Saturday, July 14, 2018

World Politics in C21

This blog post's title fortunately reflects the state of some of mankind's interests in the twenty first century, which unlike the sad position of many of mankind's interests  in the  twentieth century, is much more concerned with world politics than with world wars.

Possibly however  because of the fact that there are no world wars now being fought or even in the offing, world politics in many democratic countries seem to be taking on an almost childish quality. 

For example here in the UK, the Major of London, Sadiq Khan, decided to fly a plastic balloon cartoon like figure purporting to bear some resemblance to President Trump the USA president, on the first day of  the latter's visit to the UK. Donald Trump had some months previously, been fairly rude indirectly about Sadiq Khan, in what I regarded as a most childish fashion. The London Mayor though instead of taking such petty rudeness in his stride and rising above it, responded in kind by flying a silly balloon or blimp image of Donald Trump over the capital:

Quite what this childish almost school boy antic by the London Major is intended to achieve is impossible to say. Inspiring adult discussion sadly does not seem to be part of his intentions.

The UK and the USA have had much in common for decades which goes far beyond the identities of American Presidents and British Prime Ministers during that time and a childish balloon trick does nothing for that friendship between nations.  

Just prior to his British visit, President Trump appears to have been extremely critical to Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, especially as regards Germany's gas and pipeline dealings with Russia and Germany's weak financial support afforded to NATO, both of which criticisms appear to have substance, yet no  gas balloon prank seems to have taken off in Germany. 

Reverting to the position of the UK, the fact that shortly before his visit, President Trump seemed to castigate Mrs May about her Brexit  negotiations and poor cold water on her hopes for a UK/USA trade deal, coupled with the fact that after dining with her, he spoke positively about such a trade  deal,  causes speculation about whether the UK PM actually signified to President Trump, that she expects that a deal with the EU will not be reached at all, in which case trade and other deals may be done by the UK with the USA and elsewhere, without any European constraints.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

More Fascinating Football

The match between Sweden and England yesterday was a tense affair at least for the viewers in the UK.  Local streets were far quieter than usual as both the tennis in beautifully hot and sunny weather and football took people's minds away from politics and shopping. As for the latter I wondered passing by Pizza Express in Wimbledon Village, whether the sign there at 2:30pm apologising for its unexpected closure for two or three hours, was related to the football or the tennis.

Enough digression; the football watched at home by maytrees min and myself, mrs maytrees does not find football, unlike badminton, particularly enjoyable to watch, was very tense at least for the first 25 minutes or so while both teams were so to speak, "finding their feet." 

However England  during the final  20 minutes of the first half, began to outclass their Swedish   opponents and their  first goal then before the whistle at c.45 minutes, was at that time, really not unexpected. The team had had chances to  put themselves two or three goals up by then, which perhaps would have been taken if the team was not so new and young, despite which description, they have surpassed many an English team's achievements in previous World Cup years, going back almost to 1966.

The second half of the match against Sweden produced a second goal for England although considerable efforts by the Swedes thereafter nearly led to a goal or two for the English opponents. 

Jordon Pickford, the England goal keeper about whose slightly shorter height than some regard as ideal for goal keepers there had been a little media concern, made some brilliant saves both quashing such concerns and ensuring that England proceed  to the semi final, which match takes place in Moscow on Wednesday. 

Croatia will be England's opponents and some suggest that that team will still be tired from its 120 minutes hard slog followed by penalty shoot outs with Russia.  Young professional footballers  will in my view though recover in say 48 hours from such matches. Their semi final match with England will be tough for both teams and far from a walk over for either.

Interesting looking at some of the match stats. Croatia won two penalty shoot outs against Denmark and Russia in their progression to the semi finals and England who overcame their usual poor showing in penalty shoot out taking, won one. Belgium beet England 1-0 earlier in the tournament so it would be interesting so see what a rematch in the final might bring. That is too far ahead to contemplate at this time however.

What is true and surprising in my view, is that whichever teams win the semi final matches this week there will be an all European final as all the semi finalists represent European countries. Bearing in mind the strengths of other continents in team sports more generally, such as Rugby and  Cricket and the history of outstanding talent in football by the South American teams, I suspect that the luck of the draw has had a larger than usual effect on the  continental mix in Russia 2018. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Football Crazy

The current state of international politics is intriguing for all the wrong reasons; for example is North Korea still building its nuclear arsenals despite the well publicised meeting with President Trump and what will the latter's forthcoming meeting with Vladimir Putin mean for the West generally and NATO in particular?

However having posted so many points recently about worrying international political affairs the World Cup football which is proving  is more intriguing so far than expected seems an happier subject for a blog post hence this post's title.

No one was expecting much from the England team firstly because the team rarely delivers much on the European (beaten even by tiny Iceland) or World stages and secondly because the team including the manager  Gareth Southgate, is new and in many respects experimental. Yet England won its first two games quite convincingly and qualified for the next round before playing the third game with Belgium. Germany on the other hand which had managed to go as far as the last 16 since I believe  1938 lost  2-0 to South Korea so had to make  premature exit, much to Angela Merkel's chagrin

England Losing 1-0 to Belgium was of course disappointing but given the huge number of changes made by both managers before kick-off, the outcome was hardly disastrous.

That Belgian politicians have a sense of humour as well as pride was exemplified by their gift to Theresa May who was in Brussels for an EU meeting, of a Belgian Football Team shirt. 

Some argued that it was better to lose the England/Belgium match because the losing team which would be runner up in the group would have the easier task in the next round. From what I could see however, both teams played to win and indeed the best of the two experimental teams - Belgium too fielded many changes to give all their men an opportunity to play in the World cup - did win.

Doubtless however England will field the best possible team for the match on Tuesday against Columbia.

"Come on England!"

Saturday, June 23, 2018

The New World Order

The current the world political order is in a state of flux. The order that prevailed since the end of WWII was largely one of "The West" led by the USA and the rest with the USSR  being the principal  object of major  concern, though this began to diminish following the Cuban Missile crisis - see Cuban and N. Korean Missile Crises 

The next development was essentially the collapse of the Soviet Union leading to the formation of separate independent states including of course Russia and the Ukraine yet comparatively recently, sadly Russia  usurped  Crimea  from the Ukraine, by force.

Meanwhile China began to emerge as an huge trading nation albeit still under autocratic rather than democratically elected, leadership.

People in C21 at least in "The West"  are becoming more disgruntled about the previously established (post WWII) world order, hence the rise of the 5* movement in Italy, Brexit in the UK and the election of Donald Trump in the USA. Additionally  as the Guardian newspaper reported:

 But Austria’s move to the right has striking echoes of that in neighbouring Hungary. It is a reminder that, two years after the migration crisis in the Balkans, the issues still trigger anger and threaten establishment parties. The new government in Vienna, whatever form it takes, is likely to add Austria’s voice to others in central and southern Europe that will approach the problems of Europe from a more sharply nationalistic standpoint.
The rightward lurch in Austria, coinciding with the showdown between Catalonia and Spain, is also a reminder that the populist ferment in Europe takes different forms but is far from dead
China at about the same time has begun to flex its military muscles by taking over rocky outcrops in  waters  perceived to be international and  building  military runways upon some, giving grave offence to other countries including Japan. The USA as  result has taken naval ships through the waters claimed by China, to signify their international status as seen by other countries including the USA.

The USA meanwhile under relatively newly elected President Donald Trump, is  also taking a far more belligerent stance with its 'allies' than it has done for many years although  on a far more positive note, he appears to be assisting the North Koreans to become less belligerent. Previous Presidents of the USA and for that matter Russia and China have failed to reduce tensions caused by that country's nuclear armaments.

Trade wars involving large new import tariffs being placed on imported goods are occurring following Donald Trump's  strong attitude to China and the EU (including the UK despite this country's decision to quit that organisation). 

The attempts by the UK to isolate Russia as a consequence of the poisonings and attempted murders  in the UK of the Skripals in Salisbury as recently as April 2018, are at risk of being diluted by President Trump who seems likely  to meet the Russian President shortly after visiting the UK and  Theresa  May. He has also made clear his wish for the G8 group of countries to be reformed by reinstating Russia, which was expelled in 2016.

The Russian coup in hosting  the international World Cup, currently being played in that country and watched by millions around the world, is possibly creating more dilution of the world view of Russian political and other actions, than any  international trade and other sanctions can hope to achieve.

President Trump's wish to seek rapprochement  with Russia is being mirrored by his criticisms of NATO and countries' financial contributions or lack of them, to that organisation.

Many western countries including of course the UK which already has Brexit issues to deal with, will need to review their own  rapidly changing positions in the world.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Taliban Atrocity

In 2012  the young Ms Malala Yousafai was 14 years old. While on her way to school in Pakistan she was deliberately shot in the head by a member of the Taliban which hideous organisation seeks to  discriminate against half the human race by preventing girls and women from attending school to be educated.

Education is clearly key to much in human life both for the individual and also for the human race. 

The  amazing discoveries by Madame Curie for example of polonium and  radium resulted in her being awarded the Nobel Prize for physics as long ago as 1903. She obviously benefited personally by being educated as a girl and her work as an adult certainly benefited the human race generally. 

For the Taliban to seek to preclude half the human race from education must be intrinsically wrong. That would in my view have justified international action authorised by the UN against such  dreadful group of outlaws both in Pakistan and Afghanistan though sadly the reasons for many western countries becoming involved in fighting in Afghanistan, were not primarily on the grounds of those outlaws' attacks on women.

Reverting to the shooting of Ms Yousafai, her determination to be rehabilitated and  campaign for education for girls is an example of the greatness of mankind for which in 2014 she became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. 

One of her many courageous attributes that is admirable was her meeting with the then president of the USA Barack Obahma when she complained about American drone strikes in Pakistan killing innocent bystanders and instead asked him to concentrate on education or as Tony Blair used to say:

"Education Education Education".

Quite what she would make of the report in today's Times newspaper that a drone has just killed the Taliban leader behind  her being shot is hard to say. Mullah Fazullah is "believed" to have been responsible but he and four other "insurgents" were killed this week by a drone attack near the border with Afghanistan the Times article states. In democratic societies simply killing suspects without trial would be appalling. Whether different conditions should apply to suspects in countries which have no such system of justice is an hard question.

That apart, the UK has of course been involved in fighting the Taliban but of more relevance to this blog post was also the country which flew Ms Yousafai to the UK to provide life saving medical treatment for her which was clearly successful. Later she attended Oxford University to read PPE.

An example of not letting life get you down.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Europe USA and Russia - The G7 or G8.

The break up this week-end of the meeting of G7 leaders in Canada was unsatisfactory. 

The G8 having expelled Russia some 4 years ago for unlawfully annexing the Crimea from the Ukraine, became the G7 group of nations comprising Canada France Germany Italy Japan the UK and the USA.

Now the USA under President Trump and Italy under its new Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte are calling for Russia to be invited to rejoin the group. The UK Germany Canada and France strongly disagree. 

In my view President Trump is quite wrong. The annexation of Crimea was only four years ago and amounted to an invasion of  part of a foreign state in breach of international law.

The Times newspaper this morning has an interesting and in my view not entirely unrelated, article about brutal raids in 1814, by US troops on what is now Canada. This led to the burning of the White House by British  troops although The Times also reports that this led:  a new national anthem and the basis for 200 years of enduring friendship with Britain.

A new and enduring friendship with Russia would be excellent news for the world. However unlike the UK USA and Canadian positions  today over North America, the Crimean crimes are unresolved as yet and  the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury are far too recent. 

Russia denies the  Salisbury poisonings of course but even the USA supported the further sanctions against the Russians as a consequence. For the USA to seek to invite Russia back into the G7/8 so soon after joining in condemnations of Russia by the UK and other allies of the Salisbury poisonings is quite illogical. 

Sadly my conclusion is that President Trump is simply seeking trading and political gains for the USA whereas his predecessors may have been more concerned about world  order and fairness more generally. As can be seen from this post President Trump is not my kind of politician yet he leads the most powerful country in the world and for that deserves respect.

North Korea  may be where President Trump's mind eye is set at present. Possibly Nobel Peace prizes await for a de-militarised,  at least as regards nuclear weapons, zone in that part of the world, being agreed in due course. We can but wait and see.

Almost as an aside, the Russian treatment of their visitors to the FIFA World Cup matches taking place there shortly maybe interesting and hopefully peace will reign at least for the international football there. "Come on England."

Saturday, June 02, 2018

American and European Politics

That the USA is making so much of the running in international affairs under President Trump is surprising at least to those including yours truly who did not welcome his election as president of that great country.

President Trump's stance on  the regimes in  both North Korea and  Iran so far at least seems impressive. The latters wrongful imprisonment of a British married woman and mother generally makes the headlines when Iran probably feels under political pressure albeit entirely unconnected with the woman's case. That kind of attitude increases sympathy for Trump's position although sadly not insofar as EU governments including  currently  at least, that of the UK are concerned.

North Korea has been an international outcast for years but now, either that country's (unelected) president Kim Jon-un is playing a clever game of securing more acceptance by the world at large  whilst at the same time offering very little in return, or (elected) President Trump, is actually going to secure a decent measure of nuclear arms reduction by the otherwise impoverished North Koreans. There is of course more to N Korea's behaviour than nuclear weapons including unfair imprisonment of many, news censorship, poverty and a complete lack of democracy, to name but a few but Rome was not built in a day.

Rome or rather many EU countries meanwhile burn. 

Italy itself has had its recent (or rather given the Italian voting system not so recent) general election result  put at risk by its president vetoing the appointment of a key government minister (finance).  The ostensible reason appears to be that the intended appointee was not keen on the EU. 

Some kind of Italian compromise has been reached at the eleventh hour, under which another finance minister who at least supports Italy's membership of the Euro, has been accepted by the Italian President.  None the less the new government still seems hell bent on reducing tax and increasing state cash payments to the population at large as ways of reducing its huge unemployment rate, despite concerns in Berlin and Brussels. 

The Italian situation will remain in the news for a while yet.

Spain's situation is as difficult as Italy's. Corruption by the conservative party there has resulted in its Prime Minister being ousted in a parliamentary vote led by the minority Labour opposition, whose leader has just become Prime Minister. Holding a new general election as soon as possible would seem the correct and logical way forward but is that likely to happen? 

My own view is that politics in many parts of Europe including Spain, have become so tainted, that the new Labour Prime Minister in Spain will seek to wait and wait, in the hope that his political party's fortunes will improve. Meanwhile the Spanish unemployment rate and state indebtedness like those of Italy, are dreadfully high.

Germany of course has massive trade surpluses not least with the USA which complains for example, that EU tariffs on cars imported from the USA are far higher than are those from Germany and other EU countries, imported by the Americans. 

Germany is also abandoning its Nuclear Energy power stations  and is instead building dozens of new coal fired power stations. Quite how the new coal power stations fit in with the Paris Climate Change accords, which the USA has in any event decried as pointless, is unclear. Possibly Germany's policy is to let President Trump do the talking whilst it acts to suit itself. Contributions to NATO by Germany or rather the lack of much by way of contribution despite the USA's (and as it happens, the UK's) full payments is another case in point. Hopefully my interpretation of the above will be shown to be incorrect.

France has shown itself through President Macron to be great at speaking not least with President Trump yet speaking well and being listened to are rather different. Possibly only the former applies, at least at present.

The UK sadly appears to me to be  weak;  leaning over backwards to support the EU's positions on Iran (despite the dreadful imprisonment of the British girl there) and climate change for example, moaning about President Trump's new import tariffs while seeming  to negotiate Brexit with little enthusiasm and accepting bullying from the EU puppet masters. 

Hopefully much of the above will prove to be unjustified in the months ahead but for now that is how the points commented upon appear to be - to me.

World Politics in C21

This blog post's title fortunately reflects the state of some of mankind's interests in the twenty first century, which unlike the s...