If the events of the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that there’s a strong need for an international perspective and a more global vision, to better understand the conflicts surrounding us.
By studying International Relations with Varsity this summer, you’ll be introduced to the world of politics and the social-historical impact of global development. This involves learning about the different political systems and governing policies around the world, and understanding how they connect with a broad range of international issues.
Here are three of the world’s biggest ongoing issues in state-to-state relations that you might want to learn more about before starting your IR classes…
The Middle East conflict
At the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a dispute over land and borders. The geography of the conflict revolves around the three territorial units of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, defined by armistice lines drawn after a war in the region in 1948.
Since then, military action, settlement and population growth have also shaped the situation on the ground. During the 1948 and 1967 wars hundreds of thousands of Palestinians left, or were forced out of, their homes and moved to neighbouring countries to become refugees.
More than 4.6 million Palestinians are refugees and their descendants, many living in camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, are supported by the United Nations.
In May 2018, President Trump moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem which appalled the numerous countries (including many US politicians) still committed to a peace process. By moving the embassy to a disputed city, many feel that Trump can no longer be considered neutral. The move prompted huge protests in Gaza where Israeli soldiers shot hundreds of unarmed protesters to widespread global condemnation.
Sadly, this seems like a longstanding conflict that is further than ever from a resolution.
Ongoing issues with Brexit
Over two years since the historic British public vote to leave the European Union (becoming the first ever nation to do so) and this complicated process seems as entangled as in 2016 during the fiercely contested referendum.
In fact, the Brexit trade and immigration negotiations promise some of the most complex negotiations in modern history, as the UK attempts to reach a divorce settlement which will be accepted by the other 27 EU member states.
At 11pm local time on March 29, 2019, the UK is scheduled to leave the bloc. But still to be decided is what precisely will happen on Brexit day, what kind of deal, if any, Britain will leave with, and the final destination of the negotiations.
Although these tortuous discussions should now be reaching some kind of consensus, it will be fascinating to see if an agreement can really be reached in time.
The new ‘Cold War’
Despite the excitement of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, relations between Russia and the West remain at a new low.
During the real Cold War there was an armed peace in Europe, while the real battles were fought out across the globe. Today, there is a very different balance of forces between Russia and the West. Russia also has very limited “soft power”, lacking an attractive internationalist ideology to “sell” around the world.
Also, the Russian armed conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine remain incredibly complicated, a result of the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union with related identity and border issues.
Although Russia has historically lagged behind the West in terms of technological, political and economic sophistication, Moscow consistently punches above its economic weight in the international system.
Diplomatically, the situation is tense – especially between the UK and Russia, following the Salisbury poisoning incident, which London blames on Moscow. However, the overall situation is complicated further by President Trump and his apparent approval of President Putin.
In this strange new world, the repercussions from the chaotic collapse of the Soviet Union are still very much playing out some three decades later.
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