In the all Ukraine all the time edition of the Duck, here are some essential reads from this week. Will ad more in a bit.
- Dan Nexon channeling his inner Henry Kissinger on the Monkey Cage
- Henry Kissinger channeling his inner Henry Kissinger in the WaPo
- Joshua Rovner on why Russia's intervention in Ukraine is a blunder
- What will Germany, one of Russia's main trading partners, do?
- Obama administration issues new sanctions
- Crimea prepares for a snap referendum in 10 days on secession
- Bob Gates tells Republican critics of Obama and Ukraine policy to cool it
- Hillary unhelpfully compares Putin to Hitler (see Kissinger above)
- Lindsey Graham even more unhelpful on Twitter
I don't have an answer for this, as I'm not sure how globally integrated Russia is in to the world economy at this juncture or vulnerable given its fossil fuel resources, but I see that the Russian stockmarket declined this morning as has the value of the ruble.
I know Russia experienced significant economic crises in the 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union that made it dependent on IMF support, but my sense is that the resurgence of the country's petro economy bolstered its international economic position. That said, I wonder if the markets can tame Putin in a way that politicians can't. My bet is that if Putin is willing to tolerate high costs, then no, but I'd welcome our readers with more regional knowledge to weigh in.
For some smart commentary on what's going down in
the Ukraine and how (not) to cover it, I point you to former Duck Dan Nexon on his personal blog (*and also cross-posted below). Dan knows a thing or two about the region having served in the Russia/Ukraine/Eurasia regional office in the Office of the Secretary Defense as a CFR International Affairs Fellow in 2009-2010.
Here, Dan bemoaned the coverage in the WaPo of the Ukraine crisis by one Scott Wilson. Wilson lambasted the Obama administration's strategy in
the Ukraine writing that:
This duck is a bit under water these days. We've reached the mid-semester pre-spring break moment of high activity and low energy (warm weather and SXSW beckon). In the meantime, I've flagged a few stories, a great Economist round-up on the health of the oceans (not good), a post by Chris Bertram on the changing face of blogging (more corporate, less fun), Rosa Brooks tells Sheryl Sandberg to take a hike (lean back, don't lean in), the air quality is so bad in Beijing that (the dogs wear masks) and more...
I arrived in Geneva yesterday morning to give a couple of talks, and I pulled up Twitter on my phone to see events in the Ukraine exploding. I can't say I fully understand what's going on and the implications. Reflexively, I'm supportive of the protesters and their desire for tighter ties to the European Union. But, as one person said on Twitter, the Ukrainian president may be taking a page from Assad on this one. All I know is that this could get even more nasty without some diplomacy to negotiate a softer landing. I'm curious what Erica Chenoweth might have to say about this. Increased radicalization by the opposition threatens to remove the glow of legitimacy that non-violent protest often confers, but a determined autocrat may be able to use force to crush the protest if he really wants to. What tilts the balance might be the calculations of the cost of violent reprisals. It's unclear if the West's sanctions are enough to alter Yanukovych's perspective on this.
It's kind of amazing that this is all happening in the shadow of the nearby Olympics. Kind of casts a pall over the proceedings...In any case, here are some fragments of news that I followed to try to make sense of this, but mostly the imagery was what struck me.
International Politics Reviews is a new reviews journal bundled by Palgrave with International Politics. Michael J. Williams of Royal Holloway is the editor, and I’m an associate editor. I recently curated a recent roundtable exchange on Michael Levi’s book The Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity, and the Battle for America's Future with contributions by me, Jesse Jenkins, Emily Meierding, regular Guest Duck Johannes Urpelainen, and a response from CFR's Levi himself. Palgrave has granted us ungated access to the reviews (right here), which will be up for several months. I wanted to continue the conversation here on the Duck, and my fellow contributors may also weigh in.
I came across this news story which underscored to me the challenges that the Chinese government has in confronting their air quality problem, what I previously likened to rapidly turning a supertanker. An official Chinese study described Beijing air as "barely suitable" for living, the second worst of 40 global cities.
In response to last year's "airpocalypse" and on-going concerns that pollution may constitute a threat to regime stability, the Chinese government is rolling out a series of measures to come to grips with its pollution problem and deal with the oft-reported weakness in the center's capacity to enforce regulations (see work by Liz Economy, Ken Lieberthal, Trevor Houser among others). In addition to stories of China's efforts to deal with pollution, the government may also be taking a more serious role in addressing poaching and the trade in ivory by its citizens. The following round of links address these issues.
This Duck spent the day in the car en route to the Brazilian consulate in Houston to get visas for a summer field course so I'm running behind in my linkage for the week. In the car, I had the amazing experience of listening to an audioversion of The Idealist, Nina Munk's magisterial account of Jeff Sachs and the Millennium Villages Project. I'm moderating a conversation with Ms. Munk on Monday. For those of you who follow debates in international development, I found her take on Sachs to be quite measured, far more nuanced than the media accounts I had read. At times, I found myself admiring Sachs and at other times was amazed by his naivete. Throughout, I was enthralled by the access Munk had to pull off the enterprise. I'll have more to say about it after Monday...
In the meantime, the Winter Olympics have started! Here is some news to accompany what promises to be a weird sporting event, given the live tweets of journalists who found their rooms in disarray, the campaign to kill stray dogs, a blockade on U.S. yogurt, the anti-gay laws, and the specter of terrorism. On top of that, the U.S. ambassador to Russia announced that he is done after Sochi. More curious, a call by the Deputy Undersecretary of State and the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine was leaked on YouTube. At least the skiing and snowboarding tonight was fantastic.
Your humble blogger (I like saying that. Now that Dan Drezner no longer has a blog [sniff], I will say it for him)...Your humble blogger is in London, and after a red eye flight, a noon presentation, ten hours of a sleep coma, another presentation, I'm ready to provide you with your latest in belated Thursday links. Themes this week (surprise!) - HIV/AIDS spending, conservation, pollution, GDELT lives!
As sleet and ice descend upon Austin, Texas this Thursday evening, here are some stories in keeping with this wackadoo weather. Rick Perry and weed at Davos with Kofi Annan, Downton Abbey goes on safari, Putin warns gays to stay away from kids, GDELT goes dark, and scientific findings that may be flashes in the pan...
So, your humble blogger found himself subsumed by first week of class duties and fell behind on the job! To make amends, I've flagged some stories that caught my eye, which should make for some welcome weekend reading. My eye this week was mostly trained on energy and environment stuff (U.S. greenhouse gas emissions on the rise again - boo!), with a dash of global health (spending up by USG on global health up slightly - yay!) with a side of Springsteen and Fallon (Christie may not be born to run - classic!) Enjoy.
Apologies for the delayed linkage. This Duck has been in flight all day and just landed (insert joke here...). I'm attending the launch of the new AidData Research Consortium (ARC), which is a USAID funded research effort to use geospatial data on foreign assistance to ask and answer interesting questions. My bit is related to disasters and humanitarian assistance. I'll have more to write on the topic soon.
It's been quite a newsy week, aside from the Chris Christie drama on the domestic front (time for some traffic problems ...). On the foreign policy front, former SecDef Bob Gates' memoir is all the rage. Colin Kahl and Matt Kroenig are back at it in Foreign Affairs on the folly and wisdom of attacking Iran. Bill Easterly and Chris Blattman size up the study of development in light of Nina Munk's takedown of Millennium Villages. The National Security Archive released important documents about the Rwandan genocide. China's foreign health minister comes to grips with the country's pollution crisis that is one of the leading causes of death. New person to head PEPFAR and US HIV/AIDS initiative. And, how blue fin tuna went from cat food to sushi delicacy to near extinction. Links aplenty below...
We're going to kick of 2014 right with our morning linkage. I'd like to say the stories coming out from around the world are festive and joyful, but I suppose the habit in the profession is to be drawn to difficult news from around the world.
Here are some interesting stories that caught my eye this week. The New York Times ran an extended story trying to come to grips with the real reasons for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Abdul Mohammed and Alex de Waal, experienced hands when it comes to South Sudan, provide their take on what's gone wrong there. And will Russia's efforts to ward off disaster in the Olympics work? Finally, there may be some good news out there on the conservation front for once!
Well, I hope you survived the crush of end of term and then the crush of family and holiday stuff, if you are in to that kind of thing. In the meantime, if you stepped away from the media, what did you miss? Well, South Sudan is on the brink while the Central African Republic may be stepping back from it. Syria remains an awful mess, with winter being a desperate time for IDPs and refugees. There are some unexplained dolphin deaths and more difficult conservation news so time to re-double our efforts at understanding and problem-solving of all sorts in the new year. Here are some stories to get you thinking...
What's right and wrong in the world this holiday season? This is a sundry list related to recent interests of mine, mostly related to humanitarian assistance.
- UN seeks record $13 billion for humanitarian assistance in 2014, half of it for Syria
More than half of Syria’s population of 22 million is now in need of aid, according to United Nations estimates.
With Thanksgiving behind us and the winter holidays and family time approaching, the season encourages some stock-taking and reflection. We at the Duck have been having a bit of behind the scenes emailing about the challenges of finding child care, and I wanted to recount a happier story from my own experience here at the University of Texas.
Anne-Marie Slaughter's essay in The Atlantic last year prompted considerable debate about family unfriendly workplaces and the difficulties for career women of the work-life balance. Of course, as many people pointed out at the time, the problem is not unique to women if you live in a household with non-traditional gender norms when it comes to child rearing or duties around the house.
My wife and I are both political scientists, and we were fortunate to resolve the two body problem with both of us having tenure track positions at both a quality institution and a great city. On so many levels, we recognize our good fortune. When we decided to have a child, we knew that the University of Texas had a great daycare program, but the waitlist was long, upwards on 18 months so we put in an application as soon as my wife found out she was pregnant. While we waited for daycare, the issue for us was whether we would get some time away from teaching when our son was born.
Mandela's memorial service was yesterday, and the speeches and coverage were laudatory, as they should be, and the crowd was raucous, celebratory, despite the rain. Obama in his speech challenged the audience to use Mandela's example in their own lives, to "take risks on behalf of ideals" but in a studied, disciplined manner.
I was most struck by the notes of dissensus, the public in the stadium booing South Africa's President Jacob Zuma when he appeared on the big screen and the coverage noting that the anti-apartheid movement and Mandela were not universally embraced by U.S. policymakers at the time.
A friend asked me who are the younger Mandelas of the future? Here, it's hard to imagine individuals who will or may have such impact, in part because people who have the charisma and intelligence to be transformational historical figures are often killed in their prime before their full contributions can be realized. It's also true that in this era of instant celebrity we too soon elevate people to receive acclaim, sometimes deserved but in others cases, like Greg Mortenson and his story, much of it untrue, of extending education access in the Stans. In other cases, there isn't a single individual leading the charge but a movement, a network that catalyzes action. Here are some recent news stories that pick up on these themes.
Did you see the photos like the one above out of Shanghai? For the first time ever, Shanghai's air pollution, like Beijing's before it, exceeded the scale for particulate matter. For the past seven days, the air quality has been so bad that schools and flights were cancelled, cars were forced off the roads, industries were shut down (Though a marathon last Monday went on as planned. Runners complained that their lungs hurt. Go figure!).
This post follows up my previous one a couple of weeks ago on whether China can gets its air quality problems under control. That was essentially the text for my contribution to the first half of a webinar sponsored by the outstanding ChinaFAQS, an initiative sponsored by the World Resources Institute to provide U.S. policymakers on the latest state of play in China, energy, and the environment. This post is a revised version of the second set of remarks I made and deals with whether or not China is meeting its energy-related commitments under its 12th five year plan.
This week's stories have no unifying theme other than they kind of capture the end of term mood, a certain grumpiness on the part of the writer (Bjorn Lomborg's tsk tsking of clean energy advocates, Paul Collier's screed against immigration) or not altogether pleasant images (an elephant run amok in a wedding, modern conflict with bows and arrows). Happy grading! Or dissertating! Or turning in those final papers! Enjoy. (My wife pointed out a hopeful Iranian "Yes We Can" video of Rouhani so all is not bleak!).