WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS
CONTENTS Trumping Trump? Little Chance: The New President and the Unilateral Imperative by Jack Greenberg '18 The Sleeping Giant Rises Understanding Chinaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Economic Present Through the Implications of Its Past by Jason Liu '20 The Classic Paper Liberal How Obama Camouflages a Realist Agenda with Liberal Rhetoric by Jake Rinaldi '20 Donald Trump, Russia, and Syria What Is to Come? by Korina Neveux '19 Nagorno-Karabakh Territorial Dispute and Frozen Conflict by Greg Steinhelper '17 Ukraine A Small State in the Shadow of Trump by Sarah Weiser '17 North Korean Alarmism Why It Is Against North Korean Interests to Attack the U.S. by David Han '19 The South China Sea and Trump Turning Toward the Beijing Consensus by Molly Bodurtha '17 Israeli-Palestinian Peace Prospects An Interview with David Makovsky and Ghaith Al-Omari by Henry Lu '19
06 08 11 14 16 19 22 24 28
BOARD OF EDITORS Editors-in-Chief Greg Steinhelper '17 Henry Lu '19
We are pleased to present the second issue of the Williams Journal of Foreign Affairs. Through our first issue in 2016, we aimed to increase student engagement with foreign policy issues. It is our hope that this second issue will continue to spark dialogue on campus about foreign affairs and encourage student participation in foreign policy-oriented opportunities. The theme of this issue is “Flashpoints.” The theme encompasses not only existing conflict zones around the world, but also areas where fighting could break out at any time. Articles in this issue cover topics including the ongoing war in Syria, rising tensions in the South China Sea, and oft-forgotten conflicts in the post-Soviet space. With the recent election in the United States, many articles also focus on changes accompanying the new administration. This journal would not have been possible without the support of the Stanley Kaplan Program in American Foreign Policy, Professor James McAllister, and Carrie Green, to whom we express our deepest gratitude. We also thank our writers and editorial team for their hard work and dedication in putting together this issue. We encourage you, our readers, to contribute to our subsequent issues (see the submission call on the back cover), and take advantage of the many other opportunities offered by the Kaplan program on campus. We hope you enjoy reading our second issue and, as always, we welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creative Director Angela Chan '19 Associate Editors Sarah Weiser '17 Korina Neveux '19 David Han '19 Article Contributors Jack Greenberg Trumping Trump? | 06 Jason Liu The Sleeping Giant Rises | 08 Jake Rinaldi The Classic Paper Liberal | 11 Korina Neveux Donald Trump, Russia, and Syria | 14 Greg Steinhelper Nagorno-Karabakh | 16 Sarah Weiser Ukraine | 19 David Han North Korean Alarmism | 22 Molly Bodurtha The South China Sea and Trump | 24 Henry Lu Israeli-Palestinian Peace Prospects | 28
Sincerely, Greg Steinhelper and Henry Lu, Editors-in-Chief
The Williams Journal of Foreign Affairs is published at least once a year, and previous editions can be found online on the Williams College website. The contents of this volume represent the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of the editors, the Journal, the Stanley Kaplan Program in American Foreign Policy, or Williams College. All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without the Stanley Kaplan Program in American Foreign Policy’s written consent.
A LETTER TO
THE READER 4
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Flashpoint: (noun) a place, event, or time at which trouble, such as violence or anger, flares up.
(Rageross @ Wikimedia Commons)
TRUMP? Little Chance: The New President and the Unilateral Imperative
ince George H.W. Bush’s removal from the Oval Office in 1993, exclusively foreign policy amateurs have sat behind the resolute desk and carried the responsibility to govern the nation through war and peace in an increasingly tumultuous global theater. The potential election of Hillary Clinton as president this past November presented an opportunity to break this cycle in allowing the country’s erstwhile top diplomat and a veteran of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee to become Commander-in-Chief. Instead, we ended up with the first leader of the free world to carry absolutely no public service experience on his resume. With the Syrian government having reclaimed Aleppo, the future of U.S.-Iranian relations post-nuclear deal remaining uncertain, the Islamic State continuing to pose a threat and Vladimir Putin unapologetically undermining the liberal world order, this paucity of direct insight is alarming enough. Yet what makes the next four years of American foreign policy especially disconcerting lies less in what Donald Trump lacks and more in the approach to leadership upon which he relies, a utilitarian calculus that prioritizes unpredictability and champions fealty but not loyalty. Any prognosticator who anticipates Trump’s advisers and functionaries serving an any effective check on his behavior-the very commentators who aggressively contemplate whether Secretary of Defense-ap-
pointee Ge. James “Mad Dog” Mattis or National Security Adviser-designate Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn will have a greater capacity to tip Trump’s ear1-simply maintains a limited understanding as to how Trump operates. Foreign policy neophytes who wind up working in the Oval Office have reliably brought in experienced operatives to compensate for what they cannot offer, even when there exists considerable rifts between the new commander-in-chief and the people he is hiring. The tradition finds its roots in Abraham Lincoln’s appointment of erstwhile enemy William Seward as Secretary of State; Honest Abe asserted in offering the nomination how “We need the strongest men of the party in the Cabinet... I had looked the party over and concluded that these were the very strongest men [and] I had no right to deprive the country of their services.”2 More recently, then-Sen. Barack Obama chose then-Sen. Joseph Biden as his running mate in the 2008 presidential election-a previous rival for the Democratic nomination-in an effort to bolster the foreign policy credentials of the ticket given Biden’s chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.3 Along the same lines, Obama asked Clinton to serve as Secretary of State, in spite of their fierce rivalry throughout the Democratic primaries, over closer allies like Gov. Bill Richardson whose thinking on foreign policy was more in line with his. In listening to the words of the team he built,
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS Obama demonstrated humility and a willingness to listen that championed internal harmony as a bedrock for effective policymaking.4 He sought a sounding board and found one. The president had little interest in elevating yes men. By contrast, Trump-despite his assertions regarding how he is “too trusting” and the claims of his First Lady as to how the Donald is “intensely loyal”5-has shown that he loves (indeed, expects) unquestioned loyalty from his subordinates but little tendency to reciprocate. The president dismissed two campaign managers during his bid for the presidency, removed Gov. Chris Christie as the chair of his transition team and declined to offer him-as well as other longtime Trump supporters like Fmr. Speaker Newt Gingrich and Fmr. Sen. Scott Brown-positions in the Cabinet. All the while, Trump named Gov. Mike Pence his running mate in spite of the former congressman’s support for Sen. Ted Cruz in the Republican primary and relying on RNC staffers who pushed back against his campaign tactics in 2016 to run his White House. The Trump advocate could cite all of this as evidence of Trump borrowing from Lincoln and Obama’s playbook; he is opting not to rely exclusively upon the people who got him this far and is branching out to former adversaries in the name of putting country first and, of course, making America great again. Yet this reflects an alarmingly superficial understanding of what constructing a team of rivals means. Whereas Lincoln and Obama valued oppositional perspectives and appreciated challenges to their views, Trump appreciates personnel only to the extent that they are useful to him and his aims. Christie was an appreciated lap dog throughout the campaign but, when the time came for Trump to govern, the Donald saw little value in keeping the scandal-ridden Christie around anymore. There would be no reward for his servitude. On the whole, Trump has no qualms about valuing anyone outside of his family in exclusively utilitarian terms. For those who find their demise as a result of this practice, their post-dismissal critiques of the administration can expect a barrage of Twitter attacks asserting their status as sore losers. Those who remain are those who serve needs down the road and, given how Trump himself likely has little sense of his long-term aims, there is little room for consistency in the maintenance of his personnel. He will proceed to drain his own swamp to his own delight. What makes this tendency especially problematic is how much of the “hope” for the Trump years rests in the institutionalized checks and balances of the American constitutional system, the idea not only that Congress and the Supreme Court will constrain his power but that his Republican colleagues will keep him in check as well.6 Bureaucratic autonomy and the sheer vastness of the American state have long
functioned effectively as checks on presidential power; there is simply too much to govern and too much nuance to comprehend in American government for the president to control “everything.” Trump is both too passive and disinterested to pursue a Nixonian level of oversight and micromanagement that undermines these forces, yet any moment in which the president discovers that some subordinate has acted contrary to his interests or an adviser expressed a differing opinion will open the window for staff dismissals that will go on for as long as Trump can find someone who will bend to his will. In a beltway filled with no dearth of self-interested, pow-
What makes the next four years of American foreign policy especially disconcerting lies less in what Donald Trump lacks and more in the approach to leadership upon which he relies, a utilitarian calculus that prioritizes unpredictability and champions fealty but not loyalty.
er-seeking egos, finding new appointees should not prove too difficult. The notion that Trump’s cabinet and advisers will serve as an effective check on his authority is a farce. American authoritarianism does not see the Old Executive Office Building, the Pentagon or any desks adjacent to the Oval Office as indomitable barriers. The other arrows in the quiver of checks and balances will have to do, lest they too prove futile in the age of Trump and leave impeachment as the only credible means left for keeping America safe in a dangerous world. To understand policy and strategic approaches in the new administration, look not to Rex Tillerson, Mad Dog Mattis or Michael Flynn; fix your eyes upon Trump. ∆
************************************************************************************************************** 1 Josh Rogin, “Mattis Clashing with Trump Transition Team over Pentagon Staffing,” Chicagotribune.com, last modified January 6, 2017, http://www.chicagotribune.com/ news/nationworld/ct-mattis-trump-transition-clash-20170106-story.html. 2 Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005), 319. 3 Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny, “Obama’s Pick Adds Foreign Expertise to Ticket,” Nytimes.com, last modified August 24, 2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/us/ politics/24veep.html. 4 Andrea Mitchell, “The Obama Doctrine: Listening, Not Just Talking,” Nbcnews.com, last modified April 23, 2009, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/30367801/ns/politics-white_ house/t/obama-doctrine-listening-not-just-talking/#.WHKd6GQrLPB. 5 Nick Gass, “Melania Trump: ‘Donald Is Intensely Loyal,’” Politico.com, last modified July 18, 2016, http://www.politico.com/story/2016/07/rnc-2016-melania-trump-225786. 6 Katherine Krueger, “Report: Trump Uses Chris Christie as ‘Manservant’ to Fetch His McDonald’s,” Talkingpointsmemo.com, last modified June 13, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/trump-chris-christie-manservant-mcdonalds.
Understanding China’s Economic Present Through the Implications of Its Past
apoleon’s prescient words on China bring with them an alluring idea that China’s recent rise to prominence was perhaps predestined; President Xi Jinping himself evoked the phrase during a state visit to Paris.1 Accurately attributed or not, this quote represents a deep understanding and respect for the lessons history holds in understanding the past and predicting the future. After all, Napoleon lived in what we now know as one of the lowest points of Chinese economic history, during the Industrial Revolution, when the divergence between Europe and Asia became starkly clear.2 In this sense, it is unsurprising that Napoleon’s view of China as a “sleeping giant” resembles a narrative that permeates contemporary economic literature, including Brandt et al., Pomeranz, and Ma; namely, the narrative that China’s staggering economic growth since 1976 is an ‘awakening’ of the enormous potentiality in the Chinese economy, an adaptation to the disruption of the Industrial Revolution, and perhaps even a return its past role as what Robert Allen called “the world’s greatest manufacturing country.”3 This paper will then argue that the historical processes and continuities of economic strength and weakness from Chinese history-such as economic decentralization and a legacy of education and entrepreneurship-thus informs the current state of the Chinese economy: a gradual transition from ‘catching up’ to the industrialized world through low-
cost manufacturing and resource extraction to carving its own path of sustained growth in the service, financial, technology, and advanced manufacturing sectors. Yet, China’s movement from a process of growth driven by reallocation and development of the non-state economy to one that is more focused on innovation and human capital represents a dramatic shift in strategy, the justification for which is less clear.4 China’s meteoric rise over the past four decades is nothing less than remarkable; having lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and now on track to become the world’s largest economy within decades, Brandt et al. noted that even the ambitious Chinese policymakers were astonished by the scope of their success.5 Yet, the Deng-led reforms of the 1970s, largely credited for this, were deeply unconventional in a comparative context, achieving substantial, persistent growth with virtually no retreat from its authoritarian political system and maintaining strong state control over financial resources and institutions.6 Simply put, why abandon what seems to be a winning strategy? The answer lies in the underlying patterns of the Chinese economy; persistent historical continuities that can be found within a broader view of Chinese economic history. The economic state of pre-Industrial Revolution China is most convincingly outlined by Broadberry, as he finds China’s per capita wealth on parity (or even surpassing) Europe
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS in the Middle Ages.7,8 Yet, by 1500-1600, the per capita GDP gap had diverged significantly between China and Holland, already too great to corrected for by regional variations.9 This conclusion is further supported by Allen, who finds the subsistence ratio of working-class wages in 1700-1785 Britain to be 3-4 times higher than in Beijing.10 In understanding the causes of this ‘Great Divergence’, however, Brandt et al. raise the important question of why 1870-1910 China, enjoying many of the same advantages in international flows of trade and investment, a stable regime, and fertile new territories in Manchuria, did not undergo the same dramatic growth and industrialization that Europe did after the Industrial Revolution; instead, China did not see such benefits until after the 1976 Communist Party free-market reforms.11 A promising framework to understanding the underlying processes of the Chinese economy is presented by the proponents of institutional economic theory, including Acemoglu and Allen, and most clearly laid out by Brandt et al. Their specific analysis of the “deeply embedded political [structures,] economic institutions,” and cultural factors that drove strong growth and innovation in early Chinese history (most notably in the Song and Yuan dynasties) but some of which would become constraints on the Chinese economy during the Industrial Revolution, preventing it from achieving modern economic growth until the late 20th century.12 The factors behind the modern economic growth are the result of a significant divergence from historical continuities. China’s recent economic boom finds its roots after the 1949 establishment of the Communist People’s Republic of China, and most notably after the aggressive 1976 pursuit of market-based reforms by the Deng-led governments. These changes represented remarkable departures from the historical model, in the form of clear long-term visions and objectives; the state capacity to carry out those visions; and a careful, measured opening to international trade.13 These reforms amounted to a fundamental yet gradual change in the Chinese economy through what Qian referred to as “a path-dependent evolutionary process.” In other words, the incrementalism of the transition to markets, along with the simultaneous centralization of political power, ensured the continuing political stability crucial for growth, thus avoiding less successful paths of reform such as Gorbachev’s perestroika.14 In this sense, the reform was more effective due to its ability to produce fewer ‘losers’, as Acemoglu would suggest. In most cases those who would lose political power as markets were liberalized-a large group of low-level local bureaucrats and cronies-were rewarded with the opportunity for wealth and economic success. However, the economic success following the Deng-era reforms should also be credited to the historical continuities that became beneficial legacies in the modern period. For
one thing, as Perkins wrote, the “Chinese…had not forgotten how to trade or run a small business,” noting the persistence of entrepreneurial and education-focused human capital legacies that represented “stock[s] of knowledge transmitted from generation to generation.” This specific advantage resembled a belated equivalent of Allen’s argument for British highly-skilled apprenticeship-trained workers as the key factor allowing the Industrial Revolution to capture innovations from the Enlightenment.15 Through factors like human capital and skill, Brandt et al., as well as Pomeranz outline the roots of today’s Chinese economy its similarities with the past. Notable among the similarities are a politically centralized authoritarian system (especially power structure similarities between the PRC and in the imperial Qing dynasty); economic decentralization and local experimentation (e.g. township and village enterprises, as well as the Shenzhen and Xiamen Special Economic Zones); a history of self-reinforcing patronage along with stark economic inequality; and, as mentioned earlier, a legacy of education and entrepreneurship (as manifested in a history of ‘meritocratic’ civil-service examinations and a “historic abundance of small-time entrepreneurs” from rural markets).16 To fully capture China’s institutional benefits endowed by history, Chinese policymakers must do more, and as a result the current institutional paradigm finds itself at a crossroads. As the Chinese economy becomes more efficient in its market allocations and continues to develop its growing private sector, it will face a diminishing possibility for growth in this manner. Soresletten and Zilibotti (2014) developed a model that indicates this critical point, backed somewhat by
China’s meteoric rise over the past four decades is nothing less than remarkable; having lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty... even the ambitious Chinese policymakers were astonished by the scope of their success. the recent slowdown of growth in the Chinese economy.17 It is true that there are institutional factors that still inhibit growth, such as inefficiencies in the state-owned enterprise (SOE) system, the difficulty of avoiding corruption (which by one estimate accounted for 30-40 percent of outlays on public construction), as well as the heavy-handed and potentially damaging central influence on markets such as finance or steel.18 Moreover, demographic changes and the increasing cost of environmental damage may severely impact the economy in the long run.19 These challenges certainly pose strong threats to the continuing growth of the Chinese economy. However, they may be less catastrophic than suggested; after all, similar concerns were raised by well-informed observers in the 90s such as Norton (1995) or Lardy (1998), who wrote of “an almost certain path to a lower pace of economic
growth.”20 These writers, however, have underestimated the strength of historical endowments to the Chinese economy; further reforms-such as in 1993 regarding state-owned enterprises-have proven that the Chinese economy is still capable of growth, even in the face of the late 1990s financial crisis and the 2008 recession.21 Taking into account both the long-term trends and the recent reforms, the Chinese economy may need to pivot to a domestically innovative high human-capital generator of growth; Allen (2014) referred to this as “the technology challenge switch[ing] from replication to innovation.”22 To a certain extent, this trend is already taking place in parts of China, aided by China’s historical advantages. One prominent example is the success of a decentralized, experimental system for drivers of economic growth, such as in the Shenzhen SEZ. Demuth documents the rapid pace of technological hardware innovation in Shenzhen that demonstrates the success of this model; one engineer describes a rapid prototyping process that is 10 times faster in Shenzhen than in London or San Francisco. Moreover, showrooms of domestic firms show an incredible diversity of consumer products, some of which appear in US and European markets 3-4 years later.23 Demuth credits this swift pace of innovation to a more lax interpretation of intellectual property laws and engineering regulations both legally and culturally; and he emphasizes that “a new generation of young people wanting to be innovators, like their parents were”-suggesting a historical legacy that promotes growth today. Storesletten and Zilibotti (2014) also note the move from technology transfer to recent large investments in R&D and education, demonstrating that research investment (as share of GDP) and patent filings in China are on par with the EU, and approaching the US.24 Moreover, the recent increase in innovation seems to be at least partially driven by a quickly expanding domestic market, the result of a growing middle class willing to spend on durable goods. This expansion is a good sign, as it resembles the Japanese post-war consumer model, characterized by growing demand for high-value-added technologically-advanced goods. Despite the difficulties it faces, if China is able to successfully follow the examples set by innovation-driven
economies such as the United States and Japan, while taking full advantages of its unique institutional and cultural historical benefits, the path forward for China may be a bright one.25 ∆ ************************************************************************************************************** 1 Vasudevan Sridharan, “China, The Sleeping Lion has Woken Up, Says Xi Jinping,” International Business Times (2014) http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/china-sleeping-lion-haswoken-says-xi-jinping-1442415 2 Stephen Broadberry, “Accounting for the Great Divergence,” Mimeo (2015), Loren Brandt et al. “From Divergence to Convergence: Reevaluating the History Behind China’s Economic Boom,” Journal of Economic Literature (2014) 3 Robert C. Allen, “The Spread of Manufacturing,” The Cambridge History of Capitalism, vol. 2 (2014) Debin Ma, “Why Japan, not China, was the First to Develop in East Asia: Lessons from Sericulture,” Economic Development and Cultural Change (2004) 4 Kjetil Storesletten and Fabrizio Zilibotti, “China’s Great Convergence and Beyond,” Annual Review of Economics (2014), Brandt et al., 2014 5 Brandt et al., 2014 6 Brandt et al., 2014, Allen, 2014,. Yingyi Qian, “The Process of China’s Market Transition (1978-1998): The Evolutionary, Historical, and Comparative Perspectives,” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (2000) 7 Broadberry, 2015, p.11 8 Jean-Laurent Rosenthal and R. Bin Wong, Before and Beyond Divergence: The Politics of Economic Change in China and Europe (2011) 9 Broadberry, 2015, p.11 10 Robert C. Allen, “Why the Industrial Revolution was British: Commerce, Induced Invention, and the Scientific Revolution,” Economic History Review (2011), p.362 This topic, however, is subject to much debate – largely between traditionalists, who posit a Great Divergence with beginnings in the late medieval and early modern period, and the revisionists, or ‘California School’ historians (Kenneth Pomeranz, R. Bin Wong, and others), who largely argue that the strength of the Chinese economy circa. 1400-1800 demonstrates similar living standards and/or economic structures to Western Europe at the time. 11 Brandt et al., 2014 Pomeranz (2001) attributes this ‘Great Divergence’ and initial industrialization in Britain as the result of resource advantages in access to coal locally and land-intensive goods through its colonies, an argument that has been largely refuted by the empirical data. Ken Pomeranz, “Is There an East Asian Development Path? Long-Term Comparisons, Constraints, and Continuities.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient (2001) 12 Daron Acemoglu, “Root Causes: A Historical Approach to Assessing the Role of Institutions in Economic Development,” Finance and Development (2003) 13 Brandt et al., 2014 14 Qian, 2000. 15 Perkins 1995, quoted by Brandt et al., 2014, Allen, 2011 16 Brandt et al., 2014, Pomeranz, 2001 17 Soresletten and Zilibotti, 2014 18 Brandt et al., 2014 19 Soresletten and Zillibotti, 2014 20 Norton, 1995, Lardy, 1998, quoted by Brandt et al., 2014, p.112 21 It is worth noting that China’s outsized state capacity and influence in financial markets was likely the primary reason for China’s quick recovery from the financial crises; Brandt et al. described a “V-shaped recovery” post-2008 as the state ordered banks to inject substantial loans towards public and private infrastructure projects – a stimulus package comparable to the US in dollar value, but for an economy that was at the time a third of the size. Critics have, however, noted the long-term debt problem that has resulted largely from this ambitious plan. 22 Allen, 2014, p.46 23 Jim Demuth, “Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware,” WIRED Video (2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGJ5cZnoodY 24 Storesletten and Zilibotti, 2014 25 Tom Nicholas, “The Origins of Japanese Technological Modernization,” Explorations in Economic History (2011)
Chinese factory workers at an electronics manufacturing facility. (ubhistory429.blogspot.ca)
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS
LIBERAL How Obama Camouflages a Realist Agenda with Liberal Rhetoric
ao Zedong used the phrase “paper tiger” to condemn swaths of his enemies-most notably the United States-as opponents that outwardly emanated power, but nonetheless were ineffectual. In the same way, President Obama might be considered a “paper liberal,” as he camouflages an internally realist agenda with malleable liberal rhetoric. For the purposes of this essay, the liberal policy agenda encompasses decisions that are induced by a belief that leaders “are on the side of angels and their opponents are aligned with the devil.”1 Realism is a pragmatic approach that only concerns itself with the idea of material power. President Obama’s responses to global threats to American hegemony are two-pronged: calculated retreat from leadership in the Middle East, as well as greater penetration in East Asia. Obama’s subsequent pivot towards East Asia, change in Middle East policy, and fluid interpretation of the Sino-US relationship are concrete indicators that the President’s foreign policy is based in realist theory. The U.S. has historically involved itself in Middle Eastern affairs in the name of democracy, Judeo-Christian brotherhood, and stopping tyrants with nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. In the Middle East and North Africa, President Obama questions America’s traditional allies, resists blind humanitarian involvement, and consistently promotes a policy of multilateralism in an effort to shift away from the
region.2 The President’s line of thinking is a clear divergence from past presidencies, with the former indicative of a liberal foreign policy agenda, and the latter demonstrating a realist foreign policy. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is neither an organized political unit nor a sovereign entity, and thus does not fulfill the basic definition of statehood. These shortcomings add to Obama’s realist justification for non-involvement, as well as his conclusion that “ISIS is not an existential threat to the United States.”3 The President’s opponents levy criticism on him for not disposing of ISIS with all that America’s military has to offer. However, if ISIS does not present a threat to the United States, a realist would wonder why soldiers and dollars should be directed towards such an entity. Obama, as a realist, is suspicious of both allies and foes. John Mearsheimer in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics beautifully articulates this tendency for states to be suspicious of one another: “for every neck, there are two hands to choke it.”4 This innately realist tendency to be suspicious of every nation is more of a general “attitude” rather than a strict standard of policy.5 Obama himself questions whether our Sunni allies embolden anti-American terrorists in their countries.6 The realist in Obama reasonably asks if the Saudis could be aiding and abetting terrorists in order to covertly weaken American power. By the same token, the President
has publicly distanced himself from the State of Israel-a traditional Judeo-Christian ally. The realist in Obama worries that the Israelis, particularly President Netanyahu, could be attempting to weaken the President’s international and
or else. Ultimately, realism is “interest defined in terms of power.”7 The President attempted to pragmatically conserve American power in this situation. Although the President would come to regret issuing an ultimatum to Assad, that rhetoric fits Mearsheimer’s assessment that American politicians must accommodate the “moralism that pervades much of American society.”8 Insofar as the President utilizes liberal rhetoric to cater to American concepts of morality, this strategy reflects innate tendencies of realism. As a classic “paper liberal” in the Syrian Crisis, Obama used rhetoric in two ways: he placed an insignificant amount of America’s credibility at risk by betting that an ultimatum from the President of the United States would be enough to deter the Syrian regime, and he backed off of this commitment by consigning the blame for this loss of credibility to Congress.9 At the end of the day, Obama used Russia as a mediator to rid Assad of his chemical weapons, thus eliminating any existential threat the weapons could have posed to US foreign military installations or American allies. A realist thinks in terms of power, and Obama used very little materiel power in order to achieve his ultimate goal. Obama’s official departure from the status quo in Middle Eastern affairs has come under the auspices of an “anti-free rider campaign.”10 Multilateralism is a strategy that the President uses to lessen the burden for the U.S. military in instances that do not threaten American security. If a coalition of countries is sharing the military burden in any given situation, then the United States will have conserved lives, equipment, and money that would have otherwise been used in a unilateral operation. For instance, when a popular revolt took hold of the Libyan people to dispose of their dictator,
The President has shown that he is apt to levy criticism on allied nations when they deserve it, and that he is flexible in dealing with nations that are traditionally seen as enemies in the liberal playbook. domestic influence. This fluidity in reevaluating our relationships in the region culminated into a nuclear rapprochement with Iran. The Iran Deal was a policy designed to quell Iran’s nuclear program, thus limiting a rival’s power in the region. The President has shown that he is apt to levy criticism on allied nations when they deserve it, and that he is flexible in dealing with nations that are traditionally seen as enemies in the liberal playbook. This fluidity is consistent with American security interests, therefore aligning with a realist agenda. Barack Obama has demonstrated realism even in isolated instances in the Middle East. The President made the pragmatic choice of not entering the Syrian conflict after Assad used sarin gas on civilians in Ghouta. Many will argue that by doing so Obama weakened America’s credibility within the international community; that not using military force when it was previously implied was a sign of indecisive leadership. A realist would ask how Syrian chemical weapons constitute a threat to the American people. In a calculated attempt to change the outcome of a regional crisis without using American materiel, the President gave Assad an ultimatum: do not use chemical weapons against your own people,
Obama meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. (Washington Post)
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS
President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (The Federalist)
Muammar Qaddafi, President Obama compelled our allies in Europe and the Middle East to take charge of the situation. The President contends, as a realist would, that “sometimes we’re going to get what we want precisely because we are sharing in the agenda.”11 This is clearly a realist argument in the face of liberal criticism that America should never lead from behind. The President is aware that China is developing the potential to become a true force on the global stage. China projects its military and economic strength in its immediate periphery, and is beginning to project that strength internationally. The PRC also invests billions of dollars in African and South American infrastructure, presumably to gain influence in the developing world. The Chinese government likewise exports its ideology through thousands of government-sponsored Confucius Institutes. Perhaps most visibly, China props up an unruly and dangerous regime in North Korea. What does that mean for the inner realist living inside Barack Obama? For now, Obama’s policy towards China is fluid. On the one hand, Obama believes that a bipolar world with a peaceful China is ideal, in that China can share “the burdens and responsibilities of maintaining a world order.”12 Yet, China also behaves in a frighteningly similar way to pre-1938 Nazi Germany with nationalistic rhetoric internally and increasingly asserting its security claims internationally.13 Realism emphasizes an uncertainty of intentions; Barack Obama does not know what motivates the Chinese to act the way they do. The President is prepared to cooperate in a peaceful, bipolar world. However, the President is also prepared to respond militarily if the need arises. This preparation demonstrates the realist tendency to worry “more about the costs of acting and failing.”14
Obama recognizes that in Asia, America projects itself much farther than the coastlines of Okinawa and Guam. However, instances that the President has influenced China internally do not necessarily fit within the realist paradigm. For example, Obama has met with the Dalai Lama, a figure seen as subversive by the Chinese government. Although these types of actions are important to note, policies like this are negligible in comparison to Obama’s realist tendencies. As an example, the Obama administration publicly offered the Republic of China an arms deal worth billions of dollars. Propping up a Taiwanese government is an incredibly realist posture for the President to take, insofar as its further threatens China’s immediate security. Ultimately, Obama’s realist policies are the central mechanism that he uses in dealing with fluid power struggles around the globe. ∆ ************************************************************************************************************** 1 John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001), p. 22. 2 Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine,” The Atlantic Monthly (April 2016), p. 82. 3 Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine,” The Atlantic Monthly (April 2016), p. 77. 4 John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001), p. 31. 5 Richard K. Betts, “The Realist Persuasion,” The National Interest (September/October 2015) p. 47. 6 Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine,” The Atlantic Monthly (April 2016), p. 79. 7 Hans J. Morgenthau, “Six Principles of Political Realism,” in Robert J. Art and Robert Jervis, ed. International Politics: Enduring Concepts and Contemporary Issues, 12th ed. (New York: Pearson, 2014), 20. 8 John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001), p. 22. 9 Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine,” The Atlantic Monthly (April 2016), p. 75. 10 Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine,” The Atlantic Monthly (April 2016), p. 78. 11 Ibid. 12 Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Obama Doctrine,” The Atlantic Monthly (April 2016), p. 88. 13 Richard K. Betts, “The Realist Persuasion,” The National Interest (September/October 2015) p. 49. 14 Ibid, p. 48.
DONALD TRUMP, RUSSIA,
&SYRIA What Is to Come?
n November 8th of 2016, millions of people around the world were shocked at the results of the United States presidential election. Donald Trump had secured the win over Hillary Clinton-a feat thought improbable by many. With Trump being named the new U.S. President, his stance on certain policies-specifically foreign policy issues-is being thrown into the spotlight. One of the most important questions regarding his foreign policy concerns the United States’ relationship with Russia. The tone Trump sets with Russia may determine the role of the two powers in Syria and the fate of the Syrian people. Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to restore relations between the United States and Russia. Of course, there is no way to know for sure what Trump will decide to do; however, one can anticipate that we will see increased cooperation between the U.S. and Russia. Donald Trump has a more domestic, America-first focus, but he is also interested in partnerships with other countries-particularly Russia. Trump sees the role of the United States government as securing the best interest of the American people but he has maintained that his next priority is to create positive relationships with other nations. In his victory speech, Trump announced that he wanted “to tell the world community that while we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone,
with everyone-all people and all other nations. We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.” This mindset-particularly applied to U.S.-Russia relations-could potentially change what the United States does in Syria. So how will Trump go about patching up the broken relationship between Russia and the U.S.? There are multiple ways in which Trump may approach this issue, however, we can really only examine these motivations and predict the potential actions of Trump on the surface-level due to the lack of any background in policy decision-making on Trump’s part. Something that garnered some controversy was Trump’s implication that he would discontinue support of certain NATO allies to the United States if they did not “fulfill their obligations to us.” The United States contributes much of the money for NATO, while most countries do not even come close to matching the amount. Due to this imbalance, Trump wants to see a better “division of labor” amongst NATO allies, and until he sees that it is safe to say that he will publicly question the importance of NATO to our country’s well-being. In an interview with CNN, Trump said that “Frankly, they have to put up more money... We are paying disproportionately. It’s too much, and frankly it’s a different world than it was when we originally conceived of the idea.” This lack of enthusiasm for NATO, of course, is good news for U.S.-Russia relations; the United States stepping
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS back from NATO a bit would essentially be playing into the desires and objectives of Russia-Trump is aware of this. In addition, there is a chance that Trump will slowly start to end certain sanctions-placed by Obama-against Russia due to the Crimean crisis. Mareike Aden, a German reporter, asked Trump in July of 2016 if he would “recognize Crimea as Russian and lift sanctions on Moscow imposed after its 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian territory,” to which he replied “Yes. We would be looking at that.” Trump-who is a better-known businessman than politician-is sure to take a more business-like approach to this. This means that one can expect him to lift sanctions that negatively impact American businesses or urge the EU to lift sanctions that specifically target Russia’s economy. However, something that may get in the way of Trump’s desire to become more friendly with Russia is the fact that many political actors in Washington simply do not want to work with Russia, or improve relations for that matter. Trump, despite his repeated intentions to reconcile with Russia, may have a more difficult time than he presumes. So what can we expect to see in Syria if Trump does manage to improve the United States’ relationship with Russia? It is clear that Trump sees the real enemy of the U.S. as ISIS, so if his desire to work with Russia is fulfilled, it is possible that the two nations will cooperate in pursuit of peace and stability in Syria and in an attempt to defeat ISIS as well as other rebel groups or anti-Assad groups. Trump has said that he “has a secret plan to defeat the Islamic State” on multiple occasions. He claimed during a speech in Iowa that: “ISIS is making a tremendous amount of money because they have certain oil camps, certain areas of oil that they took away... They have some in Syria, some in Iraq. I would bomb the s--- out of ‘em. I would just bomb those suckers. That’s right. I’d blow up the pipes. . . I’d blow up every single inch. There would be nothing left. And you know what, you’ll get Exxon to come in there and in two months, you ever see these guys, how good they are, the great oil companies? They’ll rebuild that sucker, brand new-it’ll be beautiful.” Obviously, Trump has tried to make it clear that he is set on defeating ISIS, despite the fact that he has yet to release a clear plan to the public. It will be interesting to see what actions Trump will take-if any-against ISIS. If he does decide to approach ISIS in a more offensive manner than his predecessors, then it can be expected that Russia will be right behind him. Russia has successfully targeted many ISIS positions in the Middle East, and the U.S. has targeted a few ISIS positions as well. Both the United States and Russia seem to have a similar goal in the Middle East in terms of defeating ISIS, however, the nations’ differing views on the Assad regime have kept tensions between the two superpowers fresh. In light of Trump being elected, Assad has called him a “natural ally” due to Trump’s passion to defeat
ISIS and work with Russia-an ally to the Assad regime-in doing so. However, it is too early to tell what kind of impact a rekindled relationship between the United States and Russia will have on the potential of the Assad Regime and the U.S. becoming allies. In terms of the Syrian Refugee Crisis, it is much too early to make any concrete predictions, however, it would be safe to say that the amount of refugees allowed
Donald Trump's mindset-particularly applied to U.S.-Russia relations-could potentially change what the United States does in Syria. into the United States would decrease substantially under the Trump Administration seeing as though he has called for “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” in the past. So what does all of this mean? Improving U.S.-Russian relations is at the top of Donald Trump’s list of priorities. How these improved relations will impact how the United States acts in Syria is hard to say, especially considering that Trump’s words often do not translate into actions. Therefore, we cannot be completely sure what is to come in the next four years under the Trump Administration; we can continue to guess, but in the end we will have to simply wait and see. ∆ ************************************************************************************************************** “Trump warns that by attacking Assad, US will ‘end up fighting Russia’.” Russia Today. November 12, 2016. “Here’s how Trump’s election will affect U.S.-Russian relations.” The Washington Post. November 10, 2016. Gass, Nick and Eli Stokols, Phil Angelides, Tara Haelle, Michael Kruse, and Rich Lowry. “Full text: Donald Trump 2016 RNC draft speech transcript.” POLITICO. July 21, 2016. “Transcript: Donald Trump’s Victory Speech.” The New York Times. November 09, 2016. Chan, Sewell. “Donald Trump’s Remarks Rattle NATO Allies and Stoke Debate on Cost Sharing.” The New York Times. July 21, 2016. Matthews, Owen. “Donald Trump’s Russia dilemma.” Newsweek. November 22, 2016. Chiang, Lulu. “High hopes in Russia that Trump will ease trade sanctions.” CBS News. November 14, 2016. Calamur, Krishnadev . “Donald Trump’s Crimean Gambit.” The Atlantic. July 27, 2016. Accessed January 14, 2017. Bobic, Igor. “Donald Trump Has A Plan To Defeat ISIS. No, He Doesn’t. Wait, He Does...” The Huffington Post. September 07, 2016. Engel, Pamela. “DONALD TRUMP: ‘I would bomb the s--- out of ’ ISIS.” Business Insider. November 13, 2015. “A year of Russian anti-ISIS ops in Syria: 5 key milestones.” Russia Today International. September 30, 2016. Cooper, Helene, and Eric Schmitt. “Syrian President Calls Donald Trump a ‘Natural Ally’ in Fight Against Terrorism.” The New York Times. November 16, 2016. Simmons, Ann M. “What Trump’s presidency could mean for refugees, foreign aid and women’s rights abroad.” Los Angeles Times. November 22, 2016. Collinson, Stephen. “Five candidates make closing arguments on CNN.” CNN. March 22, 2016.
Territorial Dispute and Frozen Conflict
espite being known as a frozen conflict, fighting over the breakaway republic of Nagorno-Karabakh has recently flared up and retains the potential to reignite at any moment. During four days of fighting in April 2016, the armed forces of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia, and Azerbaijan suffered “at least 200 casualties,” according to The Washington Post.1 What sets the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute apart from other frozen conflicts in the post-Soviet space, such as those in Donbass, South Ossetia, or Transnistria, is Russia’s role as a true third party rather than as a belligerent or direct supporter of one side. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict shows how the action or inaction of third parties can be crucial in the development of conflicts. History and Situation: The Caucasus is a region of the world that, although situated between areas considered strategically important to the United States (Russia and the Middle East), garners little popular attention. Some Americans may remember that Chechnya sits within the Russian North Caucasus, especially after the Boston Marathon bombing, and a few may remember a 2008 war between Russia and the country of Georgia in the South Caucasus. But very few will remember that Armenia and Azerbaijan, the other two countries in the South Caucasus, fought using combined arms warfare in the early 1990s that resulted in over 20,000 dead
soldiers between the two sides.2 That war remains politically unresolved. The two sides continue to dispute Nagorno-Karabakh’s status and Armenia occupies land previously held by Azerbaijan. Explanations for the conflict differ depending on whom you ask. Azerbaijan maintains that it has simply sought to defend its territorial integrity. However, according to Armenia, “Azeri authorities organized massacres and ethnic cleansing of the Armenian population on the entire territory of Azerbaijan” in response to the Nagorno-Karabakh population’s request for self-determination.3 Armenia therefore presents itself as the defender of the rights of Nagorno-Karabakh’s people. Students of international relations will recognize this conflict as potentially representative of the problem that arises from a collision between a people’s right to self-determination and a nation-state’s sovereignty. And in a world that nominally accepts international law but frequently lives by the will of the strong, a nation-state’s hard power will often overcome the rights claimed by a people. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia has acted as the primary arms supplier for both the Armenian and Azerbaijani armed forces. Both sides, especially Armenia, complain that Russia provides this aid in an imbalanced way. Magdalena Grono of the International Crisis Group (ICG) writes that although official Azerbaijani announce-
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS ment regarding their defense budget indicate it heavily outweighs Armenia’s due to Azerbaijan’s fossil fuel income, the tactical positioning of Armenian forces in “strategic heights” has “rendered the overall imbalance less acute.”4 Furthermore, recent Armenian purchases of anti-air and anti-tank weaponry could, according to John Daly of The Jamestown Foundation, “largely negate Azerbaijan’s previous tactical aerial and armor battlefield superiority.”5 Therefore, while some researchers have suggested Azerbaijan has in recent years possessed a substantive military advantage, especially in armor, artillery, and airpower, that advantage has likely given way to a roughly re-established military balance since the outbreak in April. Recent Developments: The conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh clearly has little international visibility, concerns difficult conceptual political questions, and features concrete military issues due to Russia’s role as a supplier of arms. However, those factors have not changed significantly since the fall of the Soviet Union. Nonetheless, according to Grono of ICG, armed conflict around Nagorno-Karabakh has increased in both frequency and intensity since the summer of 2013.6 Furthermore, as previously mentioned, the most severe violence occurred over four days in April of 2016. In ICG’s full report on Nagorno-Karabakh, the April fighting is described as a major Azerbaijani offensive that avoided entering the internationally recognized borders of Armenia, instead focusing on the capture of “a number of strategically important heights,”7 thereby working to erode that Armenian advantage which serves to help equalize the military situation in the face of greater Azerbaijani military spending. Thanks to international pressure, primarily coming from Western Europe and Russia, the fighting stopped only days after it began, returning Nagorno-Karabakh to the normal state of affairs-repeated ceasefire violations on both sides. The recent fighting in April could have occurred because Azerbaijan might have considered itself in a position to make tactical gains before the recent Armenian arms purchases, announced in mid-March, became fully operational. It pays to note, as former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Kauzlarich told The National Interest, that “there is no difference between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,” at least in terms of their armed forces. However, the ICG report asserts that the Armenian military “did not formally intervene to support the NK army, though many Armenian conscripts serve in it, and there are close links between the two militaries.”8 Researchers have concluded that while the separatist military of Nagorno-Karabakh is in some ways independent of the Armenian Armed Forces, direct connections exist and Armenian troops have deployed to Nagorno-Karabakh in the past.9 Nonetheless, Armenia’s ability to deny direct involvement in some actions taken by the military of Nagorno-Karabakh serves as a reminder that interactions and negotiations
between both sides involves both formal and informal relationships that cloud command and control and make concrete agreements more difficult to reach. Since April, the situation around Nagorno-Karabakh has remained relatively calm. However, minor events continue to punctuate the conflict. On November 13, the press secretary for Nagorno-Karabakh’s Defense Ministry told Russian state-run media that they are prepared to show evidence of Azerbaijan’s shelling of NK positions.10 The Defense Ministry similarly noted that between November 12 and 13, Azerbaijan broke the ceasefire 60 times, using weaponry that included 60 mm mortars and RPG rounds, though such
The ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict gives Russia increased leverage over all parties involved. announcements are not entirely out of the ordinary.11 While there is no sign that fighting will soon reach the levels of the April outbreak or the war of the early 1990s, there is similarly no sign that a lasting political settlement will be reached anytime soon. Moreover, with Azerbaijan’s progress potentially upsetting the balance of forces in the area, another offensive could be in the works. A piecemeal or salami-slicing strategy, wherein Azerbaijan would seize small amounts of territory, each piece too small to provoke escalation past what was seen in April, could over a long period of time accumulate enough territory to result in a much more formidable Azerbaijani strategic position. Prospects for Lasting Peace: Seeing as both the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents have affirmed that a military solution to the conflict is unacceptable, are there any prospects for a lasting political settlement?12 The OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) Minsk Group concerns itself with the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and is co-chaired by Russia, the U.S., and France, with its additional permanent members consisting of Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Finland, Belarus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. The OSCE Minsk Group has been meeting since 1992, and while it has served a positive role in helping cool-down intermittent escalations, officials have observed little substantive progress in recent meetings and negotiations. Revealingly, in November, a high-ranking Azerbaijani official in the presidential administration remarked that the OSCE Minsk Group talks have brought no meaningful results.13 While the OSCE’s Minsk Group certainly does good work, as an international organization it is unlikely to serve as the foundation for a lasting peace, though it could be the conduit by which pressure from regional powers manifests. The U.S. and France have less credible leverage in the area than do Russia and Turkey, who are the third parties to the conflict most likely to have the ability to make a difference in
Nagorno-Karabakh. Turkey has historically backed Azerbaijan, while Russia holds closer ties to Armenia (despite selling arms to Azerbaijan). Nonetheless, this year’s rapprochement between Russian and Turkey could lead to cooperation between the two greater powers regarding Nagorno-Karabakh. Some place their hopes for a resolution to this dispute on the shoulders of Russia. The 2016 Russian Foreign Policy Concept, the guiding document for the country’s foreign policy, featured a section expressing Russia’s continued wish to help normalize and settle various territorial disagreements in the post-Soviet space, including the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.14 The inclusion of this priority was received positively by Azerbaijan.15 While this might appear a hopeful sign, nearly the same wording was present in the 2013 Russian Foreign Policy Concept,16 indicating Russian policy or effort is unlikely to substantively change. After all, Russian policymakers appear to find advantage in frozen conflicts in the near abroad, and in this case, the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict gives Russia increased leverage over all parties involved. Amidst an air of nationalism on both sides, where domestic power, especially after the recent April fighting, is connected with the outcome or process of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Russia’s place as arms supplier, arbiter, and potential intervener give it leverage over both Azerbaijan and Armenia. Perhaps the most crucial problem for a lasting peace is trading out a win-lose scenario for a win-win scenario. Either Armenia must give up territory it effectively controls, or Azerbaijan (moreover, its domestic leaders) must accept an ideological defeat in giving up the claim to the disputed areas. While negotiations could curtail the two fears outlined above, the crux of the issue will remain, and since military realities oftentimes inform political negotiations, the incentives remain for both sides, particularly Azerbaijan, to launch further attacks. Because Russia is not a belligerent or supporter of just a single side in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, the prospects for peace might seem brighter for Nagorno-Karabakh than in places like Donbass or South Ossetia. However, Russia’s role as a third-party arms supplier to both sides effectively
prevents a military end to the conflict, while in its role as international mediator Russia has failed to apply sufficient pressure on both parties to produce a political settlement. In many ways, the breakup of the Soviet Union precipitated or allowed for territorial disputes between its constituent parts. And despite Russia’s continued proclamation that it will guarantee peace in the post-Soviet space, the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute and other conflicts in the region show Russia’s lack of will or inability to follow through on that commitment-or both. ∆ ************************************************************************************************************** 1 Nina Caspersen, “Will there be peace in Nagorno-Karabakh? Two things stand in the way,” The Washington Post, May 31, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/05/31/nagorno-karabakhs-frozen-conflict-has-two-big-obstacles-toa-peaceful-solution/?utm_term=.649033203518. 2 Thomas de Waal, Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War, (New York: New York University Press, 2003). 3 “Nagorno Karabakh Republic: History and Current Reality,” President of the Republic of Armenia, accessed Nov 21, 2016, http://www.president.am/en/karabakh-nkr/. 4 Magdalena Grono, “What’s Behind the Flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh?” International Crisis Group, Apr 3, 2016, http://blog.crisisgroup.org/europe-central-asia/2016/04/03/ whats-behind-the-flare-up-in-nagorno-karabakh/. 5 John C.K. Daly, “Russia Proclaims ‘Parity’ in Arms Sales to Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Jamestown Foundation, Apr 12, 2016, https://jamestown.org/ program/russia-proclaims-parity-in-arms-sales-to-armenia-and-azerbaijan/. 6 Magdalena Grono, “What’s Behind the Flare-up in Nagorno-Karabakh?” 7 International Crisis Group, “Nagorno-Karabakh: New Opening, or More Peril?”, July 4, 2016, 2. 8 Ibid., 3. 9 Ron Synovitz, “’Open Secret’: Experts Cast Doubt on Yerevan’s Claims Over Nagorno-Karabakh,” RFE/RL, Apr 5, 2016, http://www.rferl.org/a/armenia-nagorno-karabakh-army-synergy/27656532.html. 10 «Минобороны НКР готово доказать минометные обстрелы со стороны Азербайджана» RIA, Nov 13, 2016, https://ria.ru/world/20161113/1481262076.html. 11 «Минобороны непризнанного Карабаха заявило о 60 нарушениях перемирия за ночь» RIA, Nov 13, 2016, https://ria.ru/world/20161113/1481259271.html. 12 “Conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh May Escalate at Any Moment,” Sputnik International, Dec 8, 2016, https://sputniknews.com/politics/201612081048319890-karabakh-conflict-escalation/. 13 “OSCE Minsk Group Fails to Promote Nagorno-Karabakh Settlement,” Sputnik International, Nov 30, 2016, https://sputniknews.com/politics/201611301048018539-osce-karabakh-settlement/. 14 «Концеипция внешней политики Российской Федерации», Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Dec 1, 2016, http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/official_documents/-/asset_publisher/CptICkB6BZ29/content/id/2542248?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_CptICkB6BZ29&_101_INSTANCE_CptICkB6BZ29_languageId=ru_RU. 15 “Baku Welcomes Russian Foreign Policy Concept’s Focus on Karabakh Settlement,” Sputnik International, Dec 2, 2016, https://sputniknews.com/ politics/201612021048108285-azerbaijan-karabakh-settlement/. 16 «Концеипция внешней политики Российской Федерации», Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Feb 18, 2013, http://www.mid.ru/en/foreign_policy/ official_documents/-/asset_publisher/CptICkB6BZ29/ content/id/122186?p_p_id=101_INSTANCE_CptICkB6BZ29&_101_INSTANCE_CptICkB6BZ29_languageId=ru_RU.
This map outlines the basics of the conflict and shows the territory held by each side at the end of 1994, which remains largely unchanged. (Clevelander, Wikimedia Commons)
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS
A Small State in the Shadow of Trump
bservers of the crisis in Ukraine frequently assign massive importance to the fate of the small Eastern European state. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in the spring of 2014, many maintain, represents a threat to Europe, to the Western World, and to the very international order that has framed geopolitics for the better part of a century. Russian revisionism pushes back against this U.S.-dominated status quo. The United States, as a consequence, is now at a pivotal moment in its global strategy: does it defend the sovereignty of small states? Does it possess the will and means to deter revisionist powers? Is it willing to sacrifice a calm, if cold, peace with Russia to defend its vision of collective defense? The current administration has certainly struggled with these questions. President Obama, while an advocate of targeted, small-scale interventions using special forces and drone strikes, is wary of unbridled engagement overseas. The legacy of the Iraq War casts a looming shadow over his foreign policy, and his famous mantra of “don’t do stupid shit” appears to be staying his hand with respect to the seizure of Crimea. Despite giving lip service to the importance of international law, condemning Russian adventurism, and (still unsuccessful) economic sanctions against the Putin regime, President Obama falls short of the providing the kind of aid-that means lethal aid-that traditionally comprises
collective defense. The consequences of this ambiguity cannot be understated. The United States’ response to the crisis in Ukraine may decide whether great power politics steamroll over the entire liberal international order. The new ingredient to this confusing mess, of course, is president-elect Donald Trump. His foreign policy aims are as confused and eccentric as one might expect, and Ukraine should fear this uncertainty. The president-elect shows little interest in the wellbeing of Ukraine, if not outright ignorance as to its current predicament. In a campaign interview with George Stephanopoulos, Trump promised that Russia would not invade Ukraine, seemingly unaware that the occupation of Crimea began two years prior.1 In another interview, he suggested that “[t]he people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”2 Such comments should not encourage Ukrainians that the future leader of the free world has their interests in mind. On the eve of Trump’s stunning victory, former ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul commented that Ukraine was “the biggest loser in the world tonight.”3 Trump’s apparent disinterest in Ukraine is in keeping with his America-first platform. Besides promises to “wipe out” ISIS, Trump has otherwise expressed a restrained outlook on U.S. intervention and has even raised the hopes of some experts that his administration will be guided by a
new form of realist foreign policy. Trump’s stance on trade and immigration, furthermore, reflects a desire to withdraw the United States from the international system, to reject globalist ideology in favor of policy that prioritizes Amer-
the administration of President D. Trump.”5 The Russian leader and the American leader-to-be undeniably share a similar style; both espouse gendered language of power in reference both to their own leadership and to the status of their respective countries; both rely heavily on tactics of intimidation and disinformation; and both appear to value power and popularity over human rights. Trump’s pick of the Russophilic former CEO of Exxon, Rex Tillerson, further suggests that the incoming administration will pivot towards a Russian regime that the Obama administration flatly condemns. Such a pivot would certainly benefit Putin’s government. Ambassador McFaul argued that “while Trump has defined his top objective as ‘getting along with the Kremlin,’ Putin has higher goals including the lifting of economic sanctions and, ideally, U.S. recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.”6 The president-elect’s vague praises, in other words, may come attached to very real geopolitical shifts that jeopardize the territorial integrity of Russia’s neighbors. Ukraine should also be afraid of Trump’s stance on Syria. The latter conflict undeniably garners more press and attention among the American public. While heartbreaking images from Aleppo and the refugee crisis flood social media and network news, the conflict in Ukraine generates relatively little interest. The constant labeling of ISIS as an existential threat to America, furthermore, interests American lawmakers and citizens far more than a war in distant corner of Eastern Europe. Trump’s own rhetoric, too, suggests a far greater political will to resolve the conflict in Syria than that in Ukraine. Given this imbalance, as well as Trump’s cozy relationship with the Putin regime, it is not unreasonable to imagine that Ukraine will become a bargaining chip for
This small country is the canary in a coalmine as the world undergoes massive geopolitical shifts. ican opportunity and prosperity. His lack of enthusiasm for NATO and criticism of free-riding NATO allies, for example, raise concerns that the president-elect will abandon the organization and effectively dismantle the most powerful counterweight to Russian influence in Europe.4 If his administration follows through on this kneejerk reaction to globalization, then the United States will be in no position to defend the international order that it has dominated since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. When the U.S. and its allies retreat from the global stage, there will be no watchdog to defend the interests of small states. Further obscuring the future of American global leadership is Trump’s storybook romance with Vladimir Putin. Despite intelligence reports confirming Russian interference in the 2016 election, for example, Trump praises the Russian leader and, in doing so, opens up the possibility of a U.S.-Russian rapprochement under the incoming administration. Putin is “brushing off ” President Obama’s reaction to the hacking scandal-which includes sanctions on Russian spy agencies and expulsion of Russian diplomats-in preparation for a new status quo under Trump; Putin justified his lack of action by explaining that the Russian government would act “based on the policies that will be carried out by
Donald Trump sits down with NBC's George Stephanopoulos. In an interview in July of 2017, Trump revealed to Stephanopolous his unawareness of key aspects of the crisis in Ukraine. (Politico)
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS
A mural in Lithuania shows Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin kissing, satirizing the apparently warm relationship between the two leaders. (Petras Malukas)
the United States and be “thrown under the bus” as Trump’s government pivots towards Russia.7 U.S. lawmakers may well cede Crimea to Russia. As long as Syria remains the world’s most volatile conflict, after all, Ukraine will never be a priority for the United States. While that imbalance was implied under President Obama, it may become a tangible reality under President Trump. Ceding Crimea, many experts fear, represents a form of appeasement to an increasingly aggressive Russia. By refusing to defend Ukraine’s claims to its own territory, the United States would effectively write Putin a blank check to chip away further at the post-Soviet space. A United States unwilling to sacrifice its relationship with Russia is no friend to the small states that occupy that space. The possibility of an informal alliance between Trump and Putin thus threatens to replace the status-quo, which is at least nominally based on some concept of multilateral consensus and international law, with a rise of great power politics. As the language of liberalism and globalism retreat from popular consciousness across the world, powerful countries will have freer reign to pursue their own agendas independently of international opinion. In the words of Michael Noonan, China and Russia “seem inclined to revise the terms and conditions of the international system in their neck of the woods by a very different set of rules than by which the U.S. is playing in regards to trying to maintain the status quo of the system.”8 Allowing “revisions” to the status quo to go unchecked, as is occurring in Eastern Europe and in the South China sea, “will continue a perception that there are no costs to be paid for playing by the new rules of the system and others will start to mimic such actions when they feel that they can.”9 Nobody should be surprised
if 2017 turns out to be a banner year for great powers and the start of a dangerous era for the small states that surround them. Ukraine may be small and the world may forget about its struggle, but its fate is hugely important to U.S. security interests and the entire international system on which those interests depend. This small country is a canary in a coalmine as the world undergoes massive geopolitical shifts. The allegiances and priorities of the world’s great powers are in flux, as are their bargaining chips. The fate of our international system and the future of small states, therefore, may be decided in Ukraine. ∆ ************************************************************************************************************** 1 Sanger, David E. and Maggie Haberman. “Donald Trump Gives Questionable Explanation of Events in Ukraine.” The New York Times (2016): n. pag. Web. 2 Buncombe, Andrew. “Henry Kissinger has ‘advised Donald Trump to accept’ Crimea as part of Russia.” The Independent (2016): n. pag. Web. 3 Walker, Shaun. “’It’s a Pretty Disturbing Time for Ukraine’: Trump’s Russia Ties Unnerve Kiev.” The Guardian (2016): n. pag. Web. 4 Calamur, Krishnadev. “NATO Shmato?” The Atlantic (2016): n. pag. Web. 5 Lederman, Josh. “Russia, Brushing off Obama, Looks to Friendlier Donald Trump”. The Washington Post (2016): n. pag. Web. 6 Lederman, Josh. “Russia, Brushing off Obama, Looks to Friendlier Donald Trump”. The Washington Post (2016): n. pag. Web. 7 Walker, Shaun. “’It’s a Pretty Disturbing Time for Ukraine’: Trump’s Russia Ties Unnerve Kiev.” The Guardian (2016): n. pag. Web. 8 Noonan, Michael P. “The Revenge of Great Power Politics.” U.S. News and World Report (2014): n. pag. Web. 9 Noonan, Michael P. “The Revenge of Great Power Politics.” U.S. News and World Report (2014): n. pag. Web.
Why It Is Against North Korean Interests to Attack the U.S.
ergei Lankov recalls in his book The Real North Korea that a Vietnamese diplomat had to convince his American and European audience that “Vietnam” wasn’t a war but a country. In that vein, “North Korea” (henceforth, DPRK) is a nuclear bomb to many Americans. Since the end of WWII, the DPRK has been perceived in the US as a threat from the spread of communism, the Korean War, multiple power transfers, and the nuclear weapons program. The Korean Armistice Agreement halted the Korean War indefinitely in 1953, but the two nations remain in a state of perpetual hostility. To this day, many worry about hostile policies of both sides that might push the two nations to war. In the past, the DPRK was just a troublesome rogue nation that had to be dealt with, but recently, its threat to South Korea and the US has become significantly more palpable. For example, there have been multiple instances when tensions between the Koreas ran high, most notably the Second Battle of Yeongpyong in 2002 and the ROKS Cheonan sinking1 in 2010, in which a total of 52 South Koreans were killed. More pertinent to the US, the DPRK has been actively developing its missiles systems by shooting up satellites into space and parading the new but not-yet-tested KN-14, an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that is said to be
able to reach the continental US. And most importantly, in 2016, the DPRK tested its 5th nuclear bomb. The perceived threat is so great that the Council on Foreign Relations named the DPRK a “High-Priority Threat to America” for much of the 2010’s. While the North Korean capacity to inflict harm to the US is certainly unnerving, the level to which it is inflated is alarmist. By looking at the DPRK’s anthropology, ideology, and strategy, I argue that the Korean Peninsula isn’t the flashpoint many perceive it to be. The first reason for this is anthropological. North and South Korea are different politically, economically, and socially, but North and South Koreans are the same people and have a long shared history. In Kim Jung Il’s 1946 speech to the Inaugural Congress of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, he lamented that South Korean workers, laborers, and peasants are deprived of their rights, imperialized, and oppressed by the US military. Kim implied that the North’s enemy isn’t the people of the South but their government and the American imperialists. This speech reaffirmed the ethnic similarities of North and South Koreans. Today, 70 years later, this understanding persists, with North Korean propagandas claiming that “Korea is one,” not separated.Even for Kim Jung Un, it would be politically dangerous to launch a nuclear attack against South Korea. After all, killing his own brothers and sisters held hostage by the Americans would be counter-
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS productive. But more so than that, taking over a leveled Seoul stripped of any economic capabilities or infrastructure would make the nuclear war a pyrrhic victory. The second reason is ideological. Even today, the DPRK functions by the Kim Il Sung’s ideology of Juche. According to Lankov, children spend more time learning about Juche than receiving an actual education. Juche is a complex ideology that has seen its share of change over the years. In a nutshell, however, it consists of three parts: “independence in politics, self-sufficiency in the economy and self-reliance in national defense.” Simply put, the Kim regime wants to be left alone by foreign powers to pursue its own domestic policies designed to maintain the status quo. In essence, Juche exists for the Kim regime’s self-preservation. The third reason is strategic. Based on such a strong desire for self-preservation and an ideology dedicated to that goal, the Kim regime’s nuclear program makes perfect sense despite its astronomical financial, economic, and political costs. Strategically, nuclear weapons work in a heavily asymmetrical way that even a small, weak nation like the DPRK can wreak havoc on a big, powerful hegemon like the United States. The ability to inflict such a devastating blow regardless of the size of the nation is what makes nuclear warfare so asymmetric. Thus, this weapon is the DPRK’s primary-if not only-deterrence against a South Korean or American invasion and attack. It is also a critical bargaining chip in matters of humanitarian aid or political concessions. For the Kim regime, this is the strategic importance of nuclear weapons, the reason why those astronomical costs could be justified. Their nuclear program is an efficient means to an end. Armed with several nuclear weapons, the DPRK does indeed seem like a serious threat to the US, with or without an ICBM. Even without a complex missile delivery system, they could ship and detonate a dirty bomb on the coast of San Francisco or Los Angeles. So, why doesn’t Kim Jong Un do this already? Simple: mutually assured destruction (MAD). The DPRK is far from the only nation with nuclear deterrents. Of the nine nuclear nations, the US is one of them. The US possesses enough nuclear weapons to level
what little infrastructure the DPRK has a thousand times over (hyperbolically, though probably true). If somehow successful ICBMs are built, Kim would likely be able to target major cities on the continental US. But this is a big if, as carrying out attacks of this nature requires the testing and production of functional ICBMs, avoiding the detection of such giant launching platforms by US spy satellites (which can lead to preemptive strikes by the US), successfully producing a miniaturized nuclear bomb to fit atop the ICBMs, successfully launching it, evading the soon-
Juche exists for the Kim regime’s self-preservation. to-be deployed South Korean Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system, penetrating the entire US missile defense systems, and zeroing in on the target cities. Even without the logistical difficulties, the Kim regime knows the risk a nuclear attack would have on its self-preservation and will not do anything to jeopardize it. Any form of an attack on Seoul would merit a heavy-handed response back from the US. The death of nearly 30,000 US military personnel and civilians working in the Seoul, after all, would call for a response against the DPRK, whether nuclear or conventional. It is true that conventional weapons are not nearly as destructive as nuclear weapons, but the US can carry out surgical strikes to take out key North Korean targets that would debilitate the country. Regardless of the type of response, a US response would be swift and deadly. The Kim regime understands the consequences of such an attack, and fearing its own survival, would not attempt such an attack. The Korean Peninsula has been the host to many unpleasant threats to the US and her allies. With the nuclear program and the development of new missile technologies, the North Korean threat seems to signal impending doom. However, based on the ultimate goals of the Kim regime, it seems counterintuitive for the DPRK to launch a nuclear (or conventional) attack against South Korea or the US as it would receive a volley of various explosives in response. ∆
************************************************************************************************************** It is uncertain who fired the torpedo that sunk ROKS Cheonan, but evidence strongly points toward North Korea. This incident was a source of intense public mourning and outrage in South Korea. 1
North Korean propaganda in support of one Korea. ( Joelle Nguyen)
&TRUMP Turning Toward the Beijing Consensus
his past summer saw the mounting of multinational tension in and over the South China Sea. As one of the most trafficked, valuable, and resource-rich sea lanes in the world, the South China Sea, used to transport one third of the world’s shipped goods, is of critical importance not only to contiguous states, but to states the world over with marginal investments in Asia. This past summer, we witnessed unprecedented and escalating levels of antagonism and aggressive, military-backed action on the parts of many of the states with competing interests in the disputed waters, as China brazenly continued to limit freedom of navigation in the area and to pursue territorial and military developments on the Spratlys, Paracels, and Scarborough Shoal. The tension culminated in July, when the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled China’s actions in the South China Sea were illegal under international law, in favor of the Philippines. The primary states involved included China, Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. However, this past summer, Chinese propaganda targeted the U.S., a state with less of a direct (i.e. legitimate) geopolitical stake in the regional waters. Even though China and the Philippines were the parties to the legal battle, the major parties conducting naval exercises and flaunting military and diplomatic assertiveness in the Sea were the U.S. and
China. Each of these two nations seemed most concerned in securing their own desirable outcome. Why was the relatively restrained Obama Administration so invested in securing a positive outcome to such a marginal conflict? What was at stake for the United States and for China? I hold that the South China Sea was a key battleground, the outcome of which became a shrewd indicator of which nation will command more respect for its interests and more of an audience into the 21st century. The July 12th ruling by the PCA and its aftermath was historic because it concretely demonstrated China’s ambitions to be – if it is not already – a regional hegemonic power with global influence. What we witnessed this past summer was China’s first steps in asserting and affirming the Beijing Consensus. Coined in 2004 by China scholar and journalist Joshua Cooper Ramo, the “Beijing Consensus,” signifies an alternative to the “Washington Consensus,” the neoliberal world order and development model which has been envisioned and enacted by the U.S. in its role as supreme world power since end of World War II.1 The Beijing Consensus signifies a modified world order. It denotes the authority of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as an exemplar to other nations and the larger legitimacy and relevance of the PRC’s values and institutions in a global context. It also implies that Beijing necessarily has an audience, that the international community must listen
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS to the PRC and, to some degree, respect its interests. It is a challenge to the notion of the Washington Consensus, and we saw hints of it this summer. So what, concretely speaking, was at stake for China in the conflict? What could be gained? How could a turn in the power dynamics of the South China Sea affect the strength of the Washington Consensus, the way the U.S. commands respect and power abroad? How is control over this one body of water capable of redirecting authority to Beijing? For an increasingly confident China, the South China Sea is the arena in which the “peacefully rising”2 country would win regional prestige and economic sway, even more than it has already achieved, not to mention coercive influence over any state the world over with business passing through the seas. As China seeks to develop an economic, political, and military sphere of influence in the Asia-Pacific, much like the U.S. did in the Western hemisphere, the South China Sea presents an excellent strategic opportunity to whomever possesses ultimate, authoritative control of its waters. Beyond capitalizing on the Sea’s rich oil reserves and other natural resources, China’s aims in claiming and building up the land-like features in those waters, which are dispersed across the Sea, are to eventually claim exclusive sovereignty over the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extending off the coast of each island. This is a right to which they would be entitled if and only if the Hague Court deemed the Spratlys, the Paracels, or the Scarborough Shoal to meet the international legal definition of habitable islands. If the Hague’s Court deemed the contested features to be proper “islands” entitled to the EEZ, rather than merely “rocks”, and if China’s claims to sovereignty over those fea-
tures were legitimated, then China would have virtual control of the entire South China Sea. If China were to legally and militarily control the South China Sea, they would effectively have leverage over every country that relies on the critical trade route, both states within and outside of Asia. For example, Japan is the staunchest U.S. ally in the region and, in many ways, the balance to Chinese power in Asia. In a post-Fukushima era, Japan critically relies on an oil tanker reaching its shores every six hours, lest its light go
With a Trump presidency looming, the likelihood of the U.S. paying due attention to this key strategic battleground, let alone of the U.S. brokering a mutually beneficial solution to the contested area, will plummet. out. It imports 94% of its energy supply.3 Thus, if China were to limit freedom of passage for Japanese commercial vessels, such action could escalate very quickly from a simple act of national “self-determination” within what China claims to be its territorial waters to an outright act of war against an energy-dependent Japan and its citizens. Having ultimate control of the waters of the South China Sea—what can pass through and what can’t—gives China de facto control of much of the economic, political, and military affairs of the region and an uncontestable sphere of influence in Asia. If China has an operative EEZ extending from each feature and spanning across the Sea, they would necessarily be a party at the negotiation table to any discussion of what can and can’t happen in, across, or through those waters. Commerce or other activity in the region would eventually only happen at the discretion and with the permission of the Chinese authorities.
China's claims in the South and East China Sea extend as far off of its coast as the red 'Nine-Dash Line', which China claims demarcates its historically sovereign territory. (NPR)
With a Trump presidency looming, the likelihood of the U.S. paying due attention to this key strategic battleground, let alone of the U.S. brokering a mutually beneficial solution to the contested area, will plummet. This only increases the chances that Beijing will capitalize on this opportunity and expand its global influence and control, while decreasing the chances that Washington can do anything to prevent the emergence of the Beijing Consensus. The Beijing Consensus has been emerging and increasingly affirmed in cultural and economic arenas too. In recent years, China established the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a counterpart and competitor to the like-minded Western institutions of the Japanese-led Asian Development Bank and the US-led World Bank. These financial institutions could not, on their own, fund all the infrastructure projects Asia critically needs. In late June, the AIIB announced that its first bundle of development projects, amounting to $509 million in funds, would target improving living conditions, roads, and electrical power grids in Indonesia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Bangladesh — Central, as well as Southeast, Asia. China also brought “24-hour Chinese TV and radio broadcasting stations to Southeast Asia, increased aid to Asian countries, [made] steps to attract international students and promote the study of Chinese language,” especially through establishing hundreds of Confucian Institutes worldwide.4 Under Xi Jinping, China has also laid down over one trillion dollars in establishing greater economic connectivity to Central Asia in a project Beijing calls “The Silk Road,” in a spin-off that adheres to the same form and rationale of the ancient trade route. As a foreign policy moniker that emphasizes economic attractiveness and cultural expansiveness, “The Silk Road,” in fact, could be used to summarize President Xi’s general grand strategy. China’s strong and growing regional
The Silk Road plan, advanced by Xi Jinping's administration, will invest heavily in infrastructure so as to build greater economic and cultural connectivity between China and Central Asia. (The Economist)
influence even precipitated the Obama Administration’s reactionary (and critically late) policy of the “Pivot to Asia.” Aside from China’s regional soft power expansion, China has made itself more known as a source of capital and knowledge in other areas of the world, such as Central Asia, Latin America, South America, Russia, Australia, and Africa, through foreign direct investment (FDI) from the Chinese government and private Chinese citizens and corporations. Journalist Howard W. French, whose research focuses on Chinese investment and presence in Africa, makes the case that “China has gone from being a vessel to becoming an increasingly transformative actor in its own right. Indeed, it is rapidly emerging as the most important agent of economic change in broad swaths of the world.”5 President Xi Jinping’s first overseas state visit was a tour to a few African countries, which underscores the strategic importance of the capital, aid, and economic agreements China has been proliferating in Africa, as well as the way China sees itself as a leader and beacon for much of the developing world. As French identifies, in 2012 China’s trade with Africa totaled 200 billion USD. At the turn of the century, China’s trade with Africa was one-twentieth of that amount. In the past decade, more than a million Chinese nationals emigrated to various sub-Saharan African nations to spearhead investment in various sectors. French observes, “Chinese banks, construction companies, and other enterprises...roam the planet nowadays in search of outlets for their money and goods, for business and markets, and for the raw materials needed to sustain China’s rapid growth”6 As the United States had to turn its attention and dollars away from regions such as South America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa, with its attention swiftly diverted to its own financial recessions and the Middle East after 2001, China has been able to invest more and, thus, command more influence in these regions.
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS As the U.S. began to neglect many areas, China has begun to buy up influence (and even, United Nations votes) in these key regions. With the developments in the South China Sea, China is projecting not only its soft power, but also its hard power beyond its borders. Its military build-ups on the Spratlys, the Paracels, the Scarborough Shoal and its blockage of the commercial, civilian, and military vessels of other nations are manifestations of China’s increasing and unprecedented usage of direct, hard coercion over neighboring states. Since the Hague ruling, the legitimacy of which China vehemently contests, China has defiantly continued to illegally arrest commercial vessels “trespassing” in its waters it claims and to build up the mid-ocean features deemed by the PCA to, ultimately, be nothing more than rocks or reefs. Altogether, this suggests that in the future China will only be more willing to and capable of influencing and shaping the global world order it seeks through hard, enforceable means. Even with a U.S. President such as Obama who understands the high stakes of subtle power dynamics in Asia, the U.S. has not been able to counteract China’s growing and seemingly ineluctable influence. Initiatives such as the impotent Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a failed trade agreement between the U.S. and China’s neighbors that excludes China, belie the American anxiety of China’s growing leverage and primacy in the region. China’s response to these exclusionary projects has been to establish its own separate organizations and institutions. China is becoming capable of not perpetually answering to U.S. interests, as well as writing its own rules for the international system. As French writes, “China is reinventing globalization in its own image, gradually jettisoning many of the norms and conventions used by the United States and Europe throughout their long and hitherto unchallenged tutelage of the Third World.”7 Indeed, the Beijing Consensus is solidified by the fact that China, as a nation insisting upon its equal rights to the Westphalian ideas of sovereignty and unfettered self-determination, has become a role model to many developing or less-developed nations seeking to increase their leverage over Western superpowers and to possess more autonomy. China possesses the material conditions and innovative capabilities to contend with other industrialized, developed superpowers and to provide aid to other less-developed countries. However, China also shares with many developing nations a history of colonization and brutalization by industrialized super powers, Great Britain during the Opium Wars and Japan during the Sino-Japanese Wars. This makes China (at least, for the time being) a more relatable and trustworthy alternative global authority to many developing nations. China has allured as many partnerships as it tends to alienate, even with its upsetting human rights record and weak concept of “rule of law”. It would be foolish for the U.S.
to continue pursuing policies that sanction and exclude China, policies that refuse to acknowledge the growing international coalition of nations who seek divergence from American formulae. It would be foolish to renounce an American seat at the negotiation table. Given the likelihood of the Trump administration’s ineptitude, including its presumption of the “paper tiger’s” willingness to concede, and the likeli-
China is becoming capable of not perpetually answering to U.S. interests, as well as writing its own rules for the international system. hood of the consistent, pragmatic progress China will forge in the time of his presidency, Americans need to recognize and contend with the fact that there is a new consensus, one that will supersede the old. With China’s expanding global capacity and the diminishing of American global reach and appeal, China will start to fill the role America once played in the world. The shift towards the Beijing Consensus will likely continue well into and beyond the Trump era. With these challenges in mind, American policymakers should hold close the approach utilized in the case of China’s aggression in the South China Sea. It was along the right track, even if it was not wholly or immediately effective. The American argument and strategy was based not on power politics, but on equality of nations before the law and the subordination of states to universal principles of cooperative existence. It reinforced the idea that China, however powerful it may become, will eventually have to obey international laws and norms, that it will have to keep increasingly justify its actions as it reaches beyond its borders, maybe not to the U.S., but to its partners and followers, whoever they may be. Only if it obeys rule of law, will it be able to maintain any consensus. It won’t have to do so because there is a more powerful nation to enforce its compliance, but because doing so is simply in China’s interests, if it seeks to be a reliable, attractive partner – for trade, investment, security initiatives, what have you – to all nations, not only the United States. ∆ ************************************************************************************************************** 1 Ramo, Joshua Coooper. “The Beijing Consensus.” 2004. The Foreign Policy Centre. 2 The term originates in the propaganda campaigns through which the Chinese government has tried to portray its meteoric rise strictly in terms of positive economic development, rather than in terms of a zero-sum threat to other superpowers. The original phrase in Mandarin is “heping jueqi” (和平崛起), or to “peacefully rise to prominence.” 3 U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Japan is the Second Largest Net Importer of Fossil Fuels in the World,” 2013 http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=13711 4 Cho, Young Nam. “China’s Soft Power: Discussions, Resources, and Prospects”. Asian Survey (2008), 48(3) p. 454 5 French, Howard. China’s Second Continent. Penguin Random House. 2014. p.5 6 French, Howard. China’s Second Continent. Penguin Random House. 2014. p.4 7 French, Howard. China’s Second Continent. Penguin Random House. 2014. p.4
An Interview with David Makovsky and Ghaith Al-Omari
Henry Lu David Makovsky is the Director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Makovsky served on Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiating team during the 2013–2014 Israeli-Palestinian talks. Makovsky is also an adjunct professor in Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
Ghaith Al-Omari is the former Executive Director of the American Task Force on Palestine and currently a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute. Al-Omari served as advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team throughout the permanent status negotiations (1999–2001) in Camp David and Taba. He was previously Director of the International Relations Department in the Office of the Palestinian President.
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS
he Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been overshadowed by tumultuous events in the Middle East following the Arab Spring in 2011. However, tectonic shifts brought about by the region’s recent upheavals are in turn impacting Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects. This joint interview with David Makovsky and Ghaith Al-Omari, originally published in Fox & Hedgehog on September 30, 2016, explores the impact of these regional changes, and also discusses the effect of recent developments with elections in Palestine and the United States, the $38 billion American aid package to Israel, and the Iran nuclear deal.
Ghaith Al-Omari, you worked in the Camp David negotiations that Bill Clinton held in 2000. Interestingly enough, Jeffrey Goldberg from the Atlantic recently speculated that perhaps Bill Clinton could come back to have second chance at the peace process in a Hillary Clinton administration. In the event of a Hillary Clinton presidency, what early moves would you hope to see from her administration? O: To be honest, I would like her not to rush into a big peace process before things are ready on the ground. I don’t want to see an envoy, I don’t want to see a summit, I don’t want to see any of these things. I want the administration to focus on practical things on the ground that are achievable and that can shift the public mood of both Palestinians and Israelis to get to a point where we could have big diplomacy. Don’t rush into a big diplomacy, but at the same time do not abandon the issue. Find the happy medium at which progress can be made, given what is possible today.
Earlier this month, the Palestinian High Court suspended preparations for what could be the first local Palestinian elections in a decade to cover both the West Bank and Gaza. How important is this election and what kind of impact could it have on the peace process? Ghaith Al-Omari (O): It gives me no pleasure to say that more than a month ago, I wrote a piece that predicted that the elections would be cancelled. Elections could not have happened when you continued to have separation between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas would not allow PA-oriented candidates to run in Gaza, and the PA would not allow Hamas-oriented candidates to run in the West Bank. So that unfortunately is not going to happen. That said though, without the election it is very hard to re-legitimize Palestinian governing structures, when you have the president in the eleventh year of a four-year term and when you have parliament in the tenth year of a four-year term. There are no legitimate institutions right now, which makes it very hard to move towards peace. Therefore, domestic Palestinian reform is key. Unfortunately for the time being, where the split between Fatah and Hamas continues, I don’t see elections happening any time soon. Another important election, of course, is the U.S. presidential election. David Makovsky, you worked on Secretary Kerry’s 2013-2014 Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. If Hillary Clinton is elected, what kind of differences might you see in her administration’s approach compared to that of President Obama? David Makovsky (M): On one hand, it’s hard to gauge with certainty. This is a region that has a lot of issues: the war in Syria, the war with ISIS, all the problems of Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. It’s hard for me to imagine that you will dive into this by doing another Camp David, go for broke, summit. I tend to think she will want to see what is possible to move this conflict along, to maintain the viability of a two-state solution, even if she doesn’t go for broke in trying to do a high stakes summit. I think it’s more caution, but I don’t think she will give up on this issue. She will look for what maintains the viability of two states now, so I do think she is going to engage on this issue but not in a go for broke kind of way.
David Makovsky, you mentioned that Syria, ISIS, and other issues have taken a foreground in the Middle East. How did that impact the 2013-2014 negotiations, and how might it impact the peace process now? M: The ISIS issue really shot to prominence more in the summer of 2013 with the beheadings of journalists and things like that. It was not really a factor in our talks at all. The Secretary of State was very determined, he wanted support from the president to move it forward. I would argue that on one hand the regional dynamic did not crowd out this issue at all, but I do think it had an impact certainly on the way that Israel looked at security issues. Ever since the 2011 Arab Spring and backlash, with a sense that the tectonic plates in the Middle East were shifting, that this was a volcanic area, certainly the idea for Israel of removing its soldiers was a leap into the unknown at a time when the region is unstable. Taken as a whole, the ISIS issue had an impact: I don’t think crowded it out the Palestinian issue, which rose and fell in that regards on its own, but certainly the uncertainty over the direction of the region, the greater instability, greater insecurity, was a factor in Israel saying don’t pull out Israeli security amid heightened turbulence. The Iran nuclear deal brought major changes to the regional landscape. Some argue that it’s stalling rebuilding efforts in Gaza, while others say it’s bringing the Arabs and Israelis closer together. On the whole, what is the impact of the Iran nuclear deal on the peace process? O: First of all, the deal itself undeniably has pushed back the Iranian’s ability to have a nuclear weapon by a significant amount. Yet a number of things in the deal made the regional situation more complicated. One, the U.S. traditional allies, the Gulf Arab states and Israel, felt that this was a deal that was done behind their backs, and felt almost betrayed. But also after the deal, Iran has started playing a very aggressive role in the region. They are involved in the Syrian war, Iraq
for all intents and purposes, Yemen, Bahrain, eastern Saudi Arabia. It created a sense of urgency to deal with the Iranian issue and a sense of almost loss of trust in the U.S. administration. I think—and here Makovsky and I disagree—I think that did complicate the work of Secretary Kerry and his team because the region was not as willing to invest and come on board as they were after the liberation of Kuwait or after the Iraq War.
and in this sense actions speak louder than words. We need to see action from the Palestinians and the Israelis, even if it is small, to show that they are committed to a two-state solution. I would add, though, that if a two-state solution collapses, we would not end up with one state. We’re going to end up with ongoing conflict. At the end of the day, Israel has one reason to exist: to be the homeland of the Jewish people. The Palestinian national movement has one reason to exist: to create a state for the Palestinians. The two national identities, in my view, cannot co-exist in one state, because each wants a state of its own. If you force them into one state, you are creating perpetual conflict. I fear for the collapse of a two-state solution because of a lack of public belief in it, yet I believe if it collapses it would not lead us to an idyllic one-state scenario. It would lead us to perpetual conflict. M: A thousand percent right.
The Iran nuclear deal, some argue, pressured President Obama into signing last Wednesday’s $38 billion aid package to Israel, which is the biggest military assistance package given in U.S. history. How would one justify the payment of such a large sum? M: The overall deal is really not much more than what already exists. The number is taking the current level, and the amount of support that goes to missile defense programs. Until now, it was just U.S. aid, and the missile defense was outside the package. Now, it’s one plus one equals two, so when you weave it together the sums are really not a major increase. However, I would argue it is still by comparison with other countries huge. It’s a signal of the United States to the region, to Israel’s enemies, of deterrence. There’s no patron of Hezbollah that’s going to commit $30 billion in advance over ten years. It’s a sign: Don’t misread the friction between the U.S. and Israel over the Iran deal, over settlements. At the core, the U.S. remains committed to Israel’s long-term security. It is a long-term signal to try to put the Iran deal and the settlements differences into some sort of proportion. This president is very proud of the fact that there’s an iron wall between policy differences and commitment to Israel’s long-term security. I’ve always said it, people didn’t believe me—here, he’s doing it. Overall it maybe is a $200 million boost, Congress maybe left on its own devices would do more, but I think it’s an important long-term signal. For Israel, it was very important that it be done during the watch of Barack Obama because of concerns that bipartisanship on Israel was fraying. I think Obama wanted to get this done now as part of his legacy and he thought Hillary Clinton would like this off her table. So both sides wanted this done now, each for their own reasons.
David Makovsky, what actions do you hope to see from both sides to promote a two-state solution? M: Using a baseball analogy, we need singles and doubles. You cannot solve all the five mega-issues (borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, mutual recognition), but you can show the publics that are disbelieving on both sides that you are at least moving toward each other. That means, on the Israeli side, within 92 percent of the West Bank (beyond the barrier), you announce you’re not going to settle anymore, you’re not going to make claims on it anymore, and you synchronize your settlement policy and your two-state policy. You’re not going to build in areas that you don’t believe will be Israeli. On the Palestinian side, also demonstrate that you’re a partner, that you want grassroots peace groups to meet, that you don’t want to give money to families of suicide bombers. The goal is co-existence; you therefore don’t want incitement. So there are ways here that you can demonstrate a direction. I think if both sides would demonstrate direction, a lot of people on both sides of the public divide would believe that there’s hope. You might not be able to solve the problem, but maintain the viability of a solution because, as Ghaith said correctly, the alternative to this is perpetual conflict and bloodshed. ∆
This month, United Nations Secretary-General Ban KiMoon has warned that a “one-state reality” is threatening to replace a “two-state solution.” Are you worried about this and what advice would you give to both sides to avoid such an outcome? O: I’m definitely worried about the collapse of a two-state paradigm. Not because of a factual change on the ground—I think if you look at maps, if you look concretely, a two-state solution is still possible. What is disappearing is the public belief in a two-state solution. There is a need in my opinion to reignite the public’s faith that a two-state solution is possible,
WILLIAMS FOREIGN AFFAIRS
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