the brief: issue nineteen


In peace or war – racism is pervasive

by Neo Allert

image credit: Wojtek Radwanski

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted many people to flee their home country in search of safety. Among those seeking refuge in neighbouring countries are not only Ukrainian citizens, but also people from Africa. Nigeria stated that about 8,000 Nigerians were living, studying or working in Ukraine when the invasion began. Like many others living in this now war-ridden country, most of the African students made their way towards the Western border.

On their way as well as at the border, many Africans were faced with racism of the worst kind: being charged extra fees for transport, being denied access to transport or shelter and being denied passage across Ukraine’s Western border. Several African states have stated their concern and disgust in light of this newest wave of discrimination, the African Union stating that it was ‘disturbed’.

Algeria seeks to remedy Europe’s Russian gas woes

by Harvey Young

image credit: Youceflabed (Wikimedia Commons)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine alongside the West’s subsequent barrage of economic sanctions have made Europe’s fears regarding their dependency on Russian natural gas come true. Russia alone makes up around 40 percent of the EU’s natural gas imports and the ensuing economic war is predicted to damage the European economy. This, however, has also shone a light on a potentially closer economic relationship with Algeria.

Algeria is already the EU’s third largest natural gas importer and has links to pipelines in Spain and Italy, making it unsurprising that Italy is already in discussions with Algeria to diversify their natural gas imports and lessen the blow of Russian economic retaliation.

Despite this potential, it seems unlikely that Algeria could completely replace Russian natural gas dominance in Europe as it’s natural gas production, whilst large, is dwarfed by Russia’s which is almost ten times higher.


The fall out for Central Asia from the Ukraine invasion

by Joe Mawer

image credit: Cacahuate (Wikimedia Commons)

Whilst the majority of the coverage is rightly focused on the impact on what is going on in Ukraine, this conflict also has major ramifications for Central Asia. In the UN vote condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Central Asian countries either abstained or didn’t vote. It is economically where the impact will be very much felt in Central Asia. Countries such as Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan rely heavily on remittance payments from their citizens who live and work in Russia.

The amount of bureaucracy for Central Asian migrants to Russia has increased and the money that will be sent back will be worth less as Western sanctions sink the value of the Russian ruble. This could lead to a situation, similar to when there was a Russian financial crisis in 1998, which was followed by an extended period of economic hardship in Central Asia.


Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues through ceasefire

by Connor Crout

image credit: Mykola Swarnyk

A ceasefire was agreed to in the Ukrainian city Mariupol in order to allow humanitarian corridors out of the city for civilians, but authorities from Mariupol have claimed that Russian forces have ignored this ceasefire by continuing to shell the city three hours after the ceasefire was supposed to start.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started on February 24, with Russian president Vladimir Putin claiming that he wanted to demilitarise and ‘de-nazify’ Ukraine – but that he does not want to occupy Ukraine. He threatened that any intervention from outside countries would be met with an ‘instant’, devastating response.

Putin has put his nuclear forces on high alert, and countries such as Germany have started to provide weapons to Ukrainian forces, with other countries putting sanctions on Russia. This war could, unfortunately, very easily escalate.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend 

by Luke Jones and Tiffany Choong

image credit: Mark Dempsey

For the first time in several years, Britain and the EU are showing a united front to address the continent’s biggest security challenge since the Cold War. As the New York Times aptly put it, ‘the chasm opened up by Brexit is beginning to narrow’ with Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss meeting with EU ministers in Brussels last Friday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. 

Even the most Eurosceptic among us know that Moscow is a bigger threat than Brussels, and pooling together Europe’s economic might against the Kremlin with sanctions will more effectively choke the Russian economy. Far from dividing it, Putin has brought Europe together.


Jackson nominated by Biden to the Supreme Court

By Kate Nuttall

image credit: Carolyn Kaster

Last week, President Joe Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. If confirmed, Jackson will become one of nine justices that make up the court, replacing the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. She would set a precedent as the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Her liberal ideology would not change the balance of the court however, which currently consists of six conservative and three liberal justices.

Jackson was approved by the Senate to serve for the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in 2021. She earned her law degree at Harvard Law School, where she previously earned a bachelor’s in government. Biden said of the nomination that he wanted the court to reflect America. It is hoped that a Senate vote will take place in April, with a simple majority being required in order to confirm Jackson.

State of the Union and a State under Attack

by Rachael Ward

image credit: Drew Angerer

It is a rare sight to witness the US President deliver a State of Union address while there is unity across the states. Nonetheless, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has harmonised the hyper-partisan political setting that is the US congress. The would-be hot topics of the speech, Covid-19 and rising inflation, were mentioned in passing to make way for Putin’s war. Post-pandemic America and its struggling economy were somewhat side-lined to focus on the battle for democracy against the ills of autocracy.

Along with his western allies, Biden announced that Russia would be banned from US air space and signalled hope that US sanctions would take their hit. As the curtains fell on his congressional address, both Democrats and Republicans got to their feet to put their hands together. The speech offered a sign that nothing creates cohesion and community like a common enemy.


Connection unavailable: The nation that went offline

by Harry Padoan

image credit: Damien Grouille

For more than five weeks, the Polynesian kingdom of Tonga lost almost all connection to the wider world amidst an internet shutdown. The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted earlier this year, causing the mass destruction of undersea cables used to grant connectivity to internet users. Tonga’s damaged cable, the only one the nation possesses, was funded by the Asian Development Bank and World Bank for the sum of €30 million, damage that has opened up the conversation on expanding communications for developing nations. The effects of the outage were felt deeply by large portions of Tonga’s populace.

Around 80 percent of Tongan households receive remittances from overseas, with such remittances accounting for a staggering 40 percent of the country’s total GDP. As a result, the absence of digital transactions meant that financial support for families, instant cash at points of emergency and aide for communities was almost totally unavailable. Thankfully, connection has recently been restored – but for many Tongans, the increasing price of essential goods, high levels of traffic and patchy signals will make this an event with damning consequences.


Honduras closes open-pit mines

by Eleanor Austin

image credit: Clker-Free-Vector-Images (Pixabay)

In a move to improve conservation and environmental conditions, the Honduran government has banned permits for open-pit mining. Open-pit is a method of mining used to extract commercially valuable deposits near the earth surface. It requires substantial machinery and causes significant, sometimes toxic, wastage. Hence, due to the environmental disruption this method has caused in Honduras, the ban has been introduced. Additionally, areas which are deemed to be of high ecological value will be intervened in immediately, for maximum protection.  

This ban, in addition to the release of anti-mining protestors last month, emphasises how the new Honduran government has enacted many of their environmental promises almost immediately. However, mining is important in Honduras, with exports totalling $293 million in 2021. Consequently, with the loss of exports, as well as the substantial job losses that will occur, many believe the full-scale ban will not be seen for quite some time. 

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