Proliferation of ‘middle powers’ will shape 21st-century geopolitical order: WEF panel

Special Proliferation of ‘middle powers’ will shape 21st-century geopolitical order: WEF panel
Founder and Chair of the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia Dino Patti Djalal. (Screengrab/YouTube)
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Updated 18 January 2024
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Proliferation of ‘middle powers’ will shape 21st-century geopolitical order: WEF panel

Proliferation of ‘middle powers’ will shape 21st-century geopolitical order: WEF panel
  • Dino Patti Djalal said that the end of the Cold War had led to a ‘proliferation’ of so-called middle-power countries in both the Global South and the Global North
  • ‘Europe must grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems’: Austrian minister

LONDON: A proliferation of “middle powers” will provide the driving force in shaping the 21st-century geopolitical order, according to a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Dino Patti Djalal, founder and chair of the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia, said the end of the Cold War had led to a “proliferation” of so-called middle-power countries in both the Global South and the Global North.

“These countries have the ambition, the resources and the size to play a great role in the global order, and are building relations among one another to achieve this,” he told attendees.

“Furthermore, you’re seeing their significant influence in defining and shaping regional architecture.

“Take Southeast Asia — do you think it’s shaped by the US? No, it’s shaped by the likes of ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the East Asia Summit.”

Exemplifying the powers in this region, Djalal pointed to Indonesia and Vietnam, but noted the importance of cross-over between middle powers in spheres of influence.

“Australia and India … are two middle powers from the Global South but also from the West,” he said.

“They’re making significant strides in elevating the relationship they have between one another, and I think we can expect to see this trend continuing.”

While the panel could not reach consensus on what a middle power is, they agreed that they exist on a spectrum and lack military capacity to touch any point on the globe.

Among those constituting this proliferating class are Austria, Australia, Canada, South Korea and Japan in what typically constitutes the Global North, with Global South middle powers including Argentina, Brazil, India and Indonesia.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen concurred with Djalal over the importance of new regional and international organizations.

Together with Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Ethiopia became one of the new countries acceding the BRICS economic alliance. Hassen told the panel that it offered Ethiopia an opportunity to build new partnerships.

“From our point of view, BRICS can help us increase the number of effective, multilateral partnerships we have,” he said.

“Africa is a rising continent with a huge population and emergent economies. It’s a dynamic set of markets but, as is the case globally, Africa has its own set of challenges, and it needs to be ready to compete in this landscape.”

In commenting on its accession to BRICS, Hassen appeared to indicate that Ethiopia had grown disenchanted by the opportunities afforded through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Karoline Edtstadler, Austria’s federal minister for the EU, appeared cognisant that Western powers had alienated elements of the Global South.

“Austria sees itself as a bridge-builder, and it’s important that we come together and negotiate rather than take the moral high ground and give countries the middle finger,” she said.

“Europe must grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, and rather recognize that the world’s problems are Europe’s problems too. We must show strength through our capacity to care for others.”

Graham Allison, Douglas Dillon professor of government at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, shared the view that the post-Cold War era had led to a diffusion of power.

Noting the declining US share of global gross domestic product from around 50 percent at the end of the Second World War to 25 percent at the end of the Cold War, it now hovers at about a seventh of total GDP and, he said, comparable dips are true for other metrics of power.

“The world isn’t unipolar nor bipolar,” he added. “Multipolar has become the phrase, but it’s more complicated than this. What’s true is the desire for something beyond the first two.”

For Djalal, who described multilateralism as being in “bad shape,” upset by the war in Ukraine and geopolitical strife elsewhere, the establishment of different relations through different organizations such as BRICS offers a path beyond fragmentation.

“These new organizations aren’t fragmenting the world, they’re expanding the content, and the more middle powers you have that aren’t attached to big powers, the better,” he said.


Biden says US helped Israel down ‘nearly all’ Iran drones, missiles

Biden says US helped Israel down ‘nearly all’ Iran drones, missiles
Updated 2 sec ago
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Biden says US helped Israel down ‘nearly all’ Iran drones, missiles

Biden says US helped Israel down ‘nearly all’ Iran drones, missiles
  • Biden spoke to Netanyahu to “reaffirm America’s ironclad commitment” to Israel’s security
  • Biden says to convene his fellow leaders of the G7 group to coordinate a “united diplomatic response” to Iran’s “brazen” attack
Washington: President Joe Biden said Saturday that US forces helped take down “nearly all” the drones and missiles fired by Iran at Israel, adding that he had reaffirmed his “ironclad” support to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Biden added in a statement that he would convene his fellow leaders of the G7 group of wealthy nations on Sunday to coordinate a “united diplomatic response” to Iran’s “brazen” attack.
“Iran — and its proxies operating out of Yemen, Syria and Iraq — launched an unprecedented air attack against military facilities in Israel. I condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms,” Biden said.
He said he had ordered US military aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the Middle East in recent days as the likely Iranian threat to the key US ally became clear.
“Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our servicemembers, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles,” Biden said.
Biden added that he had spoken to Netanyahu to “reaffirm America’s ironclad commitment” to Israel’s security.
“I told him that Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks — sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel,” he said.
No US forces or facilities had come under attack from Iran, he said.

Germany’s Chancellor Scholz walks tightrope on trade and politics in China

Germany’s Chancellor Scholz walks tightrope on trade and politics in China
Updated 43 min 46 sec ago
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Germany’s Chancellor Scholz walks tightrope on trade and politics in China

Germany’s Chancellor Scholz walks tightrope on trade and politics in China

BEIJING: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in China on Sunday, kicking off a trip in which he faces a tough balancing act as he aims to shore up economic ties with Berlin’s biggest trading partner.
Scholz touched down in the southwestern megacity of Chongqing on Sunday morning, Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said, accompanied by a large delegation of ministers and business executives.
As Western allies are cranking up pressure on Beijing, Scholz is expected to underline that Germany remains committed to doing business with the world’s second-largest economy and rejects US-led calls for “decoupling.”
His friendly overtures toward China risk sparking ire among Washington and EU partners, which have been pushing back against Beijing’s heavy subsidies for industries.
“China remains a really important economic partner,” Scholz told journalists on Friday, adding that he would try to level the playing field for German companies in China.
On the geopolitical front, Scholz will also use his visit to persuade Chinese President Xi Jinping to exert his influence to rein in his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and help bring an end to the war in Ukraine.
“Given the close relations between China and Russia, Beijing has the possibility to exert its influence on Russia,” said a German government source in Berlin.
The three-day tour through Chongqing, Shanghai and Beijing is Scholz’s second trip to China since he took office.
His first in November 2022 took place under intense scrutiny, as it came swiftly after Xi strengthened his grip on power, and marked the first post-pandemic visit by a G7 leader to China.
Stung then by painful supply chain disruptions during the health crisis as well as by China’s refusal to distance itself from Russia despite Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Western allies had been scrambling to reduce their reliance on Beijing.

Scholz’s visit comes as many of Germany’s Western allies confront China on a range of trade issues.
A slew of probes into state aid for Chinese solar panels, electric cars and wind turbines are ongoing in Brussels.
The United States is meanwhile investigating national security risks posed by Chinese technology in cars.
With tensions rumbling over Taiwan, US President Joe Biden this week made defense pledges to Japan and the Philippines, while describing behavior by Beijing in the South China Sea as “dangerous and aggressive.”
Two days before his visit, Scholz held talks with France’s President Emmanuel Macron, whose office said the leaders “coordinated to defend a rebalancing of European-Chinese trade relations.”
But China is a vital market for Germany, where many jobs depend directly on demand from the Asian giant.
Both economies also badly need a boost.
The German economy shrank by 0.3 percent last year, battered by inflation, high interest rates and cooling exports, and for this year, the economy ministry expects just an anaemic growth of 0.2 percent.
Beijing has set an annual GDP growth target of around five percent for this year, but exports plunged more than expected last month.
German MPs and analysts urged Scholz to take a firm line.
The Green party’s Deborah Duering warned Scholz against viewing China just as an economic opportunity.
“Those who ignore long-term risks for short-term profits risk repeating the mistakes of the past, misguided Russia policy,” said Duering, in reference to past dependency on Moscow for cheap energy supplies.
Max Zenglein of the Mercator Institute for China Studies said Germany should not hesitate to be more assertive.
“As countries such as the USA and Japan are positioning themselves much more sharply against China, Germany has an important role to play,” he said, adding that Germany was “in a position of strength.”
 


Unpopular Sunak in ‘doom loop’ as UK PM stares at election defeat

Unpopular Sunak in ‘doom loop’ as UK PM stares at election defeat
Updated 14 April 2024
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Unpopular Sunak in ‘doom loop’ as UK PM stares at election defeat

Unpopular Sunak in ‘doom loop’ as UK PM stares at election defeat
  • Surveys overwhelmingly show that Britons want an end to 14 years of Tory rule, and nothing that Sunak has done since he became PM 18 months ago appears to be changing their minds

LONDON: He’s failed to meet key pledges, hit an opinion poll low, and even cramped the style of a popular Adidas shoe: Britain’s beleaguered Conservative leader Rishi Sunak appears destined to lose a looming general election.
Two tax cuts and a slightly improving economy have failed to boost Sunak’s political fortunes, while criticism from ex-prime minister Boris Johnson and speculation over Brexit figurehead Nigel Farage’s intentions are adding to his woes.
Political scientist Rob Ford reckoned Sunak has been left looking “hapless” in the face of seemingly unstoppable political momentum away from his ruling Tories.
“When the herd moves, it moves. There’s not much you can do,” he told AFP.
Sunak, 43, has yet to announce the date of the election. He is expected to call it for October or November but is legally allowed to wait until January at the latest.
Surveys overwhelmingly show that Britons want an end to 14 years of Tory rule, and nothing that Sunak has done since he became PM 18 months ago appears to be changing their minds.
A YouGov poll released this month found that the Conservatives would win just 155 seats in the UK parliament, down from the 365 that they won under Johnson at the last election in December 2019.
Keir Starmer’s opposition Labour Party would win 403 seats, the same survey found, leading to a whopping 154-seat majority.
“Right now, it’s very difficult to see how the Conservatives remain in government after the next election simply because of the scale of shift they need,” said Keiran Pedley, director of politics at polling firm Ipsos.
Sunak succeeded Liz Truss in October 2022 after Tory MPs forced her out following a disastrous 49 days in office, during which her mini-budget spooked financial markets, sank the pound and sent mortgage payments skywards.
She had followed Johnson, who himself had been defenestrated by colleagues following a series of scandals, including over illegal parties in Downing Street during Covid-19 lockdowns.
While the turmoil of the two previous administrations has hamstrung Sunak, political analysts say he has also contributed to his own plight by falling short on promises and failing to connect with voters.
Despite promising to, he has not stopped migrants arriving from France on small boats. National Health Service waiting lists are higher than when he took office. Economic growth is stagnant, although inflation has more than halved.
Sunak has also tried a number of leadership and policy resets that have fallen flat, including watering down carbon net zero commitments in a pitch to motorists and recently talking about extremism.
The rightward tilt comes as the fringe Reform UK party threatens to deprive the Conservatives of key seats, particularly if Farage stands for them as he has teased.
“(Sunak has) been trying to find this magic wand or silver bullet to turn things around but at the moment none of it seems to be moving the dial,” Pedley told AFP.
An Ipsos poll published in March found that 58 percent of voters view the Conservatives unfavorably, the highest percentage this parliament. Only 19 percent view them favorably.
The survey gave Sunak a net favorability rating of minus 38, the lowest of any politician included.
Critics often accuse the wealthy ex-financier of being out of touch with average Britons.
“He is a combination of being rather awkward and nerdy, and then if challenged he always sounds really irritable,” Ford, politics professor at Manchester University, said.
Sunak is striving to revive his party’s fortunes, traversing the country to meet voters as rumors swirl that a disastrous showing in local elections on May 2 could spark a leadership challenge.
He can’t seem to catch a break, though.
This week, Johnson slammed Sunak’s proposed comprehensive smoking ban as “nuts,” while Sunak’s spokesperson had to deny that the PM was preparing to run an AI fund in the event of election defeat.
Sunak even offered a “fulsome apology to the Samba community” after photographs of him wearing the Adidas trainers sparked headlines like: “Eight trainers to wear now that Rishi has killed Sambas.”
“There’s a kind of a doom loop that politicians can get into where they’re unpopular,” explained Ford.
“The media know they’re unpopular so everything they do is reported negatively, which further reinforces their unpopularity.”
Political observers say polls usually narrow as voting day nears and suspect liberal Conservatives might ultimately stick with the party to reduce the size of a Labour win and ensure the Tories are an effective opposition.
“Everything at this point really is becoming about damage limitation,” said Ford.


Trump says Iran attack on Israel shows US ‘weakness’ under Biden

Former US President Donald Trump (L) and US President Joe Biden during. (AFP)
Former US President Donald Trump (L) and US President Joe Biden during. (AFP)
Updated 14 April 2024
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Trump says Iran attack on Israel shows US ‘weakness’ under Biden

Former US President Donald Trump (L) and US President Joe Biden during. (AFP)

SCHNECKSVILLE, United States: Donald Trump on Saturday blasted President Joe Biden over Iran’s major attack on Israel, alleging that his rival in November elections showed American “weakness” in the Middle East.
“God bless the people of Israel. They are under attack right now. That’s because we show great weakness,” he said at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.
Iran launched an unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel Saturday evening, after pledging retaliation for a strike on its consular building in Syria that killed seven Revolutionary Guards members, two of them generals.
Trump, who while in office ordered the killing of a top Revolutionary Guard leader in Baghdad and withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear accord, has repeatedly accused his Democratic opponent of a soft approach toward Tehran.
“The weakness that we’ve shown, it’s unbelievable, and it would not have happened if we were in office,” Trump said Saturday.
“But America prays for Israel, we send our absolute support to everyone in harm’s way.”
Biden meanwhile was huddling at the White House with his key military and national security advisers, saying on X that the US “commitment to Israel’s security against threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad.”

 


Major airlines cancel flights, reroute planes as Iran launches retaliatory attack on Israel

An Aeroflot Airbus A320-200 aircraft takes off at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside Moscow, Russia. (REUTERS file photo
An Aeroflot Airbus A320-200 aircraft takes off at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside Moscow, Russia. (REUTERS file photo
Updated 14 April 2024
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Major airlines cancel flights, reroute planes as Iran launches retaliatory attack on Israel

An Aeroflot Airbus A320-200 aircraft takes off at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside Moscow, Russia. (REUTERS file photo
  • The return flight from Tehran to Moscow has been canceled

MOSCOW: An Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Tehran which took off on Saturday evening will land in Makhachkala in Russia’s Dagestan region and a number of flights to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates will be postponed, the airline said.
“Flight SU514 Moscow — Tehran ... will land at the Makhachkala airport,” Aeroflot said on its Telegram messaging app. “In order to ensure flight safety, the plane will return to Moscow after refueling.”
The return flight from Tehran to Moscow has been canceled, it added.
The Russian flagship carrier also said it was postponing until at least later on Sunday flights from Moscow and St. Petersburg to the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada in Egypt, from Moscow to Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, and from Moscow to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE.

The Switzerland flagship carrier Swiss International Air lines also suspended Tel Aviv service according to Wall Street Journal.

United Airlines has canceled Saturday’s planned flight from Newark to Tel Aviv due to restrictions on Israeli airspace, the airline said in a statement on Saturday.

Israel El Al Airlines has canceled 15 flights scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, the carrier said on Saturday as hostilities with Iran surged and Israel closed its airspace as a precaution.
Foreign destinations affected include Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Milan, Bucharest, Sofia, Athens, Dubai and Moscow, the El Al statement said.