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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

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
  • empirical cases of conflict between states directly over water supplies are historically rare
  • 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
  • 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 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
Ed Webb

BBC News - Wars, public outrage and policy options in Syria - 2 views

  • We've heard these pleas before. The BBC reports regularly from inside Syria, as do several American papers, and although coverage of the Syrian war is not wall-to-wall on American networks, it gets regular, consistent attention.

    So where is the public outrage about a war so chaotic and dangerous that even the UN has stopped keeping track of the death toll? Have we all become numb to the pain of others?

  • The world inevitably tires of complex, long conflicts where there are no clear answers about how to end the violence. This cartoon in the New Yorker is a harsh but perhaps accurate look at how the collective conscience deals with the relentless stream of bad news from Syria.
  • Spare a thought for the North Koreans, too. A UN report out last week, too horrific even to read, compares the abuses committee by the government to Nazi Germany. I have yet to see much outrage or calls for action
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  • When they discuss US policy options for Syria, administration officials repeatedly point to the fact that Americans have bigger concerns closer to home and that President Barack Obama is very mindful that the public has no appetite for interventions abroad, no matter how limited
  • The question is whether it would become more tenable for the president to take action if the public demanded it.

    Possibly, but that's not how public opinion works. People demonstrate to end wars and bring the troops home, like with Vietnam. They protest against invasions, like Iraq in 2003, when their country's troops are about to be shipped overseas. Or they support military action when their own country has come under attack. But people rarely rise up to demand action because of a sense of collective justice.

Matthew Ferry

Benjamin Friedman | How Washington Left the Public Behind on Foreign Policy | Foreign A... - 0 views

  • So political leaders -- those in Congress and those vying for the White House -- can generally buck the public on foreign policy without losing votes. It is not that politicians entirely ignore voters’ foreign policy views. But, at least compared with tax and entitlement issues, politicians have considerable rope to pursue their own agendas. Only in rare circumstances, such as very unpopular wars, do voters hold politicians to account on foreign policy.
  • No state menaces U.S. borders or regularly checks U.S. military actions abroad, as the Soviet Union once did. Trade accords matter a good deal for certain industries, but most of us barely notice them. For the majority of Americans, even the war in Iraq brought little worse than marginally higher tax rates and unsettling TV images. With bigger things to worry about, such as job security and health care, Americans have little incentive to inform themselves about foreign policies; it is rational for them to remain ignorant. 
  • Realists and other reliable skeptics of intervention are essentially confined to the academy, while true isolationism has become virtually extinct in Washington.
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  • By the Cold War’s end, realists and other advocates of restraint had been marginalized, despite the fact that their views remained popular among the public; the interventionists, on both the left and right, had successfully established a new elite foreign policy consensus. To this day, anyone seeking prominence as a beltway foreign policy wonk, or a future political appointment, quickly learns that it is necessary to hew to the interventionist conventional wisdom.
  • The Cold War provided the United States with a permanent set of private military contractors and a vast domestic infrastructure of military bases. Regions that were previously indifferent to foreign events, or even flat-out isolationist, developed a direct economic interest in military manufacturing.
Ed Webb

Iran cutting sensitive nuclear stocks, much work remains: IAEA | Reuters - 0 views

  • Among measures Iran is taking since the interim agreement took effect on January 20 is the dilution of its stock of higher-enriched uranium to a fissile concentration less suitable for any attempt to fuel an atomic bomb.

    Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), indicated that Iran had made sufficient progress in this regard to receive a scheduled March 1 installment of $450 million out of a total of $4.2 billion in previously blocked overseas funds.

  • Separately, the IAEA is investigating suspicions - largely believed to be based on intelligence provided by Western states and Israel - that Iran has researched how to construct an atomic bomb, a charge Tehran denies. Iran says it is Israel's assumed nuclear arsenal that threatens Middle East peace.

  • Amano said 17 IAEA member states had so far expressed interest in contributing extra-budgetary funds to help finance the IAEA's extra workload in monitoring the implementation of the Geneva agreement in Iran, but that more was needed. "We are still short of some €1.6 million ($2.21 million)," Amano said.

    The U.N. agency said in January it needed about 5.5 million euros from member states to pay for its increased activities in Iran. This would cover more inspectors sent to Iran and the purchase of specialized surveillance-related equipment.

Ed Webb

Russia needs Arctic presence to guard against U.S. threat: Putin | Reuters - 1 views

  • Putin has ordered a Soviet-era military base reopened in the Arctic as part of a drive to make the northern coast a global shipping route and secure the region's vast energy resources.

  • "It only takes 15-16 minutes for U.S. missiles to reach Moscow from the Barents Sea. So should we give away the Arctic? We should on the contrary explore it."
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