The Rational Policy Podcast is back with another installment of the Foreign Telegram! A lot has happened abroad in the months of May and June 2023, and host Mike Cote brings you all of the most important news. Three subjects really made a huge impact over the past two months: elections in Turkey, a potential US-China rapprochement, and the Russia coup that wasn’t. Listen in to get the key information and geopolitical perspective on these critical topics and what they mean for the United States and the world.
This site is not the only place to find my writing; I have been published at numerous other outlets across the web. In this recurring series, I’ll post some choice passages from these outside pieces and show you where to find the rest. Think of this as a mere tasting of the full smorgasbord. Without further ado, here’s Compendium #1, covering late March through mid-April 2023.
Coming in just under the wire, here’s your Foreign Telegram for March 2023. In an extremely busy month for international affairs, four stories stood out. In the realm of political protest, France and Israel have been in constant uproar over controversial government plans. In France, President Macron has pushed a hike in the retirement age, while in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition seeks changes to the nation’s judiciary. The other overarching topic in March 2023 was diplomacy, particularly of Asian countries outside of Asia. China has had a busy month, brokering a surprise rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia – sidelining the US – and doubling down on its “no limits partnership” with Russia with a state visit to Moscow. Japan, China’s primary regional rival, also expanded its diplomatic reach this month, with visits to India and, more importantly, Ukraine. The blocs of the 21st century are forming as we speak.
Tune in for detailed analysis of all four of these key geopolitical events. Take a break from the hectic pace of domestic affairs with a Foreign Telegram.
The China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia has shuffled the deck in the Middle East, cutting the US out of the pot.
Over the weekend, in a surprising development to most Middle East watchers, China brokered a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore some bilateral ties between the Islamic powers after seven years without them. The agreement was a very basic one, with the two countries agreeing in principle to exchange ambassadors within two months, reactivating a security cooperation agreement, and restoring some economic and cultural exchanges. This is the first formal rapprochement between the Islamic Republic and the Kingdom since 2016, when the Saudis executed a prominent Shia cleric, sparking violent protests at its embassy in Tehran and precipitating the break in relations. Since that split, the underlying conflict between the two states on either side of the Persian Gulf has rapidly escalated, with Iran taking the aggressive lead. Its proxies in Yemen, the Houthis, have attacked Riyadh directly, while Iran itself has launched cruise missiles at Saudi energy infrastructure, crippling a major refinery for weeks back in 2019.
Given this recent history, the fact that any kind of deal was struck shows that key changes are occurring in Middle Eastern politics. The agreement, basic as it was, did not force Iran to cease its aid of international terrorists or non-state proxies, even those which target the Kingdom; this was a conciliatory move on behalf of the Saudis towards the Iranians. This step towards normalization of relations without addressing some of the proverbial elephants in the room – the malign regional activities of Iran, the Shia-Sunni dispute, relations with Israel – fits well within the Chinese diplomatic playbook, as does the language of the agreement. In the text, both Iran and Saudi Arabia agree to the principles of “respect for the sovereignty of states and noninterference in their internal affairs,” a classic Chinese formulation that Beijing uses to ignore human rights abuses abroad and gloss over its own at home. There are a wide variety of implications and impacts from this diplomatic coup for China, both in the Middle East region and further afield.
Germany’s unserious and naïve foreign policy not only fails to appreciate the challenges of the 21st century, it risks the security of all Europe in the process.
Germany is the linchpin of modern Europe, dominating the Continent economically and politically. Since its unification in 1871 – and its reunification in 1990 – Berlin has been the region’s center of power. Territorially, it sits smack in the middle of Europe, straddling the Baltic and North Seas and incorporating several of the region’s major rivers, from the Rhine and the Oder to the Elbe and the Danube. It has major influence in the European Union, NATO, and the G7; oftentimes, this influence is enough to maneuver policy in a profoundly pro-German direction, as was seen after the 2009 financial crisis. Not counting nations on the European periphery (Russia and Turkey), Germany has the largest population in the region. It has the largest economy by far, exceeding its nearest competitor, France, by over a trillion dollars. Its major corporations export their goods across the globe, earning profits from every inhabited continent. In short, Germany is the most important nation on the European continent. Where it goes, Europe tends to follow – either by democratic choice or by bureaucratic fiat.
And that’s precisely why the Teutonic nation’s fundamentally flawed and foolish foreign policy is such a clear and present danger to the security and future prosperity of the West.