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Canada and Russia in the Arctic: Competition or Cooperation?

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Canadian-Russian relations in the twentieth century have been complicated at best and conflictual at worst. Though crisis has been avoided between the two Arctic states, the issue of Crimea as well as the war in the Donbass have nevertheless been calamitous. In what Canada perceives as Russian aggression towards Ukraine and the West and an encroachment on Ukrainian sovereign territory, Canada has been an adamant supporter of multilateral efforts to punish Russia for its actions. This has included, for the most part, Canadian sanctions towards Russia in concert with Canada’s allies, the United States, and the European Union. Canada, however, went a step further than most of its allies in taking action towards Russia. During the tenure of Stephen Harper in 2014, Ottawa implemented a unilateral policy of boycotting almost all bilateral and multilateral events and “tables” at which both Canada and Russia earlier sat together. Harper stated that Canada has refused to take part in any multilateral meetings in which Russia participates. Political commentators have termed this Canada’s “empty chair policy”.

Naturally, Ottawa was both unable and unwilling to abandon all “tables” at which both Canada and Russia sit. It would not have been in Canada’s interests to forsake its responsibilities at the United Nations, Arctic Council, or the OSCE, as Canada continues to understand its role in international affairs as a power with global interests and global influence. Canada’s continued engagement in these international organisations (IOs) demonstrates that despite attempts to punish Russia for its international transgressions, having a dialogue with Russia — albeit however minimal — is of advantage for both Canada and Russia. Whereas Canada takes a secondary role to that of Russia in the United Nations, Canada and Russia are considered institutional equals in the Arctic Council. Indeed, it is of significant relevance that the Arctic Council represents the most proliferate body within which Canada and Russia are able to cooperate. Despite different and sometimes conflicting approaches, Canada and Russia’s interaction within the Arctic Council and Arctic affairs remain a vital framework within which Canadian-Russian relations continue to develop outside of the current sphere of conflict and provide a unique space for the two states to increase dimensions of cooperation.

In late 2019, shortly before the Canadian election in October, Justin Trudeau’s liberal government released Canada’s new Arctic policy. Canada’s earlier policy, defined in the Harper years, followed an aggressive line coined by Harper that in Arctic affairs, “Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic. We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake, this Government intends to use it.” [1] Throughout the Harper administration, Canada pushed for more strength in the Arctic. Trudeau’s new Arctic policy, conversely, has a shifted focus towards greater peace and cooperation, whilst also pushing for the development of northern communities and emphasizing the importance of the human aspect of the North as well as climate change. The new policy asserts the importance of a “rules-based international order in the Arctic” and a renewed leadership from Canada as well as “the representation and participation of Arctic and northern Canadians in relevant international forums and negotiations.” As per Canada’s new Arctic policy of 2019, Canada sees three main foci points in moving forward with its international Arctic policy: “1. Strengthen the rules-based international order in the Arctic,” “2. More clearly define Canada’s Arctic boundaries,” and “3. Broaden Canada’s international engagement to contribute to the priorities of Canada’s Arctic and North.” This new Arctic policy is ultimately twofold. On the one hand, to push for more international cooperation in the Arctic sphere, seeking to play a more constructive role internationally. On the other hand, the new policy still holds Canada’s sovereignty in the North and international responsibilities with NATO as vital components of policy.

In Canada’s new policy, international cooperation has once again returned to the forefront of Arctic matters. The policy sees that the “circumpolar Arctic is well known for its high level of international cooperation on a broad range of issues, a product of the robust rules-based international order that is the sum of international rules, norms and institutions that govern international affairs in the Arctic.” [2] Arctic cooperation is manifested in both bilateral and multilateral forms, such as in terms of direct Canada-Russia relations, or in the form of the Arctic Council. For Canada, multilateral cooperation within the auspices of the Arctic Council represents the pre-eminent form of Arctic cooperation. Canada’s interests in its Arctic foreign policy involve exercising its sovereignty, promoting economic and social development, protecting the environment, and improving Arctic governance. Ottawa views international cooperation as indispensable and actively looks to contribute to a general, international — albeit with limitations — unity on Arctic matters.

Certainly, this approach includes Russia as a necessary partner. In 2019, Canada signalized a willingness to work with Russia on Arctic matters. For example, the recent posting of Alison LeClaire, former Senior Arctic Official and Director General of Circumpolar Affairs, as Canadian Ambassador to Russia, suggests that Canada is getting serious on Arctic cooperation with Russia. Additionally, as per Canada’s new Arctic policy, Canada has directly engaged itself with the possibilities of cooperation with Russia, in that Canada “will take steps to restart a regular bilateral dialogue on Arctic issues with Russia in key areas…”[3]

Despite Canada’s willingness to cooperate internationally and with Russia on Arctic matters, Canada continues to honour its international responsibilities and alliances and has placed these at the forefront of its Arctic policy. This includes Canada’s membership in NATO and NORAD, not to mention Canada’s intensive relationship with the United States. This has resulted in a sobering policy towards Russia, in which Russia remains a theoretically potential threat to Canadian sovereignty and interests in the Arctic region. Both NATO and NORAD have made attempts to develop increased measures in case of a Russian threat. This has been followed by an increase in symbolic discourse of the potentially threatening nature of Russia’s existence in the Arctic and fears that Russia’s military and economic build up in the region could endanger Canada’s northern interests. Ultimately, an offensive act towards Canada on the part of Russia a priori does exist in order to secure Russia’s interest; this, however, is extremely unlikely, especially when considering Canada’s role in NATO. Canada continues to perceive the realistic possibility of a Russian threat in the Arctic, despite an openness towards cooperation with Russia. Canada’s membership in NATO and the perception of a possible Russian threat, however, do not necessarily imply that Canada will be unable to work with Russia on certain matters, albeit it does indicate a level of reservation on the part of Canadian policymakers. As an increase in Russia’s military presence in the Arctic is undeniable, fears among Canadian policymakers emerge as to the level of successful cooperation attainable. Nevertheless, Trudeau’s new policy plays down the narrative of Arctic conflict, signaling that cooperation and dialogue with Russia is of first-rate importance [4]. Though Canada has not overlooked the possibility of threats to its sovereignty and interests in the Arctic as well as the importance of its international alliances and obligations, Canada’s new Arctic policy focuses on the possibilities of open and mutually beneficial cooperation in the Northern region in order to achieve its goals and interests — including with Russia.

Russia, similar to Canada, has also released a new Arctic policy in 2020, which comprehensively details Russia’s Arctic plans up to 2035. Russia’s new Arctic policy, signed into force by President Vladimir Putin on March 5, 2020, also presents a multidimensional approach to its Arctic affairs. As the world’s largest Arctic power, Russia has long sought to develop the North for its own purposes, especially for the extraction of natural resources. To this extent, the Arctic region is primarily important for the Russian economy, especially in terms of natural resources and the development of Northern Sea Route. For Russia, the North Sea Route — a transport and transit route emerging as a result of melting polar ice that would more than half the travel distance from South East Asia to Europe and save billions of dollars in shipping costs — , as well as Arctic gas reserves, are the foundation of Russia’s economic and geopolitical plans in the North [5]. As a result, Russia considers the North to be of immense geopolitical and geoeconomic importance. It is therefore of little surprise that Russia has been actively working to obtain a stronger foothold in the region, such as claiming sovereignty over the disputed Lomonosov Ridge, which, if recognized internationally, would extend Russia’s sovereignty over the Arctic region hundreds of kilometres beyond Russia’s northern land borders. Russia is, without a doubt, the world leader in northern development. It holds the largest northern population, infrastructure, and Arctic military of all eight Arctic states. Russia’s move into the economic and geopolitical focus on the Arctic is not inherently threatening to Canada; on the contrary, Russia, like Canada, is looking for greater Arctic cooperation.

As a result of the economic importance of the Arctic sphere for Russia, Russia acts pragmatically vis-à-vis other Arctic (and non-Arctic) states. The immense value that the Arctic holds for Russia has caused Moscow to act and react benevolently in the international sphere. Examples of this can be seen in Russia’s signing and ratification of the Ilulissat Declaration of the five Arctic coastal states in 2008, which defines the governance of the Arctic, as well as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS].

It is ultimately telling of Russian foreign policy that Russia has included “cooperation and peaceful settlement of all disputes in the Arctic” in its new policy of 2020. This lends further credibility to the argument that Russia, despite the Ukraine Crisis and weakening of relations with the West since 2014, is actively looking for some level of rapprochement. Indeed, an examination of Russia’s Arctic policies are wholly void of the conflictual language found in other spheres of political relations. Certainly, Russia is very much open to economic and scientific cooperation in its northern territories. This includes, among others, investment, scientific, and technological cooperation, environmental and fishing cooperation, and further development of the Northern Sea route. Russia has been open to the peaceful and fair settling of disputes in the Arctic region as well. In 2010, for example, during the Medvedev presidency, Russia and Norway struck a sea border deal, dividing 175,000 km2 of undersea “land,” much of which has oil and gas-rich deposits. The end of the dispute, which concluded 40 years of talks between Russia (and the Soviet Union) and Norway, was announced by President Medvedev in 2010, attesting to Russia’s balanced position in international circumpolar affairs.

Although Canada is not concretely mentioned in the Arctic policy signed into force by Putin in 2020, Vladimir Putin has, such as on February 7, 2020, spoke of cooperation with Canada in positive terms: “We are open to cooperation with Canada … Our countries are neighbours in the Arctic and have a shared responsibility for the sustainable development of this vast region, for preserving the traditional way of life of indigenous peoples and for respecting its fragile ecosystem.” [6] Though Russia, unquestionably, is focused on attaining its interests and aims in the Arctic — possibility at the expense of others — it has on more than one occasion signalized a willingness to cooperate and aim for mutual benefit in crucial spheres in a rules-based international order and within the institutions, such as the Arctic Council, that govern the Arctic region.

The pertinent question here is if and how Canada and Russia are able to develop, maintain, and foster amicable relations and cooperation in the Arctic against the backdrop of worsening general Canadian-Russian relations as well as the increasing importance and competition in the Arctic region. Both Canada and Russia are open to Arctic cooperation. Indeed, Canadian and Russian interests in circumpolar affairs often correspond with one another, thereby fostering the possibility for improved and increased cooperation. On the part of Canada, Ottowa has on multiple occasions and directly within its policy stated that it will take steps to restart a regular bilateral dialogue on Arctic issues with Russia. Russia has voiced similar aims. Russian scholar Natalia Viakhireva explains that in the international sphere, Russia takes on two faces: the “aggressive revisionist,” such as in the post-Soviet space and “liberal internationalist” in the circumpolar sphere. Yet in her article on Canadian-Russian cooperation in the Arctic, she argues that relations between “close competitors” are a combination of cooperation and competition, but that the West must recognize that Russia’s cooperative behavior on Arctic issues can be mutually beneficial. The first step for Canada and Russia, therefore, is to acknowledge mutual interest in the Arctic sphere, to place significance on the current low level of conflict in the region, and to encourage the continuation of positive cooperation, both bilaterally and multilaterally.

A closer analysis of Canadian-Russian relations within the Arctic Council demonstrates a unique level of existing cooperation between the two states on a number of important matters. Most prevalent of those is the issue of extra-regional actors within the governance of the Arctic. Countries in Eastern Asia, such as China, Japan, and Korea, but also EU members such as Germany and France see it within their national interests to “internationalize” the Arctic. These countries, and foremost China, advocate greater involvement in the region and support the loosening of Russian and Canadian control over the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage. They are looking to reorganize the governing structure of the Arctic and circumvent what Russia and Canada perceive as their sovereign territory in order to benefit from the changing geopolitical and geoeconomic nature of the Arctic. China, especially, wants unfettered access to the North Sea Route and the Northwest passage. Though Canada and Russia could and to some extent currently are benefiting from cooperation with non-Arctic states (especially in technology and environmentalism), both are opposed to Asia’s and Europe’s encroachment on the Arctic. Russia, like Canada, also declared its opposition to “[a]ttempts by a number of foreign states to revise the basic provisions of international treaties regulating economic and other activities in the Arctic.” [7] Canada and Russia’s shared opposition to foreign encroachment demonstrates a distinctive opportunity for cooperation between the two Arctic countries, as has already been the case. As these extra-regional actors’ interests often do not coincide with those of Canada and Russia, the Arctic Council and the Arctic in general are in need of a fundamentally balanced and strong policy regarding this question. It would serve the common interests of Canada and Russia to spearhead this, either bilaterally or within the Arctic Council. Though this is probably not enough for rapprochement, it has the potential for further Canadian-Russian cooperation in the region. If both Russia and Canada take a proactive coordinated stance on the matter, the two “Arctic Giants” are in the position to affect and form future Arctic policy, especially in regard to the matter of non-Arctic states.

In addition to the institutional interaction between Canada and Russia in the Arctic Council, the nature of the Arctic and its vast territories means that no state can self-sufficiently operate without at least a minimal degree of bilateral or multilateral communication and cooperation with other Arctic states. Neither Russia, nor Canada, nor the United States have such developed infrastructure or fleets of icebreakers to accomplish such a task alone. In the scenario of an oil spill, search-and-rescue mission, or for the purpose of Arctic tourism, bilateral cooperation is a necessity. Here Canada and Russia are in a position to accelerate and expand cooperation on a series of matters. Cooperation could be expanded into other spheres of mutual importance, such as technological and scientific research, oil-spill prevention, conservation, or economic spheres such as shipping. Likewise, both Canada and Russia’s new Arctic policies place importance on the development of northern communities, improving the quality of life of northern peoples, and the protection of the environment. Many of these spheres, some of which are already covered by the Arctic Council or have other bilateral treaties in place, succeed in circumventing overtly political or controversial fields for Russia and Canada as well as military competition between the two states.

In considering Russia and Canada’s aims, interests, and points of contention in the Arctic upon the backdrop of deteriorating relations in other international contexts, the notion of Arctic cooperation presents concrete possibilities of communication, cooperation, and — albeit with much time and effort — an improvement in relations between the two states. Canadian-Russian relations have not come to a stark halt. Rather, certain international spheres have endured the weakening of relations due to the Ukraine Crisis. As it is unlikely that Canada and Russia will find common ground on the matter of Ukraine in the near future, especially considering the increasingly intense dialogue between the two and the war in Eastern Ukraine, Canada and Russia will be required to focus on other real and potential spheres of possible cooperation. Foremostly, this will include greater coordination within the Arctic and Arctic Council. As a result of global warming and melting ice, in the coming years and decades the Arctic territories will take on immense geopolitical and geoeconomic importance. As Canada and Russia have more mutual concerns than points of contention in the Arctic, Arctic affairs do and, in the future, will represent the most formidable backdrop for an easing of tensions. It would thus be advisable for both Russia and Canada to maintain a proactive approach to Arctic affairs. This does not denote ignoring military and defense matters in the Arctic, despite the small probability of a conflict, but rather focusing on aspects that are relevant to the national security and interests of both states. In this regard, in the case of a conflict, Canada will fall in line with its NATO partners. Russia, for its part, has already placed a focus on the security and military dimension of its Arctic territories. Therefore, in conclusion, the spheres of real and potential cooperation offer Canada and Russia a basic level of opportunity to improve weakened relations without having to concede on vital points of each states’ respective foreign policy. Russia and Canada would do better to shift the narrative of the conflict between them to more proactive spheres of mutual benefit, which would result in an increased level of positive cooperation.

1. Adam Tereszowski, “Securing Canada’s Sovereignty in the Arctic,” Potentia (2010): 80.

2. Government of Canada, “Arctic and Northern Policy Framework International Chapter.”

3. Ibid.

4. Andrew Chater, “Three Takeaways from Canada’s Arctic and Northern Policy.”

5. Maria L. Lagutina and Natalia Yu. Markushina, “The Arctic Region and the New North: the Russian Approach” in Russia and the World: Understanding International Relations, ed., N. Tsvetkova (Langham: Lexington Books, 2017), 325-357.

6. The Arctic, “Путин отметил важность сотрудничества стран Арктического совета”; Официальный интернет-портал правовой информации, Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 05.03.2020 № 164 “Об Основах государственной политики Российской Федерации в Арктике на период до 2035 года”.“

7. Kommersant.ru, „Путин утвердил основы госполитики в Арктике до 2035 года,“; Официальный интернет-портал правовой информации, Указ Президента Российской Федерации от 05.03.2020 № 164 “Об Основах государственной политики Российской Федерации в Арктике на период до 2035 года”.“

From our partner RIAC

Doctoral candidate at Heidelberg University, International Relations MA Candidate, St. Petersburg State University

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The 4 groups of Senate Republicans that will decide Trump’s impeachment trial

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With Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pushing back the Trump impeachment trial to mid-February to make sure things cool down, Senate Republicans’ positions on the vote are far from crystallized yet. Here are the four groups of Senate Republicans, according to views and likely vote. The numbers and composition of these four groups will decide Trump’s future political faith. Which group Mitch McConnell chooses to position himself in will also be a deciding factor in the unusual and curious impeachment trial of a former US president no longer sitting in office.

Group 1: The Willing Executioners

There surely are those in the Republican Party such as Senator Mitt Romney and Senator Ben Sasse who cannot wait to give that Yea and the final boot to disgraced former President Trump, and will do that with joy and relief. Both the Utah Senator and the Nebraska Senator may be vying for the leadership spot in the Republican Party themselves but that is not the whole story. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska openly said “I want him out.” This group is unlikely to reach as many as 17 Senators, however, needed for the two thirds Senate majority to convict Trump.

Group 2: The Never Give up on Trumpers

There are also those Republican Senators who will stick with Trump through thick and thin until the end – some out of conviction, but most as someone who cannot afford to alienate the Trump supporter base in their state – a supporter base which is still as strong. 

At least 21 Republican Senators are strongly opposed to voting to convict former President Trump, as reported by Newsweek. They realize that doing so would be a political suicide. Republican voters, on the whole, are unified in their belief that the presidential elections were not fair and Joe Biden did not win legitimately, with 68% of Republican voters holding the belief that the elections were “rigged”. The majority of the Republican Party constituents are Never Give up on Trumpers themselves.

Among them are Senators Cruz and Hawley. Both will fight at all cost a vote which certifies as incitement to violence and insurrection the same rhetoric they both themselves used to incite the Trump crowd. Cruz and Hawley will try to avoid at all cost the legal certification of the same rhetoric as criminal in order to avoid their own removal under the 14th Amendment, as argued already by Senator Manchin and many others.

Senator Ron Johnson even called upon Biden and Pelosi to choose between the Trump impeachment trial and the Biden new cabinet confirmation. Group 2 will fight fierce over the next weeks and you will recognize them by the public rhetoric.

Group 3: I’d really like to but I can’t be on the record for convincing a President of my own party

Then there is a large group of Republican Senators – maybe the largest – who would really like to give that Yea vote and leave Trump behind but they do not wish to go on the record as having voted to convict a US President from their own party. Some of these Senators will share their intention to vote Yea in private or off the record with the media, but when push comes to shove and the final vote, they will be hesitant and in the end will vote Nay. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida falls under Group 3.

Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is also the illustration of the average Republican Senator right now – someone who said that Trump committed “impeachable offenses” but who is not sure about convicting him through trial, so that probably means a Nay. 

The BBC quoted a New York Time’s estimate from mid-January that as many as 20 Republican Senators are open to voting to convict Trump, but it should be recalled that in the first Trump impeachment trial in 2020, several Republican Senators also shared in private and off the record that they would be willing to convict. After so much discussion, calculations and prognosis, in the end, it was only Senator Mitt Romney who broke ranks on only one of the two impeachment articles, and voted to convict.

The Capitol events, of course, are incomparable to the Ukraine impeachment saga, but it should be accounted for that the trial vote will likely take place sometime in March 2021, or two months after the Capitol events, when most of the tension and high emotion would have subsided and much of American society will be oriented towards “moving forward”. Group 3 will host the majority of Senate Republicans who in the end will decide to let it go. Most of the 21 Republican Senators who already expressed their opposition to convicting Trump actually belong to Group 3 and not Group 2 Never Give up on Trumpers.

Group 4: I am a Never Give up on Trumper but I really want to look like Group 3

And finally, there is the most interesting group of Republican Senators who are secretly a Never Give up on Trumpers but would like to be perceived as belonging to the hesitant and deliberative Group 3 – willing and outraged but unwilling to go all the way on the record to eliminate a former Republican President.

Senator Ted Cruz might move into Group 4 in terms of rhetoric. Never Give up on Trumpers will vote Nay willingly but will try to present themselves as conflicted Group 3 politicians doing it for different reasons.

Which group Mitch McConnel chooses will be the decisive factor in aligning the Senate Republican votes. McConnel himself seems to be a Group 3 Senator who, in the end, is unlikely to rally the rest of the Senators to convict Trump even though McConnel would really like Trump out of the Republican Party, once and for all. The very fact that McConnel is not in a hurry and is in fact extending the cool-off period places him in Group 3. 

Yea voters don’t need time to think about it and look at things. It took House Democrats exactly three days to get it over and done with. McConnel is quoted as willing to give time to “both sides to properly prepare”, allowing former president Trump enjoy due process. But Trump’s legal team will notice quickly that there is not much to prepare for, as they won’t find plenty of legal precedent in the jurisprudence on American Presidents’ incitement to violent insurrection for stopping the democratic certification process on an opponent who is the democratically elected President.

McConnel himself has said that he is “undecided” and that speaks volumes. He is a Group 3 Senate Republican, and with that, Group 3 will describe the mainstream Senate Republicans’ position in the impeachment trial. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer set 8 February as the start of the impeachment trial, pushing earlier McConnel’s time frame. This is when it all starts.

It is my prediction that when all is said and done, there won’t be as many as 17 Senate Republicans to vote to convict former President Trump. Trump will walk away, but not without the political damage he has incurred himself and has also left in American political life.

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Two Ways that Trump Spread Covid-19 in U.S.

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Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour

1. Encouraging infected workers to continue working even if it infects others:

On 12 May 2020, two hundred and twenty five labor organizations signed a letter to Antonin Scalia’s son Eugene Scalia who was Donald Trump’s appointed Secretary of Labor, and it urged his Department to change its policies “that address the standards that apply under the federal U[nemployment] I[insurance] law to determine when workers remain eligible for regular state UI or P[andemic] U[nemployment] A[ssistance] if they leave work or refuse to work due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns.” In more-common language, an economist Jared Bernstein headlined in the Washington Post six days later on May 18th, “The Labor Department is forcing workers back to jobs that could make them sick” and he explained that Scalia’s Department “has issued guidance that virtually ignores health risks and encourages employers to report workers who refuse job offers [while unemployed] so their unemployment payments can be taken away. The agency is busy urging employers to snitch on ‘claimants that have turned down suitable work.’” Trump’s Labor Department ignored the labor-organizations’ letter. Then, a barista headlined at Huffpost on 22 January 2021, “I Work In A Coffee Shop In Montana. Anti-Maskers Have Made My Job Hell.” She complained that the many customers who refused to wear masks were causing her to fear working there — she was blaming those customers, but not Trump. However, Trump and his Labor Secretary were responsible and simply didn’t care about the safety of workers, such as her, and were instead encouraging employers to force these workers to stay on the job, though doing so endangered themselves and their co-workers. Millions of infected workers were infecting others because not to would cause them to become fired and could ultimately force them into homelessness. Maybe the billionaires who funded Trump’s political career profited from such exploitation of their employees, but nationally this policy helped to increase the spreading of Covid-19. Also: since so many of those bottom-of-the-totem-pole employees are Blacks and Hispanics, etc., this Trump policy helped to cause the drastically higher infection-rates that have been reported among such groups.

2. Refusing to deal with the pandemic on a national basis:

On 15 July 2020, the Washington Post headlined “As the coronavirus crisis spins out of control, Trump issues directives — but still no clear plan” and reported that, “health professionals have urged the White House to offer a disciplined and unified national message to help people who are fatigued more than five months into the crisis and resistant to changing social behaviors, such as wearing masks and keeping a distance from others. Trump, for instance, refused to be seen publicly wearing a mask until last weekend, when he sported one during a trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. ‘You can get a really strong and eloquent governor who can help at the state level, but it does seem like we need some more national messaging around the fact that for many people, this is the most adversity they’ve faced in their life,’ said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.” Every country (such as China, Vietnam, Venezuela, South Korea, Thailand, New Zealand, and Finland) that has been far more successful than America is at having a low number of Covid-19 cases (and deaths) per million residents has dealt with the pandemic on a national and not merely local basis, but all of the worst-performing countries (such as America, which now is at 76,407 “Tot Cases/1M pop”) have not.

It therefore also stands to reason that 

which ranks all 50 states according to how high is the number of Covid-19 infections per million inhabitants, shows (and links to the data proving) that “In 2016, the top 17 [most Covid-infected states] voted for Trump, and the bottom 5 voted for Clinton. All but 3 of the top 24 voted for Trump.” The correlation of high Covid-infection-rate with Trump-voting was astoundingly high. Trump, it seems, gave the high-infection-rate states what they had wanted. But what he gave to America is the highest Covid-19 infection-rate of any nation that has at least 11 million population. It is the 7th-highest Covid-19 infection-rate among all 219 reporting nations. Trump’s policies produced the type of results that had been expected by well-informed people around the world.

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A Most Unusual Inaugural

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President Joe Biden and his wife Dr. Jill Biden enter the inauguration platform during the 59th Presidential Inauguration ceremony in Washington, Jan. 20, 2021. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol. (DOD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II)

Sic transit gloria mundi — thus passes worldly glory, which seems an apt phrase for the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next.

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. became the 46th president of the United States at noon on January 20th, and earlier  Donald J. Trump departed the White House quietly for Florida — his last ride on Air Force One as president — leaving behind a generous and gracious letter for Biden.  So it is described by Joe Biden himself.  Trump did not attend the inauguration, the first president not to do so since Woodrow Wilson in 1921, who remained inside the Capitol building because of poor health while his successor Warren G. Harding was installed.

It was a most unusual inauguration this time.  There were no crowds on the lawns outside; instead row upon row of American flags representing them.  The official attendees all wore masks and included three former Presidents (Obama, the younger Bush and Clinton).  President Carter, who is in his 90s and frail, sent his apologies. 

The usual late breakfast before the ceremony and the lunch afterwards were also cancelled — one cannot eat with a mask in place!  No evening inaugural balls either.  These were sometimes so many that the new president and his lady could only spend a few minutes at each.  In their stead, there was a virtual inaugural celebration hosted by Tom Hanks the actor.  It consisted mostly of pop-singers who supported Biden plus a disappointing rendering of Amazing Grace by Yo-Yo Ma on his cello. 

Biden’s first act was to sign a series of executive orders to undo some of Trump’s policies.  He announced the U.S. would not leave the World Health Organization (WHO) and would continue to contribute to it.  On climate change a complete policy reversal now means the U.S. will abide by the Paris climate accord.   

Biden’s other executive orders totalling 15 responded to the coronavirus crisis with the goal of giving 100 million vaccine shots by the end of April.  He proposes to establish vaccine centers at stadiums and community facilities and also plans to speed up production of the supplies required for making vaccines.

The U.S. now has lost 406,000 lives (and counting) from COVID-19.  That number is noted to be greater than U.S. deaths during WW2.  The virus has so far infected 24.5 million people.  However, the problem is more complicated than simply inoculating everyone.

Swedish authorities report that 23 people, mostly elderly and having other health issues, have died after being given the Pfizer vaccine.  Its side effects apparently can be severe and mimic the disease itself.  Thus given a choice, one would prefer the Moderna vaccine.  

Old age is a poignant sight to behold.  Biden the ex high school football star now having difficulty lifting his feet to walk.  Very gamely, he even tried a jog or two to say a quick hello to bystanders during his short walk to the White House.  We wish him well and hope for a successful presidential term.  Thirty-six years as senator and eight years as vice-president certainly make him one of the most experienced to sit in the White House Oval Office.   Good luck Mr. President!  

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