Foreign Affairs

Russians and Saudis Pledge Joint Effort to Limit Oil Production

Bloomberg Markets: “Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s two largest crude oil producers, said they’re ready to cooperate to limit output, helping send prices to a one-year high in London.”

“Coordinated output curbs by Russia and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, who together pump about half the world’s oil, could boost fuel prices for consumers and revive the fortunes of a battered energy industry. While Putin’s comments are the firmest indication yet that such an agreement is possible, Russia is still pumping at record levels and has stopped short of a commitment to pull back. OPEC members also have many hurdles to overcome before implementing their first cuts in eight years.”

How to Fulfill the Promise of the Paris Climate Deal

Carter Roberts and Ray Offenheiser: “By the end of this week, the United States, China, India, the European Union, Canada and more than 50 other countries will have legally joined the agreement, crossing the thresholds that brings the pact into full legal force. Under its terms, the agreement comes into force 30 days after 55 nations, representing 55% of global greenhouse emissions, legally join. These dual thresholds were chosen to ensure that the new deal becomes binding only when both the biggest polluting nations, and a large share of all countries, large and small, are on board.”

“As we look ahead to this new chapter, the choice is between cooperation or division. The Paris Agreement happened because leaders worked together, sometimes at great political risk. And more is needed. The reality is that no single country can solve this problem alone. Our success here in the U.S. relies on success in places like India and Mexico. We need to invest in those places too if we hope to meet our goal.”

How America Will Accidentally Join the Syrian War

Micah Zenko: “During Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate, there was a brief exchange between the moderator and candidates that perfectly captured the muddled confusion over potential new U.S.-led military missions in Syria. It showcased the type of slippery and imprecise rhetoric that could easily result in the United States entering a war the public opposes.”

Pence called for the U.S. to “immediately establish safe zones so that vulnerable families with children can move out of those areas, work with our Arab partners real-time, right now to make that happen.”

Kaine’s response: “I said about Aleppo, we do agree [that] the notion is we have to create a humanitarian zone in northern Syria.”

“People running to serve as commander in chief, or even commander in chief in-waiting, should not be allowed by debate moderators or interviewers to toss out distinct military missions offhandedly without being pressed for specifics on how they would be implemented. A humanitarian zone is not a safe zone, which is not a no-fly zone. Each requires different levels of military commitment, different basing and overflight rights, different degrees of logistics and analytical support, and ultimately would affect the behavior of the combatants in the Syrian civil war differently.”

Unwinding NAFTA Would Come at a Huge Cost

New York Times: “The view among mainstream economists is that NAFTA, over all, has raised incomes in the United States while also costing it thousands of manufacturing jobs. But whether you view the agreement as a net positive or a net negative for the country, the reality is that the United States, Canada and Mexico are now for all practical purposes a single integrated economy. That has wide-ranging consequences — especially if the next president tries to reshape or abandon the deal.”

Upon NAFTA’s repeal, “either major American industries would have to figure out how to restructure themselves to rely less on the movement of goods across borders, or the United States would find itself poorer and more of an island in the global economy.”

The United Nations Will Launch Its First Space Mission in 2021

Motherboard: “Considering that the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has been around for over half a century, it might seem a bit strange that the organization has never launched its own space mission. This is finally slated to change in 2021, when the UN plans to send a spacecraft into orbit.”

“As detailed for a small crowd at the International Astronautical Congress yesterday, the goal of the 2021 UN mission is to make space accessible to developing member states that lack the resources to develop a standalone, national space program.”

“‘While these experiments may seem small to us, if you go to these countries you realize this is perhaps one of the biggest things they’ve ever done,’ said Mark Sirangelo, the corporate vice president of Sierra Nevada’s Space Systems. ‘The young researchers that will be working on this [mission] all around the world will be able to say that they are part of the space community.'”

Preparing for North Korea’s Inevitable Collapse

Eli Lake: “Crimes against humanity generally cost a regime its legitimacy, if not its sovereignty. And yet most national security professionals would regard the collapse of the North Korean slave state as a calamity. The reason for this is simple: all the nuclear weapons and material.”

“Trying to secure all this after a chaotic collapse or overthrow of the Kim regime would be a nightmare.”

“A far better use of American diplomacy is to quietly push China and South Korea to begin planning with the U.S. for the day the North Korean regime falls. It’s a long shot.”

“That said, North Korea is a time bomb for China as well as for the U.S. Beijing is worried about refugees coming over its border, and loose nukes would be as much a danger to China as to America’s East Asian allies.”

How Foreing Aid Can Build Trust Between Citizens and Governments

Ray Offenheiser: “It has become fashionable to suggest that foreign aid is becoming obsolete in our modern era.”

“This is nonsense; for the poorest people and countries, aid is as relevant as ever. Other resources such as private finance and tax revenue are large when measured globally. But they are distributed very unevenly, favoring countries and areas that are already making the most development progress. Left behind are those countries with the biggest challenges, that cannot raise enough tax revenue or attract enough private investment. Also left behind are people in high-growth countries who have been shut out of progress—often because wealthy elites have actively excluded them.”

Too often in the past, aid has been used to work around the challenges of governance. In order to make sure that everyone can escape extreme poverty, we need a new approach to aid that actually puts poor countries and people in the lead to solve their own challenges.”

“In this new vision, aid helps countries mobilize and sustain financing for their own development priorities, strengthen governments’ ability to deliver the development results their citizens demand, help citizens demand the investments and outcomes they need, and deliver outcomes that last over time.”

Someone Is Learning How to Take Down the Internet

Bruce Schneier: “Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet. These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down. We don’t know who is doing this, but it feels like a large a large nation state. China and Russia would be my first guesses.”

“The attacks are also configured in such a way as to see what the company’s total defenses are.”

“What can we do about this? Nothing, really. We don’t know where the attacks come from. The data I see suggests China, an assessment shared by the people I spoke with. On the other hand, it’s possible to disguise the country of origin for these sorts of attacks. The NSA, which has more surveillance in the Internet backbone than everyone else combined, probably has a better idea, but unless the U.S. decides to make an international incident over this, we won’t see any attribution.”

“But this is happening. And people should know.”

History Says Trade Protectionism Has Never Worked

Third Way: “A central tenet of Donald Trump’s platform is to enact a series of protectionist trade measures to isolate the United States from the rest of the global economy. Specifically, Trump wants to levy tariffs of 45% on Chinese goods and 35% on Mexican goods, in addition to withdrawing from a number of multilateral agreements—all in the hopes of undoing globalization.”

“Would Trump’s isolationist policy work? If you look back, the United States has implemented protectionist policies on a number of occasions. And the results have been the same: grave economic consequences.”

Congress Needs to Warn Russia on Election Interference

Council on Foreign Relations: “…fortifying our voting system so it will deflect any attempts by Russia to interfere with it are likely to fall short. Instead, Russia must be deterred from making the attempt. That begins and ends with Congress.”

“Normally, the standard operating procedure following the leaked details of an FBI investigation would be some strong words at a White House press briefing, possibly followed by a formal rebuke from the State Department. Given the partisan nature of the issue and President Obama’s outspoken support for Secretary Clinton, Moscow is likely to interpret his administration’s threats as empty.”

“That is why Congress must take the first step in coordination with the Obama administration. Congress should issue a resolution condemning interference in our election by cyber or other means, accompanied by a joint statement of the leaders of the House and Senate. The resolution should make clear that the United States will regard any foreign attempt to interfere with the outcome of the election as a hostile act.”

Why the U.S. Should Make China a Partner in Space

Bloomberg View: “Since 2011, Congress has banned NASA from almost any direct interaction with China, in the hope of preventing espionage. Banning cooperation is rarely a sign of enlightened policy making, and in this case it’s especially short-sighted: The potential benefits of working together in space have never been greater.”

“Outside Congress, there’s plenty of demand for doing so. Top space officials in both countries favor more cooperation. So do many scholars, analysts, scientists and astronauts.”

“What they all understand is that the Cold War model of space research — in which a few rival militaries worked in isolation, keeping their discoveries secret — is becoming obsolete, and new possibilities are fast emerging. Space is now a $330 billion industry, employing perhaps a million people. More countries are involved, supply chains are global, and entrepreneurs are eroding the old defense monopolies.”

“That’s to everyone’s benefit. The markets for services such as navigation, data transmission and communication are increasingly competitive. More and more industries are relying on space-based gear, from banks and insurers to truckers and farmers. As the cost of getting stuff into orbit comes down, once far-fetched ideas — laser communication, asteroid mining, even space-based energy production — are on the not-too-distant horizon.”

House Votes to Let 9/11 Victims Sue Saudi Arabia

CNN: “Defying a veto threat from the Obama administration, the House of Representatives easily passed legislation that would allow terror victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001 to sue Saudi Arabia.”

“The Senate passed the measure by voice vote in May, but the administration has argued it would complicate diplomatic relations with a key ally in the region and warned against moving it forward.”

“Recently unclassified documents detail contact and support between some of the hijackers and individuals who may have been connected to the Saudi government. The ’28 pages’ that were long secret also note suspicions about ties between the Saudi royal family and al Qaeda, though the documents also say the speculations have not been verified.”

Greece’s Economic Woes Pose Challenges to the EU

The Guardian: “In many ways, the Greek debt drama has disappeared in the folds of other crises now stalking Europe: in quick succession, fractious debate has moved from the influx of refugees through the Aegean islands to repeated terrorist attacks and Britain’s shock referendum vote to leave the EU.”

“The runaway train that was carrying Greeks downhill at the height of the crisis has slowed down to the point where loss and sacrifice have almost been normalized.”

“Anti–EU sentiment is on the rise. In October, 70% thought it better for Greece to remain in the single currency; by July those backing the euro had fallen to 50%. Real recovery can only come if the country’s staggering debt burden is reduced.”

“‘If we continue down this road, a fourth, even a fifth, bailout should be expected,’ says Aristides Hatzis, associate professor of law and economics at Athens University. ‘I don’t see any progress. The economy is stagnant, the private sector devastated, the public administration underfunded and ineffective. And there is always the spectre of Grexit at the end of the tunnel.'”