Myanmar’s UN envoy dramatically opposes coup in his country

“It is time for the military to immediately relinquish power and release those detained,” he said. “We will continue to fight for a government which is of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Tun’s surprise statement not only drew applause but commendations from speaker after speaker at the assembly meeting including ambassadors representing the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the new U.S. ambassador, Linda Thomas Greenfield, who joined others in calling it “courageous.”

She said the United States “stands in solidarity” with the people of Myanmar who are in the streets protesting the coup and reiterated President Joe Biden’s warning that “we will show the military their actions have consequences” and his appeal to the military “to immediately relinquish power.”

The assembly meeting was called to hear a briefing from the U.N. special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, who said it is time to “sound the alarm” about the coup, ongoing violations of the constitution and reversal of reforms instituted by Suu Kyi, who was previously the de facto head of government.

She pointed to restrictions on internet and communication services, the detention of about 700 people according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Myanmar.

The huge protests in the country are not about a fight between Suu Kyi’s party and the military, she said, “it is a people’s fight without arms.”

Addressing diplomats in the General Assembly chamber by video link, Schraner Burgener urged “all of you to collectively send a clear signal in support of democracy in Myanmar.”

The Feb. 1 military takeover in Myanmar shocked the international community and reversed years of slow progress toward democracy. Suu Kyi’s party would have been installed for a second five-year term that day, but the army blocked Parliament from convening and detained her, President Win Myint and other top members of her government.

Myanmar’s military says it took power because last November’s election was marked by widespread voting irregularities, an assertion that was refuted by the state election commission, whose members have since been replaced by the ruling junta. The junta has said it will rule for a year under a state of emergency and then hold new polls.

Schraner Burgener told the General Assembly that “democratically elected representatives were able to be sworn in according to the constitution on Feb. 4 and have formed the Committee Representing Pyidaungu Hluttaw known as CRPH” and are seeking “to uphold their obligations to serve the people who voted for them.”

Tun, the Myanmar ambassador, began his remarks to the assembly by reading a statement from CRPH stressing the legitimacy of the election results, declaring that the military overthrew the democratically elected government, citing the massive opposition by the people, and stressing that “now is not the time for the international community to tolerate crimes of the military” and the coup.

“We ask the international community to take action,” the parliamentarians’ statement said.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Does the U.S. need to devise a strategy of “containment” for China?

In his cable, Kennan offered a clear-eyed view of the objectives and workings of the Soviet Union and posited that it would eventually collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. He argued that the Stalinist regime’s need to view the outside world in hostile terms was a vital excuse “for the dictatorship without which they did not know how to rule, for cruelties they did not dare not inflict, for sacrifice they felt bound to demand.”

The cable is credited with laying the groundwork for a policy of “containment” and it became, in the words of Cold War historian John Lewis Gaddis, “the basis for United States strategy toward the Soviet Union throughout the rest of the Cold War.” Less than a month later, former British prime minister Winston Churchill delivered a speech in Fulton, Mo., pointing to numerous European countries then in “the Soviet sphere,” and declared that “an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

Kennan’s legacy still shadows American foreign policy. He came to decry how his vision of “containment” — driven chiefly by political and economic pressure — was superseded by a history of globe-spanning American military deployments. Generations of policymakers, meanwhile, have pored over the “Long Telegram” to extract lessons for their particular moment.

That’s as true now as at any time in the past three-quarters of a century. Last month, the Atlantic Council published what it dubbed the “Longer Telegram,” a treatise attributed to an anonymous former senior U.S. official, which called for a comprehensive strategy to counter China and for policymakers to remain “laser focused” on Chinese President Xi Jinping, “his inner circle, and the Chinese political context in which they rule.”

The U.S. goal, the report concludes, should be a scenario where the United States and its close allies “continue to dominate the regional and global balance of power across all the major indices of power” by the middle of this century. Moreover, hard-line Xi would be “replaced by a more moderate party leadership” and there would be signs that the Chinese public was ready for a more liberalized political system.

This is a tall order, and the “Longer Telegram” received predictable pushback from various quarters. Chinese officials and state media panned the study as a “malicious attack,” while some experts in Washington pointed to perceived flaws in its analysis, including an overstatement of the ideological threat Beijing poses to the global order and an overemphasis on Xi’s particular profile in trying to divine the workings of China’s opaque political system.

The report’s anonymous author did recognize that times have changed. “When George Kennan wrote the ‘long telegram’ … with his analysis focused on what would ultimately cause the Soviet Union to fail, he assumed that the U.S. economic model would continue to succeed of its own accord,” the author wrote. “The difference between then and now is that the assumption can no longer be made. The task at hand goes beyond attending to China’s internal vulnerabilities, extending to U.S. ones as well. Without doing both, the United States will fail.”

President Biden and his allies have repeatedly stressed that their foreign policy begins at home. But they also face a political climate in Washington where talk of great-power competition with China is rife, and increasingly bipartisan. Nevertheless, numerous experts — including scholars of Kennan’s legacy — caution against applying the same Cold War logic to the current challenge.

China represents “a type of strategic challenge that the U.S. has never faced before, a peer competitor that competes across all the dimensions of power,” said Thomas Graham, a former White House adviser on Russian affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

“The world is no longer bipolar,” Graham told Today’s WorldView, referring to the Cold War dynamic that defined much of the 20th century. “And alternatives to American hegemony — or leadership, as Biden would have it — are not obviously worse.”

Meanwhile, global crises like the coronavirus pandemic and climate change compel Washington and Beijing to confront the same threats. “All of these problems call for cooperative solutions, not unnecessarily deepening rivalries,” wrote Daniel H. Nexon, a professor of government at Georgetown University. “When adopted as a foundational paradigm of foreign relations, great-power competition relegates collaboration to an afterthought or, worse, dismisses it as naive.”

“A durable cohabitation between the United States and China will require each to accept the reality of the other’s resilience,” wrote Ali Wyne, a senior analyst of the Eurasia Group, this week. “The Biden administration, then, has a compelling opportunity to advance a confident, forward-looking vision of America’s role in the world — one in which strategic competition with China is an important element, but not the overarching determinant.”

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Covax shipments signal good news about global vaccine supply

The Oxford-AstraZeneca doses that arrived in Accra on Wednesday mean that Ghana, a lower-middle-income country with a population of 31 million, can begin vaccinations next week. It’s only one step, but a big one. As Juliette M. Tuakli, a public health physician and pediatrician in Accra, described it to The Washington Post, the doses mean “there is hope in sight.”

And that hope is not just for Ghana, but for many other nations that hope to receive vaccines through the Covax Facility.

Covax, an international effort backed by the World Health Organization, was formed last year in a bid to ensure equitable vaccine distribution globally. But its multilateral approach had initially struggled against the vaccine nationalism of wealthy states, some of which either refused to back it, outbid it for guaranteed orders early in the pandemic, or both.

Now, there are tentative signs that things are changing. Last week, new pledges of funding from the United States and the European Union, among others, pushed Covax’s funding to $6 billion. The Biden administration alone has pledged a total of $4 billion in funding to the effort, reversing the policy under President Donald Trump.

Separately, French President Emmanuel Macron has asked wealthy nations to donate 13 million coronavirus vaccine doses to African governments. Macron argued at last week’s virtual Munich Security Conference that this process would be quicker than donating money to Covax, which, rather than having to negotiate new orders, would effectively jump the line.

Though few other countries have signed up to the idea yet, as the pace of vaccinations grows in wealthy nations it is likely that these calls will gather momentum. The British government said last week that it will “share the majority of any future surplus coronavirus vaccines from our supply” with Covax, without giving a time frame.

The past week’s successes for Covax provide some badly needed good news about the global vaccine supply. After a disastrous winter that saw cases and deaths surge in many wealthy nations, governments had focused on rolling out vaccines to their own people. But experts warned that without a global plan of action, the pandemic may not truly end for anyone.

According to tracking from Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center, by Feb. 15 wealthy nations had secured more than 4.6 billion doses of vaccines — more than all middle- and lower-income nations combined and roughly four times the number procured by Covax, which had secured 1.1 billion by that point.

Separate research from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Think Global Health project found that while 84 percent of high-income countries had started their vaccination programs as of Feb. 18, just 7 percent of low-income countries had vaccinated anyone.

Scientists have argued that such unequal vaccine supply raises the risks of prolonging the pandemic, with the possibility that unmitigated spread across the world could lead to hardier vaccine variants. Notably, South Africa, where one particularly dangerous variant was first found, had initially relied on Covax. It only began vaccinations last week.

The announcements from Covax about increased distribution and funding are positive, but they are only one part of the puzzle. There has also been good news from studies of available vaccines, with recent data about the effectiveness of vaccines after a single dose, their successes against variants and even their storage that could affect global vaccine efforts.

According to research from Scotland this week, for example, the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines reduced hospital admissions for covid-19 among the elderly by up to 85 percent and 94 percent, respectively. Arne Akbar, president of the British Society for Immunology, called the initial data “extremely promising.”

In the United States, a Food and Drug Administration review released Wednesday of a vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson found the single-shot vaccine was safe and appeared to be effective against variants. Francois Balloux, who directs the Genetics Institute at University College London, called the data “absolutely wonderful” on Twitter.

There’s a trend toward cautious optimism right now. Certainly, in the United States the numbers look positive — as the Atlantic’s James Hamblin put it last week, many are already looking forward to a “quite possibly wonderful summer.” On the global stage, the picture is less rosy but clearly better than in recent weeks.

At the same time, the optimism shouldn’t overshadow the caution. Covax is still underfunded, despite the latest round of cash injections, while Macron’s proposal to donate doses remains just that: a proposal. At a WHO briefing on Monday, top U.S. infectious-disease doctor Anthony S, Fauci declined to comment on whether Washington would support it, but suggested it had been discussed.

The shipment that arrived in Ghana on Wednesday is enough to cover 1 percent of Ghana’s population. Like some other middle- and low-income nations, Ghana has not been hit as hard by the virus as wealthier nations — it has so far had about 80,700 coronavirus cases and 580 deaths — but there is little understanding of why that is or how it might change.

That’s not the only mystery. Though case numbers have dropped dramatically in some countries since winter highs, the exact reason behind those declines is uncertain. In some countries, case numbers are edging back up — in some, such as Denmark, this is happening despite a lockdown. A recent survey of experts by the journal Nature found that 90 percent of experts thought the virus was likely to become endemic, but there was no consensus on how that would effect humans.

But even so, the current outlook is more positive than it has been in months. The vaccines are working against the virus, their rollout appears likely to severely slow its spread and these vaccines are shipping out to more parts of the world. It could be a lot better, but also a lot worse, and at least it’s a start.

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