Archive for February, 2021

Myanmar’s military detains elected leader

Myanmar’s military successfuly completed a coup against the democratically elected government and officials. In morning raids, the military detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other officials of the National League for Democracy. The military stated its actions were in response to “election fraud” and transferred power to Min Aung Hlaing, a military chief in the Burmese army. Hlaing immediately imposed a one year long state of emergency for the country.

This coup effectively negates years of Western sponsored efforts in support of democracy in Myanmar. This situation will likely become a political sparring ground for western democracies, namely the United States, and neighboring China, whose influence is always growing in the region.

Cameron W.

Xi Jinping delivers speech at the World Economic Forum’s Davos conference

On Jan. 25, Xi Jinping delivered a speech to the online version of the World Economic Forum’s Davos conference, with the hefty title of “Let the Torch of Multilateralism Light Up Humanity’s Way Forward”. Although it did not entail China’s ambitions for it’s future, it offered a rather more light-hearted look at how China wants to be seen by others, basically saying that China is a rising but benevolent power that only has humanity’s best interests at heart. Some other points that the Chinese President hit upon were calling for macroeconomic coordination to “jointly promote strong, sustainable, balanced, and inclusive growth of the world economy”, advocating for a “closing in the divide between developed and developing countries” and said that countries should “come together against global challenges and jointly create a better future for humanity”.

All in all, Xi Jinping is asking for a rise in multilateralism and mentioned it several times in his speech, as its even in the name. If the Biden Administration were to take up China’s call for multilateralism, this can be done so through the various alliances that the US holds in Asia to pursue favorable outcomes like Xi is calling for. However, it can never be certain on how to know a state’s true intentions from a speech like this, as it seems glittered with gold. The Biden Administration should tread lightly, but some good could potentially come out of multilateralism as China seeks mutually beneficial cooperation in a number of areas.

Trends In National Security Priorities

On Thursday the German courts passed down a life sentence on a far-right extremist for the murder of a regional politician.(1) Accompanying this killing came warnings from the German government that far-right extremism poses a significant security threat to the German state as well as reaffirming promises to further stifle the efforts of “right-wing terrorists and their intellectual instigators,”(2) These comments accompany a similar mindset in the United States where the Biden administration has stated that addressing domestic extremism will be a significant area of focus for the National Security Council.(3) This brings into question what effective efforts are being made in Germany to prevent further political assassinations. An occurrence which hasn’t affected the United States since the attempted 2011 assassination of congresswoman Gabby Gifford by the far-right adjacent actor Jared Lee Loughner. The brief occupation of the Capital Building by far-right protestors can clearly be seen as an escalation of violence and it brings into question how first world democratic countries can effectively address far-right extremism and if similar tactics and escalations that we see in Germany may soon be witnessed in the United States. 

Gabriel M.

(1) https://apnews.com/article/state-courts-angela-merkel-crime-germany-courts-60c5d9f587ed41e914e93540f174bdc2

(2) https://apnews.com/article/state-courts-angela-merkel-crime-germany-courts-60c5d9f587ed41e914e93540f174bdc2

(3) https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/19/politics/biden-focus-domestic-terrorism/index.html

2021 NDAA

As of the new year, the 2021 Fiscal Year National Defense Authorization Act has officially been signed to law, allocating $740.5 billion to this year’s defense budget. This is the 60th NDAA bill to be turned to law despite pushback from the Whitehouse. Last month, Congress overturned the veto of the bill demanding repeal of Section 230 from former President Trump and the bill passed with a two-thirds majority. Section 230 of the NDAA was not specific to the defense budget and referred to protections that internet intermediaries retain against content posted by users. Included in this year’s NDAA is: a 3% increase in pay for military personnel, increases in funding towards health, education, and housing programs, and general provisions to increase measures against congressional oversight. The majority of the budget goes to maintenance and upkeep of bases and equipment, about $250 billion. The plan includes funding for initiatives to face rising national security threats like $1.4 billion (with an additional $5.5 billion planned for 2022) for a Pacific Deterrence Initiative against China’s increasing influence. In fact, roughly 10% of the budget has been designated for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCOs), like funds set aside for Afghanistan Security forces and for counter-ISIS training and equipment. Scientific R&D in new technologies was allocated $104 billion and other health research, $33 billion. The 2021 NDAA represents one of the largest defense budgets in the US since World War II and there is some contention, given the current COVID19 pandemic, whether there should be a redirection of attention and funding to handle the current crisis rather than increasing spending for one of the largest recipients of taxpayer revenue.

Virginia R.

https://appropriations.house.gov/news/press-releases/appropriations-committee-releases-fiscal-year-2021-defense-funding-bill
https://www.ntu.org/publications/detail/senates-740-billion-defense-bill-is-the-wrong-fit-in-the-time-of-covid-19
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