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Russian Aggression in Georgia and Ukraine: Powerful and Worrying Parallels

Introduction

Ever since Ukraine was attacked on 24 February, the Georgian people have expressed their full support for the besieged country through protests, volunteering, donations, etc. Ukrainian flags can be seen hung on every balcony, window and door in the downtown area, the suburbs, and so on. Every evening, thousands gather in the city center to display solidarity with Ukraine.

Parallels between the invasion of Ukraine and Georgia (2008)

For many Georgians, including myself, this invasion of Ukraine is eerily similar to that of the Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008. The parallels are indismisible. During the 2008 war, Russia recognised two Georgian breakaway regions – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – and stationed its troops there. Since then, Tbilisi has pushed even more strongly for closer integration with the West, via closer ties to the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), even if membership in neither body seemed immediately likely. Similarly, in Ukraine in 2022, Russia recognized the independence of two breakaway regions, Luhansk and Donetsk. In order to “defend” the two proclaimed independent states, Russia then conducted a “special military operation,” which lead to the current situation.

Georgia’s reaction

Despite these parallels and the broad public backing for Ukraine, the Georgian government has tiptoed around the crisis, fearing the consequences of provoking its powerful northern neighbor, Russia. The day after Russia invaded, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said his government would refuse to join any Western sanctions on Moscow, dismissing them as unproductive. Despite citizens’ anger, Gharibashvili has remained cautious. This is partly due to the real economic crisis that could occur if Georgia imposes sanctions, as well as the Georgian Dream Party’s proclivity to support Russian actions. But despite the government’s hesitance, its divisions with the Kremlin are increasingly on display. On 28 February, the National Bank of Georgia said it would act “in accordance with the international resolutions and standards and cannot and will not help evading implementing these sanctions”. On 3 March, Georgia, along with Moldova, followed Ukraine’s lead in filing a formal application for EU membership.

While building more contacts with Russia, Georgia has been feeling increasingly frustrated with the lack of real prospects of joining the EU or NATO. Since 2014, when Georgia signed an Association Agreement with the EU, it started adjusting its laws and economic policies to meet Europe’s criteria for accession. In an attempt to build support among NATO powers for its bid to join the alliance, Georgia kept its troops in Afghanistan until the very last weeks before the U.S. withdrawal. But these investments were not enough to overcome resistance among European and U.S. officials and politicians who see the downsides of Georgian membership in either organization as outweighing any benefits. Many existing members argue that Georgian membership would anger the Kremlin and deepen its conflict with the West, reducing rather than increasing security for all.

Conclusion

Georgians can feel the agony that a Russian invasion brings, having fought our own war with Russia almost fourteen years ago. But many in the country’s leadership believe saber-rattling and diplomatic protests could put Georgia high on President Vladimir Putin’s radar, leading to problems in the long-term. Hours before Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, a senior Georgian official told civil society representatives that the leadership often has to choose between a “bad option and a worse option. Unfortunately, this is our reality”.Russia can easily, cheaply and effectively harm Georgian stability by leveraging its influence in the breakaway regions whose pursuit of self-rule Moscow champions and where its troops are already stationed. Its border guards patrol the South Ossetian line of separation with Georgia, including within a few hundred meters of a major highway linking Tbilisi to Georgia’s Black Sea coast and in close proximity to the Baku-Tbilisi-Supsa pipeline that delivers oil from Azerbaijan to Europe and elsewhere. The line of separation in this area seems to be creeping steadily forward into the Georgian government-held areas – and there may be little Georgians can do about it.

These aggressive tactics make the Tbilisi leadership wary. A small shift of the line that brings more territory under the control of the breakaway regions could displace thousands of people. Even more worrying to Georgian officials is the possibility that Moscow could exploit any small incident along the line to resume a military invasion and take even more Georgian territory. Georgia, like several other former Soviet states, can ill afford, militarily or economically, to pick a fight with Russia. Despite the show of Western resolve over Ukraine, as far as sanctions and military equipment are concerned, Georgia, smaller, less significant and farther away, fears being left alone to face Russia.

Sources

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Analysis News

Sanctions imposed on Russia: a big change to daily life

Introduction

This year, on the 24th of February, the world witnessed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. After rising tensions, the Russian Government decided to start the ‘special military operation’ which has since claimed thousands of lives. As a result of this conflict, many countries were quick to impose strict economic sanctions on Russia, which have already had their effect on the Russian economy. But what are the consequences of such sanctions on daily life in Russia?

What sanctions have been imposed?

Many countries, among them the US, UK, New Zealand, and the EU member countries, immediately imposed different sanctions to try and stop Russia from further military actions. The more or less immediate reaction of the US government was to ban the export of certain technologies to Russia, which would “make it harder… to modernize [Russia’s] oil refineries.” (Al Jazeera) However, one of the most significant actions the US took was banning Russian oil, which is one of Russia’s biggest exports. Among many others, the EU froze the European assets of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Russia’s ally country, Belarus, also suffered some consequences as the EU banned imports of products from tobacco, mineral fuels, cement, steel, iron, etc. Many different companies such as IKEA, Spotify, and Apple have also decided to leave Russia. Among them are also Visa and Mastercard who have suspended operations in Russia. This has already had its effects on the Russian economy because people are unable to complete transactions.

Impacts on daily life in Russia

When the war started and the sanctions were imposed, the Russian rouble “plummeted…, leading many retailers to raise their prices.” People living in Moscow believe that while food may not disappear, prices will probably rise exponentially. “On 20 February I ordered groceries for 5,500 roubles [about $57; £44] and now the same basket costs 8,000,” says an EU citizen living in Moscow. While certain retailers are simply limiting the amount of products people can buy, others have “agreed to limit price rises on some staples to 5%”. Moreover, there has been a more than 10% increase in the prices of smartphones and televisions, but many of them quickly sold out before the companies left the Russian market.

International impacts

Perhaps one of the most significant sanctions was one imposed by the US when it banned imports of oil and gas from Russia. The UK has also followed in the US’s steps and has started to “phase out oil imports”. The European Union said it would “move to end its reliance on Russian gas”. 

Why is this important? Along with Iran and Qatar, Russia is home to the largest reserves of natural gas. Half of the world’s natural gas reserves in 2020 were accounted for by the three aforementioned countries. In 2021, 45% of the EU’s gas imports and 40% of its entire gas consumption came from Russia. Despite the EU and other countries announcing plans for ending their reliance on Russian oil and gas, it seems as though these sanctions will have certain long-lasting consequences. As soon as the US stopped such imports from Russia, oil and gas prices started to rise and the same is expected in other countries that have imposed similar bans.

Conclusion

Sanctions imposed on Russia have so far affected its citizens much more than the people with the power to stop the war in Ukraine. However, their long-lasting effects on the conflict remain to be seen. It is true though, that bans on Russian oil and gas from some of the major countries in the world will have great consequences for the world’s economy as people are realizing their economic dependence on Russia and governments who support Ukraine will try to distance themselves from such policies and trade in the future. Daily life in Russia, although already hard, is expected to get harder, as products disappear and soon enough, jobs might also vanish. In this case, Russia will have a very hard time getting its economy back on track and the lives of its citizens back to normal.

Sources

Al Jazeera Staff. “Infographic: How Much of Your Country’s Gas Comes from Russia?” Www.aljazeera.com, 17 Mar. 2022, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/17/infographic-how-much-of-your-countrys-gas-comes-from-russia-interactive. Accessed 19 Mar. 2022.

—. “List of Sanctions against Russia after Ukraine’s Invasion.” Www.aljazeera.com, 3 Mar. 2022, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/2/25/list-of-sanctions-on-russia-after-invasion.

—. “US Bans Russian Oil: What Is next for Oil and Gas Prices?” Aljazeera.com, Al Jazeera, 9 Mar. 2022, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/3/9/us-bans-russian-oil-what-does-this-mean-for-oil-prices.

Badshah, Nadeem. “Visa and Mastercard Will Both Suspend Operations in Russia.” The Guardian, 5 Mar. 2022, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/05/visa-and-mastercard-will-both-suspend-operations-in-russia. Accessed 19 Mar. 2022.

Hanbury, Mary, et al. “Here Are the Major US and European Companies Pulling out of Russia Following the Invasion of Ukraine.” Business Insider, 10 Mar. 2022, http://www.businessinsider.com/list-all-the-companies-pulling-out-of-russia-ukraine-war-2022-3#28-tiktok-28. Accessed 19 Mar. 2022.

Shamina, Olga, and Jessy Kaner. “Russia Sanctions: How the Measures Have Changed Daily Life.” BBC News, 13 Mar. 2022, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-60647543.

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Analysis News

Political Stability Continues to Rock Haiti

Background Information

Haiti’s political climate has been nothing short of troubled essentially since its independence. A result of a weak economy brought on by 17th-century colonial tactics and compounded by numerous natural disasters, Haiti is home to one of the most corrupt and turbulent governments in the world. It is this climate that gave rise to President Jovenel Moise, a man whose presidency was consistently marred with accusations of corruption and dictatorial tendencies. It is also this climate that led to Moise’s eventual assassination at the hands of still at-large gunmen on July 7, 2021. Tensions began to rise immediately afterward, with the line of political succession being called into question. Soon after, on August 12th, a large earthquake rocked Haiti, adding a humanitarian crisis to the already existing political crisis in Haiti.

The Interim Government

Ever since July 2021, an interim government headed by Prime Minister Ariel Henry has been running Haiti. This interim government has also faced massive scrutiny as it works to heal the nation. There have been accusations that Prime Minister Henry was supposedly involved in President Moise’s death, along with accusations of corruption. This interim government‒ and therefore the government officials’ terms‒ ended on February 7, 2022 as this was the day when President Jovenel’s term was supposed to end (he had vowed to step down on this day). While it has been relatively calm since then, it is evident tensions are rising again as various civil organizations call for different plans of action.

The Rise of Civil Society

Following the events of Summer 2021, gang violence began to completely take over many Haitian communities. With the nation’s government in such a weak place, citizens began to turn more and more towards civil society groups to do something about the chaos around them. One of the more prolific of these groups is known as “The Commission for the Search for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis.” The main goal of this group is to restore Haiti’s democracy. They are planning to do this by firstly calling for a two-year transition government, holding fair and safe elections in 2023, and by restoring public order by, in part, dealing with the gang crisis. The detailed plan they published for this is known as the Montana Accord.

What Comes Next for Haiti?

Prime Minister Henry along with the rest of this government have stated that they are planning and organizing elections and adopting a new constitution. However, people are naturally questioning the legitimacy and fairness of these elections. Additionally, many are saying that anything Prime Minister Henry and the rest of his government do is not valid anymore as all of their terms officially ended on the 7th. On the other hand, the Prime Minister’s supporters are saying that he and everyone else that he works with can only be legally be removed by Parliament, which is currently not running as the previous members’ terms expired without new elections being held. 

Either way, the current Prime Minister’s plans are evidently at odds with the Montana group’s plans, which has already decided on who they want their interim President and Prime Minister to be. They have announced their choice of Jean Fritz to be the interim President and Steven Benoît to be the interim Prime Minister, along with several other people in a paired-back version of the current government. 

On top of all of this, the United Nations has chimed in, stating that it would like to see an election in the island nation before the end of the year. As for what comes next? All bets are off with Haiti seeming to venture farther and farther into an era defined by instability.

Sources

https://www.cfr.org/in-brief/assassination-haitian-president-jovenel-moise-what-know 2/19/22

https://www.france24.com/en/americas/20210916-haiti-government-begins-unraveling-as-newly-accused-pm-fires-justice-minister 2/19/22

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/19/world/americas/claude-joseph-haiti-stepping-down.html 2/19/22

https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/02/1112262 2/19/22

https://www.wlrn.org/news/2021-09-28/civil-society-solution-can-non-governmental-groups-fix-haitis-governmental-crisis 2/19/22

https://theglobalamericans.org/2022/02/haiti-betting-on-the-montana-accord/ 2/19/22

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article258543193.html 2/19/22

https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/haitis-henry-urges-elections-amid-calls-transition-government-2022-02-07/ 2/19/22

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/06/world/americas/haiti-opposition-group-montana-accord.html 2/19/22

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Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open Controversy

Who is he?

Novak Djokovic is a Serbian professional tennis player. He is currently ranked as world No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals. He has won 20 grand slams till now.

What is the Story Behind him Being Deported?

Let’s have a look at this timeline to understand how the events unfolded.

November 29, 2021 

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt writes to Australian Open Tournament Director and Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley stating that a Covid-19 infection alone in the past six months, without full vaccination does not meet the requirements for quarantine-free entry into the country. Around the second week of December, Tennis Australia sent a letter to players stating that a Covid-19 infection in the past six months, together with an accompanying letter from a doctor, would qualify as a valid medical exemption. 

December 14, 2021 

Novak attended a basketball game in Belgrade after which it was reported that a number of people tested positive with Covid-19 

December 18, 2021 

Knowing that he is positive for Covid, Djokovic does an interview and photo shoot with the French newspaper L’Equipe. He acknowledges weeks later: “On reflection, this was an error of judgment.” 

Dec 22 , 2021 

Djokovic tests negative and a few days later he withdraws from the Serbian team for the ATP Cup without giving any reason.

January 4 , 2022 

Djokovic reveals he will compete at the tennis season’s opening Grand Slam event after receiving a medical exemption from getting vaccinated against COVID-19. Tennis Australia follows with a statement confirming Djokovic is on his way to the country with a medical exemption that has been “granted following a rigorous review process “ 

Neither Djokovic nor Tennis Australia reveals the basis for his exemption. Craig Tiley says a “handful” of exemptions had been granted out of 26 applications from players or others.

January 5, 2022 

Novak Djovick arrives at the Melbourne Tullamarine Airport, his entry is delayed because of a mistake with his visa application. 

January 6, 2022 

Djovick is detained for about eight hours at the airport upon arrival, the 20-time major winner is denied entry to the country and his visa is canceled. The Australian Border Force says Djokovic failed to meet entry requirements. Health Minister Greg Hunt says the visa cancellation followed a review of Djokovic’s medical exemption which was expected to shield him from the strict COVID-19 vaccination regulations in place — by border officials who looked “at the integrity and the evidence behind it.” 

The tennis star is brought to a hotel used to house immigration detainees in Carlton, an inner-northern suburb of Melbourne, where he remains for four nights. Fans gather in protest outside the hotel. Djovick’s parents also join the protest 

January 10,2022 

Djokovic appeals the cancellation of his visa at a virtual court hearing on Monday, submitting an affidavit that says he is not vaccinated for COVID-19 and arguing he did not need proof of vaccination because he had evidence that he had been infected with the coronavirus last month. Australian medical authorities have ruled that a temporary exemption for the vaccination rule can be provided to people who have been infected with COVID-19 within six months 

Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly reinstates Djokovic’s visa, ruling the player was not given enough time to speak to his lawyers before the decision to deny him entry was made and noting Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne’s airport with a medical exemption given to him by Tennis Australia and two medical panels. Kelly also orders the government to release Djokovic from immigration detention. 

January 12, 2022 

A post on social media is shared while Djovick is in Rod Laver Arena holding his third practice session since being released from detention. In the statement, the nine-time and defending Australian Open champion acknowledges a mistake on his travel declaration for Australia and confessed to an “error of judgement” in taking part in an interview and photo shoot in Serbia last month after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Djokovic blames his agent for checking the wrong box on the form, calling it “a human error ” He also sought to clarify what he called “continuing misinformation” about his movements after he became infected last month.

The 34-year-old remained in limbo before the year’s first tennis major as he still faced the prospect of deportation. Deportation could result in sanctions ranging up to a three-year ban from entering Australia, a particularly daunting possibility for a player who has won almost half of his 20 Grand Slam singles titles in the country. 

January 13, 2022 

After a delayed draw ceremony — the tournament official declines to comment to the media on why the start time is pushed back — it is revealed that Djokovic will face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of the Australian Open, if he’s allowed to play. 

According to the 2022 Grand Slam Rule Book, if Djokovic is forced to pull out of the tournament before the order of play for Day 1 is announced, No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev would move into his spot in the bracket. 

January 14, 2022 

Djokovic’s status remained uncertain after the Australian government for a second time revoked his visa. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his ministerial discretion to pull the visa. Djokovic and his lawyers had a meeting with immigration officials in Melbourne. 

January 16, 2022 

Three Federal Court judges upheld a decision made on Friday by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds. Djokovic loses appeal and is out of Australian Open. After this, Novak Djokovic arrived in Serbia after being deported from Australia. Supporters gathered at the airport in Belgrade, waving the national flag and chanting “we love Novak”.

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Hindu Extremists Call For Genocide Against Indian Muslims

Introduction

Extremism is not a new phenomenon. It has existed for centuries, and will continue to exist for a long time. Globally, the issue of extremism faces minorities, racial, religious or ethnic. In India, Muslims are facing very hard times with Hindu extremists calling for genocide against them. This begs the question: How did this happen, and what does the future of non-Hindu minorities in India look like? 

Indian Right

Hindu Mahasabha, one of India’s oldest political organizations was founded during a time of conflict between Muslims and Hindus in India [1907]. The group’s mission, according to their official website, is to declare India “the National Home of the Hindus.”  The group states that if they gain power, Indian Muslims will be forced to migrate to Pakistan and the Indian education system will be changed to fit Hindu values. 

No doubt, the group’s controversial ideology means it is a marginal political force, having their last presence in Parliament in 1991. According to Gilles Verniers, an assistant professor of political science at Ashoka University, however, their “strength is not to be measured in electoral terms.” Over the past 8 years, Hindu Mahasabha appear to have expanded in numbers and influence based on the size and frequency of their meetings.

As Hindu Mahasabha has grown in recent years, the organization has become more outspoken. In 2015, Sadhvi Deva Thakur, who was a senior member, caused widespread controversy when she told reporters Muslims and Christians should undergo forced sterilization to control their population growth. At last month’s conference, several speakers called on India’s Hindus to “defend” the religion with weapons. Another called for the “cleansing” of India’s minorities, according to footage from the conference.

Current Situation

What sparked media outrage and attention was a recent conference held by right-wing Hindu activists in December of 2021. Hundreds of activists, as well as monks rose to take an oath that they would change India, constitutionally a secular republic, into a Hindu nation, essentially a theocracy, even if this required spilling the blood of fellow Indians. “If 100 of us are ready to kill two million of them, then we will win and make India a Hindu nation,” said Pooja Shakun Pandey, a leader of Hindu Mahasabha, referring to the country’s Muslims. “Be ready to kill and go to jail.”

Additionally, in December, crowds of India’s Hindu-right confronted Muslims praying on the streets in the city of Gurugram, just outside of Delhi. They prevented Muslims from praying, while shouting and disrupting the peace.

What is being done?

Now, what is being done by the government to prevent such a genocide? The short answer is: essentially nothing. To elaborate, under several sections of India’s penal code, hate speech is prohibited, including a section which criminalizes “deliberate and malicious acts” which are targeted towards religious beliefs. According to Vrinda Grover, a lawyer, any group inciting violence is barred under Indian law. “Police, states and the government are responsible to ensure [inciting violence] doesn’t happen,” she said. “But the state, through its inaction, is actually permitting these groups to function, while endangering Muslims who are the targets.”

“This is the first time I find myself using the term ‘genocide’ in Indian politics,” Verniers said, referring to the comments made at the conference held in December. “They have tacit support in the form of government silence.” Pandey’s rant and some of the other calls for violence were the “worst form of hate speech,” according to Verniers. This lack of government action is probably due to Prime Minister Modi’s Hindu nationalist leaning agenda. Grover further adds that criminal laws are “weaponized” in India, anyone who challenges the government and those in power will be crushed by the law, but those that pander to it will be spared.  “Muslim lives in India are demonized,” she said. “The Indian state is in serious crisis.” 

Though the fate of Indian religious minorities is uncertain, the media attention has sparked mass outrage, which may pressure the Indian government to act and somehow maintain internal peace.

Sources

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/hindu-extremists-india-escalate-rhetoric-calls-kill-muslims-rcna12450

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/24/world/asia/hindu-extremists-india-muslims.html

https://article-14.com/post/as-hindu-extremists-repeatedly-call-for-muslim-genocide-the-police-ignore-an-obvious-conspiracy-61dba33fa759c

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/20/hindu-supremacists-nationalism-tearing-india-apart-modi-bjp-rss-jnu-attacks

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The Diplomatic Boycott of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics

Background Information

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are set to take place this coming February, meaning that some countries have already begun planning out their delegations. However, things have taken an unexpected twist as in the last month, the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia have all announced that they will be diplomatically boycotting the event. Notably, a diplomatic boycott’s major differentiation from a complete Olympic boycott is that in a diplomatic boycott, only government officials from the countries boycotting the games will be absent instead of all the athletes as well. Additionally, Japan has also proclaimed its intentions to not send an official government group to the Olympics, however, they have not formally stated this to be a flat-out diplomatic boycott. 

Why is this happening?

The United States, the first country to announce its decision to boycott the Olympics, stated that the decision comes in response to concerns over numerous human rights violations by China. Britain, Canada, and Australia’s reasoning for the boycotting echoed similar values, with Australia’s added notes of boycotting because of China’s hostility towards their imports and vocal criticism of Australia’s move to build new nuclear synonyms. 

China’s Response

As you can imagine, China has not responded favorably. It has denied all of the accusations made so far and has claimed that these countries are fabricating lies to make them look bad. They also stated the United States would pay for their actions and that they never wanted British or Australian government officials at the games in the first place. 

Impacts

The fallout with China has been mostly verbal for the United States, Britain, Canada, and Australia since their declaration to diplomatically boycott the games. However, as stated above, China has hinted at retribution, at least against the United States. Notably, both the United States and Australia are slated to host the Los Angeles 2028 and Brisbane 2032 Olympics respectively, so China’s retribution may come in the form of boycotting those games if nothing else. As for a more short-term impact of the diplomatic boycott of the games, it is evident that tensions have only continued to rise between China and the West, and with numerous powerful nations constantly at each others’ necks, who knows what’s to come for the international community?

Sources

https://www.nytimes.com/article/diplomatic-boycott-olympics.html 12/24/21

https://www.reuters.com/world/china/australia-joins-diplomatic-boycott-beijing-winter-games-2021-12-08/ 12/24/21

https://olympics.com/ioc/olympic-games 12/24/21

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Human Rights Group Shut Down By the Russian Supreme Court

Introduction

Memorial Human Rights Center — the oldest human rights center in Russia — is to be liquidated by the orders of the Russian Supreme Court. The decision was made after the Court revoked the legal status of its sister organization, Memorial, which started off as an initiative group that served the preservation of the memory of Soviet repression. In 2015, the group was marked as a foreign agent in the government register, and the most recent court ruling concluded the lawsuit in which prosecutors warranted the group violated its regulations.

Why is this significant?

On the 28th of December 2021, the court stated that Memorial “creates a false image of the USSR as a terrorist state, [which] whitewashes and rehabilitates Nazi criminals”. The closure of this internationally acclaimed organization marks a point in Russia’s history, as recently, more and more NGOs and media outlets have been closed as a result of the “foreign agent” legislation, apart from the Memorial Human Rights Center. The efforts of independent media to spark a conversation about the crimes under Soviet leaders have been effectively shut down many times showing the sensitivity of the current government to criticisms of the country’s past. 

The decision to close the organization was called “political” by Genri Reznik, a lawyer who represented Memorial in court, among many others. He defended the organization by stating the following: “The Memorial Society promotes the health of the nation. To eliminate this from the history of the country now means to contribute to the idea of ‘the state is always right’.”

Public Outcry

Because of Memorial’s popularity among the Russian public, the group was hoping that large public support might negate the court’s decision. Memorial gathered more than 127,000 signatures in its support, followed up by testimonies from people who uncovered the stories of their relatives as a result of Memorial’s work of obtaining the necessary records. 

People such as the former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev and the Novaya Gazeta editor, Dmitry Muratov have also spoken about this issue. “The long-term activity of Memorial has always been aimed at restoring historical justice, preserving the memory of hundreds of thousands of victims during the years of repression, preventing such things now and in the future,” they said in a joint statement.

Police arrested several protesters, out of around 100, who stood outside the court and chanted “shame” when the decision to shut down the group was made.

Conclusion

As such events increase day by day, public outcry becomes more and more significant on a global scale. Memorial, in particular, stated they would appeal the ruling before the European Court of Human Rights. It seems as though the closure of groups such as this one, results in a bigger acknowledgment of Russia’s past than it would have without the court’s extreme verdict. Capturing the attention of international media, the case was commented on by many, including Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz Museum, saying “A power that is afraid of memory, will never be able to achieve democratic maturity”.

Sources

  1. Al Jazeera. “Russian Court Orders Closure of Leading Rights Group Memorial.” Www.aljazeera.com, 29 Dec. 2021, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/28/russia-supreme-court-orders-closure-of-leading-rights-group. Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.
  2. International Memorial. “Memorial – Memorial History. A Timeline.” Memo.ru, http://www.memo.ru/en-us/memorial/memorial-history-timeline/. Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.
  3. Rainsford, Sarah. “Russian Court Orders Oldest Civil Rights Group Memorial to Shut.” BBC News, 28 Dec. 2021, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-59808624. Accessed 5 Jan. 2022.
  4. Roth, Andrew. “Russian Court Orders Closure of Another Human Rights Group.” The Guardian, 29 Dec. 2021, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/29/russian-court-orders-closure-of-another-human-rights-group. Accessed 5 Jan. 2022.
  5. —. “Russian Court Orders Closure of Country’s Oldest Human Rights Group.” The Guardian, 28 Dec. 2021, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/28/russian-court-memorial-human-rights-group-closure. Accessed 3 Jan. 2022.
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Biden Releases Reserves to Pump Oil Supply

Introduction

President Joe Biden recently announced the release of strategic oil reserves to alleviate the global lack of supply and ease soaring gas prices. In parallel with nations such as China, India, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, the US Department of Energy has decided to release 50 million barrels of oil from the “Strategic Petroleum Reserve” to assist in lowering energy prices and address the current pandemic-induced mismatch between oil demand and supply.

Context

Going back to basics, we can see how this move would help slow down rising gas prices for Americans: an increase in the supply of oil will put downward pressure on oil prices and cause an extension in the quantity demanded. The shortage of oil that is occurring due to economic recovery from the pandemic worldwide is risky for economic growth. Since oil is an input in numerous industrial activities, energy prices are a very important economic indicator. Oil prices directly affect the prices of goods made with petroleum products, and they indirectly affect the cost of things such as transportation, manufacturing, and heating. Thus, rising oil prices are generally indicative of rising inflation, and vice versa. 

Biden’s announcement comes after producers in OPEC (The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) resisted calls to increase their supply in order to help cool down the market and ease rising inflationary pressures. It is important to note that around 30 million of these barrels are in fact an exchange, where companies and traders will take the oil now and return it over a specific time frame in the future. This allows the Department of Energy to leverage its Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which includes over 600 million barrels stored in Texas and Louisiana, during future economic crises. An additional 18 million barrels will be “an acceleration of a previously authorized sale.”

Outlook to the future

The President has been under a spotlight pressuring him to provide Americans with economic relief to combat high gas prices and inflation. He has been blamed for the current economic state of the country, namely the record-high inflation levels. In addition to his decision to release the reserves, he has called on federal regulators to investigate whether oil and gas companies are engaging in”illegal conduct” (anti-consumer or anti-competitive behaviour) by profiting from skyrocketing energy prices during the pandemic. 

As inflation in the States remains exorbitantly high, we can only wait and see what impact Biden’s current plans will have on domestic consumers and how they impact the macroeconomy.

Sources

  1. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/11/23/president-biden-announces-release-from-the-strategic-petroleum-reserve-as-part-of-ongoing-efforts-to-lower-prices-and-address-lack-of-supply-around-the-world/
  2. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/11/29/biden-ready-to-release-more-oil-reserves-to-cool-price-amos-hochstein.html
  3. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/11/23/gas-prices-biden-release-50-m-barrels-strategic-oil-reserve/8722649002/
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News

The Belarus-Poland Border Crisis and its consequences

Introduction

The Belarus-Polish border crisis has become the biggest challenge to the EU’s border in years.  The standoff between migrants and the Polish border guards seems to have been fueled by Belarus’ tensions with the EU. Although some migrants have managed to cross into Poland from Belarus over the past couple of weeks, Poland has recently strengthened its border and closed crossings in response to the crisis. For the Poles and EU member states, the aforementioned crisis is seen as an artificial one created by Belarus’ authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, to get an advantage in the political game between the two.

Origins of the tensions

Since the beginning of November, there has been an influx of migrants from the Middle East [Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan] as well as other countries at the Belarus-Polish border. These migrants have been camped in the Białowieża Forest in freezing temperatures. According to a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, Hanna Liubakova, “it’s a terrible situation” for those caught in the camps without food or proper clothing. Several migrants trapped at the border have died due to the freezing conditions.

Lukashenko’s regime has denied the charge that his administration has been actively encouraging migrants to come to Minsk, before pushing them to the border, encouraging them to clash with Polish authorities. The migrants have come to the border with the hopes that they will cross into Poland since Belarus is not a member of the EU. Poland being a member represents a doorway into the EU and the promise of a better life for these migrants. (BBC)

Although the number of migrants at the border is roughly 4.000, it has become the EU’s biggest border challenge since 2015, when hundreds of thousands of migrants crossed from Turkey into Europe. More than a million migrants were eventually allowed into the union as a result. 

In the past week, Polish guards used water cannons and tear gas against stone-throwing migrants at the Kuznica-Bruzgi border crossing. Other scenes similar to this one have appeared on the border, supporting Lukashenko’s anti-EU agenda following the union’s sanctions imposed on his regime after the August 2020 elections. (New York Times)

Lukashenko’s hopes and aims

For more than 25 years, Lukashenko has remained the leader of Belarus, returning for a sixth-term as president in a vote which is widely considered fraudulent.

In May, Belarus forced an international flight to land in the capital of Belarus, Minsk, in order to apprehend Roman Prostasevich, a journalist, former editor and founder of an opposition blog and social media channel. The outrageous act prompted the EU to impose retaliatory sanctions. Shortly after, Alexander Lukashenko hinted at the ability for Belarus to quickly stir up a migrant crisis against the neighboring EU member states — Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia.

“Lukashenko wants to show his revenge for sanctions,” says Liubakova of the Eurasia Center. But the leader also wants to switch the discussion from political prisoners, torture and repression under his rule to something external, she says: “he wants to refocus the situation and force the West to see the crisis at the border and ignore the human rights situation in Belarus.” The aim of this is to try to begin discussions and lift the sanctions. Lukashenko understands the leverage he can acquire through force, and believes that through this he can forcefully restore bilateral dialogue. (Inews)

What can Poland and the EU do?

The EU has planned additional sanctions against Belarus as a response to the crisis. Considering the fact that the entire causal factor of this manufactured crisis are the sanctions, the EU should be wary of what it does next.

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel managed to have a discussion with Lukashenko on Monday, the 15th of November. This rare phone call between the two leaders allowed Lukashenko to secure dialogue with the EU. Germany would most likely receive the highest influx of new immigrants if the Polish border opened up, therefore, it was prudent for Merkel to negotiate. Their talks seem to have been successful since new reports have emerged, stating that Belarus is putting migrants on buses to be transported out of the area. Additionally, in an effort to further de-escalate the situation, Merkel spoke with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, asking him to use his leverage on Lukashenko. So, Lukashenko has succeeded in re-opening dialogue, but it’s unclear where that might lead, given continued international distaste for his authoritarian tactics. (New York Times)

However, now there is the question of where the migrants will go. According to international law, the European Union and Poland are obligated to hear the case of asylum seekers. As Jan Egeland of the Norwegian Refugee Council says, “both sides of this abject power play should take responsibility for these migrants, who are vulnerable people. Belarus and Russia have to stop using them as pawns on some kind of a chessboard.” (Inews)

Sources

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-59289998
  2. https://inews.co.uk/news/world/belarus-what-happening-poland-border-crisis-why-migrants-enter-eu-explained-1307498
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/17/briefing/poland-belarus-border-crisis.html
Categories
News

What is COP26 and why is it so important?

Introduction

It is the 26th iteration of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This annual meeting brings together the 197 members of the convention to take joint action against climate change. The representatives of the countries discuss issues such as climate change mitigation and financing to support developing countries in their efforts to move away from fossil fuels. This year, the conference took place from the 31st of October to the 12th of November.

History of COP26

The first UN climate talk was held in Berlin, Germany, in 1995. At the historic COP21 meeting, held in 2015, countries approved the Paris Agreement. This was a landmark deal under which each country agreed to submit pledges on emissions reductions for its country and adaptation measures, in a collective effort to keep global warming. 

The COP meets every year, unless the Parties decide otherwise. The COP usually meets in Bonn, the seat of the secretariat, unless a country offers to host the session. Just as the COP Presidency rotates among the five recognized UN regions — Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe (Eastern, Central, and Western) — there is a tendency for the venue of the COP to also shift among these groups.

The secretariat was established in 1992. Originally, the secretariat was located in Geneva. In 1995, however, the secretariat moved to Bonn, Germany. 450 staff are employed at the UN Climate Change, hailing from over 100 countries to represent the many distinct member countries. At the head of the secretariat is the Executive Secretary, a position currently held by Patricia Espinosa.

This year’s COP26

This year the meeting was held in Glasgow UK, from 31st October to 12th November. The UK will share the presidency with Italy, which hosted the last ministerial meeting before the conference.

Five years down the line, countries were scheduled to return to the forum and finalise a rulebook on how to implement the Paris Agreement. The UNFCCC secretariat pushed for this by asking all countries to update their NDCs. None of this happened in 2020 due to the Covid-19 crisis, which led the UN to postpone the meeting. Negotiations resumed this year with the same agenda: “Nations will need to reach consensus on how to measure and potentially trade their carbon-reduction achievements. They will also need to ratchet up their national pledges for a chance to keep global warming within 1.5 °C.”

Why is COP26 so important for South Asia?

South Asia is home to nearly a quarter of the world’s population, and to some of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world is currently well on track to reach 1.5C of warming by 2040, and South Asian economies are among the vast majority of countries that are not doing enough to improve on this. 

India has been in the spotlight recently as the world’s potential next biggest polluter in the second half of this century, if China and the US reduce their carbon emissions as they have promised. Despite its renewable targets, 80% of India’s energy needs are currently met by fossil fuels, mostly coal. 

International partners have been putting pressure on the Modi administration to set a 2050 deadline for India’s emissions to reach ‘net-zero’, meaning that India would be able to absorb all the emissions it produces. At this year’s COP meeting, Kelkar said that “we need to meet the long-overdue climate finance target of USD 100 billion per year, & we need to close years of pending negotiations on international carbon trading.” While a net-zero commitment by the mid-21st century may be unfeasible for countries in South Asia, Bangladesh and Nepal have submitted updates to their climate pledges prior to COP26, increasing their mitigation efforts in line with the principles of the Paris Agreement.

Top takeaways from COP26

The first two days of the COP26 featured over 100 high-level announcements and speeches. These helped to set the tone for the two-week long conference. Over 140 countries submitted updated 2030 climate plans, or nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

India: announced a commitment (“Panchamrit”) on climate change, which included:

  • Resolution to reach net-zero emissions by 2070, including significant near-term commitments to work toward that goal
  • Pledge to install 500 gigawatts of non-fossil fuel electricity and to generate 50% of India’s energy capacity with renewable energy sources
  • Promise to reduce India’s carbon intensity 45% by 2030 and to cut its projected carbon emissions by 1 billion tons between now and 2030. This will be achieved by steering the country towards a low-carbon development pathway and sending strong signals to every sector about what the future holds.

Brazil

  • Formalized its pledge to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 
  • Set a new goal of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030, however the emissions impact from this goal is no stronger than what the country put forward in 2015
  • It is critical that Brazil comes back soon with a serious commitment to reduce emissions.

China

  • Released its new climate commitment just ahead of COP26, which includes a plan to peak emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality before 2060. This reiterates President Xi’s announcement last December at the Climate Ambition Summit.

New Zealand

  • submitted an updated climate plan with a strengthened 2030 emissions reduction target, aiming to cut its emissions in half from 2005 levels.

Argentina

  • also nudged its 2030 emission cap downward from 359 to 349 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2030.

Sources

  1. https://www.wri.org/insights/top-takeaways-un-world-leaders-summit-cop26
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59088498
  3. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/climate/cop26-explained/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwrJOM%20BhCZARIsAGEd4VEAqEsNHfpKPhngRsaAymC52hqhfq5vWy8gTmDzhoItPSwjmYFt%20koEaAv-BEALw_wcB
  4. https://www.thethirdpole.net/en/climate/cop26-south-asia-india-whats-at-stake/