This Week in The World: Week of 11-26-18

This is an experimental format – I may or may not keep doing this for every week.

Former American President George H.W. Bush Has Died At 94

At approximately 10 PM at his home in Houston, George Herbert Walker Bush passed away.  Bush served as the 41st President of the United States, from 1988 until 1992. He also served as Ronald Reagan’s vice-president from 1980-1988, and served as the CIA director from 1976-1977. A man who truly desired to serve his country, Bush was also a naval aviator during World War II, enlisting after the Pearl Harbor attack and nearly dying in 1944 after being shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire.


George H.W. Bush’s presidency saw monumental changes in the world, unlike any time since World War II. The revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe were followed swiftly by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. President Bush certainly deserves the world’s admiration for preventing war during this incredibly tense time on the global stage, and guiding America through the final lap of the Cold War. In 1991, Bush also launched one of the most successful military operations in American history, Operation Desert Storm, following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The United States, along with a coalition of 34 other nations, defeated the powerful Iraqi army whilst suffering only 379 casualties, liberating Kuwait in the process.


At home, Bush was less successful. Bush violated his now infamous pledge of “no new taxes”, and the American economy suffered a mild recession in the early 1990s, with unemployment reaching 7.8% by mid-1991. GDP growth also slowed down significantly, from an average of 7.7% per year during the Reagan administration, to 5.4% per year. This economic factor, combined with Bill Clinton’s popularity and Ross Perot’s emergence as a strong 3rd party candidate, led to Bush’s defeat in the 1992 presidential election.


History will look at George H.W. Bush with a positive lens. The Bush economic slowdown was a natural, corrective occurrence, which inevitably occurred after the economic boom under Ronald Reagan.  Abroad, meanwhile, George H.W. Bush had a remarkably successful tenure, protecting Kuwait from the aggression of a madman, and presiding over the final defeat of, quite possibly, the most potent enemy that America has ever faced.


Three Ukrainian Ships Seized by Russia in Kerch Strait

In yet another provocation on behalf of the Russian Federation, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) ships fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels attempting to pass from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov.


This incident has quite a substantial impact on the geopolitics in and around the Black Sea region. Vladimir Putin may have been motivated by his falling approval ratings, following an increase in the Russian pension age. Putin’s popularity saw a massive spike following the annexation of Crimea, and Putin could possibly be trying to re-create that effect. Historically, however, Russian motivations in the Black Sea region were driven by a desire to make the Black Sea a “Russian Lake”. The Russian Empire fought several wars with the Ottoman Empire over control of both the Caucasus region as well as the Balkans, and the Red Army occupied many Balkan nations in the wake of the Second World War. It is evident that the Russian desire to take over the Black Sea has not yet faded.

In response to Russia’s latest provocation, Ukraine barred Russian males aged 16-60 from entering the country, and declared martial law in 10 provinces in eastern Ukraine. President Poroshenko of Ukraine raised the possibility of “full scale war” with Russia, and multiple nations – including the United States – denounced Russian actions in the Sea of Azov. If full-scale war breaks out in the Ukraine, catastrophe would swiftly follow. The war has already killed 10,000 since fighting broke out in 2014, and both Ukraine and Russia have substantial militaries (though Russia is undeniably far more powerful than Ukraine). The last true inter-state war in Europe was the Kosovo war in 1999, which left around 13,500 people dead.


G20 Summit in Argentina

30 world leaders met in Argentina for the G20 summit, which ran from November 30th to December 1st. The seizing of Ukrainian ships, the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, and the United States – China trade conflict all loomed over the summit.


Donald Trump cancelled his meeting with Vladimir Putin, due to the seizure of Ukrainian vessels – though the two leaders did supposedly exchange pleasantries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also urged “Freedom of Shipping into the Sea of Azov” – notable due to Germany’s support for the NordStream II pipeline, which would ship natural gas from Russia to Germany, which would make Germany heavily dependent on Russia for energy purposes. Putin also met with Mohammed Bin Salman, and met with both Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the summit – snubbed by Trump, Putin appeared to be attempting to strengthen ties with non-Western nations such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, India, and China.


Mohammad Bin Salman found himself a pariah on the world stage, and was forced to stay at the Saudi consulate in Buenos Aires for fear of being prosecuted by Argentine police. A camera caught Emmanuel Macron and Mohammed Bin Salman engaged in a tense dialogue, and reports indicate that the French and Saudi leaders spoke about both the Yemen conflict and the killing of Khashoggi. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters that “Our judicial and administrative bodies have not unfortunately received the required support from Saudi officials”, and the Saudi crown prince stood in the far back corner during the G20 group picture. One very visible exception to Bin Salman’s cold reception was Vladimir Putin, who high-fived the Crown Prince.


Donald Trump and Xi Jinping declared a ceasefire in their trade war, according to the South China Morning Post. President Trump agreed to not impose any additional tariffs after January 1st, and the Chinese now have 90 days to implement reforms regarding intellectual property, cyber-security, agriculture, and other sectors. Global markets are expected to react positively to the news, as trade-war fears have largely driven the October-November stock selloff. Trump also renegotiated the NAFTA trade agreement, signing off on the USMCA (United States, Mexico, Canada) agreement with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. The provisions of the new trade agreement have a significant impact on the automotive industry – 75% of automobile components must now be manufactured in North America to be exempted from tariffs, a significant increase over the 62.5% threshold stated by NAFTA. Additionally, 40% of automobiles must be manufactured by workers earning 16$ an hour by 2023 – a win for the United States and Canada, but a loss for Mexico. The Canadian dairy market was also significantly opened up – a small, but significant political victory for President Trump, who has repeatedly targeted Canada over its protectionist dairy-supply protection system.



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