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  • Author: Lorenza Errighi
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Istituto Affari Internazionali
  • Abstract: If 2020 was the year of “mask diplomacy”, as countries raced to tackle the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and acquire the necessary protective gear and equipment, 2021 is likely to be remembered as the year of “vaccine diplomacy”. Growing competition between states to secure the necessary quantities of vaccines to inoculate their population has already become an established feature of the post-COVID international system and such trends are only likely to increase in the near future. It normally takes up to a decade to transition from the development and testing of a vaccine in a laboratory to its large-scale global distribution. Despite current challenges, the speed of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns is unprecedented. To put an end to the current pandemic – which in one year has led to the loss of 2.6 million lives and triggered the worst economic recession since the Second World War – the goal is to ensure the widest immunisation of the world population in a timeframe of 12 to 18 months. In this context, COVID vaccines emerge as instruments of soft power, as they symbolise, on the one hand, scientific and technological supremacy and, on the other, means to support existing and emerging foreign policy partnerships and alliances with relevant geopolitical implications. From their experimentation in laboratories, to their purchase and distribution, the vaccine has emerged as a significant tool for competition between powers, often associated with the promotion of competing developmental and governance models across third countries.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Health, Vaccine, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Alistair D.B. Cook
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: As the confrontation between the protestors and the military in Myanmar continues to deteriorate, now more than ever is the time for regional diplomacy. Countries in the region can be the bridge needed to the people in Myanmar and the wider international community
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Affairs, Regional Integration
  • Political Geography: Southeast Asia, Myanmar
  • Author: Julius Caesar Trajano
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Despite Duterte’s desire to shift Philippine security policy away from its treaty alliance with the US, Manila remains a close American ally. Key domestic, strategic and humanitarian factors actually make the alliance healthier. The Biden administration might just wait for Duterte to finish his term in a year's time.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Alliance
  • Political Geography: Philippines, North America, Asia-Pacific, United States of America
  • Author: Nobumasa Akiyama
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: On January 20, 2021, a new administration will take office in the United States. This could lead to changes in US-Iran relations. The Trump administration continued to provoke Iran by withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), tightening sanctions, and killing Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. Meanwhile, the incoming president Joe Biden and key members of his diplomatic team are oriented toward a return to the JCPOA. In the midst of all this, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a nuclear scientist who is believed to have played a central role in Iran's nuclear development, was murdered. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded by saying he would retaliate at an "appropriate" time, and an advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said he would take "decisive" action. Although the US is not believed to have been directly involved in this incident, there are concerns that it will cast a dark shadow on the diplomacy between the US and Iran over the JCPOA. Shortly thereafter, Iran's parliament passed a law that obliges the government to take steps to expand nuclear activities that significantly exceed the JCPOA's limits and to seek the lifting of sanctions. The new US administration will need to be very careful not to overlook either hard or soft signals, to analyze Iran's future course, and to take diplomatic steps to reduce Iran's nuclear and regional security threats.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, JCPOA, Joe Biden
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Nawar Samad
  • Publication Date: 07-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: A Russian business delegation visited Lebanon in late June 2021 to offer support to the country by cultivating projects in the oil sector, development plans for the energy industry as well as the ports in Beirut and Tripoli. For the past two years, Lebanon, which is going through the worst economic and financial crisis in its history, and has been trying to secure international aid to survive, is now facing the attractive Russian economic bailout offer. Although such an offer is welcomed by Lebanon, the Russian initiative raises concerns across the West, and particularly in the United States, which is in control of Lebanon’s banking system and still has significant influence on the state’s politics and financial sector. The United States believes that it is not possible to dissociate this Russian offer from Moscow’s desire to expand its influence in a region, in which it already established military presence and gained access to the Eastern Mediterranean, where a conflict is underway over investment of newly-discovered gas fields.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Economics, Financial Crisis, Gas
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eurasia, Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Irfan Yar
  • Publication Date: 08-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Future for Advanced Research and Studies (FARAS)
  • Abstract: As the US completes its troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, Taliban has seized security vacuum to launch massive assaults. The group has unleashed violent chaos across the country and captured more than two-third of the territory, as per senior EU official estimates. On one hand, the insurgents have tightened their grip on seizing the provinces through military means. On the other hand, the insurgents claim that they want to resolve the issue in peaceful ways. “We are committed to finding a diplomatic solution for Afghanistan; the US-Taliban Doha agreement and the Intra-Afghan dialogue are the proofs that the Taliban want to solve the issue through negotiations,”[ii] said Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader of the Taliban, on Wednesday, in Doha. Furthermore, Taliban leaders urge governors, military leaders, and other Jamiat Islami party leaders to surrender and put an end to the 40-years long conflict via negotiations. So, the question is, why have the Taliban fighters intensified violence and, at the same time, stress on making peace?
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Taliban, Conflict
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, South Asia, Kabul
  • Author: Giorgi Surmava
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Georgian Foundation for Strategic International Studies -GFSIS
  • Abstract: On January 26, 2021, during a phone conversation between the President of the United States, Joseph Biden, and the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, a decision was confirmed by the parties to extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START, CHB-3) without any preconditions for five more years from February 5, 2021 to February 5, 2026 after which the sides exchanged diplomatic notes. New START was the last treaty still in force with regard to nuclear armaments as the United States left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) under the Trump administration. At the same time, the Trump administration was also against extending New START without changes as it was set to expire in February 2021. Russia, on the other hand, was opposed to any kind of changes to this treaty. In a very short while after Biden’s arrival to power, the treaty was extended by five years without any changes. What was the reason for this decision? Why was the prior presidential administration against this and why did the new one make efforts to achieve an agreement in a short period of time? What can we expect to happen next? These are the questions that we will attempt to answer in this publication.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States of America
  • Author: Dustin Walcher, Lindsay M. Chervinsky, James F. Siekmeier, Kathryn C. Statler, Brian Etheridge, Seth Jacobs
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR)
  • Abstract: Seth Jacobs can write. Rogue Diplomats is a book that specialists and educated general readers will enjoy, and the reviewers agree with my assessment. It is, in Kathryn Statler’s words, “an absolute page-turner.” Lindsay Chervinsky writes that it “… is a serious diplomatic history that contributes to our understanding of the field and U.S. history, but is also fun – a quality that isn’t always associated with historical scholarship, but should be welcome.” Brian Etheredge finds that Jacobs’ “vignettes are beautifully told,” and that he “has an eye for the telling quote and writes with a verve and sense of irony that captivates.” He is “a master storyteller at the top of his game.” In sum, Jacobs elucidates important episodes of U.S. diplomacy and entertains in the process. That alone is a substantial accomplishment.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, History, Diplomatic History, Dissent
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Lina Gong
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: The Chinese government formed two new bodies in 2018 that have been expected to improve China’s response to natural hazards and humanitarian emergencies in other countries. What are the implications for Southeast Asia, where the risk and threat of different types of disaster persist?
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Government, Risk, Disaster Management
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Southeast Asia
  • Author: Mely Caballero-Anthony
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies
  • Abstract: Averting the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic requires no less than a coordinated and effective global response with the participation of all actors at multiple levels of governance. Asia must seize the opportunity to define its role in this endeavour.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Health, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Jonathan Pryke
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: East-West Center
  • Abstract: In an atmosphere of heightened geostrategic competition, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has raised questions about the risk of debt problems in less-developed countries. Such risks are especially worrying for the small and fragile economies of the Pacific. A close look at the evidence suggests that China has not been engaged in debt-trap diplomacy in the Pacific, at least not so far. Nonetheless, if future Chinese lending continues on a business-as-usual basis, serious problems of debt sustainability will arise, and concerns about quality and corruption are valid.There have been recent signs that both China and Pacific Island governments recognize the need for reform. China needs to adopt formal lending rules similar to those of the multilateral development banks, providing more favorable terms to countries at greater risk of debt distress. Alternative approaches might include replacing or partially replacing EXIM loans with the interest-free loans and grants that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce already provides.
  • Topic: Debt, Development, Diplomacy, Geopolitics, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Asia-Pacific
  • Author: Louisa Keeler
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: The small Gulf state of Oman’s identity is closely—if not inextricably—linked with the person of Sultan Qaboos, who passed away on January 10 after nearly 50 years in power. He singlehandedly transformed the country from a sleepy, closed-off country comprising disparate groups to an interconnected, modern, and unified state that has proven itself an invaluable player on the international scene. Within Oman, his portrait is ubiquitous, and his name is on countless mosques, hospitals, and institutions throughout the Sultanate, a sign of both his revered status and proof of his impact on society. Now that he is gone, he leaves behind an untested successor who is not particularly well known to the international community. Qaboos’ presence will be missed during one of the tensest moments since 1979 between the United States, Iran, and the Arab Gulf states, countries which have relied on Oman as a badly needed messenger and facilitator for negotiations. If there was ever a good time for Sultan Qaboos to die, this was not it.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Domestic politics, Monarchy, Sultan Qaboos
  • Political Geography: Oman, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Adam Garfinkle
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Sadness and tragedy come in many forms. One form consists in knowing how to solve a problem in theory, but realizing at the same time that what that would take in practice is not available. That is the case now with the tragedy unfolding in Idlib. There is a way to turn the crisis into an opportunity, but it would take wise and bold leaderships simultaneously in Washington, Jerusalem, Riyadh, Ankara, and the capitals of Europe. And that is precisely what we lack. What should be done? The U.S. government should privately propose, organize as necessary, and backstop as required a joint Israeli-Saudi intervention, coordinated with an on-going Turkish intervention, to save the million-plus refugees now facing imminent annihilation in Idlib Province, in Syria.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Intervention, Conflict, Syrian War, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria, Idlib
  • Author: Felix Chang
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Foreign Policy Research Institute
  • Abstract: Affronts to Australia by China’s top diplomat in Canberra and the Chinese Communist Party’s Global Times newspaper reached new heights in April 2020. What prompted their verbal barbs was the Australian government’s backing for an independent review into the origins and spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). While Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison may have regarded such a review as a way to avert future pandemics, Beijing saw it as support for finger-pointing at China. Whichever is the case, the affronts shone a light on how Beijing has come to view Australia and what it and other countries in the Indo-Pacific region might expect from China in the future. Still, China’s diplomatic and editorial barbs were surprising. China has long worked to move Australia closer into its orbit and away from that of the United States. And, by and large, those efforts had been paying off. Over the last decade, several Australian foreign policy analysts had come to believe that greater accommodation of China would be needed to ensure Australia’s future prosperity. Indeed, Canberra has already shown more sensitivity on issues, like Taiwan, which Beijing deemed strategic. But rather than being content with Australia’s gradual shift, China has undertaken actions that could undermine it, from cyber-espionage to political influence-buying in Australia. China’s most recent affronts are likely to deepen Australian concerns over what Chinese power means for the region.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Economy, Coronavirus
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Australia
  • Author: Kyoko Kuwahara
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: China has seen its image in the US and other countries worsen due to its slow initial responses to the novel coronavirus and its failure to disclose sufficient information. Meanwhile, China has been trumpeting its success in containing the coronavirus and pursuing "mask diplomacy" by sending medical supplies and teams of doctors to countries around the world in a frantic effort to rehabilitate its image. A glimpse of the desperation with which China is seeking to comport itself as a world leader can be seen in the facts that a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has used her own account on Twitter, inaccessible to the Chinese public at large, to appeal to public opinion in other countries, and that President Xi Jinping himself has engaged in a telephone offensive with the leaders of other countries.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Public Opinion, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, United States of America
  • Author: Yuko Ido
  • Publication Date: 12-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Japan Institute Of International Affairs (JIIA)
  • Abstract: On September 15, 2020, a joint statement was issued in Washington concerning Israeli peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain (The Abraham Accords Declaration). These agreements brought to four the number of Arab nations that have official diplomatic relations with Israel, the first two being Egypt (since 1979) and Jordan (since 1994)1. US President Trump himself praised these as "historic agreements"; however, there was no Palestinian representative at this celebration. These agreements mainly focus on strengthening economic and security relations among the participating countries, and they have encountered both supporting and opposing views within the international community. In particular, Iran and Turkey, which are at odds with Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the region, have strongly criticized the agreements, saying they run counter to resolving the Palestinian Question. Many readers might recall the Camp David Accords of about 40 years ago that led to the first peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. Let us now compare the two peace efforts and consider what the meaning of the 'Arab Cause' has been.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Treaties and Agreements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, United States of America
  • Author: James M Dorsey
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Israel resides at the cusp of the widening US-Chinese divide, as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent visit to Israel attests. Pompeo’s visit was for the express purpose of reminding Jerusalem that its dealings with Beijing jeopardize its relationship with Washington.
  • Topic: International Relations, Diplomacy, Bilateral Relations, Arms Trade, Trade
  • Political Geography: China, Middle East, Israel, Asia, Palestine, North America, United States of America
  • Author: George N Tzogopoulos
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies (BESA)
  • Abstract: Greece, Israel, and five other countries of the Eastern Mediterranean have established the East Med Gas Forum. Turkey is not a member and is employing its own muscular approach in the region. The US would like the Forum to be more inclusive, specifically toward Ankara. Athens and Jerusalem could launch a diplomatic initiative to explore Turkey’s participation, as they have nothing to lose and much to gain from such an initiative.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Gas, Trade
  • Political Geography: Turkey, Israel, Greece, Palestine, Mediterranean
  • Author: András Rácz
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: The impending presidential election in Belarus on August 9, 2020, is highly likely to result in the smooth victory of incumbent Alexandr Lukashenko. Despite this fact, the unprecedented – and still growing – politicization of Belarusian society constitutes a challenge to the regime that will not fade even after a clear-cut election. The resulting tensions will require more diplomatic attention from Germany and the European Union.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Politics, European Union, Society, Presidential Elections
  • Political Geography: Eastern Europe, Germany, Belarus
  • Author: Adam Traczyk
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)
  • Abstract: Zbigniew Rau, who was appointed foreign minister on August 26, will help align the trajectory of Polish diplomacy with the government’s general line. His appointment fits into the logic of a larger government reshuffle, expected this fall, which aims for a greater centralization of power. His higher standing in the governing PiS party may, however, halt the gradual loss of relevance of Poland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Government
  • Political Geography: Europe, Poland, Belarus