The week in foreign policy

We’re back with the week in foreign policy – exploring what’s happening away from the front pages, and key developments in global affairs that have caught our eye.

Fears over an ‘East-West split’ in the so-called architecture of the internet have ramped up as Western governments, led by America, look to ban Chinese involvement in the construction of their digital comms infrastructure. Peter Foster, in the Financial Times, spoke to the head of the National Cyber Security Center, who noted that it looks unlikely that the current, free and open ‘version’ of the internet will survive. Ciaran Martin said Western countries “need to make sure that our technological development keeps pace with, and outpaces, any competing model. That’s what really matters.” 

Elsewhere, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech to the Republican National Convention – focussed on President Donald Trump officially accepting the GOP’s nomination for the presidency – a controversial move given the office very rarely gets involved in domestic, partisan politics. The Telegraph reported that Pompeo praised the President’s foreign policy wins in his speech, and wrote that: “Mr Pompeo delivered standard recitations of Republican party claims about the successes of Trump’s “America First” foreign policy against Russia, China and Iran. He said they made his family – wife Susan and son Nick – and all Americans safer. He spoke of the defeat of the Islamic State’s physical caliphate, Mr Trump’s pro-Israel agenda and the president’s determined vigilance to guard against the “predatory aggression” of the Chinese Communist Party.”

The crackdown in Belarus continued in earnest this week, as authorities arrested leading opposition figures, who are pivotal in the protests against the President, Aleksandr Lukashenko. Our Evie Aspinall wrote a helpful explainer of the situation in Belarus, noting that: “During the 2020 election, all of Lukashenko’s main political rivals were either exiled or jailed. This included Sergei Tikhanovsky, a prominent blogger who was arrested in May, after which his wife – Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – stepped in, becoming the main opposition candidate. On the 9th August, the Central Election Commission announced that Lukashenko had won 80.1% of the vote, and his rival Ms Tikanovskaya had won just 10.12%.”

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – the longest serving Prime Minister in the history of the country – has announced his resignation on health grounds. Al Jazeera examines the runners and riders to succeed Abe, including Taro Aso, the 79-year-old Minister of Finance, and Shigeru Ishiba, a ‘hawkish’ former defence Minister. According to the website, Abe’s resignation speech was hugely apologetic. “I have decided to step down from the post of the prime minister,” Abe said, saying he was suffering from the same condition that ended his first term in office. “I cannot be prime minister if I cannot make the best decisions for the people.”

In an interesting read from the team at POLITICO, it’s clear that the departure of EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has sparked unrest amongst EU officials. The article notes that officials see the removal of Hogan as a sign that commissioners – previously bordering on the unaccountable – are no longer ‘bulletproof.’ The article notes that: “for some Commission officials and diplomats, von der Leyen’s approach marks a break with the past: The perception that senior Commission officials could act with impunity, safe in the knowledge that it was almost inconceivable they would be forced out.”


Matt Gillow

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