Europe 2017: Return of Nationalism
In 2016 the United Kingdom narrowly voted to leave the European Union. This move proved to be one of the first acts in a global reaction against multinationalism; the following year, Iraqi Kurdistan voted for independence in the wake of the defeat of Daesh while the viability of a united Europe was further threatened when Catalonia declared its secession from Spain.
7 May 2015–21 Oct 2017 Russian electoral interventions in West▲
In 2015 Russia expanded its attempts to influence foreign elections across much of the Western democratic world. Using cyberattacks, social media disinformation campaigns, leaks, and donations, it attempted to influence elections and referendums in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, Italy, France, and other countries, and allegedly supported a coup attempt in Montenegro. In most cases, the Russians did not get the outcome they wanted; in the other cases, it remains uncertain whether Russian involvement was critical. Regardless, by late 2017, Russian interventions were on the wane, in at least part due to Western sanctions and other countermeasures.
12 May–6 Dec 2016 Battle of Sirte▲
With United States support, the Government of National Accord (GNA) launched an offensive against the Islamic State (Daesh) in Libya, recapturing the city of Sirte. Most of Sirte was destroyed during the battle, with some 35,000 people displaced by both Daesh’s initial occupation and the fighting to remove them. Afterwards US and GNA forces continued hunting down and destroying Daesh camps in the region for several months.
23 Jun 2016 Brexit referendum▲
After newly-elected Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom backtracked on a campaign promise to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty for further integration into the European Union in 2010, he provoked a storm of criticism in government. Eventually Cameron relented to pressure and agreed to hold a referendum on British membership in the EU on 23 June 2016. In a result which shocked much of the country, 51.9% voted in favor of leaving the EU, prompting Cameron to resign.
16 Oct 2016–20 Jul 2017 Battle of Mosul▲
Iraqi government and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, supported by the United States and Iran, converged on the Daesh-occupied city of Mosul from three directions. After a bitter nine-month battle which saw perhaps 20,000 military and 10,000 civilian deaths, Daesh was expelled from the city. The liberation of Mosul was a decisive victory over Daesh’s so-called Islamic State, destroying much of its power-base in northern Iraq.
6 Nov 2016–17 Oct 2017 Raqqa campaign▲
Backed by the United States, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—a Syrian alliance based in Kurdish Rojava and dominated by the People’s Protection Units (YPG)—launched Operation Wrath of Euphrates against Daesh (the Islamic State/ISIL) in the Raqqa Governorate of Syria, isolating and eventually capturing Raqqqa, Daesh’s capital city. As part of the offensive, the SDF also captured dams downstream, reaching as far as the Iraq border.
5 Jun 2017 Adriatic Charter: Montenegro▲
In November 2008, two years after gaining independence, Montenegro applied for a NATO Membership Action Plan and in May the following year joined the Adriatic Charter of NATO aspirants. This was followed by several years of working with NATO within the Membership Action Plan, before Montenegro finally joined NATO as a full member in June 2017.
25 Sep 2017 Kurdistan independence referendum▲
After delays due to the war with Daesh, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) held an independence referendum on 25 September 2017, with preliminary results showing 93% support for secession from Iraq. The referendum was rejected by both Iraq and Iran. On 15 October Iraqi troops moved in to occupy Kirkuk, expelling Kurdish forces from the disputed and oil-rich city in a five day battle. The following month Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court ruled any secession illegal and on 14 November the KRG agreed to abide by this ruling.
27 Oct 2017 Catalan independence declaration▲
On 25 September 2015, pro-independence parties won a majority of seats in elections in the Spanish autonomous community of Catalonia, leading to calls for a referendum on Catalan independence. Despite being declared illegal by the Constitutional Court of Spain, the referendum was held on 1 October 2017 and saw 90% of a 42.6% turnout vote in favor of independence. On 27 October the Parliament of Catalonia proclaimed Catalonia’s independence from Spain as the Catalan Republic. The Spanish government immediately rejected the proclamation, dismissed the Catalan government, and called for fresh Catalan elections. By 31 October the Constitutional Court of Spain had fully suspended the declaration of independence and many of the members of the dismissed Catalan government had fled to Belgium.