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"John Massey has a B.A. in political science and history from the University of Alabama. His primary interest is in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but he also finds time to study French and political theory. "

The Far Right In Germany Is Starting To Rise Again And It Should Worry Us All

Germany and the far right of the political spectrum do not historically mix.

So why is it that a party of the far right (granted, one not nearly as radical or hate-filled as the Nazi Party was) is picking up steam in the largest and most powerful European Union country?

In recent weeks, the Alternative for Germany (AFD) has achieved regional representation in eight German states. There are 16 German states in total.

AFD is a far right populist party in a similar vein as the National Front in France and UKIP in the United Kingdom.

The ragtag party has managed to bite at the heels of the ruling Christian Democrats (CDU), and appears to be gaining popularity across the country.

This is largely due to the anti immigration platform of the party in response to Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s policies on resettling refugees, primarily from Syria.

AFD has a unique opportunity for swift gains due to its novel position on the political spectrum.

A pro right wing backlash has been felt across the West, be it the Tea Party or Euroskeptics, but AFD has been making attempts at separating itself from the most extreme elements of German political life.

On the party’s official site, AFD disowns the support of NPD, a far right party infamous for its ties strong association with Nazis in both a fashion sense and in antisemitism.

According to the Q&A section of the party’s website, the AFD breaks with the ranks of other far right parties by being in support of continued German participation in both the EU and NATO, though with caveats to both of these organizations that favor a more independent foreign policy.

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A German man walking with a beer. Photo Credit: Alexander Mueller/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

AFD also voices disapproval of TTIP (a proposed free trade agreement between the United States and Europe), subsidies for energy research, while favoring “re-nationalizing” of the banking sector, and promoting marriage between men and women as “politically desirable”.

All of these positions seem to indicate that AFD is interested in focusing inward, and is not particularly hostile to longstanding German policy.

Despite this resemblance closer to the American Republican Party than particularly sinister right wing parties like PEGIDA, the party has been moved more so to the extreme by the Party’s president Frauke Petry, who has brought anti-immigration rhetoric and closer ties to the Kremlin to the forefront of its public perception.

This will likely only continue due to the departure of the party’s moderating influence, Bernd Lucke, cofounder of AFD, left the party in 2015 when ousted from the party presidency by Petry.

Lucke founded another Euroskeptic party Alliance for Progress and Renewal (ALFA), and complained that  AFD had grown far too xenophobic.

RISE NEWS  is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Cover Photo Credit: Martin Fisch/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

James Blunt Prevented World War III Once, But He Probably Won’t Next Time

It is understandable that following the conclusion of the Cold War, the consideration of nuclear conflict subsided to some degree among policy makers and the general public.

However, while the overall number of nuclear weapons has decreased, the number of actors and potential actors with nuclear weapons is quite larger than at the height of the Cold War.

This overall leaves us with a greater likelihood of the use of nuclear weapons, though not all of the potential scenarios are apocalyptic affairs, which can only increase their likelihood.

The most obvious interstate nuclear scenario is an exchange between India and Pakistan, as the two have fought several wars and skirmishes.

Pakistan in particular has expressed interest in theater nuclear weapons in the event of Indian forces seizing Pakistani territory, as per “Cold Start”.

This is problematic, as India has stated it will use nuclear weapons “in retaliation against a nuclear attack on Indian territory or on Indian forces anywhere.”

Anywhere would presumably include 50-80 Kms inside Pakistan, leaving millions dead in the first 24 hours of a nuclear war in South Asia.

Read More: Why Pakistan Might Actually Nuke Itself

Despite these staggering numbers, India and Pakistan only have about 120 weapons each.

The truly frightening numbers come from Russia and the United States, who each have more weapons ready to fire than all the other nuclear powers have in total.

Historically, it is this alarming number of Weapons of Mass Destruction that is attributed as having prevented the outbreak of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

This fear of “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD) carries over to the present day, making an intentional strategic nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia unthinkable.

However, both the words “intentional” and “strategic” are highly weaselly and dangerous.

Near misses between the United States and the Soviet Union/Russia have occurred alarmingly frequently.

The Cuban Missile Crisis is often considered both the high point and last point of likely intentional strategic nuclear exchange between the Cold War competitors, but it was far from the last near miss.

Accidental nuclear launches have been, and continue to be a major concern. An escalation of a conventional conflict could also conceivably result in nuclear war.

Such a scenario nearly occurred during the Kosovo War, and was narrowly averted by singer James Blunt [seriously], and is increasingly conceivable were “little green men” to appear in the Baltic States.

James Blunt, our hero. Photo Credit:  Eric Wüstenhagen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

James Blunt, our hero. Photo Credit: Eric Wüstenhagen/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Were NATO to defeat the Russians in a conventional contest over the Baltic States, which is admittedly not a given outcome, the Russians might respond with what has been deemed as a “deescalatory” nuclear strike, which would use either long or short range nuclear weapons to target military targets anywhere from Europe to the continental United States, in order to bring the opposing force to the negotiating table.

Likely targets would include the NATO nuclear weapon states: the US, United Kingdom, and France as well as NATO allies who “share” US nuclear weapons: Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Turkey.

Notably, the use of nuclear weapons of any variety was tightened in Russia’s 2010 doctrinal document, but the risk of an escalation of a conventional conflict, or a tactical strike remains.

In addition to interstate conflict, non state actors are also a troubling consideration in regards to nuclear weapons.

Pakistan and India have traditionally been identified as potential sources for nuclear weapons or material to be stolen from, but great progress has been made on this front.

A less obvious, and thus more insidious, potential source for nuclear weapons is South Africa.

Armed men broke into the Pelindaba in 2007, only narrowly being scared off after stealing a cellphone.

It is unclear exactly what the objective of this raid was, but it was clearly planned well enough to account for disabling alarms and electric fences.

This leads some to believe that the objective was to steal enriched uranium.

Regardless of the specific threat, the prospect of nuclear conflict remains, and is arguably more likely than ever before.

Awareness of specific issues related to nuclear conflict, and how to contain that potential, should then be a priority of a public interested in avoiding the utilization and normalization of these weapons.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Photo Credit:Steve Snodgrass/ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

The Russian Reversal: Why Would Putin Withdraw From Syria?

On Monday, March 14th, President Vladimir Putin announced rather suddenly that significant portions of the Russian expedition to Syria would be withdrawing.

Russia’s base in Latakia will not be closing, and the Kremlin has left open the possibility of returning the forces at a later date.

But a return of large scale Russian participation in the Syrian Civil War seems unlikely, due to the motive behind the initial deployment, the balance of power on the ground, and Russia’s risk averse nature due to its precarious military structure and capabilities as previously reported on by RISE NEWS.

Contrary to the claims of Kremlin mouthpieces and sympathizers, Russian airstrikes have been largely concentrated against the International Coalition backed FSA in the West of Syria, which is largely devoid of Islamic State forces.

Read More: Who Would the World Vote For As President of the United States?

As such, it is safe to assume that the Russian objective is to keep Bashar al-Assad in power, who could be indicted for crimes against humanity due to his use of chemical weapons“massive and systematised violence” against Syrian civilians, and the death by torture of at least ten foreign nationals.

As long as Assad remains in power, he stays out of the Hague, and this guarantees a continued Russian naval base in the Mediterranean Sea.

With the existing balance of power in Syria shifting towards the Assad regime, it is no longer necessary for the Kremlin to take such an active interest in the Syrian Civil War. As a result, the Kremlin gains a few things.

First, Western interests in Syrian Regime change are thwarted, giving the impression of significant Russian influence in the Middle East for the first time since the Yom Kippur War.

Second, the eventual conclusion of Russia’s involvement in Syria will make the argument for Putin as a benevolent actor easier for far right sympathizers like Le Pen, Farage, and Trump, by appealing to Putin’s supposed role in the eventual defeat of Islamic State. Lastly, a significant portion of Russia’s professional forces will no longer be tied down, which will give the Kremlin greater flexibility in influencing policy closer to Moscow.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Photo Credit: Sergey Vladimirov (CC by 2.0)

Who Would the World Vote For As President of the United States?

While only, approximately, 235 million people have the opportunity to vote for President of the United States of America, that does not make interest in the outcome of that contest a solely American interest.

The President of the United States is uniquely powerful in affairs outside the borders of the United States, and will thus often impact the lives of a great number of non Americans.

Thus, it may be of at least passing interest to perspective voters who their peers across the world endorse as the next President.

A caveat before I begin, this list will not examine all 192+ sovereign countries on the Earth, but a handful relevant to American interests. It should also be noted that, just as in the United States, no country is politically homogenous. There are some attempts to reflect this, but the law of averages tells us that there was probably someone in India who was disappointed when Lincoln Chaffee dropped out.

China:

The Diplomat ran an excellent piece, based largely on the work of Matt Hartzell which examined the voting preferences of users of Chinese survey site, Zhihu.

Out of 450 respondents, most identified with Republican candidates, and a whopping 38% with Donald Trump. In a subsequent poll launched by Mr. Hartzell on Zhihu, the candidates feelings on various issues were briefly expounded upon, resulting in both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders trouncing the Republican field.

These findings seem to contradict various Chinese bloggers, according to Foreign Policy, who claim that Clinton is unfairly critical of China. These harsh feelings would also likely extend to both Sanders and Ted Cruz who have both supported anti-Chinese legislation during their tenure in the Senate.

Trump has also been stridently anti-China, despite saying that he has lots of Chinese tenants in some of his buildings.

China probably doesn’t have much of a favorite in this field of leading Presidential candidates.

Russia: 

The cooperative mood between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has been well documented, and likely assisted by Trump’s anti-NATO stance.

The endorsement of President Putin likely influences Mr. Trump’s popularity among Russians, based on Putin’s own approval ratings. State news entity Sputnik News has published a number of articles praising Trump.

France:

France’s government has presented a consistent anti-Trump front.

Shortly after Mr. Trump’s call for a ban on Muslim Immigrants, Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted, “Trump, like others, stokes hatred and conflations: our ONLY enemy is radical Islamism”.

The ” others” being referred to is France’s own nativist party, the National Front. The ever delightful French Ambassador to the United States, Géraud Araud, also frequently bashes Trump and the similar National Front movement in his own country. It should then come as no surprise that National Front founder, and political kindred spirit on: trade, immigration, and NATO, Jean-Marie Le Pen offered his support for a Trump Presidency.

However, if the results of France’s recent regional elections are any indicationLe Pen’s support is worth little.

France24, one of France’s premiere international news sites, is pretty scant on individual coverage for the other Republican candidates, though John Kasich received some praise for his positions following his second place showing in New Hampshire.

On the Democratic side, Clinton seems to be more popular than Sanders. Nicholas Sarkozy, head of Les Republicains and presumptive candidate for President of the center right party, offered his support for her candidacy.

Meanwhile, Sanders appears to be an after thought on France24’s search algorithms. This may be more reflective of the Senator’s more recent rise to prominence than his agreeability to the average Frenchman however.

Israel & Palestine:

Starting with Palestine, it is safe to assume that Cruz and Rubio competing during debates over who has more disdain for the Palestinian national movement does not endear them to Palestinians.

Kasich and Trump likely would not fair better, due to the former justifying illegal settlements in the West Bank and the latter’s support for moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in addition to anti-Muslim comments over the past year.

The consensus among Fatah, the Arab Center for research and Policy Decisions, and Al-Najah National University, among others, appears to be that Clinton, while no friend to the Palestinian national movement, is preferable to her Republican competition, according to Al-Monitor.

Sanders in the past has expressed solidarity with Palestinians as well as opposition to military aid to Israel, though his position seems to have shifted to a position that equivocates violence between Israel and Palestine.

Never the less, it seems that Sanders is the more palatable candidate for Palestinians at large.

Among Israelis, national polling done by The Times of Israel found that 38% of Israelis would favor a President Clinton, followed by 23% endorsing a Trump Administration. Sanders, Cruz, and Rubio brought up the rear with 7, 5, and 4 respectively, and leaving 23% of respondents unsure.

This seems to reflect that the opinions of Prime Minister Netanyahu are not influential on Israeli opinions on American Presidential candidates, as the Prime Minister has shamed Mr. Trump for his anti-Muslim comments, whilst presumably being very friendly with Senator Cruz who was among the first to congratulate Netanyahu on his recent electoral victory.

This small sample size of four countries, and one aspirant country, is not representative of the world at large, but is representative of a few of the places most relevant to American interests.

It would be wise then as American voters to consider the political opinions of our friends and rivals abroad, including those not mentioned here, so as to best mold the world in a positive way over the next four years.

Is there a country that we missed that you would be interested in learning more about? Tell us in the comments below!

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Cover Photo Credit: Nicolas Raymond/ Flickr (CC by 2.0)

John Kasich,Come With Me If You Want to Live!

Last week, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the well known movie actor and former governor of California, announced his endorsement of Ohio Governor John Kasich in the 2016 Presidential race, on temporary image service Snapchat.

Calling Kasich an “Action Hero”, Schwarzenegger cited Kasich’s hand in fiscally responsible activity at both the federal and state level.

This is likely to boost the appeal of Governor Kasich in the days prior to the Ohio Republican Primary by drawing on the star power of “The Governator”.

This line of thought seems further supported by the endorsement of Ohio State University head coach Urban Meyer.

Between these two endorsements, Governor Kasich has a strong chance to win his home state against the monolithic front runner, Donald Trump.

Indeed, the endorsement of the most influential immigrant in the Republican Party is quite a powerful slight against Mr. Trump, who has increasingly become the man to beat by a frantic Republican party.

It is even more interesting because Schwarzenegger was named as Trump’s successor to host The Apprentice on NBC.

Kasich losing in Ohio would be a tremendous blows against the wishes of the establishment wing of the Republican Party, as it would make the already dim prospect of forcing a contested Republican National Convention more remote.

Whether these celebrity endorsements will effectively combat Governor Kasich’s lack of name recognition on a national level against a reality TV star and a infamously narcissistic Senator remains to be seen, but the Kasich-Schwarzenegger-Meyer triumvirate acting as a road bump on Mr. Trump’s warpath through Ohio seems a fairly likely outcome.

But will it matter in the end?

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Cover Photo Credit: Zero Emission Resource Organisation/ Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Japan Needs To Have A Lot More Sex Or The Country Could Collapse Into The Sea

The Japanese population is rapidly declining.

The population has lost almost one million people over the past five years.

This decline has been long predicted by demographers but the world’s third largest economy has been unable to find a solution.

The situation is dire and hard to overstate.

If Japan can’t start having many more babies then the country will face great challenges later on in the century. These challenges could undermine the very core of the country’s social order.

Japan has one of the world’s lowest fertility rates, 1.41 children per woman in 2012.

As a result, the number of people 65 and over has increased from 12.1% in 1990 to 26% in 2014.

Furthermore, estimates put Japan’s retirement age population at 40% of the total national population by 2060.

This would likely put a tremendous burden on Japan’s social safety net, state pensions alone being ¥792,100 per year ($6,960.76). This accounts for nearly 33% of Japan’s national budget in 2015 and it will only continue to balloon as the years roll on.

Having to cope with close to half of your population being in need of geriatric care is not a problem exclusive to Japan.

There is a lot of pressure on young people in Japan to have more children. But will they listen? Photo Credit: J3SSL33/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

There is a lot of pressure on young people in Japan to have more children. But will they listen? Photo Credit: J3SSL33/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

China recently revoked and replaced its One Child Policy, with the Two Child Policy.

In part this is to combat China’s low fertility rates, 1.66 births per woman, and in part to counter act the imbalance between the number of men and women, a 30 million person disparity.

Other low fertility countries include, but are not limited to: Singapore (0.81), South Korea (1.18), Germany (1.44), Russia (1.61), The United States (1.87), and the United Kingdom (1.89). All of these nations have fertility rates incapable of sustaining their current populations without immigration helping to offset the disparity.

Elderly populations then are not only a threat to the economic growth of Japan, but to advanced economies in general.

It would then seem that in order to combat global population decline, and with a greater number of developing nations creating advanced economies, nations may need to compete for immigrants in order to sustain their populations.

This may be particularly difficult for Japan, due to the relative difficulty in learning its national language, and a culture that is not as used to welcoming immigrants as many of its potential competitors.

Of course the other way for Japan to get back to an equilibrium in terms of old and young is to have young people have more children- lots more children. The government has tried many different methods, including offering to pay parents to have kids, but it has had little impact.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Freedom II Andres/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Why Desert Storm Was The West’s Most Devastating Victory

Francis Fukuyama infamously penned his 1989 essay “The End of History?”, and expanded it into a full book in 1992 “The End of History and the Last Man”.

Very broadly speaking, Fukuyama argued a Hegelian interpretation of history, in which the ending political order would be some variation of liberal democracy.

Western liberalism had just triumphed over the Soviet defense system in Eastern Europe, without firing a shot (though with the blessing of Mikhail Gorbachev).

On Christmas Day of 1991, the last bastion of Soviet political ideology receded into the “dustbin of history”.

The political and ideological victory was complete, and even a demonstration of military victory was completed on February 28th of 1991, with the tidy defeat of the Soviet style Iraqi Military.

While I don’t intend to add my voice to the two decades of dog piling on Mr. Fukuyama, as I at the very least respect the man and lack the requisite qualification to competently critique his early work, the last triumph is an example of both unjustified and dangerous Western triumphalism.

The relative ease of the Gulf War, and the false equivocation between Soviet Forces and Iraqi forces, has made western policy makers arrogant, and can lead to chasing “easy wars” that are anything but easy.

American jets waiting for their next mission during Operation Desert Storm. Photo Credit: Walter/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

American jets waiting for their next mission during Operation Desert Storm. Photo Credit: Walter/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Operation Desert Storm was a flawless execution of the doctrine of AirLand Battle (ALB).

Put over simply, ALB relies on utilization of air forces on a tactical level, special forces in the deep battle space, and a counter blitz composed of armored and mechanized units, in order to both forestall reserve units, and deplete the momentum of the breeching force.

This would negate the overwhelming superiority of Warsaw Pact forces, and resulted in the Pentagon estimating for the first time that NATO might be able to win a land war in Europe against the Warsaw Pact.

The defeat of the Iraqi Military then, was heralded by many as a proof of concept, and that Warsaw Pact forces had been overestimated.

After all, Iraqi battalions equipped with BMPs, T-55s, and T-72s melted in the face of Abrams, Challengers, AMX-30s, TOWs, Hellfires, Mavericks, Paveways, and the rest of the menagerie designed to defend Europe against a Soviet fueled onslaught.

This was all accomplished with great speed, and few casualties.

Western military superiority should not be taken for granted however.

First, it should be noted that Coalition Forces were: more numerous, better trained, and had a much better developed doctrine in the way of ALB.

These are all qualities that would not have been shared by Warsaw Pact forces. What the Iraqis did share with the Warsaw Pact was equipment, to an extent.

Saddam intentionally kept the Iraqi Air Force weak, for fear of an Air Force sponsored coup. As a result, pilots of Iraqi’s most valuable air superiority fighters, their MiG-29s, proved ineffective against Coalition aircraft.

This is epitomized in one instance in “an early engagement in which a MiG-29 pilot shot down his wingman and then flew his own aircraft into the ground some 30 seconds later”.

Furthermore, despite having the 6th largest air force in the world at the time, less than half of Iraq’s aircraft were third or fourth generation aircraft, leaving the Iraqi Air Force both incompetent and technologically outpaced in comparison to Coalition forces.

The situation on the ground was much the same for the Iraqi Army. Top of the line Soviet armor, then and to this day, out range their NATO peers due to the utilization of Anti Tank Missiles fired from the gun barrel, like the 9M119 Svir.

The Soviet Union was also one of the first pioneers of Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA), and used it extensively.

American military personnel during Operation Desert Storm. Photo Credit: Walter/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

American military personnel during Operation Desert Storm. Photo Credit: Walter/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

An often copy and pasted, but thus far elusive, article purportedly in “Jane’s International Defense Review” by Richard M. Ogorkiewicz and entitled “Impenetrable Russian Tank Armour Stands Up to Examinination”, claims that tests conducted on Soviet T-72s outfitted with Kontakt 5 ERA were able to defeat anti-tank munitions available to NATO in the 1980s when Kontakt 5 would be top of the line ERA.

I cannot find the original article, if it exists, and the results may be dubious even if it does. In any case, top of the line Soviet armor would have been highly impressive in combat against NATO units in both firepower and protection.

The Iraqi Army however, did not have top of the line Soviet armor. Much like the Iraqi Air Force, the Iraqi Army’s armor was a mishmash of old and new, and with terrible training. An infamous report of an engagement between a single American M1A1 and three Iraqi “Asad Babil” T-72s recounts the Iraqi tanks ambushing the Abrams.

The first two fired high explosive rounds, ill suited for fighting armor, and the final engaging with a sabot round.

All three were destroyed, including the last tank being killed through a sand dune. Iraqi’s tank force, in addition to being unaware of what types of rounds to use against modern main battle tanks, was partially composed of somewhere in the range of 3,000 T-54s and its derivatives, as well as 1,500 T-62s.

The Iraqis also had around 1,000 T-72Ms imported from Poland. T-72Ms were a variant of the Soviet main battle tank designed for export, and to be inferior to their Soviet counterparts.

Media coverage of Operation Desert Storm was near around the clock and totally changed the way people looked at war. Photo Credit: Daniel Oines/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Media coverage of Operation Desert Storm was near around the clock and totally changed the way people looked at war. Photo Credit: Daniel Oines/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Dubbed by Viktor Suvorov as “monkey models” in his 1982 book “Inside the Soviet Army”, the Soviet Union exported these simpler tanks to its allies, and would be mass produced for usage by the Soviet Union itself should a large scale war break out and last for more than a few weeks.

As a result of these simplifications, monkey models: do not have stabilized guns, cannot fire anti-tank missiles, lack composite armor, lack NBC protection systems, have inferior radio and optical equipment, and exclusively manual turret traversal, among other simplifications.

There is also some merit to the claim that domestically produced “Saddam” and “Asad Babil” T-72s were further downgrades of the T-72M, though this claim is contested.

As a result of all of these factors, we can conclude that the Iraqi Military was ill equipped and ill trained to engage Coalition forces who consistently outgunned and outclassed them.

But this is not representative of the quality of competent usage of technologically relevant Soviet equipment.

Why then does the myth of Western invincibility exist?

In particular the American M1A2 Abrams is susceptible to this myth. The hulking tank, weighing 70 tons, can only be airlifted one at a time by a handful of aircraft in the US arsenal, which makes rapid reaction near impossible.

This is all worth it though, because its impervious to incompetent Iraqi tank crews and insurgents with RPG-7s, thanks to depleted uranium armor, right?

The only variant of the M1 Abrams used by the Saudi Army is the M1A2, seen here cooked off by a Houthi ATGM:

The ATGM in question is likely a variant of the 9M133 Konkurs, based on the infrared bulb on the back of the warhead. Granted, it appears that this Saudi Abrams was not utilizing any kind of appliqué armor, but an $8 million vehicle was destroyed by a Soviet era ATGM all the same.

Perhaps then, Western policy makers should not give in to the attractive vision of an easy war? Perhaps planners should not presume full spectrum dominance when charting out plans for the defense of the Baltic states, Taiwan, or Seoul?

Perhaps being humble in our capabilities, and meticulously planning alongside friends, the hopefully infrequent and necessary wars we fight is a better use of our blood and treasure than chasing “easy wars”?

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Bryan Dourrough/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Is The Sun Setting On The Egyptian-American Alliance?

Since the Camp David Accords of 1979, Egypt has been the second largest recipient of US foreign aid contributions, and became one of the first Major Non NATO Allies (MNNA) of the United States in 1989.

However, events including but not limited to: the Arab Spring, increasing economic and military cooperation with Russia, and two years of withheld aid to Egypt, have caused some to question the relationship between Cairo and Washington.

Following the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, things changed dramatically in the country.

Following the ousting of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, things changed dramatically in the country.

Instability was the on rise and several incidents finally culminated on September 11th 2012, when a large group of men illegally entered and vandalized the American Embassy in Cairo.

Two days later, President Obama claimed that he did not consider Egypt an ally.

Relations between the two countries reached their lowest since 1973 when the United States suspended some of its aid to Egypt in 2013.

This was due to the removal of President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood led government in a military coup that was sanctioned by now President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at the Paris Climate Conference in late 2015. Photo Credit: UNclimatechange/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The withheld aid, the biggest ticket item being the final few parts of a delivery of 20 F-16s, was eventually released in 2015. However, military deliveries to Egypt merely slowed in the two years of frosty relations, and included MIM-72C Chaparral Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs), and M-88 Armored Recovery Vehicles (ARVs), according to SIPRI data sets. Other non military aid also continued.

Despite the relative brevity of this souring of relations between Egypt and the United States, Moscow has made moves to capitalize. Several agreements between Egypt and Russia regarding development of an industrial zone in the Suez, coordination of financial sectors, and tourism were agreed upon on February 3.

In 2015, Russian and Egyptian naval units conducted their first joint training exercises, and joint exercises between the Russian VDV and their Egyptian counterparts are expected to occur later this year. It is not clear whether Egypt’s 46 shiny new KA-52s will be taking part in any of these exercises.

Despite these data points that may alarm casual US planners, a few exercises and weapon sales do not make a trend.

Despite these data points that may alarm casual US planners, a few exercises and weapon sales do not make a trend.

The 1973 Yom Kippur War marked the end of Soviet influence in the Middle East, and the United States has been solidifying its influence in the region since the Carter Administration.

Certain geopolitical realities have developed, and become ingrained in the region that make breaking the alliance between Egypt and the United States difficult.

The first is the Egypt-Israel Peace forged in the Camp David Accords in 1978.

The Suez canal as it looked in 1980, a year after the signing of the Camp David Accords. The canal is an important economic driver for Egypt and was at the center of a recently signed agreement between Egypt and Russia. Photo Credit: NeilHotson/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The Suez canal as it looked in 1980, a year after the signing of the Camp David Accords. The canal is an important economic driver for Egypt and was at the center of a recently signed agreement between Egypt and Russia. Photo Credit: NeilHotson/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Relations between the two countries are fairly strong, to the point that Israel okayed a large scale Egyptian army deployment to the Sinai peninsula, which requires the approval of the Israeli government as per the Camp David Accords.

As Egypt and Israel are the two largest recipients of American aid, they are predisposed to cooperate with each other and the Americans.

Another strike against the doomsayers, is the existing world order is not conducive to abandoning the West and embracing the Russians as an alternative, unless forced to do so.

If the Soviet Union at the height of its power in the 1970s and 1980s could not dislodge American influence, then the best an economically strained Russia can hope for is to be the proverbial “me too” for Cairo.

This is particularly true since it is not in the interests of the United States to be at odds with one of the most strategically and economically critical nations on Earth.

Maintaining open access to the Suez Canal is Egypt’s trump card over any American planners who might wish to divert their interest from Egypt for one reason or another.

As such, it seems unlikely that the already repairing rift between Washington and Egypt will spiral out of control.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Prince Roy/Flickr (CC by 2.0)

Poland Is Swiftly Drifting Towards Authoritarianism And It Could Put Us All In Danger

Poland’s ruling party, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), has been the source of controversy in Poland and throughout Europe nearly since their arrival to power in October of 2015.

This has been driven by the party’s Euroskeptic agenda, questionable legislation, and generally hostile behavior. As a result, the strategic readiness of the entire Euro-Atlantic area is compromised due to growing fissures between European allies.

The Party’s platform in regards to Poland’s relations with other states emphasizes expansion and modernization of Poland’s military, as well as strong cooperation with the UN, NATO, and in particular the United States.

They are wary of integration with the EU than NATO, but not outright opposed like other European right-wing parties like UKIP in the United Kingdom. It should also be noted that PiS favors further centralization of Poland’s government, which is the source of PiS’s disruptive effect on alliance readiness and cohesion.

The troubles began in December, when PiS moved to replace 15 judges on the Constitutional Court, the primary check against the Parliament.

The troubles began in December, when PiS moved to replace 15 judges on the Constitutional Court, the primary check against the Parliament. This resulted in weeks of protest from concerned Poles.

Shortly after this affront to checks and balances, military police were dispatched to replace officials at a NATO Counterintelligence Center in Krakow.

This change of staff was not relayed to other members of the alliance, including Slovak officials charged with cooperatively coordinating the facility who chastised the move, though no changes were made to the Slovak staff.

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From (L to R) the Polish Flag, EU flag, and the NATO flag. Photo Credit: Pawel Kabanski/Flickr (CC by S.A.2.0)

On Jan. 7 of this year, President Andrzej Duda (who resigned from PiS after being elected last May to serve as an independent) signed into law new supreme powers for the Treasury Minister over appointments and firings from state media, as opposed to the previous system of contests hosted by the National Broadcast Council.

This was followed by further protests against the government, and the first of its kind investigation by the EU of PiS’s undemocratic legislation.  In the most extreme circumstances this can lead to Poland having its voting rights in the EU Parliament suspended.

The Polish government has responded to this inquiry with aggression at the perceived source of this hostility (Germany) with attacks.

This includes drawing allusions to Nazi Germany in both print, depicting Chancellor Angela Merkel in the garb of Adolf Hitler, and a tough letter from Poland’s Justice Minister aimed at the German EU commissioner.

“You demanded that Poland be placed under supervision. Such words, spoken by a German politician, have the worst possible connotations for Poles,” Poland’s Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said in a letter to the German EU commissioner Gunther Oettinger according to the Financial Times.

This verbal jab is in spite of relations being so warm in 2014 that Germany and Poland agreed to an exchange of commanders of battalions, a German commanding a Polish unit and vice versa, in order to better understand how their allies work.

The military exchange is set to occur in mid 2016. This kind of exchange is critical to belaying atrophy in a highly critical region of NATO’s frontier. If relations deteriorate to the point that this kind of mutually beneficial cooperation is cancelled, it would be a bad signal to Euro-Atlantic security.

These continued worrying actions in affairs, both foreign and domestic, will likely only further isolate Poland from its allies, which in turn damages the readiness of the entire alliance.

While these effects are likely short-term, and may be rectified due to the popular discontent of the Polish people, and pressure from the EU, serious disagreements are a real possibility. Allied states being unwilling to train together would present a much weaker deterrent to any hypothetical Russian adventures in the Baltic Region, due to the much weaker unit cohesion.

With NATO’s 2016 Warsaw Conference coming up, frosty relations may limit the effectiveness of any measures taken at the conference. This would be in stark contrast to the highly productive 2014 Wales Conference, which established the Very High Readiness Joint Taskforce (VJTF), a multinational brigade that can be deployed within 48 hours to respond to a crisis, preceding the full force of the 40,000 man NATO Response Force (NRF).

Thus, it is in the best interest of a party that claims to value Poland’s NATO membership to repair these ties, and perhaps reevaluate how much it values NATO’s deeply entwined sister organization, the EU.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Follow our new brand focused on helping you learn about the world on Twitter- MillennialInt

Follow our new brand focused on helping you learn about the world on Twitter- @MillennialInt

Cover Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Could Gay Rights Rip Apart Netanyahu’s Conservative Government?

On Dec. 28th, 2015, the first openly gay member of the ruling Likud party, and the third ever in Israel, was sworn into the Knesset (Israeli Parliament).

Amir Ohana took office, following former Member of Knesset (MK) Silvan Shalom’s resignation after Shalom, the then Interior Minister faced a barrage of sexual harassment complaints.

Ohana will take over as Interior Minister, replacing Shalom.

Noticeably absent from the 120 member parliament were 13 members of Israel’s right wing coalition, of which Likud chairs. All of the absentees were from the Shas and the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties.

UTJ admits that Ohana’s potential advocacy for the LGBT community led to their boycott of his swearing in, while Shas claimed ignorance of the event altogether.

Regardless of whether Shas is feigning ignorance to save face, this demonstrates one of the peculiar cleavages in the Likud led Israeli coalition.

Regardless of whether Shas is feigning ignorance to save face, this demonstrates one of the peculiar cleavages in the Likud led Israeli coalition.

Both Shas and UTJ are Orthodox Jewish parties, and thus inclined to hold more socially conservative positions than the secular Likud party.

Navigating between the secular and religious movements in the Israeli Right presents a strong problem for the coalition.

One such instance includes UTJ leaving the 1999 coalition  due to a turbine delivery on the Sabbath.

Israeli Knesset Building. Photo Credit: Chris Yunker/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Israeli Knesset Building. Photo Credit: Chris Yunker/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

These cleavages further present themselves in discussion of the Palestinian residents of Israel, and Palestinian Administered regions.

While UTJ trends against expansion of the Israeli state to encompass the West Bank and Gaza, Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party (another right wing partner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government) and the current minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs has inserted himself in several controversies related to the Palestinian question, including claiming there is “no problem” with killing Arabs, and banning a book from school curriculums about a pair of lovers separated by the Israel Palestine conflict.

This new exposure brought about by the swearing in of Ohana of these cleavages only reveal longstanding issues between various religious and Zionist flavors in the conservative coalition.

While this show of disrespect to the Likud party may be an isolated incident, Netanyahu ought to take care not to allow these instances, or growing instability in the PA, to break up his narrow majority in Knesset.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Nadav Shushu Siman Tov‎/Facebook

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