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(Un)expected President

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] S [/yt_dropcap]hock! Disbelief! Total surprise! Those media (and politicians) who have in the preceding election campaign totally uncritically, but systematically supported Hillary Clinton, try by using such words to convince the public opinion (and themselves most probably) that the election of Donald Trump as the next American President is a total surprise (a mistake, almost). But – this is not how things really are. This is, simply, not true.

On one hand Trump seems to be a surprise to those who conducted an almost unprecedented media campaign for the former Secretary of State and for those too who allowed to be convinced (if not deceived) by this campaign, but on the other hand Trump’s victory is no surprise at all for those who tried, free of all prejudices, to analyze all elements of the election campaign and its foreseeable result. Of course one could argue about the fact that it is tragic for today’s America and its political scene, dominated by Republicans and Democrats who successfully prevent any “third candidate” to come even close to the presidential race, that in these elections we witnessed the confrontation between an excentric millionare, a somewhat dubious businessman and a figure from the reality shows and a woman directly responsible for destabilizing the whole Middle East and for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. But, there is not one single word about this from those who are “shocked” and “surprised”.

The campaign started with the firm conviction that the winner will be Hillary Clinton, former First lady, former senator from New York and former Secretary of State. Her victory was, so to say, programmed and she was treated as a favorite in everything and in every moment. This went so far (and we know it thanks to Wikileaks) that the leadership of the Democratic party torpedoed, during the primaries, the campaign of Bernie Sanders who portrayed himself as a socialist and announced a political revolution, thus becoming the most dangerous rival of Clinton. Although not young himself, Sanders and his ideas attracted young voters (some surveys conducted after the election show that in some key states, where Hilary Clinton failed, Sanders would have been victorious over Trump). But, the nomination had to go to Hillary, a favorite of financial circles who financed her campaign either directly, or in advance, paying her enormous fees for lectures in which she said things that she would never repeat in the campaign and before those whose votes she wanted to win. But, besides being a favorite of financial circles, she was a favorite of those political circles too who wanted the continuation of the policy of a “transformed” Barack Obama, a President welcomed with great hopes, who during his first term of Office took a starting position, marked by his speeches in Cairo and Prague, only to become the true successor of George W. Bush, bombing even more countries than he did and inaugurating again, after a short intermezzo, interventionism plus confrontation with Russia as undisputed cornerstones of Washington’s foreign policy.

And so Sanders was eliminated and the nomination went to Hillary Clinton, a women whose intelligence and political experience could not be denied, but who was described by the founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, as a person who was eaten alive by her own ambition. On the other side there was Donald Trump, climbing towards the nomination for a presidential candidate, financing in the first stage almost entirely the campaign out of his own pocket. His success was not the result of the policy of the party’s leadership, but mostly of the votes of those who were attracted by his very often extremely rude populism, on the verge of open racism (these characteristics will gradually almost disappear during Trump’s campaign that was to follow). And he got the nomination on a very stormy Republican party’s convention, during which some delegates in protest even left.

And the arena was ready for the confrontation between a political amateur, “racist, sexist and vulgar person” with an experienced politician (although he would say that her experience was a bad one). In this moment the political-media machinery started to work “full speed”. About Trump nothing good could have been said or written, despite the fact that in his first foreign policy speeches, as a presidential candidate, some new and encouraging tones were registered, while at the same time it was not possible (or allowed), at least in the mainstream media, to either say or write anything negative about Hillary Clinton, despite the never brought to end scandal with her using an unprotected server for sending messages as Secretary of State and despite the fact that she obviously lied saying she did not erase any of the messages and that not a single one dealt with matters of national security. The curtain was up for a battle between the “evil” Trump and the “good” Hillary. In reality the curtain was up for a mud-wrestling between two candidates who were not selective at all choosing the instruments to destroy each other. And the propaganda machine continued to work full speed. After each TV confrontation public opinion surveys were published showing Hillary was “convincingly better” in comparison with her opponent (there was, as far as we know, only one exception). After that voters opinion surveys were published, all of them giving Hillary great chances to win and Trump almost none.

Thus the stage was set for the final act – the ritual execution of the candidate who refused to accept that everything was over, until he himself comes to the conclusion that it is over – despite his sometimes openly racist statements and their public echo (mainly abroad) and despite his sexual scandals (real or fabricated, most probably both). But, and this is obvious now, Trump was not acting without knowing what he was doing. Repeatedly invoking the silent majority, he played on the card of the Americans (and there are not only a few of them) abandoned by the society and those who feared they could experience the same destiny. It might be a paradox, but it is true: in the eyes of these people the blonde billionar appeared as some sort of a Robin Hood. In him they saw their last straw. He promised to bring back the factories that fled to “cheap countries”, he announced big projects for modernizing the infrastructure, he spoke about opening new working possibilities and “making America great again”. Former Secretary of State could not respond to this with her cheap slogan about America being great “because it is good” (most probably her staunchest supporters were afraid that someone could ask people from Libya or Syria what they think about both America and her being good). Above all she made both a strategic and tactical mistake: she did not want to deal with Trump as an unworthy opponent; instead of him she choose as her opponent the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, degrading Trump to his mere puppet. Consequently her speeches were more and more anti-Russian intoned and cold war colored, so that Trump with his announcement of talks and deals with Russia (especially in the fight against global terrorism) started to sound moderate and common sense driven (to those who wanted to hear and understand, naturally).

The day of the decision came. And it was, as it was. And we have today President-elect Donald Trump, elected with a convincing majority (of electoral votes, popular votes are not decisive, due to the specific American system of electing the President).His first speech after Hillary Clinton conceded in a phone call to him was well calibrated, low key, but not without substance, it was the address of a statesman. The pledge that he will ban all Muslims from entering the USA disappeared from his web page. And while he is preparing to take over in direct talks with the current President who was obviously forced to join the anti-Trump hysteria, proclaiming him totally unfit for the highest position in the state, some media who all of a sudden see clear, or the Russian media, who never openly sided with Trump, but never demonized him either, have fun exposing politicians form the West with their statement before the US elections and after. Just one example, the British foreign minister, Boris Johnson. Before the elections he boasted how he avoids certain streets in New York, out of fear he might bump into Donald Trump. And after the elections he is “looking forward to work with President Trump’s administration”.

It seems realistic to expect that Trump will disappoint both the European extreme rightists (who are overwhelmed by his victory), as well as liberals (not necessarily of left orientation) who are despairing and exchanging messages of condolences. Trump is without any doubt a conservative, but he comes not out of the same nest as the European neo-fascists who are more and more aggressive with every day passing; he played without any scruples the lowest instincts of the voters to get as many votes as possible, but his domestic policy will most probably be similar to those of Nixon and Reagan. These were, one must admit, not the best times for liberals, but neither were they put before committees for investigating anti-American activities, nor were they forbidden to work. In the field of foreign policy Trump will enter the path of calming down the relations with Russia (that are almost on the boiling point), which is still his “magnum crimen” in the eyes of some European politicians, prisoners of the past; he will enter the path of strengthening (but with Russia and not against it) the fight against global terrorism. Otherwise he will orient America towards itself, putting it in a semi-isolation and giving the US an active role on the international scene only when American interests are in question (and not necessarily interests of the Wall Street). To many he might appear as dangerous, simply because he is an unknown. Potentially he is really dangerous if he insists on denying the global warming and transforms this into American policy. But it seems to us prematurely and simply not serious to judge him today completely negative only because he avoided (in accordance with the law) to pay for years the federal tax and because of his sexual escapades (does anybody still remembers Bill Clinton, the Oval Office and Monica Levinsky?). Equally not serious is to state that his election victory is “a surprise” and “totally unexpected”. This author published in July this year an article under the title “President Trump?”, stating as follows: “The rich businessman whose biggest advantage is that he owes nothing to anybody, because he is until now more or less financing his campaign out of his pocket, presented a mixture of populism, demagogic approach, sounding phrases and pure politics.” Further: “Repeating constantly that he will bring back the sense of security to every American, he openly pledged his support to homosexual community, promising to protect it from any kind of violence (and thanked – as a Republican – the audience for applauding him after this). And he made sure that among his supporters there were representatives of other races (such as ‘Koreans for Trump’).” And finally: “Trump’s first big political speech shows that the battle for the white House will be waged between two at least equal rivals; Trump will without any doubt repeat the slogan used in his speech on the Convention: She says: ‘Everything will stay as it is.’ And I say: ‘Nothing will remain as it is.’ And with some sarcasm, but not without effect: ‘She is asking her supporters to say that they are with her. And I am telling you and the whole of America: I am with you, I will be your voice, I will be your champion.’” Published in July 2016.

In the meantime the “champion” became President-elect. He will take over in mid-January next year. Until then the horror of those who played (for their own interest, but wrongly) on the card of Hillary Clinton, as well as the horror of those who without any real basis believed the she is the Godgiven President f the US, will calm down. Donald Trump, the man who described himself with the words: “I know the system best. So I am the one who can fix it” – 45th President of the USA. So, why not?

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Americas

Israel, the Middle East and Joe Biden

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Photo by Adam Schultz

How will a Biden Administration change American policies on Iran, the Palestinians and Israel’s tightening relationships with Arab states?

Some two years ago, Democrats harshly attacked Trump for withdrawing US troops from Syria and thereby undermining the alliance with the Kurds. However, Democratic leaders also favor a reduced US presence in the Middle East and understand the region’s declining relevance to US global policy.  It was Democrat Obama who withdrew US troops from the Iraqi bloodbath; Biden, if elected, will presumably continue a similar course. The US is no longer dependent on Middle Eastern oil, China is perceived as its greatest threat, and the defeat of ISIS has lowered the strategic terror threat level to US national security.

Biden, just like Trump and Obama, probably believes that the US can downscale its presence in the region and rely on its allies (the Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, of course) and on the alliances being forged between its partners over the past two decades. The US could increase aid to a specific ally at a time of need (as was the case with the massive 2014 influx of Syrian refugees into Jordan) or Iraq (during the fighting with ISIS), but it is loath to continue meddling in local conflicts. What is more, the painful lesson of the intervention in Iraq has dissolved the Bush Administration’s messianic belief in the democratization of the Middle East. Concern about Russia or China filling the vacuum left by the US is also no longer deterring US leaders (like Obama and Trump) who are trying to score points with voters by troops drawdowns and free the administration up to deal with different matters, among them the “Pivot to Asia”.

As a Democrat, Biden is expected to be more sensitive than Trump to human rights violations in the Middle East. He condemned the conduct of the Saudi regime following the murder of exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi in fairly harsh language several times and also called for curbing weapons sales to Riyadh.

However, if elected, Biden’s first order of business will be dealing with the biggest health and economic crisis the US has experienced since 1929. He will have to create jobs and deal with thousands of burning domestic matters. Those will be his flagship issues. He may have to set aside his moral repugnance and allow weapons exports to prevent job and profit losses for Americans. Trump, too, was harshly critical of Saudi Arabia prior to his election, but subsequently changed his tune and conducted his first overseas trip there as president.

One can cautiously assess that any change in US policy toward the Gulf would not undermine Israel’s rapprochement with those states. The strategic regional threats (expansion of Iran’s hegemony and its violations of the nuclear agreement, as well as Turkish activity in the region) will remain unchanged, and therefore the interest in economic and security cooperation between Israel and Gulf states will remain. Arab states that traditionally view Israel as a bridge to the White House could try to exploit this now official relationship to promote their standing with Congress and a new administration, if one is installed.

Biden’s position on the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) is of concern these days to both Israeli and Arab leaders, which could further cement their ties. Arab leaders are concerned about Biden rejoining and reviving the deal that Trump abandoned. They are relying on Biden’s criticism of the unilateral US pullout from the agreement and his declaration that he would make every effort to rejoin it. Nonetheless, Biden’s people seem to understand that they cannot simply turn back the clock. Blinken, one of Biden’s closest aides and potential future national security adviser, has said in interviews that the US would not return to the agreement until Iran fulfills all its commitments – meaning, until Iran walks back all its violations of the agreement. It is hard to predict just how Biden might draw Iran to the negotiating table, but as long as such an option is viable, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf states will have sufficient grounds to close ranks.

Biden is a sworn supporter of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is expected to re-open the US Consulate in East Jerusalem, restore US aid to the Palestinians and invite the PLO ambassador back to Washington. However, this does not mean that he will place the Palestinian issue on his list of priorities, especially given the domestic crisis and ongoing tensions with China. The Palestinian issue is unlikely to return to center stage following a change in the US administration. The Arab world is growing increasingly weak as the coronavirus continues to spread, the economic crisis deepens and unemployment rises. Arab states also fear that the major non-Arab states in the region – Turkey and Iran – will exploit this weakness. Should that happen, the Palestinian issue is unlikely to attract much interest from key Arab states, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, which also dictate the conduct of the Arab League.

That said, should Biden decide to revive the Arab Peace Initiative and mobilize Saudi and other Arab support (perhaps in return for a more determined US stand on Iran, the supply of US strategic weapons, etc.), pressure on Israel over the Palestinian issue could re-emerge. If Israel chooses to respond with accelerated construction in the settlements, in defiance of US policy, states such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE would likely toe the line of the US administration but would not cut ties with Israel as a result.

In conclusion, a Biden victory would not affect the strengthening relationship between Israel and Arab states, especially if he opts to focus on the Iranian issue and a US return to the JCPOA. The Middle East’s relevance to the US is expected to continue its decline, prompting cooperation among its partners in the region in order to forge a robust front and repel threats from the non-Arab states (Iran and Turkey). A changed US approach to the Palestinian issue could increase pressure on Israel slightly, but is not expected to substantially change the current dynamics.

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Prospects for U.S.-China Relations in the Biden Era

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The U.S. presidential election which will be held on November 3 is drawing ever closer. As the Trump administration performs poorly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where the death toll in the U.S. exceeded 210,000, the election trend appears to be very unfavorable for Donald Trump.

According to a recent poll conducted by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, Joe Biden led Trump by 14 percentage points in the national elections. It is worth noting that retired American generals, who have traditionally been extremely low-key in politics, publicly supported Biden this year, something that is quite rare. On September 24, 489 retired generals and admirals, former national security officials and diplomats signed a joint letter in support of Biden. Among them are Republicans, Democrats, and non-partisans, showing that they have crossed the affiliation, and jointly support Biden to replace Trump. Although the opinion polls do not represent the final election, with the election only being one month away, the widening of the opinion gap is enough to predict the direction of the election.

For the whole world, especially for China, it is necessary to prepare for the advent of a possible Biden era of the United States. During Trump’s tenure, U.S.-China relations have taken a turn for the worse, and China has been listed as the foremost “long-term strategic competitor” of the United States.

There is a general view in China that after the Democratic Party comes to power, U.S.-China relations may worsen. The reason is that the Democratic Party places more emphasis on values such as human rights and ideology and is accustomed to using values such as human rights, democracy, and freedom in foreign policies against China. However, as far as U.S.-China relations are concerned, it is too vague to use the simple dichotomic “good” or “bad” to summarize the relationship of the two countries.

However, it is certain that after Biden takes office, his policies will be different from Trump’s. An important difference between Biden and Trump is that Biden will follow a certain order and geopolitical discipline to implement his own policies, and he will also seek cooperation with China in certain bottom-line principled arrangements. It should be stressed that it is crucial for China and the United States to reach some principled arrangements in their relations.

From an economic point of view, should Biden become the next President, the United States will likely ease its trade policy, which will alleviate China’s trade pressure. It can be expected that the Biden administration may quell the U.S.-China tariff war and adjust punitive tariff policies that lead to “lose-lose” policies. If Biden takes office, he might be more concerned about politics and U.S.-China balance. In terms of trade, although he would continue to stick to the general direction of the past, this would not be the main direction of his governance. Therefore, the U.S.-China trade war could see certain respite and may even stop. In that scenario, China as the largest trading partner of the United States, could hope for the pressures in the trade with the U.S. being reduced.

China must also realize that even if Biden takes power, some key areas of U.S.-China relations will not change, such as the strategic positioning of China as the “long-term strategic competitor” of the United States. This is not something that is decided by the U.S. President but by the strategic judgment of the U.S. decision-making class on the direction of its relations with China. This strategic positioning destined that the future U.S.-China relations will be based on the pattern dominated by geopolitical confrontation. Biden sees that by expanding global influence, promoting its political model, and investing in future technologies, China is engaging a long-term competition with the U.S, and that is the challenge that the United States faces.

On the whole, if and when Biden takes office, the U.S. government’s domestic and diplomatic practices will be different from those of the Trump administration, although the strategic positioning of China will not change, and neither will it change the U.S.’ general direction of long-term suppression of China’s rise. However, in terms of specific practices, the Biden administration will have its own approaches, and will seek a certain order and geopolitical discipline to implement its policies. He may also seek to reach some bottom-line principled arrangements with China. Under the basic framework, the future U.S.-China relations will undergo changes in many aspects. Instead of the crude “an eye for an eye” rivalry, we will see the return to the traditional systemic competition based on values, alliance interests, and rules. Facing the inevitable changes in U.S.-China relations, the world needs to adapt to the new situation.

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Third world needs ideological shift

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As nations across the world have been pooling their efforts to contain the COVID-19 spread, the looming economic crisis has caught the attention of global intelligentsia. In the light of health emergency, The policy makers of Asia, Africa and Latin America have been struggling to steer the economic vehicle back to normalcy. Although, the reason for the economic slump could be attributed to the pandemic, it is also important to cast light on the economics of these tricontinental nations. Been as colonies for more than two centuries, these players had adopted the style of economics which is a mix of market economics and socialism. The imperial powers of the then Europe had colonised these nations and had subjugated them with their military and political maneuvers. Under the banner of White man’s burden, the Imperial masters had subverted the political, economical, social and cultural spheres of the colonies and had transformed these self-reliant societies into the ones which depend on Europe for finished products. The onslaught on the economical systems of colonies was done through one way trade. Though, the western powers brought the modern values to the third world during colonial era, they were twisted to their advantage. The European industrial machines were depended on the blood, sweat and tears of the people of colonies. It is clear that the reason for the backwardness of these players is the force behind the imperial powers which had eventually pushed them towards these regions in search of raw materials and markets i.e., Capitalism. Needless to say, the competition for resources and disaccord over the distribution of wealth of colonies led to twin world wars. Capitalism, as an economic idea, cannot survive in an environment of a limited market and resources. It needs borderless access, restless labour and timeless profit. While the European imperial powers had expanded their influence over Asia and Africa, the US had exerted its influence over Latin America. Earlier, at the dawn of modern-day Europe, The capitalist liberal order had challenged the old feudal system and the authority of church. Subsequently, the sovereign power was shifted to monarchial king. With the rise of ideas like democracy and liberty, complemented by the rapid takeoff of industrialization, the conditions were set for the creation of new class i.e., capitalist class. On the one hand, Liberalism, a polical facet of capitalism, restricts the role of state(political) in economical matters but on the other hand it provides enough room for the elite class and those who have access to power corridors to persuade the authority(state) to design the policies to their advantage. Inequality is an inescapable feature of liberal economics.

The powerful nations cannot colonise these nations as once done. The Watchwords like interconnectedness, interdependency and free trade are being used to continue their domination on these players. As soon as the third world nations were freed from the shackles of colonialism, they were forced to integrate their economies into the global economical chain. Characterized by the imbalance, the globalization has been used as a weapon by the Western powers to conquer the markets of developing nations.

The Carrot and stick policy of the US is an integral part of its strategy to dominate global economical domain. The sorry state of affairs in the Middle East and Latin America could be attributed to the US lust for resources. In the name of democracy, the US has been meddling in the internal affairs of nations across the developing world. Countries like Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Iraq and Syria have challenged the US,a global policeman. Back in the day,soon after assuming the power, the Left leadership in Latin American countries had adopted socialist schemes and had nationalised the wealth creating assets, which were previously in the hands of the US capitalists. Irked by the actions of these nations, the US had devised a series of stratagems to destabilize the regimes and to install its puppets through the imposition of cruel sanctions and by dubbing them as terrorist nations on the pretext of exporting violent communist revolution. With the exception of the regimes of Fidel castro in Cuba and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the US is largely successful in its agenda of destabilizing anti-American governments in the region. The US has a long history of mobilising anti-left forces in Latin America, the region which US sees as its backyard, in an attempt to oust socialist leaders. At present, by hook or by crook, the trump administration has been trying to depose Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, a socialist.

In addition,The US has been colonising the minds of the third world citizens psychologically with its cultural hegemony and anti-left indoctrination. It is important to understand that the reason for the neo-fascism, which is unfurling across the developing and developed world alike, is rooted in capitalism.The third world citizenry is disgruntled and the ultra-nationalist right wing forces in these countries have been channeling the distress amongst the working class to solidify their position. Growing inequalities, Falling living standards, Joblessness and Insecurity are exposing the incompetence of capitalism and have been pushing a large chunk of workforce in the developing countries into a state of despair.Adding to their woes, the Covid-19 has hit them hard.

The US, with the help of IMF and the world bank, had coerced the developing countries to shun welfare economics.The term “Development” is highly contested  in the economic domain.Capitalists argue that the true development of an individual and the society depends upon economic progress and the free market is a panacea for all problems.Given the monopolistic tendencies in the economical systems across the developing world, the free market is a myth, especially in a societies where a few of business families, who have cronies in policy making circles, dominates the economical and social scene.The time has come for the governments of these nations to address these issues and ensure that the wealth would be distributed in a more equitable manner.

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