Washington’s World: May 14th – 20th, 2012 – The Summits Week

Washington’s World: May 14th – 20th, 2012 – The Summits Week
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Swoop: “While absent from the headlines, the case of the Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng continues to occupy high-level attention in Washington. The main concern among US officials is that, even if agreement on the exit from China of Chen and his family is reached, Chinese assurances about non-prosecution and non-harassment of Chen’s wider family and associates will prove more elusive. As one State Department official commented to us: “An atmosphere of subtle blackmail is building on Chen. We would not be altogether surprised if he changes his mind again.”

Meanwhile, at the more public level, efforts continue to put US-China relations back on a more solid footing. The Chinese defense minister has just concluded a high-profile visit and the US Treasury has given permission for a number of Chinese banks to expand their operations in the US. An uneasy sense remains, however, that Chinese cooperation over North Korea and Iran remains dependent on a satisfactory outcome of the Chen case. There is a particular concern that Pyongyang may perceive a window of Chinese distraction to go ahead with a nuclear test.

China aside, the foreign policy landscape remains relatively benign for President Obama. With the upcoming G-8 retreat at Camp David and the NATO summit in Chicago, he will have ample opportunity to project a statesmanlike image. There is considerable inter-agency disquiet over the revelations about the successful intelligence penetration of Al-Qaeda in Yemen, but the PR gains for the Administration are self-evident. With opinion polls showing ever-weaker support for the war in Afghanistan, Governor Romney is finding it difficult to score points by criticizing Obama’s policy of gradual disengagement as over hasty.

Similar considerations apply over Iran. Those calling for a more confrontational approach to Tehran are in the minority. US officials interpret the new coalition arrangements in Israel as significantly strengthening Prime Minister Netanyahu’s hand, but remain confident that, unless the P5+1 negotiation track collapses, they can stay his hand from military action.

As we have been warning for some weeks, relations with Russia are uneasy. President Putin’s decision not to attend the G-8 session is seen in Washington as a harbinger of troubled times to come.”

Source: Swoop
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