It’s Better to Deal with China and Russia in Tandem

“We think that would be a mistake. Divorcing policy toward one country from policy toward the other not only distorts policy toward each country, it also leaves neglected, or perhaps unrecognized, the overarching challenge of the escalating strategic rivalry between the United States and the world’s two other most formidable military powers, whose polices are increasingly aligned.”

“As is increasingly true, Russia and China coordinate key elements of their policies toward the United States. This they do when, for example, they both support third countries hostile to the United States, conduct military exercises designed to deal with U.S. contingencies, and oppose norms undergirding the U.S.-backed liberal international order. Their cooperation complicates the U.S. response to either of them separately. Similarly, continued tensions with Russia and growing tensions with China fuel greater collaboration between the two. As they draw closer economically, technologically, militarily and diplomatically, and their cooperation in each of these spheres crosses new thresholds, their combined weight in East Asia and across Central Eurasia swells the challenge far beyond that posed by either alone.”

“Success requires subtlety and patience. A crude U.S. strategy designed to pull Russia away from China or drive wedges between them has no chance of success and would almost surely have the opposite effect. The two countries’ political systems, the character of their leaders, the complementarities between their economies, and the parallels in their foreign policy agendas create a natural basis for what they describe as a “comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination.” But there are reasons—including historical grievances and strategic calculations—for the two to think twice about a wholesale alignment, and a nuanced U.S. policy designed to exploit this reality would minimize the risk that a “strategic partnership” will congeal into a hostile anti-U.S. alliance. Restored diplomatic engagement with Russia and a recalibrated sanctions regime crafted to resolve conflicts and not merely punish are first steps in creating strategic options for Russia beyond China.”

“the United States should eschew policies that could transform current tensions with China into a full-blown cold war. Here U.S.-Chinese interactions will obviously prove decisive. But improved relations with Russia could help reduce the risks. While Russia benefits from a certain degree of tension in U.S.-Chinese relations, in a cold war it would be under pressure to choose sides and thus sacrifice its strategic autonomy, a core element of national identity. Russian leaders will be loath to do so. Russia might have little direct influence over Chinese conduct, but improving U.S.-Russian ties and removing the incentives for Russian-Chinese strategic alignment would complicate Beijing’s calculus and could lead to less aggressive Chinese policies.”

“The approach to trilateralism should be diverse. Some issues may be better addressed through coordinated parallel bilateral discussions, such as areas of economic friction or some aspects of military competition. Some in trilateral formats, such as the threat of terrorism or the challenge of managing Afghanistan-like regional disorder. Others in multilateral forums, such as the six-party effort to deal with a nuclear North Korea or the P-5’s attention to nuclear risk reduction.”

Biden’s stated rationale for extending America’s war in Afghanistan is weak

“President Joe Biden all but said during his first formal press conference on Thursday that the United States would likely extend its 20-year military campaign in Afghanistan for at least a few more months beyond the May 1 withdrawal deadline set by the Trump administration’s agreement with the Taliban.

That’s his prerogative, of course. But some experts and advocates of withdrawing say his stated reason for keeping US troops in harm’s way for a while longer — that in terms of sheer logistics, it would be hard to pull the remaining 3,500 US troops out the country by that date — is weak.”

“The choice facing Biden was always a tough one: Abide by the Trump-era agreement and leave by May 1 — risking the Taliban’s hostile takeover of the country as soon as the US departs and the reversal of progress on women’s and children’s rights that would inevitably follow; or violate the agreement and stay in order to pressure the Taliban to strike a peace deal with the Afghan government, risking more dead American service members in the meantime.

Neither is a great option, which may explain why Biden seems to have chosen a sort of muddled middle path: withdraw, but likely later this year — and make it look less like a strategic decision about the US’s role in the country’s peace process going forward and more like merely a function of logistical realities on the ground.”

“while there are legitimate logistical challenges to pulling out US troops by that tight deadline, some experts I spoke to aren’t convinced that’s what’s really driving Biden’s foot-dragging.

Most analysts and even top congressional Democrats acknowledge that, at this point, the US can’t withdraw from Afghanistan safely by May 1, even if Biden were to order that today.

The main problem isn’t removing the service members themselves, but rather all of their equipment, from the landlocked country. America and its allies could leave things like vehicles and guns behind as part of a hurried exit, but then the Taliban or other terrorist groups could use them for their purposes.

“It takes a while to do [this] methodically and well,” said Jonathan Schroden, an expert on the war at the CNA think tank in Arlington, Virginia.

But some experts and advocates for withdrawal cite two reasons for why Biden’s rationale rings hollow.

First, the timing: “If what he wanted was the fastest possible out, that could have been the order in January,” said Andrew Watkins, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Afghanistan

Simply put, the administration is surely aware of how long a safe withdrawal takes. Biden, then, effectively made the decision to keep troops in the country beyond the deadline by not making a decision until he’d passed the point where that was possible.

Second, some say that despite its harsh rhetoric demanding “all foreign troops…withdraw on the specific date,” the Taliban probably wouldn’t consider it a violation of the agreement and start targeting American troops even if the US hadn’t gotten every last person or piece of equipment out of the country by May 1, as long as Biden had announced his order to withdraw and it was genuinely underway.”

“Put together, experts say Biden’s case to the nation for why the US should remain in Afghanistan a little longer doesn’t hold up. Biden’s true intention, they divine, is that the president and his team believe their long-shot push for a diplomatic solution to the 20-year war requires prolonging America’s military presence.”

“So why didn’t Biden just say that during the press conference?

Some experts said the US may still be working to agree to an extension with the Taliban, and openly stating America will remain beyond May 1 to keep the insurgents at the table wouldn’t play well until there’s an understanding. Plus, citing logistical concerns might draw less backlash from the American public than extending the military presence in search of an unlikely peace deal.”

Anti-Asian racism has been overlooked for a long time. It’s now reached a boiling point.

“To provide some context for the range of discrimination that’s been experienced — and show what Asian Americans have been facing as they walk down the street or make a quick stop at the grocery store in towns and cities across America — here are some accounts that have been reported to Stop AAPI Hate, in people’s own words.”

Why the New START Extension Could Be the End of Arms Control as We Know It

“With the five-year extension of New START, the United States and Russia got a reprieve to come up with new ways to manage their strategic competition. They should use this time to engage in a no-holds-barred dialogue about their differences and to think boldly and creatively beyond the established framework that is bound to run into the insurmountable twin obstacles of political headwinds and conceptual obsolescence.”

Why North Korea is ramping up missile tests again

“Why is North Korea suddenly testing all these missiles?

Experts are split. One potential reason is that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wants to slowly ratchet up pressure on Biden and get his attention.

“North Korea usually begins its new military threats-cum-psychological warfare cycle through graduated escalation,” Sung-Yoon Lee, an expert on Pyongyang’s politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, told me.”

“the North Korean leader wants the tests to bother Biden so much that the US engages in some kind of diplomacy with North Korea to stop the launches. Once at the negotiating table, Pyongyang would seek an end to US sanctions on the country before agreeing to dismantle (at least some parts of) its nuclear program, while Washington would push for the opposite — North Korea first verifiably dismantling at least some parts of its nuclear program before the US lifts any sanctions.

That broad standoff has plagued US-North Korean relations for decades, but it’s particularly irksome to Kim right now. The sanctions hurt his country’s economy, which the dictator has promised to improve, and are especially biting during the Covid-19 pandemic. His new round of testing, then, is a message to the White House: End the sanctions, or America’s relations with North Korea are about to get a lot more tense.”

“The other potential explanation experts gave me for the recent tests has less to do with the US and more to do with simply improving North Korea’s military capabilities.

“These launches are not a cry for attention, nor are they a cry for help with North Korea’s broken economy. Such launches are a sign of North Korea’s clear determination to continue advancing its ballistic-missile programs as part of making good on the ambitious plans for North Korea’s weapons programs,” said Markus Garlauskas, the US national intelligence officer for North Korea from 2014 to 2020.

Getting stronger militarily, after all, was a promise Kim made to top North Korean officials and his people during a January meeting. “If these [launches] go unchecked by the international community, this is likely to lead to launches of bigger and more capable systems, including those capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads,” added Garlauskas, who is now at the Atlantic Council think tank in DC.

Whatever the reason, though, it’s important to note that Kim could have chosen to be even more aggressive than he has been.”

Mitt Romney has a plan to give parents up to $15,000 a year

“In 2019, Mitt Romney made history: he became the first Senate Republican to endorse a form of child allowance, where all low- and middle-income parents would get a cash benefit to help raise their kids, regardless of whether or not they’re able to work. At the time, the plan was modest, amounting to only $1,500 a year for kids under 6 and $1,000 for kids 6-17.

But on Thursday, Romney went even further and proposed the Family Security Act, one of the most generous child-benefit packages ever, regardless of political party. The plan completely overhauls the current child tax credit (CTC) and turns it from a once-a-year bonus to massive income support, paid out monthly by the Social Security Administration.”

“Romney’s plan would replace the CTC, currently worth up to $2,000 per child and restricted to parents with substantial income (it doesn’t fully kick in until you reach an income of over $11,000), with a flat monthly allowance paid out to all parents:

Parents of kids ages 0 to 5 would get $350 per month, or $4,200 a year
Parents of kids ages 6 to 17 would get $250 per month, or $3,000 a year
Parents with multiple kids could get a maximum of $1,250 per month or $15,000 a year; that translates to five kids between the ages of 6 and 17. Very large families would be somewhat penalized, but many families with three or four kids will get the full benefit.”

“Romney’s proposal would phase out for wealthy parents — the benefits begin phasing out for single filers with $200,000 and joint filers with $400,000 in annual income.”

“If you’re a liberal reading this and wondering if there’s a catch, there is — but it’s not necessarily a huge one. Romney doesn’t want his plan to add to the deficit, and he wants to simplify the set of child-related benefits the government currently offers. So his plan would pay for the child allowance by eliminating a number of other programs, including some that mostly benefit the poor ”

“The upside of Romney’s plan being fully paid for, however, is that it would allow Congress to make the measure permanent under budget reconciliation rules, whereas the Biden proposal that relies on deficit funding is a temporary one-year measure.”

“It’s hard to see Romney’s proposal gaining enough Republican support to get the plan above 60 votes, though I’d be thrilled to be proven wrong on that front. But it could easily, with Romney, Democrats, and maybe a few other choice Republicans on board, make it into a reconciliation package.”

This popular and proven climate policy should be at the top of Congress’s to-do list

“Over the past three decades, 30 states — red and blue alike — have passed laws requiring electric utilities to use more clean energy. Since 2015, 10 states have adopted 100 percent clean electricity standards, requiring the transition to fully 100 percent carbon-free power. And six more have committed to that goal. State laws are popping up so fast, it’s hard to keep track. Across the country, 170 cities have policies to get to 100 percent clean. As a result, more than one in three Americans already live in a place that’s committed to reaching 100 percent clean power.

We know this approach is technologically possible. Wind, solar, batteries, transmission lines, and other technologies can replace dirty fossil fuels. Google, one of the largest electricity consumers in the country, is aiming for 100 percent clean power, real-time at all its facilities by 2030.

With all this state and local leadership, it’s not surprising that this approach is popular with the public. In independent polls from both Data for Progress and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, run over the past few months, more than two-thirds of voters support the federal government moving the country to 100 percent clean power by 2035.

And once we implement this policy nationally, it should stay popular because clean energy saves customers money.”

“Many utilities continue to operate old, uneconomic coal plants. In just three years, these plants cost customers an additional $3.5 billion to keep open — and that’s before we add in all the extra hospital bills for folks breathing in their pollution day after day. Or the cost of destabilizing our climate. Replacing these dirty plants with clean power is not only good for our health; it’s also good for our wallets.”

“In our research for our report, we spent months talking with congressional offices, parliamentary experts, think tanks, climate advocates, and others, and have concluded that it is possible to pass a CES through the budget reconciliation process. In our report, we identify several ways a CES can fit with the Byrd Rule.”

Why comparing Marjorie Taylor Greene to AOC is ridiculous

“Ocasio-Cortez’s alleged “extremism” is her advocacy of a democratic socialist politics common among peer democracies; her signature policy proposal is a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent. Greene is a conspiracy theorist who has called for executing Barack Obama, claimed the Parkland school shooting was staged, and suggested a space laser controlled by wealthy Jews caused the 2018 California wildfires.

One advocates for left-wing policy ideas in good faith; the other spreads absurd, offensive, and even dangerous lies.

The most interesting part about the AOC-MTG comparisons aren’t the similarities between the two but rather the differences. That this is how “extreme” is defined with regard to each congressional delegation reveals that while one party has moved somewhat to the left in recent years, the other has flown completely off the deep end, breaking American politics in the process.

It also shows how poorly equipped some members of the media are to convey this essential fact.”