Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

10
Mar

Presidents Putin and Jinping

 

Whether or not we have slid into a “new Cold War,” as claimed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the Munich Security Conference on February 13, we certainly have entered a period of escalating provocations, with China, Russia, the United States, and other major powers testing one another’s resolve through a series of military feints. While usually contained below the level of armed combat, these actions—deployment of bombers or warships in or near a rival’s territory, construction of new military bases in menacing locations, aggressive military maneuvers, and so on—naturally invite countermeasures of an increasingly belligerent sort and so increase the risk of war.

These provocations are occurring on multiple fronts simultaneously. In Asia, the United States, China, Japan, and other powers are engaged in an escalating contest of wills over control of disputed islands in both the East and South China seas. In Europe, Russia is seeking to extend its sway over eastern Ukraine, while the United States and its NATO allies are bolstering their forces on Russia’s periphery. In the Middle East, numerous countries, including the United States, Russia, Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, are jockeying for geopolitical advantage amid the bloody ruins of Syria. (The “cessation of hostilities” agreement recently negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, may dampen this competition, but the other parties involved show no inclination to temper their own involvement.) Read more…

By Michael T. Klare; Published on March 03rd, 2016 in http://www.thenation.com/

4
Mar

Is This the United States' Grand Plan for Responding to China in the South China Sea?

It’s certainly been an interesting week in the South China Sea, with reports that China moved coast guard vessels into Jackson Shoal, driving Filipino fishermen out and effectively asserting control over that feature. China’s latest bout of assertion comes not long after it re-stationed J-11 fighters and HQ-9 surface-to-air missile systems on Woody Island, days after ASEAN leaders met with U.S. President Barack Obama in the United States.

On Wednesday, two reports caught my eye that reveal a growing coalition and network of Asian powers to counter Chinese assertiveness in Asian waters, certainly the South China Sea. Incidentally, both these reports stem from comments and observations made recently by Admiral Harry B. Harris, the outspoken head of U.S. Pacific Command, at a security conference in New Delhi, India. (Harris’ prepared remarks are available here.)

The first, reported in Reuters, notes that India, the United States, and Japan will be holding their first trilateral naval exercise in the South China Sea, off the northern coast of Philippines. While a location isn’t specified for the exercise, it is likely that it will take place either in or off Subic Bay, where the United States once had a permanent naval base and now enjoys base access rights under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Act (EDCA) with the Philippines.

Harris underlined India’s record with international law and maritime disputes to explain Washington’s interest in having New Delhi participate in the exercise: ”While some countries seek to bully smaller nations through intimidation and coercion, I note with admiration India’s example of peaceful resolution of disputes with your neighbors in the waters of the Indian Ocean,” he said.

The second report, in the New York Times, cites Harris bringing up a concept in Asian security that’s been out of vogue for nearly a decade, namely the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) between the United States, Australia, Japan, and India. In a commentary in 2014, I’d declared the QSD “gone and forgotten.” Harris’ comments suggest my eulogy may have been premature. The QSD was actually a pet project for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his first stint leading Japan, back in 2006-2007. He’ll be glad to see it back on the docket.

Abe, who came to office in 2006 with a pessimistic view of China’s rise, saw Beijing as a threat to Japanese interests and proposed the QSD as a means by which to spur dialogue on sustaining Asia’s status quo security apparatus. China saw the initiative as a conspiracy by a concert of democracies to inhibit its “peaceful rise” (that language was very much in vogue at the time), and the initiative fell apart. Kevin Rudd’s Australia, in particular, was hesitant to risk good ties with China over the QSD, which at the time had a modest scope. Abe himself left office after a lackluster one-year term. Read more…

 

March 3rd, http://thediplomat.com/

26
Feb

The real danger of Brexit

Written on February 26, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in EU Expansion, Europe, Foreign Policy

THE battle is joined, at last. David Cameron has called a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union for June 23rd, promising to campaign hard to stay in. What began as a gambit to hold together his divided Tory party is turning into an alarmingly close contest. Betting markets put the odds that Britons opt to leave at two-to-one; some polls suggest the voters are evenly split; several cabinet ministers are campaigning for Brexit. There is a real chance that in four months’ time Britain could be casting off from Europe’s shores.

That would be grave news—and not just for Britain. A vote to leave would damage the economy, certainly in the short term and probably in the long run. (As financial markets woke up to the prospect, the pound this week fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 2009.) It would imperil Britain’s security, when threats from terrorists and foreign powers are at their most severe in years. And far from reclaiming sovereignty, Britons would be forgoing clout, by giving up membership of a powerful club whose actions they can influence better from within than without. Those outside Britain marvelling at this proposed act of self-harm should worry for themselves, too. Brexit would deal a heavy blow to Europe, a continent already on the ropes. It would uncouple the world’s fifth-largest economy from its biggest market, and unmoor the fifth-largest defence spender from its allies. Poorer, less secure and disunited, the new EU would be weaker; the West, reliant on the balancing forces of America and Europe, would be enfeebled, too.

Read more…

Feb 27th 2016, from the print version of The Economist

10
Feb

With the Middle East ablaze, new opportunities have emerged for regional cooperation. In fact, partnerships have formed in the most unlikely of places, as Israel and some of its Arab neighbors have joined together to combat regional enemies, such as ISIS and Iran.

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been viewed as an outcast by other countries in the Middle East. Over the years, this has led to several military confrontations. Despite these tensions, Israel managed to establish formal diplomatic ties with Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, and Turkey as well as a close political alliance with Iran prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Today, of its regional counterparts, only Egypt and Jordan maintain official diplomatic relations with Israel.

Recently, Israel has emerged as a strategic ally for Egypt and Jordan in the fight against ISIS and as an important partner for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the effort to counter Iran’s growing influence.

“We are together with Egypt and many other states in the Middle East and the world in the struggle against extreme Islamic terrorism,” said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center last year.

The emergence of an ISIS affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula has led to enhanced Israeli-Egyptian cooperation. Israel has permitted Egypt to bolster its troop numbers in the Sinai and deploy its air force near their shared border, two activities that were previously outlawed by the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty of 1979. Furthermore, several reports indicate that there has been increased intelligence sharing between Israel and Egypt and potential covert operations undertaken by Israel (with Egypt’s approval) to destroy terrorist cells in the Sinai. Read more…

FEBRUARY 8, 2016 | BENNETT SEFTEL

 

Published in https://www.thecipherbrief.com

1
Feb

Lights Out for the Putin Regime

Written on February 1, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Europe, Foreign Policy, Security

Russian President Vladimir Putin poses for a selfie with members of the youth military patriotic club "Vympel" (The Pennant), November 4, 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used to seem invincible. Today, he and his regime look enervated, confused, and desperate. Increasingly, both Russian and Western commentators suggest that Russia may be on the verge of deep instability, possibly evencollapse.

This perceptual shift is unsurprising. Last year, Russia was basking in the glow of its annexation of Crimea and aggression in the Donbas. The economy, although stagnant, seemed stable. Putin was running circles around Western policymakers and domestic critics. His popularity was sky-high. Now it is only his popularity that remains; everything else has turned for the worse. Crimea and the Donbas are economic hellholes andhuge drains on Russian resources. The war with Ukraine has stalemated. Energy prices are collapsing, and the Russian economy is in recession. Putin’s punitive economic measures against Ukraine, Turkey, and the West have only harmed the Russian economy further. Meanwhile, the country’s intervention in Syria is poised to become a quagmire.

Things are probably  much worse for Russia than this cursory survey ofnegative trends suggests. The country is weathering three crises brought about by Putin’s rule—and Russia’s foreign-policy misadventures in Ukraine and Syria are only exacerbating them.

First, the Russian economy is in free fall. That oil and gas prices are unlikely to rise much anytime soon is bad enough. Far worse, Russia’s energy-dependent economy is unreformed, uncompetitive, and un-modernized and will remain so as long as it serves as a wealth-producing machine for Russia’s political elite. Second, Putin’s political system is disintegrating. His brand of authoritarian centralization was supposed to create a strong “power vertical” that would bring order to the administrative apparatus, rid it of corruption, and subordinate regional Russian and non-Russian elites to Moscow’s will. Instead, over-centralization has produced the opposite effect, fragmenting the bureaucracy, encouraging bureaucrats to pursue their own interests, and enabling regional elites to become increasingly insubordinate—withRamzan Kadyrov, Putin’s strongman in Chechnya, being the prime example. Third, Putin himself, as the linchpin of the Russian system, has clearly passed his prime. Since his catastrophic decision to prevent Ukraine from signing an Association Agreement with the European Union in 2013, he has committed strategic blunder after strategic blunder. His formerly attractive macho image is wearing thin, and his recent attempts to promote his cult of personality by publishing a book of his quotes and a Putin calendar look laughable and desperate. Read more…

 

Published on Jan. 27 in foreignaffairs.com; Written by By Alexander J. Motyl

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