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Defense & Security
Solomon Islands

Russia and China co-ordinate on disinformation in Solomon Islands elections

by Albert Zhang , Adam Ziogas

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Moscow and Beijing likely worked together to sow disinformation globally that was propagated locally by political parties in the lead-up to Solomon Islands’ national and provincial elections on 17 April 2024. Both countries’ propaganda systems accused the United States, without evidence, of using its foreign aid and networks across the country to interfere in voting and of preparing to foment riots and orchestrate regime change in response to an unsatisfactory election result. This campaign adds to a growing body of evidence showing that China’s and Russia’s ‘no limits’ partnership extends to coordinating their disinformation campaigns in the Indo-Pacific. The narratives haven’t gained widespread attention or media coverage in Solomon Islands. Australia, the United States and other Pacific partners should nonetheless be concerned, as Russia and China can be expected to learn from this campaign and will likely use the lessons to further improve their influence operations in the region. Individually, China and Russia are adept and expert at pushing disinformation to disrupt other nations but, by coordinating their efforts, they have a force-multiplier effect. The campaign consisted of an alleged ‘leaked’ letter, articles published on authoritarian state-controlled media outlets and a fringe journal publication, which were then shared and amplified on social media platforms. A fortnight before election day, an unknown author by the name of Richard Anderson published an explosive article in CovertAction Magazine alleging that the US was seeking regime change in Solomon Islands. The US-based magazine was co-founded in 1978 by the late Philip Agee, a former CIA officer who after his retirement became a vocal critic of the agency and of US policy and had reported links with Soviet and Cuban intelligence. The magazine was set up ‘on the initiative of the KGB’, the Soviet Union’s main intelligence agency, according to a book by KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin and British intelligence historian Christopher Andrew. Anderson had no previous history of writing for CovertAction Magazine. A week after that article was published, Russian state-controlled media agency Sputnik further fuelled the allegations, writing that the US was ‘plotting [an] electoral coup’. This article cited an anonymous source who had ‘intimate familiarity’ with the activities of USAID, the main United States foreign aid and international development agency. This mirrored how Anderson is described in his CovertAction Magazine bio, though Sputnik’s article did not explicitly mention him or his article. Sputnik’s claims were amplified four days later by the Chinese state-controlled tabloid newspaper the Global Times, which did directly reference Anderson’s article and has the potential to legitimise these narratives to an audience the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively targeting. During the same period, a poorly fabricated letter from an unconfirmed (and potentially non-existent) IFES project consultant was circulated among Solomon Islanders by an unknown source claiming that the US was seeking a ‘democratic transition by violent means in necessary circumstances.’ The text in this letter mirrored language used by Sputnik’s alleged anonymous source. Figure 1: Paragraph from Sputnik article (top) and a screenshot of the alleged IFES letter (bottom).     To be clear, there is no evidence that the US, or any other country, is supporting violent riots or interfering in Solomon Islands. Ann Marie Yastishock, US Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu, has strongly refuted these allegations. This is not the first time the CCP-controlled media has spread disinformation in Solomon Islands or accused the US of seeking to instigate riots in the country. Following the 2021 Honiara riots, the CCP falsely accused Australia, the US and Taiwan of organising the riots, fomenting unrest and discrediting the relationship between Solomon Islands and China. In contrast, Russian media outlets also covered the 2021 Honiara riots but didn’t promote any explicit accusations of US or foreign interference. This time, China and Russia have been in lockstep. In the lead-up to the April elections, Russian state media was more direct and damning in its reporting with the release of Sputnik’s original article and in the subsequent coordination and dissemination of false narratives alongside Chinese state media. While Sputnik published only one follow-up article to the initial investigation, China’s Global Times was more prolific and varied, with six articles alleging US meddling in Solomon Islands. Of these six articles, four explicitly referenced Sputnik’s claims and two referenced US influence operations in more general terms. The indications of Russia-China propaganda coordination in this campaign were further supported by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) post on 19 April 2024 titled ‘The Hypocrisy and Facts of the United States Foreign Aid’. The post on their website claims the US is giving aid to Solomon Islands, among other countries, only because it sees it as a political threat. This was the first article ever published by the MFA to smear USAID. Moscow, however, has consistently campaigned against USAID since it ejected the US agency from Russia in 2012 for ‘meddling in politics’. Russian media has pushed a consistent narrative that the organisation is a US imperialist tool of regime change, accusing it of fomenting civil unrest and coup attempts as far afield as Belarus, Cuba, Georgia and Mexico. However, this latest attack against USAID appears to be the first where Russia’s narratives are working to the benefit of CCP interests. It’s been clear since at least 2018 that Russian and Chinese state media are converging on media narratives that serve their governments’ strategic and political interests. According to leaked documents from Russian state broadcaster VGTRK, Russian and Chinese propaganda entities also signed an agreement to ‘further cooperate in the field of information exchange, promoting objective, comprehensive and accurate coverage of the most important world events’. While previous ASPI research has demonstrated Russian and Chinese state-coordinated narratives on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the repeated re-airing of Sputnik’s conspiratorial claims of interference in Solomon Islands’ elections in Global Times articles indicates this propaganda cooperation is now a global initiative. There was also some evidence of amplification by inauthentic accounts on social media of these narratives, but they were limited and it is unclear whether they were state linked. For example, one X account with the handle @jv79628 shared the original Sputnik investigation. The account posts links almost exclusively from Sputnik, Global Times, Australian website Pearls and Irritations and videos with artificial intelligence-generated voices from the pro-CCP YouTube channel Chinese Revival, which may be linked to the Shadow Play network previously uncovered by ASPI. Other accounts sharing the original Sputnik report, such as @de22580171, pose as pro-Russian US citizens. They share articles mostly from Sputnik or Russia Today. At the time of publication of this report, Russia’s and China’s state media articles, and the accusations contained in them, have had minimal reach into online Pacific communities. In the public Solomon Islands Facebook groups ASPI viewed, online discourse remains more focussed on the emergence of new coalitions and the election of a new Prime Minister than on discussion of foreign influence or interference. According to Meta’s social monitoring tool, CrowdTangle, none of the articles from the Global Times have been shared in open and public Solomon Islands Facebook groups. However, Sputnik’s first article may have been more successful in reinforcing anti-Western sentiments in outgoing Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s O.U.R. Party, who are strong contenders to be part of the coalition that forms the next government. That article was posted on the O.U.R. Party Solomon Islands Facebook page, which is run by the party, on 10 April. It was reshared to several public Facebook groups in Solomon Islands, including news aggregation sites and local island forum pages. This is significant because it is the first time a news article has been posted on the O.U.R. Party Solomon Islands Facebook page, which typically shares positive images of the party’s activities and political campaigns. As of 1 May 2024, the post (below) has had over 180 interactions, which is higher than the average number of interactions a typical post has on this page. Figure 2: Screenshot of Sputnik article posted in O.U.R Party Solomon Islands Facebook page.     Sogavare, a founding member of the O.U.R. Party, has made similar remarks about ‘foreign forces’ previously. According to an article published in the Solomon Star, when US Ambassador Yastishock visited Solomon Islands in late March to present her letter of credentials to Governor-General John Oti, Sogavare claimed foreign forces were ‘intervening in the national general election’ and ‘may fund some political parties and plan to stage another riot during the election to disrupt the electoral process and undermine social stability’. Despite the low online interaction so far, the barrage of US regime change allegations lays the foundation for future narratives that may resurface if Solomon Islands experiences future unrest. Beijing and Moscow can be expected to learn from these disinformation efforts, leaving the US, Australia and their Pacific partners no room for complacency about the threat the regimes pose, nor the need for effective strategic communication. The Russian and Chinese governments are seeking to destabilise the Pacific’s information environment by using disinformation campaigns and influence operations to undermine traditional partnerships. In this digital age, leaders of governments and civil society across the region need to consistently confront and counter baseless lies pushed by authoritarian state media, such as accusations that the governments of Australia and the US are instigating riots. If they fail to do so, partnerships with, and trust in, democratic countries are at risk of deteriorating, which can reduce the development benefits provided to Pacific Island Countries by Western partners. Australia, the US, and other close Pacific partners, such as Japan, New Zealand and the European Union, must take a stronger stance against false and misleading information that is starting to circulate in the region as a result of authoritarian state-backed disinformation campaigns. These nations must also better support and encourage local media and governments to take further steps to identify and combat false information online. This includes providing more training packages and opportunities for dialogue on media-government communication procedures to tackle disinformation and misinformation. Countering the effects of disinformation requires ongoing efforts to call out false statements, educate the public, and build country-wide resilience in the information environment. Greater transparency and public awareness campaigns from the region’s partners can also help to ‘prebunk’—or anticipate and delegitimise—disinformation and alleviate concerns about malign activity.

Energy & Economics
Export in Chains

Export bans and inter-state tensions: The need for a revised WTO export bans framework to address worrying state behaviour at the peak of the pandemic

by Dr. Seebal Aboudounya

Please note that this article is only available in English. Abstract: During the peak of the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, some states imposed export bans on medical goods to prevent their exportation during the emergency situation brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the manner in which this policy was applied caused much discontent especially between neighbouring countries and allies, particularly due to the confiscation of pre-ordered goods destined for countries also experiencing a crisis situation. This paper analyses the rise of inter-state tensions due to export bans at the peak of the pandemic and calls for the need to revise the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) export bans framework which currently contains a number of gaps exacerbating the problem and leaving a legal gap. The paper discusses those gaps in the WTO’s legal framework and highlights the areas in need of revision to avoid repeating the troubles of the past pandemic. Introduction Faced with political pressure and an extraordinary situation during the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, some countries resorted to the use of export bans as a tool to ensure that they have enough medical supplies for their population. However, their use of export bans also involved the confiscation of medical goods destined for delivery to their neighbours and allies. Such behaviour provoked discontent among those states expecting the delivery of their ordered medical supplies which were urgently needed as the death-toll from Covid-19 was sharply rising. This article starts by explaining the instances where confiscations using export bans occurred, namely between the United States and Germany, the US and Barbados as well as France and the United Kingdom. The paper also discusses the ‘near misses’ involving some European states where the export bans were initially used to confiscate the goods of other European countries, but then those goods were ultimately allowed to be delivered abroad to their delivery location. The discussion then shifts to the international legal framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) governing the use of export bans and then shows how this legal framework is flawed in certain areas as it contains some gaps that may be exploited for conducting unconstrained confiscation operations. An overview of existing studies on export bans then reveals that this policy is already harmful in several ways (Evenett 2020a; Bown 2020; Barichello 2020). The article then ends with a concluding discussion emphasising how export bans are particularly harmful when used in relation to pre-ordered goods and reiterating the need for a revised WTO legal framework on export bans. Incidents of confiscations using export bans The three incidents below all occurred during the peak of the covid pandemic in 2020 when countries faced life and death situations. The three cases also involved the use of export bans to justify the confiscation of medical goods pre-ordered by other states. US vs Germany This incident occurred on 3rd April 2020 involving the United States and Germany (Crump 2020). This particular event captured a lot of media attention and included the release of high-level statements from both sides, with accusations of “modern piracy” being directed towards the US (BBC 2020a). The main issue here was that approximately 200,000 N95 masks that Germany had ordered for its police force were diverted to the United States (Selinger 2020). The masks shipment dispatched from China from an American company was diverted to the US during a transfer between planes in Thailand (Selinger 2020). Germany stated that the masks were confiscated in Bangkok by American officials and that those masks were ordered from a US producer (Crump 2020; DW 2020). The next day, the US company 3M denied Germany’s claims and told a German news agency that it did not have any paperwork regarding a shipment for Germany (DW 2020). However, Germany had made it clear on 3rd April that it had ordered and paid for those urgently needed masks from a US company (Berlin 2020). In fact, Germany referred to earlier accusations made by French officials against the US for buying France’s masks in China and added that “the U.S. administration has obliged the American conglomerate 3M by law to supply the U.S. with as many N95 respiratory masks as possible, such as those used in hospitals” and that “the group also manufactures in China” (Berlin 2020a). Significantly, the media was already reporting how the American company 3M “has been prohibited from exporting its medical products to other countries under a Korean-War-era law invoked by President Donald Trump” (BBC 2020a). The BBC (2020a) added that “on Friday [3rd April], Mr Trump said he was using the Defence Production Act (DPA) to demand that US firms provide more medical supplies to meet domestic demand”. Zooming in on Trump’s official statements during the Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing reveals significant information when he stated that:  I’m also signing a directive invoking the Defense Production Act to prohibit export of scarce health and medical supplies by unscrupulous actors and profiteers. The security and Secretary — the Secretary of Homeland Security will work with FEMA to prevent the export of N95 respirators, surgical masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment. We need these items immediately for domestic use. We have to have them. […] We’ve already leveraged the DPA to stop the hoarding and price gouging of crucial supplies. Under that authority, this week, the Department of Health and Human Services, working with the Department of Justice, took custody of nearly 200,000 N95 respirators, 130,000 surgical masks, 600,000 gloves, as well as bottles — many, many, many bottles — and disinfectant sprays that were being hoarded (Whitehouse 2020, emphasis added).  Trump’s statements are important because they include the significant number of 200,000. Although Trump did not specify where those 200,000 N95 were confiscated from, the number remains important (BBC 2020a); it is the same number of masks that Germany reported. More importantly, the official statement also supports the fact that the DPA was used as a tool for confiscating goods. Trump’s statements describe these good as being ‘hoarded’ prior to their confiscation, however, the statements from Germany’s side indicate that those masks were intended for the German people. As significant as Trump’s statements were the ones made by Berlin’s Interior Senator who blamed the US for the confiscation of the N95 masks (DW 2020). In fact, he stated that:  We consider this an act of modern piracy. This is not how you deal with transatlantic partners. Even in times of global crisis, there should be no wild west methods. I urge the federal government to urge the United States to comply with international rules (Berlin 2020b; BBC 2020a).  As such, this incident saw direct statements from the German side, indicating that Germany saw the US’ behavior as deviating from international rules. Yet despite Trump’s statements in the press briefing, he directly addressed the German incident, denying the claims by saying that “there has been no act of piracy” (Crump 2020). Similarly, the spokeswoman for the American embassy in Bangkok denied that the US had knowledge of the mask shipment bound for Germany (Tanakasempipat 2020). Despite the US’ constant denial of state involvement, it remains a fact that an order of 200,000 masks destined for Germany was never delivered. Moreover, at no point did the developments mention non-state entities, but rather, the discourse had remained solely at the inter-state level and the main issue for discussion was the US’ use of the Defence Production Act to secure vital medical goods. US vs Barbados On the 5th of April, Barbados was brought into the picture when 20 ventilators donated to Barbados by a Philanthropist where “barred from exportation” by the US government (Barbados Today 2020). Moreover, as stated by the Barbadian Health and Wellness minister, these ventilators were already “paid for” (Barbados Today 2020). In explaining this incident, the Health minister clarified that “it has to do with export restrictions being placed on certain items” (Connell 2020). Thus, the Barbados incident was another instance where export bans were used as the justification for confiscating important medical supplies that were destined for another country. As for the US’ response to this incident, The Miami Herald wrote that a State department spokesperson’s email response “seemed to suggest that some previous media reports about seized medical exports may not be accurate” (Charles 2020). However, given that this is an incident relating to a Caribbean Island whose relations with the US are far from hostile, it is unlikely that this confiscation incident was characterised by significant inaccuracies. France vs UK Another instance of confiscation via export bans was reported during the pandemic, but this time, the location was Europe. The incident happened in March 2020 and had the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) as the victim and France as the accused. France’s actions were reported by Euronews when it stated that:  France has forced a face mask manufacturer to cancel a major UK order as the coronavirus-inspired scramble for protective gear intensifies. The National Health Service ordered millions of masks from Valmy SAS near Lyon earlier this year as COVID-19 threatened. But amid a global shortage, France earlier this week ordered the requisition of all protective masks made in the country (Euronews 2020). France’s export ban placed the company in an uncomfortable situation as it was prohibited from fulfilling the NHS’ order. Indeed, the company director commented that "the requisition does not allow any wiggle room for us to deliver to the NHS, but it is complicated because the NHS was the first client to order and uses our masks all year long” (Euronews 2020). It is important to note that four months later, the Guardian revealed that Valmy had a contract with the NHS that was signed in 2017 where this company “was required to deliver almost 7m FFP3 respirator masks to the UK at 17p per mask in a pandemic situation as soon as the order was activated” (Davies and Garside 2020). The NHS did indeed activate the contract in early February, however, the French “sweeping requisition decree” ultimately meant that France seized the masks within its borders (Davies and Garside 2020). Near misses: tensions in Europe The incidents below can be described as “near misses" as the accused states initially confiscated other state’s products, but eventually gave them back to their neighbours. The cases here are particularly useful for showing how the misuse of export bans has the potential to harm diplomatic relations between neighbouring states and allies, especially when the ban is placed over other states’ pre-ordered goods. Germany vs neighbours One of such instances occurred between Germany and Switzerland, but this time Germany was the accused. The incident was reported on the 9th of March 2020 and caused a strain in Germany’s relationship with Switzerland during the pandemic. The “diplomatic spat” started a week after the German government banned exports on most protective medical goods (Dahinten and Wabl 2020). Switzerland was particularly angered when 240,000 masks travelling to it were blocked from crossing the German border to enter Switzerland (Dahinten and Wabl 2020). Switzerland then called the German ambassador for “an emergency meeting” regarding this issue amid a very tense situation, especially when it hardly manufactures protective equipment itself (The Local 2020). Eventually after a call was scheduled between the leaders of both countries, Germany modified the ban on the 12th of March, adding exemptions and then removed it completely the following week (Hall et al. 2020). Germany’s diplomatic relations were equally weakening with another neighbour, but this time, the neighbour was a European Union (EU) member. The point of conflict was of course the export ban on protective equipment. The Austrian Economy minister commented on this ban by stating that:  It can’t be that Germany is holding back products for Austria just because they happen to be stored in a German location […] these products are for the Austrian market, and unilateral moves by Germany are just causing problems in other countries (Dahinten and Wabl 2020).  Such statements indicate that placing export bans on other states’ goods seriously angers the importing states as such bans make them feel that their interests are being completely ignored by their counterparts. France vs neighbours France also got a share of the criticism in March when it seized the supplies of the Swedish company Mölnlycke located in France after announcing an export ban on masks and other medical goods (AP 2020; Marlowe 2020). The conflict erupted between France and Sweden when the French ban was placed over Mölnlycke’s Lyon Warehouse that is responsible for distributing personal protective equipment to Southern Europe as well as Belgium and the Netherlands (Marlowe 2020). Significantly, the seized stock was composed of 6 million masks, all of which “had been contracted for”, including a million masks each to Italy and Spain (Marlowe 2020). Eventually, France allowed the shipments to go to Italy and Spain despite initial reluctance to do so (AP 2020). However, the easing of the situation was mainly due to the “crucial efforts” of Sweden’s prime minister who was thanked by Mölnlycke on the 4th of April for his role in the removal of the French export ban on the Lyon Warehouse (Mölnlycke 2020). It is important to note that this instance also made its way to the European Parliament on the 3rd of April where the French export ban was questioned and criticised as “yet another demonstration of the lack of European solidarity” (EP 2020). Thus, this specific incident resonated across the whole of Europe, and not in a positive way. Export bans: the GATT framework The international law on export bans falls under the competence of the WTO, particularly the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 which itself is mainly composed of the 1947 GATT agreement (GATT 1994). Significantly, article XI of the agreement titled ‘General Elimination of Quantitative Restrictions’ prohibits the use of export bans when it states that:  No prohibitions or restrictions other than duties, taxes or other charges, whether made effective through quotas, import or export licences or other measures, shall be instituted or maintained by any contracting party on the importation of any product of the territory of any other contracting party or on the exportation or sale for export of any product destined for the territory of any other contracting party (GATT 1994).  However, the agreement leaves out certain exemptions where this prohibition does not apply, the relevant one here being “export prohibitions or restrictions temporarily applied to prevent or relieve critical shortages of foodstuffs or other products essential to the exporting contracting party” where the GATT clearly states that “the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article shall not extent to” it (GATT 1994, XI, 2(a)). The emphasis on the temporary application of such measures is important and is further clarified in the WTO’s timely report on “export prohibition and restrictions” issued at the peak of the Covid pandemic where it explained that:  The reference to a measure that is "temporarily applied" indicates that the carve-out applies to measures applied for a limited time, taken to bridge a "passing need". In turn, "critical shortage" refers to deficiencies in quantity that are crucial, that amount to a situation of decisive importance, or that reach a vitally important or decisive stage, or a turning point (WTO 2020, annex 1).  Of relevance to the export bans legal framework is also Article XX of the GATT (1994) titled “General Exceptions” that states how:  Subject to the requirement that such measures are not applied in a manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between countries where the same conditions prevail, or a disguised restriction on international trade, nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to prevent the adoption or enforcement by any contracting party of measures […] (b) necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health.  Thus, here the GATT agreement allows countries to use export bans when it is necessary to protect lives. The WTO’s report confirms the relevance of this exception to the Covid-19 situation when it explains that:  In the context of COVID-19, Article XX(b) of the GATT 1994 could be used to justify a ban or quantitative restriction on the exportation of goods, so long as such a measure would be necessary and effective in contributing to protecting the health of that country's citizens (WTO 2020, Annex 1).  Thus, in terms of international law, countries are allowed to make use of export bans when faced with exceptional circumstances. During the Covid pandemic, the WTO member states did indeed make use of the exceptions and exemptions codified in the GATT agreement while informing the WTO of their new policies (Pauwelyn 2020, 107). However, when life is back to normal, their use remains illegal. Thus, overall, the export bans legal situation can be described as residing in a ‘legal grey zone’ whereby their use, though normally prohibited, can be justified and permitted in serious situations requiring them (Pelc 2020, 349). Nonetheless, it is important to note that the international legal framework here does not provide clarification for situations where the export ban exemption is placed on pre-ordered or pre-paid-for goods supposed to go to other countries. Indeed, the current legal framework suffers from a number of ambiguities as explained below. The first ambiguity relates to the term “destined goods.” When prohibiting export bans, article XI speaks of “export of any product destined for the territory of any other contracting party”. Thus, clearly, countries cannot put their hands on goods going to other countries for this would be illegal. However, the carve-out intended to “prevent or relieve critical shortages” is not detailed enough as to clarify if this also applies to goods “destined” for other countries (GATT, article XI, 2(a)). Even if the “destined” statement is applied to the exemption, the ambiguity remains. Much of the ambiguity rests on how to interpret the term “destined” from the export prohibition paragraph: is the term “destined” applied here generally whereby a company in Country X is an exporter and thus it’s goods will naturally be “destined” for other countries, or does the term imply goods that are ready-to-travel to other countries who have already placed an order or paid for goods? Clearly, it’s the second interpretation when applied as an exemption that has been the cause of conflict between the states in the previous section. However, regardless of which interpretation is intended in the GATT, instances where countries confiscate orders destined for other countries is seen as politically and morally unacceptable by the latter; “modern piracy” was how Germany described it. Thus, whatever the world leaders had in mind when they agreed to this exemption, clearly it now needs a lot of clarification. Secondly, there is ambiguity over the situation regarding donated goods. This is an important question especially given the Barbados case. Here the goods sold in country X were already bought in Country X (from a philanthropist in Country X) to be sent to country Y. Thus, a transaction had already taken place and the goods now belong to the philanthropist who is kindly giving this order to Country Y. Does an export ban apply to this situation? Logically, there is little to no justification for its application in this scenario, but the GATT agreement still needs to confirm this. Thirdly, there is ambiguity over the situation of “guest” companies. Given the globalised world we live in, does this exemption apply to international companies geographically located in country X? This was the main cause of tension between Sweden and France when France imposed the export ban over the Swedish company’s Warehouse. A logical consideration of this situation would lead to a ‘no’ answer to this question, but it is also acknowledged that the company may be subject to the geographical jurisdiction and the laws of the country that it is located in. Thus, it is important that the relationship between the host country and the foreign company is clarified when it comes to export prohibitions. Fourthly, there is ambiguity over the timeline of enforcing an export ban policy. The Covid crisis saw quick decisions being taken and implemented. This was particularly the case with export bans and was to the detriment of the importing states. In the case of the US-Germany incident, the confiscation of the masks on their way to Germany occurred hours before the US president announced invoking the defence production Act. In fact, the US policy on export restrictions became official on the 7th of April after the Federal Emergency Management Agency published it (Bown 2020). Significantly, FEMA stated that “this rule is effective from April 7, 2020 until August 10, 2020” (FEMA 2020). Thus, the obvious question arises: on what basis were the masks going to Germany confiscated? Similarly, on what basis were the ventilators destined for Barbados blocked by the US on the 5th of April? If the WTO steps in to advise on the implementation of such export bans, the situation would be greatly improved. Finally, there is ambiguity over the extent to which one country may enforce its policy, particularly in other countries. The US-Germany case was sensationalised by an “international hunt” for masks in Bangkok; thus, here the US officials imposed the export ban on an American company in a foreign country outside their national jurisdiction. However, the question remains, is this permissible under the GATT? The GATT articles did not go that far, but it is important that the international legal framework answers this question. Overall, several unanswered questions resulting from the brevity of the GATT’s article on export bans require answers. Filling in those gaps in the GATT would greatly improve the legal framework on export bans and ease tensions between member states. The next section takes a closer look at export bans, particularly their discussion in the literature and their unwelcome effects. The effects of export bans The academic literature on export bans mainly focuses on their effects, either on several states or on specific case-studies. Prior to Covid-19, a number of studies were mainly concerned with the effects of export bans following the food price crisis in 2007-2008 when countries made use of export restrictions on agricultural commodities in an attempt to stabilise domestic markets (e.g. Liefert, Westcott, and Wainio 2012; Dorosh and Rashid 2013; Timmer 2010). However, following the coronavirus pandemic, some studies have focused on their use on medical goods and agricultural goods as well as on their effects (Koppenberg et al. 2020; Pelc 2020; Evenett 2020b). Nevertheless, what unites almost all the studies on export restrictions is that they mainly agree that such bans do more harm than good. The recent studies on export bans are important because they demonstrate how this policy results in negative effects. For example, Simon Evenett (2020a, 831) in his recent work argues that “export bans on masks, for example, erode the capability of trading partners to cope with the spread of COVID-19. Rather than beggar-thy-neighbour, export bans on medical supplies effectively sicken-thy-neighbour”. He further analyses the effect of the export ban from the perspective of the developing countries cut-off from receiving advanced medical equipment such as ventilators, and explains that whenever this policy is implemented, “a significant share of the world’s population” is prevented from accessing this vital equipment (Evenett 2020a, 832). Evenett (2020a, 833) therefore recommends that governments consider other alternatives to export bans that “do not impede foreign purchases”. Significantly, Evenett also discusses the effect of the export curbs on the exporting country itself and argues that this policy is counter-productive:  Whatever temporary gain there is in limiting shipments abroad, the loss of future export sales will discourage local firms from ramping up production and investing in new capacity, which is exactly what the WHO has called for. In practical terms, during a pandemic this mean that an export ban “secures” certain, currently available medical supplies at the expense of more locally produced supplies in the future (Evenett 2020a, 832).  Internationally, export bans have also been shown to have severe effects on several countries at once. Chad Bown’s (2020, 43) work on the Covid pandemic demonstrates how “taking supplies off the global market can lead to higher world prices and reduced quantities, harming hospital workers in need in other countries”. He also cautions that their use during the pandemic may invoke a “multiplier effect”, similar to the one observed during the sharp price increases of agricultural goods in the 2000s when “one country’s export restriction led to additional global shortages, further increasing world prices, putting pressure on other countries to impose even more export restrictions” (Bown, 2020, 44). Richard Barichello’s (2020, 223) study on Covid-19 and the agricultural sector also highlights the negative effect of export bans while observing how some countries have already imposed export restrictions on staple goods such as rice and cereal products during the pandemic. Barichello acknowledges that such export bans could have a positive effect on countries such as Canada if a consequence of such a ban increases the price of a commodity that it exports. However, he also explains the gravity of the adoption of export bans during current times when he writes that:  The distributional effects of adding export restrictions will, like the COVID-19 crisis itself, fall most heavily on the poor in importing countries by reducing trade, raising food prices, and reducing food security in all but the export countries of that commodity (Barichello 2020, 223). Export bans have also been shown to have “intangible” negative effects that are also significant. Hoekman, Firoini and Yildirim’s (2020) study focuses on export bans from an “international cooperation” perspective and emphasises the foreign policy damages resulting from export bans. The authors write that “in the case of the EU, the immediate policy responses of some member states may have damaged the European project by eroding trust among European partners” (Hoekman, Firoini and Yildirim 2020, 78). Simon Evenett (2020b, 54) adds that export restrictions are a “gift to those economic nationalists abroad that want to unwind or shorten international supply chains”; such nationalists can then claim that relying on the foreign market is unreliable. It is significant that the WTO itself discusses a similar point in its Covid-19 report on export restrictions when it lists the following as part of the “other possible consequences” of export bans:  An erosion of confidence in the multilateral trading system, in particular if restrictions negatively impact the most vulnerable, especially least-developed countries, whose healthcare systems are already strained. It would be difficult for importing members to trust a system that fails to produce tangible benefits in times of crisis and may lead to general calls to ensure that production of medical and other products only take place at the national level (WTO 2020, 9).  The WTO (2020, 9) also highlights how from a health-perspective, export bans may ultimately weaken the fight against the coronavirus when it states how: “given its global nature, if some countries are not able to combat the disease, this coronavirus, or mutated strains of it, will inevitably recirculate and contaminate the populations of all countries, including those imposing the export restrictions”. Thus, an export ban on medical goods is not the soundest policy to implemented during a pandemic. Effects of export ban confiscations & concluding thoughts It is important to consider the consequences of using export bans specifically as a confiscation technique. The points raised above are still of high relevance. However, there are three main disadvantages that are particularly prominent when countries place export bans on other states’ goods. Firstly, enforcing this policy on the goods of other states creates severe tensions between countries at different levels. The first one is at the diplomatic level whereby the officials of country Y express their discontent to officials of country X. Such tensions then easily transmit to other places. Indeed, at the citizenry level, these tensions take the foreground as the citizens in country Y read the news and frown at what their neighbouring states are doing to them in times of need. Thus, the misuse of export bans can be seen as a threat to diplomacy, international trade, and to the principles of establishing friendly relations between states and peoples. Secondly, shortages and stress are another effect of this policy when enforced on other states’ goods. When countries place orders, it is usually because they have a need for those orders. When those orders are then confiscated, those expecting the orders are left empty-handed and in a stressful situation. The stress is generated after the realisation that their plans for fighting the virus have been compromised; orders placed months or weeks ago will now not reach their borders despite those orders being just hours away from arrival. In the above cases, the German police and the NHS had to deal with the unpleasant news that their mask orders will not arrive. Such export bans create a difficult situation for the importing nations and for their institutions, as they then try to seek alternative suppliers at a very short notice. Finally, the implementation of this policy on other states’ orders sends worrying empirical signals. Scholars of IR when they first learn about international politics naturally ask whether the world we live in is a very “realist” world characterised by “survival of the fittest” instinct, or whether it is a world that accommodates international law and inter-state cooperation, despite anarchy. This is the essence of the classical debate between Realists and neo-Liberal Institutionalists (Mearsheimer 1994; Walt, 1997; Ikenberry 2011; Martin 1992). It is reassuring that in the previous discussion, the WTO still had a role to play. The European Commission also tried to solve the disputes arising between its members over the export bans (EC 2020). However, despite those interventions, it was clear that the cause of the problem was the unilateral export ban policy that was quickly being implemented at the discretion of the member states over what was destined for other states. As such, there is an urgent need for the WTO to revise its export ban legal framework to prevent the above scenarios from ever repeating in the future. 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Baldwin and Simon J. Evenett eds., COVID-19 and Trade Policy: Why Turning Inward Won’t Work. London: CEPR press, pp. 31-47. https://cepr.org/publications/books-and-reports/covid-19-and-trade-policy-why-turning-inward-wont-work Charles, Jacqueline. 2020. “Barbados accuses U.S. of blocking ventilators for coronavirus, then walks back allegation.” Miami Herald. 6 April. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/haiti/article241783756.html Connell, Antoinette. 2020. “Bostic: Ventilators not seized.” Nation News. 6 April. https://www.nationnews.com/2020/04/06/bostic-ventilators-not-seized/ Crump, James. 2020. “US denies diverting masks headed for Germany after Trump administration accused of ‘modern piracy’.” The Independent, 6 April. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/coronavirus-masks-update-trump-germany-facemasks-bangkok-modern-piracy-a9449976.html Dahinten, Jan and Matthias Wabl. 2020. “Germany Faces Backlash From Neighbors Over Mask Export Ban.” Blomberg. 9 March. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-09/germany-faces-backlash-from-neighbors-over-mask-export-ban Davies, Harry and Juliette Garside. 2020. “Revealed: NHS denied PPE at height of Covid-19 as supplier prioritised China.” The Guardian. 20 July. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/20/revealed-nhs-denied-ppe-at-height-of-covid-19-as-supplies-sent-to-china-coronavirus Dorosh, Paul. A. and Shahidur Rashid. 2013. “Trade subsidies, export bans and price stabilization: Lessons of Bangladesh–India rice trade in the 2000s.” Food Policy, 41, 103-111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2013.05.001 DW. 2020. “US firm denies German ‘piracy’ claims over vanished face masks.” DW, 4 April. https://www.dw.com/en/us-firm-denies-german-piracy-claims-over-vanished-face-masks/a-53017112 EC. 2020. “Communication from The Commission To The European Parliament, The European Council, The Council, The European Central Bank, The European Investment Bank And The Eurogroup: Coordinated economic response to the COVID-19 Outbreak.” European Commission, 13th March, Brussels. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A52020DC0112 EP. 2020. “Parliamentary questions, subject: Masks intended for Italy blocked by France.” European Parliament. 3rd April. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/P-9-2020-002075_EN.html Euronews, R. 2020. “Coronavirus: French protective mask manufacturer scraps NHS order to keep masks in France.” Euronews, 6 March. https://www.euronews.com/2020/03/06/coronavirus-french-protective-mask-manufacturer-scraps-nhs-order-to-keep-masks-in-france Evenett, Simon J. 2020a. “Sicken thy neighbour: The initial trade policy response to COVID‐19.” The World Economy, 43 (4), pp. 828-839. https://doi.org/10.1111/twec.12954 Evenett, Simon .J. 2020b. “Flawed prescription: Export curbs on medical goods won’t tackle shortages.” in COVID-19 and Trade Policy: Why Turning Inward Won’t Work, edited by Richard E. Baldwin, and Simon J. Evenett. London: CEPR press, pp. 49-61. https://cepr.org/publications/books-and-reports/covid-19-and-trade-policy-why-turning-inward-wont-work FEMA. 2020. “Prioritization and Allocation of Certain Scarce or Threatened Health and Medical Resources for Domestic Use.” Federal Emergency Management Agency, 85 FR 20195, 10 April. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/04/10/2020-07659/prioritization-and-allocation-of-certain-scarce-or-threatened-health-and-medical-resources-for GATT. 1994. “General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994.” World Trade Organization. https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/06-gatt_e.htm Hall, Ben. et al. 2020. “How coronavirus exposed Europe’s weaknesses.” Financial Times. October 2020. https://www.ft.com/content/efdadd97-aef5-47f1-91de-fe02c41a470a Hoekman, Bernard, Matteo Fiorini, and Aydin Yildirim. 2020."COVID-19: Export controls and international cooperation." in Richard E. Baldwin and Simon J. Evenett eds., COVID-19 and Trade Policy: Why Turning Inward Won’t Work. London: CEPR press, pp. 77-87. https://cepr.org/publications/books-and-reports/covid-19-and-trade-policy-why-turning-inward-wont-work Ikenberry, G. John. 2011. Liberal Leviathan: The origins, crisis, and transformation of the American world order. Princeton: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt7rjt2 Koppenberg, Maximilian, Martina Bozzola, Tobias Dalhaus and Stefan Hirsch. 2021. “Mapping potential implications of temporary COVID‐19 export bans for the food supply in importing countries using precrisis trade flows.” Agribusiness, 37(1), pp.25-43. https://doi.org/10.1002/agr.21684 Liefert, William .M., Paul Westcott, and John Wainio. 2012. “Alternative policies to agricultural export bans that are less market-distorting.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 94(2), 435-441. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aar103 Marlowe, Lara. 2020. “Coronavirus: European solidarity sidelined as French interests take priority.” The Irish Times. 30 March. https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/coronavirus-european-solidarity-sidelined-as-french-interests-take-priority-1.4216184 Martin, Lisa. 1992. “Interests, power, and multilateralism.” International Organization, 46(4): 765-792. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0020818300033245 Mearsheimer, John .J. 1994. “The false promise of international institutions.” International security, 19(3): 5-49. https://doi.org/10.2307/2539078 Mölnlycke. 2020. “French export ban for face masks lifted.” Mölnlycke, 4th April. https://www.molnlycke.com/news/news-archive/french-export-ban-for-face-masks-lifted/ Pauwelyn, Joost. 2020. “Export restrictions in times of pandemic: Options and limits under international trade agreements.” In COVID-19 and Trade Policy: Why Turning Inward Won’t Work, edited by Richard E. Baldwin and Simon J. Evenett. London: CEPR press, pp. 103-109. https://cepr.org/publications/books-and-reports/covid-19-and-trade-policy-why-turning-inward-wont-work Pelc, Krzysztof. 2020. “Can COVID-Era Export Restrictions Be Deterred?.” Canadian Journal of Political Science, 53(2), 349-356. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0008423920000578 Selinger, Hannah. 2020. “Stealing masks and stockpiling hydroxychloroquine – What America has become during this epidemic is deeply worrying.” The Independent, 6 April. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/coronavirus-us-masks-trump-hydroxychloroquine-covid-19-drug-a9450261.html Tanakasempipat, Patpicha. 2020. “Accused of 'piracy', U.S. denies diverting masks bound for Germany.” Reuters, 6 April. https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-health-coronavirus-masks/accused-of-piracy-u-s-denies-diverting-masks-bound-for-germany-idUKKBN21O0YR The Local. 2020. “Coronavirus: Germany blocks truck full of protective masks headed for Switzerland.” The Local. 9 March. https://www.thelocal.com/20200309/germany-blocks-protective-masks-headed-for-switzerland/ Timmer, C. Peter. 2010. “Reflections on food crises past.” Food policy, 35(1), 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2009.09.002 Walt, Stephen, M. 1997. “The progressive power of realism.” American Political Science Review, 97(4): 931-935. https://doi.org/10.2307/2952177 Whitehouse. 2020. “Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Members of the Coronavirus Task Force in Press Briefing.” Whitehouse.gov., 3 April. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-vice-president-pence-members-coronavirus-task-force-press-briefing-18/ WTO. 2020. “Export prohibitions and restrictions.” World Trade Organization, information Note, 23 April. Available from: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/covid19_e/export_prohibitions_report_e.pdf

Defense & Security
China, USA and Iran Flags

Iran’s Strategies in Response To Changes in US-China Relations

by Sara Bazoobandi

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Bazoobandi, S. Iran’s Strategies in Response to Changes in US-China Relations. Middle East Policy. 2024;31:120–132. https://doi.org/10.1111/mepo.12727 Abstract The dynamics of the relationship between the United States and China have been shifting. This has prompted changes in strategic calculus and policy adoption by the friends and foes of each side. Iran, given its decades-long links with China, has made several. First, it has deepened its ties with the Asian power beyond collaboration in business and trade. Second, it has revised its policies in the Gulf region to be a part of what it sees as China's network of influence, hoping to better position itself in a multilateral global order. Third, it has been seeking opportunities to project power through showing off its military capabilities in Ukraine. This article examines these strategic responses and concludes that Iran has been pursuing an agenda in line with the world vision of its senior leaders. The end goal for Tehran is to gain more power and relevance in the global strategic calculus. This analysis is part of a special issue examining the responses of Gulf countries to rising Sino-American competition, edited by Andrea Ghiselli, Anoushiravan Ehteshami, and Enrico Fardella. Over the past decade, the relationship between China and United States has been going through fundamental changes.1 “Engagement, cooperation, and convergence,” previous pillars of the ties between the world's largest economic powerhouses, have been replaced by the trade war between Beijing and Washington.2 These changes have influenced strategic choices made by states around the world, including Iran. The country has increased its commercial ties with China, which has been instrumental in Tehran's efforts to circumvent US sanctions and maintain the regime's financial bloodline. As a result, China has remained Iran's largest trade partner for more than a decade.3 The Islamic Republic perceives the changes in US-China relations as a sign of US decline and foresees the end of unipolarity in the global system. This has emboldened Tehran's attempt to pursue three main strategies: deepen its ties with China, revise its policies in the Gulf region, and project power through showing off its military capabilities in Ukraine. This article analyzes Tehran's strategic calculus in pursuing these strategies. It aims to provide a holistic understanding of Iran's vision for a multipolar world system that the country's senior leaders sense as increasingly viable. The article starts with a brief review of the expansion and strengthening of Iran-China ties, which has undoubtedly been crucial in Iran's economic survival. This section underscores that in addition to economic hardship, the changing dynamics between Beijing and Washington, combined with Iran's ideological framework of the “new world order” and the regional struggle over the balance of power, have influenced Iran's relations with China. In 2022, Iran's supreme leader, its most senior political figure, stated: “The world is on the threshold of a new world order” in which “the United States is becoming weaker day by day.”4 The analysis indicates that Iran sees this as the starting point for the emergence of a multipolar order, in which the global clout of non-Western powers such as China and Russia is on the rise. By expanding and strengthening its ties with China, Iran is aiming to align itself with the leading global powers that are both deemed to be trustworthy by the senior political leaders and expected to emerge as stronger than the United States. The second section focuses on the impact of US-China relations on Iran's strategy toward the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. China has been visibly increasing its involvement in the Gulf region. Trade and investment levels have been rising, and both sides have indicated their intentions to boost their strategic partnership. The United States has for several decades played the role of the security guarantor of the Arab nations in the Gulf. Given Iran's perception of America's weakening, navigating these regional dynamics, particularly the strengthening of GCC-China ties, has influenced Tehran's strategy in the region. The article argues that Iran is seeking to improve ties with the GCC, in line with its strategy of expanding relations with China as a non-Western power in an emerging global multipolar system. For example, the consolidation of the ties between China and the GCC has motivated Iran to shift its hostile approach toward some member states, particularly Saudi Arabia. This section provides an overview of the Gulf-China partnership in light of changing relations between Washington and Beijing. It aims to provide a better understanding of how Iran's strategies have been shaped by its perception of the shifting dynamics among the Western and non-Western powers in this region. Next, the article investigates the impact of US-China relations on the ties between Tehran and Moscow, given the perception of Iran's senior leaders of American decline and their determination to gain more significance in the global order. Russia and China's mutual desire to redefine the normative principles of the international order has strengthened their cooperation in various areas, including military, energy, and finance.5 Their interest in pushing against the US-led, liberal global system has motivated them to form networks of partnership with like-minded states across the world.6 They have used international platforms and frameworks to promote their visions and constrain the West.7 Unlike the Western powers, both China and Russia seem to have been able to navigate Iran's complex and ideology-oriented political system.8 As a result, Tehran has been inspired to pursue strategies that share Moscow and Beijing's vision for the world order, and to seek to establish itself as a more powerful global player.9 The final section examines the influence of the visions and ideologies of Iran's political leaders on the country's strategic direction. It argues that Iran's quest for power projection is its main response to the changing US-China relationship. This shift has prompted Iran's leaders to seek ways to pursue the “resistance strategy” beyond its traditional realm of influence in its immediate neighboring region. As part of this, Russia's war in Ukraine has offered Iran the opportunity to project power through military collaboration. This article concludes that Iran's strategic response to the changing relationship between Beijing and Washington is based on anticipation of the decline of US hegemony and aimed at claiming a powerful position in the new world order. Iran's aspiration to increase its relevance and strength in the global and regional strategic calculus is reflected in official government documents that highlight the regime's vision. “The Islamic Iranian Progress Model” and the declaration of “The Second Phase of the Revolution” by Iran's supreme leader provide an outline of the regime's vision, which includes economic and political independence from the West and resistance against global imperialism.10 Against this backdrop, the analysis concludes that this ideological framework, built around the notion of American decline and the emergence of a new global order, has been Iran's main strategic response to the changes between the superpowers and the most effective driving force for Tehran's policies toward China, the GCC, and Russia. The study uses qualitative analysis to trace the processes of policy formation, considering states’ visions and ideologies, as well as regional and global events. It employs a variety of sources, including academic literature, news articles, and government websites. CHINA-IRAN RELATIONS: AN OVERVIEW The need to build and strengthen links with the world's strongest non-Western economic powerhouse, particularly in times of harsh US-led economic sanctions, has driven Iran's relations with China. Other factors have influenced the development of non-economic aspects of Tehran-Beijing ties, including the changing dynamics between Beijing and Washington, domestic ideological frameworks, global and regional balance-of-power struggles, and domestic dissent. Iran's relations with China began before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Despite the country's “no East, no West” slogan that marked its policies in the early years after the revolution, the regime has consistently maintained its ties with China.11 The presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a significant period for the bilateral relationship, and it was considered the starting point of Iran's “Asianization” era. During that period, Tehran accelerated its nuclear program and reactivated the anti-West narrative.12 Since then, China has wavered between promoting a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear file, supporting a decision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2006 to refer the file to the United Nations Security Council, and helping Iran in its efforts to circumvent sanctions. The two countries began a nuclear-cooperation agreement in the early 1990s, which quickly ended under US pressure. In 2006, China agreed with IAEA's decision to refer Iran's file to the Security Council. This was a turning point in the decades-long nuclear dispute. Between 2006 and 2010, China agreed to Security Council resolutions that led to increasing economic pressure on Iran through international sanctions. Despite that, during the Ahmadinejad presidency, bilateral trade between Iran and China increased from $10 billion to $43 billion. This was a clear signal of their cooperation to bypass the sanctions, which at times had negative consequences for China and for globally recognized Chinese businesses, such as Huawei. Such strengthening of Iran's relations with the East (non-Western great powers) was largely influenced by the personal views and foreign-relations goals of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.13 In recent years, he has openly driven the strategy of strengthening ties with China, publicly declaring Beijing a trustworthy partner and explicitly stating that the Islamic Republic will never forget its support in bypassing the sanctions.14 Following Khamenei's guidance for closer ties with China, President Ebrahim Raisi has in recent years described “the friendship” between the two countries as based on mutual respect and trust.15 Such political language indicates a long-lasting and perhaps all-encompassing commitment to maintain and expand ties with China. In response, the Iranian regime has received Beijing's support beyond the bypassing of sanctions. For example, despite the concern raised by other regional players, particularly GCC members, China supported terminating the arms embargo on Iran in 2020.16 This, in theory, allows Iran to purchase weapons and upgrade its military armaments.17 A year later, in March 2021, the two countries announced a comprehensive strategic partnership aimed at strengthening bilateral relations in energy and the economy, as well as cybersecurity and the military.18 Not much detail is available on the agreement, which Khamenei described as a wise decision, and its implementation.19 China has been Iran's most important trade partner for more than a decade.20 Before the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement in 2018, Tehran had hoped to benefit more from freer trade and investment by both the Asian power and Europe. In 2015, Iranian officials announced plans to rebuild relations with Europe and expand ties with China.21 However, the calculus changed with President Donald Trump's decision to impose a maximum pressure campaign on Iran. Despite European and Asian leaders’ initial disagreement with the US decision, European firms quickly responded by ceasing business with Iran.22 The Chinese banking system also limited the scope of its operations with the country.23 This has posed a major challenge to all aspects of bilateral trade and investment. Undoubtedly, the Chinese business and economic collaboration promised by the framework of the comprehensive strategic partnership was affected by American pressure. Considering its location, Iran has the potential to be a valuable element of Chinese economic initiatives like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).24 Hacked documents obtained from the Centre for Strategic Studies, a research entity within the Office of the President of Iran, revealed that Raisi has officially ordered the Foreign Ministry to facilitate economic collaborations with China.25 This reflects the government's desire to turn Iran into a key player in the “Chinese value chain.”26 This expansion of economic ties with China has been challenged by the Western sanctions.27 Consequently, Iran has not been successful in attracting Chinese investment, either in the BRI or other projects. The pressure eased under the Biden administration, which restored some sanctions waivers.28 Iran's oil exports to China, through subterranean methods, have continued to flow relatively steadily. This has benefited both sides, maintaining Iran's vital revenue stream and helping facilitate the import of Chinese goods and services in return for discounted energy.29 Collaboration between Iran and China has expanded into areas such as technological exchange. Beijing's cooperation model is more favorable toward Tehran in comparison to those of the Western governments, as it does not impose values on partners.30 While Western companies have been reluctant to engage with Iran due to sanctions, China has offered technological assistance. This has been, in part, facilitated by China's strategy to develop its technological and scientific industries, civil-military integration, and dual-use technologies through the export of products and standards.31 Iran has also been pursuing strategies to expand its scientific and technological capabilities, driven by the views of its senior political leaders. In his 2006 Persian New Year speech, Khamenei stated, “Knowledge is authority, it is equal to power; whoever finds it can rule; a nation that finds it can rule; a nation that cannot [build its scientific and technological capacities] must prepare itself to be ruled by others.”32 This clearly indicates Iran's motivation and intention. Khamenei has frequently encouraged the country's policy makers to promote strategies that support the “jihad of knowledge.”33 This phrase has gained significance in Iran's strategic planning in recent years, driving the country's efforts to advance its defense and military capacities. Technological assistance in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity has been a major area of collaboration between China and Iran.34 For example, the Chinese firm Tiandy, one of the world's leading video-surveillance companies, has been reportedly working with the Iranian government.35 Rising domestic dissent over the past few years may have played a role in advancing this technological collaboration. There is very little public information about the nature of such cooperation. However, technologies accessed through collaboration with Chinese companies have helped Iran spy on its citizens, crack down on protests, and monitor dissidents.36 Trade and business partnerships have dominated the bilateral relationship.37 China has cooperated with Iran to get around sanctions while taking advantage of discounted energy prices.38 At the same time, the two countries have been expanding into other areas, such as technology. The regime in Tehran, heavily influenced by the supreme leader, sees China as the main challenge to US hegemony and is determined to consolidate its ties with Beijing while trying to maximize its power in the global system. The next section explores the changing relationships between Iran and the GCC, analyzing the impact of US-China relations on Tehran's strategies toward its neighbors. US-CHINA RELATIONS AND IRAN'S STRATEGIES IN THE GULF Senior Iranian politicians have frequently stated that they foresee a new international order to replace the US-led unipolar system.39 As the previous section demonstrated, such anticipation has motivated Tehran to maintain close ties with Beijing. This section investigates how Iran's vision of a new world order has prompted the strategy of normalization with the GCC. It examines the regime's understanding of the future Chinese and American roles in the region and how this impacts Tehran's strategy toward its southern neighbors. In the years before the 2023 Iran-Saudi agreement that re-established diplomatic ties between the two countries, the dynamics between Iran and the GCC were predominantly based on “intra-regional threat perceptions and intense mutual securitisation.”40 The deal brokered by China seems to have shifted this formulation. One factor that played a significant role in changing Iran's policies was the advancement of the China-GCC relationship. In 2021, Beijing officials described this as a part of building a “synergy” between the “new development paradigm in China” and “major development strategies” in the region.41 Such statements may well have been perceived by Tehran as indicating Beijing's increasing strategic influence and its pushing back against US involvement in the security structure of the region. This has motivated Iran to be a part of what it sees as a newly emerging realm of influence for China. Further, the normalization of diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia is anticipated to pave the way for a much needed, yet challenging, “tripartite peace deal between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Houthis”42 that can address one of the most pressing security concerns across the GCC. Iran has long desired a new security structure forged by eradicating US influence and presence. In 2019, the Iranian government proposed the “Hormuz Peace Endeavor” (HOPE), a security-cooperation initiative that would include all of the Gulf's littoral states.43 Motivated by Iran's long-held aspiration to undermine US hegemony, it was presented during the GCC's internal crisis with Qatar, which coincided with the initial stage of the US-China trade war.44 During the long-running hostilities between the GCC and Yemen's Houthi rebels, Washington was not able to offer any meaningful solutions. The Saudi government, disappointed by this inability to protect its security, therefore welcomed the Chinese-backed rapprochement with Iran. As for Tehran, this shift toward Riyadh demonstrates how the perception of US decline and Chinese rise influenced its strategic calculus in relation to the GCC countries. Iran's decision to normalize with the GCC came at a time when policy makers anticipated an increase in China's regional power and saw it as helping fulfill their strategic vision. Collaborations between the GCC and China have convinced Tehran that Beijing is determined to increase its engagement with the region. Iran assumes this will be to the detriment of the United States. Against that backdrop, the Islamic Republic is also motivated to be a member of the newly emerging realm of influence. Over many decades, the GCC countries have had warm relations with the United States, leading to a strong American military presence in the region that has excluded Iran from a position of influence in the Gulf. Iran sees an expansion of China-GCC cooperation as an opportunity to enter China's realm of influence that will, according to its senior leaders, end the US-led global system. Whether Iran's assessment of China's intentions for expanding ties with the GCC is accurate can be debated. Nevertheless, Tehran perceives China's ties with the region to be aimed at creating a new area of influence, one hospitable to its own vision. Moreover, Iran has for a long time perceived high strategic value in its economic ties with China and is hoping to improve such relations with both China and the GCC.45 The Iran-Saudi deal is estimated to boost bilateral trade to $2 billion, and Iran's drive to improve relations with the GCC could similarly be motivated by the prospect of economic gain.46 To highlight the impact of China-US relations on Iran's strategies in the Gulf, it is important to review the development of Beijing's relations with the GCC countries. The most significant aspect has been business and trade cooperation. China has been a net oil importer since 1993.47 The country's reliance on foreign energy has played a crucial role in its policies toward the Gulf's oil-exporting countries. Bilateral trade between China and the GCC increased from $182 billion in 2014 to about $229 billion in 2021, making China the region's largest trading partner.48 This volume has been substantially larger than that of China-Iran trade (about $16 billion in 2022).49 While energy demand has been a key element of bilateral trades with the GCC, business relations have been expanding into other areas, such as infrastructure investment and the exchange of technology, goods, and services. Iran has undoubtedly been envious of this cooperation between China and its southern neighbors. This has induced Tehran's efforts toward normalization in the hope of benefiting from collaboration with both Beijing and the GCC. This is manifested in the comprehensive strategic partnership and other forms of collaboration examined in the previous section. Chinese political leaders have adopted an effective narrative in describing their strategy for engagement with the GCC, emphasizing “equality between countries regardless of their size” and support for their “independent sovereignty.”50 This is aimed at persuading local leaders to see expanding ties with Beijing as “an opportunity to enrich the strategic substance” of the relationships.51 Such a narrative has undoubtedly been well received by Tehran, as it advances multilateralism. Saudi Arabia, until recently considered Iran's most obvious regional rival, has been one of China's most important partners and largest recipient of its investment in the region.52 Tehran sees normalization with a former foe—one becoming an even closer partner of China's—as both strengthening anti-US collaboration in the region and winning for itself a place in a network of partnerships based on equality and independence, as expressed in the Chinese narrative. Being part of such a network will help Tehran position itself better in a multilateral global order. Ultimately, Iran is pursuing its agenda in line with the world vision of its senior leaders, the goal of which is to gain more power and relevance in the global strategic calculus. For decades, the United States was considered a close ally of some of the regional powers. By brokering a deal between Tehran and Riyadh, China has undertaken a role that the United States and Europe have failed to play in recent years. Iran-Saudi normalization came at a time when European policy makers, who have been seeking to facilitate a regional dialogue, failed to achieve any tangible results between Tehran and Riyadh. Indeed, Iran has become skeptical of the EU's potential in resolving regional issues, particularly in the aftermath of Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal.53 The Iran-Saudi rapprochement highlighted China's mediation capacity and boosted the country's status among regional leaders. By welcoming Beijing's intervention, Iran sought to demonstrate that the United States and its Western allies can no longer shape regional dynamics. Iran has envisioned a multipolar world order and aspires to play a role in achieving this in the Gulf region. Beijing seems to have successfully managed to convince the regime in Tehran, along with the leaders of the Arab Gulf countries, of its capacity and willingness to support their aspirations. While the Western world has failed to maintain the regional leaders’ trust, China has gained it. These developments have been motivated by the changing relations between Beijing and Washington, which Tehran sees as signaling China's deep strategic influence in the region. Further, it serves Iran's belief in the decline of US power, particularly in the Gulf. THE US-CHINA RIVALRY AND IRAN'S POWER PROJECTION This section analyzes the effects of the changing dynamics between the United States and China on Iran's power-projection strategies. Tehran's perception of the decline of American global power, particularly in the Gulf, has driven Iran to restore ties with its main regional competitor, Saudi Arabia. Regardless of the future of normalization between Tehran and Riyadh, China's mediation indicates Tehran's anticipation of the strategic role the Asian power will play in the Gulf. It has also influenced Iran's power-projection strategies, particularly beyond its traditional realm of influence. Senior Iranian leaders have long seen realism as the main pillar of their relationship with China and Russia.54 More recently, however, Iran has pursued a policy of “looking East,” largely aimed at strengthening relations with those two powers. In 2019, Iran, Russia, and China conducted a naval exercise in the Indian Ocean symbolizing their commitment to breaking down American global unilateralism.55 Undoubtedly, the aims, motives, and extent of the relations among these countries varies. However, the common denominator is their anti-hegemonic sentiments, which have gained significance with the shift in dynamics of US-China relations. The Russian war in Ukraine has provided Iran a chance to project power, demonstrate its military capability, and remain relevant in the international calculus given the changing world order.56 This section argues that anti-hegemonic principles shared among Russian, Chinese, and Iranian political leaders play a significant role in strengthening their relationships, and the Ukraine war is a great opportunity for Iran to pursue its world vision and power-projection aspirations. Russia's overarching global strategy has been focused increasingly on challenging a unipolar system dominated by the United States.57 This has resonated with political ideologies in Tehran and China.58 Iran's supreme leader, who exerts a strong influence over the country's strategic policy making, has frequently emphasized maintaining and expanding “strategic depth” as one of the country's fundamental strategies.59 Moreover, he has expressed his anticipation of a “new world order” and accentuated the significance of “Geography of Resistance.”60 This ideology reflects Tehran's desire for influence in global and regional systems and has played a crucial role in driving the country's power-projection aspirations. Khamenei's use of theological concepts like jihad and resistance indicates his strong anti-hegemonic and anti-West views.61 He sees the West's policies as continuing the historical clash over identity and destiny between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. According to this view, Iran is located at the heart of the geography of resistance and is the main powerhouse of the Muslim world.62 Therefore, joining non-Western security and economic initiatives will help Tehran gain a more powerful global position to advance its strategic agenda. The Ukraine war presented Iran with new arenas in which to project power.63 The synergy between the Russian vision, manifested by its invasion, and that of Iran is perceived in Tehran as promising for the new global order. Iran's delivery of hundreds of Shahed-136 drones to Russia has been a clear signal of its determination to collaborate with powers that share its perception.64 In an order in which US power is challenged by China, Iran aspires to advance its ambitions, demonstrate its military capabilities, and gain relevance outside of its traditional realm of influence. The perceptions of Iran's political leaders and their visions for Iran's position in the world system are a driving force behind their strategic decisions.65 Their anticipation of the decline of the West, particularly the United States, is the crucial foundation. Historically, Iran's strategy of building a “Resistance Axis” has been used to project power through “a mix of strategic alliance, security community, and ideational network”66 in the Middle East and North Africa region. The war in Ukraine presented a new arena for this. CONCLUSION The relationship between the United States and China has been going through fundamental changes, prompting strategic responses by Iran on various fronts. Tehran believes American global power is declining while China's is rising. This interpretation has dominated Iran's policies and its envisioned regional and global roles. The senior political leaders in Tehran have been advocating for what they refer to as “the new world order.” This is a multipolar system in which the West, specifically the United States, no longer dominates. Iranian officials perceive the war in Ukraine and the October 7 attacks on Israel as powerful blows to the Americans. Khamenei has referred to the Hamas attacks as the starting point for the formation of a new map in the Middle East based on “de-Americanization.”67 Iran has welcomed these crises and supports the aggressors, with rhetoric based on the notion of resistance to the Western oppression of the Muslim world.68 Iran's understanding of the changing China-US relationship has prompted three strategies. First, the country has been seeking to deepen its ties with the Asian power. The relationship between Iran and China has been formed mainly around trade and business collaborations that have been strengthened by Tehran's efforts to circumvent sanctions. Iran sees China as the main challenge to US hegemony and a key player in fulfilling its envisioned world order. It is therefore determined to consolidate ties with Beijing, along with implementing strategies that can establish a more powerful position for Iran in the global system. Second, Iran has revised its policies in the hope that it can help contribute and be a part of what Tehran perceives as China's new realm of influence in the Gulf region. Iran's envisioned multipolar world system drives its aspirations of making itself more relevant and influential in the regional strategic calculus. Tehran interprets China's engagement in the Gulf as not negating its desired role in the emerging multipolar world. Third, Iran has been seeking to project power by aiding Russia in Ukraine, thus showing off its military capabilities, and forging an anti-Israeli front. These conflicts have presented Iran with new arenas to project influence, within and beyond its traditional regional realm. Tehran understands the synergy between the Russian vision and its own as the most promising for materializing a new global order. This analysis of how the changing US-China relationship is perceived in Tehran is crucial to understanding its strategic calculus and policy choices. In Iran's view, a new global order is emerging because of these shifting dynamics. As US power declines, Iran is seeking every opportunity to emerge as a powerful global player. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Open access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. REFERENCES 1 An earlier version of this article was first presented at “The Persian Gulf and the US-China Rivalry,” a roundtable held in Rome on July 6, 2023. That event and this special issue have been sponsored by the ChinaMed Project of the TOChina Hub and the HH Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah Programme at Durham University. 2 Evan S. Medeiros, “The Changing Fundamentals of US-China Relations,” Washington Quarterly 42, no. 3 (2019): 93–119, https://doi.org/10.1080/0163660X.2019.1666355; Pablo Fajgelbaum et al., “The US-China Trade War and Global Reallocations,” National Bureau of Economic Research, 2021, https://www.nber.org/papers/w29562 3 China Daily, “China Remains Iran’s Largest Trading Partner for 10 Consecutive Years,” 2023, https://global.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202302/16/WS63ee40d8a31057c47ebaf3ee.html 4 Al-Monitor, “Khamenei Urges Iranians to Prepare for ‘New World Order,’” 2022, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/04/khamenei-urges-iranians-prepare-new-world-order 5 Brett Forrest, Ann M. Simmons, and Chao Deng, “China and Russia Military Cooperation Raises Prospect of New Challenge to American Power,” The Wall Street Journal, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-russia-americamilitary-exercises-weapons-war-xi-putin-biden-11641146041; Reuters, “China’s Xi Looks to Strengthen Energy Ties with Russia,” 2022, https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/chinas-xi-looks-strengthen-energy-ties-with-russia-2022-11-29; Mrugank Bhusari and Maia Nikoladze, “Russia and China: Partners in Dedollarization,” Atlantic Council, 2022, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/econographics/russia-and-china-partners-in-dedollarization. 6 Gregorio Betizza and David Lewis, “Authoritarian Powers and Norm Contestation in the Liberal International Order: Theorizing the Power Politics of Ideas and Identity,” Journal of Global Security Studies 5, no. 4 (2020): 559–71. 7 Anthea Roberts, Is International Law International? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). 8 Anoushiravan Ehteshami and Gawdat Bahgat, “Iran’s Asianisation Strategy,” ISPI, 2019, https://www.ispionline.it/sites/default/files/pubblicazioni/ispi_iran_looking_web.pdf#page=11. 9 Masoud Akbari, “اینگونه است که آنها «گذشته» هستند و ما «آینده‌»ایم [This is why they are ‘the past’ and we are ‘the future’],” Keyhan.ir, 2023, https://kayhan.ir/fa/news/273444. 10 Olgou.ir, “Islamic Iranian Progress Model [الگوي اسلامي ايراني پيشرفت],” 2018, https://olgou.ir/images/olgou/sanad-virastari-14.pdf; Tasnim News, “Statement of the Second Phase of the Revolution [بیانیه «گام دوم انقلاب» امام خامنه‌ای خطاب به ملت ایران منتشر شد],” Tasnim News, 2017, https://www.tasnimnews.com/fa/news/1397/11/24/1946416; Sara Bazoobandi, “Re-Revolutionising Iran: Condemning Prosperity and Jihadi Management,” GIGA Focus, November 3, 2022, https://www.giga-hamburg.de/de/publikationen/giga-focus/re-revolutionising-iran-condemning-prosperity-and-jihadi-management. 11 Bazoobandi, “Re-Revolutionising Iran.” 12 Ehteshami and Bahgat, “Iran’s Asianisation Strategy.” 13 Hongda Fan, “China–Iran Relations from the Perspective of Tehran’s Look East Approach,” Asian Affairs 53, no. 1 (2022): 51–67, https://doi.org/10.1080/03068374.2022.2029053. 14 Deutsche Welle, “Mission of Khamenei's confidant to implement the ‘wise’ agreement with China [ماموریت معتمد خامنه‌ای برای اجرای توافق ‘حکمت‌آمیز’ با چین],” 2023, https://www.dw.com/fa-ir/a-64703051; BBC Persian, “Khamenei's advisor defended the cooperation agreement with China [مشاور آیت‌الله خامنه‌ای از سند همکاری با چین حمایت کرد],” 2020, https://www.bbc.com/persian/iran-53289164. 15 China Daily, “Xi Holds Talks with Iranian President, Eyeing New Progress in Ties,” February 14, 2023, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202302/14/WS63eb6619a31057c47ebaec27.html. 16 Mohsen Shariatinia and Hamed A. 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Smith, “Russia and Multipolarity since the End of the Cold War,” East European Politics 29, no. 1 (2013): 36–51, https://doi.org/10.1080/21599165.2013.764481; Eugene Rumer, “The Primakov (Not Gerasimov) Doctrine in Action,” Carnagie Endowment for International Peace, 2019, https://carnegieendowment.org/2019/06/05/primakov-notgerasimov-doctrine-in-action-pub-79254; Jolanta Darczewska and Pitor Zochowski, “Active Measures: Russia’s Key Export,” Centre for Eastern Studies, 2017, https://www.osw.waw.pl/sites/default/files/pw_64_ang_activemeasures_net_0.pdf. 58 Tasnim News, “امام خامنه‌ای: امروز جهان در آستانه یک نظم جدید است/ آمریکا در همه چیز از بیست سال قبل ضعیف‌تر شده است [Imam Khamenei: today, the world is beginning a new world order/ America is weaker in every respect than 20 years ago],” Tasnim News, 2022, https://www.tasnimnews.com/fa/news/1401/02/06/2701671; Pang Ruizhi, “China Wants a Multipolar World Order. Can the World Agree?” Think China, 2020, https://www.thinkchina.sg/china-wants-multipolar-world-order-can-world-agree. 59 Sara Bazoobandi, Jens Heibach, and Thomas Richter, “Iran's Foreign Policy Making: Consensus Building or Power Struggle?” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, March 16, 2023, 1–24, https://doi.org/10.1080/13530194.2023.2189572; Hamshahri Online, “عمق استراتژیک ایران [Iran's strategic depth],” 2019, https://www.hamshahrionline.ir/news/141615. 60 Al-Monitor, “Khamenei Urges Iranians to Prepare”; Khamenei.ir, “بیانات در دیدار مجمع عالی فرماندهان سپاه,” October 2, 2019, https://farsi.khamenei.ir/speech-content?id=43632. 61 Bazoobandi, “Populism, Jihad, and Economic Resistance”; Bazoobandi, “Re-Revolutionising Iran.” 62 Karim Sadjadpour, “Reading Khamenei: The World View of Iran’s Most Powerful Leader,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2008, https://carnegieendowment.org/files/sadjadpour_iran_final2.pdf. 63 Robbie Gramer and Amy Mackinnon, “Iran and Russia Are Closer Than Ever Before,” Foreign Policy, 2023, https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/01/05/iran-russia-drones-ukraine-war-military-cooperation. 64 David Brennan, “Shahed-136: The Iranian Drones Aiding Russia’s Assault on Ukraine,” Newsweek, 2022, https://www.newsweek.com/shahed-136-kamikaze-iran-drones-russia-ukraine-1770373. 65 Yahia H. 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Energy & Economics
Concept of the trade war between the USA and China.

How to better equip the U.S. DFC to compete with China

by Andrew Herscowitz

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français When U.S. President Biden and Chinese President Xi met in November 2023, Biden remarked that the countries must “ensure that competition does not veer into conflict.” A recent ODI report Hedging belts, de-risking roads: Sinosure’s role in China’s overseas finance illustrates the scale of the competition and reveals how one of China’s less-known institutions – Sinosure – has been giving China the edge. This blog offers some thoughts about how the U.S., through its U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) can better compete. Competing requires resources, but really not as much as you think Competing credibly requires money, dedicated staff, and creativity. It requires studying the competition. Infrastructure development requires low-cost financing, capacity-building, and getting everyone aligned. As Sinosure has demonstrated again and again, deploying guarantees and insurance – particularly from official financing – can de-risk overseas investment, reducing costs of finance and mobilising commercial investment from the private sector. When it comes to infrastructure, China has a far more robust, albeit imperfect, track record when compared to others. The U.S. and its G7 partners have not been much of a match for China in financing infrastructure worldwide. The G7 could successfully compete with China, and doing so does not have to cost hundreds of billions of dollars. The U.S. Congress, despite its strong desire to counter BRI, has yet to appropriate the resources necessary to compete credibly in a battle of influence against China in developing countries. There’s been plenty of rhetoric, repurposing of existing programs and resources into initiatives like the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) and the Global Gateway. Each time the U.S. launches a new overseas economic development initiative, however, it rarely dedicates sufficient resources to help it scale – examples include the Partnership for Growth, Power Africa, Prosper Africa, and PGII. When it was fully funded, Power Africa, which coordinated the efforts of 12 U.S. government agencies, helped 120 power projects in Africa get across the finish line in just a few years, building a strong brand for the U.S. in Africa for economic development for the first time in decades. Then the U.S. cut Power Africa’s budget by 75% because of political shifts. The initiative stalled in its progress on new infrastructure, while still helping 200 million Africans get access to more reliable electricity. PGII, which has no dedicated budget, involves a handful of smart people working hard to deliver on a G7 promise of $600 billion in global infrastructure by 2025. Other than the Lobito Corridor project, it has not been clear to date what PGII is able to deliver at scale in Africa without additional resources. That could be about to change, though. The State Department just requested another $4 billion from Congress to up its game against China, which should help tremendously if that funding is secured to support PGII. Why Sinosure has been such an effective tool for China, despite its low margins BRI has not been particularly innovative, but it’s been steady. Sinosure, along with other Chinese export credit agencies, offers highly favorable terms and longer-term finance – this approach has well suited Global South governments in advancing their development and political objectives. While some projects have been problematic, Chinese creditors have provided the low-cost, patient capital at scale that many countries need for long-term productive infrastructure investment. But as the report shows, this approach has challenged established regimes governing the use of public money (link to blog 2). Sinosure insurance covers non-payment up to 95% of the insured equity or debt for up to 20 years, but most OECD Export Credit Agencies (ECAs) only provide 85% coverage for up to 10 years – though this policy soon will soon change [link to blog 2] Sinosure can work anywhere, except where there’s a live conflict or in cases of repayment arrears. By contrast, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has a list of over 100 countries where it cannot do business. Sinosure’s premiums max out at 7% of the total debt servicing cost of a project, making it relatively cost-effective. In this aspect, it is surprisingly transparent. DFC’s fees and costs are numerous and opaque, with DFC passing some of its own costs on to its clients. By the end of 2022, Sinosure had provided over $1.3 trillion-worth of insurance on export and investment, with a quarter of this going only to BRI countries. In 2022 alone, it supported a total portfolio of $900 billion through its insurance for over 170,000 clients, of which $80bn went to overseas investment and long-term finance, which mostly supports projects in infrastructure such as power, transportation, construction, telecoms and shipping. It received a total net insurance premium of $1.9 billion and paid out $1.5 billion in insurance claims. Despite its significant payouts, however, Sinosure continues to earn a modest profit of $102 million – not much of a margin, but enough to propel China’s global leadership on trade and infrastructure development.     By contrast, DFC’s current total portfolio-wide exposure is $41 billion, with just over $9.3 billion committed in fiscal year 2023 for 132 transactions – of which only around $3.5bn of this was for guarantees and risk insurance. DFC has many of the same tools available to it as the Chinese government, and DFC is not even legally required to earn a return on its investments. Yet DFC has not made full use of its capital resources and has not deployed its capacity for risk-mitigation finance in the same way. An unleashed DFC could make the U.S. more competitive It’s not too late for the U.S. and others to compete. The U.S. has an opportunity to further change how it conducts business to compete with China, while promoting sustainable development. DFC is starting to flex its competitive muscles with its own insurance product, recently using political risk insurance to support a $1.6 billion debt-for-nature swap in Ecuador and another $500 million debt-for-nature swap in Gabon, which support broader debt relief efforts, as well as channelling money towards climate and conservation goals. Moreover, those deals come at a very low cost to the U.S. government given DFC’s pricing models. DFC is up for reauthorisation in 2025. It has both foreign policy and development mandates. In a previous blog, we laid out 10 recommendations about how DFC could be more effective in achieving its development mandate. Here are 9 recommendations to help DFC be more effective in competing with China and achieving its foreign policy mandate: 1. Spend some money and spend it right All it took for Sinosure’s expansion in the early 2010s was a capital injection of $3 billion. To make its financial institutions just as competitive, the U.S. only needs to commit a few extra billion dollars of appropriated resources per year, just as State Department has proposed, not hundreds of billions. Sinosure, with its somewhat loose investment criteria, still managed to earn over $100 million profit on a $900 billion portfolio in 2022. Even if DFC were to spend $1 billion/year of additional budgetary resources – for the purpose of leveling the playing field with China and providing developing countries with the type of inexpensive financing they need – that could be money well spent for the U.S. taxpayer. That money could cover legal fees that DFC currently passes on to clients. It could be deployed through innovative instruments: to take on some of the currency risk on strategic transactions, to cover first loss on strategic investments, or to provide technical assistance that does not need to get repaid–comparative advantages that Chinese financial institutions still sorely lack. That funding also could be used, simply, to reduce interest rates and fees, at a time when borrowing costs for lower-income countries have risen astronomically. 2. Structure deals to outcompete China Encourage DFC to structure transactions to use its funding to maximize competition with China in a way that promotes a more level playing field. DFC should not crowd out competitively tendered and transparent private sector investment, but where inexpensive or even concessional DFC co-financing might help the private sector out-compete opaque Chinese investment, DFC should be equipped to support those projects. 3. Don’t obsess over returns Even though DFC is not legally required to earn a return on a portfolio-wide basis, most members of Congress expect DFC to be revenue neutral to the U.S. Treasury. If members of Congress would adjust their return expectations even slightly, DFC could significantly advance its development and foreign policy goals. Effective development and foreign policy are not free – especially when competing with China. Even earning back $.95 on the dollar on a portfolio-wide basis would be a significant leverage of 1:20 of appropriated resources to private investment – giving DFC broad flexibility to structure deals that prioritise development impact and foreign policy. 4. Remove DFC’s limits Eliminate ceilings on DFC financing – including the $1 billion transaction limit, the $10 billion annual portfolio limit, and the $60 billion total portfolio exposure. It really doesn’t cost anything to do this. It’s like raising its credit card limit. 5. Let DFC work anywhere when necessary Give DFC the authority to determine the countries where it can do business on a case-by-case basis, depending on what the foreign policy and development priorities are. DFC should be required to continue to prioritize investments in low and lower-middle income countries, but it should have flexibility to respond quickly and selectively anywhere that doing so will credibly advance a compelling U.S. national security interest, such as financing a strategic port or lithium processing. To prevent DFC from sliding into becoming just a national security tool, abandoning its development mandate, DFC should be required to clearly articulate the compelling national security interests of projects and should provide a detailed report to Congress each year on its investments in upper-middle income and high-income countries to explain these interests (even classified, if necessary). 6. Empower DFC to support “nearshoring” DFC can help the U.S. diversify its supply chains and reduce dependencies on China. To encourage companies to move operations out of China and into the Americas (if operating in the U.S. is not commercially viable), give DFC broader authority to support strategic transactions in the region. 7. Make it easier for DFC to support equity investments in strategic infrastructure When DFC takes an equity position in a company or an investment fund, it gets a seat at the ownership table. That allows DFC to drive decisions regarding sourcing of goods and services (i.e., making sure contracts do not always go to Chinese companies). Investing in equity funds that develop and finance a portfolio of infrastructure projects is an effective way for DFC to increase and spread its strategic influence -- except that DFC often struggles to make these types of investments because U.S. legal requirements make DFC a slow and clunky, and hence, an unattractive investment partner. DFC needs flexibility to bypass some of these requirements. 8. Help DFC scale its risk insurance instrument For years, DFC has been hugely innovative in deploying its insurance products to leverage capital from others. DFC used its political risk insurance tool to crowd in private investment in Ukraine, and to catalyze pioneering debt-for-nature swaps worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Ecuador and Belize. But according to recent reports, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget has been threatening to start treating insurance investments like guarantee instruments from a budgeting standpoint. This will make it more expensive for DFC to deploy this tool. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? As we’ve shown, one of the main factors behind China’s competitiveness abroad is through Sinosure’s expansive use of its insurance tool: OMB’s changes will make it more expensive and difficult for the U.S. to scale its own. OMB needs to read the room. We’re not going to suddenly balance the U.S. budget by tinkering with a formula that has worked for decades. Let DFC do more of what it does well. 9. Help speed DFC up Before committing any transaction over $10 million, DFC is required to notify Congress in advance. This “Congressional notification” requirement provides a valuable extra level of oversight to ensure that DFC does not doing anything out-of-whack with Congressional priorities. But the process slows DFC down, when Chinese financiers are known for their speed. Even though DFC only is required to “notify” Congress of its deals, and not seek “approval,” practically and politically speaking nobody wants to run afoul of any one of the 535 members of Congress. Consequently, DFC rarely moves forward on a project until it can resolve the concerns of members of Congress. DFC needs to work with Congress to come up with a reasonable alternative to the Congressional notification process that balances speed with continued close collaboration with Congress. In addition, DFC’s Board can help speed things up by focusing its efforts on high level policy guidance instead of individual transactions. The Board should delegate more decision making on individual deals to DFC’s CEO. It makes no sense for the Secretary of State, who chairs DFC’s Board, to dig into a $20 million investment into a healthcare fund, not to mention the hundreds of State Department staff with little development finance experience who review the documentation before it goes to the Secretary with a recommendation for a vote. U.S. taxpayers probably would prefer to have the State Department focus on resolving the Middle East conflict. From the perspective of many Global South countries, this competition between the G7 countries and China is not inherently bad if it brings them more desperately needed resources and improves the quality of their infrastructure. The U.S. could be more competitive if it empowered its development finance professionals to use DFC’s tools the way they were designed to be used. DFC must be properly resourced with enough people and enough money to allow it to grow its portfolio. While development impact remains the key priority for DFC, delivering for the needs of partner countries is what also will deliver long-term influence. That is how the U.S. can compete – and all at relatively low cost to the U.S. taxpayer.

Defense & Security
The national flags of NATO members fly outside the organization's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on April 3, 2023.

NATO anniversary 2024 - 75 years of the defense alliance

by Christina Bellmann

한국어로 읽기 Читать на русском Leer en español Gap In Deutsch lesen اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français What is required of member states between now and the Alliance's anniversary summit in Washington D.C. from July 9 to 11 75 years after its founding, NATO is facing an unprecedented set of challenges. The global security landscape is changing rapidly - from the ongoing war in Ukraine to crucial elections on both sides of the Atlantic. The summit in Washington D.C. will not only be a celebration of the past, but also a crucial marker for the future direction of the Alliance.  NATO is in troubled waters ahead of its 75th birthday - on the one hand, it is not 'brain dead' but offers protection to new members - on the other hand, the challenges are enormous in view of the war in Ukraine.  In the third year of the war, the military situation in Ukraine is serious. The military is coming under increasing pressure and European partners are delivering too little and too slowly.  Western support must be stepped up in order to influence the outcome of the war - Russia's future behavior towards its neighbors also depends on this.  Elections will be held on both sides of the Atlantic in 2024 - the US presidential election in November will be particularly decisive for NATO.  Two thirds of NATO member states are well on the way to meeting the two percent national defense spending target - Germany in particular must ensure that this target is met in the long term.  Now it is up to the leadership of larger countries such as Germany, France and Poland to develop traction in European defense in order to present a future US president with a resilient burden-sharing balance sheet and not leave Ukraine - and the European security order - in the lurch. Return to the core mission In the 75th year of its existence, the North Atlantic Defense Alliance has returned to its core mission: deterrence and defense against a territorial aggressor. NATO defense planning will be reviewed for its resilience before the NATO summit in Washington D.C. from 9 to 11 July 2024. What challenges does the Alliance face in its anniversary year and what needs to happen between now and the NATO summit to make the summit a success? The state of the Alliance ahead of the summit NATO is in difficult waters ahead of its 75th anniversary. On the one hand, it has proven since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression that it is capable of acting and not brain-dead. The two new members, Finland and Sweden, have given up their decades of neutrality because their populations are convinced that they are better protected against Russian aggression within the 30 allies, despite the excellent condition of their military. On the other hand, the admission process has taken much longer than was to be expected given the high level of interoperability of both countries with NATO standards. It took a good twenty months since the application was submitted for both flags to fly on the flagpoles in front of NATO headquarters in Brussels - the internal blockade by Turkey and Hungary is an expression of the Alliance's challenge to maintain a united front against the Russian threat. The Vilnius decision of 2023 to adhere to the previous two percent target for annual defense spending as a percentage of national gross domestic product (GDP) as a minimum figure in future and even to strive for additional spending beyond this is an enormous effort for the members of the alliance - and the biggest point of criticism from its sceptics. The implementation of this goal goes hand in hand with the further development of the defense posture, which was also decided in Vilnius. This includes new regional defense plans that provide for more combat-capable troops that can be deployed more quickly. The Washington summit will show how far the Alliance has come in this respect in a year - gaps between targets and actual capabilities would consequently have to be covered by investments that go beyond the two percent GDP contributions. There are also a number of other important events and factors that will influence the summit. Ukraine's military situation In the third year of the war, the military situation in Ukraine is serious. The fighting has largely turned into a war of position, with high casualties on both sides. The sluggish supply of support from the West means that the Ukrainians have to make do with significantly less than their defense needs. The European Union has failed to meet its promise to deliver one million 155-millimetre shells within a year (by March 2024), while the Russian war economy is producing supplies in multiple shifts. This imbalance is making itself painfully felt in the Ukrainian defense - due to the material deficit, nowhere near enough Russian positions can be eliminated and Russian attacks repelled, and Ukrainian personnel on the front line are depleted. President Volodymyr Zelensky is coming under increasing pressure to mobilize fresh forces for the front. As a result, the Ukrainian military is having to give up some of its terrain in order to conserve material and personnel and take up the most sustainable defensive position possible for the coming weeks and months until relief hopefully comes. comes.1 The Czech initiative to procure half a million rounds in 155 millimeter caliber and 300,000 rounds in 122 millimeter caliber on the world market for Ukraine by June 2024 is urgently needed - but it does not change the fact that Europe and the West are delivering too little and too late, despite the efforts that have been made so far and must continue to be made.2 Even if the US and Europe were to produce at full speed, it would only be half of what Russia produces and receives in support from its allies. Western support therefore urgently needs to be ramped up, as it is of crucial importance for the outcome of the war - and for Russia's future behavior in its neighborhood. Upcoming elections A series of landmark elections will take place on both sides of the Atlantic in the run-up to the summit. The US presidential elections in November 2024 will be of the greatest importance for the future direction of NATO. To date, the USA has been the largest single supporter of Ukraine in the military field; in addition, the USA has decisive weight in the coordination of concrete support from NATO countries - the German Chancellor has repeatedly oriented himself towards US arms deliveries when it comes to the question of German support or even made this a condition for his own commitments.3 While the Democrats in the US Congress continue to support aid packages to Ukraine, the Republican Party is dominated by voices around presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for this "European war" to be left to the Europeans and for domestic challenges to be addressed instead.4 This has led to a months-long blockade of further aid amounting to 60 billion US dollars in the US House of Representatives, which is led by a wafer-thin majority of Republicans. Ukraine urgently needs these supplies to avert shortages in ammunition and air defense. At the time of publication of this Monitor, a release of the funds is not in sight. In terms of foreign policy, there is a bipartisan consensus that the real danger for the USA lies in a systemic conflict with China. Among Republican supporters, impatience with the continuation of the war is increasing, while approval for further support for Ukraine is decreasing. The mood among the general population is similar: between April 2022 and September 2023, the view that the US is doing "too much" for Ukraine increased (from 14% to 41%).5 On the European side, the most important milestone for further support for Ukraine is the election of the new European Parliament from 6 to 9 June 2024. Since the outbreak of the war, approval ratings in the EU for support for Ukraine have been remarkably stable.6 Even in the face of a sometimes difficult economic environment in the 20 eurozone states, approval ratings for the continuation of aid to Ukraine have only fallen slightly in a few EU states - starting from a high level. While the broad center of the EP groups (EPP, S&D and Renew) are united in their support for Ukraine and the transatlantic alliance, the foreign and security policy positioning of the far-right parties of the ECR and ID groups and the non-attached groups is not always clear. According to Nicolai von Ondarza and Max Becker from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), while the ECR parliamentary group "largely plays a constructive and compatible role" in foreign and security policy, including with regard to NATO and Ukraine, parts of the ID parliamentary group such as the French Rassemblement National (RN) or the German AfD either voted against resolutions critical of Russia in parliament or abstained.7 According to Olaf Wientzek from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, both the ECR and ID can expect significant seat gains in the upcoming EP elections.8 In terms of numbers, the ID and ECR groups are competing with Renew to be the third strongest force behind the EPP and S&D - according to current estimates, they all have between 80 and 90 seats. It would be conceivable for the currently non-attached Hungarian Fidesz (currently 13 MEPs) to join both the ECR and ID. In view of the increasing co-decision role of parliament - including for further Ukraine support packages - it is important for the EU how these parties and party alliances position themselves in terms of foreign and security policy.9 In fact, parties in the ID faction represent Russian propaganda within Europe in order to exert influence through disinformation, subversion and mobilization and thus undermine the social consensus with regard to Ukraine and NATO.10 This may also become apparent in individual elections, such as in the eastern German states in September 2024. Economic pressure - prioritizing defence? Global inflation averaged 6.2% in 2023. Current forecasts assume falling inflation rates in the Euro-Atlantic region over the course of 2024 to 2026.11 At the same time, however, global economic growth of 3.1% (2024) and an expected 3.2% (2025) compared to the previous year is well below the projections for the post-pandemic recovery.12 The combination of higher consumer prices and slower economic recovery continues to pose the risk of declining approval for strong support within the populations of the European Ukraine-supporting states. Protests in the face of announcements of cuts in various policy areas have demonstrated this in Germany and Europe over the past year. This does not make it easy to prioritize defence spending from a national perspective for the coming years. In the case of Germany, the defense budget is competing with all other departments in the budget negotiations for 2025, which are calling for an increase in social spending and investments in view of the current burdens on the population.13 At the same time, inflation does not stop at military procurement. As early as 2022, Germany therefore had to cancel a number of planned procurement projects due to increased costs.14 The cost increase also affects the maintenance of existing equipment and personnel. Even if Germany nominally reaches the two percent target in 2024, the increases in national defense spending within the Alliance will actually be lower when adjusted for inflation. Systemic threat from China The increasing systemic confrontation with China is not only identified in the US national security strategy; for the first time, China was classified as a concrete threat by NATO in its Strategic Concept of 2022. China is threatening to annex the democratically governed island of Taiwan to its territory, possibly by military means.15 This would have enormous global escalation potential and far-reaching effects on important international sea routes. Concerns about free trade routes are leading to a convergence of threat perceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. As a result, many European partners are rethinking their relations with China - as is Germany in its China strategy. China's global ambition to restructure the existing multilateral order according to its own ideas does not only affect Taiwan's independence. China's supremacy in key technical and industrial sectors as well as critical infrastructure, rare raw materials and supply chains would lead to a deepening of existing dependencies. Because the USA sees China as a systemic threat to international order, freedom and prosperity, it has been refocusing its efforts since President Obama took office. European NATO partners are therefore expected to invest in Europe's security themselves. Only greater burden-sharing by the Europeans would enable the USA to focus its attention more strongly on the Indo-Pacific. Challenges in new dimensions In addition to the geopolitical challenges outlined above, NATO designated space in 2019 as an additional battlefield to the existing fields - land, air, sea and cyberspace - due to its increased importance.16 In recent decades, China has rapidly expanded its presence in space in both the civilian and military sectors.17 The war in Ukraine has once again underlined the importance of satellite-based intelligence and the significance of connected weapons for combat. In addition, the effects of man-made climate change, which also have an impact on security in the Euro-Atlantic alliance area, have recently become increasingly apparent. At the 2021 NATO summit in Brussels, the Alliance set itself the goal of becoming a leading international organization in understanding and adapting to the effects of climate change on security.18 To this end, it adopted the "Climate Change and Security Action Plan". The NATO countries' homework A successful NATO summit in the anniversary year 2024 would send an important signal of the unity and defense capability of the Euro-Atlantic alliance in the face of Russia's breach of international law in a time of systemic competition. NATO member states are confronted with a complex threat situation ahead of the next summit in Washington D.C.. These give rise to various requirements: More NATO members must reach the two percent target In financial terms, the Washington summit will probably be considered a success if a substantial number of member states reach the two percent target. In 2023, this was the case for eleven countries (Poland, USA, Greece, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland, Romania, Hungary, Latvia, UK, Slovakia).19 In February 2024, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on the sidelines of a meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group in Brussels that 18 countries would reach the target by the summit.20 Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Denmark, Albania and North Macedonia are the countries that have recently reached the target.21 The newest NATO member, Sweden, increases the number to.19 Achieving the two percent target for defense spending is not an end in itself. The discussion within NATO as to whether one should deviate from the numerical contribution target and instead assess the actual capabilities contributed by the individual member states is not a new one. Amounts of money to measure collective defense remain the simplest way to approximate burden-sharing within NATO - and until all countries have achieved this, it will remain the relevant metric in the political discussion. From NATO's perspective, the gap between the desired capabilities listed in the defense plans and the troop contingents registered by the member states has widened steadily of late. In reality, there is no way around increased defense spending in order to adequately equip the required personnel, who would have to be subordinate to the NATO Supreme Allied Commander (SACEUR) in an emergency - from a military perspective, the demand is therefore increasingly being made that two percent should be the minimum target. In order to achieve all the required capabilities, larger contributions are needed from all nations. Due to the threat situation and political pressure, it seems possible that 21 countries, i.e. two thirds of the member states, will meet the two percent target by the NATO summit in Washington. In addition to the 19 countries mentioned above, these are France22 and Montenegro.23 Turkey wants to achieve the target by 2025,24 although this commitment is uncertain in view of the poor economic situation. Italy wants to spend two percent within the next two years25, while Norway should reach the target by 2026 according to Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere26. Slovenia has set 2027 as the target date for meeting the commitments27, while Portugal, Spain and Belgium have set 2030 as the target date. Canada (1.38%), Croatia (1.79%) and Luxembourg (0.72%) have not provided any information. Reduce bureaucracy, speed up procurement In material terms, the main aim is to convert the increased defense spending into "material on the farm" in a timely manner. To achieve this, the planning and procurement processes in many European countries need to be accelerated, made less bureaucratic and at the same time better coordinated. The common European defense will require massive improvements in the coming years. Some announcements have already been made during the pre-election campaign for the European Parliament; here, too, what counts is how the announcements are implemented after the election. Progress must also be made in the area of research and development in order to invest scarce resources in state-of-the-art systems. The question of joint development versus off-the-shelf procurement of available equipment will also have to be decided in many cases. A rethink in European procurement is essential for this. This is primarily the responsibility of the European nation states: long-term contracts with the arms industry must be concluded urgently, cooperation initiated and loans granted for production. Strengthening EU-NATO cooperation and NATO partnership policy NATO's Strategic Concept and the EU's Strategic Compass show a strong convergence in threat analysis. The EU has effective starting points and tools, particularly for cross-cutting challenges such as combating climate change, the threat of hybrid attacks and the protection of critical infrastructure. With the European Peace Facility and other instruments, a concrete institutional framework has been created to strengthen the European pillar in NATO and contribute to fairer burden-sharing on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU and NATO should further intensify the exchange on common challenges and utilize the strengths of the respective forum. In addition to the partnership with the EU, the member states should continue to promote NATO's partnership policy. 2024 marks the 25th anniversary of NATO's eastward enlargement and the 30th anniversary of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. In view of a global confrontation with Russia and an increasingly aggressive China, it is worth taking a look at the instruments that were devised during the Cold War with a view to 'like-minded' partners outside the Alliance. NATO's partnership policy - adapted to the new circumstances - is an ideal instrument for forging close ties with democratic nations in the Indo-Pacific that share NATO's interests and values.28 Investing in interoperability NATO must continue to act as a "guardian of standards" in favor of military interoperability. This year's major exercises as part of "Steadfast Defender 2024" and "Quadriga 2024" will show, among other things, which weaknesses still exist in the various dimensions of interoperability in practical tests. In addition, care must be taken to ensure that military innovations from pioneers within NATO do not leave the Alliance's other allies behind in technical terms. This does not mean that technological progress is slowed down in a race to the bottom; instead, member states with lower expenditure on research and development must be enabled to catch up more quickly - especially in areas such as space technology and the use of artificial intelligence in warfare, it is becoming increasingly important to avoid the technological gap between the members of the alliance. What does this mean for Germany? The Federal Chancellor's announcement on February 27, 2022 that the establishment of the 100 billion euro special fund heralded a turning point in Germany's security policy was seen everywhere in Germany and within the Alliance as the right decision in view of Russia's aggression. In his speech, Olaf Scholz emphasized that Germany was not seeking this expenditure to please allies. The special fund serves national security. However, the acute threat to European security remains and although the NATO target will be reached in 2024, the future of Germany's defense budget is anything but certain. However, investment in the Bundeswehr's defense capabilities is essential to contribute to credible deterrence. The foundation for securing sustainable defense spending in Germany's medium-term financial planning must be laid now, otherwise two percent - depending on the spending status of the special fund - may already be unattainable in 2026, when the regular federal budget is once again used as the basis for calculating the NATO target. As the budget for 2025 will not yet have been decided at the NATO summit in July 2024, the Chancellor will need to make a credible commitment to the allies that Germany will not fall behind. The Bundeswehr will also have to stretch itself enormously in order to achieve the troop levels announced for the new defense plans. The number of servicewomen and men is currently stagnating at just under 182,000. 29 In order to be able to provide the brigade in Lithuania in addition to the nationally required forces and to meet the division commitment for 2026, the Bundeswehr must come significantly closer to the target figure of 203,300 active servicewomen and men by 2027.30 The questions of how many of the 182,000 soldiers available on paper are also willing to become part of the brigade in Lithuania and how many of the total number are actually deployable in an emergency have not even been asked at this point. What counts now - political leadership The security situation in Europe is serious and NATO has no shortage of challenges in its 75th year of existence. It is in good shape to meet these challenges and has welcomed two strong nations into its ranks, Finland and Sweden. However, it is now important not to let up in the efforts that have been agreed. A united external stance is key here, as the current NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg never tires of emphasizing. His successor will have to continue this. Even more important, however, are actual, concrete and substantial actions - the English expression "put one's money where one's mouth is" must be the leitmotif of all European NATO nations in view of the US elections at the end of the year, regardless of the outcome. Ultimately, political leadership is what counts within the alliance in virtually all the areas mentioned - and it matters now. Many smaller countries in Europe look to the larger member states such as Germany, France and Poland for leadership. This applies both in terms of sustainable compliance with the two percent target and when it comes to political agreement and cooperation in the field of armaments. Here, the larger states have a role model and leadership function that can develop traction and pressure on the Alliance as a whole. This political leadership will be more important than ever for the European representatives in NATO in 2024. At the moment, however, it seems questionable whether the current leadership vacuum can be filled before the NATO summit. Germany, France and Poland have not yet been able to develop a jointly coordinated stance that could have a positive effect. It is therefore also questionable whether the NATO summit will be able to send important signals beyond the minimum objectives. The US presidential election hangs over everything like a sword of Damocles - the erratic leadership style of another US President Donald Trump could be difficult to reconcile with the strategic goals of the alliance. Imprint This publication of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V. is for information purposes only. It may not be used by political parties or election campaigners or helpers for the purpose of election advertising. This applies to federal, state and local elections as well as elections to the European Parliament. Publisher: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V., 2024, Berlin Design: yellow too, Pasiek Horntrich GbR Produced with the financial support of the Federal Republic of Germany. References 1 Reisner, Markus: So ernst ist die Lage an der Front. In: Streitkräfte und Strategien Podcast, NDR Info, 12.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/0ne7 2 Zachová, Aneta: Tschechische Initiative: Munition für Ukraine könnte im Juni eintreffen. Euractiv, 13.03.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/gofh 3 Besonders eindrücklich bleibt das Beispiel der Lieferung schwerer Waffen in Erinnerung: so rang sich Bundeskanzler Scholz zur Freigabe der Lieferung Leopard-Panzer deutscher Fertigung erst nach amerikanischer Zusage von Abrams-Panzern von militärisch zweifelhaftem Mehrwert durch. 4 Dress, Brad: Ramaswamy isolates himself on Ukraine with proposed Putin pact. In: The Hill, 01.09.2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/c9ow 5 Hutzler, Alexandra: How initial US support for aiding Ukraine has come to a standstill 2 years later. ABC News, 24.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/h0z6 6 Grand, Camille u.a.: European public opinion remains supportive of Ukraine. Bruegel, 05.06.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/ipbu 7 von Ondarza, Nicolai und Becker, Max: Geostrategie von rechts außen: Wie sich EU-Gegner und Rechtsaußenparteien außen- und sicherheitspolitisch positionieren. SWP-aktuell, 01.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/a62v 8 Wientzek, Dr. Olaf: EVP-Parteienbarometer Februar 2024 - Die Lage der Europäischen Volkspartei in der EU. Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, 06.03.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/fv9b 9 s. Footnote 7 10 Klein, Margarete: Putins „Wiederwahl“: Wie der Kriegsverlauf die innenpolitische Stabilität Russlands bestimmt. In: SWP-Podcast, 06.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/7i5s 11 Potrafke, Prof. Dr. Niklas: Economic Experts Survey: Wirtschaftsexperten erwarten Rückgang der Inflation weltweit (3. Quartal 2023). ifo-Institut, 19. Oktober 2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/wunq 12 Umersbach, Bruno: Wachstum des weltweiten realen Bruttoinlandsprodukts (BIP) von 1980 bis 2024. Statista, 07.02.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/5ohz 13 Petersen, Volker: Ampel droht Zerreißprobe: Vier Gründe, warum der Haushalt 2025 so gefährlich ist. N-tv, 07.03.2024, online unter: https://ogy.de/9fcl 14 Specht, Frank u.a.: Regierung kürzt mehrere Rüstungsprojekte. Handelsblatt, 24.10.2022, online unter: https://ogy.de/71z3 15 Vgl. Wurzel, Steffen u.a.: Worum es im Konflikt um Taiwan geht. Deutschlandfunk, 12.04.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/ddc1 16 Vogel, Dominic: Bundeswehr und Weltraum - Das Weltraumoperationszentrum als Einstieg in multidimensionale Operationen. Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, 01.10.2020, online unter: https://ogy.de/c7m1 17 Rose, Frank A.: Managing China‘s rise in outer space. Brookings, letzter Zugriff am 18.09.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/374g 18 Vgl. Kertysova, Katarina: Implementing NATO’s Climate Security Agenda: Challenges Ahead. In: NATO Review, 10.08.2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/ho94 19 Vgl. Statista: Defense expenditures of NATO countries as a percentage of gross domestic product in 2023. Abgerufen am 18.09.2023 online unter https://ogy.de/wtsb 20 Neuhann, Florian: Ukraine-Kontaktgruppe in Brüssel: Eine Krisensitzung - und ein Tabubruch? ZDF heute, 14.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/rezf 21 Mendelson, Ben: Diese Nato-Länder halten 2024 das Zwei-Prozent-Ziel ein. Handelsblatt, 15.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/quiu 22 Kayali, Laura: France will reach NATO defense spending target in 2024. Politico, 15.02.2024, online unter https://ogy.de/7vdd 23 https://icds.ee/en/defence-spending-who-is-doing-what/ 24 Vgl. Daily Sabah: Türkiye’s defense spending expected to constitute 2% of GDP by 2025. 21.10.2022, online unter https://ogy.de/xtbr 25 Vgl. Decode39: Defence spending: Rome’s path towards the 2% target. 20.07.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/c0g3 26 Waldwyn, Karl: Norwegian defence chief sounds alarm and raises sights. In: Military Balance Blog, International Institute for Strategic Studies, 23.06.2023, online unter https://ogy.de/8b4a 27 Vgl. Army Technology: Russian threat driving Slovenia’s defence budget increase. 02.08.2022, online unter https://ogy.de/c5y7 28 Vgl. Kamp, Dr. Karl-Heinz: Allianz der Interessen. In: IP, Ausgabe September/Oktober 29 Vgl. Bundeswehr. Stand: 31.07.2023, abgerufen am 19.09.2023, online unter: https://ogy.de/m69j 30 Bundeswehr: Ambitioniertes Ziel: 203.000 Soldatinnen und Soldaten bis 2027. Online unter https://ogy.de/3pzs

Diplomacy
Semiconductor chip cooperation between the USA and the European Union concept.

EU and US continue strong trade and technology cooperation at a time of global challenges

by Margrethe Vestager , Valdis Dombrovskis

Today, the EU and the United States held the sixth meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) in Leuven, Belgium. The meeting allowed ministers to build on ongoing work and present new deliverables of the TTC after two and a half years of cooperation. The TTC is a key forum for close cooperation on transatlantic trade and technology issues. The Commission was represented by Executive Vice-Presidents Margrethe Vestager and Valdis Dombrovskis, joined by Commissioner Thierry Breton. On the US side, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai were present. The meeting took place in a challenging geopolitical context, including Russia's illegal war against Ukraine and global economic pressures. In addition, the acceleration of the digital and green transitions opens opportunities for growth and innovation but also requires transatlantic cooperation towards joint approaches. The meeting showed that there is a strong commitment to advance transatlantic leadership on emerging technologies and in the digital environment, facilitate bilateral trade and investment, cooperate on economic security and defend human rights and values. Transatlantic cooperation on artificial intelligence, quantum, 6G, semiconductors and standardisation The EU and US reaffirmed their common commitment to a risk-based approach to artificial intelligence (AI) and support for safe and trustworthy AI technologies. Both partners believe in the potential of AI to help find solutions to global challenges. A short overview document published today on AI for the Public Good identifies milestones on which the EU and US are cooperating in the areas of extreme weather, energy, emergency response and reconstruction. The partners also announced a new Dialogue between the EU AI office and the US Safety Institute on developing tools, methodologies and benchmarks for measuring and evaluating AI models. Since the launch of the TTC in 2021, the EU and US have worked on transparency and risk mitigation to reap the benefits of AI for their citizens and societies and continue to implement the Joint Roadmap for Trustworthy AI and Risk Management. The EU and US have adopted today a common 6G vision setting out a path for leadership on this technology, and have signed an administrative arrangement for research collaboration. This builds on the 6G outlook adopted in May 2023, and the industry roadmap on 6G of December 2023. In the semiconductors area, the EU and the US are extending for three years their two administrative arrangements, under which they have been cooperating fruitfully to identify early-on supply chain disruptions and ensure subsidies transparency. They will commit to cooperating on legacy semiconductors and join forces in research to find alternatives to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in chips, including by leveraging AI capacities. On emerging technology standards, the EU and US are releasing a Digital Identity Mapping Report with the aim of identifying use cases for transatlantic interoperability and the cross-border use of digital identities. In 2023, the EU and the US endorsed a common international standard on megawatt charging systems for the recharging of electric heavy-duty vehicles. The partners will continue to work on standards as enablers of the green transition. Boosting digital skills and talent is fundamental for the success of the digital transition. The Talent for Growth Task Force launched in April 2023 with a one-year mandate, has served as a platform for rich exchanges on innovative skills development and actionable solutions to address skills shortages in the technology sector in both the EU and the US. The Task Force presented the outcomes of these discussions in the margins of the TTC. Promoting easier, more sustainable and more secure trade on the transatlantic marketplace Promoting sustainable trade as part of the green transition is a priority for both parties and the TTC remains a key forum for the EU and the US to cooperate on this. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of the Transatlantic Initiative on Sustainable Trade (TIST), which since its inception in 2022 frames the TTC's work in this regard. At today's meeting, ministers took stock of the work taking place under TIST including on conformity assessment, to facilitate trade in goods and technologies that are vital for the green transition. They agreed to publish a Joint Catalogue of Best Practices on Green Public Procurement to help accelerate the deployment of publicly financed sustainability projects, and to advance their cooperation on solar supply chains. The EU and the US have declared their intention to make transatlantic trade easier and to continue growing their unique economic partnership. To this end, both sides have agreed to facilitate digital tools in trade. In particular, they have taken steps to ease digital trade for companies by coordinating and aligning their respective technical standards for e-invoicing systems, which should considerably cut down on time and red tape. This will also reduce paper usage and carbon emissions associated with traditional invoicing methods. Furthermore, both parties reaffirmed the importance of the EU-US Clean Energy Incentives Dialogue as a platform for exchange to avoid zero-sum competition and trade and investment distortions in the clean energy sector. They also welcomed the publication of recommendations for greater transatlantic e-vehicle charging infrastructure compatibility, which complement the previously published Transatlantic Technical Recommendations for Government Funded Implementation of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure. Moreover, the EU and the US hold that sustainable trade is not only about cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but also about ensuring a fair transition for workers and firms up and down the supply chain. This aim is encapsulated by the work of the Trade and Labour Dialogue (TALD), which, building on the discussions during a workshop with social partners organised at the fifth TTC meeting in January 2024 held its third meeting at today's TTC ministerial meeting. In addition, the EU and US have intensively engaged on critical minerals, which are indispensable for a wide set of technologies needed for EU strategic sectors such as the net-zero industry, and the digital, space and defence sectors. The EU and the US are advancing negotiations toward a Critical Minerals Agreement This agreement aims to strengthen EU-US supply chains in critical minerals for electric vehicles batteries and to reinforce the protection of labour and environment in international critical minerals supply chains. The EU and the US also welcomed the launch of the Minerals Security Partnership Forum (more information will be available later here), which they will co-chair, and look forward to a fruitful future cooperation with a wide range of partners around the world. Ministers also discussed partnering on economic security. In this regard, the EU and the US reaffirmed their shared concerns over the challenges posed by economic coercion and non-market practices employed by third countries and resolved to continue their efforts to de-risk and diversify their trade and investment relations. They also recognised the important role that the TTC has consistently played to optimise EU-US work on export controls against Russia and Belarus. They resolved to further align their respective priorities in this regard and to continue work on facilitating secure high-technology trade while maintaining an effective export controls regime. The EU and the US have carried out joint work to identify and promote best practices on foreign investment screening and will continue to exchange information to address threats to security and public order. Both parties also agreed to continue to exchange information on how to respond to the risks posed by outbound investments in certain critical technologies. Defending human rights and values in a changing geopolitical digital environment The EU and the US concur that online platforms should exercise greater responsibility in ensuring a fair, transparent, and accountable digital environment including by addressing gender-based violence and protecting human rights defenders online. The partners have developed a set of joint principles on gender-based violence on online platforms which complement the list of high-level principles on the protection and empowerment of minors and data access for researchers, which are in line with the EU's Digital Services Act. Both partners are determined to support democracies across the world and to defend human rights, free and independent media and combat foreign information manipulation and interference, especially in a year when many elections take place in the world. Following suit, they have published joint Recommended Actions for Online Platforms on Protecting Human Rights Defenders Online. The EU and US committed to facilitating data access from online platforms and published a report on mechanisms for researcher access to such data, which builds upon efforts undertaken by the academic and research community. Moreover, the EU and the US reiterated their commitment to support secure and resilient digital infrastructure and connectivity projects in third countries and announced a joint support package for Tunisia. This adds to the implementation of projects underway in Costa Rica, Jamaica, Kenya, and the Philippines. Next Steps The wide-ranging fruits of the TTC's work since its launch in 2021 attest to the value of this transatlantic policy forum, and principals agreed on the need to continue this work. Therefore, as both sides enter their respective electoral processes, the EU and US will reflect on the lessons learned so far and possible ways forward. In the meantime, the technical work under the TTC will continue. Building on the lessons learnt from our cooperation so far, we intend to use the remainder of 2024 to engage with EU and U.S. stakeholders to gather their views on the future of the TTC. Background The EU and the US launched the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) at their summit in Brussels on 15 June 2021. It has served as a forum to discuss and coordinate on key trade and technology issues, and to deepen transatlantic cooperation on issues of joint interest. The inaugural ministerial meeting of the TTC took place in Pittsburgh on 29 September 2021. Following this meeting, ten working groups were set up covering issues such as technology standards, AI, semiconductors, export controls and global trade challenges. This was followed by a second meeting in Paris on 16 May 2022, a third meeting in College Park, Maryland, in December 2022, a fourth meeting in Luleå, Sweden, in May 2023 and a fifth meeting in Washington DC in January 2024. The EU and the US remain key geopolitical and trading partners. EU-US bilateral trade is at historical highs, with over €1.6 trillion in 2023 and with bilateral investment stocks topping €5 trillion. Quote(s) “In today’s fast-moving and uncertain world, our partnership with the United States on trade and technology allows us to deal with some of the most crucial challenges of our time. I am proud of the results delivered so far and we will keep working to enhance economic security and build a fair digital environment that reflects our values.” Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age “The TTC has injected new dynamism into transatlantic trade relations. It is the first forum of its kind that has allowed the world’s two largest economies to set new standards and cooperate on current challenges - such as sanctions against Russia - based on shared democratic values. The TTC has made important inroads in terms of bolstering our economic security and enhancing the resilience of supply chains. We have also made valuable progress in jointly forging the green transatlantic marketplace.” Valdis Dombrovskis, Executive Vice-President, and Commissioner for Trade

Diplomacy
Presidential election 2024 in the United States. Voting day, November 5.

Elections in USA: a fast-paced race

by Raquel López-Portillo

As rarely in history, elections in the United States have accelerated their tempo at a dizzying pace. The Triumpist tsunami that has swept through this initial primary election process is striking in terms of the acceleration of the process. In 2016, it was not until May that the former President Trump secured the Republican Party candidacy, while in the 2020 cycle it took Biden until June. This hastening has not only impacted domestically but has also put Mexico in a delicate position ahead of the general elections in both countries. It is nothing new that migration is a central topic of debate and dispute, even more so when its politicization increases in an electoral environment. However, the US electoral process has placed Mexico, literally and metaphorically, as a campaign stage. As evidenced by the visit of the two potential candidates for the US presidency to the Mexican border a few weeks ago, the importance of our country today takes a prominent place both in the priorities of the electorate and in the respective campaigns of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This leaves the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a tenuous position in an already complex scenario. The fact that the focus of the conversation has been set on the border so soon leaves at least eight months of a potential spike in tensions. Biden’s rhetoric is no longer the same as when he began his term, nor is it attached to the human rights-centered line that has traditionally characterized the Democratic Party. In contrast, Biden has insisted in recent days on the passage of a bipartisan initiative to allow for the deployment of more border agents and asylum officers, detection technology, and increased capabilities to close the border when it is overwhelmed. In this scene, it is possible to expect that the diplomacy and repeated high-level meetings that have been held in recent months will now come laden with even greater demands and ultimatums. In addition, our country is also expected to be at the center of the legislative debate. While the most radical wing of the Republican Party has been the main protagonist of the budget attacks, the immigration crisis has provoked some democrats to take tougher positions. Politically, this situation has become a thorn in President Joe Biden’s side. He is perhaps the most damaged between the pressures of his closest supporters and the Republican resistance to give him legislative victories, at a time when every message or decision could influence from the presidential race to the elections in the local legislature, where the Democrats seek to recover lost spaces. For the time being, everything points to the fact that the greater the chaos on the border with the country, the greater the political gains. Finally, the border with Mexico has also found a place in the electorate’s priorities. According to various polls, eight out of ten Americans (with or without party affiliation) place immigration as a priority issue. Likewise, at least 28 percent of the polled by the Gallup Agency stated that immigration is the most serious problem that faces the country, ahead of issues such as the economy, inflation, or crime. This also impacts Mexico because it is not only limited to a matter of perception but is inevitably reflected in everyday life. Considering that migration, drug trafficking and insecurity are generally considered as part of the same problem, this has a significant impact on the increase of xenophobic positions, particularly against Mexican nationals living in the United States. Regardless of how the electoral pace continues or who ends up in the White House, Mexico should pay special attention to the speeches, proposals and actions of other people competing at the local or federal level for a position in the next government, particularly on issues that concern our country, such as migration, security, or the fight against organized crime. It is precisely these people who will determine the future of our most important bilateral relationship.

Defense & Security
11.07.2018. BRUSSELS, BELGIUM. Official Opening Ceremony for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) SUMMIT 2018

Home alone: The sorry state of Europe’s plans for self-defence

by Nick Witney

With the possibility of a second Trump presidency looming, it is high time to Europeanise NATO’s defence plans Lest anyone had missed the point, Donald Trump has now provided helpful clarification of his attitude towards America’s NATO allies – and specifically those that fail to spend the benchmark 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. If elected he would, he declared at a campaign rally, “encourage” Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” to underspending NATO allies. Reacting to a storm of protest from European leaders, he was happy to repeat himself: “Look, if they’re not going to pay, we’re not going to protect. OK?”. Nowadays, it is less easy for complacent Europeans to shrug off such observations as typical Trumpisms. They have evidence that Trump redux would be likely to apply his malevolent instincts much more efficiently than he did in his chaotic first term as president. And the chances of him having the opportunity to do so are increasingly likely: he has now steamrollered the opposition in the early Republican primaries, and is ahead of Joe Biden in the polls. No one can any longer ignore the real possibility that in less than a year’s time the occupant of the White House could toss the whole responsibility for keeping Ukraine in the fight against Russia into European laps, whilst insisting that from here on in they see to their own defence. It would therefore hardly be premature if Europeans began to explore how each other views the situation; to make contingency plans; and even to take some precautionary steps. The two key challenges are obvious. The first is how to get more weapons, and especially ammunition and air-defence missiles, to Ukraine. Since Russia’s invasion, Europeans have done better at this than might have been expected – but they have not done as well as the need now demands, and not nearly enough to support Ukraine if the United States withdraws its aid. The EU, and especially the European Commission, have played a prominent role here, providing financial incentives for member states to donate from their own stocks and to expand production facilities. But talk of moving European defence industries onto a war footing has yet to be realised; and although the commission will shortly unveil proposals for an ambitious European defence industrial strategy, this can only succeed if member states evince more enthusiasm for collective action than they have so far shown. Only three months ago France, Germany, Italy, and Spain jointly warned the commission to stay off their turf and respect national “prerogatives” on defence. The second key challenge that Europeans should be facing up to is how they would defend themselves without US backing against a Russia that had – the possibility can no longer be discounted – imposed a humiliating ‘peace’ on Ukraine. The “dormant NATO” plans being proposed by right-wing US think-tanks foresee a wholesale withdrawal of US ground forces from Europe. But Europeans have huge psychological difficulties in bringing themselves to discuss the US as they would any other foreign power, even in situations where their own strategic interests are manifestly different from those of the superpower. NATO’s disastrous involvement in Afghanistan, for instance, would never have dragged on for so many fruitless years had not its European members studiously avoided any collective discussion of a campaign which each saw exclusively through the prism of its own bilateral relations with the US. Compounding these challenges is the fact that there is no institutional setting in which Europeans could confer. Their task is, in effect, to Europeanise NATO’s defence plans, but this can hardly be discussed in NATO. That organisation, after all, is where European militaries gather to be told what to do by Americans, but the current US administration can scarcely be expected to lead a discussion premised on its own defeat in the November presidential election. The EU has neither locus nor credibility in military operational matters. The reality is that, if a strategy for defending Europe without the Americans is to emerge, this can only be on an ‘intergovernmental’ basis – through bilateral and minilateral discussion amongst Europe’s main defence players. At the alliance’s 2022 Madrid summit, NATO doubled down on its strategy of forward defence. Russia’s war on Ukraine has demonstrated that we are in a technological era in which defensive systems have the advantage over the traditional means of attack. Destroying massed Russian armour turned out to be relatively easy; getting Russians out now that they have dug themselves in is the devil’s own job. So in Madrid allies resolved to reinforce NATO’s “enhanced forward presence” – boosting in-place forces in eastern and central Europe. But predictably, Europeans have been happy to leave this largely to the Americans, who reinforced their presence in Europe with an additional 20,000 troops. The challenge for European chiefs of staff and defence planners now is to work out how, if the need arises, to substitute for US in-place forces in the frontline states; what capabilities and defensive infrastructure will be needed to halt any assault at the borders; and how to organise the communications and data networks necessary to form an effective system that ties together disparate sensors and missile, drone, and artillery assets. Such planning is now an urgent requirement, not just as a matter of military preparedness, but for psychological reasons. Europe’s frontline states have long felt their western European allies lack not only US military credibility, but also a serious understanding of the scale of Putin’s threat. Europeans will only hang together under a second Trump presidency if they are ready to trust each other, and specifically if the most vulnerable states see a real prospect of western European states putting many more of their bodies on the line as in-place forces. The last couple of years, in which predominantly eastern European states have agreed to purchase an astonishing $120 billion of weapons from American contractors, suggests a fatal tendency to believe that maybe Trump can be propitiated by such largesse. Fortunately, the return of Donald Tusk as Poland’s prime minister has substantially increased the odds of Europeans hanging together even in a Trump 2.0 scenario. The foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Poland (the Weimar Triangle) have just met to discuss strengthening Europe’s efforts. If, as expected, the British Labour party returns to government later this year, then the United Kingdom would be an obvious addition to this group. Indeed, a necessary one: it is hard to envisage a credible European defence of the continent that did not clutch in Europe’s second nuclear power. Keir Starmer has made clear his ambition to restore defence ties severed by Brexit. There is no time to waste: the prime minister-in-waiting could usefully make an early trip to Paris to initiate conversations with the UK’s closest continental ally.

Diplomacy
Demonstrators marching along Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House to encourage the Biden administration in ending its support of Haitian dictators

Haiti Mission Lacks Interlocutor Plus Peruvian Congress Purges Top Judges

by Shannon K. O'Neil , Will Freeman

No interlocutor for Haiti mission’s international troops. Haiti’s acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced he will resign. The timeline for his resignation is still unclear—it depends on the appointment of a transitional presidential council, jointly proposed by the United States, the Caribbean Community, and Henry’s administration. Henry’s announcement comes less than two weeks after he and Kenyan President William Ruto agreed to send 1,000 Kenyan police officers to Haiti as part of a Kenya-led multinational security mission (MSS). The mission’s aim is to support Haiti’s overwhelmed and outgunned national police force, less than 10,000-strong. The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Benin, among others, may join their mission, potentially adding thousands more troops and police officers. And donor nations, including the United States, Canada, Germany, France and Guyana, have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in support. Yet the response looks to be too late and too little. Kenya’s promise to send officers is still in doubt, as courts have blocked government plans for over six months, and opposition lawmakers may mount a fresh challenge. Donor financial pledges total less than half the UN’s estimated need. And even if the troops arrive, they may not have a functioning government to work with. As the international community dithered, the situation on the ground deteriorated. Gangs now control over 80 percent of the capital, Port-au-Prince, and have attacked police stations, a port, Port-Au-Prince’s international airport, and two prisons, releasing some four thousand inmates. With Henry having agreed to resign—but no new government currently in place—it’s unclear who can play the role of interlocutor for the MSS. Without stability, more Haitians will flee. Already, over 126,000 Haitians have arrived as part of the Biden administration’s new humanitarian parole program that allows them to come and work for two years, outnumbering tens of thousands of Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan migrants that also qualify. Mexico received more than 40,000 Haitian asylum requests in 2023 alone. And more look to join the hundreds of thousands of Haitians living across the Western Hemisphere if the Haitian state fails. Peru’s “pact of the corrupt” is succeeding where Guatemala’s failed without international pressure. Last year in Guatemala, an incongruous coalition of lawmakers from different parties earned the nickname the “pact of the corrupt” as they joined forces to erode the rule of law and overturn election results. Thanks in large part to sustained international pressure, including targeted U.S. sanctions against nearly 300 lawmakers, Guatemala’s “pact” failed to keep President Bernardo Arévalo, an anti-corruption reformer, from taking office. A group of far-right and far-left Peruvian lawmakers is conducting a similar move, passing laws to reduce judicial independence and undermine conditions for free and fair elections. On March 7, Peru’s “pact” fired two of the seven top magistrates from the National Justice Board, which names prosecutors and judges and helps choose election authorities. This could enable lawmakers to influence the selection of election authorities next year in the run-up to Peru’s 2026 general elections by threatening further purges. Last year, a coordinated joint statement from U.S., EU, and Latin American embassies in Peru forced lawmakers to back down from firing the National Justice Board magistrates. But this time around, similar democracy eroding moves triggered less unified international pushback. Senators Tim Kaine and Ben Cardin released statements in defense of the National Justice Board, and the State Department’s global anti-corruption coordinator met with the magistrates before the ouster. That could help explain why Peru’s congress fell short of the votes it needed to suspend more magistrates, including the National Justice Board president. But without more coordination and the threat of targeted sanctions, Peru’s “pact of the corrupt” seems to have won this round. This publication is part of the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Project on the Future of Democracy.

Diplomacy
A look at the massive protest march in Gaza at Freedom Plaza and the White House

Will Gaza Defeat President Joe Biden?

by Dennis Altman

Election prospects for Joe Biden are looking dimmer as the war in Gaza steadily worsens and the casualties of civilians increases. How will Americans vote on the Palestinian issue? Lyndon Johnson decided not to seek re-election because of opposition to his policies in Vietnam. Jimmy Carter’s chances of re-election were crushed when the attempt to rescue US hostages in Iran failed. Will the war in Gaza have the same effect on President Joe Biden? The United States is increasingly isolated internationally over its support for Israel. It has had to use its veto in the Security Council on three occasions to prevent calls for an immediate ceasefire, when not even the United Kingdom was prepared to do more than abstain. Biden has a long history of support for Israel, but even he has clearly lost patience with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. After the initial Hamas attacks he flew to Israel to express solidarity, but also to warn against over-reaction. He has repeated that warning consistently, both publicly and privately, but the United States continues to provide Israel with arms and to protect it in international fora. Until recently that was a position supported by most Americans. However the last few months have seen a major rift develop among Democrats, with increasing numbers criticising Biden for his unwillingness to put further pressure on Israel. Vice President Kamala Harris has publicly pressured Israel to halt its ongoing assault on Gaza. At the same time some of the most strongly pro-Israeli lobbyists have deep connections with Democratic politicians. It’s important to recognise that some of Israel’s strongest defenders are not Jewish, and particularly on the Republican side are often associated with fundamental Christians who accept the claims of the Israeli right to all of Palestine. Traditionally, American Jews have tended to vote Democrat at a higher rate than their economic status might suggest. But there are significant Republican connections with both right-wing Jews and the Israeli lobby, and Netanyahu made little secret of his preference for Donald Trump, who both recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and brokered peace with some of the Gulf states. The Jewish population of the United States is less than three percent, but it is heavily concentrated in a few states and Jews tend to vote more often than other groups (the figures are rubbery, in part because many people with Jewish backgrounds are non-religious and not connected to organised community organisations). The Palestinian population is small, and even the Arab-American population is probably less than that of Jewish-Americans, unlike the situation in Australia. Not all Jews support Israel, and opposition to the Netanyahu government is larger and better organised than in Australia. But there are sufficient Jewish and Arab Americans for whom Gaza is an important enough issue to determine their vote. And here lies the problem for Biden. Trump, who has managed to combine friendship with anti-Semites and unwavering support for Israel, has little to lose through the unfolding tragedy in Gaza. Few of his supporters would be concerned with his closeness to Netanyahu, but he may well increase his support among former Democratic Jewish voters who like his support for Israel. Of the six states that are generally regarded as likely to swing the results of the presidential election only two, Arizona and Pennsylvania, have sufficient Jewish voters that even a slight decline in their support could cost Biden the state. The bigger problem for Biden is people on the left who are so outraged by his continuing support for Israel that they may choose to either not vote or vote for a third-party candidate. In the American system, with first past the post voting for president in all but a couple of states, a third-party candidate could erode Biden’s lead in a number of crucial states. Voters who feel they cannot support his policies can of course choose not to vote—or could vote for Greens Party leader Jill Stein, who has called for an immediate ceasefire, or Robert Kennedy Jr, who speaks more vaguely of peace and a less militaristic foreign policy. Neither of them is a potential winner, but they have the capacity to take left-wing votes away from Biden. The Biden campaign are clearly worried about this, particularly in Michigan which has a sizeable Arab-American population. The presidential election is over ten months away, and no-one can predict whether the war in Gaza will be over, although it would be absurdly optimistic to assume any realistic settlement. Domestic issues—the economy, immigration—will be more significant, as will the apparent health of the two men who are fighting to be the oldest US president in history. But there are enough Americans for whom the scars of Gaza are sufficiently traumatic to determine how they will vote—or not vote—in November. And on balance this can only help Donald Trump.