What to expect in the global arena in 2017

By Rachel Parkey and Emily Gams

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The president-elect faces a number of foreign relations challenges in the coming years, from Russia, to Israel, to the Philippines. Photo courtesy pixabay.com.

Inauguration Day is nearly upon us. That means a shake up in a lot of U.S. policy, both at home and abroad. If you’ve lost track of which areas of the world might be watching the U.S. more warily in the coming months, we’ve got you covered.  Here’s a quick refresher on what’s going on in a few critical conflicts around the world and why they’re important for the U.S.  Keep an eye on these areas as we see how the new administration decides to approach them.

Russia — It’s no secret that the United States’ relationship with Russia over the past few months has been complicated. The political relationship that will develop between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Donald Trump will define the next four years of American foreign policy.

Russia and the U.S. have supported different players in other world events — think of the Syrian civil war, in which the U.S. has supported the revolutionary forces and Russia has backed the Assad regime. And don’t forget that the crisis in Ukraine is still an issue. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support of separatists in Ukraine scared nations in Eastern Europe, and just this Saturday, U.S. troops arrived in Poland to help ease their fears.  This is the first time western forces have maintained a continuous military presence on NATO’s eastern side, something Moscow is not too pleased about.

Meanwhile, Russia has been accused of interfering with the U.S. presidential elections. The Obama administration has been scrambling to conduct an investigation of the allegations before Inauguration Day, but just what effect those investigations will have is uncertain.

Israel — The United States has been a constant ally of Israel since its formal establishment after the end of World War II. However, during the Obama Administration the precedent of constant support for Israel from the United States has disappeared. This was demonstrated once more when the U.S. decided to abstain from a U.N. vote censuring Israel settling in disputed land.

In the past the U.S. has used its veto power to prevent such measures from passing in the U.N.

The choice to abstain from the vote met harsh criticism both from Congress and the president-elect. Both houses of Congress passed official disapproval of the choice with bipartisan support. President-elect Trump has expressed strong support of Israel and criticized President Barack Obama’s policy. Going forward, the incoming president will have to determine how to carry out a policy of strong support for Israel in the face of this new U.N. resolution.

China — As much as Russia has been in the spotlight recently for Americans, many analysts believe the more threatening global competitor is China. Economically speaking, China continues to claim monumental growth, with more than a 6 percent increase during 2016. This growth, though superficially encouraging to external markets, is slowly beginning to be established on an unstable foundation.

Despite these suspicions, China has gained a steadily increasing influence on the global market and, in turn, the political sphere. As some world leaders tire of American involvement, many — such as the Philippines — are turning to China for support in their future actions. Trump’s emphasis on economic growth and his insistence that U.S.-based companies return production plants to the U.S. could come off as a threat to China and many of her traditional and newfound allies around the world. How our new president will choose to work with China in the first few months of his presidency will undoubtedly prove essential for setting the tone for the next four years.

The Philippines — While we’re on the subject of China, let’s look at one of her neighbors. The Philippines got a new president in June when they elected Rodrigo Duterte.  Shortly after the election, he caused shockwaves when he insulted President Obama at the G20 conference and canceled future joint patrols with the U.S. of the South China Sea. This started a shift away from allying with the U.S. among Asian nations as China and the Philippines became more closely aligned. At the time, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed concern in a conversation with President Obama, calling for a stronger U.S. presence.

Last week, Duterte and Abe met for the second time in three months as Abe tried to make an alliance with Japan more appealing than an alliance with China.  It seems that Abe wasn’t convinced he would be getting enough U.S. support. All this comes among uncertainty over our president-elect’s policy concerning Asia and indications that China and Russia would like to expand their spheres of influence in Southeast Asia. How long the Philippines and Japan stay friends will likely be determined by just how far China is able to expand that sphere.

The U.S. has interests all around the world. These are just a few areas to keep an eye on as we see what the policy of the incoming president is going to be.

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