ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 22/11/2017

Financial Times—Kathrin Hille, et al. / Russia’s military operation in Syria nears end, say Assad and Putin

  • Russian president Vladimir Putin has held talks with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in Sochi, right before hosting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani for negotiations on Syria.
  • Both Assad and Putin stressed that the Russian military intervention in Syria was nearing its end. The Russian president is eager to secure a political process that other world powers deem acceptable enough to fund reconstruction, allowing him to halt Russia’s operation.
  • “We don’t want to look back. We welcome all who are really interested in a political solution. We are ready to conduct dialogue with them,” Assad said. The Syrian president added that he counts on Russia’s support in ensuring that external players will not “meddle” but support the process.
  • Assad’s remarks pointed to the continued opposition among western and many regional governments to a political process that might see him remain in power in Syria. Many western officials are also wary of supporting Russia’s diplomatic efforts because they argue the moves are undermining the legitimacy of the UN-led peace process in Geneva.

The Guardian—Tom Phillips / China turns its back on Comrade Bob to embrace change in Zimbabwe

  • Experts believe China’s leaders are both relieved and contented with the resignation of Robert Mugabe — “Comrade Bob” —, despite the fact that for years China was Mugabe’s most powerful backer.
  • Mugabe’s controversial indigenisation law required all foreign companies to be controlled by Zimbabweans, which was a particular blow to Chinese interests in its diamond industry.
  • Opinion pieces in China’s state-run media this week have highlighted the economic turmoil Mugabe inflicted on Zimbabwe. “The country has turned into a big slum plagued by hunger,” one scholar wrote in the Global Times. Even Deng Xiaoping warned Mugabe to “pay special attention to our leftist errors,” a recommendation that apparently was largely ignored.
  • Chinese profiles of Mugabe’s likely successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, painted him as a reliable, China-friendly figure who had studied Marxism and military engineering in the Middle Kingdom.

ECFR—Josef Janning / Jamaica sunset leaves German politics in the dark

  • If Merkel’s efforts to form a coalition fail, she will have to go through three attempts to be elected Chancellor in the Bundestag. If all three fail the Federal President could either appoint her as Chancellor of a minority government or, more likely, call new elections.
  • New elections would demonstrate Angela Merkel’s weakness rather than strength. Political fragmentation in the European Council will spread. French President Emmanuel Macron will not receive a response from Berlin on his European ambitions. Europe will become weaker through inaction from the centre, and centrifugal tendencies will prosper.
  • Should Merkel eventually come back as the leader of a new German government, the strain of coalition building will have taken its toll: she can be expected to be even more cautious and pragmatic than before.

Foreign Affairs—Sudha David-Wilp / Germany’s chance for a reset

  • On the surface, it looks as if FDP’s leader Christian Lindner defied traditional coalition-building in Germany (a center-right or a center-left party tend to join together with a junior partner). Thus, many have been quick to denounce him as irresponsible.
  • Lindner claims, however, that the political gaps among the parties were too large to bridge and that it was therefore better to refrain from a marriage that was bound to end in divorce. And he may be right.
  • Political deadlock and new elections are unconventional for Germany, but they will not necessarily lead to a political crisis if the established parties manage to regroup, recapture their core voters and diminish the pull of the AfD.
  • AfD may gain more seats by accusing the established parties of failing to deliver a government. However, previous AfD voters might feel that they had their chance to protest during the last election and will now return to more conventional options. This would ultimately lead to a stronger Germany and a stronger Europe.

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

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