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Transnational Thursdays 17


Don’t count the French out yet! President Macron has continued to call for the reinstatement of President Bazoum and has claims he will “back” (militarily?) ECOWAS if they intervene directly. Bloomberg has some choice words:

France’s stand is somewhat hypocritical.

For decades, Paris has been happy to sit back when coups were staged that suited its interests. Just two years ago, it effectively backed a bloodless putsch in Chad, one of the European nation’s most important military allies. It also continues to partner with strongmen across central Africa, including Paul Biya in Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo’s Denis Sassou Nguesso, who’ve held power for decades.

Anti-French sentiment . . . contributed to a spate of coups across western and central Africa over the past three years, with eight of the nine power grabs occurring in territories Paris once controlled.

If anything, the hostile relations between France and Niger’s junta could play into the soldiers’ hands, helping increase support and entrench their rule.

Yesterday the military government of Niger actually arrested a French elected official, the Counselor for French Citizens Abroad (which doesn’t sound like an elected position). Apparently Counselor Jullien hadn’t left the country despite being ordered to by the junta, because he / the government of France doesn’t recognize their authority. Seems inadvisable.


Chile commemorated the 50th anniversary of the coup of Salvador Allende and the start of the military dictatorship last week in a spirit of surprising divisiveness. The brutal military dictator who replaced him, Augusto Pinochet, still retains a surprising amount of supporters, mostly for his role in restoring the Chilean economy (which has less to do with him being all that great and more to do with Allende being exceptionally comparatively bad). The issue has become so politicized that everyone just picks a side at this point, the Chilean right has refused to attend any commemorative events for the coup or to sign a joint commitment to democracy, even though many of them very likely disapprove of dictatorship as well.

Recent releases of declassified information have shed some more light on America’s role in the coup. There wasn’t that much more to really add, everyone knew America had messed around in Chilean elections, communicated with the military and approved of a coup even if they didn’t pull the trigger, and that they held close relations with the military dictatorship of Pinochet in the following years. AOC, a long time for advocate for declassifying the Chilean files, has called upon the Biden Administration to apologize for America’s role in the coup (Obama famously refused to do so during his own term).


I previously reported on Insight Crime’s assessment of President Boric’s Total Peace initiative on violent crime, which found that clashes between the government and the cartels had decreased, but intra-cartel conflict was worse than ever. They have now released a similarly damning follow-up report on trends in the drug industry under Petro, following the announcement on the new National Drug Policy:

The policy is based on two main principles, "oxygen" and "asphyxiation." The first aims to relieve the pressure on those who have borne the brunt of the so-called "war on drugs" -- small coca growers and consumers -- by encouraging them to voluntarily substitute their coca crops with legal alternatives and by promoting a public health approach to the consumption of psychoactive substances.

The second principle directs security forces to key flashpoints of the drug trade by boosting their ability to interdict drug shipments and destroy drug processing infrastructure. Additionally, the “asphyxiation” strategy aims to capture key members of drug trafficking gangs and increase investigations into related money laundering and corruption.

However, coca production has currently reached an all time high under the Petro Administration approach thus far, of which the National Drug Policy is mostly just an expansion. Combined with the Administration’s seeming inability or unwillingness to combat the cartels, who are only expanding their territory as well, it is difficult to see why this policy would arrest recent trends in coca production. Petro came to power on an upswell of revolutionary energy as the first ever left wing President of Colombia, but buffeted by scandals in his administration, failure to push initiatives through opposition stonewalling, and general record on crime and the drug trade, his popularity has plummeted to only 33%.

North Korea

Russia and North Korea recently held a summit where reportedly talks of North Korea endorsing Russia in the Ukrainian war would be exchanged for weapons transfers, likely ballistic missile technology or reconnaissance satellites. US officials have warned against proceeding with this.


Cambodia’s 38 year lasting dictator (#3 in the world!) Hun Sen, has officially stepped aside and his son Hun Manet has taken power. Manet recently laid out his vision to lift Cambodia up to high-income country status by 2050.

The vision involves developing human capital, the digital economy and inclusivity and sustainability, he said, referring to it as the "pentagon strategy".

In a country once riven by decades of war, Cambodia has now evolved to a lower-middle income nation with economic growth rates of 7%, he said.

Manet is now holding his first bilateral visit, to where else but China, where the two nations will be celebrating 65 years of (tumultuous) ties:

In August, Hun Manet met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Phnom Penh, where he pledged to promote agriculture, manufacturing, economic and trade investment and cooperation in practical areas such as tourism and education.

He also reaffirmed his government’s “unchanged position” on the one-China policy and non-interference in China’s internal affairs regarding Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong…

China is Cambodia’s biggest trading partner, with US$11.6 billion in trade between the two countries last year, according to Cambodia’s customs department.

It is also Cambodia’s largest lender, supplying loans to finance airports, roads and other infrastructure projects. Beijing owns 37 per cent of Phnom Penh’s US$10 billion in foreign loans, according to the latest figure by Cambodia’s Public Debt Statistical Bulletin.

China has also been helping Cambodia upgrade its Ream Naval Base, raising concerns in Washington that it could be used an overseas outpost by the Chinese military.

Both countries denied the claim, with Beijing saying the project was aimed at improving the Cambodian navy’s capability and was in line with the laws of both countries.

Southeast Asia

I’ve reported that the Biden Administration has been furthering/cementing diplomatic relations or security collaboration across Asia, including Japan, Korea, India, the Phillipines, Vietnam, and potentially Thailand.

Biden himself chose not to attend the ASEAN summit this year and sent VP Harris instead, continuing a pattern of handling Asian relations mostly on a bilateral basis (he met with the Thai government during the same timeslot; it’s also worth noting that next year ASEAN will be chaired by Laos, a close China ally). In other ASEAN news, Al Jazeera reports on the disharmony of the organization reaching a recent peak.

Thailand’s outgoing military-led government broke ranks with the bloc, which collectively had decided to suspend Myanmar’s generals from top meetings, and embraced the neighbouring country’s regime with support from China.

Then, last month, Myanmar’s coup leaders expelled East Timor’s top diplomat in Yangon after the Timorese joined a long list of countries in meeting with Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), set up by removed and elected lawmakers mostly associated with now jailed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi...

The bloc also faces continuing challenges over the disputed South China Sea where there has been scant progress on a much-talked-about code of conduct.

The Philippines last month accused China of using water cannons to attack resupply vessels off Second Thomas Shoal. China’s release of a new map depicting its expansive claims has also caused upset.

“ASEAN’s silence on key issues, particularly the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, calls the bloc’s relevance into question,” said ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights co-chair, Charles Santiago, in a September 3 statement.

ASEAN is an economic block, not really a diplomatic / military coordinating framework, and it can’t pass anything without the unanimous consent of all its members, so it really may just not be suited for handling regional issues of this sort.

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Augusto Pinochet, still retains a surprising amount of supporters, mostly for his role in restoring the Chilean economy

Why is it surprising? If he did good job with the economy, the fact that he also had to hurt some commies is not exactly disqualifying - especially knowing what the commies themselves routinely do to their opponents. And we can talk all we want about democracy in our (still, relatively) safe and rich Western countries, but when the choice is commies and starving vs. non-democratic ruler but not starving, it's not exactly the surprise if some people choose the latter. I mean, yes, I (in my rich and safe Western country) think democracy would be better, but I am not sure such option was actually even on the table. So I would not be surprised at all.

It's surprising because he was a fairly brutal dictator with a penchant for torture, and no one seriously argues he was holding off a Stalinist uprising. The whole thing that made the Allende movement notable is that it was democratic; he almost certainly would have lost the next election and pretty much anyone could have achieved the recovery Pinochet oversaw, which was basically just restoring Chile to its pre-Allende growth trend, without all the raping-dissidents-with-dogs stuff.

The wiki link suggests that Allende had a bad economy due to Nixon this true? His wiki page is also extremely light on criticisms and mostly talks about how good a job he did

The wiki link suggests that Allende had a bad economy due to Nixon meddling

Whenever a socialist economy fails (and they always do) it's always due to the western meddling. I don't think I remember any single case where it wasn't named as a cause.

It's hotly debated and imo America definitely did some meddling but the bigger factor was extreme populist economics. Pseudoerasmus I think has the best argument on the debate. The tl;dr is:

  1. Hyperinflation is pretty easily explained by extreme money printing to subsidize newly nationalized state industries and to boost wages via federal jobs.

  2. The US did stop all aid to Chile, and likely try to block banks and international lenders like the IMF and World Bank from lending to Chile. However, Chile's credit was so bad it might not have made a difference, and they did get aid from some other sources.

  3. Because they lost access to credit, Chile had to provide cash upfront for inputs to critical industries and for food imports. However, these costs would have been vastly lower to do this if Allende's land reform hadn't hurt domestic production.

  4. There is evidence America was involved with at least one major strike against the government, but there were hundreds, and likely most of them the US wasn't involved in.

  5. Nixon and Kissinger did debate dumping American stores of copper to hurt the Chilean economy (copper is one of their major exports) but they didn't end up starting it till the end of the economic crisis and the US only had 3% of the world's copper supply anyway, so it probably wouldn't have made a huge difference. Chile did definitely get hurt by a general downturn in global copper markets though.

Finnish News Recap, week 36: Tony Blair Institute edition

SANNA’S NEW JOB: The last week’s big story was the announcement by Finland’s former PM, international celebrity Sanna Marin, of getting a new job abroad. More specifically, a new job at Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, or just Tony Blair Institute. This required a formal release from the MP’s task by the parliament, which was duly granted to her.

Of course, this has raised several questions, such as “what the heck is the Tony Blair Institute”? Everyone in Finland still knows who Tony Blair is, of course. He represented the same Third Wave tendency that took over the social-democratic parties world over in the 1990s, including in Finland. In other words, he encapsulates their formal move from socialism, in the sense of public ownership over means of production, to managerial capitalism.

So are the recent seizures of power in Africa a huge story in France, galvanizing the gummint to act, or are we seeing the last remnants of neocolonialism crumble, with a whimper and not a bang?

Nigeria and Niger are two different countries. Probably a mistake from your autocorrect

Oops thanks

North Korea endorsing Russia in the Ukrainian war

As the link itself says, it's not just endorsement. DPRK has a huge stockpile of artillery shells for the batteries upon batteries of howitzers aimed at Seoul. Being able to turn just half of Seoul into Volnovaha is probably a sufficient deterrent, so Kim might sell the other half of the stockpile. It's dumb shells, but as long as the Russian army has enough spare barrel liners and barrels to stick them in, dumb shells will work just fine.

I think endorsement has very little to do with it. Kim has something to sell, and Russia is desperate to buy. And it's pretty much the same Soviet weapons, so there's no need for any training or adjustments. Nobody cares about NK "endorsing" anything, but putting another stockpile of Soviet weapons on the board is something that only logical to happen. And no US "warnings" of course could do anything. China could stop it if they wanted to but why would they?

but as long as the Russian army has enough spare barrel liners and barrels to stick them in, dumb shells will work just fine.

Last I paid any attention to that, barrels were exactly the problem though.

Maybe DPRK spare barrels are the real prize, who knows.