April 3, 2013 by Philip Cane
As tension mounts on the Korean Peninsula, consider the two most reluctant participants, Russia and China. Russian involvement in Korean affairs can be traced back to the 19th century and China has been involved for several centuries. Both states are trapped into supporting Pyongyang for economic and diplomatic rewards.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Yeltsin gambled that the cancellation of economic aid would lead to better economic relations with the Republic of Korea. The gamble failed because China entered the void that Russian influence had once filled and consequently it partly restored its traditional suzerain relationship with Korea. Yet to gain this influence, China took over the burden of aid to Pyongyang, which now accounts for 70% of energy and regular donations of over $1m in food aid.
Without significant influence over Pyongyang, the weakest partner in the Six Party Talks, President Putin and Medvedev have both attempted to rekindle relations. This has gifted Kim Jong-Un an opportunity to take advantage of Sino-Russian competition for influence. He and his father, Kim Jong-Il, exploited this opportunity by continually refusing to settle Cold War era debt, stating that they were donations.
January 17, 2013 by Binoy Kampmark
What will a man do to avoid tax? Become Russian for one, or the cultural ambassador for Montenegro, the prelude to obtaining another means of escaping the homeland’s rapacious tax regime. France’s Gérard Depardieu, having failed to teleport himself via a spaceship timed to arrive at the world’s end, decided to do something distinctly terrestrial – adopt a new citizenship.
The bogeyman here is François Hollande, the French president who won the general election on a platform stacked with promises of increased taxation for the super rich, notably his 75 percent on those earning more than a million Euros. The grand and conspicuously aggrandised Depardieu took issue with it. How dare his talent be treated this way? The creators are always attacked by mindless managers and paper pushers.
December 21, 2012 by Binoy Kampmark
“What’s to be scared of, if it’s unavoidable?”
– Vladimir Putin, Dec 20, 2012
It did not end, and while there is much evidence to suggest our days are numbered (aren’t they always?), the earth is continuing its not so smooth existence. There might be a few out there who felt that the four horsemen should have come with their assortment of nasties, wreaking vengeance on human kind. But facts and wishes do not necessarily converge.
November 28, 2012 by Alex Le Roy
So, economic development precipitates the growth of a middle class, which, in turn, ferments political reform, best manifested through democratization. But does this transition promote further growth? The answer is yes, it does; however, this renewed economic growth is not the same as before. To understand this, it is worth considering the finite nature of economic expansion. Figures of GDP growth such as the annual 8 percent that China has been regularly posting are only sustainable for a limited amount of time.
As has been stated previously in this series, the driving force of national economic growth is competitive advantage. This is achieved, quite simply, by undercutting international competition, and selling goods or services to foreign markets at a lower price. This can only be achieved for so long, because the increasing export sales of national goods bring more money into the country, which leads to a subsequent increase in the value of domestic currency, which accounts for this financial increase.
November 28, 2012 by Alex Le Roy
I previously argued that democracy often inhibits the economic growth of developing states. This is because democracy generally results in the diffusion of economic decision making throughout the population, which exposes domestic businesses to larger, more efficient, foreign competitors. Thus, I contended that centrally coordinated control over economic policy allows for greater long term growth, and the political conditions most favourable for this are authoritarian ones.
For example, all of the so called ‘Asian Tigers’ achieved economic growth through the implementation of protectionist economic policies, which were coordinated via a centralised authority. Moreover, almost all of these countries democratised only after their economies had become developed.
Nonetheless, they did democratise, which brings us to another question: Is economic growth good for democracy. And the answer is, initially, no
November 12, 2012 by Patrick Hall
Regardless of which political party occupies the White House, American presidents are allowed a certain degree of latitude on foreign policy, where initiatives are not as constrained by Congressional oversight in comparison to the nation’s domestic issues. The absence of comprehensive oversight does not provide any Commander-in-Chief a blank check, however. Given the current chill between Moscow and Washington, we expect to see limited progress on the issues that confront both nations during Obama’s second term.
The Obama administration needs to find a way to refocus both nations’ policy interests, but it remains unclear how the United States will be able to achieve this objective. Should Washington create security guarantees with Moscow in order to diminish uncertainty? Or should the missile defense shield continue as planned to protect its European allies? Can common ground be found with NATO’s objectives, on Iran and on Syria? Or is it the responsibility of the Obama administration to plot a new course – sans Russia – without completely alienating the Kremlin from possible cooperation?
September 12, 2012 by Timothy W. Coleman
Russia’s recent announcement that it is building a next-generation Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) is squarely designed to address the perceived threats from the US and NATO to build a missile defense system in Europe. While the justification for this new ICBM exudes platitudes of a defensive posturing, the Russian reality is that a new ICBM is the logical next step in its modernization strategy under President Vladimir Putin.
Moscow’s excuse that it feels threatened by NATOs limited and non-operational missile defense system is just that – an excuse.
September 6, 2012 by Binoy Kampmark
The members of the Russian punk rock (some prefer to call it porn) band Pussy Riot await the out come of their appeals after being sentenced to two years imprisonment for their song “Mother God, drive Putin out”. It wasn’t that they sung it, so much as where there did it – in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, thereby landing them convictions on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.
“It’s bearable,” claims the colourful band leader Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pre-Trial Detention Facility No. 6, nicknamed the “Bastille.”
September 3, 2012 by Binoy Kampmark
Neither oligarch came out spruced and cleansed, but there is little doubt that Boris Berezovksy emerged the poorer, both in terms of the time spent and effort to target Roman Abramovich. Abramovich, in contrast, won what is probably the biggest private court case in history, a bruising $6.5 billion battle that rumbled through the British legal establishment.
Berezovsky’s claim that the owner of Chelsea FC had bullied him into parting with shares in Sibneft, an oil and aluminium joint stock company he helped found, was dismissed by Mrs Justice Gloster as a contention born of delusion. The huge claim was laughed out of court. “On my analysis of the entirety of the evidence, I found Mr Berezovsky an unimpressive, and inherently unreliable witness, who regarded truth as a transitory, flexible concept, which could be moulded to suit his current purposes.”
August 23, 2012 by John Kmiecik
Exploring the dimensions of Sino-Russian relations reveals a perplexing question, “who is the junior partner?” No definite answer presents itself because Sino-Russian relations change depending on different issues and situations. In the post Cold War era, China has proved to be very adaptable to change while Russia has struggled to restructure to the new order. However, elements of this relationship afford Russia the facility to reassert authority over the international scene. The equation behind these circumstances is that the relationship benefits Moscow’s interest in the short term and Beijing’s interest in the long term.
Since the Soviet Union dissolved, Russia has been experiencing a national identity crisis. Russia went from being a superpower to a source of regional military and economic instability.
June 24, 2012 by Daniel Wagner
At a time when America’s influence is waning around the world and the emerging powers are rising, soon to be Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is trying to restore the validity of the concept of the ‘American century’ and unrivaled American power.
Never mind the ‘rise of the rest,’ that most informed observers see this as the Chinese century, that the U.S. continues to have a difficult time getting its economic house in order, that fiscal and military resources are severely strained, or that the American populace has grown war weary over the past decade — Mr. Romney is determined to put America back on top in the minds of the average American, so that we can feel good about something again. Just how he intends to do this remains a mystery, and it probably cannot be done — surely in the short-term — but it sells well on the campaign trail.
June 5, 2012 by John Lyman
I, Putin: A Novel
by Jennifer Ciotta Russian President Vladimir Putin is difficult to pigeonhole as a world leader. He was successful in guiding Russia out of economic despair following years of mismanagement that characterized the Yeltsin years shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and he has been able to rein in the influence of the oligarchs who amassed such wealth when Russian industries went on the auction block in the 1990s.
At the same time, Russia amassed huge wealth through its oil and natural gas reserves, which has more or less shielded Russia from the same economic turmoil that has ravaged Greece, Italy and many other Western nations. With Putin at the helm or his predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia has cherry-picked when to support the United States and others internationally, while instead focusing on strengthening Russia regardless of how Russia is perceived internationally.
Putin’s presidency has also been shaped by wars and disaster. The Beslan school massacre in 2004, the wars in Chechnya and the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster in 2000, shortly before Putin was to celebrate his 100th day as president, have guided Putin’s headstrong decision to rebuild Russia and free it from dependency on the United States and European states.
May 27, 2012 by John K. Yi
Having served his four year tenure as President pushing his trademark government initiative of modernizing the Russian economy and government, Prime Minister and newly appointed leader of the dominant United Russia Party, Dmitry Medvedev, now has his sights on modernizing his party.
While United Russia still remains the single dominant political force within Russia, up against often quarreling and fractious opposition groups, United Russia has seen its polls slipping in the past year. After the December 2011 Duma elections, where the party received a shellacking by the electorate, losing its super majority within the Parliament, the Russian public have taken to the streets in protest of fraudulent elections and the return of strongman Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin.
May 18, 2012 by Shamil Yenikeyeff
With the inauguration of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency on 07 May 2012, Russia’s leading entrepreneurs instead of restoration of political stability can see their investments and corporate assets exposed to growing political risks.
In the fall of 2011, the country’s middle class together with diverse opposition forces and a bohemian circle of writers, singers and prominent journalists, challenged the corruption of the electoral process in Russia which led to the questionable victory of the pro-government United Russia Party following parliamentary elections. Most importantly, the opposition rallies in Moscow questioned Mr Putin’s ability to deal with Russia’s archaic and non-transparent political and economic system.
May 5, 2012 by John K. Yi
In two days, Vladimir Putin will be inaugurated for this third term as the President of the Russian Federation. And with his reentry into the nation’s chief position, the issue of human rights and the development of civil society, a touted reform in the past four years under current President Medvedev, face an uncertain future.
Earlier this week President Medvedev’s held his final meeting with the Kremlin’s Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights. With their terms expiring on Monday, the departing council members did not hold back their disappointment of the Council’s accomplishments and criticism of the Kremlin’s unwillingness to make true reform.