Week of March 4
The Trump Administration’s ties to Russia seem to be increasing by the day, with even Attorney General Jeff Sessions meeting with Russian ambassadors prior to his confirmation hearing. While President Trump presents the media interest and suspicion as a “total witch hunt”, the evidence seems to merit some scrutiny. The supposed connection between Russia and the US could have larger political implications for the Middle East and how they conduct their military interventions in Syria and Libya. Whether this cooperation manifests as political action remains to be seen. Cooperation also looks unlikely on the North Korean front, with the rising possibility of intercontinental nuclear weapons in the hands of Kim Jong-un becoming an even hotter topic internationally. The threat of nuclear arms has been apparent in the US since the Cold War, but the very real nuclear capability of an otherwise closed-off country is alarming for the international world order. The infographic below demonstrates the possible reach of North Korean nuclear arsenal.
North Korea has also been inserted into news with the death of Kim Jong-un’s estranged half brother in Malaysia. While it remains to be seen how the defendants on the case will plead, North Korea has not acknowledged the relationship of the deceased Mr. Kim with their leader. Additionally, in the strange saga of the assassination, North Korea has explicitly expressed distrust over the investigation conducted by Malaysia and managed to have diplomatic ties revoked immediately. Malaysia was one of the few countries to allow North Korean workers in without a visa, making North Korea more isolated than ever.
Trump’s wall may, in fact, become a reality. Despite political backlash, as well as outright refusal from Mexico to fund the wall, there appear to be companies that are willing to fund the pillar of Trump’s campaign against immigration (legal and illegal). A proposal to deter illegal immigration by separating children from mothers at the Mexico border is imminent and poses psychological and legal risks. On the visa front, the administration has also withdrawn premium processing of H1B visas, putting immigrants working in the US under additional strain. Trump’s immigration policies were once part of a joke with a punchline of moving to Canada. And though Trump (and others) may praise Canadian immigration policy, an alternative take suggests that Canadian immigration is not as simple as it seems.
Some are still optimistic in the face of the Trump administration, even suggesting that the trade protectionism embodied by the US may be a current economic advantage for others. The EU, in particular, may benefit from this opportunity, but it remains to be seen how Brexit will affect the economic bloc. Others are less certain of positive outcomes with regards to US policy on trade.
The situation in France seems to have shifted, favoring Macron over LePen for the upcoming elections. Again, given the recent election outcomes, it might be more prudent to wait with bated breath till after the votes are tallied. There is further instability in Europe, evidenced Germany being likened to its Nazi past by Turkey. The relationship between Turkey and the EU seems to be disintegrating further, making the possibility of Turkey joining the EU extremely bleak. Only last week, Turkey moved away from its heightened secularism to allow veiling in the army.
Outside US interests, and possibly outside mainstream Western media coverage, there are humanitarian crises taking place in Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria. South Sudan is currently experiencing an outburst of violence for the second time in its political existence. Afghanistan and Pakistan’s damaged political relations are causing Afghans to be trapped in Pakistan and driving up food prices at home.