9 March 2014

*** Will America heed the wake-up call of Ukraine?

By Condoleezza Rice, Saturday, March 8,

Condoleezza Rice was secretary of state from 2005 to 2009.

“Meet Viktor Yanu­kovych, who is running for the presidency of Ukraine.” Vladimir Putin and I were standing in his office at the presidential dacha in late 2004 when Yanu­kovych suddenly appeared from a back room. Putin wanted me to get the point. He’s my man, Ukraine is ours — and don’t forget it.

The “Ukrainian problem” has been brewing for some time between the West and Russia. Since Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, the United States and Europe have tried to convince Russia that the vast territory should not be a pawn in a great-power conflict but rather an independent nation that could chart its own course. Putin has never seen it that way. For him, Kiev’s movement toward the West is an affront to Russia in a zero-sum game for the loyalty of former territories of the empire. The invasion and possible annexation of Crimeaon trumped-up concerns for its Russian-speaking population is his answer to us.

The immediate concern must be to show Russia that further moves will not be tolerated and that Ukraine’s territorial integrity is sacrosanct. Diplomatic isolation, asset freezes and travel bans against oligarchs are appropriate. The announcement of air defense exercises with the Baltic states and the movement of a U.S. destroyer to the Black Sea bolster our allies, as does economic help for Ukraine’s embattled leaders, who must put aside their internal divisions and govern their country.

The longer-term task is to answer Putin’s statement about Europe’s post-Cold War future. He is saying that Ukraine will never be free to make its own choices — a message meant to reverberate in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states — and that Russia has special interests it will pursue at all costs. For Putin, the Cold War ended “tragically.” He will turn the clock back as far as intimidation through military power, economic leverage and Western inaction will allow.

After Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, the United States sent ships into the Black Sea, airlifted Georgian military forces from Iraq back to their home bases and sent humanitarian aid. Russia was denied its ultimate goal of overthrowing the democratically elected government, an admission made to me by the Russian foreign minister. The United States and Europe could agree on only a few actions to isolate Russia politically.

But even those modest steps did not hold. Despite Russia’s continued occupation ofAbkhazia and South Ossetia, the diplomatic isolation waned and then the Obama administration’s “reset” led to an abrupt revision of plans to deploy missile defense components in the Czech Republic and Poland. Talk of Ukraine and Georgia’s future in NATO ceased. Moscow cheered.

False Warnings President Obama has bungled his negotiations with Vladimir Putin.

President Obama has had two long phone calls with President Putin in recent days, but as long as he insists on preconditions for renewed diplomacy, Putin has no reason to comply.

The most startling thing about the crisis in Ukraine is how horribly all the actors have played their hands.

First, the Ukrainian parliament, after stepping up to power, drastically overstepped its bounds, dissolving the courts and ousting President Viktor Yanukovich by fiat rather than through legal processes of impeachment—thus giving Russian President Vladimir Putin the sliver of an excuse to declare the new leaders “illegitimate” and to intervene under the pretense of restoring “order.”

Then, Putin went overboard, not merely bolstering the security of Russia’s naval base on the coast of Crimea (an autonomous republic of Ukraine that once belonged to Russia) but mobilizing 30,000 troops to occupy the entire enclave. This was unnecessary, since Putin already, in effect, controlled Crimea. It may also prove stupid, as the move’s violence has further alienated Ukrainians, raised suspicions among Russia’s other ex-Soviet neighbors, and roused resistance from otherwise indifferent Western nations.

Fred Kaplan is the author ofThe Insurgents and the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Which leads to President Obama, who has responded to the aggression by imposing sanctions—a cliché of foreign policy that usually has no effect, but in this case will almost certainly make things worse.

Sanctions only work (and, even then, rarely) when they are universal, when they truly hurt the regime being targeted, and when they coincide with—or prompt—political change. Russia fits none of these categories. Too many European nations are too dependent on Russian gas supplies or bank deposits to make sanctions bite or endure. None of the sanctions under discussion are knockout blows; no conceivable sanctions would compel Putin (or any Russian leader) to surrender Ukraine. And regime change in Moscow is hardly on the horizon.

Looking Back in Anger

March 6, 2014
From left: Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu, president Vladimir Putin, and commander of the Russian Western Military District Troops Anatoly Sidorov arrive at the Kirillovsky training ground to watch military exercises on Mar.3, 2014.Klimentyev Mikhail—ITAR-TASS/Landov
Vladimir Putin may control Crimea, but his 19th century tactics do not bode well for Russia

The crisis in Crimea reminds us there are two kinds of rulers around the world: those who think about the past and those who think about the future. If it were not abundantly clear before, it is now–Vladimir Putin is a man who thinks about the past. His country will be the poorer for it.

If you read and listen to commentary, you will hear many stories about Russia’s long association with Crimea, a relationship that dates back to the 18th century. Crimea was the first great prize wrested from the Ottoman Empire, a mark of Russia’s rise to great-power status. It also gave Russia something it had never had: a warm-water port with direct access to the Mediterranean and thus the wider world.

Sevastopol, the Crimean port city where the Russian Black Sea fleet docks, is an excellent natural harbor and is steeped in history. It was the site of the great siege of the Crimean War in 1854. (When Mark Twain visited the city just over a decade later, he remarked that “ruined Pompeii is in good condition compared to Sebastopol.”) Russia held on to the city even though it lost the Crimean War. Almost a century later, it maintained its grip on Sevastopol after reclaiming Crimea from the Nazis in early 1944.

Then came the strange and fateful twist in 1954 when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gifted Crimea to Ukraine–an internal transfer within the Soviet Union. Why Khrushchev did this remains somewhat unclear. He had made his mark as a young communist leader in Ukraine, and the occasion of the transfer was the 300-year anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine. But almost certainly the larger reason was that the original inhabitants of Crimea, the Tatars, had been forced out of the region by Stalin, and Ukrainians were being sent into the area to repopulate it. Making it part of Ukraine would accelerate the movement of people. Whatever the cause, the consequence has been lasting and dramatic. Crimea exists outside Russia legally and politically, but it has a Russian majority, and Moscow thinks of it as part of the motherland.

That is the history. But history is bunk, as Henry Ford said. By that he did not mean that it was unimportant but rather that people should not be trapped by it, that they should think not backward but forward. His exact words were “History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”

The history that leaders make today has much less to do with geography or constraints from the past. When Singapore was expelled from Malaysia in 1965, the experts said the small, swampy town in the middle of nowhere could not survive as an independent country. It is now one of the world’s great trading hubs, with a per capita income higher than that of its erstwhile colonizer, Britain. That’s because its founder, Lee Kuan Yew, thought less about the disadvantages of history and more about the advantages of the future.

When the nationalist Chinese were abandoned by the world on a tiny island after the communist revolution in mainland China, most assumed the place would not survive. Yet in the most precarious position, with zero natural resources, Taiwan became one of the world’s fastest-growing economies for four decades. That’s because it didn’t worry about geography; it obsessed about competitiveness.

When Paul Kagame took over Rwanda, the country was more deeply ravaged by history than almost any other nation, scarred by a genocide of a speed never seen before in history. Rwanda is also landlocked, with no geographic advantages at all and a bloody war in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. But Kagame looked to the future, not the past. The result is a small African miracle, a country that is healing its wounds.

There are those who are still trapped by history and geography. Think of Pakistan’s generals, still trying to establish “strategic depth” in their backyard while their country collapses. Or think of Putin, who is, as Secretary of State John Kerry said, playing a 19th century game in the 21st century. He may get Crimea. But what has he achieved? Ukraine has slipped out of Russia’s grasp, its people deeply suspicious of Moscow. Even in Crimea, the 40% who are non-Russian are probably restive and resentful. Moscow’s neighbors are alarmed, and once-warming relations with Poland will be set back. Trade and investment with Europe and the U.S. will surely suffer, whether there are sanctions or not.

Meanwhile, Russia continues along its path as an oil-dependent state with an increasingly authoritarian regime that has failed to develop its economy or civil society or to foster political pluralism. But no matter–Moscow controls Crimea. In today’s world, is that really a victory?


* India extends hand of friendship to Russia

By M K Bhadrakumar – March 7, 2014

The National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon’s remark to the effect that Russia has “legitimate interests” in the Ukraine developments, as much as other interests are involved, is a statement of fact at its most obvious level.
Russia’s interests in a stable, friendly Ukraine are no less than what India would have with regard to, say, Nepal or Bhutan. Delhi simply cannot afford to have an unfriendly government in Kathmandu or Thimpu, and it is hard to overlook the gravity of Russian concerns that ultra-nationalists staged a violent coup in Kiev.

But Menon’s statement inevitably becomes a big statement, not only because he is a profoundly experienced and thoughtful scholar-diplomat but also given the high position he holds and his key role as an architect of India’s foreign policy in the recent years. Simply put, he is India’s voice on the world stage.
To be sure, what Menon said will reverberate far and wide and would have been the content of many coded cables relayed by the antennae atop the chancelleries in Chanakyapuri to the world capitals yesterday.

The point is, what Menon said is one of the most significant statements made by Delhi in a long while regarding the contemporary international situation. No doubt, the Ukraine is a defining moment in the post-cold era world politics and by reflecting on its templates, Menon voiced India’s concern over the dangerous drift in world politics.

Menon’s remark draws comparison with the stance taken by China over the Ukraine crisis. With its trademark pragmatism — despite its much-vaunted ’strategic partnership of coordination’ with Russia — China underscores that the Ukraine is a complex issue where Beijing needs to coolly prioritize its self-interests. (See my earlier blog “China steers pragmatic course on Ukraine“)

India North Antony judges himself: MoD releases 11,000-word press release in praise of Defence Minister

Manoj Joshi 
March 6, 2014 

The first thing to do on reading the ministry of defence's (MoD) 11,000-word press release on Wednesday, hailing the signal contribution of A.K. Antony's tenure as defence minister, is to see it as one big election-related advertisement. The second is to laugh at it as a sick joke, and the third thing to do is to sit down and cry.

At a time when people are wondering whether the sainted Antony is the second or third-worst defence minister of the country, you can only wonder whether the release induces verbal diarrhoea or prolix flatulence.

Reading from the bottom upward we are treated to the minister appropriating the glory of the Indian armed forces sportsmen and women, from Vijay Kumar who won the silver medal at the London Olympics, to Indian women Air Force officers who climbed Mt. Everest. Elections are on hand, so Antony has basked in the sun of humanitarian relief carried out by the forces, even while claiming credit for just about all of DRDO's reported achievements.

The high spin is brought out by a table on capital expenditure on modernisation. It purports to show that the utilisation of the Budget ranged from 98.17 per cent in 2005-2006 to an astonishing 101.32 in 2012-13. But look carefully at the figures and what do you see?In 2012-13, a sum of Rs.79,578.63 crore was budgeted for capital expenditure on modernisation. But Rs.10,000 crore was lopped off it for the sake of economy and the revised estimate was Rs.69,578.63 crore. The actual expenditure was Rs.70,499.12 crore which naturally yielded a utilisation rate of 101.32 per cent. Instead of saying that the services got Rs.10,000 crore less and the Indian Air Force was unable to go in for the Rafale deal, the minister has declared victory.

The issue is not the numbers which the MoD weaves before us, showing how well the forces were funded in Saint Antony's tenure. What matters are the persisting and dangerous gaps that remained unfilled because of the delay and incompetence of the ministry headed by him.

In March of 2012, the then Army chief V.K. Singh had written a letter to him complaining of critical shortages of tank ammunition, the obsolescence of most of India's air defence artillery and lack of equipment for the Special Forces. This was over four years after Antony had been the defence minister of the country.

India, Pakistan Discuss Kashmir Border Confidence Building Measures

A working group on confidence building measures along the Line of Control met for the first time in 18 months. 

March 06, 2014

The Joint Working Group (JWG) on Cross-Line of Control (LoC) Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) between India and Pakistan met in New Delhi on Tuesday after 18 months. The JWG was to work towards normalizing the situation between the two countries on their disputed border in Kashmir.

The Pakistani delegation was led by Riffat Masood, a high-level diplomat, and the Indian side was led by senior diplomat Rudrendra Tandon. The decision to resume the JWG was taken during a meeting between India’s Ambassador to Pakistan and Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry in late January.

The meeting represents the culmination of a series of positive developments between India and Pakistan that began in late December when the Director Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries met on the border for military-to-military consultations on border patrols and other matters related to the security of the Line of Control.

Since that meeting, India and Pakistan made progress on cross-border trade across the LoC. The trade talks between Pakistan’s commerce minister and his Indian counterpart were positive. After India caught an inbound truck from Pakistan carrying 110 kg of heroin, Pakistan temporarily ceased all LoC cross-border trade and movement. In late January, Pakistani troops also violated the LoC ceasefire after a period of relative tranquility. Overall, however, relations across the LoC have been remarkably improved compared to 2013, which saw the most ceasefire violations across the border in several years.

Given the general uptick in relations, it seems as opportune time for the resumption of the JWG on LoC CBMs. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is also slated to visit Pakistan later this month to resume the long-stalled Composite Dialogue Process between India and Pakistan which addresses the entire spectrum of disputes between the two neighbors (although some observers argue that this is looking increasingly unlikely). The Composite Dialogue Process was suspended in January 2013 after an Indian soldier was beheaded by Pakistan troops on the LoC.

The U.S. End Game in Afghanistan

MARCH 3, 2014

Despite a steady stream of negative press reports coming out of Afghanistan these days, a strong indicator of success was revealed on Monday when ATR Consulting, an independent survey company, released the results of a major survey it conducted with over 4,000 Afghans between September and October 2013. ATR traveled to all corners of the country, interviewing 3,038 men and 1,180 women in 18 districts and nine cities. Representing Afghans of various socio-economic, tribal/ethnic, age, and geographical backgrounds, the survey's results indicate that there are larger positive trends emerging in Afghanistan that bode well for Western interests. 

Though Afghan President Hamid Karzai has continued to distract the world with his vocal opposition to a bilateral security agreement with the United States, there is fundamental progress in the country that has not been fully recognized: 
Some three-quarters of Afghans trust the Afghan National Army (ANA) and, to somewhat lesser extent, the police (ANP); findings consistent with a recent Asia Foundation survey and extensive internal reporting by NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). 
80 percent of Afghans reported that the government is in control of their areas of the country. 
The Taliban generate little support, with only 7 percent of respondents wanting to see them back in power; as to be expected, they are more popular in the southern part of Afghanistan. Indeed, people seem to actively mistrust the Taliban and a plurality, 45 percent, see them as acting at the behest of foreign interests, such as Pakistan. 
The notion that the Taliban represent the Pashtuns is false, but about a third of southern respondents would like to see the Taliban involved in some level of governance. The survey shows the Taliban are not a national movement, but Pashtuns are "war weary," though this should not be confused with acceptance -- it is merely acquiescence. 
Afghans have seen their standard of living improve over the last 10 years, particularly in areas of education, healthcare, infrastructure, and access to goods. 
Women, at greater levels than men, see the changes of the last 10 years as positive, and reject the Taliban; less than two percent want a Taliban government. 

U.S. Objectives in Afghanistan 

The United States' core military objectives in Afghanistan were simple: provide basic security and stability for Afghans and prevent the country from once again becoming a sanctuary for global extremists. More ambitiously, U.S. and international state-building efforts have sought to develop a democratic civil society, build institutional capacity, and provide economic development, with an emphasis on women's rights. 

That significant progress has been made against the core objectives is evident in both the effectiveness of the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the positivity the Afghan populace. The ANSF is the cornerstone of ISAF's efforts to build a stable security environment that constrains the effectiveness of the Taliban and other extremist elements to launch attacks. Even the more ambitious goals for women's rights have been successful, though that progress is tenuous. Today, the Taliban's severe restrictions on women and segregationist policies have been largely rolled back, with the government workforce now comprising 20 percent women, three million girls are attending school, and more than 40,000 women obtaining some form of higher education.

The Forgotten War

How Obama can salvage the fight he's losing in Afghanistan. 

MARCH 5, 2014 

With the White House scrambling to respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it will be easy to overlook the crumbling of the war effort in Afghanistan. But it should not be. 

On Feb. 25, the White House announced with much fanfare that President Barack Obama had spoken by telephone with Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- for the first time in eight months. It is a pathetic reflection of the U.S. president's pale commitment to winning this war that he is not in regular contact with the leader of the country that the United States is fighting in. And the White House used the pretext of the call to begin floating trial balloons about the zero option. This is a terrible idea. Instead, the administration should be emphasizing both its commitment to continued involvement and the strength of Afghan support for that. 

The United States overinvested in Karzai from the start. George W. Bush's administration sought to unify Afghanistan and took a top-down approach to the provision of aid and the development of political practices ("institutions" feels too strong a word for a country that ranked 181 on the U.N. Human Development Index in 2007). A strategy that distributed power and built up from local authority was better suited to Afghanistan's political culture and level of economic development -- and, incidentally, much less vulnerable to corruption. But at least Bush called, visited, and tried to see it through by empowering Karzai. The Obama administration built a strategy dependent on Karzai's active support of its war aims and then alienated him without shifting to a strategy in which his support was not essential. 

Add to that a staggering mismatch of political objectives and the means to achieve them, as well as the sorry spectacle of the Obama administration setting and then relaxing deadlines for the signing of the bilateral security treaty (first set to be signed by December 2013, then April 2014, and now Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speculates we will need an answer by the summer), and the stage is set for the United States to lose the war. Or, more accurately, to just quit. 

Obama warned Karzai that he was instructing the Pentagon to start seriously planning for the zero option -- that is, removing all troops from Afghanistan. The Afghan government predictably followed up on the White House account by emphasizing that "President Karzai rebuffed another request to sign a bilateral security agreement," as the Hill put it. 

Either the Obama White House lacks the discipline not to be repeatedly drawn into this counterproductive patter or the White House anticipated and sought it.

Sri Lanka’s Growing Links with China

Sri Lanka’s Growing Links with China
Image Credit: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

“We love this country,” declared a Chinese Foreign Minister on a state visit to Sri Lanka in 1971, China “was ready to give its fullest co-operation to speed up the socialist march of Ceylon.”
Sri Lanka’s socialist “march” didn’t ever quite catch up with China’s, but since the first Rubber-Rice pact was signed in 1952 China-Sri Lankan relations have been a source of unity and continue on an upward trajectory today.
As China’s economic power has grown, investing overseas has been a tactic used across the world by China to help bolster the national interest. Its financial foreign policy rests on two strategies: “accumulating foreign currency reserves and sending money abroad in the form of FDI, aid, assistance and loans,” wrote U.S. economic advisor Ken Miller in Foreign Affairs.  Sri Lanka is a model for the latter part of this strategy.
The statistics alone indicate the inexorable rise of China’s financial stake in Sri Lanka.
Impending confirmation of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries is symbolic of the tight-knit relations between Beijing and Colombo in 2014. Bilateral trade exceeded $3 billion for 2013 and China is Sri Lanka’s second largest source of imports behind India.
Despite the symbolism, China will profit more from the generous new tariffs of the FTA. Sri Lanka has a growing trade deficit with China that stood at approximately $2.4 billion in 2012. China is the destination for less than 2 percent of total Sri Lankan exports.
However, concerns over trade deficits for South Asian nations like Sri Lanka are “outweighed by overall economic benefits and political support,” wrote India’s former Special Envoy to Southeast Asian countries on UN Security Council Reforms, Professor S D. Muni.

China and Xinjiang: Kunming incident

March 7, 2014

That China is facing increasing dissidence in recent times in its minority areas is a statement of fact that needs no additional corroboration. This dissidence is particularly acute in both Xinjiang and Tibet. Last week the Chinese official media reported that more than 10 members of the Xinjiang ‘separatist forces’ knifed to death more than 29 civilians at Kunming Railway station; seriously injuring another 130. This occurrence was labelled as a ‘terrorist’ action and the Chinese also admitted that such violent attacks have been increasing in Xinjiang since 2009. The Regional Public Security Bureau reported that about 190 such attacks have taken place in 2012, admitting to an increase over 2011 by a ‘significant margin.’ It has also been admitted that Uyghur ‘separatists’ have changed tactics and have started attacking civilians instead of the ‘symbols’ of governmental authority such as police stations, police vehicles or regional party and government offices. Fortunately for the Chinese authorities the separatist Uyghur group led by Rebiya Kadeer has not achieved significant traction.

Significantly the Chinese authorities do not concede any laxity on their part or aver that their policies may be faulty; but pin the blame on ‘outside’ interference that seeks to destabilize China, prevent its rise as a ‘global power’ and to exploit ‘gullible’ Uyghurs. The Chinese say that they face the triple threats of terrorism, separatism and extremism. The present Chinese government claims that historically Xinjiang has always been a part of China since BC 60; although this claim is rather far -fetched since Xinjiang finally became a part of China only under the Qing dynasty [1644-1911]. Chinese texts would have us believe that Xinjiang was never ‘conquered,’ but that even when it was under the sway of local rulers, it was always re-united [tong yi] or was recovered [shou fu] by the motherland. This questionable version of history is used as a means to demonstrate the inalienable links that bind mainland [Han] Chinese and the Uyghurs of Xinjiang [New Dominions]. For the Uyghurs the Chinese designation of the region as ‘Xinjiang’ is in itself a distortion for they are Turkic in ethnic origin, Sunni Muslim by religion and culturally more akin to the Central Asian Kirghiz, Kazakhs and Turkmen. For them their land [Xinjiang] is East Turkestan.

To keep Xinjiang, which is about 1/6th of the Chinese landmass, under tight control is an absolute strategic necessity for China. It brooks for no laxity. Strategically located Xinjiang borders eight countries, is the home of China’s nuclear testing facilities [Lop Nor], contains sustainable reserves of oil and gas and if China is to access the vast Central Asian oil and gas reserves a network of pipelines would have to traverse through this region to reach the markets of eastern China.

The Internet Helped Cause the Kunming Terrorist Attack, Says China

March 6, 2014

Chinese paramilitary police stand guard outside the scene of the terrorist attack at the main train station in Kunming, in the Chinese province of Yunnan, on March 3, 2014Mark Ralston—AFP/Getty Images

At a session at China's National People's Congress, a top official says loopholes that allow Internet users in China to break past online censors are to blame for terrorist violence following a recent attack at a train station that left 29 people dead 

Even the state-controlled media were grumpy. We were in the Xinjiang Room at the Great Hall of the People (abbreviated in English, charmingly, as the G-HOP). Once a year, delegates from the National People’s Congress, China’s meek legislature, gather on the western edge of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square ostensibly to debate policy and make laws. In reality, the rubber stamps are raised aloft — and they come down in cheerful, communist-enthralled unison. 

The Xinjiang Room is named after the autonomous region of Xinjiang in China’s northwest, which occupies one-sixth of the nation’s landmass. Xinjiang is famous for its melons and flatbread, mosques and natural-gas reserves. If that doesn’t sound very Chinese it’s because Xinjiang culturally is much more Central Asian than East Asian. In fact, Xinjiang’s name means New Frontier, and the region was only given that appellation in 1884 when China’s Qing dynasty had conquered its population of ethnic Uighurs and other minorities. Since then, the region has chafed against rule from Beijing, which is farther from Xinjiang’s Silk Road oases than Baghdad is. Memories of two short-lived republics of East Turkestan, as some Uighurs prefer to think of their homeland, have heightened separatist dreams ever since. 

"Full Steam Ahead: China's Ever-Increasing Military Budget"

Munitions are on display at a Chinese military post near Beijing April 24, 2013, as U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, not shown, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, receives a briefing on Chinese helicopter aviation, 24 April 2013.

March 5, 2014

Authors: Andrew S. Erickson, Adam P. Liff, Research Fellow, International Security Program

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security

China's official defense budget is projected to increase 12.2% in 2014 to roughly 808 billion yuan ($132 Billion), while the country's economic growth is expected to hold steady at 7.5%, according to the annual budget report released Tuesday in Beijing. This year's projected growth in the People's Liberation Army budget is higher than last year's defense spending increase of 10.7%, and marks the third year in a row that official military spending is projected to outpace GDP growth.

Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, director of the Chinese navy's Expert Consultation Committee, was paraphrased by the official Xinhua news agency on Wednesday citing "increasingly severe security challenges" as a reason for these increases.

While increases to China's defense spending are nothing new, they are coming at a time when China's leaders increasingly struggle to meet (declining) annual GDP growth targets. Gone are the heady days of double-digit GDP growth. Yet leaders in Beijing continue to harbor ambitions to build military power "commensurate with China's international standing." With the world's second largest economy, it's not surprising that China can afford the world's second-largest defense budget. Less certain is how great this divergence will become, and how long it can continue.

"A Multi-regional Input–output Analysis of Domestic Virtual Water Trade and Provincial Water Footprint in China"

View of Chongqing from Chaotianmen, 25 October 2011. Chongqing's water footprint depends heavily on virtual water inflow from other provinces.

Journal Article, Ecological Economics, volume 100, page 159–172

April 2014

Authors: Chao Zhang, Former Giorgio Ruffolo Fellow, Sustainability Science Program/Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group, 2012–July 2013,Laura Diaz Anadon, Assistant Professor of Public Policy; Associate Director, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program; Co-PI, Energy Technology Innovation Policy research group


China's booming economy has brought increasing pressures on its water resources. The water scarcity problem in China is characterized by a mismatch between the spatial distributions of water resources, economic development and other primary factors of production, which leads to the separation of production and consumption of water-intensive products. In this paper, we quantify the scale and structure of virtual water trade and consumption-based water footprints at the provincial level in China based on a multi-regional input–output model. We found that virtual water withdrawals and consumption embodied in domestic trade amounts to 184 billion m3 and 101 billion m3 in 2007, respectively, which is equivalent to 38% and 39% of national total fresh water withdrawals and consumption, respectively. Virtual water trade embodied in domestic trade is about two times as much as virtual water embodied in China's international exports. Water footprint in all four municipalities, i.e., Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing, depends heavily on virtual water inflow from other provinces. China has a north-to-south net VWT pattern which is roughly the opposite of the distribution of its water resources. In addition to water efficiency improvement measures, re-shaping the water-trade nexus can be a significant complementary tool to address local water scarcity problems.

Read the full text here (log in may be required):http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800914000421

Full text of this publication is available at: 

*** Blood and Fear in Xinjiang

The relationship between China's majority Han and its Uighurs has been fraught for years

Palmer lives in Beijing, where he is an editor for the English edition of The Global Times, and writes on modern Chinese history and society for Aeon Magazine. 
MARCH 2, 2014

On March 1, attackers with knives descended on a train station in the southern Chinese city of Kunming, killing at least 29. With the country still in shock, state news agency Xinhua has declared the assailants to be "Xinjiang separatists," which almost certainly locates the perpetrators among China's approximately 10 million Uighurs. The following story, which discusses relations between Uighurs and China's majority Han, originally appeared in September 2013 on ChinaFile, an online magazine published by Asia Society's Center on U.S. - China Relations. 

In the winter of 2009, I was spending my weekends in the northeast Chinese city of Tangshan, and eating most of my food from the far-western province of Xinjiang. Like many minorities, the Uighur, the native people of Xinjiang, have made their chief impact on mainstream culture through cuisine. I have always favored their ubiquitous restaurants when traveling. 

But there was something unfamiliar about the place I usually ate at in Tangshan; the waiters were young children. Two solemn little girls of about eight, wearing Muslim headscarves, would take my order and relay it to the kitchen, occasionally joined by their plump-cheeked older brother. 

Putting the kids out front echoed the Chinese depiction of ethnic minorities, regularly represented -- as in the 2008 Olympic opening ceremonies -- as children. It created a familiar, comfortable world for the majority Han clientele, especially since the kids, unlike their parents, spoke fluent Mandarin. When the back door opened, I sometimes got a glimpse of another world; a cluster of Uighur men and one woman smoking, cooking, and joking in their own language, entirely isolated from the diners. 

After we had gotten on familiar terms -- I let them play on my laptop -- I asked the girls when they started working as waitresses. "In July," they said. It wasn't surprising that the restaurant might have wanted a friendlier face at that point. That was the time that a Uighur mob had tried to murder one of my friends. 
“Kill the Han”

I had met "Bruce" Li by chance on the Beijing subway in 2007. I was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a Swedish flag, and he greeted me with "God kväll," then switched to English after my confused "Huh?" A scrawny, smiley Southerner, he had just finished his Master's degree in linguistics and spoke four foreign languages even though he had never been overseas. We became friends; his careful, sympathetic interest in the world, books, and other cultures was a pleasure. He was leaving Beijing that fall for a Ph.D. at Xinjiang University in the provincial capital of Urumqi. 

China Threat Cited as Pentagon Budget Takes Beating

Yochi Dreazen is a senior staff writer for Foreign Policy, covering national security and foreign affairs. He is also writer-in-residence at the Center for a New American Security, where he is working on a book about military suicide that will be published by Random House's Crown division early next year.

Dan Lamothe is an award-winning military journalist and war correspondent. He has written for Marine Corps Times and the Military Times newspaper chain since 2008, traveling the world and writing extensively about the Afghanistan war both from Washington and the war zone. He also has reported from Norway, Spain, Germany, the Republic of Georgia and while underway with the U.S. Navy. Among his scoops, Lamothe reported exclusively in 2010 that the Marine Corps had recommended that Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer receive the Medal of Honor. This year, he was part of a team of journalists that exposed senior Marine Corps leaders' questionable involvement in legal cases, and then covering it up. A Pentagon investigation is underway in those cases.

MARCH 5, 2014 

Senior Pentagon officials, top military commanders, and powerful lawmakers from both parties have long wrestled with a single question: is China, home to one of the world's largest and fastest growing militaries, a direct threat to the peace and security of the United States? Beijing's surprise announcement of a massive increase in its defense spending Wednesday is adding new fuel to the debate and emerging as a major obstacle to the Obama administration's hopes of trimming the Pentagon's bloated wartime budget. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel took to Capital Hill Wednesday to try to sell the administration's new, controversial $495.6 billion base budget for fiscal year 2015. Under the White House plan, the Defense Department would receive roughly $420 million less than in fiscal year 2014. That will require the Army to cut its forces from about 490,000 to about 440,000 over the next five years, while the Air Force cuts its own troops by about 20,000, from 503,000 to 483,000. The services will also have to say goodbye to an array of cherished weapons programs, from the Air Force's famed U-2 spy plane to the Army's planned replacement for its workforce fleet of Humvees. 

The plan was controversial from the start, with many lawmakers griping that the budget would result in a military that was too small, and too poorly equipped, to tamp down potential conflicts around the world or deal with an increasingly assertive Russia. China's announcement Wednesday that it would be boosting its military budget by 12.2 percent in 2014, to $131.6 billion, simply fanned the flames. 

"I must say your timing is exquisite," Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain told Hagel during a heated Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. "Coming over here with a budget when the world is probably more unsettled since the end of World War II. The invasion of Crimea, Iran negotiations collapsed, China more aggressive in the South China Sea, North Korea fired more missiles in the last few days, Syria turning into a regional conflict." 

The growing Chinese defense budget, McCain argued, made the administration plan even more dangerous. 

McCain has long been a China hawk, part of a large camp of Republicans, and some conservative Democrats, who warn that the United States risks losing its military edge over China unless it purchases hundreds of billions of dollars worth of next-generation warplanes, drones, and ships. Doves believe that the threat is overstated because the Chinese economy is so intertwined with the American one that Beijing wouldn't risk tanking it by starting a conflict with the United States. 

Iran: Geostrategic Calculations vis-à-vis Afghanistan

7 March 2014 
Rajeshwari KrishnamurthyResearch Officer, IReS 

With a landmark Afghan presidential election fast approaching, soon to be followed by the Western military withdrawal from the country, Tehran has stepped up efforts towards securing a stable and favourable government in Kabul. Iran’s interests in Afghanistan are many and wide-ranged.

Geostrategic CalculationsIran’s interests in Afghanistan can be categorised into economy, strategy, and its larger agenda vis-à-vis South and Central Asia developments – positive or negative – on any of these fronts holds implications for the others.

Assuming that Afghanistan will not entirely de-stabilise after 2014, greater Iranian investment in and spreading outwards from central Afghanistan can be expected. Iranian influence in Afghanistan’s Herat province is already tremendous, with several million dollars’ worth investment and robust cross-border trade; and Tehran definitely wants to make more inroads – although they are not the most favoured, if not disapproved of, by the Afghans. 

Afghanistan is Iran’s gateway to the larger Central Asian region and China. It is already working towards instituting a North-South corridor between the Central Asian States, Afghanistan, China, and the greater West Asia and North Africa, using Chabahar Port on its southern border – thereby luring these countries away from their dependence on Pakistan’s restive South for their access to sea lanes.

At present, there are over 7,80,000 Afghan refugees living in Iran. Eventually, some of them will return to their homeland, and they will take with them the education, experience and other such soft-power baggage that they would have gained during their time in Iran. Tehran already has an upper hand owing to linguistic proximity between Dari and Persian. Furthermore, a considerable number of Afghans – 19 per cent of the total population – are Shia Muslims, and Iran is a pre-eminent Shia State – easing Iran’s inroads into Afghanistan.

Among the several outstanding issues that it would want resolved are: consensus on water-sharing; return of Afghan refugees; an end to cross-border drugs and arms smuggling in its southern borders.

Why Putin Doesn’t Respect Us

MARCH 4, 2014

Just as we’ve turned the coverage of politics into sports, we’re doing the same with geopolitics. There is much nonsense being written about how Vladimir Putin showed how he is “tougher” than Barack Obama and how Obama now needs to demonstrate his manhood. This is how great powers get drawn into the politics of small tribes and end up in great wars that end badly for everyone. We vastly exaggerate Putin’s strength — so does he — and we vastly underestimate our own strength, and ability to weaken him through nonmilitary means.

Let’s start with Putin. Any man who actually believes, as Putin has said, that the breakup of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century is caught up in a dangerous fantasy that can’t end well for him or his people. The Soviet Union died because Communism could not provide rising standards of living, and its collapse actually unleashed boundless human energy all across Eastern Europe and Russia. A wise Putin would have redesigned Russia so its vast human talent could take advantage of all that energy. He would be fighting today to get Russia into the European Union, not to keep Ukraine out. But that is not who Putin is and never will be. He is guilty of the soft bigotry of low expectations toward his people and prefers to turn Russia into a mafia-run petro-state — all the better to steal from.

So Putin is now fighting human nature among his own young people and his neighbors — who both want more E.U. and less Putinism. To put it in market terms, Putin is long oil and short history. He has made himself steadily richer and Russia steadily more reliant on natural resources rather than its human ones. History will not be kind to him — especially if energy prices ever collapse.

Russia Has Already Lost the War


Independence Square in Kiev, a place of grieving and pride. CreditTyler Hicks/The New York Times

KIEV, Ukraine — OVER the past two weeks, residents of Kiev have lived through its bloodiest conflict since the Second World War, watched their reviled president flee and a new, provisional team take charge, seen Russian troops take control of part of the country, and heard Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, assert his right to take further military action. Yet the Ukrainian capital is calm.

Revolutions often falter on Day 2, as Ukraine has already bitterly learned twice — once after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and then again in 2005 after the Orange Revolution. That could happen again, but the new revolution is enjoying a prolonged honeymoon, thanks to Mr. Putin, whose intervention in Ukrainian foreign and trade policy provoked the uprising in the first place, and whose invasion has, paradoxically, increased its chance of long-term success.

Kiev smells like a smoky summer camp, from the bonfires burning to keep the demonstrators still out on Independence Square warm, but every day it is tidier. Sidewalks in the city center are checkerboarded with neat piles of bricks that had been dug up to serve as missiles and are now being put back.

The police, despised for their corruption and repression, are returning to work. Their squad cars often sport Ukrainian flags and many have a “self-defense” activist from the protests with them. A Western ambassador told me that the activists were there to protect the cops from angry citizens. My uncle, who lives here, said they were also there to stop the police from slipping back into their old ways and demanding bribes.

Russia: The Soviets Return Victorious Using Plan B

March 6, 2014:
Russia continues to deny that the armed and uniformed men who have taken control of the Crimean Peninsula are under Russian control. The men wear camouflage uniforms that have no insignia on them. These men speak Russian and the Russian government describes them as a local self-defense force. The agreement with Ukraine allowing Russia to use a naval base in Crimea until 2046 allows Russia to station up to 25,000 military personnel in Crimea. Russian says these troops have stayed on their bases. The militiamen have surrounded Ukrainian military bases in Crimea and threatened to open fire on any Ukrainian troops who try to get in or out of these bases. 

Ethnic Ukrainians are a minority in the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea” (created by the 1996 Ukrainian constitution). The two million people living in Crimea are 12 percent Crimean Tatars. These are descendants of Mongol and Turk troops that invaded the region in the 13th century. The invaders blended in with the existing inhabitants, who were a mélange of Greeks and even more ancient peoples who had been there for thousands of years. The Tatars became Moslem in the 14th century. Eventually the Ottoman Turkish Empire took control of Crimea but that was lost in 1775 when the Russian Empire drove the Turks out. Most Tatars fled to Turkey and elsewhere. Ukrainians and Russians moved in. When the communists took over in the 1920s they proceeded to kill or deport half the Tatars remaining in Crimea. The communists didn’t trust the Tatars. In 1944 all remaining Tatars were moved to Central Asia and while that expulsion was revoked in the late 1960s Tatars only began returning after the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991. The communists believed that the Tatars had collaborated with the invading Germans, and some did, but no more than other non-Russians. Today 24 percent of Crimeans are Ukrainian and 58 percent are Russian. 

In Ukraine ethnic Ukrainians are the majority in most provinces, even those in western Ukraine that have the largest Russian minorities. Many Russians believe that Ukraine should be part of Russia, or at least parts of Ukraine should be. All this is connected with the bitter memories of the 13th century Mongol conquest of Russia (Moscow and north to Novogorad) and most of Ukraine and Belarus). This included the destruction of many major cities like Ryazan, Kolomna, Moscow, Vladimir and Kiev, which were all rebuilt, but some others were not. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the Russians and Ukrainians managed to win back most of their territory. Meanwhile the Turks from the Ottoman Empire (centered in modern Turkey) were moving north and it took until the 19th century to push the Turks out of what became the Russian Empire and then the Soviet Union. All this is vividly remembered in Russia and is one reason why a lot of Russians want their empire back. 

Crisis in Ukraine Kidnapped by the Kremlin

The West can punish Putin’s Russia for its belligerence in Ukraine. But only if it is prepared to pay a price Mar 8th 2014

AS YOU read this, 46m people are being held hostage in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has pulled Russian troops back from the country’s eastern border. But he has also demanded that the West keep out and that the new government in Kiev should once again look towards Russia. Don’t be alarmed, he says with unambiguous menace, invasion is a last resort.

Some in the West will argue that the starting point for policy is to recognise reality, however unpalatable. Let Mr Putin keep the Crimean peninsula, which he occupied just over a week ago. It has a Russian-speaking majority and was anyway part of Russia until 1954. As for Ukraine as a whole, Russia is bound to dominate it, because it cares more about the country than the West does. America and the European Union must of course protest, but they would do well to avoid a useless confrontation that would harm their own economies, threaten their energy supplies and might plunge Ukraine into war. Mr Putin has offered a way out and the West should grasp it.

That thinking is mistaken. In the past week Mr Putin has trampled over norms that buttress the international order and he has established dangerous precedents that go far beyond Ukraine (see article). Giving in to kidnappers is always dangerous: those who fail to take a stand to start with often face graver trials later on.

 another world

The Ukrainian citizens who protested in Maidan did not drive out a home-grown autocrat only to become beholden to the one next door; many of the youths on the streets of Donetsk and Kharkiv, in the Russian-speaking east, are as eager to belong to a sovereign Ukraine as are their compatriots in Kiev and Lviv. They know that under Russia’s sway Ukraine would be weak and dependent. They look westward to Europe, which offers their country its best hope of overcoming chronic corruption and bolstering the economy.

This Is Why Russia Wants Crimea A short history of Sevastopol

Matthew Gault in War is Boring

On March 6, the Crimean parliament voted in favor of joining Russia—the latest unsurprising development in Moscow’s bloodless, slow-motion takeover of Ukraine’s strategic Crimean Peninsula.

Russia’s motivation is a pungent blend of historical obligation andRealpolitik. Moscow wants to embolden ethnic Russians living in southeastern Ukraine and also preserve its access to Crimea’s military bases and ports.

The city of Sevastopol—the region’s gateway to the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean—lies at the heart of Russia’s interests on the peninsula.

A full third of Russian sea trade flows through Sevastopol and, to a lesser extent, other Black Sea ports. And the Kremlin’s regional naval force depends on Sevastopol’s facilities.

Russian identity, too, is tied up in Crimea. It’s an open question which factor is most important. And after Ukrainians deposed their pro-Russian president in February, Moscow mobilized to claim what it saw as rightfully its own.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6UXyCIx0Js
Dark waters

In April 2010 the Ukrainian parliament erupted in chaos. MPs opposed to recently elected president Viktor Yanukovych—now recently ousted—brawled with the prez’s supporters.

Eggs splattered on walls. Smoke bombs ignited. Umbrella-wielding aides protected the chamber’s speaker. The session continued and the motion in question passed by a narrow margin, with 236 yeas and 214 nays.

The issue? A 25-year extension of Russia’s lease on a Sevastopol naval base in exchange for cheaper natural gas from Moscow. Sevastopol has the best warm-water ocean access of all former Soviet cities.

Russia’s lease began in 1997, after then-president of Russia Boris Yeltsin renounced Moscow’s claim to Crimea. A treaty granted Russia permission to base its small Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol in exchange for Moscow forgiving Ukraine’s debt.

The lease was set to expire after 20 years. With the recent extension, the Kremlin will have legal access to Sevastopol until 2042. If Crimea joins Russia, the lease becomes moot.‘Siege of Sevastopol’ by Franz Roubaud. Via Wikimedia Commons
Port in a storm

In the 1700s, the Ottoman Empire was collapsing and the Russian Empire expanding. In 1783, Russia annexed the Crimean Khanate — a vassal state of the Ottoman empire since the mid-15th century.

Breaking down spending in Obama's budget proposal

President Obama released his budget proposal Tuesday morning. The circles show the amount requested and the color reflects the changes from last year’s discretionary funding levels for each department. This page will be updated with new information throughout the day. Read related article or more agency coverage.

Note: Agency breakdowns of discretionary spending sometimes vary from year-to-year comparisons because of adjustments for mandatory amounts.


$495.6 billion in discretionary funds (0.1% less than last year)

The Pentagon’s budget for 2015 represents a major turning point for the military, which is moving from more than a decade of massive growth to a significantly smaller force that will be more dependent on technology. The Obama administration plans to spend $495.6 billion on defense in 2015 or about $113 billion less than had been expected in last year’s budget. The biggest savings will come from cuts to personnel, particularly in the Army, which will be gradually pared back to its smallest size in 74 years. The Pentagon also plans to rein in healthcare costs and cut some of its older weapons systems.

Health & Human Services

$73.7 billion in discretionary funds (7.6% less than last year)

The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed a $73.7 billion budget for the Health and Human Services department, representing a slight decrease from 2014. The budget includes new funding for doctor training, Head Start and mental health services, as well as initiatives to target antibiotic resistance.

But it does not include a major increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health, despite warnings from the agency’s director that it needs a significant infusion to remain on the cutting edge of research.

The budget also continues to fund the president’s signature health-care law, which had many of its key provisions implemented this year. It includes money to continue operating the state and federal health insurance marketplaces, as well as to provide subsidies to help low- and middle-income people pay for health insurance. Most Americans must carry health insurance starting this year, or they face a fine.

Correction: This item was updated to correct the size of the budget request. A previous version mistakenly used the fiscal year 2014 number.


$68.6 billion in discretionary funds (1.9% more than last year)

The White House budget proposal shows that the president wants to increase discretionary spending for the Department of Education by $1.3 billion to $68.6 billion. That’s in addition to $14.4 billion the federal government gives to states to help educate poor children and another $11.5 billion it provides for disabled students who require special education.

Obama is again seeking funding for his “Preschool for All” plan to expand early childhood education to most low and middle-income four-year-olds across the country - a 10-year, $76 billion program that would be funded with an increase in the federal tobacco tax.

Veterans Affairs

$65.3 billion in discretionary funds (3.0% more than last year)

The 2015 White House budget would provide $65.3 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The enacted 2014 federal budget gave $63.4 billion to the agency, which provides benefits to veterans and their families. The VA has accumulated a massive backlog of claims waiting to be processed, which they trimmed from 600,000 to 400,000 from March to November 2013. Obama announced that “slashing that backlog” was a White House priority in his 2014 State of the Union address, and his proposed 2015 budget includes a $138.7 million investment in the Veterans Claims Intake Program in an effort to reform and speed up the process.