Trump single-handedly rewrites American foreign policy in chicken scratch
US President Donald Trump redefined American foreign policy in ways that sent shockwaves across the country and the rest of the world. Ineptly handling foreign policy through his Twitter account, he alienated historical US allies as he got into wars of words with French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. NAFTA was beaten to death and later revived, but Trump continued to offend Mexico, in many ways contributing to the election of leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, to the Mexican presidency. His pro-rich economic policies saw him get into a trade war with China, which was abated on an interim period during the G20 in Argentina.
On the other hand, in moves that have sent heads of diplomats and international relations experts spinning, Trump hailed Russian President Vladimir Putin amidst a special investigation into the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russian forces in the 2016 presidential election.
Despite the CIA report that held Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud responsible for Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder in Istanbul, Trump stood and tweeted in defence of the Saudi royalty and government.
In an aberrant but potentially welcome move, he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.
2018 saw three government shutdowns in 2018, the last of which began on December 22 and was a result of Trump’s temper tantrum over financing his beloved border wall.
Call for gun control gains traction in US
Student-led movement for gun control, March for Our Lives, gained immense support throughout the country after a gunman killed 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February. Organised by student activists from Douglas High, the march took place on March 24 in Washington, D.C., and held 880 sibling events across the country and the world.
Russia flexes its muscles in Kerch and Crimea, sends Ukraine reeling
Tensions between Ukraine and Russia worsened again as the long-standing crisis between the two nations resumed with new force when Russia seized and fired on three Ukrainian naval vessels for allegedly illegally entering Russian waters in the Black Sea. The situation had worsened to such an extent that Russia had deployed its S-400 missile system in Crimea.
Relations between North and South Korea improve
Relations between North Korea and South Korea thawed. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in signed a declaration to achieve “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”, following a historic day of talks on the heavily-armed border that has separated the two neighbours for seven decades.
Brexit quagmire continues
Despite the looming March 29, 2019 Brexit deadline, no deal was reached between the UK and the EU. The deal that Brussels had approved hasn’t yet been voted upon in the British parliament. This stalemate seems to have no end in sight, and UK might be looking at a hard Brexit in 2019.
Gilet jaunes voice their economic and social discontent in France, inspire Belgium and Netherlands
Since November 17, every Saturday, France has been gripped by mass mobilisations by the “gilets jaunes” or “yellow-vests”, comprising mostly civilians protesting against the increase in fuel prices and living costs. The protests spread to Belgium and Netherlands as well. French President Emmanuel Macron’s response has largely been platitudinous.
Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder draws attention to Saudi Arabia and its atrocities in Yemen
Saudi Arabian journalist and dissenter Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal murder by Saudi intelligence and army operatives sent shockwaves across the world. He was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and the Saudi narrative around the incident changed numerous times—going from claiming ignorance of the act, to finally accepting that “rogue” elements had acted out of their own will. A CIA report and Turkish inquiry, however, found that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud had ordered Khashoggi’s execution.
With renewed attention on the Arab kingdom, the world also sat up and examined the war that Saudi Arabia is waging in Yemen.
Ireland steps into the 21st century with aplomb
While Ireland had legalised same-sex marriage by a popular vote in 2015, the Catholic nation, in a historic referendum lifted the ban on abortion in May 2018. With a 66.4% majority, the referendum repealed the Eighth Amendment which afforded unborn children the same rights as their mothers. Savita Halappanavar’s death in 2012 had been a significant catalyst of the “quiet revolution”, and for many, she became the face of the movement.
Imran Khan, the new face of Pakistan
Amidst militant violence, delay in counting, and electoral mismanagement, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan claimed victory in the general elections held on July 25. Soon after that, Khan made the first official overture to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on September 14, 2018, to revive peace talks. Despite that, no meeting took place.
The relationship saw some hope as the two countries agreed to build a corridor to allow Sikh pilgrims a smooth passage to Guru Nanak’s final resting place in Pakistan.
Global shift to far-right continues in Brazil, Italy and Hungary; Mexico emerges as an exception
Elections in Brazil, Italy, and Hungary reiterated the global move towards far-right. More than 55% Brazilian voters elected far-right populist leader Jair Bolsonaro as their new president. Nicknamed the Brazilian Trump, Bolsonaro has a history of scandals, racist comments and offensive remarks about women and the LGBT community.
Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán won the election and his party, Fidesz, won two-thirds majority in the parliament. Western officials view his style of government as a threat to the rule of law and to free press.
In Italy, the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement party (M5S) won the most number of votes, and the right-wing League party won the most number of seats. The former promised universal basic income, while the latter’s campaign exploited anxiety about immigration and economy. After dealing with a hung parliament, M5S-linked independent Giuseppe Conte was chosen as the prime minister.
Mexico, however, proved to be the exception as it elected “leftist firebrand” Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, as its president.
Journalists emerge as heroes and villains
Journalists and critics of governments all over the world continued to be persecuted and targeted by powers that be as fake news and post-truth became the unwanted buzzwords. So much so that, Time magazine went ahead with a tribute to late Saudi journalist and the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, whose premeditated murder in October exposed the constant threat that journalists and dissenters face around the world.
The US-based magazine named three other journalists and a newspaper as its 2018 Person of the Year for standing up for the truth in the face of persecution and violence. They included embattled Philippine journalist and CEO of Rappler Maria Ressa; Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo who have been unlawfully detained in Myanmar for nearly a year; and the newsdesk of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where five people were shot and killed at the newspaper’s offices in June.
On the other hand, one of Germany’s leading news magazines Der Spiegel apologised for award-winning staff writer Claas Relotius who had allegedly “falsified articles on a grand scale and even invented characters” in more than a dozen stories that he had worked on over a seven-year period.
FIFA World Cup
The FIFA World Cup, hosted by Russia, saw a tiny country, Croatia’s rise to the top, and a racially diverse France take the trophy home. Since its inception in 1930, this was the first iteration of the tournament whose semi-final did not include either Germany, Argentina, or Brazil.
Luka Modrić’s powerful performance won him the Ballon d’Or ending the duopoly of Ronaldo and Messi, who have, between them, won every single Ballon d’Or since 2007.
The 21st Commonwealth Games were held in Gold Coast, Australia. Mary Kom became the first Indian woman boxer to win a gold in the Commonwealth Games, as Saina Nehwal beat P.V. Sindhu in the final match to win the gold medal. Australia dominated the medal tally, winning a total of 198 medals, followed by England and India at 136 and 66, respectively.
Aditi Agrawal is a senior sub editor at Qrius.
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