Space systems and critical infrastructure

Image: Internal Security Strategy: Open and Safe Europe

By Massimo Pellegrino and Gerald Stang*
Space Security for Europe – Excerpt from Issue Report n° 29 – July, 2016

Modern societies are highly dependent on the continuous operation of critical infrastructure to ensure the provision of basic goods and services. They consist of assets, systems or parts thereof which are so vital, that their disruption would significantly impact the economy, national security, public health, safety, or social wellbeing. Examples of critical infrastructure include energy, water, food supply, communication, transportation, and waste processing systems.

Space assets are so deeply embedded in developed economies that a day without fully functioning space capabilities would severely restrict or even endanger our lives. Space systems are critical for running energy grids and telecommunication networks, border and maritime surveillance, crisis management and humanitarian operations, environmental and climate monitoring, verification of international treaties and arms control agreements, and the fight against organised crime and terrorism. Space assets also provide the technological backbone for other critical infrastructures. The synchronisation of power grids and telecommunication networks, for example, is heavily dependent on GNSS timing signals and any disruption would create a domino effect on other critical infrastructures (see Figure 5).

Satellites also play a central role in supporting defence systems and military operations. They are force multipliers that provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities, as well as communication, navigation, positioning and timing signals. Armed forces do not only use their own space systems, but are also significant consumers of space services provided by private operators. In fact, about 90% of US military communications traffic passes through civilian satellites, many of which privately owned, rather than through dedicated systems designed to withstand attempted interruptions.1 The reliance of both civilian and military users on space systems therefore places them firmly in the area of critical infrastructure.

Some critical space systems, such as the American GPS, are under foreign control, and the governments controlling those systems retain the authority to disrupt services, even for allies, in case of a national emergency. While the United States announced that it has no intention of ever intentionally degrading public GPS signals (also known as ‘Selective Availability’) and that the next generation of GPS satellites will not include this feature, other governments might still do so.2 These dependences engender new and growing vulnerabilities.

Reliance on space is likely to increase further as space capabilities and services improve in diversity, quality and affordability. Close to 1,500 satellites with a launch mass of over 50 kg are expected to be launched over the next decade; an increase of 50% compared to 2005-2014. This estimate excludes both the expected proliferation of smaller satellites (such as CubeSats), but also the planned OneWeb and Steam mega-constellations for global internet broadband service. Advances in small satellite capabilities and in launch technology (e.g. SpaceX’s Falcon rocket family) have already lowered the cost of access to space. About 45% more CubeSats were launched in 2014 than in 2013 (130 vs. 91), accounting for 63% of all satellites launched3. However, just as the reliance on space increases, so too do threats and vulnerabilities. Therefore, in order to realise the full potential of investments in space, critical space systems need to be adequately protected and the space environment properly managed.

Full Issue available at:

Massimo Pellegrino joined the EUISS in February 2015. His main research focus is space security, and in particular the dimensions of ‘security in space’ and ‘security from space’, including the connections between cyber and outer space.

*Gerald Stang is a GG10 member, is Senior Associate Analyst with the EU Institute of Security Studies, where he researches energy, climate and security challenges. He holds BSc and MSc degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Saskatchewan and an MA in international affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

Trump and World Order

The Return of Self-Help

By Stewart M. Patrick*
From The Internationalist – February 14, 2017

Hedging is most common when great powers are unpredictable and the global distribution of power is shifting fast—in other words, during times like today.

Since the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, 13 successive U.S. presidents have agreed that the United States must assume the mantle of global leadership. Although foreign policy varied from president to president, all sent the clear message that the country stood for more than just its own well-being and that the world economy was not a zero-sum game.

That is about to change. U.S. President Donald Trump has promised a foreign policy that is nationalist and transactional, focused on securing narrow material gains for the United States. He has enunciated no broader vision of the United States’ traditional role as defender of the free world, much less outlined how the country might play that part. In foreign policy and economics, he has made clear that the pursuit of narrow national advantage will guide his policies—apparently regardless of the impact on the liberal world order that the United States has championed since 1945. 

That order was fraying well before November 8. It had been battered from without by challenges from China and Russia and weakened from within by economic malaise in Japan and crises in Europe, including the epochal Brexit vote last year. No one knows what Trump will do as president. But as a candidate, he vowed to shake up world politics by reassessing long-standing U.S. alliances, ripping up existing U.S. trade deals, raising trade barriers against China, disavowing the Paris climate agreement, and repudiating the nuclear accord with Iran. Should he follow through on these provocative plans, Trump will unleash forces beyond his control, sharpening the crisis of the Western-centered order.

Some countries will resist this new course, joining alliances intended to oppose U.S. influence or thwarting U.S. aims within international institutions. Others will simply acquiesce, trying to maintain ties with Washington because they feel they have no other options, wish to retain certain security and economic benefits, or share a sense of ideological kinship. Still others will react to a suddenly unpredictable United States by starting to hedge their bets.

Like investors, states can manage their risk by diversifying their portfolios. Just as financiers cope with market volatility by making side bets, so countries reduce their vulnerability to unpredictable great powers by sending mixed signals about their alignment. Confronting two great powers, the hedger declines to side with either one, trying to get along with both, placing parallel bets in the hopes of avoiding both domination and abandonment. Hedging is most common when great powers are unpredictable and the global distribution of power is shifting fast—in other words, during times like today.

Full article published in the latest volume of Foreign Affairs magazine

*Stewart Patrick – GG10 member, senior fellow and director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program (IIGG) at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The updated work of the IIGG’s Global Governance Monitor shows how the international community is doing in addressing the most daunting threats that it faces.

The EUGS after Brexit

The EUGS after Brexit:
A View from India

By Dr. Radha Kumar*

Brexit came as a surprise to me: I had not expected the British to vote in favour. Having said that, I think the impact of Brexit will be sharper on Britain than the EU, and on both the impact will be primarily domestic or endogamous rather than exogamous. In the short-term, the impact of Brexit will weaken both the EU and Britain economically, but most pundits in India are of the opinion that this will not impact India to a significant extent, despite the fact that our economic relations were primarily bilateral with Britain and continental with the EU.

A weaker EU and a weaker Britain will, however, impact globally – especially on inter- national security. The EUGS’ position on this issue had already spelled a shift before Brexit; it puts the development of EU defence capabilities up front, along with strengthening the EU defence industry. As Nathalie points out, British representatives played a key role in the formulation of the EUGS and Britain was one of the EU’s more active members when it came to international security. The country’s exit will therefore weaken both the EU’s progress towards its stated goal of “strategic autonomy” and its engagement in international conflicts, though perhaps not to the extent feared, since 24 of the now 27 members of the EU are in NATO.

As an Indian, I was intrigued by the use of the term “strategic autonomy”, since we adopted the concept as foundational to our foreign policy some years ago. I was one of those who criticized the formulation then, on the grounds that we do not need to parade our independence of policy – no-one outside of our country questions it. However, the EUGS’ definition of strategic autonomy is different from India’s. It is both narrower and more concrete, focused as it is on making the EU a more equal partner of the US.

Full article available at:

Dr. Radha Kumar* is a GG10 member, Director General of the Delhi Policy Group, is a specialist in ethnic conflicts, peacemaking and peace-building. Formerly Director of the Mandela Centre for Peace at Jamia Millia Islamia University (2005-2010), Dr. Kumar has also been Senior Fellow in Peace and Conflict Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York (1999-2003), Associate Fellow at the Institute for War and Peace Studies at Columbia University (1996-8) and Executive Director of the Helsinki Citizen’s Assembly in Prague (1992-4). She is currently on the Board of the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the Foundation for Communal Harmony (India, Ministry of Home Affairs), and an Associate Fellow of the Asia Society in New York. She recently completed a mission as one of the Government of India’s Group of Interlocutors for Jammu and Kashmir (2011-12).

Regionalism and Global Governance


Regionalism and World Order

By Mario Telò* – Excerpt from the book Still a Western World?
Continuity and change in the global order: Africa, Latin America
and the ‘Asian century’ (Europa Regional Perspectives)
Edited by Sergio Fabbrini and Raffaele Marchetti. Routledge, 2016.

Is regionalism relevant for the global order or do only nations states matter? The trend of regionalism is largely linked to that of multilateralism, but they do not exactly overlap. Regional cooperation is a kind of smaller-scale multilateralism: according to Keohane and Ruggie, cooperation among more than two states is multilateral provided that the general principle of conduct and reciprocity works correctly (Ruggie, 1993). However, regionalism could also be a form of protection against multilateral liberalization, according to Gilpin (2011) and others. The question is whether both the cooperative and the competitive scenarios entail the growth of regional entities towards a more explicit political role, at least sufficiently to address issues affecting the global order. Regionalism should not be confused with mere economic regionalization as a component of globalization.

Furthermore, comparative research brings evidence of a gradual botton-up politicization of regional groupings as structural feature of multilateralism global governance:

  • The European Community became the EU after 1989/91 (Maastricht Treaty), including both the Euro as a political project and several political aspects and new supranational features (Justice and Home Affairs, Common Foreign and Security Policy, European Security and Defence Policy, European Parliament co-decision power, EU citizenship, etc.). The treaties of Amsterdam (1997), Nice (2000), and Lisbon (2007) have gradually strengthened these features, even if not according to an oversimplified model of a federal state in the making. After 30 years of treaty revision, the EU confirms it is a non-state polity; however, it has been politically strong enough to interact with the US and BRICS (strategic partnerships, conflicts, etc.).
  • MERCOSUR not only expanded to Venezuela, but also created the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) by converging with Andean Community (CAN) and Chile (2004) as a security cooperation grouping. Secondly, the need for broader and deeper political legitimacy was addressed by the creation of the ‘Parlasur’, the regional parliament and MERCOSUR citizenship.
  • ASEAN created a kind of ASEAN-driven concentric circles system in East Asia: ASEAN plus 3 with the regional fund called the ‘Chang Mai initiative’ (2000), ASEAN plus 6, the ASEAN regional forum for managing security concerns; and the EAST Asian summits. Furthermore, this was parallel to internal deepening: in 2015 the ‘ASEAN community’, on the basis not only of an FTA, but also of a security community and ‘ASEAN charter’ (2007), will became a ‘constitutionalizing’ entity.
  • The three regional groupings mentioned above seem resilient in the face of economic and political crises (Fioramonti, 2013; Telò, 2014).
  • Similar tendencies towards a political role through peacekeeping and peace-enforcement missions seem to be emerging also in Africa: SADEC, ECOWAS, and the African Union.
  • Institutionalization takes various forms according to intercontinental and intra-continental cleavages. The EU supranational approach is quite isolated contrary to other forms of EU cooperation. According to the literature, new regionalism is, in general, creating a framework for enhanced national policy coordination, including further steps towards common regional polity and politics. The EU’s open method of coordination seems a reference point beyond the EU’s borders.
  • Alternative and competing paths are emerging as far as the link between regionalism and democratic consolidation is concerned: authoritative forms of regionalism (SCO, the Eurasian project, etc.), populist groupings of states (ALBA, etc.) are competing with new democratic regionalism ins Asia, Europe, and Latin America. New regionalism ins in general linked to the third wave of democratization: in Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe, and East Asia. The EU, MERCOSUR, and ASEAN have been capable of framing and proactively supporting democratic leaderships and institutions at the national level over the last 25 years. The cases of Austria (2000), Paraguay (1996), Burma (2010-15), albeit very different, bear witness to the importance of regional pressures for national democratization. The big five authoritarian states or façades democracies (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Venezuela, and China) are not initiators of a new regionalist groupings, even if they cooperate or compete with them.

All in all, the emergent global order is not only multipolar but also multiregional, not only, as Katzenstein (2005) writes, ‘a world of regions’, but also a world where various kinds of regional organizations matter. Within a multilayered (state, regional, and global organization), multilateral global governance system, contingent/instrumental and deeper forms of multilateral cooperation coexist, and competing regional paths play an important role locally and externally. Also for this reason, the emergent world order is asymmetric, heterogeneous, and unprecedented and, to some extent, fragmented: is there also a dialectic trend towards a more positive interplay between regionalism and new multilateral/multipolar order?

Mario Telò is member of GG10, Professor of Political Science, International Relations and European Union Studies at the Université Libre of Bruxelles (ULB) and Professor of History of Political Thought at the University of Bari. He lectured and/or has been Visiting professor in many universities including Hamburg Universitaet (1984-1985), Uppsala (1979), Macau, Pisa Sant’Anna (2001), Chuo-Tokyo and Hitotsubashi-Tokyo (2000 and 2002), LSE (2009), Oxford (2010) and Sciences Po-Paris (2010).

Signals a reckless abdication of U.S. global leadership?

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, right, shake hands with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, left, after presenting him with her credentials as the new U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Jan. 27, 2017, at the UN – Defense One

5 Things to Know
Before the US Reduces
Its Role at the UN

By Stewart M. Patrick*
Excerpt from Defense One – January 27, 2017

Trump’s hyper-nationalist, ‘America First’ agenda will play well with his populist base. But it signals a reckless abdication of U.S. global leadership.

As first reported in yesterday’s New York Times, President Donald J. Trump’s White House has prepared two executive orders that would slash U.S. funding for the United Nations and place a moratorium on any new multilateral treaties. Both of these draft documents (which this author has seen) are consistent with Trump’s hyper-nationalist, “America First” agenda. As such, they will play well with his populist base. But they reflect a short-sighted conception of U.S. national interests and signal a reckless abdication of U.S. global leadership.

The most problematic of these orders is titled “Auditing and Reducing U.S. Funding of International Organizations.” It calls for the establishment of an International Funding Advisory Committee, including the secretaries of state and defense, attorney general, Office of Management and Budget director, director of national intelligence, and national security advisor (but interestingly, not new UN ambassador Nikki Haley, who testified at her confirmation hearing: “I do not think we need to pull money for the UN.”). The committee’s mandate would be to determine which UN agencies and other international bodies merit continued funding and which should be cut. Most startlingly, the directive instructs the committee to slash voluntary contributions to UN agencies by 40 percent. It also envisions placing numerous conditions on continued U.S. support for the United Nations’ regular and peacekeeping budget—legally binding obligations that are assessed annually—potentially placing the United States in violation of its treaty obligations under the UN Charter.

The document is couched in the language of fiscal stewardship and patriotic nationalism, promising to “help identify wasteful and counterproductive giving” and avoid supporting a “United Nations [that] often pursues an agenda contrary to American interests.” But the executive order is at once blunt, narrow-minded, and myopic. It grossly exaggerates the financial burden that UNbodies impose upon U.S. taxpayers. It ignores the multiple practical benefits the United States obtains from its support for multilateral bodies. And it is based on false premises about the purpose of international organizations and the nature of multilateral diplomacy. If implemented, the executive order would undermine multilateral mechanisms upon which U.S. citizens depend every day to advance their security, prosperity, well-being, and values.

Here is the reality:

U.S. support for international organizations is modest. The United States is indeed the UN’s largest financial contributor, supporting approximately 25 percent of its expenditures (amounting to approximately 8 billion dollars in recent years). This percentage is only slightly higher than the U.S. share of the global economy. The draft order describes this financial commitment as “particularly burdensome given the current [U.S.] fiscal crisis and ballooning budget deficits and national debt.” Here, a little perspective is in order. Federal expenditures in 2016 amounted to 3.54 trillion dollars (out of a 15.6 trillion dollar economy), meaning that U.S. support for the United Nations accounts for less than one four-hundredth of the federal budget. By comparison, Congress in 2015 provided the Pentagon with a budget of $598 billion—nearly 75 times what it allocated to the United Nations agencies and activities.


Full text available at:

*Stewart Patrick – GG10 member, senior fellow and director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program (IIGG) at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The updated work of the IIGG’s Global Governance Monitor shows how the international community is doing in addressing the most daunting threats that it faces.

Water and Insecurity

Image credit: AP – Gulf News Thinkers – ‘Next Middle East war will be over water’ – October, 2013

Water and Insecurity
in the Levant

By Ido Bar(1) and Gerald Stang(2)
European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) – April, 2016

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the most water-stressed area in the world. In the Levant sub-region, Jordan, Syria, West Bank/Gaza, and Israel are already water scarce while two other countries – Iraq and Lebanon – are ‘water stressed’. This water challenge is a major problem for more than simple development reasons – the domestic instability that led into the Syria conflict was par- tially driven by drought effects, and now the over- flow of refugees is placing greater stress on dry neighbours.

For a region that is expected to become drier yet due to a changing climate, the potential for further water-driven instability is significant. Responding to this will require more than improved water sup- plies. It will require integrated responses that ad- dress technical, political and security challenges at local and regional levels.

The Crescent – fertile no more?

The Levant has always been arid. But the challenge of this natural aridity has been exacerbated by a dramatic increase in population and the growing impacts of climate change. In the last 30 years, the populations of Syria, Iraq and Israel have more than doubled and that of Jordan has almost tripled. Since the late 1980s, the region has been struck by a series of multi-year droughts, leading to increased stress on groundwater reserves. A 2016 NASA study calculated that 1998-2012 was the driest period to strike the region in 900 years.

This drought has had a serious impact on regional economies, particularly in the agricultural sector: the number of people employed in agriculture has plummeted, as has the portion of population living in rural areas and the contribution of agriculture to the economy. These trends are global, but have been accelerated in the Levant, most notably in Syria, where an estimated 1.3 million people were pushed from rural to urban areas during 2006- 2010 as their crops and livelihoods dried up. These shifts contributed to social and economic disrup- tion, as large parts of the population were forced into poverty. The government’s failure to address the problems caused by the drought, among many other failings, strengthened domestic opposition and fed into the increasing domestic instability.

Full Paper available at:

(1) Ido Bar is a Junior Analyst at the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS).

(2) Gerald Stang is a GG10 member, Senior Associate Analyst at European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS), where he researches energy, climate and security challenges. He holds BSc and MSc degrees in chemical engineering from the University of Saskatchewan and an MA in international affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.

L’extrême droite en Europe

«Il est possible
d’enrayer le succès de
l’extrême droite» en Europe

By Mario Telò*
Euronews interview – December 5, 2016

« L’un des points communs concerne les flux de réfugiés et de migrants qui, à cause du nombre de personnes et de leur parcours, génèrent de nombreux changements dans le fonctionnement de nos sociétés et de nos démocraties parce que cela n’est pas régulé par une politique européenne rationnelle. Mais la différence majeure est que l’Autriche, comme l’Allemagne et les Pays-Bas, a une bonne santé économique et il en est de même sur le marché de l’emploi. Les résultats sont biens meilleurs que la moyenne européenne. Avec 46% pour le parti d’extrême droite, l’euroscepticisme n’est pas seulement justifié par le chômage. Il s’explique surtout par la peur de l’immigration, parfois réelle et parfois il s’agit d’une perception subjective. »

Available at:

Mario Telò is member of GG10, Professor of Political Science, International Relations and European Union Studies at the Université Libre of Bruxelles (ULB) and Professor of History of Political Thought at the University of Bari. He lectured and/or has been Visiting professor in many universities including Hamburg Universitaet (1984-1985), Uppsala (1979), Macau, Pisa Sant’Anna (2001), Chuo-Tokyo and Hitotsubashi-Tokyo (2000 and 2002), LSE (2009), Oxford (2010) and Sciences Po-Paris (2010).

The furthest frontiers of Europe

Europe’s outermost regions – Europe News

The Atlantic outermost regions, the furthest  frontiers of Europe?

By Isabel Maria Freitas Valente*
Journal Debater a Europa – N.12 jan/jun 2015 – ISBN 1647-6336

There are places where we feel the “weight of history” profoundly. One such place is certainly the Atlantic islands. These are like the sacred thresholds of the time when, for a brief moment, we can quite easily be transported to the dimension of a past with a special meaning. As Pedro Faria e Castro considers “coastal islands have had a special place in the security of continents throughout history, particularly for Europe. Chasle de la Touche said in the 19th century, referring to the relative importance of Belle-Île in the French region of Brittany, that that island was too far from the Brittany coast to help in its defence, but it was a potential stronghold from which to attack it, should it be taken by an enemy.”(1)

These islands, scattered around the world, are one of the pillars of European 
expansion and in many cases they are still the ultimate geostrategic redoubts of the old maritime powers. The islands that still belong to European States – and there are many of them, spread around the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans – are proof of the political value such States ascribe to them in a postcolonial world. Furthermore, they are essential pieces in European participation in the various aspects of the current process of globalisation.

Natural frontiers between the maritime horizon and the hinterland of European 
territory, legacies of the former colonial empires, the islands are strategic territories for the European Union (EU). They lend more meaning to the etymology of the word ‘Europe’, which takes us to Homer, for instance: “europé – what you see beyond.” In fact they offer the chance of being the eyes and arms of the “Mother”(2) (Europe) which open up like a bridge between the old continent and the rest of the world. They are therefore important economic centres. It can be said that in maritime terms they continue to play an important part, worldwide.

They serve as instruments of power projection because they are important points 
of advance support and provide a means to control certain routes and seas. If these islands are not particularly significant in terms of gross surface area as pieces of European States, the same cannot be said of their geopolitical significance. And this importance varies according to their location, more or less distant from mainland coasts.
While nationalism is reborn in the current crisis, apparently as a secure value, the ongoing process of globalisation favours the emergence of regions, which loom large as instruments for recreating the old nations, as well as a brand new European Union. As Avelino de Freitas Menezes observes, in this case “it shows the usefulness of Portugal’s islands, whose insularity coexists with universality, which provides Europe with an enhanced Atlantic projection, regarded by everyone as essential when the time approaches for the rule of the sea, the greatest treasure for the future of humanity.”

(1) CASTRO, Pedro Faria e – Perspectivar uma nova realidade política insular como resposta a uma melhor integração europeia. In VIEIRA, Alberto – As Ilhas e a Europa, a Europa das Ilhas. Região Autónoma da Madeira: CEHA, 2011. ISBN 978-972-8263-73-7. 

(2) europé is the epithet used by Homer to designate the father and lord of the gods.

*Isabel Maria Freitas Valente is a GG10 member, PhD in Altos Estudos Contemporâneos, in the field of European Studies – Coimbra University. Holds a Master in European Studies from the University of Coimbra, “The Process of Building Europe” in the area of Political Science, coordinated by the Università degli studi di Siena, Facoltà di Giurisprudenza e di Scienze Politiche, in collaboration with the partner universities of Coimbra, Salamanca, Granada, Robert Schuman, d ‘Strasbourg III, Yagiellonski of Krakow and Panteion University of Athens. She is an Integrated Researcher at the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of the 20th Century of the University of Coimbra – CEIS20, Member of Team Europe of the European Commission, Member of the Scientific Council of the Interdisciplinary Research Institute of the University of Coimbra, CEIS20-UC and the Institute for European Studies – Eurofacts.

Africa’s Infrastructure Appetite

Understanding Africa’s Infrastructure Appetite

Conference by Mr. Carlos Lopes*
LafargeHolcim Forum 2016

Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in Addis Ababa, Carlos Lopes, focused his keynote speech at the LafargeHolcim Forum 2016 on Africa’s Infrastructure Appetite. Africa is experiencing a demographic boom, with an expanding middle class and fast urbanization driving most of its growth but is lagging behind every other world region on infrastructure indicators. The potential to do much more is being seriously assessed by economic actors. Contextualizing the current market conditions and properly understanding risk will be an important contribution for the future.

Video available at:

Mr. Carlos Lopes is member of GG10 and the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The Future of Global Governance

U.S. President Donald Trump waits to speak by phone with the Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in the Oval Office at the White House. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)-  The Internationalist 

President Trump and the Future
of Global Governance

By Stewart M. Patrick*
Excerpt from The Internationalist – January 31, 2017

Recent comments by then President-Elect Donald J. Trump—applauding the breakup of the European Union and declaring the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) “obsolete”—appear to confirm his deep skepticism or hostility toward major multilateral organizations. In the Trump worldview, bilateral deal-making among great powers is preferred; regional and multilateral organizations that might constrain the United States are suspect.

Criticism of global institutions is not a novelty in American politics on either the left or the right. The breadth of criticism voiced by Trump and his entourage is new, however, and not only because it originates from a president. A central paradox of Trump’s rhetoric is its combination of claims that the United States has declined from past greatness and an assertion that the United States has unexploited bargaining power left on the table by his predecessors.  Global institutions are not viewed as instruments of American power (as they are in much of the rest of the world), but as restraints on the untrammeled exercise of that power. “Globalism” and its institutional supports, which have promoted a more open world economy, are tilted against the United States—even though the United States designed and promoted those institutions.

Will this vision of American power, which appears set to marginalize or disrupt existing global institutions, be implemented by the new administration? Those who argue for continuity rather than rupture rely on the constraints of the global economy and the relative fragility of Trump’s political coalition. Whatever the bias of the Trump administration, the world economy continues to present problems that will demand solutions, and those solutions will often require multilateral negotiations and forums. Cross-border data flows, for example, have burgeoned in recent years, even as the growth of world trade has slowed. Regulation of those flows and coordination of national data policies remain a large gap in world trade architecture. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) innovated by incorporating rules governing those flows. Although Trump has withdrawn from the TPP, the demand for such rules will persist. The international economy could also move the Trump administration toward a more favorable stance in another way: crisis. As Edward Truman has suggested, crisis focuses minds on solutions that will likely involve the major multilaterals.

The support for Trump’s views on global institutions is also politically fragile, despite the power of the presidency. Divergent views have been expressed by his own cabinet nominees, and congressional Republicans have long tilted toward support for liberalizing trade agreements. Despite political polarization, which has awarded more support for Trump’s views within the Republican electorate, public support overall for the United Nations and other international organizations and agreements—NATO, the Paris climate change agreement, and even the International Criminal Court, which the United States has not joined—remains strong.

Full text available at:

*Stewart Patrick – GG10 member, senior fellow and director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program (IIGG) at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The updated work of the IIGG’s Global Governance Monitor shows how the international community is doing in addressing the most daunting threats that it faces.