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For the respect of international law

Let’s remember:
The 1975 Helsinki Final Act
The 1994 Budapest Memorandum
The 1997 Founding Act of the Russia-NATO partnership

“NATO and Russia will base their relations on a shared commitment to the following principles:
•refraining from the threat or use of force against each other as well as against any other state, its sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence in any manner inconsistent with the United Nations Charter and with the Declaration of Principles Guiding Relations Between Participating States contained in the Helsinki Final Act;
•respect for sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states and their inherent right to choose the means to ensure their own security, the inviolability of borders and peoples’ right of self-determination as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE documents;

Europe’s economy – back and forth

There’s only one Europe, but it doesn’t mean there are no variations and that all countries are equal, not to mention that they have a different history and culture. They are equal before EU law but not economically equal. They never will be, though it is hoped that differences will diminish.

Germany is the economic behemoth of the EU, but even in the current economic crisis, the difference in per capita income between the citizens of some countries and that of Germany is much smaller than it was before their joined the EU.

The Eastern European countries went quickly from Soviet domination, a command economy with very low standards of living to EU membership and comparative wealth.

“Economists all say that: South Europe need inflation to grow”: this is simply untrue. Only some neo-Keynesians do, but their theories have little to do with Keynes, who advocated reasonable conjunctural budget deficits to restart growth, certainly not large structural deficits.

Before joining the EU, Spain, Portugal and Greece were backwater countries. A large part of their workforce had no choice but emigrate to the rest of Europe. Whatever today’s difficulties, the standard of living in those three countries is far, far higher than it was in the times of Franco, Caetano and the fledgling Greek democracy. All three countries were dictatorship, and joining the EU helped consolidate democracy there.

One should remember how the Euro works. The Europeans tried to resolve the contradiction between a single, centrally managed monetary agency and national fiscal policies by incorporating into the Maastricht Treaty what they called the “convergence criteria”, ie maximum budget deficit-to-gdp and debt-to-gdp ratios, so as to avoid that profligate nations could not live at the expense of those who tried to balance their budgets.

One has to either drop the Euros and forsake its immense advantages, or keep it but then observe fiscal responsibility. You can’t have it both ways. Admittedly Germany and France were the first to break the rules but Germany quickly made amends. Under the Euro mechanism, Germany ends up paying for others’ deficits. Certainly Germany hugely profited from the Euro, multiplying her trade with other EU countries by far since the Euro became the common currency, but other countries did as well, notably France.But while Germany tried to balance her budget and adopted policies that fostered increased productivity, others did the opposite.

Greeks are of course unhappy at their present circumstances, but many of them were complicit in policies where government hired employees just to get their vote, ending with 50 percent of the population working for the government which of course wasn’t sustainable: it’s not Greek bankers who primarily reaped the fruit of these policies, but a large section of the population. A conservative government ended up falsifying national accounts, but the day of reckoning eventually came. The EU institutions were certainly derelict in the fulfilment of their monitoring obligations, and most EU countries decided to close their eyes on what was happening: everyone is paying the price now.

Germany being the biggest economy and with very low deficits, ends up paying the bill for everyone, or at least part of it, but it is also in her interest that the rest of the Eurozone emerges from the crisis, because Germany can only trade with countries that can afford to buy. If you go and see your banker for a loan, you don’t tell him this is to gamble at some casino or throw money out of the window: he will make sure you don’t. That’s all Germany is doing, not wanting to throw good money after bad. ECB governors Trichet and Draghi support that, while advising Germany to spend more, but within the Maastricht limits.

The Eurozone is in a risk of deflation, and the ECB which is in charge of price stability both ways, is using the stimulative measures that are allowed under EU Treaties so as to avoid deflation and return to an EU inflation rate of around 2 percent. But France is putting everything at risk with a budget deficit that has risen to 4.4 percent of gdp, compared to the target of 3 percent, and it is rising.

The Spanish economy has started recovering, and even the Greek one has stabilized. Both had to be bailed out, alongside Portugal and Ireland.

Portugal has started doing better in spite of the bankruptcy of her second largest banking group, while Ireland is almost out of the doldrums. But unemployment remains high and it will take time to return to acceptable levels.

This said West Europeans won’t get cold this winter. This wasn’t the case at the height of the Eurozone crisis and won’t when things have started looking up.

It’s war

The Islamic State has turned on its head the central al-Qaeda tenet that the “near enemy”, the so-called “apostate” regimes in the Muslim Middle East, survived only because they were supported by the “far enemy”, the United States and the West, also formulated as “the Christian and the Jews”. In a way this is a return to the views of Abdullah Azzam who gave priority to defeating the “near enemy” (Azzam was murdered by Egyptian followers of Oasma bin Laden, probably without his permission, but were not punished for that deed.) But contrary to Azzam and bin Laden, the IS is not carrying out terrorist actions coordinated from some place in a host country such as Afghanistan, but has embarked into the creation of an “Islamic State”, with territory in Syria and Iraq and a capital, Raqqa, in Syria, with at its head a spiritual and temporal leader, the self-proclaimed Caliph Omar, who views himself as the successor to the first four Caliphs, the Rashidoon. Like almost all Salafists the IS rejects the concept of nation-state, and has as its aim to create an ever-expanding state for the whole Ummah, the community of Muslim believers. The anachronism of returning to the third century after the death of Prophet Mohammed limits the appeal of the IS among ordinary Muslims, who are not prepared to place their faith in a foreign leader in a foreign land.

At this stage the IS is not interested in mounting any kind of massive attack on the United States or Europe, but apparently does allow individual members to carry out actions of their choice. The IS could however change its mind if subjected to attacks that would put its semi-state at risk.

This stage the IS is no longer primarily a terrorist organization, but a fledgling state with its army that uses military tactics to expand its territory. This is why a conventional counterterrorist campaign will not succeed in destroying the group. Right now it is an army defending and expanding territory that we have to fight: the IS uses terrorism tactics too, but only as an adjunct in territory it does not yet control and is not strong enough to attack militarily.

When one refers to the IS, it is no longer about an organization, but about a semi-sate which fortunately remains fragile.

The IS is not ten-foot tall -but probably five or six. It has started creating havoc in the Middle East, controlling large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, threatening Lebanon and Jordan. It must be rolled back the destroyed, using a wide range of tactics including straightforward military one. In Iraq it can probably be rolled back by the ISF and the Pesh Merga with US support in terms of air strikes, embedded advisers, intelligence and the massive supply of weapons and ammunition. In Syria where a triangular war obtains the situation is more complex. The boots on the ground can only be the Free Syrian Army, provided they are not only trained in Saudi Arabia but supplied with the appropriate weaponry. The objective should be to reverse the military balance of power in favor of the Syrian opposition coalition so that a political solution can be imposed on the Assad regime, while taking back territory from the IS through US action coordinated with the FSA. The latter can take ground back from the IS if helped by the US from the air. The IS’s installations and points of assembly in Raqqa could be taken out by cruise missiles, but such action will be all the more effective if it can be coordinated with the FSA which could then occupy the ground. FSA is as yet sufficiently strong in the area to do that, although hitherto neutral Sunni tribes could join the FSA in such an endeavor.

Again the IS is interested at this stage in a massive attack on the US homeland or in Europe, but it is possible that a full size attack on its territory may change its calculations. Right now it is reacting to air strikes with beheadings. How it will react to a full-size attack?

The danger of the IS is also that it is on its way to replacing Al-Qaeda. Existing Al-Qaeda franchises are pledging allegiance to the IS and its Caliph. But most of these movements are located rather far away from the Islamic State: they have no hope of controlling territory that could become contiguous with the Islamic State. This realignment however increases the danger. Some of these movements can take part in retaliation against attacks directed at the IS’s territory.

Let’s call the IS by its chosen name, even though it does not represent Islam and is only a semi-state, but pray that we are not fighting a classical non-state organization of the Al-Qaeda type. Misunderstanding who the enemy is, its nature and configuration, cannot lead to victory, even with a coalition of Arab-Muslim states and Turkey.

The main assistance Arab states can provide is not air strikes, though they will have a symbolic value. Important are the ideological aspects, prevention of fighters from their respective countries from joining the IS, prevention of private payments to the IS, political support, etc.

It is a war even though the US will have no troops on the ground: others have. It is not a mere counterterrorist operation. Let’s hope there won’t be other non-wars like this one.

O privire spre Orientul Mijlociu

Administrația Obama refuză să cheme Statul Islamic pe numele pe care acesta și l-a ales pentru că, ea spune ca el nu este nici islamic, nici stat. SI nu este un stat-națiune, aceasta fiind o formă de organizare socială pe care o respinge. Lupta împotriva SI nu este o simplă operațiune de combatere a terorismului sau un război împotriva unei armate naționale.

Dar cel mai bun mod de ați învinge inamicul nu este a nu face nimic, de teama ca ar putea reacționa mai puternic! In aceasta ordine de idei, SUA bombardează în jurul Muntelui Sinjar, acțiune ce este combinata cu acțiunile locale ale Pesh Merga, ce au salvat mii de Yazidi care locuiesc acolo – loviturile aeriene deschizând cu succes drumul spre Erbil. Grevele Jebel Sinjar s-au repetat în jurul Amerli, dar acțiunile irakienilor de la sol (Pesh Merga, ISF și milițiile șiite), au salvat mii de vieți. Toate astea nu câștiga războiul insa.

Administrația Obama afirma ca lupta impotruva SI, în Irak și Siria, nu trebuie sa ducă la concesii pentru regimul Assad sau Iran. Politicile administratiei Obama in Orientul Mijlociu se pare ca au luat avant. Este posibil insa un eventual refuz al Iranului de a accepta un acord cu P5 + 1, lucru care nu ar garanta, practic, că Teheranul nu va construi bomba nucleara sau componente ale ei.

Nu știu dacă, coaliția împotriva SI are nevoie de Iran, dar Teheranul este liber să facă tot ce poate împotriva SI. Diferența dintre SUA, și celelalte puteri occidentale, și Israel, este că ele sunt pregătite pentru a permite un nivel scăzut de îmbogățire al uraniului de către Iran, în cantități proporționale cu nevoile lui reale, pașnice.

Miercuri, președintele SUA va anunța o “noua” strategie pentru a “degrada apoi distruge” Statul Islamic.

Results of the intervention in Iraq?

What are the consequences of the U.S. interventionist policies in the Middle East? The bad ones are about these: the destabilization of Iraq a few years after the withdrawal of troops, the rise of Islamic fundamentalist rhetoric, the emergence of a group of which it appears even “Al-Qaeda” wants to desist and the spread of the influence of these groups (ISIS, newer IS), that influence the civil war in Syria.

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism and Islamist terrorist is not the direct consequence of US intervention in the Middle East. Modern Islamic fundamentalism is a type of political-religious ideology that emerged in the 1920s, at a time the US was virtually absent from the Middle East scene. The main Islamic fundamentalist movement which appeared at the end of the 1920s is of course the Muslim Brotherhood which was founded in Egypt by Hassan Al Banna. It was founded as a pan-Islamist, political-religious and social movement. Though it did see itself as an international movement, its political action was very much limited to Egypt, though by the late 1940s, the group had an estimated 500,000 members in Egypt while its ideas had spread across the Arab world. From around 1936 it resorted to terrorism, opposing British rule and those it believed cooperated with it, but with strictly Egyptian goals and renounced violence for a time in 1949. The MB welcomed the overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy in 1952 but quickly fell out with the Free Officers whom they accused of secularism.

After a failed attempt to assassinate President Gamal Abdul Nasser in 1954, the Ikhwan were blamed, banned, and thousands of members imprisoned and often tortured. The group continued, however, to grow underground. This clash with the authorities prompted an important shift in the ideology of the Ikhwan, evident in the writing of one prominent member, Sayyid Qutb, who became posthumously one of Al-Qaeda’s favorite ideologues.

Qutb’s work advocated the use of jihad (struggle) against Jahili (religiously ignorant) societies, both Western and so-called Islamic ones, which he argued were in need of radical transformation.

His writings – particularly the 1964 work “Milestones” – inspired the founders of many radical Islamist groups, including Ayman Al-Zawahiri’s Tanzim Al-Jihad, Gemaa al-Islamiya and Osama bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam.

In 1965, the Egyptian government again cracked down on the Ikhwan, executing Qutb for terrorist actions in 1966 and transforming him into a martyr for Islamists across the region. In the early 1970s the MB renounced again terrorism but continued to oppose both authoritarian regimes and the principles of democracy. This when those who were not ready to forsake terrorism founded Gemaa Islamiya and Tanzim Al-Jihad. Gemaa (or Jemaa) Islamiya has now renounced terrorism while Tanzim al Jihad (or Islamic Jihad) joined in its majority Al-Qaeda. During the 1980s, the Ikhwan attempted to rejoin the political mainstream.

Al-Qaeda was founded by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam,and others in late 1989 on the basis of the Maktab al-Khidamat (services bureau) which had been set up to coordinate logistics for Arab fighters against the Soviet occupation or Afghanistan and which indirectly probably received US money distributed by Pakistan’s ISIS according to its own criteria. Al-Qaeda was not initially particularly anti-American and anti-Western and the US and the organization found themselves on the same side. Differences however emerged however between Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian. The latter defended the view that the main objectives of Islamists was to overthrow the “apostate” regimes in the Muslim and in particular the Arab Muslim world, while bin laden and his supporters believed that these “apostate” regimes survived only as a result of Western support and that the “far enemy”, initially designated as the US and the West in general, later “the Christians and the Jews”, should be defeated before the “near enemy” -the apostate regimes- could be overthrown. Egyptian supporters of bin Laden murdered Azzam, apparently without his permission, though he did not punish them. Al-Qaeda adheres to a version of Islamic fundamentalism known as Salafism, according to which Muslims started to go astray about two centuries after the death of the Prophet of Islam, and that Islamic societies should return to this Golden Age of Islam represented by theses first two centuries. But their representation of Muslim societies after the death of the Prophet has little to do with historical reality: it is an artificial reconstruction of this period based on today’s Salafist concept of Islam, which opposes nation states (it wants a return to the Umma, the non-national community of Moslems) an democracy, which they describe as the rule of man as opposed to the rule of God. The Umma should be ruled by a Caliph as after the death of the Prophet (the first four Caliphs, known as the Rashidoun) are honored by all Muslims except Shiites who honor only the last of the four, Ali, as a descendent of the Prophet.

Osama bin Laden’s switch to global terrorism against the West and regimes it considered as supported by the West dates from Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. He asked the Saudi authorities permission to create an army of Mujaheddin to fight Iraq but was told that this was no guerilla Afghanistan and that bin Laden’s fighters would not stand a chance against Iraq’s 2,500 tanks. bin Laden was adamantly opposed to any non-Muslim military presence in the Kingdom. He soon went to Sudan where he was for a time supported by the authorities there and Islamist ideologue Hassan Al-Tourabi, who has since changed his political-religious views and strongly opposed Islamist terrorism. He later found refuge and support in the Taleban’s Afghanistan.

Until Operation Desert Shield the US had little to do with Islamist terrorism, though Islamists have always criticized the West for their support for the existence of Israel, which they consider illegitimate, and for their alleged and sometimes real support during the Cold War for authoritarian regimes in the Muslim world. The US had little to do with the creation of Israel but recognized her almost immediately -though the administration was divided on the subject with president Truman however adamant on the issue-, followed just as immediately by the Soviet Union. Israel’s hard-won independence was made possible by Czech arms rather than Western ones, supplied on orders from Stalin who wanted to exploit animosity between Israel and Britain.

Al-Qaeda and similar ideologies need their causes promoted. One of the first ones after Afghanistan was Bosnia, which hit by an arms embargo (which also applied to Serbia and all other members of the former Yugoslav federation, but Serbia was awash with weapons including heavy ones -the JNA was an apt fighting force) did not know where to turn to -at least until president Clinton was persuaded to act to stop the genocide that had started, with NATO following as usual- in desperation welcomed AQ-linked Jihadists. The Bosniaks were to regret this later and became a strong ally of the US in the fight against AQ terrorism, extraditing expeditiously a number of Jihadists to the US.

The second cause célèbre was Iraq. There was no love lost between Saddam Hussein and bin Laden, and though the Iraqi dictator once sent former senior intelligence officer Farooq Al-Hijazi to meet with bin laden in Sudan, almost nothing came out of it. But the Jihadists were strongly opposed to any type of Western military intervention in the Muslim world. The Iraqi version of AQ -Al-Qaeda in the land of the two rivers, the Islamic State of Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham and now the Islamic State- differentiate themselves from the main AQ ideology is that they are determined not only to oppose democracy but to destroy Shiismi, its holy sites and even many of the faithful themselves. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who was killed in a targeted US air strike, is the father of this ferocious anti-Shiism, which was too harsh for bin laden and Zawahiri. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi shares this ferocious anti-Shiism. He no longer obeys Zawahiri’s edicts and believes a non-national Islamic State can be created right now which would expand to the rest of the Muslim world, abolishing national borders, and ruled by himself, Caliph Ibrahim. He is over-extending himself and will pay the price.

US interventions in the Muslim world did not create Islamic fundamentalism and international Islamist terrorism, but they create focal points for it, helping recruitment by giving like-minded Muslims a cause célèbre. Islamic fundamentalism, including its violent Salafist-Jihadist form, was not created by the US or the West in general. It is the product of the very rapid evolution of Muslim-majority societies, where some cannot accept many aspects of modernity which collide with their own, narrow and backward-looking conception of Islam. Ironically, it is a by-product of an evolution which created them but which will eventually destroy them. The fight against AQ ideology will not be won with drones, though this fight has a military aspect and drones are a most useful weapon in this military dimension. It will be won ideologically and religiously by the Muslims themselves, but they do need our support, particularly in the military aspects.

Saying that the Saddam Hussein regime, which killed 650,000 Iraqis in judicial and extrajudicial executions, generalized torture even against whole families, started two major wars and lesser ones, was after all preferable to the Islamic State, is comparable to saying that we should have left Hitler and the Nazi regime in place as the best defense against Communism. Supporting the Iraqi state is most urgent.

O privire spre Statul Islamic

In această etapă, ambițiile IS (Islamic State – Statul Islamic) sunt destul de modeste. Ei încearcă să desființeze granița dintre Siria și Irak, și se vor extinde doar în cazul în care pot lupta cu alte țări musulman-majoritare.

Ar trebui să ne amintim că Jihadiștii au luptat si în Europa, mai exact în Bosnia, când Alija Izetbegović era disperat ca nu primea niciun ajutor din alta parte, pentru a lupta împotriva JNA și cu sârbii bosniaci. Astfel, el i-a acceptat; promițându-le naționalitate bosniacă, dacă lupta pentru el. Dar aceștia au intrat rapid în conflict cu armata bosniacă și populația. După ce războiul s-a terminat – ca rezultat al intervenției SUA și a NATO – unii dintre acești Jihadiști, au luptat în Afganistan, alții au plecat, în timp ce ceilalți, fie și-au reluat activitățile lor jihadiste, criminale sau infracționale, ori doar dus o viață normală. Politica în Bosnia s-a schimbat și Jihadiștii au fost expulzați.

Al Qaeda și statul islamic cred că toate țările care au fost odată cucerite de către arabii musulmani fac parte din Umma și ar trebui să fie re-cucerite, dar în acest moment acest lucru este doar teorie.

Exista de fapt mai mult forțe: islamiste, grupurile de non-AQ, etc,.

Administrația Obama și-a sporit ajutorul “letal” oferit opoziției în Siria, dar acest lucru nu este încă suficient pentru a inversa echilibrul militar de putere și să facă fata IS și lui Al-Nusrah. Această politică incrementala poate fi descrisă ca “prea puțin, prea târziu”. Acesta este motivul pentru ambasadorul Ford a demisionat.

Unii spun ca mărirea sprijinului letal acordat de SUA a fost, de fapt, mai mult retorica decât reala: suma de 500 milioane dolari promiși de Președintele Obama este supusă aprobării Congresului. Chiar și în cazul aprobării, virările nu vor avea loc înainte de șase până la opt luni. Totuși, s-ar părea ca anumite sume vor fi luate din alte fonduri, dar va fi acest lucru suficient pentru a inversa echilibrul militar de putere?

Probabil, singurul lucru care ar putea mișca administrația Obama este avansarea Statului Islamic în Irak. Situația din Irak ii v-a putea schimba calculele lui Barak Obama și l-ar putea obliga să facă mai mult. În Irak el trebuie să ofere atât sprijin militar rapid cât și să colaboreze cu partidele irakiene, pentru a forma un guvern non-sectarian.

Caracteristici prezente din perspectiva unor percepții

Făcând un tur al analizelor și previziunilor unor organisme de referință în domeniu , putem enumera toate provocările geopolitice și economice viitoare. Cum va fi lumea peste un deceniu, sau două sau mai multe?

Am mai scris despre BRICS și chiar am dezbătut unele teorii care explică modul în care “permisele actualei crizei economice sunt o reproiectare a noii ordini mondiale, deoarece a luat prin surprindere o mulțime de state și le-a permis unora să speculeze punctele slabe ale altora, pentru a se repoziționa ele însele la un alt nivel geopolitic” . Am atras atenția atât asupra obiectivului presupus strategic, cât și asupra caracteristicii premeditate a crizei economice. În opinia mea, importanța acestor mesaje își găsește eco-ul în faptul că această criză a subminat economia statelor emergente.

Este tendința principală declinul Occidentului? Pentru prima dată din secolul al XV-lea și pana acum, țările occidentale își puteau pierde puterea în fata noilor puteri emergente. Acesta era începutul ultimei faze a unui ciclu de cinci secole de dominație occidentală în lume. Chiar dacă Statele Unite vor rămâne una dintre cele mai mari puteri la nivel mondial, își vor pierde ele hegemonia economică în fata Chinei? Nu vor mai urmări ele “hegemonia militară”, așa cum au făcut-o la sfârșitul Războiului Rece (în 1989)? Unele cercetări arată că ne îndreptăm spre o lume multipolară în care noi actori – China, India, Brazilia, Rusia, Africa de Sud – vor deveni poli regionali solizi și își vor disputa supremația internațională cu Washington-ul și aliații săi – Marea Britanie, Franța, Germania, Japonia. Cifrele arată o tendință de declin a Vestului și se prefigurează că țările occidentale vor merge de la 56% cât au în prezent, la 25% în mai puțin de un deceniu. În mai puțin de două decenii, Occidentul va pierde mai mult de jumătate din predominanță sa economică și una dintre principalele consecințe este că SUA și aliații săi nu vor avea mijloacele financiare să-și asume rolul de jandarm mondial.

Pe de altă parte, se confirmă oare faptul că, China, este o locomotivă mai puternică decât Statele Unite și Europa la un loc, în termeni de populație, PIB, cheltuielile militare și investițiile tehnologice? China se poate baza pe independența sa energetică datorită petrolului și a gazelor de șist. Dar, Statele Unite ale Americii ar putea deveni liderul mondial în producția de petrol pană în 2020, depășind Arabia Saudită,care este liderul mondial actual ceea ce va produce o răsturnare a relațiilor de putere, fără precedent.
Poate părea ciudat, atunci când unii sugerează că, China ar putea intra în recesiune în curând. Cu toate acestea, Jim Walker susține că acest lucru este posibil: “suntem, probabil, pe cale sa vedem China intrând mai degrabă în recesiune decât într-o încetinire a creșterii economice” . În ceea ce privește gândirea scenariului, o astfel de afirmație ridică două întrebări importante. În primul rând, care ar putea fi cauzele unei recesiuni în China? O criză bancară? În al doilea rând, care ar putea fi consecințele unei astfel de recesiuni? Schimbări de politică economică, tulburări sociale și / sau o politică externă mai agresivă? Jim Walker prezice un soc (recesiune și inflație – mai rău decât stagflație). Eu aș înclina mai degrabă pentru o încetinire puternică a creșterii, nu pentru o recesiune, care în cazul în care politicienii vor influenta politica băncii centrale, s-ar putea înrăutăți. Este într-adevăr un risc serios datorat faptului că banca centrală a Chinei continuă să se supună influentelor politice. Zhou Xiaochuan, a fost un guvernator foarte capabil al Băncii Naționale a Chinei, dar a trebuit să se supună politicului: el nu se numără printre cei câțiva, cei mai puternici oficiali chinezi. Nu există semne încă, că noua conducere va acorda mai multă autonomie băncii. Acest lucru privează China de un instrument independent sau autonom de reglementare a ofertei de bani.

Rusia este activă în Organizația de Cooperare de la Shanghai, care este atât o organizație de securitate cât și una economică. Desigur, în Asia Centrală, Moscova și Beijing-ul sunt concurente atât pe plan economic, cât și pe planurile politic și de securitate, dar niciun conflict major nu se prefigurează intre aceștia doi. Naționaliștii ruși promovează “Eurasia”, sub conducerea Rusiei, dar este mai degrabă doar o ideologie decât orice altceva. Normalizarea relațiilor dintre China și India elimina orice potențial dezacord. In cadrul Consiliului de Securitate al ONU, China, aproape invariabil, votează cu Rusia.

Criza din Europa va dura cel putin un deceniu, până în 2023 și nu este sigur dacă UE va fi capabilă să susțină coeziunea. Între timp, China este a doua cea mai mare economie din lume și va deveni, în curând, prima.

Alte țări dintre țările BRICS (Brazilia, Rusia, India și Africa de Sud) se vor instala pe linia a doua și vor intra în concurență directă cu fosta dominantă ca grup – JAFRU (Japonia, Germania, Franța, Marea Britanie). Pe linia a treia sunt o serie de puteri intermediare, cu puternice date demografice și creșteri ale ratei de creștere economică, și ele pot deveni poli hegemonici și regionali, deoarece tind să fie un grup de influență la nivel mondial, CINETV – Columbia, Indonezia, Nigeria, Etiopia, Turcia, Vietnam.

Un raport al Ramses si alte surse similare spun că, în noul sistem internațional, cei mai mari actori din lume nu vor mai fi țări, ci comunități unite și interconectate, cel puțin prin intermediul internetului și a rețelelor sociale. Influenta Facebook, care va avea peste un miliard de utilizatori sau a Twitter – 800 de milioane – în jocul politic din lume, ar putea fi decisivă. Structurile de putere se vor risipi, datorită accesului universal la astfel de rețele și utilizării de noi tehnologii digitale. Chiar dacă amenințările militare nu se vor agrava, cu un singur click, pericolele vor veni de la entități non-militare.

In acest context, mai trebuie menționat și riscul crescut de conflict în țările în care resursele naturale, cum ar fi apă și sol, sunt foarte limitate și în care populația este foarte tânăra (în timp ce UE are o populație în curs de îmbătrânire).

Eu nu pot să spun cum va fi organizată lumea peste patru secole de acum înainte, dar astăzi și pentru o lungă perioadă de timp, statele-națiune vor rămâne principala formă de organizare socială la scară mondială. Noi forme de comunicare se va dezvolta într-adevăr mai mult și pot să devină mai importante, acum însă, Facebook și Twitter, deși creează legături intre oamenii din toată lumea, nu pot slăbi statele-națiune (acestea pot fi folosite împotriva guvernelor naționale autoritare, dar asta e altă discuție). Tehnologia va continua să fie cel mai important criteriu de diferențiere între state, dar viitoarele state nu vor fi pe Internet, pe Google sau Facebook, chiar dacă acestea vor deține munți de date în timp real și vor avea mai multe informații decât statele-națiune.

Viitorul este rareori previzibil.

Europa între Parlamentul European și Comisia Europeană

Am urmărit campania electorală pentru Parlamentul European, în diferite țări europene. Prea puțin s-a discutat despre unitatea Uniunii, despre rolul acesteia și, prea puțin s-a dat dovadă de cunoașterea rolului instituțiilor europene.

Nici candidații, nici prezentatorii talk-show-urilor, nu au arătat că observă când ceilalți lansează enunțuri care nu au niciun fundament legal nici nu au spus că, pur și simplu, anumite reguli nu se pot impune la nivelul Uniunii, deoarece ar încălca principiul fundamental al liberei circulații a capitalurilor, persoanelor, etc. în întreaga UE. De exemplu, normele UE care reglementează ratele de impozitare – acestea variază de la o țară la alta, iar în afara de federaliști, nimeni nu vrea armonizarea ratelor de impozitare. Astfel, ar trebui să se aleagă: fie rate de impozitare diferite și companiile o vor alege în mod natural pe cea mai mică, fie armonizarea. (Rata de impozitare nu este singurul factor, dar este unul puternic).

O altă critică unanimă, folosită ca temă de campanie, a fost multiplicarea legislației privind standardele. În mod normal, acest lucru nu ar trebui să se întâmple, dar anumite țări continuă să devieze concurența prin impunerea de noi standarde, forțând Comisia Europeană să elaboreze directive de armonizare, care sunt ulterior aprobate de Parlamentul European și de Consiliu. Comisia Europeană poate propune, dar ea nu legiferează: Consiliul o face, sub rezerva că, după Tratatul de la Lisabona, cu aprobarea Parlamentului European.

Rar candidații au arătat ca dețin cunoștințe minime ale legislației UE și a competențelor diferitelor instituții ale UE: cum se așteptă cineva ca cetățenii de rând să înțeleagă ceva?

Eu cred că José Manuel Barroso nu a fost un președinte al Comisiei Europene rău. Cu ceva ani în urmă, Jacques Delors a avut o sarcină mai ușoară, în aceeași postură, el având de-a face cu 15 și nu 28 de țări, și venea din partea unuia dintre cei doi piloni ai UE, Franța, în timp ce Barroso provine dintr-o țară „mai mică”. Acesta s-a înțeles bine cu cei mai multi, dar nu și cu Margaret Thatcher, care credea că acesta are intenții federaliste și dorește crearea unui superstat european, punând astfel în pericol puterile Parlamentului britanic (în condițiile în care nicio țară din Europa nu are o tradiție parlamentară mai veche decât Marea Britanie).

Un președinte puternic la Președinția Comisiei Europene va trebui să se înțeleagă bine cu Germania și Franța (uneori aceste două țări nu sunt de acord, dar, din motive istorice, Germania nu va fi prea agresivă la adresa Franței niciodată), și nu prea prost cu Marea Britanie. Toate statele membre sunt egale cu privire la aspectele importante din UE, dar Germania și Franța sunt mai egale decât alții. În orice caz, nici un președinte al Comisiei nu va fi mult mai puternic decât Consiliul. De obicei, candidații care provin din alte țări decât cele trei menționate mai sus, pot, uneori, să devină mai importanți decât țara din care provin. Paul-Henri Spaak din Belgia este un exemplu interesant: el a fost succesiv de trei ori prim-ministru al Belgiei (1938-1939, 1946 și 1947-1949), primul președinte al Adunării Generale a Organizației Națiunilor Unite (1946-1947), primul președinte al Adunării Comune a Comunității Europene a Cărbunelui și Oțelului (1952-1954), strămoșul EEC/EC/EU-, primul președinte al Adunării Parlamentare a Consiliului Europei (1949-1950), și al doilea secretar general al NATO (1957-1961). Deși nu fără adversari, Jean-Claude Juncker de Luxemburg poate fi, de asemenea, un astfel de exemplu. În acest sens, Judy Dempsey[1] avea dreptate când spunea că personalitatea președintelui Comisiei este un factor important pentru alegerea lui in functie. În același timp, nici un președinte al Comisiei Europene nu-si poate impune voința în fata Germaniei și a Franței, atunci când acestea nu sunt de acord.

In ultima perioadă a avut loc o întreagă discuție pe marginea unei preluări in presa a unei interpretări greșite a ceea ce ar fi declarat David Cameron, cum că acesta ar fi amenintat cu posibila ieșire a tării pe care o reprezintă din Uniunea Europeană – menționez în acest sens articolul cu titlul „Un oficial din Marea Britanie neagă că Cameron a amenințat că Marea Britanie va ieși din UE dacă Juncker este ales”, de Andreas Rinke și Andrew Osborn, pentru The Sun, în iunie 2014[2]. Ceea ce a spus în realitate David Cameron a fost că ar fi nevoie de mai multe  discuții înainte de a-i susține candidatura lui Juncker. Cu alte cuvinte, el vrea niște asigurări că Juncker va lua în considerare cererile Marii Britanii referitoare la anumite modificări în cadrul UE. Dar președintele Comisiei nu are nici o putere pentru a le aproba: acest lucru depinde în totalitate de Consiliul, și concesiile nu vor merge foarte departe. Cameron încearcă doar să-i convingă pe euro-scepticii din partidul său (nu cei din UKIP) de importanta pe care o are.

Juncker s-ar putea să fie ales sau nu, dar (nu l-am auzit pe William Hague discutând foarte mult despre asta) perspectiva lui David Cameron despre ceea ce ar trebui să fie UE nu este sigur că va avea câștigat de cauză. Germania și Franța, fără de care Consiliul nu face nimic, se vor opune oricărei propuneri care ar conduce la slăbirea instituțiilor UE. Tot ceea ce Cameron poate spera este că acestea nu vor fi întărite și mai mult în direcția de centralizare.

S-a vehiculat în ultima perioada și un zvon cum ca Chrisitine Lagarde ar fi fost o opțiune pentru președinția Comisiei Europene. Au existat voci care spun că Angela Merkel, Cancelarul Germaniei ar prefera-o pe directorul general al FMI, Christine Lagarde, pe această poziție, în conditiile în care aceasta ar accepta. Deși este de centru-dreapta – ea a fost Ministru de Finanțe, în guvernarea Nicolas Sarkozy – Christine Lagarde, ar avea sprijinul francez pentru simplul motiv că este franțuzoaică, și cel mai probabil sprijinul britanic pentru opiniile sale despre piața liberă. Nu se știe dacă toți membrii Consiliului UE s-ar opune candidaturii ei și dacă ea ar fi aprobată de Parlamentul European. Socialiștii Europeni, cu toate acestea, ar fi puțin probabil să se opună unui candidat susținut de către socialiștii francezi, precum și de către grupul PPE de centru-dreapta. Cu toate acestea, este posibil ca atât extrema dreaptă cât și extrema stângă sau Verzii sa se opună candidaturii ei. Aparent, Christine Lagarde nu este interesată de poziția de Președinte al Comisiei Europene sau, cel puțin o preferă pe cea de la FMI, iar cancelarul Angela Merkel îl susține acum pe Jean-Claude Juncker al Luxemburgului, al cărui punct forte este o experiență vastă în UE, inclusiv în calitate de președinte al Euro-grupului. Competitia va fi, în acest caz, între Juncker și Martin Schulz, din Germania.

Extrema dreaptă este de așteptat să il ajute pe Schulz să câștige, deoarece Juncker reprezintă pentru ei tot ceea ce urăsc mai mult: integrarea europeană și euro. Schulz, ale cărui puncte de vedere europene sunt departe de cele ale Juncker, este susținut de Alianța Progresistă a Socialiștilor și Democraților în timp ce Juncker ar trebui să obțină votul Conservatorilor și al Reformiștilor Europeni. Alianța Liberalilor și Democraților pentru Europa (ALDE) il va sprijini Guy Verhofstadt din Belgia, dar poate trece la Juncker în turul doi sau a trei, în timp ce Alianța Verzilor-Liberă Europeană (Greens-EFA), ar trebui să-l sprijine în cele din urmă pe Schulz.

Un aspect particular este acela ca Schulz nu este iubit in cadrul alianței euro-atlantice datorită eforturilor sale din trecut pentru a sprijini un organism european de apărare separat de NATO. Dar cu evenimentele din Ucraina este puțin probabil să se ridice subiectul în viitorul apropiat și, în orice caz, Parlamentul European are puțină putere în acest sens el, în comparație cu Consiliul UE.

Deocamdată, as spune că principalul învingător în alegerile pentru PE nu a fost extrema dreapta, ci absenteismul. În alegerile naționale extrema-dreapta nu va mai avea asa un scor, chiar dacă această dimensiune va fi un pic mai mare decât înainte. Ceea ce va învinge extrema dreaptă (și extrema stângă, care a câștigat în Grecia) este redresarea economică a UE. Dar partidele pro-UE ar trebui să explice mai bine beneficiul unității UE și să se oprească din a da vina pe Bruxelles pentru propriile decizii.

Se pare că David Cameron este acum izolat, iar JC Juncker va primi postul. PPE îl susține pe Juncker, și este puțin probabil ca Angela Merkel sa meargă împotriva lor. S-ar putea spune că Martin Schultz iese din cursă căci, in 20 iunie, Angela Merkel a ajuns la un acord cu partenerii săi de coaliție. Susținătorii de centru-dreapta ai lui Merkel vor vota în Parlament pentru ca Schulz să rămână președinte al PE pentru un al doilea mandat, în timp ce Juncker va primi postul de la Comisia Europeană.

Social-democrații germani o vor sprijini pe Angela Merkel să-l numească Guenther Oettinger, un creștin-democrat, în calitate de comisar.

Angela Merkel a spus clar că-l va sprijini pe Juncker în fața opoziției feroce britanice.

“Cu siguranță nu vom ajunge la o decizie unanimă cu privire la acest subiect”, a spus Angela Merkel, “dar vrem să se opereze în spirit european și asta înseamnă că vom fi atenți la ceea ce spune Marea Britanie, în special cu privire in cadrul… programului de lucru al Comisiei. În cazul în care grupul Socialist din Parlamentul European îl nominalizează pe Martin Schulz pentru președinție, secțiunea germană a PPE îl va sprijini pe Schulz pentru această poziție. Pentru prima dată în acest an, PE va putea să-și propună candidatul la președinția Comisiei, dar Consiliul nu este obligat să accepte această alegere și ei vor să-și propună propriul candidat, probabil pe Juncker. Acesta din urmă va trebui ulterior să primească aprobarea Parlamentului European.”[3] 

Săptămâna trecută a fost făcut un sondaj pan-european, de către Ipsos-Mori, care a arătat ca 60% dintre europenii cu vârsta de vot nu au auzit nici de Juncker nici de Schultz.[4] 

Asa cum Yogi Berra spunea, “Nu s-a terminat, până nu s-a terminat.”

“US Treasury Sanctions Additional Individuals For Threatening The Territorial Integrity Of Ukraine”

“The U.S. Department of the Treasury on June 20 sanctioned seven separatists in Ukraine responsible for or complicit in actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine, and/or asserting governmental authority over a part or region of Ukraine without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine. These actions were taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13660. 

“The United States will continue to take action to hold accountable those persons engaged in efforts to destabilize Crimea and eastern Ukraine,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. “These individuals have all contributed to attempts to illegally undermine the legitimate government in Kyiv, notably by falsely proclaiming leadership positions and fomenting violent unrest.” 

Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, a separatist leader, has declared that the rebels have adopted a “take-no-prisoners” approach with future clashes with the Ukrainian security forces, claiming his men will “kill them all.” He also publically claimed his men would take all necessary measures to disrupt the Ukrainian elections in May. Ponomaryov is the former self-proclaimed “people’s mayor” of Slovyansk who declared himself mayor after leading a group of armed separatists in an assault on the Slovyansk mayor’s office in April. The town of Slovyansk has since become one of the centers of the separatist movement, and has been taken over by armed pro-Russia rebels. 

Denis Pushilin is a leader of a group calling itself the “Donetsk People’s Republic,” which has seized government buildings across eastern Ukraine, declared itself to be a sovereign state, and requested that it be allowed to join the Russian Federation. Pushilin has overseen an uprising that has seized town halls, police stations, and other buildings in towns across Ukraine’s Donetsk region. Pushilin stated that he and his followers would not release the buildings they seized until the Ukrainian government vacated its government buildings and the Donetsk region got an independence referendum. At a May press conference, Pushilin also stated that civilian and military authorities independent of Kyiv would be formed in the Donetsk region following the results of the illegitimate referendum on the region’s status in May. He further stated that the presence of any Ukrainian military remaining in the Donetsk region after the announcement of the referendum’s results would be considered illegal. 

Andrey Purgin describes himself as the co-head of a council running the separatist government in Donetsk. He advocated for the illegitimate May referendum and the federalization of Ukraine and took part in the storming of the Donetsk regional administration building earlier this year. Purgin founded the pro-Russian “Republic of Donetsk” organization in December 2005. The group’s activities were forbidden by a Ukrainian court, which considered them to be directed at the territorial disintegration of Ukraine. 

Igor Girkin (who is also known as Igor Strelkov) is the self-described “commander-in-chief of the Donetsk People’s Republic” who controls a group of armed separatists in Slovyansk. Girkin is responsible for the abduction of military observers in Ukraine, and an attack on the Slovyansk Internal Affairs Administration and the 25th Air Mobile Brigade from whom he stole a large cache of weapons. [He is a Russain -GRM]. 

Valery Bolotov has proclaimed himself governor of the separatist-controlled Luhansk region and has publically declared war on the government in Kyiv. Bolotov took direction from Girkin to hold a sham referendum in Luhansk in May.

Sergei Menyailo is the de facto “acting governor” of Sevastopol. He assisted in the formation of Sevastopol’s self-defense squads, which played a key role in facilitating Russia’s occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine and were later entered into the ranks of the Russian military. Menyailo is part of a commission established to ensure the effectiveness of Russian federal executive bodies in Crimea.

Valery Kaurov is the self-described “president of Novorossiya” and has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to deploy troops to the territory described as Novorossiya. He has supported separatist activities in Ukraine’s Donetsk andLugansk territories.

As a result of these June 20 actions, any assets of the individuals designated here that are within U.S. jurisdiction must be frozen. Additionally, transactions by U.S. persons or within the United States involving the individuals designated today are generally prohibited.

Identifying Information

Name: Vyacheslav Ponomaryov 

AKA: Vyacheslav Ponomarev 
AKA: Vachislav Ponomaryov 
DOB: 2 May 1965

Name: Denis Pushilin 
AKA: Denis Pushylin 
AKA: Denys Pushylin 
AKA: Denis Volodymyrovych Pushylin 
POB: Makeevka, Ukraine 
DOB: 9 May 1981

Name: Andrey Yevgenyevich Purgin 
AKA: Andrei Purgin 
AKA: Andrej Purgin 
AKA: Andriy Purgin 
AKA: Andriy Purgyn 
AKA: Andriy Purhin 
DOB: 26 Jan, 1972

Name: Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin 
AKA: Igor Strelok 
AKA: Igor Ivanovich Strelkov 
AKA: Ihor Strelkov 
DOB: 17 Dec 1970 
Citizenship: Russian 
Passport: 4506460961 
Address: Shenkurskiy Passage (Proyezd), House 8-6, Apartment 136, Moscow, Russia

Name: Valery Bolotov 
AKA: Valeriy Bolotov 
AKA: Valeri Bolotov 
DOB: 1970 
Alt DOB: 1971

Name: Sergei Ivanovich Menyailo 
AKA: Sergei Menyailo 
AKA: Sergey Menyailo 
DOB: 22 Aug 1960 
POB: Alagir, North Ossetia, Russia 
Title: Acting Governor of Sevastopol

Name: Valery Vladimirovich Kaurov 
AKA: Valerii Volodymyrovych Kaurov 
AKA: Valery Kaurov 
AKA: Valeriy Kaurov 
DOB: 2 Apr 1956 
POB: Odessa, Ukraine”


See it here: http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2438.aspx

B-2 Stealth Bombers

Two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers will be based for a “short-term deployment” at Fairford, a Royal Air Force base in England 90 miles west of London.

B-2 stealth bombers have been employed in Europe during the 1999 operation against Serbia, but they were operating at the time from Whiteman Air Force Base, in the continental U.S., on round-trip missions that averaged 30 hours in duration.

B-2s have been sent in the past to the U.S. base on the Pacific island of Guam. They have also operated during Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the U.S. Air Force, from an undisclosed “forward operating location,” possibly the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. They have also taken part in operation Enduring Freedom, bombing targets in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has 20 B-2As Spirit, made by Northrop Grumman Corporation. With a crew of two, they have a range of about 6,000 miles or 10,000 kilometers without in-flight refueling and can carry up to 50,000 lbs (23 metric tons) of bombs and missiles, both conventional and nuclear. The entire fleet is based permanently at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

Some interpret the temporary basing of two B-2 Spirit in England as a message to Russia.

Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González

The full text of the ruling isn’t available yet, but the Court has posted a lenghty press release that says:

“Judgment in Case C-131/12, Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González

“An internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing that it carries out of personal data which appear on web pages published by third parties.

“Thus, if, following a search made on the basis of a person’s name, the list of results displays a link to a web page which contains information on the person in question, that data subject may approach the operator directly and, where the operator does not grant his request, bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results

“An EU directive (1) has the objective of protecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons (in particular the right to privacy) when personal data are processed, while removing obstacles to the free flow of such data.

“In 2010 Mario Costeja González, a Spanish national, lodged with the Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (Spanish Data Protection Agency, the AEPD) a complaint against La Vanguardia Ediciones SL (the publisher of a daily newspaper with a large circulation in Spain, in particular in Catalonia) and against Google Spain and Google Inc. Mr Costeja González contended that, when an internet user entered his name in the search engine of the Google group (‘Google Search’), the list of results would display links to two pages of La Vanguardia’s newspaper, of January and March 1998. Those pages in particular contained an announcement for a real-estate auction organised following attachment proceedings for the recovery of social security debts owed by Mr Costeja González.

“With that complaint, Mr Costeja González requested, first, that La Vanguardia be required either to remove or alter the pages in question (so that the personal data relating to him no longer appeared) or to use certain tools made available by search engines in order to protect the data. Second, he requested that Google Spain or Google Inc. be required to remove or conceal the personal data relating to him so that the data no longer appeared in the search results and in the links to La Vanguardia. In this context, Mr Costeja González stated that the attachment proceedings concerning him had been fully resolved for a number of years and that reference to them was now entirely irrelevant.

“The AEPD rejected the complaint against La Vanguardia, taking the view that the information in question had been lawfully published by it. On the other hand, the complaint was upheld as regards Google Spain and Google Inc. The AEPD requested those two companies to take the necessary measures to withdraw the data from their index and to render access to the data impossible in the future. Google Spain and Google Inc. brought two actions before the Audiencia Nacional (National High Court, Spain), claiming that the AEPD’s decision should be annulled. It is in this context that the Spanish court referred a series of questions to the Court of Justice.

“In today’s judgment, the Court of Justice finds, first of all, that by searching automatically, constantly and systematically for information published on the internet, the operator of a search engine ‘collects’ data within the meaning of the directive. The Court considers, furthermore, that the operator, within the framework of its indexing programmes, ‘retrieves’, ‘records’ and ‘organises’ this balance may however depend, in specific cases, on the nature of the information in question and its sensitivity for the data subject’s private life and on the interest of the public in having that information, an interest which may vary, in particular, according to the role played by the data subject in public life.

“Finally, in response to the question whether the directive enables the data subject to request that links to web pages be removed from such a list of results on the grounds that he wishes the information appearing on those pages relating to him personally to be ‘forgotten’ after a certain time, the Court holds that, if it is found, following a request by the data subject, that the inclusion of those links in the list is, at this point in time, incompatible with the directive, the links and information in the list of results must be erased. The Court observes in this regard that even initially lawful processing of accurate data may, in the course of time, become incompatible with the directive where, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the data appear to be inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive in relation to the purposes for which they were processed and in the light of the time that has elapsed. The Court adds that, when appraising such a request made by the data subject in order to oppose the processing carried out by the operator of a search engine, it should in particular be examined whether the data subject has a right that the information in question relating to him personally should, at this point in time, no longer be linked to his name by a list of results that is displayed following a search made on the basis of his name. If that is the case, the links to web pages containing that information must be removed from that list of results, unless there are particular reasons, such as the role played by the data subject in public life, justifying a preponderant interest of the public in having access to the information when such a search is made.

“The Court points out that the data subject may address such a request directly to the operator of the search engine (the controller) which must then duly examine its merits. Where the controller does not grant the request, the data subject may bring the matter before the supervisory authority or the judicial authority so that it carries out the necessary checks and orders the controller to take specific measures accordingly.” 
(1) Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (OJ 1995 L 281, p. 31).


When Does Privacy Become Censorship?: VOA

When Does Privacy Become Censorship?: VOA

“The ruling in recent days by the European Court fo Justice in Luxembourg that individuals have the right to ask search engines to remove links with personal information is about as big – and unclear – as they come, writes VOA. What VOA and most other media don’t say is that this is a preliminary ruling issued for the guidance of the national court that referred the case to tthe ECJ: it is not directly applicable as such but gives the national court very little leeway, except through its imprecision.

Industry analysts and executives on both sides of the Atlantic say the decision could fundamentally alter how search engines work and how people find and access information online.

In ruling that individuals have a “Right to be Forgotten,” the European Court of Justice posited a new fundamental right that some worry will trump others’ rights to free expression.

I’ll comment that such a right exists neither in the EU Treaties, directives or regulations nor in European case law. This is judicial activist at its worse, government by judges without any failing on the part of the executive or the legislative to act.

Left unanswered are the many questions about who, how and on what basis can people limit their exposure on the Internet, and when limiting personal information may slide into censorship. The court’s ruling is short on details in this respect, but again I’ll underscore that it is only a response to a series of questions referred to the ECJ by the Audiencia Nacional (National High Court, Spain).

And even more, says VOA, the decision now seemingly puts the European Union and the United States at political loggerheads, threatening the foundational principles governing the Internet. Please note that the ruling does not give a right to plaintiffs to ask for removal of information which is public, only to ask search engines not to index it.

But I’ll put it that it violates the 1st amendment rights of US citizens because in a majority of cases they won’t know where to find the information or whether it simply exists, as search engines are the only way to find it if you don’t know where it is. This is not about the “right to know” a vague concept used by Google, but (1) the right of the source of the information not to be censored by a search engine, and (2) the right of the user of the search engine not to be denied access to information that is online but is most difficult to find without recourse to a search engine.

I will also stress that there has been comments in the US media that the application of the ruling was limited to the EU. Not so: most search engines starting with Google are international and their indexing is available worldwide. Only countries that strictly filter the internet can block the information nationally. VOA got that right, however.

The case is as follows. In 1998, the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia published two brief stories concerning Spanish citizen Costeja González. González owed back taxes and as a result his house was put up for auction and sold. The stories cited local public notices and their accuracy is uncontested.

More than a decade later, González said he was “embarrassed” that a Google search of his name resulted in links to the archived stories. He petitioned to have both the stories and the links taken down.

Over four years the case worked its way first through the Spanish, and then through the European court systems, finally ending up at the European Court of Justice, the highest tribunal governing all member states of the European Union.

On May 13, the 13 judges hearing the case ruled that while the two news stories could be maintained online as long as La Vanguardia liked, Google could not show those links to any search concerning González. 

In effect, while the articles were still out there online, Google would have to pretend its search engine didn’t see them. 

Some online privacy advocates hailed the decision. 

“People like to be able to control information themselves,” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the online civil liberties group the Electronic Privacy Information Center. 

“Privacy is one of those issues people care very strongly about. They do like the services that are offered such as Google. But I think they also have the sense that not enough has been done to safeguard privacy.” 

He told VOA he considers the decision “significant” and “a good starting point.” 

Google views the matter very differently. 

“A simple way of understanding what happened here is that you have a collision between a right to be forgotten and a right to know,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt told a shareholders meeting this week. “From Google’s perspective that’s a balance. Google believes, having looked at the decision which is binding, that the balance that was struck was wrong.” 

The so-called “Right to be Forgotten” has been debated in Europe for over a decade. But with this ruling it seems the debate may be closing and the “Right” is becoming policy. 

One of its principal advocates is European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding, who is pushing for the right to be enshrined in newly proposed data protection laws. 

“Today’s Court Judgement [sic] is a clear victory for the protection of personal data of Europeans!” Ms. Reding posted on her Facebook page after the ruling. “Today’s judgment is strong tailwind for the data protection reform that the European Commission proposed in January 2012 as it confirms the main pillars of what we have inscribed in the data protection Regulation.” 

Others aren’t so sure. 

Writing in 2012 in the Stanford Law Review, George Washington University Law Professor Jeffrey Rosen took a dismal view of the proposed “Right to be Forgotten”, warning that it would put the EU, with its emphasis on privacy, and the US, which highly prizes free expression, in conflict 

“It could precipitate a dramatic clash between European and American conceptions of the proper balance between privacy and free speech, leading to a far less open Internet,” he wrote. 

“It’s sensible to say in light of this ruling that something has to give. So the question is: on which side of the ocean will that give happen?” asked University of Michigan Law Professor in Practice Len Niehoff. 

Niehoff’s concentrations are media law and the First Amendment. He says the ruling rests on a “dangerous and deeply flawed approach.” 

With U.S. and EU law regarding speech and privacy protections increasingly in opposition, he speculates this ruling will make itself felt for a long time to come. 

“There’s an argument to be made that it will be experienced here with increased tensions between privacy and free expression interests, and I think it may be experienced there with greater pressure on various states to pass laws that are more accommodating of free expression,” he said. 

Among his primary concerns, Niehoff told VOA he’s focusing on two aspects of the ruling. 

“The first is that it finds search engines to be data controllers for purposes of European privacy law,” Niehof said. He calls this finding very significant, because search engines don’t control third-party content, but rather connects materials. 

Just as importantly, he said the ruling leaves many questions about just how and when such link removal requests should occur unanswered. 

“It is spectacularly vague, and it is extraordinarily difficult to apply, and it is unthinkable that it can be applied in a consistent manner,” he said. 

In the end, Niehoff said, the ruling transforms search engines like Google or Yahoo into “censorship engines” while at the same time applying standards that are “dramatically vague.” 

Privacy advocate Marc Rotenberg said he understands the concerns about this ruling slouching toward something like censorship, but counters that the decision actually protects free expression. 

“You have to consider the ability of individuals to control the dissemination of information about themselves,” he said. “This is in many respects the core of freedom of expression: how we chose to express ourselves or not to say things or do things.” 

But the ruling may have very tangible effects. 

“This [ruling] results not only in legal tensions but political tensions now” Niehoff said. “A number of commentators are already observing that this really escalates political tensions between countries and is creating a legal morass.” 

“This decision is a step backwards in terms of innovation,” said Daniel Castro, a senior analyst with the International Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank and lobbying group associated with Internet industry giants. 

“And it could have very real effects in terms of slowing investment and innovation,” he said. 

Castro worries that the inverted priorities for the EU – privacy rights – and the U.S. – free expression – will limit cooperative ventures and new innovations between the two regions. 

“I think resolving this is going to be very difficult,” Castro said. “To what extent will the EU try to impose its view on companies operating outside of Europe? 

“A company like Google has a presence,” he said. “But other companies are clearly outside the EU jurisdiction. They don’t have a physical presence, they don’t have personnel or even computers, but the EU will still want to impose these kinds of rules.” 

Analysts say one reason that the court has stepped up its privacy protections is something some are calling “the Snowden effect.” 

Bennett Kelly, founder of the Internet Law Center, told VOA that there’s always been some skepticism in Europe of U.S. electronic espionage. 

“There’s already skepticism in Europe because of that, and then you throw in Snowden, it creates more distrust. Having one more element of differentiation between the U.S. and EU is just not helpful,” he said. 

Just as La Vanguardia can keep its articles available online for as long as it likes, the thousands of an individual’s data points of semi-personal information will likely continue to exist on the Internet, assuming you can find them. 

Or what if one person requests Google to stop linking to a story that mentions him, but another person wants Google to link to the very same story that mentions them? 

Will convicted felons be able to petition to virtually erase links to their past misconduct? Will the wealthy who can afford robust legal teams have more luck removing personal links than those less fortunate? The answers are uncertain. I’ll note that one of the first request under this “right to be forgotten” was filed three days ago by a convicted paedophile. Though he probably won’t win his case, the criteria in the ECJ ruling are frightfully vague. 

While European Court of Justice rulings cannot be appealed to any higher authority, the EU itself can also enact legislation that expands, limits or modifies the exact parameters of what personal information individuals can control, and where the public’s right to free information trumps the right to be forgotten. 

Which leads, in the end, to what must be one of the most ironic twists to a legal decision in recent memory. 

“Although Costeja González won his suit to have Google remove its links to those two “embarrassing” stories about him, this decision – replete with personal information – ensures that nobody will be able to forget about his tax and financial troubles ever again”, says VOA. Actually he did not actually win his suit, at least not directly. But the Spanish court will have to rule in accordance with the answers given by the ECJ’s decision. 

VOA does not discuss the technical nightmare the González ruling could be for Google and other search engines. They can be expected to be flooded with requests. The court however ruled its decision did not apply to public personalities such as politicians.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ‘spiteful, tit-for-tat politics’ hurting citizens, UN Security Council told

There is a lot of unfinnished business in the Balcans that could become explosive at any time, althought the risk of an all-out war is limited.

Ahead of hotly contested elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, the UN’s High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, today May 15 warned the Security Council that the country is politically heading in the wrong direction and that politicians might try to raise inter-ethnic tensions to divert attention from real problems.

“I am increasingly concerned that the country is in danger of falling into a vicious downward cycle of spiteful tit-for-tat politics that it will be difficult to emerge from,” Inzko told the 15-member Council at a meeting on the situation in the country.


“The same old mistake – putting the interests of a privileged class before those of the country and its citizens – continues to be made,” he observed.

Ever since the April package of constitutional changes was narrowly rejected in 2006, it has set the country on a downward trajectory, said the High Representative: “Eight years is a long time for a country to be going the wrong way.”

Stressing that the political fighting has led to work just for a chosen few while ignoring the average citizen who is scaling mounting economic and social problems and rampant corruption, Inzko highlighted large scale protests throughout the country in February.

He called these a “wake up call” for local politicians and the international community, and added that “the country could not continue to go on this way indefinitely without serious consequences.”

On the other hand, peaceful protests continued thereafter, representing a “positive step forward to strengthen Bosnia and Herzegovina’s democracy” despite the mixed response from politicians.

In this context, the country is scheduled to hold general elections on 12 October in what will be “the most hotly contested elections since the Dayton/Paris Peace Agreement,” Inzko said.

In particular, he expressed concern that in the coming months, the ongoing controversy over residence and voting rights could lead to disputes on the ground, particularly in municipalities across Republika Srpska.

“This is a scenario that all involved must do everything within their power to avoid. It is especially important that no one is discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity or because they are a returnee,” he stressed to the Council.

What Bosnia and Herzegovina badly needs to see in the forthcoming election campaign is a “frank, robust and action-oriented public debate” on how the incoming government plans to address rampant corruption, exceedingly high unemployment, and the lack of progress on Euro-Atlantic integration.

“We need to hear more about plans to reform the economy and create jobs, which is in the vital interest of all citizens of the country regardless of ethnic group,” Inzko concluded.”

EU April 14, 2014 Council conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina

The EU Council has condemned secessionist ideas and attempts at redrawing the borders of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has also severly criticized the inaction of the BiH autorities. This is the adopted text: 

“The Council adopted the following conclusions: 

“1. The Council reaffirms its unequivocal commitment to the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign and united country. The Council also reiterates its unequivocal commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU perspective. In this regard, it condemns as unacceptable secessionist and divisive rhetoric and ideas. 

“2. In line with its conclusions of December 2013, the Council recalls its serious concern that the EU integration process in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has stalled due to the lack of political will on the part of the BiH politicians and the continued use of divisive rhetoric. As other countries of the region make progress, Bosnia and Herzegovina is lagging behind. 

“3. The Council heard the public protests and calls by BiH citizens to improve the social and economic situation in the country. All BiH citizens, including the younger generation, need to be given new opportunities. It strongly urges the BiH institutions and elected leaders to reach out to the people, engage with civil society and provide responsible and immediate answers to their legitimate concerns. The Council emphasizes that it is the collective responsibility of all BiH political leaders. Ahead of the general elections in October 2014, more needs to be done, not less. 

“4. The Council welcomes the visits of the HR/VP to Bosnia and Herzegovina on 12 March 2014 and of Commissioner Füle on 17 of February 2014 and supports the continuous EU high level engagement in BiH. In line with previous Council conclusions, it reaffirms that the key requirements and criteria for BiH progress towards the EU need to be fully met. The Council supports the broadening of the EU agenda and engagement towards the country. In the short term, the Council urges the BiH institutions and leadership to focus as a matter of immediate priority on the following areas: to reach out actively to civil society and youth and take into account the needs of the citizens; to focus on socio-economic issues, in particular to tackle the very high unemployment, improve the co-ordination on economic and fiscal policies, and create a better environment for business; and to translate the legitimate concerns of the BiH people into legislative and fully implemented initiatives, including strengthening the rule of law, anticorruption and financial accountability measures, and protecting human rights. 

“5. The Council underlines the EU’s readiness to support these immediate efforts now. It welcomes Commission initiatives to improve economic governance and strengthen competitiveness as well as stimulate economic growth. As an immediate action, it supports the launch on the ground of a “Compact for Growth”, aimed at assisting the BiH institutions in identifying concrete socio-economic structural reforms in order to reinvigorate the economy and spur the creation of jobs in the short to mid-term. It welcomes and supports the central role of the EUSR/HoD in assisting BiH in these efforts, which need to be conducted in close coordination with our key international partners, in particular international financial institutions to ensure complementarity, efficient allocation of resources and building synergies. The Council also supports broadening the Structured Dialogue on Justice to other rule of law issues, and in particular to anticorruption issues. It also underlines the need to accelerate the implementation of previously agreed EU-funded projects through IPA 2007-2013 and welcomes the establishment of a joint EU-BiH working group to that effect. The establishment of an efficient coordination mechanism on EU matters is crucial both for IPA and implementation of the Interim Agreement. The Council regrets that the inability of the Bosnian authorities to meet this EU requirement has already led to a loss of IPA funds. The Council expresses its concern that the last five subcommittees under this agreement could not take place so far due to BiH internal disagreements and urges the BiH Council of Ministers to agree on a way forward. The Council calls on BiH to constructively engage on the adaptation of the Interim Agreement/Stabilisation and Association Agreement, on the basis of traditional trade. The Council expects the BiH authorities to engage constructively in these initiatives.

“6. Beyond these areas of immediate attention, the Council calls on the BiH leadership to engage as soon as possible after the October elections on a broader set of issues in order to address the challenges the country continues to face as it progresses towards the EU. In particular, it remains crucial that the BiH leaders undertake reforms aimed at improving the efficiency and functionality of BiH institutions at all levels. Implementation of the Sejdic-Finci judgment of the European Court of Human Rights also remains to be addressed. The Council reaffirms its determination to actively and intensively engage in support of this process, in close coordination and cooperation with its main international partners.”


“The European Union takes note of this commitment and welcomes it.


The above decisions said:

Article 1
“1. Member States shall take the necessary measures to prevent the entry into, or transit through, their territories of those persons whose activities:

“(a) undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, constitutional order and international personality of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
“(b) seriously threaten the security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina; or
“(c) undermine the Dayton/Paris General Framework Agreement for Peace and the Annexes thereto, including measures established in the implementation of the said Agreement;”

China today

China has ratified UNCLOS on June 7, 1996, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, someting the US senate has yet to do. But in her ratification statement she has excluded that the arbitration procedures in the Convetnion could apply to such disputes:

“In accordance with the decision of the Standing Committee of the Eighth National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China at its nineteenth session, the President of the People’s Republic of China has hereby ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 and at the same time made the following statement:

“1. In accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the People’s Republic of China shall enjoy sovereign rights and jurisdiction over an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles and the continental shelf.

“2. The People’s Republic of China will effect, through consultations, the delimitation of the boundary of the maritime jurisdiction with the States with coasts opposite or adjacent to China respectively on the basis of international law and in accordance with the principle of equitability.

“3. The People’s Republic of China reaffirms its sovereignty over all its archipelagos and islands as listed in article 2 of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, which was promulgated on 25 February 1992. 

“4. The People’s Republic of China reaffirms that the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea concerning innocent passage through the territorial sea shall not prejudice the right of a coastal State to request, in accordance with its laws and regulations, a foreign State to obtain advance approval from or give prior notification to the coastal State for the passage of its warships through the territorial sea of the coastal State. 

“Declaration made after ratification (25 August 2006) 

“Declaration under article 298: 

“The Government of the People’s Republic of China does not accept any of the procedures provided for in Section 2 of Part XV of the Convention with respect to all the categories of disputes referred to in paragraph 1 (a) (b) and (c) of Article 298 of the Convention.” 

In other words China says differences should be solved by bi-lateral negotiations, not through UNCLOS arbitration. But her positions are totally inflexibe. 

(2) Of course the only solution is through negotiation, bi-lateral (as a big power she prefers that) or multilateral (ASEAN, an international conference, etc). The US is not a party to the disputes over the delineation of the continental shelf: it can only advise caution and rejection of force. But in the case of Japan and the Senkaku islands, which were taken control of by the US at the end of WW II and were subsequently handed back to Japan as the earlier administrative power, without taking a stand on who is right, the US is treaty-obligated to run to the rescue of Japan if the islands were invaded. 

The US is however concerned with navigational and overflight freedom over the South and East China Seas, which are international waters. 


Foreign Affairs on India

Foreign Affairs on India

The tragedies we ignore

The tragedies we ignore

The inner sea of China

Since China has declared most of the South and East China seas internal China seas, disputes have flared with Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan, Malysia and Brunei.

Western reaction against China’s unilateral action was stronger. The US condemns unilateral action but takes no position on sovereignty over disputed areas and islands.

Vietnam is making great efforts for a further rapporchement with the United States. The Human rights situation in Vietnam is however an obstacle to closer ties, though this is addressed in the US-Vietnam dialogue on the issue.

Vietnam has been keen to enroll US support in its continuous disputes with China. As early as the 15th anniversary of the Paris agreement on ending the war in Vietnam it had through a former US official poposed that the US make again use of the Cam Ranh Bay naval base. Cam Ranh Bay is an inlet in the South China Sea.

On May 9, it was announced that “the 18th session of the U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue will be held May 12-13, 2014, in Washington DC. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski and Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for International Organizations Hoang Chi Trung will lead their respective delegations in the Dialogue. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns will provide opening remarks. Freedom of expression, rule of law, disability rights, freedom of religion, labor rights, and other human rights issues will be raised over the course of the two days.

“Promoting greater respect for human rights remains a key component of U.S. foreign policy, including in our relations with Vietnam, and we are committed to continuing a frank and productive discussion with the Vietnamese government on these issues. The Dialogue is a critical tool to reinforce the messages that we deliver consistently – including on specific cases — at the highest levels on the importance of respecting and protecting universal rights.”


Energy Russia

As the article says this is in case Russia cuts off supplies, which I believe is unlikely unless the situation dramatically deteriorates.
The longer term plan is about reducing Europes dependency on Russian supplies to around 15 percent froém the current 30 percent.. Support would indeed be given to build several new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals across Europe, while the US would lift restrictions on the export of shale gas and also support export terminals. <br />At the same time, the EU will invest in new pipelines to move gas from West to East and increase supply routes from North Africa -essentially Algeria, I will add. Algerias proven natural gas resources hqd diminished recently, but new discoveries have changed the situation. Algeria has been mastering LNG technology for 45 years with the help of US, British and French companies notably.
The US is also prepared to support the development of shale gas resources in Ukraine and Poland.

“US and Europe planning to ‘cut off’ Russia’s gas supply”

Arms and influence in the Gulf

Syria has a modest arms industry. The UAE started setting up an arms industry (also a civil aviation one) some time ago by having technology transfer provisions in some of its arms purchase contracts and, as the article says, invstment in local industrial projects. The technology is of course mostly foreign, but even the US is not 100 percent technology-sufficient (it buys technology from Israel, the UK, France, etc), though NATO countries use far more US technology than the reverse. The defense industries of the Gulf are however not self-sufficient in engineers and hire them from other Arab countries, Pakistan, etc.


“Chinese Oil Rig Operations Near the Paracel Islands: Press Statement by Jen Psaki, US State Department Spokesperson  May 7, 2014″

“China’s decision to introduce an oil rig accompanied by numerous government vessels for the first time in waters disputed with Vietnam is provocative and raises tensions. This unilateral action appears to be part of a broader pattern of Chinese behavior to advance its claims over disputed territory in a manner that undermines peace and stability in the region.

“We are also very concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation by vessels operating in this area. We call on all parties to conduct themselves in a safe and professional manner, preserve freedom of navigation, exercise restraint, and address competing sovereignty claims peacefully and in accordance with international law. Sovereignty over the Paracel Islands is disputed; this incident is occurring in waters claimed by Vietnam and China near those islands. These events highlight the need for claimants to clarify their claims in accordance with international law, and to reach agreement on appropriate behavior and activities in disputed areas.”


“NATO’s Biggest Mistake: The Alliance Drifted From Its Core Mission – And the World Is Paying the Price”, by Michael E. Brown in Foreign Affairs

Easy to write with the benefit of hindsight, though the signs have been there for some time, even before the invasion of Georgia.

As to out of area missions, fine, but who else could have done it?

NATO expansion: The principle is that European countries that meet the criteria can join, and now just as before no external power must be given a right of veto on who joins. NATO in the Founding act of its partnership with Russia had agreed not to station additional substantial combat troops in Eastern Europe, but Russia has just broken her side of the bargain. Renouncing the expansion of NATO would have fitted Putin`s policies of surrounding Russia with a string of compliant buffer states, and would have let him win without a fight. What about the right of the people of Eastern Europe to determine their own destiny rather than having it dictated by the conjunction of Russia and NATO? Why did the people of Ukraine revolt when Yanukovich under pressure from Moscow renounced the association agreement with the EU? The EU and NATO are different. The first is an economic and political grouping, the second a political-military organization. But they have common values and cover almost the same geographical area. But some EU members are not in NATO and this poses no major problems to either organization.

All said and done, however, Michael Brown`s five final prescriptions are hardly objectionable.

Brown’d FA piece seems to be flawed on some points. I do agree that the war against Serbia in 1999 was a mistake, though, although I do not see Putin as a product of this. 

First of all, NATO did lack a mission post-Cold War, and one might argue that the 20-odd years it has expanded and remained in existence 1991-2014 is, at least in part, due to the “out of area” missions undertaken. So not a waste and not a mistake in itself. 

Second, NATO did not play a role in Iraq. Just saying. 

Third, if enlarging NATO was a mistake because it “provoked” Russia, then how can we achieve a “Europe, whole, free and at peace” as Brown writes? It is contradictory – either we achieve this through instruments like NATO, or trying to achieve it undermines it – makes no sense, unless Russia is what Brown says it isn’t, i.e. amicable. 

It seems to me the real mistake was the change in the mindsets of Western leaders vis-a-vis Russia, and international relations in general, Fukuyama, triumphalism and so on. But the right way to mend this is not to assume that we should go back to Cold War thinking – if for no other reason than because we are much stronger than is Russia.


Obama Aides Tell Executives to Skip Forum

Obama Aides Tell Executives to Skip Forum

Some decisions have a cost, whichever way these decisions go. Perhaps the article exaggerates the cost: massive retaliation would not be in Russia`s interests, even as understood by Putin:

Christophe de Margerie, chairman and CEO of the French oil company Total, who is under multiple indictments in France and the US, is touted as one of the main speakers. 

America’s policy

There is indeed this aspect of the presidents rhetoric which I find somewhat disingenuous. Either you approve of his policies or you are a warmonger or a reckless adventurist, as if, in Syria for instance, the choice was between denying serious weapons to the opposition coalition and sending boots on the ground. The real choice is between the presidents policy and arming those who are outgunned by both the regime and the Jihadists. Not seriously arming and training the opposition on the pretext that it would seek then a military solution is in fact laying the ground for a military solution: the military victory of the regime, as well as a major strategic victory for Iran, Hezbollah and Russia.

What Americans don`t want is a policy that fails. A majority initially supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but many changed their mind when the going got tough, irrespective of whether these wars were necessary. There is also the tendency that is part of human nature, that of wanting the fruit without the labor. There is however no such thing as a free lunch. Americans are prepared to pay for their lunch if it is clearly demonstrated to them that they need that particular lunch and that the consequences of not having it are worse than those of paying for it.


“What Americans really want in a foreign policy”, by Doyle McManus in The Los Angeles Times “

To understand how President Obama feels about the frustrations of foreign policy in an uncooperative world, just look at his testy response to a question from a Fox News reporter last week. “Are critics wrong, the reporter asked, to say that America’s global position is marked by “weakness”? “Most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures,” Obama replied. “Proponents of what I consider to be a disastrous decision to go into Iraq haven’t really learned the lesson of the last decade, and they keep on just playing the same note over and over again,” he continued. “Instead, Obama argued, he is trying to “steadily advance the interests of the American people” without using force. “That may not always be sexy,” he said. “But it avoids errors. You hit singles, you hit doubles.

Every once in a while, we may be able to hit a home run.” “But there are two problems with what the president said. “The first is that most of his critics aren’t demanding that he go to war in Syria or Ukraine. Yes, many of them argue that the United States should send weapons to Ukraine’s army and Syria’s rebels, but that’s a long way from advocating a rush to war.

“The second problem is that the president ducked the critics’ chief complaint: that his aversion to all forms of military intervention, even indirect ones, has emboldened malefactors like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar Assad to test the limits. That’s a legitimate worry, and much of the public appears to share it, according to recent public opinion polls. “It’s true that after Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans have no appetite for more military adventures.

A Pew Research Center poll last year found that 52% said the United States should “mind its own business” overseas, the highest percentage to endorse that proposition since the question was first asked in 1964. “But as foreign policy scholar Robert Kagan noted recently, there’s a paradox in those polls: The same public that wants to stay out of foreign entanglements also thinks the president isn’t doing a very good job on international affairs. A recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found that only 38% of those surveyed approved of Obama’s handling of foreign policy; that was fewer than approved of his handling of the economy. “Why the apparent contradiction? “Kagan suggests that Americans are psychologically conflicted. “They may want a narrowly self-interested American policy,” he wrote. “But they’re not proud of it, and they’re not grateful to [Obama] for giving them what they want.”

“I think the explanation is a little simpler: Yes, Americans want to stay out of foreign messes, but they also want to see their country’s foreign policy succeed. And at the moment, Obama is suffering from a shortage of successes. Whatever he’s doing, it isn’t working. Russia is still threatening Ukraine. Syria is still mired in bloodshed. Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s thankless mediation between Israelis and Palestinians seems doomed.

“Obama’s initial foreign policy of engagement fell short. The world turned out to be a harsher place than he’d hoped. But the problem now is that the president hasn’t laid out a clear new strategy in place of the outmoded old one. “Now that engagement has faltered, the strongest message of U.S. foreign policy is one of disengagement, and not only from Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has been eloquent about the things he doesn’t want to do: get sucked into Syria, send troops or military supplies to Ukraine. But what does he want to do? That’s not as clear. “It’s still possible that, with lower expectations, Obama’s foreign policy can succeed — modestly, with singles and doubles. No swinging for the fences anymore — a focus, instead, on avoiding errors. “It’s even possible (to continue the president’s baseball metaphor) that he’s merely a hitter in a temporary slump.

If economic sanctions persuade Putin to keep Russian troops out of Ukraine, that will be a low-cost success. If talks with Iran produce a nuclear agreement, that will be a major success. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Nobody really thought that had a chance, which is why it was entrusted to Kerry, not Obama. “But if the president wants Americans to admire his less-ambitious foreign policy on the way to those not-yet-achieved successes, he’s going to have to explain it better. And not just in cranky outbursts when reporters ask him why nothing seems to be going right.”


The fact that anti-Russian demonstrators started the fire uisng petrol bombs -this was fully televised- will be used by Russia, even though the anti-Russian demonstrators eventually saved some. This is the kind of incident that Moscow could invoke to invade.

“Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) accused former Prime Minister Sergiy Arbuzov and former Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Klymenko of financing the thugs who provoked riots in Odessa of May 2, which led to at least 46 deaths. Arbuzov and Klymenko served in the administration of disgraced former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was overthrown in the EuroMaidan Revolution on Feb. 22.

The Odessa clashes involved local EuroMaidan activists and football fans against pro-Russian activists, who reportedly fired weapons at the unarmed pro-Ukrainian side before the crowd started fighting back.

More than 200 people were wounded in the clashes and 144 were arrested by police.

Most of the people killed died from suffocation when being barricaded at the Trade Union House that was set on fire.

“Subversion in the Ukrainian city of Odessa that was financed by former top officials was targeted at disruption of stability on the south of Ukraine,” said Kateryna Kosareva, SBU press spokeswoman. “Its organizers were planning that it would be the beginning of full scale instability on the rest of southern regions of our country.”

Kosareva said the people who instigated the clashes came from the breakaway Moldovan region of Trasnistriaand were coordinated by Russian subversives.

Bordering with Odessa Oblast, Transnistria as been for years a stronghold of pro-Russian forces and have thousands of Russian troops on its territory.

Arbuzov and Klymenko, members of Yanukovych’s inner circle, headed the finance bloc of the former government, and escaped from the country along with Yanukovych in late February. Ukraine’s new authorities believe that both are now hiding in Russia.

Ukraine’s acting Prosecutor General Oleg Makhnitsky in an interview with the Financial Times on April 28 said that Yanukovych and his entourage took $32 billion in cash to Russia.””


Kerry in Congo

Kerry first spoke in French, the official language of the RD Congo, and as usual the State Department is unable to provide either a transcript or a translation of what he said. Perhaps the Secretary and the office of the spokesperson (I am not blaming the current spokesperson or her deputy, it has always been like that) should switch jobs. If you want to know most of what the Secretary said about RD Congo, you better buy yourself a Congolese newspaper. Also the State Department seems unaware of the fact that RD Congo Foreign minister Tshibanda has a first name, Raymond.

“Kery today May 3 in the RD Congo

“The United States condemns the violence that has been taking place by any side, and that includes the violence of anyone who lit a fire and caused the death of those 38 people or more in the building in Odessa. All of this violence is absolutely unacceptable, and Russia, the United States, Ukrainians, Europeans, the OSCE – all of us bear responsibility to do everything in our power to reduce the capacity of militants and extremists who are armed to be carrying out these terrorist and violent activities. They must end, and everybody with any influence on any party has an obligation to try to bring an end to this violence.”

Comment: This statement clearly indicate that the US doesn`t buy the thesis of some Ukrainian officials that pro-Russian extremists set fire to the building.

Kerry also said:

“And I’m going to speak in English because I want to make a few comments regarding some other issues (1). But let me say what a pleasure it is for me to be in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have wanted to be here for some period of time. As many people know, our special envoy, Senator Russ Feingold, has been here nine visits now working very hard to advance the peace process and the stability of the region. We’re very proud of the work that he has been doing and we’re very, very pleased with the leadership of President Kabila, of the accords that have been reached, and of the progress towards disarmament and reintegration and demobilization. These are critical, critical issues.

“We’ll talk about those more and I will have a chance to meet with the press here so I can answer a few questions and talk about the issues here. But I would like to comment on another issue of great importance to all of us, which is what is happening in Ukraine.
Obviously, we were very pleased that the seven OSCE inspectors were released today. It’s a step. But there are many other steps that have to be taken in order to be able to de-escalate the situation. And I talked this afternoon on my way here with Foreign Minister Lavrov. We discussed those additional steps that need to be taken. And in addition to that, we also talked about the meeting between President Obama and Chancellor Merkel. And I reiterated to him their conclusion that it is important for Russia to withdraw support from the separatists and to assist in removing people from the buildings and beginning to de-escalate the situation.

“The President has made clear and the chancellor has made clear that if those supported by Russia continue to interfere with the election, regrettably, there will have to be additional sanctions, including the possibility of – or the reality of sector sanctions. But Foreign Minister Lavrov and I did talk about how to proceed and perhaps how to find a way forward here. We both will be in touch with President Burkhalter of Switzerland and talk about the ability of the OSCE to play a larger role in perhaps facilitating the de-escalation. We will both advance ideas about how to do that, without any promises of what those possibilities may produce.

“In the end, we reaffirmed our support for the OSCE. I made clear that it is important to implement the constitutional process and that we need to have some kind of dialogue that is taking place between the government of Ukraine, people in the east, and those interested stakeholders in the region.

“We also discussed the ongoing removal of chemical weapons from Syria. And in that regard, I press that we must see the last removal of the 8 percent remaining in a site near Damascus. We agreed that we would work on certain things to try to see if it is possible to accelerate that process with an understanding that the government of Syria cannot delay. The regime must move immediately to prepare those remaining chemical weapons for removal, and that we need to meet that removal as fast as possible.

“So that is where we stand with respect to both Syria and Ukraine, and we’ll keep you up to date as any developments occur.”



Though Russia may send her army in to ensure “federalization” a la Putin, I simply don`t believe this army will stay very long.

It is not that I “refuse” to see other point of view, its that I just dont share it:

Since the Russian army, if it does enter Ukraine (we`re not sure of that yet, and I believe Putin is not sure yet at this very moment, though he may decide at any moment, including tonight), saying that the South is more interesting than the East does not mean very much. Putin is gathering support from as many ethnic Russians he can, wherever they are, South or East.

Only the future will tell. I gave a short list of those who have an analysis close to mine, but of course we could all be wrong. Stationing troops permanently in Ukraine would for Russia be reaching a point of no return, which would exclude her from the community of nations -most of it. Read what Ban and Feltman said today. There is agreement between the US and the EU that if Russian troops enter Ukraine, Phase III sanctions will be implemented, as Merkel and Obama said today, and this include the most recalcitrant members of the EU and of course Norway. Considerable harm will be inflicted on the Russian economy, and if they cut off gas supplies they`ll run out of money, as Obama said today.

I accept that if Russia ever decided to annex another part of Ukraine it would be Odessa, on the pretext that it was part of “Novarossiya” and later. This would be very dangerous indeed.

“The crisis, he said, has also escalated in the Donetsk Oblast and in Donetsk itself, where yesterday May 1 self-declared separatists had seized the regional prosecutor’s office. “There have also been reports that the Ukrainian authorities have banned Russian passenger airplanes from flying to Donetsk and Kharkiv,” he said, adding that the UN had also seen reports of clashes during a pro-unity demonstration in the southern city of Odessa.

Against such a troubling backdrop, Feltman told the Council in closing that in his discussions with regional players next week, he will continue to reiterate the Secretary-General’s message of restraint and immediate return to dialogue, including direct and constructive dialogue between Moscow and Kyiv.”


Amanpour snap

Comment: Churkin and other Russians must of course be quoted, but when what they say beqrs little relation to reality and is just propaganda, it is indeed better to point out that this is a point of view that is not supported by the facts as we know them.

Under these circumstances saying the South is more interesting than the East doesn`t have much meaning: This is also the analysis of the White House, the State Department, the British qnd German governments.

“Christiane Amanpour Snaps at Wolf Blitzer Over CNN Ukraine Coverage

CNN’s Christiane Amanpour and Wolf Blitzer got into a heated on-air sparring match Monday 28 April over a controversial quote by Russian Ambassador to the U.N. Security Council Vitaly Churkin, who called pro-European Ukrainians “anti-Semites and fascists.”

“You know, you have to be really careful by putting that across as a fact!” Amanpour exclaimed.

The normally staid Blitzer fired back at Amanpour, defending his reporting. “That’s what he said!” Blitzer interjected. “That’s what Vitaly Churkin said!”

“That’s the Russian position, but are you telling me, are you saying that the entire pro-European, Ukrainians are anti-Semites?” Amanpour pressed.

“Of course not!” Blitzer shouted back.

“We just as a network have to be really careful not to lump the entire pro-European Ukrainians into what is some may well be, which are nationalistic and extremist,” Amanpour stressed. “Christiane, we’re not! I’m not! We’re not doing it all,” Blitzer argued.

“Nation” columnist Stephen Cohen attempted to break the tension with a joke.

“I’m an outsider, I’d hate to see a civil war breakout on CNN,” Cohen riffed.

“It’s not a civil war, it’s smart conversation, all right?!” Blitzer concluded


McCain ‘s bill

McCain ‘s bill probably won’t pass and some aspects of it aren’t realistic but it offers the advantage of keeping up the pressure on both the Obama administration and indirectly the Europeans.

Let us be careful to avoid oversimplification when considering the prospects for the McCain bill and other legislative proposals which address the proper role for the US in regard to Ukraine and the larger, if less immediate threats to and pressures upon the Baltic republics and the front-line states at the center of NATO – Poland, Romania and most notably Bulgaria. Many Democrats in both House and Senate share some of McCain’s concerns if not all his policy proposals. Theirs is a difficult task most especially because they fear to lessen Obama’s shaky leadership profile. Key younger Republican Senators have to contend with widespread lingering isolationism among their constituents remaining from the less than satisfactory outcomes of the major American roles in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The situation in the House is yet more complicated. There exists something of a mutually shared outlook on America’s foreign military involvements between those Democrats most to the left and those Tea Party Republicans among the most doctrinaire of their breed. Yet the strong enmity between these currents endures and largely precludes any substantial likelihood of their making common cause. The exception to this remains limited to their similar approaches to funding of the preparedness needs of the Armed Forces. All of this is further complicated by undercurrents of distrust of Israeli military and diplomatic goals. This distrust will and must remain muted because of the strong position of AIPAC within both houses of the Congress.

So Giles is almost certainly correct in his prediction of failure for the McCain bill. I would amend this conclusion to read “ostensible failure” because the realistic aim of this legislation is to influence, first, policy and organizational decisions within the White House and the foreign policy agencies and, second, funding approaches within the spending committees on both sides of Capitol Hill. And there are signs that the McCain bill and similar, less-polished proposals are having a positive impact on both these aims.

Indeed prevention or sometimes preemption is eventually less costly than post facto reaction, not to mention the fact that some facts on the ground as they say in foggy bottom are particularly difficult to reverse.

Apr 30 2014

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today released the following statement on joining 20 Senate colleagues in introducing the Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014 to advance a strategic U.S. response to deter Russian aggression in Europe:

“My colleagues and I are introducing this legislation today for one simple reason: The U.S. and European response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is failing. It is failing not because we are doing nothing, but because nothing we are doing has changed President Putin’s calculus. This weak response is not deterring Putin, and in fact, it is actually inviting further acts of aggression.

“We have been critics of the Administration’s approach, but we also believe that it is our responsibility to offer a better alternative. That is what this legislation does, with specific provisions to:

“Impose much tougher sanctions on Russia.
“Do more to expose and crack down on Russian corruption and its malign effects, including by requiring the U.S. government to issue a report on the personal net wealth of senior Russian officials, including the President of the Russian Federation.
“Authorize more robust military assistance, such as anti-air, anti-tank, and other defensive weapons, for Ukraine.
“Offer greater support for our allies in central Europe and push for a bolder strategic response from NATO to Putin’s aggression.
“Do more to shore up key partners such as Moldova and Georgia.
“Begin to get more U.S. energy into European markets.
“The Administration wants a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine. So do we. The Administration wants to prevent conflict with Russia. So do we. But unless our diplomacy is backed by greater pressure on Russia, diplomacy cannot be effective, and Putin’s aggression will continue to grow and may spread beyond Ukraine. The Administration is not imposing enough costs on Russia. Our legislation would.”

The Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014 is co-sponsored by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Bob Corker (R-TN) Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Hoeven (R-ND), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John Barrasso (R-WY), Jim Risch (R-ID), Dan Coats (R-IN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), John Thune (R-SD) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ).



The US governme…

The US government isn’t, the Indian government is. Everyone knew that quantitative easing would be scaled down at about this time. Low interest rates and quantitative easing never had as a goal to help the BRICS. It was a response to US problems. In the medium term they introduced a risk of inflation for the US. Now nothing stopped the BRICS from taking advantage of low rates and quanitative easing, but they knew this was not to last but hoped against hope that it would.

The latest US economic figures tend to show that there won’t be an interest rate hike and a further scaling down of QE next time. But both trends are likely resume later unless output and consumer spending are again bad next time.

See the Foreigh Affairs’ article here: Why the United States is responsible for India’s economic problems:


The article is …

The article is obsolete (it is dated March 30): municipal elections have take place and Erdoğan won them.

Contrary to what Halil Karaveli writes, it is not “safe to say” that that the Gülenists are involved in the Erdoğan recordings. It does make sense, it would be logical, they have the means to do it but we don’t know for sure. Rational speculation is useful, but it is not the same as material evidence. Apart from this the article says nothing new compared to what we have written and isn’t even accurate on the Twitter saga.

Gülenists are not the only ones to have fallen with Erdoğan. President Gül also has and he has some following in the AKP. He clearly said he would not be party to a plan with an executive presidency under Erdoğan and he as prime minister. He described such a plan as undemocratic.


“Last week, after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged to “wipe out” Twitter, state authorities quickly tried to block the social media website. The move, which was immediately — and rightly — decried as a sign of Erdogan’s creeping authoritarianism, was an attempt at damage control, an effort to contain the effects of incriminating recordings of telephone conversations between him, his cabinet ministers, family members, and newspaper editors that have started to leak out on the Internet.

For Erdogan, the timing could not be worse. On March 30, Turkey is holding municipal elections, in which the stakes are anything but local. Instead, they are a battle of wills between the prime minister and the Gülenists, followers of the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen who have been locked in a showdown with Erdogan, their onetime ally, since last December. The tapes are apparently meant to hurt Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the elections, laying the groundwork for his eventual downfall. But in addition to exposing the prime minister’s abuses of power, the tapes also reveal the Gülenists’ own dirty dealings.

The recordings offer proof positive that Erdogan instructed his minister of justice to order the courts to punish a businessman who had displeased him. The most damning revelations are about Erdogan’s apparent involvement in illicit financial activities, including instructions to his son to remove money from his house. The recordings are apparently the result of years of illegal wiretapping of the prime minister and his entourage. And it is safe to assume that the Gülenists are involved. For one, the earliest tapes date from around 2011, just after Erdogan started to grow uneasy with the group’s reach in the Turkish bureaucracy. In addition, Gülenist cadres within the state apparatus would have had access to the codes and equipment needed to hack his encrypted ….

“Nordic NATO W…

Sweden joining NATO would require a quantum-leap in Swedish self-understanding and paradigm; they have built most of it around a position of neutrality equating moral superiority. That said, both they and others are now taking a serious look at the assumptions underpinning post-Cold War security and finding them wanting. It’s not a a matter of “re-arming”, but of paying the insurance premium of peace.

I also don’t think it will happen, barring a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine which I still view as unlikely -same for Finland-, but the very fact that there is now a public debate with major figures weighing in is already a game changer. I’d rather think that they will strengthen NORDEFCO and increase cooperation of the latter with NATO. The talk of doctrinal change is the result of Russia putting into question the whole legal -and practical- architecture of peace as built since the 1975 Helsinki final act, in which both Finland and Sweden have a stake.

If Finland and Sweden are not yet ready to join NATO, a stronger partnership between NORDEFCO and NATO would help, though article V of the Washington Treaty is reserved solely for NATO members. Article V is the only ironclad guarantee NATO can give to a country.

Here is the “Nordic NATO – Why It’s Time For Finland and Sweden to Join the Alliance” article that inspired me:


“Apparently stunned by Russian belligerence, the United States and its European allies have been scrambling to find a way to deter further Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, including through warnings and limited economic sanctions. Few believe, however, that these will have any significant effect on Russian behavior. They will neither cause Putin and his government to withdraw from Crimea nor change Russia’s willingness to use military force to “protect fellow Russians abroad,” wherever they may be. In fact, the West’s befuddled response has only played into the Kremlin’s hands; the Kremlin looks powerful while Washington and Brussels appear impotent and divided.

With no good short-term options available for pushing the Russians out of Crimea or even preventing further incursions into Ukraine, the West would do well to consider a more robust long-term option to deter Russia from moving deeper into Europe. NATO should offer membership to Sweden and Finland, and Sweden and Finland should accept. These two countries are the most active members in NATO’s Partnership for Peace program. Since the initiation of the program in 1994, both Sweden and Finland have participated in its full range of activities, including joint exercises, disaster management training, and cooperation on science and environmental issues. In the operational field, both countries have contributed troops and resources to several NATO-led missions, including in Afghanistan, the Balkans, and Libya. Both countries, too, have long been considered prime candidates for NATO membership, but historical and domestic factors — including long-standing policies of military nonalignment — have prevented them from taking the plunge, and NATO has not insisted.

Expanding NATO to Sweden and Finland would achieve several important aims. From a political standpoint, it would bring the NATO border ever closer to Russia, demonstrating that military aggression in Europe carries major geopolitical consequences. Sweden and Finland’s nonalignment has offered Russia a comforting buffer zone along its northwestern border ever since the end of World War II. If Sweden and Finland were to join NATO now, that buffer would be gone, and the alliance would gain two of the world’s most democratic, politically stable, and economically successful countries. NATO would also pick up two very active proponents of transatlanticism that have consistently argued for strong U.S. involvement in Europe.”

On terrorism

Country Reports on Terrorism – State Sponsors of Terrorism: Question Taken at the State Department’s April 30, 2014 Daily press briefing

Question: “What is the criteria for getting a country off the State sponsor terrorist list? Is there a trigger for a review?

Answer: “While there are no statutory triggers for review of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, the State Department can review such designations at its discretion. With respect to criteria for rescission, there are two possible pathways to rescission of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, in accordance with the relevant statutory criteria.

“The first path requires the President to submit a report to Congress, before the proposed rescission would take effect, certifying that: (1) there has been a fundamental change in the leadership and policies of the government of the country concerned; (2) the government is not supporting acts of international terrorism; and (3) the government has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.

“The second path requires the President to submit a report to Congress, at least 45 days before the proposed rescission would take effect, justifying the rescission and certifying that: (1) the government concerned has not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six month period, and (2) the government concerned has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future.”


U.K. Charges Former Barclays Employees, Two American and One British, Over Libor

U.K. Charges Former Barclays Employees, Two American and One British, Over Libor

‘The U.K. Serious Fraud Office said it has issued criminal proceedings against three former Barclays employees for alleged conspiracy to defraud in connection with its investigation into the manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor.

The indictees are Jay Merchant, a British citizen, and two Americans, Alex Pabon and Ryan Reich, whio are charged with conspiracy to defraud for their alleged roles in manipulating the London interbank offered rate, or Libor.

The Wall Street Journal reported last June that Reich and Merchant, former interest-rate traders, were being investigated by the Justice Department, amid a tussle between U.S. and U.K. authorities over where individuals should be prosecuted in connection with alleged activities spanning both sides of the Atlantic.

Both men left Barclays following allegations that they “engaged in communications involving inappropriate requests relating to Libor,” according to filings with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a Wall Street self-regulatory group. Reich was fired from Barclays in March 2010. Merchant resigned in September 2009 and took a job at UBS AG. He left UBS in August 2012.

On April 28’s action by the U.K. fraud office comes two months after similar charges for the period between June 2005 and August 2007 were brought against three other men who worked for Barclays: Peter Johnson, Jonathan Mathew and Stylianos Contogoulas. According to testimony by the agency, Johnson was director of dollar money markets, responsible for the bank’s dollar Libor submission. Mathew handled submissions in Johnson’s absence, and Contogoulas was the “London end” of Barclays’s New York-based dollar derivatives trading team.

So far, recalls the Journal, 10 institutions have settled Libor-rigging allegations or been fined by authorities, while U.S. and British prosecutors have filed criminal charges against more than a dozen individuals. The probe has centered around two main allegations: that traders manipulated interest rates to benefit their trading positions, and that banks submitted artificially low rates in the rate-setting process to conceal their problems during the financial crisis.”

The U.S. Opts for Ineffective Sanctions on Russia | Stratfor

I simply thoroughly disagree with George Friedman’s analysis which is totally besides the point.

It is a fact that this round of sanctions has little chance of changing Russia’s behavior, though like the previous one they have had the indirect effect of reducing international confidence in Russia and increasing the capital flight. Whether Russia lose some money is actually irrelevant. What is not is that serious sanctions -not these “targeted” ones- bring the Russian economy to its knees. This will cause serious political and economic problems to the Russian leadership. The best option is sectoral sanctions that will hit the Russian banking sector which is highly dependent on international capital markets. Other industries should also be targeted. Russia exports energy and raw materials and imports manufactured goods, and will have difficulty replacing these with goods of similar quality and price. Russia’s and Ukraine’s defense industries used to be integrated, and Russian leaders recognized in the past few days that replacing Ukraine’s contribution with Russian-made parts and equipment could take up to 18 months -and will be costly. Though most of Russia’s weapon systems and material is of Russian design, they use Western parts such as microprocessors and other electronic parts. Perhaps, Russia is already talking to Israel as a possible source of Western and in particular US components (Iran did the same thing during the Iran-Iraq war, as Israel believed at the time Iraq to be her most dangerous foe). This should be stopped.

The issue of joint ventures is not new and the West had to deal with it with Iran, a smaller power than Russia but still a major regional one and a major producer of oil and gas. Of course sanctions affect not only the sanctioned but also the sanctioner, though not equally. There is no such a thing as a free confrontation, Milton Friedman could have said. But we must pay a price now rather than a much higher one later.

Russian shareholdings don’t need to be confiscated, only frozen or sequestered. There is an impressive amount of case law dealing with such issues. Of course some Western companies won’t be happy as they will also suffer: tough on them. Contrary to what Friedman writes, the US Treasury and other institutions, notably in Europe, keep track of all Russian shareholdings in industrial and financial companies (it’s a little less comprehensive in real estate). Will they miss something? Probably, but it will be a small proportion of the total.

Putin has already started losing some of the popularity he won over Crimea, and will eventually lose more as the Russian people will start to suffer from sanctions. He has to respond to sanctions, but that will not help the Russian economy. Economic and financial steps can also be escalated.

Friedman’s piece is entirely negative. He tells us what he believes won’t work but makes no alternative suggestions.

I’d agree that the sanctions put in place until now have had little direct effect, but Friedman doesn’t want more sanctions. A comprehensive sanctions policy which has yet to be implemented should be backed by a NATO redeployment in Eastern Europe. Russia today complained of the small deployments that have taken place, which is rather funny from a country that has 40,000 troops at Ukraine’s border.

At the dawns of the new world order

Russia’s actions have been a wakeup call for both NATO and the EU. Complacency is hopefully over.

Plenty disagree that as yet Russia is the winner by not taking into consideration that Russia’s intentions have not been just to invade Ukraine, but are bigger than that. Her will is to have a major saying at the table that is discussing the new world order, the multipolar one. Therefore, she took advantage of the existing situations: lots of big actors having something against the U.S., the EU not being united or capable and NATO – which is US – having soft Obama as a leader. In parallel, others are saying she has won so far the battle of image – and that means (geo)political assets.

Because she has the mentioned advantage she won’t and can’t stop. The federal solution perhaps shall be imposed on Moldova and Georgia also, while Azerbaijan is not sleeping comfortable. South Ossetia won’t ever be somebody else’s but Russia’s.

It is not only a territorial advantage Russia has won but an image one also. Analysts keep on mentioning “the West” when talking about the Ukrainian crisis, but they forget that the West is not a body, a persona. And if they are stubborn on referring to it like that, it results “the West against Russia”, which is making Russia look better. As “bad news is news”, I’d say bad image is image; and right now “bad image” shows power.

Currently Russia’s external trade structure is that of a less developed country: exporting raw materials and energy and importing manufactured products. Sanctions will penalize the average Russian, who will be told they must “bear up and tighten their belts”. No one knows what the expected outcome of sanctions is. Russian per capita GDP is lower than Trinidad; sanctions will make the lives of poor Russians slightly worse and do little to reach the upper branches of power (sanctions never do). Russia can stall for time. The true test will be whether Europe is willing to freeze to send a message over Donetsk. How will Bulgarians and Romanians and Croatians react to steep price increases in natural gas, and what happens if the poorest members tell the EC they will negotiate directly with Russia? Fresh on the heels of the Eurocrisis Russia has exposed deep rifts, if not outright fractures, in NATO and the European Union. A macro analysis argument is that Putin does not care about eastern Ukraine, but is using it as a pressure point to further divide the western alliances. A recession in Russia will not be contained to Russia, but will impact the still wobbly economies of Europe, as well. Importantly, the West should do a greater effort to admit to Russians the truth rather than feed them with opposite propaganda.

On the other hand, if Russia has only one vote in the Security Council, her own, that is enough. She may be voted off the island in the G-8 but that will only cause creating a different forum. No matter how odious Moscow’s actions, the West cannot simply kick her out of institutions and isolate her. This is a nuclear power who can disrupt the world much further.

It is time to look pragmatic at things and translate the poetry of diplomacy!

I suggest we read very carefully everything that Fabius and Steinmeier said in Moldova and Georgia – besides that they discussed the signing on the association agreement and further details of the action plan; they suggested the two states to not embitter their relations with Russia. In other words, do not make it harder for yourself because the EU is only a perspective but the present is not inside the EU and we won’t be keeping your back.

Russia is “being kicked out of international organizations”. Has it crossed our mind that perhaps she does not care and maybe she will build another UN or another “G(n)” and call for supporters and members? What then?

We should not “completely underestimate the poor state of Russia’s economy”, nor should we underestimate how capable to endure is the “Russian bear”.

I have always agreed that the sanctions hit Russia hard, but while financial sanctions could affect Russia, the economic ones are going both ways, and not everybody in Europe is residing in the middle of Geneva.

“As to natural gas, the flow of some pipelines has been reversed and gas is being sent back to Ukraine.” Does anybody know that Ukraine uses 48 billion cubic meters of gas/year? And 28 of those come from Russia and the rest are from their own production. From where does the West think they can come up with the 28bld m3 only for Ukraine/year? The EU needs an implemented common energy policy and interconnected infrastructure.

“Russia cannot simply stop her gas deliveries to Europe as if she did so her budget revenues would be cut in half.” What if she does? Not now, but next winter? How long can Europe function without it. China? Well, Russia can start selling cheap gas to China instead, for instance.

Putin is a “gangster” and he is like Hitler. Of course he is. But Hitler couldn’t become Hitler if Europe wasn’t weak.

The West hopes Russia will lose this battle in the end. An added benefit to the EU will be that concerted action will cement the group, which could certainly use some adhesive power! Another beneficial side-effect is that within around three years Europe will no longer be dependent on Russian natural gas as she is now. Of course, it will be hard for Russia to support all these territory for long, but it will probably be too late when she can’t anymore. And, by that time she would have made her point.

NATO’s concept of crisis management

Most cooperation with Russia has been suspended and there is a degree of redeployment of forces towards frontline countries, with more to come. NATO measures should not be seen independently from other international measures such as US, Canada and EU sanctions.

Ukraine was invaded in its Crimea region which was annexed. That’s a political and military conflict. There are concentrations of Russian troops at Ukraine’s eastern borders and Russia is again raising the issue of Transnistria. Not only NATO principles but the whole legal structure of peace in Europe have been put into question, from the Helsinki Final Act 1975 to the Budapest Memorandum and beyond.

Crisis management is one of NATO’s fundamental security tasks. It can involve military and non-military measures to respond to a threat, be it in a national or an international situation. NATO’s role in crisis management goes beyond military operations to include issues such as the protection of populations operations. A crisis can effectively be political, military or humanitarian and can be caused by political or armed conflict, technological incidents or natural disasters.

NATO interventions in the conflicts in Bosnia – Herzegovina in 1995 and Kosovo in 1999 had a lasting impact on the nature of post-Cold War Alliance by defining the limits of the joint action outside the traditional collective defense commitment to NATO. NATO’s involvement in each case demonstrated ability to meet multinational operations in complex political and working circumstances, in the absence of pre existing operational plans. The Deployment of the Implementation Force (IFOR ) and Stabilization Force (SFOR ) in Bosnia and Kosovo Force (KFOR ) also involved the participation of contingents of partner countries and other non-NATO countries. These operations have helped to establish a model of political cooperation and military operations in response to so-called non -Article 5 crisis between NATO and non-NATO contributing countries, which has now become the norm for larger operations of the Alliance.

Apart from IFOR , SFOR and KFOR, NATO ‘s operational involvement in the Balkans included a variety of air and sea operations during the beginning of the last decade of the last century and the Kosovo War in 1999. Besides Sky Monitor AWACS operation, there were NATO led Operation Deny Flight to impose ban on flights, aerial campaigns Deliberate Force and Allied Force and Operation Eagle Eye air reconnaissance in support of the Kosovo Verification Mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and maritime Monitor and Sharp Guard missions of surveillance and enforcement in the Adriatic Sea. NATO has accumulated considerable experience in the operations and drew important lessons on particular shortcomings in the capabilities and interoperability, which were addressed by the Prague Capabilities Commitment, an initiative launched at the Prague Summit in 2002.

Ukraine participated in those peacekeeping missions and provided troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

NATO engagement in Afghanistan has opened the way for the use of innovative approaches to flexible NATO forces in support of NATO-led operations non-allied countries or international organizations in concert with them. Operational cooperation between ISAF and Afghan Forces Command US-led Multinational and partnership in training Iraqi security forces of NATO Training Mission and Multinational Security Transition Command led by the U.S. illustrated how the Alliance can act collectively in ways that are complementary to individual efforts of various allies. It also highlights the adaptability of the Alliance to evolving conditions. In this regard, NATO’s support for the African Union to strengthen its peacekeeping mission in the Darfur region of Sudan highlights progress made since 2002 in trying to make NATO support is available for non-NATO operations. Based on precedent in the Balkans, ISAF is involving eleven non-NATO countries, including Australia and New Zealand, which are not members of the Partnership for Peace.

We could add a third perspective to the one of the Black Sea counterterrorism cooperation – NATO in the Mediterranean and Blackseafor ( Black Sea Force ) in the Black Sea. It should be noted that the Black Sea is contiguous with Greater Middle East, which is one of the most volatile areas of the world. From this perspective, the strategic importance of the Black Sea increases. The strategic importance is given by a couple of factors defined as follows: the region’s role in international security and the impact that regional actors’ action has on the safety of in the area and to other areas. In addition, the area is a strategic corridor for energy transportation and NATO, since the Summit in Riga in 2006, considered very carefully the issue of energy security.

We have reached the day when we think we must have asked ourselves what Russia and NATO want. It is obvious that Russia is dissatisfied with the action of some members of the Alliance in the Black Sea in view of the withdrawal from the CFE ( Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty ) and has protested to the U.S. deployment of missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. NATO said they shall maintain a dynamic and effective action in order to increase security and stability in the Black Sea. How to reconcile the two perspectives? Russia argues that granting MAP to Georgia and Ukraine would lead to destabilization of the security situation in the Black Sea area and declares herself clearly against any expansion of NATO in the region. NATO enlargement to the East is kept opened. If at first glance, one could always predict future conflicts, in reality the general trend was that of avoiding conflict situations prevailing principles of cooperatives. The essential element is the willingness of both parties. Russia was expected not to consider NATO enlargement to the East as a threat to its own security, and NATO should have taken into account the security concerns of Russia and especially to combat the syndrome of post-Cold War Russian imperialism recovery that the political Russian élite exposes lately, by accepting Crimean referendum for independence and annexing it to the Russian Federation.

On NATO Ukrainians have changed their mind in the past few weeks -with the exception of a majority of ethnic Russians indicating now a strong way of support for NATO. Now Ukrainian leaders are not in a hurry to join NATO, for the simple reason that they’re not ready and know it. It will take them some time to meet the criteria. The Ukrainian Rada today unanimously except for abstentions- endorsed drills in Ukraine and the Black Sea, in particular with the US. Yanukovych’s Party of Regions did not vote against, but for, with some abstentions. At this stage it is not expected that a military confrontation will take place, though one has to be prepared for every possible contigency. If Eastern Ukraine was invaded, the Ukrainians wouldn’t be able to resist the Russian advance and I am afraid the West won’t intervene, but then a nonconventional, assymetric war would develop where the Ukrainians would be assisted by NATO.

At the end of a Cold War we had a European strategy entirely directed at the Soviet threat, and with the end of the Cold War and a Communistless new era NATO looked at other threats including outside Europe. The 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation became the new mantra. Gradually however note was taken of a return of Russia to previous attitudes, but it wasn’t until the invasion of Georgia that the lesson was (amost) fully learnt. The invasion of Crimea and the threat against Ukraine and possibly other countries on Russia’s periphery is forcing NATO to conduct a new threat evaluation and develop an Eastern European strategy based on new premises, that of Russia as a strategic threat in Europe.


Here is the Statement of the NATO-Ukraine Commission – 1 April 2014: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_108501.htm


The European Council Statement and its implications

Here it is the European Council Statement, Brussels, 6 March 2014:

“Statement of the Heads of State or Government on Ukraine”

“1. We met today with the Prime Minister of Ukraine Arseniy Yatseniuk who informed us about the situation in his country. We applaud the courage and resilience shown by the Ukrainian people these last months and weeks.

  1. We endorse the conclusions adopted by the Council on 3 March. We strongly condemn the unprovoked violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity by the Russian Federation and call on the Russian Federation to immediately withdraw its armed forces to the areas of their permanent stationing, under the relevant agreements. We call on the Russian Federation to enable immediate access for international monitors. The solution to the crisis in Ukraine must be based on the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine, as well as the strict adherence to international standards. We consider that the decision by the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to hold a referendum on the future status of the territory is contrary to the Ukrainian Constitution and therefore illegal.
  2. The European Union has important relations with Ukraine and the Russian Federation and stands ready to engage in a frank and open dialogue with them. It has a special responsibility for peace, stability and prosperity in Europe. We will pursue these goals using all available channels and ask the EU representatives to take all necessary initiatives. The European Union will also take part in the multilateral mechanism (contact/coordination group) being prepared to de-escalate the situation which should have as its objectives inter alia to build confidence between the parties, watch over the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country, protect all citizens against intimidation, watch over the rights of minorities, help to prepare free and fair elections, and monitor implementation of agreements and commitments.

  3. The European Union’s and the Russian Federation’s common objective of a relationship based on mutual interest and respect of international obligations needs to be promptly restored. It would be a matter of great regret if the Russian Federation failed to work in that direction, and in particular if it continued to refuse to participate in a productive dialogue with the Government of Ukraine. We have today decided to take actions, including those envisaged by the Council on 3 March, notably to suspend bilateral talks with the Russian Federation on visa matters as well as talks with the Russian Federation on the New Agreement. We support the decision of the European Members of the G8 and the EU institutions to suspend their participation in G8 Summit preparations until further notice.

  4. The solution to the crisis should be found through negotiations between the Governments of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, including through potential multilateral mechanisms. Such negotiations need to start within the next few days and produce results within a limited timeframe. In the absence of such results the European Union will decide on additional measures, such as travel bans, asset freezes and the cancellation of the EU-Russia summit. The Commission and the EEAS will take forward preparatory work on these measures. Any further steps by the Russian Federation to destabilise the situation in Ukraine would lead to severe and far reaching consequences for relations between the European Union and its Member States, on the one hand, and the Russian Federation, on the other hand, which will include a broad range of economic areas.

  5. The European Union commends the measured response shown so far by the new Ukrainian government. We encourage the Ukrainian authorities, through an inclusive process, to pursue their efforts to ensure free and fair elections, to advance constitutional reform and to investigate all acts of violence. Efforts should continue to reach out to all Ukrainian regions and population groups and to ensure full protection of the rights of people belonging to national minorities, drawing on the expertise of the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

  6. We stand by Ukraine and commit to provide it with strong financial backing. We welcome the presentation of the comprehensive assistance package by the Commission and task all relevant Council bodies to process it rapidly. IMF support will be critical to unlocking assistance from the European Union. The immediate priority is to restore macroeconomic stability through sound fiscal, monetary and exchange rate policies. At the same time, we call on the government to launch urgently an ambitious set of structural reforms, including to fight corruption, enhance transparency. We welcome the Council decision to freeze and recover assets of persons identified as responsible for the misappropriation of State funds. We are also prepared to respond immediately to humanitarian assistance requests.

  7. The European Union and Ukraine have already taken an important step in deepening our relation by the initialling of the Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. We reiterate the European Union’s commitment to signing the Association Agreement, including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. As a matter of priority, we will sign very shortly all the political chapters. The European Union intends to adopt unilateral measures which would allow Ukraine to benefit substantially from the advantages offered in the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. Such measures would entail an offer to apply provisions related to the import of goods by reducing tariffs and opening tariff rate quotas by so called autonomous trade measures.

  8. The European Union reiterates its commitment to enhance people to people contacts between the citizens of the European Union and Ukraine, i.a. through the visa liberalisation process, in line with agreed conditions in the framework of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan.

  9. Energy and energy security are an important part of the Union’s external relations. We will continue our efforts to ensure security of supply. We also call for the effective and consistent implementation of the Third Energy Package by all players in the European energy market. The European Union also stands ready to assist Ukraine in securing its energy supply through further diversification, enhanced energy efficiency, and effective interconnections with the European Union.

  10. The European Union expresses its objective to further strengthen the political association and economic integration with Georgia and the Republic of Moldova. We confirm our aim to sign the Association Agreements, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas, which we initialled in Vilnius last November, no later than at the end of August 2014.”

This is president Obama’s executive order yesterday:

Executive Order — Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine



“By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C. 1182(f)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

“I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the actions and policies of persons — including persons who have asserted governmental authority in the Crimean region without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine — that undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States, and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat. I hereby order:

“Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:

“(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following:

“(A) actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine;

“(B) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; or

“(C) misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine;

“(ii) to have asserted governmental authority over any part or region of Ukraine without the authorization of the Government of Ukraine;

“(iii) to be a leader of an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in any activity described in subsection (a)(i) or (a)(ii) of this section or of an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order;

“(iv) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any activity described in subsection (a)(i) or (a)(ii) of this section or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

“(v) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

“(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the effective date of this order.

“Sec. 2. I hereby find that the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens determined to meet one or more of the criteria in subsection 1(a) of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of such persons. Such persons shall be treated as persons covered by section 1 of Proclamation 8693 of July 24, 2011 (Suspension of Entry of Aliens Subject to United Nations Security Council Travel Bans and International Emergency Economic Powers Act Sanctions).

“Sec. 3. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type of articles specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to section 1 of this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in this order, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.

“Sec. 4. The prohibitions in section 1 of this order include but are not limited to:

“(a) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; and

“(b) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

“Sec. 5. (a) Any transaction that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

“(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

“Sec. 6. For the purposes of this order:

“(a) the term “person” means an individual or entity;

(b) the term “entity” means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization; and

“(c) the term “United States person” means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States.

“Sec. 7. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render those measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in this order, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1 of this order.

“Sec. 8. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA, as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order.

“Sec. 9. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to submit the recurring and final reports to the Congress on the national emergency declared in this order, consistent with section 401(c) of the NEA (50 U.S.C. 1641(c)) and section 204(c) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1703(c)).

“Sec. 10. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.


Corruption costing EU economy €120bn a year, report finds

The EU has repeatedly raised concerns about a failure to tackle high-level graft in Romania and Bulgaria, the bloc’s two “poorest” members. They have been blocked from joining the passport-free Schengen zone over the issue since their entry.

Corruption affects all countries in the world, to various extents, an the EU is of course no exception. The impact of corruption varies not only from country to country, but also from sector to sector. As in the US, the construction industry and contractors is the worst hit.

Corruption is a problem for almost half the companies doing business in Europe, says the survey: I’d say it is less than that in the most EU countries, except in certain sectors.

The report rightly identifies certain countries that are newcomers in the EU and other southern EU countries as having more corruption problems. Although this is true, it doesn’t mean that corruption is negligible in some of the biggest and most advanced EU countries -for instance Germany, where parliamentarians are not immune. Or France. Or the UK.

The issue is not only the extent of corruption and what steps are taken against it. It’s also about whether it is systematically and appropriately punished. That is not always the case.

In my opinion analysis should be done just country by country and not in groups – I mentioned it before that linking Romania with Bulgaria all the time it leads not to very right or fair results. Besides, such as, I haven’t really understood taking into consideration what criteria “the poorest members” appellation is justified.

Anti-Corruption report information pdf – 642 KB [642 KB], here:


APEC Meeting: China Says It Will Boots Domestic Demand

There are some questions asked these days, voices wondering whether we are probably going to see China move into recession rather than even a slowdown in economic growth. In terms of scenario thinking, this stimulating claim raises two important questions. First, what could be the causes of a recession in China? A banking crisis, a further wage rise and/or a partial FDI outflow? Second, what could be the consequences of such a recession? Economic policy changes, more social unrest and/or a more aggressive foreign policy?

Are we assisting to the decline of the West?

My belief is there is no decline of the West in absolute terms – the effects of the 2008 and 2011 crisis will soon wane – but there is necessarily a relative decline as new economic powerhouses emerge. The BRICS are of course the most prominent example, though they did not do very well in the second half of 2013. The emergence of the BRICS present one new aspect that doesn’t correspond to the traditional international division of labor, which used to be between a high-wage high-technology West and a low-wage low technology developing world. The BRICS still have low though rising wages but they also have relatively high technology, a combination that makes them more competitive than the West. This situation will not continue, however, as wages have started to rise in those countries, in particular in China where workers want to benefit from high economic growth. This means that BRICS costs are rising and that this rise is only partly compensated by the use and development of higher technology and the growth of the domestic market resulting from higher wages: welcome to the club, BRICS!

China, the biggest and strongest of the BRICS, is about to make a landing that will be soft according to some, and somewhat hard according to others. Rising labor costs are driving some companies which had relocated to China out of the country -even Chinese firms are looking for lower wages in India and other parts of the world. The Chinese government hopes that rising wages will mean domestic market growth, which is partly true, but 70 percent of the Chinese population still do not benefit from higher incomes: it’s all about millionaires, the middle class and now part of the industrial working class, but not the farmers. China will have to master inflationary phenomena, but deflation as could be induced by the Central Bank would have worse effects.

China’s plan reforms look good, though limited, on paper, but right now the Chinese economy is doing less well, and the rise in labor costs is a major factor, so are structures that respond to political fiat -for instance the central bank. China’s political and social organization have facilitated growth for a long period, but now they are a hindrance. It is very difficult to mix robber baron capitalism with a system of social control inherited from Communism. I don’t believe 2014, or at least its first half, will be a very good year for China. The reforms, like all reforms, will not have an immediate effect.

China’s National Audit Office recently released its long-awaited report in response to the State Council’s instruction in July that it conduct an “emergency audit” of Chinese public debt. The report, which had been expected months earlier, announced a figure of nearly $3 trillion in accumulated local government debt, a nearly 70% increase from the last audit in 2010. Identified as one of the six key priority areas of economic work for 2014 at last month’s Central Economic Work Conference, the Chinese leadership clearly sees managing the local debt problem as one of the issues it must tackle as part of its reinvigorated reform push. CSIS panelists will dig deep to get behind the numbers and look at the broader implications of the debt audit for the overall health of China’s economy.

At least its first three-quarters, were rather good for the BRICS and a number of Asian and African countries, but 2014 may not be as prosperous as new negative factors emerge.

Perhaps a BJP victory in India will have mostly negative effects, but it is clear that such a victory is possible. Last time the BJP was in power, it was wise enough to have as Prime minister one of its more moderate figures, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Will it be the same this time? Hindu exclusivism can only have negative consequences in such a varoied country as India.

The CINETV countries right at this moment may boast faster growth, but they have also special problems of their own that are connected to their own history.

The EU will probably resume growth, but at rates that will not be spectacular.

Is it time for reconciliation?

The issue was and remains very simple: Iran will not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons or a nuclear weapon capability. This is not a question of respect or disrespect for the Iranian people, which is as respectable as any other people. This is not about “kneeling down”, this is a practical matter: how does one prevent Iran from getting the bomb, once all other alternatives to save military action have failed? No one has ever come up with a working alternative.

Is the Plan of Action a success of diplomacy? Yes, but not diplomacy alone, diplomacy backed by harsher and harsher sanctions. And the military option will stay on the table in the event Iran tries to break out and produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a bomb.

The Plan of Action is for six months which won’t be renewed unless at the end of the period only minor details remain to be settled. The Plan of Action only freezes critical activities, with some rolling back. It does not at all represent something that would prevent Iran from eventually have a bomb: it’s just a stand-off period giving the parties enough time to reach a comprehensive agreement that would prevent a resumption of activities needed to develop and build a bomb.

The sanctions are biting even harder: it is not only the future that’s being mortgaged but also the present. The sanctions are in part circumvented, but the cost of doing so is enormous. The sanctions were destined to make the economic and social cost of pursuing a nuclear military program almost unbearable, giving Iran a simple choice. This choice seems to have been made, though there still are difficult days ahead in the talks to reach a comprehensive settlement.

Obama and Kerry both repeated several times in the past two weeks that the US approached was diplomacy backed by sanctions, and that diplomacy succeeded because it was backed by sanctions. Obama added that the military option remained on the table. On the NIA council the opinion of the Obama administration is well-known. The “Extending Hands and Unclenching Fists” has positive elements but also glosses a number of negative points.

Iran has to prove improvements other than nuclear, also: on human rights and foreign policy. For example, Iran wishes to take part to Geneva II, but has not signed on to the Geneva I declaration which is the basis for Geneva II. The US and the EU will continue to oppose Iranian participation as long as this basic condition is not met. France and the UK for instance also opposes Iran’s participation if Iran does not sign on to the Geneva declaration, as Geneva II is precisely about the implementation of this declaration or communiqué. Iran will not take part, period, unless she signs in to the Geneva declaration.

The Plan of Action is a step towards that reconciliation goal, but ones are saying that the sanctions might have played a role in Rouhani’s electoral victory for the simple reason that many Iranians are tired of confrontation.

The issue on the western side is not really psychological: it’s about concrete steps expected from Iran. It is about Iran joining again the concert of nations.The withdrawal of US and ISAF combat troops from Iran will involve huge movements of material over a relatively short period of time.

The EU  and the US can reconcile with Iran, but this entails important policy changes which, if they happen, will be reciprocated. It is nice to have the confirmation that “reconciliation” with Europe remains a Rouhani priority. There’s been some progress towards normalization, with the UK making moves towards the reopening of its Tehran Embassy, but real “reconciliation” will come with the solution to the nuclear dispute.

Banking Union: Agreement between the EU Council and the European Parliament

Bank recovery and resolution: Council confirms compromise agreement with EP

The Permanent Representatives Committee today [Dec. 20, 2013] approved, on behalf of the Council, a compromise agreed provisionally with the European Parliament on a draft directive aimed at harmonising national rules on bank recovery and resolution (17958/13, 17957/13 + COR 1 + ADD 1).

The directive “will provide national authorities with common powers and instruments to pre-empt bank crises and to resolve any financial institution in an orderly manner in the event of failure, whilst preserving essential bank operations and minimising taxpayers’ exposure to losses.

“Today’s agreement will enable the directive to be adopted by the Parliament and the Council at first reading,

“The draft directive establishes a range of instruments to tackle potential bank crises at three stages: preparatory and preventative, early intervention, and resolution. Member states will be required, as a general rule, to set up ex-ante resolution funds to ensure that the resolution tools can be applied effectively.

“Banks will have to draw up recovery plans, and update them annually, setting out the measures they would take to restore their financial position in the event of significant deterioration. Resolution authorities will have to prepare resolution plans for each bank, laying out the actions they might take if it were to meet the conditions for resolution. Authorities will also have the power to appoint “temporary administrators” or special managers to an institution if its financial situation were to deteriorate significantly or if there were serious violations of the law.”

18092/13 (OR. en) PRESSE 602


Do we need European military capabilities?

David Cameron does not agree with the common military capabilities of the EU. David Cameron also said that The Great Britain is hostile to the concept of Common European Defense as NATO provides that for us. He agrees with cooperation in the Defense area but not with investing in common capabilities. Apparently he declared those things at the present European Summit, in Bruxelles.

The real problem is the almost constant decline in European military budgets, which makes European countries unable to carry out any major military intervention alone or in concert. Though the former Yugoslavia was right inside the European continent, Europe could not intervene at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure without the US carrying out the bulk of the intervention. France for instance has only one air carrier, which can sail only 6 month a year. One obviously can’t fight a war only 6 months a year. Europe is particularly weak in troop air transport, having to ask the US to fly European troops to the theater of operations, or even renting Russian air carriers. Belgian troops may join French and African ones in the CAR. Just a few days ago France had to ask the US to fly Burundi troops to the CAR. As to drones, she is buying some from the US.

The issue of European defense underfunding is an old one that has been discussed within NATO for decades, with the US unsuccessfully pushing European countries to do more for their own defense instead of relying on the United States. This was already a major bone of agreement between Nixon and Kissinger and their European partners in the early 1970s, and talk about an illusory “peace dividend” resulting from the end of the Cold War was just provided another pretext to do nothing.

The SIPRI “Yearbook: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security” provides a good approximation of defense spending as a percentage of GDP.

In 2012, the most recent year for which complete data is available, the U.S. approved $645.7 billion in defense budget authority (fiscal year 2013 dollars). This figure includes funding for the Pentagon base budget, Department of Energy-administered nuclear weapons activities, and the war in Afghanistan.

This number is six times more than China, 11 times more than Russia, 27 times more than Iran and 33 times more than Israel. Though China is often cited as the country’s next great military adversary, U.S. military spending currently doubles that of all of the countries in Asia combined. In 2012, the U.S. consumed 41 percent of total global military spending. The U.S. also remained in the top 10 highest spending countries as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), one widespread measure of military spending, trailing behind countries such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, all of which have a significantly lower total military expenditure as well as a lower total GDP. Currently, the world’s six largest military spenders are the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan and France, all of whom are recognized as world powers.

The United States in 2012 spent 4.7% of its GDP on defense, the European Union European Union 1.7% only, China 2.1% and Russia 4.4%, according to the SIPRI Yearbook 2013 – World’s top 15 military spenders. The NATO objective has long been 2.5-3% of GDP instead of the current 1.7%. With the Eurozone crisis a new pretext was found not to make decisions.

As the Financial Times says the French move is not so much motivated by a wish to bypass NATO, a policy that has long been France’s but was abandoned under Sarkozy who had France return to the organization’s integrated military command. It was feared, when Hollande entrusted former French foreign minister Hubert Védrine with a study of the pros and cons of having returned to NATO’s integrated command, France might reverse Sarkozy’s move, but actually the report was buried and may have been ordered just to assuage the anti-NATO section of the Socialist Party, with no intention of reversing policy.

When president Obama decided to “lead from behind” after the first cruise missile and conventional air attacks on Gaddafi’s air defense capabilities, France and Britain found themselves as the only one to be able to carry out an air campaign. France did initially expect to have this done on a bilateral basis but Britain had no difficulty having France accept to make it a NATO operation, something that would have been unthinkable under Chirac.

One should not fear the French proposals too much. They just have to be rewritten in a way that excludes EU institutions from the equation. France – just as any other EU country including Britain- is just unable to carry out operations like those in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and CAR without help from the US and her EU partners.

Britain is not opposed to military cooperation with France: they just don’t want EU institutions having anything to do with it. There are a number of ongoing projects between the two countries. While France is closer EU-wise to Germany politically and economically, militarily she is closer to Britain.

More certainly, there will be no EU military force outside NATO. Attempts like the Franco-German Eurocorps did not go very far, in spite of Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg joining it. It is essentially based on the Franco-German brigade. Its participation in missions has been through NATO. There is a strong case for savings through more cooperation in various projects but this is through NATO or bilaterally.

Romania and Schengen

Romania, for a couple of years, has tried to meet all the necessary conditions for accession to the Schengen area, but every time this process is delayed by an argument, be it CVM or a different one. All the technical commitments are respected by this time, but the use of veto is a political one. All the equipment is in place and ready to be used, but Romania cannot use it as she is not a Schengen member yet.

There are some European countries that oppose towards Romania’s Schengen accession, and blocking its accession seems rather politically motivated and based on an exacerbated individualism born from the wounds created by the present economic crisis. Certainly the economic situation in the EU doesn’t help, especially that what may distinguish Romania and Bulgaria from other Schengen countries is at the moment a lower standard of living, which makes them transit rather than final destination countries for illegal immigrants. Switzerland however recently invoked an emergency temporarily to limit free movement – free establishment actually – of EU citizens to the Confederation, though in practice it has had no effect until now.

There is a worry that Romania’s borders with non EU member states – Ukraine, Moldova, Serbia – (and with one non-Schengen EU member state) are not secure enough for illegal immigration. The sore point is Ukraine which remains a major point of transit from Middle East and Asian countries (often via Moscow).Those who oppose Romania joining Schengen recognize that great efforts have been made and that legislation and regulation-wise things are now ok, but they say that practically-wise things have still to improve.

Though Romania has brought in line her legislation with the Schengen standards (Bulgaria is I understand not yet fully in line), several Schengen member countries claim that Romania and to a greater degree Bulgaria have still some way to go towards securing their borders to illegal immigrants. Once Romania and Bulgaria are party to Schengen, any third-country legal resident in either of those countries will be free to move to another Schengen country though not a EU citizen.

On the 1st of January, Romania will benefit from full free movement of persons within the EU, which actually may, according to some, complicate the issue. Some EU countries while not putting into question this date which cannot be changed are worried of important Roms immigration, in particular France which has a large number of illegally established Romanian and Bulgarian Roms, who by that date will be unrestricted entitled to any EU country residency. France however has made no practical suggestions that would not violate EU law. But Roms, when they are Bulgarian or Romanian citizens they are implicitly EU citizens, therefore their rights and obligations are the same as for any other Bulgarian or Romanian citizen.

Perhaps some should not be that much concerned about around 100.000 Moldovians that received Romanian citizenship (as Moldova will be an EU member in about 2-3 years) or a few arabs, as Romania is not concerned about Pakistanies with other EU visa that chose to live in Romania (or, as they are not concerned about other Schengen members selling EU citizenship).

I do not believe that Romania’s accession to Schengen needs to be viewed together with Bulgaria fulfillment, although I see it will be possible at the latest 2015, at the next review of the European treaties. By the time that Romania enters Schengen, there is the possibility that the equipment is obsolete or not necessary (as the borders may change or because of the next review of the European treaties). Should members like Romania set such aims and invest a great deal of money and time in achieving them, when it is not about respecting the timeline or the technical goals, but politics?

Lucky, accession is made by procedures and law not by feelings or frustrations.


*The Schengen Agreement was signed independently of the EU.

Now that the Schengen Agreement is part of the acquis communautaire, the Agreement has, for its EU members, lost the status of a treaty, which could only be amended according to its terms; instead, its amendments are made according to that legislative procedure of the EU that covers the rules to be amended as defined in the EU treaties.

Legal acts setting out the conditions for entry into the Schengen Area are now enacted by majority vote in the legislative bodies of the European Union. New EU member states do not sign the Schengen Agreement as such; instead, they are bound to implement the Schengen rules as part of the pre-existing body of EU law, which every new entrant is required to accept.

This led to the result that the Schengen States that are not EU members have few formally binding options to influence the shaping and evolution of the Schengen rules; their options are effectively reduced to agreeing, or withdrawing from the agreement. Consultations with the affected countries are conducted prior to the adoption of particular new legislation.

Today, some EU member states are not party to Schengen and actually don’t want to. Non-EU member states such as Switzerland (which has wide-ranging bi-lateral accords with the EU) are party to Schengen. Schengen cooperation has been incorporated into the European Union (EU) legal framework by the Treaty of Amsterdam of 1997. Therefore, although there are non-EU countries that are part of Schengen, this intergovernmental cooperation was incorporated into the EU framework on 1 May 1999 and after that date, the Schengen area gradually expanded to include every Member State.

Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania are not yet fully-fledged members of the Schengen area; border controls between them and the Schengen area are maintained until the EU Council decides that the conditions for abolishing internal border controls have been met.


Again about the Chinese Investments in the EU and the EC’ reaction

There are plenty of reactions after the China – Central and Eastern Europe Forum, held in Bucharest a couple of days ago.

Apparently there is even a European Commission’s Communication that was sent to the members and elapsed in the press. Press, politicians and analysts have commented on the implications of the intentions and declarations that were made at that event.

According to some European sources, the EC’s Communication envisaged, especially countries such as Germany and France, but also countries like Hungary, where there is a high level of Chinese investment.

From the EU laws’ point of view, Romania is free to welcome as much Chinese investment as she wants. While there is a common external tariff for goods and services, there are no hard and fast rules for investments from outside the EU, except of course that Chinese enterprises in the EU will have to abide by EU rules. Each country has rules that would prevent Chinese investment in defense and defense-related high-tech industries.

For example, the French Prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault just came back from China where in Wuhan he had preliminary talks with the leaders of the Dongfeng Peugeot Citroen Automobile company, the largest Sino-French joint venture in China, for a possible large-scale investment of Dongfeng in the ailing PSA company – the manufacturer of Peugeot and Citroen cars – in France. The issue is however complicated by the fact that a 1.3 billion US dollars joint venture project between Dongfeng and French auto giant Renault – PSA’s major competitor – has just been approved. If western EU companies are not happy about Chinese investment in Eastern Europe, well, they should invest themselves. But when they need the money and markets they’re quite happy to welcome these Chinese investments: what they don’t like is Chinese companies investing in their competitors in the EU.

Hence, Chinese investments are not per se incompatible with EU regulations, but the behavior of Chinese-owned companies in Europe must be in line with those, in matters such as competition law, environmental law, etc.

How much is this about money, how much is this about personal ego or how much is this about politics, we are to see. Or is it about all the above?

Lucky, in the EU over time egos tend to cancel out each other.

Big Bets and Black Swans

The leading powers are beset with economic crises or are in various states of political transition or gridlock. The Middle East is in a state of political upheaval. Tensions are rising in East Asia. The world’s institutions, whether the United Nations, the G-20, or the European Union, are weakened and dysfunctional, and seem to be pulling apart in the absence of concerted leadership. The liberal world order established after the Second World War — characterized by a free, open international economy, the spread of liberal democracy, and the deepening of liberal, peaceful norms of international behavior — is fraying at the edges.

It is a time of uncertainty and instability for the world, and for the United States; but it is also a moment of opportunity. Almost a century ago, when the United States entered the First World War, the philosopher John Dewey observed that the world was at a “plastic juncture.” He and many other progressives believed that the unsettled world of their day offered the United States and the other democratic powers a chance to remold the international system into something better. Americans walked away from that challenge and would embrace it only after a second catastrophic breakdown of world order. Today, we are at another “plastic juncture.” Will America turn inward and away from an increasingly messy world? Or will we launch a new effort to strengthen and extend, both geographically and temporally, the liberal world order from which Americans and so many others around the world have benefited?

The answer depends very much on how you choose to make use of your next four years in office. Unfortunately, there is not a lot to show for your first four years. In many respects, this is understandable. The economic crisis that you inherited made steady concentration on foreign policy more challenging. The two wars you inherited in the Greater Middle East had been bungled by your predecessor and cost the United States dearly, both materially and in terms of reputation. You began to restore that reputation through your own global appeal and the efforts of your Secretary of State.

You have done especially well in raising America’s profile and deepening our engagement in East Asia. However, so far it is hard to list many durable accomplishments. Most of the major challenges are much as you found them when you took office, or worse: from the stalled Middle East peace process and turmoil in the Arab world to Iran’s continuing march toward a nuclear weapons capability to China’s increasing assertiveness in East Asia. Your understandable preoccupation with reelection has left much of the world wondering: Where is the United States?

For all the talk of American decline from certain quarters, the United States is actually well-positioned for a new era of global leadership. If you can strike the difficult but necessary compromise with Congress that begins to address America’s fiscal crisis, the United States could well emerge as among the world’s most successful and dynamic economies. America enjoys unique advantages in the international economic system: a natural gas revolution that promises soon to make it a net-exporter of energy, a superior university education system and an open and innovative economy that continues to attract the world’s best and most creative young minds. On the international stage, the United States remains the only world power with global reach, uniquely capable of organizing concerted international action and serving as a source of security and stability to nations and peoples facing threatening neighbors.


How then to take advantage of this plastic moment to mold the changing global order to best serve the United States and humankind? We believe that in the next four years you will have a unique opportunity to shape a multilateral global order that will continue to reflect American liberal values and progressive ideals. This will require your sustained attention, personal engagement, and direction of the national security agencies of the U.S. government. The reward could be a transformational and lasting impact on the international system, which will redound to the benefit of future generations.

In the security realm, your primary “big bet” must be to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. It is hard to imagine a bigger blow to the international security order than the collapse of the nonproliferation regime that would follow Iran’s successful acquisition of nuclear weapons. Conversely, if you can succeed in achieving meaningful curbs on Iran’s nuclear weapons aspirations and reinforce this by negotiating another nuclear arms reduction agreement with Moscow, you will do much to strengthen non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament as a fundamental pillar of the new liberal global order.

In East Asia, your primary big bet should be on promoting a regional order that encourages China to develop in a peaceful and productive direction. You have already formulated a credible strategy; now you will need to encourage China’s new leadership away from greater reliance on military power in favor of continued economic and political development at home and increasing economic and political integration abroad. This will mean continuing to deepen America’s Asian alliances, especially with the new leaderships in Tokyo and Seoul; building new partnerships with the nations of the region; and playing a major role in supporting regional cooperation. You should ensure that the rebalancing effort in East Asia goes beyond the military to include all aspects of American power. With India, the world’s largest democracy and the other major rising power in Asia, you have laid a strong foundation but the next four years will be critical in building a partnership that can serve as another pillar of the emerging liberal geopolitical order.

Strengthening the liberal economic order needs to be a higher priority in your second term. Concluding free trade agreements with the Asia- Pacific region and Europe would boost U.S. exports and global economic recovery while promoting a broader consensus on the necessary standards to promote free trade and investment in the global economy. Building the infrastructure and putting in place the policies necessary to export American natural gas to key allies and partners, especially in Europe and Asia, will help reduce their dependence on Russia and Iran. Leveraging America’s hydrocarbon bonanza to encourage more effective efforts to counter climate change can help promote a greener global order.

Strengthening the liberal political order will require increased efforts to enlist the support of emerging democracies. Nations like Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey have become increasingly influential economically. But they are struggling to find their identity as democratic powers on the international stage and, in some cases, are punching below their weight. Some are drifting toward a worldview that actually undermines the liberal nature of the global order. At the same time, powerful autocracies like Russia have staked out positions at the United Nations and elsewhere that are antithetical to liberal values — on the issue of Syria, for instance. These autocratic powers need to understand that if they continue their obstructionism, the democratic international community will increasingly move on without them and they will be isolated.

In your first term, you were reluctant to make democracy a centerpiece of your foreign policy. However, with revolutions in the Arab world and political changes in Burma that you have supported, it is time to place the United States once again at the vanguard of the global democracy movement. This is not only because democracy is consonant with American values. In the Middle East, in Russia and parts of Eastern Europe, just as in Burma and the rest of Asia, the United States has strategic, political and economic interests in the spread of stable, liberal democracies. Although democracies can be fractious, and in times of transition unstable, in the end they are more reliable supporters of the liberal world order which Americans seek. The United States needs to do more in support of the difficult struggle for democracy in the Arab world too, including holding the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood government to democratic standards, and more actively leading the effort to shape a positive democratic outcome in Syria and preventing it from descending into chaos or becoming a haven for jihadists and Iranian proxies. America’s relationship with Russia needs to be shaped by strategic arms agreements as well as by respect for the desires and aspirations of the Russian people. You should work to steer Russia in a positive direction, strengthening where you can those forces in Russian society that favor economic and political modernization.

Finally, the United States needs a global strategy. It cannot focus on one critical region to the detriment of others. While you were absolutely right to increase American attention to the vital region of the Asia-Pacific, the United States cannot and should not reduce its involvement in the Middle East or in Europe. Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has played the key security role in all three regions at once; there is no safe alternative to that. This is particularly true in the Middle East, where many nations look to the United States for both protection and assistance. But even Europe deserves continued American attention and involvement. Everything the United States wants to accomplish in the world can be better accomplished with the help and cooperation of its European allies.


At the end of World War II, the United States led the way in shaping an international political, economic, and security order which, for all its flaws, served the American people, and much of the world, remarkably well. Much is changing in today’s world, but the basic requirements of American foreign policy have not. Your great challenge is to seize this plastic moment and apply your leadership to the preservation and extension of the liberal global order for future generations.


Not a comment, a complement:

Foreign policy in Obama’s second term: More of the same, by Joe Barnes.


[Joe Barnes is the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University's Bonner Means Baker Fellow. From 1979 to 1993, he was a career diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, serving in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.]

See also: “Obama’s Second Term Foreign Policy Plan”, by Dr. Robert Farley in The Diplomat

Second-Term Heat: What will be the legacy of Obama’s next four years?, by James Traub in Foreign Policy


CSIS: Recommendations for a New Administration: Interests, Policies, and Challenges in the Americas, by Stephen Johnson


See also: “Obama’s foreign policy juggling act”

Condoleeza Rice: Obama must continue to focus on Middle East

Former Secretary of State — and newly-named CBS News contributor — Condoleezza Rice talks to Charlie Rose and Norah O’Donnell about Inauguration Day and President Obama’s second term foreign policy challenges. (video)


World Politics Review: “Bridging Divides: Obama’s Second Term Foreign Policy Agenda”


National Security Network Special Update: Opportunities and Priorities for a Second Term


“The Changing Nature of American Diplomacy”, a debate on NPR

With Ambassador Dennis Ross, counselor, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Roger Cohen, columnist, The New York Times. (audio)


“The Clinton Doctrine of American Foreign Policy”, by David Rohde in the IHT/NY Times


Nuclear, CO2, …

Several EU countries have delayed their plans to implement a carbon tax as CO2 emissions have gone down.

Contrary to widespread belief, including at the EC, the massive uptake of renewable energies since 2005 has had a greater impact in the reduction of CO2 emissions than the economic slowdown. Meeting in Belgrade yesterday (24 October), the energy minsters of the Energy Community, adopted a list of 35 energy projects of regional importance, mirroring a recent EU effort. It looks like shale gas companies will have to comply a new reglementations package from the EC.

In France, the uptake of renewable energies is anything but massive. Plans to use more wind energy have been scaled down and tax relief for equiping houses with solar panels have been rescinded. Stealthily the Socialist government is preparing to rehabilitate older nuclear power plants (80 percent of France’s electricity consumption comes from nuclear plants, and they export some to Switzerland and Germany), in spite of the opposition of the Green party which is for the moment at least in government (I believe they won’t stay much longer). Nuclear energy production of course has a very small carbon footprint. Hybrid power cars have modest sales because of their cost and electruc cxars are almost absent. Buses have been partly replaced in certain cities by hybrid ones and tramways have replaced part of the buses in other, but the effect on overall CO2 emissions is still modest. Even Germany seems to be having second thoughts about ditching nuclear power, and France won’t do it (and can’t afford it). Germany’s position in the past few years has been: shunning nuclear power but importing nuclear-generated electric power from France.

More than two dozen major American corporations are preparing to pay climate-related taxes, departing from conservative orthodoxy and exposing divisions between the Republican Party and its business supporters.

The announcement by the UK government of a deal to underwrite a major new nuclear power station seems to run counter to the recent trend of countries scaling down nuclear activities. The UK nuclear scheme will not come on line until 2022 at the earliest, and follows moves by a number of other countries that are showing renewed interest in nuclear. Some reactors are likely to restart in Japan in 2014, and expansion in China, Russia and India looks set to continue.
While the costs of the UK deal are well above conventional thermal power (ignoring any carbon charge) it is competitive compared to some renewable energy sources. Nuclear does not suffer the problems of intermittency that plague renewables.


by Neagu Djuvara

Unfortunately, tomorrow’s Europe belongs to the Arabs and Gypsies. Therefore consider that worse than the crime committed against native Europeans and European culture is opening wide the gates of Europe for the barbarian hordes of ravenous hunger coming from Asia and Africa, hordes that will make today’s Christian, civilized and thriving Europe into a Euro-Indo-Arabia of tomorrow, in which our descendants will probably survive for several generations into “reserves” … and we Europeans stand with arms crossed and we grumble all the abominations that are done under the sun without doing anything. So that’s what we deserved, to our shame!

If the model is the Roman Empire at the end, when there were no wars but in the suburbs, it really looks like it. But what worries me is that we have entered a new Middle Ages. I mean, the Western civilization dies – slowly but surely.

The symptoms are already here: they feel old, with a moral disorder that never existed. I’ll give you one example: the youth that revolts has absolutely no ideal today. They do not revolt for an ideal, they revolt to overthrow. This means that they only broke something. Youth, which generally should be regarded as the bearer of future ideals, even wrong, as was communism, today has no ideal …

The second symptom unseen until now is the great turning to a bizarre art and thought in Western civilization that began between 1905-1913, earlier that the predawn of  the American imperialism . All areas of art and thought have a brutal early age turn at the beginning of 2000’s. This would be the sign that it begins a new Middle Ages.

This means that U.S. hegemony, which provides a kind of global peace, would not last five centuries as the Roman Empire, but probably only 100 years. Consider that just in over a century, Europe will become a half-breed. It is clear to me that the Indo – Europeans commit suicide, slowly but surely. I do not mean children do not have any ambition or that we support an “attack” from the third world. Instead, we created a void, a void which the third world, extremely prolific, comes to fill it.

Young people do not know what the European ideal is. Young people cannot see what it could be in a united Europe. I do not see it united all, I do not see a European government and a president – especially if Turkey becomes a member.

Therefore Europe is destined to disappear. It is a universal law. When you had so much magnificence of creativity in science and art, as well as economic and political power to stretch the entire globe you must pay by extinction.

This will not happen.

I the context of Catalania and Scotland asking for their independence, I was wondering whether two EU members can decide they want to become a single state? Will they lose their membership? How can they decide to merge and lose their sovereignty and independence to each other when part of their sovereignty is already delegated in favor of the EU?

The answer is that there is no EU legal position on the merger of two member states, something that has not happened, but one can be certain a new membership agreement would have to be negotiated, which would be quite easy as just as in the case of separation EU-compliant legislation is already in place.

When I asked those questions I was thinking of the fact that whether Catalania or Scottish independence is approved, Hungary will not stop pressuring Romania further for accepting the (Tinutul Secuiesc) Szecklerland’s (almost 3 counties in Romania) autonomy and then for its independence, as they feel this territory is theirs, because the majority of the population is Hungarian inside and from time to time they seem to disregard the Treaty of Trianon. When and if this happens, through administrative autonomy first – as they ask – a small part of Romania will be under Hungary’s influence.

On the other hand, The Republic of Moldova is on its way to become an EU member. I was imaging that, following the Hungarian way of thinking, if Romania is to merge with Moldova in the future – a former Romanian territory,”Basarabia” before the war -, it will have to agree to the independence of the Szecklerland first. Or not?! Or none of these is possible?! Of course there is a question whether Romania can afford to lose a part of Transylvania, or whether can she decide to lose a little for the re- gaining of an entire region, or can Romania have it all.

Coming back to the initial idea, if Hungary will succeed in influencing the gaining of the independence for a region inside Romania, won’t they try to gain influence on other territories they had before 1920 in Serbia, Austria, etc.?
Is the EU ready to allow such a pattern to propagate with inside Spain or the UK?

The EU holds, as far as it is concerned, to the principle of the permanence of European borders as inherited from WW II. The exception was Germany where it was a matter of reunification of a country split by Communist-Soviet domination. The EU will coutenance only minor modifications approved by both parties. Hungary was told so when she joined the EU. The EU has objected to Hungary’s statement that it was representing all Magyars in Europe and be told that only cultural influence would be tolerated.

The EU however cannot oppose regions democratically splitting up from multiethnic countries, but will accept such secessionists as new members only to the extent that the country they separated from agrees. Even without such principle, the admission of new members being subject to unanimity, the country from which one part seceded would have been able to block its admission into the EU.

The UE is a union of nations. Does anybody want to replace it with a union of regions?

I am very interested in a debate on regions becoming independent and autonomous by separating themselves from their mother country, inside the EU.

I understand that whether a region inside an EU country becomes independent through national referendum that does not imply it is an EU member as well?! Therefore, the new, independent state/region has to be recognized as a state and then follow all the steps necessary to its EU accession.

Today, the EU is already facing a Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 and a Catalonia issue.

The EU Commission’s legal position is that a region that separates from a member state and becomes an internationally recognized state (implying UN membership, which requires UN SC endorsement followed by a UN GA vote) does not automatically belongs to the EU but has to negotiate a membership agreement. Provided the member state from which the region has separated does not veto entry, it should be relatively simple as through membership of the original state the region’s legislation is already in line with EU rules.

The EU position is that EU members are fully sovereign states, even though they have agreed to delegate some powers to the EU Council. Recall that on important matters any EU member state can veto new EU legislation. Also, when the Maastricht Treaty was negotiated, signed and ratified, the possibility of opting out of EU legislation was afforded to the UK and others in the matter of the Euro. But changes in the Treaties and other legislation that affects directly only the Eurozone have still to be approved unanimously including by non-Eurozone members. Two member states opposed the “fiscal compact”: the difficulty was circumvented by incorporating the new rules not in a new Treaty but in an intergovernmental accord, in the manner already used for the Schengen and Dublin border control agreements.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron and First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond have formally agreed a deal that will give voters in Scotland a chance to decide on the fate of a Union that has stood since 1707. The Edinburgh Agreement will present Scots with a vote on independence by the end of 2014. The detailed terms of the referendum have been subject to a power struggle between London and Edinburgh. In what The Telegraph terms a victory for David Cameron, the referendum will offer Scots a single option to leave the Union. Alex Salmond had wanted a second option, to remain in the Union but have more powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

On the other hand, the timetable for the vote is a setback for Cameron, who had wanted an earlier referendum. Two years of campaigning will give Salmond time to build support for independence. The most recent opinion poll showed support for separation at only 28 per cent. Cameron said he was confident that Scots would ultimately conclude that Scotland was better off in the Union.

Anyway, an independent Scotland would have to apply for EU membership. Foreign Office Minister has spoken about an independent Scotland in relation to the EU. The subject is important, with potentially secessionist Catalonia and Scotland, currently regions, claiming that if they become independent they will be part of the EU. This will not happen if the current EU member country – Spain and the UK – opposes it, and if it doesn’t, Scotland and Catalonia will not be automatically members of the EU but will have to negotiate their membership. As their inherited legislation is in line with EU legislation, that shouldn’t take very long.

Scotland will probably cote against independence but Catalonia is a more open question.

20131211_120757The same as in Scot’s case would apply for Catalonia if it decided to secede from Spain. Catalans went to the polls, and the pro-independence parties may very well win. They say they would then propose a referendum for secession and claim Catalonia would be part of the EU. Not so simple.

If the region did formally secede, it might have to leave the euro and the EU – at least temporarily – unless a temporary arrangement is agreed by all existing EU member states. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso recalled that Catalonia would have to reapply for membership – and this applies to Scotland too. Leaving the euro could cause serious economic disruption. Further, Catalonia’s regional government remains highly indebted and could no longer count on the eurozone’s ESM bailout fund.

Credit Suisse is quoted as saying by The Washington Post that it estimates that Catalonia’s GDP would fall by as much as 20 percent if it seceded, as businesses fled and trade with the rest of Spain suffered. “A 20% fall in Catalonia’s per capita income would leave Catalonia falling below the wealth level of the remainder of Spain,” the report estimates. “And this is not taking into account the likely effects coming from capital flight, financial instability and the introduction of a new currency.”

Catalan leaders and to a lesser extent the SNP believe they would be better of if they did not have to contribute to the common kitty (this is less true of Scotland now that oil production has peaked). This selfish attitude is akin to that of Bossi’s Northern League in Italy, though admittedly Scotland and Catalonia are far more rooted in history than the imaginary Padania.

Scottish and Catalan leaders should realize that EU membership requires approval by all current 27 EU member states. There are indications that Spain will make it clear they would veto a Catalan membership application.

Opponents of independence said the plan promised more than it could be certain of delivering, since it assumed the agreement of a wide range of outside bodies, including the other 27 members of the EU, the members of NATO and the British government.

One of the most controversial issues in the debate is what currency an independent Scotland would use. New members of the European Union are required to make a commitment to adopting the euro at some time in the future, although there is no set time scale. Instead of using the euro, the Scottish government plans to continue to use the British pound under a negotiated agreement with the rest of the UK to form a “sterling area.”

But the UK government disagrees, arguing that the eurozone’s recent crisis proves that a currency union can’t be successfully maintained without “close political and fiscal integration,” precisely what an independent Scotland would bring to an end. The government cited Scotland’s reliance on oil and gas revenues as one reason why the two separate economies couldn’t share a common interest rate set by the Bank of England.

On the other hand, it is certainly up to the Catalans to decide of their own future. They certainly have a contiguous territory, a common language – except for Castilian Spaniards who live there, and there are many -, a common history (though largely common with Spain). Catalonia joined Aragon in 1258 when under the Treaty of Corbeil the king of France formally relinquished his lordship over the counties of the Principality of Catalonia to the king of Aragon James I. In 1410, King Martin of Aragon died without surviving descendants and under the Pact of Caspe, Ferdinand of Antequera from the Castilian dynasty of Trastámara received the Crown of Aragon as Ferdinand I of Aragon. From then Catalonia’s fate was linked to that of Spain which was uniting.

20131211_171609In the first 30 years of the 20th century, Catalonia gained then lost varying degrees of autonomy on several occasions, receiving its first statute of autonomy during the Second Spanish Republic in 1931. Franco’s victory in the civil war abolished what remained of Catalan autonomy. With the adoption of a democratic Spanish Constitution in 1978 three years after Franco’s death, Catalonia recovered political and cultural autonomy. Apparently this is not enough for Catalan nationalists.

In comparison, there is the Northern Italy, also the most advanced region in the country, where Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord pushes for the independence of “Padania”, essentially because he doesn’t want the comparatively rich North to support the less-developed South, just as Catalan nationalists do not want to share their wealth with the other, less well-off region. The comparison stops there, however, because Padania has little historical roots and no language that would distinguish it from the rest of Italy.

In the end, the UE is a union of nations: some want to replace it with a union of regions. This would be a dangerous path to tread.

Sovereignty is based on a number of factors included the will of the people, a common social contract, willingness and ability to control borders and territorial waters, etc. Shouldn’t international relations experts at least agree to a common and consistent application of basic principles, boundary conditions, and international law in discussing these cases?


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