In the time-honored tradition of climate summits, COP28 wrapped up in overtime in Dubai Dec. 13, after frantic late-night horse-trading secured a deal that divided opinion. For some, the so-called "UAE Consensus" that agrees to "transition away from fossil fuels" is a historic first commitment (albeit vague and non-binding) to eliminate the main cause of climate change. For many climate activists and other sceptics, however, it represents a baby step on a marathon that requires a flat-out sprint. Arguably of greater import was the agreement to launch a loss and damage fund, after a hard year of talks. COP28 also agreed on a first Global Stocktake: an assessment of climate progress to date, and a roadmap for what still needs to be done—it calls, for example, for a tripling of renewable energy capacity.
A member of the Israeli cabinet broached a nuclear strike on the Gaza Strip Nov. 5, making outraged headlines in the Arab world. Jerusalem Affairs & Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu of the ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party said in a radio interview that there are "no non-combatants in Gaza," and using a nuclear weapon on the Palestinian enclave is "one of the possibilities." The comment was immediately repudiated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who issued a statement saying that Eliyahu has been suspended from cabinet meetings "until further notice." Eliyahu is not a member of the special "war cabinet" formed for the Gaza campaign, Netanyahu's office emphasized, adding: "Eliyahu's statements are not based in reality. Israel and the IDF are operating in accordance with the highest standards of international law to avoid harming innocents. We will continue to do so until our victory." (The Guardian, Haaretz, Politico)
Russia's military conducted exercises with nuclear-capable missiles Oct. 25, shortly after the State Duma unanimously voted to revoke ratification of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. The Russian Strategic Missile Forces command claimed the exercises were part of a regularly scheduled annual training drill held every October. But Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the exercises were to simulate a retaliatory nuclear strike to be carried out if Russia were attacked with nuclear firepower first. The Russian military widely publicized videos of the exercises across state media. According to the Kremlin, the exercises were overseen by President Vladimir Putin from a Moscow command center.
The Tuaregs of Niger and Buryat of Siberia, like the Navajo of the US Southwest, have had their territories usurped and destroyed by uranium mining for the nuclear-industrial complex, and it makes little difference from their perspective whether the extractivist bosses were French, Russian or American. While the Great Powers wage a neo-colonial game for control of this strategic resource, the indigenous peoples on the ground pay with their lands and lives—and are fighting back for autonomy or outright independence, and ecological and cultural survival. Bill Weinberg breaks it down in Episode 192 of the CounterVortex podcast.
A group of soldiers in Gabon announced on public television Aug. 30 that they have seized control of the country and canceled the results of its presidential election, just after incumbent President Ali Bongo was declared the winner amid claims of electoral fraud. The soldiers, part of the newly formed Committee for the Transition & Restoration of Institutions (CTRI), also declared the closure of Gabon’s borders and the suspension of the country’s Senate, National Assembly and Constitutional Court. Brice Oligui Nguema, commander-in-chief of the Gabonese Republican Guard, has been named as the transitional leader.
In Episode 189 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that despite all the tankie pseudo-left enthusiasm for the BRICS summit in South Africa, the notion of a unified bloc against Western hegemony is illusory. The Johannesburg confab was immediately followed by a diplomatic spat between China and India, sparked by Beijing's release of an official map of the territory of the People's Republic—showing two Himalayan enclaves claimed by India as Chinese territory: Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh, which have both been the scene of border skirmishes in recent years. The map also shows an island in the Amur River, by mutual agreement half controlled by Russia, as entirely Chinese. Moscow, depending on China's acquiescence in the Ukraine war, has lodged no protest over this. But the border disputes between nuclear-armed India and China have the potential to escalate to the unthinkable. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
The Moscow City Court ruled Aug. 18 to liquidate the Public Commission for the Preservation of the Heritage of Academician Sakharov, or the Sakharov Center, one of Russia's most respected human rights organizations, for "systematic, gross and irremediable violations of the law." The order was granted after an application from the Ministry of Justice.
In Episode 185 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg reviews the Oppenheimer movie, and discusses the legacy of J. Robert Oppenheimer 78 years after Hiroshima. Manhattan Project dissidents like Leo Szilard petitioned to stop the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan. But such sentiment was overruled by Harry Truman's geopolitical imperatives—and what Freeman Dyson called the "technical arrogance" of Oppenheimer and his circle. Now, as open Russian nuclear threats continue to mount in Europe, we are poised at the brink of unparalleled catastrophe. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.