Although there are plenty of signs that strongmen leaders have used the crisis to try to tighten their grip on power, the coronavirus has revealed the underlying vulnerabilities of autocracies rather than their strength. In contrast, democracies are showing their capacity for innovation and adaptation, as one would expect, and signs of renewal, as one would hope.
At first look, the situation is not positive for democracies. The countries worst-hit by COVID-19 as measured in deaths per capita are mostly democracies, including Britain, Belgium, Italy, Spain and the United States. In most cases, erroneous or slow decision-making proved fatal when combined with stressed health systems and pockets of high social inequality.… Seguir leyendo »
So far, there has been a noticeable worsening of relations that had already soured in recent years – the latest step being President Donald Trump’s suspension of US funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) in response to accusations of Chinese interference in its operations.
Should the world now simply prepare for a period of intense and extended hostility? As director of a policy institute founded 100 years ago in the shadow of the First World War, I believe we must do all in our power to avoid a return of the global strategic rivalries that blighted the 20th century.
Of course, the outcome does not lie only in the hands of the US and Europe.… Seguir leyendo »
An infectious disease outbreak has long been a top national security risk in several countries, but the speed and extent of Covid-19’s spread and the scale of its social and economic impact has come as an enormous and deeply worrying shock.
This pandemic is not just a global medical and economic emergency. It could also prove a decisive make-or-break point for today’s system of global political and economic cooperation.
This system was built up painstakingly after 1945 as a response to the beggar-thy-neighbour economic policies of the 1930s which led to the Second World War. But it has been seriously weakened recently as the US and China have entered a more overt phase of strategic competition, and as they and a number of the other most important global and regional players have pursued their narrowly defined self-interest.… Seguir leyendo »
The convincing general election win for the Conservative Party and Boris Johnson opens a new chapter in British history. On 31 January 2020, Britain will withdraw from the EU and return to its historical position as a separate European power.
Recognising the strategic significance of this change, the Queen’s speech opening the new parliament stated that ‘the government will undertake the deepest review of Britain’s security, defence, and foreign policy since the end of the Cold War’. But in what context?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other Brexit supporters have yearned for Britain to return to its exceptional trajectory. In their view, Britain can once again become a trading nation – more global in outlook and ambition than its European neighbours, freed from the shackles of an ageing and fractured European continent and its deadening regulatory hand.… Seguir leyendo »
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The wall, which stood between 1961 to 1989, came to symbolize the ‘Iron Curtain’ – the ideological split between East and West – that existed across Europe and between the two superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union, and their allies, during the Cold War. How significant was the Berlin Wall during the Cold War – was it more important physically or psychologically?
The Berlin Wall was important physically, as well as psychologically, because Berlin was the only city that was divided physically by the Cold War between the Soviet Union and its allies in the Eastern Bloc and the West.… Seguir leyendo »
Boris Johnson has got off to a good start. His cabinet reshuffle was swift and decisive and will restore, for now, collective cabinet responsibility that became so degraded in Theresa May’s tenure as prime minister.
Chairing his first cabinet meeting, he demanded and received in front of the assembled cameras, in Trump style, a loyalty oath to Brexit by 31 October, ‘do or die’, from the members of his ruthlessly selected government. He then gave a bravado performance at the despatch box in the House of Commons – answering 129 questions with only one minor slip-up and tub-thumping through his explanation of how he will make Britain ‘the greatest place on earth’ (with further echoes of President Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan).… Seguir leyendo »
The idea behind the post-war international order established since 1945 has been to preserve peace between the major states. The UN and its Security Council set rules under which conflict is permitted or forbidden. An infrastructure of supporting institutions and accompanying rules seeks to buttress this central objective.
In the security realm, these include the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Geneva Conventions. Rules for trade and financial crisis management are embodied principally in the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which seek to ensure that economic interaction does not return to the reductive competition of the interwar years.… Seguir leyendo »
President Trump’s visit to the UK, Ireland and France on 3–6 June provides another opportunity to reflect on the health of the transatlantic relationship.
The situation is considerably different to July last year, when his UK trip was lampooned by commentators and hounded by protesters. Trump has now moulded a presidential administration that is far closer to his own worldview. The gloves are off when it comes to his two foreign policy priorities – Iran and China. He may have a less pliant US Congress, following the Democratic takeover of the House last November, but the failure of the Mueller report to land the killer blow that many of his opponents hoped, combined with a strong domestic economy, mean that he is now a favourite to win the 2020 election.… Seguir leyendo »
On 3 and 4 June, Chatham House will host a major conference in partnership with the UN Association (UK), supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates and Open Society Foundations, to reflect on the lessons learned from the remarkable life of Kofi Annan, who served as UN secretary-general from 1997 to 2006 and passed away almost a year ago, on 18 August 2018.
The conference will fall on the same days as Donald Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom, which, though unplanned, brings into stark relief the ways in which current changes in international relations are affecting Kofi Annan’s legacy of UN-led multilateralism that Ban Ki-moon and now Antonio Guterres have carried forward.… Seguir leyendo »
The year 2018 will go down as the moment when the United States explicitly shifted from viewing China an awkward counterpart to a strategic competitor.
From the release of the National Security Strategy at the end of 2017 through Vice President Mike Pence’s speech on 4 October, to the administration’s imposition of 10 per cent tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese exports and its global campaign against Chinese tech giant Huawei, the Trump administration has made clear that it sees China as the number one threat to US interests and its longstanding global pre-eminence.
Importantly, their view is widely shared among both Republican and Democratic members of Congress, senior former officials in the Barack Obama and George W Bush administrations, labour unions and much of the US military.… Seguir leyendo »
Robin Niblett talks to Jason Naselli about the key fault lines between the US president and his allies, as President Trump heads to the NATO summit, a visit to the United Kingdom and a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Is NATO fit for purpose? This question has been around since the end of the Cold War, but with continuing disagreement over defence spending and burden-sharing, the alliance is appearing increasingly dysfunctional. What is the path forward?
The irony is that NATO is increasingly fit for purpose as a military alliance. But the political alliance it is meant to represent is being called ever more into question.… Seguir leyendo »
US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will severely degrade regional and global security. His decision has increased the risk of war and a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and beyond. He has undermined attempts to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons through multilateral diplomacy, as unilateral withdrawal equals non-compliance with a legally-binding UN Security Council resolution. This is a rejection of the UN as arbiter of international peace and security, as well as of international law as a lynchpin of international relations.
The steps that Europeans now take will have serious consequences for their alliance with the US, for security in the Middle East, as well as for their relations vis-à-vis China, Russia and the wider world.… Seguir leyendo »
For many who campaigned for Remain, the UK government’s offer last week to ‘maintain full alignment’ with those EU single market and customs rules that will avoid a hard border in Ireland re-opens the prospect of a ‘soft’ Brexit. The logic is that if Britain cannot remain in the EU, then the next best economic deal is to negotiate a way to remain inside the EU’s single market and customs union.
This may be true from an economic perspective. But a soft Brexit would be a bad political outcome.
Letting go of soft Brexit
A soft Brexit would undercut British sovereignty in ways that membership of the EU currently does not.… Seguir leyendo »
Theresa May’s failure to secure a stable majority on 8 June has deepened uncertainties around the sort of Brexit she will negotiate.
But – like it or not – 8 June 2017 did not invalidate 23 June 2016. The Conservatives campaigned to deliver Brexit and increased their share of the vote. Labour increased its share by an even larger margin, also with a commitment to follow through on Brexit. Part of the reason so many UKIP voters broke in Labour’s favour was because Jeremy Corbyn neutralized the Brexit question, allowing them to support his anti-austerity platform.
The claim that voters rejected May’s hard Brexit in favour of a soft option grossly over-interprets the vote while continuing to sow confusion about what leaving the EU actually means.… Seguir leyendo »
Prelude to a remarkable result
Theresa May was chosen by the Conservative Party last autumn to be the safe pair of hands that would navigate Britain through the difficult waters of Brexit. She had called yesterday’s snap election to seek a popular mandate to conduct the negotiation and to buy time to implement it thereafter. She had laid out the broad outlines of the UK’s negotiating position in her Lancaster House speech on 17 January and in her letter on 29 March to European Council President Donald Tusk.
Having made Brexit the rationale for the election, she nevertheless made no effort during the campaign to explain how she would manage the negotiation or what a successful deal would look like. … Seguir leyendo »
Beyond the negotiations with the EU, what do you think are going to be some of the biggest Brexit-related issues the British government will have to tackle over the next two years? What challenges might they face in Parliament?
The Brexit negotiation is going to unlock a series of internal political debates in the UK that the United Kingdom has not had to focus on since it has been an EU member. This will be part of ‘taking back control’, but taking back control also means reengaging in a domestic debate about potentially contentious issues.
A key element is passing the Great Repeal Bill, to be submitted on 30 March, where thousands of pieces of legislation which currently reside under the European Communities Act 1972 are brought over into domestic law.… Seguir leyendo »
Since the time of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, countries around the world have followed America and Britain’s economic example – privatizing, de-regulating and opening up their economies to foreign trade and investment, sometimes known as the ‘Anglo-Saxon model’.
Now, Britain’s vote to leave the EU and the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States signal the end of Anglo-American leadership of the global economy. Neither country will lead the economic liberalization of their regions or the wider world for the foreseeable future.
At their heart, the American and British votes revealed a powerful popular demand to regain control of their national economies.… Seguir leyendo »
The liberal international order has always depended on the idea of progress. Since 1945, Western policymakers have believed that open markets, democracy and individual human rights would gradually spread across the entire globe. Today, such hopes seem naïve.
In Asia, the rise of China threatens to challenge US military and economic hegemony. In the Middle East, the United States and its European allies have failed to guide the region toward a more liberal and peaceful future in the wake of the Arab Spring. And Russia’s geopolitical influence has reached heights unseen since the Cold War, as it attempts to roll back liberal advances around its periphery.… Seguir leyendo »
When pushed during this EU referendum campaign for a prediction on the result, I tended to conclude, however cautiously, that Remain would win a tight race. But I always ended with the warning that we are living in a ’Trumpy world’. Like most people, including most of those campaigning for the UK to leave the EU, my sense of the likely result turned out to be wrong and my warning correct.
An unexpected majority of British voters have overthrown not just Britain’s relationship with its European neighbours but the established political order in the UK, and, potentially, Europe. This result was as unexpected as Donald Trump taking the Republican presidential nomination.… Seguir leyendo »
The EU referendum debate is about more than the future of British sovereignty. It also concerns Britain’s future place in the world.
Many Britons stand instinctively apart from continental Europe, viewing EU membership as a temporary economic choice rather than as a long-term strategic benefit. Those who want Britain to leave argue that the trade-offs of being in the EU now outweigh the benefits, and that the world beyond Europe promises it a brighter and more secure future. But a stock-take of international developments and perspectives contradicts this narrative on two levels.
First, emerging markets across much of the world are in turmoil, from Brazil and Turkey to Indonesia and South Africa.… Seguir leyendo »