February 1 – North America / Europe:
UNITED STATES / RUSSIA
The United States formally suspends the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), an arms control agreement signed between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1987, and then its successor state the Russian Federation. The Trump Administration accuses Russia of violating the deal and threatens to withdraw completely unless Moscow complies with its terms within 180 days. Russia denies the accusations.
The INF Treaty required destruction of the Parties’ ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of between 500 and 5,500 kilometers, their launchers and associated support structures and support equipment within three years after the Treaty entered into force. By 1991, a total of 2,692 missiles were eliminated after the Treaty’s entry-into-force by both sides.
(Feb 2): Following the U.S. decision, Russia says it will also withdraw from the INF Treaty within the next six months. On the same day, Russia’s military announces it has carried out a successful test of a Yars intercontinental ballistic missile, a system designed to carry thermonuclear warheads. The withdrawal from the INF Treaty raises concerns about a renewed arms race between the U.S. and Russia.
More about impacts of abandoning the nuclear disarmament
February 3 – Europe / Middle East:
Vatican / United Arab Emirates
Pope Francis arrives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the first ever visit of a leader of the Roman Catholic Church to the Arabian Peninsula. He is greeted by Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. During this historic visit, the pontiff takes part in an interfaith conference and holds a mass attended by tens of thousands of people, mostly migrant workers from such countries as the Philippines, South America, and India. Through his visit the Pope hopes to open a dialogue about tolerance, and peaceful coexistence of different cultures. Although the UAE is more tolerant that other Muslim countries in the Gulf region and guarantees freedom of worship in its constitution, it also has strict laws against proselytizing by non-Muslims. Blasphemy and converting from Islam are strictly prohibited and those who do face harsh punishments, potentially including the death penalty.
February 4 – Latin America / Europe:
Venezuela / European Union
Some European countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and France officially recognize the leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the interim president of Venezuela after President Nicolas Maduro rejected their calls for a snap election. Guaidó says the constitution allows him to take over the leadership of the country temporarily when the president is deemed illegitimate. Under Maduro, Venezuela has been in serious economic crisis, with severe shortages of basic everyday necessities and inflation reaching 1,300,000 percent in 2018.
Venezuela’s crisis in nine charts
February 6 – Europe / International Organizations:
North Macedonia / NATO
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) signs an accession agreement with Macedonia, making it the 30th member of this intergovernmental military alliance. This could happen only after Greece approved Macedonia’s new name, Republic of North Macedonia. Before Macedonia becomes officially a member, however, each NATO member will have to ratify the accession agreement.
February 12 – Latin America / North America:
Mexico / United States
Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, who operated the murderous Sinaloa drug cartel, the world’s largest drug trafficking organization, is found guilty on all ten counts during his federal trial in the United States. The charges included the distribution of cocaine and heroin, illegal firearms possession, and money laundering. He pocketed nearly $14 billion as the decades-long head of the cartel. Guzmán twice escaped from Mexican prisons in the last two decades, was extradited to the U.S. and is the highest profile Mexican drug cartel boss so far to stand trial in the US. He faces spending the rest of his life in prison in the U.S. It is believed that the conviction will not influence the operations of the Sinaloa drug cartel. The drug war in Mexico has killed about 100,000 people over more than a decade.
Who is ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán?
February 13 – East Asia: The Philippines
The Philippine authorities detain Maria Ressa, the founder and manager of one of the country’s major English-language news sites, Rappler, as well as Time magazine’s Person of the Year 2018, accusing her of cyber-libel. Rappler has been known for its investigative journalism critical of President Rodrigo Duterte and his government, especially his controversial “war on drugs” that that has led to extrajudicial killings and the deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos in the last two years, mostly urban poor. While the government accuses Rappler of bias against it, calling it “fake news”, Maria Ressa says her arrest is politically motivated by a government that tries to silence the media. In January the Philippines revoked the publishing/press license for Rappler, igniting a debate about press freedom in the country.
The Philippines remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to practice journalism. Journalists who investigated President Duterte and his administration’s role in extrajudicial killings carried out as part of its war on drugs face harassment and death threats. President Duterte himself said that many journalists who were killed deserved to die. Under his leadership, 12 journalists have been murdered bringing the total slain in the country to 185 journalists since 1986. Almost all the killings remain unsolved.
Duterte the controversial ‘strongman’ of the Philippines
More on the controversial “War on Drugs” from Human Rights Watch, including video reports
February 14 – South Asia: India / Pakistan
A suicide bomber in a car filled with explosives rams into a convoy carrying the Indian soldiers to the main city of Srinagar in Indian-administered part of Kashmir. Unofficial reports say that about 40 people are dead, which makes the attack the deadliest in two decades. The Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which has been fighting Indian security forces in Kashmir for 30 years, claims responsibility for the attack. Control of the Kashmir region is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed in full by both, with a smaller part administered by China. Since independence from Britain in 1947, the two sides have been fighting over the region and the conflict remains unresolved.
(Feb 26): India launches air strikes against the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militants in Balakot, which is within the Pakistani territory, right outside the border with Pakistani-controlled territory of Kashmir, escalating the tensions between the two countries. India claims these preemptive attacks are in response to its intelligence reports about more suicide attacks planned by the group in India. India says the air strikes have killed many militants, while Pakistan says it forced the Indian planes back and denies any casualties.
Kashmir: Why India and Pakistan fight over it
A history of the Kashmir conflict (video: 02:38 min)
February 19 – Africa / East Asia:
Tanzania / China
Tanzania sentences a Chinese national Yang Fenglan to 15 years in prison for illegal ivory trade. Nicknamed “Ivory Queen”, Yang, for over a decade, operated a major smuggling ring of elephant tusks from Tanzania to China where there is a huge black market for imported ivory products. She is responsible for smuggling $2.5 million worth of tusks from some 400 elephants. Eastern Africa – the region most affected by poaching – has lost almost 50 percent of its elephant population in the last decade. This number is event larger in Tanzania itself reaching over 60 percent.
More on the situation of elephants in Tanzania
February 23-24: Africa: Nigeria
Nigeria is holding general elections to elect its next President, Vice President and members of National Assembly. President Muhammadu Buhari wins the most votes and is reelected for his second term. The next runner-up (out of 73 candidates), Atiku Abubakar, questions the outcome of the election and vows to sue over the results. The election was marred by political violence with at least 53 people killed. Buhari’s critics accuse him of autocratic tendencies. Buhari is a former general who was one of the leaders of a military coup in the 1983 that overthrew a democratically elected government. He was first elected a president in 2015. His supporters point out that he took some positive steps to crack down on the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram and to tackle graft by establishing a presidential advisory committee against corruption and the development of a national anti-corruption strategy among others.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation (203 million people) and largest economy, faces a range of problems including power shortages, corruption, longstanding ethnic and religious tensions, and an economic slowdown. Nigeria is Africa’s leading oil producer but corruption and mismanagement hampers development. According to Transparency International, Nigeria remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world with a score of 27 out of 100.
Nigeria election 2019: Mapping a nation in nine charts
Five things about Nigeria: The superpower with no power
February 27-28 – North America / East Asia:
United States / North Korea
The second North Korea-United States Summit on denuclearization of North Korea held between North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam is cut short and no agreement is reached. The White House explains the reason behind it being that for the promise of dismantling all of the Yongbyon nuclear weapons complex North Korea demanded that the U.S. lifts all sanctions on North Korea first. North Korea, however, reports that it only sought a partial lifting of five United Nations sanctions imposed in 2016-17.
North Korea’s missile and nuclear program
North Korea’s human rights: What’s not being talked about