ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 09/01/2019

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Project Syndicate – Federica Mogherini / Shaping Europe’s present and future

  • This is the time for the EU to place itself at the center of a network of likeminded partners around the world, one that promotes and strengthens multilateralism and a rules-based international order.
  • The EU has unparalleled “soft” power – in economic, diplomatic, and cultural terms – and we are increasingly active as a global security provider, building our “hard” power as never before. In Syria and Libya, we are not a military player – and I am proud of this.
  • We are the only power that engages in regular human-rights dialogue in all corners of the world. And our new generation of trade agreements includes strong protections for workers’ rights, intellectual property, and the environment. They are agreements for free and fair trade.
  • In today’s world, even the “bigger” member states are small, such that national sovereignty can be effectively exercised only through the EU. Those who want to dismantle or weaken the EU are trying to weaken the most powerful instrument we Europeans have to exercise our sovereignty.

The New York Times – Jon Finer & Robert Malley / Trump is right to seek an end to America’s wars

  • On Syria and Afghanistan, President Trump’s initial instinct — to do less, with less — was correct. It is his execution, timing and inability to leverage his decisions for the best possible terms that were damaging. If Trump withdraws the troops more gradually rather than right away, that opportunity might still exist.
  • In Syria, the US has few remaining, achievable interests at stake: preventing ISIS from regaining territorial control, protecting the predominantly Kurdish forces on whom Washington relied to fight ISIS and supporting US allies in their efforts to defend against threats emanating from Syrian territory.
  • The success of none of those goals will be determined by a relatively small, long-term military presence. Moreover, it is hard to see how a few thousand American troops could counter tens of thousands of Iranian and Iranian-backed forces, aligned both with Moscow and President Bashar al-Assad.
  • In Afghanistan, there is little rationale for continuing to expend American blood and treasure on a conflict trending badly, with unclear objectives. Troop withdrawals can be messy and costly even in the best of circumstances. But that is not a reason to drift into forever wars while searching for the perfect exit.

Brookings – Bruce Jones / The era of U.S.-China cooperation is drawing to a close—What comes next?

  • 2018 will prove to be more than just a year of turbulence: We will look back on it as a turning point in US-China relations, the closing of an era of expanding cooperation that began with China’s accession to the WTO in 2001. What follows is an era of strategic competition—but not necessarily conflict.
  • Few in the US would align with every element of Vice President Michael Pence’s flame-throwing speech on China, but the wider administration’s tougher line on China has widespread support. On China, the turbulence is Trump, especially on trade; but the deeper shift is structural.
  • While Trump has been turbulent, President Xi has been aggressive, perhaps reckless. His assertive strategy includes consolidating control over the military; intensifying efforts to militarize the South China Sea; a crackdown internally on dissent; and, abroad, a major uptick in political interference.
  • US unpredictability has produced a welcome degree of discomfort in Xi’s inner circle and some debate about Beijing’s challenge to the US. In 2019, we may see some respite in the tariff war, but this is likely to be a cease fire, not a peace agreement.

The New York Times – Brad Plumer / U.S. carbon emissions surged in 2018 even as coal plants closed

  • America’s carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4 percent in 2018, the biggest increase in eight years, according to a preliminary estimate published by the Rhodium Group. Strikingly, the sharp uptick in emissions occurred even as a near-record number of coal plants around the US retired last year.
  • Some of the increase was weather-related: A relatively cold winter led to a spike in the use of oil and gas for heating in areas like New England. But, just as important, as the US economy grew at a strong pace last year, emissions from factories, planes and trucks soared.
  • “The big takeaway for me is that we haven’t yet successfully decoupled US emissions growth from economic growth,” said Trevor Houser, a climate and energy analyst at the Rhodium Group.
  • “Markets alone will not deliver anywhere close to the pace of decarbonization needed without much stronger climate policy efforts that are unfortunately stalled if not reversed under the Trump administration,” said Jason Bordoff, director of the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

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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