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In February 2019, the Government of Georgia hit a new low when news of its “attack” on TBC Bank, one of the biggest banks in the country, became public. The National Bank of Georgia and the Prosecutor’s Office confronted TBC Bank, a member of FTSE 250 and one of the most successful business projects in Georgia since its independence, and its founder Mamuka Khazaradze. Khazaradze is also a founder of the Anaklia Development Consortium, which is constructing the first deep sea port in Georgia. The achievements of the TBC group epitomize the success of market economy in post-Communist Georgia. However, the government accuses the bank of financial misconduct and possible money laundering.
At the time of writing, things appear to look bleak from Pyongyang’s vantage point. Though North Korea is hypothetically involved in negotiations with South Korea and the U.S. at the same time, the talks with the U.S. are the most important at the moment. After all, as former UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon acknowledged the other day, without progress between the U.S. and North Korea, not much can happen in practice between South and North Korea. Both countries’ governments want to get to work on economic exchanges, but none of that can happen until the U.S. and North Korea exit their current stalemate. As of now, there seems to be little in terms of a consistent policy trajectory for either party. Still, both—that is, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump—want to keep talking.
Donald Trump does not have a foreign policy; he has moods regarding international affairs. Underneath the volatility of his moods, however, are some convictions: namely that other countries are robbing the U.S. through trade; U.S. allies are at best incapable of defending themselves and unwilling to spend resources in order to do so; multilateralism is for the weak; and widespread application of U.S. military power to underpin the prevailing international order is a wasted and failed endeavor. In many respects, these convictions are fundamentally wrong: over the long term, the U.S. has benefited enormously from commitment to open trade, alliances beyond immediate transactional quid-pro-quo, multilateral international order, and U.S. global power projection.
France and Germany recently decided to share the presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and jointly do the agenda-setting and public communication tasks it involves, over the next two months. What could be an important symbol appears, however, more like a smokescreen to conceal the two partners’ skirmishes over their respective UN seats. France is one of the five permanent members of the UNSC, with all the privileges that brings, including a veto on any decisions it opposes. Germany has recently been elected to a two-year, non-permanent seat on the Council, with no special privileges. The Germans wish to see France’s permanent member status Europeanized—in other words, transferred to the European Union as a whole. Paris continues to respond to such suggestions with a resounding non. At first glance, this disagreement might look like French national “egoism” standing in the way of Germany’s splendid ambitions for Europe. On closer inspection, however, it is rather the other way around.
On a recent research to Taiwan, I made several visits to one of the premiere tourist attractions in Taipei: the Chiang Kai-shek (CKS) Memorial Hall, which memorializes the “Generalissimo” who ruled (in various forms) the Republic of China from 1928-1975. The Hall would remind Americans of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., due to its grandiose style and architecture and the presence a large statue of the titular leader sitting in a chair. I visited the location many times because I am undertaking a research project on the Tsai Ing-wen administration’s transitional justice (TJ) initiatives to address Taiwan’s authoritarian past under the Kuomintang, and the Hall is one of the major points of controversy since as a part of the TJ efforts, the government is reviewing the status of statues of CKS and debating what to do with them.
Among the range of possible outcomes discussed before the summit, ending with nothing at all was something few, if any, had bet on. It seemed much more likely that Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un would agree to measures that were relatively minor in scope but big on symbolism, such as a declaration ending the Korean War. In terms of concessions and gains, the U.S., seemed perhaps likely to get the dismantling of at least some parts of the Yongbyon plant or other facilities. North Korea may have expected specific and limited sanctions relief, perhaps a measure that would have allowed it to move ahead on economic exchanges with South Korea. The summit abruptly ended with neither, and, at the time of this writing, the North Korean and U.S. versions of what happened differ quite significantly.