Edge of Change (Issue 004)
9 March 2018
In this piece by Patrick M.Cronin on Foreign Policy, the author reflects his belief that Donald Trump will play decisive role in building peace between North and South Korea, thanks to his announcement to be the first sitting president to meet the North Korean supreme leader. Cronin states that the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea has always been two-sided: pressure and engagement and now it entered an engagement phase. Afterwards, the author also claims that Kim’s intentions are unknown and there is no assurance that he will agree to abandon the nuclear programme; instead his pure aim is lifting sanctions and gaining more time.
Cronin makes his assumptions regarding next possible steps concerning two Koreas and United States. First of all, he claims that the joint U.S. and South Korean military actions are more likely to be scaled back. Secondly, at the next meeting between the representatives of South and North Korea, South Korea would talk about lifting some sanctions, as well as infrastructural investment plans. Finally, as most likely Trump and Kim will have a preliminary discussion in North Korea, immediate goal will be verification process for North Korean nuclear weapons programs to achieve denuclearization.
As a final remark, Cronin states that looking a few months back, the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Korea were unprecedentedly tight, but now it has been changed dramatically. However, according to the author, there is no certainty and sustaining a process is more difficult than holding a summit, but it cannot be denied that the summit will be historic and maybring peace closer.
12 March 2018
Green delineates three problems with Trump-Kim Meeting in his piece at “Foreign Policy”. First of all, he thinks that a possible meeting is morally distasteful since the North Korean regime is one of the most horrific ones on the globe. He compares this proposed meeting with the talks with other inhumane regimes such as Mao’s and Stalin’s and states that meetings with these parties were significant considering defeating Soviets and Hitler respectively. The second claim was that according to the author, the meeting serves the long-term benefits of North Korea rather than America`s. Since from the 1990s the North Korean objective has been to show that nuclear weapon has forced American presidents to recognize its regime’s legitimacy and if Mr. Trump agrees to meet so this is meeting the North Korean objective. Finally, the author claims that through this meeting North Korea will be able to lift sanctions and pressure by just manipulating the U.S. for denuclearization. As a concluding remark, Green demonstrates his disbelief in the possible nuclear disarmament of North Korea after such a meeting.
16 March 2018
The article focuses on China`s expansion into Africa, by focusing particularly on Sierra Leone. In recent years Chinese investments in the country have remarkably increased and been used to construct a new freeway system, a hospital, and an airport. Moreover, China took the lead in responding to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone several years ago, having, thus, gained an important reputation in the African nation.
Currently, there are serious concerns that the Chinese directly engage in the Sierra Leonean presidential elections, openly supporting the campaign of the ruling party and its leader, the incumbent president Ernest Koroma. While President Koroma is supportive of China’s influence in his country, the former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned African countries not to compromise their sovereignty in their dealings with China.
The author reminds that China is expanding its influence in Africa through soft and military power, “predatory loan practices”, and use of imported Chinese workers. For instance, the Chinese have already established a naval base in Djibouti and been very active in the Kenyan television market.
16 March 2018
This article looks at the root causes of why Mr. Putin’s re-election for the presidency seemed all but sealed long before the election day. The first reason is the consolidation of his position. Mr. Putin neutralized the oligarchs, increased state control over media, and reinstated the appointment of governors. Furthermore, increasing oil prices also played a positive role in image-building of Mr. Putin as a president sans alternative. Finally, during the Crimean issue, his actions to return Russia to the “great power” position back played a decisive role in attaining great popular support.
Furthermore, The Economist states that the system built by Mr. Putin itself precludes any alternative to his rule. Even the approval ratings of the president reflect the president’s presence, rather than approval of his policies. Looking at the candidatesof “non-systemic” opposition, The Economist explains that they are either barred from running or have been killed or otherwise neutralized. To show the legitimacy, the Kremlin started to allow the candidates who are not that much reputable comparing to Mr. Putin.
As a final note, the author writes that this is the last turn of the president as allowed by the constitution and if the president goes against the constitution, as Xi Jinping has done, or rule from a different position, the transition is inevitable.
18 March 2018
DW claims that the results of elections in Russia this year were quite predictable considering that Putin is very popular with the public because for many years the Russian government has prevented opposition parties’ and politicians’ profile development. Media’s role in increasing Putin’s authority and charisma among the local population is undeniable. DW argues that there was no real competition, it was rather simulated and the results of imitated elections will remain meaningless as long as there’s no real merit-based competition. According to the article, Putin is ready to escalate confrontation with the West. Even though this foreign policy course damages the country’s development, the Russian public is being manipulated by the local media and distracting news hiding the reality. No real reforms and changes in foreign policy course are expected during Putin’s next term. Moscow is more likely to continue pursuing its current policies.
20 March 2018
Ishaan Tharoor analyses the American role in the Syrian war after the fall of Afrin. The withdrawal of YPG fighters has led to new fears of attacks and influx of Islamist militants. According to the words of a Western official based in the Middle East, “the international order is dying in the ruins of Syria”. YPG as the most important force fighting against the Islamic state was backed by the U.S., which was considered as a support for a de facto Kurdish state by Turkey and has led to the deterioration of the U.S.-Turkey relations. Mr. Trump’s urges to stop Turkey’s campaign in Afrin have been ignored. This event has clearly shown that the Kurds were alone and the U.S. appeared to be an unreliable ally.
Hassan Hassan, a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy notes that “there’s an erosion of trust in the American ability to protect its allies in Syria.” The capture of Afrin and Washington’s inability to protect the interests of its allies explicitly show the decreasing influence of the U.S. in Syria. And now other regional powers like Russia, Iran and Turkey are seizing the initiative.
20 March 2018
Justin Gest compares the pattern of U.S. immigration policies to the ones observed in the majority of large developed countries today. He argues that the American approach has in fact remained unchanged since the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, while all the other players have introduced a lot of profound changes. For example, America still very prioritizes preserving family ties, rewarding commitment to American values and sustaining diversity of immigrants, which reflects its history as a settler nation that formed out of many different waves of immigration. It stands out that about 65% of permanent residence visas are granted with the purposes of family reunification. However, European countries, and especially newly industrialized and oil countries of Asia have switched to a merit-based system that treats migration as a purely economic issue and maximizes the intake of qualified labour, while the humanitarian side is often downplayed. In contrast, in U.S. now it is quite difficult to obtain a talent-based visa, and this, Mr. Gest claims, costs the American economy billions. Moreover, the outdated laws stimulate cheating on the part of employers who use non-qualified migrant (mostly Latino) labour, so millions of people have turned into illegal immigrants who in theory can be deported from the country at any time. But the author does not urge America to copy foreign practices; he thinks that commitment to humanist values is commendable, and criticizes Trump for his willingness to forgo them. The only way this system should be reformed, lies in restoring better opportunities for exceptional talents to stay.
20 March 2018
The world’s largest and most influential social network, Facebook has fallen under an increasing wave of critique because of its alleged lack of concern for provision of huge amounts of date on tens of millions of users to the third parties that used it in different purposes, including political opinion-forming. The company’s former employee Sandy Parakilas, has come out as a whistleblower and disclosed the extent of these privacy violations. They were especially severe between 2012 and 2014, when any developer of Facebook-related apps would get an unconstrained access to so-called “friend data” meaning that real exposure scales were hundreds of times larger than the ones originally indicated. However, the most troubling case has been related to the recent U.S. presidential campaign, as the data firm Cambridge Analytica turned out to have been targeting tens of millions of the American voters and reportedly shaped public opinions in the ways favorable to the eventually elected Donald Trump. The company’s director has already been inquired at the U.S. Congress, though he still denies any data mistreatment. However, it is already sure that very far-reaching consequences as regards the social media will ensue, since the opinion of their role being far overstretched and threatening sociopolitical stability, has been already gaining ground and the Cambridge Analytica scandal may well be a trigger of a broader legislative and political response.
21 March 2018
Sylvie Kaufmann tries to answer the question of how European should handle the Russian menace, as it is set to be the major one at the EU Council meeting on 22-23 March. While she admits that internal frictions within EU, as well as the looming Brexit impede Brussels’ ability to act, Ms. Kaufmann is optimistic at the level of understanding the scale of the Putin challenge and the need to be united in front of it as she claims that the age of the “naïve” EU, of “political innocence” is over. One of the main reasons that triggered Russian aggression in 2014, was underestimation of the European grit and unity in the policy of sanctioning and containing Russia. She argues that the Putin of 2018 is very different from himself of the 2000 and even the 2012 “versions”; his policy of restoring Russian grandeur has firmly turned into the cornerstone of all Russian politics.
However, even if there can be meaningful comparisons of the current international standoff to the Cold War 1.0, they are not quite similar; on one hand, Mr. Putin and the U.S. President Trump are much less predictable than the Soviet and American leaders of the time used to be, and the overall hazy state of global politics and communication poses the risk of a sudden outburst of tensions at any particular time; on the other, the world is not divided into two camps (unlike the proper Cold War), is much more interconnected, while Russian weight in the world economy is a shadow even of what the USSR had at its heyday. Hence, the author concludes, the European policy towards Russia should, one hand, be particularly careful and responsive to non-conventional kinds of threats, but on the other, there remain possibilities of talking to Russia and keep communication channels always open. She even suggests that given long-term fragility of Russia’s global power, Mr. Putin “may have to turn to the West to avoid the fate of Mr. Gorbachev”.