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Towards a US-Russia Partnership in the Arctic

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Hear me out: The United States and Russia should pursue mutually beneficial relations in the Arctic. This region is one of the last frontiers yet to have recognized territorial boundaries and operates on vague international norms open to dispute. The US has sovereign territory in the Arctic and other interests including natural resources and trade routes. The time is now to start seeking advantageous bilateral partnerships to secure greater US influence in the Arctic. The US and Russian Federation have common Arctic interests: international cooperation, conflict avoidance, and denying China economic potential via trade routes. To further American prosperity and values, the US should seek greater Arctic influence via partnering with Russia rather than continuing to couch Moscow as an adversary.

US Arctic Interests

 The US is an Arctic state. What happens in the Arctic, from international maritime trade to military aerial maneuvers matters to Washington. Increasing Arctic activity begets competition, and competition may eventually lead to conflict. Neither the US or Russia desires an Arctic fight. Washington’s continued insistence that Russia is a threat in the Arctic only advances toward conflict.

If the Northern Sea Route (NSR), Northeast Passage (NEP), and Northwest Passage (NWP) are left to the international law to regulate, China will be able to instate its Polar Silk Road and obtain unparalleled economic potential. It is imperative for the US to pivot its focus to this region in an effort to influence future Arctic activities. Moscow is vying for Arctic control via the NSR and is taking advantage of the ambiguous international norms in the region. The US has a choice to make: proactively collaborate with Russia or continue the tired Soviet-era rhetoric of labeling Putin and the Russian Federation an enemy. In looking at Russia’s evolving Arctic rhetoric, there is far-less threat than there is opportunity.

Russian Policy Analysis

Russia views the Arctic as a leveraging point to international great power status. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Transport and Energy in Russia focuses on Arctic cooperation, whereas the Russian Security Council and Ministry of Defense emphasizes concern towards national security and thus lean towards military control over the region.

The 2008 Russian Arctic strategy document – the Foundations of the State Policy of the Russian Federation in the Arctic for the Period Until 2020 and Beyond – was approved by then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and still signals Russian Arctic ambition today. The Foundations of the State Policy emphasizes peaceful Arctic cooperation. In 2013, Moscow expanded their official Arctic strategy and included less ambiguous lines of effort towards defending Russian territory like “developing the Russian icebreaker fleet, modernizing the air service and airport network, and establishing modern information and telecommunication infrastructure”. Russia’s 2020 iteration (2020-2035) contains similar rhetoric as the 2013 version, emphasizing natural resource protection, establishing trade routes, and mitigating “territorial vulnerabilities” due to melting ice. However, the latest version dedicates greater discussion to evolving national security and threat perceptions.

Although Russia’s additions to its Arctic strategy focus on defending its “primordial homeland”, the narrative of international cooperation, promotion of peace and stability, and mitigation of military confrontation permeate the verbiage. Putin emphasizes a multipolar international order and sees Arctic cooperation as dependent on regional powers promoting collaborative governance on the international stage. For Putin, US forward basing and NATO involvement are seen as deliberate attempts at encircling Russia and thought to be antidemocratic. This presents an opportunity for the United States to reframe the conversation and revisit its long-held perception of Moscow as an anti-West adversary.

 Russia is proactively preparing itself to cooperate with the US in the Arctic. Whether or not these public statements should be trusted, the international community has heard them. In order to mitigate tensions and promote international cooperation Russian claims it seeks, the US should pursue a balancing approach rather than continue to label Moscow as the enemy. Emphasizing the multipolar international system allows each regional power to defend its homeland and collaborate bi- or multilaterally with other powers in contested regions to mitigate conflict.

Why has the US not partnered with Russia thus far on anything of consequence?

The US has sought to spread democracy throughout the globe because democracies promote peace and traditionally work well together. However, Russia may never be a functioning democracy. Russia is an opportunistic state seeking to restore its great power status. Moscow claims to be a democracy but fails to meet Western standards. Fostering a more productive relationship with Russia requires the US to accept that Russia will never a Western democracy. But this does not mean Russia should forever be a threat to the West. There are more pressing security threats to the Arctic than that of Russia’s desire to return to great power status and defend its homeland.

If the US treats the Arctic as a partnership venue rather insist upon its ideological differences with Moscow, Washington may be able to divest Moscow from emerging economic relations with Beijing.Adopting an Arctic balancing approach allows Russia the maneuverability to operate in the region absent perceived challenge. This will promote favorable US-Russian relations, serving as a compelling incentive for Russia to help distance China from the Arctic equation.Consequently, international security threats from China and its growing economic coalition will be weakened.

The Perils of Arctic Action v. Inaction

Russia’s innate opportunistic proclivity means its will continue pushing the politico-social boundaries. Take the Lomonosov Ridge dispute for instance. The Russian Federation took advantage of ambiguous international norms and rules and submitted a territorial extension proposal to extend its territory via the Lomonosov Ridge to Greenland’s exclusive economic zone. The UN is starting to look favorably on this. Washington can use this situation to support Russia and garner Putin’s trust. This will cause friction between the US and Greenland (an autonomous island within the Kingdom of Denmark – a NATO member and US ally), but the benefits outweigh the cost, especially if the United Nations deems Russian’s proposal justifiable via sufficient evidence.

This is purely a value proposition. Denmark is a relatively weak NATO member state that the US derives minimal value from, whereas Denmark gains significant security benefits from the US at little cost. Partnering with Russia and letting it have its Arctic claims in exchange for the de-escalation of European tensions, as an example, is more beneficial than supporting Denmark. By publically voicing support for Moscow’s claims, the US can display a multipolar foreign policy that it has lacked in recent decades that may consequently enhance international support for the US, at least in Russia’s eyes as the most likely would-be Arctic adversary

This support can be utilized in various foreign policy facets such as trade, strengthening relations, and pivoting other nations away from dependency on China. Currently, some nations may be turned off by the perceived over-involvement of the US in other countries’ affairs. Taking a step back and employing a balancing approach to American foreign policy will empower others. Whether or not China’s Belt and Road Initiative is actually utilizing debt-trap diplomacy is arguable. However, indications of such speak to China’s evolving global power and influence over weak and vulnerable states. If the US approaches the Arctic ambiguity with a multipolar, internationally empowering methodology, it will starkly contrast with China’s BRI and Polar Silk Road plans. A new, favorable light will be shed on the US and can be advantageously utilized to garner influence in various bilateral relations that may advance Washington’s position relative to Beijing in evolving international discourse.

Avenues for Bilateral Cooperation with Russia

The first issue that needs to be resolved is deconflicting US and Russian Arctic ambitions. The Russian rhetoric revolves around mitigating territorial vulnerabilities, advancing regional resource extraction (mainly oil and gas), and improving the living conditions for the native population. Additionally, the latter involves preserving the Arctic ecological balance and environmentally friendly policies. Moscow is principally interested in investing energy sector technologies, which fall under Western sanctions. This is where the US has an opportunity to collaborate with the Russian Federation. According to the US Air Force Arctic Strategy, stability and diminished security threats, protection of the homeland, and cooperating bi- or multilaterally with other arctic nations are the main foci. The US has an opportunity to promote American prosperity via a bilateral relationship with Russia in the Arctic in via several courses of action (COA): work bilaterally with Russia to help develop oil and gas extraction in the region; be a proactive force in the bolstering of ecological conservation laws; or be a stronger proponent of internationalized yet controlled trade routes through the Arctic.

Although ecological safety seems to be of great importance to Russia in its strategic rhetoric, the Russian actions taken in the Arctic do not logically follow this strategy. Consequently, US bilateral pursuits emphasizing environmental protection laws with Russia are not the most prospective route. However, Washington has an obvious interest in fostering relations with states controlling the earth’s natural resources, specifically oil and gas. Moscow sees energy-dependence as one path to becoming a great world power. When these two points are placed in the context of the fact that the Arctic harbors an estimated 13% of the world’s conventional oil and 30% of its conventional gas resources, it would be in each nation’s benefit to invest in developing the technology in the region to extract them. The US can start the diplomatic conversations required to start such a project and be a significant source of financial investment considering America’s world-renowned economic prowess. This gives the US an initiation advantage and provides an inlet for it to stake claim to some of the Arctic prosperity. Additionally, Russia claims most of the Arctic waters and by proxy any future trading routes through the region. The US can seize the opportunity to prove itself as an invested Arctic state and initiate mutually beneficial international trade travel laws. In this scenario, the US can leverage Russia’s precarious relationship with China to provide reasoning behind stricter shipping laws. This benefits Russia by diminishing security threats from a more frequently traveled trade route, while simultaneously denying China seemingly limitless economic potential which is also favorable to the US.

Acting on the Discovery of Mutually Beneficial Arctic COAs

There are several converging and diverging desires to be considered between Washington and Moscow when it comes to the Arctic. Multipolarity (or at least international cooperation), stability, definitive rules which mitigate security threats, and denying China unlimited access to Arctic waters are some desires that coincide between the nations. On the other hand, the desires start to diverge when it comes to militarizing the region and the potential territorial expansion efforts that Russia seems to be toying with. However, when the economic incentives eventually subside or become subordinate to security threats, great power competition will ensue. In order to be prepared for this possible competition, the US must play a proactive role in promoting stability via positive relations with Russia vice injecting continued tension through antagonistic rhetoric.

There are more converging aspirations in the Arctic for both the US and the Russian Federation than there are diverging ones. Putin has placed himself in the international spotlight by publicly stating that he seeks international cooperation and a multipolar system in the Arctic region. Partnering with Russia in the Arctic is not only possible, it is necessary. If left unattended, the politically ambiguous Arctic will become the perfect environment for great power competition to formulate and has the potential to be a serious security threat to sovereign American soil. Now is the time for the US to come to terms with Russia as a potential partner for the greater good and to promote American prosperity.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not the official position of the United States Air Force or Department of Defense.

Lieutenant Autumn Gonzales is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, from where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Foreign Area Studies, Military and Strategic Studies with emphasis on Slavic regions. She is currently attending graduate school at Penn State’s School of International Affairs for her Master’s in International Affairs, Security Studies track.

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The Indignant Politics of America’s Mass Shootings

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Why do mass shootings garner the lead stories in the news cycle? Could it be the sudden cluster of deaths alone? Perhaps it is the public fascination over a shooter plotting evil or to illicit political theatre where finger pointing, blaming far-right ideology, chalking it up to mental illness, or creating a stir over the demise of the 2nd Amendment and government taking our guns.

These narratives would seem too simplistic for well-educated lawmakers obfuscating their responsibility by playing into an uncompromising political base rather than demonstrating a bipartisan effort to solving problems. Does the clinging to power in the legislature somehow become more imperative than the pains felt when facing the end of a barrel. In retrospect, lawmakers might ponder one of Mother Teresa’s favorite texts in the bible, which she often quoted to support her ministry, is “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me”.

To avoid fecal mudslinging over attempts to find common ground with political rivals or facing noisy garden-variety cynicism that it is possible to move the needle, courage will be required to grasp the big picture of gun violence and understand critical facts to create value in building trust across the aisle. According to the data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), America is on track this year to be the second highest year for mass shootings with 607 mass shootings through November 22 against a total of 690 in 2021 (GVA defines a mass shooting where at least four people are shot excluding the shooter).

While 637 deaths and 3,179 people shot in mass shootings so far in 2022 is abhorrent, there has been a stark total of 40,373-gun violence deaths in the US this year as of Nov. 29. A total of 21,978 of these deaths were suicides whereas 18,395 comprise of homicides, unintentional, and defensive use.

For those wondering about racism in law enforcement by the likes of Black Lives Matter and the far left defund the police efforts, 62 officers have been killed in the line of duty so far this year with 769 subjects shot dead or injured in police situations.

About 40% of Americans now own firearms where 18% of American households purchased a gun during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 5% of US adults bought a gun for the first time. The question that bares asking is why the increase in purchases. Could it be State AG’s allowing criminals to walk or no-bail for violent crimes only to reoffend and commit further harm and death? What about worried citizens who are fearful of the millions of immigrants illegally crossing the southern border, or the Antifa riots that caused mayhem, death, and destruction with little to no police response to protect neighborhoods and businesses. With Americans being killed at the highest rate in 30 years, they are now packing more than ever to protect their families in what may feel like a purge.  

Let’s dig deeper into the starkest gun violence statistic. Black Americans are disproportionately more likely to be killed by a gun with the most vulnerable ages 25-45. According to the CDC, 6,600 were shot dead in this category or at an astonishing 54.43 per 100,000 people. Blacks aged 10-24 years did not fare well either at 4,347 killed or 48.80 per 100,000. By comparison, white people came in at 1,918 or 3.91 per 100,000 in the older group and 653 or 1.97 per 100,000 in the younger bracket.

Clearly, black on black violence is a huge problem that is not being addressed or focused on by the media or political leaders. On the heels of the media coverage and President Biden’s repeated mass shooting comments to ban guns following the terrible mass shootings at the Wal-Mart in Virginia leaving six people dead and five people dead three days earlier in a shooting rampage at a nightclub in Colorado, there were 31 people shot and 6 killed across Chicago the following Thanksgiving weekend. These combined shootings amount to mass shootings taking place every weekend in dystopian-like enclaves in Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore, and New York to name a few. Where is the media coverage and why are these predominately black neighborhoods allowed to fall into tyranny?

To make the case for Republican bipartisanship support to work towards reducing guns in the wrong hands, the Democrats will need to reciprocate on the most glaring killer facing America. According to the CDC, fentanyl is now the leading cause of death among US adults (ages 18-45); more than Covid-19. Fentanyl, the cheap to produce and easy to transport killer that is 100 times stronger than morphine, has seen deaths nearly double in two years from 32,754 in 2019 to 64,178 in 2021.

The cartels in Mexico producing the candy-colored drug in super labs purchase the ingredients and chemicals from China. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) say they are combating the problem; however, their actions are profoundly incompetent with the substance crossing a porous border with Mexico. It is unconscionable that the Biden Administration does not use every tool to pressure China to stop the exports to the cartels and it is a crime by China who can lock down a population of over a billion people over Covid yet fail to prevent these shipments. China is an accomplice to mass killings in the US.

According to the FAA, there is an average of 64.4 passengers per domestic flights in the US. The number of fentanyl deaths would be equivalent to three passenger aircraft going down with all onboard perishing in the crash. Would American politicians not call for the immediate grounding of all flights until there were assurances that no further loss of life was at peril. Should the human mules coming across the southern border not also be halted with the same sense of urgency to save over 190 lives every day from fentanyl?

No one person has the answers to nation-wide epidemics of gun violence and the fentanyl crisis. First, it begins with leadership to turn off what seems to be an incurable pathology to assign blame. The unfounded white supremacy is divisive rhetoric while claiming the 2nd Amendment to bear arms is at risk. It is simply untrue. Progress will have a greater chance of success if the small but loud voices are sidelined, contributions from influential lobbies are refused, and the media covers the big picture.  

Politician can no longer wait to act on the comprehensive measures. Just ask black Americans if they want to defund police and see active enforcement and protection in their neighborhoods. There needs to be a focus on cultural and social factors, guidance counseling and education that focuses on responsibility in the family and community. Gun shops need to uphold current laws when selling firearms, and gun ownership should require at minimum to attend and pass a course on firearm safety that could prevent a deranged shooter from purchasing a gun prior to carrying out a mass shooting. Finally, if the Mexico government is not going to do the job, the DEA needs to forcibly remove fentanyl super labs making the killer poison. Time to get to work.

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Joe Vogler and the Alaskan Independence Party: The Last Secession Attempt in the United States

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The political system in the U.S is characterized by a bipolar system of division between the Democratic and the Republican Party. As a result, independent parties are hardly noticed and barely manage to scrap votes in the elections. However, independent parties in the U.S have been around since the creation of the nation and some of their leaders have gone as far as pursuing to secede from the federal government of the U.S. Joe Vogler was an Alaskan politician that rallied a major nationalistic movement in Alaska for the state to secede from the U.S. Although his actions did not bear any fruits, his creation of the Alaskan Independence Party opened the door to interesting questions and political theories. Is it possible for an independent party to hold major power in the U.S, and how much influence do the independent parties have in one of the most politically divided countries in the world?

Joe Vogler: An Alaskan nationalist from Kansas

Joe Vogler was born on April 24, 1913, in Kansas, U.S. In 1942, he moved to Alaska where he worked as a civilian employee of the U.S Army Corps of Engineers in Fairbanks. Although he graduated with a law degree from the University of Kansas, his move to Alaska demonstrated his humble beginnings and love for a more traditional lifestyle away from the metropolises of America. Besides working construction in military bases, Vogler was involved in the development of real estate and mining in Alaska.

Described by his admirers as a stand-up, no-nonsense man, Vogler started his early nationalist views of an independent Alaska in the early 1970s, where he frequently wrote letters to editors in newspapers, calling for Alaska to secede from the federal government of the U.S. In 1973, he founded the Alaskans for Independence organization to label his petition drive to secede from America. In 1984, he founded the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), which he led for almost a decade until his sudden disappearance and death in 1993.

The Alaskan Independence Party: Libertarian conservatism at its finest

The Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) gained momentum in the early 1980s when Joe Vogler founded the party with a clear focus on the independence of Alaska from the United States. The ideology of the party is a mix of Alaskan nationalism and libertarian conservatism. It is easy to see where Alaskan nationalism comes from and why it was advocated. As one of the largest states in the U.S, Alaska has immense mineral and oil wealth, with the oil and gas industries being the largest component in the state. Almost 85% of the state budget is supplied by oil revenues. Not to mention that Alaska has an important geopolitical position, being isolated from the continental U.S and sharing a maritime border with the Russian Federation.

The position of Alaska on the world map is a very strategic one and a major advantage in trading, fishing, and mining. Marie Francis, a writer from Southcentral Alaska and a registered member of AIP shares the same views as many Alaskans who advocate for the independence of their state. In her own words as posted in the Anchorage Daily News she describes how beneficial would be the actual secession of Alaska for the people that live there, who many times feel abandoned by the federal government due to their small population. “As the U.S. engages in trade wars, an independent Alaska would make international trade agreements on our terms. Our geographic position at the top of the Pacific grants us access to Asian and North American markets, and as Arctic shipping lanes open in the decades to come, European markets. Currently, we are relegated to the position of a dejected American outpost, yet almost all air cargo being transported between the United States and Asia flows through Ted Stevens Intl. Airport. Alaska’s economic potential is much greater than what the U.S. allows” (Anchorage Daily News, Marie Francis).

The last sentence by Marie Francis reveals the nature of the U.S government taking full advantage of the position and natural resources of Alaska while at the same time disregarding the voices of the Alaskan population simply because of their low population compared to the other 49 states of America. When people of a particular geographical area feel isolated from their government in a metaphorical and literal sense and find unity under the same cause, isn’t that a classic recipe for a nationalistic independence movement?

Regarding the philosophical ideology of the party, we can see many similarities with other political parties in the U.S, like the Libertarian Party and the Republican Party. The primary ideology is based on traditional American values such as the right to bear arms, privatization away from the sphere of public sectors, and of course limited government interference. These particular American values are mixed with a libertarian conservatism philosophy that advocates among many things, the maximum economic liberty for the people, combined with the minimum government regulation of economic and social life. Although on many occasions this political and social philosophy is mirroring classical liberalism, what distinguishes it is the focus on American values and a sense of morality and duty toward the idea of free and independent people from any form of government regulations.

Margaret Randall, an American writer and academic describes the notion of libertarian conservatism as an expression of personal freedom and individualism, the same ideology that can be found in the early works of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau was an American naturalist and philosopher, mostly known for his advocation of individualism and limitation of the power that the American government had at that time. His book Civil Disobedience (1849), argues that any form of progress comes from the ingenuity of the people not from the government, and as a result, the best thing for any government to do is to let the people govern themselves and flourish. He concludes that the best government is one that does not govern at all. It is easy to connect the ideological position of the AIP with the notion of Alaskan nationalism, as both the ideology and the practical implementation of its positions reveal a mix of liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, naturalism, and a strong apathy for any form of government that wishes to control the individuality of its local population.

Joe Vogler’s controversial views and sudden disappearance

Joe Vogler made a couple of unsuccessful bids for public office, with the first one being back in 1974, when he ran for governor of Alaska, only to lose by a large margin to Jay Hammond who represented the Republican Party. After that, in 1978, he tried to run as a lieutenant governor alongside Don Wright, only to lose again to Jay Hammond. He made two last attempts to run as a governor in 1982 and 1986, but his efforts did not result in a positive outcome. Although none of his efforts resulted in a victory, Vogler still had quite a few thousand supporters that rallied behind his nationalistic cause. His libertarian rhetoric appealed to many Alaskans that felt that indeed they are being exploited and overlooked by the U.S government. He was extremely un-American in a political sense and a harsh critic of all the government institutions that he felt had no place in the state that he envisioned.

On May 30, 1993, Joe Vogler suddenly disappeared, just a couple of weeks before he addressed the United Nations on the issue of Alaskan independence. A close friend called the authorities after not hearing from him for a couple of days. An investigation took place to find him. After a couple of months of unsuccessful attempts to find Vogler, a man called the authorities informing them that a suspicious truck with a bullet hole at the back was seen at Fairbanks at the same time that Vogler disappeared. The man driving the truck was identified and was taken into custody. Manfried West immediately confessed to the murder of Joe Vogler. He claimed that Vogler wanted to buy plastic explosives from him, and when the deal went wrong he shot Vogler and buried him. After almost a year, an anonymous tip revealed the location of Vogler’s body. He was buried in a shallow grave outside Fairbanks. West was convicted of 80 years of prison time and currently serves his time at the Palmer Correctional Facility in Sutton.

Joe Vogler’s sudden disappearance and murder did not sit well with a lot of people affiliated with AIP, who felt that his death was an execution and that Manfried West was hired to do the job. These speculations seem to fit the narrative that Vogler’s death was not just a  deal that went wrong. It is important to mention that Vogler managed to gain the support of Iran to sponsor his speech at the U.N. At that time, relations between the two states had deteriorated right after the Persian Gulf War when Iran was accused of trying to replace Iraq as the most dominant power in the Gulf. By 1992, under the Bush Administration, Congress had passed the Iran-Iraq Nonproliferation Act, sanctioning specific materials that could be used for the development of advanced weaponry. As a result, Iran’s support to Joe Vogler would have been an embarrassment for the U.S if he managed to speak at the podium at the U.N.

In addition, Vogler, throughout his political career had made a lot of enemies and powerful people back in Washington D.C did not see his intentions as just an effort to secede from the U.S. By the time his political career started, the Cold War was still at its peak and the competition with the Soviet Union was the most serious matter that affected the whole globe. Vogler was accused by many, of being a socialist, and people in D.C were worried that his views may find support back in Moscow, who could seek to find an opportunity to have closer relations with an independent Alaska. We might never find the truth about Vogler’s death and the people responsible for it, but we can only speculate that powerful people in the political arena of the U.S would not have been happy if Vogler was allowed to speak at the United Nations.

The Alaskan Independence Party today and the future of independent parties in the U.S

Although Joe Vogler himself was unsuccessful in holding a public office in Alaska, that doesn’t mean that the AIP was also unsuccessful. In 1990, as Vogler was serving as a chair to the party, he supported Wally Hickel, a businessman and a member of the AIP who managed to get elected as the governor of Alaska on the Independence Party ticket, making the AIP one of the few third parties that had managed to hold public office in the U.S. However, after the death of Vogler, the party lost some of its power and will to continue fighting for an independent Alaska.

Today the Alaskan Independence Party remains the third most powerful party in the state of Alaska. According to its official website, AIP now has almost 19.000 registered members, nearly 25% of the size of the Democratic Party in Alaska. Remaining true to their goals until this day, members of AIP continue to challenge the authorities in D.C and demand that their voices be heard. As Marie Francis mentions in her opinion piece for the Anchorage Daily News: “We are receiving fewer favors from the federal government, and I firmly believe an independent Alaskan government would manage a better budget that would provide for all. As civil welfare programs are cut, the federal defense budget has been fluffed. We are being exploited by a government thousands of miles away for military purposes. The dignity of autonomy is not granted to more than 700,000 people. Secession would grant Alaskans the freedom to determine their destiny without federal oversight. I encourage my fellow Alaskans to discuss the endless possibilities and consider the Alaskan Independence Party”.

Independent political parties in the U.S have a long history of engagement in U.S politics. Although they are not always successful their presence is still visible in local and nationwide elections. Apart from the Alaskan Independence Party, other political parties across the U.S have made their presence calling for independence or greater autonomy. For example, there is the Independent Party Of Delaware, the third largest party in the state with almost 10.000 people registered with it. Also, the Aloha ʻĀina Party in Hawaii advocates for the independence of Hawaii from the U.S and a greater focus on traditional Hawaiian cultural values. The list goes on and on with political parties and movements across the U.S, in California, Texas, Florida, Vermont, Montana, Minnesota, etc.

According to the Pew Research Center, nearly four-in-ten U.S. adults (38%) identify as politically independent, but most “lean” toward one of the two major parties. This goes to show that although the presence of third parties is still active, people are not very keen on voting for them. Is it because their stance on certain issues is not appealing, or is it because the media is so focused on dividing the country between red and blue that any chance of reviewing or analyzing any other party’s position would be immediately suppressed? Joe Vogler used to say the same phrase whenever asked about his ideological stance: “I’m an Alaskan, not an American. I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions”. How possible would it be for more politicians to come out and say I am a Californian, not an American, or I am a Texan and I’ve got no use for America or her damned institutions?

In politics nothing is unlikely and the possibility of these movements gaining more recognition and support may come sooner than we expect. With the incompetence of Joe Biden and the Democratic Party and the controversy around Donald Trump and the Republican Party, people in the U.S may realize that they need to look elsewhere for solutions. Maybe they will realize that the democratic system that they so much praise and demonstrate around the world, is just a fallacy of democracy with two parties representing the same goals with different colors.

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Canada’s Indo Pacific strategy

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Image source: saltwire.com

Canada’s Foreign Minister, Melanie Joly released the North American country’s vision for the Indo-Pacific on November 27, 2022.  Canada’s Indo Pacific strategy is 26 pages in length, and it has earmarked Canadian $ 2.6 billion (US $ 1.9 billion) for funding in the Indo-Pacific region. Through the strategy, Canada seeks to play its role of promoting peace and security in the Indo Pacific region by; investing in security and intelligence networks and cybersecurity infrastructure in the Indo Pacific, strengthening Canada’s trade with the region, building natural resource linkages between Canada and Indo-Pacific countries and to strengthen people to people links between Canadian citizens and those of Indo-Pacific countries.

The Canadian Foreign Minister, while unveiling the strategy highlighted the economic importance of the Indo-Pacific region while also stating that:

 “Every issue that matters to Canadians, our national security, our economic prosperity, democratic values, climate change or again human rights will be shaped by the relationship Canada has with Indo-Pacific countries.”

The strategy lays immense emphasis on enhancing trade ties with India, East Asia and Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. To achieve the objective of greater trade with the region, Canada will appoint an Indo-Pacific trade representative (the vision also seeks to set up Canada’s first agricultural office in the region with the aim of increasing agricultural exports to the region).  In comparison to the vision of other western countries and Australia, there is a strong thrust in Canada’s Indo Pacific strategy on giving a boost to people-to-people linkages with the region. It would be pertinent to point out, that Canada is home to not just a large Indian expat community, but that Indian nationals account for the largest group within the international community (this point has been flagged in Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy as well)

China factor

While Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy cannot be linked to any one factor, but there is no doubt, that one of the key factors for Canada to focus on the Indo-Pacific is to reduce economic dependence upon China, and also find common ground with other countries becoming increasingly vary of Chinese expansionism. The 26page document released by Canada dubbed China a ‘disruptive power’, while also arguing that China seeks to ‘disregard’ norms and values by which it has risen. Says the strategy:

“China is looking to shape the international order into a more permissive environment for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours.”

In recent years, like many other western countries, Canada’s ties with China have gone downhill. Tensions began to emerge after Canadian police detained Meng Wanzhou Chief Financial officer of Huawei in 2018, while China retaliated by arresting two Canadian nationals of spying (all three individuals were released last year). In 2020, Canada had also shelved its trade deal with China. Then Canadian Foreign Minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne while commenting on differences with China had said:

“I do not see the conditions being present now for these discussions to continue at this time. The China of 2020 is not the China of 2016”.

Recently, Ottawa has also accused China of interfering in the domestic politics of Canada. Canada accuses China of providing financial support to 11 candidates in the North American nation’s federal elections of 2019. Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau had raised this issue with Xi Jinping during his meeting with the latter on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at Bali last month. Chinese President Xi Jinping had expressed his displeasure with Trudeau of leaking details of the meeting to the media.

Canada’s Indo Pacific strategy also seeks to prevent Chinese investments in areas linked to ‘national security’. The 26 page document stated that Canada would come up with legislation which would enable it to act:

‘decisively when investments from state-owned enterprises and other foreign entities threaten our national security including our critical mineral supply chains’

Canada had recently asked three Chinese companies to divest from the country’s mining companies citing security reasons.

The Canadian Foreign Minister, Melanie Joly said that while the strategy sought to safeguard Canada’s interest it was pragmatic. The strategy does refer to the need for cooperation with China on issues such as climate change, global health and nuclear proliferation.  In conclusion, Canada’s Indo Pacific strategy while focusing on economics, has a clear security component. Canada like the US, UK and Australia recognizes the need to reduce economic dependence upon China, and to keep a close watch on Beijing’s interference in Canada’s domestic affairs. The meeting between US President, Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the side-lines of the G20 Summit as well as Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy do reiterate, that in spite of all the differences with China, western countries will seek to avoid the emergence of a ‘new cold war’ with China and to engage on issues such as climate change.

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has fallen into turbulent waves and struggling to save his position and reputation. It has...

Africa8 hours ago

Russia-Africa Summit: Sergey Lavrov Embarks on Courtship and Assessment Tour

Behind lofty summit declarations, several bilateral agreements and thousands of decade-old undelivered pledges, Russia has been at the crossroad due...

Americas10 hours ago

The Indignant Politics of America’s Mass Shootings

Why do mass shootings garner the lead stories in the news cycle? Could it be the sudden cluster of deaths...

Eastern Europe12 hours ago

It Is Possible To Live Peacefully In The Caucasus

The Caucasus is a geographical area inhabited by a number of peoples. This region with its beautiful nature has experienced...

Reports15 hours ago

Small Business, Big Problem: New Report Says 67% of SMEs Worldwide Are Fighting for Survival

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and mid-sized companies are the backbone of the global economy. They create close to 70%...

Defense17 hours ago

Ukraine Crisis: International Security and Foreign Policy Option for Pakistan

Impact on International Security: When Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Russia presented it as a matter of its...

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