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Noticed and Noted

Chinese Concerns

Preparations are being made for the 19th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Beijing and the anticipated reconfirmation of General Secretary Xi Jinping. Those supporting him point to his steady spread of the People’s Republic’s influence around the world, especially in Africa, advancing the Belt & Road infrastructure project, asserting sovereignty in the East and South China Seas, widening leadership of the CCP, the anti-corruption campaign, increased social management of the people of China, and continuing economic growth. But all is not well. Xi is seizing too much power for himself ─ “the core of leadership” ─ has used disciplinary and frugality actions to destroy rival networks, appears to be avoiding preparing, much less designating someone to succeed him, tightening regimentation of people, failing to reach acceptance or conciliation with the native population of Tibet and Xinjiang. Abroad, aside from generally cordial receptions in Europe, he is criticized for being unable or unwilling to restrain North Korea nuclear efforts, growing control of the internet and social media, interfering with the rights of Hong Kong voters, condoning unseemly and inhuman harassment of mourners of Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo who died in prison on 13 July after spending more than a decade in prison for asking for political reform and keeping his wife under unofficial house arrest.

‘Putting America first is simply wrongheaded’

A Commentary

In an opinion piece former Secretary of State Colin Powell took issue with the president’s approach to diplomacy and his proposal to cut the budget of the Department of State and foreign aid programs by about 30 percent. The former general noted that he had “learned plenty about war on the battlefield, but I learned even more about the importance of finding peace.” Powell severely criticizes “The idea that putting Americans ‘first’ requires a withdrawal from the world is simply wrongheaded, because a retreat would achieve exactly the opposite for our citizens… Indeed, we are strongest when the face of America isn’t only a soldier carrying a gun but also a diplomat negotiating peace, a Peace Corps volunteer bringing clean water to a village or a relief worker stepping of a cargo plane as floodwaters rise…. With 95 percent of the world’s consumers outside our borders, it’s not ‘America First’ to surrender the field to an ambitious China rapidly expanding its influence, building highways and railroads across Africa and Asia.” Powell emphasizes “America is great when we’re the country that the world admires, a beacon of hope and a principled people who are generous, fair and caring. That’s the American way.”

Colin Powell: Leadership Isn’t Free. New York NY: The New York Times, 25 May 2017. (The author served as National Security Advisor 1987-1989, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 1989-1993, and  Secretary of State 2001-2005.)


G7 and NATO members disappointed

Most participants of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Meeting of Heads of State and Government in Brussels on 25 May and the Group of Seven (G7) Summit meeting in Taormina, Italy on 26-27 May were sorely disappointed by the lack of community spirit and contribution by the new US president. So much so that soon afterwards the German chancellor declared that dependence on the US has become uncertain and that Europe better rely on itself.


BHP on the move worries secular and Muslim Indians

Attention stays fixed on the continuing influence and political strength of the governing Hindu nationalistic Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). After recent gains in state elections and installation of an extremist religious leader as chief minister in Uttar Pradesh, secular and Muslim opponents are worried not only that the country may move farther right but that religious strife will again become more commonplace. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is credited with widening economic development and advocating modernization but is not disassociating himself from some of his militant Hindu supporters.


Ominous Developments

 The new Administration in Washington is taking the country closer to domestic social and international  influence setbacks with its diplomatic, economic, fiscal, and trade policies to the detriment of the nation and especially of  lower income and middle class Americans.

 In France, about to elect a new president on 23 April and 7 May, its pro-European position and support for the North Atlantic Alliance could be shattered if Ms. Marine Le Pen of the reactionary anti-foreigner National Front (FN) should win the presidency.


 In Turkey, an affirmative vote in the referendum on 16 April on proposed constitu-tional changes would give the autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan dictatorial control over government, courts and parliament. After having pursued for years placing himself at the head of an Islamic state at the expense of reopening fights with Turkey’s Kurdish minority, attacking and insulting the leaders of Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the European Union, and arresting or firing some 100,000 of its own citizens while committing an ever growing number of violations of human and political rights, he might be close to achieving his goal. There are, however, authoritative predictions that holding the ‘super-presidency’ will place both him and the nation in peril from ensuing violent reaction.




The government of the United Kingdom is carrying out the wish of the Little Englanders after having given formal notice on 29 March to the European Union about leaving. Meanwhile a growing number of influential business leaders, economists, and politicians as well as Northern Ireland and Scotland are advancing their concerns, some calling it “a willful act of self-destruction.” As it turns out, the prime minister’s plan of quickly elevating the kingdom to an influential and rewarding position in the world will be slowed down considerably by the decision of the European Union of 31 March — first negotiations about withdrawal and retaining rights of EU citizens and settling financial accounts, then talks about trade and benefitting from the European common market.

March 2017


The Future of the West: Downfall or Comeback?

Munich Security Conference 2017

 “What would [the conference’s founder’s] generation say if they saw our world today? I fear that much about it would be all-too-familiar to them, and they would be alarmed by it.

 They would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood, and race, and sectarianism.

 They would be alarmed by the hardening resentment we see toward immigrants, and refugees, and minority groups, especially Muslims.

 They would be alarmed by the growing inability, and even unwillingness, to separate truth from lies.

 They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent. 

 But what would alarm them most, I think, is a sense that many of our peoples, including in my own country, are giving up on the West ... that they see it as a bad deal that we may be better off without ... and that while Western nations still have the power to maintain our world order, it is unclear whether we have the will. “

 US Senator John S. McCain III at the

2017 Munich Security Conference (MSC), 17 February 2017.


Obstacle noted on Moldova’s path to Europe

A situation of concern may be developing next to Romania and Ukraine. On 13 November, Igor Dodon, a pro-Russian president was elected. The country, a former republic of the Soviet Union, is already split when in August 1991 the eastern, predominantly Russian part declared its independence as the Transdniestrian Moldovan Republic (TMR), backed up by Russian military forces that had never left. The majority of the inhabitants  are Moldovans who speak Romanian and recognize their cultural identity but so far have decided to remain separate. Nevertheless, past governments have pursued an opening to the European Union (EU) and have entered into an association agreement. Now the move into the union is stagnating and the new president is not only opposing partnership but wants to restore close relations with Russia while weakening any links to the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

January 2017


Watching the US

There is growing cause for concern about its future course. Not only domestically after the “Election exposed the dark presence, misogyny and anti-immigrant appeals,” as a major US labor leader noted but also abroad. Disregarding what the new president has uttered before but just the proposed selection of key personnel and their known attitudes, the heavy presence of  generals — there are already references to the ‘American junta — their views, goals, associations are reinforcing unease.  Uncertainty is caused in part by utterances overblown in press reports during the election campaign and later denied, changed and often just forgotten as well as the continuing flow of random twitter tweets. The inexperience of the incoming president in diplomatic and government affairs has added anxiety whether or how the US role and its policies will shift. Of critical importance could be steps to boost nuclear arms to the detriment of moving toward further limiting their spread. Part of the same threat to humanity could be deliberate damaging of efforts to delay or turn around the change of climate.

December 2016


An American Tragedy’

“The electorate has, in its plurality, decided to live in Trump’s world.

In the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American Republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President – a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit – and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than repulsion and profound anxiety. “

Selected from The New Yorker newsletter, by David Remnick,

9 November 2016, 02:40 AM

China has no historic rights in the South China Sea. In a long expected finding on China’s claims, released on 12 July, the panel of five judges of the Court for Arbitration at The Hague found the Chinese position without legal basis and contrary to United Nations convention, reported Reuters. Specifically, the tribunal rejected claims to economic rights within the ‘nine-dash line’  and found that Chinese law enforcement patrols had risked colliding with Philippine fishing vessels in parts of the sea and caused irreparable damage to coral reefs with construction work. The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it neither accepts nor recognizes the award which is null and void and has no binding force, noted Xinhua. Cambodia and a number of African states over which China has some economic leverage also supported China’s position that any resolution of claims in the South China Sea should be settled bilaterally without the interference of outsiders, such as the United States of America.

 Efforts by the Turkish president to gain total control of government and nation, prosecution of critics, and creeping religious influence by the governing party in a secular state were among reasons for part of the Turkey’s military to launch an unsuccessful coup d’état on 15 July. Most of the action centered on capital and Istanbul but failed when the president was able to convince a television station that he was alive and to gain public support and because only some of the military leaders supported the takeover.

 No. 553, July 2016

European Union (EU)

United Kingdom votes to leave the Union

The United Kingdom conducted a popular referendum on the European Union (EU) and the UK on 23 June in which 71.8 percent of eligible voters took part. BBC called it the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election between Conservative John Mayor and Neil Kinnock of the Labour party.

 The referendum of “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” resulted in support of leaving by 17.4 million or 51.9 percent of votes cast against staying in the EU by 16.1 million or 48.1 percent.  In England and Wales, support for leaving was highest while Northern Ireland Scotland voted for staying:

     England: 53.4 percent for leaving, 46.6 percent for staying;

     Wales: 52.5 percent for leaving, 47.5 percent for staying;

     Northern Ireland: 55.8 percent for staying, 44.2 percent for leaving; and

     Scotland: 62 percent for staying, 38 percent for leaving.                                                

The referendum was vigorously pushed by Prime Minister David Cameron and approved by the House of Commons on 28 May 2015 and the House of Lords on 14 December 2015 under the  European Union Referendum Act 2015. After referendum results were announced, the prime minister announced his resignation.

The European Union is reacting by favoring a quick separation. In Scotland, support for independence and hope of staying in the EU is growing, and even in England a drive for petitioning Parliament to reconsider leaving quickly gathered strength within a few days of the referendum. To be formally enacted, the UK must invoke Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty of 2009. Since the referendum was advisory and not mandatory, it is not legally binding. If early elections should be called, a different government could take the unlikely decision not to pursue the course approved by a majority of voters.




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