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The connectivity war

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08.12.2021

By Mark Leonard

BERLIN ― Many observers have long assumed that the future of geopolitics will be decided in a sea battle over the Taiwan Strait or some rocky outcropping or atoll in the South China Sea. Yet we could probably learn more by examining the treatment of a few thousand desperate refugees in the 21st century's geopolitical backwaters.

Start with the English Channel. Once the site of some of the most dramatic confrontations in history ― from the Spanish Armada and the Napoleonic Wars to the Normandy Landings ― it is no longer a theater for great-power politics. Instead, the recent deaths of 27 civilians whose inflatable boat capsized after leaving the French coast has turned the channel into a site of humanitarian tragedy.

Rather than working together in solidarity with France to root out the migrant smugglers responsible for the deaths, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson immediately sought to play to a domestic political audience by blaming the French in an open letter published on Twitter. Far from just another juvenile political stunt, Johnson's dereliction of leadership will most likely have dreadful and far-reaching consequences.

Facing re-election next spring, in a campaign where migration will be a sensitive issue, French President Emmanuel Macron pushed back against Johnson's boorishness and disinvited the British home secretary from a gathering of European interior ministers in Calais. Owing to a lack of trust on both sides of the channel, each government believes that the........

© The Korea Times


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