The World Today for November 30, 2022

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The Scramble

CYPRUS

As Russians flee their homeland in order to avoid conscription and the trenches in Ukraine where the Russian army has suffered devastating losses, neighboring countries like Georgia, Kazakhstan, Finland and Norway have tightened visa restrictions to prevent a flood of draft dodgers.

But the island of Cyprus has kept its doors open, welcoming as many as 50,000 Russians and Ukrainians looking to move to the sunny Mediterranean, the Washington Post reported. Divided into an ethnic Greek state that is the easternmost member of the European Union, and an ethnic Turkish state that only Turkey recognizes as a sovereign nation, Cyprus has long been a destination for Russians seeking to immigrate, move their money and headquarter businesses with relatively little hassle.

These trends have put Cyprus in a peculiar position vis-à-vis the war. On the one hand, for example, some partners and others from the firm PwC have left the global professional services company to start a new firm in Cyprus to work for Russian clients that the other “Big Four” accounting firms won’t accept, wrote the Financial Times.

On the other hand, Cyprus possesses an arsenal of Soviet-made weaponry that Western leaders view as a bonanza for Ukrainian forces that are using Soviet-era arms – but are running out of ammunition and replacement parts. As the New York Times explained, Cyprus has those weapons in part because the US imposed an arms embargo on the non-aligned country 35 years ago in order to deescalate a conflict between Greece, which backs the Greek Cypriot government, and Turkey – both NATO members.

But Cyprus only wants to give its weapons to Ukraine if it can replace them with the newest, latest military tech. The US recently lifted the arms embargo in order to hasten a transfer, Forbes noted. Now observers are expressing concerns over an arms race on the island between Greek Cypriots and the Turkish troops stationed on the southern, Turkish side, Al Jazeera wrote. Turkey invaded the island in 1974 after Greece’s military unsuccessfully attempted to annex Cyprus.

The tensions show signs of heating up. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now planning on fully annexing the Turkish side of the island, Middle East Eye wrote. Russia is also planning to begin direct flights to the Turkish-occupied part, the Conversation added, perhaps paving the way for Russia to recognize Turkish Cyprus as an independent country.

The death of Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the head of the Church of Cyprus, a denomination of the Orthodox Christian Church, could also improve Russia’s position, Reuters reported. Chrysostomos, who has died aged 81, frequently “butted heads” with Russian Orthodox leaders who tend to support Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s hard to find a clearer example of how Putin’s invasion is scrambling old political and military doctrines throughout the region.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

The Wait

RUSSIA

Russia postponed arms-control talks with the United States this week, a worrying delay amid tense relations between the two nuclear powers following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, NBC News reported.

The two nations were set to meet in the Egyptian capital of Cairo Tuesday with the aim of resuming annual inspections as is required under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).

The treaty is the last major arms control pact between the two powers: It puts a cap on the number of nuclear warheads and bombs at 1,550 for each side, and includes provisions for on-site inspections to verify compliance, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The US and Russia mutually agreed to suspend inspections in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. But after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, negotiators from both nuclear powers have yet to meet to discuss the arms-control arrangements.

New START is due to expire in early 2026.

Meanwhile, relations between Moscow and Washington have reached their lowest point in decades since the invasion began in February.

Tuesday’s talks would have been the first meeting of the treaty’s Bilateral Consultative Commission, which analyzes issues relating to the treaty’s implementation.

Many had hoped the summit would have served as a venue for the two countries to demonstrate their will to maintain open lines of communication and pursue weapons control accords despite the conflict in Ukraine.

Even so, NATO’s former deputy secretary-general, Rose Gottemoeller, said that the latest delay could have happened for “technical reasons,” noting that both sides are laying out new inspection methods following the pandemic.

Bump in the Road

SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE

Portugal sent a team of investigators to Sao Tome and Principe this week to help probe an alleged coup attempt in the small African nation, Euronews reported.

Last week, the military detained four men attempting to storm the army’s headquarters following a six-hour firefight, said Prime Minister Patrice Trovoada, according to Africanews.

He announced that “four citizens” and 12 soldiers were involved in the coup attempt.

The army’s chief of staff later added that all the detained men died, three of them from their “wounds”, but did not give further details.

The fourth man, a former mercenary who had already been the leader of an attempted coup in 2009, also died after “jumping from a vehicle,” but the official did not elaborate.

Meanwhile, Trovoada announced that a number of alleged perpetrators have also been detained, including opposition politician Delfim Neves.

The government condemned the alleged coup as a “violent attempt to subvert the constitutional order,” and assured that “all investigations will be carried out to determine the causes and circumstances of the deaths.”

The European Union and African regional blocs also denounced the attempted takeover.

The failed coup comes some two months after Trovoada’s Independent Democratic Action (ADI) party won the tiny island nation’s parliamentary elections.

Since its independence from Portugal in 1975, Sao Tome and Principe has experienced a number of coup attempts, including in 2003 and 2009. Even so, the country has been considered a model of parliamentary democracy in Africa.

Extraordinary Times

CANADA

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his decision to invoke never-before-used emergency powers to handle the large trucker protests that gridlocked the capital and blocked key crossings earlier this year, the BBC reported.

Trudeau told officials at a hearing by the Public Order Emergency Commission, which is investigating whether the Canadian government’s use of the Emergencies Act was justifiable, that the situation warranted extraordinary measures between Feb. 14 and 23 because of the threat of violence. He added that he didn’t believe police had a proper plan to end the protests.

The emergency powers allowed authorities to ban public assemblies, restrict travel to protest zones and freeze bank accounts, among other measures.

The “Freedom Convoy” protests across Canada blocked important border crossings between the US and Canada, as well as disrupted traffic in Ottawa. The protests were aimed at Canada’s Covid-19 vaccine mandates and other restrictions.

Critics, meanwhile, said Trudeau’s use of the Emergencies Act was an overreach of government power and could set a precedent for its use to quell future protests.

The commission also heard testimony from other witnesses, including government ministers, intelligence officials and protesters.

The law requires an impartial investigation following the implementation of the act, with a final report expected in February.

DISCOVERIES

A Fortunate Tongue

Basque is a unique language that has endured for centuries, despite efforts to eliminate it.

Predominately found in the north of Spain and parts of southwestern France, Basque has around 700,000 speakers and is considered a “language isolate” – meaning that it is unrelated to any other language in the world. Its origins are also murky.

Now, a new archaeological discovery is providing fresh insight into the mysterious language, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

Last year, archaeologists found a flat, hand-shaped bronze artifact from a dig site in northern Spain. After careful restoration, they noticed lines of text inscribed on the object, which they dubbed the Hand of Irulegi.

The first word on the bronze hand was sorioneku, which closely resembles the Basque word zorioneku – meaning “fortunate.” Researchers are still trying to decipher the other words but they said the discovery could provide some new understanding of how the Basque language evolved.

They added that the artifact – believed to be an “amulet of protection” – is about 2,000 years old and probably belonged to the Vascones, a late Iron Age tribe that scholars believe gave rise to the Basque people.

Historians previously thought the Vascones only used writing for coins, then only began writing more broadly after the Romans introduced the Latin alphabet.

“This piece upends how we’d thought about the Vascones and writing until now,” Joaquín Gorrochategui, a philologist at the University of the Basque Country, told the Guardian. “We were almost convinced that the ancient Vascones were illiterate.”

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