In the fall of 2019, Democratic Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, went on record saying that competition for resources was turning ecology into a national security issue. A growing number of politicians and experts share her opinion.
While most countries worldwide take a “mixed” picture of the consequences, upsides and downsides of global warming amid an ever-growing rivalry between states, the environmental idea is becoming a convenient and attractive tool to discredit opponents. Moreover, for some pro-Nature organizations, the proclaimed requisite to ensure environmental protection outweighs any objective needs for the development of both individual territories and entire states. Sometimes it becomes almost impossible to draw a line between sincere idealism and “lobbying for a new type of corporate interests.” As a result, criticism of a development model based on the use of hydrocarbons actually becomes an instrument of competition promoting the interests of the “green economy,” which in recent years has often proved to be less than ecologically impeccable.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly reminded the international community of what the advocates of an immediate change to the global energy system fail to mention. Paradoxically, climate change and demands for a rash change of political priorities to combat it both threaten to increase inequality between countries.
On the one hand, political instability caused by the increasingly changing climate throws into question the long-term plans for the socio-economic development of entire regions and even continents. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), shortages of drinking water and large-scale human migration in search for a better live will emerge as the most pressing problems mankind will face in the near future. The regions where conflicts provoked by climate change will flare up in the coming years might include, among others, territories south of Russia’s borders and the Arctic.
On the other hand, less diversified economies, technological backwardness and outdated infrastructure put most economically underdeveloped and developing states at a disadvantage to the world’s most developed countries. The former argue, however, and with pretty good reason too, that many of the world’s most affluent countries keep using “dirty” technologies and production facilities in a bid to maintain their economic growth, including tax exemptions and even state subsidies. This is something ordinary citizens are well aware of, as is proved by the “green-oriented” political forces’ modest successes outside the “golden billion” states. In developed economies many people are wary of the high price of current “green” technologies, which promise not so obvious gains and only decades later at that,and politicians just can’t ignore this public sentiment. Finally, widespread forecasts of a global economic slowdown and even a possible recession are putting environmental problems on the back burner.
Besides, the much-trumpeted predictions of the imminent triumph of “green” technologies are not always grounded in reality. In February 2019, The Economist wrote that companies using traditional energy still generate more income compared to renewable energy projects. Global demand for oil continues to grow by an annual 1-2 percent, just like it has done the past 50 years. Most of the nature conservationists still move around in cars with internal combustion engines and fly on airplanes. Relying on some breakthrough developments and technologies whose prospects of mass-scale implementation remain dim would certainly be premature. The $300 billion that is currently being invested in renewable energy worldwide is just a drop in the ocean compared with investments in the development of fossil fuels. Finally, despite all high-profile statements regarding the introduction of electric vehicles, even in 2030, up to 85 percent of cars will still be running on the tried-and-true internal combustion engines.
In 2017, the US withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, and the Trump administration is now trying to breathe new life into the country’s coal industry. Even in many environmentally aware countries, broad sections of the public have not yet been convinced about the benefits of having to pay more for “green” goods and services. For example, the idea of stimulating economic growth by means of tax cuts is not popular with the high and mighty of the world’s leading economies. Meanwhile, experts consider monetary incentives, aimed at encouraging public support for technological and cultural changes aimed at reversing the global warming process as one of the most promising measures able to ease the skeptics’ fears. Therefore, assuring people that measures aimed at reducing harmful emissions will not cause a catastrophic blow to their personal well-being may prove a hard task.
In this regard, many politicians, administrators and experts are wondering just how dramatic changes in the existing economic structure over several decades will be able to reverse the negative climatic phenomena and how much should we focus on political, economic and social measures that would help individual countries and associations of states adapt to the objective trends of nature. And, finally, whether this is not just an attempt by the developed countries to hamper their current and potential rivals’ progress under the guise of solving environmental problems.
During 2019, the conflict between West and East European countries over the issue of unification of their environmental policy was heating up threating to further split the European Union. It turned out that “EU subsidies are no longer part of its policy, but rather a kind of gift for loyalty. We are talking about the familiar divide-and-rule policy”, about an almost deliberate separation of EU states and regions, unwilling to unconditionally embrace decisions taken by the bloc’s leading countries and by Brussels. Simultaneously, the East European countries’ skepticism about the requirements of the earliest possible rejection of “dirty” technologies is fueled, among other things, by the example of Germany, where diversification of energy sources has effectively resulted in increased consumption of traditional fuels – coal and gas – with all the political and financial consequences this entails. This is due to the hasty closure of nuclear power plants that “green” generating units can’t fully compensate for.
In hindsight, one will have to admit that climate change has long influenced the fate of states and peoples. Some experts believe that the Late Antique Little Ice Age, “which began in the 5th century AD and lasted about a hundred years” could be a reason why the Byzantine Empire failed to maintain its growth. Today, access to fresh water is viewed as a leading factor that may spark conflicts both between countries and inside individual states. Since the mid-1990s, there have been forecasts that the 21st century wars will not be fought for oil, but for water. A population growth combined with an increase in the number of territories suffering from lack of water resources may lead to a significant increase in the number of refugees and internally displaced persons. This is a problem a number of regions of Africa and Eurasia, including Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey, may soon be grappling with.
Catastrophic climate change is already contributing to an increase in cross-border migration, which is contributing to the rise of political extremism. Poor countries with growing populations are increasingly at risk of “political instability and violence.” The harmful effects of climate change can exacerbate economic turmoil in various parts of the globe. Meanwhile, population growth around the world may significantly outpace global economic growth, which, as many experts already predict, will result in a protracted period of stagnation at best. Overall, similar trends, which Republic.ru pointed to in 2019, give rise to political discourse about “the need to reconsider most of the existing paradigms,” and, very likely, “away from classical capitalism and towards even greater state regulation.”
Climate change, which provokes economic stagnation and intensifies cross-border and internal migration, can further embolden separatist movements in many parts of the world, including Europe. The fragmentation of countries into smaller territorial entities increases the risk of conflict, and sets the stage for outside intervention. Ultimately, the objective need for greater international cooperation in tackling global problems will face an equally objective upward trend in nationalism and isolationism.
For Russia, the Arctic offers a particularly important example of the geopolitical importance of the climate factor, as climate change is making this region increasingly accessible for economic development, while simultaneously making it vulnerable to new geopolitical challenges. Late this past summer, Bloomberg described the Arctic as “a region, whose growing importance is reshaping the world’s geo-economics.” As a result, the growing number of mineral exploration and development projects, as well as a projected increase in shipping volumes, will be ramping up competition, including military, between world powers.
There are other climate-related issues too. Russia also keeps reminding its foreign partners that, unlike the United States, it recently signed up to the Kyoto Protocol and, unlike the EU, has fully met its commitments under this accord. Inconsistencies in the assessment of the Russian forests’ and soil’s ability to absorb carbon dioxide are a matter of strategic importance. As the Expert magazine noted, Russian woodlands are an important factor in this country’s implementation from 2020 of the terms of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, regulating measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. The problem is that underestimation by foreign experts of the Russian forests’ CO2 absorption capacity can lead to the introduction by Western countries of a “carbon tax” on exported Russian gas.
Meanwhile, as President Putin noted during his traditional news conference summing up the results of the outgoing year 2019, Russia has “great advantages in the fight against climate change.” A “significant breakthrough” in the development of generating capacities in hydropower combined with vigorous development of gas production, including large-scale high-tech projects for LNG production, makes Russia the greenest in the world energy mix. And Moscow does not intend to stop there. By ratifying the Paris Climate Agreement, Russia reaffirmed its strong commitment to international cooperation in the field of climate change, aimed at creating a paradigm of harmonious relations with nature. Working together, the international community needs to find a balance between a clean and safe environment while simultaneously maintaining the competitiveness of countries, peoples and regions, and the interests of their long-term sustainable development.
From our partner International Affairs
Innovative ways to resume international travel
International travel was predictably impacted as a result of covid 19 and the tourism industry suffered severe losses.
According to the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism organization) barometer, the period from January-October 2020 witnessed a whopping 72% drop in tourist arrivals (international tourist arrivals dropped by 900 Million when compared to the January-October 2019 period). The loss in export revenues, year on year, from the tourist sector were a staggering 945 Billion USD. Tourist arrivals across regions witnessed a drop. According to the UNWTO barometer, the drop in tourism would cause a loss of 2 Trillion USD to the global economy.
Countries looking to resume international flights
During the midst of the pandemic, agreements were signed to facilitate essential travel between various countries (priority was given to workers, students or individuals who had to travel for emergency purposes).
Countries which have been successful in dealing with the pandemic have been looking to gradually resume international flights. Since October 2020, Singapore whose economy is significantly dependent upon tourism had signed agreements with certain countries to ensure that travel for important purposes was less restrictive — either the quarantine period was reduced, or in some cases was not required at all.
New Zealand will be allowing quarantine free travel from Australia for the first time from April 19. New Zealand PM, Jacinda Ardern:
‘The Trans-Tasman travel bubble represents a start of a new chapter in our COVID response and recovery, one that people have worked so hard at’
Australia has been permitting travellers from New Zealand to enter most parts of the country without quarantine, though this has not been reciprocated.
A travel bubble has also opened between Taiwan (which has reported a little over 1,000 cases and 10 deaths) and the Island of Palau (which has reported 0 deaths) where travellers need not quarantine themselves (there are a number of other restrictions though).
Vaccine Passports, Digital Pass and differing perspectives
As countries get ready to open up travel, there has been a debate with regard to using ‘vaccine passports’ (these are documents which show that travellers have been vaccinated against Covid-19 or recently tested negative for the virus).
One country which is using this experiment domestically is Israel. It has issued a document known as ‘Green Pass’ to those who have been vaccinated or if they have developed immunity. This Green Pass can be used for entry into gyms, hotels, restaurants and theatres. The UK and US too are mooting the idea of introducing such an arrangement. This idea has faced fervent opposition in both countries. In UK, opposition parties Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP) have opposed the idea of such a covid certification document. The reasons cited for opposition are concerns with regard to ‘equity, ethics and privacy’. The UK government has stated that a covid status certificate would not be introduced before June, and trials of various schemes to ensure safe opening up of the UK economy would carry on.
In the US, Republicans are opposing the idea of a vaccine passport saying that such an idea would be an attack on personal freedoms. Donald Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr urged Republicans to ‘vocally and aggressively’ stand up against vaccine passports.
If one were to look at international travel, International Airport Transport Association (IATA) has introduced a travel pass, a digital certificate, which will confirm a flyer’s COVID-19 test result and vaccination status. Singapore will be accepting travellers using this mobile digital pass from May 2021.While the pass has been tested by Singapore Airlines, 20 airlines (including Emirates and Malaysia Airlines) are in the process of testing the pass.
While one of the pitfalls of a covid status certificate or Vaccine passport is the impingement upon privacy, it has also been argued that developing countries will be at a disadvantage given the relatively slow rate of vaccination in the developing world. While remarking in the context of Africa,Dr. John Nkengasong the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said:
‘We are already in a situation where we don’t have vaccines, and it will be extremely unfortunate that countries impose a travel requirement of immunization certificates whereas the rest of the world has not had the chance to have access to vaccines.’
In conclusion, it is important for innovative ways to resume international travel. Safety needs to be balanced with equity, for this it is imperative that all actors engage in a constructive manner. A number of observers have suggested that vaccine passports/covid status certificates should be made optional, and that there is nothing wrong in using technology per se but it should not be thrust on anyone. The fight against the pandemic and revival of international travel are a golden opportunity for countries to reverse the increasing sense of insularity and inequity which has risen in recent years.
Will the trade war between China and the United States come to end?
Authors: Raihan Ronodipuro& Hafizha Dwi Ulfa*
The recent trade conflict between the United States and China has had a direct effect on some of the world’s economic players. These two countries are attacking each other with declarations and a trade war; the relationship between the two countries can be defined as a love-hate relationship because the two countries have a lot of mistrust for each other, but they still need each other.
The United States requires China as a global source of low-wage labor as well as a market for marketing American products, and China requires the United States as an investor in its companies as well as a market for marketing Chinese products known for their low-cost. What makes these two countries to be so cold to one another? To answer the question, let’s go back to when this trade war saga started.
Donald Trump is a successful businessman who owns enterprises and corporations all over the world. His candidacy for President of the United States in 2016 poses several concerns, including whether Trump is eligible to run for office. Trump replied by becoming the 45th President of the United States, succeeding Obama.
Trump adopted a protectionism agenda in order to shield the US economy from what he referred to as the “robber from China.” Trump has released a law stating that all steel and aluminum products entering the United States from Europe, China, Canada, and Mexico would be subject to 25% and 10% tariffs, respectively. Of course, China is outraged that the United States issued this order, as well as a related policy on all tribal products. Automobile components, as well as agriculture and fishery products, are manufactured in the United States.
In addition to the tariff battle, President Trump has expressly demanded that the TikTok and WeChat apps be prohibited from running in the United States. We know that these two technologies are very common in the larger population. Giant corporations, such as Huawei, have not survived Trump’s “rampage,” with the Chinese telecommunications giant accused of leaking US national security data to China through Huawei’s contract with US security authorities.
As a result, many US firms were forced to cancel contracts with Huawei or face sanctions. Google is one of the companies impacted by this contract termination, which means that all Huawei smartphone devices manufactured in 2019 and after will lack any of Google’s services such as the Google Play Store, Gmail, and YouTube.
Many of the world’s economic organizations predict a 0.7 percent drop in GDP in 2018 and a 2% growth in 2020. Coupled with the Coronavirus pandemic, the global economy has become increasingly stagnant, with global economic growth expected to be less than 0%.
Amid the tough trade negotiations between the United States and China, COVID-19 pandemic is also affecting their relationship. The United States domestic pressure to contain the pandemic, has led Trump to accuse China of being the virus spread source. As a consequence, Trump put the US-China future relations at stake with his “China’s Virus” label. Besides, the United States absence from World Health Organization (WHO) during Trump administration along the pandemic, that become a new opportunity for China to expand its influence. China uses the Covid-19 pandemic issue as an opportunity.
China’s successful in controlling the pandemic, has also made China confident in facing the United States. Meanwhile, the United States is increasingly threatened by its position. Moreover, the United States dependence on overcoming Covid-19 which requires relations from many parties, including China, makes the United States’ position weak as a superpower.
This is what we hoped for when Biden took office. Many consider President Joe Biden to be willing to “soften” the United States’ stance on the trade war with China. After his inauguration on January 20, 2021, Biden has made many contacts with Beijing to address a variety of issues, one of which is the continuation of the trade war.
The United States and China agreed to meet in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18-20, 2021, to discuss this issue. The meeting produced no bright spots in the escalation of the US-China trade war, but rather posed questions concerning the Middle East, Xinjiang, North Korea, and Taiwan.
The Biden administration stressed that it does not plan to abolish various regulations passed during the Trump administration’s term in the trade war with China, but it also does not intend to employ the same negotiation strategies as the Trump administration, which seemed to be very offensive. Besides, the Biden administration must be careful, If Biden prioritizes domestic challenges then China has room to push its agendas, including in the field of technology and territorial issues
Furthermore, the Biden administration’s policy has shifted from imposing tariffs on China to investing in industries that Biden believes are less competitive with China, such as nanotechnology and communication networks.
In conclusion, the trade war between the United States and China has ushered in a new age in the global economy, one in which China is going forward to replace the United States’ status as a world economic force, something that the United States fears.
The door to investment is being opened as broad as possible, the private sector is being encouraged to participate (under tight government oversight, of course), the cost of living is being raised, and the defense spending is being expanded. Today, we can see how the Chinese economy is advancing, becoming the world’s second largest economy after the United States, selling goods all over the world to challenge the United States’ status, and even having the world’s largest military after the United States.
The rise of China is what the US is scared of; after initially dismissing China’s problem as insignificant, the US under the Trump administration takes China and Xi Jinping’s problems seriously by starting a trade war that is still underway.
Will this trade war enter a new chapter in the Biden presidency, where the relationship with China will be more ‘calm’ and the trade war can be ended, or can it stalemate and maintain the stance as during the previous president’s presidency?
*Hafizha Dwi Ulfa is a Research Assistant of the Indonesian International Relations Study Center (IIRS Center) with analysis focus on ASEAN, East Asia, and Indo-Pacific studies.
The “Retail Investor Revolution” in the U.S.
Authors: Chan Kung and He Jun
Recently, the battle between retail investors and institutional investors is taking place in the U.S. stock market, with some short-selling institutional investors being driven to the brink of bankruptcy. The rise of the retail investor, which has led to huge volatility in the U.S. stock market, is nothing short of a “retail investor revolution” in a market dominated by institutional investors.
GameStop (GME), the world’s largest video game and entertainment software specialty retailer with a chain of nearly 7,000 retail stores worldwide, has continued to underperform in recent years under the impact of online gaming, with its stock price dipping from USD 28 per share in 2016 to USD 2.57 per share in April 2020. Nevertheless, since January 11, 2021, retail investors have been bullish on GME that it has soared to as high as USD 483 per share, a “crazy” move that drove Melvin Capital, a hedge fund with a large short position in the company, to the brink of bankruptcy. So far this year, short-sellers had lost USD 19.75 billion on GME, according to fintech and analytics firm S3 Partners. S3 Partners estimates that short positions in GME lost more than USD 7.8 billion on January 29 alone. The “long-short” battle between retail investors and institutional investors ended with the retreat of institutional investors.
Other U.S. stocks that have recently been caught up in the “long-short” battle have also been volatile. On January 28, American Airlines plunged after opening nearly 31% higher, closing up 9.30%. Castor Marintime, a Cypriot dry bulk shipping company, also plunged after opening with a 67.62% jump, closing up 14.77%. AMC Theatres, a U.S. cinema chain on the verge of bankruptcy, closed down 56.63% on the same day after soaring more than sevenfold in two weeks. Canadian mobile phone company BlackBerry and the U.S. fashion clothing chain Express also fell about 42% and 51%, respectively.
The U.S. capital market has long been dominated by institutional investors, and in mid-2018, institutional investors held 93.2% of the market value of the stock market, while individual investors held less than 6% of the market value. In the U.S. capital market, where institutions are the absolute majority, the market system and regulatory rules are set in favor of institutional investors. Market participants, i.e., investors (institutional investors and retail investors), regulatory authorities, and financing entities (enterprises) have formed a set of “self-consistent” system. However, the “retail investor revolution” has disrupted the conventional ecology of the market, with some young retail investors from the WallStreetBets (WSB) group on the Reddit forum throwing institutions into disarray. This “long-short” battle has put retail investors, represented by the “WallStreetBets”, at center stage and secured support from the top elites, including Elon Musk. In the face of this sudden “retail investor revolution”, the reasons and possible effects are worth in-depth observation and thinking.
First, who opposes the “retail investor revolution”?
The answer is of course, Wall Street as represented by institutional investors, who are the “establishment” in the capital market and represent the mainstream and value perspectiveof the financial market. Goldman Sachs, a prominent investment bank, saying the butterfly effect of the GME short squeeze is leading to the worst short squeeze in the U.S. stock market since the financial crisis. Over the past 25 years, the U.S. stock market has seen a number of severe short squeezes, but none as extreme as has occurred recently. Goldman Sachs warned that if the short squeeze continued, the entire financial market would collapse. According to Goldman Sachs, unsustainable excess in one small part of the market has the potential to tip a row of dominoes and create broader turmoil. In recent years, the pattern of low volume and high concentration in U.S. stocks has increased the risk of funds unwinding their position across the market.
Market maker brokers and trading platforms have also imposed strict restrictions on retail trading. In the midst of a fierce battle between retail investors and short sellers in the U.S. stock market, for example, several brokerage houses, including Robinhood, a zero-commission online brokerage, and Interactive Brokers, one of the largest online brokerages in the U.S., abruptly shut down buying of WSB related stocks such as GME, AMC, and Nokia. Robinhood said the restrictions had to be put in place because of the pressure on data processing and margins brought by the volume of retail trading. But the move immediately drew accusations from the market that the decision was “market manipulation”.
Second, what gathers a group of scattered retail investors?
According to Chan Kung, founder of the ANBOUND, the answer lies in the internet. A group of young retail investors gather in a Reddit subsection called WallStreetBets (WSB), and rely on the convenience of the internet to mobilize and convene, forming a force that can influence institutions in specific areas (such as WSB concept stocks). As in recent years, public use of social networking platforms in the social and political spheres has shifted to the stock market investment sphere.
Chan also pointed out in that the role of the internet is not only in mobilizing and convening, but also in providing and sharing quality analysis. The dominance of institutions in the stock market is not only reflected in funds, but also in research capabilities. They rely on professional teams to collect information, conduct market research, and conduct modeling and analysis, forming a certain information monopoly and an overall investment advantage over retail investors. However, the development of the internet has broken up this information monopoly. Due to the convenience of information acquisition and sharing, some small institutions and professional investors also have a high analytical ability. Their participation and sharing make the Internet platform another kind of “large institutions”, which provide investment analysis and advice to retail investors in a distributed manner. The rapid information sharing and investment actions make the retail investor cluster a “disruptor” and “challenger” that cannot be underestimated in the capital market. Chan Kung also pointed out that among the retail investors, a group of people with strong information ability will further decide the market trend in the future, and the investment in the capital market will gradually become information-oriented, and the size of the funds will not be as important as in the past.
Third, how would the U.S. financial regulators handle the short squeeze and the stock market turmoil?
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said on January 29 that it is closely monitoring extreme price volatility and will review entities that “unduly inhibit” traders’ ability to trade certain stocks. The SEC also added that extreme stock price volatility has the potential to expose investors to rapid and severe losses and undermine market confidence, and that market participants should be careful to avoid “illegal” manipulative trading activity. The SEC is working with regulators to assess the current situation and review the activities of regulated entities, financial intermediaries, and other market participants. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and the White House economic team are closely watching the stock market activity around GameStop and other heavily shorted companies. She called the trading in the video-game retailer “a good reminder, though, that the stock market isn’t the only measure of the health of our economy.” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell declined to weigh in on the activity around GameStop. “I don’t want to comment on a particular company or day’s market activity or things like that. It’s just not something really that I would typically comment on,” Powell said. This information suggests that the U.S. regulatory authorities are cautious in their stance on market volatility, but hope that the market will remain stable and compliant.
Fourth, what will happen to the market relationship between retail investors and institutions?
The “retail investor revolution” has exposed the contradiction between retail investors and institutions, and made the market relationship between retail investors and institutions the focus of the market. Retail investors are within their rights to take legal action against brokerage houses for restricting trading. In the market, it is not only the so-called “regulators” that can deliver justice. Chan Kung stressed that the real problem with institutional restrictions is that if Wall Street establishes a firewall for market trading and prohibits retail investors from uniting to make the market, then the market becomes an inter-agency market, and may even further evolve into a false trading market, shaking the foundation of the entire market system. Therefore, this unprecedented short squeeze triggered by retail investors has exposed a systemic defect in the U.S. capital market. To solve this problem, there is the need to continue observing and following up.
Remarkably, the same problem exists in China. People who speculate in Chinese stocks gather on WeChat and online forums to lead a large number of hot money to hit the market. Drawing on the example of the “retail investor revolution” in the U.S., the following questions are worth considering: Is such trading activity legal? If it is “illegal”, then what kind of market has the Chinese stock market become? If there are certain winners in the market, limits on how much the stock price can go up and how much they can go down, and, in short, all the criteria that are set internally, isn’t the market trading becoming akin to sham game? Such questions are also worth pondering in China’s retail investors-dominated stock market.
Final analysis conclusion
The historical experience shows that the enthusiasm of the market can never prevent the laws of the market from working, and that the rules formed on the basis of previous experiences and lessons are still the main keynote of the market. At the same time, one should also see that with the changes in the information world and the changes in the behavior of retail investors, retail investors are forming a force that can affect the market. Therefore, certain changes in the market system and regulatory approach as a result are likely to be a future trend.
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