Saturday 31 Oct 2020 | 12:40 | SYDNEY
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United States

US: Powerful unions protect police – from reform

The death of George Floyd during an arrest by a Minneapolis police officer has set off a wave of protests across all 50 states of America. Even during an ongoing pandemic, the protests have been extensive and sustained. But these protests are not unique. Unfortunately, neither is George Floyd’s

Who really killed the Quad 1.0?

The tale has become accepted diplomatic folklore. In the telling, it was Australia, back in 2008 in the early days of the Rudd government, that decided to scuttle the then-nascent Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, the four-way talks also involving Japan, the United States and India. To compound

A G7+?

“Flattery with a catch” is the best way to describe Donald Trump’s call to include Australia in an expanded Group of 7 meeting, or G7. No doubt Canberra would love a seat at the top table. But the US President has also proposed bringing Russia back into the fold ­– which will be

Playing Monopoly in space

For the first time since 2011, US astronauts have been launched aboard a US spacecraft from US soil. The flight of a SpaceX capsule to the International Space Station with two NASA crewmembers has broken a long drought for crewed spaceflight. It also reduces America’s dependence on Russian Soyuz

The Trump card in the Sino-Indian rivalry?

As worrying details about the month-long India-China border dispute continue to pour in, Donald Trump, in his signature style, has muddied waters in two significant ways. First, on Wednesday morning, he tweeted: “We have informed both India and China that the United States is ready, willing and

Mauritius, Diego Garcia and the small matter of nukes

Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia is a key part of the US global military network. The dispute over sovereignty of Diego Garcia is heating up, with the UK coming under increasing pressure to cede it to Mauritius. Mauritius has indicated that if it regained control over Diego Garcia, it would allow

The battle for a Covid vaccine risks losing the “war”

Leaders of nations around the globe have resorted to the language of warfare to characterise their fight against Covid-19. From US President Donald Trump, who declared himself a “war president”, to China’s Xi Jinping committing to a “people’s war”, to Britain’s Prime Minister Boris

Diego Garcia: An American perspective

Diego Garcia is the United States’ major geostrategic and logistics support base in the Indian Ocean. Sovereignty over the island is increasingly being challenged by Mauritius, but it seems unlikely that Washington would be interested in a deal that would facilitate its transfer. The base has

America’s rudderless Covid response

Projecting optimism about US recovery from the coronavirus pandemic requires one to take the long view. America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, relative to the rest of the world, has been abysmal. The US has more than 30% of all cases, despite being home to only 5% of the world’s

For Australia, a testing friendship

It’s got nothing to do with Covid-19, but a fascinating short passage in Malcolm Turnbull’s new memoir is illustrative of the challenges Scott Morrison faces in dealing with US President Donald Trump, and how much Australia can rely on the US as it squares off in an increasingly sharp rhetorical

Weight on the scales

A few months back – only in January, yet seemingly a very different time ­– Mike Mazarr and I offered some initial reflections on America’s and China’s contrasting “theories of influence”. The article prompted a series of contributions, including an initial rejoinder from Sam Roggeveen

With US Afghan exit, Russia eyes Central Asian security

Three months have passed since the United States and the Taliban signed an “Agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan”. For the Americans, it aims to put an end to the US military intervention in Afghanistan, which has lasted more than 18 years. The provisions of the agreement stipulate a

Beyond Covid, might China overreach?

A major disruption and the emergence of a global threat in the shape of a pandemic may have been expected to foster closer global cooperation. While this may momentarily be true, as countries cooperate to strengthen their healthcare infrastructure and in seeking effective cures and vaccines, there

Discontinued: America’s Continuous Bomber Presence

Since 2004, the US Air Force has rotated heavy bombers through the Western Pacific island of Guam. But no more. The Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP), which started in President George W. Bush’s first term and continued through President Barack Obama’s two terms, has now been abruptly terminated

Who would Beijing prefer wins in November?

The 2020 US presidential election may well go down in history as the “China election”. Indeed, if the past month has been any indication, the narratives around this race for the White House will heavily feature how each candidate plans to manage the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the

Information warfare in the theatre of Covid-19

Chaos is a ladder, said Littlefinger in Game of Thrones. Crisis is an opportunity, Sun Tzu didn’t say in The Art of War. Either way, in the United States, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and “infodemic”, political chaos is a clear and present danger, and an opportunity, in the covert and

Is this the Kindleberger moment?

In 1973 Charles Kindleberger wrote his now acclaimed book on the Great Depression. He argued that it was “great” because the global economic system had lost its hegemon – in less exotic terms, its system manager. In the interwar period, the UK was the system manager, but given the grievous

In the US, a campaign with no trail

In the midst of a public health pandemic, the 2020 presidential election has receded into the background of American political life. Candidates have been forced off the campaign trail. There are no rallies for the press to cover and fundraising efforts are stalled. Most states with near-term

US regional leadership: A shot across the bow

For years at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the pre-eminent meeting of defence ministers held in Singapore, successive secretaries of defence from the United States have repeated ad nauseam that Washington is a “resident power” in the region.It is becoming increasingly evident that the Covid-19

China-US geopolitics in the age of corona

The coronavirus pandemic is a “black swan” moment: a rare and unpredictable event that could have momentous, system-wide, and unforeseen consequences. China deserves credit for having mobilised quickly, efficiently, and effectively after initial missteps to defeat the Covid-19 disease.

Joe Biden and the ghosts of elections past

Back in 2008, the Democrats were excited about Senator Barack Obama’s run for US President, but he was also perceived as a newcomer and a change agent. When Senator Joe Biden – who first ran for President in 1988 – agreed to sign on as Obama’s nominee for Vice President, he provided a

Iran: Sanctions vs sympathy

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown up some serious moral questions for society, including ones to do with decisions on treatment priorities for health workers under severe pressure. But another moral issue has arisen in the international relations field – in the midst of a pandemic, how appropriate

The curious case of the US Sri Lanka sanctions

In February, the United States imposed individual sanctions against Sri Lankan military chief Shavendra Silva, who is presently both the Acting Chief of Defence Staff and Commander of the Sri Lanka Army. The move essentially means that Silva and his family cannot enter the United States “due to

Who will be the 21st century’s rule maker?

Mike Mazarr and I are debating the way Asia will be “governed” in future. That term needs to be placed in quote marks because international affairs aren’t analogous to domestic politics – there is no supreme sovereign authority with a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, so states

Elizabeth Warren is far from finished

On Thursday afternoon in Boston this week, Senator Elizabeth Warren stood in front of her home with her husband Bruce Mann and dog Bailey to announce that she would be dropping out of the 2020 US presidential race. This outcome hardly seemed likely just five months ago, when Warren was leading the

Power and legitimacy go hand in hand

I was delighted to read Sam Roggeveen’s thoughtful reply to The Interpreter article by Ali Wyne and myself about the relative qualities of US and Chinese power. Roggeveen makes good points; I agree, for example, that US military power has been critical to the post-war order. But I remain convinced

Pushing the Philippines‑US alliance over the cliff

The termination of the 1998 Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) initiated by the Duterte administration will mark a historic disruption of American power projection in the Asia-Pacific, and deal a serious blow to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea–based maritime order

In Africa, the US plays catch-up with China

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced his first trip to Africa, 15–19 February, with stops in Senegal, Ethiopia, and Angola. The choice of these three countries demonstrates that the US remains focused on security and economic investment issues in Africa, and, in the case of Angola, is

Trump impeachment: The aftermath

Last week late on Wednesday afternoon, the 134-day impeachment proceedings against US President Donald Trump ended with a near party-line vote in the Senate in favor of acquittal. While few ever doubted this outcome, there were times when it seemed possible that three or four Republican Senators

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