An empty cafe in locked down Italy

The week in foreign policy

In the week in foreign policy, the world as we know it is being threatened by the outbreak of COVID-19. It is, of course, a very real threat to health, but also a threat to Western democracy. Yasmeen Serhan argues in the Atlantic that the Coronavirus is a very real, and very immediate, threat to democracy. Yasmeen writes that: “Democracy will no doubt be tested by this viral outbreak. In some places where everyday life has virtually come to a standstill, it already has been. But perhaps none of these tests is more literal or more immediate than the postponement of a scheduled election, calling into question what countries should do to ensure that democratic processes continue as normal during moments of such uncertainty.”

Elsewhere in the week in foreign policy, the UK’s Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, announced that the UK is to withdraw from the European Union’s aviation safety regulator post-Brexit. According to the Guardian’s Mattha Busby, Shapps said: “as you would expect from an independent nation, we can’t be subject to the rules and laws made by somebody else, so we can’t accept rules from the EU commission and we can’t accept rulings in terms of court cases from the European court of justice or anybody else, any more than the US would.” 

In the Economist, the leader asks whether Putin is set to be Russia’s President for life? According to the article, ‘Mr Putin has pondered various methods of retaining power for some time: merging Russia with Belarus to create a new country to rule over; presiding over an all-powerful Supreme State Council; or becoming prime minister in a new parliamentary system. In the end, he chose the crudest, but perhaps simplest, method—changing the constitution and giving himself an option to stay on. In this, he is following in the footsteps of several post-Soviet central Asian despots, observes Kirill Rogov, a political analyst.’ 

Back in the Guardian, Social Affairs Correspondent Robert Booth has more on the week in foreign policy, and reports that the UK is more nostalgic for empire than other ex-colonial powers, such as France or Spain. Booth cites a recent YouGov poll, which suggests that 30% of Britons believe that former colonies were better off for being part of the British Empire. Britons are also more likely to say they would like their country to still have an empire than people in France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany or Japan, the YouGov polling found.

Finally, the Times reports on an inquiry into the usefulness of overseas aid, after recent weeks in which rumours have been flying about the potential of aid strategy being drawn back into the Foreign Office. The article notes that: ‘It is understood that the prime minister wants to change aid rules so the budget can be spent on a wider array of foreign policy objectives, including climate change mitigation, instead of simply on poverty reduction.’ Lucy Fisher, author of the piece, reports that Sarah Champion, the Labour chairwoman of the select committee, said: “We cannot ignore the controversy that has surrounded UK aid for some years, with reports of wasteful spending and a lack of transparency on certain projects.

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Matt Gillow

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