Donald Trump’s candidacy has redefined how presidential candidates should act and speak, running a campaign that has shocked many Americans. Trump’s huge base of support can be put into context by comparing him to another charismatic leader: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Listen to how the two polarizing figures share common ideals and strategies, understand how each has gained popular support, and consider the repercussions of each of their respective movements.
The United States
The outcome of the European Union (EU) referendum in the United Kingdom (UK) has ushered in a period of geopolitical and economic uncertainty. As the UK grapples with the transition, the Obama administration has vowed to uphold the “special relationship” between the two countries. Maintaining strong ties with the UK is imperative to preserving a stable international system, and it is only appropriate for the United States (US) to respect the democratic processes that led to the Brexit victory. However, the implications of its success must not be ignored. Brexit serves as definitive proof that fears and frustrations resulting from new trends in globalization are a powerful force. Propelled by those same forces, Donald Trump’s campaign has a real shot at securing him a spot in the oval office.
UK involvement in the EU is a multi-faceted issue deserving of debate, however the anti-immigration misinformation spread by Leave campaigners undermined efforts to engage in informed dialogue. The core of the campaign was an appeal to xenophobic sentiment and the belief that EU immigration is harmful to the economic prospects of UK nationals. However, studies indicate there is no correlation at either the national or local level between immigration and unemployment or lower wages. Furthermore, there is no guarantee leaving the EU will curb immigration. The UK will likely maintain relatively unrestricted immigration policies within the EU in order to negotiate favorable trade deals, much like Norway and Switzerland. By shifting the focus of the campaign to an argument with a shaky factual basis, the success of the referendum hinged on cultivating a climate of fear in which facts were eclipsed by impassioned rhetoric. The anger which fueled Brexit has not dissipated after the vote, and as time goes on, the Leave leaders’ inability to deliver on their promises will only exacerbate social and political tensions.
The events in the UK may seem inconsequential to the US electorate, but the parallels between the rise of Donald Trump and the success of Brexit are important to consider as the presidential election approaches. Trump’s movement shares a reliance on nostalgia and intense nationalism, as well as the tendency to blame outsiders—both foreign powers and immigrants—for the troubles of the nation. His no-nonsense stance on immigration has become one of his strongest selling points, but poses the same problems as Brexit by oversimplifying and manipulating facts. Trump claims that immigrants usurp US jobs. However, this idea relies on the assumption that there is a finite supply of jobs in the country. In reality, the economy is more complex than that. A growing immigrant population not only creates a larger labor force, it also creates a larger consumer base, which stimulates economic growth. Studies show that immigrants do not displace native workers, rather they allow for labor specialization. Unskilled immigrants fill less desirable manual-labor jobs and create opportunities for native-born workers to take up more managerial level positions where strong English skills are required. Furthermore, some sectors of the economy are heavily dependent on immigrant labor, such as agriculture where nearly half of those employed are undocumented immigrants. Trump’s proposed deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants would result in the loss of many jobs for US citizens whose industries are reliant on immigrant labor and lead to a private-sector decline amounting to billions of dollars.
Trump’s movement is rooted in the same conditions that propelled the success of Brexit: an environment where fear and anger cloud judgement. He exploited fear during the Republican National Convention, in which the night’s theme was “make America safe again.” The nation’s insecurity was blamed in part on undocumented immigrants with criminal histories who “roam free to threaten peaceful citizens”. Trump failed to mention that the national crime rate has been dropping steadily over the years and that undocumented immigrants are no more likely to commit crimes than native born citizens. The lack of context offered by his claims fuels hostility towards all undocumented immigrants, including the vast majority who hold no criminal record. By demonizing immigrants, Trump is promoting divisive rhetoric and intensifying cultural and ethnic schisms at a time when the US is already polarized. The consequences of this campaign tactic are evident in the UK, which has experienced an uptick in hate crimes towards immigrants since the referendum. Similarly, the prevalence of violence at Trump’s rallies will likely escalate as the election continues. His failure to adequately address the hostility surrounding his campaign and his active encouragement of violence should be a red flag; he is a candidate that thrives on chaos.
Of course, challenging the visions of Trump and the Leave campaigners should not be confused with an attempt to dismiss the concerns of their supporters. We must acknowledge that the anger they have stirred up is legitimate, but misdirected. The troubles of the working class should not be blamed on one specific country or group of people, but rather on the ubiquitous force of globalization. While virtually all economists would agree that an increasingly integrated global economy is beneficial overall, it inevitably creates distinct winners and losers. In wealthy and technology-rich countries like the US and UK, the winners are skilled workers employed in the service and tech sectors, while the losers are the blue-collar manufacturing workers. As a result, many in the working class want to turn back the clock to a time when manufacturing was strong by implementing strict immigration reform and protectionist trade policies. Unfortunately, the costs of an attempt to halt globalization and free trade would outweigh any benefits. It would slow economic growth, raise the price of consumer goods, and likely cause other countries to retaliate by putting tariffs on our exports. Therefore, we should be approaching the concerns of the working class in other ways; perhaps by expanding social welfare programs or promoting subsidized job training programs, like Trade Adjustment Assistance, that aim to get trade-affected workers back on their feet in a more prosperous industry.
Overall, the phenomenon of different classes of people pitted against each other is not a new one. However, globalization has heightened class tensions to a point where demagogues like Trump and Boris Johnson are able to gain influence by capitalizing on these frustrations. The reality is, while Trump’s movement has given a voice to people who need it, his angry vows to “make America great again” are hollow. Devoid of an acceptance of reality, his proposed policies would do more harm than good. We must tread carefully in the upcoming election. No matter what the outcome is, the divisions in US society that Trump has exploited will not go away and should be approached with pragmatism and empathy.
As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated in the Milwaukee Democratic Debate last February, “When people go to vote in primaries or caucuses, they are voting not only for the president, they are voting for the commander-in-chief. And it’s important that people really look hard at what the threats and dangers we face are, and who is best prepared for dealing with them.” Although a clear plug for her past experience, Clinton highlights a crucial element to the presidency that can easily be lost in the media circus surrounding the 2016 election. A time meant to showcase credentials and visions for the future has quickly turned into the spectacle and squabble of entertainment television. The media has succumbed to treating this race for the presidency as just another reality TV show MTV would proudly stream alongside The Real World. With the most recent GOP debate spotlighting personal banter rather than prevailing issues, it is time for us as audiences but most importantly as voters, to make ourselves informed and conscious of the power that one of these presidential hopefuls will soon attain. One of these lucky selected few will soon run this country and the US armed forces, inheriting what can arguably be deemed as the most powerful position in the world. In the wise words of Uncle Ben, “with great power comes great responsibility,” and the power in this case, among an extensive list of others, comes from the role of Commander in Chief.
In the digital age, remarks on the campaign trail spread like wildfire across news platforms having immediate impacts on citizens nationally and on the perception of the United States internationally. Case in point: Trump’s rhetoric inciting violence against immigrants with the recent assault of a homeless hispanic man by two brothers, one of which stated, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” and Trump responded with “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.” Conversely government heads such as former President Fox of Mexico, in an interview with CNN, voiced that Donald Trump reminds him of Hitler. Although this is but one candidate’s views, it foreshadows the extremely real mindset a presidential frontrunner will take as President and as Commander in Chief and the international denunciation of his views.
These comments and plans for US interaction with the world demand a great deal of attention considering the vast foreign policy challenges that currently exist. The new president will be stepping into a world plagued by terrorist attacks —al-Shabab claiming the most recent bomb attack on a Somalian airplane in reaction to the Turkish airline’s state affiliation to Western operations; will have to face the escalating hodgepodge of civil war against President Bashar al-Assad and proxy war against IS in Syria, along with the snowballing refugee crisis they have kindled; the budding international rivalry with Russia; and the augmenting threat of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, to name a few. As the primaries are in full swing, positions on these international aspects may be greatly impacted by the scrimmage for votes, but they do paint a very real picture of how these candidates will espouse this role. A depiction of this can be quickly processed by simply viewing the way each candidate has titled these issues on their respective websites. Hillary Clinton: “National Security.” Bernie Sanders: “War and Peace.” Donald Trump: “The Military.” Ted Cruz: “Defend Our Nation.” Marco Rubio: “Build American Strength.” These headlines show clear distinctions, with Republicans siding for a militaristic approach and the Democrats opting for diplomatic engagement. To elaborate on a few of the frontrunners’ perspectives, Clinton’s platform seeks to establish a strong economic foundation for diplomatic influence and military defense, aims to disrupt terrorist infrastructure on the ground and online, and hopes to strengthen current partnerships and work to build new ones. Sanders views the role of Commander in Chief as defending this nation, but seeking diplomatic solutions before military action, stating, “war must be a last resort, not the first option.” Trump asserts the military as a primordial force, declaring,—and I quote— “I will make our Military so big, powerful and strong that no one will mess with us.” Following a similar path, Cruz views rebuilding America’s military as key in maintaining national safety and exerting our leadership on the global stage, because “what is best for America is best for the world.”
One of the biggest issues affecting the international sphere, as previously mentioned, is the ongoing war against terrorism primordially sparked by the Islamic State and its affiliates. With a new attack emerging at an almost weekly basis and the scope of these organizations reaching the United States with the most recent San Bernardino shooting, the threat of terrorism has once again reached a security level on par with the period immediately following 9/11. A line connecting the candidates, both Democrat and Republican, is the defeat of IS. However, their projected methods of accomplishing this and tackling its interconnected aspects differentiate their stances. Journalists have outlined the candidates’ positions from accepting refugees, to instituting a no-fly zone, to declaring war. The divide seems clear between the two parties on accepting refugees, but when it comes to military action party lines begin to blur. The Republican candidates have been clear in opposing any further acceptance of Syrian refugees in light of the recent domestic terror attacks, while Democrats have protested anti-refugee and anti-muslim rhetoric in supporting increases in refugee acceptance. Now in the logistics of the war: Cruz and Sanders are both against sending in more US ground troops, while Trump, Clinton and Rubio agree that more troops are needed—with Clinton and Rubio specifying their support for the sending a special ops team. Clinton and the Republicans also both advocate for instituting a no-fly zone in Syria, while Sanders stands alone in his opposition of it. Additionally in terms of invoking NATO Article 5 (the principle of collective defence, requiring all parties to assist in collective action, including the use of armed force, when one or more signatories is attacked), Rubio has favored invoking it, while the rest of the candidates remain unclear In their position for it. IS must be eliminated, they all hail, but how they will achieve this is where divisions come into play.
Another key issue headlining foreign policy talks is US-Russian relations. The ongoing rivalry is no secret, regarding the presence of both forces in Syria particularly and the Middle East in general. Despite the rivalry, there is distinction in how the presidential candidates will interact with Putin. On this gradient of views, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio stand strongest in condemning Russia’s President declaring him as “a bully and a dictator” and “a gangster and a criminal” respectively. Cruz calls for asserting US strength in Syria by expanding missile defenses in Eastern Europe while highlighting the country’s human rights violations to deter Russian resurgence. Rubio has accused Putin of “trying to destroy NATO” in challenging US dominance in the Middle East in addition to his support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In the middle of the gradient lies Hillary Clinton, who has gone head to head with Putin in her past role of Secretary of State. She affirms her belief that Russia has aimed to undermine and confront American power and that the US must counter this; however she admits that when it comes to Syria, the solution must comprise Russian participation. Diverting even further into a diplomatic approach, Sanders promotes a collaborative actions with allies against Russian aggression in placing economic sanctions and international pressure on Putin as “an alternative to any direct military confrontation.” Now on the far side of the gradient is the very pro-Putin candidate Donald Trump who, unlike his peers, seems to be carrying on a friendly relationship stating, “I’ve always felt fine about Putin,” and that “Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect,” in response to Putin’s endorsing him.
This breakdown is only a soundbite of the extensive decisions one of these frontrunners will take on. Domestic goals are undeniably a prevailing aspect of this race, but do not let the emphasis on the domestic distract you. We are about to elect a new Commander in Chief. Foreign affairs vastly impact the national, and one Presidential hopeful will inherit the power to overhaul world order as hegemon in the international sphere. It is easy to get caught up in the drama and, more recently, outright brawls, between the presidential hopefuls on the debate floor. However, this election can no longer serve as mere entertainment. Voters must watch debates with critical minds and must investigate what candidates best align with their views. Candidates’ platforms are not a mystery. Answers are literally a click away. There is no excuse for ignorance. Use the Internet. Let it be your informant, let it be your voice. The proliferation of information is our greatest strength in this election. Whether you “feel the Bern”, want to “make America great again,” see “Hillary for America,” believe in “A New American Century” or remain undecided, keep yourself informed and vote for who you believe can best represent this nation as not just President, but further as Commander in Chief.
On 14 December, 2014, President Obama announced he will re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba after almost 54 years. A month later in the State of the Union, he called on Congress to end the embargo in 2015.
Since its beginnings in 1960, the embargo has done nothing to promote its stated goal of fostering democracy and human rights on the island. On the contrary, Cuba remains a one-party communist state that has been led by either Fidel or Raul Castro since 1959. In reality, the brothers use the embargo to successfully create a martyr identity; propping up their regime by giving them a boogeyman on whom they can blame the country’s economic woes. Furthermore, it serves as a derisive obstacle to US cooperation with Latin America. Economically, it costs US exporters at least $1.2 billion per year. Even stalwart allies, with the exception of Israel, leave the US isolated on this issue by renouncing the embargo. Since 1999, more Americans have favored ending the embargo than oppose ending it. So what’s the fuss? Why has it taken so long to abandon an anachronistic cold-war remnant that is not just ineffective, but deleterious to American interests?
Over the last 40 years, the “Cuba Lobby,” interest groups that support the embargo and other hardline policies towards Cuba under Castro, has wielded an unrivaled level of influence in Washington; indeed, analysts like American University’s William M. Leogrande have deemed it more powerful than even the NRA. The Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC have a long history of wooing congressional candidates with campaign contributions and punishing those who would renounce the embargo. Similarly, this power reaches even to the State Department. Notably, congressmen under the influence of this cartel are known to manipulate the agency’s funding for specific programs and deny appointments to career Foreign Service Officers who are not sufficiently hard on the Castro government. Furthermore, in possibly the moment when their influence was most strongly felt, many election analysts believe that the traceable chain from Vice President Al Gore to the Clinton Administration’s actions during the Elian Gonzalez saga provoked the wrath of the CANF and the Cuban American exile vote during the 2000 election. Consequently, the lobby’s powerful presence in Florida helped swing the state, and correspondingly the presidency, to George W. Bush.
However, this is all changing. The first group of Cuban Americans who came to the US as political refugees after the Cuban Revolution are now well into their 80’s. It is this generation and their children, themselves aging and approaching retirement, who fervently loathe the Castros. These older Cuban Americans make up the leadership who push the Cuba Lobby to strongly support the embargo and other policies that isolate Cuba. On the other hand, the more recent Cuban immigrants came to the US for economic reasons. They do not possess the same acrimonious sentiments towards the Castros. They desire improved relations between the US and Cuba so they can visit and send remittances to their families without hindrance. As this younger generation replaces the older one, a window is now opening where a majority of Cuban Americans wish to see the embargo end. Currently, 52% of Cuban Americans in Miami-Dade County, the largest center of Cuban Americans, oppose continuing the embargo. The changing mood in the Cuban American community, and the fact that the President sees it as politically safe to normalize relations with Cuba, are evidence that the Cuba Lobby’s power is beginning to fade.
Even with the change in general attitude that is spurred by shifting demographics, it is unlikely that we will see any changes toward the embargo in the near future. As a matter of fact, both Houses of Congress are in the hands of Republicans. If Congressional Republicans fall in line as expected with current leadership, Speaker John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell, the necessary congressional support needed to repeal the embargo will be hard to come by. Under the current hyper-partisan climate in Congress, supporting policies that are promoted by the President are often seen as traitorous to the Republican cause. With that stated, there are some GOP supporters in Congress such as Senators Jeff Flake and Rand Paul who desire a change in policy. However, for the time being, the Cuba Lobby still retains its hold on the legislative branch. Perhaps future Congresses can end the embargo by bringing either a change in party control, or, if enough Republicans find political incentives to oppose the Cuba Lobby.
The embargo is very likely to become a hot foreign policy issue in the next Presidential election. The Democratic frontrunners support continuing President Obama’s initial steps. However, with the notable exception of Rand Paul, nearly all the Republican hopefuls oppose the president’s efforts to normalize relations with the island.
It is ironic that while the Cuba Lobby has been able to exploit Florida’s disproportionate political importance for its own cause, those wishing to end the embargo are looking to do it through another US electoral power oddity: Iowa, the first state to begin the process to pick presidential nominations for both parties. The United States Agricultural Coalition for Cuba (USACC), an organization made up of many powerful agricultural interest groups, sees Cuba as a potential market for farm exports. They can count among their supporters current US Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. USACC’s goal is to convince voters in Iowa’s caucuses of the potential benefits that ending the embargo would have on the local agricultural industry. It appears their argument is already being heard in Iowa as the State Senate recently approved a resolution supporting enhanced trade between the US and Cuba.
Perhaps the Iowa caucuses can convince those seeking the Republican nomination, and in turn provide evidence to Congressional lawmakers, that opposing the Cuba Lobby is a politically tenable position. The beginning of presidential nomination process will be a great barometer to how close the US is to ending the embargo.
Note: This article also appears in The Generation’s first print issue
In 1776, Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations asserted: “When it becomes necessary for a state to declare itself bankrupt, in the same manner as when it becomes necessary for an individual to do so, a fair, open and avowed bankruptcy is always the measure which is both least dishonorable to the debtor, and least hurtful to the creditor.” Yet, 238 years later, international financial institutions still fail to answer Smith’s call. Recent turmoil in financial markets has brought both advanced economies such as Spain, and developing nations like Argentina, dangerously close to default. The global threat by destabilized markets makes it imperative that the State of New York, the federal government, and international bodies, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), create new mechanisms to resolve the unique cases of sovereign debt defaults. Just as bankruptcy laws and courts are used domestically to resolve debt repayment conflicts, a similar framework needs to be created to handle sovereign debt disputes. This system needs to be focused on producing economic growth in the interest of both creditors and debtors. This idea is not new: Anne Krueger, while in the office of First Deputy Managing Director of the IMF, proposed a Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism (SDRM) in 2002. The proposal was vetoed by the George W. Bush administration. Now it is time to raise the issue again, as the absence of an adequate forum to handle these disputes is apparent in the ramifications of recent US court rulings against the Republic of Argentina.
In Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling by Thomas Griesa, Federal Chief Judge for the Southern District of New York, stating that Argentina must pay the full value of $1.33 billion in bonds that are possessed by NML Capital before paying its obligations on other bonds. NML Capital is a hedge fund that owns Argentine bonds that were not exchanged during the country’s attempts in 2005 and 2010 to restructure debt after its 2001 default. As a result of the ruling, the nation fears that it could be liable for $15 billion when it is applied to all holdouts. This $15 billion albatross would be equal to roughly half of Argentina’s central-bank reserves. Yet the most important aspect of the ruling is Griesa’s understanding of the bonds’ pari passu clause. His interpretation prescribes that Argentina cannot make payments to the exchange bondholders until it comes to an agreement with NML Capital regarding its holdout bonds. When no agreement was reached and the Republic’s payment to exchange bondholders was blocked, Standard & Poor’s declared Argentina in default on July 30.
Argentina will not be the only party to endure the negative consequences of this ruling: the future of all sovereign debt restructuring is in jeopardy. Under Griesa’s interpretation of pari passu, bondholders will have no incentive to accept a debt swap after a default. Furthermore, even one bondholder who holds out can nullify an entire debt restructure and force the debtor back into default. As a result, countries with troubled economies become bigger prey for “vulture funds”: a pejorative term used to describe hedge funds such as NML Capital who buy up distressed bonds at fractions of their initial prices with the intent to litigate to be paid the bonds’ full nominal value. The ruling sets a precedent that would prevent nations from restructuring their debt, making good with creditors, and rebuilding after a default.
On the international level, Bolivia, with the support of the G77+China and alerted by Argentina’s tribulations, proposed a multilateral legal framework for sovereign debt restructuring processes at the UN General Assembly. On September 9, the assembly overwhelmingly adopted the measure with 124 votes in favor, 11 votes against and 41 abstentions. The US was among the 11 nations that voted against the resolution. The proposal is short on specifics but it includes an element that would bind all creditors to a restructuring agreement if a majority accept. It is improbable that the US would yield jurisdiction on local contracts to a global institution. Thus this hypothetical framework would have little power over existing bonds issued in New York markets. However, this is a clear call by the developing nations who are most likely to issue bonds in foreign markets such as New York that such mechanisms are badly needed.
Understandably, if US law is more concerned about protecting creditors than permitting nations with a troubled past a chance to start over, sovereigns will reconsider issuing bonds in New York or other capital markets in the US. This has the potential for New York to lose its place as an international financial center in regards to issuing sovereign debt. On July 15, with the Argentine President in attendance as a special guest, the heads of state from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa inaugurated the $100 billion New Development Bank (NDB) at the sixth BRICS summit in Fortaleza, Brazil. These nations hope that the NDB will serve as an alternative to the western dominated IMF and World Bank. The BRICS’ NBD will be an alluring alternative to US financial markets for developing nations in the future.
If New York desires to preserve its place as an international financial center, new laws to preside over the unique cases of sovereign debt default need to be adopted. A sovereign is not a normal partner in a contract such as a person, business, or corporation. Hence, a special bankruptcy court for sovereign nations overseen by judges with advanced training in economics should be created by the State of New York or the federal government. A mechanism for negotiation, mediation and arbitration needs to be in place with a focus on restoring a nation’s economy so it has the ability to pay back its creditors. Among its many tools, it could swap debts for new bonds that pay according to macroeconomic statistics such as GDP growth similar to Argentina’s bond swap offers in 2005 and 2010.
But these measures can augment more than a developing country’s economic growth and New York’s standing as a hub of finance; they will promote global economic justice. Social utility is completely absent in the process where a cabal of hedge funds purchases distressed debt at a fraction of its titular value and subsequently litigates to be paid in full. A common counter argument is that Griesa’s and similar rulings are in line with what is in the bond contract. Thus, in order to observe rule of law, debtors must be held accountable. The fact that the legal process supports this practice is the very reason it needs to be reformed. The consequences aren’t beared by the corrupt politicians who wantonly accepted too much in loans and ensuingly misspent them in order to maintain political power. They fall on a country’s citizens who pay for both the creditor’s and debtor’s avarice in increased taxes, substandard public services, and stagnant economic growth.
The US’ foreign policy in regard to sovereign defaults must be reexamined and made coherent as well. With a large mandate from the aforementioned UN resolution, the world has asked the US to bring its actions in line with its commonly stated foreign policy goals of long term economic and social progress in the developing world. It should start by advocating and ratifying a SDRM at the IMF. The Anne Krueger proposed SDRM with collective action clauses from over a decade ago would be a great example to follow. This would set insolvent nations on a feasible path to grow while making good with all their creditors. The alternative is an eternal cycle of debt and default for nations with a dolorous economic past such as Argentina
”Los muertos no pagan las deudas” – ”The dead don’t pay their debts” is a phrase from late President Nestor Kirchner’s 2003 speech to the UN General assembly. Frequently, the current president borrows her late husband’s proverb in speeches regarding the external debt and the holdouts.
By Christine Smith – Editor
Since November of last year, mounting tensions within Ukraine have made divisions between Russia, the European Union (EU), and the United States (US) increasingly evident. In an effort to establish stronger trade relations with Western Europe, Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych initially sought to broker a deal in which his country would join the EU. However, come decision time and ongoing pressure from Moscow, Yanukovych backed out of the EU deal in favor of strengthening economic and political ties with his country’s border neighbor Russia, resulting in the rapid escalation of tensions between pro-Western Ukrainians and eastern pro-Russian Ukrainians. Consequently, pro-Western Ukrainians voiced their frustrations and ousted Yanukovych, while pro-Russian Ukrainians retaliated by seizing government buildings and showing their support for Russian military assistance.
Despite the existence of East versus West divisions within Ukraine prior to the controversy surrounding the failed EU deal, following the tense situation in November, countries both near and far have sought to make their stance known in an effort to fulfill personal political and/or economic goals. For example, frustrated with the country’s former president’s decision to vacate from an EU agreement, the EU quickly reacted to Ukraine’s political instability by approving the provision of 1 billion euros of economic assistance to the new pro-Western Ukrainian government. Additionally, the EU issued tariff cuts to the country in order to make exporting goods to the EU cheaper and to reiterate why an economic partnership with the EU is worth pursuing.
Furthermore, the United States, who just so happens to be a strong ally of the EU, has voiced its disapproval of pro-Russian Ukrainian factions by demanding the end of Russian participation and by the apparent orchestration of eastern Ukraine’s ongoing separatist violence. It has even gone so far as to continuously label Russia’s presence in the region as a carefully planned, “full-scale invasions,” causing a stark division between the US and Russia reminiscent of the Cold War. However bold, this language appears to be appropriate. After Russia’s occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and its continued presence on the country’s eastern border, it is hardly surprising that a global power like the United States would distrust Russian actions and intentions. It is in the US’s political and economic interest, therefore, to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty and promote Ukraine becoming a member of the EU.
Russia, however, views the situation differently. Because Ukraine and Georgia are the only territories separating Russia from NATO member-states (with the exception of the Russian port city of Kaliningrad), allowing Ukraine to join the EU and potentially join NATO is a scenario Russia cannot entertain. After all, NATO’s creation and ongoing expansion were centered around containing the Soviet Union politically and militarily. Understandably, Russia sees proximity to NATO as a direct threat to its national security, and therefore refuses to let Ukraine stray without a fight. That said, supporting a separatist movement is also not in Russia’s interest, for it will still lessen the physical divide between NATO members and Russia as a result of the incorporation of part of Ukraine into its borders, resulting in the expansion of Russia’s borders and the partial dissolving of its buffer from NATO. Russia, therefore, is walking a fine line; it must support pro-Russian Ukrainian factions without encouraging them to split away from Ukraine in order to create a new, united, pro-Russia Ukraine that Russia can depend on in its quest to maintain political security and distance from NATO.
Until tensions are quelled within Ukraine and so long as Ukraine remains a global political, security, and economic interest, hostilities between the West and East will remain especially high. For such a small country, playing up its strategic value is the primary source of power it possesses. Consequently, maintaining ties with all parties best serves the country’s interests, and will likely mean a decision about whether or not to join the EU will be prolonged as long as the West permits. Only time will tell what Ukraine will do and which region will succeed most at wooing the fragile state.
By Erfan Faridmoayer
Immigration reform has always been a subject of heated discussion in American politics. Whether the government at the time has been for or against it, the intensity of the debate gives clue to its importance, and the need for legislators as well as the public to critically address the issue.
In his State of the Union speech, President Obama briefly commented on the need for immigration reform. Advocating for a bipartisan approach, the President called for an effort to initiate preparations for the reform. This message, nonetheless, was lost in some of the President’s comments regarding the current uncooperative atmosphere in Congress. With such a deep division between the Executive and Legislative branches, attempts to revisit the country’s immigration laws have once again been put on hold.
This was not the first time, and certainly not the last time, that party affiliations have taken precedence over much needed political action. Personal interests have diverted the mission of many legislators from addressing the long term needs of the nation to the short term requirements of re-election. Surprisingly, passing an immigration reform could be of great benefit to both parties: Democrats could have a chance to secure seats in the Senate and Republicans could increase their chances of reelection by gaining the backing of many minority groups who support the reform.
It is worthy of mentioning, however, that an immigration reform has the potential to change voting demographics in the long run. If the current undocumented immigrants gain the opportunity to become legal citizens of the United States, they will very likely vote for the party who has supported them in their naturalization process. An additional concern with the legalization of undocumented immigrants is that the competition for the job market will heavily increase. Many Americans are concerned about losing their jobs due to this situation.
Left out of the debate, however, is the need to take a more holistic view towards the population that an immigration reform will impact, and not narrowly focus on policies surrounding undocumented immigrants. A temporary solution will address the current illegal immigrants in the United States and set more strict regulations on the country’s southern borders. A long-term resolution, on the other hand, will also address many of the issues all immigrants encounter, whether they enter the country through legal or illegal means.
Regardless of the means of entry, immigrant families face many obstacles when finding a job, establishing monetary credit, financing a house, or saving for the next generation’s university tuition. Many individuals enter the U.S. with significant work experience, or with a highly educated background. In many occasions, these credentials will be valued less in America as would have in their country of origin.
For example, physicians who have been educated and have practiced in foreign nations cannot use their medical license to immediately begin practicing in the United States. As reported by The New York Times, America has restricted the ability of immigrant physicians to continue their specialty. This has led to these individuals pursuing occupations in pre-medical teaching, nursing, or in fields very distant from their professions in healthcare. If foreign educated physicians want to continue practicing their original specialty, they have to go through a relatively long and costly residency training, a process they have already completed in the earlier years of their medical education abroad. In addition, their chances of matching into residency programs are significantly lower than those of American graduates. Unfortunately, these extended limitations are present in a time when skilled physicians are most needed. As the affordable health care act goes into effect, there will be an immediate rise in demand for physicians in the United States. With the current shortage of physicians in many fields, foreign trained physicians will become an unutilized resource in overcoming this challenge.
This is not to suggest that there should be no restrictions in regulating the quality of medicine being practiced in America. For many decades, the United States has set a global standard for the medical field. To achieve this standard, strict regulations need to insure a safe medical practice. However, these barriers should not exceed a level that will prevent qualified healthcare providers from practicing their profession solely due to being educated in another nation. A constructive solution should assess the skill-set of foreign trained physicians and tailor their American medical certification respectively.
America has always been a land of immigrants, welcoming individuals and families from a variety of backgrounds, providing them with a safe haven to prosper and succeed in their new home. To sustain this attitude, previously established regulations need to be updated to accommodate the current influx of both legal and undocumented immigrants. In a larger perspective, it becomes clear that immigration reform needs to address a much broader scope. The legal status of currently undocumented immigrants or their belonging to a minority group should not be used as the core argument when addressing immigration reform. Government regulations need to be adjusted to accommodate skills learnt in foreign countries, and educate unskilled immigrants who aim to establish a reliable occupation.
Facts from Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and The New York Times
By Noelle Little
The arrest of the Indian diplomat, Ms. Devyani Khobragade, last December in New York sparked a renewed interest in the future of diplomatic relationships between the United States and India. This controversy, in addition to current tension between the U.S. and Narendra Modi, the widely supported candidate for Prime Minister in this month’s elections, presents an interesting reflection of the wider status of future U.S.-India relations. In the time of a rapidly growing China, India is positioned as the U.S.’s largest democratic ally in Asia. One that, despite differences between the two nations, has led to increased cooperation economically and diplomatically. Recently, however, tension between the U.S. and India has grown due to alleged cases of human rights abuse cases involving Ms. Khobragade and Narendra Modi.
Ms. Khobragade was charged by U.S. authorities for the submission of false documentation in order to obtain a work visa for her maid. In addition, it was uncovered that she was paying the housekeeper well below minimum wage at about $573 a month. The controversy, however, is not a result of Ms. Khobragade’s alleged crimes but rather her mistreatment by U.S. authorities. Considering the treatment that we expect of our officials in foreign nations, one would assume that U.S. authorities would in turn give foreign diplomats different treatment than common criminals.
Indian officials have reported that Ms. Khobragade was subjected to multiple cavity searches, as well as being kept in a holding cell with “drug addicts” before she was released on a bail of $250,000. Following her arrest, the Indian government released a statement regarding the treatment of Ms. Khobragade, stating that it was “shocked and appalled at the manner in which she has been humiliated by the U.S. authorities.”
What is perhaps most surprising in this case was the reaction of the Indian government. While a formal statement condemning the treatment of Ms. Khobragade is customary, the reaction against U.S. officials in India is unexpected. Indian officials proceeded to remove the concrete security barriers surrounding the American Embassy compound in India, while also demanding that the embassy release the details about all of their Indian employees. According to The New York Times, Indian officials also asked for “the names and salaries of teachers at the American Embassy School; that the embassy commissary stop importing liquor; and that diplomatic identification cards for consular staff members and their families be returned.”
This strong reaction to the treatment of an Indian diplomat has reawakened a growing concern regarding the future of diplomatic relationships between the U.S. and India. India is currently the world’s largest democracy with a rate of economic growth rivaling that of China. In the past decade specifically, diplomatic relations between the two countries has been generally positive, beginning most notably in 2005 when President George W. Bush signed legislation that allowed for civilian nuclear cooperation with India and redefined U.S.-India relations.
The increasing cooperation between the two nations gave the U.S. a regional ally in response to a growing China. In 2013, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Singh furthered this relationship through an agreement for Westinghouse to supply nuclear reactors for Indian nuclear power plants. The cooperation between the two nations on the issue of nuclear power has in essence led to a de facto alliance motivated by China’s growing power in the East. After this meeting, Singh and Obama released a statement declaring that India and the U.S. “share common security interests and place each other at the same level as their closest partners.”
However, despite this burgeoning alliance, there are areas of contention that reflect how fragile diplomatic relationships between the U.S. and India may be. The treatment of Ms. Khobragade, in conjunction with the fast approaching elections, has been interpreted as a matter of national pride. India’s staunch support of Ms. Khobragade is in essence a larger refusal to be bullied by a large superpower like the United States.
Ms. Khobragade is not the only Indian official seen as contentious to the future of U.S.-India diplomatic relations. Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, is another point of growing strain within the relations between the two countries.
In India, Narendra Modi is widely believed to be the next Prime Minister after this year’s upcoming elections. Within the Western world, however, Modi is not held in high regard due to his complacency in the mass killing of Muslims in the 2002 riots in his own state of Gujarat.
Human Rights Watch reports that the riots of 2002 were sparked by the death of 59 Hindu pilgrims in a train fire caused by the attack of a Muslim mob. In retaliation, Hindu mobs killed hundreds of Muslims, displaced thousands and destroyed their homes and property. In the years after this episode of violence, efforts to investigate the cases were stalled while activists and lawyers were subjected to harassment and intimidation. It was not until the Supreme Court intervened that trials began to take place.
At the center of this controversy is the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, who is of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Modi and his fellow officials are said to have deliberately obstructed investigations. Furthermore, there is evidence which links Modi and his colleagues to the anti-Muslim attacks, as it is reported that the rioters had detailed information regarding the locations of Muslim residences and businesses. An independent media organization known as Tehelka has film footage of the accused speaking of how Modi provided his blessings for the attacks. As a result, in 2005, the United States revoked Mr. Narendra Modi’s visa under the law that bars foreign officials who are “responsible for or directly carried out … particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
Despite his alleged complacency and involvement with the anti-Muslim attacks, Narendra Modi is still regarded as a front-runner in this year’s upcoming election. Economically, he has brought prosperity to the Gujarat state in India. When it comes to gaining support as a candidate, voters often respond more to improvements in their economic well-being than a candidate’s alleged involvement in a case of human rights abuse. Modi is well known for lowering the rates of corruption, increasing industrial growth, and attracting foreign investment from companies such as Ford and General Motors. While critics point out that business leaders are giving funds to the BJP in return for favors, it is still important to note Modi has increased the development of rural infrastructure in Gujarat, as well as access to reliable electricity and a booming agricultural industry. Internationally, he is recognized for his economic policies and in the summer of 2013 Britain began to re-establish contact with his state government.
But what does this mean for the future of U.S.-India diplomatic relations in the upcoming year? If Narendra Modi is elected Prime Minister, it has potential to further tension between the two nations because the U.S. would be denying access to a foreign head of state; a tension that the U.S. government wants to avoid as India is the strongest regional ally. For the moment, opinions remain split.
Ron Somers, who is the head of the U.S.-India Business Council, has commended Modi for being “a magnet for investment.” A Congressional Research Service report lauded Gujarat as “perhaps India’s best example of effective governance and impressive development.” Meanwhile, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, has expressed that she believes the U.S. will still uphold the denial of a visa to Modi due to his role in the events of 2002. Human rights activists believe the U.S.’s commitment to international human rights will outweigh the desire to further relations with an Indian government under Modi. While perhaps the idealist in everyone would like to believe this is true, given the relationship between the U.S. and nations such as China and Russia, it’s unlikely.
If Narendra Modi should be elected Prime Minister during the elections this month, it is highly likely that the U.S. will attempt to work towards re-establishing diplomatic ties, particularly due to the success of Modi’s economic policies in the Gujarat state and to the U.S.’s desire to maintain India as a strong regional ally. While tension from the anti-Muslim attacks remains, the U.S. does not have a strong history of cutting off all diplomatic relations due to human rights abuses within foreign governments. With India, the U.S. has been committed to strengthening their relationship as a regional ally, particularly with the sharing of nuclear technology, in response to a bourgeoning China.