Welcome to the second piece of our series on 'The World in Perspective'.
At the beginning of this year, we offered our humble opinions on global issues we thought would dominate international discuss, the world over.
We also promised to review the position at the end of the first half of 2018. The first six months of 2018 are virtually over, and it will be interesting to see how we fared with our opinions and predictions of January 2018.
The White House never left the stage of international politics discussion. We have moved from “Fire and Fury”, and derogatory comments about less privileged countries, to a series of ‘musical chairs’ amongst top aides to the President. This claimed the heads of the Secretary of State, National Security Adviser (Again), Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Deputy Director of the FBI, and numerous Presidential Aides. All of whom lost their jobs over the last quarter of the year. The staff turnover at this White House is arguably the highest so far.
As mentioned at the beginning of the year, controversy is never far from this White House, and this quarter, we have experienced controversies from DACA, “Fake News” claims, the on going Russian probe, and more recently, the issue of undocumented illegal immigrants and the separation of minors from their parents, to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the U.S, and the imposition of huge tariffs on Chinese imports into the U.S (which has now sparked a tit-for-tat situation with China), Tariffs have also been imposed on goods from typical US allies, Canada, and the EU. This has led to retaliations in kind from these countries, imposing huge tariffs of their own on goods they import from the US, particularly those produced in regions in the US that have consistently backed President Trump
On a positive note, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, as the White House also made some political gains, a new tax bill passed through congress, and also positive news are coming out of the Korean Peninsula on denuclearization of the region, after the highly historical summit between President Trump and Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.
Going into the second half of the year, we would expect more shakeups in the White House, the Russian probe will likely indict more Presidential aides while the President will remain largely unscathed. The trade war with China, Canada and EU will be resolved by sensible negotiations and the White House will probably make moves to appease Russia and President Putin.
In our first write up, we did suggest that North Korea’s actions at the time might be geared towards having direct talks with the U.S. This has proven to be correct, as the President of the United States of America and the Supreme Leader of North Korea met for a historic summit, aimed at achieving the denuclearization of North Korean and peace in the Korean Peninsula. Our expectation is that North Korea will eventually come with a large shopping list for the West, in exchange for suspending their nuclear program. Watch this space!
Still in Asia, President Xi Jinping of China, was re-elected Chinese President. The Chinese legislature also eliminated term limits, effectively positioning him to rule for life. This is a clear endorsement of the 64 year old’s economic policies, which have prospered the citizens of the country, and enshrined the country’s position as a world economic power.
In Europe, the Brexit issue is trudging along slowly but surely, and the issue of the Irish border on Brexit seems to be getting a resolution. However, an equally serious situation in Europe, was the stand off between the United Kingdom and Russia, over the nerve gas attack on a former Russian double agent and his daughter resident in the U.K. This has led to a rash of diplomatic expulsions on both sides, and even prominent Russian Citizens, residing in the U.K are not immune, just ask Roman Abramovich. From all indications, the UK has attracted the sympathy of the generality of the diplomatic community, with over twenty other countries expelling Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK. It will be interesting to see how the crisis is eventually resolved; particularly with the Russian threat at the recent United Nations Security Council meeting, that the U.K was ‘playing with fire.’ However, our belief is that we shall not be experiencing Russian linked attempted assassinations for the foreseeable future, as this event has generated a lot of unpleasant attention for the country.
Another contending issue for European governments now is that of illegal and largely unwanted immigrants. They have been arriving in droves at the shores of European countries, particularly those that border the Mediterranean. This is particularly troubling, and is giving rise to increased populist sentiments across Europe. Italy’s new government is populist and anti-immigrants. Angela Merkel’s coalition government in Germany is also under threat as a result of her largely pro-immigration stance.
Russia re-elected President Putin for another 5 year term as President. Under him, the country has re-emerged as a true world power, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia is asserting itself as a major player in conflict resolution in some of the world’s troubled regions, particularly in Syria and Iraq, even at the risk of military confrontation with the United States. In the West however, the Kremlin is constantly being linked with election meddling, and assassinations of Its citizens not in the good books of the Putin government.
The country also launched a new range of intercontinental ballistic missiles with unlimited range, which could potentially trigger off a new arms race with the west. President Putin has indeed transformed the country from the Soviet era decay, and it remains to be seen how far he goes.
Russia is presently hosting the on going Soccer World Cup tournament, and despite previous concerns over Xenophobic issues, the first week of the tournament has been largely successful.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is basking in his popularity, and recently won a high-stakes election that will ensure he tightens his grip of power, having ruled for 15 years.
In African, our assessments of Zimbabwe, and South Africa, were pretty much accurate. In Zimbabwe, President Mnangagwe has been singing the right tunes, trying to attract much needed foreign investments, and he recently embarked on his first foreign trip as President; his trip to China, to attract investments in Agriculture and infrastructure development promises to be successful. While Zimbabwe will attract a lot attention from the Chinese and probably Russians, We however predict that the handling of the next round of elections in the country will determine whether or not Zimbabwe gets similar attention from West European and American Governments on investment opportunities.
In The Republic of South Africa, the inevitable happened sooner than expected; President Zuma fell from grace as we predicted. He is facing trial for corruption, but we doubt if any convictions will follow. However, the election of Mr Ramaphosa seems to be doing the magic, as confidence in Government has resulted in the currency recording gains against the greenback.
As predicted, Egypt did carry out Presidential elections, with overwhelming victory for the incumbent Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
The jury is still out on the APC government in Nigeria, and not much has changed from our projections at the beginning of the year, as the economy, Fulani herdsmen and the upcoming elections of 2019 remain the talking points for Nigerians.
However, the recent decision to make June 12, a national holiday (democracy day), and the conferment of National honors on Chief MKO Abiola, Amb. Babagana Kingibe and Chief Gani Fawehinmi, will definitely not harm the Party’s chances of winning at the polls in 2019.
In the Middle East, not much has changed politically from our earlier assessment, however in Saudi Arabia, giant strides were made towards gender equality by allowing female drivers in the country effective June 24, 2018. The Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman is also actively driving the country’s Vision 2030, where basically the country plans to drastically reduce dependence on oil, and diversify the country’s economy by developing other public service sectors like tourism, education, recreation and health. We shall keep you posted.
Terence Mac Arthur