Armenia’s ongoing political drama intensified in mid-May when Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, reacting to a court’s decision to release former president Robert Kocharyan while he awaits trial on charges related to the government’s crackdown on protesters in 2008, called on his supporters to blockade the country’s courthouses to begin the “second phase” of the Velvet Revolution. On June 5, Pashinyan announced his plan to create a unified anti-corruption court with the aim of cleansing Armenia’s judicial system of corruption.
These developments underscore Pashinyan’s efforts to legitimize himself and his ruling coalition’s post-revolution vision for Armenia. To do so, Pashinyan and his government will need to pursue the key reforms he promised while leading the mass protest movement that deposed the former government and elevated him to Armenia’s premiership in April 2018.
Since its founding in 1949, NATO has grown from its twelve founding members to twenty-nine allies across North America and Europe. Outside of these allies, NATO has partnership agreements with more than forty countries. These include neighbors like Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, and Ukraine, as well as countries located further away, such as Australia, Japan, South Korea, Iraq, and Colombia. NATO partnerships enable cooperation through joint trainings and exercises, capability development, and political consultations, which enhance security and stability in NATO’s neighborhood and help prevent conflict and defend the Alliance’s core values.
A sigh of relief reverberated from Osaka when US President Donald J. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to resume trade negotiations. Important as it is, this agreement overshadowed another development which will weaken the world’s ability to forge a consensus to tackle pressing common challenges: the Group of Twenty (G20) has effectively turned into the ‘Group of Nineteen Plus One.’
With this in mind, Washington should adjust its coercive economic strategy to reflect a broader use of tools beyond sanctions. The end goal of a sanction should not merely be a penalty, but rather a change in an actor’s behavior. Given the degree of political interference in China’s banking system via formal state ownership and the indirect influence of opaque party committees, penalties imposed against the country’s banks, which conduct the majority of their operations in the domestic market, are unlikely to produce a meaningful change in behavior. Although in past disputes with European banks, the threat of secondary sanctions was potent, the wide array of state tools to support sanctioned banks, coupled with China’s hostility to the use of sanctions, reduces this leverage.
While headlines from the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Osaka, Japan understandably focused on the latest trade war truce between the powerhouse economies of China and the United States, media coverage unfortunately overlooked a strategically significant trade policy pivot at the summit.
The group of global policy makers in Osaka acknowledged the growing importance that the digital economy plays for supporting economic growth and innovation, and the need for the trade policy paradigm to account for this shift. While a substantial number of key policies needed to complete this shift remain incomplete, by turning their attention toward the digital economy global policy makers could help reignite discussion at the global multilateral trade level at a time when most are obsessed with bilateral negotiations.
No immediate political change is expected, as was evident from Babiš’ combative tone on June 26, before his government survived a no-confidence vote. The minority ruling coalition partner, the Social Democrats, decided to maintain their confidence in the Babiš government, despite strong internal tensions.
Trump, Kim agree to restart nuclear negotiations
On June 30, Donald J. Trump became the first US president to set foot in North Korea. Trump made history when stepped across a low concrete marker accompanied by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and walked a few steps into the North. The two leaders agreed to have their negotiators resume an effort to reach what has so far been an elusive nuclear deal.
“The United States, under the Trump administration, has disrupted the longstanding, but failing, US policies of past administrations by seeking to build trust from the top down,” said Barry Pavel, senior vice president, Arnold Kanter chair, and director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.
“This was helpful for reducing the near-term threat, but so far it is unclear whether it will help to achieve the denuclearization that we seek,” said Pavel. “How much trust building will be required before North Korea begins the process of denuclearization? Certainly, today’s ceremony and symbolism is not unhelpful, but it is unclear how and when this path will lead to a nuclear-free North Korea.”
Trump lifts some restrictions on Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei
US President Donald J. Trump agreed on June 29 to lift some restrictions on Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei and delay imposing new tariffs on Chinese goods. These concessions were announced following a meeting between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, at which the two leaders agreed to restart trade negotiations between their countries.
“Frankly, this was all fairly predictable,” said Mark Linscott, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and a former assistant US trade representative (USTR) for South and Central Asian Affairs.
“The two sides had already made progress before and intensifying the war is in neither side’s interest,” Linscott said, adding, “At this point, it seems a lot easier to impose tariffs than to lift them, so avoiding new ones makes a lot of sense, particularly to allow more space for negotiation.”