With Isis, Syria and the Russia/Ukraine conflict making waves throughout the international community, NATO involvement (or lack thereof) has been in the news often. Recently, NATO has extended an offer to Montenegro to join the alliance; this will be the first invitation in six years since Albania and Croatia joined in 2009. While adding a member to NATO would normally draw significant media attention, this offer is especially important due to the timing and location of Montenegro. NATO has been attempting to gain support from Russia to fight ISIS and solve the problems in Syria, especially after the Russian plane was taken down over Egypt. However, at the same time NATO has been extending further east making Russia extremely uncomfortable and ruining any efforts to unite against the Islamic State. Russia’s discomfort is due to the West imposing their influence on the countries surrounding Russia – which can potentially have a direct impact on Russian economy and national security (NY Times).
The tension with Russia and NATO has been building through the Ukraine conflict and annexation of Crimea has only been growing since. Just before the offer to Montenegro, Russian fighter jets had been entering NATO airspace over the Balkans and Turkey. Turkey did not respond kindly to this, shooting down a fighter jet headed to bomb Turkmen in Syria. Some believe this action was a sign the NATO no longer views Russia as a strategic partner but rather a full blown adversary. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of Duma’s defense committee, said “They are ready to admit even the North Pole to NATO just for the sake of encircling Russia.” John Kerry, who was present during the offer to Montenegro, denied this allegation claiming that this offer was simply another step in admitting all of Europe to NATO. It’s hard to be sure what the true motivations for inviting Montenegro into NATO is, especially since it has historically been an enemy of NATO members. In defense of John Kerry, Montenegro has recently made positive contributions to NATO, contributing 45 servicemen to a NATO coalition in Afghanistan and joining several European organizations.While the timing of the offer may support Komoyedov’s statement, the member countries of NATO claim they are unwilling to link NATO-Russian conflict, despite Putin’s attempts to, to the conflicts with ISIS. Many hope that keeping these issues separate will allow the countries to help each other where their interests overlap the most i.e. Syria and Isis. Russia’s full participation in the nuclear deal with Iran during some of the most intense times in the Ukraine conflict as an example, many are hoping that unification over the Islamic State will eventually come about (NY Times).
North and South Korea have historically been involved in conflict due to various economic, political and social differences. In short North Korea is a totalitarian state run by the ruling regime. North Korea has made significant efforts to isolate its citizens from the outside world including South Korea. South Korea’s government differs from the North in that it is a Republic, having had several successful elections. Additionally, South Korea has much better ties in the international community and to the western world than the North. Due to the practice of isolation, North Korea rarely trades with other states. While China is debatably one of North Koreas closest international ties, North and South Korea were able to come to a trade agreement of sorts with the Kaesong Industrial Park
The Kaesong Industrial Park is located in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between the North and the South, established in 1953 when the states were divided. The DMZ serves as a “ceasefire line” as result of the peace agreement signed during the Korean War (meaning technically the North and South are still at war). The Kaesong Industrial Park was created to try and facilitate peaceful trade between the North and South. At the industrial park, South Korean businesses create factories and use labor from North Korean workers. This allows South Korea to benefit from cheap labor and the regime in North Korea to gain currency from the wages. In 2010, the south banned trade with the North when the North sunk a South Korean ship. This conflict escalated into North Korea threatening nuclear action against the South and the United States. However, despite the ban and conflict, Kaesong was excluded from the ban and was largely supported by both sides due to the positive economic benefits. Through the conflict, the industrial park stayed open until North Korea pulled its workers from the industry in 2013.
The Kaesong Industrial Park was recently reopened after significant negotiations between the North and South. South Koreas main hesitation with entering into a new agreement with North Korea is that they are not trustworthy and have a history of being unpredictable. Kaesong is currently functioning again but disagreements continue to arise. Most recently, North Korea has requested an increase in wages for their workers, which South Korea is not very willing to agree to.
The relations between North and South Korea are an example of how two countries with conflicting political interests can engage in trade when it has significant benefits to both sides. Even when military conflict increased, the countries tried to maintain economic relations. Relating back to class material, we may suggest that while there are other contributing factors, the economic relations between North and South Korea may be deterring more significant conflict and/or war. We should also notice the issue of trust between the two countries. Although they engage in economic relations, North Korea still took military action against South Korea and eventually took their workers out of the factories. This established a sense of uncertainty and has been reflected in South Koreas responses to reopening the Kaesong Industrial Park.