This week, we present a selection of news events that we believe are developing stories to watch:
Trump’s Transition Team Traumas (16 November)
New York City. Trump’s transition team was in the news for all the wrong reasons. Chaos seems to have enveloped the transition team with the national security position up for grabs when former Congressman and Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Admiral Mike Rogers left his position. He was Trump’s transition team’s senior national security adviser.
It is thought that Roger’s departure, as well as the departure of four other officials on ‘Team Trump’ had something to do with the ousting of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as leader of the transition team in favour of Vice President-elect, Mike Pence (12/11/16).
Concerns were expressed by some observers that the Trump presidency may be one made up of a very tight circle of loyalists. If this is indeed the case, the importance of a Trump-skeptic GOP House and Senate will become of utmost importance to ensure a check and balance is maintained on the executive office of the president going into 2017.
Russia Withdraws from the International Criminal Court (17 November)
Moscow. The Russian Federation withdrew from the International Criminal Court (ICC) after the ICC declared Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea was in fact an ‘occupation’.
This withdrawal is more symbolic than substantive because Moscow never ratified Russia’s involvement with the ICC, consequently the court had no jurisdiction in Russia.
Nonetheless, the withdrawal may well come from concerns that after the likely fall of Aleppo (a new Russian/Syrian government offensive started 15/11/16) to Russian-backed Syrian government forces, the ICC would probe the extent of war crimes committed or ‘enabled’ by Russian military forces operating within the Syrian battle space.
Abe Meets Trump (18 November)
New York City. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first foreign leader to meet with US president-elect Donald Trump.
The two met at Trump Tower in New York City. The presence of Trump’s daughter Ivanka at this leader’s meeting came in for some criticism. The meeting was said to have been cordial, with the Japanese leader expressing confidence in the future of US-Japan relations. For Tokyo, this was a critical meeting to sound out what Trump really thought of Japan and the long-standing US-Japan alliance.
During Trump’s campaign, the then presidential candidate made some comments that suggested that Japan was a free rider and was not paying enough for the country’s substantial US military presence – US Forces Japan (USFJ) which is approximately 50,000 strong, not including dependents.
Another bone of contention was Trump’s ‘anti-TPP’ stance – a trade agreement that Tokyo strongly favours.
Trump also suggested he had ‘no problem’ with the idea of South Korea and Japan building up a nuclear deterrent, seemingly oblivious to the radical change to the Asian balance of power this would bring about, as well as the internal difficulties this would bring to the governments in Seoul and Tokyo – both countries have strong anti-nuclear constituencies, and in Japan’s case a strong anti-military constituency. Trump now says that he never encouraged South Korea and Japan to ‘go nuclear’.
Abe’s post-meeting afterglow suggests that he encountered Trump as a pragmatist. If so, perhaps the doomsday predictions of a Trump presidency being the harbinger of Armageddon and the end of the international order, were the flights of progressive nightmares, fuelled by the media’s insatiable appetite for a bad news story. But then again, it might be too soon to say.
APEC 2016 (18 November)
Lima. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull landed in Peru for the 2016 APEC Summit.
During this round, the Summit hopes to address economic growth, especially as it relates to lifting some 3 billion people out of poverty.
As this is President Obama’s last APEC meeting and there is great trepidation regarding incoming president-elect Donald Trump, it is likely that these two issues will dominate the talks.
Trump’s promises to the American people that he would roll back US commitments to bilateral and multilateral trade deals ought to be a major concern for the Australian prime minister and to APEC leaders generally. APEC was an Australian initiative and critics have suggested that since it’s founding in 1989, the 21-member organisation has grown moribund and irrelevant to global economic affairs.