Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

21
Nov

“It looks like it is now just Germany and Canada holding down the Western world,” an elected politician from one of Germany’s prosperous western states told me over dinner this week. I started to laugh, but he put up his hand – he was being serious. He launched into a depressing tour of the countries once known as the Group of Eight, most of them sliding into chaos or extremism or long-term political paralysis.

At the head of the table, the United States is weeks away from falling off the political map, as far as its trade and military partners are concerned: Donald Trump’s administration will be, at best, unstable and untrustworthy; at worst, it will be a voice of toxic extremism to be shunned and avoided. Britain fell off in June, its Brexit referendum and harsh-edged new government limiting its relations with the world to a negotiated retreat, its future too uncertain for anyone to strike up commitments.

France is in deep crisis in advance of an election next year that could have frightening results: a victory by the race-hatred candidate Marine Le Pen or a lunge far rightward by conservatives to stave her off. Italy appears an oasis of sanity under Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, but his reforms are under attack and his government could be on the edge of collapse. Poland and Hungary have extreme, xenophobic governments that are withdrawing from international co-operation. Scandinavian countries are wrestling with coalition governments that include extremists.

And Russia, which has been lost for a long time, seems poised to establish a bloc of states with illiberal, authoritarian governments aimed against the liberal democracies – a bloc that could now come to include the United States. Scanning the horizon from Berlin in search of safe partnerships, there’s Canada. And, as Germans kept telling me this week, not much else. Read more…

Published on Nov. 19, http://www.theglobeandmail.com/, Doug Saunders

10
Nov

trump

Whether or not Donald J. Trump follows through on his campaign pledges to diminish or possibly abandon American commitments to security alliances such as NATO, his election victory forces nations around the world to begin preparing for the day they can no longer count on the American-backed order.

This creates a danger that derives less from Mr. Trump’s words, which are often inconsistent or difficult to parse, than from the inability to predict his actions or how other states might respond to them.

That uncertainty puts pressure on allies and adversaries alike to position themselves, before Mr. Trump even takes office, for a world that could be on the verge of losing one of its longest-standing pillars of stability.

“You’re going to see a lot of fear among America’s allies, and in some cases they may try to do something about it,” said James Goldgeier, a political scientist and the dean of American University’s School of International Service.

Mr. Trump’s election comes at a moment when rising powers are already pushing against the American-led order: China in Asia, Iran in the Middle East, and particularly Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia in Europe.

Allies in Europe or Asia, suddenly considering the prospect of facing a hostile power alone, cannot wait to see whether Mr. Trump means what he says, Mr. Goldgeier said, adding that they “will have to start making alternate plans now.”

Western European states like Germany and France “may decide they can no longer afford to take a tough stand against Putin’s Russia,” he suggested. “They may decide their best bet is to cut some kind of deal with him,” even if it means tolerating Russian influence over Eastern Europe. Read more..

By NOV. 9, 2016 ; nyt.com

7
Nov

Election 2016 and the Global Nuclear Threat

Written on November 7, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Foreign Policy, Security

Once upon a time, when choosing a new president, a factor for many voters was the perennial question: “Whose finger do you want on the nuclear button?” Of all the responsibilities of America’s top executive, none may be more momentous than deciding whether, and under what circumstances, to activate the “nuclear codes” — the secret alphanumeric messages that would inform missile officers in silos and submarines that the fearful moment had finally arrived to launch their intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) toward a foreign adversary, igniting a thermonuclear war.

Until recently in the post-Cold War world, however, nuclear weapons seemed to drop from sight, and that question along with it. Not any longer. In 2016, the nuclear issue is back big time, thanks both to the rise of Donald Trump (including various unsettling comments he’s made about nuclear weapons) and actual changes in the global nuclear landscape.
With passions running high on both sides in this year’s election and rising fears about Donald Trump’s impulsive nature and Hillary Clinton’s hawkish one, it’s hardly surprising that the “nuclear button” question has surfaced repeatedly throughout the campaign.  In one of the more pointed exchanges of the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton declared that Donald Trump lacked the mental composure for the job.  “A man who can be provoked by a tweet,” she commented, “should not have his fingers anywhere near the nuclear codes.”  Donald Trump has reciprocated by charging that Clinton is too prone to intervene abroad. “You’re going to end up in World War III over Syria,” he told reporters in Florida last month. Read more…

By Michael Klare
November 06, 2016; http://www.realclearworld.com/

18
Oct

In Washington’s ongoing debate about the cause of the continuing chaos in the Middle East, President George W. Bush stands condemned for the 2003 intervention that pushed Iraq into civil war, while President Obama stands condemned for the nonintervention that worsened Syria’s civil war. In Libya, meanwhile, Washington’s partial intervention also failed to bring peace, while too few Americans are even aware of their country’s role in the conflict afflicting Yemen.

Without trying to defend or absolve U.S. policy, then, it is worth stepping back to ask what shared historical experiences might have left these four countries — Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen — particularly at risk of violent collapse. The following maps help highlight how, at various points over the past century, historical circumstances conspired, in an often self-reinforcing way, to bolster the stability of some states in the region while undermining that of others.

1. Century-old states are more stable today

Countries whose political or geographic precedents stretch back over a century are more stable today. Turkey, Egypt, Iran, and, to some extent, the ruling dynasties of what are now Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, all, in one form or another, trace their current political structures to the late 19th century, before European colonialism took root in the region. Consequently, they were more likely to have the resources to maintain some independence in the face of European imperialism, or at least negotiate a less disruptive form of colonial rule.

 

Read more…

3
Oct

Europe Needs Its Realist Past

Written on October 3, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, Foreign Policy, Security

As Europe’s troubles deepen and pose more of a threat to the vital interests of the U.S., Americans are recycling their tried and tested critiques of the European Union: It is too statist and bureaucratic. Its instincts are too protectionist. Its decision-making bodies are too slow and secretive. EU foreign policy is too naive, too feckless about defense and security. The problem with Europe, in a word, is that it is too European.

But the EU isn’t in trouble today because its leaders are “too European.” The EU is in trouble because its leadership isn’t European enough. It is time for the continent to return to the tradition of realist politics that gave rise to its modern union in the first place.

It is easy today to forget just how hardheaded the original architects of Europe’s postwar drive for integration actually were. Charles de Gaulle of France, Konrad Adenauer of West Germany and Alcide De Gasperi of Italy were conservative nationalists whose vision for Europe reflected the bitter experiences of two world wars and a failed peace.

In its origins, European unity was an unsentimental exercise in geopolitics. Germany and Italy saw it as a way to reintegrate into the world after the disaster of fascism. France saw a coalition with a defeated and partitioned Germany as a way to cement its power in Europe and to strengthen its global reach. All these governments saw European unity as a way to keep the Old World as independent as possible from both Moscow and Washington. “Europe will be your revenge,” Adenauer told de Gaulle after the humiliation of the Suez crisis in 1956, when the U.S. forced France and Britain to back down from a joint campaign with Israel against Egypt.

These leaders did not think that submerging their national histories and identities in a cosmopolitan, post-national Europe was either possible or desirable. They supported Europe because it seemed to be the best way forward for the peoples they led. For its part, the U.S. backed the project because a united Western Europe offered the best hope to stop communism in the short term and to prevent the recurrence of major European wars farther down the road. Read more…

 

 

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