ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 30/11/2017

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The Washington Post—Madeleine Albright / The national security emergency we’re not talking about

  • Scores of top US diplomats, including some of the highest-ranked career Foreign Service officers, have left the agency at a dizzying speed over the past 10 months.
  • President Trump is aware of the situation and has made clear that he doesn’t care: “I’m the only one that matters,” he told Fox News. Meanwhile, Rex Tillerson has failed to highlight the State Department’s vital role and has delayed filling many of the most important diplomatic posts in Washington and overseas.
  • “The fact is that on trade and climate change, the U.S. government is now irrelevant; on security issues, we are ineffective; and on the use of cybertools to undercut democracy, we have a president who believes Vladimir Putin.”
  • According to the American Foreign Service Association, the number of individuals taking the Foreign Service exam this year is on track to plummet by more than 50 percent. This recruitment problem amounts to a national security emergency.

Financial Times—Edward Luce / Jim Mattis is America’s person of the year

  • US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is the second-most important person in the Trump administration.
  • Not once has Trump taken the risk of threatening Mattis with the possibility of firing him. The chances of triggering his resignation would be too high.
  • “You just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other and showing it,” Mattis said to a group of US soldiers overseas. “We’ll get the power of inspiration back.”
  • The phrase “America first” has never escaped Mattis’s lips.
  • “When I asked a senior Pentagon official to list the department’s three strategic priorities, I expected North Korea would top the list. The response was: ‘Educating the president, educating the president and educating the president.’”
  • At a time when the US foreign service is being dismantled, Mattis argues that the more the US spends on diplomats the less it would need to spend on ammunition.

Financial Times—Shawn Donnan / US seeks to deny China market economy status in WTO

  • The Trump administration has criticized China’s bid for recognition as a market economy in the World Trade Organization.
  • The US move came in a legal submission filed last week and due to be released publicly today in a case brought by Beijing against the EU. In this case, China is challenging the EU’s refusal to grant it market economy status.
  • The US rejects Beijing’s argument that under the 2001 conditions of China’s accession to the WTO it would automatically be considered a market economy 15 years after joining.
  • US officials argue that if China wants to be treated like a market economy in the WTO it should behave like a market economy. These US officials also point out that their interpretation is shared by the EU and other countries such as Canada, Japan and Mexico.
  • According to a senior US official, China’s case against the EU illustrates some of Washington’s concerns about the WTO and its dispute settlement system.
  • A parallel case between the US and China is proceeding more slowly. There is a risk that either case could get caught up in what critics fear is a Trump administration attempt to dismantle the WTO’s dispute resolution system altogether.

The New York Times—Max Fisher / Seven critical truths about North Korea

  • North Korea is a nuclear power now. The Kim Jong-un regime is convinced that giving up its nuclear weapons would invite an American invasion, similar to what happened to Libya after it surrendered its own warheads. In short: We have no way to make them give up their weapons program, except for an undesirable invasion.
  • North Korea can probably strike Washington and New York now.
  • North Korea is rational, which means it’s unlikely to start a war.
  • China might not be able to solve the North Korea problem. Xi Jinping can put a lot of pressure on Kim, but it’s not clear that such pressure scares Kim more than the threat of national destruction. In any case, North Korea and China have been increasingly at odds.
  • North Korea has shown it can endure extreme economic punishment. Even the most severe sanctions might not be able to impose anything that North Korea hasn’t survived before.
  • Theory one, most widely held among experts, says that North Korea wants to use its weapons to pressure the world into accepting it as a legitimate member of the international community. Theory two, more controversial, says that North Korea ultimately wants to reunify with South Korea.
  • The greatest risk, analysts tend to say, is from an accident or miscalculation that might send North Korea and the United States into an unintended conflict.
  • North Korea says it’s now a nuclear state. Could that mean it’s ready to talk?

Politico—Jacopo Barigazzi / EU seeks new start with Africa — again

  • The challenges of migration and terrorism, which have fueled a rise in populism in Europe, have brought home to EU leaders that they have a strong interest in fostering stability and prosperity across Africa.
  • A senior EU diplomat closely involved in preparing the ongoing summit in Abidjan, bringing together leaders from the African Union and the European Union, said previous initiatives to aid Africa were born out of a wish to help. “Now it is out of necessity.”
  • Deep-rooted reasons for mistrust still prevail, such as weak African institutions, incoherent EU foreign policy and the colonial past.
  • Last week, Federica Mogherini announced an investment plan for Africa that could raise at least €44 billion in private cash by 2020. Angela Merkel has also made Africa a priority, proposing a Marshall plan for the continent.
  • However, China’s growing influence in Africa means governments have a choice when it comes to donors and business partners.

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

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