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  • Enlargement and Article 10: NATO, Finland, & Sweden

    Last week, the United States Senate voted to ratify adding Finland and Sweden to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (hereinafter “NATO”). The resolution passed the Senate with a 95-1 vote after Senators Schumer (D-NY) and McConnell (R-KY) urged lawmakers to support the measure as Russia’s aggression threatened national security. While President Biden hosted the leaders of the two countries in May, the road to NATO accession hasn’t been an easy one as Finland and Sweden’s motivation to join NATO comes shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February under the pretext that NATO threatened Russia’s sovereignty. Subsequently, Russia threatened to station ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons if Finland and Sweden joined NATO.

    Even though this is a historic move, especially given how divided American politics have become in recent months, seven of the alliance’s thirty nations still need to ratify the accession. To officially become part of NATO, both Finland and Sweden would need unanimous support from the alliance. At the time of this Commentary, the seven countries include: the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and Turkey.  As these nations deliberate on whether to allow Finland and Sweden’s accession, it’s important to analyze the accession process.

    NATO membership is open to “any other European state in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area.” Under Article 10, a nation wishing to join NATO may do so if certain requirements are met. First, accession talks with a NATO team occurs at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. The main goal of these talks is to obtain formal confirmation from the invitees of their willingness and ability to meet the political, legal, and military obligations and commitments of NATO membership. The talks take place in two sessions with each invitee. In the first session, political and defense or military issues are discussed, essentially providing the opportunity to establish that the preconditions for membership have been met. The second session is more technical and includes discussion of resources, security, and legal issues as well as the contribution of each new member country to NATO’s common budget. This is determined on a proportional basis, according to the size of their economies in relation to those of other Alliance member nations.

    Second, invitees send letters of intent where each invitee provides confirmation of its acceptance of the obligations and commitments of NATO membership from each foreign minister addressed to the NATO Secretary General. Third, accession protocols are signed by NATO countries, and these protocols are essentially amendments to the Treaty, which once signed and ratified by Allies, become an integral part of the Treaty itself and permit the invited countries to become parties to the Treaty. Fourth, accession protocols are ratified by NATO countries. This step could differ among the NATO countries. For example, as mentioned above, the United States Senate recently ratified the accession protocols; however, in the United Kingdom, no formal parliamentary vote is required for ratification. Once NATO members unanimously notify the United States government of their acceptance of the protocols, the Secretary General then invites the new countries to accede to the Treaty. And finally, once the invitees accede to the Treaty through their own ratification process (e.g. legislature) and file their instruments of accession with the United States Department of State, the invitees formally become NATO members.

    Currently, Finland and Sweden are waiting for unanimous consent of all NATO countries. When Finland and Sweden first applied for NATO membership, Turkey opposed, citing to how the Nordic countries previously handled issues relating to Kurdish terrorism. However, after much deliberation with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Turkey, Finland, and Sweden struck an agreement that would allow Finland and Sweden’s accession in exchange for the two countries’ agreement to end support for Kurdish militant groups that Turkey considers terrorist organizations and to end restrictions on weapons sales to Turkey.

    Turkey’s Parliament is on recess until October 1, 2022 and will not address Finland and Sweden’s accession until then. By the time October arrives, Turkey will likely be the last NATO country to ratify the accession.

    This information is accurate as of August 2022, and if the information changes, the author will provide an update as soon as possible.

  • Kidnappings, Assassination Attempts, Military Coups, and a Humanitarian Crisis: Patterson Students Take on the Crisis Simulation

    On February 24 & 25, the Patterson School held its annual crisis simulation. With the help of Patterson faculty, former Patterson students organized a simulation to conduct the first in-person crisis simulation since the pandemic began. Below is a summary of the simulation.

    The simulation consisted of five teams: Venezuela, Peru, China, Colombia, and the United States. While each team had a set of red lines they were forbidden to cross, teams worked together to not only advance their own interests in the region but to also aid in the humanitarian crisis. While some of this aid came in the form of direct monetary payments, the majority of the aid consisted of resources used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. vaccines, PPE, etc.).

    Each team performed according to their red lines and their regional interests. For example, from Team China’s perspective, China’s goal was to maintain its economic interest in the region while also not recognizing there was even a humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, Team Colombia’s main objective was to reject recognition of Venezuela’s new President after ghastly circumstances surrounded the election and to counter Chinese influence in the region. How each team accomplished its goals was…unique.

    After managing to secure its red lines and negotiating several agreements that expelled Team United States’ influence from the region, Team China began kidnapping delegates from Team Colombia in an effort to stall progress between Team Colombia and Team United States. However, privately, Team China’s justification for the kidnappings was simple: to obtain intelligence on which team was behind the assassination attempt of Venezuela’s new President. Team China believed that Team Colombia and Team United States were colluding to overthrow the Venezuelan President; however, after thoroughly interrogating the two delegates from Team Colombia, Team China discovered it was actually SIM Control (the simulation leadership) behind the assassination attempt.

    Regional relations also took a toll during these negotiations as Team Peru’s delegation was overthrown by a military coup on the second day–invalidating nearly every agreement previously made. However, even with this unforeseen event, Team Peru was able to come out with newly formed agreements with each team. Additionally, Peru managed to secure a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding with Colombia and Venezuela to establish stability in the region through renewed partnerships with the current regimes. And finally, Colombia was able to secure steady relations with the United States as the two countries worked together to confront the growing humanitarian crisis as well as to expand trade, cultural, and tourism opportunities.

    In sum, the crisis simulation not only forced Patterson students to step into leadership roles, but it also encouraged students to behave in a manner consistent with their designated delegation. While some delegations faced more difficulty than others, they managed to overcome those obstacles with tenacity, incredible leadership, and creativity.

  • The Poland-Belarus Border Crisis: Asylum Rights Altered as Troops Guard Border

    As the migrants trapped in “no man’s land” begin to face the winter months, the European Union (“EU”) recently proposed emergency measures to allow Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania to derogate from EU asylum rules. According to Human Rights Watch, while the measures would still need to be approved by the European Council, they would “systemize abuse of peoples’ rights at EU borders and risk creating a terrible precedent” (https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/12/03/asylum-rights-thrown-frozen-ditch-poland-belarus-border).

    Currently, the EU requires countries to not only cover basic needs but also a full range of material reception conditions such as housing, food, clothing, healthcare (including medical and psychological care), education for minors, and access to employment under certain conditions (https://www.europarl.europa.eu/factsheets/en/sheet/151/asylum-policy). However, these new measures would allow the aforementioned countries to detain asylum seekers, including families with children, for up to four months until authorities can conduct an “accelerated border procedure” (https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/12/03/asylum-rights-thrown-frozen-ditch-poland-belarus-border). Additionally, the new measures would establish an easier process for quick deportation if a migrant’s application is rejected and would release countries of their obligation to suspend deportation proceedings in the case of appeal.

    Moreover, the Polish government has implemented additional policies that restricts access to aid workers, journalists, and human rights workers, and on December 1st, Poland adopted a new law that authorizes border guards to use their discretion in their treatment of migrants (https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/12/03/asylum-rights-thrown-frozen-ditch-poland-belarus-border). While the EU has heavily criticized Poland’s new policies, nations like the United Kingdom and Estonia have recently deployed troops to Poland in an attempt to support Polish forces during the migrant crisis (https://www.thefirstnews.com/article/british-estonian-troops-to-assist-in-polish-border-crisis-26492; https://twitter.com/SolochPawel/status/1466418879241019401.) Currently, Poland’s president has authorized these troops to remain in Poland until March 1, 2022 (https://www.thefirstnews.com/article/british-estonian-troops-to-assist-in-polish-border-crisis-26492).

    The international community has begun to oppose Belarus’ attempt to weaponize migrants in its battles with the EU. On Thursday, President Biden announced new economic sanctions targeting people and entities associated with President Lukashenko’s government (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/us-belarus-sanctions/2021/12/03/c68ff9e0-545a-11ec-8ad5-b5c50c1fb4d9_story.html). Specifically, the Biden administration explained the sanctions were meant to target government organizations that are involved in “using migrants to punish Europe for previous sanctions or have taken part in political repression and violations of human rights” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/us-belarus-sanctions/2021/12/03/c68ff9e0-545a-11ec-8ad5-b5c50c1fb4d9_story.html). While President Lukashenko has criticized the West for issuing these sanctions, it is unclear whether he will help put an end to the migrant crisis he created.

  • The Poland-Belarus Border Conflict

    As instability rises in the Middle East, migrants are looking for different avenues to safety, and one of these avenues is seeking passage through Eastern Europe. On September 2, 2021, The Economist reported a large influx of migrants were crossing into Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia at the direction of the Belarusian government (https://www.economist.com/europe/2021/09/02/europes-latest-migrant-crisis-leaves-refugees-stuck-between-two-borders). Belarus’ dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, not only invited migrants into Belarus by enticing them with direct flights to his country, but he also directed the migrants to illegally cross into Belarus’ neighboring countries. Lukashenko went a step further and utilized his military to prevent the migrants from re-entering Belarus. 

    While Lukashenko’s ultimate goal is to retaliate against Europe’s economic sanctions on Belarus, Belarus’ neighboring countries have responded by dispatching their militaries, tightening their asylum laws, and walling off their borders. Specifically, Poland has begun to build a razor wire fence along their border with Belarus, and it is estimated this fence is approximately eight feet high. Consequently, this action has caused a significant migrant population to form at the Poland-Belarus border, and it appears Poland is actively seeking support from the European Union.

    Last month, Poland asked the European Union to reimburse it for the costs of its border wall with Belarus (https://www.economist.com/europe/2021/10/30/the-eu-is-being-asked-to-pay-for-border-fences-to-keep-migrants-out). However, relying on its 2015 decision regarding Hungary’s request for funding for a border wall during the Syrian refugee crisis, the European Union denied Poland’s request, stating that border walls were “expensive and ineffective.” Additionally, the European Union explained that erecting a border wall would divert migrants by affecting their legal right to seek asylum. However, even without the European Union’s financial support, countries are forming alliances to financially support one another. For example, the Czech Republic committed €530,000 to help Lithuania finish its border wall project before another influx of migrants arrive. This could indicate States are likely to abandon the European Union’s guidelines and begin to form their own policies.

    However, even with these efforts, the influx of migrants has only increased. According to Polish authorities, approximately 17,000 illegal crossing occurred in October alone, and the population is growing each day (https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2021/11/09/what-is-happening-on-the-poland-belarus-border). Part of Belarus’ tactics is to trap the migrants in “no man’s land,” the tract of land between Poland and Belarus, by sending armed guards to prevent the migrants from re-entering Belarus. As a result, the migrants have begun setting up a tent community along the border as they wait for the European Union, Poland, and Belarus to come to a reasonable resolution.

    Having a tent community along the border poses an additional foreseeable risk: the spread of COVID-19. Eastern Europe is already at risk of spreading COVID-19 at it struggles to fully vaccine its population, but there is an even greater risk in allowing unvaccinated migrants within Polish borders. For example, the vaccination rate in Iraq is only 16% while Afghanistan’s vaccination rate is 8.8% (https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/covid-19-vaccination-rates-by-country). Poland is currently fighting to maintain its population’s vaccination rate (54%); therefore, there is a foreseeable risk that allowing unvaccinated migrants into Poland could jeopardize the Poland’s overall public health. However, with the upcoming winter months, Poland will need to decide soon on how to handle this migrant crisis. Otherwise, it appears Eastern Europe will continue to see migrants arriving at its doorstep.

  • The World This Week 9/21/21

    This is a brief overview of the week’s top news stories organized by region.

    LATIN AMERICA – Covered by Daniel Stephens

    In El Salvador, massive protests have erupted over Bitcoin becoming legal tender. Thousands of demonstrators in the capital San Salvador have expressed frustration over the controversial decision, emphasizing that it will bring instability and inflation to the developing country. Bitcoin machines across the country have been vandalized and destroyed. El Salvador allowed businesses to begin accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment on September 7th, emphasizing it will be easier for Salvadorians working abroad to send money back to the country. The precedent that El Salvador has set for the official use of digital currency may encourage other developing countries to utilize similar practices, however concerns and protests may continue to grow over the volatility of digitally based currency. 

    Mexico City hosted the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to address the issues of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic in the Latin American region. The event was largely attended by leftist leaders from the region. Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel made the event his first foreign visit since large protests took place on the island in July. Mexico reaffirmed its support for the Cuban leader during his arrival on Mexico’s Independence Day. 

    A United Nations fact-finding mission has found that Venezuela’s justice system is playing a role in repression of government critics. The judiciary has allowed serious human rights violations to go unchecked, allowing public officials to commit crimes. The UN team conducted interviews and analyzed detentions of people who were perceived to be political opponents, finding instances of torture and sexual violence. The UN report illustrates many concerns that have been highlighted by human rights activists for years. The Venezuelan government has not commented on the report. 

    BRAZIL / CARIBBEAN – Covered by Ana Figueiredo

    The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, refused to adhere to the “honor system” presented by the United Nations (“UN”), that is demanding world leaders arriving in New York for its General Assembly this week, to attest that they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Jair Bolsonaro said that as he was infected by the virus some months ago, he is already immunized against COVID-19. Brazil has the second-highest covid-19 death toll in the world — second only to the United States — with nearly 590,000 deaths and 37 percent of the population fully vaccinated, according to Our World In Data. Jair Bolsonaro is supposedly scheduled to kick off the 76th United Nations General Assembly’s general debate on Tuesday.

    Brazil’s leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva remains ahead of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro by a significant margin in voter preferences for the 2022 elections, a survey by pollster Datafolha showed on Friday. Neither candidate has officially announced his candidacy for the October 2022 election, but according to the simulation, Lula would win 56% of votes versus 31% for the incumbent, compared to a 58%-31% advantage in the last poll. The variation since July fell within the poll’s margin of error. Other polls also show Lula’s clear advantage as Bolsonaro’s popularity slips due to rising inflation, high unemployment and his handling of the world’s second-deadliest COVID-19 outbreak.

    A Brazilian immigrant woman died last week, trying to cross the New Mexico state border to enter illegally in the United States. Data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection received by the BBC shows that 46,410 Brazilians were arrested from October 2020 to August 2021 for illegally crossing the country’s southern border through Mexico – a record. According to local authorities, border officials encountered more than 600 migrants a day, an increase of more than 2,000% over the previous year.

    SOUTH EAST ASIA – Covered by Andrew Salchli

    Former boxing world champion Manny Pacquiao has declared that he is running for president of the Philippines to bring an end to poverty and corruption in his home country. There is push back on his abilities in this totally new arena where he cannot punch his way out of any argument or disagreement with someone. The election is in May 2022, and even though he does have political experience the fact that he has not been the sole leader of not only a governing body, but an entire country is ammunition for the opposition to his legitimacy. While in public service he did not have the best attendance record, nor did he have his full attention to being a congressman. There were times where he would be away for long period in order to train for his upcoming fight, and since he can make a considerable amount more money in boxing than he can in being a public servant, what is to say that he would not take a step away from being President for another boxing match to earn another huge payday? The 2022 Presidential election for the Philippines will be one to watch for more than just Pacquiao, but to see if this country can in fact elect a leader that will address the issues of poverty and corruption. Even though Pacquiao is once again the big name to draw in an audience this time the stakes are higher than any match, he has ever been in.

    This past week, in Myanmar, amid the ongoing fight between the Military government that took control of the country in February 2021, and the National Unity Government (BUG), telecommunication towers was destroyed. An attack of this nature has greatly impacted hundreds of thousands of Burmese citizens, estimates are that there were 700,000 people that lost internet connection. The towers belong to a wide array of telecommunication equipment run by the partly army-controlled company, Mytel. This is not the first time in the conflict that the internet has been shut down as a result of the fighting. Any time that the telecommunication infrastructure is prey to an attack, the ones who pay the most are the average citizens who are trying to obtain information about what is going on in their country and around the world. Once again, the world is shown the atrocities upon the Burmese people and the impact this fighting has on their daily lives.

    EAST ASIA – Covered by Camden Hanley

    North Korea tested a cruise missile analysts say could have nuclear capabilities. A few days later they launched two ballistic missiles into the sea to the east of the Korean peninsula. Shortly after, South Korea completed a successful test of a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a system. The North Korean missile launches have drawn international scrutiny from the Japanese defense ministry and other countries within the UN. North Korea has continued to develop its weapons systems amid a stand-off over talks to dismantle its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities in exchange for US sanctions relief. South Korea has continued to expand its military capabilities pursuing ballistic missiles, submarines, and its first aircraft carrier. They have asked China to help restart the dialogue as they claim North Korea has ignored South Korean and US offers for talks and engagement. The arms race between the two countries has accelerated as South Korean President Moon pushes for a more autonomous foreign policy, a wariness of relying on the US after the Trump presidency, and military developments in China and North Korea.

    Taiwan proposed extra defense spending of T$240 billion ($8.69 billion) over the next five years as it warned of an urgent need to upgrade weapons in the face of a “severe threat” from China. The new spending is expected to be approved by the Taiwanese parliament. It will be used to purchase cruise missiles and warships among other things. This money is in addition to planned military spending of T$471.7 billion for 2022. As China’s military strength has grown, the Taiwanese have been seeking to demonstrate that they can defend themselves. They have been testing new, long-range missiles, have deployed a new class of stealth warship they call an “aircraft carrier killer”, and are developing their own submarines.

    The campaign to become Japan’s next prime minister has begun, with four candidates vying for leadership of the ruling party in an unusually tight race. The current prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, shocked many when announcing he would not be running to head the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). A vote will be held on 9/29/21 to decide who will head the LDP and then contest in a general election to be held in late November. The LDP is expected to retain power in the general election meaning its leader is likely to be the person in charge of the country with the world’s third largest economy. The four candidates include vaccine chief Taro Kono, ex-foreign minister Fumio Kishida, ex-Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Sanae Takaichi, and former gender equality minister Seiko Noda. Takaichi and Noda are both females seeking to become the first female prime minsters of Japan, though are considered long shots in the race. If none of the candidates receive a majority, a second round of voting will be held between the top two candidates. Suga’s short term has led some to wonder if Japan could return to the “revolving door” of leaders seen before Shinzo Abe.

    NORTH AFRICA – Covered by Dalton Goble

    The migrant crisis facing the EU this year has doubled the number of migrants from last year, which has floodlit the systemic abuse of power and lack of protection for fleeing persons that have been returned by the Libyan coast guard. A spokeswoman for the United Nations’ (UN) International Organization for Migration, Safa Msheli, has reported that the Libyan coast guard “intercepted more than twenty-four thousand individuals this year”, and brings attention to a concern that currently only six thousand migrants are accounted for in official detention centers. Leaving eighteen thousand individuals left missing by detention centers. A previous Associated Press (AP) report in 2019 contends that “militias tortured, extorted, and otherwise abuse migrants for ransoms” despite hundreds of millions of dollars sent as aid from the EU by proxy of UN channels.

    Protestors in Tunis, Tunisia have gathered to openly demonstrate their complete opposition to President Kais Saied, who fired the prime minister and suspended parliament on July 25. While Saied states that the measures were necessary to address extenuating factors that faced the nation. Ennahdha, the minority political party, and other critics are claiming that the move to consolidate power to the executive has violated the constitution that was written post-Arab Spring. Despite his removal of other constitutional leaders, Saied has promised to put into place a replacement in “the coming days”.

    WESTERN EUROPE – Covered by Zack Settle

    Last week’s announcement of the new defense pact (Aukus) between the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia has caused a furious reaction by French President Emmanuel Macron.  President Macron’s fury is primarily because it has revealed France’s status as a global power. There are three truths that France must now face, including that complaining about how they were treated does not change what has already occurred.  The second truth is that the Aukus affair shows that the United States no longer has a significant interest in the “outdated behemoth that is NATO.” The final harsh truth is that France has no realistic way to fulfill its global ambitions, given that the Chinese build enough ships every four years to dwarf the French fleet.

    With the crucial German election only a few days away, no party can afford a scandal to distract the public from the country’s issues. But this situation may be unfolding for the current leader in the polls, the SDP, led by Deputy Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The Financial Intelligence Unit, which Scholz is the supervisor of as Finance Minister, is under scrutiny for only forwarding 17% of its suspicious transactions from banks to the police or public prosecutors.  A raid was recently conducted at one of the financial institutions Scholz was investigating, which led to a statement from the prosecutor’s office indicating that Scholz was under investigation as well.  The SDP has accused their primary opponents and present coalition partners of orchestrating the incident to save their floundering campaign. This news has led to a closed-door meeting being called for the Bundestag Finance Committee on Monday morning. A conversation will occur between Scholz and other parliamentarians of all parties on the recent revelations. 

    EASTERN EUROPE – Covered by Cory Lee

    COVID-19 vaccination rates among European countries vary significantly.  In Western European countries, such as Belgium, Denmark, and Portugal, eighty percent of the adult population has been fully vaccinated.  Meanwhile, Eastern European countries haven’t been as successful.  For example, Romania’s vaccination rate is only thirty-two percent, with Bulgaria falling shortly behind with only twenty percent of its adult population fully vaccinated.  Perhaps the main reason why Eastern European countries struggle to fully vaccinate their adult population is misinformation.  Vessela Tcherneva, deputy director of the European Council on Foreign Relations and head of the Sofia, Bulgaria office, seems to believe these anti-vaccine sentiments are rooted in a deep mistrust of state institutions and could be a reason why most Eastern European countries are hesitant to implement vaccine mandates like those enforced in France and Italy.  While the European Commission has said it is helping countries fight misinformation, the European Union has limited authority because Member States are in charge of their own vaccination campaigns.  Until Eastern European countries take responsibility to push for nationwide inoculation campaigns, it is unlikely Europe will see much change in their vaccination rates.

    When Law and Justice (PIS), the party that currently governs the Polish government, began coming to power in 2015, it took control of TVP, the public television broadcaster, and purged its management.  Then, last month, Law and Justice introduced a bill that would limit foreign ownership of media companies to only 49%.  While some Polish leaders have spoken out against this bill, arguing that freedom of speech would be hindered, Law and Justice defended its position by stating, “The Polish media should be Polish.”  Previous actions by the Polish government seems to lean toward this assertion.  In March 2021, PKN Orlen, a state-owned oil refiner, bought Polska Press, Poland’s leading newspaper publisher, from its German owner, and soon after this acquisition, all senior editors were replaced.  Law and Justice’s latest target is TVN24, a news channel.  Unlike TVP, TVN24 is critical of the government and is incredibly influential as it was the most-watched news program in Poland in the first half of 2021.  Currently, TVN is owned by Discovery, a major American media company.  If the aforementioned bill passes the Senate, Discovery may not be able to renew its license this month, which may force Discovery to divest the channel.  As a result, TVN may be at risk of dissolution, and if that occurs, freedom of speech may be materially altered in Poland.

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