VIF News Digest: USA, Europe, Eurasia, Russia, CARs

Contents

President Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital
The many Casualties of Trump’s Jerusalem Move
In Upset, Doug Jones Defeats Roy Moore in Alabama
The Art of the Plea Deal
Trump Delivers a Mixed Message on His National Security Approach
The National Security Strategy is Not a Strategy, Trump’s Incoherence is a Reminder of Why a New Approach Is Needed
Doubting the Intelligence, Trump pursues Putin and leaves a Russian Threat Unchecke
How to Stand Up to the Kremlin - Defending Democracy against its Enemies
Will Vladimir Putin Reign Forever?
Putin Pulls his Forces out of Syria
Main Results of 2017: Energetic Russia and the Greater Eurasia Community

USA

President Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

US President Donald Trump has announced his country’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and plans for moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Trump’s declaration goes against decades of reluctance by previous US presidents to recognize Jerusalem’s status before a final peace agreement is reached. The move has been widely criticized by the international community for putting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in jeopardy and further antagonizing the Muslim world. [ Back to Contents ]

The many Casualties of Trump’s Jerusalem Move

Nearly a week after President Trump's unilateral decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, there are plenty of reasons to be confused by the move. Despite no real pressure from the Israeli government nor any unanimous clamoring in Washington for the move, Trump threw decades of long-standing US policy up in the air. He embraced Jerusalem as Israel's capital without making any nod to Palestinian claims to the eastern part of the city, prompting analysts and former diplomats to write obituaries for the two-state solution. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson then told reporters that the US Embassy's relocation from Tel Aviv would probably not happen next year, raising even more questions about the timing of Trump's statement.

And while Trump insists the move is critical to “advance the peace process and to work towards a lasting agreement,” it appears to have had exactly the opposite result. [ Back to Contents ]

In Upset, Doug Jones Defeats Roy Moore in Alabama

Democrat Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore in Tuesday’s special election in Alabama’s US Senate race.

Prior to the allegations of sexual misconduct Moore faced, the state was seen as an almost sure win for a Republican candidate. President Donald Trump won Alabama by almost 28 percentage points in 2016 and there has not been a Democrat senator in 25 years representing the solidly red state. With 93 percent of the precincts reporting, Jones had 49.6 percent of the vote, or 602,515 votes, while Moore had 48.8 percent, or 592,729 votes, according to The New York Times.

A Jones win will hurt the conservative agenda, Brian Darling, a former staffer for Sen. Rand Paul, said in an email to The Daily Signal. [ Back to Contents ]

The Art of the Plea Deal

Former national security advisor Michael Flynn became the first Trump administration official to be criminally charged as a result of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. Flynn admitted that he lied to the FBI about contacts with the Russian ambassador and is now cooperating with Mueller's probe as part of his plea deal.

President Trump said on Monday he “feels badly” for Flynn, and claimed that Hillary Clinton “lied many times” to the FBI without consequences. Trump did not provide details about his accusation against Clinton, who answered FBI questions in July 2016 about her use of a private server while she was secretary of state. The FBI never asserted that Clinton made false statements.

Politico reports that paranoia is enveloping the White House and Trump’s network of former aides and associates as Mueller’s Russia probe heats up. Flynn's plea deal has increased speculation that Mueller is looking at more senior members of the administration and Trump's election campaign as investigations continue. [ Back to Contents ]

Trump Delivers a Mixed Message on His National Security Approach

President Trump presented a blueprint for the country’s national security on Monday that warns of a treacherous world in which the United States faces rising threats from an emboldened Russia and China, as well as from what it calls rogue governments, like North Korea and Iran.

To fend off these multiple challenges, the report says with Cold War urgency, the government must put “America First,” fortifying its borders, ripping up unfair trade agreements and rebuilding its military might. But in his speech announcing the strategy, Mr. Trump struck a much different tone. Instead of explaining the nature of these threats, he delivered a campaign like address, with familiar calls to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico and a heavy dose of self-congratulation for the bull market, the low jobless rate and tax cuts, which, he promised, were “days away.”

“America is in the game, and America is going to win,” he said, to an audience that included cabinet members and military officers. [ Back to Contents ]

The National Security Strategy is Not a Strategy - Trump’s Incoherence is a Reminder of why a New Approach is Needed

As soon as it was released on December 18, US President Donald Trump’s first National Security Strategy (NSS) met with an expected wave of criticism. The document, an attempt to turn Trump’s “America First” instincts into a foreign policy doctrine, had failed to align ambitious ends with ways and means, to prioritize among objectives, and to convey actual presidential intent. Those criticisms are well-founded. But the flaws don’t just stem from the failures of the Trump administration; they also serve as an extreme reminder of what has gone wrong with the entire endeavor of the NSS—problems that predate the Trump era.

The NSS is supposed to map out a strategy, but over time, the project has devolved into a rhetorical exercise, characterized by grandiose ambitions and laundry lists of priorities. Rather than forcing the US Government to engage in serious strategic planning, it has become a case study in the failure to do so. This year’s NSS is unlikely to influence the Trump administration’s foreign policy in any meaningful way. But it should serve as a wake-up call, reminding Congress above all of the need to refashion the NSS so that it fulfills its intended purpose—instead of simply camouflaging a perennially ad hoc foreign policy. [ Back to Contents ]

Doubting the Intelligence, Trump pursues Putin and leaves a Russian Threat Unchecked

In the final days before Donald Trump was sworn in as president, members of his inner circle pleaded with him to acknowledge publicly what US intelligence agencies had already concluded — that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election was real.

Holding impromptu interventions in Trump’s 26th-floor corner office at Trump Tower, advisers — including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and designated chief of staff, Reince Priebus — prodded the president-elect to accept the findings that the nation’s spy chiefs had personally presented to him on Jan 6. [ Back to Contents ]

How to Stand Up to the Kremlin - Defending Democracy Against Its Enemies

In an essay in Foreign Affairs, former US Vice President Joe Biden says that during the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union faced off in an existential struggle between two antithetical systems. Either the Soviet bloc would “bury” the West, as Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev threatened in 1956, or Western principles of democratic accountability, individual rights, and the rule of law would triumph over Soviet totalitarianism. The eventual outcome—the demise of the Soviet system and the expansion of the US-led international order—showed that military power is essential to American national security but also that the United States must advance its goals through the quiet resilience of democratic institutions and the attractive pull of alliances. [ Back to Contents ]

Russia

Will Vladimir Putin Reign Forever?: Russian President Confirms he will seek Re-election in 2018, extending his Rule into Third Decade

Russian President Vladimir Putin has surprised no one by announcing his intention to stand for re-election in next year’s presidential election. Having repeatedly dodged questions in recent weeks about his intentions, he made the announcement at a meeting with workers of the GAZ factory in Nizny Novgorod, to rapturous applause.

Opinion polls show the former KGB-boss is sure to win a fourth term as president, with his support among voters as high as 70 percent nationwide. [ Back to Contents ]

Putin pulls his Forces out of Syria

Russia is to begin withdrawing its troops from Syria after Vladimir Putin declared his mission there complete. In his first visit to Syria since the civil war began six years ago, the Russian President told servicemen at the Khmeimim air base that “the motherland is waiting for you”. They were returning back home “with victory”, he said.

The Russian army claimed last week that Syria had been entirely liberated from Islamic State forces. “Talk of the total defeat of Isis may be premature,” says The Guardian, “but there is no doubt that Russian air power, combined with Syrian forces and Iran-backed Shia militias on the ground, has decisively shifted the balance of power” in favour of President Bashar al-Assad. [ Back to Contents ]

Good prospects for Russian-Indian Military-Technical Cooperation – Lavrov

Russia and India will continue military-technical cooperation, including joint arms production, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in New Delhi on December 11. "We are proud of our joint Russian-Indian BrahMos venture. We are exploring the possibility of jointly making other weapons, including their delivery to third countries," Lavrov said at a political think tank in New Delhi. "Such interaction will also mean transferring Russian military-technical know-how in future," Lavrov said. [ Back to Contents ]

Europe-Eurasia

Main Results of 2017: Energetic Russia and the Greater Eurasia Community

The main achievement in Russia’s foreign policy for 2017, and for several years prior to that, has been the development of a strategic concept. Physical embodiment of this concept is the idea of the Greater Eurasian Partnership. This has been achieved because Russia’s foreign policy has rapidly evolved and increased in the scope of its ambition. Five years ago, on December 12, 2012, Vladimir Putin said in his first address to the Federal Assembly after his re-election as President of Russia, “In the 21st century, the vector of Russia’s development will be the development of the East. Siberia and the Far East represent our enormous potential (…) and now we must realize our potential. We have the opportunity to assume a worthy place in the Asia-Pacific region, the most dynamic region in the world.” Over the past five years, Russia has come a long way, from the politically-modest goals of diversifying its foreign economic ties, to the formulation of tasks of a systemic nature. This is what analysts inside and outside the country demanded from Russia’s foreign policy. [ Back to Contents ]

Takeaways from the European Defense Industry Summit

The European Defence Industry Summit (EDIS), apparently the first of its kind on the continent to bring political leaders together with defence industry representatives, met for the first time in Brussels this week to discuss the geopolitical challenges and technological developments facing European countries. The summit also came just days after the publication of the most recent Strategic Foresight Analysis report from NATO, which publishes these documents every four years to support the trans-Atlantic alliance’s visualization of its future security environment. Many of the 20 global trends the report identified, such as cyber-security or rapid advances in technological development, were the subject of intense interest for speakers attending at the event. [ Back to Contents ]

Central Asian Republics (CAR)

Ashraf Ghani Visits Uzbekistan

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani paid a State Visit to Uzbekistan on 5-6 December 2017. His meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has resulted in signing of 20 agreements in fields of trade, transit, security, electricity and education. Highlights of the visit are, establishment of the Joint Commission on the Security matters, agreement on constructing a railway line between Mazar-e-sharif and Herat, and construction of ‘Surkhan- Pul-i-Khumri Power Transmission Line with capacity of 500 kw. The two countries pledged for joint efforts to fight the challenges posed by international terrorism and extremism. The Presidents also stressed the need for political solution to ensure peace and reconciliation between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban through an Afghan-led process. [ Back to Contents ]

New Kyrgyz President Visits Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov paid Visits to two Central Asian neighbors within the first month of his term. He visited Uzbekistan on 13 December 2017, and held bilateral meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Several documents were signed by the two, especially Program between the Governments of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan on economic, scientific, technical and humanitarian cooperation for 2018-2021.

President Jeenbekov visited Kazakhstan on 25-26 December. He and his Kazakh counterpart President Nursultan Nazarbayev met in the narrow and extended format and discussed bilateral cooperation and cooperation within the format of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The two heads of States signed a Joint Statement and number of bilateral documents, including the Treaty on Demarcation of the Kazakh-Kyrgyz state border. [ Back to Contents ]

CIS Heads of States Meet in Moscow

Informal meeting of the Heads of States of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) took place in Moscow on 26 December 2017. Presidents of Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan took part in the meeting that discussed cooperation within the CIS. Russian Presidency of the CIS in 2017 was summed up in this meeting, giving a way to Tajikistan to assume the rotating presidency in 2018. [ Back to Contents ]

Central Asian Foreign Ministers Meet in Ashgabat

The Foreign Ministers of five CARs and Afghanistan met in the Turkmen capital on 11 December 2017. The meeting was held within the framework of the events taking place in honor of the 10th anniversary of the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia located in Ashgabat. They also participated in the international conference titled “Neutrality Policy and Preventive Diplomacy in International Relations: Experience of Turkmenistan and Its Importance”. [ Back to Contents ]