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Ed Webb

Syria Statement - International Crisis Group - 0 views

    Typically sane analysis and commentary by ICG.
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.
  • 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
  • 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)
  • the concept of cultural clash has been deeply ingrained in the minds of today’s Russians
  • 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

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.

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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