The recent discussions on the Monroe Doctrine in European and US academic circles and in the media have mainly focused on George W. Bush’s and Trump’s Administrations.
Although both Administrations were ruled by the Republican Party, foreign policy often conflicted. In the English-speaking world most of the discussions about the Monroe Doctrine during the era of these two Presidents are related to Latin America. The foreign policy concepts of former Presidents Bush and Trump were very different: the former was characterized by “globalism” and wanted to export the US political system and ideology everywhere by any means. In their policies towards Latin America, however, both regarded it as their exclusive sphere of influence: the Bush Administration supported the Venezuelan opposition to launch a coup to overthrow President Chavez and wage the war on terror in Latin America against countries that opposed US hegemony. The Trump Administration did so even more by flaunting the Monroe Doctrine; encouraging the opposition in Venezuela and Bolivia; by pushing for a regime change in Cuba; by restricting Mexico’s right to free trade and so on. The same holds true for the current Democratic Party’s Administration.
Let us go back in time: in 1933, faced with the growing anti-US sentiment in Latin America, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced a “good neighbourhood policy” to counterbalance the influence of Germany and Italy. Nevertheless, this did not mean renouncing intervention in Latin America, but restricting it to non-military methods and attracting more regional allies in the peaceful infiltration action.
Likewise, the Obama Administration’s rise to power in 2009 sought to undermine Bush’s “unilateralism”. In 2013 President Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, stated that the era of the Monroe Doctrine was over but, faced with a series of leftist regimes in Latin America, the United States just replaced the obvious subversive means with more subtle ones: financing NGOs; buying off opposition and manipulating social networks – all this to wage an information warfare, hire mercenaries and carry out targeted eliminations through the “anti-corruption” action manipulated by the aforementioned opposition, etc. And even continue economic sanctions against Cuba.
During the election campaign, even the current Biden Administration said it wanted to follow the outgoing President’s path of “unilateralism”, but internal political constraints have limited the rare political moves that really tried to do so at least with a cosmetic exercise. The United States keeps on imposing sanctions on Cuba and still supports the Venezuelan opposition and restricts free trade rights in Mexico.
The aforementioned duality of the Monroe Doctrine in the United States can be linked to Carl Schmitt’s criticism on the double standard followed by the United States after the Second World War. To this end, the United States recruited the new Cold War accomplices, i.e. the former enemies, Germany and Japan, to build the American Century in an anti-Soviet function. And the former enemies worked well.
The new doctrine for dealing with the former enemies was nothing more than a transposition of the expanded Monroe Doctrine, and hinged around the “right” of appropriation of the world’s raw materials, particularly energy, through conventional wars of aggression, supported by the US public that was traditionally reluctant to intervene in wars for alleged human rights disguising a desire for hegemony.
It is not for nothing that some scholars claim that in the Cold War Germany and Japan can be classified as the new Monroe Doctrine of American universalism – i.e- a shift to the west of NATO, up to the borders of the Warsaw Pact, and to the east, thus being an anti-Sino-Soviet rampart in the Far East. Hence the relationship between capitalist development and the expansion of the Monroe Doctrine into global interventionism.
In Der Begriff des Politischen (The Concept of the Political, 1932) Schmitt pointed out that “politics” is not related to the fields of society, economics and culture. It is a parallel “self”’ that, reaching a certain degree of intensity, determines the distinction between friends and foes, regardless of the commonality of ethical, religious or economic values. Schmitt does not seek to fundamentally reflect on the logic of capitalism itself, but rather criticises its political manifestation that developed to the stage of imperialism regardless of the cultural context in which it was born.
While analysing the Asian policy of Japan’s Monroe Doctrine prior to World War II, we can infer the process changing Japanese perceptions of the Monroe Doctrine among the various political and cultural elites in China. At the beginning of contemporary history – usually set as from 1900 – the Chinese empire became a semi-colony dominated by Japan and the Western powers. From the late Qing dynasty to the Republic of China, from Adm. Li Hongzhang, from Foreign Minister and Prime Minister in pectore, Wu Tingfang, and from Gen. Jiang Jieshi [Chiang Kai-shek] onwards, the basic awareness of many political elites was that China’s territorial integrity depended on the balance of power.
After the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), many Chinese expected – or rather deluded themselves – that Japan would play the role of holding back the European powers. On the contrary, especially as from 1897, the aggression of the European powers in East Asia suddenly intensified. Russia occupied Lushunkuo [Port Arthur, 1898; to Japan from 1904 to 1945]; Germany Qingdao [Tsingtao, 1914], the United Kingdom Weihaiwei [1898-1930] and the United States had already expanded its Monroe Doctrine by creating the Hispanic-American War from scratch (1898) and occupying the Philippines as a window on China.
From 1904 to 1905, the Russo-Japanese War was fought on Chinese soil and a large number of China’s intellectual elites rejoiced over the Japanese victory. It was in that international situation that the vulgate of Japan’s ‘Asianism’ – “Asia for the Asians”, echoing the Monroe Doctrine – provided an apparent temporary collective identity between the two Asian giants.
That situation changed as the main reason was the gradual imbalance in China’s balance of power. Especially during World War I, the European powers – distracted by the unfolding events – reduced their investment of resources, and hence of vital interests, in China. As a result, Japan’s influence suddenly increased and in January 1915 Japan imposed the well-known Twenty-One Demands on China. They were a set of claims made by the Japanese government to special privileges during World War I and would greatly expand Japanese control of China. Japan would retain the former areas that Germany had conquered at the beginning of the war in 1914. It would be strengthened in Manchuria and Southern Mongolia and would play a larger role in railways. The most extreme demands would give Japan a decisive voice in financial, police and government affairs. The last part of them would make China a protectorate of the Rising Sun, thus reducing Western influence. Great Britain and Japan had had a military alliance since 1902 and in 1914 the former asked Japan to enter the war. China published the secret demands and appealed to the United States and Britain. In the final agreement of 1916, Japan relinquished its request for a protectorate, but the Chinese situation remained very severe.
The “May Fourth Movement” of 1919 was, to some extent, a joint anti-imperialist effort made by various factions in China. It grew out of student protests in Beijing on that day. Students gathered in Tiananmen Square to protest against the Chinese government’s weak response to the Treaty of Versailles decision to allow Japan to retain territories in Shandong that had been surrendered to Germany after the siege of Qingdao in 1914. The demonstrations sparked nationwide protests and spurred an upsurge in Chinese nationalism, a shift towards political mobilisation away from traditional intellectual and political elites.
The change in the Chinese elites’ attitude is therefore mainly related to the growth of Japanese power in China. Japan was previously weak; it spoke of an “Asian’ identity and opposed China’s partition by the European powers. But it later strengthened and its behaviour made it clear that it was not fundamentally different from the European powers. It was the essence of Japan’s “Asian Monroe Doctrine”.
It was the writer, journalist and philosopher Liang Qichao (1873-1929) who made the Monroe Doctrine known to the Chinese, besides the visibility of the storytelling brought by American propaganda in the Chinese public during the First World War. After the launch of the CPC-Guomindang cooperation, the Monroe Doctrine became – in most cases – a term with a negative connotation, which meant engaging in a closed circle and not focusing on the overall situation. In the CPC, the Monroe Doctrine was rather studied and discussed to illustrate international affairs, and it was not dealt with within the CPC.
After all, the guerrilla and mobile warfare across borders carried out by the CPC and the National Liberation Army was in itself a way to overcome the Monroe Doctrine, which was typical of warlords in their own territories and areas of influence.
On October 6, 1958, Chairman Mao drafted the Letter to Taiwanese Compatriots (then signed by the Defence Minister, Peng Dehuai), attacking the US military presence in the Western Pacific [from China’s geographical perspective, i.e. the Pacific Ocean that washed the People’s Republic of China]:
“Why did an Eastern Pacific country come to the Western Pacific? The Western Pacific is the Western Pacific people’s Western Pacific, just the same as the Eastern Pacific is the Eastern Pacific people’s Eastern Pacific; this is just common sense, and the United States ought to understand it. There is no war between the People’s Republic of China and the United States; so there is no so-called ceasefire. To talk about a ceasefire where there is no fire, is not it plain nonsense?”
The statement stressed only the regional autonomy of the People’s Republic of China in the Western Pacific and indicated that the United States should not interfere in the affairs of that sea. It did not state, however, that the People’s Republic of China played, or should play, a major role in that sea at all times.
After all, as early as the first cooperation between the CPC and the Guomindang, Chairman Mao only used the term Monroe Doctrine at the “supranational” level. In 1940, in his report The Current Situation and Party Policy, he commented:
“The United States is the Monroe Doctrine plus cosmopolitanism: “Mine is mine, yours is mine”. The United States is not ready to give up its interests in the Atlantic and the Pacific”.
Since the United States was too hands-off, it was easy to offend other powers. Hence, at that time, the People’s Republic of China could take advantage of the contradictions between the imperialist countries, and the Three Worlds Theory was preparing to travel in that direction – i.e. as the ultimate and utmost opponent of the Monroe Doctrine.
Today the contrasts between the People’s Republic of China and the United States in those waters are nothing new, but should be interpreted in history as clashes of opposed geopolitical visions, where the former appeals to international law, while the latter tries to tear it down after the fall of the Pauline katechon, i.e. the Soviet Union.
Cuba Counts On Russia’s Economic Support
Cuba’s Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz, on an official working visit this June, has laid out his country’s plans, soliciting support for countering the United States, respect for its territorial integrity and support for resuscitating the Island’s falling economy. With many obstacles driving up basic cost of living, Cuba is consistently experiencing exodus of its citizens most them exploiting the geographical proximity, and migrating to settle in the United States.
During most of the meetings with Russian officials, Marrero Cruz underlined the necessity to make efforts in strengthening military relations and seek effective ways to boost agricultural exports to the Russian Federation. In addition, the Eurasian market may also open diverse opportunities and beneficial partnerships for Cuba.
Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin indicated, during a meeting with the Cuban delegation in southern coastal city Sochi on May 7, that “Cuba is one of the important partners in Latin America. Our cooperation rests on solid traditions of friendship, solidarity, mutual respect and trust. Together, we are resisting unprecedented sanctions pressure from unfriendly states.”
“The forum ‘Russian-Cuba business dialogue’ organized by our business council was held on the sidelines of the intergovernmental commission,” Titov who also heads the Russian-Cuba business council, also said. “Forty-six Russian companies participated in it. Before the forum our portfolio contained 11 investment projects, while after the forum it already had around 30 projects.
According to the intergovernmental commission for trade, economic and scientific cooperation, which is addressing these tasks of improving aspects of the bilateral relations, Moscow and Havana need to restart cooperation in order to boost trade and investment. In addition, Russia attaches great significance to implementing large-scale projects with Cuba, including those aimed at increasing oil recovery at Cuban fields and upgrading the metallurgical plant in Havana.
“Despite the unfavorable external environment, bilateral trade approx. 60 billion rubles, or more than 20 billion Cuban pesos, last year. The positive dynamic was retained this year, with trade growing nine times in January-April compared to the same period in 2022. I have no doubt that it will keep growing,” Mishustin said.
“We are planning to actively cooperate in tourism,” he said, adding that Aeroflot Group was about to begin regular flights to and from Cuba. This would increase the number of mutual trips between the two countries, and would strengthen business ties and cultural relations.
Giving an additional voice to tourism, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko also said “Cuba is Russia’s key partner in Central America, and it is completely logical that economic relations on all tracks need to be developed. Regular air travel with Cuba is resuming starting on July 1 by the president’s order. The Aeroflot company received a relevant directive.”
“The Aeroflot group will start operating flights to Cuba from July 1. It is a long-awaited event for all tourists because Cuba has always been a place of attraction not only for tourism traffic, but also for business traffic,” Aeroflot – Russian Airlines PJSC director general and board chairman Sergei Alexandrovsky noted.
Rossiya Airline, a member of the Aeroflot Group, will open flights from Moscow to Varadero, Cuba, from July 1. The company plans initially to make two flights per week But a third flight will be added from September 5, according to the airline’s information. The tourist flow from Russia to Cuba may rise to 500,000 people per year.
Marrero Cruz was on his first visit to Russia. Gerardo Penalver Portal was in his delegation that visited Moscow. Russian foreign ministry said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and his visiting Cuban counterpart, Gerardo Penalver Portal, discussed the two countries’ efforts toward building a multipolar world based on the principles of international law.
“The sides reiterated mutual commitment to further strengthening Russian-Cuban cooperation in a wide spectrum of fields in the spirit of strategic partnership,” the statement posted to the website said. According sources, bilateral trade tripled to $452 million in 2022, and it increased ninefold to $137.6 million in the first four months of 2023, compared with the same period 2022.
Official visits to and from both capitals proliferate, Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin visited Cuba in April. Earlier Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov visited Havana. Cuban leader visited Moscow late November 2022. At a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, pledged to continue developing bilateral relations. The delegation also addressed both houses of Russia’s legislature.
Cuba’s has an estimated 12 million population. Around 55,000 people of Russian descent live in Cuba. A 2016 survey shows that 67% of Cubans have a favorable view of Russia, with 8% expressing an unfavorable view. Cuba became dependent on Soviet markets and military aid and was a major ally of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. After Soviet’s collapse, Russia has maintained their diplomatic relations with Cuba.
India: A Strategic Partner or an Unreliable Friend?
The Future of Geopolitics Will Be Decided by 6 Swing States
The world is witnessing a new era of great power competition between the United States and China, with Russia playing a spoiler role. The outcome of this rivalry will shape the global order for decades to come. But the fate of this contest will not be decided by the actions of Washington, Beijing, or Moscow alone. It will also depend on how a group of influential countries in the global south navigate the shifting geopolitical landscape.
These countries are the geopolitical swing states of the 21st century. They are relatively stable and prosperous nations that have their own global agendas independent of the great powers, and the will and capabilities to turn those agendas into realities. They are more demanding, flexible, dynamic, and strategic than they could have been in the 20th century, when they had to choose between alignment or non-alignment with one bloc or another. And they will often choose multi-alignment, a strategy that will make them critical—and sometimes unpredictable—forces in the world’s next stage of globalization, and the next phase of great power competition.
These geopolitical swing states fall into four overlapping categories:
– Countries with a competitive advantage in a critical aspect of global supply chains.
– Countries uniquely suited for nearshoring, offshoring, or friendshoring.
– Countries with a disproportionate amount of capital and willingness to deploy it around the world.
– Countries with developed economies and leaders with global visions that they pursue within certain constraints.
Six countries stand out as exemplars of these categories: Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Indonesia, and Brazil. These countries have more power today than ever before for several reasons: They have more agency, they benefit from regionalization, and they can leverage U.S.-China tensions.
The geopolitical swing states have more agency than ever before because they have grown more confident and capable in pursuing their own interests and values on the global stage. They have developed their own sources of soft and hard power, such as cultural influence, economic clout, military strength, diplomatic networks, and technological innovation. They have also diversified their partnerships and alliances, seeking to balance their relations with both the U.S. and China, as well as other regional and global actors.
Turkey has emerged as a regional powerbroker and a global player in defense, energy, humanitarian aid, and mediation. It has pursued an assertive foreign policy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has sought to expand Turkey’s influence in its neighborhood and beyond. Turkey has intervened militarily in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Somalia; challenged Greece and Cyprus over maritime rights in the Eastern Mediterranean; supported Qatar against a Saudi-led blockade; hosted millions of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan; mediated between Iran and the West; and built close ties with Russia despite being a NATO member.
India has risen as a major economic and strategic power in Asia and the world. It has pursued a multi-aligned foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has sought to enhance India’s role as a leading voice for democracy, development, and diversity. India has deepened its strategic partnership with the U.S., joined the Quad alliance with Japan, Australia, and the U.S., engaged with China on trade and border issues despite tensions; expanded its outreach to Africa and Latin America; invested in connectivity projects in its neighborhood; and championed initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia has transformed its economy and society under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who has sought to diversify Saudi Arabia’s sources of income away from oil dependence, modernize its social norms and institutions, and assert its leadership in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Saudi Arabia has launched an ambitious Vision 2030 reform program, led a military intervention in Yemen against Iranian-backed rebels, normalized relations with Israel, hosted major summits such as the G20, invested heavily in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology, and established strategic partnerships with China, India, and Russia, while maintaining its alliance with the U.S.
The geopolitical swing states have also benefited from regionalization, the process by which regions become more integrated and interdependent economically, politically, and culturally. Regionalization offers opportunities for these countries to enhance their influence and interests in their respective regions, as well as to cooperate with other regional powers on common challenges and opportunities. Regionalization also creates a buffer against the pressures and uncertainties of the global system, allowing these countries to pursue their own models of development and governance.
South Africa has played a pivotal role in advancing regional integration and cooperation in Africa, as well as representing African interests and perspectives on the global stage.
It has been a founding member and a leader of the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It has also participated in peacekeeping and mediation efforts in countries such as Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. South Africa has leveraged its position as the most industrialized and diversified economy in Africa to attract foreign investment and trade, especially from China, India, and the EU.
Indonesia has emerged as a key player in Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific region, as well as a bridge between Asia and the Islamic world. It has been a driving force behind the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership (AASP). It has also engaged in dialogue and cooperation with other regional actors such as China, Japan, India, Australia,
and the U.S. on issues such as maritime security, counterterrorism, climate change, and pandemic response. Indonesia has leveraged its position as the largest economy and the most populous Muslim-majority country in Southeast Asia to promote its vision of a democratic, tolerant, and prosperous region.
Brazil has been a leader in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as a voice for the global south on issues such as trade, environment, and human rights. It has been a founding member and a driving force behind regional organizations such as Mercosur, Unasur, and Celac. It has also engaged in dialogue and cooperation with other regional actors such as the U.S., China, India, and the EU on issues such as energy security, infrastructure development, and social inclusion. Brazil has leveraged its position as the largest economy and the most populous country in Latin America to advance its interests and values in the region and beyond.
The geopolitical swing states have also gained more leverage in the global system by exploiting the opportunities and challenges created by U.S.-China competition. They have sought to maximize their benefits from both sides, while minimizing their costs and risks. They have also tried to shape the rules and norms of the emerging global order, according to their own preferences and principles. They have not hesitated to challenge or defy either of the great powers, when they perceive their interests or values are threatened or violated.
Turkey has sought to balance its relations with both the U.S. and China, while pursuing its own strategic autonomy. It has maintained its NATO membership and cooperation with the U.S. on issues such as counterterrorism, Afghanistan, and Iran, while also resisting U.S. pressure on issues such as human rights, democracy, and Syria. It has also expanded its economic ties with China, especially under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while also expressing concern over China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Turkey has also defied both the U.S. and China by acquiring Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems, despite facing sanctions and criticism from both sides.
India has deepened its strategic partnership with the U.S., especially under the Quad framework, while also maintaining its engagement with China on trade and border issues, despite tensions. It has welcomed U.S. support for its bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, its membership in multilateral export control regimes, and its role as a net security provider in the Indo-Pacific region. It has also increased its trade with China, especially in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, electronics, and renewable energy, while also pushing back against China’s assertiveness along their disputed border, where a deadly clash occurred in 2020. India has also defied both the U.S. and China by joining RCEP, despite U.S. withdrawal from the pact and China’s dominance in it.
Saudi Arabia has maintained its alliance with the U.S., especially on security and energy issues, while also diversifying its relations with China on economic and technological issues. It has relied on U.S. support for its military intervention in Yemen, its confrontation with Iran, and its normalization with Israel, while also facing U.S. pressure on issues such as human rights, democracy, and nuclear proliferation. It has also increased its investment in China, especially under the BRI framework, while also seeking Chinese cooperation on issues such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Saudi Arabia has also defied both the U.S. and China by pursuing its own nuclear program, despite U.S. opposition and Chinese competition.
The rise of these geopolitical swing states will have significant implications for the global order and the great power competition.
The global order will become more multipolar and complex, as these countries will shape the rules and norms of the emerging system according to their own preferences and principles. They will not accept a binary choice between the U.S. and China, but will seek to preserve their strategic autonomy and flexibility. They will also demand more voice and representation in global institutions and forums, such as the U.N., the IMF, the WTO, and the G20.
The great power competition will become more nuanced and dynamic, as these countries will leverage their relations with both the U.S. and China to maximize their benefits and minimize their costs and risks. They will also exploit the opportunities and challenges created by U.S.-China rivalry to advance their own interests and values. They will not hesitate to challenge or defy either of the great powers, when they perceive their interests or values are threatened or violated.
The global challenges and opportunities will require more cooperation and coordination among these countries and the great powers, as these countries will play a key role in addressing issues such as climate change, pandemic response, cyber security, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, trade, development, and human rights. They will also offer new markets, sources of innovation, and partners for cooperation to both the U.S. and China.
The geopolitical swing states of Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Indonesia, and Brazil are the middle powers of the global south that will decide the future of geopolitics. They have more agency, they benefit from regionalization, and they can leverage U.S.-China tensions. They have their own global agendas independent of the great powers, and the will and capabilities to turn those agendas into realities. They are more demanding, flexible, dynamic, and strategic than they could have been in the 20th century. And they will often choose multi-alignment, a strategy that will make them critical—and sometimes unpredictable—forces in the world’s next stage of globalization, and the next phase of great power competition. The U.S., China, and Russia should not take these countries for granted or ignore their interests and values. They should engage them with respect and pragmatism, seeking areas of convergence and managing areas of divergence. They should also recognize that these countries are not passive bystanders or pawns in their rivalry, but active players and partners in shaping the global order. The geopolitical swing states should not be complacent or reckless in their actions. They should be aware of the risks and responsibilities that come with their power and influence. They should also be constructive and responsible in their contributions to the global order. They should not only pursue their own interests and values, but also uphold the common interests and values of humanity.
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