3 November 2015   Leave a comment

In a very important development, Russia has indicated that it is not “important” for Syrian President Assad to remain in power.  The working assumption behind the explanation for the strong Russian intervention in Syria was precisely that Russia wanted to keep Assad in power even though the West had said repeatedly that Assad had to go.  Apparently, there have been behind the scene discussions between US Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov that have been fruitful.  How Assad leaves will depend on how Russia defines a “graceful” departure and how much slack the West in willing to give Assad–perhaps immunity from prosecution for war crimes or the retention of great wealth.  We will see how Iran responds.

The Defense Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are meeting and struggling with the question of whether to take a stand on China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.  Most of the members oppose China’s claims, but Cambodia (which does not have a claim) is a strong Chinese ally.  Since ASEAN insists on not taking votes but relies on consensus decisions instead, a statement would require a break from that rule.  The decision will mark an important moment in the evolution of ASEAN as a political agent.

The pressure of refugees flooding into their countries is forcing some European nations to consider closing their borders in the same way that Hungary did a few weeks ago.    Right now, the refugees are moving through the Balkan states of Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia, into Austria and ultimately to Germany.  Many, however, fear that the pressure on Germany to restrict the number of refugees it accepts will only grow, trapping the refugees in countries with much smaller populations and economies.  Croatia is holding a national election in a few days, and if the right-wing candidate wins, it will almost certainly close its borders.

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Posted November 3, 2015 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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