Indo-Pacific Geopolitics Newsletter 02/13/2023

RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter February 6 – 12 2023 SLOW EARTHQUAKE RESPONSE PUTS PRESSURE ON TURKIYE’S ERDOGAN The death toll


Geopolitics Newsletter February 6 – 12 2023


The death toll as of February 12 has now surpassed 33,000 dead after a Feb. 6 earthquake devastated Turkiye’s southeastern and Syria’s northern regions. In Turkiye, the initially slow response from authorities—with critics arguing that victims waited two days for emergency workers and relief to arrive—forced a rare admission that authorities were too slow from the autocratic Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. However, Erdogan has also moved to crack down on “disinformation” online which he argues aims to discredit him and his government.

A more pressing concern for Ankara, though, is the deterioration of security for international aid and emergency workers caught in a growing contest for emergency supplies between rival factions in earthquake-devastated towns. Austrian and German rescue workers were forced to temporarily halt operations over the weekend as a result of open warfare between rival groups. Erdogan has vowed to crack down on looting and kidnappings in the disaster zones, but authorities are struggling to contain these issues.

Although no opposition candidate has declared a challenge to Erdogan yet, the presidential elections on June 18 are highly likely to draw out candidates as criticism of Erdogan mounts. The earthquake has rapidly become an election issue as Erdogan—the leader who trades on a brand of getting things done—is also being blamed for lax building code compliance under his 20-year government. Read more [External]

Turkiye earthquake

Turkish father holds his deceased daughter’s hand after a massive earthquake struck Turkiye last week – Photo: Adem Altan/AFP VIA GETTY


Former prime minister of Pakistan’s court indictment deferred – Feb. 7

The deferral was attributed to former PM Imran Khan’s health issues. Khan is currently embroiled in a number of legal cases, including an accusation of misrepresenting the value of gifts received from foreign dignitaries. Read more.

India’s central bank raises interest rates by 25 basis points – Feb. 8

The Reserve Bank of India, in its attempt to curb rising inflation, sought to increase the main interest rate from 6.25% in December last year to 6.5% this week. The recently approved government budget also included announcements meant to help the middle class, ahead of next year’s general elections. Read more

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen embarks on China visit – Feb. 9

As the first foreign leader to visit China post Lunar New Year, Cambodian PM Hun Sen sought to increase Chinese Belt and Road investments in the country for further infrastructure development. Cambodia’s debts to China currently comprise up to 10% of the country’s GDP. Read more

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh concludes Singapore visit – Feb. 10

With the two countries celebrating 50 years of diplomatic relations and 10 years of a bilateral strategic partnership, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh sought to strengthen economic, defense and security cooperation with Singapore. Read more

US military shot down unidentified flying objects over Alaska and Canada – Feb. 11

The takedowns occurred on Feb. 10 and 11 and come a week after US President Joe Biden ordered the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon once it drifted over the Atlantic Ocean. Work to recover debris over all three sites continues. Read more [External]

Philippines’ President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. concludes Japan visit – Feb. 12

A key emphasis of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s trip was to deepen security ties with Japan. Marcos and Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida witnessed the signing of seven economic and security agreements—including Japanese humanitarian aid in the Philippines. Read more


French and German Finance Ministers arrive in Washington – Feb 6

France’s Bruno La Maire and Germany’s Robert Haleck met with US counterpart Janet Yellen amid a simmering dispute over the US Inflation Reduction Act. The law gives over $360 billion in subsidies for US investment in US-based Green technologies. Berlin and Paris fear the subsidies directly block US investment in EU green initiatives. Read more

UN human rights envoy arrived in Washington for Guantanamo Bay visit – Feb 6

UN human rights envoy Fionnuala Ni Aolain toured the controversial facility where 34 prisoners remain, in efforts to redirect international attention to their release and relocation. Read more

Russia expels Estonian ambassador – Feb 7

Estonian ambassador to Russia Margus Laidre was expelled by Russia in the latest manifestation of a major diplomatic row since the invasion of Ukraine. Estonia’s strong diplomatic support of Ukraine has also seen it provide military hardware during the conflict. Read more

First EU-Moldova meeting held since candidacy status confirmed last year – Feb 7

The first meeting since Moldova gained EU candidate status in June 2022. However, further efforts in tackling corruption and improving economic infrastructure are likely needed before Moldova sees full EU membership. Read more

Special European Council meeting concludes in Brussels – Feb 10

The Council sought to bring forward legislation surrounding migration, as the war in Ukraine and continued immigration from the Middle East puts pressure on the EU—issues that are expected to escalate until at least 2032. Read more

UN Humanitarian Affairs Undersecretary Griffiths visited Turkiye and Syria – Feb 11

In the wake of the earthquake that hit Turkiye and Syria on Feb. 5 claiming over [x] lives thus far, the UN focused on logistics issues affecting the transportation of aid to the region amid security concerns and colossal infrastructure damage. Read more

Eastern Sudan Conference began in Khartoum – Feb 12

The Eastern region of Sudan—mirroring the ongoing political instability in Sudan overall—has been torn apart by insurgencies and weak governance structures for decades. The conference brings together warring factions and other groups exploring the possibility of sustainable peace and governance agreement. Read more


Kenyan Police taskforce on police and prisons reform begins work – Feb 6

President William Ruto has ordered the task force to address ongoing incidents of police brutality, enforced disappearances, and post-electoral violence in the country. A key structural reform is the decoupling of the police away from the president’s office—long perceived as a conflict of interest, especially when post-election violence occurs. Read more

International Marine Protected Areas Congress concludes in Vancouver – Feb 9

Hosted jointly by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Canadian government, this year’s conference is primarily concerned with advocating for the protection of sustainable marine life in the world’s oceans. Read more


LEAP 2023 Tech Conference concludes in Riyadh – Feb 9

Host Saudi Arabia secured over $9 billion in investments from US tech giants, Oracle and Microsoft, during the conference, to build cloud data centers in the country. Riyadh used the conference to showcase its vision to make the Islamic kingdom the largest digital economy in the MENA region.  Read more

Iran marks the 44th Anniversary of the Islamic Revolution – Feb 11

Events across the country commemorated the Islamic Republic’s founding father, Ayatollah Khomeini’s, return to Iran after his exile by the ousted Pahlavi royal dynasty. This year’s commemorations come as Tehran struggles to contain ongoing mass demonstrations against the regime. Read more


Peruvian congress sets new election date – Feb 10

The deadline for Peru’s legislative branch to set new election dates came this week. Widespread protests erupted in the country after the congress impeached President Pedro Castillo in December of last year, calling for new elections. However, Congressional leaders are reluctant for elections to take place this year due to low popularity ratings. Read more

Fourth wave of pension reform protests in France – Feb 11

Protests continued this week against President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms—raising the pension eligibility age from 62 to 64 years old. The current pension age is seen by Macron’s opponents as a core tenet of French society. The reforms have been met with vociferous opposition from labor unions as well as a broad spectrum of political opposition in the National Assembly. Read more

Second-round of Cyprus presidential elections begins – Feb 12

Former foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides and favorite Andreas Mavroyiannis are the highest-ranking candidates from the first-round elections, held on February 5. The future of the country’s ongoing split between the Turkish-controlled north and the Greek-majority south remains intractable as ever. Both candidates oppose a two-state solution. Read more


German President Frank Walter-Steinmeyer to visit Cambodia – Feb 13

Germany uses presidential trips by holders of the ceremonial presidential office to advocate on humanitarian issues, in a bid to increase German soft power internationally Read more [External]

Japanese government to present central bank nominees – Feb 14

Parliament has the constitutional authority to approve such candidates. Read more [External]  

Sudan’s troubled Juba Peace Plan to be reviewed – Feb 14

However, fears are already mounting that the review will be delayed. Read more



Contributions by: John Milo, Sabrine Donohoe, Sujitha Sundaram