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Brink of actual confrontation

Opinion Piece

A tumultuous week has ended with two extremely contrasting situations for New Zealand, joy on the sporting front and concern at the world political scene.

New Zealand completed its third-most successful Commonwealth Games with wins in the two rugby sevens finals capping off what has been a stellar showing over a wide range of sports, with the only major disappointment being the below-par Silver Ferns.

While some cynics are quick to deride the Commonwealth Games as a second-tier sports event, it has been a generally enjoyable competition for the number of sports involved, this time including disabled athletes. It was a success for the Australian organisers with only a few minor cavils.

The world political situation, however, is far from encouraging as the disastrous Syrian civil war brought the world’s two main nuclear-armed powers to the brink of actual confrontation.

Donald Trump’s much-hyped response to the ghastly chemical attack on civilians ended up being superficial to the odious Assad regime, with reports that it still has the potential to produce chemical weapons and remains on a trajectory to win a war that has already cost some 500,000 lives.

Many would agree with the assessment of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that the world is facing a new Cold War because of the present crisis.

There are already elements of that in the ridiculous claim by the Russian political misinformation apparatus that Britain was actually behind the chemical attack that fired up the crisis.

Closer to home, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern faces a week of tough negotiations on her European mission as she tries to push a trade deal with Brexit-distracted Europe. That starts with the hardest obstacle, French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country is notoriously anxious to protect its subsidised agricultural industry.

It is the last major diary item for Ms Ardern, barring some unforseen event, before she starts the country’s most famous example of maternity leave in its history. It has been a tough time for her politically over the past month, as she begins to be really tested.