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Discussion paper

Myanmar and the United States: prospects for a limited security partnership

Elections International relations Diplomacy Defence United States of America Myanmar

A substantial security partnership between Washington and Naypyidaw, along the lines of other security relationships the United States maintains with declared non-aligned states in South-East Asia, would first of all require a different political consensus in America. Until now this consensus has been that the United States should support Myanmar’s democratic  transition but not proceed with any significant military engagement until the country’s military commits unambiguously to withdraw from politics, with related constitutional amendments. A new consensus on Myanmar in Washington seems possible, but this hinges, to a large extent, on assessments of the November elections and the way in which Myanmar’s political

and military elites respond to the people’s vote. Other factors will also matter for Washington:  the dynamics of armed conflict between the Myanmar military and ethnic  armed groups, or Myanmar’s many remaining domestic challenges, including the “dark side”  of its political transition — such as Buddhist nationalism and the treatment of the  self-identifying Rohingya — which, from a US domestic political perspective, will continue to  court controversy and possibly restrain policy choices for some time to come.

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