World News Roundup

△ The Perils of Pessimism (Foreign Affairs): “Pessimistic governments cannot focus too much on the distant future because they believe they must act in the present to avoid a more dangerous world. Under these circumstances, what matters are … instruments of statecraft that can be used immediately to change the facts on the ground as quickly as possible. Leaders of these states will therefore focus most of their attention on existing military and economic resources and active efforts to increase them. Initiatives by other countries to augment their soft power or develop alternative networks or institutions might get noticed by these leaders, but they will provoke less concern. Leaders focused on the here and now will not prioritize such long-term threats. By contrast, governments with positive expectations about the future have confidence in their continued national ascent. This enables a longer time horizon, allowing policymakers to invest in forms of power that take more time to pay off: global governance, cultural diplomacy, long-standing alliances and partnerships, pie-in-the-sky technological innovations, and so forth. These forms of power require substantial investment and time to develop, but the rewards are significant. Optimistic expectations also mean that these states can apply an ambitious definition of power in assessing others’ capabilities. They will notice what other great powers are doing across many dimensions of power, not just military might … The extent to which great powers are optimistic or pessimistic about the future has profound effects on their present-day strategies. A world of great powers that are optimistic about the future will have arenas of confrontation but little war. These confident great powers will invest in resources designed to attract as well as coerce, suggesting a contested but relatively pacific world. A world of pessimistic great powers, however, will lead to an emphasis on military capabilities and a temptation to engage in preventive action. Militarized disputes are far more likely in a pessimistic world, where the role of force matters the most … If American officials believe that the future will be more favorable than the present, then perhaps they can focus on reinforcing the liberal international order that has advanced U.S. interests for decades. Less concerned about immediate threats, Washington might be able to reemphasize long-term objectives, such as reversing democratic backsliding and building a resilient set of rules for the twenty-first-century global economy. Despite rising Chinese pessimism, a strong United States, confident in its future and its role in the world, could retake its historic position within the international system. An optimistic United States will fortify international institutions and offer a bridge to countries in the global South … that are interested in joining the order as responsible stakeholders. If, however, the great powers succumb to pessimism, then all bets are off, and the world will face a dangerous decade.”

Ukraine Retreats From Embattled City, as Russia Grinds On (The New York Times): “After weeks of bloody street fighting and months of withering artillery fire, Ukrainian forces will withdraw from Sievierodonetsk, a city that President Volodymyr Zelensky once said would determine the ‘fate’ of the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. The retreat from the devastated industrial city on the east bank of the Siversky Donets River was confirmed Friday by Serhiy Haidai, the head of the military administration in Luhansk. It represents the most significant loss for the Ukrainian military since Russian forces seized Mariupol a month ago after a similarly brutal campaign of heavy shelling and street fighting left that southern port in ruins. It means the Russian military can now concentrate fully on taking control of Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk’s twin city on the west bank of the river and the last city in the Luhansk region still under Ukrainian control. Analysts expect that the Russians will then set their sights on seizing the remnant of the Donetsk region still held by Ukrainian forces, which would complete their conquest of Donbas.”

△ (Written by the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs) How Ukraine Will Win (Foreign Affairs): “It is only natural that people and governments lose interest in conflicts as they drag on. It’s a process that has played out many times throughout history. The world stopped paying attention to the war in Libya after former leader Muammar al-Qaddafi was toppled from power, in 2011. It disengaged from Syria, Yemen, and other ongoing conflicts that once generated front-page news. And as I know well, the rest of the world lost interest in Ukraine after 2015, even as we continued to fight Russian forces for control over the eastern part of the country. But Russia’s current invasion is graver than its past one, and the world cannot afford to turn away. That’s because Russian President Vladimir Putindoes not simply want to take more Ukrainian territory. His ambitions don’t even stop at seizing control of the entire country. He wants to eviscerate Ukrainian nationhood and wipe our people off the map, both by slaughtering us and by destroying the hallmarks of our identity. He is, in other words, engaged in a campaign of genocide. To avoid growing weary of the war and falling for misleading narratives, the West needs to understand exactly how Ukraine can win, and then support us accordingly. This war is existential, and we are motivated to fight. Properly armed, our forces can stretch Putin’s troops—which are already exhausted—past the breaking point. We can counterattack Russian forces in both Ukraine’s south and Ukraine’s east, pressuring Putin to decide which of his gains to protect. To succeed, however, the United States and its European allies must swiftly supply our country with appropriate numbers of advanced heavy weapons. They must also maintain and increase sanctions against Russia. And, critically, they need to ignore calls for diplomatic settlements that would help Putin before he makes serious concessions.”

Here’s How to Help Ukraine Handle Putin’s Food Blockade (Foreign Policy): “Despite Russia’s war, scorched-earth strategy, and destructive occupation of Ukraine, as much as 70 percent of Ukraine’s grain-planting happened as planned. As the war rages on, military and economic support for Ukraine remains essential. But the global food crisis precipitated by the war also calls for energetic efforts by the international community to get as much of the harvest as possible to market—and some creative solutions for storing the rest. Before the war, around 90 percent of that grain left Ukraine by ship, much of it through the Ukrainian Black Sea ports of Odesa, Mariupol, and Mykolaiv. But Russia’s occupation and near-complete destruction of Mariupol, shelling of Mykolaiv from the nearby front, and continued blockade of Odesa mean the grain … cannot be shipped to market.… Not only is Russia effectively blockading the Black Sea shipment of this year’s harvest but much of last year’s harvest remains in storage facilities—approximately 20 million tons of grain is awaiting export, and until it moves, there will be no place to put this year’s harvest. Moreover, Russia has been bombing Ukrainian grain storage facilities intentionallywhich has diminished overall storage capacity. A new report … shows that Russian attacks have destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars of storage infrastructure and more than half a billion dollars of agricultural products awaiting shipment … Even if it produces about one-third less grain this year than in 2021, Ukraine should still have about 35 million tons of new grain for export … the average bulk freighter leaving the city’s port used to carry 40,000 metric tons. But a truck only carries about 25 tons—meaning it would take about 1,600 trucks to replace a single ship and roughly 1.4 million trucks to transport this year’s entire diminished harvest .… There are several practical solutions that could be scaled up. Ukrainian farmers and agriculture companies have already started to expand the use of silo bags—which are exactly what the name implies: enormous weatherproof sheaths of polymer plastic that can be used to store thousands of tons of grain on site. Mobile storage and temporary warehouses, which can be easily assembled and quickly installed, have been part of United Nations World Food Program pilot plans in recent years and should be rapidly deployed in Ukraine. And, wherever feasible, completing conventional silos already planned or in progress should be fast tracked. In essence, the European Union and other members of the G-7, working with Ukraine, should launch an international effort to save Ukraine’s grain, support global food security, and break Putin’s proxy siege. It needs the urgency, determination, and creativity of the Berlin airlift—except instead of bringing supplies in, it will be ensuring they can eventually get out. This will require both resources and coordination. Working with the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development as well as national agencies and the World Food Program, the EU and G-7 should aim to provide favorable financing and grants to support the rapid scaling of storage. Ukrainian agricultural companies, on their own, do not have access to enough fast capital.”

Coal Dust and Methane Below, Russian Bombs Above (The New York Times): “Accidents are common in Ukraine’s aging coal mines. Methane gas, a byproduct of coal mining, is highly explosive. In 2007, a methane blast killed more than 100 miners, the deadliest mining accident in the country’s post-Soviet history. Last year, nine miners plunged to deaths when a steel elevator cable broke at a colliery in a part of Donbas controlled by pro-Russia separatists. Now, Russia’s heavy, indiscriminate bombing has added yet another threat to Ukraine’s coal mines, where personal fears and global anxieties meet.… Despite having the world’s sixth-largest coal reserve, 90 percent of it in the Donbas region, Ukraine risks power cuts from shortages. President Volodymyr Zelensky recently announced that Ukraine was ceasing exports of oil, coal and gas to meet needs this winter. Miners have more immediate concerns. ‘If a missile hits the elevator shaft, it would be very difficult to get the miners out’ … If power to the ventilation system is cut, methane could accumulate in the tunnels … If water pumps are disconnected, mines can flood and collapse. Russian bombardment cut electricity at the mine, a state-run enterprise near the town of Selidove, in April, trapping miners for hours. This month, 77 miners were temporarily trapped inside a mine in a Russian-controlled part of Donbas after Ukrainian shelling disrupted power.… The Donbas region used to have 82 operational mines in Russia-occupied areas … only five still worked.”

Why War Fails (Foreign Affairs): “The value of delegated authority and local initiative will be one of the other key lessons from this war … for these practices to be effective, the military in question must be able to satisfy four conditions. First, there must be mutual trust between those at the senior and most junior levels … Second, those doing the fighting must have access to the equipment and supplies they need to keep going. It helped the Ukrainians that they were using portable antitank and air-defense weapons and were fighting close to their home bases, but they still needed their logistical systems to work. Third, those providing leadership at the most junior levels of command need to be of high quality. Under Western guidance, the Ukrainian army had been developing the sort of noncommissioned officer corps that can ensure that the basic demands of an army on the move will be met, from equipment maintenance to actual preparedness to fight. In practice, even more relevant was that many of those who returned to the ranks when Ukraine mobilized were experienced veterans and had a natural understanding of what needed to be done. But this leads to the fourth condition. The ability to act effectively at any level of command requires a commitment to the mission and an understanding of its political purpose. These elements were lacking on the Russian side because of the way Putin launched his war: the enemy the Russian forces had been led to expect was not the one they faced, and the Ukrainian population was not, contrary to what they had been told, inclined to be liberated. The more futile the fight, the lower the morale and the weaker the discipline of those fighting. In these circumstances, local initiative can simply lead to desertion or looting. By contrast, the Ukrainians were defending their territory against an enemy intent on destroying their land. There was an asymmetry of motivation that influenced the fighting from the start. Which takes us back to the folly of Putin’s original decision. It is hard to command forces to act in support of a delusion. “

Christian Nationalism Is Tearing Ethiopia Apart (Foreign Policy): “An ancient Christian imperialism is resurging in Ethiopia today under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. This archaic vision promises to unify Ethiopia and restore its divine glory. But it appears to be shattering Ethiopia and fueling catastrophic suffering. Its core belief is that Ethiopia is a Christian nation created and destined by God for greatness under Christian leadership. Today it is supercharging enmity and silencing critical voices calling for the end of war, genuine dialogue, and an inclusive Ethiopia where diverse people can belong together. Understanding Ethiopia’s religious history is crucial for understanding the complexity of Ethiopia’s conflicts and prospects for peace today. Analyses of Ethiopia often marginalize or ignore religion, but an estimated 98 percent of Ethiopians say religion is ‘very important’ to them. Ethiopia’s last census estimated that 43.5 percent of Ethiopians identify as Orthodox Christian, 33.9 percent as Muslim, and 18.6 percent as Protestant. When you overlook religion in Ethiopia, you fail to understand one of the most powerful sources of motivation—and manipulation—in Ethiopian society.”

Kenyan Elections: The Woman Who Rallies Crowds – but Won’t Vote (BBC): “In a country where at least 70% of the population is aged under 35, ensuring young voters show up at the polls is crucial for those running for office in the six elections being held simultaneously, including for the presidency, parliament and county governors. Candidates spend millions of dollars on campaign materials, logistics and communications, including hiring social media influencers to churn out favourable posts. They also have to keep up with increasingly demanding voters who prey on the politicians’ desperation to win – Kenyan politicians are some of the best paid in the world. The country’s political system is designed to make sure that those who spend the most money get elected … Kenya has a youth unemployment crisis … ‘If you look at the age band of about 16 to 35, then the unemployment rate could be as high as 40%, so things are pretty bad but I don’t think it can get worse than it is’ … In the coming weeks she will continue to hop from one rally to the next to earn a living, not expecting to hear from the politicians once the elections are over.”

Nigeria’s All-Male Gerontocracy Won’t Go Away (Foreign Policy): “Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy, holds presidential elections in February next year. Under a June deadline, the country’s biggest parties have nominated their candidates to succeed outgoing Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who has served his maximum term limit in office. The choice presented to Nigerians will—as usual—be among old, wealthy men … Analysts have criticized the lack of representation of young people within Nigerian politics in a country where the median age is 18. But even rarer at the ballot box are the names of female candidates, despite making up 47 percent of registered voters in the country’s last election. The number of women lawmakers in the country has declined. Nigeria ranks 184out of over 190 countries globally on women’s political representation … Women occupy just 3.6 percent of Nigeria’s parliamentary seats … Nigeria’s constitution was drafted in October 1975 through the appointment of an all-male, 50-member committee. That year also represented the first time northern Nigerian women were allowed to run and vote in the 1979 elections … women in the south had been able to vote since the 1950s … The kind of money that Nigeria’s politics require can be a barrier for many women. Vote buying is a problem. In the recently concluded Ekiti governorship election, party agents reportedly offered people up to 10,000 naira (about $24) each in payment for votes. An APC nomination form costs 100 million naira (about $240,000) for presidential aspirants. An opposition PDP presidential nomination is cheaper by comparison—at 40 million naira. Women, on the other hand, pay no costs for the APC and PDP forms. But neither party has ever nominated a woman since the return of democracy in 1999.”

‘I’ve Never Seen a Flood Like This’: Bangladesh Reels From Heavy Rains (The New York Times): “The Asia-Pacific region is used to the occasional flood. In Bangladesh and elsewhere, the rhythms of local life have adapted over centuries to the annual monsoon that typically runs from June to September and provides water that farmers need to growrice, a primary food in many countries. But this year, the rains have been especially intense … In China, where recent flooding has displaced hundreds of thousands of people … water levels had surged beyond flood levels in more than a hundred rivers. In Bangladesh and northern India, recent flooding has washed away towns and train stations, killing dozens of people and displacing millions of others. As of Friday, at least 68 people in Bangladesh had died since mid-May from flood-related causes … More than 4,000 people have been infected with waterborne diseases. Crops have been devastated. The northeast, an area that produces most of the rice for a country of about 170 million people, has been especially hard hit. At least 384,000 people have been displaced in … ‘Every piece of real estate in Bangladesh is populated, and this entire area is underwater,’ said … the United Nations Children’s Fund representative to the country, referring to the northeast … India and Bangladesh are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they sit near the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. In 2020, torrential rains left at least a quarter of Bangladesh submerged. Last year, extreme rainfall and landslides washed away a sprawling Rohingya refugee camp overnight.”

In Remote Afghanistan, Scenes From a Deadly Earthquake (The New York Times):

Afghanistan’s Remote and Poor Villages Hardest Hit by Earthquake (Al Jazeera): “Nestled in rocky, unpaved mountains and hillsides, the remoteness of these poor villages and their rudimentary homes of mud and wood was cited as a major cause of the fatalities among residents in Khost and Paktika – the two provinces that were most affected by the earthquake. ‘Everyone is poor here, they build simple houses with what they have’ … The Afghan Ministry of Defence began deploying helicopters to the affected districts on Wednesday morning, but by mid-afternoon those flights had to be halted due to torrential rain, hail, and heavily clouded conditions over Kabul and neighbouring provinces.”

The U.N. Knows Afghanistan Is Messed Up. But It’s Keeping Mum. (Foreign Policy): “The report on the human rights situation in Afghanistan in May … details egregious violations and abuses by the Taliban administration. The report itself makes clear that despite almost a year of engagement with the Taliban as the de facto Afghan government, the U.N. has made little difference to the Islamists’ disregard for basic human rights, including access to food and education … International aid donors won’t give money to the Taliban, pumping funding instead through other channels. But the U.N. has bigfooted the smaller charities and nongovernmental organizations that work in Afghanistan, which they say makes it tough to do their job—and ensure that money gets to the Afghan people, rather than the regime. Afghan aid sector sources say Taliban control of local NGOs gives them access to supplies that are often redirected to their own supporters and soldiers. The June 22 earthquake of about magnitude 6.1 that devastated parts of eastern Khost and Paktika provinces, with deaths and injuries in the thousands, further highlighted the lack of regulation and oversight of the sector. ‘None of the NGOs, local or international, have the capacity to challenge the authorities’ … Doctors and emergency response professionals were among the many thousands who left the country after the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021. Many of those who remained were fired as the new regime cleared out the remnants of the republic.  … The U.N. has appealed for almost $5 billion to meet humanitarian needs in Afghanistan this year, saying around half the population, estimated at 38 million people, face serious food shortages. Aid is largely delivered by local partners—there are 4,000 registered NGOs in Afghanistan, sources said, though only about half are operational. The U.N. Security Council, in a briefing Thursday on the situation in Afghanistan, heard that despite measures to ensure the Taliban couldn’t get their hands on international aid money, and the Taliban’s own promises that they wouldn’t even try, the new government is ‘increasingly seeking to play a role in the selection of beneficiaries and channelling assistance to people on their own priority lists.’ “

Afghanistan’s Warlords Prepare Their Comeback (Foreign Policy): “Exiled warlords, power brokers, and ethnic leaders who fled Afghanistan last year ahead of the Taliban’s victory are threatening civil war unless the Islamists start negotiating to let them return home and reclaim their power and authority as an alternative to the nihilistic rule of the terrorists currently in charge … With an average age of 19 years, the vast majority of the population of around 38 million knows only war. The warlords and their cohort are part of a perpetual cycle that has blighted Afghanistan for more than 40 years. People are exhausted and yearn for peace, but the depredations of the Taliban present a new phase of crisis. And now the warlords are back in the mix … Afghanistan’s mosaic is now dangerously fractured. Across the north, armed groups are fighting to dislodge the Taliban, giving the warlords and their allies confidence they’ll find popular support for a comeback as pressure grows on Western governments to end Afghanistan’s isolation. Amid looming starvation for millions and economic implosion worsened by U.S. financial sanctions, the old guard has a number of factors on its side, not least the Taliban’s proven inability to function as a national government. But amid the rumblings of civil war, some analysts warn that history is set to repeat with another atrocity like the 9/11 attacks as dozens of anti-West terrorist groups converge with Taliban protection … Yet the lack of a credible governing alternative—as well as a growing humanitarian crisis—is behind growing pressure on U.S. President Joe Biden to recognize the Taliban, the world’s biggest drug cartel, which count dozens of sanctioned terrorists in their upper ranks. Citing the need to relieve the humanitarian disaster—despite billions of dollars going to the United Nations to feed the growing numbers of hungry people—and safeguard U.S. interests, some commentators have suggested ending the Taliban’s isolation with engagement short of diplomatic recognition. So far, though, the Taliban remain pariahs at home and abroad. Whether the warlords can step into the breach remains to be seen. The United States and the international coalition that fought for 20 years have no appetite for a return to conflict in Afghanistan. Neighboring countries don’t want to finance or arm resistance groups, relieved that conflict over the border has ended and hopeful they can settle into an albeit uneasy coexistence with the Taliban.”

Afghanistan Earthquake Victims Face Struggles Getting Aid (Bloomberg): “Already, the humanitarian response – which typically surges in the first 72 hours following an earthquake – has lagged in both size and speed due to the lack of pre-positioned supplies and the level of hunger and poverty that already exist in Afghanistan. Heavy rains and winds have also hampered rescue efforts … Many governments and philanthropic donors will not give funds directly to the Taliban-run government. Those sending aid to the country are hampered by the lack of regular flights into Kabul, the nation’s capital, as well as customs delays once donations land there. Humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief says its shipment of 1 million doses of donated prenatal vitamins is still being held by customs weeks after it arrived in the country. To show that aid for earthquake victims is welcome, the Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzadah, who almost never appears in public, asked the international community and humanitarian organizations ‘to help the Afghan people affected by this great tragedy and to spare no effort’ … For those looking to donate to help those affected by the Afghanistan earthquake, McIlreavy, of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, said focusing on groups currently working in Afghanistan would be important. She said those groups will likely be reallocating their resources from other areas into Afghanistan and then depending on increased donations to replenish those resources.”

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