Britain’s political class did not distinguish itself in its immediate response to the Crimean crisis. A zoom lens outside Downing Street which captured Cabinet Office papers in the hands of an unguarded official seemed to reveal yet more evidence that the protection of the City trumps any other strategic instincts for this government. Labour, meanwhile, appeared to be more rattled by Tory Twitter jibes than by Vladimir Putin’s machinations. But the challenge posed by Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine will outlast any initial inclinations to see it through the prism of the Square Mile or the Westminster bubble. From the future of the European Union to UK defence priorities, Russia now presents a number of long-term dilemmas for progressives, regardless of how the events of the next few months play out.
So, it turns out that all those hard-right National Rifle Association libertarians preparing for guerrilla warfare against Obama’s socialist seizure of America need to get their ammo from… Vladimir Putin.
American gun owners are gobbling up cheap Russian ammunition in huge quantities, worried that President Obama’s tussle with Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s grab for Crimea will result in new trade sanctions cutting off imports of bullets.
“We’ve seen an ammo-hoarding effect,” said Larry Hyatt, owner of Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, N.C., one of the nation’s biggest gun stores. “It’s almost like milk and bread when it gets ready to snow: It’s just a mass of people running out and buying some of it, probably more than they need,” he told Secrets.
Driving the ammo binge are gun blogs warning that the supply of surplus AK-47 ammo and other cheaper bullets manufactured by Russian makers like Wolf and TulAmmo will be cut off if sanctions are expanded by the president. The two companies make the 7.62×39 ammunition used in the popular AK-47 and variations for the AR-15. They sell it for $3-$4 a box, versus the $9 charged by U.S. manufacturers.
Some websites are also warning that Putin is considering retaliating against the U.S. by cutting off the supplies. So far, none of the rumors appear true.
Like that matters.
What universal standards does the UN stand for? Human rights, justice, peace… and high quality tailoring. That at least is the message from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ Michael Heller Chu, an expert on civilian protection now also modeling suits for Bergdorf Goodman. Has multilateralism ever looked sharper?
In our development dilemmas piece we consider what progressives should do now the split between foreign and development policy no longer exists:
Should aid be used as an instrument of foreign policy? If so, how? If not, why not? If policy coherence’ really means ‘foreign policy first’, how should DFID prioritise if the countries which are the breeding grounds for terror are not the same ones with the greatest incidence of poverty? Should a combustible Nigeria, at 153 in the UN Human Development Index, command more attention than stable Sierra Leone, languishing at 177? Should aid money be spent, as it is by the United States, more in the powder keg of the Middle East than the desperation zones of sub-Saharan Africa?
Nigeria is arguably the worst run of the world’s seven most populated countries. Despite earning hundreds of billions of dollars in oil revenue over the past decade, it is expected by 2015, by some calculations, to have the second-most destitute people in the world after India. But its largest city, Lagos, which until recently was known as one of the world’s most difficult cities to govern, seems to have turned a corner. As I argue in a recent article in the New York Times, one of the chief reasons for this better performance is the nature of incentives that elites and politicians face: Continue reading
2014 is the last year of British military involvement in Afghanistan and the end of a long phase of ‘nation-building’ efforts since 9/11. While David Cameron has unconvincingly declared ‘mission accomplished’, in reality the next Labour government will wrestle with an agonising set of dilemmas about the UK’s future involvement in stabilising failed and failing states. Iraq and Afghanistan cast a long shadow.
I have an especially dour article over at World Politics Review about the state of crisis diplomacy today, which kicks off like this:
Since the conflict in South Sudan escalated in December, well-meaning governments and United Nations officials have repeatedly argued that only a political solution can end the fighting. “There is no military solution,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power told CNN on Christmas Eve. But the South Sudanese government does not seem entirely convinced. Over the past week it has ratcheted up its offensives against rebel-held areas, recapturing the economically important town of Bentiu. Bor, another major center in rebel hands, has also been under attack. The government is still in peace talks with rebel envoys, but it is evidently intent on negotiating from the strongest possible military position.
South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has been bolstered by air support and ground troops from Uganda, as well as political signals of support from his old enemies in Sudan. If Kiir needs further encouragement, he needs only to think of other governments that have been told to find a “political solution” to internal conflicts. From Sri Lanka to Darfur and Syria, leaders who have ignored this advice have managed to fight on in the face of international revulsion. Western powers and the U.N. appear willing—or obliged—to put aside bargaining with these leaders, tragically affirming the continued political value of brute force.
You can read the rest of my argument here. But perhaps I am just being a curmudgeon, because it seems that peacemakers everywhere are having a whale of a time. The Russian and U.S. delegations meeting to discuss Syria have been up to high jinks:
For some watchers of international diplomacy, the somber road to Syrian peace was overrun Monday by potatoes and furry pink hats.
A swapping of delegation gifts between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov served as a distraction from predictions of elusive success in Syria. The usually stern-faced Lavrov came to the meeting armed with at least two ushankas, a traditional Russian fur hat with earflaps that tie to the top of the hat. Both hats went to women on Kerry’s press staff — including a bubblegum-pink one for State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.
The more bizarre bout of diplomacy came over a pair of Idaho potatoes. After pictures of Kerry handing Lavrov the tubers during talks Monday morning surfaced on the Web, reporters pressed both leaders for an explanation hours later. Kerry quickly sought to disavow any deep diplomatic meaning from the spuds, explaining that he was in Idaho over the holidays when he and Lavrov spoke by phone. The Russian, it seemed, associated Idaho with potatoes. “He told me he’s not going to make vodka. He’s going to eat them,” Kerry said of Lavrov, who was next to him at an otherwise grim news conference on militant threats to humanitarian aid for Syria.
How could anyone feel grim after such hilarities? Still, some people just can’t take a joke, like the South Sudanese negotiators who are miffed about holding talks… in a nightclub.
A shift in the venue for talks aimed at brokering a ceasefire in South Sudan has left some delegates bemused. The government and rebel teams have moved to the dance floor of a top nightclub in an Addis Ababa hotel.
The Gaslight club was selected after the room in the Sheraton hotel the teams had been using was booked by a Japanese delegation. Sources close to the talks said some delegates were unhappy with the poor lighting and excess noise.
Maybe, just maybe, these things could be handled without spuds and disco balls?