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Unseen Benefits of The CoronaVirus On Virulent Pathogens And Global Solidarity

People wear face masks at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan. UN News/Li Zhang

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Back in the 1950s, as a child growing up in the middle of New York City, I attended Saturday afternoon movies about interplanetary war. Typically, in those easily forgotten films, Soviet and American soldiers would end up fighting on the same side against a common enemy, even during the furiously adversarial Cold War.[1] Though hardly an ideological premise of either superpower “pole,”[2] Washington and Moscow recognized the primacy of undertaking cooperation against an overriding global menace.

To be sure, there is no evident “message” here concerning world politics. After all, we ought never to rely upon wholly contrived or fictive scenarios of alien invasion to buttress human survival. Nonetheless, potentially at least, a plausible catalyst has recently presented itself. This unwanted and unwitting benefactor is worldwide pandemic, a fearsome and pathogen-based threat that confronts humankind in toto, and without regard for any national, racial, ethnic, religious or ideological differences.

Ironically, the coronavirus pandemic could effectively become a real-world alternative to cinematic alien invasion; that is, a purposeful and pragmatic source of long-sought human unity.

Credo quia absurdum, said the ancient philosophers. “I believe because it is absurd.”  However counterintuitive, the incontestable commonality of corona disease threat could underscore and animate the creation of a genuinely cooperative world politics. Significantly, it’s not as silly or fanciful as it may first sound.

Not at all.[3]

Where are we at right now? For the moment, the United States under Donald Trump’s presidential aegis is oriented toward the literal opposite of expanding global community. Even more to the point, Trump’s doctrinal emphasis on the incessantly belligerent nationalism of “America First” represents a rejection of human commonality in any form.[4] Illogical and bitterly rancorous, this ill-fated rejection has no recognizable basis in science or law.[5] Rather, it reinforces the long-discredited view that we humans are unchallengeable masters of the universe, clearly destined to lord over innumerable lesser species, apparently forever.

All this though the viruses, bacteria and assorted other pathogens have been around for much longer than we, much longer, and will likely survive any number of man-made catastrophic “insults” that could simultaneously threaten humankind with extinction.

 It is finally time to inquire intellectually/analytically: What are the expected consequences of believing that one “powerful” country can or should prosper at the expense of all others? Left unmodified, the most palpable effect of this president’s delusionary policies of undiminishing conflict will be an accelerating tribalism here on earth.[6] To the extent that the starkly corrosive effects of this tribalism could sometime display a credible nuclear dimension, these effects could suddenly or incrementally propel the United States toward irretrievable forms of catastrophe.[7] On the other hand, a firm rejection of American tribalism in every one of its injurious expressions could sometime prove generally or universally gainful.

 Ultimately, if we humans are going to survive as a species, truth must win out decisively over political wizardry and philistine thinking.[8] The irresistible conclusion here is that American continuance and prosperity are inextricably linked with a much wider global impact. Accordingly, it is profoundly and unforgivably foolish to suppose that this nation – or, indeed, any other nation on earth – should expect meaningful progress at the deliberately sacrificial expense of other nations. Disease pandemics are prospectively universal, and can provide impetus not only for mitigating a particular pathology, but also for institutionalizing wider patterns of global cooperation.[9]

By its very nature, the president’s core mantra of perpetually belligerent nationalism is crude and injurious. Instead of “America First,” the only sensible posture for any U.S. president must be some coherent variation of “all the world together.” Such an improved mantra might not be all that difficult to operationalize if there were antecedent political will.[10] Nor would it necessarily be bewilderingly complex. In fact, the basic idea is discoverable in the prescient words of Pierre Teilhard De Chardin: “The egocentric ideal of a future reserved for those who have managed to attain egoistically the extremity of everyone for himself,” summarized the Jesuit scientist and philosopher, “is false and against nature. No element can move and grow except with and by all the others with itself.”

Prima facie, the key message here is simple, straightforward and thoroughly illogical to contest. This message communicates, among other things, that no single country’s individual success can be achieved at the tangible expense of other countries. Moreover, we should learn from the same message, no individual national success is reasonably sustainable if the world as a whole must thereby expect a diminishing future.

No conceivably gainful configuration of Planet Earth can ever prove rewarding if the conspicuously vast human legions which comprise it are set morally, spiritually, and intellectually adrift. It is, of course, precisely such a willful detachment from secure national and international moorings that is fostered by Donald Trump’s unsupportable “America First.”[11]

Earlier, observed William Butler Yeats, in what already represented a broadly metaphorical indictment of what could be expected, “Theblood-dimmed tide is loosed.” But just as it was then for the empathetic Irish poet, today’s expanding global chaos is still primarily a symptom. It is, as the professional philosophers would likely prefer to describe, “merely epiphenomenal.”

The philosophers would be correct. For the world as a whole, chaos and anarchy are never the genuinely underlying “disease.” Always, that more determinative pathology remains rooted in certain ostentatiously great and powerful states that stubbornly fail to recognize the imperatives of human interrelatedness. Plainly, this core incapacity to acknowledge our species’ indestructible biological “oneness” has been a long-term problem; it is not in any way particular to certain American presidents or to the United States in its entirety.

 Now, in the literal midst of a worldwide pathological assault from the corona virus, what should we expect from President Trump’s still-unhidden contempt for world community?  Most plausibly, world politics will increasingly encourage or enlarge an already basic human deficit. This deficit is the incapacity of individual citizens and their respective state societies to discover authentic self-worth as individual persons; that is, deeply within themselves. Such an enduring deficit was foreseen in the eighteenth century by America’s then-leading person of letters, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Today, revealingly, the still-vital insights of “American Transcendentalism” remain recognizable only to an excruciatingly tiny minority of citizens.

And this is presumptively an “educated society?”[12]

Notwithstanding its impressive intellectual antecedents, including some earlier occupants of the White House, the United States is a country that almost never reads serious books. This cryptic observation is not offered here in any offhanded or gratuitously mean spirited fashion, but, quite the contrary, as a lamentable fact of American life, one famously commented upon during the first third of the nineteenth century by a distinguished French visitor to the new republic, Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America). This same fact led the Founding Fathers of the United States, including Thomas Jefferson (the most identifiably democratic among the celebrated group), to rail against any uneducated mass participation in the new nation’s formal governance.

As a necessary corrective, Jefferson set forth in his Notes on Virginia a plan of elementary schooling, one by which “twenty of the best geniuses will be raked from the rubbish annually.”

Somehow, whatever we might presently think of Jefferson’s earlier expectations for “The American People,” the current president has managed to miss what is manifestly most important to our common human future. This vital element is the critical inner horizon of world politics, and all that it implies. In literature, this seemingly indecipherable horizon, an exquisitely subtle zone of understanding, is not in any usual fashion understandable. Nor is it oriented toward maximizing practical commerce or personal wealth, ordinarily the worshipped mainsprings of life in the United States. For background, this horizon can still be encountered and understood in the writings of Sören Kierkegaard, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, Carl Jung, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Let us (finally) be aptly conceptual about such matters; that is, to look behind the daily news. This means the microcosm. Here on earth, the tribe, in one form or another, is “the beginning.” Always.

From the muddled primal promiscuity of our species’ earliest ventures into global politics, determinative behavior has been driven by some kind or other of specific group elevation and by the resultant inter-group conflicts.

From the identifiable human origins of our so-called “civilizations,” and also from the pitiably aggregated totals of individual human souls seeking satisfying forms of a secular redemption, most people have felt themselves lost or abandoned outside the encompassing warmth of a protective tribe.

It is this degrading and potentially lethal inclination that is continually fostered by Donald Trump’s belligerent or zero-sum nationalism, by America First.[13]

There is more. The veneer of human civilization remains distressingly razor thin. Oddly, whole swaths of humankind remain openly dedicated to certain ancient and grotesque sacrificial practices. In this connection, by ritualistically linking violence and the sacred, many terrorist murders are being justified as “holy war” or “freedom fighting.” But they remain basically and incontestably murders.

As a determined response to serious challenges, from pandemic control to nuclear war avoidance, competitive nationalism is sorely misconceived. If left unchallenged, this atavistic mantra will only further harden the hearts of America’s most recalcitrant enemies, thereby exacerbating the essential search for viable human remedies. What we really need is a broadening of support for more enduring impulses of global solidarity and human interconnectedness.

 From the seventeenth-century Peace of Westphalia (1648), which ended the last of the religious wars sparked by the Reformation, international relations have been shaped by a protean or ever-changing “balance of power,” and by certain evident corollaries of war, terror and genocide.[14] To be sure, hope still exists, but now it must sing softly, in an embarrassed undertone, with circumspection, inconspicuously, almost sotto voce. Although counter-intuitive, the time for any visceral celebrations of nationalism, military technology and even social media is at least partially over.  Now, in order to survive on an imperiled planet, all of us, together, must seek to rediscover an individual life, energetically, one that is consciously detached from nationally pre-patterned kinds of conformance and from all disingenuously contrived visages of imagined tribal happiness.

With such indispensably candid expressions of an awakened human spirit, Americans may yet learn something that is useful and redemptive. We may learn, even during the harshly descending “Time of Trump,” that a commonly felt agony is more important than astrophysics; that a ubiquitous mortality is more consequential than any supposed financial “success;” and that shared human tears may reveal much deeper existential meanings and opportunities than any purported “balance-of-power.” [15]

This is most markedly true today with regard to those tangible “tears” associated with corona virus spread.

In his landmark work, The Decline of the West, first published during World War I, Oswald Spengler inquired: “Can a desperate faith in knowledge free us from the nightmare of the grand questions?” It remains a noteworthy query, one that will likely never be seriously raised in our universities, let alone on Wall Street or in the trump White House.  We may, however, still learn something about these “grand questions” by studying American responsibility for an expanding chaos in world politics.

At that time, moreover, we might finally learn that the most suffocating insecurities of life on earth can never be undone by militarizing global economics, by building larger missiles, by abrogating international treaties or by replacing one abundantly sordid regime with another in presumptively ”realistic” interests of “national security.”[16]

In the end, truth is exculpatory. Surprisingly, in a uniquely promising paradox, Trump’s America First policies’ express a continuous lie that can help us see the truth. This particular truth, cosmopolitan in outlook, is that Americans must become abundantly conscious of unity and relatedness between all human beings and between all nation-states.

The common enemy of a worldwide disease pandemic could become an appropriate beginning for such a new global consciousness.

Although still generally unrecognized, such lucidity must become integral to plausible possibilities of American national security and well-being. Now, before it is too late, is prospectively the last best time to replace the “passionate intensity” of belligerent tribal competitions with a greatly improved sort of “conviction.”[17] Newly armed with an informed understanding that would denounce “everyone for himself” strategizing in world politics, the myriad internal contradictions of Donald Trump’s “everyone for himself” philosophy could recede into a thoroughly well-deserved oblivion.

Could the desperately needed transition from “realist” world politics to more genuinely collaborative international interactions actually take place?[18] The pertinent odds are seemingly low, of course, but they are also not meaningfully calculable.[19] The current situation of worldwide pandemic as opportunity is sui generis and difficult to accept. Yet, it rightfully brings to mind the wise and reinforcing observation of Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini: “The visionary is the only realist.”

In all that has been discussed and assessed above, irony abounds. But ironic observations need not in any way be disqualifying. Though it would seem inconceivable that any serious human benefits could be extracted from a virulent and unpredictable pandemic, there remain certain latent opportunities to discover planetary gain in a common disease adversary.

 In essence, because we could hardly seek to discover such a convenient foe in extra-planetary aggressions (in candor, a Martian invasion will not save us), national governments throughout the world should identify extended cooperation against the corona virus as a propitious first-step toward wider forms of global collaboration. Here, in what political scientists and other scholars used to call “functionalism” or “structural-functionalism,” there could take place a dignifying “spill over” of cooperative world politics from one very specific medical problem toward much wider affirmations of biological and social “oneness.”

Nothing could possibly be more sensible or urgently important. To be sure, there is nothing conceivably positive about any virulent disease pandemic, but the current corona virus spread could still harbor certain latent benefits for “world order” reform.[20]In this setting, we may again usefully recall filmmaker Federico Fellini: “The visionary is the only realist.”


[1] Professor Louis René Beres is the author of several early books dealing with US – Russian (Soviet) nuclear strategies and treaties. See, for example:  Louis René Beres, Apocalypse: Nuclear Catastrophe in World Politics (The University of Chicago Press, 1980); Louis René Beres, Mimicking Sisyphus: America’s Countervailing Nuclear Strategy (DC Heath/Lexington, 1983); and Louis René Beres, Reason and Realpolitik: US Foreign Policy and World Order (DC Heath/Lexington, 1984). See also his 2016 Israel-published monograph with US General (USA/ret.) Barry R. McCaffrey, Israel’s Nuclear Strategy and America’s National Security  https://sectech.tau.ac.il/sites/sectech.tau.ac.il/files/PalmBeachBook.pdf

[2] For early writings, by this author, on the global security implications of Cold War bipolarity, see: Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Reliability of Alliance Commitments,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 25, No.4., December 1972, pp. 702-710; Louis René Beres, “Bipolarity, Multipolarity, and the Tragedy of the Commons,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 26, No.4., December 1973, pp, 649-658; and Louis René Beres, “Guerillas, Terrorists, and Polarity: New Structural Models of World Politics,” Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 27, No.4., December 1974, pp. 624-636.

[3] One should be reminded of Bertrand Russell’s trenchant observation in Principles of Social Reconstruction (1916): “Men fear thought more than they fear anything else on earth – more than ruin, more even than death.”

[4] One such form is world government. In this connection, noted Sigmund Freud: “Wars will only be prevented with certainty if mankind unites in setting up a central authority to which the right of giving judgment upon all shall be handed over. There are clearly two separate requirements involved in this: the creation of a supreme agency and its endowment with the necessary power. One without the other would be useless.” (See: Sigmund Freud, Collected Papers, cited in Louis René Beres, The Management of World Power: A Theoretical Analysis, University of Denver, Monograph Series in World Affairs, Vol. 10 (1973-73), p, 27.)

[5] According to Blackstone, each state is always expected “to aid and enforce the law of nations, as part of the common law, by inflicting an adequate punishment upon offenses against that universal law….” See: 2 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 4, “Of Public Wrongs.” Lest anyone ask about the significance of Blackstone for current US national security policies, one need only point out that Commentaries were an original and core foundation of the laws of the United States.

[6] There is no longer a virtuous nation,” warns the poet William Butler Yeats, “and the best of us live by candlelight.”

[7] The worst of these forms of catastrophe concern the risks of a nuclear war occasioned by an unprepared or self-deluded American president. In this regard, we may recall the words of “beat poet” Lawrence Ferlinghetti back in 1958 (A Coney Island of the Mind): “In a surrealist year some cool clown pressed an inedible mushroom button, and an inaudible Sunday bomb fell down, catching the president at his prayers on the 19th green.”

[8] Recalling Soren Kierkegaard (The Sickness unto Death; 1849): “Devoid of imagination, as the Philistine always is, he lives in a certain trivial province of experience, as to how things go, what is possible, what usually occurs….Philistinism thinks it is in control of possibility….it carries possibility around like a prisoner in the cage of the probable, and shows it off.”

[9] Says Emmerich de Vattel, in The Law of Nations (1758), “The first general law, which is to be found in the very end of the society of Nations, is that each Nation should contribute as far as it can to the happiness and advancement of other Nations.”

[10] In modern philosophy, the evident highlighting of this useful term lies in Arthur Schopenhauer’s writings, especially The World as Will and Idea (1818). For his own inspiration (and by his own expressed acknowledgment), Schopenhauer drew freely upon Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Later, Nietzsche drew just as freely (and perhaps more importantly) upon Schopenhauer. Goethe. also served as a core intellectual source for Spanish existentialist Jose Ortega y’ Gasset, author of the prophetic work, The Revolt of the Masses (Le Rebelion de las Masas (1930). See, accordingly, Ortega’s very grand essay, “In Search of Goethe from Within” (1932), written for Die Neue Rundschau of Berlin on the occasion of the centenary of Goethe’s death. It is reprinted in Ortega’s anthology, The Dehumanization of Art (1948) and is available from Princeton University Press (1968).

[11] Significantly, international law is part of United States jurisprudence. In the words of Mr. Justice Gray, delivering the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Paquete Habana (1900): “International law is part of our law, and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction….” (175 U.S. 677(1900))  See also: Opinion in Tel-Oren vs. Libyan Arab Republic (726 F. 2d 774 (1984)).Moreover, the specific incorporation of treaty law into US municipal law is expressly codified at Art. 6 of the US Constitution, the so-called “Supremacy Clause.”

[12] See, by this author, at The Daily Princetonian:  https://www.dailyprincetonian.com/article/2018/06/a-core-challenge-of-higher-education

[13] “The enemy,” noted German philosopher Karl Jaspers, in a more generic sense, “is the unphilosophical spirit which knows nothing and wants to know nothing of truth.” See: Reason and Anti-Reason in our Time, 1971, p. 66.

[14] International law remains a “vigilante” or “Westphalian” system of jurisprudence. The Peace of Westphalia created the still-existing decentralized or self-help state system. See: Treaty of Peace of Munster, Oct. 1648, 1 Consol. T.S. 271; and Treaty of Peace of Osnabruck, Oct. 1648, 1, Consol. T.S. 119, Together, these two treaties comprise the Peace of Westphalia.

[15] The concept of a balance of power – an idea of which the nuclear-age balance of terror is a more recent variant – has never been more than a facile metaphor. Further, it has never had anything to do with any calculable equilibrium. As such a balance is always a matter of individual and more-or-less subjective perceptions, adversary states may never be sufficiently confident that strategic circumstances are “balanced” in their favor. In consequence, as each side must perpetually fear that it will be “left behind,” the search for balance continually produces wider insecurity and disequilibrium.

[16] In this connection, an always attendant or corollary risk has to do with irrational decision-making in world politics. Expressions of such decisional irrationality could take different but sometimes overlapping forms. These forms, which would have no necessary correlations with authentic madness, include a disorderly or inconsistent value system; computational errors in calculation; an incapacity to communicate efficiently; random or haphazard influences in the making or transmittal of particular decisions; and the internal dissonance generated by any structure of collective decision-making (i.e., assemblies of pertinent individuals who lack identical value systems and/or whose organizational arrangements impact their willing capacity to act as a single or unitary national decision maker)

[17] Apropos, from William Butler Yeats’ The Second Coming: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre; the falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

[18] The sixteenth-century Florentine philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli, joined Aristotle’s foundations for a scientific study of politics with assumptions of realpolitik to reach certain pragmatic conclusions about politics.  His most important conclusion underscores the dilemma of practicing goodness in an essentially evil world:  “A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good.” (See THE PRINCE, Chapter XV).  Recognizing this tragic state of affairs, Machiavelli proceeds to advance the arguments for expediency that have become synonymous with his name.  With the placing of the idea of force at the center of his political theory, the author of THE PRINCE stands in sharp contrast to the Platonic and early Christian concepts of the “good.”  Rejecting both Plato’s argument that there is a knowable objective “good” that leads to virtue, and Augustine’s otherworldly idea of absolute goodness, Machiavelli constructs his “realistic” political theory on the assumption that “all men are potential criminals, and always ready to realize their evil intentions whenever they are free to do so.” In his instructions to the statesman on how to rule in a world dominated by force, he shamelessly advises “to learn how not to be good.”  The seventeenth-century materialist and social philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, elaborated a complex system of thought in which man was reduced to a state of nature and then reconstructed.  Seeking a science of human nature that would have the rigor of physics, Hobbes looked to introspection as the source of a genuine or “realistic” understanding:  “Whosoever looketh into himself and considereth what he doth when he does think, opine, reason, hope, fear, etc., and upon what grounds, he shall thereby read and know, what are the thoughts and passions of all other men, upon the like occasions.” (See Introduction to LEVIATHAN).  The results of such an analysis of one’s own thought processes led Hobbes to his celebrated theory of the social contract:  the natural egoism of man produces a “war of all against all” in the absence of civil government and must be tempered by absolute monarchy.  Moreover, the condition of nature, which is also called a condition of war marked by “continual fear, and danger of violent death,” has always been the characteristic condition of international relations and international law:  “But though there had never been any time, wherein particular men were in a condition of war one against another; yet, in all times, kings, and persons of sovereign-authority, because of their independency, are in continual jealousies, and in the state and posture of gladiators; having their weapons pointing, and their eyes fixed on one another; that is, their forts, garrisons, and guns upon the frontiers of their kingdoms, and continual spies upon their neighbors, which is a posture of war.”  (See LEVIATHAN, Chapter XIII).

[19] In science and mathematics, true probabilities must always be based upon the discernible frequency of pertinent past events.

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[20] The term world order reform has its contemporary origins in a scholarly movement begun at the Yale Law School in the mid- and late 1960s, and “adopted” at the Politics Department at Princeton University in 1967-68. The author, Louis René Beres, was an early member of the Princeton-based World Order Models Project, and the author of several early books in this once-promising scholarly genre.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Emeritus Professor of International Law at Purdue. His twelfth and most recent book is Surviving Amid Chaos: Israel's Nuclear Strategy (2016) (2nd ed., 2018) https://paw.princeton.edu/new-books/surviving-amid-chaos-israel%E2%80%99s-nuclear-strategy Some of his principal strategic writings have appeared in Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School); International Security (Harvard University); Yale Global Online (Yale University); Oxford University Press (Oxford University); Oxford Yearbook of International Law (Oxford University Press); Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College (Pentagon); Special Warfare (Pentagon); Modern War Institute (Pentagon); The War Room (Pentagon); World Politics (Princeton); INSS (The Institute for National Security Studies)(Tel Aviv); Israel Defense (Tel Aviv); BESA Perspectives (Israel); International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Atlantic; The New York Times and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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Sea Breeze 2021: U.S. is worryingly heading closer to conflict with Russia in the Black Sea

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On July 10th, the 2021 iteration of the joint military exercise, Sea Breeze, concluded in the Black Sea. This exercise, which began on June 28th was co-hosted by the Ukrainian Navy and the United States Navy’s Sixth Fleet. According to the U.S. Navy, the annual Exercise Sea Breeze consists of joint naval, land, and air trainings and operations centered around building increased shared capabilities in the Black Sea.

This year’s Sea Breeze included participation from 32 countries, including NATO members and other countries that border the Black Sea, making it the largest Sea Breeze exercise since its inception in 1997. All other countries bordering the Black Sea were included in participating in the joint drills, except Russia.

Russia’s exclusion from these exercises is not unsurprising, due to its current tensions with Ukraine and its historical relationship with NATO. However, it signals to Moscow and the rest of the world that the NATO views Russia as an opponent in a future conflict. At the opening ceremony of Sea Breeze 2021 in Odessa, it was made clear that the intention of the exercise was to prepare for future conflict in the region when the Defense Minister of Ukraine, reported that the drills “contain a powerful message – support of stability and peace in our region.”

These exercises and provocations do anything but bring peace and stability to the region. In fact, they draw the United States and NATO dangerously close to the brink of conflict with Russia.

Even though Sea Breeze 2021 has only recently concluded, it has already had a marked impact on tensions between NATO countries and Moscow. U.S. Navy Commander Daniel Marzluff recently explained that the Sea Breeze drills in the Black Sea are essential deterrents to Russian assertions in region. However, these drills have consisted of increasingly provocative maneuvers that ultimately provoke conflict in the region.

These drills have done anything but act as a deterrent for conflict in the Black Sea. In response to the Sea Breeze drills, Russia conducted its own drills in the Black Sea, including the simulation of firing advanced missile systems against enemy aircraft. As the Black Sea is of utmost importance to Russia’s trade and military stature, it follows that Russia would signal its displacement if it perceives its claims are being threatened.   

Sea Breeze followed another rise in tensions in the Black Sea, when just a week prior to the beginning of the exercise, a clash occurred between Russia and Britain. In response to the British destroyer ship, the HMS Defender, patrolling inside Crimean territorial waters, Russia claimed it fired warning shots and ordered two bombers to drop bombs in the path of the ship. When asked about the HMS Defender, Russian President Vladimir Putin described the ship’s actions as a “provocation” that was a “blatant violation” of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Putin also went on to claim that Moscow believes U.S. reconnaissance aircraft were a part of the operation as well. Despite this, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded with a denial of any wrongdoing.

Russia’s actions to provocations by the United States-led Sea Breeze and interaction with the HMS Defender in the Black Sea signal its resolve to retaliate if it feels as its sovereignty and its territorial claim on Crimea is being impeded on. Despite Russia signaling its commitment to defending its territorial claims in the Black Sea, the United States still willingly took actions during Sea Breeze that would bring the United States closer to a clash with Russia.  

Provoking conflict in the Black Sea does not align with the national security interests of the United States. In fact, it only puts the United States in the position to be involved in a costly clash that only would harm its diplomatic relationships.  

As Russia has signaled its commitment to its resolve and scope of its military response in a possible conflict, any potential conflict in the Black Sea would be costly for the United States. Over the past few years, Russia has increased the size and capabilities of its fleet in the Black Sea. Two of these improvements would especially pose a challenging threat to the U.S. and NATO – Russia’s drastically improved anti-access/area-denial capabilities and its new Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missile. This would mean any conflict in the Black Sea would not be a quick and decisive victory for U.S. and NATO forces, and would instead likely become costly and extensive.  

A conflict with Russia in the Black Sea would not only be costly for the U.S. and its allies in the region, but could irreparably damage its fragile, but strategically valuable relationship with Russia. If the United States continues to escalate tensions in the Black Sea, it risks closing the limited window for bilateral cooperation with Russia that was opened through increased willingness to collaborate on areas of common interests, as evidenced by the recent summit that took place in Geneva. After a period of the highest levels of tension between the U.S. and Russia since the Cold War, this progress made towards improving bilateral relations must not be taken for granted. Even if the U.S. and NATO’s maneuvers in the Black Sea do not ultimately materialize into a full-scale conflict with Russia, they will most likely damage not just recent diplomatic momentum, but future opportunities for a relationship between the two powers.

In such a critical time for the relationship between the United States and Russia, it is counterproductive for the United States to take actions that it can predict will drive Russia even further away. Entering into a conflict with Russia in the Black Sea would not only engage the U.S. in a costly conflict but would damage its security and diplomatic interests.  

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Maximizing Biden’s Plan to Combat Corruption and Promote Good Governance in Central America

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Authors: Lauren Mooney and Eguiar Lizundia*

To tackle enduring political, economic and security challenges in the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the Biden administration is attempting to revitalize its commitment to the region, including through a four-year, $4 billion plan submitted in a bill to Congress.

In its plan, the White House has rightly identified the root causes of migration, including limited economic opportunity, climate change, inequality, and violence. Systemic corruption resulting from the weak rule of law connects and entrenches the root causes of migration, while the increased devastation brought about by climate change exacerbates economic hardship and citizen insecurity. 

The renewed investment holds promise: previous foreign assistance in the Northern Triangle has shown results, including by contributing to a reduction in the expected level of violence. As the Biden Administration finalizes and begins implementing its Central America strategy, it should include three pillars—rooted in lessons learned from within and outside the region—to maximize the probability that the proposed spending in U.S. taxpayer funds has its intended impact. 

First, the Biden administration should deliver on its promise to make the fight against corruption its number one priority in Central America by supporting local anti-graft actors. The sanctions against officials which the United States is considering  are a step in the right direction, but lasting reform is best accomplished through a partnership involving regional or multilateral organizations. Guatemala’s international commission against impunity (CICIG) model was relatively successful until internal pushback and dwindling U.S. advocacy resulted in its dismantlement in 2019. Though Honduras’ equivalent was largely ineffective, and El Salvador’s recently launched version is marred by President Bukele’s campaign against judicial independence, there is room for learning from past mistakes and propose a more robust and mutually beneficial arrangement. The experience of Ukraine shows that while external engagement is no silver bullet in eliminating corruption, the role of foreign actors can lead to tangible improvements in the anti-corruption ecosystem, including more transparent public procurement and increased accountability for corrupt politicians.

In tandem with direct diplomatic pressure and helping stand up CICIG-like structures, the U.S. can harness lessons from prior anticorruption efforts to fund programs that address other aspects of graft in each country. This should involve empowering civil society in each country to monitor government compliance with anti-corruption laws and putting pressure on elected officials to uphold their commitments. While reducing impunity and improving transparency might not automatically persuade Central Americans to stay, better democratic governance will allow the three Northern Triangle nations to pursue policies that will end up expanding economic opportunities for residents. As Vice President Harris recently noted, any progress on addressing violence or food insecurity would be undermined if the environment for enabling corruption remains unchanged.

Second, the United States should support local initiatives to help reverse the deterioration of the social fabric in the region by expanding access to community decision-making. Given the high levels of mistrust of government institutions, any efforts to support reform-minded actors and stamp out corruption at the national level must be paired with efforts to promote social cohesion and revitalize confidence in subnational leaders and opportunities. In the Northern Triangle countries, violence and economic deprivation erode social cohesion and undermine trust in democratic institutions. The U.S. government and practitioners should support civic efforts to build trust among community members and open opportunities for collective action, particularly in marginalized areas. A key component of this is expanding sociopolitical reintegration opportunities for returning migrants. In so doing, it is possible to help improve perceptions of quality of life, sense of belonging, and vision for the future. While evidence should underpin all elements of a U.S. Strategy for Central America, it is particularly important to ensure social cohesion initiatives are locally-owned, respond to the most salient issues, and are systematically evaluated in order to understand their effects on migration.

Lastly, the U.S. should take a human-rights based approach to managing migration and learn from the pitfalls associated with hardline approaches to stem migration. Policies rooted in a securitized vision have a demonstrable bad record. For example, since 2015, the European Union undertook significant measures to prevent irregular migration from Niger, including by criminalizing many previously legitimate businesses associated with migration and enforced the imposition of legal restrictions to dissuade open and legal migration. Not only did this violate freedom of movement and create adverse economic consequences, but it also pushed migration underground, with individuals still making the journey and encountering significant threats to their lives, security and human rights.

A welcome realignment

Acknowledging the role of push factors is key to responding to migration effectively. Most importantly, putting political inclusion and responsive governance at the center is critical for ensuring vulnerable populations feel rooted in their community. A more secure, prosperous, and democratic Central America will pay dividends to the United States not only in terms of border security, but also in the form of improved cooperation to tackle global challenges, from climate change to the rise of China. 

*Eguiar Lizundia is the Deputy Director for Technical Advancement and Governance Advisor at IRI

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Sinophobia grows in Argentina: The relations still the crucial one

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Since COVID-19 came up in Wuhan, China followed by the growth of anti-sentiment China especially in Argentina. In late November 2020, the crowds happened in the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires that involved the two Chinese entrepreneurs who have a supermarket chain and the customers speak loudly if the owners spread COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent article, the slogan of ‘China out’ is available to speak up against the government.

At the same time, the Representative of the United States expressed similar concerns over the increasingly close relationship between China and Argentina, which come on top of attacks against Chinese immigrants whose country is blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic. The US also concerns that ‘the close relationship’ would limit Argentina’s economic autonomy.

Despite the troubles and the response from the US, the Argentine government still has incredible ties with China on several sides such as economic, military, and politics.

Economic side is crucial with Chinese government. Since President Xi introduced the ambitious project, Belt and Road Initiative, he imagined it can lift China’s economy. One of the developing countries and a member of G20, Argentina. During 2005-2019, Argentina received a maximum investment from China $ 30.6 billion, which accounted for 39 per cent of total Chinese investment in South America. Besides, the Chinese corporations also gave the proposal to build 25 industrial pig farms in Argentina, which will significantly increase pork exports to China. The project involving investment of $3.8 billion, is expected to generate annual production of 900,000 tons amounting to $2.5 million in annual exports.

Even captured by COVID-19 that caused an economic and health crisis, the government has several agreements within China. At least, Argentina has 15 infrastructure projects on the list that can be presented to Chinese corporations. The projects that Argentina prioritizes for investment from China are the rehabilitation plan of the San Martín Railway system, improvements to the Roca Railway line, infrastructure works on the Miter and Urquiza railway, and the redefinition of the Belgrano Cargas railway network.

A Marco Press reported Chinese government and Argentine government discussed the possibility of selling to Argentina the Sino-Pakistan’s resultant force, JF-17 fighter jets. In the history of both countries noted it was not the first time to have an arms deal. In 2015, the two countries signed a deal for Argentina’s purchase of several weapons systems. Estimated at US$1 billion, the deal included warships, armoured vehicles and fighter jets. These agreements were signed during the presidency of Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (2008–2015), the left-wing and Peronist leader who built close ties with China. Despite, the retired right-leaning, Mauricio Macri in 2015 having cancelled these projects, the Peronist government in 2019 tried to revive it.

In late May 2021, The Argentinian government have announced an Ascention Technologies SA will have a collaboration with China’s counterpart, Satellite Hard to install a satellite ground station at an industrial park, The Southern city of Rio Gallegos. But before, since 2017, Argentina also hosted a Chinese military-run space station in Neuquen province. The facility signed between the PRC and the prior government of Cristina Fernandez, is largely operated by Chinese military personnel.

The station’s location and known dish characteristics appear consistent with China’s need for facilities in the hemisphere capable of continuously tracking objects in space, in support of its lunar and planetary space program. While the telescope facility does not have an overtly military purpose, the head of the U.S. Southern Command has mentioned it as an item of concern, as it is conceivably capable of intercepting signals from American or other overflying satellites, or supporting other Chinese strategic missions.

The Chinese space radar telescope is not, however, the only instance of China collaboration with Argentina on issues related to space. Great Wall Industrial Corporation has helped to build and launch 13 satellites for the commercial Argentine company Satellogic. Additionally, the state satellite company ARSAT also maintains commercial service contract relations with Chinese-based firms.

The several relations led by the Argentine government depend on China’s potensial. Instead of the protests that have grown up in Argentina, the government needs to upgrade their economic growth. But, for some reasons, the government should set an alarm if China steps up their acceleration. Besides, the government should be careful and must have more consideration to Chinese firms because the West analysts have stated that China’s foreign policy has an unseen reciprocal, the debt-trap. It had been proven that Sri-Lanka’s port, the Hambantota, went to the China side.

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