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Junior Taamas
, Nigeria.
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You aren’t alone if you’re feeling
worn down as 2018 comes to a close.
It’s been a trying year when it
comes to the world scene. A
seemingly unending parade of
summits, crises, protests, and
conflicts dominated the news.

Below is my list of the top ten world events of the year, listed in descending
order. You may want to read what
follows closely. Several of these
stories will continue into 2019.

10. Democrats Win Back the House.

Republicans and Democrats both
came away from the November
midterms elections with something
to brag about. Democrats, though,
secured the bigger victory .
Republicans picked up two seats in
the Senate, meaning they will
continue to have the final say on
President Donald Trump ’s judicial
and cabinet appointments.

Democrats, by contrast, picked up
forty seats on their way to regaining
control of the House. It was the
Democrats’ biggest seat gain since
the iconic Watergate class of 1974 ,
and it came because Democratic
House candidates outpolled their
Republican counterparts by a record
eight percentage points. When the
116 Congress opens for business on
January 3, Democrats will chair
House committees and decide the
agenda. Democrats likely won’t
succeed very often in directly
overturning Trump’s decisions,
whether at home or abroad. That in
most instances requires them to
reach agreement with the
Republican-controlled Senate and
override a Trump veto. But they will
be able to block him on issues
requiring their consent, like funding
for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico
border. They will also use their
oversight powers to highlight their
disagreements with the White House,
potentially putting public pressure
on Trump to reverse course. So the
biggest consequences of the 2018
elections have yet to be felt.

9. Humanitarian Crises Deepen.

Venezuela and Yemen were sad
stories in 2017. Things only got
worse in both countries in 2018.

Over the past four years an
estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans
have fled the country; millions more
have stayed behind and face grinding
economic hardship. The cause of
Venezuela’s collapse has been the
mismanagement of the economy,
first by Hugo Chávez, and then by
Nicolás Maduro . Both men also
attacked and dismantled Venezuela’s
democratic institutions. Maduro won
reelection in May in a rigged vote
and shows no signs of retreating
from policies that have brought
Venezuela sky-rocketing inflation,
water and electrical shortages, and
growing rates of malnutrition. The
Yemeni civil war entered its fourth
year in 2018. Yemen now holds the
dubious distinction of being the
world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

As many as fourteen thousand
Yemenis have died in the fighting,
and fifty thousand or more are
thought to have died because of a
war-induced famine. The horrifying
photographs of emaciated Yemeni
children have not persuaded either
side to lay down their weapons.

Meanwhile, humanitarian crises in
the Central African Republic, Congo,
Syria, and South Sudan , among
other places, continue to grind on. It
seems like ages since world leaders
embraced the principle of a
responsibility to protect.

8. Ethiopia Signs a Peace Deal with Eritrea.

Not all news in 2018 was
bad. In June, new Ethiopian Prime
Minister Abiy Ahmed surprised the
world by announcing he would
accept a peace deal with Eritrea that
had been gathering dust for eighteen
years. The two countries fought a
twelve-year long war that ended in
2000 with nearly eighty thousand
dead. In July, Ahmad traveled to
Asmara to meet Eritrean President
Isaias Afwerki and sign the peace
deal. Both countries have now
reopened embassies in each other’s
capitals, resumed commercial air
traffic, and begun demilitarizing
their joint border. Besides agreeing
to peace, Ahmed instituted
significant reforms at home, freeing
political prisoners and ending
Ethiopia’s state of emergency. Some
experts hope that the peace deal
might undermine Afwerki’s
authoritarianism in Eritrea, which
is sometimes dubbed “Africa’s North
Korea.” Perhaps. What is clear is
that Eritrea has moderated its
foreign policy, signing peace accords
with Somalia and Djibouti that
ended long-running border disputes
with the two countries. In response,
the United Nations Security Council
lifted an arms embargo on Eritrea.

With some luck and smart political
leadership, peace on the Horn of
Africa could boost the region’s
economic development as well.

7. Trump’s Summitry Alarms

Friends and Delights Foes. Donald
Trump campaigned pledging to do
different things in foreign policy and
to do them differently. His summit
meetings in 2018 showed him to be a
man of his word. He spent the G-7
summit in Quebec in June berating
other leaders for their country’s
trade policies, left the meeting before
it ended, and tweeted from Air Force
One that he wouldn’t sign the
communique he had agreed to before
he left. He then went to Singapore
where after five hours of meetings
with North Korean leader Kim Jong-
un he signed a vague, four hundred
word communique and declared that
“there is no longer a nuclear threat
from North Korea,” despite abundant
evidence to the contrary . At the
NATO summit in July, Trump
accused German Chancellor Angela
Merkel of being “totally controlled”
and “captive to Russia,” demanded
an emergency session so he could
push NATO members to spend more
on defense, and suggested he might
take the United States out of the
alliance if he didn’t get his way.

Days later at a joint press conference
in Helsinki with Russian President
Vladimir Putin, Trump seemingly
rejected the unanimous assessment
of the U.S. intelligence community
that Russia had interfered in the
2016 election, triggering stinging
bipartisan criticism back home. In
November, Trump criticized French
President Emmanuel Macron in a
tweet as he was arriving in Paris for
ceremonies to mark the centennial
of the end of World War I, canceled
a visit to an American military
cemetery because of rain, and
declined to attend a peace forum the
French government hosted. Trump’s
final summit meeting of the year,
though, the G-20 summit in Buenos
Aires, was uneventful. That
prompted news stories speculating
about why he hadn’t been

6. #MeToo Movement Goes Global.

The #MeToo movement took off in
the United States last year in the
wake of the sexual abuse allegations
against Hollywood producer Harvey
Weinstein. In 2018, the movement
went global as millions came
forward to share their stories. In
Italy the movement became
#QuellaVoltaChe (“that time when”),
in Spain it is #YoTambien, in France
it is #BalanceTonPorc (“squeal on
your pig”), and in Arab-speaking
countries it is #AnaKaman.

According to analytics from Google,
searches related to #MeToo and its
variants remain high around the
world, and the 2018 Nobel Peace
Prize was awarded jointly to
Congolese physician Denis Mukwege
and Yazidi assault survivor Nadia
Murad “ for their efforts to end the
use of sexual violence as a weapon
of war and armed conflict .” The
precise form the #MeToo movement
has taken and the success it has
achieved have varied across
countries and regions as legal,
political, economic, and cultural
conditions have differed. China,
Russia, and sub-Saharan Africa are
among the places where the effort to
highlight and end sexual abuse and
harassment hasn’t taken off. But
elsewhere #MeToo has highlighted
specific instances of abuse and
harassment by powerful figures and
ordinary people alike. The question
now is whether the #MeToo
movement will make a lasting
difference. For that to happen,
governments, businesses,
organizations, and most important,
people will all need to change.

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Ten Most Significant World Events In 2018 - Council Foreign Relations (cfr) - History & Culture

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Rufai Oladimeji
Lagos State University
100Level, Nigeria.
5. The Murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

On October 2 Saudi dissident and
Washington Post columnist Jamal
Khashoggi entered the Saudi
consulate in Istanbul. He didn’t
come out alive. In the weeks that
followed, Saudi officials told various
stories about what happened. What
they hadn’t counted on was that
Turkish intelligence had bugged the
consulate and that Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan was willing to
release what he knew to embarrass
them. President Trump initially
suggested the murder wasn’t
America’s concern because “to the
best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is
not a United States citizen.” Congress
took a different view , especially
after the CIA concluded that Saudi
Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman (MBS) had ordered
Khashoggi’s murder. Trump
repudiated that conclusion, releasing
a statement saying “it could very
well be that the Crown Prince had
knowledge of this tragic event—
maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”

The president said Riyadh’s
commitment to spend more than a
$100 billion on U.S. weapons
systems and its importance as an
ally justified his business-as-usual
approach. But Saudi arm purchases
actually are much smaller , and it’s
questionable whether relying on
MBS serves U.S. interests. He has
shown a penchant for recklessness:
he had many of his royal cousins
arrested; championed Saudi Arabia’s
ill-advised intervention in Yemen;
detained Lebanon’s prime minister
and temporarily forced him to
resign; led the effort to impose an
embargo on Qatar; and broke off
diplomatic relations with Canada
over a tweet. Saying that the Saudi
relationship is too important to
jeopardize only encourages further

4. The United States Leaves the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Donald Trump
vowed on the campaign trail to
withdraw the United States from the
Iran nuclear deal, formally known
as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of
Action (JCPOA). In May, Trump made
good on his pledge, claiming it was a
“one-sided deal that should have
never, ever been made.” Trump took
steps against the counsel of many of
his advisers and of America’s closest
allies. Secretary of Defense James
Mattis was among the cabinet
officers who argued that for all
deal’s weaknesses it was better to
stay in it .

British, French, and German leaders flew to Washington to lobby for the United States to stay in the deal, pledging to act to address
the deal’s shortcomings. No other
country followed the United States
out of the deal, even after the White
House announced that it would
sanction any firm that does business
with Iran. Iran remains in
compliance with the deal, and the
other signatories are looking for
ways to help Tehran ease the pain of
U.S. economic pressure. Whether
they will succeed and whether Iran
will leave the deal if they don’t are
two open questions. The Trump
administration has suggested that its
goal in Iran goes beyond shutting
down its nuclear program. Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo says the
administration “wants to restore
democracy” in Iran. And even if the
White House’s goals are more
modest, its sanctions effort could
trigger a transatlantic brawl if
European firms become the target of
U.S. penalties.

3. Dire Warnings About Climate Change Mount.

The world’s climate
is changing and human activity is
the cause. Scientists have been
telling us this for more than three
decades and evidence backs them up.

But these warnings haven’t led us to
change our ways. The emission of
the heat-trapping gases that produce
climate change continues to rise
globally. Now a sobering report
released by the United Nations
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) in October 2018 says
we may have as few as twelve years
to act or pass the point of no return.
To judge by the powerful hurricanes ,
devastating wildfires, floods , and
record-breaking heat in 2018 that
climate change fueled , we won’t like
the world we are heading toward.

But neither the UN report, nor the
freak weather events of 2018, nor
the release of a U.S. government
report outlining how much climate
change will harm the U.S. economy
has turned President Trump into a
climate-change believer. His rebuttal
to the National Climate Assessment
Report was simple: “I don’t believe
it.” The odds are good—very, very
good—that scientists have a better
handle on the future we face. But
sadly, they don’t have the ability
that an American president has to
keep us from going there.

2. The Weakening of the West Worsens.

For experts calling on
America’s friends to step up as
America steps down in world affairs,
2018 wasn’t a good year. Friend
after friend faced domestic problems
that made it hard for them to look,
let alone act, beyond their borders.
Hopes that the United Kingdom could
orchestrate an orderly divorce from
the European Union (EU) faded.

While the two sides reached a deal,
British Prime Minister Theresa May
couldn’t persuade the House of
Commons to endorse it. Whether
Britain is headed toward a hard
Brexit, a soft Brexit, or no Brexit at
all is anyone’s guess. Across the
English Channel, French President
Emmanuel Macron saw his public
approval ratings tumble into the
mid-twenties in the face of the gilets-
jaunes, or yellow-vest, protests. The
sometimes violent demonstrations
diminished Macron’s ability to push
ahead with his ambitious plans to
reform the French economy . Further
south, Italian voters elected a
populist coalition combining the
anti-establishment Five Star
Movement and the right-wing
League. The new government is now
fighting with Brussels over a draft
budget that violates EU rules. Prime
Minister Victor Orbán continued to
dismantle Hungary’s democracy, and
several other central European
countries drifted in the same
direction. Even Germany saw
domestic turmoil. Chancellor Angela
Merkel stepped down as head of the
Christian Democratic Union after the
party lost several critical state
elections. Merkel’s protégé Annegret
Kramp-Karrenbauer, succeeded her.

However, the chancellor no longer
commands the authority at home or
abroad she once did, raising fears
that Europe has become leaderless.

1. Trump Triggers a Trade War and

“I want tariffs,” Donald
Trump told his advisers in July 2017.

In 2018, he got his wish. In January
the administration imposed tariffs
on imported washing machines and
solar panels. A bigger move came in
March, though, when tariffs were
slapped on imported steel and
aluminum from friends and foes
alike because they posed a national
security threat. Trump subsequently
imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth
of Chinese imports, which by July he
had raised to $250 billion. Despite
tweeting that “Trade wars are good,
and easy to win,” Trump’s tariffs
had by year’s end hurt Americans
more than helped them. The stock
market sold off, the overall U.S.
trade deficit widened , and America’s
trading partners slapped retaliatory
tariffs on U.S. exports, causing
American farmers to lose overseas
markets and leading some U.S.
manufacturers cut jobs as higher
input costs punished their bottom
lines . Amidst this bad news, the
administration had second thoughts
about fighting trade wars across
multiple fronts. In July, Trump
struck a deal with the EU to hold off
on imposing further tariffs while the
two sides conducted new trade talks.

In November, he struck a ninety-day
trade truce with China. Trump’s
tariffs, coupled with his repeated
references to the EU as a “foe” and
threats to impose tariffs on imported
autos, left many Europeans
wondering whether traditional
transatlantic relations had changed
for good . Meanwhile in Beijing,
Chinese leaders hearing the talk in
Washington about “ strategic
competitors” and reading Vice
President Mike Pence’s tough speech
on Chinese behavior were debating
whether Trump was looking to do
more than just reset the bilateral
trade balance and instead seeking to
contain China’s rise as a great

Other stories of note in 2018 .

January, the Pentagon released a
National Defense Strategy that said
“great power competition—not
terrorism—is now the primary focus
of U.S. national security.” In
February, South Korea hosted the
Winter Olympics at PyeongChang.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
touted a new arsenal of weapons,
including an intercontinental
nuclear cruise missile, in March.
John Bolton became President
Trump’s third national security
advisor in April. In May, the U.S.

Embassy in Jerusalem opened . Nikki
Haley announced in June that the
United States is pulling out of the UN
Human Rights Council, calling it a
“protector of human rights abusers,
and a cesspool of political bias.” In
July, the Japan-EU Economic
Partnership Agreement was signed,
creating the largest world’s largest
free-bloc, covering 30 percent of
global trade. In August, Apple
became the first public company to
achieve a market capitalization of
$1 trillion. At the very last minute
in September, Canada agreed to join
with Mexico and the United States in
revamping the North America Free
Trade Agreement , now renamed the
United States-Mexico-Canada
Agreement. In October, the United
States informed Russia that it
intended to withdraw from the
Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty
because Russia was violating the
terms of the treaty . In November,
Russia fired upon and then seized
three Ukrainian naval vessels in the
Sea of Azov, escalating tensions
between Moscow and Kiev. In
December, the Comprehensive and
Progressive Agreement for Trans-
Pacific Partnership, essentially the
Trans-Pacific Partnership minus the
United States, went into effect.


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