The Week Ahead

The Week Ahead

Netanyahu meets U.S. President. Ecuador votes for president and legislature. Munich security conference brings together foreign affairs and security experts. G20 meeting will test the emerging political environment. Germany plans four-way meeting on Ukraine. All in The Week Ahead.

Prime Minister Netanyahu meets U.S. President

On Wednesday, the Israeli Prime Minister will meet with President Trump to discuss bilateral relations as well as Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been optimistic that the current administration would represent a shift from the acrimonious relationship it had with President Obama.

Trump has advocated during the presidential campaign for a number of policies that are supported by the Netanyahu administration that would represent a major break from previous administrations: moving the U.S. embassy location from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, supporting the expansion of Israeli settlements, and expanding defense collaboration. However, the administration gave the Netanyahu administration a bit of a shock when it announced that certain Israeli settlements may not be “helpful” in advancing peace between the Israeli and Palestinian sides.

However, Netanyahu is expected to focus on one area where he is most likely to gain a receptive ear in the White House — Iran. The Netanyahu administration as well as Congressional Republicans have consistently criticized the Iranian government for the behavior of groups it supports like Hezbollah and Hamas. This could also be a helpful point of agreement between the White House and Congress, particularly considering that in other areas of foreign policy, the two Republican dominated branches don’t see eye-to-eye: opposing attitudes on Russia, mixed feelings on China, and disagreements on NATO — though the President is walking back some of his more severe criticisms of the transatlantic alliance.

Ecuador votes for president and legislature, with presidential runoff in April increasingly likely

On Sunday, Ecuadorians will head to the polls to determine their next President and Congress, as 10 years under the rule of Rafael Correa comes to an end. Although the national legislature ended term limits, it only did so as long as they did not apply to the current administration. President Correa has already hinted he may return to politics in the 2021 election when the change comes in to place.

Although President Correa’s Vice President, Lenin Moreno, has been the front runner to succeed the president, he is not likely to receive majority support and may not hit the 40% threshold necessary to be declared victor in the first round. In fact, recent public opinion poll has shown his standing deteriorate against two right-leaning candidates, Guillermo Lasso, a former economy minister, and Cynthia Viteri, a center-right lawmaker. Should the two conservative candidates’ voters consolidate their support around whichever conservative candidate advances into the next round — likely Lasso — the two candidates may likely end up neck-in-neck.

The election may then result similarly to Argentina’s, when, following an initial election the two remaining candidates were a center-right mayor and a lawmaker viewed as a more moderate successor to the leftist administration of the president.Support for President Correa has ebbed as oil prices have declined and led to a pinch to Ecuador’s economy. One of the intriguing questions for this election may end up being the fate of Julian Assange, currently holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. If Lasso ends up successful, Assange may be kicked out of the embassy.

Munich Security Conference brings together world foreign affairs and security experts

Starting Friday, the Hotel Bayerischer Hof will host the Munich Security Conference. The conference, which has been held yearly in Munich since 1963, will bring together security policy experts and policymakers in the largest non-government meeting in this sector.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has confirmed she will be attending the forum, as will US Vice President Pence — the two are expected to meet in sideline discussions at some point during the 3-day forum. The event is expected to focus on transatlantic relations and the strength of NATO, as well as relations with Russia and Syria, cybersecurity and Asia-Pacific security conflicts.

The conference chairman, Wolfgang Ischinger, has indicated that the conference will be one of the most critical in years, given the 2016 U.S. presidential election and internal struggles in Europe that may grow if populists gain power in the Netherlands and France.


G20 foreign ministers meeting will test the emerging political environment

On Thursday, Germany’s new Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel will host the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting ahead of the G20 leaders’ summit in July. It will also be the first major multilateral event for recently confirmed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Gabriel has indicated that work to advance climate change mitigation efforts will be a primary agenda item. This could be particularly tricky for Secretary Tillerson, as the current U.S. administration has shown a repeatedly strong skepticism towards climate, and Tillerson himself had previously downplayed efforts to mitigate or accept climate change science while serving as CEO of Exxonmobil. This could become a sticking point as all other G20 members, including China, have historically come together in a common acknowledgement that climate change is a major issue for member countries and the world.

This could end up putting the U.S. administration in a difficult position: does it maintain the stance it took during the campaign at the risk of alienation by taking a position directly counter to global consensus? If so, it may not be as successful in gathering international support to pursue policies it finds to be in its own interests, such as countering global terrorist threats, and may sap global goodwill for an administration that is clearly still trying to figure out what its foreign policies are, much less how to actually achieve them.


Germany plans four-way meeting on Ukraine

This week, the German government may meet with the French, Russian, and Ukrainian governments to discuss the recent outbreak of violence in east Ukraine, the continuing inability to sustain peace, and the full territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state.

Chancellor Merkel has already contacted President Putin to use his influence with the east Ukrainian separatists to halt violence and the spread of tanks and weapons in the area. It is uncertain whether this will be a successful tactic as the U.S. government has backed away from moving against Russian actions in the region. Nevertheless, the European Union has, if anything, gone in the opposite direction. The EU recently agreed to sustain sanctions against specific individuals in the Russian government as well as on some Russian goods. Russia has shown little indication it will step back from its forays into Ukraine and Syria, so there is little reason to expect major developments at this stage.   


The Week Ahead provides analytical foresight on the economic consequences of upcoming political developments. Covering a number of future occurrences across the globe, The Week Ahead presents a series of potential upside/downside risks, shedding light on how political decisions affect economic outcomes.

This edition of The Week Ahead was written by GRI Analyst Brian Daigle.

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