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Ukraine Crisis

Minsk II -- Simply Another Form of Russian Aggression

Bohdan Vitvitsky | Posted 09.08.2016 | World
Bohdan Vitvitsky

The recent violence in Kyiv in connection with protests over Ukrainian parliamentary consideration of some sort of special status for the separatist part of the Donbas is unforgivable. But Minsk II, the hastily cobbled together peace treaty engineered by Germany and France under Russian pressure, is no less forgivable for having placed Ukraine in a near impossible situation.

Weekend Roundup: China Bares Its Teeth

Nathan Gardels | Posted 09.04.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

China's reformist leader Deng Xiaoping famously counseled that his nation should "hide its strength and bide its time" as it grew to the top ranks of the global economy. President Xi Jinping has taken a different course. He is seizing the moment and baring China's teeth. Not unlike Ronald Reagan who declared in the 1980s that "America is back -- standing tall," Xi is signaling that the Middle Kingdom has returned and finally straightened its spine after being bent over by national humiliation going back to the Opium War, Western colonialism and Japanese occupation. Xi's stance was on display for all the world to see in the vast military spectacle on Tiananmen Square this week marking the 70th anniversary of the Allied defeat of Japan in World War II. That President Xi appeared alongside Vladimir Putin -- with no prominent Western leaders from the U.S., Europe or Japan in attendance -- was not only reminiscent of the Cold War, but a worrying premonition that the world once again risks dividing up into geopolitical blocs. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Refugees and Market Woes Put World on Edge

Nathan Gardels | Posted 08.28.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

The undertow of China's slackening economy and the mounting tide of refugees pushing through border after border in Europe put the world on edge this week. After spiraling down, volatile stock markets rallied back, for now. . . Writing from Beijing, Fred Hu argues that what we are witnessing is China's shift toward the "new normal" of a slower growth paradigm focused on domestic consumption instead of investment and export-led growth. He expresses confidence that his country will weather the storm, writing, "it is a loser's game to bet against China's leaders." Nobel laureate Michael Spence locates the culprit of market volatility in the flood of funds unleashed by low interest rates looking for higher returns, which has led to the gap between a financial bubble and the real economy now undergoing a correction. (continued)

Weekend Roundup: Fate of Iran Deal Twists in the Wind

Nathan Gardels | Posted 08.21.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

In the dog days of late summer in the northern hemisphere, the fate of the deal that would curb Iran's capacity to produce nuclear weapons twists in the wind. The ongoing uncertainty has revealed just how hard it is for U.S. President Barack Obama to establish his authority over the U.S. Congress and America's allies. The robust public debate over the controversial deal in Iran also reveals it is a much more open society than its Arab counterparts in the region. Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former head of the foreign relations committee of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, envisions a new era of relations between Iran and America and calls on the U.S. Congress not to make an "historic blunder" by rejecting the deal. Iranian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo argues that "the habits of hope in Iranian culture" are behind the public embrace of the agreement. (continued)

How Ukraine's Central Bank Wrecked the Country's Nascent Economic Recovery in 2011 and Why It Should Not Do It Again.

Andrei Kirilenko | Posted 08.14.2016 | World
Andrei Kirilenko

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, central banks around the world have become the largest, most powerful, and exceedingly profitable financial institutions. And they can't wait to get out of this predicament.

Weekend Roundup: Singapore at 50 Shows Why Governance Matters

Nathan Gardels | Posted 08.07.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

While many countries in what used to be called the Third World remain stuck in the same poverty and ethnic strife that characterized them in the immediate post-colonial era, Singapore stands out for its rapid rise to prosperity and peaceful embrace of diversity. From the day it became independent on August 9, 1965 to 2014, Singapore's GDP per capita has soared an astonishing 3700 percent. Above all, Singapore's lesson for the world is that governance matters. (continued)

Ukraine's Ministry of Truth -- A Flop of Epic Proportions

Samuel Ramani | Posted 08.03.2016 | World
Samuel Ramani

The Kyiv Post reported on July 15, 2015, that Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers had registered draft legislation to establish Ukraine Tomorrow, a state-owned foreign broadcasting company. Ukraine Tomorrow strives to be Ukraine's answer to Russia Today.

Weekend Roundup: Turkey Enters the Syrian Quagmire to Fight ISIS -- And the Kurds

Nathan Gardels | Posted 07.31.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

The Syrian quagmire, in which both the Islamic State and the Kurds have been fighting for territory, has now sucked in Turkey. Last week's ISIS attack on Turkish soil, Kurdish gains along the Syrian border and the surprise advance of the secular and liberal pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party in recent elections -- which clipped the parliamentary majority of President Erdoğan's neo-Islamist ruling party -- have conjoined into an explosive state of affairs. To boot, NATO, which is obliged to defend a member state under siege, has now been drawn into a three-way fray in which Turkey is lashing out at both the Kurdish resistance and ISIS. Writing from Istanbul, Behlül Özkan ominously foresees "Armageddon" descending on the region. Mustafa Akyol, also writing from the shores of the Bosphorus, argues that Erdoğan's assault on the Kurds in tandem with ISIS is aimed at bolstering his nationalist credentials at home in order to block the HDP, which stands in the way of his autocratic vision. (continued)

When Ukraine Is No Longer Ukraine

Ioana Moldovan | Posted 07.29.2016 | World
Ioana Moldovan

DONETSK -- "Of course we want to stay in Ukraine. We were, are and want to be Ukrainians. But we just want peace, and if it will be different, it does not matter, because we just want to have bright blue sky and no shelling. I want to go back home, not to Russia, but home."

Why Russia Opposed the MH17 Tribunal

Georgy Bovt | Posted 07.22.2016 | World
Georgy Bovt

MOSCOW -- The vast majority of Russians view the incident as an "episode of war," as "collateral damage" roughly equivalent to the Ukrainian forces' indiscriminate shelling of civilians in the Donbass -- a crime of which state-controlled television constantly reminds them.

Weekend Roundup: A German Europe and a New Middle East

Nathan Gardels | Posted 07.17.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

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)

Ukraine's Far-Right: Sifting Facts From Fiction

Samuel Ramani | Posted 07.11.2016 | World
Samuel Ramani

While it is essential not to underestimate the power of far-right movements in Ukraine and their political influence, it is equally important to emphasize that far-right movements have limited public support in contemporary Ukraine.

Weekend Roundup: China's Equity Bubble and Greece's Debt Hole Rattle the World

Nathan Gardels | Posted 07.10.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

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)

Interview with Kiev International Democracy Institute Director and Ukraine expert, Sergiy Taran

Samuel Ramani | Posted 07.07.2016 | World
Samuel Ramani

Sergiy Taran is the Director of the Kiev-based International Democracy Institute think tank, and the head of the Board of the Center of Sociological a...

Weekend Roundup: How Will Greece Take Its Hemlock?

Nathan Gardels | Posted 07.02.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

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)

Will a 'Perfect Storm' Sink Europe?

Mohamed A. El-Erian | Posted 06.29.2016 | World
Mohamed A. El-Erian

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.

Weekend Roundup: Refugees and the ‘Left Behind' Rock Europe

Nathan Gardels | Posted 06.26.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

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)

How the Migrant Crisis Is Testing Europe's Security Strategy

Fabrizio Tassinari | Posted 06.23.2016 | World
Fabrizio Tassinari

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.

Weekend Roundup: Is the West Abandoning Globalization?

Nathan Gardels | Posted 06.19.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

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)

Weekend Roundup: Turkish and Greek Democracy Upend the Status Quo

Nathan Gardels | Posted 06.12.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

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)

Interview with Harvard University Professor and Renowned International Relations Scholar, Joseph Nye

Samuel Ramani | Posted 06.12.2016 | World
Samuel Ramani

Joseph Nye is a University Distinguished Professor at Harvard University. He was also the former Dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and an Assistant Secretary of Defense under the Clinton administration.

The Birth of Wars

Christos Terzides | Posted 06.11.2016 | Politics
Christos Terzides

In my humble opinion, it's both inconceivable and terrifying that such a powerful man as George Soros would propose an action that could spark a new world war.

Weekend Roundup: Showdown Between the U.S. and China at Mischief Reef

Nathan Gardels | Posted 06.05.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

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)

Weekend Roundup: Pope Francis Resurrects Liberation Theology -- Without Marx

Nathan Gardels | Posted 05.29.2016 | World
Nathan Gardels

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)

Interview With Noted Journalist and Russia Expert, David Satter

Samuel Ramani | Posted 05.27.2016 | World
Samuel Ramani

David Satter is a journalist who was a Financial Times correspondent in Moscow from 1976 to 1982; and subsequently was a Soviet affairs specialist for the Wall Street Journal.