Although last week was eventful—China talks, Brexit debates, among other things—I’m going to take a week off from commenting on current events and instead look at the long term and the changing face of globalization. This is prompted by a McKinsey Global Institute study, Globalization in Transition: The Future of Trade and Value Chains.
The U.S. military’s vertical lift fleet of helicopters and tiltrotors is aging. With the exception of V-22 Osprey, no completely new aircraft designs have been introduced since the 1980s. Even the V-22 made its first test flight back in the 1980s. And the U.S. Army, which has the largest helicopter fleet and traditionally takes the lead on vertical lift innovation, has not made substantial investments in Research & Development since the cancellation of RAH-66 Comanche.
Gabriel Coll, Andrew Hunter
The announcement last October that U.S. policy in the wider Caribbean region would be working from an integrated vision to deal with the region’s three collapsing dictatorships, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, was significant. The notion of a “Troika of Tyranny,” as the U.S. national security advisor, John Bolton, termed it, begins to fill in a policy environment that in the past decade or more has lacked focus. For years, the United States has floundered in the region, evidenced by the absence of policy responses to Venezuela’s PetroCaribe regional discounted oil program, the years of tinkering in the hopes of reversing the Chavez-Maduro march into oblivion, as well as denial and then a belated recognition that an expanding geopolitical presence in the region by China has consequences.
Georges A. Fauriol
The Islamic State’s march across Syria and Iraq in 2014 and ensuing expansion via global affiliates posed a vexing challenge for the United States and key allies. The Islamic State sought not only to seize, govern, and defend territory as part of its so-called caliphate, but also to leverage these safe havens to build transnational terrorist networks. Countering the Islamic State would thus require large-scale ground operations to conquer the Islamic State proto-states and defeat its military forces, but the need to do so urgently and expeditiously to prevent external terrorist attacks. But who would conduct such a ground campaign?
Oil imports into the United States are falling, and the country even became a net oil exporter for one week in November 2018. This dramatic transformation is rightly attributed to the boom in oil production. But oil demand was, until recently, a co-equal partner. U.S. oil consumption fell by 11 percent between 2005 and 2012, or 2.3 million barrels a day (mmb/d), making a larger contribution to net imports than rising production (from 2005 to 2012, total petroleum production rose by 2 mmb/d). But oil demand has since recovered. According to preliminary data for 2018, oil demand surpassed 20 mmb/d for the first time since 2007 and will be just shy of the 2005 peak (20,524 mb/d versus 20,802 mb/d in 2005).
When President Trump declared on December 19 that U.S. troops in Syria were “all coming back and coming back now,” it plunged the future of the East of the country into uncertainty.1 Dynamics in Syria were already shifting against the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration (AA) in Northeast Syria, as threats from Turkey and the regime increased. The impending withdrawal of U.S. forces eliminates the AA’s main source of leverage over the Assad regime and increases its vulnerability to the Turkish invasion President Erdogan has threatened. Scrambling to avoid conflict, AA officials have turned to Russia to mediate a political deal with President Assad, hoping to restore regime control to Syria’s eastern borders in exchange for self-administration.
With Chinese vice premier Liu He coming to Washington, D.C. this week to engage in trade negotiations with his U.S. counterparts, this is an important time to take stock of the U.S.-China relationship, assess the goals of the talks, and chart a pathway forward.
Daniel H. Rosen, Scott Kennedy
It is far from clear that Al Qaida or ISIS can ever be fully defeated. The ISIS “caliphate” may be largely broken up, but substantial elements of both movements remain. New movements may emerge, and other movements may grow, and the demographic trends of Muslim-majority countries are a powerful warning that extremism may be a threat for decades to come.
By Anthony H. Cordesman
Thinking about the politics of trade in Congress over the past several weeks has made me curious about how trade skeptics think about the issue. On the Republican side, where that group has grown bigger during the Trump presidency, it appears to be largely wanting to support the president, either out of agreement or out of fear of retribution from him or his base voters in their district. Philosophically, there has also been a gradually growing fear of sovereignty infringement. Trade agreements, like treaties, inevitably tie our hands and prevent us from doing exactly what we would like at any given moment, whether we can articulate what that might be or not. That, of course, is an argument against any foreign entanglements, but it has clearly affected the trade debate.
This winter, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) published negotiating objectives for upcoming trade negotiations with the European Union andJapan. The objectives lay out specific outcomes the Trump administration will seek in its trade negotiations with each country. The European Union and Japan agreed to separate trade negotiations with the Trump administration in exchange for a pledge that the United States would not impose additional tariffs on products from the European Union and Japan while the talks were underway.
William Reinsch, Jack Caporal