All posts by John Xenakis

10-March-17 – As more US troops enter Syria, the endgame becomes fuzzier

By John Xenakis

We now have American, Russian, al-Assad regime, Free Syrian Army (FSA) Sunni insurgent, Turkish, Kurdish YPG, Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah soldiers all fighting in Syria. These forces are all united in their fight against their common enemy, ISIS, with absolutely no clarity whatsoever about what will happen if and when ISIS is defeated.

Furthermore, while the al-Assad regime still controls an area in western Syria along the Mediterranean coast, there are still large regions controlled by Sunni insurgents. Furthermore, the Kurdish YPG controls a large strip, almost 100 miles deep, along the entire northern border with Syria — except for a small region still controlled by Turkish forces and FSA insurgents.

Of the above forces, the Turks and the YPG Kurds are bitter enemies. The al-Assad regime and the FSA Sunni insurgents are bitter enemies. The Turks and the al-Assad regime are bitter enemies. They’re all getting along now, more or less, because the common enemy is ISIS.

The Kurds would like to control the entire northern border with Turkey, and form an independent state called Rojava. The Turks are bitterly opposed to this, and will not give up the small region they control along the border. Bashar al-Assad will never tolerate even peaceful opposition from the Sunni insurgents. The Sunni insurgents will never stop fighting as long as Bashar al-Assad is president. Iran will not tolerate anyone else as president. Russia couldn’t care less who’s president, as long as they’re controlling Syria. Iran will not tolerate Russia controlling Syria.

Those are all "big picture" issues. Even the current "small picture" issues are unresolved. There are Kurdish, Russian, American and Turkish in or around Manbij, all with different agendas. Who will end up controlling the city?

And who’s going to be fighting ISIS in Raqqa? The US considers the YPG Kurds to be the best and most reliable force fighting ISIS, but Kurdish control of Raqqa will be intolerable to both Turkey and the al-Assad regime.

There actually is a kind of precedent in the fight to recapture Mosul Iraq from ISIS. The Iraqi army is entering the city from the east and doing the fighting. The Kurds are blocking ISIS from fleeing to the north. The Iran-backed Shia militias are blocking ISIS from fleeing to the west or south. They seem to have coordinated the attack, at least for the time being.

So in Syria it’s a little different. Apparently, the Russians and the Kurds are joining forces in Raqqa, backed by American artillery. The battle hasn’t yet begun, so we won’t know for a while whether this will work.

So we have two "small picture" issues and a dozen "big picture" issues. Up until the last couple of months, all of these forces were able to keep separate. The al-Assad regime was fighting in Aleppo, Turkey was fighting in northern Syria, Russia and the US-led coalition were coordinating airstrikes. But those simple solutions are no longer possible.

I read many media sources from many countries every day, and I have not read any article or analysis or white paper that convinces me that anyone has the vaguest clue what’s going to happen in the endgame, if and when ISIS is defeated.

And this is why many people are concerned about the new deployment of American forces to Manbij and Raqqa. The concern is that once ISIS is defeated, all these forces will start fighting each other, and US troops will be drawn in and be part of a major new war.

As I’ve been writing for many years, Generational Dynamics predicts that the Mideast is headed for a major regional war, pitting Jews against Arabs, Sunnis against Shias, and various ethnic groups against each other. We may be seeing the start of that major regional war in Manbij and Raqqa. Gulf News and Hurriyet (Ankara) and Arab News and The National (UAE) and Guardian (London)

2-Mar-17 World View — European leaders debate how the European Union can survive after Brexit

  • [*] European leaders debate how the European Union can survive after Brexit
  • [*] European nations split on the future of Europe

European leaders debate how the European Union can survive after Brexit

Italian politician Gianni Pittella calls the European Commission’s white paper a ‘clear political mistake’ (Getty)

A variety of crises seem to get worse as time goes on is causing anxieties about the future of the European Union and the euro currency. The crises include the refugee crisis, financial crises in Greece and Italy, and increasing euroscepticism in many countries, following the Brexit referendum that called for Britain to leave the European Union.

Recognition of these crises comes at a significant time. On March 25, 27 EU countries (Britain, the 28th, is not invited) will be meeting in Rome to discuss the future of Europe on the 60th anniversary of the 1957 Treaty of Rome that contained the core principles that led to the creation of the European Union.

When the Treaty of Rome was signed, Europe had been devastated by two world wars, and everybody was fearful that there could be another world war at any time. Finally, it was agreed by the war survivors that Europe had to form a union like the United States to prevent another war. That was the motivation behind the 1957 Treaty of Rome.

Today, many in Europe’s older generations fear that Europe is headed for new war like WW I and WW II, while younger generations, who have lived in peace their whole lives, think that anyone who worries about war must be an alarmist.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Jüncker on Wednesday published a “White Paper On The Future Of Europe,” which describes the problems facing Europe and suggests five different paths. Jüncker summarizes the problems as follows:

[Begin quote]”Europe’s challenges show no sign of abating. Our economy is recovering from the global financial crisis but this is still not felt evenly enough. Parts of our neighborhood are destabilized, resulting in the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Terrorist attacks have struck at the heart of our cities. New global powers are emerging as old ones face new realities. And last year, one of our Member States voted to leave the Union.”[End quote]

Jüncker’s approach is to present alternatives for the future of Europe:

  • [*] Carrying On. No new treaty.
  • [*] Nothing but the Single Market. Loosen Brussels’ control, give up citizens’ rights, and just have a commercial trading agreement.
  • [*] Those Who Want More Do More. Also called a “multi-speed” Europe, this is Jüncker’s favored option. A small group of nations would proceed on a path toward greater integration, and other nations could join when they wish.
  • [*] Doing Less More Efficiently. More than the “single market,” but less Brussels control than today, implement policies only when everyone agrees that they add real value.
  • [*] Doing Much More Together. This would be the full integration of all 27 member states into a unified EU, but would require significant treaty changes.

The white paper will be discussed at the Rome meeting on March 25, and the European Commission will published a series of discussion papers throughout the year. European Commission – The Future of Europe and RTE (Ireland) and Bloomberg

European nations split on the future of Europe

Many member nations are disenchanted with the EU, and it’s feared that if one more nation follows Britain out of the EU, then others may follow rapidly.

  • [*] France: The thought that far-right National Front Party leader Marine Le Pen could win the upcoming election would have been considered impossible a year ago, but the nationalist populism displayed by the successful Brexit referendum and the victory of Donald Trump in America have shown that a Le Pen victory is a real popularity, and Le Pen favors the “Frexit” option of having France leave the European Union.
  • [*] Poland: Poland is thought to be eurosceptic, but a poll says that 84.5% would vote to stay if there was a referendum.
  • [*] The Netherlands: The Dutch are approximately evenly split on the “Nexit” option of leaving the EU.
  • [*] Austria: The rise of right-wing Freedom Party of Austria has made the “Auxit” option appear to be a possibility.
  • [*] Denmark: Denmark voted against the Maastricht treaty in 1992, but was later drawn into the EU. However, Denmark voted to stay out of the euro currency.
  • [*] Hungary: Hungary’s anti-immigrant prime minister Viktor Orbán has been a fierce opponent of plans to resettle refugees to EU nations according to a quota system.
  • [*] Czech Republic: The Czech people have been called the most eurosceptic people in Europe. Polls indicate that 57% consider EU membership to be a risk to their country.

The foreign ministers of France and Germany supported Jüncker’s white paper options, and particularly supported the “multi-speed Europe” option, described in the white paper as follows:

[Begin quote]”In a scenario where the EU27 proceeds as today but where certain Member States want to do more in common, one or several “coalitions of the willing” emerge to work together in specific policy areas. These may cover policies such as defense, internal security, taxation or social matters.

As a result, new groups of Member States agree on specific legal and budgetary arrangements to deepen their cooperation in chosen domains. As was done for the Schengen area or the euro, this can build on the shared EU27 framework and requires a clarification of rights and responsibilities. The status of other Member States is preserved, and they retain the possibility to join those doing more over time.”[End quote]

However, politicians in other countries disagreed. Far-right Dutch politician Vicky Maeijer reacted harshly to the white paper:

[Begin quote]”The EU is collapsing and support for the project is crumbling. It seems we’re trying to keep the Brussels dream alive but its really more of the same – more, more, more European Union. What world do they come from? You’re playing with the lives of millions of citizens who you do not represent.

The Dutch, I think, are going to have their feeling confirmed that they must get away from this suffocating Europe and get freedom and democracy back.”[End quote]

Gianni Pittella, and Italian politician who leads the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, said that the white paper was a “clear political mistake”: “We would consider it a clear political mistake to simply present five options concerning the EU’s future without pointing out a clear political preference. [The future of Europe can’t be sacrificed for] short sightedness or fear of the next national elections.”

But Spanish politician Esteban González Pons said that the EU must be preserved:

[Begin quote]”It is time to defend Europe because it is the best vaccine against nationalists and populists. …

Nobody should forget that the Union is already our present, and now we have to decide which way we want to go in the future in order to deal with common challenges such as globalization, the generational gap, terrorism, climate change, the migration and refugee crisis, and the rise of nationalism and populism.”[End quote]

Daily Express (London) and Politico and Xinhua

Generational Dynamics, European Union, Greece, Treaty of Rome, European Commission, Jean-Claude Jüncker, Brexit, France, Marine Le Pen, National Front Party, Hungary, Viktor Orbán, Netherlands, Vicky Maeijer, Italy, Gianni Pittella, Spain, Esteban González Pons

25-Feb-17 World View — Border Adjustment Tax versus the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Law

By John Xenakis

NY Times, May 5, 1930 – over a thousand economists opposed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Bill (History Hub)

News reports indicate that Congressional Republicans, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, are considering a “border adjustment tax” as one of the proposals for the tax reforms plans this year.

The details are vague, but it appears that the proposal is essentially an indirect tariff, using taxes charged to certain companies to raise prices of imported products, and tax reductions to other companies to encourage exports. It’s especially targeted to American companies that close factories in the U.S. and open factories in Mexico or other countries, and then import the products manufactured in those factories back into the United States.

There appear to be two major objectives. One is to generate revenue to pay for other parts of the tax reform package. And the second is to discourage companies from moving factories and jobs to other countries.

President Trump has not endorsed the idea, but on Thursday seemed to favor it:

[Begin quote]”It could lead to a lot more jobs in the United States. … I certainly support a form of tax on the border. What is going to happen is companies are going to come back here, they’re going to build their factories and they’re going to create a lot of jobs and there’s no tax.”[End quote]

VOA and Reuters and CNN

Historical comparison with the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Bill

In 1930, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Bill was passed, increasing import tariffs on some 900 products. The 1929 stock market panic, and the subsequent loss of many families’ life savings, was blamed by the public on American banks and companies, and it was widely believed that the tariffs would save American jobs. Except for a few details, the public mood then is similar to the public mood today.

In my 2003 book, “Generational Dynamics – Forecasting America’s Destiny,” which is available as a free PDF from my download page,, I wrote the following about the Smoot-Hawley bill:

[Begin quote]”Perfectly reasonable acts by one country can be interpreted as hostile acts by another country. Guns and bombs are not needed to create an impression of war.

And if one country’s innocent act is a shock to another country and is viewed as hostile by that country, and if the people of that country are in a mood for retribution rather than compromise, than they may well look for a way to retaliate.

In that sense, the enactment of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in June 1930, can be viewed as the first of the shocking, provocative acts that led to World War II.

The Act was opposed by an enormous number of economists as being harmful to everyone, but it was very popular with the public, because of the perception that it would save American jobs. …

Interestingly, the Smoot-Hawley Act is still debated by politicians today, with regard to whether it caused or aggravated the Great Depression or had no effect. …

Those discussions are entirely America-centric because, for the purposes of this book, it makes no difference whatsoever whether or not the Act aggravated the American depression. We’re interested in the effect it had on foreign nations.

And the effects were enormous. The bill erected large trade barriers for numerous products, with the intention of saving American jobs. How many American jobs it saved, if any, is unknown, but it virtually shut down product exports to the United States. Both Germany and Japan were going through the same financial crisis America was going through, and they were furious that America as a market was closed to them.

Japan was the hardest hit. The Great Depression was hurting Japan just as much as it was hurting America but, in addition, Japan’s exports of its biggest cash crop, silk, to America were almost completely cut off by the Smoot-Hawley Act. Furthermore, Japan would have been going through a generational change: The country had undergone a historic revolution some 70+ years earlier, culminating in a major change of government (the Meiji Restoration) in 1868, and the people who had lived through that revolution would be dead or retiring by the early 1930s.

So one thing led to another, and in September 1931, almost exactly a year after Smoot-Hawley, Japan invaded Manchuria and later northern China. Britain and American strongly protested this aggression, and Roosevelt finally responded with an oil embargo against Japan.

This is the usual pattern of provocative acts on both sides. America saw Smoot-Hawley as its own business, but to Japan it was a hostile shock. Japan saw the Manchuria invasion as “Asian business,” while Britain and America saw it as attacking their own Asian interests. Roosevelt saw an oil embargo as a measured response of containment, while energy-dependent Japan saw it almost as an act of war, eventually triggering Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Japan wasn’t the only country affected, of course. England, Germany, Italy, and many other countries were hit hard by the sudden trade barriers with America. Just like in Japan, nationalistic and militaristic feelings were aroused in many countries.

Germany was especially frustrated. The map of Central Europe had been redrawn some 70 years earlier during a series of wars in the 1860s, culminating in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, and the unification of Germany in 1871. The Great War (WW I) had been a mid-cycle war for Germany, and had been a humiliating defeat, especially because the American and British led Allies had imposed harsh conditions — the loss of some German-speaking territories, and the payment of reparations. The loss of territories was especially provocative, since it partially reversed the German unification of 1871.

Germany was reaching the point where it was going to explode anyway, when the Smoot-Hawley Act was passed. On top of the reparations, the Act was seen as enormously hostile by the Germans. As in Japan, it gave rise to militaristic nationalism in the form of the rise of the Nazis. Germany remilitarized its border with France in 1936, and then annexed German-speaking parts of Eastern Europe in 1938.

So when did World War II start? It depends on what the word “start” means, but an argument can be made that America had started the war, and that the first act of war was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.”[End quote]

I wrote the above in 2003, so it should not surprise anyone that today I consider the proposed “border adjustment tax” to be a very dangerous idea.

A recent blog post by economists at the New York Fed will have little effect on either imports or exports, which means little effect on revenue or jobs. But whether or not that’s true is irrelevant to this discussion.

As in the case of the Smoot-Hawley bill, the main issue is not the effect on the US, but the effect on other nations. Any such border tax would quickly raise nationalist feelings in other nations. There would be retaliatory tariffs enacted in other countries. Some countries might be severely damaged economically, and even if they’re not, they would blame any economic problems they have on the American tariffs, and might look for even more far-reaching forms of retaliation.

Some people might argue that the proposed “border adjustment tax” is so small and so limited that it couldn’t possibly have such a negative effect. Once again we can look to history to see whether that’s true. According to an article in the June 21, 1930, issue of The Economist:

[Begin quote]”The signature by President Hoover of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Bill at Washington is the tragi-comic finale to one of the most amazing chapters in world tariff history, and it is one that protectionist enthusiasts the world over would do well to study. The reason for tariff revision was a desire to restore a balance of protection which had been tilted to the disadvantage of the agriculturalist. But so soon as ever the tariff schedules were cast into the melting-pot of revision, log-rollers and politicians set to work stirring with all their might, and a measure which started with the single object of giving satisfaction to the farmer emerges as a full-fledged high tariff act in which nearly 900 duties have been raised, some extravagantly. Such is the inevitable result of vested interests working through political influence, ending in signature by a president, antagonistic to the bill, under compulsion of political necessities.”[End quote]

So the original Smoot-Hawley bill was to be very small, just providing a little protection to farmers, but once the door was opened, the bill exploded.

The same thing would happen today. Congress would be inundated with high-paid lobbyists from all sorts of industries demanding that their products be “protected” by the border adjustment tax. History tells us that that the final bill would be a hodge-podge of special interests and industries, with few winners but lots of losers, and a great deal of nationalistic fury in many other countries.

The proposal for even a “small” border adjustment tax starts us down a path that can lead to the same kind of disaster that the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act caused. New York Fed Blog and Economist (18-Dec-2008) and Economist (21-Jun-1930) and History Hub and Generational Dynamics – Forecasting America’s Destiny (PDF)

13-Feb-17 World View — After Syria’s so-called ceasefire, tensions grow over the future of Bashar al-Assad

by John J. Xenakis

This morning’s key headlines:

  • Hezbollah keeps on fighting, but says it will honor Syria ceasefire
  • Tensions grow over the future of Bashar al-Assad

Hezbollah keeps on fighting, but says it will honor Syria ceasefire

On Sunday, Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, gave a major televised speech to his followers insisting that Hezbollah fully supported the ceasefire agreement that had been negotiated three weeks ago by Russia, Iran and Turkey. He said that he was responding to reports in the Arab press that there were major disagreements between Iran and Russia, and claimed that he wanted the forces of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad to keep on fighting, and to continue to eliminate as much of the Sunni population as possible. Nasrallah contradicted those reports in his televised speech:

“We [support] an agreement that ends the bloodshed and paves way for a national reconciliation [in Syria]. Hezbollah and Iran support the ceasefire, the reconciliation, and the political settlement in Syria, while some Arab states are still backing the military option.

Hezbollah strongly supports, not just the Astana ceasefire, any ceasefire agreed upon in Syria [in order to] prevent bloodshed and pave the way for political solutions.”

Nasrallah was referring to the peace talks that were held last month in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan.

Nonetheless, there is currently no ceasefire. Hezbollah forces took the lead in fighting in the region called Wadi Barada in the suburbs of Damascus, under control of anti-Assad rebels who are theoretically supposed to be protected by the ceasefire agreement. According to Nasrallah, Hezbollah is continuing to fight “terrorists” in Syria.

In fact, none of the groups fighting in Syria — Iran, al-Assad, Hezbollah, Russia, Turkey — is honoring the ceasefire. The next round of peace talks is scheduled for February 20.

As I’ve been writing for years, Generational Dynamics predicts that in the approaching Clash of Civilizations world war, China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries will be on one side, and the US, Russia, India and Iran will be on the other side.  Reuters and Press TV (Tehran)

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Tensions grow over the future of Bashar al-Assad

Reports of disagreements between Russia and Iran began with last month’s Astana peace talks because they didn’t go as plan. There was sharp disagreement over the participation of the United States in the negotiations, which Russia favored and which Iran considered to be unacceptable.

The final statement produced by the Astana talks called for a ceasefire, but no Syrians were party to the statement, as it was signed only by Turkey, Iran and Russia. The negotiators for the anti-Assad rebels wouldn’t sign it unless it called for al-Assad to step down. Al-Assad’s negotiators wouldn’t sign it because they objected to Turkey’s participation, and to Turkish forces in northern Syria where they’re fighting ISIS.

The catalyst for all these disagreements is al-Assad himself.

The anti-Assad rebels want him gone. The Turks want him gone too, but are willing to put up with him if it means an end to the Syrian war. The Russians want their military bases to lie within a stable Syria, but they’re not tied to al-Assad, and are willing to consider having him step down at some time in the near future.

But Iran is adamant that al-Assad must stay, and cannot even be replaced by someone with similar policies. According to one analysis, the cause springs from the fact that Iran is quite isolated in the region, as the only Shia Muslim state, but surrounded by Sunni Muslim and Christian states. Thus, Iran is forced to rely on non-state alliances — the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, the Badr Organization in Iraq, Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and Shia/Alawite Bashar al-Assad in Syria — forming the “Shia Crescent.” According to this analysis, if Iran is not completely loyal to al-Assad, then all the other non-state groups in its coalition will receive a signal that they’re expendable as well, which would destabilize the entire coalition. Instead, Iran sees that it must remain completely loyal to al-Assad, and Hezbollah militias must remain in Syria to protect Iran’s interests there — including from the Turks and the Russians.

During the peace talks in Astana, Turkey demanded that Hezbollah’s militias be pulled out of Syria, and Iran rejected that demand for the reasons just given.

In fact, according to Debka, Iran is planning for a much more aggressive role for Hezbollah in Syria. As long-time readers know, I like to reference Debka’s subscriber-only newsletter (sent to me by a subscriber), which is written from Israel’s point of view, because they have military and intelligence sources that provide valuable insights. However, as usual, I have to warn readers that they definitely do get some things wrong. The information that I’m presenting here from their newsletter is not confirmed by any other sources I’ve seen, but it’s generally consistent with other reports.

According to the newsletter, Iran is developing an “unacknowledged cold war” with Russia, by taking control of assets within Syria that give it enough influence to challenge both Russia and al-Assad. Some of these steps are as follows:

  • The National Defense Force (NDF) militia has been set up to draw in the poor, jobless and forgotten elements of Syrian society by lavishing on them wealth and influence far beyond the wages of Syrian army regulars.
  • The Hezbollah militias have been given a clandestine task: Winning young Syrians over to join them instead of the Syrian army. In this way, Iran is sapping the central regime’s authority and boosting Iranian influence in Damascus.
  • Iranian agents have bought up blocks of Syrian real estate, mainly in Damascus, and has been licensed as operator of Syria’s mobile phone service.
  • Iran has increased the number of Shia holy places in Damascus and Homs in keeping with the massive displacement of Sunni populations as refugees.

According to the newsletter, Iran can use these assets as leverage in any future peace negotiations for Syria, in order to guarantee that its interests are fully protected.  The National (UAE, 28-Jan) and Reuters (25-Jan) and Middle East Eye and Debka

15-Jan-17 World View — Poland welcomes biggest deployment of American tanks and troops in decades

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Poland welcomes biggest deployment of American tanks and troops in decades
  • US troop deployment in Poland angers Russia

Poland welcomes biggest deployment of American tanks and troops in decades

Prime Minister of Poland Beata Szydlo and Maj. Gen. Jaroslaw Mika, commander of Poland's 11th Armored Cavalry Division, conduct a review of U.S. and Polish troops during an official ceremony in Zagan, Poland (DVIDS)
Prime Minister of Poland Beata Szydlo and Maj. Gen. Jaroslaw Mika, commander of Poland’s 11th Armored Cavalry Division, conduct a review of U.S. and Polish troops during an official ceremony in Zagan, Poland (DVIDS)

People across Poland are celebrating “Operation Resolve,” the arrival to Poland the largest US military deployment to Europe in decades. The deployment includes about 4,000 troops and also 2,400 pieces of military equipment, including tanks and Humvees.

The deployment is a reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. Other countries in eastern Europe are concerned that they will be the next victim of a Russian invasion, and it’s hoped that the presence of US troops will deter Russia.

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said,

“Welcome to Poland. … The presence of American soldiers in Poland is another step in our strategy to ensure safety and security for Poland and the region. …

It’s a great day today when we can welcome, here in Zagan, American soldiers who represent the best, the greatest army in the world.”

Poland’s Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said:

“We have waited for you for a very long time. We waited for decades, sometimes feeling we had been left alone, sometimes almost losing hope, sometimes feeling that we were the only ones who protected civilization from aggression that came from the east.”

The American troops will be part of a Nato contingent that will include troops from Britain and Canada. The troops will be rotated every nine months through Poland, the Baltic countries, Bulgaria and Romania in order to provide a technical workaround to a promise made to Moscow after the fall of the Soviet Union that Nato would not permanently base large numbers of forces east of Germany. Deutsche Welle and CNN and AFP

US troop deployment in Poland angers Russia

Russia’s president Vladimir Putin is always calling everyone he dislikes “Nazis” and “Fascists,” but he doesn’t like to admit that Russia’s were also “Nazis and Fascists” prior Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Russia. Hitler and Josef Stalin had signed a treaty (the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact) in 1939 where they split up Poland between them. The agreement also divided Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Romania between the Nazis and the Communists. It was only in 1941, when the Nazis invaded Russia, that Stalin finally learned being a Nazi is not a good thing. Even so, after Hitler was defeated, Stalin’s Soviet forces occupied Poland and other east European countries for decades.

These events are far ancient history to today’s young generations in America and Western Europe, but they’re still very raw memories to the people of Poland and other East European countries. They’ve seen Russia invade and annex parts of Georgia and Ukraine, and they have no doubts that Russia would invade their countries, as has happened in the past.

Putin press spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the US troops in Poland would be “a threat to Russia’s national security.”

It’s hard to believe that 5,000 American troops would be a threat to Russia’s security, inasmuch as Russia has something like 330,000 troops along its western border. Furthermore, Russia has long-range Iskander cruise missiles in Kaliningrad that can be made nuclear.

The US deployment is being described as a “tripwire” force, designed to prevent Russia from getting away with an easy invasion of some other country, as they did with Georgia and Ukraine. It’s thought that Russia would not be willing to risk a larger war by attacking an American force of any size.

Russian military expert Vladimir Kozin says that another reasons for the deployment is that outgoing President Obama wants to box in Donald Trump:

“According to the German military, some 900 railroad cars will be needed to deliver all this equipment to the deployment sites. But what is the reason? First, [US President Barack] Obama wants to play a mean trick on President-elect Donald Trump who won the election.”

It’s worth mentioning that there’s one other possible theory why Obama did this in the last few days of his administration: It’s possible that Trump asked Obama to do it before leaving office, so that he wouldn’t have to do it.

Kozin said that the deployment is unprecedented since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that the US is forcing Europe to accept it:

“Finally, the US wants to maintain tensions around the world and particularly in Europe. They want to turn the region into another tinderbox ready to ignite. This number one priority. …

The US and NATO plan to increase aerial, anti-submarine, missile defense and intelligence activities with the use of heavy military equipment. In order to justify sanctions, the situation needs to be tense all the time. Europe is becoming a prisoner of this new Cold War initiated by Obama.”

Sputnik News (Moscow) and Deutsche Welle (14-Nov-2016) and Sky News

Related Articles

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Poland, Beata Szydlo, Jaroslaw Mika, Antoni Macierewicz, Operation Resolve, Ukraine, Crimea, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, Dmitry Peskov, Kaliningrad, Vladimir Kozin
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.

14-Jan-17 World View — Syria says that Israel bombed al-Mazzeh military airport near Damascus

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Syria says that Israel bombed al-Mazzeh military airport near Damascus
  • Israel’s motive was probably to prevent weapons from reaching Hezbollah

Syria says that Israel bombed al-Mazzeh military airport near Damascus

Huge explosions could be seen above the buildings of Damascus
Huge explosions could be seen above the buildings of Damascus

The Syrian army said that Israel has launched a missile strike on the al-Mazzeh military airport west of Damascus early on Friday morning. The army said it was a “flagrant attack” by Israel with the purpose of aiding the “terrorist groups” in Syria. According to the army statement:

“Syrian army command and armed forces warn Israel of the repercussions of the flagrant attack and stresses its continued fight against (this) terrorism and amputate the arms of the perpetrators.”

Syrian state television quoted the army as saying several rockets were fired from an area near Lake Tiberias in northern Israel just after midnight. The report said that the rockets landed in the military compound of the airbase, causing explosions and a large fire. Other reports were contradictory, saying that the Israeli attack was from missiles launched from Israeli warplanes.

Syria says that there have been several such attacks in the past, and that they all coincided with defeats for the armed terrorist groups in Syria, especially Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Nusra Front), which recently changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS, Front for the Conquest of Syria). Syria said that the purpose of the attack was to “raise morale” of the terrorist organizations who are attempting to overthrow the regime of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad.

Syria has sent letters to the United Nations demanding international retaliation against Israel:

“The new Israeli missile attack on Mazzeh military airport west of Damascus comes within a long series of Israeli attacks since the beginning of the terrorist war on the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of Syria which has been planned in the Israeli, French and British intelligence agencies and their agents in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and other countries that wanted to impose control and hegemony on Syria and the region.”

Iran’s media added to the charges by claiming that Israel was attempting to prevent Syria’s army from restoring water supplies to Damascus. SANA (Syria) and Jerusalem Post and Press TV (Tehran)

Israel’s motive was probably to prevent weapons from reaching Hezbollah

As is their usual practice, Israel has neither confirmed nor denied that the attack took place. Some analysts are saying that the large explosions occurred because the target of the attacks was several large weapons stores. Syria’s army was using to those weapons to attack rebels in Syria, but it’s possible that Israel believed that some of those weapons were to be transferred to Lebanon’s Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in 2006 that largely ended in stalemate. However, it’s known that Iran has been supplying rockets and other weapons to Hezbollah in preparation for the next war. Israel has taken steps where possible to prevent other weapons from reaching Hezbollah. Missiles and chemical weapons from Syria are particular concerns.

In statements to Israel’s parliament (Knesset) in December, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman described Israel’s policy in Syria:

“Israel has no interest in intervening in the civil war in Syria. Our policies and our positions are very clear and are based on three red lines: we will not allow any harm to come to Israeli citizens, we will not allow any harm to the sovereignty of the State of Israel and we will not allow the smuggling of sophisticated weapons or chemical weapons from Syria to Lebanon for Hezbollah.”

Hezbollah’s major arms supply route between Damascus and Lebanon’s border has been targeted on several occasions in recent years by Israeli air strikes. This has included strikes on warehouses and convoys of weapons. Reuters and Israel National News and Middle East Monitor

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Israel, Syria, al-Mazzeh military airport, Russia, Iran, Bashar al-Assad, Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Nusra Front, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, JFS, Front for the Conquest of Syria, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Avigdor Liberman
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.

13-Jan-17 World View — Peace conference to reunite Cyprus adjourns without a deal

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Peace conference to reunite Cyprus adjourns without a deal
  • History of Cyprus suggests that there is little hope for permanent reunification

Peace conference to reunite Cyprus adjourns without a deal

A Turkish army tank passes through the Turkish section of Nicosia in 1974. (AP)
A Turkish army tank passes through the Turkish section of Nicosia in 1974. (AP)

Negotiations in Geneva to reunite Cyprus ended on Thursday evening without a deal, but with plans to resume after January 18.

Almost two years of peace talks between leaders of Greek side and the Turkish side of the island of Cyprus have led to what Europe and Turkey will be the final negotiations leading to a united Cyprus.

Cyprus has been bitterly divided since a 1974 war, with Greek Orthodox Christian Greeks governing the south, and Muslim Turks governing the north. The two sides are partitioned by a “no-man’s land,” a strip that stretches 112 miles across the entire island.

The capital city Nicosia is in the center of Cyprus and is partitioned as well. While partitions of other cities, including Beirut, Belfast and Berlin, have disappear in the last few decades, the partition remains in Nicosia.

It’s not known whether Thursday’s negotiations brought the two sides close together, but the two most difficult issues are these:

  • Security. There are 30,000 Turkish troops in northern Cyprus, to protect the Turkish population from the Greeks, a vestige of the 1974 war. The Turks would like them to remain, but the Greeks would like them to be gone. At any rate, the question of protect the Greeks from the Turks and the Turks from the Greeks would have to be resolved for a unification deal.
  • Right of Return. Many people were forced to flee across the “no-man’s land” border during the 1974 war, and had to give up their homes. In most cases, it was Greeks that lost their homes in this way. Questions to be negotiated are whether people can reclaim their homes, or whether they should be compensated in some way.

According to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, the talks on Thursday showed progress, but there is no “quick fix.” Cyprus Mail and AP and Cyprus Mail

History of Cyprus suggests that there is little hope for permanent reunification

Because of its strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus has been repeatedly conquered throughout history by different groups, including the Greeks, the Assyrians, the Egyptians and the Persians. It was annexed by the Ottoman Empire in 1571, but was conquered by Britain in 1878 and annexed in 1914.

Cyprus gained independence from Britain in 1960 under a power-sharing agreement between the Greeks and the Turks. Three countries — Britain, Greece and Turkey — would be responsible for guaranteeing security in the new country.

Violence erupted soon after. In 1974, Greece’s military junta backed a coup against the president of Cyprus, leading to a civil war. Turkey responded by invading northern Cyprus. About 165,000 Greek Cypriots fled or were driven from the Turkish-occupied north, and about 45,000 Turkish Cypriots left the south for the north.

Since ancient times, at least as far back as the time around 1200BC that the face of Helen of Troy launched a thousand ships, Greece and Turkey (Anatolia) have been at war repeatedly, in one of the most violent ethnic fault lines in history. Turkey’s greatest victory over Greece occurred in 1453, when the Ottoman’s conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) and destroyed the Greek Byzantine Empire. None of these wars has been forgotten by the participants. Guardian (London) and BBC

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Nicosia, António Guterres, Helen of Troy
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.

12-Jan-17 World View — Pakistan: Four secular anti-military activists vanish over the weekend

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Pakistan: Four secular anti-military activists vanish over the weekend
  • Pakistan’s army accused of dumping over 1,000 bodies in Balochistan

Pakistan: Four secular anti-military activists vanish over the weekend

Demonstrators in Pakistan rally to protest the abduction of Salam Haider and others
Demonstrators in Pakistan rally to protest the abduction of Salam Haider and others

In separate incidents, four secular anti-military activists in Pakistan have disappeared within the last few days, apparently kidnapped by the army. All of them actively post on social media, to the discomfort of the army.

Asim Saeed, who was abducted from his home in Lahore on Friday, and Ahmad Waqas Goraya, who was abducted the same day, both help run the Mochi Facebook page critical of the military.

Another man, Ahmed Raza Naseer, was taken from his family’s shop on Saturday. Naseer suffers from polio.

The disappearance on Saturday of Salman Haider, a lecturer at Fatima Jinnah Women University, was brought all four abductions to national attention. Haider frequently wrote about how troubled Pakistan’s society it, with government security forces targeting Shias and ethnic Hazaras in Balochistan. Haider also wrote about other people whom the army the abducted, and that perhaps angered the army the most.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called for country-wide protests against the abductions:

“HRCP is greatly alarmed by Waqas Goraya and Asim Saeed disappearing on January 4, Salman Haider on Friday and Ahmed Raza Naseer on Saturday. All four are known for airing their views, sometime critical of authority, extremism and intolerance, on social media.

Pakistan has never been a particularly safe country for rights activists. Many have been killed, injured, abducted and threatened for their work… The events of the last week demonstrate that the dangers already extend to digital spaces. We cannot be sure if the four cases are connected but expect that would be worth looking into as well.

Threats and violence have never deterred Pakistan’s activists from speaking their mind and flagging issues that conscious citizens must raise in a civilized society. We know that the events of the last few days, will not change that. At the same time, however, HRCP also implores the government to wake up to its obligation to provide a safe environment for human rights defenders and activists.”

The abductions seem to be working. In the last two days, several activists have closed down their online accounts.

Last year, Haider wrote a poem about the abductions. The following is a translated excerpt from the Urdu:

“Now friends of my friends are going missing,
Then it will be my friends, and then,
It will be my file [of me missing] that
my father will take to the courts.”

Unfortunately, Haider’s prediction came true on Saturday. Dawn (Pakistan) and Guardian (London) and The Diplomat

Pakistan’s army accused of dumping over 1,000 bodies in Balochistan

According to Pakistan’s Human Rights ministry, over 1000 dead bodies of suspected armed separatists and political activists have been found in Balochistan over the past six years.

The Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) says it has recorded 1,200 cases of dumped bodies and there are many more it has not been able to document. VBMP says that most of the bodies were activists who, one day, were picked up by authorities and were never seen again.

However, Pakistan’s government claims that they had nothing to do with the killings. According to one provincial official: “There are several explanations. Sometimes insurgents are killed in a gunfight with law enforcement agencies but their bodies are found later. Militant groups also fight among each other and don’t bury their dead fighters. Then there are tribal feuds, organized crime and drug mafia.” BBC and International Business Times (London) and India Times

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Pakistan, Salman Haider, Asim Saeed, Ahmad Waqas Goraya, Mochi Facebook page, Ahmed Raza Naseer, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, HRCP, Balochistan, Voice for Baloch Missing Persons, VBMP
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.

11-Jan-17 World View — China threatens Trump with ‘revenge’ over one-China policy

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Taiwan president Tsai Ing-Wen meets with Senator Cruz in Texas
  • China threatens Trump with ‘revenge’ over one-China policy

Taiwan president Tsai Ing-Wen meets with Senator Cruz in Texas

Tsai Ing-wen (standing) meets with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Sunday
Tsai Ing-wen (standing) meets with Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Sunday

Ignoring demands that the US forbid Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen from making “transit stops” in Houston and San Francisco en route to and from meetings with Central American leaders, Tsai met with both US Senator Ted Cruz and Texas Governor Greg Abbott during a stopover in Houston.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman made this statement about the visit:

“I have taken note of relevant reports. I want to reiterate that we are firmly opposed to the Taiwan leader’s contact with any US officials in any form and engagement in actions that disrupt and undermine China-US relations during the so-called transit. We once again urge relevant people from the US to abide by the one-China policy and the principles of the three Joint Communiqués, and cautiously handle Taiwan-related issues so as not to harm the overall interests of China-US relations and peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits.”

As I’ve said before, it really amazes me that the US is supposed to bow to demands from China not to speak to or meet with people that China tells us not to speak to or meet with, and yet we’re supposed to accept without question China’s right to build military bases in the South China Sea, in clear violation of international law as decided by the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague in July of last year, while annexing other countries’ territories as Hitler did just prior to World War II.

Prior to the meeting, China’s Consul General Li Qiangmin of Houston sent a letter to Cruz:

“For U.S. leaders in administration and legislature, not to make any contact with Taiwan leaders nor send any implication of support of ‘Taiwan Independence’ are in the interests of China, the U.S. and the international community. So, dear Senator, I sincerely hope that you will neither meet, nor have any contact with Tsai during her upcoming visit to Houston, and continue to play a significant role in promoting mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples of China and the U.S.”

After the meeting, Cruz issued a statement saying the US doesn’t dictate to China whom its leaders can meet with, and China should not dictate to the US:

“Shortly before our meeting, the Houston congressional delegation received a curious letter from the Chinese consulate asking members of Congress not to meet with President Tsai, and to uphold the ‘One-China policy’.

The People’s Republic of China needs to understand that in America we make decisions about meeting with visitors for ourselves. This is not about the PRC. This is about the U.S. relationship with Taiwan, an ally we are legally bound to defend. The Chinese do not give us veto power over those with whom they meet. We will continue to meet with anyone, including the Taiwanese, as we see fit.

The US-Taiwan relationship is not on the negotiating table. It is bound in statute and founded on common interests. I look forward to working with President Tsai to strengthen our partnership.”

Governor Abbott said, “It was an honor to meet with President Tsai and discuss how our two economies can expand upon our already prosperous trade partnership.” Houston Press and China’s Foreign Ministry

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China threatens Trump with ‘revenge’ over one-China policy

The “One-China Policy” states that there is one China, not two, but leaves ambiguous exactly what that means. Beijing interprets it to mean that Taiwan is province of China, to be completely governed one day by Beijing. Taiwan interprets it to mean that they are the official government of all of China. By not speaking these interpretations out loud, everyone is supposed to get along by saying “there is only one China.”

China’s politicians have made it clear that they will use military force against Taiwan and the United States if there is any threat that Taiwan will declare independence. In 2005 Beijing passed an “anti-secession law” requiring China to take military action even if Taiwan’s leadership simply makes plans or gives speeches about independence. President Tsai has refused to confirm the “1992 consensus” which is the vehicle that reaffirms the One-China policy.

Under these circumstances, it’s not surprising that China is becoming increasingly belligerent towards Taiwan. Arguably, Taiwan has already met the conditions set forth in the anti-secession law.

The reaction from China’s Foreign Ministry, quoted above, states China policy, but is fairly non-belligerent. However, an editorial in the state run Global Times promises revenge if Donald Trump abandons the one-China policy after taking office:

“The US passed bills that allow serving officers to visit Taiwan, while Chinese fighter jets patrolled around Taiwan and China’s aircraft carrier passed the island. It is widely expected that the mainland will impose further military pressure. Tsai needs to face the consequences for every provocative step she takes.

Trump is yet to be inaugurated, and there is no need for Beijing to sacrifice bilateral ties for the sake of Taiwan. But in case he tears up the one-China policy after taking office, the mainland is fully prepared. Beijing would rather break ties with the US if necessary. We would like to see whether US voters will support their president to ruin Sino-US relations and destabilize the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Beijing does not need to feel grateful to Trump for not meeting Tsai. The one-China policy is the basic principle reiterated in the three Sino-US joint Communiqués. It is also the foundation of the profound bilateral relationship. Sticking to this principle is not a capricious request by China upon US presidents, but an obligation of US presidents to maintain China-US relations and respect the existing order of the Asia-Pacific. If Trump reneges on the one-China policy after taking office, the Chinese people will demand the government to take revenge. There is no room for bargaining.”

This article threatens to break relations with the US if Trump does not reaffirm the one-China policy, and hints at unspecified military action against Taiwan.

Trump has said that his administration will review the one-China policy, but in view of the real possibility that China will end diplomatic relations, I’m going to assume that Trump will adopt the one-China policy, or some close variant.

But completely apart from anything the US administration does, it’s the attitude of the Taiwanese people that is most important. Time is not on China’s side, and Chinese officials know it, as the Taiwan’s population become more pro-independence every year. The Chinese people are highly nationalistic with regard to Taiwan, and it won’t be too much longer before Chinese officials decide that time has run out. Global Times (Beijing) and Xinhua

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen, China, Ted Cruz, Greg Abbott, Li Qiangmin, United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration, PCA, Anti-secession law
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.

10-Jan-17 World View — Thousands of migrants trapped in deep freeze temperatures in Greece and Balkans

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Thousands of migrants risk freezing to death as deep freeze spreads across Europe
  • Migrants in eastern Europe trapped in deep freeze temperatures
  • European Commission resettlement plan appears to be a disaster

Thousands of migrants risk freezing to death as deep freeze spreads across Europe

Screen grab from viral video showing migrant tents on Lesvos island
Screen grab from viral video showing migrant tents on Lesvos island

Europe’s migrant crisis has been mostly out of news since March 18 of last year, when the EU and Turkey signed their migrant deal, in which Turkey agreed to police the flow of migrants from Turkey across the Aegean Sea to Greece.

Even though it’s been out of the news, severe problems still remain. There are about 60,000 migrants still in Greece. When migrants travel from Turkey across the Aegean Sea, they usually stop at Greece’s Lesvos Island, because it’s close to Turkey, and because they’ve been welcomed by the Lesvians in the past. There are over 6,000 migrants at the Moria refugee camp on Lesvos Island, far over its capacity of 3,500, and the number is still increasing by a few dozen every day, since the Turkey blockade isn’t completely effective. About 1,000 are living in tents covered with snow.

There are 15,600 migrants on all the Greek islands put together. Last week, Greece’s Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas said:

“There are no refugees or migrants living in the cold anymore. We successfully completed the procedures for overwintering.”

So a volunteer worker posted a video showing migrants on Lesvos living in extremely harsh conditions, with no heat and their tents buckling under the heavy snow.

European Commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud called the situation “untenable,” but that the Commission was ready to help:

“We can no more dictate policy in Greece than we can in any other member state.

I have to be quite clear here, the commission is aware that the situation is untenable but we also have to be clear as I was saying that ensuring adequate reception conditions in Greece is a responsibility of Greek authorities. …

We are pursuing a dual strategy of political pressure and financial and technical support to the Greek authorities to improve the situation.”

She explained that by “political pressure,” she meant a continued series of recommendations by the EC in its reports to Greece. Greek Reporter and EU Observer and EurActiv

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Migrants in eastern Europe trapped in deep freeze temperatures

When the so-called “Balkan route” was closed to migrants last year, it left thousands of them stranded. More than 7,500 people are currently stranded in Serbia, living in overcrowded camps and informal settlements. In Belgrade, around 2,000 young people, mainly from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria are currently sleeping in abandoned buildings in the city center, while temperatures plummet to as low as -20°C (-4°F). Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Deutsche Welle and Reuters

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European Commission resettlement plan appears to be a disaster

During the first week of 2017, 373 refugees and migrants crossed the sea from Turkey to Greece, an average of 53 per day. Most arrivals were from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Most arrived on the islands Chios and Lesvos.

During the same week, 1,080 people arrived by sea to Italy, mostly as a result of Italian and European search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea. Most arrivals were from Nigeria, Eritrea, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, and Gambia, with lesser numbers from . Senegal, Mali, Sudan, Somalia and Bangladesh.

In September 2015, the European Commission adopted an “emergency relocation scheme,” whereby 160,000 refugees, mostly in Greece and Italy, were supposed to be relocated to other EU countries.

However, the program has been something of a disaster. Out of the 160,000, only 8162 people were relocated since the beginning of the scheme. Austria, Denmark, Hungary and Poland have refused to take any migrants at all. The Czech Republic has taken 12, and Slovakia has taken 9.

With the rise of far-right, anti-migrant and even anti-EU populism growing in Europe, it seems unlikely that any of these problems will be resolved soon. UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and European Commission (PDF) and Daily Sabah (Turkey)

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Greece, Turkey, Lesvos Island, Aegean Sea, Yiannis Mouzalas, Natasha Bertaud, Balkan route, Serbia, Belgrade, Hungary, European Commission, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Eritrea, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Sudan, Somalia, Bangladesh, emergency relocation scheme
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The views in this World View article are those of the author, John Xenakis, based on Generational Dynamics analyses of historic and current events, and do not necessarily represent the views of Algora Publishing.