What we’re reading: NATO at 70, Global Trends, Climate Change

Welcome to a new edition of our reading list. This month, we look at what think tanks think about NATO at 70 and what they see as the big Global Trends shaping international politics. We hope you will enjoy our selection. Feel free to suggest your favourite reads via Twitter or Facebook. And don’t forget, we are always open for your contributions – so if you are interested in writing for us, please get in touch!

NATO at 70

Jeremy Shapiro at ECFR wrote about the necessary introspection NATO’s seventieth anniversary requires. While there is cause for celebration, in particular how the organisation continues to expand (North Macedonia to become its 30th member in the near future), there is also much to be concerned about. Most notably Trump’s antipathy to the organisation and, as we near the 2020 Presidential election, the current trend in U.S politics to question the position of the U.S on the world stage and also their commitment to Europe.

However, the Pew Research Center has a more positive take on U.S – NATO future relations. They found that 77% of Americans believe that being a member of NATO is good for the United States. Their report offers some more interesting insights, with 51% of Democrats and Democrat leaners being in favour of the U.S having an active role in world affairs. On the other side, 57% of Republicans and Republican leaners would rather the U.S focus more on domestic issues and pay less attention to world affairs. Another survey by yougov paints a slightly different picture: Europeans remain more enthusiastic about NATO than Americans despite falling support for membership among the public in Britain, France and Germany. The survey also made headlines for its finding that the French and German public would rather not come to the aid of beleaguered Ukraine or Romania. There is also a particular ambivalence about defending Turkey, despite its status as a NATO member. While in the US people tend to support Turkey, the British public are divided whereas the German and French public oppose defending Turkey by huge margins.

The German Marshall Fund in Washington D.C hosted a high-level conference titled ‘NATO Engages: The Alliance at 70’: videos from the event are available to watch here. One format that stood out to us was the storytelling part, where five people spoke about their personal story of why NATO has mattered for them in their life.

Global Trends

ESPA’s ‘Global Trends to 2030 – Challenges and Choices for Europe’ is a thought-provoking report on what Europe will be contending with over the next decade. Though the report has some concerning points – namely that since 2005 the world is less free – its focus is on foresight issues and what resources Europe can harness and what choices it can make to assert itself on the world stage by 2030.

Another trend report was released this month by the Center for Strategic Studies at ETH Zürich. ‘Strategic Trends 2019 – Key Developments in Global Affairs’ presents four articles about issues varying from ‘Trump and the Weaponization of International Trade’ to ‘Russia’s Renaissance in the Arab World’. On the topic of Russia’s latest geopolitical strategies, we recommend Anna Borshchevskaya’s article in our ‘Political Risk in North Africa’ series, where she examines Russia’s growing influence in North Africa.

Staying on the topic of Russian foreign policy, the publication of the Mueller Report in April has again turned attention on Russia and their international agenda. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has recently published an interesting paper within their series ‘The Return of Global Russia’, called ‘Russia’s Global Ambitions in Perspective’. The paper examines the return of Russia as an important global player and asks if this is a new phenomenon or rather a result of Putin and the transformation of his foreign policy.

This month a compelling report titled ‘Grading China’s Belt and Road’ was released from the Center for a New American Security. It explores the challenges of the initiative and is intended to be used as a resource for governments, corporations, journalists and civil society groups who are re-evaluating the pros and cons of the development strategy. The report also includes a useful checklist for assessing future Belt and Road projects. The BRI also features in Tom Bayes article on China’s emerging diplomatic and economic presence in North Africa.

Climate change

During April the Extinction Rebellion protests took place in London and other cities around the world, while also numerous student-led “Fridays for Future” marches were held worldwide to demand action on climate change. Fittingly, we have also been reading ‘Europe’s Responsibility to Prepare: Managing Climate Security Risks in a Changing World’. The report from The Center for Climate and Security – first published in 2018 – is an engaging read which argues that security threats from climate change should be evaluated just the same as threats from other more ‘traditional’ security threats such as terrorism. For a case study that examines these trends also check out Peter Schwartzstein’s piece on Climate Security Risks in a Fast-Warming North Africa on our website.

Transatlantic relations

Despite the recent trade spats between the US and the EU, there are also some positive news: In April, EU Member States gave the European Commission the green light to start formal trade negotiations with the US – a follow-up to an agreement reached by President Trump and EC President Juncker last July. The negotiations will focus on two points, the first in relation to conformity assessment (to make it easier for companies to prove their products meet technical requirements in both the US and EU) and the other on eliminating tariffs on industrial products.

Continuing with the US-EU trade negotiations news, we listened to an insightful The Sound of Economics podcast episode called ‘Director’s Cut: Resuming the EU-US trade talks’. Bruegel’s deputy director Maria Demertzis discusses with senior Bruegel fellow André Sapir about the events leading up to the renewed trade talks and what we should expect in the future. They touch on sensitive issues – such as the EU indicating they will only conduct trade deals with countries that are signatories to the Paris Agreement, an agreement that in 2017 the Trump administration announced plans to withdraw from – and whether this will affect the negotiations.

And finally in our round-up of what we have been consuming, the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins University published its Transatlantic Economy 2019 report – an annual survey of jobs, trade and investment between the United States and Europe. The report is a comprehensive read, examining a wide array of issues:

  • What trade spats and Brexit mean for the transatlantic economy
  • How US-European commercial relations compare with those each country has with China and other rising powers
  • How the digital economy is powering economic relations, and
  • How decision-makers and business leaders can address current opportunities and challenges


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