Saudi Arabia’s key role in the Middle East
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has upset the Middle East’s geopolitical balance in two dimensions: the three-sided rivalry between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and the conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and stable monarchies in the region. For the Saudis, the crisis poses an unexpected opportunity to improve governance. For the West, it presents a choice between triggering chaos and a possible radical takeover, or helping the kingdom make a difficult transition.
The sense and nonsense of economic sanctions
Economic sanctions are occasionally useful in trade conflicts, but they work poorly when employed as a political tool. The United States and the EU would have accomplished more had they responded to Russia’s 2014 aggression against Ukraine with immediate increases in defense spending and kept their military options open.
Russia’s ‘food superpower’ vision: opportunities and pitfalls
After harboring visions of becoming an economic and energy superpower, Russia now wants agriculture to fuel its rise. In recent years, its production of grains, especially wheat, has rocketed. But absorbing the increase, whether through domestic consumption or through exports, poses some big challenges. And even if it overcomes those, Russia’s agriculture sector is likely to remain dependent on unprocessed products.
ZTE and the new era of distrust between China and the West
When the U.S. slapped sanctions on Chinese telecoms equipment maker ZTE, it was a huge issue in China, and finding a solution rose to the top of the agenda for the trade talks between Washington and Beijing. But the ZTE case is just the beginning of an uncomfortable race. A technologically competitive China with an authoritarian system is here to stay. The West will have to find a way to deal with the challenge.
The ‘neutralization option’ in North Korea
The possibility of the United States launching a preemptive attack against North Korea’s nuclear missile program appears to have receded with Pyongyang’s recent peace overtures, but the two are connected. The conventional wisdom holds that such a strike, dubbed a “bloody nose,” is unthinkable. But that ignores the long history of U.S.-South Korean planning for war against North Korea, the extensive intelligence collected on the North’s conventional and nuclear forces, and the overwhelming U.S. military advantage.
The Friendship Bridge misnomer
China and North Korea have long ceased being true friends and allies. Beijing, just as Washington, is at a loss for how to stop the North Korean leader’s nuclear brinkmanship. The Chinese government wants the country to be seen abroad as a great new power, equal to the U.S. in dealing with the Korean Peninsula issue. But the reality is harsh. Over seven decades, the only policy tool that China has finessed to calm Pyongyang is paying money to the Kim family. In return, Pyongyang insults Beijing whenever its leader gets in a fit, and it embarrasses China abroad. No money means no talk.
Putin’s potential contribution to ending the U.S.-North Korea standoff
U.S. President Donald Trump will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at the APEC summit this weekend. Although allegations of his campaign’s collaboration with Russia during last year’s election has made it hard for Mr. Trump to negotiate with the Kremlin, Mr. Putin’s assistance on the North Korea crisis could prove very useful. It would also be in Russia’s interest. The price the U.S. might have to pay in concessions could be high, but a solution where Washington and Russia cooperate to defuse the North Korea crisis is likely.
The many faces of Rosneft
Over the past decade or so, Russian oil giant Rosneft has concluded some eye-popping deals and more than doubled production. But its rapid growth has been based on questionable deals and huge debts. Behind the scenes, its CEO, Igor Sechin, has mastered Kremlin power plays. But his circle of enemies is growing. The future of Russia’s oil industry will hinge on how far he continues to push the envelope and whether Rosneft can overcome the legacy he has built.
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.
Kim Jong-nam murder challenges China
For decades, China has put up with the antics of the Kim family in Pyongyang to keep the Korean peninsula divided. But the spectacular murder of dictator Kim Jong-un’s half brother may have stretched Beijing’s patience to the breaking point.