ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 23/10/2017

The New York Times—M. Rich / Japan election vindicates Shinzo Abe as his party wins big

  • In the Japanese general election, with the majority of votes counted, Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democrats and their coalition partner had won enough seats to reach the two-thirds mark.
  • The Japanese Constitution, in place since 1947, calls for the renunciation of war, and Mr. Abe said in May that it should be amended to remove any doubt about the military’s legitimacy, a view he reiterated on Sunday evening.
  • Polls have shown that voters are split on whether they favor such a measure, which would need to be approved by referendum.
  • The election did little to change Japan’s record as one of the worst in the world for female political representation. Fewer than one in five candidates for the lower house were women, and projections early Monday morning showed that about one in 10 of the winners were women.

Politico—S. Mortkowitz / Million dollar Babiš

  • The result of the Czech parliamentary election was something of a slap in the face for Brussels. Not only has Andrej Babiš –the billionaire leader of the winning party, ANO—opposed EU-mandated immigrant quotas and repeatedly accused Brussels of “meddling,” but the second-place Civic Democrats have also been firmly anti-EU since the party’s foundation.
  • More than half of those who went to the polls voted, implicitly or explicitly, for parties with at least a Euroskeptic flavor. Yet Czech voters didn’t exactly indict the EU as much as embrace parties with anti-establishment messages and credentials.
  • Babiš, in his victory speech on Saturday night: “I don’t know why anyone says we are not pro-European. We are pro-European. I don’t know why anyone says we want to change the constitution. I don’t understand why anyone portrays us as a threat to democracy.”
  • The ruling Social Democrats of outgoing Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka suffered an electoral disaster. After narrowly winning the previous election, in 2013, with 20.5 percent of the vote, they managed to attract the support of only 7.27 percent of voters this time around.

Financial Times—K. Manson / Mattis tries to unite fragmented Asean against China

  • US defence secretary Jim Mattis will try to unite Southeast Asian countries against China during a meeting of defence ministers in the Philippines on Monday.
  • “[Asean gives] voice to those who want relations between states to be based on respect, and not on predatory economics or on the size of militaries,” Mr Mattis told reporters ahead of meetings in the Philippines, without mentioning China by name.
  • Mr Mattis’s comments echo those last week of US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, who promoted a vision of India as a democratic, populous counterweight to China.
  • The Philippines last year declared a new friendship with China, having previously accused it of seizing a disputed shoal in 2012, and this month accepted a new delivery of armaments. But the US has also stepped up its support of Mr Duterte’s efforts to overcome Islamist fighters.

Al-Monitor—AFP / No dialogue yet between rivals in Gulf crisis: Tillerson

  • US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday said talks between feuding Gulf states remained unlikely, as a Saudi-led boycott of Qatar nears its sixth month.
  • “There is not a strong indication that parties are ready to talk yet,” Tillerson said. “We cannot and will not impose a solution on anyone.”
  • Tillerson’s comments came after he held talks Sunday in both Riyadh and Doha on a visit that has focused on curbing Iran’s influence in the region.
  • The visit also appears aimed at boosting Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia’s clout in Iraq, where Shiite forces backed by Tehran are fighting in the north.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 19/10/2017

The New York Times—N. MacFarquhar / Russian socialite enters race to challenge President Putin

  • Ksenia A. Sobchak, a 35-year-old television journalist whose father was a close ally of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, declared her intention on Wednesday to challenge him in the presidential election scheduled for next March.
  • The main liberal opposition candidate, Aleksei A. Navalny, has been banned from running because of convictions in fraud cases that he has called politically motivated, although he has been campaigning anyway.
  • Some leaders of the liberal opposition expressed dismay at Sobchak’s move, accusing her of being a Kremlin stooge and a spoiler candidate meant to inject a measure of excitement and legitimacy into a dull race.
  • “She is too glamorous for Navalny’s electorate, but she can be supported by people who are protesting against the country becoming increasingly conservative, by people who are against clericalism,” said Aleksei V. Makarkin, deputy head of the Center for Political Technologies.

European Council on Foreign Relations—F. Wesslau / What to do about Turkey?

  • Suspension of Turkey’s EU accession process would send a strong signal to Erdogan that there are consequences for his actions. Moreover, it might enable the two parties to engage in pragmatic trade-offs without having to talk about human rights or values – something Ankara clearly does not want.
  • But suspension would be a serious mistake. The decision would play right into Erdogan’s hands, and permanently alter Europe’s relationship with Turkey.
  • Furthermore, suspension would signal to “the 49 percent” who voted against Erdogan’s constitutional amendments in the April referendum that Europe has given up on their cause of democratizing Turkey.
  • Instead of formally suspending the accession process, the EU should leave it as it is – dormant. This message would send the right signal to Erdogan, to “the 49 percent” and to other candidate countries.

Financial Times—M. Peel / Maltese PM rejects state ‘hijack’ claim after journalist’s murder

  • The killing of the journalist Caruana Galizia in a car bombing this week has shocked Malta and drawn condemnation across Europe, including from Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.
  • However, it has also intensified criticism of what the government’s detractors say is a slide in the rule of law under the premier’s scandal-hit four-year administration.
  • Caruana Galizia had written extensively about alleged corruption involving Maltese officials. Mr Muscat had rejected graft allegations levelled against him by the journalist.
  • The European People’s party group in the European Parliament this week branded the murder “tragic proof” of the deteriorating situation in Malta.

Foreign Affairs—S. Hennessey / Deterring cyberattacks

  • Moving forward, the United States must clearly delineate what constitutes unacceptable behavior in cyberspace and embrace a broader range of retaliatory measures so that it can deter attacks that are certain to come harder and faster than ever before.
  • Strong and specific U.S. government attribution from the outset of the DNC hacking could have substantially shifted the focus to Russia’s motives, instead of the content of the leaked emails.
  • States sometimes intrude into the networks of other states for genuinely defensive purposes, but evaluating intent in cyberspace is often more difficult than judging a conventional military move. And when a state cannot determine intent, it will generally assume aggression. This is the cyberspace version of the security dilemma, which so far has inhibited Washington’s response to cyberattacks, but the U.S. can no longer rely on a do-nothing or do-little approach.
  • By setting neutral standards, future administrations can guard against claims of partisanship should they choose to respond forcefully to foreign attempts to interfere in U.S. politics or policymaking.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 


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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 18/10/2017

The New York Times—A. Barnard & H. Saad / Raqqa, ISIS ‘capital,’ is captured, U.S.-backed forces say

  • American-backed forces said on Tuesday that they had seized the northern Syrian city of Raqqa from the Islamic State.
  • The United States Central Command, however, stopped short of declaring victory, saying that “more than 90 percent of Raqqa is in S.D.F. control,” a reference to the Syrian Democratic Forces.
  • A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces admitted that suicide bombers might still be hiding in the city.
  • With the fall of Raqqa, the Islamic State has lost the two most important cities of its self-declared caliphate (the other one being Mosul, in Iraq) in three months. Analysts say the group is already preparing for a new phase, morphing back into the kind of underground insurgency it started as.
  • A major concern, now that Islamic State-held territory is reduced, is how countries in Europe, in the Middle East and around the world will handle the foreigners who joined the group in places like Syria and might return home and plan attacks there.
  • The fall of Raqqa threatens to inflame relations between Kurds and Arabs, who have been fighting the Islamic State in an uneasy alliance with the United States-led coalition.

Financial Times—T. Mitchell & L. Hornby / Xi Jinping hails ‘new era’ at opening of China congress

  • President Xi Jinping declared that China had “entered a new era” as he opened the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress, which he hopes will cement his status as a transformative leader alongside Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong.
  • In an address that ran for more than three hours and was attended by his predecessors Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin, Mr Xi urged his party colleagues to “work tirelessly to realise the Chinese dream of national rejuvenation.”
  • “China’s cultural soft power and the international influence of Chinese culture have increased significantly,” Mr Xi said. “China’s international standing has risen as never before.”
  • One of the speech’s biggest applause lines was Mr Xi’s pledge to maintain the anti-corruption campaign’s “unstoppable momentum”.
  • Mr Xi also outlined a vision for China through the middle of the 21st century, predicting that the world’s most populous nation would be “moderately prosperous” by 2035 and “prosperous, strong and democratic” by 2050.

Project Syndicate—J. Fischer / Europe’s attackers from within

  • Were Catalonia actually to achieve independence, it would have to find a way forward without Spain or the EU. And without membership in the European single market, Catalonia would face the grim prospect of rapid transformation from an economic powerhouse into an isolated and poor country.
  • The EU cannot countenance the disintegration of member states, because these states comprise the very foundation upon which it rests. Although regions can play an important role within the EU, they cannot stand in as an alternative to member states.
  • One could argue that nothing less than the EU’s future is at stake in Catalonia today.
  • There is no alternative but for both the governments in Barcelona and Madrid to abandon the trenches they have dug for themselves, come out to negotiate, and find a mutually satisfactory solution that accords with the Spanish constitution, democratic principles, and the rule of law.

Project Syndicate—J. Stiglitz, et al. / Intellectual property for the twenty first century economy

  • Over the last two decades, there has been serious pushback from the developing world against the current intellectual property (IP) regime, designed not to maximize innovation and scientific progress, but to maximize the profits of big pharmaceutical companies and others able to sway trade negotiations.
  • The economic institutions and laws protecting knowledge in today’s advanced economies are increasingly inadequate to govern global economic activity, and are poorly suited to meet the needs of developing countries and emerging markets.
  • Given that knowledge is a global public good, the worry has been that the market will undersupply knowledge, and research will not be adequately incentivized. But it is not wise to attempt to correct this market failure by creating another one: private monopolies.
  • The current patent system impedes the flow of knowledge, reduces the benefits derived from it, and distorts the economy. By contrast, the final alternative to this system maximizes the flow of knowledge, by maintaining a creative commons, exemplified by open-source software.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo.  

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 17/10/2017

The Economist / A new war in Iraq, now between Shia Arabs and Kurds

  • Yesterday, Iraqi government forces advanced on Kirkuk, taking over the oilfields, the biggest military base outside the city, and then the governorate building in the centre.
  • Most Peshmerga fighters withdrew without much of a fight. But some Kurds in the city have responded to calls from their leaders to take up arms in Kirkuk’s defence.
  • The loss of Kirkuk’s oilfields would cost the Kurdish regional government its prime source of revenue at a time when it is already struggling to finance its rule.
  • Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has responded to President Trump’s bombast with force. Ahead of the Kirkuk offensive, General Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force, the IRGC’s foreign-operations arm, arrived in Iraq.

Financial Times—T. Hancock / Xi Jinping ally rides infrastructure wave to heart of party power

  • Chen Min’er, Guizhou’s former top official who oversaw the province’s growth and an accompanying rise in local government debt, has a chance of reaching the Politburo Standing Committee after the Chinese Communist party congress this week.
  • Mr Chen, 57, is a decade younger than the top leadership who generally retire at 68, increasing speculation that he is being groomed by Xi Jinping to succeed him as party chief.
  • While Mr Xi is widely seen as the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, he is not the sole arbiter of party promotions. Analysts say the position achieved by Mr Chen will be read for signs of his clout.

Brookings—L. M. Milford & M. Muro / Devastation in Puerto Rico could produce a revolutionary power grid

  • A few weeks after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, only about 15 percent of the island has electricity.
  • Tesla has started sending batteries to Puerto Rico, to be installed with solar as an emergency measure to provide power to critical facilities. Sonnen, a German company, is installing solar and storage systems in the island at emergency shelters.
  • Beyond these short-term measures, Elon Musk says he can quickly repower Puerto Rico’s grid with solar and battery storage, an alternative that would not rebuild the grid in the old way. Instead, it would make the island’s electric system more resilient, more local, more independent, and less costly.
  • Solar+storage technologies have become proven and accepted. They are beyond an experimental stage. But it often takes a dramatic moment to shift such a niche technology to mainstream success.

The New York Times—H. Mohamed & K. de Freytas-Tamura / Somalia blasts expose security failings and possible Shabab infiltration

  • Even by Somalia’s standards, the twin truck bombings this past Saturday in Mogadishu that killed more than 270 people were unusual in their scale and brutality.
  • Although the Shabab, Somalia’s Islamist extremist organization, has not publicly claimed responsibility, its members are thought to have orchestrated the attack.
  • The bombings were carried out by drivers of two trucks, crammed with explosives, who drove through multiple checkpoints on a tightly patrolled highway. Their easy access raised questions over whether Shabab infiltrators had compromised security.
  • “No one likes to talk about this, partly because it’s difficult to quantify,” said David Anderson, a professor of African politics at Warwick University. “It’s widely accepted that most of the institutions and organs of the Somali state are infiltrated by the Shabab.”
  • “The solution for the Shabab isn’t to drone-strike it away,” said Ahmed Soliman, an expert on Somalia at Chatham House. If international interest in Somalia diminishes, “there can be an unraveling of the progresses made in government and institutions.”

The New York Times—G. Aisch, et al. / How far is Europe swinging to the right?

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 16/10/2017

Politico—M. Karnitschnig / Austria heads for right-leaning coalition

  • In the Austrian general election, the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) finished first with 31.7 percent and the Social Democrats (SPÖ) second with 26.9 percent. The right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) placed third with 26 percent, projections showed.
  • The results should clear the way for a right-leaning coalition and vault the ÖVP’s 31-year-old leader, Sebastian Kurz, into the office of chancellor.
  • A right-wing coalition in Austria would join Hungary and Poland in demanding Europe pursue tougher policies on borders, refugees and migration.
  • Kurz, who has remade the ÖVP in his own image in recent months, proved that cloning populist positions can lead to success under the right leader.

Politico—J. Delcker / Germany’s Social Democrats score victory in regional election

  • Projections showed the SPD winning 37.3 percent of the votes in Lower Saxony, the fourth most populous state in Germany, almost 4 percentage points ahead of Angela Merkel’s CDU.
  • It’s the first time since 1998 that the SPD has managed to become the strongest party in the swing state.
  • The Greens won around 8.9 percent of the votes, ahead of the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) at 7.4 percent, and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) at 6.2 percent.
  • The influence of Lower Saxony’s government in the upper house of parliament will make it more difficult for Merkel and her future government to push through legislation during the next four years.

Financial Times—G. Long / Maduro’s socialists win in Venezuela polls prompts questions

  • Defying all serious opinion polls in the run-up to the vote, the Venezuelan government dominated Sunday’s regional elections, prompting accusations from the opposition that the ballot was flawed.
  • The National Electoral Council (CNE) said President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist party won 17 of 23 governorships across the country. The opposition won five and one contest was too close to call.
  • Mr Maduro said the socialist party took 54 per cent of the national vote to the opposition’s 45 per cent.
  • The Table of Democratic Unity (MUD), the main opposition party, said they refused to recognise the results given by the National Electoral Council.

Project Syndicate—E. Barak / The Iran nuclear deal is bad – and necessary

  • Trump’s decertification of the JCPOA, regardless of what ends up happening in Congress, is a serious mistake.
  • “Like many Israelis, I agree with Trump that the international agreement reached with Iran in 2015 is fundamentally a bad deal. But it is also a done deal.“
  • “If the US can default on its international commitments for no reason, why would Kim Jong-un bother to engage in negotiations?”
  • “The most immediate threat would be a decision by Iran to relaunch its own nuclear-weapon program. Should that happen, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey would be virtually certain to pursue nuclear breakout.”
  • “Deal or no deal, Iran represents a serious threat – to Israel, of course, but also to the stability of the Middle East and, in a sense, of the whole world. But, as of now, that threat is not existential. Preventing it from becoming so should be a top priority today.“

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 11/10/2017

Financial Times—T. Barber / Catalan concession is not enough to overcome Madrid’s mistrust

  • Yesterday, Catalan PM Carles Puigdemont stepped back from the brink, but almost certainly did not step back far enough for the Spanish authorities to consider it a turning point in the crisis.
  • In the short term, Mr Puigdemont may have shown just enough restraint to persuade the Spanish government not to crack down on the separatists harder than it has already done.
  • Madrid’s extra options range from arresting the ringleaders, or imposing heavy fines on them for disobeying the law, to declaring a state of emergency or suspending Catalonia’s autonomy.
  • For the present, Mr Rajoy may decide that no such drastic action is necessary.

Brookings—S. Maloney / To certify or not to certify? That’s not the question

  • Instead of re-litigating the well-traveled turf surrounding the JCPOA (whose primary advantage has always been the absence of a compelling alternative), what Washington needs now is a credible, bipartisan strategy for addressing the unresolved question of how to persuade Tehran to play a more constructive role at home and abroad.
  • The mechanism that President Trump has seemingly chosen—refusing to certify Iranian compliance with the deal in a period report to Congress, while counseling against the re-imposition of sanctions—is entirely a domestic political gesture. Congressional action to re-impose the nuclear-related sanctions on Iran appears highly unlikely.
  • In light of Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA, de-certification would have to be predicated on the dubious proposition that the deal does not serve American national security interests, a position Trump’s own defense secretary, James Mattis, refuted only days ago.
  • Even if de-certification did not have immediate implications for the deal itself, it would have a significant and almost certainly disastrous impact for American diplomacy. Over time, the Iranians would be tempted to edge away from their own obligations, under the expectation that most of the blame would remain directed toward Washington as the first mover.
  • The consequential uncertainty surrounding the Iran deal flies beneath the radar of the hype around de-certification: Will Trump continue to waive the nuclear-related sanctions as required by the JCPOA? The next decision point there does not come until January.

Foreign Affairs—A. Borshchevskaya / Will Russian-Saudi Relations Continue to Improve?

  • Whether the Russia-Saudi Arabia rapprochement will last is unclear. What is certain, however, is that Russia’s new Saudi ties show Putin’s sway in the Middle East remains on the upswing.
  • Back in 2007, Putin was the first Russian head of state ever to visit Riyadh, against the backdrop of Saudi frustration over the U.S. war in Iraq and Washington’s support for the Shiite government in Baghdad. Yet the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 stymied any real development in bilateral ties.
  • Now, Moscow is looking to strengthen its economic relationship with Riyadh. Putin knows that Russia’s stagnating economy needs foreign investment, and there are also shared oil interests with Saudi Arabia. In addition, Putin continues to seek to peel the United States away from its allies.
  • Saudi Arabia recognizes that Assad is not leaving power soon, and so seeks to open the door to reconciliation through Moscow. Riyadh also likely hopes that by offering economic incentives, it can induce Russia to distance itself from Iran, even in the Yemen war.
  • However, driving a wedge between Russia and Iran is a far greater challenge than many analysts acknowledge.

Financial Times—A. Ward & D. Keohane / BNP to cut links with shale and tar sands groups

  • BNP Paribas is to stop doing business with companies whose primary activity involves oil and gas extracted from shale deposits or tar sands.
  • BNP also ruled out involvement in oil and gas exploration and production in the Arctic.
  • The move expands an earlier commitment by the bank to stop financing coal mining and coal-fired power projects.
  • The immediate impact of the new policy is likely to be limited because BNP Paribas has relatively little exposure to the resources it is blacklisting, most of which are concentrated in North America.
  • However, BNP’s new policy demonstrates mounting scrutiny from financial institutions of “climate risks”.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo.

Política Internacional | Permalink

ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 10/10/2017

Financial Times—S. Fleming / Trump moves to scrap Obama rules on coal-fired power

  • Scott Pruitt, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said at an event in Kentucky that the “war on coal” was over and that he would be signing an order to scrap Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
  • The Clean Power plan was intended to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 32 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • The administration’s announcement will make little difference to the US energy industry, which had already accepted that the plan would be scrapped. The US coal industry was expected to continue in steady decline even without the new curbs on carbon dioxide emissions.
  • However, Rick Perry, the energy secretary, has proposed new regulations for competitive electricity markets to favour coal-fired and nuclear generation, and the US International Trade Commission is considering new tariffs that could be imposed on imported solar panels.

Politico—M. Karnitschnig / Austria’s Haus of Cards

  • Ahead of the Austrian general election on Sunday, it has emerged that outside consultants working for Chancellor Christian Kern’s Social Democrats (SPÖ) were behind a racist Facebook campaign aimed at undermining his opponent, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP).
  • The affair got murkier over the weekend after a consultant involved in the smear said that one of Kurz’s closest aides tried to lure him away from Kern’s campaign with a cash payoff totaling €100,000. The ÖVP denies the accusation.
  • The two parties have governed together in a grand coalition for over a decade.
  • Austrians are poised to elect Kurz, a man of just 31, to lead the country. Perhaps even more significantly, for the first time since 2000 the anti-immigrant Freedom Party (FPÖ) has a good chance of joining the government.
  • Even if the Freedom Party finishes third, most political observers expect Kurz to pursue a coalition with the far right.

The New York Times—N. Youssef / 2 paths for Yemen’s war-scarred children: Combat, or marriage

  • In war-torn Yemen, desperate families are increasingly selling their daughters off as child brides or letting their boys be recruited as child soldiers.
  • Yemeni law does not set a legal age for marriage, nor does it criminalize marital rape.
  • Before the war, the United Nations had documented about 900 child soldiers in Yemen. Now, it has found about 1,800, according to Ms. Relano. The actual number is assumed to be higher.

The Guardian—J. McCurry / Meet Kim Yo-jong, the sister who is the brains behind Kim Jong-un’s image

  • Last Saturday, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of Kim Jong-un, was promoted to the politburo of North Korea’s workers’ party. This was interpreted as a sign that Kim Jong-un has absolute trust in his younger sister – rumoured to be the brains behind his carefully constructed public image.
  • There were even rumours that Kim Yo-jong was briefly responsible for state affairs during Kim’s prolonged absence from public life – attributed to an undisclosed health problem – in the autumn of 2014.
  • Kim Yo-jong’s promotion points towards a generational shift, as Kim seeks to make a clean break with the personnel who surrounded his father, according to some experts.

The Guardian / Raqqa: a journey into the destroyed heart of the Islamic State capital

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo.

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