IR INSIDER

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IR Insider is a production of NYU's International Relations Society. Our goal is to explain and discuss issues in IR in an engaging and thought-provoking fashion. We are written by students, for students, about issues students care about. 

Visegrad Group Summit in Israel Cancelled Amidst Holocaust Controversy

A summit of the Visegrad Group, commonly known as the V-4, slated to take place beginning on Monday, Feb. 18, was canceled amongst diplomatic uproar surrounding the Holocaust.  The V-4 summit was set to occur in Israel and to be hosted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Following public remarks made by Prime Minister Netanyahu that unabashedly recognized Polish collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War, Poland rescinded its participation. The other member states of the V-4-- Hungary, Czechia, and Slovakia-- who notably make up a nexus of rising nationalist sentiment, xenophobia, and antisemitism in Europe, will no longer be in formal attendance of the group summit in Israel.

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán Unveils New Pro-Natalist National Policy

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán recently announced a new pro-natalist policy to promote the country’s declining birth rate. The plan aims to provide financial incentives to Hungarian women in exchange for having more children. Pro-procreation policies have notoriously been implemented in various other countries, and have presented dubious outcomes.

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Ukrainian Comedian Runs for President and Stands a Good Chance

On New Years Eve, Ukrainian comedian, Vladimir Zelenskiy, announced his candidacy in the upcoming presidential elections set for Sunday, Mar. 31. Polls indicate that he is a frontrunner in the race, despite a lack of political experience.

Vladimir Zelenskiy. Credit:  Kyiv Post

Vladimir Zelenskiy. Credit: Kyiv Post

Ukraine’s politicians and elections are wrought with corruption, leading to the public’s distrust of the government. With that said, it is possible that running as a more unconventional candidate may bode well for Zelenskiy.

Most Ukrainians believe corruption to be a major issue in the country and have lost faith in the ability of conventional authorities to combat the problem. Current president, Petro Poroshenko, has been widely accused of corruption. Another candidate and former Prime Minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko, recently accused Poroshenko of bribing voters for 1,000 hryvnia, or the equivalent of $37. In response, Poroshenko’s team claimed that the statements were false and that Tymoshenko is actually the one bribing voters. Nonetheless, among the accusations and the doubt it is hard to distinguish corruption from the lack thereof.

Servant of the People Poster. Credit:  instantwatcher

Servant of the People Poster. Credit: instantwatcher

Zelenskiy acts in a popular Ukrainian television show called ‘Servant of the People’. On the show, Zelenskiy plays the role of Vasyl Holoborodko, a high school teacher who becomes president following the release of a video which shows him playing videos of corruption to his students.

Ihor Kolomoyskyi. Credit:  Sputnik

Ihor Kolomoyskyi. Credit: Sputnik

Zelenskiy has business ties with Ihor Kolomoyskyi, owner of the television channel that airs ‘Servant of the People’, which could prove detrimental to his campaign. Zelenskiy has acknowledged the ties, but claims that he is not tied to Kolomoyskyi politically, even though there are rumors that Kolomoyskyi is backing Zelenskiy’s presidential bid. In addition, there is evidence that his production company has ties to Russia which contradicts his previous claim that he severed business ties with Russia

Zelenskiy may be trying to imitate the fictitious life of Vasyl Holoborodko; however, it seems as though his campaign and his various connections will further blur the lines between who and what is corrupt in Ukraine from what is not. With that said, Zelenskiy has a good chance of winning the elections in March due to voter dissatisfaction with the other candidates and overall corruption in conventional politics.

Macedonia Achieves Historic Ascension to NATO

Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019 marked a historic moment for the soon-to-be Republic of Northern Macedonia. After years of division and controversy surrounding Macedonia’s name and national cultural lineage with Greece, an agreement finally came forth to allow Macedonia to move forward with its accession to NATO, and with its internationally integrative and cooperative aspirations with the West and Europe at large.

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Pro-Kremlin Ukrainian Politician Viktor Medvedchuk Proposes ‘Donbas Autonomous Region’

The Chairman of Ukraine’s Opposition Platform For Life, Viktor Medvedchuk, has recently proposed a plan for peace between Ukraine and Russia. Medvedchuk is known to have close ties to Putin; Putin is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter.

Viktor Medvedchuk. Credit:  Wikipedia

Viktor Medvedchuk. Credit: Wikipedia

Medvedchuk proposed for Donbas to become an ‘autonomous region’ within Ukraine, and for Ukraine to amend their constitution to facilitate the proposal. Since March 2014, there has been fighting in the Donetsk and  Luhansk areas of Ukraine, which make up the Donbas region. The fighting, which has been going on since March 2014, broke out after Russia annexed Crimea and the subsequent protests in the region. Medvedchuk expressed this plan at the first Party Congress where he also spoke about giving this proposed Donbas Autonomous Region its own parliament. In addition, Medvedchuk expressed his support for presidential candidate Yuriy Boyko.

Map of Ukraine, with Donbas region in red. Credit:  Adding To The Beauty

Map of Ukraine, with Donbas region in red. Credit: Adding To The Beauty

Due to Medvedchuk’s ties to the Kremlin, Ukrainian President Poroshenko sees this proposal as Russia’s way of ensuring its influence in Ukrainian politics. On the other hand, Medvedchuk claims that Poroshenko has ulterior motives as he is attempting to get reelected. Medvedchuk likely made these claims regarding Poroshenko to try and persuade the Ukrainian public that the ‘Donbas Autonomous Region’ is a way to further peace in the region.

For years, Russia has claimed that it is not at war with Ukraine. On Jan. 30, 2019, Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov again claimed that Russia was not at war with Ukraine, but rather, “There is a civil war in Ukraine, there are events in Ukraine that were provoked by the authorities in Kiev and which led to the formation of these two republics in the southeast”. Peskov issued this statement in response to Poroshenko’s urge for peace between Russia and Ukraine.

Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov. Credit:  Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov. Credit: Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

Poroshenko recently launched his reelection campaign. His platform largely revolves around turning towards the West and a strong desire to move Ukraine towards joining the European Union. While the Kremlin claims there is no war, politicians in Kiev and in the West claim that the Kremlin supports the rebels in Eastern Ukraine.  On Jan 30, 2019, the Russian backed rebels in Eastern Ukraine “violated the ceasefire seven times, including three instances when they used arms prohibited by the Minsk agreements.”

As of right now, there is no front runner in the Ukrainian presidential race. According to U.S. Intelligence reports, the U.S. expects Russia to interfere with presidential elections in March 2019, as well as the parliamentary elections planned for fall of this year.

Establishing the Donbas as an autonomous region would likely contribute to further unrest in Ukraine. Thus, it is a way for the Kremlin to further unrest in Ukraine and maintain its influence. In the midst of everything, Ukraine is in the process of establishing a Ukrainian branch of Orthodoxy. By separating ties from the Russian Orthodox Church, a way that Russia previously influenced Ukrainian affairs, the Donbas affair is Russia’s attempt to stay relevant in Ukrainian politics through other means to further its interests in the region, namely extending their territory down to the Black Sea.








The Case of Venezuela: Russia’s Creep into America’s Backyard

The current socio economic turmoil overtaking the Venezuelan political scene now indicates the ongoing tepid power balance characteristic of decades of American-Russian relations. While Venezuela is endowed with its own political uncertainties, the country as of late represents a notable new playing field for the ‘proxy’ conflicts between the United States’ and Russia’s vested interests to come head-to-head.

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Vienna Hosts OPEC+ Oil Summit

Vienna is set to host an oil summit between the leaders of OPEC and other major global oil producers between Dec 5-6. The meeting follows in the wake of a G-20 meeting held in Buenos Aires at the beginning of this month where Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly committed to continuing their previously established cooperative agreement, known as OPEC+.

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Poland, Pollution, and Paris: Climate Change and the Upcoming UN COP24

Poland is set to host the upcoming 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). From Dec. 2-14, the city of Katowice will welcome delegates and heads of state from across the world to discuss the creation of a new ‘rulebook’ on climate change to enable participatory states to credibly and effectively commit to environmental goals set forth in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

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Ukraine Declares Martial Law Following Kerch Strait Conflict

Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Russia and Ukraine have been involved in an ongoing conflict. Tensions between the two nations recently escalated with a confrontation in the Kerch Strait on Nov. 25, 2018. Russia’s report of the incident differs from Ukraine’s report, with much disagreement over the exact details of the incident amongst the international community.

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Europe: Forging a Tenuous Path Towards Energy Security with The Nord Stream

A long-standing dispute over the role of the Nord Stream pipeline running across Europe from Russia to Germany has become a point of contention in both intra-European and European-American relations over the last few months. Since his time in office, U.S. President Donald Trump has vocalized his discontent over the energy relationship between Russia and the rest of Europe, fostered by a Russian primary supply and increasing monopolization over oil and natural gas resources to the rest of the continent.

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