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Feb. 24, 2022

The Geography and Politics of Kenya’s Response to COVID-19

On 12 March 2021—the one-year anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in Kenya—its President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke to the Kenyan people about the past year’s events, discussing the highs, the lows, and everything in between. He recounted the loss of 1,879 Kenyans due to COVID-19 and referred to the struggle with the pandemic as a “fog of war,” an enemy unseen and undefined. He discussed both the political and the economic challenges that Kenya experienced and might continue to face in the future. In a measured address to the Kenyan people, he ended on a realistic note: “I must remind you that Government will do its part to protect Kenyans; but the first line of defence against an invisible enemy like Covid is the people. If we exercise civic responsibility and act as our ‘brother’s keeper,’ we will have won half the battle against this pandemic.”1 As with most, if not all, political speeches, Kenyatta’s words and sentences were filled with both truths as well as partial truths. This article aims to fill in the gaps, adding much needed perspective to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya, its impacts and effects on the political, security, and strategy dimensions of the country.

Feb. 24, 2022

Korea’s Exemplary Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Successes and Challenges

South Korea was early-on considered a model of pandemic management during the COVID-19 crisis. Considering South Korea’s proximity to China, it is no surprise that it was one of the first countries to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 2021, the South Korean government reports that there were 136,467 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country since the outbreak, of which 1,934 patients died. The impact of the crisis on South Korea’s health system had therefore been limited. In comparison, Japan reported 718,864 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 12,312 casualties, as reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). This is despite the fact that South Korea experienced its first outbreak in February 2020, only one month after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country. South Korean authorities responded very quickly to this first outbreak, taking public safety measures that were comparatively mild compared to China’s swift but repressive response, or Europe or the United States’ successive, and yet much less effective, nation-wide or region-wide lockdowns. South Korea’s effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic has combined technical, cultural, and political factors. It can be differentiated from neighboring countries’ approaches, including those that have obtained similarly good results, but there might also be some common policy responses across countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, or New Zealand.

Feb. 24, 2022

Taiwan Under the Pandemic: A Security Perspective

The drastic changes in Taiwan’s COVID-19 situation present an unusual national security case study. Despite its proximity to the initial outbreak in China, Taiwan was in a “parallel universe” from the beginning of the pandemic with a total of only 1199 confirmed cases and 12 deaths as of May 10th 2021.1 While many countries have suffered seriously from the pandemic Taiwan did not experience any lockdown throughout 2020, and its economy even grew.2 When vaccinations began in March 2021, Taiwan looked likely to escape the pandemic without major disruption; an outbreak in May 2021 however removed the laurel of success and plunged Taiwan into uncertainty.3

Feb. 24, 2022

Eurasia Rising: COVID-19 in Latin America

Latin America is slowly becoming a venue for the United States’ strategic competition with Russia and China. Despite the regional illusions during the early 21st century, the Brazilian leadership of Latin America has disappeared, regional integration has lost its climax and external state actors have increasing geoeconomic interests throughout the Western Hemisphere from the Rio Grande to Antarctica. To complicate matters further, COVID-19 has impacted Latin America more deeply than other regions, thus expanding the range of health, economic, and security needs in the continent. China and Russia have appeared as alternative providers of medical equipment, humanitarian aid, and vaccines, thus trying to replace the traditional role of Western developed nations, especially the United States, on the continent.

Feb. 24, 2022

India’s National Security Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

Last time the world was so badly affected by a global pandemic—known as the Spanish Flu—was about a hundred years ago. It was an era of colonialism and imperialism, and India at that time was a British colony. About 11 million Indians fell victim to the viral attack and lost their lives but the government of the time was hardly confronted by the people for its failures to contain the impact on their lives. There was no question or any discussion of the role of the government in containing or confronting the virus at that time, as the colonial population had no voice in governance. India was not worried about any foreign invasion or loss of its territorial integrity. There was no powerful country in the neighbourhood that posed a challenge to the jewel of the British Crown and there was no fear of cross-border terrorism.

Feb. 24, 2022

COVID-19 Pandemic and its Impact on Italy’s Governance and Security

Italy has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a proportionately high number of infections, and even higher mortality rate, due to the large number of elderly people (22.7 percent of the residents being over 65 years, the highest percentage in Europe). As of 30 April 2021, in a population of 60.35 million, 4,044,762 had been infected, with 121,177 casualties. The impact was extremely uneven among Italy’s regions in the “first wave” (February-June 2020), with the overwhelming majority of cases being concentrated in just a handful of regions in the north. These areas are the more industrialized parts of Italy and hence more exposed to trade with foreign nations. In the “second wave,” that started in October 2020, the distribution of the infection was far more uniform.

Feb. 2, 2022

Neither Triumph nor Disaster: United Kingdom Responses to COVID-19 and the Future of National Security

Nations are from time to time subjected to the audit of war: a searching examination that looks beneath the myths, shiny surfaces, and sticking plasters to reveal those areas of society and government that are truly strong, actually weak, or just plain mediocre. What did 1914–1917 or 1941–1945 expose about Russia’s real strengths and weaknesses? How would the United States really stand up to German Panzer forces and the Japanese Navy in 1942? Fortunately, no Western nation has been through such an examination since 1945, but the massive social, political, and economic shock of COVID-19 has provided a searching peacetime test. Twenty months since reports of the first deaths circulated in Wuhan, China, we still have not marked the end of COVID-19. But we have learned a lot. Here we ask: what did the United Kingdom’s COVID-19 experience reveal; how does that relate to UK national security; and what does this mean for the UK moving forward in a post-COVID global order?

Feb. 2, 2022

The Dutch Approach to COVID-19: How is it Distinctive?

“A grim milestone: Number of COVID-19 deaths surpasses 10,000 in The Netherlands” the NL Times published on December 12, 2020.1 These figures were reported by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Two days earlier, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s chief COVID-19 advisor, said in a public lecture, “look with envy” at the Netherlands because of its “unambiguous approach to the pandemic.”

Feb. 2, 2022

Impact of the Global COVID-19 Pandemic on Finnish Views of Security

When Finnish authorities began meetings focused on the potential spread of COVID-19 in January 2020 they were still hoping that the outbreak would be contained abroad. The first confirmed case in Finland came on January 29, through a Chinese tourist visiting Lapland. In his speech to open Parliament on February 2 Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said the possibility of a global pandemic could not be discounted, and that global cooperation and national preparations were key. He noted that the low threshold for cross-authority cooperation and information sharing among Finnish authorities was a key strength. COVID-19 would ultimately expose this as not being entirely correct. The pandemic also made it clear that Finland’s comprehensive societal security concept is mainly focused on preparations for foreseen events, but has fewer provisions for operative management of dynamic crises, and unless it is a military crisis, no other authorities have the wherewithal or resources to manage a long-running society-wide emergency-crisis situation.

Feb. 2, 2022

Sweden’s Security Policy after Covid-19

The pandemic has caused ruptures in how nations view their vulnerabilities and partnerships but also generated new thinking on national and regional security assets. Sweden became the global outlier early in the outbreak—pictured as unconcerned with the spread of the disease, indeed shooting for herd immunity according to some experts and pundits. This image, whether justified or not, came with a cost. Borders with the neighboring Nordics were closed for long periods, its standing in the European Union (EU) arena suffered, and the reputation of this self-proclaimed humanitarian powerhouse took a beating.