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France-Turkey Clash, Germany-France Shutdown, India-US Relations and the Week in Review

Blog / Weekly Review

France-Turkey Clash, Germany-France Shutdown, India-US Relations and the Week in Review

Happy Friday lovely humans. If you are in the U.S., remember to vote. If you are anywhere in the world, remember for frack’s sake to wear a mask when you’re out in public. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the latest episode of the Perch Podcast, check it out by clicking here. Maxim Suchkov gave us a Russian perspective on global events, and on Monday, we’ll be posting an interview with U.S. historian Lindsay Chervinsky that you won’t want to miss. And, if you’re looking for a smile, here’s a lovely Happy Halloween message from our good friends at Red Fan Communications. Catch ya on the flipside.

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Clash of civilizations. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused French President Emmanuel Macron of “attacking” Muslims, whose treatment in Europe he compared to that of Jews in the 1920s. Erdoğan added that “Macron needs treatment on a mental level,” which caused France to recall its ambassador to Turkey and lambast Turkey for its “slanderous propaganda” and conduct unbecoming an ally. Anti-France protests and boycotts have since spread throughout the Muslim, from Kuwait to Bangladesh. Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad tweeted that he condemned Islamic violence, but that “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.” (Twitter has since censored the tweet but much of the thread is still readable.) Three people were stabbed to death in Nice. Nice’s mayor said all signs pointed “to a terrorist attack” and the French Interior Ministry raised the security alert for French territory to its highest level. 

What it means: This story begins with the gruesome beheading of Samuel Paty two weeks ago. Paty was a teacher living in a northwest suburb of Paris. He was murdered in cold blood by a Chechen refugee whilst walking down the street because he had the gall (pun intended) to show his class a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammed in a class about freedom of speech. Just a few weeks before Paty’s murder, French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech about the dangers of “Islamist separatism,” which he aimed to attack with a new law in 2021. Macron could not have known how quickly his concerns would be legitimized.

France has a long and complex history with Islam – French secularism (“laicite”) insists that while French citizens have freedom to worship who or whatever they like, in the public domain, they are French, not Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or Pastafarian. France takes this so seriously that it does not even officially tally the religious affiliations of the population. We have to rely on thinktanks like the Institut Montaigne for data indicating that roughly 10 percent of France is Muslim. France has been a target of Islamist terrorism in the past, most notably in the Charlie Hebdo affair (also sparked by contentious depictions of the Prophet) and the deadly 2015 Bataclan attack.

To a certain extent, this is a French domestic issue. Macron is no doubt looking ahead to French presidential elections in 2022 and attempting to buttress his national security credentials to make sure Marine Le Pen is unable to make any headway as a potential challenger. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, beset with a rapidly deteriorating currency, mountains of foreign-denominated debt, and geopolitical conflicts on all sides, is similarly using his Islamic credentials to boost his credibility at home and to present Turkey as a leader in the Muslim world.

This incident, however, has gone far beyond just Macron and Erdoğan. Many Muslims condemn violence and condemn the murder of Samuel Paty, but as Mahathir’s tweets indelibly demonstrated, there is a bit too much opposition to freedom of expression in the mainstream of the Muslim world. Mahathir believes that killing is not the act of a Muslim, “but freedom of expression does not include insulting other people.” We’ll let Jon Snow address the particulars of that line of argument, but the bigger point here is that this is an active civilizational faultline and an irreconcilable difference. There is a lot wrong with Samuel Huntington’s influential book “The Clash of Civilizations,” but looking at the fall-out from these incidents, one can see some of the merits of his argument, however impoverished some of his arguments seem.

We would also be remiss if we did not point out that the same governments stoking Islamic dissatisfaction with France (we’re looking at you Pakistan and Turkey) are silent on China’s treatment of its Muslim ethnic Uighur population, which underscores the selective political use to which religion is being used. Rather than dealing with the underlying problems (in France, the ghettoization of Muslim communities and the lack of prospects for young French Muslims, in places like Turkey or Pakistan, corrupt and decrepit political systems that sacrifice communal progress to buttress the power of current leaders), both sides prefer to throw stones at each other.

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Germany-France shutdown. France and Germany announced new lockdowns in an attempt to stop the rise of COVID-19 cases. The European Central Bank announced it is keeping monetary policy unchanged in November but said it would likely “recalibrate” at its next meeting in December.

What it means: The White House put out a news release claiming “Ending the COVID-19 pandemic” as one of its signature policy successes. It is unbelievable to us that the following needs saying, but 2020 has been an unbelievable year: We do not live in a post-COVID-19 world. We live in a COVID-19 world. On a personal level, the notion that COVID-19 is under control, or that pandemic fatigue was a legitimate reason to stop taking basic precautions, is upsetting. It is also not just a U.S. phenomenon, as the recent COVID-19 spikes in Europe have tragically demonstrated. The geopolitical upshot is that governments will need to pass more stimulus measures and pass additional COVID-19 rescue packages. How this affects the future of the EU will be interesting to watch. The need for COVID-19 spending has already led to much tighter EU integration, and a new second wave may lay the ground for even more coordination. Whether the U.S. Congress stops being so dysfunctional and passes much-needed relief for the economy or remains in a quagmire of petty political squabbling no matter who wins will also affect U.S. priorities abroad. Case in point: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Indonesia this week hoping to buttress bilateral relations with a critical Indo-Pacific ally. The pleasantries surrounding the visit were nice, but an Indonesian government official complained to Reuters that while the U.S. pushed its national security interests forward, China was promising vaccines and COVID-19 aid to Jakarta.

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India-U.S. relations. India released a statement summarizing this week’s meeting of its top defense and diplomatic officials with their U.S. counterparts. The two sides will sign a Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement. The U.S. is also allowing India to continue with developing Iran’s Chabahar port in Iran.

What it means: It is not the long-hoped-for trade deal that the U.S. has been hoping to secure with India, but it is also not chopped liver. The most striking part of the Indian statement was the direct reference to Pakistan as a sponsor of terrorism, a startlingly frank shot at India’s mortal enemy and at a country the U.S. has had a complicated but close relationship with for decades, both in the context of the Cold War and in the ongoing war in Afghanistan. India has definitely aligned itself closely with the United States, and the more its relationship with China deteriorates and the more the Western world clashes with the Islamic world, the more its interests align with the U.S. and other Indo-Pacific democracies. Even so, India is still trying to split the difference. India is beginning to think of itself as a distinct civilizational power, and while its political and economic resources pale in comparison to Washington or even Beijing’s, a geopolitical rise must start somewhere. We noted with interest that India is sending 270 MT of food aid to Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti, and Eritrea due to food shortages there – the sort of soft-power move a budding regional power makes when it is solidifying goodwill in a strategically important area.

 Honorable mention

The US canceled an initiative to offer Santa Claus performers early access to a coronavirus vaccine in exchange for their help in promoting it publicly. At least it was an equal opportunity offer: Mrs. Claus and elves would also have been eligible.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Vietnam was not manipulating its currency and urged the U.S. not to damage Vietnam’s economy by imposing sanctions or forcing Vietnam to devalue the dong currency.

A dog ate Tucker Carlson’s homework.

Moon Chung-in, a special adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, remarked that if the U.S. pressed South Korea to join a NATO-like military alliance in the Indo-Pacific that it would create an “existential dilemma” for South Korea.  

43 U.S. lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump urging him to protect the interests of U.S. energy companies in Mexico from the deleterious effects of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s desire for reform.

Russia’s Director of Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) Sergey Naryshkin made a surprise visit to Minsk and met with Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

Poland outlawed abortions in the case of fetal abnormalities, leading to large protests throughout the country. You can tell a lot about a society based on the extent to which it empowers women to make decisions about their own bodies.

The Turkish lira collapsed below the symbolic 8 against the U.S. dollar line for the first time.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA) have signed a comprehensive and immediate ceasefire in Libya.

Hurricane Zeta rapidly intensified to an almost-Category 3 hurricane before hitting the Louisiana coast. It is the 8th storm to rapidly intensify before making landfall and is the strongest hurricane (in terms of wind speed) to pass directly over New Orleans.

Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao announced that Brazil was extending the deployment of the Brazilian military to fight Amazon deforestation by five months, until April 2021.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner published a long missive in which she called for a non-partisan pact to address the structural challenges posed by Argentina’s “bimonetary economy.”

Saudi Arabia will reportedly announce major reforms to its “kafala” system, a labor sponsorship program that ties foreign workers to a single employer.

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