Morning Brief

Trump Seeks to Shut Down Asylum at Southern Border

Plus: China's economy slows, Erdogan readies for S-400 deployment, and the other stories we’re following today.

Central American migrants cross the Rio Bravo river in Ciudad Juarez, State of Chihuahua, Mexico, on July 15, 2019.
Central American migrants cross the Rio Bravo river in Ciudad Juarez, State of Chihuahua, Mexico, on July 15, 2019. HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: the Trump administration moves to constrain asylum seekers, Erdogan pledges S-400 missile system will be operational by April 2020, and China‘s economy grows at its slowest rate for 26 years.

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White House Takes Unprecedented Step On Asylum

The Trump administration is seeking to effectively halt migrants from seeking asylum protections at the United States’ southern border, going against decades of U.S. policy.

According to a new rule published on Monday in the Federal Register, migrants’ eligibility for asylum will be limited “if they enter or attempt to enter the United States across the southern land border after failing to apply for protection in at least one third country through which they transited en route to the United States, subject to limited exceptions.” The rule is expected to go into effect today, although it is likely to be challenged immediately by human rights groups.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said at a news conference that his country “does not agree with any measure that limits access to asylum.” Appearing to echo Guatemala’s refusal to become a party to the new U.S. policy, Ebrard said that a “safe third country” agreement with the United States “is not going to happen,” although he appeared to hedge his statement later in the conference.

Meanwhile, the four Democratic lawmakers targeted by President Trump in a series of tweets suggesting that they “go back” to where they came from, have hit back on his remarks, which have been widely condemned as racist. Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts branded Trump’s comments  as “a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern and consequence to the American people.”

What We’re Following Today

Erdogan ready for S-400. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced yesterday that the Russian S-400 missile system would be fully operational by April 2020. Turkey has begun to receive parts for the system over the past week. Erdogan made the announcement at a rally commemorating the failed July 15 coup of 2016.

The Trump administration is ready to impose sanctions against Turkey for its purchase of the Russian system, although the final decision rests with President Trump himself—as FP’s Lara Seligman reports.

Adding more tension to U.S.- Turkey relations, the trial of Bijan Rafiekian began Monday in the Eastern District of Virginia. Rafiekian is accused of conspiring with then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and others to lobby the U.S. government on Turkey’s behalf to push for the extradition of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has blamed for masterminding the failed 2016 coup.

Von der Leyen in the den. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, is fighting to become the next head of the EU Commission as lawmakers in the European Parliament vote later today to either confirm or reject her nomination. Getting the votes of a majority of the members of the European Parliament has proved an uphill task for von der Leyen, and has led her to make concessions to some members outside her own political grouping in order to secure support.

There is a risk that she might become indebted to populist Euroskeptics too, if she needs their backing to reach the magic number of 374 votes. “If von der Leyen goes down that road, she does not deserve the post,” Agata Gostynska-Jakubowska of the Centre for European Reform argues in FP. “The EU’s democratic values should not be for sale and are worth defending—even at the cost of defeating the first female commission president. If, however, she can make a compelling case for defending those values, she deserves to win.”

China slows down. China’s economic growth slowed to its lowest rate in the past 26 years during the quarter that ended in June. China’s economy grew by 6.2 percent, down from 6.4 percent in the previous quarter. The slowed growth is directly connected to the U.S.-China trade war, as many tariffs on Chinese goods entering the United States remain in place.

New U.S.-Russia talks. Diplomats from the United States and Russia are due to meet in Geneva on Wednesday to discuss limiting nuclear weapons proliferation. U.S. officials have noted that they would eventually like to include China in any accord struck between the United States and Russia, although it’s unclear whether China would be willing to join any such agreement.

Keep an Eye On

Neo-Nazis in Italy. Anti-terrorism police in Italy seized a cache of advanced weapons—including an air-to-air missile—in raids on far-right groups in the north of the country. Police also uncovered a haul of Nazi memorabilia among the weapons. The raids were part of an investigation into far-right assistance for separatist forces in Eastern Ukraine.

Tsai’s Challenger in Taiwan. Han Kuo-yu, the charismatic mayor of Kaohsiung, has been nominated as the presidential candidate of Taiwan’s opposition party after scoring highly in opinion poll results. The pro-China leader, who appears to have had a little help from his friends across the strait, saw off spirited competition from billionaire Terry Gou, the chairman of Foxconn Technology, who came in second. Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, who visits Washington this week, is herself receiving a much needed boost in public support ahead of the 2020 election—buoyed by her anti-China stance at a time when Hong Kong’s pro-mainland government is cracking down on protesters, as Hilton Yip writes in FP.

Serbia-Kosovo restart. French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to help relaunch talks to break the deadlock between Serbia and Kosovo in the coming weeks over the issues of recognizing Kosovo’s independence and diplomatic normalization. Dialogue between the two sides has been stalled since November, 2018, when Kosovo placed a 100 percent tariff on Serbian goods, and Belgrade can’t easily move forward with its bid to join the European Union until the issues are resolved.

Pop star to President? Singer and lawmaker Bobi Wine has announced his intention to run for president in Uganda. The decision sets up a potential showdown with President Yoweri Museveni, who has held power since 1986. Wine told AP that he fears for his safety as “there has never been a threat to this regime like the threat we pose to it today as a generation.” Wine was named a 2019 Global Thinker by FP last January.

Odds and Ends

Boeing appears to be taking steps to bring its ill-fated Boeing 737 Max back on the market by giving it a rebrand. A Boeing 737 Max due for delivery to European carrier Ryanair was spotted with the new, quickly forgettable, model name: 737-8200. The jet has yet to be recertified by regulators following a worldwide grounding over safety concerns.

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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