zenpundit.com » russia

Archive for the ‘russia’ Category

China as the balance between DPNK and the US

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — once again, it’s the formal properties that interest me here ]
.

You may agree or disagreee, but in two-party negotiation I’d say, speaking as a moderator, bridge-builder, peace-maker, there’s a natural parity between the two parties

— this parity will be there, somehow, even if not immediately apparent, or something is seriously amiss.

**

Here, then, are two of countless ways in which China must handle disparities between the parties, if she is to maintain a balance between the US and Korth Korea:

The population balance — or imbalance — is pretty extreme, and the nuclear arenal imbalance even moreso:

**

I’ve included the moderator (China) along with the two parties in my weightings above, pondering whether it makes a difference when the moderator is “heavier” than either party, or when one party “heavily” outweighs the moderator.

I don’t know, I’m feeling my way towards an intuitive grasp of something here, not presenting a certainty of some kind.

The WaPo article that brought me to these considerations is full of “balance” and “imbalance” imagery..

At issue is “a series of threats and counterthreats by the U.S. and North Korean governments.”

Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said there had been an “overwhelming amount” of “belligerent rhetoric” from Washington and Pyongyang.

Even-handedly:

China has repeatedly warned both Washington and Pyongyang not to do anything that raises tensions or causes instability on the Korean Peninsula, and it strongly reiterated that message Friday.

In an editorial, the Global Times said China should make it clear to both sides that “when their actions jeopardize China’s interests, China will respond with a firm hand.”

And considering how things can get worse:

China hopes that all relevant parties will be cautious in their words and actions, and do things that help to alleviate tensions and enhance mutual trust, rather than walk on the old pathway of taking turns in shows of strength, and upgrading the tensions.

And better:

“The side that is stronger and cleverer” will take the first step to defuse tensions..

**

All this is, on the one hand, obvious, and barely needs saying — and on the other hand, fascinating and instructive in its abstract formalism. Of course, there are details that I’m omitting to bring that formalism front and center, but you have the WPo article to give you those.

Most interesting, perhaps, is that final observation:

“The side that is stronger and cleverer” will take the first step to defuse tensions..

It reminds me of another quote I included in a post here on ZP recently:

the problem of defense in the modern world is the paradoxical one of finding ways for the strong to defeat the weak.

Paradox, too, is a matter of form, and thus of particular interest when it occurs in an analytic context.

Metaphors, analogies, parallelisms, paradoxes — my stock in trade — are delicate matters, and should be treated with care.

**

Okay, now how do you diagram the balance mentioned in the WaPo article, In dealing with North Korea, Trump needs allies — not bombast?

Tillerson’s impossible job: Balancing North Korea, China and Trump

**

Sources:

  • Business Insider, Where the World’s 14,995 Nuclear Weapons Are
  • Worldometers, Countries in the world by population (2017)

  • Washington Post, Beijing warns Pyongyang: You’re on your own if you go after the US
  • Hat-tip, btw, to xkcd for painstakingly providing the number graphics via the xkcd Radiation page.

    Russian Sanctions and Soviet Ghosts

    Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

    [Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    A friend asked me to weight in on the response of Russian Prime Minister Medvedev to the signing by President Trump of the Russia sanctions bill passed by Congress.  A translation of Medvedev’s remarks today:

    “The US President’s signing of the package of new sanctions against Russia will have a few consequences. First, it ends hopes for improving our relations with the new US administration. Second, it is a declaration of a full-fledged economic war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration has shown its total weakness by handing over executive power to Congress in the most humiliating way. This changes the power balance in US political circles.

    What does it mean for them? The US establishment fully outwitted Trump; the President is not happy about the new sanctions, yet he could not but sign the bill. The issue of new sanctions came about, primarily, as another way to knock Trump down a peg. New steps are to come, and they will ultimately aim to remove him from power. A non-systemic player has to be removed. Meanwhile, the interests of the US business community are all but ignored, with politics chosen over a pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has become a key part of both US foreign policy (which has occurred many times) and domestic policy (which is a novelty).

    The sanctions regime has been codified and will remain in effect for decades unless a miracle happens. This legislation is going to be harsher than the Jackson-Vanik amendment as it is overarching and cannot be lifted by a special presidential order without Congress’ approval. Thus, relations between Russia and the United States are going to be extremely tense regardless of Congress’ makeup and regardless of who is president. Lengthy arguments in international bodies and courts are ahead, as well as rising international tensions and refusal to settle major international issues.

    What does it mean for us? We will steadily continue our work on developing the economy and social sector, take efforts to substitute imports, and solve major national tasks, relying mostly on ourselves. We have learned to do so in the past few years, in conditions of almost closed financial markets as well as foreign investors’ and creditors’ fear of investing in Russia upon penalty of sanctions against third parties and countries. To some extent, this has even been to our advantage, although sanctions are meaningless overall. We will cope.”

    My short take on this is that we are all watching a gambler or manipulator (President Putin not Medvedev) who has overplayed his hand and is now flailing about, trying to stir the pot a little, because they don’t have a follow up play.

    Longer take: I find the reference to Jackson-Vanik extremely interesting. Far more than the crude effort to push Trump’s buttons or the lack of understanding on how our constitutional machinery works and agitprop spin.

    Most Americans have forgotten Jackson-Vanik and the refusenik issue but Russians of Putin’s generation have not and it means something very different to them than to us. The reference to Jackson-Vanik is aimed less at us than their domestic audience and I find that quite telling. I certainly would not have used it if I were in their shoes. It would be like Xi exclaiming that some action by the US was an “unequal treaty“.

    Here’s the significance in my view. During early Détente, the Soviet side had the objective of leveraging better relations with the US to improve the Soviet economy. Brezhnev personally valued this outcome as a way to have both guns and butter. There were Soviet internal political drivers at work too in that Brezhnev was using Detente and the material rewards that would flow from it, to elbow aside Kosygin and Podgorny in the politburo and become the de facto leader of the USSR. And Nixon and Kissinger obliged, having the theory that a combination of trade, aid, American credibility, linkage, arms control, the China card and such could tame the Soviet bear and split the Soviet bloc while easing US problems in Vietnam. So in this time period you had incongruities like the rabidly anti-Communist Bill Casey, then Nixon’s head of the Import-Export Bank, defending credits, loans and various deals with Communist countries in Congressional testimony.

    Well, Congressional Democrats led by Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson began putting sticks in the spokes of Nixon’s wheel, culminating in Jackson-Vanik in 1974. The Soviets reacted with rage out of all proportion to the actual value of the US-Soviet trade at the time, protesting this law was a violation of Soviet sovereignty; more to the point, Jackson-Vanik terminated the prospect of any future spigots of American cash that Brezhnev intended to use to increase consumer goods or reform moribund Soviet agriculture. Furthermore, it wounded Soviet prestige by essentially denying the equality between the Superpowers that Brezhnev and company were fairly desperate to trumpet on the world stage.

    While there was an effort to sustain Detente through the Ford administration it was winding down and it collapsed entirely under President Carter as Soviet foreign policy became increasingly aggressive and adventurous in the Third World. The Soviets saw Jackson-Vanik as a turning point in relations with America and complained bitterly about the law ever after. In retrospect, you could trace the American pressure that nudged the USSR toward collapse in 1991 back to Jackson-Vanik; and whether Russian nationalists see the law as part of the vast Western conspiracy to destroy the Soviet Union or not ( many would) it is certainly seen as an example of our hostility. These events were part of Vladimir Putin’s formative experience in acquiring his chekist-siloviki worldview when he was a law student already in the KGB recruit track.

    So given the vulnerability of the export based, relatively small Russian economy their reaction today strikes me as bluster and empty bravado. They really can’t win a serious economic confrontation with the West ( which these sanctions are not) and they know it. There’s some panicky, sky is falling, undercurrents here. The danger is that Putin’s regime if handled poorly may attempt to compensate, as did Brezhnev’s USSR, with small, foreign adventures. Russia can’t really afford this either – not sustained combat operations over months against a new semi serious conventional opponent, but subversion, terrorism and little green men paramilitaries are cheap

    Trump blowback — not boustrophedon but enantiodroma?

    Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — with a stinger from Bucky Fuller in the tail ]
    .

    Here’s boustrophedon

    — since it’s harder to find a decent illustrations for enantiodromia.

    **

    Boustrophedon is the motion of an ox ploughing a field, up to the top and then back down: it’s a motif of reversal, but the farmer’s volition is the same both going up and coming back down. Enantiodromia, o the other hand, is just straight reversal as I understand it, a sudden switch of direction not caused by continuing intent, but by balance restoring itself after excess.

    Hence, Trump blowback as described in WaPo’s Behold the Trump boomerang effect would fall in the latter category of form.

    **

    Fred Hiatt opens his piece under that title:

    Did your head spin when Utah’s Orrin Hatch, a true conservative and the Senate’s longest-serving Republican, emerged last week as the most eloquent spokesman for transgender rights? Credit the Trump boomerang effect.

    He carries on:

    Much has been said about White House dysfunction and how little President Trump has accomplished in his first six months. But that’s not the whole story: In Washington and around the world, in some surprising ways, things are happening — but they are precisely the opposite of what Trump wanted and predicted when he was sworn in.

    The boomerang struck first in Europe. Following his election last November, and the British vote last June to leave the European Union, anti-immigrant nationalists were poised to sweep to power across the continent. “In the wake of the electoral victories of the Brexit campaign and Donald Trump, right-wing populism in the rich world has appeared unstoppable,” the Economist wrote. Russian President Vladimir Putin would gain allies, the European Union would fracture.

    But European voters, sobered by the spectacle on view in Washington, moved the other way. In March, the Netherlands rejected an anti-immigrant party in favor of a mainstream, conservative coalition. In May, French voters spurned the Putin-loving, immigrant-bashing Marine Le Pen in favor of centrist Emmanuel Macron, who went on to win an overwhelming majority in Parliament and began trying to strengthen, not weaken, the E.U.

    Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Trump belittled for having allowed so many refugees into her country, has grown steadily more popular in advance of a September election.

    There’s more, of course, but you get the picture.

    Unintended consequences.

    There’s a huge industry that advises us to shoot for the goal — but yachtsmen know that sometimes to get places, you need to tack with the wind. And Buckminster Fuller said [Critical Path, chapter titled “Self-Disciplines of Buckminster Fuller”] the most interesting effects occur in a manner that’s orthogonal to force applied:

    **

    What a fascinating world we live in!

    Clinton-Trump parallelisms via Daniel Nexon — whassay?

    Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — more on the digging dirt / foreign sources story ]
    .

    It’s all too easy to lose sight of the intriguing parallelism here — but symmetries are worth watching, often revelatory. Good catch by Daniel Nexon:

    **

    From January: Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire:

    Donald Trump wasn’t the only presidential candidate whose campaign was boosted by officials of a former Soviet bloc country.

    Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.

    A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

    The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia. But they were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails.

    Russia’s effort was personally directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, involved the country’s military and foreign intelligence services, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

    [ .. more .. ]

    **

    Your thoughts? — valuable since they’ll no doubt differ from mine..

    Significance of the Kiswah in Riyadh

    Sunday, May 21st, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — oh, but it’s just a backdrop ]
    .

    When ABC News describes the room in which President Trump addressed King Salman of Saudi Arabia and the leaders of 50 Muslim nations in Riyadh this morning, they mentioned that it was “an ornate room that featured 11 chandeliers and six giant video screens.” Okay, but to my eye the scene was dominated by a great black and gold panel of the Kiswah [above], the ornate cloth, renewed once yearly, which covers the Kaaba in Mecca, the point in this turning world to which all Muslims turn in prayer, and around which they revolve in pilgrimage.

    I spent some time searching for a decent press photograph or media mention of this Kiswah panel, without success — the chandeliers are clearly more important to media sensibilities than the veil of Islam’s most central shrine, to which all mosques are oriented.

    **

    I am reminded of Tim Furnish‘s comment yesterday, pointing out that the Time magazine cover showing the Kremlin (below) had airbrushed out the crosses atop the onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral —

    — domes which Time referred to, in a further display of ignorance, as minarets.

    Why are we so appallingly oblivious to religious symbolism, when it plays so major a role in communicating meaning? What tells us more about a cathedral than the cross which surmounts it? Which more completely dominates that conference chamber in Riyadh — the colorful array of flags, or the great panel of the Kiswah mounted above them?

    Why do we so consistently airbrush religion out of the picture?


    Switch to our mobile site