Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 5, May 2019
By Robert T. Person, United States Military Academy
Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s president, left, speaks as Volodymyr Zelenskiy, comic and presidential candidate, listens during a debate at the Kiev Stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, on April 19, 2019. The two candidates for Ukraine’s presidency squared off in a long-awaited and often bad-tempered debate, their last chance to sway opinion before the April 21 runoff, which Zelenskiy won. Vincent Mundy/Bloomberg via Getty Images
With Ukraine’s 2019 presidential campaign now complete, the country finds itself – as it has on numerous occasions in the last 15 years – at a historic crossroads. Actor-comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s stunning landslide victory over incumbent president Petro Poroshenko by a margin of 73.2 percent to 24.4 percent presents challenges and opportunities with far-reaching implications for Ukraine, Russia, the European Union, and the United States. On the domestic front, another peaceful transition of power through democratic elections indicates that Ukrainian democracy – though far from perfect – is alive and gaining strength. In public comments Zelenskiy has reaffirmed Ukraine’s commitment to democratic rule, drawing a sharp contrast with Russia’s authoritarian politics. On the foreign policy front, he has pledged to stand up to Russia and continue Ukraine’s path to NATO membership, even while expressing a willingness to “negotiate with the devil” to bring the war in Eastern Ukraine to an end. This is something the prior president, Petro Poroshenko, refused to do, though Zelenskiy’s chances of breaking the stalemate in the Donbas remain slim. Though it is too early to tell what the future holds for the new Ukrainian president and the country he leads, there can be little doubt that Ukraine will continue to be a key zone of strategic competition – and likely conflict – in Eastern Europe, much as it has been for the last five years.
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 8, No. 1, January 2019
By Ben Bohane
Reports of the Indonesian military using white phosphorous munitions on West Papuan civilians in December are only the latest horror in a decades-old jungle war forgotten by the world. But new geopolitical maneuvering may soon change the balance of power here, prompting regional concern about an intensifying battle for this rich remote province of Indonesia. It is time for the US and Australia to change policy, complementing Pacific island diplomacy, or risk a major strategic setback at the crossroads of Asia and the Pacific.
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 7, July 2018
By Anders Corr, Ph.D.
Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte (L), son of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and the president’s son-in-law, Manases Carpio (R), take an oath as they attend a senate hearing in Manila on September 7, 2017. Paolo Duterte and the president’s son-in-law, Manases Carpio, appeared before the inquiry to deny as “baseless” and “hearsay” allegations linking them to large-scale illegal drugs smuggling. NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images
On June 12, Philippine protesters staged coordinated protests against China in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Vancouver. Protest organizer Ago Pedalizo said, “Duterte’s government pursues the ‘sell, sell, sell’ approach to sovereignty as a trade-off to all kickbacks he’ll get from the ‘build, build, build’ economic push of China.” His protest group, Filipino American Human Rights Advocates (FAHRA), charged that “Duterte is beholden to the $15-billion loan with monstrous interest rate and China’s investments in Boracay and Marawi, at the expense of Philippine sovereignty. This is not to mention that China remains to be the premier supplier of illegal drugs to the country through traders that include the son, Paolo Duterte, with his P6 billion shabu [methamphetamine] shipment to Davao.”
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 7, No. 6, June 2018
By Demetrius Cox
A PLA Air Force (PLAAF) military transport plane (IL-76) in Davao City on 8 June 2018. Source: Philippine Plane Spotters Group (PPSG).
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
On June 9, 2018 the Philippine Star published an article titled “More than 3 million Chinese allowed entry into Philippines since 2016 — Immigration data”.
In what may become one of the most remarkable subversions in recent history, the article describes how the immigration floodgates have been thrown open by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. With a current national population of 103 million, Duterte has allowed a 3% direct population increase (3+ million) of Chinese immigrants to the Republic of the Philippines in less than three years, which is enough to keep most demographers up at night. And there is no end in sight.
A Hybrid Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment (IPOE) Analytical Assessment
Journal of Political Risk, Vol. 5, No. 12, December 2017
By Mark Anthony Taylor
The aim of this research is to critically examine the refocusing of Chinese aid, economic involvement and diplomatic attentions towards the small South Pacific island nation of Tonga. The research seeks a deeper understanding of China’s behaviour towards Tonga and promotes a reevaluation of how the US and its allies should respond to China’s strategic calculus. China’s actions in Tonga, although appearing benign, represent a cloaked threat to Tonga’s independence, democracy and U.S. regional aspirations. Furthermore, owing to the comparative strength of the Chinese economic and diplomatic approach, a competitive soft-power response from the US may prove inadequate. In consequence, it may be more advantageous for the US to pursue a heightened hard-power response to ameliorate any potential threat. Through undertaking an analysis of China’s fundamental motivations for the soft-power Tongan pivot and an exploration of the modus operandi employed by China to affect its strategic goals, the project will endeavour to provide a clear answer to the following research question: “Is this Chinese pivot towards Tonga merely an example of cheque-book economic diplomacy, or does it entail a cloaked malignant threat to the security and autonomy of the US and its allies?” Utilising a hybrid adaption of the Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment (IPOE) analytic method, this project will apply a structured framework in order to probe and reconceptualise the Chinese pivot towards Tonga in an effort to unravel the underlying motivations of China. In line with this approach, the project will firstly scrutinize the situational variables resident in each nation that comprises the terrain of the issue. The significant and unique political, military, economic, social, infrastructure and informational system factors (PMESII) that contribute to the rapid intensification of China/Tongan relations will be explored. From this point, the focus will be turned towards an analysis of the usefulness of the two polar theoretical explanations (liberal and realist) for the current Chinese Course of Action (COA) in Tonga. Lastly, a detailed investigation of the two key Centres of Gravity (COG’s) that underpin and impact upon the China/Tonga relationship will ensue, exploring the cultivation of pro-China sentiment in Tonga and the degree of the US pivot to the South Pacific. The project will draw from a diverse variety of academic publications, expert opinion pieces and news media sources. The analysis reveals that the Chinese strategic pivot into the nation of Tonga superficially appeared to be motivated by benign economic opportunism. However, engagement with Tonga was found to hold a minimal benefit to China in terms of resource supply or economic gain. The major strategic benefits that were found to accrue to China were through the potential securing of Tonga for the establishment of a forward operating military base in the South Pacific. Consequently, China’s pivot may be motivated by concealed Chinese hegemonic designs (the realist perspective) rather than by benign economic opportunism (the liberal perspective). This motivation was found to pose a significant security threat to the US-lead regional order. Two significant COG’s are bolstering the effectiveness of China’s Tongan pivot. Firstly, China has successfully executed a “hearts and minds” program to facilitate the broad interweaving of pro-China sentiment into the psyche of Tongan society. Secondly, the absence of US attention towards soft-power regional engagement with Tonga has aided China’s pivot. In terms of an effective US response to China’s strategy in Tonga, a revised US soft-power push was assessed as constituting an ineffective strategy due to the resilient China-Tonga relationship that now exists and because of China’s deep aid pockets. Consequently, the evidence points towards the need for a revitalised US hard-power military presence in the region as the most viable option for dampening China’s future militaristic ambitions towards Tonga.
One pa’anga and two pa’anga banknote. Tonga, Pacific. Credit: Getty Images.