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What is “All Eyes on Rafah”?: A Social Media Slogan Turned Social Advocacy Movement

Following an Israeli ground offensive operation in the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, an AI-generated image containing the slogan “All Eyes on Rafah” gained attention after over 40 million shares of the image on Instagram and over 195,000 posts with the hashtag #AllEyesOnRafah on TikTok, according to Forbes. Included in this discussion have been several popular public figures such as “Bridgerton” star Nicola Coughlan, model Bella Hadid, singer-songwriter Kehlani, and one of India’s top actors, Varun Dhawan.

Origin

The phrase comes from a comment made by the Director of the World Health Organization’s Office of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Rick Peeperkorn, who stated “All eyes are on Rafah” in February after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered an evacuation of the city in order to enact a planned attack to eliminate the “last remaining strongholds of the militant group Hamas”.

Background

On May 24, 2024, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its military operations in Rafah. On May 26, 2024, the Israeli military sent missiles into what they believed was a Hamas installation in Rafah that ended up killing 45 Palestinians and 2 senior Hamas militants. The strike sparked a fire that spread into a nearby neighborhood called Tal al-Sultan where many Palestinians were seeking shelter, burning down several houses and those residing within. A comment by Prime Minister Netanyahu states that the attack was “a tragic mistake” (Al Jazeera Staff). Just two days after this attack, the New York Times reported that an air strike conducted by the Israeli military killed 21 people in the city’s “safe zone” called al-Mawasi.

Purpose

The slogan calls attention to the situation in Rafah, a city in the Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt, where Israeli military operations have resulted in the deaths of several Palestinians seeking shelter and safety in the city. The slogan has been spread widely through social media and can now be seen on protest posters and social media graphics.

Future

In the coming days, action on the part of the Israeli military is unpredictable with the United States President stating “if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, to deal with that problem”. US-Israel relations are now up in the air with many White House officials claiming that Israel did not cross President Biden’s outlined red line. Spokesperson John Kirby supports this claim by telling BBC that there were “no policy changes to speak to” when answering a question about whether the strike on Rafah crossed President Biden’s limits to supporting Israel. However, Mr. Kirby went on to say, “We don’t support, we won’t support a major ground operation in Rafah”. The question is whether the recent attacks in the city constitute “a major ground operation”.

Written by Special Projects Intern, Amanda Nguyen

Citations

Al-Shalchi, Hadeel, and Anas Baba. “An Israeli Airstrike Killed 45 Palestinians in an Encampment for Displaced People.” NPR, NPR, 27 May 2024, www.npr.org/2024/05/27/nx-s1-4982690/rafah-encampment-israeli-airstrike-hamas

Cooney, Christy. “Israel Gaza: Operation in Rafah Doesn’t Cross US Red Lines – White House.” BBC News, BBC, 28 May 2024, www.bbc.com/news/articles/cv22pl9p212o

Roeloffs, Mary Whitfill. “All Eyes on Rafah” Slogan Spreads on Social Media: What to Know about Its Origins.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 29 May 2024, www.forbes.com/sites/maryroeloffs/2024/05/28/all-eyes-on-rafah-slogan-spreads-on-social-media-what-to-know-about-its-origins/?sh=627a54582217

Shamim, Sarah. “What Is ‘All Eyes on Rafah’? Decoding a Viral Social Trend on Israel’s War.” Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 29 May 2024, www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/5/29/what-is-all-eyes-on-rafah-decoding-the-latest-viral-social-trend#:~:text=“All%20eyes%20on%20Rafah”%20is%20an%20artificial%20intelligence%20

Staff, Al Jazeera. “What Happened When Israel Attacked Rafah?” Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 28 May 2024, www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/5/28/what-happened-when-israel-attacked-rafah

Yazbek, Hiba, and Abu Bakr Bashir. “Gazan Officials Say a Strike Killed 21 in Al-Mawasi.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 May 2024, www.nytimes.com/2024/05/28/world/middleeast/gaza-al-mawasi-strike.html

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Interruption of Ramadan Might Bring Chaos into the World Order

Ramadan has come to an end. However, peace in the Middle East is yet to be established. During this year’s Ramadan, which started from March 10 to April 9, the holy month in Syria was violently interrupted by an airstrike operation. The embassy of Iran in Syria was destroyed to the ground with the efforts of anonymous international powers. At least, any possibly involved parties never officially confirmed the attack. On April 1st, it was still unknown; however, now that more information is available from diverse sources, it is more likely that the suspicions are confirmed.

In a recent New York Times article on the Iranian embassy bombing and tension in the Middle East rising, four Israeli military officials, who chose to stay anonymous, identified Israeli’s direct involvement in the seven deaths of Iranian military advisors during the strike, including senior officers. This appearance has led to an increase in tensions in the region. The Iranian media, after the New York Times release, stated that the most possible goal of the attack was the death of Zahedi, who is a senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. He is known for being the one building and strengthening the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim political party and militant group based in Lebanon.

A comprehensive background of the region is necessary to understand the full picture. This was not the first time Syria’s sovereignty was violated. After the October 7 attack last year, Syria was struck by Israel in response, often interpreted by Israeli leaders as a “punishment” for their cooperation with Israel’s “enemies”, which includes Iran and Hezbollah. These attacks included two airport strikes, particularly on Damascus and Aleppo, and an assassination of a general, Razi Mousavi, in the Syrian capital. These events led to many casualties and the deaths of innocent civilians.

This combination of incidents led to Iranian officials issuing a statement that this violence and violation of the security of Iran and all their allies “needs to be punished.” 

After the attack, Iranian commander Yahya Rahim Safavi said that Israeli embassies were no longer safe, which is a direct threat to Israel by Iran. This leads to a direct rise in tension between the two countries and a high risk of conflict escalation in the Middle East region.

As their response to the embassy being burned down by the enemies, Iran did not stop there. Iran’s foreign minister on April 8th accused the United States of giving Israel the “green light” for a strike on their embassy in Syria, as neither of the states tried to stop the attack. This open statement, which was not too unknown to Iranian officials, increased the tension in the region and worldwide. However, denying US influence in this military operation is also impossible. 

Hezbollah, who is seen as the most powerful ally of Iran, also chose not to stay aside and openly stated in the media that “this crime will not pass without the enemy receiving punishment and revenge.”

At the same time, Israel does not seem to question the methods being used in the process of deterrence applied to their immediate neighbors, “the Israelis are convinced that if they seek to hang back, the threat will grow and not diminish,” referred Jon Alterman to the methods.

The Iranian embassy bombing in Syria did not symbolize a new beginning, nor was it out of the blue. The constantly rising tension was once again fueled in the Middle East. 

Now, the world is once again left to wonder what will happen next.

Written by: Sofiia Lobas, Event Intern

Notes:

Image taken by Marek Studzinski

Iran aims to contain fallout in Israel response, will not be hasty, sources say | Reuters. (n.d.-a). https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/iran-aims-contain-fallout-israel-response-wont-be-hasty-sources-say-2024-04-11/

Iran says Israel bombs its embassy in Syria, kills commanders | Reuters. (n.d.-b). https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israel-bombs-iran-embassy-syria-iranian-commanders-among-dead-2024-04-01/

Maloney, S. (2024, April 18). Iran’s Order of Chaos. Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/iran/irans-order-chaos-suzanne-maloney

Wikimedia Foundation. (2024, April). Israeli bombing of the Iranian embassy in Damascus. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2024_Israeli_bombing_of_the_Iranian_embassy_in_Damascus#:~:text=The%20New%20York%20Times%20reported,discussing%20the%20war%20in%20Gaza.

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A Safe Games for All: Deterring Terrorism at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics

As the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics are set to begin in four months’ time, taking account of the security preparations needed to deter terrorism and other acts of violent extremism that could threaten the Games’ safety is a necessary task. While international sporting events and other large public gatherings always hazard becoming potential targets for terrorists, the ongoing Israel-Hamas War substantially heightens the risks involved in the Paris 2024 Games. 

In particular, Jewish and Israeli athletes face a greater risk of being targeted, and French authorities will need to take considerable efforts to ensure that the Games’ grounds are secure and adequately patrolled and monitored to mitigate the danger. The failure to enact sufficient security protocols hazards the occurrence of an attack reminiscent of the Munich massacre, when members of the Palestinian militant organization Black September infiltrated the Olympic Village at the Munich 1972 Olympic Games, kidnapping and then killing eleven members of the Israeli team.[1] 

Security Challenges 

Paris has experienced devastating terrorist attacks before. On January 7, 2015, two gunmen stormed the Charlie Hebdo magazine office, killing twelve people. The attack was followed by a second two days later at the Hypercacher kosher supermarket, in which four more people were killed. Later that year on November 13, a series of suicide bombings and shootings took place throughout Paris, 

including an attack on the Bataclan theatre in which 90 people were killed.[2] In both attacks, the perpetrators had sworn allegiance to either al-Qaeda or the Islamic State. More recently, law enforcement agencies in Europe have reported an uptick in the number of terrorist plots that they have uncovered over the past several months, adding that these foiled plots reveal an increased involvement on the part of Iranian-backed proxy groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.[3] 

The Paris 2024 Games come with a variety of security challenges. Not only does the current unrest in Gaza raise the specter of potential attacks by pro-Palestinian terrorist organizations, but the move to conduct the Games’ opening ceremony outside of a stadium venue – a first for any Summer Olympic Games – poses a unique hurdle. The opening ceremony, set to take place on July 26, is planned to consist of a flotilla of the Olympic teams down the River Seine. Effective surveillance and crowd control over such a broad area will be extremely difficult, and French security forces will need to make a concerted effort to coordinate their communication both with one another and with Games personnel in order to carefully manage the event. 

To address this challenge, France will deploy some 40,000 police officers and 20,000 private security personnel along the River Seine during the opening ceremony to help ensure public safety.[4] In an effort to facilitate crowd control, French officials have also cut the number of permitted spectators for the opening ceremony from an initial allowance of 600,000 down to roughly half that number, and they will further require visitors and residents to use QR codes to gain entry into certain controlled areas.[5] Additionally, French President Emmanuel Macron has announced that France has a variety of contingency plans in place should events leading up to the Games warrant a change in the ceremony’s format.[6] Government posters in Métro stations have also advised Parisians to work from home during the Games in order to reduce strain on public transportation, and French military forces have even prepared special anti-drone units.[7]

These actions are prudent and will likely help render the Games a more manageable event for security personnel. Nonetheless, the following recommendations are additional steps that French officials can take to reduce the risk of a terrorist attack occurring at the Games. 

Practice Targeted Strategic Communication 

First, French officials should engage in strategic communication with the public. Such strategic communication can, first and foremost, be preparatory and proactive. This includes measures such as educating the French public in the protocol for reporting suspicious activity, which might entail setting up a multilanguage hotline that the public can call or text. It also means educating the public in what constitutes suspicious activity, although this must be done carefully to avoid inadvertently promulgating stereotypes. 

Additionally, officials must inform the public in advance of what to do in the event of a terrorist attack, which response might be built off the “Hide-Run-Fight” model used in the United States during active shootings. French officials need to also coordinate with Games personnel to relay this important information to international ticket holders before their arrival in Paris. At the same time, however, French officials should reassure the public of the low probability of such an attack occurring and emphasize the efforts that security forces have taken to provide a safe environment for spectators and athletes alike. 

Strategic communication can also deal with managing active crises. French officials should have in place crisis response plans for different types of terrorist attacks including shootings, bombings, hostage crises, cyber attacks, and even pathological or radiological events. French officials must ensure that not only are all security forces – police, military, and private – aware of the proper protocols to be followed in such situations, but that public officials and Games personnel are knowledgeable of them as well. French officials must take the time to drill and coordinate their responses with one another in order to facilitate effective communication in the event of an actual terrorist attack. 

Conduct Inspections, Rehearsals, and Drills 

Second, French security forces should begin undertaking preliminary inspections of Games premises well in advance of the start of events. Doing so will increase familiarity with these grounds and reveal potential weak points that need to be hardened in order to deter their exploitation. Greater familiarity 

with patrol routes also provides security forces with the opportunity to discern these routes’ vulnerabilities and blind spots. Security forces should also conduct periodic exercises in which they perform basic crowd control management in order to gain on-the-ground insight into how these checkpoints might be avoided by those with malevolent intentions endeavoring to bypass security. 

Security forces would also benefit from running off-site drills rehearsing their response to various types of potential terrorist attacks at mockups laid out according to key Games premises. Running such drills would provide security forces with increased familiarity with timing and terrain, enabling more facile responses in the event of an actual attack. At the very least, commanding officers should simulate their crisis communication responses to improve timing and clarity. Additionally, commanding officers of security forces must see to it that security personnel – especially private contractors – undergo rigorous background screenings. While such screenings should be routine, conducting them before the Games begin may help detect, for instance, social media posts that express hateful sentiments toward Jews and Israelis or any other anti-Western beliefs.

Leverage Technology 

Finally, security forces are advised to take advantage of a wide range of technological capabilities in order to simplify and bolster their safeguarding of the Games. In addition to visual feeds from cameras, drones provide an exceptional tool for monitoring crowds and quickly surveying large areas. Security forces should also take advantage of the expertise that defense specialists in cyber and information operations can provide. An often overlooked but crucial component of ensuring the safety of the Games is the effective monitoring of social media and discussion forums. This monitoring not only allows security forces to gauge public opinion and perceptions of security forces’ conduct and actions, but it also facilitates the detection of any plans by malevolent actors to engage in violent acts. In the months leading up to the Games, French security services would benefit from monitoring online chatter about the Games on discussion forums and social media sites known to host extremist sentiments. As a final point of consideration, French security forces must also liaise with their counterparts in the energy and transportation sectors to help deter the risk of cyber attacks against roadways, waterways, utilities, and other infrastructure. 

Concluding Thoughts 

Securing the safety of the Paris 2024 Games will require careful coordination among a number of different government ministries and private entities. French officials and security forces should wisely use these remaining four months to improve their interagency communication. They must also foster an environment that values integrity and transparency about the challenges present in providing spectators and the French public with a safe experience in order to ensure that problems are addressed before they can be exploited. Despite these challenges, by engaging in proactive strategic communication with the public, undertaking preliminary inspections and drills, and utilizing the wide range of technologies at their disposal, French officials and security forces can take significant and substantial steps toward deterring terrorism at the Paris 2024 Games. 

Author Bio: Mason W. Krusch is a master’s candidate in the Global Studies and International Relations program at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). His research interests include Eurasian security, unconventional warfare, information warfare, and strategic communication. He holds a BA in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Notes 

[1] James Doubek, “50 Years Ago, The Munich Olympics Massacre Changed How We Think about Terrorism,” NPR, September 4, 2022, 

https://www.npr.org/2022/09/04/1116641214/munich-olympics-massacre-hostage-terrorism-israel-ger many. 

[2] “What Happened at the Bataclan?” BBC News, December 9, 2014, 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34827497. [3] Bojan Pancevski and Bertrand Benoit, “A New Terror Threat Is Emerging in Europe Linked to Iran, Gaza War,” The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2024,

https://www.wsj.com/world/europe/a-new-terror-threat-is-emerging-in-europe-linked-to-iran-gaza-war -fb297119. 

[4] Jens Krepela, “Olympics a ‘Huge Challenge’ for France’s Security Agencies,” Deutsche Welle, December 22, 2023, 

https://www.dw.com/en/olympics-a-huge-challenge-for-frances-security-agencies/a-67801883. [5] Victor Goury-Laffont, “France Slashes Olympics Opening Ceremony Crowd Size amid Terror Attack Fears,” Politico, March 5, 2024,

https://www.politico.eu/article/france-slash-olympics-opening-ceremony-crowd-size-terror-attack-fear -emmanuel-macron/. 

[6] “Macron Says Paris Ready to Deal with Olympic Terror Threat,” Deutsche Welle, December 21, 2023, 

https://www.dw.com/en/macron-says-paris-ready-to-deal-with-olympic-terror-threat/a-67789496.

[7] Angelique Chrisafis, “‘It’s Like Covid All Over Again’: Olympic-sized Trepidation Strikes Paris,” The Guardian, March 9, 2024, 

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2024/mar/09/its-like-covid-all-over-again-olympic-sized-trepidati on-strikes-paris; Julien Pretot, “Anti-drone Units a New Tool to Keep Paris 2024 Safe,” Reuters, March 14, 2024, 

https://www.reuters.com/sports/anti-drone-units-new-tool-keep-paris-2024-safe-2024-03-14/.

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Unraveling Alliances: Texas A&M’s Decision and the Future of Qatar’s Educational Diplomacy

Texas A&M ended its 21-year long-term education alliance with Qatar with immediate plans to end operations in Qatar by 2028. This unexpected turn is affecting Qatar’s public education diplomacy as the system board of regents of Texas A&M voted 7-1 in favor of ending its contract.

The university cited various factors that contributed to the withdrawal, including the heightened instability in the Middle East, the core mission of advancing Texas A&M solely in the United States, and the disinformation campaign regarding the Qatar campus potentially having a connection to nuclear reactor research done in Texas or the Los Alamos National Lab. 

The withdrawal of Texas A&M University had a negative impact on Qatar’s Education City, established in 1997. As of February 2024, Qatar hosts prestigious American universities, including Virginia Commonwealth University, Weill Cornell Medicine, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, and Northwestern University. These distinguished American Universities have allowed Qatar to successfully carry out education diplomacy campaigns to diversify its economy, attract global talent, address the nation’s developing needs, and promote cultural exchange. 

Texas A&M’s withdrawal paves a way for similar actions by other American universities, creating a domino effect that can ultimately alter the need for Qatar’s Education City and educational diplomacy efforts. 

Professors and students currently teaching or attending Texas A&M Qatar’s campus voiced their opinions and concerns across social media platforms. Khalid Al-Sada, the student government president and a senior majoring in chemical engineering at the Qatar campus, spoke to various media outlets, including the Texas Tribune, stating, “we were all just left wondering what is going to happen to the dreams, the hopes we had, our hopes, what we wanted to achieve with all the different studying and all of that.” 

Texas A&M’s exit could leave Qatar with a negative reputation in education and business. The potential negative reputation will have financial implications in Education City that will affect operational funding, causing Qatar to seek alternative funding sources or adjust its financial structure. Texas A&M’s decision would lead to a decrease in enrollment and the potential discontinuation of research and innovation programs that once filled an educational gap. 

Furthermore, this will prompt Qatar to reconsider its strategy for attracting and maintaining international educational partnerships. The new educational approaches would involve exploring fresh partnerships. However, the withdrawal of American universities can leave a gap, allowing Qatar’s Gulf neighbors and competitors, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and Saudi Arabia, to influence higher education significantly. The U.A.E. has already established a New York University (N.Y.U.) Abu Dhabi campus and continues to establish American medical school campuses such as Baylor College of Medicine in Dubai. 

The future of Qatar’s education city and education diplomacy efforts are still being determined, with a trail of pressing questions. If Qatar’s Education City begins to fail due to the withdrawal of universities, will Qatar pivot and focus on its ambitious climate change and sustainability goals? How will Qatar persuade its international peers that it is a stable and safe region to do business after the disinformation campaign? Either way, with the anticipation of Qatar’s responses, the Texas A&M board will continue to implement its plan to withdraw from Qatar by 2028, thus leading to an unraveling of alliances between Qatar and Texas A&M that could negatively impact the diplomatic relationship between Qatar and the United States. 

Samia Rodriguez is a master’s candidate in Northeastern University’s Global Studies and International Relations program. 

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Tackling Terror in the Sahel: Steps to Counter Resurgent Islamist Militancy in the Lake Chad Basin Region

A spate of mass kidnappings this past week shook Nigeria, underscoring the persistent threat of Islamist militant groups operating in the Lake Chad Basin (LCB) region and the need for renewed and coordinated responses to counter them. On March 7, armed men wearing military uniforms on motorbikes abducted over 280 children between the ages of seven and 18 from a school in Kuriga, Kaduna State.[1] Then, two days later, bandits abducted 15 children and one woman while they were asleep from Gidan Bakuso, a village in Nigeria’s northwest Sokoto State.[2] Although no group has claimed responsibility for the abductions, local and state officials, as well as regional analysts, suspect that Boko Haram and Ansaru, an offshoot of the former that broke away in January 2012, are to blame.[3] The attacks were preceded by the purported abduction of nearly 200 persons in Ngala, Borno State on March 1, although regional security analyst David Otto, director of the Geneva Center for Africa Security and Strategic Studies, has asserted that the disappearance of these persons is in fact more likely a case of recidivism, as internally displaced persons (IDPs) flee squalid living conditions in government-run IDP camps.[4] These recent events are alarming not only because they demonstrate that regional efforts to combat Boko Haram and Ansaru are failing, but because they also suggest that government efforts to manage the situation are worsening the plight of many Nigerians and driving them into the arms of the insurgency. As such, now is the time to conduct a new appraisal of the instability plaguing the LCB region and to offer fresh insights into how best to counter Islamist militant groups operating in the area.


Rectifying Grievances


Nigerian state officials must undertake scrupulous and dedicated reforms to reduce the appeal of Boko Haram and other Islamist militant groups. This means that Nigerian officials must engage in the sustainable development of impoverished regions by improving infrastructure – particularly roadways, water, and sewage – as well as providing more far-reaching access to healthcare and education. Such development is especially needed in areas that Nigerian military forces have recaptured from militants. Officials must also find a way to better manage persons migrating to Nigerian agricultural lands and cities as a result of climate change. Desertification in Chad has driven Chadians into Nigerian agricultural land, creating “sons of the soil” conflicts in which local inhabitants feud with migrants over access to limited water supplies and housing.[5] Such desertification has also driven Fulani pastoralists of northern Nigeria into southern cities, risking a spike in ethnic tensions that have already led to the targeted killings of Fulani in nearby Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ghana.

[6] These migrants are especially susceptible to being radicalized by Islamist militant groups because of their unstable economic situation. Nigerian officials should also engage in systematic institutional reform to counter rampant corruption and nepotism. Officials must look to improve the Nigerian public’s trust in the government by enhancing transparency and accountability. Creating initiatives that help educated Nigerians find suitable employment is imperative to help stem disillusionment. Additionally, providing training in trades and other technical skill sets will help to alleviate the strain on Nigeria’s economy and augment the workforce with workers whose skills can be used to repair and construct much-needed infrastructure. A further point of consideration lies in improving the conditions of IDP camps. Life in IDP camps is often a little easier than living in areas controlled by militants, and many camp inhabitants suffer from malnutrition.[7]

Consequently, Nigerian officials must take steps to ensure that camp inhabitants have access to adequate food, potable water, and shelter. An additional concern is providing camp inhabitants with access to healthcare, including psychosocial counseling for those who have suffered from sexual violence and other traumatic experiences. Officials must also work to provide job training and education for inhabitants to provide them with a sense of direction and purpose, lest the lack thereof prove an enticement to return to areas controlled by militants.
Finally, Nigerian officials must establish offramps for militants seeking to rejoin society. Many members of Boko Haram and Ansaru are forcibly conscripted when captured by militants during raids. As a result, forced conscripts become trapped in militant groups out of fear that surrendering will result in their execution, a valid concern in light of the regional military force’s frequent human rights violations. The Nigerian National Security Agency has created deradicalization and reeducation programs, but these programs require greater funding and must be more readily publicized to be effective at winning over potential militant
defectors.[8]


Military Reform


In addition to enacting transformative institutional, economic, and social policies, Nigerian officials must also reform the national military and work to convert the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) into a competent counterinsurgency organization. The Nigerian military’s history of human rights violations has eroded Nigerians’ trust in it, and as such, the Nigerian government must work to ensure stricter troop discipline and greater accountability.[9] Enhancing civilian-military relations is a part of this process, and moving the MNJTF’s human rights office out of the military chain of command and transferring it to a civilian authority will likely help to restore trust while improving accountability for crimes committed by military personnel.[10] Regional government and military officials can also work to bolster the MNJTF by resolving certain funding deadlocks. Doing so would enable the MNJTF to provide its troops with more adequate equipment and training, thus raising morale and effectiveness while decreasing the likelihood of defection or human rights abuses. MNJTF headquarters needs to also improve trust among the force’s various Cameroonian, Chadian, Nigerian, and Nigerien national contingents, something that can be accomplished through joint training exercises, further language training, and officer development programs. The MNJTF must also seek to establish a common counterinsurgency doctrine among all national contingents, seeing as each national contingent’s individual school of practice hampers collective force integration and coordination.[11] By aligning national counterinsurgency practice with a coherent organization-wide doctrinal framework, time can be spent preparing MNJTF forces for offensive campaigns rather than teaching preliminary force integration techniques. As a final point of consideration, the MNJTF national contingents should partake in greater intelligence sharing to facilitate joint planning and operations. This will first require building greater trust between governments, but doing so will strengthen interstate relations and improve the effectiveness of counterinsurgency campaigns.

Looking Ahead: The Risk of Inaction


The recent mass abductions in Nigeria attest to the enduring threat that Boko Haram, Ansaru, and other Islamist militant groups pose to the national and regional security of the LCB region. Previous efforts to counteract these groups have been hamstrung by persistent grievances such as corruption and limited economic opportunities, as well as an ineffective counterinsurgency force. Engaging in reforms to reduce the appeal of joining these militant groups will help deprive militants of recruits. In order to ensure security and diminish the risk of further abductions and attacks, however, national and regional military systems need to be better funded to sufficiently equip their forces. They also need to create mechanisms that improve accountability, bolster civil-military relations, and establish a common doctrine in order to become a competent fighting
force. Delaying much-needed reforms not only exacerbates current problems but elevates the risk that Islamist militant groups will come to possess the resources and networks that enable them to conduct more sophisticated and coordinated attacks in concert with one another. While the problems driving regional insecurity will take years to fully address, the aforementioned recommendations are a starting point for waging a comeback against Islamist militant groups wreaking havoc throughout the region.

[1]Angelique Chrisafis, “Search Continues for Hundreds of Kidnapped Nigerian Schoolchildren,”
The Guardian, March 10, 2024, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/mar/10/search-
continues-kidnapped-nigerian-schoolchildre n.

[2] Taiwo Adebayo, “A Decade Since the Chibok Abduction, More Than 1,400 Nigerian Students
Have Been Kidnapped,” Associated Press News, March 9, 2024,
https://apnews.com/article/nigeria-abduction-gunmen-e7d9ba127485e893d80eae1218b702fd.
[3] Mansur Abubakar, “Kuriga Kidnap: More Than 280 Nigerian Pupils Abducted,” BBC, March
9, 2024, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-68504329.
[4] Sarah Carter, “Mass Kidnappings from Nigeria Schools Show ‘The State Does Not Have
Control,’ One Expert Says,” CBS News, March 11, 2024,
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/nigeria-kidnapping-schools-state-does-not-have-control-expert/.
[5] Jennifer Dabbs Sciubba, “Population, Climate, and Conflict: New Data Point to Greater
Challenges Ahead,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, October 29, 2021,
https://www.csis.org/analysis/population-climate-and-conflict-new-data-point-greater-challenges-
ahea d.
[6] James Courtright, “Ethnic Killings by West African Armies Are Undermining Regional
Security,” Foreign Policy, March 7, 2023, https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/03/07/mali-burkina-faso-
fulani-ethnic-killings-by-west-african-armies -are-undermining-regional-security/.
[7] Brit McCandless Farmer, “Beyond the Chibok Girls: Inside Nigeria’s IDP Camps,” CBS News,
February 17, 2019, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/beyond-the-chibok-girls-inside-nigerias-idp-
camps-60-minutes/.
[8] Jennifer G. Cooke, “Statement before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee
on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, ‘Boko Haram: The Islamist Insurgency in West
Africa,’” Center for Security and International Studies, February 24, 2016, https://csis-website-
prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/legacy_files/files/attachments/ts160224_Coo ke.pdf.
[9] Olabanji Akinola, “Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria: Between Islamic Fundamentalism,

Politics, and Poverty,” African Security 8, no. 1 (2015): 18,
https://doi.org/10.1080/19392206.2015.998539.
[10] International Crisis Group, “What Role for the Multinational Joint Task Force in Fighting
Boko Haram?” Africa Report No. 291, July 7, 2020, https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/west-
africa/291-what-role-multinational-joint-task-force-fighting-b oko-haram.
[11] Gershon Adela, “Institutional Counterinsurgency Frameworks in the Lake Chad Basin: The
Case of the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram,” Defense & Security Analysis
39, no. 1 (2023): 102-103, doi:10.1080/14751798.2023.2166520.

Photo courtesy of utenriksdept on Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Mason W. Krusch is a master’s candidate in the Global Studies and International Relations
program at Northeastern University (Boston, MA). His research interests include Eurasian
security, unconventional warfare, information warfare, and strategic communication. He holds a
BA in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Sweden’s Right of Passage: A Game Changer In Global Politics 

Sweden’s NATO Process 

Sweden’s official entrance marks a historic step as it became the 32nd member of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on March 7, 2024. The country’s flag will be raised alongside those of the other 31 Allies in a ceremony at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on March 11 and at NATO commands across Europe and North America.  

The ratification process was finally completed in Washington D.C. as Sweden and Hungary, the only two countries left to ratify Sweden’s membership, submitted the necessary documents after an 18-month  process. Turkey was reportedly withholding in approving Sweden’s bid, accusing the country of being too lenient toward groups that Ankara regarded as security threats as well as a series of demonstrations by supporters of the outlaws Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), located in Sweden. During the official vote, the ruling party emphasized that Sweden’s “tougher stance” on Kurdish militants will play a pivotal role in securing voting approval. Senior legislator of the Turkish ruling party, Fuat Oktay, highlighted that Sweden’s modification to its anti-terrorism legislation curbed the PKK’s financial activities, convicted a terrorist suspect and extradited another, and lifted restrictions on arms sales to Turkey. As Turkey finalizes its approval, Hungary remains the last hurdle on Sweden’s road toward NATO.

 Following Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kirstersson’s reluctant visit to Budapest, Hungary back on Feb 20, and a deal through which Hungary is set to acquire four more Gripen C fighter aircraft and another 10 years of support and logistics for its existing fleet, Hungary’s parliament ratified Sweden’s membership status after a 2-year process last month. 

At a press conference in Stockholm on Thursday, Sweden’s Minister for Employment and Integration Johan Pehrson labeled the accession “ a new security policy era for Sweden”, adding that he had personally been waiting for such a decision for 20 years.”

Its History of Neutrality

When the battle against Norway fell silent, the once-battled power would not take up arms again as its last war ended in 1814. For the next two centuries, Sweden embraced a policy of neutrality, refusing to take sides in wars or join any military alliance. It was a stance that contributed to the country’s ability to become a prosperous welfare state and humanitarian superpower. 

Speculation follows that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, pushed Sweden along with Finland to abandon its traditional position of military nonalignment to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella. Finland joined the alliance in April, becoming NATO’s 31st member after Turkey’s parliament ratified the Nordic country’s bid.

The invasion “had a shock effect on Swedish political life,” said Henrik Ekengren Oscarsson, a political scientist at the University of Gothenburg. He analyzed polling data showing that support for NATO membership surged from 35% in 2021 to 64% after the invasion.

Global Political Implications

Sweden’s membership is a monumental geopolitical boost for NATO as alliance members now encircle the Baltic Sea (with the exception of the narrow entry to St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland and Russian exclave of Kaliningrad). Not only does this allow the alliance to monitor physical pipelines and cables beneath the surface, but it also gives the alliance access to a pocket of military power. Despite having a population of a little more than 10 million and an annual 1.54 percent of its GDP gross on defense last year, the country’s centuries of neutrality have forced it to develop a world-class military-industrial complex.

When selected equipment stocks are compared across NATO countries, Sweden’s supply numbers tend to place them in the upper middle of the inference graph. In some cases, the country punches well above its weight as Sweden possesses the fifth most armored personnel carriers in NATO, more than much larger countries such as Germany, Spain, and the U.K.

The Russian reaction to Sweden’s decision to join NATO has focused more on its implications for the Arctic region. The Arctic North is an area of deep strategic concern for Russia as it is where the Russian nuclear-armed submarine fleet is based. While Sweden and Finland do not directly touch the Arctic Ocean, their membership in NATO does potentially significantly strengthen the military power of the alliance in that vital region.

The Future of Sweden

According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Sweden’s 2023 defense budget amounted to $9.2 billion and 1.54 percent of GDP. In anticipation of NATO membership, last year Sweden announced investments in military defense and estimated that this increased spending, combined with additional budget items that fall under NATO’s definition of defense expenditures, will ensure Sweden meets the 2% target in 2024. Beyond the defense equipment that Sweden currently has at its disposal, its export defense industry can meet most domestic equipment needs.

 Additionally, “In NATO, they will have access to far more conversations/tenders/info sharing particularly with regards to very sensitive tech that they previously weren’t admitted to, even if their study was NATO standard in design,” says Tom Waldwyn, Research Associate for Defense Procurement at IISS. 

Written by Community Outreach Intern, Tammy Gia Han Nguyen

Photo Credentials: 

KENDALL WARNER / AP

References:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/3/7/sweden-officially-becomes-32nd-member-of-nato-military-alliance

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/mar/07/sweden-joins-nato-after-ratification-hungary-drops-opposition

https://www.politico.eu/article/sweden-nato-membership-military-power/

https://apnews.com/article/turkey-sweden-nato-ratification-expansion-3686af974e7f9238ee9698451e649ea9

https://globalaffairs.org/bluemarble/sweden-tells-citizens-prepare-war-russian-aggression-nato-membership#:~:text=Micael%20Byd%C3%A9n%20said%20all%20Swedes,have%20joined%20the%20military%20alliance.

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Why Haiti’s City Center Is at War: Gang Violence and Political Turmoil

Haiti, a nation surrounded by political instability and social unrest for decades, is once again surrounded by chaos as armed gangs take control of its streets. Current events have highlighted the minacious state of affairs in the Caribbean, with an uprising in violence targeting key government institutions and prisons, leaving the country of Haiti with political instability and socio economic hardships.

On Saturday night, March 3, armed gangs revealed a simultaneous attack on two of Haiti’s largest prisons, including the National Penitentiary and the Croix-des-Bouquets Civil Prison causing over 1,000 inmates to escape. The violence left nine individuals dead including four police officers. This event showcased despair and shock throughout the country, highlighting the government’s struggle to keep Haiti under control. 

Haiti was declared a state of emergency as a nighttime curfew was placed in an attempt to alleviate the crisis. Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who has been undergoing immense pressure to resign, sought support from the United Nations Security Council to provide international security support and stabilization. Unfortunately, the disputes Haiti have been facing stretch far beyond just security concerns and measures.

The depth of Haiti’s political predicament stems from its ongoing governmental conflicts, including the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021 and the subsequent power vacuum. As the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections become delayed, the condition of Haiti’s political future remains unclear.

The ongoing violence is a result of gangs who continue to expose the government’s weaknesses, futher expanding their influence over Haitian society. Jimmy Chérizier, a previous elite police officer also called “Barbecue”, currently runs the notorious gang G-9 and has claimed responsibility for the recent attacks. Barbeque strives to urge Haitians to take action against the government. “We are asking the population to rise up,” he said. These gangs have effectively displayed their wrath and control over many neighborhoods of the capital, as gangs were reported to have up to 80% control of Port-au-Prince. They have been coordinating more attacks that include targeting the Central Bank. As a result, the Haitian police force is heavily outnumbered and overwhelmed.  

Recently, G9 and G-Pep, another Haitian gang led by Gabriel Jean-Pierre, attacked critical infrastructure, including Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince. The airport was closed during the attack and no operating planes or passengers were present, but caused foreign governments to issue travel advisories. The Biden administration expressed concerns over the security situation, and has abstained from committing troops to aid the situation. Instead, the administration has decided to provide help through financial and logistical support.

As Haiti attempts to diminish reoccurring violence, the path to stabilize and recover the country remains a challenge. The government’s ability to restore law and order in handling the root causes of the situation will be pivotal in reassuring the country’s future. At present, national turmoil continuously reigns over the Haitian people as they hope for a brighter future of peace, prosperity, and security.  

After the 72-hour state of emergency and nighttime curfew were imposed in response to the surging violence, Haiti implemented new steps to obtain stability and control of Port- Au-Prince. The Haitian government ordered police officers to apprehend all offenders that escaped prison, prioritizing efforts to improve law enforcement and relieve gang violence. Prime Minister Ariel Henry recognizes that implementing long-term development strategies and tactical security measures, countering recent events, serve as important measures to ensure Haiti’s safety in the future. 

Photo credit:

Haitians urgently collect their belongings in preparation to flee their homes on March 3, escaping the rising violence in the capital Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo Credit: Ralph Tedy Erol/Reuters

Written by Research and Development Intern, Arianna Hutcheson

References: 

https://apnews.com/article/haiti-violence-prison-break-curfew-6341d1cda5f02f6c66d351ad2d206e7b

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/mar/04/haiti-mass-jailbreak-violence-port-au-prince-gangs

https://apnews.com/article/haiti-violence-prison-break-curfew-105ca137aa337b9e6681cf87add9a5c1

https://apnews.com/article/haiti-violence-gangs-prison-attack-kenya-police-1033aba8041637f9934f87a3be883df8

https://apnews.com/article/haiti-prison-break-2788f145b0d26efc2aa199e923724e0f

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Why the West Gets Russia Wrong: Historical Impasses to Achieving Peace in Ukraine

Why the West Gets Russia Wrong: Historical Impasses to Achieving Peace in Ukraine

As the Russo-Ukrainian War enters its third year of full-scale kinetic conflict, the majority of Western politicians, media, and defense analysts contend that continued Western military aid to Ukraine is imperative in order to effectively wage a war of attrition against Russia. Much of this analysis of Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine in February 2022 is predicated on a typology of Russian neo-imperial revanchism, and subsequently maintains that Russia, operating from fundamentally nationalist motives, seeks to conquer the portions of former Soviet states where large populations of ethnic Russians reside. While Russia’s February 2022 invasion undoubtedly violates both Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty and international law, the commonplace depiction of Russia as endeavoring to overturn the existing world order is misplaced, in that it largely fails to examine the specific historical grievances that frame the Russian perspective. The purpose of this article is not to condone Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – which is wholly condemnable – but rather to investigate why the United States and its NATO allies’ framing of the Russian strategic objective suffers from a miscalculation of Russia’s security interests that risks escalating the present conflict rather than diminishing it. 

The first factor that merits consideration is Russia’s claims to eastern Ukraine on the grounds that it has a historical right to them. Setting aside arguments espousing that Ukraine has been a part of Russia since the medieval period in favor of more recent history (where the concept of statehood can be more justifiably applied), one facet that has been largely neglected by most Western analysts is the fact that the Donbas and Crimea were indeed recognized as Russian territory under international law up until 1922 and 1954, when Lenin and Khrushchev, respectively, transferred them from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (UkSSR). 

These transfers were not seen by Soviet authorities as the granting of sovereignty over these regions to any independent Ukrainian state, seeing as the UkSSR was itself a union state of the Soviet Union. Indeed, in the case of Crimea, the decision to transfer it from the RSFSR to the UkSSR originates in a remarkably mundane manner: the arrangement of funding for a construction project, the Kakhovka Reservoir and North Crimea Canal. Seeing as the construction site sat astride the RSFSR and UkSSR, Gosplan, the Soviet central economic planning committee, advised that Crimea be transferred from the former to the latter in order to simplify the funding process, since it was then standard practice for large infrastructure projects to be funded by only a single union state. Thus the reason for the transfer of a region with a predominantly ethnic Russian population to what, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, became the sovereign state of Ukraine rests on a procedural decision whose considerations were not only principally financial rather than political, but which were also framed in regard to a single site rather than the entire region. 

The second factor worth consideration is the role that NATO expansion has played in stoking existential fears of encirclement in Russia. While European states have every right to accede to NATO, provided that they meet the organization’s provisional requirements and are unanimously accepted, nonetheless, it would have behooved NATO to consider how these decisions would be perceived by Russia. Scholars have rightly observed that the prerequisite spread of democracy to potential NATO member-states threatens Russia’s authoritarian model. Such a situation is in part exemplified by the 2004 Orange Revolution, poignantly described by Ian Traynor, the late esteemed journalist of The Guardian, as “an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing.” The leak of the Nuland-Pyatt phone call, in which Victoria Nuland, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, discussed ways to manage the outcome of the political upheaval that emerged during the 2014 Maidan Revolution further heightened Russia’s concerns that not only was the United States seeking to spread democracy to Russia’s periphery, but that it was also, ostensibly, interfering in Ukrainian politics. Such interference would, so Moscow maintained, violate the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which the United States, Russia, and United Kingdom all agreed to respect the independence and sovereignty of Ukraine. Efforts to foster democracy abroad are commendable, but when they risk being perceived as covert meddling, short-term tactical gains might best be set aside out of consideration of greater strategic objectives, of which avoiding accusations of hypocrisy, whatever the merit of such accusations, ought to be one. 

These events, when coupled with others such as the United States’ earlier withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s signing in 2019 of a constitutional amendment that committed Ukraine to joining NATO, and the establishment of a U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Defense Framework in 2021 can thus be seen as having progressively exacerbated Moscow’s fears of encirclement. President Zelenskyy’s remarks on February 19, 2022 at the Munich Security Conference that “I hope no one thinks of Ukraine as a convenient and eternal buffer zone between the West and Russia. This will never happen” as well as “Ukraine has received security guarantees for abandoning the world’s third nuclear capability. We don’t have that weapon. We also have no security” certainly did nothing to allay Moscow’s concerns. Indeed, Russia interpreted the latter remark as an insinuation that Ukraine would, provided that it became admitted to NATO, endeavor to obtain nuclear weapons, something that would also violate the Budapest Memorandum, in which Ukraine acceded to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The idea of Ukraine, especially a Ukraine including the Donbas and Crimea, possessing NATO nuclear weapons was anathema to Moscow. 

For those Western analysts hoping that a war of attrition will lead to a strategic defeat of the Russian armed forces, it would be prudent to keep in mind that, regardless of whatever degradation that the Russian military has incurred over the past two years, the fundamental problems remain unaddressed. Consequently, as the conflict grows increasingly protracted, the risk increases that Russia will resort to further extremism and violence in order to inculcate its point. Conversely, those in the West who worry that Russia will invade Poland or the Baltic states might do well to recognize the great improbability of such campaigns on logistic and economic grounds. Only through totally mobilizing Russian society into a wartime economy could Russia stand to expand its military operations abroad into any NATO state, and Moscow is unlikely to hazard making such a move owing to the substantial risks and instability that such a transformation would entail. 

Unless the West is able to at least acknowledge the Russian perspective, the present conflict only stands to escalate. This does not mean that the West should accept Russia’s narrative or acquiesce to the spread of authoritarianism. What this does suggest, however, is that democracy might be better fostered abroad through patient engagement – even if it requires uncomfortable short-term compromises – rather than through more overt contestation. As such, considering a negotiated settlement that allows Russia to continue to possess Crimea and parts of the Donbas might, however unpalatable such a proposition may appear, be the only course that spares Ukraine protracted bloodshed and further destruction: if achieving a strategic military defeat of the Russian armed forces comes at the cost of transforming eastern Ukraine into a wrecked crucible, than the West must consider whether the minimization of noncombatant casualties is truly the priority that it so espouses this principle to be. 

After all the destruction that the Russian armed forces have wrought upon Ukraine, engaging with Russia to find an offramp no doubt appears as a most distasteful course of action. Once again, however, such engagement with Russia should not be viewed as an acquiescence or acknowledgement of defeat. Rather, it should be seen as a pragmatic and realistically achievable course of action that can actually deescalate the conflict without humiliating Russia. Western advocates for achieving a strategic military defeat of the Russian armed forces in Ukraine as essential to deterring alleged Russian neo-imperialism would be wise to recall the effects that such humiliation had on Germany following World War I. Those Western advocates who see any form of negotiated settlement as catering to authoritarian domination might very well then be setting the stage for a much worse conflict with Russia in the future. Ending the war in Ukraine might involve the negotiation of an imperfect peace, but such a result is far preferable to a perfect world war. 

Written by: Mason W. Krusch, a master’s candidate in Northeastern University’s Global Studies and International Relations program. 

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What Is The Significance of Navalny’s Death?

February 16th, 2024 signified the loss of another hope for the reconstruction of law and order in modern Russian society. Alexei Navalny was an active opposition to Putin. Navalny started his career back in 2007 and forcefully ended his anti-Putin movement in 2024 due to his unexpected death at the Arctic Circle prison. This event carries greater significance to world affairs and identifies Russian power.

Alexei Navalny was known for his actions, specifically anti-corruption campaigns in Russia, appeals to the nation to rise for revolution, presidential election boycott, and other anti-current government movements that are not welcomed in the non-democratic state. Predictably, his actions were strictly controlled by elites in Russia and were not warmly met by the government.

Specifically, in August 2020, Alexei Navalny was poisoned by the famously known nerve agent, Novichok. This chemical is the deadliest chemical currently known to humanity. Novichok was invented by Russian scientists during the Cold War. Luckily, after the poisoning, Alexei Navalny was able to get to Germany in time to receive medical support and have a successful recovery. The most observable Putin’s opponent stayed in the German hospital and acquired all needed help until January 2021. Navalny then decided it was time for him to fly back to his homeland and facilitate anti-Putin views to the nation. He initiated his campaign by urging people to stand up against current elites and topple Russian governance. While landing Navalny’s airplane at the wrong airport within Moscow, the demonstrations was not deterred; however, not exactly in the way that Alexei was anticipating. Soon enough, he was arrested for the violation of parole and sentenced to prison for 19 years. While the protests continued in Russia, soon after Navalny’s disappearance from the public eye, the Russian government successfully stopped the rebellions. Thereafter, in 2023, Navalny was moved to the Arctic Circle, where he spent his last days and ultimately encountered his death.

The statements relevant to the recent death of the opposition are continuously altering their interpretation by pro-Putin executives. The original justification for death being “blood clot” was later changed to “sudden death syndrome,” as well as the date of his death shifting from February 15th to February 16th.

Navalny was the hope of the Western World to change the authoritarian regime within Russia. Now that Putin is not facing Navalny’s opposition, is there anything else providing hope for a potential freedom of Russia from Putin’s authority? However, with the rise of anti-Putin desires of the Russian nations, new opposition will be found in the country. As of right now, it is possible to predict that the widow of Alexei will be the one shouldering this role. Altogether, it will be ultimately up to the Russian nation to identify the future of their country. If the population is willing and ready for the regime change, the leader will be able to start the process. If the nation has still not gained enough basis to promote an anti-Putin perspective, then there are almost no outside factors that can shake and decrown Russian elites.

At the same time, Putin’s time might end without Navalny’s counterplay. The current president is 71 years old, and his era might be ending in the short future. It is important to note that in Russia, the system is mainly based on Putin’s authority; it is yet stable enough to survive the shift of power without significant institutional changes within the country.

Overall, the death of Navalny again highlighted to the rest of the world the absence of law and order in the Russian Federation, as well as the emphasis on the presence of a stable authoritarian regime within the state.

Written by Events Intern, Sofiia Lobas.

References:

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/alexei-navalnys-death-what-do-we-know-2024-02-18/

https://carnegieendowment.org/politika/91665

Photo credit: Rom T

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El Salvador’s New President: Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez

Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez is the 43rd President of El Salvador and has recently been re-elected despite discussion of his re-election being unconstitutional. Prior to his time as President of El Salvador, Bukele served as Mayor of Nuevo Cuscatlan from 2012 to 2015 and then as Mayor of the capital of El Salvador. Nayib was expelled from his political party in 2017 and eventually formed his own political party: New Ideas. He ran for President in 2019, and won with a 53% vote. Bukele has made a name for himself at the international stage after implementing a plan to get rid of gangs and crime in El Salvador.


Bukele’s plan was implemented into phases and increasingly built up. Among a few of his phases was declaring prisons in a state of emergency after spikes in murder rates, territorial gain from gang territories, ‘mano dura’ (strong hand) policies, and crackdown of corruption within the government and police enforcement. Bukele’s actions drew notoriety from international human rights organizations after alarming reports of lack of due process of prisoners and treatment. Bukele targeted individuals boasting and fitting the profile of gang members; widespread gang tattoos over their bodies, namely around the face, head, chest, and back areas. Bukele in response said in 2022, “The focus is always on the rights of criminals, and for the vast majority of honest people? Nobody cares about their rights. In this country we spent thirty years being ridiculed, killed, raped, extorted, threatened, and living in fear, and no one said anything. But suddenly we grab them [criminals], and you have to consider the human rights of rapists. Yes, they have human rights, but the human rights of honorable people are most important.” 

Bukele’s crackdown on gang activity and crime decreased to 60% during his presidency in 2022, and further decreased in 2023 to 70%, the lowest homicide rate in any Latin American country. Bukele’s actions have brought a renewed sense of safety, stability, and security to many Salvadorans which has garnered him an impressive 90% approval rate among Salvadoran citizens. 

In late December 2023, Bukele announced he would be running for the 2024 Salvadoran General Election. Despite many Salvadoran citizens eager to have him as president once again, experts argued it was unconstitutional. Under the constitution in El Salvador re-election is prohibited under Article 154, in which it is stated that a President can only serve for five years. However, Bukele used a loophole under Article 155 that allowed him to step down from his presidency for the speaker of the assembly to take over as President in order for his term to not count completely. On February 4th, 2024, Nayib Bukele won the presidential election in a landslide vote.

Written by Events Intern, Diana Gonzalez

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