Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

7
Jan

Those of us who’ve worked on foreign affairs for decades disagree often and about much, but the advent of 2016 finds us all in agreement, to the point of cliché, on one thing: We’ve never seen a world so chockablock full of complex, dangerous and interlocking issues. For anything comparable in modern times, you’d have to go back to the late 1940s and the chaos following World War II.

Prediction now is as perilous as it was back then. Dozens of issues are rushing toward us, headlong, but we’re plunging in and highlighting the five biggest global issues of 2016: Syria, Iran nukes, China, Russia and the EU, and oil prices. In each of these areas, changes in one direction or another would be truly consequential — that is, they would ripple out broadly, like rocks thrown into the geopolitical pond.

To be sure, other issues, like cybersecurity, North Korea and climate change, will have short- and long-term effects, and, of course, no one is thinking about what inevitably will surprise us. Still, it’s a safe bet that the following five will absorb much of the world’s foreign policy attention in 2016. Here’s why:

1. Dealing With Syria

The country, now heading toward year five of a gruesome civil war, must come first. How the conflict evolves in 2016 will affect everything from the fate of the Islamic State to the European migration crisis, the stability of regional neighbors, volatility on the oil market, the status of Russia, and the terrorist threat level inside the United States.

The U.S. is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: gradually increasing military pressure on the IS by bombing, while seeking a diplomatic settlement satisfactory to Syria’s competing factions and the major powers trying to protect their conflicting interests — the U.S., Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The big benefit of this strategy is that it minimizes the United States’ chances of getting sucked into a quagmire.

But the big risk is that it is eminently gradualist — and assumes that the Islamic State is gradualist too. That is wrong. The IS continues to grow rapidly and expand geographically. Despite some recent setbacks – Iraqi forces appear close to recovering Ramadi city – the IS will likely achieve the capability to carry out or inspire more attacks like those on Paris and San Bernardino long before our gradualist strategy achieves its goal. Read more…

 

Published in  on Jan. 4, 2016 in http://www.ozy.com/

By John McLaughlin

The author, deputy director and acting director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004.

24
Dec

With the results of Spain’s election on Sunday, a tumultuous 2015 for Europe is ending on a stinging note that underscores Germany’s increasing isolation and Europe’s deepening division.

Spain’s voters followed those in Portugal and Greece this year in punishing a conservative government that had allied with Brussels, Berlin and international creditors in carrying out the austerity policies pushed as the solution to Europe’s debt crisis.

After the Spanish vote, Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi, a center-leftist who had built a good relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, renewed his attack on austerity and, quite nearly, Ms. Merkel personally, effectively blaming her policies for the rise of populism across Europe. Read more...

Published on Dec. 22 in www.nytimes.com

16
Dec

Thousands of people on a march for global climate justice in Paris

The climate accord reached by 195 countries in Paris on Saturday, which aims to halt global warming within this century, is being heralded by many world leaders, climate scientists, and news organizations as the turning point in the fight against human-induced climate change. The Guardian even went so far as to call the agreement the “end of the fossil fuel era,” as did activist leaders like May Boeve, the executive director of the environmentalist organization 350.org. In remarks celebrating the accord, President Obama said that the agreement was “the best chance we’ve had to save the one planet that we’ve got,” and that it showed “what’s possible when the world stands as one.” He also declared that the resulting deal “establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis.”

However, many proponents of the plan agree that its value is more about symbolism and hoped-for gains than near-term substance, and critics are zooming in on the agreement’s lack of legal teeth, as well as how optimistic it seems to be about future international cooperation, technological advancement, and the sustained domestic will within each country. Much of the agreement was reportedly made deliberately vague so as to avoid hurdles like the Republican-controlled Senate. According to climate scientists, the voluntary emissions-reduction plans already fall far short of the agreement’s goal of keeping the world temperature less than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the year 2100.

 

Read more…

 

Published on December 13, 2015

http://nymag.com

9
Dec

Will drawing new borders create and sustain peace?

Could we be facing the prospect of boundaries in the Middle East being redrawn, or seeing states reconstituted out of all recognition? In the past week, two experts have suggested this is the only viable solution to the civil wars in Iraq and Syria and to defeating ISIL.

Anatol Lieven, a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar and a former chair of international relations and terrorism studies at King’s College, London, advocates “the creation of fully autonomous areas in Sunni northern Iraq and eastern Syria, along similar lines to the present Kurdish region of Iraq and with full control over their internal affairs”.

Writing in Foreign Affairs, the scholar Barak Mendelsohn goes further. American “attachment to the artificial Sykes-Picot borders demarcated by France and Britain a century ago no longer makes sense”, he argues, adding that Syria and Iraq are finished as unitary states. He proposes “an independent Sunni state that would link Sunni-dominated territories on both sides of the border”.

This sounds remarkably radical, but US vice president Joe Biden, for one, can feel somewhat justified after the fact. He had suggested tripartite autonomy in Iraq nearly 10 years ago – “giving each ethno-religious group – Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab – room to run its own affairs”. He may not have included the Sunni areas of Syria at that point, but then that was before Bashar Al Assad declared war on his own people, and before the rise of ISIL and the effective disappearance of the border with Iraq. Read more…

Published on Dec. 8th, 2015, http://www.thenational.ae/

By Sholto Byrnes

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

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