Here are some interesting stories from the morning of today, Tuesday, March 28, with some commentary:
Brexit will be triggered tomorrow. As The Atlantic reports: “At 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, Sir Tim Barrow, the U.K.’s permanent representative to the EU, will hand-deliver a letter from British Prime Minister Theresa May to the office of European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels, officially notifying the European Union of the U.K.’s intention to leave the 60-year-old bloc.” Anything could still happen in the next 24 hours, but it looks like Britain will actually begin the process of leaving the EU, despite the best efforts of many, including Tony Blair, to get the British to reverse course. I believe this is a good opportunity for Britain to spread its wings beyond Europe, a focus on which has narrowed Britain’s formerly global horizons, and regain a widely focus. Britain should focus, in particular, on enhancing ties with the Commonwealth nations, and the main Anglophone nations; perhaps, over time, a sort of Anglosphere grouping or alliance of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand can emerge (these countries are already very close to one another and form an intelligence alliance, “The Five Eyes”). In related news…
Scotland’s Parliament backs another Independence Referendum. As reported by the BBC today: “MSPs voted by 69 to 59 in favour of seeking permission for a referendum before the UK leaves the EU. [Nicola] Sturgeon says the move is needed to allow Scotland to decide what path to follow in the wake of the Brexit vote.” The move seems hasty, and reeks of opportunism to reverse the result of 2014’s unsuccessful referendum regardless of the best path for Scotland. Scotland, after all, shared in Britain’s successes over the past 300 years, and dissolving such a union ought not to be done so impulsively. An independent Scotland would be a small, almost irrelevant country of 5 million with a much reduced impact on global affairs, instead of being citizens in one of the world’s most important countries.
Erdogan’s international spy ring. It should not come as a big surprise that the Turkish state is using the official state institution that employs Turkish clerics in mosques, the Diyanet, to spy on and influence Turkish life abroad, especially in Germany and the Netherlands. The only surprise is that it took Erdogan this long to take a leaf from Putin’s book and use whatever influence he has to influence political and cultural life in Europe. Expect to see increased Turkish influence in domestic politics in Europe, through the manipulation of ethnic Turks in European countries, which the Turkish government is trying hard to keep from assimilating into their host countries, in order to keep them loyal to Turkey.
The Taliban’s Spring Offensive. When the snows melt in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan, and the spring flowers begin to bloom, warfare resumes, following a centuries-old pattern. This year is no difference: the Taliban have begun their spring offensive. According to a report by a confidential source cited by The Diplomat, the Taliban will soon launch an “assault on Kunduz City, where…U.S. and German forces are deployed.” Kunduz is one of the major cities of northern Afghanistan, and was previously overrun by the Taliban briefly in late 2015. The fact that the Taliban have designs on a city far away from their traditional areas of strength in the ethnic-Pashtun regions of eastern and southern Afghanistan is a troubling sign, and demonstrates that the Taliban are unlikely to be defeated by military force anytime soon. It is increasingly obvious that the Taliban have to be part of any long-term solution in Afghanistan. The United States eventually accepted similar logic in Vietnam, so should save time and effort in Afghanistan by accepting negotiations with the Taliban. Most other parties in the region, with the exception of India, are now open to talks with the Taliban: these include Pakistan, China, Russia, and Iran.
Yesterday, major anti-government protests shook Russia. These seem, unlikely, however to shake Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s popularity. The main opposition leader, Alexey Navalny was sentenced to jail for 15 days, after he called for and lead protests against the alleged corruption of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. What this demonstrates is that while Putin’s position remains strong, there is widespread frustration about the incompetence and corruption of some of his ministers, and that the now unpopular Medvedev could potentially become the fall guy for Putin’s government. Other Russian ministers, particularly Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (after successes in Europe and the Middle East, this is to be expected) are much more popular than Medvedev. Russia will almost certainly see Putin reelected to another six-year term next year, but is likely to soon see a reshuffling of the composition of his inner circle.