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  • Author: Steven Pifer
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: For nearly five decades, Washington and Moscow have engaged in negotiations to manage their nuclear competition. Those negotiations produced a string of acronyms—SALT, INF, START—for arms control agreements that strengthened strategic stability, reduced bloated nuclear arsenals and had a positive impact on the broader bilateral relationship. That is changing. The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is headed for demise. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) has less than two years to run, and the administration of Donald Trump has yet to engage on Russian suggestions to extend it. Bilateral strategic stability talks have not been held in 18 months. On its current path, the U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control regime likely will come to an end in 2021. That will make for a strategic relationship that is less stable, less secure and less predictable and will further complicate an already troubled bilateral relationship.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Nuclear Power, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, North America
  • Author: Victor D. Cha
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: There were high expectations at the second meeting of American and North Korean leaders in Vietnam last month after the absence of progress on denuclearization commitments made at the first summit in Singapore last summer. Yet at Hanoi, not only were the two leaders unable to deliver an agreement with tangible steps on denuclearization, but they also dispensed with the joint statement signing, cancelled the ceremonial lunch and skipped the joint press conference. In a solo presser, President Donald Trump said that sometimes you “have to walk, and this was just one of those times.”[2] The President indeed may have avoided getting entrapped into a bad deal at Hanoi. What North Korea put on the table in terms of the Yongbyon nuclear complex addresses a fraction of its growing nuclear program that does not even break the surface of its underlying arsenal and stockpiles of fissile materials, not to mention missile bases and delivery systems. And what North Korea sought in return, in terms of major sanctions relief on five UN Security Council resolutions that target 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, would have removed one of the primary sources of leverage, albeit imperfect, on the regime. In this instance, no deal was better than a bad deal for the United States. Nevertheless, the Hanoi summit has left the United States with no clear diplomatic road ahead on this challenging security problem, a trail of puzzled allies in Asia and the promise of no more made-for-television summit meetings for the foreseeable future. The question remains, where do we go from here? When leaders’ summits fail to reach agreement, diplomacy by definition has reached the end of its rope. President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put on the best face they could in Hanoi, talking about closer understanding and continued good relations between the two sides as a result of the meetings, but the failed summit leaves a great deal of uncertainty going forward. South Koreans will frantically seek meetings with Washington and Pyongyang to pick up the pieces. The North Koreans already have sent an envoy to China to chart next steps. While I do not think this will mean a return to the “Fire and Fury” days of 2017 when armed conflict was possible, we have learned numerous lessons from Hanoi for going forward.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Deterrence, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Asia, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Alex Vatanka
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a cleric who will turn 80 in July 2019 and has ruled over Iran since 1989, has made a political career out of demonizing the United States. And yet, he knows full well that at some point—whether in his lifetime or after—Tehran has to turn the page and look for ways to end the bad blood that started with the birth of the Islamic Republic in 1979. But Khamenei’s efforts to make the United States a strawman are not easily undone in present-day Tehran, where anti-Americanism is the top political football, as the two main factions inside the regime—the hardliners versus the so-called reformists—battle it out for the future of Iran. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” on Iran has made it all but impossible for Khamenei to meet Washington half-way. Accordingly, the best Khamenei can do for now is to wait out the Trump White House. There will be no Khamenei-Trump summits. That much is abundantly clear if one listens to the chatter from Tehran. But the issue of possible relations with post-Trump America is still hotly contested in the Islamic Republic. In the meantime, with Trump’s re-imposition of sanctions from November 2018, Tehran’s hope in the short term is that Europe, together with Iran’s more traditional supporters in Moscow and Beijing, can give Iran enough incentive so that it can ride out the next few years as its economy comes under unprecedented pressure.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Sanctions, Domestic politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Earl Anthony Wayne
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: On November 30, the leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico signed a new trade agreement to succeed the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement. The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) modernizes the 25-year-old NAFTA, but the legislatures in all three countries must still approve it.[1] The new USMCA will preserve the massive trading and shared-production networks that support millions of jobs in the U.S., Mexico and Canada and the ability of North America to compete effectively with China, Europe and other economic powers. Approving USMCA this year is very much in the national interests of all three countries given the $1.3 trillion in trade between them and the many businesses, workers and farmers that depend on the commerce and co-production that interlinks North America. These economic relationships also strengthen the rationale for maintaining strong political relationships among the three neighbors. There was widespread agreement to update NAFTA to reflect the changes in trade practices and in the three economies since 1994.[2] NAFTA does not cover Internet-based commerce, for example. Other areas required modernization, including trade in services, protection of intellectual property rights (IPR), environment and labor, which is a priority for U.S. unions.[3] Mexico, Canada and the U.S. tried to accomplish this NAFTA update with negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, but in January 2017 President Donald Trump pulled out of TPP, preferring to renegotiate NAFTA.[4] Approval of USMCA by the U.S. Congress remains uncertain. A number of Democrats are asking for stronger enforcement commitment particularly regarding labor. Others express concern that USMCA provisions may keep some prescription medical costs high.[5] Business and agricultural associations are urging approval of USMCA because it will provide certainty to continue the cross-continental collaboration that preserves vital intra-North American markets for manufacturing, agriculture and services and helps them out-perform global competitors. In response to democrat and union concerns, USMCA’s advocates argue that it includes significantly stronger labor provisions and enforcement.[6] Before the agreement moves ahead, however, the three countries must also find a solution to the tariffs the U.S. put on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico in 2018 for “national security” reasons. In response, those countries imposed equivalent tariffs on a range of U.S. exports, spreading economic pain across all three countries.[7] Mexico and Canada, as well as key members of Congress, want this problem resolved before approving USMCA.[8] The U.S. International Trade Commission must also assess USMCA’s economic impact. This report is due in mid-April. The administration must also propose implementation legislation (and guidelines) before Congress formally considers the agreement. Congress will then have a limited time to act on USMCA under existing legislation, but members of Congress could drag the process out.[9] The political window for U.S. congressional approval will close this year, however, given the 2020 U.S. elections.[10] President Trump, USTR Lighthizer and others have begun lobbying for approval, as have Mexico and Canada more quietly. The months ahead will thus be vital for trade and long-term relationships in North America and for the continent’s ability to weather well future international competition. Given the enormous economic benefits of approving USMCA, the U.S. Congress, the Administration and the non-government stakeholders should engage intensively to find ways to address concerns raised and find a “win-win” way to approval. Fortunately, the United States public increasingly views trade in North America as positive. According to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, for example, those seeing NAFTA and now USMCA as “good” for the U.S. economy have grown significantly, rising from 53 percent in 2017 to 70 percent seeing USMCA as “good” this year. This is a solid foundation for rapid approval of USMCA.[11]
  • Topic: Regional Cooperation, NAFTA, Trade, USMCA
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada, North America, Mexico
  • Author: Bruce A. Heyman
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: Seeing the words “U.S.-Canada Trade War” in headlines is hard to imagine in any year, but to see them in 2018 was jarring. How is it possible that best friends and neighbors who have had the most successful trading relationship in the world now could have an association characterized by the word war? This is hard enough for the average American or Canadian to conceive of, but it was particularly hard for me to do so, as the U.S. Ambassador to Canada until January 20, 2017. When I left Ottawa, I was confident that the U.S.-Canada relationship was strong—indeed, perhaps never stronger. In March 2016, we had a state dinner in Washington for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the first in nearly 20 years. Then-President Barack Obama later repaid the favor and addressed the Canadian Parliament for the first time in more than 20 years. Our two-way trading relationship was valued at a huge $670 billion per year, and while no longer our largest, it was the most balanced, with the United States having a slight but rare trade surplus in goods and services. Through an integrated supply chain, our companies and citizens worked together. On average more than 400,000 people legally crossed our 5,525-mile non-militarized border daily for work and tourism. But the U.S.-Canada relationship was and is much larger than trade. Canadian and American troops have fought and died together from the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, and our countries are founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD)—a unique Canadian-American partnership—patrols the skies above our shared continent. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies constantly exchange information on threats from terrorism, nuclear proliferation, espionage and complex crimes. Our two countries work together to protect the environment and provide stewardship of the magnificent Great Lakes, where cities such as Toronto and my own Chicago are located. This dense web of mutually beneficial cooperation is based on a shared set of values. Both our countries settled the vast North American continent, providing undreamt-of opportunities to millions of immigrants. Both our countries have an abiding commitment to democracy and the rule of law, and when we fall short, we make the needed changes. Beyond our countries’ being next-door neighbors, the largest number of Americans living abroad live in Canada and the largest number of Canadians living abroad live in the U.S. We are best friends, but more important, we are family.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Culture, Trade Wars, Trade
  • Political Geography: United States, Canada, North America
  • Author: Julius Tsal
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: The Ambassador's Review
  • Institution: Council of American Ambassadors
  • Abstract: In 2018, the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi initiated people-to-people (P2P) exchanges to the United States for agricultural scientists and university leaders from the Russian-occupied Georgian territory of Abkhazia. An initial study tour in the spring of 2018 focused on mitigating the devastating agricultural damage from the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB), and a second tour in the fall of 2018 focused on higher education leadership. Despite political sensitivities and logistical hurdles, such people-to-people programs increase participants’ understanding of the United States and give them an unbiased, first-hand experience of American civil society, its culture of innovation and democratic values. For otherwise isolated Abkhaz thought leaders, these experiences directly counter Russian anti-Western propaganda and demonstrate the benefits of Georgia’s pro-Western choice.
  • Topic: Agriculture, Civil Society, Imperialism, Propaganda
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Eastern Europe, Georgia, North America