It has long been widely accepted across Europe, and the world for that matter, that the stability of the German government is guaranteed. In the past two days this presumption has evaporated. Contrary to the beliefs of millions in the EU and beyond, Germany’s government is not invulnerable to disorganized change. Although Angela Merkel and her party emerged as the winners in Germany’s latest round of federal elections, the victory was a pyrrhic one. Gains made by her Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) were not enough to form a majority government. Merkel’s subsequent efforts to form a coalition have failed. Ruling as the minority party is not a viable option because of the instability it could bring. Therefore, new elections will probably be in the cards for Germany, and not until February at the earliest. Between now and the new elections, Germany’s current government will assume a caretaker status. The beacon of stability that Germany has been in times of political unrest could quite possibly be coming to an end.
The spectacle of Angela Merkel having to reach out to political parties of very different ideologies in order to form a coalition speaks volumes of the new political realities encroaching upon the Federal Republic of Germany. Merkel’s handling of the European Migrant Crisis, the liberal immigration policies she put into place for Germany, and the consequences of both have played a major role in creating the wave of populism that has swept across Europe. Most of Germany’s neighbors in Central Europe are now leaning right politically. The European Union has looked to Berlin for inspiration and leadership as the continent becomes increasingly polarized. More specifically, the EU has relied on Merkel for inspiration and leadership. But now, with Merkel weakened politically, and her days as chancellor perhaps numbered, Germany will not be playing an active role in the supranational body. The end result could very well be a paralyzed EU.
Since taking power in 2005 Angela Merkel has been Germany and vice versa. As Germany goes, so does Europe. They now face a future where this is no longer the case. Supporters of the EU must be horrified at the idea of losing the leader they considered to be their bulwark of democratic stability, and firewall against populism. In Germany, the realization is no less frightening. For a nation where in ordnung is a way of life, the notion of political chaos is nothing short of a nightmare.
Authors note: I was planning to look at the Saudi Arabia and Iran confrontation in-depth over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. However, I am going to shelve that for the moment and instead post a detailed entry about the German political crisis and what it means for Europe.
The fate of the Argentinian submarine ARA San Juan remains unknown this evening. The diesel sub has been missing for two days. The last communication between San Juan and higher headquarters was on Wednesday. She was in the area of San Jorge bay at the time. Although an Argentinian Navy spokesman told local television that the sub cannot be considered lost yet, the search was formally classified as a search and rescue operation earlier tonight. A NASA P-3C Orion that was in Argentina for an unrelated exercise was offered by the US to assist in the search. Buenos Aries accepted the offer and the Orion is actively taking part in the operation. Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Peru, Britain and South Africa have also formally offered assistance. A Chilean patrol aircraft is on its way to join the search at the moment. It is unclear whether or not Argentina has accepted any other offers of assistance.
The search efforts are being hampered by high winds and rough seas in the area. Time is critical in an active search and rescue operation involving a sub potentially in danger. The longer the search drags out, the more likely it becomes that San Juan has suffered a catastrophic malfunction, or other type of emergency.
San Juan is a diesel-electric submarine built by Thyssen Nordseewerke in Germany. She was commissioned in 1985 and served without major issue. Her mid-life upgrade took place between 2008 and 2013. Since then San Juan has taken part in routine operations and exercises in the waters around Argentina. She has a compliment of 37 but was carrying a slightly larger crew of 44 during this cruise.
Zimbabwe’s military leaders claim the steps taken in the last twenty four hours do not amount to a military coup or takeover of the government. In name it may be neither of these things, yet in action there is a striking resemblance at the very least. A military presence remains in the streets of Harare, and parliament is closed, though surprisingly some aspects of daily life appear to be continuing as usual. Businesses are open, and people are on the streets. There have been no signs of fighting or violent demonstrations. ZBC, the national broadcaster remains under military control. Mugabe is being held under house arrest. The term ‘bloodless transition’ has been used on Zanu-PF’s social media accounts and seems to be the politically acceptable term to describe what is happening in Zimbabwe right now.
The era of Mugabe is ending unceremoniously. His grip on Zimbabwe lasted four decades and for better or worse, Mugabe’s face became the face of Zimbabwe during that time. His fate was sealed when he sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. It became clear that Mugabe intended for his wife Grace to succeed him instead of Mnangagwa. This did not sit well with the military. When General Constantino Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, announced the military would stop “those bent on hijacking the revolution,” his comments were branded “treasonous” by the ruling party. The stage was set from that point and hours later, armored vehicles appeared in and around Harare and the ‘transition’ commenced shortly thereafter.
What comes next is anyone’s guess, yet the lack of intervention by security forces loyal to Mugabe, or his wife, is significant. Reports from inside Harare indicate that Mugabe might be negotiating a graceful departure from power while the military continues arresting members of his circle. This would increase the chances of the ‘bloodless transition’ now underway remaining so. Politically speaking, there is no guarantee that life after Mugabe will be a seamless transition for Zimbabwe and its citizens.
The rift between Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe and the nation’s military appears to be moving into a dangerous new stage. Unusual military activity including armored vehicles staked out at strategic points around the capital city of Harare is being reported. ZBC, the national broadcaster has been occupied by soldiers. Explosions have been heard across the city as well. The US and British embassies are advising their citizens in country to shelter in place while the uncertain political situation plays out. The embassies are playing it cautious with their descriptions of what is happening. However, for all intents and purposes, a coup attempt against Mugabe appears to be underway.
There has been speculation that a coup might be in the works. Mugabe’s ruling party accused one of the nation’s top military officers of ‘treasonable conduct.’ General Constantino Chiwenga had warned of possible military action after Mugabe dismissed Emmerson Mnangagwa, his vice president, last week after a flare up over succession. Mnangagwa was seen as the heir apparent to succeed Mugabe, but Zimbabwe’s First Lady Grace Mugabe has become the next in line. The rift between Grace Mugabe and Mnangagwa has split the Zanu-PF party. Supporters of the vice president have been purged in recent weeks as Mugabe appears to be setting the stage for his wife’s rise to power.
As events in Zimbabwe continue to develop in the coming hours and days I will provide updates.
Tomorrow, Venezuela’s newly created debt restructuring committee is scheduled to meet with creditors in hopes of renegotiating, or restructuring $69 Billion of Venezuela’s outstanding debt. It is not presently clear just how many creditors will actually be attending the meeting. It is also unknown if the meeting will include frank discussions about restructuring Venezuela’s current debt, or if Venezuelan officials will use the opportunity to simply blame the current economic situation on US sanctions. Quite honestly, it is unclear at this time whether or not a meeting will even take place tomorrow.
As meeting preparations continue this evening rumors of default continue to swirl from Caracas to Wall Street. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has adamantly insisted that his country will never default on its debt. Despite his assurances, speculation is growing that the true purpose of tomorrow’s meeting is to lay the foundation for default. Venezuela’s economic situation is beyond dire. It’s cash reserves are nearly dried up, and US sanctions are making it impossible for Venezuela to refinance its debt. Securing a debt restructure in the current climate is virtually impossible. Therefore, Maduro’s only other option would be to declare insolvency and default on the country’s $150 Billion in debt.
The uncertainty surrounding Venezuela’s economic future is causing anxiety internationally. A default could possibly spark a global financial crisis, although the prospects of this happening are low. There is still a possibility of Russia extending a lifeline and saving the day. Or, at least postponing the inevitable for some time. The two nations are expected to sign a debt restructuring deal later this week that will provide some relief for Maduro’s socialist paradise.
Realistically, however, even Russian assistance might not be enough. After years of political catastrophe, social unrest, and economic disasters, time is truly running out for Venezuela. What happens this week will likely determine its fate whether Maduro is prepared to face the truth or not.