Guest Contributor Janet Lee
As I look at 2017, I cannot shake the feeling that foreign policy threats will pop up from less-likely sources.
My initial thought is that Nigeria will be a big player moving forward. As a regional power that has ties to Chevron and Exxon Mobile, conflicts with Boko Haram, and a growing separatist movement, there is the very real potential for turmoil facing the state. Even with the struggle with Jammeh and Gambia, Buhari is willing to lead ECOWAS into mandated actions as Abuja rallies troops in what Jammeh calls an “act of war.” This is a state that has ties to the United States, trade partners in oil through OPEC, and a growing international presence. This is also a state that has partnered with the Russian Federation to buy aircraft to defend against Boko Haram (after the United States blocked previous sales due to alleged human rights abuses), to build nuclear power plants, and to strengthen agricultural trade exports. (The aircraft deal also comes with Pakistani support while the pilots trained in places including the United States.)
At the risk of sounding like I need a tin foil hat, it is worth mentioning that Moscow is making moves to position itself positively with various states. This includes supporting Robert Mugabe, partnering for nuclear power plants for Cairo, selling fighter jets to Indonesia, sending drones and subs to the Philippines, and selling arms to Somalia after sanctions were lifted in April.
Overall, we enter into 2017 with our eyes turned toward the usual suspects, but need to be vigilant that we are watching all aspects of foreign policy. I fear that states that were previously assumed to be inconsequential are realigning or being under-valued in the new global arena. I hope I am wrong and will start creating a fashionable aluminum foil hat just in case.
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