site banner

Transnational Thanksgiving (comes one day early)

Posting this a day early because I won’t be around tomorrow.

This is a weekly thread for people to discuss international news, foreign policy or IR history. I usually start off with coverage of some current events from a mix of countries I follow personally and countries I think the forum lives in or might be interested in. Feel free as well to drop in with coverage of countries you’re interested in, talk about ongoing dynamics like the wars in Israel or Ukraine, or even just whatever you’re reading.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.


Situation with asylum seekers at the Russian border situation is taking pretty much all attention at the moment.

TROUBLE AT THE BORDER: Pretty much the entire last week (as well as this week) have been dominated by trouble at the Finnish borders, namely an influx of new asylum applicants arriving through Russia. This has been widely regarded as a hybrid warfare op facilitated by Russian authorities, though there are differences in view as to what Russia would specifically be trying to achieve. Some think, for instance, that Russia is trying to punish Finland for a new defence agreement with the US. One possibility would be a counterreaction to something like this, for example.

The seekers arrive, or at least claim to arrive, from a variety of traditional asylum-seeker countries, like Syria, Afghanistan and so on. If such asylum applicants manage to pass the border, they can still apply for asylum in the normal order. Finland can, of course, handle some hundreds of asylum seekers, as has arrived now, but if the numbers start reaching tens of thousands – and that’s the fear of what happens if something is not done – then it’s a whole other question.

So currently they cross fully legally, through regular border crossings, with documents and so on?

What's the state of the discourse on this one? Are people mostly united on border security? How about politicians? Any ops from the NGO industrial complex?

It's a pretty interesting tactic from Russia, and it has really been something to watch the Euro policy wonks go from "diversity is our strength" to "hybrid warfare".

Mostly pretty united. Some legal experts and politicians have issued criticism, rather carefully, and on the other hand on the nationalist side there is some amount of grumbling that Finland isn't just closing the border for good, no matter what the treaties say. Probably the funniest moment man-bites-dog moment was when the Green presidential candidate Pekka Haavisto momentarily castigated the government for not closing the border for good, until it turned out they can't just go and do this.

until it turned out they can't just go and do this.

Is this even true? Didn't Poland and the Baltic states build a literal wall?

It's currently not possible in the sense that a top civil servant in charge of looking at whether what government does is legal looked at the government's proposed bill to do this and decreed that it doesn't offer enough guarantees for actual chance of seeking asylum.

Of course this is slightly ridiculous since the currently accepted and valid method of just closing all entry points expect one which is literally the northernmost border entry point in Finland in November in the middle of nowhere is intended to functionally hinder asylum seeker entry from Russia as much as functionally possible, but that's how it still is. Of course it's possible that the government will find some legal workaround and close the border anyway - they're certainly still looking at how to do this.


A riot has broken out in Dublin after a man stabbed two 5 year olds, a 6 year old and a woman in her 30s earlier today. The woman and a 5 year old girl are currently undergoing surgery for serious injuries. The man is also being treated for serious injuries after bystanders intervened (I've seen photos and the guy is barely conscious and bleeding from the mouth). The rioters don't have a spokesperson or anything but I think it's fair to say that this is an anti-migrant riot, politicians and police are certainly blaming the far-right for it.

This is all happening right now so this isn't a complete list, but at least one hotel housing migrants, a Luas tram, and multiple police cars have been set on fire. O'Connell Bridge leading on to the city's main street has been blocked a burning bus and there are videos of shops being looted.

Worth mentioning because of the timing - this comes a week after a man was convicted for the apparently random murder of schoolteacher Aisling Murphy in Dublin last year. The man who was found guilty was a Slovakian convicted rapist, but the media went from scolding Irish men for their toxic attitudes to near complete silence once it came out that the perpertator wasn't Irish.

Conor McGregor seems to have plans relating to this, emphasis my own.

I do not condone last nights riots. I do not condone any attacks on our first responders in their line of duty. I do not condone looting and the damaging of shops. Last nights scenes achieved nothing toward fixing the issues we face. I do understand frustrations however, and I do understand a move must be made to ensure the change we need is ushered in. And fast! I am in the process of arranging. Believe me I am way more tactical and I have backing. There will be change in Ireland, mark my words. The change needed. In the last month, innocent children stabbed leaving school. Ashling Murphy murdered. Two Sligo men decapitated. This is NOT Ireland’s future! If they do not act soon with their plan of action to ensure Ireland’s safety, I will.

He's got a number of tweets in a similar vein. Could he be the next celebrity politician?

I have a friend who's given me her word that she will kill herself if McGregor is elected Uachtarán. I think it'll happen.

Which will happen? He will be elected, or she will kill herself?

If he's elected, she must kill herself. I don't actually expect her to go through with it obviously, but I DO expect him to be elected.

I thought the Irish President doesn’t have any power?

They do not. I still think McGregor would be a horrendous choice of ambassador for the nation.

The Netherlands

After voting in our national elections yesterday, the count is out. Official results aren't due 'till tomorrow, but these results aren't vague enough for the details to matter too much: the big winners on the block are the 'traditional' anti-immigration bulwark of the PVV, the CDA splinter small-c conservative NSC, and the merged for this year's social democrat/green merger GL-PvdA. The previous ruling coalition consisted of the VVD, CDA, D66, and CU, which together have lost a whopping 37 seats (there are 150 in total); it is extremely clear that the Dutch people were mighty displeased with these lot and accordingly voted for others instead.

These results aren't terribly surprising, and largely echo what the polls had been showing in the days leading up to the election. The Dutch left has been toothless and marginalised for a fairly long while now; they have no good response to the issues of the day and seem to not really be trying. Our centre-right VVD prime minister of the past (checks calendar) thirteen years ran out of excuses also, and so people flocked to alternatives; the PVV because they are credibly opposed to Islam, and NSC because they are headed by someone who made a name for himself by being someone with an actual shred of dignity and integrity, enough that his brand baby new party is now four times the size of the CDA he was from. In particular, D66 has lost many people who felt betrayed by their comfort with more rightist parties they went to govern with, and CDA has bled many people disillusioned with their own brand of infighting and petty disputes. The VVD's relatively smaller loss is likely because they largely succeeded on a promise of their own: don't rock the boat for comfortable people.

What this means for upcoming coalition negotiations isn't quite clear, but I find a PVV/VVD/NSC combination to be the most likely. Both the NSC and VVD have in the past expressed doubts about the PVV, but these were never very firm, the VVD has already kinda-sorta ruled alongside the PVV, and their seats make them somewhat too large to be ignored. A more centrist GL-PvdA/VVD/NSC combination that some floated has no majority without a fourth partner, and the PVV is frankly a little too large for them to ignore. A bit of flirting and cautious approaching on the sides of the VVD and NSC has been underway for some weeks. As for the PVV itself, Wilders has been polite enough to just tell us what he thinks for himself.

Post from 2 weeks ago here

These results aren't terribly surprising

I disagree. The enormous victory of Wilders far-right PVV was completely unexpected. A week ago he was not even in the top 3. One day before the election only one poll suggested PVV was tied with VVD for the lead. Now he has a projected 12 seat lead over the labour/green party in second place (37 vs 25, or a 50% lead!) with VVD demoted to third place (24 seats). This is was quite unexpected based on polls and unprecedented for the party itself.

It also has a huge effect on possible coalitions. In my comment two weeks ago I didn't even talk about PVV because I expected them to be ruled out. Now, it seems like including PVV is unavoidable.

In terms of coalition building, it's worth mentioning that there is huge discrepancy between representation in the house (after these elections) and in the senate, partially because Omtzigt's new NSC party has no seats in the senate yet. This means any majority in the house will likely not have a majority in the senate. While technically the government only needs majority support in the house, not having majority support in the senate it is problematic for parties that want to pass radical reforms, since they can't count on automatic support in the senate.

The challenge for Wilders now is not just to form a government, but to actually deliver on his promises. He has gained a lot of popular support with populist rhetoric, and even if not all of it was taken seriously by his voters (like his "head rag tax" which would require Muslim women to purchase a license to wear a head scarf in public), it's clear that voters expect some radical changes from him. If he doesn't manage to move the needle then it seems likely he will lose support from the voters who counted on him to make a real change (the comparison with Donald Trump seems apt).

Ironically, it seems like some of Wilders economically left-wing plans (e.g., lowering the age of retirement, abolishing the deductible on health care insurance) are actually more feasible in that they have broader support and don't contravene national and international law. It would be deeply ironic if a “far right” politician ends up implementing these left-wing policies, when the more moderate VVD probably wouldn't.

From a culture war perspective, it's amusing to see how poorly the left is taking the loss. The main stream media report on the event with a tone that suggests the election results are incredibly disappointing, rather than a legitimate expression of the people's will that is to be celebrated.

In Utrecht (the 4th largest city with a mostly left-leaning population) Antifa organized protests against the election results. First of all, protesting election results seems quite undemocratic. It's easy to compare this to the January 6th protests that the American left condemned, but in this case, protesters aren't even claiming the results are invalid, just that the results are bad, because people voted for the wrong guy. I don't want to overemphasize the scale of these projects though; it seems like only a few thousand people showed up. Still, people protesting election results is not common in the Netherlands.

It's also interesting that those protesters are shouting pro-Palestine slogans. It makes sense since Wilders is a staunch Israel supporter, which fits well with his anti-Islam stance, though he didn't campaign on this topic at all. It's kind of crazy to me that the far-right is now considered to be aligned with Israel, while the far-left opposes Israel, while a few decades ago “far right” was virtually synonymous with “antisemite” and therefore anti-Israel. We live in strange times.


Following last week's oopsie in which the federal constitutional court deemed the current government's repurposing of special funds from pandemic recovery to climate projects to be in violation of constitutional anti-debt stipulations (, the government, a coalition of SPD, FDP and Greens, is now looking for ways to make do with a 60 billion euro hole in their budget. The austerity-minded liberal FDP has so far blocked the other parties' attempts to soften or remove the so-called Debt Brake, and insists on cutting spending instead. Such cuts would most likely need to be made within the many welfare systems, a thought quite abhorrent to the social democrats of the SPD. Interestingly any talk of cutting climate projects comes not from politics, but from conservative media - does this threatening of the one's holy cows instead of the other's point to a weakness of the SPD relative to the Greens? Certainly, the key role the FDP plays at present does not reflect its own weakness in the polls. More ominously, there are rumors that the government may attempt to announce a state of emergency in order to be able to ignore some of the rules that currently constrain their budgetary wishes, but it is unclear how exactly this would be justified.

In other news, following many antizionist demonstrations, mostly attended by muslims, there have also been several raids on muslim associations suspected of supporting Hamas. Results are unclear so far. The visibility of this antizionism has also fueled debates on immigration restriction, but while the center and right parties have offered numerous suggestions to the point, the fundamentally pro-immigration government has so far not acted on any of them. The Federal Ministry of the Interior holds a recurring conference on Islam, in which they outlined what behavior they expected of Muslims in Germany and what measures they suggest to the government. Naturally, both Muslims and the Government ignore the conference.

Also in the papers lately: The Christian churches of Germany are doing very poorly, losing members at alarming rates, and while the remaining German Protestants are increasingly turning to woke politics, the Catholic remnants are instead trying to democratize their institutions against the instructions of Pope Francis himself.

And as for Sahra Wagenknecht and her party, there are no news of significance, but apparently her leaving the leftist Die Linke party has caused a small loss of members, but also a larger influx of new ones. This may help tide the party over the rough times now coming with the dissolution of their Bundestagsfraktion or federal parliamentary caucus following the defection of several representations along with Wagenknecht.


Javier Milei surprised the world not just by winning the Argentinian election, but by beating Economy Minister Sergio Massa by a commanding 12 points. I assume this now means he is assuredly the first elected anarchist-capitalist head of state in history. While the world has been paying more and more attention to his antics in the past month, the last few days have seen a wave of “who the heck is this guy?” Pictures of his cosplay past have come up alongside his juicier quotes, and photos of his fans wearing Chainsaw Man face masks at his rally.

So what happens now? I don’t think anyone knows but in my opinion, probably not much? Milei has a minority in Congress, which means he doesn’t have a mandate to push any of his incredibly ambitious reforms through. Libertad Avanza will work together with some members of Juntos por el Cambio, the center right party that endorsed him after the runoff, but many of their members have said they have no interest dealing with Melei at all. Even with all of their seats together (LA 35 + JxC 31) they would only have a two seat majority in the Chamber of Deputies. And it seems very unlikely they’ll be able to get anywhere near that much support from JxC.

He has promised to privatize as much of the Federal Branch as he can, which supposedly excludes the sizable Health and Education Ministries because they apparently operate at the provincial level. What remains at the federal level will be shrunk from 18 down to 8. Does he have the power to do all this without input from the legislative branch? It’s not really clear to me. Interested to hear if anyone else understands the situation better.

If Argentina remains out of the scope of man or deity to fix, I welcome his tenure just so that it can be dysfunctional in novel and interesting ways!

US and China

Presidents Biden and Xi Jinping finally sat down and had their summit. Opposition to Chinese interests has been one of the few things there’s bipartisan collaboration on in the American government (See: the CHIPS Act) but the US is also stretched thin with conflicts in Europe and the Middle East and has no interest in dealing with yet another boondoggle in East Asia. China, on their end, has been dealing with enough economic wonkiness that they probably also don’t want another conflict to deal with as well. Some people argue that a nationalist maneuver towards Taiwan could hypothetically distract the population from their present woes, but I would be pretty shocked if China did anything aggressive, especially without waiting to see if a more pro-Chinese candidate like Terry Gou wins in the Taiwanese elections.

So both leaders have populations opposed to each other while also having enough problems that they don’t want any more. What was accomplished from their meeting? Probably nothing very definitive, but hopefully reopening dialogue will help avoid future conflict. From the White House brief:

The two leaders made progress on a number of key issues. They welcomed the resumption of bilateral cooperation to combat global illicit drug manufacturing and trafficking, including synthetic drugs like fentanyl, and establishment of a working group for ongoing communication and law enforcement coordination on counternarcotics issues.

The two leaders welcomed the resumption of high-level military-to-military communication, as well as the U.S.-China Defense Policy Coordination Talks and the U.S.-China Military Maritime Consultative Agreement meetings. Both sides are also resuming telephone conversations between theater commanders.

The leaders affirmed the need to address the risks of advanced AI systems and improve AI safety through U.S.-China government talks.

The two leaders exchanged views on key regional and global challenges. President Biden underscored the United States’ support for a free and open Indo-Pacific that is connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient. The President reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to defending our Indo-Pacific allies. The President emphasized the United States’ enduring commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight, adherence to international law, maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and East China Sea, and the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Working together on fentanyl is (in my opinion) they must substantive thing to come out of the talks, hopefully we will see more concrete measures being clarified in the future. Military communications actually haven’t been cut off for that long, only since Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan the previous year, but restoring them is a good sign, especially for preventing potential flare ups in the South China Sea.

"Planet Earth is big enough for the two countries to succeed," Xi told Biden as they and their delegations sat across from each other at a long table in an ornate conference room…

"For two large countries like China and the United States, turning their back on each other is not an option," he said. "It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other."

Some people argue that a nationalist maneuver towards Taiwan could hypothetically distract the population from their present woes, but I would be pretty shocked if China did anything aggressive, especially without waiting to see if a more pro-Chinese candidate like Terry Gou wins in the Taiwanese elections.

Yeah, even the invasion doomers say that they'll wait for the Taiwanese elections (for casus belli) and for the US election campaign to get in full swing (for opportunity). Besides, April and October are the best months to launch an invasion, so for this year we're basically safe.


Supposedly a deal is almost in place to conduct a prisoner swap, with Qatar and the US helping to manage the negotiations:

As it stands now, the tentative deal would include around 50 women and children hostages being exchanged for around 150 Israeli-held Palestinian prisoners in a first phase, according to a senior U.S. official. The numbers are subject to change. There would also be a pause of four to five days in fighting to allow for hostage exchanges and for more fuel trucks to enter Gaza.

A source familiar with the talks in the region said that Israel would choose which Palestinian prisoners it would release — pending a security check. The source also said the deal would include a suspension of overhead drone flights for up to six hours per day so that Hamas could consolidate the remaining hostages. Some hostages are being held by other groups, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

This could of course fall apart at any time.

Hundred have been evacuated from the Al-Shifa hospital Israel targeted the previous week (more discussion on the main thread here), and currently tanks have surrounded an Indonesian run hospital. It’s unclear to me if this is a suspected Hamas base of organizations like Al-Shifa was or if this is just a response to a random attack:

The Israeli military said its forces targeted "terrorists" who had opened fire at them from within the hospital.

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said he was "appalled"...

The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, cited medical sources as saying that dozens of Israeli armoured vehicles were in the surrounding area and that snipers were on rooftops, preventing ambulances from reaching the hospital.

The health ministry said 12 wounded patients and people with them were killed and dozens more were wounded when an Israeli shell reportedly hit the second floor of the facility.

Take the latter two sources with a grain of salt, but a dozen casualties actually seems plausible and civilians and patients do both seem to be evacuating.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the next 5 days. Number one, Israel expects Hamas to violate the the ceasefire, per usual. Of course this suggests a false flag attack as well, where Israel stages a pretext for a retaliatory response. I expect that Hamas accepts the cease-fire posture at the top, but there may be provocations and skirmishes at low levels originating on both sides. I doubt we will get to the first 5 days without a major violation or conflict.

Prediction: 5 day ceasefire is honored by both sides, as judged by lack of hostilities or contention by the end of the period: 50%

This includes a successful hostage exchange. I expect there to be minor quibbles and contention. But we should know, broadly and deeply, whether each side is reasonably satisfied.

If the first 5 days go acceptably for both sides, the next 5 are likely to as well.

Prediction: 10 days of ceasefire and hostage exchanges are "successful" (not without hurdles and reversals): 10%

Again, are both sides reasonably satisfied?

Expecting a false flag attack by Israel seems to me unusually uncharitable to Israeli motives. Israel wants as many hostages released as possible. That is one of two overarching goals of the war, and the only reason for it to agree to a temporary ceasefire in the first place. Staging a false flag attack and retaliating based on it would end the hostage exchange.

That is one of two overarching goals of the war

If the other is "no more hostages taken in the future", successful exchanges go against it, I believe.

True, if Israel wanted to reduce hostage-taking to almost zero it would announce that there will be no more hostage deals ever under any circumstances and use only military means to rescue the hostages, even if that might endanger some of the current hostages. It's possible that that would reduce the number of hostages at risk in the long run, even if it would greatly endanger the current hostages. It's not possible politically though, since the plight of the current hostages is a huge political issue that the Israeli electorate cares very deeply about.

The other overarching goal is the elimination of Hamas and its ability to rule in the Gaza Strip.


The Houthis, who recently declared war on Israel and started by firing rockets at them, have now also seized a “British-owned and Japanese-operated cargo ship in the southern Red Sea”.

This raises questions both about whether the Houthis are going to actually manage to make themselves a nuisance, and also if the world community needs to be concerned about free movement of shipping in the Red Sea as well as the Persian Gulf. Jury is out on Iranian involvement:

While Tehran has denied aiding the Yemen rebel group in launching their attack Sunday, the targeted ship before the assault passed by an American-sanctioned Iranian cargo vessel suspected as serving as a forward spying base in the Red Sea…

While their body-camera footage serves as a propaganda coup to bolster their own position in Yemen amid some protests against their rule, it also signals a new maritime front has opened in a region long focused on the Persian Gulf and its narrow mouth at the Strait of Hormuz. It also puts new pressure on commercial shippers traveling through those waters, threatens to increase insurance costs that will get passed onto consumers and likely further stretches the U.S. Navy as it tries to serve as the region’s security guarantor.

Tragically, no one could have seen this coming:

The attack off the coast of Yemen comes just days after the Houthis issued a graphic with captions in Hebrew, Arabic and English that said, “We will sink your ships.” The graphic showed an Israeli commercial ship on fire.

Tragically, no one could have seen this coming:

The attack off the coast of Yemen comes just days after the Houthis issued a graphic with captions in Hebrew, Arabic and English that said, “We will sink your ships.” The graphic showed an Israeli commercial ship on fire.

Well, the ship hasn't sunk quite yet!

I, like many others, was quite taken aback by how organized the Houthis are. I was under the impression they were a rag-tag bunch of rebels with the odd ATGM, but no, they've got a fucking airforce! And a halal equivalent of the Navy Seals to boot.

Convergent evolution is real!

Amazing how there is one optimal way to do SOCOM shit, and it's copying the SOG and SAS's homework from 60 years ago.

Fact of the day: seals aren't halal.

Assuming you mean "muslims aren't allowed to eat seal meat", I don't think that's true- all water-dwelling animals are halal.

I based my answer on, which is for Hanafi Sunni Islam.

Responding to you and @orthoxerox It looks like, from wiki Sunni regard all sea game as halal while Shia permit scaled fish and some crustaceans, but largely call other sea creatures haram. The Houthis in question are overwhelmingly a variety of Shia.


Underdog businessman Daniel Noboa will be sworn in as President next week. In the meantime, he has dealt with his minority in the legislature by, surprisingly, working together with the leftist party he ran of removing from power.

Hopefully this means whatever emerges from the next few years will be a moderate mix of the better parts of both parties.

Ecuador's National Assembly chose a conservative as its president on Friday as the new legislative period began, amid a deal between the parties of President-elect Daniel Noboa and ex-President Rafael Correa to form a majority….

The conservative Social Christian Party (PSC), Correa's Citizens' Revolution movement, and Noboa's National Democratic Action (ADN) had agreed to form a legislative majority of at least 85 votes.

The Construye party of assassinated anti-corruption presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, which has 18 seats, has said it will not join the coalition because of its opposition to Correa….


The past few weeks have been dizzying for Venezuela’s diplomatic relations. First they agreed to hold a free and fair election (remains to be seen) in exchange for the United States lifting sanctions and repatriating Venezuelans. Then they turned around and started holding a referendum on whether they should just annex two thirds of Guyana. This week they’ve decided to play the statesmen again and have restored diplomatic relations with Paraguay.

Paraguay got its first leftist President, Fernando Lugo, in 2008 and the two countries got close for a little while until Venezuela expelled Paraguay’s diplomats in 2012, supposedly in protest of Lugo's impeachment. With the Colorado Party (Paraguay’s ruling party in the dictatorship, which has continued to be dominant) back in power relations turned frosty again quickly. Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez finally cut off relations in 2019 by formally recognizing Juan Guaido as the leader of Venezuela. With Guaido effectively out of the picture, current President Santiago Peña (still of the Colorado Party) has apparently agreed to mend relations. It’ll be to interesting to see why people think the call was made.

You mean Guyana?

Yes, thank you


The nail biter Liberian runoff election has finally ended with incumbent George Weah losing to challenger Joseph Bokai. More importantly, Weah has already conceded. Weah’s own election was Liberia's first peaceful transfer of power since their civil war and dictatorship so this marks another major milestone in a fledgling democracy, and a welcome sign in a region buffeted by coups and juntas. So far things have remained calm, though a car crash just killed possibly up to 10 Bokai supporters - it remains unclear whether it was an accident or political violence.

Sort of off topic but related. Weah was an incredible soccer player and his son plays for the US and scored our first goal in the last World Cup:


Former and now returned populist President Robert Fico has had his coalition formally voted into government.

Of the 143 lawmakers present in the 150-seat Parliament, 78 voted in favor of the three-party coalition government that was sworn in on Oct 25.

Fico returned to power and took over as prime minister for the fourth time after his scandal-tainted leftist Smer, or Direction, party won Slovakia’s Sept 30 parliamentary election on a pro-Russian and anti-American platform.

Fico formed a parliamentary majority by signing a coalition government deal with the leftist Hlas, or Voice, party and the ultranationalist Slovak National Party…

Fico has stopped the military aid. He also opposes EU sanctions on Russia and wants to block Ukraine from joining NATO…

Fico vowed to pursue a “sovereign” foreign policy, promised a tough stance against migration and non-governmental organizations and campaigned against LGBTQ+ rights. Some elite investigators and police officials who deal with corruption cases have been ordered to stay at home or dismissed and the government plans to ease punishment for corruption, among other changes in the legal system.