World update: November 28 2018



Salome Zurabishvili, the candidate of the ruling Georgian Dream party, won Tuesday’s presidential runoff election with almost 60 percent of the vote, besting challenger Grigol Vashadze. Georgian Dream is the party of Bidzina Ivanishvili, the richest man in Georgia and the man many believe is really running the country behind the scenes. Zurabishvili, in keeping with her party’s politics, favors balancing Georgia’s relations between Russia and the West, while Vashadze was more pro-West. There have been allegations of voting irregularities, but international observers in the first round argued that the bigger issue was that Georgian Dream and Ivanishvili used their control of state resources and media influence to create an unequal playing field.

Georgian President-elect Salome Zurabishvili (Wikimedia Commons)


At least 30 Afghan civilians were killed overnight in a US airstrike in Helmand province. Afghan government forces called in the airstrike during an engagement with the Taliban, but say they were unaware of any civilians in the area. In Kabul, meanwhile, at least 10 people were killed on Wednesday when the Taliban attacked a compound belonging to a British security firm.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told a United Nations conference in Geneva on Wednesday that he’s put together a 12 person team to negotiate with the Taliban and insisted that he’s the right man to cut a peace deal. Ghani is under an increasing amount of pressure as the Taliban refuse to talk with his government and the international community increasingly believes it would be better, from the perspective of ending the war, to suspend next Spring’s presidential election and replace the current Afghan government with an interim arrangement.


Indian forces killed Kashmiri militant leader Naveed Jatt on Wednesday in a shootout in the Kashmiri village of Kuthpora. Jatt was alleged to have carried out several violent attacks in Kashmir and managed to escape from Indian custody earlier this year. He was very well-known in the region and word of his killing sparked protests throughout Kashmir.


The US conducted another “freedom of navigation” mission in the Taiwan Strait on Wednesday, sending two naval vessels through the body of water. It’s the third FON action the US Navy has undertaken in the strait this year.


The South Korean Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that Japan’s Mitsubishi corporation must compensate the South Koreans it used as forced labor during World War II. This is the second such decision by the court in the past two months, and it promises to inflame tensions between Seoul and Tokyo (which has already called the ruling “unacceptable.”



The Nigerian government says that 39 of its soldiers have been killed this month in clashes with Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa, and suddenly Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has shifted from insisting that Boko Haram has been defeated to calling on his military to keep getting its people killed while his government tries to figure out what to do. Er, I mean, to “rise to the challenge.” Buhari, staring at a presidential election next year that he may not win, called for a meeting of Lake Chad heads of state in Chad on Thursday to discuss multinational efforts to combat Boko Haram and its offshoots.

Speaking of that election, Buhari’s main challenger, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, is planning a novel strategy: appealing to voters in southeastern Nigeria. Despite containing most of Nigeria’s oil, that region and its predominantly Igbo population are generally ignored in national politics–as the insurgencies there over the past half century or so will attest. But it’s one of the fastest-growing regions in Nigeria, so the potential for it to be decisive in a presidential vote is increasing, and the people there mostly hate Buhari.


The US military says it carried out an airstrike in central Somalia on Tuesday that killed three al-Shabab fighters.


Idriss Déby’s recent rapprochement with Israel is not winning him many points at home:

Opposition leaders and civil society groups in Chad denounced the central African country’s President Idriss Deby’s decision to visit Israel and his intention to establish diplomatic relations with it.

Political and civic leaders said Chad should not restore diplomatic ties with Israel as long as it continues to occupy Palestinian territories, and in absence of a collective decision by African states to establish relations.

Déby’s allies are touting what Israeli aid can do for Chad’s military and intelligence establishments, but his opponents believe that whatever Israel might do to improve those institutions will be used to secure Déby’s hold on power, not Chad’s national security.


The results from the first round of Madagascar’s presidential election are in, and former presidents Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana will be heading to the runoff next month. Rajoelina won the first round with just over 39 percent of the vote, while Ravalomanana took in a bit over 35 percent to come in second. Incumbent Hery Rajaonarimampianina is out after coming in a distant third.



The Russian government says it’s still planning for Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump to meet on Saturday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina. Trump has suggested he might cancel their rendezvous over this past weekend’s Russia-Ukraine dustup in the Sea of Azov, but hasn’t actually cancelled it yet. Putin is brushing off criticism from the West over the incident, arguing that it was just a minor skirmish probably orchestrated by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to boost his dismal approval rating ahead of next year’s presidential election. Which makes Russia’s announcement on Wednesday that it’s deploying its swanky new S-400 air defense system to Crimea seem a little odd, given that Sunday’s incident was so unimportant and all.

Of course, Putin’s approval rating isn’t so hot lately either, but for Putin these days “not so hot” means mid-60s and some polling that suggests Russians think their country is on the wrong track. Putin would certainly like to get his numbers back into the 80s but it’s unlikely that he’s going to escalate Sunday’s confrontation solely for domestic reasons. Whatever you want to say about Putin’s foreign adventures, whether in Crimea or Syria, they’ve been reactive, not proactive.


Poroshenko, on the other hand, appears increasingly desperate to use Sunday’s incident to salvage his political career. He’s practically begging for NATO intervention, calling for European Union sanctions against Russia that so far don’t seem like they’re going to happen, and making zany claims that Putin intends to annex the whole of Ukraine. On top of that, his heavy-handed push for a lengthy period of martial law has rightly raised eyebrows.


Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven will get another crack at forming a government next week, but he’s being forced to navigate pressures on both his left and right flanks. September’s indecisive election has left Social Democratic leader Löfven’s center-left coalition short of a majority, but now two members of the opposition center-right Alliance, the Centre and Liberal parties, have said they could support a new government led by Löfven, if he adopts more center-right policies and excludes his coalition partner, the Left Party, from the government. The problem is that if Löfven accepts that deal, he risks losing enough support to his left to deny him a majority anyway.



The Space Force may be kaput. I know, I know. We’ll get through it together, somehow.

Robin Wright wonders how big a mess Trump will make at the G20:

The Administration still feigns high hopes. On Thanksgiving, Trump—who recently gave his Presidency an A-plus—said he is confident about his prospects at the G-20 summit, including negotiations with China’s President, Xi Jinping, to avoid a trade war. “I’m very prepared,” he told reporters. “You know, it’s not like, ‘Oh, gee, I’m going to sit down and study.’ I know every stat. I know it better than anybody knows it. And my gut has always been right.”

Others, including former diplomats involved in former G-20 meetings, aren’t so optimistic. “Given President Trump’s fixation on muscular unilateralism, and dismissiveness toward diplomacy, it’s a safe prediction that this will likely be a missed opportunity, at best, and an accelerator of disorder, at worst,” William Burns, a former Ambassador to Russia and Deputy Secretary of State, who is now president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told me. “The President tends to behave at such events like a bull with his own china shop in tow, intent on disruption for its own sake.”

And finally, Win Without War’s Kate Kizer and Stephen Miles have produced the newest entry in the “left-wing foreign policy” debate, and it’s one I think makes some very strong points:

As two people currently working in the ecosystem of organizations and individuals tackling these issues, we agree that it is time to put forth a vision of what it means to be a progressive on foreign policy, developed not by foreign policy elites but by the movement itself. Through our work at Win Without War, we know that progressives believe strongly that how we project ourselves abroad should be no different from how we engage at home. Our values, in other words, do not stop at the water’s edge.

Building on years of partnership, we’ve spent the last few weeks talking with leading progressive activists and organizations to try to define a core of 10 principles for a progressive US foreign policy. This initial draft will be refined during the coming months as we work closely with a broad base of movement leaders and allies to promote this vision inside and outside the Beltway. Our hope is that these principles illuminate a path towards ensuring US foreign policy upholds progressive values in practice. Four core concepts embody these principles and expose how progressives’ struggle for change at home intersects with the changes we seek around the world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.