Monday, January 30, 2017

Dealing with President Donald Trump

This was published on the ORF website on November 10, immediately after the US elections. (Posting it late as usual!).

As the shock of the US election result wears off, the reality of having to figure out how to deal with new President Donald Trump becomes imperative. The normal guide-posts that we would use to evaluate the foreign and security policies of any candidate for high-office are the candidate’s election programme or manifesto, statements made during or before the campaign or the candidate’s previous political record. Unfortunately, none of the usual guideposts are very useful in helping us wade through Trump’s worldview, policy preferences or priorities. Trump seems to make up policies on the go, and there are some contradictions in what he has said on foreign policy issues, though some analysts such as Thomas Wright have argued that there is some long-term consistency to Trumps foreign policy pronouncements.

The problem is compounded by Trump’s lack of any previous political or administrative
position of responsibility in the government or the legislature. Focusing on what Trump said during the campaign, the only other source of his thinking paints a mixed picture, for three reasons. The first is that some of his policies are internally contradictory: for example, he blames the Obama administration for ignoring American allies, but also blames American allies as free-riders who don’t pay their fair share of the defence burden. The second is that some of his policies will clash with other policies: he wants to cooperate with Russia in Syria in tackling the threat of the Islamic State but also takes a hard line on Iran, with which Russia is aligned in Syria. Finally, it is not clear whether his statements on foreign policy are personal ruminations or well-thought policy positions. His foreign and security policy agenda are somewhat thin on specifics, though some of his speeches provide some details.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

China and the Global Nuclear Order

I took part in a three-part debate in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, along with Hua Han and Gregory Kulacki, on China's role in the global nuclear order.  All three of my short contributions, as well as that of the my co-panelists can be found here.

India and NSG: It's Simply Power Politics

I wrote a brief piece for the Indian Foreign Affairs Journal (July-September 2016 issue) on what India should do about the Nuclear Supplier's Group (NSG).

Three basic realities have to dictate India’s approach to the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The most important is that India’s bid will be decided by power politics, not by the merits of India’s case. This simple reality has to determine India’s strategy in pursuing the membership. A second reality has to have an equally important consideration in India’s policy choices: membership of the NSG is important but not vital for India. Finally, though the US can help somewhat in supporting the Indian case for membership, it has so far not been able to overturn China’s veto. What this means is that if entrance to the NSG is considered sufficiently important for India, India will have to bargain with China, which is complicated by another imperative: that India must not let go of the moral high-ground that it has over China as a consequence of China’s unprovoked unfriendly act of blocking India’s membership in the first place.

The full essay is available here.