14 March 2014

**** Crimea: The Revenge of Geography?

By Robert Kaplan

The Obama administration claims it is motivated by the G-8, interdependence, human rights and international law. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a more traditional historical actor. He is motivated by geopolitics. That is why he temporarily has the upper hand in the crisis over Ukraine and Crimea.

Geopolitics, according to the mid-20th century U.S. diplomat and academic Robert Strausz-Hupe, is "the struggle for space and power," played out in a geographical setting. Geopolitics is eternal, ever since Persia was the world's first superpower in antiquity. Indeed, the Old Testament, on one level, is a lesson in geopolitics. Strausz-Hupe, an Austrian immigrant, wanted to educate the political elite of his adopted country so that the forces of good could make better use of geopolitics than the forces of evil in World War II.

Adherence to geopolitics allowed the British geographer and liberal educator Sir Halford J. Mackinder in a 1904 article, "The Geographical Pivot of History," to accurately forecast the basic trend lines of the 20th century: how the European power arrangement of the Edwardian age would give way to one encompassing all of Eurasia, with a battle between Western sea power and Russian land power. Geopolitics was at the heart of 19th-century America's bout of imperialism in the Greater Caribbean: By dominating its nearby sea the United States came, in turn, to dominate the Western Hemisphere, enabling it to affect the balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere -- the story of the 20th century. Geopolitics was at the heart of World War II, with the German military machine's lunge for the oil of the Caucasus and the Japanese military machine's lunge for the oil and raw materials of Southeast Asia. Geopolitics was at the heart of the Cold War, with U.S. bases and allies guarding the southern Eurasian rimland from Greece and Turkey to South Korea and Japan against the Soviet Union. The celebrated diplomat George Kennan's "containment" strategy was, in significant part, a geopolitical one.
It isn't that geography and geopolitics supersede everything else, including Western values and human agency. Not at all! Rather, it is that geography in particular is the starting point for understanding everything else. Only by respecting geography in the first place can Western values and human ingenuity overcome it. It is not one or the other, but the sequence of understanding which is crucial.

To wit, the late military historian John Keegan explains that Great Britain and the United States could champion freedom only because the sea protected them "from the landbound enemies of liberty." Alexander Hamilton observed that had Britain not been an island, its military establishment would have been just as overbearing as those of continental Europe, and Britain "would in all probability" have become "a victim to the absolute power of a single man."
Likewise, the Berlin Wall may have fallen in 1989, but Russia is still big and right next door to Central and Eastern Europe. And Russia remains illiberal and autocratic because, unlike Britain and America, it is not an island nation, but a vast continent with few geographical features to protect it from invasion. Putin's aggression stems ultimately from this fundamental geographical insecurity. Though, this does not doom him to be a reactionary. A far-sighted ruler would see that only civil society can ultimately save Russia. But Russia's geographical setting does place Putin in an understandable context.

The war within the war

 March 13, 2014
Rahul Pandita

Special ArrangementCONTINUING CONFLICT: As the recent Chhattisgarh ambush reaffirms, Maoists are not out at all; they are still able to launch lethal attacks on the state.

There will be no respite from Maoist attacks such as the one in Chhattisgarh as the government has lost many opportunities to strike at the heart of the insurgency

In 1973, the social activist Baba Amte set up a small facility in Hemalkasa village of Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district. The area was mainly inhabited by people of the Maria Gond tribe, who led a severely impoverished life. Often businessmen and traders from the nearby towns came to them, collecting dry fruits and other non-timber forest produce in exchange for a pittance. They were also exploited by forest guards and other government functionaries.

Diseases were rampant, and in the absence of roads or healthcare facilities, the poor tribals would die of malaria, tuberculosis, bear attacks, or snake bites.

Seven years later, in June 1980, a group of Maoists entered this area from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. They swung into action, interacting with the people and gradually making them aware of how they were being exploited. In a matter of few years, many from this area joined the Maoists.

More than three decades later, Hemalkasa and other villages around it are Maoist strongholds. Gadchiroli is a part of the Maoists’ main guerrilla zone, Dandakaranya Special Zone Committee. Baba Amte’s small facility is a big hospital now, run by his son Prakash Amte and his family. But even in these 34 years, not much has changed for the people there, beyond Baba Amte’s hospital. To this date, people come to his hospital from as far as about 200 kilometres, many of them even brought on string cots by their family members. In the rains, the area can get cut off for days from Gadchiroli town.

Hemalkasa is the heart of the state run in absentia by New Delhi.

The ongoing war between the Maoists and the Indian security forces has only complicated the lives of millions of people living across the red corridor in villages like Hemalkasa.

Sri Lanka: Does America want regime change?

Paper No. 5665 Dated 13-Mar-2013
Guest column by Kumar David

In my considered view the US is keeping its options open; it will not get so deeply involved in the pandemonium in Geneva unless it has a game plan. Its Sri Lanka (SL) resolution at the UNHRC has taken centre stage; briefings and lobbying overshadow everything else in the corridors.

The crucial issue is not the wording though stake-holders tear each others hair out re “strengthening” or “watering down”. The true dynamics of the next stage depend entirely on whether the government (GoSL) accepts the resolution and promises to implement it faithfully, or rejects it and the UNHRC makes its next move. Events that will unfold in the next 6 to 12 months depend on this choice; an immediate crisis if GoSL rejects; a slow brewing imbroglio if it agrees to go along and wrecks it in implementation, as it obviously will.

There are two crucial clauses in the draft. Clause 2 “Calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka: to implement the recommendations made in the reports of the Office of the High Commissioner, and also calls upon the Government to conduct an independent and credible investigation into allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, as applicable; to hold accountable those responsible for such violations; to end continuing incidents of human rights violations and abuses in Sri Lanka; and to implement the recommendations made in the reports of the Office of the High Commissioner”.

Clause 8 “Welcomes the High Commissioner’s recommendations and conclusions on the need for an independent and credible international investigation in the absence of a credible national process with tangible results, and requests the Office of the High Commissioner to assess progress toward accountability and reconciliation, to monitor relevant national processes, and to investigate alleged violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes by both parties in Sri Lanka, with input from relevant special procedures mandate holders as appropriate . .”

Iran and Pakistan’s Coming Clash

Iran and Pakistan are on a collision course as a series of issues are straining ties. 
March 13, 2014

Iran and Pakistan appear to be on a collision course that will in all likelihood leave relations severely strained in the years ahead.

The most visible sign of strain in the bilateral relationship is also in many ways the least serious. Specifically, as my colleague Ankit noted, last month five Iranian border guards in Iran’s Sistan Baluchistan region were kidnapped by the Iran-based Sunni militant group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice). However, according to the Iranian government, they were then brought to Pakistan and are being held in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

In the immediate aftermath of the kidnappings, the Iranian government expressed indignation at the Pakistan government for its failure to do more to curb the tide of Sunni Islamists in the country. Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli went so far as to threaten to send Iranian troops into Pakistan to secure the border guards’ release.

This prompted Islamabad to respond by saying, “Iranian forces have no authority to cross our borders in violation of the international law. We must respect each other’s borders.” It also added, “The government of Pakistan regrets the suggestions of negligence on its part over the incident, especially when Pakistan’s active support against terrorists groups in the past is well-known and acknowledged by Iran.”

Tensions have largely subsided since then, however, even though the five border guards remain in captivity. Last week an Iranian spokesperson said: “Based on the information available, all abducted Iranian border guards are in good health.” Other Iranian officials confirmed that they were engaged in talks with Pakistani officials to secure the border guards’ release, and Tehran has said it hopes to return them to their families in the near future. Still, tensions over the border region will continue to periodically spark crises between Pakistan and Iran for the indefinite future.

Don’t write off Karzai

Published: March 11, 2014

The writer is the Executive Director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies

Ever since Afghan President Hamid Karzai became vocal in his criticism of the US role in the last decade and publicly made signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) conditional,American officials and media began peddling the perception that Karzai is making these statements only because of fear of becoming irrelevant once his tenure ends in less than two months. But some analysts contend that he remains very much relevant to Afghan politics — both during the presidential election and beyond the December 2014 US-led international troops drawdown.

Afghan watchers know that except for Dr Abdullah Abdullah, most of the remainingpresidential aspirants are either Karzai’s loyalists or have fielded their nominations under a cleverly tailored strategy to prevent Abdullah from winning the polls. It seems that most pro-Karzai presidential hopefuls will pull out of the polls one by one in favour of his desired candidate. Observers believe that the phased withdrawal of candidates in the presence of alarge number of television channels will leave a strong impression on voters. The apparently surprise pullout of the president’s brother, Qayum Karzai, in favour of former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, lent even greater credence to the perception that the president has, indeed, carefully choreographed the campaign of his ‘favourite’. Karzai-watchers based in Kabul say that Qayum Karzai’s withdrawal in favour of Rassoul has come as a surprise for many because the brother comes from an influential background compared with Dr Abdullah, and respect for clans and family affinities remains very much intact in Afghan society.

The issue of de-militarisation of Northern Province of Sri Lanka


March 13, 2014

In a bilateral interaction at the recent BIMSTEC Summit in Myanmar, India’s prime minister is reported to have told Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapakse on March 4, to think about demilitarizing Sri Lanka`s northern province. As a posture, demilitarization may be alright for India but in real terms this may be difficult to achieve. A nation which had to endure enormous sacrifice and destruction to overcome the secessionist threat of the LTTE over nearly two decades cannot conceivably concede substantively. Moreover, within the ambit of Sri Lanka`s Constitution, demilitarization may not be a feasible proposition, if it entails withdrawal of the defence establishment, either operational mobile elements or static garrisons from the northern province. From Sri Lanka’s standpoint, its defence secretary is said to have opined that deployment of its military and acquisition of armaments were the prerogative of the government.

However, if the case for demilitarization rests on achieving a significant reduction in force strength of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA) in the Northern Province, which is reported to be currently about 150,000, then it is welcome. There is also no apparent reason to deploy the SLA in the north when there hardly has been any covert insurgent activity or overt armed action by any Tamil group since the end of the war in 2009. Furthermore, activities like the SLA taking control of agricultural land and denying the livelihood of the traditional Tamil owners from tilling as also usurping private civic lands for use by the SLA for their comfort like golf courses and residential buildings, etc have to stop. Going by media reports, more than 6000 acres of land belonging to the Tamil people before 2009 have subsequently been taken over by the Sri Lankan defence forces.

Some of the fundamental requirements are: the SLA should be confined to their barracks; further expansion of land area in possession of the SLA and their sister services` garrisons should not take place; surrender of land usurped by the armed forces (except the police) under emergency or special powers of the State to the provincial civil administration effected while allowing them to consolidate or localise their garrisons without visibly augmenting them and, a process of withdrawal of the SLA from agricultural and commercial activities on land taken over beyond the limits of the garrisons, after 2009, initiated.

Nepal Tries Again to Write a Constitution

After a successful election, can the political factions now put aside their squabbles and move forward?
By Ross Adkin
March 12, 2014

More than three months after a new Constituent Assembly was elected, Nepal’s second attempt to write a new constitution is only just beginning to take its first steps. Few had expected that the process would begin quickly and smoothly, and the general public is still by and large buoyant and hopeful following November’s remarkably free and fair elections. But the early signs are, if not worrying, then certainly frustrating and do not bode well for the delivery of a constitution within a year.
With the Maoists vanquished at the November polls, power returned to the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), the country’s largest parties who have held the majority of the power during Nepal’s democratic interludes. Proceedings in the Assembly were, however, threatened as soon as the election results were announced, as the third-placed Maoists claimed that voting had been rigged by foreign agencies and the Nepal Army in favor of the victors, and the congratulatory mood of much of November was punctuated by vague threats of “remobilizing” the people from the more hardline elements of the Maoist spectrum. However, in what many will take to be a sign of their increased political maturity, the Maoist leadership seems to have accepted its electoral defeat and has committed to sitting in opposition in the new government. Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and chief ideologue Baburam Bhattarai have admitted that the party leadership now must regain the trust of the public and its extensive networks of grassroots activists and cadres after several unproductive years in power, during which its leaders showed themselves as susceptible to corruption and incompetence as any.

A working group meeting between India and Sri Lanka on a dispute involving Tamil fishermen has been postponed.

March 13, 2014

A Sri Lankan court on Wednesday ordered the release of 116 Indian fishermen who had been arrested over the last two months for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) that demarcates Indian and Sri Lankan waters. The prisoner release comes after talks that took place in late January between Indian and Sri Lankan officials and their respective fishermen’s associations.

The release of the fishermen was intended to ease the next round of talks between officials, which were expected to take place on Thursday this week, but those talks have now been postponed. According to The Hindu, “the date for the next meeting is yet to be fixed.

Further complicating matters for the Indian government, the State government of Tamil Nadu said that it would refrain from engaging in the next round of talks unless Sri Lanka released all 177 Tamil Nadu fishermen and their 44 boats currently under Colombo’s custody.

Fishing disputes have been a feature of relations between the two South Asian neighbors for some time now. Sri Lankan Navy personnel have on occasion fired at and killed Indian fishermen for fishing in the narrow Palk Strait. Sri Lanka has also arrested several Indian fishermen for crossing the IMBL. The Indian fishermen, the majority of whom are ethnically Tamil, largely allege that the areas in which they conduct their fishing activities should not be a major issue given that Tamil fishermen have traditionally operated in these areas. One source notes that around 530 Indian Tamil fisherman have been killed at the hands of the Sri Lankan Navy.

The issue is complicated by the issue of Katchatheevu Island – an uninhabited island that India ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974 based on a conditional agreement. In 2009, Sri Lanka declared Katchatheevu sacred land given the presence of a Catholic shrine there – a move that was widely condemned by J. Jayalalithaa, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu (she wasn’t Chief Minister at the time but has become a vocal advocate for Tamil interests in Sri Lanka). Jayalalithaa has also condemned defense cooperation between India and Sri Lanka on the grounds that it ignores the interests of India’s sizable Tamil population.

BIMSTEC and BICM: Two Competing Sub-Regional Frameworks?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently visited Myanmar to attend the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation summit (BIMSTEC). This sub-regional framework came about in 2004 as part of India’s overall strategy of restoring its traditional links and integrating India with its immediate and extended neighbourhood besides responding positively to the imperatives of globalization.

Thus the vision of BIMSTEC is to improve connectivity between India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and other members through a network of multi-modal transport corridors. These networks would facilitate trade, exchange of energy through oil and gas pipelines, promotion of tourism and increase of communication links leading to what can be termed as a zone of co-prosperity.

It also needs to be noted that BIMSTEC contains most of the major SAARC countries except Pakistan. Further, India also has a Trilateral Dialogue with Myanmar and Thailand addressing the same issues. It can also be said that because SAARC has not made any progress due to intransigence of Pakistan, BIMSTEC was another alternative to include most of the other South Asian countries to promote economic cooperation. There is also a Ganga –Mekong Initiative to link countries of Mekong Basin (Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) with India. All these are in addition to the major organisation inSouth East Asia i.e. ASEAN. Even though there is an overlap in goals and objectives of a number of regional and sub regional groupings, BIMSTEC remains an important sub set of India’s ‘Look East Policy’ set in motion in the mid 1990s.

So far as Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar (BCIM) forum is concerned, it has been in works for over a decade now (since 1999). In fact it was a Track II platform, known earlier as Kunming Initiative, that was formed for sub-regional cooperation revolving around trade, commerce and connectivity. The BCIM grouping gained some traction when it was first mentioned in the Joint India-China communiqué during PM Li’s visit to India in May 2013 and it was again discussed between the two during PM Manmohan Singh’s visit to Beijing in October 2013. Thus, it became a Track I initiative with the prospects of the objectives of BCIM being realized. As a follow up of Heads of State meetings, a Joint Study Group of BCIM to chart out the modalities for achieving the goals of BCIM economic corridor was set up and it held its first meeting at Kunming in December, 2013. However, the question remains as to whether this sub regional grouping would make some headway in the coming years because of the perceived geo-political competition between the BCIM and BIMSTEC.

Even though India has agreed in principle for a BCIM Economic Corridor but it appears highly unlikely that it would be realized in an early timeframe in any meaningful manner. The Indian establishment’s security apprehensions about activities of several insurgent and rebel groups in North East India and their links with some Chinese elements still persist. These groups are involved in a host of anti national activities like gun running, drug trafficking and media reports have indicated they are also being used by foreign intelligence agencies (e.g. Anthony Shimray incident where Chinese intelligence agencies were alleged to have been involved in fuelling insurgency by sending a huge consignment of Chinese arms to NSCN(IM) in the NE; there have also been reports of some Chinese intelligence agents being active there; ISI has also been involved in sending arms).

Pivot, Rebalance and What Next?

13 March 2014
D Suba Chandran
Diretcor, IPCS

The American strategy towards the Asia Pacific is facing serious challenges. What started as a new “pivot” to Asia and later shifted to a “rebalance” now needs serious re-adjustment. Not because the American strategy is problematic, but more because of what is happening in multiple regions in Asia, starting from Syria in the Middle East to Japan in the East Asia. Therein lies the challenge to a hegemon in decline, and multiple actors who are not afraid to confront the sole super power. Perhaps, the US faces a bigger challenge than what it faced during the Cold War.

The rising China, no more peaceful, as could be seen from its recent strategies in East Asia, undoubtedly poses the biggest challenge to American rebalancing strategy towards Asia. China has clearly chosen its battleground to challenge the US might, where the latter feels the weakest – the South China Sea and East Asia. Despite all the bravado of the US and its allies like Japan, the recent pronouncements and actions in South China Sea, especially the proclamation of the Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), has clearly been a successful strategy by China to undermine the American influence in the region.

The US feels helpless and is faced with fewer options in South China Sea and East Asia. Though the US may want to be proactive and aggressive in addressing Chinese designs in the region, it has few options in the ground (or in the sea) to address the challenges posed by Beijing. On its part, China is carefully choosing its zone of conflict, based on its own strengths. More importantly, China is also carefully calibrating its options – attempting to show how ineffective the US power is, and how helpless those countries would remain if they expect Washington to come to their support.

Ukraine – A Case for Chinese Involvement

A Chinese scholar explains why Beijing may not want to sit this crisis out. 
By Andong Peng
March 10, 2014

The situation in the Ukraine is delicate, to say the least. On balance, Russia is probably where it wants to be given its inability to prevent the initial ouster of Yanukovych: it controls a region over which it has a strong historical claim, and has managed to do this without creating any antagonism in the rest of the Ukraine that did not already exist. This has been done without fatalities, and Russia remains a potential “friend.” Having said that, with every passing day it is Russia rather than the West that will be under increasing pressure to come up a resolution to the impasse, especially given the U.S. position.

China has, as usual, sat on the sidelines without getting even remotely involved. And why should it? Neville Chamberlain’s description of conflict in “a far away country between people of whom we know nothing” was never more apt than in understanding China’s view of Eastern Europe, which holds little in the way of natural resources and for the moment does not represent a significant export market. True, the Chinese own 9 percent of Ukrainian farmland now; but the crisis has probably been welcomed insofar as it has relegated deeper analysis of the recent Kunming terrorist attack and the broader Xinjiang problem to the back pages.

Yet China is mistaken to sit back and do nothing on Ukraine, because there is something at stake. Strategically, Beijing may calculate that letting the Americans become “involved” in the Ukraine means a further weakening of Obama’s already rudderless efforts in the Pacific. But this is only half the story: if this involvement went on to constitute a “defeat” (any scenario where Russia ends up with a more secure border than before) it would help weaken the strongest weapon in the U.S. arsenal: the soft power effect. This would further dent belief across the world in the efficacy of American action, helping China in its own Asian strategy. Moreover, China has no interest in helping legitimize public protests as a form of sociopolitical reform and development. In Kiev, just as in comparable situations such as Istanbul, Cairo and Bangkok, there is an ongoing battle over the question of whether mass urban protest is justifiable and productive, and how outside powers should intervene with support or otherwise. China clearly is not incentivized to see the overthrow of incumbent regimes.

There is also a longer term calculation. China is in many ways an imperialistic power utilizing a “big country” approach towards diplomacy. It has demonstrated a reluctance to engage in diplomacy as viewed through the Westphalian paradigm, and its insensitivity constantly surprises Western observers. But there is one issue which it cares deeply about: Taiwan. And the Russian seizure of the Crimea provides an interesting template for China as to how eventual reunification might take place in the “worst case” scenario, namely through force. What the Russians have managed on their peninsula is to act quickly and decisively, presenting the world with a fait accompli. It has done so with very little violence, and through the mobilization of insiders supportive to the region, whether or not they are in the majority, it can present photogenic welcoming parties to the arriving forces. At the very least, the situation is not (even in the Western media) a black-and-white case of aggression. That is all that Russia needed; it is difficult to envisage any outcome of the crisis now which does not see Russia with a strengthened position in the Crimea, irrespective of what happens with the rest of the Ukraine. A corresponding outcome with Taiwan would suit China nicely.

China’s Military Modernization: Why It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

The real core of China’s military modernization has more to do with organization and structure than with technology. 

March 13, 2014

The National People’s Congress is wrapping up in Beijing this week, but the final meetings are still attracting widespread attention. On March 11, Chinese President (and Chairman of the Central Military Commission) Xi Jinping attended a meeting of NPC delegates from the People’s Liberation Army.

Interestingly, both Chinese and Western media focused on similar themes from Xi’s remarks. Xinhua’s English language article used the title “Xi vows no compromise on national interests” (the Chinese language article, while far more thorough in its coverage of Xi’s speech, used a similar title). The Wall Street Journal also focused on Xi’s comments regarding defending national interests. Both articles gave prominent position to one of Xi’s comments in particular: “We expect peace, but we shall never give up efforts to maintain our legitimate rights, nor shall we compromise our core interests, no matter when or in what circumstances.”

These sorts of comments should not surprise anyone. For one thing, we’ve heard them already, as recently as last week when China was defending a double-digit increase in its military budget. For another thing, militaries around the globe exist to do exactly what Xi tasked the PLA with doing: protecting national “rights” and “interests,” however the people in charge choose to define them. China’s military goals are complicated, of course, by the fact that in the South and East China Sea areas that China claims as its sovereign territory are disputed by other nations, making it tempting to read remarks like Xi’s as an implicit threat.

But interpreting Xi’s speech to the military through the narrow lens of what they might mean for the South China Sea disputes risks missing the broader implications. The main focus of Xi’s speech was not on the need to defend China’s national interests, but on how to best equip to PLA to do that—through reforms. Xi called on China’s armed forces to use a “spirit of reform and innovation to establish a new phase for national defense and the armed forces.”

The “Made in China” Fallacy

Our trade deficit with China is vastly exaggerated—and it skews how we see the entire economy. 

Are iPhones really “made in China”? More than a dozen companies from at least five countries supply parts for them.
Every month, we are greeted with trade figures released by the Census Bureau. Over the past decade in particular, those figures have taken on added weight, largely because of the reported trade deficit with China. Month after month, that figure has grown, with barely a pause. In January, the reported deficit with China was a bit under $28 billion.

Zachary Karabell is an author,money manager, and commentator. His most recent book is The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World.

The idea that China continues to undermine American industry anddomestic wages is deeply entrenched in the United States. In the most recent Gallup poll, a majority of Americans view China as one of the primary economic and military threats facing the U.S. today. The trade balance between the two countries has not changed much in the past two years: The total goods deficit was at $315 billion in 2012 and $318 billion in 2013. It hasn’t been getting dramatically worse, but nor has the gap closed.

That reported trade deficit helps fuel the belief that so much that was once made in the U.S. is now made in China. But what if the numbers we’ve been working with are wrong?

Nations have been trying to track trade longer than almost any economic activity other than farming. Before the income taxes of the 20th century, the primary sourceof government revenue was tariffs on trade. The evolution of modern trade figures assumes a country that makes a certain amount of manufactured goods and either consumes them all domestically or exports them. If its domestic production is insufficient to meet domestic demand or if domestic goods are too costly, then it imports goods.

Traditional macroeconomics also evolved in the early 20th century, and one of itscore ideas is that each country is a closed economic system, one that should be in some sort of balance with other closed economic systems. Otherwise, the tenuous equilibrium between nations would be upset, leading to some form of crisis or realignment of power and prosperity.

In those 20th-century terms, the trade balance between China and the U.S. is easily interpreted as an American weakness in the face of rising Chinese strength, just as American manufacturing and exports in the 1950s were seen as a foundation of American power. But that framework is out of date.

The big problem with these numbers: They assume that each finished product is made in a single country. According to the “rules of origin” established by the World Trade Organization, a finished good is ascribed to the country where it underwent its last “substantial transformation.” Generations, ago, an American car was made in greater Detroit with parts from nearby factories in Ohio and steel from Pennsylvania. Today, however, almost nothing—not T-shirts nor Boeing Dreamliners nor Nike shoes nor iPhones—is made in one place.

Take the iPhone or the iPad. They are, for the most part, assembled in factories owned by a Taiwanese company called Foxconn in southern China. They are then shipped to the Port of Long Beach, Calif., where they enter the U.S. as imports. Every iPhone that Apple sells in the U.S. adds roughly $200 to the U.S.‑Chinese trade deficit, according to the calculations of three economists who looked at the issue in 2010. By 2013, Apple’s U.S. iPhone sales alone were adding $6–$8 billion to the trade deficit with China every year.

Chinese Engagement in Africa

Drivers, Reactions, and Implications for U.S. Policy

Most analyses of Chinese engagement in Africa focus either on what China gets out of these partnerships or the impacts that China's aid and investment have had on African countries. This analysis approaches Sino-African relations as a vibrant, two-way dynamic in which both sides adjust to policy initiatives and popular perceptions emanating from the other. The authors focus on (1) Chinese and African objectives in the political and economic spheres and how they work to achieve them, (2) African perceptions of Chinese engagement, (3) how China has adjusted its policies to accommodate often-hostile African responses, and (4) whether the United States and China are competing for influence, access, and resources in Africa and how they might cooperate in the region.

The authors find that Chinese engagement in the region is primarily concerned with natural resource extraction, infrastructure development, and manufacturing, in contrast to theUnited States' focus on higher-technology trade and services as well as aid policies aimed at promoting democracy, good governance, and human development. African governments generally welcome engagement with China, as it brings them political legitimacy and contributes to their economic development. Some segments of African society criticize Chinese enterprises for their poor labor conditions, unsustainable environmental practices, and job displacement, but China has been modifying its approach to the continent to address these concerns. China and the United States are not strategic rivals in Africa, but greater American commercial engagement in African markets could generate competition that would both benefit African countries and advance U.S. interests.

Russia Wants Much More Than Crimea


he long-advertised Russian move to partition the Ukraine calls for a more serious response than empty words—it is unacceptable to declare “unacceptable” what is plainly being accepted without any effective response. Pathetically, the several European leaders who rushed to declare the Russian move “unacceptable” immediately added that they had no intention of doing anything about it. Our own Secretary of State John Kerry resorted to the playground threat of disinviting President Vladimir Putin from the next G-8 (G-7?) summit-party. Yes, they are great fun with all those group photographs and the food is excellent, but the Crimea is worth a tiramisu.

Actually the Crimea is not what the Russians want—they want much more. The “Novy Russia” plan prepared in the Kremlin—worked out in detail down to the design of its flag—would separate all the territory east of the great Dnieper River into a new state, “affiliated” with the Russian Federation, until its accession can be worked out in due course. This Trans-Dnieper territory is many times larger than the Trans-Dniestr republic (a.k.a. Republica Moldovenească Nistreană) that the Russians successfully sliced off the Moldovan Republic and keep till this day, but unlike the latter which is separated from the Russian Federation by Ukrainian territory, "Novy Russia" would seamlessly form its southern extension down to the Black Sea.

The Dnieper as a dividing border gives Crimea to Russia including its irreplaceable naval base, but mostly has the decisive advantage of enclosing a population that includes many ethnic Russians, many Russian-speaking Ukrainians, and many Ukrainians who see their future with Moscow because their livelihood depends on Russian firms or is in Russia itself. Certainly the outlook of the populations living east of the Dnieper is very different from the outlook of the protagonists of the revolt: the activists from Lviv, that city being the Lvov of Galicia that was only annexed in 1944, many of whose inhabitants are Uniate Catholics rather than Orthodox. Putin could therefore appeal to the impeccably Wilsonian principle of self-determination to legitimize his new state. Finally, the trans-Dnieper Novy Russia could still have Kiev as its capital in the three districts (raions) east of the great river, allowing the Ukrainians their Kyiv as their historic capital. Putin could even boast of his restraint in giving up Odessa, historically Russian but west of the Dnieper.

At home, certainly, Putin has nothing to worry about: Many Russians believe that all of the Ukraine should “return” to Russia, while the historically minded will recall that the original Novorossiya won from the Tatars extended across both sides of the Dnieper. 


International Institute for Strategic Studies
Christian Le Miere: Evaluating Russia’s Black Sea Fleet

There are certainly political and ethno-cultural reasons for Moscow to desire continued influence in the Crimea, but the purely military-strategic importance of Sevastopol to Russia’s broader military strategy has in fact weakened in recent years.

Date: 26 February 2014
Russia Naval Organization by Number of Combat Vessels
By Christian Le Miere, Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security

With recent protests in Ukraine’s Crimea demanding secession or reunification with Russia, much attention has been focused on Moscow’s naval base on the peninsula. What happens to the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol after the fall of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych is part of a bigger Crimean picture. There are certainly political and ethno-cultural reasons for Moscow to desire continued influence in the Crimea, but the purely military-strategic importance of Sevastopol to Russia’s broader military strategy has in fact weakened in recent years.

Founded by imperial Russia 230 years ago, the base has always been a crucial outlet for the Russian navy. Headquartered here and travelling through the Bosporus Strait, the Black Sea Fleet has access to the Mediterranean within a day’s sailing, as opposed to the weeks it would take from the Northern Fleet’s bases on the Kola peninsula.

For this reason, the base at Sevastopol has allowed Moscow to exert influence over the Eastern Mediterranean, Balkans and Middle East. The importance of the Mediterranean to Russia was highlighted in 2013, when amid the civil war in Syria Moscow declared the creation of a ‘permanent task force’ for the sea and bolstered its presence to ten vessels. In August 2008, it was the Black Sea Fleet that provided the 13 vessels used to defeat the small Georgian navy and land troops in Abkhazia and Poti during the brief war.

This flotilla was likely the maximum deployable force for the fleet at the time; many of the fleet’s vessels are ageing and in need of maintenance. Handheld photos taken by intrepid Institute staff confirm that while the minesweepers and Kilo-class submarine based in Sevastopol appear, at first glance, to be in good order, some of the auxiliary craft have visible signs of ageing. Some of the largest vessels in the fleet, such as the cruiser Kerch and the destroyer Smetlivy, are now at least four decades old. Perhaps for this reason, the Black Sea fleet is set to benefit from significant investment in coming years. Six advanced Kilo-class submarines are on order to be delivered to the BSF, and the second of the two Mistral-class amphibious assault vessels will be part of this fleet.

However, there are also reasons to question the unique importance of Sevastopol specifically to Russia’s broad military strategy.

Firstly, there is the size of the Black Sea Fleet, which is only the second smallest fleet in Russia’s five naval organisations (only the Caspian Sea Flotilla is smaller in terms of combat vessels).

Secondly, and more importantly, options exist for Russia to base the vessels on its own Black Sea coast. For this reason, the port of Novorossiysk has seen considerable investment since 2008 to construct an artificial peninsula and breakwater and dredge areas of the port to enable the basing of more and larger vessels there. In fact, the six new submarines and the Mistral (ironically, to be named Sevastopol) will all be based in Novorossiysk. The Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, Moskva, may also be transferred there.

Obama Needs a New National Security Strategy

When you work on the president’s national security staff, you never feel like there are enough hours in the day. Whether you are managing Ukraine, Syria, South Sudan or the South China Sea, even a 15-hour day leaves you feeling like a slacker. But every few years, the White House staff piles one more task on its overflowing agenda: draft, debate and vet a National Security Strategy, a hefty document that explains the president’s foreign policy vision to a demanding Congress, not to mention America’s allies and adversaries around the world.

The task feels overwhelming for any administration. The drafters have to summarize all of the national security concerns of the United States, outline how the administration will address them and then secure buy-in from interagency colleagues — while simultaneously juggling real-time crises all over the globe.

This year’s drafters, as they prepare for this month's release of the 2014 NSS, have a particularly steep hill to climb. Virtually all of the threats we face have evolved significantly since the administration’s last version in 2010. Polling suggests Americans on the right and the left, tired from over a decade of war and recognizing the limits to U.S. power and resources, increasingly want to focus inward.

How then should the administration craft a strategy to secure and advance U.S. global interests in an increasingly complex world — a world perhaps no more dangerous than in the past but whose dangers manifest in newer, trickier ways? How can the United States reshape its commitments to allow for renewal of the domestic roots of American power without succumbing to the counterproductive and dangerous siren song of “Come home, America”?

The need for a new strategy stems in part from the success of the previous one: The United States has left Iraq, the war in Afghanistan is ending and Osama bin Laden is dead. President Barack Obama and Russian then-President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new nuclear treaty, and the U.S. economy is on the mend. But nobody’s feeling like patting themselves on the back, as this year’s NSS drafters face a long list of intractable problems for which there are no easy answers. Here are six issues that will be especially tough to tackle.

1. Rebalancing

The administration made rebalancing to Asia one of its signature foreign policy initiatives in the first term. That wise and overdue shift has concrete policy attached to it, including bolstering the U.S. military posture in the region, a major trade initiative in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and broader diplomatic ties through programs like the expanded strategic and economic dialogues with China. Those initial moves herald a shift that will take a generation to fully mature — the rebalance should be evaluated over years, not weeks or months.

Now officials must figure out how to devote increasing attention to Asia while simultaneously focusing on the administration’s top three priorities in the Middle East: Iran, Syria and Middle East peace. Adding to the challenge, the recent crisis in Ukraine has forced the administration to review some of its core assumptions about stability in Europe, a region most believed was moving inexorably toward stability and prosperity. Will Russian aggression force the administration to spend more time and money reassuring skittish allies in Central and Eastern Europe going forward? Officials are already hinting, as did the Quadrennial Defense Review, that the rebalancing concept actually applies to more than how the administration balances its resources and attention across various regions. It also applies to a rebalancing of the tools of national power and how the United States will approach problems globally.

2. Counterterrorism

Though the administration has wound down the wars and decimated core Al Qaeda, the terrorist threat has morphed to pose new challenges. Splinter groups have proliferated across the Middle East and North Africa. Syria has become a vast training ground for extremists much like Afghanistan in the 1980s, with more than 5,000 foreign fighters.

None of this is what the administration wanted or expected to be facing in its sixth year in office. The aim has always been to move America off of a permanent war footing and clarify the legal structures that will guide counterterror efforts going forward, from the use of drones to the status of detainees. Both of those goals have proved elusive. The challenge for the administration now will be noting its progress in combating core Al Qaeda but then quickly acknowledging the quantity, potency and geographic dispersion of new affiliates. The NSS will have to reassure the American public and the world that the United States possesses a strategy and the tools to combat today’s threats as well as a renewed commitment to craft a more sustainable counterterror framework. Right now, that’s not so clear.



What’s happening can be more accurately described this way: Americans have lost faith in the high politics of global affairs. They have lost faith in the idea that American political and military institutions can do much to shape the world. American opinion is marked by an amazing sense of limitation – that there are severe restrictions on what political and military efforts can do.

This sense of limits is shared equally among Democrats and Republicans, polls show. There has been surprisingly little outcry against the proposed defense cuts, which would reduce the size of the U.S. Army to its lowest levels since 1940. That’s because people are no longer sure military might gets you very much.

These shifts are not just a result of post-Iraq disillusionment, or anything the Obama administrationhas done. The shift in foreign policy values is a byproduct of a deeper and broader cultural shift.

The veterans of World War II returned to civilian life with a basic faith in big units – big armies, corporations and unions. They tended to embrace a hierarchical leadership style.

The Cold War was a competition between clearly defined nation-states.

Commanding American leaders created a liberal international order. They preserved that order with fleets that roamed the seas, armies stationed around the world and diplomatic skill.

Over the ensuing decades, that faith in big units has eroded – in all spheres of life. Management hierarchies have been flattened. Today people are more likely to believe that history is driven by people gathering in the squares and not from the top down. The liberal order is not a single system organized and defended by American military strength; it’s a spontaneous network of direct people-to-people contacts, flowing along the arteries of the Internet.

The real power in the world is not military or political. It is the power of individuals to withdraw their consent. In an age of global markets and global media, the power of the state and the tank, it is thought, can pale before the power of the swarms of individuals.

This is global affairs with the head chopped off. Political leaders are not at the forefront of history; real power is in the swarm. The ensuing doctrine is certainly not Reaganism – the belief that America should use its power to defeat tyranny and promote democracy. It’s not Kantian, or a belief that the world should be governed by international law. It’s not even realism – the belief that diplomats should play elaborate chess games to balance power and advance national interest. It’s a radical belief that the nature of power – where it comes from and how it can be used – has fundamentally shifted, and the people in the big offices just don’t get it.

It’s frankly naïve to believe that the world’s problems can be conquered through conflict-free cooperation and that the menaces to civilization, whether in the form of Putin or Iran, can be simply not faced. It’s the utopian belief that politics and conflict are optional.

One set of numbers in the data leaps out. For decades Americans have been asked if they believe most people can be trusted. Forty percent of baby boomers believe most people can be trusted. But only 19 percent of millennials believe that. This is a thoroughly globalized and linked generation with unprecedentedly low levels of social trust.

We live in a country in which many people act as if history is leaderless. Events emerge spontaneously from the ground up. Such a society is very hard to lead and summon. It can be governed only by someone who arouses intense moral loyalty, and even that may be fleeting.


March 12, 2014 · by Fortuna's Corner 
Glen Greenwald At It Again; “How NSA Plans To ‘Infect’ Millions of Computers With Malware.”

Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald have an article in “The Intercept”, (Mar. 12, 2014) with the title above. I will not provide a link to the article as they purport to show classified information. The authors claim that NSA plans to “dramatically expand their ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process.” The authors claim that documents previously provided by leaker Edward Snowden, “contain new details about groundbreaking surveillance technology the agency has developed to infect potentially millions of computers worldwide with “malware” implants. The clandestine initiative enables the NSA to break into targeted computers, and to siphon out data from foreign Internet and phone networks.”

Gallagher and Greenwald claim that NSA — “in some cases, — has masqueraded as a fake FaceBook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots via a webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled NSA to launch cyber attacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.”

The authors also claim that “the implants being deployed were once reserved for a few hundred hard-to-reach targets, whose communications could not be monitored through traditional wiretaps.” In “analysis” the authors claim they did of the purloined documents, they claim “NSA aggressively accelerated its hacking initiatives in the past decade by computerizing some processes previously handled by humans. The automated system — codenamed “TRIBUNE” — “is designed to allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups, instead of individually.”

There are quite a few other revelations in the document; but beware, if you go to their link — they post what they claim are classified NSA documents. V/R, RCP