What to expect in the Middle East

What to expect from the Trump administration is the question on everyone’s mind this morning in DC. My students are worried about their career plans, my interviewer from Voice of America is worried about its fate, my Italian solar energy friend is worried about global warming and the fate of the alternative energy industries. Is there anyone who doesn’t think this new administration will make or break their thing?

Meanwhile Trump has appointed both a pragmatist Republican apparatchik  to run his day-to-day White House as chief of staff and a white nationalist, anti-Semitic ideologue to be its chief longer-term strategist. He has denied knowing that his supporters have indulged in racial, ethnic and anti-gay slurs but also suggested they stop it. Contradiction knows no limits with this man. See also my short piece on possible appointees, published by the Middle East Institute this morning.

What do I expect on policy issues relevant to the Middle East?

First, a long and steep learning curve. Trump is a radical: he says he wants to change Washington in fundamental ways and was elected to do just that. I expect him to make some dramatic decisions that some will regret: remember Ronald Reagan’s withdrawal from the anti-ballistic missile treaty and George W. Bush’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court.

One likely international victim of these initial mistakes is the Paris climate change accord, from which it is easy to withdraw. Trump will not want the controls on coal-burning power plants and on automobile fuel conservation that are vital to fulfilling the American commitment on green house gases. His supporters will enjoy a big dose of defiance to the international community. The longer-term consequences for the Middle East will be dramatic: agricultural land will be surrendered to the desert and more of the region will become uninhabitable over the longer term. Never mind the flooding of Mar a Lago, Trump’s Florida resort.

I do not expect Trump to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, since it is obviously preferable to freeing Iran to pursue nuclear weapons immediately. Instead, he will seek to impose new sanctions on Iran because of its ballistic missile program, with extra-territorial application to non-American companies, making it difficult or impossible for them to do business in the US if they continue to do business with Iran. This could be the source of a major row with Europe, which wants to expand its business dealings with Iran.

We’ll no doubt see a serious effort to convert Trump’s admiration for Russian President Putin into some sort of result, especially in Syria. This could take the form of ending all assistance to the Syrian opposition to Bashar al Assad. This would please Moscow no end and presumably enable Putin to declare a new era of understanding with the US, brought about by his steadfastness.

I expect Trump to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an explicit promise he made that would enable him to claim to be Israel’s best friend and stem the loss of Jewish support that his anti-Semitic supporters would otherwise generate. He will be unconcerned with Palestinian reaction and only slightly more concerned with more general Arab reaction. To compensate, the Saudis will continue to get a green light for whatever they want to do in Yemen.

Trump will announce some major new offensive against the Islamic State that won’t be much different from the air plus special ops war that the Obama administration is already conducting. Libya will be abandoned to its fate. Turkey’s President Erdogan and Egypt’s President Sisi, both aspiring autocrats, will get ample rhetorical as well as military support, though Erdogan’s conflict with the Syrian Kurds will pose a quandary if Raqqa is still under Islamic State control.

I could of course be wrong on any of these points. Trump prides himself on unpredictability and ignores incoherence. He will not yield readily to logic or facts. But he will have to satisfy at least some of his constituents that he will do what he has said he will do. The consequences could be grave.

Tags : , , , , , ,

Peace picks, November 14 – 18

  1. For 130 Million People, A Need for Longer-Term Relief | Monday, October 14th | 9.30am – 11am | US Institute of Peace | click HERE to register

Many violent conflicts have become chronic. In order to build sustainable peace, humanitarian relief must also contribute to or complement long-term development goals.  While discussions at the World Humanitarian Summit raised meaningful questions about how humanitarian and development sectors are responding to protracted conflict, institutions are still trying to improve the response even as the needs grow more urgent.

This Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum event will look at how the short-term needs of vulnerable communities, particularly the victims of war, can be met in ways that contribute to longer-term peacebuilding, development and rebuilding.

Participants Include:

Carla Koppell – Vice President, Center for Applied Conflict Transformation, U.S. Institute of Peace

Matt McGuire – U.S. Executive Director, World Bank

Michael Talhami – Senior Water and Shelter (WATHAB) advisor, International Committee of the Red Cross (Jordan)

Colin Bruce – Director, Africa Regional Integration, World Bank

Jeff Helsing – Associate Vice President, Center for Applied Conflict Transformation, U. S. Institute of Peace

  1. Governing Uncertainty: Governance in Tunisia Following Authoritarian Breakdown| Monday, November 14th | 12.30pm – 2pm | Johns Hopkins SAIS | click HERE to register

The immediate period between the ousting of authoritarian president Ben Ali and the first post-uprising elections in Tunisia in 2011 raises many questions. Who was really calling the shots, and what was the impact of their decisions? This presentation will address some of these questions based on research carried out in Tunisia between 2013-2015.

The discussion will be given by Ms. Sabina Henneberg, PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Sabina’s doctoral dissertation is on the current political transformations in North Africa. She is the author of several articles and papers on Tunisia.

  1. Troubling the Political: Women in the Jordanian Day-Waged Labor Movement | Monday, November 14th | 12.30pm – 2pm | Georgetown University | click HERE to register

The Jordanian Day-Waged Labor Movement (DWLM) played a central role in the Jordanian Popular Movement (al-Hirak al-Sha’bi al-Urduni), commonly referred to as the Hirak, from 2011 to the end of 2012. The large number of women who were active and took on leading roles in the DWLM contrasts with the absence women’s organizations in other aspects of the Hirak. Drawing on extensive research in Jordan, Professor Sara Ababneh argues that the DWLM was able to attract so many women because it developed a discourse and flexible structure that understood women to be embedded within communities and prioritized their economic needs. By studying this discourse and structure, it is possible to learn important lessons about gender inclusive political and institutional reform.

Dr. Sara Ababneh is an Assistant Professor for the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. She is currently a visiting fellow at Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University.

  1. A Conversation With UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson | Monday, November 14th | 5pm – 6pm | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | click HERE to register

Join the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for a conversation with UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson on the future of the United Nations and multilateralism in a changing global landscape. As he prepares to step down from a forty year long career in diplomacy and the UN, DSG Eliasson will reflect on the challenges facing the international community and the opportunities for global cooperation. Carnegie President William J. Burns will introduce and moderate the conversation.

  1. What Does the World Expect of President-elect Donald Trump? | Tuesday, November 15th | 11am – 12.30pm | Wilson Center | click HERE to register

The next U.S. Administration faces a complicated, volatile world. Join us for spirited conversation about the foreign policy expectations and challenges confronting the next President of the United States with distinguished Wilson Center experts on Russia, China, the Middle East, Latin America and more.

 Participants include:

Jane Harman – Director, President and CEO, Wilson Center

Cynthia J. Arnson – Director, Latin American Program

Robert S. Litwak – Vice President for Scholars and Academic Relations and Director, International Security Studies

Aaron David Miller – Vice President for New Initiatives and Distinguished Scholar

Matthew Rojansky – Director, Kennan Institute

Duncan Wood – Director, Mexico Institute

  1. The Battle for Pakistan: The Fight Against Terrorism and Militancy | Tuesday, November 15th | 11.30am | Atlantic Council | click HERE to register

Please join the Atlantic Council for an assessment of Pakistan’s National Action Plan by a Distinguished Fellow of the South Asia Center, Mr. Shuja Nawaz. Mr. Nawaz’s assessment is based on a nine-month study for the United States Institute of Peace. A degree of cautious optimism about Pakistan’s future is warranted, but greater efforts are needed to fundamentally change the landscape that nurtures terrorism and militancy in Pakistan today. In this discussion, Mr. Nawaz will suggest ways in which the National Action Plan can be improved and reviewed by the government and parliament of Pakistan such as setting clear benchmarks and improving coordination among the provinces. Dr. Moeed Yusuf, Associate Vice President of the Asia Center at the United States Institute of Peace; and Dr. Thomas F. Lynch III, Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute of National Strategic Studies at National Defense University, will discuss the current state of Pakistan’s efforts against terrorism and militancy. The event will be moderated by Dr. Bharath Gopalaswamy, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. The event is co-hosted with the United States Institute of Peace.

A conversation with:

Mr. Shuja NawazDistinguished Fellow, South Asia Center, Atlantic Council

Dr. Moeed YusufAssociate Vice President of Asia Center, United States Institute of Peace

Dr. Thomas F. Lynch IIIDistinguished Research Fellow, Institute of National Strategic Studies, National Defense University

  1. 70th Annual Middle East Institute Conference | Wednesday, November 16th | 9am – 5pm| Middle East Institute | click HERE to register

Please join MEI as we celebrate 70 years of history at our 70th Annual Conference which will convene prominent Middle Eastern and American experts and foreign policy practitioners for four panel conversations covering the prevailing challenges facing the new U.S. administration as it sets its Middle East agenda.

  1. Morocco’s Fight With Violent Extremism | Wednesday, November 16th | 12pm – 1.20pm| Hudson Institute | click HERE to register

The Kingdom of Morocco is undertaking a comprehensive effort to tackle violent Islamism by combining traditional security measures with development initiatives, governance reform, and education. One of the leaders in this fight is Dr. Ahmed Abbadi, the president of the League of Mohammedan Scholars. The League is a body of religious scholars charged by King Mohammed VI with countering and dismantling the ideology of Islamic State and other radical movements. On November 16, Dr. Abbadi will speak at Hudson Institute about Morocco’s experiences in the fight against Islamist extremism, including the importance of ideology, youth outreach, and education.

  1. A Debate on Pakistan: What Future Role for America? | Wednesday, November 16th | 1.30pm – 3pm| United States Institute of Peace | click HERE to register

The United States’ assistance has helped Pakistan address critical domestic challenges, notably in energy, infrastructure, and counter-terrorism. Still some scholars argue this aid has been counterproductive. U.S. legislators effectively blocked a loan to help Pakistan buy F-16 fighter jets this year, saying Pakistani authorities are not doing enough to curtail Afghan insurgents from using Pakistan as a safe haven.

As relations have deteriorated, some scholars increasingly have raised questions on the utility and viability of assistance to Pakistan. The November 16 USIP debate will examine that question, as well as challenges for the next U.S. president in addressing the countries’ relationship, and Pakistan’s future as a U.S. partner. Speakers will include longtime South Asia scholar and policy analyst Lisa Curtis; former Pakistani ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani; former Pakistan central bank governor Ishrat Husain; and Ambassador Robin Raphel, who served as the United States’ first assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia and U.S. Coordinator for Non-Military Assistance to Pakistan.

  1. The United States, the Next President, and the Middle East: A View From Israel | Wednesday, November 16th | 4pm – 5pm| Wilson Center | click HERE to register

Please join us as former Deputy Minister of Defense Ephraim Sneh shares his perspective on a range of issues related to Israel’s national security, the civil war in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the nuclear agreement with Iran. As a long-time observer and participant in the U.S.-Israeli relationship, Mr. Sneh will also offer his analysis of the U.S. Presidential elections and the challenges that will face the new administration.

Tags : , , , , , , , ,

Trump’s Middle East: no one really knows

Tuesday night’s election result was shocking for many. Though Clinton’s policy in the Middle East seemed predictable, President-elect Trump’s Middle East policy is a mystery.

To begin to unpack this mystery, the Washington Institute for New East policy convened a panel this morning of Middle East scholars and international journalists to discuss what they expect to see from a President Trump. The panel featured Dennis Ross, a fellow at the Washington Institute, Norman Ornstein, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and the editor-in-chief of the Al-Arab News Channel, David Horovitz, founding editor of the Times of Israel, and Jumana Ghunaimat, editor-in-chief of the Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad.

Khashoggi said Saudis were caught off guard by the election, as they were expecting a Clinton presidency. Due to Hillary Clinton’s long track record, they felt they knew what to expect and were ready for what was to come. Saudis are worried about Trump’s support for Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), though they are encouraged by his hard stance on Iran. They are also worried that Trump’s closeness with Putin and softening towards Assad will result in a Syria that is unfriendly to Saudi Arabia.

On Jordan, Ghunaimat said relations between the US and Jordan will likely stay the same. Jordan is a relatively stable and important ally in the region, and nothing Trump has said or done so far indicates that relationship will be in jeopardy.

Horovitz said most Israelis believed that Trump would be best for Israel, but they nevertheless wanted Clinton to win the election. Though they perceived Trump as having more empathy for Israel than Clinton and likely to take Israel’s concerns seriously, Clinton has a long pro-Israel track record. They know they could depend on Clinton to look after Israeli interests whereas Trump is more of a wild card. Israelis are still hopeful that their relationship with President Trump will be better than their relationship with Obama.

Ornstein focused more on the effect that President Trump would have domestically and the factors that led to his election. He blamed the inaccuracy of the polls on the “Bradley effect”—that is, many people were embarrassed to report that they were voting for Trump. The complaints of the white working class are valid and were unaddressed by Washington. This in combination with Clinton’s unpopularity among Democrats led to his election. Ornstein forsees Trump depending on others to make vital decisions, so whom he appoints will be decisive.

Dennis Ross  said we know that Trump wants to get rid of ISIS and to improve our relationship with Russia. But defeating ISIS requires the trust of Sunni militias. This trust cannot be cemented in the face of a Putin-Assad-Trump friendship it would guarantee Shiite strength. Trump needs to approach his relationship with Putin—and, by extension, Assad—very carefully and be sure to enforce consequences when necessary. Aside from this, Ross encouraged humility in the face of Trump’s presidency—we cannot presume to know what he will choose to do, since there is simply not enough information available.

Tags : , , , , , ,

Tragedy, farce and uncertainty

The evening wasn’t so enjoyable after all. Hillary Clinton, who is still leading in the popular vote, has lost in the electoral college, with several swing states that had been expected to tilt towards her instead going for President-elect Donald Trump. The electoral college, where each state has two votes, no matter what the population (plus the number of representatives), favors less populous states that lean Republican.

This is a tragedy for me personally. I’m an establishment progressive who thinks America has to play a strong role in the world, free trade and investment are desirable, and equal rights for everyone are the indispensable basis of liberal democracy, a system that has served Americans and non-Americans well.

It is also a tragedy for many of my friends around the world. Clinton would have pursued democratic ideals wherever possible. Trump shows no interest in them, at home or abroad. He admires Russian autocrat President Putin, draws support from anti-liberal Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, cozies up to Egyptian strongman President Sisi, and gets plaudits from Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, who is using last summer’s failed coup as an opportunity to crack down on all those who oppose him. Those who believe in equal rights in those countries should despair: they will get no support from the United States for the next four years.

My guess is that the same will be true for liberal democrats in other countries Trump has never mentioned. The moderate Syrian opposition, Ukraine’s Maidan democrats, Europe’s traditional socialists and conservatives, Iran’s Greens (what is left of them), and many others can expect no real sustenance from Trump’s America. Throughout the Balkans, Trump’s victory will empower ethnic nationalists, who are already sending me their schadenfreude. There is a real risk that his white nationalist predilections will inspire a chain reaction of ethnic and sectarian partitions there and in the Middle East, spreading war and instability far and wide.

The Trump victory is also a farce. This self-declared billionaire so far as we know hasn’t paid taxes for decades or given any significant contributions to charity. He notoriously stiffed contractors and used illegal workers when building his hotels, not to mention that his Slovenian-born wife worked illegally in the US. He put his tacky label on cheap imported products. But he now claims to represent the American working class, in particular in its distaste for immigrants and foreign products. He claimed to want to make America great again, but criticized its generals and its fighting men and especially women. All this is bozotic.

How did he win? Women and Hispanics, whom he insulted with vigor during the campaign, shifted their votes only slightly towards Hillary Clinton. More educated Americans shifted more, but they were not enough to offset the shift of non-college educated whites to Trump. Minorities did not turn out in the numbers that elected President Obama. Efforts to suppress their vote by limiting early voting, cutting back on polling hours and places, and requiring proof of identity (Americans do not have identity cards) were marginally successful in some swing states.

The tragedy and farce will remain forever. Uncertainty is the most important result of the election right now. No one knows what Trump will really do. That’s why stock markets worldwide sold off and have only partly recovered. He prides himself on unpredictability and has a Republican Congress to go along with his whims.

Here are my best guesses. At the very least, he will have to proceed with the promised repeal of Obamacare, which has provided tens of millions of Americans with health insurance. Repeal will throw them back into hospital emergency rooms, which are the most expensive way to cure a cold ever invented. He will propose cutting my taxes sharply, with no guarantee that I will reinvest the bounty productively. He will try to throw a lot of money at rebuilding infrastructure, something the Republicans have blocked President Obama from doing. He will appoint an anti-abortion member of the Supreme Court, to fill the existing vacancy.

But little else is clear, especially on foreign policy. Renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement I suppose, but that won’t be easy. Complete the wall on the border with Mexico, though his proposed method for financing it (by taxing remittances from Mexicans in the US) is unlikely to work. Tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Cut a deal with Putin on Ukraine and Syria, surrendering Donbas to the Russians and as much of Syria as they, the Iranians and Assad can conquer. Continue Obama’s fight against the Islamic State, which has been strikingly successful over the last year.

I doubt however that he will tear up the Iranian nuclear deal, which is clearly better than no deal at this point. He’ll make a lot of noise about enforcing it vigorously and may levy new sanctions on Iran based on other issues. We can expect belligerent talk about China’s trade and currency policies, but I suppose those complaints will be channeled into the existing bilateral and multilateral mechanisms that already exist to deal with them.

Worst of all, we are going to have to listen to him and his appointees for the next four years. Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who closed highway lanes to punish a Democratic mayor for not supporting him, will direct the transition team. Rudy Giuliani, who invented the “stop and frisk” police tactic that has been declared unconstitutional, will likely be the Attorney General. Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House cited for ethnics violations, is thought to be a candidate for Secretary of State. This is a rogues’ gallery of male chauvinist has-beens.

It’s had better be a great country. Otherwise how could it survive such a mistake?

 

 

Tags : , , , , , , ,

Let’s enjoy this election evening!

I’m doing a press briefing on the implications of the American election for foreign policy in a few hours. Here are the speaking notes I’ve prepared for myself: 

  1. It is a pleasure to be with you tonight, as America concludes an ugly election campaign and decides on its 45th president.
  1. I won’t pretend to be neutral: I have supported Hillary Clinton with words, money, and even knocking on doors in West Philadelphia.
  1. But in these opening remarks, I would like to focus first not on the candidates but rather on the process, which is a complicated one.
  1. One consequence is that there is little uniformity: as you’ll see tonight, the states will close their polls at different times, starting in just a few minutes at 7 pm with Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia.
  1. The initial results will likely favor Trump, but swing states North Carolina and Ohio close their polls at 7:30 pm and by 8 pm lots of Clinton states close their polls.
  1. Key then will be Florida and Pennsylvania, and at 9 pm Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Clinton could be in trouble if she doesn’t win there.
  1. In the meanwhile, you’ll be getting exit polling from many of the “swing” states, those that might go one way or the other. Exit polls in my view are not terribly reliable: sampling errors can be significant, and in many states a significant percentage of people have already voted.
  1. Not only are rules and procedures decided by the states, but the vote in each state determines that state’s votes in the electoral college that meets in state capitals on December 19.
  1. Each state has a number of electoral votes equal to its number of Representatives and Senators. Because each state has two senators, this favors less populous (more Republican) states, but the reliably Democratic District of Columbia, which has no senators, gets three votes as well.
  1. As a result, an election can be close in the popular vote (polling suggests Trump and Clinton are within 3 or 4 percentage points of each other), but the electoral college difference can be big.
  1. If Trump were to get fewer than 200 electoral votes (and Clinton the remaining 338 plus), that might be considered a landslide, even if the popular vote is close.
  1. It is also possible for a candidate to lose the popular vote and win in the electoral college. That happened with George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000. I went to bed convinced Gore had won.
  1. By morning, the Florida controversy had erupted and the election was eventually decided in the Supreme Court, which allowed Florida’s determination of the winner to stand and Bush to become President without a popular vote majority.
  1. The lesson here is don’t go to bed too early tonight. It may be late before the outcome is clear and unequivocal. In the last three elections it was past 11 pm.
  1. What does it all mean for foreign policy?
  1. First, I think an uncontested and clear outcome is highly desirable. The world does not need another month of uncertainty about who will be the 45th president.
  1. Second, there are dramatic differences between Trump, who prides himself on unpredictability, and Clinton, who has a long track record well within the post-911 foreign policy consensus.
  1. Trump is erratic, inconsistent, and hyperbolic. He wants to put America first, which he has defined not only as ignoring others, blocking immigrants, and doubting America’s alliances but also destroying the existing international trading system and illogically pursuing a bromance with Vladimir Putin.
  1. Clinton is committed, studious, internationalist, all perhaps to a fault. She once pursued a reset with Putin that failed. She wants to maintain the stability of the international system and restore American authority some think President Obama surrendered in his retrenchment.
  1. A word or two about what this all means in some important parts of the world.
  1. In the Middle East and Europe, including the Baltics and Ukraine, Clinton is far more likely to push back on Russian aggressiveness than Trump.
  1. In Asia, Trump has occasionally talked tough about China’s trade policy and suggested that South Korea and Japan might want to get their own nuclear weapons.
  1. Clinton would certainly not want that but might also be tough with China on trade. She would likely want to continue to build up American alliances in Asia, including with India and Vietnam.
  1. Both Clinton and Trump oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), but Clinton would likely want to renegotiate parts of it and proceed while Trump would scrap it entirely.
  1. Presidents do not always get to decide which issues they focus on. I would expect Moscow and Beijing, and perhaps others, to take an early opportunity to test the new president.
  1. An incident involving China in the South China Sea? North Korean launch of a missile that could reach the US? A new push by Russian-supported insurgents in Donbas? An incident with Iranian ships or missiles in the Gulf? A massive cyberattack?
  1. Clinton understands the capabilities and limits of American power, as well as the need for allied support. Trump does not. He mistakes bravado for strength and unpredictability for leverage.
  1. Most of the world understands this and favors Clinton. Moscow may not be alone in favoring Trump, but it is certainly lonely.
  1. Those of us who enjoy foreign policy for a living—Republicans as well as Democrats like me—will likewise be almost universally relieved if she, not he, becomes president.
  1. But the evening is young. Let’s enjoy it with some questions!
Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

What the election means for the Balkans

I did this interview for Filip Raunic of the Croatian website Telegram about a week ago. They published it today. 

Q: The situation in the Balkans, especially Bosnia and Hercegovina with separatist tendencies of its entity “Republika Srpska (RS),” is tense. Do you think US will regain its focus on Balkans any time soon? And should it?

A: It is difficult for Washington to focus on the Balkans. Apart from the election, the Americans have a lot of other things they are dealing with: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Ukraine, Afghanistan, the South China Sea, just to mention a few. Washington long ago transferred the main responsibility in the Balkans to Europe. Still, the US will not accept an RS declaration of independence or other moves that threaten peace and stability in Southeast Europe.

Q: How do you see Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton with respect to foreign policy towards Europe and Balkans?

A: I think Hillary Clinton would be good for all those who look to the EU and NATO as anchors of their foreign policy. She understands the region and will want to see progress by those countries who seek membership in these organizations. Donald Trump appears to know nothing about the Balkans and likely cares less, except when it comes to collecting a few Serb or Croat votes in Ohio. I’ve seen no sign his wife has given him any instruction on Slovenia.

Q: Croatia is considered as the main US ally in the region. If so, would President Clinton because of her interventionist policy be better for Croatia and its political role in the region than president Trump?

A: Croatia is one of several allies in the region: Slovenia, Albania, Bulgaria and Romania we also count as NATO allies, and soon I hope also Montenegro. I know all our allies are special, but I doubt one is more special than others!
Q: In last decade, besides US an EU, Turkey and Russia have also been present in the Balkans with their political influence. Do you see the possibility their influence will prevail if the US decides to pull out from the region?

A: It takes two to influence. Russia is a declining regional power with a GNP less than that of Spain, an aging and shrinking population, an imploding economy, and a petty autocratic as president. Anyone who wants Russia’s influence can have it so far as I am concerned, but I expect most people in the Balkans understand that the EU has a great deal more to offer, especially as it begins to recover from a deep recession.

Turkey, like Russia, has a long history in the Balkans, and its companies have done well there. But it too suffers from a burgeoning autocracy. Sure Ankara will have some influence wherever it plants its commercial activities, but I don’t think it today a very good model of how to administer rule of law or allow a free press.

The US will continue to be diplomatically present and influential in the region, but it will also expect the sovereign states that are allies and friends to handle as much of their own affairs as possible. That, after all, was the purpose of creating the independent states from former Yugoslavia: so that they could manage their own issues and enjoy the benefits of free democratic states.

Today, Milena Pejic of the Belgrade daily Blic asked another question about the election, and I answered: 

Q: I was just hoping that you can give us some final predictions and thoughts about he US election? Who do you think is going to win and who would be the better choice for the rest of the world, particularly Serbia?

A: I have long supported Hillary Clinton and believe she will win: Go vote! – peacefare.net

Neither Clinton nor Trump is likely to give much priority to the Balkans, but Clinton would certainly be committed to stability and democracy there, including the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Kosovo.

With respect to Serbia, it seems to me recent events suggest it faces a serious political and criminal threat to its democracy and stability from Russian and Russia-aligned forces within Serbia. Trump’s “bromance” with Putin could lead to an increase in this threat. The safest place for Serbian democracy is inside the EU, not straddling between the EU and Moscow.

Tags : , , ,
Tweet