ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 05/06/2018

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Foreign Policy – Hassan Hassan / Qatar won the Saudi blockade

  • Having been subjected to a blockade by Saudi Arabia for a year, Qatar has not only weathered the storm, but it also appears to have emerged as the main winner of the conflict.
  • Rather than convincing commentators and politicians in the West that Qatar had serious problems, the effect has largely been the opposite. In large part, that’s because the quartet (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain) failed to anticipate Qatar’s effective public relations campaign.
  • Two political developments favoring Qatar’s image coincided with the crisis. The first development was that Qatar, for reasons unrelated to the blockade, became less involved with extremist groups in Syria.
  • The second parallel development was the rise of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia. Bin Salman’s domestic crackdown, Yemen campaign and rapprochement with Israel muddled international perception of Saudi policies, and this dynamic directly benefited Qatar.
  • But, while Qatar may be winning the crisis in the court of public opinion, the Saudi side sees itself to be winning in terms of changing facts on the ground. From the perspective of the Saudi camp, the Qatar crisis is enabling it to focus on redrawing the military and political map of the region.

Foreign Affairs – Omar G. Encarnación / Can Spain find a path to political stability?

  • It is questionable that the genie of Catalan independence can be put back in the bottle at this point. But, with the new Pedro Sánchez government in Spain, the prospects for a breakthrough in Catalonia cannot be ruled out. If one political party in Madrid can manage to at least get a handle on the situation in Catalonia, it is the PSOE.
  • A new regional government was recently inaugurated in Catalonia that, although still committed to independence, has tried to put some distance between itself and last year’s aborted attempt to gain independence.
  • If the new Spanish government manages to get some things done, especially a new autonomy agreement with the Catalans, it can set itself up for a successful reelection. This, in turn, could put Spain on the path back to the remarkable political stability that the country has for the most part enjoyed since it became a worldwide symbol of democratic transition.

Financial Times – Henry Foy / Russian oil industry proves its resilience

  • Despite US and European sanctions and ever-increasing technical demands that some analysts said would be beyond Russian producers, the country’s oil and gas industry is booming, riding a surge in prices and a weaker rouble, and encouraged by initial successes in the largely untapped Arctic.
  • Investors drove the Moscow stock exchange’s oil and gas index to its highest-ever level last month, and the country’s oil and gas production is running close to record highs.
  • Much of the financial cheer is due to the fruits of a December 2016 deal between Russia and the Opec oil producing cartel to curb global crude output by 1.8m barrels a day, which dragged prices up from historical lows.
  • Since Brent crude hit $80 a barrel in May, that production cap agreed with Opec is now being called into question: Moscow and Riyadh will lead talks this month with other participants on easing the cap by 1m barrels a day.

Brookings – Bruce Jones / Despite summit diplomacy, Korea war risks have risen

  • The long history of diplomacy and war tells us that ill-prepared summits readily break down, and when they do, those failures help pave the way to war.
  • Although President Trump is clearly willing to negotiate away the US troop commitment to South Korea, the rest of his team—and indeed, the entire rest of the US political system—is not, and the system pushed back, hard.
  • A Singapore summit may indeed take place on June 12. One of the favorable contextual factors is that, whereas China long viewed denuclearization as its third priority in the Korean Peninsula (after stability and peace), many within the upper reaches of Chinese foreign policy now recognize that there will be neither peace nor stability unless Kim denuclearizes in full.
  • The risks of war are higher now than before the drive to the summit. But diplomacy can still succeed, if Trump allows Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his team to drive the strategy, and allows Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton to wield the Trump personality as a negotiating lever.

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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