James B. Steinberg, director of the Brookings Institution’s foreign policy studies program, said the international political system is undergoing a profound transformation. It is being reshaped, he explained, by large historical forces, the policies of governments, the activities of corporations and civil society, and the grand strategies articulated by research groups and individual analysts.
In an interview at his Brookings office, Steinberg said he and his colleagues want to help frame the debate about the strategic options that the United States now confronts.
“We are at a time of first-order questions about the nature of the international system. What is the role of the United States? What are the tools at our disposal,” he asked. “We are now debating strategy in a fundamental way, and think tanks have an essential role to play when these first-order questions are being debated, especially think tanks that go deeply into these issues.”
Steinberg said the end of the Cold War and the revolution in communications technology provide new opportunities for global growth and development. But many of these same forces are also intensifying such threats as terrorism, financial volatility, ethnic conflict, international crime and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
The question with this administration is, what will Trump see as an acceptable return for this waiver [granted to India for its trade with Russia and Iran]? Will he demand a transaction in return, some give on the trade side or a big defence deal for the US as well? Russia and Iran are sticking points, but the fact that the Trump administration is dealing with these privately is a sign of how much the relationship has changed. [Mr Trump] usually doesn’t give out freebies.
Power abhors a vacuum, and in the absence of strong U.S. leadership on Syria, Russia and Iran have been more than happy to move in. It's a measure of just how much they've come to dominate the conflict that they'll be the only major foreign powers at the summit. The White House has largely washed its hands of Syria. But with Iran entrenched in Damascus, and the Islamic State biding its time in the far countryside, it's likely only a matter of time before our hands are dirtied again. When that happens we'll likely look at these negotiations as a lost opportunity.