There is a spectre haunting Europe these days. No, it’s not communism but the rise of far-right parties. In less than a month, far-right parties have been swooped up big chunks of popular votes in countries as different as Sweden and Italy.
However, it is the large electoral victory of Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, and the likely designation of Meloni as prime minister of the new Italian government, that has so far attracted the most serious concerns. Her party’s ambivalent relationship with its fascist roots has indeed sparked anxiety about the prospect of Italian democracy and the country’s loyalty to the European project.… Seguir leyendo »
Current protests present the Iranian regime with a far more immediate crisis than the selection of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s eventual successor. But the opaque succession process – and the underlying questions over its legitimacy and lack of accountability – will haunt Iran’s political system long after the unrest has been quelled.
Having succeeded Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, Khamenei is now the longest-ruling leader of a Middle Eastern state, and his death will herald a significant transition for both Iran and the wider region.
Competition to succeed him will be intense, and whatever the outcome, the way the transition unfolds will have far-reaching consequences for Iran’s relationship with its Arab neighbours and Western adversaries.… Seguir leyendo »
The recent large-scale cross-border attacks inside Armenia by Azerbaijan, with reports estimating at least 286 people killed from both sides and hundreds more wounded, highlights the wider picture of a collapsing Russian-led security order in Eurasia.
Coming on 12 September, the attacks coincided with Ukraine’s successful counter-offensive in Kharkiv and fresh fighting between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. And Armenian appeals to Russia and its allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for support met with muted responses, resulting only in the mobilization of a fact-finding mission.
Several key actors in Eurasia now see Azerbaijan as a critical – or at least important – partner in solving new problems flowing from the war in Ukraine.… Seguir leyendo »
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has impacted energy markets around the world and, as winter in Europe approaches, unprecedently high costs threaten to make energy unaffordable for both large portions of society and many businesses in the UK.
One of the first actions of incoming UK Prime Minister Liz Truss has been to announce significant help for domestic consumers for the next two winters and a proposed cap to the amount that consumers pay for the energy they use while a similar approach is proposed for businesses but only for six months. This package is going to be expensive. The Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests the domestic cap alone will cost more than £100 billion just for one year and both schemes will ultimately be funded by the taxpayer.… Seguir leyendo »
Until now, Russian nuclear doctrine consistently stated Russia would only use nuclear weapons first should the existence of the state be threatened, rather than its ‘territorial integrity’.
However, the planned referenda which aim to annex parts of Ukraine would mean any Ukrainian attempts to reclaim that territory could then be framed as a threat to Russia’s territorial integrity.
The impact of nuclear weapons use would be grave and would require a strong response – and therefore could escalate quickly to become a large-scale regional war and possibly all-out nuclear war.
Nuclear war cannot be won
The Reagan-Gorbachev statement that ‘nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought’ has been restated by all five nuclear weapon states twice, once in January 2022 weeks before the invasion of Ukraine began, and again in early August 2022 at the start of the NPT Review Conference.… Seguir leyendo »
While the Russian invasion of Ukraine only confirmed Central and Eastern Europe’s views of Russia, it is also affecting their relations with China. Although the relationship was already complicated due to unfulfilled Chinese economic promises to CEE countries and growing indications of efforts to influence their domestic politics, China’s support for Russia is pushing Central and Eastern Europeans even further away.
This shift was highlighted, and formalized, recently by several countries in the region leaving the ‘17+1’ format, through which China cooperates with a group of countries from the region. The shifting attitudes towards China will also influence the relationship between the European Union as a whole and China.… Seguir leyendo »
It says something of the UK that the incoming prime minister has ordered a rewrite of British foreign policy barely 18 months after the last one was published.
Liz Truss, who has become the fourth prime minister in Downing Street in six turbulent years, is not prone to risk aversion or offering bland reassurances. She made clear during the campaign for the Conservative leadership that she wants the 2021 Integrated Review redrawn with a far greater focus on combating the ‘growing malign influence’ of Russia and China. She has also pledged to increase defence spending from its current 2.1 per cent of GDP, to 2.7 per cent, and then to 3 per cent by 2030, which will include more support for the intelligence services and cyber security, a further £10 billion overall at a time when public finances are in dire straits.… Seguir leyendo »
For all the smoke-and-mirrors talk now commonplace about Brexit opportunities, there is real potential that Liz Truss – as the clear frontrunner to be the next UK prime minister – could extract from the aftermath of that upheaval as well as from the turmoil in the world.
But the approach and priorities she revealed during her one year as a better UK foreign secretary than Boris Johnson was – although he did set a low bar – as well as the past three months campaigning for the leadership of her party contain a warning.
She has shown a willingness to aggravate relationships with allies in pursuit of the support of her party faithful, and of a vision of British independence as well as a tendency to dismiss economic analysis when it inconveniently questions her assertions about favoured policies.… Seguir leyendo »
At his inauguration one year ago this week, Zambia’s president Hakainde Hichilema inherited a country with a heavily indebted economy and a reputation for fiscal unreliability.
He has secured, for now at least, Zambian citizens’ buy-in and patience for what he is seeking to do – with future debt-repayment austerity lurking on the horizon.
Hichilema’s predecessor Edgar Lungu consistently harassed – and some would say persecuted – Hichilema, casting him in the role of a perpetual loser who was destined never to win the presidency with five failed previous efforts.
At the same time, Lungu embarked on an ambitious but recklessly-financed programme of both prestige and infrastructural projects, relying greatly on foreign liquidity particularly from China, and on commercial borrowings by way of the issue of Eurobonds – upon which his administration defaulted.… Seguir leyendo »
Though many African countries are feeling the impact of climate change, reconciling the loss of revenue and employment incurred by moving away from old models of energy production has proved difficult at a time when the continent faces increased pressure from rising youth unemployment and deepening poverty.
The challenge of jobs
Many political leaders are sceptical of the numbers of green jobs forecast by international consultants and investors. Much of the discourse around the ‘just’ energy transition has been about securing funding for renewable energy projects, without sufficient attention to the reskilling necessary for the absorption of existing local labour into these projects.… Seguir leyendo »
The Japanese economy stands out among G7 economies for its historically low inflation. Between 1992 and 2021, prices increased only six per cent in Japan compared to almost 80 per cent in the UK and more than 90 per cent in the US.
So far, this picture has not changed in the face of the latest global inflation surge. Many countries have recently recorded year-on-year inflation rates approaching 10 per cent, but Japanese inflation has risen by much less – from 0.1 per cent per annum in October 2021 to 2.6 per cent per annum in July 2022.
Japan has faced the same external inflationary pressures as other major economies – notably the food and energy crisis that has followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the impact of supply chain bottlenecks as the global economy recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic.… Seguir leyendo »
It is projected that 1.3 billion people will be living in Africa’s cities by 2050, an increase of almost 1 billion from today, and largely driven by young people migrating to urban centres in search of work. As the continent’s urban population grows, cities will need to adapt by nurturing new economic ecosystems to create jobs, while managing the environmental, social and political pressures that urbanization brings.
The evolution of Africa’s cities is critical for meeting the demands of its youth population and must be co-created with them. Africa’s young innovators are already proving to be an asset in shaping the future of African cities and, if they are allowed to flourish, they could be at the forefront of finding much-needed solutions to the continent’s vast urban challenges.… Seguir leyendo »
One year after the Taliban’s ascent to power in Afghanistan, the plight of Afghans is worsening. The economic situation is dire, malnutrition rates are increasing, women’s rights are being curtailed, there is continuing migration and internal displacement, and the health care system is crumbling – the already high maternal mortality rates are thought to have increased four-fold.
Since seizing power, the Taliban claim they have achieved full territorial control, established security and removed ‘islands of illegitimate power’. However, while physical security has improved by some measures – aid agencies report enhanced access to some provinces – a significant rise in attacks by the Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-KP) targeting Shia and other minorities is one of many reminders that Afghanistan is far from secure.… Seguir leyendo »
Zaporizhzhia, one of the world’s largest nuclear power stations, is situated on the southern bank of the Dnipro River and, as of early August, in a region controlled by Russian military forces. Within days of the start of the war, Russian forces sought to take control of nuclear facilities in the north of Ukraine (Chernobyl) and in the southeast at Zaporizhzha. The unprecedented attack on Zaporizhzhia was followed by a military takeover of the facility on the 4th of March. Despite the military confrontation, Ukrainian staff have continued to operate the plant and continue to do so to this day.
Although the shelling of the station did not result in the release of radiation, Olexiy Kovynyevis, an independent expert and former reactor supervisor, reports that shells hit the turbine buildings as well as the external power supply which was ‘almost completely disrupted’.… Seguir leyendo »
The number of armed conflicts in the world has risen markedly over the last decade resulting in large-scale human suffering. Violent conflict is a major driver of humanitarian funding needs and, by the end of this decade, up to two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor are expected to live in fragile and conflict-affected states.
Russia’s war in Ukraine is aggravating fragility and conflict challenges globally as soaring food and energy prices hit countries already grappling with instability, unemployment and poverty as well as the health and economic repercussions of COVID-19.
Climate change – a ‘ threat multiplier’ – is also getting worse.… Seguir leyendo »
Following their shock victory in the 2021 elections, the Sadrists claimed they were poised to push Iraq towards a new type of politics. But after nine months of failing to form a government, their leader, populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has seemingly given up and withdrawn from the government formation process. Instead, he called for mass protests, sent his followers to invade and occupy parliament, and demanded another election. In response, his opponents, Nouri al-Maliki and the Iran-aligned Popular Mobilization Forces, sent loyalists to Baghdad’s Green Zone, risking conflict between the two heavily armed sides.
Although it is still unlikely this will lead to a Shia civil war, there are increasing concerns about the lengths Sadr is willing go to.… Seguir leyendo »
China’s fading ties with Washington?
Dr Yu Jie
US House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi’s, visit to Taiwan has plunged China-US relations into a new low as the reservoir of trust forged between the two sides over the last 40 years appears to be almost exhausted.
However, her move will likely not result in the full-scale crisis across the Taiwan strait that some hawkish voices in both Beijing and Washington believe. Instead, Beijing will most likely offer a combination of military posturing toward the US navy and economic sanctions on Taiwanese agricultural and manufacturing products in order to send a clear bellwether to any future potential visits by high-level Western political figures.… Seguir leyendo »
As Iraq’s political stalemate persists, many observers expect protests will erupt over the country’s worsening socio-economic situation, the increasing effects of climate change – such as heat waves and dust storms – and a lack of political will to change the status quo. The young people who played a crucial role in previous protests have once again been excluded from critical debates.
While Iraq has not witnessed mass protests following early elections in 2021, the protest movement is not dead. Rather, young activists are seeking to establish their own spaces and challenge the system in different ways. ‘The present political elite look at youth as either tools or rivals, not as partners’, stated a participant at a recent Baghdad workshop organized by the Chatham House Iraq Initiative in partnership with Al-Bayan Centre.… Seguir leyendo »
The electoral contest in Angola – which officially started on 24 July – is fiercely competitive. An Afrobarometer survey in May found the opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) party was trailing the governing Movement for Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party by just seven percentage points, with around half of voters still undecided.
The ruling MPLA is headed by current president João Lourenço and the UNITA party is led by Adalberto Costa Júnior. A decision in May by the Constitutional Court to rule UNITA had to campaign on its own and not as part of an opposition coalition is a reminder that the MPLA capitalizes on its incumbency.… Seguir leyendo »
US president Joe Biden’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia as a part of his Middle Eastern tour was not a failure as the Russian propaganda tried to present it.
On the contrary, the US and Saudi Arabia seem to come to certain terms regarding their vision of the global oil market prospects and, most probably, steps which can be taken by Riyadh to mitigate the negative impact of high oil prices on Western economies.
While the details of US-Saudi negotiations are kept secret, the oil market expects that on 3 August – when OPEC+ members meet to discuss production quotas – Saudi Arabia may try to persuade the cartel to increase supplies.… Seguir leyendo »