A propos of Richard’s post on how the French used to behave in Cote d’Ivoire, let’s not forget how another member of the Security Council P5 – Russia – is behaving right now. Why, you might wonder, should Russia be blocking moves in the Security Council to step up the international community’s level of intervention in Cote d’Ivoire?
Concerned about implications for its own restive regions, such as Chechnya, Russia has traditionally sought to thwart Security Council actions regarding nations’ sovereignty. But one western diplomat said Russian considerations over Ivory Coast were “90 per cent about oil, 10 per cent about sovereignty”.
Lukoil, Russia’s second biggest oil producer, has stakes in three deep-water blocks off the Ivorian coast, part of a largely untapped 1,000km oil frontier. Lukoil acquired its interests during Mr Gbagbo’s rule and changes of power in Africa have often been followed by reviews of oil and mineral rights.
First there was BRICs. Then came CIVETS. Then we were presented with BASIC, CRIM, BRICK, CEMENT, BEM, N11 and the 7% Club. Now barely a week goes by before someone tries to float another ‘useful’ investment acronym.
Behind the dense forest of exotic acronyms is a simple fact: the catch-all classification ‘emerging markets’ has lost much of its usefulness. It was invented in the 1980s, by World Bank economist Antoine van Agtmael, to replace the now-defunct acronym LEDCs (or ‘less economically developed countries’) by which the West had until then blithely referred to the rest of the world. The term ‘emerging markets’ served as a useful way to refer to fast-growing although crisis-prone markets like Russia, China and Mexico.
Within the term ‘emerging markets’ was quite a 1980s-assumption: these markets would follow the development route laid down by ‘developed’ economies, until they arrived in the neo-liberal end point reached by the US, the UK and other western countries. And the phrase also came to have strong associations with the currency and debt crises of the 1980s and 1990s.
But things have changed. The bigger emerging market countries have now overtaken the weaker developed markets, not just in total GDP, but also in the pricing they pay on their sovereign debt. Emerging market countries like China and Russia have accumulated trillions of dollars in foreign exchange reserves, and are now the main creditors of western sovereigns. In the 1980s, emerging markets depended on the west for capital inflows. Now the situation is reversed, and the US and EU depend on China to buy their sovereign debt.
It was partly to recognize this shift in economic power to emerging markets that Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill introduced the now-famous acronym BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) in 2001. It was a runaway success. A decade on, and MSCI has launched a BRIC index, there are several BRIC-focused funds, BRIC-focused blogs, BRIC conferences, and the leaders of the BRIC countries even held their own BRIC summit in 2009.
However, the success of the acronym, and the increase in capital flows to BRIC markets that followed, quickly led to questions and criticisms of the BRIC tag. In 2008, for example, when Russia’s economy slid into recession following the war with Georgia and the Credit Crunch, some analysts suggested Russia should be dropped from the grouping. This suggestion was sufficiently alarming to Russia that it organized not one but two BRIC summits in Russia in 2009. . (more…)
Two years ago, Georgian forces shelled the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia hitting the base of Russian peacekeepers as well as civilian housing. Russia responded immediately with a massive ground and air assault and in five days inflicted a heavy defeat on its tiny neighbour, occupying a band of Georgian territory into the bargain.
The conflict had several immediate results.
Already fraught relations between Moscow and Tbilisi plunged to new depths and diplomatic relations were severed.
Russia and three other countries recognised the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
And relations between Russia and the West – the US and the EU – deteriorated to their worst level since the collapse of the USSR – there was even talk of a new Cold War from western politicians.
The Cold War analogies led some commentators to argue Russian foreign policy had taken a decisive anti-western turn and things could and/or should never be the same again
Two years later, the one thing that seems unlikely to ever be the same again is the shape and size of Georgia. If recognition from Russia was not enough, the recent International Court of Justice opinion that Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was not against international law, makes it even less probable Tibilsi could regain control of its lost regions. (more…)
A nuclear free world isn’t an ignoble goal, but it needs to be approached realistically. Focusing on the stockpiles of the United States and Russia and limiting U.S. options for use of nuclear weapons does nothing to change the calculus of Tehran and Pyongyang.
Henry Kissinger, who is now among the chief proponents of nuclear disarmament, wrote in 1957 in his landmark study Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy that “A renunciation of force, by eliminating the penalty for intransigence, will therefore place the international order at the mercy of its most ruthless or irresponsible members.”
Our unwillingness to penalize countries such as Iran, North Korea, and Syria for their illicit activities only empowers them. It sends the message to other states potentially seeking nuclear weapons that the path to a weapon can be pursued with few repercussions.
If President Obama were truly concerned about the future of the international nonproliferation regime, he would follow his recent disarmament “accomplishments” with some serious action to ensure that rogue regimes realize that there is a price to be paid by those who choose to pursue nuclear weapons.
You have to love the “If President Obama were truly concerned…” line. Of course, the President is just pretending to be worried about the issue – it’s all part of his cunning plan to sell America out to foreign and socialist overlords. Or something like that.
A causal reader would also be left thinking that Kissinger opposed the treaty, when of course he is right behind it, issuing a joint statement with George Shultz, William Perry, and Sam Nunn:
We strongly endorse the goals of this Treaty, and we hope that after careful and expeditious review that both the United States Senate and the Russian Federal Assembly will be able to ratify the Treaty.
Obama is following the (bi-partisan) playbook that Kissinger, Schultz, Perry and Nunn set out in their 2008 A World Free of Nuclear Weapons op-ed. It recommended:
- “Changing the Cold War posture of deployed nuclear weapons to increase warning time and thereby reduce the danger of an accidental or unauthorized use of a nuclear weapon.
- Continuing to reduce substantially the size of nuclear forces in all states that possess them.
- Eliminating short-range nuclear weapons designed to be forward-deployed.
- Initiating a bipartisan process with the Senate, including understandings to increase confidence and provide for periodic review, to achieve ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, taking advantage of recent technical advances, and working to secure ratification by other key states.
- Providing the highest possible standards of security for all stocks of weapons, weapons-usable plutonium, and highly enriched uranium everywhere in the world.
- Getting control of the uranium enrichment process, combined with the guarantee that uranium for nuclear power reactors could be obtained at a reasonable price, first from the Nuclear Suppliers Group and then from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or other controlled international reserves. It will also be necessary to deal with proliferation issues presented by spent fuel from reactors producing electricity.
- Halting the production of fissile material for weapons globally; phasing out the use of highly enriched uranium in civil commerce and removing weapons-usable uranium from research facilities around the world and rendering the materials safe.
- Redoubling our efforts to resolve regional confrontations and conflicts that give rise to new nuclear powers.”
Is there any issue serious enough not be used as a partisan football in the US? I fear not.