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Iran crisis test drives fundaments of Trump’s foreign policy

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At the core of US president Donald J. Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran lies the belief that Iran can be forced to negotiate terms for the lifting of harsh US economic sanctions even if it has no confidence in US intentions and adherence to agreements.

The Trump administration’s belief, despite the conviction of much of the international community that maximum pressure has failed and risks provoking a devastating all-out war in the Middle East, says much about the president’s transactional approach towards foreign policy that rests on the assumption that bluster, intimidation and the brute wielding of power can protect US interests and impose US will.

Richard Goldberg, an Iran-hawk who this month resigned as the official on the president’s national security council responsible for countering Iranian weapons of mass destruction, signalled in an op-ed in The New York Times, entitled “Trump Has an Iran Strategy. This Is It,” that Mr. Trump attributes no importance to deep-seated Iranian concerns that he is gunning for regime change in Tehran and that building trust is not needed to resolve the Iran crisis.

“The Iranian regime doesn’t need to trust America or Mr. Trump to strike a deal; it just needs to act as a rational actor to avoid collapse,” said Mr. Goldberg, who backed by former national security advisor John Bolton, served for a year in the White House.

Mr. Goldberg appeared to ignore the fact that the US withdrawal 20 months ago from a 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program sparked doubts not only in Iran but across the globe about the value of a US signature on any agreement.

He also appeared oblivious to the fact that Iranian suspicions were reinforced by alllegations that his salary, while at the White House, was paid by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a hardline Washington-based think tanks that is believed to have close ties to Israel and the United Arab Emirates. So did anecdotes about how his hardline views provoked clashes with other administration officials.

In his op-ed, Mr. Goldberg suggested that any new agreement with Iran could be ratified by the US Senate.

The Trump administration and Mr. Goldberg’s misreading of what it would take to steer the United States and Iran off a road of more than 40 years of deep-seated mutual distrust and animosity and towards the turning of a new page in their relationship was evident in indirect responses to the former national security council official’s assertions.

”Even if one day we negotiate with the US, the talks will not be with Trump, won’t be strategic (no normalization of ties) and will be done only by conservatives not reformists. We need to see changes in the (US) Congress; whether Democrats will pursue a fair policy by which Iran is not under pressure over its missile program,” said a regime insider.

The Trump administration has demanded among other things that Iran curb its ballistic missile program, a core element of the Islamic republic’s defense strategy given that its armed forces lack a credible air force and navy.

Hardliners, who rather than moderates have proven in other Middle Eastern conflicts like the Israeli-Palestinian dispute to be the ones capable of cutting deals, are expected to win next month’s parliamentary elections in Iran. The likelihood of hardline advances was enhanced by the fact that scores of moderates have been barred from running for office.

Iranian reformists argue that the accidental downing of a Ukrainian airliner Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps demonstrates the risk of an Iranian strategy that is pre-empted on eternal hostility towards the United States.

Mr. Goldberg offered a rare indication that the Trump administration recognizes Iran’s strategy of gradual escalation that, based on the assumption that neither the United States nor Iran wants an all-out war, aims to bring the two countries to the brink of an armed conflict in the belief that this would break the logjam and force a return to the negotiating table on terms acceptable to Iran.

Noting that Mr. Trump had failed in the past nine months to respond to multiple Iranian provocations, including the downing of a US drone and attacks on tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates and on key Saudi oil facilities, Mr. Goldberg asserted that Mr. Trump “recognized those traps for what they were and exercised strategic patience.”

Mr. Trump’s patience ended in December when he responded to the death of an American contractor in an attack by Iranian-backed Iraqi militias and the militias’ siege of the US embassy in Baghdad by first authorizing air strikes against militias bases in Iraq and Syria and then the killing of Iranian general Qassim Soleimani.

Mr. Goldberg would likely describe the president’s decision not to respond to a subsequent Iranian retaliatory attack on housing facilities for US military personnel in Iraq as a renewed act of strategic patience.

Mr. Trump’s strategic patience is bolstered by his retention of options to further increase maximum pressure on Iran. “Many wrongly believe the United States has already reached full ‘maximum pressure on Iran,” Mr. Goldberg said.

Mr. Goldberg pointed to sanctions targeting Iranian state shipping lines that are set to take effect in June, the administration’s recent identification of Iran’s financial sector as a “primary jurisdiction of money-laundering concern,” this month’s imposition of sanctions on its construction, mining and manufacturing sectors, and Europe’s triggering of the nuclear accord’s dispute mechanism that could lead to the return of United Nations-mandated sanctions.

Mr. Goldberg and Mr. Trump’s belief that imminent economic collapse and international political isolation could prompt Iranian leaders to suddenly place a call to the White House turns Mr. Trump’s handling of the Iran crisis into a litmus test of the president’s approach to foreign relations.

There is little in the torturous history of relations between the United States and the Islamic republic that suggests that pressure will persuade Iran, convinced that Washington is gunning for the fall of the regime, to gamble on an unconditional return to the negotiating table.

Nor does North Korea’s failure to succumb to US pressure even if Mr. Trump, in contrast to his remarks about Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, professed his love for Kim Jong-un.

Mr. Trump’s policy towards Iran, rather than reinforcing Gulf confidence in the United States’ reliability as a guarantor of regional security, has sparked a wait-and-see attitude and nagging doubts about US reliability.

If anything, risky US and Iranian strategies are likely to prove that the crisis can only be defused if both sides garner an understanding of the others’ objectives and some degree of confidence that both parties would remain committed to any agreement they conclude.

So far, US and Iranian policies amount to a dialogue of the deaf that is likely to perpetuate the risk of hostility getting out of hand and incentivize regional players to think about alternative  arrangements that ultimately could weaken US influence and reduce tensions with Iran by including it, despite US policy, in a more multilateral security architecture.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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Is Sino-Russian partnership posing a strategic threat to U.S. and democracy worldwide?

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image credit: kremlin.ru

Despite significant divergence between China and Russia in both regional and international arenas, the countries have striven to expand their cooperation in several directions namely in diplomatic, political and defense realms. China and Russia consider the US as a challenge to the national security of both Beijing and Moscow. The countries are bearing in mind that alignment between Moscow and Beijing is thought to be the best possible measure to deter US hegemonic policy.  Russia and China are working together to the fill the gaps of their military capability, accelerating their technological innovations, supplementing each other’s defense competency to emasculate US global leadership, challenging US dominance in strategic regions as well.

Their joint naval drills are supposed to be projected as a counter-measure to minimize the US capability, and to defy US regional scenario. Furthermore, the countries accelerate their cooperation to erode US military advantages. In order to enhance their efforts, Russia provides China with advanced weapons to remove the US from their backyards. Their joint efforts have put America under immense pressure to reconsider its defense budget and its alleged commitments to advocate a free and open Indo-Pacific.  The countries are doing their best to counter American Democratic measure in form of “color revolutions”, substantiating each other to defend their interests in multidimensional environments, creating norms around cyber and internet sovereignty, and augmenting anti-American elements even radical Islamists to gain the power and expand their territorial control. They legitimize each other’s conducts to persuade swing states to abandon the US.

Moscow and Beijing consolidating their efforts to inter to the new spaces more likely Artificial Intelligence, they strive to offer diverse digital system and other technologies. They also joined hands to disqualify American financial measures in the global economic arena especially bypass the US sanctions and minimize the US ability in financial realm  as part of the US foreign policy objective.  

They have long before tried to de-dollarize the world finical system, which will in turn curtail the US capability in the area of export control.

America’s counter measures

Nonetheless, the US has launched counter measures to limit Sino-Russia cooperation and the threats they pose to Washington. In response to Sino-Russian partnership, the US stationed and installed vigilant technologies all around the countries to curb their liabilities. Additionally, in response to the Sino-Russian joint-partnership, the US adopted a new maritime strategy in December 2020 the three maritime services of the US military – the US Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The strategy elucidates both China and Russia as resolute adversaries, who pose a long-term strategic threat to the national security of the US in the global arena particularly in Indo-pacific domain. In comparison to the old strategies, the new strategy presses on the importance of sea control, which ascribes the possibility of armed conflict with at maritime level. Moreover, the strategy signifies the importance of Coastguard as a part of main element to deter multidimensional threats posed by Sino-Russia. The new strategy also implies and stress on building partnerships and cooperation with other countries to defend the US global perspective.  It clarifies as well that current US defense capability is not sufficient. Thus, the maritime forces ought to be modernized in order to counter Sino-Russia maritime strategy. According to the new strategy, the size and shape will boldly change to answer the current and future challenges.

Are China and Russia strategically associated?

Even so, due to American Air, Land and sea superiority, in global level and particularly in Indo-pacific, Asian and African regions, which is considered as threat to the national security of China and Russia.  Therefore, Moscow and Beijing agreed upon to build up partnership and cooperation along with filling each other’s gaps in term of defense, aerial, sea and digital technologies, to rule out American Maritime strategic challenges. In addition, kick out the US military forces from their back yards. It is worthwhile to note Sino-Russian cooperation or partnership is not strategic, because is not built on natural basis, rather it instituted on a tactical measure to deter American aggression. It is very conventional term that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, which means Beijing and Moscow have a common enemy “the United States”. Therefore, they disregard their border dispute for the time being, which will definitely be brushed up, when the US is out of the race in the global arena.

According to the management criteria, partnership or cooperation is based on three terms; short term, midterm and long term in other word operational, tactical and strategic, taking in to account the mentioned terminologies the Sino-Russia partnership is operational and tactical then to be strategic/long-term. While China has been shifting its soft strategic measures, the country tries to apply hard power in Central Asia “Russia’s back yard”.  Beijing considers stationing military forces in the region to defend the country’s Belt and Road initiative extended to the region. China wants to safeguard its geo-economic and geo-political objectives thru future military installations in Central Asia. Therefore, Beijing’s motives are irreconcilable with the foreign policy objectives of Moocow for the region, because China pursues to advance trans-Eurasian transportation corridor in order to bypass Russia. Furthermore, China recently built an airport in Xining-Uyghur autonomous district close to Afghan and Tajikistan borders, which is the first airport of such kind in the mountainous area of Badakhshan. China’s initiative in this form, offers Beijing enjoying upper hand to get hold on Natural resources of the disputed region. The country undertook to build extra 25 airports in the region in order to expand its military buildup.  Hence, Russia reconsiders its partnership with China, because the balance between Beijing and Moscow is changing in the region.

In addition, Sino-Russian partnership is depended on China’s commitment to full carbon neutrality by 2060.  Beijing will reduce consumption of all fossil fuels, including natural gas, which will definitely play a significant role in future cooperation and partnership between Moscow and Beijing.

China has recently made public that the country will almost be carbon neutral in 40 years; means the country will reduce 65% of its oil consumption and 75% of its natural gas consumption. These assertions will disqualify forthcoming efforts to run a mega-pipeline “Power of Siberia-2” in order to pump Russian natural gas to China. In order to minimize its dependency on Russian Natural Gas, China has diversified its efforts to import natural gas from centrals Asian countries. China made a technological breakthrough in domestic natural gas production, which will in turn reduce Chinese dependency on Russia. In couple of decades, Russia will totally lose its fuel and gas advantages to leverage China. Between 2050.2060, China will independently handle its energy needs, and develop its defense, maritime and digital technology including artificial intelligence. China will increase its defense budget up to 1 trillion dollars. Until 2060, the US will completely be out as a major element of world order. So there would be no need for Sino-Russian cooperation, China alone would be in a position to police the world and Russia will become Beijing’s number one geo-political enemy.

Sino-Russian rift

China and Russia enmity goes back to the Chinese Eastern Railway(CER) conflict took place in 1929 between Soviet Union and China, which was the bloodies conflict of its time. Joseph Stalin played a significant role to neutralize Chinese efforts to recapture the Railway. In order to attain its goals China used both conventional and asymmetric approaches to eliminate Soviet Union control over the Railway. Obtaining green signals from Japan, Stalin forcefully trespassed the region and pushed back Chinese armed forces, which was connoted as a sign of aggression, and ended up with border dispute. Throughout, the history both countries unsuccessfully endeavored to find a peaceful and acceptable solution to the border conflict. Consequently, in 2003 Russia and China signed an agreement to resolve the border dispute. In 2005, Moscow and Beijing finalized the border issue, nevertheless, Chinese leadership still claims that Vladivostok Russia’s Fareast city is part of Chinese territory, besides Beijing asserts that Russia has annexed 350.000 square mile of Chinese territory.

Taking into account the above said facts, Sino-Russian partnership will break up some times in the future (2050-2060) and will change to armed conflict. Furthermore, Russia is not a solemn geopolitical adversary of the United States as China is. After the collapse of Soviet Union, both Russia and America were on the right path to normalize their relationship. Throughout, the different administrations no matter democrats or republicans leadership, Moscow and Washington achieved a lot to be aligned.  For goodwill they even signed a new start to reduces their nuclear warheads and stop arm race. Due to the US eastward expansionism, Russia was driven into the arms of Beijing to establish partnership and cooperation.

Is Beijing or Moscow a national security threat?

The National Counterintelligence and Security Director Bill Evanina in his Fax News interview shed light on that no country poses a broader more severe threat to America than China. He added that Beijing’s malign influence campaign against America would be one of the bigger challenge for Biden administration. He asserted from a threat perspective, Russia is a significant adversary particularly with regard to cyber intrusions, malign influence, and sowing discord in American democracy, but China poses a broader, more severe intelligence collection to the United States. According to Evanina, China continually engaged in highly sophisticated malign influence campaign against America, because America is a democracy, and democracy is bad for China. Evanina clarifies that challenge for Biden administration will be to understand the scope and scale of Chinese threats in the American landscape, domestically, and what is the best course to defeat that.

He added that part of China’s malign influence has focused on politicians and elected officials, leveraging them to be engaged in promoting Beijing’s scenario. Evanina signalizes that data theft by Beijing poses severe threat to the nationalized Americans. China can exploit the data for variety of nefarious purposes, and already has a significant record of exploitation of DNA for social control and surveillance of their Uyghur population at home. Evanina warned that China’s collection of U.S.  Genomic data is helping to fuel their precision medicine and artificial intelligence industries, which poses a long-term threat to the US biotech industry and medicine around the world at large. China continues to exploit American government and industry supply chain he said, Beijing uses American trusted suppliers and vendors against the US itself.  He explained that supply chain attacks are insidious at most, because they violate the basic trust between a supplier and a consumer. Therefore, he said that it is a complicated set for the Biden administration to deal with.

A chance of reconsidering foreign policy objectives

Observing that Russia is not a significant threat to America at most, on the other, China poses, the most severe threat to the United States, so the Biden administration can give it a try  to revise policies on Russia, and find out divergences and get them solved. In accordance with the US newly adopted maritime strategy, the American forces and vigilance instruments cannot be present everywhere and every time, therefore it stressed on to build and convene partnership and alliance with other countries. Unlike former strategies, the current strategy is more in favor of working together with allies.  If Biden’s administration tries to build trust amongst its allies, he needs to listen to his allies around the globe especially his European ones and give preference to their concerns. In European perspective, Russia is an inevitable potency in term of economic cooperation, counter insurgency, counter terrorism, and cyber security. Therefore, it is advisable that the policy towards Moscow requires to be given the kiss of life to crumble Sino-Russian partnership, and get it aligned with Washington. Most importantly, Russia is part of Europe; hence, a European orientated solution should be conveyed to motivate Russia to work together with European Union and America.

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Is Mike Pompeo the worst Secretary of State in history?

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State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain

Trump may have a race for the worst presidential title, but Pompeo is in a class of his own. James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson remain formidable contenders for Donald Trump in the ranking of worst US presidents. However, there is no competition for Mike Pompeo, Trump’s most passionate subordinate, in the worst Secretary of State ranking.

During his two years and nine months as the nation’s top diplomat, Pompeo did nothing to improve the US administration’s security, values, or even policies. His term ended in humiliation: humiliation from European allies, disgusted by the profanity he and Trump have committed over the past four years. On January 4, Pompeo announced he would travel to Europe and meet European Union leaders.

Two days later, after Trump-fueled riots on Capitol Hill, EU officials said they would not meet him. So Pompeo canceled his last chance to travel abroad. It’s been a long season of humiliation for Pompeo. In August, he pressed the UN Security Council to pass a ban on the sale of conventional weapons to Iran. Only one of the council members, the Dominican Republic, joined the US in supporting the ban; Russia and China against it; others, all US allies, abstained.

The episode depicts, in extreme form, two of Pompeo’s most distinct features: the obsession that foments regime change in Iran and the inability to bring it about or any other goal. Like Trump, Pompeo has been unceasingly opposed to the Iran nuclear deal. It’s no coincidence that Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic on May 8, 2018, just 12 days after Pompeo was sworn in as Secretary of State. (His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, has advised Trump to stick to the deal.)

Pompeo claimed, with high confidence, the sanctions would force Tehran to return to negotiating a “better” nuclear deal, or perhaps force a regime collapse. Today: Iran’s economy is in ruins, but the regime survives, its hardline faction is stronger than ever, and its reactors are more capable of producing atomic bombs than ever before. (President-elect Joe Biden wants to restart the nuclear deal, but Iran’s technological advances and political hardening will make this more difficult to achieve.)

This week, he may realize his “maximum pressure” campaign has failed miserably. No wonder then that Pompeo changed course and claimed, in a speech to the National Press Club, that Iran was al-Qaeda’s new “base” and declared, “The time is now for America and all countries free to destroy the al-Qaeda axis of Iran.” The US intelligence official said there was not any evidence for this claim.

Pompeo’s other big target is China, and he has called for regime change in Beijing as well, despite the goals that are clearly absurd. In fact, a large proportion of China’s population supports the party that ruled the government, which lifted more than 850 million people out of poverty in record time. However, there is nothing “Marxist-Leninist” about President Xi Jinping’s philosophy, which seeks expansion through mercantilist techniques, not ideological conformity.

While it is important to contain Chinese military presence in the South China Sea (something the US military has been doing for some time), it is very difficult to compare its scope or ambition to that of the Soviet Union, which once enjoyed a presence in a truly global world. Pompeo misunderstood the nature of China’s challenge. As a result, he came up with half-baked ideas on how to deal with it.

There are also Pompeo’s lies. He has claimed he and Trump have made NATO “stronger” than ever. In reality, those trans-Atlantic relations are strained as Trump continually rejects the alliance in general and the European Union in particular.

Pompeo has also been a corrupt foreign minister. By filming a speech in Jerusalem to be broadcast at the 2020 Republican National Convention, he was violating not only the law, but also the previously announced policy of barring department employees from attending political conventions.

He used security guards to carry out errands for himself, his wife, and his wife’s mother. He also asked Trump to fire the inspector general who investigated the misuse of his government’s resources. He threw a lavish dinner party inside the State Department, inviting donors who might contribute to some future political campaigns.

He tricked the Voice of America, which in recent decades had become a fairly objective global news service, into becoming a propaganda organ for Trump. He demoralized the foreign service even more thoroughly than Tillerson had done.

Pompeo paved his way to power by directing his every word to the pleasure of the boss, starting when he was director of the CIA (where he frequently omitted or distorted intelligence that contradicted Trump’s hunches). He is a dishonest intermediary, reluctant to speak the truth to power, for fear that he will lose power in doing so.

To end it all, in his final days, Pompeo issued a no-discussion order that overturned existing policies: lifting restrictions on official contact with Taiwan, designating Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” and declaring Iranian-backed Houthi fighters in Yemen an “organization. foreign terrorists ”.

This movement will not have a long-term effect. The future Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, can reverse this dictum, although it would be awkward to do so. It was an act of sheer mischief, like a teenager throwing a rotten egg at a new neighbor’s front door.

Is Pompeo the worst Secretary of State ever? In modern times, John Foster Dulles (former Secretary of State) may be a rival for the crown, but, fortunately, President Dwight Eisenhower did not listen to Dulles’ most dire advice.

Dulles was fanatical about pushing for the “backsliding” of Soviet communism, but Eisenhower, however, still adopted the “containment” policy of his predecessor, Harry Truman. Dulles also offered his French counterpart two tactical nuclear weapons to prevent the Viet Cong siege of Dien Bien Phu. However, Eisenhower was not interested in doing so. So, Mike Pompeo won the crown of worst US Secretary of State. Next week, he will fly back to Kansas, where he was a congressman and where he hopes to run for the Senate.

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Latin America and China: The economic and debt situation and the U.S. discomfort

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Latin American countries have no relatively good room for fiscal and monetary policy adjustment like China, and basically lack the ability for governmental countercyclical adjustment. This is mainly reflected in their room for fiscal and monetary policy.

From a fiscal viewpoint, the taxation ability of Latin American governments is generally weak. Taxation accounts for 16-18% of GDP, which is obviously lower than the 30-35% level of developed countries.

In terms of monetary policy, since the currencies of Latin American countries are directly correlated to the U.S. dollar exchange rate, the dollar fluctuation also entails the reduction of their room for monetary policy adjustment. These countries have continuously borrowed and cut interest rates. Hence there is little room for further steps.

The Federal Reserve has adopted the policy of unlimited quantitative easing which, in practical and easy-to-understand terms, is one of the unconventional ways by which a central bank intervenes in a State’s financial and economic system to increase the amount of debt money in circulation.

Although the U.S. stock market went into a slump several times, it should be noted that Nasdaq reached a new high. Ultimately, money has become more circulating. Interest rates in Latin American countries, however, have become very low and there is little room for further cuts.

At the same time, their foreign debts are also relatively high. For example, Argentina has recently approved a 70billion dollar debt restructuring plan and its debt accounted for over 50% of GDP.

The first solution to the debt crisis is to delay repayment, and the second one is to cancel interest or partly write off the debt. The creditor has no choice but to be forced to agree if one of the counterparts is unable to repay it. This is an endless cycle that, once the debt restructuring plan is approved, will only alleviate and mitigate Argentina’s crisis.

Argentina’s debt crisis occurred nine times in history, and this is the third time in the new century. Inflation in Argentina has caused its currency to depreciate by over 70%. According to statistics from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America, over 12 million people were jobless in Latin America in 2020. Poor people in Latin America will increase from 118 to 130 million and the extremely poor people will rise from over 60 million to over 90 million.

Faced with some new difficulties and challenges, we need to explain and assess China-Latin America relations at the current historic juncture. The development of China-Latin America relations has shifted from a period of high-speed growth to a period of stable growth. Quantitative and extensive development is shifting to a qualitative and specific one.

Initially China-Latin America relations took off suddenly and even exceeded expectations. Instead, a steady, efficient, stable and effective approach is currently preferred. The orderly progression of diplomatic and commercial relations is more advantageous than a context of actual speed.

This is especially the case in the context of intensified strategic competition between China and the United States. The political situation in Latin America, and the further impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, mean that certain changes need to be made to China-Latin America relations.

Firstly, the U.S. influence on China-Latin America relations needs to be assessed. Sino-U.S. relations are the most important, sensitive and complex bilateral relations in Chinese diplomacy.

Recently, there have been many major changes in Sino-U.S. relations, but one of them is often overlooked: from the Latin American countries’ perspective, the relationship between Latin America and the United States is the most important one. China’s interests in Latin America have not surpassed the United States’ in terms of political and economic development.

Here are some data. In the field of economy and trade, the United States is still Latin America’s main trading partner. The same applies to investment. The United States has great advantage over China.

In 2017, trade between the United States and Latin America exceeded 760 billion dollars, almost three times the volume of trade between China and Latin America. In 2019, trade between China and Latin America was about 270-280 billion dollars, while the volume of trade between the United States and Latin America was almost 800 billion dollars.

From an investment perspective, U.S.A.’s and Latin America’s direct engagement in 2017 was 45 billion dollars, almost double that of China. Therefore the United States outperforms China in terms of trade and investment.

However, benefiting from the advantage of China’s economic growth and the structural complementarity between China and Latin America, the acceleration of China’s economic and trade investment in Latin America is higher than that of the United States. Therefore, China has an incremental advantage in Latin America, but the United States enjoys an ‘equity’ primacy.

For example, outgoing President Trump has never visited Latin America, but this does not mean that the United States does not pay attention to it. Quite the reverse. If we look at the reports on Sino-Latin American relations issued by U.S. think tanks, scholars and experts are particularly worried.

The U.S. Congress holds several hearings on Sino-Latin American relations every year and invites not only local experts, but also experts from Mexico, Brazil and other countries. We can see that the United States attaches great importance to the development of China-Latin America relations.

We wonder, however, why has the United States not taken propagandistically political positions in Latin America as it does towards China, the Middle East, South-East Asia and the South China Sea.

This means that the United States still considerably trust Latin American bonhomie, good nature, patience and tolerance. The U.S. media merely claim that China’s influence in Latin America has increased and its soft power has enhanced but, overall, China’s influence in Latin America is far less than that of the United States.

If we ask in Brazil what they think of U.S.-China, U.S.-Brazil and Brazil-China relations, we get the following answers. The United States is a model for Brazil’s development and the values and ideologies of both Brazil and the United States are close. China is an important trade and investment partner for Brazil. From an economic viewpoint, Brazil’s development should seek to establish a better partnership with China, but in terms of ideology and values, the Forbidden City is further away than the White House.

For Latin America, maintaining stable relations with the United States is a primary interest. After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Latin America, China – thanks to some of its medical equipment – did its best to help those countries mitigate the impact of the disease. A Chinese state-owned company responded to the call and promised to build a hospital with an in-patient module in a conference and exhibition centre in Panama to help infected patients, for only a small sum of money from the State.

Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, however, rejected the proposal outright. In the end, Panama spent 12 million U.S. dollars and built 100 hospital beds and 26 intensive care units, without taking advantage of Chinese aid.

On April 16, Cortizo presided over the hospital’s opening ceremony, announcing that it was his own decision. Conversely, when former Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela (2014-19) was in power, he visited China, and Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi reciprocated by travelling to Panama.

At the time, President Varela said that the landmark project for the expansion of the Silk Road passed through Panama, as did the 4 billion dollar plan to expand the canal and railway from Panama to Costa Rica.  The new President in power, however, has not followed the philosophy of his predecessor, terrified of displeasing the United States. Unfortunately, this news is not reported in the Italian press.

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