Over the weekend, Donald Trump gave an interview with Michael Gove of The Times of London and Kai Diekmann, a former editor of the German newspaper Bild. (The interview is behind a paywall, but you can register for free for access to two articles a week from The Times.)
There has been ample coverage in the press (see here, here), focusing on Trump’s ambivalence to NATO (“obsolete” “very important”), hostility to the European Union (“Personally, I don’t think it matters much for the United States”), and equal regard for Angela Merkel and Putin (“Well, I start off trusting both — but let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.”)
A friend on Facebook said she was struggling with explaining Trump’s foreign policy strategy. A number of people weighed in with suppositions about his business relationships in Russia, whether or not he is subject to blackmail from compromising information.
Leaving that aside, even in the absence of some specific connection between Trump and Russia, what might explain his coziness to Russia, his disdain for NATO, the EU, traditional allies? Or, put a little differently, since first-level analysis of individuals and agency is in vogue again, how can we understand Donald Trump’s worldview?
Tom Wright’s Politico piece from a year ago January 2016 is seen as one of the most accurate and helpful depictions of Trump’s worldview, and his forthcoming book will anchor Trump’s rise in the wider geo-strategic context. Wright focuses on Trump’s mercantilism and perception that the U.S. has gotten a raw deal from the liberal order and that alliances are sapping the country of resources. On Russia, Wright attributes Trump’s views to his general appreciation for authoritarians.
I think that’s generally right, but another idea woke me up at 2am last night and led me to some bleary-eyed tweets. Here is what I said.
I was reminded on twitter that international relations professors have trained students for generations to focus on the third and second levels of analysis and dismiss the first–that individuals and their characteristics matter much less than the constraining impact of institutions and the incentives provided by the international system.
So, should we just apologize as Trump sells out the postWWII order and ends American hegemony by whim or fiat? No, we need to drink heavily. Seriously, there are a few real responses to this question of agency and structure.
Putin’s annual press conference is a chance for regular citizens to spend 3 hours in a great and rich Russia, where everything is in order and Putin is capable of installing presidents in foreign countries (according to one journalist). In general, the press conference strived to paint a picture of a great power facing some economic problems and who is constantly challenged by other countries (they are probably jealous and/Russophobic). For me it was also a chance to wonder at Putin’s stamina. He might not be Superman, as one of the posters brought by the journalists stipulated, but his bladder is definitely made of steel.
As always, Putin demonstrated his ability to juggle all kinds of statistics in response to questions about economics, including Russia’s successful export of IT. One may wonder if he included hacking, because that was definitely a very successful export. As a female journalist called for abolishing juvenile justice in Russia, because ‘slapping children is a traditional Russian [sic] pedagogical method’, Putin emphasized that there was a slim line between slapping and beating up, but still warned against interfering into family matters. In comparison to the rhetoric of some of the questions, Putin did make an impression of a more liberal and reasonable politician, very much fitting into the narrative of ‘without Putin it could be much worse’ .
The President-Elect has called for expanding the US nuclear arsenal, not just modernizing it (old warheads may not be good warheads). And when asked about whether this might lead to an arms race, he said woot!
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Aida A. Hozić is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Florida. This blogpost draws on a chapter prepared for Hegemony and Leadership in the International Political Economy, edited by Alan Cafruny and Herman M. Schwartz (Lynne Rienner, forthcoming).
There is a moment at the end of every regime when the relationship between all hitherto accepted modes of representation and reality seems to collapse. Regimes start running on fumes when well-established political rituals appear devoid of meaning, when institutionalized practices are revealed as arbitrary, when beloved symbols of power suddenly have no referent, pointing instead at power’s empty seat. In short, regimes collapse when narratives that have held them together are no longer believable.
America, I would argue, might be rapidly approaching that point.
Gone are the good old days when I had to explain what the word ‘yarki’ means to my friends and colleagues (for the record, ‘colorful’, not ‘brilliant’). Now I will have to clarify the complexities of planting child pornography into the computers of oppositional leaders thanks to the re-emergence of ‘kompromat’.
Why did kompromat, arguably a KGB-developed practice of mining compromising material on politicians and blackmailing them with it, surface again in the media? As Fabian Burkhardt noticed, the word first appeared in the English language with the information wars of the 90s. Moreover, the term ‘kompromat’ is inextricably linked in Russia with the former Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov – or, rather, with ‘a man who looked like the prosecutor general’…
The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars of 1792-1815, which one historian has labeled “the first total war,” engulfed basically the whole of Europe. A century later, a war broke out in Europe that extended beyond the continent to become global in scope. One can think of the two enormously destructive world wars of the twentieth century as a “thirty years war” (1914-1945), interrupted by what can be viewed in retrospect as an uneasy lull marked by the Depression and the rise of fascism.
Those who see history as essentially cyclical might have expected another global war to occur in or around 2014. The idea of ‘long cycles’ of war and peace, explored by several scholars, could have suggested this. And if one believes, as Robert Gilpin wrote some years ago, that “even though some states occasionally come to appreciate the mutual benefits of international cooperation, unfortunately all states have yet to learn the lesson simultaneously,”[i] then the occurrence of another world war would not have been out of the question. Obviously, however, it didn’t happen on the centenary of World War I. Why not?
I’m not going to assume that all of our readers are non-Trump fans, but let’s be honest, Trump support in the social science academy is probably slim. And, if you are like me, you are dismayed by what transpired with the election and continue to try to figure it out, both personally as a human being and as a citizen of whatever country you are from.
At moments, you think, maybe it won’t be so bad, but then he tweets or says something and you fear it will be worse. I think Americans are often preternaturally disposed to thinking things will work out, but events of late make me wonder.
So, in the meantime, I think many are coping as best they can, spending more quality time with family and friends, starting that fitness routine up again, going camping or getting outside, vegging out with some escapism (the Ghostbusters reboot, a little Westworld), or finding community service projects to donate to or serve in. There is some collective on-line therapy happening with friends and colleagues or groups like Pantsuit Nation. There is the temptation to retreat from the public sphere and to cut out unpleasant news. I think some unplugging and going offline for a bit is warranted. I tried that for like 12 hours.
I think it is important though that we gradually pick up the pieces and re-dedicate ourselves to fight the good fights ahead, whether that be public service inside the government, citizen advocacy (I’ve called my legislators to let them know about a few choice appointments I’m not happy about), or possibly other forms of public protest if and when they are warranted.
In the meantime, let’s celebrate with some gallows humor.
After Donald Trump won the elections in the US, Twitter was abuzz with the picture of potential UN Security Council country leaders that included Theresa May, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Marine Le Pen. After Brexit and Trump all eyes are on France and its upcoming presidential elections. The possibility of ‘Frexit’ in case of Le Pen’s win is alarming enough, but Russia is also on the agenda. Russian-French relations have been strained since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, but have got even worse after President Hollande accused Russia of war crimes in Syria that purportedly prompted Vladimir Putin to cancel his trip to France. While in American elections Russia had a clear favorite, and did not really have a plan B for Hillary Clinton’s win, French elections seem to be much more comforting.
In the recently finished primaries on the right, the losing candidate Alain Juppe criticised the winner Francois Fillon for leaning too close to Russia. Fillon did defend Russia’s actions on a number of occasions and even wished for a Putin-Trump alliance. Putin admitted himself that he cultivated a good relationship with Fillon in 2008-2012, probably because they both belong to the J. Mearsheimer’s ‘I don’t give a damn about small countries’ sovereignty’ school of thought. On top of that, Fillon fits well with the conservative turn of the Russian government, being a vocal supporter of la Manif Pour Tous (anti-gay marriage movement in France), whose ‘traditional family’ poster has also been adopted by Russian anti-gay activists.
Marine Le Pen managed to shift Front National further to mainstream by purging some of her father’s most racist friends and allies and settling on a more conventional anti-migrant xenophobia. After all, Nicolas Sarkozy’s government expelled Roma migrants and closed borders way before the refugee crisis. Ms. Le Pen has been a welcome guest in Moscow and received a large loan from a Russia-affiliated bank for her party. Eurosceptic, pro-Trump and anti-NATO, Le Pen would be a perfect partner for Putin and the worst nightmare for the EU. At the same time, Sputnik News, a pro-Russian propaganda outlet, puts Fillon and not Le Pen into their IR dream ménage à trois with Putin and Trump. [dirty joke edited]
This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Phil Arena, a Lecturer at the University of Essex. He has previously held positions at the University of Rochester and the University at Buffalo. His primary interests are interstate conflict and the links between domestic and international politics. His research has appeared in International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Political Science Research and Methods, International Theory, Journal of Theoretical Politics, and elsewhere. He used to maintain a blog at fparena.blogspot.com, which he hopes to revive someday, and has previously contributed to The Duck of Minerva.
I am not an alarmist by nature. I have offended people in the past by not being visibly concerned about matters they thought should trouble me. Yet I am deeply worried that the next world war will break out in the next few years. I admit that I could be wrong, and very much hope that I am, but all the conditions seem to be in place for a tragedy of epic proportion.
The US election results came as a big surprise in Russia as well. According to many sources, most Russian TV talk shows had already prepared panels of ‘experts’ that were supposed to prove how democracy in the US is dead, how the elections were rigged, how American mass media were unfair to Donald Trump and how Clinton cash bought everything. Sound familiar?
This is a guest post by Eric Grynaviski, an Associate Professor of Political Science at International Affairs at George Washington University. He is the author of Constructive Illusions (Cornell, 2014) .He studies sociological approaches to cooperation and conflict, and international ethics.
Over the last few days, protestors have taken to the streets to combat what they believe is an evil power that will soon occupy the White House. The problem of evil has featured in rhetoric about this election, in fact, for months, as featured in the Washington Postcommentaryontheelection. The tropes “politics is evil,” “Hillary is evil,” and “Trump is evil” have a new significance when people are confused and disoriented by Trump’s surprising win.
Last week I was able to host and facilitate a multi-stakeholder meeting of governments, industry and academia to discuss the notions of “meaningful human control” and “appropriate human judgment” as they pertain to the development, deployment and use of autonomous weapons systems (AWS). These two concepts presently dominate discussion over whether to regulate or ban AWS, but neither concept is fully endorsed internationally, despite work from governments, academia and NGOs. On one side many prefer the notion of “control,” and on the other “judgment.”
Yet what has become apparent from many of these discussions, my workshop included, is that there is a need for an appropriate analogy to help policy makers understand the complexities of autonomous systems and how humans may still exert control over them. While some argue that there is no analogy to AWS, and that thinking in this manner is unhelpful, I disagree. There is one unique example that can help us to understand the nuance of AWS, as well how meaningful human control places limits on their use: marine mammal systems .
Mass media in the US often portray Donald Trump as an American version of Putin, if not his puppet. But it makes sense to take a closer look at the essence of Trump’s and Putin’s appeal to their respective populations. Let’s recap three broad topics: foreign policy, domestic policy, and the economy.
Both Putin and Trump focus on ‘foreign policy populism’ trying to sell the idea of great power resurgence. Showing the West “Kuzma’s Mother” has been Russia’s operative battle cry since Khrushchev didn’t slam his shoe at the UN General Assembly in 1960. Russia’s current leadership is carefully executing this master plan, starting with cyber-attacks and finishing with nuclear missile deployment In Kaliningrad.
On the other side of the pond, apart from “we’re gonna win so much, you may even get tired of winning” and the whole “make America great again” rhetoric, the Trump campaign has voiced admiration for Saddam Hussein, Bashar Assad and Kim Jong-un, complaining that Obama failed to show real leadership. I guess, “bombing the shit out of ISIS” as well as praising genocidal maniacs is his way of showing Kuzma’s mother to the rest of the world. Why this is necessary is a whole other question.
Russia has been one of the spectres haunting the US presidential election. President Obama’s latest press conference is a case in point:
Mr. Trump’s continued flattery of Mr. Putin, and the degree to which he appears to model many of his policies and approaches to politics on Mr. Putin, is unprecedented in American politics and is out of step with not just what Democrats think but out of step with what up until the last few months almost every Republican thought, including some of the ones who are now endorsing Mr. Trump
It is rather bewildering for a Russian observer: the party that gave birth to McCarthyism is now overwhelmingly endorsing a candidate who embraces Putin who is ‘a leader far more than our President’. Hillary Clinton, despite having pressed the ‘reset’ button back in 2009, has called Russia a dictatorship on a number of occasions, showing that it is easy to revert to Cold War era clichés to perpetuate American exceptionalism in comparison to Russia’s un-American autocratic Otherness. No wonder there has been a lot of angst and conspiracy theorizing on the (American) left that Trump is the Manchurian candidate, whose arrival has been anticipated from the Pavlov Institute since 1959.
What were you doing 15 years ago on 9/11? What do you remember? How should we remember that day, given the momentous impact the event had on the direction of U.S. foreign policy and global politics?
I woke up in my Adams Morgan basement room in the house where I was living to the sound on the radio of a hip hop station. Suddenly, they broke into news about the attack of the first plane on the World Trade Center. And, given that this station’s morning programming was kind of joke-y programming, I was at first incredulous. I think I soon after turned on the TV and then woke up one of my roommates.
I don’t have specific memories of watching the towers fall. I have a faint sense that I was watching television when the second plane crashed into tower two, which confirmed that this wasn’t some kind of accident.
Even after I’d heard about the attack on the Pentagon, I don’t think the gravity of the events really sunk in. I was still in graduate school, and I was getting ready for the 2pm class I had at Georgetown with John Ikenberry on the Logic of the West. For some reason, I thought classes would go on that afternoon, and I got ready to ride my my bike to campus, which I think I did. Classes of course were cancelled. Continue reading
In this, the first of a sequence of posts addressing Brexit in one way or another, I want to take a look at the shifting systems of authority in the current political climate and comment on how they might impact international relations into the future.
At the time of the Brexit vote, commentators and news reports drew parallels between the British decision to the leave the EU and the tumult of the US elections, particularly the rise of Donald Trump. Many pointed to the resurgence of nationalism, but here I want to argue that while the concept of nationalism as a practice of identity certainly sheds light on both Brexit and the rise of Trump, it also obscures some importance differences. In particular, part of nationalism is an aspect of governance, and in particular an embodied system of authority. In the case of Brexit, authority remained at the institutional level but shifted in aggregation, from the supernational to the national level. Continue reading