Monday, December 18

Monday, December 18

‘AMERICA FIRST’ ON PAPER The first national security strategy of the new presidency President Trump will announce a new national

‘AMERICA FIRST’ ON PAPER

The first national security strategy of the new presidency

trump_nat_sec_announcement

Photo: AP/Andrew Harnik

President Trump will announce a new national security strategy today. It will outline his administration’s foreign policy objectives around the world.

The last strategy document in 2015 reaffirmed America’s long-standing commitment to NATO and President Obama’s rebalancing to Asia in an effort to contain China—later actioned with the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiatives.

The Trump administration has signalled that China will be recognised as a “competitor in every realm” and accused of “economic aggression” as well as being a threat to US global hegemony.

However, Mr Trump has a history of limited actions to back up his muscular rhetoric. For example, Trump’s threats towards North Korea have now resulted in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying the US is ready for negotiations without preconditions. Trump has been less combative towards China than in his campaign rhetoric, leaning on Beijing heavily to pressure North Korea.

Expect a tough “America First” strategy document. However, the impact in foreign capitals will depend on how much emphasis they place on Trump’s words as opposed to his actions. If actions, they will take the document with a grain of salt.

RISE OF THE RIGHT

Right-wing Austrian government promises anti-migrant policies

Koalitionspartner

Photo: Hans Klaus Techt

Today, Austria’s new coalition government, led by the conservative People’s Party and the far-right Freedom Party, will be sworn in, making the country the only one in Western Europe to have a far-right party in power.

In the recent national election, the Freedom Party won third place on a wave of anti-migrant sentiment. The party has been allotted control of the country’s security, obtaining the posts of foreign, defence and interior ministries. As such, it is likely that the new government will push stricter caps on the number of migrants allowed to enter Austria and reduce benefits received by asylum seekers.

Though the Freedom Party has traditionally been highly Eurosceptic, Sebastian Kurz, leader of the People’s Party and Austria’s new chancellor, sought to assuage concerns of Vienna’s commitment to the EU by affirming the new government’s “pro-European orientation.”

This government will be impactful far beyond Austria’s borders. With nationalism and xenophobia surging through Europe, the presence of another right-wing EU government will undoubtedly give momentum to the far-right nationalist parties battling for electoral victories in 2018 in countries like Hungary, Italy, Sweden, Finland and Belgium.

STRINGS ATTACHED

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor plan to be revealed

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Photo: AFP/Amir Qureshi

The plan for the Chinese economic corridor to the port of Gwadar on Pakistan’s Indian Ocean coast will be revealed today. Negotiations concluded in November.

The corridor is of major strategic importance to China as an alternative to the Malacca Strait and the contentious South China Sea as a route for oil and other imports into China. For Pakistan, it is a goldmine as China pours in $60 billion of investment into the impoverished country’s infrastructure.

Today’s big reveal comes amid growing concern that Pakistan got a bad deal in negotiations. 91% of profits from Gwadar will go to China for 40 years before ownership reverts to Pakistan. The Pakistani Ministry of Planning’s announcement that three big CPEC road projects were abruptly cancelled by Beijing drew hasty denials from Pakistani Foreign Office officials last Thursday.

It is likely the CPEC plans will reveal the Chinese skewed the agreements to protect its investments in a country which has a long history of political instability. Any grassroots resentment this may cause will ultimately be limited given the Pakistani military—the real political power in the country—supports CPEC.