If ever there was a “wrong war at the wrong time,” the transatlantic trade conflict that’s boiling this summer defines it.
President Trump’s own National Security Strategy describes the primary US challenge to be major power competition with authoritarian China and Russia, yet the world’s leading democracies instead could be locked in a series of morale-sapping, growth-slowing and politically polarizing skirmishes.
A gathering of more than sixty Afghans in Qatar this week provided a rare opportunity for frank discussion on the open questions facing a society still gripped in a decades-long conflict. A group of Kabul-based political, civil society, and government-endorsed representatives sat across from more than a dozen Taliban political officers, in a wrenching exchange of grievances, hopes, and fears about a slew of long-standing and contentious issues.
A few years ago, I was asked by an international journalist to comment on rumors about the presence of French troops in eastern Libya. Purportedly, France was actively supporting former Qaddafi army general Khalifa Haftar in his attempt to expand his control over the entire region of Cyrenaica. This was done under the pretext of combating Islamic radical terrorists and other opponents of the general, who had been appointed as Marshal by the rubber stamp Libyan parliament in Tobruk.
Amidst rising discord between the United States and Europe over trade, financial contributions to NATO, and the threat from Iran, US policy makers should stop viewing Europe as a competitor, but rather as a friend whose prosperity and unity helps the United States, Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš said on July 10.
“The [European Union] is the United States’ most natural ally,” Kariņš said at an Atlantic Council event on July 10 in Washington. “It is a friend that you don’t have to gain…[but] it is a friend that you can lose,” he warned. “Europe without the United States and the United States without Europe are only half [powers]. Combined, [they are] the leading power in the world to protect these three fundamental [principles] that too many people take for granted: freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.”
London’s top representative in Washington has resigned his post after unprecedented pressure from the White House against a top US ally, the latest sign of an increasingly rocky special relationship.
Sir Kim Darroch, the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States since 2016, announced his resignation on July 10 after days of pressure over comments he made about US President Donald J. Trump in a series of secret diplomatic cables—leaked to The Daily Mail and published on July 6—that described the US president as “incompetent,” and his administration as “uniquely dysfunctional.”
The US administration just announced a new $4 billion list of European Union (EU) products which it could apply additional tariffs on in response to the ongoing dispute between both sides of the Atlantic over government subsidies to aerospace companies Boeing and Airbus. While the United States thinks it can create better economic outcomes by forcing concessions out of Europe, this new action will only continue the lose-lose spiral of threats gripping the transatlantic trade relationship. Washington could pursue a different strategy, however, by legitimately working with Europe to reduce government subsidies, while also taking tangible steps to strengthen antitrust enforcement at home. The transatlantic trade environment, growth prospects, and public finances would greatly benefit from such a change in approach.
On June 20, thousands of Georgians took to the streets of the capital, Tbilisi, to express their disapproval of a Russian lawmaker addressing the Georgian parliament from the speaker’s chair. Sergei Gavrilov, a Russian State Duma deputy and president of the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy, visited Georgia for the convening of the organization’s 26th General Assembly, an event designed to foster relations between Orthodox Christian lawmakers. The procession, however, was cut short by opposition politicians who doused Gavrilov with water before he was escorted out of the building.
Snap parliamentary elections in Greece on July 7 produced a victory for the political center, bucking a growing trend of populist victories across Europe. The triumph of the center-right New Democracy party and poor showing of extremist parties demonstrates that “Greece is now reinforcing the strength of the center in European politics, rather than fueling a move toward the fringes,” Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson said.
Dangers are accelerating to the democratic ideals that the American Revolution inspired. If no unanticipated shock disrupts current trajectories – say a democratic uprising in China, a Russian regime change or, still significant, a Venezuelan dictator’s decline – autocratic powers will surpass democracies in their economic size and influence within the coming decade.