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High stakes

Filed in Perspectives by on 29th Jul 2017 4 Comments
High stakes

Russia acted swiftly in late July 2017 in retaliating against a decision by the US Senate to impose sanctions against Moscow. Russia’s foreign ministry gave the United States a month to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to 455 people. That’s the same number of Russian diplomats left in the United States at the end of 2016 when the outgoing Obama administration expelled 35 Russians, and seized two Russian compounds. Moscow also announced the seizure of a recreational compound and a US diplomatic warehouse. Moscow’s action gives the US little choice but to cut hundreds of personnel. Most of the US diplomatic staff is based in Moscow. Others are in consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok. A day before Moscow’s announcement, the US Senate voted 98 to 2 to strengthen existing sanctions as a further punishment against Russia for its annexation of Crimea in 2014. The vote also gave Congress the power to block President Donald Trump from using his veto against the sanctions. The US action and Russia’s reaction have brought relations between Moscow and Washington to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Diplomatic ties between the two superpowers have been on a downward spiral because of allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia tried to influence last year’s presidential election in favour of Donald Trump. Moscow denies the allegation. Continue Reading »

On The Move

Filed in Articles by on 19th Jul 2017 5 Comments
On The Move

Since the end of the Second World War, we have become accustomed to seeing the influence of the United States and Britain in the Middle East. In 1943 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had already declared that « the defence of Saudi Arabia was vital to the defence of the United States. » (1) On his way home from the Yalta Conference in February 1945 after meeting with Stalin and Churchill, Roosevelt met with King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia on board the USS Quincy. Their agreement, the Quincy Pact, was not revealed for several years. It offered Saudi Arabia US protection from external enemies in exchange for secure access to future supplies of oil. Although there is some question as to whether they actually signed such an accord, the fact remains that the US has provided protection to the Saudi Kingdom, and received billions of barrels of oil since that time, echoing Roosevelt’s sentiments of 1943. Continue Reading »

And Then The Wheels Fell Off

Filed in Articles by on 10th Sep 2016
And Then The Wheels Fell Off

We would do well to remember Edmund Burke’s oft-repeated phrase “ Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” On the 28th of June 1914, a Serbian nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, assassinated Franz Ferdinand, the archduke of Austria-Hungary. In the preceding years, the various major powers in Europe had gradually formed alliances. Britain, France and Russia formed the Triple Entente, while Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy comprised the Triple Alliance. A month to the day after the assassination, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.gallipoli The Ottoman Empire and Germany signed a secret alliance five days later. On the 3rd of August Germany declared war on France and invaded the next day. That prompted Britain to declare war on Germany on the 4th, the same day Germany invaded Belgium. On the 10th of August 1914 Austria-Hungary invaded Russia. Essentially, the First World War came about because of the domino effect of each country coming to the aid of another. Continue Reading »

The Shimmering Illusion

Filed in Perspectives by on 15th Nov 2015 7 Comments
The Shimmering Illusion

Based on presentation to the Thomas More Institute in Montreal, Canada in November 2015.

Wouldn’t it be nice if political leaders actually served their citizens? However, despite noble words of taking office to serve people, over time consensus, negotiation and agreement tend to give way to such sentiments as ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.’ One compromise leads to another and democracy slowly shifts from serving the people to serving those in power. In extreme cases, violence replaces dialogue. The Fragile States Index for 2015 assigns countries a score based on such social, economic and political criteria as mounting demographic pressures, massive displacement of refugees, uneven economic development, severe economic decline, and wide spread human rights abuses. Countries such as the United States have a score of 35.3, Canada 25.7, Germany 28.1, the United Kingdom 33.5 and France 33.7. The lower the score, the better political leaders serve their citizens. However, if we choose four countries in Africa in various states of development, we see a marked difference in the score. Mali, for example, comes in at 93.1, Malawi 86.9, Togo 86.8 and Côte d’Ivoire 100. Continue Reading »

Seeds of Division

Filed in Perspectives by on 1st Sep 2015 5 Comments
Seeds of Division

Conflict, dictatorships, instability and religious extremism in the Middle East, in the Horn of Africa, and in Central Africa plus the siren call of a better life has resulted in Europe’s worst immigration crisis since the Second World War. Hundreds of thousands of desperate people continue to crowd onto unseaworthy boats in hopes of crossing the Mediterranean, while thousands of Syrian refugees stream along railway tracks in the Balkans in hopes of finding asylum in Europe.

The number of dead continues to climb as overcrowded vessels flounder and sink, taking hundreds to a watery grave. More than 2500 people have drowned in the Mediterranean in the first nine months of this year. As in each of the ten years prior to 2015, the number of people who lose their lives in 2016 while looking for a better place to live will most likely surpass that. On the last week-end in August 2015, “the Italian coastguard plucked 4,400 people from the Mediterranean coast off Libya in 22 different operations…. Meanwhile the Greek coast guard picked up 877 people in 30 search and rescue operations.” (1)

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