What China Gained From Hosting Kim Jong Un (by Oriana Skylar Mastro)

9 April 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 008)Oriana Skylar Mastro looks in depth at Xi’s hosting of Kim Jong Un and the main motives behind his action. The author states that although on the surface this action is perceived as Chinese desire to improve the Sino-North Korean relations, one of the main purposes was to shape the agenda of the upcoming North Korean-U.S. meeting and ensure that the outcome will meet Chinese interest. Looking at previous events, the author mentions that the Chinese reaction to the North Korean missile and nuclear tests conducted very close to Chinese border as well as during the One Belt, One Road Summit, was very negative and prompted Mr. Xi to think about military exercises, however, recent steps taken by Pyongyang brought China back toward diplomatic solutions. As a result, the meeting with Mr. Kim not only allows China to shape the potential U.S.-North Korean talks, but also to gain the seat as a mediator in the region. China’s North Korean policy is merely based on countering American power in the region and expanding Chinese influence in the peninsula. Regarding U.S.-North Korean Summit, the author states that as Chinese interest in denuclearization is in line with North Korean demands, so Beijing as a mediator might ask President Trump to ease sanctions and offer the incentive to Kim, which can result in the decrease of U.S. influence in the region.

 

Is Vladimir Putin pro-American? (by Yury Lobunov)

10 April 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 008)Talks of a new Cold War are ubiquitous these days, however, Russian patriots who now hail President Putin for his uncompromised stance towards the West may be surprisedby many of his decisions he made, at least until 2015. It was Mr. Putin who convinced the Russian parliamentarians back in 2000 to ratify the START II Agreement, according to which “missile trains”, one of the most powerful weapons of mass destruction possessed by Russia, were to be destroyed later. Overall, Russian nuclear arsenal was reduced considerably during the 2000’s, at the time even allowing nationalists to speak about the removal of Russian defensive nuclear shield. Russia was also regularly assisting NATO in delivering cargoes across the world, and there is evidence this assistance is regularly provided even now; moreover, soon after sabre-rattling in his Munich speech of 2007, President Putin ratified the NATO code of conduct in Russia which gives the Alliance’s personnel unprecedented rights and privileges while on duty in Russia. The author does not limit his list of Putin’s pro-American policies with these explicit steps; he claims that by proclaiming NATO Russia’s strategic opponent, he in fact gave the Alliance a new raison d’etre and helped to reinvigorate the members’ unity. 

 

Foreign Aid Makes America Safer (by Vin Gupta & Vanessa Kerry) 

11 April 2018

The main argument proposed throughout the article by Gupta and Kerry is that development assistance, especially investment in public health, paves a way to greater security. While in March, Mr. Trump made a point regarding cutting budget on international development assistance in order to satisfy economic needs of U.S. citizens, the authors argue that any investment made in development assistance, represents another cornerstone of national security. Very recently, the author's published empirical study results on “Have countries in sub-Saharan Africa become more stable as a direct result of U.S. federal aid dollars?” concluded that not only health conditions in the countries that received aid, greatly improved, but they have become more socially stable thanks to the decreased rate of HIV and other grave deceases. Furthermore, Gupta and Kerry stated that in another empirical study, they made a conclusion that between 2008 and 2014, the countries which posed threat towards the U.S. received less dollars of health aid. So, they conclude that health aid leads to peace and stability. As a final point, Gupta and Kerry emphasize the necessity of health assistance even for the administration predominantly concerned with cost-effectiveness.

 

Post-Liberalism, East and West (by Shadi Hamid)

11 April 2018

In his essay, Shadi Hamid puts the fierce debates within Political Islam in the context of wider global processes, specifically the crisis of liberalism observed in the West. He emphasizes the profound shift that it is going within the Islamist discourse (represented, first and foremost, by the Muslim Brothers) after the failure of the Arab Spring in most of the countries where it happened. While previously their leaders had hoped to establish illiberal democracies which would introduce the Western political institutions while securing Islamic identity through a conservative popular consensus, now many of them contemplate of skipping the state altogether, creating alternative modes of existence where the adherents would be able to fully implement their moral ideals. It is ironic though that in some major Western countries, including the U.S., illiberal democracy and the appeals to seek for new identities to fill the moral void left by liberalism, are vice-versa on the rising. The author also notes that “skipping” the modern state is problematic and, paradoxically, is more viable in liberal state themselves; while outside of the developed world, it can probably be achieved only within a failed or a semi-failed state like Lebanon, where communitarian identities have long replaced the national ones. 

 

Syria has paid a terrible price for the west’s disastrous policy of doing nothing (by Andrew Rownsley)

15 April 2018

Andrew Rawnsley argues that it is not the Western intervention but rather the lack of it that is culpable for the hardships of the Syrian people, and claims that the recent coalition strike on the government’s military objects can change very little as it wouldn’t be critical for Assad’s capabilities. He shows that both the right and the left in the West have been reluctant to interfere into the bloody conflict, for different reasons. But in the first years of the war, especially when the Assad’s government was firs accused of using chemical weapons in 2013, an efficient intervention, could have saved thousands of lives and brought about conditions for a peaceful settlement. Mr. Rawnsley particularly blames the West in failing to supply and arm the democratic opposition, which came out to be the weakest side in the Syrian conflict, and install at least some protective capabilities for the peaceful citizens instead of leaving them prey to ruthless forces operating in the country. 

 

France tries to relaunch the “Macron effect” in Europe (by Cécile Ducourtieux)

16 April 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 008)Fervent Euro-optimism of President Macron, expressed in his “Sorbonne discourse” on the measures for building a more dynamic and robust EU, has to pass stringent tests of reality. It turns out that Euro-bureaucrats remain to a big extent rigid and reticent to accept change, while the Eurosceptics have been again boosted by the triumph of the far right in Austria, Mr. Orban’s re-election in Hungary and the election results in Italy. Macron’s initial plans included the creation of a parliament and a ministry of finance for the Eurozone and a new round of expansion of the European currency, transnational lists for the EU citizens, more pro-active defense of the European producers etc. He even claimed that “those EU members who wouldn’t like to pace with the reforms, will found themselves in the back rows of the Union”. However, many of these plans have been this far rejected, while the Netherlands, Scandinavian and Baltic countries have taken an opposition stance towards most of the French initiatives. There is an overwhelming feeling in Europe that the young president’s plans have been a way too ambitious and he has to revise his expectations lower. However, President Macron seems to put a lot of hope to his meetings with Chancellor Merkel (the next one to take place in a few days) and believes the Franco-German alliance has a potential to re-energize Europe.

 

What the Rape and Murder of a Child Reveals About Modi’s India (by Mitali Saran)

17 April 2018

Edge of Change (Issue 008)Mitali Saran discusses social and political reaction to the recent case of a horrible case of a rape and murder of a 8-year old Muslim girl in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. What makes this crime even more disgusting is the fact that most probably it was committed in cold blood as part of settling personal scores. This story, she claims, has exposed the scale of ugly and vehement nationalism that has overwhelmed the Indian society, to a large extent as a result of the policies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Indian nationalists put a lot of efforts to downplay the crime, and not only local activists but even the two government ministers shamelessly denied guilt to the murderer. However, Indians of liberal and tolerant views expressed their disgust with this campaign and demanded the dismissal of these ministers. Prime Minister Modi, known for his nationalist views, initially preferred to ignore the scandal but has recently had to make a public speech, expressing concern and recognizing the perpetrators’ guilt. The author puts the situation in the larger context of Indian politics and believes the BJP, that rose riding the wave of exclusive ethnic nationalism, can hardly be credited with improving the toxic intercommunal relations in India.