Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

14
Jul

Earlier this month, students from our current MIR intake organized a visit to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid. Here is current MIR student Calvin Nguyen’s account of the visit.

Embassy visit

Through the initiative of MIR student Jose Miguel, students from the Master in International Relations and other interested IE students attended a special talk on July 1st at the United States Embassy in Madrid, Spain. The talk focused on the topic of Public Diplomacy featuring civil servant Vickery Sanchez and her experience while working with the Department of State in Washington D.C.

3pm that day, we began the process of entering the fortress-like U.S. embassy undergoing a very lengthy security screening process. Soon after, we were led into a room that reminded me of a miniature theater with comfortable sofas, classical chairs, and lazy boy armchairs. With the air conditioning blowing cooling us from the oppressive 40 C degree Madrid summer heat and being comfortably seated in the sofas and armchairs, the presentation began.

It was a great opportunity to learn about Public Diplomacy which is different than classical diplomacy between governments and larger organizations. Rather, Public Diplomacy is the government directly engaging with the people themselves.

Throughout the presentation, we saw an example of an action plan of the U.S. government about how it engages in Public Diplomacy with the world. Additionally, we learned about the way social media has changed the way the government engages with people and how it serves as a valuable tool in Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy.

I had always heard of and knew about the U.S. Fulbright program which students utilize as an opportunity to teach, to work, and to conduct research abroad. Originally, I had thought of it as a way to expose Americans to other cultures, but after the presentation, I now see it as a means of the U.S. government to spread soft power through the world.

Vickery also mentioned the importance of Foreign Service Officers working in Public Diplomacy abroad as a means to combat both disinformation and misinformation by helping to deliver accurate information and news, and to properly represent the views of the United States.

Overall, it was a very informative event and a nice break during the extremely hectic period of thesis writing. Specially organized talks and events like these provide a very nice change from the classical classroom learning environment.

26
Dec

The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations

Written on December 26, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Foreign Policy, Political Economy

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to an exchange of prisoners being held on espionage charges. In addition, Washington and Havana agreed to hold discussions with the goal of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. No agreement was reached on ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, a step that requires congressional approval.

It was a modest agreement, striking only because there was any agreement at all. U.S.-Cuba relations had been frozen for decades, with neither side prepared to make significant concessions or even first moves. The cause was partly the domestic politics of each country that made it easier to leave the relationship frozen. On the American side, a coalition of Cuban-Americans, conservatives and human rights advocates decrying Cuba’s record of human rights violations blocked the effort. On the Cuban side, enmity with the United States plays a pivotal role in legitimizing the communist regime. Not only was the government born out of opposition to American imperialism, but Havana also uses the ongoing U.S. embargo to explain Cuban economic failures. There was no external pressure compelling either side to accommodate the other, and there were substantial internal reasons to let the situation stay as it is.

The Cubans are now under some pressure to shift their policies. They have managed to survive the fall of the Soviet Union with some difficulty. They now face a more immediate problem: uncertainty in Venezuela. Caracas supplies oil to Cuba at deeply discounted prices. It is hard to tell just how close Cuba’s economy is to the edge, but there is no question that Venezuelan oil makes a significant difference. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government is facing mounting unrest over economic failures. If the Venezuelan government falls, Cuba would lose one of its structural supports. Venezuela’s fate is far from certain, but Cuba must face the possibility of a worst-case scenario and shape openings. Opening to the United States makes sense in terms of regime preservation.

The U.S. reason for the shift is less clear. It makes political sense from Obama’s standpoint. First, ideologically, ending the embargo appeals to him. Second, he has few foreign policy successes to his credit. Normalizing relations with Cuba is something he might be able to achieve, since groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce favor normalization and will provide political cover in the Republican Party. But finally, and perhaps most important, the geopolitical foundations behind the American obsession with Cuba have for the most part evaporated, if not permanently than at least for the foreseeable future. Normalization of relations with Cuba no longer poses a strategic threat. To understand the U.S. response to Cuba in the past half century, understanding Cuba’s geopolitical challenge to the United States is important. Read more…

Written by George Friedman on Dec. 23rd: Mr. Friedman is chairman of Stratfor.

Published in http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2014/12/23/the_geopolitics_of_us-cuba_relations_110875-3.html

28
Nov

Is the state making a comeback? It can certainly look like it. Old-fashioned interstate conflicts are roiling the China Sea and Russia’s western borders. Inter-governmental meetings such as the last Apec conference and the Group of 20 leading economies in Sydney took on an unwonted urgency. More positively, it is old-fashioned diplomacy that is making the running on issues from Iran’s nuclear programme to global warming.

Yet the dominant view since the early 1990s has been that globalisation meant the transformation of the world through non-state actors. The end of the cold war ushered in an almost Marxist expectation that the state would wither away – overshadowed by free flows of money and goods, undermined by non-state actors of which terrorist groups were only the most obvious. It was an expectation shared right across the political spectrum.

On the left, critics of market globalisation anticipated the rise of people power. Non-governmental organisations would supersede the supposedly worn out institutions of the nation state and create new, more vibrant forms of political activity. Technology would bring better solutions to old problems, bypassing stagnant state institutions.

The neoliberal right hailed the rise of global finance, the dismantling of capital controls and the deregulation of banking, not least because all of these weakened national governments’ capacity to control markets. In manufacturing and services, enormous new powers accrued to corporations able to take advantage of differing tax regimes and wage levels across the world.

Yet these hopes underestimated the sheer staying power – indeed the legitimacy – of the state and its institutions, and the extreme difficulty of creating new ones from scratch. NGOs remain on the sidelines: international organisations are vehicles for clusters and coalitions of national states to act in concert where they can. To that extent they are essentially derivative, reflecting the wishes of their most powerful members. The idea that they could be freed from the clutches of national governments was a pipe dream. Read more…

 

Published in the Financial Times on 26 November by Mark Mazower.

The writer is professor of history at Columbia and author of ‘Governing the World: The History of an Idea’

20
Nov

Tell me, friend: Do you find the current world situation confusing? Are you having trouble sorting through the bewildering array of alarums, provocations, reassurances, and trite nostrums offered up by pundits and politicos? Can’t tell if the glass is half-full and rising or half-empty, cracked, and leaking water fast? Not sure if you should go long on precious metals and stock up on fresh water, ammo, and canned goods, or go big into equities and assume that everything will work out in the long run?

Today’s world is filled with conflicting signals. On the one hand, life expectancy and education are up, the level of violent conflict is down, and hundreds of millions of people have been lifted out of poverty over the past several decades. Private businesses are starting to take human rights seriously. And hey, the euro is still alive! On the other hand, Europe’s economy is still depressed, Russia is suspending nuclear cooperation with the United States, violent extremists keep multiplying in several regions, the odds of a genuine nuclear deal with Iran still look like a coin toss, and that much-ballyhooed climate change deal between the United States and China is probably too little too late and already facing right-wing criticisms.

Given all these conflicting signals, what broader lessons might guide policymakers wrestling with all this turbulence? Assuming governments are capable of learning from experience (and please just grant me that one), then what kernels of wisdom should they be drawing on right now? What do the past 20 years or so reveal about contemporary foreign-policy issues, and what enduring lessons should we learn from recent experience?

No. 1: Great-power politics still matters. A lot.

When the Cold War ended, a lot of smart people convinced themselves that good old-fashioned power politics was a thing of the past. As Bill Clinton said when he first ran for president, the “cynical calculus of pure power politics simply does not compute. It is ill-suited to a new era.” Instead of being roiled by power politics, the world was going to be united by markets, shared democratic values, and the Internet — and humankind would concentrate on getting rich and living well (i.e., likeClinton himself).

There’s no mystery as to why this outlook appealed to Americans, who assumed this benign vision would unfold under Washington’s benevolent guidance. But the last 20 years teaches us that this view was, as usual, premature, and great-power politics has come back with a vengeance.

Of course, the United States never abandoned “power politics,” and Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all emphasized the need to preserve the U.S. position as the world’s most powerful country. They understood that their ability to exercise “global leadership” depends on U.S. primacy and especially America’s privileged position as the only major power in the Western Hemisphere. That position gives U.S. policymakers the freedom to wander around and meddle in lots of other places — something they would not be able to do if the United States were weaker or if it had to worry about defending its own territory against serious dangers.

But the United States isn’t alone. China’s increasingly assertive policies toward its immediate neighborhood shows that Beijing is hardly indifferent to geopolitics, and Russia’s assertive defense of what it sees as vital interests in its “near abroad” (e.g., Ukraine) suggests that somebody in Moscow didn’t get the memo about the benign effects of globalization. And regional powers like India, Turkey, and Japan are taking traditional geopolitical concerns more seriously these days. Bottom line: If you thought great-power rivalry was a thing of the past, think again. Read more…

Published on Nov. 18 in http://www.foreignpolicy.com/

Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University.

31
Oct

Japan Moves to Defuse Maritime Dispute with China

Written on October 31, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Foreign Policy, Security

Japan de-escalates the Senkaku-Diaoyu dispute

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and China’s President Xi Jinping are set to meet for the first time in their respective tenures at the APEC meeting in Beijing in November. However, the privilege of meeting the Chinese head of state comes with a cost for Shinzo Abe. The Japanese PM has conceded to a significant change of attitude in the dispute about the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

While Japan previously denied there being any dispute in the first place, now the wording has changed into an acknowledgement of the fact that “China has a case as well.” Since China has refused talks with Japan until the existence of the conflict in the East China Sea was acknowledged, this has prevented the two nations’ heads from meeting.

The proposal to Xi Jinping from Shinzo Abe, of which the admission that the islands are indeed disputed is one part, contains further points. Japan suggests that it, together with China, settle the issue bilaterally over time, and that no statements or other documents detailing this agreement be officially released.

These additional points are, however, secondary to Japan’s huge concessions to Chinese demands on this matter. Indeed, as Abe stated during a press conference at the UN Summit, “Senkaku is an inherent part of the territory of Japan in light of historical facts and based upon international law, and the islands are under the valid control of Japan.” He noted that Chinese government vessels regrettably continue to invade Japanese waters, and that Japan would not make concessions on territorial sovereignty but would avoid a further escalation. It seems fair to say that Japan just did make concessions. Read more…

Published on Oct. 28 by Mikala Sorenson in http://globalriskinsights.com/

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