The Munich Security Conference

The week in foreign policy

With foreign policy conversations in the United Kingdom dominated by debate on China, from Huawei to whether we should allow China to help build HS2, it’s clear that the Western world, along with Britain, is conflicted on how to deal with the authoritarian economic powerhouse. Noah Barkin wrote for Foreign Policy, noting that the US and Europe are ‘speaking a different language on China.’ He argued that American pleas to European leaders to be wary of China fell on deaf ears at the Munich Security Summit last week, and that Trans-Atlantic trust has steadily eroded since Trump came into office and pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal. As a result, according to Barkin, Europeans aren’t as ready to take America’s lead on global power struggles. 

Interestingly, a new study has found that, despite claims of an anti-American backlash, ‘the world loves hosting US troops.’ Writing in Bloomberg opinion, Hal Brands notes a recent study showing that foreigners’ contact with American service members leads to more positive views of the U.S. and its military. Brands, in the piece, cautions against sweeping critiques of America’s global presence backed only by anecdotal evidence. “Yes, there are plenty of instances in which America’s military footprint has become a flashpoint in relations with a host country. But we tend to pay attention to these instances precisely because they are rare exceptions.”

Billions of pounds of aid meant for the world’s most dependent nations ends up in tax havens, a report by World Bank economists has concluded. Writing in the Times, Francis Elliott references the report and notes that “for countries receiving more than 2 per cent of GDP in aid “the implied average leakage rate is approximately 7.5 per cent”, the report, by three economists, states. “On the other hand, raising the threshold to 3 per cent of GDP (sample of seven countries), we find a higher leakage rate of around 15 per cent.” With the future of the Department for International Development currently being debated, the findings are certain to galvanize the discussion and revamp a push to clean up tax havens.

Writing in Politico, Lili Bayer outlines the 4 key battles taking place over the European Union’s upcoming budget. She says: “fights over the bloc’s long-term budget are always brutal. But a special summit on the next spending plan, beginning Thursday in Brussels, looks certain to be particularly acrimonious as leaders struggle to adjust to a smaller Union.” According to Bayer, the key battlegrounds to watch are over the size of the budget, exactly how to slice it, a Brexit-induced argument over the entire rebates system, and a call for the disbursement of funds to be linked to ‘respect for the rule of law.’

Finally, in the Telegraph, Hamish De Bretton-Gordon asks just why the world is prepared to fight tooth and nail against coronavirus, and yet humanitarian campaigners concerned about Syria seem to be swimming against a tide of indifference? According to the article, reliable sources last week stated that over 100,000 barrel bombs, some containing chemicals, have been dropped on civilians during the last eight years of conflict in Syria. De Bretton-Gordon argues that we should be ‘straining every sinew’ to find a solution to the crisis.

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Matt Gillow

Matt is the Communications & Events Manager at the British Foreign Policy Group.