Archive for the ‘Americas’ Category

31
Mar

Economic sanctions have become the “silver bullet” of American foreign policy over the past decade, because they’re cheaper and more effective in compelling adversaries than traditional military power. But Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warns of a “risk of overuse” that could neuter the sanctions weapon and harm America.

Lew made his unusual case against “sanctions overreach” in an interview last week and in a speech prepared for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His caution against overuse comes as some Republican members of Congress are fighting to maintain U.S. sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program, despite last year’s deal limiting that Iranian threat.

By highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of sanctions, Lew is raising an important question about the nature of American power in the 21st century. Sanctions have clout because U.S. financial markets are the central nervous system of the globalized economy. But if so many sanctions are applied that the U.S. system becomes too complicated and cumbersome for foreigners, they will eventually find ways to do business outside U.S. markets — weakening both our sanctions and our underlying economy. The magic bullet will become a poison pill.

Lew notes that U.S. sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program showed how effective this weapon can be when it’s carefully fashioned as part of a broad coalition. America’s program of so-called “secondary” sanctions didn’t just ban U.S. companies from doing business with Iran; they banned any company operating in Iran from using U.S. banks or other financial institutions. That made Iran a no-go zone for most Western companies. Read more…

 

Published in the nyt.com

Opinion writer March 29

 

 

Contrast the success of this coordinated effort in bringing Iran to the table with five decades of unilateral U.S. sanctions against the Castro regime in Cuba, which Lew rightly notes were “ineffective,” to put it mildly.

Lew’s larger point is that sanctions won’t work if countries don’t get the reward they were promised — in the removal of sanctions — once they accede to U.S. demands.

21
Mar

Obama’s Cuban revolution

Written on March 21, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Democracy & Human Rights, Foreign Policy

The Obamas arrive at Jose Marti International Airport on Sunday.

President Barack Obama’s trip to Cuba is a metaphor for his foreign policy and a potential glimpse into his post-presidency, all embodied in one landing here at José Martí International Airport on Sunday afternoon.

With his decision to move toward normalized relations with the Castro regime, Obama forced a geopolitical transformation, a rare instance when a president can start and nearly finish so complete a change in foreign policy within his term in office. And he did it less with a pen and a phone than with a series of prods and the force of his personality.

The Cuba reopening is a snapshot of Obama’s approach the past seven years: an analytic rethinking of America’s interests and a pragmatism about how to achieve them, pursued despite political resistance and without much cooperation from Congress. Typically, it’s sparked a debate between supporters who see him breaking through calcified thinking and critics who say he’s willingly overlooked facts in order to gamble with abhorrent leaders for what would at best be shortsighted gains.

The detractors point to the dissidents arrested and rearrested in the days leading up to this trip, all while the Castro government has pushed back on the idea that Obama will be able to use the trip to get it to change. On the contrary, they’ve said, Obama’s arrival is proof that the human rights abuses they’ve been accused of must not exist, because otherwise he wouldn’t have come.

But even that attests to the force of Obama’s presence. In Havana, the big deal isn’t just that an American president is visiting again, the first time since Calvin Coolidge arrived by battleship in 1928. It’s not that Air Force One has landed.

It’s that Obama walked out. And that’s a power that will remain with him.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/obamas-cuban-renaissance-220999#ixzz43X7P6W8w

03/20/16

2
Dec

Putin Seeks Entente Cordiale With the West

Written on December 2, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Europe, Foreign Policy, Op Ed

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not the type of leader who wastes a geopolitical opportunity. This is his way of making foreign policy. As Center for Strategic and International Studies scholar Olga Oliker points out, “Russia does not have a strategy. While it has strategic goals, it pursues them primarily by seeking opportunities, rather than developing clear plans.”

Faced with the need to shore up militarily Bashar Assad’s faltering regime in Syria in the summer of 2015, Putin saw in this a broader opportunity to bring Russia back in from the cold, after months of Western isolation and pressure for Moscow’s shenanigans in Ukraine, by casting its intervention in Syria as a valiant contribution to the war on terror.

Putin’s “Syrian Gambit” aimed at transforming the relationship with the West on Russia’s terms to regain Russia’s rightful place as a global power. The Kremlin realized that it was getting stuck in Ukraine, where it could not re-establish Russia’s geopolitical parity with the United States. For Washington to take Moscow seriously, Russia needed to reassert its role on a stage where vital U.S. interests were at stake and where Moscow’s limited capability could make a global splash. Syria was a perfect fit.

The immediate rationale for Russia’s plunge into Syria’s bloody civil war was to save a friendly regime in deep trouble, forestall a Western military intervention, contain instability and the threat of Islamist terrorism away from Russia’s borders, while teaching the West a lesson that regime change through democracy promotion in countries of interest to Russia would no longer be tolerated and even reversed by force if necessary. Read more…

Vladimir Frolov is president of LEFF Group, a government relations and PR company.

Published Nov. 24 in the Moscow Times

26
Nov

 

china us

The U.S. is transfixed by its multibillion-dollar electoral circus. The European Union is paralyzed by austerity, fear of refugees, and now all-out jihad in the streets of Paris. So the West might be excused if it’s barely caught the echoes of a Chinese version of Roy Orbison’s “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” And that new Chinese dream even comes with a road map.

The crooner is President Xi Jinping and that road map is the ambitious, recently unveiled13th Five-Year-Plan, or in the pop-video version, the Shisanwu. After years of explosive economic expansion, it sanctifies the country’s lower “new normal” gross domestic product growth rate of 6.5% a year through at least2020.

It also sanctifies an updated economic formula for the country: out with a model based on low-wage manufacturing of export goods and in with the shock of the new, namely, a Chinese version of the third industrial revolution. And while China’s leadership is focused on creating a middle-class future powered by a consumer economy, its president is telling whoever is willing to listen that, despite the fears of the Obama administration and of some of the country’s neighbors, there’s no reason for war ever to be on the agenda for the U.S. and China.

Given the alarm in Washington about what is touted as a Beijing quietly pursuing expansionism in the South China Sea, Xi has been remarkably blunt on the subject of late. Neither Beijing nor Washington, he insists, should be caught in the Thucydides trap, the belief that a rising power and the ruling imperial power of the planet are condemned to go to war with each other sooner or later.

It was only two months ago in Seattle that Xi told a group of digital economy heavyweights, “There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides trap in the world. But should major countries time and again make the mistakes of strategic miscalculation, they might create such traps for themselves.”

A case can be made — and Xi’s ready to make it — that Washington, which, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Libya to Syria, has gained something of a reputation for “strategic miscalculation” in the twenty-first century, might be doing it again. After all, U.S. military strategy documents and top Pentagon figures have quite publicly started to label China (like Russia) as an official “threat.”

To grasp why Washington is starting to think of China that way, however, you need to take your eyes off the South China Sea for a moment, turn off Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and the rest of the posse, and consider the real game-changer — or “threat” — that’s rattling Beltway nerves in Washington when it comes to the new Great Game in Eurasia. Read more…

 

By Pepe Escobar; Nov. 23

Published in http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176072/

21
Sep

By Helena Schwertheim, 2014/2015 MIR Alumnus 

Between the 24th and 26th of August 2015, I was lucky enough to attend a forum on the future of democracy in Latin America in the capital of Colombia, Bogota. As it was organised by the Club of Madrid as part of the Club’s Next Generation Democracy (NGD) project, other attendees included ex-Presidents from the region such as Vicente Fox (Mexico), Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), Cesar Gaviria (Colombia) and Luis Alberto Lacalle (Uruguay), just to name a few. From the academic world experts from the Wilson Centre, The Economist columnists, members of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and practitioners from the Inter-American Development Bank, Organisation of American States and other institutions. Discussion provided analysis of the current crisis of democracy on the continent, using the experience and knowledge of those present. The aim was to move past simple diagnostics to provide practical recommendations and proposals of how to improve democracy. After all, the motto of the Club of Madrid is “democracy that delivers”.

The forum was divided into three days; on the first the aim was to provide an analysis of the current crisis facing Latin American democracy, while the second day we split into working groups to conceive concrete proposals and avenues of action. The final day was more of a presentation of the findings; in the historical centre of Bogota the event took place in the Colon Theatre, with students and media attending as well as the current President of Colombia, Manuel Santos. However by the third day I had met enough ex-Presidents and experts to be only mildly impressed by this spectacle.

Read more…

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