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Misrepresentations of American & Soviet Roles in WW II and the Cold War

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The Soviet Union contributed more than did any other nation to the defeats of Germany and Japan in World War II, but America and Britain together defeated Italy. Many prominent Western ‘historians’ white-out the Soviet roles in defeating Hitler and especially Hirohito, and they overstate the importance of America’s victories to the ultimate outcome, and ignore or underplay Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s strong rejection and repudiation of Winston Churchill’s imperialistic agenda, not only for a continuation of empires, but for a continued postwar exploitation of colonies, as being acceptable goals for the future. Those ‘historians’ are actually propagandists — no real historians, at all — because they fundamentally misrepresent; yet they dominate in the ‘historical’ profession, and they have produced in the U.S. and in its allies a widespread and profoundly warped ‘history’ of the war and of its aftermath, and of Twentieth-Century history, and of our own time. This ‘historical’ distortion has continued even after 1991 (it even accelerated) when the Cold War between the U.S. and Russia ended only on the Russian side, but not actually on the U.S. side. These ‘historical’ lies accelerated because ‘historians’ continue, even today, to hide this crucial fact, that the U.S. side of the Cold War secretly continued — and still does continue — to try to conquer Russia. Ever since the time of America’s vile, bloody and illegal actual coup against Ukraine in February 2014 onward, Russia has been responding increasingly. This is especially so because of yet another American-and-allied aggression against a nation that has cooperative arrangements with Russia, Syria, 2012-. The purveyors of fake ‘news’ and fake ‘history’ display the gall to cry foul and to lie and allege that Russia’s necessary defensive actions against America’s aggressions are, instead, themselves, aggressions, to which America and its vassal-nations have the right to respond, and should respond, by what then would actually be yet more aggressions (violations of international law) — instead of to quit its string of aggressions, and to apologize, not only for the aggressions, but also for the lies, that the U.S. regime and its propagandists have been perpetrating, against Russia, and against nations that cooperate with Russia. The reality has been that U.S. foreign policy is, and has been, driven by one overriding and obsessive goal for a hundred years: first, to conquer any nation that’s friendly with Russia, and thereby to isolate Russia internationally; and, then, finally, to grab Russia itself. This entire U.S. geostrategy is based upon lies.

The ‘Historical’ Lies, V. The Historical Truths

According to the standard accounts, the Cold War ended on both sides in 1991, when the Soviet Union dissolved, and its communism ended, and its Warsaw Pact (the military alliance that the U.S.S.R. had created in response to America’s having created the NATO military alliance against the Soviet Union) all ended. But, secretly, the Cold War continued on the U.S. side, and with the same (and now blatantly) imperialist goal of ultimately conquering Russia and China, so as to establish the first-ever all-encompassing global empire. Whereas Franklin Delano Roosevelt had set up the U.N. so as to evolve into a global democracy of nations — a democratic federal republic encompassing all nations — his successor, Harry S. Truman quickly became deceived by Winston S. Churchill and Dwight David Eisenhower to believe that the Soviet Union was trying to take over the entire world, and so Truman promptly abandoned FDR’s vision and initiated instead the permanent-warfare U.S., the military-industrial-complex-ruled U.S., which relegated the U.N. to a secondary role, as a mere mediator for global diplomacy, not as the international lawmaker that FDR had hoped it would ultimately evolve into. FDR’s dream and intention, of establishing a system of international laws functioning as the all-encompassing global democratic federal democracy in which all nations are represented, became thwarted, almost as soon as he died, when the Deep-State U.S. military-industrial complex that’s run behind the scenes by the controlling owners of America’s top weapons-manufacturing firms took hold. 

After WW II, the U.S. Government secretly aspired — and still does aspire — to rule over the entire world, including especially over Russia and China. George Herbert Walker Bush told Robert Sheer in the 24 January 1980 Los Angeles Times and in Scheer’s 1982 book With Enough Shovels, page 29, that in a nuclear war between the Soviet Union and the U.S., the “winner in a nuclear exchange” would be whichever side is stronger than the other at the war’s end; and, so, for Bush, nuclear weapons didn’t exist in order to avoid a nuclear conflict, but instead in order to “win” it. This also is the reason why, on the night of 24 February 1990, Bush secretly told West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl to ignore the promises that Bush’s team were making to Gorbachev, that NATO would not be expanded “one inch to the east” (i.e., not extended right up to Russia’s border) if Gorbachev ends the Cold War. Bush, in confidence, told Kohl “To hell with that! We prevailed, they didn’t.” And he also secretly told French President Francois Mitterrand to pursue no “kind of pan-European alliance” (i.e., alliance that includes Russia) because, actually, total conquest of Russia remains the U.S.-and-allied goal. This view — that the goal is control over Russia — became firmly established in U.S. Government policy by no later than 2006 when Bush’s son was the President and the phrase “Nuclear Primacy” (the ability to “win” a nuclear war against Russia) became used in order to refer to America’s geostrategic goal.

Part of that scam by ’The West’ (the emergent American empire) has been the ongoing ‘historical’ lie that the Allied victory in WW II was mainly an American and British affair, and not mainly a Soviet one. Another part of it is that the Soviet Union had started the Cold War; and yet a third part is that the Cold War was about ideology (communism versus capitalism) instead of about the U.S. regime’s goal of ultimately conquering Russia and China so as to achieve the world’s first and only full global and unchallengeable empire

The excuse for all of this was always the allegation that global empire is Russia’s goal and that the U.S. therefore needs to win the nuclear war when it ultimately happens. But Russia, and its prior USSR, always did maintain, and still does maintain, as actual Government policy (not just mere verbiage, such as in America after 1980) the belief in “MAD” or Mutually Assured Destruction — the idea that any nuclear war between the two superpowers will destroy the entire planet and therefore produce no winners whatsoever — no winner but only nuclear winter — regardless of which side might temporarily emerge the stronger while nuclear winter and resulting global famine soon destroy all life on Earth after that nuclear exchange. Russia is not (like America is) aiming to take over the planet. The fact that the U.S. regime is trying to take over the planet has shocked even America’s top geostrategic scientists. The ‘historians’ hide all of this, so as to continue the myth that in the U.S.-Russia relationship, Russia is and has been the aggressor, and America the defender — instead of vice-versa, which is, and has been, the historical reality.

A rare, early, excellent, and honest, Western history of the immediate post-WW-II world, was the libertarian William Henry Chamberlin’s 1950 book America’s Second Crusade. Its earnest author — a disenchanted former socialist who once had trusted Stalin’s goodwill but was dismayed now to find Stalin to be America’s enemy as well as an unforgivable tyrant to the nation he led — opened by saying “My book is an attempt to examine without prejudice or favor the question why the peace was lost while the war was being won.” He was struggling to understand how and why and when the Cold War started, but unfortunately, some key documents, in order to become enabled to understand that, had not yet become public. A crucial passage in his book that reflected state-of-the-art historical writing in 1950 but certainly not today, asserted:

Stalin’s diplomatic masterpiece was his promotion, through his pact with Hitler, of a war from which he hoped to remain aloof. [FALSE: Stalin knew that the Soviet Union was Hitler’s main target to attack, and he was terrified of that]

This attractive dream of watching the capitalist world tear itself to pieces and then stepping in to collect the fragments was shattered by Hitler’s attack in June 1941. [FALSE: that war between U.S.S.R and Germany was already baked-in in 1939; and it was Stalin’s nightmare — not his “dream.”]

Chamberlin thought that Stalin had made with Hitler the 1939 Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact because Stalin had wanted to join with Hitler in taking over the entire world — i.e., for aggression, instead of for defense; i.e., instead of so as to protect the U.S.S.R. from becoming invaded by Hitler (which defensive motivation actually is what obsessed Stalin). Chamberlin thus wrote approvingly of “Churchill’s scheme which would have limited the extent of Soviet conquest.” Chamberlin thought that the ideological conflict (to the extent that there actually was one in the Cold War) was between communism versus capitalism, not  between fascism versus non-fascism (which it was, and still is).

Here are the facts, which have been revealed by the making-public of archives as of 2008 and subsequently:

On 18 October 2008, Britain’s Telegraph  bannered “Stalin ‘planned to send a million troops to stop Hitler if Britain and France agreed pact’” and buried the core revelation, that Stalin prior to the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact recognized Hitler’s determination to conquer the Soviet Union and he had, on 15 August 1939, urged British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain to accept the U.S.S.R. as an ally in their mutual war to defeat Hitler; but Chamberlain refused, and so Stalin reached out to Hitler for an agreement with him to a dividing-line between those two countries’ (Germany’s and U.S.S.R.’s) essential areas of control for each one’s national security. Poland especially was a worry to both of them, because Poland had had territorial conflicts with both Germany and the Soviet Union. Thus was signed on 23 August 1939 the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, which split Poland between both countries.

The Versalles Treaty at the end of WW I had handed to Poland what had been German territory that through most of prior history had been Polish territory. Hitler was elected into power in 1933 vowing to abandon that Treaty and to restore, to German rule, that part of Poland.

As regards Poland’s conflicts with Russia: Poland had invaded Moscow during 1605-18, before Russia responded by both military and diplomatic means to virtually conquer Poland into becoming a colony of Russia, which it remained almost uninterruptedly until 1939, when the Hitler-Stalin agreement — the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact — restored part of Poland to the Soviet Union, but handed the other part of Poland to Germany. 

Stalin, having been spurned by Chamberlain (who held his own imperialistic intentions — he was as imperialistic as were the fascists: Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini), had actually no other option in 1939 than to reach a peace-agreement with Hitler, so as to avoid having the Soviet Union become swallowed up by the capitalist countries — first by Germany, and then by whatever countries would finally win the coming World War (presumably, likewise Germany). 

This is why the historian Chamberlin’s claim that Stalin’s “dream” of imperialist expansion “was shattered by Hitler’s attack in June 1941” is false: Stalin’s necessity for the U.S.S.R. to be granted enough time, to prepare for Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa invasion against it (which ended up starting on 22 June 1941), caused the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact to become signed on 23 August 1939, which signing sparked both of its signatories to promptly invade Poland and start the active phase of WW II on 1 September 1939, both countries invading Poland. FDR didn’t hold that agreement against Stalin, but instead against Chamberlain, who really hated Russia and virtually forced Stalin into that Pact. Chamberlain’s goal wasn’t to get the Soviet Union onto Britain’s side but instead for a war between the Soviet Union and Germany to weaken both of them enough for a UK-U.S. alliance to take over both of them, and, ultimately, the world. FDR got Chamberlain’s successor Churchill to agree to a “United Nations” in which there would be an international democracy of nations and all military weapons and enforcement of General Assembly laws would be possessed and enforced only by “the Big Four” of U.S., UK, U.S.S.R., and China, but Churchill balked at including China because he wanted to retain control of his eastern vassal-nations. FDR agreed instead to each of the Big Four enforcing U.N. laws only  within its own neighborhood, so as to prohibit friction between the Big Four — and China would enforce in East Asia and Western Pacific, which meant Britain’s freeing India, Burma, Malaya, and some other of its vassal-nations. U.S. was to enforce U.N. laws throughout the Western Hemisphere. U.S.S.R. was to do the same in eastern Europe and central Asia. UK was to do it in Western Europe. Initially, Roosevelt’s plan had been only for a U.N. consisting of this Big Four as “trustees” over other nations that are within their neighborhood, but he soon recognized the need for, as the Dumbarton Oaks founding document for the U.N. put it, on 7 October 1944, “Membership of the Organization should be open to all peace-loving states.” Also: “There should be an international court of justice which should constitute the principal judicial organ of the Organization.” And: “Each member of the Organization should have one vote in the General Assembly.” No international bill of rights was included, because the U.N. wasn’t to get involved in any nation’s internal affairs. But, then, FDR died and along came President Truman, and the U.N.’s Constitution became established on 26 June 1945, as the “Charter of the United Nations”, and it dispensed altogether with that crucial distinction; and, furthermore, the Big Four became the Five permanent Members of the Security Council, France (yet another imperialist regime) being added to the Big Four. Already, FDR’s vision was starting to become replaced by that of agents of owners of America’s ‘defense’ contractors. They needed the distinction to be abandoned so that the U.N. would become distracted away from its peace-keeping function and toward “human rights” issues that could ‘justify’ international invasions (and thus growing demand for their products). And thus we have today a toothless U.N., far from what FDR had intended. This is very profitable for the military-industrial complex and enables the U.S. regime to aspire to being, as Barack Obama claimed it already to be, “the one indispensable nation”, and every other nation therefore to be ‘dispensable’ (and consequently usable for “target-practice”).

After the 18 October 2008 article in Britain’s Telegraph, another article that is a breakthrough for historians is Randy Dotinga’s superb review (and the best summary), appearing in the 5 March 2015 Christian Science Monitor, of Susan Butler’s 2015 masterpiece, Roosevelt and Stalin: Portrait of a Partnership. (Butler’s book is based on her own prior publication, by Yale, of My Dear Mr. Stalin: The Complete Correspondence of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph V. Stalin.) Dotinga’s review is titled “‘Roosevelt and Stalin’ details the surprisingly warm relationship of an unlikely duo: How FDR and Stalin forged a bond that helped to shape history.” Basically, what Butler has documented (in those two books) and Dotinga accurately summarizes, is that FDR and Stalin were in agreement and FDR and Churchill were not, and that FDR was consistently a supporter of the position that no nation has a right to interfere in the internal affairs of any other nation, except when those internal affairs present a realistic threat against the national security of one’s own nation. FDR was consistently an opponent of empires, which exist not for national security but for the further enrichment of one’s own nation’s aristocracy, the owners of its international corporations — especially of its weapons-makers. (An imperial nation’s weapons-manufacturers rely upon sales to that government and to its vassals or ‘allies’, and therefore fund politicians who endorse its imperialism. Consequently: the U.N. now gets involved in the internal affairs of nations — their ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ — as constituting ‘justifications’ to authorize invasions, or “R2P,” responsibility to protect. That’s exactly opposite to FDR’s plan for the U.N., which concerned no intranational affairs, but only intranational affairs.) The negative reviews of Butler’s Roosevelt and Stalin at Amazon object to Stalin’s domestic policies but ignore what FDR was concerned with, regarding Stalin, which was international policies. It would have been foolish for FDR to have gotten into disputes with his most important ally over internal Soviet matters (but American imperialists wish that he had done so). Similarly, FDR did not think that he possessed a right to interfere in Hitler’s domestic policies (including even the extermination programs), but recognized that he had an obligation to protect the United States from Hitler’s intended conquest of the entire world. For example, FDR’s chosen mastermind for, and Truman’s designated prosecutor at, the Nuremberg Tribunals, Robert Jackson, focused mainly against the German regime’s imperialist policies, its international aggressions that really were not motivated by Germany’s national security but instead by international conquest — aggression. The Holocaust was also an important, but secondary, concern, at those tribunals. In international affairs, FDR recognized that the primary focus must be on international policies, not on intranational policies — that it must be on policies between nations, not policies within nations. He stuck to that; America’s imperialists didn’t like that. (For them, Churchill was the hero.)

As Dotinga’s review also pointedly notes:

But FDR has a huge blind spot. Up until the very end, “Roosevelt and Stalin” virtually never mentions a man who forever annoyed the Russians by declaring in 1941 that “if we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible.”

This man’s name is Harry Truman. When Roosevelt dies in 1945, just weeks after the Yalta conference, the vice president knows virtually nothing about the wartime talks and has never even spent a second inside the White House’s Map Room brain center.

Truman would learn about the nuclear bomb, which spawned an intense debate in the Roosevelt Administration about whether to mention it to the Soviets, America’s supposed allies. In fact, they’d already figured out something was up.

Despite this fault line over trust with FDR, the Soviets would later mourn a safer world they believed Roosevelt would have created if he’d lived. To them, he was a dear friend who passed away too soon.

FDR knew and respected that Stalin led the main component of the anti-Nazi team. FDR had no illusions about what immense and unnecessary suffering Stalin’s domestic policies produced, but this wasn’t FDR’s business. U.S. national security was. And FDR knew that if Hitler were to win, then America would ultimately be ruled from Berlin, and Hitler’s domestic policies, which were even worse than Stalin’s, would become also America’s domestic policies. That’s what FDR was protecting America against, and his chief international ally was Stalin — not actually Churchill (such as the fake ‘history’ — from pro-imperialists — claims).

The Democratic Party’s biggest donors chose Harry S. Truman to become FDR’s successor because they figured that he’d be able to be controlled by them, and this belief turned out to have been correct. Truman wasn’t corrupt but he was able to be fooled (self-righteously to believe what his billionaire-approved advisors told him), and this is how the Cold War began. Truman thought he had no choice — that Stalin’s regime would take over the world if America did not. He was fooled. And that’s why the OSS and its successor, the U.S. CIA and other agencies, protected and even imported or hired many ‘former’ committed Nazis, as soon as FDR died. America is now basically ruled posthumously by Hitler’s ideological heirs. Whereas some of America’s leaders, such as Barack Obama, probably do it intelligently, understanding where the supremacist and imperialist agenda comes from (the “military-industrial complex” or the nation’s most politically active billionaires), others of them, such as perhaps Donald Trump, might, like Truman was, be true-believers who have been simply fooled by them. Certainly Trump has loads of prejudices, which make him vulnerable to being manipulated without his even being aware of that. He believes what he wants to believe, and such a person is especially vulnerable to being manipulated. Obama, on the other hand, might be more of a realist than a fool. In either case, it’s the billionaires who now control the U.S. Government (and see this, with more on that).

Furthermore, there were two powerful reasons why Stalin would have been getting himself into ideological trouble amongst his own communists if he had aspired to expanding Soviet control beyond the local neighborhood of adjoining (“buffer”) nations all of which were collectively surrounded by the broader capitalist world: (1) Marx himself strongly condemned imperialism; and, (2) Stalin’s main ideological competitor within the Soviet Union was Leon Trotsky, who advocated for a rapid worldwide spread of communism, versus Stalin’s position against that, which was called “communism in one nation,” and which advocated to postpone pushing for such a spread until after communism has first become an economic success within the U.S.S.R. so that workers throughout the world would rise up to overthrow their oppressors. America’s Deep State knew all about the idiocy of casting Stalin as being an imperialist, but simply lied, in order to increase America’s own empire. They were, and are, brazen. 

And this Deep State is coextensive with the EU’s, at least ever since the founding of the secret private Bilderberg network in 1954. America’s aristocracy, and the ‘ex’-Nazi Prince Bernhard and his friends, pushed for and set up the EU, in order, ultimately, to conquer Russia, not actually just to conquer the Soviet Union. On 19 September 2019, the European Parliament officially, by a vote of 535 in favor and only 66 against, blamed Stalin (along with Hitler) for World War II, and stated that today’s Russia is an extension of the U.S.S.R.’s “totalitarianism,” and they basically declared Russia to be Europe’s enemy. On October 1st, Russia officially described that action by them as “nothing but a product of the cynical, immoral and even sleazy political put-up job.”

A masterpiece of historical writing, and of historical documentaries based on it, showing in a broader perspective the history of U.S. international relations during the 20th Century, is Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s Untold History of the United States, especially Chapter One here, and Chapter Two here. Massive though it is, it’s only truths, no lies. That’s extraordinarily rare. A masterpiece of behind-the-scenes history regarding U.S. international relations, containing stunning first-person details of the period 1943-1990 (that’s up to but not including the end of the Cold War on Russia’s side), is L. Fletcher Prouty’s JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy. Another related historical masterpiece is David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government. All of this is history that was being hidden and lied-about at the time when it was being mentioned, at all, in the ‘news’ — and which still remains being lied-about in the ‘news’ and ‘history’ that dominates today, within the U.S. and its empire. The only professional historian amongst those writers was Peter Kuznick. All of the others were journalists, except for Prouty, who was a participant. One can’t reasonably trust the historical profession (nor most of the journalistic profession) in the U.S. and its empire. That’s a fact — a proven-true empirical observation — no mere speculation.

Author’s note: first posted at strategic-culture.org

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Tackling migration crises: Fighting corruption may help

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Increasing numbers of migrants are moving towards the Belarus/Poland border.photo: Belarus Red Cross

Twenty-three-year-old Mohamed Rasheed was at a loss after returning to Iraq from a grueling failed attempt to cross the Belarus-Polish border. “There’s no life for us here. There are no jobs; there is no future,” he told a Washington Post reporter.

Another man, who had just disembarked from a repatriation flight from the Belarus capital of Minsk to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, frowned and obscured his face with a scarf, according to the reporter, as he responded to a question about why he had left.

“Those words cannot leave my mouth. Who dares to tell the truth here?” the man said.

The two men were returning to a country whose population has largely been excluded from sharing in the benefits of its oil wealth. Youth unemployment hovers at about 25 per cent. Public good and services are poor at best. Security forces and militias crackdown on and fire live ammunition at protesters demanding wholesale change.

Mohammed and his fellow returnee could have been from Lebanon, a middle-income country in which three-quarters of the population lives under the poverty line thanks to a corrupt elite unwilling to surrender vested interests irrespective of the cost to others.

In fact, they could have been from any number of countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and their African and Asian peripheries.

Almost half of the youth from non-Gulf countries in the Middle East and North Africa want nothing more than to leave in the absence of opportunities and prospects. They are exasperated with corrupt, self-serving elites.

This is a part of the world where devastating wars have wracked Syria, Yemen, and Libya. More recently, these countries were joined by Ethiopia while others in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel reel from jihadist violence that feeds on social and economic grievances.

To primarily hold responsible for the migrant crisis, human traffickers and cynical authoritarian leaders like Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who are willing to play power games and turn a profit on the back of innocent men, women, and children is swatting at symptoms of a problem that goes to the root of instability in the Middle East and North Africa.

To be sure, Mr. Lukashenko and the traffickers are part of the problem. Moreover, many Middle Easterners on the Belarus-Polish border appear to be economic, not political refugees with a legal right to asylum.

One could argue that the European Union’s refusal to take in the refugees on humanitarian grounds led to their repatriation to Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, which may have shortened their ordeal. Many risked being ultimately rejected, even if they had been granted entry to the EU because they were not political refugees.

The jury is out on whether the refusal will serve as a warning to the many in the Middle East and North Africa contemplating ways to get to Europe by hook or by crook.

All of this describes the immediate aspects of a dramatic crisis. The danger is that the focus on the immediate will obstruct badly needed thinking of ways to prevent or reduce the risk of future such crises and human suffering, aggravated by the willingness of governments to fight their battles on the backs of the least protected.

The framing of the crisis as a security rather than a political, economic, and social problem further takes away from the development of policies and tools to tackle the root causes of repeated migrant crises – economic mismanagement; political, economic, and financial corruption; nepotism; and loss of confidence in political systems and leadership.

“Addressing population challenges, the youth bulge, and refugee and migration pressure from natural or man-made crises will require measures to promote sustainable economic growth and enhanced educational and healthy capacities,” said George M. Feierstein, senior vice president of the Washington-based Middle East Institute and a former State Department official with multiple postings in the Middle East and North Africa.

Acknowledging that a broader US policy focus is likely to prove more challenging than one narrowly concentrated on security, Mr. Feierstein argued that the United States could “bring assets to the table that could potentially enhance its role in the region and strengthen its position as the preeminent outside power.” The former diplomat was referring to big power rivalry with China and Russia in the Middle East and North Africa.

Adopting Mr. Feierstein’s policy prescription would involve greater emphasis on regional approaches to global challenges, including climate change and public health; conflict management and resolution efforts to safeguard populations and minimize internal displacement and migration; and institutional capacity and resilience building; all backed by greater US private sector engagement.

Kyrgyzstan has potentially emerged in what could provide evidence that a de-emphasis of the security aspects of the migration crisis would not automatically surrender real estate and /or leverage and influence to China and Russia.

Part of a Central Asian world sandwiched between Russia and China on which the United States has seemingly turned its back with its withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov is using his election pledges to fight corruption and offer financial rewards to whistleblowers to lure the US back.

Mr. Japarov’s proposition, designed to rescue Kyrgyzstan from the clutches of Russia and China, is the central theme of a document that he has sent to the US State Department. The document outlines proposals to revive a broad political, economic, and civic engagement with the US bolstered by anti-corruption measures and affirmation of democratic freedoms.

S. Frederick Starr, founding chairman of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, suggested that Mr. Japarov is providing a template for US reengagement with Central Asia and Afghanistan. In fact, the Kyrgyz president is offering a formula equally relevant to the Middle East and North Africa.

If adopted by the Biden administration, Kyrgyzstan “would become ‘The Mouse that Roared’ to cite the title of the droll 1959 British film.  This time, however, the lesser power will have advanced its cause not by threatening military action…but with a sensible proposal by which a great power—the United States—…can once more become a serious presence in a major part of Asia that lies on China’s and Russia’s doorstep,” Mr. Starr said.

In contrast to Central Asia, the United States remains the dominant power in the Middle East and North Africa. But it’s a power seeking to redefine the role it wishes to play going forward in a region struggling to come to grips with an uncertain but changing US approach.

Kyrgyzstan could be showing the way for both United States and the Middle East. However, to make it work and reduce, if not stop, migration flows, the United States and its Western partners would have to prioritise confronting corrupt elites who will stop at nothing, including displacing populations, to preserve their illicitly gained privileges.

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An election, another one, and yet another one: Will Bulgaria finally have a functioning government?

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As of November, Bulgarian voters headed to the polls four times this year. Therefore, the news of a new election evokes little surprise — almost like in Israel before Netanyahu’s ousting. In both countries, the tension kept rising while expectations became more and more modest with each successive electoral round. However, the contests that took place on Sunday 14th were of the utmost importance for the country; and not only. In fact, Bulgaria is the EU’s and NATO’s south-eastern bulwark and hosts a tract of the South Stream gas duct. Moreover, Sofia is currently blockingthe next round of EU enlargement negotiations over North Macedonia’s disrespect of extant bilateral obligations. Finally, the Biden administration has manifested the US’s renewed interest in the Bulgaria’s internal politics and international orientations. Thus, the result of the vote has wider implication for the European and Euro-Atlantic political and geo-strategic stability.

Background — Two failed elections

April 2021: How the parties ‘hung’ the parliament

Last April, Bulgarians voted to renew the sitting parliament in the general elections. However, after a summer-long wave of protests against the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, established parties looked rather weak.

According to most experts, this new season of contestation has mobilised new voters, previously disenchanted about politics. As a result, the parties and the leaders who casted themselvesas supportive of the protests increased their votes. In particular, the neo-liberal coalition Democratic Bulgaria (DB) got the support of the well-educated and those residing in bigger cities. Meanwhile, the personal parties Stand Up! Bastards Out! (ISMV) and There is Such a People (ITN) fished across the board.

But they cannot persuadePM Boyko Borisov’s supporters that his removal from office is a precondition for societal improvement. Thus, despite the many corruption scandals involving Borisov’s cliques, all polls forecasted his party, GERB, would have won the election.

Or, to be more precise, GERB won the ballot count — but without a majority (see Figure 1). Moreover, the indignation did not spare the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), which sometimes vents sympathies  for GERB despite its corruption. In addition, the elderlies are overrepresented amongst the BSP’s voters, the party suffered from Covid’s increasing morbidity during the spring. Hence, the main traditional opposition party lost votes in favour of the abovementioned ‘protest parties’, weakening the wider anti-Borisov front.

Against this background, there was absolutely no chance of seeing a cabinet get through a vote of confidence. In fact, GERB won 75 seats and the DPS, an ethnic-Turkish party closely associated with GERB, got other 30. Meanwhile, the so-called “parties of the protest” had only 93 representatives on the 121 needed to form a government. True, the BSP managed to hold on to 43 seats — enough to make the protest parties’ eventual confidence motion pass. But DB and ITN refused to engage in serious negotiations with the socialists, forcing the parliament to disband.

The President scheduled new election in July.

July 2021: How politicians (did not) made it through another hung parliament

Most Bulgarian parties and their leaders failed to understand the real meaning of the election results in July. In fact, for the first timesince its appearance in 2009, GERB failed to win the most votes. In part, this could be explained arguing that a large share of GERB’s constituency does not vote ideologically. On the contrary, researchers hypothesise that support for Borisov’s party stems chiefly from the networks of clienteleshe has established. Thus, it was relatively uncomplicated for the President-appointed caretaker government to disincentivise practices such as vote buying and controlled voting. Either way, subsequent sociological analyses and available data show that GERB’s voters demobilised more than other parties’ supporters in July.

Conversely, the so-called ‘parties of the protest’ were the main beneficiary of the disengagement of GERB’s voters. True, most of the ITN’s, DB’s and ISMV’s voters were not ideologically committed to their party of choice either. Nevertheless, the results showed that protest voting can be powerful enough of a force to uproot an already-destabilised party system. In fact, all three parties increased their share of the vote and number of seats (see Figure 2). In addition, ITN’s votes increased in absolute terms by 92,000 units despite an eight-percent reduction in turnout.

After having seen the results, Borisov’s adversaries, especially President Radev, imagined the parties could agree on a new cabinet. In fact, GERB and the DPS lost 13 seats. Meanwhile, the so-called “parties of the protest” had as many as 112 representatives and the BSP was left with 36. Eventually, strong of its 65 deputies, ITN came up with the offer for DB, ISMV and the BPS. Essentially, ITN would form a minority “cabinet of experts” following an agenda agreed amongst the four parties. In other words, ITN came up with a confidence-and-supply arrangement which would have denied its partners any post. However, the populist reason which drives ITN’s strategy led to a massive failure although there was a draft government programme. Namely, according to several rumours, DB requested to rediscuss some of the cabinet members’ nomination as part of the agreement. Predictably, ITN’s preconceived denial to negotiate on the names caused DB’s rebuttalof the entire confidence-and-supply mechanism. Obviously, the BSP and ISMV opportunistically abandoned ITN’s wretched locomotive before the egregious failure of its government in pectore.

The President scheduled new election in November.

Yet another parliamentary… and finally a cabinet?

Considering the previous two votes’ result, it is unsurprising that few analysts tried to call the last electoral round. Indeed, much of this unpredictability stemmed from the decision of two President-appointed caretaker ministers to form a new party. Actually, the names of former finance minister Kirill Petkov and former economy minister Asen Vasilev were little known until May. However, the former’s intense public activity in the revealing the corrupt practicesof Borisov’s administration made him very popular. Moreover, Petkov’s rhetoric emphasises, unlike that of most other Bulgarian political leaders, dialogue, trust and teamwork— especially with Vasilev. Lastly, Petkov and Vasilev made a wit choice in calling their party We Continue the Change (PP). In fact, the name underlines continuity with the caretaker government’s activity and suggests a connection with its appointer, President Radev. After all, the President remains the most popular Bulgarian politician and PP benefitted from his informal blessing (Figure 3).

Overall, the results are surprisingto say the least (Figure 4). Although the turnout fell again to slightly less than 40% of eligible voters, PP achieved a convincing lead over GERB. At the same time, the entire political panorama changed dramatically virtually overnight. After a months-long decline, ISMV failed to clear the four-percent threshold to enter the parliament and risks disappearing. Evidently, the BSP continued its decline, ranking fourth – even after the DPS – and losing 54 seats on its pre-2021 level. Interestingly, PP seems to have syphoned offso many votes from the protest party par excellence, ITN, to shrink it to 25 seats.  The same dynamic drove votes from PP to DB, whose leader admitted the two parties’ self-evident ideological affinity recently. Finally, a nationalist ‘protest’ formationmanged to elect 13 deputies, remedying nationalists’ failures in April and July: Văzrazhdane (‘National Revival’).

Looking at the mere numbers of seats in the parliament, one would reach a simple conclusion. And some already say that the Bulgarians will soon have to deal with a new cabinet, with Petkov as PM. However, the most refined analysts have noted that the parties may fail to form a government for the third time.

Conclusion — What to look for in the next weeks and months

The most fascinating aspects of Bulgaria’s current election cycle is not new to those who follow Israeli politics, for instance. In fact, as it happened in Tel Aviv after Netanyahu’s failure to form a government, many feel changes coming. However, in Sofia like in Tel Aviv, there are still many unknown quantities to deal with in politics’ general equation.

Obviously, the reference is most directly to Văzrazhdane — this absolute newcomer to parliamentary politics. First, the party has adopted rather ‘atypical’ stances on, amongst other topics, Bulgaria’s NATO and EU membership. Curiously, most of the party’s propaganda material is freely and easily accessible online through social networksand Văzrazhdane’s website. Besides the fact that the majority of its activists and candidates are open to have an online chat with anyone. Hence, it is reasonable to expect that at least part of Văzrazhdane’s 127,568 voters is well aware of its ideals. Nevertheless, it may not be able to coalesce with a strongly pro-EU, neo-liberal and verticalized party as PP without denaturing.  Second, the party’s modest success may be more sustainable in the medium to long term than that of PP. Differently from PP, ITN, ISMV and otherBulgarian leader-driven political projects, Văzrazhdane has been growing up for year. In effect, a few sociologists and analysts were already singling out the party’s positive trajectory in July. Thus, its ideas may turn into a long-lasting destabilising factor for Bulgaria’s usually dull foreign policy in the coming years.

Furthermore, one can argue at length on what these results say on the state of Bulgaria’s liberal democracy. Sure, neither PP nor GERB are a serious threat to democracy as a procedural rule involving elections. However, both parties pose an unmistakable menace to the country’s already fledging liberal institutions. In fact, both Borisov and, in his short tenure to nowadays, Petkovhave shown little appreciation of parliamentarism. Moreover, Petkov embraces a brand of neoliberalismwhich implies a few carrots(e.g., raising pensions) and much more stick. In fact, he has only criticised entrepreneurs whom others have already associated with Borisov and promised not to raise taxes. In addition, he has an open feud with the Constitutional Courtover his dual citizenship — which invalidated his ministerial appointment. Finally, Petkov and his associated have approached the pandemicas a common-sense matterdespite the ongoing compression of citizens’ freedoms.

Therefore, the future remains unpredictable. Especially assuming that a Petkov cabinet would have the support of both the EU and the President. In fact, left unconstrained by Brussels in the name of stabilitocracy and supported by Radev to finish off his archenemy, Borisov, Petkov and his associated may end up rewriting the rules of Bulgarian politics in an elitist way. After all, they have already done it by violating all constitutional customs on caretaker governments’ self-restraint. Why not to try again?

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Engaging Morocco: A Chess Game Spain Does Not Want to Lose

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In a game of chess, each player knows the type of game they are playing and takes turns moving the pieces. In addition to the relative advantage of making an opening consistent with your objectives, you must anticipate your opponent’s moves and plan accordingly.

Morocco moved pieces on May 17 and 18, 2021, when it let in 8,000 immigrants in the city of Ceuta, a Spanish territory in Africa and external border of the European Union. It did so without warning, neglecting its functions as border guardian and allowing the entry of a mass of migrants amounting to 9.5% of Ceuta’s population.

This episode is of unprecedented character: it occurred in the context of a geopolitical change in the Maghreb, within an unparalleled worsening of Rabat-Madrid relations, and it was of an unmatched magnitude. The particularity of the event demands an assessment of the relations between both countries and of Spain’s strategy towards Morocco. Does Madrid know that it is playing chess with Rabat? Is it capable of reading the moves of Morocco in advance? Does it have an effective strategy?

Background

This act takes place during a period of dramatic change in the Maghreb area. Namely, hostilities over Western Sahara broke out again in 2019. Further, Morocco’s relations with Algiers have drastically deteriorated, while its relations with Europe have become more strained following the CJEU rulings in 2021 and conflicts with France and Berlin. Washington has increased its support for Morocco, recognizing its sovereignty over Western Sahara and providing arms supplies and military cooperation. In parallel, Rabat is making a pivot to Africa, strengthening ties with the Sahel and extending its diplomatic contacts with Nigeria, Senegal and other West African countries. These changes enhance the importance of Morocco’s movements and highlight the relevance of its interactions with its only European neighbor: Spain.

Relations between Spain and Morocco have always been conflictive and prosperous in equal parts. In addition to the positive aspects of trade relations, economic complementarity and cooperation in the fight against terrorism, there are also problematic aspects: territorial claims over Spanish possessions in Africa, maritime delimitation issues and immigration. Morocco’s rejection of the principle of Uti possidetis juris, seeking to change the borders inherited from colonialism, has brought conflict to its relations with its neighbors. With Spain, this is evident in events such as the Ifni War (Morocco-Spain), the Green March, the Perejil crisis and the events in Ceuta in May of this year.

In the media, relations between the kingdoms of Spain and Morocco are shaped by conflicts, such as the Perejil Crisis in 2002 and 2010-2011 without a Moroccan ambassador to Madrid. These confrontations, usually involving Spanish territories in Africa or issues of great public sensitivity such as migration or the Western Sahara, are short-lived and normally quickly resolved. As a result, relations between Madrid and Rabat are cyclical in nature and form part of Spanish domestic politics. This conditions that the high points in their relations never last long and that Spain’s responses in discussing the Sahara, Ceuta and Melilla publicly are avoidant rather than assertive. Within this framework, the events in Ceuta 2021 can be understood as a new setback in the development of complex relations.

These conflicts contrast with Spain’s deeply intertwined economic interaction with Morocco. Sectors such as automobiles, textiles and agriculture form part of the same value chain. Morocco is Spain’s second largest non-EU partner while Spain has overtaken France as the main supplier to Morocco. This responds to the concept of the “cushion of interests” put forward by Spain in the 1990s. The core idea of this strategy is that increased economic interdependence will reduce political tensions. According to this theory, since Morocco’s economy is more dependent on Spain than Spain is on Morocco, Rabat would be constrained in its political movements. However, given the frequency of conflicts between the two kingdoms, this liberal approach is of doubtful effectiveness.

The combination of frequent misunderstandings and growing economic interaction is not the only paradox to be noted in the relations of the two kingdoms. On the political level, the synchronization between the countries’ royal houses (mainly between Juan Carlos I and Hassan II in the past but also between Mohamed VI and Felipe VI at present) stands in contrast to the six years without the annual high-level meetings required by the Treaty of Friendship between the two countries. Moreover, Prime Minister Sanchez has broken with the Spanish tradition of paying the first foreign trip to Morocco, in place since the 1980s.

In short, the problems between Madrid and Rabat are cyclical and greatly affect Spanish domestic politics. Neither the strength of the commercial interaction nor the closeness between their kings are enough to smooth relations between the two countries.

The axes of the relationship between Spain and Morocco

The complexity of the relationship between Spain and Morocco revolves around six axes: migration, terrorism, energy, Sahara, Ceuta and Melilla, and the European Union. Each axis generates a series of opportunities and vulnerabilities for Spain, and it is the confluence of these axes that determines the ups and downs between the two countries.

The first of these axes is migration. Due to its sustained omnipresence in the media, it is the one that most concerns Spanish domestic policy. Sub-Saharan and Moroccan immigrants arrive to Spain through two different routes: by sea (to the peninsula and the Canary Islands) and by land (through the Spanish cities in Africa of Ceuta and Melilla). Since 1992, Madrid has increased cooperation with Rabat in this area.

Currently, the border externalization system is present in the repatriation of immigrants, the joint maritime police patrols, the joint police stations, the raids against massive assaults on border fences, and the construction and control of the Nador fence in Morocco. These projects are financed by European funds, which Morocco would like to see increase. This collaboration is asymmetrical: Morocco has sole control of the border, and Spain depends on its goodwill. Rabat, aware of this, does not hesitate to instrumentalize the issue.

The second axis is anti-terrorism and security cooperation. Collaboration in this area originated with the terrorist attacks in Madrid on March 11, 2004. Cooperation now extends to police, judicial and intelligence cooperation. In addition, with the aim of controlling radicalization, Rabat appoints part of the imams in Spain. Here again, the asymmetry is in favor of Morocco. The Moroccan imams could position themselves in favor of the interests of their country of origin. Moreover, anti-terrorist cooperation is essential for Spain’s national security, and its potential loss would put Spain at risk.

The third axis is energy. The Spanish presence in this field is extensive, with participation in Morocco’s solar and wind power development and in its combined cycle power plants. In addition, Spain exports electricity to Morocco through two interconnections with the Iberian Peninsula, which accounts for 20% of the Moroccan demand. Spain used to be dependent on the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline, which passed through Morocco. Its closure in November 2021 has reduced this dependence but has posed a problem to guaranteeing gas supplies to Spain. In this field, Spain has the upper hand: it has vetoed the Mediterranean Solar Plan in Morocco (to avoid competition with Spanish renewable production) and has rejected a 3rd electricity interconnection requested by Morocco.

The fourth axis is that of Western Sahara. This former Spanish colony is of visceral importance to Morocco. In the heart of its territorial claims, the conflict remains ongoing since it began in the 1970s, and Rabat lacks international support on its position. Moreover, it is a topical issue, around which Morocco has recently won American support, French and German rejection, and on which it has declared that it will not sign trade agreements that do not include Western Sahara.

Spain faces a dilemma since it must choose between its public opinion (sensitive to the Saharawi cause) and its trade relations with Morocco. As a result, it maintains a dual position. Officially, Spain supports a solution through the UN, sends humanitarian aid to the Saharawi refugee camps in Tindouf, recognizes the Polisario Front as representative of the Saharawi people and rejects Moroccan claims to Canary Islands waters on the grounds that Rabat has no sovereignty over Western Sahara.

Nevertheless, it applauds the autonomy project proposed in 2007 by Morocco (which does not envisage independence), rejected the US initiative to extend MINURSO’s mandate to human rights monitoring in 2013, and defends Morocco’s interests (and its own) before the judgments of the CJEU on trade agreements involving Western Sahara. The complexity of this axis, which forces Spain to walk in two directions at the same time, is a threat to any constructive relationship with Morocco.

The fifth axis is Morocco’s claims over the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the Spanish islands off the Moroccan coast. Rabat’s endeavor to re-establish its “authentic” borders does not end in the Sahara, further extending into these Spanish territories, over which it has a permanent claim.

These territories have four problems.

  1. Economically, they are dependent on Moroccan trade and on Spanish subsidies,
  2. demographically, the growth of the population of Moroccan origin causes changes in the social structure that can be a source of conflict,
  3. international protection is relative, since the Spanish territories are not explicitly protected by NATO, and although they are part of the EU and the Schengen Area, they are not within the Customs Union,
  4. the islands do not appear in the Spanish Constitution nor in the Spanish territorial organization.

Taking advantage of these weaknesses, Morocco has used different strategies to strengthen its claims: economic blockades, vetoes against further integration into the EU, a rhetoric of colonialism, and comparisons to Gibraltar, and even the Perejil crisis in 2002, in which a small group from the Moroccan navy occupied one of the Spanish islands. This axis has a latent presence in the relations between both countries: although Madrid avoids its public mention, Rabat’s claims may end up in direct confrontation Spanish national interests.

Finally, the sixth and last axis is the European Union. Spain´s relationship with Morocco is based on the European Neighborhood Policy and on the Union for the Mediterranean. Besides, this relationship currently revolves around the provision of funds to Morocco for the externalization of borders, the agriculture and fisheries trade agreements, and the rulings of the CJEU on these, which since 2015 have complicated Brussels’ relations with Rabat. Indeed, Morocco has changed its attitude towards the EU since 2008, reducing its concessions, increasing its demands and adopting a more pragmatic discourse. In the framework of Madrid-Rabat relations, the EU has acted as an appeaser, reducing bilateral conflicts. However, Spain is limited within the multilateral structure, since it cannot impose its preferences and its power is confined to blocking initiatives (as it did with agricultural liberalization for example). Moreover, the judgments of the CJEU have poisoned the bilateral relations between Spain and Morocco.

What nowadays is cooperation in migration, security and energy, due to conflicts around the Sahara or Ceuta and Melilla may one day become an undesirable dependency. Too many issues related to Spanish national security are subject to Rabat’s goodwill. That is why the disagreements between the two countries cause so much commotion in Spain, even if they do not always revolve around each of the 6 axes described above.

Ceuta 2021 — Another crisis or a point of no return?

This article begins with the events of May 18, 2021, when Morocco loosened its border controls and allowed more than 8,000 undocumented migrants, mostly young Moroccans, to enter the city of Ceuta. The figure is unprecedented, around 10 times higher than what used to be received until then. It is worth asking whether this event is a simple downturn in the cyclical relations between Morocco and Spain, or whether it implies something different.

When the Ceuta crisis in 2021 is put into context, an extraordinary deterioration of relations between Morocco and Spain is observed, enhanced by unilateral actions by Rabat. In 2018, Morocco closed the commercial border with Melilla. In 2019, it toughened the fight against smuggling in Ceuta, hindering the border crossing and prohibited its officials from entering Ceuta or Melilla. To this day, this has subjected both cities to an unprecedented economic asphyxiation. In 2020, Morocco vetoed the entry of Moroccan fish into Ceuta and revived the dispute over the delimitation of maritime borders in Canary waters. In 2021, it installed a fish farm in Spanish waters near the Chafarinas Islands without permission. In recent years relations between the two countries have worsened gradually, camouflaged behind the Covid-19 pandemic and around issues of relative relevance, which only indirectly affect the 6 axes above mentioned.

In contrast, the Ceuta crisis is relevant in almost every aspect.

  1. Morocco is instrumentalizing immigration, leaving aside its obligations as border guardian.
  2. The Western Sahara conflict lingers in the background: the crisis was a form of protest by Rabat against the hospitalization in Spain of the Polisario Front leader Brahim Ghali, organized in an opaque manner by Madrid.
  3. Despite Rabat’s attempts to keep the crisis within the bilateral framework, it escalated to the European Union, where Spain received the support of the European Commission, the European Parliament (which issued a condemnation for violation of children’s rights against Morocco), and even of France.
  4. The crisis was followed by the reactivation of territorial claims over Ceuta and Melilla: The Moroccan Prime Minister compared the situation to Western Sahara.

Faced with the numerous and unusual vectors of this crisis, Spain must identify what objective Morocco is pursuing, and what its next steps will be. Rabat is obviously trying to capitalize on the momentum provided by the U.S. recognition of its sovereignty over the Sahara and its vigorous relations with some of its African neighbors.

Moreover, the deterioration of relations has coincided with a deterioration of Spanish domestic politics, while Morocco is taking advantage of independence, government instability, COVID-19, etc. Is Morocco pursuing a strategy against Spain? That is what the Spanish intelligence presumes, without knowing very well what strategy it is. In fact, the CNI considers the Ceuta crisis not to be an immigration problem, but an invasion that can be repeated again. Rabat could have taken the conflict into a gray zone, in which case it would be establishing the environment, waiting for opportunities.

The current situation is not part of the cyclical pattern that characterizes its relations with Morocco. Ceuta and Melilla are suffocating, Spanish intelligence fears losing anti-terrorist collaboration with Morocco, Rabat is in a strong position, and Madrid is unable to recognize what Morocco’s next step will be, limiting itself to trying to put an increasingly entrenched relationship back on track. The impetus with which Rabat is pushing for the recognition of its sovereignty over the Sahara, and its extrapolation of this to Ceuta and Melilla, suggests that the disagreements with Spain are not over.

In all this, Spain’s strategy towards Morocco is ineffective. The liberalism of the cushion of interests has failed. It was based on elements that were of national interest for Spain (migration, terrorism, etc.) but not for Morocco. The only sphere where Madrid has an advantageous position is energy: Spain exports electricity to Morocco, continues to refuse to establish a third electricity interconnection, and is receiving Moroccan requests for Spain to re-export Algerian gas. Moreover, Spain has learned that Morocco fears losing its reputation with the European Union and is trying to prevent the EU from getting involved in its bilateral relations. Thanks to the EU intervention, Morocco made a misstep during the Ceuta crisis this year.

However, everything suggests that Madrid is confident that the ups and downs will continue to prevail in its relations with Rabat and it accepts Mohamed VI’s invitation to inaugurate an unprecedented stage in the relations between the two countries. It is foreseeable, therefore, that Spain will keep Morocco as one of the two pilot countries of its Focus Africa 2023 plan, giving it and Senegal unparalleled attention in the development of constructive relations, and will export this experience to other African countries. In a game of chess, each player knows the type of game he is playing and takes turns moving the pieces. Spain knows that it is playing, but it has not realized that the game has changed, and that the chessboard is different. It has skipped several turns and, for too long now, its pieces have been sitting immobile.

From our partner RIAC

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