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The Polish Rekonstuckcja

Foreign Policy Blogs - Thu, 05/05/2022 - 21:46

From the end of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to their status during the Napoleonic Wars and Interwar period, Poland has always tried to achieve their own true independence. The post Soviet era gave rebirth to Poland as an independently governed nation state, separate from the direct influence of empires of the past like the Austro-Hungarians and Soviets, and persistent powers like Germany and Russia.

While freedom did come with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the position of Poland between two European powers meant that it had to always survive strategically, knowing that its borders will be challenged perpetually. This focus on tactical survival also gave rise to creative solutions in challenging great power struggles, with some notable successes that have influenced the rest of Europe and the world.

No one would doubt the great humanitarian relief effort Poland has engaged in helping their neighbours in Ukraine. Polish sympathies lay in the knowledge of their own history and risks to their nation. Ukraine has been affected recently by Putin’s Russia as Poland had been in the past, by both German and Russian invasions alike. Poland knows that much of the catalyst for this current conflict comes from their position in Europe and the world as well as a history of Realpolitik that has targeted Poland, and now Ukraine.

A struggle can be won in the long term through soft power, as much as it can be with tanks and artillery. Pope John Paul II was respected and loved by Catholics and non-Catholics alike through his peace initiatives in the 1980s and support for Polish freedom and a life outside of Communism. His movement encouraging his native Poland and Eastern Europeans to push away from communist values helped greatly in the peaceful protest against Soviet control in the region.

The Solidarnosc Movement in the early 80s helped tremendously in the defeat of Communist in Poland and Europe, but was the culmination of years of grass roots activism. The gradual gaining of support of workers unions due to higher living costs and food prices established the Solidarity Movement, one of the largest political challenges to Moscow in the last years of the Soviet Union. This workers movement against Communism lead to the leader of the movement, Lech Walesa, and the Solidarity Party to lead Poland out of the Soviet era and helped put Poland in line for EU membership.

Poland knows what can come from threats to their borders and that their borders have not always been where they now stand. Much of the humanitarian relief at the Polish border is connected to cities like Lviv that used to itself be a part of Poland before it was annexed by the Soviets. Along with humanitarian aid that has stressed the capabilities for assistance for Poland and its people, military aid from Poland’s older Soviet era military stocks have been dedicated to Ukraine’s War effort. Despite some hiccups in the past in rearming its defense capabilities, Poland is now due to receive US made M1 Abrams tanks to displace its T-72 types donated to Ukraine, along with the more modern anti-missile versions of the Patriot PAC-3 missile systems. Poland will most likely have its military rearmed and upgraded while giving its current inventory to Ukraine. This will result in one of the most powerful and modern militaries in Europe.

Turning Poland into a defensive fortress and protected humanitarian settlement while supporting Ukrainian fighters shows that Poland likely understand more than any other nation the suffering at the hands of a foreign power in Europe. This achievement may look short term, but it is the result of generations of Polish leaders and citizens working to keep Poland free from influence and enshrine its place in Europe and the world.

The Philippines’ Strongman Problem

Foreign Affairs - Wed, 04/05/2022 - 23:26
Why political dynasties are dominating the presidential election.

The New Cold War Could Soon Heat Up

Foreign Affairs - Wed, 04/05/2022 - 23:05
Why Russia and the West might escalate the fight over Ukraine.

The Coup in the Kremlin

Foreign Affairs - Tue, 03/05/2022 - 21:48
Putin and the security services have captured the Russian state.

What to expect from a Russian rebound

Foreign Policy Blogs - Thu, 28/04/2022 - 18:31

Despite strong sanctions from the West, the Ruble has begun to show signs of a recovery.

The first wave of the Russian offensive in Ukraine has fallen short of Russian autocrat Vladmir Putin’s ambitions. Most analysts deduced that Putin had hoped to achieve a decapitation strike of the Ukrainian government- taking Kiev and replacing Ukrainian President Vladimir Zolinski with a pro-Kremlin voice. Kiev has been threatened repeatedly through the course of the invasion but it has consistently remained in Ukrainian control, and despite Putin’s desire to make Zolinski “disappear”, Zolinski has risen to the level of international acclaim where, even if he were killed in the defense of Kiev, he would sooner rise to martyrdom than be forgotten.

Despite failing to achieve its initial objectives, the Russian military has suffered heavy losses. At the time of this writing some 850 Russian tanks have been destroyed by drones or towed off by Ukrainian tractors. Some 180 Russian planes have met similar fates at the hands of Ukrainian anti-aircraft systems or Ukrainian fighter pilots who have well outperformed their initial expectations. Over 2,000 armored transport vehicles and other units of supply infrastructure have been knocked out on the front lines. More than that, the flagship of the Russian navy in the Black Sea, the Moskva, was sunk by Ukranian weaponry dealing a significant blow to both Russia’s capacity and morale.

The Ukrainian military achieved these early results by targeting the Russian military’s most notorious shortcoming- thin logistical supply lines. During the first few weeks of the invasion there was regular reporting of abandoned Russian tanks and artillery pieces- this was in part due to Russia’s minimalist approach to logistics and in part a consequence of the Ukrainian military’s decision to target supply shipments and Russian logistical hubs. For every six Russian combat units in Ukraine, only one unit is employed in supporting roles- in comparison, the U.S. employed a ratio of six supporting personnel for every individual American fighter during its counter-insurgencies in the Middle East.

None of this yet mentions Russia’s enlisting conscripts, or the almost 22,000 Russian soldiers who have been wounded or killed in action. Among these casualties are a large number tactical commanders, including at least five generals. These sorts of losses among commanding officers have not been seen since the Second World War, and unstable leadership surely exacerbates the problem of managing already stressed supply lines.

If we can believe the reports that Putin has become increasingly isolated from his advisors and ill-informed about the situation in Ukraine, then each of these problems become more severe for the Russian military. The less accurately informed the autocrat is, the less likely it is that he will be able to implement the sort of tactical adjustments that would allow for greater Russian successes.

By decapitating Russian tactical command and disrupting resource shipments, the Ukranians have made it difficult for the Russian military to put the full volume of its military to bear.

We must celebrate the early success of Ukraine’s resistance. In earning these early victories Ukraine’s fighting men and women likely guaranteed that their homeland will continue to exist as an independent and democratic nation.

However, it is important to keep the larger context in mind. Large swaths of eastern Ukraine are occupied by the Russian military and only 16% of the world’s population live in nations with governments that have actively condemned Russia’s invasion. In truth, we have achieved little more than avoiding the worst case scenario and forcing Putin to reevaluate his strategy. More to the point, there is a chance that the Russian military’s many early mistakes give Putin the opportunity to make the necessary strategic adjustments before even more of Russia’s fighting capacity is rendered useless.

Yes- Ukrainian forces have survived the initial shock of the invasion, much of the early commitment of Russian heavy weaponry has been taken out of the field, and Russian tactical command structure is shaken. However, as a consequence of these Ukrainian successes, the Russian military may have begun to adapt. Since mid-April, the Russian military has carried out a retreat from some of the most far-flung battlefields in order to restructure command of the military operation and refocus firepower in eastern Ukraine where the Kremlin employs the trumped-up casus belli of liberating the “breakaway republics” of Luhansk and Donetsk.  

This refocused military strategy coupled with some indications that the Russian economy has adjusted to the impact of sanctions and apparent growing support for the conflict within Russia should create anxiety among those of us who wish to see a free and prosperous Ukraine. This anxiety should be amplified by the fact that the American public has a short memory as it pertains to foreign policy issues- this is particularly the case when other concerns (both real and hyperbolic) come increasingly into focus with the 2022 elections on the horizon.

We cannot allow ourselves to believe that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is mere days or weeks from ending- to do so would be to make the same mistake that Putin apparently made when first authorizing the conflict. As any student of foreign policy knows, occupations (and the counter-insurgencies they beget) are long-term commitments that are costly in terms of both blood and treasure. Unless we are willing to believe that Putin launched his invasion without this knowledge, we must believe that he is prepared for a long term conflict that takes numerous twists and turns.

Putin’s initial attempt to strike at the heart of Ukraine has failed, but we should not be lulled into the sense that this war is over. The war will continue to rage in eastern Ukraine much as it has for the last eight years in Crimea. The United States and its global partners should continue to apply economic pressure and focus the international community on Russia’s imperialistic behavior. In addition, anti-imperial nations around the world should continue to supply the Ukrainian military with the information, supplies, and weaponry needed to sustain the fight for Ukrainian independence without risking escalation into an even more destructive war. 

Not only is the principle of national self-determination at stake in Ukraine, but so too is our shared commitment to democratic values and our opposition to violent expansionism. We cannot afford to avert our attention just as Putin corrects the missteps of his initial invasion.

Peter Scaturro is the Director of Studies at the Foreign Policy Association

Azerbaijan marks twenty-ninth anniversary of Bashlibel Massacre

Foreign Policy Blogs - Mon, 25/04/2022 - 15:47

This month, Azerbaijanis marked the 29th anniversary of the Bashlibel massacre, which took place in 1993 following the Armenian occupation of Kalbajar.   In early April 1993, 62 residents of Bashlibel sought refuge in the mountains as the Armenian forces advanced in the area. 

Ismat Azizov, a resident of Bashlibel, told the Azerbaijani media the following about the attack: “From April 5 to April 18, 1993, we were able to hide inside caves from the Armenian militants.  When the Armenian armed groups found out we were hiding in the mountains, they opened fire on us.”    14 residents were taken hostage and 18 others were ruthlessly slaughtered.   The remaining 30 managed to escape. 

Another massacre survivor Salim Mehydiyev recounted that the Armenian militants callously told the women and children to come out of the cave, claiming that they would be safe, and then shot at them: “I witnessed Armenian militants torturing not only people but cattle in the village.”  

Vasif Huseyiv, another survivor, wrote in the J.CA: “Picture a remote village nestled in a valley surrounded by rugged yet scenic mountains. A prosperous and peaceful place with a population of fewer than 2,000 living in an ideally natural place. As in the neighboring villages, most residents subsist by farming and beekeeping. They export a bountiful surplus to the rest of the country. The villagers are fond of reading verses aloud, often poems they have written themselves. They are proud of the achievements of their school, one of the largest schools in the region, and the aspirations of their young people to go to university, in the national capital or further afield.”

“Such was Bashlibel, at the southeastern edge of the Kalbajar district of Azerbaijan,” he continued.  “But it is now necessary to talk about this beautiful village in the past tense. That is because Bashlibel, together with hundreds of other villages in the Karabakh region, fell victim to the full-scale war launched by Armenia in the early 1990s. Within a short time, the village had been all but razed to the ground.”

According to him, “It is particularly hard, even heartbreaking, for me to tell the history of the occupation to which Bashlibel was subjected, as it is the place where, in 1989, my mother gave birth to me and where I lived in happiness until, in 1993, the armed forces of Armenia swept in.  As a 4-year-old child, I had no clue what was happening, why people were leaving their homes in panic, or where we were heading on foot in the cold morning.”

“I hardly remember the shock my family experienced then, but, retrospectively, I can see how traumatic it must have been for my mother, then seven months pregnant with my sister, and my disabled grandmother, who could not walk without assistance,” Huseyiv added.  “The residents of Bashlibel had no access to the helicopters and only a few automobiles to save their families from the horror that Armenian troops brought to their village.”

In conclusion, he proclaimed: “Nevertheless, we had to reach the other side of Murovdag on foot. Fortunately, there were two horses at our disposal; my mother and one-year-old brother used one, my grandmother the other. Halfway, some of us – my grandparents, mom, me and my brother – were taken by a Soviet-made car whose Bashlibeli driver Tahir Samadov was driving back to Bashlibel to help people. Thanks to him, we safely arrived in Khanlar district in unoccupied Azerbaijan, where many other Kalbajari people, already termed internally displaced people (IDP), came together to wait to be provided with “temporary” shelters. Tahir left again for Bashlibel to help others but never came back. My dad, together with my uncles arrived in Khanlar a few days later; they had walked all the way from Bashlibel, like many others.”

In honor of the 29th anniversary of this massacre, Azerbaijani Human Rights Commissioner Sabina Aliyeva declared: “We believe that those responsible for numerous crimes committed by Armenia against peaceful Azerbaijanis including the Bashlibel massacre will soon be brought to justice and answer before the country.   Villagers including children, women, people with disabilities and the elderly were tortured to death and some of them were even burned alive.”

It should be added that following the Second Karabakh War, the Azerbaijani government inspected Bashlibel village by a drone and discovered that all of the homes in the village were ruined during Armenia’s occupation of the area.   According to reports in the Azerbaijani media, the remains of 12 unarmed Azerbaijanis including a 12-year-old child, a 16-year-old teenager and six women, were unearthed around the village.

Negotiating with gangs- advantages and drawbacks

Foreign Policy Blogs - Fri, 22/04/2022 - 16:11

On the weekend of March 26th, the notorious MS-13 gang went on a massive killing spree in El Salvador which left more than 70 people dead by Sunday. Even for a country where powerful gangs hold massive sway, this recent tragedy stands out considering that it was the bloodiest day on record since the civil war ended 30 years ago. The current president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, campaigned and won the election three years ago on a strict law and order platform. Mr. Bukele, only 40 years old, is largely well liked in his country, with an approval rating of 85 percent. Until this recent killing spree, violence in El Salvador had dropped significantly, from 105 homicides per 100,000 in 2015 to 17.6 homicides per 100,000 in 2021. Bukele was credited as contributing in large part to this drop in deaths, which makes these recent events a potential upset to his public image. The government reacted swiftly and firmly to the massacre, arresting more than 1,000 suspected gang members, cutting food rations in the prisons, and seizing inmates’ mattresses. In addition, El Salvador’s Congress declared a state of emergency that suspends constitutional guarantees of freedom, allows police to conduct deeper searches, and restricts suspects’ rights to legal representation.

The real question is, why would gang members embark on such a bloody rampage? Many of the victims had no real connection to any Salvadoran gang, which leads many to assume that the killings were intended more as a means of sending a message to the government. If there is a message which the gang members are intending to send, it is likely related to allegations that President Bukele’s government established a truce with the gangs MS-13 and Barrio 18 back in 2019. The US government as well as major media sources such as El Faro claim that Bukele’s administration gave gang leadership financial incentives and perks for imprisoned gang members in return for assurances “that incidents of gang violence and the number of confirmed homicides remained low.” While President Bukele denies that any conversation and truce ever happened, many believe that the killing spree was an attempt by the gangs to let the government know they want to renegotiate the terms of the agreement. If these allegations are true, it calls into question the success Bukele appeared to have with reducing gang violence, as well as the ethics surrounding the negotiations.

While negotiating with criminal organizations is morally and legally frowned upon, there have been instances of it resulting in a drop in violence in other Latin American contexts. In Brazil, negotiations between the state of São Paulo and the gang First Capital Command (PCC) in 2006 resulted in homicides falling for years afterward. Similar negotiations between the government and gangs have occurred in Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, and Mexico. The fact that these talks are not a rarity is tantamount to the sheer power of the gangs, as well as the inability of officials to combat them with official means. The recent killing spree clearly shows that such negotiations are not failproof when it comes to stopping gang violence. However, the brief drop in violence during Bukele’s first three years in office demonstrates that there may be some merit for entering into such negotiations in the first place.

Graham Nau is the Assistant Editor at the Foreign Policy Association.

Remembering the Agdaban Tragedy

Foreign Policy Blogs - Tue, 19/04/2022 - 19:47

About thirty years ago, the Armenians seized control of the Kalbajar district of Azerbaijan and attacked the village of Agbadan, burning down 130 homes and torturing 779 civilians in one night, with 67 slaughtered with particular cruelty.  Some of the women were even burned alive.  Meanwhile, the Armenians desecrated cemeteries and destroyed historic manuscripts of Azerbaijani poetry and other cultural landmarks belonging to Azerbaijanis in Agdaban.

Around this same period of time, one fifth of the Azerbaijani population was ethnically cleansed from the Karabakh region and the seven adjacent Azerbaijani districts, which led to one million people becoming refugees.    Around the same period of time, the Khojaly genocide happened, leading to 613 innocent Azerbaijani men, women and children getting slaughtered for the crime of being Azerbaijani.  

However, despite the thirty-year anniversary of the Agdaban massacre occurring over the past week, not many members of the international community have much to say about it.   French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is ready to mediate peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and calls for stability in the Caucuses, yet did not mention what happened in Agdaban, even though the thirty-year anniversary for this massacre occurred around the same period of time.    

Within the past few weeks, US President Joe Biden pledged $24 million in foreign aid and $600,000 in military assistance to Armenia, the nation that perpetrated a horrific genocide against Azerbaijanis in Agdaban, Khojaly, Agdam and other areas of Karabakh in the 1990’s.   Biden says that what the Armenians suffered during World War I was genocide.   However, he is mute on what happened in Adaban, Khojaly and other atrocities that the Armenians committed against Azerbaijanis more recently in the 1990’s. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid recently welcomed the Armenians back in Israel, as they just decided to reopen their embassy in the country after it was closed following the Second Karabakh War.  He discussed what could be done to improve Armenian-Jewish relations, yet made no mention of what the Armenians did to Azerbaijanis in the 1990’s. 

In fact, Lapid is on record calling upon the State of Israel to join Biden in recognizing that what happened to the Armenians in 1915 as genocide, yet he does not make a similar call concerning the classification of Armenian crimes in Agdaban, Agdam, Khojaly and other areas of Karabakh as genocide.   It should be stressed that former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin recognized what happened in Khojaly at the UN General Assembly as a crime against humanity and genocide, but this Bennett government has been mute on the topic.   

Azerbaijan’s late President Heydar Aliyev once stated, “The acts committed against our people should be characterized as a crime against humanity and their ideologists and organizers decently punished.  We have no right to forget these actions and their lessons.   Historical absent-mindedness and forgetfulness can result in a bad ending for our nation.”    However, it appears that the community of nations has forgotten the lessons that history has to teach us and are effectively ignoring the crimes against humanity that the Armenians perpetrated against the Azerbaijani people. 

Yet, as concerned citizens, we have a duty to stand up and object to this reality.  As famous Holocaust scholar Elie Wiesel once stated, “Without memory, there is no culture.  Without memory, there is no society and no future.  We must take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormenter, never the tormented.”  Therefore, the community of nations must remember what happened in Agdaban, Khojaly, Agdam and other areas of Karabakh and the seven adjacent Azerbaijani districts, for forgetfulness only invites future atrocities.   


By Rachel Avraham

Plus Ça Change

Foreign Policy Blogs - Mon, 18/04/2022 - 16:51

Russia has some of the largest natural gas and oil reserves in Europe. The future of European development may rest on Russia’s energy supply to the heart of the continent. MAP BY VIRGINIA W. MASON, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC


Many Western countries decided to put themselves in a poor strategic defensive position when they decided to push technologies that were not yet refined for their energy needs, while depending on countries and regions of the world where energy and human rights abuses sometimes went hand in hand. Europe is currently struggling to find alternative energy sources so they can move their internal economies and the well being of their citizens off Russian oil and gas. This is being done while some leaders are still failing to embrace the reality that gave Vladimir Putin the leverage to act while still being funded by Western Europeans and their allies.

While many economies have tried to move away from their dependence on Russian Oil, many have only done so partially, or will only be able to make such a maneuver over a few months or even years. The inability for oil producing allies of the West not mired in their own human rights issues and their own refugee crises to act have been hampered by the same policy decisions that is currently fuelling Russian tank and missile production. The issue of a lacking infrastructure to integrate North American oil and gas into European ports needs to be given the same level of precedence that is given to supporting Ukraine, as without this displacement, we are funding Russia’s tanks and artillery with our energy needs. Without a clear and realistic acknowledgment of the strategic value of oil and gas in addressing the crisis in Ukraine, the war will be greatly funded by their Euros, Dollars and Pound Sterling.

The approach that has been made was that the West has given funds and an ethical hall pass to countries that fuel human rights abuses with their revenues from oil. While this might displace Russian oil, it will not displace human rights atrocities. These atrocities will just change their location in the world, still being subject to our catalysts. While the resistance to using oil and gas from stable nations means it is being red taped out of existence in our communities, it also means that the refugee crisis currently taking shape in Ukraine will just occur in another part of the world. It guarantees that another aggressive Authoritarian will use their oil revenues to attack innocent civilians, although we have known for years that this is already occurring.

The history of resource conflicts is the history of war. One of the catalysts that lead Japan to entering the Second World War was the lack of natural resources held by the islands of Japan. Japan’s subsequent invasion of mainland China and eventual assault on European supported nations in the region at the time was partly done to secure added wealth and resources. The notable Battle of Stalingrad during the Second World War was over a small city named after a tyrant that was a valuable transport point for resources from the Caucasus, needed by both the Soviets and Germans if their were to continue fighting towards victory in Eastern Europe. While oil and gas is not the only catalyst for conflict, it is often one of the main elements that people need to survive and thrive at that time, and for much of the current era as well. We can see this in the recent past during drug conflicts in Mexico. When it became difficult to transport narcotics over the border, cartels and interested individuals took to tapping oil pipelines. Shortening the supply of a needed resource is the catalyst for conflict, in many cases they are related to resources that fuel, heat and feed our communities. Unfortunately, we still use and require oil and gas, even in 2022.

We know what must be done, because we are not much different than our parents and grandparents nor are we better or more capable than those that came before us. The evolution of technology is shared by all, and clean and cheap energy has been sought since the time the first steam engines pushed trains across the continent and windmills ground wheat and corn to feed the ever growing human expansion on Earth. What was known back then is that the rights and civility of people must come first, and that achievement can only be sought with justice and freedom for all.

On the real goal of Russian disinformation

Foreign Policy Blogs - Wed, 13/04/2022 - 20:40

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been going on for well over a month. Those of us who live in nations with a commitment to free speech and the free press have become accustomed to seeing articles with headlines like “At the Edge of Kyiv, Ukrainians Show Off Their Counteroffensive”, “Putin ‘Misinformed’ by Advisers on the War, White House Says”, and “Russian troops ‘drive tank over commander’ amid anger at high casualties”. Upon reading those articles, the overwhelming majority of Americans choose to believe that the information they provide us with is correct.

More than that, we see a flow of more casual information through the guise of social media that highlights the struggle of everyday life for individual Ukranians, Russia’s targeting of civilian buildings, and even the resistance music that plays on radio stations in Kyiv. This further validates the information we receive from traditional media outlets. 

Many Russians, and countless other individuals who do not have their right to free speech and a free press actualized are not granted access to this information- instead, citizens of repressive countries are stuck tuning in to state media for most of their information. In Russia this media diet consists of the state television channel Rossiya, well known (but scarcely trusted) sources like Russia Today and Sputnik News, and whatever scatterings of international media can weave their way through the various censorship blacklists that have restricted the content that Russians can consume both online and through their television screens for well over a decade.

VPNs and apps like Telegram provide greater access to Russians who use them, but doing so comes with legal risks. More than that, these people make up a small portion of the Russian population and are overwhelmingly young and urban. Many of them, presumably, are already in jail for demonstrating against the war.

The West often misunderstands the purpose of Russian disinformation both in how it shapes political discourse in Russia and how it impacts the larger world. The goal is not to persuade Russians that the Kremlin cannot tell a lie, nor is it to completely censor all narratives that might push back against the Russian position. Frankly, individual Russian citizens are too smart to fall for such obvious propaganda.

Instead, Russians are given the impression of a semi-free media through the occasional sample of some of the West’s most controversial political personalities, “what about-isim”, and the frequent exaggeration of otherwise honest stories. This maelstrom of political repression and half-truths serves to discredit the media in its entirety in the eyes of the Russian people- leaving the Kremlin as the last remaining viable narrator. Similarly, Russian disinformation within the United States is designed much more towards facilitating distrust and political disengagement than it is towards the benefit of one political party over another.

Putin and his crownies know that Russia is too deeply integrated in the international community to pursue a full “Hermit Kingdom” strategy. Putin also knows that the strength of the American free press will make it all but impossible for reasonable Americans to be outright duped by his lies. So, in lieu of this, Russian officials have adopted a strategy of sewing confusion and general distrust.

Eventually, the Kremlin hopes that this distrust will turn to disinterest. That the public’s attention will shift away from Putin’s atrocities, and that Ukraine-aligned governments will decide that cheaper gas and grain is more desirable than a drawn out (economic) conflict with autocracy. 

What can those of us in the West do to thwart Putin’s efforts? We can continue to pay attention to what is taking place in Ukraine, we can continue to seek out information from a broad range of sources, and we can inspire our fellows to do the same. More than anything else we can keep the pressure on elected representatives and media outlets alike to shine a light on these critically important issues. 

Putin does not need to persuade you of his lies to win out in Ukraine, all he needs you to do is stop caring.


Peter Scaturro is the Director of Studies at the Foreign Policy Association

Sri Lanka on the Brink

Foreign Affairs - Wed, 13/04/2022 - 19:21
How the pandemic and war in Ukraine led to economic collapse.

A Force for the Future

Foreign Affairs - Wed, 13/04/2022 - 08:32
A high-reward, low-risk approach to AI military innovation.

A New Strategy for Iran’s Nuclear Deal

Foreign Policy Blogs - Mon, 11/04/2022 - 17:41

Former-President Trump’s decision to remove the United States from the JCPOA was misguided. Now President Biden negotiates with Iran after years of obscure nuclear development. It is time to reconsider foreign policy objectives for Iran’s nuclear program.

Trump argued the nuclear deal failed to address Iran’s motive for nuclear weapons, and he stands correct. Trump abandoned the deal and Iran doubled their nuclear stockpile near weapon-grade attainment. However, Trump’s objectives lied in binary conclusions of prevention and attainment. Such objectives have two fundamental challenges: extreme binary measures generate lower levels of success and greater tension between outcomes. Prioritizing motives as an element of the JCPOA’s success was misguided. Iran’s nuclear program made considerable progress and the U.S. is now pressured to restore a deal.

Restoring a nuclear deal comes with two caveats. Any agreement will not eliminate Iran’s years of added technical knowledge and skills. Consequently, restoring a deal now only stretches Iran’s breakout time to roughly half of the original 1-year timeframe. Developed expertise leverages negotiation and Iran is a greater threat today with or without a nuclear deal. A shortened breakout time has prompted senate republicans to warn any weakened deal will prompt a red line.


A viable solution to incapacitate Iran’s nuclear program may not exist.

Airstrikes on nuclear infrastructure do not yield promise. Iranian retaliation would be expected and can incentivize bolder nuclear development. Economic sanctions prove ineffective. Integrating the global economy is not an Iranian priority and sanctions impact medically conditioned civilians to suffer most. Iran devotes itself to absorbing sanctions and depicting itself as a guardian from Israel and the West. Prioritizing an immediate solution to Iran’s nuclear program will be to no avail.

Failure to incapacitate Iran’s nuclear program will further complicate its unstable region. The response to strengthen regional defense systems as Russia invades Ukraine exemplifies how Iran’s nuclear weapon attainment will prompt the region. Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey is likely to declare or develop their nuclear arsenals. U.S. foreign policy ought to force Iran to prioritize long-term motives rather than attainment ability.


Detecting secret nuclear facilities is a greater threat to U.S. interests. Iran’s Fordow and Natanz nuclear facilities remained undeclared until western intelligence, suggesting Tehran intended secrecy after beginning operations. Now IAEA is barred from accessing a centrifuge manufacturing site as of 2021. The U.S. must depend more on its intelligence apparatus without a deal; meaning, the threat of secret facilities outweighs the threat of declared facilities.

The U.S. has leverage should Iran induce a breakout dash with declared facilities. IAEA inspections complicate Iran’s ability to operate in secrecy. Iran would need to bar inspectors, transport nuclear material and build a weapon prior to a U.S. response. A considerable level of confidence or accepted risk of disaster would be required. Expect Iran to continue mastering its nuclear program. However, weaponizing nuclear material without prompting a military response is unlikely.


Successful U.S. foreign policy ought to accept Iran’s developed nuclear expertise. Over a decade of diplomatic, economic and military efforts have led Iran to years of technical advancement and near weapon-grade attainment. Deter motives to weaponize nuclear material. Israel’s former national intelligence chief once declared, “In the Middle East, a decade is eternity.” Prevent political wins in the region and continue to monitor nuclear operations.

Leaving the JCPOA put the U.S. in an inadequate position to monitor Iran’s nuclear program. President Biden must now realign political strategy from prevention to containment. Sanctions on Russia elevated oil prices and Iran is keen to strike a deal that would allow benefitting from oil exports. Leverage Iran’s potential revenue for greater U.S. intelligence capacities.

Rafael Prado is an analyst with the U.S. Department of State. He is an alumnus from The Pennsylvania State University and continues to study security policy at George Washington’s Elliott School of International Affairs. Follow him on Twitter @_pradoiii.

Hate Politics and the Critical Faith Theory

Foreign Policy Blogs - Tue, 05/04/2022 - 17:43

Hate Politics and the Critical Faith Theory

As the midterm elections get closer, the debate on whether or not it is appropriate to teach the Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools is likely to intensify. It is the most contentious and indeed most misconstrued sociopolitical issue facing America since the ‘abortion debate.’

According to the right-wing politicians and their supporters, it is a sinister movement driven by certain ‘woke mobs’ that are bent on destroying America by rewriting school textbooks in order to poison the young minds into self-hating monsters. And that self-hating generation, the right-wing groups warn, will reject values of self-reliance, hard-work, and patriotism.

In reality, CRT is an academic concept that is more than four decades old that argues racism is not merely the byproduct of individual bias or prejudice. It is a value implanted and sustained in systems and policies that shape and drive critical institutions such as the education, political, legal, and financial systems for othering or disenfranchising certain segments of American society.

This article advocates and affirms the importance of teaching CRT in schools in order to cultivate enlightened generations that are not afraid to trace back sources of the dysfunctional impulses that fuel societal division. The U.S. constitution spells out legal protection against race and faith-based discrimination. It is within this framework that this article makes the case for what I call Critical Faith Theory (CFT)- the other side of the same coin or the prevalent Islamophobia based systemic discrimination.


Systemic Racism Cannot Be Ignored

Pathways to opportunities and failures are often paved by the choices people make as individuals; and there is no argument over that. That said, throughout history and indeed in various parts of the world, systemic conveyor belts were set up to facilitate the advancement of certain societal elites and steer others toward failure based on their race, faith, and economic class.    

It is not by sheer coincidence that public transportation systems in America are designed to keep suburbs where most jobs are located as exclusive economic islands. “From funding, planning and infrastructure, to design and policing, many transit agencies essentially have built two systems with different standards for “choice” and “dependent” riders (that is to say white and Black),” argues Christof Spieler, senior lecturer at Rice University.

Imagine this recurring scenario in many inner-city neighborhoods across America. A young Black man who grew up in a disadvantaged neighborhood decides to look for an opportunity.  He borrows a car from a family member and heads off to a suburb nearby.  On his way back, he is stopped by the police for an expired license plate. Fortunately, he survives that potentially deadly encounter, but not without setting in motion a chain of problems for him and the car owner.

The police officer asks for a driver’s license, car registration, and insurance. The young man ends up with a hefty ticket for an expired license plate and for not having insurance; but that is not enough. The car is impounded because the owner, though living at the same address, was someone other than the driver.  

Since neither the young man nor the family member whose car he borrowed have insurance, they are required to purchase high risk insurance (SR-22) that costs roughly 5 times the ordinary insurance; but that is not all. They still must pay for towing and the cost of each day that the car remains in the police impound lot.

In most cases when the poor people face such overwhelming financial burden, they end up losing their vehicles. And if they fail to pay those tickets on time, arrest warrants are issued, and nightmare scenarios ensue. 

Consequence of Racialized Islam

In her well-researched book, The Racial Muslim, Sahar Aziz offers a profoundly piercing argument that the civil rights and civil liberties of American Muslims have been steadily violated. Politicians, media, think tanks, and various hate groups have played noteworthy roles. Liberals erroneously rationalized that “eroding the civil liberties of Muslims was….a small price to pay for securing the nation.”

Moreover, conservatives, especially after Donald Trump was elected president in 2017, became ”bolder and more aggressive in their attempts to expel, exclude, and prosecute Muslims.” The so-called Muslim ban was not merely a misguided executive order or a divisive slogan, it was a deliberately crafted dog-whistle to project Muslims as the most dangerous threat facing America.          

Campaign To Criminalize Islam and Muslims

Unlike all other forms of bigotry, Islamophobia in United States is not simply expressed in hate speech, discrimination, vandalism, and threat of violence, all Islamic institutions—including mosques—are in the crosshairs. The paranoia that Sharia was going to replace the U.S. Constitution took hold of many people in many critical institutions.                  

Lawmakers used to routinely make outlandish claims against Muslim communities in the US and accuse their mosques of being centers for radicalization. The most belligerent among them was retired Congressman Peter King who chaired the House Committee on Homeland Security. Among the many Islamophobic statements he made are:

There aretoo many mosques in this country (and) we should be looking at them more carefully and finding out how we can infiltrate them.”

Congressman King used to hold Joseph MacCarthy-like hearings on “homegrown Islamic terrorism” in order to sustain the post 9/11 othering of Muslims. In one such hearing, retired Congressman Keith Ellison told a story of an American-Muslim hero whose story was smeared because of his faith and name [video]

Not even The Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is the leading Muslim advocate for justice and mutual understanding is safe. Despite its exemplary record, certain conservative law-makers, media, think tanks, and a wide array of hate groups relentlessly target it with vicious smearing campaigns.  

When CAIR National recently discovered it was being spied on by an anti-Muslim organization named Investigative Project On Terrorism led by notorious Islamophobe Stephen Emerson, it followed the dollars. 

Over $100 million in funding came from various organizations, including some household investment company names such as Charles Schwab and Vanguard. 

Global Islamophobia

In the West, though countries such as Germany launched a critical initiative against hate crimes and included Islamophobia as a subcategory of the law-enforcement statistics of “politically motivated criminal acts” other European countries are instituting policies that target Muslims.

Countries such as France and Sweden that are considered some of the most liberal in Europe have been instituting policies that are unapologetically Islamophobic and inflammatory political rhetoric intended to turn public opinion against Muslims and Islam. This latest database on anti-Muslim Hatred published by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights underscores an alarming trend.

Likewise in the East, countries such as China and India have been resorting to more repressive policies that pave the way for ethnic-cleansing. China holds between 1 and 3 million Muslims of the Uyghur minority in concentration camps for what it calls reeducation. India instituted a policy citizenship revocation and the current ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supports the Hindutva extremists who routinely attack Muslims in mobs.      

Policies Cannot Be Neutral On Hate

Hate speech directed toward Muslims is widely tolerated. Should you as a reader find this claim incredulous or mere hyperbole, you should not hesitate to put it to test. Take any of caustic Islamophobic tropes and bigoted attacks that the former President and some of his supporters in Congress and media continuously spew at the only hijab-wearing Muslim law-maker, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and imagine her being a Jewish representative.          

Those of us advocating for the CRT and CFT are not bringing fabricated claims for historical revisionism; we are merely asking for a level playing field. Students are already taught about antisemitism in schools and the systemic bigotry that led to the Holocaust. Why not expand that teaching to include how systemic racism is othering minority communities such Blacks and Muslims?     

Interpreting Through the Fog

Foreign Policy Blogs - Thu, 31/03/2022 - 18:39

Getty Images

With the War in Ukraine having been part of the international dialogue over the last month, the language and policies that were once thought to be something of the past has become part of our immediate future. Defense spending and policies on oil and gas had to meet the reality of the current situation, and when not altered, was accepted in part as a failed approach. It is clear now that bad foreign policy decisions can lead to horrific consequences, and that freedom and democracy must not only be enshrined in Constitutions, but be acted upon as a way of life as a covenant between just nations.

There have been some movement towards effectively helping Ukraine beat back Russia’s assaults on their nation. The move to provide Ukraine with not only shoulder launched short range anti-aircraft missiles, but also longer ranger S-300 type systems and medium range systems like the 1970s era SA-8 Gecko has made the skies over Ukraine’s Western cities dangerous for Russian aircraft. Even old systems like the SA-8 and SA-13 have created a major problem for modern Russian aircraft. Anti-tank weapons has made the invasion of Ukraine costly, with only the most protected tanks being able to contend with the different types of rockets designed to obliterate Russian Armour.

Slight changes towards providing Europe with North American energy is a move in the right direction, but slow and not effective in the immediate term. There needs to be a serious human rights discussion on reality vs. ideology. The effects of these decisions on Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia must be carefully considered when taking policy decisions on energy. Neglecting reality will just lead to a future conflict without fail. No one wants to donate their citizens to a future war in the cold fields of Ukraine or deserts of Iraq any longer. For this to occur, intelligent policies must become paramount.

Strategic losses seen on raw film and video has been one of the most useful ways to interpret the changing winds of war during this conflict. With so little reliable information being produced and focused information from different sides of the conflict being highlighted or actively blocked, the only information that can be relied upon is a knowledge of the region and the weapons used therein.

Losses of systems that are required by Russia to win a modern conflict in Ukraine shows how difficult it has been on Russian forces. With numerous BMP and BMD light armoured vehicles being destroyed, and older T-72 type tanks making up much more of Russia’s tank arms than expected, it seems as if Russia was not as well equipped as many would have thought against a country on its own border. Losses of modern attack helicopters like the KA-52s and low flying SU-33s jets by shoulder launched missiles or dated anti-aircraft systems from the Cold War also show the difficulty in challenging Ukraine’s armed forces, which was one of the best armies during the Cold War era.

Losses of ground based artillery and anti-aircraft systems are likely why challenging larger cities has been a complex exercise for Russia. Launching a siege or bombardment is required before entering a city, and when photos of lost 2S3 Akasiya and 2S19 MSTA are found, there is certainly a problem in their campaign. Losing vital anti-aircraft systems like the SA-11/17 BUK to drones has been surprising but has occurred on a few occasions. Seeing ultra modern Pantsir systems stuck in the mud, or seeing two separate SA-15 Gauntlet systems being dragged by farm equipment may be why drones and ballistic missiles from Ukraine are constantly harassing Russian forces, as those two systems are designed to defend the skies over Russian tanks and artillery. Trying to dominate the second largest country in Europe next to your own is difficult, but to do it with lost equipment in a region that was designed to repel a NATO attack with old systems that are as effective against modern equipment as it was against equipment from thirty years ago is almost impossible.

While it will become apparent that Russia made a mistake in invading Ukraine, the chance that an end to hostilities will restore all of Ukraine’s territory is not likely. Poor policy decisions in 2014 and the simmering conflict in the East of Ukraine will likely not be of interest to the West a few short months after the end of the wider conflict. Empowering Russian allies and enriching petro economies with poor human rights records will create similar conflicts in other regions of the world, and the current disinterest in those regions during the current conflict in Ukraine will result in repeated conflict and violence. Preventing a global conflict will not just come from sanctions and protests, but from policy decisions that seek long term solutions, not just ads for the next election.


The Price of Hegemony

Foreign Affairs - Thu, 31/03/2022 - 04:06
Can America learn to use its power?

Generational Differences in Russian Resistance

Foreign Policy Blogs - Wed, 30/03/2022 - 21:07

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s relentless invasion of Ukraine shocked the international community. Individuals around the world are observing horrors unfold as Russian troops continue their siege on major Ukrainian cities. Information regarding the invasion is nearly impossible to ignore, with coverage flooding in from every major news outlet. In Russia, the story looks different. Russia’s censorship of media prevents citizens from gaining access to accurate information. Independent media is virtually non-existent; the Kremlin indoctrinates Russians with propaganda spread through state-controlled television. Despite the breadth of this disinformation campaign, it has had varied results. Most notably, there’s been a generational gap regarding perceptions of Russia’s behavior. Older generations tend to be more supportive of the Kremlin, whereas younger generations tend to be more resistant to Russian disinformation. A 2022 survey conducted by an independent organization in Russia found that 75% of Russians aged 66 or older support the war in Ukraine. Comparatively, only 29% of those aged 18-24 support the war. The disconnect comes from two sources: Soviet Nostalgia and social media.

Soviet Nostalgia refers to Putin’s desire to bring back the sphere of influence once held by the Soviet Union. In a 2005 State of the Union Address, he declared the collapse of the USSR to be the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”. Putin’s yearning for the days of Soviet power have guided much of his policy – it motivated him annex Crimea in 2014. Putin’s most recent invasion of Ukraine follows this same logic. He believes that because of their shared history, Russia has a right to Ukrainian territory. Older generations of Russians vividly remember the days of the USSR. They can envision a time when Ukraine and Russia existed under one regime. As a result, they are more susceptible to Putin’s Soviet Nostalgia.

Many older Russians pinpoint 1991 as the start of their financial duress. Putin has repeatedly blamed the economic disaster accompanying the downfall of the USSR on western influence. The overnight emergence of a privatized economy created hyperinflation, and increased poverty quickly followed. Putin amassed heavy support in the 2000 elections from older Russians who believed Putin would “lead them out of [the] shame and poverty” brought on by the West. He continues to spin narratives of a return to soviet economic success, despite taking little concrete action to improve the Russian economy. These narratives appeal directly to Russians who suffered financially in the early 1990s. They more easily believe that recreating the Soviet Union’s former prestige will result in economic progress.

Older Russians’ disengagement with social media heightens their vulnerability to Putin’s narratives. Their consumption of information consists almost exclusively of state-controlled media. State media circulates propaganda painting Ukrainian leadership as a neo-Nazi regime. It describes Russian troops as liberators of Ukraine, while censoring any coverage of devastation created by the war. Older generations who don’t utilize sites like Facebook or Twitter don’t have access to alternative information. A Russian in Moscow, interviewed by Aljazeera, told journalists that older Russians are “drowning in propaganda…” and thus support Putin’s actions. Younger generations, on the other hand, frequent social media. Putin’s regime severely restricted sites including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in early March 2022. However, prior to this restriction, younger Russians engaged with outside accounts of Russian behavior. As such, they struggle with conflicting narratives.  Katya, a 20-year-old Russian, told Aljazeera that state television programs “blatantly lie” about the situation in Ukraine. She and her peers rely heavily on social networks and platforms like Telegram, attempting to discern the truth.

Younger Russians’ disconnect from the Soviet era further distances them from Putin’s influence. 18- to 24-year-old Russians were born into a post-Soviet world – they cannot envision a Soviet world the same ways their grandparents can. They have only ever known Ukraine as a sovereign nation. Propaganda promoting a return to former Soviet glory fails to significantly impact these younger generations.

Hopeful images of resistance in Russia have emerged in recent weeks: rallies led by college students on university campuses, a news reporter interrupting a broadcast to counter propaganda, and anti-war protests in major cities across the country. While the war in Ukraine rages on, the intergenerational battle of public opinion within Russia rages alongside it. Older generations continue to engage with Putin’s disinformation campaign, stubborn in their belief that Russia has been mistreated by the West. Younger Russians find creative new ways to access genuine news: through VPNs, alternative platforms like Telegram, and word of mouth. The burden of resistance weighs heavily on younger shoulders, as they fight to see an end to senseless violence.

The Cold War Never Ended

Foreign Affairs - Tue, 29/03/2022 - 22:00
Ukraine, the China challenge, and the revival of the West.

Brazil Election 2022- Parallels between Trump and Bolsonaro

Foreign Policy Blogs - Tue, 29/03/2022 - 17:09

In October of 2022, Brazilians will go to the polls to determine if Jair Bolsonaro remains president of Brazil. After three years as president, Bolsonaro has earned a reputation at home and abroad as an erratic far-right populist leader. Initially being elected in 2018, Bolsonaro won the presidency on his conservative values and disdain for political correctness. His opposition to abortion was applauded by the country’s sizable evangelical population, and his tough-on-crime stance was well received by many Brazilians concerned with rising violence in the country. His values and posturing have often echoed those of US President Donald Trump, and as a result, he has at times been referred to as the “Trump of the Tropics”. Indeed, from the beginning of his tenure as president on January 1st, 2019, to his current rhetoric revolving around the upcoming election, Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro share much in common.

Bolsonaro secured the presidency in October with 55% of the vote. As an outside anti-establishment candidate, he was able to win over many Brazilians fed up with the poor state of the country following the presidencies of Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer. The economy was in recession, and the Petrobras Scandal led to targeted accusations against many high-level Brazilian politicians, including then-president Temer. While Bolsonaro was able to ride this wave of discontentment to victory, over the past year his image has begun to sour for many Brazilians. By the end of 2021, the approval rating for Bolsonaro had fallen below 30%. The reasons for Bolsonaro’s struggling public image can largely be chalked up to three factors: the deforestation of the Amazon, mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis, and the worsening state of the Brazilian economy. Bolsonaro’s damaging environmental policies in the Amazon rainforest have drawn scorn from heads of state around the world. His decisions to ignore six offerings of Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer elicited anger from many Brazilians as the virus ravaged the country. But the biggest contributing factor to the discontentment towards Bolsonaro is by far the worsening state of the economy. As of late 2021, 14% of the Brazilian population was unemployed, and that figure will likely not go down in 2022 as the GDP is expected to grow by only 1%. Inflation has surged with the national currency, the Brazilian Real, trading at an all-new low against the dollar. Many believe the root of the new-found inflation is due to Bolsonaro’s decision to massively expand the Bolsa Família, a cash transfer program for the poor that he has utilized to win votes among the lower class. This expansion of the budget deficit (surprising for such a right-wing politician) has caused Bolsonaro’s relationship with the business elite to also go south, resulting in a loss of favor from one of his biggest voting blocs. The end result of all these factors is that 70% of Brazilians think the economy has worsened, and 41% say that the state of the economy will be the biggest influencer in how they cast their vote, which puts Bolsonaro in a difficult position for the October election.

The biggest challenger to Jair Bolsonaro is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Former union leader and leftist president of Brazil from 2003-2010, Lula will be the chosen candidate for the left-wing Partido dos Trabalhadores, the Worker’s Party of Brazil. Lula’s campaign for office is mainly based off his hope that he will serve as a moderating force against Bolsonaro’s reckless decision making. He has specifically taken aim at Bolsonaro’s reckless behavior regarding the Covid-19 pandemic. Lula faces some big obstacles in his way as well, largely due to the recession occurring during his tenure as president and possible involvement in the Petrobras Scandal. One-quarter of Brazilians say that they will not vote for either Bolsonaro nor Lula, which means those votes will likely go to centrist contenders such as São Paulo governor João Doria, former health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, or former governor Ciro Gomes. Many anticipate that these contenders will split the vote, resulting in a second-round between Lula and Bolsonaro.

It is against this backdrop that we approach the Brazilian presidential elections. Just like Donald Trump in the lead up to the 2020 US elections, Bolsonaro is laying the groundwork to challenge unsavory results in October. During a campaign rally last September, he announced “Only God will remove me” showing his disdain toward democratic transitions of power. He has claimed, without proper evidence, that the country’s electronic voting system is rife with fraud. He has dismissed federal police chiefs probing into his family affairs. Finally, he has used national security laws to persecute his critics. Many of these moves were blocked as unlawful by the supreme court, resulting in a massive protest outside the courts. Bolsonaro’s false claims about election fraud, dismissal of disloyal appointees, and willingness to spur on his followers into rallies against the judicial system hold many parallels to the behavior Donald Trump exhibited as president and leading up to the 2020 US election.

However, while Bolsonaro and Trump share many characteristics in common with their populist undemocratic behavior, Brazil is a country with a much younger and weaker democracy than the United States. The reason that is relevant is because there is a much greater risk that Bolsonaro will be able to flout the rules in Brazil and be able to get away with it. Bolsonaro is an open and avowed supporter of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964-1985 and as explained above, has been known to stretch his presidential powers while in office. It is for these reasons that a loss for Bolsonaro may result in a strong rejection of the results by him and his supporters. The most extreme event of a coup is unlikely, but there is a good chance that violence and upheaval will take place in Brasília, testing the strength of Brazil’s democratic institutions.



Graham Nau is the Assistant Editor at the Foreign Policy Association.

Détenus et écroués

Le Monde Diplomatique - Wed, 23/03/2022 - 18:02
/ Droit, Monde, France, Travail, Inégalités, Prison, Justice pénale, Justice, Droits humains - Droits humains / , , , , , , , , - Droits humains