Thursday, July 31, 2008
The Russian Energy Net Expands
Chavez, for his part, observed: "You spoke of establishing a new world architecture. I think that this concrete effort is part of the work to establish this new architecture – a new political, geopolitical, economic, financial and energy architecture – so as to put an end to hegemony and a unilateral approach ... Our countries are both major energy powers. It is in this way that we are building the new architecture."
Then Medvedev went to Turkmenistan and solidified Gazprom's position. Not only does this agreement effectively kill the Nabucco alternative line (unless Iran's gas re-enters the picture), it confirms Russia as the main "exporter" of Eurasian hydrocarbons.
This follows continued Russian dealmaking in Africa.
Indeed, as Tamsin Carlisle observed, after reviewing Russia's recent energy diplomacy: "Some analysts have warned of Russia mounting a “pincer” attack on Europe, aimed at tying up gas exports from its principal North African suppliers, Algeria and Libya. Others see a wider chess game — or more accurately, an encircling strategy from the Japanese game of Go — involving a Russian attempt to gain control of gas suppliers from as many current and potential exporters to Europe as possible."
So, there does appear to be a clear strategy emanating from Moscow--one that is being carefully pursued.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
The Balance Sheet with Pakistan
Washington would like Islamabad to do everything in Pakistan's power to destroy all militant groups operating in the western provinces and across the border in Afghanistan. If Pakistan can do more to take away the burden from the U.S. and NATO, so much the better.
Pakistan has a compelling interest in neutralizing Al-Qaeda, especially after 9/11. Indeed, 9/11 brought down a client regime and replaced it with a government in Afghanistan much more aligned with the West and--significantly for Pakistan--aligned with India. So Pakistan today has less of a compelling interest in necessarily destroying or liquidating the reviving Taliban and related groups. Pakistan is also working under the "bus station" approach (see Dan Byman's piece in the current issue of TNI)--using the conflicts in Kashmir and Afghanistan to draw away militants who otherwise might "stay at home." Finally, given India's efforts to use Afghanistan as a linchpin in its strategy to open up Central Asia and bypass Pakistan, being able to frustrate or destabilize those plans remains of interest to Pakistan.
The new government of Raza Gilani is not going to take on Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment if it cannot show some tangible results. The prime minister noted two such items: a nuclear deal for Pakistan similar to the U.S.-India one; and greater U.S. involvement on Kashmir.
The U.S. is not going to risk its emerging new relationship with India to put pressure on New Delhi to accommodate Pakistan's wishes in Kashmir or Afghanistan. Nor is a nuclear deal likely.
So where does this leave us: Pakistan is only going to offer cooperation to a certain degree--focusing on Al-Qaeda but otherwise working to "manage" rather than "liquidate" Taliban-style groups.
What, you think we'd rather write about George Bush leaving his successor a record $482-billion deficit? That, of course, is far more important to whatever the next president can accomplish. But a heckuva lot less fun.
What I love about this orgy of pontification is how everyone becomes an instant expert. People whose only experience in Virginia is flying into National Airport suddenly are holding forth on the intricacies of the governor's record.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
China, Russia Cooperation on Iran (and Turkey)?
So, instead of being brought within the embrace of the emerging Eurasian security organization, Iran still remains isolated. As the ambassador notes, "Since such issues are invariably decided within the SCO on the basis of a consensus between Russia and China, it stands to reason that either Russia didn't press Iran's membership case or China disfavored the idea. On balance, it seems to be a combination of both. Conceivably, Moscow didn't press after informally ascertaining Beijing's lukewarm attitude. Tajikistan, which hosts the SCO summit in August, has openly favored Iran's membership. If the two Big Brothers had given the green signal, Tajikistan would have asked Iran to come in from the cold. No doubt, Tehran, which openly canvassed for SCO membership, has suffered a diplomatic setback."
For many Americans--including presidential hopeful Senator John McCain--this might not seem like much at all--but it is significant, in that it shows the limits to which states like China and Russia are prepared to shield Iran from Western pressure--and I see this as a positive.
Also of interest in this column--the assertion that Turkey may be serving as Iran's new interlocutor with the West--and that this is alongside Ankara's efforts to broker talks between Israel and Syria. The ambassador notes that, despite harsh U.S. rhetoric about Iran's role in southern and central Iraq, "the US has largely looked away from Turkey-Iran cooperation in stabilizing northern Iraq." He also suggests that a Turkish opening to Iran might also serve the purpose of revitalizing the stalled Nabucco project. In turn, Iran might assist Turkey in its contentious relations with Armenia.
"Washington will not throw a spanner into the Iranian attempt to mediate the easing of tensions in Turkey-Armenia relations or in bringing Armenia and Azerbaijan to a path of dialogue and negotiations. Such Iranian efforts would even serve the interests of US regional policies in the Caucasus. Most important, Iran can be the key to the realization of the Nabucco gas pipeline project, which would go a long way in reducing Europe's energy dependence on Russia. Turkey, in turn, would be the transportation corridor for any Iranian gas to be pumped to Europe.
"All in all, therefore, a fascinating pattern of interlocking diplomatic moves is forming on the regional chessboard in which Turkey, Syria and Israel are already openly engaged as protagonists with Iran now appearing on the scene."
An interesting column, to say the least.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Further on the Future of the India Nuclear Deal
"In fact with the aura of staking his government for this Accord and then by winning it; it now becomes imperative for American leaders to make all the necessary arrangements to pass this bill."
I wondered last week whether Iran will continue to be the "spoiler" in U.S.-India relations; Nitin Pai over at The Acorn responds directly, "it doesn't have to be."
The bombings in India reinforced the feeling that there are common threats to both the U.S. and India but the ease in which that news was superceded by events in Iraq also shows there might not be the attention span needed, especially in what is both a lame-duck Congress and a lame-duck Presidency to focus on getting this process completed. And if it is pushed back beyond January 2009, what might happen?
India-China Alliance in Geneva; When Farms Mean National Security
Latin American states, led by Brazil, were receptive, especially given the possibility of gaining market share in the U.S., but other countries are worried about losing a domestic farming base.
What is interesting is how farming is now seen as a "national security" issue. India argues that in a world increasingly defined by shortage and competition, it needs to preserve its own domestic ability to produce food. All of this, by the way, touches on issues discussed in the current issue of The National Interest.
A good summary of the U.S. perspective here, versus Xinhua's coverage.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Advice from 70 Years Ago
One of the contributors, professor Maurice Bourquin, had an observation that seems apropos today when we talk about the international system:
"The world today is not what it was when the institutions on which we still depend were formed. These were regulated with reference to a state of things that social evolution has long since outrun, and if we feel that the institutions are less efficient, letus not make the mistake of believing that this is due to temporary defects."
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Short Reactions to Obama's Berlin Speech
**Obama has his own version of the "no reset button" in foreign policy line: "A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden."
**Lays out an ambitious agenda for cooperation, including on dealing with climate change, but no real sense of the burden sharing and, more importantly, on leadership questions. Is the implication that U.S. and European positions will naturally converge? Or does this presage that an Obama administration would be more comfortable accepting European initatives (see my previous blog post on this dilemma).
Singh Survived ... Now the Hard Part
But the specter of Iran still looms large. India is promoting a new trade route, that would link Central Asia (and Russia via its Caspian ports), Afghanistan and Iran, in order to get goods (and possibly in the future) energy moving along a new north-south axis. In order to bypass Pakistan, which does not allow for transit of goods along its territory, India is centering operations on the Iranian part of Charbahar, and later this month the new Delaram-Zaranj highway should be completed, which should facilitate truck travel from Central Asia across Afghanistan and then with connections to Charbahar.
There are even some positives for the U.S.--a new trade route that provides an alternative to Central Asia's continuing dependence on Russian export routes; a new alternative to China; another "brick" in the stabilization of Afghanistan by opening up trade and providing fees. But the Iran component is sure to raise eyebrows on Capitol Hill.
It's also not clear whether U.S. lawmakers are in the mood to accept Indian advice and criticism about how Washington has handled the Iran portfolio. Gopalapuram Parthasarathy, India's former high commissioner to Pakistan, editorialized in the Times of India that "the western powers would be well advised to remember that national pride is an integral element of Iranian foreign policies" and then went on to propose that India serve as a third party mediator "between Iran on the one hand and the US and Israel on the other."
Will that find a receptive audience here?
So I think Singh's survival is important, but the underlying challenges to the U.S.-India relationship remain in place.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Russia's Irritants in Reserve
What does seem clear, however, is that one goal of Russian foreign policy is to begin to assemble and cultivate potential "irritants" to the United States to be deployed if and when Washington takes steps that Moscow perceives to be working against their interests, something Brooke Leonard notes at NI Online.
Of course, with Venezuela, the risk Russia runs is that it can in no way control Hugo Chavez. I don't know that Moscow is that interested in endorsing a new Latin American troika of Chavez, Evo Morales in Bolivia and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua--not especially when there are new opportunities for expanded cooperation with Brazil. But at the same time, Chavez won't let Russia sit on the fence indefinitely (perhaps using the leverage of nationalization for future Russian energy projects?)
But this does seem to be an ongoing pattern for the future.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Tuesday Headlines: Serbia, India, Zimbabwe, Chavez
Radovan Karadzic was captured--what this demonstrates is that both political will (to undertake the operation) but also good and sustained intelligence is needed. A fugitive does not need the protection of a state to hide; just a good and effective network--and something "out of the ordinary." Perhaps there are some lessons in our ongoing search for Osama bin Laden--and I'd also shy away from comments that say that it should be "easy" to find the other Bosnian Serb fugitive, Ratko Mladic.
We will see whether Prime Minister Singh's government will survive the no-confidence vote and stay in office; if his government falls, I predict it is the end of the U.S.-India nuclear deal. (By the way, the allegations that members of the Lok Sabha were being bribed not to vote in favor of the no confidence resolution doesn't help matters).
South Africa may feel that it was "not on the wrong side of history"--the characterization by U.S. officials last week after its no vote on Zimbabwe sanctions resolutions--as all sides in Zimbabwe have agreed to begin power sharing talks in South Africa. Perhaps the South Africans feel that they have sufficient influence to guide a settlement and perhaps even an eventual retirement for Mugabe, and that this approach may be more effective. We will have to see.
Hugo Chavez is visiting Russia. Moscow is happy to expand economic and business ties--including new energy and mining projects and arms sales--and may now be cautiously moving toward greater endorsement of Chavez's political stance, especially as Russia mulls resumption of use of Cuba as a staging ground for bomber flights, to "counteract" U.S. plans for missile defense.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Speaking Softly When Unsure About the Big Stick
Friday, July 18, 2008
A Shanghai Update ...
Sarkozy v. Chirac
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
What was interesting was to read about his concept of "economic jihad"-that one measures the success of a terror attack by the impact it has on the economy. In his view, it is more important to negatively impact a country's financial and transport infrastructure. For Khawaja, 9/11 was more successful not because of the casualties but for what it did to the economy.
We focus on the physical protection of assets; does this mean that some may shift their efforts to take advantage of our economic vulnerabilities? What Soros did to the British pound, might some financier do to the dollar in the cause of jihad?
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
The Four Dialogues
The most important will be the Sino-American dialogue, in how Beijing and Washington begin to discuss how they will interpret norms, how they will interpret rules, how they will interpret obligations.
The Russian-EU dialogue will play a similar role, perhaps lesser than the Sino-American one, but this will also be a critical one.
The India-China one, because this is bridging the divide in a way that has not been anticipated by many in Washington, which is the extent to which the world's largest democracy and China are finding common ground on a number of issues, much more than they might find in their shared dialogues between Beijing and Washington and New Delhi and Washington.
And finally, overall what I might term the southern democracies, the dialogue among and between the southern democracies and other states—southern democracies and Europe, southern democracies and the United States.
How these four dialogues go will do a lot to determine how these global political parties work, whether or not there will be some grand bargains, consensus, who may stay in which party, who becomes an independent.
The Return of Arms Control
But what concerns me is the "numbers game"--defining arms control in terms of numbers. For me, I'd like to see the definition expanded in a different way.
We are in a unique period, where only one nuclear power--us--extends the protection of our national nuclear umbrella over other countries. All other nuclear powers hold their stocks solely for national defense. I think that's something we'd want to continue. I don't relish the idea of a resurgent Russia or rising China deciding at some point to extend their field and scope of activity. We certainly don't want to see the Shanghai Cooperation Organization turned into a treaty organization that extends the nuclear umbrella.
So arms control as increasingly limiting what a country will do with its nuclear force is something to pay attention to.
The U.S. will also have to decide whether it wants strict limits on numbers or whether it would prefer to have flexibility in terms of pursuing missile defense. As MD systems come on line, China and Russia, and perhaps other nuclear powers, will be less interested in pursuing low ceilings. So does it matter to us whether Russia has 2200 or 1700 warheads?
Monday, July 14, 2008
Sarkozy: Following in Baker's Footsteps
Marwan Bishara, Al-Jazeera's senior political analysis, calls the summit a triumph of Mediterranean realism and contrasts the more humble aspirations of the French in light of the "failure" of America to remake the Middle East.
Looking through the various news reports, I was again struck by the lack of real coverage from U.S. outlets. Is it because there is not a "Made in the U.S." sticker? I would assume that the growing "offshore balancer" community should be pleased--this represents burden sharing away from the U.S. toward the Europeans taking a more active lead in dealing with their geographical neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa.
But, just as with the lack of coverage about IBSA, I wonder whether the U.S. is really comfortable with "relinquishing" its roles ...
Wish List for Secretary of State
1) International business: I think we need to go back to having Secretaries of State that have spent some time in the business world. Those of us who come from academia and the think tank world may be good at scoring debating points or besting rivals in turf wars, but usually have not been held accountable for when our proposals have gone wrong.
Someone with a business background might be more amenable to the idea of setting priorities and comfortable with the concept of negotiations (rather than seeing diplomacy as extortion).
2) Asia background. Someone who has spent time in Asia and is fluent in a key regional language. For too long, I think we have assumed that the rest of the world would follow a "European" path and that modernization and economic development would lead to duplication of European patterns elsewhere. I don't think we can successfully engage with China and cultivate the rising south and east without a person at the helm who is not going to see everything through the lens of the North Atlantic region.
Friday, July 11, 2008
The Young Realists?
After pondering a bit, I wonder if it is because most of the "older realists" came out of business--and came to some form of "realism" not through academic study but found it out of a pragmatism that was based in real world experience. Perhaps the assumption was that newer generations of business figures with international experience would continue to serve as a recruiting ground for senior appointments and that those who came out of business--where there are real world consequences for failures, like losses--would continue the "realist tradition."
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Acting from Weakness?
There could be a change of government in Israel by September, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is not governing at present from any position of strength or confidence. The Bush Administration is becoming more and more a lame duck--with the possible temptation to act either right before the November elections or in the transition period before a new administration arrives in January. For his part, Mahmud Ahmadinejad--who let's remember was elected president not because he promised war with Israel but on a platform of economic growth and combating corruption--hasn't been fulfilling many of those promises. A good old fashioned crisis, though, tends to distract attention and provide new legitimacy for his government.
It also means that none of the three governments are in a position to reach a deal that would then be seen as binding on possible successor administrations, diminishing the prospects for diplomacy.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
G8 Plus G5 Equals What?
In many ways, this meeting was effectively a G13--the traditional G7 "Western economies and Japan" plus Russia to make up the G8, and then the G5 of Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, India and China. But for those partisans of expansion, this meeting showed that simply having all 13 states at the same table does not automatically produce sweetness and light and a new consensus. If the G8 deadlocks, expanding it to the G13 doesn't promise to reverse this trend.
Next year, in Italy, we'll see how this expanded format plays--but I think that any hopes of returning the G- process to the way it was in the 1970s--a mechanism for effective coordination--is over. The G- process is now the world's leading photo-op.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
The Gold Standard for Diplomacy?
It also reminded me of a comment made by Flynt Leverett at last week's event in New York--that the first gulf war was essentially paid for by other states backing up the U.S.-led effort; again in real contrast to today.
So what is real surprising is why the Bush-Baker-Scowcroft approach--which looks to be quite successful in managing crises and in enhancing U.S. leadership--is not being cited more as the standard to which the next administration should aspire. Understandable why the Obama camp would not want to celebrate a largely Republican team--but the absence of references on the Republican side is quite telling.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Ambassador Rogozin Explains It All
Several items in passing that I wanted to note, since there will be reportage in greater detail on the event:
--asked about whether Russia wants a "sphere of influence", his response is that Russia (and by extension, any other country) has a "right of influence commensurate with its potential" in any given area; that countries all define what they consider to be "zones of vital interest" based on where they have commercial, business, security, cultural and human links.
--on the current U.S.-Russia mismatch: U.S. policy is too ideological; Russian policy is still not yet completely defined by a definition of what Russian national interests consist of. At present, the U.S. and Russia aren't enemies, but not allies or friends either."
--what I would call the Rogozin "Afghan dare": he noted that the Soviet-backed protege Najibullah lasted for three years after the cessation of Soviet support; would Hamid Karzai last for even a week without U.S./NATO backing?
--on why the Ukrainian government seeks NATO membership, Rogozin claims that senior Ukrainian governmental figures have said that they have been told by the West that the path to EU membership and full integration in the EU lies via NATO; that an approach of joining the EU without NATO is not on the table. This has implications for the debate over at the Atlantic Council, referenced last week in TWR.
Nirvana Out of Reach
His concluding thoughts:
"In its presidential season, the US, far more than Australia, is caught with a political system unable to respond to challenges. The Obama-McCain contest is a cosmetic that conceals the nature of the US's difficulty. The downturn reflects problems in the financial system and the real economy.
"For the US there is no easy solution to the structural forces driving oil, energy and financial markets. Yet much of the political debate remains in denial of these forces.
"The task for the next president is to reform US economic and energy policy - to strengthen the US at home - and to conduct a foreign policy that recognises a more diverse world defined by interdependence."
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Musings for Merkel and Searching for the Real Reagan
It is an interesting experiment.
Continuing in the theme of self-promotion, I return to the fray in arguing that the caricature of Reagan in vogue today leaves out Reagan's prudential and dare I say it conservative view of foreign policy. Not everyone agrees, as the commentary demonstrates.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
Economic Policy is Foreign Policy
Is there a national security incentive to restore America's manufacturing base, and if so, what role for the government to play?
Washington may not want or welcome sovereign wealth funds, but Wall Street will want to have a piece of the action, especially to manage and direct investment.
If the United States is not going to be supplying manufactures to the energy producers--in other words we aren't getting orders for development and infrastructure projects, are we moving to a system where the U.S. is essentially the paid security contractor? That the incentive to maintain the dollar and support our current account deficit is so that the U.S. will deploy its security assets in the service of the security of other states? In this view, it is not the U.S. as "Globocop" but as the world's condottiere?
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
Unease in New York
A quick observation, based on some of the questions and the after-panel informal discussion: the unease at the types of accommodations the United States may need to make in order to raise capital and obtain energy; that those who can and will finance our debts, invest in our economy and ensure that we remain powered up may want more overt exchanges in return, or at least that this could end up being a bigger drag on our freedom of action on the world scene than we would want to admit.
Interdependence, of course, reduces other countries' freedom of action; they become stakeholders in American success as well--but interdependence is not a condition we are comfortable with.
Nor are we comfortable with the notion that problems might only be managed, not "solved" altogether--and that some of the structural changes taking place in the global economy are not going to disappear any time soon.
Hope TWR readers have had a chance to view the panel--