Thursday 14 Nov 2019 | 09:03 | SYDNEY
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The Americas

Trump and Southeast Asia: Going through the motions

As isolationist and internationalist factions within the Trump Administration fought a battle for the soul of its foreign policy earlier this year, there were good reasons to think that, whatever the outcome of that fight, the new administration might neglect Southeast Asia. On the one hand, Trump

Georgia's voters give Republicans a shot in the arm

Voters in Georgia’s 6th congressional district have just delivered a timely reminder that Americans are a long way away from deserting Donald Trump’s Republican Party.  For all the noise about the Russia investigations, Trump’s unpopularity, and his unimpressive legislative record thus

US-China at sea incidents are likely the new normal

There has been yet another spate of US-China incidents involving US intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) probes in and over China’s bordering seas. In February, there was a close encounter between a US Navy P-3 Orion aircraft and a Chinese surveillance aircraft 

Back in focus: The United Nations Command in South Korea

Following his recent speech at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis was asked a question about North Korea. This excerpt from his answer should be of interest to Australians, among others: We obviously work very, very closely with the United Nations Command.

Trump's domestic standing and US foreign policy

This week in Washington brought another instalment for the many hooked on the who-did-what-and-when investigations into the links between Russia and Donald Trump's presidential campaign and now White House. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' appearance in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee

Comey’s testimony just the beginning

Within days of marking his 100th day in office, President Donald Trump heard the word ‘impeachment’ uttered on the floor of the House of Representatives, courtesy of Rep. Al Green, a rare Texas liberal Democrat. This week the same Congressman announced he is readying the articles of impeachment

The liberal order is not America’s to break

As the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union imploded, many attributed the change entirely to American power. The hubristic ‘unipolar moment’ claim was not only wrong as history, it proved disastrous as policy guidance, ultimately running aground in the sands of Iraq. Today, that same

Trump has compromised climate security strategies

Much has been said about the global environmental, economic and leadership consequences of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement but there is also a national security dimension. Trump’s decision ignores an important development in global security centred

When will Australia acknowledge a changed America?

Since the election of Donald Trump, a great deal of faith  – naturally enough – has been put in the very occurrence of encounters that Australian ministers and prime ministers have had with their American counterparts. Whether it be introductory calls that both Ministers Bishop and Payne

AUSMIN: For the US, a refreshingly ‘normal’ meeting

The Australia-US Ministerial Consultation (AUSMIN) on Monday was noteworthy for how normal it was. The meeting stood in stark contrast to the recent NATO Summit, where President Trump managed to raise more questions about the American commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance than he answered. In

General Mattis: The hope of the side

It’s the topic du jour. How far will the US withdrawal go and how will it affect the US-led, rules-based, global order that has served the world so well for 70 years? US President Donald Trump campaigned on an America First platform and in the White House has matched deeds to words. First there

AUSMIN: Regional issues deserve top billing

Today’s AUSMIN could hardly be better timed, following recent terrorist attacks, North Korean nuclear provocations, and the weekend’s Shangri-La dialogue.  But, as is so often the case with AUSMIN, the danger is the urgent will crowd out the important. Both Australia and the US find it

America sidelined, the climate caravan moves on

It's been only a few days since US President Donald Trump announced the US will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. And it is already clear the greatest damage has been done not to global climate action, but to America’s influence and standing in the world - and its own economic trajectory

Putin’s Trump-supported hybrid war on the West

It needs to be understood that Russia views the EU and the West generally as an enemy. To say this is not Russophobia. It has been made clear in countless official Russian documents, to say nothing of their routine pronouncements, propaganda and actions. Nor is it something new. There were periods

Vietnam’s free trade pitch to the US

It was trade, not China's manoeuvring in the South China Sea, that was top of the agenda when Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc met US President Donald Trump on Wednesday in the first visit by an ASEAN leader to Washington under the new administration. It was a slightly surreal affair with

Nuclear ban treaty progresses, despite US-led objections

On 27 March, as more than 130 nations began work on a historic treaty to outlaw nuclear weapons, roughly a dozen diplomats protested outside the grand UN General Assembly hall, where the negotiations were taking place. Led by the Trump administration’s UN envoy, Nikki Haley, the demonstrators

Angela Merkel declares independence, sort of

German Chancellor Angela Merkel might have just told the Frankfurt beer hall crowd earlier this week that 'The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out'. But she didn't stop there, choosing instead to emphasise the just-completed NATO and G7 meetings with President

Is the US economy at full employment?

After the painfully slow recovery from the 2008 great Recession, US unemployment is now 4.4%, well below the level commonly regarded as 'full employment'. This would suggest that the economy has reached capacity, with some arguing that the current lacklustre rate of growth is in fact 

China v US: Who needs allies?

People often argue that America’s alliances in Asia are a decisive advantage in its contest with China for regional strategic primacy. China’s only ally, they say, is North Korea, while America has an entire alliance system encompassing many key regional states, as well as a wider circle of

US FONOPs: Game on again in the South China Sea

According to this Reuters report, which was soon followed by others citing a Pentagon spokesman, a US Navy warship, the destroyer USS Dewey, has recently sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese-occupied Mischief Reef in the South China Sea. This was the first such challenge to Beijing by the

Why Trump’s Middle East trip matters to Australia

There are two reasons why US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Middle East matters to Australia. First, the President’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where he also held a summit with Arab leaders, and Israel are a signal of where the administration’s foreign policy priority lies, and this does

For Trump, the Watergate analogies run deep

US President Donald Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey has left commentators grasping for Watergate analogies. The 'Saturday Night Massacre' of October 1973 has been the most frequently cited, since this was the moment when President Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the Watergate

Trump’s Middle East tour: Status quo reset

President Donald Trump’s upcoming Middle East tour, his first international trip since assuming office in January, will take him to the heart of the three monotheistic faiths, beginning in Saudi Arabia, travelling to Israel and finishing at the Vatican. The symbolism of the tour is manifold.

Erdogan leaves Trump empty-handed

The language at the press conference following their meeting earlier this week may have been conciliatory, but there is no masking the tensions between US President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two strongmen lavished praise on each another,

Trumponomics: The art of the trade deal

President’s Trump’s trade policies are still evolving, but they are turning out to be rather different from his pre-election rhetoric. Concerns about an all-out trade war are fading away, as is the threat of bilateral 35%-45% tariffs against Mexico and China. The planned renegotiation of NAFTA

As Trump flip-flops in Asia, things slide China’s way

Somewhat obscured in last week's outpouring of penny dreadful news from Washington (such as Sean Spicer ensconcing himself in the White House shrubbery) was the announcement of a US-China 100-day economic action plan. It is a pedestrian, workmanlike document, committing to a raft of

All eyes on Congress as Watergate shadow looms

The United States is awash with headlines decrying President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey last week. A multitude of news stories and broadcasts suggest Trump is engaged in a cover-up of his ties to Russia at the expense of the United States and the fairness of the 2016

Proof the US is losing hearts and minds in Southeast Asia

Trump sniping has become a sport with no marksmanship. Facile Trump click-bait circulates freely on social media fulfilling a confirmation bias in its audience and perpetuating a parasitic cycle of groupthink that is feeding poor analysis and driving solutions to complex problems deeper underground

Why now? Trump’s sudden interest in Southeast Asia

More than 100 days into the Trump presidency, the administration’s Asia policy, departmental Asia teams and new ambassadors to the region are still absent and there is no indication of when this will change. For Southeast Asia the first three months of the Trump administration provided very few

The allure of orthodoxy and the peril of sentimentality

In one respect, the symbolism of President Donald Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull meeting aboard the USS Intrepid in New York on Thursday could not be more ideal. After all, the moment will surely provide the perfect opportunity to showcase an alliance which has always – and

Did ‘elites’ get the 2016 US election wrong?

In a recent speech to the Sydney Institute, Australian Ambassador to the US Joe Hockey said that, just before last November's presidential election, he 'simply could not shake the feeling that the signs were pointing to an outcome that was...in no way ordinary.' My congratulations to Ambassador

The Xi-Trump Summit: Rearranging the furniture

In his inimitable way, US President Donald Trump promised major things with the Chinese president’s visit to Trump's residence in Florida, Mar-a-Lago. In the end, this particular informal summit, if it is remembered at all, will be because of the intervention Trump ordered, almost minutes before

Missile strikes do not signal US shift on Syria

In a complex and confusing civil war in which decisions can result in unforeseen consequences, the Trump Administration was presented with a relatively straightforward choice and with a perfect target. Syrian military aircraft, launched from Shayrat airbase in Homs, carried out an attack

The Trump-Xi meeting: A view from China

As the White House finalises its preparations for the arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping, it is to be hoped both sides are as much invested in working towards outcomes of substance as they are in protocol. In terms of substance, there are ample areas for the two presidents to address. These

Convention likely to win out in Trump-Xi meeting

Of all the startling events of the Trump Administration's first three months, the one most consequential for the rest of the world is quite likely the meeting between Trump and China's President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Largo, beginning Thursday. The importance of this meeting is not any likely outcome

Don’t waste time trying to get Trump to Manila

Over the last two months, Australian and Southeast Asian officials have been urging their US counterparts to ensure President Donald Trump shows up at two major summits in Southeast Asia in November. They argue that Trump's presence at the APEC Forum in Danang and the East Asian Summit in Manila

Are US Fed rate projections ‘behind the curve’?

Last Wednesday the US Federal Reserve raised the Fed funds rate for the third time since the 2008 financial crisis. Financial market commentators have worked hard over this eight-year period to create downside drama in the narrative of the return of interest rates from the abnormally low levels of

Dear foreign policy elite: You’re obsolete

Rex Tillerson recently completed his first trip to Beijing as Secretary of State. Since then, a slew of critics have panned Tillerson for supposedly handing China a ‘diplomatic victory’ because a joint media conference includes phrases like ‘win-win’ and ‘mutual respect’ - notions these

The Merkel-Trump meeting: NATO, jobs and trade

Few world leaders embody the virtues of patience as completely as Angela Merkel. Fewer still demand them as much as Donald Trump. So when the two met face-to-face for the first time on Friday, the news media concentrated on these two antithetical personalities and the contrasting worldviews they

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