What Putin’s Foreign Razzle-Dazzle Masks

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

May 4, 2017

Trump Foreign Policy is a Marx Brothers Movie: Walt

Those suggesting President Trump is adopting a realist approach to Asia policy need their own reality check, writes Stephen Walt in Foreign Policy.
 
“Realism focuses on preserving favorable balances of power, managing critical alliances adroitly, and above all acting in ways that allow both friends and foes to tailor their actions to ours,” Walt writes.

“A country whose leader understood this wouldn’t be relying on an understaffed State Department, an unqualified first daughter and son-in-law, and wouldn’t be trying to manage key relations via an uncensored Twitter account. Trump’s approach to foreign policy would make a great sitcom, opéra bouffe, or a Marx Brothers movie, but it is both disastrous and demeaning for the United States.”
 

Putin Doing the Right Thing in Syria?

With his claim to have broad agreement for humanitarian safe zones across Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have “seized the strategic high ground,” writes Hamish de Bretton-Gordon in The Guardian. And he’s also doing the right thing.
 
“However unpalatable it is to agree with Putin, after six years of civil war, more than 500,000 deaths, numerous chemical weapon attacks and the country virtually razed to the ground, if he and President Trump can enable the Geneva process to produce a democratic solution, I for one am prepared to give it a chance and lend my support and effort.”
 

It’s Not Just Trump that Loves Coal

Donald Trump’s administration isn’t the only one eyeing a boost in coal production (and receiving criticism for doing so), Reuters reports. Pakistan has big plans to ramp up production, courtesy of China.

“Officials at the Water and Power Ministry have said Chinese companies and their partners are expected to spend around $15 billion over the next 15 years to build close to a dozen coal power plants of varying sizes around the country,” write Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio.
 
“But environmentalists and energy experts have lambasted the plans for coal-fired plants as a waste of money that will badly damage the environment and tarnish Pakistan’s image as one of the lowest-carbon emitters.”

How Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Could Help Mexico

The Trump administration’s decision to target the H-1B visa, restricting the number of highly skilled immigrants that can enter the United States, “may benefit America’s southern neighbor, as technology outsourcers from India, Europe and the U.S. eye Mexico as a place from which to service U.S. clients struggling to recruit software engineers,” the Financial Times reports.
 
“Companies had already complained that the visa was in short supply, as the annual allotment of 85,000 runs out in days. But last month the U.S. president signed an executive order pledging to crack down on H-1B ‘fraud and abuse’ and make applicants prove their skills to a higher level. While some large U.S. tech brands are exploring expanding in Canada, IT services companies are focusing on Mexico as demand for ‘nearshore’ services soars.”
 

Al-Sisi’s Next Enemy No. 1?

During his time in office, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi “has dismantled most checks on his power,” The Economist writes.
 
“Protests are banned. Harsh laws limit the activities of NGOs. Critical media outlets have been shut down and muckraking journalists locked up. Even al-Azhar University, the Islamic world’s most prestigious center of learning, has come under pressure.”
 
The latest target? The country’s judiciary, The Economist says. “As attention was fixed on Pope Francis’s first visit to Egypt, the president ratified a bill on April 27 that gives him the power to appoint the chief judges of the highest courts.”
 

What Putin’s Foreign Razzle-Dazzle Masks: Bershidsky

An ambitious new development program in Moscow involving the “resettling” of about 1 million residents underscores two processes in Russia that have been “largely obscured by President Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical razzle-dazzle,” writes Leonid Bershidsky for Bloomberg View.
 
“One is Russia’s transformation into a country where the state is the only ambitious economic player. The other process is the erosion of basic individual rights — not flashy ones like free speech and assembly but mundane ones, such as property and a voice in neighborhood affairs.”
 

Trump Can Expose Venezuela’s Leaders

The best way for the Trump administration to respond to Venezuela’s drift “into a full-blown dictatorship” might not be sanctions, writes Andres Oppenheimer for the Miami Herald.

“Cutting off U.S. oil imports from Venezuela or imposing sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned Citgo gas company…would give Maduro political ammunition to proclaim himself a victim of U.S. ‘imperialism.’ And it could end up hurting the Venezuelan people more than Venezuela’s dictatorship,” Oppenheimer says.

Instead, the Trump administration should boost the opposition by ordering the Justice Department “to release the details of these ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ owned by [Vice President] El Aissami and other top Venezuelan officials.”
 

Why Russia Could Leave West in the Cyber Dust

Ten years after a major cyber attack on Estonia and it’s high time that the United States and its Western allies updated their definition of what cyberwarfare actually is, writes Peter Apps for Reuters.

“For the West, ‘cyber’ remains a tightly defined concept, a matter of protecting nationally vital systems, keeping secrets or finding them out from potential enemies. For countries like Russia and China, however, it has become something much broader.

“…Moscow in particular is seen as going much further, sometimes delegating attacks to criminals and others outside government. That strategy, Western experts say, allows such individuals and groups to operate with immunity providing they do not attack targets within their own nations – for example, through credit card theft – and are willing to help the state out with deniable attacks on foreign enemies when asked.”

  • If the U.S. wants to keep up, then it needs to stop fighting the last war, Fareed writes in the Washington Post. And that should include America taking a lead in establishing global norms for operating in cyberspace.

Russia Replaces U.S. as Young Arabs’ BFF: Survey

When asked to name their most important international ally, young Arabs are now more likely to say Russia than the United States, according to the latest Arab Youth Survey.
 
The survey of Arab men and women aged 18 to 24 found that 21% of the 3,500 people interviewed saw Russia as their country’s biggest ally, up 12% on last year. In contrast, 17% said the United States was most important, a fall of 8% on 2016.
 
Other key findings: The election of Donald Trump is seen as the development likely to have the biggest impact on the Arab world over the next five years, and Facebook is the main source of news for young Arabs.

 

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