ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 02/03/2018

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ECFR – Ivan Krastev & Gleb Pavlosky / The arrival of post-Putin Russia

  • Following Russia’s March election, Vladimir Putin will focus on shaping the new era. Putin will not search for a successor, but will be seeking a transfer of power from his generation to the “Putin generation” (comprising politicians who came of age during his rule).
  • The behaviour of Russia’s major political and economic players will be defined not by the president’s presence in the system but by the expectation of his departure.
  • Despite widespread expectations that the regime will undergo a major transformation, it is unlikely that post-Putin Russia will be an anti-Putin Russia.
  • Moscow will likely maintain its current foreign policy objectives even after Putin’s exit from the Kremlin, but without him Russia will probably be a weak international player.

Foreign Policy – Jeffrey Lewis / Putin’s nuclear-powered cruise missile is bigger than Trump’s

  • The genesis of Russia’s new generation of bizarre nuclear weapons – including, according to President Putin, a nuclear-powered cruise missile – lies in the George W. Bush administration’s decision in 2001 to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the bipartisan failure by both the Bush and Obama administrations to engage meaningfully with the Russians over their concerns about American missile defenses.
  • The last piece of the puzzle was the collapse of democracy in Russia. With Putin’s consolidation of power, we have seen a return of a lot of Soviet patterns and behaviors.
  • Arms racing with the Russian is pointless. The Russians are arms racing with themselves, driven by a resurgent Soviet defense industry.
  • The strategy the United States is left with is trying to raise the international cost that Moscow faces for developing these grotesque systems. The recent US Nuclear Posture Review goes in the opposite direction, because it makes US allies just as worried about Trump as they are about Putin.

Financial Times – Edward Luce / The crises engulfing Jared Kushner

  • On Wednesday, it was reported that Jared Kushner’s business company, which accounts for most of his $761m in net worth, has taken loans totalling $509m from lenders with whom Kushner has had White House meetings in the past year.
  • Every legal problem that President Trump’s son-in-law is facing — from his loss of top secret White House security clearance last week to the focus of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation — stems from his company’s parlous finances.
  • Terms such as “leverage” and “conflict of interest” fail to capture the scale of the danger Kushner poses to US national security. US intelligence agencies have learnt that numerous foreign government officials discussed how to exploit Kushner’s business interests.
  • At the best of times, Kushner’s ability to execute his extraordinary — and unprecedented — portfolio of White House duties would be dubious. Under these circumstances, it is preposterous.

Politico – Christian Oliver, et al. / Europe digs in to fight global trade war against Trump

  • By slapping steep tariffs on America’s imports of steel and aluminum, President Trump ignited yesterday a global war that is likely to bring the EU – the second biggest steel producer after China – into conflict with a wide range of countries.
  • Direct retaliation against Washington will only be one dimension of the broader showdown. Big producers such as South Korea, Japan, Brazil and China will now be seeking new markets in Europe, and the EU is already looking to deter them with so-called “safeguard measures.”
  • “The Commission will bring forward in the next few days a proposal for World Trade Organization-compatible countermeasures against the U.S. to rebalance the situation,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
  • US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has suggested that there could be a positive domino effect in safeguard measures for developed markets, whose ultimate victim would be China, unable to vent its massive overcapacity.

Foreign Affairs – Jennifer Morgan / Don’t abandon the Paris temperature target

  • Ted Nordhaus advocates that the international community abandon the target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, arguing that it has already been proven impossible to achieve.
  • Nordhaus advocates instead economic development through the burning of fossil fuels to fund adaptation. But the solution to climate change is not an either/or argument: actually, we need to have both mitigation and adaptation. And the latter does not necessitate the use of fossil fuels.
  • It is true that the current commitments of the Paris signatories are putting the world on a dangerous and irresponsible three-degree trajectory. However, the solution is not in giving up the goal but in significantly stepping up action, as we are on the cusp of transformative change.
  • The estimated total emissions reduction potential is sufficient to bridge the emissions gap in 2030 for two degrees (with a greater than 66 percent chance) and 1.5 degrees (a 50 to 66 percent chance).

Brookings – Bruce Riedel / What’s behind the sudden ouster of top Saudi military commanders

  • Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) fired the joint chiefs of staff of the Saudi military this week. The entire military leadership of the Kingdom has turned over in a few months.
  • The move probably suggests that MBS is ready to up the ante in the Yemen war – his signature policy initiative. MBS may double down on the blockade and the air bombardment, despite UN criticism, and try to rally the Houthis’ enemies against them.
  • So far, the only clear winner in the Yemen war is Iran, which has every reason to try to perpetuate the conflict. The top American general in the region said this week that Iran has accomplished more in Yemen in the last five years than it did in building up Hezbollah in Lebanon in 20 years.
  • Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution this week that would have condemned Iran for providing missile technology and expertise to the Yemeni rebels. It’s the first time Moscow has used its veto power to protect the Houthis.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces.

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