Oh, the summertime, that beautiful time of year when kids run through sprinklers, flowers are in full bloom, Usain Bolt runs the 100 meter dash (for the last time on 5 August) and icebergs the size of Delaware slough off of Antarctica. Luckily, for all of us, the Trump Administration presents an island of certainty and stability in an uncertain world. Scholars and analysts of world affairs are able to spend their summer surfing and sun-bathing while the world enjoys unprecedented peace and prosperity. I know that, speaking personally, I have never slept better.
Sometimes it’s nice to daydream.
Last summer I wrote in these “pages” about the events to look out for in international affairs. I gave dates and brief descriptions of different events. This year, it is perhaps more important to pay attention to the, “potentially catastrophic consequences of a Trump presidency for global stability and security,” as I wrote last year, than to the events that may occur because of them.
How will the situation in the Persian Gulf and within the GCC be resolved? Will the US escalate the situation on the Korean peninsula? Will the international liberal order fall apart? Have we seen the end of multilateralism? Will the world survive beyond the end of the summer? These are all important questions with lots of “ink” devoted to them. But since, until Trump ends it, we still have to live in the world, here are a few things to keep your eyes on this summer in my annual, snarky summer preview.
The most high profile international event this summer will be the 7-8 July G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany. This will be Donald Trump’s second trip abroad and will hopefully be less taxing on his stamina-challenged person than his first marathon trip abroad. The world will be focused on three questions: 1) What classified intelligence will Trump reveal to Russian President Vladimir Putin in their first face-to-face meeting? 2) Will Trump subject himself to another Macron handshake?; and 3) Which democratic world leader will Trump shove out of the way to get to the front of the group photo (Trump is more likely to shine the shoes of the autocrats than to show them any disrespect)?
The summer will also see some significant elections. On 30 July there will be elections for Venezuela’s Constitutional Assembly, which may be the last elections held in Venezuela. These elections are seen as a way both to guarantee President Nicholas Maduro’s hold on power and to divert attention away from the country’s growing food crisis. On the other side of the world, there will be Rwandan elections on 4 August in which President Paul Kagame will face off against businesswoman and women’s rights activist Diane Rwigara. Kagame has been in power since 2000 and is expected to winthe election; but it is notable because this is the first election since the Rwandan constitution was changed to allow him to stay in power indefinitely. There will also be elections in Senegal (2 July), East Timor (22 July), Gabon (29 July), and Kenya (8 August), to name just a few.
The United Nations is also hard at work to bring about global peace and stability by working both to abolish nuclear weapons and to condemn Israel. The second session of the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument Leading to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, leading towards their Total Elimination, runs until 7 July. This catchily-titled conference will no doubt lead to a mushily worded agreement to “move towards” the total elimination of nuclear weapons. But, my friends, nuclear weapons are not going anywhere. It is not possible to put the genie back in the bottle. Nevertheless, the goal is admirable and arms reduction benefits us all. As one, particularly insightful, scholar has written, “Global Zero may be impossible, but it is a nice idea.” The UN may not succeed in abolishing nuclear weapons, but will no doubt have several highly productive sessions that condemn Israel, while doing nothing for the Palestinians. Two of these sessions will be the 29-30 June UN forum to mark 50 years of occupation and the 20-21 July International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem.
The dismantling of the international trade regime could begin as early as 16 August, with the renegotiation of NAFTA. The major question is if this will be: a genuine renegotiation; the beginning of the end of NAFTA; or if Trudeau and Pena Nieto make a symbolic concession, praise Trump’s electoral college victory, and allow him to claim that America is finally great again.
Jonathan Cristol is a fellow at the World Policy Institute and senior fellow at the Center for Civic Engagement at Bard College. Follow him on Twitter: @jonathancristol. Madeline de Figueiredo, Anusha Prasad, and Alana Sheppard provided valuable research assistance on this article.
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Cover image: Ocean whirlwind, Pexels photo
DISCUSSION: What is your expectation from this summer in world politics? Are politicians ever on vacation, and is international politics the field that never gets a rest? Join the discussion and leave your comments in the discussion box below.