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The State of the Union – 08/02/2015

As always, The Hippo Collective is proud to publish its weekly news bulletin on important political developments that are currently happening in The United States.  We hope that you will find the Report informative and useful.  Enjoy!

 

President Barack Obama’s National Security Strategy:

The first two stories regard US President Barack Obama’s release of his National Security Strategy (NSS) and budget for the fiscal year of 2016.  Beginning with the first document, the NSS is published periodically and outlines the White House’s overall defense strategy and identifies the main upcoming challenges to US national security and interests.  Obama’s foreign and defense policy, which has been heavily criticized by analysts and political pundits, has been characterized by a desire for ‘smarter’ governance and has thus redefined the US’ role as the leading world power.  The latest NSS essentially continues that trend by focusing on the American ‘involvement in coalitions, diplomacy’ and support for ‘international institutions…’

Obama strongly emphasizes that while America will act unilaterally if necessary, it is a stronger and more efficient member of the international community if it cooperates and practices ‘strategic patience and persistence.’  While Obama’s foundational doctrine for security essentially remains the same, only time will tell whether it is successful.

On the topic of terrorism, Obama supports the continuation of the current policy with an emphasis on multilateral action to deter and prevent terrorist threats.  The President particularly underscores the importance of ‘collective action with responsible partners’ as an invaluable tool in executing counter-terrorism operations.  Perhaps the most interesting section of the document stresses ‘increased efforts to prevent the growth of violent extremism and radicalization that drives increased threats.’  This approach suggests a desire to reduce important factors which contribute to the growth of terrorism such as poor economic and social conditions.  As the Middle-East is struggling with rising security issues such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, there is an acute necessity to not only conduct combat operations but to contribute to the sustainable economic growth and development of democratic institutions, human rights and education.

Finally, on the topic of Russia, a shift in rhetoric aims to redefine the US’ conception of President Vladimir Putin’s nation as a possible threat.  In the 2010 NSS Russia was referred to as a ‘potential partner’ in regards to various issues including nuclear non-proliferation and arsenal reduction.  In sharp contrast, the 2015 NSS reiterates the importance of imposing ‘significant costs on Russia through sanctions and other means…’  With the current schism in Western views on how best to deal with Russian expansion in Ukraine, developments in the Eastern European region will be a crucial flashpoint throughout the year.

The National Security Strategy is an incredibly important document as it outlines how the US will counter a number of international issues and challenges.  While Obama’s liberal policies in the international community have been contested, the document points to notable achievements in combating terrorism and in reducing Iran’s nuclear capabilities and stockpiles.  It is highly recommended that readers review President Obama’s strategy in order to attempt to interpret and understand current events as they unfold in the complex international arena.  (Information from Politico)

 

Obama Proposes New Budget:

President Obama released a second document of notable importance this past week.  Following the initiatives introduced during his State of the Union address, Obama proposed a $3.99 trillion budget to Congress.  The budget for fiscal year 2016 must be approved by Congress before implementation and many Republicans have unsurprisingly voiced concerns.  Obama’s economic blueprint would forecast a ‘$474 billion deficit’ which would be ‘2.5 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.’  Economists ‘view [those numbers] as sustainable.’  The budget would result in an estimated $1.8 trillion deficit reduction over the upcoming decade.  This however depends on ‘Republican support’ which will not be enlisted easily given Obama’s plans for immigration and healthcare reform.  Obama urged Congress to not ‘play politics with folks’ economic security, or with our national security.’  The President will have a difficult time convincing certain elements of Congress to support his budget.  This will be a crucial achievement to maintain the resurgence of the US economy and perhaps more importantly, for his legacy.

 

Tribulations in US-Cuban relations:

The elating and triumphant rhetoric that has been expressed by both US and Cuban politicians is most certainly justified given the historic developments with the restoration and normalization of diplomatic relations.  However, complications and challenges are bound to arise throughout the process.  The most recent trouble concerns US official’s freedom of movement in the neighboring state.  According to Josefina Vidal, the highest Cuban official in charge of US affairs, the government is worried that ‘the way those (U.S.) diplomats act… within our country’ will support ‘elements…that act against the interests of … the government of the Cuban people.’ These statements were released ahead of an upcoming round of negotiations.  US politicians are afraid that restrictions on movement will be used to impede them from supporting the regime’s political opponents.  This would effectively be another tool with which the regime could suppress dissidents’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.  It will be interesting to witness whether the two parties will be able resolve deep differences in opinion over the protection of human rights and the US economic embargo as the process of normalization proceeds. (Information from Reuters)

 

Bill de Blasio’s State of the City Address:

The Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio has recently faced a number of challenges ranging from growing economic and social inequality to a tense standoff between his office and the police unions.  In his recent State of the City address, de Blasio attempted to outline an ‘ambitious urban blueprint’ to create highly needed affordable housing to protect citizens incapable of paying increasing rents.  Ignoring possible police department reforms, de Blasio promised to create ‘hundreds of thousands of new apartments’ to counter an increasing process of gentrification in the next ten years without offering concrete information on how to pay for them.  The Mayor claimed that without housing reform New York would become ‘a place defined by exclusivity rather than opportunity.’  While De Blasio’s remarks were generally supported by New York citizens, many, especially members of the real estate and construction industries, were left wondering and worrying exactly how these changes would benefit their city. (Information from the New York Times and Reuters)

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