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‘ Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko Ready to Sign EU trade Treaty ‘

In light of what happened this past year, this will have interesting ramification for the country, especially if Russia begins to apply pressure via energy trade to the country. Nonetheless, this is a positive move forward the country.

Ace News Services

#AceNewsServices – BRUSSELS – June 09 – Ukraine’s new President, Petro Poroshenko, at his “modest” inauguration said he wants to sign an EU trade treaty as soon as possible.

“My pen is in my hands and as soon as the EU approves the respective decision, the signature of the President of Ukraine will appear in this fateful document,” he said in a speech at the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, on Saturday (7 June).

“We consider it as the first step toward full membership in the EU. Nobody has the right to veto the European choice of Ukraine,” he added.

“We, the people who were isolated from their great European homeland, are coming home.”

The EU pact means Ukraine can have free trade with Russia, but is legally bound to stay out of Moscow’s Eurasian Union.

It is known in EU circles as “accession-lite” because it also obliges Ukraine to…

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More than Soccer and Wood: Brazil as a Rising Power

As the world descends to Brazil for the World Cup, most people are only imagining two things: Soccer, which was made famous in cities like Menaus and Sao Paolo, and Brazilian Wood, considered some of the finest wood in the world. The men will look to some of the beaches to see beautiful, beach-going women of unique skin complexion, while women watch for strong Brazilian men in parades and soccer fields. The tourists from around the world will admire the great expanse of the Amazon, the beauty of cosmopolitan Rio de Janeiro, and the burgeoning mega-city of Sao Paolo. The eyes of the world are upon this country, the largest democracy in the world, that has endured a past of military dictatorships and state-controlled economic institutions. They will also do the same when athletes come for the Summer Olympics in Rio 2016, marking this decade a remarkable one for this South American nation, tied together by a history rich in cultural conflicts, the struggle of balancing healthy democracy with state interest, and defining the Brazilian identity.

This history was not well known outside the scholars of the Lusophone (Portuguese speaking world) or Brazil itself. But there is reason to take notice. Brazil captures the imagination as the first South American Power, both as a rising economic hegemon and political actor. While the United States is concerned with China, Russia, and the European Union, Brazil has been (as Isoroku Yamamoto called the USA) a sleeping dragon with great potential to shake up the world order created after World War II. A combination of its historical factors, combined with rising global economic trends, makes this decade one for Brazil rather than China, India or the other states of the BRICS Bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

One of the crucial factors in developing a rising state has been creating a national identity that is confident. Among the BRICS, only China and Brazil have managed to accomplish this feat. Brazil has a strong national identity, forged first by the existence of the Portuguese and Brazilian monarchy, then by the issue of slavery and racism, and finally by the Age of Vargas. The subsequent dictatorships that followed Getulio Vargas‘ assassination in 1954 further laid groundwork for the economic success in the post Cold War period.  The countries strong roots in positivism has greatly influenced statecraft among intellectuals and the political elite, giving them a belief in the ultimate direction of the country. This led them to strengthen the federal government, organize the economy through policies akin to China’s state capitalism, and create a national identity that accounts for Brazil’s diverse demographics and micro-cultures. Under its banner of “Ordem e Progresso, ” which adorns the Brazilian flag, the political and economic elite have dragged the country slowly upward, making it competitive in the international markets of today.


Data and Photo courtesy Research-Deloitte

Though Brazil lags substantially behind China in real GDP growth, it does remain ahead of its peers in BRICS, including India. This is partially influenced by the careful centralization     of fiscal and monetary policies on the Federal level, and the lack of serious ethnic conflict. In post-Real Economic Plan Brazilian economy, Brazil experienced consistent economic growth,   despite two  major downturns in 1997 and 2007.  It’s economic vitality is captured both by the megacities of Sao Paolo, Rio De Janeiro and Brasilia, as well as the continued and steady public investments  in education, transportation, and cooperation of government and business to achieve national advancement. For examples, the state of Sao Paolo has consistently invested 1% of its GDP  towards education, recognizing that the Brazilian worker is   most competitive when well educated. This has also attracted private investors, which has contributed to the FDI (foreign direct investment) of $64 billion, according to Deloitte (EIU) in 2013.

Ultimately, this increasing strength allows it to exert influence beyond its own borders, which can be military, political, cultural or economic. Brazil has a capacity to play a unique role in the international arena that also challenges the status quo set by the United States, the rising ambitions of China and the balance of power in the South Atlantic regions. As the largest Portuguese speaking country in the Lusophone, it carries a strong weight of legitimacy through its shared history with Portugal via the shared monarchy, and the former colonies in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome, etc.). Its geographical position in the South Atlantic gives it a great ability to exert economic pressure and build trade relations in Africa much like China has done in East Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. By building increased maritime trade with its cultural counterparts and Portugal, Brazilians would follow the Chinese path (and the US) to developing a trade network with political influence in tow.  This Lusophone connection would increase Brazil’s own legitimacy as a global leader and form a natural bloc for trade and commercial ventures.

The benefits of the Lusophone Connection are linked also to Brazil’s own relationship with the rest of Latin America and, by extension, the United States. Brazil is culturally different from the rest of its neighbors, who come from a largely Spanish heritage. Their political and cultural histories are fundamentally different, as the Latin American states, like Argentina, have long traditions of military dictatorships and a strong Marxist component that was spurred on by the example of Cuba. Yet, Brazil has played well in the last decades, working to resolve disputes through Organization of American States (OAS) and being a counterbalance at times times to US interference. It has been a cultural ambassador to neighboring states through sponsoring university scholarships, providing foreign aid, and participating in Mercosur, the South American Customs Union to promote free trade. Through this delicate balance of priorities, Brazil already exists as a leading regional power with international ambitions.

The Brazilian world twenty years from now looks like a spanning trade network from the Tierra Del Fuego to Caracas, and from Rio to Lusaka, with Brazil in the center. By exploiting the Lusophone Connection and its ties to the Latin American community, Brazil is poised to become the dominant player in the Global South, far ahead of its peers, India and South Africa. Unlike the Sochi Olympics, the Rio Games in 2016 will reflect a country that is eager to challenge a long standing status quo: a Euro-American dominated global market. How? By capitalizing on its strength as a cultural and economic diplomat, and filling this niche in global decision making. We need only watch the television and live broadcast, cheering on our respective teams at the 2014 World Cup. In short, let the games begin!

Art int he Favellas, a testament to Brazilian cultural flourishing. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian

Art int he Favellas, a testament to Brazilian cultural flourishing. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian

The West Point Story: A Critique on Obama’s Foreign Policy Priorities


President Obama congratulating West Point graduates

[If you wish to read the transcript: click here]

The West Point Commencement speech is a unique and special moment for college graduates (West Point is a unique college too). Compared to the thousands of other graduates across the US, this ceremony has the privilege of hearing from distinguished generals, vice presidents, and even the President of the United States. This year, like others where a sitting President speaks, it is a conversation about how the graduating class may change the world, become leaders in the uncertain and still cloudy future. It is also a time to remember past achievements, reflect on sacrifices, and discuss the opportunities they, and we as a country, have ahead of us.

Today, the US faces challenges that are of sharp departure from the last twenty of the post-Cold War Era. Russia is resurgent and China is challenging the United States for global leadership. Brazil and India, long on the sidelines of global leadership, are rising and expect to have a stronger voice in their respective regions. Climate Change is, as Obama said, a “creeping national security threat” that that will require global leadership and action. Yet, the speech also does focus or align his priorities with these other issues. Given the prominence of the Pivot to Asia he hardly addressed it, or the other issues such associated with China and the Asia-Pacific Region, such as cybersecurity or the UN Law of the Sea. Rather than being clear about how regional partners the United States will address the issue, he has remained non-committal and committed to continuing the foreign policy of old: focused mostly on terrorism.

President Barack Obama continues to hit the central themes of his presidency: Use of Force only in the highest national interest, building global partnerships for peace, and a return to normalcy after a long decade of war and conflict. These reflect the fundamental mission of the Obama Presidency, thoughts iterated by past Presidents, like Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, and Bush. In the past, the US has taken up the sword and mantle of global leadership and exercised it with both vigor and determination, through both the Cold War and, even more importantly, in the post-Cold War world. With the clear mission to act, and a defined direction projected from priorities set by the President and the government the US launched successful interventions in Iraq (1991), and Bosnia (1996). Furthermore, the US has contributed to the development of International Law under Clinton, and inspired confidence in our allies under Bush, in initiatives such as the Missile Shield.

His address continues reducing foreign policy to a tool of rhetoric, meant to appease a war-weary public in exchange for advancing the domestic agenda. Tying foreign policy to domestic politics has greatly trivialized the issues, ignoring important national security interests. Empowering Great Britain and France to help fight terrorism in Africa (like France did in Mali in 2012) is more important than bouncing around how the US will set up another counter terror fund. Engaging the country about threats of terrorism in Syria should be on the table, though it has been ignored in exchange for weak and half-hearted efforts to strengthen NATO.  Rather than looking at the real national interest and engaging the public in the reality of the challenges we face, the President avoids it by resorting to, as Kori Schake put it, “abiding aspirational pictures” of the future and focusing on old policies and potentially half-full initiatives.

America is no closer to solving the issues we were beset with in 2008 abroad. While we have improved relations with our core allies, we have not adapted to the changing needs or aspirations of our allies, like Germany, Brazil, and even Japan. Even as the President spoke about moving ahead with negotiations on cybersecurity, he has hardly managed to take a heavier hand with Beijing, in spite of the NSA leaks of U.S. cyber attacks on Chinese soil (not that this should surprise anyone). Comprehensive action on cybersecurity, both for business and government, was not even addressed, despite its implications in major crime, espionage, and national security. The Law of the Sea issue, which the President has used to contest Chinese assertions for control of the South China Sea, has still not been ratified by Congress. While the Pivot to Asia is the most public one,  many issues have become muddled in this rhetoric that has caused confusion among allies who do not feel the U.S. will stand up for them. Instead of being an “indispensable nation,” the U.S. is becoming a weary country that cannot seem to mind what it stands for any longer in the post-Cold War order.

What the United States needs in Mr. Obama (and in a 2016 Candidate) is someone who can create priorities, align his administration with his own statements, and create a meaningful conversation rather than a lecture of ideals and rhetoric. Instead of dumbing the conversation about our aspirations for a more perfect world, we need to a president that accepts responsibility for their policies, and not saying it’s the “Joint Chief’s job” or “that policy is their problem.” Harry Truman famously said the puck stopped with him and put a sign on the Oval Office desk, a picture that shows how leadership is not just action, but taking ownership of victory and failure. Rather than addressing how we will do better, the West Point Speech became a defense for a client that is losing its luster among the majority of Americans and Washington policymakers. By making the conversation about the tough choices we have to make, we are engaging in meaningful conversations on our country’s future, something these young officers deserve to hear and participate in.

Turning a Page: How EuroSkeptics May Change the EU


An Election Poster in UK, supporting the UK Independence Party


Two days ago, a political earthquake rocked the foundation of the European Establishment, according to French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls. His description is not far off the mark. For the first time in the twenty-five year history of the European Parliament, the EuroSkeptics on the Far Right have not only won nearly 25% of seats in the in supranational parliament, but have also managed to defeat many of the establishment parties in their own countries. This does not just apply to countries that have fallen on hard times, like Greece, Spain, and Portugal, but also to traditional supporters of European integration, like France and Spain. The wave populism and anti-EU feelings regarding what scholars and political leaders have called the “Democratic Deficit” have reached a boiling point, while creating an even greater crisis for the establishment. While much can change over the coming years, there is for the first time a Populist EuroRight Movement to challenge not only the Leftist parties, but the traditional conservatives as well.

The French National Front Leader Marine Le Pen, her British counterpart, Nigel Farage, and other EuroSkeptic leaders would like to characterize this victory as ordinary citizens standing up to an unresponsive institution, united by the common cause to fight the encroaching power of the EU. However, the EuroRight movement is a very splintered one. It does not yet have the legitimacy to call itself the voice of all European conservatives who would like to turn back time to before the EuroZone. Instead, the EuroRight can be divided into two groups of EuroCons: parties drawing their strength from Economic woes, and those from traditional establishment that are Social Conservatives. While they play on similar slogans, they represent two different kinds of European who feel increasingly disenfranchised by their own governments and EU. For an American, this may bring memories of the Tea Party Movement that emerged within the U.S. Republican Party during the 2010 Mid-term elections, responding to big, and unresponsive government and the wave of social change being sparked by Barack Obama and “Big-Tent” politics.

Why the South and East Symbolize Lessons of Integration

IF we view the EuroRight as a response to perceived loss of economic and social rights among EuroSkeptics, its not hard to realize they come from countries that the EU bears the greatest burden of supporting. The EuroDebt Crisis inspired Germany and others to look for stronger fiscal responsibility among members. That rhetoric from Bonn, Vienna, and Paris coincided with harsh economic measures to curb government spending and halt slipping economic gains among Europe’s most needy countries. The dominoes fell across Southern Europe. Spain and Portugal have been victims of economic stagnation for years, including a “brain-drain” in both countries. These parties defeated traditional socialist and conservatives on platforms highlighting the economic woes brought on by austerity, pointing the finger of blame at Bonn, Paris, and Brussels. The conflict and rhetoric became further tied to issues of Eurobonds, banking reform, and strong immigration controls.

eu460 (1)

Data demonstrating how Spending and Receiving of funds takes place in the EU.

Greece itself has been the poster boy for EuroSkeptics lashing out against economic austerity. While a base for the EuroLeft, Greek establishment parties hoped to discredit the forces of the Far Right by making a good showing in these elections. They failed. Instead, parties like Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi movement, managed to obtain a seat alongside their conservative partners in the Euro Parliament, sending shockwaves across the continent. But like Germany in the 1930s, harsh economic times have given weapons of rhetoric to both extremes, and Greece has certainly endured the harshest economic crisis since the 1970s (which ultimately brought down its military government).

The economic nationalism of the Far Right is not just contained in the South, but has spread to newer members in Eastern Europe, including Poland and Hungary. It is a product of self-inflicted wounds, from policies for rapid integration of EU states before Maastricht (1996) that did not place emphasis on economic standards for membership. Data collected by various European news and research groups show spending that not only shows disproportionate spending and growth. Countries that take the most money have seen a stronger backlash by EuroSkeptics on the Right than others, though their are exceptions. Because of the lack of common fiscal policy to accompany common monetary policies, the European Community is now fighting with economic nationalists who are determined at all costs to stop the conversation altogether.

Just Kick’em All Out

This goes without saying such conversations about economic nationalism are being driven by an identity crisis never before in history. “What does it mean to be European?” “What is the European Identity?” The EU has never been able to answer that question. It is not a superstate nor does it have the ability to make laws like Germany or France can within its own jurisdiction. It also cannot identify with a core constituency yet, since most see themselves as German, Frenchmen, Greeks, and Poles (among others). This is the argument of Social EuroCons, who have created messages to feed on people’s xenophobia and ignorance of why unity has been so stabilizing for Europe since the Second World War. While they may be motivated by economic factors, they are concerned with protecting national identity, and promoting a traditional European identity that rejects Muslims, Aethism, and foreign influences that challenge it.

Many the SocialCon groups are in establishment EU countries, notably France, Great Britain, and Germany. France has been center stage for EuroSkepticism, mobilized by the Front National and Le Pen. They have also played on France’s identity crisis, arguing consistently that the ideal of “French citizenship” is under attack by overseas immigrants. This rhetoric plays on a long history of cultural conflict in French society that Le Pen and others ont he Far Right have capitalized on in the past two elections. In return, it has damaged the moderate positions of the Socialists and UMP that French citizenship does not emphasize cultural differences, but advances social energy towards the traditional national identity.

A similar case played out in Spain, where neither major party obtained even 50% of the vote. The remainder of the electorate voted for other parties that were either calling for changes in the EU or withdrawing altogether from institution. While surprising rhetoric from a state that has benefited greatly from EU membership, below the surface shows a country that is challenged by political nationalists, calling for greater national autonomy for their individual groups, or those who think Spain would be better off on its own. But as history has shown in these types of elections, most of the rhetoric reflects people’s fears of insecurity, that the economic opportunities promised by EU membership have not lived up to their muster.

Europe’s Neo-Right

When the new parliament takes over, the EuroRight will face its first challenge of organizing itself into a Pan-European Party. It will face a daunting challenge or recognizing the need for strength in numbers while not sacrificing what has made it most effective, the appeal to popular, anti-EU voters. Like the American Tea Party, the EuroRight will need to prove it was not swept into the ranks of parliament just simply on a protest, but of a legitimate and long-lasting desire to change the institutions to its liking. In five years, both Europe and the International Community will judge and the Marine Le Pens and Nigel Farages will have to make that convincing argument, not as outsiders, but as establishment.


The EuroRight came together, but can it stay together?

The movement is not united, but will have to overcome their own differences. The views of EuroSkeptics from Spain will be very different from the French, as will Greeks to British. The greatest challenge they face is the democratic deficit. They are the product of arguments made by old skeptics like Thatcher and De Gaulle who believed the EU as only a forum for European cooperation, not a ruling government disconnected from the true people of Europe. However, they will also be working with parties and EU Commissioners who denounced them as dangerous and without solutions to the problems created by the EuroDebt Crisis and even Ukraine. They have earned their chance to sit at the table, but now they have to get along with attendants who are ready to get back to the business of Europe. They will now face the test for all political movements: the ability to sustain themselves on messages of protest.



The Expanding Battlefield: How Businesses Fail to Become Warriors in CyberSpace


Warfare and conflict is no longer just a game of governments and militaries, it’s now right at our fingertips.


Just a week ago, former National Security Agency (NSA) director General Keith Alexander announced he was moving into the consulting business. His goal is to increase the ability to U.S. financial and business industries to protect themselves from cyber threats from over seas. With news of China’s incursions in cyberspace via hackers stealing software trade secrets, Washington has been engaged in fierce discussions over the need to protect our online security, all while battling the public backlash over NSA’s PRISM program, a by product of the Edward Snowden leaks. The result has been a tightening of the U.S. government’s own security structure in cyberspace.

Alexander’s fears of a new cyber-terror campaign reflect the new dimensions of warfare that are reaching deeper into the personal and business world. In the beginning, warfare was waged between man and man, then state to state. Soon, Napoleon introduced the world to the first Total War, where the masses of all great societies are mobilized to fight against the common foe. The emergence of non-state actors, such as revolutionaries, terrorists groups, and warlords made warfare capable of stretching into the very home or office of a populace. Now, just as this author can communicate with people from around the world at the push of a button, a hacker or even an agitator can wage war on their own against businesses and governments. Technology has caused war to regress, where one singular individual can destroy, steal, and terrorize on a major scale, just with the use of a computer.

Businesses, financial markets, and software companies are now frontline soldiers in a war of networks, firewalls and internet vigilance.  Even ordinary citizens who carry a smartphone have much to be afraid. Aside from personal information, an army of hackers with sophisticated software, bandwidth, and a playbook of tactics and doctrine, expand the scope of war to now everyday devices. This has been a subject of much debate, as government has encouraged the private sector to step up its own security and accept the reality that the boundaries of security do not stop at Washington’s intelligence agencies or our national boundaries.

If we think about it, some of the most important threats to US economic interests do not just come from a hacker wanting to cause a nuclear meltdown. Sure, terrorists from Al Qaeda would love to hack onboard airline computers and recreate the Atlantic Ocean Air Hijacking Scare in 2006. Some of the serious issues in national economic and security policy come from a rise in online banking fraud, unregulated trade and fraud via modems such as Paypal, or industrial espionage. While the latter has been linked to Chinese hackers in several cases, the previous incidences are the domain of criminal organizations and small time hacking. Several in the policy community allayed these concerns as ordinary theft and should be dealt with by increasingly sophisticated law enforcement. Such actions would correctly fall under the FBI’s Cyber Crime Division, which has really emerged in partnership to tackle these and other issues with increasing effectiveness.

Still, industry has a collective responsibility to defend its own turf. The new “War by Economic Tradecraft” as we call it, requires that companies accept they have an interest and responsibility to take appropriate measures in their defense. According to Amitai Etzioni, “businesses have resorted absorbing losses and avoid blame from shareholders rather than take appropriate measures to defend their own secrets.” No industry has been more at risk than the Defense Industries, where the report of the Cox Commission indicated Chinese hackers have stolen secrets from U.S. companies such as Northrop Grumman for many years.

The fact is that businesses are long motivated by short-term profits and the need to appease shareholders. Investing in private security could be seen as a sign of corporate insecurity and scare away potential investors, hurting growth. In the US, the conservative laissez-faire attitude and this philosophy that government should stay out of the private sector hurts national economic security in what should be an area for strategic alliances. This attitude of entitlement means business is alone in a field that is not well understood by many CEOs, that is fast becoming an entry point for criminal activity, and where less regulations make it an open field for foreign agents to steal economic and trade secrets.

Former high ranking security officials like Richard Clarke and Stewart Baker have also called on government to push businesses in the right direction, to exact more regulations. However, as Dr. Etzioni pointed out, many businesses, including economic libertarians, have discussed this creates too much bureaucracy and hurts competition. Furthermore, there is still strong resistance in Washington to adopt regulations, even as Obama has called greater attention to the issue in wake of the Snowden Affair and the incidents with Northrop Grumman. The crisis of public faith caused by Snowden has awakened fears that the government may be building new programs that break public freedoms of privacy.

The introduction of Cyber Command into the military infrastructure was a step in the right direction. However, US ability to extend its cyber defense abroad and create doctrine of defense is not as advanced as the Chinese. PLA Unit 61398, the Chinese Cyber Hacking Unit was recently acknowledged to exist by

The Chinese Hackers are not only professional, they are coordinated.

The Chinese Hackers are not only professional, they are coordinated.

Beijing and boasts a strong force of expert hackers responsible for many incursions world wide among immediate neighbors. While Snowden did expose NSA efforts to hack Chinese universities and businesses abroad, it does not make up for the lack of firewall protections and closed source systems needed to protect the critical infrastructure of the c

ountry. As Obama proceeds to push infrastructure updates in places like Energy grids, it needs to be accompanied with strong online protections.

Harnessed as a weapon, cyber warfare means that damages that could be created through warfare can now occur in relative peacetime, creating mass confusion, and damaging the economy. But it is increasingly subtle when most of the focus is on industrial espionage. The United States has always maintained a cutting edge in generating strong returns on research and development. Now, China, Russia and even non-state actors can “harvest” our returns with relative ease. Private entities no longer can depend on the government to protect their secrets. They live in denial that a war already exists, and deny these truths to the public, disregarding any sort of duty to protect public interests. It represents a critical disconnect between the private and public sectors at a time when globalization is tearing down traditional barriers of protection. Private citizens are vulnerable to attack, but we are caught up in public debates about individual privacy rights on the internet.

Yet, our most recent NSA director is taking to the private sector his own experiences in dealing with this emerging threat. The European Parliament and individual states are discussing how they will better protect their financial and technology markets. In the EuroDebates for the EU Commission Presidency,

Speaking at American Express Institute

Speaking at American Express Institute

Guy Verhofstadt pointed out that Europe should  be building up a united digital market that can   be monitored in the European legal framework.  In the United States, such attempts to regulate internet freedoms are focused on intellectual piracy from small time hackers rather than enforcing protection of business’ electronic infrastructure. In short, some in Washington are more interested in stopping the mass download  of movies rather than the theft of pharmaceutical formulas by Beijing’s cyber army.

Culturally, the best example of how we come to rely on cyberspace for our economic future is captured in the animated film “Summer Wars.” In this comedic drama, a rogue AI virus is unleashed on to the Worldwide Internet program “Oz,” where it hacks accounts of world governments, businesses and individuals, causing financial panic and even compromising nation security through threatened missile launches. Together, a Japanese family uses their wits and teamwork to battle against the AI, eventually defeating it. They represent people from across all rungs of society, but they recognize the threat to one person is a threat to all. That is the hard truth of warfare and tradecraft on the internet. The action may be local, but the result is truly global.

What to Do About Syria

This piece is thought provoking and I appreciate it being written and shared.

I liked the author’s ability to relate the situation back to the Spanish Civil War, for which their are many similarities. If there is one really great point, its that the Islamic Community really does a good job about organizing networks to support their own, whether they be Jihadists, Secularists, Freedom Fighters or Leftists. They did this in Afghanistan, and it worked. Finally, I thought it provides really insightful thoughts about the Global Left and how the Global Left has not been as engaged in Syria as it should be.

Where the problem is that the world is distracted by equally pressing problems. The US is distracted by Ukraine, the Far East, and its own economic situation. Russia is focused on Ukraine. And the rest of the BRICS Community is either distracted by the Far East or dealing with intense domestic issues. Intervention should take place, but it should take place by a coordinated body of States. For that, the Arab League or NATO are best placed, and the political will is not there. Therefore, I think its not completely fair to blame the Global Left. Rather, we need to blame the International Community, especially the U.S., NATO, Russia and the Arab Community for not intervening and instead start dialogues about how we as citizens of these countries can create positive change, especially through creating networks of charities and lobbyists to force our governments to act.

a paper bird

Syrian government forces patrol the Khalidiyah neighbourhood of Homs, mid-2013. Photo: AFP/Getty Images Syrian government forces patrol the Khalidiyah neighbourhood of Homs, mid-2013. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

You would think that, having stayed in Cairo for much of the last year, I would feel closer than in New York or Boston to the Syrian catastrophe taking place only a few borders away. But it doesn’t work that way. Egypt has enough of its own problems: massacres, mass arrests, one dictator on trial, another one running for president; these aren’t as replete with murder but they fill the mind as blood fills the brain after a hemorrhage, and expunge thought. You imagine Aleppo for a second and flinch: There’s enough not to think about without not thinking about that. 

To be sure, Syria is here, in the form of thousands of refugees who have fled the killing. (The UN says there are almost 150,000 in Egypt; some estimates run double; in any case, Lebanon hosts many times…

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I am a Nationalist

Take a look at this article on Nationalism! It really brings out both the positives and negatives on how we identify ourselves as one group or another. But it definitely should never be a barrier to building understanding between people. Its important, because the challenges we face need everyone, and such action begins with trust!

Geopolitical Mistake: US Troops to Poland

Chuck Hagel and Tomasz Simoniak at the Pentagon

Chuck Hagel and Tomasz Simoniak at the Pentagon


Yesterday, Secretary John Kerry and Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov signed an agreement to resolve the Ukrainian Crisis, through de-escalation of the conflict. But today, an announcement from the Pentagon demonstrated U.S. willingness to send troops to Poland and Estonia. In a press conference, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak claimed the move to be a necessary response to the still tense situation in Eastern Europe. “The idea until recently was that there were no more threats in Europe and no need for a US presence in Europe anymore. Events show that what is needed is a re-pivot, and that Europe was safe and secure because America was in Europe.” Similar rhetoric was used in Lithuania, a former Soviet Republic that quickly joined NATO upon their independence twenty years ago. President Dalia Grybauskaitė issued a statement, after meetingU.S. Senator John McCain, that “Russia’s actions in Ukraine pose a threat to the security system of… Europe.”

The message being posed by Washington, is to deter Russia from breaking the Geneva Declaration through military show of force. No statement has been made yet that U.S. troops will be deployed to the Baltic. However, the arrival of U.S. troops in Poland maybe seen as expanding the current theatre of conflict. Sure, Putin still has made statements about Novorussiya or New Russia. However, Russian forces massed on the Ukrainian border have not made moves to cross into Eastern Ukraine. While rebels still hold out, the situation is calmer. A shift in stance by Washington could create a larger foreign policy crisis throughout Eastern Europe, and bring greater danger to our NATO allies, including Poland and Lithuania.

A Ukrainian Issue is Now about NATO

Remember that a resurgent Russia has not taken lightly to NATO expansion in the former Soviet Republics. The Georgian Intervention was in part caused by the Bush policy of creating a Missile Defense Shield (MDS) in Eastern Europe. The problems in Ukraine are partially caused by the West’s interest for Ukraine to join the European Community. Russia is also fault for trying make Ukraine a satellite state. Putin’s insistence on incorporating the Russian speaking sections of the country has placed a road block in the path to further negotiation, along with the refusal of protestors in Donetsk to disarm. A local show of military force by the US, such as a naval exercise in Black Sea, would be considered a reasonable response to show the U.S. is not afraid, if military action was needed.

That can hardly still be the case if Russia responds to U.S. troop deployments by moving its own armies to the Baltic or along the Belorussian border with Belarus. It is now an issue of NATO and Russia’s role in policing and protecting those states in Eastern Europe. The geographical scope of the conflict changes, bringing us closer to igniting regional conflicts that were originally thought to happen in a cold war setting in central Europe. It is essentially restarting the Cold War over a local issue that should stay local.

The economic costs are also high. An unfortunate reality for Europe is that most of its energy supplies (oil and natural gas) comes from Russia via Eastern Europe. While war is extreme and hopefully farther off, any escalation that includes NATO could precipitate Russia’s retaliation via cutting off energy. By “flipping the switch” on energy supplies, the European economies will be strained. Attach that to potential demands from Moscow for the withdrawal of troops, the credibility of NATO is at risk when dealing with potential Russian aggression.

The Endgoal

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissenger is arguably the foremost expert on US foreign policy alive today, especially on Russia. When asked in the Washington Post his thoughts on Ukraine, Kissenger has this to say: “Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations… [and] should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people.” As part of that, he urged the United States and the West needs to develop an effective policy on Putin, rather than demonizing him. The US, throughout the Cold War and now, has never been able to connect Russian history and mindset to the actions of its leaders. this in turn leads to turbulent politics and even reliance on our own allies (who are equally belligerent and ignorant) to deal with Russia. Now, Warsaw, Vilnius and Kiev are framing the issue in their terms, threatening the US’ ability to stay true to its own interests.

“Foreign Policy is the art of establishing priorities,” says Kissenger. Moving troops to Poland and Lithuania, at the insistence of our allies, is not the priority. Rather, it is detracting from the main goal of diffusing the Ukrainian Crisis and encouraging reconciliation between parties. It is avoiding the Novorossiya Policy challenge issued by Moscow and setting up a new Cold War scenario. The former Soviet Republics of Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova (even the Baltic states) are the 21st century “Cordon Sanitaire” that keeps Russia divided from the West. That is the direction the current policies are taking the US and our allies.


The 600 Years of History Behind Those Ukrainian Masks

Have you always wondered why Russians and even these protestors wore these masks? The article here describes this culture of the mask that goes back centuries, when Russian princes had to hide their true intentions from their outside enemies, including the Mongols. Called the Maskirovka, it even attracted the attention of Ronald Reagan, who commended the Russians on this tactic of espionage and secrecy. A student of the intelligence fields would find this a fascinating insight into the culture of Russian national security, where we are denied even a glimpse of the frontline soldiers.

Even little bits of knowledge like this help us understand a society and country we have very little understanding of. It should be within American interests to build a relationship of understanding Russia, going beyond Vladimir Putin. However, I believe many of us wear “masks” and engage in our own “maskirovka” when looking at our adversaries (and even our friends). Sun Tzu said on the subject: “…to remain in ignorance of the enemy’s condition simply because one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honors and emoluments, is the height of inhumanity.” These words of wisdom should encourage us to reach out pry off the mask of ignorance. That is the supreme purpose of foreign policy and intelligence.


The reporter asked the masked pro-Russian separatist in the Ukrainian city of Slavyansk a simple question: why are you wearing a mask?

“I’m sorry,” he responded, “but it’s a stupid question.”

It sure is for anyone who pays attention to how Russia fights.

The mask-wearing militants who have appeared in eastern Ukraine and taken over government buildings represent the latest face of Russia’s tradition of maskirovka (mas-kir-OAF-ka). It’s a word literally translated as disguise, but Russia has long used it in a broader sense, meaning any military tactic that incorporates camouflage, concealment, deception, disinformation—or any combination thereof.

It describes everything from manufacturing tanks in automobile factories to shielding them under tree branches near the battlefield. It can be used to hide soldiers with smoke screens, and to build warships under awnings. It includes sending soldiers in white uniforms to invade snowbound Finland during World War II and creating mock…

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The People: An Inside Look on the Ukrainian Crisis

Pro-European protests in Ukraine

Protestors in Ukraine


Today, dozens of armored personnel carriers crossed the Dnieper River into Eastern Ukraine. Representing the newfound courage of President Turchynov and a parliament in turmoil, the Ukrainian armed forces launched what has been described as major “anti-terrorist operation,” as Mr. Turchynov described it. The actions represent a new effort by the government, which has struggled to maintain its own legitimacy throughout a crisis seemingly dictated by Moscow and without serious action from the West.

This latest reiteration of the national crisis has raised an increasing specter of Russian annexation and destruction of the Post-Cold War order in Eurasia. The attention it has generated in Washington and national capitals around the world has been mixed, ranging from calls to send foreign aid to sending foreign troops to Ukrainian soil. Only three weeks ago, this publisher wrote about how we may be on the precipice of a new Cold War, ruled by a spirit of renewed Russian nationalism and desire to emulate the power of the Soviet Union.

The political dueling between Moscow, Washington and Kiev only tells us part of the whole story. Most of the media has yet to really focus on the ingrained political, social and economic trends that have contributed to this conflict. The reader will find that many of our assumptions about the crisis have surprising correlations with the structure and make up of Ukrainian society. Demographics play a huge, though underrated, role in social conflict, especially when under constraints like those of the current international crisis. Finally, it helps us answer the big question: If civil war took place now, will Ukraine fragment and be divided between Russia and a Ukrainian rump state in the west?

HOW fragmentary is Ukraine?

The current conflict rests upon the question of legitimacy: “Does the current Government, led by Turchynov, truly represent the values and wishes of Ukrainians?”  The answer is halfway. It represents the wishes of those that opposed Victor Yanukovych, but he does not carry legitimacy as a democratically elected President. Many pro-western Ukrainians (who are also anti-Russian) support Yulia Tymoshenko, the true darling of the Orange Revolution and the superstar of this revolution. However, others in Crimea, but especially in the Eastern Ukraine, supported Yanukovych, who was decidedly pro-Russian.


2010 Election results. Picture provided by Le Monde

Understanding Ukrainian demographics and how it ties to the recent revolution is informative, because it aligns with the geopolitical foreign policy interests of Moscow. In a recent article of Le Monde focusing on Ukrainian sociopolitical landscape, Ukraine is a case study of how former Soviet states, including Russia, are not homogenous bodies of unified cultures, languages and ethnic groups. The country has a majority ethnic Ukrainians, but they are mostly found west of the Dnieper River Basin. Its border lands with Europe also contain Poles, Romanians and Moldovans. East of the Dnieper, there is majority Ukrainian population, but also significant numbers of Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians. When speaking of the Donbass, Tara Kuzio remarked, “as much as 40% of the populace think of themselves as “Soviet” rather than Russian or Ukrainian.”

Looking at socioeconomics, the eastern half, known as the Donbass, is largely industrialized with many large cities that are traditionally the industrial base of the western Soviet Union. But it also has important implications for the cultural identity of its people. Ukrainian politician and historian Hryhoriy Nemyria said this about the Donbass:

“The fact that you came from the Donbas was more important than that you were Russian or Ukrainian; so of course the break-up of the Soviet Union also meant a raising of this regional identity and loyalty… In any case, most people here honestly couldn’t say what they are ethnically, because most families, like mine, are mixed.”

Such statements, along with the economic diversity of the Donbass, shows that the middle class of Ukrainian society is mostly based in the east. Given the government cannot deliver the kind of goods these industrial middle class people, they will turn in their anger to the patrons of their previous president for support.

On the other side, most of the west is rural with fewer cities, the great bread basket containing small farmers in small farming villages. This area is mostly populated by politically and culturally conservative Ukrainians who have traditional loyalties to Kiev. They produce the lowest portion of GDP in comparison with the rest of the country. Their cultural insulation from the rest of Russia and history with the Soviet Union has strengthened their own cultural identity while lack of urbanization reduces the economic diversity consistent with cosmopolitanism. In short, their economic identity connects most to what Ukraine is famous for: the breadbasket of Europe. Along with its selection of minority groups, it is the part that is most loyal to the government and solidly pro-European, ensuring support for Tymoshenko’s pro-European and nationalist party.

Why will Ukraine Persist?

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Many have attempted to assert that Russia has ambitions to annex ALL of Ukraine. This is neither possible or practical for reasons of demography and politics, including the international community. Like Georgia, it was easy for Russia to justify intervention on behalf of ethnic Russians or perceived oppression or subjugation of nominally independent regions (case and point, South Ossetia and Abkhazia). Crimea was Ukrainian, but inhabited by the semi-autonomous Tatars. Along with major economic and national security interests, Russia made a strong case because these people did have strong attachment to “Russia” or the idea of being “Russian.” Self-determination, combined with savvy foreign policy, led to decried, but ultimately successful incorporation of the region to Russia.

But ultimately, Russia is constrained by demographic reality that the western half will never accept being Russian. The cultural and economic identity has made the Donbass or east particularly susceptible to Moscow’s interests to re-incorporate them. But just like Georgia, it is neither in national interest to integrate these former republics, nor in international interests to go beyond principles of self-determination. Right now, Russia’s foreign policy is framed in nationalistic terms and Putin plays on the myths and history of the powerful Soviet Empire. For those who affiliate with Russia or, like our Donbass resident, still liken themselves to Soviet citizens, it is an alternative future to the murkiness of Kiev’s own vision.

The west should take heed and strengthen their own support for Kiev. However, it must be support with continued pushing for continuity and change to a legitimate government that represents Ukraine instead of just pro-western Ukrainians. Kiev and the country need a rallying figure like Yulia Tymoshenko to calm the fears of the people, but with a strong hand to avert civil war. The nation is on the cusp of that cataclysmic event if this recent military action fails and Moscow feels emboldened to intervene.



Keith Brannum

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