World update: August 6 2018



Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told reporters on Monday that any NATO decision to admit Georgia “could provoke a terrible conflict.” Which seems bad because NATO has said that it will eventually admit Georgia as a member. Russia could seemingly block Georgia from entering NATO because, by rule, countries dealing with territorial disputes cannot join the alliance. Since Russia supports rebels in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia it can ensure that those disputes continue.

You know, maybe this is one of those times where we might want to pause and ask why the hell NATO is planning to admit a Caucasian state–or, for that matter, to ask why NATO still exists at all. No, wait, that would be playing into Donald Trump’s hands or whatever. Sorry for bringing it up.


As evidence mounts that the July 29 terrorist attack in Tajikistan was in fact perpetrated by ISIS, Tajik authorities continue to insist that it was actually the banned Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan instead. They have no reason to insist this except that it provides them an excuse to further bury an already suppressed political opposition group.


Violent protests continued in Dhaka for another day on Monday (though they did show some signs of dissipating), as student activists are still demonstrating for better road safety. At least 40 people were injured in clashes with police, mostly from rubber bullets. The demonstrations have taken on a new facet as well-known Bangladeshi human rights activist Shahidul Alam was apparently detained by security forces on Sunday. Amnesty International is demanding his release.


North Korean state media is calling on the United States to lift sanctions against North Korea as a reward for Pyongyang’s suspension of nuclear testing and for the (presumably) Korean War remains it sent to the US last month. The Trump administration has said it will not relieve North Korea of sanctions until it has denuclearized, under whatever definition of “denuclearization” the administration is using. But North Korea has long wanted a back and forth approach whereby it gives a little, the US eases sanctions a bit, then it gives some more, etc. Meanwhile, South Korea is investigating reports that North Korean coal was brought into the country in violation of international sanctions.


In genuinely nice news, some 180 people from both Koreas have been chosen to participate in a round of family reunifications later this month, the first of their kind since 2015.



In an interview with Foreign Policy, Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui argues that his country is struggling to build up its democracy in part because the 2011 Western intervention in Libya created so much instability on Tunisia’s eastern border:

“What happened in 2011 was almost a hit-and-run policy,” Jhinaoui said, describing the intervention by American, British, and other forces in the civil war in Libya following Arab Spring protests.

“There was no exit strategy; they toppled the government, but they didn’t help create the conditions to help the Libyans elect or choose another government,” he said. “Now Libya finds itself in the mess … it is because of what happened in 2011.”

Tunisia is widely considered the lone success story of the Arab Spring movement that swept the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. But it’s still struggling to consolidate its democracy and jump-start its economy. The years of violence across its eastern border have not helped.


Reuters is reporting that Ethiopian security forces killed four protesters in the city of Jijiga, capital of Ethiopia’s Somali region, on Monday. They were protesting the mobs that spent the weekend looting shops and forcing ethnic minorities in the city into hiding. It’s unclear if these were national security forces or paramilitaries organized by the regional government, which has taken most of the blame for the weekend violence.


Al Jazeera reports on worries in the DRC that President Joseph Kabila is going to try to run for a third term in office later this year:


Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change party says that its members are being rounded up by Zimbabwean security forces arbitrarily in response to post-election protests last week:

Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa has rejected [President Emmerson] Mnangagwa’s victory, which made him the first elected head of state since [ex-President Robert] Mugabe’s removal from power in November, and has promised to use legal and constitutional means to challenge the poll outcome.

His spokesman Nkululeko Sibanda said lawyers would announce on Tuesday when Chamisa will launch a formal challenge to the election result in court.

Sibanda told Reuters that masked soldiers had abducted several MDC members in raids late at night and at dawn over the weekend in the capital Harare and assaulted people in townships, echoing Mugabe-era tactics against opponents.



The Russian government officially retaliated on Monday against Greece’s decision to expel two of its diplomats from Athens last month. Moscow reportedly booted Greece’s trade representative and one other diplomatic employee.


Right-wing gangs are reportedly terrorizing Ukraine’s Roma community:

After attackers charged into a Roma encampment on the outskirts of Kiev, beating the residents and chasing them away, a leader of an ultranationalist group posted photos of his colleagues clearing the site and burning tents left behind.

The camp’s former dwellers took off “after persuasive legal arguments,” Serhiy Mazur, an activist with the C14 organization, wrote on Facebook. Mazur added: “Further raids are planned.”

The April attack was the first of 11 forced removals that ultranationalists in Ukraine have carried out this year at settlements of Roma. Radical nationalist groups claimed responsibility for all of the raids and asserted they acted in concert with police. Police deny involvement.

“We were called garbage and dirt, kicked and driven off,” Aza Rustik, who fled during the first raid, said. “I just managed to grab the children and a bag with documents.”


Germany’s increasingly xenophobic immigration policy is paying dividends. The German government deported a 22 year old Uyghur man back to China–where Uyghurs are routinely persecuted in the best case scenario–in April, “accidentally.” The man has since disappeared and it’s feared that he’s now in a Chinese prison camp. In its rush to chuck all non-whites out of the country as quickly as possible, it seems Berlin keeps fucking the process up via a series of “clerical errors” that wind up sending people back to garden spots like Afghanistan (it’s illegal under international law, not to mention outrageously immoral, to deport people back into active war zones). Way to go everybody!


The UK’s National Farmers’ Union says that the country could run out of food by next August, if there’s a “no-deal Brexit” in March. This contradicts government assurances that Britain will have plenty of food and emphasizes yet again that all the leverage in Brexit talks is on Brussels’ side. The NFU wants to use the potential crisis to spur the government to develop the UK agriculture sector, but even if that happens it’s unlikely to start showing any real benefits by next summer.



A Brazilian court closed the country’s border with Venezuela to Venezuelan nationals on Monday in response to the ongoing flow of refugees. Some 800 Venezuelans are believed to be crossing into Brazil every day, fleeing deteriorating conditions at home.


That outflow of refugees might actually be helping Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro stay in power despite his unpopularity. If the Venezuelans who are most unhappy with him flee then the ones who remain will necessarily be more supportive. Maduro has also allegedly worked hard to buy off the Venezuelan military and minimize the chances of a coup:

As the economy collapsed, leaving the country short of food and medicine and the currency worthless, Mr. Maduro has offered the military the lucrative prizes that remain. Military leaders run the food and oil industries and control the region where gold, diamonds and coltan are mined. So far, the arrangement has secured loyalty, analysts say, as generals calculate that it is more profitable to remain aligned with the current government than to return to democracy, where their future is uncertain.

Maduro called for a rally in Caracas on Monday to show that he wasn’t intimidated by this weekend’s apparent assassination attempt, and then didn’t show up for it. It’s unclear why he failed to make it, but the crowd that did show up was reportedly on the small side.


Finally, the latest iteration of the Global Peace Index finds that the world is continuing to get less peaceful:

With the Cold War ending in the early 1990s, some Western scholars predicted a more peaceful world with liberal democracy the only game in town. The findings of the Global Peace Index suggest otherwise.

The twelfth edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI) reports that the global level of peace deteriorated by 0.27 per cent last year. Europe and United States, the world’s most peaceful regions, recorded a decline in peacefulness for the third straight year. This is not merely a one-year decline. Rather, it’s part of a decade-long trend: global peacefulness has deteriorated by 2.38 per cent since 2008.

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