I have this miserable feeling that what is purported to be a debate including foreign policy on October 19th in Las Vegas, NV will devolve into a session about emails/Benghazi… both manufactured outrages which are GOP specialties.
Meanwhile in our very real world there are some important issues which are not being addressed, not being explained for the American public. Here are a few —
Greece. If we thought this issue of a European Union country in dire financial straits as over – think again. There is currently more happy talk about the restoration of the Greek economy, but yet more bail out money is in the offing. Another $3.1 billion loan has been authorized to the government.
“Greece’s debt stands at about 180 percent of Gross Domestic Product and the International Monetary Fund has been arguing that the primary surplus targets set by Athens’ creditors to secure the massive rescue loans will prove too tough to respect. It remains unclear whether the IMF will take part in future loans without some form of debt reduction, something the 19-nation eurogroup is reluctant to discuss, given the many billions already spent on keeping the country afloat.” [USNWR]
In other words the economic/foreign policy questions related to the Greek economic crisis and its implications hasn’t been resolved, it’s merely been postponed. I’d like to hear candidates discuss how the US should address problems created in the Greek/Eurozone economy by the aggregation of debt and the reluctance of bond holders to reduce their interest rates or renegotiate the rates. I don’t think we’re going to hear it.
China. There will probably be some references to China in terms of US trade, and the balance of trade between the US and China – but let’s guess that there will be radio silence on the freedom movement in Hong Kong. The democracy movement is still alive in that area, the vestiges of the Umbrella Revolution survive, but the delicate balance of interests has implications for US policy in the region. Will the fate of the Umbrella Revolution be referenced in foreign policy debates? Probably not.
South China Sea. Here’s a situation fraught with consequences for the region, and for US interests. China seeks to expand its influence in the area, the position of the Philippine government remains unclear. China has made inferences to US ‘intervention’ in the area, and has told New Zealand to ‘butt out.’ [NZHerald] Meanwhile, Indonesia has made a show of force in the South China Sea, and Japan is joining US patrols. Singapore has expressed concern over the safety of fishermen and coast guard patrols, even though it is not a claimant in any territorial disputes. Explication? Again, likely not.
Democratic Republic of Congo. The election disputes turned deadly in late September. President Kabila’s term is supposed to end in December, but elections have been put on hold, precipitating the violence. The Vatican has weighed in, calling for a peaceful resolution of the election issues. The US State Department issued a revised travel warning for the country five days ago.
“The potential for civil unrest remains high in Kinshasa and other major cities. In addition armed groups, bandits, and some elements of the Congolese armed forces continue to engage in murder, kidnapping, and robbery in a number of areas of eastern DRC. Very poor transportation infrastructure throughout the country and poor security conditions make it difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services anywhere outside of Kinshasa.” [USSoS]
Is the US prepared to react to continued civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo? At what point does the US express its position, and make it clear we’d support UN initiatives to secure a peaceful transition of power? We aren’t likely to find out during campaign season.
Turkey. The coup attempt in Turkey created problems for US – Turkey relations. [Fortune] The relationship was complicated in the first place, and isn’t likely to get simplified any time soon. [WaPo] Subtopics include our relationship with the Kurds, our relationship with the Erdogan government, our relationship with NATO. And then there are Pentagon discussions about arming the YPG. The situation is further complicated by talks between Russia and the Erdogan government over a pipeline.
Russia and Eastern Europe. Two days ago the Polish government expressed its disapproval of Russian missiles being deployed in Kaliningrad, in an area bordering Poland and Lithuania. [Reuters] The Estonians weren’t pleased by the moving of the Iskander-M missiles either. [Guardian] The situation became more ‘touchy’ with Estonian charges of Russian incursions into Estonian air space. [EuOnline] These aren’t issues to be minimized especially in light of Russian activities in Ukraine.
Putin is now claiming that Russian was “forced” to defend Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, “Putin had denied sending troops into Crimea, before annexing it in 2014, and issued similar denials regarding Donbas. However, he has issued statements seemingly admitting to armed Russian presence in both regions since.” Said Putin, stating the obvious. The situation is rendered more tenuous as Germany is downplaying the idea of Four Way Summit on Ukraine. [Reuters] There are talks scheduled for this Thursday and Friday, but evidently not much hope for any progress toward ending Russian incursions or the ‘separatist’ movement in eastern Ukraine. The fighting continues.
Without a better and fuller discussion of foreign policy issues in the political arena, Americans may have to live up to the old saw, “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”