Swoop: US Foreign Policy in 2015: The Main Drivers

Swoop: US Foreign Policy in 2015: The Main Drivers
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Swoop: “2015 will be year when the Administration and the Congress will face each other with an adversarial hostility almost unparalleled in US history.

President Obama will find himself fighting constant defensive battles to protect his legacy on healthcare, the environment, immigration and other issues.  The scope for major foreign policy breakthroughs, even on already launched initiatives like Cuba, Iran and the Transpacific and Transatlantic trade deals, will be extremely constrained.

To help anticipate and explain American actions we offer our annual analysis of the “drivers” which, in our judgment, will shape the contours of decision-making for the problems that are reasonably foreseeable at this time.

1- US Public opinion: While there has been an uptick in US public interest in foreign policy in the wake of recent terrorist incidents, overall focus and engagement remain low.

2- The Congress: in both Houses intra-party differences about foreign policy are almost as great as the inter-party tensions. As we noted for 2014, much decision-making in 2015 will be opportunistic and event-driven rather expressions of strategic purpose.

3- Internationally: With the US domestically pre-occupied, other major international actors will see the opportunity to advance their own interests. There may be some prospect that new alignments will emerge, for example between Russia and China and India and China.

4- Cyber: both as a response to attacks from outside and, increasingly, as an offensive weapon in the US national arsenal will become steadily more important. The private sector will play the key role in the US Government’s progress.

5- Oil: There are different projections for the price of oil in the US economic agencies, but most see little recovery from present levels for the first half of the year. The reduction in energy costs will boost the US economic recovery, but it will drain support away from climate change responses, for example in research into alternative fuels. It may also scramble US relations with its Middle East allies, especially Saudi Arabia where US analysts are anticipating the implications of a succession in the monarchy.

6- Russia: with Russian President Putin thoroughly distrusted by all elements of the US foreign policy establishment, relations with Moscow will deteriorate. While US planners see Putin’s ambitions tempered by the oil price collapse, there will be little appetite for sanctions alleviation in Washington. This may cause tensions with the EU.

7- China: Beijing will have its hands full in 2015 with its economy, the war on corruption and building a credible set of alliances in the Pacific Rim with nations who will remain suspicious.  US policy will continue to navigate an awkward path between commercial accommodation and strategic confrontation. Both sides will continue to improve their militaries against each other.

8- Iran: this constitutes the Administration’s best chance of a “game-changing” foreign policy success. The Congress, however, has it own ideas of success and will remain an awkward partner for the White House

9- The X Factor: in the “unexpected events” category, US planners have developed a number of scenarios. These include a further terrorist attack on the US mainland, mischief-making by North Korea, an Israeli attack on Iran, natural disasters, serious instability in Nigeria and a dangerous deterioration in relations between India and Pakistan. These are in addition to the ongoing tumult in the Middle East.”

Source: Swoop
Photo Credits: President Barack Obama boards Marine One at Joint Base Andrews, Md., en route to the White House following a trip to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Lakehurst, N.J., Dec. 15, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)