WORLD ROUNDUPHungary Undermine Sweden’s NATO Accession | Iran’s Evolving Threats to U.S. Interests | Southeast Asia Seeks New Security Ties, and more

Published 18 September 2023

·  It’s Hungary’s Turn to Undermine Sweden’s NATO Accession
All eyes were on Erdogan, but now Orban has found an excuse to be outraged and delay ratification

·  Libya’s Unnatural Disaster
What a deluged town reveals about a broken country

·  With ASEAN Paralyzed, Southeast Asia Seeks New Security Ties
The bloc’s divide over China pushes members to go their own way

·  Morocco Earthquake: King Mohammed Comes under Scrutiny After 3,000 Die
Attitudes are split between affection for the monarch and disappointment at a weak response to disaster

·  Kim Jong-un Inspects Missiles and Nuclear Bombers in Russia
The North Korean leader was shown key elements of the Russian nuclear force as fears grew that the two nations were expanding their military ties

·  Addressing Iran’s Evolving Threats to U.S. Interests
The Islamic Republic remains a disruptive and dangerous force in the international arena

It’s Hungary’s Turn to Undermine Sweden’s NATO Accession  (Elisabeth Braw, Foreign Policy)
There are stern diplomatic letters—and then there’s the one received on Sept. 14 by Sweden’s foreign ministry, addressed to Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom. The petulant letter is written by his Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto, and informs Billstrom that unless Swedish politicians and the country’s national public radio stop criticizing Hungary’s democracy, Hungary won’t ratify Sweden’s NATO accession.
And because, unlike Hungary, Sweden is a well-functioning democracy and therefore its government can’t tell opposition politicians—some of whom have been lambasting Hungary lately—or Swedish public radio what to say, that means no NATO ratification. Sweden’s NATO membership may die for now—because of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, not Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
With the new school year underway, Swedish schoolchildren studying UR’s educational content will indeed learn that Hungary’s democracy has certain flaws. This is not news; the European Commission has frozen COVID-19 relief funds over the Hungarian government’s practices in rewarding contracts, and last year, the European Parliament passed a resolution labeling the country an “electoral autocracy” because of shortcomings within its constitutional and electoral system. But for the most part, Hungary needs the EU more than vice versa. Sweden, by contrast, desperately needs Hungary. And Szijjarto seems to have gone looking for Swedish offenses.
So, Hungary looks unlikely to ratify any time soon. Even if Erdogan decides that he’s done adding new demands to let Sweden into NATO, it won’t matter. Without Hungarian ratification, there will be no Swedish accession. That means no NATO lake in the Baltic Sea and no standard Swedish participation in alliance-wide intelligence sharing. It also means that Sweden’s outstanding defense industry will continue to be hampered by its status as a NATO outsider.

Libya’s Unnatural Disaster  (Frederic Wehrey, The Atlantic)
Footage and eyewitness accounts have conveyed harrowing scenes from the storm-struck Libyan town of Derna: overflowing morgues and mass burials, rescuers digging through mud with their bare hands to recover bodies, a corpse hanging from a streetlight, the cries of trapped children. Two aging dams to Derna’s south collapsed under the pressure of Storm Daniel, sending an estimated 30 million cubic meters of water down a river valley that runs through the city’s center and erasing entire neighborhoods. Some 11,300 people are currently believed dead—a number that could double in the days ahead. An estimated 38,000 residents have been displaced. (Cont.)