World Affairs

World Affairs
▪ 2004

Dominating the international scene in 2003 were the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the worldwide reaction to the invasion, which occurred without the sanction of the UN Security Council; the ouster of Charles Taylor in Liberia; the introduction of a “road map” for peace in the Middle East; the SARS outbreak and the rampant increase in HIV/AIDS infections and deaths; and the continued search for former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and terrorist Osama bin Laden.

United Nations
      Although the occasion passed largely unnoticed, 2003 marked the 60th anniversary of the actual launching of the United Nations system. Meeting in Hot Springs, Va., in May 1943, the 44-member states of the United Nations alliance founded the United Nations Interim Commission on Food and Agriculture—later to be christened the Food and Agriculture Organization. Even though this anniversary of sorts passed without fanfare, the UN system occupied centre stage on the international scene during much of 2003. The UN Security Council served as the forum of choice for debates over the situation in Iraq and the subsequent U.S.-led invasion and occupation of that country. Concern voiced by the administration of U.S. Pres. George W. Bush about the irrelevance of the UN proved to be greatly overstated, as subsequent events demonstrated that the UN continued to be the world's most widely accepted source of international legitimacy. Even the Bush administration came to realize that building permanent peace and stability in Iraq was not possible without the assistance of the world body. (See Special Report (What Ails the UN Security Council? ).) On another important front, the World Health Organization (WHO) quickly responded to the outbreak of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and successfully coordinated an effective global response. (See Health and Disease: Special Report (What's Next After SARS? ).)

The U.S.-Led Invasion of Iraq.
      The year was a defining moment in U.S.-UN relations. The Bush administration disregarded the UN and the international legal norms on which it is based and on March 19 launched a preemptive war on Iraq. With the stated purpose of countering an Iraqi buildup of weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi support for al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks, the U.S. and the U.K. attempted to pressure other members of the UN Security Council into legitimizing the invasion. The sole superpower and its several allies in the action argued that since Iraq was in material breach of several previous Security Council resolutions, they had the implicit authority to go to war and even to launch a cruise-missile attack in an attempt to assassinate the Iraqi head of state—despite the fact that this action itself was in violation of the UN Charter and international law.

      Although Bush declared the official end to the U.S.-led war on May 1, violence and insecurity continued to persist. The Security Council voted on May 22 to lift economic sanctions against Iraq, cede wide-ranging authority to the U.S. and the U.K. over governing Iraq, and authorize a new role for the UN in rebuilding the war-ravaged nation. As instructed by the Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan shortly thereafter appointed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sérgio Vieira de Mello as a special representative for Iraq with independent responsibilities for coordinating UN activities and assisting the Iraqi people. On August 19 Vieira de Mello (see Obituaries (Vieira de Mello, Sergio )) and at least 21 other UN staff members were killed in the bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad.

      After intensive negotiations, on October 16 the members of the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1511, which expanded the UN role in the transition process to self-governance in Iraq and authorized a U.S.-led multinational force “to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq, including for the purpose of ensuring necessary conditions for the implementation of the timetable and programme as well as to contribute to the security of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the Governing Council of Iraq and other institutions of the Iraqi interim administration, and key humanitarian and economic infrastructure.” Furthermore, the resolution underscored the temporary nature of the U.S.-occupation Coalition Provisional Authority and asked the Iraqi Governing Council to provide the Security Council with a timetable and work program for drafting a new constitution for Iraq and for holding democratic elections.

      The administration of the “oil-for-food” program, which had been established in 1995 to permit the Iraqi government to sell oil under UN supervision in order to purchase food and humanitarian supplies while the country was under sanctions, was officially transferred to the Coalition Provisional Authority and U.S.-appointed Iraqi officials on November 22.

      After having eluded U.S.-led occupation forces for many months, former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (see Biographies (Hussein, Saddam )) was captured on December 13 outside his ancestral hometown of Tikrit.

      After the first confirmed cases of SARS were reported in Vietnam and China in February, WHO quickly moved into action, issuing a global health alert on March 12 and later a number of travel advisories. Underpinning this rapid response was the newly established Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network, which electronically linked 112 existing public-health networks worldwide. This capability was buttressed in May when WHO launched an initiative to build more effective linkages between local and global public-health surveillance, epidemiology, and response systems. Also, in partnership with the World Economic Forum's Global Health Initiative, WHO moved to mobilize the financial and other resources needed for the SARS campaign. WHO member states voted unanimously in May at their annual World Health Assembly (WHA) to expand WHO's powers, permitting WHO officials to take certain kinds of actions to respond to global health crises even if individual states did not approve or invite the action. In November WHO hosted the Consultation on SARS Vaccine Research and Development in Geneva to review progress and identify ways to hasten the development of a SARS vaccine.

      On November 18 the UN Security Council convened a special meeting to focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS, the fourth leading cause of death in the world. A record three million people reportedly died of AIDS during the year, and an estimated five million people were thought to have newly acquired the HIV syndrome. On December 1, World AIDS Day, WHO and UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) announced an initiative to help three million people get access to AIDS medicines and antiretroviral treatment by the end of 2005. The “3 by 5 initiative” sought to develop standardized approaches to delivering antiretroviral therapy; ensure effective and reliable supplies of medicines and diagnostic equipment; identify, disseminate, and apply new knowledge and successful strategies; provide rapid and sustained support for countries in need; and promote more effective global leadership, strong partnerships, and advocacy.

      On May 13 WHO, UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Rotary International announced a new Global Polio Eradication Initiative to wipe out the disease by 2005. Finally, the WHA voted unanimously on May 21 to adopt WHO's first international treaty, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The purpose of the convention was to curb cigarette smuggling, regulate tobacco advertising, and reduce secondhand-smoke-related health problems. The leaders of 79 states and the EU signed the convention, and, as of December 1, five countries had ratified and become full parties to the accord.

International Law.
      The United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime entered into force on September 29 and became the first international legal instrument against this type of crime. It dealt with a broad range of issues, including corruption, money laundering, extradition laws, obstruction of justice, and crime prevention. More than 140 countries signed the convention, and, as of the date of entry into force, more than 50 countries had ratified the agreement.

      As of January 1, there were more than 20.6 million “persons of concern” who fell under the mandate of the UN High Commission for Refugees, as compared with 19.8 million the previous year. Half of these persons of concern were officially classified as refugees. (See Social Protection: International Migration (Social Protection ).)

Digital Divide.
      In an effort to address concerns regarding cultural norms, linguistic diversity, local governance capacity, and numerous other dimensions of basic human security, the UN initiated the two-stage World Summit on the Information Society. The first phase was convened on December 10–12 in Geneva, and the second phase was to be held in Tunis, Tun., in 2005.

      The World Trade Organization's (WTO's) negotiating round in Cancún, Mex., abruptly ended on September 14 as ministers from rich and poor countries failed to reach agreement on proposals for facilitating trade, governing investment, and bringing about greater transparency in government procurement. Although some progress seemed to have been made in negotiations over certain specific agricultural subsidies, such as those for cotton, the overall negotiations floundered. On a more positive note, in August an agreement was reached in the WTO that authorized approval for the countries most affected by life-threatening diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, to import generic versions of patented medications made in other countries while paying a small royalty to the patent holder.

      The WTO moved closer to universality on September 11 when WTO ministers meeting in Cancún approved membership for Cambodia and Nepal, the first less-developed countries to join the organization through the full working-party negotiating process. Once the two respective governments ratified the terms of the agreement, the WTO membership would stand at 148.

Peace Operations.
      In mid-2003 there were more than 42,000 military and civilian police serving in 11 active UN peace operations—in Georgia, Kosovo, Cyprus, Lebanon, Western Sahara, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Iraq and Kuwait, Syria, and East Timor (Timor-Leste). The UN Mission of Support in East Timor, generally viewed as one of the UN's most successful peace operations, continued to train police and strengthen the judicial system in the UN's newest member state.

      Africa, where two-thirds of all UN peacekeeping troops were based, again dominated the agenda of the Security Council, which on September 19 adopted Resolution 1509, establishing UNMIL (UN Mission in Liberia). This operation was designed to support the implementation of a cease-fire agreement; protect UN staff, facilities, and civilians; support humanitarian and human rights activities; and assist in police training and the formation of a new, restructured military. Reviewing the situation in early December, the Security Council decided to continue its arms and trade embargo against Liberia.

      In regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, on November 19 the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the “road map” to peace in the Middle East and calling for “an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism, provocation, incitement and destruction.”

Personnel, Budget, and Membership.
      The United Nations continued to experience strained financial circumstances. As of late November, the organization's main budgets were all projected to end the year in deficit. It was estimated that the regular budget would end the year $12 million in debt and the peacekeeping budget $1.18 billion in debt unless member states paid their overdue legal assessments by year's end. Nearly one-third of the UN member states had not paid their dues in full. The United States was the largest single debtor, owing near year's end $280 million to the regular budget. Fortunately, several other large member states were willing to make payment in advance for their own annual assessments for the forthcoming year. In the context of a decade of no-growth budgets and growing pressures on the UN's modest resources, Annan submitted the 2004–05 biennial budget, requesting a slight increase to $3.06 billion. The budget contained additional resources for development financing, the special needs of Africa, drug control, human rights, and crime prevention. On the other hand, the 2003–04 peacekeeping budget adopted by the General Assembly in June represented a significant reduction from the previous year—$2.17 billion compared with $2.6 billion—mostly owing to the termination of the UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the downsizing of operations in Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, and Lebanon.

      Interestingly, the 2004–05 biennial budget proposed by the secretary-general did not include funds for increasing the security of UN mission-staff personnel. In addition to the at least 22 UN civilian staff members killed in the August terrorist bombing in Baghdad, 5 other UN mission staffers were killed during the period from July 1, 2002, to June 30, 2003. Other forms of violence against UN staff were also on the rise. During that same period, 14 mission staff were victims of hostage taking, kidnapping, and sexual assault, and there were 258 reported cases of assault, 168 incidents of harassment, 83 incursions into UN compounds, 270 violent attacks on UN and nongovernmental-organization compounds and convoys, and 550 incidents of theft.

      Having withdrawn from the international agency in 1984 over ideological and substantive differences, the U.S. officially rejoined UNESCO on October 1. The U.S. action, combined with the entrance of East Timor, brought the total number of member states in the world body to 190.

      Although no new member states were admitted to the UN during 2003, Switzerland and East Timor settled into their newly occupied seats, and the Vatican, an independent state since 1929, made public that it was contemplating officially joining the world body. For the 11th time, Taiwan was rebuffed in its bid for membership.

      The crisis in Iraq not only thrust the United Nations into the global spotlight but also highlighted the need to bolster the UN's credibility, make its structures more representative of the international community, and reform the Security Council to reflect more closely the geopolitical realities of the contemporary world. A panel of high-level experts was appointed with the mandated task of presenting recommendations for reform to the 59th General Assembly in 2004.

Roger A. Coate

▪ 2001


United Nations
      When U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, one of the UN's severest critics, addressed the UN Security Council on Jan. 20, 2000, his words struck most delegates as hostile: “If the United Nations respects the sovereign rights of the American people, and serves them as an effective instrument of diplomacy, it will earn and deserve their respect and support. But a United Nations that seeks to impose its presumed authority on the American people, without their consent, begs for confrontation and . . . eventual U.S. withdrawal.” Americans, Helms said, were moving away from “supranational institutions” and wanted no part of “utopian” international arrangements. Nearly every member of the Council rebutted Helms after he had finished. Ambassador Alain Dejammet of France remarked, “We hear you, but the idea in this house is that others must be heard as well.”

      After Helms praised the “Reagan doctrine” for bringing freedom and democracy to the world without UN help or approval, Ambassador Martin Andjaba of Namibia rejoined that the doctrine had denied independence to Namibia, supported apartheid in South Africa, empowered the UNITA rebel movement in Angola, and caused suffering in Africa. Others criticized Helms for equating treaties with loss of sovereignty and for presuming that the U.S. could decide unilaterally whether to pay its UN dues.

      On March 30 Security Council members visited Washington, D.C., and condemned the “ambivalent” leadership in the U.S. and its restrictions on UN finances. Replying to charges that the UN was an overbloated bureaucracy, Canadian Ambassador Robert R. Fowler responded that the UN Secretariat numbered only 8,000, while the U.S. Congress had 30,000 employees. “We have overlap and duplication,” he said, “and so do you.” In May the U.S. General Accounting Office praised Secretary-General Kofi Annan's administration for having improved UN management and placed the responsibility for many UN shortcomings upon the General Assembly's vague directives, resulting from the inability of member states to agree.

      In early April Annan laid out an “absurdly ambitious” program for a millennium assembly. Besides reiterating the need for environmental protection, military interventions to halt genocide and mass murder, and curbs on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Annan praised imaginative efforts that states, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector were making to fight poverty and disease. He challenged UN members to cut in half the number of those people whose income was less than a dollar a day and who did not have safe drinking water. He endorsed a World Bank goal to improve the lives of 100 million slum dwellers by 2020 and suggested cooperation with the pharmaceuticals industry to develop an affordable vaccine against AIDS and to reduce HIV infection rates among young adults by 25% in 10 years. He acknowledged that corrupt and authoritarian governments opposed these goals, but he hoped that developed countries would help by dropping trade barriers against exports from less-developed countries. He proposed that the UN establish an Information Technology Service to train less-developed countries to use the Internet for quick access to current medical information. Many of Annan's proposals were adopted at the September 6–8 UN Millennium Summit in New York, the largest gathering of national leaders ever held. Annan praised their response to the summit's agenda—to chart a new course for humanity.

War Crimes.
      On January 31 UN investigators implicated Indonesia's military command and militia in a systematic campaign of terror and killings in East Timor (a former Indonesian province) in 1999 and recommended establishing an international tribunal to prosecute them. Indonesia insisted that it could conduct its own trials. Annan said that if Indonesia could conduct hearings and a trial fairly, there might be no need for an international tribunal, but on November 23 Mary Robinson, high commissioner for human rights, said that she had not ruled out convening an international tribunal if Indonesia did not follow through.

      After long negotiations Cambodia and the UN compromised on April 29 to create an international court to try former Khmer Rouge leaders. In addition, foreign judges would be allowed to bring independent indictments. On May 24 the UN conceded to Cambodia the right to appoint one of two prosecutors, either of whom would be allowed to proceed with a case unless a five-judge panel (three appointed by Cambodia, two by the UN) objected.

      In May Annan endorsed the concept of an international criminal court, based on a treaty signed in Rome in July 1998, and on June 9 France became the first Security Council member to ratify the agreement. Altogether 139 states had signed the treaty. On December 31, the last day on which the draft treaty was open to signature, both the U.S. and Israel signed, thus making it possible for them to participate in revising the text.

      Though the Security Council voted unanimously on August 14 to establish a war crimes tribunal for Sierra Leone, it was left to Secretary-General Annan to recommend the details governing the court and to decide upon its composition and functions. The final plan, sent to the Security Council on October 5, gave the tribunal jurisdiction over anyone 15 or older but classified those between the ages of 15 and 18 as juvenile offenders, to be tried by a separate chamber and, if found guilty, to be sentenced to community service and to have arrangements made for foster care, training, and other forms of rehabilitation.

      The Security Council met on January 10 to discuss for the first time a worldwide health epidemic, AIDS. It asked the U.S. Congress to appropriate $150 million for AIDS research and prevention programs in Africa. On November 24 the UN calculated that 21.8 million people had died from AIDS and that an additional 36.1 million were infected with the HIV virus.

      Carol Bellamy, the director of UNICEF, in mid-July called on countries and international institutions to launch a “war of liberation” against HIV in southern Africa, where 24.5 million of the 34 million carriers of the HIV virus lived.

Human Rights.
      After the U.S. stopped opposing the proposal to set 18 as the minimum age for sending soldiers into combat, negotiators in Geneva agreed on January 21 to prohibit the use of child soldiers in war. Signatories could continue recruiting young people at the age of 17 but would take “all feasible measures” to keep them out of combat until they reached 18. The protocol would also prohibit the drafting of persons younger than 18 and raise the minimum age for volunteers to above 15.

      Australia was so offended by criticisms from several UN committees concerned that the country's 430,000 Aboriginals suffered discrimination in employment, housing, health care, and education that it undertook an internal review of the UN committee system in March; in August it announced restrictions on visits to Australia by representatives of UN human rights bodies and refused to sign a UN convention aimed at eliminating discrimination against women.

      The Iraqi government said on January 12 that inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) might visit the country to check on its uranium stockpiles. The inspections were the first since December 1998, when Iraq had refused to comply with laws and allow any further inspections. Later in the month Annan named Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, to head a new Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission for Iraq. Iraq received the news without protest but did not promise any cooperation, and at year's end the commission's inspectors still had not been admitted.

      The Security Council voted unanimously on March 31 to allow Iraq to import $1.2 billion in spare parts and other equipment in 2000 to rehabilitate its oil industry and to allow more oil to be pumped efficiently and safely, which thereby would enable Iraq to pay for civilian goods and public-service projects. The Security Council's sanctions committee also drafted four lists (food, pharmaceuticals, educational material, and agricultural equipment) that Iraq might purchase without committee review, although UN officials would still oversee and approve purchases.

      On June 8 the Security Council extended the “oil for food” program but refused to adopt a Chinese and Russian amendment that called sanctions the sole cause of Iraq's economic hardships. The majority of the Council pointed out that Iraq had received $8.4 billion from oil sales over the previous six months and possibly hundreds of millions more from illegally smuggled oil, and Annan said that Iraq had enough money to mitigate civilian hardships if it chose to do so. The Council dispatched an assessment team to study the condition of the people, but Iraq refused to admit it. Holes in the UN embargo against Iraq appeared with greater frequency toward the end of the year as more and more states made flights to Baghdad. Annan and Iraqi officials held “frank” conversations in Qatar during meetings of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (November 12–14) as part of an effort to break the deadlock between the UN and Iraq.

      A report by the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention revealed that Afghanistan was not only the largest opium producer in the world but was becoming a major heroin manufacturer and was thereby contributing to a rise in addiction throughout the region. In July, however, the Taliban decreed that farming poppies for heroin production was “unislamic.” The ban coincided with a UN decision to close its drug-control program in Afghanistan for lack of funding.

      On June 12 Bernard Kouchner, UN administrator in Kosovo (a province of Serbia, Yugos.), called the first year of the UN Mission in Kosovo a success, although the hatred between Serbs and Albanians there had greatly interfered with efforts to establish a civil administration. The UN had coordinated the work of the 300 private and government organizations that had provided emergency shelter, food, health care, and transport to nearly a million Kosovo Albanian refugees who had returned from exile. On October 28, 6,000 UN and local police joined NATO forces to prevent violence during the first genuinely free local elections that Kosovo had ever enjoyed. Kouchner resigned on December 8 and was succeeded by Hans Haekkerup, Denmark's defense minister.

      On February 23 the 19-nation peacekeeping force under Australian leadership that had taken control of East Timor on Sept. 20, 1999, turned over its responsibilities to a UN force. A UN civilian administration was already operating as a transitional government, and in August the UN began to appoint local leaders to important posts and to train citizens in becoming police officers, firefighters, and other public employees.

      On May 12 Secretary-General Annan said that UN peacekeeping activities needed the kind of help that the U.S. was no longer willing to provide. The U.S. was offering only to transport troops to places where they were needed, but the UN declined these offers because the U.S. rate was three times that of commercial transport.

      After negotiations that started in the beginning of the year, officials of the Democratic Republic of the Congo agreed on November 27 to allow a UN observer mission to function in the country until a peacekeeping mission could take over.

      On November 28 Annan told the General Assembly that the UN should terminate its mission in Haiti because the political situation there was too unstable.

      Fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia stopped after two years as both countries prepared to sign a cease-fire agreement on June 18 that provided a role for the UN in a 25-km (15.5-mi)-wide buffer zone in Eritrean territory. An independent commission was charged with establishing a definitive border between the two countries. In order to help ensure the safe deployment of a peacekeeping force, the UN authorized an unexploded landmine survey in September. The two nations signed a treaty brokered by the Organization of African Unity on December 12.

      After deciding that it could protect its nuclear installations effectively with other weapons, Russia announced on March 10 that it would sign the 1996 treaty banning the antipersonnel land mines that its troops had used widely in Chechnya. At a meeting in Geneva of the signatories to the global weapons pact, the U.S. proposed strengthening the provisions on land mines to extend restrictions to mines dropped from the air and to antivehicle mines in addition to antipersonnel mines. The proposals would not come into force before December 2001.

      In January the General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on states to preserve and strengthen the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and to resist pressures to build antimissile systems; the United States had indicated a desire to build such a system. The Assembly met on April 24 to discuss the issues, and Annan said that a missile-defense system “could well lead to a new arms race.” The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced n mid-May that it had given Russia until April 2002 to begin destroying its 40,000-ton arsenal of chemical weapons. The U.S., which held the second largest stockpile, had already destroyed 17% of its 32,000 tons. At the end of a monitoring conference of more than 185 nations on May 20, the five original atomic powers agreed for the first time to the unequivocal (as opposed to the ultimate) elimination of nuclear arms. Annan called the decision “a significant step forward in humanity's pursuit of a more peaceful world.”

      On the other hand, Muhammad al Baradei, director-general of the IAEA, declared that the U.S. Senate's rejection in 1999 of the proposed treaty banning nuclear tests had led authorities in other countries to believe that the U.S. was turning away from multilateral arms-control solutions. Many countries were questioning why they should accept new burdens if the U.S. was rejecting nuclear disarmament.

      On December 22, the UN tentatively agreed to the U.S. figures on dues after Ted Turner, founder of the Cable News Network and a Time Warner vice-chairman, offered to pay the $34 million shortfall for the year 2001 created by reducing the U.S. share of the UN administrative budget from 25% to 22% and its share of the peacekeeping budget from 31% to about 27%. The U.S. indebtedness to the UN stood at $1.3 billion at the end of the year. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund announced that major industrial powers agreed to forgive loans to 22 of the world's poorest countries in Africa and Latin America.

Richard N. Swift

▪ 1999

      The global recession that spread in 1998, the deepest since World War II in parts of the world, was bound to have far-ranging political consequences. All countries were affected by it, but some, by necessity, more than others. Most severely hit were the underfunded Asian economies and, as a result of declining commodity prices, countries heavily dependent on the export of raw materials such as oil. At the same time, it became abundantly clear that the international financial system that had served the world economy well since 1945 was in urgent need of reform. Consequently, international economics rather then political issues took pride of place in the deliberations of world leaders of the developed as well as the less-developed countries during the year under review.

      The immediate crisis began in Thailand in July 1997 and subsequently spread to South Korea, one of the powerhouses of the world economy; the South Korean crisis necessitated the largest intervention ever made by the World Bank. By early 1998 Malaysia was affected; its government placed the responsibility on international currency speculators. At the same time, also in the wake of an economic crisis, student unrest in Indonesia led to widespread riots, often against the ethnic Chinese, and eventually, in late May, to the resignation of President Suharto (see BIOGRAPHIES (Suharto )), who had ruled the country for more than three decades. Finally, during the spring and summer of 1998, Japan, the leading force in Asia and the second largest economy in the world, had to face the full impact of the crisis, which also led to a change of government.

      The reasons for the economic meltdown were somewhat different in each case. In Japan the banking system was heavily indebted, and the government's policy of dealing with the situation by cutting taxes and increasing spending to stimulate economic growth had only a limited effect. Elsewhere, the immediate problem was the overvaluation of the country's assets, which tempted speculators but eventually led to a sharp decline in the value of the national currencies. In most cases, however, these were not just currency crises. The basic reasons went deeper. They were structural in character and included weak banking systems; "crony capitalism," in which funds were diverted to those favoured by government leaders rather than to those most capable of using them; bad loans; investments in unproductive enterprises; and, in some countries, ineffective tax collection. These weaknesses helped to create a situation that made the economies of those nations particularly vulnerable to sudden movements of global capital such as the withdrawal of investments.

      Much thought was given to finding a way out of the crisis—in the short run by establishing rescue funds and stabilizing the currencies and the stock exchanges of the countries most affected. At meetings of heads of government in Singapore, Washington, Moscow, and elsewhere, it became clear that the international organizations established after World War II (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) did not have sufficient means to cope with this assignment and that new initiatives were needed. What was originally known as the "Asian currency crisis" had ripple effects and by late 1998 had generated a general crisis of confidence that manifested itself notably on the world's stock markets. Among the Latin-American countries, Venezuela, Colombia, and, above all, Brazil were affected by the free-market upheaval. The opening up of the Brazilian market had brought that country $45 billion in investments in 1997, but it also caused high interest rates and lost jobs, a high social cost for large sections of the population. At the year's end the challenges facing Brazil to prevent a collapse were daunting. (See The Troubled World Economy (Troubled World Economy ).)

      The political consequences of the economic crisis were only too clear in the case of Russia. The political and social equilibrium of the country had been tenuous for years, and the immediate crisis came to a head in March when Pres. Boris Yeltsin suddenly dismissed Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin because (according to the official version) his government had been lacking in "initiative and dynamism." He was replaced by a young and not-very-well-known technocrat, Sergey Kiriyenko, whose government lasted only five months. The pressures on the ruble, reflecting the weakness of the economy, resulted in a disastrous fall in the value of the currency. Massive tax evasion also continued, and the government found itself unable to service the massive loans it had received or, worse yet, pay its employees. Yeltsin, whose hold grew weaker as his health deteriorated, wanted Chernomyrdin back, but the legislature refused to give its approval, and as a compromise Yevgeny Primakov was appointed prime minister.

      The Russian crisis caused alarm in the West, both in view of its potential political repercussions and because there seemed to be no obvious solution. Pouring more money into the Russian economy would not be a long-term solution, but allowing the country to slide into chaos was equally unacceptable.

      The economic crisis mostly overshadowed political and military tensions. One exception was the explosion of five nuclear devices by the new nationalist government in India (and six more by Pakistan two weeks later). These events confirmed that nuclear proliferation was running its inexorable course. International investigations did not establish that Iraq and Iran had been building nuclear weapons, but the investigations did conclude that those countries had acquired long-distance missiles as well as nonconventional weapons. U.S. attempts to continue UN inspections of possible production of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were successfully barred by the Iraqi government.

      Major civil wars in Africa (Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone) continued their course. The innovation in these wars was the intervention in the conflicts by neighbouring countries such as Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Angola, and South Africa. In addition, there were armed conflicts in Lesotho, The Sudan, and Burundi, and for a short time full-scale war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which had formerly been close allies.

      In Europe the trend toward political success for left-of-centre parties continued with the victory in Germany of the Social Democrats over the Christian Democrats, who had been in power for 16 years. In Italy the left-of-centre government headed by Romano Prodi collapsed, but his successor was the former communist Massimo D'Alema. The military confrontations in former Yugoslavia continued, but the focus switched from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Kosovo, where the Serbian government at the end of February mounted a military offensive against Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority, who were seeking greater autonomy. Repression and fighting increased during the subsequent months as a separatist Albanian army took form, and it was only owing to severe pressure and the issuing of a NATO ultimatum that the Yugoslav government in Belgrade showed willingness to negotiate with the ethnic Albanians.

      American peace initiatives were successful in Northern Ireland. A majority of the Irish electorate voted for new constitutional arrangements that seemed to satisfy the minimum demands of the two warring sides in a conflict that had lasted for centuries. American peacemaking faced greater difficulties in its attempts to bring Israelis and Palestinians together. The accords achieved in a conference in Maryland in October helped to give fresh momentum to a peace process that had run out of steam. Given the widely differing long-term aspirations of the two sides, however, it was difficult to regard this as more than a stopgap measure in a conflict likely to endure for a long time.


▪ 1998

      The future of NATO and the European Community continued to preoccupy the diplomats during 1997. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary were invited to join the 16 NATO member states following the signing of the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security, which had been concluded earlier in the year between Russia and NATO. This resulted in the addition of 350,000 soldiers to the North Atlantic alliance, but it also involved considerable expense because of the need to modernize the armed forces of the new member nations. In some circles in the United States and, to a lesser extent in Europe, there were doubts or even opposition to enlarging NATO, partly because of isolationist trends in those countries and partly because it was suspected that broadening the alliance would mean making it less effective. Russia had accepted this step most reluctantly and had expressed violent opposition to any further expansion of NATO toward the east (including Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) even though NATO had undertaken not to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of the new members. Several pacts were signed in September concerning the implementation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks II (START-II) treaty, which provided for the dismantling of nuclear weapons systems. Also during the year Russia became a full, permanent member of the Group of Seven (G-7, now G-8) of the major economic powers.

      The movement to make a dramatic advance on the road to achieving closer European unity, including the introduction of a common European currency, made little headway. Whereas the French and Italian governments declared their support and the Germans, who had been its most steadfast advocates, continued to declare that the provisions of the Maastricht Treaty would be met fully and in time, there was growing public lethargy and even dissent. The introduction of the far-reaching reforms was predicated on certain levels of economic performance (such as a low budget deficit), which, given the poor performance of many European economies, seemed unattainable; either the stipulations of the treaty had to be watered down, which would make it less ambitious, or there had to be postponements in the timetable.

      Some observers had believed they had detected a worldwide trend away from a system of planned (or mixed) economy and from socialism, but those surmises were not confirmed by events in 1997. In Great Britain and France governments of the left won the general elections, and the "tiger" economies of East and Southeast Asia as well as Japan were doing poorly compared with their past performances. True, the socialism of the Labour Party in Britain and the Socialist Party in France had been subject to considerable erosion, but it was still a far cry from the enthusiasm for an unfettered market economy shown, for instance, by Margaret Thatcher when she was Britain's prime minister. China tried to combine strict political control with relative economic freedom; the results were mixed, marked by considerable economic advances for many Chinese on one hand and stresses and strains in the cities and the countryside on the other. Deng Xiaoping, who had been the power behind the throne even after he officially retired in 1989, died in February. (See BITUARIES (Deng Xiaoping ).) If there was a subsequent struggle for power in Beijing, it did not percolate to the outside world. The transfer of power in Hong Kong on June 30/July 1 after 156 years of British rule proceeded in an orderly fashion and held no surprises. (See Hong Kong's Return to China. (Hong Kong's Return to China ))

      As India was moving toward becoming the most populous country in the world, overtaking China in the process, it was showing a mixed balance sheet. The predictions about economic disaster, mass starvation, and increased tension with Pakistan had not come true. On the contrary, India had become one of the world's leading rice exporters, and steps were taken toward a normalization of relations with Pakistan. On the other hand, the Congress Party, which had provided leadership to India ever since the country attained independence, was further weakened; the strongly nationalist Hindu parties became increasingly powerful, and the internal tensions based on ethnic and linguistic differences persisted.

      Among the main causes of ferment in many countries in 1997 were the activities of the radical elements in the Muslim world. In Iran a relative moderate, Mohammad Khatami (see BIOGRAPHIES (Khatami, Mohammad )), was elected president with a considerable majority against a more orthodox candidate, and in Turkey Necmettin Erbakan, a leader of the conservative Muslim forces, was compelled to resign under pressure from the military. There was no major change in Iranian foreign policy, however, and radical Islamic elements continued their military attacks in Algeria as well as in Egypt and Lebanon and against Israel. The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians came to a virtual standstill under the impact of terrorist attacks and the lack of cooperation of the Israeli government. In the Afghan civil war, the Taliban forces, fanatically Islamic in inspiration, suffered some setbacks but still ruled the capital, Kabul, and large parts of the country.

      Though the situation in former Yugoslavia remained relatively stable as a result of the presence of international military forces, fissures and regroupings were already beginning to form in anticipation of their eventual departure. In central Africa the bloodshed continued in Rwanda. Pres. Mobutu Sese Seko (see OBITUARIES (Mobutu Sese Seko Koko Ngbendu wa za Banga )) was forced to step down in Zaire following the defeat of his army by opposition military forces; Laurent Kabila (see BIOGRAPHIES (Kabila, Laurent Desire )) subsequently declared himself head of state, but the conditions in the country, renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo, remained unsettled, and the killing continued, though on a smaller scale. Generally speaking, Africa remained a focus of much international concern, directed especially toward a possible governmental breakdown in Nigeria, civil wars in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, and riots in Kenya and in various West African countries. Following the negative experience of the Western attempt to restore order in Somalia, however, there was little enthusiasm by those countries to engage in similar experiments elsewhere in Africa.

      Russia in 1996 had experienced a bad year, full of forebodings concerning an imminent national breakdown. Fortunately, the worst predictions with regard to political instability and economic crisis did not come true. Violent internal dissent continued, with neocommunists and extreme nationalists often making common cause in attacking the government. The administration, nonetheless, showed greater resilience than many had expected, and there was modest progress at least in some regions of the country. The outlook was grimmer in other parts of the former Soviet Union with the exception of the Baltic countries and the oil-rich republics; economically and politically they were, at best, marking time.

      Globalization continued to be one of the main slogans in international politics, but it manifested itself mainly in economic matters, and its impact in political developments was hardly visible to the naked eye. There was only limited collaboration between nations even with regard to confronting dangers menacing all of them, such as ecological disaster, organized crime, and the international drug trade. Terrorist operations continued in many parts of the world. A peaceful settlement was found for Chechnya, and in Ireland negotiations were under way, not for the first time, between the Irish Republican Army and the Protestant loyalists of Northern Ireland. Europe, with the exception of Spain, was relatively free of terrorism, but elsewhere, especially in North Africa and the Middle East, there was a new upsurge. Attacks elsewhere, from Peru and Colombia to Sri Lanka and Kashmir, revealed that this was not a specific Muslim problem but that ethnic and religious antagonisms were likely to express themselves in guerrilla warfare and terrorism rather than in full-scale military operations, which had become too costly and too risky even for large and powerful nations.

      This article updates nuclear weapon.

      This article updates international relations.

▪ 1997

      The most striking, and potentially the most dangerous, development during 1996 was the resurgence of tensions and armed conflicts in the Middle East that had been believed contained, though not solved. While these conflicts remained localized, there was always the danger that regional disputes of this kind could develop into full-scale international wars. In the United States the administration of Pres. George Bush was belatedly criticized for not having pursued the Persian Gulf War, against Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein, to the end. Hussein continued to challenge the terms of the armistice, particularly with regard to inspection and disarmament. He had support from nations—including Russia, Japan, and some European countries—that wanted to gain reentrance to the Iraqi market. Hussein also flaunted the U.S.-controlled no-fly zone established to protect Kurdish refugees. On two occasions U.S. forces bombed Iraqi military installations. These strikes were largely symbolic, however, and did not do significant harm or deter Hussein from further military action, as was demonstrated by Iraq's intervention in the struggle between rival Kurdish groups when fighting in the Kurdistan region again flared up during the summer. With the help of Iraqi army units, forces of the Kurdistan Democratic Party took the offensive and seized Sulaymania, the second largest city of the area. In October units of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan), which were supported by Iran and, apparently, by Iranian troops, started a counteroffensive and retook Sulaymania. Fighting continued, but during September—following U.S. mediation—peace talks began.

      There was the danger that Turkey, which had experienced a Kurdish insurrection in the eastern part of the country, would intervene on a massive scale. Thus, Kurdistan presented a prime example of how a minor regional conflict contained the seeds of a bigger conflict. While neither Turkey, Iran, nor Iraq had the desire to become too deeply involved in the struggle for Kurdistan, there was the danger that events would get out of hand.

      Turkey, a member of NATO for decades, distanced itself from its traditional Western partners during the year and followed a pro-Islamic foreign policy under Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan. (See BIOGRAPHIES (Erbakan, Necmettin ).) Erbakan's attempts to establish closer ties with Islamic nations were, however, only partly successful.

      The other major Middle Eastern conflict to resurface was that between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. The murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish nationalist fanatic in October 1995 was followed in February and March 1996 by a series of suicide bomb attacks carried out by members of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. This in turn contributed to the defeat of the Labor Party under Rabin's successor, Shimon Peres, and the victory of the right-wing Likud headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. (See BIOGRAPHIES (Netanyahu, Benjamin ).) The Likud coalition was opposed to the peace process as outlined in the Oslo agreements; negotiations with Syria came to a standstill, and no significant progress was achieved in the talks with the Palestinians beyond what had already been agreed upon by the previous government. Following the opening of a tunnel in the Old City of Jerusalem, there were bloody clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces. This caused a further deterioration in the relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Militant Islamism played a central role in other world conflicts. In the civil war in Afghanistan, the Taliban, a fundamentalist group supported by Pakistan, controlled more than half of the country, including the capital, Kabul, by the end of the year.

      Islamism (and local nationalism) played an important role in the conflict with Chechnya that had bedeviled Russian politics for years. Dzhokhar Dudayev, the leader of the Chechens, was killed in fighting in April. (See OBITUARIES (Dudayev, Dzhokhar ).) Later in the year Gen. Aleksandr Lebed (see BIOGRAPHIES (Lebed, Aleksandr Ivanovich )), Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin's special adviser on security affairs, worked out an armistice with the new Chechen leaders. But in October Lebed was purged by Yeltsin (or by aides acting on behalf of the ailing Russian leader), and the future of Chechnya was again uncertain.

      Conflicts between nationalities persisted during the year, and the Balkans and the Middle East were turned into what they had once been—permanent zones of conflict. The bloodiest conflicts, however, surfaced in regions considered by most observers as backwaters of global politics, particularly in Africa (the war between the Hutu and the Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi and a conflict between Rwanda and Zaire).

      Even the bones of contention between China and its neighbours were of little consequence in a wider perspective. A more aggressive Chinese policy brought about a confrontation with Taiwan when Beijing tried to prevent the Taiwanese elections from taking place. The conflict with Japan was about the ownership of Diaoyu Dai/Senkaku, a group of tiny unpopulated islands in the China Sea of which only a few geographers had been previously aware. Such were (and are) latent nationalist passions in this and many other parts of the world, however, that a greater conflagration could not be ruled out, however intrinsically unimportant the issue at stake.

      Europe was preoccupied chiefly with internal economic and social problems, above all competitiveness, unemployment, and rising social costs. There was social unrest such as had not been witnessed for years, leading, in the case of France, for example, to mass strikes and demonstrations. Certain foreign political issues did, however, continue to occupy European policy makers. Among these was the slow movement toward greater economic integration following the ratification of the Maastricht Treaty in 1993. While opposition to a common currency became even more outspoken, the idea of achieving this goal by 2002 was not given up. At the same time, relations with the U.S. became more acrimonious in view of differences of opinion regarding armaments. By and large, the European countries were less concerned than the U.S. about the proliferation of the means of mass destruction. Nor was there full agreement about the future character of NATO. In June the foreign ministries of the NATO countries agreed in Berlin on the reform of the alliance and a closer relationship with the Western European Union (WEU); in practical terms this meant the return of France to NATO under conditions yet to be discussed in detail.

      As in past years, it was next to impossible to point to a clear trend in world politics to either the left or the right. Thus, to give but two examples, the right-of-centre Italian government was defeated in April 1996 by a left-of-centre coalition, whereas in Spain the Socialist Worker's Party, which had been in power for 14 years, lost in the general elections in March to the conservative Popular Party. In the April and May elections in India, the ruling Congress (I) Party was further weakened, and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party emerged as the strongest single party. Perhaps the most important elections were those in Russia in June and July, which Boris Yeltsin won by a fairly narrow victory over his neocommunist rival Gennady Zyuganov. (See BIOGRAPHIES (Zyuganov, Gennady Andreyevich ).) During the past two years, Russia had grown less friendly toward the outside world, even though there were no open confrontations.

      Another issue that preoccupied governments was the problem of international terrorism. While terrorist activities were not on a significantly greater scale in 1996, there was a growing awareness that with each year terrorists would have easier and wider access to weapons of mass destruction and that in the future terrorist attacks could have far more devastating effects than in the past. (WALTER LAQUEUR)

      This article updates international relations.

▪ 1996

      The crosscurrents of peace and war, of both agreement and conflict, were as much in appearance in 1995 as they had been in 1994, and it was impossible to say with certainty which of the two trends was prevailing in world politics. The agreement concluded in 1994 between the United States and North Korea concerning nuclear reactors was implemented during 1995. In May 1995, for the first time in 23 years, representatives of the British government met leaders of the Irish Republican Army in an attempt to find a solution to a conflict that had claimed thousands of victims over two decades. In March the Syrian government made it known that it would establish relations with Israel if the Golan Heights was restored to its sovereignty. More important, on September 28 in Washington, D.C., Palestinian and Israeli leaders signed an accord that scheduled an end to Israeli occupation of the main urban centres of the West Bank by March 1996. It was not clear what effect the assassination of Israel's prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin (see OBITUARIES (Rabin, Yitzhak )), would have on the continuation of the peace process. Even in former Yugoslavia a cease-fire came into being in October that effectively split Bosnia and Herzegovina more or less equally between the existing Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian government. The cease-fire followed intensification of the civil war, a Croatian offensive in the Slavonia region and in northern Bosnia, and, for the first time, NATO bombing of the Bosnian Serbs in an attempt to end their shelling of Sarajevo and to compel them to withdraw their heavy weapons from the area.

      Encouraging as such developments were, there was universal agreement that the road to peace in all these conflicts was still long and that even the achievements already gained were not secure and could be undone by the enemies of peace. Particularly in former Yugoslavia there still was danger that ethnic conflicts could turn into war between states that might involve countries that had previously stayed out of the conflict. Furthermore, old conflicts continued, such as the fighting between Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi in February and March, which led to a new exodus and thousands of victims. Also in March Turkish forces crossed the Iraqi border and in the course of a two-month campaign battled the Kurdish separatists who had launched guerrilla attacks from bases there.

      Worldwide attention was drawn to the Russian invasion of Chechnya in December 1994; fighting in the northern Caucasus lasted throughout 1995—despite a cease-fire ordered by Pres. Boris Yeltsin in June—and revealed surprising weaknesses in the morale, organization, and effectiveness of the Russian military units. The list of armed conflicts in 1995 was long; it included a war in January between Peru and Ecuador over the demarcation of their state borders, fighting between governments and nationalist separatists (as in Jammu and Kashmir), attacks by religious fanatics (in Algeria, Egypt, and Pakistan), and terrorist actions, both national and international, in the course of which sarin, a highly poisonous gas, was used by Japanese terrorists in an attack in the Tokyo subway in March.

      The United Nations played no role in the settlement of any of these conflicts except for an ineffectual one in former Yugoslavia. There was no progress on the road toward the establishment of an armed intervention force there, as Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN secretary-general, had demanded since 1992. This failure to act decisively in the Balkans further deepened the crisis of the UN, perpetuating its status as an organization without teeth, incapable of taking decisive action.

      A certain deterioration in the international climate was also felt in the relations between the great powers. China ignored appeals to improve its human rights record; it increased pressure on Taiwan and other neighbours, and relations with the United States were bedeviled by the Chinese reluctance to abide by copyright and other international trade conventions. The United States reacted by imposing temporary trade sanctions and, at the same time, practicing political appeasement. French nuclear tests in the South Pacific created worldwide protests, and anti-Western feelings in Russia spread markedly during the year. The latter development was connected in part with Western initiatives to expand NATO into Eastern Europe, a policy regarded in Moscow as a threat to Russian national security even though Russia had also been invited to join and, in any case, only a loose association had been envisaged. Generally speaking, a trend toward nationalism and populism could be observed in Russia as in Eastern Europe. The West was held responsible for the economic, social, and political failures of recent years, and there was even nostalgia for the past, in which order had prevailed and prices had been stable. The number of those who had materially benefited from reform was relatively small, which led to a backlash bound to manifest itself also in the field of foreign relations.

      Further tension was generated by the willingness of major nations to supply the technology of arms of mass destruction to rogue countries building up their arsenals to attack or, at the very least, to threaten and blackmail their neighbours. As a result of the defection of two key members of Pres. Saddam Hussein's inner circle, it became known that Iraqi preparations in this direction had been much further advanced than had been anticipated even by confirmed pessimists, and the Iranian nuclear buildup continued with undiminished speed. In Europe and North America the preoccupation with domestic affairs took pride of place, on the basis of the assumption that with all the conflicts occurring, the danger to world peace was now less than in previous decades. The assumption was correct inasmuch as military spending had declined in all major nations. It was wrong, however, in the sense that the absence of international controls made the approach of an age of conflict fought with unconventional weapons even more certain. This view also overrated the extent of international, social, and economic stability. In fact, the world order remained highly vulnerable on all levels, from the disorder of money markets and the weaknesses of many currencies and central banks to growing mass unemployment, not only in countries where it had long been endemic, as in Africa and the Middle East, but also elsewhere. Unemployment among young persons under age 25 was, with few exceptions, in the 20-30% range even in Europe, a grave portent not just for social stability but, in the long run, also for the European political and social system and for international affairs.

      A worldwide trend toward democratic systems or at least away from dictatorship had been noted in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By late 1995 this trend seemed to have come to a halt in various countries, including France, Italy, and Austria, as well as in Eastern Europe and the states of the former Soviet Union, where authoritarian parties polled more votes than before. In the Middle East religious fundamentalists preached that democracy was an abomination. There was no clear trend that could be defined as either left-wing or right-wing, rather only a feeling of discontent directed against the incumbents, be they conservatives in Britain or Socialists in France and Spain, to give but examples. The discontent was directed against a political system that provided neither economic nor political security; participation in grassroots politics and in elections declined in most parts of the world, and separatism, another frequent phenomenon in recent years, led to demands for strengthening central state power. These were primarily developments witnessed on the domestic scene, but they also were bound to affect relations between nations. The feeling of discontent led to a search for scapegoats, more likely than not to be found among minorities and foreigners. Aggressive nationalism was likely to trigger conflicts not only at home but also between states. At the very least, this negative mood was making cooperation between nations more difficult, and the movement toward greater unity, in Europe as elsewhere, came to a standstill. (WALTER LAQUEUR)

      This updates the article international relations.

▪ 1995

      Relations between the major powers remained on an even keel in 1994, but bloody conflicts in various parts of the world acted as a reminder that a stable new world order had not yet emerged. It became equally clear that the ability of the major powers to act in unison to restore peace remained as limited as in the days of the Cold War.

      The balance sheet was not all negative, however. The year witnessed the emergence of a free South Africa ruled by the majority. After the proclamation of a new constitution on Nov. 18, 1993, general elections took place in April 1994. While the National Party won in Western Cape province and the Inkatha Freedom Party in KwaZulu/Natal, the African National Congress (ANC) emerged as the overall winner, with 62% of the total vote. The ANC forces were incorporated into the South African army, and a new government under Nelson Mandela was installed. Another encouraging development was the armistice in Northern Ireland—after centuries of conflict and more than 20 years of acute terrorism.

      Following months of secret talks, the Irish Republican Army expressed its wish in August 1994 to work for a political solution, and Protestants followed suit shortly thereafter. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, deposed president of Haiti, returned in October following massive pressure on the military junta exerted by the United Nations (the Security Council having authorized a military invasion in July 1994) and, above all, the United States. His return proceeded with little bloodshed.

      There was spectacular progress in the Arab-Israeli peace process. In May 1994 Israeli forces withdrew from the Gaza Strip and Jericho, and Palestinians took control. While talks between Israel and Syria did not lead to immediate results, their positions did not seem unbridgeable in the long term. In July Jordan and Israel formally ended the state of war between them, and in October the draft of a peace treaty was initialed by King Hussein and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Israel was recognized by other Arab and North African countries, some of which had never established relations with the Jewish state and others of which had broken off relations at the time of the Six-Day War in 1967.

      There was growing tension in 1994 as North Korea refused to allow international teams to inspect its nuclear facilities. When the United States and other countries threatened sanctions, the North Koreans announced that if they were imposed, Seoul, the capital of South Korea, would become "a sea of fire." The North Koreans had previously denied the possession of nuclear bombs, but this threat seemed to suggest otherwise. Most outside observers thought that North Korea possessed such devices but was willing to negotiate to improve its desperate economic situation. Shortly before Kim Il Sung, who had ruled the country for decades with an iron hand, died on July 8 (see OBITUARIES (Kim Il Sung )), former U.S. president Jimmy Carter went on an official peace mission to work out a new inspection plan that at least temporarily defused the dangerous situation.

      The achievements of diplomacy in 1994 were by no means secure, however. It was not certain that the South African government would be able to live up to the high expectations that accompanied it, especially in the economic and social fields. The progress made between the Arabs and Israel was equally insecure; the peace process had powerful enemies, as a new terrorist campaign by radical Islamists (in Argentina and Britain as well as inside Israel) showed. The attacks weakened the Israeli government's willingness to proceed on the road of peace and also hurt Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and they made Arab governments less willing to take risks on the road to a rapprochement with Israel. Only a first, small step had been made toward peace in Ireland, and the armistices in Yugoslavia were only partly effective. There was constant danger that fighting would flare up again, even in parts of the Balkans such as Croatia and Macedonia, which had been relatively quiet in recent years. There was no certainty that the promises made by the North Koreans could be trusted.

      Nor did diplomacy have much impact on what was perhaps the greatest single tragedy of 1994—the civil war in Rwanda. The apparent murder of the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on April 6 triggered fighting between Tutsi and Hutu in which hundreds of thousands were murdered, and an equal number of Hutu fled to Tanzania and Zaire. France was the only outside power to volunteer for a humanitarian mission involving troops. It did so to create a safe haven and, having accomplished this limited mission, withdrew its forces. The Rwanda disaster was frightening from yet another point of view; given the general instability in much of Africa, it showed how easily tribal warfare could flare up and how it could aggravate endemic starvation and epidemics.

      For a variety of reasons, the major powers showed a basic unwillingness to take significant initiatives in world politics except when their immediate interests were concerned. In the United States, where domestic policies loomed much larger on the agenda, there was a lack of interest in foreign affairs both in the White House and on Capitol Hill. In Japan economic recession and political instability were obstacles; no Japanese government seemed to have sufficient support, for example, to end the trade dispute with the United States. In China, which had traditionally regarded itself as an Asian rather than a world power, the very success of its economy caused inflation and social tensions that made its elderly leaders turn inward to an even larger extent.

      Russian policy makers tried to reassert the position of their country in the "near abroad"—the non-Russian republics that had made up the former Soviet Union. Economic malaise—even greater in Ukraine and the other successor states than in Russia—and ethnic strife in the Caucasus and Central Asia assisted them. In several instances Russians were called in as peacemakers, in others to supervise truces that had been established. Russian armed forces were called in to reconquer Chechnya, a small region in the central Caucasus, which had seceded unilaterally from the Russian Federation. The troops encountered substantial resistance. The general trend toward the right (albeit not the extreme right) continued in Russian domestic politics. Although the government of Boris Yeltsin remained in power, equilibrium was not in sight, and many threats to the new system persisted.

      Chancellor Helmut Kohl won the German elections in October with a reduced majority. He announced that he saw his main task as providing new impetus to the movement for political unity in Europe. Pres. François Mitterrand of France, in the last phase of his presidency and ill and politically weakened, was in no position to be of assistance. In Italy, in a political earthquake, the old system collapsed. Christian Democrats, who had ruled the country for most of the time since World War II, virtually disappeared, and the Socialists, likewise shaken by financial and other scandals, were decimated. A new right-wing coalition government was formed by media tsar Silvio Berlusconi, the Northern League, and the neo-Fascist National Alliance. The victors found it difficult to agree on common policies, however, and the weight of the investigation of scandals soon brought down the Berlusconi empire too.

      It was the first time a neo-Fascist party had been represented in a major European government since the end of World War II, but there also was a strong showing of forces of the extreme right in other countries, most strikingly in Austria, where Jörg Haider's Freedom Party scored 22% in the elections of October 1994. Some of the components of this new movement in Europe belonged to the far right, others were neo-Fascists, some tended toward "revolutionary nationalism," and others advocated conservatism. The mainsprings were the crisis of the democratic system on the one hand (or, to be precise, the failures of the incumbents) and, on the other, the presence of the many immigrants who had arrived in recent years, some as "guest workers," others as asylum seekers. Their growing presence, especially in the big cities, generated tensions from which the extreme right benefited. In some cases there were acts of violence against foreigners and even murder. Although the violence was not remotely on the scale of the campaign of terror carried out by radical Islamists in countries such as Algeria and Egypt, against both foreigners and coreligionists, it was still worrisome at a time when many thought that a more civilized political climate had prevailed.


      This updates the article international relations.

▪ 1994

      The trends that had emerged in world affairs in 1992 continued to prevail even more clearly in 1993: the era of the Cold War giving way not to a new world order—however modestly interpreted—but to a spread of local conflicts and the inability and unwillingness of the international community to deal with them. As always, there were some exceptions and countercurrents. The most dramatic was, no doubt, the handshake in Washington between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chairman Yasir Arafat. This was a true psychological breakthrough, a first mutual recognition, but it was no more than a first step on a long road providing for limited self-rule in the Gaza and Jericho region. There was strong resistance among some Palestinian factions, a lack of enthusiasm among Arab states such as Syria, and no willingness to lift the anti-Israel boycott. There was resistance in Israel, too, but less powerful.

      The other part of the world where negotiations for a peaceful arrangement made some progress was South Africa—the agreement on a multiparty "transitional executive council." The award of the Nobel Prize for Peace to Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk was widely welcomed. But their negotiations took place against the background of the murder of thousands—mainly internecine warfare among black groups—and the prospects for a more or less orderly transition to a new South Africa in which there would be collaboration between blacks and whites remained as yet a distant dream.

      Elsewhere, local conflicts and dangers to world peace continued to prevail, and it was perhaps typical for the general lethargy that the former attracted more publicity (and generated more passion) than the latter, far more deadly ones. The proliferation of nuclear weapons and the irresponsible disposal of nuclear waste constituted an enormous danger to humankind, yet the buildup of means of mass destruction in countries such as North Korea and Iran continued without effective counteraction even contemplated. Russia continued to dump its hazardous waste into the ocean irrespective of the long-term consequences, and China resumed its nuclear tests. These were the main threats; still, attention was focused on sideshows such as Somalia, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia—human tragedies no doubt, but on an infinitely smaller scale. Since Europe had turned its back on the Balkans, and since Africa was no more willing to deal with the situation in Somalia than Latin America was with Haiti, the burden fell on the United Nations and the United States, where resistance to "interventionism" was, however, increasingly vocal. The fear that American lives might be in danger or that the nation might get entangled in Vietnam-style quagmires created a climate in which American action became nearly impossible. The situation in Washington was not helped by the appointment of key foreign-policy officials whose competence was not above doubt. An absence of a clear foreign-policy concept was matched by the inability to articulate political action. The media became increasingly influential in dictating the U.S. foreign agenda, but their priorities tended to change weekly.

      Initiatives aimed at creating greater free-trade zones encountered considerable resistance. While the U.S. completed negotiations in August with Mexico and Canada on "supplemental agreements" to the North American Free Trade Agreement, aiming to appease various domestic lobbies, such as organized labour and environmentalists, but also certain powerful business lobbies, opposition persisted in many quarters. Similarly, European initiatives scheduled to advance the cause of political unity, as well as social integration and the liberalization of world trade (the Uruguay round of talks under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), failed to make significant progress.

      Separatist trends in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union continued; Czechoslovakia separated into Slovakia and the Czech Republic on Jan. 1, 1993. Elsewhere, armed conflict ensued along ethnic lines (in Georgia, Tajikistan, Armenia-Azerbaijan). Russia was shaken by the conflict between Pres. Boris Yeltsin and the antireform parliament that culminated in Moscow in October with the victory of Yeltsin's forces, but success soured somewhat after the December parliamentary elections.

      Elsewhere in Europe and Asia, elections usually went against the ruling parties. In France the Socialist Party suffered a decisive defeat in March; in Italy and Germany local elections reflected the weakening of the major traditional parties. In Italy as the result of a series of financial scandals, the whole political system was put into jeopardy. In Japan the Liberal-Democratic Party lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in 38 years, while in Pakistan the movement headed by Benazir Bhutto emerged victorious after years in opposition.

      To some extent this worldwide trend against the governments in power (which also included Greece, Poland, Spain, the U.K., and other countries) was triggered by the worldwide recession. Another factor, particularly in Western Europe, was the growing presence of foreign workers and illegal immigrants, which fueled a latent xenophobia.

      Among the positive developments toward domestic peace should be mentioned the negotiations in Cambodia, which led to the drafting of a new constitution and the crowning of Norodom Sihanouk as king. Also noteworthy was the improvement in relations between Vietnam and its neighbours as well as with its former antagonists, China and the U.S.

      As in previous years, international terrorism was spearheaded by Muslim fundamentalist groups within the Arab world (Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia) as well as in Europe and the U.S. Iran acted as both principal paymaster and provider of weapons and logistic support. No end was in sight to the civil wars in Afghanistan, Angola, and The Sudan; cease-fires were concluded, only to be violated again and to be followed by renewed fighting. Ethnic strife flared up, or continued, in India, Turkey, Northern Ireland, and Burundi.

      Seen in the general context of the post-Cold War period, 1993 brought no major political or military disaster, and the performance of the world economy (excepting only China), while sluggish, was not worse than expected. Measured by the high hopes of a new, more civilized and peaceful, world order and growing prosperity, however, it was a dismal year with only sporadic progress to register. For a few moments the pulse of history seemed to quicken—as during the Palestinian-Israeli meeting—but then in many other parts of the world, the example failed to have an impact, and there was no spectacular breakthrough toward the brave new world often invoked but still as distant as ever.


      This updates the article international relations.

* * *

Universalium. 2010.

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