallacy. Anyone who has spent a day picking strawberries or trying to drive a heavy goods vehicle will testify to the fact. So recruiting indigenous Brits will involve a training period. Which means a delay. Then there is the impact that such a move will have on inflation. Increasing the salaries of 320,000 lorry drivers and 176,000 agricultural workers will have a significant impact on wage inflation. It will also substantially increase the cost of products across the entire range of commerce as transport costs are added to the retail price. Already supermarket chains are paying drivers bonuses of up to 25 percent to move goods to shelves before they spoil. Unable to compete with the private sector will be the public sector, which means, for instance, that local councils face the prospect of a shortage of drivers of dust carts to collect rubbish.

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Observations of an Expat: Trusting the Taliban

Can we trust the Taliban? President Joe Biden says the US has to work with them. But can we accept their assurances that women will be allowed to be educated and not forced to wear the oppressive burka? That foreign journalists can remain in Afghanistan to monitor their activities?

Do we believe the Taliban leadership when it says it will allow foreign nationals and Afghan citizens who worked with them to leave the country and that American and British troops can protect Kabul Airport until 31 August to ensure their safe departure? And, most importantly, can we trust their pledge to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a base for international terrorism?

Or are those the right questions? Should we instead ask: Do we trust the Taliban to control a historically uncontrollable Afghanistan? Because if they can’t, any other pledges are worthless.

The Taliban is comprised of individuals in the same way as any other political group anywhere in the world. They are united in their belief that Afghanistan should be governed by Sharia law, but a bewildering variety of conflicting groups disagree about the interpretation of that law and the tactics to be used in achieving that goal.

There are three basic camps within the Taliban. The first is the leadership. Twenty years in the wilderness, prisons and negotiations with America is believed to have invested them with a greater degree of political sophistication and realism than when they were last in power. Then there are the military commanders who have had no involvement in the discussions with American negotiators. Some of them support the leadership. Some of them are working with the third rogue group who are ignoring the leadership, closing down schools, arresting and sometimes killing Afghans who worked with Westerners; forcing women into burkas and imposing the harshest tenets of Sharia law.

But that is only part of the chaos. There are the organisations tangentially linked to factions inside the Taliban but outside the main group.  Specifically there is Al Qaeeda and ISIS-Khoramshar Province (aka ISIS-K). The latter organisation is responsible for the double bombing outside the Kabul Airport Perimeter which has – as of this writing – claimed 90 lives and 150 wounded.

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Observations of an expat: Afghan consequences

The defeat in Afghanistan of the liberal democrat West and the victory of an authoritarian Islamic fundamentalist Taliban has worldwide geopolitical consequences.

It has called into the question America’s commitment to its allies; provided political ammunition to China and Russia; emboldened fundamentalists in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa; increased the threat to Israel; weakened NATO; prompted a re-think in India; and, encouraged many in the Far East.

Governments around the world heaved a collective sigh of relief when Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump in the White House. Trump’s “America First” policy tinged with isolationism and a shoot-from-the hip unilateralist foreign policy was a serious concern in capitals across the globe. They welcomed the statement from foreign affairs expert Biden that “America is back.”

But Biden’s refusal to listen to the concerns of NATO allies and order a precipitate withdrawal has led many to think that Trump’s unilateralist America First programme has become bipartisan. European NATO has long accepted US dominance of the alliance as essential to their survival. But it refuses to become an unconsulted-taken-for-granted adjunct of US foreign and defence policy. Especially when that policy runs counter to Europe’s interests.

And the Afghan debacle is just that. If Afghanistan again becomes a base for terrorist organisations then it will be Europe—not America—that will be the primary target. The Taliban has promised it won’t happen. And they need aid and expertise to reconstruct their war-ravaged country. But one of the Taliban’s first acts upon entering Kabul was to release thousands of hardened Jihadists from Pul-e-charkhi Prison. Al Qaeeda is reported to have bases in at least 15 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and rival ISIS is believed to have up to 10,000 members in the country.

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World Review: Capitol Hill riots, Iran withdrawal, ice cream wars, China and the Taliban

In this weekend’s column, Tom Arms reviews the inquiry into the Capitol Hill Riots and whether the Republicans are right to stay away. The American withdrawal from Iraq after 18 years will allow Tehran to expand its influence and move up to the border with Israel. Ice cream producer Cherry Garcia is crossing spoons with the Israeli government over its decision to stop sales of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with a predictable reaction from the Israeli government. Beijing has made it clear that it is sticking to its policy of non-interference in other in countries’ domestic affairs, despite meeting with the Taliban this week.

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Observations of an Expat: China Goes Big Bang

China is building underground silos capable of housing nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. In doing so, they are potentially quadrupling their nuclear arsenal overnight; abandoning an established strategic policy of minimum deterrence and threatening to start a domino-like arms race.

The Chinese have had nuclear weapons since 1964. Exactly how many warheads they have is a state secret, but analysts estimate that the number has been stuck at 250 for a number of years. They wanted just enough to deter an attack but not enough to seriously threaten and thus invite a first strike attack from either the US or Russia. The medium-sized arsenal also fitted in with Beijing’s self-image of a regional rather than global player and, the money could be better spent on climbing out of the economic doldrums.

But times change.

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World Review: Israeli spyware, Cummins, Tokyo Olympics and Haiti

In this weekend’s review, Tom Arms asks, who you believe, Cummins or Johnson?

Spyware produced by an Israeli company and sold to right-wing governments for spying on domestic and foreign opponents. The Israeli government’s denials of not being involved is fooling no one. The arrest and imprisonment of Jacob Zuma whom many Zulus see as their leader despite his flaws, has led to riots but his arrest was only the spark. Some are claiming that the Florida-based Haitian Pastor Christian Emmanuel Sanon was the man behind the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moisie.

On more cheerful news, it is a minor miracle that the Tokyo Olympic Games are happening.

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Observations of an Expat: The Filipino Monster and Justice

Rodrigo Duterte steps down as President of the Philippines in June 2022. He will be 77 and is planning for a quiet, non-eventful retirement—unlikely.

Nipping at his heels are the prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. They want Duterte to stand trial for the thousands of extra-judicial killings that took place first in the city of Davao while he was Mayor, and then across the Philippines during his presidential tenure. However, the ICC faces formidable hurdles in placing Duterte in the dock. But first why do they want him there?

Apart from being a foul-mouthed, rude, socially unacceptable, misogynistic, populist politician, Rodrigo Duterte is the man behind thousands of extra-judicial murders. First during his 22 years as Mayor of Davao and then as President. He does not deny the accusation. He revels in it.

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World Review: Cuba, climate change, the Taliban and foreign aid

Cuba may be reaching the end of its search for Utopian Socialism – shop shelves are empty and people are hungry. Ten years from now 2021 will be known as the year that the world was dragged kicking and screaming to the reality of climate change. The Taliban continues its march to victory with the capture of a key border crossing in the southeast corner on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Boris Johnson’s win on foreign aid this week was the world’s loss.

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Observations of an Expat: America’s Original Sin

America has developed its own version of Original Sin. It is called the Critical Race Theory and is proving to be yet another toxic debate topic dividing Black and White and the growing chasm separating America’s right and left.

Original Sin was propagated by St Augustine in the 4th century. It maintained that every human was born sinful and spent a lifetime fighting against it. The Augustinian philosophy was a major tenet of the medieval church and proved especially with the breakaway Protestant sects. Gradually, however, first the Catholics, and then most of the Protestants revised their thinking. Sin was washed away with sacrament of baptism and replaced with personal responsibility.

Critical Race Theory maintains that all Americans—or at least all White Americans—are born racist.

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World Review: A president assassinated, a president suing, a president withdrawing and Covid soaring

In this weekend’s review, LDV’s foreign correspondent Tom Arms talks of events in Haiti, a basket case of a country whose presidents tend to come to an untimely end, including this week President Moise.

Joe Biden is continuing to withdraw from Afghanistan. Donald Trump is suing Facebook. Both difficult strategies.

The delta variant of Covid-19 is causing cases to rise rapidly around the world, especially in countries with low levels of vaccination. Vaccinating Africa must become a priority to save lives in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres.

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Observations of an Expat: Free and Fair Elections in America

America believes in exporting its Democracy. And it has sought to do so right from the start. Congress regularly ties aid and trade packages to political change in developing countries, too often ignoring local conditions.

For many years America was seen by other countries as that “Shining City on the Hill” first mentioned in Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and later repeated by Puritan leader John Winthrop and, more recently, by President Ronald Reagan.

Its War of Independence inspired the French Revolution, liberation movements in South America and elsewhere in the world. The stirring words of the Declaration of Independence are mirrored in similar documents across the globe.

But changes in American electoral politics means that the rest of the world is now questioning America’s claim to the moral high ground, and those questions undermine the success and stability of democracy elsewhere in the world.

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World Review: Biden bombing, lawyers circle Trump, trade deals, vaccination and Suma

In this weekend’s review, Tom Arms looks at the dilemmas that faced Joe Biden as he ordered an attack on pro-Iranian militia in Iraq. In another dilemma, Biden could hold up any talk of a UK-US trade deal if he thinks that the Good Friday Agreement is threatened or damaged by Boris Johnson’s tactics on Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, prosecutors are getting closer to Donald Trump. The charging of a Trump Organisation employee could provide more information about Trump’s financial dealing. The organisations’ assets will also be frozen and banks are likely to call in their loans. former South African President Jacob Zuma has been jailed for contempt of court. And Israel is providing an object lesson in Covid complacency.

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Observations of an Expat: Happy Birthday CCP

There were massed choirs, bands, marching soldiers, clapping children, thousands and thousands of red and yellow balloons and a military flypast. Some 72,000 hand-picked and thoroughly vetted party members packed into Beijing’s Tianmen Square to perform a carefully choreographed warm-up act for a speech by President Xi Jinping to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party.

The main thrust of Xi’s address was that the Communist Party was now China and China was the Communist Party. The two entities have been declared indivisible. The Mandate of Heaven has fallen on the shoulders of the party’s leadership and that the only way that China can continue to develop and take its natural leading place in the world is through dogged loyalty to the diktats of the Chinese Communist Party.

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World Review: Voter suppression, wobbling Macron and the Great Barrier Reef

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Tom Arms, this week defends the use of the filibuster in Congress but criticises the Republicans for making it more difficult to vote. Joe Biden, desperate to avoid the addition of America to the sad list of states buried in Afghanistan’s imperial graveyard, is to throw money at the country problem’s rather than soldiers.

The first round of French local elections show President Macron to be in deep trouble and right-winger Marine Le Pen is not far behind him. The Australian government’s reaction to UNESCO’s warnings on the Great Barrier Reef show that the country is a big problem for the climate change community.

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Observations of an Expat: A Black Russian Sea

The landlocked 420,000 square mile Black Sea straddling the Europe Asia divide is fast becoming a maritime hotspot to rival the manmade islands of the South China Sea.

That is why this week the Russians buzzed the British warship HMS Defender, shot missiles into its path and then summoned the British Ambassador to the foreign ministry.

The British Type 45 frigate, said the Russians, had invaded Russian territorial waters. Wrong, said the British. Their ship could not possibly have been in Russian waters because it was off the coast of Crimea which was unilaterally annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. This annexation was not recognised by Britain or the rest of the world. Therefore, HMS Defender was in Ukrainian waters not Russian and was establishing its legitimate rights under international freedom of navigation law.

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World Review: Israel, cyber-attacks, Ethiopian elections and Trump trumping his book

In today’s briefing from our foreign affairs correspondent, Tom Arms look at congestion, vaccination and schooling in Israel. The NATO summit allowed Joe Biden to stress that the Trump Era was over and “America is back”. And Biden is prepared to retaliate for any cyber attacks from Russia. Elections are due in Ethiopia on Monday – they are “worthless”. Finally, Tom talks of Donald Trump’s new book. Move over the Bible and the Koran, this will be “the greatest book ever.” Should this “great” book be called “Trump Through the Looking Glass”? Suggestions on a title are welcome.

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Observations of an Expat: Feed me, says Kim

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un doesn’t often admit problems. How could the hermit kingdom/nuclear-armed rogue state admit failures or even difficulties? Such a thing is an oxymoron as North Koreans, by definition, live in a socialist paradise.

So, when the Great Leader goes before the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, swallows his pride, puts his reputation on the line and basically says “the food situation is tense,” it is a political earthquake in North Korea. It also means that North Korea is in a famine situation or, at the very least, heading rapidly in that direction.

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Tom Arms’ World Review: China and the US, democracy and Brexit fallout

There has been an acute outbreak of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill. It has been brought about by an even more acute outbreak of Sinophobia. It appears that the one—and possibly only—thing that upon which Democrats and Republicans can agree is their common fear of the rise of China. But most of all, they worry about they worry about defeat in the technology race which provides the essential tools for all the above. That is why the Senate this week voted by an overwhelming majority of 68 to 32 to pump $250 billion over five years into and development in America’s high-tech industries. It needs it. They worry about losing the values debate, the economic competition and the military debate. At the core of the technology business is semi-conductors and America’s global share of production of semi-conductors has dropped from 37 percent in 1990 to 12 percent in 2021. Meanwhile, China, this year surpassed America’s spending (private and public) on R and D spending in high-tech. Xi Jinping has said that he aims to have China self-sufficient in the production of semi-conductors and other high-tech products and services by 2025. It is a short jump from self-sufficiency to global dominance. US and Chinese competition in this field should be great news for the rest of the world because the likely result is more and better technology services for the rest of us. It should also spur other countries to follow suit for fear of falling behind. Israel and South Korea already invest more of their GDP’s on research and development than anyone else—4.6 percent according to the latest available figures. Britain has recently announced that its R and D investment will rise to more than $250 million a year to turn the country into a “science super power.”

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Observations of an ex pat: The Biden/Putin Circus

G7 in Cornwall, NATO heads of government in Brussels and finally a Putin-Biden face-to-face on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. It is President Joe Biden’s first foreign trip and designed to show, in his words, that “America is back.”

Not with the unilateralist, like it or lump it foreign policy of the Trump years, but with a return to across the board multilateralist-driven leadership. One of the keys to this new policy will be US-Russian relations. And a big part of the meetings in Cornwall and Brussels is finalising tactics for the summit in Geneva.

The US president has a long list of grievances to present to Vladimir Putin: Belarus, Crimea, Ukraine, Syria, election meddling, cyber-attacks, intermediate nuclear weapons, human rights, corruption, sanctuary for ransomware criminals….

He will deliver the list and then move on. Biden did not ask for the summit to list grievances. He asked for it to forge a new and more pragmatic relationship with Moscow as a counter to the real threat—China. During the Cold War years, the US successfully played Beijing off against the Russians. Now it is time to play the reverse side of the diplomatic coin: Russia against China.

But to judge the success of such a strategy you have to first understand the Russian leader’s position. And to do that you have to start from the premise that Russia is a failing state. However, it is also an ambitious failing state with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal—6,257 warheads. Putin inherited an economy that was tanking. He stopped the precipitous decline by selling out to oligarchs and has ended up a prisoner of the corrupt system he created.

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Observations of an Expat: The Real Iranian Elections

Forget about the Iranian presidential elections on 18 June. Actually don’t completely dismiss them. They do have some importance. The key one being how many actually turn out to vote. If the figure is low—as expected—then the regime knows that it is in trouble.

Voters who believe voting is a pointless exercise are more likely to take to the streets. And it really is pointless. To be a candidate in the Iranian presidential elections you have to be vetted and approved by the Assembly of Experts and Guardian Council who are dominated by conservative religious figures.

Out of the estimated 30 “moderates” who put their name forward, only two have been approved, and they are so lacklustre that they are unlikely to be much more than also-rans.

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World Review: Netanyahu, G7, corporation tax and going green

In this week’s look at world news, LDV’s foreign affairs editor Tom Arms reviews the situation in Israel where Netanyahu looks set to be ousted by a coalition held together, for now at least, by their opposition to the country’s leader of 12 years.

Cornwall will host the G7 summit later this week. Boris Johnson could join his peers having been defeated in the Commons over cuts to overseas aid. Coronavirus, climate change and promotion of green industries are on the agenda.

Finance ministers are expected to agree a base rate for corporation tax today but it is not necessarily a done deal. The proposal must be approved at the G20 summit meeting in Venice in July and countries that benefit from a low corporation tax regime, such as Ireland, are bound to challenge the proposal.

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World Review by Tom Arms: The Middle East, Capitol Hill, Boris and Dominic

In today’s World Review, our foreign affairs correspondent, Tom Arms, looks at the outcome of the bloody battle between Israel and Palestinians. Should there be an inquiry into the attack on capitol Hill? Or should the matter be left to the law authorities. The police are also investigating the latest mass shooting in America just as Texas loosens gun control laws. Here in Britain, our conflicts have been political – Cummings, Boris and Hancock. And Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban is coming to Number 10. Will Boris challenge him on human rights?

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Observations of an Expat: The Alex Problem

Often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, Belarussia’s Alexander Lukashenko can blatantly break international law with an act of air piracy and kidnapping because he thinks he can get away with it. He feels politically secure.

He feels secure because he has total backing from Russia’s Vladimir Putin who regards the maintenance of a pro-Russian Belarus as vital to Russia’s national interests. And because he knows that the rest of the world—especially the European Union—is frightened of stepping on the toes of the Russian bear.

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