ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 25/07/2018

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Washington Post – Ishaan Tharoor / Pakistan’s military has its fingerprints all over the elections

  • Pakistanis will cast their ballots on Wednesday in national elections that have been clouded by acrimony and violence. The run-up to the election has been defined by “blatant, aggressive and unabashed attempts to manipulate” the result, declared Pakistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission.
  • The apparent beneficiary of much of those efforts has been the once-fringe party of Imran Khan, a cricket star turned nationalist politician. And the hidden power believed to be paving the way for Khan’s victory is Pakistan’s military.
  • Much like India’s Narendra Modi or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Khan channels the exasperation of the country’s conservative middle classes and trains his ire on secular elites.
  • But even with the scales now tipped in his favor, Khan is no shoo-in. The Pakistan People’s Party of late prime minister Benazir Bhutto is expected to do reasonably well in her native Sindh province. And Nawaz Sharif’s incarceration — and the abiding sense that the military is still calling the shots — has galvanized support for his party.

Euractiv – Jorge Valero / EU tones down hopes of Mercosur deal by September

  • The European Commission did not endorse Mercosur’s target to reach a political agreement on trade by September, as substantial gaps remain between the two sides.
  • French Finance minister Bruno Le Maire: “We are waiting for the South American countries to find an agreement between themselves, and come back to us so that we can move forward.”
  • One of the most controversial topics is the list of geographical indications that the EU wants recognized as part of the deal. The Union’s list includes 357 products, of which around 50 are seen controversial, including manchego cheese, cognac and rioja wine.
  • An EU-Mercosur deal would be eight times the size of the trade agreement reached with Canada (CETA) and four times the volume of the recent deal signed with Japan, which is currently the EU’s largest.

Financial Times – Mark Leonard / The Chinese are wary of Donald Trump’s creative destruction

  • In the west, most foreign policy experts see US President Donald Trump as reckless, unpredictable and self-defeating. But though many in Asia dislike him as much as the Europeans do, they see him as a more substantial figure.
  • Few Chinese think that Trump’s primary concern is to rebalance the bilateral trade deficit. If it were, they say, he would have aligned with the EU, Japan and Canada against China. They think the US president’s goal is nothing less than remaking the global order.
  • In Chinese eyes, Trump’s policies are a form of “creative destruction”. He is systematically destroying the existing institutions as a first step towards renegotiating the world order on terms more favorable to Washington.
  • Once the order is destroyed, the Chinese elite believes, Trump will move to stage two: renegotiating America’s relationship with other powers. Trump would rather deal with them one at a time rather than through multilateral institutions that empower the weak at the expense of the strong.
  • The Chinese see Trump as Henry Kissinger in reverse. In 1972, the US nudged China off the Soviet axis in order to put pressure on its real rival, the Soviet Union. Today Trump is reaching out to Russia in order to isolate China.

The Guardian – Marie Mendras / Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a creaking ship. Don’t fall for the propaganda

  • The Kremlin’s narrative hinges on the notion of a “patriotic” Russia constantly overcoming a minuscule opposition, depicted as a “fifth column” that is activated or manipulated by external forces. It is tempting for foreign observers to adopt such a black-and-white vision.
  • In fact, there are three Russias. The first is Putin’s Russia, built on an oligarchic power structure and its massive propaganda machine. The second is the average man’s Russia, with its many facets but also its common problems. The third is of the professional elites and upper-middle class, who benefited from the economic boom of the 2000s and now have much to lose.
  • Behind his bombast, Putin fears a combination of both grassroots and elite mobilization. Popular complaints can become a threat if they’re amplified by intellectuals, journalists and opposition politicians. The exceptional popularity of Alexei Navalny and his anti-corruption foundation shows a new politics in the making. Putinism as a formula for stability has run its course.
  • The regime tries to deflect attention from a depressed domestic economy by provoking confrontations with the west, but it is costly, unproductive and not very popular. Putin will stick to this course, though, rather than take the risk of liberalization and accountability.

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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