On January 20, the US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group met at Ramstein Air Base in Germany under the chairmanship of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. The meeting, attended by more than fifty nations and NATO’s Secretary General Stoltenberg, was the eighth in a series of meetings initiated in April 2022, to discuss efforts to provide military support to Ukraine.
Although not yet officially announced, it appears that Türkiye will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14, 2023. President Erdoğan is running for a third term and the group of six opposition parties known as the “table of six”, still has to agree on a candidate for president. To use two popular phrases used to define the changing global order, Türkiye is also at an “inflection point” or at a “defining moment”. Because in these elections, the people of Türkiye will judge the two decades of the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) increasingly authoritarian rule. And the world would judge them accordingly since these elections are the last exit for democracy, the separation of powers, the independence of the judiciary, and accountability.
Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited France, Italy, Britain, Canada, and the US. In the background was the war in Ukraine, China’s growing military might, North Korea’s becoming a de facto nuclear power, and Japan’s “National Security Strategy”, made public on December 16, 2022.
On January 3, 2023, US State Department Spokesman Ned Price, in response to a question regarding “the rapprochement between Turkey and the Syrian regime” said:
“Well, as I understand it, this was a trilateral engagement involving Syria, Turkey, and the Russian Federation as well. Our policy, which is all I can speak to, has not changed. We do not support countries upgrading their relations or expressing support to rehabilitate the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad… We’ve made very clear to all of our allies and partners that now is not the time to normalize relations…”
The year 2022 was “annus horribilis” for Europe and to a lesser degree for the world. And its final few weeks did not augur well for 2023.
China witnessed an incredible upsurge in Covid infections overwhelming hospitals. On December 26, in response to Washington’s increased security cooperation with Taiwan, seventy-one Chinese air force aircraft including fighter jets and drones entered Taiwan’s air defense identification zone in the largest reported incursion to date.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban are dragging their country back to the darkest depths of the Middle Age. In Iran, the theocracy is sending protestors to the gallows. North Korea is becoming increasingly assertive. In Israel, the wily Benjamin Netanyahu who suffers from acute power addiction is back in power heading a right-religious coalition. Sad news for the Middle East and Israel.
“Annus horribilis” is a phrase made famous by Queen Elizabeth II in a speech delivered near the end of 1992. At the time she was referring to the difficulties in the British royal family. The queen’s remarks made international news, and the phrase (meaning “terrible year” or “disastrous year”), subsequently entered the lexicon to describe a year of great personal or political misfortune.[i] 2022 Was such a year for Europe and to a lesser degree for the world.
Last week President Macron paid a state visit to Washington, the first of the Biden administration.
In widely reported remarks, “France has jumped to the head of the queue,” said Professor Charles Kupchan, who was a senior adviser on European issues in the Obama White House. “The state visit is symbolically significant as the return of the trans-Atlantic relationship to the center of American strategy in the world, and it’s notable that the country getting the first nod is France, not Germany or Britain.”
President Erdogan’s handshake with President al-Sisi has once again triggered criticism about the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leadership’s foreign policy U-turns. On the list were the relations with the UAE, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Last Wednesday, in response to questions after the party group meeting, he said he could meet Presidents al-Sisi and Assad and there is no room for bad blood and rancor in politics.
As admitted by its member states, the G20 is not the forum to resolve security issues. But in a time of international turmoil with the war in Ukraine, strategic competition between major powers, the Covid-19 pandemic, global economic downturn, food and energy security challenges, and a dysfunctional UN, the G20 meetings at least provide a forum for the face-to-face exchange of views between the leading powers and economies of the world. Understandably, the Bali meeting took place under the shadow of the war in Ukraine.
Last Friday, following an announcement by the Russian military that it had completed its withdrawal from Kherson, Ukrainian soldiers entered the city prompting nationwide celebration. Coming weeks after he declared the Kherson region a part of Russia forever, this was seen as a major setback for President Putin and further evidence of a mismanaged war. Kherson was considered a critical bridgehead for a Russian drive further west to the port city of Odesa. Moreover, as the Russian forces withdraw from Kherson, the Antonivsky Bridge connecting the city to the eastern bank was blown severing the main transit route for Russian supplies coming in from Crimea.