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Ed Webb

Environment Magazine - September/October 2013 - 0 views

  • Environmental security is still viewed in Western countries that see climate change as a “threat multiplier” in already conflict-sensitive regions differently than in developing countries that consider security implications with regional neighbors when responding to extreme events.
  • operational risk analyses that focus on environmental systems supporting overall stability
  • The most crucial of these resources and critical nodes is water.
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  • In 2007, Congress placed language in the National Defense Authorization Act that requires the military to consider effects of climate change on facilities, capabilities, and missions
  • The challenge with integrating climate change hazards with military planning has been that “climate change” is at the same time too general a term of reference yet is also too limiting
  • Many systems rely on predictable delivery of water, and too much or too little at the wrong time can spell catastrophe for agriculture, power, transport, or other critical systems linked around the globe
  • through 2040, the best solutions to water problems are expected to be found in improved management strategies such as pricing, allocation decisions, and addressing international trade in “virtual water”—“water consumed in the manufacturing or growing of an export product”
  • the Chinese drive for water security may spark a series of actions that others may interpret as threats even while inside China they may be technical responses to very real risks
  • The regional security difficulty lies not only in Tibetan politics, but in the fact that the Yarlung-Tsangpo becomes the Brahmaputra once it crosses into India in Arunachal Pradesh, a territory disputed by India and China and heavily militarized. Diversions affecting the Brahmaputra would imperil India's own water security, including hydropower and irrigation projects, and would have further impacts downstream in Bangladesh. Although China may see its water projects as increasing its own security, India and Bangladesh view the Chinese actions as a direct threat to their national security. Specifically, China's actions have the potential to increase the risk of water-related population stresses, cross-border tension, and migration and agricultural failures for perhaps a billion people in India and Bangladesh, and its actions may be interpreted as a security threat by India
  • empirical cases of conflict between states directly over water supplies are historically rare
  • The connections between extreme heat/drought in Russia in the summer of 2010 and the subsequent Arab Spring revolts in late 2010 are an example of where changes in one system (in this case, water/moisture for food production) may contribute to existing instability in a far different geographical region.
  • The topic of environmental security also raises questions about what or who is driving policy priorities and how science is (mis)communicated to policymakers.
  • Complex risk assessments must take into account the multidimensional and interdisciplinary nature of the strategic environment. Providing adequate resources for these complex assessments requires knowledge not only of climate and weather systems, but of particular geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic factors that make environmental hazards unique to each region and community
Arabica Robusta

Ukraine crisis: Crimea is lost, but there is a deal waiting to be done - Commentators -... - 0 views

  • If we are to stop this dangerous escalation we must understand where Russia is coming from. I saw a fair amount of Mr Putin when I was British Ambassador in Moscow. Like most politicians he is ready to manipulate the truth when necessary. But in most of his public utterances he is strikingly faithful to what he genuinely believes.
  • In his view we lied to Russia about the expansion of Nato. We have backed every recent Russian enemy from Chechnya's Dudayev to Georgia's Saakashvili.
  • The most likely immediate outcome is stasis; the present level of sanctions, Russia firmly in control of Crimea, and Ukraine limping on as a troubled cockpit for East/West competition. But even if the West "wins", with rising levels of sanctions eventually forcing Russia into ignominious retreat, would it have been worth it? The fissures and misgovernment which have dogged Ukraine since independence would only grow deeper. And an embittered Russia would become even more of a thorn in the West's side.
Arabica Robusta

Pro-Russian and Pro-Kiev Camps Dig In Amid Uneasy Calm in Eastern Ukraine - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • While the bloody events and clashes that left more than a hundred dead in Kiev a month ago have not been repeated in eastern cities like Kharkiv and Donetsk, occasional violence and a powerful propaganda war have created entrenched pro-Russian and pro-Western camps that scarcely existed before.
  • For the fledgling pro-Western central government in Kiev, which is warily keeping one eye toward a possible invasion from Russia, the growing rift among ordinary Ukrainians and among political elites has laid bare the difficulties of establishing political order even if the unsteady peace lasts.
Arabica Robusta

LENIN'S TOMB: Against imperialist intervention in Ukraine - 0 views

  • If you want to know how it came to be that a popular movement against a thuggish government of the oligarchs, resulted in a right-wing nationalist government with fascists in leading positions, you need as part of your explanation the role of Russian imperialism in supporting Ukraine's stupendously wealthy ruling class.  Whoever does not want to speak of Russian imperialism should be equally silent on Ukrainian fascism.  You see, Lindsey German was right after all: it's a messy situation that imperialist intervention will only make worse.
Arabica Robusta

Samir Amin, "Russia and the Ukraine Crisis: The Eurasian Project in Conflict with the T... - 0 views

  • The authentic Russian socialist revolution produced a state socialism which was the only possible first step toward socialism; after Stalin that state socialism moved towards becoming state capitalism (explaining the difference between the two concepts is important but not the subject of this short paper).  As of 1991 state capitalism was dismantled and replaced by "normal" capitalism based on private property, which, as in all countries of contemporary capitalism, is basically the property of financial monopolies, owned by the oligarchy (similar to, not different from, the oligarchies running capitalism in the Triad), many coming out of the former nomenklatura, and some newcomers.
  • Neo-liberalism can produce for Russia only a tragic economic and social regression, a pattern of "lumpen development" and a growing subordinate status in the global imperialist order.  Russia would provide to the Triad oil, gas, and some other natural resources; its industries would be reduced to the status of sub-contracting for the benefit of Western financial monopolies.

    In such a position, which is not very far from that of Russia today in the global system, attempts to act independently in the international area will remain extremely fragile, threatened by "sanctions" which will strengthen the disastrous alignment of the ruling economic oligarchy to the demands of dominant monopolies of the Triad.  The current outflow of "Russian capital" associated with the Ukraine crisis illustrates the danger.  Re-establishing state control over the movements of capital is the only effective response to that danger.

Arabica Robusta

Fukushima and Crimea - Crisis Mis-Management 101 by William Boardman | Dandelion Salad - 0 views

  • That’s not to predict an end-of-the-world scenario for either disaster, just to remind people that, at the extreme end of these uncontrolled events, there are horrendous logical risks that our leaders are amiably accepting (or urging) on behalf of the rest of us. And they seem to expect our gratitude for their efforts in Ukraine or their lack of efforts in Fukushima, more or less equally.
  • By stark contrast, the history of Crimea’s integration with Ukraine is all but non-existent in history. In the mid-1400s, Crimea was a Tatar state founded by a descendant of Genghis Khan. In 1478, Crimea became a tributary of the Ottoman Empire until 1774, when it became an independent state, essentially liberated by Russia (until Russia annexed it in 1783). Crimea remained part of Russia until 1917, when it declared its independence again (which lasted about a year before it was occupied by the Soviet Union, then the Germans, then the Soviet Union again).

    In 1921, Crimea was granted “autonomy,” which was interrupted by the German occupation (1941-1943), then stripped by the Soviet Union in 1945. Still part of the Soviet Union in 1954, Crimea was organizationally transferred to Ukraine, also part of the Soviet Union. In 1991, Crimea became the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, within the Soviet Union, followed by a power struggle with the Kiev government in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s break-up. In early 1992, the Crimean Parliament proclaimed its independence as the Republic of Crimea and adopted its first constitution (which it amended the same day to say Crimea was part of Ukraine); within weeks, Crimea dropped its proclamation of self-government in an apparent trade-off for greater autonomy from Kiev, but the dispute over the status of Crimea continued to feed political turmoil until Ukraine executed a constitutional coup. On March 17, 1995, the Kiev government scrapped the Crimean constitution, sacked the Crimean president and eventually established, with obvious irony, the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea” – which still had periodic anti-Kiev eruptions and now (as of March 16) has voted to join the Russian Federation.

Arabica Robusta

Obama to Putin: Do as I Say Not as I Do by Ralph Nader | Dandelion Salad - 0 views

  • As you ponder your potential moves regarding President Vladimir V. Putin’s annexation of Crimea (a large majority of its 2 million people are ethnic Russians), it is important to remember that whatever moral leverage you may have had in the court of world opinion has been sacrificed by the precedents set by previous American presidents who did not do what you say Mr. Putin should do – obey international law.
  • Compare, by the way, the United States’ seizure of Guantanamo from Cuba initially after the Spanish-American War, which was then retained after Cuba became independent over a century ago.
  • Russia is tightly intertwined with the European Union, as a seller and buyer of goods, services and assets, and to a lesser but significant degree with the United States government and its giant corporations such as oil and technology companies. Sanctions can boomerang, which would be far worse than just being completely ineffective in reversing the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Ed Webb

How Putin's worldview may be shaping his response in Crimea - 1 views

  • The recent literature on Putin is correctly in drawing attention to his pro-Soviet imperialistic views: remember, to Putin the collapse of the USSR the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of 20th century. But what exactly this pro-Soviet worldview means is fairly poorly understood. To get a grasp on one needs to check what Putin’s preferred readings are. Putin’s favorites include a bunch of Russian nationalist philosophers of early 20th century – Berdyaev, Solovyev, Ilyin — whom he often quotes in his public speeches. Moreover, recently the Kremlin has specifically assigned Russia’s regional governors to read the works by these philosophers during 2014 winter holidays. The main message of these authors is Russia’s messianic role in world history, preservation and restoration of Russia’s historical borders and Orthodoxy.
  • the concept of cultural clash has been deeply ingrained in the minds of today’s Russians
  • Again, it may sound implausible but that is exactly what the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington predicted in his book “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order: alignments and wars among various civilizations — Western, Islamic, Chinese, Orthodox/Russian Latin etc. Notice that the Orthodox/Russian unity has already been restored in Russia. In response to the Ukrainian Church’s call to stop the Russian troops, Saturday a representative of Russia’s Orthodox Church suggested that Ukrainians shouldn’t resist the Russian military “peacekeepers.” Their mission – as was pointed out – is “to restore Russia’s historical unity.”
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  • This helps us to understand why western analysts keep misreading the motivation behind Putin’s actions. His reality is very different from the reality in which these analysts live. His goal is primarily to “recollect Russia’s historical territories” (which specific version of historical Russia he has in mind is for us to rediscover in the next episodes)
  • another Putin’s favorite that was rumored to be very popular in his close circles a few years ago: “The Third Empire: Russia that Ought to Be” by Michael Yuriev. It’s a utopian fantasy written as a history book from a perspective of a 2054 Latin American narrator. The book describes how 2054 world order was established, and the process has a striking resemblance with contemporary Ukrainian events. It begins with a Recovery period of 2000-12, when the Great Russia starts its resurgence under the rule of Vladimir II the Restorer. Importantly the First Expansion that leads to reunification of significant territory occurs when Eastern and Southern Ukrainian regions rebel against west-organized Orange revolution (supported by western Ukraine). To help the revolting Ukrainians (that want to rejoin Russia) Vladimir II offers to include their Eastern territories into Russia. He then passes a referendum on those territories, and replaces the Russian Federation with the Russian Union (refer to the Custom Union) that also includes Belarus, Prednestrovie, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, South Ossetia and Abkhazia
  • Surveys show that 88 percent of Kiev’s Euromaidan participants came from outside of the capital. Of those only half originated from the country’s western regions, while the other half came from the central and eastern Ukraine. Specifically as many as one fifth (20 percent) of protesters came from the eastern regions alone
  • country-level data is also against the Ukrainian cultural divide concept. A survey from the Razumkov Center, shows that as of late December 2013 an absolute majority of the population in both the Center (two thirds) and West (80 percent) of Ukraine supported the Euromaidan; this is in contrast to about 20-30 percent in the East and South. However, the share of population that did not express support for the Euromaidan protests remained undecided regarding the alternative option: not supporting the Maidan did not automatically equal supporting the Russian vector or Yanukovych
  • the preponderance of pro-Russia oriented media in the Russian-speaking East
  • these media actively emphasized the cultural divide. If anything, the notorious divide exists primarily within Eastern Ukraine alone
Ed Webb

Who predicted Russia's military intervention? - 0 views

  • scholars who study international security or Russia (or Eastern Europe) as a primary or secondary specialty were more likely to foresee the intervention. It pays (a little bit) to listen to those who know what they are talking about.
  • scholars who work at a Top-25 institution (as identified by TRIP) were least likely to be correct. This is consistent with Philip Tetlock’s finding that the more famous and successful the pundit, the less accurate the predictions. Perhaps in academia, as in punditry, forcefulness, confidence and decisiveness pay even as these qualities do not translate into predictive accuracy.
  • Fourth, and most interesting to me, are the differences related to the “paradigm wars.” International relations scholars have long classified themselves as belonging to different schools of thought, often referred to as “the isms” (see here for a primer). A growing group of scholars, myself included, worry that becoming a card-carrying member of a paradigmatic club can lead to blinders that, among others, interferes with predictive accuracy.

    Consistent with this, those who do not identify with a paradigm were somewhat more likely to be accurate, closely followed by Realists. Self-identified Liberals and Constructivists did poorly, with Liberals both very unlikely to predict intervention and very likely to offer a definitive “no” rather than the “don’t know” answer that was very popular among Constructivists (who sometimes look dimly on the predictive ambitions of social science).

    Perhaps a misplaced faith in the power of international law and institutions was at the root of this. After all, the Russian intervention violates a system of laws and norms that these paradigms hold dearly. Yet, non-realist scholars who study international law or international organizations as their primary or secondary field were more likely to foresee the military action (see graph).

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  • All of these findings ought to be taken with a hefty grain of salt. The sample is pretty small once you start breaking it down into subgroups. Moreover, if there were a subgroup called “conspiracy theorists,” who see military intervention lurking behind any crisis, we would have declared them clairvoyant based on this one prediction exercise. This is why continuation of these snap polls is so important: it helps expose our biases in a systematic way. Finally, none of this should distract us from the most important conclusion: that most scholars (including me) got it wrong.
Ed Webb

Iran 'thwarts nuclear sabotage attempts' - Middle East - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

  • "Several cases of industrial sabotage have been neutralized in the past few months before achieving the intended damage, including sabotage at a part of the IR-40 facility at Arak."
Ed Webb

What is so great about 'territorial integrity' anyway? - 0 views

  • the rules can leave people trapped in a country that they do not identify with and/or a government that abuses them. This was the justification for fudging the rules with Kosovo. Serbia did not agree to Kosovo independence. Yet, a referendum and a somewhat opaque advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice helped legitimize the secession. 

    Putin now claims that Kosovo set a precedent even though there is no comparable history of abuse in Crimea, and Russia has never recognized Kosovo. At the same time, the European Union and the United Staes are eager to argue that Kosovo did not set a precedent for other oppressed groups and that Kosovo is totally different from South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and so on. This is the kind of maddening but unavoidable inconsistency that led Stanford professor and former U.S. State Department director of policy planning Stephen Krasner to dub so-called principles of sovereignty “organized hypocrisy.”

  • Russia has always used buffer states as a way to shield it from the “West.” Putin clearly considers the break-up of the Soviet Union as recent territorial loss that ought to be rectified. And third, Russia is not (anymore) a liberal state, although it does have extensive trade and financial ties that may moderate its behavior.
  • territorial integrity principle is a terrific principle from the U.S. viewpoint (and from that of most states who value stability) but not necessarily from the perspective of Russia (and possibly China, although more on that some other time). Crimea’s annexation can thus be seen as a challenge to the principle itself and with that to the stability of the system as it is currently constructed
Ed Webb

Iran and World Powers Resume Nuclear Talks as Tensions Rise Over Ukraine Crisis - 0 views

  • Iran and six world powers are meeting in Vienna Tuesday resuming talks over Tehran's disputed nuclear program aiming to reach a comprehensive agreement by mid-July. However, tension between western countries and Russia over events in Ukraine and Crimea's succession vote on Sunday, which overwhelmingly approved reunification with Russia, may threaten the second round of talks.
  • disagreements between the permanent U.N. Security Council member states may reduce pressure on Iran to make a deal
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