site banner

Transnational Thursday for February 1, 2024

Transnational Thursday is a thread for people to discuss international news, foreign policy or international relations history. 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.


I’ve been waiting for something meaty as an update. There’s been a lot of progress/change since my last post so I think it’s worth writing a longer follow up.


  • A tenuous but promising "humanitarian ceasefire" (emphasis mine, I'm not sure if ceasefire is the right word here) - is actively being negotiated this week; ball is currently in Hamas' court and so far they're holding out for a full stop to the war, which Israel says is off the table
  • IDF is running out of (surface) targets to destroy. Estimates are at 50-61% of the surface of Gaza is destroyed as of Tuesday this week. IDF is suggesting their last major step will take combat into Rafah, a last ditch safe area, currently cramped with 1m+ refugees/civilians
  • A hospital based assassination of 3 militants by Israeli operatives in the West bank this week is seen as an escalation and significant change in the rules of combat
  • Aid into Gaza is stopped temporarily; the UNRWA scandal/funding cut signals future aid will go in through other or new organizations
  • There is intense, aggressive, worldwide pressure on Netanyahu to sign a ceasefire

I'm not sure how to interpret this when it comes to IDF objectives and the length of the war. FWIW, Israeli polls still estimate the war as lasting 2+ more months (67.9%), 4+ months (45.9%)

Ceasefire/Humanitarian relief negotiation

Seemed to be making rapid progress going into this week, and now appears slowed (though ongoing). Hamas was expected to respond earlier today, but has not yet responded officially. They've given positive signs, but so far they seem to be holding out on or rejecting some of the key provisions, in ways which would make Israel unlikely to agree. Israel seems to have agreed to everything except for a longterm/permanent/literal ceasefire or end to the war - which Hamas is pushing for. Indirect negotiations are ongoing (diplomats and spy agencies formed and maintain an indirect connection via Cairo earlier this week). These are the same spy agencies (Mossad, Egypt, Quatar) and international leaders who put together the proposal last weekend in Paris. Many details aren't public - so far, it seems the proposal follows previous proposals and suggests a 3 stage return to peace (with each stage lasting 4-6 weeks?):

  • First stage would have Israel allowing up to 300 supply trucks in per day via the Egyptian side of the border, and Hamas releasing injured, minor and senior prisoners, with release of TBD captives held by Israel
  • Second stage would see Hamas releasing IDF members (including remaining women captives), release of TBD captives held by Israel, reconnections with Israeli infrastructure for power and communication into the region and some aid being allowed to also come in via the Israeli side of the border
  • Third stage would see exchange of corpses held by both sides, release of TBD captives by Israel, and other provisions not yet made public

Known details that are up in the air:

  • Order, type of, and number of prisoners to be released by each side. Hamas is still holding at most 100-136 live captives and at least 5 corpses, Israel is holding

As of Februar[y] 2024 Israel holds 2,084 sentenced prisoners, 2,752 remand detainees and 3,484 administrative detainees held without trial. Israel also holds 606 people as "unlawful combatants".

  • Amount, source and kind of aid to be allowed in and at which stage. Crucially, basic infrastructure is only meant to be reconnected/rebuilt in stage 2 (which I assume means indirect means of communication will be re-established between Israel/Hamas without a need for Egyptian intermediaries)
  • Length of the process (estimates are in the 6-18 weeks range)
  • When/whether/how Hamas leadership will be allowed to (or required to) leave Gaza
  • How much of a cessation of hostilities will actually take place. Israel strongly signals this is a humanitarian deal, not a literal or longterm ceasefire, a statement backed by the US and others.
  • What guarantees will be provided by the US, France, Egypt, and Qatar to ensure that both sides adhere to the agreement

The Israeli war cabinet met on Monday/Tuesday to discuss, but officially the ball is in Hamas' court:

Versions of the phased ceasefire framework have been under discussion since late December, but Israel did not sign onto the concept until David Barnea, the Mossad chief, met his U.S. and Egyptian counterparts and Sheikh Mohammed [ruler of Dubai] in Paris on Sunday.

Egyptian sources said Qatar, Egypt and Jordan would guarantee that Hamas adheres to any agreement, while the U.S. and France would do the same on the Israeli side. Reuters was unable to establish what assurances the guarantors would be able to offer.

Some war status/stats

  • 50-61% of all surface buildings in Gaza have been demolished / destroyed. See BBC Verify
  • Rafah is holding around 1m refugees, and has been declared to be as the next (last) target for a major offensive by Israel. The potential cost(s) in human life and otherwise, if armed combat or bombing spreads into the area, are staggering. The area has seen heavy flooding, and will see more, as heavy winter rains come in this month
  • The IDF admitted to flooding some Hamas underground rooms and tunnels with seawater. This has been an open secret for a while now. As a consequence, it's likely that clean water and electricity will remain in critical short supply in the region for the foreseeable future (water pipes/power lines have been rerouted or connected through the same tunnels)
  • Conservative/trustworthy estimattes for total casualties in Gaza are around 30000, on the low end. Approximately 9000 of those are Palestinian combatants or militants, and around 400 or so are Israeli combatants (IDF, ShinBet, police). Around 1000 are Israeli civilians, and the majority of the rest of the 20000 or so Palestinian civilian casualties are under 18. Many Palestinians are marked as missing, so final numbers may turn out to be significantly higher.

JENIN, West Bank, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Israeli commandos disguised as medical workers and Muslim women burst into a hospital in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday and killed three Palestinian militants, one of them lying paralysed in bed, witnesses and authorities said.

This kind of operation is unheard of on Israel/WestBank soil, and seen as an escalation and changing of the rules of combat by Palestinians. Up until now targeted attacks / assassinations have used drones or other explosives. Direct action by specialists, especially inside a hospital, is seen as an escalation


UNRWA - the organization providing aid into Gaza - has lost all funding and support from the west on IDF allegations it hired terrorists. Supporting countries (including Germany, France, US and Canada) are looking at alternative methods for providing aid into the territory. Canada has committed an additional 40m in support funding as of January 30th, to be transferred into Gaza + the west bank through non-UNRWA organizations like WHO and WFP. This may not be that big of a change or escalation in the grand scheme of things - western governments have been regularly sending aid without the support of local orgs over the last decade (instead preferring to regularly send money directly to trusted or proven Fatah aligned individuals or other known non-militants on the ground).

For reference, UNRWA employs as many as 30000 people, almost all (99%+) of them local Palestinians, and around 13000 or those based in Gaza. It and has always, and also recently, gone to great lengths to cooperate with IDF in making sure it has no involvement with militants. They've fired everyone mentioned in the scandal, and promised to cooperate and/or prosecute them to the maximum allowable by law. Also, IMHO 190 suspected participants in the October 7 attack is a much lower than expected number given the size of the organization. Based on the background incidence of extremist militants in Gaza, I would have expected the number to be 10x higher than that, at the lower end. So the shut down seems politically or extraneously motivated, more so than driven by practical concerns. Likely there is pressure to replace UNRWA with a foreign controlled body (maybe even going as far as putting a peacekeeping force in place?) for channeling foreign aid into Gaza, since (I'm speculating here) future aid into the region will be tied to enforcement systems or guarantees backing the ongoing humanitarian deal negotiations. The optimist in me wants this to be an opportunity for a return or recreation of something like the NORDBAT peacekeeper batalion in Bosnia

Netanyahu pressure

There is intense international pressure on Netanyahu to stop the civilian casualties and humanitarian disaster in Gaza. The (symbolic/toothless) ICJ preliminary injunction against Israel asking the country to actively prevent genocidal acts as well as prosecute incitement to genocide will be followed up with an Israeli report on progress on these dimensions by end of February.

Equally symbolic but stinging sanctions from US , UK, EU and Canada against Israeli settlers involved in recent violence in the west bank are likely not immediately materially effective, but written in a way which makes them easy to escalate.

Some other international pressure is maybe more relevant and practical - lots is on the table in the larger region; US pressure on Israel includes material steps towards Syrian recognition of the Israeli state and Russian pressure mulls a withdrawal of Iranian troops from Syria. Many smaller symbolic acts constantly happening all over the world - eg. Israel's ambassador to Belgium taken to task once a Belgian building in Gaza was bombed.

The involvement of Mossad in the Hamas negotiations is a mixed signal. Obviously, a deal would go through or involve them, since no direct means of communication exist between Israel and Hamas. At the same time, there were rumblings that Netanyahu lost Mossad support last year, and a deal which defangs the case for the IDF invasion completely (Hamas leaders moved out of Gaza + all Israeli captives returned) is seen by some as another step in the same direction.

ACX mentions support as high as 32% for Netanyahu, in a more recent poll than the 15% one from my last post, when he given as an alternative between existing folk who are known choices for the PM role. Gantz (48%) and Eisenkot (45%) both poll as preferred options over Netanyahu (32%) as PM. They form the bulk of his current ruling coalition, as members of the National Unity party. So there could be several options for forming a more centrist coalition if an election were to run now, if National Unity were to give in to the temptation and defect from Netanyahu's coalition ("Israeli Likud lawmaker appears to call on party to replace Netanyahu").

Netanyahu's consideration of the deal with Hamas is alienating some of his more extremist supporters, who are threatening to leave his coalition if he makes a deal without their consent:

Ben-Gvir and another ultranationalist coalition partner, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionism party, have chafed at their exclusion from the war cabinet.

In response or protest over the deal, some of the more extreme ministers staged a conference promoting resettlement of Gaza with Israeli citizens. This step was extremely unpopular with everyone, and might be another sign the extremists are being dropped from the ruling coalition (and consequently an election being held):

Benny Gantz, a centrist member of the war cabinet, said on Monday the attendance by government and coalition members hurt Israel's standing abroad and would compromise efforts to bring about a hostage release. Opposition chair and former Israeli prime minister Yair Lapid called the convention delusional and dangerous in a televised statement in the Knesset.

Corruption Trial

As of January 20th, the pace of hearings in Netanyahu's corruption trial is up to 3 days a week. They were cut down to 2 per week last year, on account of the Hamas war (and Netanyahu was excused from attending), and were meant to go back to full speed by February 1st. So 3 days per week are a compromise.

The departure of star attorneys Ben Zur + daughter from the case is being downplayed ( by everyone and makes sense on paper. The timing seems weird, and some speculate is related to potential defence witnesses that will be called up (Ben Zur is an attorney to many folk in Netanyahu’s camp, and has many potential conflicts of interest with future defense witnesses; he will leave once the prosecution finishes calling up witnesses).

Estimates put the trial as concluding around June of this year. Predictions are for a likely conviction

I can't find information on what the potential is for penalties to Netanyahu if convicted (anyone know or have a good source?). I assume a prison term of something like 2-10 years is on the table, given similar cases in the past. I don't know how to evaluate the chances for one or more guilty verdicts or the range of potential penalties


You’ve all likely heard of the attacks in Jordan this weekend.

Three U.S. service members were killed in Jordan on Sunday and at least 34 others were injured in what the Biden administration said was a drone attack from an Iran-backed militia, the first known American military fatalities from hostile fire in the turmoil spilling over from Israel’s war with Hamas.

The attack happened at a remote logistics outpost in northeast Jordan called Tower 22 where the borders of Syria, Iraq and Jordan converge. The one-way attack drone hit near the outpost’s living quarters, causing injuries that ranged from minor cuts to brain trauma, a U.S. military official said.

This seeming escalation of proxy conflicts across the Middle East happens in conjunction with temporary ceasefire talks in Paris, assisted by Egypt and Qatar, progressing forward (supposedly).

President Biden has vowed retaliation and there's a lot of pressure on him from both parties to make it severe, though it remains to be seen what exact form it will take.

Edit: Update from BBC

The US has approved plans for a series of strikes on Iranian targets in Syria and Iraq, officials have told the BBC's US partner CBS News.

The strikes will take place over a number of days, officials said, and weather conditions will likely dictate when they are launched.

It comes after a drone attack killed three US soldiers in Jordan, close to the Syrian border, on Sunday.


I’ve covered in previous months the negotiations between the United States and Venezuela to lift American sanctions in exchange for the Maduro Administration allowing free and fair elections. Key to this agreement was lifting the ban on opposition leader Maria Machado from running for President (she would be Maduro’s opponent in a general election). Well, Venezuela’s Supreme Court has officially ruled that not only can she not run in this election, she can’t run anytime in the next fifteen years either.

The Maduro Admin may or may not have been serious about the deal initially, but they likely believe they can’t permit her to run or she could actually unseat the Socialist Party. Maduro’s popularity ratings are bad enough that even he’s talking about stepping aside (for a hand picked successor candidate). Either way, this was definitely an end you can see coming. Venezuela was supposed to lift their ban two months ago and hadn’t budged, and they’ve been extra frisky with anti-opposition stuff lately:

The pressure has increased in recent days. Ms. Machado said that her campaign headquarters had been vandalized and that three of her campaign officials had been arrested.

The United States on Tuesday said it was “deeply concerned” by arrest orders and detentions against at least 33 Venezuelans, including opposition members, journalists and former members of the military, according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia.

The Biden Administration has threatened that oil and gas sanctions will be fully restored if course is not reversed, and has already restored sanctions on the state owned mining company.


Pakistan will supposedly have elections next Thursday, though there have been some murmurs of delaying it again. The Pakistani Taliban (TPP) has promised not to attack any election rallies, which is polite of them.

Former PM Imran Khan of course still banned from running, but his presence looms large over the election - only Monday the police arrested dozens of people at a rally in his favor. His party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has had all its proposed candidates banned, which leaves the election dominated by Pakistan’s historical establishment parties, he Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N). The PPP will be led by former Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of former PM Benazir Bhutto and grandson of former PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, both of whom were killed in office (so you see why a terrorist group promising not to commit political violence is actually a bit of a big deal). The PML-N is slated to perform well and will be led by Nawaz Sharif, who has been Prime Minister on three separate occasions, which cumulatively put together make him the longest serving PM. So basically two extremely establishment, dynastic candidates from parties that voters overwhelmingly rejected in favor of PTI.

Separately, the Diplomat has a good writeup on Pakistan and America’s evolving security cooperation. Collaboration has somewhat reduced since the American withdrawal from Afghanistan nearly nearly three years ago, but Pakistani intelligence has aided in American operations against Al Qaeda (including the assassination of their leader al-Zawahiri) and the US continues to be Pakistan’s main ally against the TPP, long considered their own most serious security threat. Still, things have shifted - the US used to dronestrike the TPP, now we mostly sanction them.

Pakistan has been trying its best to restore the previous relationship and coax out more military aid. They’ve been somewhat successful - Trump cut them off from aid for not doing enough to combat anti-American militants; they’ve stepped up activities there and Biden has restored aid. The relationship is still not what it once was, but the countries continue to share some common goals and common enemies - potentially moreso if relations between Pakistan and Iran deteriorate.

Though for now it looks like escalation between Pakistan and Iran has been successfully avoided and smoothed over. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian (say that five times fast) has now visited Pakistan in hopes of smoothing things over after the previous week of lobbing missiles at each other. They both said they got a little too excited there for a minute and reiterated their unity over their common hatred of terrorists and secessionists. Peace in our time.

Separately, Pakistan has accused India of extrajudicially killing two Pakistani citizens and claims to have proof.


The coalition of separatist groups, the Three Brotherhood Alliance, continues to steadily push back

thousands more military personnel – including entire battalions – are reported to have surrendered. In some cases, soldiers say they defected for moral objections or political reasons. In many others, they surrendered after being overwhelmed by their opponents.

By early January, anti-junta fighters captured the key town of Laukkai near the Chinese border. Ye Myo Hein, an analyst at the Wilson Center, a Washington-based thinktank, described it as “the largest surrender in the history of Myanmar’s military”, saying he understood that 2,389 military personnel, including six brigadier generals, had surrendered.

It was reported that some of the six generals had been sentenced to either death or life imprisonment by the junta for surrendering. The junta has since denied this.

Since Operation 1027, more than 4,000 soldiers are estimated to have defected or surrendered, according to Dr Sasa, minister of international cooperation for Myanmar’s national unity government, which was formed to oppose the junta.

This is in addition to 14,000 military personnel who defected since the 2021 coup through programmes set up by activists to persuade soldiers to join the resistance, he says.

Russia has been the junta’s primary backer militarily since they rose to power (from 2022 onward, in exchange for Tatmadaw stymying any attempt by ASEAN to deal with Ukraine). For now they seem to be continuing to stand by them:

After the 2021 coup, Moscow decided to support the junta and bet on its survival… what has followed is an intensive bilateral cooperation spanning transfers of arms and counterintelligence know-how, joint army and naval exercises, and diplomatic cover, with Russia vetoing United Nations Security Council resolutions against the Sit-Tat.

Russia provided a third of all international arms transfers to Myanmar’s military when counting from 1992, so the Tatmadaw has additional stocks compatible with Russia’s systems. In November 2023, Russia’s navy carried out separate joint exercises with Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar, projecting power and compensating for the loss of training space in the Black Sea…

However, China has steadily soured on the junta. They weren’t really on board with the coup at first in general as they had maintained good relations with the democratic government, but they made their peace with the situation. However, the junta’s consistent inability or unwillingness to crack down on illicit organizations on the border, and to make sure bombs from the conflict don’t land on Chinese soil, have rapidly reduced China;s enthusiasm for the Tatmadaw.

China is Myanmar’s largest trade partner and has made sizable investments in Myanmar as part of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, a subset of the Belt and Road Initiative. On the other hand, China has been building leverage in the country through patronage of and arms sales to ethnic insurgent groups, notably the United State Wa Army and the members of the Three Brotherhood Alliance…

During a May 2023 visit, Foreign Minister Qin Gang expressed China’s disappointment at the junta’s inability to control the border area between the two countries. What apparently tipped the balance for Beijing was the proliferation of online scammers and human-trafficking operations in the northeast of Myanmar.

No one really knows what will happen next so the coming months may prove to be very interesting and very dynamic.


In the past few years the West African countries of Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali have all experienced military coups and are now ruled by juntas. There has been significant tension between them and the remaining democracies of West Africa, who really, really don’t want to incentivize military coups in their own countries, leading them to sanction the upstarts. As of this week all three of the juntas have now withdrawn from ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, or a regional trading zone that also allows for free movement of West Africans between countries and occasionally deploys peace keeping force.

The withdrawal is effective immediately; technically you’re supposed to give a one year notice before you exit the organization, but it’s not like anyone can really hold them to that. The also formed the Alliance of Sahel States, which so far just has these three juntas, all three of which, it should be remembered, are very poor and despite being ruled by the military, have very small militaries. All three countries have increasingly close relations with Russia; Mali has been hosting the Wagner group for a while, Russian soldiers arrived in Burkina Faso and will probably be in Niger soon. This is interesting in the sense of the ongoing dynamic of West Africa (and its many resources) shifting away from France and the United States and towards Russia, but the fact that you probably haven’t heard of the Alliance of Sahel States is a good indicator of its relative importance.

Everytime I read about Sub-saharian, especially West African, militaries and governments and alliances, I always think: Do they exist?

Wikipedia tells me that the Nigerine Armed Forces decided to expand from 25.000 to 100.000 men in the next five years. Is this real? Is this gonna happen? The Nigerine Armed Forces exists at all or it is something written on paper as a good chunk of the Afghan Army was?

This Alliance of the Sahel exists? Or it is made only by a bunch of rich tribal leader and "soldiers" surrounded by thugs and Wagner mercenaries, who decided in a single meeting on what to do?

The name sounds ass to me.

I suppose the utter irrelevance of the countries involved contributes to a lack of foreign military intervention, barring whatever Wagner lobs their way (who are likely to consider it a comfort posting compared to Ukraine, and at least you're getting AIDS willingly). Their militaries seem of precisely the tier that ragtag battalions or even a few platoons of South African mercenaries could roll over in a day, but those lads seem to have gone out of fashion since the 70s.

It probably reflects even worse on aspirations for a united Africa if the nominally democratic/stable nations can't muster up the troops to force a rout, I'm curious to know why the muttered threats of military action never came about.

The Nigerian military isn't a cluster of excellence, most of their effort is spent keeping the country together. They're the primary regional power. The West has more important things to do and Wagner can probably counter any small efforts.

These are pretty big countries too, over 20 million people live in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali each! It always surprises me that these poor countries have such high populations. How do 34 million people fit in Yemen?

Hungary and Friends

A follow up to last week’s post about Turkey finally approving Sweden’s NATO membership (in theory in exchange for American shipments of F-16s, which have not been approved for delivery by Congress yet). Hungary is the only remaining holdout keeping Sweden from NATO membership and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson has now agreed to meet with Viktor Orban. Hungary has responded in a characteristically confusing manner:

In a post on X on the same day, Orban wrote that his country supports Sweden’s membership and said he would urge lawmakers to approve its accession quickly.

But on Thursday, Hungary’s parliamentary speaker, Laszlo Kover, said there was no urgency in backing Sweden’s NATO membership bid.

“I do not feel any particular urgency. Moreover, I do not think there is an extraordinary situation,” Kover said.

The US Ambassador to Hungary sounds increasingly exasperated with their ostensible ally.

Hungary is also holding up a $54 billion European Union aid package for Ukraine, so basically everyone in Europe loves Hungary right now. Ostensibly the conflict is over the minority rights of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine, but given Orban’s relative friendliness with Putin there are a lot of accusations thrown about the move being pro-Russian (functionally or intentionally). The Foreign Ministers of Hungary and Ukraine met to try to hash things out but apparently still no luck.

Monday’s meeting was Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto’s first visit to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, and the only official bilateral meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, in the last two years.

Szijjarto said that modifications Ukraine made late last year to its education and language laws had “doubtlessly stopped a negative spiral” that had restricted the rights of ethnic Hungarians in the western Ukrainian region of Zakarpattia to study in their native language.

But, he said, those changes were not enough to resolve the dispute over the language rights of the Hungarian minority that has dominated the two countries’ poor relations for years.

The EU has been blocking funds for Hungary in response to democratic backsliding in Hungary; probably what it would really take to get them on board is to reverse this and effectively pay them off. Supposedly it’s possible that a meeting will happen directly between Orban and Zelensky but it remains to be seen.

Edit: Update: @Ioper flagged that today there was actually a breakthrough on the Ukraine funding:

After weeks of standoff, European Union leaders brought Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary on board and agreed on Thursday to create a 50-billion-euro fund for Ukraine, providing a critical lifeline to a country at risk of financial meltdown in the midst of war with Russia...

Before Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Orban had been demanding an annual chance to veto the disbursement of money to Ukraine, which is to be dispensed in the form of loans and grants over the next four years. But that demand was rejected. Instead, leaders agreed to a regular review of the way the money was being spent to assuage concerns about diversion or corruption, E.U. officials said.

Under the agreement reached on Thursday, the European Commission, the E.U. executive arm, will draft an annual report on how the Ukraine fund is being used. European leaders will have a chance to debate its performance and raise any concerns about it...

It appeared that Mr. Orban did not receive anything material in exchange for giving up his veto for the fund, valued at about $54 billion.

What are the specific allegations of democratic backsliding? It seems like Hungary plays hardball but well within the rules of democracy and has a one party state as a result of free and fair elections.

I don't want to step on any Hungarian posters toes but a short summary would be:

  • Erosion of separation of powers
  • Financial and physical intimidation of media
  • Using state media and other government agencies to run their election campaign.
  • Significantly undercutting the independence of the judiciary
  • Rapidly growing corruption, cronyism and clientelism, often using EU money.
  • Significantly reducing the independence of academia.

The last has gotten the most or at least disproportionate airtime, partly because of toxoplasmic reasons, but is also by far the least important.

The contention is not only that there is democratic backsliding (in the sense that elections are becoming less free) but that things like rule of law is decreasing. The EU doesn't only require it's members to hold elections, you also need things like independent institutions like a parliament and a judiciary. You don't qualify for membership just because you hold elections for a dictator every few years. Would that be a democracy? Maybe, under some definitions, but not under the EU's, which is what matters here.

I'm not saying this is the situation in Hungary but it's where people perceive things to be trending.

The last has gotten the most or at least disproportionate airtime, partly because of toxoplasmic reasons, but is also by far the least important.

I don't know about that. It's what allows ideas like "separation of power" or "independence of the judiciary" to have even a fig leaf of legitimacy, though admittedly you need have control over it for a while, before the effects become apparent.

Thanks for catching!

Haiti and Kenya

It feels like forever ago that I covered this saga, but despite Kenyan President Ruto agreeing over the summer to send a deployment of 1000 Kenyan troops to help with the Haitian emergency, there has been no forward progress since then, partially because he forgot to ask Congress and needed their approval. A Kenyan court has now blocked the intervention. This leaves Haiti with still no help in year 3 of their slow rolling anarchy. The absolute direness of their situation is best summed up by the Wapo headline on Monday “Collective rapes surge as weapon in Haiti’s gang war”.

Sometimes I forget that the presidents of other countries (outside America) can't just order troops to go wherever for whatever reason.

Do we have good sources for casualties in the Ukrainian war? I'm not sure who I trust anymore, all the numbers thrown around on the news seem silly.

There were some good indirect sources for Russian casualties (excessive mortality reports, disability applications statistics), but most have been censored. Ukrainians are more tight-lipped about their losses, but I think they should be pretty comparable.