Year in Review – OpEd – Eurasia Review

By Dr J Scott Younger *

Suu Kyi, Yemen and Afghanistan in the foreground

TThis year has been a stark reminder that, as a former scientist once said, the virus is man’s insidious enemy. It has been a hundred years since the deadly (Spanish) influenza virus spread and killed 20 million people, truly marking the end of World War I. The black plague, originating in China, about 1350, killed about 75-200 million. Fortunately, we have made tremendous strides in medical science over the past 100 years, without which the current number of over 2 million in the current pandemic would be many times greater. In 1920, the world population that succumbed was about 1%. Six centuries earlier, it was around +/- 15%. If 1% were given birth today, around 90 million would die – unthinkable.

Earlier this year, the military in Myanmar raided, wrested the people’s choice for leader – Aung San Suu Kyi – and chased her and other key civilians out, and took over the government. . They falsely accused Suu Kyi’s NLD (National League of Democracy) government of fraud in the recently won election, but ‘promised‘hold another’freeelection under their control after one year, that is to say February 2022, in two months. We don’t have to wait long! In the meantime, they are murdering villagers in Chin State, as recent events on film have revealed. Sections of the population are forming armed resistance groups, beyond those of long-standing former guerrillas, not trusting the Burmese military, which has used the same tactics of rape, looting and murder for many years. decades.

Meanwhile, the lady, as Suu Kyi is known, has been given a reduced sentence of 2 years on trumped-up charges, but they have not yet finished in court, but are taking a break until the end. of the year. However, by putting the lady in jail, she will not be able to run in the next election – if it goes! Questionable.

The tragic situation in Yemen, where several thousand children die every month, does not make the headlines. The terrible plight of the people was once again broadcast by the UN on world news. The civil war, which has lasted too long, pits Iran-backed Houti rebels, who espouse the Shia version of Islam, and Yemeni government forces, backed by the Saudis and their allies, who espouse the Sunni version. . . In turn, they are supported by the West, mainly the United States, how to stop the war without intervention? Stop the supply of weapons? Only part of the answer.

In mid-year, most attention shifted to Afghanistan when the Taliban, realizing it was only a matter of time before the United States fully pulled out, made a push and began to gain a foothold in the country. This followed President Trump’s rather vain attempt to meet the Taliban one-on-one in 2018 without the presence of the Afghan government. President Joseph Biden, against much notice, followed by announcing a complete withdrawal of US troops and citizens by 30e August, the matter of a few short weeks to unfold 20 years of revival work towards sustainable development.

The result was that the Taliban accelerated their advance and surprised the Afghan government and the departing parties to the point that they had to negotiate free passage during the last week of August for a number of key people. , including Afghans. Many Afghans had aided the United States and its allies for years and would be targets of the Taliban if they stayed. The little time left meant that many, perhaps most, had to be left behind, rightly out of fear for their lives. The situation is still not resolved as the Taliban have an archaic outlook on life, especially towards women, no funds and have no competence to run a complex country with many centuries of unstable history.

Putin and Xi Jinping cement positions

Tthere have been other difficult places in the world. Belarus with its ominous president, Alexander Lukashenko, who stole the last elections to stay in power, and has repeatedly upset the EU and the West in general. Lukashenko knows he has the president’s backing Vladimir Poutine from Russia and does things to anger, the latest being to encourage refugees from the Middle East to cross into Poland. His behavior is utterly dictatorial and contrary to most of his people’s wishes, but Putin encourages him to keep a tampon, a country within the Russian Communist sphere of influence.

In his 17e Long annual Christmas message to the Russian people, Putin showed his thinking. He wants to keep Ukraine and Belarus and any other fragment of territory he can get within Russian hegemony. He very much regrets the loss of the Russian ‘Empire‘, the vast tracts of land, the individual countries, which they recaptured at the end of World War II. He forgets why he lost them. The Russian economy had performed poorly year after year during Stalin’s years and could not follow the democratic path of the West with which it competed, especially the United States. At the end of the 1980s, Mikhaïl Gorbachev, last secretary general of the Communist government of the USSR and in office from 1985, then first president of Russia, 1990-91, bowed to the inevitable. If the Russian economy were to recover, it had to liberate all the countries of Eastern Europe which they held in their hegemony. To continue to seize these countries was no longer possible, a terrible pressure on the economy. One notable action was the demolition of the Berlin Wall, which enabled the reunification of Germany.

President Putin considers the enlargement of the EU with the former Soviet satellite countries of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, etc., thus extending NATO’s borders towards the is, as a potential threat to Russia. Therefore, he intensifies the pressure on Ukraine to which he reclaimed Crimea and effectively controls the eastern border of the country. But Europe, especially Germany, needs Russian gas, which it has in abundance, so it makes sense for the EU and Russia to meet at a high level in early 2022 to try to iron out various points. of divergence. This benefits both parties and beyond. Historically, until nearly a century ago, European Russia, where most Russian decisions are made, had ties to several European powers.

Other ongoing struggles are in the Middle East, which involves several neighboring countries but is largely focused on Syria, which has highlighted the refugee issue in Europe for more than a decade, and Ethiopia. In China, there is the plight of the Uyghurs, who are tortured and ‘re-educated‘to abandon their Islamic beliefs and follow the central party line of the Communist government. Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China, since 2013, has been making belligerent rumors aimed at preventing the United States and the West from interfering in China’s creepy land grab policy. They have also made noise about Taiwan’s takeover, which is potentially very dangerous.

From COP26 to Omicron

Teagerly awaited COP26, to show the latest thinking from the IPCC and their scientific community, was held in Glasgow towards the end of the year in November, and attracted high-level government officials from most countries around the world and personalities concerned with the climate. publish. He also brought in many pressure groups who made their voices heard; altogether some 40,000 participants in one way or another. CO2 was the home, the culprit fossil fuels, and the human activities leading to the increase of it. The resolution was tabled that countries should all sign an agreement to target a reduction in the use of fossil fuels to reach a net zero position by mid-century.

At the last minute, China and India objected and would not sign unless the final resolution document swapped the word “phase out” the use of fossil fuels for the word watered down. ‘reduce’ the use of fossil fuels. India, whose economy relies heavily on coal, said it would not be ready until 2070. China’s industry and domestic needs significantly produce the largest amount of greenhouse gas greenhouse of all countries. However, it is also investing in renewable energies. Each argued that any faster rate of reduction would have a very detrimental effect on their respective economies. The COP was dismayed but reluctantly agreed to have the document signed as a final memento of the Glasgow meeting.

Since then, the covid virus has taken center stage again with a new, rapidly evolving variant, the omicron, discovered in South Africa, and supplanting the previous delta variant as the dominant strain. While the delta variant is still with us, the omicron is of further concern to medical scientists with the astonishing speed of its spread and its potential to overwhelm a country’s health services.

However, a former British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, says as others say “no country is safe until all countries are safe ”. He is rightly dismayed at the slow pace of vaccine distribution to and among poorer countries, and criticizes the efforts of richer nations as these poor countries face poorly developed communication networks, mostly road, which only adds to the problem.

As we approach the end of the year, the virus is increasing its profile instead of gradually disappearing. Omicron succeeds Delta, which has been the dominant strain throughout the year. The speed at which the variant spreads is of concern, although its potency appears to be less. Regardless of the first two months to come, the virus would seem to dominate. Something like this deadly virus lasts for over 3 years. We can only hope that this one can show signs of exhaustion in 2022. Nowadays we have a population of over 8 billion, many more than before, but luckily we know a lot more and put constantly updating medical science, sometimes daily. . There are other problems which arise and which will challenge us in the years to come. But this is another story.

*About the Author: Dr J Scott Young, OBE, is a professional civil engineer; he spent 42 years in the Far East, carrying out missions in 10 countries for the World Bank, the ADB, the UNDP. He has published numerous articles; he has been a columnist for Forbes Indonesia and Globe Asia. He has served on the boards of the British and European Chambers and was Vice-President of the International Business Chamber for 17 years. His expertise is infrastructure and sustainable development and he is interested in international affairs. He is the International Chancellor of President University, Indonesia. He is a member of the IFIMES advisory board. Lived and worked in Thailand from 1978 to 1983 and visited Burma, Bangladesh and Nepal for projects.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of IFIMES.

Edward K. Thompson