Trump, Europe and the World Peace


It is undeniable that the Trump era is an era of change. The previous administration was keen on maintaining the status quo which could also be called plain old stagnation. Sadly, stagnation on the international scene leads to nothing but slow deterioration, because our world is not the kind of world that can just stop turning. It is unclear whether Trump is a change-maker on account of his abilities or rather his inabilities. At this point, it does not really matter. Last year Trump was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for pursuing “peace through strength ideology.” I think that “peace” pursuit deserves a second look.

Starting where things seem most hot, North Korea is probably the most obvious success of the Trump diplomacy if we can call it that. People who look at the peninsula and tremble in fear over the vision of nuclear war are wrong and they do not know what they are looking at. No matter how many talking heads show off the diverse variety of concerned looks and prophecy damnation, alas it is not so. If I could I would scream off every rooftop in the world that no South Korean wakes up in the morning concerned about North Korea, I would. North Korea is an insanely impoverished country led by a class of brutal, yet smart elites. Since it is cut of from the world, it has only one tool of diplomacy left. The threats that we see on television are not actual threats. It is just North Korea saying: ‘hey pay attention to us, pretty please.’ Virtually no one in the region wishes a renewal of the conflict and so raising tension is North Korea’s only way of gaining leverage prior to negotiations. The higher tensions, the better bargain. Trump, unwittingly, gave North Korea all it wanted by trying to isolate it, because it allowed them to look like the good guys, sporting colours of peace at the Olympics, and to send Kim Jong Un’s sister to the South for the first time ever. While this success is likely to be just temporary, it is still a success for Trump’s peace effort, even if he did not mean it.

Next on the list of positive outcomes lies the kick in the behind that Europe had needed. Let’s face it people. We have been complacent for a very long time. For at least two decades, we have been lounging in our cushioned chairs, blissfully oblivious to the problems in our backyard, while the mighty U.S.A. was guarding the door. Relative to GDP, United Kingdom’s defence spending has been steadily declining for years and the recent encounters with the Russian navy in the English Channel have shown that Britain is far from ready to face any sort of a serious enemy. That might have been fine as part of the EU, but, despite the NATO membership, the UK must be prepared to defend its interests. Moreover, other countries in the EU have now started to realize that they cannot do away with military altogether and the plans for joint military organization within the EU seem to have been resurrected. Calling Europeans free-riders, dependent on American help, was surely not pleasant or very diplomatic, yet it was precisely that what has led to stronger Europe and thus a more peaceful world, which all can be accounted to Trump.

Overall, it is a good thing that Trump did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize, because his contributions to world peace are far outweighed by the contributions to current conflicts. Trump likes to play dirty, although in secret. It is a little known fact that by 13 July 2017, as the Independent reported, the US air strikes had killed more than 2’200 civilians in Syria, which is about as many as the total number of civilians killed under the entire Obama presidency. We may be beating ISIS, but at what cost. I doubt that the people who’s family members have died through no fault of their own will forgive and forget. Even if the coalition annihilates every last member of ISIS, we will still be left with a backyard full of people who hate us as much as they hated them. The world is still turning under Trump and it seems to be turning towards a more pluralist world where not one but multiple giants struggle for or co-operate in global governance. I chose to see that as a good thing, but we are walking on thin ice. With every step back, China and Russia step two steps forward. Unless we want Beijing and Moscow to be the new shining cities on the hill, we would do well to act before it is too late.


North Korea – The Fault in Perception


Hi everyone,

in the light of the recent North Korean congress, I think there is one thing worth pointing out. The media coverage of the congress and more specifically the expulsion of a BBC crew from the country.

Undeniably, North Korea has a PR problem, but if we tie this recent expulsion together with the numerous arrests of foreign citizens, Americans in particular, I dare to say that we see an equally large fault in West’s assumptions about the DPRK.

In our Euro-American cultures and traditions the freedom of speech is valued as an undeniable right of all people. A right that should be universal. Unfortunately, just like the value of human life itself, it is not seen so in other cultures and traditions. Our right to enforce these values ends at our borders, but we often have a hard time to accept that. If North Koreans come to our countries we must insist they play by our rules and if we come to their country we must play by theirs, no matter how despicable we think their rules are. Western media, like the BBC crew, and some of the visitors transgress these boundaries and I am afraid to say that they do so unknowingly most of the time. If one breaks the rules to exert influence and make things better it is one thing (still debatable if it is the right thing to do), but doing so out of sheer ignorance makes it much much worse.

In North Korea one’s life has no value, freedom of speech does not exist and every right we think is universal is rejected there. If you travel to North Korea you get a strict set of rules on how to behave, what to do and what to say and there is nothing that protects you if you break them. If you then think about how alien world that is, compared to ours the absolute stupidity of Otto Warmbier (American student arrested for trying to steal a propaganda banner who was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in jail) and the BBC crew is immeasurable.

Now back to the previous argument that speaking out could have an impact on the locals and thus contribute to the change. Whatever idealist idea that might be, the world of North Korea is not the same as the old Soviet space. If you travel to North Korea, literally no one you meet is there on their own will. You cannot meet anyone that wasn’t handpicked by the regime and thus all of them are highly resistant to any influence. The scale of it is hard to comprehend, but in truth entering North Korea equals entering an elaborate theatre where you are the only audience. Interestingly, if you look to the bottom left corner of the photo above you will see lonely figures standing behind and in front of the press crews. These soldiers are not there for your safety or safety of North Korean people, but to make sure you are sealed off from the actual world and you never get a glimpse of it. During your visit there will always be several around you even if you cannot see them. Also do not be mistaken, there are many who speak English and they do listen closely at all times. So when you see videos of tourists visiting a musical show in Pyongyang please keep in mind that not only the people on the stage, but also everyone in the audience is there, putting on a show, just for the sake of those visitors.

To sum up, the West needs to finally understand that what worked on Soviet Union and its satellite countries will not work on North Korea. The only effect medias investigative questions will have will be putting your guides and people they talk to in terrible danger and doing things like hiding Bibles or stealing banners is sheer stupidity. Unlike Las Vegas, nothing you do in DPRK remains secret, so let’s not be stupid.



Korea – Unwanted Unification

밝게 웃는 한미일 정상

Hi everyone,

in reaction to the speech made by Antony J. Blinken (U.S. Deputy Secretary of State) just yesterday, I thought I should take a look at the elephant in the room that is the unification of Korea.

As you all surely know, Korea has been divided in two states ever since the Korean war (1950-1953). The two states, one stalinist-communist and the other deep right-wing democracy/dictatorships (depending on who you’re talking to), are very much at war. Year after year, due to North Korean propaganda picked up by popular media, it seems like the peninsula is going to self-destruct and yet nothing ever happens. Majority of Koreans, presumably from the South, feels like the unification is just around the corner and even if they don’t they at least keep the hope that it is going to happen during their lifetime. To me that sounds awfully positive, so why is that that nothing ever happens ?

I believe that the answer is very simple despite also being very complex. Nobody wants it to happen and especially not Koreans themselves. North Korea is one of the most oppressive and underdeveloped countries in the world. It has a population of over 20 million people that has only experienced hardships, propaganda and Communism. The country lacks proper infrastructure, functional industry or even functioning agriculture. On the other side, there is South Korea where 90% of its inhabitants have access to broadband internet and which is home to tech giants like Samsung (which is by the way manufacturing all the fancy chips and screens for our beloved Apple in addition to flooding markets with their own devices). According to some estimates the unification would cost South Korea around US$2.7 trillion. Honestly, I can’t even say how many Samsung S6 Edge+ they’d have to sell to pay for that. It would essentially send South Korea from being among top 20 largest GDP nations to medieval times for decades. No wonder the South Korean leadership is no hurry. Surely one must admit that once this little hiccup is out of the way unified Korea could swing back up using natural resources of the North combined with business experience and tech savvy to counter giants like China, but that is like saying  you could win the marathon, but you need to shoot yourself in a leg first and wait till it heals. Who would want to be the leader that does that.

That brings me to why literally nobody else wants the unification to happen despite fancy speeches and declarations. The United States consider their position in Asia as very important as proven by the official pivot of Obama administration towards Asia. Australia and central Asia produce great deal of resources that are then pumped into US and Chinese economies and Asia in general is where lots of US trading happens. Therefore the US needs a strong foothold in Asia. It has its troops in Japan, treaties with Taiwan and up to 60% of its navy in the region, but most importantly it also has up to 30’000 soldiers sitting in South Korea, presumably safeguarding the country against North Korean aggression. China does not like that at all. China is like your egocentric younger sibling who constantly eats your chocolate and blames it on the dog. China fears that after the unification the US is going to move its troops towards the new border and ,frankly, it is not all that far from Yalu river to Beijing. Basically a missile launch away. In public, China and North Korea are great buddies while actually China thinks of it as the lesser evil.

Surely the US would be forced to withdraw its forces out of Korea once the country is stable, thus loosing a very important reason to be there. After all, what motivation would Japan have to keep the US base on Okinawa if North Korea is out of the picture ?

From the economic point of view neither Japan, China, Taiwan or Philippines would benefit from the unification since who needs a nation that could, given enough time, turn from a tiger to a lion (sorry, can’t think of an unbiased animal stronger than tiger) and drag in all the business that everyone wanted to get their hands on.

In my opinion, the only way towards unification of Korea leads through collapse of regime in China and subsequent collapse of North Korea once the scales of power are tipped towards everyone there having no other choice than to support it. Until then, maintaining the current status quo is more than comfortable state of affairs for all parties concerned.