Tom Arms’ World Review

Alexei Navalny is dead.

His body lies in a prison morgue inside the Arctic Circle. It is generally accepted that he was murdered, or at the very least Vladimir Putin is responsible for his death by sentencing him to a frozen penal colony.

After days of standing at the prison gates, Navalny’s mother was finally allowed to see his body. But she has been denied permission to take it away for burial.

Instead she was told that she had to agree to agree to a secret burial at a hush-hush site. Otherwise, Lydmilia Navalny reported, “the authorities said they would do things to Alexei’s body.”

Putin is clearly afraid of Navalny the martyr. He is afraid that a public burial at an accessible site will become a focal point for those opposed to his corrupt oligarchical rule.

Navalny was not even cold on his morgue slab before the Russian media machine was trying to spin him out of the Russian story. The state-controlled news machine was late in reporting his death and its accounts were, at best perfunctory. There was no contextual information to explain why he was in prison and one commentator refused to use his first name.

From Putin himself there has been a deafening silence. This is unsurprising. In the past, the Russian president has refused to use the opposition leader’s name when directly asked about him at press conferences. He clearly hopes that the dearth of reports by the media will result in Navalny becoming a non-person as well as dead.

This maybe the case in Russia, but it isn’t working in the West. Navalny’s wife Yulia and their 23-year-old daughter Dasha have already been quick to pick up the baton. Navalny’s 15-year-old son Zahar is probably not far behind.

But will the West listen? Yulia made a major impact when she spoke at the recent Munich Security Conference and Dasha joined her mother in an emotional White House meeting with President Joe Biden.

But Biden and the Europeans were a receptive audience before Alexei’s death. The nut that needs to be cracked is the MAGA Republicans. When Trump was asked by Fox News to comment on Navalny’s death he refused to blame Putin and focused on linking Alexei’s death to his own legal problems. We are both persecuted victims of the state, he claimed. Trump added that Navalny should never have returned to Russia after being treated in a German hospital for novichok poisoning.

Navalny knew he would be sent to prison as soon as he returned. He explained the move by saying that he could not expect his followers to overcome fear of Putin’s rule if he did not himself demonstrate bravery by returning to certain imprisonment.

 

The world is divided on a ceasefire in Gaza. Political leaders in Europe, America, Japan and Australia are generally behind the proposal for a “temporary ceasefire,” the return of the hostages and a massive increase of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Most of rest of the world backs an immediate ceasefire without reference to the release of hostages or the activities of Hamas.

The divisions are within countries as well as between them, and within NATO. The left-wing of the US Democratic Party is pushing President Joe Biden to agree to press Israel for an unconditional immediate ceasefire.

At the European Union, Josep Borrell, the man responsible for EU foreign affairs, said the problem could be easily resolved if Washington stopped its $3.8 billion in military aid to Israel. The suggestion was immediately dismissed by the State Department spokesman.

At the UN, the US vetoed an Algerian resolution for an immediate ceasefire. America’s UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield has a counter draft resolution which she has yet to submit. This is probably because it would probably be vetoed by China and/or Russia, thus leaving the Security Council deadlocked and without any resolution.

If so, they would be following the example of the British Parliament. Attempts this week to pass a resolution on Gaza descended into parliamentary chaos and accusations that the Opposition Labour Party had colluded with Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle (who is meant to be politically neutral) to put their amendment before that of the Scottish National Party.

Sir Lindsay, defended himself, by claiming that his clumsy handling of parliamentary procedure was based on the fear that extremists of the right and left would use the voting record of parliamentarians to attack them.

Of course, any resolution, by any political party or organisation is unlikely to have any impact on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. At the moment his military is preparing a ground offensive against the southern Gazan city of Rafah. He said it will start at the beginning of Ramadan on 10 March. “I will not,” said Netanyahu,” be deterred by from my objective of destroying Hamas.”

According to every diplomatic observer, relations between Netanyahu’s bellicose intransigence are has severely strained relations with Biden. According to The Washington Post, the American president has warned that an attack on Rafah could be the final straw. But would break the back of the American camel’s support for Israel? Or is it another American red line for Netanyahu to ignore?

 

Mayotte is not a part of the world that is normally in the headlines. But it is this week because its problems have the potential to change the immigration policies of France which would in turn have an impact on migration to Europe.

To understand the problem we have to realise that the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte is politically part of France. It has representation in the French National Assembly. The citizens of Mayotte are citizens of France and they vote in French elections.

Mayotte is what is known as an Overseas Department. France has five of them—Mayotte, Tahiti, French Guyana, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

In the case of Mayotte, it used to be politically linked with other islands in the Comoros archipelago. Then in 1974 the rest of the archipelago voted to become independent and renamed themselves the Union of the Comoros. Mayotte voted to remain French.

All well in good. The problem is that Mayotte grew more prosperous than their neighbours, although it is very poor compared to the French mainland.  Residence in Mayotte, could also lead to French citizenship and the opportunity to move to rich Europe.

The result was a massive influx of Comorians to Mayotte. In fact, half of the 330,000 residents are Comorian immigrants. There is especially a roaring trade in pregnant women travelling to Mayotte to have their babies.  This in turn has led to violent demonstrations against the immigrants.

Because Mayotte is officially part of mainland France, the person responsible for dealing with the problem is French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanian. He has said he would organise an amendment to the constitution that would strip children born on Mayotte to non-Mayotte French parents of the right to obtain French citizenship.

This has infuriated the French Left who point to a 2018 statement by Darmanian that “there are not two categories of French people and there are not two categories of French territories,”

The French right, however, are delighted, and argue that the same rules that are being proposed for Mayotte should be extended to all French territories—including the French mainland.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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2 Comments

  • Mayotte is what is known as an Overseas Department. France has five of them—Mayotte, Tahiti, French Guyana, Guadeloupe and Martinique.

    In this list, replace Tahiti with Réunion. Tahiti is part of French Polynesia which is a semi-autonomous overseas collectivity (from 2003) and the only oversea’s country (from 2004) of the French Republic.

  • Peter Hirst 1st Mar '24 - 3:30pm

    What I want is a cessation of hostilities, however it is called. Diplomacy is the only way to end this catastrophe. Every human has equal value and the UN needs to look at how to formalise this truth.

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