In The News

New Zealand To Reopen, Sweden’s First Female P.M., Albatross Divorce​

👋 Rimaykullayki!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where New Zealand is set to reopen to foreigners after nearly two years, Sweden elects its first ever female Prime Minister and climate change has unexpected consequences on albatross couples. Die Welt journalist Steffen Fründt meets undertakers preparing for a new coronavirus wave as Germany becomes one of the world's worst-hit COVID hotspots.

[*Quechua]

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From Taliban To Taiwan, The Limits Of Military Power

China is beefing up its military arsenal, with Taiwan as its target. However, as with the continued difficulty to control the terrain in Afghanistan, we increasingly see that military power is far from ensuring the hegemony hoped for by stronger parties.

-Analysis-

PARIS — "How many divisions does the Pope have?" once famously asked Joseph Stalin, highlighting that despite religious or political authority, military force can always prevail in geopolitics. However, in the 21st century, one can legitimately ask what military force is for.

In Afghanistan, more than three months after the Taliban's lightning victory, terrorist violence continues. It seems that members of the defeated regular army have joined the ranks of the "fundamentalist international" to continue the fight against the Taliban. In short, military victory on the ground has not solved anything. The Taliban face the resilience of those nostalgic for freedom and progress on the one hand, and Islamic fanatics on the other.

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Diplomacy 101 In Belarus: Talking To Bad People Is Part Of The Job

A German politician lashed out after Angela Merkel spoke on the phone with Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko. But like in other hot spots, avoiding the worst along the Belarus-Poland border means casting aside moral superiority and naiveté.

BERLIN — It may well be that in just a few weeks there will be a Green Party politician at the helm of the German diplomacy. It may be co-party leader Annalena Baerbock, or someone else. Either way, what would it mean if the foreign minister was from the Green Party?

Well, we may get a hint of what could happen by looking at Green politician Omid Nouripour's reaction to outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's actions regarding the refugee crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border. It does not bode well.

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Belarus To The Mediterranean, Europe's "Rival" Migrant Crises

Italy has long been the European Union's border-of-choice for would-be migrants, arriving from North Africa to the shores of Sicily. But while the Italian government was hoping for much needed help from the European Union to face the immigration flow, the border dispute between Belarus and Poland has exploded, and diverted attention east and north.

ROME — The tragic images arriving from the Polish-Belarusian border have diverted attention from no less dramatic images elsewhere: starting with the boats landing in Sicily crammed with men showing the injuries from the torture suffered in Libya and women and children who have risked everything to cross the Mediterranean.

The Italian government is isolated as it calls for Europeans to look again toward the Mediterranean and Africa, when the focus right now of most European capitals and European Union institutions is facing eastward.

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In The News
Bertrand Hauger and Jeff Israely

COP26 Last Day, COVID Boom In Europe, Lost Penguin

👋 Kamusta!*

Welcome to Friday, where COP26 negotiations near crunch time, two iconic multinationals are split up and a very lost penguin arrives in New Zealand. We also sit back and ask the eternal, though not-necessarily-easy, question: What makes a comfortable chair?

[*Tagalog - Philippines]

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Migrant Lives
Tim Röhn

A Wall At The Poland-Belarus Border? Europe Must Make Hard Choices

Hundreds of migrants arrive in Germany every day from Poland, which makes the Belarus border a national issue for Germany. It's long past time that Europe acknowledge that tough measures are needed — maybe even walls...

-OpEd-

BERLIN — In May I spent a night by the border fence in Ceuta, the Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa. I watched as every few seconds someone swam across the border into European Union territory. Spain's Guardia Civil seized people, dragged them along the ground, opened the gate in the border fence and shoved them back into Moroccan territory. In the space of a few hours, thousands of people came across an apparently endless stream. Then the army turned up.

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In The News
Jane Herbelin and Jeff Israely

Clashes On Polish-Belarus Border, South Africa’s de Klerk Dies, 600 In Space

👋 سلام*

Welcome to Thursday, where overnight clashes are reported at Poland's border with Belarus, South Africa's last white president died and history links Yuri Gagarin and Elon Musk. We also look at how COVID may be the tipping point to push cities into a bicycle-centric future.

[*Salam - Arabic]

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In The News
Jane Herbelin, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Laure Gautherin

COP26 Draft, Poland Blames Putin, Vintage Apple Auctioned

👋 Moien!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where COP26 draft calls for higher pledges by 2022, Poland accuses Russia of orchestrating the migrant crisis at the Belarus border, and a vintage Apple computer sells for a whopping $400,000. Meanwhile, Germany daily Die Welt argues that China will be the geopolitical winner in the battle over climate change.

[*Luxembourgish]

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Migrant Lives
Wojciech Czuchnowski

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seem to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

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Belarus
Meike Eijsberg

Europe Against Belarus — How A Sprinter Became The New Catalyst

A virtual unknown to most of the world a few days ago, Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya is now at the center of an Olympic drama that has spilled over into the realm of geopolitics.

On Sunday afternoon, Kristina Timanovskaya, a 24-year-old sprinter, was taken to the Haneda Airport in Tokyo by two attendants from the Belarusian team. It would be the beginning of the most politically charged episode of the 2021 Summer Games, which has the potential to carry over into high-stakes diplomacy long after the closing ceremony.


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Belarus
Thomas d'Istria

Maria Kolesnikova: A Final Stand Of The Belarusian Resistance

The shocking, mid-flight capture of a dissident journalist brings new attention to the repression taking place in Belarus, where another prominent political prisoner Kolesnikova has been locked up for months.

MINSK — Eight months before journalist Roman Protasevich was dragged from a commercial flight that Belarusian authorities essentially "hijacked," an even more prominent opponent of strongman Alexander Lukashenko's decades-old regime was seized in the middle of a street in Minsk by a group of masked men, presumably KGB agents.

Just before dawn the next day, the detainee — professional flautist and former presidential candidate Maria Kolesnikova — found herself at the Ukranian border with a decision to make: Would she do as her captors wanted and leave Belarus? Instead, the 39-year-old political dissident tore apart her passport, effectively choosing prison over exile.

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Belarus
*Anna Zafesova

Lukashenko To Putin: A New Cold War, Or Something Worse?

Western media like to run headlines warning of a “new Cold War” every time a new conflict or act of repression occurs in post-Soviet authoritarian, But Belarus’ brazen intercepting of a Ryanair jet is something that never would have happened on either sid

-Analysis-

Is history repeating itself, only this time as a farce?

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Belarus
Thomas d'Istria

In Belarus, Purpose And Method In Hunting Down Demonstrators

Alexander Lukashenko's regime is sending more and more protesters to prison to try to prevent a new mass mobilization.

MINSK — The welcoming committee waiting for Angelina Serzhan when she was released from prison on Feb. 14 was limited to her parents, who were happy ... and worried. The hour of Serzhan's release had been postponed at the last moment. An argument soon broke out between the reunited family. "My father told me that I was responsible because I had worn politically incorrect socks," says the 20-year-old. She had taken part in the demonstrations demanding the resignation of President Alexander Lukashenko, who was re-elected on Aug. 9, 2020. She had expected to be arrested one day by the special riot police (OMON), but certainly not because of her socks.

On Jan. 30, police officers put her in a van while she was crossing a park in the capital. The reason? Serzhan, who studies fine arts in Minsk, was wearing white and red socks, the colors of the former flag of the Belarusian People's Republic. This flag became the symbol of the protest movement. At the verdict of her trial, on Skype, she was sentenced to 15 days of detention for "participation in a mass event not authorized by the authorities."

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Belarus
Kirill Krivosheyev

Lukashenko Threats Force Hand Of Belarus Opposition

The opponents of ‘Europe’s last dictator’ are trying to avoid loss of life and focusing new energy on labor strikes.

Two weeks have passed since the presidential election in Belarus, the results of which are disputed by the opposition. Despite the large turnout for Sunday" protests, there are signs that the movement against longstanding leader Alexander Lukashenko may be gradually dying down.

Proclaimed president of Belarus for a sixth time, Lukashenko is busy attempting to regain the initiative with the help of alternative pro-government demonstrations among his supporters — along with grim warnings that order would be restored in the country.

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Belarus
Christophe Ayad

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya Interview: Fear Has Changed Sides

Forced into exile in Lithuania after the contested Aug. 9 Belarusian presidential election, Tikhanovskaya is not giving up the struggle to push strongman Alexander Lukashenko from power.

VILNIUS — After 10 days of silence, officially due to a quarantine, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya is making up for lost time. Spontaneous and initially shy, the 37 year-old surprise candidate for the Belarusian presidential election is becoming more and more assertive, revealing an iron will. Currently a refugee from her homeland, in Vilnius, Lithuania, and living with her two children, Tikhanovskaya has suddenly found herself as the top opponent of the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko. She met recently with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Biegun, who said he was "impressed."

In an Aug 25 interview with Le Monde, Tikhanovskaya said she continues to rely on peaceful demonstrations and strikes to bring down the man described as "the last dictator in Europe."

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BBC
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Manon Dambrine

Thailand To Belarus: The Divides Of Democracy Protesters

In two very different parts of the world, seemingly impenetrable authoritarian regimes suddenly appear under siege by popular democratic uprisings. But as protesters take to the streets in Belarus and Thailand — and garner widespread international support — it still remains unclear if they'll be able to turn their mass demonstrations into tangible change.

Flawed democracy, military rule: Thailand, which for years has vacillated between periods of a flourishing if flawed democracy and straight-out military rule, has been run by generals who took over in a 2014 coup and suspended the constitution. The junta has faced sporadic protests, but General-turned-Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's victory for another four-year tem in a sketchy 2019 general election did not cause a major stir, until the recent unrest.

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