This week the geopolitical balance changed decisively. As Margaret Thatcher warned long ago, a German Europe, not a Europeanized Germany, would one day be the dominant reality on the continent. The tough terms of the latest Greek bailout and the relegation of France to a junior partner in those negotiations confirm her prescience. As Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo writes in response to this week's historic nuclear deal and opening with Iran, "from now on Iran will be a full partner in the big game in the Middle East and the world," including through "intensified sectarian proxy wars" in the region. (continued)
The world was rattled this week by the busted stock market bubble in China and by the "no" vote in Greece last Sunday against austerity policies aimed at reducing the country's unpayable debt. Yet, by week's end, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeared to cave in and say "yes" to the very austerity measures voters had rejected in return for a fresh $59 billion bailout package. After $3.2 trillion of value was wiped out by midweek, the uncharacteristically uncertain hand of the Chinese authorities intervened to stop the crash in a stock market they had cheered to ever greater heights over previous months. Meanwhile, the leaders of the BRICS countries met in Russia to bolster plans for their New Development Bank -- which rivals the World Bank -- and declared they would coordinate policies to keep their economies stable amid all the turmoil. Mohamed El-Erian, one of the most influential voices in the global bond market, writes that the link between the Chinese and Greek crises is the stimulative policies of central banks around the world that have led to a debt buildup and created a gap between the inflated value of financial assets and the real economy. (continued)
Ancient Greece was not only the birthplace of democracy, but also a deathbed of reason when a jury of 500 citizens condemned Socrates to die by hemlock poisoning for his impious attitude toward the order of the day. Defiant to the end, the philosopher voluntarily drank the poison himself in a suicidal display of dignity. This weekend, Greek voters will decide in a referendum whether they will be force-fed more painful austerity, imposed by the jury of other European democracies, or, like Socrates, administer their own poison in a "no" vote that will likely push Greece out of the eurozone. Tragedy, too, such as we are witnessing today, had its origins in early Greek drama. Nobel Laureate Joe Stiglitz and Martin Guzman argue that Greece will be better off administering the poison by its own hand. As they point out by examining the Argentine default in 2001, there is "life after debt and default." Manolis Glezos, the elderly firebrand of Syriza, writes from Athens that, in a democracy, "the people are the measure" of their fate. (continued)
Given the EU's fundamental interconnectedness -- in economic, financial, geopolitical and social terms -- the disruptive impact of each shock would amplify the others, overwhelming the region's circuit breakers, leading to recession, reviving financial instability and creating pockets of social tension. This would increase already high unemployment, expose excessive financial risk-taking, embolden Russia and strengthen populist movements further, thereby impeding comprehensive policy responses.
A flood of desperate refugees from across the Mediterranean and the related surge of indignant fringe parties, including now from iconic, self-satisfied Denmark, are battering the discredited political establishment in Europe. Writing from London, Mark Leonard argues that the contest in Europe today is not between right and left; it is a revolt of the left behind masses against the "cosmopolitan" and "metrosexual" elites. Martin Schulz, the president of the European Parliament, says in an interview that what Europe needs is "pragmatic solutions, not big debates" when resolving the Greek financial crisis. (continued)
COPENHAGEN -- The most revolutionary idea of modern Europe has been to purse the safety of its citizens by opening borders, not erecting barriers. A new European security strategy must make the case that the nexus of security and integration still amount to the formula of European peace. That is a battle that Europe cannot afford to lose.
As China establishes a new infrastructure investment bank for Asia and builds out the new Silk Road trading route westward to Turkey, the U.S. Congress is balking at trade agreements and retreating from the very global institutions that have been the pillars of the American-led order. The European project is unraveling as Greece is poised on the brink of default and an exit from the euro. No doubt President Obama's proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership needs some fixing once on the "fast-track," notably concerning the weight it gives to corporate prerogatives. But something more is going on. In Europe, too, there is mounting opposition to the proposed trans-Atlantic trade pact with the U.S., as well as the rise of anti-foreigner and anti-EU parties. Is the West abandoning globalization and the post-war integration of Europe, a mutiny against what has provided its bounty? (continued)
The value of democracy, when it works, is its capacity to change course. In both Greece, and now Turkey, recent elections have upended the status quo. With Greece having lost an astonishing 25 percent of its GDP through austerity policies, the Syriza government that came to power earlier this year has insisted on sticking to its popular mandate to resist the demands of creditors and hold out for debt relief. The prospects of default and an exit from the eurozone have never been closer. In Turkey, which has been seeking to join the European Union, the autocratic path set by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been stopped in its tracks by voters in this week's poll. (continued)
Trouble is brewing between the U.S. and China over the aptly named Mischief Reef and other islets in the South China Sea, which China claims. The contretemps over these tiny shoals is an early proxy battle for the grand contest of the 21st century between the rising power of China and the established American world order. Writing this week from Beijing, Yanmei Xie argues that the U.S. should be defending a global commons in the South China Sea, not naval supremacy. Shen Dingli writes from Shanghai that China has every right to "build sovereignty" there. Harvard professor and former chair of the CIA's National Intelligence Council, Joe Nye, says the U.S. should stick to its long-standing policy of not getting involved in territorial disputes in Asia. (continued)
If communism is "The God That Failed," liberation theology is the gospel that has succeeded. Marx may be dead, but the cause of the poor and oppressed has been resurrected. This is the message the Argentine pope, Francis, sent by canonizing Oscar Romero, reversing decades of conservative opposition in the church hierarchy and setting the El Salvadoran archbishop on the road to sainthood. Romero was gunned down at the altar in 1980 by a right-wing death squad that regarded him as a dangerous Marxist because of his activism on behalf of the poor. As Paul Vallely writes, Romero is an exemplar for Francis. Both are "orthodox and yet utterly radical." Romero is "a priest whose life stands in testament to the kind of Catholicism preferred by a pope who declared within days of his election that he wanted 'a poor Church for the poor.'" (continued)
The seizure of Palmyra this week by ISIS could not be more emblematic of the new dark age descending on the Mideast. In the name of decontaminating Islam, the Wahhabi offshoot has pledged to demolish even the ruins of this ancient crossroads of the Roman Empire, India, China and Persia that represents the historical diversity of intermingling cultures. It is yet another sobering lesson in how the accomplishments of civilization can be rolled back by the mad pursuit of pure states of being - whether of ideal pasts, utopian futures, races or religions. As WorldPost correspondent Sophia Jones reports, Palmyra is also darkly remembered by many Syrians for its more recent history as a "death camp" of "torture and fear" in the 1980s and 1990s under Hafez al- Assad.
Facebook has become the world's publishing Leviathan with 1.4 billion users - a cyberpopulation the size of China. Never before have so many of like mind and sympathetic bent been able to connect with each other. Yet, by slotting what is shared through algorithm and personalization into silos of the similar, few boundaries beyond the familiar are being crossed. As identities fortify into tribes through this increasingly dominant medium, one wonders if the information age is becoming the age of non-communication. On this point, "technosociologist" Zeynep Tufekci contests a study recently released by Facebook that claims it is not creating echo chambers. Timothy Karr also worries that Mark Zuckerberg's plan to provide cyber access to the world's poor through Internet.org will "represent the entirety of the Internet for a significant proportion of the world's population."
MOSCOW -- Putin's goal was to convince average Russians to equate the nearly holy war against fascism with the regime's current escapade in Ukraine. Kremlin spin doctors have been reinforcing that association for months with a constant torrent of claims that Ukraine is besieged with "fascist sentiment," which is attempting to justify Hitler's atrocities.
Is a new Cold War brewing in the Pacific between China and the U.S. with Japan playing a front line role? Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Washington last week alarmingly pushed developments in that direction. In a blog he adapted from his well-received speech to the U.S. Congress, Abe proposes that the two democratic post-WWII allies join in a "seamless" strategic effort to "to spread and nurture our shared values" and "stick to the path" that "won the Cold War" -- and, in so many words not spoken, to contain China. By excluding China, the world's second largest economy, from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership on trade while embracing the revision of Japan's pacifist constitution to allow military action beyond self-defense without an apology for colonialism and aggression acceptable to its Asian neighbors, the U.S. and Japan are laying the cornerstone of a new bloc system in the Pacific. As Minxin Pei writes, China's leaders will certainly see it that way and respond in kind. (continued)