Thanks for subscribing to my foreign affairs newsletter. Here, I’ll share some of this week’s developments in foreign affairs and diplomacy, as well as links to some of the best free online resources…
Olaf Scholz to succeed Angela Merkel as German Chancellor
Today marks the final day of Angela Merkel’s rule as Chancellor of Germany. Having already completed her fourth consecutive term in office, Merkel will leave the German political stage as the country’s second-longest serving leader (just days short of Helmut Kohl’s record). As Leader of the Social Democrats, Scholz will lead Germany’s first three-way coalition government alongside the centrist Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens.
US-Russia Summit on Ukraine
Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden met virtually to discuss growing tensions alone the Ukrainian border. The two leaders spoke for two hours on the central issue of Ukraine’s membership of NATO. President Putin was after a guarantee from NATO’s most powerful member that Ukraine would not seek to join the bloc in a bid to threaten Russia’s border. President Biden replied that as a sovereign state, Ukraine had the right to determine its own defence policy.
Furthermore, it was made clear to the Kremlin that any direct aggression towards Ukraine would result in an increased NATO presence on the eastern border.
The Russian President is also facing pressure from incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the Nordstream 2 pipeline. Scholz has reiterated his commitment to Angela Merkel’s long-held view that any attempt on Moscow’s part to use “gas as a geopolitical weapon” should result in further economic sanctions. This was reinforced by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
President Biden’s “Summit for Democracy”
Over 9th-10th December, President Biden will host the first “Summit for Democracy” event in a bid to counter the recent normalisation of autocratic governance. The president hopes invited guests will meet in-person in 2022 to update partners on their progress in promoting human rights, tackling corruption and protecting free speech. The White House has invited representatives from over 100 nations, including Taiwan.
Though ambitious in scope, the initiative has been criticised for its initial choice of guests. Turkey and Hungary have been ignored, whilst Poland (a country experiencing a similar domestic democratic crisis) has received an invitation. The summit is a refreshing celebration of democracy, yet likely to be open about the challenges facing nations either transitioning towards or sustaining long-term democratic systems. It is, in short, an effort to kickstart an era of ‘muscular Liberalism’ in international relations.
Following the January 6th Capitol Attack, the summit may seek to convince those on home turf as much as suspicious governments abroad. The Biden Administration face the risk of further provoking China and Russia in the Asia-Pacific and Ukraine.
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Tom Parkin is a writer, podcaster, former political candidate and commentator. His research interests include diplomatic security and digital diplomacy. He has a degree in International Relations and Politics from the University of Sheffield and is currently studying International Public and Political Communications MA at Sheffield University’s Department of Journalism Studies. Connect with Tom here.