Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Sitrep - 16 November, 2016

The US elected Donald Trump to office on November 8. Despite his campaign talking points, the invisible hand of geopolitics will continue to direct his presidency. The President-elect’s introduction to international relations this week will present to him the left and right-hand boundaries of choices available in the most complex era in modern US history. Mr Trump is about to see reality.

Following the election results, sitting President Barack Obama announced his intention to cease lobbying for the passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Although he still has the option to ask the Senate to move quickly on the trade deal before his term finishes, he may choose to leave the final decision on TPP to the President-elect.

In failing to pass TPP, Mr Obama has no one to blame but himself. He spent almost no political capital on the deal and avoided every chance to sell the agreement to the American people. It reflects his overall poor US engagement with Asia as well, a consequence of which will be Asian nations choosing to act without the US as first priority in the future.

Mr Trump’s campaign also attracted plenty of connection with Russia, some of it unwelcome. Russian president Vladimir Putin is reportedly pleased with the US election result. The US and Russia are clashing at a deep geopolitical level and Mr Putin considers the looming Trump administration as a chance to return to the negotiation table with fresh seriousness.

Ukraine is still at the centre of all Russian foreign actions. It is integral to the coherency of the Russian state, and Mr Putin will continue to push for the country not to align with Europe. The US is concerned a Russian victory over Ukraine may embolden it to drive further west. Ultimately, the best outcome is a neutral Ukraine, which will frustrate Kiev, but could avoid sending Eastern Europe to war.

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