ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 03/10/2018

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Euractiv / Russia completes delivery of S-300 system to Syria

  • Russia has delivered an S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Syria, it said on Tuesday, in defiance of Israeli and US concerns that the arms sale would embolden Iran.
  • Russia decided to supply the system after Moscow accused Israel of indirectly causing the downing of a Russian military jet near Syria in September.
  • The White House previously said it hoped Russia would reconsider the move, which US National Security Adviser John Bolton called a “significant escalation” of Syria’s seven-year-old war.

Financial Times – Henry Foy / Can Russia stop using the US dollar?

  • President Vladimir Putin’s government says it is working on plans to de-dollarize Russia’s $1.6tn economy and wean its biggest industries off the US currency.
  • The US Senate is considering proposals that would in essence cut off Russia’s biggest banks from the dollar and deny Moscow access to foreign debt markets.
  • Despite promises, pledges and programs to reduce Russia’s reliance on hydrocarbons, production of oil and gas is still the backbone of the country’s economy — accounting for some 50 per cent of the federal budget.
  • China, which has increased its purchases of Russian oil and gas, could be open to de-dollarizing those imports — but other countries are unlikely to follow suit.

Foreign Affairs – Jeffrey Lewis / Nuclear deals and double standards

  • A personalist approach to diplomacy that goes case by case is not necessarily a bad one. But when it comes to global efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons, the double standard inherent in President Trump’s approach presents a mortal threat.
  • Given Trump’s inconsistencies, it’s unlikely that China and Russia will ever enforce future sanctions on either Iran or North Korea with anything close to the effort seen in recent years. The result may even be a broader collapse of support for US-led efforts to stop the spread of the bomb.
  • Almost 50 years after the entry into force of the Non-Proliferation treaty, building the bomb has never been easier. The good news, though, is that there has never been a stronger sense that nuclear weapons are reprehensible. Although Trump’s approach threatens the legitimacy of this norm.
  • The most dangerous aspect of Trump’s treatment of Iran and North Korea is not so much that it breaks with US diplomatic tradition—although it does—as that it may come to be seen as kind of continuity. Trump’s approach feeds the narrative that US talking points about the spread of nuclear weapons are little more than convenient fiction.

Foreign Policy – Stephen M. Walt / What sort of world are we headed for?

  • Overall, the world of 2025 will be one of “lopsided multipolarity.” The US will still be the single most consequential actor on the planet, but its margin of superiority will be smaller than it used to be.
  • The emerging rivalry between the US and China will be the single most important feature of world politics for at least the next decade and probably well beyond that.
  • Despite fears about a resurgent Russia, it is too weak to pose the same threat to Europe as the Soviet Union did. NATO’s European members spend three to four times what Russia does on defense every year. They don’t spend it very effectively, but what Europe needs is defense reform, not open-ended US subsidies.
  • That wild card for the West is the possibility of detente—or even rapprochement—with Russia. It’s indeed possible that Trump wanted to play nice with Russia not because Putin has something on him but because it makes sound geopolitical sense.
  • In the Middle East, the US will continue to draw down its military presence—as it is already doing today. That tendency will accelerate if the world begins to rely less on fossil fuels.
  • Great power politics is alive and well, and that means we are headed toward a world of competition and suspicion, where cooperation continues but is always delicate.

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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