23 November 2014

Reducing India’s dependence on foreign oil and gas

India has hopes for all of its hills to be lit with domestically produced energy. 

This article is part of a six-month BULLETIN series exploring GE’s innovation, technology, and manufacturing initiatives in India.

The new Indian government has promised to put the economy back on an accelerated growth path with reforms in the energy, financial, and employment sectors. Energy is the backbone of the Indian economy, so the right energy policies will spur growth in all other sectors. With India soon expected to be the world’s third largest energy consumer, there is an urgent need to get these right: current demand for imported coal, oil, and natural gas is significantly outpacing domestic production, and the country is being forced to spend valuable foreign capital to procure additional energy resources. Investing in domestic oil and natural gas exploration is a long-term solution that will help quench India’s growing energy demands, smartly.

To understand India’s energy landscape–and the increasing importance of domestic energy production–consider the following facts:

Coal: From a mere 2% of overall coal consumption in 1990, imports made up 16% of coal consumed in 2012, with the imported resources costing twice as much as those produced domestically.

Natural Gas: Between 2000 and 2012 the consumption of natural gas doubled, and a dependency on imported gas was established, growing from zero to 22% of consumed natural gas.

Oil: In 1990 India imported 37% of oil it consumed while in 2012 it imported a staggering 82% of consumed oil, pushing the import bill to $120 billion and making it the energy source with the highest import dependency.

Furthermore, since oil and natural gas also play a critical role in deciding the inflation rate, the rising prices for these energy commodities have long been a point of contention in Indian politics.

SAARC without Pakistan

20 Nov , 2014

Prime Minister of India Mr Narendra Modi had described his first major foreign policy initiative of inviting South Asian Association Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders for his swearing-in on May 26 as a “right decision at the right time” and said a message has gone out to the world which is still talking about it. Six months after highlighting the centrality and importance of SAARC to India’s foreign affairs, Nepal is all set to host the 18th SAARC Summit at Kathmandu from Nov 22 to 27. This summit will be watched very carefully as the Indian PM is likely to reset the future course for this region.

SAARC is nowhere close to other regional groupings like the EU and the ASEAN but potentially far way ahead. For exponential gains, serious fundamental restructuring is required.

SAARC summit is held every eighteen months and attended by the head of states of member nations. SAARC is an economic and a geo-political association comprising of eight member states, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India. An association created for the welfare of the people of South Asian region that has largely fallen short of its objectives.

As per the study conducted by Stanford Journal of International Relations, India is the most powerful country in the region and other member states are no rival to it in terms of economic and political influence in the world. This asymmetry to a great extent, hampers the development of SAARC because small countries are wary of the dominance of India in the region. Vast potential of this regional grouping has thus so far gone untapped largely failing due to mutual suspicions.

The distorted debate on AFSPA

20 Nov , 2014

Troops patrol in Kashmir

Election fever has overtaken Jammu and Kashmir; the contest is expected to be more competitive than ever. Political parties are, therefore, coming up with tried and tested and also new strategies to woo a discerning voter. Premium in the “tried and tested” segment is bashing of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA). This has been the mainstay of campaigning by local political parties like the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and of course the separatists.

Pakistan has gone overboard in giving sweeping powers to its Armed Forces…The army can conduct a trial by military courts and award death or life imprisonment to any one accused of terrorism or collaborating with terrorists.

With the advent of terrorism, many developed nations have modified their laws and made them more stringent to meet the menace of terrorism. Sweeping powers, which would not stand scrutiny of modern human rights principles, have been given by these countries to the Army, the Police and other security forces since they are considered to be the need of the hour.

Pakistan has gone overboard in giving sweeping powers to its Armed Forces. Actions (in Aid of Civil Power) Regulation, 2011 for FATA gives the army the power to detain any person for as long as 120 days and power to imprison any person in tribal areas indefinitely. The army can conduct a trial by military courts and award death or life imprisonment to any one accused of terrorism or collaborating with terrorists. To cap it all, the testimony of any military officer would be deemed sufficient to prove a person’s guilt. Anybody who speaks or is deemed to be going against the Pakistan Army can be killed without recourse to a judicial trial and no questions will be asked.

Obama Signs Order Extending and Expanding US Combat Role in Afghanistan After End of Year

In a Shift, Obama Extends U.S. Role in Afghan Combat

Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt

New York Times, November 22, 2014

WASHINGTON — President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year.

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against theTaliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.”

The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.

Security Leak Investigation of State Department Official Robin L. Raphel Prompted by Intercepted Phone Call From Pakistani Government Official

Matt Apuzzo, Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti
November 21, 2014
Eavesdropping on Pakistani Official Led to Inquiry of Former U.S. Diplomat

WASHINGTON — American investigators intercepted a conversation this year in which a Pakistani official suggested that his government was receiving American secrets from a prominent former State Department diplomat, officials said, setting off an espionage investigation that has stunned diplomatic circles here.

That conversation led to months of secret surveillance on the former diplomat, Robin L. Raphel, and an F.B.I. raid last month at her home, where agents discovered classified information, the officials said.

The investigation is an unexpected turn in a distinguished career that has spanned four decades. Ms. Raphel (pronounced RAY-full) rose to become one of the highest-ranking female diplomats and a fixture in foreign policy circles, serving as ambassador to Tunisia and as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs in the Clinton administration.

Ms. Raphel, 67, considered one of the leading American experts on Pakistan, was stripped of her security clearances last month and no longer has access to the State Department building.

Robin L. Raphel in 1997. She has lost her security clearance and State Department access, officials say. Credit Rafiqur Rahman/Reuters

The investigation is a rare example of an F.B.I. espionage case breaking into public view. Counterintelligence — the art of spotting and thwarting spies — is the F.B.I.’s second-highest priority, after fighting terrorism, but the operations are conducted almost entirely in secret. On any given day, Washington’s streets crawl with F.B.I. surveillance teams following diplomats and spies, adding to files that are unlikely ever to become public.

The senior American officials briefed on the case spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation. Spokesmen for the F.B.I. and Department of Justice declined to comment.

Pakistan Courts Both US and Russia on Defense

November 21, 2014

As Russia’s defense minister visits Pakistan, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff visits Washington. 

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pakistan for a day-long visit on Thursday. During his visit to Islamabad, Shoigu met Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the two addressed several issues related to security and defense cooperation between Russia and Pakistan. The two countries will sign an important memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation that will form the foundation of their growing defense partnership. Although Russia is a major arms exporter to Pakistan’s rival India, it is looking to shore up its involvement in Pakistan amid that country’s growing appetite for Russian hardware. Most recently, Pakistan concluded a deal to purchased MI-35 Hind helicopters from Russia.

According to Dawn, Russia’s decision to court Pakistan as a defense customer was in part spurred by growing ties between the United States and India. Although Russia has been major military supplier for India — providing up to 75 percent of Indian military hardware needs in certain years — the United States has been steadily growing its defense partnership with India. With a government less committed to Indian ideals of non-alignment in charge in New Delhi, India has grown closer to the United States on a series of defense matters. In 2014, India became the largest foreign buyer of U.S. weapons, importing $1.9 billion in military hardware from the United States. In August, reports emerged that the U.S. had overtaken Russia as India’s top arms supplier over the past three years. Sensing an opportunity on the other side of the security dilemma on the subcontinent, Russia has chosen to focus its efforts on courting Pakistan.

KASHMIR FILES: Pakistan mischief is exposed by Mountbatten

By Sandeep Bamzai
18 Nov 2014

A secret brief was prepared by Lord Mountbatten for the Indian delegation to the UN Security Council and dispels many myths about Kashmir 

Pakistan's unquenched thirst for Kashmir is a long-running saga. 

Its belief that it can pouch Kashmir is akin to the Sisyphus story. A Janus-faced nation attempting to wrest control of what is an integral part of the Sovereign Republic of India. 

Kashmir remains a utopian dream for Pakistan. 

The Sisyphus story is a timely warning to those who try to act too clever. 

Avaricious and deceitful, Sisyphus was famed for being the craftiest of men. As a punishment for his trickery, King Sisyphus was made to endlessly roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. 

The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for King Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus himself. 

Clearly, in the Kashmir context, there are those who have tried to be too clever. It is interesting to note that in a confidential aide memoire written by then Governor General of India Lord Mountbatten, on Junagadh and Kashmir, dated February 25, 1948, many misplaced notions, theories, and misunderstandings have been dissipated. 

The question mark over Kashmir’s accession to India, which remains for many shrouded in controversy, can have no better defence than the one provided by Mountbatten. 

The secret brief was prepared by Lord Mountbatten for the Indian delegation to the UN Security Council. 

For good measure, he got the three chiefs of staff – Gen. R.N.N. Lockhart, commander in chief of the Indian Army, Air Marshal T W Elmhirst, commanding the Royal Indian Air Force and Rear Admiral J T S Hall – to sign on the aide memoire that no plans were made for sending Indian troops to Kashmir before October 25, three days before the tribal incursions began. 

Three Fallacies 

As Kashmir goes to the polls once again, many canards and conspiracy theories abound on plebiscites and a flawed accession. 

The Realist Creed

November 20, 2014

All people in foreign policy circles consider themselves realists, since all people consider themselves realistic about every issue they ever talk about. At the same time, very few consider themselves realists, since realism signifies, in too many minds, cynicism and failure to intervene abroad when human rights are being violated on a mass scale. Though everyone and no one is a realist, it is also true that realism never goes away -- at least not since Thucydides wrote The Peloponnesian War in the fifth century B.C., in which he defined human nature as driven by fear (phobos), self-interest (kerdos) and honor (doxa). And realism, as defined by perhaps the pre-eminent thinker in the field in the last century, the late Hans Morgenthau of the University of Chicago, is about working with the basest forces of human nature, not against them.

Why is realism timeless and yet reviled at the same time? Because realism tells the bitterest truths that not everyone wants to hear. For in foreign policy circles, as in other fields of human endeavor, people often prefer to deceive themselves. Let me define what realism means to me.

First of all, realism is a sensibility, a set of values, not a specific guide as to what to do in each and every crisis. Realism is a way of thinking, not a set of instructions as to what to think. It doesn't prevent you from making mistakes. This makes realism more an art than a science. That's why some of the best practitioners of realism in recent memory -- former U.S. National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III -- never distinguished themselves as writers or philosophers. They were just practical men who had a knack for what made sense in foreign policy and what did not. And even they made mistakes. You can be an intellectual who has read all the books on realism and be an utter disaster in government, just as you could be a lawyer who has never read one book on realism and be a good secretary of state. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was unique because he was both: an intellectual realist and a successful statesman. But successful statesmen, intellectual or not, must inculcate a set of beliefs that can be defined by what may be called the Realist Creed:

^^^ Annual Report on China by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission Released

  1. November 22, 2014

    The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission has just released its annual unclassified report to Congress on this year’s developments inside the People’s Republic of China. The report can be accessed here.

    For those of you interested in the latest military and intelligence-related developments in China, Chapter 2 of the report is for you. This chapter can be accessed here.

Russia and China pledge to strengthen military cooperation

Chang Wanquan, right, and Sergei Shoigu at a greeting ceremony before their meeting in Beijing, Nov. 18. (Photo/CNS)

Chinese defense minister Chang Wanquan held talks with visiting Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday to discuss practical bilateral military cooperation.

Chang, also a state councilor, said the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership has sound development, with the two countries engaging in frequent high-level exchanges and continuing to deepen mutual political trust.

Chang said their two militaries have pragmatic cooperation in the fields of high-level visits, joint exercises and professional communication.

China is willing to make joint efforts with Russia to implement the consensus reached by both countries' leaders, promote bilateral military-to-military ties to a higher level and positively maintain regional peace and stability, Chang said.

Shoigu said Russia attaches great importance to bilateral ties and wishes to strengthen practical cooperation with China in various areas including military ties to contribute to regional security and stability.


By Ruhee Neog

China's Xi Jinping and India's Narendra D Modi. 

Much has been written about Chinese President Xi Jingping’s visit to India and his camaraderie with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Irrespective of the final pronouncements on the success or failure of the meeting, the areas identified as recipients of Chinese investments were found to be particularly jarring by some analysts due to the absence of India’s Northeast in the new administration’s calculations. This exemplifes a recurring problem, and one that deserves a balanced approach – can only the Centre be ‘blamed’ for the lack of investment in the region, especially those of a Chinese nature? Or should the Centre be singularly castigated for what could be a deliberate denial regime? In such an event, what could the government’s logic be? Can the state governments also be held partially responsible?

The problem here has two sides. To begin with, this has been India’s traditional approach to its peripheries. In that sense therefore it is not a targetted campaign against one particular region. It appears that the development of the Northeast, especially investments in infrastructure, has long been side-lined due to the government’s security considerations, with an eye on China. This same logic has applied to the development of India’s other border regions. In an article for The Telegraph, Subir Bhaumik writes that the Modi-Jinping meeting fell short of the pre-visit hype because the Chinese were keen on locating a significant amount of investment in the areas corresponding to the BCIM (Bangladesh China India Myanmar) Economic Corridor.

In China’s case, this makes immense sense: it is a geographically contiguous area that would grant it land to sea access, thus serving its geo-strategic and economic purposes. Although this also holds great economic potential for India’s Northeast, the government’s reservations about China gaining a foothold in the area through an entry point into the Bay of Bengal could perhaps be understood.

Special Issue on China's Fourth Plenum

November 20, 2014 

As Editor, I have the distinct pleasure of introducing a special issue of China Brief, focused on the Chinese Communist Party’s Fourth Plenum and its theme of yifazhiguo, often translated as the “rule of law,” though, as one contributor notes, the term is better translated as “rule according to law.” China Brief has brought together leading experts on the Chinese legal system and foreign policy to contribute their analysis on the implications of the 18th Central Committee’s annual meeting in Beijing on October 20–23.

Overall, the analysts find limited promise in the announced reforms, and many reasons to be skeptical about the long-term trajectory of the Party’s relationship to the law. The Fourth Plenum’s Decision document distanced the Party from earlier reform efforts in the 1990s and 2000s for constitutional issues and judicial independence. While few details are currently available for the major initiatives, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s emphasis on the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” and cultural self-confidence has now extended into the Chinese legal field, as the Plenum’s Decision and comments by senior leaders explicitly indicate that further inspiration for China’s legal reforms will come from within China, not from the West or other Asian nations. This exclusionary outlook by the Party will likely extend into the international arena, as China moves to generate support for its rise to great power status through favorable changes to the international legal system.

In this special issue, Jerome A. Cohen examines the Plenum through the lens of its declared “National Constitution Day” on December 4. Reflecting the troubled history of legal reform in China, this new observance is actually the third legal-focused celebration set on this date, following two abandoned pronouncements dating back to 1982 and 2001. Cohen argues the Decision represents meager progress in empowering the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) to fulfill its responsibility to enforce the Chinese Constitution, and the Decision’s use of “constitution” (xianfa) instead of “constitutionalism” (xianzheng) reflects President Xi’s continued suppression of the latter term and dims prospects for the Party submitting itself to the constitution in the future. Yet, Cohen finds hope for future legal reforms both in the very theme of yifazhiguo for the Plenum and the attention paid to the issue by the Chinese government, media and, perhaps most importantly, the Chinese public.

Could Capitol Hill Derail US-China Relations?

November 21, 2014

A new report recommends Congress take concrete actions to alter China’s economic behavior. 

On Thursday, the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission released its annual report to Congress. The Commission was created in 2000 to monitor and report to Congress about the “national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship” between the U.S. and China. Each year, the Commission submits a report to Congress that includes recommendations for congressional action. This year, the report included a number of recommendations that, if implemented, could overshadow the Obama administration’s efforts to keep U.S.-China relations on an even keel.

Historically, Congress has been fairly uninvolved in U.S.-China relations. Although many members of Congress adopt vocal positions regarding issues from human rights violations to the value of China’s currency, congressional opinion generally has little sway on executive actions. The 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, which provided for a continued U.S.-Taiwan relationship even after Washington normalized diplomatic ties with Beijing, is the notable exception to this general rule. Even during the high point of congressional and public outrage over the Tiananmen Square incident, Congress’ bid to deny China Most Favored Nation trading status was diverted by the Clinton administration, which eventually dropped the idea altogether.

Given this history, we should remember that the USCESRC report will not automatically translate into congressional action, much less have a lasting influence on the administration’s China policy. However, its recommendations do indicate areas of growing concern within Congress, and an increased desire for Congress to take whatever action it can to address perceived imbalances in the U.S.-China relationship.

US Report: China's Nukes Getting Bigger and Better

Nov. 19, 2014

A Chinese media depiction of the potential destructive effect of a MIRV-capable ICBM on Los Angeles. 

TAIPEI, TAIWAN — A new congressional-funded report paints a dark picture of China’s nuclear weapons and missile modernization efforts.

The report, issued Nov. 19, by the US China Economic and Security Review Commission, states China will pose a threat to all US military forces, bases and assets in the Western Pacific within the next 10 years.

China will also be able to attack US national security satellites in a variety of ways — kinetic, laser, electronic jamming and seizing. According to the report, China’s capabilities will hold at risk all US national security satellites in every orbital regime in the next five- to 10 years. “In space, China in 2014 continued to pursue a broad counter-space program to challenge U.S. information superiority in a conflict and disrupt or destroy U.S. satellites if necessary.”

Beijing also calculates its space warfare capabilities will enhance its strategic deterrent as well as allow China to coerce the US and others “into not interfering with China militarily.”

The report said China’s growing nuclear warfare capabilities are ominous. Over the next five years, China’s nuclear force will rapidly expand and modernize, providing China with an extensive range of military and foreign policy options and “potentially weakening U.S. extended deterrence, particularly with respect to Japan.’

Over the next three- to five years, China’s nuclear program will also become more lethal and survivable with the fielding of additional road-mobile nuclear missiles; five nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, each of which can carry 12 sea-launched intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBM); and ICBMs armed with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV).

In 2013 the Pentagon reported that China’s nuclear arsenal consisted of only 50- to 75 ICBMs, with the number of ICBMs capable of reaching the United States could expand to more than 100 within the next 15 years. However, the report said some analysts assess China may be obscuring a much larger nuclear effort and have much larger stockpiles.

See No Evil, Speak No Evil: U.N. Covers Up Sudan's Bad Behavior in Darfur

NOVEMBER 21, 2014

Late last month, a senior U.N. investigator scolded officials with the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, UNAMID, for repeatedly withholding evidence of alleged Sudanese government crimes against civilians and peacekeepers.

Clearly, UNAMID didn't get the memo.

Earlier this month, the mission issued a press release indicating that a probe into local media reports alleging the mass rape of some 200 local girls by Sudanese forces in the village of Tabit, in northern Darfur, turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.

"None of those interviewed confirmed that any incident of rape took place in Tabit on the day of that media report," the UNAMID press releasestated. "The team neither found any evidence nor received any information regarding the media allegations during the period in question."

The press release also noted that village community leaders had told the peacekeepers that the town's residents "coexist peacefully with local military authorities in the area."

The problem is that UNAMID's sunny account of the mission's findings omitted extensive evidence of Sudanese government attempts to keep the peacekeepers from actually mounting a serious investigation into the rape allegations.

Western Competition for Asian Markets Is Heating Up

November 20, 2014 

"China is not the only one trying to create an alternative to the TPP. The European Union is pushing forward its own economic rebalance toward Asia—a move that challenges U.S. initiatives."

President Obama used his recent trip to Asia to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that includes twelve nations total, but excludes China. The TPP is the economic centerpiece of the U.S. rebalance to Asia, and China is responding to it by promoting the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a mega-regional trade agreement that includes ASEAN, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, but excludes the United States. Beijing is also pressing forward a free-trade agreement for the whole Asia-Pacific—the FTAAP—as a way to dilute the TPP and ensure that Beijing continues to get preferential access to some of its most important trading partners.

Yet, China is not the only one trying to create an alternative to the TPP. The European Union (EU) is pushing forward its own economic rebalance toward Asia—a move that challenges U.S. initiatives and provides Asian countries, including China, with more leverage over trade negotiations with the United States.

Europe’s economic presence in Asia is felt particularly in the areas of trade and monetary policy. For instance, Brussels is Beijing’s most important commercial partner—the two trade more than one billion euros a day. The EU is ASEAN’s third-largest trading partner, after China and Japan, but ahead of the United States. Overall, Asian markets are the destination for almost one third of EU exports and offer rapidly expanding market opportunities for European firms, which are also among the biggest contributors of FDIs in the region. In the case of ASEAN,Europe is by far the largest investor. EU companies have invested an average of 13.6 billion euros annually in the region in the last decade.

The Geography of Terrorism

NOV 18 2014

More than 80 percent of last year's terrorism fatalities occurred in just five countries.

Institute for Economics and Peace

Of the 17,958 people who died in terrorist attacks in 2013, 82 percent were in one of five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Syria. That's one finding from this year's Global Terrorism Index report, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace. The report is based on data from the University of Maryland's Global Terrorism Database, which has information on more than 125,000 terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2013.

The report found a 61-percent jump in terrorism fatalities between 2012 and 2013. "Over the same period," the authors wrote, "the number of countries that experienced more than 50 [terrorism-related] deaths rose from 15 to 24"—an indication that the problem of terrorism was getting both more fatal and more widespread a year before ISIS declared a new caliphate.

In a New Ukraine, the Sun Rises in the West

NOVEMBER 21, 2014 
Why a media baron's new political party may hold the key to the country's future. 

KIEV, Ukraine — After church, Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv, stopped by a local polling station on Oct. 26 to vote in the Ukrainian parliamentary elections, accompanied by his wife and two of their sons. On their way back from liturgy at St. George's, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic cathedral overlooking the city, they embodied the stereotype of the perfect western Ukrainian family: pious, patriotic, and civically engaged. (The Lviv region had the highest voter turnout in Ukraine: 70 percent, compared to the national average of 52 percent.)

The 46-year-old mayor, his traditional embroidered Ukrainianvyshyvanka shirt just visible under his padded jacket, did not spend long inside the blue-and-yellow voting booth. When local journalists asked why, he replied: "I think for a very long time, but make decisions quickly." By evening, Sadovyi's pro-reform Samopomich (Self-Reliance) party had finished a strong third, and appeared set to play a pivotal role in the new coalition government now being formed in Kiev.

Just weeks before, these elections were heralded as merely a "dress rehearsal" for Samopomich, with political scientist Volodymyr Fesenko saying the party would not win more than 2 percent of the vote. Instead, it took nearly 11 percent, behind Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's People's Front and the presidential Poroshenko Bloc, which won 22.14 percent and 21.81 percent, respectively. Sadovyi, who leads the Self-Reliance party and has a reputation as an effective manager that extends far beyond his hometown, is now building a name throughout Ukraine as an adept politician with national allure.

Once the results came in, Self-Reliance was quickly hailed as the "ideas" party for Ukraine's middle classes -- not least by foreign observers. Analysts including Balazs Jarabik have written of the party's appeal to the middle class, drawn in part from Sadovyi's reputation as a competent mayor of Lviv. Having won over 1.7 million votes on promises of deep reform, the party's chance to prove its credentials has arrived -- and with the conflict in the Donbass threatening to warm up again and a gaggle of parties in the new parliament, it won't be easy.

Conflicts Involving North Caucasians Erupt Inside Russian Army

November 20, 2014 

The tradition of North Caucasus mountaineers serving in the Russian army goes back 150 years. In the 1870s, the Russian Empire tried to tie the mountaineers to the Russian system of governance by forming ethnic-based volunteer battalions. North Caucasus battalions fought in Russian wars for the first time in the Russian-Turkish war of 1877–1878 (nauchforum.ru, accessed November 20). Mountaineer units then participated in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904–1905 (gazavat.ru, accessed November 20) and in World War I, during 1914–1918 (zema.su, accessed November 20).

This fall, after persistent complaints by the heads of the republics of the North Caucasus, Moscow decided to resume the military draft throughout the region (topwar.ru, August 21; see EDM, September 25). Ingushetia was initially required to supply only up to 100 conscripts. But according to Ingushetia’s Deputy Prime Minister Valery Kuksa, Moscow increased the number of draftees from the republic six-fold, to 600 people after taking into consideration a request by the head of Ingushetia, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, and multiple requests by Ingushetian youth (kavpolit.ru, October 1). Authorities in Ingushetia anticipate that they will dispatch up to 1,000 people to serve in the Russian army in 2015. The overall pool of people eligible for the military draft in this smallest republic of the North Caucasus is 12,000 people. Young men in Chechnya were drafted for the first time since 2001. And after a two year break, Dagestan supplied up to 2,000 conscripts (Kavkazsky Uzel, September 24).

Meanwhile, the issue of possible conflicts between the draftees and the officers, many of whom participated in the military campaigns in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, has not been addressed. Clashes between North Caucasus conscripts and Russian officers are inevitable: the young men from the North Caucasus have typically lost relatives in these military campaigns, while many of the Russian officers who served in the region also lost friends there. Back in the fall of 2001, the authorities conducted an experiment, sending 70 people from Chechnya to serve in the sports unit of the Moscow military district. After several months, all the conscripts from Chechnya were sent back home because of multiple clashes with their peers and officers (top.rbc.ru, September 21).

Kyrgyzstan: A Reluctant Accession to the EEU

November 21, 2014

The country’s leadership has realized it must join, but is distinctly unenthusiastic at the prospect. 

After months of delay, all while squeezing substantial loans from Russia, it appears Kyrgyzstan’s leadership has finally resigned itself to the country’s accession to the forthcoming Eurasian Economic Union. Between its substantial reliance on remittances from migrant laborers in Russia, as well as Moscow’s military presence through the country, Kyrgyzstan has always stood as a logical, if unsubstantial, addition to the nascent union. With Kyrgyzstan in tow, the EEU will reach five members when it comes online on January 1, 2015 – even if Kyrgyzstan says it will need five additional years to fully meet all requirements.

Nonetheless, if Moscow was counting on a celebratory mood in sealing Kyrgyzstan’s entry into the EEU – due to come December 23, at latest check – they will likely be disappointed. Kyrgyzstan’s re-export trade with China, a built-in advantage through the country’s World Trade Organization membership, has already seen a significant hit, which only looks set to continue following Kyrgyzstan’s membership. (So long as all extant regulations are enforced – which remains another question entirely.) As Bishkek moves closer to joining the EEU, Kyrgyzstan’s leadership has allowed its distinct lack of enthusiasm slip into its public discourse. According to Prime Minister Djoomart Otorbaev, the country has “no alternative” but to join the Eurasian Union – and that, given the country’ current dependency on Russia’s economic well-being, “we must prepare for the worst.”

Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev was even more blunt. “If we give up the accession to the [Eurasian Union], we can face increased risks,” the president said in late October. “No offense, but we’re choosing the lesser of two evils. We have no other option.”

The Russian Army's Secret Weapon: Enter the Armata Program

November 21, 2014

With America's own tanks becoming quite dated and running out of upgrade options, Russia's latest efforts to modernize its armored fighting vehicles should be cause for concern. 

The Russian Army will induct a new family of armored combat vehicles collectively called the Armata next year to replace its existing armored war machines, according to Russian state media. Production of the new armored vehicles is expected to start at the beginning of 2015 in January and two dozen of the new machines are expected to participate in the Victory Day parade in Moscow next year—as America struggles with the future of its own armored combat vehicles.

“The first batch will be available next year. You will see them in Red Square on May 9,” Oleg Bochkaryov, deputy chairman of Russia’s military-industrial commission, told the state-run ITAR-TASS news agency on November 18.

Developed by the Uralvagonzavod (UVZ) Corporation in the remote city of Nizhny Tagil in the Ural Mountains, the Armata is being developed in multiple variants, including a main battle tank, infantry fighting vehicle, a heavy-armored personnel carrier, self-propelled artillery and two support vehicle variants. The Russian ground forces are expected show off two-dozen machines during the parade—half will be the main battle-tank variant, while the remainder will be the armored personnel-carrier variant.

A wounded economy

It is closer to crisis than the West or Vladimir Putin realise Nov 22nd 2014 

VLADIMIR PUTIN is not short of problems, many of his own creation. There is the carnage in eastern Ukraine, where he is continuing to stir things up. There are his fraught relations with the West, with even Germany turning against him now. There is an Islamist insurgency on his borders and at home there is grumbling among the growing numbers who doubt the wisdom of his Ukraine policy. But one problem could yet eclipse all these: Russia’s wounded economy could fall into a crisis.

Some of Russia’s ailments are well known. Its oil-fired economy surged upward on rising energy prices; now that oil has tumbled, from an average of almost $110 a barrel in the first half of the year to below $80, Russia is hurting. More than two-thirds of exports come from energy. The rouble has fallen by 23% in three months. Western sanctions have also caused pain, as bankers have applied the restrictions not just to Mr Putin’s cronies, but to a much longer tally of Russian businesses. More generally, years of kleptocracy have had a corrosive effect on the place. Much of the country’s wealth has been divided among Mr Putin’s friends.

Everybody expects continued stagnation, but the conventional wisdom is that Mr Putin is strong enough to withstand this. The falling rouble has made some export industries like farming more competitive. These exports combined with Mr Putin’s import-blocking counter-sanctions mean Russia still has a small trade surplus. It has a stash of foreign-exchange reserves, some $370 billion according to the central bank’s figures. Add in the resilience of the Russian people, who are also inclined to blame deprivation on foreigners, and the view from Moscow is that Mr Putin has time to manoeuvre. People talk loosely about two years or so.

In fact, a crisis could happen a lot sooner. Russia’s defences are weaker than they first appear and they could be tested by any one of a succession of possibilities—another dip in the oil price, a bungled debt rescheduling by Russian firms, further Western sanctions. When economies are on an unsustainable course, international finance often acts as a fast-forward button, pushing countries over the edge more quickly than politicians or investors expect.

Putin a good man down

Why neoconservatives should love West Point even more than they do now

November 19 
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) speaks on Capitol Hill. He was probably advocating military action somewhere. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Last week I had the honor of participating in the 66th annual Student Conference on United States Affairs (SCUSA), organized and held at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It was the first time I’d participated, as well as the first time I’d been to West Point.

I was supposed to be guiding the students, but to be honest I think I learned more than they did — particularly about new and improved ways to open up peanut butter jars the West Point cadets. It’s no wonder that politicians like to visit the place — after two days there, I really started feeling better about the future of the United States. It’s not that the cadets were smarter than the other students at the conference — they weren’t. And it’s not that the cadets were necessarily more mature than the other students — in fact, one of the pleasant surprises was seeing how many of the cadets were utter goofballs. Military training has not robbed these individuals of their individuality.

No, two qualities impress about the West Point cadets. First, the one value they all share is a genuine commitment to national service. Not all of them plan to be career Army, but they were all very determined to do their part while they were in the service.

The second thing that impressed about the cadets was their diversity, and their recognition and appreciation of that diversity. The men and women at West Point came from all parts of the country, all kinds of different socioeconomic backgrounds, and beyond their commitment to service, a pretty broad spectrum of values. Multiple cadets told me that this was their biggest surprise when they arrived at West Point — not how similar their classmates were, but how different — and how much they subsequently learned as a result.

Cheap-Oil Era Tilts Geopolitical Power to U.S.

By Rich Miller 
Nov 20, 2014 

The new age of abundant and cheap energy is changing fortunes in the geopolitical landscapes, strengthening some governments while weakening others. Bloomberg’s Ryan Chilcote reports on “Countdown.” (Source: Bloomberg)

A new age of abundant and cheap energy supplies is redrawing the world’s geopolitical landscape, weakening and potentially threatening the legitimacy of some governments while enhancing the power of others.

Some changes already are evident.Surging U.S. oil production enabled America and its allies to impose tough sanctions on Iran without having to worry much about the loss of imports from the Middle Eastern nation. Russia, meanwhile, faces what President Vladimir Putincalled a possibly “catastrophic” slump in prices for its oil as its economy is battered by U.S. and European sanctions over its role in Ukraine.

“A new era of lower prices is being ushered in” by the U.S. shale oil and gas revolution, Ed Morse, global head of commodities research for Citigroup Inc. in New York, said in an e-mail. “Undoubtedly some of the geopolitical changes will be momentous.”

They certainly were a quarter of a century ago. Plunging oil prices in the latter half of the 1980s helped pave the way for the breakup of the Soviet Union by robbing it of revenue it needed to survive. The depressed market also may have influenced Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s decision to invade fellow producer Kuwait in 1990, triggering the first Gulf War.
A floor hand signals to the driller to pull the pipe from the mouse hole near Encinal... Read More

Russia again looks likely to suffer from the fallout in oil markets, along with Iran and Venezuela, while the U.S. and China come out ahead.
‘Geopolitically Important’

Oil is “the most geopolitically important commodity,” said Reva Bhalla, vice president of global analysis at Stratfor, an advisory company in Austin, Texas. “It drives economies around the world” and is located in some “usually very volatile places.”

Benchmark oil prices in New York have dropped more than 30 percent during the last five months to around $75 a barrel as U.S. crude production reached the highest in more than three decades, driven by shale fields in North Dakota and Texas. Output was 9.06 million barrels a day in the first week of November, the most since at least January 1983, when the weekly data series from the Energy Information Administration began.

Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age

Author: Gregory D. Koblentz, Associate Professor, School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs, and Deputy Director, Biodefense Graduate Program, George Mason University

PublisherCouncil on Foreign Relations Press

Release DateNovember 2014

65 pages 

ISBN 978-0-87609-611-6 

Since the end of the Cold War, a new nuclear order has emerged, shaped by rising nuclear states and military technologies that threaten stability, writes George Mason University’s Gregory Koblentz in a new Council Special Report.

During the Cold War, the potential for nuclear weapons to be used was determined largely by the United States and the Soviet Union. Now, with 16,300 weapons possessed by the seven established nuclear-armed states—China, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—deterrence is increasingly complex. Since most of these countries face threats from a number of potential adversaries, “changes in one state’s nuclear policy can have a cascading effect on the other states.”

Though many states are downsizing their stockpiles, Asia is witnessing a buildup; Pakistan has the fastest-growing nuclear program in the world. By 2020, it could have a stockpile of fissile material that, if weaponized, could produce as many as two hundred nuclear devices. The author identifies South Asia as the region “most at risk of a breakdown in strategic stability due to an explosive mixture of unresolved territorial disputes, cross-border terrorism, and growing nuclear arsenals.”

Satellite internet is a space business widow-maker—so why does Elon Musk want in?

November 19, 2014

Will new technology finally make satellite internet a reality?(NASA) 

Like space itself, the satellite-communications business can be a rather inhospitable environment.

Mobile networks Iridium and GlobalStar, the firms with the largest commercial satellite constellations, both spent time in bankruptcy proceedings before re-emerging as going concerns. Teledesic, a satellite-internet company backed by Microsoft, halted work in 2002, while SkyBridge, an Alcatel satellite internet project, went bankrupt in 2000.

So why is Elon Musk so eager to see his SpaceX commercial space transport company take a crack at a business that has been so troublesome?

When it comes to profits in space, the biggest business is happening on the ground: You make money by building satellites and rockets, or by using satellites to beam information back and forth to earth. Orbit is just a place in your supply chain.

Most money made in space is really made on the ground.(OECD)

Most of the profits in the space business comes from satellite television. But like other tv broadcasters, this business is being eaten by the internet, forcing big companies to adapt to the new reality that all kinds of media are going to migrate to data networks.