Tag Archives: Russia

Breaking Down the Syrian Ceasefire 


An excellent discussion parsing prospects, dimensions, and implications relating to the Syrian Ceasefire on today’s Diane Rehm Show.

The U.S. – Russian brokered ceasefire in Syria which went into effect at sundown on Monday is said to be, so far, mostly holding. Despite long odds for success Washington and Moscow hope their joint efforts can target the Islamic State and an Al Qaeda terrorist group while allowing for the delivery of humanitarian aid to thousands of increasingly desperate Syrian civilians: Join us for an update on the ongoing brutal conflict in Syria and prospects for this latest ceasefire agreement to hold.

Guests

  • Liz Sly bureau chief, Beirut, Washington Post
  • Jason Cone executive director, Doctors Without Borders
  • Philip Gordon senior fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, former special assistant to the president and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region from 2013–15
  • Faysal Itani resident fellow, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council.
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A Walk in the Woods: A Lesson on Informal Negotiations

A few years ago when the New START Treaty was initially underway, a play was staged in an encore performance on the Hill.  This story that explores the heart of a successful negotiation during a time of Cold War tensions is apropos for our current milieu.

The Pulitzer, Tony, and Olivier award-Winning 1988 play, “A Walk in the Woods” by Less Blessing, tells the story of an accidental negotiation on a medium-range nuclear arms agreement by the US representative Paul Nitze and USSR diplomat Yuli Kvitsinsky. In 2010 it was re-staged at the American Ensemble Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Is the book better than the movie, er, the transcript better than the play? This lengthy interview explains:

At the time of your famous “walk in the woods,” the negotiations on Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) in Europe had stalled. At the time, many people around the world, especially in Europe, believed that the U.S. wasn’t really interested in negotiating an arms control agreement with the Soviets. Source: Paul Nitze Interview — Academy of Achievement

Nitze, the namesake of Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies, was also involved in the 1986 arms summit in Reykjavik. He was perceived as an intellectual leader of the hawks by Democrats and seen by others in the Reagan administration as too much of a dove.

A BYU Kennedy Center reading of Richard Rhodes’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play Reykjavik is scheduled tonight on campus in Provo as part of our International Education Week 2015 celebration.

 

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Mighty Mighty Putin?

Has Putin outflanked Obama geostrategically? Or, as Dmitry Adamsky wrote earlier this month in Foreign Affairs, is Russia now dangerously overextended through conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East? “Making waves is easier than controlling them. For Moscow, the main risk in Syria is overextension.”

Michael McFaul, Stanford political scientist and former US Ambassador to Russia writes that Putin is weak and explores how the US can do more to advance its grand strategy toward a safer world–and get a better Russia, as well:

The United States and Western allies should capitalize on Mr. Putin’s attention being diverted to Syria to deepen support for Ukraine. In return for progress on economic reform, especially anti-corruption measures, we can offer greater financial aid for infrastructure and social service programs.

And now is the moment to bolster the Ukrainian Army by providing more military training and defensive weapons.Elsewhere in Europe, NATO should station ground forces on the territory of allies most threatened by Russia. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine violated the NATO-Russia Founding Act and other treaties. In response, our NATO allies deserve credible new commitments from us.

Finally, we must continue to pursue long-term foreign policy objectives that demonstrate American leadership and underscore Russia’s isolation. Ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, closing a multilateral climate deal by the end of the year, deepening ties with India and managing relations with China are all parts of America’s grander strategy.

Source: The Myth­ of Putin’s Strategic Genius – The New York Times

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How the Euro Crisis, Iranian Nuclear Deal and Ukraine are Connected

Good insight from Stratfor on how three seemingly unrelated events intersect:

Germany needs a deal with Russia to be able to manage an existential crisis for the eurozone; Russia needs a deal with the United States to limit U.S. encroachment on its sphere of influence; and the United States needs a deal with Iran to refocus its attention on Russia. No conflict is divorced from the other, though each may be of a different scale. Germany and Russia can find ways to settle their differences, as can Iran and the United States. But a prolonged eurozone crisis cannot be avoided, nor can a deep Russian mistrust of U.S. intentions for its periphery.

Both issues bring the United States back to Eurasia. A distracted Germany will compel the United States to go beyond NATO boundaries to encircle Russia. Rest assured, Russia — even under severe economic stress — will find the means to respond.

via The Intersection of Three Crises | Stratfor.

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Does the ICC Matter?

Some argue that the fuss over Palestine’s efforts to join the Internaitonal Criminal Court show how relevant the institution still is. The move “could open the door to possible investigation and prosecution of war crimes in the Palestinian Territories” according to Marina Barakatt of the American Society of International Law.

But the ICC has proven to be slow-moving and frequently ineffective–as driven by its Security Council member state masters:

Neither China nor Russia nor the United States has signed the treaty that created the court, but as veto-wielding members of the Security Council, all three can exert influence, chiefly by protecting their allies from its reach.

Only recently, the court was dismissed as ineffective, or even irrelevant. It was ambitiously designed to try the gravest offenses: genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. But the tribunal, based in The Hague, has been hamstrung from the start. It does not have the power to arrest those it indicts, nor to force defiant government authorities to cooperate. It can initiate cases against countries that have signed up — 123 states as of April 1, when the Palestinian accession to the court starts — or if the Security Council refers cases to the tribunal.

via Is the War Crimes Court Still Relevant? – NYTimes.com.

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What Drives Russia’s Reality

What is the current undercurrent of Russian life? Helpfully, Peter Pomerantsev, a British Television producer and author who has dissected the origins of Putinism, explains:

When I went to work as a TV producer in Moscow in the early 2000s, I would ask my peers which of the “selves” they grew up with was the “real” them. How did they locate the difference between truth and lies? “You just end up living in different realities,” they would tell me, “with multiple truths and different ‘yous.’ ”

When members of this generation came to power they created a society that was a feast of simulations, with fake elections, a fake free press, a fake free market and fake justice. They are led by religious Russian patriots who curse the decadent West while keeping their children and money in London and informed by television producers who make Putin-worshiping shows during the day, and listen to energetically anti-Putin radio shows the moment they get into their cars after work.

It’s almost as if you are encouraged to have one identity one moment and the opposite one the next. So you’re always split into little bits, and can never quite commit to changing things.

via Russia’s Ideology: There Is No Truth – NYTimes.com.

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The Top 10 Questions About the World’s Biggest Problems

You can count on Stephen Walt to address the big questions, including the destruction of Ukraine:

Will someone get serious about real diplomacy, and make Putin an offer he’s unlikely to refuse? Instead of building more bases in Eastern Europe, the United States and its allies should be working to craft a deal that guarantees Ukraine’s status as an independent and neutral buffer state. And that would mean making an iron-clad declaration that Ukraine will not be part of NATO. (Just because many Ukrainians want to join doesn’t mean NATO has to let them.) Recent proposals for a deal lack that essential ingredient and aren’t going to solve the crisis.

A “Finlandized” Ukraine might not be an ideal outcome, but it is better than watching the country get destroyed. Putin may reject such a solution, of course, but surely it deserves a serious attempt before things get even worse.

via The Top 10 Questions About the World’s Biggest Problems.

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Germany [Hearts] Russia

Do we really know who Germany is, after all?  What’s with all the Russian love?  is this, as Der Spiegel writes, “a sympathy problem”?

You thought that Germans were the champions of international law and a rules-based world order? Think again.

There is a blatant hypocrisy here. At times the same people who had relied on international law to attack the American invasion of Iraq are now, as newborn realists, excusing Russia’s need to infringe on the sovereignty of other nations.

In point of fact, despite its trumped-up charges against Iraq, the Bush administration had at least 16 United Nations Security Council resolutions to support its case. Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s president, had zero. The only common denominator of both positions seems to be an underlying anti-Americanism.

Some of this pro-Moscow sentiment is the work of Russia-sponsored propaganda: A recent investigative report by the newspaper Welt am Sonntag revealed how a shady network of Russia supporters has shaped public discourse in Germany. Even dialogue forums with Russia, co-sponsored by the German government, are full of friends of Mr. Putin, even on the German side.

But there is also a disturbing undercurrent among ordinary Germans that harks back to old and unfortunate German traditions. We have come to think of Germany as a Western European country, but that is largely a product of Cold War alliances. Before then it occupied a precarious middle between east and west.

via Why Germans Love Russia – NYTimes.com.

And taking this a bit further, Joshua Keating wonders out loud “is this what the New Cold War looks like?”  At a minimum, Ukraine posses a new challenge for the US-German alliance.

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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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Polish FM Radek Sikorski and the Modern European Project

This Polish foreign minister may be be the European leader to convince British euroskeptics (for more Europe) and German intransigence (for more leadership) at the same time.  A profile in FP.com shows the key role that he is playing in the Ukraine/Russia crisis–but his role in persuading Europe inter-alia is perhaps the most impressive part.

Yet it isn’t only Russian hard power that has Poland’s top diplomat concerned. In 2012, he delivered a speech near his alma mater of Oxford in which he essentially begged Britain to abandon its Euroskeptic attitudes and not even think about withdrawing from the European Union. “Do not underestimate our determination not to return to the politics of the 20th century,” he told his audience on that occasion. “You were not occupied. Most of us on the continent were. We will do almost anything to prevent that from happening again.” He also said that Poland did not want to be considered a “buffer” between the democratic West and the authoritarian East, but regarded as a full-fledged political and economic partner with Germany and France.

via Can Radek Sikorski Save Europe?.

So if Sikorski is finding friends inside the Eurozone, does Putin have allies in Europe on the other side?  The article explains that Putin has native allies among some of the extreme groups, including the UK Independence Party, Scotland’s National Party, Hungary’s Jobbik, France’s National Front and Austria’s Freedom Party?

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