6
Jun

An obscure court in The Hague will soon issue a ruling likely to inflame tensions in the South China Sea and force Washington to clarify how far it is willing to go to defend its allies in Manila.

The international tribunal is due to issue a decision this month over territorial disputes in the strategic waterway that have pitted China against its smaller neighbor, the Philippines. Most experts believe the court will side with Manila on the key issues.

But China has already rejected the court’s authority and vowed to stick to its far-reaching claims over the contested shoals, reefs, and rocks that the Philippines also asserts are its own. With a minuscule navy and coast guard, Manila will be looking to the United States for both diplomatic and military support. But, so far, Washington has stopped short of promising to come to the rescue of the Philippines if its ships clash with Chinese vessels in the South China Sea.

“We’ve had a number of uncomfortable senior-level engagements with the Filipinos over the past few years where they have pressed us, quite hard at times, to make our commitments clear,” a former senior U.S. government official, who was present at some of the discussions, told Foreign Policy. But the United States always declined to clarify its stance, the ex-official said.

The showdown in the South China Sea has been heating up for years, thanks to China’s large-scale land reclamation and aggressive use of fishing fleets and coast guard ships to bully other countries to steer clear of what Beijing considers its territory. Read more…

  • By Dan De Luce is Foreign Policy’s chief national security correspondent., Keith Johnson is a senior reporter covering energy for Foreign Policy.
  • June 2, 2016
1
Jun

Six weeks before a critical summit meeting aimed at bolstering NATO’s deterrence against a resurgent Russia, the alliance is facing a long list of challenges. The first is to find a country to lead the last of four military units to be deployed in Poland and the three Baltic nations.

But that, analysts say, could be the least of its problems.

Security concerns are as high now as they have been since the end of the Cold War. As the immigration crisis has strained relations within the Continent, anxieties have been heightened by Russian military offensives in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, and a bombing campaign in Syria that has demonstrated Moscow’s rapidly increasing capabilities. Lately, Russia has talked openly about the utility of tactical nuclear weapons.

Despite the growing threats, many European countries still resist strong measures to strengthen NATO. Many remain reluctant to increase military spending, despite past pledges. Some, like Italy, are cutting back. France is reverting to its traditional skepticism toward the alliance, which it sees as an instrument of American policy and an infringement on its sovereignty.

And that is not to mention the declarations of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, that NATO is “obsolete,” that the allies are “ripping off” the United States and that he would not really be concerned if the alliance broke up. While that may be campaign bluster, it does reflect a growing unwillingness in the United States to shoulder a disproportionate share of the NATO burden, militarily and financially. Read more…

By ; Published on May 31st in the nytimes.com

30
May

The comparison was inflammatory, to say the least. Former Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts equated Donald J. Trump’s immigration plan with Kristallnacht, the night of horror in 1938 when rampaging Nazis smashed Jewish homes and businesses in Germany and killed scores of Jews.

But if it was a provocative analogy, it was not a lonely one. Mr. Trump’s campaign has engendered impassioned debate about the nature of his appeal and warnings from critics on the left and the right about the potential rise of fascism in the United States. More strident opponents have likened Mr. Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

To supporters, such comparisons are deeply unfair smear tactics used to tar conservatives and scare voters. For a bipartisan establishment whose foundation has been shaken by Mr. Trump’s ascendance, these backers say, it is easier to delegitimize his support than to acknowledge widespread popular anger at the failure of both parties to confront the nation’s challenges.

But the discussion comes as questions are surfacing around the globe about a revival of fascism, generally defined as a governmental system that asserts complete power and emphasizes aggressive nationalism and often racism. In places like Russia and Turkey, leaders like Vladimir V. Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan employ strongman tactics. In Austria, a nationalist candidate came within three-tenths of a percentage point of becoming the first far-right head of state elected in Europe since World War II.

 

 

23
May

The women behind Sykes-Picot

Written on May 23, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Culture & Society, Middle East

women

 

British diplomat Mark Sykes and French diplomat Francois Georges-Picot garnered most of the attention in the retrospective commentaries published around May 16, the 100-year anniversary of the Sykes-Picot Treaty.

Other pieces referred to their contemporaries, such as the British agent T E Lawrence, who led the Arab Revolt during World War I, or the influential oil broker Calouste Gulbenkian.

These Europeans sought to shape the Middle East, yet for every discussion of a European man who engaged in this endeavour, there is also a story of a European woman who both made this region, and was made by the region.

Jane Digby, Gertrude Bell, or Freya Stark, just to name a few women, led lives as illustrious as their male counterparts in the Middle East.

In terms of popular historical memory, we remember European men in the Middle East, such as archaeologists, spies, and diplomats concocting surreptitious treaties, but have forgotten the women who also engaged in such activities. Read more…
By Ibragim Al-Marashi, former professor at IE School of International Relations and currently  assistant professor at the Department of History, California State University, San Marcos. He is the co-author of “Iraq’s Armed Forces: An Analytical History.”
19
May

Argentina: A Smoother Ride

Written on May 19, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Foreign Policy, Global Economy

Argentina is throwing itself back into the international economic community, after a 2002 default that thwarted the country’s access to world capital markets. The center-right Macri government, which came to power last December, is moving full speed ahead with economic reforms. And just last month, a U.S. appeals court cleared the way for Argentina to make payments on $9 billion in bonds – allowing the country to re-enter bond markets. This means big investment opportunities for Argentina’s northern neighbors.

The energy sector has extremely high growth potential. Argentina holds vast reserves of shale gas and oil and is seeking to bolster its renewables industry. However, unchecked energy subsidies swelled under the previous government – led by center-left President Cristina Kirchner – reaching 2.9 percent of GDP in 2014, according to the Argentine Budget Association. The association reports these subsidies accounted for more than 12 percent of 2014 federal spending, not including debt payments.

Just after taking office, President Mauricio Macri cut electricity subsidies to wholesale power distributors. A gradual and sustained increase in electricity and gas prices is planned for almost all sectors of the Argentine economy. Households that cannot afford the price hike will be able to continue paying a subsidized bill.

“The recent reforms in energy prices have sparked interest in investing in the energy sector, both on traditional and renewable energies,” says former Executive Director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Cipher Brief expert Andrea Montanino. Read more…

 

Published on MAY 18, 2016 | KAITLIN LAVINDER in thecipherbrief.com

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