News Timeline: February 2021

February 1 – East Asia: Myanmar

Military coup d’état

Myanmar’s military launches a coup d’état detaining State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi (equivalent of Prime Minister) and other democratically elected leaders from the National League for Democracy (NLD). They introduce a daily curfew and a one-year-long state of emergency.  Power is handed over to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing who has begun replacing the government ministers. The military takeover follows weeks of insisting that the November general election that saw an overwhelming support for the NLD was fraudulent.[1]

Background: Myanmar was ruled by the armed forces from 1962 until 2011, when a civilian government was formed. Aung San Suu Kyi spent nearly 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2010.

More on the military coup in Myanmar

Who is General Min Aung Hlaing

More about Aung San Suu Kyi

February 3 – North America / Europe:

United States / Russia

New Start Nuclear Arms Control Treaty

The United States extends the New Start nuclear arms control treaty with Russia for the next five years, the last remaining nuclear arms deal between the two countries. The treaty limits each country to 1,550 long-range nuclear warheads (a lower number than under the previous Start deal). Each country is also allowed to no more than 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear arms. Another 100 are allowed if they are not operationally deployed.[2]

Q&A: New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start)

February 4 – North America / Middle East:

United States / Yemen / Saudi Arabia

U.S. President Joe Biden announces an end to U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s military operations in Yemen’s civil war, saying it has “created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe”. His Administration is also reviewing U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia approved by the Trump Administration. Biden is appointing a special envoy for Yemen and plans to revive stalled peace talks.[3] The six-year war in Yemen has left 11,000 people dead and put millions to the brink of starvation.[4]

Foreign policy and U.S. diplomacy under the Biden Presidency

Background of the war in Yemen

February 13 – North America: United States

Impeachment trial of former President Trump

U.S. Senate acquits former President Donald Trump on a charge of inciting insurrection in his second impeachment trial. Majority senators, 57, vote “guilty” and 43 senators vote “not guilty”. A two-thirds majority, or 67 votes, is needed to convict. Trump is the first president in U.S. history to be impeached by the House of Representatives twice, and the first to be tried for impeachment after leaving office.[5]

More on the Senate impeachment trial

February 17 – Africa: Nigeria


Armed men in military uniforms abduct about 40 students and staff from a boarding school in the town of Kagara in Nigeria’s Niger state. This is the latest in a series of kidnappings by criminal gangs, many of them involving children. Kidnappings for ransom by organized armed criminal gangs has become more sophisticated and are seen as a national security challenge for the Nigerian government. Some of the causes include difficult economic times and overstretched security forces facing threats on several fronts, insurgents and land battles between herders and farmers.[6]

February 22 – North America:

Global Health: coronavirus, or COVID-19

U.S. President Joe Biden addresses the nation as the country surpasses 500,000 deaths from Covid-19, the highest number in the world. He opens his speech by saying that the number is higher than the death toll from World War One, World War Two, and the Vietnam War combined. He also, together with Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses, observes a moment of silence in a candle-lighting ceremony to honor those who succumbed to the virus.

The U.S. has 28.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, twice as many as the second highest country of India and Brazil. But in terms of deaths per 100,000 population, the U.S. ranks ninth after the UK and Italy. The positive news is that hospital admissions have fallen and 1.7 million people are being vaccinated each day since Biden took office.[7]

Imagining what 500,000 lost lives look like

February 26 – Africa / North America / International Organizations:

Ethiopia / Eritrea / United States / Amnesty International

Tigray conflict

In a newly issued report, Amnesty International accuses Eritrean forces of  massacring hundreds of unarmed civilians in the city of Axum in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray last November. It also says this could amount to a crime against humanity. Responding to the report the United States calls for Ethiopia and Eritrea to cease fighting in the Tigray region and the withdrawal of their forces from the region.[8]

How a massacre in the sacred city of Aksum unfolded

Amnesty International report: The Massacre in Axum

February 26 – Middle East / North America:

Saudi Arabia / United States

Murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

A declassified report from the US intelligence on the 2018 killing of Saudi activist and journalist Jamal Khashoggi who worked for Washington Post says Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman approved the operation to kill him. The United States announces visa restrictions for 76 Saudis involved in his killing. However, no sanctions are applied to the crown prince.[9]

Background: Jamal Khashoggi used to be an adviser to the Saudi government and close to the royal family but he fell out of favor and went into self-imposed exile in the U.S. in 2017. He wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post that was critical of Prince Mohammed policies.

Link to the declassified report

More about Jamal Khashoggi

About Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman


[1] “Myanmar coup: Aung San Suu Kyi detained as military seizes control.” BBC News. February 1, 2021.

[2] New Start: US and Russia extend nuclear treaty. BBC News. February 3, 2021. Accessed March 12, 21.

[3] Michael Crowley and Lara Jakes. “Biden announces the end of U.S. support to Saudi war in Yemen and a tougher line on Russia and China.” The New York Times. February 4, 2021. Accessed April 7, 2021.

[4] “Yemen war: Joe Biden ends support for operations in foreign policy reset.” BBC News. February 5, 2021. Accessed April 7, 2021.

[5] Domenico Montanaro. “Senate Acquits Trump In Impeachment Trial — Again.” NPR. February 13, 2021. Accessed March 5, 21.

[6] “Ruth Maclean and Ismail Alfa. “Gunmen in Nigeria Attack School, Abducting Dozens and Killing a Student.” The New York Times. February 17, 2021. Updated March 2, 2021. Accessed April 3, 21 and “Violent kidnappings for ransom spread across Nigeria.” TRT World. May 18, 2019. Accessed April 3, 21.

[7] “Covid: Biden calls 500,000 death toll a heartbreaking milestone.” BBC News. February 23, 2021. Accessed April 3, 21.

[8] “Ethiopia: The Massacre in Axum.” Amnesty International. 26 February 2021. Accessed March 17, 21 and Aaron Pellish and Laura Smith-Spark. “US calls for withdrawal of Eritrean forces in Ethiopia following investigation into massacre.” CNN. February 28, 2021. Accessed March 17, 21.

[9] “Jamal Khashoggi: US says Saudi prince approved Khashoggi killing.” BBC News. February 26, 2021. Accessed March 14, 21.