USA

As the world anxiously looked forward to the historic moment of a diplomatic deal between Washington and Pyongyang in Singapore by June 12 this year, the president of US, Donald Trump made a diplomatic stopgap in his letter where he momentarily called off the summit. He said in the letter which he dictated and dated May 24, 2018 and addressed to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, that “We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant. I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel like it is inappropriate at this time to have this long-planned summit.”

There is high propensity to take the decision to call off the summit as nothing unusual  judging from other recent diplomatic deals Trump’s administration backtracked from or caused to fall through but constructivism as a theory of international relations requires us to look at the social construction of reality, and question what is frequently taken for granted.

The White House, before the abrupt turn of event, had primed preparation for the epochal diplomatic meeting with the minting of dozens of commemorative coins embossed with the words “peace talk” and headshots of Trump and Kim. This is preponderant to accentuate and justify Trump’s reference to himself in recent weeks as a candidate for Nobel Peace Prize. Analyzing the reasons why the peace talk hit the wall through the lens of constructivism presupposes that we explore the logic of consequence and appropriateness behind the action of the two leaders.

Constructivism is about human consciousness and its role in international life. It emphasizes the role of collectively held idea such as knowledge, language, symbols and rules.

Washington and the Logic of Consequence and Appropriateness

The logic of consequence attributes action to the anticipated costs and benefits mindful that other actors are doing the same. The logic of appropriateness, however, highlights how actors are rule-following, worrying about whether their actions are legitimate. The legitimacy of action here is determined by the way it is viewed in the society.

Implicit in Trump’s letter is the perception that North Korea was not reciprocating the commitment the US had shown towards the summit which reminds one of the similar claim that US was making a greater concession which plagued and frustrated former president Bill Clinton’s earlier efforts. Trump expressed this citing the “tremendous anger” and open hostility from Pyongyang. The lack of commitment as some of the officials of the White House explained include failure to show up when the US sent an advance team to Singapore, inability to verify North Korea’s claim that it destroyed its nuclear testing site which was done without inviting nuclear experts, and objection to routine annual military exercise. The last straw was the slamming of the US vice president, Mike Pence by one of the aide’s of Kim who referred to him as a political dummy over his statement that North Korea will go the way of Libya if both sides fail to agree to a deal.

There has been a longstanding mistrust between North Korea and US since the early days US discovered the secret nuclear project at Yongbyon through its satellite. The republicans have never considered diplomatic negotiation as the appropriate action to make North Korea give up its nuclear programme thereby vehemently opposed to the efforts of Clinton in the 1990s to build two plants for the North Korea with light fuel, in place of uranium. North Korea also failed to keep its side of the agreement and went ahead with producing uranium. The relations between the two countries deteriorated further with former president George Bush designating North Korea as one of the “axis of evil” in the post September 11.

There are those in the US who posited  that certain matters in the diplomatic negotiation between the two countries needed to be done with high confidentiality till there was substantial agreement as a complete pack, to sell at home. Ilan Goldenberg for example made a prognosis that the deal with the North Korea might be scuttled in a similar way the leaking of sensitive negotiation positions to about 52 million followers of the President on twitter hamstringed the US  trade negotiation with China.

“The Libyan Model”, North Korea and the Logic of Consequence and Appropriateness

Constructivists contend that not only material elements such as level of armament that matter in international relations but also non-material elements such as language, idea and symbol. The allusion to Libya by the US vice president and how it was interpreted by North Korea provide a good instance for this. The late Libyan leader, Muammer Gaddafi was persuaded by the  Bush administration to give up his secret nuclear program in 2003 only to be deposed eight years later and beaten to death by rebels backed by NATO forces. The “Libyan Model”, to Pyongyang, therefore signified a threat of regime change and capitulation. Although the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo tried to clarify that the concept was only misconstrued and rather meant the process used by the Bush administration in 2003-2004 to make Libya totally denuclearize and welcome it into the international community, North Korea had every reason to think otherwise.

Possible Way Forward

Positively, Donald Trump did not rule out the possibility of reconsidering the summit in his letter, giving room for addressing salient issues raised. He concluded saying, “The world and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth.” It could be argued that no opportunity is lost yet.

Other parties to the negotiation such as Japan and South Korea have a great role to play. Also, rather than suggesting that China may be meddling with the diplomatic efforts and disinviting her from military exercises, it will give more assurance to North Korea to have her ally as part of the negotiation process. The two countries need to relieve the world of the incessant threats of nuclear war. As Ilan Gudenberg rightly observed, high-stake diplomatic negotiations are difficult and domestic politics apply additional pressure. But, if you do not do the very simple, basic things right such as ensuring the negotiation teams are on the same page, ensuring some level of secrecy while simultaneously building domestic support , there is no way you will even get close to an international breakthrough.

Kamal Ololade Ahmed is a postgraduate student at the Nigerian Defence Academy where he is pursuing a Master’s degree in Defence and Strategic Studies.

 

Conflict between the United States and Russia has heightened since the recent US-led missile strikes on military targets and research facilities in Syria. On April 14, 2018, US-led three early morning air strikes on a scientific research center in Syria, where weapons were produced, and two chemical weapon facilities one of which was used for the making of sarin and second was the military command post. It is well known that President Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria has constantly been backed by Russia since the ascension of mayhem in 2011.  The United States of America has been opposing the Assad’s government by arming the insurgents who want to topple Assad’s administration as they perceive it, the best resolution for ongoing chaos in Syria.

On one hand, a heated war of words between Russia and UK over espionage scandal of Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom has led the expulsion of around twenty-three Russian diplomats from the UK. In return, Russia responded aggressively by adopting the same policy and dismissed a same number of envoys. France also joined hands with the UK in solidarity and sacked four of Russian envoys. On the other hand, the argument is that these cooperative and collaborative attacks on Syrian chemical research center could be an apparent message to Russia that if Vladimir Putin ever attempted to thwart their national interests, he would get a united befitting response.

As far as American narrative is concerned, apparently the US may have stroke down the chemical research center but if we look at the contemporary tussle going on between both the superpowers with respect to government in Syria. It can be envisaged that the US, as being the superpower of world conveyed its hegemonic stance. According to ‘Mearsheimer’, a political scientist at the University of Chicago believes that there are no oil reserves or oil flow in Syria so, the United States has neither any aspirations to dominate the Gulf region nor does it have any vital interests at stake. Have those airstrikes also deterred North Korea as Kim Jong-un administration also decided to suspend their Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile launches and further nuclear tests?

The conflict in Syria has spiraled into a proxy war with a perplexed array of players and is a byproduct of two major powers that one cannot deny. The result of this byproduct also enabled ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to gain a strong foothold. The Syrian ground seems as if it is a game board with multiple squares, where one move in a square impacts national interests of others. Firstly, Russia steered up its armed forces in the central-western region between Damascus and Aleppo. Following the suit, Turkey beefed up its forces on Syrian-Turkish border. At last, United States surprised its adversaries by jumping into hostile territory. Thus, the current race in Syria between US and Russia appears to be a competition. It is difficult to hold out much expectation that dialogues between Russia and US will succeed until or unless both states move out from Syria by dropping out their demands. These tensions would not serve anyone’s interests; not those of America, Syria or Russia. However, in the end, Syrian nationals are the one; who are suffering and being grinded between the great game of power since the conflict has arisen.

ANOSH SAMUEL (MSc International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad) is a RESEARCH ANALYST in a private company

China is effectively using its economic muscle in the changing world order. Today, China uses geoeconomic instruments effectually to achieve its geopolitical ends. China is playing its geoeconomic cards to expand its markets from its neighbouring countries to other Asian states and to Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. China has overtly declared that it does not desire to seek hegemony. However, every state including the US and Russia is suspicious of China’s extensive practice of geoeconomics.

China reaching out to its purse instead of a gun

Harris and Blackwill (2016) argue in their book War by Other Means that China looks to geoeconomic means often as its first resort to undermine American influence and power. They criticize the US for abandoning economic techniques of statecraft which China has aptly adopted. “Despite having the most powerful economy on earth, the United States too often reaches for the gun instead of the purse in its international conduct, “they addedHowever, China has started reaching out to its purse to advance its geopolitical ends in the changing world order.

While referring to the US geoeconomic power, Glen Diesen (2017) argues that the US has an ample potential to revive its geoeconomic power because of the ‘Shale Revolution.’ Moreover, he argues that since China is the principal geoeconomic rival of the US, so the realist theory would expect that after reviving its geoeconomics, the US would contain China.

Geoeconomic power of China and the US

Ian Bremmer (2016), President Eurasia Group argues that for frenemies geoeconomics is the perfect instrument. What means China uses and what are its aims behind using those means are the questions raised by China’s geoeconomic power in relation to the US. According to Bremmer (2016), there are four areas in which China’s geoeconomic power against the US plays out:

  1. In China

China’s economic muscle is its geopolitical power. Geoeconomic agenda of China begins at home. It has really become difficult for foreign firms to do business in China because of the various laws and restrictions. However, China’s population of 1.4 billion would make Chinese economic policymakers to realize that they would need foreign direct investment from the US. They have already started working on it (Bremmer, 2016).

  1. In the US

Bremmer (2016) further argues that Chimerica (China-US Relations) is characterized by mutually assured destruction (MAD). China is not only US’s largest trading partner but it is also the leading holder of its treasuries. These reasons are not captivating for China because of China’s approach to direct investment in the US. China is interested in having a strong foothold in the US. What’s most intriguing in this situation is that China is coming close to beating the US in its own game by understanding the capitalism rules.

  1. In International Institutions

Bremmer (2016) argues that China seeks to adapt and scrap the US’s global economic and political system. He refers to the Chinese efforts to maximize its leverage within the Bretton Woods institutions. China’s Asian Infrastructure Investments Bank (AIIB), according to Bremmer (2016) is its attempt to defect from the Bretton Woods system. This is debatable. However, US’s allies like the UK, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Australia etc., have opted to be part of AIIB which in fact support Bremmer’s argument. Moreover, Harris and Blackwill (2016) argue that Chinese promotion of AIIB is to rival the Bretton Woods system. AIIB is also a threat to Manila-based Asian Development Bank in which the US and Japan are the two largest shareholders.

  1. In third-party countries

Because of its ability to deliver fast cash, China has been successfully outplaying the US in Africa and Latin America. Bremmer (2016) however sees this suspiciously because he believes that China’s economy will become fragile and third-party countries will see what good the US represents for them because of liberal world order beliefs.

Trade War between China and the US

In 2017, the trade deficit of the US was $375 billion with China. The US exports to China were $130 billion while its imports were $506 billion. Trump’s imposition of tariffs on imported Chinese goods, met with a tit-for-tat response from Chinese authorities which gave rise to the trade war between China and the US. However, it is reported that both the countries have reached a trade deal this month. In this regard, Edward Elden (2018) comments, “If nothing further is done, the US-China trade deal reached this month will be remembered, to quote a phrase coined by the current president of the United States, as ‘the single worst trade deal’ ever negotiated.” It is yet to be found out what comes out of this China-US trade war and subsequent trade deal.

Conclusion

The US, indeed, is a military power and will remain so for unforeseeable future. According to Andrew Hurrell, the US has a vast global network of 750 overseas military bases in over 100 countries. This clearly shows the US hard power. However, China followed a different suit to cater the US. China used its soft-power rather smart power to advance its geopolitical aims. The US is going to remain the superpower and a hegemon in the world politics. China, on the other hand, would use its geoeconomic muscle to advance its geopolitical ends and shape a China-centric world order.

Muhammad Murad has been writing for different magazines and blogs since 2011. He initially started writing on social issues of Pakistan and later on, he began writing on internal and external issues related to Pakistan. Currently, he is Young Diplomats’ ambassador in Pakistan. He believes in a peaceful liberal democratic world away from war and conflict which would be possible by the power of the pen, not the gun. Muhammad is a business graduate turned  social scientist and aspires to be a writer.

Modern diplomatic practice as we know it today has evolved from a generous history of traditions, protocols and narratives. While the United States (US) president Donald Trump is a new face in the diplomatic community, he has already built a reputation for being largely unpredictable thus the twist in the possibility of formal diplomatic roundtable discussions between these countries happening is feasible in the near future.

While the winter Olympic games in Pyeonchang, South Korea may have provided a soft takeoff for the possibility of the talks holding following high level delegation from both North Korea (DPRK) in person of Kim’s sister Kim Yo-Jong and the United States vice president Mike Pence both in official capacity; Kim Jon Un unnaounced and hurried trip to China who is DPRK’s biggest market show a sign at these crucial moment that China wants a fair share of the ‘deal’ and will use its economic, geographical, and strategic influence over DPRK to influence negotiation and inturn give China upgraded shots at negotiations for concessions from the US or to merely score a mark for being sidelined in the early process.

Unlike China that has a relative offer to the US, DPRK is at a disadvantage on the table with the US except for longstanding threats of a “mutually assured destruction” thus making the game (negotiation) adopt a zero-sum approach. More so, hurried attempts by long time US diplomatic foe Russia’s attempt to influence the talks are emerging following DPRK’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho’s visit to Moscow  this April and an acceptance of a reciprocal visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the coming days all in a bid to ensure their interests are protected in these conversations

As conversations between the US and DPRK started becoming official and passing through the State Department and DPRK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs despite being sworn enemies at all fronts in decades past, these two countries have actually kept in constant touch through back channels which involved both states secret service officials (Central Intelligence Unit for the US and General Reconnaissance Bureau for the DPRK) and the “New York Channel” which involve using permanent representatives of both countries to the UN. The channels have been effective in negotiating issues like hostage release, prisoners swap, extradition etc. especially when these acts are state funded most notably the 1968 USS Pueblo seizure by DPRK on its territorial waters. More to this is the recent revelationof new CIA chief Pompeo secretly meeting with Kim Jong Un.

As official channels open for talks, it will be about a location with historic and futuristic characteristics of neutrality and favourability for both sides with Sweden, Mongolia and Switzerland making proposals to host. While not much is known of Mongolia’s relevance to the talks, and Kim being partially raised in Switzerland, Sweden may emerge the stand alone contender due to its long standing ties to DPRK and its role of conducting consular responsibilities for US citizens in DPRK.

In summary, the use of back channels such as these is almost as old as diplomacy itself but becoming more prominent in our era of constant rivalry; despite admitably having its own forthcomings, historical agreements have been made and crises prevented through these channels. For the US – DPRK talks, the dialogue would certainly involved the “New York Channel” most notably through US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Yun and Pak Song Il, a senior DPRK diplomat at the United Nations.

Daniel Nwaeze – University of Lagos, Nigeria

 

Throughout the history of the United States, presidents have brought forward their own security strategies in order to promote effectiveness and dissuasiveness in foreign policy. As circumstances alter rapidly in the world isolationism and activism have been two fundamental instruments in U.S. foreign policy.

 

President Donald Trump delivers a speech on national security, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Many of previous presidents conducted isolationist policies such as George Washington, and many of others have conducted activist policies in foreign policy such as George W. Bush.  Mr. Obama could be seen as the last implementer of some form of isolationism. On the other hand, in the recent years, rising rivalry conspicuously began to be argued in domestic affairs and seen as a critical problem for American leadership. So, it seems that, Trump’s administration does not want to ignore the risk toward the worldwide dominance of U.S.

Critics Over Obama’s Administration

When Mr. Obama’s presidency taken in hand, it’s obvious that during his era, national security strategies of U.S. were much more inclining towards  ”Soft Power’ in an effort to appease Anti-Americanism. According to some, Obama’s presidency has prevailed reversing negative considerations toward U.S. In other respects, current president Trump is been exerting his boldness by enhancing the sense of ”Making America Great Again”.

As President Trump addressed in his national security strategy speech, he brought to the fore front the notion of ”America First”. This stands as intrinsic part of his doctrine. Also in the newly decided Security Strategy, preserving American citizens’ rights are depicted as a sworn duty of the U.S. Government.  Many people see Obama’s presidency as an era of deterioration of America’s dominance meanwhile others favor his policies.  Allegedly, his policies have enhanced Russian influence especially in Syria and even in the Black Sea in parallel with the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Therefore, it is not so hard for many to advocate Trump’s policies. During his campaign, he had showed his eagerness to convert foreign policy from Isolationism into the Activism.

As he stated numerous times, it is the right time for America to consider effective transformation in many fields such as economy, health care system (cancellation of Obamacare) and so on. According to many Republicans, predecessor’s mistakes in both domestic and foreign affairs, overwhelmingly coerces U.S. to handle with current and forthcoming circumstances. Let’s look into Trump’s commitments in his security strategy.

Dwelling on Facts

It is a striking point that during the announcement of the Security Strategy, Mr. Trump labeled Russia and China as ”Rival” powers. Also he added that they are willing to shake US dominance utterly. That could be a correct indication with many aspects. United States is the world’s leading state on military spending with approximately $600 billion (it has been decided to be increased by $80 billion) whilst Russia and China have around $200 billion combined. It is a well-known fact, Russia and China are about to increase their military and economic strength in parallel with their regional and global goals in the future.

Especially since 2015, Russian naval production is been increasing tremendously. Only within 2017, in parallel with the Russian Naval Doctrine ratified by Vladimir Putin and published in 20 July 2017, Russians aimed to include around 30 new modern warships to their naval forces in order to gear up the capacity to challenge with the U.S. dominance in the seas. Yet, U.S. Naval Forces has worldwide impact thanks to its active 11 Aircraft Carriers while Russia and China combined only have 2 Aircraft carriers in service.

 

               Putin, Rogozin and Shoigu discuss the new Naval Doctrine of Russia

 

Education, Economy and R&D

For a nation, almost all of the success comes from educational development and innovation rate of communities. When U.S. education system observed, the knowledge generation looks better than any other country. United States has 18 universities in the best 50 in the overalls meanwhile China has 6 and Russia has none (Lomonosov Moscow State University has the highest ranking in Russia, 95th). This is not the only comparison. Also most of the world innovative companies are located in the Silicon Valley.

Eventually, the development in education will reflect the economic capability and a substantial element on economic growth based on technology and innovation. When the data is observed, U.S. expenditure on Research&Development seems around $480 million in PPP. This is the highest expenditure on R&D all around the world. Chinese expenditure to R&D seems around $370 million. This is the second biggest amount after U.S. and numbers clearly demonstrates that U.S. leadership is still continuing in many fields. However, China’s growth of potential has been gaining momentum every year thanks to its high labor force with around 1.40 billion population (2017) and governments correct tax regulations towards Foreign Direct Investors.

Also, there are many reasons for investors to choose China. Towards  the end of the 20th Century, China has started the liberalisation process and trying to entice foreign firms by making circumstances convenient for them. China would get ahead of the U.S. economy in the forthcoming decades. In addition to this, China’s lead on global economy is ”inevitable” to some. Donald Trump’s nascent tax reform could be seen as kind of an attempt of clawing back the financial advantage from the hands of China. The reform includes decreasing percentage of taxation in case of firms moving back to U.S.

A Sworn Component to Soft Power: Culture 

After all of those facts taken in hand, let’s take a look at the issue from a different perspective. The importance of China in economic and also we could add military field, has been increasing sharply. Yet, these are not the only competitive fields. Also, culture is such a key instrument on rising influence. Also, it is a significant advantage that U.S. holds the world’s biggest and effective cultural tool called Hollywood. The U.S. culture is able to stretch and spread its existence. This is another reality that needs to be taken into account by rivalry candidates. The Hollywood is in the forefront in the cinema sector across the world and that accelerates spread of US identity.

This way, U.S. identity obtains a vital chance to embrace with the people with another identity. Accessibility is a superior necessity to a nation. Throughout the world, almost all sectors are being dominated by American firms. If the rivals are willing to gain leverage in any field, than the success requires an efficient mobilization backed up by a long-term planning.

 

KFC and McDonald’s signs in Xiamen, China. Photo: sly06 / Flickr Creative Commons

As a conclusion, it is not rational for rising rival powers to acquire head to head capacity in worldwide sphere in a short period. The huge potential of the east would be worth pondering in following decades. A well utilization of potential in the long-term could have an impact upon roles.

 

Mustafa Aydogan is currently working on topics related to Russian Eurasianism and Middle East. He has a Bachelor degree from  Bahcesehir University Istanbul and he is keen on pursuing an academic career in the future.

 

Donald Trump was widely condemned in the media again last week, and rightfully so, for using the phrase, “shithole countries”, to refer to Haiti, El Salvador, and countries in Africa. As we approach the one-year anniversary of Mr. Trump’s administration on January 20th, it is astounding to reflect on the sheer amount of media coverage he has received,  spanning from the turbulent implementation of the Muslim ban, to the Russia investigation, and increasingly worrying assertiveness with North Korea.

Alarmism over Trump is ironically a greater long-term threat to democracy than anything Trump has done during his first year in office

International Affairs

International Affairs : High level of tensions with North Korea.

The level of alarm in the international affairs community has been palpable. Every single cover of Foreign Affairs magazine from November 2016 to December 2017 featured either Trump or an implicit connection between his presidency and the instability of the international system.

But has all of this constantly alert coverage been constructive in achieving its goal: to prevent any permanent damage to our liberal democratic norms and institutions?

Alarmism and Democracy

Trumpism will exist in the United States, and around the world, long after Trump has left the Oval Office. Therefore, it is important that we know how to combat it. We need to know where the line is—when should we criticize something that is truly harmful to democratic norms and institutions and when does it cross over into alarmist rhetoric?

In my view, the level of alarmism toward Trump’s presidency is unsettling. It is refreshing to see several left-leaning commentators becoming increasingly vocal on the problem of Trump hysteria, most notably Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution and Jason Willick of the Wall Street Journal. In a PBS piece from last October, Hamid argues that alarmism over Trump is ironically a greater long-term threat to democracy than anything Trump has done during his first year in office. The basic premise of their argument is a classic “boy who cried wolf.” Should we witness the actual erosion of democracy, Willick writes that “false howling about autocracy will have crippled [our] ability to respond to [the] real thing.”

Maintenance of Status quo

Despite tough campaign rhetoric, Trump’s foreign policy has largely been characterized by the maintenance of the status quo.

Let me be clear—I am a Never Trumper. Donald Trump is narcissistic, inflammatory, xenophobic, dismissive of expert opinion, and prone to authoritarian tendencies. These are just a few qualities that render him a terrible President and a poor leader of the liberal international order. I strongly disagree with his worldview and most of his policy decisions, including the Muslim ban, the decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, the Jerusalem embassy move, and his soft stance on the Charlottesville riots and other events that have empowered white supremacists who promote hateful and intolerant opinions. At times, the incompetence of his administration has been laughable, best illustrated by Sean Spicer’s weekly gaffes during his short tenure as Press Secretary.

 

However, other elements of Trump’s tenure have been surprisingly conventional. The GOP tax bill and the nomination of Justice Neil Gorsuch, while obviously objectionable to Democrats, was exactly what would normally be expected from a traditional Republican presidency. Many important officials, such as John Kelly and James Mattis, are qualified and adequately rational. Steve Bannon, a prominent member of the alt-right and probably Trump’s most extreme advisor, was ousted from the White House in mid-August.

Despite tough campaign rhetoric, Trump’s foreign policy has largely been characterized by the maintenance of the status quo. The most notable oddity has been tough talk on Kim Jong Un, however, I am skeptical that Twitter exchanges really constitute a significant shift in US policy towards North Korea. The war in Afghanistan and the bombing campaign against the Islamic State has mostly marked a continuation of policy under the Obama administration. At the time of writing, both NAFTA and the Iran Nuclear Deal remain in place. And it appears that NATO is not as obsolete as Mr. Trump initially thought.

Checks and Balances are working

This leads to the point made by Hamid, Willick, and others: as bad as Trump’s first year was, it could have been much, much worse. Checks and balances are working. For example, judicial review of the Muslim ban resulted in the implementation of a much scaled-back version that was constitutionally valid. Trump has also failed to repeal Obamacare or make progress on the border wall, in a Republican-controlled Congress no less. Considering the entirety of this first year, lamenting the disintegration of liberal democracy in the United States is premature at best, and far more akin to sensationalism, aggrandizement, and fear-mongering.

What is “Bad”, What is “Good”, and What is “Anti-Democratic”

Liberal orthodoxy has sought to label every single thing Trump does as both “bad” and “anti-democratic”. Shadi Hamid has emphasized the importance of distinguishing between bad policies and un-democratic ones. Immigration is a perfect example. As Damir Marusic writes in his work on populism for the The American Interest, immigration is a political issue. I personally believe there are several merits of a progressive immigration policy, both moral and economic. But to label anti-immigration views as un-democratic is misguided and inaccurate. Mr. Trump was elected by the American people due in large part to his policy stance on immigration. It may be terrible policy, with adverse consequences for the United States and other countries, but it certainly is not un-democratic. Fiscal policy is another example—there are many valid arguments against the new Republican tax bill, but how exactly does the fulfillment of a standard GOP election promise constitute an attack on democracy?

 

The trend of liberal orthodoxy is harmful to the Left’s credibility and likely does far more damage than it is trying to prevent. When we immediately label dissenting views as not worthy of inclusion in the democratic debate, we empower the very populists and their supporters that we are trying to discredit. For example, a concerning trend in recent years has been the restriction of conservative guest speakers on university campuses. Restricting their platform to speak is counter-productive. Let them speak—then use reason and logic to discredit their ideas. By silencing their ability to raise their views, we play into the populist crusade against “political correctness” that President Trump effectively uses as a rallying point for his base.

 

Furthermore, we need to address the fiction that everything Trump does is “bad”. While I admit that there are few good things to choose from, not everything Trump does is objectively bad. The April 2017 military strike on a Syrian air base in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons demonstrated a long-overdue enforcement of the so-called “red line” established by former-President Barack Obama. It was a small step but at least it signalled a potential departure from the passivity of the Obama administration, which contributed to the severity of the Syrian conflict. The point is that we must be cautious about letting our contempt for Trump blind our analytical objectivity and refrain from indiscriminately condemning Trump’s actions simply because it’s Trump.

 

Frankly, I understand and acknowledge that most Trump critics are well-meaning. And observers should continue to criticize—where it is warranted. But hysterical and hyperbolic statements on the decline of American democracy and Western liberalism are both inaccurate and counter-productive. Frivolous calls for impeachment and predictions of impending tyranny do far more to undermine faith in American institutions than anything Trump has done since January 20th, 2017.

It calls to mind a famous remark made by an officer in the Vietnam War: “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

 

Trumpism will exist in the United States, and around the world, long after Trump has left the Oval Office. Therefore, it is important that we know how to combat it. We need to know where the line is—when should we criticize something that is truly harmful to democratic norms and institutions and when does it cross over into alarmist rhetoric? Be intellectually honest with yourself—evaluate policies on their merit, or their lack thereof, rather than a knee-jerk reaction based on the man implementing them. Be vigilant in deciding whether an action requires condemnation. Criticize the things that matter. If anything, the last year has been a testament to the strength of American democracy and the stability of world order. We can, and must, save the village without burning it to the ground.

Colby Georgsen

About the Author :

 

Colby Georgsen is a law student at the University of Ottawa. His interest areas include comparative politics, foreign affairs, international law, and armed conflict. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Calgary and has international experience working and studying in Washington, D.C. and Lille, France.

In the early 1990’s, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori started a process of free-market reforms after strong tensions among the former President Alan Garcia and the US government and International Financial Institutions as well. Fujimori’s political and economic reforms reconfigured the structure of Peruvian economy under many of the principles of the so-called Washington Consensus.

These reforms pursued to integrate the country into the international economy, to put an end to a 10 year long armed conflict against domestic terrorist groups, reduce the State intervention in national economic and social affairs, and establishing a system of self-regulating supply, demand, and pricing mechanisms as well.

 

Peru’s 1990’s reforms coincide with a favourable trend to open-market policies in Latin America, in a moment when around the hemisphere appeared new and great expectations about the creation of a ‘neo-regionalist’ model of integration under free-trade patterns. As we already mentioned, some milestones in this direction were the creation of MERCOSUR in 1991, as well as the CAN and the WTO in 1994.

However, unlike other countries like Chile or Argentina that were in the middle of their own democratic transition processes, Fujimori consolidated his authoritarian government after the dissolution of the Peruvian Congress in 1992 and the elaboration of a new Constitution in 1993. The concentration of power by the President in the early 1990’s, helped him to promote his reforms freely without major resistance from opposition parties, trade unions or civil society actors.

Figure 1: President Alberto Fujimori announcing the dissolution of the Peruvian Congress, as well as the intervention by the Executive Branch in all major institutions, like the Judiciary, the Ombudsman, and the Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees (1992). Source: América TV.

 

Fujimori opened all sectors of the Peruvian economy to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and lifted restrictions on remittances of profits, dividends, royalties, access to domestic credit, and acquisition of supplies and technology abroad. In addition, the government offered tax-stability packages for foreign investors for terms of ten to fifteen years and implemented wide-ranging privatization programs that offered international investors investment opportunities; eliminating competition from state-owned and domestic firms that enjoyed clientelistic or material advantages. However, it is important to point that the privatization process was Fujimori’s authoritarian project keystone. Under the argument of the need to create a business-favourable environment, Fujimori sold most of Peru’s strategic assets and undervalued State-led companies guided only by short-term considerations, without a coherent strategy. After selling 68% of electricity, 35% of agriculture, 90% of mining companies, 85.5% of manufacture industry and 68% of Hydrocarbons, Fujimori’s government obtained USD 9,221 million. However, from the overall amount obtained by privatizations, only USD 6,445 million entered into the public coffers. That money was used to buy military machines, the payment of the external debt (forbidden by Peruvian Law), and for clientelistic social spending in order to gain domestic support.

 

After Fujimori’s fall in 2000, the Peruvian market-oriented reform process was ‘deepened’ through the signing of a Free Trade Agreement with the United States, where various issues relating to state intervention in the economy, property rights and governance were included. We identify four reasons about why Peru decided to engage in a bilateral negotiation with the US instead of operating through multilateral organizations like the WTO or the Andean Community:

 

At the global level, the stagnation of the post-Uruguay Round negotiations, which initially proposed the total liberalization of World trade. The failure of the WTO summit in Seattle (1999) and the long agony of the Doha Round were the main global reasons of why countries pursued less ambitious and more regional-focused agreements.

 

The failure of the United States to obtain consensus in Latin America to create a free-market space that encompasses all the Western Hemisphere (except Cuba). Designed as an ‘expansion’ of NAFTA, the so-called Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), seek to promote an unified set of rules in issues like tariff reduction, barriers and access to markets, trade of goods and services, FDI, privatizations, agriculture, intellectual property rights, subsidies, antidumping measures, free competition and resolution of disputes. The potential capacities of such trade area would encompass a population of at least 800 million people and a GDP of USD 8.5 billion. Nevertheless, due to internal resistances coming from the US and the Latin governments (for different reasons), the agreement would never been signed. In the US, the Congress opposed to authorize President George W. Bush to use the ‘fast-track’ mechanism for trade negotiations without a previous surveillance and approval by the House and the Senate. In Latin America, the left-interventionist group of countries (Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador) with the support of Brazil and Argentina, criticized the US intentions to establish a FTA while keeping at the same time protectionist measures due to ‘domestic politics concerns’, like antidumping measures, agriculture subsidies, President Bush’s lack of interest on environmental issues, as well as the ‘democratic clause’ of the draft proposed by the US with the objective to exclude Cuba from the agreement. Finally, the FTAA was definitively rejected in the 2005 Mar Del Plata Summit of the Americas, when the deadline for the signing of the agreement was settled.

 

Figure 2: Former Presidents from Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela in the Cumbre de los Pueblos in Mar del Plata, Argentina. (2005). Source: Telesur.

 

At the regional level, there was a profound disagreement among the CAN country members due to ideological and economic reasons. In parallel with the FTAA negotiations, the Bush government was also trying to pursue less ambitious, but more geographically focused agreements with the already existent integration organizations, like the CAN. While excluding Venezuela due to President Bush’s sour relations with President Hugo Chávez’s, the US tried to establish an Andean Free Trade Agreement with Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador. Because of the interest by Peru and Colombia to negotiate with the US directly without caring about the concerns of their Andean partners (Especially about biodiversity, environment and labour issues), the Venezuelan government declared ‘the death of CAN’, and asked to leave the organization in 2006.

Figure 3: US President George W. Bush and Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo in Lima, Peru. (2002). Source: Peru.com

 

At the domestic level, the export-oriented Peruvian economy was experiencing a slow, but uninterrupted recession process since 1998. Furthermore, the lack of juridical and political stability did not create incentives to attract new FDI; and a not-reliable instrument regulated the trade regime with Peru’s most important partner: the Andean Trade Preferences Drug Enforcement Act (ATPDEA). Even if this agreement gave most Peruvian products a preferential access to the US market without tariffs, it was not a reliable instrument to attract FDI. The ATPDEA needed to be renewed each 3 years, and it was conditioned to Peru’s support of the US War on Drugs in the region. Of course, the American Congress was able to deny a renewal if they feel that Peru was not ‘keeping its compromises’; not only in the drug fighting but also in other non-narcotics issues like intellectual property rights.


About the Author : 

By: Anthony Medina Rivas Plata

Peruvian. Master in Public Policy by Erasmus University Rotterdam and the University of York. He currently works as Director of International Cooperation at the Institute of Andean Political Studies.

 

Groucho Marx famously quoted in 1954 on a radio show; ‘speak when you are angry—and you will make the best speech you’ll ever regret’.  Looking at society today in the United States with the rise in violence and discontent it is easy to see that today’s generation is not heeding Marx’s advice.

There are a plethora of things to be angry about today; unemployment, housing market, rising cost of education, healthcare, continuation of warfare etc. With those serious issues, it brings to question why someone would become hotheaded on something as asinine as inability to join the US Army, when they themselves did not want to enlist. Current president Donald Trump tweeted on July 26th, 2017 to America ‘After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you’.

Screenshot of Trump’s Official Twitter Account

There was an obvious outrage from American citizens. However, it is interesting to note two points. The first being that President Trump wants to reinstate a previous policy that former president Obama had reversed. The second point is that Twitter is not indicative of policy. Trump tweeted something, he did not sign an executive order, yet. Fiscally speaking he is attempting to save the U.S. government between $2.4 Million to $8.4 Million. Granted, that barely scratches the surface of the $49.3 Billion spent on Military healthcare in 2014, effectively less than one percent.

Why the outrage? There are copious amounts of people that the U.S. military will not allow to enlist. Patriotic citizens with cysts cannot join the military. No Diabetic is allowed to serve their nation, no are those individuals that do not meet a specific weight, age, or height requirement. Where are the people protesting and raging against the establishment? Men that are missing both of their testicles or that have undescended ones cannot enlist. Women shorter than 58 inches tall, or anyone over 80 inches cannot proudly serve their nation, where is the outrage? Why is it that one issue is raised above all others? In a nation that as of June 2017 has a 4.4% unemployment rate and in 2016 had 564,708 people without homes and teetering on 1.4 million veterans at risk of homelessness does that one issue make your blood boil more than anything else?

It Political Science there is a school of thought on the definition of power. Robert Dahl’s theory essentially is that if you have two people A and B. If A possess the ability to control B than A has power. D.D. Raphael states that power is ‘the ability to make other people do what one wants them to do.’

Transgender US Army Reseve Captain Sage Fox speaks during a conference entitled ‘Perspectives on Transgender Military Service from Around the Globe’ organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Palm Center in Washington on October 20, 2014. Photo: Getty Images/AFP/Nicholas Kamm

Wikipedia states that ‘In social science and politics, power is the ability to influence or outright control the behavior of people.’ Though Donald Trump may be disliked by hordes of Americans currently, one has to understand that he is intelligent and knows what outcries will come from his Tweets and statements. Essentially, those that protest and run to the streets are giving President Trump power over them. There is a system devised to petition the administration. You can contact your representatives, even the White House to attempt to change policy.

Before the current outcry of ‘unfair’, there was recently another blood boiling issue in the United States, restrooms. The issue basically was that some people identify as another gender. The end result in one case is that Target issued a statement saying they are spending $20 million on single stall bathrooms. Interestingly enough, no one argues over which bathroom they are allowed to use on a plane.

Ultimately, it is a constitutionally protected right to speak your mind. However, there is a difference between speaking your mind thoughtfully, and using profanity and threats. Victor Hugo is famously quoted as saying, ‘strong and bitter words indicate a weak cause.’ In lieu of being a keyboard tough guy, take a meaningful stance with a clear mind. Speak your words, rally your comrades and have a peaceful protest. There is enough violence and hate spreading across the United States, enough to make people consider how United America really is.

Anger breeds hate, and hate eats the individual up inside and can cause serious health issues beyond high blood pressure. Hate can cause stress which can lead to a heart attack. There is quote attributed to Buddha which beautifully illustrates this point, ‘you will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger’. It is find to get angry from time to time, just don’t act while you are still seeing red.

 

Why Russian Resets Keep Failing? Geopolitical rivalries do not end because of handshakes or smiling photo ops.

This Article was written by Ryan Bohl for Geopolitics Made Super , Young Diplomats’ Partner. The original article is available here.

In short, if it wasn’t one thing, it would have been another.

It didn’t have to have to be a gas attack. It could have been a stray Russian shell in some Ukrainian city, a dead exiled opposition leader on the streets of a Western capital city, a major hacking attack against a critical American target, a crucial NATO ally “flipped” by a Russian disinformation campaign or a released set of Trump e-mails.

It could have been Donald Trump waking up one day to realize the Russians aren’t interested in destroying the Islamic State so long as IS distracts the Americans and grinds down anti-Assad rebels.

It could have been when Trump tried to rally Moscow to support a new round of sanctions or military threats against North Korea.

Perhaps Trump’s bromance might have ended with a shooting incident over Finnish skies or maybe he’d have changed his mind if Russian troops showed up in Libya to prop up Moscow’s increasingly favorited local strongman, Khalifa Haftar.

The fact is, on a long enough timeline, he would have changed his mind or faced an all-out revolt from his cabinet, his generals and his party.

The furor surrounding Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s alleged influence over the airstrikes last week is therefore overblown. Presume then that they did not exist and that Steve Bannon continued to whisper pro-Russian lullabies in the president’s ear, even as critical NATO allies like the United States, France, Canada and Germany clamored for action.

How long until the next incident? How long could Trump have kept ignoring his spy and military chiefs because Steve Bannon and his alt-right supporters said to?

Trump is less important than the system he commands

I have long written how Trump is less important than the system he commands. Most presidents do not change the course of American geopolitics; they conform to them.

Woodrow Wilson tried to impose a liberal international order with America’s great armies; he was stymied by the American Senate.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt couldn’t convince his fellow Americans of the threat of Axis militarism until the Japanese proved his point.

Dwight D. Eisenhower famously (perhaps too famously these days) warned of the military-industrial complex while building the military-industrial infrastructure it needed to fight the Cold War.

Jimmy Carter was going to let human rights lead America’s way; he was repaid for that with an Iranian hostage crisis.

George W. Bush was staunchly against nation building; he ended up trying to build two.

Barack Obama called Iraq “the dumb war”; before he left power, he had already sent troops back to fight over once conquered territory.

In each case, national interest overrode the personal interests of each president. Obama desperately wanted to leave Iraq to its own devices, but the Islamic State invasion in June 2014 threatened something much bigger than his moral principles. George W. Bush wanted to focus on “compassionate conservatism”, using a proto-“America First” foreign policy to preserve power; 9/11 put paid to that. Reach back into history, find a president’s inaugural speech and see shattered dreams of a cleaner, less brutish foreign policy.

Thus it is interest that keeps tripping up the utopian geopolitical dreams of each new president. And let us be fair to President Trump: while his hopes for a Russian reset may have involved quiet business deals for himself and his family, the reality is we would all benefit from a Russo-American alliance. It would secure Europe, which with its nuclear arsenals remains the world’s most potentially dangerous continent. It would allow a united Euro-American front to focus on reordering Asia, the Middle East and Africa, regions that desperately need a superpower’s attention to bring about a more permanent peace.

But there can be no reset with Vladimir Putin, nor with the Russia he leads. Trump had to learn that the hard way.

A depressing history of Russian resets

Franklin Roosevelt tried first. In 1933, FDR led negotiations to recognize the Soviet Union. He spent much of the 1930s trying to justify this to his citizens, who saw communist subversion as a genuine threat. He was particularly burned by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; only in 1941, with the German invasion, did Roosevelt manage to get Americans back on his side for the duration of the war.

Roosevelt famously called mass murderer Josef Stalin “Uncle Joe” and believed the Soviet leader would help build a safer Europe. We know now Stalin’s idea of peace was Soviet control of the continent.

In 1946-47 Soviet troops installed communist satellites throughout Eastern Europe. But many Americans wanted to see these actions through the prism of personality: it was Stalin’s fault, went the thinking, and so when he died, so too would Soviet oppression. Nikita Khrushchev’s rise to power in 1953 and his anti-Stalin inaugural speech heartened these Russophiles. President Eisenhower gave voice to that faction in his 1953 Chance for Peace speech:

So the new Soviet leadership now has a precious opportunity to awaken, with the rest of the world, to the point of peril reached and to help turn the tide of history. Will it do this? We do not yet know. Recent statements and gestures of Soviet leaders give some evidence that they may recognize this critical moment. We welcome every honest act of peace.

But Khrushchev crushed the Hungarian rising in 1956 just as thoroughly as Stalin. It was not leader personality that created Soviet aggression and oppression; it was the Soviet system itself. There would be no reset during the Cold War.

This led to a period of realistic, though dangerous, relations with the USSR. Soviet power was based on expansionism or the appearance of it. US power was based on containment of Soviet influence. The Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan Administrations never doubted this basic tenet of Cold War geopolitics.

George H.W. Bush thus got the first chance for a true reset when the Soviet Union fell. It worked, for a time — first Bush, then Bill Clinton, enjoyed something of warm relations with Russia’s first democratic president, Boris Yeltsin. But the end of the Cold War had switched geopolitical polarities. US power increasingly became based on expansionism, or at least its appearance. Russian power was based on containment of American influence and power.

Thus the US under Clinton and both Bushes led a NATO surge eastward. They saw the end goal as Moscow itself: a Russo-American alliance, an end to Europe’s security dilemma. But while DC saw security and cooperation, Russia’s elites saw conquest.

This mismatch of perception led to a bizarre media narrative. When Vladimir Putin took power in 1999, one of his first acts was to crush the Chechen rising, just as Khrushchev had hammered Hungary in 1956 and Leonid Brezhnev had smashed Prague in 1968.

Unlike Khrushchev and Brezhnev, the Chechen War did not inspire widespread horror in the West. Western elites, both political and media, largely ignored the war and its portents for the future. For them, the curve of history was toward NATO, the European Union and American power. Having won the Cold War, they felt assured of success.

Even the relatively clean Kosovo crisis got unfair media treatment. When Russian troops took Pristina’s airport, it led to a showdown between US and Russian troops. “I’m not going to start World War III for you,” General Michael Jackson, the British commander, told the NATO supreme commander, General Wesley Clark, who ordered him to retake the airport. Yet Westerners neither ducked nor covered; the story was a two-minute sound bite at best.

Then Clinton gave way to Bush, who infamously looked Putin in the eye:

I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul. He’s a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country and I appreciate very much the frank dialogue and that’s the beginning of a very constructive relationship.

It was by then an ingrained American tradition: presuming Russia saw the world as America did, that a Kremlin president would behave like a White House one. By the end of Bush’s second term, his administration had learned their lesson.

First, Moscow refused to authorize Bush’s invasion of Iraq, seeing Iraq as a potential Middle Eastern client just as it saw Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

Then, Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia in 2008, ending Georgia’s bid to join NATO and forcing the Georgian army to rush out of Iraq and return to a losing war.

These lessons were not passed on to the next president. Obama came in promising yet another reset. Obama believed the problem had not been Russian interest, or Vladimir Putin, but President Bush: change the personality and the geopolitics would shift.

Obama, like Bush, was wrong.

Putin armed the Assad regime as the civil war began in 2011, then hoodwinked the White House when Assad gassed his own people in August 2013. To put the nail in the coffin, Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014. The Obama Administration finally understood: Russia was a rival, not a friend. Like Bush, it took a full presidential term to reach that conclusion.

Yet that did not stop Mr Trump from trying again. Despite the obvious, Trump once more believed that the problem was the American president and not the underlying geopolitical situation.

It was immature criticism, of course: Trump would sway from hitting Obama as weak and then go on to say he’d been too tough on Putin. That had everything to do with America’s broken and increasingly irrational presidential primary system, which did a terrible job of screening candidates this cycle. But in attacking Obama — and not recognizing how national interest propelled behavior — Trump was walking in the well-trodden footsteps of Roosevelt, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama.

Trump’s blatant conflicts of interest slowed this realization. Russia had, after all, tried to influence the election in his favor. He had extensive business dealings with Russians and his base wanted an “America First” policy that would ignore human-rights violations unless Americans were killed. Trump saw ground for cooperation against the Islamic State; Russian propaganda made the Russian campaign in Syria seem more effective than it actually was.

But the underlying situation did not change. The US is expansionist, in both influence and alliance. Russia is trying to contain that expansionism. It is the Cold War in reverse.

Trump came to power promising to end that expansionism. It was only a matter of time before he realized that to give ground to anyone else would threaten American interests. Those states that are not a threat to the US are already within its system: from NATO in Europe to the Organization of American States in the Americas to the US alliances in Pacific.

This leaves precious little geopolitical space on the map for ambitious powers.

India is not currently so headstrong. Hence the reason it can work with the United States, despite America’s long friendship with its archrival, Pakistan. Neither is Brazil, another potential great power of the twenty-first century. Even Turkey, whose authoritarian turn alarms NATO democrats, is not seeking to push up against American power just yet.

Russia, on the other hand, must push back. It’s current system — even its present borders — may not survive the changes that would come with a permanent US alliance. But it can only push back in places the United States cares deeply about. This is the recipe for conflict.

No one goes down unless they’re forced to

Geopolitical rivalries do not end because of handshakes or smiling photo ops. They end because they must.

France and Britain closed ranks after hundreds of year of brutal war to face a rising Germany; France, Britain and Germany were forced into alliance by the Soviet threat.

The Cold War did not end merely because Mikhail Gorbachev botched reform and Soviet troops refused to shoot Soviet citizens; it also ended because the United States had bled a rusting Red Army in Afghanistan and outspent it on nuclear weapons.

Thus the dream of uniting Russia and America in alliance will take far more than a personality switch. Even if Putin is removed from power, only a seismic internal geopolitical change within Russia will prevent a return to conflict with the West.

George Friedman wrote about this in the book that helped inspire this blog, The Next 100 Years. In it, Friedman, from 2008, writes:

The United States in particular tends to first underestimate and then overestimate enemies. By the middle of the 2010s, the United States will again be obsessed with Russia. There is an interesting process to observe here. The United States swings between moods but actually, as we have seen, executes a very consistent and rational foreign policy. In this case, the United States will move to its manic state but will focus on keeping Russia tied in knots without going to war.

[But] the causes that ignited this confrontation — and the Cold War before it — will impose the same outcome as the Cold War, this time with less effort for the United States… Russia broke in 1917 and again in 1991. And the country’s military will collapse once more shortly after 2020.

If true, the United States will have an opportunity in the 2020s to build a permanent alliance with the shattered remnants of Russia.

If not, it will doom America to another cycle of geopolitical competition and violence with Moscow in some other decade of the twenty-first century.

 

After summarising the East, let´s complete our global analysis with a focus on the West

January 2017

The UN

The famous Institution created after WWII faced much criticism during the Afghan and Syrian conflicts. The UN was criticized for its passiveness and its dependence on the five permanent members (USA, France, UK, China and Russia). On January 1st, the Portuguese politician and diplomat António Guterres becomes United Nations Secretary General, replacing South Korean Ban Ki-Moon. Is this a new turn for the role of the UN in International Relations?

Former US President Barack Obama tried to achieve everything he could during his last days of Presidency at the White House. Obama was very well known for his partnership with Vice President Biden. On January 12th, President Barack Obama gave a surprise award presentation to Vice President Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The partnership was one of the closest in American history, illustrated by this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N77AXnJ8Bsw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l96MMOIYVAs

Now as there has been a lot of talk about climate recently, let’s evaluate the consequences of the new Trump climate´s policy on the world. It could be devastating for our Earth. Our climate is not getting better, and could be even worse with Donald Trump. On January 18th, both NASA and NOAA announced that 2016 was the hottest year on record, surpassing the previous record set in 2015, which itself topped a record set in 2014.

We’ll say this next fact quickly since you’ve probably heard a lot about it. But just to remind you, this wasn´t just a bad dream, but real life:

USA

On January 20th, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America and Mike Pence as the 48th Vice President

Trump has already done his worst at the White House in a single month: attacking women’s rights, stigmatisation of immigrants, and financial affairs. Young Diplomats summarised what he’s been up to in these articles:

 

  • 10 Facts you didn’t know about President Trump

http://www.young-diplomats.com/10-facts-didnt-know-president-trump/

  • Why hasn’t President Trump banned Two main Countries?

http://www.young-diplomats.com/hasnt-president-trump-banned-two-main-countries/

  • The Russo-Trump Alliance

http://www.young-diplomats.com/russo-trump-alliance/

  • Trump Announces American Retreat from the World

http://www.young-diplomats.com/trump-announces-american-retreat-world/

  • Will Trump support India or Pakistan?

http://www.young-diplomats.com/will-trump-support-india-pakistan/

BEST-Bernie-THE-WEEK-Cover
BEST-Bernie-THE-WEEK-Cover

And after the election, a lot of protest…On January 21st, more than 2 million people protested worldwide in the ‘Women’s March’ against Donald Trump, with 500,000 marching in Washington D.C. Bernie Sanders and Senator Warren were leading the protest and are ready to lead the rebellion.

 

The most expensive house in the world
The most expensive house in the world

Aside from that, a funny but possibly somewhat tragic fact: the most expensive house on sale in the US is worth no less than $250 million and is on the market in Bel Air, Los Angeles. We could make hundreds of schools with that money instead…

 

 

Donald Trump is on a roll and wants the whole world to fear America. On January 27th, the new President issued an executive order banning travel to the US for 7 predominantly Muslim countries and suspending admission for refugees. How long will he stay in power? His first month of Presidency has seemed ridiculous. It is highly probable that the next months will be calmer. Trump is trying to get attention. How will he respond to academic protests and protests of the people?

Canada: Trudeau seducing the whole world

Trudeau is trying to seduce the entire world. And it’s working. After numerous visits around the world, Trudeau managed to get the new treaty between Canada and Europe for free trade and economic partnership signed. He might not have liked shaking hands with Trump though:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2017/feb/14/donald-trumps-strange-handshake-style-and-how-justin-trudeau-beat-it-video-explainer

More seriously, on January 29th, Canada witnessed an attack on a Mosque in Quebec, killing 6 and injuring 17 innocents, the shooter being a French-Canadian student. Tension is at its peak in Europe and North-America between white people and people of colour. The elections this year in France and Germany will be crucial for European immigration policy.

The Trump Show is like a never-ending joke. On January 31st, President Trump fired Attorney General Sally Yates after she instructed Justice Department officials not to defend Trump’s travel ban. More scandals are likely to come, since Trump seems to have a lot of conflicting interest between his business (now delegated to his sons) and his life as President.

Brexit: On February 21st British MPs voted in favour of the European Union Bill, allowing the government to begin Brexit. It is certainly over for Great Britain, outside of the common market. Theresa May is now facing the greatest challenge of all: how to make the UK great again without any friends?

February 2017

  • Feb 6: Longest-ever commercial flight route lands in Auckland from Doha, taking 16 hours and 23 minutes
  • Feb 9: 59th Grammy Awards: Adele wins Best Song “Hello” and Best Album “25”
  • Feb 12: North Korea conducts a solid fuel ballistic missile test from Banghyon air base

Next important politic deadlines

April

France enters the final straight of the process to elect a new President, who will replace incumbent François Hollande. The first round of voting will take place on April 23, featuring National Front leader Marine Le Pen and Les Republicains’ François Fillon.

May

Local elections will take place in Britain at the beginning of the month, the first major vote since the country elected to leave the EU in June 2016.

September 

German elections, more to read here: