The Canada Spat Raises a Big Question About America

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

August 10, 2018

The Canada Spat Raises a Big Question About America

The Trump administration's refusal to stand by Canada in its row with Saudi Arabia is another example of its failure to exercise moral leadership in US foreign policy, writes Susan Rice for The New York Times. The situation also raises a question about US-Saudi ties: Who is leading who?
"This is the hallmark of the Trump administration's approach to violations of human rights, particularly when committed by autocratic friends. In this instance, the administration left Canada swinging in the wind, gave Europeans cover to gaze at their feet rather than stand and be counted, and conveyed to Saudi Arabia and others that they can commit abuses without a word of concern, much less condemnation, from Washington," Rice says.
The US position "reflects the carte blanche we have given the 32-year-old Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to act with impunity on a wide range of issues," Rice notes, pointing to a crackdown on activists, the blockade of Qatar, and the war in Yemen.

"The United States is following, not leading, in our newly unconditional partnership with Saudi Arabia. We consistently acquiesce in the crown prince's actions, however impulsive or harmful."

Surprise! Foreign Policy Really Might Matter in November

Foreign policy is typically seen as a secondary issue for US voters. That may have changed with President Trump – and the results might not be pretty in November's midterms and beyond, suggests Trevor Thrall for The Hill.
"When Trump says he's protecting American workers, he could be talking about tax cuts, illegal immigration, 'horrible trade deals,' or terrorism. Trump's America First strategy has blurred much of the historical difference between foreign policy and domestic policy. Trump has also spent a lot more time talking about trade and immigration than his predecessors. All of this makes foreign policy more important moving forward," Thrall writes.
"Unfortunately for Trump and the Republicans, Trump's foreign policies have been historically unpopular. Not only does Trump suffer lower approval for his handling of foreign policy than all presidents back to Ronald Reagan, but majorities of Americans oppose Trump's calling card issues."

MIA: A Coherent Plan for Russia

The announcement of US sanctions on Russia this week is a welcome sign that some parts of the Trump administration are willing to be decisive on the issue, the Financial Times editorializes. But something a little more coherent would be better.
"To stand the best chance of changing the Kremlin's behavior…the US needs to maintain co-ordination with other partners, which can appear lacking. Washington's measures over the Salisbury poisoning are in some ways a boost for UK prime minister Theresa May's tough stance on Russia. But, for now, they have got ahead of Britain's own steps," the FT argues.
"Sanctions should provide, too, some certainty that if Moscow does turn over a new leaf, they will be lifted. By putting the original sanctions imposed over Russia's intervention in Ukraine into law, and layering new measures on top, Congress risks convincing the Kremlin they are never intended to be reversed but rather to place it under permanent pressure."

Why There's No Going Back with Turkey

President Trump said Friday US-Turkey ties "are not good at this time" as US frustration grows over the continued detention in Turkey of an American pastor. Trump is right – and there seems no way now of going back, writes Therese Raphael for Bloomberg.
"The standoff is partly the accumulation of years of resentment, despite the pretenses of a faithful partnership. Turkey's once-unassailable support among US foreign policy leaders, and in Congress, has been weakened by years of authoritarian creep, a worsening human rights record and cooperation with Russia and Iran in Syria," Raphael writes.
"American support for Turkey doesn't crumble in a day. The relationship is baked into ties on multiple levels…And yet, it has definitely changed, thanks not so much to national interests, but to failings in leadership. The US will have to settle for something less loyal, less an alliance and more a transactional relationship."

Why Space Could Get Really, Really Messy

Vice President Mike Pence's speech this week laying out the Trump administration's plans for a new Space Force warned that the United States needs to be ready for the next "battlefield." That sounds like a recipe for making one serious problem much worse, writes Rick Noack for The Washington Post.

China has already attempted to "extend its military might" into space, "culminating in a 2007 military antisatellite test in the low Earth orbit — within 1,240 miles of our planet — that has the highest density of satellites. Analysts estimate that 25 percent of today's space debris originated in this single 2007 test when the Chinese military blasted apart one of its own weather satellites with a missile at an altitude of 537 miles."

"Now imagine a real space arms race or even a full-blown conflict."

The Folly of the Egypt Aid Decision

The US decision to resume military assistance to Egypt despite continuing repression in the country is just the latest example of Washington blinking in a standoff with Cairo, writes Andrew Miller for Foreign Policy. That's bad for America and bad for the region.
"For the 11 months that US military aid was on hold, Egypt's political situation deteriorated markedly. In March, [President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi] staged a farcical election in which every credible challenger was arrested or intimidated out of the race. Over the last few months, Sisi has continued locking up activists, Islamist and secular, but has started to target bloggers and other political commentators as well," Miller writes.
"Terrorist groups, including the Islamic State, have already exploited unprecedented repression to ramp up their recruiting efforts in Egyptian prisons, which were the breeding ground for many al Qaeda members a generation ago. Sisi's polices could even lead to the very type of instability that has swelled refugee flows elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa."



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