ASPI suggests

The world

Australia’s phoney election campaign has finally turned into the real thing. Voters will head to the polls on 18 May—joining the citizens of a number of countries that are holding elections now or soon. This analysis in the Sydney Morning Herald frames the contest as the second time in a decade that Australians seem set to remove the government despite being less than enthusiastic about the opposition. Perhaps the line of the campaign so far has come from Peter Hartcher, who boiled Scott Morrison versus Bill Shorten down to ‘a contest between an angry dad figure in a baseball cap and a sad sack who looks like he learned public speaking at a funeral parlour’. Exciting times ahead!

If you really want to get into the nitty gritty of seat-by-seat breakdowns, margins and other electoral data (who doesn’t?), check out the swing calculator and A–Z electorate list from ABC election analyst Antony Green.

Polls are already open in the world’s largest democracy. The first of seven phases of voting is underway in the Indian elections, which will run until 19 May. See this Al Jazeera explainer for a breakdown of everything you need to know about the system and the choices India’s 900 million eligible voters face.

The results are in in Israel, where Benjamin Netanyahu has, um, netted another term in office. See former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami for why the result ‘amounts to a monumental indictment of Israel’s democracy’.

And what would talk of elections be without talk of election interference? The BBC has investigated the presence of Russian ‘tourists’ and ‘observers’ in Madagascar before presidential elections there last year. See the full documentary here.

Following the 16th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq last month, this National Interest piece identifies the areas in which the US hasn’t made a difference. According to Bloomberg, the US campaign hasn’t affected Iraq’s oil production, though Iraq is now challenging Saudi Arabia’s global dominance of OPEC.

In Afghanistan, peace could be just around the corner. Writing in the Australian Financial Review, Ahmed Rashid gives US President Donald Trump credit for starting the ongoing peace talks there. This article by Angelina Jolie for Time highlights the importance of including women in the Afghan peace process.

Over a million Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since 2017, where they often face poor living conditions and limited access to safe drinking water and food. ASPI’s Elise Thomas has provided some excellent insights into the Bangladeshi plan to resettle over 100,000 refugees onto a silt island that is often struck by cyclones. Despite Bangladesh looking for ways to halt the influx, NPR highlights that they are there to stay. And see these UNHCR pieces (here and here) to see how refugees are being empowered as they help prepare for Bangladesh’s cyclone season.

Moving to Europe, The Economist describes Europe’s move towards a more ‘protective’ continent, and  Chatham House has the details of Trump’s impact on the future of EU–US trade. Time examines the growth of the nationalist movement across Europe, which is threatening the EU and gaining traction despite the continent’s history. On a different note, see Forbes for a look into how Europe is tackling the ethical questions of artificial intelligence. And it would be remiss of us not to mention Europe’s latest chapter in the thrilling page-turner, There and back again: a Brexit tale. The BBC has the details of the new Brexit deadline of 31 October. Tony Blair’s former communications boss Alastair Campbell says he hopes that the extension will provide enough time for another referendum.

In other news, Julian Assange has been arrested in London after Ecuador withdrew its asylum of the Australian WikiLeaks founder. See Foreign Policy for more details.

Tech geek

This week in the US, the annual Space Symposium is underway, with important announcements about the US space force, the accelerated return to the moon, and the expansion of Australia’s emerging space sector. The symposium coincided with big news, including the historic first image of a black hole, the second successful launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy booster rocket, and the unsuccessful landing of an Israeli probe on the moon.

The US Navy seems to be overcoming the debilitating lack of readiness of its fighter force with better availability of its F-35C and F/A-18E/F jets. See Breaking Defense for analysis of this positive development. But the bad news is that Japan’s Air Self Defense Force has lost an F-35A over the Pacific and its entire F-35 fleet has been grounded.

Russia may be planning to sell an export variant of its Su-57 to China in spite of the numerous technical problems the aircraft currently faces. Sputnik claims the ‘Su-57E’ may be offered to Turkey, as Ankara’s purchase of the US F-35A falls apart.

Proving that the days of showing the flag at sea are definitely not over, the US Navy sent a message to China by sailing USS Wasp, loaded with F-35Bs, near Scarborough Shoal, a reef controlled by China but claimed by the Philippines.

This week in history

This week in 1917, the United States entered World War I following events including the sinking of a passenger ship, the Lusitania, by a German U-boat and the interception of the Zimmerman telegram. The US mobilised more than 4 million soldiers and provided supplies, arms and ammunition to the Allies.


Al Jazeera has a great photo series showing the protestors in Sudan who have broken the military curfew over the past few months to protest President Omar al-Bashir’s rule and, last night, celebrate his removal from power.

ABC’s Foreign Correspondent investigates the ‘Trump of the tropics’, Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro. [30:18]


Arms Control Wonk discusses the overreaction to Saudi Arabia’s nuclear news and what exactly it entails. [41:44]

So-called grey-zone operations are becoming a part of day-to-day life in many countries. War Studies examines what hybrid warfare really is and the role of information in modern conflicts. [33:36]

Social media is affecting most aspects of everyday life, including the shape of leadership. World Affairs dives into how politics is transforming thanks to the internet. [59:01]


Sydney, 16 April, 6–7.30 pm, Australian Institute of International Affairs: ‘Is peace possible in Afghanistan?’ Tickets here ($25).

Canberra, 17 April, 6.30–8 pm, Australian National University: ‘The state of Australian politics’. Register here.

Melbourne, 17 April, 6.30–7.30 pm, University of Melbourne: ‘The complex international and domestic economics of climate change’. Book here.