2023 – a World in Flux

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Ukraine’s failure to reassert control of regions that Russia has seized since February 2022 (or 2014, counting the Crimean Peninsula) and the carnage of the war between Israel and Hamas, are continuing to dominate news headlines as 2023 comes to an end.

Concerning the Eastern European war, the sense is that Ukraine can’t forever go toe-to-toe with mighty Russia – unless Russia is far weaker than it seems at present.

The negative outlook recently forced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to repudiate reports that his former Soviet republic was losing. Instead, he was considering whether to draft another 500,000 troops into the Ukrainian armed forces, reported the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

As Zelenskyy lobbied American and European lawmakers for more vital military supplies – Ukraine stands no chance without Western aid, wrote Business Insider – he also floated a peace plan that required Russia to withdraw. Officials in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration called the plan “absurd,” noted CNBC.

In the Middle East, the attacks of Oct. 7 on Israel illustrated Hamas’s unforgivable disrespect for life. Since then, however, the news has shifted to the shocking devastation that Israeli forces have wrought in the Gaza Strip in reprisal. Hamas officials who run Gaza say Israeli strikes against the densely packed territory on the Mediterranean have claimed 20,000 lives, reported RTE, the Irish national broadcaster.

There was hope, however, for another reprieve. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh recently journeyed to Egypt for “intensive talks” on a new ceasefire, aid shipments, and hostage releases. Haniyeh resides in Qatar. He “typically wades publicly into diplomacy only when progress seems likely,” explained Reuters.

Other important stories at the end of the year reflect less intense but still important shifts in global politics, economics, and culture.

In Europe, the competition between left-leaning and far-right candidates for political office remains strong.

In Spain, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez reached a controversial deal with Catalan separatists to retain his grip on government, confounding conservatives, wrote Al Jazeera. In Poland, former Prime Minister Donald Tusk won office again, kicking out the conservative ruling Law and Justice Party after eight years in power, reported the Guardian. Ironically, Tusk served as president of the European Council, whereas Law and Justice is skeptical of European institutions.

On the other hand, far-right populist, Geert Wilders, who opposes migration and has denounced Islam, could become the next prime minister of the Netherlands. In Austria, France, Germany, Hungary and Italy, the far right remains strong, too. In France, reported the Financial Times, traditional conservative parties have all but disappeared as new far-right parties have attracted legions of supporters.

Meanwhile, 2023 was difficult for China. Due to draconian Covid-19 lockdowns, crackdowns on the private sector, bankruptcies in the important real estate market, and other problems, the Chinese economy hit a rough patch in 2023, according to Foreign Policy.

As this bad news has worsened, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been accumulating more power domestically while asserting Chinese interests more vigorously abroad. According to ABC News, for example, Xi told President Joe Biden at a recent summit that China planned to reunify with Taiwan. Such an act could precipitate a war with the US and its allies.

Many hope now as we head into a new year that these trends cool down in 2024 as sane heads prevail.

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