Rational World

A blog about a varitey of topics: politics, government, philosophy, news, etc.

Obama says he supports D.C. statehood

President Obama said that he supports statehood for Washington D.C., however he also thinks the politics involved would make it almost impossible to achieve.

Kurdish regional government to hold referendum on independence

Agreement On Eurasian Economic Union To Be Signed

"The presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia plan to sign their agreement on creation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EES) at a summit in the Kazakh capital, Astana, on May 29.”

Russia is hoping that the Eurasian Economic Union can serve as a Russian centered alternative to the European Union. This is another way that Russia hopes to challenge the Western dominated post-WW2 world order.

A Round Up of Articles on Ukraine

There has been a deluge of articles that have been written about the fascinating geopolitical struggle that is taking place in Ukraine. Some (much) of what has been written is not worthwhile, and usually contains shallow analogies to Hitler and Munich. However, here are some of the more interesting articles that I have read that make worthwhile points:

The Ukraine Nuclear Delusion,” Gareth Evans, Project Syndicate

"An argument now widely heard is that Ukraine would not be in the trouble it is in had it retained its substantial stockpile of nuclear weapons at the end of the Cold War. This has dangerous policy implications, and must not go unchallenged. […]

[W]eapons that would be manifestly suicidal to use are not ultimately a very credible deterrent. They will not stop the kind of adventurism now seen in Ukraine, because the risks associated with their deliberate use are simply too high.”

The idea that the situation in Ukraine would be different if they still had a nuclear arsenal has been speculated upon by many including me on this blog.

Would America Go to War with Russia?James Robbins, The National Interest
"Mr. Biden stood with Estonian president Toomas Ilves Tuesday to “reconfirm and reaffirm our shared commitment to collective self-defense, to Article 5.” He wanted to make it “absolutely clear what it means to the Estonian people” and that “President Obama and I view Article 5 of the NATO Treaty as an absolutely solemn commitment which we will honor—we will honor.” Shortly thereafter, Moscow “expressed concern” about the treatment of ethnic Russians in Estonia."

Estonia is a member of NATO and the EU, Russian adventurism in Estonia or the other Baltic states (formerly part of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union) could play out very differently than the events in Ukraine.

Obama: In Eisenhower’s Shadow,” Nicolaus Mills, World Policy Blog

With Russian President Vladimir Putin reclaiming Crimea as part of Russia on Tuesday, criticism of President Obama’s foreign policy continues to escalate. Few, however, have come to the realization that the president is merely following a very traditional diplomatic strategy. Obama is acting with the same, pragmatic restraint President Dwight Eisenhower showed nearly 60 years ago, when the Soviet Union sent troops into Hungary to deal with that nation’s 1956 uprising. Realizing this stark comparison between President Obama and President Eisenhower’s actions would help put Ukraine’s crisis, and the international response, in context.”

Mills provides a good historical perspective using Hungary in 1956 as a point of comparison. Much of Eisenhower’s foreign policy would have been viewed by the Republican party of today as akin to appeasement and the comparisons to Neville Chamberlain would have been plentiful.

Wake Up NATO, You’re No Deterrent to Russia,” Philip Seib, Defense One

The organization retains considerable luster from its early years, but its reputation is not in line with reality. An honest appraisal of NATO’s capabilities will quickly find that most of its European members have let their militaries fall into such disrepair that NATO, in terms of accomplishing military missions, is nothing more than a horseless Tonto, while the United States remains the Lone Ranger.

The agreed-upon benchmark for defense spending by NATO’s member states is 2 percent of GDP, but as of 2012 only four of the organization’s 28 members reached this threshold – the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece and Estonia. […]

Russia is not Libya. If NATO underperformed against Muammar Qaddafi’s sloppy forces, why would anyone think that it could intimidate Russia’s first-rate military?”

Seib argues that NATO lacks the military and will power to deter or forcefully engage Russia.

Who Lost Ukraine? Elizabeth Pond, World Policy Blog

"For centuries, Russians have thought of Ukrainians as their little East Slav brothers. Most Russians still seem to think so. The Ukrainians, however, gave notice last week that they have now grown into adulthood and see themselves as autonomous Europeans. Their assertion of this new identity has shocked Russians in general and President Vladimir Putin in particular. 

When future Russians ask, “Who lost Ukraine?,” the answer will be clear: President Vladimir Putin, through overreach.”

According to Pond, Putin has made a huge tactical blunder that will push Ukraine toward to Western sphere.

Ukraine Signs Political Accord with European Union,” Henry Chu and Sergei Loiko, Los Angeles Times

"In Brussels, Ukrainian officials sealed a deal deepening political cooperation with the 28-nation European Union. […] The signing of the EU deal, which includes security and defense cooperation, risks further angering Moscow, which sees a Europe-leaning Ukraine as a threat. […] EU membership is not on offer. But the agreement puts Ukraine squarely in the orbit of the EU, which pledged to sign the accord immediately as a riposte to Russia’s armed takeover of Crimea."

If Ukraine can retain independence and viability as a sovereign state, it may indeed be pushed by Russia’s actions directly into the arms of the EU. The question will then be: will the EU help Ukraine meet its stringent admission requirements or will they let them flounder as they try to achieve those goals on their own?

Kaliningrad: Russia’s Own Breakaway Region? Dick Krickus, The National Interest

"Since the Russian government claims that the residents of Crimea have the legal justification to bolt from Ukraine, can we assume that the residents of Kaliningrad have the same right to join the EU? […] If allowed to vote in favor of joining Europe—without fear of retribution—it is plausible that most residents of the Oblast would vote to bolt from Russia; clearly this would be the preference of younger people."

Kaliningrad (Koingsberg) was historically a German region and was only ceded to the Soviet Union as part of the post-WW2 settlement. The region no longer has a significant German population because they were deported by the Soviet Union. However, as a geopolitical maneuver, an attempt to wrench control of Kaliningrad from Russia could be a good way to apply pressure against Russia in ways that sanctions can’t.

China: A Dystopian Hellscape?

When it comes to China stories, people will believe almost anything. Take, for instance, the reports about pollution being so severe in Beijing that residents now watch radiant sunrises broadcast on a huge screen in Tiananmen Square. […]

So, that never happened. As Tech in Asia flags, the sunrise is a clip from a tourism ad for Shandong province, in China’s northeast; it’s on screen for maybe 10 seconds or so per loop. 

Syria Vs. Kosovo

A comparison of the intervention in Kosovo to the proposed intervention in Syria: by General Wesley Clark

Japan and China's Feud is Spreading Into Africa

A Kenyan pipeline would give South Sudan an alternative, reducing its imperative to cooperate with Sudan for its own survival. It might even make the northern pipelines entirely redundant, thus costing Sudan its transit fee revenues.

Moreover, China is not interested in losing influence over South Sudan or in seeing a new pipeline jeopardize its many investments in Sudan.

This is especially true if the pipeline is to be built by Japan, with whom China has been experiencing increasing tensions in the East China Sea.

Should the plan move forward, China would undoubtedly seek to retaliate against both South Sudan and Japan.”

-Raluca Besliu, “Japan Upsetting China’s Balance Between the Sudans?" The Globalist.

A fascinating story about the geopolitics of oil.

Serbia Enters Europe: The End of the Bloody Balkan Wars

"In other words, a miracle has happened. The bloody Balkan wars of the 1990s and the centuries-long Serb-Albanian feud have ended in provisional cooperation and not just in armed truce. The ideological ultranationalist politicians who won both parliamentary and presidential elections in Serbia for the first time a year ago have become pragmatic ex-ultranationalists in office.

They have stopped claiming hegemony in the Balkans by right of their large population. They no longer insist that their province of Kosovo was unjustified and illegal in seceding after Slobodan Milosevic’s armed forces drove more than half of the 90 percent Albanian population from their homes and killed 10,000 of them. They no longer demonize the EU as an “anti-Serb” power that would compel them give up their patrimony of Kosovo. […]

Serbia’s mindset is at last becoming (in Vucic’s word) “normal.” And this stunning transformation has been so quiet that it has gone virtually unnoticed.

The bloody Balkan wars are over.”

-Elizabeth Pond, World Policy Institute.

Egypt Overthrow Shakes Mideast Islamists

"North Africa analyst Issandr El Amrani noted that the significance for the region is more than just the triumph of secularists over Islamists in Egypt, but a realignment of the original coalition of the Arab Spring that overthrew dictators like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia.

“It’s not just an anti-Islamist shift, but elements of the revolutionary leftists and liberals who had once allied with the Islamists against the old regime now allying with the old regime against the Islamists,” he said.”

- “Egypt Overthrow Shakes Mideast Islamists,” Times of Israel. [emphasis added]

(Egypt’s) crisis can be overcome if Mohamed Mursi realises that the overwhelming majority of the Egyptian people reject him and are calling on him to go.

Omran Zoabi, Syrian Information Minister, who apparently has no sense of irony.

Source: “Syria says Mursi must realise Egyptians don’t want him,” Reuters.