Trump's State of The Union – The View From Abroad

Trump's State of The Union – The View From Abroad

President Trump's speech before a joint session of Congress last night was dominated by domestic issues, and he was careful to strike a conciliatory tone.

But foreign policy also made a few appearances – some subtle and others less so. Here's how we like to imagine leaders from the world's geopolitical hot spots received the president's speech.


Xi Jinping: (reading over the notes in his little red book)

Curious speech. You say you want to establish "a new standard of living for the 21st century" – but we're almost a fifth of the way through it. Talk about short-term thinking. And rebuilding "crumbling infrastructure?" I just approved$125 billion in new railway projects – top that.

Note to self: One of the few moments both Republicans and Democrats stood and applauded together on foreign policy was when Trump talked about getting tough on China. That doesn't bode well for relations with the US, no matter what Trump says about having "great respect" for me personally.

Vladimir Putin: Wednesday Things to Do:

  1. Congratulate Donald on his big speech.
  2. Remind Donald that whatever he does with Maduro, Venezuela still owes Russia a lot of money, and we want our $17 billion back.
  3. Donald says he will "outspend and out-innovate" us with his nuclear arsenal. Check with the Treasury whether we have enough cash to keep up.
  4. Remember to thank Donald for not mentioning Ukraine with its elections next month.
  5. Call MBS.

Nicolas Maduro: (Muttering under his breath)

I saw your speech, viejo. Eighty-two minutes? That's it? Are you tired, old man? Fidel once held the Naciones Unidas rapt for four-and-a-half hours. Our beloved Hugo Chavez spoke for eight hours on live television without a glass of water. This is a man's endurance, and I will outlast you, too. Talk all you want about the evils of socialism, Trump. Your puppet, Guaido, will never convince the army to abandon me. I will be dancing in the streets of Caracas when you are in jail.

The Taliban: Ok, let's get this straight. Trump wants to get America's 14,000 troops out of Afghanistan, because "great nations do not fight endless wars." Americans broadly support him – with 57 percent favoring a withdrawal within the next 5 years. Russia is backing a peace process that excludes the government in Kabul. And we currently control a majority of Afghanistan's territory. After two decades of war, are we interested in a "political settlement?" You bet we are.

Mohammed bin Salman: (On the phone)

"Haha… I know, I know, I really got off lucky Vladimir… he didn't even mention me… Didn't even! It's like, Jamal who? Yemen what? Anyway, you coming to my next comedy show? I think Jared will be there."

Kim Jong-Un: (Dips quill into inkwell)

"Dear Donald, now that you have announced publicly the date and time of our next meeting, I am aflame with anticipation to see you again. Merely to be with you will draw open the earliest blossoms of spring in my wintry soul. Yours, Kimmy."

(Folds letter into envelope, shouts to aide)

"Send this to the White House along with the others, and bring me the latest nuclear program updates. What? Pompeo is calling? Tell him I'm busy rearranging my paper clip collection and he'll have to wait."

During the past year, 58% of all cyberattacks observed by Microsoft from nation-states have come from Russia. And attacks from Russian nation-state actors are increasingly effective, jumping from a 21% successful compromise rate last year to a 32% rate this year. Russian nation-state actors are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which jumped from 3% of their targets a year ago to 53% – largely agencies involved in foreign policy, national security or defense. The top three countries targeted by Russian nation-state actors were the United States, Ukraine and the UK. These are just a few of the insights in the second annual Microsoft Digital Defense Report. Read additional highlights from the Microsoft on the Issues blog and find the full report here.

If you had to guess which current world leader has made the most trips to Africa, who would you say? China's Xi Jinping? Nope, hardly — he's been there just four times. France's Emmanuel Macron? Pas de tout.

The answer may surprise you: it's Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's been to the continent more times than the leader(s) of any other non-African state. Just this week he notched his 28th visit, with stops in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Sure, being in power for two decades creates a lot of opportunities for exotic travel, but even Putin isn't close: he's been to Africa just five times, all to visit South Africa or Egypt.

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Former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was killed by rebels on 20 October, 2011, after a NATO intervention designed to protect civilians helped strengthen an uprising against his regime. Since then, the country has been mired in chaos as different factions have battled for control, resulting in extensive destruction and human causalities. Libya has been nominally governed since 2014 by warring administrations backed by foreign powers in the west and east of the country. Last year, UN mediation efforts finally began to gain traction with an agreement on a cease-fire and a roadmap for elections to be held later this year. We talked with Eurasia Group expert Ahmed Morsy to find out how things are going.

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China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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6,000: Poland has doubled the number of troops guarding its border with Belarus to almost 6,000 because of a surge in migrants trying to cross over (there were 612 attempts on Monday alone). Warsaw accuses Minsk of sending non-EU migrants into Poland as payback for EU sanctions against Belarus.

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Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

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