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Entries in Russia (70)

11:24AM

Chart of the day: Flat-liners versus climbers on L.T. energy demand


From an otherwise regurgitating Economist special report on state capitalism, a wonderfully clear chart on primary energy demand, aggregated as billion tons of oil equivalent.

Not amazing: semi-flat growth for Russia, given its demographic slide.

Impressive for US and EU: the efficiency angle keeping growth flat, despite modest economic growth and significant demographic growth for US.

Curious is Brazil's capacity to keep its curve semi-flat.

So that leaves only the two great risers as demand climbers: China's stunning trajectory and India's late-blooming-but-likely-to-skyrocket-from-that-point-on curve (India surpasses China in labor around 2030 and then grows 50% larger, suggesting it will replicate China's trajectory on some level, understanding that its energy profile could be dramatically different in those future decades).

To me, this is a great example of why the military containment strategy (keep the PLA boxed-in in East Asia is dangerous - and counterproductive.  China needs to go so incredibly global due to its energy demand that it's only natural that it build up power projection and become more contentious on the issue of energy security. America can address all that or go super-unimaginative and make it all about an arms race in East Asia, believing that we'll temper China's behavior by doing the same things we did with the Sovs in the Cold War.

But making China feel nervous at home makes it harder for it to address its growing overseas dependencies in the very same regions where the U.S. is becoming less interested in providing stability and more focused on just killing bad guys. Conceivably, our willingness to go anywhere we want, when we want, to kill anybody we want, would make the Chinese feel better about their interests in these regions. But this thin-green-line approach, augmented with the transparent encirclement strategy in East Asia, essentially works to keep China nervous on both scores by insinuating that growing Chinese military capacity is automatically bad - both at home and extra-regionally, unless, of course, the Chinese become "transparent" in the direction of the very same superpower that threatens them in their home region with its world-class military (the same one that's just declared China to be its primary force-sizing threat from here on out).

Bit much, huh?

 

2:01PM

WPR's The New Rules: A Foreign Policy Wish List for 2012 

Last year was a tough one in terms of global economics, humanitarian disasters and political leadership among the world's great powers. But it was also the year of the glorious Arab Spring and hints of similar developments in Myanmar, Russia and Ethiopia. So while the year's "fundamentals," as the economists like to say, weren't so good, it left us with plenty to be grateful for as globalization continues to awaken the desire of individuals for freedom the world over. Keeping all that in mind, here is my foreign policy wish list for 2012.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

9:51AM

Putin's woes are worth suffering

Putin's United Russia party carried a supermajority in 2007.  Now, in recent Duma elections it looks like it'll come up short of a majority - maybe 48%.

No, it won't stop Putin from winning the presidency - by any means necessary.  But it will mean he won't have a rubber-stamp parliament, which will prove wonderfully frustrating for Caponesque ruling style.

I have few illusions about what that means in real terms.  Putin will simply rule by decree and ignore the parliament, which will be a center of genuine gravity for a growing opposition to his political delusions of grandeur.

I had wanted Putin to abstain from this egomaniacal choice, but size matters and we're talking one towering behemoth.

But, in the end, I think this will be a good thing for Russia - the pol who stupidly and stubbornly outstays his welcome. That choice will trigger the evolution that's much needed there, and the world won't suffer anything of importance out of Russia in the meantime.

Russia can once again be an important country, but Putin's inability to move anything there in the direction of the future means the country will remain on the sidelines for the near-term.

10:32AM

Quoted in Reuters piece on Syria & great powers

Quoted in Reuters piece about Russia bolstering its naval presence in the Eastern Med while making strong noises about no Western intervention into Syria.

The bits:

As Syria's uprising escalates into outright civil war and begins to drag in other states, it risks fuelling not only wider regional confrontation but also growing antagonism between the world's great powers . . .

That in itself could mark the beginning of a long, bloody, open-ended civil war. And speculation about foreign military intervention could even spark a Cold War-style face-off between Russia and the United States.

Analysts and foreign governments have long said they believed Iran was providing military and logistics support to Damascus, and some now suspect the opposition too is now receiving foreign weapons.

That, many analysts fear, risks further fuelling the growing regional confrontation between Tehran and its local enemies, particularly the Gulf states and emerging heavyweight Turkey. . .

My quote comes at the end.

"The problem with conflict in Syria is that it is much harder to contain than what we saw in Libya," said Anthony Skinner, Middle East analyst for UK-based consultancy Maplecroft.

"It has much wider regional implications that have largely been ignored. It feeds into what is already happening in the Gulf, as well as elsewhere" 

. . . 

"The Russians are signaling that on Syria, it is not a situation where they will publicly protest but quietly and privately acquiesce," says Nikolas Gvsodev, professor of national security studies at the US Naval War College.

"The danger is that it is not clear what they are prepared to do to stop open intervention."

. . .

"I think the Russians really were spooked by what happened in Libya and are determined to see that nothing like that happens again," said Nigel Inkster, a former deputy chief of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and now director of transnational threats and political risk at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies.

"In that they are joined by China and most of... the BRICs... (However) since there is clearly no appetite for a military intervention in Syria, the Russian navy's journey looks likely to be wasted."

. . . 

"What you're seeing in the Middle East with the withdrawal of the U.S. from Iraq is Iran moving into an increasingly stronger position," said Reva Bhalla, director of analysis at U.S. private intelligence company Stratfor.

"If Assad survives in Syria, he will also be increasingly isolated and dependent on the Iranians, which will reinforce existing regional fears of Iran's growing influence."

Further stoking events, many believe, is a much wider tussle for power as the realization dawns that some two centuries of regional dominance by outside powers - first colonial Britain and France, then the U.S. - may be drawing to a close.

"We shouldn't be surprised that the Russians - in addition to the Turks and Iranians - feel like they've got an opportunity to expand their political-military influence in the eastern Mediterranean," said Thomas Barnett, U.S.-based chief strategist at consultancy Wikistrat.

"Nature abhors vacuums and so do rising great powers."

Personally, I think Russia has decided it must be present on Syria, lest it allow the entire Arab Spring to pass without so much as a howdy-do.  I think Moscow has some ambitions to re-establish itself in the region, but that the main show remains the Saudis and Iran, with the second bill being Turkey and Iran - the rivalry that I think overtakes all under the right crisis conditions.

11:44AM

WPR's The New Rules: How to Stop Worrying and Live with the Iranian Bomb

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s latest report on Iran’s nuclear programsurprised no one, even as it created the usual flurry of op-eds championing preventative “next steps.” As I’ve been saying for the past half-decade, there are none. Once the U.S. went into both Iraq and Afghanistan, the question went from being, “How do we prevent Iran from getting the Bomb?” to “How do we handle Iran’s Bomb?” That shift represents neither defeatism nor appeasement. Rather, it reflects a realistic analysis of America’s strategic options. With that in mind, here are 20 reasons why Iran’s successful pursuit of the Bomb is not the system-changing event so many analysts are keen to portray.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

12:01AM

Wikistrat's "The World According to Tom Barnett" 2011 brief, Part 6 (Flow of Security)

In this section I cover the symmetricization of the Long War, nuclear proliferation (and the lack thereof), how America shaped this world with its grand strategy, and who the key superpowers will be in the post-2030 landscape.

9:03AM

WPR's The New Rules: Turkey's Long Game in the Cyprus Gas Dispute

"Resource wars" enthusiasts worldwide have a new -- and unexpected -- poster child:"zero problems with neighbors" Turkey. The Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is beside itself over Israel's recent moves to cooperate with Cyprus on surveying its Eastern Mediterranean seabed for possible natural gas deposits thought to be lying adjacent to the reserves discovered last year off the coast of Haifa.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

9:34AM

WPR's The New Rules: Debunking the 'Russia Threat' Hype 

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, I was completing my doctoral dissertation on Warsaw Pact-Third World relations. I immediately understood that my time in Soviet studies was done. Why? Because I knew that Russia was full of brilliant political scientists who, once free to pursue their craft free of ideological constraints, would do a better job explaining things there than outsiders could. 

The generation of Russian scholars that emerged in the post-Soviet era proved me right, and none has consistently impressed more than Dmitri Trenin, who heads up the Moscow office of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace . . . 

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

10:05AM

WPR's The New Rules: The New World Order-After-Next

There is no faster route to second-tier great power status than for an actual or aspiring superpower to fight a crippling conflict with another country from those same ranks. Moreover, if history is any guide, the glass ceiling that results is a permanent one: This was the fate of imperial Britain, imperial Japan and Germany -- both imperial and Nazi -- in the first half of the 20th century, and the same was true for Soviet Russia in the second half of the century, despite Moscow's conflict with the West being a cold one. The lesson is an important one for Washington, Beijing and New Delhi to keep in mind in the years ahead, given that the two most likely dyads for major war in the 21st century are America-China and China-India. 

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

10:28AM

WPR's The New Rules: A Post-NATO Europe Should Look East

Among the mutual recriminations ringing out between the U.S. and Europe regarding NATO's already stressed-out intervention in Libya, we have seen the usual raft of analyses regarding that military alliance's utility -- or lack thereof. As someone who has argued for close to a decade now that America will inevitably find that China, India and other rising powers make better and more appropriate allies for managing this world, I don't find such arguments surprising. You don't have to be a genius to do the math: Our primary allies aren't having enough babies and have chosen to shrink their defense budgets, while rising powers build up their forces and increasingly flex their muscles. In terms of future superpowers, beyond the "CIA" trio -- China, India and America -- nobody else is worth mentioning.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

9:00AM

Time's Battleland: Future grand strategists: Russia will someday be forced to outsource its security

Hailing again from Wikistrat's International Grand Strategy Competition (30 teams of grad students/interns from elite universities and think tanks around the world), where I serve as head judge (and I get paid), I wanted to share the decidedly provocative vision of Russia's long-term future security paradigm as crafted by the New York University team (find their national trajectory here). A certain segment of the US national security establishment got all jacked by Russia's short war with tiny Georgia in August 2008, seeing in that raw display of power a “resurging” military superpower. NYU begs to differ.

Read more: http://battleland.blogs.time.com/2011/06/23/future-grand-strategists-russia-will-someday-be-forced-to-outsource-its-security/#ixzz1Q2DZOHGO

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.

12:39PM

Time's Battleland: "US bases in Afghanistan for decades?"

Waiting on the Obama speech explaining this one.

Guardian piece Monday predicts that current US-Afghan talks will cement a very long-term deal on presence [hat tip to World Politics Review Media Roundup].

American and Afghan officials are locked in increasingly acrimonious secret talks about a long-term security agreement which is likely to see US troops, spies and air power based in the troubled country for decades. [italics mine]

This is described officially as a "strategic partnership," but nobody in their right mind would describe it as such. It's a dependency - pure and simple. The longer we stay, the more we'll infantilize the system. Ten years in and virtually everything we've set about to create is still described as "fragile" - meaning it collapses and disappears the minute we pull out.

Read the entire post at Time's Battleland.

1:30PM

On NPR's Morning Edition with Renee Montagne 1 June

Taped remotely this morning at WFYI here in Indy.

She said it would run near front of program, so EST at about 5:10-15, then 7:10-15, then again at 9:10-15.

Even hours on the West Coast.  All very confusing, but you know what I mean.

Subject is Af-Pak and America's choices.

Spoke for close to half-hour, but they will edit down to best bits, which should make my pollen-addled brain sound smarter.

10:40AM

Chart of the day: Declining # of siloviki in Russian government

From FT story on Russian politics.

If Medvedev gets to stay, this would indicate a sea change.  But if Putin reinserts himself - mostly out of ego, then it may not mean all that much.

Putin needs to brush up on his Lee Kuan Yew.

Still, you see a chart like this and you realize that Kremlinology is alive and well.  I did this sort of data gathering in the 1980s.

8:55AM

WPR's The New Rules: Long-Term U.S. Presence in Afghanistan a Mistake

The Obama administration has begun talks with Afghanistan designed to quell the Karzai government's fears about being abandoned by the West come 2014. Those talks are said to involve negotiations for long-term basing of U.S. troops involved in training Afghan security forces and supporting future counterterrorism operations. This can be seen as a realistic course of action, given our continuing lack of success in nation-building there, as well as our inability -- although perhaps unwillingness is a better term -- to erect some regional security architecture that might replace our presence. But there are good reasons to question this course.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

10:06AM

WPR's The New Rules: Strategic Balancing vs. Global Development

The World Bank's 2011 World Development Report is out, and this year's version highlights the interplay between "conflict, security, and development." That's a welcome theme to someone who's spent the last decade describing how globalization's spreading connectivity and rules have rendered certain regions stable, while their absence has condemned others to perpetual strife. But although the growing international awareness of these crosscutting issues is long overdue, the report ultimately disappoints by focusing only on the available tools with which great powers might collaborate on these stubborn problems, while ignoring the motivations that prevent them from doing so. 

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

12:02AM

WPR's The New Rules: U.S. Global Role Depends on Hard Fiscal Choices

Much of the global perception of America's long-term decline as the world's sole surviving superpower is in fact driven by our fiscal decline. That's why I was disturbed to hear Democrats so quickly dismiss GOP Sen. Paul Ryan's bold, if flawed, federal budget proposal on the grounds that it would "end Medicare as we know it."  Frankly, arresting our decline means ending a lot of things "as we know them." That's simply what being on an unsustainable path forces you to do.

Read the entire column at World Politics Review.

12:01AM

How Russia will matter beyond energy and minerals

From WSJ blurb "How to Bet the Farm on Mother Russia" (23 March 2011).

Besides being impressed with EU wheat production (they grow wheat like we grow corn), the point is how low Russia's yields remain.  You combine that with all the fallow fields (one-third) and unused arable land, and Russia's upside is considerable - if it gets the foreign investment.

Blurb is about Russian company hoping to get investment.  The company, Rusagro, wants to modernize old collective farms and buy up new land previously given to rural dwellers who aren't using it for agriculture (but might like the money). 

Big hold up on investment is the climate - as in, business climate.  

1:30PM

Appearance on "The Alyona Show"

 

Where I blew it:  I moved around too much.  I have a terribly hard time holding still, because the more still I am, the more boring I am, and the more I move, the better I sound--but don't look.  I also got too close at points, letting my chin get covered by byline and making me too big relative to her in the 2-shot look.  Next time I will hang a cut-out over the screen so I know where my head should be.  Beware the big head!

It is a conundrum.

Other thing:  I have a clip-on mike that I could have and should have used!  Could have lit myself better too. Next time I will do better.

I had spent a good chunk of time just beforehand spreading mulch outside--hence the raccoon-like lower eyelids.

I will say, though, so much nicer just to do from office as opposed to the 2-3 hour effort to go all the way downtown, etc.  that part I simply love.

9:44AM

WPR's The New Rules: U.S. Defense Cuts a Step in the Right Direction

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates unveiled his much-anticipated budget cuts last Thursday, signaling the beginning of the end of the decade-long splurge in military spending triggered by Sept. 11. Gates presented the package of cuts as being the biggest possible given the current international security landscape, warning that any deeper reductions could prove "potentially calamitous." Frankly, I find that statement hard to swallow.

REad the entire column at World Politics Review.