Edge of Change (Issue 007)

12-04-2018, 13:10

 

Decades under the influence (by Markus Wagner, Thomas Meyer)

4 April 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 007)The rightward shift of the European politics is not a new phenomenon at all, claim the authors of this piece published at the Foreign Affairs. The analysis of party manifestos in 17 Western European countries demonstrates that the process has been gradually going on since the 1970s, and the recent immigration crisis has just made far right parties more popular. By “right-left”, the research implied not the traditional economic distinction but rather “liberal” versus “authoritarian” attitudes towards a range of social and political issues. Strikingly, a rightward shift has been characteristic for all kinds of parties, from the radical right to the socialist. Moreover, not only the overall party programs become more inclined to “authoritarian values”, the weight of these issues in the party rhetoric has significantly increased, compared to the matters of economy. The authors also remind that the far-right parties currently much spoken of, such as France’s Le Front National and Austria’s Freedom Party, have been present for quite a lot of time and are now building up on their previous successes. 

 

Trump Makes American Coal Great Again — Overseas (by Keith Johnson)

4 April 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 007)Keith Johnson in her piece on Foreign Affairs analyzes Trump’s effort to increase coal export. As Trump made a promise to make U.S. energy dominance (mainly in natural gas and oil) a cornerstone of his policy, coal export also sees its another record number since after 2012. However, on a domestic level, coal production with its low employment rate stays are lower levels. 

Johnson mentions several reasons behind the successful U.S. coal export which are global demand for coal, Trump administration energy and trade policy, reduced regulation for coal production, Trump’s call for other countries to buy American energy as a correction to trade balances, as well as Australia’s disrupted coal production due to a natural disaster. 

Meanwhile, the author also talks about barriers against coal exports. Firstly, most of the U.S. coal importers are the countries targeted by Trump’s steel tariffs. Johnson states that even if the U.S. exempted some countries, there are still big coal importers affected. Secondly, he also emphasizes that Australia’s come back can result in a decrease in the U.S. coal export. Finally, as the American policy focuses more on exporting natural gas abroad which is a substitute for coal in generating electricity, this also poses a threat. 

 

Taiwan is again becoming a flashpoint between China and America

5 April 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 007)The Taiwan Travel Act, which allows high-level visits between U.S. and Taiwan and which has been signed by President Trump very recently, is widely believed to aggravate the relationship with China. The article claims that this decision has raised questions since Trump always supported “One-China Policy” and none of his actions demonstrated admiration towards Taiwan. However, it also adds that Trump’s recent appointments of pro-Taiwan officials in the government, along with the Travel Act, complicated the situation. Meanwhile, it is a red line for China and is perceived in Beijing as more dangerous than nuclear North Korea and U.S. tariffs. The Travel Act also brought warnings from the Chinese officials who put extra pressure on Taiwan causing division among the Taiwanese officials as regards supporting the document.The author also mentions the member of cabinet’s visit to the opening of the unofficial embassy of U.S. in Taiwan and considers it an American attempt to put pressure on China regarding trade. Since Mr. Xi considers the Taiwan issue extremely important due to its strong resonance for the Chinese nationalists, this American decision made Taiwan a flashpoint on the security agenda again. 

 

Macron Needs to Attack Syria, with or without the United States (by Benjamin Haddid)

9 April 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 007)Benjamin Haddad discusses the French policy towards Syria and believes that although punitive strikes against institutions responsible for the latest massacre would increase credibility for France’s existing commitments in Syria, French troops without the American backing won’t accomplish much. During his upcoming Washington visit on April 24, President Macron will try to convince the Trump administration to stay committed to the post-Islamic state stabilization and postpone their decision to withdraw the U.S. troops from Syria. Even if Macron fails to accomplish his mission, a unilateral French strike would still be worthwhile. Although the EU which is geographically closer to Syria bears the costs of the Syrian conflict, it always had to wait for Washington to take appropriate measures due to EU’s military limits. However, this time Macron seems to be aware of this problem and must take certain actions. 

 

China does not want a trade war with the US, but it must defend itself (by Liu Xiaoming)

10 April 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 007)In the piece published at The Guardian, Liu Xiaoming argues that the consequences of a possible trade war between the U.S. and China as a result of America’s protectionist tariffs would be damaging and there would be no winner in a trade war. Citing negative outcomes of “safeguard” tariffs put by the Bush and Obama administration previously, he claims that unilateral protectionist measures would do more harm than good to the U.S. In case a trade war erupts, the multilateral trade would also bear the costs, putting at risk the global economy. Although China has taken counter-measures in order to safeguard its interests, it is still open to negotiations and consultations with Washington on the basis of equality, mutual respect and benefit. 

 

How to fight terror, the Somaliland Way (by Bruno Maçaes)

11 April 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 007)Bruno Maçaes explains how an impoverished separatist province of Somaliland, which emerged in the north of Somalia on the ruins of a war-torn country, has managed to effectively fight off the brutal jihadis from Ash-Shabab that instill fear in the rest of Somalia and some neighbouring countries as well. He praises the preserved clan system which has kept the social fabric firm and resulted in a peculiar form of civil society where the level of trust and cooperation between the government and common people is unusually high. The government relies on people’s goodwill in following and reporting any suspicious activities, and as a result Somaliland now is quite a safe place where small businesses provided subsistence for the majority of people. The author views this case as a perfect model for restoring peace and good governance in the desperate places such as Somalia, instead of the awkward Western attempts to plant unworkable forms of democracy, and at the same time as the best counter-argument to those who argue that brutal authoritarian rule is the only viable form of power there. 

 

Russia’s Potemkin Missiles (by Boris Ryvkin)

11 April 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 007)On the pages of The Diplomat, Boris Ryvkin discusses Putin’s alleged super-weapons he hinted at in his pre-election speech. He believes these statements should be treated with much skepticism since Russia’s current international position makes it vital for Mr. Putin to bluff and exaggerate Moscow’s real capabilities. Narrowing negotiation space in Ukraine and Syria together with snowballing economic and political pressure by the West, may soon put uncomfortable questions regarding the compatibility of Russia’s global stature and its sky-high ambitions. The author cites key Russian economic officials who openly compare some possible future measures against Russia to the state of war. Moreover, he reminds of the Soviet tradition of nuclear arms bluff, citing the Caribbean crisis and a final standoff during President Reagan’s rule, and calls to remain level-headed and rely on facts rather than on compiled footage of dubious trustworthiness.

 

To freeze and to return (by Andrey Piontkovsky)

11 April 2018

Russian expert Andrey Piontkovsky discusses the sanctions U.S. has started to apply against Russian oligarchs. He claims that unlike all previous anti-Russian measures, this one can be by far the most effective and far-reaching from the point of view of the West: it can potentially undermine both the consensus among the ruling elites, since the U.S.-held private assets belonging to the Russian citizens reach an astronomical $1 trillion (and about half this amount in UK, which is expected to join the sanctions in the near future) and the inability of the regime cronies to access them might seriously shake their allegiance to President Putin. Moreover, unlike any other anti-Russian measures, the asset freeze may be actually welcomed by the majority of Russians who, though supporting assertive foreign policies and warmongering, do not consider the oligarchs’ wealth legitimate. So, the author urges the Western governments to keep this wealth for the Russian people rather than merely expropriating it since it can then seriously undermine domestic credentials of the Russian government.