What the death of Queen Elizabeth signifies for the future of the U.K.

international politics, Politics

On Sept. 9, 2022, a monarch of the British family, Queen Elizabeth II, passed away unexpectedly. The Queen’s death marks the end of the longest-serving monarch in British history and the second-longest monarch of a sovereign country. And with such a monumental period coming to an end, a question raised by the British people and countries around the world remains: what is next?

Preparations for the death of the queen, an operation entitled “London Bridge” was put into place years prior to her majesty’s death, outlining the day of the queen’s passing down to the very minute. Yet, the plan does not outline a clear indication as to what is next for the monarch and its international territories. Countries in the Caribbean have already made abundantly clear their wants for complete independence prior to the death of the Queen, especially Jamaica. Jamaica, which has been a part of the British commonwealth since its independence from Britain in 1962, outlined to Prince William and his wife Kate during their visit in March its plans to become a republic. As stated by Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness to Prince Charles, “Jamaica is as you would see a country that is very proud… and we’re moving on. And we intend… to fulfill our true ambition of being an independent, fully developed and prosperous country.” This widespread want for complete independence in the Caribbean as reflected by Jamaica comes after Barbados made a bold deposition of the British queen as a head of state back in November of 2021, officially making the country its own republic.

Alongside wants for independence in the Caribbean is the want for a redress of the horror that was slavery. This is what Jamaican prime minister Holness references when he says, “there are issues here which as you would know are unresolved.” This sentiment has been shared by the rest of the Caribbean commonwealth countries that have suffered under the stained legacy of slavery at the hands of the British monarchy which they feel they should be compensated. Political scientists have often pointed to slavery as the cause for political, social, and economic stuntment in the Caribbean region while the proprietors of the transatlantic slave trade such as the British Monarchy remained wealthy. As a result, it was announced in 2021 by the longest serving parliamentarian in Jamaican history, lawmaker Mike Henry, that Jamaica plans to petition for an estimated 7.6 billion in reparations to the head of the commonwealth (which was Queen Elizabeth at the time). While it remains unknown if the petition is still being brought forth to the British Government, it is very unlikely that the new head of the British government, Prince Charles, would grant such a petition. On top of the international territories that may be questioning their status after the passing of the queen, more generally, the world stage continues to question the importance of any monarchical system in the 21st century. A Newsweek article reported that according to a 2022 statistic questioning those in favor of abolishing the monarchy in the U.K., young people have become increasingly more supportive of abolishment than in prior years. As stated by the article, “Within the 18- to 24-year-old age range, 40 percent wanted to abolish the monarchy compared to 37 percent who supported continuing with it” (Queen Has ‘Huge Problem’ as Support for Abolishing Monarchy Rises, 2022). Statistics for support of the monarchy by the more general population of the U.K., however, were not any more promising. As stated further in the article, “The research suggested 27 percent wanted to abolish the monarchy compared with 60 percent in favor of keeping it” (2022). The research collected in the Newsweek article may reflect that those commonwealth countries of the U.K. and the wider world, in general, may have had enough of the monarchy of Britain. Especially following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, it remains unclear how the legacy of the royal family will carry on, especially as the crown transitions to a less liked Prince Charles. Such a transition may promote British territories to depose the monarchy as their heads of government now more than ever.

Russia to officially declare war on Ukraine, U.S. officials speculate

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff
Header Image: BBC

Just weeks after the Russian military was accused of war crimes by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Western officials are speculating that Russian President Vladimir Putin could be moving towards an official declaration of war against Ukraine. The speculation comes in preparation for “Victory Day” in Russia on May 9. The day commemorates Russia’s victory against the Nazis in 1945. The day is symbolic to the Russian people and Putin himself. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Putin “is probably going to declare on this May Day that ‘we are now at war with the world’s Nazis and we need to mass mobilize the Russian people.”

U.S. officials have begun to speculate the Declaration of War may be coming on May 9 after reviewing Putin’s language in the months since Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Putin has been careful to avoid the word “war “and called the invasion a “special military operation.”

If Russia is moving towards declaring war it could mean Putin could move all of his troops in the reserves to action in Ukraine.According to Russian Generals, it looks like their eyes may be on Moldova next. 

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991 Moldova became independent. Russia then led a separatist movement into Transnistria which declared itself independent from the Moldova Republic. If the trend continues that Putin wants to rebuild Russia’s empire by taking over former countries in the Soviet Union, Moldova is a logical target. Last week the senior Russian Commander explained that his goals for Russia’s next move into Ukraine is to gain access to Southern Ukraine and move into Transnistria. 

Transnistria is a strip of land approximately 1,350 square miles wide in-between Ukraine and Moldova and is not internationally recognized. There are roughly half a million people who live there that have their own constitution, military and flag. The majority of those people are Russian speakers. Russia has previously used the justification for freeing oppressed “Russian speakers’” when invading Ukraine. By going through southern Ukraine and securing Transnistria, Russia would also gain access to the Ukrainian port city of Odessa on the Black Sea.

Moldova is increasing security measures after an explosion occurred in the towns of Maiac and Tiraspol located in Transnistria to the northeast of Moldova. Moldova has implemented military checkpoints in its cities and canceled its annual victory day parade on May 9. 

An expert on Moldova, Bob Deen, who is a senior research fellow at the Clingendael Institute think tank in the Netherlands says, “We have seen that the topic of Transnistria is becoming discussed more openly in the Russian public domain. Russian recent statements could be an indication of the ambitions Moscow has there.” 

In addition to Russia’s military operations increasing in Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that “NATO is essentially going to war with Russia through a proxy.” President Biden addressed these comments saying that calling out NATO is a sign of “desperation that Russia is feeling about their abject failure.”

War crimes in Ukraine: easy to see — hard to prosecute

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Header Image: Euronews

The world watched with horror as Russia invaded Ukraine in mid-February. Russian forces surrounded Ukraine from the east on the Russia-Ukraine border all the way to the Belarus-Ukraine border to the northwest of Ukraine. Currently, there are an estimated 24,000 deaths and over 565 billion dollars worth of property damage in Ukraine. 

As part of the Russian operations in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin’s forces tried to take Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, but were met with stiff Ukrainian resistance and were unable to take the capital. 

Bucha, Hostomil, Irbin and other surrounding suburbs of Kyiv were effectively destroyed by Russian forces. When those forces withdrew to pursue operations in the east of Ukraine, over 400 civilian bodies were found in the suburbs of Kyiv’s nearby towns. Ukraine has accused Russia of committing war crimes through the unnecessary killing of non-combatants. European leaders, as well as President Joe Biden, have condemned these actions. There have even been claims from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other officials that Ukrainian civilians have been tortured and killed in cold blood. The amount of civilian property damage, torture and mass killings of non-combatants continues to grow. Mass graves discovered in the town of Bucha contained the bodies of Ukrainian civilians. Others like them have been found in other locations outside of Kyiv.

War crimes are classified as “Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949,” according to the U.N. Office on Genocide Prevention. International laws have been established to maintain humanitarian decency and respect for personal dignity during wars. War crimes are best understood to be cruel and/or unusual acts in which people are unnecessarily harmed during a time of war. Examples would be the willful killing of civilians, genocide, torture or inhumane treatment, taking hostages, unnecessarily destroying civilian property and compelling prisoners of war to fight for an opposing faction.

Zelenskyy described the destruction around Kyiv as “a scene from a horror movie.” He reported that he had seen such atrocities as corpses of women who were raped, killed and then burned. He said, “This is genocide.” He is calling for the West to employ more sanctions on Russia, and is asking for more weapons to defend Ukraine.

Zelenskyy spoke to the United Nations Security Council on April 5, 2022, and said that those responsible for these crimes should be immediately brought in front of a court similar to the one established at Nuremberg after World War II. Zelenskyy told the Security Council, “The Russian military searched for and purposely killed anyone who served our country. They shot and killed women outside their houses when they just tried to call someone who is alive. They killed entire families, adults and children, and tried to burn the bodies. They used tanks to crush civilians just for their pleasure.” He said that the Russians who gave the orders and performed the actions “must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes.”

Biden spoke out on the issue saying that Putin was acting brutally. The U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that when looking at the images from Bucha he saw that it was “not the random act of a rogue unit” but “a deliberate campaign to kill, torture — to rape — to commit atrocities.” Blinken said that he found the reports of war crimes in Ukraine to be credible.

How will Russia’s alleged war crimes be investigated and prosecuted? One truism of war crimes is “The victor determines what is a war crime and who gets punished.”

Biden administration rescinds Title 42

international politics, national politics, Politics

This article was written in collaboration with the Foreign Policy Youth Collab (FPYC) , an organization striving to bridge the gap between politicians and teens across the political spectrum.

Header Image: US News

On Friday April 1, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that May 23 will usher in an end of Title 42, this being an arguably nontraditional marker by the CDC of the U.S. emerging from a two-year-long pandemic. Title 42 was enacted for the first time in the nation’s history on March 20, 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by the CDC as ordered by former Vice President Mike Pence. With an end to Title 42 in sight, it would be important to clarify what is to come next in immigration trends, and furthermore, an evaluation of whether Title 42 achieved its intended purpose in the first place.

What is Title 42?

The Title 42 Health and Public Wealthfare Act was originally passed in July of 1944 in response to the influx of soldiers during WWII returning to the United States when they were infected by tuberculosis and influenza. Thus, Title 42 addresses the “regulations providing for the apprehension, detention or conditional release of individuals to prevent the introduction, transmission or spread of such diseases,” according to section 264 b of the act.. Under Title 42, the president and CDC have the right to order a halt, holding or denial of immigrants from entering a country during a period of high risk infection. Some persons can apply for exclusion from the title in extreme circumstances, however, the plaintiff requires a medical screening if the excuse is to be applied. 

Similar practices of health screens had been put in place at ports of immigration even prior to Title 42’s enactment. During the Spanish Influenza in 1918, for example, although immigration rates were already much lower than in previous years, inspections of health were put in place in high concentrated migration ports, such as Ellis Island. However, the National Library of Medicine reports that rejection rates of immigrants on medical grounds in 1918 were estimated to be only 2 percent to 3 percent. The low rejection rates of immigrants, even in the height of a pandemic, in 1918 contrasts what we are witnessing today. In 2020, it was reported by the Migrant Policy Institute that over 1.7 million expulsions (or apprehension of immigrants at the U.S-Mexican border) were carried out. This means that immigrants and asylum seekers alike were expelled back to Mexico, or their countries of origin, by the United States without the opportunity to argue their case. This is the highest record of apprehensions at the U.S-Mexican border recorded in history.

What are Title 42’s consequences?

The most important result to note is that immigration into the United States has not decreased one bit, but instead, it is the manner in which immigrants are entering the U.S. that has changed following Title 42. One way in which entry has changed under Title 42 is that it can occur repeatedly. Under Title 42, immigrants are not deported, but simply returned back to Mexico where they have the opportunity to try to enter several more times, sometimes even on the same day. That is why the highest record of apprehensions of immigrants in one year in the United States was reached under Title 42. In October 2020, 40 percent of all immigrants apprehended had crossed the border repeatedly; while in 2019, this figure stood at just 7 percent. In this way, Title 42’s attempt at preventing border apprehensions had an inverse effect. 

The other way in which immigration has changed is how immigrants get into the country, even under Title 42. Undoubtedly, Title 42 did not discourage “illegal” entries into the United States, as higher concentration and regulations in safe points of entry at U.S. borders only corral immigrants into less regulated points of entry, at times dangerous ones.  

When the title was enacted in March of 2020, the United States and Mexico agreed that adult migrants who were denied entry into the United States would be turned back to Mexico. Shortly after, the Biden Administration took over in 2021, and in February, Mexico announced that they no longer would accept families with children under seven who were set to be expelled from the United States during Title 42’s application. As a result, the Biden administration was either forced to fly these families back to their country of origin aside from Mexico, were permitted asylum in the U.S., or were placed into ICE detention centers for months at a time. This is what resulted in Vice President Kamala Harris announcing to potential immigrants and asylum seekers during her visit in Guatemala to not come in the summer of 2021. 

What are the concerns about Title 42 and lifting it?

Lawsuits against the U.S have been taken up on each side of the aisle about receding Title 42, however, for different reasons. In summer of 2021, The American Civil Liberties Union, Texas Civil Rights Project, RAICES, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Oxfam, ACLU of Texas, and ACLU of the District of Columbia​​ filed suit against the United States after the negotiations to end Title 42 with the Biden administration turned sour. In September, the federal court ruled that found that Title 42 expulsions are “likely unlawful” . The Biden administration was quick to appeal that ruling in hopes to continue turning away refugee families from the border. This appeal has reached a D.C circuit court with the case continuing into the first year anniversary of President Biden’s inauguration. Democrats, human rights advocates, and even the CDC itself push for the executive branch of the United States to rescind Title 42 has been a long time coming, bearing in mind all of Title 42’s effects. 

The act faced scrutiny as human rights advocates describe that pushing immigrants out of one disease inflected country into another does not properly address the issue of the migrants safety, nor America’s safety. Rather, it is a short-term solution by politicians to “protect” the citizens of one country at the expense of the safety of the ones trying to enter.  

Furthermore, human rights advocates argue that Title 42 does not address the crisis asylum seekers are fleeing as a result of even amidst a pandemic. Reflecting back on all the major conflicts that occurred even during the two year pandemic such as the earthquake and assasination of the president in Haiti, ongoing violence in Central America, and now the struggle of Ukranians, asylum seekers have not stopped seeking asylum because of the pandemic. It is sighted by human rights advocates that Title 42 in fact is a violation of international law on the part of the United States as it is actively denying the acceptance of asylum seekers which all countries must uphold. Article 33(1) of the 1951 Refugee Convention protects any “refugee” “against refoulement if his or her ‘life or freedom would be threatened because of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’.”

As summarized in the legislation, immigrants are guaranteed the right to have their application for asylum reviewed when they request it at a U.S. port of entry. However, under Title 42, all immigrants, including asylum seekers, have been turned away from U.S. ports of entry without question of their situation except for some special occasions. The Trump and Biden administration alike have argued that Title 42 supersedes the Article 33 provision’s guarantee of rights for asylum seekers. Considering this is the first time in the nation’s history in which Title 42 has been put to work, there are still a lot of questions surrounding the extent and power of the title. A webinar was held in May of 2021 by the Physicians for Human Rights on the issue of Title 42 where a wide range of experts from human rights organizations around the country contributed answers to this question. 

One of those experts was Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. Gelernt commented that even in Title 42’s creation back in 1944, it did not authorize expulsions, especially of asylum seekers. As further stated by Gerlernt, “[Title 42] has never in its history throughout the worst pandemics ever been used to send people back… Even if it could somehow be construed to authorize deportation, it cannot override asylum laws.” Gelernt’s comments reign true as at the time the title was enacted in 1946, Title 42 only addressed the prevention of immigrants posing the risk of infection from entering a country, not what would happen when they are within the United States.

Title 42 has also been criticized by progressives as not addressing the safety concerns for denying immigrants entry into the United States as well as the threats posed when forcibly returning them to their country of origin. It is cited by the Human Rights First organization that of the 1.7 million expulsions occurring under Title 42, of which at least 9,886 cases of kidnappings, tortures, rapes and other violent attacks on people occured as a direct denial of entrance into the U.S. These figures do not even yet take into account the expulsions where an immigrant was deported to a country they fled from for fears of persecution. 

Conservatives feel just as strongly as liberals about rescinding Title 42, however, in a contrasting way. On the other side, conservatives are concerned that rescinding Title 42 would result in an increase in infection rates by permitting COVID-positve illegal immigrants into the country, as Texas Governor Greg Abbott put it. In fact, on Sunday April 4, the state of Louisiana, in conjunction with Arizona and Missouri, filed suit against the Biden administration for rescinding Title 42 for what it claims is “an imminent, man-made, self-inflicted calamity: the abrupt elimination of the only safety valve preventing this administration’s disastrous border policies from devolving into an unmitigated chaos and catastrophe,” as quoted in the filing. What the GOP attorneys write into the filing is a concern echoed throughout the United States. However, what the filing does not address is what should instead be the answer. Eventually the COVID-19 pandemic will formally conclude and the recession of Title 42 would be consequently imminent. Title 42 is not meant to be a permanent solution to migration into the U.S. as it is only a preemptive measure to protect the integrity of health in the U.S. during increased times of infections.

The CDC fought against enacting Title 42 when it was first discussed considering evidence remains unfound that prohibiting immigrants from entering a country has any real effect on the transmission of a virus. Dr.Fauci echoed this message as well as further epidemiologists and health experts. The Columbia University Public Health program found that “the Omicron variant highlights that community transmission within the US, and not introduction of the virus from Mexico, is driving the spread of COVID-19, and that public health authorities need to focus on mitigation measures that are known to work. Title 42 is not among these measures and, if anything, makes matters worse”. Nevertheless, stigmatizations and scapegoating immigrant populations as the contributor to high infection rates is not uncommon in American culture. A poll by Axios was released in the summer of 2021 which observed a trend between vaccinated and unvaccinated persons’ placement of blame for high infection rates of COVID-19. Interestingly, 75 percent of vaccinated Americans blamed unvaccinated Americans for high infection rates, while unvaccinated mostly blamed COVID-19 transmission on foriegn travelers with over 25 percent agreement. Not only are the results of the Axios poll demonstrative of today’s political climate but further telling of attitudes towards immigrants and their role in American public health that can lead to stigmatization.

Human rights advocates highlight that politicians play into the attitudes exemplified in the poll when naming a disease and or virus after an entire ethnic group or country as witnessed when influential politicians referred to COVID-19 as the “china-virus.” Human rights advocates argue that naming a virus after a country can pose real harm especially to people of that nationality. This was witnessed throughout the pandemic when the FBI found that in 2021, hate-crimes directed at Asian Americans spiked at a rate of 73 percent and the rate of other hate crimes rose by 13 percent that same year. 

What lifting Title 42 in May means

The most encouraging takeaway about the rescission of Title 42 is that the world may be emerging from the tail end of a two-year pandemic which has rattled the lives of billions. One side however, argues that rescinding Title 42 signifies chaos ensuing as immigrants entering the United States will increase COVID-19 infection rates while the other side argues that this is a step in the right direction for human rights. Although there is still no conclusive evidence that the immigrants seeking asylum or entrance into the U.S. will restimulate infection rates of COVID-19 in the U.S., conservatives are not wrong in stating that the application of Title 42 has been leaving a storm of migration building up behind its border wall for two years. The commissioner of ​​Customs and Border Protection (CBP) aired his concerns after the announcement from the Biden Administration that lifting the policy will “likely cause an increase in encounters with illegal immigrants along the southern border”. However, many experts who disavow Title 42 argue that the potential numbers of encounters from rescinding Title 42 could not be more than the record high expulsions that occurred under the title. Furthermore,  it is important to highlight that the mass of people waiting for entrance into the U.S. is not more than to be expected at this time of year as there usually is a yearly trend of an increase in immgration to the U.S witnessed every spring. What remains up in the air is the Biden Administration’s handling of pending suits filed against it that advocate for and against Title 42’s rescission. How the administration seeks to navigate these legal battles will be especially pivotal for the legacy of the Biden administration and furthermore indicative of whether Title 42 can be applied in the future.

Canadian Prime Minister revokes emergency powers enacted to shut down freedom convoy

international politics, Politics

Danielle O’Brien, Editor

On Feb. 14, 2022, in a 185 to 151 vote, the Emergencies Act was approved in the Canadian Parliament marking the first time in Canadian history in which these powers were invoked. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked these emergency powers for the first time due in part to the demonstrations taking place along the northern board outside of Canada’s capital of Ottawa which blocked an estimated $500 million a day of cross-border trading. The “freedom convoy” was a group of truckers protesting against Canada’s national vaccine mandate. The emergency powers allotted the Canadian government the power to arrest protestors of the convoy. What has made the enactment of these emergency powers (the likes of which have since been revoked) so controversial was that it broke up demonstrations which is the right of Canadian citizens to perform. Nevertheless, Trudeau asserted in his enactment of the emergency powers that these demonstrations were “no longer a lawful protest at a disagreement over government policy” but rather “an illegal occupation” as public protests such as blockades and or occupations constitute illegality in Canada. The blockade did have a surprising effect on the automotive industry for the time that it was in place.

 One of the key points connecting the North American and Canadian border, the Ambassador Bridge, was also choked by the convoy. As a result, essential automotive parts which were being sent from Detroit to Ontario through the bridge were inaccessible due to the convoy. Trudeau enacted a two-day state of emergency in Canada on Feb 15. escalated the tensions of wrapping up the demonstrations as protestors who refused to disperse after the enactment of the emergency powers were threatened with vehicle seizures, fines of around $80,000 USD, imprisonment of up to a year, and suspension of commercial licenses. 

The emergency powers allotted the Canadian government the power to cut off the group’s finances which worked more efficiently to strangle the protests. Trudeau’s finance minister, Chrystia Freeland, announced at the present conference on Feb. 14. Under the Emergencies Act, crowdfunding platforms that have been upholding these protests must be registered with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada (FINTRAC). This aspect of the emergency powers came as the convoy had large financial support through a GoFundme page of more than $8 million, the profits and accessibility of which were thus halted by GoFundme under the powers. The freedom Convoy also tried to access financial support through bitcoin, however, an estimated $3.8 million in virtual currency was also frozen under the emergency powers. 

As of Feb. 23, with Canadian police reporting that the state of emergency powers allowed them to arrest over 200 demonstrators with 400 criminal charges being issued in total, Prime Minister Trudeau rescinded the emergency powers, concluding that “the federal government will be ending the use of the Emergencies Act. We are confident that existing laws and bylaws are now sufficient to keep people safe.” Americans especially livid about the vaccine mandate claim that the application of these types of powers towards protests was an abuse of Canadian emergency powers on the prime minister’s end.

Interestingly, over 90 percent of Canada’s truckers are fully vaccinated. The nation’s transport minister, Omar Alghabra, has said that Canada’s main trucking association denounced the protests. Nevertheless, Canada’s enactment of its emergency powers for the first time in its history to address a protest over vaccine mandates may serve as a comment on today’s political atmosphere.

Russian forces have invaded Ukraine

international politics, Politics

Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief

Header Image: USA Today

Editor’s Note: At the time of publishing for the Feb. 24 issue, much was still unknown about the reported Russian invasion of Ukraine, but we did not want to avoid reporting on it due to unfortunate timing. Periodically throughout the week we will be updating this page with news regarding the attack. However, at the 7 a.m. publishing time we have no official report. Please bear with us.

Around 7 p.m. last night, the Ukraine government received word that Russian invasion had been approved by their military leaders, and was prepared for a war to break out at any moment.

At 8:30 p.m. the U.N. announced an emergency meeting. Around the same time, a large number of military vehicles could be seen moving along the northeast Ukrainian border in large numbers.

Between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly announced a “special military operation” in the Donbas region of Ukraine. Earlier this week, Putin recognized Donbas’s capital city Donetsk as an independent region alongside the Ukrainian region of Luhansk. During this address, Putin added “Whoever tries to interfere with us, and even more so, to create threats for our country, for our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences that you have never experienced in your history.”

Just after 10 p.m. explosions could be heard at Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. Just after, explosions went off near Kharkiv in the Northeast.

Around 11:30 p.m., the U.N. emergency meeting was held, and Russian ambassador Vasily Alekseevich Nebenzya defended Russian military action claiming “The root of today’s crisis around Ukraine is the actions of Ukraine itself, who for many years were sabotaging its obligations,” referring to those found in the Minsk Agreement.

Also at 11:30 p.m., CNN uploaded an infographic showing all believed explosion sites. As Ukraine is in a state of panic, know that these reports may change:


Just after Nebenzya spoke at the U.N. emergency meeting, Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.N. Sergiy Kyslytsya pleaded with the U.N. to use the organization’s security power to end the war. “It is the responsibility of this body to stop the war. So I call on every one of you to do everything possible to stop the war,” said Kyslytsya. To which Nebenzya responded “This isn’t called a war, this is called a special military operation in Donbas.” As he continued his speech, Kyslytsya urged the U.N. security council by claiming it was beyond the time for de-escalation and that military action needs to be taken.

Just before midnight, Russian ships carrying hundreds of soldiers landed in Odessa, a shore city in Southern Ukraine.

At 12:15 a.m., martial law was declared in Ukraine.

At 12:30 a.m. additional Russian forces invaded Ukraine through Belarus., cementing this as a full-scale invasion and war.

At 1 a.m., Ukraine announced it was being attacked through multiple Russian borders, as well as through Belarus, Crimea, and the sea.

At 5 a.m. European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced plans to issue extreme sanctions against the Russian government and economy in order to “weaken Russia’s economic base and its capacity to modernize.” “These sanctions are designed to take a heavy toll on the Kremlin’s interests and their ability to finance war. And we know that millions of Russians do not want war,” said Leyen.

Around 6:15 a.m. NATO published a statement reading “Today, we have held consultations under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty. We have decided, in line with our defensive planning to protect all Allies, to take additional steps to further strengthen deterrence and defense across the Alliance. Our measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.”

As of the most recent update, the death toll has risen to over 50 Ukrainians, 40 soldiers and 10 civilians, with about 50 Russian soldiers also being killed.

Late this morning, it was confirmed that Russia had taken control of an aircraft base near Kyiv. There have been reports of firefights breaking out near the base and aircraft circling over it.

About 10:30 a.m. Ukraine Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that their Western border is still secure and that “On the territory of Ukraine, all services of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine in martial law ensure law and order, provide assistance to injured, eliminate destruction and fires.”

12 p.m.: President Biden convened with the National Security Council this morning, and at 12 p.m. he will be reporting the results of that meeting.

Updates to follow

Russia-Ukraine situation, an update, and some insight

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Russia has gained a global audience because of its tensions with Ukraine. After positioning approximately 190,000 soldiers, armored military units, and naval vessels outside the Ukrainian border for several months, Russia has officially invaded Ukraine. Russia invaded the southeast region of Ukraine on Russia’s border, specifically Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. Both provinces have Russian-backed separatist-held areas. The world is talking about the reasoning behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motives for the attack. Here are five potential rationales and the arguments that go along with each.

1. Russia was threatened by NATO expansion.

            Putin, on more than one occasion, has claimed that NATO expansion is the central driver of Ukraine versus Russia crisis. Many believe that NATO was trying to play off of Russia’s insecurities by putting pressure on it. Putin responded violently to his perception of a threat from NATO when he invaded Georgia in 2008 and, to a lesser degree, when he annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Some believe that if Putin can prevent Ukraine from becoming a NATO member, he will no longer feel threatened by NATO expansion in Ukraine. By invading Ukraine, Putin has, in the short term, eliminated the potential for Ukraine to become a NATO member because NATO will not accept a country that is under the partial control of Russia.

2. Russia was threatened by Ukrainian democracy.

            Many who believe that Putin is not threatened by NATO believe that he is threatened by Ukrainian democracy. These people look at history over the last 30 years and claim that while NATO is a variable in the conflict between Russia and the West, it is not the major contributor. Instead of looking at NATO expansion, the people who agree with this argument look at the increase of democracy in Europe and Asia as a threat to Putin’s autocratic rule. NATO expansion by including Ukraine in the alliance was not a short-term threat because Russia had already invaded and seized part of Ukraine in 2014. Ukraine would not be admitted into NATO as long as Russian forces were operating on its soil, as they have been in Crimea and the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. If NATO were to admit Ukraine while the Russian military operated on its soil, Ukraine could invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter calling for NATO military action in the collective defense of one of its members. This eliminates the argument that NATO expansion is the cause of Putin’s invasion because he had already prevented Ukraine from becoming a member of NATO by invading Ukraine in 2014. As an autocrat, essentially President-for-Life, Putin does not want Ukraine to stand as an example to the Russian populace. Putin’s goal is to return Ukraine to the control of one of his selected colleagues, such as former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was removed by Ukraine’s parliament in February 2014 due to his close ties to Russia.

3. Russia wants to expand its sphere of influence.

            If Ukraine were to fall under Russian control, it would greatly increase the power Russia has. Although many people don’t realize it, Ukraine is an important country in terms of natural resources, agriculture, and industrialization. Ukraine is the second-largest country by land in Europe, second only to Russia. Ukraine has the second-largest iron ore reserves in the world at 30 billion tons. It ranks in the top three in Europe in terms of mercury ore reserves, shell gas reserves, and recoverable uranium ores. Ukraine places in the top five in the world for the production of rye, potatoes, corn, barley, and sunflower oil. Ukraine also ranks in the top five in the world for the largest natural gas pipeline system and iron, clay, titanium, and turbines exportation. Having access to these resources would increase Russia’s economic independence and its economic influence in Europe. The argument could be made that modern-day Russia looks to America as an example. The U.S., after its founding, continued to expand its influence into Latin America and the Caribbean and assisted in the removal of European powers from the Western Hemisphere. Secretary of State Richard Olney, in 1895, said, “The United States is practically sovereign on this continent and its fiat is law upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition.” As a country such as the U.S. grows into a hegemonic power with a large sphere of influence, it begins to fear for the economic and political consequences of challenges to its power. Within a country’s sphere of influence, it has the power to influence regional and global aggression beyond its borders. If Putin were to increase Russia’s sphere of influence through the use of Ukraine’s resources and Western proximity to NATO countries, he would be able to increase Russia’s economic and political power within Europe and beyond.

4. Russia wants to reestablish the historic Russian empire.

            As mentioned in rationale number three, Ukraine’s resources help it economically compete on a global scale. If Russia were to gain control of Ukraine, it would have access to these resources. By looking at history, one can see that, for hundreds of years, Russia was a strong empire full of many people and cultures and had a great amount of global power by virtue of its geography and economic potential. One potential reason for Putin’s invasion is a want to return to that powerful Russian empire. The old empire was able to control resources including the productive capacity of the people by gaining land and its resources by conquest. By annexing Ukraine into Russia, Putin would be able to move Russia a step closer to returning to the historic and powerful Russian empire. 

5. Russia wants to reestablish the geographic contours of the Warsaw Pact.

            In this argument, one must read Vladimir Putin’s speech to the Russian people. Putin starts his speech by saying, “I would like to emphasize again that Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture, and spiritual space.” Putin goes on to say that Ukraine was “entirely created by Russia or to be more precise by the Bolshevik communist Russia.” Putin talks about the borders that the USSR used to have and praises Stalin’s leadership there. The way he talked could lead one to believe that Putin is worried Russia’s borders will shrink in the coming future. This leads to the fifth reason why Russia would want to invade Ukraine: to reestablish the geographic contours of the Warsaw Pact. There was no independent Ukraine when the Warsaw Pact was signed and Putin’s speech could lead one to think he wants to see that again. In April 2005, Putin referred to the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Those who believe in this rationale think that the combination of the Russian and Soviet empires collapsing is what Putin aims to reverse with the goal of bringing the Russian empire back to its previous power and borders. He wants to undo the “catastrophe” of the demise of the USSR.

Now that you’ve read five highly popular theories on why Putin invaded Ukraine, what do you think? Is Putin worried about the spread of democracy in Europe? Is he trying to ruin Ukraine’s eligibility of entering NATO for fear of NATO expansion? Or maybe Putin is trying to increase Russia’s power and align their sphere of influence with the past Russian Empire, which includes increasing its borders as they were when the Warsaw Pact was signed?

Opinion: The United States should not be shocked by Russia’s planned invasion of Ukraine

international politics, Politics

Andrew Plunket, Staff

Header Image: BNN Bloomberg

After recent reports that Russian troops have been authorized to invade Ukraine by military officials, the world waits in anticipation. While Russian forces continue to mobilize upon Ukraine’s border, Western leaders, including President Joseph Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have levied sharp criticism against Vladimir Putin’s aggressive maneuvers. In fact, in a press conference last week, Biden boldly exclaimed, “if Russia pursues its plans, it will be responsible for a catastrophic and needless war of choice … the United States and our Allies are prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory from any threat to our collective security as well.” Yet, as news continues to permeate the media landscape about Russia’s imminent invasion of Ukraine, one thing remains crystal clear: the United States and its allies should not be surprised by recent displays of Russian aggression.

Since Putin’s rise to power in the early 2000s, Russia has demonstrated that it is not a reliable international partner. Its blatant interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and other democratic staples within the Western world, continual attacks upon fundamental principles of human rights like the right to free speech and attempts to subvert international resolutions have proven that a Putin-led Russia is not to be trusted. Putin’s distinctive Machiavellian-style politics has replaced the pursuit of peace with the attainment of power and global prestige as the main goal of Russian foreign policy. The established norms do not matter for Putin; rather, total control manifested through military campaigns and propaganda is the only matter of chief importance. 

In his endless pursuit of power, Putin has single-handedly isolated Russia from the international community and has transformed a once emerging center of Eastern democracy into an unrecognizable stronghold of authoritarianism. As this crisis continues to worsen, it is evident that the days of SALT treaties, perestroika, glasnost, and good-faith negotiation have far passed.

 It remains bewildering, therefore, as to why Western leaders, particularly those within the U.S., continue to be surprised at Russian efforts to expand its influence. In observing the remarks made by Western leaders about the proposed invasion, sentiments of shock, vague threats, and disappointment seem to characterize most of the West’s formal press releases, statements, and speeches. Putin has demonstrated time and time again that he is not to be trusted, and yet, the West’s only response has involved measly economic sanctions and condescending finger-wagging. For example, when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014, the Western world replied with sanctions, empty promises, and lengthy speeches, thus ignoring the plethora of international transgressions committed by the Russian state. It is clear that Russia is unwilling to cooperate with international law. And, until measures of democracy are restored within the nation and its despotic leader is replaced, Western leaders must recognize that diplomatic pleas for peace will only fall upon deaf ears.

 Moreover, in addition to the dangers posed by Putin’s rule, the U.S. must recognize that its own pattern of brutal imperialism and cultural hegemony is directly responsible for Russia’s aggression. Although the U.S. likes to model itself as a picturesque beacon of democracy, an in-depth study of its history reveals that it has consistently abused human rights, unjustly invaded foreign nations/territories, and exercised soft power through propaganda, censure, and “big stick” diplomacy. It is the ultimate hypocrisy that the U.S. so strongly protests the Russian occupation when, just a few months ago, it ended a twenty-year invasion of Afghanistan. 

Additionally, U.S. occupations in Latin America and East Asia further point to its natural proclivity towards violence as a means to secure power. Therefore, the U.S. cannot be surprised that other nations attempt to imitate its own strategy. If the U.S. can invade Afghanistan, Iraq, and other nation-states without much international backlash, why would Russia not do the same thing? The American sense of moral superiority must end. The U.S. has set an extraordinarily dangerous precedent of imperialism, and now that Russia is seemingly set upon the same path, it condemns its actions. The U.S. must not pretend to be ignorant about the causes of this crisis. It is a direct result of American imperialism, and thus, the U.S. must accept this crucial fact if any solution is to be attained.

 Of course, in order to secure peace and liberty for future generations, diplomacy still must be triumphed as the primary solution. Russia currently maintains the second-largest military behind the United States and is still an integral component in the political structure of Europe/Asia. However, the time for big stick diplomacy and coercive politics is over. Displays of strength will not solve this crisis; if they did, then Russia would have already won the day. If real progress is to be achieved, transparency, empathy and a commitment to preserving peace must replace the current machismo-style diplomacy which has characterized the crisis thus far. Until these goals are pursued, it seems that our darkest days lie ahead.

US Embassy in the Solomon Islands Signals Focus on the South Pacific

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff 

Header Image: YourBigSky

On Feb. 12, during a tour starting in Australia and ending in Fiji, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the U.S. will open an embassy in the Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands are located in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. Blinken explained the reason for this new embassy is to increase the U.S. presence in the South Pacific Ocean as China becomes “strongly embedded.” The State Department said that, although the United States and the Solomon Islands have a good history dating back to World War II, China is “aggressively seek[ing] to engage” with the businessmen and politicians in the Solomon Islands. China is allegedly making promises concerning infrastructure loans and debt levels while trying to strike business deals in the Solomon Islands.

While Blinken talked about the embassy “enhancing the political, economic and commercial relationship” within the islands, setting up an embassy there will be quite pricey. It is estimated the initial setup will cost $12.4 million. The embassy will be located in the capital of the Solomon Islands, Honiara. The first steps of the process would be leasing the space for the embassy and having two U.S. employees and five local personnel to staff the embassy. To further increase U.S. presence in the Solomon Islands, the State Department talked about the Peace Corps reopening their office and moving volunteers back to the Solomon Islands.

While in Fiji, Blinken spoke with the Fijian acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and other Pacific leaders. This was the first visit of the U.S. Secretary of State to Fiji in 36 years. The topics of their meeting included the potential threat of China, climate change and rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia. Sayed-Khaiyum welcomed Blinken, “Mr. Secretary, your being here shows that promise was more than words. We have just held the most historic and comprehensive meeting ever between Fiji and the U.S.A. and a wider meeting with our fellow Pacific leaders. We believe that both mark the start of more direct partnership between Fiji and the U.S.A., and a new era for America in the blue frontier of the Pacific.” He expressed that the islands in this Pacific region felt very left out and overlooked by the major countries. He said he felt the islands were, “small dots spotted from plane windows of leaders en route to meetings where they spoke about us rather than with us, if they spoke of us at all.” 

Blinken met with leaders from Australia, India, Fiji and Japan. These four nations form a group of Indo-Pacific democracies called “The Quad” created to counter the influence of China. Blinken shows support for The Quad by saying, “You can see the strength of that commitment to the Indo-Pacific throughout the past year.  Just look at some of the key markers on our calendar, from President Biden being the first U.S. president to address the Pacific Islands Forum to our increasing engagement with The Quad, whose ministers I just met with in Melbourne, to deepening our cooperation on a range of security and defense priorities through AUKUS.”

As the U.S. increases ties in the Pacific, China continues to try to increase political and military ties in the Solomon Islands. The Solomon Islands sent shockwaves through the South Pacific regions when they decided to pull their support from Taiwan and support China in 2019. This essentially started a divide within the country that continued through Dec. 2021 when Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare survived a no-confidence motion against him in parliament. 

Russia and NATO aerial interaction

international politics, Politics

Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

While Russia has recently gathered a global audience by deploying troops to Ukraine’s border, they have also gathered the attention of the United Kingdom while attempting to fly near U.K.  airspace unannounced. 

            On Feb. 2, 2022, Russia attempted to fly four military-strategic bomber aircraft near U.K. airspace. When the British Royal Air Force determined the Russian planes had a projected course of flying over U.K. airspace, the air force quickly had jets take off from the nearest military base in Lossiemouth located in northeast Scotland. Because they were unsure if this situation would be hostile, the jets launched were Typhoon jets. A Typhoon FGR.Mk 4 is a combat jet that is agile and can do a wide range of air operations including high-intensity conflict. At the same time, Oxfordshire, England launched a Voyager air-to-refueling tanker which can use pods located under the wings to quickly refuel jets. The report from the U.K. states that the bombers were “intercepted and escorted [out of the airway].” 

            This group has been called to intercept other aircraft that approach the U.K.’s controlled airspace. It is called the “U.K. area of interest” and is international airspace policed by the U.K. This time and during a similar Russian near incursion in November 2021, the Russian bombers did not enter U.K. airspace. The U.K. believes that when the “U. K. area of interest” airspace is entered without an invitation there are two potential issues. First, the Russian jets navigate without communication with the U.K.’s air traffic control system, thus endangering civilian aircraft in the area. Secondly, entering these airspaces unannounced could be a national security threat to the U.K. and its citizens. 

            Russia’s actions of unpredictable and potentially provocative air routes could provoke the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to take action. A report produced by NATO in December of 2021 states that 290 NATO missions were flown in 2021 due to Russian aircraft posing potential threats. A school of thought is emerging globally that Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, may be using provocative military aircraft flights to gauge NATO responsiveness to potential military threats. Putin, according to some observers, also highlights to his domestic audience that NATO’s responses to the Russian flights are an indication that NATO does not respect Russia’s right to free access to the international airspace. After all, an interception by NATO aircraft has often taken place over international waters. As the situation on the Ukrainian border continues to stress the international community concerned with a potential Russian attack into Ukraine, aerial interactions elsewhere in Europe highlight the contentious relationship between Russia and NATO and the potential for miscalculation in an atmosphere of increasing distrust.