5 major diplomatic disputes that could wreak havoc next year


It happens every year. Quarrels between countries over one issue or another can have significant geopolitical implications, with all the tricks of a diplomatic row like trade embargoes, ambassadors recalled, angry saber strikes or (worst of all) statements. passive-aggressive policies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This year was no exception, including a diplomatic row that illustrates China’s rise to power (and the brutal use of “wolf warrior diplomacy” to attempt to quell critics overseas) then that a small Baltic nation stand up to China for its policy towards Taiwan. There have been more China-related dramas in the Asia-Pacific, this time between Washington and some of its closest Western allies over a submarine deal that made Paris dizzy.

Then there’s the long diplomatic war of attrition that is the UK’s exit from Europe, as Brexit negotiations between Brussels, London and neighboring Ireland collapse over the UK’s border arrangements. Northern Ireland in a way that could upend a decades-old peace deal. In the Middle East, a new dispute between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia prompted Riyadh to withdraw much-needed economic aid and halt trade with Beirut. In East Africa, a long-standing dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over Ethiopia’s construction of a dam on the Nile could exacerbate tensions in an already-in crisis region. especially since the Egyptian ambassador urged Washington to intervene.

It happens every year. Quarrels between countries over one issue or another can have significant geopolitical implications, with all the tricks of a diplomatic row like trade embargoes, ambassadors recalled, angry saber strikes or (worst of all) statements. passive-aggressive policies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This year was no exception, including a diplomatic row that exemplifies China‘s escalating rise (and brutal use of “wolf warrior diplomacy” in an attempt to quell critics abroad) as a tiny Baltic nation stands up to China over its policies on Taiwan. There have been more China-related dramas in the Asia-Pacific, this time between Washington and some of its closest Western allies over a submarine deal that made Paris dizzy.

Then there is the long diplomatic war of attrition of the United Kingdom’s exit from Europe, as Brexit negotiations between Brussels, London and neighboring Ireland collapse against Northern Ireland.‘s border arrangements in a way that could upend a decades-old peace agreement. In the Middle East, a new dispute between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia prompted Riyadh to withdraw much-needed economic aid and halt trade with Beirut. In East Africa, a long-standing dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan over Ethiopia’s construction of a dam on the Nile could exacerbate tensions in an already-in crisis region. especially since the Egyptian ambassador urged Washington to intervene.

Here are some of the major diplomatic wrangles we’ve seen over the past year, told through the eyes of former prime ministers, foreign ministers, experts and envoys who are at the heart of the matter. These stories won’t be the last you hear; many of these disputes are expected to reverberate through 2022.


1. China has no one to blame for AUKUS

by Charles Edel, September 24

The US and UK this year entered into a new security pact with Australia (known as AUKUS) to counter China, allowing Australia to build sub- nuclear sailors. A small problem: nobody bothered to talk to France about it. Australia abruptly canceled a major multibillion-dollar contract with France for non-nuclear submarines, and Paris was furious. This led to a major rift between the Western allies; France first recalled its ambassador from Washington, as well as Canberra, and launched a series of scathing reproaches in Washington, London and Canberra. Then there was an angry reaction from Beijing at a time when US-China relations were already on a spiral. Write for Foreign police, Charles Edel, Principal Investigator at the University of Sydney‘s The United States Center for Studies, argued that China needs only to blame itself, and AUKUS is a smart, but only partial, step to strengthen the posture of the United States. and their allies in the Indo-Pacific to confront Beijing.


2. Under pressure from China, Lithuania will not back down to Taiwan

by Robbie Gramer, September 7

Lithuania has sparked a new diplomatic row this year with China over its position on Taiwan, the independent and democratically ruled island that Beijing considers part of its territory. Earlier this year, Lithuania agreed to exchange diplomatic offices with Taiwan and allowed it to use the name “Taiwan” in its Lithuanian office, a big red line for Beijing. (Many other countries that have exchanged diplomatic offices with Taiwan are using the capital, Taipei, on behalf of the office instead of “Taiwan” to avoid China’s wrath.) In response, China recalled its ambassador from Vilnius, halted rail freight to Lithuania and restricted permits for Lithuanian exports to China. Despite all these warning shots, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said Foreign police earlier this year that his country will not back down, and Beijing’s harsh tactics may simply backfire. “Sometimes it’s just the opposite: the pressure increases resilience rather than breaking up the country,” Landsbergis said. He also warned that his country could be a “canary in the coal mine” for the way China is pressuring small countries that do not bend to its will.


3. Only Washington can save Renaissance Dam negotiations now

by Motaz Zahran, April 29

As if there wasn’t enough dissension and conflict in East Africa already, there is still the long-standing dispute between Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt over a proposed massive dam on the Nile which has ignited regional tensions and has no end in sight. The efforts of the United States and the African Union to negotiate an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile have all failed. But the Egyptian ambassador to Washington, Motaz Zahran, argued in Foreign police that his country needs the United States to help mediate the dispute and secure his country’s water rights. “The Biden administration, which is currently considering the best policy to handle this situation, must act now. At stake is the future of the Nile, a lifeline for millions of Egyptians and Sudanese, ”writes Zahran.


4. Lebanon is the most urgent challenge in Europe

by Faysal Itani and Azeem Ibrahim, October 15

Lebanon is on the brink of economic collapse; now a new diplomatic feud with Saudi Arabia, launched by a government ministerRiyadh commentss role in the ongoing Yemen war. The latest drama is bad news for Lebanon’s fragile economy and for Europe. Middle Eastern policy pundits Faysal Itani and Azeem Ibrahim have warned that a financial collapse in Lebanon will fuel a new political and refugee crisis at Europe’s doorstep. There are millions of refugees from Syria and other countries in the Middle East who fled war and conflict to land in Lebanon, many of whom are already living in abject poverty. “This is already a recipe for mass migration, but if the security situation escalates, flight is inevitable. With few refuges in the area, the most sensible route will be to head to Europe, ”Itani and Ibrahim write.


5. Brexit Fallout could ‘collapse’ the Good Friday deal

by Robbie Gramer and Amy MacKinnon, September 24

It looks like the whole legal and political drama surrounding the UK’s exit from the European Union will never end. The latest diplomatic war of attrition centers on post-Brexit border arrangements with Northern Ireland. If London and Brussels fail to resolve their differences, some US and EU policymakers fear it could upend a 1998 peace deal that ended decades of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland. “The real threat here is the collapse of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, which would be very, very problematic,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said. Foreign police this autumn.


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