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President Trump and International Relations

The Stinker

Courtesy Maureen Barlin/Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

This article was originally published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) on 18 November 2016.

The election of Donald Trump raises justifiable concerns over how he will handle the crises and conflicts he inherits: war in Syria, conflict in Ukraine, tensions in the South China Sea, North Korean provocations and the fight against terrorism. Yet Germany and Europe – and policy-relevant research – must also examine the broader repercussions for international relations. The following five initial theses require deeper analysis.

A Defeat for Liberalism

Donald Trump’s victory represents a hard knock for the West’s normative bedrock of liberalism. Liberal values of the kind Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised in her congratulatory message to the president-elect are on the defensive – first and foremost within the United States. Autocrats and supporters of various strands of illiberal democracy, like Putin, Erdogan or Orban, may feel vindicated and energised, while the EU will have to work harder to champion liberal democratic values. European states will inevitably see impacts on their external relations. Although Europe has shown little enthusiasm for talk of the “end of history”, both Europe and the United States have tacitly or explicitly assumed that the liberal democratic models will gradually win the day. Internationally, the EU member states must expect to hear increasing arguments that their form of liberal democracy is only one of several acceptable governance models. This could also have effects on international efforts to stabilise and rebuild fragile and failed states.

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It´s going to be a Bumpy Ride: The US-led World Order is Tipping Further into Decline

Post Apocalyptic Vision

Courtesy Mary Anne Enriquez/Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This article was originally published by the Lowy Institute on 21 November 2016.

As the Trump juggernaut rolled across the US on election day, turning the political map red, anxious foreign leaders began to contemplate a new world order of a kind few had envisaged.

Could it be that Donald Trump, the quintessential change agent, would administer the last rites to Pax Americana, the US-led rules-based Western order that had prevailed since 1945, thereby achiev­ing what China, Russia and legions of anti-American jihadists had failed to bring about?

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen believes Donald Trump’s shock win signals the end of Pax Americana. Many others agree, among them former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr, who sees the failure of Barack Obama’s signature Trans-Pacific Partnership as ‘symbolic of the dismantling of the post-World War II order in which the US had sought a global leadership role’.

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How Europe should Deal with a Trump Administration

American Eagle

Courtesy Steve Snodgrass/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Elcano Royal Institute on 11 November 2016.

It is very tempting for political leaders to react to Donald Trump’s victory with anger or disdain. Leaders who express such sentiments can be sure to be applauded. And we have seen plenty of such statements over the past few days.

But to alienate the next US President is unwise, as it will harm European interests. Instead, Europe must try to influence Trump’s policies and his decision-making by engaging with him. And it must start to work on a plan B.

Geopolitically, Europe is far from being strong or independent enough to survive a more or less hostile Trump presidency without major damage. It needs an active and engaged US to keep NATO alive and kicking, to help manage relations with Russia and to deal with growing instability in the Middle East and North Africa. Furthermore, Europe has a major interest in being involved in US-Chinese relations, as peace in East Asia is vital for the European economy.

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The ‘History Problem’ in Sino-Japanese Relations: What’s the Problem?

 Chinese Propaganda Poster

Courtesy Pedro Ribeiro Simões/Flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations on 31 October 2016.

The so-called history problem has long been seen by academics and pundits as a key obstacle to the improvement of bilateral relations between China and Japan. In the academic literature, the problem is typically described as consisting of a number of sub-issues related primarily to Japan’s attitude towards its invasion of China in the 1930s and 1940s, an attitude that many regard as insufficiently repentant. In this literature the meaning of the history problem tends to be understood as fixed rather than as something that changes over time. Even though numerous discussions of the problem exist and many observers agree on its importance for Sino-Japanese relations, the question of how the history problem itself is understood within Japan and China has received surprisingly scant attention. This article, by contrast, argues that while the specific sub-issues viewed as being part of the problem are indeed important, currently the most fundamental and overlooked aspect of the history problem in Sino-Japanese relations is the lack of agreement on what exactly the problem is.

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Interview – Elizabeth Shakman Hurd

Behold the Two Headed Spanish Horse

Courtesy Alan Levine/Flickr

This interview transcript was originally published by by E-International Relations (E-IR) in September 2016.

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd is Professor of Political Science and Religious Studies at Northwestern University. Professor Hurd’s latest book Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion (Princeton, 2015) has attracted international attention by framing important debates around what the author believes is a problematic intersection of policy, religion and political interest in global affairs today. In this interview she discusses the implications of her scholarship and where she believes the study of religion in IR is headed.

What motivated you to write your latest book Beyond Religious Freedom?

Beyond Religious Freedom is my response to what I see as a need to rethink how we approach the study of religion and politics in the field of international relations. There’s been a gold-rush mentality lately as scholars scurry to ‘get religion right’ – but many of these efforts are confused, or even troubling. The problem, as I discuss in more detail elsewhere, is that international relations ‘got religion’ but got it wrong. Beyond Religious Freedom encourages scholars to step back from the political fray. It neither celebrates religion for its allegedly peaceful potential nor condemns it for its allegedly violent tendencies. Instead, I propose a new conceptual framework for the study of religion and public life. It accounts for the gaps and tensions that I perceived between the large-scale international legal, political and religious engineering projects undertaken in the name of religious freedom, toleration, and rights, and the realities of the individuals and communities subjected to these efforts.

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