ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 07/11/2017

Financial Times—M. Peel / EU states poised to agree joint defence pact

  • More than half the EU’s member states are expected to sign up within days to the permanent structured co-operation on defence (Pesco), a landmark joint defence effort.
  • Germany and France have led the attempt to persuade countries to pool military logistics and crisis response troops while co-operating to develop weapons. But France wants Pesco to be as ambitious as possible in terms of the projects it takes on, while Germany wants it to include the maximum number of countries.
  • Paris, Berlin, Rome and Madrid are aiming to launch the project formally at an EU leaders’ summit in December.
  • Pesco’s backers insist the initiative is complementary to the operations of Nato, which will retain the primary role for the continent’s territorial defence.

The New York Times—D. D. Kirkpatrick / Saudi Arabia charges Iran with ‘act of war,’ raising threat of military clash

  • Saudi Arabia charged Monday that a missile fired at its capital from Yemen was an “act of war” by Iran, in the sharpest escalation in nearly three decades between the two regional rivals.
  • The accusation, which Iran denied, came a day after a wave of arrests in Saudi Arabia that appeared to complete the consolidation of power by the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Taken together, the two actions signaled a new aggressiveness by the prince both at home and abroad.
  • By the end of the day Monday, a Saudi minister was accusing Lebanon of declaring war against Saudi Arabia as well.
  • A few days ago, the Saudi crown prince hosted a visit from Saudi Arabia’s chief Lebanese client, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who stunned the region by announcing his resignation.

Foreign Affairs—S. D. Sagan / The Korean missile crisis

  • North Korea no longer poses a nonproliferation problem; it poses a nuclear deterrence problem.
  • U.S. military leaders should make plain to their political superiors and the American public that any U.S. first strike on North Korea would result in a devastating loss of American and South Korean lives. And civilian leaders must convince Kim, as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to do a few months ago, that the United States will not attempt to overthrow his regime unless he begins a war.
  • U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis and senior military leaders should be prepared to ignore belligerent tweets, push back against imprudent policies, and resist any orders that they believe reflect impetuous or irrational decision-making by the president.
  • Should the U.S. succeed in bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table, it should be prepared to offer changes to U.S. and South Korean military exercises in exchange for limits on—and notifications of—North Korean missile tests and the restoration of the hotline between North and South Korea.
  • Despite all the bluster and tension today, there is no reason why George Kennan’s strategy of containment and deterrence cannot continue to work on North Korea, as it did on the Soviet Union.

Project Syndicate—R. N. Haass / Mr. Trump goes to China

  • Despite Trump’s pressure to China, Xi Jinping is unlikely to change course on North Korea. The irony and potential tragedy of China’s position is that allowing Kim Jong-un’s regime to increase and improve its nuclear and missile arsenals could fuel momentum toward war, or lead South Korea, Japan, or both to reconsider their non-nuclear postures.
  • The US and China have other profound disagreements, but conflict between the two is hardly inevitable. Nuclear weapons have a dampening effect, and diplomacy can make headway.
  • The extensive economic relationship that has evolved since the end of the Cold War between the US and China has given both countries a stake in maintaining good relations.
  • Trump will have to balance pressing his legitimate concerns over trade with the need to avoid starting a trade war. And Xi will have to judge what he can give to satisfy his American visitor without jeopardizing his or the Party’s standing in the eyes of the Chinese people.
  • But first, Trump and Xi must find a way to defuse the looming crisis on the Korean Peninsula, while also preparing for the worst case scenario.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo.

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 06/11/2017

Financial Times—S. Kerr, A. Raval & D. Sheppard / Saudi anti-corruption purge triggers investor uncertainty

  • The purge led by Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia has triggered uncertainty among investors who fear a campaign against established business leaders.
  • “The arrest of Prince Alwaleed bin Talal . . . could well dampen international interest in investing in the crown prince’s much-heralded Vision 2030 to make the non-oil private sector the new motor of the economy,” said David Ottaway, fellow at the Wilson Center.
  • The country’s investment promotion body insisted the anti-corruption committee would create a level playing field for investors. Prince Mohammed has previously promoted transparency and the break-up of monopolies as foundations for a new, enterprise-oriented economy.
  • Yasser Elguindi, an Opec watcher at Energy Aspects, said Saudi Arabia was unlikely to change production strategy with prices now back above $60 a barrel, given that the kingdom is reliant on the recovery in revenues to fund wider reform.

Politico—A. Restuccia / Trump on North Korea: ‘The era of strategic patience is over’

  • “The era of strategic patience [with North Korea] is over,” President Trump said during a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
  • “We are together 100 percent,” Abe vowed. “Now is the time not for dialogue, but for applying a maximum level of pressure on North Korea.”
  • Abe confirmed Japan would soon buy more U.S. military equipment.
  • Trump earlier Monday complained about the United States’ “massive” trade deficit with Japan. But the president told reporters the two countries are working to resolve the issue.
  • Regarding Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump said the following: “His views are different on things, but they’re pretty similar on trade.”

The New York Times—L. Friedman & G. Thrush / U.S. report says humans cause climate change, contradicting top Trump officials

  • Directly contradicting much of the Trump administration’s position on climate change, 13 federal agencies unveiled a report that says humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization.
  • According to the report, which was approved for release by the White House, there is “no convincing alternative explanation” that anything other than humans — the cars we drive, the power plants we operate, the forests we destroy — are to blame.
  • While it seems that there were pockets of resistance to the report in the Trump administration, there was little appetite for a knockdown fight over climate change among Mr. Trump’s top advisers, who are intensely focused on passing a tax reform bill.
  • But the White House put out a statement Friday that seemed to undercut the high level of confidence of the report’s findings.
  • The United Nations convenes its annual climate change conference this week in Bonn, Germany, where the American delegation is expected to face harsh criticism.

Project Syndicate—J. Stiglitz / Has Trump captured the Fed?

  • President Trump has broken a long-standing pattern, going back almost a half-century, whereby the president reappoints (on a non-partisan basis) the incumbent Fed chair, if he or she has been seen to be doing a good job.
  • To be fair, Trump chose a moderate – Jerome Powell – as Janet Yellen’s replacement, when many in his party were pushing for an extremist. Trump realized that an extremist would raise interest rates – any real-estate developer’s worst nightmare.
  • Trump broke with precedent in another way: he chose a non-economist to lead the Federal Reserve. Fortunately, it appears that Powell recognizes, unlike Trump, the importance of well-designed financial regulations.
  • Politicization of the Fed should be viewed as just another part of Trump’s battle against what his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has referred to as the “administrative state.”

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 03/11/2017

BBC / Deir al-Zour: Syrian army ‘takes last IS stronghold’

  • The Syrian army has retaken Deir al-Zour, the last major stronghold of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Syria.
  • “The city is completely liberated from terrorism,” the state TV report said. Other reports said the Syrian army and its allies were clearing the last pockets of resistance from IS.
  • The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian government forces – which are backed by Russian air strikes and fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement – have been carrying out separate offensives in Deir al-Zour province.
  • In some areas, the SDF and the Syrian army have taken up positions just a few kilometers apart.

Time—I. Bremmer / How China’s economy is poised to win the future

  • President Trump will arrive in Beijing at a moment when China, not the US, is the single most powerful actor in the global economy. China’s political and economic system is better equipped and perhaps even more sustainable than the American model.
  • The pillars of US power–its military alliances, its trade leadership and its willingness to promote Western political values–are eroding, and the US has its weakest leader in decades, while China has its strongest.
  • Trump can only envy the Chinese government’s ability to use policy and subsidy to decide which companies will win and which will lose–and the power that that reflects on the ruling party. China can also use technology to control its citizens to a larger extent than the US can.
  • In this fragmenting world, no one government will have the international influence required to continue to set the political and economic rules that govern the global system. But China is better positioned than the U.S. to extend its influence in the foreseeable future.

The Economist / Do social media threaten democracy?

  • Not long ago, social media held out the promise of a more enlightened politics. But far from bringing enlightenment, social media have been spreading poison.
  • The use of social media does not cause division so much as amplify it.
  • Social media dish out compulsive stuff that tends to reinforce people’s biases. Because different sides see different facts, they share no empirical basis for reaching a compromise.
  • This tends to discredit the compromises and subtleties of liberal democracy, and to boost the politicians who feed off conspiracy and nativism.
  • On the bright side, as long as there’s a will to do so, society can harness social media –for instance, by making it clearer if a post comes from a friend or a trusted source—and revive that early dream of enlightenment.

Foreign Affairs—J. Schneer / The Balfour Declaration

  • The British “Balfour Declaration”, whose 100th anniversary was yesterday, promised to support “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” so long as that did not “prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities” there.
  • Lloyd George’s government issued the Balfour Declaration primarily because it thought that doing so would help it win the war, by gaining influence into foreign countries through their respective Jewish communities.
  • But the document took so long to produce that, by the time it was released, the United States had already entered the war (one of the Declaration’s original intents), and Russia was irrevocably on the way out (which is something that the Declaration had sought to prevent).
  • The Declaration did not influence the outcome of World War I. But surely it influenced what happened after. During the war, the British government had been attempting to win over the Zionists with one hand, while coaxing Arabs into serving its interests with the other, and also making promises to the French and the Turks. So much deceit and betrayal could not but lead to trouble—and so they have, as a hundred years of Middle Eastern history testifies.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 02/11/2017

The New York Times—I. Kershner / Hamas hands Gaza crossings to Palestinian Authority in unity deal milestone

  • More than a decade after being run out of Gaza by Hamas, the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday took control of the enclave’s border crossings.
  • Gaza’s two million residents are now hoping for a significant easing of the blockade that Israel and Egypt imposed citing security concerns, severely restricting the movement of people and goods.
  • The Palestinian Authority announced that it was canceling the collection of what it called “illegal” taxes and fees from Gazans, a reference to the unofficial levies of millions of dollars a month that Hamas has been skimming from cross-border imports and smuggling networks.
  • Under the deal between Hamas and Fatah, signed in October and brokered by Egypt, Hamas also agreed to hand over day-to-day governing of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority.
  • But the fate of the formidable arsenal of rockets and fortified tunnels belonging to Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza, along with tens of thousands of fighters, remains unresolved.

Politico—S. Stefanini / Europe’s energy realities bite into climate spin

  • The upcoming COP23 — or 23rd Conference of the Parties — talks in Bonn are supposed to figure out how to turn promises made two years ago during the Paris climate summit into actual work countries will do to cut emissions.
  • Germany is struggling to quit coal and combustion engines (the country’s carbon dioxide emissions went up by 1.2 percent in the first half of this year) and other EU countries are pushing to weaken climate policies to protect dominant old industries like coal in Poland and forestry in Finland.
  • The EU will have to strengthen its political commitment if it wants to get emerging economies like China and India to follow along in next year’s COP, according to climate negotiation experts.
  • The campaign group Climate Action Network Europe says Europe needs to cut emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels (rather than the EU’s 40% target) in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

Foreign Policy—O. G. Encarnación / Catalonia’s martyrdom strategy doesn’t have a prayer

  • There are at least three reasons why Puigdemont might have found martyrdom to be an appealing strategy: it capitalizes on his roots in the Catalan village of Amer (Girona), it finds tremendous resonance in Spanish culture, and it draws on a long history of violent repression of Catalan nationalists by Spain.
  • Whatever the roots of Puigdemont’s martyrdom, the hope seems to be that it will keep Catalonia’s separatist aspirations alive in the wake of what has been a less than impressive launching of the Catalan Republic.
  • In the short term, Puigdemont’s strategy aims to compel the international community to intervene in Spain, invoking the scenario of Kosovo in the 1990s, where human rights abuses by the Serbs provoked a U.S.-led NATO intervention.
  • In the long term, the strategy aims to socialize future generations of Catalans into the separatist struggle by exposing them to greater suffering at the hands of Madrid.

Foreign Affairs—A. Vatanka / China courts Iran

  • China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aims to build political confidence among participating states, and in this respect it seems to be working with Iran.
  • Two factors make Iran a central player in the BRI: its inescapable geography and its utility as a relatively stable security partner in an otherwise tumultuous Middle East.
  • Moreover, despite Tehran’s commitment to its Islamist ideology, the Central Asian and Chinese governments believe Iran has largely ceased efforts to export its political message to its northern neighbors.
  • However, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has repeatedly declined to begin accession talks with Tehran, much to Iran’s disappointment. And China will continue to have close commercial and diplomatic ties with a long list of Iran’s rivals, from the Saudis to the Israelis.
  • Iran’s hardliners, and even the moderate faction in President Hassan Rouhani’s government, view China as an essential player that can complement Iran’s overall attempts to break its former international isolation.
  • In its fullest application, OBOR, together with other Chinese efforts, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the New Silk Road Fund, demonstrates that Beijing is going after the U.S.-dominated global system of trade rules and investment practices.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 30/10/2017

Financial Times—A. Raval / Saudi Arabia affirms backing for Opec supply cuts extension

  • Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman confirmed on Saturday the kingdom’s willingness to back an extension of Opec-led output curbs past its expiry in March next year.
  • His comments come as Opec and Russian officials have indicated in recent weeks that they are ready to back an extension of the agreement until at least late 2018.
  • Brent crude oil hit a more than two-year high of $60 a barrel on Friday.
  • Prince Mohammed said robust demand for oil has helped to absorb resilient production from US shale oilfields. Oil consumption has risen as the world economy expands at its fastest in years and crude prices at half their 2014 levels encourage buying.

Project Syndicate—M. Feldstein / Europe’s economic dilemma

  • The European Central Bank deserves credit for the economic improvements that have occurred in the past few years. But the ECB’s policies also mean that it has no ammunition left to fight the next recession.
  • With long-term interest rates now close to zero, large-scale bond purchases – so-called quantitative easing – would not be able to lower them any further.
  • An appropriate response to this dilemma may be a policy of coordinated fiscal expansion. Each country would have to agree to a combination of tax cuts and increases in government spending scaled to the size of the economic downturn. Waiting until the downturn occurs to plan this coordinated response would be a mistake.

The New York Times—R. Martyn-Hemphill / Iceland’s Independence Party retains most seats after election

  • In the second snap election in Iceland in a year, the governing conservative Independence Party of Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson held off a stiff election challenge from the Left-Green Movement to maintain the most seats in Parliament.
  • However, it was unclear who would receive the mandate from the President to form the next government.
  • The newly formed Center Party, led by former Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson’s –who was forced out of the government last year after his family appeared in the Panama Papers—has now emerged as the fourth-largest.
  • Current Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson called early elections last month after his government collapsed because of accusations of a cover-up of a letter of recommendation.

Politico—R. Standish / Wary of Russia, Finns take another look at NATO

  • Ahead of a Presidential election in January, there are growing signs that Finland may be ready to have a debate on whether or not to join NATO — not the least because a rare pro-NATO candidate is running for office.
  • This presidential vote will be the first since Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of war in Ukraine. In the Finnish system, the president is in charge of foreign and defense policy, together with parliament.
  • Pekka Haavisto, the Green League candidate who faced off with current President Sauli Niinisto during the last presidential election in 2012, has said he is not in favor of joining NATO. But, in a hint of openness to the idea, he said Finland should seek membership if Sweden decides to join.
  • Support among the public for joining NATO remains low — around 25 percent in favor as of late 2016. But the number of Finns who are undecided about joining NATO has risen since the war in Ukraine.

 The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

Política Internacional | Permalink

ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 26/10/2017

Al-Monitor—A. Mardasov / Moscow eyes working with tribes as its next move in Syria

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin presented Russia’s vision of the ongoing peace effort in Syria, saying, “It’s gaining positive momentum,” and praising the contributions of Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel. He also spoke highly of the role that the United States is playing behind the scenes.
  • Putin said, however, that current negotiations between the opposition and the Syrian government are “moving very sluggishly”. “There is an idea to call a congress of the Syrian people, bringing together all ethnic and religious groups, the government and the opposition.”
  • According to a retired officer from the Russian Defense Ministry, “the strategy seems to be to continue to engage [...] tribes and their leaders who reside in oil-and-gas-rich territories freed from IS and who are now fighting the Syrian Democratic Forces, hoping the tribes will join those who prove to be stronger [on the ground].”

Politico—G. Hervey / Human rights group to take unprecedented legal step against Azerbaijan

  • The Council of Europe (CoE) on Wednesday formally agreed to take legal action against Azerbaijan over its refusal to release an opposition politician from jail.
  • The CoE’s Committee of Ministers notified Azerbaijan of its intention to trigger Article 46.4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which has never been used and could ultimately lead to Azerbaijan being expelled from the organization.
  • In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the detention of the opposition leader Ilgar Mammadov was a human rights violation — but he is still in prison three years later.
  • The Committee of Ministers gave Azerbaijan until November 29 to set out its response in writing — and unless the country agrees to release Mammadov, the committee will send the case back to the European Court of Human Rights.

Foreign Policy—T. McCormick / Kenya is barreling toward an ‘illegal’ election

  • Incumbent Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s August 8 re-election victory was nullified by the Supreme Court soon after, and a revote was called for today.
  • Since August, tensions have mounted over how to reform the country’s independent election commission, which the court deemed responsible for multiple “irregularities” and “illegalities” on August 8.
  • Less than 24 hours before voting was due to begin, huge questions loomed over the process, including who would be on the ballot and whether the increasingly embattled commission would be able to administer the vote.
  • Less than two months after they defied the executive branch in what many hailed as a democratic milestone in Africa, all but two of Kenya’s Supreme Court justices declined to rule on perhaps the most consequential petition in years: to delay the country’s fraught presidential rerun.
  • Supporters of the opposition have clashed repeatedly with security forces, and nearly 70 people have been killed since the original election took place.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

Política Internacional | Permalink

ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 25/10/2017

The New York Times—C. Buckley / China unveils new leadership, with Xi Jinping more powerful than ever

  • In addition to Xi Jinping and China’s premier, Li Keqiang, the new Politburo Standing Committee will include five other members, all of them men in their 60s.
  • The Chinese Communist Party declined to name a younger leader to the committee who might succeed Mr. Xi when his second term ends.
  • This may signal that Mr. Xi intends to dominate Chinese politics beyond this next five-year term. Mr. Xi may also want more time to test possible successors, while avoiding lame duck status with an heir in the wings.
  • Most of the new members to the Standing Committee selected by Mr. Xi were not his longtime associates, though most had worked with him in some capacity.
  • “Xi has seemingly chosen magnanimity with the list,” said Christopher K. Johnson, expert on Chinese elite politics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Of course, that’s easy to do when you’ve achieved your two core objectives — making yourself the party’s untenured ideological arbiter and refraining from signaling the succession.”
  • Financial Times / Xi Jinping’s top team: China’s new Politburo Standing Committee

The Guardian—M. Chulov / I will return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam, says crown prince

  • Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has vowed to return the country to “moderate Islam” and asked for global support to transform the kingdom into an open society that empowers citizens and lures investors.
  • “What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia. What happened in the region in the last 30 years is not the Middle East… We are simply reverting to what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions… we will destroy [extremist thoughts] now and immediately.”
  • The crown prince has announced the launch of an ambitious $500bn (£381bn) independent economic zone straddling Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt.
  • The economic zone has been unveiled as the centrepiece of efforts to turn the kingdom away from a near total dependence on oil and into a diverse open economy. It is due to be completed by 2025 – five years before the current cap on the reform programme – and is to be powered by wind and solar energy.

Financial Times—C. Jones / European Central Bank divided over wisdom of declaring end to QE

  • The European Central Bank is gearing up for its most important meeting of the year. At issue is whether the ECB will declare that the economy has recovered sufficiently for quantitative easing to end next year.
  • On one side of the debate is Mario Draghi, the ECB’s president, who would like to preserve room for manoeuvre. On the other are more hawkish policymakers, such as Jens Weidmann, the Bundesbank president, and Klaas Knot, the Dutch central bank governor.
  • Conditions are now so good that none of the council’s 25 members is likely to disagree on Thursday when Peter Praet, the ECB’s chief economist, sets out plans to cut the size of the monthly asset purchases next year, from €60bn at present to between €40bn and €20bn.
  • The size of that cut could help determine how long the ECB plans to keep QE alive.

Washington Post—R. Noack / Being outside the Paris climate deal: Something now only the U.S. and Syria agree on

  • Nicaragua’s vice president, Rosario Murillo, announced Monday that the country has submitted relevant documents to the United Nations and is now set to join the Paris climate deal.
  • That means that the only two countries in the world refusing to be part of the agreement are now Syria and the US.
  • Nicaragua’s initial reasons not to be part of the deal were vastly different from those of Syria or the US. Officials in Managua believed that the agreement did not go far enough in protecting the world from climate change.
  • However, “it is the only instrument we have in the world that allows the unity of intentions and efforts to face up to climate change and natural disasters,” said Murillo.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. 

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