Articles

With the benefit of hindsight, the Russian annexation of Crimea shouldn’t have been a great surprise: it has been obvious to those who chose to look that for most of the last twenty years, that Russian president Vladimir Putin never fully accepted the USSR’s demise. Now, as the West agonizes over another possible irredentist feint—possibly in Ukraine proper or in Transnistria—the United States and its allies need to take a deep breath and consider the long game.

By the end of March, some accouterments of post-Soviet sovereignty had changed. The peninsula in dispute switched flags and currencies. But despite epochal foreboding, few lives had been lost; with Russian pride assuaged, the remainder of Ukraine was lurching into the European Union’s embrace—barring a Putin effort to destabilize it. The issue kicking off the crisis in the first place—Ukraine’s edging towards the EU—had now given Eurasia another tilt towards Mother Europe.

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The Natocracy is fired up. The crisis in Ukraine, which climaxed with a bogus referendum, a fig leaf to legitimize a Russian annexation of the Crimean peninsula, has given the Atlantic alliance, strategically adrift since the end of the Cold War, a fresh and compelling reason for being. The panjandrums at NATO headquarters in Brussels proclaim that Russia's move on Ukraine is testimony to the threats and instabilities that continue to make the pact pertinent despite the demise of the Red Army, and that the Crimean crisis will strengthen NATO's unity and resolve.

Such cheerleading is to be expected—bureaucracies facing problems of diminished relevance are wont to fall back on PR—but the reality is this: What NATO is likely to face in the years ahead is even less strategic coherence and comity, deeper divisions about means and ends, and decreased security for its post-Cold War members, particularly those nearest Russia.

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The worst move in an international crisis is to confuse others about your resolve.  That way wars start, witness the first and second world wars when Britain failed to make clear early enough that it would fight.

Might NATO be guilty of a similar lack of clarity today?   Not by measuring what it says. The appropriate words are being spoken and warnings given.  But words are not enough.

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Voters in Turkey will elect mayors and local councils Sunday in an act that will resonate far beyond the local issues that typically dominate municipal elections. They will deliver a referendum on the 11-year rule of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. And the balloting will open a cycle of three elections in coming months that may determine how this regional power of 74 million people will be governed until 2023, and whether it still can be a rare model of democracy and stability in the Middle East and Eurasia.

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While Russia’s takeover of Crimea has dealt a heavy blow in Kyiv, the young Ukrainian government is nonetheless pressing to pass large-scale reforms. Late last week, deputy education minister Inna Sovsun sighed in frustration as she described layers of corruption in a school system where apparently everything had been up for sale. Under President Viktor Yanukovych, school directors had been closing schools to sell off the buildings and pocket the money, she said. Putting away her personal Mac before heading into another meeting with her staff, the minister asked: “Do you know what’s been happening in Crimea this morning? I haven’t had time to check the news.”

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As President Vladimir Putin moves to consolidate Russian autonomy over Crimea with a referendum, the West continues to struggle to find acceptable policies to reverse or punish this encroachment. Short of a military response that would be profoundly reckless and exceedingly dangerous, in these policy deliberations by the West led by Washington, history seems to be missing in action. Sometimes history matters.

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Will Chile ratify a new constitution during the second Bachelet presidency?

This months’ Spotlight explores three scenarios.
President Michelle Bachelet of the Socialist Party-led New Majority coalition took office for her second four-year term on March 11. She has proposed a broad agenda of educational, electoral, and other constitutional reforms. Bachelet is also seeking to further enshrine the rights of women and indigenous people, among other ideas.

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Every language contains words which say more than those who use them intend or even recognize.  One such word or better suffix in Russia is “podobny” which means “like” or “analogous to.”  Thus, Russians sometimes speak of something being “science-like” -- that is, something that looks like science but really isn’t.

That suffix should be applied to three measures now before the Duma which are intended to look like laws but are in fact something else because if they are approved in their current forms, they push Russia even further away from the modern, law-based state its leaders declare it to be, and some of its well-wishers often assume it already is.

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Comprehensive Security Needs Extend Beyond NATO’s Mandate

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sharply interrupted a transatlantic debate over the utility of NATO amid the declared US “pivot to Asia” and the winding down of the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan. As NATO governments grapple for an immediate response to Russia’s aggression, they also must prepare in its wake to answer a more basic question about transatlantic security cooperation.

The question, which NATO leaders will have to answer at their summit conference in Wales in September, is this:  Which European and North American national interests are involved in transatlantic cooperation and what needs to be done to update and enhance that cooperation?  The answer should include a strong and balanced approach that reinforces the economic, political and military foundations of NATO and its relationship with the European Union. Here are four elements that such an answer should include:

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Two Decades After Pullback, Russia Chases Gas Resources, Minerals and UN Votes

Ukraine, Georgia and the Middle East are not the only places Vladimir Putin’s Russia has put a muscular foreign policy on display. Quietly, but with equal determination, President Putin has directed a robust strategic push into a region farther from Russia’s borders – Africa.

Talk of a “new Cold War” may be premature, but it should not be forgotten that, during the original Cold War, Africa was a major theater of the Soviet Union’s competition not only with the United States, but with the People’s Republic of China. And while Beijing’s burgeoning engagements across Africa have received considerable attention, the Kremlin’s reemergence as a significant power in Africa has gone largely unnoticed, unwittingly giving an increasingly assertive Russia a free hand in forging multiple economic, political, and military ties.

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