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

November 14, 2017

The Danger of Trump’s Soft Spot for Thugs: NYT

President Trump’s just-concluded five-nation trip to Asia is a reminder of how the President turns from bully to mush when meeting the world’s strongmen, the New York Times editorializes. But his tendency to place personal chemistry with unsavory leaders over that of democratic allies “hurts America’s credibility and, in the long run, may have dangerous repercussions.”
“It’s not uncommon for American presidents to foster relations with strongmen. Serving the national interest often means working with leaders who are undemocratic, corrupt, adversarial or all three, and for decades there was no alternative to dealing with whoever had the top job in the Kremlin. People still talk about how naïve President George W. Bush was when he looked into Mr. Putin’s eyes in 2001 and declared the Russian president ‘trustworthy.’ President Barack Obama stuck with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the democratically elected president of Turkey, long after Mr. Erdogan evolved into a dictator,” The Times argues.

“Still, whatever their strengths and weaknesses, these past presidents worked within a structure of longstanding alliances and, in varying degrees, espoused support for democratic values, including the rule of law and human rights, all the while trying to nudge the autocrats along a similar path.”
  • The rise of the elected strongman. Fareed argues in his Take from Sunday's show that from the Philippines to Turkey, even democratically elected leaders are increasingly turning to the strongman playbook of nationalism, chauvinism, populism and increasing measures to intimidate and neuter the free press. Watch the full Take here.

How Europe Is Standing Up for Itself

The European Union launched a “new era in defense cooperation” on Monday, France 24 reports, with 23 of the EU’s member nations agreeing to “a program of joint military investment and project development.” 

Ian Lesser, Brussels-based vice president for foreign policy at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, emails Global Briefing that while the move is part of a long history of efforts to establish a coordinated defense capability outside NATO, it is unlikely to replace it as the focal point of security on the continent.

“But the motives for this move matter,” Lesser says. “After decades of relative security, the EU now faces a resurgence of security challenges, from Russia in the east, to terrorism and instability across the Mediterranean. There is plenty for both NATO and the EU to do. And both institutions are committed to working together at the political level, and in practice. Their defense contributions are increasingly compatible rather than competitive.

“Geopolitical anxiety is also at work here. The Eurozone crisis and Brexit raised fundamental questions about the future of the EU. Closer cooperation on defense—and defense investment—is now part of a revitalized drive for European integration. Above all, Europe is worried about the predictability of the American commitment to European security. The new EU move on ‘PESCO’ [permanent structured cooperation] is a useful hedge. It may even make it easier to convince skeptical European publics about the need for higher defense spending—something Washington should applaud.”

A Nuclear Check on Trump? Not So Fast

With some lawmakers worried about the possibility of President Trump launching a nuclear strike, Congress on Tuesday held its first hearings in more than four decades on whether the president should have “absolute authority to wage nuclear war with no outside check or restraint,” writes Dan De Luce for Foreign Policy. But don’t expect much to change.
“The protocols for ordering a nuclear strike created during the Cold War were designed to ensure that the president—and not the military—had full authority over the nuclear arsenal, and that the president could act quickly to respond to an imminent onslaught of nuclear-armed missiles from the Soviet Union,” De Luce writes.
“Despite Corker’s sharp public comments, and concerns voiced by lawmakers privately, the prospects of a Republican-controlled Congress adopting a law that would restrict a Republican president’s authority over nuclear weapons remains a distant possibility. But merely raising the issue at an open hearing—the first for the Senate or House foreign relations committee since 1976—illustrates the level of trepidation on Capitol Hill over Trump and sends a signal to the Pentagon that some lawmakers lack confidence in the commander in chief.
“Legal experts disagree as to whether Congress has the constitutional authority to alter the chain of command. And some defense scholars strongly oppose any major rewriting of the protocol, arguing that any reform that watered down a president’s power to react with speed and authority would undercut the effect of America’s nuclear deterrent.”

The World’s Richest Just Got (Much) Richer

The world’s richest 1 percent hold half of the world’s wealth, according to the latest Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, with total global wealth growing to $280 trillion.
“Comparing wealth gains across countries, the United States is an unquestionable leader,” the report says. “The country continued its remarkable unbroken spell of gains after the financial crisis and added USD 8.5 trillion to the stock of global wealth. In other words, the U.S. generated more than half of the total global wealth aggregation of USD 16.7 trillion of the past 12 months.”
“While the majority of wealth is still held by high-income economies in North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific (excluding China and India), new wealth creators are becoming more visible. China, after suffering losses of 20 percent during the crisis, quickly overtook its pre-crisis level of wealth growth. This year, its pace of wealth creation caught up with the pace of Europe, and its input to the global wealth stock was USD 1.7 trillion.”

Tillerson’s Upcoming Tightrope Walk

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be walking a diplomatic tightrope when he visits Myanmar this week to discuss the Rohingya refugee crisis, suggests Hunter Marston in the Washington Post. America needs to raise its concerns, but pushing too hard could backfire—and push Myanmar into the arms of other nations in the region.

“If the United States and its Western allies condemn Burma [Myanmar] too harshly, they could end up empowering the military, which might conclude that it has nothing to lose by re-asserting is dominance over Aung San Suu Kyi,” Marston writes.
With that in mind, and however justified the criticism of former democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi might be, “Tillerson should reaffirm U.S. support for Burma’s civilian government and seek out potential areas of cooperation with Aung San Suu Kyi’s party on bringing peace and stability to Rakhine state. Among the most urgent aims: negotiating access for humanitarian relief to afflicted populations and launching efforts to resettle divided communities, which have seen Rohingya as well as Rakhine Buddhists uprooted by violence.”

China Snatches America’s Supercomputer Crown

The United States is losing ground in the global supercomputer race, according to a new report, with the number of U.S. entries on the TOP500 ranking falling to the lowest since the list was launched, 25 years ago.
“Just six months ago, the U.S. led with 169 systems, with China coming in at 160,” the report notes. Still, “[d]espite the reversal of fortunes, the 143 systems claimed by the U.S. gives them a solid second place finish, with Japan in third place with 35, followed by Germany with 20, France with 18, and the UK with 15.

“China has also overtaken the U.S. in aggregate performance as well. The Asian superpower now claims 35.4 percent of the TOP500 flops, with the U.S. in second place with 29.6 percent.”



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