Monday 30 Nov 2020 | 00:31 | SYDNEY
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United States

A Biden presidency and US-Russia relations

Moscow’s muted reaction to Joe Biden’s election victory is unsurprising, and speaks volumes. The Kremlin is likely bracing itself for more confrontation with Washington, as US policy towards Russia hardens. That’s saying something. Since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and revelations

The Democrats’ voter problem

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have, thankfully, won the 2020 election. Despite President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede, the results are clear. Yet of over 152 million people voting, the largest US election turnout in over 100 years, some 48%, more than 73 million people, voted for Trump. Such

America’s divisions are real, and not going away

Over the course of the Trump presidency, it has been possible to isolate political moments and assess their meaning. But it has been difficult to tell a coherent story about the state of American politics since 2016. Noise, acrimony and emotion are constants in modern America, but living with Donald

Leading by example: Two different responses to China’s rise

Australia and the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) stand as critical security partners with the United States, and have supported the open, rules-based international order for well over half a century. Both have shed blood in this mission, standing with the US in every war since the Korean war

What does a Biden administration herald for New Zealand?

Joe Biden’s election victory will be greeted in Wellington, as in many other world capitals, with a collective sigh of relief. That’s understandable. But what will the Biden presidency actually mean for New Zealand? The government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will welcome a Biden

A chance for the US to change its tune on justice

On Monday last week, 72 countries at the United Nations offered their “unwavering support” for the International Criminal Court (ICC). Among them were Australia, Canada, the UK, France and others that have signed the Rome Statute, which established the ICC. In doing so, these states expressed

Joe Biden: Big questions and great expectations

Scott Morrison wasted no time. He wants Joe Biden to visit Australia next year to mark 70 years since the ANZUS Treaty was signed. That’d be 1 September 2021, were the trip to fall on the anniversary date. Let’s hope there’s no mandatory 14 days quarantine for international travellers by

Can Trumpism live without Trump?

Donald Trump has lost the presidency, but the 2020 election has confirmed the extraordinary mobilising power of his movement. He still won close to half of an unusually high turnout. Republicans are likely to keep their majority in the Senate (depending on the outcome of a runoff in Georgia in

A Trump legacy?

The “who won” question isn’t quite resolved. Bleary-eyed pundits fossicking over every county result are making about as much sense – and as much noise — as a flock of seagulls scrabbling for chips on the beach. Joe Biden might just have the numbers. But Donald Trump hasn’t been blown

Blurring fact and fiction in the US election

Imagine if stories of the US election were being reported as an event in the developing world: the president, who was elected amid controversy surrounding foreign interference in the election, has encouraged intimidation and violence by informal militias. Armed groups have stormed state legislatures

America in 2020: The view from here

With 3 November looming, the time is right to review the state of US foreign policy in this most unruly of years. Over the course of 2020, the Lowy Institute has published more than a hundred analyses, opinion pieces, podcasts and policy briefs on the subject of Australia’s alliance partner, the

Why Kim Jong-un will soon miss Donald Trump

If US President Donald Trump loses the 3 November election, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un will be first in line to mourn Trump’s departure from the White House. Despite a rocky start (those months of “fire and fury” seem a lifetime ago), the Trump-Kim relationship has grown incredibly in

Inciter in chief

We are days out from one of the most consequential presidential elections in United States history. The stakes this time are extraordinarily high, and concerns around how election day will play out are at a peak – and not just in terms of vote tallies. In one of the world’s most enduring

US election: A Democratic trifecta is within sight

The pollsters at FiveThirtyEight forecast that the Democrats are poised to win the trifecta – presidency, House and Senate – on 3 November. Their analysis gave Joe Biden an 87% chance of winning the White House, and the Democratic Party a 96% chance of maintaining control of the House of

Donald Trump. Crisis? What Crisis?

Thomas Wright’s Lowy Institute analysis “The Point of No Return: The 2020 Election and the Crisis of American Foreign Policy” is a very good summary of challenges facing any incoming Biden administration. But while Wright describes well the likely tensions of Biden’s foreign policy – as a

Reckoning with a post-Trump America

With less than a month to an election that US President Donald Trump appears likely to lose, I’ve been looking for perspective on what that loss would mean for America. Gaining that perspective requires making some sense out of Trump and considering his impact on his fellow citizens over the past

The false promise of regime change

Book review: Philip H. Gordon, Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East (St. Martin’s Press 2020) Philip H. Gordon, the White House Coordinator for the Middle East during the Barack Obama administration, and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign

Trump gets sick and the media dives into the deep end

The weekend confusion about Donald Trump’s health after his Covid-19 diagnosis perhaps wasn’t all that surprising given the propensity of his administration to promote “alternative facts” and decry “fake news”. You might say not a lot of trust is lost between journalists and the White

A Quad of consequence: Balancing values and strategy

What makes the Quad foreign ministers conversation this week in Tokyo consequential? Probably the strategic setting – a pandemic, global economic contraction and an accelerated Sino-US strategic competition on one hand, and rising regional tensions from the Himalayas to the South China Sea and

US presidential debate: Prologue to chaos

Few would have expected the first debate between US President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden to proceed in any sort of cordial fashion, politely adhering to the fundamentally genteel aspirations of the format. Nonetheless, the train wreck on that Ohio stage on Tuesday night was a

The unfinished Chinese civil war

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) war with the Kuomintang (KMT, or Nationalist Party) started in the 1920s, hit pause during the decade of anti-Japanese war and the Second World War, then culminated in an immediate post-war period with the remnants of the KMT fleeing to Formosa/Taiwan in

A reality show for the US presidential race

When it became clear in March and April that pandemic precautions would limit the activities of the US presidential candidates, the scheduled debates between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden stood out as a singular opportunity to alter the trajectory of the race. But on the

A reckless president emboldened

In an essay for Foreign Affairs this month, Richard Haas explains that over the past four years the Trump administration has disrupted US foreign policy and left America worse off. The adminstration did not respect what was working in American foreign policy, and after they broke things, they

How much did the spies really know about the virus?

Something doesn’t quite line up in Bob Woodward’s latest book – and you have to look at what we know about intelligence assessments in Australia to understand why. Woodward tells us in Rage, his second look into the current White House, of top-secret warnings delivered to US President

The South China Sea map that wasn’t

On 9 September, the US embassy in Hanoi published on Facebook a map of Vietnam on a poster to commemorate the 25th anniversary of US-Vietnam diplomatic relations. At first the map did not attract much attention, given both countries had celebrated the occasion on 11 July, the official date of the

Ginsburg’s pendulum

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died last week at the age of 87, lived long enough to become a cultural icon. She was also someone frequently called upon to offer life advice, or more recently advice on repairing a system of government that feels irreparably broken. Shortly after the

America’s breaking point?

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday after a long battle with cancer. As the US and world mourns the loss of an icon, there are increasing concerns about what her death means for American politics. The immediate worry is that this year’s US presidential election will

Trump’s gambit in the Balkans

Twenty-five years after brokering the Dayton Peace Accords, which effectively ended the Bosnian conflict, Europe’s bloodiest war since the Second World War, Washington is once again acting as a de facto security guarantor in the Western Balkans. This comes despite more than seven years of (ongoing

Cut! How Hollywood self-censors on China

What should have been a family favourite film has turned into a political nightmare, with moviegoers around the world urged to boycott the new Disney film Mulan due to its links with the Chinese Communist Party.  Calls to

America: Demographic shift to democratic redemption

As Americans head into the final months of the 2020 election, US President Donald Trump, trailing Democratic candidate Joe Biden, is on offence, raising the volume on his “law and order” message and hoping to force concerns about his pandemic response into the background. Biden is working hard

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