2 February 2015

Pakistan’s elusive quest for parity

Husain Haqqani
February 2, 2015

Pakistan’s strong reaction to the Obama visit to India reflects its security establishment clinging to a flawed notion of parity with India, when for years it has ignored changes in the global environment and accepted the heavy price of internal weakness to project itself as India’s equal

President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi carefully omitted mentioning Pakistan during the U.S. President’s recent visit to India. But that did not stop Pakistani politicians and media from “warning” America against trying to “establish India’s dominance” in South Asia. Amid talk of Pakistan expanding security ties with China and Russia, its Foreign Office issued an official statement complaining that an India-U.S. partnership would alter South Asia’s “balance of power” and create a “regional imbalance.”

In reality, the Pakistani reaction reflects the Pakistani security establishment clinging to the notion of parity with India. For years, Pakistan has ignored changes in the global environment and accepted the heavy price of internal weakness to project itself as India’s equal. Islamabad also insists on resolution of the Kashmir dispute as the essential prerequisite for normal ties with its much larger neighbour.

Equality and parity

The parity doctrine as well as the emphasis on Kashmir are rooted in ideology and the two-nation theory that was the basis of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s demand for Pakistan. For a country to base its foreign policy for over 60 years on the same assumptions is unusual. As the world around us changes, so must a nation’s foreign policy. But Pakistan has yet to embrace pragmatism as the basis of its foreign and national security policies.

Sore point

Gwynne Dyer
February 2 , 2015

Turkey's prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, was in London recently, telling the Western media how helpful Ankara was being in the struggle against the terrorist "Islamic State" that has emerged in northern Syria and Iraq. Turkey is doing everything it can, he said - although, of course, "We cannot put troops everywhere on the border."

Turkey's open border has become a sore point with its Western allies, who suspect that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is deliberately allowing a steady flow of recruits and supplies to the Islamic State because he still wants the Sunni rebels, most of whom arejihadi extremists, to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, Syria's Shia ruler.

But Erdogan's motives are irrelevant, because Turkey simply cannot put troops everywhere on its 820-kilometre-long border with Syria. Or so says Davutoglu, and only an enemy of Turkey (or somebody without a grasp of basic mathematics) would say otherwise.

I am no enemy of Turkey, but I can do basic arithmetic. If you stationed Turkish troops along the entire length of the Syrian border at 10-metre intervals - that's enough for a machine-gun nest every 50-metres - it would take about 82,000 soldiers to cover the entire 820 km. The strength of the Turkish army (never mind the navy and air force) is 315,000 soldiers. Even if you allow for frequent rotation of the soldiers manning the border, it would take much less than half the strength of the Turkish army to shut the border to foreign fighters. Maybe a few jihadis would still get through, but the vast majority wouldn't. The only reason Ankara doesn't shut the border is that it doesn't really want to.

‘Swachh Bharat’ is bound to fail

Mohan Guruswamy
Feb 01, 2015

While people must not litter, the job of lifting the garbage for disposal is that of the appropriate tier of government. While people are expected not to defecate everywhere, the responsibility of providing sanitation is that of the state. 

Visiting the Banaras Hindu University on February 4, 1916, Mahatma Gandhi in his address said: “I visited the Vishwanath temple last evening. If a stranger dropped from above on to this great temple, would he not be justified in condemning us? Is it right that the lanes of our sacred temples should be as dirty as they are? If even our temples are not models of cleanliness, what can our self-government be? We do not know elementary laws of cleanliness. We spit everywhere. The result is indescribable filth.”

In the 98 years since then things have only worsened. We not only spit everywhere, we piss everywhere, we shit wherever and dump our garbage anywhere. India is easily the most dirty, unhygienic and filthy country in the world. Picking up from here, our Prime Minister has rightly launched the Swachh Bharat campaign to clean up India. He has announced an ambitious campaign to build home toilets for 12 million urban households, 25 million public toilets, and 30 million community toilets. In all, over 300 million will be helped with “solid waste management practices” and this is to be achieved by 2019 and will cost the nation Rs 62,009 crore. This is not a sum that we cannot afford. Will India become a cleaner, healthier and more hygienic nation, less offensive to sight and smell? I don’t think so and the Swachh Bharat campaign too will end up as a failure.

Nevertheless the Prime Minister must be lauded for flagging this as a priority. But more than intentions, he must look at ways to implement his plans. His ambitions are huge. He also hopes to build one hundred smart cities with 24x7 drinking water, zero garbage disposal and total solid waste management with full-scale drainage and sewerage systems. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto did promise a hundred new cities. And rightly so because new cities are imperative, as by 2050 India will almost double its present urban population by adding another 450 million. It is this urbanisation that will also be its major driver of economic growth.

A crown of political thorns

T. P. Sreenivasan
February 2, 2015 

PTIWITHIN THE FRAME: “Both former Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and her replacement, S. Jaishankar, are extremely competent and both, having benefited from political patronage, must accept its shifting sands.” Picture shows them with Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.

The post of Foreign Secretary brings with it an aura of brilliance, political acceptability, high visibility and vulnerability. But staying in the position for a full term is a Herculean task

Every two years, sometimes more often, national media regales readers with stories on the making and unmaking of Foreign Secretaries. No other post, not even that of the Cabinet Secretary, attracts such national attention and interest. The post brings with it an aura of brilliance, political acceptability, high visibility and vulnerability. It is a position that legends are made on. But becoming Foreign Secretary and staying there for a full term is a Herculean task. There are also instances in which unsuspecting officers are plucked out of their comfortable perches in Beijing, Islamabad and Dublin and installed in the hot seat. Some are born Foreign Secretaries, some achieve the job and some have the job thrust upon them.

The glamour of being Foreign Secretary is not as real as it is made out to be. The pressures and tension emanating from above and below are such that the person can hardly savour either power or glory. As the interface between the bureaucracy and the politicians, he is buffeted by both constantly. The Foreign Service is highly competitive, if not combative. Its leader needs to have three pairs of hands, like gods and goddesses — one pair to implement orders from above, one to hold on to his/her chair and one to do work. Any slackening will bring instant retribution, often undeserved and unjust. Two years of such tension is the reward for brilliance, manipulation or chance — ways to secure the post. Former Foreign Secretaries are a happier lot than the incumbents.

Painting a canvas of diversity

Namrata Goswami
February 2, 2015

STRIKING A CHORD: “Barack Obama’s life has special resonance, especially for people in India’s peripheral zones like Kashmir or the Northeast where a ‘perception’ of discrimination still persists.” Picture shows the U.S. President interacting with the crowd after the talk in New Delhi. 

Barack Obama’s Siri Fort address celebrated Indian diversity, but with a caution that failure to strengthen it could result in insecurity and fear limiting its emancipating power 

Luckily enough, I got invited at the very last minute to Barack Obama’s Siri Fort address on January 27. I have admired and been inspired by the life of Mr. Obama, especially his ability to rise above discrimination, the history of slavery, and lack of civil rights for African Americans when he was growing up. Who is not? But I must specify here that his life has special resonance, especially for people in India’s peripheral zones like Kashmir or the Northeast where a ‘perception’ of discrimination still persists. And in grand events like the Obama-Modi meet, where big ticket items like the civil nuclear deal, the strategic vision for the Asia-Pacific, business summits, the China factor, and grand receptions dominate the visual landscape, the idea of human dignity and individual freedom — something his life champions and aspires to — gets lost in the din of chest-thumping and business suits. As a strategic thinker and writer, I enjoyed and read through all those developments, making sense of the impact for future U.S.-India cooperation in nuclear and high technology, defence, in the South China Sea, and for economic prosperity. But what I longed for as a researcher working on causes and/or resolution of ethnic conflicts was to hear him talk of the human being; of individual empowerment and emancipation of women, youth; of hope, of change. He did not disappoint us. He spoke with grandeur about human aspirations and urged us to rise above the limits of our circumstances with inspired imagination by painting a canvas of diversity, religious freedom, women safety and of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream to be judged by the content of one’s character and not by the colour of one’s skin, and finally about the empathy deficit.

Is it a ‘done deal’?

Feb 2 2015

Some understanding reached on Indo-US civil nuclear agreement

For the past few years the deadlock over the operationalisation of the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Agreement has been a major obstacle in the efforts to strengthen bilateral ties. As was to be expected, the issue dominated the discussions at the recent Summit and was aptly described by Prime Minister Modi as the “centre piece of the transformed relationship”. Both leaders were effusive in their praise for the progress achieved. There were important differences, however, in the language used in describing it. President Obama referred to it as “a breakthrough understanding”. Prime Minister Modi was a little more categorical and said that “we are moving towards commercial co-operation, consistent with our international obligations”. The joint statement merely “welcomed the understanding reached” without spelling out any details. The then Foreign Secretary, however, went much further and claimed that it was a “done deal”.

To assess the veracity of this claim it is necessary to separate facts from speculation. The core issue was the liability, if any, of the suppliers in the event of a nuclear accident. Under the 123 Agreement India was committed to ensure that its liability law would be consistent with international law and practice, notably the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) for Nuclear Damage, to which India is a signatory. The Bill introduced in Parliament by the then UPA government was in fulfilment of this commitment. The Opposition, led by the BJP, however, insisted on introducing amendments, which were not consistent with the CSC and opened the possibility of holding the suppliers liable in perpetuity for any damage. This was not acceptable to the US and as a result the deal could not be operationalised.

China Beware: India Tests Nuclear Missile That Can Reach Beijing

Zachary Keck
January 31, 2015

India has successfully tested a nuclear-capable long range ballistic missile that can reach all major Chinese cities.

As expected, India conducted the first canister test launch of its Agni-V nuclear-capable ballistic missile on Wheeler's Island in the Bay of Bengal. The test was a complete success, the government said in a press release.

“India’s ICBM Agni 5 was successfully test fired from a canister today 31 Jan 2015 at 0809 hrs.” the statement said. “The missile hit the designated target point accurately, meeting all mission objectives.”

The Agni-V is a three-stage solid-fueled intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) with a range of about 5,000 km while carrying a 1.1 ton payload. When inducted into India’s Strategic Forces Command, it will give India the ability to threaten all of China’s major cities with nuclear weapons, a capability that Delhi currently lacks. China has long boasted ICBMs capable of reaching all of India.

This was the third test of the Agni-V following ones in 2012 and 2013. However, the test on Saturday was the first time that India tested the Agni-V from a mobile launcher mounted on top of a truck. A canister launched missile has greatly survivability and can be launched much more quickly than ones at a fixed launch site.

As the press release explained:

“The earlier two flights of Agni 5… were in open configuration and had already proved the missile. Today’s launch from a canister integrated with a mobile sophisticated launcher, was in its deliverable configuration that enables launch of the missile with a very short preparation time as compared to an open launch. It also has advantages of higher reliability, longer shelf life, less maintenance and enhanced mobility.”

India-Pakistan Relations: Does Modi Matter?

Frederic Grare

As the new Indian government has settled in, what will happen to its relations with Pakistan? While some take comfort in the idea that the strong nationalist credentials of the new Prime Minister could facilitate a peace agreement with Pakistan, others argue that the risk of communal violence created by the Hindutva ideology1 of the new government could be a potential impediment to better India–Pakistan relations. But the evolution of the bilateral relationship is unlikely to depend on either of these considerations; it is also unlikely to depend primarily on New Delhi.

Narendra Modi's decision to invite his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, to his May 26, 2014, swearing-in ceremony, along with all the other heads of state or government from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), was considered a positive gesture on both sides of the border. The meeting between the two Prime Ministers was cordial and frank but—to no one's surprise—not groundbreaking. However, the two countries have already interpreted this early meeting differently.

The Indian side viewed it as a signal that New Delhi was open to resetting relations, but on its own terms, most of which have to do with preventing terrorist attacks from originating in Pakistan or with Pakistani support. By inviting the leaders of all South Asian countries to his swearing-in ceremony, Modi undoubtedly seized the initiative. There is, however, little he can or is probably willing to do unless Pakistan clarifies its own position on the terrorism issue. Substantive progress will thus demand much more than friendly political statements.

The Pakistani side welcomed the invitation, but both Islamabad's initial hesitation and the comments on the visit from personalities close to the security establishment soon demonstrated that, although Pakistan officially and sincerely favors better relations with India, its security establishment and parts of the political establishment remain divided on the issue of normalizing relations with its neighbor. Islamabad can no longer hide its inaction behind the electoral campaign in India or the alleged inability of Indian decision makers to deliver on their own potential commitments. Although it cannot coerce India toward any specific outcome, the actual decision to normalize relations will primarily be Pakistan's.

India Could Have Split West Pakistan in 1971

Anuj Dhar

For more than a decade, Anuj Dhar has devoted himself to resolving the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Subhash Chandra Bose. His 2012 bestselling book India's Biggest Cover-up (Netaji Rahasya Gatha in Hindi) triggered the demand for declassification of the Bose files. 

Declassified US records show that India’s objectives during the 1971 Indo-Pak war were greatly curtailed following an instance of high treason committed by a member of Indira Gandhi’s government.

Exactly 45 years ago this day, Pakistan surrendered to the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini in what was then East Pakistan. But did you know that India’s war objectives in 1971 were greatly curtailed following an instance of high treason committed by a member of Indira Gandhi’s government?

This person, whose identity is most likely known to our government, betrayed India’s “war objectives” to the Central Intelligence Agency in December 1971, prompting the US to arm-twist India into ending the war much sooner than it would have if there was no such betrayal.

In other words, the Vijay Diwas marking the victory in East Pakistan was never meant to fall on 16 December.

In the run-up to the 1971 India-Pakistan war, The New York Times first hinted at the presence of a CIA agent in the Indian government. By December that year, The Washington Post had reported that US President Richard Nixon’s south Asia policy was being guided by “reports from a source close to Mrs Gandhi”.

The Himalayan Sentinel and a Strike Corps

02 Feb , 2015

The Indian Army remains handicapped in terms of its war making potential and lack of military infrastructure along the ever-vulnerable Indo-Tibet Border. The military men’s cause was first dealt a telling blow by India’s economic crisis of the early 1990s and whatever of it was left to kindle, was extinguished thereafter by the crass failure of the Indian state in modernising its military. Regrettably, that debilitation was not led by just the impositions of fiscal, scientific and industrial stagnation, at its root lay a systemic aberration of security-blindness that seemed to have seized India’s governing establishment, made up as it was of distracted political leadership, unaccountable bureaucracy, moribund military industry and marginalised military hierarchy.

“…China has undertaken destabilising, unilateral actions asserting its claims… We firmly oppose intimidation, coercion or the threat of force…” —US Defence Secretary Chuck HagelA Situation Grim

Modern China’s survival is inexorably linked with her domestic economic progress…

Modern China’s survival is inexorably linked with her domestic economic progress and rapid rise to superpower status. Given the inherent dispensation that China has adopted, these conditions require to be guaranteed by a powerful and ideologically committed military. Well aware of the linkage, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) reinforces its endeavours with stout politics and strong military posturing. Thus one of its ventures, the integration of Tibet, has found India as its direct neighbour. China views India as an obstinate neighbour of reckonable power potential rebuffing China’s naturally ordained superiority and who needs to be chastised once in a while to be kept ‘in place’.

Jaipur Literature Festival Steers Clear of Controversy

January 31, 2015

On January 25th, the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), the world’s biggest free symposium of its kind, closed with liberal authors in India facing withering attacks from right wing Hindu groups.

That issue set an unspoken tenor for the festival. The plight of writer Perumal Murugan, who announced plans to commit suicide on Facebook after getting hounded by right wing groups for his fictional depiction of women in Tamil Nadu, where he grew up, proved especially troublesome.

Murugan’s 2012 novel, Mathorubhagan (Other Part Woman), is a sensitive portrayal of the lives of a childless peasant couple in Tiruchengode, a small Tamil town. The story, which takes place at the dawn of the 20th century, focuses on the practice of ‘niyog.’ The wife is cajoled by her family to attend a temple ritual where she begets a child with a stranger. The child born from this ritual is called sami pillai or “god’s child,” since tradition paints the stranger as a representative of God. The fundamentalist group Sangh Parivar has denounced the book as degrading to women and the Hindu faith.

That isn’t the only book that right wing groups have recently pillared. American scholar Wendy Doniger’s 2009 book, The Hindus: An Alternative History, has been pulled from shelves in India because of a concerted campaign by a Hindu radical, Dinanath Batra, who finds the tome objectionable for its supposed denigration of Hindu gods and goddesses. The JLF was also held against the backdrop of a large scale systematic attempt is being made by the present regime in New Delhi to mix myth into India’s history.

The Guardian view on Afghanistan: war quickens as politicians falter

30 January 2015 
Wars fade from consciousness as new conflicts seize attention. The war in Afghanistan, once constantly in the headlines, has slipped down the agenda since the American-led coalition forces formally ended combat operations in December last year. But it goes on, and it goes on pretty ferociously. This week three American contractors and an Afghan were killed in the base near Kabul from which air strikes on Taliban targets are mounted, while 16 people were killed and 39 injured in a suicide bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan. Another 11 were killed and several injured in a Taliban attack on a checkpoint.

Both the major attacks seem to have been insider operations of the kind which plagued Afghan and coalition forces in the past, and they indicate the vulnerability of the remaining western military missions in the country, of the civilian contractors who work with them, and of the Afghan security forces themselves. A man joins the police, or gets a job with a contractor, or enrols in a village militia. In spite of tightened vetting procedures, he is not recognised as an infiltrator, and a few days or weeks later he blows himself and many others up, or opens fire on his supposed comrades. An appalling toll of lost lives is the consequence. The war is stealthy, unfair and cruel: open combat between armed fighters is probably now the exception rather than the rule.

Measuring how that war is going will be harder in the future because the US government has decided to classify information which has been publicly available for the last six years. Figures on American military spending and on the state of the Afghan forces will from now on be unavailable, and critics suspect the motive is to avoid publicity when those figures look bad, although the stated reason is that the information could be useful to the enemy. The truth about the war may well be that neither side is in good shape. Unlike Islamic State, with which dissidents within the Taliban are reportedly drawing unfavourable comparisons, the Taliban does not control a large tract of territory and certainly not one including urban centres.

What John Campbell Doesn’t Want You to Know About the Afghan Army

Gary Owen
Jan 30, 2015

This week, breaking coverage by the New York Times of a three month old Afghanistan story interrupted eulogies to the passing of the blog age just long enough for BuzzFeed to explain Matthew Rosenberg’s reporting in seven GIFs.

Per the Times, General John F. Campbell, the American commander of all foreign forces in Afghanistan, doesn’t want us to know how things are going in the graveyard of common sense. Which means we won’t know how the money gets spent anymore. But what he’s hiding isn’t money, it’s people.1

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in his bid to stay relevant by telling everyone stuff they already know (Afghanistan sucks! We screwed up!) asked General “Full Disclosure” Campbell how the war was going. Apparently, since October, Campbell can’t answer that, because it’s classified. And the reasoning?

The military command’s explanation for making the change is that such information could endanger American and Afghan lives, even though the data had been released every quarter over the past six years, and Afghan officials do not consider the information secret.

The internet was outraged with the kind of outrage it usually reserves for the outrage over casting choice outrages for movie franchises that mean Hollywood never has to have an original thought because we’re all nostalgic saps and would shell out cash for a Look Who’s Talking reboot if we put Channing Tatum and Jennifer Lawrence in it somewhere.2 But since it was a slow news day what with the world peace and the end of poverty, the interwebs were ready to pounce on the fact that the United States appears to be hiding all the Afghan info from the general public.3

Why China is nervous about its role in the world

By Sanjay Sanghoee
JANUARY 29, 2015

In the wake of President Obama’s historic trip to India, China issued an unsolicited and perplexing statement downplaying the relevance of the visit. As the White House pointed out in response, the only thing significant about China’s statement was the fact that the Asian nation felt the need to make it in the first place.

The rivalry between China and India for economic power and strategic control in Asia is longstanding and is likely to continue into the foreseeable future. But China’s taunt is not necessarily a sign of its hostility towards India but an inadvertent admission of its declining supremacy in the region.

China, once an accepted economic and military juggernaut and the darling of investors the world over, is now facing both economic and strategic challenges which could slow down its progress.

First, China’s economy seems to be shrinking. Withindustrial activity trending down and interest rate cuts yet to produce results, it’s looking likely that China’s meteoric economic rise may have peaked and, according to a report from the Conference Board, could lead to a 4% GDP growth rate in the future, which is considerably lower than in previous decades. Further problems plaguing China include a debt overhang, a real estate bubble, lack of competition, and an old-world industrial economy instead of a more modern information economy such as that of the U.S.

The Final Solution: a Nuclear Iran

By Charles Krauthammer

Amid the ritual expressions of regret and the pledges of “never again” on Tuesday’s 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a bitter irony was noted: Anti-Semitism has returned to Europe. With a vengeance.

It has become routine. If the kosher-grocery massacre in Paris hadn’t happened in conjunction with Charlie Hebdo, how much worldwide notice would it have received? As little as did the murder of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse. As little as did the terror attack that killed four at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.

The rise of European anti-Semitism is in reality just a return to the norm. For a millennium, virulent Jew-hatred — persecution, expulsions, massacres — was the norm in Europe until the shame of the Holocaust created a temporary anomaly wherein anti-Semitism became socially unacceptable.

The hiatus is over. Jew-hatred is back, recapitulating the past with impressive zeal. Italians protesting Gaza handed out leaflets calling for a boycott of Jewish merchants. As in the 1930s. A widely popular French comedian has introduced a variant of the Nazi salute. In Berlin, Gaza brought out a mob chanting, “Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come out and fight alone!” Berlin, mind you.

Is Iran Preparing for a Two-Front War Against Israel?

Jonathan S. Tobin

The outbreak of violence along Israel’s northern border appeared to have died down by the end of the week. Hezbollah claimed a victory with a cross border shelling that left two Israeli soldiers dead. For the moment that appears to be enough for them and their Iranian paymasters as they contemplate their next move in a struggle that is as much about defending the Islamist regime’s gains in Syria and its nuclear program as anything else. But for residents of northern Israel, the attack was a reminder that at any moment, their lives could be turned upside down by a decision taken in Tehran to either turn up the heat on the Jewish state or perhaps even launch a war. The same is true of those living within range of Gaza, where terrorists also rule. Though those who claim to be Israel’s friends speak of its security concerns as if they were fictions created by Prime Minister Netanyahu to justify his policies, this week’s events once more made it clear that a two-front war in which both missiles and terror tunnels will play a major role are threats that cannot be dismissed.

The aftermath of the dustup along the Lebanese border has been characterized mostly by renewed Israeli efforts to search for evidence of tunnels being dug across the border to facilitate more terror attacks. The construction equipment that has been reported in the vicinity of this week’s assault was widely assumed to be a sign that Hezbollah is preparing for more attacks perhaps this time aimed at killing and kidnapping civilians as well as soldiers.

The context was not just the usual tensions with the terror group but signs that Iran was upping the ante with Israel as it continued to refuse to budge in nuclear talks with the United States and its Western allies. Far from being separate issues, the ability of Iran to deploy its Hezbollah auxiliaries to pressure Israel must be understood as integral to its overall goal of seeking regional hegemony via the chaos in Iraq and the survival of its ally Bashar Assad in Syria.

Paul Krugman’s Unpleasant Peasant Arithmetic

JANUARY 30, 2015 

China’s vast $10-trillion economy is a source of angst, as well as awe, for many prominent foreign economists. Larry Summers of Harvard believes its miraculous “Asiaphoric” growth may soon regress to a mediocre rate. Kenneth Rogoff, his sometime quadmate, believes China is a big economic risk for the year. Nouriel Roubini argues that China’s growth model, characterized by high saving and investment, is unsustainable — and the authorities know it.

But how does China look to the most prominent economist of them all — the one with a Nobel Prize, a regular opinion column in the New York Times, and a photo-portrait hanging in the economics department of one of Beijing’s most prestigious universities? As it happens, Paul Krugman was in Hong Kong recently to answer that very question.

Read the headline coverage of his visit in China’s official press and you will discover that Krugman “believes in [the] future of China,” which is fortunate, because both the country and the future are real. Watch him yourself, however, and the emphasis is a little different.

“China is a very scary prospect,” he says, which might suffer “a very nasty recession — maybe worse — along the way.”

There will be no swift victory over ISIL in Mosul

Alan Philps
January 31, 2015

On Monday, Kurdish forces recaptured the town of Kobani in northern Syria, having driven out the jihadists of ISIL after four months of fighting. This is a symbolic defeat for ISIL and has prompted speculation that this might mark the point when the all-conquering jihadists are rolled back.

From a military point of view, the loss of Kobani, which ISIL had been so confident of taking, will not change much. There was no pressing reason for ISIL to take Kobani apart from propaganda: the town is within sight of the Turkish border and the raising of the black flag on the ridge behind the town could be caught by the TV cameras watching over the border fence.

After Kobani, ISIL appears to have two faces. Its initial push in Iraq, which began on January 1 last year in Anbar province, was a well-executed piece of military planning, showing the influence of trained officers from the old Iraqi army. The Kobani operation shows ISIL as a movement driven by its social media output.

The media war is a vital part of any battle plan. The ISIL threats to kill the captured Jordanian pilot, Maaz Al Kassasbeh, shook public opinion in Jordan, revealing cracks in support for the anti-ISIL coalition more effectively than any bombing campaign.

Davos and Climate Change: ‘Warning Shots’ From Africa and Pacific

By Maarten van Aalst
January 31, 2015

Weeks of heavy rains have caused extensive flooding and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. People are seeking shelter in schools and churches, while others are living under the canopies of trees. Immediate needs include shelter and the provision of clean water and adequate sanitation as water sources have been contaminated and sanitation facilities damaged or destroyed.

When global figures gathered in the Swiss resort of Davos last week for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) – its 45th – they were facing potentially the close of one era and the start of another.

In its introduction to the meeting, the Geneva-based WEF secretariat said “complexity, fragility and uncertainty” could end the period of economic integration and international partnership that began in 1989, and would now involve major political, economic, social and technological transformation.

The result: an “entirely new” context for global decision-making.

Global Risks 2015, the featured WEF report released just ahead of Davos, placed conflict at the top of a list of global hazards by likelihood – to no one’s surprise, sadly, given the ongoing tragedy in the Middle East.

Time for Plan B on Ukraine?

Andrew S. Weiss

In his State of the Union address, President Obama appeared eager to declare victory in Ukraine, saying the united front against Vladimir Putin had worked and that “Russia is isolated, with its economy in tatters.” The ever-touchy Russian president appeared to respond a few days later, through his separatist proxies, with a dramatic surge in violence in south-eastern Ukraine and last Saturday’s deadly artillery attack on the strategic port city of Mariupol, which killed at least 30 people.

Thus far, Obama seems to be sticking to his administration’s customary response, emphasizing that sanctions are the primary tool to force Putin to reverse course and that the West is not prepared to confront Russia militarily. “We will continue to take the approach that we have taken in the past, which is to ratchet up the pressure on Russia," he said at a news conference in New Delhi on Sunday.

The question is whether this approach is enough to prevent the full unraveling of the cease-fire and shield the fragile Ukrainian state from what George Soros has aptly described as Putin’s true intention: to “destroy the new Ukraine before it can establish itself … while maintaining deniability.” The immediate violence around Mariupol and elsewhere in the Donbas may pause, but the pattern is clear—Russia will back the separatists in order to disrupt Ukraine and keep the West off-balance. Barring any changes, this is what we can expect for the long term.

There aren’t many credible options for averting this outcome. But perhaps the least unpalatable of an array of unsavory options is for Obama to take another look at a serious diplomatic effort with the Europeans to end the conflict once and for all. While there are new hints that Secretary of State John Kerry is eager to throw himself into the crisis, such moves are unlikely to pay off unless Obama personally gets involved. The president’s clear reluctance to engage in direct dialogue with Putin has been a curious feature for U.S. policy, given his readiness to engage with the leaders of longtime adversaries such as Iran and Cuba without pre-conditions. The Europeans lack credibility on two items important to Putin: ensuring recognition of Russia's global role and stirring Russian anxieties about possible direct military support to Ukraine.

Donetsk People's Republic Has ‘Full Support of Texas’, Says Pro-Russian Rebel


The self-proclaimed foreign minister for the pro-Russian separatist group the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), which is currently battling Kiev’s forces in eastern Ukraine, has announced plans to host a “summit of unrecognized states” such as Flanders, the Basque country and Texas in a video initially broadcast on the local pro-separatist channel Oplot TV earlier this week.

The DNR representative, Alexander Koffman, said he plans to host the summit in either February or March, inviting representatives from regions with separatist leanings around Europe such as Spain's Basque region, Belgium's Flanders region, Italy’s Venetian region and even the American state of Texas hoping to create a “League of New States”.

“We already have agreement from representatives of these states,” Koffman said, arguing the only reason such a meeting has not yet happened is out of fear the movements will make it easier for political opponents to attack them at once.

Assessing Threats to U.S. Vital Interests

The United States is a global power with global interests. Scaling its military power to threats requires judgments with regard to the importance and priority of those interests, whether the use of force is the most appropriate and effective means of addressing the threats to them, and how much and what types of force are needed to defeat such threats.

This Index focuses on three fundamental, vital national interests: 
Defense of the homeland; 
Successful conclusion of a major war having the potential to destabilize a region of critical interest to the U.S.; and 
Preservation of freedom of movement within the global commons: the sea, air, and outer space domains through which the world conducts business. 

The geographical focus of the threats in these areas is further divided into three broad regions: Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

This is not to say that these are America’s only interests. Among many others, the U.S. has an interest in the growth of economic freedom in trade and investment, the observance of internationally recognized human rights, and the alleviation of human suffering beyond our borders. None of these interests, however, can be addressed principally and effectively by the use of military force, nor would threats to these interests result in material damage to the foregoing vital national interests. These additional American interests, however important they may be, therefore will not be used in this assessment of the adequacy of current U.S. military power.

We reference two public sources throughout the document as a mechanism to check our work against that of other recognized professional organizations in the field of threat analysis: the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ annualThe Military Balance1 and the annual Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community (WWTA).2 The latter serves as a reference point produced by the U.S. government against which each threat assessment in this Index was compared. We note any differences between assessments in this Index and the work of the two primary references in summary comments.

Europe Sits on the verge of Regime Collapse

Europe won the Cold War.

Not long after the Berlin Wall fell a quarter of a century ago, the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States squandered its peace dividend in an attempt to maintain global dominance, and Europe quietly became more prosperous, more integrated, and more of a player in international affairs. Between 1989 and 2014, the European Union (EU) practically doubled its membership and catapulted into third place in population behind China and India. It currently boasts the world's largest economy and also heads the list of global trading powers. In 2012, the EU won the Nobel Peace Prize for transforming Europe "from a continent of war to a continent of peace."

In the competition for "world's true superpower," China loses points for still having so many impoverished peasants in its rural hinterlands and a corrupt, illiberal bureaucracy in its cities; the United States, for its crumbling infrastructure and a hypertrophied military-industrial complex that threatens to bankrupt the economy. As the only equitably prosperous, politically sound, and rule-of-law-respecting superpower, Europe comes out on top, even if -- or perhaps because -- it doesn't have the military muscle to play global policeman.

And yet, for all this success, the European project is currently teetering on the edge of failure. Growth is anemic at best and socio-economic inequality is on the rise. The countries of Eastern and Central Europe, even relatively successful Poland, have failed to bridge the income gap with the richer half of the continent. And the highly indebted periphery is in revolt.

Go ahead, Angela, make my day

 31st Jan 2015 

IT WAS in Greece that the infernal euro crisis began just over five years ago. So it is classically fitting that Greece should now be where the denouement may be played out—thanks to the big election win on January 25th for the far-left populist Syriza party led by Alexis Tsipras (see article). By demanding a big cut in Greece’s debt and promising a public-spending spree, Mr Tsipras has thrown down the greatest challenge so far to Europe’s single currency—and thus to Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, who has set the austere path for the continent.

The stakes are high. Although everybody, including Mr Tsipras, insists they want Greece to stay in the euro, there is now a clear threat of Grexit. In 2011-12 Mrs Merkel wavered, but then decided to support the Greeks to keep them in the single currency. She did not want Germany to be blamed for another European disaster, and both northern creditors and southern debtors were nervous about the consequences of a chaotic Greek exit for Europe’s banks and their economies.

This time the odds have changed. Grexit would look more like the Greeks’ fault, Europe’s economy is stronger and 80% of Greece’s debt is in the hands of other governments or official bodies. Above all the politics are different. The Finns and the Dutch, like the Germans, want Greece to stick to promises it made when they twice bailed it out. And in southern Europe centrist governments fear that a successful Greek blackmail would push voters towards their own populist opposition parties, like Spain’s Podemos (see article).

Will Spain join the Greek revolution? Don’t bet on it

Natalie Nougayrède

If first impressions count, then the political force that wants to transform Spain in 2015 consists mainly of student types and self-conscious outsiders. That, at any rate, is the scene when you enter Podemos’s crammed, disorderly office in Madrid’s popular Lavapiés district. Posters are being prepared for the movement’s first big street demonstration, planned for 31 January. A young woman sitting in front of a computer says she has no job and decided to become a Podemos volunteer because “if we don’t start taking things into our hands, la casta will just continue as before”.

This is the closest thing Spain has to Syriza, the radical leftwing party that just came to power in Greece. Only a year after its launch last January, Podemos (“We can”) is riding high in opinion polls. General elections are due at the end of the year. Just like Syriza, Podemos has a charismatic leader, the pony-tailed 36-year-old professor of political science, Pablo Iglesias. Like Syriza, Podemos calls for an end to traditional politics and rolling back austerity. Its key target is la casta (“the caste”), the dominant two-party system that has ruled Spain since democracy was restored in the late 1970s, after Franco’s death.

Opposite the Podemos office, there’s a book shop run by some of its activists. Browsing through it feels like you’ve stepped into a time-machine: there are collections of Lenin’s works, and books on the Italian communist thinker Antonio Gramsci and the French 19th-century revolutionary Louise Michel.

This chart shows all of the versions of Russia's fifth-generation fighter jet

JAN 30, 2015

A prototype version of Russia's T-50

The US and Russia have been competing arms exporters since the dawn of the Cold War.

Although the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the deep-seated rivalry between the US and Russia never fully died out and is now stronger than it's been in decades thanks the Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine. The same goes for the countries' rivalry in the realm of military hardware.

The US and Russia are both producing their own fifth-generation fighters. While the US is developing the F-35 in conjunction with select worldwide partners, Russia is developing its own fifth-generation fighter, the Su-50.

And like the F-35, the Su-50 will have multiple variants. The following chart from Russian arms manufacturer Sukhoi shows the intended plan for all versions of Russia's most advanced fighter jet.

Russia Says It Will Not Allow Other Countries To Gain 'Military Superiority' Over Russia

JAN. 30, 2015

Defense minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday he would not let anyone gain military superiority over Russia and that he would fulfill a plan to modernize the armed forces by 2020.

Russia, hit by Western sanctions over Ukraine and a fall in oil prices, is expected to enter recession this year, but Shoigu said he would carry out the multibillion-dollar plan approved by President Vladimir Putin.

"The task set by the president — to prevent (others') military superiority over Russia — will be fulfilled unconditionally," Interfax news agency quoted Shoigu as telling a Defense Ministry meeting.

"For that, we plan to fulfill the government armament program and reach by 2020 the intended quantities of modern weapons systems," he added.

Tensions between Russia and the West have risen over the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where the United States and Europe say Moscow is fueling an insurgency by sending in troops and weapons. Moscow denies this.

Russia has criticized NATO expansion in eastern Europe, and Putin has accused the Ukrainian army, which is fighting pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, of being puppets of NATO with a policy of "containing" Russia. 

(Reporting by Thomas Grove, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

You’re Doing it Wrong

Rule No. 13: “When in charge, take charge.” — General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Saturday, November 22 started as a day like any other day. Get up, let the dogs out, hit the gym. Feed the dogs, make a cup of coffee, turn on This Old House, and begin the morning social media ritual. ISIS? Still a problem. Afghanistan? Still unsustainable. Russia? Still in Ukraine. Then, from out of nowhere, a strange retweet from @USAFPABoss, the U.S. Air Force Chief of Public Affairs, Brigadier General Kathleen Cook.

I sat back, took a long drink of coffee, and thought to myself “What a monumentally stupid thing to do.” Forget the disclaimer ‘RTs & links ≠ endorsement.’ That’s just not true. If you’re active on social media, you own what you post. That’s why you’ll never see @CocaCola retweet anything negative about one of its competitors, no matter how tempting it might be to do so. You post it, you own it. It’s really that simple.

Russia May Need to Say ‘Do Svidaniya’ to Belarus

JANUARY 30, 2015 

Over the course of his two decades in power, Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’s autocratic president, has perfected the art of weaving between Russia and the West. But with the fighting in eastern Ukraine approaching his country’s doorstep and Russia’s struggling economy weighing down his own, Lukashenko has begun an unprecedented tilt away from Moscow.

Despite occasional swipes at the Kremlin, Lukashenko has rarely strayed too far from Russia in the past, but the Ukraine crisis seems to be slightly altering his calculations. At his annual news conference Thursday, the Belarusian leader made his most overt maneuver yet away from the Kremlin. With Belarus hampered by Russia’s struggling economy, Lukashenko said that if these problems persist, his country would consider leaving the Moscow-led Eurasian Economic Union, which has left Belarus — and the other members — sharing in Russia’s fiscal woes.

The union — a trade bloc consisting of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia that came into effect on Jan. 1 — is off to a rocky start. About 40 percent of Belarus’s exports go to Russia, and much of the rest goes to other former Soviet countries closely linked to the Russian economy,according to Belarus’s Foreign Ministry. Due to Western sanctions, the collapse of the ruble, and global oil prices hammering Russia, the Eurasian Union has already been marred by a series of currency devaluations and trade spats, which have brought the union’s founding premise of economic growth into question.

The Belgium Question: Why Is a Small Country Producing So Many Jihadists?

By Katrin Kuntz and Gregor Peter Schmitz

Relative to the size of its population, no other country in Europe sends as many young jihadists to Syria as Belgium does. But why? Some say one problem lies with the fractured nature of the country itself.

Chantal Lebon last saw her son at a bus stop in Brussels. That was two years ago in October "at exactly 10:25 p.m.," she says. Abdel had driven his mother there in a car, stopped in a parking spot and lifted her suitcase onto the sidewalk.

"Au revoir, maman," he said. "Au revoir, mon fils," she replied. It was only months later that she would again see her son's face -- in a YouTube video. It showed him wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh and holding a Kalashnikov. The video was stamped with the flag used by the Islamic State in Syria.Chantal Lebon is a small, energetic 64-year-old retired nursery school teacher with blue eyes and graying hair. She has come to a café to tell us the story of her son Abdel, the story of a Belgian child who became a radical Islamist fighter at the age of 23. Abdel had nothing to do with the attack plans in Belgium, his mother says. But, she confirms, her son is a jihadist.

On the way to the Brussels café, she saw the soldiers standing guard in front of police stations, court houses and the city hall. The Belgian government raised the country's terror alert to the second highest level after officials were able to foil attacks targeting police and Jewish schools earlier this month. At the European Parliament, events with more than 100 foreign guests have been banned and a military vehicle guards the entrance to the European Commission.