Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
U.S. International relations and foreign policy June 2023-
Biden is meeting with leaders from Israel, Brazil, Ukraine and the ‘Stans’ this week
(NPR) President Biden will be the first U.S. president to meet together with leaders from five Central Asian nations sometimes called the “Stans” — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — when he gathers with them next week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
The meeting with the former Soviet states on Tuesday is likely to be closely watched by Russia and China. Biden plans to discuss regional security issues with the leaders, as well as trade, climate and governance issues, said Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser.
Biden claims ‘America’s back.’ The world isn’t convinced.
(Politico) At the G20 meetings last week, the president debuted his administration’s new charm offensive for the developing world — a promise to invest in the economic development of 70 nations, concentrated in the Southern Hemisphere, with high poverty and debt burdens.
It’s a campaign that makes few headlines stateside, but has huge implications for U.S. trade relations and Washington’s economic competition with Beijing. Biden will need to increase trade with many developing nations to secure the materials and components for his clean energy manufacturing agenda. And his team is desperate to stop those countries from falling further into China’s orbit after decades of neglect from the U.S.
“The U.S. government for many years has not really had a sustained focus [on developing nations],” said Peter Harrell, who served on Biden’s national security council until last fall. “Over the last six months in particular, you’ve seen a really concerted push by the administration to expand its outreach.”
At the G20, the administration announced plans to reform the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other Western development institutions so they can unlock hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for infrastructure projects around the world. That, they hope, will lead more nations to side with the U.S. in everyday trade and in times of crisis — like a potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait.
The investment-first strategy marks a dramatic shift from decades of U.S. economic policy that focused on removing tariffs and other trade barriers in hopes that private U.S. companies would rush in and industrialize poorer nations. Biden’s team says that agenda has run its course.
‘Bidenomics’ is going global. The world is skeptical.
At the G20 meeting, the administration will unveil its plans to counter growing Chinese influence with a new approach to economic development that prioritizes climate action and inclusive growth. But countries burned by decades of Western-imposed austerity aren’t convinced.
(Politico) Biden’s trip to the G20 meetings in New Delhi marks the most concerted effort by the United States in decades to win the favor of so-called developing nations — more than 70 countries, concentrated in the Southern Hemisphere, with high debt burdens and poverty levels.
Those nations, long neglected by Washington, are critical to Biden’s economic agenda. He’ll need to increase trade with many of them — from Bolivia to Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — to secure the raw materials and components needed for his domestic manufacturing renaissance. And he will need their buy-in for his campaign to rewrite the rules of the global economy to encourage fair trade between democracies, and penalize China’s state-led industries.
In blow to China, US secures closer partnership with Vietnam
(GZERO) On his way back from the G20 meeting in India, US President Joe Biden will stop off in Vietnam on Sept. 10 to seal an agreement to deepen US ties with the Southeast Asian country. The two former enemies will upgrade their bilateral relationship from a “comprehensive partnership” to a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” the highest level in Vietnam’s diplomatic hierarchy. This new top-tier diplomatic status places the US on par with China, Russia, India, and South Korea….
Eurasia Group expert Peter Mumford explains the motivations behind the deal for both sides.
Vietnam has long had very complicated relations with China, its giant northern neighbor. The two have close (and deepening) economic ties. Yet the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979 and ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea have fueled widespread anti-China sentiment among Vietnam’s population. Strengthening relations with the US, Japan, and other players are crucial to Hanoi’s geopolitical hedging strategy as well its (unsuccessful, so far) attempts to reduce its economic dependence on China.
In addition, Vietnam has long seen its ally Russia as a counterbalance to China, but Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has made it a less reliable partner and, more importantly, pushed it closer to Beijing. This increases the need for Vietnam to find other ways to hedge its China risk.
Russian ally snubs Putin: Suddenly turns to US
(MSN) The joint exercise, aptly named “Eagle Partner 2023,” aims to prepare Armenian forces for participation in international peacekeeping missions. The event, spanning from September 11 to 20, will involve 85 US soldiers and 175 Armenian troops. This collaboration is particularly noteworthy given Armenia’s deep-rooted ties with Russia, stemming from its history as part of the Soviet Union and its current involvement in various Russia-led international consortiums. Furthermore, Armenia is home to a Russian military base.
Heather Cox Richardson August 17, 2023
Philip Stephens of Financial Times today pointed out how much global politics has changed since 2016. …just seven years later, international cooperation is evident everywhere. Stephens pointed out that a series of crises have shown that nations cannot work alone.
That embrace of cooperation is in no small part thanks to President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who have focused on bringing together international coalitions.
The new global stance is on display in the U.S. right now as President Biden hosts the first-ever trilateral summit with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan and President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea. This is not an easy meeting—Japan and South Korea have a long history of conflict—but they are working to mend fences* to stand firm against North Korea, including its missile tests, and to present a united front in the face of Chinese power.
Secretary Blinken noted for reporters on Tuesday that the world is currently being tested by geopolitical competition, climate change, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, and nuclear aggressions. “Our heightened engagement is part of our broader efforts to revitalize, to strengthen, to knit together our alliances and partnerships—and in this case, to help realize a shared vision of an Indo-Pacific that is free and open, prosperous, secure, resilient, and connected,” he said. “And what we mean by that is a region where countries are free to chart their own path and to find their own partners, where problems are dealt with openly, where rules are reached transparently and applied fairly, and where goods, ideas, and people can flow lawfully and freely.”
Biden’s missing Latin America agenda
— The Biden administration is promising a revamped approach to its long dormant Latin American trade agenda. But even its allies remain skeptical.
Biden’s diplomatic team has spent most of his first term trying to rebuild alliances in Europe and Asia stressed by former President Donald Trump’s brash nationalism. They have only recently started to turn their attention to Latin America, but lawmakers and corporate officials alike say those efforts are scant — and their patience is starting to wear thin.
“I struggle to see what this administration is doing in Latin America that has any heft to it,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D. Va.) said.
Kaine’s comments came during a contentious Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last month, where he and other lawmakers grilled representatives from the State and Treasury Departments on why the administration has been, in their words, ignoring Latin America.
The administration says it has a plan. Last year it announced the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity — a broad forum for discussing supply chains, sustainability, anti-corruption and other economic issues. State Department Under Secretary Jose Fernandez said focusing on those issues will help U.S. trading partners more than the traditional model of trade agreements focused on cutting tariffs and expanding market access.
“Tariffs [are] not what’s keeping Latin America from growing. If tariffs were all that it took, this wouldn’t be an issue,” he told lawmakers. “It’s about corruption, lack of transparency, lack of infrastructure, health frameworks that don’t work, government instability — those are the things we’re trying to look at in APEP.
But critics say APEP today is little more than those initial talking points, with firms frustrated with the lack of any opportunity to file comments with the U.S. government outlining their hopes for the proposed agreement.
Senate confirms slate of State Department nominees as Tuberville’s military hold remains
(CNN) The Senate confirmed a slate of high-profile State Department nominees late Thursday night, including ambassadors to Italy, Jordan, Georgia, the United Arab Emirates, Niger, Rwanda and Ethiopia.
The confirmations came after Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky told CNN earlier in the evening that he was close to a deal with the State Department to release holds on nominees in exchange for records on the origins of COVID.
Letters from an American
But FitzGibbon did not arrive in Niger before the U.S. government on Wednesday ordered “non-emergency U.S. government personnel” and their families to leave the country out of concerns for their safety.
The attack on our nation by individual Republicans seems to be a theme these days.
Senate Foreign Relations chairman criticizes Sen. Rand Paul for holding up nominations
Rand Paul, R-Ky., has blocked State Department nominees as he seeks more information about Covid-19’s origins.
Menendez, D-N.J., said Paul’s move “puts our country’s national security and global influence in peril.”
“I call on the members of this body engaged in blanket refusals to confirm nominees to stop playing games with our national security. It only undermines our national security and our ability to compete with the PRC,” Menendez said in the statement, using the abbreviation for the People’s Republic of China.
Secretary Antony J. Blinken Remarks to the Press
Earlier today, I sent a letter to all members of the Senate expressing my serious concern regarding the significant delays in confirming State Department nominees. As I made clear in the letter, these delays are undermining our national security and they are weakening our ability to deliver for the American people.
At present, the State Department has more than 60 nominees with the Senate. Thirty-eight have completed all the other steps and are on the Senate floor awaiting confirmation. Of those 38, 35 are career Foreign Service officers.
Now, that number is going to keep going up, as more sitting ambassadors complete their tours, more nominees come forward. By the end of the summer, we expect Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon will all be without confirmed U.S. ambassadors. Eight nominees are awaiting confirmation for posts in African countries. And it’s not just the Middle East and Africa where we’ve got this problem: Ambassadorships are open in Asia, in Europe, in Latin America, as nominees await confirmation. So are key issue-focused positions, like, for example, our counterterrorism coordinator.
During the current Congress, only five nominees have been confirmed.
Biden Invites Netanyahu to U.S., Easing Tensions
The invitation to the Israeli prime minister came on the eve of a visit to the White House by Isaac Herzog, the Israeli president.
President Biden on Monday invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to a meeting in the United States for the first time since Mr. Netanyahu re-entered office in December, easing months of tensions about the direction of Israel’s government.
Fareed Zakaria: The old consensus on U.S. foreign policy is dead
… Having spoken to Biden before, I would say that central to his worldview is the belief that the world today is being shaped by challenges from autocratic states — Russia, China, Iran, North Korea — and that the future will hinge on how the democracies respond to these challenges. Like anyone who wants to be president, Biden has a healthy ego, and he has wanted the job since he was a young man, but I think it’s fair to say he is also driven by a sense that the future of the international order is on the line.
The stakes are high — and they are made much higher by the fact that, for the first time since the World War II era, the basic issue of America’s engagement with the world is becoming a partisan issue. …
As we look around the world, we see that the single biggest risk to the international order may lie not in the killing fields of Ukraine or across the Taiwan Strait, but rather on the campaign trail in the United States.
Blinken in Southeast Asia to build support for China rivalry
Myanmar and North Korea also led the agenda as the Biden administration seeks to build U.S. ties to the region
(WaPo) As Beijing takes increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea and off the coast of Taiwan, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Southeast Asian counterparts in Indonesia on Friday to warn them against “coercion,” a stand-in for China.
The trip by Blinken — his twelfth to the Indo-Pacific region, and his fourth to Indonesia, he said — was a measure of the Biden administration’s broadening effort to woo countries away from overt alignment with Beijing amid an aggressive Chinese diplomatic push in parts of the world that Washington has sometimes neglected.
It was also a foray into the world of intense regional challenges, including North Korea, which tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday, and Myanmar, whose repressive military dictatorship continues to imprison former leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior officials.
In brief: The future of US-Africa trade and investment
(Atlantic Council) AGOA [African Growth and Opportunity Act] gives duty-free access to the US market for eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa, aiming to promote African economic development alongside market liberalization and democratic governance.
With AGOA due to expire in 2025, policymakers in the US and Africa must decide the basis for stronger US-Africa trade going forward.
The future of AGOA is not guaranteed. AGOA should be renewed by the US Congress for at least a ten-year period as soon as possible. Doing so could allow African economies to capitalize on efforts to diversify supply chains away from China, supporting US strategic interests and a more resilient global economy.
The US has gotten the day to day right in Africa policy. Time to think bigger
Biden’s Iran Envoy Is Placed on Leave Amid Security Clearance Review
Even before the news about his leave, Robert Malley seemed to be playing a less prominent role in U.S. policy toward Iran in recent months.
Mr. Malley has long been a target of Iran hawks and political opposition figures within Iran who view him as dangerously conciliatory toward the Iranian regime. He has long argued that a strategy of crushing economic and political pressure on Iran is bound to fail and that the United States must establish a productive dialogue with its leaders, however distasteful they may be.
Modi’s moment in Washington
After meeting with Biden on Thursday, Modi also addressed a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol – his second speech before US lawmakers since coming to power in 2014. He spent a large chunk of time talking up India’s democratic bonafides, referring to his country as “the mother of democracy” and nodding to the state’s 2,500 political parties.
‘India is now a linchpin’: US looks to Narendra Modi’s visit to counter China
The Biden administration will try to strengthen US-India ties while the Indian leader looks to shore up votes for next year’s election
(The Guardian) The symbolism of the visit will be hard to avoid. As Narendra Modi arrives in Washington DC on Wednesday – the capital of a country he was once prohibited from visiting for almost 10 years – he will join the ranks of Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Volodymyr Zelenskiy as one of the few leaders to address a joint session of Congress more than once.
In anticipation of Modi’s state visit to Washington this is a timely reminder
India as It Is – Washington and New Delhi Share Interests, Not Values
… If making democratic values the cornerstone of the U.S.-Indian relationship has always been a dubious strategy, today it is clearly doomed—because the very notion of common values has itself come to look fanciful. Ever since Narendra Modi became the Indian prime minister nine years ago, India’s status as a democracy has become increasingly suspect.
… again and again, India has disappointed American hopes. Gandhi, for example, frustrated Roosevelt by prioritizing India’s struggle for freedom against the British Empire over the war against imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. New Delhi not only refused to align with Washington during the Cold War; it forged warm ties with Moscow instead. Even after the Cold War ended and India began strengthening its relations with the United States, New Delhi maintained strong connections to the Kremlin. It has refused to work with the United States on Iran, and it has made nice with Myanmar’s military regime. Most recently, it has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Heather Cox Richardson June 16, 2023
In one of the quirky coincidences that history deals out, Daniel Ellsberg died today at age 92 on the eve of the fifty-first anniversary of the break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked Pentagon Papers exposing Vietnam War secrets, dies at 92
like millions of other Americans, in and out of government, he had turned against the yearslong war in Vietnam, the government’s claims that the battle was winnable and that a victory for the North Vietnamese over the U.S.-backed South would lead to the spread of communism throughout the region. Unlike so many other war opponents, he was in a special position to make a difference.
(AP) As much as anyone, Ellsberg also embodied the fall of American idealism in foreign policy in the 1960s and 1970s and the upending of the post-World War II consensus that Communism, real or suspected, should be opposed worldwide.
The Pentagon Papers were first published in The New York Times in June 1971, with The Washington Post, The Associated Press and more than a dozen others following. They documented that the U.S. had defied a 1954 settlement barring a foreign military presence in Vietnam, questioned whether South Vietnam had a viable government, secretly expanded the war to neighboring countries and had plotted to send American soldiers even as Johnson vowed he wouldn’t.
Blinken (finally) goes to Beijing
This weekend, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will make his long-delayed trip to Beijing amid, let’s say, interesting times in US-China ties. (Yes, this is the trip that Blinken postponed over that Chinese spy balloon, but we’ll spare you the puns.)
What’s on the agenda? A lot, to put it mildly. Apart from the usual stuff — economic decoupling, trade, Taiwan, and Russia’s war in Ukraine — expect Blinken to also ask Xi Jinping about China’s reported electronic spy base in Cuba and recent trolling of US aircraft and warships in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.
Meanwhile, Xi wants to secure from Blinken an in-person invite to catch up with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in San Francisco in November — a year since the two had their last huddle at the G-20 in Bali and more than 6 years since Xi’s last US visit, at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump.
Don’t expect Blinken and Xi to make much progress on any issue where Washington and Beijing are at odds. But in such an increasingly tense bilateral relationship between two rival powers with serious comms problems, perhaps the best we can hope for is that they keep talking to each other.
The China Trap
U.S. Foreign Policy and the Perilous Logic of Zero-Sum Competition
By Jessica Chen Weiss
(Foreign Affairs September/October 2022) Competition with China has begun to consume U.S. foreign policy. Seized with the challenge of a near-peer rival whose interests and values diverge sharply from those of the United States, U.S. politicians and policymakers are becoming so focused on countering China that they risk losing sight of the affirmative interests and values that should underpin U.S. strategy.
Hoping to Avert Nuclear Crisis, U.S. Seeks Informal Agreement With Iran
The talks reflect a resumption of diplomacy between the United States and Iran after the collapse of negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,…said that he could endorse a deal with the United States if Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is kept intact.
(NYT) The Biden administration has been negotiating quietly with Iran to limit Tehran’s nuclear program and free imprisoned Americans, according to officials from three countries, in part of a larger U.S. effort to ease tensions and reduce the risk of a military confrontation with the Islamic Republic.
The U.S. goal is to reach an informal, unwritten agreement, which some Iranian officials are calling a “political cease-fire.” It would aim to prevent a further escalation in a long-hostile relationship that has grown even more fraught as Iran builds up a stockpile of highly enriched uranium close to bomb-grade purity, supplies Russia with drones for use in Ukraine and brutally cracks down on domestic political protests.
China and U.S. defense chiefs compete for influence in the Asia Pacific
The U.S. and China are competing for influence in the Asia Pacific
(NPR) [U.S. defense secretary Lloyd] Austin touted expanded military exercises with allies and partners, including Japan, Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia. The U.S. is also increasing the sharing of military technology with India, creating interoperability between its military systems with Japan, and is currently building a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines with Australia.
[Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu] countered in his remarks Sunday, offering to partner militarily with Southeast Asian countries on the basis of “mutual respect.”
However, the response to Li’s remarks from various Southeast Asian delegations gave the impression that this “family” is very much divided. Some said that while China talks about co-operation, its actions have a different message.