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Vietnamisation in space: America withdraws from ISS

Private enterprise is taking great strides in space. Recently, entrepreneur Elon Musk launched his own Tesla car into Martian orbit with the world’s most powerful rocket, his own Falcon Heavy. Other entrepreneurs are also making progress with rockets and spacecraft. Against this backdrop, the US

Assessing global threats

The US has delivered its annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, a useful document in that it provides a measure of transparency for judgements by the US intelligence community, yet which often tastes of cardboard – a bland, tick-the-box exercise that offers little genuine insight. Of course, the

Indonesia–US relations: sweating the small stuff

The US and Indonesia have declared an overarching “strategic partnership” to meet broader challenges, from regional architecture building to global governance. At least, this was the case under the Barack Obama (2008–16) and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004–14) presidencies. But under

Pakistan: A reluctant ally

In one of his first tweets of the year, US President Donald Trump launched a tirade against Pakistan. ‘The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years’, Trump fumed, ‘and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit’. Washington

A turning point in US economic relations with China

The US appears to have reached a turning point in its economic relationship with China. During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump accused Chinese policy makers of perpetrating the ‘greatest theft in the history of the world’ and blamed their foolish and incompetent American

Clear messages required in Twitter-age of diplomacy

Robert Ayson is quite right to pick me up on the distinction between pre-emptive and preventative military strikes. My post on Australia’s policy towards a US attack on North Korea argued Australia should make clear that it would not support a pre-emptive US strike at the North’s nuclear and

What should Australia rule out on North Korea?

In place of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's ambiguous commitment to support US military action against North Korea, Hugh White wants a clear statement ruling out Australia's participation in a 'pre-emptive' attack. But in turn there are two points of ambiguity in White's argument that may get in

Trump and the Russian ‘Wilderness of Mirrors’

Truth and Russian affairs do not sit comfortably together. Churchill observed in 1939 that Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, and we find ourselves today struggling with this intrigue amid persistent claims about Donald Trump and links to Russia. This struggle also speaks to

US-Russia relations: No light at the end of the tunnel

Each month – each week – brings new and alarming developments in US-Russian relations. No one seriously expects any improvement in the near future. The only question is: how much worse can things get? During the initial period of the Trump presidency, the fear was that Trump would make some

Is the US economy at full employment?

After the painfully slow recovery from the 2008 great Recession, US unemployment is now 4.4%, well below the level commonly regarded as 'full employment'. This would suggest that the economy has reached capacity, with some arguing that the current lacklustre rate of growth is in fact 

Australia needs to show some force

Last week key treaty allies South Korea and Japan joined the US Navy's 7th Fleet for separate joint exercises in the waters west of Japan in a demonstration of force against Pyongyang's latest taunts of nuclear war. However powerful this demonstration may have been, it was still missing one key US

Three questions about North Korea

Below, I tease out a few below-the-radar observations in the form of three questions. Each addresses the problem from a different angle. 1. Is the Trump Administration as serious about confronting North Korea as appears? It's tempting to hang the tag of adventurism on an impulsive character like

Convention likely to win out in Trump-Xi meeting

Of all the startling events of the Trump Administration's first three months, the one most consequential for the rest of the world is quite likely the meeting between Trump and China's President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Largo, beginning Thursday. The importance of this meeting is not any likely outcome

The strategic nous of H R McMaster

Given the extraordinary events that continue to take place in the United States, it is salutary to note that the appointment of General H R McMaster as President Doanld Trump's National Security Advisor took place a bare two weeks ago. At the time his appointment was widely welcomed, with reference

Letters from a more dignified America (Part 2)

This post is the second in a two-part series. For Part 1, click here. The second of Alistair Cooke's Letters from America I want to highlight honours General George Marshall. It was broadcast in 1959. Cooke says of Marshall that 'most Americans were willing to credit the reports of his eminence

Letters from a more dignified America

This post is the first in a two-part series. For Part 2, click here. As the world struggles to adjust to the Trump phenomenon, I’m reminded of a man who might have come closer than most to making sense of it all. Englishman Alistair Cooke, it can fairly be said, understood America better than

Abe's Trump moves: Proactive pragmatism at its finest

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has accomplished what no other foreign leaders has with US President Donald Trump. Not only has he already met him twice — once before and again just after the inauguration — but Trump appears to genuinely like Abe. Of course, the state of US-Japan relations

Joe Hockey and the limits of mateship

More details are emerging of the Australian government’s thinking on how to handle a volatile and erratic Trump White House, and how it might repair some of the damage following the now infamous telephone exchange between the US President and the Australian Prime Minister in early February.

Trump's info wars not so easily won

While it might be overshadowed by future revelations on the extent of Russian-American collusion in the rise and rule of President Donald Trump, this week’s departure of the president’s national security adviser Michael Flynn is now most notable for the roles played by US intelligence agencies

Is Trump reigniting the currency wars?

In 2010 Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega warned that a 'currency war' was underway. Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom were attempting to boost their limp post-2008 recoveries through quantitative easing (QE) policies, which not only lowered interest rates but also depreciated

Losing the plot on immigration policy

After three decades in the immigration business, I thought I understood how it worked, but now I am convinced I have lost the plot. In the past, governments that were concerned about security threats from individuals of particular nationalities might have quietly intensified scrutiny of visa

The three factors that will drive US policy in Asia

In the 10 days since his inauguration President Trump has sought to convey the appearance of a strong and energetic leader committed to delivering exactly what he promised. Executive orders have come thick and fast covering most of the major election issues including immigration bans, building the

Quick comment: Josh Kurlantzick on twilight wars

In this podcast, Josh Kurlantzick, Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council for Foreign Relations discusses twilight wars: those waged in the shadows, difficult for media to report and for legislators to monitor. Kurlantzick is the author of the recently published A Great Place to Have a

From Obama optimism to Trumpian gloom

When the heavens opened up and it started to rain just as President Donald J. Trump began his inaugural address, it was hard not to see it as an omen. Barack Obama, a relentless optimist and dedicated globalist is gone, replaced by a neophyte populist politician whose promise to 'make America great

Obama's legacy: Bold leadership on climate

Battling climate change was a signature issue of President Barack Obama’s tenure, particularly during the his second term. In contrast, President-elect Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, vowed to roll back climate regulations such as the Clean Power Plan (CPP

Trump's confused mercantilism

Among the foreign policy issues raised by the imminent Trump White House, one that has received a fair amount of commentary is the President-elect's mercantilist leanings; that is, a pragmatic approach that views the world through the prism of financial return on US investment of various

Obama's legacy: Leaving Northeast Asia on a high point

As US President Barack Obama leaves office, he bequeaths his successor a solid framework in northeast Asia, and decent relationships with its players, barring, of course, the extreme outlier of North Korea. The following is a general overview of his measured success: Regional context: The Pivot

Beware of provocation in the South China Sea

American Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson has provoked controversy with statements about possible actions by the United States in the South China Sea. In testimony at a confirmation hearing he suggested the US might deny China access to its artificial islands in the South China Sea. This

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