Expert View supplement GIS’s in-depth reports with incisive opinion. Written by top GIS experts, sometimes challenging and always thought-provoking, these brief commentaries provide an informed viewpoint on crucial geopolitical issues.
Olympic spending and democratic accountability
Rich, Western nations are less and less eager to host the Olympics. Dictatorships and countries with weak democracies are more than willing to take them on, however. That is because democratic societies have become aware of the costs, and their representatives are more accountable. Leaders in countries where freedoms are restricted see a chance to buff their image, and do not have to answer to the people.
Economic sanctions are bound to be a long-term failure
Trade is a powerful tool – it is one of the best ways to bring people together for mutual benefit. Limiting trade can be used as a weapon, and it is one the United States and the European Union are wielding against Russia and Iran. And while the goals Western governments aim to achieve are noble, sanctions are likely to backfire. They will strengthen the regimes they are meant to weaken, and will reduce American and European political clout around the globe.
Brazil’s embattled president is still not in the clear
Brazilian President Michel Temer beat a corruption indictment by using federal funds and political favors to by off Congress. But the price of his political survival may have been the sacrifice of his fiscal reform program. And Mr. Temer is not out of the woods yet.
North Korea crisis reveals true nature of Russia-China relationship
Many people seem to believe that China and Russia have a close relationship and can work together to solve issues the United States struggles with. But Moscow’s failure to inform Beijing of a U.S. strike in Syria and Russia’s energy exports to North Korea tell a different story.
Could the right make a comeback in Italy?
Local elections in Italy had a surprise result – a surge from the center right. Both former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s allies on the left and the upstart Five Star Movement led by Beppe Grillo seem to be losing traction. Is this part of a larger European trend away from populists and back toward known political quantities? And could this mean a return of Silvio Berlusconi?
Trumping Cuba: back to the future
Donald Trump has rolled back with a flourish one of the signature diplomatic achievements of the Obama administration – the opening to Cuba. While playing to Cuban-American voters, however, the president left key elements of this predecessor's policy in place.
North Korea beggars and destabilizes Manchuria
China’s northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang, known to English speakers as Manchuria, used to be Asia’s industrial powerhouse. These days they are economic laggards because they neighbor North Korea. No one is eager to invest in an area that is under constant threat from weapons of mass destruction.
Venezuela: a violent stalemate
The government of President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela is under pressure from all sides: growing discontent at home, increasing calls for change from the international community and shrinking revenue. Still, it refuses to budge, and is meeting resistance with violence. The killing of a musician could be a turning point – but will a solution be found before violence spills over into other parts of the region?
The Chinese economy: it’s about debt
China’s high ratio of debt to gross domestic product (GDP) will necessarily lead to an economic slowdown. The question is whether that can happen in a controlled manner that limits the negative effects on the country and the region, or whether it will bring China’s economy crashing down.
Behind China’s enthusiasm for free trade
Lately China has been a big promoter of free trade. Has Beijing finally come around to the benefits of international capitalism? There are reasons to be skeptical. Among them are centuries-old strains in Chinese philosophy about a strong state, and how to achieve hegemony.