Tag Archives: Hillary Clinton

CIA Russia hacking report, Twitter Sarcasm and the Prospects of Russia-U.S. Relations


By Aleksandra Serebriakova, a 3rd year International Relations student at King’s College London with a strong interest in post-Soviet Union space and Russia in particular.

On the 6th January the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released the unclassified report that openly accused Russia of interfering in the U.S. presidential elections. The report argued that findings were based on the “understanding of Russian behavior” in its “longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order” and preconditioned by Russia’s “clear preference for President-elect Trump”, but nevertheless did not argue that hacking affected the election results.

The whole language of the Report was supported by the logic of ‘judgements’ rather than hard evidence through analyses of the CIA and two other agencies (FBA and NASA). This absence of strong evidence was explained by inability to “reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future”. Thus, the Report has stated that the campaign to undermine U.S. presidential elections was ordered directly by Vladimir Putin who wanted to “denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency”. What is more, Russia’s military intelligence agency and its Main Intelligence Agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU) has been accused for directing the hacks into the emails of Democratic Party officials and released them with a help of Guccifer 2.0 hacker through Wikileaks and DCLeaks.com beginning in March 2016. Notwithstanding the fact that this kind of reporting would be ridiculous in any other democratic country, as it would confirm that administration itself had a “clear preference” for the Presidential candidate ignoring the desires of its own population, two interesting points can be picked up from this Report: U.S. open advertising of ‘Russia Today’s’ (RT) ability to influence American population and reaction of Russia’s officials to these findings that has often been sarcastic and undiplomatic.

Firstly, due to inability to provide strong evidence the Report had to explain Russia’s alleged influence through its ‘covert intelligence operations’ and ‘over propaganda efforts’ with a help of Russian Government agencies, paid social media users (internet ‘trolls’) and state-funded media, with RT and Sputnik news outlets being examples of this ‘propaganda machine’. Seven pages of unclassified version of the Report were devoted to assessing RT America TV’s activities in relation to “undermine faith in the US Government and fuel political protest”. Without profoundly discussing RT’s efforts to meddle in the current election and only briefly touching upon its ‘negative’ portrayal of Hilary Clinton and open support for Donald Trump, the short Report devotes a substantial part to the discussion of the channels attempts to “fuel political protests” during Occupy Wall Street movement and rise criticism on the U.S. economic and political systems. Overall, the Report presents RT America as some kind of international criminal syndicate with enormous power and financial connection to Russian Government. The argument that “RT recently was the most-watched foreign news channel in the UK” and the tables of comparison that present this channel as the most popular on YouTube out of foreign broadcasting companies (image 1) has caused a stream of comments and jokes from the Russian officials.


Image 1: Comparative Tables from ODNI Report, Appex A

Thus, the Russian Embassy in London claimed that the Report findings have been the best advertising for RT (image 2). Indeed, RT preferences for Trump were clear from the start but how can the coverage of one channel that has a clear connection to the foreign government be argued to have such an enormous power to indirectly influence election process in a sovereign country? While RT should definitely be grateful to this Report for its promotion, we still should be willing to get some more evidence in support for the existing accusations. Otherwise, it all too sounds more as a Cold War scare.


Image 2: Twitter of the Russian Embassy in London, 7th January 2017

What is more, the reactions of Russia’s officials to this Report were not at all surprising. Seen as another groundless attempt to discriminate Russia in the eyes of international community following the traditions of doping scandal and McLaren report, CIA report was met with sarcastic comments from Russian officials. Thus, Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary of Putin, called the accusations on Russia’s involvement in hacking a “witch hunt” and said that Obama’s administration is “behaving like an elephant in china shop”; while Maria Zakharova, a Director of the Press Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called Obama’s team in Facebook “a group of foreign policy losers, anxious and short-sighted”. At the same time, Russian Embassy in the UK called the Report a “pathetic attempt at tainting American’s vote by innuendo coached in Intel new-speak” (image 3) but also posted a bunch of memes in Twitter mocking the Report and Obama administration for its efforts to unleash the Cold War.


Image 3: Twitter of the Russian Embassy in London, 7th January 2017

What is so telling about such an active engagement of Russian officials with Twitter and Facebook in such an ‘undiplomatic’ way? In 2015 Andrew Hoskins and Ben O’Loughlin have argued that Russia was one of the most successful countries to accommodate the chaotic dynamic of social media and user-led content that for some time upset policy-makers ability to influence and control information. In particular, they argued that Russia was successful in “arresting the mainstream media” through its engagement with Twitter, Facebook and VK by allowing only certain parts of the conflict, such as the one in Ukraine, to be visible and framed in a certain way. Russia’s open engagement with social media allows mediatization of conflicts and disagreements and is trying to be especially proactive in promoting its own definitions of how certain disagreements should be seen and which side should be blamed for their existence (well, definitely not Russian). The Twitter and Facebook comments of Russian officials on hacking claims has signified a change in the platform for diplomatic exchanges and showed how influential it might be for promoting a particular view especially when sarcasm, the competition of memes and social media logic of shareability are present.


Image 4: Twitter of the Russian Embassy in London, 29th December 2016

All of these raise a question over the prospects of future Russia-U.S. relations. While during the last press-conference Barak Obama called Russia “a smaller and weaker country”, which nevertheless was able to meddle with the U.S. elections through hacking processes, new sanctions against Russian officials and diplomats summed up the last two years of Obama’s administration unsuccessful politics towards Russia. At the same time, Trump’s position over Russian involvement into the election process was ambiguous. While his Twitter praised Putin’s decision not to expel the U.S. diplomats in reciprocal measures by tweeting that he always knew that Putin was very smart, at the same time condemning findings of the hacking report, his positions somehow changed after few days when he actually agreed that the hacking took place, but due to the “gross negligence by the Democratic National Committee” that would never happen again when he becomes the president. Russian press such as independent Novaya Gazeta news outlet has suggested that such change in the rhetoric is occurring mainly due to the pressures Trump is experiencing from his own Republican party and other officials that take hacking report seriously and do not share his admiration for Putin. Overall, it is clear that unpredictability of the next American president and the pressures he will be experiencing in the White House might force him to completely change the rhetoric in a more anti-Putin and anti-Russian way that will definitely be followed by reciprocal tweets and Facebook posts from Russian officials in even more sarcastic manner.



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God bless America and the rest of the world in times to come

By Julia Huentemann, 1st year student from Germany studying BA International Relations at King’s College London.


Even though I wished the results of the presidential elections were different, I do not find the outcome surprising.

After Brexit, these elections once again reveal how well established parties/politicians have obviously failed to sufficiently acknowledge the needs and sorrows of a broad range of the population. I believe that – just as with Brexit – the majority of the Trump supporters used their vote in order to express fear.  They have reached a point at which they have nothing to lose anymore.  The desire for change has become the driving force for their actions and decisions, no matter how questionable the candidate running for presidency and the consequences might be.

The United States is not an individual case. My home country, Germany, is experiencing a similar development with the German government not actually having a realistic understanding about what is an acceptable burden to place on its citizens. Obviously, a well- earning and well-educated citizen is able to deal with the constant influx of refugees in a much more relaxed way than a member of a low-earning, less-educated class. After all, the members of a well off upper class do not live next door to the refugee camp. They do not have to compete for employment and their children do not have to be afraid of not getting allocated to the favoured kindergarden/school etc.

Anyway, this privileged position is not enjoyed by a vast majority of the population and the influence this vast majority can have is obviously being underestimated. Despite general commitment shown towards the refugees by the general public, we should not neglect the fact that this influx of “strangers” is causing huge fear and envy among the citizens being worse off than the average. They fear of being deprived from privileges and now having to compete against an enormous number of newcomers. This fear is universal in its nature and applies to both Americans in their anxiety about immigrants from Mexico & Co. as well as Germans and their anxiety about refugees from Syria & Co. No nation simply exists of wealthy and privileged. There always exists an equal proportion (if not even more) of poor, uneducated and narrow minded. And still those less privileged have to be considered as equal, especially in their right to vote.

The outcomes of the elections show that the gap between rich and poor, educated and uneducated is becoming wider and wider. Here I see the most urgent need for action not only in America but also in Europe. Education, and with it the opportunities for social upward mobility is, among other things, a prerequisite for a functioning and sustainable democracy.

Democracy in itself has its limitations. It assumes every citizen to be mature, to make rational decisions to promote the common good but this is rather an unrealistic illusion. As long as everyone is content, values such as tolerance, freedom and solidarity are being promoted, but as soon as there is a tendency towards misery, rather negative sentiments move to the focus of attention. And those sentiments are very unlikely to conform to such honorable values as tolerance, etc.

Without social equality it will become increasingly difficult for liberal-democratic governments to acquire a majority in governmental elections and the presidential elections in the US is just one example revealing this ugly truth. We should acknowledge the fact that Trump, other than Hillary Clinton, has managed to see and incorporate the desires of the so-called “silent majority” into his campaign. We should acknowledge the fact that Trump was able to use the weaknesses of democracy (namely the dissatisfaction of the people) to his advantage, which is not illegitimate as a means of acquiring power, and that this has made him a successful candidate.

If we truly believe in the concept of democracy, we still have to respectfully accept what the people in the United States have voted for. There is no point in complaining about the outcome of the 2016 elections, even if it is tempting to do so, to join the ones proclaiming a global apocalypse. Future politicians can actually learn a lesson from the recent developments, may it be Brexit, the refugee crisis or the presidential election. There is an urge for an increasing awareness of the needs of the less privileged who feel neglected by the establishment. Too many events have proven this social group to be underestimated in its actual impact upon the outcome of public votes from which they must and cannot be excluded.

Instead of complaining about the past, we should attempt an optimistic outlook into the future as things never turn out to be as bad as they might have seemed. We should have faith in the American population, we should have faith in the survival of democracy and we should understand it as a chance to return to more solidarity in Europe. I strongly believe that the outcome of those presidential elections provides enough motivation for European nations to form a closer union in order to withstand Trump´s America and to be considered as a serious partner on equal level. God bless America and God bless the rest of the world.

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KCL Reactions to #Trump

8th of November hit us like a hurricane. Everyone has something to say, especially people from the War Studies department at King’s. Take a look at what students and professors from our department have to say about the American election.



“The day that racism becomes some sort of patriotism, America is no longer America”

“What’s funny is that it’s not low level racism anymore. Resembling Brexit, the ascendancy of trump will now legitimise draconian behaviour i.e. “The wall”, “deportation forces” and “ban of muslims”. This was my first election where I myself could vote and although I did not have high thoughts of any candidate, there was clearly a moral side against a racist, sexist and deplorable side. I will still go to the US in pursuit of further education and it being my country of birth (yes Trump I am one of those “anchors” you so want to get rid off). America is still a beautiful place with endless opportunities (as we saw last night) and we shouldn’t allow someone like trump to ruin our futures if we can control it. At times of extreme adversity, we must stand up and face it with dignity…”

Emil Wilson, 3rd year IR

“I cannot believe how much Hillary Clinton, the most qualified and experienced candidate was let down like this. Feminism is very very much needed in today’s world and especially in the most “forward” thinking country.”

Shalini Chatterjee, 3rd year IR

“Look, I’m as crushed as anyone by Trump’s victory but enough with all this moving to Canada nonsense. If one defeat is enough to make you give up on your country then you never loved it in the first place. Tonight the people were stupid, but they have the right to be. That’s democracy and it is still worth fighting for. So we respect the result. We stay engaged. We try to make this work and in 4 years we come back. Or 4 years after that. Or 4 years after that.

Don’t give up the ship.”

Patrick Visser, 3rd year War Studies at KCL

“I am not known for sharing my political views but I will not remain silent this time. Coming from a country and a region which is increasingly becoming radical right wing; and a place which has suffered decades of communism, I know what both look like. I have not publicised it in any way but I was a Hillary supporter since day one. Not because of the ‘woman card’ but because she has the experience, knows what she can and cannot do as a president, and has been dedicated to her country politically for over thirty years. I know she has her flaws but she could truly make a beneficial impact on the US.

The US, a place known for attracting people looking for a place with opportunities, a symbol of freedom and diversity. That same America of chances has become subjected to mockery and harassment. It is not ‘America, what did you do?’, it’s not America that ‘did it’. This decision is a consequence of the way working class white men have been treated in the country, of what the Democratic party did not do in the last years and did not do throughout Hillary’s campaign, and of what many Americans understand wrong about politics. This great land, the strongest country in the world, is now to have a leader who refuses to accept climate change exists, is genuinely racist, is pro-torture (which has absolute prohibition under international law and is seen as the ultimate crime committed against a human being), is a sexist and a homophobe and the list goes on. I am not shocked that that happened, especially given how undemocratic the American elections system is, but I am concerned about what will happen to the Hispanic and African-American minorities, to the LGBT+ community, to gender equality, and to all these people who still hold the idea of the US as a land of opportunities and are scared of the future.

America did not need to ‘get great again’, it was/is great, but it now needs to find its focus and balance again. America, you will go through this night and will rise again… I hope. #prayforAmerica

Ilina Trendafilova, 3rd year IR at KCL

“In his acceptance speech, Trump declared he would reach his hand out to all Americans and ask we work together to improve our nation. When a president asks this we must answer the call to work towards improving the nation. However, with freedom comes vigilance. Trump, you will be our president. And as your people we will do what we ought to do: hold you to account. We’re not all running to Canada and we’re not all going to let you do whatever you want. We are going to try and move forward but if you do one thing which runs counter to the ideals which make us American (inclusiveness, diversity, acceptance, and tolerance) as you did during your campaign, we will be there to push back every time. What makes America great is not that we always choose the perfect leader and have the sunniest of days. What makes America great is that regardless of the circumstance, no matter how dire things may be, the institutions which underlie our politics and our society will continue to stand. Furthermore, our love for each other as Americans who share values (regardless of race, gender, orientation, or religion) has stabilized us through days infinitely darker than the ones we face now. God bless the left, right, center, and god bless the United States of America.”

Derek Eggleston, 2nd year IR at KCL

“Scared that it will give momentum to nationalist and populist mouvements in Europe! Especially with Le Pen and even Sarkozy, who since today has embraced the Trump rhetoric in France.”

Elise Lauriot Prevost, 2nd year IR at KCL

“I am shocked to see Donald Trump being elected as president of the United States.  Somebody holding this undisputedly most powerful office should have a significant amount of diplomatic skill. We can clearly negate that to be the case.  Let us hope that hard-earned peaceful relations among the United States and its allies are not being ruined from one day to another. Let us hope the American ideal of democracy survives this challenge. Let us hope this development to be a motivation for a return to more solidarity in Europe in order to withstand Trump’s America.”

Julia Huentemann, 1st year IR at KCL

“As upsetting as the Trump victory is, this is not the time to point fingers and widen the ideological division between socio-economic classes. When people have such a strong feeling of hate towards politicians and when people would rather vote for a misogynistic, racist, inexperienced candidate instead of someone who is perceived to represent the establishment, there is obviously something wrong with Western politics. Now, more than ever, the Left needs to be united, strong, and hopeful. Taking action towards self-examination and reinvention is the next step.”

Ioana Ilie, 3rd Year War Studies at KCL

“It’s not the results any of us opted for, but it’s the one we got. The American people are sick and tired of the establishment and media taking advantage of them. Though their scapegoat is horrendous, their disillusionment with the current system is understandable. Even though the popular vote was given to Hillary, the outdated electoral college puts Trump as the president elect.  Makes you wonder if the primaries weren’t rigged what could have happened…
But I will stand by my Americans – family members, friends and good people who elected Trump. I will also stand by those who elected Clinton. Now is the time for unity, and if we have to take this route then so be it.  He is my president for now but America will always be my country.”

Anya Wasserman, 2nd Year IR at KCL

“What disturbs me the most is the moment I’ll have to write <<President Trump>> in my essays… That is indeed a scary thought”

Andrei Popoviciu, 2nd Year IR at LC:

“Yes there were MANY Reasons for Trump’s win, but I’m stunned by some people simply dismissing those who voted for Trump as idiots, racists, homophobes, etc. Yes we can’t overlook the nature of his supporters and many of them do have these abhorrent qualities, but equally many are genuinely mad at being labelled as soon as they open their mouths. There is no dialogue anymore, if someone utters an opinion outside of the liberal mainstream – they are not deemed a discussant with another opinion. They are deemed a racist, a xenophobe, or a ‘whacky’ guy stuck in the 1910’s. We have to stop lying to ourselves. These people exist, and dismissing them only alienates them further while making them more aggressive and determined. We have to talk to them, because otherwise it looks like they will crush the us and the ‘liberal/democratic order.”

Stanislav Skryabin, 2nd year IR at KCL


Former Head of Department, Professor Theo Farrell


Anglo-American Foreign Policy Lecturer, Dr. John Bew, summed it up


Alessio Patalano, lecturer in War Studies on maritime issues in Asia


Cyber specialist, Professor Thomas Rid



Our beloved Head of Department, Professor Rainsborough kicked off the night with humour (how quickly those smiles disappeared from our faces):


Kieran Mitton’s view


Alexander Hitchens’ parallel with the UK:


Dr Christine Cheng helped draw up the 2000 UN Millennium Development Goals – she is not too optimistic about human security now:


Professor Neumann is probably the War Studies lecturer most often seen on TV. And really it is not only his expertise that makes us see why… he speaks for the people:


Shiraz Maher shocked by the news


Lastly, Professor Freedman calls US on smooth political transition, is there hope?


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Dear Hillary

by Jackson Webster, a Los Angeles native, currently in his final year of International Relations in the King’s College London Department of War Studies.

hill 1

Dear Hillary,


Congratulations. The Democratic nomination is all but yours, and the GOP faces an existential crisis which has caused its voters to choose a loud-mouthed human toupee as their nominee. You’re likely to take the reigns of power next January, and then it’ll be out with the campaigning and in with the governing. Here’s a few humble observations from yours truly about our broken yet salvageable national security strategy and how best to fix it. Let’s get down to business.


  1. Ok, so here’s what you have to do:
    1. maintain American pre-eminence through cooperation with new mid-level allies,
    2. establish connectivity with the global economy as our top national security priority,
    3. use of American military power to back the norms of the liberal world order when institutions fail to do so.
  2. And here’s why:
    1. unquestioned US dominance is fading, and this power is transferring to mid-level states,
    2. the global economy is increasingly interconnected,
    3. hundreds of thousands have died in Syria and territory has been annexed by force in Ukraine, and the UN Security Council has done essentially nothing about it.




The unipolar global system created at the end of the Cold War, where the US’ power stood unchallenged, is no longer a realistic worldview upon which to base our strategy in the 21st century. Equally, American strategy has been bastardized over the past two decades into dealing with old rivals and old allies. We’d best heed Washington’s warnings against unconditional alliances, and revaluate the costs and benefits of our partnerships. Moreover, we have become distracted by threats which do not pose serious existential danger to the US or its interests, such as locally-focused religious extremism in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and Iraq. We have dangerously overplayed the importance of combating terrorism. This calculus must change to recognize the dynamic nature of power distribution in the 21st century.


American power projection is based in strong alliances backed up by material assistance. The US can be a regional kingmaker. This power is unique in political history. This ability of US patronage was used to create the regional powers of West Germany, Japan, and Israel during the Cold War. The US must be prepared once again to double-down on mid-level allies in this century, though the allies we must court differ from those of the last century. Such states include Poland, Turkey, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Argentina. Each of these states faces serious internal issues which would be best combatted with our assistance. Patronage for Poland can be used as leverage over the current government, which has spent its time in office thus far flouting the rule-of-law. Turkey faces a serious separatist and terrorist threat in its Kurdish southeast. Malaysia faces slow growth from falling oil prices and multiple regional refugee crises. Mexico is fighting well-armed and well-financed drug cartels. Nigeria faces an Islamist insurgency in its northern provinces, with spillover effects into the territories of other US partners like Mali and Chad. Argentina continues to face serious national debt problems. All these countries need assistance, and with our patronage comes an integration of American interests with these states’ interests. Through our aid, and through closer cooperation and inclusion in the liberal international order, we can ensure these states’ partnership for decades to come, just as Marshall reconstruction at the end of the Second World War solidified US partnerships with West Germany and with our East Asian allies.


While Russia has previously presented a geopolitical challenge to the US, and Moscow has successfully countered our interests in Syria and Ukraine, Russia does not present a serious long-term threat to American pre-eminence due to Russia’s own internal weaknesses. A kleptocratic political system centred around President Putin himself, combined with a gas-dependent and sluggish economy, do not provide strong nor stable bases for Russian power. In the short-term, Russian power can be best countered through existing alliances, namely with increased NATO armoured deployments in the Baltic States. A return to conventional deterrence is prudent in this instance. Indecisive acquiescence to Moscow is not. A strengthened American commitment to our allies in Eastern Europe will amply halt Russian ambitions in that region. Russia today is not what the Soviet Union once was: it is not a great power competitor on-par with the depth or breath of American power, despite Mr. Putin’s ego often arguing the opposite.


China, however, provides a direct revisionist threat to the liberal world order. The strength and diversity of the Chinese economy, combined with a decade of robust Chinese diplomacy in their near abroad and in Africa, have lead to extensive gains in Chinese economic and diplomatic influence. This influence is shown in the popularity of the Chinese-lead Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. However China, too, is best contained through existing institutions. China’s willingness to work within the international system allows its rise to be less conflictual than historical revisionist powers. China is not a rogue state. It seeks legitimacy as a member of the international community. The US must continue to place resources and faith into our alliances with Japan, Australia, and South Korea as the best regional counterbalances to Chinese ambitions, and must work to increase cooperation with and amongst these allies. Equally, the maritime stability provided by the US Navy will remain crucial to all East Asian export-based economies well into this century, including China’s.




At the creation of the American Republic, the only permanently standing element of the Federal military was the Navy. The Department of the Navy was created to maintain daily connectivity to the global economy, a lifeline the new Republic desperately needed. The US needs this lifeline today more than ever. Freedom of navigation maintains both current global order and US primacy, which are synonymous. The American Navy’s unquestioned dominance underwrites American hard power more than any other branch of the military. Equally, it ensures that American power can be projected anywhere in the globe within hours of a crisis.


Bill was right, when we’re talking about the bedrock of global order, “it’s the economy, stupid.”  The world’s economy is more interconnected than ever before, and it’s only getting more so thanks to the Internet. Global free trade remains the central priority of US national security strategy. For this reason, the US Navy will be the key branch of the armed forces into the 21st century in terms of power projection. Whereas investment in land-based counterinsurgency techniques and equipment has characterized the last decade, investment in naval technology, basing, and logistics must be the central priority of the national security budget in the coming decades. The American population no longer has the political will to launch large land-based occupations, and these kinds of actions can often be a poor long-term investment with very little stability produced in return. Investment in our Navy will ensure American dominance of the seas into the next half-century, will counterbalance China’s new blue-water navy, and will guarantee that global chokepoints of trade remain open to our nation’s imports and exports.




America is not as all-powerful as she was when your husband took office, however the depth and breadth of US power still must not be underestimated. The American military outclasses all our competitors and our allies combined in every measure of strength, the American economy is still the largest in the world despite our relatively small population, and the US possesses a geographically advantageous location: we are literal oceans away from threats to the homeland.


hill 2


The US must use its power projection to be the guarantor of the liberal world order. This rules-based order is beneficial to the US economy, to our allies, to our continued primacy, and to our values. Supporting norms, weapons prohibitions, international treaties, free trade, and institutions of due-process upholds the liberal world order. As the US is the creator and natural leader of the liberal world order, the maintenance of this system is of paramount interest to the US. Even if this support comes at a cost and forces restraint on American actions abroad, the long-term benefits outweigh the short term shortcomings.


As was done in the Persian Gulf in 1991, the US must use our power to punish states who do not play by the rules. We must continue to use our overseas military deployments as guarantees to our allies, who must have no doubt we will defend their sovereignty. When states break international norms or violate the sovereignty of our allies, the US must have a credible threat of the use of force against these rogue actors. While not every violation of the system alone constitutes a direct threat to US national security, the maintenance of the global system of norms and institutions is a central priority of US national security. Therefore, a violation of these norms or a defiance of these institutions constitutes a credible threat to US national security and thus warrants decisive action.


Mrs. President, I wish you the best of luck in the next four (let’s be honest, with the current state of the GOP, probably eight) years. Here’s to hoping for an easy end to what was an excruciatingly long —though certainly unique— election cycle. I hope Bill doesn’t get into too much trouble as our nation’s first First Dude.


Respectfully yours,


Jackson Webster

Proud member of the California Democratic Party

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Who will win the ultimate dogfight? An editorial analysis of the race for the White House

As the race to enter the White House heats up in both the Democratic and Republican parties, we at IR Today take a look at the major candidates still vying for their party’s nomination and assess their chances of becoming president.


Democratic Party


Hillary Clinton: Seen as the stability candidate to continue the style of the Obama administration, the former senator for New York has for a long time been the frontrunner for the democratic nomination. She has been consistently present on the political scene and her time as first lady and her distinguished career as both a Senator and as the Secretary of State mean that Hilary has the experience in the political spotlight that no other candidate can match. This is precisely why another run at the presidential palace always seemed on the cards, she feels that her experience puts her in a unique position to govern the country. Some of course use this to criticise her and argue that her record isn’t good enough for the Oval Office. Though she struggled more than expected Iowa and got annihilated in New Hampshire, the Clinton camp is still upbeat expecting to gain the Democrat nomination with relative ease due to her strong polling in the delegate heavy South, and most recently her Nevada win. An issue that has recently come up is that following her NH loss Hillary held a rally with Madeline Albright who rather sensationally remarked that there’s a ‘special place in hell’ for women who don’t support Clinton. The female members of this editorial team take particular grievance with this. And given the aggressive response all over the Internet, we’re obviously not alone. It’s safe to say that while Hillary will win many votes for her gender, she cannot win on that card. And overplaying it can only work against her.  Assuming that she works this out and gets the nomination, she must face up against a republican challenger and who this is may affect whether she becomes the United States’ first female president. Though she polls well against the current republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, she struggles against Ted Cruz with current polls putting the difference between the two for popular vote within the margin of error. The worst case scenario for Clinton would be a Rubio challenge with the Hispanic Senator holding a strong 5% lead over Clinton in national polls.

IRToday Presidential Score: 8/10


Bernie Sanders: At 74, Bernie Sanders is not only the oldest person running for nomination, but were he to become president by the end of his term he would be the oldest president in the history of the United States. This has not stopped the self proclaimed ‘democratic socialist’ from engaging with young voters creating quite the insurgency within the left of the Democratic Party. Sanders has done surprisingly well so far sweeping to the New Hampshire primary with 60% of of the popular vote, causing fear amongst many in the Democrat establishment. However, though Sanders does well on the Liberal west coast and north east many have criticised him for failing to galvanise the ethnic minorities who form the democrats base in southern states. This makes his chances of winning the primary diminish drastically, despite recent polling suggesting he is drawing level with Clinton in many other areas of the country. In addition to this, Sanders isn’t nearly as articulate in voicing a clear foreign policy. Given that the President of the U.S. is also its head diplomat and that Bernie is running against a former Secretary of State, he doesn’t fare well on this aspect of his campaign (in fact Foreign Policy just this week released an article saying that Sanders has begun to assembly a foreign policy team). Nevertheless, those who worry that Sanders’ message cannot resonate on a national basis should be pleasantly surprised by his brilliant polling against potential republican candidates, like Clinton his downfall would be a Rubio bid who narrowly outpolls him by 1%. All other candidates, however, Bernie takes down with ease (leads of at least 4% nationally) making some of us here at IR Today to #FeelTheBern (Sam Wyatt).

Despite this strong national support unfortunately there seems little chance that this Vermont senator could ever unseat the dynastic heir to the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, and so this socialist dream may have to wait.

IRToday Presidential Score: 4/10

Republican Party


Donald Trump: When the head honcho of The Apprentice (USA) declared he was running for president of the United States, many on both sides of the Atlantic refused to take it seriously, dismissing him as a joke candidate.  With policies that include the building a wall on the Mexican border that the mexicans will pay for and refusing entry to all Muslims until ISIS are defeated it seemed to many that the person spouting this rhetoric was too radical to be elected, and yet Trump is soaring in the republican primary with most polls putting him around 10% above his nearest rival. He also seems immune to fact checking, no matter how much his statements are disproved he continues to garner support from all sections of society. Even more worryingly he has a major grassroots support system. Many Americans who have never voted before are currently looking to vote for Trump himself. It is evident, therefore, that his message is resonating with many who feel isolated and alienated in the current system. Whether his support will continue to skyrocket and his streak of 3 wins keeps going is still a coin toss. His chances in a National race don’t look as good, as the RNC has noted, but one thing is for sure, as things stand he is the one to beat in the Republican race. And if he surprises us once, who says he can’t do it again in November.

IRToday Presidential score: 7/10


Ted Cruz: The radical non-establishment republican senator from Texas who almost shut down government last year in a standoff over Obamacare is the candidate most international correspondents fear the most. Having won the Iowa Caucus Cruz has proved himself to be a ferocious campaigner tackling issues that are important to the republican base – abortion, gay marriage, immigration. Though some of his policies lack nuance (such as his plan to carpet bomb Syria) he is a fiery speaker who knows how to rile up a crowd. However, there are some major problems with his campaign, for one it is not even known if he’s eligible to become president as he was born in Canada and the rules on ‘natural born’ citizenship are unclear. Furthermore, as the most conservative candidate he is viciously attacked by the Republican establishment, and his inability to gain a single recommendation from the Senate may hinder his campaign. Though he currently lies in 2nd place in the polls, his election chances are dwindling as he is facing increasingly difficult attack ads from both the Rubio and the Trump campaign.

IRToday Presidential Score: 5/10


Marco Rubio: The last remaining bastion of the Republican establishment is currently vying with Cruz for second place in the race. With Bush dropping out at the weekend, many donors are backing the man from California to win the election for the republicans. Dubbed by many as the Republican Obama, Rubio has charisma to spare and this will be vital if he is to pick up the nomination. Though he trails Trump nationally by around 10% points, he is the candidate left who does best in a head to head against him because though he has very conservative credentials on things such as abortion he has a very open approach to immigration – rare for a republican candidate. Furthermore, Rubio is in the unique position of being able to beat both Hillary and Bernie in matchups and by considerable margins too – he is by far the candidate that the democrats must fear most. However, as things stand himself, Cruz and Kasich (who is now pretty irrelevant anyway) all take votes away from each other making the trumpmobile virtually unstoppable. His chances at nomination may lie in doing well enough in the early primaries, and as many republicans as possible dropping out so that he can harness their support groups- if he can get through the primary he must be the favourite for the presidency but that seems a long way off.

IRToday Presidential Score: 6/10

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Tanks, troops and election campaigns: Which future American president is most likely to fight Daesh by land?

by Dano Brossmann, student of International Relations at King’s College London and Sciences Po Paris.

U.S. Army Capt. Thomas Melton, commander of Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division discusses the day's mission with his counterpart from the 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, in Bakariya, Iraq, on Dec. 4.

“If Iraq becomes the Islamic State, I will never again return to my home country,” are the words of a woman from Mosul, now living in London, who I have interviewed in summer. It was not so much her sanguine connection with the victims of Daesh’s brutal operations that kept my pressure high. Instead, I was shocked by the calamity with which she accepted the possibility that Daesh might win. In other words – preserve control over its territories and become a recognized member of the International System. Will next president shift this narrative?

Legally speaking, Daesh is far from getting recognized. Its land looks like an unassembled puzzle and the population is highly diverse. If national sovereignty is embedded in people, they firstly need to self-identify as one nation: a place where Iraqis and Syrians become, per se Daeshians, and inhabit solid territory with well-defined boarders. Thirdly, its brutal behaviour does not cast the light of legitimacy in the international environment.

Stephen Walt of Harvard sees it differently. Historically, revisionist “movements that were once beyond the pale,”[1] such as the Maoists in China, also acquired power violently. It took only a few decades before American presidents were shaking hands with China’s highest representatives.

Today Daesh is strong and brutal, perhaps less sophisticated than Hitler’s Germany, but still rightly to be compared with the Nazis. In Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, Daesh has forced Christians to leave and then redistributed their houses to the people moving in from villages. It has been using the wealth of others to fertilize its own popularity, and whether we want it or not, Daesh has been successful in doing so. As of today, the movement does not enjoy international recognition. On the other, it treats some of its people well and receives internal support.

Ground invasion – which future American president will go for it?

The use of force is a failure of diplomacy,”[2] repeats a professor of mine here at Sciences Po. Looking at the situation from distance, I see little diplomacy and some force – Air Force in particular. Are air strikes an effective way to fight Daesh?

According to Stephen Walt, planes are not enough, and in order to retake control of those territories “large scale intervention”[3] may be needed. It requires military activity of an Arab coalition, as well as US leadership. In other words, it requires putting boots on the ground, including Americans.

In early September, America had 3,550 of its personnel providing advice to the Iraqi army[4]. Donald Trump is determined to increase this number by sending troops into oil-rich areas of Iraq and then use the profits for treatment of American veterans.

What are the positions of other potential presidents?

090521-N-8907D-127 NEW YORK (May 21, 2009) Donald Trump, Chairman and CEO of the Trump Organization, tours the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) during Fleet Week New York City 2009. Approximately 3,000 Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsman will participate in the 22nd commemoration of Fleet Week New York. The event will provide the citizens of New York City and surrounding tri-state area an opportunity to meet service members and also see the latest capabilities of today's maritime services. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Danals/Released)

Irreplaceable America and the militaristic guy – defining Bush and Trump

During a speech in California this August, [5] Jeb Bush proposed a realpolitik foreign policy plan in which a clear hegemonic vision remained. In his words, “the threat of ISIS requires all the strength, unity and confidence that only American leadership can provide.” Specifically, he plans to expand supplies to the Kurds and the Iraqi army, who have “the will but not the means to fight.”

Other than Mr Trump, Bush is probably the closest to a ground invasion. Mr Bush argues there is neither need, nor request for “a major commitment.” Surprisingly enough, the former Florida governor does consider this situation may change.

Donald Trump is a simple man. He enjoys talking the talk, but will he walk the walk once he gets in power?

Mr Trump is determined to cut the source of Daesh’s income, its oil in particular, even at the cost of sending troops to fight on land. “You have to put the boots on the ground,” if you want to knock out the source of their wealth, he argued on the American programme, Morning Joe. Once Americans succeed in guarding the oilfields, “nobody is going to take it back.”

It is very questionable whether Trump’s formulations reflect what he actually thinks or serve to gain him publicity. Most would wish the latter, but understanding this experienced businessman’s true intentions is always difficult. His words therefore cannot be taken too seriously.

Diplomatic language and war as the last resort – Clinton’s approach and Sanders’ position

Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has been quite neutral and diplomatic with respect to taking a specific approach against Daesh. Her words certainly cannot be labelled “militaristic,” neither has she publicly spoken of America’s involvement in ground operation.

According to past formulations, fighting the militants “has to be an Iraqi-led mission,” [6] in which the USA only assists. She is committed to supporting actions to weaken Daesh and protect sexually abused women who are being enslaved by the group.

Clinton is rather careful when talking about foreign policy, given that as former Secretary of State, she carries a large responsibility for the first Obama administration. Foreign policy expressions of any kind can be easily used against her campaign.   

Bernie Sanders has called for greater involvement of regional powers, mainly Saudis and Emiratis, who are in close geographical proximity. He also agrees with Obama’s bombing operation, as well rephrases him that American troops should not be sent to Iraq and Syria.

“Before you go to war,”[7] what you sometimes have to do is “explore every other option,”[8] said Sanders in an interview with Vox. War, as the very last option, is not only about the dead but also about the many soldiers who return home with “post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury,” thinks the Democratic candidate. Sanders may be seen as a pacifist, but he is not. These expressions reflect he is well aware of warfare lethality but at the same time leaves doors open for a possible involvement.

The legitimacy of time

Daesh is gaining both hearts and minds of many people now living under its rule. Despite its brutality, the new ruler pays pensions on time, runs hospitals and builds roads. Although it sounds absurd, life in Mosul, one of the most dangerous cities of post-2003 Iraq has for many become more secure and normal than before. At least for those, who were not kicked out, killed or disappeared.

Given America’s negative experience with ground invasion to Iraq, few candidates are willing to act on the issue. If we were to mark the probability of involvement based on previous statements, Mr Trump would take the action in first place. He would be followed by Mr Bush, with Mrs Clinton taking the least likely at ground action.  

[1] Walt S., „What Should We Do if the Islamic State Wins?“, Foreign Policy, 10 June 2015

[2] Ronald Hatto, Strategic Studies class, Sciences Po Paris

[3] Walt S., „What Should We Do if the Islamic State Wins?“, Foreign Policy, 10 June 2015

[4] Binnie J., Ing D., Wasserbly D., „US expands Iraqi re-train/equip programme into illy pad strategy“, IHS Jane’s 360, 12 June 2015

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pnnR9adWU4

[6] Goldberg J., „Hilary Clinton: Failure to Help Syrian Refugees Led to the Rise of ISIS“, The Atlantic, 10 August, 2014

[7] Klein E., „Bernie Sanders, The Vox Conversation“, The Atlantic, 28 July 2015

[8] Klein E., „Bernie Sanders, The Vox Conversation“, The Atlantic, 28 July 2015

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Joe Biden is Hillary Clinton’s Big Fear

by James Resnick, a second year International Relations student studying abroad at Sciences Po Paris. He interns at the Hudson Institute and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. 

Joe Biden

Should Joe Biden run for the Democratic Party’s nomination, it would seriously hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances.

In spite of her first place position in a recent Bloomberg Politics National poll, Hillary Clinton has had to stave off numerous ongoing challenges. The ongoing email scandal has led to continued protestations that she lacks transparency, genuineness and that she can’t be trusted. A recent Washington Post poll underscores this continuing trust deficit, with a mere 39% of voters finding Clinton to be both honest and trustworthy. Populism within the Democratic Party is alive, from a disgruntled wing who happen to be disappointed by the apparent centrism of President Obama and is clearly evident through the huge crowds of thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters, appreciating authenticity, while advocating that the United States shift towards a Scandinavian-style socialism. Critically important to the list of Clinton concerns, however, is the somewhat inevitable announcement of Joe Biden’s candidacy.

Even without declaring his candidacy, Biden attracted 25% of the vote in the Bloomberg poll which asked interviewees ‘Which of the following Democrats would be your first choice for president?’ Biden even does better than Sanders, whose rallies have been attracting tens of thousands of supporters, though this result is partially due to the fact that a significant minority either still haven’t formed an opinion of Sanders or don’t even know him. Biden trumps Clinton on favourability, according to latest poll numbers from the Washington Post. 80% of voters responded that they have a favourable view of Biden, with 14% holding an unfavourable opinion. In comparison, Clinton clocked in at a more meagre 70% with a quarter responding unfavourably.

What will define a Biden run will be the recent tragic losses he has had to endure, most notably the recent death of his son Beau. David Brooks highlights that Biden’s electability could be found after his heartfelt interview with Stephen Colbert, ‘Every presidential candidate needs a narrative to explain how his or her character was formed. They need a story line that begins outside of politics with some experience or life-defining crucible moment that then defines the nature of their public service.’ Brooks adds, ‘With Colbert, one saw the kernel of a Biden formation story that could connect not only with Democratic voters but with other voters as well.’

Beyond the formation story, the Washington Post poll also notes that a plurality of voters too also stated that they’d want Biden to enter the race. This is telling. It is telling because up until now the focus has been dedicated between the more centrist Clinton, and the socialist Sanders. One can appreciate Sanders for the fact that he has pushed the Clinton rhetoric much further to the left, which can only be a good thing. But many Democrats are still unsatisfied with a Clinton who timidly shifts further to the left to limply cater to the progressive wing of the party.

Clinton’s inability to provide personality to her campaign is particularly hurting her chances with white working class voters with accusations that she doesn’t go much beyond the teleprompter. In contrast, Biden has the Trump-like mannerism of espousing what he thinks, though far more rationally. That has been to his detriment at times, but Biden’s authenticity will be greatly appreciated by an electorate who have grown weary of overly-prepared politicians. Despite Clinton’s middle class upbringing, Biden is far superior at championing his story, his roots. Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist who recently joined the Draft Biden 2016 super PAC notes, “If you look at the way Democrats have struggled with working class white voters primarily. I think Joe Biden is a guy that has come from that world. He was a middle class guy growing up, and he has never lost his roots. He gives us a chance to talk to some voters that we have struggled with in the last few cycles.” Bernie Sanders’ meteoric rise has shaken the Clinton campaign, but what appears to distinguish Biden from Sanders, is that Biden can be similarly populist and authentic, while also take credit for the Obama administration’s achievements; Clinton too can similarly take advantage of such achievements, though GOP criticism of the president is focussed on foreign relations, where much blame has resided on Clinton.

His already established superior approval ratings, his formation story, his genuineness, and his influential role within the Obama administration. These are the lines that distinguish Biden from Clinton.

Clinton’s struggles will more likely than not persist into next year, and nothing would be as impactful, than if Biden enters the race. A Joe Biden candidacy would significantly shake up the primaries and would detrimentally impact the Clinton campaign. This can only be something worth encouraging.





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6 Reasons why the American Presidential Election is a Circus

by Kate Dinnison and Millie Radovic. Kate is an American second year student of BA International Relations at King’s, North America Editor of IR Today, and Academic Secretary of the War Studies Society. Millie, an Anglo-Serbian native, is also reading IR at the War Studies Department, the Chief Editor of IRT, and VP of the War Studies Society. 

1. Fox ‘News’

An entire article, nay book, could be devoted to the sheer absurdity of Fox ‘News’. The second word of that name is unlikely to come out of quotation marks any time soon, as the channel is more of an entertainment centre for those perpetually bored, deprived of education yet loaded on pills Americans than anything relating to a news centre. Certainly, the mere existence of Fox makes the entire media world of the States a circus. But the fact that the channel is being used to broadcast Republican debates makes the election itself one. I can just imagine president Lincoln turning in his grave as the party he once lead in abolishing slavery continues to intellectually deteriorate. Do they genuinely want to seem ridiculous to the rest of the world? Even if a Republican candidate was to win next year, how could they expect to be taken seriously by the rest of the international community when there is a clip out there of them debating on a ridiculous television channel such as Fox? The debate I’m talking about was of course widely recognised as a circus itself, and to quote Mark Levin from a site called Polistick, “it was [like] a cross between Jerry Springer and House of Cards”. Now there are two TV show titles that should never be in the same sentence. All jokes aside, while it is indeed entertaining to read the latest outbursts on Fox all the way from across the Atlantic, the size of their viewership and support is no laughing matter. There comes a point when even though it’s fun to ridicule a major election, the fact that it is one in the most powerful country in the world is more than scary.

2. Electoral College Imbalances

The electoral college is an institution that aims at accurately and fairly representing voters in the United States through 538 electors. Small states are given additional power to prevent politicians from only focusing on issues which affect the larger states. The initial fear was that without this power, politicians would completely ignore small states and only focus on large urban population centers. Sounds ideal in theory, doesn’t it? In practice it greatly distorts the electoral system and has resulted in four presidents being elected who did not win the popular vote in the 56 elections in United States History. This system caused controversy in the 2000 when George W. Bush  won the nomination for president whilst Al Gore won the popular vote by a narrow margin, exposing its flaws and leading the US on a very different path than it would have otherwise. The EC causes some problems in representation in that nearly 40 states are written off by parties knowing they either can’t win or lose it, with nearly all the focus and campaign dollars spend on those key swing states like Florida and Michigan.  The cherry on top is how the EC perpetuates the solid two-party system, with no room for the greens or independents that have the chance to cut the bi-polarity. But that, my friends, is a whole issue in itself.

3. No Donation Caps

America is infamous for its liberal views, and this especially comes into campaign donations. One is at ‘liberty’ to contribute as much as they want to any given candidate or party. In 2012, individual contributions to the main candidates totalled at over 1.15 billion dollars. Compared to the total of £8 million being contributed by individual to all of the UK parties in the General Election of 2015, this is a downright waste of money. How can after the 2008- financial crisis people actually contribute these amounts of money with a straight face? To be frank, the British figure is not impressively low itself, and indeed the UK is a much smaller country than the US. But personal endowment is genuinely a less common occurrence in European politics even when considered in proportion to size.

Frankly, the lack of donation caps is simply not just strange because it doesn’t match our policies here. It’s strange (read – ridiculous) because the elections then turn into more of an auction than a genuine competition to win over the people with best policy proposals. Candidates with the most money can invest the most in campaigning (especially in the ‘swing’ states) and thereby reach more people. As candidates reach out to more people, contributions to their campaigns are more likely to grow. And before you know it it’s a race between wallets rather than ideas.

4. % Voter Turnout

The United States general election is no doubt the most watched and heated cycles internationally, yet, it has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among modern democracies. U.S. turnout in 2012 was 53.6%, based on 129.1 million votes cast for president and an estimated voting-age population of just under 241 million people. In 2014, the mid term elections were the lowest they’d been since 1942 during WWII. These low numbers can be blamed on a number of factors – education, large rural populations, among others. Registration to vote is an individual responsibility, which is maybe why only about 65% of the U.S. voting-age population (and 71% of the voting-age citizenry) is registered, according to the Census Bureau, compared with 96% in Sweden and 93% in the U.K. How can the United States claim to be a democracy when little over a half of the electorate actually votes?

5. Party Imbalance

Next, and in my opinion really not sufficiently discussed in the media, comes the stark difference in the number of declared candidates features in main polls by each major party. The Democratic Party so far has 5 of these, and the Republican 16. That’s over three times more. Whether there is insufficient interest, or whether Joe Biden’s bid is in the works, or whether no one wants to run against Hillary – currently there is little to choose from on the Democratic side. Meanwhile the Republican camp is frankly overflowing with hopefuls. This certainly means one thing: whilst the Republican race is anybody’s game at the moment, candidates are going further and further into extremes to win over votes, and 060415coletoonthe Democrats (read – Hillary) don’t have to try nearly as hard. Sure, whoever wins will have the current president’s support, but they are simply not being challenged enough to justify their claims and promises. Hillary especially, despite her email scandal is still most likely to win. The way that the American primaries are supposed to work is that even though only one candidate comes out of them, the pressure imposed by the competition of their own colleagues shapes their campaign into one that more widely represents their entire party. Right now, Hillary is still barely challenged – and even if she does indeed win, it will appear that she won more on the account of 1) being the lesser of two evils and 2) simply being a woman. And whilst a woman is definitely due a spot in the that presidential seat, winning simply on account of gender once again makes for more of a circus of an election, than a legitimately suitable president.

6. Celebrity Candidates

This year we are seeing some familiar names on the ballot – Bush, Clinton, Paul have all been household names not necessarily because of their careers, but their fathers’, husband’s and brothers’ before them. I think in all cases, such precedence has the chance to damage each of these candidates as the American population fears the dynastic sentiment that comes with electing another Clinton or Bush as president. It seems that with every election cycle Americans are looking for a fresh start, which is why carrying these names will prove to be a challenge for these candidates in the primaries and eventually in November 2016.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have those who have made names for themselves in other capacities. Business mogul and infamous a**hole Donald Trump has taken far too much space in headlines for months now because of his bold stances on immigration and self-proclaimed war on political correctness. Why, as americans who hopefully wish the best for our country, are we giving him any attention or consideration? Kanye West and Trump throwing their names in for the next few elections, whether or not they believe they can effectively run the country, is simply a PR stunt to shake things up, to fill hotel rooms, and to sell albums.



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