Tag Archives: country role

Country Research | Venezuela’s Shocking, Impending Collapse

 

A chronicle of the sad dissolution of a formerly democratic country: Venezuela. Previously, the stuff of former Soviet states, a Latin American economic powerhouse has been bankrupted in every sense of the word.

How does this cut against a common conclusion of political science research, namely that democracies rarely collapse into authoritarianism? Thank chavismo, mismanagement, institutional destruction, bad policy, and corruption, according to Moises Naim and Francisco Toro.

And in the NYT’s Interpreter, Max Fischer offers this:

Distrust of institutions often leads populists, who see themselves as the people’s true champion, to consolidate power. But institutions sometimes resist, leading to tit-for-tat conflicts that can weaken both sides.

“Even before the economic crisis, you have two things that political scientists all agree are the least sustainable bases for power, personalism and petroleum,” Mr. Levitsky said, referring to the style of government that consolidates power under a single leader. …

Because populism describes a world divided between the righteous people and the corrupt elite, each round of confrontation, by drawing hard lines between legitimate and illegitimate points of view, can polarize society.

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Inside the Mind of Sergei Lavrov

Russia’s top diplomat could take a number approaches in doing the job. In the case of Sergei Lavrov, despite his many successes, universal dislike and mistrust seems to be a constant companion, according to POLITICO’s Susan Glasser.

From two top Obama officials:

“He’s a nasty SOB. He would be relentlessly berating and browbeating and sarcastic and nasty. His job was to berate and beat and harass us and Secretary Kerry into conceding the Russian view. It wasn’t defeating America; it was that Russia can’t win if it has to compromise at all.”

“I don’t see him as zero-sum and suspicious of and averse to the West as Putin is,” said another former Obama official who sat in many meetings in recent years with Lavrov. “He believes more in at least tactical cooperation, at least in a broader context of strategic nonalignment. I think he did actually look for opportunities. I also think he plays to his bosses. So the extent to which he’s acerbic and nasty—that’s partly his personality and partly what he believes Putin and actual powers that be want to hear.”

Source: Russia’s Oval Office Victory Dance – POLITICO Magazine

Russia’s long game is becoming more readily apparent–and has been explored many times earlier–where it must turn weakness into strength.

“Free societies are often split because people have their own views, and that’s what former Soviet and current Russian intelligence tries to take advantage of,” Oleg Kalugin, a former K.G.B. general, who has lived in the United States since 1995, said. “The goal is to deepen the splits.” Such a strategy is especially valuable when a country like Russia, which is considerably weaker than it was at the height of the Soviet era, is waging a geopolitical struggle with a stronger entity.”

Source: Trump, Putin and the New Cold war – The New Yorker, Annals of Diplomacy, March 6, 2017 Issue

Lavrov is an essential diplomatic knight in this game.

In Glasser’s longer profile in FP,  she describes Russia’s “Minister No” as “no gray apparatchik” who dominated the Security Council, drank, “smoked like a chimney” and favorited Italian couture, even as he cites Prince Gorchakov as the Russian diplomatic model. Perhaps that is a key insight, where Russian nationalism drive the antagonism against the U.S., and is integrated into Lavrov’s diplomatic approach.

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Why the Russian Revolution in 1917 Matters

A new book by China Miéville stakes out “the key political event of the 20th century“…an “astonishing, inspiring story” of what the American diplomat George Kennan described the “bitter first fruit” of the Great War, “the seminal tragedy.” And yet, this year the Kremlin skipped the national commemoration this past March 12.

In one sense it’s uncontroversial that 1917 matters. After all, it is recent history, and there’s no arena of the modern world not touched by its shadow. Not only in the social democratic parties, shaped in opposition to revolutionary approaches, and their opponents of course, but at the grand scale of geopolitics, where the world’s patterns of allegiance and rivalry and the states that make up the system bear the clear traces of the revolution, its degeneration and decades of standoff. Equally, a long way from the austere realms of statecraft, the Russian avant-garde artists Malevich, Popova, Rodchenko and others remain inextricable from the revolution that so many of them embraced.Their influence is incalculable: the cultural critic Owen Hatherley calls constructivism “probably the most intensive and creative art and architectural movement of the 20th century”, which influenced or anticipated “abstraction, pop art, op art, minimalism, abstract expressionism, the graphic style of punk and post-punk … brutalism, postmodernism, hi-tech and deconstructivism”. We can trace the revolution in cinema and sociology, theatre and theology, realpolitik and fashion. So of course the revolution matters. As Lenin may or may not have said: “Everything is related to everything else.”

Source: Why does the Russian revolution matter? | Books | The Guardian

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Grading Samantha Power’s Record

What type of influence does Samantha Power in shaping Obama and US foreign policy? In her nomination we had the youngest US Ambassador to the UN, an idealist, and a fresh take on the perils of avoiding hard choices and messy conflicts. Where is she now?

This is where Power started in public life–as a noted academic speaker on human rights, making assertions such as this:

On the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, she appeared on “Charlie Rose” and said that the history of inaction held lessons for the U.N. and other organizations. “They can’t live by the maxim that they do in Washington, which is that if you make a moral argument you’re not going to get invited to the next meeting. Make the moral argument and see. Leak the fax that warns of the extermination of a thousand. Leak it, and see whether the member states actually can be shamed into acting. Don’t check the weather. Don’t live in the land of the possible. Push.”

via The Samantha Power Doctrine.

Now, she “exhibits a kind of post-gaffe stress disorder” keeping her “fiery and profane” comments to close quarters with public pronouncements bordering on the “mind-numbingly dull” according to Evan Osnos’s New Yorker recent profile.

He ends with a piece that Power wrote about the notable Brazilian diplomat, Sergio Vieira de Mello–alluding to perhaps her own journey, a leadership ellipse–calling him a “Machiavellian idealist” in contrast to those who can be ‘bureaucratic samurais” … the types that are “especially persuasive in their diplomacy internationally, spend[ing] ore time on those relationships.” Is that what she has become? Is her proximity to Obama proof of the long-term viability of her views, or will her tactical relationship with Hillary Clinton mean that her influence will be ending in the “4th quarter”?

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The Security Council Intifada | Foreign Policy

How Palestine is making its diplomatic moves using the most powerful UN body:

The flurry of Council diplomacy is part of a broader push by Palestinian diplomats and their supporters to capitalize on international frustration with Israel and to use multilateral institutions as means of pressuring Israel into a policy shift. In recent months, the Palestinian Authority has moved to join a clutch of international organizations and treaties, from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Those moves are starting to pay diplomatic dividends: A meeting of the states that belong to the Geneva Conventions, another treaty Palestine has joined, rebuked Israel’s settlement policies this week. Palestinian officials have also dangled the prospect of joining the International Criminal Court, a step that Israel fears and that Washington has warned against.

This week’s Security Council move is one piece of this broader strategy, but it also marks a new chapter in the Council’s long and tortured relationship with the Middle East.This week’s Security Council move is one piece of this broader strategy, but it also marks a new chapter in the Council’s long and tortured relationship with the Middle East. For almost 70 years, the body charged with maintaining international peace and security has failed utterly to resolve the longstanding conflict. For all the hubbub in New York, there’s little reason to believe this encounter will be any more fruitful.

via The Security Council Intifada | Foreign Policy.

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The Middle East Friendship Chart

It’s complicated–and all the other bi-lateral relationships in the Middle East explained through a very helpful chart.

 

By Joshua Keating and Chris Kirk

via Slate: The Middle East Friendship Chart.

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Anatol Lieven on the Solution for Peace in Ukraine

What needs to happen:

What is truly strange and terrible about this looming disaster is that all the leading players already know and agree about what the only solution can be, even if they disagree on the details and the timing: a federal Ukraine with elected regional governments and robust protection for regional interests. This, not further separation, is what Moscow is proposing; and this is what the Ukrainian interim president, Olexander Turchynov, has publicly hinted at for the Donbas. Although the rebels in Donetsk and other eastern cities have declared the Donetsk Republic and are now planning an independence referendum on May 11, many easterners, too, have indicated that they want some kind of federalization and not independence or annexation to Russia. As interviews published in Sunday’s New York Times make clear, even some rebel commanders themselves hope to keep Ukraine united.

via Ukraine: The Only Way to Peace by Anatol Lieven | NYRblog The New York Review of Books.

Lieven has been a voice of analysis (and reason) before, as he wrote in March why Ukraine should be a “bridge” rather than a “battlefield”:

The problem for the west is that while many of the pro-western Ukrainian forces are genuinely committed to western-style reforms, others are traditional nationalists who look to Nato and the EU for protection against Russia, without sharing mainstream liberal values. This may either make Ukraine’s integration into the west impossible or (as has already occurred in the case of Hungary) import into the EU forces which will ally with western European neo-fascist parties.

The problem for Russia in eastern and southern Ukraine is that a desire to keep the Russian language and close ties with Russia can co-exist with a desire for closer ties with the EU (though not with Nato). It is not at all the same thing as a desire simply to become part of Russia or even a subordinate member of a Russian alliance.

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Africa without Colonialism and Other Revealing Maps

African politco-tribal units circa 1844

What if colonialism didn’t happen in Africa? Rachel Strohm explores this  theoretically-expansive 19th century map by Nikolaj Cyon and asks:

I haven’t been able to find any firm documentation on the origin of the name Alkebu-lan, although a variety of questionably sourced websites suggest that it’s an Arabic phrase meaning “land of the blacks” – supposedly an original name for Africa.  Cyon notes in a presentation that the map represents the culmination of an alternate history where the Black Plague killed significantly more Europeans than was actually the case, presumably reducing the amount of early colonization which would have occurred.  Thus, while many of these territorial groupings appear feasible to me, it’s unclear if they represent the real extent of various ethnic groups in 1844.

via The colonization counterfactual | Rachel Strohm.

Another map, referenced in a remarkable post with “40 maps that explain the world” by Max Fisher illustrate the location of today’s 30 million slaves live–including a good number in Africa, pre-colonial African empires–including the West African Imperial Systems, and the diverse languages of Africa.

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Playing Chicken in Kiev

Where is Ukraine?

Why you should pay attention to Ukraine–and the surprising resolve of protesters–who have been resolute in the largest protest there since the Orange Revolution:

The true surprise — and one that should inspire democrats around the world — is the spontaneous and spirited resistance of Ukrainian civil society to this about-face. For more than a week, Ukrainians have been protesting in the Euromaidan, and in front of government buildings throughout the capital and across the country. They have done so in miserable winter weather and in the face of police brutality.

What is important about the demonstrators is their certainty that democracy matters, and that it can be made to work. That’s remarkable, because this is 2013, not 1991, or even 2004, when the Ukrainian Orange Revolution prevailed, and then sputtered.

Democracy and independence are no longer shiny imports. Ukrainians have enjoyed some version of both for more than two decades; nine years ago, starting with protests in the same square, they succeeded in getting the democracy and the independence-minded president they wanted.

via In Kiev, High Stakes for Democracy – NYTimes.com.

At the same time, by forcing Ukraine to chose between Russia and Europe, Nicolai Petro argues that this essential country weakens its ability to play the “bridging” role that it inherently possesses and has performed in the past.

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How Countries Work

A nice description of what countries really do all day:

I often say in international relations there six things a country can do: ‘giving, helping, sharing, boasting, shouting, and fighting.’ This fits with Joseph Nye’s classic definition of ‘soft power’ coined in 1990 as ‘the ability to attract and co-opt rather than coerce, use force or give money as a means of persuasion.’ In an ideal world sharing culture and trade is a lot better than firing bullets or giving aid.

via We the People | USC Center on Public Diplomacy | PD News – CPD Blog.

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