Archive for February, 2021

Children Kidnapped By Boko Haram In Nigeria

In 2014, Boko Haram attacked a school in Nigeria and kidnapped 276 schoolgirls. Since that time, many have been freed or escaped, but many still remain in captivity. Just recently, a group of girls managed to run away from their captors and make it home to their families. This recent occurrence has raised the question of what is being done to free the remaining girls imprisoned by Boko Haram. While there has been public support for action on social media, there has been little effort by governments around the world to free these girls. Potential consequences for the United States in not acting is that they lose face. This would be due to the fact that they are not intervening in what is considered to be human rights violations. This could make the United States seem as though they do not care about the people in this region, and the region as a whole. 

Hunter M

https://abcnews.go.com/International/chibok-girls-escaped-boko-haram-years-parents/story?id=75560018 

Readdressing NATO

As President Biden has started taking steps to strengthen the US position in its international alliances some facets need to be reconsidered. Trump notoriously criticized the United States’ NATO allies for their “lacking” devotion to military spending compared to the US. The US will still invest more in defense than every NATO ally combined in the coming year. Only nine members even meet the 2% of their GDP that Trump threatened to back out if this was not met. (the U.S., Greece, Britain, Bulgaria, Estonia, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Romania) Germany has actually submitted a budget of $63.8 USD toward its military this year yet it still does not meet the 2% minimum. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin just gave a ministerial speech at NATO where he stressed the US military concerns about “destabilizing behavior by Russia, the rise of China, terrorism, the pandemic and climate change” all of which will have an effect on most NATO countries. The problem here is what can be expected in the coming years in relation to these defense budget imbalances. Europe has it’s own recovering to do so it is hard to put pressure on the nations’ leaders to prioritize defense over their recuperating economies. Also, NATO allies may not have the same incentive to push back against China or Russia the way the US is and will not have as much incentive to devote resources to these issues. In the meantime, it is unlikely that Biden will take a hard stance on budgeting concerns in this period where he is reaffirming alliances.

https://www.dw.com/en/germany-reports-record-53-billion-in-nato-defense-spending/a-56491017

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-02-20/nato-s-big-problems-are-afghanistan-china-and-paying-up

Virginia R.

China Influencers Taiwanese Propaganda

China is allegedly using social media influencers to help push its communist’s views. They use popular Taiwanese streamers, Youtubers and even news anchors to promote Chinese Communist opinion to viewers all over Taiwan. The CCP has targeted a wide range of media popular among young people as channels through which to advance its agenda. In addition to Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, Kuaishou, and podcasts.

Perseverance Lands on Mars

On February 18th, the seven month long journey of the Perseverance probe came to an end as it successfully touched down on the surface of Mars. Hopefully, due to the success of the mission, we will see more funds appropriated towards NASA for other projects like Artemis, which would allow us to expand our understanding of Space, as well as to maintain the US Government’s ability to do things in space without having to worry about the interests of the multiple corporations currently looking to expand there.

-Zachary Milnes

America under Biden shifts its stance on the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam

Under its previous administration, America was negotiating Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt to resolve a dispute over the construction of the Ethiopian grand renaissance dam. However, Trump’s administration failed to be a legitimate negotiator and pressured Ethiopia to sign an agreement that conflicts with Ethiopia’s interest. Trump administration also withholds security and development aid to Ethiopia, intending to press Ethiopia to sign an abiding deal. Yet president Biden change gear on the Nile dispute. On Feb 19, press briefing, the U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price affirms that the 272 million dollar aid withhold will no longer be attached with the Nile dispute (Global Construction Review). , the Biden administration is making progress in undoing the previous administration faults in the horn of Africa. Consequently, the administration should continue making such farsighted decisions in the region. It must not fail to propaganda “pundits” and so-called “horn of Africa experts” as they far from the truth.

Adonay Teklu

https://www.globalconstructionreview.com/news/biden-changes-tack-ethiopias-grand-renaissance-dam/

State Department lawyers have a hard time defining “genocide” in Xinjiang

The US State Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor concluded earlier this year that China’s mass imprisonment and forced labor of ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang amount to crimes against humanity, but there is insufficient evidence to prove a genocide. Former Secretary of Defense Mike Pompeo tweeted one day before former President Trump left office that “I have determined that the People’s Republic of China is committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups”. From then on, the Biden Administration has reaffirmed Pompeo’s stance and backed off a recent claim Biden’s UN envoy pick, Linda Thomas- Greenfield, made in her confirmation hearing that the designation will be under review.

Genocide, overall, can be difficult to prove in court. International courts have come to define genocide as, according to the Genocide Convention, that the “perpetrator must intend to destroy the relevant group in a biological or physical sense” wrote Todd Buchwald, who served as the special coordinator for the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice during the Obama administration. International legal experts see this view on genocide as too narrow.

According to the Genocide Convention, there are five categories of genocide. The first entails of the killing of members of a protected group but also including acts aimed at preventing a victim’s ability to bear children and forcibly separating children from their communities. The second type consists of causing serious bodily and mental harm. The third type, defined by the Convention, consists of “deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about their physical destruction”, as critics of the State Department’s legal stance have argued that they are focusing too much on the first type of genocide. It will be interesting to see the Biden Administration’s reaction to the investigation to overall genocide claims. In this sense, the US does have some historical/international prestige in its response to Bosnia and Iraq in 1993/95, as well as claims against Hutu extremists in the infamous Rwandan genocide of 1994.

Miguel Terrazas

Biden Has Taken Action

Biden has stated that the days of the U.S. “rolling over” to President Vladimir Putin are over. He has requested the release of Alexei Navalni, a Russian opposition leader that stood up against corruption and the Putin leadership, who was taken into custody in early January. Biden has also come out and stated that interfering with our elections, cyber attacks, and even poisoning its citizens for opposing Putin, like what was done to Navalni, will no longer be tolerated or ignored. He has also made it clear that “we [the U.S.] will not hesitate to raise the cost on Russia and defend our vital interests and our people.” In my opinion, Biden made the right decision by calling out Putin for his actions, and separating the U.S. from any potential harm that could come from Russia or Putin in the future.

Olivia S.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/biden-strikes-tough-tone-on-russia-in-diplomatic-push-alexei-navalny-joe-biden-vladimir-putin-russia-us-b1797952.html

North Korea Continues to Experience Economic Struggles and Increased Tensions

North Korea’s economic minister who was just appointed this past January, has already been fired as North Korea is experiencing its worst economic slump in more than two decades. Reportedly, these economic struggles are causing tensions to rise among North Korean leadership. Last month Kim Jong Un stated that North Korea’s last economic plan failed “tremendously.” Due to isolation because of the Coronavirus pandemic and increased sanctions, these struggles continue to worsen. Though it isn’t expected to lead to famine as it did in the 90s when hundreds of thousands of people died in North Korea, this could still mean more hardship for North Korea’s citizens. A country that is already known for its nuclear presence and threats experiencing increased tensions and leadership turnover may halt any hope of a stable government willing to improve itself and work with other nations, specifically the United States. For North Korea and the United States to ever have a stable relationship the North Korean government has to have an open mind and willingness. This might not be possible if tensions are still increased even within their own country.

Erin M.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/north-korea-kim-economy-crisis/2021/02/19/16d108d8-706b-11eb-8651-6d3091eac63f_story.html

Can Business Help Bring Peace To The Middle East?

It has been six months since the signing of the “Abraham Accords,” a peace agreement between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. The peace has brought an increase in business for all countries involved. Companies are signing deals with each other to increase profit, increase customer selection, and benefit the economies of the countries.

The peace is expected to stay, and to positively benefit relations between the countries. Since they all benefit off of it, they will all want to stay in the deal. Could this strategy potentially be used to help stabilize the rest of the Middle East? I think so. Regular peace treaties are great and all, but when the countries involved have a positive economic reason to stay it works better. This agreement can be used as a model to help better relationships not just within the Middle East but within the rest of the world.

There would, of course, be some exceptions. Palestine has condemned the deal, refusing peace until Israel gives back their land. The Israel-Palestine conflict is definitely not something that economic activity can fix. And Saudi Arabia probably won’t join anything with Israel until their conflict with Palestine is resolved. A peace agreement with economic benefits is by no means a fix-all, but it could be a good starting point for a lot of Middle Eastern countries.

Eleanor Haas

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-56111623

Myanmar’s military still won’t let up.

TikTok is a really interesting place to find content about international events. Lilly Oo, (@whoops.its.lilly on TikTok) is a creator from Myanmar who’s content addresses the reality of the military coup. Lilly is currently studying abroad and is safe from the violence, but she has taken it upon herself to report what the media will not: graphic scenes of human rights violations that come straight from the source. In a recent Youtube video, Lilly compiles footage from protests in Myanmar to bring attention to how the military uses “the law” to justify police brutality. People in Myanmar are being murdered by the military, and Lilly’s video shows this.

TW: Graphic Content. I hope you’re older than 18.

As we talked about in class last Thursday, if Myanmar does not pose a threat to the United States, can the U.S. even act? Yes. President Biden released a statement disavowing the violence in Myanmar and will be withholding $1 billion in U.S. funding to the country, in an effort to sanction military generals from committing further acts of human rights abuses.

Will Biden’s actions really hold Myanmar’s current authority accountable, and will other countries follow suit? How long will this conflict escalate before China gets involved?

It’s hard for me to say whether or not Biden’s statement will make the situation better, but disavowing the illegitimate government in Myanmar is the first action to take. Lilly’s video provides real evidence of the human rights violations that are occuring in Myanmar, and I would not have seen these accounts if I did not know who to follow.

Use your socials wisely,

Sav

nytimes.com/2021/02/10/us/politics/biden-sanctions-myanmar-coup.html
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