The visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to India for the third India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue coupled with the recent Quad consultations between the two sides have refocused attention on the ties between two of the world’s biggest, and perhaps most consequential, democracies.
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The history of a number of major powers suggests that domestic policies were far more critical to their international standing than any of the clever stratagems, initiatives, ploys, schemes, or interventions they undertook abroad. Indeed, in some cases doing the right thing at home made it possible for the country to survive and recover after completely and disastrously mishandling its relations with others.
In this episode of Horns of a Dilemma, Sheena Greitens, associate professor at the LBJ School at the University of Texas, moderates a discussion between Tanvi Madan, senior fellow in the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, and Jim Steinberg, professor of social science, international affairs, and law at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.
In the past three years, a growing proportion of U.N. mission chiefs, called special representatives of the secretary-general, or SRSGs, have been largely imposed by host governments or big powers, bypassing the U.N.’s competitive hiring process. The trend has raised concerns among some U.N. insiders that the selection process may result in top envoys beholden to governments being foisted on the U.N. chief.
What are the costs and benefits of friendship with an easily offended China? Who would want to be a friend of China today? Can countries live without China’s friendship? Do they have a choice not to be friends with China? If the Chinese government is not a friend, what is that relationship? Can bilateral ties with the world’s second-largest economy be reduced strictly to trade and investment, minus the warmth of friendship?
It is quite extraordinary that a pandemic originating in a Chinese province, a disease whose initial cover-up briefly seemed likely to deal a grave blow to the Communist regime, has instead given China a geopolitical opportunity unlike any enjoyed by an American rival since at least the Vietnam War.
What a difference two decades make. In the early years of this century, the world appeared to be moving toward a single, seamless order under U.S. leadership. Today the world is fragmenting, and authoritarian challengers, led by China and Russia, are chipping away at American influence in East Asia, eastern Europe, and the Middle East.
In the mid-twentieth century, modern art and design represented the liberalism, individualism, dynamic activity, and creative risk possible in a free society. Jackson Pollock’s gestural style, for instance, drew an effective counterpoint to Nazi, and then Soviet, oppression. Modernism, in fact, became a weapon of the Cold War. Both the State Department and the CIA supported exhibitions of American art all over the world.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a global public health disaster of almost biblical proportions. It is a once-in-a-century occurrence that threatens to destroy countless lives, ruin economies, and stress national and international institutions to their breaking point. And, even after the virus recedes, the geopolitical wreckage it leaves in its wake could be profound.