Wednesday 08 Dec 2021 | 19:38 | SYDNEY
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Europe

Twenty years of BRICS

It is 20 years since Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill invented the BRIC economic grouping – Brazil, Russia, India and China – with South Africa added later to make up the BRICS. He celebrated this anniversary with a self-congratulatory article in the Financial Times, expressing his

Russia, more than China, leaves India with a dilemma

Ukraine and Taiwan are now the major focal points in the geopolitical arena, testing the diplomacy of the United States but also other nations – India as much as any. Where India-China relations have soured in recent years, in some ways making India’s response to the Taiwan issue more

The Kremlin may be tiring of the impasse in eastern Ukraine

Reports this month of a sizeable recent build-up of Russian military forces around Ukraine’s borders have aroused fears in Kiev and Western capitals of impending Russian military action in Ukraine.  Emphasising Washington’s “serious concerns”, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

The revenge of the Scholzomat

“Today is essentially Christmas and a birthday in one for you, and yet you seem about as euphoric as an English butler at teatime,” remarked an astonished television interviewer to Olaf Scholz on the evening of his election as mayor of Hamburg in 2011. It was a characteristic performance by the

A brewing crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Renewed threats to internal political stability are raising alarm bells for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, only 26 years after the end of the Bosnian war. The memory of the 1992–95 conflict lingers – a conflict driven by ethnic and political tensions, which claimed the lives of 100,000

Sinking trust

Last week in Australia news headlines brimmed with emotive accusations about a betrayal of trust levied against Prime Minister Scott Morrison. French President Emmanuel Macron had already said Australia’s decision to scupper the $90 billion submarine deal “broke the relationship of trust between

Arms control is not just about arms

Relations between Russian and the United States have been rocky since the 2014 Crimean crisis. Washington imposed various sanctions on the Kremlin in the aftermath of the annexation, accusing it of violating Ukrainian sovereignty. US charges of Russian interferences in the 2016 and 2020 elections

Is Russia finally getting serious on climate change?

At last month’s annual Valdai forum in Russia, President Vladimir Putin said it was “impossible” to deny climate change when disasters had become “almost a norm”.  Acknowledging the reality and hazards of climate change is a big change for Russia’s leader.  But how

China’s education diplomacy in Central Asia

Once upon a time, parents in Central Asia sent their children to Moscow or St Petersburg for higher education. Now, some of them are opting for China instead. China has become an increasingly popular destination for many Central Asian students after Russia – meaning Chinese-educated Kazak and

AUKUS: Why Beijing didn’t go ballistic

China was expected to be furious about the recently signed AUKUS security pact. After all, it is generally believed that the deal to provide Australia with technology to build nuclear submarines and the associated cooperation with the United States and United Kingdom amounts to a significant

Subs: Australia’s reputation overboard

The prevailing view in Australia of the momentous submarines imbroglio seems to have become that the $90-billion mega deal with the French – friend, ally and partner in the Indo-Pacific – was scrapped for a combination of contractual, operational and geopolitical reasons. Australia, so this

Germany and Europe: “Ampel” time for reform

It’s coalition time in Germany. At the 26 September election, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), led by the current Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, emerged as the largest party, with 25.7 per cent of the vote. Everything now points to a Scholz-led government, in combination with the liberal

In defence of AUKUS

When Barack Obama announced the rebalance to Asia in 2011, he also revealed the rotational deployment of US Marines to Darwin. In the intervening decade, however, additional changes to US regional posture have been few and far between. As a result, leading US defence expert Michèle Flournoy has

Deciding Germany’s next direction in the world

With Germany’s federal elections now complete, Social Democrat candidate Olaf Scholz is emerging as most likely to take over from Angela Merkel as Chancellor. Preliminary results show his party gained 25.7 percent of votes, beating Armin Laschet’s Christian Democrats by just 1.6 percent, meaning

Dankeschön Frau Merkel

Angela Merkel had already been Chancellor for about six months when I commenced as Australian Ambassador to Germany in April 2006. Her tenure as Germany’s head of government has seen four further Australian heads of mission take up residence in Berlin, and the Australian prime ministership change

AUKUS: France’s strategic outcry

Last week Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom announced a new security partnership (AUKUS) and, in the process, put an end to the Attack class submarine program negotiated by France and Australia in 2016. After calling the decision “a stab in the back”, French Foreign Minister

AUKUS and the CPTPP: It’s all about China

China’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) just hours after announcement of the new tripartite AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom and United States) security partnership may – or may not – have been coincidental.

China – a lonely superpower

As the United States, United Kingdom and Australia move to form a new AUKUS grouping, various reports have emerged of a “new Quad” led by China and featuring Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Iran’s imminent admission to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), and plans for the four countries to

Sunk! France cries outrage over snubbed subs

The French word déception means disappointment rather than deception, making it one of the infamous “false friends” the French language abounds in for English speakers trying to learn it. But when Naval Group, the French company that just lost what has been described in France as “

Europe and the South China Sea 

In the 16th century the Portuguese were the first Europeans to navigate the South China Sea and lay eyes upon the thousands of islands and reefs that lay in these waters. Long years have passed since the days in which European navies played a major role in the seas of Asia. However, in recent years

Lukashenko running on empty

Belarusian autocrat Alexander Lukashenko is under pressure and increasingly isolated. That makes him more dangerous. And it poses challenges, as well as opportunities, for his only ally, Russia. In August 2020, mass public protests calling for political change engulfed Belarus. The

Europe turns away from asylum-seekers

Lapped by clear waters, Chios is one of five main islands wedged in the northern Aegean Sea, a stone’s throw from Turkey. Seen from the plane, the island’s interior is dotted with quaint olive groves and walled medieval villages. On the jagged coastline stone watchtowers perch facing out to sea

UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt – not just for the good times

The United Kingdom’s proposed “tilt” to the Indo-Pacific was met with plenty of scepticism, including from this author, when it was unveiled in March as part of a broader Integrated Review of defence and foreign policy. Politicians and foreign policy analysts tend to obsess about

Germany’s federal election: choose any colour you like

Pizza, kiwi, traffic light, Jamaica, Kenya or Germany? This curious spectrum of possibilities currently tantalises and torments German minds. Based on the trademark colours of the country’s mainstay political parties, it refers to the bewildering constellation of potential coalitions on offer

Afghanistan: Russia faces its own risks and uncertainty

The American withdrawal from Afghanistan offers some opportunities to Russia – but exposes it to greater uncertainty and risk. Russia has long been ambivalent about the US/NATO force presence in Afghanistan. On the one hand, Moscow recognised, and valued, the stabilising role they played in the

Russia and Vietnam: An alliance of convenience

Russia is one of the biggest suppliers of weapons to Southeast Asia, with Vietnam alone a major customer for Russia’s arms. While it is estimated that throughout the 1980s Moscow had provided Vietnam with an average of US$1 billion annually in military assistance and another US$1 billion annually

Why China and North Korea decided to renew a 60-year-old treaty

Sixty years have passed since the China-North Korea Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance was signed on 11 July 1961. On the anniversary this month, China’s President Xi Jinping and North Korean chairman Kim Jong-un pledged to renew the Treaty for another 20 years, as China and

Merkel and beyond

She was wading through debris left by catastrophic floods in the west of Germany. Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel had, last week, come to assess the damage and promise help to survivors. So, too, had all three candidates in the race to succeed Germany’s long-serving leader after the federal

Russia’s National Security Strategy: Same book, new cover

“The weak get beaten,” declared Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2004 after the Beslan tragedy. Russia’s recently-unveiled new National Security Strategy bears the stamp of Putin’s world view. It is not a revolutionary document, but builds on familiar themes identified in its 2015

Ukraine: Balancing China and the rest

Ukraine is attempting to improve its relations with China after the nation’s authorities, allegedly pressured by the United States, decided to halt the takeover of a local aircraft engine manufacturer by a Chinese company. Ukraine is typically seen as country inside a Western sphere of

Macron’s right-wing gamble

On a recent Saturday afternoon in Paris, thousands of protesters gathered at the Place de Clichy in the north west of the city in one of 140 so-called “Liberty Marches” across France that day in a statement against a perceived lurch to the right by mainstream politicians, especially President

Australia sweeps the table in the UK trade deal

Australian trade negotiators often enter talks with difficult demands and a comparatively weak hand. Agriculture, where they seek concessions from the other side, is politically sensitive meaning they are asking their counterparts to do what is hard. In exchange, they have little to offer because

Believing Biden

At the conclusion of US President Joe Biden’s one-week visit across the continent and to the United Kingdom, Europeans appear to believe in the need to push back against the authoritarian China of Xi Jinping – a faith evident despite their mutual economic interests with Beijing along with a fear

Economic diplomacy: Trade deals for a fast-growing family

Worker vs worker vs student Almost five million Kiwis have always been at least cousins. And Scott Morrison’s distinctive contribution to regional security has been his embrace of about 10 million other islanders as “our Pacific family”. But in a week of rhetoric about international

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