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  • Author: Steven Pifer
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: For nearly five decades, Washington and Moscow have engaged in negotiations to manage their nuclear competition. Those negotiations produced a string of acronyms—SALT, INF, START—for arms control agreements that strengthened strategic stability, reduced bloated nuclear arsenals and had a positive impact on the broader bilateral relationship. That is changing. The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is headed for demise. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) has less than two years to run, and the administration of Donald Trump has yet to engage on Russian suggestions to extend it. Bilateral strategic stability talks have not been held in 18 months. On its current path, the U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control regime likely will come to an end in 2021. That will make for a strategic relationship that is less stable, less secure and less predictable and will further complicate an already troubled bilateral relationship.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, North America
  • Author: Victor D. Cha
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: There were high expectations at the second meeting of American and North Korean leaders in Vietnam last month after the absence of progress on denuclearization commitments made at the first summit in Singapore last summer. Yet at Hanoi, not only were the two leaders unable to deliver an agreement with tangible steps on denuclearization, but they also dispensed with the joint statement signing, cancelled the ceremonial lunch and skipped the joint press conference. In a solo presser, President Donald Trump said that sometimes you “have to walk, and this was just one of those times.”[2] The President indeed may have avoided getting entrapped into a bad deal at Hanoi. What North Korea put on the table in terms of the Yongbyon nuclear complex addresses a fraction of its growing nuclear program that does not even break the surface of its underlying arsenal and stockpiles of fissile materials, not to mention missile bases and delivery systems. And what North Korea sought in return, in terms of major sanctions relief on five UN Security Council resolutions that target 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, would have removed one of the primary sources of leverage, albeit imperfect, on the regime. In this instance, no deal was better than a bad deal for the United States. Nevertheless, the Hanoi summit has left the United States with no clear diplomatic road ahead on this challenging security problem, a trail of puzzled allies in Asia and the promise of no more made-for-television summit meetings for the foreseeable future. The question remains, where do we go from here? When leaders’ summits fail to reach agreement, diplomacy by definition has reached the end of its rope. President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put on the best face they could in Hanoi, talking about closer understanding and continued good relations between the two sides as a result of the meetings, but the failed summit leaves a great deal of uncertainty going forward. South Koreans will frantically seek meetings with Washington and Pyongyang to pick up the pieces. The North Koreans already have sent an envoy to China to chart next steps. While I do not think this will mean a return to the “Fire and Fury” days of 2017 when armed conflict was possible, we have learned numerous lessons from Hanoi for going forward.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Alex Vatanka
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a cleric who will turn 80 in July 2019 and has ruled over Iran since 1989, has made a political career out of demonizing the United States. And yet, he knows full well that at some point—whether in his lifetime or after—Tehran has to turn the page and look for ways to end the bad blood that started with the birth of the Islamic Republic in 1979. But Khamenei’s efforts to make the United States a strawman are not easily undone in present-day Tehran, where anti-Americanism is the top political football, as the two main factions inside the regime—the hardliners versus the so-called reformists—battle it out for the future of Iran. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” on Iran has made it all but impossible for Khamenei to meet Washington half-way. Accordingly, the best Khamenei can do for now is to wait out the Trump White House. There will be no Khamenei-Trump summits. That much is abundantly clear if one listens to the chatter from Tehran. But the issue of possible relations with post-Trump America is still hotly contested in the Islamic Republic. In the meantime, with Trump’s re-imposition of sanctions from November 2018, Tehran’s hope in the short term is that Europe, together with Iran’s more traditional supporters in Moscow and Beijing, can give Iran enough incentive so that it can ride out the next few years as its economy comes under unprecedented pressure.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Sanctions, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Earl Anthony Wayne
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: On November 30, the leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico signed a new trade agreement to succeed the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) modernizes the 25-year-old NAFTA, but the legislatures in all three countries must still approve it.[1] The new USMCA will preserve the massive trading and shared-production networks that support millions of jobs in the U.S., Mexico and Canada and the ability of North America to compete effectively with China, Europe and other economic powers. Approving USMCA this year is very much in the national interests of all three countries given the $1.3 trillion in trade between them and the many businesses, workers and farmers that depend on the commerce and co-production that interlinks North America. These economic relationships also strengthen the rationale for maintaining strong political relationships among the three neighbors. There was widespread agreement to update NAFTA to reflect the changes in trade practices and in the three economies since 1994.[2] NAFTA does not cover Internet-based commerce, for example. Other areas required modernization, including trade in services, protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), environment and labor, which is a priority for U.S. unions.[3] Mexico, Canada and the U.S. tried to accomplish this NAFTA update with negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, but in January 2017 President Donald Trump pulled out of TPP, preferring to renegotiate NAFTA.[4] Approval of USMCA by the U.S. Congress remains uncertain. A number of Democrats are asking for stronger enforcement commitment particularly regarding labor. Others express concern that USMCA provisions may keep some prescription medical costs high.[5] Business and agricultural associations are urging approval of USMCA because it will provide certainty to continue the cross-continental collaboration that preserves vital intra-North American markets for manufacturing, agriculture and services and helps them out-perform global competitors. In response to democrat and union concerns, USMCA’s advocates argue that it includes significantly stronger labor provisions and enforcement.[6] Before the agreement moves ahead, however, the three countries must also find a solution to the tariffs the U.S. put on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico in 2018 for “national security” reasons. In response, those countries imposed equivalent tariffs on a range of U.S. exports, spreading economic pain across all three countries.[7] Mexico and Canada, as well as key members of Congress, want this problem resolved before approving USMCA.[8] The U.S. International Trade Commission must also assess USMCA’s economic impact. This report is due in mid-April. The administration must also propose implementation legislation (and guidelines) before Congress formally considers the agreement. Congress will then have a limited time to act on USMCA under existing legislation, but members of Congress could drag the process out.[9] The political window for U.S. congressional approval will close this year, however, given the 2020 U.S. elections.[10] President Trump, USTR Lighthizer and others have begun lobbying for approval, as have Mexico and Canada more quietly. The months ahead will thus be vital for trade and long-term relationships in North America and for the continent’s ability to weather well future international competition. Given the enormous economic benefits of approving USMCA, the U.S. Congress, the Administration and the non-government stakeholders should engage intensively to find ways to address concerns raised and find a “win-win” way to approval. Fortunately, the United States public increasingly views trade in North America as positive. According to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, for example, those seeing NAFTA and now USMCA as “good” for the U.S. economy have grown significantly, rising from 53 percent in 2017 to 70 percent seeing USMCA as “good” this year. This is a solid foundation for rapid approval of USMCA.[11]
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, NAFTA, Trade, USMCA
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada, North America, Mexico
  • Author: Bruce A. Heyman
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Seeing the words “U.S.-Canada Trade War” in headlines is hard to imagine in any year, but to see them in 2018 was jarring. How is it possible that best friends and neighbors who have had the most successful trading relationship in the world now could have an association characterized by the word war? This is hard enough for the average American or Canadian to conceive of, but it was particularly hard for me to do so, as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada until January 20, 2017. When I left Ottawa, I was confident that the U.S.-Canada relationship was strong—indeed, perhaps never stronger. In March 2016, we had a state dinner in Washington for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the first in nearly 20 years. Then-President Barack Obama later repaid the favor and addressed the Canadian Parliament for the first time in more than 20 years. Our two-way trading relationship was valued at a huge $670 billion per year, and while no longer our largest, it was the most balanced, with the United States having a slight but rare trade surplus in goods and services. Through an integrated supply chain, our companies and citizens worked together. On average more than 400,000 people legally crossed our 5,525-mile non-militarized border daily for work and tourism. But the U.S.-Canada relationship was and is much larger than trade. Canadian and American troops have fought and died together from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, and our countries are founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)—a unique Canadian-American partnership—patrols the skies above our shared continent. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies constantly exchange information on threats from terrorism, nuclear proliferation, espionage and complex crimes. Our two countries work together to protect the environment and provide stewardship of the magnificent Great Lakes, where cities such as Toronto and my own Chicago are located. This dense web of mutually beneficial cooperation is based on a shared set of values. Both our countries settled the vast North American continent, providing undreamt-of opportunities to millions of immigrants. Both our countries have an abiding commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and when we fall short, we make the needed changes. Beyond our countries’ being next-door neighbors, the largest number of Americans living abroad live in Canada and the largest number of Canadians living abroad live in the U.S. We are best friends, but more important, we are family.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Culture, Trade Wars, Trade
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada, North America
  • Author: Julius Tsal
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: In 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi initiated people-to-people (P2P) exchanges to the United States for agricultural scientists and university leaders from the Russian-occupied Georgian territory of Abkhazia. An initial study tour in the spring of 2018 focused on mitigating the devastating agricultural damage from the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB), and a second tour in the fall of 2018 focused on higher education leadership. Despite political sensitivities and logistical hurdles, such people-to-people programs increase participants’ understanding of the United States and give them an unbiased, first-hand experience of American civil society, its culture of innovation and democratic values. For otherwise isolated Abkhaz thought leaders, these experiences directly counter Russian anti-Western propaganda and demonstrate the benefits of Georgia’s pro-Western choice.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Civil Society, Imperialism, Propaganda
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Eastern Europe, Georgia, North America
  • Author: Terry Branstad
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: When I welcome visitors to the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Beijing, they often comment on a black-and-white photo of my first meeting with Xi Jinping. In the picture, the members of the 1985 Chinese agriculture delegation to Iowa stand calmly behind my desk, peering into the camera, as Xi Jinping stands unobtru­sively to my right. Some visitors ask, “Ambassador Branstad, did you know this young man would become President of China?” Indeed, I did not—I treated him with the same Iowa hospitality with which I welcome all my guests. His importance as a rising leader of China, though, became increasingly apparent over the course of six gubernatorial visits I made to China during the subsequent 30 years. The same is true of U.S.-China relations. Today, I have the honor of representing the United States in the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world, one that we absolutely have to get right. During President Donald Trump’s November 2017 state visit to China, the President identified three priority tasks for the two nations’ relationship. First, work with the Chinese govern­ment to address the North Korean nuclear and missile threat. Second, seek a more balanced and reciprocal trade and investment relationship. And third, partner with Chinese authorities to reduce the flow of illicit opioids from China to the United States. Each task presents its own unique challenges and opportunities.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power, Global Political Economy
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Richard N. Holwill
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: A meeting between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un (KJU), the Supreme Leader of the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK), can be a success even if it fails to achieve President Trump’s announced goal: an end to the DPRK nuclear weapons program. This meeting starts by giving KJU one of his long-sought goals. It will, in effect, be more than a meeting. It will be a “summit” and will confer on KJU the status of the leader of a legitimate government. President Trump would be wise to redefine success. He should not fall into the trap of saying that success will be defined by a “denuclearization agreement.” While that should be a long-term goal, it will not happen at this meeting. Still, the summit will be successful if it produces a process that can lead to a substantial reduction of tension on the Korean Peninsula. This is not to say that an agreement on denuclearization is off the table. Rather, it is to rec­ognize that these talks could present a framework for negotiation that would be very valuable, even if they will fall short of a nuclear disarmament accord. To understand the difficulty of reaching a nuclear arms agreement, we need only look at the way the two leaders speak about denuclearization. Each appears to define it differently. President Trump applies the term to nuclear weapons in the DPRK. KJU speaks of it as applying to the entire Korean Peninsula. He will argue that, if he must allow a mean­ingful verification regime, so must U.S. forces in South Korea.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Madeleine Albright
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: I would like to share some reflections on the challenges facing democracy and democratization. But I would like to begin on a personal note. I received my master’s degree some 50 years ago this spring. Like today, it was an era of great turbulence. Our best and brightest civilian leaders had involved America in a distant war. Our soldiers were in an impossible position, bogged down inside an alien culture, unable to distinguish friend from foe. Here at home, America was divided along geographic, racial and cultural lines. Overseas, critics called our policies arrogant, imperialistic and doomed to fail.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Civil Society, Democracy, Social Media
  • Political Geography: United States, North America
  • Author: William C. Eacho
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Every day, in countries around the planet, government employees are working on plans that will reduce greenhouse emissions, as each nation promised to do at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Here in Washington? No one has such an assignment. Global leadership used to be an American staple. In fact, we were in the vanguard a couple of years ago when 195 nations assembled in Paris to finalize the climate change accord. In a 180-degree reversal, President Donald Trump opted to withdraw from this pact. But since the rules do not allow that withdrawal to become official until November 4, 2020, there is time for our government to regain its leadership role as the world struggles to meet this fundamental challenge. And the President can do so in a way that strengthens the global competitiveness of the U.S. economy. How? Ask almost any economist what is the quickest, most efficient and least expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and he or she will say, “a carbon tax.” Carbon has benefited from a subsidy from day one. Yes, fossil fuels have played a critical role in U.S. prosperity, but they also have driven up the rates and severity of lung cancer, asthma, heart disease and other ailments. In addition, they are the leading cause of climate change, which scientists have concluded is running up the frequency and intensity of wildfires, superstorms and other natural disasters. Yet the price we pay for carbon does not cover any of these costs; all of us pick up that tab. If the price of carbon incorporated such costs, then clean energy sources such as the wind, the sun and nuclear energy could compete on a level playing field. It is true that tax incentives have helped renewable sources develop, and loan guarantees have helped nuclear energy, but each has had less help than fossil fuels have received in direct and indirect subsidies. And yet despite the unlevel playing field, renewables have been a tremendous source of job growth in recent years. Solar now employs over 260,000 in the United States, enjoying a double-digit rate of growth in recent years, and wind energy employs over 100,000. Wind already provides 30 percent of Kansas’ electricity. Though Governor Sam Brownback is a longtime member of the GOP’s right flank, he is a true believer in renewables. Wind energy has drawn $7 billion in capital investment to the state and supports, directly or indirectly, 5,000 to 6,000 jobs.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Natural Resources, Green Technology
  • Political Geography: United States, North America