How the World Watches the Midterms

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

November 6, 2018

How the World Watches the Midterms

The world is watching the U.S. Midterms today, dominating news coverage abroad seemingly as never before. 

"The results of the 2018 midterms will be seen all over the world as a crucial test of whether Donald Trump has permanently changed America," writes Gideon Rachman for Financial Times. "The stakes have not been higher in a generation."

Republican victories will mean that "the rest of the world would have to make a long-term adjustment to an America that is highly protectionist and suspicious of treaties on principle — whether they deal with climate change, arms control, refugees or migration."

If Democrats dominate, "then the US president's foreign critics will cling on to the hope that the Trump years may yet turn out to be an aberration — and that the old America is waiting in the wings to return."

The EU should brace itself for more of the same

Midterm election results are already in as far as Europe is concerned, says Pierre Vimont for Politico Europe. And the EU should get used to that idea. "The most likely result of the midterms, he predicts, "will be the continued deterioration of the transatlantic partnership. Europeans should brace for more of the rough transactional and zero-sum approach that has defined the relationship over the past two years."

The European political class hopes that a Democratic sweep will curb Trump's destabilizing foreign policy—pulling out of the Paris Agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, and igniting trade wars. But "an unfavorable result for the president will not convince him to change his behavior or his policies."

Vimont argues that "If the Continent's political class wants to keep alive the hope of a better future, it should stop looking at the U.S. for leadership — but rather think about how Europe can take on that role for itself."

Macron's European Army

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for a "true European Army," reports Jon Stone for the Independent. China and Russia were the first potential foes mentioned—but the United States was up there, too. The United States' intended abandonment of a Cold War-era arms control treaty left one "main victim," Macron said: "Europe and its security."

Not so fast, according to the BBC's Jonathan Marcus: Europe does not have "the political will or economic muscle" to replace American might, he argues, and it's far from clear that such an army could even be effective against Russia or China. "The US relationship may be problematic but it could be becoming more important than ever."

In fact, the type of army that Macron calls for is probably being widely misconstrued, Ulrike Franke of the European Council on Foreign Relations tells GPS' Global Briefing. Such an idea "is politically impossible and – given the current political realities – undesirable." Macron is  likely alluding to some "commonly funded troops" rather than a singular European army. 

There is a danger to this misunderstanding: "We have already seen many times how this 'wrong' understanding of the idea has led to backlashes – it was for instance used to get support for Brexit," Franke tells us.

Obama and Trump's opposite and equal bets

On the heels of the United States' re-imposition of sanctions on Iran and in the midst of continued uncertainty about Saudi Arabia since the Khashoggi killing,Thomas Friedman for the New York Times points out a counterintuitive similarity between Obama and Trump's Middle East dealings.

"In both cases the U.S. hoped that limited bets on Iran and Saudi Arabia moderating their most toxic behaviors might lead to better outcomes," Friedman writes.

Betting on Iran's "pro-western middle class," "the Obama team forged the Iran nuclear deal, which curbed Iran's development of nuclear weapons for at least 15 years, in return for a lifting of U.S. sanctions — and with the hoped-for byproduct of opening Iran up to the world."

The result? "Iran denuclearized, but the Revolutionary Guards used the release of pressure and fresh cash and investments from the West to further project their power into the Sunni Arab world."

Trump has placed a similar bet on Saudi Arabia, Friedman argues: "He tore up the Iran deal, reimposed sanctions on Tehran and vowed to advance U.S. interests in the region by selling $110 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and betting on the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman."

The result?  "M.B.S. used his carte blanche from America to project power and stretch far beyond his capabilities: intervening in Yemen, blockading Qatar, abducting the prime minister of Lebanon, cracking down on women driving activists and permitting, if not ordering, his team to murder moderate Saudi democracy advocate Jamal Khashoggi."

Election fraud around the world 

"Voter fraud is not a problem in the United States. Study after study has shown that few — if any — people vote illegally in American elections," Amanda Erickson suggests for the Washington Post. But election fraud thrives. Politicians around the world from Ukraine to Brazil "get pretty creative when it comes to guaranteeing a particular outcome," using everything from disappearing ink to violence and intimidation. 

Erickson cites research showing that "vote-buying occurs in about 40 percent of all elections; voters experience violence or intimidation about a quarter of the time. That might take the form of voters being kidnapped, polling stations being bombed or people being harassed or threatened on their way to vote."

"If that sounds familiar, it should," Erickson warns: "Misinformation and voter suppression have become more routine in the United States."

 

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