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This week’s annual United Nations gathering of global leaders will bid farewell to the age of U.S. President Barack Obama, an era that began with high hopes for multilateralism but is ending in frustration over the world’s inability to solve some of the most intractable problems from Syria’s civil war to the most acute refugee crisis since World War II.In a poignant sign of the limits of international cooperation, U.N Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday will jump-start the session with a summit to tackle a refugee and migration crisis that has displaced more than 65 million people — and to coax countries around the world into accepting more of them. The initial idea was modeled on the landmark Indochina refugee conferences of 1979 and 1989, which resulted in the resettlement of several hundred thousand Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Laotian refugees. The same, some U.N. officials hoped, could be achieved for refugees in the Middle East and North Africa.

But governments have been unwilling to agree on any bold commitments for the Monday summit’s final document, the so-called New York Declaration. Early last month, a U.N. proposal to have governments pledge to annually resettle just 10 percent of the world’s 21 million refugees was dropped. Instead, the 25-page document’s high-minded, if somewhat vague, invocations to aid those most in need fall short of concrete targets and solutions, and governments will be asked to go back to the drawing board for another two years.

“My God, can’t we do anything more of significance as the international community?” said Joel Charny, founding director of the U.S. branch of the Norwegian Refugee Council. “We were promised something groundbreaking. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it amounts to very much.” Read more…

By Colum LynchColum Lynch is Foreign Policy’s award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy’s Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media., John HudsonJohn Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy covering diplomacy and national security.

  • September 18, 2016;

By Colum Lynch. Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy’s award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy’s Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media., John Hudson. John Hudson is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy covering diplomacy and national security.



Russia Re-Emerges as a Great Power in the Middle East

Written on September 16, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Foreign Policy, Middle East

For the leader of an ex-global power whose economy is in disarray, Vladimir Putin is having a pretty good 2016. His ships sail the South China Sea, supporting China’s defiance of international law. The Japanese Prime Minister brushes Washington’s protests aside to meet with him. Putin’s Russia digs itself more thoroughly into Crimea each week, a Permanent Member of the Security Council in open and glaring violation of the UN Charter and its own pledged word. He’s watching the European Union grow weaker and less cohesive each day. And in Syria he forced the Obama administration to grovel for a ceasefire deal that leaves him, Putin, more in control than ever, and tacitly accepts his long term presence as a major player in the Middle East. Watching the State Department pursue its Syria negotiation with Russia was surreal: as if Robert E. Lee had to chase Ulysses Grant around Northern Virginia, waving a surrender document in his hands and begging Grant to sign it.

Putin may not have an economy, and his power projection capability may be held together with chicken wire and spit, but the delusions of his opponents have always been his chief tools. European and American leadership since the end of the Cold War has been operating on the false belief that geopolitics had come to an end; they have doubled down on that delusion as geopolitics came roaring back in the Obama years. In the past, Europe was able to take “holidays from history” because the United States was keeping an eye on the big picture. But that hasn’t been true in the Obama administration, and the juddering shocks of a destabilizing world order are the consequence of a foreign policy that isn’t grounded in the hard facts of power. Read more…

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, Published on: September 12, 2016




US’ Unfinished Business in Asia

Written on September 8, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Asia, Foreign Policy, Global Economy

Laos provided fitting closure to President Obama’s 11th official trip to Asia, which ends Thursday. The stop, the first by an American president, acknowledged the devastation caused by American bombing during the Vietnam War and the millions of unexploded bombs that remained in Laos after the war. That visit and the Asian tour was the last of Mr. Obama’s broad efforts to strengthen engagements with countries in the region.

There is significant unfinished business in Mr. Obama’s Asia policy, including the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal that appears gridlocked in Washington and an expanding North Korean nuclear weaponsprogram that he and other world leaders have failed to halt.

But Mr. Obama has made headway in reassuring Asian nations that the United States intends to remain a stabilizing presence in the region, as it has been for decades, and to serve as a counterweight to China’s growing power and increasing assertiveness, especially in the South China Sea.

In addition to opening a new chapter with Laos, Mr. Obama established relations with Myanmar when the former military dictatorship of that country agreed to move toward a democratic system. Ties were expanded and an arms embargo against Vietnam was dropped. New agreements on military bases for American forces were negotiated with the Philippines and Australia. Read more…

Editorial Board, Sept. 8th, 2016


BACK in June, after Spain’s second indecisive election in six months, the general expectation was that Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister, would swiftly form a new government. Although his conservative People’s Party (PP) did not win back the absolute majority it had lost in December, it remained easily the largest party, with 137 of the 350 seats in the Cortes (parliament), and was the only one to increase its share of the vote. But the summer holidays have come and gone and Spain’s political stalemate is no closer to ending. That is cause for growing frustration and concern.

In two parliamentary votes, on August 30th and September 2nd, Mr Rajoy fell tantalisingly short of securing a mandate, with 170 votes in favour but 180 against. These votes started the clock for a third election, once seen as unthinkable. If no one can secure a majority by the end of October, parliament will be dissolved and Spaniards would face a Christmas election.

For this, most commentators put the blame squarely on Pedro Sánchez, the leader of the opposition Socialists. His 85 deputies hold the balance of power. But he refuses to allow enough of them to abstain to give Mr Rajoy his mandate. He accuses Mr Rajoy and the PP of betraying the trust of Spaniards and of burdening the country with austerity and corruption. Read more…

Sept. 5th, 2016


Having Britain as an additional party to a U.S.−EU free-trade agreement would benefit all sides.

U.S. President Barack Obama cautioned that the United Kingdom would be at the ‘back of the queue’ for a trade agreement with the United States if the country chose to leave the European Union. But in the post-Brexit world a deal might be struck more swiftly. Various ideas for bringing Britain and the United States into a formal trade arrangement have been floated. These range from a bilateral UK-U.S. trade deal, to the United Kingdom joining the North American Free Trade Agreement that connects the United States with Canada and Mexico, to Britain being a party to the the Trans-Pacific Partnership that the United States hopes to seal with 11 other countries along the Pacific Rim.

One option stands out from the rest: opening the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, to the United Kingdom after Brexit. The United States and European Union are currently negotiating TTIP. Read more…

By Marianne Schneider-Petsinger
August 30, 2016


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