Archive for March, 2021

US ambassador visits Taiwan for first time in 42 years

On March 28, 2021 the President of Palau Surangel Whipps Jr. visited Taiwan to participate in a press conference that took place at the Regent Taipei hotel in a state banquet with Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and other Taiwanese officials. In this press conference the United States ambassador of Palau John Hennessey-Niland also attended making this the first time in 42 years since President Jimmy Carter cut ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing in 1979 as stated in the article. In this meeting they both stated that  American ambassadors should express the responsibility to their dissatisfaction with China for its economic and political threats against Taiwan’s allies. It seems that Taiwan is gaining more alleys in its pursuit to officially be a its own country in China’s viewpoint and the world, but the question still stands on what will these allies or friendships do if China deicides to attack Taiwan ?

https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4163127

cnmoh

Biden administration announces plans to increase spending into scientific fields

Last Thursday, March 25th, President Biden announced in a press conference that he intends to increase investment into the development of science and technology to 2% of the GDP from where it stands now at 0.7%. He stated, “we’re going to invest in medical research — cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, the things — industries of the future — artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotech.” In this, he draws parallels to China’s scientific funding and said that “China is out investing us by a longshot.” The National  Security Commission of Artificial Intelligence agreed with this in their report that said “weaknesses have emerged in our AI ecosystem that impair innovation and when viewed against the backdrop of China’s state directed AI progress,” and recommended that spending on AI R&D should reach an annual allocation of $32 billion. I think that this is a step in the right direction in terms of the national budget. Since the most widespread national security problem revolves around China’s increasing military investments, especially into these sectors, investing in the US’s own R&D is the best course of action. Investing in these sectors is also way more relevant in a time where climate change is having a real impact on domestic security and a pandemic threatened the economic stability of the country. An increase in spending towards these sectors will help the US to prevent having large-scale vulnerabilities in the future.

https://www.marketplace.org/2021/03/29/biden-wants-to-nearly-double-u-s-spending-on-science/

https://reports.nscai.gov/final-report/chapter-11/

Virginia R.

American Far-right Takes on The Covid-19 Vaccine

Adherents of far-right groups have left behind the “Stop the Steal” movement targeting President Biden and are now adopting a new agenda from the anti-vaccination campaign. (1)

The low numbers of negative reactions are being used by far-right groups to try to bolster alarmist disinformation in articles and videos with titles like “COVID-19 Vaccines Are Weapons of Mass Destruction — and Could Wipe out the Human Race” or “Doctors and Nurses Giving the COVID-19 Vaccine Will be Tried as War Criminals.” (2)

Groups pushing these baseless claims including right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys; the Boogaloo movement, a loose affiliation known for wanting to spark a second Civil War; Qanon and various other paramilitary organizations. (3)

According to Devin Burghart, the head of the Seattle-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which monitors far-right movements, “They rode the shift in the national conversation away from Trump to what was happening with the massive ramp up in vaccines,”and that doing so “It allowed them to pivot away from the failure of their previous prophecy to focus on something else.” (4)

One important and misunderstood aspect of the far-right is misinformation. People discuss fake news and refer to it as a large problem as it spreads misinformation but the fact that by it simply being repeated and engaged with over and over again it slowly works to shift the conversation and our cultural understanding of reality. This is due to Americans having an idea of “truth being reality based instead of resulting in a large part from culture. By putting these words out over the bull horn of the broader far-right the individuals pushing these ideas are modifying culture and as a byproduct the reality of the American people. 

 

Gabriel Matteson

 

(1) https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/03/26/nation/far-right-extremists-move-stop-steal-stop-vaccine/

(2) https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/03/26/nation/far-right-extremists-move-stop-steal-stop-vaccine/

(3) https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/03/26/nation/far-right-extremists-move-stop-steal-stop-vaccine/

(4) https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/03/26/nation/far-right-extremists-move-stop-steal-stop-vaccine/

Navalny Could Be Put Into Solitary Confinement “Close to Torture”

Navalny, Putins highest profile critic, has been serving his two and a half year prison sentence for a previous suspended sentence violation. He is now facing possible solitary confinement for minor infractions which he has stated is “close to torture”. These infractions have included getting out of bed too early before the official wake-up call, and wearing a t-shirt during one of his meetings with his lawyer. He also refused to go out for morning activities and instead suggested getting some coffee to his prison official. These minor infractions have not only led to a possible solitary confinement, but also eliminated Navalny’s eligibility for early parole. These actions have shown just how far Putin is willing to go to eradicate opposing voices. He has the control of the prison officials to make sure Navalny is being watched at all times and reprimanded for every minimal action he does. In my opinion, it is not the Biden’s administrations place to interject in this case, however, he has already called for Navalny’s release. If the Biden administration does take action, Putin will most likely deny these allegations, and there is no specific proof to catch Putin in the act.

Olivia S.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/alexei-navalny-russia-possible-solitary-confinement-close-to-torture-vladimir-putin/

 

Houthis Warns of Stronger Attacks Following Drone Strikes on Saudi Arabia

Iranian- aligned Houthis claimed to have attacked Saudi Arabian energy and military sites with drones last week. The Saudi Arabian energy ministry claimed to have had a projectile strike petroleum products and start a fire.

Houthis is a violent, political, Islamist movement that has control of a large portion of northern Yemen as well as the Capital. Houthis has been in a clash with the Saudi-led coalition, whose goal is to restore the internationally recognized Yemeni government.

In recent weeks, Houthis has stepped up the frequency of drone strikes in Saudi Arabia. The most recent attacks come following a proposition of peace from the Yemeni government.

Riyadh, the political center of Yemen, has been under increasing pressure from the U.S. to end the war. However, the previous President of the United States, Donald Trump, had shown support for the war. This is another example of the volatility of U.S. policy following the election cycle in the States.

Furthermore, Houthis is backed by Iran, a direct enemy and opponent to the U.S., making supporting the Yemeni government even more appealing for the U.S.

Cameron Wollard

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-saudi/yemens-houthis-warn-of-stronger-attacks-after-drone-strikes-on-saudi-arabia-idUSKBN2BI184

 

 

Senator Coons described his trip to Ethiopia as “positive and purposeful.”

Sen. Chris Coons get back from his recent trip from Ethiopia. He has spoken with pm Abiy and discussed president Biden’s concern on human right violation in the Tigray region. After his trip, Sen Coons briefed the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and affirmed that he is optimistic about Ethiopia’s situation. Further, he asserted that prime minister Abiy is making visible progress on the ground.
As a result of this trip, the recent controversy between Ethiopia and the US might be resolved . Perhaps, a new bilateral agreement will be made to mitigate the Tigray crisis, and more cooperation on counter-terrorism will occur.

Adonay Teklu

 

https://www.politico.com/news/2021/03/24/chris-coons-biden-foreign-policy-477789

European leaders call out China on human rights abuses- even though they seek autonomy to strike deals with Beijing

This past week, on March 22nd, was a key turning point in European- Chinese relations. The EU sanctioned China over human rights abuses (over the Uyghur population in Xinjiang) for the first time ever since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. However, it was a slight slap on the wrist, according to the article, that consisted of travel bans and asset freezes of only four individuals and one corporation. China, in response, sanctioned 10 European individuals, which included five members of the EU Parliament and seven nongovernmental associations for “maliciously spreading lies and misinformation”.

Even more so, David Sassoli, the president of the EU Parliament tweeted out that “China’s sanctions are unacceptable and will have consequences.” As a result, this caused tensions from the EU to finally boil, leading to a chain reaction such as France recalling that the Chinese ambassador, Lu Shaye, for calling a French scholar a “small-time thug” and a “crazed hyena” on Twitter. Beijing then responded on state media highlighting Europe’s own history of human rights abuses, such as colonialism and the Holocaust, basically changing the narrative to “you did it so you can’t criticize us for doing it as well.” As a result, this will likely ruin the CAI. What exactly is the CAI?

The CAI (Comprehensive Agreement on Investment), after being announced by European negotiators, is a deal up in the air as of right now that would significantly expand market access between two of the largest economies. The Biden Administration even agrees that he has no problem with Europe pursuing this deal, considering it “strategic autonomy.” The major issue here is the European public rallying against the foreign policy, since European leaders are trying to avoid the Xinjiang conversation at the most to pursue technological deals and investment deals with Beijing.

How should the Biden Administration react to this situation? According to the article, the Biden Administration is apparently telling the EU to pull back “on side.” In a more swift response, the US imposed their own sanctions on two of the same individuals targeted by the EU sanctions. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken did propose a series of talks between the US and the EU to further coordinate on China. Blinken will continue to push for the Xinjiang issue to be a “front page” issue.

Miguel Terrazas

China and Europe Are Breaking Over Human Rights

North Korean missile tests and South Korean friction with the United States

In an analysis article by the Washington Post, they assess the idea that North Korean missile tests increase anxiety in the United States and South Korea and highlight that though these two countries have a common “enemy” they have different policy goals and ideas when it comes to North Korea. Overall it only points to a negative impact on how the Biden administration will respond and act, especially in the wake of the comments made by the North Korean government about the United States. It is uncertain what tension between the United States and South Korea will create, but at the moment all that is known is that South Korea is extremely hesitant to call out the Kim regime in the wake of human rights issues taking place there. It will be interesting to see what is in store for this intense situation.

Erin M.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/03/27/north-korea-conducted-more-missile-tests-what-happens-next/

Suez Canal Blocked

Last Tuesday the Suez Canal was blocked when a ship, the Ever Given, ran ashore while passing through. The Suez Canal is one of the worlds most important waterways, a path between Africa and Asia that connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. It acts as a shortcut for ships that would otherwise have to go all the way around Africa. More than 15% of the worlds trade goes through the canal, and the blockage cost around $15 million a day. So the fact that it was blocked was a big deal, and made national news.

While it is good that the Ever Given got unstuck, it does beg the question as to why a ship that large was passing through such a small canal. There was obviously a high chance of getting stuck, and I’m very surprised that it hasn’t happened before. The obvious answer to why is that bigger ships carry more cargo and thus generate more profit for less of a cost. While we do want to maximize economic profit where possible, it seems like a better idea to make the ships passing through smaller and less likely to get stuck and cause a huge problem for international trade. You can’t maximize profits if your boat gets stuck and blocks all the other boats.

Eleanor Haas

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/29/traffic-in-suez-canal-resumes-after-stranded-ship-refloated

Yemen’s Al-Qaeda Regenerates Amid Battle for the North

https://www.thedefensepost.com/2021/03/16/aqap-yemen-regenerates/

AQAP better known as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has recently moved to spark a regeneration of the branch after their peak in 2014 and their decline in recent years after. AQAP is based in Yemen and they are using the conflict and chaos in the country as an opportunity to regenerate as the Yemeni government is engaged in fighting with Houthi rebels in the north of the country. The Yemeni Civil War started in 2015 but is still going on today, and in February, there has been fighting in the city of Marib, which is located just east of the capital Sana’a. This situation has created a security vacuum that AQAP is using to regain influence in small villages and towns, training fighters, planning, rebuilding relations with local tribes, and regaining financial support from local communities. Marib is the last stronghold for the internationally recognized government, while the Houthis control the rest of the north and as a result of this ongoing conflict, have started one of the worst humanitarian crises in Yemen.

The Biden Administration has vaguely addressed Al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the National Strategic Guidance report as one of the priorities but only stating we must disrupt the organization and related networks and the decision to remove U.S. support for military operations in Yemen. The administration has also said that they are now focusing on UN backed efforts to end the war. I think that it is a good decision in terms of costs by the administration to pull U.S. military support from Yemen as the war has been dragging on and deciding to utilize combined forces of the UN. I think it isn’t so great that the Biden administration has only vaguely addressed terrorism with no clear strategies for major organizations such as al-Qaeda and their more powerful, evolving associates. I would not count out the affiliates as demonstrated clearly in this case, they could quickly rise in power and influence once again and pose a threat to U.S. national security.

-Marissa Fedora

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