US election 2016: What next for US foreign policy?

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Image copyright AFP

America will likely emerge from the presidential election with a foreign policy that continues the recent trend of avoiding major foreign conflicts in order to focus on domestic issues - something you would hardly guess from the radically different foreign policy platforms of the two presidential candidates.

How so?

In the first place advisers close to both of them tend to emphasise that some of the more controversial policies they have advocated - such as Donald Trump's suggestion he will renegotiate the North America Free Trade Agreement, or Hillary Clinton's that she backed a no-fly zone in Syria - are actually less radical than they appear and would involve "more of the same" rather than dramatic change.

While Republicans lambast President Barack Obama for "abandoning" global leadership, and some suggest Hillary Clinton would be more interventionist, in truth whoever is elected will seek to avoid any repetition of what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These were hugely expensive, enduring military commitments that many Americans feel they can ill afford now.

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Europeans ready to play hardball over Brexit

Connie Hedegaard
Image caption Connie Hedegaard believes a deal could take years

From Berlin to Paris and Rome, European governments are now engaging seriously with the possibility that Britain may vote to leave the EU and are making plans accordingly.

The possibility of prolonged political and financial instability leads former Danish Prime Minister and Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen to say: "I would be in favour of a very quick solution to this," adding: "These will be tough talks."

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Europe's migrant story enters new phase

  • 10 May 2016
  • From the section Europe

I've been reporting on the European migration crisis during the past year. In previous blogs I offered some initial impressions (see here and here). It's clear now, though, that the story has entered a new phase.

For now, the 'migrant crisis' in northern Europe is over

Image caption Refugees arriving at Rosenheim station in January - at that time the trains were coming twice an hour but now, only 80 people arrive per day

That doesn't mean there aren't people suffering nor that millions have stopped wanting to head up from Africa and the Middle East. What it does mean is that the stunning flow of more than one million people through the eastern Mediterranean, northwards via the Balkans to EU countries that we saw last year has been stopped.

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Turning point in battle against IS?

An Iraqi soldier holds a position on the frontline on the outskirts of Makhmur, about 280 km (175 miles) north of Baghdad Image copyright Getty Images

The international campaign against the so-called Islamic State (IS) group is evolving quickly. As the United States announces a new phase in its campaign, shifting from "degrading" the so-called caliphate to destroying it, the key questions concern what the extremist group will do to thwart the campaign.

"The trend lines which were all going the wrong way are now going the right way," argues Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy or White House point man for the anti-IS battle. I recently spoke to him and Didier Le Bret, France's National Intelligence Co-ordinator, at the Aspen security conference in London. So what indicators convince them that the battle is turning?

Read full article Turning point in battle against IS?

Would the UK be safer in or out of the EU?

Soldiers from The Royal Tank Regiment in Wiltshire Image copyright PA
Image caption Would a European army spell the end for the British army?

People in the defence and security world express opinions about the United Kingdom's possible departure from the European Union that at times seem hard to reconcile.

Both sides agree key relationships from military cooperation through Nato to intelligence sharing via the so-called "five eyes" arrangements (the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) would remain unchanged - but "remainers" and "outers" each insist their chosen path would be better for national security.

Read full article Would the UK be safer in or out of the EU?

US and Russia in partnership over Syria

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov US Secretary of State John Kerry and the UN's Staffan de Mistura after the International Syria Support Group meeting in Munich Image copyright EPA
Image caption Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and US Secretary of State John Kerry, centre, have helped broker the "cessation of violence" in Syria

Syria's "cessation of hostilities" is making a difference - whatever the arguments about early violations, the level of violence across the country has fallen - and with this fragile modicum of progress, the United States and Russia find themselves in harness after years in which Syria was a forum for their rivalry.

"My worry is that it is the Russians making the weather," says Lieutenant General Sir Simon Mayall, senior Middle East adviser at the UK Ministry of Defence until last autumn.

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US remains reluctantly tied to global security role

A US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor stealth fighter aircraft Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The US is increasing spending on European defence

America's military finds itself pulled in several directions - and even the $582bn (£403bn) defence budget rolled out earlier this month will not be enough to satisfy all of its needs.

New challenges - from Russia and the so-called Islamic State (IS) group - are forcing the Pentagon to change its plans, and reopening old arguments about whether its allies are doing enough.

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Migrant crisis: Will Merkel be left out in the cold?

  • 27 January 2016
  • From the section World
A young boy covered is registered by German police at the train station in Rosenheim, Germany in September 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hundreds of migrants are arriving every day at Rosenheim train station in Bavaria

On the platform of Rosenheim station, the German police have got the reception of asylum seekers down to a fine art.

Twice hourly, the Austrian authorities put them on trains across the border, and the Germans are there to receive and process them.

Read full article Migrant crisis: Will Merkel be left out in the cold?

Battle lines drawn over migrant crossings

  • 13 January 2016
  • From the section World
A migrant woman holds a child on a beach near the town of Mytilene Image copyright AP

From the waters of the Aegean, to capitals from Athens to Ankara the battle lines are being drawn for 2016's contest between migrants seeking to reach Europe and those who would stop them.

While, even in the first few days of this year, thousands have shown themselves willing to undertake the perilous journey, with dozens of lives already lost at sea, there are signs that a whole battery of measures planned to restrict the traffic in people is starting to have an effect.

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A perfect storm of populism

  • 26 December 2015
  • From the section World
Lightning over Cobham, Surrey Image copyright Stuart Edwards

The coming year is one fraught with challenge for diplomats. Indeed, when it comes to forging international agreements while a perfect storm of populism, identity politics and insecurity roils electorates worldwide, I cannot think of a worse time for diplomacy in 25 years of covering it.

Beset by insecurity (economic and physical), voters in many democracies have moved towards parties rejecting traditional policies or models of co-operation.

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