Edge of Change (Issue 001)

2-03-2018, 14:55

OPEC mulls a long-term alliance with Russia to keep oil prices stable

Edge of Change (Issue 001)The Economist comments on the strengthening relationship between Saudi Arabia and Russia and puts forward the idea that the countries are set to reach more effective limits to the global production of oil. Resurgence of shale production in the U.S. makes it natural for the large producers whose economies are strongly dependent on carbohydrates, to try to pursue strict production cut policies. The market is abundant with risks: on one hand, progress in alternative energy sources might spur “a race to the bottom” whereby oil producers would try to extract and sale more oil until it completely loses its value, but on the other, if limited production triggers a considerable price rise, a new shale boom may ensue and repeat the vicious circle of 2014-2015- so any coordinated policy needs to prevent not only excessive production but a possibility of too sharp a fall which would push the price up, too. Hence, The Economist suggests, cooperation between the informal leaders of OPEC and non-OPEC “cabals” is nowhere to go, and it especially emphasizes that this cooperation develops despite fundamental divergences between Moscow and Riyadh over their vision of Syrian future and the groups they support. The countries also nurture plans of investing into each other’s energy sectors.

 

Emmanuel Macron Wants YOU for the French Army (by Robert Zaretsky)

Edge of Change (Issue 001)This piece, published at Foreign Policy, discusses Emmanuel Macron’s project of reintroducing obligatory state service in France. It should be noted that the exact content of the proposal remains rather unclear: some “mandatory civic service” is discussed which would be divided into three stages, the major of which is to last from 3 to 6 months (the time frame is yet to be clarified) and which may take place, depending on a citizens’ choice, either in the military or at a civil organization. President Macron says this policy is designed to bring greater cohesion to the French society and extol civic virtues of the French people.

However, nothing about this plan is unambiguous; first of all, it is not revolutionary at all, since mandatory service existed in France until 1997, and since then has been championed by many traditional Republicans. It is rooted in the basic myths of the French nation, which required active and unswerving loyalty to the Republic. However, the policy has little to do with consolidating the military forces; in fact, there is widespread discontent within the armed forces who fear budget cuts: the implementation of this policy would require spending in between 15 and 30 billion Euros, according to different estimates. Most youth organizations estimate the presidential initiative as superficial and populist, indicating that civic activism in France has in fact been steadily growing. So, it seems that Mr. Macron, whose campaign was based on admitting that traditional values of democracy and republicanism are on decline and promising to fix these ills, resorts to symbolic gestures such as universal service, as he wants to boost the national myths (which are probably stronger in France than in any other European country) and build up a strong Republican support. 

 

Time to End America's Foreign Policy Losing Streak by (David L. Davies)

Edge of Change (Issue 001)Daniel L. Davies criticizes the American foreign policy in the Middle East, in particular the way the Obama and Trump administrations treated the ISIS threat. He claims their active intervention into the fight with the Islamic state was a strategic mistake, since the extremists were universally hated and not capable of sustaining a prolonged conflict with all the regional states. So, the argument goes, Washington would have been better off had he left the struggle with ISIS entirely to a regional coalition, since the American involvement was not militarily crucial but only helped Iran to consolidate its influence, while their close partnership with the Kurdish paramilitary ISF (YPG) dangerously alienated Turkey, to the level that the leader of a NATO member state openly talks about a possible strike against the American forces. This also prompted more active cooperation between Ankara and Moscow, currently Washington’s major geopolitical adversary.

It is worth emphasizing how this piece views President Trump’s Middle East policies as a continuation of those of Mr. Obama, though the former constantly claims how wrong his predecessor was and how different his strategy is supposed to be. 

 

Détente on the Korean peninsula is a relief

Edge of Change (Issue 001)In this piece, the author is looking in depth of South-North Korean participation in Winter Olympic Games and connects it to purely political reasons. A few months ago, the relations between North Korea and the U.S. were very tense and the war was imminent. The author states that the Olympics helped North Korea to gain more time through détente. In this regard, warming relations with South Korea were the best choice of North Korea considering damage incurred on the North Korean military (they were out of fuel) caused by sanctions. Furthermore, warming relations with South Korea helped to postpone joint military actions of South Korea and the U.S. until the end of the Winter Olympic Games end and further estimated that Mr. Moon will ask for deferment due to a summer summit. The author highlights the widespread fear that President Moon can be influenced by North Korea. All these factors in mind, there are counterarguments against this possibility proposed by the author. Firstly, neither Mr. Moon will be tricked into it, nor the public opinion will tolerate North Korean attempts to use South Korea against the U.S. Furthermore, the author calls détente useless since he strongly believes that it is not for sure that North Korea will ever stop its usage of nuclear weaponry.

 

Don’t Make African Nations Borrow Money to Support Refugees (by Alexander Betts)

Edge of Change (Issue 001)An argument presented by Betts on Foreign Policy, touches upon the issue of refugees in Tanzania and government opposition towards foreign “aid”. Tanzania is one of the poorest but refugee-welcoming countries in Africa. Different from other countries, Tanzania, thanks to its rural self-reliance policy, has positive records in terms of refugee-hosting, and tens of thousands of Burundians between 2005-2015 found shelter. However, the author states that recently it withdrew from the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework operated within UN. The main reason was that the country under this compact was supposed to borrow money from the World Bank (as a form of loan and grant), and Tanzania claimed that rich countries should pay Tanzania for hosting refugees rather than lending money. The author states that despite the fact that this action was considered as the Tanzanian attempt to grab more money, the Tanzanian government has reasonable ground since it always had the bad history with donor countries due to their failure to take responsibility for assisting Tanzania in financial terms. The author argues that Tanzania’s action should be a warning for donor countries, and these countries should improve their humanitarian policy by understanding the national and local interest of a host country and offering feasible assistance such as debt forgiveness. As a conclusion, the piece demonstrates in the light of Jordan that donor countries follow dual standard towards host countries.

 

Japan’s Own Belt and Road (by Keith Johnson)

Edge of Change (Issue 001)In her report, Keith Johnson argues that due to the U.S.’ disengagement in the region and more inward-looking policy, Japan took a step to contain Chinese influence spreading over Asia, Europe as well as Africa. She calls this strategy Japan’s own road and belt inspired by China’s “One Road, One Belt” policy. The steps taken in this direction include Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to Sri-Lanka, his eagerness to invest in one of its biggest ports, boost partnership with India by building facilities in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and on the Indian Ocean islands, promote the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, as well as attempt at spreading the Japanese influence over the Eastern European market. This should be highlighted, since the author states that the areas which are within the Japanese focus area are already subject to the Chinese influence. However, throughout the report, Johnson also puts up experts’ arguments against a possible threat posed by Japan, mentioning Japan’s “welcoming” attitude towards the Chinese investment and weakness of the Indian-Japanese partnership, compared to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. As a conclusion, the author is skeptical towards the growing Japanese influence and its efforts to push back China since the fate of Japan after Abe is under question and “saddled with a sluggish economy, massive debt, and an aging and shrinking population” Japan does not possess enough power to replace the U.S. in the region and push back China so it can serve as a “band-aid” in the region until the U.S. returns to the arena.

 

Why the Second Amendment does not stymie gun control

Edge of Change (Issue 001)The Economist discusses the pros and cons of the Second Amendment protecting the right “to keep and bear arms” along with the different opinions on the issue. Guns and weapons have improved and changed a lot while the Amendment which is 227 years old now remains the same since it was added to the Constitution. Even though laws should be adjusted to the needs of modern society, it is somehow not the case when it comes to the Second amendment. However, there is growing evidence that this constitutional right should not necessarily preclude gun control policies; some reputable judges consistently argued that there are many ownership cases which allow for entirely legal control measures. So, The Economist claims that the major obstacle on the way of gun control is not the Amendment but the need to build a political coalition strong enough overcome a powerful gun lobby.

 

The Guardian view on Russian trolls: democracy is much too easy to hack

Edge of Change (Issue 001)The Guardian gives a brief info about Robert Mueller’s indictment of Russian influence on the U.S. Presidential elections and shows its view on important details of the indictment, asking questions that one should ask to get a deeper and detailed insight of the issue. Facebook and Google, as the most powerful advertising companies, offer a range of possibilities to anyone who is ready to take advantage of it. Russia was just one of the countless customers benefiting from the services offered by social media and advertisement giants in the interest of the Russian government. This sobering reality shows that anyone could do what Russia has done. Therefore, the weakness of the American political system appears to be the most shocking part of the indictment and the main question is “Who else has been running the similar campaign?”

 

You can also download a pdf file: Edge-of-Change-Issue-001.pdf [ b] (Downloads: 4)