Tuesday 19 Jan 2021 | 16:00 | SYDNEY
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Europe

A very British crisis

Returning to the country of one’s birth is a common experience for many Australians. In the more than 45 years since I first arrived in Australia, though, I have never been more astounded and appalled by what has happened to Britain in my absence, or more grateful that I no longer live there. I

She won’t be right with “Australian-style” Brexit

As if 2020 has not been challenging enough, the United Kingdom is currently facing the prospect of ending its Brexit transition period on 31 December without a trade deal with the European Union. As post-Brexit negotiations on a UK–EU deal have continued without a breakthrough, the claim that the

Learning from an island in a pandemic

Through a quirk in circumstances, I presently find myself sheltering from the pandemic in Iceland. I wouldn’t consider myself stranded like other overseas Australians. I am here due to personal necessity and because the country is a relatively safe place. While the recent success of my home city

Russia and China team up on the Indian Ocean

Two recent naval exercises demonstrate the potential for Russia-China cooperation in the Indian Ocean, and how the two present a much greater threat to a continued US role and influence in the region than either would individually. Last year, South Africa hosted a maritime exercise with

Artefacts paving France’s return to Africa

In November, the French Senate unanimously voted to return a small selection of pre-colonial African artefacts to Benin and Senegal that were looted by colonial forces. Benin will receive 26 artefacts from the former Kingdom of Dahomey, while Senegal will receive a sword and scabbard belonging to a

The UK’s unwelcome foreign aid cut

The recent move to cut billions of pounds from the United Kingdom’s foreign aid budget was long feared by advocates. As result, one minister has flagged her resignation, and others have made threats to cross the floor. The reduction of the UK’s aid spend from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national

Russia’s red star in the Red Sea

While the world’s attention in recent weeks has been firmly fixed on the United States’ presidential race, Russia under Vladimir Putin has made a number of surprising moves. One was a swift deployment of its peacekeepers to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, putting a stop for now to a bloody

The outlines of a European policy on the Indo-Pacific

The Netherlands recently published its first official strategy paper for the Indo-Pacific, just ten weeks after Germany had brought out its own. The two countries are now part of a club of three in Europe, after France led the way in 2018. In the diplomatic world, this feels like lightning speed

A Biden presidency and US-Russia relations

Moscow’s muted reaction to Joe Biden’s election victory is unsurprising, and speaks volumes. The Kremlin is likely bracing itself for more confrontation with Washington, as US policy towards Russia hardens. That’s saying something. Since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and revelations

Nagorno-Karabakh: Peace – for now

Six weeks of renewed fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh ended last week after Russia brokered a trilateral agreement with the warring parties. Baku is trumpeting its victory on the field of battle and at the negotiating table, while Yerevan is

Why Russia will not return the Kuril Islands to Japan

The decades-old dispute between Russia and Japan over the status of the Kuril Islands is far from over. Tokyo, which refers to the islands as the Northern Territories, still insists on a peace treaty with Moscow that would result in Russia’s return of at least two out of four islands to Japan,

Jihadist attacks in Nice: The Tunisian connection

In the last five years, the French city of Nice has been targeted twice by jihadist terrorism. Both times the perpetrators were young men from Tunisia, the smallest country in North Africa, situated between Algeria and Libya. The first incident came on Bastille Day in 2016, when an attacker

Russia’s troubled periphery

Unrest is roiling Russia’s near abroad, from its western flanks in Europe to the “’Stans” of Central Asia on China’s doorstep. For all their local particulars, these nations share a common historical legacy which continues to undermine stability in various ways.   In Belarus,

Francis Fukuyama in Minsk

Thirty years ago, Francis Fukuyama sprang to international prominence by suggesting that history might be at an end. Ever since, lesser academic lights have queued up to tell anyone who would listen why he was wrong. Less thought has been given, however, to what Fukuyama was actually right about,

Trump’s gambit in the Balkans

Twenty-five years after brokering the Dayton Peace Accords, which effectively ended the Bosnian conflict, Europe’s bloodiest war since the Second World War, Washington is once again acting as a de facto security guarantor in the Western Balkans. This comes despite more than seven years of (ongoing

Protests and power struggles in Russia’s Far East

Rallies in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Khabarovsk have been overshadowed by the protests in Belarus, as well as the alleged poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Although anti-Kremlin protesters in the city of 600,000 still hold weekly demonstrations, demanding Russian authorities return

Islamic State’s new battleground – the courts

In the aftermath of Islamic State’s defeat, it was anticipated that fighters and other members of the group would appeal to the very court system of a liberal democracy whose laws they rejected and whose way of ordering society they sought to supplant when they joined the terrorist group. And in

Pandemic democracy

How will Covid-19 affect electoral democracy in Australia and around the world? The pandemic has starkly revealed two fundamental aspects of successful democracy: the extent of a given society’s trust between its citizens and their government, and the capacity of those same governments to

How Russia benefited from Belarus’s turmoil

Mass protests and nationwide strikes in Belarus did not result in the overthrow of President Alexander Lukashenko, but they have pushed the Eastern European country deeper into Russia’s geopolitical orbit. Moscow and Minsk have reportedly agreed on resuming Russia’s energy supplies to Belarus,

A diplomatic breakdown over “snapback” tests the UN

After the United States experienced a rebuff at the United Nations last week – with almost the entire membership of the Security Council rejecting its attempt to re-impose UN sanctions on Iran – US officials warned that the dispute could lead to a major crisis in the Council, damaging the

Why Navalny matters

European leaders and institutions reacted promptly to the shocking plight of the Russian pro-democracy campaigner Aleksei Navalny, as he lay in a coma in an Omsk hospital and local officials tried to obstruct his evacuation to Germany. The same could not be said of Vladimir Putin. During the two

Europe, united in recovery – for now

It took four days and a “historical” summit for the heads of states and governments of Europe to finally agree on the recovery plan that should help the European Union face the devastating consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Celebrated by a recovery in local stocks, the agreement last week

Five Eyes: Blurring the lines between intelligence and policy

The public aura around the decades-old “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing partnership between Australia, the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand has expanded rapidly since the name was first publicly acknowledged. In 2014, an Australian prime minister publicly referred to the “Five Eyes” for the

Turkey: Not a team player

Turkey is increasingly becoming the piece of the NATO puzzle that just won’t fit. President Recep Erdoğan’s particular brand of Turkish nationalist populism has earned him criticism from most NATO members at one time or another. Turkey’s plans for European Union membership seem increasingly

Is Huawei in the UK a canary in the coalmine?

It is not a coincidence that Britain’s turnaround on using Huawei for its 5G infrastructure happened at the height of the pandemic. Covid-19 brutally brought back the realisation that international value chains are only as strong as their weakest link. This new awareness made plain that

The obstacles to Syrian aid

On Saturday last week, following weeks of lobbying by humanitarian agencies and difficult diplomatic negotiations, the UN Security Council renewed its authorisation for the UN and its partners to provide humanitarian assistance in north-western Syria from across the Turkish border. The final

Australia’s Russia problem (and how to solve it)

The 2020 Defence Strategic Update goes some way to preparing Australia to compete in a new multipolar, Indo-Pacific–anchored strategic environment. But a notable absence from the document is Russia. This matters. Australians too often speak of Moscow’s irrelevance and weakness since the end of

Keeping the Kremlin in the Kelvinator

One effect of Australia’s more assertive posture on the People’s Republic of China has been to try to split off Beijing’s current and potential partners. This thinking was apparently behind Liberal MP Dave Sharma’s recent suggestion that Australia should back Russia’s participation in the

Book review: The making of Putin’s Russia

Book Review: Catherine Belton, Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West (HarperCollins, 2020) Last week, the Russian people voted to approve a constitutional amendment that resets the count on presidential term limits. President Vladimir Putin served his first

Finding compromise in the Chagos Islands saga

The Chagos Archipelago of 54 islands, formerly administered as a dependency of the British Colony of Mauritius, was excised from Mauritius by the UK in 1965, three years before independence. It was renamed the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), and its inhabitants (about 1500 people) were

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