A survey carried as part of the University of Maryland Critical
Issues Poll showed that despite Americans’ hesitancy to deploy U.S. troops
into other conflicts, they remain comparably supportive, after 18 years of
war, of maintaining the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan. At a time
of deep partisan polarization on nearly every issue, there is little on
Afghanistan. If this situation is compared with the U.S. withdrawal from
Northern Syria, attitudes were set along party lines: 66% of Democrats
opposed the move, while only 23% of Republicans did.
Even when partisan disparities occur on policy preferences
related to the war in Afghanistan, they generally do not appear severe
enough to constitute polarization. Republicans (63%) were 23 percentage
points more likely than Democrats (40%) to disagree with the idea that the
United States has a responsibility to ensure that Afghanistan has a
liberal democratic government. Despite the difference, however, taking no
responsibility for Afghanistan’s democracy was the most popular response
for both Republicans and Democrats.
Trump’s policy toward Afghanistan included negotiating with the
Taliban to end the war. We found respondents were divided on negotiating
with the Taliban, with 42% supporting and 41% opposing. Typically, we
would expect Republicans’ opinion to fall in line with Trump’s aims,
however, Republicans were nine percentage points more likely to disagree
(49%) than agree (40%).
After more than a year of turmoil, British lawmakers signed off on
Thursday with minimal fuss and no fanfare, on legislation to take their
country out of the EU at the end of the month. The vote is not the final
parliamentary action, since the bill will be considered next by the House
of Lords, but the suspense that surrounded many previous votes was
entirely absent. Even if the Lords amend the bill, the large Conservative
majority in the Commons could overturn any changes.
Once the exit plan has also been approved by the European
Parliament, the stage will be set for Britain to reverse more than four
decades of integration with its European counterparts. What comes next
remains far from clear — the deal set to go into effect on Jan. 31
establishes a transition period, and the two sides are preparing for
negotiations on a trade deal and on other future ties.
It would be impossible to agree on everything on the table this
year, Mr. Barnier said, while adding that some issues would need to be
decided. Moreover, European officials are determined to prevent Britain from
gaining preferential access to continental European markets while
undercutting them through lighter regulation.
Incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen is favourite for re-election but
the race is still very much on for control of the island’s legislature.
Tsai’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party has a big majority in the Taiwanese
parliament but Han’s popularity could help the KMT close the gap. However,
despite his and the KMT’s sweeping victories in the regional elections in
November 2018, Han has failed to build on that support and is widely
expected to lose out to Tsai Ing-wen from the ruling Democratic
Progressive Party (DPP), who is seeking a second term as president.
While the incumbent is the favourite in the leadership
contest, Saturday’s polls will also decide the composition of Taiwan’s
legislature, and it is in that race that the hopes of the
mainland-friendly KMT are still very much alive. Out of the 113 seats in
the Legislative Yuan, the island’s parliament, the DPP currently has 68
and the KMT 35.
Both leaders have painted the vote as bordering on existential. Tsai’s
campaign has focused on the need to safeguard Taiwan’s national
sovereignty and democracy in the face of increasing threats from Beijing,
while Han and his team have stressed the importance of revitalising the
economy by rooting out corruption and strengthening the island’s
relationship with Beijing.
One potential knock-off effect from current geopolitical turmoil
may not come into clear view for some time: the emergence of Iran as the
next nuclear-weapons state, at the very moment when the world appears on
the cusp of a more perilous nuclear age. When Iran announced that it would
suspend more of its commitments under the JCPOA, I recalled something
Richard Burt, the U.S. diplomat behind the largest nuclear-weapons
reduction in history, told me. He noted that in the 80s, people were
acutely aware of the dangers of a nuclear conflict. That’s no longer the
case, he warned.
This past year alone, several worrying issues have transpired, such
as a newly unconstrained Iranian nuclear program, an emerging North Korean
nuclear-weapons power, the specter of other countries going nuclear,
emboldened nuclear states in South Asia, the demise of U.S.-Russian
arms control and the outbreak of great-power competition.
2019 may, indeed, be remembered “as the turning point from an era
of relative calm” to “the dawn of a dangerous new nuclear age,” the
nuclear experts Nicholas Miller and Vipin Narang wrote last month in
Foreign Affairs. The consequences could be “catastrophic”.
An attack launched by suspected Islamist militants on motorbikes
killed at least 25 soldiers Thursday in the West African nation of Niger,
adding to a death toll that has surged in recent weeks as troops struggle
to contain violent extremism in the region. This act of terror came about
a month after gunmen ambushed a Nigerien army post in another border town,
killing 71 soldiers in the deadliest strike on the nation’s forces in
Terrorist groups routinely carry out attacks across the Sahel region,
which lies south of the Sahara Desert. The scourge took root nearly a
decade ago, and authorities have warned that it’s spreading as governments
struggle to combat it amid limited resources. Thousands of troops from
Niger, neighboring countries, France and the United Nations have been
enlisted in the fight against extremist organizations seeking influence
and safe haven in the region.
Burkina Faso, which neighbors Niger, is a particularly troubling
case. Its citizens, a mix of Muslims and Christians, used to move freely
without fear before extremists started unleashing havoc in the country
about four years ago. The number of deaths from the violence swelled from
80 in 2016 to 1,800 by last year, according to the United Nations.
The UK and the EU will not be able to agree on “every single
aspect” of their future relationship before the end of the year, and will
either have to focus on priority areas or agree to an extension period,
according to Ursula von der Leyen. She stated that a further extension to
the transition period that ends on 31 December would be required should a
comprehensive agreement on the future partnership between the UK and the
EU be in the offing.
If Boris Johnson sticks to the current end-of-year deadline for the
transition period, negotiations on the future partnership would have to
focus on “prioritised” areas, where there are no international agreements
to fall back on. However, according to von der Leyen, negotiations for the
prioritised areas would take “nine to ten months at most.”
One particular area in which the Commission president highlighted
the necessity for continued cooperation was in the field of security. “We
must build a new, comprehensive security partnership to fight cross-border
threats, ranging from terrorism to cyber-security to
counter-intelligence,” she said, adding that it would be at the behest of
the UK as to the level of cooperation that it would seek with the European
Oil prices jumped 5 per cent after Iran launched strikes against US
military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of commander Qassem
Soleimani. However, by Wednesday afternoon, gains in crude had reversed,
with prices trading lower than before the Iranian general’s assassination.
Why have oil prices failed to rally despite the tensions in the Middle
East? There are several explanations.
Firstly, many traders are expecting the crisis to de-escalate. Boby
McNally, a former adviser to the White House stated that it appeared
Iran’s missile strikes had been “deliberately planned to avoid killing US
soldiers”. Moreover, oil tanker groups are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Frontline, the world’s largest oil tanker operator, said that while it was
“monitoring the situation closely” it had not “suspended trading in the
Also, if the crisis escalates, Opec and its allies can increase the
supply to the oil market. If oil prices rose too high, Donald Trump would
be expected to pressure allies within the cartel, including Saudi Arabia
and the UAE, to boost production to help calm the market. However, oil
prices are already high, and oil has already risen strongly in the fourth
quarter of last year. Finally, in the back of every oil trader’s mind is
the simple calculation that higher prices equals higher supplies.
The USA is making a final pitch to Britain ahead of a UK decision
on whether to upgrade its telecoms network with Huawei equipment, amid
threats to cut intelligence-sharing ties. Britain is expected to make a
final call on how to deploy Huawei equipment in its future 5G networks
later this month, weighing US-led allegations that the equipment could be
used for Chinese state spying against Britain’s relationship with Beijing
and industry warnings that banning the firm outright would cost billions
Huawei, the world’s largest maker of mobile networking equipment,
has repeatedly denied the allegations. A company spokesman said UK
lawmakers had confirmed Huawei equipment would not be deployed in networks
used for intelligence sharing. “Our 5G equipment does not pose a threat to
information security,” he said. “We are confident the UK government will
take an evidence-based approach when making its decision about Huawei’s
inclusion in the 5G network.”
A provision of the US 2020 defence spending law directs
intelligence agencies to consider the use of telecoms and cybersecurity
infrastructure “provided by adversaries of the United States, particularly
China and Russia,” when entering intelligence-sharing agreements with
foreign countries. The provision, added by Senator Tom Cotton, was aimed
in particular at members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance
and was intended as “a first shot across the bow,” said a person familiar
with the matter.
Irregular migration into the EU has fallen to its lowest annual
level for the first time since 2013, according to Frontex. However,
there was a significant increase in the number of arrivals to Greece. The
agency stated that, according to preliminary figures for 2019, irregular
crossings detected on the bloc’s external borders fell by 6% to just over
139,000 – about 92% down on the record number set during the 2015 European
This decline is the result of significant falls in the numbers of
people reaching European shores via the central and western Mediterranean
routes, the agency said, while the eastern Mediterranean route saw a
Overall, Afghan nationals accounted for almost a quarter of all
irregular arrivals in 2019, Frontex said, almost three times as many as in
the previous year. There were also more women and children than in recent
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.
Iran launched more than a dozen ballistic missiles against U.S.
military and coalition forces in Iraq, as the U.S. Defense Department
confirmed on Tuesday. According to early reports, there were no Americans
killed, but Iraqi casualties have been reported by security officials.
President Trump signaled that there might be a window of opportunity to
de-escalate tensions that have skyrocketed since the summer. He will
address the country on Wednesday morning.
Tehran claimed responsibility for the strike, a rare move for a
regime that primarily relies on proxies to carry out attacks. Following
the Iranian missile attack, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif,
stated that an eventual war was not within Iranian interests: “We do not
seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.”
He also said that “Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in
self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter.”
Reports trickled in overnight that U.S. forces were on high alert
throughout the region in preparation for a major attack. CNN reported that
U.S. troops were aware of threats from Iranian drones—the same ones that
had been used to strike a major Saudi oil facility in September 2019.
Since the strike on Suleimani, the Pentagon has ordered roughly 10,000
additional forces to the region, on top of the 14,000 that were sent in
The consumption of coal plunged last year in the United States,
reaching its lowest level since 1975, as electrical utilities switched to
cheaper natural gas and renewables. Over the past decade and a half,
coal’s collapse has saved tens of thousands of lives nationwide, according
to new research, and cut national greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 10
percent. However, outside of the power sector, the country’s
planet-warming pollution continued to grow last year.
According to the estimate of the United States’ 2019 greenhouse gas
emissions, published by the Rhodium Group, U.S. greenhouse-gas pollution
fell by 2.1 percent, driven almost entirely by coal’s decline and a
plodding economy. While that overall decrease is nominally good, it’s not
happening fast enough.
The new report tells, thus, two different stores. The first is that
coal consumption is cratering, while the second is that, ultimately, the
electricity sector generates only about 27 percent of national climate
pollution. The remaining 73 percent of national emissions are produced by
the rest of the economy, and these have barely budged. Preparing the whole
economy for decarbonization will take aggressive federal policy, according
to Constatine Samaras, a professor of civil and environmental
engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
The global discussion on the future of money has been irreversibly
altered after Facebook announced plans for a digital currency. While
Libra’s own prospects have dimmed, major central banks are considering
whether “public” digital currencies are needed to fill a gap in retail
payment needs. Different analysts suggest that the addition of private and
central bank-backed digital currencies could provide the long expected but
elusive shock that finally dislodges the US dollar from its decades-long
dominance in global trade and finance.
These are intriguing possibilities, but are improbable in the near
term. Improvements in payment technology may have lowered the cost of
switching from cash to digital payments, but there is little evidence they
have done much to reduce the expense of moving among currencies. Advances
in payment technologies do not address fundamental issues of what it takes
to be a global reserve currency.
The dollar’s status is bolstered by the institutions, rule of law,
and credible investor protection that the US is seen as providing. Simply
raising the supply of an alternative currency will not be enough to
surmount these considerations. Chinese efforts to internationalise the renminbi
have met only limited success despite a policy push and liquidity support
through bilateral swaps with more than 30 central banks. However, the
world would benefit from a more balanced system in which the euro and the
renminbi have a bigger role, but technology can’t solve the problem alone.
The Libyan beleaguered government stated on Tuesday that Libyan
rebels have seized control of Surt, a key coastal city, amid new criticism
that the growing role of foreign powers in the chaotic conflict has fueled
a sudden escalation in fighting. Forces loyal to the militia leader
Khalifa Hifter swept into the city on Monday, days after Turkey announced
that it was deploying troops to prop up the weak United Nations-backed
If Mr. Hifter can hold Surt, analysts say, his forces could stretch
government forces even thinner by drawing fighters away from the defense
of Tripoli. A variety of regional powers has lined up in support of Mr.
Hifter, drawn by his anti-Islamist stance and an authoritarian style that
some believe make him a potential leader of Libya. Critics call him a
ruthless tyrant intent only on wielding power.
On Tuesday the Tripoli government, blaming pro-Hifter “sleeper
cells” inside Surt, said it had voluntarily withdrawn its forces to avoid
bloodshed. However, the loss caused consternation in Misurata, a coastal
city 130 miles to the west whose fighters are the linchpin of government
efforts to defend Tripoli.
It would be one thing to kill Suleimani and bear the burden of the associated risks if there was a plausible case to be made that getting rid of him would have a salutary effect on Iraq and the U.S. ability to influence events there. That seems unlikely. Iraq is in a state of terminal collapse, and the United States is isolated and impotent there. It is thus hard to understand what Washington wants, and what the Americans who were left vulnerable to the likes of Suleimani are actually able to accomplish.
The truth is that the state of Iraq is lost and it is time for the U.S. to leave the country. Iraq is not a state in the sense that it has a monopoly over violence or can enforce property rights. The system of political and economic spoils set up after the 2003 invasion has led to voracious corruption, robbing Iraq of its natural wealth and impoverishing its people.
There is an argument to be made that the USA must remain in Iraq to fight the Islamic State. In the abstract that makes sense, but reality is different. The central government in Baghdad is contributing to conditions that are ripe for the Islamic State to reemerge as a significant threat. That would be a reason to stay in Iraq, but given the fact that the USA doesn’t have influence over Iraqi politics, U.S. forces would be reduced to a never-ending mission of whack-a-mole.
As Taiwan gears up for a major election this week, officials and researchers worry that China is experimenting with social media manipulation to sway the vote. Doing so would be easy, they fear, in the island’s rowdy democracy, where the news cycle is fast and voters are already awash in false or highly partisan information. China has been upfront about its dislike for President Tsai, who opposes closer ties with Beijing. The polls, however, suggest that China’s heavy-handed ways might be backfiring and driving voters to embrace Ms. Tsai.
Due to the fragile situation, Beijing may be turning to subtler, digital-age methods to inflame and divide. Taiwanese society has woken up to the threat. The government has strengthened laws against spreading harmful rumors. Companies including Facebook and Google have agreed to police their platforms more stringently. “We understand that the people who are sowing discord are also building a community, that they are also learning from each other’s playbooks,” said Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister.
Puma Shen, an assistant professor at National Taipei University who studies Chinese influence efforts, does not believe that disinformation from China is always guided by some central authority as it spreads around the internet. “It’s not an order from Beijing. Much of the activity seems to be scattered groups of troublemakers, paid or not, who feed off one another’s trolling. “People are enthusiastic about doing this kind of stuff there in China,” he emphasized.
Venezuelan opposition politicians led by Juan Guaidó will seek on Tuesday to retake the National Assembly chamber they were barred from on Sunday, setting up a showdown over President Maduro’s attempt to seize control of the last democratic institution left in the country. Their bid to regain control of Venezuela’s assembly building in central Caracas would come two days after what the opposition has decried as a “parliamentary coup.”
Maduro’s forces on Sunday locked out Guaidó along with other lawmakers. After a melee on the floor of the legislature, a lawmaker accused of taking bribes from the government was abruptly sworn in as head of the body. The move appeared to be an attempt by Maduro to sideline Guaidó by preventing his reelection on Sunday as head of the assembly. Guaidó stated that: “The dictatorship will decide tomorrow if it will continue its farce, which no one recognizes.”
There is some chance, senior opposition figures argue, that Maduro may back off Sunday’s action in the face of broad international condemnation. Even the leftist governments in Mexico and Argentina joined a chorus of international criticism from Washington to Brasilia to Brussels.
The Croatian citizens chose former Social Democrat Prime Minister Zoran Milanović as their new president in a run-off ballot on Sunday, denying conservative incumbent Kolinda Grabar Kitarović a second five-year mandate and setting the stage for a tense cohabitation with the ruling centre-right government.
The result has been a relevant surprise at the start of Croatia’s first EU Council presidency and makes the future of the current PM Andrej Plenković and his HDZ party (EPP) uncertain. Croatia’s president cannot veto laws but has a say in defence, foreign policy, and intelligence matters and is generally seen more as a moral authority and upholder of the constitution.
Her defeat is also a symbol of a ‘silent war’ simmering in the right-wing camp between Plenković’s group of the moderate centre-right and party hardliners who believe the party is moving too much to the centre. Plenković’s destiny as party leader remains unclear given the fact that the HDZ is going to hold internal elections this spring and his hard-line political opponents have already announced their candidacies.
Iran’s top security and intelligence commander was killed early Friday in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that was authorized by President Trump, according to American officials. The commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who led the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed along with several officials from Iraqi militias backed by Tehran.
The Iranian leadership convened an emergency security meeting, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a statement calling for three days of public mourning and then retaliation: “His departure to God does not end his path or his mission, but a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands.”
In killing General Suleimani, Mr. Trump took an action that Presidents Bush and Obama had rejected, fearing it would lead to war between the United States and Iran. While many Republicans said that the president had been justified in the attack, Mr. Trump’s most significant use of military force to date, critics of his Iran policy called the strike a reckless unilateral escalation which could have drastic and unforeseen consequences that could ripple violently throughout the Middle East.
In terms of how the momentum of 2019 could propel the direction of EU policy in 2020, EURACTIV explains what could be in store, in what will prove to be a ‘geopolitical’ 12 months for digital policy. The European Commission is currently in the process of thrashing out the details of the Digital Services Act (DSA), a new framework due to be put forward in 2020, which will update the decades-old eCommerce directive and establish new rules governing the internet.
Concerning Artificial Intelligence, Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to deliver a strategy on Artificial Intelligence and Ethics in the first 100 days of the new Commission. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told his parliamentary hearing in October he would advocate for an ‘ethics-by-design’ approach, whereby products and services using AI take into account ethical guidelines at the earliest possible stage in their development.
In relation to 5G, EU ministers adopted conclusions concerning the importance of this technology, stressing that an approach to 5G cybersecurity should be comprehensive and risk-based, while also taking into account ‘non-technical factors’. Finally, as part of the EU’s cybersecurity act, cybersecurity certification schemes may become commonplace for a breath of goods and services – the scope of which is still to be hashed out by the Commission working alongside ENISA.
The Turkish Parliament voted on Thursday to approve a request by President Erdogan to send military forces to Libya, setting the stage for deeper Turkish involvement in a civil war that has grown more incendiary as foreign powers have intervened. In addition to the military support, Erdogan’s government has already provided military advice and materiel, including weaponized drones, to Libya’s internationally recognized government.
Erdogan’s backing of the Tripoli-based government has pitted Turkey against Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, whose governments have provided military support to Khalifa Hifter, the commander of the eastern Libyan forces. Hundreds of Russian mercenaries backed by the Kremlin have also joined Hifter’s campaign to capture the Libyan capital.
Turkey’s threat to send troops to Libya — which would put Turkish troops on the opposite side of the battle lines from Russian-backed fighters — appeared aimed at providing Ankara with negotiating leverage just days ahead of a planned visit to Turkey by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Every 4 years, the National Intelligence Council publishes a report looking ahead to the next 2 decades. The 2012’s report, “Alternative Worlds” described two scenarios—the best plausible case and the worst one. In the best-case scenario, “China and the United States cooperate on a range of issues, leading to broader global cooperation.” In the worst-case scenario, “the risks of interstate conflict increase. The U.S. draws inward and globalization stalls.”
The 2010s were far more disruptive than the National Intelligence Council’s worst-case scenario envisioned. It was a horrid decade for those who aspire to a more cooperative and freer world. Today, every region, with the possible exception of Africa, and almost all major countries are in a worse state than 10 years ago.
What we have learned from the 2010s is that populist nationalism does not contain within it the seeds of its own rapid destruction. The immediate questions confronting traditional internationalists are what type of world are we now in, and what do we do about it? There are basically two camps, which are divided by ideology.
One group —call it the clash-of-systems school—, argues that we’re seeing a contest between the traditional American-led system of democracy and a Chinese-led system of autocracy. The second camp —pragmatists— worry that describing the world as ideologically divided could become a self-fulfilling prophecy leading to a new cold war. A synthesis between the clash-of-systems school and the pragmatists may point toward a new consensus for a 2020s post-Trump foreign policy.
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.
After two days of tense protests at the American Embassy in Baghdad, thousands of pro-Iranian demonstrators dispersed on Wednesday, ending a siege that had trapped American diplomats in the embassy compound overnight and winding down a potentially explosive crisis for the Trump administration.
The Iranian ability to deploy militias to blockade American diplomats inside the embassy for most of two days made clear how much power they wield within Iraq. The Iraqi government’s acquiescence raises the question of whether the continued American presence in Iraq is tenable.
Miscalculations by both the USA and Iran led to the standoff. It began with a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base on Friday that killed an American contractor and wounded several service members. The USA blamed Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia with close ties to Iran. American forces retaliated with airstrikes on five sites controlled by the militia, in Syria and Iraq, on Sunday. The airstrikes killed at least two dozen people and wounded twice as many.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un plans to develop nuclear programmes and to introduce a “new strategic weapon” in the near future, but he left room for dialogue with the USA. Kim Jong-un presided over a meeting of top Workers’ Party officials this week amid growing tensions with the USA, which has not responded to his repeated calls for concessions to reopen negotiations.
Kim Jong-un said there were no grounds for North Korea to be bound any longer by a self-declared moratorium on testing nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles. He accused the USA of making “gangster-like demands” and maintaining a “hostile policy”, including by holding continued joint military drills with South Korea, adopting cutting edge weapons and imposing sanctions.
Mike Pompeo said it would be “deeply disappointing” if Kim Jong-un reneges on denuclearisation commitments. President Trump stated that he had a good relationship with Kim Jong-un and thought the North Korean leader would keep his word. Jeffrey Lewis, a non-proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said it was difficult to predict North Korea’s next move. But it might involve firing a solid-fuel ICBM and an atmospheric nuclear test.
Prime Minister Netanyahu stated on Wednesday that he has decided to officially request immunity from prosecution in the three criminal cases in which he has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.”I intend to ask the Knesset speaker to let me implement my right, my duty and my mission to continue serving you for the future of Israel,” Netanyahu said at a press conference in Jerusalem.
In accordance to Israeli law, the Knesset House Committee is to discuss his request and should it be approved, the request will need to pass a vote by the Knesset plenum.
Immediately after Netanyahu spoke, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman stated that he would act to prevent Netanyahu from getting immunity. “Now it’s clear beyond a doubt: The only thing Netanyahu cared and continues to care for is immunity.” Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s main rival, responded to Netanyahu’s decision to request immunity in his own press conference. “Netanyahu knows he’s guilty.”
The most important foreign policy feature of 2019 was the persistence of the status quo. Trump’s boorish antics continued to alarm and kept the chattering classes busy, but 2019 was a potential turning point where most aspects of world politics failed to turn.
NATO managed to survive its 70th birthday mostly intact; Iran’s clerical regime is still in power and its regional influence campaign has not ended; world trade continued to rise in spite of Trump’s trade wars; the USA is still militarily engaged throughout the Middle East despite Trump’s campaigns; US policy towards Russia remains confrontational and counterproductive, and the USA is still in Afghanistan after almost two decades, an “infinity war”.
One more thing that didn’t change in 2019: The Earth continued to get warmer and the USA continued its irresponsible approach to this danger. US policy under Trump isn’t just a head-in-the-sand denialism. His decisions to roll back Environmental Protection Agency measures designed to reduce methane leaks and fossil fuel use are actively harmful. The bottom line: Nothing much changed in 2019, which does not augur well for 2020.
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.
Vladimir Putin has triggered a significant amount of speculation on
Thursday when he suggested he was open to a constitutional change that
would limit any president to no more than two terms. Moreover, he defended
President Trump on impeachment, said Russia would help China build an
early-warning missile defense system and complained that an anti-doping
body’s decision barring Russian athletes from international competitions
However, his remarks on the constitution generated the most
interest, since they could be interpreted as a signal that Putin may not
try to seek office when his second presidential term expires in
2024. Nonetheless, he may have suggested that he plans to run again, on
the grounds of new rules and a new constitution.
He also warned that if the United States did not endorse a new
Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, the world would be plunged into a new
arms race. This conference has been a Putin tradition, closely watched as
a barometer of Russian foreign and economic policy. Putin’s domestic
approval rating remains high — about 68 percent in July, according to the
Levada-Center polling organization — but it has been gradually declining.
Russia’s flat economy — with growth at around 1.2 percent, the World Bank
reported — has fueled domestic discontent.
A European operation to ensure safe shipping in the Gulf region,
scene of attacks on merchant vessels this year, will get underway next
month when a French warship starts patrolling there, a French armed forces
spokeswoman said on Thursday. The French government has been pushing for a
European security alternative in the Strait of Hormuz after ruling out
taking part in a US-led coalition protecting oil tankers and cargo ships
from what Washington says is a threat from Iran.
France, along with other countries like Germany, believe that
joining the US mission would send the wrong message at a time of increased
friction between Washington and Tehran. European parties to the 2015 Iran
nuclear deal are trying to rescue the agreement.
Iran has rejected the European and US moves saying foreign powers
should leave securing shipping lanes to Tehran and others in the region.
Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq export most
of their crude via the Strait of Hormuz.
Continuing the longest job expansion in history, the US labor
market beat expectations in November as it added 266,000 jobs. The
associated real wage growth over the last few years is the first many
workers have seen in decades. However, among many workers, the rosy
economic headlines might be hard to believe. Our recent report found that
44 percent of American workers, a whopping 53 million people, earn low
wages. These workers’ median hourly wage is $10.22, and they earn annual
pay of just $17,950.
The economic gains and growth are real in the aggregate, but they
mask the longer run changes under the surface that are splitting the labor
market and trapping low-wage workers; their opportunity for advancement
through job changes is limited. Technological advancement has made
it easier for companies to closely monitor workers’ productivity and to
break jobs into tasks that can more easily be contracted away. As a
result, contract work now encompasses a third of the workforce and excludes
many from benefits and training.
Our institutions have not responded with the urgency required by
these challenges. Federal investment in training programs is meager. Other
developed countries spend four times more than the United States. Funding
for workforce development has been slashed to a fifth of the spending in
the 1970s. Lack of investment leaves our current education and reskilling
infrastructure available to too few, benefiting those already successful
at navigating labor markets.
Chinese President Xi Jinping praised Macau on Friday for
successfully implementing Beijing’s “one country, two systems” principle,
paying tribute to the city’s people for what he said was their patriotism
and concern for the national interest. Speaking at the city government’s
inauguration ceremony after overseeing the swearing-in of Chief Executive
Ho Iat-seng, Xi also warned against any foreign interference there or in
Hong Kong, saying it would not be tolerated.
Xi also defended the people of Macau for their commitment to
the arrangement, as well as a strong sense of national identity, belonging
and pride. “The compatriots of Macau have a tradition of patriotism; they
have been considering issues based on the interest of the nation and
Macau,” he said.
The president’s statements were likely to be taken as a rebuke to
Hong Kong, scene of six months of anti-government protests which Beijing
has repeatedly denounced as a challenge to one country, two systems. On
Thursday, Xi was seen as indirectly lecturing Hong Kong as he told the
people of Macau to have a clear stance and make their “positive voices”
heard in matters of right and wrong, calling on all sides to resolve