ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 14/05/2019

The New York Times – Peter Baker / Viktor Orban, Hungary’s Far-Right Leader, Gets Warm Welcome From Trump

  • US Presient Donald Trump praised on Monday on Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, stating that “Viktor Orban has done a tremendous job in so many different ways, […] Highly respected. Respected all over Europe. Probably like me, a little bit controversial, but that’s O.K. That’s O.K. You’ve done a good job, and you’ve kept your country safe”.
  • For Viktor Orban, this embrace was a welcome affirmation, an important contrast in comparison with his cold encounters with European leaders. He is the latest of the world’s strongmen to find a warm reception at the White House, along with praised autocrats from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Philippines and Kazakhstan
  • Donald Trump made no mention of the fact that Hungary spends only 1.15 % of its economy on defense, one of the lowest in the NATO, even though he regularly urges other leaders for not meeting the 2 % goal set by the alliance. Likewise, he said nothing about Hungary’s increasing energy ties with Russia, unlike his repeated criticism of Germany on the same issue. Nor did he publicly raise American discontent with the Chinese firm Huawei’s work on Hungary’s broadband network.

The Washington Post – Anthony Faiola / Inside the secret plot to turn senior Venezuelan officials against Maduro

  • The failure of the uprising has cast new uncertainty on the opposition’s months-long effort to oust Maduro. Guaidó made a surprise appearance with a handful of troops at a military base in Caracas at dawn on April 30 to announce that he had the support of key military units and to call on others to join in the “final phase” of the campaign against the strongman. But the broader military support never materialized, and Maduro’s forces moved against opposition protesters, killing at least four and wounding scores.
  • While U.S. officials still want Maduro out and say they remain engaged, they now say it probably will take longer than they initially believed. President Trump, meanwhile, has expressed frustration at his administration’s aggressive strategy, complaining he was misled about how easy it would be to replace Maduro with Guaidó, according to administration officials and White House advisers.

Foreign Policy – Mahsa Rouhi / Iranians Will Tolerate Hardship but Not Capitulation

  • On the one-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Iran announced that it would cease to implement some of its commitments under the accord. Because the United States has banned Iran from exporting heavy water and low enriched uranium (LEU), Iran will stop adhering to the accord’s limits on accumulating these materials: 130 metric tons in the case of heavy water and 202.8 kilograms of LEU.
  • There is an argument floating around among supporters of the deal in the USA and Europe that Iran should continue its strategic patience and practice restraint and compliance with the deal. The rationale is based upon two statements:  first, to basically wait out the Trump administration in hopes that if a Democrat wins in 2020, the USA could rejoin the nuclear deal. Second, despite the fact that Iran is not reaping economic windfalls, there are some diplomatic benefits in remaining in the agreement. But if Iran violates the deal, the Europeans would have to impose more sanctions, which would deteriorate diplomatic relations between the members.
  • Perhaps more importantly, efforts to set up INSTEX, a so-called special purpose vehicle, continue to lag, with INSTEX having yet to become operational because EU companies are wary of using it and with the scope of its activities at least so far envisioned to merely encompass nonsanctionable humanitarian trade
  • Given the political environment in Tehran, where the Rouhani administration is under attack for keeping the current limits on Iran’s nuclear program while not getting a relief of economic sanctions in return, meekly accepting additional limits was simply politically untenable. Iran’s government has chosen another path in the hope that the rest of the world, outside of Washington, will recognize its domestic political constraints and good-faith efforts to abide by what’s left of the nuclear deal.

Financial Times – Gideon Rachman / America is the revisionist power on trade

  • The USA and China are dissatisfied with current world order, but the nature of both countries unhappiness is very different.  The problem for Donald Trump is that the world economic system is operating hugely to America’s disadvantage. The US president complains that “globalism” has helped China to rise at the expense of the USA. It is that view that underpins Donald Trump’s dramatic decision last week to raise tariffs on Chinese exports to the USA. For Xi Jinping, the problem is American political and strategic domination. On the other hand, he recognizes the advantage of globalisation to China, so he wants to preserve the current trade model.
  • The current US-China conflict is a trade war, not a shooting war. That situation presents Xi Jinping with a difficult tactical choice. Should China make concessions that are painful, and humbling, in the interests of preserving the essence of the economic system that has facilitated its rise?
  • America and China are both revisionist powers, as well as status quo powers The USA is the status quo power on geopolitics, so it has become the revisionist power on economics. China is the revisionist power on geopolitics, so it has become the status quo power on trade. The increasingly bellicose attitudes of nationalists look like the “Thucydides’s trap” made famous by Harvard professor Graham Allison. He has pointed out that, throughout history, rising powers such as China have often gone to war with established powers such as the US.
  • By temperament and political interest, Donald Trump is mainly on the side of the dealmakers. He also continues to set great store by his friendship with Xi Jinping. Nonetheless, a close relationship between leaders is no guarantee that conflict can be avoided, as World War One showed.

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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