May out. British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she will step down June 7. The move will kick off what promises to be a lively fight within the Conservative Party for the right to inherit the Brexit imbroglio. Her replacement is widely expected to come from the more staunchly pro-Brexit wing of the Tories, and this could allow the next government to appear, on the surface, more united and decisive. But the underlying social and political divides in Britain and dearth of leverage to dictate terms to Brussels haven’t changed. May tried and failed to find the narrow path to Brexit. Her successor won’t have an easier road. On Friday, European Union leaders effectively said Brussels’ position will not change and that the bloc will just have to wait patiently until British lawmakers are persuaded of the merits of the deal that they thrice rejected.
Modi in. On Friday, the Electoral Commission of India made official the return of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party to power following national elections. The size of Modi’s victory was staggering; BJP will hold 303 seats, compared to 282 when it first took power in 2014. The beleaguered National Congress Party, which dominated Indian politics for decades, won just 52 seats, quickly conceding on Thursday – importantly, without making any attempt to cast doubt on the results. Governing a country as large and fractious as India is no easy task, to put it mildly, historically keeping the country largely inward-looking and hindering its ability to shape the broader geopolitical landscape to its tastes. But with Modi deeply entrenched in power and his muscular foreign policies validated by the election, expect India to move more decisively to prepare for a greater role in the intensifying competition over the Indo-Pacific region.
Counting the costs of the trade war. A new International Monetary Fund study found that U.S. firms and consumers are footing most of the bill for U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports. Chinese firms and consumers are likewise shouldering the burden of Beijing’s countermeasures. The U.S. has a $20 trillion economy and won’t be crippled by the trade war. But a new study by the U.S. Federal Reserve casts doubt on the ability of many U.S. households to shrug off the kind of sharp increase in living costs that would come if the White House follows through with its threat to impose a 25 percent tax on yet another $300 billion in Chinese goods – a move that would put consumer products squarely in the crosshairs. According to the Fed, 39 percent of households surveyed don’t have the cash to meet a $400 emergency, 60 percent said they couldn’t cover three months of expenses if they lost their job, and a quarter said they declined to seek medical care in the past year due to financial woes. This is not to say China has the upper hand in the trade war, nor that the U.S. doesn’t have interests important enough to bear the costs. All wars have costs. But how long, and in what form, the trade war drags on will hinge increasingly on the political capability of either side to stay the course.
Tech war intensifying. The U.S. Commerce Department is reportedly preparing to recommend a slate of tightened controls over exports to China of U.S. “dual use” technologies that could have both civilian and military purposes. Like most advanced economies, the U.S. has long restricted exports of defense-related technologies to countries it considers potential threats. But as battlefield capabilities increasingly hinge on civilian technologies such as telecommunications and satellite networks, robotics, artificial intelligence and even 3D printing, the line between civilian and military uses is blurring, and governments are having to intervene more forcefully in the commercial sphere to protect the national interest.
- The U.S. State Department said it has made no firm conclusion on the validity of recent reports that Syrian government forces have been using chemical weapons in northwest Syria.
- Between 200,000 and 300,000 Syrians have fled the surge in fighting in Idlib and Hama provinces since the end of April, according to the U.N. and the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations.
- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering a visit to Iran in the coming months.
- Yemen’s Houthi rebels said they targeted an airport in the Saudi city of Najran with a drone for the third time this week.
- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with the deputy chief of Sudan’s transitional military council.
- The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee proposed a new $750 billion defense bill and said that “our margin of military supremacy has eroded and is undermined by new threats from strategic competitors like China and Russia.”
- The White House is considering a Pentagon request to send more forces – thought to involve between 5,000 and 10,000 troops – to the Middle East, though President Donald Trump expressed doubts about whether such a deployment is necessary.
- India’s ambassador to the U.S. said his country stopped importing oil from both Iran and Venezuela.
- A U.S. Navy hospital ship has been deployed to provide medical assistance to 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries in response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, according to U.S. Southern Command.
- Russia has signed a bilateral agreement to send military “specialists” to the Republic of Congo to advise their counterparts and repair Soviet-era equipment.